1 July

1863: The first shots are fired in the battle of Gettysburg

The battle was the bloodiest clash of the American Civil War and a decisive victory for General George Meade’s Union forces over Robert E Lee’s Confederates.


2 July

1644: Oliver Cromwell crushes the royalists at Marston Moor

Cromwell at the Battle of Marston Moor.
Cromwell at the Battle of Marston Moor. (Picture by The Print Collector/Getty Images)

Prince Rupert’s royalist troops were just settling down for supper when the battle of Marston Moor broke out. On the moorland just outside York, Rupert’s army faced its Scottish and parliamentarian adversaries.

Like all battles, Marston Moor was an exercise in bloody chaos. While the parliamentarian right and centre struggled to make headway, the cavalry on their left wing, under Lieutenant General Oliver Cromwell, carried all before them, twice charging and driving their enemies from the field. It was a royalist catastrophe.

3 July

1996: The government promises to return the Stone of Scone

In the House of Commons, British prime minister John Major told assembled MPs that the Stone of Scone – a potent symbol of the Scottish monarchy – would be leaving English soil and returning north of the border.

“The Stone of Destiny,” Major told parliament, “holds a special place in the hearts of Scots... [and] it is appropriate to return it to its historic homeland.”

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Though the stone’s return was considered a just move, it did throw up questions about other cultural treasures stolen from their homes by the British during the imperial years. We are still debating these questions today.

4 July

1862: The tale of Alice in Wonderland is born

Charles Dodgson tells a story to the daughter of his friend, Harry Lidell, with a heroine named after her – a girl called Alice. She clearly enjoyed his story that afternoon, and she begged him to write it down for her.

Dodgson started work the next day. But it was not until November 1864, more than two years later, that he presented Alice with a beautifully illustrated handwritten manuscript, entitled Alice’s Adventures Under Ground. It bore a heartfelt dedication: “A Christmas Gift to a Dear Child in Memory of a Summer’s Day.”

5 July

1948: The NHS is launched

Aneurin Bevan, Minister of Health, meeting a patient at Papworth Village Hospital. This centre for tubercular cases was taken over by the National Health Service the following July 5th.
Aneurin Bevan, Minister of Health, meeting a patient at Papworth Village Hospital. This centre for tubercular cases was taken over by the National Health Service the following July 5th. (Picture by Edward G Malindine/Getty Images)

The public uptake was overwhelming. Despite warnings by postwar prime minister Clement Attlee that there were “bound to be early difficulties with staff, accommodation and so on”, 94 per cent of the population had registered as NHS patients by the day of the launch. On 5 July, when the service officially opened, 2,751 British hospitals – plus doctors’ surgeries, dentists and opticians – were part of the NHS. Today, the service treats millions of people each year.

6 July

1885: Louis Pasteur unveils his cure for rabies

When nine-year-old Joseph Meister was bitten by a rabid dog, his parents feared the worst. Rabies was a death sentence. But Joseph’s mother had recently read about the work of the pioneering microbiologist Louis Pasteur. Pasteur did have a rabies vaccine, developed by his colleague Emile Roux, but it had only ever been tested on dogs. The problem, however, was that since he was not a registered doctor, Pasteur would be breaking the law if he tried to treat Joseph.

To his eternal credit, Pasteur decided to gamble. “The death of this child appearing to be inevitable,” he wrote later, “I decided, not without lively and sore anxiety, as may well be believed, to try.” This was the chance to test the vaccine: “Half a syringeful of the spinal cord of a rabbit, which had died of rabies.” Over the next few days, he injected little Joseph some 13 times. On the final day he gave him “the most virulent dose of rabies”.

It worked. Joseph was cured. Forever indebted to Professor Pasteur, he later became the caretaker of the Pasteur Institute in Paris.

Famous births in July

1 July 1961

Diana Frances Spencer, the youngest daughter of the future 8th Earl Spencer and his first wife, Frances

2 July 1862

William Henry Bragg, English physicist 

3 July 1883

Franz Kafka, writer

5 July 1810

PT Barnum, American showman, businessman and politician

8 July 1621 

Jean de la Fontaine, French poet and fabulist

8 July 1640

Henry, Duke of Gloucester

13 July 1811

George Gilbert Scott, one of the leading Gothic Revival architects of Victorian Britain

14 July 1862 

Gustav Klimt, Austrian symbolist painter 

15 July 1811 

Emily Stackhouse, botanical artist

17 July 1920 

Kenneth “they think it’s all over” Wolstenholme, wartime bomber pilot

18 July 1811 

William Makepeace Thackeray, English author

20 July 1860

Margaret McMillan, pioneer of nursery education

21 July 1832 

Henrietta King, rancher and philanthropist

22 July 1210 

Joan, the eldest daughter of King John

23 July 1883 

Alan Francis Brooke, a distinguished soldier and chief of the Imperial General Staff in 1941 

25 July 1920

Rosalind Franklin, scientist who played an important role in the discovery of the double helix form of DNA

27 July 1452

Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan and patron of Leonardo da Vinci

28 July 1902 

Karl Popper, philosopher

29 July 1763 

Philip Charles Durham, Scottish admiral

30 July 1511 

Giorgio Vasari, painter, architect and historian

30 July 1863 

Henry Ford, the American industrialist who founded the Ford Motor Company

7 July

1456: Joan of Arc is posthumously acquitted of her crimes

Joan of Arc at the Coronation of Charles VII in the Cathedral at Reims.
Joan of Arc at the Coronation of Charles VII in the Cathedral at Reims. (Picture by Universal History Archive/Getty Images)

A quarter of a century after she had been burned at the stake for heresy, Joan of Arc was back in court. It was the summer of 1456, and Pope Callixtus III had authorised a retrial to investigate whether the saviour of Orléans had been unjustly convicted.

The court had decided, said the archbishop of Reims, that the original “trial and sentence, being filled with fraud, false charges, injustice, contradiction, and manifest errors concerning both fact and law” should be considered “null, without effect, void, and of no consequence”. It was clear, he said, that “Joan did not contract any taint of infamy and that she shall be and is washed clean of such.”

8 July

1822: Percy Shelley drowns in a boat off Italy

Shelley was sailing the Don Juan back from Livorno to Lerici with his friend Edward Williams and a boat boy, Charles Vivian, when a violent summer storm sprang up.

Shelley reportedly had just enough time to cram a collection of John Keats’ poems into his back pocket before he was swallowed by the turbulent sea. A poor swimmer, he stood no chance; indeed, all three men aboard the Don Juan were lost. Their bodies, identifiable only by their clothing, washed ashore 10 days after the storm.

9 July

1877: The world’s first tennis tournament opens at the All England Club, Wimbledon

The title was won by Spencer Gore.

10 July

1962: The Telstar communications satellite is launched

It was launched aboard a Delta rocket at Cape Canaveral. Telstar made possible the transatlantic transmission of live television images and was the inspiration for a hit record by The Tornados.

11 July

1960: Harper Lee publishes her debut novel, To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee smiles before receiving the 2007 Presidential Medal of Freedom in the East Room of the White House November.
Harper Lee smiles before receiving the 2007 Presidential Medal of Freedom in the East Room of the White House November. (Picture by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

By the time the Hollywood adaptation appeared in 1962, Lee was a household name, feted as the writer who, perhaps more than any other, had persuaded white Middle America to face the harsh reality of racial prejudice.

12 July

1543: Katherine Parr became the sixth consort of Henry VIII

She married the ageing king in the queen’s closet at Hampton Court Palace with 18 people in attendance.

13 July

1793: Jean-Paul Marat, a fervent supporter of the French Revolution, is stabbed to death in his bathtub by Girondin sympathiser Charlotte Corday

The daughter of royalist parents, Corday had seen her brothers flee abroad and had reportedly been inspired by the rhetoric of the more moderate Girondin faction. She pulled from her corset a five-inch kitchen knife, and plunged it deep into Marat’s chest. “Help me, my dear!” Marat screamed at his wife. But it was already too late; as blood gushed from the wound, he was dead within moments.

14 July

1789: Mobs storm the Bastille, and the symbol of Parisian royal oppression is brought to its knees

Bernard-René de Launay was not a bad man. Born in 1740, he had spent much of his career in the French Guards, stationed in Paris, before becoming, like his father before him, the governor of the vast state prison in the centre of the capital. Contrary to what was claimed in political pamphlets of the day, the Bastille was not really such a terrible place. De Launay himself had a reputation as a reasonably considerate gaoler, and far from being stuffed with political dissidents, the Bastille was actually pretty empty. On the morning of 14 July 1789, in fact, de Launay was in charge of only seven prisoners – four forgers, two madmen and a dissolute aristocrat.

To the Paris mob, however, the Bastille was a time-honoured symbol of royal oppression. With France in the grip of a severe economic crisis, bread prices soaring, the political system deadlocked and the streets full of hysterical rumours, it was perhaps only a matter of time before the demonstrators attacked the prison. On the morning of the 14th they struck, demanding that de Launay surrender the keys and hand over all arms and artillery. At around lunchtime, they broke through into the outer courtyard. Shots were fired; the mood turned ever uglier. By 5.30 that afternoon, the fortress had fallen.

15 July

1099: Jerusalem falls to the crusaders

Launched in November 1095, the First Crusade reached its climax at the walls of Jerusalem nearly four years later. It was the height of summer, and outside the walls of the holy city, some 12,000 crusaders were preparing for the final assault. On the night of 14 July, the crusaders attacked from two siege towers. At the city’s north-eastern gate, two knights from Tournai led the charge, soon followed by scores more. And as the resistance crumbled, the blood began to flow.

16 July

1945: The US tests its atomic bomb

It was almost 5.30am on 16 July 1945, in the dawn heat of the New Mexico desert, when the bomb exploded.

“I was staring straight ahead with my open left eye covered by a welder’s glass and my right eye remaining open and uncovered,” recalled one observer, Ralph Carlisle Smith, who was watching from a nearby hilltop. “Suddenly, my right eye was blinded by a light which appeared instantaneously all about without any build up of intensity. My left eye could see the ball of fire start up like a tremendous bubble... It turned yellow, then red, and then beautiful purple.”

17 July

1955: Disneyland opens to the world

On 17 July 1955 in Anaheim, California, Walt Disney welcomed Americans into his very own Garden of Eden. “To all who come to this happy place, welcome,” he proclaimed.

Julie Andrews performs in front of Prince Charming Regal Carrousel in the Magic Kingdom, Florida.
Julie Andrews performs in front of Prince Charming Regal Carrousel in the Magic Kingdom, Florida. (Picture by: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank)

18 July

1976: Olympic gymnast Nadia Comăneci makes history with her faultless routine

Romanian gymnast Nadia Comăneci won the first ever perfect 10 for her routine on the uneven bars. The scoreboard flashed up “1.00”, the nearest it could get to a 10. Then she did it again – and again, and again, six times in all.

19 July

1848: The world’s first women’s rights convention demands equality

The tiny village of Seneca Falls, New York has an extraordinary claim to fame. It was here that the world’s first convention on women’s rights opened on 19 July 1848 – a two-day meeting that became one of the foundational events of the international feminist movement.

Famous deaths in July

2 July 1743

Spencer Compton, Britain’s second prime minister

2 July 1961

Ernest Hemingway, Nobel Prize-winning author

5 July 1913

Alfred Lyttelton, former colonial secretary

6 July 1960

Aneurin ‘Nye’ Bevan, Welsh Labour politician and architect of the National Health Service

7 July 1661

George Fox, Quaker, writer, preacher and former Parliamentarian soldier

10 July 138

Hadrian, Roman emperor 

16 July 1960 

Albert Kesselring, German Second World War field marshal

20 July 1332

Thomas Randolph, 1st Earl of Moray

24 July 1862 

Martin van Buren, the eighth president of the United States

26 July 1680

John Wilmot, Restoration poet, courtier and rake

29 July 1890 

Vincent Van Gogh, post- impressionist painter

20 July

1923: Former Mexican revolutionary leader José Doroteo Arango Arámbula, better known as Pancho Villa, is assassinated while driving in his car through the town of Parral, Chihuahua

21 July

356 BC: The Temple of Artemis burns to the ground

For the people of Ephesus, the Temple of Artemis was a source of immense local pride. Reportedly built by the extraordinarily rich king Croesus, it was said to have been made largely of marble, boasting huge pillars. For visitors, there were few better attractions in the Greek world. Pilgrims brought jewellery as a gift for the goddess; refugees came to seek sanctuary.

But on 21 July 356, disaster struck. The man responsible was one Herostratus, who may have been an outsider or a slave. Supposedly hungry for fame, he decided to set the temple’s wooden rafters alight, “so that through the destruction of this most beautiful building his name might be spread through the whole world”.

The result was a tragedy. In the space of a single night, the temple was consumed by flames, and by morning it was a blackened, broken ruin.

22 July

1209: French crusaders slay thousands in the name of God

The Albigensian Crusade, which began in 1209, was one of the most blood- stained pages in medieval European history. At its heart was Pope Innocent III’s desire to stamp out the Cathar heresy – a form of Christianity condemned by the Catholic church – as well as the French king Philip II’s eagerness to crush the semi-detached County of Toulouse. But the victims, whose voices have largely been lost to history, were the people of the Languedoc, southern France, who found themselves facing a French royal army determined to take no prisoners.

23 July

1903: In Chicago, Dr Ernst Pfenning becomes the first man to buy a Ford motor car, spending less than $1,000 on a Model A.

24 July

1911: In the jungles of Peru, the American explorer and amateur archaeologist Hiram Bingham comes across the site of Machu Picchu, then virtually unknown in the outside world.

25 July

1978: World’s first IVF baby is born

Louise Brown and her parents Lesley and John Brown at their home in Bristol.
Louise Brown and her parents Lesley and John Brown at their home in Bristol. (Picture by Kent Gavin/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)

Shortly before midnight on 25 July, Lesley Brown gave birth to her daughter Louise – then widely described as the world’s first ‘test tube baby’.

For the Brown family, that moment on 25 July was of course one of unutterable joy. But letters poured in from across the world, many of them downright abusive. One parcel from California contained a series of letters covered in red liquid, a broken glass test tube and a plastic foetus.

Still, there were messages of support, too. “I fear that you will find yourselves on the receiving end of all the usual criticism and condemnation that follows any medical breakthrough, so am writing to try in a tiny way to even things up,” read one letter, sent all the way from Australia.

26 July

1745: Gosden Common near Guildford hosts the first recorded women’s cricket match

Between the villages of Bramley and Hambledon, with both sides dressed in cricketing whites and sporting blue and red ribbons in their hair.

27 July

1953: The United Nations, North Korea and China signed an armistice to bring about a ceasefire in the Korean War. However, no peace treaty was ever signed.

28 July

1540: Henry VIII marries wife number five

As Thomas Cromwell was being taken to the scaffold for his execution, the Duke of Norfolk’s pretty teenage niece was dressing for the most important day of her life. Only a few days earlier, the king had secured an annulment of his marriage to Anne of Cleves, and his eye had already fallen on Catherine as her replacement. It was apparently love – or lust – at first sight, at least for Henry.

Did Catherine know that, even as she was repeating her marriage vows at Surrey’s Oatlands Palace, Cromwell’s freshly severed head was rotting on a spike? We will never know. What we do know, though, is that her 49-year-old husband seemed aflame with passion, since reports suggest he could barely keep his hands off her.

29 July

1981: Prince Charles marries Lady Diana Spencer

The Prince and Princess of Wales on the balcony of Buckingham Palace on their wedding day.
The Prince and Princess of Wales on the balcony of Buckingham Palace on their wedding day. (Picture by Terry Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)

On 29 July, more than half a million people gathered on the streets of London to cheer the couple, while an estimated 750 million people worldwide watched the service on television.

30 July

762: Abbasid Caliph Abu Jaafar Al-Mansour commissioned the construction of Baghdad as his new capital city on the Tigris.

31 July

1932: In Germany’s federal elections, Adolf Hitler's Nazi Party wins 38 per cent of the vote and 230 seats to become the largest party in parliament for the first time

Find out about anniversaries in previous months...