This week in history we celebrate the anniversary of pivotal events from around the world that have had a crucial impact on the formation of modern nations.
On Oct. 14, 1066, 953 years ago, William the Conqueror defeated the Anglo-Saxon forces at the Battle of Hastings, seizing the English throne and completing the Norman Invasion of England. William, Duke of Normandy, laid his claim on the English throne with the absence of an heir for King Edward the Confessor. William’s ascension to the throne made Norman French the official language of court, combining with the Anglo-Saxon language to form the modern English language. William’s family remains on the British throne to this day, with Queen Elizabeth II as a direct descendant of both William and the king he overthrew. This means that the current British royal family has ruled England for almost 1,000 years.
On Oct. 18, 1469, 550 years ago, Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile were married in the city of Valladolid, uniting their kingdoms to form the nation of Spain. Their wedding was arguably the most important royal marriage in world history, since the unification of Spain launched the country onto the world stage to become the superpower of the 16th century. Years later, Ferdinand and Isabella would succeed in their mission of defeating the Moorish kingdoms of the south, driving out all non-Christian powers from the Iberian Peninsula. Once the Reconquista was complete, the monarchs forced the entirety of the Spanish nation to follow Roman Catholicism under the brutal Spanish Inquisition. In 1492, the pair would patron the famous journey of Christopher Columbus, allowing Spain to colonize the entirety of Mesoamerica and a vast majority of South America, subsequently beginning the Age of Exploration. While this brought much wealth and power to Spain, the conquistadors that followed Columbus ravaged the indigenous civilizations, bringing disease, enslavement and destruction to the native peoples. Whether for better or for worse, the union of Ferdinand and Isabella began the domino effect of Spain’s longstanding influence on the world.
On Oct. 19, 1781, 238 years ago, General Lord Cornwallis surrendered to the American and French forces at Yorktown, Virginia, ending the American Revolution. After a two-week battle, the combined French and American forces surrounded the British stronghold of Yorktown, forcing Cornwallis to surrender his army of 8,000 British soldiers. General George Washington had left 5,000 of his men under the command of the Marquis de Lafayette outside of Yorktown, while he marched the remaining Continental Army from New York to Virginia to surround the British. French aid had finally arrived in the form of Count de Rochambeau’s army, as well as the French Naval Fleet under the command of Count de Grasse. The combined forces blockaded the British by land and by sea. Cornwallis’ second-in-command carried out the surrender procedure, giving Cornwallis’ sword to the American and French commanders. The British and Hessian soldiers cleared out of the city with their bands playing the drinking song, “The World Turned Upside Down.” While the Treaty of Paris would not be signed for another two years, this battle ended the war on the continent and showed the world that the fledgling United States was able to defeat the strongest nation in the world.
Gino Giansanti is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.