1294 - Saint Celestine V resigns the papacy after only five months; Celestine hoped to return to his previous life as an ascetic hermit.
1545 - Council of Trent begins.
1577 - Sir Francis Drake sets out from Plymouth, England, on his round-the-world voyage.
1636 - The Massachusetts Bay Colony organizes three militia regiments to defend the colony against the Pequot Indians. This organization is recognized today as the founding of the United States National Guard.
1642 - Abel Janszoon Tasman reaches New Zealand.
1643 - English Civil War: The Battle of Alton takes place in Hampshire.
1769 - Dartmouth College is founded by the Rev. Eleazar Wheelock, with a Royal Charter from King George III, on land donated by Royal Governor John Wentworth.
1862 - American Civil War: At the Battle of Fredericksburg, Confederate General Robert E. Lee defeats the Union Major General Ambrose E. Burnside.
1867 - Fenian bomb explodes in Clerkenwell, London, killing six.
1937 - Second Sino-Japanese War: Battle of Nanjing – Nanjing, defended by the National Revolutionary Army under the command of General Tang Shengzhi, falls to the Japanese.
1937 - Nanjing Massacre. Japanese troops begin carrying out several weeks of raping and killing of civilians and suspected Chinese resistance after the fall of Nanjing.
1938 - The Holocaust: The Neuengamme concentration camp opens in the Bergedorf district of Hamburg, Germany.
1939 - World War II: Battle of the River Plate – Captain Hans Langsdorff of the German Deutschland class cruiser (pocket battleship) Admiral Graf Spee engages with Royal Navy cruisers HMS Exeter, HMS Ajax and HMNZS Achilles.
1941 - World War II: Hungary and Romania declare war on the United States.
1943 - World War II: 710 Bombers of U.S. 8th Air Force attack Kiel, Germany.
1949 - The Knesset votes to move the capital of Israel to Jerusalem.
1951 - Margaret Thatcher (Roberts) marries Denis Thatcher at City Methodist in London.
1959 - Archbishop Makarios becomes the first President of Cyprus.
1962 - NASA "Relay 1" launch, first active repeater communications satellite in orbit.
1967 - Constantine II of Greece attempts an unsuccessful counter-coup against the Regime of the Colonels
1968 - Brazilian president Artur da Costa e Silva decrees the AI-5 (or the fifth Institutional Act), which lasts until 1978 and marks the beginning of the hard times of Brazilian military dictatorship.
1972 - Apollo program: Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt begin the third and final Extra-vehicular activity (EVA) or "Moonwalk" of Apollo 17. This was the last manned mission to the moon of the 20th century.
1974 - Malta becomes a republic.
1977 - A DC-3 aircraft chartered from the Indianapolis-based National Jet crashes near Evansville Regional Airport, killing 29, including the University of Evansville basketball team, support staff and boosters of the team.
1979 - The Canadian Government of Prime Minister Joe Clark is defeated in the House of Commons, prompting the 1980 Canadian election.
1981 - General Wojciech Jaruzelski declares martial law in Poland to prevent dismantling of the communist system by Solidarity.
1989 - The last issue of Gnistan (The Spark), the organ of the Solidaritetspartiet, is published in Sweden.
1996 - Kofi Annan is elected as Secretary-General of the United Nations.
2000 - The "Texas 7" escape from the John Connally Unit near Kenedy, Texas and go on a robbery spree, during which police officer Aubrey Hawkins is shot and killed.
2000 - American Vice President Al Gore delivers his concession speech effectively ending his hopes of becoming the 43rd President of the United States.
2001 - the Indian Parliament Sansad is attacked by terrorists. 15 people are killed, including all the terrorists.
2002 - Enlargement of the European Union: The European Union announces that Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia will become members from May 1, 2004.
2003 - Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is captured near his home town of Tikrit (see Operation Red Dawn).
2004 - Former Chilean dictator, General Augusto Pinochet is put under house arrest, after being sued under accusations over 9 kidnapping actions and manslaughter. The house arrest is lifted the same day on appeal.
2006 - The Baiji, or Chinese River Dolphin, announced as extinct.