There are many historical events, and it is very difficult to choose a few. Here we are going to see several very interesting historical accounts that will allow us to know a little more about history.
What are historical accounts?
Historical accounts are textual narratives that describe passages of history , analyzing them, explaining them in depth and showing their facts, causes and consequences.
There are several sources from which the information in a historical account can come, such as documents of all kinds, account books, newspapers, letters, memos, diaries, figures and even tax lists.
10 historical accounts
Here are some historical accounts that every person should know.
World War II
The Second World War was a conflict that began in 1939 and ended in 1945 and involved many nations of the planet. As the days of the conflict passed, they formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. It is the most widespread war in history , and in which there was a military mobilization of up to 100 million soldiers.
The nations involved made a great effort, economically, industrially and scientifically, to ensure that they were winners in the conflict, and great sacrifices had to be made, even if that meant fewer resources for civilians.
Millions of people were killed in the conflict, with the Holocaust and the use of nuclear weapons being two of the greatest misfortunes for humanity. The number of deaths is between 50 and 70 million .
The event that triggered the great conflict is the invasion of the German Führer, Adolf Hitler, over Poland in September 1939. This caused Britain and France to declare war on Germany.
Later, in April 1940, Hitler would choose to invade Norway and Denmark, initiating a plan of expansion throughout Europe. In May of the same year, Belgium and the Netherlands would be invaded.
France found herself unable to cope with Germany, which was about to conquer her. This made it easier for Benito Mussolini, the dictator of Italy, to sign the Pact of Steel with Hitler , and thus both dictators agreed to declare and invade France, in addition to their ally, Great Britain.
While France fell, Britain was able to hold its own, despite constant German bombing of London. Still, Hitler saw that he could hardly invade the British Isles, for the time being, choosing to postpone his plans.
So the Germans chose to change direction, directing their invasions towards Eastern Europe. In early 1941, they would invade Yugoslavia and Greece, in preparation for attacking Hitler’s big target: the Soviet Union. Japan joined the war, attacking in late 1941 the main American base in the Pacific, Pearl Harbour , in Hawaii.
This attack was the trigger for the United States to not only decide to counterattack the country of the rising sun, but also to enter fully into the world war.
This is how the two sides of the conflict are formed, with Germany, Italy and Japan joining together to form the Axis, while its victims, France, Great Britain and the United States, along with other countries, would form the Allied side.
In 1943 the German attacks on Soviet soil ended because of their many casualties, the approach of winter and the lack of supplies. That same year, in July, the Allies managed to invade Italy and Mussolini’s government would fall.
On June 6, 1944, known as D-day, the Allies landed in Normandy , France, to initiate a massive invasion of Europe, bringing 156,000 Canadian, American and British soldiers into the old continent.
Hitler focused all his forces on Western Europe, which caused him to lose all his influence in any territory stolen from the Soviets and other Eastern European nations. Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania would be ‘liberated’ by the Soviets.
Between December 1944 and January 1945, Hitler would succeed in driving the allies out of Germany in the Battle of the Bulge, but this victory, which would be the last of the Nazis, was nothing more than a mirage. Soon the regime would fall.
In February 1945, after Germany was bombed by the Allies, the German country would see its strength fade away . On April 30 of that same year, Hitler, seeing his great defeat, would end his life together with his beloved, Eva Braun. On May 8, the final surrender would come, after seeing all of Germany invaded by the Soviet Union.
2. Fall of the Berlin Wall
On August 13, 1961, the communist government of the German Democratic Republic, also called East Germany, began building a wall of barbed wire and concrete between East and West Berlin.
At that time Germany was not one country, but two, and Berlin was divided into four secotres : American, French, British and Soviet. The first three sectors belonged to West Germany, but were located within East Germany.
The purpose for which East Germany decided to put up this wall was to prevent the citizens of capitalist Berlin from getting out of it and destroying the socialist state that was the German Democratic Republic.
However, the direction of migration was not what they feared it would be. Those who fled from one Berlin to another were those who lived on the communist side, given the poverty and underdevelopment that Germany experienced as a puppet of the Soviet Union.
About 5,000 East Germans, including 600 border guards, managed to cross the border. There is a record of 171 people who died crossing the fence , but surely there were many more.
The methods for crossing the wall were among the most varied: through sewers, with hot-air balloons, risking your life by going through minefields…
The wall stood until November 9, 1989, when in an interview, the head of the East German Communist Party announced that, given the point of calm that the Cold War had reached at that time, it was possible to cross the wall whenever one wanted to.
Far from this statement being interpreted as an exaggerated or out-of-context commentary, thousands of citizens from both sides of the wall went with their hammers to finish off each of the bricks on the wall , without guards preventing it.
The two Germanies were not immediately united, but there was little left for the two republics to make their reunification official, creating today’s Germany and transforming it into the great power of Europe.
3. Alexander the Great’s Conquests
Alexander the Great was one of the greatest conquerors in history. He was born in what is now South Macedonia, Greece, in 356 BC and became one of the great military strategists, creating a vast empire in Europe, Asia and Africa.
As the son of King Philip II of Macedonia, he had to learn about the military arts from a very young age in order to carry out his task as a future king. He was lucky enough to be educated by one of the great minds of Greece: Aristotle.
In the year 336 B.C. Alexander became the king of Macedonia and began one of his great conquests , attacking the Persian Empire, with an army of 40,000 soldiers.
Later, already known as Alexander the Great, he would succeed in unifying the Hellenic peoples into a single nation, and would invade places as far away as Egypt, the Middle East and Central Asia, reaching as far as India.
His great conquests could only be compared several centuries later with that of another great strategist, the Mongolian Genghis Khan.
4. Conquest of Mexico
Hernán Cortés, the Spanish conqueror, first touched the lands of what is now Mexico in 1519 and, just two years later, would gain complete control of the region, incorporating it into the Spanish Empire.
The first thing he conquered were the territories of the Yucatan Peninsula and, once his power had been consolidated, the Spaniards dared to go further, attacking the Aztecs in their capital, Tenochtitlan.
The contact was not conflictive at first, there were even acts of diplomacy. King Moctezuma of the Aztecs even invited Cortés to sleep in one of his most important palaces as an act of kindness and interest in curious foreigners.
But the Spanish didn’t go there to make allies. They were there to conquer, and whether it was because they fought the Aztecs or because they managed to capture Montezuma, tension arose between the colonizers and the Indians.
After several months of fighting, Moctezuma was finally killed, and his body thrown into the river . This obviously did not sit well with the Aztecs, who were furious and managed to expel the Spanish invaders in 1520. But this did not end here.
Only one month after this victory of the Aztecs, the Spanish returned and carried out an even more important siege, with which they managed to suffocate the supply of the Empire . As a result of this, the Aztecs finally surrendered.
It is at this time when the viceroyalty of New Spain begins, the definitive installation of the Spanish in the largest viceroyalty of the empire and the emergence of the current Mexican culture, which combines the Aztec with European imports of the Iberian.
5. Magellan-Elcano Expedition
The first round-the-world trip began on November 15, 1519 , and its main protagonists were the Portuguese Fernando de Magallanes and the Spanish Juan Sebastian Elcano. Leaving Sanlúcar de Barrameda and heading for the Moluccas Islands in Indonesia, they set sail with around 250 men. Very few of them would make it back, only 18.
Magellan believed he had discovered the fastest way to reach Indonesia, as well as proving definitively that the earth was round. The king of his country did not give him any support, so he went to ask for help from the king of Spain at that time, Charles V, who accepted .
Despite the good will and desire, it took only two months after setting sail for the first complications to occur. Magellan had made a mistake in calculating the coordinates and it was not possible to get the right route. In addition, the morale of his men was not very high, with riots occurring every two or three days and a shortage of food, something that does not help at sea.
However, they managed to go a long way, but unfortunately misfortune came. Just when they thought they would not see land, they managed to find the Philippine islands , where they tried to conquer the inhabitants. But the shot backfired, being in this place the last one that Magellan would see, as he was killed by its inhabitants.
So Elcano took over, who managed to reach the Moluccas. The two ships loaded their holds with products from the islands and decided to return by two routes: one was by the Pacific, being captured by the Portuguese, the other by the Indian.
However, later, the one that had eluded the Portuguese was forced to go to terriotorio belonging to Portugal, given the conditions of the ship. There they were captured, but 18 sailors managed to escape.
On September 6, 1522, the ship commanded by Elcano arrived in Spain, thus closing the first round-the-world trip and allowing Europe to be known as the greatness of the globe, as well as demystifying the existence of mythological creatures that lived there.
- You may be interested in: “The Middle Ages: the 16 main characteristics of this historical period”
6. Commencement and dissolution of Austria-Hungary
In 1867, after Austria’s defeat in the Seven Weeks’ War of 1866, in which it lost to Prussia and Italy, the Hungarians, who had been subdued by the Austrians, began to revolutionise , seeing that Austria was not the power that it was.
The Austrian Emperor, Franz Joseph I, had no choice but to agree to give the Hungarians some autonomy, and so in 1867 the Compromise, also known as ‘Ausgleich’, was reached, a pact in which the empire was divided into two parts. The part west of the river Leitha would become part of the kingdom of Austria, while the east would be the kingdom of Hungary .
Both sides would have their own government and parliament, with broad autonomy, but with the same monarch, who would be emperor in Austria and king in Hungary, as well as a few common ministries.
It was agreed that the agreement on the union of the Austro-Hungarian Empire would be reviewed every ten years , and renewed if deemed appropriate by both parties.
However, within the union there were not only Austrians and Hungarians. The Czechs, the Croats, the Serbs and other peoples had been incorporated into one of the two halves of the empire, without being asked what they thought or whether they wanted their own autonomy.
For this reason, and in anticipation of tensions that could weaken both parties, another agreement was reached in 1868 in which Croatia was granted some autonomy .
The Empire came to last more than forty years. In 1908 Bosnia and Herzegovina was annexed, making its rivalry with Russia and nearby countries grow, especially with Serbia, which wanted to annex the same territory.
This also turned the rest of the European territories against the Empire, with Germany being its only ally. But the beginning of the end came a few years later. In 1914, in the city of Sarajevo, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Countess Sophie Chotek, are murdered while visiting Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, which was behind the assassination, and this event initiated a series of power alliances at European level that would eventually materialise in World War I.
The three-way alliance, which until then had consisted of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy, was broken because Italy decided to go over to the other side. This made the Empire even more dependent on Germany. It allied itself with other empires, including Turkey, as well as Bulgaria.
In 1916 Emperor Franz Joseph I died, and was succeeded by his great-nephew Charles I. His administration did not give good results, preventing the empire from achieving peace and depending, even more, on its neighbour Germany , formerly the enemy under the name of Prussia.
Military defeat was just around the corner, and soon the union would be broken. Croatia would proclaim independence, as would Slovenia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, forming the Republic of Macedonia and the Kingdoms of Serbia and Montenegro.
Later, a great union would emerge from these newly independent peoples: the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes which in 1929 would be called the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Bohemia would become independent, calling itself the Czech Republic and, joining with Slovakia, would form another great union: the Czechoslovak Republic. This territory managed to stay with the Sudetenland, a region of German culture.
Italy would keep the coast of Dalmatia, the maritime part of the Balkans when the Empire still existed. Romania and Poland would also share in the spoils after the fall of Austria-Hungary.
Austria proclaimed independence and became a republic and planned to join Germany as a single nation . However, the Allies, who had won the World War, avoided this with the treaty of Saint Germain en Laye in 1919.
In this treaty, in addition to the Versailles Peace Treaty, the union between Germany and Austria was forbidden, as well as any change of name that would inspire a Germanic motivation in Austria.
Hungary also gained independence and became a republic, but was later occupied by communist forces, transforming it into a puppet state of the Soviet Union.
The kingdom of Hungary was proclaimed again, but without a king. Charles I tried twice to take the throne, but was unsuccessful. Miklos Horthy became the country’s regent until the end of World War II.
These events were especially traumatic for Austria , since it went from being a great power, which came to occupy almost half of Europe, to being a weak country that, a few years later, would be invaded by Germany.
7. The fall of Bolívar
In 1826, when the Congress of the Isthmus of Panama was convened, the United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata were disappointed that Simon Bolivar refused to take part in the war against Brazil . To make matters worse, Venezuela was making its first secessionist attempts, in which Bolivar himself was involved.
The constitution of the newly created Republic of Bolivia proved not to be adapted to the reality of the new nation, being finally discarded when its first president, Marshal Antonio José de Sucre resigned from that position in 1828.
In 1827, the war between Peru and the Great Colombia explodes, motivated by the occupation of the Peruvian troops in Guayaquil. Guayaquil was finally liberated in 1828, but this demonstrated the tension between Peru and Bolivar.
Bolivar’s life was in danger, being attacked in 1928 and miraculously saved. Bolivar suppressed the vice presidency, and made enemies with General Francisco de Paula Santander to whom he attributed the assassination attempt .
Bolivar resigned from the presidency in 1830, ill with tuberculosis, leaving Vice-President Domingo Caycedo in charge. Bolivar was aware that he was no longer living in his golden years, preparing for a voluntary exile in the city of London.
On his trip he visited several places in the Americas, including the Caribbean and Mexico. In Mexico he accepted as his protector Captain Agustín de Iturbide, son of the first Emperor of Mexico, which made him live a tense diplomatic episode.
This captain wanted to regain the throne of the Mexican nation, so when he was deposed from his post, he ended up being shot by his compatriots. Moreover, Mexico put the focus on Bolivar, who he considered had helped him in his attempt to reign again . Venezuela was officially becoming independent, Vice President Caycedo fell when General Rafael Urdaneta managed to depose him from his post, and Bolivar received the tense letters from abroad.
Still on the road, arriving in Cartagena de las Indias, Governor General Mariano Montilla urged him to accept power again, but this time as a monarch instead of a president, of the nation he had built.
Bolivar rejected it, since although he wanted to be able to have power over a vast nation, he was a Republican. He wanted Latin America to be a great republican federation, not a great monarchical empire . However, the American continent is too big to be ruled by one man.
The Great Colombia, the nation he had devised, collapsed shortly after his death on December 17, 1830. On January 31, 1831, Greater Colombia formally ceased to exist.
8. The death of Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar did not want to be a great emperor, and in fact, he was not, despite what many believe. What is clear is that he was a great leader, who emulated the power of Alexander the Great himself.
However, the idea of becoming the king of all Romans was succulent. Having as a potential wife Cleopatra herself, of whom he had acknowledged having a son, the idea of ruling Egypt and Rome as kings was in the air . Even the possibility was considered of making Alexandria the new capital of the empire, making Rome a simple provincial capital.
These ideas did not sit well with the Romans, and it was then that the plan to end Julius Caesar began to be orchestrated. 60 men, among whom were friends of Caesar himself, planned the conspiracy .
Cassius and Brutus had fought against Caesar at Pharsalus, but after the defeat they were reconciled to him, who was benevolent. Caesar had been like a father to Brutus, in fact there are those who say that he could have been his real father.
The conspiracy was agreed to be made in the session of the Senate in the Ides of March , on the 15th of that month of 44 B.C. Caesar, despite the fact that one of his seers warned him that it was a bad day to go to the Senate, ignored him and went there to meet with the magistrates.
He had barely sat down when he noticed the cold blade of the first dagger. There were several daggers, but the best known is that of Brutus, to whom Caesar said, to his surprise, the fateful phrase when he saw that his adopted son was part of his end: You too, my son? Twenty-three stabs were the ones that ended the life of the greatest Roman leader of the classical period.
The participants in the conspiracy were convinced that, sooner or later, Rome would once again become a splendid Republic, but nothing could be further from the truth. The country was running out of water and the republican administration was on its last legs.
9. Christopher Columbus
Although little is known about Christopher Columbus’ childhood, and even today it is not known where he was really born, it is known that his parents taught him the trade of weaver, but even as a child he wanted to be a navigator .
From a very young age he took part in expeditions and his desire to get to know other cultures made him acquire linguistic skills, being able to understand the Greek of Ptolemy. Thanks to several Greek writings that he had the opportunity to read he began to have a reflective and well documented capacity, which led him to commune with the idea that the Earth was round.
In 1453 the Ottomans began the end of the Byzantine Empire, conquering the city of Constantinople, which had been a key point of trade for Europeans and Arabs to India.
Since the Christians could no longer pass through there, because the Turks prevented them from doing so, they were forced to opt for other routes to Asia, the West being the only maritime option .
Portugal took the first step, deploying a wide waterway to encircle Africa and reach India, China and the furthest part of Asia.
It was then that Columbus, convinced that there should be a more direct route to India, went to speak to the King of Portugal, John II, to have him pay for the journeys in that direction, but the monarch refused.
Then, as a second option, Columbus went to the Spanish Crown, formed by the kingdoms of Aragon and Castile, to see if they would give him support . After some failed attempts, the Catholic kings, Isabella and Ferdinand gave him the go-ahead. Thus, in 1492, Christopher Columbus would leave Puerto de Palos with three ships: the Pinta, the Niña and the Santa María.
On their journey they believed that they would reach India and, in fact, they always believed that they did, but they really discovered a new continent for the Europeans, which would later be baptized as America.
Any land trampled on by Columbus in which no sovereign of his own was seen was claimed for the Crown of Castile, thus beginning the beginning of what would later become the great Spanish Empire.
But the discovery of new land would not be a good thing at all. Columbus, just as he was a great navigator, was a great abuser. Every indigenous population he encountered enslaved him in a very un-Christian way. In fact, the kings of Spain themselves were forced to imprison Christopher Columbus several years later because they were aware of this.
Although Isabella and Ferdinand were not known to be pious, especially towards Muslims and Jews, they gave the explicit order that no inhabitant of the new territories should be mistreated.
10. The reform
The reform, which took place between 1517 and 1648, was one of the great events in European history . Before this event, the Roman Church had total control over the peoples and governments of Christendom.
Many people, who had knowledge and a critical sense, saw that the Church did not behave as it said all good believers should behave, being an organization corrupt to the core.
The aim of the Reformation was to bring the Church back to its roots, but this only meant a split between two main Catholic sects: the Catholics and the Protestants .
The Protestants brought the biblical texts into the hands of the believers, making them understand exactly what the word of God was saying, instead of relying on the interpretations of priests who barely understood the complicated biblical Latin.
The schism became a bloody religious war . Many Protestants fled to the newly discovered American continent, as well as people from the Renaissance who were fleeing from the anti-scientific persecution of the Catholic Church.
It is thanks to these developments that we in Europe today enjoy broad freedom of religion, especially in the Germanic countries, where the view of one’s faith is best accepted and tolerated as an intimate aspect.
- Beevor A. The Second World War (2012). London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
- Carrard P. History and narrative: an overview (2015). Vermont: Narrative Works.