On this day on 17th October

On this day in 1660. the nine Regicides who signed the death warrant of Charles I of England are hanged, drawn and quartered. A special court was appointed and in October 1660 those Regicides who were still alive and living in Britain were brought to trial. Ten were found guilty and were sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered. This included Thomas Harrison, John Jones, John Carew and Hugh Peters. Others executed included Adrian Scroope, Thomas Scot, Gregory Clement, Francis Hacker, Daniel Axtel and John Cook. Harrison said on the scaffold: "Gentleman, by reason of some scoffing, that I do hear, I judge that some do think I am afraid to die... I tell you no, but it is by reason of much blood I have lost in the wars, and many wounds I have received in my body which caused this shaking and weakness in my nerves."

Execution of John Jones, Thomas Scot,Gregory Clement and Adrian Scroop in October 1660.
Execution of John Jones, Thomas Scot, Gregory Clement and Adrian Scroop in October 1660.

On this day in 1662 Charles II of England sells Dunkirk to Louis XIV of France for £40,000.

Charles II
Charles II

On this day in 1905, Nicholas II took the advice of Sergi Witte, his new Chief Minister, and published the October Manifesto. The manifesto granted freedom of conscience, speech, meeting and association. He also promised that in future people would not be imprisoned without trial. Finally it promised that no law would become operative without the approval of the State Duma. Soon afterwards the Union of 17 October was established as a political association for the purpose of assisting the Russian government to implement the October Manifesto. Members of this association became known as Octobrists. Led by Alexander Guchkov, the Octobrists commanded the greatest number of seats during the Third Duma (1907-1912). They initially supported Peter Stolypin and his government but became increasingly disillusioned by his reactionary policies.

Sergi Witte
Sergi Witte

On this day in 1907 Guglielmo Marconi begins the first commercial transatlantic wireless service. Marconi's system was adopted by the Royal Navy. During the First World War wireless telepathy was widely employed by wartime ground forces. Large naval vessels were fitted with radios, although when they were used, it did make it easier for enemy submarines to discover where they were. Reconnaissance aircraft that had enough power to carry wireless sets (they weighed 50kg) were able to communicate the position of enemy artillery.

Guglielmo Marconi
Guglielmo Marconi

On this day in 1929 efforts were made to regain confidence in the state of the American economy. Irving Fisher, professor of political economy at Yale University, was considered the most important economist of the 1920s. His research on the quantity theory of money inaugurated the school of macroeconomic thought known as monetarism. On 17th October, 1929 he was reported as telling the Purchasing Agents Association that stock prices had reached "what looks like a permanently high plateau". He added that he expected to see the stock market, within a few months, "a good deal higher than it is today."

Despite Fisher's prediction, on 24th October, over 12,894,650 shares were sold. Prices fell dramatically as sellers tried to find people willing to buy their shares. That evening, five of the country's bankers, led by Charles Edward Mitchell, chairman of the National City Bank, issued a statement saying that due to the heavy selling of shares, many were now under-priced. This statement failed to halt the reduction in demand for shares. (10)

The New York Times reported on the Wall Street Crash: "The most disastrous decline in the biggest and broadest stock market of history rocked the financial district yesterday.... It carried down with it speculators, big and little, in every part of the country, wiping out thousands of accounts. It is probable that if the stockholders of the country's foremost corporations had not been calmed by the attitude of leading bankers and the subsequent rally, the business of the country would have been seriously affected. Doubtless business will feel the effects of the drastic stock shake-out, and this is expected to hit the luxuries most severely."

On the opening of the Wall Street Stock Exchange on 29th October, 1929, John D. Rockefeller, the American oil industry business magnate and successful industrialist, issued a statement which attempted to regain confidence in the state of the economy: "Believing that fundamental conditions of the country are sound and that there is nothing in the business situation to warrant the destruction of values that has taken place on the exchanges during the past week, my son and I have for some days been purchasing sound common stocks." Despite this comment the USA was on the verge of the Great Depression.

Chester Garde, Life Magazine (30th January, 1931)
Chester Garde, Life Magazine (30th January, 1931)

On this day in 1931 Al Capone is convicted of income tax evasion and sentenced to eleven years imprisonment. When Capone was released in 1939 prohibition had come to an end and he was he was no longer able to make money from selling illegal alcohol. He was also showing signs of the effects of syphilis and no longer had the mental strength to obtain past loyalties. Alphonse Capone died in 1947.

Al Capone
Al Capone

On this day in 1933 Albert Einstein moved to the United States where he became a professor of mathematics at Princeton. He was no longer a pacifist and argued that democratic nations needed to rearm in order to defend itself against the aggressive foreign policy of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. In 1939 Einstein warned President Franklin D. Roosevelt that German scientists were in a position to develop an atomic bomb. This encouraged Roosevelt to establish the Manhattan Project.

Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein

On this day in 1940 the body of Willi Münzenberg is found. Münzenberg broke with the Soviet Union as a result of the signing of the Nazi-Soviet Pact and now became an outspoken critic of Joseph Stalin. After the invasion of France by the German Army Münzenberg was interned in Lyon as an anti-fascist. Münzenberg was murdered by agents of the NKVD in 1940. Leopold Trepper later explained: "In 1940, he had been imprisoned by the Daladier government in the camp for foreigners at Gurs. It was there that two agents of Beria, fellow prisoners of his, were given the job of executing him. The two men proposed that he escape with them. Only too happy to take advantage of the opportunity, he agreed. He was found hanged two hundred yards from the camp."

Willi Münzenberg
Willi Münzenberg

On this day in 1989 the East German Politburo votes to remove Erich Honecker from his role as General Secretary. The following year he was arrested and charged with treason, corruption and abuse of power. In 1993 the courts decided that Honecker was too ill to stand trial. He was allowed to retire to Chile where he died in 1994.

Erich Honecker
Erich Honecker