Today in History: April 1-4

The Falklands War begins, the Italian War of 1551-1559 ends, and more!

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Happy Easter to those observing it, and an embarrassingly belated Chag Sameach to those who are (or were, by this point) observing Passover! It’s spring break here at Foreign Exchanges. We’ll be back to regular programming on Tuesday, barring any unforeseen complications. Thanks for reading!

April 1, 1939: The Spanish Civil War comes to its official end when Nationalist leader Francisco Franco announces the surrender of the remaining Republican forces. The March 28 fall of Madrid to Franco’s besieging army had rendered the war pretty much over at that time, so this announcements was a bit anti-climactic. Franco went on to rule Spain, quite brutally as it happens (check out the “White Terror” if you’re unfamiliar, it’s got a very appropriate name), until his death in 1975.

April 1, 1941: An anti-British military coup in Baghdad ousts King Faisal II’s regent, Abd al-Ilah, as well as his prime minister, Nouri Al-Saeed, and restores a pro-Axis (not pro-Nazi, necessarily, but definitely friendly with the Germans) former prime minister, Rashid Ali al-Gaylani, to power. Concerned that their empire was about to be severed by a pro-German government in the Middle East, Britain moved in to reverse the coup. The subsequent Anglo-Iraqi War lasted about a month and ended with Gaylani fleeing the country and Abd al-Ilah back in charge in Baghdad.

April 1, 1976: Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne co-found Apple, Inc. If you’ve never heard of Wayne that’s because less than two weeks later he sold his 10 percent stake in the company to the other two for what wound up being $2300. Apple is now worth about $1.3 trillion, so I think we can all agree he made the right decision.

April 2, 1930: Following the death of Ethiopian Empress Zewditu, her regent and designated heir, Ras Tafari Makonnen, assumes the throne under the regal name Haile Selassie. Over the next 44 years, among many other things Selassie oversaw the adoption of Ethiopia’s first and second constitutions, abolished slavery, helped found the precursor to the African Union, and led Ethiopia to become a charter member of the United Nations. He also oversaw a failed effort to integrate Eritrea that sparked a 30 year war of independence and is sometimes accused of exacerbating ethnic tension by favoring Amhara, particularly to the detriment of the Oromo community. And he’s perhaps best known as the central figure in the Rastafari movement. Selassie was overthrown in a military coup in September 1974 and was executed (though the subsequent Derg government claimed he died of natural causes) about a year later.

April 2, 1982: The Argentine military invades and occupies the Falkland Islands, a British colony that Argentina had long claimed (and still does claim) as its territory. The ensuing 10 week undeclared “Falklands War” ended in mid-June with a decisive British victory. The victory bolstered the flagging political fortunes of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, so that’s…nice, I guess. On the flip side, the defeat was so embarrassing for Argentine President Leopoldo Galtieri was ousted days after the war ended and the National Reorganization Process, the military junta that had ruled Argentina since 1976, lost popular support and was forced to restore civilian governance in 1983.

April 3, 1559: The Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis ends the Italian War of 1551-1559, the last in a series of Italian conflicts between France and the Habsburgs, with a Habsburg victory. French King Henry II was forced to forfeit his claims on any Italian territory, but for France the war hadn’t been a total bust. The abdication (and then death, in 1556) of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V resulted in the Habsburg realm being split, with Philip II inheriting Spain and its empire while Ferdinand I inherited Austria and control of the Holy Roman Empire. This ended France’s primary national security concern, its potential encirclement by a unified and hostile Habsburg Empire. FThe wars wound up solidifying Habsburg control over much of the southern and northern parts of what would later become Italy, with independent Venice, Genoa, Florence, the Papal States, and several other small polities sandwiched in between.

April 3, 1948: The United States government enacts the Foreign Assistance Act of 1948, AKA “The Marshall Plan,” earmarking $12 billion to the reconstruction of war-torn Europe. This helped quickly rebuild post-war European economies, though its impact has probably been overstated in subsequent American mythologizing. This in turn helped limit the kind of struggling that might have allowed dastardly leftists to gain political traction in Western Europe and laid part of the groundwork for NATO.

April 4, 1949: Speaking of which, it’s on this date that founding members Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States signed the North Atlantic Treaty, creating NATO (pending ratification by a majority of the signatories). Those original 12 states have grown to 30, so far, with the admission of the Republic of North Macedonia in March 2020.

US President Harry Truman signing the North Atlantic Treaty in the Oval Office, surrounded by NATO diplomats including Secretary of State Dean Acheson (US National Archives and Records Administration)

April 4, 1959: The French government creates the autonomous Mali Federation, consisting of Senegal and French Sudan. Exactly one year later, French authorities agreed to grant the federation its independence, effective June 20, 1960. The aggregated state collapsed within two months, in August 1960, leaving in its wake the independent nations of Senegal and Mali. Through all that, Senegal recognizes April 4 as its Independence Day—referring to April 4, 1960, not 1959, but April 4 nevertheless.