Today in History: July 9-12

The Great Eastern Crisis begins, the Sultanate of Bengal ends, and more

Hello friends! Foreign Exchanges is taking a few days off but will be back to normal programming soon! In the meantime here are a few notable anniversaries for the past few days along with a reminder to please check out my new podcast with Daniel Bessner, American Prestige, whose first episode dropped on Friday. We’re available now on Apple Podcasts and elsewhere so if you enjoy this first outing please consider subscribing and leaving us a review! And if you’re not on FX’s email list please consider signing up for that too:


July 9, 1762: Russian Tsar Peter III is overthrown in a coup led by several leading members of the Russian nobility along with his own wife, who assumed the throne as Empress Catherine II. A great believer in the values of The Enlightenment, the future Catherine the Great went to great lengths to import its ideas into all facets of Russian life, from arts and literature to architecture to politics to military reform.

July 9, 1816: The United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata declares independence from Spain. As most of those provinces went on to form Argentina, this is commemorated as Argentine Independence Day.

July 9, 1875: A group of ethnic Serb insurrectionists clashes with Ottoman authorities in Herzegovina, beginning the 1875-1877 Herzegovina Uprising. The relatively minor revolt eventually drew in Serbia and Montenegro, leading to the 1876-1878 Serbian-Ottoman War and the 1876-1878 Montenegin-Ottoman War. Those wars in turn drew in Russia and led to the 1877-1878 Russian-Ottoman War. If you’ve ever wondered how World War I could have happened, here’s a case study in European dysfunction. The whole shebang here is known as the “Great Eastern Crisis,” the “crisis” being that Russia seriously threatened to put the Ottoman Empire out of its misery and upset the balance of power in Europe. It ended with the Treaty of Berlin in July 1878, which rewrote the earlier Treaty of San Stefano (at British and French behest) to be a little less favorable to the Russians.

July 9, 1944: In one of the more decisive engagements of World War II’s Pacific Theater, the United States emerges victorious from the Battle of Saipan. Control of Saipan, the largest of the northern Mariana Islands, put the US military in position to begin B-29 bombing attacks against Japan itself. The island served as a staging point for the US reconquest of the Philippines later in 1944. The defeat also led to the resignation of Japanese Prime Minister Hideki Tōjō.

July 10, 1778: King Louis XVI of France declares war against Britain in support of Britain’s 13 rebellious North American colonies. This turned out to be one of the biggest inflection points in the American Revolution, because without French assistance it’s safe to say that war would have turned out much differently.

July 10, 1943: In a pre-dawn landing the Allies begin their invasion of Sicily, codenamed “Operation Husky.” Although it wasn’t until mid-August that Sicily was in Allied hands the Italian military began evacuating forces from the island in late July, and the seemingly inevitable defeat proved to be the last straw for Benito Mussolini’s government, which fell on July 25. The Sicilian operation marked the first phase of the Allied invasion of Italy.

July 10, 2017: Iraqi authorities declare the city of Mosul liberated from the Islamic State, marking the recapture of the last major city in Iraq that had still been in IS’s hands. Two more large campaigns followed in Tal Afar and Hawija, but once Mosul was retaken the outcome of the campaign against IS in Iraq was no longer in doubt.

July 11, 1405: Chinese admiral Zheng He sets sail on the first of his “treasure voyages.” Between 1405 and 1433 Zheng led his fleets to destinations around Southeast Asia and across the Indian Ocean, visiting India, the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, and East Africa. There’s even some creative pseudo-history out there that argues he visited South America and Europe, though the “evidence” for these claims is either non-existent or invented. The voyages ended as suddenly as they began, for reasons that still aren’t entirely clear but probably involved the restoration of older Ming Dynasty policies that had been overridden by the Yongle Emperor (d. 1424).

July 11, 1995: The Srebrenica massacre begins. Bosnian Serb forces killed almost 8400 Bosniak men and boys in and around Srebrenica over the next couple of weeks, and carried off an estimated 25,000-30,000 women, children, and elderly.

July 12, 1191: The Siege of Acre ends

July 12, 1575: At the Battle of Rajmahal, the Mughal Empire eliminates the Karrani Dynasty, capturing and executing its final ruler Daud Khan Karrani, and annexes the Sultanate of Bengal.