Today in History: November 28-29

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November 28, 1814: The Times of London is published via a new steam-powered printing press, making it the first major newspaper so produced. The use of the faster steam press took newspapers from a niche business to a mass market one, in the process boosting efforts to increase literacy.

November 28, 1821: Panama gains its independence from Spain and joins Gran Colombia. This date is commemorated as Independence Day in Panama—which is not to be confused with Separation Day, when Panama became independent of Colombia in 1903.

November 28, 1912: Taking advantage of Ottoman weakness and the onset of the First Balkan War, Albania declares its independence from the Ottoman Empire. The move was both opportunistic and defensive, as the Balkan League—Bulgaria, Greece, Montenegro, and Serbia (particularly Serbia)—had talked about partitioning the empire’s remaining European territories rather than creating any new independent nations. Declaring independence was the Albanians’ way of forcing themselves into the conversation. Commemorated as Albanian Independence Day.

November 28, 1943: Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, and Joseph Stalin begin the Tehran Conference in, well, Tehran, the first of three major World War II meetings between the leaders of the UK, US, and USSR (the final one, at Potsdam in July 1945, occurred after Roosevelt’s death so Harry Truman represented the US). The main outcome of Tehran was that Roosevelt and Stalin managed to get Churchill to commit to an invasion of France, in part to force Germany to pull forces away from their eastern front with the Soviets. They also discussed the eventual partition of Germany and creation of the United Nations.

Stalin, Roosevelt, and Churchill at Tehran (Wikimedia Commons)

November 28, 1960: Mauritania gains its independence from France. This date is commemorated as Mauritanian Independence Day.

November 28, 1980: The Iranian military’s Operation Morvarid, in the early stages of the Iran-Iraq War, results in the destruction of most of Iraq’s air defenses in the Persian Gulf and southern Iraq, several of Iraq’s oil facilities, and around 80 percent of the Iraqi navy. The victory helped Iran blunt Iraq’s early offensive and force the conflict into a stalemate that gave the Iranians time to prepare their own offensive.

November 29, 903: The Battle of Hama

November 29, 1890: Japan’s Meiji Constitution goes into effect, codifying a semi-constitutional monarchy modeled along the lines of Prussia. Ambiguities over the powers of the emperor versus the civilian government versus the legislature may have facilitated the country’s slide into totalitarianism prior to World War II. The constitution was substantially rewritten after Japan’s surrender.