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Up to 1900
- 1294 - Pope Celestine V resigns from the papacy after only five months. He was the last pope to resign voluntarily until Pope Benedict XVI did so in 2013.
- 1545 - The Council of Trent begins.
- 1577 - Francis Drake sets sail on his global voyage from Plymouth, Southwest England, on the ship The Golden Hind.
- 1642 - Abel Tasman reaches New Zealand.
- 1643 - English Civil War: The Battle of Alton takes place in Hampshire.
- 1675 - The Swedish-controlled North German city of Wismar is attacked by Danish troops during the Scanian War.
- 1758 - English transport ship Duke William sinks in the North Atlantic Ocean, killing over 360 people.
- 1769 - Dartmouth College is founded in New Hampshire.
- 1862 - American Civil War: At the Battle of Fredericksburg, Confederate General Robert E. Lee defeats Union General Ambrose Burnside.
- 1864 - Paraguay declares war on Brazil.
1901 – 2000
- 1937 - Second Sino-Japanese War: Battle of Nanking - Nanjing, defended by the National Revolutionary Army under command of General Tang Shengzhi, falls to the Japanese. This is followed by the Nanking Massacre committed by Japanese forces against local civilians.
- 1939 - Holocaust: Neuengamme Concentration Camp opens.
- 1939 - World War II: The Battle of River Plate takes place between the German Navy and the British Royal Navy.
- 1941 - World War II: The Kingdoms of Hungary and Romania declare war on the United States.
- 1941 - A glacier breaks apart at Palcacocha Lake in the Peruvian Andes, resulting in a mud avalanche that kills around 6,000 people in the city of Huaraz.
- 1943 - World War II: Massacre of Kalavryta by German occupying forces in Greece.
- 1949 - Israel's parliament, the Knesset, votes to make Jerusalem the capital city of Israel.
- 1959 - Archbishop Makarios III becomes the first President of Cyprus.
- 1960 - Emperor of Ethiopia Haile Selassie is removed from power while on a visit abroad, in Brazil.
- 1962 - NASA launches Relay 1, the first active repeater communications satellite in orbit.
- 1967 - The deposed King Constantine II of Greece attempts an unsuccessful coup against the Regime of the Colonels.
- 1967 - The Pioneer 8 space probe is launched.
- 1972 - Apollo 17 astronauts Harrison Schmitt and Eugene Cernan become the last people to-date to have set foot on the Moon.
- 1974 - Malta becomes a Republic within the Commonwealth.
- 1977 - A DC-3 aircraft chartered from Indianapolis-based National Jet crashes near Evansville Regional Airport in Indiana, killing 29 people, including the entire University of Evansville basketball team.
- 1979 - Joe Clark's Canadian government is defeated in a vote of confidence. A new election in early 1980 brings Pierre Trudeau back as Prime Minister of Canada, less than a year after being voted out of the post.
- 1981 - General Wojciech Jaruzelski declares Martial Law in Poland.
- 1982 - The Arabian peninsula is struck by magnitude 6 earthquake, killing around 2,800 people.
- 1985 - Arrow Air Flight 1285 crashes in Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador, killing all 256 people on board.
- 1989 - The Provisional Irish Republican Army carries out an attack at the Derryard Checkpoint in Northern Ireland, killing 2 British soldiers.
- 1996 - Kofi Annan is chosen as UN Secretary-General. He succeeds Boutros Boutros-Ghali on January 1, 1997.
- 2000 - The "Texas Seven" escape from the John B. Connally Unit near Kennedy, Texas and go an a robbery spree.
- 2001 - The Indian parliament building in New Delhi is attacked by terrorists.
- 2002 - The EU announces that ten new member states are to join on May 1, 2004.
- 2003 – Saddam Hussein is captured by United States-led forces near his home town of Tikrit.
- 2011 - Gunman Nordine Amrani shoots six people dead at a Christmas market in Liege, Belgium, before killing himself.
- 2014 - A landslide in Java, Indonesia, kills at least 18 people and 90 missing.
Up to 1900
- 1521 - Pope Sixtus V (d. 1590)
- 1533 - King Eric XIV of Sweden (d. 1577)
- 1553 – King Henry IV of France (d. 1610)
- 1640 - Robert Plot, English chemist and academic (d. 1696)
- 1662 - Francesco Bianchini, Italian philosopher and scientist (d. 1729)
- 1678 - Yongzheng Emperor of China (d. 1735)
- 1684 - Ludvig Holberg, Norwegian historian, philosopher and author (d. 1754)
- 1720 - Carlo Gozzi, Italian dramatist (d. 1804)
- 1784 - Archduke Louis of Austria (d. 1864)
- 1797 - Heinrich Heine, German poet (d. 1856)
- 1804 - Joseph Howe, 5th Premier of Nova Scotia (d. 1873)
- 1816 - Ernst Werner von Siemens, German engineer, inventor and industrialist (d. 1892)
- 1818 - Mary Todd Lincoln, First Lady of the United States (d. 1882)
- 1836 - Franz von Lenbach, German painter (d. 1904)
- 1854 - Herman Bavinck, Dutch theologian and churchman (d. 1921)
- 1860 - Lucien Guitry, French actor (d. 1925)
- 1864 - Emil Seidel, Mayor of Milwaukee (d. 1947)
- 1867 - Kristian Birkeland, Norwegian explorer and scientist (d. 1917)
- 1870 - Edward LeSaint, American actor and director (d. 1914)
- 1871 - Emily Carr, Canadian artist (d. 1945)
- 1874 - Josef Lhevinne, Russian pianist and professor (d. 1944)
- 1883 - Belle da Costa Greene, American librarian, bibliographer and archivist (d. 1950)
- 1887 - Alvin York, American soldier (d. 1964)
- 1894 - Fernando de Fuentes, Mexican film director (d. 1958)
- 1897 - Albert Aalbers, Dutch architect (d. 1961)
- 1900 - Jonel Perlea, Romanian conductor (d. 1970)
1901 – 1950
- 1902 - Panagiotis Kanellopoulos, Prime Minister of Greece (d. 1986)
- 1903 - Ella Baker, American Civil Rights activist (d. 1986)
- 1903 - Carlos Montoya, Spanish guitarist (d. 1993)
- 1906 - Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent (d. 1968)
- 1906 - Laurens van der Post, South African writer (d. 1996)
- 1911 - Trygve Haavelmo, Norwegian economist (d. 1999)
- 1913 - Arnold Brown, 11th General of the Salvation Army (d. 2002)
- 1913 - Archie Moore, American boxer (d. 1998)
- 1915 - B. J. Vorster, Prime Minister of South Africa (d. 1983)
- 1918 - Kim Won-kwon, Korean athlete
- 1918 - Rosalia Lombardo, Italian pneumonia victim (d. 1920)
- 1920 - George Shultz, 60th United States Secretary of State
- 1923 - Philip Warren Anderson, American physicist
- 1923 - Antoni Tapies, Catalan artist (d. 2012)
- 1923 - Edward Clancy, Australian cardinal (d. 2014)
- 1923 - Frankie Fraser, English gangster (d. 2014)
- 1924 - Maria Riva, American actress
- 1925 - Dick Van Dyke, American actor
- 1926 - George Rhoden, Jamaican athlete
- 1928 - Jack Tramiel, Polish-born American businessman (d. 2012)
- 1929 - Christopher Plummer, Canadian actor
- 1933 - Doug Mohns, Canadian ice hockey player (d. 2014)
- 1934 - Richard D. Zanuck, American movie producer (d. 2012)
- 1936 - Shah Karim al-Husseini, Agha Khan IV
- 1937 - Robert Gernhardt, German poet (d. 2006)
- 1938 - Heino, German folk singer
- 1941 - John Davidson, American actor and game show host
- 1942 - Howard Brenton, English playwright and screenwriter
- 1945 - Herman Cain, American businessman and politician
- 1946 - Pierino Prati, Italian footballer
- 1947 - Luis Angelo Gonzalez Macchi, former President of Paraguay
- 1948 - Ted Nugent, American musician
- 1948 - Lillian Board, British athlete (d. 1970)
- 1949 - Robert Lindsay, British actor
- 1950 - Tom Vilsack, 40th Governor of Iowa
1951 – 1975
- 1952 - Sylvester Ritter, American professional wrestler (d. 1998)
- 1953 - Ben Bernanke, American economist
- 1953 - Thomas Kurzhals, German keyboardist and songwriter (d. 2014)
- 1956 - Majida El Roumi, Lebanese soprano
- 1956 - Phil Hubbard, American basketball player
- 1957 - Steve Buscemi, American actor
- 1958 - Lynn-Holly Johnson, American figure skater
- 1959 - Johnny Whitaker, American actor and singer
- 1961 - Harry Gregson-Williams, British movie score composer, music producer and conductor
- 1962 - Roger Ilegems, Belgian cyclist
- 1964 - Hide, Japanese musician (d. 1998)
- 1967 – Jamie Foxx, American actor and singer
- 1969 - Sergei Fedorov, Russian ice hockey player
- 1970 - Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, Austrian mountaineer
- 1971 - Leanne Wood, Welsh politician, leader of Plaid Cymru
- 1971 - Gloria Casarez, American activist (d. 2014)
- 1973 - Christie Clark, American actress
- 1974 – Sara Cox, English television and radio presenter
- 1974 - Nicholas McCarthy, British musician for Franz Ferdinand
- 1975 - Tom DeLonge, American musician
- 1976 - Radoslaw Sobolewski, Polish footballer
- 1977 - Sascha Kindred, German-born British Paralympic swimmer
- 1977 - Lauri Porra, Finnish musician
- 1977 - Peter Stringer, Irish rugby player
- 1978 - Kaspars Kambala, Latvian basketball player
- 1978 - Olav Bjortomt, British quiz player, crossword compiler
- 1980 - Satoshi Tsumabuki, Japanese actor
- 1980 - Agnieszka Wlodarczyk, Polish actress
- 1981 - Amy Lee, American singer-songwriter
- 1981 - Liam Lawrence, Irish footballer
- 1984 - Santi Cazorla, Spanish footballer
- 1984 - Michal Kadlec, Czech footballer
- 1985 - Michael Bumpus, American football player
- 1987 - James Holmes, American mass shooter
- 1989 – Taylor Swift, American country singer
- 1989 - Dasha Kapustina, Russian model
- 1989 - Katherine Schwarzenegger, American author
- 1991 - Senah Mongo, Togolese footballer
Up to 1900
- 558 - Childebert I, King of Paris (b. 496)
- 838 - Pepin I of Aquitaine (b. 797)
- 1048 - Abu Rahman al-Biruni, Persian scholar and polymath (b. 973)
- 1124 - Pope Callixtus II (b. 1065)
- 1126 - Henry IX, Duke of Bavaria (b. 1075)
- 1204 - Maimonides, Spanish rabbi and philosopher (b. 1135)
- 1250 - Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor (b. 1194)
- 1404 - Albert I, Duke of Bavaria (b. 1336)
- 1466 - Donatello, Florentine painter and sculptor (b. 1386)
- 1516 - Johannes Trithemius, German cryptographer and historian (b. 1462)
- 1521 - King Manuel I of Portugal (b. 1469)
- 1557 - Niccolo Fontana Tartaglia, Italian mathematician and engineer (b. 1500)
- 1565 - Conrad Gessner, Swiss botanist and physician (b. 1516)
- 1621 - Catherine Stenbock, Queen Consort of Sweden (b. 1535)
- 1721 - Alexander Selkirk, Scottish sailor and castaway, inspiration for Robinson Crusoe (b. 1676)
- 1729 - Anthony Collins, English philosopher (b. 1676)
- 1754 - Mahmud I, Ottoman Sultan (b. 1696)
- 1783 - Pehr Wilhelm Wargentin, Swedish astronomer (b. 1717)
- 1784 - Samuel Johnson, English poet and lexicographer (b. 1709)
- 1837 - Herman of Alaska, Russian missionary and saint (b. 756)
- 1863 - Christian Friedrich Hebbel, German poet and playwright (b. 1813)
- 1868 - Carl Friedrich Philipp von Martius, German botanist and explorer (b. 1794)
- 1883 - Victor de Laprade, French poet and critic (b. 1812)
1901 – 2000
- 1917 - Ebe W. Tunnell, Governor of Delaware (b. 1844)
- 1922 - Hannes Hafstein, 1st Prime Minister of Iceland (b. 1861)
- 1924 - Samuel Gompers, English-American labor leader (b. 1850)
- 1930 - Fritz Pregl, Slovenian-Austrian chemist (b. 1869)
- 1931 - Gustave le Bon, French psychologist (b. 1841)
- 1932 - Georgios Jakobides, Greek painter (b. 1853)
- 1934 - Thomas A. Watson, assistant to Alexander Graham Bell (b. 1854)
- 1935 - Victor Grignard, French chemist (b. 1871)
- 1942 - Wlodimir Ledochowski, Austrian-Polish religious leader (b. 1866)
- 1944 - Wassily Kandinski, Russian painter (b. 1866)
- 1944 - Lupe Velez, Mexican actress (b. 1908)
- 1954 - John Raymond Hubbell, American director and composer (b. 1879)
- 1955 - Egas Moniz, Portuguese psychiatrist and neurosurgeon (b. 1874)
- 1961 - Grandma Moses, American painter (b. 1860)
- 1962 - Harry Barris, American singer-songwriter and pianist (b. 1905)
- 1969 - Spencer Williams, American actor and director (b. 1893)
- 1972 - Gustav Schwarzenegger, Austrian police chief and inspector (b. 1907)
- 1973 - Giuseppe Beltrami, Italian cardinal and Vatican City diplomat (b. 1889)
- 1974 – Betty Van Patter, member of the Black Panther Party, murdered.
- 1981 - Pigmeat Markham, American actor, singer and dancer (b. 1904)
- 1986 - Heather Angel, English actress (b. 1969)
- 1986 - Ella Baker, American Civil Rights activist (b. 1903)
- 1992 - Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, American businessman (b. 1899)
- 1994 - Antoine Pinay, Prime Minister of France (b. 1891)
- 2001 – Chuck Schuldiner, singer/guitarist of Death
- 2002 - Zal Yanovsky, Canadian singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1944)
- 2003 - William V. Roth, Jr., American politician (b. 1921)
- 2006 - Lamar Hunt, American businessman (b. 1932)
- 2008 - Kathy Staff, English actress (b. 1928)
- 2008 - Horst Tappert, German actor (b. 1923)
- 2009 - Paul Samuelson, American economist (b. 1918)
- 2010 - Richard Holbrooke, American diplomat (b. 1941)
- 2011 - Klaus-Dieter Sieloff, German footballer (b. 1942)
- 2012 - Maurice Herzog, French mountaineer (b. 1919)
- 2014 - Ernst Albrecht, German politician, Prime Minister of Lower Saxony (b. 1930)
- St. Lucia Day, celebrated in some European countries, mainly in Sweden
- Republic Day (Malta)
- Acadian Remembrance Day