March 4, 1519 — Hernán Cortés lands in Mexico

Hernán Cortés was 34 years old when he led the Spanish Conquistador invasion of Mexico. The initial landing took place on the Yucatan Peninsula, in what was then Maya territory. Cortés’ force was only 500 strong, but they were armed with muskets and cannons, as compared to the arrows and spears used by their opponents.

Although initially peaceful, Cortés’ mission was one of conquest, and would eventually result in the destruction of the Aztec nation and its tributaries, and the Spanish conquest of Mexico.

January 18, 1788 — The First Fleet lands in Botany Bay

An advance party for the First Fleet to colonise Australia entered Botany Bay on this day. The Governor of the colony, Arthur Phillip, sailed the armed tender Supply into the bay, and weighed anchor. Two days later, they were joined by the other ships of the Fleet. However, the poor quality of the soil led to the entire fleet decamping, and landing instead in Port Jackson 8 days later, at what was named Sydney Cove by the Governor.

The French explorer La Perouse entered Botany Bay on the same day, January 26, too late to claim the land for France. The British penal colony was, of course, never heard from again.

January 11, 1879 – The Anglo-Zulu wars begin

A series of border disputes between British settlers and the Zulu people escalated to the point where, in late 1878, the British sent an ultimatum to Cetshwayo, the ruler of the Zulu nation, requiring among other things that he disband his army, pay reparations and once more allow Christian missionaries into his lands. Cetshwayo ignored the ultimatum, which expired on January 10, 1879. The following day, a British and allied forced under Lieutenant General Frederick Thesiger, the 2nd Baron Chelmsford, invaded Zulu territory.

The Zulus had a massive numeric advantage over the British (over two to one), and were also fighting on their own land. The British, on the other hand, were better armed, with rifles and cannons as compared to the Zulu’s assegai (short spears). The Zulu nearly succeeded in overwhelming the British at Rorke’s Drift, but were turned back with enormous casualties on both sides. Another Zulu attack, at Islandwana, was more successful, and turned back the British. However, less than six months after the war’s commencement, the British had triumphed, and the Zulu nation’s power was broken forever.

1911 — Jimmy Sharman’s Boxing Tent begins at the Ardlethan Show

Jimmy Sharman’s Boxing Tent is perhaps the best known – and most notorious – of the various travelling outback boxing shows that once went from town to town in Australia. It put on displays of bare-knuckle boxing as well as occasional bouts where locals could try their luck against the professional boxers.

It was a brutal sport, and often exploitative – but it was also one of the few ways a black man could make a living, albeit a dangerous one that might leave you maimed. The outback boxing circuit flourished for a few decades, but it largely faded away by the time of World War Two.

November 11, 1975 — The Whitlam government is dismissed by the Governor-General

On November 11, 1975, then Governor-General John Kerr dismissed the ALP government of Gough Whitlam and installed Leader of the Opposition Malcolm Fraser (of the Liberal Party) as a caretaker Prime Minister until a double dissolution election could be held.

The precipitate cause was the inability of the ALP government to pass Supply (Budget) bills in the face of a hostile Senate. However, Whitlam, unaware of Kerr’s decision when they arranged to meet that morning, had planned to call a half-Senate election, which would likely have solved that particular problem. Kerr, however, had already made his decision. While, under the Australian Constitution, he had the legal power to take this action, he was widely seen as lacking the moral authority.

The double dissolution election was held on December 13, 1975, and delivered a massive victory to Fraser, allowing him to govern in earnest. (Under the terms of his caretakership, he had not been permitted to introduce any legislation other than passing Supply bills and calling the election.) Ironically, December 13 is also when Whitlam’s planned half-Senate election would have taken place.

February 1, 1981 – Trevor Chappell bowls underarm in an international match

It is one of the most scandalous incidents ever to have disturbed the televised narcolepsy that is Professional Cricket: on this day in 1981, Australian captain Greg Chappell instructed his brother Trevor to bowl underarm to New Zealand batsman Brian McKechnie.

It was a one day match at the MCG in Melbourne, the third of five in a series, and so far the series was tied 1-all. And on the last bowl of the day, McKechnie, if he hit a six, could tie the game. The infamous underarm bowl was intended to prevent this from happening. It was legal under the rules of the game, but it was widely seen as unsporting behaviour, not living up to the spirit of fair play.

The rules of One Day International Cricket were changed after the end of the 80-81 season to prevent a recurence of the event, and the bad reputation it gave them has dogged the Chappell brothers (more Trevor than Greg) ever since.

“Beds Are Burning” by Midnight Oil

How do we sleep while our beds are burning?
How can we dance while our Earth is turning?

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“Kosciuszko” by Midnight Oil

Call off the ultimatum, no don’t turn away
Call off the ultimatum until yesterday

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