December 31, 1999 — Official opening of the Millennium Dome in London

One of those great “end of the millennium” boondoggles, the Millennium Dome – now renamed the O2 Dome, because heaven forbid that something not have a company’s name on it – sits in London, touching the Prime Meridian as it makes its way through Greenwich. It was the site of a private party (of the kind referred to as ‘star-studded’ in the more gushing newsrags) on New Year’s Eve, 1999, and opened as an exhibition centre that the public were allowed into the next day.

The Millennium Dome was controversial both during and after its construction – it was seen as a waste of public monies (being largely built with government money), and something of a white elephant. There were originally plans for it to host one of Premier League football teams, but nothing ever came of it. In 2002, the company that ran the Dome declared bankruptcy. Today, it still stands in London, where it is best known in recent years from serving as the site of the gymnastics events of the 2012 Olympics.

January 19, 1920 — Construction of the permanent Cenotaph in London begins

Edwin Lutyens was one of the greatest British architects, possibly the greatest of his era. His design for the Cenotaph was originally intended to be a temporary structure, but became so beloved of the British people that it was replaced with a permanent version made of white stone. Its design has often been copied elsewhere in Britain and in other Commonwealth nations, and it is the centre of Remembrance Day events each November 11.

Like all cenotaphs, its design is that of an empty tomb, a memorial to ‘the Unknown Soldier’ – to all those who lost not merely their lives but their identities, but also to all those who served. It is sometimes referred to as “The Glorious Dead.”

November 25, 1915 — Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity is published

One of the most revolutionary theories of physics of all time, Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity turned the celestial mechanics of Isaac Newton on its head, and set the stage for the quantum mechanical revolution in physics that characterised the Twentieth Century. Along with Heisenberg, Bohr, Schrodinger, Feynmann and others, Einstein’s work changed the way we understand our world, but even in that august company, Einstein is a titan among giants, a man whose name has become a byword for genius.

The General Theory of Relativity resists easy summation. It was created to reconcile various anomalies in Newton’s theory of Universal Gravitation, as well as between Newton and Einstein’s earlier Special Theory of Relativity, and forms an important part of our current understanding of physics, gravitation and cosmology – the Big Bang Theory draws upon it, for example.

August 15, 1649 — Cromwell lands in Ireland

The initial stages of Cromwell’s invasion of Ireland started well for him. His forces triumphed over the Royalist and Irish forces at the battle of Rathmines on August 2, 1649, and Cromwell himself landed in Dublin on August 15, with a fleet of 35 ships. 77 more ships, also loaded with troops and materiel, landed two days later, reinforcing the already substantial forces of Cromwell.

His conquest of Ireland was bloody and brutal. Cromwell’s religious tolerance did not extend to Catholics, whose numbers included the over-whelming majority of the Irish. Cromwell’s invasion marked the beginning of more than three and half centuries of oppression of the Irish Catholic majority by their Protestant British conquerors, ending only in 1922 when the independent Republic of Eire was formed – and arguably not even then, considering the endless fighting between Protestant and Catholic in Northern Ireland even today.

Another thing that continues to the current day is the unpopularity of Oliver Cromwell in Ireland, for understandable reasons.