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This Year in History

Our Selections From December

All year, we've been highlighting historical news events—and Foreign Affairs articles about those events—as part of our "This Day in History" series. Here are our collected selections for December.

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1

December 1, 1955: Rosa Parks Refuses to Relinquish Her Seat

In Montgomery, Alabama, seamstress Rosa Parks disobeys the bus drivers' orders to give her seat to a white man. She is arrested for violating the city's racial segregation laws. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive. 

2

December 2, 1954: A Sino-American Defense Pact

 The United States and Taiwan sign the Sino-American Mutual Defense Treaty in Washington, D.C. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive. 

3

December 3, 1971: Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 Begins

Pakistan launches pre-emptive air strikes on 11 Indian airbases in response to India's support for East Pakistan's fight for independence. India retaliates. The conflict lasts just 13 days and ends with Pakistan's surrender. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive. 

4

December 4, 1918: Woodrow Wilson Sails to Versailles

U.S. President Woodrow Wilson travels for the World War I peace talks in Versailles, becoming the first U.S. president to travel to Europe while in office. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive.  

5

December 5, 1978: The Soviet-Afghan “Friendship Treaty”

The Soviet Union agrees to provide economic and military assistance to the Afghan government. A year later, the USSR is drawn disastrously into the Soviet-Afghan war. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive. 

 

6

December 6, 1865: Slavery Is Banned

The 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is ratified. It states, "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive.  

7

December 7, 1972: The Last Apollo Moon Mission

On this final voyage, the crew of Apollo 17 takes the famous photograph of Earth known as the Blue Marble. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive.   

8

December 8, 1941: The United States Declares War on Japan

U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt addresses the nation, calling Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor the day before, "a date which will live in infamy." Congress votes nearly unanimously to go to war. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive. 

9

December 9, 1905: France Passes Law on Separation of Church and State

This law is regarded as the foundation of the French principle of laïcitéRead more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive.    

10

December 10, 1901: The First Nobels

Six years after the Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel establishes the award in his will in 1895, the prizes in Chemistry, Literature, Peace, Physics, and Physiology or Medicine are presented for the first time. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive.   

11

December 11, 1946: UNICEF Established

The organization is set up to provide emergency food and healthcare to children in countries devastated by World War II. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive.

 

12

December 12, 1936: The Kidnapping of Chiang Kai-Shek

In what is known as the "Xian incident," Marshal Zhang Xueliang kidnaps General Chiang Kai-Shek and forces him into a truce with the Communist Party so that they can form a united front against the Japanese. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive. 

13

December 13, 1949: Israel Votes to Move Capital to Jerusalem

The Knesset agrees to transfer Israel's capital from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The decision remains unrecognized by the international community. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive. 

14

December 14, 1995: Dayton Accords Signed

The peace treaty, which ended three-and-a-half years of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, is signed in Paris. The agreement had been reached a month prior at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive. 

 

15

December 15, 1945: MacArthur Abolishes Shintoism in Japan

General Douglas MacArthur orders the abolishment of Shinto, the state religion of Japan, which was believed to have been used as a tool to encourage ultra-nationalism during World War II. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive.   

16

December 16, 1944: Battle of the Bulge

German's surprise attack catches the Allied forces completely off guard. U.S. forces bear the brunt of the attack and suffer their highest casualties for any operation during the war. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive.  

17

December 17, 2010: Tunisia Revolts

Mohamed Bouazizi, a street vendor, sets himself on fire in Tunisia. His act triggers protests across the country that overturns the regime of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive.   

18

December 18, 1973: Islamic Development Bank Founded

The multilateral development financing institution is established in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. It begins its activities on October 20, 1975. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive. 

19

December 19, 1984: Hong Kong Returned to China

The Joint Sino-British Declaration hands Hong Kong back to China. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive. 

 

20

December 20, 1989: The Panama Invasion

The United States sends troops into Panama to topple the government of Manuel Noriega. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive. 

 

21

December 21, 1988: Lockerbie Bombing

Pan Am Flight 103 explodes over Lockerbie, Scotland from a bomb planted by two Libyan terrorists. The blast kills all 243 passengers and 16 crew on board, and 11 more people on the ground. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive. 

22

December 22, 1968: Mao's Countryside Movement

In the midst of Mao's "Down to the Countryside Movement," the state media publishes Mao's directive, "The intellectual youth must go to the country, and will be educated from living in rural poverty." Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive. 

 

23

December 23, 1913: Creation of the Federal Reserve

U.S. President Woodrow Wilson signs the Federal Reserve Act into law, creating the Federal Reserve System. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive. 

 

24

December 24, 1962: Bay of Pigs Prisoners Released

Cuba begins the release of the 1,200 prisoners who belong to Brigade 2506, a CIA-backed counter-revolutionary group trained to overthrow the government of Fidel Castro. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive. 

25

December 25, 1991: Mikhail Gorbachev Resigns

Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev resigns as General Secretary of the Soviet Union. The union is dissolved the following day. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive. 

 

26

December 26, 1941: Churchill Visits U.S. Congress

Winston Churchill becomes the first British prime minister to address a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive.

27

December 27, 1945: IMF and World Bank Established

First established at the Bretton Woods Conference of 1944, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are signed into existence by 29 nations. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive. 

28

December 28, 1933: The Good Neighbor Policy

U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt announces, "The definite policy of the United States from now on is one opposed to armed intervention." Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive. 

29

December 29, 1941: The Arsenal of Democracy

In a radio broadcast, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt calls the United States the "arsenal of democracy," providing its allies with the weapons to fight Nazi Germany. Indeed, between 1940 and 1945, the United States produces: 1,556 naval ships; 5,777 merchant ships; 88,410 jeeps; 299,293 airplanes; 2,383,311 trucks; 6.5 million rifles; and 40 billion bullets. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive. 

 

30

December 30, 1922: The USSR Is Established

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) is established. It includes Russia, Belorussia, Ukraine, and the Transcaucasian Federation. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive. 

31

December 31, 1963: Collapse of the Central African Federation

The semi-independent coalition, also known as the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, dissolves into the independent nations of Malawi, Rhodesia, and Zambia. Read more about it in the Foreign Affairs archive. 

 


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