1692 – Bridget Bishop is hanged outside Salem, Massachusetts for witchcraft – Puritan minister Cotton Mather was an influential reverend in 17th century New England who advocated for the practice of inoculation to prevent the spread of smallpox in Boston. But he also had some rather unscientific idea. Mather was responsible for publishing a series of pamphlets describing how he had witnessed demons and witches bedevilling children, who were sent into inexplicable fits. Supernatural ideas like these were part of everyday life in Salem Village (now Danvers, Mass.) and Salem Town (now just Salem), two communities that were frequently engaged in disputes over land and grazing rights. Thanks to Reverend Mather’s influence, it’s no surprise that occasionally quarrels between Salem residents would result in accusations of witchcraft. Today, someone claiming another person had sent spirits to attack them would be laughed out of a courtroom, but Mather argued in favour of such “spectral evidence,” saying that someone doubting the existence of spirits also denied the existence of God. So, a number of young women who testified in court about being “possessed” by their neighbours (sometimes resorting to rolling around on the floor of the courtroom), had their claims accepted as real evidence. The first such Salem Witch Trial convened on June 2, 1692, with Salem Town resident Bridget Bishop accused of bewitching five young women. Evidence against her included that she wore black clothing and other strange costumes. The court heard that people upon whom Bishop looked would feel pinched or choked, and that apparitions resembling Bishop had torn their clothes. Another man claimed she tormented him with witchcraft, while someone else said they believed she had poisoned their cat. Naturally, she was found guilty that day. On this date in 1692, Bishop was hanged for “certaine Detestable Arts called Witchcraft & Sorceries.” She was the first of 20 people, 14 of which were women, to be executed in the Salem Witch Trials. In November 2001, the Massachusetts legislature passed an act exonerating all of those convicted.
1957 – John Diefenbaker and the Progressive Conservative Party win a minority government, ending 22 years of Liberal rule – In 1956, Canada had been governed by the Liberal Party for 21 years. The Grits had beaten the Tories in five consecutive elections under William Lyon Mackenzie King and Louis St. Laurent. St. Laurent, nicknamed “Uncle Louis,” had been in power since 1948 and had a comfortable majority in Parliament. At this time, Tory leader and former Ontario premier George A. Drew fell ill and resigned. The Conservatives needed to act fast to choose a leader before the upcoming election, and Saskatchewan lawyer John Diefenbaker seemed an unlikely candidate. But “Dief” made headlines criticizing Foreign minister Lester B. Pearson for how he handled the Suez Crisis in Egypt. Though Pearson won a Nobel Peace Prize and his efforts are now highly regarded, at the time, Dief made hay saying Pearson had let down Britain. Diefenbaker became Tory leader Dec. 14, 1956. Next, he attacked St. Laurent’s budget by calling for higher old age pensions and more aid to farmers and the poorer provinces. On this date in 1957, the Progressive Conservatives won 112 seats to the Liberals’ 105, claiming a minority government and making Dief the first Tory Prime Minister since 1935. His winning strategy had been to concede Quebec to the Liberals and focus his campaign on English-speaking Canada, particularly the west. Dief took office June 21, 1957. Early in 1958, St. Laurent was succeeded as Liberal leader by Pearson, who battled Diefenbaker in Parliament for most of the next decade. In the election that followed, mere months after Pearson became Grit leader, Diefenbaker won what was at the time the largest-ever majority government by percentage of seats. The Tories won again in 1962, a minority, but in April 1963, Pearson’s Liberals took over. He held control until retiring after Canada’s Centenary in 1968. The man who took his place became Canada’s first Prime Minister Trudeau.
1967 – The Six-Day War between Israel and the joint forces of Egypt, Jordan and Syria ends – Suffice it to say, the origins of the conflict between Israel and Arab nations in the Middle East are complex and go back a long, long way. But, in early June 1967, two of the big issues rankling the Middle East against Israel included the expulsion of Palestinian refugees in 1948, during which close to 80 percent of the Arab inhabitants of what became Israel left or were expelled from their homes, and Israel’s participation in the invasion of Egypt during the Suez Crisis of 1956. Things became more tense and, in April 1967, Israel responded to small weapons fire from Syria by launching large-scale attacks with its army and air force. The next month, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser expelled UN peacekeepers in the Sinai Peninsula and began blockading Israel’s access to the Red Sea. On June 5, thinking a war was inevitable, Israel launched a surprise attack that crippled Egypt’s air force and began the Six-Day War. Over the next days, Israeli troops won territory many times larger than Israel itself, until, on this date in 1967, they observed a UN ceasefire with Syria and halted their advance. Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol maintained Israel had been acting in self-defence, saying they had removed the threat of destruction that had hung over Israel since its establishment. As a result of the conflict, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced, and fled to Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. In November, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution laying down a formula for peace whereby Israel would withdraw from territories occupied in the war in exchange for peace with its neighbours. Since 1967, Egypt and Jordan are the only Arab nations that have made peace with Israel.
1999 – NATO forces end their airstrikes against Kosovo – On this date in 1999, NATO forces called off their 11-week air war against Kosovo after Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic agreed to withdraw his troops from Kosovo in southeastern Europe. Kosovo, then a constituent of Yugoslavia but today an independent republic, was then made up of populations of ethnic Albanians and Serbians. The two ethnicities struggled for control, ultimately resulting in the Kosovo War, which began in February 1998. The rebel Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) made up of ethnic Albanians began targeting Yugoslav authorities in Kosovo, resulting in an increased presence of Yugoslav forces and Serb paramilitary forces. These occupiers began targeting KLA sympathizers and other political opponents, killing hundreds of people and causing thousands of Albanians to flee. NATO, led by the US and President Bill Clinton, eventually intervened, siding with the KLA (whom they had considered a terrorist group months earlier) and citing the campaign as a “humanitarian war.” NATO’s 79-day bombing campaign came to an end June 10, 1999, three hours after the first Serb convoys were seen leaving Kosovo. Milosevic was charged with war crimes, but he died in 2006 before a verdict was reached. Today, the Republic of Kosovo is recognized as a sovereign state by many UN members, but not by Serbia, who refuses to recognize it.