#TodayInHistory – October 174 min read
October 17 – Some important events on this day.
733 👉🏼 Battle at Tours (Poitiers): Charles Martel’s Frankish and Burgundian forces beat those of al-Andalus under Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi halting Islamic influence (date disputed)
1346 👉🏼 Battle of Neville’s Cross: King David II of Scotland is captured by Edward III of England at Calais, and imprisoned in the Tower of London for eleven years
1456 👉🏼 The University of Greifswald is established, making it the second oldest university in northern continental Europe (also for a period the oldest in Sweden, and Prussia)
1483 👉🏼 Tomas de Torquemada appointed inquisitor-general of Spain
1854 👉🏼 French and British forces bombard Sevastopol for the first time during the Crimean War
1888 👉🏼 Thomas Edison files a patent for the Optical Phonograph (the first movie)
1907 👉🏼 Guglielmo Marconi’s company begins the first commercial transatlantic wireless service between Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, Canada and Clifden, Ireland
1916 👉🏼 Dutch women demonstrate for female suffrage
1931 👉🏼 Gangster Al Capone is sentenced to 11 years in prison for tax evasion and fined $80,000, signaling the downfall of one of the most notorious criminals of the 1920s and 1930s.
1943 👉🏼 Burma railway completed, built by Allied POWs and Asian laborers for use of the Japanese army.
A year before, in early 1942 the Japanese Empire invaded and occupied Burma in Southeast Asia.
This densely forested land was a nightmare to fight in, and the Japanese quickly decided that to continue their expeditions in and occupations of countries in Indochina a railway would need to be completed to supply their forces, instead of risky naval supply routes around the subcontinent. This became known as the Burma Railway, or Death Railway.
Over 180,000 civilian South Asian laborers and about 61,000 Allied prisoners of war subjected to forced labor were drafted to build the 415km (258mi) railway, from Ban Pong, Thailand, to Thanbyuzayat, Burma. Conditions for the prisoners were extremely bad: maltreatment, sickness and death was rife during the construction. It is estimated that 90,000 civilian laborers died during building, as well as 19,000 Allied prisoners of war. The project is considered a war crime and after the war 111 Japanese officials were tried for crimes related to the Death Railway. 31 of them were executed.
The rail is often remembered for the 1952 book and 1957 film The Bridge on the River Kwai, which depicts the construction of Bridge 277 over the River Kwai (then known as Mae Klong River). Directed by David Lean, the film starred William Holden, Jack Hawkins and Alec Guinness.
1956 👉🏼 “Around the World in 80 Days”, based on the book by Jules Verne, directed by Michael Anderson and starring David Nivon and Cantinflas, premieres in New York
1957 👉🏼 Jailhouse Rock starring Elvis Presley premieres in Memphis, Tennessee.
By 1957, Elvis Presley was one of the top pop stars in America and the leading figure of a new sound called rock and roll. He had begun his transition into movie making the previous year with the movie “Love Me Tender”, but it was his film “Jailhouse Rock” that is regarded as his most successful early film.
He was a controversial figure at the time in America, where his sexually provocative performances (though tame by modern standards) enraged the conservative establishment. Some detested Presley’s character in the movie, who is sent to jail for manslaughter and is mentored by his cell-mate in music. He learns he has musical talent, and upon his release, becomes a star only for the fame to have a negative effect on his relationships.
Jailhouse Rock is notable for the dance sequence to the title song, often regarded as Presley’s greatest on-screen moment. The choreography had been inspired by Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, the latter of whom happened to be at the first rehearsal; he thoroughly enjoyed the final product.
Shortly after the film’s release Elvis was drafted into the Army and after his exit in 1960 would focus on Hollywood films, many of which were critically panned.
1973 👉🏼 OPEC oil ministers use oil as an economic weapon in the Arab-Israeli War, mandating a cut in exports and recommending an embargo against unfriendly states
2006 👉🏼 The United States population reaches 300 million
2008 👉🏼 Iran’s attempt to create the world’s largest sandwich (1,500 metres) fails when crowds eat it before it can be measured
2017 👉🏼 Islamic State headquarters Raqqa declared under full control of US-led alliance by Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) spokesman Talal Sello after 4 months of fighting
2018 👉🏼 Canada legalizes the sale of recreational cannabis, the second country after Uruguay