World Events – 1970 to Today
- U.S. President Richard Nixon orders an invasion of Cambodia, widening the war in Vietnam. In protest, millions march across the U.S. University campuses are shut down by student strikes. Four protestors at Kent State University in Ohio are killed by National Guard troops.
- The U.S. Senate repeals the Gulf of Tonkin resolution that had given Presidents Johnson and Nixon sweeping powers in the Vietnam War.
- The Beatles break up.
- Egyptian president Gamal Abdel-Nassar dies. Anwar Sadat becomes president.
- U.S. Supreme Court rules unanimously that busing students may be ordered to achieve racial desegregation of schools.
- Anti-war militants attempt to shut down government in Washington. As many as 12,000 are arrested. Most are later released.
- The Pentagon Papers are published detailing the military’s secret, negative assessment of the Vietnam War.
- War between India and Pakistan begins.
- Apollo 15 lands on the moon and uses the Lunar Rover vehicle for the first time.
- The microprocessor – the foundation of today’s computers – is introduced.
- The environmentalist group Greenpeace is founded.
- President Nixon makes an unprecedented eight-day visit to Communist China and meets with Mao Zedong.
- Five men are caught breaking in to the Watergate Complex where the Democratic Party offices are – the start of the Watergate Scandal.
- Eleven Israeli athletes ae killed at the Munich Olympic Games. Five terrorists and one policeman are also killed.
- U.S. planes bomb North Vietnam on Christmas Day.
- U.S. signs peace pact and troops pull out of Vietnam. Bombing of Cambodia stops, ending 12 years of U.S. combat in Southeast Asia.
- Supreme Court rules on Roe v. Wade legalizing abortion.
- Great Britain, Ireland and Denmark enter the European Economic Community, the EU.
- Israel and Arab states fight the Yom Kippur War in October. In November, America brokers a cease-fire accord.
- The mobile phone is invented.
- The House Judiciary Committee indicts President Richard Nixon for impeachment over the Watergate Scandal. In August, Nixon resigns his office, the first president to do so. Vice President Gerald Ford is sworn in as 38th president. In September, Ford grants Nixon a “full, free and absolute pardon.”
- Patricia Hearst, the 19-year-old daughter of publisher Randolph Herst, is kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army. Later she is photographed robbing a bank with her captors.
- All the President’s Men is published by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein detailing events of Watergate.
- Beverly Johnson becomes the first black model on the cover of Vogue or any other major fashion magazine.
- North Vietnamese enter Saigon. The last group of Americans are evacuated by helicopter at the last minute from the roof of the embassy. The War in Vietnam is over.
- Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge take over in Cambodia and begin a blood bath.
- Three of Nixon’s aides are found guilty of Watergate charges.
- Apollo and Soyuz spacecraft link up in space, marking the cooperation between the U.S. and Soviets.
- Bill Gates and Paul Allen found the Microsoft corporation. The Altair becomes the first widely available personal computer running Microsoft’s BASIC software.
- The United States celebrates the Bicentennial marking 200 years as a nation.
- Jimmy Carter is elected the 39th President.
- The Supreme Court rules that the death penalty is not inherently cruel or unusual punishment, so it’s a constitutionally acceptable form of punishment.
- The Viking 2 spacecraft lands on Mars.
- Apple Computer is founded by Steve Jobs and Stephen Wozniak.
- Scientists report genetic engineering techniques to make insulin.
- Elvis Presley is found dead.
- President Carter pardons Vietnam era draft evaders.
- South African anti-apartheid activist Stephen Biko dies in police custody.
- Nuclear proliferation pact that curbs the spread of nuclear weapons is signed by 15 countries, including the U.S. and USSR.
- The movie Star Wars is released to great acclaim and box office.
- Egypt’s president Anwar Sadat and Israeli premier Menachem Begin sign a “Framework for Peace” after meeting for 13 days with Jimmy Carter at Camp David. Later they win the Nobel Peace Prize.
- Californians vote in the referendum known as Proposition 13 and cut property taxes by 60 percent. This sets the stage for a series of budget crises.
- Cult leader Jim Jones’ followers commit mass suicide in Jonestown, Guyana.
- The world’s first test-tube baby is born.
- In Iran, the Shah leaves the country after years of turmoil. Exiled Muslim leader Ayatollah Khomeini returns and declares an Islamic republic.
- Saddam Hussein becomes president of neighboring Iraq.
- Margaret Thatcher, a conservative, becomes the first woman prime minister of Britain.
- At Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania, a nuclear power plant comes close to melting down and releases some radiation into the atmosphere.
- In art, Judy Chicago debuts “The Dinner Party” sculpture piece in San Francisco with plates and fabric runners honoring 39 important women in history.
- In November, Iranian militants seize the U.S. embassy in Tehran and hold hostages.
- In December, Soviet troops invade Afghanistan to prop up a Communist leader.
- In response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, President Carter imposes an embargo on grain shipments to the USSR and boycotts the Moscow Olympics.
- The Iranian hostage crisis deepens. The U.S. breaks diplomatic ties with Iran. Then eight Americans are killed when helicopters collide in a rescue mission.
- Iraq invades Iran and an eight-year war ensues.
- Ronald Reagan is elected president over Jimmy Carter, in part because of disappointment over his handling of Iran.
- John Lennon of the Beatles is shot dead in New York City.
- The wreck of the Titanic is found.
- An agreement frees 52 hostages held in Tehran since 1979.
- Anwar Sadat assassinated in Egypt. Hosni Mubarak becomes president. In the U.S., President Reagan is wounded by gunshots, and in Rome Pope John Paul II is wounded.
- President Reagan nominates Judge Sandra Day O’Connor as the first woman on the Supreme Court.
- The first cases of AIDS are identified.
- Prince Charles marries Lady Diana Spencer.
- Xerox markets the first mouse as an integrated part of a personal computer.
- The cable channel MTV is launched.
- Great Britain defeats Argentina in a war over the isolated Falkland Islands.
- Israel invades Lebanon to attach the PLO, the Palestine Liberation Organization.
- The Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution fails to gain ratification. Feminists are frustrated.
- Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev dies and is succeeded by Yuri Andropov.
- The Vietnam Memorial opens in Washington, designed by a young Maya Linn. Initially controversial, it becomes a beloved memorial.
- Astronaut Sally Ride becomes the first American woman in space.
- President Reagan announces his plans for a missile defence plan called Star Wars.
- A terrorist explosion in Beirut kills 237 U.S. Marines.
- The U.S. invades the tiny island of Grenada.
- Soviet leader Yuri Andropov dies; Konstantin Chernenko succeeds him. In protest of the Olympic boycott of four years before, the Soviets boycott the Los Angeles Olympics.
- The monopoly Bell Telephone System is broken up into smaller, regional companies.
- Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi is assassinated by two Sikh bodyguards. A thousand Sikhs are killed in riots. Son Rajiv Gandhi succeeds his mother. Then in December, toxic gas leaks from a Union Carbide chemical plant in Bhopal, India, killing 2,000 and injuring 150,000.
- Apple introduces the Macintosh personal computer with a graphical user interface.
- Soviet leader Konstantin Chernenko dies and is replaced by a young Mikhail Gorbachev. He calls for reforms in the Soviet Union. In October, Reagan and Gorbachev meet in a summit and agree to step up arms control talks and renew cultural contacts.
- There are a series of terrorist attacks on airplanes and a cruise ship.
- Scientists announce the discovery of hole in the ozone layer over the Antarctic.
- In art, the Guerilla Girls stage protests over sexism and racism in the world’s museums.
- An explosion in the nuclear power plant at Chernobyl in the USSR spreads radiation over Russia and Europe, forcing the evacuation of 135,000 people.
- Spain and Portugal join the European Economic Community.
- The space shuttle Challenger explodes after launch from Cape Canaveral killing all seven aboard.
- U.S. House kills Reagan’s Star Wars anti-missile program.
- Secret initiative to send arms to Iran revealed. Reagan denies exchanging arms for hostages, but halts the arms sales. Later the diversion of funds to the conservative Nicaraguan Contras is revealed.
- Nintendo introduces the hand-held Game Boy.
- The Iran-Contra scandal implicates aides close the President Reagan. Reagan accepts responsibility.
- U.S. Supreme Court rules that the Rotary Club must accept women members.
- A severe earthquack hits Los Angeles killing six and injuring 100.
- The world’s population hits 5 billion.
- DNA is used in a criminal court case for the first time.
- The Simpsons are introduced on The Tracey Ullman Show.
- Geroge Bush elected U.S. President.
- The U.S. and Canada reach a free trade agreement.
- An explosion on a plane kills Pakistani president Mohammad Zia ul-Haq. Benazir Bhutto is chosen to lead Pakistan, the first Islamic woman prime minister.
- A terrorist bomb destroys a Pan-Am 747 over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 259 on board and 11 on the ground.
- First computer virus is reported.
- In response to massive protests, the East German government allows their citizens to cross into West Berlin. Shortly, the Berlin Wall is torn down.
- In Poland, the political party and union Solidarity wins a landslide victory over the Communists in the country’s first free elections.
- In Hungary, the parliament enacts democratic reforms and pressures the Soviets to pull out their troops.
- Czech parliament ends Communist domination.
- Romanian demonstrators overthrow the Communist government. President Ceausescu and his wife are executed.
- In China, more than a million demonstrate in Tiananmen Square for more democracy. For a time, the Chinese leaders hesitate. But then, the Chinese Army attacks and thousands are killed.
- The oil tanker Exxon Valdez runs aground and spills 11 million gallons of crude oil in Alaska.
- The Soviet Union withdraws its troops from Afghanistan.
- Iraq invades Kuwait and siezes oil assets, igniting the Persion Gulf War.
- East and West Germany are reunited.
- The Cold War is officially ended as the U.S. and USSR negotiate arms accords.
- Nelson Mandela is freed after 27 years as a political prisoner in South Africa.
- Leaders of 34 European nations proclaim a united Europe.
- Tim Berners-Lee submits his proposal for the World Wide Web.
- The Hubble Space Telescope is launched.
- The U.S. and allies win the Persian Gulf War against Iraq, but stop short of invading Baghdad.
- Communist hard-liners attempt to overthrow Gorbachev, but the coup fails. Gorbachev resigns as President. The USSR dissolves into 15 separate republics. The Warsaw Pact for military protection is dissolved. Boris Yeltsin is elected as the president of the Russian Republic.
- South African parliament overturns apartheid laws.
- Presidents Bush and Yeltsin declare a formal end to the Cold War.
- President Bush pardons former Reagan adinistration officials involved in the Iran-Contra affair.
- Bill Clinton is elected president of the United States.
- Los Angeles erupts in riots after Rodney King is videotaped being beaten by police.
- Prince Charles and Lady Diana separate. They divorce four years later.
- The European Union is ratified.
- Around 20 American soldiers die in Mogadishu, Somalia.
- Rwandan genocide begins in Africa.
- The U.S. becomes involved in trying to stop the ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia.
- Fire kills 72 religious cult members at the Branch Dividian compound outside of Waco Texas.
- President Boris Yeltsin’s forces crush a revolt in the Russian Parliament.
- NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Act, becomes law.
- South Africa adopts a majority rule constitution.
- Nokia sends text messages between mobile phones.
- Ethnic cleansing continues in the former Yugoslavia.
- In Rwanda, Hutu militias kill up to a million Tutsis in their campaign of genocide.
- South Africa holds their first interracial, one-man-one-vote election and Nelson Mandela is elected president.
- Russia attacks the republic of Chechnya after Muslims there attempt to secede.
- Football star O. J. Simpson is arrested for the killings of his wife and her friend Ronald Goldman.
- Major league baseball players strike and the World Series is cancelled.
- The Hubble Space Telescope first finds evidence of black holes in the universe. The find is confirmed in 2001.
- Timothy McVeigh bombs the Oklahoma City federal building in retaliation for the Branch Dividian standoff in 1993. He’s caught and put on trial for murder.
- Fighting escalates in Bosnia and Croatia. At the end of the year, combatants sign the Bosnian peace treaty.
- O. J. Simpson is found not guilty of murdering his wife and friend.
- In Israel, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin is killed at a peace rally.
- Sony demonstrates a flat screen TV.
- Taliban Muslim fundamentalists capture Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. Later al-Qaeda terrorist training camps are set up.
- British consumers are frightened by an outbreak of Mad Cow Disease.
- Iraqi troops fire on Kurdish positions in the north of the country. The U.S. warns Iraq, attacks Iraq’s air defenses and declares a “No Fly” zone in the north of the country.
- Refugees in Rwanda and Burundi are caught up in new fighting and killings.
- Princess Diana is killed with two others in a Paris car crash.
- U.S. space shuttle docks with Russian space station. Another spacecraft begins sending back pictures from Mars.
- O. J. Simpson is found “liable” in a civil suit arising from the murder of his wife.
- Timothy McVeigh sentenced to death for the Oklahoma City bombing.
- Scottish scientists clone a sheep named Dolly.
- J. K. Rowling publishes the first Harry Potter book.
- President Bill Clinton is accused of having sex with a White House intern, Monica Lewinsky. He denies the charges, then admits to the affair. An independent counsel brings charges against Clinton, and the House impeaches him for lying and obstructing justice.
- In Northern Ireland, the Good Friday Accords promise peace and political power sharing.
- Violence in the former Yugoslavia continues until NATO reaches a settlement with President Milosevic in October.
- Google introduces their search engine to the Web.
- Anti-impotence drug Viagra is introduced to the market.
- The U. S. Senate acquits President Clinton of impeachment charges.
- NATO air strikes move to Kosovo. In May, Serbs agree to pull troops out of Kosovo.
- Two teenagers kill 15 students, including themselves, at Columbine Colorado High School.
- Israeli prime minister Ehub Barak and PLO leader Yasir Arafat announce peace accord.
- World population reaches 6 billion.
- Tobacco companies admit that their products harm smokers.
- The Y2K Scare raises the possibility that databases all over the world – including in U.S. military computers – would go haywire because they were designed to recognize only two digits in dates.
- The Y2K Scare fizzles. Nothing blows up.
- Palestinian and Israeli violence explodes into the “intifada.”
- In one of the closest, contested elections on record, George W. Bush defeats Al Gore for President. Before it’s over, Florida begins a recount of ballots, but the Supreme Court halts the recount.
- The human genome sequence is deciphered opening up new possibilities in medicine.
- High prices for Internet company stocks tumble as the “Dot-Com Bubble” bursts.
- On September 11, terrorists attack the World Trade Center in New York. The twin towers are hit by two jet airliners and collapse. Over 3,000 are killed. Another plane hits the Pentagon, and a fourth crashes in Pennsylvania. President Bush declares a war on terror and begins bombing Afghanistan. Troops are deployed and the Taliban government collapses. Hamid Karzai is sworn in as Afghanistan’s leader.
- Letters laced with the poison Anthrax are mailed to media and government offices. Several die after handling the letters.
- The epidemic of foot and mouth disease in British livestock reaches crisis proportions.
- The Kyoto Protocol global warming treaty is approved by 178 nations, but not by the U.S., one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases.
- Enron Corporation, one of the world’s largest energy companies, files for bankruptcy.
- Half of all Americans now use the Internet.
- Apple’s iPod becomes the best selling MP3 player in the world.
- Israeli tanks and warplanes attack West Bank towns in retaliation for 14 suicide bombing incidents.
- WorldCom admits it falsified profit statements and files for bankruptcy.
- A defrocked priest named John Geoghan in convicted of child molestation. The church’s role in covering up the crime sparks outrage. U.S. bishops adopt a zero tolerance policy for priests who abuse children. Boston archbishop Cardinal Bernard Law resigns over the scandal.
- PC sales pass the one billion mark.
- In his State of the Union address, President Bush announces he is ready to attack Iraq even without UN agreements. He does. In March, the U.S. and Britain launch war against Iraq. Within a month, Baghdad falls. By July, the war is costing $3.9 billion a month. Saddam Hussein’s sons are killed in a firefight, but their father remains at large. In December, Saddam Hussein himself is captured by American troops.
- In May, Bush signs a 10-year, $350 billion tax cut, the third largest tax cut in U.S. history.
- The space shuttle Columbia explodes killing all seven astronauts.
- Israel retaliates for suicide bombings by killing top members of Hamas. Other militant Palestinian groups formally withdraw from a cease fire. Bush’s “road map” to peace collapses.
- California governor Gray Davis is ousted in a recall vote. Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger is elected in his place.
- Dan Brown releases his best-selling novel The Da Vinci Code.
- Iraq weapons investigator David Kay resigns saying there is no evidence that Iraq ever had weapons of mass destruction – one of the main reasons Bush put forward for invading. U.S. media release graphic photos of American soldiers abusing and sexually humiliating Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison. Protests erupt all over the world. In June, the U.S. hands over power to an Iraqi interim government led by Iyad Allawi. The Senate intelligence committee criticizes the intelligence reports used to justify the war. A special commission criticizes the government’s handling of the September 11th terrorist attacks. In November, U.S. troops launch attacks on Falluja.
- Spain is rocked by terrorist attacks, and al-Qaeda claims responsibility.
- NATO formally admits seven new countries from the former Soviet block.
- Sudanese rebels and the government reach accord to end the 21-year-old civil war. But in a separate war in western Darfur region, the killing continues. The UN Security Council demands the Sudanese government disarm militias in Darfur.
- Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan admits he sold nuclear weapons designs to other countries, including North Korea, Iran and Libya.
- UN weapons inspectors tell Iran to stop enriching uranium. Iran claims they are building only peaceful uses for nuclear power.
- Enormous tsunami devastates Asia. At least 225,000 are killed.
- George W. Bush is re-elected.
- Social networking Web site Facebook takes off.
- In Iraq, elections are held to select a 275-seat national assembly and a total of 8.5 million people vote, about 58 percent of those eligible to vote. Iraqi voters turn out again in October to ratify a new constitution. In December, 11 million – 70 percent of those registered – vote to elect their first permanent Parliament. In October, Saddam Hussein goes on trial for the killing of 143 civilians in the town of Dujail. The number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq reaches 2,000.
- In August, Hurricane Katrina destroys much of the Gulf Coast, flooding New Orleans. More than 1,000 die and hundred of thousands are left homeless. Americans are shaken not just by the magnitude of the damage but also by the ineptitude of government to alleviate the suffering.
- The European Union abandons plans to ratify the proposed European constitution by 2006 after both France and the Netherlands vote against it.
- Former Tehran mayor and hard-line conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is elected President of Iran. He defiantly pursues Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
- London is hit by Islamic terrorist bombings, killing 52 people and wounding 700.
- The Irish Republican Army announces it is officially ending its violent campaign for a unified Ireland and will instead pursue its goals through the political process.
- President Bush signs CAFTA, the Central American Free Trade Agreement, with Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.
- YouTube posts its first videos.
- In January, President Bush announces he will send a “surge” of 20,000 more troops to Iraq in addition to the 130,000 already there. In Iraq, violence between different sects increases. The UN estimates that more than 34,000 Iraqi civilians are killed in 2006 alone as a result of the fighting. There were also 300 U.S. soldiers killed in 2006. [By the end of 2009 the total is up over 4,000.] In November, Saddam Hussein is found guilty of crimes against humanity. He is hanged at the end of the year.
- Also in November, voters elect Democratic Party majorities in both the House and the Senate, largely due to opposition to the war in Iraq. A day after the elections, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld steps down. He is replaced by Robert Gates.
- Iran removes United Nations’ seals from its uranium enrichment plant and production of the fuel is resumed. President Ahmadinejad insists the research is for peaceful purposes, but he also threatens to wipe Israel “off the map.” Sanctions are strengthened.
- The Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus are set on fire in protest for a Danish newspaper’s cartoon depicting the prophet Mohammad, the founder of Islam. Images of Mohammad are forbidden under Islamic tradition.
- Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore releases the documentary An Inconvenient Truth chronicling the science and potential damages of climate change and global warming. Later the film wins the Academy Award for best documentary.
- The Chinese government builds the “Great Firewall of China” to censor the Internet before it reaches its citizens.
- On May 28, major league baseball player Barry Bonds hits his 715th home run, passing Babe Ruth and closing in on Hank Aaron. But the record is tainted because, two months earlier, a book alleged that Bonds had used performance-enhancing drugs. Baseball investigates.
- The Rolling Stones end their “Bigger Bang” tour earning an estimated $138.5 million in 2006. It is the top-grossing tour to that point. Other stars, like Barbra Streisand, Madonna, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, help push concert ticket sales to over $3.5 billion.
- The subprime mortgage collapse begins as prices for homes collapse, banks try to foreclose and financial companies begin to file for bankruptcy. By November foreclosure filings are up 68 percent over the same month the previous year. Eventually the crisis will reach around the world.
- The top commander in Iraq, Gen. David Patraeus, says the troop “surge” is working, reducing sectarian killings in Baghdad and across the nation.
- At a hearing at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed confesses to planning the September 11 Al Qaeda attachs on the World Trade Center. He also claims responsibility for a number of other terrorist acts.
- China executes its former State Food and Drug Administration chief following his conviction of accepting bribes to approve substandard medicine. China has become the world’s biggest exporter, but a rash of defective products have hurt its reputation and business.
- Former Vice President Al Gore and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change.”
- At the end of June, Apple Computer releases the “iPhone.” The device can surf the Web, take pictures, play back music using iTunes, send and receive e-mail and … make calls. In just over two months, 1 million iPhones are sold.
- The seventh, and final, Harry Potter novel is released with an initial press run of 12 million copies in the U.S. alone.
- In January, predominantly white, Democratic citizens in a rural state, Iowa, vote to nominate a black man, Sen. Barack Obama as their party’s candidate for president. Through a long series of primaries, he wins the nomination over Hilary Clinton and a host of others. Obama chooses Sen. Joe Biden as his VP candidate. The Republicans nominate Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin. Obama wins and becomes the first African-American chief executive in U.S. history. In addition, the Democrats win control of both houses of Congress.
- While American troops are concentrated in Iraq, violence in Afghanistan is on the rise with the resurgence of the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
- In May, the California State Supreme Court strikes down the state’s ban on same-sex marriages as unconstitutional. A month later, the state begins issuing marriage licenses, the second state to do so, after Massachusetts. However, in November voters pass a constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriages.
- In August, fighting erupts between Russia and its neighbor Georgia, an American ally and former member of the Soviet Union. The possibility of a new Cold War is raised.
- In September, Wall Street experiences what many experts label as the biggest economic disaster since the Great Depression. It’s fueled by an ongoing, multi-billion-dollar mortgage crisis. Lehman Brothers collapses. AIG, American International Group, the country’s largest insurance company, files for bankruptcy despite a $85 billion bailout. Washington Mutual is sold to JP Morgan Chase. In October, President Bush signs a $700 billion rescue plan for the banks.
- In December, Bush signs a $17.4 billion rescue package for ailing auto makers General Motors and Chrysler. The Big Three CEOs blame their problems on the growing global economic crisis, but critics charge they were too slow to produce fuel-efficient cars.
- On October 3 – exactly 13 years after he was acquitted of murder – O. J. Simpson is found guilty of 12 charges, including armed robbery and kidnapping. His conviction came after he and five other men broke into a Las Vegas hotel room to steal thousands of dollars worth of sports memorabilia that Simpson claimed was his. He is sentenced to nine years in prison.
- Activists in Egypt use Facebook to rally for democracy.
- The movie “WALL-E” is released by Pixar with an ecological message.
Written by Bill Ganzel, the Ganzel Group. First published in 2009. A partial bibliography of sources is here.