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- 755 – An Lushan revolts against Chancellor Yang Guozhong at Fanyang, initiating the An Shi Rebellion during the Tang Dynasty of China.
- 1431 – Henry VI of England is crowned King of France at Notre Dame in Paris.
- 1497 – Vasco da Gama rounds the Cape of Good Hope, the point where Bartolomeu Dias had previously turned back to Portugal.
- 1575 – The 1575 Valdivia earthquake takes place.
- 1598 – Seven Year War: Battle of Noryang Point – The final battle of the Seven Year War is fought between the China and the Korean Allied Forces and Japanese navies, resulting in a decisive Allied Forces victory.
- 1653 – English Interregnum: The Protectorate – Oliver Cromwell becomes Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland.
- 1689 – Convention Parliament: The Declaration of Right is embodied in the Bill of Rights.
- 1707 – Last recorded eruption of Mount Fuji in Japan.
- 1761 – Seven Years' War: After a four-month siege, the Russians under Pyotr Rumyantsev take the Prussian fortress of Kolobrzeg.
- 1773 – American Revolution: Boston Tea Party – Members of the Sons of Liberty disguised as Mohawks dump crates of tea into Boston harbor as a protest against the Tea Act.
- 1811 – The first two in a series of four severe earthquakes occur in the vicinity of New Madrid, Missouri. These four so-called mega-quakes are believed to be an ongoing cataclysmic danger that could reprise the 1811-12 series of 2,000 quakes that affected the lands of what would be eight of today's heartland states of the United States.
- 1826 – Benjamin W. Edwards rides into Mexican controlled Nacogdoches, Texas and declares himself ruler of the Republic of Fredonia.
- 1838 – Battle of Blood River: Voortrekkers led by Andries Pretorius and Sarel Cilliers defeat Zulu impis, led by Dambuza (Nzobo) and Ndlela kaSompisi in what is today KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
- 1850 – History of New Zealand: The Charlotte-Jane and the Randolph bring the first of the Canterbury Pilgrims to Lyttelton, New Zealand.
- 1863 – American Civil War: Joseph E. Johnston replaces Braxton Bragg as commander of the Army of Tennessee.
- 1864 – American Civil War: Franklin-Nashville Campaign – Battle of Nashville – Major General George H. Thomas's Union forces defeat Lieutenant General John Bell Hood's Confederate Army of Tennessee.
- 1903 – Taj Mahal Palace & Tower first opened its doors to the guests.
- 1907 – The Great White Fleet begins its circumnavigation of the world
- 1914 – World War I: German battleships under Franz von Hipper bombard the English ports of Hartlepool and Scarborough.
- 1918 – Vincas Mickevicius-Kapsukas declares the formation of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic.
- 1920 – The Haiyuan earthquake, magnitude 8.5, rocks the Gansu province in China, killing an estimated 200,000.
- 1922 – President of Poland Gabriel Narutowicz is assassinated by Eligiusz Niewiadomski at the Zacheta Gallery in Warsaw.
- 1930 – Bank robber Herman Lamm and members of his crew are killed by a posse of 200, following a botched bank robbery in Clinton, Indiana.
- 1937 – Theodore Cole and Ralph Roe attempt to escape from the American federal prison on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay; neither is ever seen again.
- 1938 – Adolf Hitler institutes the Cross of Honor of the German Mother
- 1941 – World War II: Japanese forces occupy Miri, Sarawak
- 1942 – Holocaust: Porajmos – Heinrich Himmler orders that Roma candidates for extermination be deported to Auschwitz.
- 1944 – World War II: The Battle of the Bulge begins with the surprise offensive of three German armies through the Ardennes forest.
- 1946 – Thailand joins the United Nations.
- 1947 – William Shockley, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain build the first practical point-contact transistor.
- 1950 – U.S. President Harry S. Truman declares a state of emergency, after Chinese troops enter the fight with communist North Korea in the Korean War.
- 1957 – Sir Feroz Khan Noon replaces Ibrahim Ismail Chundrigar as Prime Minister of Pakistan.
- 1960 – 1960 New York air disaster: While approaching New York's Idlewild Airport, a United Airlines Douglas DC-8 collides with a TWA Lockheed Super Constellation in a blinding snowstorm over Staten Island, killing 134.
- 1965 – Vietnam War: General William Westmoreland sends U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara a request for 243,000 more men by the end of 1966.
- 1971 – Bangladesh Liberation War and Indo-Pakistani War of 1971: The surrender of the Pakistan army brings an end to both conflicts.
- 1971 – "National Day" of the Kingdom of Bahrain is celebrated. Not to be confused with Bahrain Independence Day which took place on August 15, 1971.
- 1972 – Vietnam War: Henry Kissinger announces that North Vietnam has left private peace negotiations, in Paris.
- 1972 – Vijay Diwas: (Victory Day) is commemorated every 16 December in India as it marks its military victory over Pakistan in 1971 during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971.
- 1978 – Cleveland, Ohio becomes the first post-Depression era city to default on its loans, owing $14,000,000 to local banks.
- 1979 – Libya joins four other OPEC nations in raising crude oil prices, having an immediate dramatic effect on the United States.
- 1985 – Mafia: In New York City, Paul Castellano and Thomas Bilotti are shot dead on the orders of John Gotti, who assumes leadership of the Gambino family.
- 1986 – Revolt in Kazakhstan against Communist Party of Kazakhstan, known as Zheltoksan, which becomes the first sign of ethnic strife during Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev's tenure
- 1989 – Protests break out in Timisoara in response to an attempt by the government to evict dissident Hungarian pastor László Tokés.
- 1989 – Walter LeRoy Moody begins his terrorist bombing streak when he sends Judge Robert Smith Vance a bomb in the mail, instantly killing him near his house in Birmingham, Alabama.
- 1991 – Independence of The Republic of Kazakhstan.
- 1997 – An episode of Pokémon, "Denno Senshi Porygon", aired in Japan induces seizures in 685 Japanese children.
- 1998 – Iraq disarmament crisis: Operation Desert Fox – The United States and United Kingdom bomb targets in Iraq.
- 2003 – President George W. Bush signs the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 into law. The law establishes the United States' first national standards for the sending of commercial e-mail and requires the Federal Trade Commission to enforce its provisions.
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