This Day in History: April 27
1667: John Milton sells copyright to Paradise Lost for 10 pounds: John Milton, during his lifetime, was not known as a poet. He was a civil servant under the Republican Government of Oliver Cromwell. As such, he was a staunch republican, defended freedom of speech, and had positions considered radical for his time. With the restoration of the monarchy, his public activity ended, and he devoted more time to writing poetry. Having gone blind, Milton wrote his most famous work, Paradise Lost, in which Satan rebels and tempts mankind to fall. On this day he sold the rights to his publisher for 5 pounds, equal to 986 modern dollars, with the other 5 being paid out if the poem sold at least 1,300 copies.
1906: State Duma of Russian Empire meets for the first time: Russia had been one of the longest lived absolutist monarchies of its time. Decades after reform and liberal revolutions swept over the rest of Europe, Russia still clung hard to the old ways. Serfs were freed in the 1860s, but Russia was still considered to be a reactionary force. This became too much for Czar Nicolas II after the Revolution of 1905 when Russia created its first constitution and elected parliament, the State Duma. It met for the first time on this day in 1906, but it was enough for Russian radicals. Its was still under the thumb of the Imperial government and would only meet a total of four times between then and 1917. The Czar was overthrown, his family killed, and the Russian Empire became a socialist state slightly over 10 years later.
1945: Benito Mussolini Arrested: Mussolini began his political life as a socialist, but his nationalism and militarism did not square with his party mates. He formed the Revolutionary Fasci for International action. His fascist movement seized power in Italy in 1922 and oversaw the creation of an ultra-nationalist, expansionist state. Il Duce, as he was known, found a rival and an ally in Adolph Hitler and Nazi Germany, although he had greater allegiance to the Austrian Fascist State. The state was annexed by Germany, over which Mussolini even threatened war. The countries joined forces in 1936, on the eve of WWII, but the Fascist Italy fell long before Nazi Germany. The allies invaded Italy in 1943, the Grand Council of Fascism deposed him, and he was arrested. Italy joined the allies against Germany. German soldiers freed him in a raid and established him as head of the Italian Social Republic, a puppet state. On this day he was captured by Italian Partisans and was later shot and famously hung upside down.
1981: First mouse: By 1981, computers had shrunk considerable, once taking up the space of a whole room but with far less computing power than any phone today. While previous computers had rudimentary track pads or other mouse like devices, the mouse as we know it was not introduced until 1981 when Xerox PARC sold a computer with an attached mouse.
1994: South African General Election: South Africa had its first European colonists in the 1600s when the Dutch began to settle there. These Dutch eventually developed into the Boers, or Afrikaners, and settled in the interior of the country. The British settled near the coasts in the 1800s, and the two fought two bitter wars. Caught between them were the native black population. The Union of South Africa, later the Republic of South Africa, instituted some of the most brutal racial segregation policies in 1948, known as Apartheid. Under these laws, the native population was relocated to “homelands,” called Bantustans, and lost their South African citizenship as Bantustans had the pretext of being independent states. Non whites were forbidden from voting or marrying whites. After years of struggle and international pressure, Apartheid ended in 1994, and on this day South Africa had its first general election where all races could vote. April 27 is now celebrated as Freedom Day in South Africa.