This Week In History: July 30 – August 5


This week in history: The ubiquitous Penguin Book series are first published, India becomes a British colony, and Vikings make their last raid on Britain. Read more below and dive deeper with The Great Courses Plus.

July 30, 1935 – First Penguin Book Published

Though it is arguably the most common format for publishing books today, paperback books are a relatively recent invention. On this day in 1935, the publishing company Penguin would release its first paperback book in London and change the publishing industry forever. Despite technological advances in printing, publishing, and distribution of books in the 19th century, books were still largely produced as hardcovers, making them prohibitively expensive. Because paperback books are produced with lower-quality paper and binding they are able to be produced cheaply in large numbers and are much more portable than their hardcover counterparts. And because they were considerably inexpensive, more people were suddenly able to easily acquire books to read, making literature far more accessible to the average person.

Learn more about the modern publishing world in How to Publish Your Book

August 2, 1858 – India Becomes a British Colony

British soldiers looting Qaisar Bagh, Lucknow, after its recapture (steel engraving, late 1850’s). The steel engraving depicts the Time correspondent looking on at the sacking of the Kaiser Bagh, after the capture of Lucknow on March 15, 1858. “Is this string of little white stones (pearls) worth anything, Gentlemen?” asks the plunderer.

On this day in 1858, the East India Trading Company would transfer the government of India to the British Crown, thereby making India part of the extensive British Empire. What was collectively referred to as British India actually contained a number of countries in addition to modern day India, including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma, and Sri Lanka, among others. Under British rule India would be a founding member of both the League of Nations and the United Nations, as well as be a participating country in the summer Olympics in the early part of the 20th century. British India would remain an entity until 1947, at which point it became its own sovereign state; other countries such as Pakistan and Burma would receive their independence at later dates.

Learn more about British India in A History of British India

August 5, 910 – Last Major Viking Raid in England

The Battle of Tettenhall, largely considered to be the last major viking raid in English history, would be fought on this day in the year 910. Due to a number of earlier successful raids, the Vikings actually held a considerable amount of northeastern England in their control, though attempts at moving southward into the central part of the island were blocked by Alfred the Great and later his son Edward of Wessex. After forming an alliance with his sister, Edward would push north into Viking territory to capture relics of Saint Oswald that were stolen in a raid; the Vikings descended south in retaliation but became entrapped and suffered heavy casualties. This would mark the last major conflict between the English and the Vikings, and soon after England would be united under a single domestic monarch and push the Vikings from England entirely.

Learn more about the Vikings in The Vikings