This Week In History: February 5-11


This week in history: “Barber of Seville” premieres, “Of Mice and Men” published, and EU established. Read more below and dive deeper with The Great Courses Plus.

February 5th, 1816 – “Barber of Seville” first performed in Rome

Rossini’s enchanting opera, “Barber of Seville” premiered in 1816 at the Teatro Argentina in Rome, Italy¹. It is an opera in the bel canto style, the dominant style of 19th-century Italian opera. Its features of appealing melodies and florid melodic embellishments are suited to the Italian language. Bel canto operas are based on comic, predictable plots and one-dimensional characters to indulge the contemporary Italian taste for pure entertainment. It is the second part of the Beaumarchais trilogy, the first written 30 years prior by Wolfgang Mozart (“The Marriage of Figaro”).

Learn more about opera with Professor Robert Greenberg in How to Listen to and Understand Opera.

February 5th, 1937– Novella “Of Mice and Men” published by John Steinbeck

Poster for Of Mice and Men.
Poster for the 1939 film Of Mice and Men.

This story tells the tale of migrant workers, George Milton and Lennie Small, in search of jobs during the Great Depression. Steinbeck’s novels are a reflection of the times and he is considered one of America’s greatest authors. “Of Mice and Men” plays with themes that were not unique to the time: dreams, loneliness, companionship, power, fate, and evil. Because of the often raw humanity and candor of the novella, it has been banned from various US public schools and school libraries and it appears on the American Library Association’s list of the “Most Challenged Books of the 21st Century.”²

Learn more about Steinbeck’s writing and other notable books in US history in Great American Bestsellers: The Books That Shaped America 

February 7th, 1992– Western European nations establish the European Union (EU)

Image of EU flag
The European Union flag.

By signing the Maastricht Treaty, Western European nations created the European Union. The treaty called for greater economic integration across the many countries in Europe. This would lay the groundwork for the single currency, the Euro. In recent months, the EU has been in the news because of the “Brexit” movement for the UK to leave. History is being created with every new decision on the topic.

Learn more about the creation and history of the European Union in The New Europe: Joining NATO and the EU Lecture no. 22 from the course: A History of Eastern Europe
Attribution and citations:
¹ Osborne, Charles (1994). The Bel Canto Operas. Portland: Amadeus Press. p. 52. ISBN 0-931340-71-3
“American Library Association list of the Most Challenged Books of 21st Century”. American Library Association. 2007.
EU flag: By JLogan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons