1653 - Oliver Cromwell became lord protector of England, Scotland and Ireland.
1773 - Nearly 350 chests of tea were dumped into Boston Harbor off of British ships by Colonial patriots. The patriots were disguised as Indians. The act was to protest taxation without representation and the monopoly the government granted to the East India Company.
1809 - Napoleon Bonaparte was divorced from the Empress Josephine by an act of the French Senate.
1835 - In New York, 530 buildings were destroyed by fire.
1838 - The Zulu chief Dingaan was defeated by a small force of Boers at Blood River celebrated in South Africa as 'Dingaan's Day'.
1850 - The first immigrant ship, the Charlotte Jane, arrived at Lyttleton, New Zealand.
1901 - "The Tale of Peter Rabbit," by Beatrix Potter, was printed for the first time.
1903 - Women ushers were employed for the first time at the Majestic Theatre in New York City.
1905 - Sime Silverman published the first issue of "Variety".
1912 - The first postage stamp to depict an airplane was issued was a 20-cent parcel-post stamp.
1940 - French Premier Petain arrested Pierre Laval after learning of a plan for Laval to seize power and set up a new government with German support.
1944 - During World War II, the Battle of the Bulge began in Belgium. It was the final major German counteroffensive in the war.
1950 - U.S. President Truman proclaimed a national state of emergency in order to fight "Communist imperialism."
1951 - NBC-TV debuted "Dragnet" in a special preview on "Chesterfield Sound Off Time". The show began officially on January 3, 1952.
1960 - A United Air Lines DC-8 and a TWA Super Constellation collided over New York City, killing 134 people.
1972 - The Miami Dolphins became the first NFL team to go unbeaten and untied in a 14-game regular season. The Dolphins went on to defeat the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII.
1973 - O.J. Simpson broke Jim Brown’s single-season rushing record in the NFL. Brown had rushed for 1,863 yards, while Simpson attained 2,003 yards.
1981 - The U.S. Congress restored the $122 minimum monthly social security benefit for current recipients.
1984 - The play "Diamonds" opened in New York City.
1985 - Reputed organized-crime chief Paul Castellano was shot to death outside a New York City restaurant.
1990 - Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a leftist priest, was elected president in Haiti's first democratic elections.
1991 - The U.N. General Assembly rescinded its 1975 resolution equating Zionism with racism by a vote of 111-25.
1993 - The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for negotiations on a comprehensive test ban.
1995 - Many U.S. government functions were again closed as a temporary finance provision expired and the budget dispute between President Clinton and Republicans in Congress continued.
1995 - NATO launched a military operation in support of the Bosnia peace agreement.
1996 - Britain's agriculture minister announced the slaughter of an additional 100,000 cows thought to be at risk of contracting BSE in an effort to persuade the EU to lift its ban on Britain.
1998 - The U.S. and Britain fired hundreds of missiles on Iraq in response to Saddam Hussein's refusal to comply with U.N. weapons inspectors.
1998 - Eric Michelman filed the earliest patent for a scroll wheel for a computer mouse.
1999 - Sigourney Weaver received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
1999 - Torrential rains and mudslides in Venezuela left thousands of people dead and forced at least 120,000 to leave their homes.
2000 - Researchers announced that information from NASA's Galileo spacecraft indicated that Ganymede appeared to have a liquid saltwater ocean beneath a surface of solid ice. Ganymede, a moon of Jupiter, is the solar system's largest moon. The discovery is considered important since water is a key ingredient for life.
2000 - U.S. President-elect George W. Bush selected Colin Powell to be the first African-American secretary of state. Powell was sworn in January 20, 2001.
2001 - In Tora Bora, Afghanistan, tribal fighters announced that they had taken the last al-Quaida positions. More than 200 fighters were killed and 25 captured. They also announced that they had found no sign of Osama bin Laden.
2001 - Cuba received the first commercial food shipment from the United States in nearly 40 years. The shipment was sent to help Cuba after Hurrican Michelle hit Cuba on November 4, 2001.
2001 - A British newspaper, The Observer, reported that a notebook had been found at an al-Quaida training camp in southern Afghanistan. The notebook contained a "blue print" for a bomb attack on London's financial district.
2009 - Astronomers discovered GJ1214b. It was the first-known exoplanet on which water could exist.