- 1785 – The Times began publication in London as The Daily Universal Register.
- 1808 – As a result of the lobbying efforts by the abolitionist movement (emblem pictured), the importation of slaves into the United States was officially banned, although slavery itself was not yet abolished.
- 1928 – Joseph Stalin's personal secretary, Boris Bazhanov, crossed the Iranian border and defected from the Soviet Union.
- 1965 – The People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan, which later helped the country become a republic, was founded.
- 2009 – A nightclub fire in Bangkok, Thailand, killed 66 patrons celebrating the New Year.
- 1680 – Trunajaya rebellion: Amangkurat II of Mataram of Java and his courtiers stabbed Trunajaya to death a week after the rebel leader surrendered to the Dutch.
- 1865 – Uruguayan War: Brazilian and Colorado Party forces captured the city of Paysandú from its Uruguayan defenders.
- 1920 – Under the leadership of Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, U.S. Department of Justice agents launched a series of raids against radical leftists and anarchists in more than 30 cities and towns across 23 states.
- 1959 – The Soviet spacecraft Luna 1 (replica pictured), the first spacecraft to reach the vicinity of the Moon, was launched by a Vostok rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.
- 1976 – An extratropical cyclone began affecting parts of western Europe, resulting in coastal flooding around the southern portions of the North Sea and leading to at least 82 deaths over the next few days.
- 250 – Emperor Decius (bust pictured) ordered everyone in the Roman Empire (except Jews) to perform a sacrifice to the Roman gods, resulting in widespread persecution of Christians.
- 1833 – With the arrival of two British naval ships at the Falkland Islands, the United Kingdom re-asserted sovereignty there.
- 1911 – A 7.7 Mw earthquake destroyed the city of Almaty in Russian Turkestan.
- 1976 – The multilateral International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, part of the International Bill of Human Rights, came into effect.
- 1990 – United States invasion of Panama: General Manuel Noriega, the deposed strongman of Panama, surrendered to American forces.
- 1847 – American gun inventor Samuel Colt (engraving shown) sold the first thousand of his Colt Walker revolvers to the Texas Rangers.
- 1885 – Sino-French War: French troops under General Oscar de Négrier defeated a larger Qing Chinese force at the Battle of Núi Bop in northern Vietnam.
- 1936 – Billboard magazine published its first music hit parade.
- 1972 – Rose Heilbron became the first female judge to sit at the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales.
- 2004 – Spirit, the first of two rovers of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover mission, successfully landed on Mars.
- 1675 – Franco-Dutch War: French troops defeated Imperial and Brandenburg forces at the Battle of Turckheim in Alsace.
- 1875 – The Palais Garnier opera house in Paris was formally inaugurated.
- 1953 – Waiting for Godot by Irish playwright Samuel Beckett, termed the "most significant English language play of the 20th century", premiered in Paris.
- 1970 – An earthquake registering Mw 7.1 struck Tonghai County in southern China, killing at least 10,000 people and eventually spurring the creation of the nation's largest earthquake monitoring system.
- 2005 – Eris (pictured), the most massive known dwarf planet in the Solar System, was discovered through image analysis by a team of astronomers at the Palomar Observatory in California.
- 1322 – Stefan Dečanski was crowned king of Serbia, succeeding his half-brother Stefan Konstantin, whom he later defeated in battle.
- 1536 – The oldest European school of higher learning in the Americas, the Colegio de Santa Cruz, was founded in Tlatelolco, Mexico City.
- 1912 – German geophysicist Alfred Wegener first presented his theory of continental drift, the precursor of plate tectonics.
- 1960 – National Airlines Flight 2511, traveling from New York City to Miami, exploded in mid-air due to a bomb placed by an unknown party, resulting in the deaths of all 34 people on board.
- 1994 – Two-time American Olympic figure-skating medalist Nancy Kerrigan (pictured) was hit on the leg with a police baton by an assailant hired by the ex-husband of her rival Tonya Harding.
- 1610 – Through his telescope, Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei made the first observation of Jupiter's Galilean moons: Io (pictured), Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, although he was not able to distinguish the first two until the following night.
- 1782 – The Bank of North America opened in Philadelphia as the United States's first de facto central bank.
- 1940 – Winter War: Outnumbered Finnish troops decisively defeated Soviet forces at the Battle of Raate Road.
- 2010 – In Nag Hammadi, Egypt, Muslim gunmen opened fire on a crowd of Coptic Christians leaving church after attending Christmas Liturgy, killing eight of them, as well as one Muslim bystander.
- 1697 – Scottish student Thomas Aikenhead became the last person to be executed for blasphemy in Great Britain.
- 1790 – George Washington delivered the first State of the Union address in New York City, then the provisional capital of the United States.
- 1889 – American statistician Herman Hollerith received a patent for his electromechanical tabulating machine for punched-card data.
- 1972 – Following the country's defeat in the previous year's war, new Pakistani president Zulfikar Ali Bhutto released Bangladeshi politician Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (pictured) from prison in response to international pressure.
- 2010 – Gunmen from an offshoot of the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda attacked the bus transporting the Togo national football team to the Africa Cup of Nations in Angola, killing three people.
- 1857 – An earthquake registering 7.9 Mw ruptured part of the San Andreas Fault in central and southern California.
- 1909 – Ernest Shackleton, leading the Nimrod Expedition, planted the British flag 97.5 nautical miles (180.6 km; 112.2 mi) from the South Pole, the farthest south explorers had reached at the time.
- 1972 – Seawise University, formerly RMS Queen Elizabeth (pictured), an ocean liner that sailed the Atlantic for Cunard Line, caught fire in Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong.
- 1991 – Representatives from the United States and Iraq met at the Geneva Peace Conference to find a peaceful resolution to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
- 2015 – Contaminated beer served at a funeral in Tete Province, Mozambique, killed 75 people and made at least 230 others ill.
- 976 – After the death of his guardian John I Tzimiskes, Basil II became the effective ruler and senior emperor of the Byzantine Empire.
- 1430 – Philip the Good established the Order of the Golden Fleece, referred to as the most prestigious, exclusive, and expensive order of chivalry in the world.
- 1812 – New Orleans, the first steamship on the Mississippi River, arrived in its namesake city to complete its maiden voyage.
- 1929 – The Adventures of Tintin, a series of popular comic albums created by Belgian artist Hergé, first appeared in Le Petit Vingtième, the youth supplement to the Belgian newspaper Le Vingtième Siècle.
- 1985 – Sir Clive Sinclair launched the Sinclair C5 personal electric vehicle (pictured), "one of the great marketing bombs of postwar British industry", which later became a cult collectable despite its commercial failure.
- 1055 – Theodora Porphyrogenita became sole ruler of the Byzantine Empire after the death of her brother-in-law Constantine IX Monomachos.
- 1693 – The most powerful earthquake in Italian history, registering 7.4 Mw, struck the island of Sicily.
- 1943 – Italian-American journalist and trade-union activist Carlo Tresca, a leading public opponent of the Mafia infiltration of unions, was assassinated in New York City.
- 1986 – The Gateway Bridge (pictured) was opened in Brisbane, Australia, as the largest prestressed concrete, single-box bridge in the world.
- 2013 – French special forces failed in an attempted rescue of a DGSE agent, who had been taken hostage in 2009 by Al-Shabaab, in Buulo Mareer, Somalia.
- 1777 – Mission Santa Clara de Asís, a Spanish mission in California that formed the basis of both the city of Santa Clara and Santa Clara University, was established by the Franciscans.
- 1895 – The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty, a conservation organisation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, was founded.
- 1911 – The University of the Philippines College of Law, from which many leading Filipino political figures have since graduated, was founded in Quezon City.
- 1964 – Rebels led by John Okello overthrew Sultan Jamshid bin Abdullah, ending 200 years of Arab dominance in Zanzibar.
- 2010 – An earthquake registering 7.0 Mw struck Haiti (damage pictured), killing more than 100,000 people.
- 1815 – War of 1812: British troops captured Fort Peter in St. Marys, Georgia, in the only battle of the war to take place in the state.
- 1884 – Welsh physician William Price was arrested for attempting to cremate his deceased infant son; he was acquitted in the subsequent trial, which eventually led to the legalisation of cremation in the United Kingdom.
- 1910 – The first public radio broadcast, a live performance of Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci from the old Metropolitan Opera House in New York City, took place.
- 1972 – Ghanaian military officer Ignatius Kutu Acheampong led a coup d'état to overthrow Prime Minister Kofi Abrefa Busia and President Edward Akufo-Addo.
- 2000 – Steve Ballmer (pictured) replaced Bill Gates as the chief executive officer of Microsoft.
- 1301 – The Árpád dynasty, which had ruled Hungary since the late 9th century, ended with the death of King Andrew III.
- 1900 – Giacomo Puccini's opera Tosca, based on the play La Tosca by French dramatist Victorien Sardou, premiered at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome.
- 1907 – An earthquake registering 6.5 Mw struck Kingston, the capital of Jamaica (damage pictured), resulting in approximately 1,000 deaths.
- 1960 – The Reserve Bank of Australia, the country's central bank and banknote-issuing authority, was established.
- 1970 – The self-proclaimed Republic of Biafra in southeastern Nigeria surrendered to the federal government less than three years after declaring independence, ending the Nigerian Civil War.
- 1865 – American Civil War: The Union Army captured Fort Fisher, the last seaport of the Confederacy.
- 1885 – Wilson Bentley took the first known photograph of a snowflake by attaching a bellows camera to a microscope (process pictured).
- 1947 – The mutilated corpse of the "Black Dahlia", a 22-year-old woman whose murder is one of the most famous unsolved crimes in the U.S., was found in the Leimert Park neighborhood of Los Angeles.
- 1975 – Portugal signed the Alvor Agreement with the nationalist factions of UNITA, the MPLA, and the FNLA, ending the Angolan War of Independence.
- 1993 – Salvatore Riina, one of the most powerful members of the Sicilian Mafia, was arrested in Palermo after 23 years as a fugitive.
- 1362 – The Danish settlement of Rungholt reportedly sank into the North Sea due to a massive windstorm.
- 1809 – Peninsular War: French forces under Jean-de-Dieu Soult attacked the British's amphibious evacuation under Sir John Moore at Corunna in Galicia, Spain.
- 1920 – The League of Nations, the first worldwide intergovernmental organization with a focus on peace and security, held its first council meeting in Paris.
- 1945 – World War II: Adolf Hitler and his staff moved into the Führerbunker in Berlin (entrance pictured), where he would eventually commit suicide.
- 1377 – Pope Gregory XI entered Rome after a four-month journey from Avignon, returning the papacy to its original city and effectively becoming the last Avignon pope.
- 1773 – On James Cook's second voyage, his ship HMS Resolution became the first vessel to cross the Antarctic Circle.
- 1920 – The Volstead Act went into effect, beginning the prohibition of alcohol in the United States.
- 1945 – Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg (pictured), who had saved thousands of Jews from the Holocaust, was taken into Soviet custody during the Siege of Budapest and was never seen in public again.
- 1948 – Indonesian National Revolution: The Renville Agreement between the Netherlands and Indonesian republicans was ratified, in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to resolve disputes arising from the Linggadjati Agreement of 1946.
- 474 – Seven-year-old Leo II became sole Byzantine emperor upon the death of his grandfather Leo I.
- 1486 – Elizabeth of York married King Henry VII, becoming queen consort of England.
- 1788 – The armed tender HMS Supply, the first ship of the First Fleet, arrived at Botany Bay, Australia.
- 1956 – Navvab Safavi, an Iranian Shia cleric and the founder of the Fada'iyan-e Islam fundamentalist group, was executed with three of his followers for attempting to assassinate Prime Minister Hossein Ala'.
- 1977 – The CDC announced that the lung infection Legionnaires' disease is caused by a previously unknown bacterium now known as Legionella (colonies pictured).
- 649 – Conquest of the Western Turks: Kuchean forces surrendered after a siege, establishing Tang control over the northern Tarim Basin in what is now Xinjiang, China.
- 1795 – The Batavian Republic was established, a day after Prince William V (portrait shown) fled the Dutch Republic as a result of the Batavian Revolution in Amsterdam.
- 1920 – The American Civil Liberties Union was founded by the directors of the National Civil Liberties Bureau.
- 1930 – In Watsonville, California, tensions between nativists and Filipino Americans escalated into riots that later spread to other cities in the state.
- 1975 – An earthquake registering 6.8 Ms struck northern Himachal Pradesh in India, causing extensive damage to the region.
- 250 – Pope Fabian was martyred during a widespread persecution of Christians for refusing to demonstrate loyalty to the Roman Empire.
- 1945 – World War II: Germany began the evacuation of at least 1.8 million people (refugees pictured) from East Prussia in anticipation of the advancing Soviet Red Army, an operation that took nearly two months to complete.
- 1968 – The Houston Cougars upset the UCLA Bruins in what became known as the "Game of the Century", ending the Bruins' 47-game winning streak, and establishing college basketball as a sports commodity on American television.
- 2018 – A group of Taliban gunmen attacked the Inter-Continental Hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan, sparking a 12-hour battle that left at least 21 people dead.
- 1789 – The Power of Sympathy by William Hill Brown, widely considered to be the first American novel, was published.
- 1919 – The First Dáil convened at the Mansion House in Dublin and adopted a declaration of independence calling for the establishment of the Irish Republic.
- 1941 – World War II: Sparked by the murder of a German officer on the previous day in Bucharest, Romania, members of the Iron Guard began a rebellion and pogrom.
- 1968 – Cold War: A B-52 bomber carrying four nuclear weapons crashed onto sea ice near Thule Air Base, Greenland, causing localized radioactive contamination.
- 1981 – The DeLorean Motor Company completed the first production car of the DMC DeLorean (example pictured).
- 565 – Eutychius, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, was arrested after he refused Byzantine emperor Justinian I's order to adopt the tenets of the Aphthartodocetae, a sect of non-Chalcedonian Christians.
- 1689 – The Convention Parliament met to decide the fate of the English throne after James II, the last Catholic monarch, had fled to France as a result of the Glorious Revolution.
- 1905 – Russian Revolution: Unarmed demonstrators, led by Russian Orthodox priest Georgy Gapon, were massacred by the Imperial Guard outside the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg.
- 1970 – The Boeing 747, the world's first wide-body commercial airliner, entered service for Pan Am on the New York–London route.
- 2006 – Evo Morales (pictured) was inaugurated as President of Bolivia, becoming the country's first democratically elected indigenous leader.
- 1570 – James Hamilton killed James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray, in the first recorded assassination of a head of government using a firearm.
- 1870 – American Indian Wars: The United States Army massacred a friendly band of Piegan Blackfeet in the Montana Territory, resulting in about 200 deaths.
- 1909 – Two men committed an armed robbery in Tottenham, London, and led police on a two-hour tram chase (illustration shown), ending in the perpetrators' suicides.
- 1942 – World War II: Japan began its invasion of the island of New Britain in the Australian Territory of New Guinea.
- 1993 – The first version of Mosaic, created by Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina, was released, becoming the first popular web browser and Gopher client.
- 914 – The Fatimid Caliphate began their first invasion of Egypt, against the Abbasids, which eventually ended in failure.
- 1848 – James W. Marshall (pictured) discovered gold at Sutter's Mill in Coloma, California, leading to the California Gold Rush.
- 1978 – The Soviet nuclear-powered satellite Kosmos 954 burned up during atmospheric reentry, scattering radioactive debris across Canada's Northwest Territories.
- 1990 – Japan launched the Hiten spacecraft, the first lunar probe launched by a country other than the Soviet Union or the United States.
- 2011 – A North Caucasian jihadist carried out a suicide bombing at Moscow's Domodedovo Airport, killing 37 people.
- 1573 – Sengoku period: Takeda Shingen's forces defeated those of Tokugawa Ieyasu at the Battle of Mikatagahara (depicted), north of Hamamatsu in present-day Japan's Mikawa Province.
- 1792 – Thomas Hardy founded the London Corresponding Society to seek a "radical reform of parliament", later influencing the reform movements of early 19th-century England.
- 1971 – Idi Amin seized power from Ugandan president Milton Obote in a coup d'état, beginning eight years of military rule.
- 1993 – Five people were shot by Pakistani national Mir Aimal Kansi outside the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in Langley, Virginia, resulting in two deaths.
- 2010 – Ethiopian Airlines Flight 409, en route to Addis Ababa, crashed into the Mediterranean Sea shortly after takeoff from Beirut, Lebanon, killing all 90 people on board.
- 1564 – Livonian War: A Lithuanian surprise attack resulted in a decisive defeat of numerically superior Russian forces.
- 1841 – Commodore Gordon Bremer took formal possession of Hong Kong Island for the United Kingdom at Possession Point.
- 1945 – Audie Murphy (pictured) engaged in action at the Colmar Pocket that won him a Medal of Honor and made him one of the most famous and decorated U.S. soldiers of World War II.
- 1972 – JAT Flight 367 exploded in mid-air over Czechoslovakia; the only survivor of the 28 on board, flight attendant Vesna Vulović, fell 10,160 m (33,330 ft), setting the record for surviving the highest fall without a parachute.
- 2001 – An earthquake in the Indian state of Gujarat killed at least 13,000 people, injured another 167,000 and destroyed nearly 400,000 homes.
- 1785 – The University of Georgia, one of the oldest public universities in the United States, was founded.
- 1820 – A Russian expedition led by naval officers Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev became the first explorers to sight the coast of Antarctica.
- 1945 – The Soviet Red Army liberated about 7,000 prisoners left behind by the Nazis in Auschwitz concentration camp (entrance pictured), in present-day Oświęcim, Poland.
- 1980 – Assisted by Canadian government officials, six American diplomats who had avoided capture in the Iran hostage crisis escaped to Zürich, Switzerland.
- 2010 – Porfirio Lobo Sosa became the new President of Honduras, ending the constitutional crisis that had begun in 2009 when Manuel Zelaya was forcibly removed from office.
- 1069 – Robert de Comines, Earl of Northumbria, was killed in Durham, causing William the Conqueror to embark on a campaign to subjugate northern England.
- 1393 – King Charles VI of France was nearly killed when several dancers' costumes caught fire during a masquerade ball.
- 1813 – The novel Pride and Prejudice by English author Jane Austen (portrait shown) was published, using material from an unpublished manuscript that she originally wrote between 1796 and 1797.
- 1933 – Choudhry Rahmat Ali published a pamphlet in which he called for the creation of a Muslim state in north-western India that he termed "Pakstan".
- 1964 – An unarmed U.S. Air Force T-39 Sabreliner on a training mission was shot down over Erfurt, East Germany, by a Soviet MiG-19, killing all three aboard.
- 1856 – Queen Victoria introduced the Victoria Cross, originally to recognise acts of valour by British military personnel during the Crimean War.
- 1891 – Liliʻuokalani (pictured), the last monarch and only queen regnant of the Hawaiian Kingdom, ascended the throne.
- 1944 – World War II: At least 38 civilians were killed and about a dozen others injured when the Polish village of Koniuchy was attacked by a Soviet partisan unit with a contingent of Jewish partisans.
- 1991 – The first major ground engagement of the Gulf War began with Iraq's invasion of the Saudi Arabian city of Khafji, which would be recaptured three days later by Coalition forces.
- 2006 – India's Irfan Pathan became the only bowler to take a Test cricket hat-trick in the opening over of a match.
- 1661 – Two years after his death, Oliver Cromwell's remains were exhumed for a posthumous execution and his head was placed on a spike above Westminster Hall in London, where it remained until 1685.
- 1835 – Richard Lawrence became the first person to attempt to assassinate a sitting U.S. president when he failed to kill Andrew Jackson at the U.S. Capitol (assassination attempt pictured) and was subdued by the crowd.
- 1945 – World War II: Allied forces liberated more than 500 prisoners of war from a Japanese POW camp near Cabanatuan in the Philippines.
- 2000 – Kenya Airways Flight 431 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean near Ivory Coast shortly after takeoff, killing 169 on board.
- 1208 – King Sverker II of Sweden was defeated at the Battle of Lena by Prince Eric, who succeeded to the throne.
- 1862 – American astronomer Alvan Graham Clark first observed the faint white dwarf companion of Sirius (both stars pictured), the brightest star in the night sky.
- 2000 – Alaska Airlines Flight 261, experiencing problems with its horizontal stabilizer system, crashed in the Pacific Ocean off Anacapa Island, California, killing all 88 people on board.
- 2010 – James Cameron's Avatar became the first film to earn over US$2 billion worldwide.