April has 31 days and is the fourth month in the Gregorian calendar, which is the calendar used around the world today. Like the other months, April got its name from the Romans, who used Latin. Unlike other months, the reason for its name is a little more unclear. Some believe ‘Aprilis’ came from aperire, which means “to open”, in reference to the season of spring when flowers open. This is applicable to the northern hemisphere only, though, as April is the month of autumn in the southern hemisphere.
If you were to look up at the night sky in the month of April, two constellations you’d see would be Aries and Taurus, which resembles a bull.
April is a significant month for several of the major religions. In Christianity, religious observances are related to the crucifixion of Jesus namely Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. In Judaism, Jewish people observe Pesach or Passover. For Muslims, April is linked to the Prophet Muhammad and Allah, with Lailat al Miraj and Lailat al Bara’ah observed, respectively. Hindus and Sikhs celebrate Baisakhi in April too.
Looking back at history, and starting in 16th-century England, one of the world’s greatest playwrights was born and died in the month of April. William Shakespeare existed in the golden age of Elizabethan theatre and produced sonnets and plays whose appeal have spanned the centuries. He’s even credited with inventing some common English words we use today, including bandit, critic, elbow, swagger, uncomfortable, and more!
In the years between the 16th and 19th centuries, other significant events took place in Britain. Henry VIII was crowned king in 1509 after the death of his father, Henry VII. This monarch would have a lasting impact on history in no small part because of his legacy of six wives and the religious upheaval it took in order to legally divorce them.
Moving into the ages of exploration and enlightenment, Britain saw the Royal Society of London established in (1662). The motto of the first learned society was “Take nobody’s word for it”, reinforcing that scientific fact rather than religious belief should be the basis of knowledge. The Royal Society of London was responsible for publishing Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica, and Benjamin Franklin’s kite experiment demonstrating the electrical nature of lightning. Come the 18th century, when Captain James Cook arrived in Botany Bay in Australia in 1770, it was with the help of the RSL.
Casting our attention to US history, significant events related to the American Civil War took place over the years in April. Starting in 1861, the Civil War began as Confederate troops opened fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina. The war took a heavy toll on Americans, not just because of casualties, but because of the disruption in food production. This was exemplified in 1863 when a bread riot broke out in Confederate Richmond, Virginia.
The war was in its death throes by April 1865, when Confederate troops were defeated at Five Forks, Virginia and Richmond surrendered to the Union. There most famous figure of the Civil War also died at this time – Abraham Lincoln was shot and mortally wounded on 14 April 1865. He died the next day.
At the heart of the Civil War was conflicting ideologies between Confederate and Union states over slavery. Over the coming centuries, the fight for equality would continue, reaching its peak in the mid-to-late 20th century. One of the most famous figures associated with the Civil Rights Movement was Martin Luther King, Jr., who died fighting his cause on 4 April 1968. Through the combined efforts of leaders like him and sustained civil pressure, the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Acts were passed.
Looking at the wider world, in the month of April 1945 two notorious figures of WWII died: Italian Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini was shot and Adolf Hitler committed suicide. In the years that followed the end of WWII, Nazi death camps including the concentration camp at Buchenwald were liberated by US troops in April 1945. In order to assist Europe in recovering from the war and preventing the spread of Soviet Communism, President Truman signed the Marshall Plan, which saw $12 billion in aid go to Western European nations. And, in the hopes of preventing future conflicts, in April 1949, twelve nations entered the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which is still in existence today.
Notable figures born in April include: Hans Christian Andersen (1805), Booker T. Washington (1856), Raphael (1483), Buddha (563), Joseph Pulitzer (1847), Thomas Jefferson (1743), Wilbur Wright (1867), Charlie Chaplin (1889), John Pierpont (J.P.) Morgan (1837), Adolf Hitler (1889), Vladimir Lenin (1870), William Shakespeare (1564), Samuel F.B. Morse (1791), Ulysses S. Grant (1822).
Famous historical figures who died in April include: Raphael (1520), William Shakespeare (1616), Franklin D. Roosevelt (1945), Abraham Lincoln (1865), Benito Mussolini (1945), Adolf Hitler (1945), Martin Luther King, Jr. (1968)