October 18, 1405: Enea Silvio Piccolomini (a.k.a. Pope Pius II) is born at Corsignano, Italy. Though faulted for taking radical and sometimes contradictory positions on issues, he was one of the best popes of his age: he wrote an important study of geography and ethnography, a popular love story, and an autobiography. He died in 1464 while planning a battle against the Turks, who controlled Constantinople.
October 18, 1685: French King Louis XIV issues the Edict of Fontainebleu, which revokes the Edict of Nantes and once again forbids Huguenots (French Protestants) from worshipping (see issue 71: Huguenots).
October 18, 1867: The United States purchases Alaska for $7.2 million, or about 2 cents an acre. Ten years later, after lax military administration had only worsened the territory's moral condition, an army private stationed in Alaska begged, "Send out a shepherd who may reclaim a mighty flock from the error of their ways, and gather them into the true fold." Presbyterian missionary Sheldon Jackson answered the call and spent decades raising funds, building schools and churches, and crusading for better laws (see issue 66: How the West Was Really Won).
January 21, 1525: Conrad Grebel (Ulrich Zwingli's former protege) rebaptizes George Blaurock, a former monk, in a secret, illegal meeting of six men in Zurich. This meeting is now considered the birth of the Anabaptist movement (see issue 5: Anabaptists).
January 21, 1549: In the first of four Acts of Uniformity, the English Parliament requires all Anglican public services to exclusively use of The Book of Common Prayer.
January 21, 1621: Pilgrims leave the Mayflower and gather on shore at Plymouth, ...