This Week In History: April 8 - April 12

PHOTO: British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1980.
Gerald Penny/AP Photo

Does this week seem like any other week? Well, think again. This week included the death of a famous British prime minister and the start and end of the American Civil War. Check out some of the most important political events that happened this week in history over the past few centuries and decades.

PHOTO: British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1980.
Gerald Penny/AP Photo
April 8

2013: Margaret Thatcher, the former British prime minister, died of a stroke today at age 87. She was known as the Iron Lady for her strong and outspoken governing. The only woman to serve as prime minister, she held office from 1979 to 1990. Thatcher was the longest continuously-serving prime minister in office since the early 19th century and was known for cooperating with former U.S. President Ronald Reagan on bringing the curtain down on Soviet Communism during the Cold War. She had rarely made any public appearances in recent years.

1913: The 17th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was ratified. The amendment allowed for popular election of U.S. senators. Under the original provisions, senators had to be elected by state legislatures, but this was soon changed to prevent corruption and possible electoral deadlock or lack of representation if a seat ended up becoming vacant.

PHOTO: U.S marines and Iraqis are seen on April 9, 2003 as the statue of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is toppled at al-Fardous square in Baghdad, Iraq.
Wathiq Khuzaie/Getty Images
April 9

2003: Less than a month after former President George W. Bush announced the invasion of U.S. troops into Iraq, a Saddam Hussein statue in Baghdad was toppled over by the Iraqi public. Reports also indicate that U.S. military forces may have been involved in the incident. Hussein's regime subsequently collapsed officially in April as U.S. military forces and allies gained control of certain areas in Iraq's capital following nearly a month of fighting.

1865: The American Civil War officially ended as Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered himself and his 28,000 troops to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in Appomattox, Va., on this day. Though there continued to be resistance around the country, including in Mobile, Ala., the symbolic end of the war occurred when Lee and Grant met in a house to discuss Lee's surrender.

Lee's men were allowed to keep personal belongings such as horses and were given the Union Army's food following the surrender. Grant famously told his soldiers as they began celebrating, "The war is over. The rebels are our countrymen again."

PHOTO: An American tennis table player, right, trains with a Chinese tennis table player, April 1971, in Beijing, China. It is the first time that American athletes come to China since communism took the power in 1971.
AFP/Getty Images
April 10

1972: For the first time since November 1967, U.S. B-52 bombers reportedly began bombing North Vietnam. The U.S. military command refused to publicly confirm the location of the bomb targets although it was later found the bombs struck in the area of Vinh, more than 100 miles north of the Demilitarized Zone.

1971: Ping-pong diplomacy anyone? The U.S. table tennis team made its first week-long visit to the former communist People's Republic of China for a ping pong tournament in the middle of the Cold War. The trip was widely publicized and part of China's attempt to foster better diplomatic ties with America. Former President Richard Nixon then made a famous trip to China in February 1972 to restart diplomacy talks. The Chinese table tennis team toured America following Nixon's visit.

1933: Former U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corps on this day in 1933, as one of his many projects to save the country from the Great Depression as part of the New Deal. The organization was federally funded and gave more than 3 million American men jobs in the environment sector between 1933 and 1942. Employees partook in all kinds of physical labor from planting trees to fighting forest fires to building wildlife refuges.

PHOTO: Elie Wiesel attends the 2009 Annual Food Allergy Ball at The Waldorf Astoria, Dec. 7, 2009, in New York City.
Jason Kempin/Getty Images
April 11:

1945: The American Third Army liberated the Buchenwald Concentration Camp near Weimar, Germany, during World War II. The camp is considered second only to Auschwitz for its treatment and atrocities against its prisoners. The remains of the camp, including its inmates, were supposed to be blown up by camp officials before the Allies reached the site. However, the officials fled the scene out of fear of capture by the Allies and the inmates survived.

Among the prisoners who were rescued by Allied troops was Elie Wiesel, who wrote a book on his Holocaust experiences and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.

1921: Iowa was the first state to impose a cigarette tax. Though an excise tax had been initiated by the federal government, no states ratified a tobacco tax in addition to the federal tax until Iowa in 1921. By 1950, 40 other states and Washington D.C. had also enacted taxes on cigarette sales.

PHOTO: Franklin D. Roosevelt
AP Photo
April 12:

1945: Franklin D. Roosevelt passed away after four unprecedented terms in office. Roosevelt complained of a pain in the back of his head and immediately collapsed unconscious. He later died of a cerebral brain hemorrhage in his Warm Springs, Ga. home while his portrait was being painted. Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was in Washington, D.C. when she received the news that her husband had fainted and was not able to reach home before he died. Roosevelt's death left Vice President Harry S. Truman in charge of the U.S. when it was still in the middle of the Second World War.

1861: The American Civil War began. The Confederate army fired its first shots to start the war in South Carolina. Southern delegates had discussed seceding from the union over the issue of abolishing slavery. It went through with the secession when Republican President Abraham Lincoln was elected in November 1860. South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union and was followed by five more states -- Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Louisiana.

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