1 January 1808

The United States bans the importation of slaves.

The full title of the act is “An Act to Prohibit the Importation of Slaves into any Port or Place Within the Jurisdiction of the United States, From and After the First Day of January, in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and Eight.”

This legislation marked an important step in the efforts to abolish the transatlantic slave trade. The act made it illegal to import slaves into the United States after January 1, 1808. The Constitution had originally provided for the prohibition of the slave trade after 20 years, allowing it until 1808. The Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves enforced this constitutional provision.

Penalties for violating the act included fines and forfeiture of the enslaved individuals who were imported contrary to the law. Despite the legal prohibition, illegal slave trade continued, and the enforcement of the act was not always rigorous.

1 January 1995

The World Trade Organization comes into existence.

The World Trade Organization is an intergovernmental organization that regulates international trade. The WTO officially commenced on 1 January 1995 under the Marrakesh Agreement, signed by 124 nations on 15 April 1994, replacing the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which commenced in 1948. It is the largest international economic organization in the world.

The WTO deals with regulation of trade in goods, services and intellectual property between participating countries by providing a framework for negotiating trade agreements and a dispute resolution process aimed at enforcing participants’ adherence to WTO agreements, which are signed by representatives of member governments:fol.9–10 and ratified by their parliaments. The WTO prohibits discrimination between trading partners, but provides exceptions for environmental protection, national security, and other important goals. Trade-related disputes are resolved by independent judges at the WTO through a dispute resolution process.

The WTO’s current Director-General is Roberto Azevêdo, who leads a staff of over 600 people in Geneva, Switzerland. A trade facilitation agreement, part of the Bali Package of decisions, was agreed by all members on 7 December 2013, the first comprehensive agreement in the organization’s history. On 23 January 2017, the amendment to the WTO Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement marks the first time since the organization opened in 1995 that WTO accords have been amended, and this change should secure for developing countries a legal pathway to access affordable remedies under WTO rules.

Studies show that the WTO boosted trade, and that barriers to trade would be higher in the absence of the WTO. The WTO has highly influenced the text of trade agreements, as “nearly all recent [preferential trade agreements reference the WTO explicitly, often dozens of times across multiple chapters… in many of these same PTAs we find that substantial portions of treaty language—sometime the majority of a chapter—is copied verbatim from a WTO agreement.”

The WTO’s predecessor, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, was established by a multilateral treaty of 23 countries in 1947 after World War II in the wake of other new multilateral institutions dedicated to international economic cooperation – such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. A comparable international institution for trade, named the International Trade Organization never started as the U.S. and other signatories did not ratify the establishment treaty, and so GATT slowly became a de facto international organization.

Seven rounds of negotiations occurred under GATT. The first real GATT trade rounds concentrated on further reducing tariffs. Then the Kennedy Round in the mid-sixties brought about a GATT anti-dumping Agreement and a section on development. The Tokyo Round during the seventies represented the first major attempt to tackle trade barriers that do not take the form of tariffs, and to improve the system, adopting a series of agreements on non-tariff barriers, which in some cases interpreted existing GATT rules, and in others broke entirely new ground. Because not all GATT members accepted these plurilateral agreements, they were often informally called “codes”. Several of these codes were amended in the Uruguay Round and turned into multilateral commitments accepted by all WTO members. Only four remained plurilateral, but in 1997 WTO members agreed to terminate the bovine meat and dairy agreements, leaving only two. Despite attempts in the mid-1950s and 1960s to establish some form of institutional mechanism for international trade, the GATT continued to operate for almost half a century as a semi-institutionalized multilateral treaty regime on a provisional basis.

1 January 1651

Charles II is crowned as King of Scotland.

Charles II lived from 29 May 1630 to 6 February 1685. Legally, he became King of England, Scotland, and Ireland on 30 January 1649, the day his father, Charles I, was beheaded. In practice, he did not become undisputed King of England until 29 May 1660: while in Scotland he had been proclaimed King Charles II by the Scottish Parliament on 5 February 1649; and crowned on 1 January 1651. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.

Charles Stuart was born in St. James’s Palace, London on 29 May 1630, and as the eldest surviving son of Charles I was made Prince of Wales and heir to the crowns held by his father. During the First Civil War the 12 year-old Charles Stuart accompanied his father at the Battle of Edgehill, and at the age of 15, took part in a number of the campaigns of 1645. Charles I was taken prisoner in 1646, and the following year Charles Stuart went to France for safety.

During the Second Civil War Charles Stuart was unable to reach the Scottish forces invading Northern England before their defeat by Oliver Cromwell at the Battle of Preston on 17–19 August 1648. Charles I was beheaded on 30 January 1649. On 5 February 1649 the Scottish Parliament proclaimed the 19 year-old Charles Stuart as Charles II: while the following month the English Parliament declared England to be a republic.

From March 1649, Charles was based in the Hague, where he began a series of negotiations with representatives of the Scottish Parliament about his return. In exchange for their support, the Scots wanted Charles to sign the Covenant, and to impose Presbyterianism in England, Wales and Ireland. Charles refused, instead attempting to regain control in Scotland by force. At his request, the Marquis of Montrose, who had brilliantly led the Royalist forces against the Covenanters in Scotland during the Civil War, landed in Orkney with 500 Scandinavian mercenaries, before moving on to Caithness, reinforced by Orcadian volunteers. However, on 27 April 1650 Montrose’s forces lost to a much smaller Covenanter army at the Battle of Carbisdale, near Bonar Bridge. Montrose was subsequently executed in Edinburgh, in part because Charles denied to the Scots that he was behind Montrose’s actions.

1 January 1934

Alcatraz Island, in the San Francisco Bay, becomes a United States federal prison.

The federal prison on Alcatraz Island in the chilly waters of California’s San Francisco Bay housed some of America’s most difficult and dangerous felons during its years of operation from 1934 to 1963. Among those who served time at the maximum-security facility were the notorious gangster Al “Scarface” Capone (1899-1947) and murderer Robert “Birdman of Alcatraz” Stroud (1890-1963). No inmate ever successfully escaped The Rock, as the prison was nicknamed, although more than a dozen known attempts were made over the years. After the prison was shut down due to high operating costs, the island was occupied for almost two years, starting in 1969, by a group of Native-American activists. Today, historic Alcatraz Island, which was also the site of a U.S. military prison from the late 1850s to 1933, is a popular tourist destination.