- 546 – Siege of Rome: The Ostrogoths under king Totila plunder the city, by bribing the Byzantine garrison.
- 942 – Assassination of William I of Normandy.
- 1538 – Pope Paul III excommunicates Henry VIII of England.
- 1577 – Francis Drake sails from Plymouth, England, on a secret mission to explore the Pacific coast of the Americas for Queen Elizabeth I of England.
- 1600 – Marriage of Henry IV of France and Marie de’ Medici.
- 1777 – American Revolution: France formally recognizes the United States.
- 1835 – Great Fire of New York: Fire levels lower Manhattan.
- 1862 – American Civil War: General Ulysses S. Grant issues General Order No. 11, expelling Jews from parts of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky.
- 1865 – First performance of the Unfinished Symphony by Frans Schubert.
- 1903 – The Wright brothers make the first controlled powered, heavier-than-air flight in the Wright Flyer at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
- 1944 – World War II: Battle of the Bulge – Malmedy massacre – American 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion POWs are shot by Waffen-SS Kampfgruppe Peiper.
- 1989 – Romanian Revolution: Protests continue in Timisoara, Romania, with rioters breaking into the Romanian Communist Party’s District Committee building and attempting to set it on fire.
- 2010 – Mohamed Bouazizi sets himself on fire. This act became the catalyst for the Tunisian revolution and the wider Arab Spring.
- 942 – William I of Normandy (b. c. 900)
- 1847 – Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma, Austrian wife of Napoleon (b. 1791)
- 1957 – Dorothy L. Sayers, English author (b. 1893)
See Wikipedia, December 17.