10 Political Assassinations That Changed the Course of History

by Miranda Marquit

10. Benazir Bhutto

Benazir Bhutto

The world watched in horror as Pakistan's former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated in 2007. Bhutto was known for her role as the first female prime minister in an Islamic country. She was shot while leaving a political rally. Her assassin also set off a bomb, killing some of the bystanders. Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, an Al-Qaeda commander, claimed responsibility for the attack. Afterward, riots and demonstrations in Pakistan resulted in more deaths and property damage.

9. Queen Min of Korea

Queen Min of Korea

By her death 1895, Queen Min of Korea, also known as Empress Myeongseong, had spent years cleverly doing her best to limit Japanese influence in colonial Korea. Seen as a threat to the expansion of the Japanese empire, more than 50 agents attacked Queen Min, assassinating her in brutal fashion. While dozens of men were charged with her death, after international outcry, none were found guilty. In the aftermath, Queen Min became a rallying cry for Koreans fighting for freedom. To this day, her death is still used by some factions to encourage anti-Japanese sentiment.

8. Philip II of Macedon

Philip II of Macedon

Let's be honest. Most of us think of Philip II of Macedon only in the context of his famous son, Alexander the Great. However, Philip was a military genius, and his innovations of war provided the foundation that allowed Alexander's success in building an empire. Philip's assassination in 336 B.C., though, was the result of a bizarre love triangle. A bodyguard, angry at the way he was treated by Philip as a lover, stabbed the king as he entered a banquet. The assassin tripped as he tried to escape, though, and died.

7. Czar Nicolas II

Czar Nicolas II

Due to public unrest due to the prosecution of World War I, and the uprising related to the Bolshevik Revolution, Czar Nicholas II was assassinated along with his wife and children in 1918. The death of the last czar in Russia eventually led (after a few more revolutions) to the Soviet state. It took 80 years, but Czar Nicolas and his family were finally laid to rest with other Russian monarchs in 1998. They were also sainted by the Russian Orthodox Church - as martyrs.

6. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

In Memphis, Tennessee, in 1968, civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. King was known for his encouragement of non-violent protest, and was influenced a great deal by Mohandas Gandhi. His efforts contributed to the desegregation of the South, as well as to strides made for equal rights for ethnic minorities in the U.S. King received the Nobel Peace Prize, among other commendations and recognitions for his contributions. His death sparked riots, in spite of his lifelong pleas for peaceful demonstration.

5. Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar

In 44 B.C., Julius Caesar was assassinated as the result of a plot by the Roman Senate. Rome, as a republic, had no desire for a king, but was willing to accord Caesar the title "dictator for life." The senators, unhappy with such an arrangement, and worried that Caesar's power would mean the end of the republic (and their prominent place in the power structure), decided to plan the assassination. However, the unrest following the assassination of Caesar led to a civil war that ended in the death of the Roman Republic, and the rise of Roman Empire.

4. Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln

Nearly everyone is familiar with the story of Abraham Lincoln's assassination at the hands of John Wilkes Booth in 1865. A Confederate supporter, Booth was upset about Lincoln's efforts during the Civil War. An attempt on the life of then-Secretary of State, William Henry Seward was also made that night. Four conspirators, in addition to Booth, were hanged as a result of Lincoln's death.

3. Franz Ferdinand

Franz Ferdinand

In the annals of political assassination, there are few with the far-reaching consequences related to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914. An activist in Sarajevo wishing for independence from Austria-Hungary killed the heir to the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, Franz Ferdinand. Due to the complicated political (and filial) alliances in Europe at the time, the assassination set off World War I.

2. Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi

Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi

One of the most striking figures in political history, Mohandas Gandhi was known for his efforts to peacefully gain Indian independence from Britain. However, in 1948 a Hindu activist, upset that India's government provided aid to the government of Islamic Pakistan, assassinated him. The assassin, Nathuram Godse, received a beating by the surrounding crowd with sticks until the police could get him into custody.

1. John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy

President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 as he rode in a procession in Dallas, Texas. Lee Harvey Oswald was assigned blame for the assassination, and no motive for the assassination was ever attributed to Oswald. Kennedy's brother, Robert, was assassinated eight years later. Following President Kennedy's death, conspiracy theories sprung up everywhere - and many persist to this day.

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{ 7 comment… read it below or add one }

matt November 23rd, 2010
Only an American would have the audacity to suggest that the assignation of JFK were more significant than that of Franz Ferdinand.
Rob November 23rd, 2010
I question whether some of these actually "changed the course of history". I am not aware of any far reaching implications to world history that the assassination of Benazir Bhutto has had for instance. Likewise the assassination of Nicholas II happened after the Russian Revolution and while certainly shocking and very dramatic probably did not have a profound impact. Queen Min of Korea may be important to Koreans but not sure what impact her life had on the world. JFK's assassination is a topic of grisly fascination in the US but what did it change in the world at large? I would Franz Ferdinand as #1. His assassination kicked off a war that resulted on 20+ million deaths, laid the groundwork for the Second World War and the resulted in the re-configuration of much of Europe.
ILB November 23rd, 2010
why is kennedy first ?
humor November 26th, 2010
as far as i know kennedy's assassination reason is found during the investigation but none of them had revealed it due to some unknown reasons...
Habibies November 27th, 2010
i Miss Martin Luther King, Jr. :(
barney rubble December 2nd, 2010
Kennedy was killed by the federal reserve. When he tried to issue "greenback" currency, the federal reserve was going to lose alot of money. The industrial military complex was almost certainly involved. What is significant is that EVERY president since then has supported the federal reserve and the industrial military complex, and NOT the people.
Ven Prof Israel Kelue Okoye December 16th, 2010
Africa appears inconsequential in your definition of history

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