* 1500 – Vicente Yáñez Pinzón becomes the first European to set foot on Brazil.
* 1531 – Lisbon, Portugal is hit by an earthquake--thousands die.
* 1564 – The Council of Trent issues its conclusions in the Tridentinum, establishing a distinction between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism.
* 1564 – The Grand Duchy of Lithuania defeats the Tsardom of Russia in the Battle of Ula during the Livonian War.
* 1565 – Battle of Talikota, fought between the Vijayanagara Empire and the Islamic sultanates of the Deccan, leads to the subjugation, and eventual destruction of the last Hindu kingdom in India, and the consolidation of Islamic rule over much of the Indian subcontinent.
* 1589 – Job is elected as Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.
* 1699 – Treaty of Carlowitz is signed.
* 1700 – The magnitude 9 Cascadia Earthquake takes place off the west coast of the North America, as evidenced by Japanese records.
* 1736 – Stanislaus I of Poland abdicates his throne.
* 1788 – The British First Fleet, led by Arthur Phillip, sails into Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour) to establish Sydney, the first permanent European settlement on the continent. Commemorated as Australia Day
* 1808 – Rum Rebellion, the only successful (albeit short-lived) armed takeover of the government in Australia.
* 1837 – Michigan is admitted as the 26th U.S. state.
* 1838 – Tennessee enacts the first prohibition law in the United States
* 1841 – The United Kingdom formally occupies Hong Kong, which China later formally cedes.
* 1855 – Point No Point Treaty is signed in Washington Territory.
* 1856 – First Battle of Seattle. Marines from the USS Decatur drive off American Indian attackers after all day battle with settlers.
* 1861 – American Civil War: The state of Louisiana secedes from the Union.
* 1863 – American Civil War: General Ambrose Burnside is relieved of command of the Army of the Potomac after the disastrous Fredericksburg campaign. He is replaced by Joseph Hooker.
* 1863 – American Civil War: Governor of Massachusetts John Albion Andrew receives permission from Secretary of War to raise a militia organization for men of African descent.
* 1870 – American Civil War: Virginia rejoins the Union.
* 1885 – Troops loyal to The Mahdi conquer Khartoum.
* 1905 – The world's largest diamond ever, the Cullinan weighing 3,106.75 carats (0.62135 kg), is found at the Premier Mine near Pretoria in South Africa.
* 1907 – The Short Magazine Lee-Enfield Mk III is officially introduced into British Military Service, and remains the second oldest military rifle still in official use.
* 1911 – Glenn H. Curtiss flies the first successful American seaplane.
* 1911 – Richard Strauss' opera Der Rosenkavalier receives its debut performance at the Dresden State Opera.
* 1918 – Finnish Civil War: A group of Red Guards hangs a red lantern atop the tower of Helsinki Workers' Hall to symbolically mark the start of the war.
* 1920 – Former Ford Motor Company executive Henry Leland launches the Lincoln Motor Company which he later sold to his former employer.
* 1924 – Saint Petersburg, Russia, is renamed Leningrad.
* 1930 – The Indian National Congress declares 26 January as Independence Day or as the day for Poorna Swaraj (Complete Independence) which occurred 20 years later.
* 1934 – The Apollo Theater reopens in Harlem, New York City.
* 1934 – German-Polish Non-Aggression Pact is signed.
* 1939 – Spanish Civil War: Troops loyal to nationalist General Francisco Franco and aided by Italy take Barcelona.
* 1942 – World War II: The first United States forces arrive in Europe landing in Northern Ireland.
* 1945 – World War II: The Red Army begins encircling the German Fourth Army near Heiligenbeil in East Prussia, which will end in destruction of the 4th Army two months later.
* 1949 – The Hale telescope at Palomar Observatory sees first light under the direction of Edwin Hubble, becoming the largest aperture optical telescope (until BTA-6 is built in 1976).
* 1950 – The Constitution of India comes into force, forming a republic. Rajendra Prasad is sworn in as its first President of India. Observed as Republic Day in India.
* 1952 – Black Saturday in Egypt: rioters burn Cairo's central business district, targeting British and upper-class Egyptian businesses.
* 1958 – Japanese ferry Nankai Maru capsizes off southern Awaji Island, Japan, 167 killed.
* 1960 – Danny Heater sets a worldwide high school basketball scoring record when he records 135 points for Burnsville High School (West Virginia)
* 1961 – John F. Kennedy appoints Janet G. Travell to be his physician. This is the first time a woman holds this appointment.
* 1962 – Ranger program: Ranger 3 is launched to study the moon. The space probe later misses the moon by 22,000 miles (35,400 km).
* 1965 – Hindi becomes the official language of India.
* 1966 – The Beaumont Children go missing from Glenelg Beach near Adelaide, South Australia.
* 1978 – The Great Blizzard of 1978, a rare severe blizzard with the lowest non-tropical atmospheric pressure ever recorded in the US, strikes the Ohio – Great Lakes region with heavy snow and winds up to 100 mph (161 km/h).
* 1980 – Israel and Egypt establish diplomatic relations.
* 1991 – Mohamed Siad Barre is removed from power in Somalia, ending centralized government, and is succeeded by Ali Mahdi.
* 1992 – Boris Yeltsin announces that Russia will stop targeting United States cities with nuclear weapons.
* 1998 – Lewinsky scandal: On American television, U.S. President Bill Clinton denies having had "sexual relations" with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
* 2001 – An earthquake hits Gujarat, India, causing more than 20,000 deaths.
* 2004 – President Hamid Karzai signs the new constitution of Afghanistan.
* 2004 – A whale explodes in the town of Tainan, Taiwan. A build-up of gas in the decomposing sperm whale is suspected of causing the explosion.
* 2005 – Glendale train crash: Two trains derail killing 11 and injuring 200 in Glendale, California, near Los Angeles.
* 2009 – Rioting breaks out in Antananarivo, Madagascar, sparking a political crisis that will result in the replacement of President Marc Ravalomanana with Andry Rajoelina.