Often, studying history can leave one feeling distant from the people and events they're reading about.
We ponder people and things from so many years ago in places so far away that it all feels more like a story than the real behavior of human beings just like us.
But all of those historical figures were real people.
They were flawed and complex, driven by emotions and typical human motivations. Perhaps they were impulsive, yet with enough power that their behavior impacted massive populations and global dynamics.
History becomes so much more entertaining when we remember that fact. When we conceptualize those events and figures as people similar to a friend or acquaintance we might see at a bar, it helps to put some new perspective on their claims to fame.
One Redditor recently asked a question that encouraged that approach.
heavyfluted4 asked, "What is the single biggest d*ck move in all of history?"
This Holiday Season, Do the Real Thing....
"The original White Elephant gifting from the King of Siam. This person would give this royal gift to people he found irritating and be entertained by the recipient's failing efforts to upkeep such an animal."
"Why don't they just give it away you ask?"
"Back in the day, receiving a gift and giving it away was perceived as an insult. Go figure. And giving away a gift from a neighboring kingdom is, well, that much BIGGER of an insult. So no dice."
"Economies apparently have failed in order to upkeep a royal gift like this. Honestly, d*ck move King of Siam."
"Thomas Midgley invented freon and putting lead into gasoline. He knew that putting lead into gasoline was a d*ck move and he did it anyway for money. He knew because he got lead poisoning himself and still lied about its effects on people."
"Environmental historians have said that he has had the single largest impact on the Earth's atmosphere of any single organism in the history of the planet."
"Not to mention that lead levels directly correspond to lower cognitive abilities in the general population and you can look up the dates to know who would have been affected."
Chaotic Swings in Social Status
"Before 1965 Indonesian Government sent academicians, especially STEM graduates to study in Eastern Europe. After the supposed communist uprising in 30th September 1965 the government revoked their citizenship and declared them stateless."
"They risked persecution and possible torture and murder if they insist on returning."
"These nuclear physicist, master engineer, and PhD graduates take menial jobs, becoming janitors and wait tables to carry on living with virtually no possibility of return to their country."
"Opium wars were pretty d*ckish."
"'You don't wanna buy hard drugs from us and turn your population into useless addicts? Fine, we'll invade you and bombard your cities until you start buying!'"
"Well not really relevant but when 50cent bought the first 4 rows of a ja rule concert, and ja had to perform in front of 4 empty rows. Lol" -- izokaz
"Or when 50 cent bet floyd mayweather to read a page of a harry potter book and exposed floyd's illiteracy to everyone lol" -- Darth-Drumpf
History of Us
"those motherf***ers evolving to suck mammal blood and now we got to worry about mosquitos, leeches, ticks, etc" -- OnionMesh
"If you didn't want parasites eating your blood, why did you keep all your nutrients in it? Silly mammals." -- demon_ix
"France asking Haiti for a compensation after Haiti overthrew the colonial administration. It took 143 years for Haiti to pay off that debt." -- Klacet_
"Seriously. One of the reasons Haiti is still such a poor country is that they were forced to pay reparations to France well into the 20th century IIRC after the war brought liberation to the Haitian slaves." -- 00Laser
The Beginning of the End
"That time a fish evolved legs and crawled out of the ocean. Things just went downhill from there." -- Bobik8
"My a** woulda stayed in the primordial soup if I knew there would be days like this" -- ragizzlemahnizzle
"Technically, they went uphill from there. Or at least above sea level." -- roguediamond
Old Testament God Was a Piece of Work
"When god told Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac..."
"...right when Isaac was begging for his life and his dad was about to drive a knife into his chest, god said 'PSYCH!!!! I got you good bro, kill that ram over there instead.'"
The Long Con
"Russia telling Ukraine to give up their nukes for peaceful independence only for Russia to take back Crimea a couple decades later." -- Killdynamite
"Yup. Now when any 'rogue state' wants nuclear weapons I understand completely." -- Foxyfox-
A Snarky Gesture
"I always thought the Fed putting Andrew Jackson on the $20 felt like a big 'F*** you' since he hated the idea of a centralized bank." -- otiswrath
"He hated Congress just as much."
"Originally, the White House and the Capitol Building faced each other on opposite ends of Pennsylvania Ave. It is widely believed that he ordered the Treasury Building built where it is still today to block his view of the Capitol." -- TK-419
"The burning of the library of Alexandria" -- justvibes96
"Romans: fight a battle far enough away from a place not to burn it."
"Also Romans: 'so you know that far away place we couldn't possibly hit on accident?'"
"Fire starts" -- Tawansss
The Great Mystery
"Probably when they relocated Rasputin's shlong from his body to that jar." -- BootShapedMcNugget
"Huh a literal di** movie" -- sharkbyte_15
"I thought that was sorted and it was just a pickled sea cucumber with a good backstory?" -- trowzerss
"I think the only way to know for sure is a taste test." -- JuniusBobbledoonary
A Very Worthy Suit
"Making the woman who had HER LABIA MELTED TOGETHER due to McDonald's not wanting give people refills, look like a thieving bi*** because she was in the right and ONLY WANTED HER MEDICAL BILLS PAID ." -- NekoNegra
"Every time this gets brought up I always tell people 'you know, the photos of her injuries are available out there, why don't you go look at them.'"
"'Holy sh**' is usually the response to that." -- girl_incognito
The Guy for the Job
"Hitler killing Hitler and thus not giving everyone else the satisfaction of doing so." -- Scat-fiend
"Apparently, Stalin wanted to capture Hitler alive so he could parade him through Red Square in chains. That would have made for some awesome historical photography." -- Iamstillnotyourmate
"Reminds me of an old Jimmy Carr bit: 'Say what you want about Hitler, but he did kill Hitler'" -- PhilosophIzzy
An Old Story With Updated Lingo
"The Ancient Greeks mob downvoting Socrates for not agreeing with the hivemind. He was either going to be banished from the sub-reddit or drink poison." -- Pyrrhura_molinae
"Socrates kinda forced the poison though. The court had to pick a punishment from those suggested by the accuser and the accused. Socrates suggested he should be punished with a free luxury villa and delicate food." -- Heroic_Raspberry
"Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution. Basically Mao's return to power after the failure of the Great Leap Forward and an opportunity to purge political rivals."
"The Cultural Revolution is estimated to have killed another 20 million, on top of the 30 million from the famine that followed the Great Leap Forward."
Want to "know" more? Never miss another big, odd, funny, or heartbreaking moment again. Sign up for the Knowable newsletter here.