Bizarre Pieces Of History They Didn't Teach In School

I actually paid attention in history class, and I didn't know most of these! Here, we've gathered some of the most interesting historical nuggets that you probably didn't learn about in school (or anywhere else for that matter). Sources are listed below individual points. Enjoy!

1. A modest proposal.

In the early 1900s, the US Congress came within one vote of importing hippos and turning them into a native species. Why would they want to do that? Two reasons.

Firstly, hippos would eat invasive water flowers that had been killing off fish. Secondly, they actually wanted to use the hippos as food. There was a livestock shortage at the time, and newspapers began referring to hippos as "lake cow bacon."


Can you imagine is there were just herds of hippos running wild across American rivers today?



2. Pretty fly.

The number of aircraft destroyed during WWII is greater than the number of aircraft that currently exist in the entire world today. Just let that sink in. 



3. Cats: the necessary evil.

After Pope Gregory IX associated cats with devil worship, cats throughout Europe were exterminated in droves.

This sudden lack of cats led to the spread of disease because infected rats ran free. The most devastating of these diseases, the Bubonic Plague, killed 100 million people.


4. You *are* history.

If you are 25 years old you have lived through more than 10% of the history of the United States of America.



5. Right to bear arms.

At the Battle of Monte Cassino in 1944, the 222nd Artillery Supply Company of the Polish 2nd Corps had a lot of ordinary Polish men fighting in their ranks. But they also had one very special member of their unit. (continued...)

Keep reading on the next page!

He was a bear named Wojtek that would bring artillery shells to forward gun positions.

Let me repeat that. A BEAR would fetch them artillery shells.




6. Sacrifice is a big part of many cultural and religious histories

Sacrifices were a huge part of a lot of cultures (including Christian, Jewish, Aztec, Mayan, Egyptian, etc). 

Two little interesting "sacrificial" facts: 

The Aztecs made human sacrifices to the gods. In 1487, at the dedication of the temple in Tenochtitlan, 20,000 people were put to death.

The Mayans also made sacrifices. The most common involved pulling a still-beating heart out of a victim's chest.

7. Yo ho ho.

If you worked for the Royal Navy in the 17th Century, you were working a horrible job. This is a classic pirate origin story!

You would work in disgusting, stupidly dangerous conditions, had more than a 50% chance of dying, and after three years of this they would find an excuse not to pay you at all.

This is why a lot of them became pirates. There was a saying that the only difference between prison and the navy, is that in the navy you might drown too.




8. Don't dare this guy.

A bit more recent history, but in 1956, on a bet and while completely drunk, a man stole a small plane from New Jersey, then landed it perfectly on the narrow street in front of the bar he had been drinking at. But that's not the end of the story. (continued...)

Keep reading on the next page!

Two years later, he did it again after a man didn't believe he had done it the first time. The fact that this guy stole TWO planes when drunk and landed them perfectly blows my mind.


The stunt was so awesome that the guy he stole the plane from refused to press charges.



9. Being buried alive used to be pretty common

People were buried alive so often in the 19th century that inventors patented safety coffins that would give the "dead" the ability to alert those above ground if they were still alive.

10. Old school.

Oxford university is older than the Aztec civilization; Cambridge university is older than the Easter island heads.



11. There's a reason why Alexander was known as Great

Alexander the Great defeated Darius III of the Persian Empire, the largest empire in the world at the time, by meeting them in the field in open combat. And he did it twice. In the first battle, he was outnumbered 7 to 1. In the second battle, he was outnumbered 10 to 1. And he decimated the Persians.




12. Let God be the judge

In Medieval times the accused often faced a trial by ordeal," where they were forced to stick their arm into a vat of boiling water. If their arm emerged unscathed, it was believed God protected them, thus proving their innocence.


13. Made in China.

The Romans and the Chinese knew about each other, and actually communicated semi-regularly. The Chinese called the Romans "Daqin" and envisioned them as a kind of "mirror-China" on the other side of the world.




Keep reading on the next page!

14. Pius but not pious.

The Tale of Two Lovers, an erotic novel, was one of the best-selling books of the 15th century. It was written by Pope Pius II before he assumed the papacy.




15. Family fights are the worst.

That at the same time the U.S. Civil war was going on, which killed about 600,000 people and served as probably America's greatest national tragedy, China was in the throes of the Taiping Rebellion. The Taiping Rebellion is the largest civil conflict in human history, and best estimates put the death toll somewhere north of 20,000,000. Really reminds you of just how many more people live in China. And how little we pay attention to the rest of the world. 



16. The Wright stuff.

They took a piece of the Wright flyer to the moon with them on Apollo 11.

Also, the picture taken of the Wright flyer during the infamous first flight was taken by someone who had never seen a camera before that day. That was the first photo he had ever taken.




17. Planet shmanet, Janet.

Pluto didn't even get to complete one orbit around the sun between the time it was discovered and the time it was declassified as a planet.




18. We all kind of won the lottery.

It is believed that the human population dipped as low as one thousand people about 70,000 BCE because of a huge volcanic eruption. We could very well have been a few stillbirths or sabertooth maulings away from extinction.

When reduced to such low numbers, the survival of a species truly teeters on a knife's edge. It's a difference of a handful of births. Too few and you dip below minimum viable population. Our survival could have come down to something as trivial as some tribe finding a spring or gazelle in the nick of time.




19. Not the Minnesota ones...

What is estimated to be the first written record of an encounter with Vikings essentially goes like this: (continued...)

Keep reading on the next page!

"There are some small ships approaching our little island with a monastery on it. I wonder who it will be! Their boats looks different than ones I've seen before.... Hello friends welcome to our -- AHHHHH!!!!! NOOOOOOO!!!! .... Everything is gone. We're all hurt. The buildings are burning. And they didn't even speak to us…"




20. Kids are always to blame.

In the late 1800's, writers complained that "young adults are losing touch with reality, instead of sitting at the dinner table with family they have their noses buried in a magazine." Also, in the late 1800s, music paper producers claimed that illegally copying sheet music would destroy the entire music industry.




21. The Revolution Strikes Back.

The last execution by guillotine was after the first Star Wars movie came out.



22. Food for thought.

The way we eat today, particularly the variety, is completely unheard of historically.

The main thing I like to remind people is even 100 years ago you'd go to your local market and buy and eat the plants that are in-season.

Imagine if you went to get a cheeseburger and they told you they didn't have tomatoes because it's "not tomato season" you would look at them like they were out to lunch.


But if you did the same thing during most of human history, and demanded a crop that was out of season, they would like at you like YOU'RE the one who's out there.


23. Shakespeare did it first.

The first person to use the phrase 'What the Dickens?' was William Shakespeare. 




Keep reading on the next page!

24. Everybody wants to be a cat.

Persian leader Cambyses II used cats to defeat an Egyptian army. He had his soldiers paint cats on their shields and brought hundreds of cats and other animals that the Egyptians held sacred to the front lines. The Egyptians refused to fight the "cat army" and were easily defeated because of it.




25. I sentence YOU, Cow, to death by hamburger!

Animals were put on trial in medieval times and routinely sentenced to death.


26. We've lost our memory.

Humans have been around for about 200 thousand years, but we only have written records dating back 6 thousand. 97 percent of humankind's history is lost.




27. Not much of a celebration.

Not only did John Adams and Thomas Jefferson die within hours of one another, it was on July 4th - the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.



28. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

Before the mid-19th century dentures were commonly made with teeth pulled from the mouths of dead soldiers.


29. There goes the neighborhood.

Stalin, Freud, Hitler, Tito and Trotsky all lived within a few miles of each other, in Downtown Vienna, for a brief period in 1913. WW1 began a year later, catalyzing the trajectory of these five to fame - and infamy. Imagine if they had bumped into each other at the time, the imagination of these five being friends makes my mind run wild.



30. Just a spoon full of morphine

 In the 19th century a popular medicine for kids, "Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup," included morphine.


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