The sovereign state system has its most concrete roots in the 1648 Peace of Westphalia (though many scholar will assert that nation-states as we know them today did not truly emerge until about a century later). The peace treaties, signed after 30 years of war and destruction in Europe, more or less Read more
Eleanor “Nell” Gwyn may be the most beloved royal side chick in English history. Mistress to King Charles II in the 1600s, she was considered his personal favorite and by far the “least greedy” of the lot (he had thirteen known mistresses in all, so that’s kind of saying something). Nell got her sta Read more
Empress Theodora (497-548 AD) was the most powerful woman in Byzantine history. Here are 5 reasons why she totally kicked butt. 1. Her dad was a bear keeper: That’s right. Although little is known about the Empress’ early life, we do know that her father was a bear keeper at the circus in Constantin Read more
The British royal family is known for keeping up appearances, and they didn’t disappoint when it came to the scheduled death of King George V (father of George VI, portrayed in The King’s Speech, and grandfather of the current queen). George’s health had been failing for some time, and in January 19 Read more
There was a moment in history when the greatest minds of the day came together to meet once a month on the Monday closest to the full moon in order to do nothing more than eat, drink, and discuss the most interesting intellectual and scientific developments of the time. This nerd’s paradise called t Read more
Abraham Lincoln was, by most accounts, a great man in the context of his time. He was rational, methodical, and had a great sense of duty to the people he was elected to serve. He also totally spoiled his kids, even when they were being totally bratty. An Ohio reporter who had dinner with the Lincol Read more

Patriotism Is Stupid

Dec 28, 2015
Toria Sheffield - Contributor

Nationhood is a concept most of us take for granted. We proudly cheer for our team during the Olympics, we state our nationality first before any other defining characteristic when introducing ourselves abroad, and we even go to war for the purpose of protecting “our” people and our perceived nation Read more
Did you know that the chocolate chip cookie is an American creation and wasn’t invented until the late 1930s? I didn’t until incredibly recently, and it left me sad and astounded that the majority of people throughout human history were deprived of what is arguably the best thing ever. Ruth Wakefiel Read more
The Middle Ages were a particularly brutal moment in human history, with merciless torture deemed a perfectly legitimate means of extracting information from potential traitors to the Crown and Church (it’s worth noting, however, that it was only technically allowed if there was already “half proof” Read more

The Worst Secret Alliance Ever

Dec 17, 2015
Toria Sheffield - Contributor

Alliance systems can create strange bedfellows, and the secret cooperation between Russia and Germany in the interwar years serves as a pretty primo example. During this period, Hitler was desperate to build up German military power. However, part of Germany’s terms of surrender at the end of WWI en Read more
Most accounts of George Washington’s death will tell you that our first president likely died of pneumonia or a similar upper respiratory disease, as he awoke in the early hours of December 14th, 1799 complaining of a severely sore throat and shortness of breath. By 10pm he was dead. However, detail Read more
The story of how Anglicanism came to England is pretty well-worn territory among most of us history buffs: Henry VIII didn’t want to be married to Catherine of Aragon any more, but the Pope refused to grant them an annulment. Henry then ditched Catholicism for something that better suited his person Read more
1. Teeth Lower dentures, 1800-1870, via Wikimedia Guess what? Modern orthodontics—never mind dentistry in general—didn’t really exist as a profession until the 1900s. Which means all those perfect chompers in movies like Elizabeth, Cold Mountain, and Gladiator realistically would have looked more li Read more
Weird thought of the day: people ate with their hands for the majority of human history. Alexander the Great, Louis XIV, and Queen Elizabeth I all would have sat down to formal dinners at tables full of aristocrats and dignitaries of the highest order, and everyone would have just shoveled it in wit Read more
1. Measuring engines in “horse power” That’s right — we still measure engine power based on the output of an animal our society widely stopped using in everyday life about 100 years ago. 2. “You’re putting the cart before the horse” Another equine-related anachronism, especially since most people al Read more
The Hatfields and the McCoys are synonymous with the most infamous feud in American history. For those who are unfamiliar with their antics, the disharmony between the two Appalachian families is said to go back as far as the Civil War, when the families aligned themselves with different sides. It t Read more
Venice—also known as the “City of Bridges”—boasts around 400 bridges that connect the city’s 117 small islands and 150 canals. Many of the bridges have unique, if not downright bizarre names, the most salacious of which is probably the Ponte delle Tette, or the “Bridge of Tits.” How did a public str Read more
The bomb dropped on Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945 instantly killed approximately 80,000 people, with the ultimate death toll in the weeks to follow reaching around 135,000. Three days later, on August 9th, the bomb dropped on Nagasaki killed 50,000 people and destroyed about a third of the city. The Read more
We all know Charles Darwin; natural selection, finches in the Galapagos, The Origins of Species, yadda, yadda, yadda. But a lot of history buffs don’t know that Charles Darwin’s grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, was pretty spectacular in his own right and was considered one of the greatest minds of his g Read more
Anybody reading this is likely familiar with the basic principles of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. In a nutshell, he posited that genetic attributes or mutations favorable to survival were more likely to be passed down to the next generation, meaning that over time, a life form could change Read more
For those of you who don’t know (AKA probably most of you), there are currently about 200 million rabbits inhabiting Australia, and they have been systematically destroying the few areas of fertile crop land the continent actually has for the past 160 years. It’s estimated that the country has lost Read more
According to legend, a few actually reputable sources, the entire course of the American Revolution could have been different if one German colonel had just been way better at prioritizing (and for those of you who may be a little rusty on your American Revolution skillz, a number of German soldiers Read more
1.8 million American soldiers served in combat during the Korean War, resulting in a total of 37,000 U.S. casualties and over 100,000 wounded soldiers (by comparison, the Vietnam War totaled 58,000 dead over the course of about a decade). Over 7,000 American soldiers who fought in Korea still remain Read more
Ignaz Semmelweis is a name that should be right up there with Louis Pasteur in terms of huge, mega medical advances that saved countless lives, but instead, he’s the guy who got laughed out of the scientific community and died in an insane asylum. People are the worst. See, in 1848, Semmelweis becam Read more
Most of us equate Kellogg’s Corn Flakes with a pleasant, if not kind of bland morning breakfast. Fewer of us equate it as part of a regimented anti-masturbation routine, but that’s technically the more accurate origin story. Let’s discuss. Way back in the late 1800s, Michigan physician John Harvey K Read more