29 Crazy Historical Facts You Probably Didn't Know.

I actually paid attention in history class, and I didn't know most of these.

This piece is based on an AskReddit thread. Link on the last page.

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.


3. Just your regular Hotep.

I like to think that, throughout all history, there were everyday people who just lived their lives.

Imagine, say, it's 3.000 BCE. Imagine you are not a Pharaoh, or a wealthy merchant. You are just an average Egyptian dude, chilling at his house in the middle of 3.000 BCE Egypt. What would your house be like? Or the night sky? Or your street, your dinner, your cat, your problems, or the things that might bring you joy?

History sounds so distant because when we study it we think of kings and presidents and huge buildings, and we forget that, through all that, the majority of humankind was, as it is today, composed of just regular people trying to get by.



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...)

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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. We'll all go down together.

Im always amazed by the loss of life in the world wars, around 38 million in WW1 and around 60 million in WW2. Just thinking about how catastrophic and damaging that must have been for people and communities is something I can't comprehend.

In WW1 Buddy Battalions were common in Britain, where they would recruit and keep men together from local areas, the idea being that the connection would help morale and bring them together. Just looking at the dead from the 'Battle of the Somme', 72,000+ people died from the UK and commonwealth, entire battalions wiped out.


Entire villages and towns lost all their men and boys. Hundreds of families who knew each other, who all on the same day found out that every soldier from that area has died. The loss must have been unimaginable.


7. Yo ho ho.

Im amazed by how deplorable the conditions were just being in the Royal Navy in the 17th century.

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...)

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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. I don't need your Civil War.

I am in my early twenties. When my grandmother was a child (living in the south), an elderly neighbor would tell grandma about how when SHE was herself a little girl, she remembered seeing the confederate troops march by in the civil war. It's so strange to think that an event which seems so distant, really happened within two human lifespans.



10. Old school.

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


11. Never tell me the odds.

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. Wait, do ghosts get pensions?

The last American civil war widow's pension was paid in 2003.

There was also a confederate soldier that tried going to a veterans hospital in the 1950s. They originally wouldn't treat him because he wasn't technically a United States veteran. Eventually they gave in.


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.



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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 our 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.


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...)

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"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. These kids today.

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."



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 Shakespeare. Thats like if Frank Sinatra sang a Foo Fighters lyric.



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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. That's amazing.

Just learned this in my history class today: There are no more living veterans of WWI but there are still 20,000 alive widows of WWI veterans.


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. Overpopulation.

On the way to Tenochtitlan, Cortes and his men passed through 20 cities that each would have been the largest city in Europe.



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.




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You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, or so the saying goes.

The same can be said for your interactions with cops, most of whom are perfectly happy to let minor infractions slide––When was the last time you were actually ticketed for jaywalking?––provided you're not a total Karen should you interact them.

Your local police officer likely doesn't care about jaywalking or the fact that you went five miles over the speed limit unless you give him a reason to, as we learned when Redditor Takdel asked police officers: "What stupid law have you enforced just because someone was an a-hole?"

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