30
votes
3answers
2k views

Why are many African nations poor?

Many African countries are currently in the bottom parts of socioeconomic rankings like GDP per capita, life expectancy, literacy, HDI, etc. Some of them possess a decent amount of natural resources ...
30
votes
4answers
2k views

No speed limit on German highways - why?

I wonder what are the historical circumstances that led to lack of speed limit on German federal Autobahn network. There is an advisory 130 km/h limit, but it is not mandatory one nor obeyed ...
29
votes
5answers
2k views

What are the factors that caused the new world civilizations to be less technologically advanced than the old world?

Assuming they started at the same point (maybe the split of the continents or the migration of the first "Native Americans" to the American continent), why did the Old World end up developing faster? ...
29
votes
7answers
5k views

Why did Chamberlain act to appease Hitler leading up to the outbreak of World War 2?

There are accounts that British Prime Minister Chamberlain sought to appease Hitler because he just didn't want Britain involved in a war at that time. Others also argue that Chamberlain was naive and ...
29
votes
5answers
11k views

How did Nazi Germany finance itself during WW2?

How did Nazi Germany finance itself during the war? They produced a large amount of war material during 1939-1945, but how was this production financed? What were Germany's revenue streams that ...
29
votes
3answers
1k views

Why were there no religious wars in Poland?

During the 16th and 17th centuries, there were many religious wars in Europe. In countries, were it was very close to Rome (like Spain, Portugal, Austria, Italian states), they did not occur. In ...
28
votes
4answers
6k views

Were the living standards in Medieval Europe a lot worse than in the Muslim world?

This comment, tells us that during the dark age, the living conditions in Muslim world were considerably better than that of medieval Europe. Even it this was true for the people at the top, was it ...
28
votes
5answers
3k views

Has Britain's 1940 invasion of Iceland been downplayed by historians?

On the face of it Operation Fork (Britain's invasion of Iceland in 1940) wasn't so terribly different from Germany's territorial landgrabs in 1939 and 1940. Britain and her allies will have ...
28
votes
6answers
1k views

At what point was the Byzantine Empire's decline irreversible?

I've heard various arguments that the Byzantines were dealt the mortal wound at Manzikert in 1071 which allowed the Turks to claim most of Anatolia and set the stage for the later sacking of ...
28
votes
5answers
5k views

What was the religion of the Arabic people before conversion to Islam?

What was the dominant religion of the Arabic people when Prophet Muhammed started the Islamic religion?
28
votes
7answers
14k views

When and how did the USA and the UK become allies?

So, you may remember that the United States and Great Britain had a minor spat in 1776, which shall we say, did not put them on the friendliest of terms. In 1812, while Britain was focused on its war ...
28
votes
4answers
440 views

What Factors Have Led to the Duration of US Copyrights Continuously Increasing?

The below image shows how the duration of US copyright laws has increased to 4x what it was originally. Is there a reason that copyright duration has only been extended in the US? What are the ...
28
votes
1answer
886 views

What were the acceptance criteria in universities of medieval Europe?

Did they have entrance tests? Were certain groups officially banned from entering? How much did one have to pay? Did they have scholarships for talented studends? How these criteria differed between ...
27
votes
13answers
2k views

Have fair-skinned peoples ever been the lower/oppressed class?

In many societies around the globe today we see that the darker skinned peoples are generally of a lower social status than the fair skinned peoples of the same area, or that fair skin is considered ...
27
votes
8answers
2k views

What was the purpose of Nazi extermination camps?

Why did they spend money and effort to build the infrastructure and organization, collect, transport and house the prisoners while execution on the spot would presumably be easier and less costly? I'm ...
27
votes
3answers
2k views

Did the Romans have winter uniforms?

Standard ancient Roman uniform consisted of a tunic, a cloak and sandal-type boots, resulting in a look like this. Now, this is all very well for Mediterranean climates but I really cannot fathom how ...
27
votes
6answers
2k views

Are there confirmed cases where a country changed its language without being conquered?

I thought about this question and wondered: Are there any known cases where a country switched to a different language other than because of being conquered? If some country ever did this I would be ...
27
votes
2answers
1k views

Who believed the earth was flat?

Christians are sometimes mocked for having once believed the earth was flat. However, the only references I can find are Lactantius in the beginning of the 4th century, and Copernicus, who says ...
27
votes
4answers
5k views

Why is it that the maiden name is traditionally dropped when a woman is getting married?

Haven't seen anything online, even after googling. Wikipedia seems to only list the countries that support the practice, but offers no history. Why is it that the maiden name is traditionally dropped ...
27
votes
5answers
11k views

Why were there no Internment camps for German-American Citizens in USA during WW2?

I am certainly aware of Japanese-americans being detained in Internment camps , after the attack on Pearl Harbor , and subsequent declaration of war on United States , by the empire of Japan. About ...
26
votes
4answers
10k views

Do Real Roman and Greek warriors have big muscles and six-pack abs like in the movie?

When watching movies like Spartacus (2004), Gladiator (2000), etc, I often see Roman or Greek warriors have a lot of big muscles and six-pack abs. What about real Roman and Greek warriors in real ...
26
votes
6answers
2k views

Why did Civil War officers tell their men to “aim low”?

I'm listening to Gettysburg by Stephen W. Sears and the officers on both sides seem to always exhort their men to "aim low". For instance, General John Gibbon told his 2nd Division infantry: Do ...
26
votes
2answers
2k views

Where did the Romans store their cash?

In the era before banking was invented, where did wealthy Romans store their cash? The emperor probably could store it somewhere in the imperial palace thanks to the Praetorian guard, but what about ...
26
votes
1answer
3k views

Why are military uniforms often flared or poofy above the knee?

I've often wondered why do various uniforms have those "poofs" on the outsides of the legs just above the knee? Was there a particular purpose to this, or a practical reason, or was it just the result ...
26
votes
3answers
13k views

Why did China shut itself out of the world in the 15th century?

After a period of maritime explorations (see Zheng He) in the early 15th century, the Ming Dynasty started shutting the Middle Kingdom out of the rest of the world. This of course continued with the ...
25
votes
2answers
5k views

Why did the French sell Louisiana?

Why did an imperialistic country like France (at that time) sell a territory so large for so cheap? Was it an important region at the time? I heard that the port of New Orleans was particularly ...
25
votes
1answer
883 views

Was Napoleon as short as “common knowledge” states?

I once saw a mention (on cracked.com) that Napoleon - who pretty much everyone "knows" was of very short stature - was actually close to average height for his time/demographics, and the short height ...
25
votes
5answers
2k views

What was the first Solar Eclipse that was demonstrably predicted in advance?

There is a famous story going back to Herodotus according to which Thales of Miletus predicted the solar eclipse of May 28, 585 BC, which interrupted a battle. Given that we have not a single ...
25
votes
4answers
2k views

When and how did people begin to consider slavery immoral?

Consider this: In the ancient world, murder and theft were prohibited. However, slavery was ubiquitous and considered normal. AFAIK, nobody thought of it as immoral, though probably some called for ...
25
votes
5answers
1k views

Did the communication lag become a problem for the ever expanding Roman Empire?

There is a dispute among historians over whether the Roman Empire collapsed because of its increasing size and system-imminent flaws which were not suited for this size. The bigger the territory, the ...
25
votes
1answer
1k views

Did the end of the British Raj in India create an economic loss for Britain?

I know the economic downturn of the World War and the victory of the Labour Party played some role in Britain deciding to quit India. Did GB have any serious economic implications because of this? ...
25
votes
2answers
6k views

How did Europeans first acquire gunpowder?

I know that gunpowder was first invented in China around the 10th century, and it seems that gunpowder likely made its way to Europe via the "Silk Road." However, there doesn't seem to be a ton of ...
25
votes
2answers
587 views

Which war games did Napoleon practice with his generals?

I have read that Napoleon actively used to play strategy games with his generals in order to understand how they act in a range of situations. The generals also learned the same thing about each ...
24
votes
11answers
13k views

Is history always written by the victors?

The famous "history is written by victors" saying argues that the victors overwhelmingly influence historical accounts. Are there any examples of history written by the(or THE) losers?
24
votes
6answers
704 views

Why didn't the silk road run north of the Black Sea?

I have read many times that the only way for Europeans to get to China, or vice versa, was through Anatolia and Persia. This gave Istanbul an advantage in throttling trade, as well as Mesopotamia and ...
24
votes
10answers
18k views

What was wrong with Hitler's left hand?

So I was watching Downfall last night (good movie by the way) and I noticed that whenever Hitler walked around, the movie always showed him with his left hand behind his back and it was always kind of ...
24
votes
4answers
4k views

How did the Roman state verify citizenship?

How were ancient Roman citizens identified, and how did officials make sure that their identity wasn't fake? I.e., did they maintain some kind of citizens registry, or did they have some kind of ...
24
votes
3answers
2k views

How did Medieval Armies survive the use of mail armor in the deserts of the Middle East?

Something that has long puzzled me is the use of full mail hauberks and the like in the Crusades. How did Crusaders and their various enemies avoid cooking inside their armor? I know many of them did ...
24
votes
2answers
2k views

When and where did socks become common?

To be clear, I mean the socks you wear on your feet, to insulate you form your shoes/boots/other footwear. By common, I mean easily available to the masses, rather than just to the rich.
24
votes
3answers
1k views

What was the status of Arab Christians during the crusades?

Did Arab Christians take an active role in the crusades in the Holy Land or at any point on their trip to the Holy Land. Or were they victims of the crusaders? Did the crusaders typically ...
24
votes
9answers
8k views

How severe were the casualties in ancient/medieval battles?

I've heard that in most battles prior to the introduction of gunpowder weapons, the casualties were usually very low (around 5% even in long battles) prior to the moment when someone's formation was ...
23
votes
9answers
6k views

Was the American Civil War the “bloodiest civil war in history”?

I heard something like that once on some TV documentary, but I'm second guessing that there must have been a caveat for just the Americas, or otherwise qualified it as, "in modern history", or as a ...
23
votes
5answers
2k views

How was the United States able to produce excellent tanks in 1942?

Most military histories of the war in North Africa, and especially those produced from a British point-of-view, emphasise the greenness of the American troops which landed there in 1942. There is a ...
23
votes
8answers
2k views

Did archers synchronize fire? Why?

I noticed that in medieval movies and TV shows, when there is a big battle happening, groups of archers always synchronize their firing. I was wondering if this is something that writes made up and it ...
23
votes
9answers
5k views

Why wasn't the Republic of Ireland invaded (by either side) in WW2?

Ireland was neutral in WW2, however it was never invaded (by either side). How come? Why wasn't Ireland invaded by the UK to prevent the Germans invading? Why didn't germany invade ireland? It would ...
23
votes
5answers
5k views

Did pirates really drink a lot of rum?

In every movie, cartoon, comic or any other fictional sources I have read or watched that involves sea pirates, it is always shown that their favorite beverage is rum. I want to know why sea pirates ...
23
votes
5answers
9k views

Why are the USA and Canada's states border so straight?

Many states within the USA and Canada have straight lines as a border, completely ignoring natural borders like mountains or rivers. Many American states and Canadian provinces are just ...
23
votes
6answers
6k views

Why didn't Britain's nuclear weapons deter Argentina from invading the Falklands?

The United Kingdom has nuclear weapons. All the [major] political parties support this policy. A common justification heard is that they are a deterrent against foreign aggression. For example: UK ...
23
votes
6answers
4k views

What language(s) were spoken within the Holy Roman Empire?

What language(s) were considered the primary language for the Holy Roman Empire? Were there many different languages spoken due to the many different regions?
23
votes
11answers
13k views

Why is Dravidian history ignored?

Whenever I read an article on ancient Indian history, I see people only writing about the Indus valley civilization and the Aryans. But what about Dravidians? Didn't they exist even before the Aryans ...

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