29
votes
3answers
2k views

Why did Britain not purchase Alaska when Russia had it up for sale?

One thing that comes up often when discussing "what-ifs" with family or friends is why the British government never nabbed Alaska when Russia had placed it up for sale and made it into Canada's fourth ...
19
votes
5answers
14k views

Why did Italy abandon its alliance with Germany in WW1 and join the Allied side?

Before WW1 Italy was part of an alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary, yet it didn't join them when the war started and it even joined the Allied side later during the war. Why did Italy do this? ...
18
votes
6answers
3k 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 ...
15
votes
1answer
661 views

Did “droit du seigneur” actually exist in medieval Europe?

Droit du seigneur, also known as "jus primae noctis" (right of the first night), was the supposed right of a feudal lord to sleep with his serfs' brides on their wedding night. Was it actually ...
15
votes
1answer
424 views

Was there any theological opposition to the lightning rod?

Apparently, there was some opposition to the lightning rod at the time of its invention because lightning was seen as "the wrath of God" and should not be controlled. I'd like to find some citations ...
15
votes
3answers
826 views

Why was the Western Front so static in World War I?

Once the German advance was halted, neither side could seriously advance for two years. This seems like an extraordinarily long time. Why didn't anyone succeed at going around the trenches or striking ...
14
votes
2answers
246 views

How did ancient empires account for slow propagation of information e.g. in their legal codes?

Mathematician Alain Connes cites a French legal rule that explicitly accounts for propagation of information at finite speeds substantially below the speed of light: There was a legal rule ...
14
votes
3answers
2k views

Why wasn't San Marino unified with Italy?

Why wasn't San Marino unified with the Kindom of Italy during the unification process? Were there plans or efforts at the time to unify the two states? Did either government at any time try to annex ...
14
votes
3answers
360 views

What was Libya's form of direct democracy (Jamahiria) like in practice?

I've been following the recent events in Libya and I learned about the Green Book, which outlines Gaddafi's vision for a democratic socialism. Published in 1975, it proposed a form of direct democracy ...
12
votes
2answers
657 views

Are there any archaeological evidence for the Dorian Invasion in Greece?

My books on ancient Greece are pretty old. And they have have the same explanation for Doric vs. Ionic ethnicity/history. Are there any archaeological evidence for a Dorian invasion?
12
votes
5answers
549 views

Was there ever any organization of thieves or pickpockets?

Can anyone suggest any historical examples of an established group specifically dedicated to organized thievery (any combination of property based crimes such as pick-pocketing, lock-picking, fencing, ...
11
votes
2answers
208 views

Who gave King Richard I the title Coeur de Lion?

When King Richard I went to the Holy land during the Third Crusade, he was given the title coeur de lion (French for lion heart). Who gave him that title? I Imagine that it was a French person.
11
votes
3answers
551 views

What factors related to the Eastern Crisis contributed to the outbreak of World War 1?

What factors related to the Eastern Crisis contributed to the outbreak of World War 1? The Eastern Crisis pertains to problems posed by the decay of the Ottoman Empire. Primary among these problems ...
10
votes
2answers
1k views

Could The Soviet Union have continued fighting World War II without Caucasus oil?

In 1942, Germany's Fall Blau was initially aimed at capturing or interdicting shipments of oil from the Caucasus to the rest of the Soviet Union. Even though armies were diverted to Stalingrad and ...
10
votes
5answers
6k views

Why have officers in the U.S. army tended to “top out” at the level of Major?

In the U.S. army, something like 75%-80% of newly-commissioned Second Lieutenants are promoted to First Lieutenant (around age 25), perhaps 75%-80% of First Lieutenants are promoted to Captain (ages ...
10
votes
1answer
696 views

Austria and Iron Curtain during Cold War

Winston Churchill's Iron Curtain speech from 1946 contains the following famous passage: From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the ...
10
votes
5answers
366 views

Are there ancient historical sources which have been permanently lost?

I'm in a Year 11 Ancient history class studying Rome, and whenever I look over ancient sources on wikipedia, there is always a list of lost works, and occasionally a sentence describing how ...
10
votes
2answers
2k views

How did Alexander III of Macedon get the title “the Great”?

Alexander III of Macedon is referred to as Alexander "the great", but who gave him this title? At what point in history was he acknowledged as such and why is he considered so great?
10
votes
2answers
417 views

Why did the Monitor and Merrimac (aka Virginia) have such radically different designs?

This is something that's always baffled me. You have one ship that appears to sit just above the water with one little canon on a turret (the Monitor) and a second that sits high and is brimming with ...
9
votes
2answers
412 views

What is the equivalent in France of the “Victorian era”?

By Victorian era I mean the moral rigidity and the dominance of the bourgeoisie. We had the same culture in France but I can't find the proper term to phrase it. For example how would you translate ...
9
votes
1answer
336 views

Did American policymakers seriously consider scaling down Lend Lease Aid to the Soviet Union after the battle of Kursk?

In 1941, Senator (and future President) Harry Truman famously said, "If we see that Germany is winning the war, we ought to help Russia; and if that Russia is winning, we ought to help Germany." ...
9
votes
2answers
602 views

Why did the clocks go back in Shanghai on December 31, 1927?

If you are a Stack Overflow user you may already have read Jon Skeet's excellent answer that discusses a time zone change at the end of 1927 in Shangai, when the clocks went back for 5 minutes and 52 ...
9
votes
1answer
469 views

How quickly could the roman legions march? How does it compare to the mobile cavalry?

In the history of Rome there are numerous instances of legions being marched up and down Europe, from Spain to Rome and from Rome to Syria. I'm interested to know how quickly these armies could move? ...
9
votes
2answers
2k views

What was Gandhi's post-factum view of the Partition?

Gandhi was vehemently opposed to the Partition of India and tried to avoid it. But what was his stance on it once it had happened? Did he accept it as fait accompli or did he envision some scheme for ...
9
votes
2answers
542 views

Why was Khomeini in France? Who allowed him to leave and why?

I never knew that Khomeini was in France until I saw What was President Jimmy Carter's role in the Iranian Revolution?. Why was Khomeini in France? Who allowed him to leave France and why?
9
votes
2answers
215 views

How and why did Charles XII Get to Poltava?

The decisive battle of the Great Northern War between Sweden and Russia was the battle of Poltava. That's located deep in the Ukraine, southeast of Kiev, between Cherkassy and Kharkov. That seems ...
9
votes
4answers
2k views

How was Germany's border decided?

What is the timeline of events that led to Germany's current geographic shape? For example: 1871: German Empire formed 1919: Weimar Republic formed
8
votes
6answers
1k views

Is every major culture in the same year?

In the Western world the current year is 2014, which is the number of years since the birth of the Christian messiah. Given that Christianity is not the dominant religion in every part of the world, I ...
8
votes
3answers
654 views

How did the Soviets decide what to annex in WW2?

During and after World War II Soviet Union annexed some countries while others eventually became member states of the Warsaw Pact. What is known about how the Soviets made the decisions about which ...
8
votes
1answer
767 views

Why was record keeping forbidden in Ancient Sparta?

in Ancient Sparta, record keeping and any kind of written history was forbidden by law. (src: http://history.stackexchange.com/a/5966/332 ) What was the rationale for such a law?
8
votes
4answers
138 views

Advice for a novice Historian

I am interested in studying History. I'm interested in post-Victorian history and ancient history. What books would you suggest for me to gain some starter knowledge? Are you aware of any good ...
8
votes
2answers
280 views

Language of Franks vs later French

I am reading that before the 8-9th(10th?) century, Franks were a Germanic-speaking nation. How it is possible to explain that in later centuries their language became a totally different ...
7
votes
2answers
444 views

Why did American public opinion move away from isolationism in 1940-41?

In Lynne Olson's recent interview in the New York Times dealing with her book Those Angry Days she notes that isolationism was "finished" by late 1941 and that a "sea change" occurred in American ...
7
votes
1answer
819 views

What devices used computer-like programs in industrial era?

As possibly some of you remember early computers had very small human-machine interface and coding programs was done by cards like this one: or a tape like these: This invention of controlling ...
7
votes
1answer
341 views

Why Antarctica was never conquered before the advent of the modern men?

Citing wikipedia: "...the first confirmed sighting of the continent is commonly accepted to have occurred in 1820 by the Russian expedition of Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev on ...
7
votes
4answers
4k views

Was Alexander the Great Greek or Macedonian?

This questions has been confusing me for a while. Was Alexander the Great Greek or Macedonian? He was born in Pella, Macedonia, but is he considered Greek? Do nationality and ethnicity mean different ...
7
votes
1answer
115 views

Typical fortifications around major cities in the 18th century

I came across this map of Vienna in 1769 (the city was then capital of the Hapsburg empire), i.e. almost a century after the major siege and battle of 1683 and almost a century before final removal of ...
7
votes
1answer
174 views

How big were the biggest elections during the ancient era?

According to this question - Why did non-monarchic rule meet with so little success in ancient China?, elections in the ancient era were mostly conducted in city-states, due to feasibility, logistical ...
7
votes
2answers
246 views

Was Classic Mayan civilization really so gruesome?

(I don't really know how to ask this question, so help in editing it to better fit the StackExchange format would be quite welcome.) From what I can tell, Classical Mayan civilization was ...
7
votes
4answers
2k views

What was the most important cause of the Second World War?

What was the most important cause of the Second World War? Obviously there was the Treaty of Versailles which played a significant part; the War Guilt Clause, Reparations, Disarmament and territorial ...
6
votes
1answer
117 views

Monarchies with built-in rotation

I have read that rotation among nine hereditary rulers of provinces determines who is King of Malaysia during a given 5-year term. This seems to stand out from related practices e.g. over the history ...
6
votes
3answers
687 views

Benefits of Athenian citizenship

Besides the right to vote, were there any other advantages or benefits in being a citizen in Pericles' Athens?
6
votes
2answers
257 views

What laws of war existed before the modern international treaties and conventions?

Were there laws governing the rules of conducting war before modern (20th century) international treaties and conventions such as the Geneva conventions? For example, were there rules regarding the ...
6
votes
1answer
152 views

What is the contemporary knowledge of the theoretical history?

I have noticed, that posts here do not use in their argumentation the terminology and thoughts of the theories that attempted to make history more scientific, tried to put a base under it. I mean ...
6
votes
1answer
193 views

What was more expensive to lose in a gladiatorial fight: a gladiator or a rare animal?

We know that, aside from man-to-man combat, gladiatorial fights would often pit human gladiators against wild animals. Is there any documented historical evidence that would show what was a bigger ...
6
votes
2answers
3k views

Why did Mongolia split in two when they declared independence?

When Mongolia declared independence from the Qing Empire in 1911, part of it stayed under Qing control. This is the part known today as Inner Mongolia. But even before their independence, there were ...
5
votes
2answers
130 views

What exactly were currours, and what were they used for?

In researching this question on Medieval light cavalry, I came across this reference to "currours" in Wikipedia, with no link: Many countries developed their own styles of light cavalry, such as ...
5
votes
1answer
209 views

At which times did a mainly Jewish sovereign state control Jerusalem?

At which times in history have there been a sovereign mainly Jewish state controlling Jerusalem? The only time in history after the Babylonian exile that I can recall is during the Hasmonean dynasty. ...
5
votes
1answer
293 views

Why did Charles V divide his holdings as he did?

Even as monarchs go, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor was one lucky individual. He inherited Austria and the job of Holy Roman Emperor, as well as the Netherlands (including Belgium) through his father, ...
5
votes
2answers
401 views

Did Roosevelt's New Deal lift the U.S. out of the depression or did it actually prolong the Depression and cripple American capitalism? [closed]

While the New Deal did much to lessen the worst affects of the Great Depression, its measures were not sweeping enough to restore the nation to full employment. Critics of FDR's policies, on ...

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