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201
votes
34answers
177k views

Why did Hitler attack the Soviet Union when he was still busy fighting the United Kingdom?

During World War 2, Hitler was fighting a war with Great Britain, but while fighting that war, he attacked the Soviet Union. Everyone knows that having to fight on two opposite fronts at once is bad......
164
votes
5answers
28k views

When did people decide that all caps means the writer is shouting?

Nowadays, writing in all caps tends to indicate that the writer is shouting. FOR EXAMPLE IF I TYPE LIKE THIS PEOPLE EQUATE THIS TO SHOUTING. My understanding from cursory googling is that letters ...
132
votes
19answers
26k views

Did the ancients or other pre-industrial civilisations engage in unsustainable practices?

A popular rhetoric we hear regarding sustainability is that modern life after industrialization and arrival of plastics and hydrocarbon fuels have led to environmental degradation on Earth and our ...
132
votes
9answers
20k views

Why was France granted an equal status among victors of World War II?

How is it that France emerged from World War II with a similar status as the U.S.A., Britain, the Soviet Union, and China in terms of possession of a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, ...
126
votes
7answers
37k views

Do historians agree that most wars are caused by religion?

I'm not a historian, but this is a very common claim that crops up in debates over God's existence and religious scripture. What is the opinion of the community of professional historians?
123
votes
2answers
14k views

How do historians and linguists know how to pronounce the names from non-phonetic scripts?

If we take hieroglyphic writings like the Egyptian one, an Egyptologist knows that this hieroglyph must be interpreted as Nefertiti. Or we can see in the following Sumerian cuneiform script that ...
118
votes
13answers
32k views

Why, in ancient battles, did being encircled mean defeat?

Why, in ancient battles, did being encircled mean defeat? The classic example of that is the Battle of Cannae, where 80,000 Roman infantry were surrounded by 40,000 Carthaginian infantry. Every ...
114
votes
6answers
19k views

Did China ever consider a phonetic writing system?

I was surprised to learn the following about the Japanese and Korean languages: Japanese used a lot of Chinese characters in their language and had no phonetic system, until around the year 800 when ...
113
votes
10answers
24k views

Were there women who were against giving women the right to vote?

The TV show Sherlock prompted an interesting question about the historical role of women during the United Kingdom's road to women's suffrage. In the episode "The Abominable Bride" (set in ...
111
votes
7answers
21k views

On 1941 Dec 7, could Japan have targeted the Panama Canal instead of Pearl Harbor in a surprise attack?

This question comes from a slightly related one. At the time of WW2, most US industry was on the East Coast, including all of the shipbuilding for Carriers and Battleships. If the Panama Canal went ...
111
votes
9answers
42k views

Why did Native Americans die from European diseases while Europeans didn't catch serious diseases from the New World?

Why did Native Americans die of European diseases while Europeans didn't have serious diseases from the New World? I read that most Native American victims of colonization in the new world died of ...
108
votes
16answers
28k views

Why bother attacking castles at all? Why not go around?

Castles were designed to hold people, weapons, and supplies to survive a siege. They were well-defended. Taking one could easily be a long, bloody struggle. Why attack at all? Most castles I've seen ...
107
votes
14answers
28k views

When did the allies find out about the killing of Jews during WW2

When watching "Saving Private Ryan" I noticed during the opening scene that one of the soldiers (who is Jewish) gets emotional when he discovers a Hitler Youth knife, I could only assume it was ...
105
votes
3answers
15k views

Why are Germans referred to so differently in different languages?

I was inspired by the other question "Why are the German and French languages so different?". But while, for me, the answer was obvious (the Romans did not conquer most parts of today's Germany and so ...
103
votes
9answers
23k views

Why did archery not make a comeback when armor was phased out in the 18th century?

Even if we account for the argument that it is much more tedious to train a man to use a bow than a musket, why then did the arbalest not make a comeback? Its effective range - reportedly at 300m, is ...
102
votes
7answers
26k views

Why did the Confederacy think they could win the American Civil War?

The early Confederacy (The 7 founding states) attacked Fort Sumter in April 1861, starting the American Civil War. The Confederacy knew this would lead to war with the Union, yet they seemed to be ...
102
votes
7answers
188k views

Why was Poland spared from the Black Death?

The featured image of the Wikipedia page for the Black Death is a gif showing the spread of the bubonic plague throughout Europe. There are a few places where the plague never spread to, including the ...
102
votes
1answer
48k views

Did Adolf Hitler ever address the fact that his own appearance was almost an exact opposite of what he considered the ideal Aryan appearance?

Hitler's ideal Aryan / Nordic appearance was: tall, blond, blue eyed, broad shouldered. Hitler's own appearance was: short, dark haired, brown eyed, slight and slumpy shoulders. And most of the Nazi ...
101
votes
13answers
27k views

Why China was able to unify and not Europe?

If you look at a map of China through the ages, you will usually find (from about the Han up) a huge mass representing China. On the other hand, you look at a map of Europe, and you'll usually see a ...
97
votes
10answers
19k views

Has a sovereign Communist government ever run, and conceded loss, on a fair election?

Have there been cases where a sovereign Communist government ran in an open and fair multi-party election and conceded a loss? The reason for the sovereign qualifier is simple. If, for example, the ...
96
votes
4answers
27k views

Why were old fortifications shaped like stars and not like circles?

The fortifications of Copenhagen, Fredericia and Acre are star-shaped. (Defense of Copenhagen is shown in the picture below.) Why not have defenses or fortifications in the shape of a pure square or ...
95
votes
12answers
52k views

Why didn't Imperial Japan attack the Soviet Union during World War 2?

Japan and the Soviet Union shared a common border in Manchuria and the German invasion of the Soviet Union weakened the Soviets greatly. In view of the advantages to Japan in seeing the Soviet Union ...
93
votes
6answers
22k views

What is the origin of 3 meals a day?

Wondering if there is an origin of the "3 meals a day" concept. For example, in English we have specific words for them: Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. But we have a few more for other meals in the day (...
90
votes
10answers
53k views

Why does the United States keep using “old” date representations and imperial system, while being in the minority?

Other than the US (and a few other countries), the vast majority of countries use International System of Units (SI). Celsius temperature scale. DMY or YMD date format¹. 24-hour clock when written². ...
89
votes
7answers
27k views

Why didn't Germany blockade the Strait of Gibraltar during WW2?

The Strait of Gibraltar, at its narrowest point, is about 14 km wide. Why didn't Germany blockade it during WW2? It seems to me that only a handful of submarines and destroyers could do the job. Wasn'...
88
votes
9answers
24k views

Did medieval scholars believe the Earth was round?

There seems to be almost a consensus that the medieval belief on flat earth is a myth. Wikipedia even has a whole article dedicated to this subject, and the general argument is that the "flat earth ...
88
votes
5answers
26k views

Did the ancient Greeks ever climb Mt. Olympus?

We all know that the ancient Greeks believed that their gods lived on top of the mountain Olympus (and some of them in other places like the Underworld). But Olympus - they knew where it was (between ...
86
votes
3answers
21k views

How would a 16-year-old girl from Cleopatra's era curse?

For one of my novels, I need to learn how Egyptian 16 year old teenagers spoke to each other on a daily basis. I did some research online but I have trouble to understand what languages peoples were ...
86
votes
2answers
15k views

How did people distinguish slaves from free people in Ancient Rome?

I've tried to find some information about it, but failed. Let's say there is an educated slave living in a relatively rich household of Rome. What would prevent him from fleeing, going to some smaller ...
85
votes
7answers
29k views

Why is the consensus that WW2 started on September 1, 1939 and not July 7, 1937?

Looking at Wikipedia, dates given are 1 September 1939 – 2 September 1945, which end in the defeat of Japan. However why is the starting date when Germany invaded Poland and not when the Japanese ...
84
votes
16answers
16k views

Why do western monotheistic religions seem to be so full of conflict over dogma?

This could be a totally false premise. But clearly when Christianity was starting (and even to this day) there were serious conflicts about ideology. You had the Arians, Monophysites, etc. all at each ...
84
votes
3answers
13k views

What is the first recorded dog name?

Dogs have an age-old relationship with humans, and nowadays almost all dogs have a name given to them. In Homer's Odyssey (8th century BCE), upon Odysseus' return, his beloved dog Argos is the only ...
84
votes
2answers
15k views

Why did the British scuttle the u-boats surrendered after WWII?

Between November 1945 and February 1946 the British scuttled 116 of the 156 German u-boats surrendered at the end of WWII during Operation Deadlight. They were towed to deep water off Ireland and sunk....
83
votes
7answers
27k views

Did Bill Gates steal the GUI concept from Steve Jobs?

The Jobs movie alleged that Bill Gates swiped the idea of a Graphical User Interface (GUI) on a personal computer (PC) from Steve Jobs. Can anyone explain to me the exact story on what happened in a ...
83
votes
9answers
28k views

Did Russian winter seriously contribute to German defeat on the Eastern Front in WWII?

When people discuss the causes of Hitler's defeat in Russia, one topic is frequently mentioned: climate. People claim that winter contributed significantly to the problems of German army on the ...
83
votes
5answers
15k views

Did medieval stores have names?

Re-posting this question of mine from the Worldbuilding Stack Exchange: I know it's common for shops and stores to be named in D&D and other fantasy settings, but how common was that practice in ...
82
votes
15answers
28k views

Why did North America economically prosper, and maintain stable government and South/Central America didn't?

Disclaimer: I understand this is a generalized statement and doesn't account for every scenario (for example: the US civil war). In general, why over the course of our whole history has the United ...
81
votes
7answers
21k views

Why bother to attack in trench warfare?

At least on the western front, trenches were heavily defended. Any charge was just suicidal, with heavy losses for the attacker and much smaller losses for the defender. As there is a big strategic ...
81
votes
8answers
10k views

How accurate or supported is Jared Diamond's “Guns, Germs, and Steel”?

Jared Diamond wrote a fascinating book that purports to explain, in a very broad way, the development of civilization. It has several explanations for the development of Eurasian civilization rather ...
80
votes
2answers
16k views

How much smaller were medieval farm animals in England than today?

According the Medieval Life and Times website, Farm animals were small, for scientific breeding had not yet begun. A full-grown ox reached a size scarcely larger than a calf of to-day, and the ...
79
votes
2answers
11k views

Why were ships-of-the line not supposed to open fire on frigates during fleet actions?

Found this passage in the book Patrick O'Brian's Navy (p. 57) In the era of fighting sail there was an unspoken convention that line-of-battle ships did not fire on frigates during any fleet action ...
77
votes
9answers
27k views

Where is the bloodiest square mile on Earth?

In terms of repeated wars and other violent encounters, where have the most people died throughout history (cumulatively over time) within one square mile? This will include deaths at the hands of ...
77
votes
3answers
15k views

Why exactly did telegraphs have to use “STOP” instead of a period and “QUOTE” instead of a quotation mark? (Or special codes.)

I've seen/read numerous old telegraph messages. They contain a lot of spelled-out punctuation. Why didn't they simply have the most basic few characters as part of the code, or at least turn a "STOP" ...
76
votes
12answers
58k views

Why weren't Indians converted en masse to Islam or Christianity?

India was ruled by Muslims from around the 12th century until 1857, and then by the British till 1947. However, India still has a large number of Hindus. Countries like Indonesia, Afghanistan, ...
76
votes
5answers
11k views

Is there any evidence to support the claim that the United States was “suckered into WW1” by Zionists, made by Benjamin Freedman in his 1961 speech?

In the comments to another question another user of History:SE made a remarkable, if unbelievable, claim: Actually, Germany was shocked when the US declared war and entered on the side of Great ...
75
votes
13answers
32k views

Why didn't France and the UK invade Germany in September 1939?

On September 3rd 1939, when UK and France declared war on Germany, both ordinary Polish people and government officials became enthusiastic. There were spontaneous demonstrations of support for the ...
75
votes
4answers
7k views

Cultural understanding of Penelope's suitors

In the Odyssey, Penelope is courted by 108 suitors, who camp out in her house/royal court indefinitely, behaving badly, while she delays them. I'm having trouble understanding the historical and ...
74
votes
12answers
29k views

Why, in the US, is Japanese brutality ignored compared with the Nazi brutality in WW2?

Instead of accepting too much of what I have read in my textbooks, I have read up a bit about WW2 on my own and have always pondered, why in the USA is the brutality and actions of the Japanese during ...
73
votes
3answers
72k views

Why did Canada not join the American Revolution?

America declared independence from Britain and fought a war of independence. Several states joined the fight, however, Canada remained British. Why did the American rebellion and war of independence ...
72
votes
5answers
17k views

Why were Navajo code talkers used during WW2?

In history class, we are covering WW2. On the topic of code-talking, Native American language usage was mentioned, but nothing was said about cryptography. An online search did not come up with any ...

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