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210 votes
34 answers
189k 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 and her colonies, but while fighting that war, he attacked the Soviet Union even though they had a non-aggression pact. Everyone knows ...
Massimo's user avatar
  • 2,353
175 votes
5 answers
32k 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 ...
GGMG-he-him's user avatar
  • 1,871
140 votes
19 answers
28k 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 ...
Whirl Mind's user avatar
  • 1,203
139 votes
9 answers
24k 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, ...
Drux's user avatar
  • 14.4k
131 votes
7 answers
48k 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?
user avatar
128 votes
2 answers
16k 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 ...
Devin's user avatar
  • 1,488
123 votes
15 answers
35k 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 ...
user avatar
121 votes
7 answers
22k 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 ...
DrZ214's user avatar
  • 17.3k
119 votes
10 answers
25k 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 ...
Thunderforge's user avatar
  • 3,037
117 votes
9 answers
47k 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 ...
CsBalazsHungary's user avatar
115 votes
8 answers
23k 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 ...
DrZ214's user avatar
  • 17.3k
114 votes
18 answers
35k 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 ...
spraff's user avatar
  • 1,557
113 votes
2 answers
91k 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 ...
Joe C's user avatar
  • 989
110 votes
14 answers
29k 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 ...
Anonymous's user avatar
  • 947
109 votes
7 answers
30k 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 ...
Robert Tausig's user avatar
106 votes
3 answers
17k 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 ...
Orsinus's user avatar
  • 3,433
103 votes
9 answers
25k 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 ...
Evil Washing Machine's user avatar
103 votes
7 answers
196k 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 ...
TenthJustice's user avatar
  • 1,822
100 votes
10 answers
20k 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 ...
Italian Philosophers 4 Monica's user avatar
100 votes
13 answers
31k 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 ...
Russell's user avatar
  • 3,532
97 votes
12 answers
62k 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 ...
Jay Riggs's user avatar
  • 1,081
96 votes
4 answers
30k 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 ...
Ole Petersen's user avatar
  • 1,883
96 votes
6 answers
26k 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 (...
Lance's user avatar
  • 2,245
95 votes
10 answers
26k 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 ...
A. McMount's user avatar
92 votes
3 answers
23k 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 ...
iizno's user avatar
  • 893
91 votes
7 answers
29k 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'...
DrZ214's user avatar
  • 17.3k
91 votes
5 answers
32k 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 ...
Orsinus's user avatar
  • 3,433
90 votes
10 answers
55k 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. ...
Athari's user avatar
  • 969
89 votes
2 answers
18k 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 ...
Sappy's user avatar
  • 993
88 votes
7 answers
34k 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 ...
Matas Vaitkevicius's user avatar
87 votes
16 answers
30k 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, have the United ...
Scott Taylor's user avatar
87 votes
3 answers
15k 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 ...
Tom Sol's user avatar
  • 2,247
86 votes
7 answers
31k 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 ...
user19723's user avatar
  • 887
86 votes
15 answers
17k 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 ...
ed.hank's user avatar
  • 6,685
85 votes
9 answers
33k 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 ...
user avatar
85 votes
2 answers
17k 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....
Tom's user avatar
  • 930
85 votes
8 answers
18k 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 ...
David Thornley's user avatar
84 votes
5 answers
20k 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 ...
Adamant8765's user avatar
83 votes
7 answers
23k 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 ...
Kepotx's user avatar
  • 997
83 votes
4 answers
9k views

What were paper airplanes called before there were real airplanes? (i.e. untethered winged flyers, not kites or balloons)

According to the Google Ngram Viewer (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Ngram_Viewer) the English word "airplane" was practically unused before the year 1900. Given that paper is ...
dhinson919's user avatar
83 votes
2 answers
12k 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 ...
user69715's user avatar
  • 7,090
81 votes
3 answers
27k 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" ...
Jolin's user avatar
  • 651
81 votes
2 answers
19k 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 ...
Lars Bosteen's user avatar
79 votes
13 answers
38k 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 ...
Jake Jay's user avatar
  • 2,879
78 votes
12 answers
34k 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 ...
Fixed Point's user avatar
  • 1,159
78 votes
1 answer
20k views

What drugs were used in England during the High Middle Ages?

It's well known that alcohol was brewed and drunk throughout the Middle ages in England, but I wonder what is known from archaeological evidence and contemporary sources about what other drugs were ...
Jack Aidley's user avatar
77 votes
16 answers
36k views

Has there ever been a truly multi-sided war?

I was playing StarCraft the other night, and it occurred to me: that game series portrays effectively a 3-way war, where all three factions are fighting the other two with equal ferocity. Obviously, ...
Nerrolken's user avatar
  • 7,692
77 votes
5 answers
13k 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 ...
sempaiscuba's user avatar
  • 77.3k
77 votes
3 answers
81k 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 ...
Rincewind42's user avatar
  • 4,857
76 votes
12 answers
66k 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, ...
St. SJ's user avatar
  • 1,031

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