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112 votes
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Has an individual ever purchased an entire country?

In 1699, Johann Adam Andreas von Liechtenstein bought Schellenberg and in 1712 the county of Vaduz. The county was operating under feudal principles, thus perhaps might not be considered a country in ...
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59 votes

Why did the Soviet Union have multiple airplane manufacturers?

I can't speak to the specifics of the Soviet Union, but I want to address the opening assumption of the question. Generally, Communism believed in economic central planning, with each field being ...
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51 votes
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Was slavery really on the way out in the antebellum USA?

No, slavery was not on its way out. Historians like Dunning and Phillip are writing half a century before the cliometric revolution in economic history, which has completely changed how we view this ...
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51 votes

Has an individual ever purchased an entire country?

In certain sense yes. Didius Julianus purchased the position of the Roman emperor in 193. This position was actually auctioned by Praetorian guards to the highest bidder, the Wikipedia article on ...
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47 votes

Why did the Soviet Union have multiple airplane manufacturers?

Company vs Design Bureau It's important to distinguish between a company and a design bureau. Organisations such as MiG (Mikoyan-and-Gurevich Design Bureau), Yakolev (JSC A.S. Yakovlev Design Bureau),...
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46 votes
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Where did Hitler get the funds to invest in economic development programs such as the autobahn when the German economy was in a depression?

The funds for the Autobahn project came from the Reinhardt Program, a credit finance scheme originated by Kurt von Schleicher. The contractors who built the highways were paid not in Reichsmark, but ...
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45 votes
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How did the American Civil War help the U.S economy recover from the Panic of 1857 given that civil wars are extremely destructive?

tl;dr Modern industrial warfare pushes the economy to 100% utilization; this cures the effect of an economic downturn (which is effectively suboptimal economic utilization). Wars in general, and the ...
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44 votes
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Has there ever been anything like the oil boom we see today?

SHORT ANSWERS In terms of impact, the influx of precious metals into Spain (and then to the rest of Europe) from South America from the late 15th to the 16th century is hard to match. For a while, ...
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44 votes
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Did any British working class men have the vote before 1918?

The film said this un-extraordinary working man had the vote, my calculations show it was possible he had the vote. But the 1918 act gave "working men the vote". So one of these 2 statements must be ...
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42 votes

How and when was the modern company ownership structure invented?

The governance model for early corporations is the chartered city; a community granted town privileges and, if also free, independence from feudal obligations to local sovereigns or lords and debt of ...
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38 votes
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Was the British Army a millionaire factory in the early 20th century?

Richard Meinertzhagen is known to be a serious liar. Refer to his Wikipedia article: for example, he stole numerous biological samples and presented them as his own in Europe. That said, the ...
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37 votes

Was slavery really on the way out in the antebellum USA?

No, not even close. Alan T Nolan lists this as one of the components of the Lost Cause Myth in his essay "The Anatomy of the Myth", collected in the book The Myth of the Lost Cause and Civil ...
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37 votes
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Where did Japan get their oil during WWII?

Japan had a small domestic oil production, a few million barrels, but not nearly enough to meet their peacetime needs let alone war. What they did have is enough oil refineries with a capacity of ...
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36 votes
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Venezuelan crisis of 1902–03: Why is there a Russian flag on the cover of the prominent newspaper 'Le Petit Parisien'?

I think this is a color error (in reproduction, printing, fading, etc.) It is a 19th Century Venezuelan flag with the cluster of stars visible on the blue bar.
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34 votes

What did Germany do after World War II to recover so successfully that it became more prosperous than its WW2 victors?

Good question with several answers. First a nod to Lennart for pointing out that Germany grew just like France and Britain and the USA, so a certain amount of "a rising tide floats all boats." However ...
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33 votes

Could besieged medieval cities develop a micro-economy during wars to endure the siege for long time?

No. Cities were simply too small physically to feed themselves. Constantinople was one of the biggest cities of its time, at 2.3 sq miles. This works out to around 1500 acres. To feed a single ...
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32 votes

How and when was the modern company ownership structure invented?

The Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie) is generally seen as the first company with stocks, shareholders and board members. It didn't have 1 director, it had 17: "De Heren ...
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31 votes

Has an individual ever purchased an entire country?

In 1846, The East India Company annexed the Kashmir Valley, Jammu, Ladakh, and Gilgit-Baltistan from the Sikhs, and then transferred it to Raja Gulab Singh of Jammu in return for an indemnity payment ...
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30 votes
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Why didn't the Black Death result in favorable results for surviving peasants in China?

Firstly, there's no reason to think it didn't. In fact, it's fairly routine for afflicted regions to receive government subsidies in Imperial China. As early as AD 218, the Book of the Later Han ...
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29 votes

At the time of Sputnik, what kind of radios were common in the Soviet Union?

I suppose you are asking about real radios (wireless). They were quite bulky decorated wooden boxes. They had vacuum tubes instead of transistors. They were considered (somewhat) luxury items and not ...
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28 votes

What is the current U.S. monetary standard?

The United States abandoned the gold standard on 15 August 1971. Since then it has been using fiat money, which is not backed by any commodity. It derives its value solely from government authority. ...
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27 votes
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How much did a transatlantic telegram cost in 1914?

The first book google hit for "cablegram price" is The Bolsheviks: Twilight of the Romanov Dynasty by John D. Loscher which contains a discussion of the prices and comparison to today's money. If I ...
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26 votes
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Was public transportation free in the Soviet Union?

They were not free. In 1961 there was a currency reform, so the answer is about post-1961 period. A price of ride depended on the mode of transportation. For city public transport the price varied ...
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25 votes
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How was security on the Silk Road between China and the West maintained?

Mentions of Bandits and robbers: Bandits and robbers were a constant threat on the Silk Road. Xuanzang mentions several encounters with bandits. Near Dunhuang, the Silk Road split in two to skirt ...
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25 votes
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What was the economic basis for West Berlin?

how did it stay competitive with West Germany, which would be free of West Berlin's particular logistical challenges? Or were they being directly subsidized by the Federal Republic and/or the western ...
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25 votes
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In the first half of 20th century, how was gold inspected for authenticity?

As Denis observed in the comments above, for many countries, gold would have been traded through securities in the first half of the twentieth century. In those cases the physical transfer of the gold ...
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25 votes

Has there ever been anything like the oil boom we see today?

Sugar cane in the Caribbean comes to mind. The islands were sporting single purpose economies for all practical intents, much like a number of OPEC countries do. It was extremely valuable, too. In ...
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25 votes

Can it be justified that an economic contraction of 11.3% is "the largest fall for more than 300 years"?

(disclaimer: I am not an economist, but I think I have got my head around this) Two questions: is the claim correct on the basis of the data, and how plausible are those estimates? The GDP estimates ...
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24 votes
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How did the Germans get housing again after WWII?

They lived in shanty towns and makeshift shelters until the government built apartment blocks. In many cases families lived in shacks or even tents for years. When I was a young boy I was friends with ...
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