This Instagram Account Educates People By Explaining The Best History Memes Out There (30 Pics)

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If history textbooks were more like this Instagram account, maybe more kids would open them. Or at least try to.

History Memes Explained is a social media project with a simple mission: to collect and dissect the best memes about our past.

From famous figures and funny maps to cold-hearted betrayals and memorable battles, History Memes Explained has a little something for everyone, and the pictures are as amusing as the explanations are educational.

Continue scrolling and check out some of its most popular posts.

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The Bank of England is one of the oldest financial institutions in the world, tasked with maintaining monetary stability in the United Kingdom. Since 1734 it has occupied a 3.4-acre site in London's Threadneedle Street, where the iconic building conceals eight subterranean vaults filled with gold. The bank prides itself on having never been robbed at any point in its 325-year history. However, it is rumored that the bank's defenses were actually breached in the 19th century when an enterprising sewer worker managed to gain access to the main gold vault. According to the bank's website, this incredible incident was the source of considerable embarrassment to its venerable, Victorian directors.


In 1836, the directors of the Bank of England received an anonymous letter, in which the author claimed to have direct access to the gold in the bank. The directors assumed this to be a joke and simply ignored it. However, sometime later, they received another letter, in which the enigmatic author offered to meet them at an hour of their choosing inside the main gold vault. According to the bank's website, the directors were intrigued but considered it impossible for someone to break into the vault without their knowledge. Nevertheless, they agreed to the meeting and gathered together one evening, inside the vault as agreed. To their great surprise, at the appointed time, a noise was heard beneath the floorboards, and a man popped up underneath their feet.


He was a sewer worker who had been working on repairs close to the Bank of England site at Threadneedle Street. During his routine inspection, he had discovered an old drain that led directly underneath the gold vault inside the bank itself. The drain provided an ideal access point to the gold vault, and constituted a major security breach. The directors of the bank were aghast at the discovery of such a significant hole in their carefully constructed security arrangements. They realized that the sewer worker had not taken anything from the vault, despite having multiple opportunities to do so. As a reward for his honesty, the directors gifted him £800, a sum that equates to £80,000 in today’s money and which would have surely transformed the man’s life.

Image credits: historymemes_explained

The person behind History Memes Explained is Cole Crosby, a 17-year-old high-school student. "History and entrepreneurship have always been a passion of mine," Cole told Bored Panda. "I feel very lucky to run an Instagram page that combines these two things."

He said the genesis for History Memes Explained came out of boredom. "Like many young students, I had long been aware of social media influencers and YouTubers. I had actually attempted to become an influencer twice before, once with a gaming YouTube channel and the other time with a political Instagram page. Neither project went anywhere."

"In the summer of 2019, the idea of creating a history-themed meme page came to me as I was sitting at home bored; with nothing better to do, I made it a reality."
Writing in his book Creativity Inc, Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull recalled that in the winter of 1998, a year out from the release of Toy Story 2, somebody (he never reveals who in the book) entered a computer command on the drives where the film's files were kept. The object of said command is to remove everything from a given location, and to remove it quickly. It did its job. "First, Woody's hat disappeared. Then his boots. Then he disappeared entirely," recalls Catmull. "Whole sequences—poof!—were deleted from the drive." One of the film's technical directors, Oren Jacobs, watched it all happen in real time. His call to systems support started with him telling them to “pull out the plug on the Toy Story 2 master machine." When asked why by the person on the other end of the phone (a not-unreasonable question), Jacobs screamed “Please, God, just pull it out as fast as you can.”


The plug was pulled, but not in time—90% of the film was gone, erased "in a matter of seconds." And it got worse. A plan was quickly hatched to restore the data from a regular backup, which meant that only half a day of work would have been lost. But the backup system had failed. Pixar, incredibly, did not have a copy of the Toy Story 2 files on its servers. "To reassemble the film would have taken thirty people a solid year," Catmull recalled. Toy Story 2 looked doomed. Yet it was saved by something akin to blind luck. Galyn Susman was Toy Story 2's supervising technical director, and after she'd given birth to her second child, she'd been working from home. As such, once a week, she'd taken an entire copy of the film home with her.


A minute later, she was zooming home. Her computer was wrapped in blankets and put on the backseat of her car ("carefully"). In Oren's words, the computer was then "carried into Pixar like an Egyptian pharaoh." While work had been lost, Susman's backup files limited the damage significantly. Furthermore, given the size of Pixar at the time—which was still years away from being the company big enough to merge with Disney—her computer may just have saved the firm (at least in the form that we know it). Unsurprisingly, Pixar put into place processes that stopped this ever happening again. And, crucially, Toy Story 2 just about made its deadline.

Image credits: historymemes_explained
If one believes in omens, there were a number of reasons for Caesar not to attend the Senate meeting that day. First, Caesar’s horses that were grazing on the banks of the Rubicon were seen to weep. Next, a bird flew into the Theater of Pompey with a sprig of laurel but was quickly devoured by a larger bird. Caesar’s wife, Calpurnia had a dream of him bleeding to death in her arms. And lastly, a soothsayer named Spurinna warned him to beware of danger no later than the Ides of March. Unfortunately, Caesar put little faith in omens. A large crowd accompanied Caesar on his way to the Senate. Just as he entered the theater a man named Artemidorus tried to warn him of eminent danger by thrusting a small scroll into his hand, but Caesar ignored it. The dictator entered and sat on his throne. Cimber approached the unsuspecting Caesar and handed him a petition on behalf of his exiled brother; Caesar, of course, did not rise to greet him. Cimber grabbed at Caesar’s toga and pulled it back. Caesar reportedly said, “Why, this is violence?” Casca dealt the first blow with his knife; Caesar immediately tried to defend himself by raising his hands to cover his face. The remaining conspirators surrounded the shocked Caesar - Cassius struck him in the face, Decimus to the ribs. Caesar collapsed, dead, ironically at the foot of a statue of his old enemy Pompey. In all there were twenty-three blows. Despite the beautiful words of William Shakespeare Caesar did not say “E tu, Brute!” (You, too, Brutus!) as Brutus plunged his dagger into the dying dictator but “You, too, my child!”

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According to Crosby, this early bird version of History Memes Explained was very different from how it is —he only posted memes. The idea to actually explain them came a year later. "For much of this early time, my page wasn't that successful," Cole recalled. "I was posting every day and barely growing. My big break came when I added the explanations."

"To be honest, it was pretty much a moment of sudden clarity. The idea to explain the memes just came to me. But when I started doing so, my page exploded. Soon, I was gaining 600, even 800 followers every day. I adopted a very aggressive posting strategy, making two high-quality posts every day." Since then, Cole has slowed down slightly, but he still tries to post a meme and an explanation every day.

He himself views History Memes Explained as a place that truly makes learning fun. "I post funny memes about historical topics and then do a deep dive into the [facts] behind the meme, uncovering and explaining important, obscure, or just downright interesting parts of history in an entertaining format."
In 1998, a North Korean submarine became entangled in a fishing net in South Korean waters. A South Korean fishing boat observed the crew trying to untangle the submarine from the fishing net. The fishing boat notified the South Korean Navy, who towed the submarine with the crew still inside to a nearby navy base. The submarine sank as it was being towed into port, it was unclear if this was as a result of damage or a deliberate scuttling by the crew. On 25 June the submarine was salvaged from a depth of approximately 100 feet and the bodies of 9 crewmen were recovered, 5 sailors had apparently been murdered while 4 agents had apparently committed suicide. The presence of South Korean drinks suggested that the crew had completed an espionage mission. Log books found in the submarine showed that it had infiltrated South Korean waters on a number of previous occasions.

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US President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin had a weird relationship. There was the time the Russian president gave the U.S. president a pair of hockey jerseys that said “Yeltsin 96" and “Clinton 96.” There was also the time Clinton doubled over laughing when Yeltsin called the U.S. press “a disaster” at a press conference. But perhaps the weirdest incident in their professional relationship was when Yeltsin got drunk and wandered into the street in his underwear, trying to get a pizza. The incident happened during Yeltsin and Clinton's first meeting in Washington in September 1994.


Although there were glancing media reports about it over the years, it wasn’t widely reported on until 2009, when author Taylor Branch published his book The Clinton Tapes, based on his interviews with the president. “Secret Service agents discovered Yeltsin alone on Pennsylvania Avenue, dead drunk, clad in his underwear, yelling for a taxi," Branch wrote in his book. “Yeltsin slurred his words in a loud argument with the baffled agents. He did not want to go back into Blair House, where he was staying. He wanted a taxi to go out for pizza.” When Branch asked Clinton how the situation ended, the president shrugged and said, “Well, he got his pizza.” Yeltsin was carefully escorted back to Blair House, the traditional residence for visiting heads of state in Washington, by the Secret Service.

Image credits: historymemes_explained

This juxtaposition of the meaningful and the silly reminds me of all the classical art memes that have been going around the Internet. Maybe it's about time we take the "important stuff" off the pedestal and make it accessible to the youth as freely as everything else online? Who cares about the form when the content is rich.

At first, Cole spent a lot of time looking for the right memes, after all, it's all about striking the right balance. "I need memes about topics that were well known enough to resonate with my audience, but still obscure enough to warrant an explanation."

"In the early days, I often just made the memes myself from scratch," he said. "As I've become successful, however, this has changed. Now, I receive dozens of messages from my followers every week. Most of these have meme submissions, that my followers would like me to explain. Currently, this is where I get most of my memes from," the student said.
Slavery in ancient Rome differed from its modern forms in that it was not based on race. But like modern slavery, it was an abusive and degrading institution. Cruelty was commonplace. Slavery had a long history in the ancient world and was practiced in Ancient Egypt and Greece, as well as Rome. Slaves in Rome might include prisoners of war, sailors captured and sold by pirates, or slaves bought outside Roman territory. In hard times, it was not uncommon for desperate Roman citizens to raise money by selling their children into slavery. All slaves and their families were the property of their owners, who could sell or rent them out at any time. Their lives were harsh. Slaves were often whipped, branded or cruelly mistreated. Their owners could also kill them for any reason, and would face no punishment. Although Romans accepted slavery as the norm, some people - like the poet and philosopher, Seneca - argued that slaves should at least be treated fairly.

Slaves worked everywhere - in private households, in mines and factories, and on farms. They also worked for city governments on engineering projects such as roads, aqueducts and buildings. As a result, they merged easily into the population. In fact, slaves looked so similar to Roman citizens that the Senate once considered a plan to make them wear special clothing so that they could be identified at a glance. The idea was rejected because the Senate feared that, if slaves saw how many of them were working in Rome, they might be tempted to join forces and rebel. Another difference between Roman slavery and its more modern variety was manumission - the ability of slaves to be freed. Roman owners freed their slaves in considerable numbers: some freed them outright, while others allowed them to buy their own freedom.

The prospect of possible freedom through manumission encouraged most slaves to be obedient and hard working. Formal manumission was performed by a magistrate and gave freed men full Roman citizenship. The one exception was that they were not allowed to hold office. However, the law gave any children born to freedmen, after formal manumission, full rights of citizenship, including the right to hold office. Informal manumission gave fewer rights. Slaves freed informally did not become citizens and any property or wealth they accumulated reverted to their former owners when they died. Once freed, former slaves could work in the same jobs as plebeians - as craftsmen, midwives or traders. Some even became wealthy. However, Rome's rigid society attached importance to social status and even successful freedmen usually found the stigma of slavery hard to overcome - the degradation lasted well beyond the slavery itself.

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At the outbreak of World War 1, the French Army retained the colourful traditional uniforms of the nineteenth century for active service wear. These included conspicuous features such as blue coats and red trousers for the infantry and cavalry. The French cuirassiers wore plumed helmets and breastplates almost unchanged from the Napoleonic period.

From 1903 on several attempts had been made to introduce a more practical field dress but these had been opposed by conservative opinion both within the army and amongst the public at large. In particular, the red trousers worn by the infantry became a political debating point.


Adolphe Messimy who was briefly Minister of War in 1911-1912 stated that "This stupid blind attachment to the most visible of colours will have cruel consequences"; however, in the following year, one of his successors, Eugène Étienne, declared "Abolish red trousers? Never!" The very heavy French losses during the Battle of the Frontiers can be attributed in part to the high visibility of the French uniforms, combined with peacetime training which placed emphasis on attacking in massed formations.

The shortcomings of the uniforms were quickly realized and during the first quarter of 1915 general distribution of horizon-blue clothing in simplified patterns had been undertaken.

Image credits: historymemes_explained

Having looked at so, so many history memes, Cole remains a little uncertain when it comes to determining what is "in."

"Of course, you get the big events that are very popular topics like World War 2, but you also get a few smaller topics that for some reason are very popular with the community, such as the 1932 'war' that Australia fought against Emu birds. Controversial memes also seem to do well."

He thinks the Instagram algorithm favors content that generates controversy and thus a lot of comments, so he tries to keep his project as unbiased and historically accurate as possible. That being said, the guy isn't afraid to poke fun at historical figures and events. And it appears to be working—History Memes Explained already has 169K followers.
The Emu War was a military operation undertaken in Australia over the latter part of 1932 to address public concern over the number of emus said to be running amok in the Campion district of Western Australia. The unsuccessful attempts to curb the population of emus, a large flightless bird indigenous to Australia, employed soldiers armed with Lewis guns—leading the media to adopt the name "Emu War" when referring to the incident. While a number of the birds were killed, the emu population persisted and continued to cause crop destruction.

The 'war' was conducted under the command of Major G.P.W. Meredith of the Seventh Heavy Battery of the Royal Australian Artillery, with Meredith commanding soldiers Sergeant S. McMurray and Gunner J. O'Hallora, armed with two Lewis guns and 10,000 rounds of ammunition.The operation was delayed, however, by a period of rainfall that caused the emus to scatter over a wider area.The rain ceased by 2 November 1932, at which point the troops were deployed with orders to assist the farmers. However, a series of technical problems, combined with the Emu's superior maneuverability and ability to sustain multiple bullets, meant that the efforts were largely unsuccessful, and no significant impact was made on the population of the birds. Meredith would go on to state that "Emus can face machine guns with the invulnerability of tanks. They are like Zulus whom even dum-dum bullets could not stop."

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Chinese troops storm through Tiananmen Square in the center of Beijing, killing and arresting thousands of pro-democracy protesters. The brutal Chinese government assault on the protesters shocked the West and brought denunciations and sanctions from the United States. In May 1989, nearly a million Chinese, mostly young students, crowded into central Beijing to protest for greater democracy and call for the resignations of Chinese Communist Party leaders deemed too repressive. For nearly three weeks, the protesters kept up daily vigils, and marched and chanted. Western reporters captured much of the drama for television and newspaper audiences in the United States and Europe.

Turmoil ensued, as tens of thousands of the young students tried to escape the rampaging Chinese forces. Other protesters fought back, stoning the attacking troops and overturning and setting fire to military vehicles. Reporters and Western diplomats on the scene estimated that at least 300, and perhaps thousands, of the protesters had been killed and as many as 10,000 were arrested. The savagery of the Chinese government's attack shocked both its allies and Cold War enemies. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev declared that he was saddened by the events in China. In the United States, editorialists and members of Congress denounced the Tiananmen Square massacre and pressed for President George Bush to punish the Chinese government. A little more than three weeks later, the U.S. Congress voted to impose economic sanctions against the People’s Republic of China in response to the brutal violation of human rights.

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The Scramble for Africa began with the Berlin Conference (1884-85) and ended by the early twentieth century. During this period, European colonizers partitioned Africa into spheres of influence, colonies, and various segments. They partitioned land from European capitals, with limited knowledge of the geography, history, and ethnic composition of Africa. In many African countries, a significant portion of their population belongs to groups split by colonial partitions.

European powers completed cartographic surveys of territories through boundary commissions from 1900-1930, which allowed total control of colonies. However, these focused solely on land control and disregarded the impacts of partitioning on ethnic groups. Artificial borders split many closely related ethnic groups into different colonial regions. In the Horn of Africa, for instance, they split Somalis into French Somaliland, British Somalia, Italian Somalia, Ethiopian Somalia, and the Somali region of northern Kenya. Such colonial borders have massive effects on Somali people who share a common culture, a similar way of life, and the same religion, but live as separate citizens of Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Kenya. Similarly, the Afar people of Ethiopia were split amongst Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Djibouti, and the Anyuaa and Nuer were split between Ethiopia and South Sudan.

Following artificial border designs, African communities could not move freely in their daily activities and nomadic practices, which inflicted economic hardship and social inconvenience. Changing the lifestyle and structural systems of African communities negatively affected their traditional life, administrative structures, and economic well-being. This deprived African borderland communities of economic opportunity by hindering their movements, and forcing them to live differently than their traditional life. For example, many Africans are pastoralist and nomadic people that need vast land for grazing and water. However, artificial borders limited borderland people to herding on limited land and forced them into resource competition and confrontation due to limited mobility with other borderland peoples.

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On September 1, 1939, German forces bombard Poland on land and from the air. World War II had begun. The invasion of Poland was a primer on how Germany intended to wage war-—what would become the “blitzkrieg” strategy. Germany's blitzkrieg approach was characterized by extensive bombing early on to destroy the enemy's air capacity, railroads, communication lines and munitions dumps, followed by a massive land invasion with overwhelming numbers of troops, tanks and artillery. This proved highly effective against the Poles, who's military has much less mechanized vehicles and tanks when compared to the Germans and were unable to counter the rapidly maneuvering forces.

After the German forces had plowed their way through, devastating a swath of territory, infantry moved in, picking off any remaining resistance. The Polish army made several severe strategic miscalculations early on. Although 1 million strong, the Polish forces were severely under-equipped and attempted to take the Germans head-on, rather than falling back to more natural defensive positions. The outmoded thinking of the Polish commanders coupled with the antiquated state of its military were simply no match for the overwhelming and modern-mechanized German forces. And, of course, any hope the Poles might have had of a Soviet counter-response was dashed with the signing of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Nonaggression Pact. Great Britain would respond with bombing raids over Germany three days later.

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If you ask people to name the victorious Allied Powers in World War II, Mexico isn't usually a name that comes to mind. But after declaring war against the Axis in mid-1942, Mexico did contribute to the Allied victory in important ways. Despite long standing tensions with the United States, Mexico would become a valuable ally to its northern neighbor, ramping up its industrial production and contributing vital resources to the Allied war effort. In addition, thousands of Mexican nationals living in the United States registered for military service during World War II. Mexico's own elite air squadron, known as the Aztec Eagles, flew dozens of missions alongside the U.S. Air Force during the liberation of the Philippines in 1945.


The Aztec Eagles (including 33 pilots and more than 270 support personnel) arrived in Manila Bay in the Philippines on April 30, 1945. Over the next few months, they flew 795 combat sorties and logged almost 2,000 hours of flying time, including conducting bombing missions over Luzon and Formosa and providing support for U.S. airmen. Seven pilots from Squadron 201 died in the conflict; the surviving members returned to a heroes’ welcome in Mexico after Japan’s surrender. The squadron played an important symbolic role, inspiring national and cultural pride among Mexicans at home and helping to keep them invested in the war effort.

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Though some popular versions of history held that the pyramids were built by slaves or foreigners forced into labor, skeletons excavated from the area show that the workers were probably native Egyptian agricultural laborers who worked on the pyramids during the time of year when the Nile River flooded much of the land nearby. Approximately 2.3 million blocks of stone (averaging about 2.5 tons each) had to be cut, transported and assembled to build Khufu's Great Pyramid. The ancient Greek historian Herodotus wrote that it took 20 years to build and required the labor of 100,000 men, but later archaeological evidence suggests that the workforce might actually have been around 20,000.


Built during a time when Egypt was one of the richest and most powerful civilizations in the world, the pyramids—especially the Great Pyramids of Giza —are some of the most magnificent man-made structures in history. Their massive scale reflects the unique role that the pharaoh, or king, played in ancient Egyptian society. Though pyramids were built from the beginning of the Old Kingdom to the close of the Ptolemaic period in the fourth century A.D., the peak of pyramid building began with the late third dynasty and continued until roughly the sixth (c. 2325 B.C.). More than 4,000 years later, the Egyptian pyramids still retain much of their majesty, providing a glimpse into the country’s rich and glorious past.

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In the early Middle Ages, the most important calculation, and thus one of the main motivations for the European study of mathematics, was the problem of when to celebrate Easter. The First Council of Nicaea, in A.D. 325, had decided that Easter would fall on the Sunday following the full moon that follows the spring equinox. Computus (Latin for computation) was the procedure for calculating this most important date, and the computations were set forth in documents known as Easter tables. It was on one such table that, in A.D. 525, a monk named Dionysius Exiguus of Scythia Minor introduced the A.D. system, counting the years since the birth of Christ. "A.D." stands for anno domini, Latin for “in the year of the lord,” and refers specifically to the birth of Jesus Christ. "B.C." stands for "before Christ." In English, it is common for "A.D." to precede the year, so that the translation of "A.D. 2014" would read "in the year of our lord 2014." The addition of the B.C. component happened two centuries after Dionysius, when the Venerable Bede of Northumbria published his "Ecclesiastical History of the English People" in 731. Up until this point, Dionysius’ system had been widely used. Bede’s work not only brought the A.D. system to the attention of other scholars, but also expanded the system to include years before A.D. 1. Prior years were numbered to count backward to indicate the number of years an event had occurred “before Christ” or “B.C.”

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Beginning in February 2007, Zimbabwe went through a period of massive hyperinflation. During the height of inflation from 2008 to 2009, it was difficult to measure Zimbabwe's hyperinflation because the government stopped filing official inflation statistics. The peak month of hyperinflation occurred in mid- November 2008 with a rate estimated at 79,600,000,000% per month. This resulted in 1 U.S. dollar becoming equivalent to 2,621,984,228 Zimbabwe dollars. In April 2009, Zimbabwe stopped printing its currency, with currencies from other countries being used. In mid-2015, Zimbabwe announced plans to have completely switched to the United States dollar by the end of that year.

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"The audience exploded into applause. Every person in the room jumped up and began to wildly clap, as if racing each other to see who could get to their feet the fastest. The applause was all to honor the dictator Joseph Stalin at a 1937 conference of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union. But the big question soon became: Who would have the nerve to be the first person to stop clapping in honor of Comrade Stalin? No one had the courage, so the clapping went on...and on...and on.” You might be wondering why in the world anyone would be afraid to stop clapping for any leader. To understand this, you need to know Joseph Stalin. Stalin was a ruthless dictator who ruled the Soviet Union from 1922 to 1952. Although no one knows the precise number of political prisoners he executed, estimates usually reach well over a million.


So when people were afraid to stop clapping for Stalin, they had good reason. Here is how the Nobel Prize-winning writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn described the surreal scene in his great book, The Gulag Archipelago: “The applause went on—six, seven, eight minutes! They were done for! Their goose was cooked! They couldn't stop now till they collapsed with heart attacks! At the rear of the hall, which was crowded, they could of course cheat a bit, clap less frequently, less vigorously, not so eagerly...Nine minutes! Ten!...Insanity! To the last man! With make-believe enthusiasm on their faces, looking at each other with faint hope, the district leaders were just going to go on and on applauding till they fell where they stood, till they were carried out of the hall on stretchers.”


At last, after eleven minutes of non-stop clapping, the director of a paper factory finally decided enough was enough. He stopped clapping and sat down—a miracle! “To aman, everyone else stopped dead and sat down,” Solzhenitsyn says. That same night, the director of the paper factory was arrested and sent to prison for ten years. Authorities came up with some official reason for his sentence, but during his interrogation, he was told: “Don't ever be the first to stop applauding!" Solzhenitsysn himself was a victim of Stalin's because he was sent to the Gulag labor camps for eight years for criticizing Stalin in a letter toa friend.

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Charles V (1500-1558) likely chose these specific languages for these reasons:

• Spanish as the language of religion, due to the Spanish Inquisition from 1478, intented to maintain Catholic orthodoxy.

• Italian as the language of love (self-explanatory).

• French as the language of diplomacy and of many Royal courts (there were few women engaged in diplomacy at the time).

• German as the language of The Holy Roman Empire, which represented strength, conquest and This alluded to the fact that his horse is a warhorse.

Charles V was Holy Roman Emperor and Archduke of Austria from 1519 to 1556, as well as the King of Spain. As he was head of the rising House of Habsburg during the first half of the 16th century, his dominions in Europe included the Holy Roman Empire, extending from Germany to northern Italy, and a unified Spain with its southern Italian kingdoms of Naples, Sicily, and Sardinia. Furthermore, his reign encompassed both the long- lasting Spanish and the short-lived German colonizations of the Americas. The union of the European and American territories of Charles V was the first collection of realms labelled "the empire on which the Sun never sets".


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When a Spartan baby was born, soldiers came to the house and examined it carefully to determine its strength.The baby was bathed in wine rather than water, to see its reaction. If a baby was weak, the Spartans exposed it on the hillside or took it away to become a slave (helot). Infanticide was common in ancient cultures, but the Spartans were particularly picky about their children. It was not just a matter of the family, the city-state decided the fate of the child. Nurses had the primary care of the baby and did not coddle it. Soldiers took the boys from their mothers at age 7, housed them in a dormitory with other boys and trained them as soldiers. The mother's softening influence was considered detrimental to a boy's education. The boys endured harsh physical discipline and deprivation to make them strong.


Self-denial, simplicity, the warrior code, and loyalty to the city-state governed their lives. At the age of 20 or so, they had to pass a rigorous test to graduate and become full citizens. Only the soldiers were received the aristocratic citizenship. If they failed their tests they never became citizens, but became perioeci, the middle class. So to some extent class was based on merit rather than birth. If the young men passed, they continued to live in the barracks and train as soldiers but were required to marry to produce new young Spartans. The state gave them a piece of land which was farmed by slaves and which they did nothing to tend. The income from the farm provided for their support so they could remain full-time soldiers. At the age of 30 they were allowed to live with their families, but continued to train until the age of 60 when they retired from military service.

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Countries are calling on the British Museum to return looted items like the Rosetta Stone, the Elgin Marbles and 4,000 bronze sculptures from the Kingdom of Benin. What happens when a large portion of your country’s archaeological treasures are “owned” by another country that stole them? That's the position several nations around the world find themselves in, with most of their cultural heritage residing in museums in other countries—but especially London's British Museum. Take Nigeria, for example. In 1897, British troops stole some 4,000 sculptures after invading the Kingdom of Benin (now southwestern Nigeria). Over a century later, surviving bronzes are on display at museums around the world, but not in Nigeria, their country of origin.


Nigeria has been asking the U.K. to return its Benin bronzes for decades, and in late 2018, the countries struck a deal in which the British Museum will send some bronzes to Nigeria for the Royal Museum the country plans to open in 2021. But crucially, the British Museum says it is only loaning the sculptures —it still expects Nigeria to return the goods that Britain stole. Also notable is the Gwaegal shield, which the British stole from Aboriginal Australians in the late 18th century. Similarly to the Benin bronzes, the British Museum refused to repatriate the Gwaegal shield to Australia for a 2016 museum exhibit. Instead, the British Museum loaned the shield and reclaimed it afterward. The list of stolen artifacts the British Museum refuses to give up goes on and on. Egypt wants its Rosetta Stone back and Easter Island has asked the museum to return its Moai head statue.


Even Greece, a fellow member of the E.U., wants the museum to return some Parthenon marbles that are often called the “Elgin marbles” after the Scottish nobleman who took them. Of all the European countries with stolen artifacts, France has been the most responsive to calls for repatriation. The Quai Branly Museum in Paris will return 26 stolen objects to the country of Benin (not to be confused with Nigeria's former Kingdom of Benin). He has also said he wants to change French law so that France must return stolen objects whenever a country asks for them back. In contrast, the British Museum has specifically said that it has no plans to repatriate stolen artifacts. In response to the Quai Branly Museum's return of 26 items, British Museum Director Hartwig Fischer told The New York Times that “the collections have to be preserved as whole.” The pressure to return them, however, will likely continue.

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The British began to establish overseas colonies in the Americas in the 16th century, but it wasn't until the 18th century that its expansion really accelerated. British expansion, particularly in Asia, was facilitated by the construction of trading posts set up by the East India Company, a London based trade business. In the face of increased competition from the French East India Company, the organisation expanded its territorial claims in India with the use of a private army of more than 260,000 men, until the Indian Rebellion of 1857 saw the British Crown assume direct control of the Indian subcontinent - the epicentre of the Empire.


From India, further expansion was undertaken through Asia, and by 1913 the British Empire was the largest to have ever existed. It covered around 25% of the world's land surface, including large swathes of North America, Australia, Africa and Asia, while other areas - especially in South America - were closely linked to the empire by trade, according to the National Archives. While proponents say it brought various economic developments to the parts of the world it controlled, critics note the massacres, famines and the use of concentration camps by the British Empire. Although there is no single answer to this question, the collapse of British imperial power can be traced directly to the impact of World War Two.


The campaigns it waged in Europe, Asia and Africa virtually bankrupted the UK and the subsequent debt it acquired severely comprised its economic independence; the foundation of the imperial system. In 1947 India became independent following a nonviolent civil-disobedience campaign spearheaded by Mahatma Gandhi. Britain had lost the jewel in its crown, and this kickstarted a domino effect across the Empire. By 1967 more than 20 British territories were independent. Little remains of British rule today across the globe, and it is mostly restricted to small island territories such as Bermuda and the Falkland Islands. However, a number of countries still have Queen Elizabeth as their head of state including New Zealand, Australia and Canada - a hangover of the Empire.

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World War I was the first major conflict involving the large-scale use of aircraft. Aeroplanes were just coming into military use at the outset of the war. Initially, they were used mostly for reconnaissance. Initially air combat was extremely rare. There are even stories of the crew of rival reconnaissance aircraft exchanging nothing more belligerent than smiles and waves. This soon progressed to throwing grenades, and other objects — even grappling hooks. The first aircraft brought down by another was an Austrian reconnaissance aircraft rammed on 8 September 1914 by Russian pilot Pyotr Nesterov in the Eastern Front. Eventually pilots began firing handheld firearms at enemy aircraft, however pistols were too inaccurate and the single shot rifles too unlikely to score a hit. On October 5, 1914, French pilot Louis Quenault opened fire on a German aircraft with a machine gun for the first time and the era of air combat was under way as more and more aircraft were fitted with machine guns.

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Augustus Caesar controlled much of the world’s most powerful states — including Egypt — as he rang up his $4.6 trillion net worth. Of course, determining the wealth of centuries past is hardly an exact science — one study actually claims Habsburg dynasty banker Jacob Fugger was the richest of all time. Others claim that African Emperor Mansa Musa was the wealthiest ruler in history. Why is it so difficult to get a clear picture of historical riches? Wealth in the past was tied to land or entire empires, as was the case with Genghis Khan and Akbar the Great. Also, records are often exaggerated or based on oral history. Finally, good luck figuring out how to convert amounts of ancient currency, like”200 million sesterces”", into U.S. dollars.

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The most straightforward theory for Western Rome's collapse pins the fall on a string of military losses sustained against outside forces. Rome had tangled with Germanic tribes for centuries, but by the 300s “barbarian” groups like the Goths had encroached beyond the Empire’s borders. The Romans weathered a Germanic uprising in the late fourth century, but in 410 the Visigoth King Alaric successfully sacked the city of Rome. The Empire spent the next several decades under constant threat before “the Eternal City” was raided again in 455, this time by the Vandals. Finally, in 476, the Germanic leader Odoacer staged a revolt and deposed the Emperor Romulus Augustulus. From then on, no Roman emperor would ever again rule from a post in Italy, leading many to cite 476 as the year the Western Empire suffered its deathblow.


Even as Rome was under attack from outside forces, it was also crumbling from within thanks to a severe financial crisis. Constant wars and overspending had significantly lightened imperial coffers. In the hope of avoiding the taxman, many members of the wealthy classes had even fled to the countryside and set up independent fiefdoms. At the same time, the empire was rocked by a labor deficit. Rome's economy depended on slaves. But when expansion ground to a halt in the second century, Rome's supply of slaves and other war treasures began to dry up. A further blow came in the fifth century, when the Vandals claimed North Africa and began disrupting the empire's trade by prowling the Mediterranean as pirates. With its economy faltering and its commercial and agricultural production in decline, the Empire began to lose its grip on Europe.

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During the Eisenhower era, Americans achieved a level of prosperity they'd never known before. While other parts of the world struggled to rebuild from the devastation of World War II, citizens of the United States saw their standard of living surpass what previous generations had only dreamed about.


Eisenhower himself deserves a good deal of credit for this economic growth. He found the right combination of low taxes, balanced budgets, and public spending that allowed the economy to prosper.

The economy also benefitted from steady growth in spending on new homes and consumer goods as citizens began to buy on credit. The economy overall grew by 37% during the 1950s. At the end of the decade, the median American family had 30% more purchasing power than at the beginning. Inflation was minimal, in part because of Eisenhower's efforts to balance the federal budget.

Unemployment remained low, about 4.5%. Many factors came together to produce the '50s boom. The GI Bill gave veterans an affordable college education, providing a pool of highly-educated employees to the work force. Cheap oil from U.S. wells fueled industry. Advances in science and technology improved productivity, while competitors in Europe and Asia were still recovering from World War II. One of the factors that fueled the prosperity of the '50s was the increase in consumer spending. Americans enjoyed a standard of living that no other country could approach.

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The Polish-Austrian army that defeated the Ottoman army and lifted the second Turkish siege of Vienna in 1683 discovered several sacks of dry, dark brown beans among the booty left behind by the retreating enemy. Unaware of their purpose or value, Polish king Jan III Sobieski gave the sacks of useless beans to an officer named Jerzy Kulczycki. Kulczycki was well aware of just how valuable the beans were, having learned about coffee during time spent in Turkish captivity. Kulczycki is often credited with adapting coffee to European tastes by adding milk and sugar to the strong, bitter Turkish drink. At any rate, the first recognized coffee house in Europe was opened by Johannes Theodat in 1685, just two years later!

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On October 28, 1940, Mussolini's army, already occupying Albania, invades Greece in what will prove to be a disastrous military campaign for Italy's forces. Mussolini surprised everyone with this move against Greece; even his ally, Adolf Hitler, was caught off- guard, especially since the Italian leader had led Hitler to believe he had no such intention. Hitler denounced the move as a major strategic blunder. According to Hitler, Mussolini should have concentrated on North Africa, continuing the advance into Egypt. Even Mussolini's own chief of army staff found out about the invasion only after the fact.

Despite being warned off an invasion of Greece by his own generals, despite the lack of preparedness on the part of his military, Mussolini moved ahead out of sheer hubris, convinced he could defeat the Greeks in a matter of days. He also knew a secret, that millions of lire had been put aside to bribe Greek politicians and generals not to resist the Italian invasion. Whether the money ever made it past the Italian fascist agents delegated with the responsibility is unclear; if it did, it clearly made no difference whatsoever-the Greeks succeeded in pushing the Italian invaders back into Albania after just one week, and the Axis power spent the next three months fighting for its life in a defensive battle. To make matters worse, virtually half the Italian fleet at Taranto had been crippled by a British carrier-based attack. Mussolini had been humiliated.

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The death and destruction of World War | was so horrible that it was called “the war to end all wars.” Yet, the agreement to end World War | did not resolve the problems of the world and, according to some historians, lead directly to the next catastrophe: World War II. The major causes of World War II were numerous. They include the impact of the Treaty of Versailles following WWI, the worldwide economic depression, failure of appeasement, the rise of militarism in Germany and Japan, and the failure of the League of Nations.


The whole world was hit by an economic depression in the late 1920s. In a depression, economies shrink, trade is re- duced, businesses close, prices fall, banks fail, and unemployment rises. Sometimes during a depression, people look for a strong political leader to resolve their problems. In 1933, Adolf Hitler became the leader of Germany by promising to restore German wealth and power. Hitler immediately began secretly building up Germany's army and weapons. Although Britain and France knew of Hitler's actions, they thought a stronger Germany would stop the spread of Communism from Russia. In 1936 Hitler ordered German troops to enter the German-speaking areas of the Rhineland (France), Austria, and Czechoslovakia. At this point neither France nor Britain was prepared to go to war. In 1936, Hitler made alliances with Italy and Japan. The military alliance of Germany, Italy, and Japan was called the Axis Powers.


Appeasement meant agreeing to the demands of another nation in order to avoid conflict. During the 1930s, politicians in Britain and France began to believe that the Treaty of Versailles was unfair to Germany and that Hitler's actions were understandable and justifiable. This belief, adopted by Britain, was the Policy of Appeasement. An example of appeasement was the Munich Agreement of September 1938. In the Agreement, Britain and France allowed Germany to annex areas in Czechoslovakia where German-speakers lived. Germany agreed not to invade the rest of Czechoslovakia or any other country. In March 1939, Germany broke its promise and invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia. Neither Britain nor France was prepared to take military action. Then, on September 1, 1939, German troops invaded Poland. Britain and France immediately declared war on Germany. World War II had begun in Europe.

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For centuries, the tiny Alpine nation of Switzerland has adhered to a policy of armed neutrality in global affairs. How did it earn its unique place in world politics? The earliest moves toward Swiss neutrality date to 1515, when the Swiss Confederacy suffered a devastating loss to the French at the Battle of Marignano. It was the Napoleonic Wars, however, that truly sealed Switzerland’s place as a neutral nation. Switzerland was invaded by France in 1798 and later made a satellite of Napoleon Bonaparte’s empire, forcing it to compromise its neutrality. But after Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, the major European powers concluded that a neutral Switzerland would serve as a valuable buffer zone between France and Austria and contribute to stability in the region. During 1815’s Congress of Vienna, they signed a declaration affirming Switzerland’s “perpetual neutrality” within the international community. A more significant challenge to Swiss neutrality came during World War II, when the country found itself encircled by the Axis powers. While Switzerland maintained its independence by promising retaliation in the event of an invasion, it continued to trade with Nazi Germany, a decision that later proved controversial after the war ended.

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During World War Il, the attitudes towards medics and the wounded depended on the theater and the combatants. In North Africa and Western Europe, most soldiers of both sides were generally willing to forebear targeting medical personnel and arrange local truces to allow medical treatment and evacuation of wounded. If one side deliberately targeted medics in a particular incident, the other side might retaliate. There was an advantage to both sides to observe the niceties because the soldiers of both sides knew that they might be wounded and in need of medical attention and respect for the rules of war could benefit them. In the Pacific, there were no such niceties.


In the Pacific, at times both sides considered medical personnel legitimate targets. That being said, US medics would try to take care of Japanese wounded (if it did not entail too much risk), but there is not a lot of evidence of that Japanese soldiers reciprocated. The intense hostility of the Pacific theater is described in this personal account from US Marine E.B. Sledge, who served in Okinawa:


“Toward the end of the Okinawa campaign, we found this emaciated Japanese in the the bunk of what may have been a field hospital. We were on a patrol. There had been torrential rains for two weeks. The foxholes were filled with water. Pitiful. This buddy of mine picked him up and carried him out. Laid him out in the mud. There was no other place to put him... We were sittin’ on our helmets waitin' for the medical corpsman to check him out. He was very docile. We figured he couldn't get up. Suddenly he pulled a Japanese grenade out of his G-string. He jerked the pin out and hit on his fist to pop open the cap. He was gonna make hamburger of me and by buddy and himself. I yelled, "Look out!" So my buddy said, "You son of a b*tch. If that's how you feel about it-" He pulled out his .45 and shot him right between the eyes.”


- E.B. Sledge, Marine Rifleman


Needless to say, the ferocity and intensity of the war in the Pacific was pretty horrific.

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On Oct. 13, 1943, one month after Italy surrendered to Allied forces, it declared war on Nazi Germany, its onetime Axis powers partner. Italy was led into the war by Benito Mussolini, the fascist prime minister who had formed an alliance with Nazi Germany in 1936. In the summer of 1943, as Allied forces landed in Sicily, public support for the war and for Mussolini diminished. Mussolini was ousted on July 25 and his replacement, Gen. Pietro Badoglio, sought peace with the Allies, and reached an armistice on Sept. 3. Germany, which had troops stationed throughout Italy, proceeded with an occupation of the country, and seized strongholds from a disorganized Italian military.


In the Oct. 14 New York Times, the correspondent Milton Bracker noted that the Allied leadership believed that the Italian military would be of use in driving out the Germans: “Italian hatred of the Germans unquestionably grew as the fighting spirit waned, and episodes between German and Italian soldiers and civilians before and after the armistice have shown pretty clearly a complete and incontrovertible end of all sympathy between the former Axis partners. Therefore, it seemed reasonable to take advantage of the Italians’ willingness, even eagerness, to pin their hopes of a better role in the peace settlement to the status of co-belligerency now.” Allied forces advanced slowly and arduously north through the Italian peninsula before finally defeating Nazi forces in May 1945. Mussolini, who was rescued by the Nazis from an Italian prison and made the leader of a puppet state, the Italian Social Republic, in parts of Italy not occupied by Allied forces, was captured and executed by members of the Italian Partisan Resistance.

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