1) The Founding Fathers Were Friends
They absolutely hated each other, almost an “I’m going to punch you in the face when I see you” kind of hate. The United States was founded by men who were constantly squabbling with each other. For more insight into the dirty politics that plagued the first 100 years of America check out the acclaimed HBO series John Adams or the 2012 Steven Spielberg film Lincoln.
2) People Thought The World Was Flat Before Columbus
Educated people knew the world was round, as did Christopher Columbus. It was difficult for him to secure funding primarily because the prevailing thought was that Asia was just too far away for that kind of voyage and the risks associated were just not worth it.
3) Half The Irish Population Died From The Potato Famine
Don’t blame the potatoes, blame the English! By preventing food from being imported and controlling the food that remained in the country Britain played a major role in the sudden decrease in the Irish population.
4) Nero Played the fiddle While Rome Burned
First off the fiddle didn’t even exist back then and secondly when Nero heard of the fire he actually raced to the city to direct efforts to save it and provide aid to the citizens.
5) MLK Marches Changed the Law
Lawsuits changed the law. The NAACP and Niagara Falls Society played a major role during the civil rights era. A lot of Dr. King’s contributions came in the form of actual legal help. While the marches raised general awareness about the movement the lawsuits filed by these various organizations played a much more influential rule in determining legislative change.
6) (Omission) The Tulsa race riot in 1921
I’m using the term riot loosely here. We’ve heard plenty about the civil rights marches of the 1960s but relatively little about what happened in Tulsa; law enforcement completely destroyed 35 blocks of black-owned homes and businesses. 39 people were killed and more than 300 were injured in this bloody chapter of American history.
7) The Romans & Greeks Were All Gay/Bisexual
They didn’t view sexuality in terms of gay vs. straight. This is contemporary thought being forced upon social mores of the past. In the ancient world, sexuality was defined as passive vs. active partners, or in other words, the penetrated vs. the penetrator respectively. For lack of a better term, the latter was seen as more ‘virtuous’ than the former. So a man could penetrate another man and it was seen as ‘better’ than being penetrated, and the penetrator wasn’t regarded any differently.
8) The Unstoppable Blitzkrieg
This one myth is very often repeated in history textbooks below university level and it pops up every several months here on Reddit. “How did Germany manage to win after losing a war”. The lie here is that Germany was armed very quickly and efficiently under Hitler and then surprised all of Europe with its military strength and innovative tactics – crushing Poland and then France. In reality, Germany was completely reckless, completely unprepared and acted completely irresponsibly as well as very very lucky . They were literally winging it – “hold my beer…” style.
9) The Boston Massacre
It wasn’t really a massacre. As the story you get told in like 3rd grade says, some British soldiers started killing people at random, but that is way off.
A group of teens walk up to a British soldier and start tormenting him and laughing at him. Eventually a crowd forms, and they start throwing rocks, snowballs, etc., at the soldier. A nearby officer calls over some other soldiers and rushes to his aid. Nobody knows who opened fire, but it was more or less a small battle, and less of a massacre, as only 5 people actually died.
10) Napoleon Was Short
In reality, Napoleon was of average height for his time: 5’8″. This “short man” rumor was spread by his rivals/enemies to discredit him.
11) “The British Are Coming!”
What most don’t realize is that Paul Revere isn’t the man who warned the townsfolk to arm themselves (as famously described in Longfellow’s poem) against the coming threat. Paul Revere and two others (William Dawes and Samuel Prescott) rode to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock of the coming danger, but all three were stopped by British soldiers. Of those three, Paul Revere was detained, while the other two managed to escape to warn Adams and Hancock.
12) French Surrender Easily / Don’t Win Wars
French surrender in world war two is easily mocked despite the fact that the Germans rapid advance gave the allies very little time to react. The Napoleonic Wars is one of the best examples of France’s ability to fight the rest of europe and succeed for over 15 years. Half understanding of France during the Second World War seems to have blinded people to one of the longest and most successful military nations.
13) Jews Were the Only Ones Who Died In the
Gypsies, Slavs, people with disabilities, homosexuals, and people who opposed Hitler’s political views all were victims of the holocaust.
14) America Won the War of 1812
No one won. Britain and America realized it was stupid and worked out a treaty. Just, after the war was over, Andrew Jackson fought and had a great victory against British troops. At the time, neither group actually got news that the war was over.
15) The Civil War Was Fought Over States’ Rights
It had more to do with slavery than state’s rights. almost all of the slave owners in the south depended on slavery for their economic well-being. Take away their slaves and many would very well become middle or even lower class instead of upper class. unsurprisingly, you can’t expect wealthy people to willingly put themselves into poverty simply because it may be considered the morally right thing to do.
16) Jesus Was White
The long-haired white man with a swimmers body that’s often depicted in churches and popular literature is a flat-out impossibility. He probably looked like any other Jewish/Middle Eastern man at the time: brown.
17) Native Americans Were Peaceful Before the White Europeans Showed Up
Most American Indians had absolutely no concept of “Natives” or “Europeans.” To them, they were all simply different tribes of different people, with no other allegiance save that which was convenient for them. White People came from across the sea, but they were just another tribe to be dealt with. In fact, a significant amount of British settlers before the French and Indian War earned their living fighting as well-paid mercs for Indian nations, who found the white settlers to be well-armed and great fighters (and therefore useful to them).
18) The Catholic Church Opposed Science During the Middle Ages
Most of this stuff came about after the Reformation because Protestants demonized the Catholic Church. This stuff became very prevalent in America because America was founded as a predominantly Protestant nation.
The anti-science stuff was big, as was the vilification of Papal Inquisitions. Ironically, these inquisitions were depicted as “burning witches and heretics” but this is not even remotely accurate. The Catholic Church had a very rigid system for proving heresy to ensure that folks wouldn’t make errant accusations of it, and the witchcraft thing was technically impossible because the official stance of the Catholic Church is that witchcraft does not exist, and therefore accusing someone of it proves you are lying or you believe in dark magic.
19) Slavery in the Colonies was Mostly a United States Thing
Many civilizations around the world were built on the backs of slaves. Rome and Egypt enslaved civilians of captured enemy cities, and that basically created the immense wealth that was found throughout their empires.
20) Rosa Parks Chose to be Defiant Spontaneously
She was actually recreating what Claudette Colvin did 9 months earlier. The civil rights movement didn’t want to use Claudette as a symbol for the movement because she was a teenager who was pregnant with a married man’s child. So they picked Rosa Parks, who worked for the NAACP, to recreate the incident and then publicized that.
21) The Boston Tea Party
We’re taught: “A bunch of Yankees dressed like natives dumped tea into the bay, protesting the crown.” No one ever asks “why were they dressed like natives?” And if you do ask, the answer is along the lines of “black flag operation”. But historically speaking, the people who did that made it well clear of their intentions. What was really happening was that the colonists wanted to adopt the native lifestyle and rejected the old British culture. It was symbolic. And they really liked the way the natives lived! But it’s hard to say that after, well y’know, the Trail of Tears…
22) Guy Fawkes Fought Government Corruption
In fact he was a Catholic trying to the further the Protestant movement so the Church could regain power. Many atheists consider Fawkes as a symbol of the anti-establishment movement when in fact he was fighting in the interests of the Protestant Church.
23) Adolf Hitler Was a Military Genius
Adolf Hitler was no genius and could be considered an insane idiot. Most of the German acts in WWII were actually the acts of the men running the military operations, including Hermann Goering and Erwin Rommel. Hitler had completely insane ideas that he needed to be talked out of, like invading neutral Switzerland for no reason whatsoever. He also had no idea how to govern. Mostly he just knew how to talk loudly and wave his hands around and make a mad face.
24) Pilgrims Were Fleeing Religious Intolerance
No, they couldn’t stand England because it was far too tolerant, and they got kicked out of the Netherlands – the most religiously tolerant country in Europe at the time, because they were intolerant assholes causing too much disruption.
25) Germany Was a Threat to the America During WW2
They couldn’t conquer Britain across the English Channel in 1939. I highly doubt that any similar attempt across the Atlantic ocean would have had much success.