9 Surprising Facts From World History

Historical facts that will leave you amazed, flabbergasted… and possibly agog.

1. THE LEANING TOWER OF PISA HAS NEVER BEEN STRAIGHT

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Soon after building began in 1173, the foundation of the Pisa tower settled unevenly. War then broke out between Pisa and Genoa, halting construction for nearly a century.

When construction resumed, engineers tried to compensate for the lean by adding extra masonry to the short side, but the additional weight caused the structure to tilt even further. The wonky tower was officially completed around 1370.

Without the various interruptions to building, which allowed the soil to compress under the tower, it would almost certainly have toppled over.

2. WORCESTER CATHEDRAL EXISTED FOR HUNDREDS OF YEARS BEFORE THE AZTEC EMPIRE WAS FOUNDED

worcester-cathedral-aztecHistorians consider 1428 to be the first year of the Aztec Empire, which ruled much of modern Mexico until 1521. Believe it or not, Worcester Cathedral was founded over 700 years before that, in 680. With the present tower completed in 1374.

3. The Longest War In History Had No Casualties

One of the longest, and strangest, wars in world history was between the Netherlands and the Isles of Scilly. Known as the Three Hundred and Thirty-Five Years’ War, it officially lasted from 1651 to 1986.

This war has its origin in the English Civil War, where Royalist forces raided Dutch shipping vessels, but by 1651, the Royalist navy had been forced back to the tiny Isles of Scilly, off the western coast of Cornwall.

Seeing a chance to recoup some of their losses, the Dutch sent a fleet to the islands to demand reparations. On receiving no payment, the Dutch Admiral Maarten Tromp is said to have declared war on the Isles of Scilly.

The bloodless war only officially concluded in 1986 when a local historian spotted they were still technically at war, and the Dutch Ambassador flew to the islands with a scroll declaring peace.

4. TOWN PLANNING WAS ONCE AN OLYMPIC CONTEST

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Medals for town planning were in fact awarded at four modern Olympic games between 1928 and 1948. And in the 1932 Los Angeles games, John Hughes brought home Gold for the UK! Winning for his design of a sports centre with stadium for Liverpool, which was never built.

Modern Olympics founder Baron Pierre de Coubertin was keen for there to be an arts dimension to the modern games. So from 1912 until 1952 medals were awarded for works of art inspired by sport and divided into five categories, literature, music, painting, sculpture and architecture.

The ‘arts’ section of the Olympics was officially abandoned in 1954 on that grounds that artists were considered to be professionals while Olympic athletes were required to be amateurs.

5. VATICAN CITY IS ONE OF ONLY 22 COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD THAT BRITAIN HASN’T INVADED

British-cavalryAt various points in history the British have invaded almost 90% of countries around the globe, with only 22 escaping unscathed. Other countries in this select group include Bolivia, Tajikistan and Mongolia.

The list of invaded states was compiled by historian and author Stuart Laycock. He includes territories in which the British had some sort of military presence – however brief – either through force, the threat of force, negotiation or payment.

Also included are incursions by British pirates or armed explorers, where they were operating with the approval of the government.

6. EINSTEIN WAS ASKED TO BE THE SECOND PRESIDENT OF ISRAEL, BUT DECLINED

In 1952 Albert Einstein turned down an appeal by Israel’s founding prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, for him to become the state’s second president.

According to the Jewish Virtual Library, he was deeply moved by the offer but decided not to accept because “All my life I have dealt with objective matters, hence I lack both the natural aptitude and the experience to deal properly with people and to exercise official functions.”

7. ABEL TASMAN “DISCOVERED” TASMANIA, NEW ZEALAND AND FIJI, ON HIS FIRST VOYAGE, BUT MANAGED TO COMPLETELY MISS MAINLAND AUSTRALIA

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In 1642 Abel Tasman was sent by the Dutch East India Company to explore the ‘Unknown Southlands’, which hadn’t been seen by any Europeans.

Setting off from Sumatra he took advantage of the wind direction to cross the Pacific to Mauritius. From there, he sailed back across to the south, to discover what is now Tasmania. Then on to New Zealand and north to the Pacific islands.

By taking this route, the expedition managed to completely miss mainland Australia.

8. New Zealand Was The First Country To Allow Women To Vote, In 1893

That’s a full 25 years before British women over 30 got the vote in parliamentary elections, in 1918.

New Zealand’s achievement was the result of years of effort by suffrage campaigners, led by Kate Sheppard. In 1891, 1892 and 1893 they compiled a series of massive petitions calling on Parliament to grant the vote to women.

9. Woolly Mammoths Were Still Alive While THE Egyptians Were Building The Pyramids

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The very last surviving mammoths lived on the remote Wrangel Island, in the Arctic Ocean, until about 2,000 BCE. Enduring long after the mainland populations of Europe and Siberia had perished.

It’s believed that work on the Great Pyramid at Giza began around 2,500 BCE, meaning the Egyptians were building pyramids for hundreds of years before mammoths became extinct.

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