You might be surprised to discover that a lot of the stuff you were taught about history is complete BS. Oh, you aren’t surprised? In that case, sorry for underestimating you and we hope you don’t take back your “like” on our Facebook page. Let’s face it: truth is less exciting as fiction. To overcome this, we like to exaggerate or flat-out invent stories so that everything becomes much more interesting. Check out these 8 examples of universal historical truths that aren’t true at all.
1. The War of the Worlds Radio Broadcast Didn’t Cause Everybody to Freak Out
What You’ve Been Told: On October 30, 1938, almost all of American was listening to a radio broadcast of War of the Worlds – a story about Martians invading Earth – thinking it was an actual news report. Mass hysteria ensued with people hiding in their cellars or even committing suicide.
The Reality: In fact, only around 2% of the entire radio listening audience was even tuned to the program and virtually all of them understood it was a fictional program. The broadcast even included four disclaimers stating that it was not an actual news broadcast. While there were reports that a few people who tuned in to the broadcast late (and therefore missed the disclaimers) thought America was being attacked by Germany (who had marched into Czechoslovakia earlier that year), there were no reports of anybody actually believing Martians had invaded.
2. Nero Didn’t Play a Fiddle While Rome Burned
What You’ve Been Told: Nero, the callous Emperor of Rome and last of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, wanted to expand his palace, so he did whatever any of us would do if we need some extra room to stretch out our legs: he had the entire neighborhood set on fire to clear out the area. He played the fiddle as he watched because anytime a city burns, why shouldn’t it be accompanied by some hoedown music?
The reality: First, fiddles wouldn’t become a thing until around 900 years after Nero’s rule. Secondly, Nero wasn’t in the city during the Great Fire of Rome. It’s believed that the Flavian dynasty – which took over after Nero’s death in 68 AD – cooked up a bit of propaganda to make Nero’s rule appear much worse than it actually was.
3. Christopher Columbus Didn’t “Discover” America
What You’ve Been Told: Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492. His ship landed in America, he was like, “Hey, I’ve discovered America! How historic! *Plants an American flag* Now let’s go look for some nightclubs and celebrate this discovery.”
The reality: Let’s put aside the argument that it’s impossible to “discover” a place if other people are already living there. The main thing is that Columbus never actually visited what we call the USA of these days. He originally landed in modern Haiti and spent some time in Central and South America, but that was as close as he got to ‘Merica.
4. Marie Antoinette Never Said “Let Them Eat Cake”
What You’ve Been Told: During the events leading up to the French Revolution, Queen Marie Antionette was so oblivious to the suffering of her people that her solution for bread shortages was for them to just buy cake instead. So glad they beheaded that tone-deaf witch, right?
The reality: In his autobiography Confessions, Jean-Jacques Rousseau makes reference to an anecdote about a princess who suggests that peasants who can’t find bread should eat brioches instead, but 1.) It was told within a certain context 2.) The princess is never identified by name 3.) Rousseau probably just made it up 4.) Antoinette would have been 9 years old at the time the story was published. In any event, the Queen was said to have been a charitable woman who sympathized with the poor, so it’s extremely unlikely that she would have said something that terrible.
5. The Emancipation Proclamation Didn’t Free All the Slaves
What You’ve Been Told: On January 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all of the slaves in America.
The reality: The Emancipation Proclamation only applied to those enslaved in rebellious states. Confederate states that were now under Union control and slave states that had remained loyal to the Union (Maryland and Delaware) were still allowed to keep slaves. It wasn’t until December 6, 1865 – almost a full three years later when the 13th Amendment was ratified – that slaves were abolished throughout the land.
6. Feminists Burned Their Bras in the 1960s in Protest
What You’ve Been Told: A key component of the Women’s Liberation Movement was burning bras as a way to free themselves from the sexist, male-dominated society in which they lived.
The reality: During the 1969 Miss America pageant, feminists protested by tossing bras, high heels, girdles and other accessories associated with traditional femininity into the trash, labeling them as “torture devices.” However, there are no widespread reports of women burning their bras. In all likelihood, people are confusing this with men who actually were commonly burning their Vietnam War draft cards in protest.
7. Man Has Never Walked On the Moon
What You’ve Been Told: On the evening of July 20, 1969, the Apollo 11 landed on the moon, and a few hours later Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on it.
The reality: Stanley Kubrik filmed it all on a Hollywood set because, duh, everybody who took part in the moon landing project is somehow a liar? All 15,000 of them? And the Soviets could be so easily fooled?