Historians have a frustrating job, presumably because there are so many people out there who seem pretty intent on repeating our history... which sort of goes against the very point in the first place.
History is also chockfull of chain reactions, some stranger than others, that shaped the world as we know it today. Quite a few were explored after Redditor unchainedrobots asked the online community: "Historians of Reddit, what is the strangest chain of events you have studied?"
"President Andrew Jackson..."Giphy
President Andrew Jackson was walking out of the Capitol Building with his buddy Congressman Davey Crockett. A man approached them, drew a gun, but it misfired. The man drew a second gun, which also misfired. Andrew Jackson, fairly old at this point, lifted his cane and began beating the would be assassin. Normally, people would react with "justice served," but Jackson was beating him so badly that Davey Crockett had to pull Jackson off his would be assassin, who was arrested shortly after.
The would be assassin stood trial, represented by lawyer Francis Scott Key, author of the Star Spangled Banner, and was the first American to be found not guilty by reason of insanity.
Pretty much the fall of the Berlin Wall. The USSR was already crumbling by this point and so they agreed to allow the wall to be opened for a bit. Well the guy in charge over in Berlin didn't really get the point across to the public very well and as a result everyone assumed that the wall was permanently coming down. This led to pretty much all of East Berlin flocking to the wall and demanding to be let through. The guards there knew there was no way to restrain all these people without a massacre occurring and the Russian government had no real way of easily fixing the huge mistake. And so the Berlin Wall fell, all because of a misinterpretation.
The events that led and culminated in the War of the Bucket for sure. Essentially one Italian State who followed Holy Roman Emperor stole a bucket from another Italian State who followed the pope. War broke out, The papal state highly outnumbered the HRE state, but HRE state won. Then stole another bucket. Was a trip for sure when I learned about this one.
"They invented tonic water."
British officers in India in the 18th century were eating quinine powder to help treat malaria. Quinine is so bitter on its own so they started putting it in their club soda to make it easier to down. They invented tonic water. Brought the water back to Europe and they started putting it in their gin. Hence, gin and tonic.
Horses evolved in North America, spread during pre-historical times into Asia, and then later went extinct in North America. If things had been only slightly different, horses could have been native only to the Americas, or just completely extinct by pre-history. Not having horses would have made a huge difference to Asian & European history: no Mongol invasions, no European knights.
"This leads to..."Giphy
Recent history but it still boggles my mind.
Jeri Ryan gets cast on Star Trek: Voyager as Seven of Nine.
Jeri Ryan divorces her husband.
Her ex husband, Jack, with a really strong resume and a lot of money, announces a Senate campaign in the state of Illinois in 2004. His entry in the race is enough that it is now considered a tossup.
Because both Jeri and Jack are public figures journalists push for their divorce records to be released and a major factor in their spilt was Jack's desire to have sex in public locations.
Jack Ryan drops out and the GOP struggles to find a replacement.
This leads to an overwhelming victory from the Democratic challenger, Barack Obama.
The entire Obama presidency exists because some writers in the 90s wanted a Borg girl in their show.
"Probably how Pepsi..."
Probably how Pepsi briefly became the 6th largest military in the world.
In 1959, President Eisenhower wanted to show the Soviet Union how great America was, so the government set up an "American National Exhibition" and sent Vice President Nixon there.
Well Nixon and Soviet leader Khrushchev got in an argument over Communism vs Capitalism. As it got heated the President of Pepsi stepped in and was like, "Bro Khrushchev, chill out, have a Pepsi."
Khrushchev must of loved that, because then the Soviet Union wanted to permanently bring Pepsi over to their country. The problem is that their money wasn't accepted throughout the world. Instead, like true Russians, the Soviet Union traded vodka for Pepsi.
This was all good until the late 1980s when their contract was going to expire and vodka wouldn't cut it for payment. So instead they traded Pepsi a ton of submarines and warships for 3 billion dollars worth of Pepsi.
Sadly instead of terrorizing the seas and shooting harpoons at their enemies, Pepsi decided to sell the fleet to a Swedish scrap metal company.
"As a boxing historian..."
As a boxing historian probably the story of an ancient Greek boxer named Kleomedes
Apparently while in the Olympic final, he killed his opponent by stabbing his fingers into his opponents chest, killing him. Which means he loses due to a strange and awesome rule was if your opponent was killed by the fight, he automatically won. So despite surviving the fight, Kleomedes is judged the loser. No glory or olive wreath.
Returns home to Astypalaia and lapses into deep depression. Commits the the first mass murder of school children after punching a support beam so hard the school fell down. All the kids die. Angry mob forms to kill Kleomedes who takes shelter in a giant chest in the temple of Athena. Townsfolk storm the temple and try to pry open the chest. End up having to rip it apart board by board. But when they got it open there was nothing in it.
Naturally the people didn't know what to make of it. So they send people to the oracle of Delphi. Who declared that Kleomedes was The Last True Astypalaian and that he be worshipped as a Demigod.
That is how an olympic boxer became a deity of fertility after murdering a ton of kids.
"So in 1968..."Giphy
Nixon created a chain of events that I find hard to believe.
So in 1968 Lyndon Johnson is president, he's a Democrat, and the Democrats are having issues, the party is majorly spit up between segregation issues, and they hate the Vietnam war that the country is stuck in.
Nixon starts promising to end the draft, and he also proclaimed that he had a plan to end the war.
Just before the election that year, on Halloween, (a Thursday) LBJ gets on the news, and declares that the war is almost over, and peace is at hand. The North Vietnamese were participating in peace talks, and all war activity had been suspended. They left the peace talks because NIXON HIMSELF told them that if they kept the war going for one extra week, HE WOULD OFFER THEM A BETTER DEAL ONCE HE WAS IN POWER.
So by Saturday, the North Vietnamese had walked out of the peace talks, and the war was back on. The election on the next Tuesday, went to Nixon, but barely. The war continued for another five years, and in that time 15k Americans died, as well as who knows how many Vietnamese.
LBJ knew about it at the time, because he had wire tapped the South Vietnamese ambassador as well as several others, and felt he could not reveal the extent of the wire tapping that Americans were guilty of. Even if it meant Nixon got away with treason.
"And it does."
So, the Han heard the Qin were fond of mega projects and massive infrastructure investments, so they found a hydraulics engineer and sent him over to sell them on an absurd canal idea; build a massive canal to use runoff water from two flood-prone rivers to irrigate worthless plains. Tame the rivers' flooding, irrigate wasteland, everybody wins! And in the Han's schemes, it's an absurdly large project that will keep the Qin diverted and invested for decades.
And it does. Except about halfway through, the Qin caught on to this and confront their hydraulics engineer; Zheng Gou, presumably confronted with whatever creative thing(s) they do to spies and saboteurs, throws himself on Qin mercy;
"Yeah, I'm a spy, yeah, it was to sabotage your efforts- but I'm really an engineer, guys, and this will really work, honest! Let me finish it, and please don't do that thing with the cheese grater-"
The Qin, presumably, conclude they can always torture him to death later, and let him remain in charge of the project.
And wonder of wonders, it works. Thousands of hectares or rich but fallow desert are turned into fertile farmland. Existing farmland is made safer by giving the flooding rivers runoff channels. The canal makes the Qin rich beyond their already immense wealth, which they turn to larger armies, eventually crushing the Han and (briefly) uniting China.
We learnt about this is school: in the 1950s in Borneo they were suffering from an outbreak of malaria, so, with the help of the world health organization, they sprayed DDT all over the island to kill the mosquitos. But the DDT also killed the islands wasps which helped control the population of thatch eating caterpillars, thatch that people's homes were made of, and thanks to this, their roofs began to collapse.
Many other small insects started to get affected by the DDT, which were eaten by geckos, the geckos developed a tolerance to the DDT but the cats who ate the geckos didn't, and the cat population started to die off. This led to the islands rat population to increase greatly. And that's the story of how an island with a malaria problem, lead to cats being airdropped into Borneo. Tuck_Pock
A Chinese man wanted to create a potion to become immortal instead he accidentally created gunpowder. batmans-uncle
This is an older BBC series called Connections, with James Burke hosting and it is incredibly fascinating. You can watch most of the episodes on Youtube. It's kind of what you're asking about, chains of events throughout history. From the Normans horse stirrups to mine shafts to vacuums to telecommunications, all connected. I highly recommend anyone give this a try.
MP Noel Pemberton Billing
In 1918, British MP Noel Pemberton Billing caused a major scandal when he accused actress Maud Allan, and Margot Asquith, wife of the previous Prime Minister, of being at the centre of a homosexual ring sabotaging the war effort. Evidence included Allan having performed in a play by Oscar Wilde, and Asquith having attended the performance. He presented his case in an article entitled "The Cult of the Clitoris", in which he claimed the exiled prince of Albania had a black book, listing all the blackmailed homosexuals in Britain.
Maud Allan (who was in fact homosexual; Asquith was not) sued for libel, but lost. During the trial, one witness claimed to have seen the Albanian prince's black book, and claimed that the judge's name was in it. Froakiebloke
The immovable ladder!Giphy
The immovable ladder!
Guy leaves ladder leaning against wall of the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem some time before 1728. A thing called the Status Quo happens in 1757 which means don't touch stuff on holy sites.
Ladder is still there. wekillpirates
The British government wanted to get rid of the cobras in India, so they started offering money for dead cobras. To take advantage of this, many people started breeding cobras to kill for the money, so they stopped buying dead cobras once they realized it was going on. All of the cobra breeders released the snakes and there ended up being even more cobras than there had been in the first place. EdithGoettl
"Christ and his saints were asleep.
I remember how King Henry was returning to England. He allowed his only legitimate son, next in line for the crown, his half brother and sister, and a bunch of really important people to ferry back with the guy who offered to sail the king back while the king went back on his own. After they all get drunk, the boat crashes and only some random survived.
This caused a civil war between England and Normandy for 18 years (1135-1153). According to Wikia, chroniclers described this as a period in which "Christ and his saints were asleep." PalmSpaghetti
On the verge of famine....Giphy
In the 17th century, most of Europe was on the verge of famine, but potatoes were in plentiful supply. The general population thought of the vegetables as disgusting so just didn't eat them, amazingly. Frederick the great, the king in Prussia, grew fields of potatoes and stationed guards to protect them, saying no one is allowed to eat these. Soon enough people were stealing potatoes, and then everyone wanted them. Jimeh86
The Miranda Supreme Court decision is one of the best. His case make it so that when you are arrested the Police have to tell you your rights and it became a staple of american TV. What most people do not know is that Ernesto Miranda the defendant in the case was a crappy guy and about 20 years later he was playing poker illegally in a basement of a bar.
He was cheating and when the people he was playing with found out they stabbed him with a knife killing him. The first thing the police did when they arrested the guy the killed Ernesto Miranda was read him his Miranda rights. TollinginPolitics
Arab Spring is recent history, but still history. Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian street vendor, has his wares confiscated. Unable to combat the police, he goes to the local governor to ask for his wares back, but is refused even a meeting. In response, Bouazizi sets himself on fire in public.
It's not the sole reason, but certainly the catalyst for the Arab Spring, which includes civil war in many countries, leaders being ousted and in cases like Gaddafi, executed. It sees the rise in ISIS, terrorist acts in the western world, and other conflicts that remain active to this day. All because the police wouldn't give Bouazizi his weighing scales back.danwhite89