World History

HowStuffWorks looks at the history and culture of places from all over the world.


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5 Reasons Why the Bay of Pigs Invasion Failed

It's been called one of American's biggest foreign policy failures. But why was it such a disaster? Let's count the ways.

Deciphering the History, Symbols and Sounds of Egyptian Hieroglyphics

About 25 symbols in the Egyptian hieroglyphic "alphabet" denote specific sounds. But very few words were written purely alphabetically.

Against Crazy Odds, Simon Bolivar Liberated Six Countries in South America

Bolívar was the catalyst and cult of personality behind the 19th-century liberation movement that won independence for six Latin American nations: Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Peru and Bolivia, a country named for the Liberator himself.

How Many Continents Are There? Depends Whom You Ask

Seven might seem like the no-brainer answer if you grew up in the U.S. But it may surprise you to know that experts around the world disagree on how many continents are out there. Here's why.

9 Deep-diving Facts About the Lands of Oceania

Fourteen countries and 39 million square miles make up Oceania in the South Pacific. Known for its natural beauty and cannibalistic past, this region also invented bungee jumping.

What Does Zionism Really Mean?

Although Zionism draws its name from the biblical Mount Zion, it is primarily a secular, rather than religious movement. So, what does it mean, and why do some people find it controversial?

How Sparta Turned Its Men Into Super-Soldiers – and Dancers

Movies like '300' have popularized the image of ancient Spartans as brutal super-warriors. But that's only part of the story: They had a softer side, too, for dancing and crafts. And their women had an unusual amount of freedom.

What Happened to the KGB When the Soviet Union Folded?

The KGB, the Soviet Union's vast secret police and espionage apparatus, technically was dismantled decades ago. But it still actually exists under a new name.

The Slithering Serpent and 6 Other Secrets of Chichén Itzá

The archaeological site Chichén Itzá is one of Mexico's most popular tourist draws. Here are some things you may not know about this amazing Mayan wonder.

What Caused the Rise – and Fall – of the Ottoman Empire?

For 600 years, the Ottoman Empire covered a territory stretching across huge swaths of Europe and the Middle East, until it all came down after World War I. What hastened its demise?

The Dark History of Indigo, Slavery's Other Cash Crop

Slavery followed indigo, a cash crop from which blue dye was made, around the world, until it was replaced by synthetic substitutes in the early 20th century.

8 Wild and Sprawling Facts About Mongolia

Mongolia is a country struggling to maintain its nomadic ways while stepping boldly into the modern 21st century world.

5 Large Nations With No Homeland

Millions of people around the world have no country they can call their own. Sometimes they're not allowed to have a birth certificate, go to school or work. What are some of the biggest groups in this category?

How Colonialism Works

Before World War II, a third of the world's population lived a territory controlled by a colonial power. How did this start and how did it end?

Ridiculous History: Breadfruit, the Bounty and the Birth of Globalization

You may know the story of how Fletcher Christian and his men mutinied aboard the ship the Bounty. But what was the voyage all about in the first place?

How North Korea Works

Often described as "The Hermit Kingdom," North Korea is a source of mystery for those living in the West. How has it survived so long and how worried should Americans be about a nuclear attack?

3 Times Total Eclipses Influenced World History

Can a solar eclipse change the world as we know it? If the past is any indication, it might.

How Israeli Settlements Work

The Israeli settlements have been a source of controversy for decades, with the Israel government insisting they are legal while much of the rest of the world says they are not. We look at both sides of the story.

10 Most Short-lived Countries

It takes more than frustration with the government and endless optimism to make your new country's independence stick.

Queen Nefertiti in Secret Tomb Behind King Tut? It's Not That Simple

Controversies surround not just the possible existence of hidden chambers, but even the ability of Egyptologists to undertake the search for them.

Who Were the First People to Brew Beer?

Beer may be one of the most humble of alcoholic beverages, but its history is no less noble -- or muddled -- than wine or liquor.

10 Most Long-lived Empires in History

Empires rise and empires fall -- it's a seemingly unavoidable fact of life on Earth. But these superpowers reigned longer than any others. What can we learn from their missteps and achievements?

What's so important about the Code of Hammurabi?

The Code of Hammurabi is a 7-foot-tall piece of basalt with more than 300 laws engraved on it. According to the code, if you strike your father, then your hands will be cut off. Why would our modern society care about studying such inhumane mandates?

How did the supercontinent Pangaea become seven separate continents?

Like the members of an ill-fated rock group, the seven continents struck out on their own hundreds of millions of years ago. But what caused the breakup? And is a reunion tour in the works?

How did the East India Company change the world?

The East India Company didn't just cause the Boston Tea Party -- it forged new nations and established drug trade. So why is it the basis for modern corporations?