World History

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

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Like many things, chess wasn't invented by one person but rather several people. Here's a short history of chess.

By Dave Roos

It's hard to nail down the oldest city in the world. Some say it's Damascus, Syria, while others suggest it's Jericho, in the West Bank. So which is older?

By Patrick J. Kiger

For centuries, colonizers, missionaries and anthropologists have attempted to make contact with the residents of North Sentinel Island. But outsiders have learned the hard way that, even today, the Sentinelese just want to be left alone.

By Dave Roos

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The Dahomey warriors were an all-female regiment that existed for 300 years. Their bravery is legendary and portrayed in "The Woman King," but their ties to the Transatlantic slave trade are undeniable.

By Dave Roos

The Nizari Ismaili were some of the most feared assassins in the turbulent medieval Middle East. They used secret techniques to survive against enemies with bigger armies. That is until they finally met their match.

By Patrick J. Kiger

Some claim the "haunting shrieks" of the death whistle were used to terrify the Aztecs' enemies in battle or to mimic the death cries of sacrificial victims to their gods. But does anyone know its real use?

By Dave Roos

It's a big old world and the number of countries it contains changes all the time. So, do you know how many there are? It's not an easy question.

By Patty Rasmussen

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Photographers have been risking their lives since the Civil War to bring back images from the front lines. Not just to document history, but to show the uncensored, gritty version of battle to those of us who never have to face danger.

By Sarah Gleim

The struggle to sever colonial ties with the British has been going on for nearly 400 years in Barbados. On Nov. 30, 2021, the island officially became a republic, installing Dame Sandra Mason as its first president.

By Lewis Eliot

Some 50,000 people jammed in an area one-hundredth of a square mile. An urban planning nightmare, it was home to gangs, factories and vibrant nightlife. How did it start, and what caused it to end?

By Dave Roos

Some $150 billion in nonmilitary U.S. aid flowed into Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020, but what exactly was accomplished in that time with that amount of money?

By Mohammad Qadam Shah

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O Canada ... the country where you can order a cocktail with a human toe in it (and other quirky things about those Canucks up North).

By Valerie Stimac

Have you ever wanted to be in two places at once? There are destinations around the world that literally straddle state or country borders. How many of these boundary-pushing places can you name?

By Caroline Eubanks

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

By Dave Roos

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

By Mark Mancini

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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.

By Dave Roos

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.

By Nathan Chandler

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.

By Nathan Chandler

Nearly any discussion around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will include the word Zionism. But what does it even mean, and how has Zionism changed over the course of history?

By Dave Roos

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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.

By Dave Roos

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.

By Patrick J. Kiger

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.

By Melanie Radzicki McManus

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?

By Dave Roos

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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.

By Jesslyn Shields

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

By Tara Yarlagadda