History Questions People Always Get Wrong
If you can get 12 out of 15 correct, you’re a certified history buff!
15 Tricky History Questions
Question #1: What was the largest contiguous empire in history?
When Genghis Khan united North East Asian tribes to form the Mongol Empire, he created an empire that would span nearly 23 million contiguous square kilometres at its peak in 1270. The British Empire encompassed more land—nearly a quarter of the world’s land surface—at its peak, but its territories were scattered around the globe.
First of all, let’s not ignore the fact that Indigenous peoples lived in the Americas about 23,000 years ago. Even if these history questions just focused on the first Europeans to arrive, Christopher Columbus still can’t claim the glory. About 400 years before Columbus sailed the ocean blue, Vikings landed in Canada. Columbus didn’t set foot in North America during any of his four trips—only Caribbean Islands and Central and South America.
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Trick question—the letter is a placeholder and doesn’t stand for anything, despite claims that it stands for “deliverance” or “doom.” Meanwhile, H-Hour referred to the time the fighting began. For instance, D+1 meant the day after D-Day, while H-2 meant two hours before the action.
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You knew this would be one of those trick history questions. The war between the United States and Great Britain and its allies didn’t last just one year. The fighting continued from June 1812 to February 1815. Above, the monument to Major General Sir Isaac Brock, who died in the British victory at the Battle of Queenston Heights on October 13, 1812.
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Also known as the Seven Years’ War, the conflict involved the French and British fighting over North American land rights. The British won, earning the empire huge territorial gains.
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French inventor Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot created a steam-powered vehicle in 1769, but it couldn’t even go five kilometres per hour. Henry Ford wasn’t the first to invent a gasoline-powered automobile (that was Karl Benz in 1886) or even to create an American car on an assembly line (that was Ransom Olds in 1901), but Ford’s Model T did dominate the market for reliability, simplicity and affordability.
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Question #8: When was the Declaration of Independence signed?
The United States celebrates its independence on the Fourth of July, but that’s not actually when the document was signed. The country declared its independence on July 2, 1776, which John Adams wrote would become “the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America.” The final draft was completed and approved by Congress two days later (July 4) but wasn’t signed until August 2.
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Chances are, you answered the English—but the Spanish actually beat them. Jamestown, Virginia, the first British colony, was founded in 1607, but St. Augustine, likely the first permanent European colony on now-U.S. soil, was built in 1565 in what’s now Florida.
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To say the group was looking for religious freedom simplifies its decision to make the dangerous voyage to the New World. The Separatists first fled to the Netherlands for about 12 years to escape laws forcing them to follow the Church of England. There, they enjoyed religious freedom, but it was hard to support a family in the foreign country, and the congregation was afraid they would lose their English identities—and lose their young to the tempting lifestyle of soldiers and sailors. Eventually, they got money from investors to go to America, where they could worship how they wanted without giving up their English ways of living.
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Question #11: Which African country named its capital after a U.S. President?
The American Colonization Society established an African colony in 1822 as a new home for freed slaves. In 1847, the settlement gained its independence and became the country of Liberia. Its capital, Monrovia, was named for James Monroe, who was president from 1817 to 1825.
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The Battle of Antietam had 22,726 casualties in just one day. There were more than 51,000 killed, wounded, missing, and captured in Gettysburg—more than the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and Mexican War combined—but that battle lasted for three days.
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Question #13: Which pharaoh led the construction of the Pyramids of Giza?
Around 2550 B.C., Pharaoh Khufu launched construction of the first and biggest pyramid. About 30 years later, his son, Pharaoh Khafre built the second one and the Sphinx, and the last was started around 2490 B.C. by Pharaoh Menkaure. Cleopatra, who lived from 69 B.C. to 30 B.C., lived closer to the invention of the iPhone than to the construction of any of the Pyramids of Giza.
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You won’t find many history questions about this war in social studies textbooks. During the Anglo-Zanzibar War of 1896, the East African island state Zanzibar fought back against the British Empire. The fighting began at 9 a.m. on Aug. 26 and ended by 9:40 a.m., making the world’s shortest war a mere 38 minutes long.
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