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World History

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

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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 the Dead Sea Scrolls Work

The origins of the Dead Sea Scrolls have baffled scholars since their discovery in 1947. Who wrote these ancient texts and what do they mean about the history of Judaism?

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.

'Comfort Women': The Past and Present of Japan's Forced WWII Prostitutes

In this episode of Stuff Mom Never Told You, Cristen and Caroline explain the history of the women forced into prostitution for Japanese soldiers during World War II.

10 Most Short-lived Countries

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

Mysterious First Settlers of Madagascar Identified by Ancient Seeds

Linguistic and cultural clues have long suggested Madagascar's prehistoric human settlers came from Southeast Asia, but now scientists have found physical proof.

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.

Tragic History: The Bioethical Boondoggle in Guatemala

In the mid-20th century, STDS were a big problem, and penicillin was a potential solution. In an experiment gone badly awry, U.S. scientists brought the two together.

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.

How did people discover liquor?

Think of a flavor, any flavor -- from apple to zucchini -- and there's probably a liquor-based beverage out there incorporating it. Find out how the hard stuff probably got its start.

How Apartheid Worked

Apartheid, which means "apartness" in Afrikaans, was an era of extreme, legalized racism that subjugated South Africa's black majority for decades. How did Apartheid come about, and how did it survive into the 1990s?

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?

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