If there’s one thing students of history agree on, it’s that there’s a lot of it. Seriously, do you know how many years there have been? By our count, just over two thousand. Plus there are six billion people alive on the planet right now, and those are just the living ones. How many have died? Probably like twice that. And all of them do things, like, every day! Mind blowing, right? Our point is that there is a lot of stuff that’s happened in the world, and we’ve noticed that some years seem to have consistent pretty consistent themes. What does this mean? Global Conspiracy? Aliens? Meaningless coincidence? No one can say for sure, but it’s definitely that last one.
10. 1439: The Year of Printing
Everyone knows that in 1439, Johannes Gutenberg invented movable type, paving the way for the proliferation of the written word, the explosion of communication, and the internet, which has now reached its zenith with list-based internet comedy, the highest form of art ever. But what you may not know is that also in 1439 there was born a man in China named Hua Sui, who would go on to perfect the moveable type in China. Which, considering they have a far more complicated written-language, puts the race to written-word supremacy about neck-and-neck at this point.
9. 1492: The Year of The Planet
In 1492 Christopher Columbus was like the ten millionth person to ever step foot on North America, “discovering” this “new world” full of weird animals and corn and complex societies that had existed for centuries upon centuries. So of course we have a day in his honor, where we celebrate his memory by dressing up in silly costumes, banging on our neighbor’s door and demanding candy. Unless I’m thinking of something else.
What you may not know is that 1492 was also the year that the Ming Dynasty in China monetized commercial transport of grain, which would have massive economic repercussions throughout the region. It’s also the year that the first ever “erdapfel” was built, which we now call a “globe” because we now as a society know that it’s really stupid to call anything an “erdapfel.” 1492 is also the year that the Ensisheim Meteorite fell, which also has stuff to do with planets because space.
8. 1543: The Year We Learned We Weren’t Special
If you’ve ever felt like you didn’t really matter in the world, then we’re very sorry to tell you that that feeling is correct, and it’s all because of 1543. This is the year that Copernicus came up with the idea of the heliocentric universe, challenging the idea that Earth is the center of everything and promptly having the crap murdered out of him.
This is also the year that Andreas Vesalius published the first ever accurate atlas of the human body (and also the first year someone went “eeewwww” at it), and the first time Japan obtained firearms, from a shipwrecked Portuguese vessel, thus connecting them to the rest of the world (through violence), making that world a little smaller and everything just a teency bit more explode-y.
7. 1564: The Year of the Story
This year saw the birth of two pioneers in the English Language: Christopher Marlowe (The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus, which has influenced every story you’re ever heard about someone who sold their soul to the devil, including that episode of Futurama) and William Frickin’ Shakespeare (I think he invented “Transformers”).
On top of that, this year marks the first report of a “Rat King,” a mythical creature formed when multiple rats’ tails grow together and they become a monster. It’s also one of the earliest example of an urban-centric myth.
It was also the year that Galileo Galilei was born, a man considered the father of modern science by both Einstein and Stephen but who, more importantly for this list, totally gets mentioned in this classic Queen Song. Also, without his theories we definitely wouldn’t have modern science fiction, but maybe that’s too much of a stretch.
6. 1776: The Year of Taking Charge and Ruling Things (Sometimes Secretly)
Obviously, 1776 is most notable in the United States for being the year that Common Sense was written and the Declaration of Independence was written, signed, and read publicly.
But on top of that, we have Adam Smith publishing An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of The Wealth of Nations, the document that would inform Classical Economic thought up until right frickin’ now today. The clincher? This is also the year that the Illuminati was founded. Coincidence? Coincidence?!?
5. 1783: the Year of Awesome
If you’ve ever fantasized about chasing wolves around in a hot air balloon while chugging whiskey as a volcano explodes in the background and meteors streak across the night sky, then man was 1783 the year for you. The first three human flights, the death of the last Grey Wolf in Ireland, the founding of Evan Williams’ distillery, the explosion of Laki in Iceland and the great meteor of 1783 all happened this year.
What do they have in common? All those things are awesome, except for the last Grey Wolf and the volcano, we guess, because both of those things involved an awful lot of death.
4. 1791: The Year of Communication
Remember, earlier, when we mentioned the printing press? This year blows that year out of the water: Not only was this the year that Claude Chappe and his brothers used telescopes and panels to, for the first time ever, communicate information faster than a letter could be carried, but this was also the year that Samuel Morse (inventor of Morse Code) was born. The Observer, the first ever Sunday Newspaper, was first published, American ships finally reached Japan, and the Bill of Rights was ratified, which promised Freedom of Expression to all Americans.
3. 1893: The Year of Sensationalism
1893 is the year that really kicked off the entertainment business: Carl Anton Larsen became the first person to ski Antarctica, which is the kind of thing people only do because they want other people to read about it. Sherlock Holmes was killed for the first time just as Conrad Veidt was being born — Veidt being an actor who would go on to play roles that would become the inspiration for Batman Villains The Joker and The Penguin. This is also the year of the World’s Fair in Chicago, the year that Thomas Edison built the first ever motion picture studio, and shows the 1st movie close-up (of a sneeze), Edison studio, West Orange, NJ
Perhaps most importantly, this is the year of the Lizzie Borden trial, which is commonly regarded as the first “trial by public opinion,” where speculation and gossip was deemed more important than facts or evidence. You’ll notice how that philosophy has since permeated everything we do.
2. 1916: The Year of the Woman
1916 was the year Zewditu I of Ethiopia, the first woman head of an internationally recognized state in Africa, took power, and also the year that Jeanette Rankin of Montana, first female Congressperson, was elected to the American House of Representatives. It’s also the year that Emma Goldman was arrested for lecturing for Birth Control, and the year Margaret Sanger opened the first US Birth Control clinic, taking major steps towards giving women sovereignty over their own bodies. Go women!
1. 1948: The Year Human Rights Got Popular
Probably due to a collective “oh crap” moment after World War 2, 1948 saw an explosion in Human Rights activism: Edith Mae Irby was the first African American woman admitted to The University of Arkansas for Medical Science in Little Rock, shortly after Mahatma Gandhi began fasting and was assassinated in India. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed by the UN, Baltimore County Medical Society dropped its racial bar and the US Military ended segregation. The House of Un-American Activities televised its meetings for the first time, an act that would eventually lead to its disgrace and disbandment. The infamous Shelley V. Kramer decision was also made, which made racially-restrictive covenants unconstitutional.
Unfortunately, the pendulum swung the other way pretty hard too, as this is the year Apartheid began its comprehensive implementation in South Africa, which would not be dismantled until 1994.
So some of this stuff is trivial, and the majority of it totally coincidental, but isn’t drawing weird connections in history fun?