Our history is full of dark times. Mankind has not always shown kindness to each other or the world around them. History is a scrapbook of the horrific actions man has enacted of his fellow man.
I recently went into an exhibition at a Renaissance Faire on the history of torture. I have done it and will not have a repeat visit. The idea that a human developed those methods of torture is hard to fathom. If hell is where you are given what you really deserve and it is customized, I think each of the people who created those methods have them performed on them over and over.
Here is a list of what could be considered the ten worst events in the history of mankind. They are not listed in any particular order other than as they came to mind or mentioned by others. Each of these eveits are hard to believe really happened, but they did. Man did this against each other.
Some of these are specific and others are general, but they are connected to other events. Detailed explanations are below.
This is one of the worst acts man has ever done to their own kind. While many others listed here are horrific, most of them there were done from a distance. This was an event where humans physically killed many others for no other reason than their bloodline, the Jews.
I want to pause here and note that the Jews were not the only ones who died or were shipped off to horrible concentration camps during this time. Anyone who got on the bad side of the Nazi were targeted: religious oppositionists, homosexuals, mentally or physically handicapped, or just those who did not agree with the Nazi platform. The Jews were the reason for the detailed planning.
The word Holocaust is currently defined as a mass death of a targeted group of people, but that is not the true defintion. Webster reveals the Jewish orgins as a "sacrifice consumed by fire". As the most common method to eradicate those of Jewish blood was to cremate them, Holocaust was used to describe the entire genocide.
The Nazi's entire impact on the world was horrific. The Holocaust was only one part of it, but it is the topic I chose to put in this list because it was so directed at humans. The Nazis planned concentration camps and executions like they were killing ants. Few had qualms about such acts. When the concentration camps were freed after the war, even hardened generals vomitted at the sight. If I had to say there was one particular event that showed the worst in mankind, this would be it.
Atomic Bomb Over Japan
This one act killed so many that day and many more afterwards as well as ushering a new era of war weapons. The Pacific portion of World War II seemed like a different world to that fought in Europe. Japan took advantage of the Nazi turmoil in Europe to expand their own lands. Then Japan attacked the US city of Pearl Harbor. America entered the war officially.
The Pacific theatre was intense with many lives lost. Japan even invaded a small portion of Alaska. America feared that Japan would attempt a bigger invastion. The war all around the world had to end. It seemed like it would never end.
America and Germany were in a race to develop a new type of bomb that would be completely devastating, worse thing the world had ever seen. Germany wanted it to take over the world. American wanted to use it to end it. Tests were conducted, but the full extent of the bomb was never fully realized as time was not on anyone's side. Two bombs were dropped over Japan, and the results were completely devasting. Worse than even America imagined.
There is no solid numbers on how many were killed. Buildings were leveled. People were actually evaporized into thin air. It is estimated in a very conservative report that around 75,000 people were killed in Nagasaki and twice that in Hiroshima. Many more died over the next several decades as the results of radiation were discovered.
Explanations were given as to why the bomb had to be dropped. Good arguments can be made for both sides, but no matter what arguments can be given for the bomb, it was still a horrific event. Many innocent people died. Many more could have if the bomb had been dropped into the harbor. As it was, the world learned the hard way what radiation did to nature and mankind.
Too often, this event is overlooked or just glossed over. The Crusades was an ugly blot on the history of mankind and Christianity. Much brutality was enacted and history hung its head in shame.
The home of Judiasm and Christianity was Jerusalem. Muslims also saw it as a holy place. Times in Europe were tough with a popluation explosion and too many noble heirs without anything to inherit. The Pope looked to Jerusalem to solve Europe's problems.
Muslims had taken over the area. As it was the home of Christianity and in the hands of non-Christians. That could not be tolerated. So the head of the Catholic church called for all knights and anyone who wanted to go the long journey to Jerusalem and take back the Holy Lands.
Over several years, the religious and poltiical battles ensured to culminate in what the Western World sees as more than four crusades, or waves of attacks on the Holy Lands to reclaim them. There many actions that would have gone against the current Geneva Convention that dictates the treatment of prisoners of war and even civilians. Accounts of all out murder and rape have been shushed by all.
Murder was done under the legitemized idea of religious war. The Western World saw it as a religious act that has been largely ignored. Muslims saw it as continued agression by the West. Both sides participated with the Christians seen as the main aggressors.
Most people would think of WWII before WWI in degree of being the worst. I think that is mainly because of the Nazis and the fact that so many are still alive today during this writing who lived through the war. It seems more real to us.
World War I was the first modern war the West had faced. More advanced weapons had been developed unlike the musket, sword, and cannon that had ruled the battlefield for centuries. The weapons were much more powerful and deadly which brought WWI to this list.
Rifles were the main weapon used and replaced the musket that had been used for many generations. Creative minds found a way to improve upon that and made the machine gun. The new gun could get off up to 600 rounds per minute. That was way more than a single rifle could produce from any talented soldier.
Flamethrowers were not necessarily new as it could be traced to ancient China, but in WWI they had been modified to be more powerful and to kill more at one time. Mortars were more advanced cannons, but it is the next set of weapons that truly transformed war.
Poison Gas was a real terror developed in WWI. Different concoctions were deployed that attacked the respiratory system and any soft tissue like the eyes. Thousands died from the thick gas released into the air, and it was not an easy way out of this life.
Tanks were a new mobile weapon that struck fear into those it faced. It could move over rough terrain and was basically a sophisticated cannon on wheels that was also tough enough to withstand gunfire at it.
Aircraft was used for the first time in warfare. Compared to today's military aircraft, they were like toys, but in the day they were something to be feared. Submarines were not new creations, but they were much more developed than the ones used in the American Civil War. Now the seas were more deadly than ever.
Europe was never the same again after WWI. It tore the continent apart, ripped families in two, and created new weapons that would only get more creative and ugly as they decades went by.
The Black Plague
This is one event that is still taked today, even though it ocurred nearly 800 years ago. It was an event that changed Europe drastically with millions dying from a very strange illness that became known as the Black Plague, or the Black Death.
It began in Asia and took our a large percentage of the population. Ships arrived in Europe with dead and dying crew. The Black Death swept over the European continent. Medically, modern day doctors know it as Yersina pestis. 'During the years that the disease spread rampant across the land, the cause and treatment were unknown. This led to fear taking control.
How does one rid themselves of being punished by God? You get rid of what is causing the punishment...heretics. Thousands of Jews and non-Christians were killed. Neighbors turned on each other out of fear.
Over a third of Europe's population was wiped out. Man turned on man. Superstition ran rampant. The world was hit hard by the massive deaths. It was never the same again.
European Colonization of Africa
This is one of the largest events that can still be felt today. European movement into the dark continent forever changed it as well as how it is today.
Africa was not divided as it is today. Yes, there were tribal boundaries, but the natives of the continent knew where they stood with each other. Europe's presence and involvement stirred way too many pots with no positive outcome at all.
Europeans carved of Africa in an attempt to colonize it and strip it of as many of its resources as they could. They did not follow tribal lines. Each country claimed it own area and that was that. It did not matter if it cut tribes in two or merged tribes. They did not care at all about the natives.
Because of these actions, tribes have been at constant war. It wasn't that they didn't war before Europeans appeared. European colonization intensified the strife and conflict. Through the Europeans, conflict was encouraged only to obtain resources.
It took many years before African countries gained their independence. Areas did not go back to the pre-colonization period. Too much time had passed. The lines of loyalty were forever changed.
Displacement of Native Americans
Displacement is just a mild word for this event. To be honest, there is no one word that gives justice to the horrific events poured out onto the Native Americans. They were murdered, ignorantly exposed to diseases (at times on purpose), shuffled about, and looked down upon. So sad to such a proud race.
The arrival of Europeans on the shores of the Americas marked the downfall of the Native Americans who were known initially only as Indians. They were taken as prisoners, killed if they tried to push the invaders away, or just murdered because the Europeans thought it would help them find gold faster.
That was only the beginning as the natives were pushed from their homelands. Battles raged between natives and invaders. A number of invaders saw the natives as an irritation that was to be wiped out. Other saw them as uncivilized and to be conquered and subjugated. Very few saw them as fellow humans which left little hope for the native population.
No matter where one stands on how deliberate the acts against Native Americans were, it is a dark blot on World History. It is a reflection of the views of most Europeans or that of European descent and inhuman treatment mankind can perform against each other.
The Spanish Inquisition
To me, this is a very dark part of man's history. It shows the dark and demonic hearts of those in power to do good. The Spanish Inquisition was just one of the many groups under the Catholic Church umbrella used to torture those considered to be heretics or non-believers.
Maybe I should have just referred to this as the Inquisition as the Spanish didn't have a monopoly on it. To sum it up, "Beginning in the 12th century and continuing for hundreds of years, the Inquisition is infamous for the severity of its tortures and its persecution of Jews and Muslims. Its worst manifestation was in Spain, where the Spanish Inquisition was a dominant force for more than 200 years, resulting in some 32,000 executions." (https://www.history.com/topics/religion/inquisition).
Some of the most hellish of tortures were devised by the Inquisition. They would make anyone confess to anything with the death the only possibility. It was horrific acts perpetrated under the auspices of the Catholic Church. Over time, Church leaders denounced the actions
It was a dark moment in Christianity and in World History.
The Mongol Expansion
My husband suggested I put this in the list. It hadn't occurred to me to use it, but upon thinking more on it, I agree. The Mongol expansion changed much of the East and Western world.
Genghis Khan took the Mongols from a barbaric tribe to a barbaric empire. He didn't just conquer lands. At times, he wiped them completely out. If a town surrendered to him, he demanded tribute and moved on. If it decided to stand against the barbarians, the town and all inhabitants were killed.
The lands of Western Europe, the MIddle East, and Asia changed as the Mongols pushed forward. It is even said that Genghis Khan's DNA can be found in millions of people today. He left his mark on the world but at a cost of many lives.
The Slave Trade
I will end this list with one that is beyond shameful and extremely horrific on a multitude of levels. There is no one bad person or group of people. The ones who are guilty extends across countries, ocean, and all levels of society. The slave trade from Africa was a prime example of inhumane behavior.
The slave trade was initiated by Africans. Tribes warred. They took slaves for their own gain, but that became a business when they found Europeans wanting cheap land expendable labor. Slaves were taken from Africa to Europe and the Americas where they were used as house servants, farm labor, and anything else that was needed.
That alone might not have been so bad if the treatment of them had not be so cruel after they had been sold to the Europeans. The trip in ships to the final ports resulted in a large majority of the slaves stuffed in unsanitary conditions in the holds of ships to die and be tossed overboard.
Those who made it to port were then treated like lifestock and sold to the highest bidder. They were sold to plantation owners, businessmen, and anyone who needed and could afford to purchase and maintain a slave.
Treatment of slaves varied from place to place. Some were treated well though they were still legally property. Others were beaten, tortured, and/or killed. Families were split apart and sold to other plantation owners. It was a horrible example of mankind's actions toward others.
Slavery was not a new concept. It had been around since the beginning of time. The slave trade became more commercialized and unhumane. Slaves had no chance for freedom. They were property and not even considered to be part of the race of mankind. That was the worst part of it all. Horrific actions toward one's own brother.
Too often, we think that in prior years life was better. In many instances, it was much worse. We also like to believe that mankind is good. History says otherwise. Mankind can be horrible, especially to each other.
I'm sure there are many other instances that can be added to this. It's horrible to think of these events at all much less that there are so many others.
Donna Rayne from Greenwood, Indiana on February 27, 2020:
Rebecca, this is a very informative article... Thank you for sharing it!
Atasie Chibuike Augustine from Abuja, Nigeria on December 31, 2019:
Don't just call it "The Slave Trade", call it what it is; "The European Transatlantic Slave Trade". The West has always tactically tried to dissociate their identity from the horrendous event they themselves orchestrated. They are very quick to tag other slave trades with the people involved e.g the Arab Slave Trade. But when it comes to theirs, they don't tag themselves. Once again, it is the EUROPEAN Transatlantic Slave Trade. Thanks you, and Happy New Year!