The 10 Most Shocking Historical Events

Throughout the course of history, the world has witnessed a multitude of catastrophic events. Dating right back to the horrors of the atlantic slave trade during the eighteenth century to the terror attacks of September 11 2001, these historical events have shaped and continue to mould our worldview. Indeed, some of these historical events have decidedly altered cultures around the globe, effectively bringing a whole new way of thinking into being. In some cases, the question begs as to whether we will ever learn from that which has gone before, as we continue to repeat the actions taken by our predecessors. Are those who cannot remember the past doomed to repeat it, as the Spanish writer George Santayana once proclaimed?
In a letter to a friend, Plato once wrote that ‘it is only the dead who have seen the end of war.’ The course of history has witnessed massive bloodshed and loss of life at the hands of warfare. It continues to do so, as the world stands by and watches continued armed conflict in Egypt, Afghanistan, Chechnya and the Ukraine to name but a few countries. Here, the focus is on man-made calamities throughout history.
Whether or not we were living at the time of the atrocities featured on this list, these events are etched into the minds of individuals globally. They have influenced the scale of time and continue to be taught in classrooms around the world. William Faulkner reminds us that, ‘the past is never dead. It’s not even past’ in his 1950 novel Requiem for a Nun. It bodes well to remember his words in this historical moment more than ever. This list of the world’s most shocking historical moments gives pause for thought.


A reactor at a nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine exploded on 26 April, 1986. According to a report carried out by the BBC, the explosion released ‘at least 100 times more radiation’ than the atomic bombs detonated in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The seriousness of the event was not immediately recognised. Two individuals died on the day of the explosion, followed by an additional 29 deaths due to radiation in the weeks following the accident. However, to this day the long-term effects of the explosion in the form of cancers and physical and mental deformities resulting from radiation exposure are still being accounted for.


On the 7th of December 1941, the Japanese military forces launched an attack without warning dubbed ‘Operation Z’ on Pearl Harbour, a United States naval base. This resulted in the death of over 2,000 U.S. combatants and civilians, wounding an additional 1,178. Franklin D. Roosevelt declared the date as one ‘that will live in infamy.’ The U.S. declared war on Japan the following day, the 8th of December 1941, leading them directly into WWII.


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