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15 History Questions People Always Get Wrong

If you can get 12 out of 15 correct, you’re a certified history buff!

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History questions - what was the largest contiguous empire in history?Photo: Shutterstock / Brett Walther

1. What Was the Largest Contiguous Empire in History?

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Genghis Khan paintingPhoto: Shutterstock

The Answer:

When Genghis Khan united North East Asian tribes to form the Mongol Empire, he created an empire that would span nearly 15 million contiguous square kilometres at its peak in 1270. (Give yourself bonus points if you can guess which famous building is as old as the Mongol leader.) The British Empire encompassed a whopping 22 million square kilometres in 1920, but its territories were scattered around the globe.

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History questions - who discovered America?Photo: Shutterstock / Brett Walther

2. Who Discovered America?

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Painting of Christopher ColumbusPhoto: Shutterstock

The Answer:

First of all, let’s not ignore the fact that the Indigenous peoples arrived 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, Viking Leif Erikson landed in Canada. Columbus didn’t set foot in any of North America during any of his four trips—only Caribbean Islands and Central and South America.

Find out what happened in 1816—the year Canada didn’t have a summer.

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History questions - What does the D in D-Day stand for?Photo: Shutterstock / Brett Walther

3. What Does the D in D-Day Stand For?

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Normandy landings in WWIIPhoto: Shutterstock

The Answer:

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.

Read the fascinating story of how Cree code talkers from Alberta helped win the Second World War.

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History questions - when was Russia's "Red October" revolution?Photo: Shutterstock / Brett Walther

4. When Was Russia’s “Red October” Revolution?

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Russian Revolution, 1917Photo: Shutterstock

The Answer:

Surprise! The 1917 revolution that established the Soviet regime occurred on Nov. 7. At that point, Russia was using the Julian calendar, which marked that date as Oct. 25.

Love learning something new? Check out 75 mind-blowing facts you’ll think are made up (but aren’t).

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History questions - when was the War of 1812?Photo: Shutterstock

5. When Was the War of 1812?

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History questions - Brock's monument in Queenston Heights, War of 1812Photo: AP Group of Photographers/Shutterstock

The Answer:

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.

Find out the famous last words of 20 historical figures.

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History questions - Who fought in the French and Indian War?Photo: Shutterstock / Brett Walther

6. Who Fought in the French and Indian War?

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French and Indian War re-enactmentPhoto: stephen mulcahey/Shutterstock

The Answer:

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.

Can you answer these real Jeopardy! questions about geography?

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History questions 7 - who invented the automobilePhoto: Shutterstock / Brett Walther

7. Who Invented the Automobile?

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Model T FordPhoto: David Wayne Buck/Shutterstock

The Answer:

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.

Check out these obsolete inventions people thought would last forever…

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History questions - when was the Declaration of Independence signed?Photo: Shutterstock / Brett Walther

8. When Was the Declaration of Independence Signed?

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History questions - Signing the Declaration of IndependenceIllustration: Shutterstock

The Answer:

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.

Here are 10 historical figures you’ve been picturing all wrong.

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History questions - who was the first to settle in what's now the United States?Photo: Shutterstock / Brett Walther

9. Who Was the First to Settle in What’s Now the United States?

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History questions - St. Augustine, FloridaPhoto: Shutterstock

The Answer:

Chances are, you answered the English—but the Spanish actually beat them. Jamestown, Virginia, the first British colony, was founded in 1607, but Fort Caroline, likely the first European colony on now-U.S. soil, was built in 1564 in what’s now Florida. That didn’t survive, but the oldest American city still standing—St. Augustine, Florida—was founded by the Spanish the following year.

Here are more cities you learned about in school that no longer exist.

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History questions - why did the Pilgrims come to America?Photo: Shutterstock / Brett Walther

10. Why Did the Pilgrims Come to America?

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Pilgrims on the MayflowerPhoto: Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock

The Answer:

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.

Looking for laughs? These silly history jokes are sure to put a smile on your face.

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History questions - Which African country named its capital after a U.S. president?Photo: Shutterstock / Brett Walther

11. Which African Country Named its Capital After a U.S. President?

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Monrovia capital of Liberia - on a mapPhoto: Shutterstock

The Answer:

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.

Find out 30 geography mistakes everyone makes.

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History questions - Which U.S. Civil War battle had the most casualties in any single day fight?Photo: Shutterstock / Brett Walther

12. Which U.S. Civil War Battle Had the Most Casualties in any Single-Day Fight?

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Battle of Antietam site in MarylandPhoto: Shutterstock

The Answer:

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.

Try your hand at these Jeopardy! questions even champions got wrong.

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History questions - which pharaoh led the construction of the Pyramids of Giza?Photo: Shutterstock / Brett Walther

13. Which Pharaoh Led the Construction of the Pyramids of Giza?

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Pyramids in Giza, EgyptPhoto: Shutterstock

The Answer:

Around 2550 B.C.E., 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.E. by Pharaoh Menkaure. Cleopatra, who lived from 69 B.C.E. to 30 B.C.E., lived closer to the invention of the iPhone than to the construction of any of the Pyramids of Giza.

Thought the pyramids were built by slaves? Think again!

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History questions - What was the shortest war in history? Photo: Shutterstock / Brett Walther

14. What Was the Shortest War in History?

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Masai tribe in ZanzibarPhoto: Shutterstock

The Answer:

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.

Find out more history lessons your teacher lied to you about.

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History questions - Where was Adolf Hitler born?Photo: Shutterstock / Brett Walther

15. Where Was Adolf Hitler Born?

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Adolf HitlerPhoto: Everett Historical/Shutterstock

The Answer:

The dictator was born in Braunau am Inn, Austria, a town that sits along the German border.

How did you fare with these history questions? Next, test your broad-based knowledge with 100 tough trivia questions.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest