5 Romances That Changed History

5 Romances That Changed History

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1. Cleopatra and Mark Antony

Cleopatra VII of Egypt is often remembered for her legendary powers of seduction and mastery at building shrewd alliances. Still, her final political and romantic partnership—with the Roman general Mark Antony—brought about the deaths of both lovers and toppled the centuries-old Ptolemaic dynasty to which she belonged. In 41 B.C., Antony took up the administration of Rome’s eastern provinces, and he summoned Cleopatra to answer charges that she had aided his enemies. Hoping to woo Antony as she had Julius Caesar before him, Cleopatra arrived on a magnificent river barge dressed as Venus, the Roman god of love. A besotted Antony followed her back to Alexandria, pledging to protect Egypt and Cleopatra’s crown. The next year he returned to Rome to prove his loyalty by marrying the half-sister of his co-ruler, Octavian; Cleopatra, meanwhile, gave birth to Antony’s twins and continued to rule over an increasingly prosperous Egypt.

Antony returned to Cleopatra several years later and declared her son Caesarion—believed to be Caesar’s child—as Caesar’s rightful heir. This launched a war of propaganda with the furious Octavian, who claimed that Antony was entirely under Cleopatra’s control and would abandon Rome to found a new capital in Egypt. In 32 B.C. Octavian declared war on Cleopatra, and in 31 B.C. his forces trounced those of Antony and Cleopatra in the Battle of Actium. The following year, Octavian reached Alexandria and again defeated Antony. In the aftermath of the battle, Cleopatra took refuge in the mausoleum she had commissioned for herself. Antony, falsely informed that Cleopatra was dead, stabbed himself with his sword. On August 12, 30 B.C., after burying Antony and meeting with the victorious Octavian, Cleopatra closed herself in her chamber with two of her female servants and committed suicide. According to her wishes, Cleopatra’s body was buried with Antony’s, leaving Octavian (later Emperor Augustus I) to celebrate his conquest of Egypt and his consolidation of power in Rome.

2. Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn

While historians recognize that a combination of factors transformed England into a Protestant nation, Henry VIII’s fleeting but intense infatuation with a charismatic young woman named Anne Boleyn clearly had a hand in it. By 1525, the middle-aged monarch had soured on his first wife, the devoutly Catholic and immensely popular Catherine of Aragon, who had failed to bear him a male heir. His notoriously wandering eye came to rest on Anne, a cunning and beautiful lady-in-waiting whose father was an ambitious knight and diplomat. Unlike her sister Mary, one of his former conquests, Anne snubbed the king’s elaborate overtures and refused to be seduced without a promise of matrimony. In 1527 Henry asked Pope Clement VII for an annulment of his marriage to Catherine and was refused. Encouraged by advisors critical of the papacy, he secretly wed Anne in 1533, breaking with the Roman Catholic Church and appointing himself head of the Church of England shortly thereafter.

Henry’s enchantment with his second queen quickly began to fade, particularly when she too proved incapable of producing him the male heir he so desperately desired. In 1536 the king had Anne arrested and beheaded on plainly false charges of witchcraft, incest and adultery; he married Jane Seymour, the third of his six wives, 11 days later. In the decades that followed, questions surrounding the official state religion would continue to fracture and weaken the kingdom, and it was not until the 44-year reign of Elizabeth I, Henry’s daughter with Anne, that a permanent English Protestant church was established.

3. Pierre and Marie Curie

When Marie Sklodowska wed Pierre Curie in 1895, the couple embarked on an extraordinary partnership that would earn them international renown and influence generations of scientists. Born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1867, the brilliant Marie received degrees in physical sciences and mathematics from the Sorbonne in Paris. In 1894 she met Pierre Curie, a noted French physicist and chemist eight years her senior. The pair immediately bonded over their mutual interest in magnetism and fondness for cycling, and a year later they were married. Looking for a subject for her doctoral thesis and intrigued by the physicist Henri Becquerel’s accidental discovery of radioactivity in 1896, Marie Curie began studying uranium rays; soon, Pierre joined her in her research. In 1898, a year after the arrival of their daughter Irène, the Curies discovered polonium—named after Marie’s homeland—and radium. In 1902 they successfully isolated radioactive radium salts from the mineral pitchblende. The following year, the couple shared the Nobel Prize in physics with Becquerel for their groundbreaking work on radioactivity.

In 1904 Marie gave birth to a second daughter and Pierre was appointed to the chair of physics at the Sorbonne. Two years later, he was killed in an accident on a Paris street. Although devastated, Marie vowed to continue her work and was appointed to her husband’s seat at the Sorbonne, becoming the university’s first female professor. She later grew interested in the medical applications of radioactive substances, including the potential of radium as a cancer therapy, and directed the Radium Institute at the University of Paris, a major center for chemistry and nuclear physics. Marie died in 1934 from leukemia caused by four decades of exposure to radioactive substances. Irène Curie carried on the family tradition, sharing the 1935 Nobel Prize for chemistry with her own husband for their discovery of artificial radioactivity.

4. Czar Nicholas II and Alix of Hesse

Set against the backdrop of revolutionary turmoil, featuring an opportunistic mystic and hinging on an incurable bleeding disease, their tale had all the melodramatic elements of a sensational opera. (Indeed, it has inspired at least two.) The granddaughter of England’s Queen Victoria, Alix Victoria Helena Louise Beatrice—later known as Alexandra Feodorovna Romanov—rejected an arranged marriage to her first cousin, Prince Albert Victor, after falling in love with Nicholas, heir to the Russian throne, as a teenager in 1889. Equally smitten, her lover convinced his reluctant, ailing father to agree to the union, and the pair wed in November 1894, just several weeks after the czar’s death and Nicholas’ coronation.

Though forged amid great sadness, the marriage was a happy and passionate one, producing four daughters and a son, Alexei. From his father the young czarevitch inherited the claim to the Russian throne, but his mother bequeathed him a more burdensome legacy: the mutant gene for the clotting disorder hemophilia, of which both Alexandra and her grandmother Victoria were carriers. Terrified of losing Alexei, his parents became increasingly reliant on the controversial “mad monk” Grigori Rasputin, whose hypnosis treatments seemed to slow the boy’s hemorrhages. Rasputin’s political influence over the czar and czarina undermined the Russian public’s confidence in the Romanov dynasty and contributed to its overthrow during the February Revolution in 1917. Nicholas, Alexandra and their children were executed on July 16, 1918, on orders from Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin. Indirectly, at least, the royal couple’s romance had opened a new and bloody chapter in Russia’s history.

5. Mildred and Richard Loving

Richard Loving, a white man, met Mildred Jeter, a family friend who was of African and Native American descent, when both were teenagers, and their relationship quickly blossomed into romance. In June 1958 the couple drove 80 miles from their native Virginia, where so-called “anti-miscegenation” laws made interracial unions illegal, to exchange their vows in Washington, D.C. Five weeks later, police officers walked through their unlocked front door and awakened the newlyweds in the middle of the night. When a sheriff asked what he was “doing in bed with this lady,” 24-year-old Richard simply pointed at the marriage certificate hanging on the wall. Arrested and charged with “cohabiting as man and wife, against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth,” the Lovings were sentenced to one year in prison or a 25-year exile from their home state.

The couple relocated to Washington, where they lived for five years and had three children. Missing their family and friends back home, in 1963 they contacted U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, who referred them to the American Civil Liberties Union. Volunteer lawyers ultimately took the case all the way to the Supreme Court, which in the landmark Loving v. Virginia decision of 1967 unanimously ruled that bans on racial intermarriage in Virginia and 15 other states were unconstitutional. Richard was killed in a car crash in 1975, and Mildred remained in the Virginia house he had built her until her death in 2008.

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8 Interracial Relationships That Changed History

PBS Black Culture Connection, PBS Learning Media, and have teamed up on a special feature about interracial relationships and marriages that have changed history around the world. Join us as we delve into the racial climate of different nations and their views of interracial relationships over the centuries through the lens of groundbreaking rulings, cases, and people who have shifted our social attitudes to what they are today.

Read the list below or view our infographic on relationships that have changed history!

How Gender Roles Throughout History Have Changed

When we talk about gender roles, one thing everyone seems to wonder is to what extent they're biological and to what extend they're culturally influenced. One way to answer this question is to look at how gender roles throughout history and in other cultures compare to our own. After all, if something is completely biological, we'd expect it to exist since the birth of humanity and be the same everywhere — but many gender norms are not.

The valorization of current, Western gender roles as "natural" is one example of how sexism and racism can intersect. In the process of promoting social norms that typically denigrate women, this belief system also discounts other cultures that do things differently. The truth is, some of the norms that seem innate and automatic to us might seem unnatural and absurd to people from other cultures. In reality, nobody's conventions are natural or unnatural. The only thing negative about any culture's gender roles is the fact that they're imposed on people, often based on a hierarchy that relegates women and non-binary people to the bottom.

Here are a few gender roles from other places and times that you might be surprised by — because they show that the modern, American way of doing things isn't the only way.

1. Pink And Blue Once Had The Reverse Gender Connotations

There have been a number of scientific speculations about why girls like pink. A 2007 paper in Current Biology theorized that women's preference for pinker hues relates to the tendency for our female ancestors to pick berries while the men hunted. However, pink has not always been considered a feminine color. In fact, in the early 20th century, pink was considered more of a boys' color. A 1918 issue of the trade publication Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department reads:

This passage highlights not only how we project gender onto inherently gender neutral things like colors, but also how we project gendered qualities, like "delicate and dainty," onto them. We might think pink was ascribed to girls because it's a pretty, soft color, but in fact, it's more likely the other way around: We see it that way because it's associated with girls.

For the most part, though, pink was gender neutral for the majority of American history and instead has symbolized health, class, and age during various time periods, according to an investigation in The Atlantic.

2. Computer Programming Was Once Considered Women's Work

If you think the lack of gender diversity in tech is a result of innate discrepancies in abilities, think again: Coding was once considered women's work. The person who laid down the vision for the first computers was Ada Lovelace, a countess born in 1815. In the 1940s, when the first computers were built, it was primarily women mathematicians who wrote the programs. (This job was considered below men, who built the hardware.) And during the '60s and '70s, the number of women studying computer science was increasing at a faster rate than the number of men.

Historian Brenda D. Frink explains on Stanford's website that when computer science was an emerging field, women were encouraged to get into it because it was viewed as menial labor and therefore deemed feminine. Computer scientist Dr. Grace Hopper told Cosmopolitan in 1967 that the profession was “just like planning a dinner. You have to plan ahead and schedule everything so that it’s ready when you need it. . Women are ‘naturals’ at computer programming.” But now that the field is male-dominated, it's considered prestigious and highly intellectual.

3. In Russia, Doctors Are "Feminine"

According to a 1983 issue of The Kingman Daily Miner, at the time, 70 to 75 percent of doctors in Russia were women. "Medical practice is stereotyped as a caring vocation ‘naturally suited‘ to women, [which puts it at] a second-class level in the Soviet psyche," nurse practitioner Carol Schmidt, who toured Moscow's medical facilities, told the paper. “Their status and pay are more like our blue-collar workers, even though they require about the same amount of training as the American doctor."

While more recent statistics aren't available online, comments from the Royal College of Physicians's president in 2004 about the tendency for medicine to be less valued in Russia because it's female-dominated suggest this pattern has persisted. Indeed, medicine is one of the lowest-paying professions in Russia.

In the United States, where only a third of doctors are women, the concept of doctors as masculine is so engrained in us that in one experiment at Boston University, people weren't able to solve a riddle because the solution requires considering that the doctor in the story is a woman. In the riddle, a boy survives a car crash, in which his father dies, and then encounters a doctor in the ER who calls him their son. Americans tend to guess the boy has two gay dads or the doctor is a ghost because they don't consider that the doctor could be his mother.

4. Women In Israel Are Required To Serve In The Army

Both men and women are required to serve in Israel's military, which is considered one of the world's most powerful militaries. According to the Jewish Women's Archive, a third of drafted members and around 20 percent of the standing professional army in Israel consists of women. (It's less than half because women's required military service is for a shorter time period and there are certain exemptions from drafts).

The idea of including women in combat is not new or limited to Israel. Prominent women warriors existed in native Hawaii, in ancient Egypt, and, of course, among the Amazons of ancient Greece. And they exist in the United States and all over the world today despite prejudices against them.

5. Women Were Considered The More Sexual Gender In Medieval Europe

Based on modern day sitcoms and jokes, you would think sex was something women just passively went along with in order to please other people. But in Medieval Europe, women's sex drives were considered very strong and often a threat. Saint Isidore of Seville called women "more libidinous than men," and Saint Jerome wrote, "women's love in general is accused of ever being insatiable put it out, it bursts into flame give it plenty, it is again in need it enervates a man's mind, and engrosses all thought except for the passion which it feeds."

According to a paper in Signs, the myth that women are less sexual arose during the 19th century, as the Protestant church tightened its control over women's sexuality and women presented themselves as more pure than men in order to bolster their status.

There are many more gender roles from other cultures and time periods that are different from the ones you may know, but these alone should give you reason to question any social norms that seem like a given or human nature.

5 Epic Battles That Changed History Forever

History is filled with battles that have shaped world events. Here are the true game changers.

Battles can make or break states and change the destiny of nations forever. As such, they represent some of humanity’s most important events. While there have been dozens of important, interesting battles over the past five thousand years of recorded warfare, here are five that changed history forever, though by no means is this list exhaustive. Instead, I have selected a wide range of battles from across different regions and times and have specifically avoided focusing on more well-known modern battles, many of which will be covered by The National Interest soon to mark the end of the Napoleonic Wars and World War II.

Milvian Bridge (313)

This seemingly random skirmish should have been just another battle in a series of long-forgotten skirmishes in the civil wars that consumed the Roman Empire during much of the third century. However, the fact that Constantine the Great won the battle to become the Roman Emperor was a major event in world history.

Constantine, who was fighting to become emperor, arrived near Rome to fight an army twice the size of his. The night before the battle, he allegedly saw a cross or chi-rho sign in the sky with the words “by this sign, you shall conquer.” He ordered his soldiers to paint the cross onto their shields and won the subsequent battle, becoming emperor in the process. He then began to patronize Christianity, leading to its spread from a small persecuted sect to the official religion of the empire by 380. His actions led to the establishment of an organized sort of Christianity that would play an important role in the Western world’s subsequent development. It is also inconceivable that Islam would take root and become so widespread had Christianity not first changed the religious orientation of much of the world away from polytheism toward monotheism.

Manzikert (1071)

Though not as well known as the later fall of Constantinople in 1453, the Battle of Manzikert was the what led to the inevitable crash of the Byzantine Empire, the Crusades, and the rise of Turkish power in Anatolia (the peninsula that makes up most of Turkey today).

The base of Byzantine power was Anatolia, rather than Greece itself. Just compare the population of Greece today (around 11 million) to Turkey (around 75 million). Anatolia was the base of Byzantine power in asserting control over the Balkans and parts of Italy and the Middle East. The Caliphs of Baghdad had ceased to hold effective power by 900 and a number of independent Islamic states arose on the Byzantine frontier, while the Caliphs themselves became puppets of temporal rulers.

In an attempt to correct this, the Caliphs invited Turkic warriors to restore them, but this did not work and led instead to the creation of a new power, the Great Seljuk Turk Empire, which stretched from Central Asia to Turkey. The Seljuks under Sultan Alp Arslan began entering Byzantine territory, which lead to a response under the Emperor Romanos IV Diogenes. The two armies met in eastern Anatolia in 1071. Half the Byzantine army didn’t even fight due to internal Byzantine politics leading to treachery. The Byzantine Emperor was captured and though released, the Empire fell into civil war.

Within a decade, the empire lost most of its heartland and had to call for help from the Pope, which lead to the Crusades. In the meantime, the Seljuks also captured Jerusalem from the Shia Fatimid Egyptian dynasty in 1073, making conditions worse for everyone there.

Second Battle of Tarain (1192)

The relatively obscure Second Battle of Tarain was ultimately the most important battle in the Indian subcontinent’s history because it made it what it is today. In geopolitical terms, the battle led to South Asia becoming politically a part of the greater Islamic world to its west.

Until the 12th century, most of India, one of the world’s wealthiest regions, was ruled by native Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms, though Islamic states had made some inroads into northwest India (parts of today’s Pakistan). However, in the late 12th century, one Muhammad of Ghor, a local ruler in today’s Afghanistan decided to do more than just raid India for loot—he wanted to establish a permanent Islamic empire in the subcontinent.

After conquering much of what is today Pakistan, he came face to face with a large Rajput (a Hindu warrior caste) coalition led by commander Prithviraj Chauhan at Tarain (near Delhi) in 1191, where he was defeated. The next year, he returned with 120,000 men against the Rajputs’ 300,000 (likely exaggerations). At the Second Battle of Tarain, he used his swift cavalry to break the Hindu forces by charging their center and scaring their elephants, winning decisively and killing their Chauhan.

After removing the main coalition against his rule in the fertile northern Indian heartland, Muhammad of Ghor’s armies swept over all of north India, reaching Bengal by 1200, and pretty much destroying Indian Buddhism en route. Most of India eventually came under Islamic rule, with the subsequent establishment of the Delhi Sultanate (1206) and the Mughal Empire (1526). This laid the groundwork for the future states of Pakistan and Bangladesh and strong empires like the Mughals that were able to unite most of South Asia. The largest concentration of Muslims in the world today is in South Asia.

Meanwhile, Hindus, who form the majority in the region reacted toward Muslim ruler in a variety of ways—resistance, collaboration, enmity, alliance. None of this was inevitable or even likely had the Muslims not won at Tarain.

Battle of Ain Jalut (1260)

This was the battle that stopped the previously unstoppable Mongol juggernaut and preventing them from advancing further in the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. Mongol armies clashed against a Mamluk force in modern day Israel in 1260, after destroying Baghdad in 1258. The Mamluks were a military caste of Muslim soldiers descended from slaves who had their base in Egypt. The Mongols were led by a secondary commander as their leader Hulagu Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan, had returned home due to a succession dispute. He was aiming to conquer the Levant and Egypt.

Both forces had over 20,000 men. However, the Mamluks defeated the Mongols using an old Mongol tactic, drawing them into an ambush. The Mamluk leader Qutuz, who had actually been captured by the Mongols and sold as a slave, hid most of his cavalry in the hills around the plain and ordered a small force forward in order to provoke a Mongol attack. This caused the Mongols to charge into the Mamluk trap. The battle marked the first time the Mongols were defeated in open battle.

The legacy of Ain Jalut was the fact that it preserved much of the Islamic World and Europe against further Mongol onslaught by preventing them from moving further west and proved that the Mongols could be beaten. Shortly after, the united Mongol front for world conquest fell apart and Mongols began fighting one another.

Battle of Cajamarca (1532)

The Battle of Cajamarca was fought in the Andes Mountains of modern day northern Peru between the Spanish under Francisco Pizarro and the Incas led by the Emperor Atahualpa. It was one of the weirdest battles in history because of the disproportionate numbers the two sides had.

Pizarro ventured deep into the heart of the Inca Empire with only 168 men in 1532, a number so small as to defy belief, especially since it seems like Pizarro’s plan was conquest from the beginning. Pizarro had studied the previous conquests of Hernan Cortes in Mexico, where that Spanish conquistador had defeated the much more numerous Aztec Empire with only a thousand men.

In order to defeat the Incas, he resorted to deceit and leveraging his advantages. Feigning benign intentions, he arranged to meet with Atahualpa, who brought 80,000 warriors to the meeting in the town square of Cajamarca (most were encamped outside the town). In a bold move, Pizarro captured the Atahualpa and killed most of his major commanders with no loss to his men using his horses, guns, and steel to shock the Incas, who were not expecting a battle and who lost over two thousand men. The main Inca army was thrown into a rout and scattered.

Pizarro’s control over the Inca emperor led to his control of his empire, first through puppets and later directly. The destiny of most of a continent was sealed as a Spanish colony for the next three hundred years. The silver mined in Peru flooded the world market and led to the increased monetization of the world economy, in places as far away as Europe and China.

Akhilesh Pillalamarri is an assistant editor at the National Interest. You can follow him on Twitter:@AkhiPill.

5 Tanks That Changed History

Only the most techno-fanatic would argue that a certain type of tank has changed history. There are so many other causes -- military, political, economic, social -- that explain victory and defeat far better than size of gun or thickness of armor.

And yet, certain tanks have gone down in history not for what they were, but what they symbolized. Whether those tanks were the best tanks, measured by whatever subjective factors define "best," doesn't matter. The fact is that in historical memory, certain tanks will forever be associated with certain conflicts.

Consider these five tanks and their influence on history:

British Mark IV:

Laugh if you must at the funny-looking rhomboid that looks like the tank factory forgot to add a turret. By today's standards, the Mark IV's half-inch of armor was a joke. Its armament of small cannon and machine guns was feeble, its speed of four miles per hour slower than an infantryman.

Except that the tank could cross No Man's Land and survive, while the infantryman could not. For most of the First World War, the Allied armies had battered themselves bloody against German defenses. Machine guns, artillery and barbed wire suggested a future where technology created battlefield stalemate. Where an attacker -- no matter how many weeks his artillery barrage pounded the defender or how many men went over the top -- could only look forward to seizing a few hundred miserable yards of blood-soaked ground.

The Mark IV symbolized technology's ability to break that stalemate by knocking out machine guns and trampling barbed wire, thus enabling the "Poor Bloody Infantry" to achieve a breakthrough. Not that there weren't more important reasons why Imperial Germany sued for peace in 1918. Its armies were tired and its civilians starving from the Allied blockade, even as fresh American troops poured into France. By 1918, the Allied armies had become combined-arms forces far more proficient than the mass armies that slaughtered each other at the Somme. Nonetheless, the Mark IV showed that whatever challenges technology created, technology could solve.

German Mark II:

It is a myth that Germany had more and better tanks than the Anglo-French armies in 1940. The French Char B1 heavy tank and S35 medium tank were better than their German counterparts, while the British Matilda heavy tank was immune to anything but German 88-millimeter anti-aircraft guns pressed into service as anti-tank guns.

Ironically, the backbone of the early Nazi armored onslaught was actually the little Mark II panzerkampfwagen (armored fighting vehicle). Weighing only 10 tons and armed with a 20-millimeter cannon, it was a solid if not outstanding design. Even if it wasn't as big or powerful as some Allied tanks, the Mark II had the advantage of being crewed by a tank commander as well as gunner, in contrast to French tanks where the commander had to command the tank and shoot the gun at the same time. Perhaps more important, German tanks had radios while French (and Soviet) tanks didn't, thus allowing the panzers to fight in a coordinated fashion amid the smoke and confusion of battle.

These advantages don't explain the stunning German victories against an Allied tank fleet that should have prevailed in 1940. Better tactics, training, and leadership helped, as well as air superiority. But the Mark II wasn't a great tank, it was good enough to allow skilled commanders like Guderian and Rommel to practice their battlefield wizardry and subdue Western Europe.

Hollywood's classic tank portrayal is of a metal monster crushing puny humans like matchsticks. That's not usually how it works. Tanks that try this have a habit of ending up burning wrecks at the hands of anti-tank weapons and determined infantrymen.

But this was cold comfort to German soldiers during the invasion of Russia in 1941. German forces had been accustomed to sweeping enemy armor of the battlefield, and the performance of the older Soviet tanks like the T-26 and BT-7 only confirmed that experience. But German soldiers watched in shock and horror as their 37- and 50-millimeter tank and anti-guns bounced off the thick hide of Soviet T-34 medium tanks and KV heavy tanks.

The 26-ton T-34 had thick, well-sloped armor to deflect shells, a powerful 76.2-millimeter gun, and wide tracks and a diesel engine that could propel it at a speed of 30 miles per hour and let it maneuver through mud without getting stuck.

Not that the T-34 was wonder weapon. It had no radio and the tank commander also manned the gun as in French tanks. Nor did it prevent the Wehrmacht from annihilating T-34s -- along with much of the Red Army in Western Russia in the summer and fall of 1941.

Nonetheless, the fact that the "inferior" Slavs could produce a tank that outmatched anything in the German inventory was not only a blow to German morale during one of the most pivotal campaigns in history. It was also a sign that Germany was in a deathmatch with a foe much more formidable than any it had previously experienced.

U.S. M4 Sherman:

Mediocrity is faint praise. But while the Sherman was not exceptional, it proved that good enough was the enemy of better.

The M4 was too tall. Its gun and armor were good when into action in 1942, but lacking against late-war German tanks. Yet it reasonably reliable, capable of mass production unlike the big German tanks, and had adequate firepower and protection. "Adequate" is hardly a compliment, but it was good enough.

With 49,000 produced during World War II, the Sherman formed the backbone of the U.S. armored force, as well as the British, Free French, Polish and Australian forces. Even the Soviets received 4,000 Lend-Lease Shermans many Soviet tank crews preferred their beloved emchas because they were more comfortable and reliable than the T-34. The Sherman came into its own during the Allied breakout from Normandy in the summer of 1944, when it rolled across France at a rate that would have left the German Tigers and Panthers broken down by the roadside.

The Sherman came to symbolize industrial armored warfare, food for a Moloch of a world war that devoured tanks like candy and where expensive machines were as expendable as bullets.

Chinese Type 59:

There is nothing notable to say about the Type 59. It is a Chinese knockoff of the Soviet T-54, an early version of the ubiquitous T-55.

But it has an historical claim to fame. It was the tank of Tiananmen Square, the iron embodiment of the totalitarian state against the human desire for freedom, as a lone Chinese citizen confronted the column of T-59s in that iconic 1989 photo that seared the world's conscience.

An undistinguished product of late 1950s tank design, the T-59 still lives on in various nations like Burma, North Korea and Pakistan. But in that brief moment of tank versus human dignity, it carved its name in history.

Michael Peck is a contributing writer at Foreign Policy and a writer for War is Boring. Follow him on Twitter:@Mipeck1.

2 The Attack on Pearl Harbor Almost Went on for Days

The attack on Pearl Harbor, admittedly one of the worst days in American history, does not even come close to the Michael Bay movie it almost was (or the Michael Bay movie it unfortunately became). Several of the Japanese commanders in charge of the attack wanted to keep the assault going for another wave that would have pretty much destroyed the island, crippled the Pacific Fleet, and added several years to World War II, potentially extending the conflict well into the next decade and overriding all the doo-wop records and Honeymooners episodes people were supposed to be occupied with in the 1950s. Also, it would've seriously encroached on the Korean War, and that war gets so little attention as it is.

We hope our new commemorative clothing line changes that.

According to this book, the initial surprise attack on Pearl Harbor went so well for the Japanese that virtually all of their carrier commanders wanted to stay in Hawaii for the next few days, utterly devastating the American oil reserves, ammunition stores, dry docks, and repair facilities. The absent American aircraft carriers (which were the targets of the attack in the first place) would be drawn back to Hawaii, but with Pearl Harbor obliterated, they would essentially be like a bunch of sick old men with shattered kneecaps trying to break up a gang fight.

But the proposed "third wave" was voted down by Japanese Admiral Chuichi Nagumo because his forces were spread out and in need of refueling. Basically, he didn't want to push his luck and wind up losing all six of Japan's aircraft carriers simply because his commanders wanted to bro down all of a sudden. So he packed up and steamed back to Japan, content that the attack had been a resounding success, when in reality all it had done was successfully enrage the United States into joining the war.

But really, World War II is full of terrifying near-misses like this. And if you're saying, "Who cares, the Axis would still have lost as long as the Allies had the Soviet Union on their side," you're right. Which brings us to the scariest near-miss of all .

5 acts of kindness that changed history

All too often, it can seem that history books are packed with marauding royals, dishonest politicians, warring nations and murderous plots. However, history is also full of examples of kind and good gestures. On National Random Acts of Kindness Day (17 February), we look at five acts of kindness and bravery that have changed history – from a letter that saved Jane Austen’s life to the man who helped Jesse Owens win gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics…

This competition is now closed

Published: February 17, 2020 at 10:00 am

National Random Acts of Kindness Day falls on 17 February this year and is a recognised day to encourage good deeds and thoughtfulness. Here, we examine five significant acts of kindness from history…

A letter saves the life of Jane Austen, 1783

In 1783, seven-year-old Jane Austen and her elder sister Cassandra were sent to Oxford to stay with one of their cousins, Jane Cooper. The girls were to be tutored by a Mrs Ann Cawley, who later moved to Southampton, taking the young girls with her. While in Southampton, Cassandra and Jane became very ill with what was then known as “putrid sore throat” – suggested to have been diphtheria [a potentially fatal contagious bacterial infection that mainly affects the nose and throat], or typhoid.

Jane was so ill that she nearly died, but Mrs Cawley, for some inexplicable reason, made no attempt to alert her parents. Author Helen Amy explains how Jane Cooper took it upon herself to write and inform her aunt that Jane’s life was in danger, after which Austen’s mother and Mrs Cooper set off for Southampton to rescue the girls, bringing a herbal remedy that would supposedly cure the infection.

The Austen sisters recovered under their mother’s care at home and the three girls never returned to Mrs Cawley.

“Without her cousin’s timely intervention,” explains Amy, “Jane Austen would almost certainly have died and the world would have been deprived of her outstanding talent.”

Miep Gies and associates hide Anne Frank’s family from Nazi persecution, 1942–44

Following the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party in 1933, the Jewish Frank family decided to escape to the Netherlands to flee the rapidly escalating anti-Semitism in Germany. Otto and Edith Frank, along with their daughters Margot and Anne, went into hiding in an annex above Otto’s offices in Amsterdam on 6 July 1942. They were soon joined by four others.

The family was helped into hiding by a number of people who had worked for Otto Frank, including Miep Gies, who had started work as an office assistant for Frank in 1933. During the two years and 35 days the Frank family lived in the secret annex, Gies (along with other helpers) visited frequently with food and other supplies, and shared news from the outside. Above all, the friendship and kindness shown by Gies proved a lifeline for Anne, who kept a diary about her experiences and thoughts while in hiding.

On 4 August 1944, everyone in the annex was arrested. Somebody had called the German Security Police to notify them that Jews were in hiding at Prinsengracht 263. The identity of the caller has never been established. Everyone in the annex was deported first to the Westerbork transit camp, and then on to Auschwitz. In the autumn of 1944, Anne and her sister Margot were transported to Bergen-Belsen, a concentration camp in Germany where almost 4,000 Jews, primarily Dutch, were imprisoned. There, facing unsanitary conditions and having no food, the girls contracted typhus. They both died in March 1945, just a few weeks before the camp was liberated.

After the family’s arrest, Gies discovered Anne’s diary and kept it, unread, hoping she could one day return it to Anne. Sadly this never happened and she instead gave it to Otto, the only member of the family to survive the war, in July 1945. Otto later recalled: “I began to read slowly, only a few pages each day, more would have been impossible, as I was overwhelmed by painful memories. For me, it was a revelation. There, was revealed a completely different Anne to the child that I had lost. I had no idea of the depths of her thoughts and feelings.”

Anne Frank’s diary was published in the Netherlands on 25 June 1947 and remains one of the most famous – and bestselling – books of all time.

Elizabeth Fry visits Newgate Gaol, 1813

Until May 2017, British social reformer Elizabeth Fry was commemorated on the UK’s £5 note (she was later replaced by Winston Churchill) for her most famous philanthropic project: reform of the female side of Newgate Gaol.

Elizabeth Fry (1780–1845) was born into a wealthy Quaker family and later married London merchant Joseph Fry, with whom she had 11 children. By the early 19th century, Fry had already turned her attention to the plight of the poor, distributing aid and establishing a successful Sunday school for children. When the family moved to East Ham in 1809, Fry co-founded a school for poor girls and organised a smallpox vaccination programme for the children in the surrounding villages

Yet Fry’s notable prison reform wasn’t sparked until 1813, when she visited Newgate Gaol to distribute clothing to the female prisoners, after a Quaker missionary named Stephen Grellet had alerted her to their plight. Fry was appalled at the conditions, and was most affected by the sight of two women taking the clothes from a dead baby to dress a living one.

When Fry returned in 1816, explains historian Rosalind Crone, little had changed. The women, she wrote, were “wild beasts”, often drunk, disorderly and even violent.

“Elizabeth now launched into action,” says Crone. “She organised a school for the children and appointed a matron to watch over the prisoners. She also found useful work – sewing and knitting – for the women, and formed the Ladies’ Newgate Association, the members of which would visit the prison daily to superintend the matron, give religious instruction and mentor the prisoners. New rules were laid down, forbidding ‘begging, swearing, gaming, card-playing, quarrelling, immoral conversation [and] improper books’. The prisoners voluntarily submitted, and Elizabeth won the support of the gaol and city authorities.”

Fry’s prison work later won public recognition through the foundation of the Elizabeth Fry Refuge for released female prisoners in 1849, and she is also remembered as a social activist, Quaker minister, author and mother.

Harriet Tubman rescues at least 300 people from slavery, c1850–61

Born Araminta ‘Minty’ Ross in Maryland, USA, in c1822, the woman now known as Harriet Tubman was born into an enslaved family who were all ‘owned’ by the Brodess family. At this time in certain American states, enslaved people were considered ‘property’ with no rights of their own, and their well-being was usually only considered important in terms of productivity. From the age of five, Minty was put to work. She was often loaned away from home to neighbouring families who mistreated her and by the age of 12 she had graduated to backbreaking work in the fields. In 1849, in her late 20s, Minty fled alone to Pennsylvania, the neighbouring free state.

“No one knows her exact route,” explains Sophie Beal, writing for HistoryExtra, “but during her escape, Minty likely used part of the ‘underground railroad’ – a secret network of slaves and abolitionist sympathisers – for the first time.”

On the ‘railroad’, so-called ‘conductors’ guided fugitive slaves between hiding places or ‘stations’ towards freedom in the north. It was around this time that Minty changed her name to Harriet, likely to cover her escape.

When she arrived in Philadelphia, Tubman soon found domestic work and made abolitionist friends. However, she was not completely safe. Slave catchers operated in the area, and just a year after she arrived, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 obliged local commissioners to return runaways to their owners. There were now harsh penalties for those who aided escapees.

Yet over the next 11 years, Tubman made as many as 19 trips to rescue approximately 70 slaves, including almost all her remaining family, from Maryland’s eastern shore. She also delivered to many others detailed instructions on how to escape. She is often estimated to have helped to rescue at least 300 people from slavery.

Beal explains more about Tubman’s bravery: “Having raised enough money earlier in the year, Harriet would usually travel to Maryland in autumn or winter, when the longer nights kept most people inside. She would then infiltrate a plantation to find slaves ready to escape. As Sunday was their day off, she would lead them away on a Saturday night, so their owners usually wouldn’t notice them missing until Monday. This not only gave them a head start, but delayed the publication of runaway notices in the newspaper.”

Harriet Tubman’s bravery was not limited to helping enslaved people escape to northern states she later became the first woman to lead an armed raid in the American Civil War. Tubman has become a celebrated icon of the fight to abolish slavery and it was announced in April 2016 that Tubman will be commemorated on US currency.

Luz Long advises Jesse Owens on his run-up, 1936

It is often claimed that Jesse Owens, American four-time gold medallist at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, was deliberately snubbed by Adolf Hitler, who refused to shake his hand. Though Albert Speer, Germany’s war armaments minister, recalled that Hitler was “highly annoyed” by Owens’s series of victories, in fact Hitler had chosen to shake hands only with German competitors and only on the first day of the Olympics – and had not deliberately refused Owens’s hand.

However, Owens perhaps would never even have won one of his gold medals if it wasn’t for an act of kindness from a fellow athlete, German long-jumper Carl Ludwig ‘Luz’ Long.

On 4 August 1936, in a qualifying round of the long jump, the world record holder Owens had already foot-faulted twice in his bid to compete in the event’s final. Long, the European record holder, offered Owens advice on how to adjust his run-up to make the qualifying distance. Long suggested that, as the qualifying distance was only 7.15m and that Owens could jump more than 8m, Owens should shift his mark back to ensure that he took off well short of the board and remained clear of another foul.

Owens’s next jump was a success and he went on to win the gold medal with a jump of 8.06m, with Long earning silver.

Owens later wrote of the 1936 Olympics: “What I remember most was the friendship I struck up with Luz Long. He was my strongest rival, yet it was he who advised me to adjust my run-up in the qualifying round and thereby helped me to win.”

Owens’s long jump world record stood for 25 years and his performance during the games is widely regarded as a blow to Adolf Hitler’s intention to use the Olympics to demonstrate his belief in Aryan superiority.

Which acts of kindness from history would you add to this list? Share your views by tweeting us @HistoryExtra or by posting on our Facebook page. Please note we may publish comments.

Elinor Evans is the deputy digital editor of HistoryExtra

This article was first published in November 2018

Recommended Reading

Why Are Young People Having So Little Sex?

The Rise of Dating-App Fatigue

Why Is Dating in the App Era Such Hard Work?

Tinder has indeed helped people meet other people—it has expanded the reach of singles’ social networks, facilitating interactions between people who might never have crossed paths otherwise. The 30-year-old Jess Flores of Virginia Beach got married to her first and only Tinder date this past October, and she says they likely would have never met if it weren’t for the app.

For starters, Flores says, the guys she usually went for back in 2014 were what she describes as “sleeve-tattoo” types. Her now-husband Mike, though, was “clean cut, no tattoos. Completely opposite of what I would usually go for.” She decided to take a chance on him after she’d laughed at a funny line in his Tinder bio. (Today, she can no longer remember what it was.)

Plus, Mike lived in the next town over. He wasn’t that far away, “but I didn’t go where he lived to hang out, so I didn’t really mix and mingle with people in other cities,” she says. But after a few weeks of chatting on the app and one failed attempt at meeting up, they ended up on a first date at a local minor-league baseball game, drinking beer and eating hot dogs in the stands.

For Flores and her husband, having access to a bigger pool of fellow single people was a great development. In her first few years out of college, before she met Mike, “I was in the same work routine, around the same people, all the time,” Flores says, and she wasn’t exactly eager to start up a romance with any of them. But then there was Tinder, and then there was Mike.

An expanded radius of potential mates can be a great thing if you’re looking to date or hook up with a broad variety of people who are different from you, says Madeleine Fugère, a professor of psychology at Eastern Connecticut State University who specializes in attraction and romantic relationships. “Normally, if you met someone at school or at work, you would probably already have a lot in common with that person,” Fugere says. “Whereas if you’re meeting someone purely based on geographic location, there’s definitely a greater chance that they would be different from you in some way.”

But there’s also a downside to dating beyond one’s natural social environment. “People who are not very similar to their romantic partners end up at a greater risk for breaking up or for divorce,” she says. Indeed, some daters bemoan the fact that meeting on the apps means dating in a sort of context vacuum. Friends, co-workers, classmates, and/or relatives don’t show up to flesh out the complete picture of who a person is until further on in the timeline of a relationship—it’s unlikely that someone would introduce a blind date to friends right away. In the “old model” of dating, by contrast, the circumstances under which two people met organically could provide at least some measure of common ground between them.

Some also believe that the relative anonymity of dating apps—that is, the social disconnect between most people who match on them—has also made the dating landscape a ruder, flakier, crueler place. For example, says Lundquist, the couples therapist, if you go on a date with your cousin’s roommate, the roommate has some incentive to not be a jerk to you. But with apps, “You’re meeting somebody you probably don’t know and probably don’t have any connections with at a bar on 39th Street. That’s kind of weird, and there’s a greater opportunity for people to be ridiculous, to be not nice.”

Many of the stories of bad behavior Lundquist hears from his patients take place in real life, at bars and restaurants. “I think it’s become more ordinary to stand each other up,” he says, and he’s had many patients (“men and women, though more women among straight folks”) recount to him stories that end with something along the lines of, “Oh my God, I got to the bar and he sat down and said, ‘Oh. You don’t look like what I thought you looked like,’ and walked away.”

But other users complain of rudeness even in early text interactions on the app. Some of that nastiness could be chalked up to dating apps’ dependence on remote, digital communication the classic “unsolicited dick pic sent to an unsuspecting match” scenario, for example. Or the equally familiar tirade of insults from a match who’s been rebuffed, as Anna Xiques, a 33-year-old advertising copywriter based in Miami, experienced. In an essay on Medium in 2016 (cleverly titled “To the One That Got Away on Bumble”), she chronicled the time she frankly told a Bumble match she’d been chatting with that she wasn’t feeling it, only to be promptly called a cunt and told she “wasn’t even pretty.” (Bumble, launched in 2014 with the former Tinder executive Whitney Wolfe Herd at its helm, markets itself as a more women-friendly dating app because of its unique feature designed to curb unwanted messages: In heterosexual matches, the woman has to initiate chatting.)

Sometimes this is just how things go on dating apps, Xiques says. She’s been using them off and on for the past few years for dates and hookups, even though she estimates that the messages she receives have about a 50-50 ratio of mean or gross to not mean or gross. She’s only experienced this kind of creepy or hurtful behavior when she’s dating through apps, not when dating people she’s met in real-life social settings. “Because, obviously, they’re hiding behind the technology, right? You don’t have to actually face the person,” she says.

Perhaps the quotidian cruelty of app dating exists because it’s relatively impersonal compared with setting up dates in real life. “More and more people relate to this as a volume operation,” says Lundquist, the couples therapist. Time and resources are limited, while matches, at least in theory, are not. Lundquist mentions what he calls the “classic” scenario in which someone is on a Tinder date, then goes to the bathroom and talks to three other people on Tinder. “So there’s a willingness to move on more quickly,” he says, “but not necessarily a commensurate increase in skill at kindness.”

Holly Wood, who wrote her Harvard sociology dissertation last year on singles’ behaviors on dating sites and dating apps, heard a lot of these ugly stories too. And after speaking to more than 100 straight-identifying, college-educated men and women in San Francisco about their experiences on dating apps, she firmly believes that if dating apps didn’t exist, these casual acts of unkindness in dating would be far less common. But Wood’s theory is that people are meaner because they feel like they’re interacting with a stranger, and she partly blames the short and sweet bios encouraged on the apps.

“OkCupid,” she remembers, “invited walls of text. And that, for me, was really important. I’m one of those people who wants to feel like I have a sense of who you are before we go on a first date. Then Tinder”—which has a 500-character limit for bios—“happened, and the shallowness in the profile was encouraged.”

Wood also found that for some respondents (especially male respondents), apps had effectively replaced dating in other words, the time other generations of singles might have spent going on dates, these singles spent swiping. Many of the men she talked to, Wood says, “were saying, ‘I’m putting so much work into dating and I’m not getting any results.’” When she asked what exactly they were doing, they said, “I’m on Tinder for hours every day.”

“We pretend that’s dating because it looks like dating and says it’s dating,” Wood says.

Wood’s academic work on dating apps is, it’s worth mentioning, something of a rarity in the broader research landscape. One big challenge of knowing how dating apps have affected dating behaviors, and in writing a story like this one, is that most of these apps have only been around for half a decade—hardly long enough for well-designed, relevant longitudinal studies to even be funded, let alone conducted.

Of course, even the absence of hard data hasn’t stopped dating experts—both people who study it and people who do a lot of it—from theorizing. There’s a popular suspicion, for example, that Tinder and other dating apps might make people pickier or more reluctant to settle on a single monogamous partner, a theory that the comedian Aziz Ansari spends a lot of time on in his 2015 book, Modern Romance, written with the sociologist Eric Klinenberg.

Eli Finkel, however, a professor of psychology at Northwestern and the author of The All-or-Nothing Marriage, rejects that notion. “Very smart people have expressed concern that having such easy access makes us commitment-phobic,” he says, “but I’m not actually that worried about it.” Research has shown that people who find a partner they’re really into quickly become less interested in alternatives, and Finkel is fond of a sentiment expressed in a 1997 Journal of Personality and Social Psychology paper on the subject: “Even if the grass is greener elsewhere, happy gardeners may not notice.”

Like the anthropologist Helen Fisher, Finkel believes that dating apps haven’t changed happy relationships much—but he does think they’ve lowered the threshold of when to leave an unhappy one. In the past, there was a step in which you’d have to go to the trouble of “getting dolled up and going to a bar,” Finkel says, and you’d have to look at yourself and say, “What am I doing right now? I’m going out to meet a guy. I’m going out to meet a girl,” even though you were in a relationship already. Now, he says, “you can just tinker around, just for a sort of a goof swipe a little just ’cause it’s fun and playful. And then it’s like, oh—[suddenly] you’re on a date.”

The other subtle ways in which people believe dating is different now that Tinder is a thing are, quite frankly, innumerable. Some believe that dating apps’ visual-heavy format encourages people to choose their partners more superficially (and with racial or sexual stereotypes in mind) others argue that humans choose their partners with physical attraction in mind even without the help of Tinder. There are equally compelling arguments that dating apps have made dating both more awkward and less awkward by allowing matches to get to know each other remotely before they ever meet face-to-face—which can in some cases create a weird, sometimes tense first few minutes of a first date.

And for some singles in the LGBTQ community, dating apps like Tinder and Bumble have been a small miracle. They can help users locate other LGBTQ singles in an area where it might otherwise be hard to know—and their explicit spelling-out of what gender or genders a user is interested in can mean fewer awkward initial interactions. Other LGBTQ users, however, say they’ve had better luck finding dates or hookups on dating apps other than Tinder, or even on social media. “Twitter in the gay community is kind of like a dating app now. Tinder doesn’t do too well,” says Riley Rivera Moore, a 21-year-old based in Austin. Riley’s wife Niki, 23, says that when she was on Tinder, a good portion of her potential matches who were women were “a couple, and the woman had created the Tinder profile because they were looking for a ‘unicorn,’ or a third person.” That said, the recently married Rivera Moores met on Tinder.

But perhaps the most consequential change to dating has been in where and how dates get initiated—and where and how they don’t.

When Ingram Hodges, a freshman at the University of Texas at Austin, goes to a party, he goes there expecting only to hang out with friends. It’d be a pleasant surprise, he says, if he happened to talk to a cute girl there and ask her to hang out. “It wouldn’t be an abnormal thing to do,” he says, “but it’s just not as common. When it does happen, people are surprised, taken aback.”

I pointed out to Hodges that when I was a freshman in college—all of 10 years ago—meeting cute people to go on a date with or to hook up with was the point of going to parties. But being 18, Hodges is relatively new to both Tinder and dating in general the only dating he’s known has been in a post-Tinder world. When Hodges is in the mood to flirt or go on a date, he turns to Tinder (or Bumble, which he jokingly calls “classy Tinder”), where sometimes he finds that other UT students’ profiles include instructions like “If I know you from school, don’t swipe right on me.”

Hodges knows that there was a time, way back in the day, when people mostly met through school, or work, or friends, or family. But for people his age, Hodges says, “dating has become isolated from the rest of social life.”

Hailey, a financial-services professional in Boston (who asked to only be identified by her first name because her last name is a unique one and she’d prefer to not be recognizable in work contexts), is considerably older than Hodges, but even at 34, she sees the same phenomenon in action. She and her boyfriend met on Tinder in 2014, and they soon discovered that they lived in the same neighborhood. Before long, they realized that they’d probably even seen each other around before they met.

Still, she says, “we would have never interacted had it not been for Tinder. He’s not going out all the time. I’m not going out all the time. The reality is, if he is out at a bar, he’s hanging with his friends.

“And he’s not gonna be like, ‘Hey, how’s it going?’ as we’re both getting milk or something at the grocery store,” she adds. “I don’t see that happening at all anymore.”

The Atlantic’s Kate Julian found something similar in her recent story on why today’s young people are having less sex than prior generations:

Another woman fantasized to me about what it would be like to have a man hit on her in a bookstore … But then she seemed to snap out of her reverie, and changed the subject to Sex and the City reruns and how hopelessly dated they seem. “Miranda meets Steve at a bar,” she said, in a tone suggesting that the scenario might as well be out of a Jane Austen novel, for all the relevance it had to her life.

There’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg effect when it comes to Tinder and the disentanglement of dating from the rest of social life. It’s possible, certainly, that dating apps have erected walls between the search for potential partners and the normal routines of work and community. But it’s also possible that dating apps thrive in this particular moment in history because people have stopped looking for potential partners while they go about their work and community routines.

Finkel, for one, believes that the new boundaries between romance and other forms of social interaction have their benefits—especially in a time when what constitutes sexual harassment, especially in the workplace, is being renegotiated. “People used to meet people at work, but my God, it doesn’t seem like the best idea to do that right now,” Finkel says. “For better or worse, people are setting up firmer boundaries between the personal and the professional. And we’re figuring all that stuff out, but it’s kind of a tumultuous time.” Meanwhile, he says, dating apps offer separate environments where finding dates or sex is the point.

But, naturally, with the compartmentalization of dating comes the notion that if you want to be dating, you have to be active on the apps. And that can make the whole process of finding a partner, which essentially boils down to semi-blind date after semi-blind date, feel like a chore or a dystopian game show. As my colleague Julie Beck wrote in 2016,

Now that the shine of novelty has worn off these apps, they aren’t fun or exciting anymore. They’ve become a normalized part of dating. There’s a sense that if you’re single, and you don’t want to be, you need to do something to change that. If you just sit on your butt and wait to see if life delivers you love, then you have no right to complain.

Hailey has heard her friends complain that dating now feels like a second, after-hours job Twitter is rife with sentiments similar in tone. It’s not uncommon nowadays to hear singles say wistfully that they’d just like to meet someone in real life.

Of course, it’s quite possible that this is a new problem created by the solving of an old one.

A decade ago, the complaint that Lundquist, the couples therapist, heard most often was, “Boy, I just don’t meet any interesting people.” Now, he says, “it’s more like, ‘Oh, God, I meet all these not-interesting people.’”

“It’s cliche to say, but it’s a numbers game,” Lundquist adds. “So the assumption is, the odds are pretty good that [any given date] will suck, but, you know. Whatever. You’ve gotta do it.”

Finkel, for his part, puts it a little more bluntly. To him, there’s one thing that all these wistful romantics, longing for the days of yore when people met in real life, are missing: that Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge—like eHarmony, OkCupid, and before them—exist because meeting in real life is really hard.

“I’m not saying that it’s not a hassle to go on bad dates. It is a nuisance. You could be hanging out with your friends, you could be sleeping, you could be reading a book,” he says. But, Finkel adds, singletons of generations past would “break out the world’s smallest violin” for young people who complain about Tinder dates becoming a chore.

“It’s like, Ugh so many dates, and they’re just not that interesting,” Finkel adds with a laugh. “It used to be hard to find someone to date!”

5 times food has changed the course of history

More than just snacks, food is at the middle of more stories than you might think!

The history of food is as old as the history of humanity. Essential to our survival, food not only keeps us moving, it can unite friends and families, trigger revolutions, transport cultures and transform the way we live. So, for the next time your stomach rumbles, here’s a 5 course menu of foods that have changed history.

1. Fields of gold

Image: Takkk / Wikimedia Commons

Growing up in a city, I always pictured nature as a farm - bales of hay, clucking chickens, Babe the Sheep-Pig. Little did I know there’s been nothing fundamentally natural about farming since the practice began around 12,000 years ago. Humanity’s first foodie shift happened when we abandoned the thrill of the nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle and decided we wanted to settle down, grow some vegetables, have a garden, and act like reasonable adults. This change - the agricultural revolution - was the start of civilisation as we know it.

Farming could produce surplus food, and once humans figured out how to store that food, they no longer had to be constantly on the move. There was enough food right where they were, all year round. Fertility rituals to yield a good harvest became part of traditional religions, and food was used as a form of payment and taxation. And the power in societies depended on whether you owned the land, or worked on someone else’s land. To this day, so much of the world’s inequality is based on access to food.

2. Sugar and spice

Image: Joe mon bkk / Wikimedia Commons

For all the good that staple crops bring to civilisation, it’s no secret that they’re a little bland. The pursuit of flavoursome and aromatic spices has shaped the map of the world as long as humans have craved flavour, opening up trade routes, creating opportunities for cultural exchange as well as heating up competition between empires.

After the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama set sail around Africa in an attempt to break up the Ottoman Empire’s (centred on modern day Turkey) monopoly over the spice trade, Christopher Columbus soon embarked on his own adventure in the opposite direction, hoping to reach the Indies from the West. Instead, he came across something he didn’t expect (you know where this is going) - the Bahamas. Whilst there, he recognised that the hot, humid conditions of the Caribbean were ripe for growing a crop that could satisfy his sweet tooth - sugar cane.

This realisation sparked one of humanity’s darkest moments: the transatlantic slave trade. Over the next 300 years, 11 million Africans were forcibly transported to the ‘New World’, with half of these sent to work the plantations in the West Indies. This free labour lowered the price of sugar back in Europe, increasing demand until it soon became a staple of the European diet, accounting for up to a third of Europe’s economy at its height. Known at the time as ‘White Gold,’ sugar became the most bittersweet food in human history.

Fortunately, the era of African slavery is behind us. But today, crops like coffee and cocoa are grown by some of the world’s poorest people, to be sold to some of its richest. The Fair Trade movement is all about certifying companies that pay a fair share to the farmers that grow the products, so that the global food industry plays its role in ending extreme poverty.

3. I say 'potato', you say.

Image: Foodirl

The humble root vegetable has been quite the globetrotter, originally eaten by Peruvians, appropriated by the Spanish (Columbus did have a knack for treating the map of the world like a recipe), and now found on menus wherever you can find a McDonald’s. Producing more calories than cereal crops, the potato played a key role in the industrial revolution in Europe by providing a cheap and nutritious source of energy for workers that could be easily grown in small backyard plots.

The spud triggered a population boom amongst the working class and made such an impact on industrial production that the socialist economist Friedrich Engels declared it as equal to iron in its ‘historically revolutionary role.’ However, the overdependence on one variety of potato, ‘the lumper’ proved dangerous when a strain of potato blight spread to Europe and resulted in major potato crop losses in the 1840s. Amongst the worst hit were Irish farmers, many of whom lived on a diet consisting almost entirely of milk and potatoes. The Irish Potato Famine became one of the most devastating examples of the threat a lack of biodiversity poses to food security.

In the 21st century, climate change is causing the disappearance of species of animals and plants at an increasingly rapid rate. We need to conserve natural ecosystems for all sorts of reasons, but an important one is so that we don’t develop a risky reliance on one or two foods that are vulnerable to disease or disaster. To ruin an old saying, “don’t put only eggs in your basket”.

4. Food fight!

In battle, one of the most effective ways of defeating another army is by cutting off their access to food. During the Cold War last century, the USA and the Soviet Union found themselves jostling for position in Berlin. Although situated in the east of Germany, when the country was sliced down the middle after World War II, it was agreed that West Germany and East Germany would get half of the city each. It doesn’t take a wild imagination to see how this could be a bit of an issue.

By 1948, the Soviet Union became so unhappy with a capitalist island right in the middle of their territory, that they decided to block off supply links to West Berlin until the Western powers gave up and left town. But the UK and USA were determined to hold their ground, and began to send food and vital supplies by air to the 2 million people living in West Berlin. Expecting the airlift to last 3 weeks, British and American planes became a regular feature of the Berlin skyline, scattering supplies to the population every day for 11 months. German children nicknamed the American planes ‘raisin bombers’ - an image that sums up how something as innocent as food can become a weapon of warfare.

In modern war zones, there are still communities starving due to armed conflict cutting off access to food. Organisations like the Red Cross and the World Food Programme dedicate themselves to getting much-needed food deliveries through the line of fire.

5. Happy meals?

Image: TheLukaz

Without wanting to trivialise the end of World War II, I think it’s fair to say that 1945 was a pivotal year for another reason: the opening of the first McDonald’s. Since then, McDonald’s has grown to attract 68 million people to its restaurants every day - that’s bigger (in every sense of the word) than the population of the United Kingdom - and made a huge impact on global health.

Today, 1 in 3 adults are obese and in the last 30 years, the world has started to see a frightening paradox - obesity in the developing world has almost quadrupled since 1980 (ODI), even though lots of these people are still poor. Companies like McDonald’s and KFC have popped up in places as far-flung as Kenya and Honduras, adapting their menu to incorporate the flavour of the local cuisine and tap into ‘emerging markets.’

Although the poorest members of these societies still can’t afford to eat in these chains, they are growing increasingly dependent on cheaper, copycat versions, especially in densely populated urban areas where slum dwellers often lack the means or space to cook their own food. In many African cities, 70% of the calories consumed by the urban poor are now from street food suppliers (Devex). These are not your trendy Korean burrito vans, but unregulated vendors who sell their own cheaper version of common fast foods - often prepared with dangerous oils and in unsanitary conditions - to people who cannot afford to eat anything else. Although the tide of opinion in the Western world might finally be turning towards a healthier diet, the world’s poor do not have that luxury.

What we eat changes history, and the story of food has always been closely tied to both progress and social inequality. For good or ill, food is literally the fuel that powers human society.

This year, global citizens have the opportunity to shape the course of history once again. Last month, G7 leaders committed to lift 500 million people out of hunger - and now, global citizens around the world are calling on them to fulfil this promise by providing the necessary funds. Achieving this goal would be a vital step in eliminating hunger for good.

Join the call by signing the petition in TAKE ACTION NOW to increase food security around the world.

How romantic love came to be a cultural centerpiece in western societies and why it kind of screws us all up.

F irst Fact: At some point during evolution between plankton and Bon Jovi, apes evolved the ability to become emotionally attached to one another. This emotional attachment would eventually come to be known as “love” and evolution would one day produce a bevy of singers from New Jersey who would make millions writing cheesy songs about it.

Second Fact: Humans evolved the ability to become attached to each other—that is, the ability to love each other—because it helped us survive. 1 This isn’t exactly romantic or sexy, but it’s true.

We didn’t evolve big fangs or huge claws or insane gorilla strength. Instead, we evolved the ability to emotionally bond into communities and families where we became largely inclined to cooperate with one another. 2 These communities and families turned out to be far more effective than any claw or any fang. Humanity soon dominated the planet.

Without developing emotional attachments to one another, we probably all would have been eaten by tigers at some point.

Third Fact: As humans, we instinctively develop loyalty and affection for those who show us the most loyalty and affection. This is all love really is: an irrational degree of loyalty and affection for another person—to the point that we’d let ourselves come to harm or even die for that person. It may sound insane, but it’s these symbiotic warm fuzzies that kept the species relying on one another long enough to survive the savannas and populate the planet and invent Netflix.

Fourth Fact: Let’s all take a moment and thank evolution for Netflix.

Fifth Fact: The ancient Greek philosopher Plato argued that the highest form of love was actually this non-sexual, non-romantic form of attachment to another person, this so-called “brotherly love.” Plato reasoned (correctly) that since passion and romance and sex often make us do ridiculous things that we regret, this sort of passionless love between two family members or between two close friends was the height of virtuous human experience. In fact, Plato, like most people in the ancient world, looked upon romantic love with skepticism, if not absolute horror. 3

Sixth Fact: As with most things, Plato got it right before anybody else did. And this is why non-sexual love is often referred to as “platonic love.”

Seventh Fact: For most of human history, romantic love was looked upon as a kind of sickness. 4 And if you think about it, it’s not hard to figure out why: romantic love causes people (especially young people) to do some stupid shit. Trust me. One time when I was 21, I skipped class, bought a bus ticket, and rode across three states to surprise a girl I was in love with. She freaked out and I was soon back on a bus heading home, just as single as when I came. What an idiot.

That bus ride seemed like a great idea at the time because it seemed like such a romantic idea. My emotions were going crazy the whole time. I was lost in a fantasy world and loving it. But now it’s just sort of an embarrassing thing I did back when I was young and dumb and didn’t know any better.

It’s this sort of poor decision-making that made the ancients skeptical of romantic love’s utility. Instead, many cultures treated it as some sort of unfortunate disease we all have to go through and get over in our lives, kind of like chickenpox. In fact, classic stories like The Iliad or Romeo and Juliet weren’t celebrations of love. They were warnings against the potential negative consequences of love, of how romantic love can potentially ruin everything.

See, for most of human history, people didn’t marry because of their feelings for one another. Feelings didn’t matter in the ancient world.

Because fuck feelings, there are fields to plow and cows to feed and holy crap Attila the Hun just massacred your entire extended family the next village over.

There was no time for romance. And certainly no tolerance for the risky behaviors it encouraged among people. There was too much life-or-death work to be accomplished. Marriage was meant for baby-making and sound finances. 5 Romantic love, if permitted at all, was reserved for the heady realm of mistresses and fuckboys.

For most of human history, for the majority of humanity, their sustenance and survival hung by a tiny thread. People had shorter life expectancies than my mother’s cats. Everything you did had to be done for the simple sake of survival. Marriages were arranged by families not because they liked each other, and especially not because they loved each other, but because their farms went together nicely, and the families could share some wheat or barley when the next flood or drought hit.

Marriages were a purely economic arrangement designed to promote the survival and prosperity of both extended families. So if Junior gets the tingles in his pants and wants to run away with the milkmaid across town, this wasn’t just an inconvenience—this was a legitimate threat to the community’s survival. And it was treated as such. In fact, this kind of behavior was so treacherous in young men that most ancient societies cut a lot of young boy’s balls off so they wouldn’t have to deal with their philandering. This had a side benefit of producing excellent-sounding boys’ choirs.

It wasn’t until the industrial age that things began to change. People began to take up work in city centers and factories. Their income, and thus their economic future, was no longer tied to the land and they were able to make money independent of their family. They didn’t have to rely on inheritances or family connections the way people did in the ancient world, and so the economic and political components of marriage ceased to make much sense.

Back in the olden days, marriage was seen as a duty, not something you did for personal fulfillment or emotional pleasure.

The new economic realities of the 19th century then cross-pollinated with the ideas that emerged from the Enlightenment about individual rights and the pursuit of happiness, and the result was a full-blown Age of Romanticism. Fuck the cattle, it was the 1800s and people’s feelings suddenly mattered. The new ideal was not only to marry for love but that that love was to live on in bliss for all of the eternity. Thus, it wasn’t until the relatively recent 150 years ago that the ever-popular “happily ever after” ideal was born. 6

Then the 20th century rolled around, and in between Hitler and a few genocides, Hollywood and ad agencies grabbed hold of the “happily ever after” fantasy and beat it to death over the next 100 years.

The point here is that romance and all of the weight we tend to put on it is a modern invention, and primarily promoted and marketed by a bunch of businessmen who realized it will get you to pay for movie tickets and/or a new piece of jewelry. As Don Draper once said, “What you call love was invented by guys like me to sell nylons.”

It wasn’t until people became economically independent that love (or emotions in general) became valued in society.

Romance is an easy sell. We all enjoy seeing the hero get the girl. We enjoy seeing the happy ending. We enjoy believing in “happily ever after.” It feels good. And so the commercial forces that arose in the 20th century took it and ran with it.

But romantic love, and love in general, is far more complicated than we’ve been led to believe by Hollywood movies or jewelry store ads. Nowhere do we hear that love can be unsexy drudgery. Or that love can sometimes be unpleasant or even painful, that it could potentially even be something we don’t want to feel at times. Or that love requires self-discipline and a certain amount of sustained effort over the course of years, decades, a lifetime.

These truths are not exciting. Nor do they sell well.

The painful truth about love is that the real work of a relationship begins after the curtain closes and the credits roll. The real work of a relationship is all the boring, dreary, unsexy things that nobody else sees or appreciates. Like most things in the media, the portrayal of love in pop culture is limited to the highlight reel. All the nuance and complexities of actually living through a relationship is swept away to make room for the exciting headline, the unjust separation, the crazy plot twist, and of course everyone’s favorite happy ending.

Most of us have been so inundated by these messages throughout our entire lives that we have come to mistake the excitement and drama of romance for the whole relationship itself. When we’re swept up by romance, we can’t imagine that anything could possibly go wrong between us and our partner. We can’t see their faults or failures, all we see is their limitless potential and possibility.

This is not love. This is a delusion. And like most delusions, things usually don’t end well.

Which brings me to the Eighth Fact: Just because you love somebody doesn’t mean you should be with them.

It’s possible to fall in love with somebody who doesn’t treat us well, who makes us feel worse about ourselves, who doesn’t hold the same respect for us as we do for them, or who has such a dysfunctional life themselves that they threaten to pull us underwater until we drown in their loving arms.

It’s possible to fall in love with somebody who has different ambitions or life goals that are contradictory to our own, who holds different philosophical beliefs or worldviews or whose life path merely weaves in the opposite direction at an inopportune time.

It’s possible to fall in love with somebody who sucks for us and our happiness.

This is why throughout most of human history, marriage was arranged by the parents. Because they were the ones with some objective perspective on whether their kid was marrying a fuckface or not.

But in the past few centuries, since young people were able to choose their partners themselves (which is a good thing), they instinctively overestimated love’s ability to overcome whatever issues or problems were present in their relationships (which is a bad thing).

This is the definition of a toxic or unhealthy relationship: people who don’t love each other for the person they are, but rather love each other in hopes that their feelings for each other will fill some horribly empty hole in their soul.

Ninth Fact: With greater personal freedom comes a greater requirement for personal responsibility and understanding. And it’s 100 years later and we’re just now gaining the ability to grapple with the responsibilities love brings with it.

People in toxic relationships don’t love each other. They love the idea of each other. They’re in love with the fantasy that is constantly playing out in their head. And instead of ditching the fantasy and getting with the person in front of them, they spend all of their will and energy interpreting and conforming the person in front of them to fit the fantasy they keep spinning for themselves.

Because they don’t know any better. Or they’re afraid of the vulnerability required to love someone selflessly and healthily.

A few centuries ago, people hated romantic love. They were afraid of it, skeptical of its power and weary of its ability to tilt everyone it touched into making bad choices.

A couple centuries ago, free from the confines of the farm and mom and dad’s approving or disapproving hand, people then overestimated love. They idealized it and willed it to wash away all of their problems and pain forever.

But people are just now starting to figure out that while love is great, that by itself, love is not enough.

That love should not be the cause of your relationships but rather their effect. That love should not define our lives but rather be a by-product of it. That just because someone makes you feel more alive doesn’t mean that you should necessarily live for them.

Nobody talks about the fact that greater personal freedom grants greater opportunities to fuck things up. And it creates greater opportunities to hurt other people. The great liberation of romantic love has brought incredible life experiences into the world. But it’s also brought the necessity for a realistic, honest approach to relationships that accommodates the painful realities of spending a life together.

Some people say in this age of ghosting and swipe-right, that romance is dead. Romance is not dead. It’s merely being postponed—relegated to a safe space where both people need to build a certain degree of comfort and trust before they go bleeding-heart bonkers for one another.

And perhaps that’s actually a good thing.

  1. And attachment is as important to survival today as it ever was. See: Green, M., & Scholes, M. (Eds.). (2004). Attachment and human survival (pp. xi, 164). Karnac Books. ↵
  2. For a review of the evolution of human cooperation, see: Henrich, J., & Muthukrishna, M. (2021). The Origins and Psychology of Human Cooperation.Annual Review of Psychology , 72 (1), 207–240. ↵
  3. For a 100-page deep dive into the topic, see: Kelsen, H. (1942). Platonic Love.American Imago, 3 (1/2), 3–110. ↵
  4. See: Caston, R. R. (2006). Love as Illness: Poets and Philosophers on Romantic Love.The Classical Journal, 101 (3), 271–298. ↵
  5. See this study for an economic analysis of marriage for the purpose of propagation (a.k.a. baby-making), and this book chapter for the role of marriage in finances in olden-day China. ↵
  6. For more on this heady era, see: Schneider, J. F. (2007). The Age of Romanticism (Illustrated edition). Westport: Greenwood. ↵

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