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Posted by3 days ago
Posted by28 days ago
Posted by3 days ago

Friend of the sub, YouTuber Whatifalthist has decided to dip his toes into the ever contentious topic of how the Roman Empire fell. Given that this is a topic that is ripe for much badhistory, I was curious to see what he had to say on the matter, predictable results ensued. This post will go over the broader points in Whatifalthist's video.

Link to the video:

0:00 this map

Okay, I usually don't like nitpicking from the very first frame of a video, but given this map is the first thing we see, it's a bad sign of things to come. So this map is supposed (?) to show the Roman Empire in 117 A.D, given that it includes Mesopotamia. Ignoring the fact that it's very poorly and sloppily drawn in MS Paint, the borders are very inaccurate. Instead of the Roman province of Dacia we have this strange vertical line going into areas Rome only very briefly occupied that weren't a part of Roman Dacia[1].

Rome is missinig a quarter of Pontus for some reason. It also shows Crimea as being a direct part of the Roman Empire, which was not the case, it was under the Bosporan client kingdom until the 3rd Century. So maybe this map just shows all client kingdoms with the same color too right? But...then why isn't Armenia on the map, or Caucasian Iberia?

Then the entire northern frontier just kind of sloppily follows the Rhine/Danube occasionally, it's very obvious he drew this by hand and didn't bother using any references for whatever reason. This is not the worst map I've seen, but given that it's the first thing you see when starting the video, it's pretty egregious.

This was the original trauma of the western world.

The idea of a "western world" existing beyond headlines even today is very contested, but I've never in my life heard anyone try and use that phrase for the 5th Century. I really don't see how Ostrogothic Italy, Frankish Gaul and Visigothic Spain would all share some kind of collective "trauma", especially when life in a lot of these places wasn't really all that different when the Western Empire "fell".

Various Empires ranging from napoleon to the Spanish, Turks, Germans, Russians or Byzantines all claiming to be descendants of the Romans

Posted by
6 days ago

Hello, those of r/badhistory. This is the second part of my review from here:

The subject is on the video Battle of Dorylaeum 1097 - First Crusade, by Kings and Generals:

So on we go!

10.58: The narrator describes how a crusader who had sat on the Byzantine throne had ignored the advice of the Emperor to never chase after Turkic warriors, and in doing so was killed with a sword. This incident is described in the Alexiad, but the crusader in question was not killed at all, but managed to return to Bohemond’s force. I have read through the other accounts of the Battle of Dorylaeum from the Gesta Francorum, William of Tyre, Raymond of Aguilers, and Guibert of Nogent, and have not found any descriptions of them dying in such a manner. As such, I can only conclude Kings and Generals is once again using their great magical powers to alter the timeline and add new events.

11.12: The narrator says that Bohemond, and another commander named Robert, were screaming and ordering their men to hold the line, fully aware that if the lines broke there would be no where to run. A nice set of imagery, but once more a fictional addition. I have read The Alexiad, and William of Tyre, and none of them describe this happening. Both the Gesta Francorum and Guibert of Nogent say Bohemond gave a speech to the crusaders before they engaged the Turks. As such, I really need to emphasize this again: when you are trying to teach people about history, don’t make sh*t up! One might imagine what those taking part in a particular battle might have done or said, but if there is no evidence for it, DON’T MENTION IT AS IF IT WERE TRUE! If one does so, it means the audience is not getting an accurate picture of what happens. Their knowledge becomes a mix of fact and falsehood.

11.20: The narrator says that, at first, women from the crusader army constantly supplied the soldiers with buckets of water from a nearby river, but as the hours dragged on they also had the role of dragging the dead away from the front. Here is what the Gesta Francoum has to say about that situation:

"The women in our camp were a great help to us that day, for they brought up water for the fighting men to drink, and gallantly encouraged those who were fighting and defending them.”

And here is the account from Guibert of Nogent:

Posted by
a Dungeons and Dragons level of historical authenticity.
7 days ago

Anyone who has read much about the Hundred Years War and medieval archery more generally has probably come across the claim that English archers were expected to be able to shoot twelve arrows - sometimes hedged as 10-12 arrows - in a minute or they were disqualified from service or considered very poor archers. Modern experience with warbows - where six arrows in a minute is considerable the maximum sustainable rate and some archers have argued that just three arrows in a minute would be acceptable1 - haven't dispelled this old myth and some authors have even misread evidence because it exists2 .

But where does it come from? Robert Hardy attributed it to Emperor Louis Napoleon III, and the sources who bother to name an original source for this myth since the mid-19th century have done the same3 . The question is, where did he get his information from?

That's a question I can answer. Louis Napoleon actually cites an article in the 1832 edition of the United Service Magazine and Naval Journal4 , which we can in turn track down5 . Where did this author get his information from? He doesn't directly cite any particular author for this, but previously mentioned a tract by Richard Oswald Mason written in the late 18th century6 .

The interesting thing is that Mason never says anything about what medieval archers could do or that they weren't considered very good archers if they couldn't shoot twelve arrows a minute. He just says that an "expertly trained" archer could shoot 12 arrows a minute and that a slower could manage 6-8 shots7 . This is actually pretty reasonable, given that proper heavy draw weight bows had fallen out of use by this time and that nothing much over 60lbs was shot at the time8 , but it's not a medieval requirement.

So where does it come from? Most likely, the author of the piece was working from memory and attributed to the modern achievable rate with a medieval requirement. For instance, the author claims that the young men of Edward VI's court were required to pierce a one inch thick oak board at 240 yards. This is similar to a footnote in Mason's tract on the same page as the comments on shooting speed, only Mason mentions that "some" pierced the first board and hit the second but that no distance was mentioned. Similarly, the author of the journal article believed that James III was the Scottish king at Bannockburn, that the Welsh could kill a man through a four inch thick door9 and that Sir William Wood wrote in the time of Henry VIII and not 140 years later10 .

All of this suggests someone who was working off memory or notes that were incomplete or hastily written, rather than someone who had the texts at hand. Combine that with the jingoistic nostalgia for England's brief period of glory in the Hundred Years' War, and you had the recipe for some hero worshiping distortion to take place.

So there you have it: the origin of one of the most persistent and widespread myths about medieval archers finally tracked back to its original source.


1 The Great Warbow, by Matthew Strickland and Robert Hardy, p31; The Longbow, by Mike Loades, p69

2 Juliet Barker, in Agincourt: The King, the Campaign, the Battle, made the claim that "By 6 October, when the exchequer records for the second financial quarter began, two days before the departure from Harfleur, his numbers had been reduced to eighty men-at-arms and 296 archers. Four of the latter had been struck off because they could not shoot the required minimum ten aimed arrows per minute, not because they were dead or sick." Someone did ask her once what her source was, and it turned out to be an unpublished administrative document. Some years ago I got a scan of the relevant document and, thanks to a user who is no longer on Reddit and /u/qed1, learned that all that was said was that "they weren't adequate archers". This isn't a slight on Dr Barker or her work, it's just an example of how the myth can change how people read the evidence.

Posted by8 days ago
GoldBravo!Services to the VolcanoHelpful

A note from the author: I will be referring to specific pages of Hitchens's book throughout the post. The reference for the book is Hitchens, Christopher (2007), God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, New York: Twelve Books, ISBN-13: 9780446579803.

Mea Culpa: I am not immune to mistakes, especially not on a post I wrote over the course of a couple of days after work. Even so, I do feel a responsibility to get it right. Wherever I've felt I made a mistake, I've crossed out the original statement and corrected it as necessary. If more "fact-checking of the fact-checking" is necessary, I will gladly eat crow and edit my post if it can help improve its accuracy, and let no unfair pedantry perfectly valid criticism stand.

Christopher Hitchens should be a familiar name to most people on this sub. Even ignoring his lofty reputation on Reddit as a whole, the second top post of the sub (and certainly the one that sees the most traffic directed at it) is a takedown of Hitchens' allegations on Mother Teresa's supposed sadistic mass-murdering ways.

One thing that might have stood out to a reader of that post was Hitchens' tendency for aggressive cherry-picking (sometimes from within the same source) and decontextualization in order to reinforce his point. Another thing that may have struck someone who read both the book and the post was that the post managed to fit more sources in 10,000 characters than Hitchens did in 100 pages (which had no footnotes, no endnotes, and no bibliography. Always a good sign.)

But The Missionary Position is only Hitchens's second most popular book. The crown jewel of his body of work was god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (lower case "g" in "god" mandatory). In this No. 2 Amazon bestseller (behind only the last Harry Potter book) and No. 1 New York Times bestseller, Hitchens attempts to "document the ways in which religion is a man-made wish, a cause of dangerous sexual repression, and a distortion of our origins in the cosmos" using "a close and erudite reading of the major religious texts". 1

Considering Hitchens's track record, I was dubious to say the least, but I decided to give the book a shot. I went in with as open a mind as I could muster, ready and willing to see what his arguments were. After borrowing it at my local library and reading from front to end, I can affirm beyond shadow of a doubt that the book was a colossal waste of both time and paper, and my life has gone dimmer for having experienced it. My expectations for Hitchens's rigor and research work were low, and he still managed to rise below them.

I will say something before I get started: I will not be attempting to build a case for or against Christopher Hitchens's conclusions on religion in this post. Whether you or I are an atheist or not is irrelevant to basically all of the criticism I make of his work. Furthermore, the issue with wanting to debate this book is that, by the time you're done simply fact-checking it, there really isn't very much left to debate.

Notes on form, and a preface to the fact-check.

Hitchens's book is an opinion piece. That much might appear blindingly obvious, considering the title, but it is important to bear that in mind, because it means that what Hitchens is essentially doing is building up an argument throughout the book: religion is not only false and manufactured, but is inevitably violent, repressive, and generally evil. I don't think it would be unfair to say that Hitchens's thesis, in short, is the religion is the root of all of mankind's evil, and that the point of his book is to argue that claim.


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