Shocking Historical Moments

From the great catastrophe to the Salem witch trials, the world has witnessed many shocking events and lived through unbelievable incidents that have continued to confound humanity. Some of these occurrences happened several decades or even centuries ago, but will forever remain indelible on our history. Some of the following ten shocking moments in history may have you second-guessing humanity.

1. The Execution of Anne Boleyn

The Execution of Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn was the second wife of King Henry VIII. In 1536, May 15th, the world was shocked and devasted as it witnessed the first public execution of the Queen of England. She was charged with a long list of crimes encompassing conspiring in the King’s death, incest, adultery, among others. Her sentence was death via beheading. Anne was beheaded in London, and it is hard to scrape off her departure from the history of the world as it came with an incredible shock. The queen of England publicly executed! Anne was married to Henry for approximately four years before she was killed. As the second wife, the King left his wife of over twenty years and kid to marry Anne, breaking away from the Catholic church in the process. However, the love waned in 1536, when the king started an affair with Jane Seymour, Anne’s lady in line waiting.

In May of the same year, she was arrested and imprisoned in London Towers together with her bother, and five others. The five were prosecuted and found guilty of conspiring on the death of King Henry VIII and adultery with the queen, while the queen and her brother were convicted of high treason. All the prisoner with the queen were executed. According to history, the Queen demonstrated a remarkable standard of courage by how she comported herself even in the face of death.[1]

2. The Great Fire of London

The Great Fire of London

The Great fire broke out in London and destroyed over 70,000 homes and 13,500 buildings encompassing the royal exchange and the then St. Paul’s cathedral church. The Catastrophic fire which originated at the Kings baker in the house of Farrinor near the London bridge started in the morning of 2nd September 1666. It lasted for three days as the dry and dusty London air together with the strong winds fueled the fire, helping to destroy over a hundred thousand human lives and made many homeless in the process.

The official reports, however, indicates that only a few people lost their lives. But the real tally of human life that was smoked up in the fire was shocking. It is one of the catastrophes that claimed the highest number of human lives in the history of fire outbreaks in the world. The fire devasted the city and destroyed a tremendous amount of resources and property.[2]

3. The Building of the Berlin Wall

The Building of the Berlin Wall

The radical Germany communist wanted to alienate themselves from the US-friendly west Germany. The Berlin wall was constructed overnight in August 1961, orchestrated by the German Democratic Republic formerly known as East German. The primary objective was to curtail the Western fascists from going into East Germany and interfering with the establishment of the socialist state. The wall stopped the free movement of people from either side of the fence, east, and west German. To a greater extent, however, the wall also served the purpose of preventing people from defecting from socialism to the west.

The wall construction shocked the world as the Berlin people woke up on the morning of 13th August 1961 separated from their families, relatives, and friends, working places, as well as their own homes. Initially, it was a makeshift wall that made it impossible for the people to locomote from west to east Germany and it was guarded heavily with soldiers. However, it was replaced with a 12 feet tall and 4 feet wide concrete reinforced wall in addition to the lined traps of booby and guards securing the wall 24/7. As a result, over 200 people were killed on the wall maneuvering to cross either over or under the Berlin wall which stood until 1989.[3]

4. The Salem Witch Trials

The Salem Witch Trials

The trial of about 20 witches, both men and women took place in northern America between June and September 1692. They were found guilty of practicing witchcraft in the country and were sentenced to death. They were executed in Salem, Massachusetts, a small religious community. The act was horrendous, and it shocked the world for the inhuman acts committed against those people. The witch trials at Salem can be attributed to many TV shows, films, books, plays, and scholarly documents over the years about the book The Crucible, a play by Arthur Miller. The decision and conviction to execute the witches were based on the evidence of village girls claiming they have been bewitched without any solid proof of the claim. The sentence triggered paranoia and increased family squabbles and attacks on the native American people spreading across the country and the entire colony of Massachusetts. In the process, more than 200 people including women, men, and children were associated with witchcraft and forced to confess to receiving forgiveness.[4]

5. Jack the Ripper

Jack the Ripper

The serial killer emerged in east end London in the begging of 1888. Jack, dubbed the Ripper, was the serial killer associated with the killing and mutilating five prostitutes in the streets of London, causing panic and shock in the society. The police were charged with the mandate to hunt and arrest the ruthless killer in the streets as the people lacked sleep and peace due to fear. The killer’s identity is unknown with speculations looming as to whether the killer is a doctor, butcher, Jew, foreigner or Jill? To some point, the turn of events even linked the five murders to the murder of the prince, Albert Victor, Queen Victoria’s grandson. The law enforcement team deployed various approaches in seeking the identity of the killer including intensive interrogation, and all proved futile. Till today, to the amusement of many historians and scholars, the serial killer remains unknown despite increased cases of killings in the streets of Victoria, London.[5]

6. The Bombing of Hiroshima

Victim of Hiroshima atomic bombing
A victim of Hiroshima atomic bombing

The American soldiers orchestrated the Hiroshima Bombing on the 6th of August 1945. The Americans deployed the nuclear bomb against the Japanese. It was dropped on the populated Japanese city of Hiroshima accounting for the total of over 140,000 human lives in the smoke. According to nuclear scientists, within 2 seconds following the blast, humans within the vicinity were incapacitated, and the temperatures escalated to over 65 million degrees centigrade, producing over ten thousand times more heat as compared to the surface of the sun. The attack continues. Three days later, the American soldiers carried out another atomic bomb attack on another Japanese city, Nagasaki – killing over seventy-five thousand people.

The survivors of the attack demonstrated signs and symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, thinning hear, gum bleeding and death. The people suffered from a medical condition known as radiation sickness caused by extreme exposure to nuclear weapons.[6]

7. The Execution of Oliver Cromwell

The Execution of Oliver Cromwell

One of the most shocking and remarkable moments in the world of history took place in 1661. It was the execution of a dead person for treason. The body of Oliver Cromwell was exhumed from Westminster Abby for execution following his treasonous acts after his death and state burial. Oliver played a significant role as an offer in the parliamentary army in the civil war of 1642. He contributed as a critical figure in the trial, conviction, and execution of King Charles I.[7]

8. The Emergence of the First World War

The Emergence of the First World War

The first world war represents the moment in the world of history when the world experienced a global conflict. The war involved over 30 countries and it covered the largest geographical space in the history of wars — the number of lives lost during World War I was approximated to over 10 million soldiers and the unknown number of civilians. It changed the perception of the world on social and political aspects. The war started with Britain declaration of war on Germany in 1914 following the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, the heir to Austro-Hungarian throne. Within a month, the entirety of Europe was engulfed in a war that would devastate the whole world.[8]

9. The First Man in Space

The First Man in Space

In his Vostok 1 spacecraft, Yuri Gagarin, the Soviet cosmonaut, became the first man to journey in space. He orbited for 108 minutes in space, wearing a bright orange spacesuit with a helmet imprinted CCCP for identification with the Soviet and recognition.

The 27-year-old technician and test pilot was the first man to travel into space and the first human being to orbit the planet. He helped prove the triumph of the Soviet Union space program in the world. Yuri opened the door for other people to study and explore space. He was named the hero of the Soviet Union.[9]

10. The Holocaust

The Holocaust

It is the barbaric period in the history of the world that marked the death of over seven million Jewish people. After the end of the first world war, the Nazi’s were furious with the Jews and Hitler, in particular, blamed the Jews for the Germans defeat in the war. The Holocaust is described as the systematic persecutions and murders of a group of people planned and orchestrated and sponsored by the government. Hitler blamed the Jews for the defeat in the war as he refers to the Jews as a racially inferior race that cannot produce strong soldiers to fight in the war.

When he rose to power as the Nazi leader, Hitler devised a final resolution of killing two out of every three Jews with the objective of preventing the weak from breading. The procedure was brutal and barbaric as it was compulsory sterilization and institutionalization of ‘the weak in the society.’ It was one of the most devastating periods in the history of the world that occurred during the 20th century.[10]


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