50 Best Fun History Facts for Kids
Did someone say group pooping? We've put together 50 of the weirdest, coolest fun facts from history!
History is old but it's far from boring! From purple carrots to pooping Romans, to WW2 magicians, here are 50 crazy facts from history!
If you liked this and want to test your trivia, why not try our fun history quiz? If you think Romans rule then you can always check out our ancient history quiz. And there's loads more quizzes on the History quiz page
1. Carrots used to be purple
Yup, the most famously orange vegetable used to be purple! In the 16th century Dutch growers cultivated orange carrots, supposedly as a tribute to King William of Orange, and they've been that way ever since! Do you think you could get anyone to change a vegetable colour for you?
2. No witches were burned at Salem
And there's two reasons for that. Firstly, there was no such thing as witches, just a lot of scared and confused people, and secondly, hanging was the technique used to execute any so called 'witches' in Salem in 1692, except in the case of a man called Giles Corey, who refused to testify, and was crushed to death! Gruesome!
3. Forks are a new thing
It might seem pretty impossible to imagine eating your dinner without a fork, but in fact they weren't widely used in the UK until the 17th century! Before then, people would spear their food on their knives, and use a spoon to help them.
4. Versailles was gross
Versailles is one of the most beautiful and popular tourist destinations in the world, but back in the days when it was a Royal resisdence, it wasn't actually all that fun to live in. For starters, it was built on a swamp, which meant it was often muggy and full of insects. It was also only cleaned once a YEAR. The worst bit, though, is that people would just go to the toilet WHEREEVER THEY WANTED. Yuck.
5. People used to lock up their tea
When tea was first imported to Britain from China, it was such a luxury and was so expensive that people had special tea boxes and chests to lock it away in. Only the lady of the house was allowed to serve the tea, not the servants, in case they nicked any! Can you imagine locking up your Yorkshire Gold tea bags now?
6. Women in Britain didn't get the full franchise until 1928
Although it's true that some women got the vote in 1918, most women didn't actually get to vote until 1928. This was because only certain women could vote in 1918; women over 30 who owned property. Most women didn't own anything (their husbands did), so they didn't really get a say until the vote was given to everyone in 1928, which is still less than a hundred years ago!
7. James I and VI was obsessed with witches
James I of England and VI of Scotland was super superstitious. Not only did he believe in witches - he thought they were out to get him. When a storm nearly sunk his boat in Scotland in 1590, he decided some local women must have cursed him and had them tortured! He was so interested in witches that he wrote a book all about them, and then a certain William Shakespeare put them in his Scottish play, just for James.
8. In WW2 the British army hired a magician
What's better than being great in battle? Looking like you're great in battle! During World War 2, the British Army hired an illusionist and stage magician called Jasper Maskelyne to help with camouflage and other illusions. His tricks apparently included using inflatable tanks, hiding weapons in sports equipment, and making dummy machine guns. It's hard to know just how much Maskelyne really helped, but it's definitely a great story!
9. Gladiator sweat used to be a beauty product
Ancient Roman gladiators were the celebrities of their day - the public (and especially women) loved to fawn over them and admire their strength. But that's not all - some gladiators were so popular that you could buy their bottled sweat for luck, and to use as a beauty product! The Romans didn't use soap to wash - they would cover themselves in olive oil and then scrape it off, and the scrapings were what you could buy! Yeuuuuuuch.
10. An Egyptian queen wore a fake beard
Hatshepsut was an Egyptian pharaoh. The only problem was, Hatshepsut was a woman, and female pharaohs weren't always taken seriously. So she decided to do something about that. Surviving statues of Hatshepsut show her with a long, ancient Egyptian style beard. Although she probably didn't wear it all the time, the beard helped her look more like the ancient Egyptian gods. Would you put on a beard if it helped you become pharaoh?
11. Pocahontas is buried in England
Pocahontas is one of the most famous Indigenous Americans in history, from the Powhatan tribal nation. But what you might not know is that she's actually buried in the UK! Pocahontas went on a diplomatic trip to England when she was a young adult, and sadly caught a disease and died just as her ship was leaving England. She's buried in Gravesend, Kent, although she still has many descendants living in the USA today.
12. Stagecoach Mary was a legend of the West
The so called 'Wild West' of the US was filled with amazing legendary figures, including Stagecoach Mary, (Real name Mary Fields) the first African American mail carrier. Being a postwoman might not sound that exciting, but delivering messages and post was vitally important in the Wild West, not to mention super dangerous. Mary was armed with a rifle and a revolver, and ready to fight off any thieves, bandits or highwaymen who might try and stop her doing her job. Can you imagine your postie being that exciting?
13. The Vikings didn't have horns
It's a total invention that Vikings had those big horns on their helmets - Vikings helmets were pretty much like any other helmet - a protective metal covering, sometimes decorated with precious metal and patterns. The Vikings were scary enough without adding anything pointy! The horns probably came from a mix or myths, legends, and Victorian operas.
14. Edinburgh Castle was once home to an Elephant
In 1838, some soldiers returned from Sri Lanka to their barracks at Edinburgh Castle, and brought their new pet - an Indian Elephant! The elephant acted as a mascot, marching in front of the army band, and even drinking beer it stole with its trunk! Please note we do NOT advise feeding your pet elephant beer.
15. Cleopatra was probably Greek
Queen Cleopatra VII is one of the most famous Egyptians ever - but she probably wasn't actually Egyptian! Her family line was actually Greek and Macedonian, and Cleo probably looked more European than North African. Cleopatra was part of the Ptolemaic dynasty, who were notorious for marrying each other to keep their bloodlines 'pure' - gross! She was also their last queen, which is a bit tricky to remember since ALL their queens were called either Cleopatra, Arsinoe or Berenice!
16. The Harlem Hellfighters fought the hardest in WW1
The Harlem Hellfighters were an all-black US regiment who were on the frontlines of war more than any other regiment during the war. Officially the 369th Infantry Regiment, they were nicknamed the Harlem Hellfighters because of their reputation as fearsome soldiers. They were awarded the French Croix de Guerre for their actions, and became legendary for their bravery. Sadly, they also suffered the most losses of any US regiment during the war. This is probably because black soldiers were usually given the toughest and most dangerous missions because of discrimination.
17. The 1950s housewife is a bit of a myth
If you picture the 1950s woman you probably imagine a housewife - dressed up very nicely and always ready to make dinner! But it's actually a bit of a myth; although economically the 50s were pretty prosperous and meant that more Western women could stay at home, most still had to work. The majority of families in the UK and the USA simply couldn't afford to have only one parent working, and in fact throughout most of history women have done lots of jobs, with only the wealthiest staying at home. So next time someone tells you about the 'Good old days', you can tell them it didn't really exist!
18. The Crimean War made beards fashionable
If you think of a Victorian man, you probably picture a guy with a great big bushy beard, or maybe some muttonchops or a handlebar moustache. But this trend didn't actually come in until the 1850s, when soldiers were returning from the Crimean War. Because they had been away so long without access to proper barbers or grooming, most of them returned with huge wiry beards, and this brought in the fashion. It was suddenly seen as very manly and tough to have a huge bristling beard, and hence the trend was born!
19. A dancing plague took over medieval Europe
In Strasbourg, in modern day France, in 1518, people suddenly started dancing, and didn't stop. In fact, they danced for weeks! Up to 400 people joined in and seemingly couldn't stop, with some of them dropping dead from exhaustion. Nowadays experts probably think that this was a form of mass-hysteria, where people start to believe or do odd things and others 'catch' their madness. Mass hysteria is also seen as a likely reason for the Salem witch trials a century later.
20. Charles Darwin was funny
Charles Darwin is known as one of the first people to propose the theory of evolution, but he was also a fun guy. As well as building a slide in his house for his children, he was also known for the weird and funny stuff he wrote in his diaries, including sick burns such as “I have tried lately to read Shakespeare, and found it so intolerably dull that it nauseated me.” and “The sight of a feather in a peacock’s tail, whenever I gaze at it, makes me sick!” He could also be a bit dramatic; “But I am very poorly today & very stupid & hate everybody & everything.” Today doctors think he probably suffered from anxiety and depression, which would explain his harsh view of himself!
21. Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin by accident
Scientist Alexander Fleming forgot to tidy his lab up properly before he went on holiday (We've all done it). When he came back, he noticed mould growing in one of the petri dishes, and that it seemed to have destroyed the germs he was studying. He realised that the mould (penicillin) was anti-bacterial. This was how he made one of the most important scientific discoveries on the 20th century! So next time you're told to clean you're disgusting room, you can say you're actually doing important scientific research!
22. A whole town disappeared in 1590
Back in the 16th century, Europeans were colonising what is now the USA, and built lots of new towns. In 1590, a colony called Roanoke disappeared completely. When a member of the colony came back from a visit to England, there was no town, people or any signs of life! Only a mysterious symbol carved into a tree. What happened to them? Theories over the years include the townspeople being killed by local tribes, or even abducted by aliens...
23. The Night Witches were an all female WW2 flying squad
The Night Witches was a nickname given to the Soviet Union's all female flying unit. Officially the 588th Night Bomber Regiment, they flew under the cover of darkness in mostly wooden aeroplanes and dropped bombs on the Nazis during the Second World War. The Soviets decided to use women because they were running out of options, and this turned out to be a very good idea. The 'Nachthexen', as the Germans called them, were nicknamed this because their wooden planes made a swooshing sound, a bit like broomsticks, and they were almost silent in their attacks, giving them a slightly mystical reputation.
24. People used all sorts of weird stuff as toothpaste
Nowadays we all like to feel minty fresh, but mint wasn't always the most popular flavour of toothpaste. In fact, humans have been using lots of different things as toothpaste throughout history, including charcoal, honey, cuttlefish bones, twigs, ashes, oyster shells, salt, herbs, and loads of other things! Bet you're glad you've got mint flavour now!
25. A dead pope was once put on trial
In Italy in 897AD, the Pope, Stephen VI, decided to dig up the dead Pope Formosus, and put him on trial. Stephen felt that Formosus should stand trial for crimes committed during his life - mostly boring pope-type crimes like ruling more than one place as a bishop. The trial, known as the Cadaver Synod, saw poor old Formosus dressed up in his old robes and subjected to Stephen's yelling and screaming. He was eventually found guilty and tossed into the river Tiber. Luckily, by this point, everyone decided that maybe Stephen wasn't doing a good job, and had him thrown in prison.
26. No one knows why Skara Brae was abandoned
Skara Brae is one of the best preserved Neolithic sites in Britain, and can still be visited today. In fact, it's so well preserved that experts aren't exactly sure why it was abandoned. Theories include the possibility of a sand storm, coastal erosion and changes in Neolithic society, but no one is quite certain.
27. Oysters weren't always a fancy food
You might think of oysters as one of the poshest things you can eat, but that wasn't always the way. In fact, hundreds of years ago, in Tudor Britain, oysters were a snack food of the poor. This was because they were plentiful and easy to carry in their shells, so they could be eaten on the go. Most people would carry an oyster knife with them, ready to shuck them open when they felt peckish.
28. Nelson Mandela was a royal
Nelson Mandela is famous as the President of South Africa and a human rights activist, but he was actually born a royal! He was born into the Thembu royal family in 1918, and his dad was a chief and grandson of a Thembu king. He was also given the name 'Nelson' by a teacher, as in those days most South African people were given white names to assimilate them with colonial culture.
29. Aboriginal art has been found from over 17,000 years ago
In Feb of 2021, Australian scientists announced that they had dated the oldest recorded rock art - a painting of a kangaroo in Western Australia. The painting was made using red ochre pigments, and has been dated at about 17,300 years old. Scientists used mud wasp nests to determine the age of the painting.
30. William McGonagall was the worst poet in Scotland
William McGonagall is famous for an embarrassing reason - he was a really bad poet! McGonagall was a Victorian poet from Edinburgh who would perform his terrible poetry to crowds of fascinated onlookers. His poems were usually melodramatic, long and full of bad rhymes, but perhaps the worst thing is that McGonagall didn't seem to know how much everyone hated them! Until the day he died he believed he was a genius who had been blessed with a special gift for words.
31. Samurai were their own social class
In feudal Japan everyone was organised into castes, or classes, and this included the warrior Samurai. In fact, the Samurai were basically their own caste, the military class, similar to the knights of Medieval Europe. Samurai were supposed to live by very strict rules, and prided themselves on their loyalty and discipline. Samurai existed in Japan up until the late 19th century, when the feudal system was eventually abolished.
32. India invented numbers
That's right, the numbers system we used today comes from ancient India. Thought to have originated in the 6th -7th centuries, the number system we still use today was introduced to Europe through Middle Eastern mathematicians such as al-Khwarizmi and al-Kindi.
33. There was a bagpiper at the D Day landings
Traditionally, Scottish soldiers would go into battle with pipers playing. This was stopped during WW1 since they were usually shot down. During the D Day landings in WW2, however, eccentric Scottish commander Lord Lovat declared that he wanted his personal piper, Bill Millin, to play when they stormed the beaches. When Millin asked him if this was allowed, Lord Lovat said that the rules against pipers were only for the English soldiers, so they didn't apply! Apparently the Germans decided not to shoot Millin because they thought he'd gone mad! You can see photos of Bill playing at D Day online today.
34. The scariest pirate in the China Seas was Ching Shih
Ching Shih was a female pirate and war lord in 19th century China. Not only that, but she was greatly feared by her enemies; Ching Shih commandedup to 300 junks (Chinese ships) and up to 40,000 pirates! That's a lot of people!
35. Mince pies used to have real mincemeat in them
If you've ever wondered why mince pies are called mince pies, your suspicions are correct - they really did used to have minced meat in them! Back in medieval times when the first recipes for mince pies appeared, lots of different flavours were eaten together and there wasn't as much distinction between sweet and savoury. So at Christmas, all the most valuable ingredients, which included meat, spices and dried fruit, would be thrown into the pie together!
36. A man tried to fly off the Eiffel Tower
In 1912 a man called Franz Reichelt tried to fly from the top of the Eiffel tower using homemade parachute. The plan was to float gracefully to the ground. Unfortunately, it didn't work, and sadly he plunged to his death. Maybe he should have tested it from a safer height first?
37. Buzz Aldrin wet himself on the moon
Buzz Aldrin is famous for being one of the first men on the moon, but being on the moon first has its own problems...a lack of toilets, for example. Buzz really needed a wee while up there, and since he couldn't take off his suit, he had no choice but to wee with it on!
38. Romans used to poop in groups
The Romans weren't as shy as us - they didn't mind using a big group toilet. Roman soldiers would all use the same room and poop together. You can even see some of these toilets in the UK, at Hadrian's Wall. Sounds kinda fun, chatting with your mates while doing your business! No? Maybe you'd rather be left alone...
39. The last Tsar of Russia was a great dad and a terrible leader
Nicholas II of Russia is famous for being the last Tsar of Russia, and its fair to say he wasn't very good at it. He didn't really enjoy being Tsar, but he also thought he'd been chosen by God, so he didn't let anyone else rule either. He made lots of bad decisions and didn't seem to know what his people wanted. All Nicholas himself really wanted was to spend time with his family, and he was actually a really good dad, spending lots of time at home with his kids playing and hanging out. Shame he was also in charge of the biggest country on Earth!
40. The Vikings were the first Europeans in America
We often think of Christopher Columbus as the first European to 'discover' America, but the Vikings seem to have got there hundreds of years earlier! The Vikings, led by Leif Erikson, colonised what is now the north USA and Canada, and remains of their occupation have been found in Newfoundland. They also settled in Greenland for almost 500 years.
41. Blackbeard has loads of wives
Blackbeard is one of the most famous pirates to ever live, but one thing you might not know about him is that he was a bit of a ladies man. Too much of a ladies man, actually, because he's thought to have had up to 14 wives! And he didn't get divorces either, so often he'd be married to more than one at once! The appeal of marrying Blackbeard was probably less about his greasy hair and unwashed face and more about his treasure!
42. A pig was executed in medieval France
In 1386, a pig in the French town of Falaise was accused of attacking and maiming a child. For some reason, it was put on trial, found guilty, and hanged in men's clothing. We're not sure why they people of Falaise felt the need to put the time and money into doing this, but the internet was a long time off being invented, so maybe it was just something to do? In fact, there are several recorded incidents of pigs being tried in medieval France. It seems to have been a national hobby.
43. Mary Queen of Scots didn't speak English
Mary (Mum of witch-hating James) was brought up in France by Scottish courtiers, in the days when Scots was the language used by most Scottish people, and French was used by the court. When Mary was captured by the English in 1568, she didn't actually speak English very well at all, only French and Scots! She had to learn it during her very long captivity.
44. Children used to do grown up jobs
You might think having to do homework is rubbish, but your ancestors weren't so lucky! Up until halfway through the 19th century, children in Britain had dangerous, gross and weird jobs like chimney sweeps, factory workers and sewage workers. Bet homework doesn't sound so bad now you know you could be knee deep in poo all day!
45. Thomas Edison was a bit of a cad
Thomas Edison is known as the 'Father of Invention', but he wasn't the nicest guy. In fact, he was notorious for threatening other inventors and stealing their ideas! He was a skilled businessman who cleverly crafted his reputation as one of history's most famous inventors, even if he wasn't as original as he claimed. He also electrocuted an elephant, just to show he could, which is very mean!
46. Britain and Zanzibar fought a 38 minute war
The shortest war in history was fought by the British and the Zanzibar Sultanate on the 27th August, 1896. It lasted between 38 and 45 minutes, and started because of a disagreement over who should be the Zanzibar leader. Despite lasting less than an hour, over 500 Zanibari people were killed or wounded, and several boats were sunk. It was a British victory, and no further wars were ever fought between Britain and Zanzibar.
47. The first African American female millionaire was Madame CJ Walker
Madame CJ Walker made history in the USA when she made her fortune with her hair care business. She became the first African American woman to become a millionaire. Walker worked her way up from a laundress to one of the wealthiest people in the USA by producing hair care products specifically for black women, and became famous for her lavish parties and elegant clothes. Products inspired by hers can still be bought today!
48. The Celts were very clean
The Celts (the people living in Britain and Ireland when the Romans got there) were seen by the Romans as savage barbarians, who lived wildly. In actual fact, the Celts were a highly organised society, with their own culture, stories and systems of living. They also used soap (made from fats and ashes) long before the Romans did, and loved bathing to keep clean!
49. China invented the lottery
The earliest recorded lotteries were in China during the Han Dynasty (205-187 BC). Like today, lotteries back then were used to finance big projects such as the Great Wall of China, and was played by purchasing tickets made of wood, paper or other tokens, and results send out by carrier pigeon, hence its name 'White Dove Lottery'.
50. Dentists didn't use pain killers
That's right, pain killers weren't always around, which meant every time you went to the dentist, you felt everything! People would have to be held down so they didn't jump up and run away. Some people would wait for them to fall out rather than go to the dentist! In 1772, nitrous oxide, or 'Laughing gas' was discovered and started to be used as a pain reliever.