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Not all the history we learnt at school was factually correct.

Through misinformation, propaganda, cultural superiority and downright lies some historical truisms that have been passed down through the ages, we now know to be false.

Here’s four historical ‘facts’ that are actually not true:

Christopher Columbus did not discover America

Schoolchildren are often told Christopher Columbus ‘discovered’ America when he sailed across the Atlantic Ocean in 1492.

Putting aside the not insignificant issue that millions of indigenous people already lived there and evidence that Viking travellers had made the journey almost 500 years earlier, Columbus actually never set foot on what we know today as North America. The Italian explorer actually landed in the Bahamas and on subsequent journeys visited Cuba, Hispaniola, Venezuela and South America. It is more accurate to say that Columbus established routes to the Americas and pathed the way for European colonisation of the New World.

Richard IIIRichard III wasn’t as bad as he has been made out to be

There has been a renewed interest in the much-maligned Richard III since DNA tests in 2013 showed that a skeleton buried beneath a Leicester car park most likely belonged to the last Plantagenet king.

History hasn’t been kind to Richard – he has been portrayed as a callous and evil man who went as far as murdering his young nephews in the Tower of London to safeguard his claim to the throne. It is now generally agreed that this dark image was the creation of Tudor propagandists, such as William Shakespeare, who were determined to sully his reputation and exaggerate his physical deformities.

Vikings didn’t wear horned helmetsViking

They may have terrified communities across Europe for three hundred years up until the late 11th century but, unfortunately, it is unlikely the Vikings actually wore their iconic horned helmets.

Archaeological finds from this period provide no evidence that the Scandinavian raiders sported such headgear.

Instead, this popular image is believed to only date back to the 1800s, when Sweden’s August Malmström painted images of Viking raiders with horned helmets, while costume designers staging productions of Richard Wagner’s “Der Ring des Nibelungen” created a similar look for their Viking characters.

NapoleonNapoleon wasn’t really all that short

French leader Napoleon Bonaparte has been portrayed as a short man down the ages and it served British propagandists well to maintain this myth.

The general’s height was once commonly given as 5’2″, but many historians now believe he was another four inches taller owing to a miscalculation between French and English units of measurement.

That would make old Boney 5’6″ – about average for a man at the turn of the nineteenth century.


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