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Top 10 Worst Times To Be Alive

VO: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Laura Keating

Script written by Laura Keating

There never was a “Golden Age,” and a simple look at history can prove it. From the Wild West, to Late Antiquity, to The Great Depression, bad things have always happened. WatchMojo counts down the Top 10 Worst Times to be Alive.

Special thanks to our user OodMeister for suggesting this idea! Check out the voting page at https://www.WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top+10+Worst+Times+in+Human+History.


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Script written by Laura Keating

Top 10 Worst Times to be Alive

There never was a “Golden Age,” and a simple look at history can prove it. Welcome to, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Worst Times to be Alive.
For this list, we’re looking at both periods of history as well specific regions and major, long-lasting events that really would have sucked to experience firsthand.

#10: The Wild West

Ah, yes, the Old West. A great time for adventure seekers, and those keen enough to blaze their own trail … or not. Although it has been fondly rebranded through film and fiction, the Wild West was a bloody and awful time. Cowboys were not your friend, partner. On the American frontier, lawlessness and corruption were rampant as These United States found their footing. Unfortunately, that footing stepped squarely on and over the people already living there. The wholesale slaughter of the indigenous peoples, and the theft of their land because of so-called Manifest Destiny in the 19th century left indelible scars on North America that are still seen and felt to this day.

#9: Late Antiquity

The Roman Era was nothing short of impressive in its heyday. While many traditions and cultural facets had been borrowed from earlier Greek society, the ancient Romans’ contribution to the world in the form of rational discourse, art, empire building and more is unquestionable. However, by Late Antiquity, things were tumultuous, to say the least. The military methods that had built the empire were now tearing it apart as the sense of “Roman identity” was lost under increasingly corrupt and ineffectual Emperors. Numerous barbarian attacks, civil war, plague, the rise of new religions (such as Christianity), and tense political and social divides meant that by 476 CE the Western Roman Empire was gone.

#8: The Great Depression

The roaring 1920s was a time of economic prosperity, but also one of financial irresponsibility. Economic uncertainty after the crash of ’29 led to bank failures, and families lost life savings. The consumer mentality disappeared, and after a decade of overproduction and overconsumption, businesses began to fail. By extension, so too did manufacturing, which resulted in mass layoffs. Farming had long been in trouble due to overproduction and decreased by prices, but when over farming met droughts, it resulted in the Dust Bowl effect, where nothing could grow, and homes were literally buried in dust storms. In 1933, unemployment was at 25%, food was scarce and times were seriously tough.

#7: World War I

Following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Europe experienced a war the likes of which the world had never seen. The men in the muddy trenches were as likely to die from diseases as they were from gunfire. On the western front, battles of attrition sent soldiers to their certain deaths in order to move a line a few measly yards. The men who came back were never the same. The errors that had started the war were never resolved, and sowed the seeds for WWII. It was meant to be the “war to end all wars”, but instead it hurtled the world into an unrecognizable future.

#6: The Crusades

Any time you have to attempt the same military campaign nine times (with a few other half-hearted attempts scattered throughout)… one can pretty much assume that all parties involved were utterly miserable. When, the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I called for aid in fighting the Turks, Pope Urban II saw it as an opportunity tomake a common enemy to unite Europe (and make himself pope of that united Europe in the process). Fought between 1095 and 1291, the crusades involved long treks, pillaging, terrible living conditions and incalculable loss of civilian lives. Neither romantic nor noble, the crusades were a truly terrible time for Muslims, Jews and Christians alike.

#5: The Witch Trials of Europe

Accusations of witchcraft were actually super common in Medieval Europe, with many people just paying a fine. But every now and then a fanatic would come into power (either locally or at the crown level), and things would get TRULY medieval. There were many trials, on different scales, often overlapping. The peak came between 1580 and 1630 in Europe, with literally thousands accused and executed. Up to 85% of those accused were women, and there is explicit evidence that misogyny and distrust of the intelligence of women fueled many of the trials. Simply being smart, lucky, or outspoken could have you tortured, humiliated, and murdered.

#4: The Americas During Colonization

The slave trade and the brutal treatment of indigenous peoples in North and South America remains a shameful black mark on human history. Populations were wiped out, entire cultures - once complex and rich - destroyed and reimagined in history to be simple and savage. For centuries under the thumb of the colonizers, native children were taken from families so they would unlearn/forget everything they knew to further destroy their ways of life. Kidnapped Africans were brought to America under brutal conditions, and forced to work for their captors, with their own children often sold again. Stripped of their dignity, when they fought back, such as in the Stono Rebellion of 1739, conditions became worse.

#3: The Spanish Inquisition

An official office established in 1478, the Inquisition sought to root out non-Catholics – mostly Jews and Protestants – and suppress other so-called heresies – such as witchcraft, blasphemy, and sodomy. The accused would be brought before a tribunal. First, you were imprisoned. With so many accused, you could wait in a cell for years – meanwhile, the inquisition took all your property. Second, came the trial, where you were meant to confess. Third step, torture. The methods used to extract “confessions” are infamous: The rack, thumb-screws, and of course boiling, burning, cutting, etc. Over 150,000 people were “processed” this way, and upto 5000 executed – with still more dying along the way.

#2: World War II

When Nazi armies spread across Europe with the intention of increasing wealth and eliminating Jews and minorities, the world was plunged back into global war. The atrocities of the Nazi party, and the industrialized mass murder that was the Holocaust haunt us to this day. Meanwhile, the Pacific Ocean Theatre saw Japan invading China and Manchuria, with such notorious battles as The Rape of Nanking. The American campaign would eventually lead to the deployment of nuclear weapons, with over 200,000 civilians total killed in either the blast, or from radiation. Globally, over 80 million people died. That’s more than the current total populations of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Switzerland, Ireland, and Iceland COMBINED.

#1: The Black Death

The pandemic that swept Eurasia was one of the most cataclysmic in history, with anywhere from 75 to 200 million people dying, about 30-60% of Europe’s population, between 1346 and 1353. Because it was the Middle Ages and medical knowledge was lacking, the causes were at the time unknown, and prevention almost impossible. After contracting the Bubonic plague from flea bites, painful black buboes, oozing pus and blood would appear around the infected’s armpits, groin, and neck. This was followed by a fever, and bloody vomit. Most died within days. Entire towns were wiped out in this horrific manner, and mass graves – or plague pits – served as their final resting place.


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