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10 Historical Tidbits that Will Make You Chuckle

8. In 1325, there was a rivalry between the city-states of Bologna and Modena. A few Modenese soldiers stole a bucket from a well in Bologna that started a war where around 38,000 soldiers fought. Modena won and the bucket still remains with them!

War of the bucket
(Image 1) Communal fight in Bologna. (Image 2) The stolen bucket, inside the Ghirlandina Tower. Image credits: Giovanni Sercambi/Wikipedia, Alien life form/Wikipedia

The War of the Bucket, as the name suggests, was a war that started all because of a bucket. The war was fought between Modena and Bologna in the year 1325. It was not an isolated war but part of a 300-year-long struggle between two different ideologies of people in Europe in which the cities Modena and Bologna stood opposing each other. The War of the Bucket was just a small part of that.

In 1325, a few Modenese soldiers stole a bucket from the central well of Bologna. The Bolognese soldiers took this as an insult to their security and demanded the bucket be returned. The Modenese declined. So, the Bolognese Army took its 30,000-man infantry and 2,000 horsemen and attacked Modena. The Modenese came with 5,000 infantry and 2,000 horsemen.

Although Bolognese had the larger number, they lacked proper leadership which made it easier for the Modenese to overpower them. They were driven back to Bologna where the Modenese caused a lot of destruction and took one more bucket. Two thousand men lost their lives all because of a small bucket.

Today, the bucket is kept in the Torre della Ghirlandina. A wooden replica bucket hangs from the ceiling of the Modenese town hall. (1, 2)

9. A French military pharmacist got the French people interested in the cultivation of potatoes by planting acres and acres of land with potatoes and guarding them heavily with troops. The guards were made to go off duty sometimes and, as he anticipated, farmers came in and stole potatoes to plant in their own farms.

Potato harvest
(Image 1) Parmentier Antoine (Image 2) Potato harvest-Used for representational purpose only. Image credits: Wikipedia, Jean-François Millet/Wikipedia

Reverse psychology may be a word we have started hearing in the last few decades, but its use can be dated back to as far as the 18th century. And, it was used by none other than Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, the pioneer who established the potato as a source of nutrition. He is also responsible for the extraction of sugar from beets. He was one of the first people to study methods for conserving food, including refrigeration.

Coming back to reverse psychology, Parmentier used reverse psychology on the people to make them accept potatoes as a food source. Although the potato was declared as an edible food source by the Paris Faculty of Medicine because of Parmentier’s efforts, common people were having a hard time accepting that declaration. So, Parmentier came up with various publicity stunts.


One of his most renowned stunts was growing potatoes on a large scale and placing guards all around the potato patch. This gave the impression that maybe something valuable was being grown in the patch. Parmentier told the guards to accept any bribes offered by the villagers and then withdraw at night so that they could steal the potatoes. His idea worked like magic. Farmers came and stole the potato plants to grow in their own gardens.

His other stunts involved organizing dinners for influential people, like Benjamin Franklin, that served primarily potato dishes and giving potato bouquets to the king and queen. (source)

10. In 1973, a truck driver hit a tree that was the only tree in over 400 kilometers. Basically, the driver was on an empty desert with one tree – and he hit it!

Tree of Tenere
(Image 1) Tree of Ténéré (1961) (Image 2) Metal sculpture of the tree (1985) Image credits: Michel Mazeau/Wikipedia, Holger Reineccius/Wikipedia

The Ténéré Tree was the most isolated tree in the world until a drunk truck driver knocked it down in 1973. The tree was one of the last few trees that grew on the Sahara Desert before it turned as dry as we know it today. The tree stood alone for decades. During the 1938-39 winter, a well was dug near the tree. It was discovered that the roots of the tree reached the water table that was 33–36 meters (108 to 118 feet) below the land surface.

In 1973, the tree was knocked over by a truck driver from Libya. It’s a mystery of how he hit the tree when it was the only tree in 400 km of empty desert. The tree was then moved to the Niger National Museum located in Niamey, Niger. On the original spot, the tree has been replaced by a metal sculpture that represents the wonder tree. (source)


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