For an affair that started because of a sandwich, World War I turned out pretty bad. Almost 60 percent of the soldiers mobilized wound up as casualties, and this was back before wars consisted mostly of planes just bombing the shit out of everything. They pulled off those numbers with bullets and bayonets and infections and poison gas and guys screaming in muddy trenches.
Now, what we're not going to talk about here is all the technological advancements that come from war. We don't deny it, but you have to admit that for every one advance that makes life better, there are 10 that only involve better ways to turn humans into a fine red mist.
No, the real beneficiaries here, were the ladies.
The Silver Lining:
The Women's Rights movement.
The thing is, World War I was really the point where war made an abrupt transition from "bunches of angry guys on horses" to tanks, jeeps and other mass-produced machines. War was becoming a contest of manufacturing capacity and that meant the assembly line worker became just as important as the soldier.
It was around 1915 that Britain realized all their able-bodied males were off shooting at men in spiked helmets, and started employing women in munitions factories. A year later, conscription sucked even more men off the production floor, and soon women were everywhere in the workforce.
It's true that most of those women would quit their jobs when the men came back home, but it was too late. They had escaped the kitchen, and would win the right to vote in 1918. After the war, Western women were also liberated in fashion and behavior, starting smoking, getting bobbed hairstyles and wearing short skirts.
The fight for women's rights would go on for the decades to follow (up to this very moment, we suppose) so maybe it's ironic that it got such a huge boost from the fact men finally invented a war so big they couldn't fight it themselves.
The Crusades were an attempt to convert the entire world to Christianity and unite them under the leadership of the Pope--and predictably ended in a giant weeping pile of corpses and hacked off limbs. The West tried to conquer and hold the Holy Land (Jerusalem) for the entire medieval period, and sometimes you've just got to know when to call it a day. Usually if something doesn't work for "a couple of centuries," you should probably just quit or at least call Microsoft Support.
Both sides were bloodthirsty, cruel and greedy; but the initial Christian assault took the cake with a particularly bloody, largely unprovoked conquest in Jerusalem that resulted in funeral pyres "as large as houses." It was not a very tasty cake, we guess is what we're trying to say here.
The Silver Lining:
What with all the travel between the Islamic and Western worlds (less "touristy" and more "slaughter and pillage" based vacations) the Christians were bound to pick up something useful, and we're not talking about little scimitar-wielding ceramic bobbleheads.
The exposure to Islam basically gave the West all the foundations of modern science, medicine and architecture. Yeah, pretty fucking useful. Essentially, the Crusades consisted of Europe beating up Jerusalem and stealing its homework for a few generations.
The need to transport and supply huge armies also led to improved trading in Europe, and helped to kick-start the Renaissance in Italy, which further shaped modern art, science, music and philosophy.
"There's a song in here, somewhere."
Oh, and one more thing...
Eventually, due to the rising Ottoman Empire in the East cutting off Western trade with Asia, Europe was forced to find alternate trading routes, which ultimately led to Columbus "discovering" America.
So hey, thanks for the apple pie and baseball, attempted medieval genocide!
Read more from Henry at http://stennettrules.spaces.live.com.
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For more world-changers occurring by chance, check out 5 Accidental Inventions That Changed The World. Or find out about some inventions that missed the mark, in 6 "World-Changing" Inventions (That Didn't Change Shit).
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