6 Random Coincidences That Created The Modern World

The stuff they say about time travel is right. You go back in time and change one little thing, and suddenly the future is full of Nazis and dinosaurs.

If you go back through history, you find that time and time again the huge changes that shape our world today all hinged on some utterly random coincidence. Change it, and the entire course of history changes with it.

#6. The Sandwich that Started a World War

You probably know from history class that World War I started with the assassination of an Austrian Archduke named Franz Ferdinand, kicking off a domino effect of events that left millions dead. You may not know, however, that what knocked over that first domino was a sandwich.

There was this guy named Gavrilo Princip. He was a Bosnian student and guerrilla, part of a group called the Black Hand. Sounds like the evil organization of mages that secretly controls the world, right? Unfortunately, it was something a lot less awesome: a Slavic independence group.

And for some weird reason, they really hated Franz Ferdinand.

To be fair, he had that kind of face.

The World-shattering Coincidence

Let's make sure to clear this up: Gavrilo Princip very much wanted to assassinate Uncle Franz. It was how it happened that was so fucking random.

In mid-1914, Ferdinand, his wife and the obligatory group of less important political figures and other random hangers-on that always accompanies a soon-to-be-assassinated fool, were cruising through the streets of Sarajevo in a (stupidly) open-top car.

The Black Hand had crafted an intricate assassination plot, which basically consisted of, "just kill this dumbass somehow." Unfortunately, as is always true with intricate assassination plots, something went wrong.

When Franz's motorcade passed by the assassins, one of the group, a guy named Nedeljko Cabrinovic, lobbed a grenade at the motorcade. The problem was he was using a shitty 1914 grenade, so it took 10 seconds to detonate, and by then Uncle Franz was out of range. The unlucky fools in the car behind them bit it instead, and the assassins dispersed in the chaos.

Cabrinovic took a cyanide pill that failed to kill him and jumped into a three foot river to "drown" himself. Franz and his party, it seemed, were safe.

But Franz was not yet done putting his life in insane danger. Against the advice of pretty much everyone, he insisted on going to the hospital to visit the people who were injured by the grenade. The driver, unfortunately, had no idea where the fuck he was going. They ended up crisscrossing hilariously through the streets of Sarajevo, until they just randomly happened to pass a cafe where, you guessed it, Gavrilo Princip was enjoying a post-failed-assassination sandwich.

After the obligatory pause of dumbfounded luck, Princip grabbed his pistol and turned the tide of history.

And How Did it Change The World?

First, WWI broke out ...

Pictured: Gavrilo Princip's fault.

... Then there was the post-war economic failure...

Pictured: Gavrilo Princip's fault.

... Which was part of the reason Germany actually elected...

Pictured: Gavrilo Princip's fault.

... Who caused...

Pictured: Gavrilo Princip's fault.

... Which ended with...

Pictured: Gavrilo Princip's fault.

... which resulted in the Cold War...

Pictured: Gavrilo Princip's fault.

... Which led to...

Pictured: Gavrilo Princip's fault.

... And finally gave us:

Pictured: Gavrilo Princip's fault.

That's right. Most of the horror and death of the 20th Century may not have happened had Gavrilo Princip not gotten the munchies for a sandwich.

#5. The Rejected Art School Application that Killed 35 Million People

OK, maybe we're being too hard on Princip. After all, we might not have had World War II if a particular art school had relaxed their admissions standards a little.

For instance, what do you think of this painting?

Sort of OK, right? You probably wouldn't hang it on your wall, but at least it does look professional.

Would you accept the painter to your art academy? If you said no, then you're just like the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, who rejected a little someone named Adolf Hitler.

The Ridiculous Coincidence

In 1905, a young Adolf left his tiny Austrian hometown and moved to Vienna, all starry-eyed and with dreams of becoming a great artist. Unfortunately for the world, the academy rejected him. Twice.

Is this picture not inexplicably horrifying?

A few months after his second rejection, his mother died, cutting off his financial support. With no direction and no career to pursue, young Adolf was forced to move to the crappy Vienna slums, which were full of all sorts of filthy minorities, including Czechs, Croatians, Italians and, worst of all, Jews.

Hitler claimed that it was in Vienna when he became an anti-Semite. Specifically, it was one Orthodox Jew that he saw one day and simply couldn't shake from his mind. If only he had been somewhere else during these years, like, say, among a bunch of liberal artist types at the dormitory of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna.

After spending several years in Vienna among all the disgusting non-Germans, Hitler decided to move to Munich. A year later, someone decided to go for a sandwich and WWI broke out. Without anything better to do, he joined the army, quickly rising through the ranks until he ended up a member of the German military police, tasked with infiltrating a little group known as the National Socialist German Workers Party.

If only there had been something else occupying his time, like painting naked chicks at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. And totally not thinking about how much he hated Jews.

And How Did it Change The World?

It was a little more than a decade after he joined the Nazi party that he got elected Chancellor and became the modern face of evil. We'll never know what would have happened had he gone to art school. Hell, maybe if he stayed in Austria, he would have gotten drafted into the Austrian army instead of the German one. There, some random Russian could have killed him in one of Austria-Hungary's many, many defeats during WWI.

#4. The Cigar Box that Won the Civil War

What would you do if you found a cardboard box lying around in the middle of the countryside, like, say, an old cigarette carton or something? Would you ignore it? Kick it at a nearby squirrel for the hell of it? Assume that it contains something horrifying, like a human pancreas stolen by the Organ Mafia, and leave it alone?

During the Civil War the Union Corporal Barton W. Mitchell found just such a worthless-looking box, but did none of those things. He opened it instead, and that may be the reason that today the USA is one country instead of two.

The Ridiculous Coincidence

Late in 1862, the Confederate army was well into its invasion of Maryland. Confederate Supreme Commander Robert E. Lee drafted a document called Special Order 191, which described in extreme detail every movement of every brigade of his army for the next several months. He gave copies of the order only to his most trusted generals, including Stonewall Jackson.

He could wreck you with his eyelashes.

Jackson, however, was way too lazy to write up individual orders to each of his commanders, so he gave them all copies of 191. One of those commanders was Daniel Harvey Hill, who did what we always do with our tax forms and jury duty papers: he left them on the ground, in a box, wrapped around three cigars. He then forgot about them.

"Boy, I am not a good commander."

Several days later, the aforementioned Union scout, Barton W. Mitchell, found the papers at the campsite, probably thinking, "Holy shit! Free cigars!"

He recognized the cigar wrappings as looking important and sent them off to his commander. That guy, in turn, sent them to his commander. Through who knows how many chances for the scrap of paper to get lost, bled on, eaten by a horse or for the guy holding them to get blown up by a cannon ball, they survived until some aide somehow recognized it as Robert E. Lee's handwriting.

He gave it to Union General George McClellan.

And How Did it Change The World?

Ever heard of the Battle of Antietam? The bloodiest day in American history? The North won, and from that point on the South didn't really have a chance.

Well, the Union won because it basically had the equivalent to Prima's Official Strategy Guide on Robert E. Lee's Invasion of Maryland.

From then on, a Union victory was pretty much guaranteed. Lincoln felt secure enough to give the Gettysburg Address, slavery officially ended, the South was reunited with the rest of America and talk of seceding from the union was gone forever. Well, until we elected a black president, anyway.

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