5 Historical Events That Happened Out of Order

5 Historical Events That Happened Out of Order

History goes back a pretty long ways. It’s the longest period of time ever recorded, in fact. But even though we know all the different stuff mixed in there, what with dinosaurs and the Mongols and the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, it can be hard to process just how incredible of a span these things happened over. In the same breath, it can sometimes be hard to realize how much overlap there is between what might seem like completely different eras that were happening simultaneously across the world.

It would be undoubtedly more convenient if every culture in the world would take turns having anything of future importance happening, enabling a nice clean timeline, but it’s too late for that. Instead, everyone has insisted on doing everything all at once in a chaotic jumble, which honestly, for people who already struggle with dates like myself, is incredibly rude. Even if you’re an absolute wizard with keeping years in order, though, there are probably a couple of historical events that occurred in a different order than they exist in your mental filing cabinet. Such as…

Oxford University Predates the Aztecs


Uhhh... Im looking for Econ 101?

Oxford University, though most people know it’s certainly been around for a good minute, still feels very modern. It brings to mind posh professors and tweed jackets. All in all, it feels deeply cosmopolitan, a place with a deep legacy but still very much rooted in the modern era. The Aztec civilization, on the other hand, can feel borderline prehistoric as a gut reaction. Now, whether some of this is due to Eurocentric thinking and the need for bow ties to exist to consider something an advanced civilization is too big of a conversation to jump into here. Regardless, when you’re thinking about Jai Alai and headdresses, you’re likely not imagining all these things occurring while an Oxford student is sprinting to class after the bell.

In reality, though, not only did these two co-exist, but Oxford University predates the Aztec civilization by a pretty considerable chunk of time. By 1249, Oxford was a recognizable modern university, dorms and all. Across the globe, though, the city of Tenochtitlan, and with it, the historian’s idea of the start of Aztec civilization, didn’t exist yet. That would come almost a century later, in 1325. Mexico probably wasn’t anywhere near as popular as a spring break destination at the time, though.

The Pyramids Predate the Extinction of the Woolly Mammoth


Not looking so hot.

Imagining a woolly mammoth trotting along the pyramids feels like a mural out of some weird creationist museum, or a puzzle from a kid’s activity book at the dentist. Now, geographically, it’s still wrong. After all, if they had mammoths to pull those big blocks, maybe Jews could have taken a bit more of a breather. It turns out the prehistoric-feeling pachyderms aren’t quite so prehistoric, and were still stomping around while Egyptians were working on the world’s greatest triangles.

Apparently, a small population of mammoths still roamed an island in the Arctic up until only about 4,000 years ago. This would put their extinction somewhere around 2000 B.C. or B.C.E., depending on how religious you like your timeline identifiers. Meanwhile, the Great Pyramid of Giza has an estimated completion date of roughly 2550 B.C., meaning there was a full 500 years of “pretty tall, huh?” before the last woolly mammoth hit the dirt.

Harvard Predates Calculus


“Have you heard? Theres a hot new kind of math!"

Harvard is well-known for two things: 1) Being the pinnacle of American academic learning; and 2) producing insufferable 22-year-old TV writers. Given its sterling academic reputation, it might be surprising to learn that when it was founded, calculus wasn’t taught at the college. It has nothing to do with a lack of teaching staff or a belief that such numbers could summon the devil, though. It has to do with a much better reason: Calculus hadn’t been invented yet. This is because Harvard is truly, deeply, old as shit. 

It’s not quite accurate to say that Harvard is the oldest university in the U.S., because Harvard, known then as the “New College”, was founded in 1636, which you Harvard grads out there will know is more than a century before the United States were officially formed. It’s more like the United States is the oldest country founded on top of Harvard, which totally sounds like something a dickhead Harvard grad would say. Calculus wouldn’t be formally recognized until after the publications of Nova Methodus in 1684 and the Principia in 1687 and further revisions.

The First Female Congressperson Predates Women’s Right to Vote

Public Domain

I always thought the Congress rep of Montana in 1916 was some sort of angry horse.

The 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified on August 18, 1920, which in itself might be a lot more recent than you would think. It was simple and straightforward, indicating just how overdue it was: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” The passage of this in the year 1920, though, also creates a lovely little four-year period of hypocrisy, where apparently people believed a woman could serve as a member of Congress but couldn’t be trusted to vote for one.

I’m referring to the first female member of Congress, Jeanette Rankin, who, in 1916, was elected to the House of Representatives in Montana. That it was in Montana wasn’t quite as surprising, given that they had approved women’s suffrage in 1914, with Rankin being one of the strongest advocates. The Old West’s relatively forward-thinking stance on suffrage is also partly attributed to the pioneering lifestyle making it a whole lot harder to pretend women were useless little lilies built for hoop dresses and dusting.

You Could Take the Tube to London’s Last Public Hanging

Public Domain

“If we leave after the first two, we can beat the rush."

The idea of the modern city subway, with its ding-dongs and “door closing”s, seems like something that only came into being well after humans were a thoroughly modern society. But in the case of the London Underground, also known as the Tube, also known as the Chube, there were a couple years where convenient underground public transportation overlapped with some more decidedly primitive practices. Namely, public hangings. 

The train from Paddington to Farringdon, now known as the Metropolitan line, opened in January 1863. Public executions would still exist as a form of entertainment in England until 1868. What this meant is that people not only could, but did, in great numbers, take the Tube to watch a man be hanged at Newgate Prison during those years. The hangings were pretty rowdy affairs, too, meaning that the trips to and from the gallows, and the time there, was like a less grisly version of when the Eagles win at home.

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