You Did What?: Mad Plans and Great Historical Disasters

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Overview

History has never been more fun than it is in this fact-filled compendium of historical fiascoes and embarrassingly bad ideas.

Throughout history, the rich and powerful, and even just the dim-witted, have made horrifically bad decisions that have had resounding effects on our world. From kings to corporate leaders, from captains to presidents, no one is immune to bad decisions and their lasting legacy. The fiascoes that litter our history are innumerable ... and fascinating in ...

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Overview

History has never been more fun than it is in this fact-filled compendium of historical fiascoes and embarrassingly bad ideas.

Throughout history, the rich and powerful, and even just the dim-witted, have made horrifically bad decisions that have had resounding effects on our world. From kings to corporate leaders, from captains to presidents, no one is immune to bad decisions and their lasting legacy. The fiascoes that litter our history are innumerable ... and fascinating in their foolishness. This witty collection of historical mayhem chronicles unwise decisions from ancient Greece to modern-day Hollywood and everything in between. Learn such lessons as:

  • Never trust Greeks bearing gifts of large wooden horses.
  • Avoid building elementary schools on toxic waste dumps, even those with sweet monikers like Love Canal.
  • Rabbits multiply like rabbits Down Under.
  • Even if you use brightly colored paint on the boats, it's quite easy to misplace an entire country's navy.

With more than forty-five chapters of mind-boggling flubs and follies, fans of history, trivia, and those who just want a good laugh will adore this intriguing and fun read.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060532505
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/17/2004
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 818,738
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

Bill Fawcett is the author and editor of more than a dozen books, including You Did What?, It Seemed Like a Good Idea . . . , How to Lose a Battle, and You Said What? He lives in Illinois.

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Read an Excerpt

You Did What?

Mad Plans and Incredible Mistakes
By Bill Fawcett

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2004 Bill Fawcett
All right reserved.

ISBN: 006074622X

You Kidnapped Whom?

It takes a lot of effort to make a series of mistakes so great that not only do they destroy your entire civilization but also become the stuff that makes one of the great epics of all times.

The Terrible Choices of the Trojan War
Troy, the Bronze Age

Brian M. Thomsen

Some of the greatest stories in history have their basis in a combination of actual events and legends, where the blurring of the line between the two creates a sense of truly epic storytelling and of heroes larger than life who are nonetheless men (centaurs and gods excluded, of course).

The factual history is unclear. Still, it took some pigheaded stupidity and shortsighted self-indulgence to effectively destroy the leading city of its day.

We know that indeed there was a city named Troy (also known as Ilium), believed to be located on a hill now called Hisarlik in the northwest reaches of Anatolia. However, this might not have been the location of the Troy as depicted in the chronicles of the Trojan War. Archaeological research has chosen a better candidate -- namely, Troy VI, which was destroyed in 1270 -- given the following facts: there are records that show it was in contact with Greece during the hypothetical period of the conflict, Greece was a flourishing yet warlike civilization at the time, and it included as part of its realm Mycenae and other locales actually mentioned in the Homeric records (which is also mentioned in various contemporary corroborating Hittite records).

Thus, when it comes to the facts, we know that there was a city of Troy (which may or may not have been located where we thought it was) and that sometime during the classical age a war took place there, possibly over a dispute concerning control of trade through the Dardanelles.

But of course there is much more to the story. A lyrical chronicle of this great war based in mythology and reportage has been passed down by the great blind bard Homer in his epic ballads The Iliad and The Odyssey.

According to Homer, the Trojan War broke out when the Prince of Troy, Paris, abducted the wife of Menelaus of Sparta, the so-called Helen of Troy, whose face could launch a thousand ships.

Bad Idea #1: Never make off with the wife of a guy who has the pull to call on an entire army to get her back.

Menelaus persuaded his brother Agamemnon to amass an army against Troy to bring his wife back. This army included such great heroes as wily Odysseus, Nestor, and Achilles, whose inclusion as part of the martial force leads us to ...

Bad Idea #2: Be careful what you choose; you will have to live (even after death) with the consequences.

According to legend and myth, the gods had offered Achilles (he of the legendary heel) a choice -- he could live a long but ordinary life or he could live a short but heroic-unto-legend-worthy life. He chose the latter, and indeed acquitted himself exceptionally during the siege of Troy, and as a result died quite heroically in battle. It is accurate to note that he eventually had second thoughts on this choice as revealed in a passage of The Odyssey, where he is encountered in the Land of the Dead and pretty much admits his regrets.

Meanwhile, back at the war ...

The battle rages for nine years as the Trojans had more than a few heroes of their own (such as Hector and his sons). Moreover, the city itself was well fortified with an enclosing wall that proved to be impenetrable from forces on the outside. As a result, after much hooting and hollering and laying to waste of the surrounding area, when all was said and done the Trojans and Helen were still safe and snug behind their city wall.

Moreover, they had gotten cocky.

Bad Idea #3: Watch whose advice you choose to ignore.

According to the myths the prophetess Cassandra was blessed with clairvoyant foresight and cursed with an aura that made those around her disbelieve anything she had to say.

Cassandra warned Hector and the Trojans that a plot to defeat Troy was afoot, and if it went forward, Troy would indeed fall.

They ignored her ... and the expected disastrous results occurred.

The Greeks realized that they were getting nowhere so wily Odysseus decided that it was time to change tactics.

So one day the Trojans looked out on the enemy Greek camp, and lo and behold it was abandoned.

The Greeks had seemingly sailed away ... but they had left something behind.

Bad Idea #4: Didn't the Trojans know to "Beware of Greeks bearing gifts"?

The Greeks had left behind a large wooden horse as a token of their esteem for so many years of good fighting; or, as said by sniveling Sinon, their left-behind spokesperson, "You won. We lost. Take this horse as the prize."

The Trojans dragged the horse into the city of Troy, inside her protective walls, which had so successfully withstood the Greeks.

Sure enough, night fell, a commando force dropped out of the horse and opened the gates from inside to allow in the now returned Greek armies.

The Greeks won.

Troy fell.

But the story wasn't over yet.

Bad Idea #5: The gods hate a braggart so try not to piss them off.

Odysseus was quite pleased with himself that his plan had worked, and like the Trojans before him became too cocky -- which is why it took him so long to get home (the delays of which are detailed in The Odyssey).

The gods had taken sides during the war and in some cases fought side by side with the mortal warriors.

Most of them did not appreciate having been bested by a mere mortal, even if he was Athena's favorite.

As to other victorious Greeks coming home from their victory ...



Continues...

Excerpted from You Did What? by Bill Fawcett Copyright © 2004 by Bill Fawcett. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Introduction XIII
You Kidnapped Whom? Troy, the Bronze Age 1
You Insulted Whom? Britain, A.D. 43 6
You Invited Whom? Rome, A.D. 300 12
Your Son Did What? England, Twelfth Century 19
You Arrested Whom? Rome, A.D. 1244 24
You Armed Whom? Hungary, 1514 29
You Chose Whom to Be the What? England, 1535 33
You Bought What? Netherlands, 1636 39
You Sent Whom, Governor? America, 1753-1754 46
You Lost Your Head Paris, 1794 55
You Are Shocking Europe, 1796 61
You Married Whom? Germany, 1858 66
You Shot Whom? Weehawken, New Jersey, 1804 71
You Invaded Where? Russia, 1812 77
You Gave Command to Whom? Waterloo, 1815 81
You Wore What? Washington, D.C., 1840 88
You Set Loose What? Australia, 1859 92
You Lost What? Antietam, 1862 97
You Taught Them What? Kansas and Missouri, 1863 103
You Sent Them Out in What? Off the Confederate Coastline, 1864 108
You're Building What, Where? Panama, 1881 112
You Put Him in Charge of What? Washington, 1896 118
You Hit What? The Mid-Atlantic, 1912 127
You Demand What? Authors, Everywhere, All the Time 136
You Ignored Whose Warning? Galveston, Texas, 1900 140
You Unleashed What? China, 1900 146
You Allowed What? Australia, 1950 150
You Are Doing It When, How? Africa 157
You Appointed Whom? England, 1914 170
You Traded Whom? Boston, 1920 179
You Created a Wonder Drug? Germany, 1897 183
You Sold Whom for How Much? New York City, 1937 190
You're Out of Tune United States, 1950 on (and on, and on) 194
You Executed All the What? Russia, 1937-1942 198
You Built It Where? New York, 1953 203
You Choose Whom? The Vatican, 1958 212
You Are Running Against Whom? California, 1966 217
You Quit What Show? TV Land: From 1970 to Next Season 222
You Forged What? Hollywood, 1976 226
You Switched Over to What? New York/Oakland Nfl Game, 1968 233
You Broke In Where? Washington, D.C., 1971 237
You Taped It All? Washington, D.C., 1974 243
You Vaccinated Whom Against What? United States, 1976 246
You Are Rescuing Them How? Iran, 1979 253
You Assassinated Whom? Donegal Bay, Ireland, 1979 263
You Made What? Hollywood, 1980s-'90s 267
You Forgot to Ask Them What? United States, 1985 272
Index 281
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First Chapter

You Did What?
Mad Plans and Great Historical Disasters

You Kidnapped Whom?

It takes a lot of effort to make a series of mistakes so great that not only do they destroy your entire civilization but also become the stuff that makes one of the great epics of all times.

The Terrible Choices of the Trojan War
Troy, the Bronze Age

Brian M. Thomsen

Some of the greatest stories in history have their basis in a combination of actual events and legends, where the blurring of the line between the two creates a sense of truly epic storytelling and of heroes larger than life who are nonetheless men (centaurs and gods excluded, of course).

The factual history is unclear. Still, it took some pigheaded stupidity and shortsighted self-indulgence to effectively destroy the leading city of its day.

We know that indeed there was a city named Troy (also known as Ilium), believed to be located on a hill now called Hisarlik in the northwest reaches of Anatolia. However, this might not have been the location of the Troy as depicted in the chronicles of the Trojan War. Archaeological research has chosen a better candidate -- namely, Troy VI, which was destroyed in 1270 -- given the following facts: there are records that show it was in contact with Greece during the hypothetical period of the conflict,Greece was a flourishing yet warlike civilization at the time, and it included as part of its realm Mycenae and other locales actually mentioned in the Homeric records (which is also mentioned in various contemporary corroborating Hittite records).

Thus, when it comes to the facts, we know that there was a city of Troy (which may or may not have been located where we thought it was) and that sometime during the classical age a war took place there, possibly over a dispute concerning control of trade through the Dardanelles.

But of course there is much more to the story. A lyrical chronicle of this great war based in mythology and reportage has been passed down by the great blind bard Homer in his epic ballads The Iliad and The Odyssey.

According to Homer, the Trojan War broke out when the Prince of Troy, Paris, abducted the wife of Menelaus of Sparta, the so-called Helen of Troy, whose face could launch a thousand ships.

Bad Idea #1: Never make off with the wife of a guy who has the pull to call on an entire army to get her back.

Menelaus persuaded his brother Agamemnon to amass an army against Troy to bring his wife back. This army included such great heroes as wily Odysseus, Nestor, and Achilles, whose inclusion as part of the martial force leads us to ...

Bad Idea #2: Be careful what you choose; you will have to live (even after death) with the consequences.

According to legend and myth, the gods had offered Achilles (he of the legendary heel) a choice -- he could live a long but ordinary life or he could live a short but heroic-unto-legend-worthy life. He chose the latter, and indeed acquitted himself exceptionally during the siege of Troy, and as a result died quite heroically in battle. It is accurate to note that he eventually had second thoughts on this choice as revealed in a passage of The Odyssey, where he is encountered in the Land of the Dead and pretty much admits his regrets.

Meanwhile, back at the war ...

The battle rages for nine years as the Trojans had more than a few heroes of their own (such as Hector and his sons). Moreover, the city itself was well fortified with an enclosing wall that proved to be impenetrable from forces on the outside. As a result, after much hooting and hollering and laying to waste of the surrounding area, when all was said and done the Trojans and Helen were still safe and snug behind their city wall.

Moreover, they had gotten cocky.

Bad Idea #3: Watch whose advice you choose to ignore.

According to the myths the prophetess Cassandra was blessed with clairvoyant foresight and cursed with an aura that made those around her disbelieve anything she had to say.

Cassandra warned Hector and the Trojans that a plot to defeat Troy was afoot, and if it went forward, Troy would indeed fall.

They ignored her ... and the expected disastrous results occurred.

The Greeks realized that they were getting nowhere so wily Odysseus decided that it was time to change tactics.

So one day the Trojans looked out on the enemy Greek camp, and lo and behold it was abandoned.

The Greeks had seemingly sailed away ... but they had left something behind.

Bad Idea #4: Didn't the Trojans know to "Beware of Greeks bearing gifts"?

The Greeks had left behind a large wooden horse as a token of their esteem for so many years of good fighting; or, as said by sniveling Sinon, their left-behind spokesperson, "You won. We lost. Take this horse as the prize."

The Trojans dragged the horse into the city of Troy, inside her protective walls, which had so successfully withstood the Greeks.

Sure enough, night fell, a commando force dropped out of the horse and opened the gates from inside to allow in the nowreturned Greek armies.

The Greeks won.

Troy fell.

But the story wasn't over yet.

Bad Idea #5: The gods hate a braggart so try not to piss them off.

Odysseus was quite pleased with himself that his plan had worked, and like the Trojans before him became too cocky -- which is why it took him so long to get home (the delays of which are detailed in The Odyssey).

The gods had taken sides during the war and in some cases fought side by side with the mortal warriors.

Most of them did not appreciate having been bested by a mere mortal, even if he was Athena's favorite.

As to other victorious Greeks coming home from their victory ...

You Did What?
Mad Plans and Great Historical Disasters
. Copyright © by Bill Fawcett. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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