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Copenhagen history students fail on new history app

We pitted 4th semester history students against the new iPhone app, HistoryWise. Guess who came on top?

A new history quiz app developed by two University of Copenhageners, HistoryWise, has hit Apple’s app store. We decided to test the app on seven history students to see how they fare, against the cunning questions.

As with any serious study, we provide the reader with the exact conditions under which the test was conducted.

Get out your pencils

The test group consisted of seven history students, in their 4th semester, who happened to be huddled in a circle discussing the disastrous 13 century Children’s Crusade, while enjoying a glass of rosé.

Influence of alcohol was minimal, as each student had indulged in half a paper cup of rosé, which, they claimed while suppressing hiccups, was insufficient to suppress their vast historical knowledge.

The methodology was as follows: the questions and along with each possible answer were read aloud. Solemn vows were taken by each participant, promising not to look and copy answers over anyone’s shoulder. No discussion was permitted. Answers were noted on a piece of ruled paper, with a pencil.

The questions

The questions were as follows:

1) In Ridley Scott’s film Gladiator from 2000, the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius (r. 161-180) is killed singlehandedly by his son Commodus. According to the ancient writers, is this what happened?

A: Yes: Commodus did indeed kill his old father in a quarrel.

B: No: our sources are unanimous that Marcus Aurelius died a natural death.

C: Partly yes: Marcus Aurelius was deposed by Commodus in a coup and murdered shortly afterwards, but not by Commodus personally.

2) What were the Sicilian Vespers in 1282?

A: A fierce, if short war between the Muslim Ayubbid Emirate and the Kingdom of Palermo, ending in victory for the latter and the expulsion of Muslims from Sicily.

B: A schismatic monastic order established by the Sicilian monk Girolamo Savonarola, who preached against the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist.

C: A successful rebellion on Sicily against the French ruler Charles of Anjou, resulting in the expulsion of the French and the conquest of Sicily by the Kingdom of Aragon.

3) The 1938 Munich agreement, avoiding a major war by handing the Sudeten areas of Czechoslovakia to Germany, was greeted with widespread relief at the time, both in Germany, Britain, and France. Later it has become a symbol of shame and seen as an abject French and British capitulation to Hitler. How did Hitler himself view it?

A: He saw it as a great victory and frequently boasted that he had brought the Sudeten areas back into Germany without firing a single shot.

B: He felt cheated by the cunning of Britain’s Chamberlain, who had called Hitler’s bluff by accepting his demands, which had in fact been a mere pretext for invasion.

C: He apparently changed his view: elated at the time, Hitler later came to regret that war with Britain had not started in 1938 rather than 1939.

The answers

The seven students gave the following answers:

For the first question the answers were: c c c c c b c (the correct answer is B, so the students fared worse than a random selector)
For the second, they were:: b b c b a b b (the correct answer is C, so the students fared worse than a random selector )
For the third: b a b b c a – (the correct answer is B, so the students fared marginally better than a random selector)

As you can see, the students did not fare particularly well. Think you can do better? See our interview with the authors here.

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