What Happened First: The Relative History Timeline Quiz

By: Gavin Thagard
Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

This is a call to all of the history buffs out there. It's time to get out your textbooks and see if you can pass this relative history timeline quiz. But first, you'll want to make sure you're well prepared because this quiz covers a range of historical topics. You will have to dig deep to recall when some of the world's most important historical events took place. Do you think you can handle the challenge? Here's your chance to find out!

History is a treat if you are willing to take the time to learn what it has to say. After all, history teaches us lessons about our failures and our successes both as individuals and as a collective. It shows us how we have changed and adapted over the centuries as we learned how to better structure ourselves and the world around us. Most importantly, history serves as a guide, or a warning depending on how you look at it, for what might come next. As the old saying goes: history repeats itself. 

If you are a history fan, you'll want to take this quiz. It will give you a chance to reflect on some of the most important events that occurred over the course of the world's history. If you're up for the challenge, get started and put your history knowledge on display!

Revolution was in the air in the 18th century, but did France or the United States have its revolution first?

The French Revolution certainly had similarities to the American Revolution. However, the end result for France was a dictatorship under Napoleon Bonaparte.

Did Alexander the Great invade India before the Punic Wars?

Alexander the Great believed himself to be more than a king but a god as well. As a form of propaganda, he had his face printed on golden coins which were used throughout his empire.

Did the Eastern or Western Roman Empire fall first?

The Eastern Roman Empire survived as the Byzantine Empire until the capital of Constantinople was sacked in 1453 by the Ottomans. The event marked the end of Roman rule, though Roman culture and law still influence the world today.

Which law code came first: the Code of Hammurabi or the Twelve Tables?

Hammurabi was a king in the Babylonian Dynasty of ancient Mesopotamia. During his reign, Hammurabi expanded Babylonian rule after conquering several city-states as well as Assyria​.

Which city did the Mongols sack first: Baghdad or Hangzhou?

Baghdad was a rich center of science and culture in the 13th century when the Mongols' reign of terror was at its height. When the city fell in 1258, the Islamic Golden Age ended as well.

Did Abraham Lincoln become president of the United States before or after slavery in the United States was abolished?

Abraham Lincoln was in his second term as president when he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth in 1865. He was replaced by Andrew Johnson who oversaw Reconstruction in the South after the America Civil War ended.

In its earliest form, which calendar was invented first?

The Mayan calendar was broken up into three separate calendars which were quite accurate. The two smaller calendars, the Haab and the Tzolkin, synced together every 52 years in what is known as a Calendar Round.

Which happened first: the birth of Jesus or the assassination of Julius Caesar?

Julius Caesar was viewed as a liberator by the people of Rome who were tired of corruption in the Senate. However, the elites saw him as a tyrant and orchestrated his assassination.

Was the Great Wall of China or Hadrian's Wall constructed first?

The Great Wall of China was constructed in several different stages beginning in the Spring and Autumn period between 771 BC and 476 BC. However, the wall as it's seen today was largely constructed under the Ming dynasty.

Which empire reigned over India first?

Ashoka was a powerful Maurya emperor who elevated the importance of​ Buddhism in India. After Ashoka's death, local rulers began to rise throughout the region and the empire soon fell.

Which early Soviet leader came to power first in Russia?

Vladimir Lenin helped bring about an end to the rule of the Russian Tsars. In its place, he introduced communism to the Russian nation, creating the Soviet Union.

Which happened first in England?

The earliest Viking raids began in the 8th century. The earliest raiders were looking for riches and glory, but eventually, they started settling foreign lands.

Which European country reached Japan first during the Age of Exploration?

Beginning in the 17th century, Japan began to limit foreign influence in their country with policies known as Sakoku. The country wouldn't open its borders until 1853 when the United States arrived and forced Japan to accept its treaties.

Did the Vikings discover Iceland or Greenland first?

Iceland was discovered by accident when Naddodd and his crew were blown off course while sailing to the Faroe Islands. Naddodd originally named the country Snowland, but the name was later changed by Floki Vilgerdarson.

Was Japan or Germany defeated first in World War II?

In May of 1945, Nazi Germany unconditionally surrendered to Allied forces in Reims, France. It wouldn't be until September 1945 when Imperial Japan would officially sign their own final surrender aboard the USS Missouri, formally bringing an end to World War II.

Did the United States or the USSR reach outer space first?

The early space race was dominated by the USSR who were able to put the first man into space in 1961. The United States finally took the lead when they landed an astronaut​ on the moon in 1969.

Which American novel was written first: Uncle Tom's Cabin or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?

Published in 1852, Uncle Tom's Cabin revealed the cruelty of slavery in the South to a wider audience both in America and abroad. It was once credited as having helped start the Civil War because of how provocative​ the novel was.

Which of these African countries has maintained its independence the longest?

The union of South Africa was created in 1910, and although Ethiopia initially asserted its independence from Italy in 1896, it became reoccupied by Italy from 1936-1941.

In which Japanese city were atomic bombs first used on a populated area?

The bombing of Nagasaki ended World War II. However, the after-effects​ of radiation from the bombs would terrorize Japan for decades.

Did the United States fight in the Korean War or the Vietnam War first?

Not too long after WWII ended, the United States entered into the Cold War with the USSR. U.S. policy during the war was to contain the advancement of communism which forced the United States into several proxy wars across the world.

Who was crowned the Holy Roman Emperor first?

Charlemagne was both a great military commander as well as a lenient ruler. He allowed local regions to maintain their customs and laws while under his rule.

Which African-American Civil Rights leader was assassinated first?

The 1960s saw a pushback in the United States against established norms. Not only were African Americans pushing for more rights, but an entire culture was rising to combat the establishment.

Which ship sunk first: the Titanic or the Wilhelm Gustloff?

The Titanic only carried 20 lifeboats for the thousands of passengers onboard the ship. After the ship tragically sunk, new laws were put into place to ensure ships carried enough lifeboats for the passengers onboard.

Which Roosevelt was president of the United States first?

Teddy Roosevelt was the first president to send U.S. Naval ships around the world in a show of U.S. power. He was famous for the motto: "speak softly and carry a big stick."

Which Latin American country gained its independence first?

Colombia is the only South American country that connects to Central America. For that reason, it received the name the "gateway to South America."

Which state NOT connected to the mainland United States became a state first?

The largest state in terms of area, Alaska was added to the Union in 1959. The state was purchased from Russia in 1867 in what was known as the Alaska Purchase.

Which Roman construction was built first: the Pantheon or the Colosseum?

The Colosseum is the largest amphitheater ever constructed. The venue was home to an array of spectacles from gladiator fights to improvised sea battles and hunts.

Which dictator came to power first in Europe: Adolf Hitler or Benito Mussolini?

Benito Mussolini rose to power by obtaining the support of unemployed war veterans from WWI. Known as the Black Shirts, Mussolini used these veterans to suppress the voices of other politicians throughout Italy.

Which former British colony became a U.S. state first?

Delaware is the second smallest state in the U.S. in terms of land mass. The largest city in the state is not Dover, the capital, but actually Wilmington which sits on the Delaware River.

Which invention came first: the telescope​ or the printing press?

The printing press helped with the exchange of knowledge across Europe. Now, books could be printed on a wide scale and easily disseminated to the masses.

Which ancient Greek battle came first: Troy or Thermopylae​?

The battle of Troy was part of the Trojan War which is recorded in Homer's Iliad. Supposedly, the battle was fought over Helen, a beautiful queen who was kidnapped by Paris, the prince of Troy.

Which American Indian war took place first?

The Seminole Wars were a series of three wars fought between 1816 and 1858. By the end of 1858, most Seminoles decided to relocate for cash payments. However, a few hundred remained behind and took refuge in the Florida Everglades.

Which university is older: Cambridge or Oxford?

During WWII, Adolf Hitler decided to not bomb Oxford, England during his bombing campaign on the country. Instead, he wanted to use the city as his capital once England was conquered.

Which English colony was founded first in America: Jamestown or Salem?

Founded in 1607, Jamestown was the first permanent British settlement in the New World. The early years were difficult for the colonists because of warfare with American Indian tribes, disease, and famine.

Which famous structure of India was built first: the Taj Mahal or the Hawa Mahal?

The Taj Mahal was constructed between 1632 and 1653 under the orders of Shah Jahan. The mausoleum was built as a resting place for Jahan's wife, Mumtaz Mahal.

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