Where Were You Born in a Past Life?

By: Zoe Samuel
Image: Jorg Greuel/Photodisc/Getty Images

About This Quiz

Human history has mostly been a story of two conflicting narratives. On the one hand, as Hobbes pointed out, people's lives have generally been "nasty, brutish, and short." People have suffered from disease, death, and war in appalling numbers. Most of human history has been all about monarchy as a political system and feudalism as an "economic" system (of sorts), meaning that prosperity was limited to a very small number of people and freedom was basically non-existent. For many people, the situation was even worse, as the law of their time barely considered them to be human, and sometimes did not consider that at all.

There is another, story, of course. Human history, especially in the last few hundred years, has been, as de Tocqueville noted in "Democracy in America," a splendid march toward increased equality and freedom. It hasn't been a simple road, but life expectancy is still rising, child and maternal mortality have plummeted in most of the word, literacy and numeracy are becoming the norm nearly everywhere, women are getting closer to equality, slavery is legal in fewer and fewer jurisdictions, and every week, 137,000 people escape extreme poverty (yep, you read that number right). So actually, things are looking up.

All this progress depends on certain ideas and historical periods either flourishing or ending - and which of them you lived in before this life will inform how you feel about which narrative has been dominant. It's time to figure out where (and when) you were!

Do you know what it's like to be part of a great power?

Do you feel strongly about religious tolerance?

Could you handle living in a perpetual state of war?

How important is it to live near a university?

Do you long for a Golden Age?

What sort of food does any great civilization cultivate?

What sort of clothing are you drawn to?

If you could bring peace to one city stuck in a war zone right now, which one would it be?

Do you have a deep instinct for democracy?

Do you gravitate to supranational organizations and alliances as a means to peace?

How do you feel about free trade?

What animal do you just love, for reasons you're not sure about?

What animal simply scares the heebie-jeebies out of you?

How do you feel about property rights?

What, if any, is the upside of monarchy?

What is a good enough reason to go to war?

Are you drawn to the ocean?

What trade route is the most essential for world prosperity?

What are the obigations of the powerful to the weak?

Which historical empire is the most horrible?

Can a great civilization exist without horses?

What makes an empire or kingdom fall?

What sort of major structure strikes you as especially beautiful?

How bad a winter can you survive?

How optimistic are you about the curve of history?

What's the best cultural or legal thing about modern society?

How important is literacy?

What's the one thing from the past that we could use more of?

How do you feel about chaos?

What post-Industrial invention has done the most good for society?

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