30 Of The Worst Decisions That People Made Throughout History

Published 3 years ago

No one is safe from making an occasional mistake here and there, and owning up and apologizing is usually more than enough to fix everything. However, there are those rare instances where people manage to mess up so bad, their terrible decisions make history. And today we have prepared you a handful of excellent examples.

Recently, one Reddit user posted a question asking people to share “Which is the worst single decision in history ever made by a person?”, and received numerous answers that will make your own mess-ups look a lot less terrible. Check out some of the best answers in the gallery below!

Read more


Image source: corylew

Allan Savory the ecologist who killed 40000 elephants because it was believed that grazing was causing the desertification of Africa, only to find out later that elephants were essential to prevent desertification.


Image source: technicalaversion

Bush’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003. There was no cause or direct threat, and it led to hundreds of thousands of deaths, trillions of dollars spent, and the creation of ISIS.


Image source: Brillek

My great great grandfather, a carpenter, did some work for a poor painter in the neighbourhood. The painter had no money, so he offered either a bottle of wine or a painting. My great great granfather chose the wine.

The painter was Edvard Munch, and the painting would have been worth millions upon millions today, or even just a few decades later (if translated to todays money).


Image source: Gorctam

“Hey, let’s create a coffee machine that uses a single use plastic cup for every cup of coffee or tea. How bad can the trash from that really be?”

I actually read that the creator of the K-Cup, John Sylvan, regrets inventing the pod system.


Image source: Russian_Spy_slav

Burning of the Library of Alexandria


Image source: s_sekowski

Mao Zedong

Pest capaign: He basically told his nation to take pots and pans to kill all the sparrows. However, the ecosystem was disturbed and the locust population skyrocketed.

Seeds: he thought that planting seeds 1 meter in the ground would result in greater roots and better harvest. He also thought that putting tons of seeds in one compact area would cause a better harvest. All the seeds died however. Around 30 million or so died from Famine under his rule.

“Hey! Look at the other nations industrializing! Lets smelt all our metal to build better infrastructure. What? It creates pig iron which is super unstable and impure therefore being ultimately useless? Oops!” -Mao


Image source: TheRealSumRndmGuy

How about the guy who bought 20,000 Albanian slaves, brought them to Cairo, trained them to be the greatest warriors of their time, and then got overthrown by said slave warriors because they were so well trained.


Image source: Mr_Boi_

“Alright gentlemen we’ve successfully fended off the Greeks for 10 years, our great city of Troy still stands. If we keep this up surely they will realize the siege is fruitless and return home before long.”

“Yo captain there’s this big ass wooden horse outside”

“Oh rad bring it in”


Image source: starshame

Eastman Kodak deciding not to go forward with their own newly invented digital cameras and instead sticking with film because it made them so much money at the time.


Image source: Horacecrumplewart

Well, the decision of Inalchuq, the governor of the Khwarazmian city of Otrar, to attack Genghis Khan’s trade caravan was pretty bad. Khan was famous as a ruthless warlord, not the sort of guy you want to piss off.

But maybe they could have got away with it. Genghis sent three ambassadors to negotiate a settlement.

Which is when Muhammad II, the Shah of of Khwarzem, made the really bad decision to kill one of these ambassadors and send the other two back without their beards as a sign of humiliation.

Genghis Kahn was so enraged he assembled an army and destroyed the Khwarazmian Empire. Wiped out every town they had. He even re-routed a river to wipe out the village where the Shah was born, wiping it off the map. By 1120 there wasn’t much of anything left.


Image source: warriorwoman96

Invading Russia. Always invading Russia.


Image source: JayArlington

Here’s a recent one…

After successfully invading Iraq and toppling Saddam Hussein, the US decided that all members of the ruling Baath party should be banned from government and military positions in the new government.

The result was a crop of knowledgeable bureaucrats and military leaders available to join a group of terrorists under Zarqawi to form a little group that would go on to become ISIS.


Image source: Dickcheese_McDoogles

Gavrillo Princip shooting Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

On that day, a man acted upon his self-constructed vendetta against a non-tyrranical monarch, thinking the world would remember him as a symbol against foreign tyranny. A symbol of national sovereignty.

A year later, 10 million men were dead.


Image source: cheesyvoetjes

Maybe the worst business decision ever made was by Xerox with their Alto computer.

Xerox invented the graphical interface modern computers use. Desktop, folders, copy/paste etc. They basically invented the modern computer in the ’70s. But the problem was, the people in charge at the time were businessman without any technical knowledge so they didn’t realize what they had. They did nothing with it and gave it away to universities and showed other companies. The famous story is that Steve Jobs saw this and within 5 minutes realized this was the way computers would work in the future. He copied it, because Xerox didn’t patent their invention and didn’t do anything with it and the rest is history.


Image source: JamesCDiamond

Thomas Midgley Jr can lay claim to three:

First, he discovered and helped popularize the use of lead in petrol/gasoline, causing unimaginable harm to the atmosphere and our brains. He contracted lead poisoning when working on the project, but apparently neglected to draw any conclusions from this.

Second, he lead the team that discovered freon, the first chlorofluorocarbon, and helped popularize the use of CFCs in refrigeration and industrial applications, causing further unimaginable harm to the atmosphere

It’s suggested that he had a greater impact on the atmosphere than any other single person in history.

As for the third, well:

In 1940, at the age of 51, Midgley contracted poliomyelitis, which left him severely disabled. He devised an elaborate system of ropes and pulleys to lift himself out of bed. In 1944, he became entangled in the device and died of strangulation.


Image source: Nondramatic

The guy who rejected Hitler’s art academy application?


Image source: Ut_Prosim

John H. Sununu might count. He was an MIT educated engineer, brilliant guy, PhD in mechanical engineering. He even served on MIT’s Advisory Board of the Technology and Policy. He remains a member of the National Academy of Engineering. More importantly, he was a governor of NH and later the White House Chief of Staff under George H.W. Bush.

As Bush’s adviser, he was the first one with a STEM background to doubt climate change. He publicly questioned the validity of James Hansen / NASA’s modeling efforts. In fact, the US was on the verge of signing a binding climate treaty with 65 other nations (in 1989!)

Prior to this point, the argument was “how do we balance emission reductions versus economic losses”, with conservative forces recognizing the danger but insisting we protect businesses from overreaching regulation. After Sununu’s public doubts, the entire debate shifted to “is climate change even real?”. It inspired the “everything’s fine” PR campaign that has been ongoing ever since. I honestly suspect treaty opponents didn’t even realize that pure denial would be a realistic strategy until Sununu called James Hansen a liar.

I guess in another 50 years we’ll see the true extent of the damage he did. Ironically all this falls not on some moron, but on a brilliant guy who decided to speak on something outside his expertise.


Image source: jtswtf

The decision by the Scottish to invade England during Black Death must be up there.


Image source: YoungDiscord

That one time nintendo had a partnership with sony to develop a CD based console but in the end changed their mind and kicked Sony out cuz they decided to stick with cartridges.

Sony then thought “screw this, We’ll make our own console, with blackjack & hookers” and created the playstation as a f**k you towards nintendo…


Image source: powerlesshero111

Blockbuster not buying Netflix.


Image source: Jasper_Reddit

Yahoo refused to buy Google for 1 million and later for 40 billion again.

Edit: They refused 1 million, later offered 3B, and Google wanted 5B so no deal. And Yahoo was offered 40B by Microsoft and they didn’t want to sell. And later they sold for 4.6B.


Image source: figtoria

Game of Thrones Season 8


Image source: earliestowl

Radcliff Line – The process to divide India and Pakistan boundary in 1947 was done hastily and without major considerations to local populace religion. Radcliff was not a geography guy and majorly messed up the process. Millions died.


Image source: dikarich

Anatoly Dyatlov making sure with every step, that reactor 4 at Chernobyl exploded in 1986.


Image source: killingjoke96

Two terrible decisions for the price of one:

The British gave Native American’s blankets diseased with smallpox to “thin” out their ranks during The French and Indian War. They didn’t anticipate just how deadly this would be; some tribes losing as much as 90% of their number due to the epidemic.

When Edward Jenner invented the smallpox vaccine, Britain made fast allies by exporting it out to the world. Some of those shipments were to be sent to the United States, with the intention of helping both the Colonial American populace and the Native American Populace.

Only problem was that the Colonials and the Natives were having a bit of a war for the west at the time. The US Army took the vaccines hostage, with the intention of letting more Natives die, until they gave up and moved into the reservations the US Army had built for them.

Native Americans just can’t catch a break at all.


Image source: RegalGibbon

David Cameron’s decision to call a referendum on Brexit, closely followed by Teresa May caking a snap General Election and losing her party’s majority.


Image source: QuestioningAccount1

The Donner Party of 90 pioneers choosing to take a shortcut when heading West from Illinois to California in 1846. Said shortcut led to them getting trapped in the Sierra Nevada mountains and resorting to cannibalism.


Image source: ProGenji777

Maybe not the *worst*, but maybe Ronald Wayne, he was a co-founder of apple along with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in 1976. Just 12 days after forming the company, he sold his shares for $800. He owned 10% of the company, which would be worth ~$80,000,000,000 (80 billion) today.


Image source: RedWestern

Robert Ballard, one of the guys who discovered Titanic, says that his biggest regret is that he and Jean-Lous Michel didn’t bring a piece of the Titanic up with him when he first discovered it in 1985. At the time, they didn’t want to disturb the wreck, and leave it pristine. But if they had done so, then they would’ve been able to claim legal ownership of the wreck under international maritime law, and therefore more control over it. Because they chose not to do that, everyone and their grandma is free to take artifacts and pieces of the wreck, and this makes preservation impossible.


Image source: TheGarp

The guy that sold the bottling rights for Coca Cola, for $1, and never even made the guy pay the $1.

Aušrys Uptas

One day, this guy just kind of figured - "I spend most of my time on the internet anyway, why not turn it into a profession?" - and he did! Now he not only gets to browse the latest cat videos and fresh memes every day but also shares them with people all over the world, making sure they stay up to date with everything that's trending on the web. Some things that always pique his interest are old technologies, literature and all sorts of odd vintage goodness. So if you find something that's too bizarre not to share, make sure to hit him up!

Got wisdom to pour?



bad decisions, history, worst decisions in history
Like deMilked on Facebook
Want more milk?
Hit like for a daily artshake!
Don't show this - I already like Demilked