Weird History
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What Were The Best Times In History To Be Alive?

Updated September 23, 2021 4.5k votes 718 voters 23.9k views12 items

List RulesVote up the historical locations you would most want to live in.

If you weren't living in the 21st century, when and where would you live? There are many advantages to living in the 21st century, but there are also forgotten eras of history full of peace, rapid cultural building, and prosperity. Some people choose their favorite historical era based on their personality - but what was really the best time to be alive? And could the perks of a bygone era convince you to hop into a time machine? 

It is important to note that while an era might have brought amazing experiences to some people, those opportunities often came with pain and persecution for others. Still, there are surprising times and places where certain groups, like women, may have had even more rights than they do in Western society today.

So, what was the best time in history to live in?

  • Photo: Kusakabe Kimbei / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Meiji-Era Japan

    What Made This Era So Great

    During the “Mejii Restoration,” the emperor of Japan took control back from the Tokugawa clan and samurai. The new government abolished the feudal social system and built Japan into a modern country.

    Within just a few decades, Japan had a word-class transportation system, an advanced education system, and a powerful army. Japan and Russia’s clashing claims in Korea led to Japan beating Russia in war

    Japan showed Western Europe that it was a force to be reckoned with, and thus was able to trade with the West without the fear of colonial invasion. 

    What Made This Era Not So Great 

    The Mejii regime promoted industrialization and Western values. Groups that wished to maintain a traditional way of life suffered. Also, the rapid industrialization of the economy had an adverse effect on the environment.

    Finally, after the abolishment of class privileges, the samurai lost their jobs and all their power. Some decided to become bureaucrats for the new modern government. Others were forced to find trades like everyone else in Meiji Japan, but neither of those options seemed optimal for families who were descended from the privileged class.

    Best time in history?
  • Photo: Bernardo Bellotto / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Renaissance Italy

    What Made This Era So Great

    One of the best times in history to be alive was born from tragedy. After the Black Death wiped out over a third of Europe’s population, Italy experienced an economic, cultural, and artistic "rebirth" known as "the Renaissance."

    Because so many people perished from the plague, workers could demand fairer treatment and higher wages. The economy rebounded, allowing arts and culture to thrive. Wealthy bankers and merchants in Italian city-states became patrons for artists, writers, architects, and scientists. For example, the Medici family of Florence sponsored Michelangelo, Raphael, Donatello, Leonardo da Vinci, and Galileo, allowing them to focus on scientific discovery and artistic innovation full-time.

    What Made This Era Not So Great 

    Even though conditions improved slightly, the average person in Renaissance Italy was still a peasant, barely scraping by. Political power stayed concentrated among wealthy merchants and trade guilds. The luxurious lifestyle of the ruling class and the grand architectural achievements of the era were made possible through slave labor. Women remained subject to men with no political rights. 

    Best time in history?
  • Photo: HistoryNmoor / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0

    14th-Century Timbuktu

    What Made This Era So Great

    Between the 13th and 15th centuries, the Kingdom of Mali became one of the richest and most powerful kingdoms in the world by acquiring control of major land routes for the ivory, salt, and slave trades. 

    Their greatest king, Mansa Musa I, built the capital, Timbuktu, into a wondrous city filled with massive libraries, universities, mosques, palaces, and over 200 schools. Timbuktu's location at the mouth of the Niger River made it ideal for agriculture. There was also an abundance of copper and gold mines nearby. However, Timbuktu’s remote location kept it safe from green-eyed invaders. In fact, it took European explorers 500 years to find the rumored “City of Gold.”

    In 1324, Mansa Musa visited Egypt and gave away so much gold that he inflated the country’s gold market for over a decade.

    Despite the king's immense riches, the kingdom’s founding charter limited his power and granted equal rights to slaves and women. 

    What Made This Era Not So Great 

    During the reign of Mansu Musa, life in Timbuktu seemed pretty great, but it was also short-lived. Almost as soon as Mansu Musa passed, internal squabbles led to the quick decline of the empire. Furthermore, the king officially owned all the country's gold bars, so commoners traded with sea shells and gold dust.

    As advanced as Mali was with laws, learning, and equality, they still lived in the Sahel and the Sahara desert without air conditioning. It was hot.

    Best time in history?
  • Photo: John Webber / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Fourth-Century Polynesia

    What Made This Era So Great

    Centuries before the European “age of exploration,” Polynesian seafarers colonized islands across the Pacific. Expert navigators crossed the Pacific Ocean in canoes, discovering beautiful lands like New Zealand and the Easter Islands. Imagine being on the first boat with the Polynesians when they discovered the untarnished Hawaiian Islands! With each new island they discovered, explorers brought back new foods, plants, and animals to their families. 

    What Made This Era Not So Great 

    Archaeologists are not sure why Polynesian exploration came to a halt. Chieftains often battled with each other for territory. Explorers may have returned to their home islands to discover that a rival clan had kidnapped their families and taken over while they were away on voyages.

    Best time in history?