People Describe What They View As Necessary Evils In History

List Rules
Vote up the comments that make you reconsider these tragedies.

History is full of disasters, evil, and suffering, but at least sometimes something good can come out of it. One can debate endlessly whether a "necessary evil" was truly necessary, of course. Sure, WWII brought incredible advancements in aviation and computer science, but perhaps those advances could just as well have been achieved in peacetime? (It didn't take a war to produce the telephone or the printing press, after all.)

Still, sometimes progress does come at a price. Whether that price was too high to justify the benefit is the question – one that's probably unanswerable, but fun to debate all the same. Here are some folks' opinions on historical "necessary evils" that were pretty awful at the time, but which had a significant silver lining once the dust had settled.


  • 1
    60 VOTES

    19th Century Body Snatching

    From Redditor u/Coc0tte:

    Body snatching in the 19th century.

    Medicine schools would illegally buy human bodies that were dug up from graves in order to study anatomy and teach medicine students in secret, because at the time it was illegal and not acceptable to use human bodies for science or education purposes.

    The only way schools could get human bodies legally was from death-sentenced people who also had been condemned to dissection on top of that by the courts, which was very rare and couldn't supply enough bodies for [medical] schools.

    So there was a literal black market of dead bodies, and the body snatchers would risk [the] death penalty themselves to make [a] profit from digging up bodies that were freshly buried. The bodies of young adult people were particularly sought after and expensive.

    But it also allowed scientists and students to learn about anatomy and improve surgery techniques, which allowed medicine as a whole to make a lot of progress and saved many lives in the end.

    60 votes
  • From Redditor u/march72021:

    US Civil War. Slavery was not going away without it.

    60 votes
  • 3
    68 VOTES

    WW2 (So Europe Could Stop Squabbling)

    From Redditor u/Mozanatic:

    I would definitely say WW2. Germany losing was definitely necessary for Europe to become united in the way it is now. As a German myself this is a kind of bitter pill. Because I find it unbelievably sad how many lives have been lost. Also the loss of culture and historical sites is dramatic in a way. Many historical city centers forever lost a quarter of Germany's territory. and most of the of the world's first-class scientists and experts [were] driven into exile by the Nazis. Hitler [had] been one of the greatest calamities for Europe, but also for Germany as well.

    On the other hand, I would definitely say [that], thanks to the Americans, Germany is one of the strongest and richest countries in the world. It is unbelievable how good we have it nowadays given that we lost the biggest military conflict in history

    68 votes
  • From Redditor u/Tactical_YOLO:

    Churchill and the siege of Calais. He ordered the garrison to hold to the last man, effectively sacrificing a few thousand lives as there was no evacuation order planned. The battle would tie up German forces so the evacuation at Dunkirk could proceed. A few thousand vs. roughly 300 thousand.

    33 votes
  • 5
    37 VOTES

    Letting Enemy Attacks Happen After Enigma Was Cracked

    From Redditor u/wanted_to_upvote:

    Allowing some attacks to take place even after Hitler's Enigma encryption device was cracked by the English and they knew when and where the attacks would occur.

    They could only act on the intelligence to thwart attacks if they could quickly come up with an alternate way to find out which the Germans would find believable.

    37 votes
  • From Redditor u/JohnBarnson:

    Churchill destroying the French fleet after France fell. About 1,300 French servicemen were killed to ensure the Nazis didn't get free access to additional naval power.

    35 votes