Weird History

12 Historical Figures Who Campaigned for Very Surprising Causes

History has a funny way of tarnishing even the most sterling of reputations. While society still deifies our heroes of the past, we are by now quite used to finding out awful things about the people we revere. Gandhi and Churchill were racist, everyone was sexist, and Abraham Lincoln, who freed the slaves, didn’t even think Black people were people! 

Still, it’s generally assumed that these character flaws are products of the time periods these historical figures lived in, and that the paragons of history more or less followed their prescribed paths to heroics (or villainy). That’s why it’s so surprising to discover cases where some of history’s biggest names fought for causes completely contrary to their reputation.

The history books seem to prefer a simplified version of events and characters, which often results in some of this contradictory material being left out. However, historical figures, like most people, are much more complex than the two-dimensional beings we remember them as. From famous disability advocates who touted eugenics to brutal dictators who battled illiteracy, this list of historical figures who supported surprising causes will shake up your image of history.