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Revolts triggered by environment & oppression

Eleanor Konik
Written by Eleanor Konik

I write stories & articles inspired by all eras of history & science... so I wind up putting notetaking software like Obsidian & Readwise thru their paces.

2 min read.
I'm still focused on that novella involving the winged lactating egglayers, and one of the key plot points involves a rebellion. I went on a deep dive through history in search of inspiration for rebellions sparked by something a little more unusual than obvious bad leadership or lack of an heir.

Quick Facts

  • Volcanic eruptions are associated with revolt onset against elite rule.
  • The Spartan Helots revolted pretty often, but I think the most interesting Helot revolt was the Messenian revolt, which was triggered by an earthquake.
  • The Dagohoy rebellion lasted 85 years; the Boholano rebels had a stronghold in the mountains, complete with a crystal-studded cave and an underwater route to a dry hiding place.
  • Although the Ionian revolt failed, it was in some ways ultimately responsible for a (mostly) united Greece being able to defeat Persia during the Greco-Persian wars... and ultimately a separate Egyptian revolt against Persia.
  • Indigenous students in residential schools often rebelled by burning down schools, and at least one semi-coordinated revolt at Haskell Indian School in 1919 almost succeeded; students cut the power line, raided the kitchens, and nearly killed the superintendent.

Priestly Wars

Not much is known about early Egyptian wars, but the legendary conflicts between Set and Horus may have been real, at least in part. It's been hard to track down more information, but Wikipedia lists the Set rebellion by the priests of Horus as the first known revolution; it was allegedly responsible for dividing Egypt into Upper and Lower portions, although most resources I've been able to find are decades old.

Religious Revolt

After a series of messy problems and uprisings and movements, the Ming dynasty was founded by a semi-literate Buddhist monk who joined a rebel movement in the 14th century. He's been described as "the single most important sectarian leader to become an emperor," and is notable for how well he leveraged religion for the purposes of rebellion. What I find most interesting is that after he took power, he officially distanced himself from Buddhism.

Hybrid Hell

After the Qin dynasty, China reverted to an intermixed system of directly administered entities in the Wei River Valley and individual kingdoms east of the mountains. The hybrid system led to a number of rebellions. In addition to the Revolt of the Seven Kingdoms in 154 BCE, imperial relatives, powerful generals, and entrenched provincial officials mounted several coups and violent attempts to overthrow the government.

Betrayed Beads

The Pueblos participating in the Revolt of 1680 (almost all of them) planned to use knotted cords as the countdown signal for them to rise up and kill the invaders, but the plan was betrayed and the rebellion kicked off early. Still, they did manage to drive out the Spanish — but thanks to drought and raids, didn't regain their prosperity. After about a decade, the Spanish came back, but never managed to reconquer the territory to the same degree.

📗 If you found this interesting, you may also enjoy my previous newsletters about obscure cuisines or how ancient taxes functioned as emergency food stores.

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⚔️ Do you know of any obscure revolts that employed unusual tactics? Please reach out — I'd love to hear about it, either via email or in a comment where other readers can see.

Note: There are a couple of affiliate links & codes scattered around, but these always come from links I was already recommending and usually I share them because they benefit you too (i.e. getting you extra time on trials).

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