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The World's Biggest Jerks Throughout History

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens gave the world some of its most memorable books, like Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities. He's one of the most famous authors that ever lived, but it appears that Dickens was more interested in his own fans than his children. Turns out, he wasn't really that great of a guy. 

According to one of his biographers, Dickens found his sons to be loud and difficult to manage. Talk about an A+ father right there. He tried to whip them into shape, but that just made the boys dislike their father as much as he disliked him. Some people just shouldn't have kids...

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Gandhi

Gandhi

These days, we may associate Gandhi with civil rights and pacifism. He's usually equated to being one of the most altruistic people that has ever lived, but there was more to his life than just that. On top of that, certain other aspects of his existence are not quite as noble as the ones we remember. 

Gandhi’s relationship with his wife was controversial, to say the least. He admitted himself to abusing her, both physically and with his words. This bitter relationship also extended to his son, whom Gandhi wanted to follow in his own footsteps. The two never reconciled before his death. Gandhi doesn't seem as amazing as we remember. 

Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison

You don't have to go far to see how much of a jerk Thomas Edison was. The Tesla maniacs already hate Edison for relegating their hero to the dustbin of history.  For everyone else, Thomas Edison is pretty jerky without having to mention Nikola Tesla at all, and we're gonna lay it all out for you. 

Edison’s biggest jerk move came in 1903 when he electrocuted an elephant. Yes, an elephant, and he did it on purpose.  Edison did it in an attempt to show the superiority of his DC electrical current. He electrocuted Topsy, a supposed "problem" elephant at Coney Island. Spoiler alert: any elephant in captivity is going to be unhappy and act out. 

Kim Jong-il

Kim Jong-il

We're not here to say that Kim Jong-il was a good dude. Throughout history, dictators have been a dime a dozen. There’s always some maniac thirsty for power and willing to do anything for it, but not just any dictator can be a jerk. It takes a special touch that only Kim Jong-il had. 

It wasn’t enough for Kim Jong-il to merely hold complete power over his citizens. He forced them to like it, too. This included building special rooms in schools for discussions about Jong-il, claims that he could talk at six months of age, and all of nature itself celebrating his birthday. 

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Genghis Khan

Genghis Khan

Genghis Khan was put down in history as one of the biggest conquerors in all of history. Naturally, he wasn't that good of a guy. Those who make a life of taking over other people aren't known for baking them cookies. Sure, he changed the world, but that doesn’t change the fact that he did it in the jerkiest way possible (and then some). 

Khan killed lots of people, and often in gruesome and cruel ways. Is it really surprising when the man is on record saying this? “Man’s greatest good fortune is to chase and defeat his enemy, seize his total possessions, leave his married women weeping and wailing, ride his gelding, use his women as a nightshirt and support, gazing upon and kissing their rosy breasts, sucking their lips which are as sweet as the berries of their breasts.”

Plato

Plato

We probably wouldn’t have Western philosophy without Plato (or his disciples). Sure, he was a huge part of what we know today, but if you’re familiar at all with the thinker and his work, then you know what a bloviating, gleeful jerk he can be. We're not going to look past his bad attitude. 

Plato’s biggest jerky move came in his dialogue, Republic. In it, Plato sets up his ideal society, in which he explicitly forbids poets from his republic because poetry enflames the passions. Okay, that's true. Poetry is pretty awesome and enflames all sorts of emotions. Still, anti-poetry was probably a hard sell in ancient Greece. 

Marcus Licinius Crassus

Marcus Licinius Crassus

Marcus Licinius Crassus was a Roman general and politician (those two things went hand-in-hand) and was referred to as "the richest man in Rome" at the time. He isn’t the first figure you imagine when you think of ancient Rome, but he’s arguably one of the most annoying. Strangely enough, though, this jerk also brought firefighting to Rome. 

The only problem with Crassus’ fire fighting service was that there was a good chance one of his goons set fire to your house in the first place. As if that wasn't enough, then along comes Crassus to negotiate a high service fee while your house burns in the background. What a tool!

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Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin was one of America’s founding fathers, and you probably learned a lot about him in school -- the good stuff anyway. Like most of the founding fathers, he can’t seem to catch a break these days. That doesn't cover up the fact he did have some pretty jerky behavior in his days. 

It’s no secret that Franklin loved the ladies and often kept company with women who weren’t his wife while he was visiting foreign countries. His favorite kind of woman? Old. He went on to explain that he preferred old women to young because they can’t get pregnant and they’ll take care of you when you’re sick. What a a charmer. 

Henry Ford

Henry Ford

Henry Ford revolutionized how we travel, and we’re grateful for that. We wouldn't have any Ford vehicles if it weren't for him! Unfortunately, you couldn’t have picked a worse person to change the world forever. Spoiler alert: Henry Ford was a huge freakin' jerk, and no amount of inventions could cover that up. 

Ford’s biggest shortcoming was his anti-semitism, and he made no attempts to conceal it. The man just straight-up did not care for Jewish people and would tell anyone who would listen. Unsurprisingly, he became a favorite of Hilter. Pretty gross, right? We're starting to rethink our love for Mustangs now...

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Teddy Roosevelt

Teddy Roosevelt

Teddy Roosevelt was the 26th president of the United States, and he did tangible good during his time. He is most known for creating the national park system and abolishing child labor. However, he had his detractors, including Mark Twain who called him “clearly insane.” Listen to this before you make your decision: 

One of Roosevelt’s jerkiest moves has to be shooting his neighbor’s dog. Yeah, you read that right. Roosevelt had just had a fight with his girlfriend at the time and apparently found the dog “annoying.” As if that wasn't bad enough, he's also quoted as saying "the only good Indian is the dead Indian." Major oof. 

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Josef Stalin

Josef Stalin

Oh, wow! Big surprise here, right? Stalin was responsible for the deaths of millions, so his actions definitely go beyond jerk. We're going to put him in a category of his own because just because you’re a mass murderer doesn’t mean you’re not a jerk, too! That's right, he was also a huge douchenozzle. 

Stalin was a bringer of death, but life under him wasn’t much more preferable. Jokes about him or the Soviet Union, in general, could land you in jail. The guy could dish it out, but couldn't take it, apparently. Friends and loved ones didn’t have it much easier, either. Stalin cheated multiple times on both his wives. 

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Mao Zedong

Mao Zedong

Like the other major dictators of the 20th century, Mao was a violent and totalitarian leader. Again, we're putting Mao in a category of his own because jerk and mass murderer are two majorly different things (not that you would ever have a nice murderer). However, it turns out Mao wanted a side of jerkiness with his violence. 

Mao was mostly a jerk in the way he was able to get people to turn on one another. During his Cultural Revolution, friends betrayed friends, and children even informed on their “traitorous” parents. Mao knew how to get other people to do the dirty work of domination for him, and that’s a classic jerk move. 

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Emporer Constantine

Emporer Constantine

Without Constantine, Christianity probably wouldn’t have survived as long as it has. For many, that's a huge plus because they can't live their lives without religion. Sorry to say that by popularizing it and making it the official religion of Rome, Constantine was actually making a huge jerk move. Oops. 

Before Constantine, Christians were a persecuted minority. After Constantine, Christianity exploded and became a dominant force. So in a way, Constantine is kinda responsible for the violence that Christianity has done as a state-sponsored religion. Thanks for the crusades and all the awful stuff that's happened since, dude. Can't we all get along? 

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Shiro Ishii

Shiro Ishii

“Monster” might be a better term for Shiro Ishii than “jerk.”  This awful Japanese surgeon oversaw some of the most gruesome human experiments known to man during the Sino-Japanese in the early 20th century. If you're squeamish, it may be hard to hear the following jerky and inhumane behavior...

Ishii oversaw Unit 731 -- a biological warfare research facility of Imperial Japan. There weren't exactly human rights when he was involved. Ishii and his cohorts engaged in violent and immoral human research. They vivisected prisoners without anesthesia, tested weapons on real humans, and even intentionally infected thousands with the bubonic plague. 

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Mary Tudor

Mary Tudor

We all know about Henry VIII and how many wives he took (and executed because he didn't like them). Like her father, Henry VIII, Mary Tudor was an expert at being a jerk to anyone who had the misfortune of meeting her or being one of her subjects. They didn’t call her Bloody Mary for nothing!

Mary is a jerk mostly for not only forcing her subjects to convert to Catholicism but also telling them that she wouldn’t force them to do so. Except, anyone not practicing it would die. When all was said and done, Mary had the blood of hundreds on her hands that refused to convert. 

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Ilse Koch

Ilse Koch

You really have to be a terrible person to stand out from the Nazis, but that’s exactly what Ilse Koch managed to do. This war criminal went above and beyond when it comes to cruelty and sadism. Not only was she a jerk, but she was an awful, awful person. 

Dubbed “the Witch of Buchenwald”, Koch allegedly had tattooed prisoners murdered so that she could have their skin as a souvenir. Awful and gross. While these specific allegations were refuted at her trial, Koch was still convicted of other war crimes. This woman was as bad (and jerky) as they come. 

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Henry VIII

Henry VIII

Henry VIII is one of the most memorable monarchs of England, but he had to be a real jerk to sustain that kind of attention. Was it worth it, Henry? There are few rulers of England that have stood out more than this guy. Movies and TV series have recorded his bad attitude and jerk decisions. 

Henry had a couple wives that ended up beheaded (for very good reasons, I’m sure) and a long string of mistresses and illegitimate children. The man could clearly not keep it in his pants. And then there was the whole ordeal where the Catholic church wouldn’t annul his marriage, so he simply created a competing, parallel religion in the Church of England. 

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Elizabeth Bathory

Elizabeth Bathory

It seems like a lot of jerks and monsters throughout history have been men, but Elizabeth Bathory proves that even the ladies know how to engage in antisocial behavior. And murder. Legends have started about her and movies have gone over what a terrible woman she was. She didn't exactly go down in history for creating a beautiful garden, okay? 

Bathory was a Hungarian countess and has the dishonor of being the most prolific female killer in history. Not content with just being a mass murderer, Bathory allegedly bathed in the blood of her young victims to retain her own youth. What an upstanding gal! Everyone back then was also a jerk because they didn't care as long as she was praying on the poor, lower classes. It wasn't until she started picking off rich daughters that people looked into her. 

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Emperor Nero

Emperor Nero

Nero is generally considered to be one of the more tyrannical emperors of ancient Rome. While it’s hard to imagine an emperor that isn’t a jerk, Nero really went above in beyond in his awfulness. He was so bad that we're making a scale of awfulness from "1 to Nero." 

According to some ancient historians, Nero persecuted Christians not for political reasons but just for fun. Yeah, that's a totally normal and sane thing for anyone to do. There were also sources that blame him for intentionally starting the great fire of Rome in 64 AD. It's almost scary to say that he isn't even the cruelest of them all. Sheesh. 

Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss is responsible for some of the most memorable and whimsical children’s books ever created. A guy like that couldn’t be a jerk, right? Well, the recent news about his books is just one of the many reasons that put him on this list. We're sorry to say, Seuss was a grade-A jerk. 

While the author’s wife was struggling with paralysis and other serious medical conditions, Seuss was having an affair with another woman. Once Seuss’s wife became suspicious, she committed suicide, and her suicide note seems to imply that she killed herself out of a love for her husband. What an awful guy...

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Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte

Listen, no one is saying that Napoleon wasn't a genius or one of the most important political figures of all time. He was all that and more, but it's also perfectly possible to be those things and a jerk. We're going to call that the Napoleon special. He managed to do that in spades. 

Without getting into too many of the sordid details, let's just say that during all those impressive military campaigns, Napoleon found a way to "entertain" a number of beautiful women that weren't his wife. There's no telling how many children he really had. What he lacks in ethics, he more than made up for in time management. 

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OJ Simpson

OJ Simpson

I don't care what any jury or conspiracy theorist tries to tell us. Everyone and their mom know that OJ did it. Sure, not every murderer is also a jerk, but Simpson? Yeah, this guy is a pretty huge jerk. Let's talk about the book that he wrote after the fact (that pretty much taunted the families of the victims). 

The truly galling thing about his "alleged" crimes didn't actually happen back then -- it came years later. In 2007, Simpson, with the help of a ghostwriter, wrote If I Did It. The book outlined a hypothetical scenario about how Simpson would have killed Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. Don't you see? It's purely hypothetical! *wink, wink, nudge, nudge*

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Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson

We don't even have to touch politics to conclude that Andrew Jackson was a jerk. It doesn't matter if he was President of the United States or just some stranger on the streets, in his personal life he was truly unbearable. It's easy to say that those who knew this guy didn't even really like him either. 

Jackson had a notoriously bad temper and was no stranger to challenging someone to a duel in a fit of rage.  Duels could actually kill someone, by the way. Additionally, on his deathbed, he said his only regret in life was not hanging John C. Calhoun for treason. What a class act. 

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Martin Shkreli

Martin Shkreli

Martin Shkreli is still alive and only 37, yet he's already managed to prove to the world that he's truly obnoxious on a historical level. I'd like to see Thomas Edison try and top that record! If you look up "jerk" in the dictionary, this punchable face is right there. 

Shkreli first came to infamy when his pharmaceutical company raised the price of Daraprim from $13 a pill to $750. Shkreli was later convicted of securities fraud, but the really infuriating thing about him was how much he seemed to love all the negative attention. By hating him, we were just giving him what he wanted. 

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Francisco Macias Nguema

Francisco Macias Nguema

You might not expect Equatorial Guinea to be home to one of the biggest jerks and monsters in the world, but he exists! Meet this man. His name is Francisco Macias Nguema--elected in 1968 as the first president of the country. After a few years in office, Ngeuma basically decided he'd rather be a dictator than a democratically elected president, so he quickly consolidated power.

Yeah, that's not cool, dude. That wasn't even the tip of the iceberg. Nguema wasn't just full of power--he was full of himself. As supreme leader of the country, he was prone to vanity (like declaring himself the "Grand Master of Education, Science, and Culture") and absurd violence (like executing dissidents using soldiers dressed as Santa Claus). 

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Christian Audigier

Christian Audigier

The name Christian Audigier might not ring any bells, and as far as I can tell, he wasn't particularly a jerk. There is one huge sin that he's enforced on everyone that lives on the planet. This man unwittingly unleashed a tidal wave of douchebags onto the unsuspecting planet. Big ol' thanks to Christian. 

Audigier is responsible for the popularization and spread of the Ed Hardy brand. If you've ever encountered a jerk in one of the infamous and gaudy graphic tees, you have this guy to blame. It seems like they all gravitate to the same brand, but at least that makes them easy to spot from a mile away. 

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Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus has been touted as one of the best guys in history, but recent news headlines have shown how much of a jerk he really was. The guy was straight-up terrible, and there's some truth to what everyone is loudly saying. There's a reason we're not calling it Columbus day anymore. 

You don't even have to dig very deeply to uncover some of his worst hits. Columbus may have genocided the Taino people, and he definitely sold people into slavery. Most tragically, he got famous enough that we're still forced to debate him centuries later. Let's just call it quits on this guy and celebrate those that have survived people like him. 

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Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein was no monster, but he was no saint either. Unfortunately for him, he's famous, which tends to make people much more interested in the bad than the good. We're going to call a spade a spade, and air his dirty laundry to the best of our ability. Get ready!

Einstein left his first wife for his cousin, which seemed to be more socially acceptable then. Still, that's gotta hurt for his ex. Guess they had a lot in common? He would then go on to cheat on his cousin with his secretary, and newly discovered letters have implied that he may have had affairs with as many as six women. 

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John Adams

John Adams

Whatever side of the political fence you're on, there's no denying that for over a decade we've had some very vocal people with some very strong criticisms about whoever happens to be in office. But these people clearly didn't pay attention in history class or they would be railing against the worst president this country has ever seen--John Adams. 

Not even 10 years after Adams signed the Bill of Rights, which famously includes "that first one", this man had the nerve to sign the worst laws this country has ever seen--The Alien and Sedition acts. Among other things, they criminalized any sort of criticism against the US government, making it punishable by deportation. Obviously, he used this as threat against his political enemies, but Adams technically never deported anyone under these acts. 

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Matthew Hopkins

Matthew Hopkins

Matthew Hopkins probably isn't a name that rings any bells. He isn't particularly famous, but back in the day, he was a hugely popular guy. Hopkins was a witch hunter during the English Civil War. Obviously, we know today that witch-hunting was a way to take out anyone you didn't particularly like. But don't worry, it gets worse! 

Hopkins has a dubious distinction among witch hunters. He was responsible for the deaths of more "witches" during his career than all witch hunters for 100 years before him combined. In addition to his passion for witch-hunting, Hopkins was also very passionate about inflating his own ego. That's why he was dubbed "Witchfinder General," a meaningless term that he made up himself. 

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