Can You Identify These Historic Documents from a One Sentence Description?

John Miller

Image: Pub. by The Mayflower Sales Co., Provincetown, Mass. Tichnor Bros. Inc., Boston, Mass.

About This Quiz

Humans first began communicating through writing about 3500 BC, in the area of the Middle East. There’s no way to overstate the importance of writing to our cultures — it completely transformed the way people formulate new and ideas and share them with others. Some documents proclaimed new rights for humankind, while others started or ended terrible bloody wars. In this quiz, do you think you can name the famous documents from a short description?

You probably already know the world-famous document that President Abraham Lincoln signed in order to kill off the practice of slavery in the United States. But did you know that President Thomas Jefferson had signed the Act of 1807, which was meant to end the import of slaves to America? Both documents are important, but only the former has earned near-universal recognition. Do you know other important documents related to human rights?

Many treaties manage to end wars, but not many also start new wars, too. That’s exactly what happened with a famous treaty that was signed in France early in the 20th century. Do you know the name of this famous — and infamous — treaty, which may have cost millions of people their lives?

In 1920, the historic 20th Amendment overhauled American politics. For the first time ever, women had the right to vote. Their participation in the election process would eventually change the country in profound ways.

Dive into the calligraphy and dusty pages of these amazing documents in history. Try this famous documents quiz now!

It was written mostly by Thomas Jefferson.

In early 1776, founding father Thomas Jefferson put his amazing writing skills to the test by drafting the Declaration of Independence. It became one of most famous documents in human history.

It was the first document that made a king subject to the same laws as his people.

In 1215, King John of England signed the Magna Carta, or Great Charter, which addressed many of the grievances attributed to his rule. It was the first time that a king signed such a remarkable document, and it made him subject to the same laws that governed his people.

It gave "free men" the right to justice and a fair trial.

The Magna Carta of the 13th century included a number of famous clauses. One such clause was the 39th clause, which indicated that all free men should be granted fair trials.

It was co-authored by a German political activist named Karl Marx.

In the 1840s, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote a political flyer called "The Communist Manifesto." This iconic document highlights the problems of class struggle and capitalism.

It starts with the line, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal..."

Thomas Jefferson, who eventually became president, wrote the timeless phrase, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal," as part of the Declaration of Independence.

It was made up of a set of amendments.

Ratified in 1791, the first set of 10 U.S. constitutional amendments were called the Bill of Rights. They clarified and doubled down on the most important human rights in America.

It is the supreme law of the United States of America.

The U.S. Constitution is the framework for law and justice in America. It provides an outline of the nation’s ideals, virtues and rules.

It formed the first laws for the settlers of the New World.

In 1620, the Mayflower Compact created rules and guidelines for settlers at Plymouth Colony. The Compact established some freedoms for the settlers, who were sailing away from religious persecution in England.

It formally ended World War I.

In 1919, the Treaty of Versailles was signed, formally ending the catastrophe that was World War I. Notably, the treaty’s harsh terms contributed to the causes of World War II.

This document encourages the "forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions."

The Communist Manifesto spotlights many of the shortcomings of world power structures, particularly in capitalism. It sparked revolutions all over the world with the line, "forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions."

It was the first tax levied on British colonists in the American colonies.

In 1764, British approved the Sugar Act, which essentiallly became the first major tax on its colonists in the New World. Taxes later became a flashpoint for the American Revolution.

This treaty doubled the size of the United States.

In 1803, President Jefferson approved the Louisiana Purchase Treaty, which acquired a huge swath of land from France for $11 million. The Purchase completely changed the destiny of the young nation.

It begins with the line, "In the name of God, amen."

The settlers arriving at the New World were devout religious types, hoping to follow their religion without interference at New Plymouth. The Mayflower Compact, thus, begins with the line, "In the name of God, amen."

It started the Prohibition Era in America.

In 1920, legislators ratified the Eigthteen Amendment to the Constitution, outlawing the sale of alcoholic beverages. The era lasted for nearly a decade and a half.

It divides America’s government into three branches.

The Constitution notably creates rules for America, and divides the U.S. government into three branches, the executive, legislative and judicial branches.

It begins with the line, "A spectre is haunting Europe—the spectre of communism."

The Communist Manifesto begins with, "A spectre is haunting Europe—the spectre of communism." The Manifesto goes on to address the fears that political leaders have regarding communism, and espouses communism’s virtues.

It abolished slavery in the United States.

In 1863, President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, totally abolishing slavery in America. But the Civil War was still in full swing, meaning it would be a long while before slaves saw freedom.

It’s a clay object touting the greatness of a Persian ruler who conquered Babylon.

After Cyrus the Great captured Babylon in 539 B.C., an artist created a clay cylinder — the Cyrus cylinder — touting Cyrus’ accomplishments, especially how he brought "peace" to the area.

It provided enforcement rules and powers during the Prohibition Era.

The Eighteenth Amendment, which outlawed alcohol sales, required an enforcement tool. That’d be the Volstead Act, which spelled out the specifics of banned substances and rules for regulation.

It was signed by 41 men — all Puritans.

In 1620, 41 Puritan men signed the Mayflower Compact. They agreed to hold their allegiance for the king ... but also to adhere to the Compact’s rules so that they’d all survive what they knew would be hard times in the New World.

In it, Thomas Aquinas describes situations in which violence and war might be justified.

Aquinas lived in the 13th century and he surmised that a just cause — led by a legal ruler — might be cause for legitimate war. He wrote those ideas in the Summa Theologica.

It has been amended 27 times since its introduction.

As America has changed, its legislators have altered, or amended, the Constitution. So far, this document has been amended 27 times.

This document highlights that in most of history, oppressed majorities languish under privileged minorities.

The Communist Manifesto is obsessed with class struggle and keen on pointing out that powerful minorities always wind up oppressing the majority in a society. It wanted to help rectify this situation ... with revolution.

Clauses in this document directly challenged the autocracy of the king.

In the Magna Carta, several clauses bluntly attack the autocracy of the king’s powers. Within years of signing this document, King John managed to revoke many such clauses.

It was a direct — and onerous — tax on American colonists, created to fund British military expeditions.

The Stamp Act was a tax that charged American colonists for every printed document they used. It was such an overbearing idea that colonists were outraged ... to the point that many called for revolution.

It allowed British soldiers to live in the residences of locals ... without any sort of compensation.

In the 1760s, Britain passed two Quartering Acts, which forced colonists to provide both food and shelter to British troops, without any real compensation. It was a misstep that added fuel to the fire of the revolutionary causes.

It was the first Constitution of the United States.

In late 1777, the American colonies finally settled on the Articles of Confederation as the country’s first Constitution. Later, legislators realized the document’s flaws and thus replaced it with the new U.S. Constitution.

The Treaty of Paris in 1783 ended which conflict?

The 1783 Treaty of Paris formally brought the American Revolution to a conclusion. Its signing brought major relief to Americans who had been dreaming of independence.

The words describe how a leader restored cults and rebuilt homes.

The ancient Cyrus Cylinder explains how Cyrus the Great helped to rebuild Babylon (after he destroyed it), allowing cults to return and helping to rebulid structures all over the city.

It basically indicated that any European efforts to colonize America might be perceived as an act of war.

In the 1820s, President James Monroe jumpstarted policies that made it clear — if European nations tried to take over any part of North or South America, the U.S. might see it as an act of war. It was an effective way to keep aggressive nations at bay.

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