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History Memes are memes that reference specific historical events. Often, they revolve around World War II, the USSR and bizarre trivia facts. While they may utilize modern meme formats, Renaissance-style paintings and historical photographs make common templates as well. History memes are especially prevalent on Reddit, Tumblr and Pinterest.
Since the late 2000s, history memes have appeared sporadically across the internet, but appeared alone without a cohesive trend toward the theme. On July 13th, 2009, the earliest known history meme was uploaded online via Flickr by user Lucy Senpai. It references a photographed "meme" from 1905, originally captioned "What’s Delaying my Dinner?" In the style of a motivational poster, it jokes about LOLcats in history (seen below).
On September 17th, 2012, the subreddit /r/HistoryMemes was formed to encourage the creation of memes specifically geared towards the history fandom. Ever since, there has been more widespread interest in this trend. The top post of all time on /r/HistoryMemes uses an old photograph as a format to encourage upvoting to ultimately receive Reddit coins as a reward (seen below). It was met with over 144,000 upvotes and 646 comments.
The subreddit /r/HistoryMemes has been rapidly growing in popularity since its creation. As of June 2021, it has over 2,700,000 members. Until 2021, many of the posts have been geared towards World War II memes, but moderator efforts have led to a much wider variety of memes involving historical periods and events. There are also numerous Tumblr blogs devoted to history memes, with one of the most popular being elizabethan-memes.tumblr.com.
In 2016, there was a dramatic increase in interest towards history memes after Bill Wurtz posted this now-famous YouTube video History of Japan (seen below). As of 2021, it has over 66 million views.
World War II Memes
World War II was a global power struggle involving Nazi Germany, Japan, the USSR, most of Europe, and eventually the Untied States. Aside from numerous memes revolving around Hitler or the man who killed Hitler, frequent subjects of World War II memes involve Japan's surprise bombing of Pearl Harbor and Hitler's reaction to it, the Normandy Landings, and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Communism is a political structure from Marxist ideologies that involves eliminating the class and monetary systems to ultimately decentralize the power balance of a state and promote equality. History memes involving communism often shift away from popular interpretations of communism in the meme community and instead use the USSR's history in jokes about the failures of communism in execution.
Fake History and Colorized history Memes
Colorized history memes are captioned images, typically from TV shows or irrelevant photographs, that very slightly resemble a historical event, labeled as a historical photo that has been retouched. Fake history memes are similar to colorized history memes, differing only in the designation of "colorized" vs a black-and-white image; both types of memes follow the same overall structure.