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05/23/2013 07:33 am ET | Updated Jul 23, 2013

6 Biggest Hoaxes In History

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Napoleon Bonaparte once famously observed "history is a set of lies agreed upon." For those who look for the truth, it is often far too easy to believe in fraudulent history and science when they tell us what we want to hear. These six hoaxes demonstrate two major factors involved in the success of a hoax or forgery--greed and the desire to believe. It is important to tackle history's enduring questions, examining the evidence behind each and dispelling lingering myths in order to explore the interplay of history and science to uncover how facts and falsehoods vie for belief.

There are two kinds of myths that one finds in history: those that arise spontaneously, and those that are manufactured. The line between these two is extremely fine and can often become confused. These six controversies, linked to world events from biblical times to the twentieth century, are some of the most amazing frauds ever to gain wide acceptance. Though all of these counterfeits have been scientifically debunked, the power of wanting to believe in something can overcome rational thought and hard evidence, leading many of these falsehoods to remain fixed in people's minds as truth.

The success of these frauds and so many alike highlights the disturbing fact that if true history fails to entertain the public, it is likely to be ignored or forgotten.

Edward Steers Jr. is the author of the new book Hoax: Hitler's Diaries, Lincoln's Assassins, and Other Famous Frauds.

History's Biggest Hoaxes

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