Infographic: The Worst Jobs Throughout History

How does making iPhones at Foxconn compare to tasting Hitler’s food? Now you know.

It’s all too easy to take a boring desk job for granted. I mean, fluorescent lights, no fresh air, staring at a 15-inch display all day–we weren’t meant to live like this! We were meant to, you know, hunt down mastodons, starving for weeks at a time while we tracked them down, risking our lives to get in close and spear them, then finally bathing in sweet guts, feces, and blood that meant we’d have dinner that was sure to have more than a few hairs in it.


Worst Jobs in the World Matrix, from Lapham’s Quarterly, puts this job dispersion into perspective. Its simple four-condition matrix lists some of the world’s worst jobs by difficulty, disgustingness, treacherousness, and tediousness. It points out that there are far worse things than a bad job, you know, like a bad job that really smells and might get you killed.

A Roman banquet attendant–or what I’ve dubbed “human urinal”–is definitely a sick mix of disgusting and tedious, though I’m not sure I’d prefer being a Viking egg collector, hanging off a cliff with nothing more than a hand-spun weed rope, getting pecked at by all manner of bird. Though truth be told, being a factory worker in China in the year 2010 doesn’t sound much better (though wages have been going up). Personally, I’d take food taster. I’ve simply never believed that the job is all that bad. You get three gourmet (tastes of) meals a day, and if the food isn’t up to snuff, you shout, “There’s poison in this soup!” and poof, there’s a new chef in the kitchen.

Yeah, food taster is definitely not the worst job for me. Though that’s easy for me to say when we’re all picturing some plump cartoon king. In reality, the job sounded terrifying in the home of more contemporary despot, Hitler.

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[Hat tip: I Love Charts]

[Image: China Factory Workers, Steve Jurvetson via Flickr]

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.