As a beginner I felt unwelcome. My first question here was put on hold on the grounds that "requests for trivia or basic historical facts are off-topic". My question is not asking about trivia. It's questioning an assertion and even tries to provide some evidence to back it up. I've shown research effort, I explained clearly what I'm looking for, and I have provided some clues that a statement that has been accepted for a long time might be wrong. It's true that a good answer would need research effort as well, but that's what we are here for. So I was led to believe.

Then again, a biased answer which showed only one's "opinion", no research effort at all, and provided no links sources, or references, was not criticezed at all and was even upvoted. Good answers provide links and references. Saying "I believe that.." or "I'm sure there are other..." is not what SE recommends.

Beginners should be welcome on any SE site, especially when they are serious enthusiasts. You forget that you're still on Beta and that you need retention. Nobody ever said "welcome to History Stack Exchange, Centaurus". Good manners count.

I expect the moderators and those who have been here long will consider these points.

  • A belated welcome to History.SE, Centaurus. Sorry that you had a rough first experience. Maybe you can edit your question to show that it's actually not trivia? Closing isn't permanent.
    – Mithical
    Commented Dec 24, 2017 at 12:18
  • @Mithrandir To do what you suggest, I would need guidance and be shown what's concretely wrong with it, which nobody did.
    – Centaurus
    Commented Dec 24, 2017 at 12:20
  • As the person who cast the final close vote, I would like to add that at the time, your question states it is "solely about land area". By actual land area, the British Empire vastly outsizes the combined empires of the Iberian Union, which only controlled parts of the coasts in South America. Wikipedia seemingly confirms this, which is the critical factor for applying the "trivia" close reason. My apologies that this was not explained, I had intended to revisit and revise the question earlier.
    – Semaphore
    Commented Dec 24, 2017 at 21:53

2 Answers 2


Close options are limited - we only get five choices; if we choose to close a question, we have to fit the reason into one of five boxes. So there is some inherent imprecision. When the closure reason doesn't seem to match the facts, we have to look deeper to figure out why people voted to close.

At first glance, I think your question is legitimate. I'm going to re-read the question and the comments and the answers before I act, and I may wait and listen to some other people's opinions, but prima facia, I think it is a legit question. Having said that, this may also be a case where closure provides an opportunity to revise a question and re-open it to everyone's benefit. There are a couple of anti-patterns in your question that are detracting from the evaluation of the question.

  1. I suspect that the largest contributor to the problem was the misunderstanding of how you were defining "largest". You clarified this in the edit, but I suspect that some damage had already been done. Before a vote to re-open, I recommend that you move that edit from a postscript to the first sentence. I think if we make that explicit we will resolve much of the problem.

  2. "well researched" - Reviewing the entire issue, it is clear to me that you have researched this question and that you know your stuff. Reading the question alone, that is less clear. I think if the clarifications in the comments had been edited into the question, everyone would agree that it is well researched. But I also believe that the requests for clarification in the comments were legitimate. The first draft of the question didn't make it clear that you were asking about land area. It wasn't clear that you were talking about the Iberian Empire rather than the Spanish Empire. I think that if you edit the question as @LangLangC requested, it will resolve the problem. Define "largest", define "Iberian Empire" (and link to a reference), define the time period to which you refer. You've done most of this in comments, but if it is moved to the question and organized, I think the problem will be resolved.

  3. When someone offers a Wikipedia page in the comments, the question is very likely to be closed as trivial. That indicates that we, the community, don't understand why the Wikipedia page doesn't answer the question. I think if you can provide that information in the question in a somewhat more neutral tone than is currently in the comments, the problem will be resolved.

  4. "I'm asking this question because it seems to me that the Iberian Empire, under Phillip II, a Habsburg, was far larger." - very closely fits the "I think X amiright?" anti-pattern from the help center. Those anti-patterns in the help center record the community experience over time, and questions that are similar to those anti-patterns are going to inherit some community qualms - there is subconcious "what, this sounds like all those questions that..." In this case, this question resembles questions that are argumentative and trivial. People are very good at pattern recognition - even when the pattern is a false one - and subjectively will begin to react to the pattern. I think that some minor editing to the word choices in the question will convey much more effectively that you are looking for an objective answer based on an objective measurement.

    1. Use of the word "seems" reinforces the impression of subjectivity. I think I get why you chose that word, but I also think I get why other people were uncomfortable. Again, minor editing will eliminate this problem.

    2. I don't want to be argumentative, but I do want to provide feedback - I will admit that when I personally read the question, I was tempted to hit the trivial button because "largest land mass" seems like a trivial measurement to me. There are infinite numbers of ways to measure an empire - some are standard (GDP), and some are positively silly (number of left handed blue eyed people named "lars"). "largest land mass" doesn't seem to help me to understand Empires or Imperialism, or anything else. I am not saying it is illegitimate, but it reinforces the other impressions of that sentence. If you can explain why this measurement matters it will help; if not, I think that resolving the other problems will address this.

  5. Multiple argumentative comments. Based on years of participation in the site, I have observed that when OP's comments are argumentative, the question is in trouble. Comments are (usually/supposed to be) requests for clarification. When OP responds in comments, things devolve into arguments and tit for tat, and nobody gets any joy. I advise OP's not to respond in comments, but to edit the question. I believe that if you edit the question to incorporate the substantive points in the comments, and I purge the comments, this problem will vanish.

  6. missed opportunity. In the comment stream you say, "f you consider Spanish possessions in South America, Brazil, and The Viceroyalty of New Spain together, there was a time when the Iberian Empire covered an area of perhaps 34.000.000 kmĀ² in the Americas alone" - If you edit that into the question, this will be resoved.

I don't think there is a single, clear empirical reason why the question was closed. I think it was a combination of factors. I've tried to indicated how those factors could be resolved. I think the fundamental question is legitimate, and could be edited into re-open fairly easily. It is early and I haven't had enough caffeine yet today; if I've misunderstood the problem, please let me know. I think I speak for all of us in affirming that we do want to welcome new members, particularly those who have researched and thought through the problem deeply before asking.

  • 2
    Thank you for wise advice. I will do my best to follow it.
    – Centaurus
    Commented Dec 24, 2017 at 14:10
  • 2
    If I were a normal user, I'd vote to re-open now. As a mod, I need to be more deliberate.
    – MCW Mod
    Commented Dec 24, 2017 at 14:43

Your question, even as it is today, seems to fit the argumentative "I think X prove me right/wrong" as already highlighted by Mark.

In all honesty I'd vote to close its updated version if I could. The reason is that going by claim rather than colonial control proper makes the question a request for trivia or worse. A claim is worthless if you're unable to enforce it - at gun point if needs be.

As an anecdote, Emperor Norton claimed be to US emperor. Most in the US weren't aware of him and it made no difference to their lives. Those that were aware of him mostly dismissed him as an eccentric quack.

In the latter sentence, replace Emperor Norton with Iberians, US with "the world", and "those that were aware of him" with other European powers, and you've a not that incongruous a sketch of the Iberians' situation in the late 16th century.

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