Wikipedia's "Goan war" revealed to be a hoax

The entry about a conflict between colonial Portugal and India's Maratha empire went undetected for five years

Published January 8, 2013 1:52PM (EST)

It went undetected for five years on Wikipedia, but now a cleverly crafted entry about a 17th century conflict between colonial Portugal and India’s Maratha empire has been outed as a hoax. Think of all of the plagiarized world history papers that may have been compromised by this information!

Added to the site in 2007, the so-called Bicholim Conflict of 1640-41 was a fictitious war between the Portuguese rulers of Goa and India's imperial Maratha empire. The fabricated entry was uncovered by another user in December. "After careful consideration and some research, I have come to the conclusion that this article is a hoax — a clever and elaborate hoax," wrote user "ShelfSkewed."

The fake war has been added to Wikipedia's list of hoaxes, keeping company with other longstanding pranks like Gaius Flavius Antoninus, supposed assassin of Julius Caesar; Bunaka, a fictitious Indonesian island; and falsely naming the Monarch butterfly as Canada's national insect.

Wikipedia is open for anyone to edit and therefore "can be abused to create hoaxes" according to the site.


By Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

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