For history lovers who listen to podcasts, History Unplugged is the most comprehensive show of its kind. It's the only show that dedicates episodes to both interviewing experts and answering questions from its audience. First, it features a call-in show where you can ask our resident historian (Scott Rank, PhD) absolutely anything (What was it like to be a Turkish sultan with four wives and twelve concubines? If you were sent back in time, how would you kill Hitler?). Second, it features long-form interviews with best-selling authors who have written about everything. Topics include gruff World War II generals who flew with airmen on bombing raids, a war horse who gained the rank of sergeant, and presidents who gave their best speeches while drunk.
Vlad the Impaler is the (Partial) Inspiration for Count Dracula
Vampire lore goes back to the ancient world (revenant legends abound from Rome to China) but vampire mythology doesn't come into its own until at least the Renaissance period. Was the inspiration for it all the bloodthirsty Wallachian ruler Vlad Tepes, the ruler who impaled tens of thousands in the 1400s? Was he the direct inspiration for Bram Stoker's Dracula? Partially yes, but it's not as clear cut as most think. In this episode we will sink our fangs into vampire lore, the reign of Vlad Tepes, and where Bram Stoker got his ideas for his most famous novel.
'A Woman of No Importance': The One-Legged WW2 Spy Virginia Hall
In 1942, as World War II was raging, the Gestapo sent out an urgent message: “She is the most dangerous of all Allied spies. We must find and destroy her.” That spy was Virginia Hall, a young American woman who—rejected from the Foreign Service because of her gender and prosthetic leg—talked her way behind enemy lines in occupied France and went on to become one of the greatest (and most unlikely) spies in U.S. history.
Today I talk with Sonia Purnell, author of the book "A Woman of No Importance." Virginia quickly established a network of spies to blow up bridges and track German troop movements; she recruited and trained guerrilla fighters, arming them with weapons she called in from the skies. As “the limping lady of Lyon” and later “the Madonna of the Mountains,” she became legend. Eluding the Nazis hot on her tail, her face covering WANTED posters throughout Europe, Virginia refused orders to evacuate. Finally—her cover blown and her associates imprisoned or executed—she escaped in a grueling hike over the Pyrenees into Spain. But, adamant that she had “more lives to save,” she dove back in as soon as she could, helping lay the groundwork for the Allied liberation of France.
The 4,000-Year-Old Question: Is Judaism a Religion, Ethnicity, Race, or Culture?
What is Judaism? What does it mean to be Jewish? Is it an ethnicity (being one of the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), a religion (following the tenets of the Torah, Mishnah, and Talmud) or a cultural experience (a common experienced developed through millenia of being ostracized, otherized, and demonized by majority groups in their homelands).
Today I tackled this enormous question by first looking at the origins of the Jewish people. There's not universally accepted answer to this question. Some say the Old Testament account of the patriarchs, the Exodus from Egypt, and the deportations into Assyria and Babylon tell the story. Others say the Jewish people were an offshoot of the Canaanites who developed into their own culture. We then look into the creation of the Jewish diaspora across the Mediterranean world and how Jewish identity shifted as the circumstances of this religious group changed from the ancient world to the medieval and early modern periods. There is no clear answer to all these questions, but this episode will hopefully provide plenty of historical context.
The 500-Year Story of a Gutenberg Bible And Everyone Who Owned It
For rare-book collectors, an original copy of the Gutenberg Bible—of which there are fewer than 50 in existence (and which can sell for $100 million)—represents the ultimate prize. One copy, Number 45, passed through the hands of Johannes Gutenberg, monks, an earl, billionaires, bibliophiles, the Worcestershire sauce king, and a nuclear physicist before arriving at its ultimate resting place, in a steel vault in Tokyo. Estelle Doheny, the first woman collector to add the book to her library and its last private owner, tipped the Bible onto a trajectory that forever changed our understanding of the first mechanically printed book.
In today's episode I'm speaking with Margaret Leslie Davis, author of The Lost Gutenberg: The Astounding Story of One Book's Five-Hundred-Year Odyssey. She focuses on two protagonists in her story: the copy of the Gutenberg Bible itself and Doheny, a California heiress who emerged from scandal to chase it. We discussed the value we place on rare books, and the shifting wealth and power of those who hunt them.
Hitler’s “Desert Fox”: The Military Career of Erwin Rommel
Erwin Rommel, a German field marshal in World War Two, was probably more respected and feared than any other figure in the Wehrmacht. He issued early defeats against the British in North Africa against vastly superior forces using a mix of cutting-edge tactics with combined arms assaults and classic Napoleonic military strategy. But who was Erwin Rommel? War hero or war criminal? Hitler flunky? Military genius or just lucky?
In this episode I talk with Samuel W. Mitcham Jr. a military historian and author of the new book Desert Fox: The Storied Military Career of Erwin Rommel—offering a look at the Allies’ most well-respected opponent of WWII. He explores the complexities of the controversial Nazi leader through his improbable and spectacular military career, his epic battles in North Africa, and his fraught relationship with Hitler and the Nazi Party.
When Irish Vets of the American Civil War Invaded Canada in 1866
One year after the Civil War ended, a group of delusional and mostly incompetent commanders sponsored by bitterly competing groups riddled with spies, led tiny armies against the combined forces of the British, Canadian, and American governments. They were leaders of America’s feuding Irish émigré groups who thought they could conquer Canada and blackmail Great Britain (then the world's military superpower) into granting Ireland its independence.
The story behind the infamous 1866 Fenian Raids seems implausible (and whiskey-fueled), but ultimately is an inspiring tale of heroic patriotism. Inspired by a fervent love for Ireland and a burning desire to free her from British rule, members of the Fenian Brotherhood – a semi-secret band of Irish-American revolutionaries – made plans to seize the British province of Canada and hold it hostage until the independence of Ireland was secured.
When the Fenian Raids began, Ireland had been subjugated by Britain for over seven hundred years. The British had taken away Ireland’s religion, culture, and language, and when the Great Hunger stuck, they even took away her food, exporting it to other realms of the British Empire. Those who escaped the famine and fled to America were inspired by the revolutionary actions of the Civil War to fight for their own country’s freedom. After receiving a promise from President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William Seward not to interfere with any military plans, the Fenian Brotherhood - which included a one-armed Civil War hero, an English spy posing as French sympathizer, an Irish revolutionary who faked his own death to escape capture, and a Fenian leader turned British loyalist – began to implement their grand plan to secure Ireland’s freedom. They executed daring prison breaks from an Australian penal colony, conducted political assassinations and engaged in double-dealings, managing to seize a piece of Canada for three days.
Today I'm speaking with Christopher Klein, author of the book WHEN THE IRISH INVADED CANADA: The Incredible True Story of the Civil War Veterans Who Fought for Ireland’s Freedom. He brings light to this forgotten but fascinating story in history.
The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present
The received idea of Native American history--as promulgated by books like Dee Brown's mega-bestselling 1970 Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee--has been that American Indian history essentially ended with the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee. Not only did one hundred fifty Sioux die at the hands of the U. S. Cavalry, the sense was, but Native civilization did as well.
Today's guest David Treuer has a different take on this history. Growing up Ojibwe on a reservation in Minnesota, training as an anthropologist, and researching Native life past and present, Treuer argues strongly against this narrative. Because American Indians did not disappear--and not despite but rather because of their intense struggles to preserve their language, their traditions, their families, and their very existence--the story of American Indians since the end of the nineteenth century to the present is one of unprecedented resourcefulness and reinvention.
How Industrialists Plotted to Overthrow FDR Over The New Deal in 1934
FDR launched the New Deal immediately after his 1933 inauguration, but it was not universally popular. Some hated it bitterly. Critics from the right thought it was part of a long-term plan to push America into Soviet-style socialism. Critics from the left like Louisiana Governor Huey Long thought it didn't go far enough. Long pushed the “Share Our Wealth” plan, demanding that Congress confiscate individual earnings over $1 million, using those funds for health care and college tuition. He called anyone who refused to endorse his plan “damned scoundrels” that were fit for hanging.
Perhaps the strangest episode in opposition to the New Deal came from a group of financiers and industrialists, who in 1934 allegedly plotted a coup d’état to prevent FDR from establishing what they feared would be a socialist state. Though the media regarded it as a tall tale, retired Marine Corps major general Smedley Butler testified before a congressional committee that the conspirators had wanted Butler to deliver an ultimatum to FDR to create a new cabinet officer, a “Secretary of General Affairs,” who would run things while the president recuperated from feigned ill health. If Roosevelt refused, the conspirators had promised General Butler an army of five hundred thousand war veterans who would help drive Roosevelt from office.
Making Your Death Memorable: The Oldest Tombs We Can Trace To One Person
What are the oldest known tombs that can reliably be traced to a person? These are surprisingly tricky to track down. While archeologists constantly find human remains at an excavation site, there are almost never any identifying marks about the person. This is particularly true in the ancient world. Other than massive sites like the pyramids, we have little knowledge about the final resting places of famous figures. We don't even know the burial site of Alexander the Great -- the biggest celebrity in antiquity.
In this episode we talk about ancient tombs, crypts, mausoleums, and burial mounds. But more broadly, we look at how humanity's understanding of life, death, and commemorating those who passed away left behind more than tombs. It may be the reason for the rise of civilization itself.
The Kremlin Letters: Stalin's Wartime Correspondence with Churchill and Roosevelt
From 1941 to 1945, Joseph Stalin exchanged more than six hundred messages with Allied leaders Churchill and Roosevelt. The correspondence ranged from intimate personal greetings to weighty salvos about diplomacy and strategy, and they reveal political machinations and human stories behind the Allied triumvirate.
Today's guest is David Reynolds, author of a new book about the correspondence between the three. He helped edit a volume based on the correspondence among the Allied triumvirate, which illuminated an alliance that really worked while exposing its fractious limits and the issues and egos that set the stage for the Cold War.
The RAF Won the Battle of Britain With Strategy But Also Plenty of Luck
In the summer of 1940, Germany sent armadas of bombers and fighters over England hoping to lure the RAF into battle and annihilate the defenders. Day after day the RAF scrambled their pilots into the sky to do battle up to five times a day. Britain's air defense bent but did not break. All that stood between the British and defeat was a small force of RAF pilots outnumbered in the air by four to one. After pushing back the armada, Winston Churchill declared: "Never before in human history was so much owed by so many to so few."
But how did they do it? The answer is effective tactics, plenty of bravery, and a change in German strategy that squandered all their gains.
Why The Printing Press Appeared in the Middle East 400 Years After Europe
Why were there no printing presses in the Middle East until four centuries after Europe? Did it have to do with Islam prohibiting this technology? Was the calligraphy lobby too strong? Or is the answer more complicated?
The global spread of the printing press began with the invention of movable type by Johannes Gutenberg in 1439. A few decades later there were millions of books in Europe. But there were few printing presses in the Ottoman Empire until the 1800s. Some historians say this has to do with lack of interest and religious reasons were among the reasons for the slow adoption of the printing press outside Europe. The story goes that the printing of Arabic, after encountering strong opposition by Muslim legal scholars and the manuscript scribes, remained prohibited in the Ottoman empire between 1483 and 1729, initially even on penalty of death.
However, we will see in this episode that scholars and sultans had no problems with the printing press. The real reason for the printing press's slow spread was twofold: First, the thousands of calligraphers made hand-copied books so cheap that printing presses were not needed. Second, Arabic letters are more difficult to render than Latin ones, meaning that the printing press had to become more technologically advanced before it could cheaply and easily churn out Arabic, Turkish, and Persian texts.
Last Night on the Titanic: Doctors and Con Artists
The Titanic was filled with medical professionals either working as ship personnel or traveling in a non-professional capacity. There were also plenty of con artists aboard, hoping to worm their way into the wills of wealthy widows. Learn about their stories in this episode.
The musicians of the Titanic famously continued playing as the ship went down, a testimony to practicing one's craft until their dying breath. But did it really happen like this?
Varying accounts exist as to whether the band played until the end and also about what the band was playing. We will explore the accounts in this episode.
Many Titanic passengers were known for setting the styles. In this episode we will profile the two Luciles: famed fashionistas Lady Lucy Duff-Gordon and Lucile Polk Carter. We will also look at John Jacob Astor IV, perhaps the world’s richest man at the time. He founded hotels that were ground-breaking in their day and continue to set trends long after the eponymous founder's death.
Mr. Rogers once said, “When there is a disaster, always look for the helpers; there will always be helpers.
Many died on the night of the Titanic's sinking, but many more would have died if not for the heroic efforts of such helpers as the “unsinkable” Molly Brown and Benjamin Guggenheim, a millionaire who acted with utter calm as he gently assisted women and children to lifeboats, knowing he would die within the hour. Other helpers personally swam infants to lifeboats, using every last breath to help others before they themselves perished.
The cooks and other support staff of the Titanic “drowned like rats” due to not being assigned a clear place in the pecking order of escapees. One who did survive was French cook Paul Mauge, who used his extraordinary wits to survive. This episode chronicles how cooks like Mauge arrived on the Titanic, how they survived (or didn't), and what it was like for the service personnel on the night the ship went down.
Code Names. Deception. Gadgets. It might seem like something out of the movies, but these
are just some of the essential components of being a spy.
ESPIONAGE tells the stories of the world’s most incredible undercover missions, and how these
covert operations succeeded...or failed
Espionage is a Parcast Original podcast from the same storytelling team behind hit shows like
Unexplained Mysteries, Serial Killers, and Conspiracy Theories.
Call to Action: This is the first part of the first Espionage episode. To hear the remainder
of this episode, search for and subscribe to Espionage wherever you listen to podcasts
or visit Parcast.com/espionage to start listening now.
The sinking of the Titanic is memorable for its countless stories, and the reason that so many of them have found their way down to us today was the many writers that were onboard the ship. The first draft of history about the Titanic was written by man prominent writers. We will focus on six in this episode: Paul Danby, Adolphe Saalfeld, Edith Rosenbaum Russell, William Stead, Jacques Futrelle, and Lawrence Beesley
One legendary fixture on the Titanic was a gregarious popcorn vendor known as Popcorn Dan (Coxon). He was one of America's first food truck operators and a highly successful purveyor of popcorn. He was lost on the Titanic and his body was never recovered, although a NY Times article claimed it was him when it wasn't.
Coxon lived an interesting life. He resided in a Queen Anne house on the Wisconsin river, which people thought was haunted. He dressed in a fur-lined coat and loved to maintain a flashy appearance.
But he was still a working-class man. For that reason, our culinary spotlight on him is a staple of laborers in the early 20th century (now it's a delicacy)—Tripe and Onion Soup
In this episode we are looking at the life of Charles Joughin, a colorful character who has appeared in both film version of the Titanic. After the sinking, Joughin claimed he knew it was an iceberg that struck the ship because he saw a polar bear— and it waved to him (although, it should be noted, he told this story to nieces and nephews largely to mask the horror of that last night aboard the Titanic).
At around 12:15 a.m. Joughin began rousing his kitchen staff. Six of his men were already working, and the others he got up out of their beds. “All hands out. All hands out of your bunks.” He directed each of them to take four loaves up for the life boats, fifty-two loaves in all. Joughin’s staff consisted of ten bakers, two confectioners, and a Vienna baker. Of the fourteen of them, ten had worked on the Olympic, the Titanic’s sister ship, and many of them had worked together.
The Last Night on the Titanic: Overview of the 1,500 Passengers and Crew Who Lost Their Lives
On the night of April 14, 1912, in the last hours before the Titanic struck
the iceberg, passengers in all classes were enjoying unprecedented luxuries. Innovations in food, drink, and decor made this voyage the apogee of Edwardian elegance.
This episode is the first in a series I'm doing with Titanic historian Veronica Hinke called "Last Night on the Titanic." In it we look at individual accounts of tragedy and survival from the figures that made up the passengers and crew of the ship. They include millionaires, artists, fashionistas, bakers, cookers, musicians, doctors, and con-men.
To recreate the experience of what it was like to be on the Titanic before disaster was on anyone's mind, Veronica also goes into detail of the food and drink consumer on the ship, from tripe soup eaten by a third-class passenger to the fancy dessert eaten by a Edwardian lady.
Light-Horse Harry Lee: A Founding Father's Journey From Glory to Ruin
The history of the American Revolution is written by and about the victors like Washington, Jefferson, and Adams. But separating the heroes from the villains is not so black and white.
So how should we remember a man like Major General Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee III—the father of Robert E. Lee— who rose to glory, helped shape the fabric of America, but ultimately ended his life in ruin? He is responsible for valiant victories, enduring accomplishments, and catastrophic failures.
Today I'm speaking with Ryan Cole, author of the new book Light-Horse Harry Lee: The Rise and Fall of a Revolutionary Hero
We discuss how he was a...
Brilliant cavalryman who played a crucial role in Nathanael Greene’s strategy that led to Britain’s surrender at Yorktown
Close friend of George Washington—he gave the famous eulogy of “first in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen” which is widely quoted today
Strong supporter of the Constitution—his arguments led Virginia, the most influential colony in the soon-to-be country, to ratify it
Victim of a violent political mob—he was beaten with clubs, his nose was partially sliced off, and hot wax was dripped into his eyes
Bad Puns and Dirty Jokes in Rome and Ancient Greece
"A student dunce went swimming and almost drowned. So now he swears he'll never get into water until he's really learned to swim." That was a decent dad joke to be sure. But it's not a joke your dad came up with. Nor your grandfather. Rather, it was a great-great- great(x)50 grandfather joke that dates back at least to the Roman Empire.
In this episode we will explore humor in the ancient world. What were the gags and jokes that made Mesopotamians, Greeks, and Romans laugh? Did they have higher or lower brow humor than us? While the argument can be made for low-brow humor (the oldest written joke has to do with a Sumerian wife farting on her husband), the humor also got arcane and sophisticated (like a New Yorker cartoon of the ancient world).
In particular we will looked at the Philogelos (meaning "Laughter Lover"), a Greek anthology of more than 200 jokes from the fourth or fifth century. From gags about dunces to jests at the expense of great thinkers, we see what made people laugh in the ancient world.
Wright Brothers, Wrong Story? Why Some Say Wilbur—Not Orville—Discovered Manned Flight
How did two brothers who never left home, were high-school dropouts, and made a living as bicycle mechanics figure out the secret of manned flight? The story goes that Wilbur and Orville Wright were an inseparable duo that were equally responsible for developing the theory of aeronautics and translating it into the first workable airplane.
Today's guest William Hazelgrove argues that it was Wilbur Wright who designed the first successful airplane, not Orville. He shows that, while Orville's role was important, he generally followed his brother's lead and assisted with the mechanical details to make Wilbur's vision a reality.
When Danzig Became Gdańsk: What Happens to a City When Its Demographics Change Completely
What happens to a city when its demographics change completely in the space of a few years? To explore this question, we will take a look at the case of Danzig (modern-day Gdańsk) in northern Poland. The city's population was almost entirely German from its origin in the Middle Ages to World War 2. After the war, the population became Polish. To explore this question we will zoom out and look at these big issues: 1) The centuries-long eastern movement of Germans, who spread throughout central and Eastern Europe; 2) The establishment of the Free City of Danzig by Napoleon in 1807 after he dissolved the Holy Roman Empire; 3) Why Hitler wanted to capture Danzig immediately after invading Poland in 1939, even though it held no strategic value; 4) The expulsion of Danzig's German population after World War Two and how the city transformed with the importing of Polish residents, who renamed it Gdańsk. This episode is based on a question from listener Melissa, who wanted me to talk about the history of the city/city-state of Danzig before, during, and after World War II.
The Revolution Before the Revolution: How 1776 Happened
In the 1760s, the American colonies were completely incapable of organized resistance. One's loyalty was to their state, as the idea of being an “American” was nearly empty. Few clamored for democracy, as Europe and the rest of the world believed that the highest form of government was monarchy. And most Americans considered themselves British – or at least part of the British Empire.
But in 1776 the United States formally declared itself as a new nation in which all men were equal. They formed a continental army. And within a few years they defeated the world's best military force.
How did so much change in 10 years? To discuss this topic is today's guest Michael Troy, host of the American Revolution Podcast. His show is a chronological history of the Revolutionary War, and he gets deep into details (at the time of this recording the show was 75 episodes in and only up to the year 1775).
An Active Neutrality: The WW2 Experiences of Switzerland, Portugal, and Turkey
Neutrality is not the same thing as passivity. Just ask the many nations who had to walk an extremely thin tightrope during World War 2 to stay out of the war (in which they saw nothing for themselves to gain) but not get invaded by a more powerful neighbor.
Some nations tried merely not to get invaded. Portugal had to keep up its client relationship with Britain but not anger Hitler by helping them too much. Britain claimed the right to use Portuguese ports under the terms of a 14th century treaty. But Portugal had to refuse Britain the right to use the Azores Islands as an airbase until years into the war.
Other nations profited heavily from World War Two thanks to its neutrality. Switzerland was the finance hub of 1940s Europe, as both Axis and Allied powers deposited their valuables in Swiss bank accounts and safety deposit boxes. But in recent years some have called Switzerland's actions war profiteering, especially as Switzerland laundered hundreds of millions of dollars in stolen assets, including gold taken from the central banks of German-occupied Europe. At the war's end, Holocaust survivors and the heirs of those who perished met a wall of bureaucracy and only a handful managed to reclaim their assets. Some of the dormant accounts were taken by the Swiss authorities to satisfy claims of Swiss nationals whose property was seized by Communist regimes in East Central Europe.
Turkey was still devastated by the endless Ottoman wars from 1911-1922 and sat out World War Two. But they held vast reserves of chromite, necessary for making steel, which they happily sold to Axis powers. All the while Turkey held out the hope that Britain could use its islands to invade Europe from the Balkans in return for advanced aircraft. Turkey only entered the war in 1945 (and only to get a seat at the forthcoming United Nations) but profited well from the massive conflict.
This episode is based on a question from listener Chris Wentworth. He asked me why some nations like Turkey, were so involved with World War One but took a backseat during World War Two, which arguably did more to create our modern world than any other event.
Kangaroo Squadron: The Tip of the American Spear in the WW2 Pacific Theatre
In early 1942, while most of the American military was in disarray from the devastating attacks on Pearl Harbor and the Philippines, a single USAAF squadron advanced to the far side of the world to face America's new enemy.
Based in Australia with poor supplies and no ground support, the pilots and crew faced tropical diseases while confronting numerically superior Japanese forces. Yet the outfit, dubbed the Kangaroo Squadron, proved remarkably resilient and successful, conducting long-range bombing raids, armed reconnaissance missions, and rescuing General MacArthur and his staff from the Philippines.
Today I speak with Bruce Gamble, author of Kangaroo Squadron: American Courage in the Darkest Days of World War II. He was inspired to write this story by his uncle, a navigator in the squadron. A footlocker contained his military papers and other memorabilia, including a handwritten dairy filled with day-to-day details of his tour.
And an artifact from this story lives on today to honor its veterans. When a B-17E bomber crashed in a swamp on the north coast of Papua New Guinea in February 1942, the nine-member crew survived, escaped to safety, and returned to combat. But until 2006, the bomber nicknamed “Swamp Ghost” remained submerged in water and tall grass. It has been restored and is now a main attraction in the Pacific Aviation Museum at Pearl Harbor.
Common Knowledge About The Middle Ages That Is Incorrect, Part 5: Crusades In The Renaissance
The Crusades are typically bookended between Pope Urban II's call to reclaim the Holy Land in 1095 and the fall of Acre and the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1291. But two of the most notable religious figures of the 1400s—Pope Pius II and John of Capistrano—show that the lines between these periods were considerably blurred. Take the example of Pope Pius II’s famous 1461 letter to Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II, which he wrote following the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks. The humanist scholar-turned-pope called on Mehmet to convert to Christianity.
Yet behind his back Pope Pius denigrated Mehmet as barbarous due to the same Asiatic pedigree and for destroying classical Greek civilization. He simultaneously worked furiously to promote a crusade against the Ottomans. This fifteenth-century project did not come to pass, but scholars in the last two decades have shown that there was no reason to see a discrepancy between Renaissance intellectualism and Holy War. In fact, Pope Nicholas V issued a papal bull on September 30, 1453 (four months after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople) to urge Christian rulers to launch a crusade to save Constantinople and restore the fallen Byzantine Empire. They were called to shed their blood and the blood for their subjects and provide a tithe of their revenue for the project.
No such crusade was launched that year, but the call launched a final period of European crusading fervor that lasted until the end of the fifteenth century, what many historians consider an end point for the Middle Ages
Common Knowledge About The Middle Ages That Is Incorrect, Part 4: The Medieval Technological Explosion
The Middle Ages was not a thousand-year period of technological stagnation between the fall of Rome and Leonardo da Vinci. It was an incredible period of invention and scientific innovation that saw major technological advances, including gunpowder, the invention of vertical windmills, spectacles, mechanical clocks, water mills, Gothic architectural building techniques, and clocks so sophisticated it took years to cycle through their full calculations, resembling an early mainframe computer more than a timekeeping device.
Common Knowledge About The Middle Ages That Is Incorrect, Part 3: Witch Burnings
At the height of the witch burning craze, thousands people, largely women, were falsely accused of witchcraft. Many of them were burned, hanged, and executed, typically under religious pretense. But this phenomena largely didn’t happen in the Middle Ages, and if so it only occurred at the very end of this period.
Witch burnings did not begin en masse until the Renaissance period and did not peak until the Enlightenment period in the eighteenth century. Although executions by being burn at the stake were somewhat common in the Middle Ages, they were not used on “witches”—only heretics and other disobeyers of Catholic teachings received this ignominious death. Witch trials and their accusations of weather manipulation, transforming into animals, and child sacrifices, have no documented occurrence before 1400.
Common Knowledge About The Middle Ages That Is Incorrect, Part 2: Were Indulgences a Get-out-of-Hell-Free Card Or Something Else?
Was it really possible to buy your way out of hell in the Middle Ages? If so, how much did it cost? And what did the Catholic Church do with all this money? In this second episode in our five-part series on the misunderstood Middle Ages, we will explore all these issues and more.
Additionally, you will find out that indulgences still exist today, although not in the way that you think.
Common Knowledge About The Middle Ages That Is Incorrect, Part 1: Why the Middle Ages, Not the Renaissance, Created the Modern World
The popular view of the Middle Ages is a thousand-year period of superstition and ignorance, punctuated by witch burnings and belief in a flat earth. But the medieval period, more than any other time in history, laid the foundations for the modern world. The work of scholars, intellectuals, architects, statesmen and craftsmen led to rise of towns, the earliest bureaucratic states, the emergence of vernacular literatures, the recovery of Greek science and philosophy with its Arabic additions, and the beginnings of the first European universities.
This episode is the first in a five-part series to explore a revisionist history of the Middle Ages, starting with the Roman Empire’s collapse in the fifth century. We will march through the accounts of Charlemagne’s reign, the Black Plague, the fall of Constantinople, and everything in between. It explores social aspects of the Middle Ages that are still largely misunderstood (i.e., no educated person believed the earth was flat). There was also a surprisingly high level of medieval technology, the love of Aristotle in the Middle Ages, and the lack of witch burnings (those were not popularized until the Thirty Years War in the Renaissance Period).
The Middle Ages were not a period to suffer through until the Renaissance returned Europe to its intellectual and cultural birthright. Rather, they were the fire powering the forge out of which Western identity was forged. The modern world owes a permanent debt of gratitude to the medieval culture of Europe. It was the light that illuminated the darkness following the collapse of Rome and remained lit into the world we inhabit today.
Civil War Barons: The Tycoons, Entrepreneurs, and Inventors and Visionaries Who Forged Victory and Shaped a Nation
The American Civil War brought with it unprecedented demands upon the warring sections—North and South. The conflict required a mobilization and an organization of natural and man-made resources on a massive scale.
In this episode I talk with Jeffry Wert, author of the new book Civil War Barons, which profiles the contributions of nineteen Northern businessmen to the Union cause. They were tinkerers, inventors, improvisers, builders, organizers, entrepreneurs, and all visionaries. They contributed to the war effort in myriad ways: they operated railroads, designed repeating firearms, condensed milk, sawed lumber, cured meat, built warships, purified medicines, forged iron, made horseshoes, constructed wagons, and financed a war. And some of their names and companies have endured—Carnegie, Vanderbilt, Deere, McCormick, Studebaker, Armour, and Squibb.
The eclectic group includes Henry Burden, a Scottish immigrant who invented a horseshoe-making machine in the 1830s, who refined the process to be able to forge a horseshoe every second, supplying the Union army with 70 million horseshoes during the four years. John Deere’s plows “sang through the rich sod, portending bountiful harvests for a Union in peril.” And Jay Cooke emerged from the war as the most famous banker in America, earning a reputation for trustworthiness with his marketing of government bonds.
Women Have Been Running For President Since 1872. Here Are 4 Of Their Stories
2016 was the first election in which a woman won the nomination of a major political party to be president of the United States. But women have been legally running for president as far back as 1872, decades before they could even vote. Since then several dozen women have run for president, almost all of them long shots with nearly no chance of winning. But these long odds do not negate their story and their campaigns tell us much about the times in which they lived.
In this episode I talk with Richard Lim, host of This American President Podcast. We look at the lives of these fascinating figures
-- Victoria Woodhull, the 1872 candidate who ran a brokerage firm through the patronage of Cornelius Vanderbilt. She was as a 31-year-old spiritualist, radical communist, and possible former prostitute with a remarkably canny ability to reinvent herself
-- Margaret Chase Smith, a Republican from Maine and the first woman to serve in both houses of the U.S. congress (she was Senator for 24 years). Smith was an early critic of McCarthyism and a 1964 presidential candidate who fashioned herself as the female Eisenhower.
-- Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to the U.S. Congress, a 1972 presidential candidate, and an unlikely friend of George Wallace(!)
-- Edith Wilson, the First Lady who essentially acted as de facto president following the stroke of her husband Woodrow Wilson in 1919 until March 1921.
War Animals: How 55 Birds, Dogs, and Horses Saved Thousands of Lives in World War Two
Did you know that in World War Two there were “para-dogs,” or dogs that parachuted along with paratroopers in anticipation of D-Day? Or that carrier pigeons were dropped into France in their bird cages so that French Resistance members could find them and attach messages so they'd be delivered to Allied command in Britain?
America’s highest military award, the Congressional Medal of Honor, was awarded to four-hundred-forty deserving members of “The Greatest Generation” that served in World War II. But in 1943, before the war was even over, Allied leaders realized they needed another kind of award to recognize a different kind of World War II hero-animal heroes.
Founded in 1943, the prestigious PDSA Dicken Medal is the highest award an animal can achieve for gallantry and bravery in the field of military conflict. It was given to fifty-five animals who served valiantly alongside the members of the Greatest Generation.
In War Animals, national bestselling author Robin Hutton (Sgt. Reckless: America’s War Horse) tells the incredible, inspiring true stories of the fifty-five animal recipients of the PDSA Dicken Medal during WWII and the lesser-known stories of other military animals whose acts of heroism have until now been largely forgotten.
These animal heroes include:
G.I. Joe, who flew 20 miles in 20 minutes and stopped the planes on the tarmac from bombing a town that had just been taken over by allied forces, saving the lives of over 100 British soldiers
Winkie, the first Dickin recipient, who saved members of a downed plane when she flew 129 miles with oil clogged wings with an SOS message that helped a rescue team find the crew
Chips, who served as a sentry dog for the Roosevelt-Churchill conference; Ding, a paradog whose plane was hit by enemy fire on D-Day, ended up in a tree, and once on the ground still saved lives
Hunting the President: Threats, Plots and Assassination Attempts, Part 5: Barack Obama
With the election of America's first African-American president in 2008, many feared that the presidency of Barack Obama would bring out the most reactionary elements in society and end his life in assassination. Did Obama's eight years as president bring out more assassination attempts than other presidents or merely those of different ideological stripes? Find out in the final part in this series on presidential assassination attempts.
Hunting the President: Threats, Plots and Assassination Attempts, Part 4: Bill Clinton
Many tried to kill Bill Clinton during his presidency, including former military officers, white supremacists, and a little-known militant named Osama bin Laden. Most famously, Frank Eugene Corder crashed a Cessna onto the White House lawn. Learn about other attempts on the life of the 42nd president in this episode.
Hunting the President: Threats, Plots and Assassination Attempts, Part 3: Ronald Reagan
After his presidency, a deranged man broke into Ronald Reagan’s California home and attempted to strangle the former president before he was subdued by Secret Service agents. This attempt on his life came on the heels on many other attempts on Reagan, the final president to serve his entire presidency during the Cold War.
Hunting the President: Threats, Plots and Assassination Attempts, Part 2: JFK
The only president to be assassinated in the last century was John F. Kennedy. What caused this failure in the Secret Service's typical protection procedures? Was it a perfect storm of bad luck, a lapse in judgement in the protection detail, or something far more nefarious, as conspiracy theorists have insisted for five decades?
Hunting the President: Threats, Plots and Assassination Attempts, Part 1: FDR
In American history, four U.S. Presidents have been murdered at the hands of an assassin. In each case the assassinations changed the course of American history.
But most historians have overlooked or downplayed the many threats modern presidents have faced, and survived. In this podcast series we will be looking at the largely forgotten—or never-before revealed attempts to slay America’s leaders.
Such incidents include:
How an armed, would-be assassin stalked President Roosevelt and spent ten days waiting across the street from the White House for his chance to shoot him
How the Secret Service foiled a plot by a Cuban immigrant who told coworkers he was going to shoot LBJ from a window overlooking the president’s motorcade route
How a deranged man broke into Reagan’s California home and attempted to strangle the former president before he was subdued by Secret Service agents.
In early 1992 a mentally deranged man stalking Bush turned up at the wrong presidential venue for his planned assassination attempt
The relationships presidents held with their protectors and the effect it had on the Secret Service’s mission
In the first episode of this series, we will look at assassination attempts against Franklin Roosevelt. He received thousands of threats on his life during his four presidential terms. The danger only increased in the World War 2 years, with his protection detail fearing an Axis assassin would take him out. There were several near-misses, with a would-be killer's bullet coming with in two feet of his head, or a torpedo nearly sinking his ship while going to the Yalta Conference to meet Churchill and Stalin.
Understanding the Rise of Islam Through Military History
How did an initially small religious movement envelope such enormous areas of the world? That is precisely what the community of believers under Muhammed did, conquering the Persian Empire and crippling the Byzantine Empire in a matter of decades, two global powers who were unable to do this to each other despite their best efforts. This episode looks at the rise of Islam, the most historically significant event of the early Middle Ages, through the perspective of military and social history.
Fugitive Slaves in America, From the Revolution to the Civil War
For decades after its founding, America was really two nations – one slave, one free. There were many reasons why this nation ultimately broke apart in the Civil War, but the fact that enslaved black people repeatedly risked their lives to flee their masters in the South in search of freedom in the North proved that the “united” states was a lie.
The problem of the 1850s - how (for southerners) to preserve slavery without destroying the Union, or (for northerners) how to destroy slavery while preserving the Union – was a political problem specific to a particular time and place. But the moral problem of how to reconcile irreconcilable values is a timeless one that, sooner or later, confronts us all.”
My guest today, Andrew Delbanco, author of The War Before The War: Fugitive Slaves and the Struggle for America’s Soul from the Revolution to the Civil War discusses this topic at depth in this episode. We begin in 1850, with America on the verge of collapse, Congress reached what it hoped was a solution – the notorious Compromise of 1850, which required that fugitive slaves be returned to their masters. But the Fugitive Slave Act, intended to preserve the Union, instead set the nation on the path to civil war.
Moral Panics and Mass Hysteria: The Dancing Plague, Salem Witch Trials, and The Tulip Market Bubble
One person's psychosis can be easily dismissed, but how do we account for collective hysteria, when an entire crowd sees the same illusion or suffer from the same illness? It's enough to make somebody believe in dark magic and pick up their pitchfork, ready to hang an accused witch.
Sadly, such paranoia has led to many witch hunts in the past. In today's episode we look at some of the most notorious historical cases of mass hysteria and moral panics. But these cases don't only extend to Puritan-era witch panics. We will also look at cases that hit closer to home—such as economic bubbles and the housing market crash of the early 2000s.
This episode includes such cases of mass hysteria as
-- Dancing mania, in which German peasants in 1374 spent weeks dancing in a fugue state, with some toppling over dead from utter exhaustion
-- The cat nuns of medieval France, where the sisters became to inexplicably meow together, leaving the surrounding community perplexed
-- The Salem Witch trials, where 19 were executed due to claims of sorcery
-- The Jersey Devil Panic, in which dozens of newspapers claimed in 1909 that a winged creature attacked a trolley car in Haddon Heights
How a Researcher Discovered That Her Grandparents Were in the Nazi SS
How would you react if you discovered that your family were deeply embedded within the Third Reich? Today I'm talking with Brazilian-born American Julie Lindahl about her journey to uncover her grandparents’ roles in the Nazi regime and why she was driven to understand how and why they became members of Hitler’s elite, the SS.
In a six-year journey through Germany, Poland, Paraguay, and Brazil, Julie uncovers, among many other discoveries, that her grandfather had been a fanatic member of the SS since 1934. During World War II, he was responsible for enslavement and torture and was complicit in the murder of the local population on the large estates he oversaw in occupied Poland. He eventually fled to South America to evade a new wave of war-crimes trials.
As she delved deeper into her family’s secret, Julie also found unlikely compassion from strangers whose family were victimized and ways to understand a troubled past.
James Holman Traveled Over 250,000 Miles in the Early 1800s. He Was Also Completely Blind.
He was known simply as the Blind Traveler. A solitary, sightless adventurer, James Holman (1786-1857) fought the slave trade in Africa, survived a frozen captivity in Siberia, hunted rogue elephants in Ceylon, helped chart the Australian outback—and circumnavigated the globe, becoming one of the greatest wonders of the world he so explored.
Today I'm talking with Jason Roberts, author of one of my all-time favorite history books: A Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Became History's Greatest Traveler. We get into all the impossible-to-believe stories that come from Holman's life, including:
-- Holman retraining his senses to use echolocation to “see” the world around him through sight and touch
- -Summiting Mt. Vesuvius as it was on the brink of eruption
-- Riding horses at full gallop
-- Negotiating peace between the British navy and islanders in Equatorial Guinea
History is often looked at through the perspective of a very high-up official. We look at military history through the eyes of a general. We look at political history through the eyes of a president or prime minister.
But what if we look at history through the perspective of drugs? Specifically, what if we look at history through the perspective of marijuana?
This isn't as gonzo of an idea as you might think. In my days as an Ottoman historian I knew someone doing his thesis on opium smuggling in Interwar Turkey and Beyond. The Opium Wars and the massive trade in opium between South Asia and China over the nineteenth century attest to the prominent role of opium within the history of colonialism and globalization.
Today I'm talking with David Bienestock, host of the Great Moments in Weed History about how hashish arrives in Europe via the Napoleonic invasion. In 1798, Napoleon invaded Egypt in a failed attempt to install colonial rule. French soldiers did succeed in enthusiastically adopting the local custom of consuming hashish, a practice with a long, storied history in the Islamic world. When the occupation ended, they brought a taste for cannabis home that lead directly to the formation of Paris’s famed Club des Hashischins, where Alexandre Dumas, Victor Hugo, Honoré de Balzac, and Charles Baudelaire drank coffee laced with marijuana.
In particular we discuss:
-- How the origin of the word “assassin” has to do with authorities looking down on consumers of hashish
-- Humanity's 10,000-year history with marijuana
-- How Europe first discover hashish during the Napoleonic occupation of Egypt
Bonus Q&A on the Civil War Series with Scott & James
Two weeks ago we finished the 25-part series on the 10 most important battles in the Civil War. Some of you had follow-up questions. We ran a poll to so which ones were the most popular. In a recording of a live-streaming Q&A session, James and Scott answer the following questions:
How many civilians died due to battles getting close to population centers (e.g., the Gettysburg battle site is close to the town)?
What was going on with John Wilkes Booth during the Civil War?
Were people at the time aware of events like Harriett Tubman's involvement in the raid on Combahee Ferry? Did that effect public perception?
For various generals (both sides), was there any correlation between how well they did in West Point and how well they did as leaders in war?
Please describe POW camps in more detail.
What do you think about the removal of the statues and the renaming of places that have been named after Confederate soldiers?
What Would the Real St. Nicholas Drink? Here's What an Ancient History Professor Thinks
Ever wondered what cocktail a fourth-century bishop from Asia Minor would order? That would be an obscure question to ask if the bishop in question weren't the historical basis for the Santa Claus myth. But since we are dealing here with Nicholas, bishop of the Greek City of Myra, we will delve into the question of what would be the favored drink of a cleric who gave gifts in secret while also getting into fistfights with followers of Arianism.
In this special Christmas episode I'm talking with patristics professor Michael Foley. He is the author of the book "Drinking with Saint Nick." In it he compiles holiday drink recipes; beer, wine, and cider recommendations; and instruction on how to pair them with legends of medieval saints.
How Ancient Europeans Circumnavigated Africa, Explored Iceland, and Sent Goods all the Way to Japan
What is the greatest extent of classical European reach, and how did they affect or influence the culture of the known world in that period?
In today's episode I answer this question—which was submitted by Karl, a listener from Norway. Greek and Roman civilization got much further afield than it had any right to. Forget about Alexander's Hellenistic Revolution reaching all the way to India in the fourth century BC. There's evidence of ancient fleets circumnavigating Africa, Greek explorers whom the Ptolemy's commissioned to travel to Scandinavia, and even Roman jewelry ending up in fifth-century Japanese tombs.
Learn how a tangled web of traders, explorers, and diplomats created the first age of globalization, fueled by commerce and transmitted by the Silk Road.
What if George Custer Had Survived the Battle of Little Bighorn?
George Custer, if he is remembered at all, is a cautionary tale of hubris. He grossly underestimated Sitting Bull's forces at the Battle of Little Big Horn and he was killed in one of the American military's worst defeat in its history. This defeat clouds his legacy, which up until then was quite remarkable. During the Civil War he was known as a daring and highly successful cavalry officer. Called the "Boy General" of the Union Army, he whipped the Union army's cavalry corp into shape at the age of 23. A man loved by all, he attended the wedding of a Confederate officer (a friend from West Point) during the Civil War, dressed in Union Blues. He liked the Southerners he fought against, and appreciated his Indian scouts.
This all begs the question of what if Custer survived the Battle of the Little Bighorn? What if he became a gun-for-hire? And what if he joined forces with a troupe of cancan dancers, Chinese acrobats, an eyepatch-wearing rebel cardsharp, and a multilingual Crow scout?
These questions are answered by today's guest Harry Crocker III who is author of a new alternate history book called Armstrong.
Eager to clear his name from the ignominy of his last stand - but forced to do so incognito, under the clever pseudonym Armstrong - Custer comes across evildoings in the mysterious Montana town of Bloody Gulch, which a ruthless Indian trader runs as his own personal fiefdom, with rumors of murder, slavery, and buried treasure.
Harry and I get into Old West Frontier life, how to write in the voice of your subject, and everything else about the glorious complexities of late nineteenth century American life.
History of the Civil War in 10 Battles, Part 22: How the Civil War Lives on Today
In this very final episode, James and Scott discuss the lasting effects of the Civil War and why it is the single most important event in the history of the United States. The Revolutionary War may have answered the question of whether America would become an independent nation, but the Civil War answered the question of what kind of nation it would be.
History of the Civil War in 10 Battles, Part 21: What Became of the Men Who Wore the Blue and the Grey
In this epilogue episode James and Scott talk about the Union and Confederate generals whom we've gotten to know so well after the war finished. They became presidents, professors, bankrupt businessmen, assassination victims, and everything in between.
History of the Civil War in 10 Battles, Part 20: The Naval War
The Civil War is now finished but our series is not. Scott and James discuss an aspect of the Civil War that for the most part didn't tie into our main discussion: the naval war. Learn how battles occurred on American Rivers, gulfs, shorelines, and even as far away as Alaska.
History of the Civil War in 10 Battles, Part 19: African Americans in Uniform
As the Civil War came to an end, a big question remained for the North and eventually the reunited United States. What would become of its African-American residents? Would they be given full legal rights or only partial? This question was largely answered by the contributions of African-Americans in uniform. Scott and James talk about their story in this episode.
History of the Civil War in 10 Battles, Part 18: The Overland Campaign
We're nearing the end of our Civil War series. It's 1864. Lincoln is re-elected, and Sherman's March to the Sea obliterated the Confederacy's industrial base. But work remains for General Grant. He must contend with his greatest foe, Robert E. Lee. Now that Grant was directing the operations of the Army of the Potomac, Northern expectations were high. Southern expectations were also high. Grant had three objectives: 1) Tie Lee down (Grant told Meade “Wherever Lee goes you will go also.”); 2) Bleed Lee’s army as much as possible; 3) Take Richmond.
History of the Civil War in 10 Battles, Part 17: Sherman's March to the Sea
From November to December 1864, Gen. Sherman led over 60,000 soldiers from Atlanta to Savannah, Georgia in a scorched earth campaign to completely demoralized the Southern war effort. Sherman explained that they needed to “make old and young, rich and poor, feel the hard hand of war.”
Turkey is Both a Bird and a Country. Which Came First?
It's no coincidence that the bird we eat for Thanksgiving and a Middle Eastern country are both called Turkey. One was named after the other, and it all has to do with a 500-year-old story of emerging global trade, mistaken identity, foreign language confusion, and how the turkey took Europe by storm as a must-have status symbol for the ultra wealthy.
History of the Civil War in 10 Battles, Part 16: The Battle of Atlanta
In the fall of 1864, the Union Army now had full momentum against the Confederacy, pushing deeper into the South than ever before. General Sherman overwhelmed forces led by John Bell Hood. With the fall of Atlanta, Lincoln nearly assured his re-election in 1864.
History of the Civil War in 10 Battles, Part 15: Chattanooga
Following Union defeat at the Battle of Chickamauga, Union forces retreated to the railroad junction of Chattanooga, Tennessee. From November 23-25, 1863, Union troops routed the Confederates at the battles of Lookout Mountain and Missionaries Ridge; the victories forces the Confederate troops back into Georgia, ending the siege of Chattanooga and creating the groundwork for Sherman's Atlanta campaign and March to the Sea in 1864.
History of the Civil War in 10 Battles, Part 14: Chickamauga
The Battle of Chickamauga marked the end of Union Maj. Gen. William Rosencran's offensive into southwestern Tennessee and northwestern Georgia and the most significant Union defeat in the Western Theatre. More died here than in any other battle, save Gettysburg. After the battle Union forces retired to Chattanooga while Confederates besieged the city by occupying the surrounding heights.
History of the Civil War in 10 Battles, Part 13: The Battle of Gettysburg
The 1863 Battle of Gettysburg stopped Robert E. Lee's second invasion of the North. It was the deadliest battle of the Civil War, with over 50,000 casualties during the three day battle, a scale of suffering never seen before or since in America. The Union won victory and had new life injected into its war effort. The Confederacy saw its best chance at striking a deadly blow against the North and demoralizing them slip away.
In the late summer of 1918, a division of Massachusetts militia volunteers led the first unified American fighting force into battle in France, turning the tide of World War I. Meanwhile, the world’s deadliest pandemic—the Spanish Flu—erupted in Boston and its suburbs, bringing death on a terrifying scale, first to military facilities and then to the civilian population. At precisely the same time, amidst the surrounding ravages of death, a young pitcher named Babe Ruth rallied the sport’s most dominant team, the Boston Red Sox, to a World Series victory—the last the Sox would see for eighty-six years.
In this episode I I talk with Google executive Skip Desjardin about September 1918, a moment in history almost too cinematic to be real.
6 Historical Figures Who Deserve Their Own Movie—History Unplugged Meets 1001 Stories
Historical biopics perform a great service. These movies remind the world of people that would have otherwise fallen into obscurity: Oscar Schindler (Schindler's List), John Nash (A Beautiful Mind), and Solomon Northup (12 Years a Slave).
In this episode I am going to talk about six people from history that deserve their own movie. Joining me in this discussion is Jon Hagadorn, host of 1001 Heroes, Legends, Histories & Mysteries podcast.
We present to you...
A sixteenth-century spymaster
A blind explorer
A Russian royal
A plane crash survivor who hiked weeks through the Amazon
A World War One ace-turned jazz club owner-turned French Resistance fighter
The Story of Bravo, The Greatest Rescue Mission in Navy SEAL History
Today's guest is Stephan Talty, author of the new book, SAVING BRAVO, which comes out October 30. Talty tells the never-before-told story of one of the greatest rescue missions not just of the Vietnam War, but the entire Cold War.
In 1972, the Vietnam War was a lost cause. Public support in the US had cratered; the soldiers and airmen who returned home were called “mercenaries” and their cars were keyed on Air Force bases. Nixon was searching for a way to leave the battlefield, but thousands of Americans were still fighting for their lives, grasping for some meaning to their service.
At the time, few American airmen were more valuable than Lt. Colonel Gene Hambleton. He carried highly classified information and knew secrets about cutting-edge missile technology that didn’t just concern Vietnam but could change the course of the Cold War itself. When Hambleton was shot down behind enemy lines amid North Vietnam’s Easter Offensive, he was left to lie and wait to be rescued in the middle of one of the fiercest ground battles since WW2.
With time running out on the hallucinating and half-starved American, his fellow airmen would have to find a way to extract him from a flood of 30,000 North Vietnamese soldiers. It was a rescue mission that, for a moment, put a halt to the US’s futile fight in the war.
Vietnam was for many a war without heroes. But the eleven men who went after Hambleton gave their lives for a higher cause. Drawing from access to unpublished papers and interviews with the families of those lost in the mission—many of whom are still waiting for the remains of their loved ones, and answers they feel the government owes them—Talty reveals a remarkable story of bravery, compassion, and humanity, one that will speak to all of us struggling to make sense of an anxious and uncertain time. In addition to its release in October, the book has also just been optioned for film by 20th Century Fox.
History of the Civil War in 10 Battles, Part 12: (Vicksburg 2 of 2)
Welcome to the second part in our episodes on the Vicksburg Campaign, one of the most consequential Civil War battles in the Western theatre and what many historians consider to be the turning point of the war.
Grant's Vicksburg campaign is considered one of the most brilliant of the war. With the loss of Pemberton’s army at Vicksburg and later Union victory at Port Hudson five days later, the Union now controlled the entire Mississippi River. The Confederacy was now split in half. Grant's reputation soared, which led to him being appointed as General-in-Chief of the Union armies
History of the Civil War in 10 Battles, Part 11: Vicksburg (1 of 2)
In the next two episodes Scott and James will discuss the Siege of Vicksburg. In the summer of 1863, Grant’s Army of the Tennessee came to Vicksburg, located on a high bluff converged on Vicksburg, a Mississippi town on the same river. Union occupation of the town was critical to control of the strategic river. If it fell then the Confederacy would completely lose access to critical supply lines in Texas and Mexico.
Grant's six-week campaign began in June. His army came to Vicksburg, which was defended by Confederate General John C. Pemberton's men, who built a series of trenches, forts, redans, and artillery lunettes surrounding the city. Grant's army surrounded Pemberton and outnumbered him two to one. Trapped for six weeks, the residents of Vicksburg were forced to dig caves and eat rats to survive. But, due to Pemberton's diligence and resourceful mind, they continued to trust his command despite dire circumstances.
History of the Civil War in 10 Battles, Part 10: Battle of Chancellorsville
The Battle of Chancellorsville is considered Robert E. Lee’s masterpiece. His reputation as a military genius was sealed by fighting an incredibly successful offensive battle despite being outnumbered 2-to-1 and launching attacks on multiple fronts.
After another humiliating Union defeat at Fredericksburg, On January 26, Lincoln replaced Gen. Ambrose Burnside with Joseph “Fighting Joe” Hooker as the new commander of the Army of the Potomac, with 120,000 troops. Hooker's plan was to send his cavalry on a raid behind Lee to cut off Lee’s communication with Richmond. He would leave 40,000 troops in front of Lee near Fredericksburg, and Hooker himself would march up the Rappahannock River and try to go around Lee’s left. If he didn’t defeat Lee at that time, he would at least force Lee to retreat. But Lee managed to achieve victory despite splitting up his forces into vastly inferior numbers and fighting the Union on multiple fronts. The outcome was 17,000 Federal casualties to 13,000 Confederates
History of the Civil War in 10 Battles, Part 9: The Battle of Fredericksburg
Following McClellan's disastrous Union loss at Antietam, Lincoln replaced him with Ambrose Burnside, who planned to march to the city of Fredericksburg, getting there before Lee and possibly marching all the way to Richmond. But once they confronted the Confederacy at the battle of Fredericksburg the Federals made 14 total charges that were all repulsed. One Federal general wrote “It was a great slaughter pen. They may as well have tried to take Hell.”
History of the Civil War in 10 Battles, Part 8: Sidetrack Episode on Emancipation
The entire point of the Civil War was to end slavery, right? Not exactly, and definitely not at the beginning of the War. The North went to war strictly to save the Union and had little interest in abolishing slavery in the South. The Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 only came about due to a complex convergence of political, social, and cultural interests, which we will address in this episode.
History of the Civil War in 10 Battles, Part 7: The Battle of Antietam
The Battle of Antietam—an 1862 clash between Robert E. lee's Army of Northern Virginian and George McClellan's Army of the Potomac—was the deadliest one-day battle in American history, with a total of 22,717 dead, wounded or missing. It came after Lee thwarted McClellan's plans to lay siege to the Confederate capitol of Richmond and tried to seize the momentum by crossing north into Maryland.
History of the Civil War in 10 Battles, Part 6: The Seven Days' Battle
Union General George B. McClellan, who led 100,000 men and moved as fast as an iceberg, attempted to capture the Confederate capital of Richmond in a series of six different battles along the Virginia Peninsula from June 25 to July 1, 1862). Confederate General Robert E. Lee drove back McClellan’s Union forces from a position 4 miles (6 km) east of the Confederate capital to a new base of operations at Harrison’s Landing on the James River.
History of the Civil War in 10 Battles, Part 5: The 1862 Peninsula Campaign
In early 1862 the Union Army launched a major operation in southeastern Virginia, the first large-scale offensive in the Eastern Theater. Lincoln replaced McDowell with George B. McClellan as commander. He reorganized the army, whipped it into shape, and also renamed it the Army of the Potomac. The goal was to roll over the Confederacy. The Rebels were not about to let that happen.
History of Civil War in 10 Battles, Part 4: The Battle of Shiloh
The Battle of Shiloh was a battle in the Western Theater fought April 6–7, 1862, in southwestern Tennessee. On the first morning, 40,000 Confederate troops struck Union Soldiers at Pittsburg Landing. They were under the command of Major General Ulysses S. Grant. The Confederate Army of Mississippi, under the command of General Albert Sidney Johnston, launched a surprise attack on Grant's army from its base in Corinth, Mississippi. Johnston was mortally wounded during the fighting; Beauregard took command of the army and decided against pressing the attack late in the evening. Overnight, Grant was reinforced by one of his divisions stationed further north and was joined by three divisions. The Union forces began an counterattack the next morning which reversed the Confederate gains of the previous day.
History of the Civil War in 10 Battles, Part 3: Border States and the War in the West
In the summer of 1861, four slave states had still not seceded. If even two or three joined the Confederacy, the Union would be in big trouble. Lincoln was determined to keep all four in (Maryland, Kentucky, Delaware, and Missouri). We will look at these developments, along with the The War in the West, April 1861 - April 1862, where many famous Civil War figures emerge, such as Ulysses S. Grant.
History of the Civil War in 10 Battles, Part 2: First Battle of Bull Run
Abraham Lincoln believed that the Civil War would be over in a few months, with the Union Army marching on Richmond by late 1861. Both sides hastily assembled armies and Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell led his unseasoned Union Army across Bull Run against the equally inexperienced Confederate Army of Brig. Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard. The Confederates won a surprise victory, particularly due to the efforts of Stonewall Jackson, and routed the Union. Both sides dug in their heels for a long war ahead.
History of the Civil War in 10 Battles, Part 1: Background to the Civil War
The origins of the Civil War go back decades, even before the United States became an independent nation The federal union had always been precarious, ever since the framing of the Constitution, with the institution of slavery led to two distinct cultures and societies. In this inagurual episode of the History of Civil War in 10 Battles, Scott and James discuss the main social and political issues that sparked the Civil War
Special Announcement: A History of the Civil War in 10 Battles Begins Next Week
The Civil War pitted brother against brother and divided a nation. It also featured the most epic—and deadliest—battles in American history. From Shiloh to Vicksburg to Gettsburg, these battles resulted in higher casualty rates than any other armed conflict the United States has ever faced.
But beyond that the Civil War did more to define and change the United States than any other event. It determine what kind of nation the United State would be.
Next week we will begin a massive multi-part series on the ten most important battles of the Civil War. We are joined once again by history professor James Early to get into the military history of the Civil War, whose effects are still being felt in the United States and the rest of the world today.
How a 1522 Battled Transformed Russia from a Minor Duchy into Earth's Largest Empire
The Russian Siege of Kazan in 1552 and the conquest of Kazan and Astrakhan by Muscovy can be seen as the birth of a Russian Empire. It had profound consequences for the steppe region and beyond, allowing Russian expansion eastwards, eventually as far as the Pacific.
Today's guest is Carl Rylett, host of A History of Europe—Key Battles Podcast. He has put together a battle history podcast that shows how so much of the history of Europe was shaped by military forces.
The Most Famous Founding Father You’ve Never Heard of Was Hamilton's Arch-Nemesis and a Deficit Hawk
Alexander Hamilton had a nemesis… and it was not Aaron Burr. After Hamilton enacted a wide-scale spending program to build up America's military and infrastructure, and thus send it into debt, newly-elected President Thomas Jefferson chose a Secretary of the Treasury to dismantle his system—Albert Gallatin.
Considered a “foreigner, a tax rebel, and a dangerously clever man,” the Geneva-born Gallatin was despised by Hamilton and the Federalists. During their political careers, these two economic masterminds were locked in a battle to surmount the other’s financial system for the new nation.
During his twelve years as Secretary of the Treasury, Gallatin overcame his predecessor by
-- Repaying half of the national debt
-- Containing the federal government by restraining its fiscal power
-- Abolishing internal taxes in peacetime
-- Slashing spending
Today I'm talking with Gregory May, author of the new book Jefferson’s Treasure: How Albert Gallatin Saved the New Nation from Debt.
We discuss Gallatin’s rise to power, his tumultuous years at the Treasury, and his enduring influence on American fiscal policy.
Lost Civilizations, Part 2: The Egyptian Pyramid Builders, the Nabateans, and the Aksumites.
Welcome to part two on our series on the greatest lost civilizations in history. Today we are looking at three groups: The Egytian Pyramid Builders, the Nabateans, and the Aksumites. These three groups are particularly beloved by believers in extra-terrestrials and religious myths.
They ask questions like these: Did the builders of the pyramids handy craftsmen, whose method of transporting massive stones are still unexplainable, simply disappear or were they part of an advanced alien race? Did the Nabateans hide the Holy Grail? Was the Kingdom of Aksum really the keeper of the Ark of the Covenant, and did this lead to their downfall?
Learn why these myths persist today in this episode.
Lost Civilizations: Ancient Societies that Vanished Without a Trace, Part 1
A stock trope of literature is the king who believes that his kingdom will last forever, only to see it collapse under his own hubris (Exhibit A is Percy Bysshe Shelly's Ozymandias). But the trope is based on historical fact. Many great civilizations vanished without a trace, and why their disappearance still haunts us today.
This episode is the first in a three-part series that will look atf the greatest lost civilizations in history. Some were millenia ahead their neighbors, such as the Indus Valley Civilization, which had better city planning in 3,000 B.C. than any European capital in the 18th century. Others were completely myth-based, such as Plato's lost city of Atlantis, a technological advanced utopia that sank into the ocean "in a single day and night of misfortune"
Whatever the nature of their disappearance, these lost civilizations offer many lessons for us today -- even the greatest of societies can disappear, and that includes us.
The Most Powerful Women in the Middle Ages, Part 3: Elizabeth of Tudor and Ottoman Queen Mother Kösem Sultan
This is the third in our three-part series on the most powerful women in the Middle Ages. To wrap things up we will explore the lives of two female rulers — one very famous, the other almost unknown. They are Elizabeth I of Tudor and Ottoman Queen Mother Kösem Sultan.
Elizabeth I(1533-1603) is, with little debate, the greatest monarch in England's history. She is a key figure in the island's transition from the medieval to the early modern era. In her 45-year reign Good Queen Bess transformed her nation from a mid-level European power into the dominant commercial, naval, and cultural force of the Western world. She was a patron of exploration and supported Sir Francis Drake's expedition to circumnavigate the globe. Elizabeth also funded Sir Walter Raleigh's exploration of the New World. She forged a powerful English national identity by securing peace and stability, allowing the arts to flourish and famous figures such as Edmund Spencer, Francis Bacon, and William Shakespeare to produce their most renowned works.
Ottoman Valide Kösem Sultan (1590-1651) was a harem slave who ruled through three sultans. She was born a Greek Christian, sold into slavery to the imperial Ottoman harem when she was fifteen, and showed up in Istanbul without knowing Turkish. In in the years to come she managed to attract the attention of the Sultan, bear him a son, and become a Queen mother – a matriarch of the Sultan. She also manipulated two weak sons and a weak grandson to name her the official regent of the empire. The former slave girl was now in command of a transcontinental superpower.
The Most Powerful Women in the Middle Ages, Part 2: Catherine of Sienna and Isabella of Castile
Female rulers dominated the Middle Ages. But it wasn't just the queens or empresses who wielded enormous power. This episode is the second of a three-part series at the lives of the most powerful women in the Middle Ages, and we will first look at the life of Catherine of Siena, the Catholic Mystic who almost single-handedly restored the papacy to Rome in the 1300s and navigated the brutal and male-dominated world of Italian politics. Then we will explore the life of
Catherine was the 23th child of a poor family and unable to write until three years before her death at 33. She spent years as a low-ranking member of a religious order and primarily spent her days in solitude and prayer. However, by the end of her life Catherine had travelled throughout the Italian peninsula as a diplomat and negotiated peace between princes.
She wrote dozens of letters to Pope Gregory and convinced him to restore the papacy in Rome. She authored “The Dialogue,” a treatise on a fictional conversation between a saint and God, which influenced theologians and the lay religious for centuries. She was named a joint Patron Saint of Italy along with Francis of Assisi in 1939 and a Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI in 1970.
In addition to Catherine, we will also explore the life of Queen Isabella I of Castile and Leon (1451-1504), the reformer, Catholic monarch, and inquisitor. Isabella became Queen of Castile as a politically inexperienced 23-year-old caught in a political tug-of-war between her half-brother and the Spanish nobles. Upon her death in 1504, she had successfully united Spain's kingdoms, completed the Reconquista, stabilized the economy, and commissioned an idealistic Genoese sailor to find a shorter sea route to India by crossing the Atlantic in 1492.
Funding such trips to the New World was a significant reason that Spain became a global power in the next century. These brighter moments are contrasted by the darker ones in her 28-year reign. She and her husband Ferdinand compelled all Jews and Muslims to convert to Christianity, expelling those who refused. This policy laid the legal infrastructure for the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition in the coming century.
The Most Powerful Women in the Middle Ages, Part 1: Queens, Empresses, and Viking Slayers
The idea of a powerful woman in the Middle Ages seems like an oxymoron. Females in this time are imagined to be damsels in distress, trapped in a high tower, and waiting for knights to rescue them, all while wearing traffic-cones for a hat. After rescue, their lives improved little. Their career choices were to be either a docile queen, housewife, or be burned at the stake for witchcraft.
But what if this image of medieval women is a complete fiction?
It turns out that it is. Powerful female rulers fill the Middle Ages. Anglo-Saxon queen Aethelflaed personally led armies into direct combat with Vikings in the 900s and saved England from foreign invasion. Byzantine Empress Theodora kept the empire from falling apart during the Nika Revolts and stopped her husband Justinian from fleeing Constantinople. Catherine of Siena almost single-handedly restored the papacy to Rome in the 1300s and navigated the brutal and male-dominated world of Italian politics.
In this episode, part 1 of a 3-part series, I look at the lives of three extraordinarily powerful women in the Middle Ages. In particular I look at the lives of Empress Theodora of Byzantium, Aethelflaed of the Mercians (a proto-English kingdom), and Eleanor of Aquitaine, the most powerful landholder in Europe in the 12th century.
We will explore how they managed to ascend the throne, what made their accomplishments so notable, and the impact they had on their respective societies after their deaths.
How the Vicksburg Siege May Have Turned the Tide of the Civil War—Samuel Mitcham
“Traitor!” “Failure!” “Bungling fool!”
Southern newspapers hurled these sentiments at Confederate General John C. Pemberton after he surrendered the fortress of Vicksburg—the key to controlling the Mississippi River during the Civil War. But were they justified in their accusations?
Today I'm talking with Dr. Samuel Mitcham, author of Vicksburg: The Bloody Siege that Turned the Tide of the Civil War. He argues that these newspapers—and history itself—have wrongly marred Pemberton’s legacy.
Some of the myths he argues against are that Pemberton’s indecisiveness delayed the aid Vicksburg needed, when in fact he had been urgently requesting reinforcements, stationed nearby, but his commanding general repeatedly ignored him due to a petty grudge.
The Confederate Army fought an exhaustive battle to defend the fortress of Vicksburg from the spring of 1862 until its surrender on July 4, 1863. Trapped for six weeks, the residents of Vicksburg were forced to dig caves and eat rats to survive. But, due to Pemberton’s stalwart character and resourceful mind, they continued to trust his command despite dire circumstances.
The Story of Malaria, The Killer of Half of Humanity
Long before Thanos snapped his fingers in Avengers: Infinity War, another villain successfully killed half of humanity.
Malaria is a simple parasite, transmitted by a mosquito bite. But this deadly disease, which has been around as long as homo sapiens, has killed more than all wars and natural disasters combined. It has wiped out cities, destroyed empires, ruined colonies, and may be responsible for 50 billion deaths, among them Alexander the Great and Marcus Aurelius (allegedly).
Malaria's role in history is perhaps more under-appreciated than anything else. Here's two examples: Many historians believe America won the Revolutionary War due to malaria depleting the ranks of infected soldiers. Some think it caused Rome's downfall.
When the malaria parasite was discovered in the 1800s it led to containment efforts. But the real game changer was the deployment of DDT in World War Two. Deadly swamp lands (like much of the United States) were now safe for human habitation. Even South Pacific islands were no longer death traps.
However, the fight against malaria took a different turn in the 1960s with the publication of Silent Spring, a book that argued pesticides could permanently damage earth's ecological balance.
Malaria is not the killer it once was but it still plays a massive role in public affairs debates today.
An Archeologist Talks About the Discovery of a Civil War Surgeon's Burial Pit at Manassas Field
In August 1862, two Union soldiers were gravely wounded at the Battle of Second Manassas. They were brought to a field hospital, though both died as a result of their injuries. Their bodies were laid to rest in a shallow burial pit, intermixed with amputated limbs from other soldiers wounded in the battle. Then they were lost to history.
But in 2014, the National Park Service (NPS) first encountered the remains during a utility project. With help from the Smithsonian Institution, the NPS was able to identify the remains as Union soldiers, and worked with the Army to give these soldiers an honorable final resting place.
Beneath the surface, they found two nearly-complete human skeletons, and several artifacts including buttons from a Union sack coat, a .577 Enfield bullet, three pieces of .31 caliber lead buckshot, and an assemblage of eleven arms and legs. The discovery was something incredibly rare: a battlefield surgeon's burial pit. In fact, this was the first time such a burial pit had ever been excavated and studied at a Civil War battlefield.
Today I'm talking with archeologist and Manassas National Battlefield Park Superintendent Brandon Bies about the discovery, what it can tell us about Civil War combat medicine (when doctors did their best despite having little else but a saw an chloroform) and the new light this sheds on the horrific nature of warfare in the 19th century.
Why U.S. Political Elections Have Always Been Chaotic—David Severa from the Early and Often Podcast
You've heard it before: American politics have never been nastier or more divisive than they are today. Just witness the recent words of one recent front-runner candidate, who told told the media his opponent was a hermaphrodite, because he was too weak to be a man but too ugly to be a woman. The front-runner's hatchet men counter-attacked. They called his opponent a nasty low-life who was the vile offspring of a mulatto and an Indian. He was a bloodthirsty war-monger who wanted to trigger a war with America's enemies, leading to a national orgy of “rape, incest, and adultery.” The slurs kept piling up. The front-runner was called a criminal and fascist. The opponent was called an atheist cowardly weakling. Does this sound like words passed between the Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton campaigns in 2016? They weren't— these were insults traded between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson in the 1800 election. Jefferson's camp described Adams as having a “hideous hermaphroditical character.” Adams' men called Vice President Jefferson “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.” As you can see, American elections have always been vicious. To dive into this topic, I have on the show David Severa, host of the podcast called Early and Often – the History of Elections in America. We talk about the history of voting in the United States, all the way from the earliest colonial days to the present.
The History of Slavery, Part 4: African Slavery in the New World, 1500-1865
Slavery predates European entry into the Atlantic world in the Age of Exploration, but the system that developed during the 16th and 17th centuries was an arguably more inhumane and racially tinged institution than anything that had previously existed before. The first English colonists in the Americas believed they could become wealthy through mutual trade with Native Americans. This system failed and was replaced by chattel enslavement of Africans to work on cash-crop plantations. American slavery grew and metastisized until it swallowed up over 10 million lives in the Atlantic Slave Trade.
This episode explores the origins of New World slavery (originally based on the Iberian enslavement of Muslims), the miseries that Africans experienced on slave ships, auction blocks, and plantation life, and the establishment of laws in early America that made slavery a cornerstone of the young nation's economy.
The History of Slavery, Part 3: Christian Slaves and Muslim Masters—Barbary Pirates in the Mediterranean, 1500-1800
As the trans-Atlantic slave trade from sub-Saharan Africa to the Americas flourished in the 1500s, there was another slave trade that operate on an even larger scale. It was the capture of Europeans by north-African Muslims. Barbary Pirates enslaved an estimated 1 million Europeans in the period from 1500 to 1800.
Enslavement was a real possibility for anyone who traveled in the Mediterranean or who lived along the shores in places like Italy, France, Spain and Portugal, and even as far north as England and Iceland. For example, in 1632, pirates captured the Irish city of Baltimore. They and others were snatched from their homes, taken in chains to the slave markets of Algiers and sold to the highest bidder. Some spent the rest of their lives rowing galleys. Others toiled in quarries or on farms. Attractive women were sent to harems and became a pasha's concubine.
This episode looks at a little-known chapter in the history of slavery. Although few know the stories of these captives, the threat of piracy on the Mediterranean had a huge impact on the Western World. Thomas Jefferson developed the U.S. navy to eliminate the Barbary Threat. Miguel de Cervantes spent years in North Africa. Even John Smith of Pocahontas fame was a slave in Istanbul.
Learn about this disturbing period in history and how it all came to an end in the early 1800s.
The History of Slavery, Part 2: The Medieval Slave Trade to Arabia
The image of the slave trade is a white slaver capturing African tribesmen, packing them like corkwood into a ship, selling them in the Antebellum South, and having a plantation owner work them to death. All of this took place on a scale of millions in the African slave trade to the New World.
But such massive levels of slavery did not begin with European discovery of the New World. In the Middle Ages, Vikings went on numerous slave raids of England and Eastern Europe, selling those capture on Volga slave markets. Most of all, Arab slave traders purchased millions of Africans and sent them to the Middle East to work on cotton and sugar cane plantations in Iraq.
Middle Eastern intellectuals argued that Africans were at a lower mental level than Arabs and thus of a suitable condition to be enslaved (to be fair, they thought the same of Scandinavians). Slaves were humiliated at markets in Cairo where they were stripped naked to be examined by potential buyers. And Africans were taken from their homeland where they would be shipped East to Cairo, Syria, Iraq, India, and even all the way out to Indonesia.
Find out how slavery is much older than we think but sadly universally cruel.
The History of Slavery, Part 1: Shackled and Chained in the Ancient World
When asked “what is slavery,” most Americans or Westerners would respond with a description of an African slave in the antebellum South, picking cotton and suffering under the whip of a cruel master. But if you asked an Irishman in 1650, he would have answered differently. He would recount the horrors of Barbary Muslim pirates invading the town of Baltimore, dragging his kinsmen off to the slave markets of Algeria. A medieval Arab would have still answered differently. He would talk about the African slave trade, albeit the one that went east to Arabia instead of the one that went west to the New World. A Roman would have described slavery as the Greek in his household that tutored his children.
Slavery goes back to the beginning of the agricultural revolution. It is universal yet localized to the particular conditions in the society that enslaves others. Some researchers think slavery is common across history in that it leads to the social death of a slave. Others think that slaves were treated rather well in the ancient world, and it was only the weaponized racism of recent centuries that turned the chattel slavery of Africans brought to the New World into such a cruel institution.
This episode is the beginning of a five-part series on slavery. We are looking at the origins of the practice, why it began, the work that slaves did, what was the “best” sort of work, and how they revolted. By looking into the past we will have a better understanding of this practice, and how much it resembles slaver in the modern world.
Prohibition: How it Happened, Why it Failed, and How it Still Affects America Today
America has a strange relationship with alcohol. Certain drinks represented the darkest parts of the national psyche. Rum was once associated with slavery because sugar cane plantations that made rum were only profitable with chattel slavery. Whisky and hard cider were omnipresent in the 19th century, turning able-bodied men into drunkards who couldn't support their families and left them to starve.
But it was Prohibition that is strangest of all. America successfully outlawed alcohol, the first and only modern nation to do so. The unintended consequences were enormous: from physicians falsifying alcohol's positive effects so they could write prescriptions for “medicine” and make a handsome profit, to record numbers of men converting to Judaism so they could administer alcohol in rabbinical ceremonies.
Here to untangle the Gordion knot of alcohol in America's past is Cody Wheat from the Shots of History Podcast.
Welcome to an anthology episode where I ask six short questions about the Middle Ages from you, the listener. Here they are in order of appearance:
What Did People Eat in the Middle Ages?How Did You Conquer a Castle?Could You Tell Me About Harold Hardrada?Why is Thomas Becket Still So ImportantDid Rome Fall Because Christianity Made it Soft?Did Any African Explorers Come to Europe or Asia in the Middle Ages?
Almost Everything in American Politics has Happened Before, Even Donald Trump—Bruce Carlson from My History Can Beat Up Your Politics
Cable news pundits tell you everything is “breaking news.” TV pundits discuss politics in a vacuum. But in nearly every case, the politics of today have long roots in history. This includes media celebrities winning elections by manipulating the press and lobbing gross insults (Huey Long in the 1920s), breakdowns in the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico (the 1840s Mexican-American War) and fears of presidential executive overreach (the 1780s with George Washington).
In this episode I talk with Bruce Carlson, host of the My History Can Beat Up Your Politics podcast about how nearly every issue in U.S. politics has an analogue in the past. He uses history to elevate the discussion of today's politics.
How a Rivalry Between Two Cherokee Chiefs Led to the Trail of Tears and the Collapse of Their Nation
A century-long blood feud between two Cherokee chiefs shaped the history of the Cherokee tribe far more than anyone, even the reviled President Andrew Jackson. They were John Ross and the Ridge. Today I'm talking with John Sedgwick about the fall of the Cherokee Nation due to the clash of these two figures.
The Ridge (1771–1839)—or He Who Walks on Mountains—was a Cherokee chief and warrior who spoke no English but whose exploits on the battlefield were legendary. John Ross (1790–1866) was the Cherokees’ primary chief for nearly forty years yet spoke not a word of Cherokee and proudly displayed the Scottish side of his mixed-blood heritage. To protect their sacred landholdings from American encroachment, these two men negotiated with almost every American president from George Washington through Abraham Lincoln. At first friends and allies, they worked together to establish the modern Cherokee Nation in 1827. However, the two founders eventually broke on the subject of removal; the Ridge believed resisting President Jackson and his army would be hopeless, while Ross wanted to stay and fight for the lands the Cherokee had occupied since long before the white settlers’ arrival.
The failure of these two respected leaders to compromise bred a hatred that led to a bloody civil war within the Cherokee Nation, the tragedy of the Trail of Tears, and finally, the two factions battling each other on opposite sides of the Civil War. Sedgwick writes, “It is the work of politics to resolve such conflicts peacefully, but Cherokee politics were not up to the job. For a society that had always operated by consensus, there was little tradition of compromise.” Although the Cherokee were one of the most culturally and socially advanced Native American tribes in history, with their own government, language, newspapers, and religion, Sedgwick notes, “The warrior culture offered few gradations between war and peace, all or nothing.”
If It Weren't For Two Iowans, Billions Would Have Died of Starvation or Been Left in a Technological Dark Age
Norman Borlaug and Robert Noyce aren't household names. But these two Iowans influenced the 20th century more than anyone else on Planet Earth. Borlaug created drought and disease-resistant varieties of wheat that thrived in poor soils throughout the planet. Because of him, billions in the developing world avoided starvation (they probably only missed it by about a decade). Noyce invented the integrated circuit and founded Intel. He is the father of Silicon Valley, the digital revolution, and the Internet economy that connects the world.
Both men owe their success to their farm roots in Iowa.
Introducing the History Unplugged Membership Program
Learn how to get access to bonus episodes of History Unplugged (including a multi-part series on Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier in WW2), the entire History Unplugged back catalogue, and even shout-outs at the end of each episode. Learn more by going to https://patreon.com/unplugged
Life After Auschwitz: How European Jews Attempted to Assimilate in America After Unspeakable Tragedy
What happened to Jews after they were liberated from concentration camps? Some tried to return to their homes, only to find them occupied by neighbors who thought them dead and refused to give up their new dwellings. Others went on to build lives in the United States, but never truly found a place to call home. They wanted to tell their new compatriots about their experiences, but were silenced. “You’re in America now, put it behind you” is what they were told.
Today I'm speaking with Jon Kean, director of the new documentary After Auschwitz, a “Post-Holocaust” documentary that follows six women after their liberation from Nazi concentration camps. The women Kean follows became mothers and wives with successful careers, but never fully healed from the scars of the past. His film captures what it means to move from tragedy and trauma towards life.
Patton and Churchill's Experiences Before and During World War Two
This is an anthology episode that looks at the experiences of Winston Churchill and Gen. George S. Patton before and during World War Two. Specifically this episode will explore
Patton's experiences in World War One as a tank commanderChurchill's wilderness years in the 30s in which many thought his career was overPatton's theatrical entrance into German in 1945America's (and FDR's) first reaction to the Pearl Harbor bombing
Special Announcement: Presidential Fight Club Is Now Its Own Podcast
Remember when we did the 44-episode series on this show called Presidential Fight Club that imagined what would happen if every president fought each other one-on-one? Now it has been re-released as its own podcast, and you can find it on https://presidentialfightclub.com. Please rate and review it on Apple Podcasts!
An Infantry Officer's Fight Through Nazi Europe, From D-Day to VE Day
Falling comrades, savagery of war, and the intense will to prevail in battle faced young Bill Chapman when he stormed the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944. For the following eleven months Chapman served in the most hazardous duty in the Army—dodging Nazi captures and fighting for his and his brothers-in-arms’ survival.
To talk about Bill's story on today's episode of History Unplugged is his son, retired infantry officer and author Craig Chapman. Craig reveals his father’s first-hand account of the horror, fear, and danger from the front lines of WWII’s most momentous events, from his mortar unit's landing at Utah Beach on D-Day, through the brutal fighting in southern Germany against SS holdouts and Nazi extremists in the spring of 1945, to VE Day.
Everything You Need to Know About D-Day: H-Hour, Weapons Info, and First-Hand Accounts from Soldiers, Beachmasters, and the French Resistanc
The D-Day landing of June 6, 1944, ranks as the boldest and most successful large-scale invasion in military history.
On June 6, as Operation Overlord went forward, roughly 160,000 Allied troops crossed the English Channel, supported by seven thousand ships and boats, and landed on the coast of Normandy.The seaborne invasion included nearly 5,000 landing and assault craft, 289 escort vessels, and 277 minesweepers. They established a beachhead from which the Germans were unable to dislodge them. Within ten days, there were half a million troops ashore, and within three weeks there were two million.
In this episode I take a comprehensive look at the largest amphibious assault in history
Benjamin Franklin: Diplomat, Polymath, and Member of 18th Century Jet Set—Elizabeth Covart of the Ben Franklin's World Podcast
Benjamin Franklin was a world traveler, consummate learner, and a polymath extraordinaire; the Founding Father was a printer, scientist, inventor, diplomat, postmaster general, educator, philosopher, entrepreneur, library curator, and America's first researcher to win an international scientific reputation for his studies in electrical theory. He even made contributions to knowledge of the Gulf Stream.
But he was just as much a product of his extraordinary world as he contributed to it. Neither Colonial North America nor the embryonic United States developed apart from the rest of the world. They were active participants in the politics, economics, and culture of the Atlantic World. The events in Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, and South America affected the way North Americans lived, dressed, worshipped, conducted business, and exercised diplomacy.
Today's guest is Elizabeth Covart, host of Ben Frankin's World podcast. She is here to talk about how Benjamin Franklin took an active part in the Atlantic World. He helped found the United States and influenced technological developments after his death.
From Farm Fields to Classrooms: Horace Mann's War for Universal and Compulsory Education for Children
In a remarkably short span of time, American children went from laboring on family farms to spending their days in classrooms. The change came from optimistic reformers like Horace Mann, who in the early 1800s dreamed of education, literacy, and science spreading throughout all levels of American society. But other supporters of universal education had darker motives. They feared the influx of Irish Catholic immigrants and thought they'd bring their papist ideas to the young republic. Only compulsory education could break these European children of their Catholic ways and transform them into obedient, patriotic Americans with a Protestant outlook in their worldview if not in their theology.
This episode explores the origins of compulsory education, from the Protestant Reformation (and how it was used as a weapon in the religious arms races of sixteenth-century Europe), Prussia's role as the first nation with universal schooling, how America adopted compulsory K-12 education, and whether modern-day schools are actually based on a factory from the 1800s.
Meet Joan: The Female Pope—Stephen Guerra of the History of the Papacy Podcast
According to medieval accounts, a woman named Joan reigned as pope, 855-857 A.D., by disguising herself as a man. The story is widely thought to be fiction, but almost everyone took it as fact in the Middle Ages, up to the point that the Siena Cathedral featured a bust of Joan among other pontiffs.
Where did the story of Joan come from, what is the purpose of creating this legend, and what narrative function does it fulfill? Moreover, is it even possible that this story is true?
Joining us to dig into the incredibly messy history of the medieval papacy is Stephen Guerra, host of the History of the Papacy podcast. We find out whether a woman ever did wear the papal tiara.
The Most Productive People in History, Part 2: Thomas Aquinas to Thomas Edison
This is Part 2 of an exploration of the live of the most productive people in history. We will look at the life, times, and work habits of medieval philosopher Thomas Aquinas (the most prolific writer before the invention of the word processor), composer Georg Philipp Telemann (who produced thousands of music compositions), sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov (who wrote 500 books in nine out of the 10 major categories of the Dewey Decimal System) and Thomas Edison, who had over 1,000 patents to his name.
The Most Productive People in History, Part 1: From Archimedes to Ben Franklin
They never knew how he did it. Few composers write more than one or two symphonies in their lifetimes. Beethoven spent a year on his shorter symphonies but more than six years on his 9th Symphony. But Georg Philipp Telemann composed at least 200 overtures in a two-year period. Over his lifetime Telemann's oeuvre consists of more than 3,000 pieces, although “only” 800 survive to this day.
He was not the only person whose productivity defied all reason. Greek scientist Archimedes discovered mathematical phenomena that weren't confirmed for 17 centuries. Isaac Newton invented classical physics and was one of the inventors of calculus. Benjamin Franklin wrote, published, politicked, invented, experimented, and humored, sometimes all at the same time.
This episode is part one of two that explores the lives of the most productive people in history. We will look at the cultures into which they were born and see the methods that they used to achieve such sweeping results.
The Union's Secret Rebels: The Story of Gettysburg's Five Rebellious Double Crossers Who Returned as Foreign Invaders
The Civil War is called the war in which brother fought against brother. But few knew of the
“Gettysburg Rebels”: the five privates from that very town who moved south to Virginia in the 1850s,
joined the Confederate army, and returned home as foreign invaders for the great battle in July 1863.
I talk about this story with Tom McMillan, author of Gettysburg Rebels: Five Native Sons Who Came
Home to Fight as Confederate Soldiers. It is the story of Gettysburg’s five native sons who abandoned
their hometown ties to join the Southern cause. But that's not to say they forgot their families
altogether. At least one of these soldiers receive a leave of absence to cross enemy lines at night and
visit his family...while in full Confederate uniform.
Willing to relinquish familial ties, Henry Wentz, Wesley Culp, and the three Hoffman brothers kept
their hometown connections hidden from Confederate leaders—a decision that would ultimately
determine the fate of the Confederacy.
How to Reach Allied Territory When Your Plane Is Shot Down in Nazi-Occupied France
Lieutenant George W. Starks' worst fear came true when his B-17 was shot down over Nazi-occupied
France. Earlier that morning, the boyish 20-year-old and his crew were assigned to the most exposed
section of the bomber formation: the “coffin corner.” Now, scattered across the countryside of
Champagne, each of the B-17’s ten American crew members discarded his parachutes and began a
wartime trek. Some were hidden by heroic civilians, a few were saved by the French underground,
others fell into the hands of the Nazis, but all miraculously survived.
Carole Engle Avriett, joins me on the podcast today. She is author of the book Coffin Corner Boys:
One Bomber, Ten Men, and Their Harrowing Escape from Nazi-Occupied France to tell these
stories. She worked with Captain George W. Starks—now ninety-four years old—to bring them to
Anthology: How Switzerland Remained Neutral In Two World Wars
How was Switzerland able to remain neutral in the two world wars? Why was a tiny mountainous nation of watch-makers, bankers, and chocolateers able to dictate their own fate at a time when nobody else could? In this episode I answer this listener question and three others, and they all have to do with critical events in European history that could have changed the continent's fate. The other three questions I answer are as follows.What if Spain had become disunified after the War of Spanish Succession?Could German Unification have taken place without Otto von Bismarck?What is the largest massacre still denied today?
Grammar Girl (Mignon Fogarty) on the Strange History of the English Language
Mignon Fogarty has spent years helping others sort out the extremely peculiar grammar of the English language. But in the course of her research on how to navigate the weirdness of English, she learned the why of the weirdness of English.
Did you know that egregious once meant outstandingly good? Or that the sport badminton comes from an English manor with a love of peculiar sports? Or that many of the words in the Oxford Dictionary of English got there from the suggestions of a serial killer?
But the strangeness doesn't stop there. In today's interview Mignon tells us such stories asThe same person who came up with the rule that we shouldn't end a sentence with a preposition also said we shouldn't refer to children as "who" because they aren't rational beingsNoah Webster's first failed dictionary went too far with spelling reform. He included "wimmen" for "women" and "tung" for "tongue" and everybody hated it.The origin of certain phrases (run of the mill, beyond the pale, by the wayside)
History's Most Insane Rulers: From Emperor Caligula to Muammar Gaddafi
Few mixtures are as toxic as absolute power and insanity that comes from megalomania or severe mental illness. When nothing stands between a leader's delusional whims and seeing them carried them out, all sorts of bizarre outcomes are possible.
Whether it is Ottoman Sultan Ibrahim I practicing archery on palace servants and sending out his advisers to find the heaviest woman in the empire for his wife or Turkmenistan President Turkmenbashi renaming the days of the week after himself and constructing an 80-foot golden statue that revolves to face the sun, crazed leaders have plagued society for millenia.
In this episode we look at mentally unbalanced rulers who made the lives of their subjects miserable. Some suffered from genetic disorders that led to schizophrenia, such as French King Charles VI, who thought he was made of glass. Others believed themselves to be God’s greatest prophet and wrote religious writings that they guaranteed to the reader would get them into heaven, even if these “prophets” were barely literate.
Whatever their background, these rulers show that dynastic politics made sure that a rightful heir always got on the throne – despite that heir's mental condition – and that power can destroy a mind worse than any mental illness.
Meet Pico, The 23-Year-Old Wunderkind Who Kicked Off the Renaissance
Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (Pico for short), was the wunderkind of the Renaissance. In 1486, at the age of 23 he proposed to defend 900 theses on religion, philosophy, natural philosophy, and magic against all comers, for which he wrote the Oration on the Dignity of Man, which has been called the “Manifesto of the Renaissance.”
Today we are going to talk to Professor Matthew Gaetano about this remarkable figure. Pico was called a great genius, even in his own time. He defend 900 contested theses drawn from the Greeks, Scripture, rabbis, from Persians, and from Islamic scholars into a syncretic drawing together of learning and culture from all across the then-known world.
There were also odd aspects of Pico's thought system— he defended magic and mysticism. But his complex life is an inspiration for us moderns today.
Richard Burton: The Victorian Explorer Who Discovered the Kama Sutra, Made a Secret Pilgrimage to Mecca, and Knew 29 Languages
Everybody imagines the World's Most Interesting Man to be a fictional grey-haired lothario who drinks Mexican beer and boasts of his legendary exploits. But what if a man like this really lived?
It turns out he did. He is Richard Francis Burton, a Victorian-era explorer who learned 29 languages, went undercover as a Muslim on a pilgrimage to Mecca, and wrote 50 books on topics ranging from a translation of the Kama Sutra to a manual on bayonet exercises.
In this episode I explore Burton's life and his incredible achievements. He nearly discovered the source of the Nile with his expedition partner, John Hanning Speke. He had a massive facial scar that came from a Somali tribesman throwing a spear that passed through both his cheeks. He travelled 1,500 miles in a solo canoe expedition down Brazil's São Francisco River, discovering a jungle tribe and deciphering their language.
Adventures aside, Burton is best known today for translating the Arabian Nights and the Kama Sutra into English. He was the most educated explorer of the Victorian age, a time when only men of rough disposition set out to discover foreign lands, in stark contrast to the landed gentry, who were uninterested in international travel, unless it was in the comfort of a steamship to go administer a colony for the sake of the Crown or as a military officer deployed to extend the global landholdings of the British Empire.
Burton published over three dozen volumes, ranging from such topics as linguistics, ethnology, poetry, geography, fencing, and travel narratives. He spoke Greek, Arabic, Persian, Icelandic, Turkish, Swahili, Hindi, and a host of other European, Asian, and African tongues.
Learn about Burton's extraordinary life, and how a beer pitchman could never hope to live up to it.
Panic on the Pacific: How America Prepared for a Japanese West Coast Invasion after Pearl Harbor
The aftershocks of the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor were felt keenly all over America—the war in Europe had hit home. But nowhere was American life more immediately disrupted than on the West Coast, where people lived in certain fear of more Japanese attacks.
Today I talk with Bill Yenne, author of “Panic on the Pacific.” He describes how from that day until the end of the war, a dizzying mix of battle preparedness and rampant paranoia swept the states. Japanese immigrants were herded into internment camps. Factories were camouflaged to look like small towns. The Rose Bowl was moved to North Carolina. Airport runways were so well hidden even American pilots couldn’t find them.
We talk about the panic on the Pacific coast and fear the Japanese were coming. As a result the most notorious events of World War Two in America—namely the internment of American citizens of Japanese ancestry—took place. It is a cautionary tale about how hysteria can cause leaders to seize on political issues in the name of public safety that may cause much more harm than good.
The Hypothetical Economy of a Present-Day Confederate States of America, Alternate Theories to the Titanic Sinking, and Other Counterfactual
In this anthology episode I answer questions from the audience all centered around one theme. Today's theme is about alternate history and alternate theories to historical questions. Well, three of the questions have to do with this (the ones about the Confederacy, the Titanic, and an American Indian in Iceland). The other two are about quack doctors in the American frontier and the influence that Zoroasatrianism had on Christianity and Islam.
Here are the questions answered in today's episode:
How would America's economy be different today if the Confederacy had won the Civil War?Are there alternative explanations to an iceberg sinking the Titanic?Did a Native American woman come with Vikings to Iceland 1,000 years ago?Tell me about quack doctors and snake oil salesmen in early America.What influence did Zoroastrianism have on Christianity and Islam?
The 4 Successful (And Hundreds of Unsuccessful) Assassination Attempts of U.S. Presidents—Mel Ayton
In American history, four U.S. Presidents have been murdered at the hands of an assassin. In each case the assassinations changed the course of American history.
But most historians have overlooked or downplayed the many threats modern presidents have faced, and survived. In this episode I talk with Mel Ayton , author of the book Hunting the President: Threats, Plots and Assassination Attempts—From FDR to Obama, who has looked at the largely forgotten—or never-before revealed—malicious attempts to slay America’s leaders.
We talk about the profiles of a typical would-be assassin and what they think they have to gain by slaying the U.S. president. Mel also has many stories, including:How an armed, would-be assassin stalked President Roosevelt and spent ten days waiting across the street from the White House for his chance to shoot himHow the Secret Service foiled a plot by a Cuban immigrant who told coworkers he was going to shoot LBJ from a window overlooking the president’s motorcade routeHow a deranged man broke into Reagan’s California home and attempted to strangle the former president before he was subdued by Secret Service agents.The relationships presidents held with their protectors and the effect it had on the Secret Service’s mission
Prostitution Throughout History: Sumerian Temple Priestesses, Ottoman Brothel Workers, and Call-Girls for the Medieval Clergy
Prostitution, often known as the world's oldest profession, can be traced throughout recorded history. This cliché is so often repeated it remains completely unexamined. Is prostitution really a natural by-product of human society or does it only appear in circumstances where human sexuality is limited or curtailed?
In this episode we dive deep into the history of prostitution, from ancient Sumeria and its temple prostitutes to Old Testament Israeli sex workers, to Ottoman Istanbul, and finally to the red-light districts of Amsterdam. In particular we will look at
Herodotus' account of the Mesopotamian ritual of sacred prostitution in which Babylonian woman had to attend the temple of Ishtar and agree to sex with any male that askedOld Testament prostitutes from Rahab—heroine of Jericho—to Gomer, a harlot whom the prophet Hosea married as an analogy of Israel's unfaithfulness to YahwehCivic brothels that existed in every medieval European cityOttoman prostitutes who used Islamic law about widows and temporary marriage to cheat the tax codeThe 19th century question over whether prostitution should be legalized and regulated to reduce syphilis or made illegal to reduce public immorality
The Ladykiller who Killed Lincoln: The Scandalous Love Life of John Wilkes Booth
What if People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” assassinated a U.S. President? John Wilkes Booth has been despised as a traitor, hailed as a martyr, and dismissed as a lunatic. But in the 1860s he was considered the “handsomest man in America”? Before cementing his name in history by assassinating President Lincoln, this actor extraordinaire was the Leonardo DiCaprio of the 1860s. Women packed the audiences wherever Booth played, pawed him for autographs, and tore at his clothes for souvenirs.
Women could not resist him—nor could he resist them.
Today on the show I am joined by E. Lawrence Abel, author of the new book John Wilkes Booth and the Women Who Loved Him. He discusses stories of stories of infatuation, flings, and heartbreak that Booth interwove throughout his theatrical career and assassination plot. We specifically discussHow Actress Henrietta Irving attempted to kill him in a jealous rageThe “Star Sisters” broke up their act after a jealous falling-out over himPhotos of five women were found on Booth’s body, and only one was of his fiancée
Booth’s life was as dramatic as any play. Actor, lover, and assassin, Booth was a complex man whose shocking crime changed the course of American history and cast him forever in the role of an American villain.
Ulysses S. Grant Was (Mostly) Responsible For Winning the Civil War. Robert E. Lee Was Responsible For Losing It.
Ever since the end of the Civil War, a mythology of Robert E. Lee's military genius was developed by Confederate veterans as a way to support the idea that the South was defeated only because of the Union's overwhelming advantages in men and resources. Known as the “Lost Cause” interpretation of the Civil War, it provided a sense of relief to white Southerners who feared being dishonored by defeat.
In this episode, I explore the research of the late Civil War historian Edward Bonekemper, who wrote many books challenging this thesis. He argues that Grant—far from being a bloodthirsty drunk who won by brute force alone—was the most successful Union or Confederate general of the war. Grant won the war by excelling in three theaters. He fought six Confederate armies, defeated all of them, and captured three of them. He succeeded for two years in the West with amazingly minimal casualties—particularly when compared with those of his foes. He conquered the Mississippi Valley and chased the Confederates out of Chattanooga and Tennessee.
Lee, in contrast, has been praised for his offensives against the Union Army of the Potomac, he was carrying out an aggressive strategy with aggressive tactics that were inconsistent with what should have been a Confederate grand defensive strategy. The Union, not the Confederacy, had the burden of winning the war, and the South, outnumbered about four-to-one in white men of fighting age, had a severe manpower shortage. Nevertheless, Lee acted as though he were a Union general and attacked again and again as though his side had the burden of winning and also had an unlimited supply of soldiers.
How Long Have Foreign Governments Attempted to Meddle in U.S Elections? Answers to This And 3 Other Questions
Foreign governments did not only start trying to influence American presidential elections in 2016. It goes all the way back to the 18th century. In this anthology episode I answer this question and three others from you, the audience. Two of the questions have to do with presidents, one of them is only indirectly related to presidents, and the last one has nothing to do with presidents, but it's an interesting question about Nazis so we'll go with it. Here they are:How long have foreign governments attempted to meddle in American elections? Does this go back before 2016? Can you tell me about presidential assassination attempts? Do they go all the way back to Washington?How did the Cold War come to an end?Why did so many Nazis flee to Argentina after the Second World War, and how did they get there?
The Life and Times of Aristotle, and How His Philosophy Conquered the World—Lantern Jack from the Ancient Greece Declassified Podcast
Whether you have a BA in philosophy or have never read a book, your daily life is impacted by Aristotle. Have you ever tried to win an argument? Have you ever tried to solve a riddle? Have you tried to rationalize eating twelve doughnuts? Congratulations: you are engaging in logic, the bread-and-butter of the most impactful philosopher in history.
In this episode I talk with Lantern Jack (pseudonym of the host of Ancient Greece Declassified and graduate student in philosophy at Princeton). We get into 4th century BCE Greece, the life of Aristotle, his tutoring of Alexander the Great, and how his philosophy conquered the world.
But it's more than the life of Aristotle. Thanks to archaeology and modern scholarship, we now know more about the ancient world than we ever did before. However, the average person today doesn't have access to free, reliable, up-to-date information about ancient Greece. Unlike other fields, the Classics have remained largely confined to the ivory tower of academia. Thats why Lantern Jack started his show. The idea is to declassify the classics and help everyone know about the ideas that kicked off the modern world.
World War Two Spycraft: Stealing Nuclear Secrets, Blowing Up Nazi Factories, and Infiltrating Japanese High Command
Spies have been a feature of state security and military intelligence since the beginning of warfare. Entire wars have been won or lost according to these secret activities. Today we will look at spycraft during World War Two, a golden age of espionage.
Spycraft was an essential element to the war effort as ships, planes, or weapons. At no time were military secrets so valuable. Nuclear technology was vital for both sides if they did not want to fall behind the other. Learning the troop movements of the enemy could make it possible to launch an attack on the level of D-Day, permanently crippling their war machine.
In this episode I will discuss the careers of...Richard Sorge, the German playboy based in Tokyo who stole nearly all of Japan's World War 2 plan, sent it to the Kremlin, and prevented Nazi Germany's attempt to invade and capture Moscow.Nancy Wake, a socialite in France-turned- Resistance Fighter who saved hundreds, if not thousands, of lives of Allied airmen by smuggling them to the Spanish border.George Koval, the Iowa-born Soviet spy who worked on the Manhattan Project and fed all the scientific breakthroughs to Russia, accelerating their nuclear program by years
A Retired Policeman Tells us the Story of The Most Daring Jailbreak in the Underground Railroad's History
You probably know what the Underground Railroad is—you know, the network of secret routes and safe houses set up in antebellum America and used by African-American slaves (with the help of abolitionists and allies) to escape into free states and Canada. But how did it work? How far apart were these slave houses? Five miles, twenty miles, or more? And how did abolitionists help the escaped slaves? Did they provide them food and shelter and send them on their way, or did they personally guide them? And what happened if a slave or Underground Railroad “conductor” got caught? Here to tell us one of the most amazing jailbreak stories in pre-Civil War American history is Gary Jenkins, a retired Kansas City police officer. He tells us about the capture, incarceration, trial and rescue of Dr. John Doy. In 1859, twelve free African-Americans asked Lawrence Kansas leading citizens to help them flee north to escape being captured and sold into slavery. Dr. John Doy and his son, Charles Doy volunteered to go on this dangerous mission. His book, The Immortal 10, tells this exciting story of the slave trade in Missouri though the eyes of Dr. Doy.
What are Arguments For and Against Bombing Japan, Why Don't Militias Matter in American, and What is Close-Air Support?
In this anthology series I answer four listener questions. Three of them have to do with World War II, one of them has to do with the second amendment. Here they are:What are the arguments for bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki?What are the arguments against?The Second Amendment is one of the most controversial parts of the American constitution today. We always talk about the part that refers to private firearm ownership but we rarely talk about well-regulated militias, even though the amendment gives equal weight to both. What was the importance of militias in the past and when did they decline in impact?Can you tell me about the history and importance of Close Air Support?
Daily Lives of Middle Eastern Women in the School, the Home, the Harem, and Everywhere Else—Marie Grace Brown
For those who haven't studied the Middle East, the historical lives of women there can be thought to be a black hole: no information available about those who were thrown under a burkha and locked up at home or in a harem. Never mind that few women wore the clothing of modern-day Saudi Arabia in the past; women had vibrant lives there regardless of social restriction. Even in the harem, ostensibly most restrictive place in the pre-modern Middle East, women ironically could exert more power than anywhere else. In fact, if you wanted to rule an empire through your weak-minded husband or son, there was no better place to be. To discuss these issue I am joined by Marie Grace Brown, professor of history at the University of Kansas. She is a cultural historian of the Modern Middle East with a special interest in questions of gender and empire. Marie does a great job of making academic concepts about Westernization vs. modernization accessible to a non-scholarly audience. But we don't get too scholarly. At one point I ask her how she would take over the Middle East as a woman in the pre-modern world. Her award-winning book, Khartoum at Night: Fashion and Body Politics in Imperial Sudan (Stanford University Press, 2017), traces gestures, intimacies, and adornment to give a history of northern Sudanese women’s lives under imperial rule.
How Archeologists Decide What We Remember—Chris Webster, Archeology Podcast Network
Chris Webster is a cultural resource management archeologist. That means when the National Registry of Historic Places is thinking about adding a mining town, Spanish mission, or Native American burial site to its list, it calls in Chris.
He has worked in all phases of contract archaeology, from literature searches and Class 1 surveys to full scale excavations and lab work.
He also has to figure out what's worth preserving and what isn't. The choice usually isn't easy.
When Weather Wipes Out Civilization -- Four Cases of Climate Killing Empires
The deadliest army on earth can't top the weather for its destructive potential. History's mightiest empires have fallen for no more of a reason than climate change leading to failed harvests and a starving population.
But you wouldn't know that from most stories of the past. History was long about diplomatic treaties, battle tactics, or the biographies of great leaders. In the last 40 years researchers have increasingly compensated by looking at climate as a major factor in the course of human civilization. They have analyzed the history of weather patterns, climate change, ocean currents, and even geology to explain why some societies thrive and others die.
In this episode we look at four civilizations that were destroyed or permanently crippled by changes in the weather. They includeThe Neo-Assyrian Empire, which was destroyed by a joint Babylonian and Median attack in 612 BC, but initially crippled by a severe drought that was so bad a priest commented that “no harvest was reaped” one year The Greenland Vikings, a one-thriving trade empire that stretched from Denmark to Newfoundland and delivered walrus tusk to medieval royalty but dissapeared suddenly in the 1400sMedieval Iran—the economic powerhouse of early Islam that grew enough cotton to change the fashion tastes of the Middle East...until a cold snap killed whole crops, leaving it weakened until the Mongols finished the job in the 1200sEurasia of the 1500s, which due to the Little Ice Age saw massive revolts, from the 30 Years War between Protestants and Catholics to the Jelali Revolts of the Ottoman Empire to civil unrest in India and China
George Washington's Guide to Greatness, As Told by His Great Nephew —Austin Washington
George Washington—widely considered a man of honor, bravery and leadership. He is known as America’s first President, a great general, and a humble gentleman, but how did he become this man of stature?
My guest today is Austin Washington, a great nephew of George. He wrote a book called The Education of George Washington that answers this question with a new discovery about his past and the surprising book that shaped him.
In this episode we discuss the book that truly made George Washington who he was and little-known info about Washington’s past that explains his true model for conduct, honor, and leadership.
Medieval Health Care: Bloodletting, Primitive Surgery, and How Surprisingly Good Doctors Could Be Despite Knowing Almost Nothing
The Middle Ages were a terrible time to get sick. There was no sanitation inside cities and hardly any in rural areas. The common way to relieve pain amongst sick people was to inflict more pain upon them, and then hope to the stars for a bit of luck. Monks with little to no experience, aside from castrating animals and having access to a few medical books, performed surgery on human beings. The medicine was basic, and the terrible illness that plagued those times was complex.
Yet people came up with surprising ways to cope with illness in this time. In this episode I discuss...Theriac: History’s amazing wonder drug. From the 1st century A.D. to the late 19th century, one medical compound reigned supreme over all other remedies: theriac. First concocted by a Greek king worried about poisons, theriac went from being a general antidote to snake bites to an all around panacea, used to treat everything from asthma to warts, including the Black Plague.How Europe dealt with the plague: It spread from Genoa through Europe, reaching France and England by 1348. Both countries were embroiled in a devastating war that had already spanned many decades, leading many to believe that the sins of men were punishing humanity. By 1350 Germany and Scandinavia, too, had suffered deadly losses. Equally massive were the deaths in the Middle East, as 40% of the population across Egypt through the Levant, Syria, Palestine and Yemen would be lost.Where people think that illnesses came from. Most people today believethat medievals assumed all illnesses came from devilish or demonic sources, or, a variant, from some hidden sin in the sick person. It's more complicated than that. Instead, they first saw all illnesses as coming ultimately from God but also perceived and affirmed many levels of causality, and they were comfortable shifting back and forth between these levels depending on the audience and occasion of their writings.How the foundations of modern medicine were built in the Middle Ages, especially in the Islamic World. Islamic scholars and doctors translated medical texts from all over the known world, including the Greeks and Romans, Persians and Indians. They not only gathered this knowledge and translated it into Arabic (and later into Latin), they added their own medical observations and methods. Islamic doctors developed new techniques in medicine, dissection, surgery and pharmacology. They founded the first hospitals, introduced physician training and wrote encyclopaedias of medical knowledge.
A First-Hand Account of the Battle of Ramadi, Iraq – Maj. Scott Huesing
From the winter of 2006 through the spring of 2007, two-hundred-fifty Marines from Echo Company, Second Battalion, Fourth Marine Regiment fought daily in the dangerous, dense city streets of Ramadi, Iraq during the Multi-National Forces Surge ordered by President George W. Bush. The Marines' mission: to kill or capture anti-Iraqi forces. Today I'm talking with Maj. Scott Huesing, the commander who led Echo Company through Ramadi, He discussing retaking the city street-by-street in the dead of night, what it was like to fight 4-5 skirmishes a day for months on end, and the challenges of asymmetrical warfare where the frontline is everyone and no enemy wears a uniform. We discuss how the military shifted tactics from Cold War-style combat to effective street fighting, why he thinks women belong in combat units, his relationship with Iraqi translators, and the battle to overcome post-traumatic stress in the years following service.
Mesopotamian Civilization (2): Everyday Life of Merchants, Temple Priests, and Prostitutes
Welcome to part two in our series on Mesopotamia. The last installment covered the lives of the elites; now let's go several steps down the social ladder. We are going to be covering everyday life in Sumeria, Akkadia, Assyria, and any other civilization that rooted itself between the Tigris and Euphrates. In particular we will explore the lives of merchants and traders, farmers, women, temple priests, and prostitutes.
One Nation Under (the Influence of) Alcohol: Drinking During the Civil War—Mark Will-Weber
Bloody battles, lionhearted leaders, valiant victories, and lamentable losses—the history of the Civil War has been told time and again. Yet, one monumental component of the Civil War has gone untold… until now. Delving deep into rare Civil War memoirs and letters, today's guest, an “alco-historian,” is Mark Will-Weber, author of the book Muskets & Applejack: Spirits, Soldiers, and the Civil War. He discusses stories of the “whiskey war” to life by showing alcohol’s potency on and off the battlefield. From who drank what to how major turning points of the war happened “under the influence,” Mark sheds a unique, unconventional light on one of America’s most historic moments—and the imbibing that took place by both the Confederacy and the Union.
Mesopotamian Civilization: Gilgamesh, Sargon, and Why 1 GB of Information on Cuneiform Tablets Weights as Much as a 747
Welcome to the first episode in a two-part series on Mesopotamian civilization. In this episode we are going to be covering four topics: 1) The origins of Mesopotamian civilization with Sumeria, its evolution into the Akkadian, Babylonian, and Assyrian Empires, and why education and literacy was so important (knowledge was passed down on information-dense cuneiform tablets, even though gigabyte of information on cuneiform tablets weighted nearly as much as a 747. 2) How the Epic of Gilgamesh created the genre of epic literature (or is at least the oldest such work that survives). 3) The reign of Sargon of Akkad: The King Arthur of Mesopotamia, who less known for what he actually did as much as the idea of who he was -- a symbol of justice and righteousness that people looked to in dark times. 4) Waging war the Mesopotamian way: How warfare evolved from simple infantry combat in Sumerian times to the massive siege towers and psychological warfare of the Assyrian Empire.
Race to the Top of the World: Richard Byrd and the First Flight to the North Pole—Sheldon Bart
In the age of adventure, when dirigibles coasted through the air and vast swaths of the Earth remained untouched and unseen by man, one pack of relentless explorers competed in the race of a lifetime: to be the first aviator to fly over the North Pole. What inspired their dangerous fascination? For some, it was the romantic theory about a “lost world,” a hidden continent in the Arctic Ocean. Others were seduced by new aviation technology, which they strove to push to its ultimate limit. The story of their quest is breathtaking and inspiring; the heroes are still a matter of debate. In this episode I talk with Sheldon Bart, author of “Race to the Top of the World: Richard Byrd and the First Flight to the North Pole.” about Richard Byrd, a Navy officer and early aviation pioneer; and Roald Amundsen, Byrd’s and a hardened veteran of polar expeditions. Each man was determined to be the first aviator to fly over the North Pole, despite brutal weather conditions, financial disasters, world wars, and their own personal demons.
Positive Legacies of the Mongolian Empire: International Trade, Religious Tolerance, Career Opportunities, and Horse Milk
The Mongolian Empire has a well-deserved reputation for its brutality (it did, after all, kill 40 million in the 12th century, enough people to alter planetary climate conditions). But it's positive legacies are nearly as profound, if less well known. In this episode I talk about the lasting influence of Genghis and his descendants on world civilization. The Mongolians patronize the arts on a scale not seen since the height of Rome; the Pax Mongolica consolidated the Silk Road and kicked off a boom in trade where ideas, technologies and goods flowed freely from Europe to Asia (spices, tea, and silk headed west while gold, medical manuscripts, and porcelain headed east; and the Mongolian approach to religious tolerance was so flexible that Buddhists, Muslims, and Christians were invited to debate their ideas before the royal court in Karakorum.
America's Utopian Communities: From Plymouth Colony's Failed Experiments in Collective Farming to 60s Hippie Communes—Timothy Miller
One of the oldest traditions in America is trying (and failing) to set up a utopian community. French Enlightenment thinkers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau believed if man could return to a state of nature – free from social conditioning that put him in conflict with his neighbor – then a new, perfect social order could emerge. This sounds like hopefully wishful thinking today, but in the context of the 1800s, a utopian community really wasn't all that far fetched. The French Revolution failed, but the equally radical American Revolution succeeded. If a country could rule itself without a king and queen, some thought, why couldn't it rule itself without any ruler at all? Many utopian thinkers asked themselves that if one Greek form of government, democracy, could be dusted off after thousands of years on the shelf, then why not try other discarded ideas? Perhaps the time had come for Plato's vision of a utopia. From the 1830s to 1850s, charismatic leaders formed groups of 50 to 100 Europeans who followed a basic ideology or religious denomination and set up communist communities across America. Widely believed by the larger public to be sinks of drug-ridden sexual immorality, the communes both intrigued and repelled the American people. The intentional communities of the 1960s era were far more diverse than the stereotype of the hippie commune would suggest. A great many of them were religious in basis, stressing spiritual seeking and disciplined lifestyles; others were founded on secular visions of a better society. In fact, hundreds of them became so stable that they survive today.
Mongols were fierce on horseback, but so were the many other steppe nomads who tried and failed to conquer the walled cities of China, Persia, and Rome.
Yet the Mongols succeeded where their predecessors failed by incorporating siege engineers into their army, taking full advantage of their light supply chain, and using shock attacks in ways no other military leader had before.
Steppe nomads plagued the ancient world with their cavalries, but nobody perfected this form of warfare like the Mongols. A horse archer had such a deep kinesthetic relationship with his steed he could feel when all four hooves were off the ground, allowing for a perfect shot. Chroniclers say they could hit the wings off birds from 50 yards and fell an enemy from 500.
Learn why the bow and the horse were the foundations of Mongolian military power.
The Mongols Killed So Many People They Lowered the Global Temperature
Welcome to part one of Mongol Week(s). In this multi-part series, we will look at the Mongolian Empire from multiple perspectives, including its unprecedented level of brutality (so many died from their attacks that untended farmland returned to forrest, scrubbing the atmosphere of carbon and causing global cooling).
But we will also look at their positive contributions -- the opening up of the Silk Road, religious tolerance, and rights granted to women. We will also consider the rise of Temujin (Genghis), the importance of the Mongolian horse and bow, battle tactics, and everyday life.
Chester A. Arthur's Presidency Was a Colossal Accident...And a Huge Success
Chester A. Arthur, America's 21st president, lands on the lists of the most obscure chief executives. Few know anything about him besides his trademark mutton-chop sideburns. Moreover, he fell into the position unexpectedly when Garfield was assassinated; the political pros though he would be a failure as president. Maybe Arthur did also. After all, he was a flunkey in the New York political machine who spent his nights eating, drinking, and smoking cigars with the other good ole' boys and frequently didn't show up at work in the New York Customs House until 1pm. He only got on the Vice Presidential ticket of Garfield because Republicans were desperate to get support from New York and needed a native son on the ticket. But Arthur shocked everyone by doing well as president. He went up against the very forces that had controlled him for decades. He implemented new rules requiring the federal government to hire workers based on their qualifications, not their political connections. He supported a civil rights act to bar racial discrimination, even though the public overwhelmingly supported it.
Fighting over scarce resources have fueled wars back to the Sumerian city-states squabbling over water-use rights of the Euphrates river. Did the same drive fuel America's entrance into Vietnam to take its tin? Listener Toby asks if there's any truth to the the conspiracy theory that only reason the Vietnam war was waged was for a scarce metal, not to fight the communist threat like most of us has been taught.
About 70-90 Percent of a Society Needs to Die Before It Completely Collapses
Some disasters hurt society (Hurricane Katrina in 2005). Bigger ones permanently alter it (the Black Death in the 1300s; Mao's Great Leap Forward). The worst of disasters completely destroy a civilization and leave behind so few they take centuries to recover (the Mongolian slaughter of Iran in the 1200s; the smallpox epidemic among Native Americans).
Today we look at the tipping points between a society being hurt and a society being mortally wounded.
Why The Black Plague is Partially (But Not Completely) Responsible For the Renaissance?
The death of thirty percent of Europe's population in the fourteenth century permanently altered the medieval social order, and many scholars credit the Black Plague with ushering in the Renaissance. But this is not the whole story—after all, plagues have ravaged the ancient world throughout human history without a similar cultural flowering to show for it. We look at other factors that ran parallel to the plague to transform Europe's culture.
Did Mussollini Really Make the Trains Run on Time?
Fascism is loved by few, but many at least credit Mussolini's heavy-handed rule for making Italy's notoriously disastrous train system operate effectively. Was this actually true or more of Il Duce's propaganda?
How Teddy Roosevelt Became The Man He Was in the Badlands—William Hazelgrove of “Forging a President”
Teddy Roosevelt wasn’t born as the rough riding, big-game-hunting, Amazon-exploring legend that America has come to love. So how did he become the larger-than- life character portrayed in history books? He was forged by the last vestige of the Wild West—the Badlands of the Dakota Territory. Yet this side of one of America’s most popular presidents has mostly gone unexplored
In this episode I talked with William Hazelgrove, author of the book Forging a President: How the Wild West Created Teddy Roosevelt. Roosevelt once stated, “I have always said I would not have been president had it not been for my experience in North Dakota.”
Faced with tremendous heartbreak and extreme adversity, Roosevelt headed West for comfort and healing. Little did he know that the ways of trappers and thieves would create his bombastic personality, and later lead him to run for president of the United States.
The origins of some cultural practices are lost to the mists of time. Not so the high five. We can trace it back to a specific day at a specific baseball game. From then on the world was never the same.
Nobody in the Middle Ages Thought the Earth Was Flat
One of the most widespread and pernicious bits of common knowledge about the Middle Ages that is incorrect is the idea that everyone believed the world to be flat. This is ridiculous. Nobody thought that. Anyone who knew about astronomy (which was almost everyone), had been on a boat, or had any sort of learning whatsoever knew this to be false. Then why do make this wrong assumption today?
Which Leader Had the Best Shot at World Domination?
Which world leader or dictator had the best chance at world domination? (i.e. Hitler, Napoleon, Alexander the Great). In this episode I discuss whether such a goal is even possible, and if so, under what conditions.
Pinetti, the 18th-Century Illusionist and Forerunner of Chris Angel and David Copperfield—Brian Earl from the Illusion Podcast
Giussepe Pinetti: You might not know the name, but he's considered the guy who made magic into a respected theatrical art form. Before him, it was practiced mostly by buskers on street corners, or at private engagements for the rich, not public theaters. He single-handedly changed the persona of magician from shady trickster to consummate performer
Brian Earl from the Illusion Podcast is here to talk about the granddaddy of all illusionists. He was there 200 years before David Copperfield, Chris Angel, or Penn and Teller.
Here's some fascinating aspects of Pinetti's life that Brian and I discuss:
His career began as a professor of physics in Rome in the 1770s. He performed magic tricks in class to illustrate concepts. His classes were very popularHe eventually began performing in Germany in 1780 as Pinetti, Roman Professor of Mathematics. He would pass off illusions as genuine scientific demonstrationsHe was very successful, selling out theaters across Europe. He started to dress like a general or nobleman onstage with custom tailored suits. Pinetti arrived in Prussia in a coach drawn by 4 horses. This angered Frederick the Great, the king of Prussia, whose carriage had only 2 horses. He ordered Pinetti to leave the cityA lawyer named Henri Decremps published an expose of Pinetti, explaining how his performances were just magic tricks, not demonstrations of little-known scientific principles. Pinetti publicly discredited Decremps by hiring a shabby person off the street to pose as Decremps at a performance and cause a public disturbanceA man named Count de Grisy in Naples had begun performing some of Pinetti's tricks at private parties. Pinetti pretended to mentor deGrisy and encouraged him to perform publicly. Pinetti sabotaged the performance, which the king attended
Canines in Combat: How the 8125th Sentry Dog Detachment Saved Countless Lives in the Korean War—Rachel Reed
The Korean War is widely misunderstood in the 21st century. Most have a sepia-toned nostalgia of the bravery of World War Two, or the less black-and-white nature of the Vietnam War. But not Korea. If anyone thinks of it, they might think of reruns of M*A*S*H on Nick at Nite or a barely-remembered high school history lesson on the U.S. Cold War policy of Soviet containment. For this reason, some historians have dubbed it the Forgotten War.
To explore this forgotten war, I talked with Rachel Reed, who's written a new book on the conflict. But she doesn't write about the politics or military tactics of the war. Instead, she focuses on the four-legged heroes that supported the war efforts.
Reed’s book K-9 Korea: The Untold Story of America’s War Dogs in the Korean War is an account of canines working side-by-side with servicemen to perform sentry duty on critical supply and weapons depots.
When the 8125th Sentry Dog Detachment landed in Incheon, Korea, the soldiers—man and dog— were unsure of the fates that awaited them. The human warriors soon learned that their lives depended on their canine companions for safety and strength to face unimaginable situations.
Europe's Military Quantum Leap (1350-1650)—Patrick Wyman From Tides of History
Want to conquer Europe in the Middle Ages? You need plenty of knights mounted on steeds to launch a full cavalry charge. Once they take out their enemies in pitched battle, you need engineers to launch a siege on your enemies castles.
Want to conquer Europe in 1600? Everything has changed. Cannon makes castles obsolete. Firearms and pikes have displaced knights as the dominant force on the battlefield. The scale of war has also grown from a few thousand soldiers on the battlefield to tens or even hundreds of thousands.
To explain this change is Patrick Wyman of the Tides of History Podcast. Patrick is a medievalist by training and explores how events in the far past still have influence today.
Christmas Special: Fr. Longenecker on Why The 3 Wise Men Were Real...But They Weren't From the Orient or Kings (Rebroadcast)
How do we separate myth from fact in ancient history? How do we do this when it comes down to one of the most beloved and well-known stories of all time: The Nativity? Fr. Dwight Longenecker, a Catholic priest from Greenville, South Carolina, is attempting to do that. He has set out on a quest to investigate whether there is a kernel of historical truth beneath the many legends of the Magi story. Now he thinks he has found it. The Magi were real, but they weren't from the “Orient.” Nor were they kings. Rather, they were a political delegation from a mostly-forgotten kingdom to the south called the Nabateans. And they set out for Israel for reasons both religious and political. It wasn't an easy project for Fr. Longenecker to research. While he was always fascinated by the nativity story, he knew that plenty of legendary embellishment had filled in the gaps. Matthew's bare bones account only speaks of “wise men from the East” who see a star and journey to Jerusalem, winding up in Bethlehem to pay homage to the newborn Jesus Christ before returning to their country by a different route. There's no mention of three kings, lavish costumes, camels, nor where they came from in the biblical account. No start leads them through the desert to Bethlehem. They aren't even called kings (?!) Furthermore, most Biblical scholars outright reject that the magi were historical at all. The Catholic Bible scholar Raymond Brown in his monumental study, The Birth of the Messiah notes that it was a mark of modernist orthodoxy not to believe in the historicity of the Magi story. Fr. Longenecker found that as it turns out that because of scholars' assumption that the Magi story was a fairy tale very few scholars had taken the time to investigate thoroughly the possible identity of the wise men. His research brought him into contact with new technologies which shed light on the subject. Some fresh archeological findings and new understandings from the Dead Sea Scrolls also contributed to the quest. As it turns out, it is perfectly probable that there were wise men who had the motive, the means and the method to pay homage to Jesus Christ just as Matthew recorded. The simple truth is that Matthew’s account is factual not fictional. His book The Mystery of the Magi—The Quest for the True Identity of the Three Wise Men will be published next Advent by Regnery Press. In this episode we answer the following questions: Did the wise men ride camels? What was the star of Bethlehem? Were they really called Balthasar, Melchoir and Kaspar? Are their relics preserved in Cologne Cathedral? Where do Anthony and Cleopatra fit into the story? Why did they bring gold, frankincense and myrrh? Was there really a magical star that led them across the desert?
Bringing Abraham and Mary Todd to Life in Steven Spielberg's “Lincoln”—Historical Consultant Catherine Clinton
Being a historical consultant for movies is never easy. How do you get the period details right while keeping it contained within an interesting narrative? But being a historical consultant about one of the most recognizable figure in history is even harder. That’s why today’s guest Catherine Clinton had her work cut out for her.
For the 2012 Steve Spielberg movie “Lincoln,” Clinton—a U.S. academic historian and expert on Mary Lincoln—was consulted by filmmakers over costume details and details about the Lincolns’ lives.
In this episode we discuss
Popular misconceptions about Mary Todd that historians know is falseWhether her reputation as a hellcat or maniac is deserved, and if not, why it became distortedChallenges of portraying historical fact while cutting necessary corners for a 2-hour film narrativeWhat “Lincoln” portrayed about Abraham and Mary Todd that other film makers have missedLessons from the life of Abraham and Mary Todd we should remember today
Meet Nathaniel Clark Smith, the Melchizedek of Jazz—Bill McKemy
Jazz is the most American of musical genres. But its origins are shrouded in mystery. Some like to think that Louis Armstrong and his bluesmen friends were sitting at a bar in New Orleans, when a solar eclipse and Haley's Comet occurred at the same time, causing the musical troupe to start using a swing rhythm. But musicologist Bill McKemy thinks that the origins of jazz can be traced more directly to one man. That is Nathaniel Clark Smith: The Melchizedek of Jazz. Smith was African-American musician, composer, and music educator in the United States during the early decades of the 1900s. Over the next 30 years he would lead bands in Chicago, Wichita, Kansas City, the Tuskegee Institute, and in St. Louis. He was an important educator for many of the prominent early Jazz musicians from Kansas City, Chicago, and St. Louis. And man was his life hard. To make ends meet he played in a minstrel show in the 1890s. He threatened lynching by having Tuskegee students play classical music and other forms of “non-black” music, against the wishes of Booker T. Washington. He risked his life to embrace the slowly emerging new opportunities for non-whites in the United States.
The Story of Human Language, From Proto Indo-European to Ebonics English—John McWhorter
Language not only defines humans as a species, placing us head and shoulders above even the most proficient animal communicators, but it also beguiles us with its endless mysteries. For example... How did different languages come to be? Why isn't there just a single language? How does a language change, and when it does, is that change indicative of decay or growth? How does a language become extinct? In today's episode I speak with Dr. John McWhorter, a linguist from Columbia University. He, addresses these and other issues, such as how a single tongue spoken 150,000 years ago has evolved into the estimated 6,000 languages used around the world today. We go broad and deep. For the broad, we explore language families, starting with Indo-European, comprising languages from India to Ireland including English. Other language families discussed are Semitic, Sino-Tibetan, Austronesian, Bantu, and Native American. This gets us into the heated debate over the first language. For the deep, we get into pidgins and creoles. When people learn a language quickly without being explicitly taught, they develop a pidgin version of it. Then if they need to use this pidgin on an everyday basis it becomes a real language, a creole. Some people argue that Black English is a creole, and Professor McWhorter really gets into this issue.
Is There Any Hard Evidence Hannibal Took Elephants Over the Alps?
Hannibal's crossing of the Alps with war elephants is considered one of the most daring move of the Punic Wars. But is it professionally accepted among historians that he actually crossed the Alps, and if so, is there any physical evidence?
The Greek Military Owned The Ancient World. Why Did They Roll Over For the Romans?
When did the ancient Greeks stop making armies or supplying fighting men? One moment they're beating up the the Persian empire and conquering the known world, and the next, they're slave tutors for the Romans or philosophers in their major cities. Learn about why the Greeks dominated the Eastern Mediterranean in the ancient world and why their star fell against the Romans.
Why Food Tells Us More About a Culture Than Anything Else—Ken Alba
You and your ancestor from 1,000 years ago have almost nothing in common. Your clothes are different. Your worship rituals are different. Your thoughts about the opposite sex are definitely different. Almost the only similarity is that both of you are driven to obtain food. In fact, one could say that civilization itself began in the quest for food. Epicure Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin said it best: “Gastronomy governs the whole life of man.” In this episode, Professor Ken Albala of the University of the Pacific puts the subject of food and its importance in history on the table. Ken has studied widely on the types of cuisine that would be featured at a Roman feast, a medieval banquet, or a Renaissance Italian civic celebration. He’s ground Italian flour to make the sort of bread one would eat in Pompeii. He’s made stewed rabbit in a homemade clay pot the way an Elizabethean peasant would. He hasn’t tried field-mouse-on-a-stick (a popular Roman delicacy) but probably not for lack of trying. In this episode we discuss How Roman food reflected social rank, wealth, and sophistication The Middle Ages produced some of history’s most outlandish and theatrical presentations of food, such as gilded boars’ heads; “invented” creatures, mixing parts of different animals; and cooked peacocks spewing flames. The sophistication and complexity of Renaissance-era food culture in the writings of Platina, Ficino, and Messisbugo, and the extravagance of banquets at the court of Ferrara. The aesthetics of French 17th-century cookery, based in refinement and pureness of flavors and study four Gallic cookbooks that revolutionized culinary history. In the 21st century, the phenomenon of “molecular gastronomy”—technology-enhanced food creations designed to titillate and amaze the palate.
The Electoral College Isn't an Outdated 18th-Century Relic; It Keeps America From Falling Apart—Tara Ross
The Electoral college is one of the most confusing—and, after the 2016 election, contentious—parts of American democracy. After losing two of the past five presidential races in the Electoral College (EC), Democrats are determined to never let it happen again. And many Americans—on both the left and the right—find it to be a confusing and antiquated system we would do well to get rid of. But others think it's an indispensible part of American democracy. One of them is today's guest, Tara Ross, a legal scholar and author of The Indispensable Electoral College: How the Founders’ Plan Saves Our Country from Mob Rule. Tara argues the EC is neither outdated nor unfair—and the stability of the United States depends on it. She argues the Founding Fathers knew what they were doing. They ingeniously balanced the will of the majority and the interests of minorities, avoiding the instability that has bedeviled every other democracy. In this interview we discuss: Why the Electoral College safeguards national unity How the Electoral College prevents political crises in tight elections How the Founders came up with the Electoral College—and why they thought it was so important Why the Electoral Colege was meant to be more important than the popular vote Why the Electoral College doesn’t favor one party over the other Why the Electoral College is inappropriately—and incorrectly—labeled a “relic of slavery” ABOUT TARA ROSS Tara Ross has spent much of her legal career studying and defending the Electoral College. She is the author of two previous books, Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College and We Elect a President: The Story of Our Electoral College and her tutorial “Do You Understand the Electoral College?” is one of Prager University’s most popular videos ever, with more than fifty million views. She has written for the National Law Journal, USA Today, the Washington Times, National Review, and the Weekly Standard. RESOURCES FOR THIS EPISODE The Indispensable Electoral College: How the Founders' Plan Saves Our Country from Mob Rule Tara Ross's website
Arabic Numerals Took Over 600 Years To Spread Across the West
Western scholars first encountered "Arabic" numerals in the seventh century, making mathematics and accounting much easier. But Roman numerals stubbornly stuck around until the invention of the printing press made them permanently obsolete.
The Wars of the Roses were a series of battles that were fought between the supporters of the House of Lancaster (Lancastrians) and the supporters of the House of York (Yorkists). The wars were called the Wars of the Roses because the Yorkists were represented by a white rose and the Lancastrians by a red rose.
Richard Francis Burton—The Man Who Knew the Most Languages in History
Richard Francis Burton was an explorer, translator, and contender for the 19th-century's world's most interesting man. He was also functional in dozens of languages and translated monumental works of scholarship from Arabic and Portuguese in English.
The Scopes Monkey Trial, HL Mencken, and Religion in Public Life—Darryl Hart
If you’ve seen the 1960 Spencer Tracy movie Inherit the Wind, you know about the Scopes Monkey Trial. In this real-life 1925 case, John Scopes was accused of violating Tennessee’s Butler Act, which had made it unlawful to teach human evolution in any state-funded school. The case became an enormous media sensation. It was reported on like a boxing match, science vs. fundamentalism. But oddly enough, Scopes was not originally brought to trial by any fundamentalists. The trial was deliberately staged to attract publicity to the small town of Dayton, Tennessee, where it was held. Scopes was unsure whether he had ever actually taught evolution, but he purposely incriminated himself so that the case could have a defendant. In this episode Hillsdale Professor Darryl Hart discusses the Scopes Monkey Trial, the legal parameters of religion in American public life, and the larger-than-life figures of early 20th century America like HL Mencken.
The Reformation Happened 500 Years Ago, But It's More Timely Than Ever—Benjamin Wiker
Secularism, radical Islam, and nationalism all sound like buzzwords pulled straight from today’s headlines. But you might be surprised to know that 500 years ago they were at the epicenter of one of the greatest religious and political convulsions in western history—the Reformation. Today I talk with Prof. Bejamin Wiker, author of the new book The Reformation 500 Years Later: 12 Things You Need to Know. He brings to light the enduring relevance of one of the most significant events in history—and the surprising things about it you probably never learned in history class. We discuss... How Luther inspired radical reformers whom he actually despised How bad popes were even worse than you think Why nationalism was as much a force in the Reformation as religious reform was How the Catholic Church was in dire need of reform—and how it had benefited from continual reform over the course of its then 1,500-year history How the invention of the printing press both helped and harmed the Reformation Why another Reformation is inevitable—and what course it might take
How Did You Call the Police Before the Phone Was Invented?
Dialing 9-1-1 is a new innovation (at least in the sense of the scope of human history), but the need for emergency services goes back to the earliest settlements. How did a pre-modern civilization call for help when there were no phone lines?
All the Presidents Who Owned Slaves and How They Treated Them
A whole bunch of presidents owned slaves considering they took an oath to uphold the rights of their citizens. But how many of the pre-Civil War presidents actually owned slaves? And how did they treat them?
The Lives of Slaves, Heretics, Cave-Dwellers, and Other People Ancient History Never Tells You About—Robert Garland
The 19th-century historian Thomas Carlyle wrote, “The history of the world is but the biography of great men.” In a sense that's true. We have plenty of biographies of emperors, popes, kings, queens, and leaders of the ancient world. But what about those who made up 99.999% percent of the population and didn't have such illustrious lives? Professor Robert Garland has focused on the world of history’s anonymous citizens. We discuss daily life for workers, the poor, the elderly, the sick, the disabled, refugees, women, children, slaves, and soldiers. This includes a Greek soldier marching into battle in the front row of a phalanx. Or a Celtic monk scurrying away with the Book of Kells during a Viking invasion. Or celebrity-worshiping Romans who all had their favorite gladiatorial contender. For Garland, The true joy of studying everyday lives lies in seeing what life was like for ordinary people—and therefore what life would have been like for most of us if we had been born in a different era. Through archaeological evidence and literary records, we try to connect with a wide range of people over the ages and experience life from their perspectives. We see that although they lived in a different world, these people, loved, lost, fought, and died much like we do today. RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE Robert's course The Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient World Robert's faculty page at Colgate University
You can point to hundreds of factors that led to the decline and fall of the Roman Empire (which Edward Gibbon and many others have been doing for centuries). Decadence and frivolous entertainment are among the main culprits. But did bread and circuses really do in the Romans? TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Syriac-The Best Language for Conquering The Ancient World
If you were transported to the ancient world, there's only one language that could be used in Roman Briton and China alike. It was Syriac: the lingua franca of the Silk Road and your best language to learn to conquer the ancient world. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
As Imperial Spain transported literal tons of gold from the New World to the motherland, hurricanes sunk much of it to the bottom of the Atlantic. Find out about the most valuable treasure that is likely still out there. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Vikings left behind nearly no writings, except for Runic scripts on rocks. New burial site excavations show they also left them behind on their bodies. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Call of Duty: WW2's Historical Advisor Marty Morgan on Bringing the War to Life
Call of Duty is top best-selling first-person shooter series based on real events, but lately it has veered into futuristic sci-fi country. Call of Duty: World War II is an attempt to go back to the games WW2 roots. And historian Marty Morgan is there to make sure they get it right. He's an expert in military history who specializes in the World Wars. Morgan is a consultant for Sledgehammer Games. He has also has led hundreds of tour groups at the battle sites of D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge, and Hürtgen Forest. Marty makes sure that everything is right in the series. He focuses on which guns should be used on the Western Front or insignia on soldier's uniform. He makes sure that snipers are actually using the rifles they would have at that time (don't get him started on the erroneous use of weapons in Saving Private Ryan). He led Glen Schofield and Michael Condrey, co-founders of Sledgehammer, through the battlefields of Europe in the middle of winter to get a real feel of the soldiers' wartime experience. There they faced three or four feet of snow. There were still foxholes and trenches in the middle of nowhere. In the forest they saw a 60-ton King Tiger tank left by the Germans because it was too heavy to move. He worked with the creative team to give historical accuracy to the most Hollywood of scenes in the game. At point point the writers wanted a scene with a train. They asked Marty, 'What sort of train would be transporting important equipment in April 1944 that we could crumple?” He came up with a German military train carrying a V2 Rocket that ends in a climactic crash. RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE Marty Morgan on Youtube www.martinkamorgan.com TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
A wealthy man in the 1500s wore a large flap on the front of his trousers to accentuate his "credentials," which looked like an exterior athletic cup. How did this bizarre fashion trend take off, why did it end, and will it make a comeback? TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Why Almost No Medieval Peasant Cottages Survive Today
Archeological findings have led to breakthroughs in our understand of the Roman and ancient Near Eastern worlds, but little survives from the 500s-900s. Why weren't medieval buildings made to last? TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
How a Nikita Khruschev Mistranslation Threatened Nuclear War
When Nikita Khruschev pounded his shoe on a podium, declaring "We will bury you!" many feared imminent nuclear war. Turns out a better translation of his original Russian completely changes the meaning of the phrase TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Were there any British women who fell in love with German POWs living in England in the mid-1940s? Despite the extreme cultural taboo, the answer is yes. Love always finds a way. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Assassin's Creed's Resident Historian Maxime Durand on Mixing Fact with Fiction
Like it or not, far more millennials will learn about Renaissance and medieval history through Assassin's Creed than they ever will through a history book. That can be dispiriting on the one hand —the game, after all, seems like a completely ahistorical look on the Nizaris—or Assassin's as they are known in the West—and the knights Templar. Plenty of flipping and stabbing but little in the way of fact. But what if Ubisoft, the creators of Assassin's Creed, actually take their history very seriously? What if they are providing a truly mass-scale historical education? I figured if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. So I talked to Maxime Durand, Ubisoft's in-house historian. Maxime helps to ensure the accuracy of the gameplay and story around the historical events and aspects of that time period. The games have taken in Renaissance Italy, Constantinople, Revolutionary America, Revolutionary France, the pirate-infested Caribbean, and Ancient Egypt. He tries to give cameos to real historical figures, such as the French Revolution's Babriel Riqueti, the comte de Birabeau (he was seen as the father of the revolution but at the end it was proven he was talking to the king and queen in secret). But the game also takes liberties with the past in order to tell a give story and give it license to include folk legends. An example is the The Scarlet Pimpernel or the Little Red Ghost—a paranormal inhabitant of a palace where Napoleon was based. It was said that the ghost told every king and monarch -- even Napoleon -- that they would die at a certain point. The ghost said to them he would protect them up until the point of their death. Find out how fact and fiction merge together in this interview with Maxime Durand. RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE Assassin's Creed Maxime Durand TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
An inquisitor thirsty for a confession had plenty of medieval tools of torture at his disposal: the iron maiden, the judas cradle, the rack, or the brazen bull. Turns out many of these devices are fabrications from hundreds of years later made for museums that wanted to display the barbarism of the "Dark Ages." TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Learn about one of the most important events in modern Irish history. On Easter Monday, April 24, 1916, a group of Irish nationalists proclaimed the establishment of the Irish Republic. They, along with some 1,600 followers, staged a rebellion against the British government in Ireland. It all started at a modest post office in Dublin and led to a direct clash with British troops. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Misattributed Quotes—No, Mark Twain Didn't Say That
Thomas Jefferson once said you can't believe everything you read on the Internet. With those extremely true words in mind, let's look at other quotes that are widely believed to be authentic but totally false. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
In a remote forest clearing in Burgundy, France, a 13th-century castle is slowly being constructed using only the tools, techniques, and materials that would have been available to the builders of the day. It’s archaeology in reverse. What started out as an eccentric pipe dream is now an established enterprise, drawing in tens of thousands of visitors from around Europe every year. Learn what it took to build a castle in 13th-century France in this podcast episode. If you want to learn first-hand, go to Burgundy and check it out! TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Telling Japan’s Story in The Last Samurai, Letters From Iwo Jima, and Medal of Honor—Dan King
The Japanese military of World War Two has a nasty reputation—kamikaze pilots, baby killers, and brain-washed, honor-obsessed soldiers who threw away their lives for a lost cause. Parts of this reputation is earned but much of the stereotype has come out of World War Two films. Depicting WWII Japan fairly in film and television while humanizing its people isn't easy, but Dan King is up to the job. King is a WWII Pacific war historian who reads, writes and speaks Japanese. After returning to the US he worked on several dozen movies and historical documentaries as a technical advisor, historical & language consultant and re-enactment coordinator. He was the assistant military advisor for Tom Cruise's The Last Samurai (he had a cameo as a German officer), a researcher for Clint Eastwood's Letters From Iwo Jima/Flags Of Our Fathers, and technical consultant for Nicolas Cage's Windtalkers. His passion for the subject of the war in the Pacific has also led him to seek out over 250 Japanese WWII veterans and personally interview 97 of them, in their own language. He has also been interviewed on several radio programs and has spoken to hundreds of people about Japanese aviation. Dan King was also employed by EA GAMES as the WWII Japanese technical consultant for the worldwide best selling "Medal of Honor" video game series. His basic task was to provide information to the game creators in order to make the game as accurate as possible. This included providing examples of Japanese WWII uniforms and gear; infantry weapons; tanks, large guns, ships and aircraft; Japanese language supervision during VO recording; and battle tactics and hand signals. RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE Dan's Site Historical Consulting A Tomb Called Iwo Jima The Last Zero Fighter: Firsthand Accounts from WWII Japanese Naval Pilots TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Teddy Roosevelt’s Journey Through Uncharted Amazonian Jungle
Teddy Roosevelt was not afraid to tempt death. He hiked the Matterhorn during his honeymoon. He arrested outlaws on the Dakota Frontier. He hunted rhinos in Africa. But his most dangerous journey came after his failure in 1912 to retake the presidency as a third-party candidate on the Bull Moose ticket. He choose to shake off the blues in an extremely dangerous journey to South America. Roosevelt did not merely want a repeat of his African safari: a well-provisioned hunt to a foreign land that was little more than an exotic form of sight seeing. Roosevelt wanted to join the ranks of explorers who were pushing the boundaries of scientific knowledge: the arctic explorers discovering the Northwest passage or the African trekkers locating the source of the Nile River. His guide, the Brazilian explorer Col. Candido Rondon, suggested they survey the River of Doubt, an uncharted capillary of the Amazon that ran through treacherous terrain of the rainforest. Many told him the journey would end in his death. Ignoring the warnings of field naturalists with experience in the Amazon, Roosevelt said, “If it is necessary for me to leave my bones in South America, I am quite ready to do so.” Learn in this episode how he almost did. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
How Teddy Roosevelt Gave a 90-minute Speech After Being Shot
Theodore Roosevelt was hell bent on becoming president in 1912. He ran as a third-party candidate for the Progressive Party, a splinter group of Republicans dissatisfied with William Howard Taft. He was so committed to winning that he gave a 90-minute speech…immediately after being shot in the chest by a would-be assassin. How did he do it without passing out? What did his audience think as he bled out before their eyes? TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Perhaps no president has as many unbelievable stories about his life than Teddy Roosevelt. He was an amateur boxer. He was the first American politician to learn judo. He summited the Matterhorn during his honeymoon. He joined an expedition to log data about an unchartered river in the Amazon. But perhaps no story matches his pursuit of three boat thieves in the Dakotas in the 1880s. Learn how Roosevelt travelled 300 miles in the bitter cold to arrest three thieves… all to prove to other ranches that he wasn’t a week Easterner who came out to to the frontier to play cowboy. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Nothing supports the Prohibition movement like a hatchet-wielding radical ready to smash in a Midwestern saloon. Carrie Amelia Nation would know. She made a career out of physical assaulting the alcohol industry in the years before Prohibition (1920). TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Discovering Embarrassing Family Secrets and Famous Third Cousins with Genealogist Crista Cowan From Ancestry.com
Shake a family tree long enough and something embarrassing secret is sure to drop out: a felon uncle here, an illegitimate nephew there, a grandfather arrested for indecent exposure there. Genealogy can reveal all sorts of unexpected surprises. But it can also help you find second and third cousins that you didn't know were famous. To talk about the wonders of genealogy and how to do it right is Crista Cowan. Crista is the corporate genealogist for Ancestry.com. She was the indexing manager for the company and helped them archive more than 17 billion records. She has found records in libraries, archives, and courthouses. Recently she has used DNA as a powerful tool to locate and connect biological family members. Crista has been involved in family history research for more than 25 years and has been a professional genealogist since 2002. She specializes in descendancy research, Jewish Immigration, and sharing family history with the genealogically challenged. Crista regularly teaches Family History classes at her local LDS Family History Center and at conferences and genealogy societies around the country. She has been employed at Ancestry.com since 2004 and is known as The Barefoot Genealogist. RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE Crista's Youtube Series: The Barefoot Genealogist TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Why Does American Give Automatic Birthright Citizenship?
Anyone born on American soil gets automatic citizenship. This isn't true in the rest of the world. Few other nations in the world practice jus soli (right of the soil). Rather, your parents have to be citizens. Why is this the case? It has to do with New World senses of identity and belonging. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
What Was It Like To Be Enrolled at the University of Constantinople?
The Pandidakterion (University of Constantinople) was the empire's imperial school. It can trace its origins to 425 AD to Emperor Theodosius II. Learn what it was like to be enrolled in the ancient world's premier "university." TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
The first death of the Cold War quickly became an anti-communist icon and symbol of the American far right from the 1950s onward. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
George Washington Wasn’t the First President. He Was the Ninth
George Washington was the First President of the United States. This is the most basic fact that an American school child can learn. Only it isn't true. He wasn’t the first. Nor the second. He was actually the ninth president of the United States. How can that be? It all has to do with the ad hoc, make-it-up-as-you-go nature of the United States government between the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the signing of the Constitution in 1789. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Anthony Esolen on Translating Dante’s Divine Comedy and Dan Brown’s Supercilious Stupidity
‘Dante and Shakespeare divide the modern world between them: there is no third’ —T.S Elliot The most towering epic poem in Western literature, save perhaps the works of Homer, is Dante's Divine Comedy. In this episode we are going to talk about the history of the poem, how it was understood across the centuries, and what it has to say to 21st man today. And our guest is perhaps the most qualified person on the planet to do so. Anthony Esolen is a literature professor and Dante scholar who released an acclaimed translation of Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise. He has been praised for marrying sense with sound, poetry with meaning, capturing both the poem’s line-by-line vigor and its allegorically and philosophically exacting structure. In our interview we discuss Esolen's translation decision to ditch systematic line-by-line rhyming in favor of blank verse to retain the poem's original “meaning and music,” why Dan Brown's Inferno is so transcendentally terrible a book, and what Dante has to say to a modern world that has exchanged an authentic culture for mindless mass entertainment. ABOUT ANTHONY ESOLEN Anthony Esolen is a professor of English Renaissance and classical literature, a writer, social commentator, and translator of classical poetry. He has taught at the university level for decades and joined Thomas More College of Liberal Arts this fall. Besides Dante, he has translated Lucretius' On the Nature of Things, and Torquato Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered. Along with his academic work he has written more than 500 articles forThe Claremont Review of Books, First Things, and Touchstone magazine. RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE Anthony Esolen's translation of Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise “Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture” “Dan Brown's Infernal Fiction” TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Christopher Columbus Wasn’t as Good—Or as Terrible—As You Think
Depending on which account you hear, Columbus was either the bravest explorer of the early Renaissance or a mass murdered who subjected the indigenous population of the new world to death or slavery. Learn in this episode how Columbus was both and neither of these descriptions. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
How the 1565 Siege of Malta Led to the Golden Age of Piracy
The Knights Hospitaller were kicked out of Jerusalem following the Third Crusade, but they found a new home on the Mediterranean island of Malta. Their defense fortifications were so strong that nobody could invade, not even the might Ottoman navy in the late 16th century. Learn how this warrior order helped piracy thrive in the Eastern Mediterranean. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Marco Polo is the most famous European explorer to the Far East, but he definitely wasn’t the first. His father and uncle came there years before. And they found a small colony of Europeans who lived permanently in China. Perhaps the most famous pre-Polo European in the Far East is William of Rubruck. This plucky monk did his best to convert the Great Khan to Christianity. He made his effort by debating Muslims and Buddhists as to which religion was the true one. See how that turns out in today's episode. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Damascus swords, which were generally made in the Middle East anywhere from 540 A.D. to 1800 A.D., were sharper, more flexible and harder/stronger than other contemporary blades. According to legend, the blades can cut a piece of silk in half as it falls to the ground and maintain their edge after cleaving through stone, metal, or even other swords. However nobody knew exactly how it had been produced, and the last Damascus Steel had been produced in the early 1800s. How was the technology lost? TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Alexander Hamilton’s Broadway Musical is Great, but Brion McClanahan Thinks He Screwed Up America
He’s the subject of a hit Broadway musical, the face on the ten-dollar bill, and one of the most popular Founding Fathers. But what do you really know about Alexander Hamilton? In this interview with author and historian Brion McClanahan, he argues that Hamilton was no American hero. Brion says that America’s beloved Hamilton actually spent most of his life working to make sure citizens and states could not hold the federal government accountable. His policies set a path for presidents to launch secret and illegal wars, and he wanted to make sure American citizens couldn’t do a thing to stop the government’s overreach. Hamilton was a duplicitous man whose personality and ambition led to an America and a Constitution at odds with the one he publicly supported in 1788 and that the American public bought as a result. RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE How Alexander Hamilton Screwed Up America Brion's website TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Timur the Tatar’s Revenge on Bayezit—When an Emperor Literally Made a Sultan His Footstool
One of the most chilling stories of revenge is Timur the Tatar's defeat of Ottoman Sultan Bayezit and literally making him his footstool. The humiliation likely led to his death. Learn about the clash of these two Middle East titans and what drove Timur to pursue revenge so ruthlessly. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
A Revolutionary-Era Soldier Fights a Modern One Hand-to-Hand. Who Wins?
If we were to have a battle royale with American soldiers from its different eras all duke it out, who would win? Would a Revolutionary-era soldier win due to his scrappy toughness, or would the modern soldier win with his superior training? Let's take a stab at this question (pun intended). TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
We’ve all done it in moments of anger. But why do we use our middle finger to express anger? And why do we call it “the bird.” Suggestions range from The Battle of Agincourt in 1415 to Ancient Rome. We find out the history everyone’s favorite one-finger salute in this episode. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Why the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and the Norman Conquest of England Changed Everything—Jennifer Paxton
If you were to ask a scholar about one critical moment after which the history of the English-speaking world would never be the same again, it would undoubtedly be the year 1066. I know that because I asked Prof. Jennifer Paxton of the Catholic University of America this very question. She chose that year because during this pivotal time an event occurred that would have untold ramifications for the European continent: the Norman Conquest of England. This year matters deeply for two key reasons. It turned England away from a former Scandinavian orientation toward an orientation with mainland Europe, making the island nation a major player in Europe's political, social, cultural, and religious events. It created a rich hybrid between English and French culture that had a profound impact on everything from language and literature to architecture and law. In our discussion we talk about a world of fierce Viking warriors, powerful noble families, politically charged marriages, tense succession crises, epic military invasions, and much more. But it was the Battle of Hastings in 1066 that forever enshrined in the pages of history the name of William the Conqueror, whose military and political prowess made the Norman Conquest a success. After that England was never the same. RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE Jennifer Paxton's Great Courses history course:—1066: The Year That Changed Everything ABOUT JENNIFER PAXTON, PHD Dr. Jennifer Paxton is Director of the University Honors Program and Clinical Assistant Professor of History at The Catholic University of America. The holder of a doctorate in history from Harvard University, Professor Paxton is both a widely published award-winning writer and a highly regarded scholar. Professor Paxton's research focuses on England from the reign of King Alfred to the late 12th century, particularly the intersection between the authority of church and state and the representation of the past in historical texts, especially those produced by religious communities. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Samurai were the military nobility and officer cast of feudal Japan, serving an important role of social stability until their functions ceased in the 19th century. But what did a samurai exactly do every day? Did he roam the countryside, looking to engage in a duel? Or was his life much more mundane than that? TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
You’ve seen the look in historical dramas. You laughed at the foppish dandies that appear on Masterpiece Theater. In grade school you sneered at pictures of King George with his powdered wig, adjusting it ever so slightly while drinking a cup of tea with his pinky finger extended, wondering how he further extort colonists with new taxes. You didn’t know that we call important people “bigwig” due to the aristocracy tradition of fancy wigs. But where does the powdered wig come from? Why was such a peculiar look the sign of nobility in England during the 1500s-1700s? It all has to do with syphilis, head lice, the shame of male-pattern baldness, and the fashion tastes of Louis XIV. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
The goal of this podcast is to answer any question that you have about history... and I mean anything. To prove it, I am answering a question from a listener named Raj about who had the worst flatulence in history. I hope this episode is very educational. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Constantinople’s Walls—The Strongest Fortress Ever Built
There are many contenders for the strongest fortress in history (Malumat in Iran or the island fortifications of Malta to name a few). But nothing can compare to the Theodosian City Walls of Constantinople. Built in 440 AD, they repelled over a dozen invasions, from Atilla the Hun to the Umayyad Caliphate to the Avars to the Russians. And they allowed Constantinople to develop into one of the richest cities of the ancient world. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
How Religion Has Influenced Politics Across History, From Ancient Sumeria to the 21st Century—Paul Rahe
In our interview, Prof. Paul Rahe says that a liberal democracy that guarantees the rights of all citizens needs the guarantee that no one religion is established as the official state belief system. At the same time, if a society doesn't have some sort of transcendent belief system, then politics will rush to fill the void left by religion (or any sort of communal belief) and metastasize into fascism or totalitarianism. We start with the relationship between religion and the political community in the pagan world – Sumeria, Akkad, Babylonia, the Hittite Empire, ancient Persia, Greece, and Rome. Then, we discuss how Christianity changed everything. For three centuries, it was independent of the political community and, in a sense, in opposition. Then, it became entangled with the political community under Constantine and, instead of being persecuted, it did the persecution. To this one can add that as a religion of faith it quite naturally gave rise to quarrels over doctrine, that these were bitter in late Antiquity, and that there was a second round of bitterness in the wake of the Reformation. The modern separation of church and state is a response to the violence that erupted, and it is a remarkable experiment. Finally, Rahe discusses Islam – which is a religion of holy law different in its ambitions from (orthodox) Judaism which is also a religion of holy law. Put simply, insofar as it is center on shari’a, Islam is ineluctably political – which means that it cannot easily be privatized. RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE Free Hillsdale Online Course—Public Policy from a Constitutional Viewpoint American Heritage—From Colonial Settlement to the Current Day TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
The humble potato has done more for Old World peasants than any other food. Famine plagued the lower class from time immemorial. But once the potato was introduced to Europe in the 1500s and widely planted in the 1700s, it nearly wiped out malnutrition. Learn why this tuber is the hero of the modern age. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
When Churchill Experimented with Chemical Weapons—Giles Milton of the Unknown History Podcast
Winston Churchill is consistently ranked as the greatest leader in British History. But like any complex historical figure, he has his dark side. Most notoriously, but least well known, is his interest in chemical weapons. “If it is fair war for an Afghan to shoot down a British soldier behind a rock and cut him in pieces as he lies wounded on the ground, why is it not fair for a British artilleryman to fire a shell which makes the said native sneeze? It is really too silly.” —WSC, 1919 Churchill favored and/or used “poison gas” from World War I through World War II, notably on the Indians and Bolsheviks in 1919, and the Iraqis in the 1920s. What’s more, he wanted to “drench” German cities with gas in 1943. To discuss this issue in greater depth with us is Giles Milton. He is the host of the History Unknown Podcast and author of “The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare”: a book about a secret inner circle within the British government that planned all of the most audacious sabotage attacks of the Second World War. RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE www.gilesmilton.com Unknown History Podcast ABOUT GILES Giles Milton is the internationally best-selling author of nine works of popular history, including Nathaniel’s Nutmeg. His books have been translated into more than twenty languages and have been serialized on both the BBC and in British newspapers. The Times described Milton as being able ‘to take an event from history and make it come alive’, while The New York Times said that Milton’s ‘prodigious research yields an entertaining, richly informative look at the past. Giles Milton's latest book, The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, became a Sunday Times bestseller in the first week of publication. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Dan Carlin of Hardcore History on Why the German Military Was Better in WW1 Than WW2
I was honored on this episode to interview Dan Carlin, whose podcast Hardcore History is the biggest history podcast in existence. It regularly features shows of 5-6 hours in length covering everything from the Mongol invasions to doomsday prophets of the Reformation. I met up with Dan at the Podcast Movement conference in August 2017. Since he had a six-part series on World War 1 (Blueprint for Armageddon), I wanted to ask Dan about a comment he made in the podcast, that Germany's army in World War 1 was superior to its army in World War 2. He elaborated in this episode, and as always, brings the goods. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Everyone's favorite code (it's not a language) has quite a storied history. Learn how Pig Latin became the fastest, most convenient way to sound intelligent when you didn't know any ancient languages. It goes back to Shakespeare, like much does, but Pig Latin as a concept can be found in languages across the world. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Richard Nixon left the White House over 40 years ago, yet he remains embedded in American pop culture like no other ex-president. He was the body-less leader of Earth in Futurama, the five-time president in Alan Moore's Watchmen, and arguably the most awkward guest star in Laugh-In's history. Part of the reason is that he is thought to represent America's political id: the dark, paranoid side of politics that keeps an enemies list and never forgives. After all, Watergate was the biggest political scandal of the 20th century, leading to the only presidential resignation in American history. But what if Nixon was innocent? That's exactly the point that today's guest, Geoff Shepard, argues. He was not an outsider to Watergate: Shepard joined John Ehrlichman’s Domestic Council staff at the Nixon White House, where he served for five years, first as a staff assistant and ultimately as associate director. He also worked on President Nixon’s Watergate defense team, where he was principal deputy to the President’s lead lawyer, J. Fred Buzhardt. In that capacity, he helped transcribe the White House tapes —which run 3,400 hours—ran the document rooms holding the seized files of H. R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman and John Dean, and staffed White House counselors Bryce Harlow and Dean Birch. Working from internal documents he recently uncovered at the National Archives, Shepard exposes what he calls judicial and prosecutorial misconduct that has remained hidden for four decades with his book, “The Real Watergate Scandal: Collusion, Conspiracy, and the Plot That Brought Nixon Down.” He describes it as the following: an aging judge about to step down. Aggressive prosecutors friendly with the judge. A disgraced president. A nation that had already made up its mind. The Watergate trials were a legal mess—and now, with the discovery of new documents that reveal what he calls shocking misconduct by prosecutors and judges alike, Shepard says the wrongdoing of these history-making trials was actually a bigger scandal than the Watergate scandal itself. RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE The Real Watergate Scandal: Collusion, Conspiracy, and the Plot That Brought Nixon Down Geoff Shepard's website TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
How Was Alexander Able to Supply His Army Deep Into Asia?
It's one thing to conquer the known world and beyond without the benefit of modern communications like Alexander the Great did. It's another thing to supply tens of thousands of soldiers deep into hostile territory when home is half a world away. How did Alexander manage to provision his army, and how did he do so for over a decade? TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Daily Life During the Civil War for Non-Combatants
More soldiers died in the Civil War than any other American conflict. But how did non-combatants fare? It depends on where you were and your life station. A northerner may barely know a war was going on at all if he did not read the newspaper or supply the foodstuffs to the Union army. But he definitely would if he lived in Missouri—claimed by both the Union and the Confederacy—and was subject to frequent guerilla attacks. A southerner would face impoverishment, the collapse of the regional economy, a flood of refugees, and see whole cotton crops rot. And it only got worse as the war got underway. Learn about everyday life for civilians during the Civil War in this episode. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Gutenberg’s moveable type printing press was the prime mover of the Renaissance. From his machine came millions of books, leading to the democratization of knowledge, the fall of the papacy, and the rise of reason. But what if this wasn’t Gutenberg’s goal? What if he was a happy client of the papacy? What if he worked directly with the medieval church to sell indulgences? Turns out he did. Learn more in this episode. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
The Allied Forces hoped the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki would finally convince Imperial Japan to end the war. If not, they were prepared to launch Operation Downfall—the proposed plan for the invasion of Japan in November of 1945 and the spring of 1946. If Downfall had taken place, it would have been the largest amphibious operation in history. It also would have meant millions of Japanese and Allied casualties from gunfire, bombings, and suicide attacks. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun, and the Barbarian Empires of the Steppe—Kenneth Harl
Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan loom large in Western popular consciousness as two of history’s most fearsome warrior-leaders. Chroniclers referred to them as “The Scourge of God” and “Universal Lord” both fascinate and repel. But few people today are aware of their place in a succession of nomadic warriors who used campaigns of terror to sweep across the Eurasian steppes. They toppled empires and seizing control of civilizations. Today Professor Kenneth Harl joins us to talk about the effects of these steppe empires on world civilization. From antiquity through the Middle Ages, nomadic warriors repeatedly emerged from the steppes, exerting direct and indirect pressure on sedentary populations and causing a domino effect of displacement and cultural exchange. Dr. Harl and I discuss these turning points in history set into motion by steppe nomads: The fall of the Roman Empire can be blamed at least in part on the Huns. Christians of Asia Minor converted to Islam after the clergy fled the nomadic Turks. The Mongol sack of Baghdad destroyed the city and its role in the Muslim world. China’s modern-day Great Wall was constructed in response to the humiliation of Mongol rule. The spread of Buddhism and trade followed the Silk Road, which allowed cultural exchange between nomads and settled zones across Eurasia. Russia’s preemptive expansion into the northern regions was a reaction to the horror of being conquered by Mongols. RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE Kenneth's course “The Barbarian Empires of the Steppes” ABOUT KENNETH HARL Dr. Kenneth W. Harl is Professor of Classical and Byzantine History at Tulane University in New Orleans, where he teaches courses in Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Crusader history. He earned his B.A. from Trinity College and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Yale University. An expert on classical Anatolia, he has taken students with him into the field on excursions and to assist in excavations of Hellenistic and Roman sites in Turkey. Professor Harl has also published a wide variety of articles and books, including his current work on coins unearthed in an excavation of Gordion, Turkey, and a new book on Rome and her Iranian foes. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Why the Galileo Affair is Completely Misunderstood
There are few episodes in history that are so misunderstood as the condemnation of Galileo. His trial has become a stock argument to show the fundamental clash between science and dogmatism. Turns out the whole affair was actually a giant clash of egos, with churchmen and scientists on both sides of the argument. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
According to legends of the Middle Ages, knights used the chastity belt on their wives as an anti-temptation device before embarking on the Crusades. When the knight left for the Holy Lands, his Lady would wear a chastity belt to preserve her faithfulness to him. The metal teeth that surrounded her "credentials" would also tear to shreds the member of any would-be seducer. However, there is no reliable evidence that chastity belts existed before the 15th century. Any reference to them is likely symbolic or a satirical drawing. No actual medieval chastity belt survives, and those that appear in museums are forgeries. Were they ever in use at all? If not, how did the legend appear? TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Why is Louis Such a Popular Name for French Kings?
If you want to be a French king who is also named Louis, then you have to slap enough Roman numerals at the end of your name to look like an encrypted message. Why are so many French kings named Louis? What significance does the name have for the French people? TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Did People in the Past Get 8 Hours of Sleep a Night?
Doctors love to say that eight hours of nightly rest is vital to good health. But did people in the past get this much sleep, more, or less? And how did the lack of a lightbulb affect their sleep cycles. Turns out quite a bit. People actually hit the hay very early and woke up a few hours each night—sort of a reverse midnight siesta. Important cultural activity took place during this time, including scheduled prayers, visits to neighbors, and doctors orders that children be conceived at this time. Learn more about how your ancestors slept, or didn't sleep. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
The Real-Life Pirates of the Caribbean—Matt Albers from The Pirate History Podcast
Pirates are popular these days: they adorn our favorite brands of bargain-basement rum and populate beloved Disneyland rides and multibillion-dollar film franchises. But who were these men and women who actually inhabited the Caribbean of the 1700s and made a living preying off trade vessels? How much of the myth of piracy is based on fact? And how much high seas adventure, myth and magic, voodoo, and treachery were there? Joining us to discuss these topics is Matt Albers, host of the Pirate History Podcast. We will talk about the golden age of piracy and the real men and women that threatened the trade and stability of the Old World empires, the forces that led them to piracy and the myths and stories they inspired. Famous names that come up include Captain Henry Morgan, Henry Avery, Charles Vane, Mary Reed, Anne Bonny, Black Bart Roberts, Ned Low, and Edward 'Blackbeard' Teach. They rub elbows with Queens, Kings, Popes, rebellious monks, Caribbean Natives, African Slaves and notorious governors like Woodes Rogers. RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE The Pirate History Podcast Matt on Twitter (@blackflagcast) TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Would You Rather Be An Average Person Today or a Billionaire 100 Years Ago?
It's good to be as rich as a Rockefeller. John—the patriarch of the family—rose from a lowly Ohioan bookkeeper to the leader of Standard Oil, which owned 90 percent of America's petroleum until it was broken up by the Sherman Anti-Trust Act in 1911. He was the world's first billionaire, owning mansions in New York, Florida, and Ohio, along with several golf golf courses. But was all that money really all that great without modern conveniences? Let's look in to the conveniences of an ultra-wealthy man 100 years ago and see how they compare to an average person today. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Why Wasn’t There a Scientific Revolution Under the Romans?
Scientific progress has moved steadily forward across much of the world for centuries, with few examples of abatement. The Scientific Revolution is often considered to have begun at Copernicus's 1543 publication of On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres. Here moderns challenged the ideas of ancient scholars, rather than accepting them at face value. Most fault the so-called Dark Ages for this millenium-long lull in human intellectual progress lasting from the fall of Rome to the Renaissance. But why didn't Rome kick off the age of scientific discovery? What did they lack that the early modern world had? TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
This episode is fifth in our Alternate History Week series, where I look at famous books of alternate history and discuss why I think their alternate timelines aren't plausible. The Man in the High Castle is Phillip K. Dick's most chilling book and the most famous example of alternate history. It's set in 1962, fifteen years after the Axis Powers emerge triumphant in World War Two and rule over the former United States. Germany and Japan were victors in the war and divide the world between themselves. The book is fantastic, but I don't see any scenario in which Germany and Japan could control a post-war world. In fact, I don't see how the Axis had any chances of winning the war, short of an alien invasion. I explain why in this episode. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
If I Were Sent Back in Time to the Roman Empire, How Would I Take Over?
This episode is fourth in our Alternate History Week series, where I look at famous books of alternate history and discuss why I think their alternate timelines aren't plausible. Lest Darkness Fall, written in 1939 by L. Sprague de Camp, is one of the classics of the alternate history genre. American archeologist Martin Padway gets sent back to Rome in 535 AD. He introduces new technology to the Italo-Ostrogothic kingdom, such as the telegraph, printing press, and brandy; wards off a Byzantine attack; introduces a constitution; and emancipates the serfs. Great story. It would never work. In this episode I explain why. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
A Vietnam POW’s Story of 6 Years in the Hanoi Hilton — Amy Shively Hawk
A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic. -Joseph Stalin When consider major historical events that involved millions of people— World War 2, the Great Depression, the Cold War—it's easy to forget that real people with their own stories were part of those events. Today we're zeroing in on one story. And that's the story of James Shively, an Air Force Pilot who was shot down over North Vietnam in 1967 and spent six years in the infamous Hanoi Hilton POW camp. To talk with us is Amy Shively Hawk, Jim's stepdaughter and author of the new book Six Years in the Hanoi Hilton: An Extraordinary Story of Courage and Survival in Vietnam. After being shot down, Shively endured brutal treatment at the hands of the enemy in Hanoi prison camps. But despite unimaginable horrors in prison, the contemplation of suicide, and his beloved girlfriend moving on back home, he somehow found hope escaping prison and eventually reuniting with his long-lost love – proving, in his words, that “Life is only what you make of it.” In this interview we discuss: How Capt. Shively was shot down, what happened when he was captured, and his fate at the hands of Vietnamese villagers What kept Captain Shively hopeful during his six years as a prisoner of war What happened to the whole prison when two fellow inmates escaped but were captured the next day How prisoners built a full prison communications system using Morse code, toilet paper, and hidden messages even though cell blocks were forbidden from speaking to each other under threat of torture About Amy: Amy Shively Hawk is the stepdaughter of James Shively, who married Amy’s mother after his release from a Hanoi prison when Amy was five years old. Amy’s background is in journalism, speaking, and advertising/marketing. RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE Amy's book Six Years in the Hanoi Hilton Amy's website Headstrong: Healing the Hidden Wounds of War TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
This episode is third in our Alternate History Week series, where I look at famous books of alternate history and discuss why I think their alternate timelines aren't plausible. Today's book is Harry Turtledove's wonderful book Agent of Byzantium. In this book, Turtledove imagines that the Prophet Muhammed, instead of developing Islam, converted to Christianity and became a celebrated prelate and saint. Without the Muslim conquests, the Eastern Roman Empire remained the pre-eminent power in the Mediterranean and remains locked in a centuries-long cold war with Zoroastrian Persia to the East. I don't think Persia would have remained Zoroastrian that long. I explain why in this episode. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
This episode is second in our Alternate History Week series, where I look at famous books of alternate history and discuss why I think their alternate timelines aren't plausible. Today's book is Kim Stanley Robinson's 2002 book The Years of Rice and Salt. It explores how world history would have developed if the Black Death had killed 99 percent of Europe's population, with the Islamic world, the Chinese, and American Indians filling in the void. One section discusses China discovering and colonizing the New World. Here's why I think China would have never done so. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Could One Marine Corps MEU Destroy the Entire Roman Army?
This episode is the first of a five-part series in our Alternate History Week—our version of Shark Week, if you will. We are looking at famous books of alternate history, and I'm discussing why I think their alternate timelines aren't plausible. The first book in this series is 1632. Eric Flint's book imagines that a West Virginia town gets sent back to 1632 Germany, during the Thirty Years War, and gradually comes to dominate European politics of the age. I'm going to twist the premise of this book—a small group of technologically advanced soldiers conquers a much larger force—and discuss the question of whether a Marine Corps MEU take out the Roman military. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
The Bronze Age Collapse of 1177 BC: The Most Catastrophic Event in History
There was an event in history worse than World War I, worse than the Mongol invasions that killed 40 million, worse than the little Ice Age that triggered famines and rebellions across the medieval world. This event was the "Dark Ages before the Dark Ages." It was the Bronze Age Collapse of 1177 BC, and it was so monumental that it inspired Homer’s ‘The Iliad’ TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Since the 1950s, many classicists and military historians have believed that an ancient Roman bloodline lives on in a Chinese village. The town of Liqian sits on the edge of the Gobi desert, and 4,500 miles from Rome. They have tried to prove that the ruddy-skinned, light-eyed, and fair-haired residents of Liqian are lost relatives of a missing Roman battalion of mercenaries that fought against the Chinese 2,000 years ago. Let's look into this theory and see if a piece of Rome still lives on in China. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Thomas Cahill argues in his best-selling book How the Irish Saved Civilization that Ireland played a critical role in Europe's evolution from the classical age of Rome to the medieval era. Is his narrative correct? Without Ireland, he argues, the transition could not have taken place. Not only did Irish monks and scribes maintain the very record of Western civilization -- copying manuscripts of Greek and Latin writers, both pagan and Christian, while libraries and learning on the continent were forever lost -- they brought their uniquely Irish world-view to the task. Let's discuss how Ireland gave more to the modern world than Guinness and Bono. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Rome and China were the two poles of the Silk Road. One sent precious porcelain, spices, and silks, the other sent out glassware and high-quality cloth. As Rome expanded into the Near East and China into Central Asia, did the two empires learn much of each other? Furthermore, did the two empires ever attempt direct contact? TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Americana: The Brazilian City Where the Confederacy Lives On
The United States has accepted immigrants throughout its history, but America has its emigrants as well. Did you know there is a city in Brazil founded by Confederates who wanted to flee the U.S. during Reconstruction? Welcome to Americana, Brazil. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Curtis Lemay: World War II’s Greatest Hero or Worst War Criminal?—Warren Kozak
General Curtis LeMay is perhaps the most misunderstood general of the 20th century, despite the fact that he played a major role in so many important military events of the last century: he turned the air war in Europe from a dismal failure to a great success, he helped defeat Japan without a costly land invasion, he commanded the start of Berlin Air Lift, and he was on the Joint Chiefs during the Cuban Missile Crisis. However, the LeMay legacy that has survived into the 21st century paints LeMay as a crude, trigger-happy, cigar-chomping general who joined political forces with one of the most famous racists in American history, George Wallace. Today's guest Warren Kozak argues that Lemay was an overlooked general who made the difficult but necessary decisions that eventually helped the United States win World War II and the Cold War, as well as strengthen our military forces when we needed them most. LeMay is most often remembered for two minor marks in his life: a statement he did not actually make (about bombing North Vietnam back to the Stone Age) and a brief political affiliation with George Wallace despite their deep disagreements over racial politics. Unfortunately, these parts of Curtis LeMay’s life have overshadowed many more years of military success. According to Kozak, these accomplishments include: LeMay devised the plan to use incendiary bombs over Japan that, while killing hundreds of thousands, saved millions from an impending ground invasion of Japan LeMay turned the air war over Europe around and he was the only general to lead his troops, insisting on flying the lead bomber on every dangerous mission. He championed the creation of an independent Air Force, as well as the improvement of American military planes He turned the Strategic Air Command from a dismal failure into the deadliest fighting force in history RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE Curtis LeMay: Strategist and Tactician ABOUT WARREN Warren Kozak is an author and journalist who has written for television’s most respected news anchors. Winner of the prestigious Benton Fellowship at the University of Chicago in 1993, he was an on-air reporter for NPR and his work has appeared on PBS and in the Washington Post, the New York Sun and The Wall Street Journal as well as other newspapers and magazines. Warren Kozak was born and raised in Wisconsin and lives in New York City with his wife and daughter. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
If the Moon Landings Weren’t Fake, Why Haven’t We Been Back?
Conspiracy theorists have many "reasons" for why we've never been to the moon: the Van Allen radiation belts are too deadly, the challenges are too difficult, re-entry into the atmosphere is too hot. But Jason Funk, who asked today's question, points out that the cranks have at least one point—if we did go to the moon in 1960s, why haven't we been back after five decades of technological evolution? Good question. Let's dive in. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
An Interview With Jerry Yellin, the 93-Year-Old Vet Who Flew WW2’s Last Combat Mission
I had the extraordinary pleasure to talk with Captain Jerry Yellin, a 93-year-old World War Two vet who flew the final combat mission in World War Two's Pacific Theatre. Yellin piloted for the 78th Fighter Squadron and was part of the 1945 bombing campaigns that ultimately triggered Japan's surrender. From April to August of 1945, Yellin and a small group of fellow fighter pilots flew dangerous bombing and strafe missions out of Iwo Jima over Japan. Even days after America dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima on August 6 and Nagasaki on August 9, the pilots continued to fly. Though Japan had suffered unimaginable devastation, the emperor still refused to surrender. Nine days after Hiroshima, on the morning of August 14th, Yellin and his wingman 1st Lieutenant Phillip Schlamberg took off from Iwo Jima to bomb Tokyo. By the time Yellin returned to Iwo Jima, the war was officially over—but his young friend Schlamberg would never get to hear the news. Yellin joined the war efforts when he was 19 and jumped directly into action. The stench of death, the rain of bullets, and the minute-to-minute fight for survival faced young Captain Jerry Yellin when he landed on Iwo Jima in in 1945. Little did Capt. Yellin know that his life would be turned upside down during a routine flight, which turned out to be the last combat mission of WWII. Flanked by his devoted comrades, Yellin was a flight leader in the final fight for freedom—a mission that will forever leave its mark on the history of the world. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Being a Roman isn't easy. Running an intercontinental empire across hundreds of languages, customs, and ethnic groups without the benefit of telegraphs or steam power requires constant vigilance or the whole enterprise will fall apart. Let's look at the Roman borderland's with Persia to see what life was like on the periphery of the empire. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Did you know that over 400,000 German POWs were settled in the United States during World War II? Did you know that they may have built some of the stone buildings that make up your town square? Or that they were responsible for bringing in America’s harvest in the fall of 1945 when most men were still off to war? Learn about this fascinating but understudied part of America’s history. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
How Emperor Justinian Changed the World—Robin Pierson from The History of Byzantium Podcast
Justinian I of Byzantium is among the most towering figure of the ancient and medieval periods. His innovations in governance, architecture, law, and welding together religion with imperial power were blueprints of governance for the next thousand years of kings and emperors. He rose to imperial power in 527 AD and reacquired Roman lands in Europe that were lost a century ago to Vandal and Ostrogothic invasions. He removed the rotting branches of his administration, replacing bureaucrats from the aristocracy with independent counselors.Justinian also rewrote the Roman law, the Corpus Juris Civilis. He gathered together legal commentaries and laws of the Roman legal system into a single text that would hold the force of law. It was composed in Latin and is still the basis of civil law in many of the empire's descendant states. To talk with us about how Justinian changed the world is Robin Pierson, host of the History of Byzantium Podcast. Here are five parts of history that Justinian irrevocably changed: Laws Hagia Sophia Christianizing culture Slavs Islam ABOUT ROBIN PIERSON Robin Pierson is from London in the UK. He writes about American TV shows at thetvcritic.org and works for his father (an actor). Robin created the show to continue the narrative established by Mike Duncan’s wonderful podcast “The History of Rome.” He uses the structure of half-hour instalments told from a state-centric perspective. He pauses the narrative at the end of each century to take time to cover wider issues to do with Byzantium RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE The History of Byzantium: A podcast telling the story of the Roman Empire from 476 AD to 1453
Like much of the United States, Texas has a large popular whose ancestors originated in Germany. But Texas takes it a step further. In the 1840s a massive immigration of Germans arrived when the Adelsverein (The Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas) organized at Biebrich on the Rhine near Mainz. It assisted thousands in coming to Central Texas and establishing such settlements as New Braunfels and Fredericksburg. So many arrived that Texas practically became an outpost of Germany. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Did America Switch from Tea to Coffee Due to the Boston Tea Party?
In mid-December 1773 a force of colonists, dressed up as Mohawk Indians, boarded the three boats and dumped 342 chests of tea into the Boston Harbor. The protest later became known as the Boston Tea Party, but many historians (and coffee afficionados) believe it also sparked an anti-tea (read anti-British) sentiment in the colonies. John Adams wrote to Abigail on July 6, 1774 that "...I have drank Coffee every Afternoon since, and have borne it very well. Tea must be universally renounced. I must be weaned, and the sooner, the better." Did Americans really ditch tea for coffee due to the American Revolution? Find out in this episode. The inspiration for this episode came from Black Rifle Coffee Company, a coffee roaster owned and operated by U.S. Veterans. Their stuff is really good; you should check it out. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Archeological evidence proves that Leif Ericsson, the Icelandic Viking, arrived in the New World centuries before Columbus. But what if he was in turn beaten by an Irish monk a full five extra centuries. St. Brendan the Navigator is celebrate for his legendary journey to the "Island of the Blessed," described in the ninth-century work Voyage of St Brendan the Navigator. It tells of how he set out onto the Atlantic Ocean with dozens of pilgrims, accidentally camped out on a whale, and may have reached New England. For centuries historians dismissed his account as fiction. But true accounts sneak here. There are factual descriptions of sheep on the Faroe Islands. Volcanos and icebergs of Iceland are observed. Some archeologists even think there is evidence of a medieval Celtic church in New England. Find out in this episode if Leif Ericsson has lost his status as the first Westerner to reach the New World. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Emperor Norton is San Francisco's original oddball. In 1859 he proclaimed himself "Norton I, Emperor of the United States." He later expanded his pretense by claiming to be "Protector of Mexico" as well. But rather than get in trouble with authorities for sedition, he became a beloved celebrity. Newspapers printed his imperial edicts. Local police paid for his uniform. He became the basis for some of Mark Twain's characters. To this day locals have petitioned to name bridges in his honor. Find out how a few delusions of grandeur can go a long way. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Dorsey Armstrong on the Legend of King Arthur: From Noble Knight to Guy Ritchie’s 'Excalibro'
For a guy that lived 1,500 years ago, King Arthur has remarkable staying power. He became a stock figure in Welsh and Latin chronicles of Britain by the 800s. His story spread to France, Germany, Scandinavia, and Iceland after the Norman conquest of England in 1066 and books on him were best-sellers there. Cathedrals across Western European featured stained-glass Arthurian scenes. In modern times Arthur has been on the big screen non-stop. They include Camelot (1967), Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), the Clive Owen flick King Arthur (2004), and this year's Guy Ritchie-directed King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, dubbed by critics for its tough-guy swagger as “Excalibro.” Even the new Transformers film features Arthur fighting directly alongside the Autobots (don't ask). Arthur's ongoing legend is even more remarkable considering he may very well have never existed. Historians speak of an “Arthur-like figure” when trying to pin down his origins because they are so obscure. The Gododdin and many other later poems speak of something important that happened in sixth-century Britain, when the Saxon advance was halted by a warlord. It may have been Arthur himself. Archeological and historical evidence supports the existence of an Arthur-like figure in early Britain, most famously Cadbury Castle in Cornwall, which was the center of operations for a leader of great military and logistical skill who thwarted the Saxon invasion. But many other researches think that “Arthur” was actually succession of warlords that tried, and utimately failed, to halt the Saxon onslaught. The Celtic monk Gildas wrote extensively of the Saxon invasion in The Ruin and Conquest of Britain, citing the critical siege at Badon Hills, and makes no mention of Arthur at all. But whatever historians say about Arthur or an Arthur-like figure, they all agree that Arthur, King of the Britons, never existed. For that, we have Arthurian legend to thank. Dorsey Armstrong, professor of medieval literature at Purdue University who has published extensively on Arthur discusses with us why the Arthurian narrative—despite, or because of, its tenuous connection to historical fact—has enthralled writers, artists, and a limitless audience in countries spanning the Western world and beyond for all these centuries. With origins in the exploits of a 5th-century Celtic warrior, the legend of a noble king and his knightly cohort caught fire across Europe, spawning a vast literary tradition that reached its height in the Middle Ages, with major contributions from writers both in Britain and throughout the Continent. By the 12th century Geoffrey of Monmouth added Merlin to the legend in his History of the Kings of Britain. Guinevere first appears here also, and French poet Chrétien de Troyes added Lancelot to the canon in 1177. But the appeal of the saga far outlived the medieval era. It remained dynamically alive in folk culture and theater through the Renaissance, only to see an epic literary and artistic resurgence in the 19th century. It continues to the present day in multiple forms—from fiction writing and visual arts to film and popular culture. No other heroic figure in literature compares with King Arthur in terms of global popularity and longevity; today, each year sees literally thousands of new versions of the story appear across diverse media. What does this amazing phenomenon tell us about our culture, our civilization, and ourselves? What is it about this particular story that has so deeply gripped the human imagination for so many centuries, in so many places? Find out in this episode RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE Dorsey Armstrong's course King Arthur: History and Legend The Camelot Project Arthuriana: The Journal of Arthurian Studies The New Arthurian Encyclopedia TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
What Can We Learn from the Kurds About Nationalism and Nation Building?
The Kurdish people are arguably the largest stateless people on Earth. An estimated 35 million live in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and elsewhere, but do not have a nation to call their own. Despite this they have been critical power brokers in the military and political conflicts of the Middle East. What can we learn from the Kurdish people about nationalism and nation building even if they do not have a nation of their own? To answer this question I have called upon the help of Djene Bajalan, professor of history at Missouri State and specialist of the Kurdish regions of the Ottoman Empire. I can think of nobody who is more qualified to answer this question. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Had Native Americans Been Resistant to Old World Diseases How Different Would the New World Have Been?
Smallpox is arguably the deadliest weapon in history. Ninety percent of some Native American tribes were wiped out by this disease when they first encountered Western explorers. But what if they hadn't been wiped out? Would Native American groups have been able to successfully repel Western powers and keep North America for themselves? Or would colonial history largely have played out the same? TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
You probably haven't heard of the Donation of Constantine. It was a fake letter that represented one of the biggest real estate scams in history. How did an anonymous medieval clergyman try to forge a letter from Emperor Constantine to Pope Sylvester justified all the land holdings of the Roman Catholic Church? Find out in today's podcast. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Nothing fascinated Europeans about the Ottoman Empire quite like the harem. Since no foreigners were permitted to enter it themselves, imaginations ran while about what sort of licentiousness happened behind the doors of Istanbul's Topkapi palace. But even though a sultan could have four wives and limitless concubines, the harem wasn't a sensual fantasy land. It was more of an imperial cadet academy, where foreign girls were turned into the wives of aristocrats and even future sultans. The harem was a large section of private apartments located on the grounds of Topkapi Palace. It consisted of more than 400 rooms. There the girls took lessons in theology, mathematics, embroidery, music, and literature. The most important lesson they gained, however, was in politics. The harem staff held enormous powerful as state administrators. They were typically eunuchs that supervised the female's quarters but also had influence on the palace. When the harem "cadets" entered the palace, they were placed at the lowest rung of a viciously competitive hierarchy in which one earned a promotion by attracting the attention of the Sultan. They began as a concubine and was not allowed to leave the palace without the permission of the Queen Mother (valide sultan), the reigning sultan's mother and a former concubine herself. If a girl managed to share a bed with the sultan, she became a gözde (the favorite). If she continued to curry his favor, then she became ıkbal (the fortunate). A woman to whom the sultan wanted a permanent union would become one of his four wives (kadın). If she birthed him a son who went on to become sultan, she became the next Queen Mother. Learn more about harem life in this episode. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Nathan Bedford Forrest: Racist KKK Founder or Misunderstood Military Genius?—Sandy Mitcham
Few historical figures are as infamous as Nathan Bedford Forrest. If he is remembered at all today it is for being the founder of the Ku Klux Klan in the wake of the Civil War. Many of us learned this “fact” from the opening scenes of Forrest Gump, in which our protagonist describes his namesake as “dressing up in they robes and they bedsheets and act like a bunch of ghosts or spooks or something...momma said the forrest part is to remind me that we all do things that..well...just don't make no sense” But the life of Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest is far more complicated. Our guest, Sandy Mitcham, has written a book on the Civil War general called Bust Hell Wide Open that delves into his legacy. At fourteen he became the head of his impoverished family, responsible for feeding eleven on the rough American frontier. By thirty-nine he had established himself as a successful plantation owner worth over $1 million. And at forty years old, Nathan Bedford Forrest enlisted in a Tennessee cavalry regiment—and became a controversial Civil War legend. He created and established new doctrines for mobile forces, earning the nickname The Wizard of the Saddle There is even a widespread belief that Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, the “Desert Fox” of World War II fame, came to America before the war to study Confederate cavalry tactics, especially those of Forrest. The legacy of General Nathan Bedford Forrest is deeply divisive. Best known for being accused of war crimes at the Battle of Fort Pillow and for his role as first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan—an organization he later denounced—Forrest has often been studied as a military genius but never before investigated as a fascinating individual who wrestled with the complex issues of his violent times. Bust Hell Wide Open is a comprehensive portrait of Nathan Bedford Forrest as a man: his achievements, failings, reflections, and regrets. RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE Bust Hell Wide Open: The Life of Nathan Bedford Forrest TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Where Did Sea Monsters From the Edge of Medieval Maps Come From?
Have you ever seen a picture of an old map of the world and wondered why they contained enormous serpents, giant squids, Krakken, and other terrifying creatures drawn on its edges? What is the purpose of these creatures? Obviously oceans of the past were not infested with mythological creatures in the past. What function did they serve for the artist and for the consumer? Click here to read more about this topic via an article from the Smithsonian, which inspired me to record this episode. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
What Are Some Inventions That Are Much Older Than We Think?
Many of us assume that cars, computers, and batteries are modern inventions. Before that time we lived in a technological dark age too barbaric and boring to contemplate. But what if the 21st century's most important inventions aren't all that recent? What if pioneering artisans and craftsmen created functional cars centuries earlier? What if we had batteries in the Roman empire? Find out in this episode. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Who Was the Most Powerful Woman in the Middle Ages? 2/2
Joan of Arc has one of the most incredible stories in history. Consider this: How did an illiterate peasant lead an army into victory against England in the Hundred Years War? Learn about her upbringing, her visions from God, how she learned years of military strategy in a matter of weeks, and why she convinced King Charles VII to give her command of the army even though she had no combat experience. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Who Was The Most Powerful Woman in the Middle Ages? 1/2
Eowyn, the Shieldmaiden of Rohan, is one of the best characters from the “Lord of the Rings.” But J.R.R. Tolkien didn't invent her out of thin air. Ever the scholar of Anglo-Saxon England, Tolkien based is based on a real person who lived in the war-infested realm of Mercia. Learn about Aethelflaed, Lady of the Mercians, ruler of part of England in the 900s, and slayer of Vikings. This is the first in a two-part series on the most powerful women in the Middle Ages. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
How One Man Ruled 1920s Kansas City Like a Caesar—Jason Roe
America attempted to legislate morality in the 1920s by outlawing the production, sale, and transport of intoxicating liquors through the Volstead Act. But that didn't stop the drinks from flowing during the “dry” years. Famous organized crime networks formed to meet the demand, and we all know about the Prohibition-era mobsters like Chicago's Al Capone and New York's Lucky Luciano. But did you know about one of the darkest, most corrupt, most lawless corner of the United States at this time? That's right. Kansas City. Kansas City of the 20s and 30s was ruled with an iron fist by Tom Pendergast. He controlled the city without holding elected office. The “Pendergast Machine” ran local government and the Democratic Party in Kansas City and Jackson County, Missouri, during the Progressive Era and Great Depression. Political offices were bought. Ballot boxes were stuffed. He grew his empire by trading favors, building constituencies one precinct at a time, controlling votes, controlling politicians, and later controlling city government and the police department. His office at 1908 Main Street was called the unofficial capital of Missouri. The city's poor and working class lined out in front for several blocks, seeking help from Pendergast. He granted it like a king holding court, offering jobs or retributive justice to those who needed it. To talk with us about the Pendergast Machine is Dr. Jason Roe. He is a digital history specialist and editor for the Kansas City Library’s digitization and encyclopedia website project. But the Pendergast years weren't all bad. The libertine spirit of the city made it a magnet for artists and musicians. Jazz and other cultural milestones thrived in the “Wide Open” environment of Kansas City. Musicians such as Charlie Parker said jazz was born in New Orleans but grew up in KC. Most of all, Pendergast single-handedly launched the career of an obscure Missourian World War One vet into public office. He then orchestrated his rise to Missouri Senator. The young man then fell into the vice presidency. Then, after the death of America's longest-serving president, into the Oval Office. That man's name was Harry Truman. RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE Jason's writings on the KC Public Library website Jason's project Civil War on the Western Border TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Was there a real life Dr. Frankenstein who tried to bring the dead back to life by science and alchemy? Yes there was, and his name was Johann Dippel. He lived in the transitional period between alchemy and modern science. He may have experimented on bringing dead animals back to life, but because of these daring experiments modern chemistry, biology, and even the medical sciences owes him much. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
In the early 1800s there was no English explorer greater than James Holman. He covered a distance almost twenty times farther than Marco Polo on foot or cart—almost never using trains or steamships. He travelled among 200 different cultures, charted undiscovered parts of Australia, and by October 1846 had visited every inhabited continent. He did all this despite being completely blind. How did Holman travel the world when any sort of international exploration was exceptionally dangerous? Learn how in this episode. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Few will dispute that China has one of the most ancient cultures on earth, but is there any truth to the claim—made by many residents of China—that there is a 5,000-year-long line of continuity in its culture? Would an inhabitant of present-day China from five millennia ago really have anything in common with a bullet-train-riding businessman from Guangzhou drinking a Starbucks while on his way to Beijing? The answer, as always, is tricky, but there is some truth to the claim. Or at least more truth to the claim than almost any other culture could make. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Why Is July 4 Celebrated The Way It Is (Fireworks n’ Hot Dogs)?
Why do Americans celebrate the Fourth of July with fireworks? Are we trying to take the National Anthem as literally as possible, creating “Bombs Bursting in Air”? Or is there another reason? It turns out that much of the festival trappings of the Fourth of July date way further back than most realize. They even predate the founding of the United States. Many of the most cherished "American" traditions go back to Renaissance Italy. Some even extend back to Imperial China. However, hot dogs are still pure U, S, and A. Nothing can change that. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Israelis or Palestinians: Who Was There First? — David Brog
Probably the most contentious—and politicized—issue in history has to do with the origins of the nation of Israel. That's because the heart of the historical debate is who is the “rightful” owner of the land: The Israelis or the Palestinians? Believe me, I lived in the Middle East, and this issue can easily set people off for hours. Some say Jewish residents of Israel are recent arrivals whole stole the land from its rightful Palestinian inhabitants. Opponents say that Jewish residents have a rightful 5,000-year-old claim to the land, and opposition to Israel has its roots in anti-Semitism. David Brog has decided to tackle this issue head-on in his new book Reclaiming Israel’s History: Roots, Rights, and the Struggle for Peace. He admits to Israel’s “sins both large and small,” but argues that in any fair-minded analysis these have been far outweighed by Israel’s commitment to Western values, including freedom, democracy, and human rights. In this episode we discuss The presence of Jewish people in the Land of Israel for over the last 3,000 years and their movement to Europe and beyond How modern Jewish immigration to Palestine did not displace Arabs but instead sparked an Arab population boom The creation of Israeli and Palestinian identity in the modern-era and how national identity gets politicized What the right and left get wrong about the Israeli-Palestinian debate How lives are literally at stake based on whether the history of this region can be recovered RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE David's book: Reclaiming Israel’s History: Roots, Rights, and the Struggle for Peace TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Is There Any Language In Use Today That Could Be Used 1,000 Years Ago?
Any fan of Shakespeare knows how much the English language has changed over the last 400 years. A student of Chauncer knows even better. A brave student of Beowulf knows almost better than anyone else. You literally have to be a scholar to read "English" of 1,000 years ago. But are there any languages that haven't changed to this degree? Languages that a normal citizen can pick up a text from a millenium ago and understand perfectly? The answer is yes. Listen to this episode to learn which one. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Rome didn’t fall in 476 when Romulus, the last of the Roman emperors in the west, was overthrown by the Germanic leader Odoacer, who became the first Barbarian to rule in Rome. Nor did it fall in 1453 when the Ottoman Empire conquered Constantinople. Depending on how you define ‘Rome,’ it didn’t fall until the Napoleonic Wars. Or the end of hostilities following World War I. If you visit Turkey, you might meet somebody who still calls himself a Roman. Listen to this episode to learn more. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
The horrors of the Holocaust are as vivid now as they were in 1945 when the world discovered the horrors of Nazi Germany's atrocities. But why did Hitler hate the Jews so vehemently? Furthermore, why did he shift precious resources away from the war effort and toward the eradication of an ethnic group that posed no military threat to Nazi Germany? To answer this question I called up Richard Weikart, a scholar of 20th century Europe and author of the book Hitler's Religion. Check out Richard’s book by clicking here. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Richard Weikart is a professor of modern European history at California State University, Stanislaus, and Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. He has published numerous scholarly articles, as well as five previous books including The Death of Humanity: and the Case for Life (Regnery, 2016) and From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany. He has appeared in several documentaries, including Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. In addition to scholarly journals, his work has been featured and discussed in the Washington Post, the Philadelphia Inquirer, National Review, Christianity Today, World magazine, BreakPoint, Citizen, various radio shows, and other venues. Weikart lives in Snelling, CA, with his wife and children. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Was There an Objective Reason for the European Colonization of Africa?
By the late 1800s Europe's Great Powers controlled nearly 80 percent of the African continent. Much research has analyzed the brutal aspects of its colonization—particularly in the Belgian Congo—but less on why Europe colonized Africa. Were the reasons only for financial exploitation or was there another reason? Listen to this episode to learn more. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Understanding Putin Through the History of Russian Invasions — Mark Schauss from the Russian Rulers in History Podcast
In today's episode we are possibly going to bite off more than we can chew... by discussing the entire history of Russia. OK, maybe not the entire history of Russia. But we will discuss how invasions of Russia over the centuries have shaped its psyche today, and even explain Vladimir Putin's rationale for invading the Crimea. Thankfully we have a guest who can guide us through our figurative Siberia. He is Mark Schauss, host of the Russian Rulers in History Podcast. Mark has spent over 200 episodes looking at all rulers in Russia's history, from Rurik the Varangian Chieftan who founded Kievan Rus in the 800s to Vladimir Putin. Mark thinks that the dozens of invasions of Russian — the Viking raids of Kiev, the Mongol Raids in the 1200s, the Ottoman invasions of the 1500-1700s, the Napoleonic Invasion of the early 1800s, and Nazi Germany's invasion of 1941 — created the Russian psyche of today. That is why Russia invading its neighbors might seem aggressive to other nations but perfectly natural to a nation that spent much of its existence under threat of being swallowed up. But Mark notes that the constant flow of people in and out of Russia had good consequences as well. Catherine the Great, fearful of smallpox killing her population in the 1700s, had them inoculated on a massive scale. News of the program's success spread around the world, even reaching George Washington and prompting him to inoculate American soldiers in a similar way. RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE Russian Rulers in History Podcast Russian Rulers in History podcast in iTunes ABOUT MARK Mark's podcast has been downloaded more than 2 million times. He is also an internationally known lecturer on environmental and nutritional health issues and has spoken in North America, Asia, South America, Europe and soon in Australia. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Depression is not a modern phenomenon. Take the example of Abraham Lincoln. He is an unusual psychological case study. He was both chronically melancholy, and yet among the strongest people in history. Here's a quick rundown: Lincoln lost his one true love and married Mary Todd, a mentally unstable woman who abused him. He loved his sons deeply but one died very young, and another (Willie) died at 11 in the White House. This almost broke Lincoln. But the same philosophical-psychological outlook caused Lincoln to be both depressed and incredibly strong. Learn about how depression plagued the past as much as it does the present. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
The ancients had abilities that have fallen into near-complete disuse in the modern age. Consider memorization. The average peasant of 1,000 years ago had 10x more memorized than you ever will. They cultivated the skill in the ars memoriae, who were living databases of information. Plus they were infinitely more handy than us. Can you sew your own clothing? That one is easy. What about making your own shoes, butchering an animal, removing its skin, tanning the leather, then rending the fat to make candles? If you can answer ‘yes’ to all those things, then you are merely average for a medieval peasant. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Why Was Africa Never as Developed as The Rest of the World?
Today's question is a tricky one that has to do with global politics, colonialism, and threatens to enter the minefield of race. Why do so many African nations sit at the bottom of global development indexes? The answer has nothing to do with race—consider Botswana, one of the great economic successes of the past 50 years. After all, half a century ago people were asking why every nation run by Asians is poor. Rather, the issue has to do with harsh environmental conditions of the African continent, its lack of natural harbors that makes water transport difficult, and the growing pains that all young nation-states experience. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Did the greatest king who ever lived ever live? That's a tricky question. The fabled first king of England, the mythological figure associated with Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table, may have been based on a 5th to 6th century Roman-affiliated military leader who staved off invading Saxons. Learn how the legend of Arthur (and Merlin) grew over the centuries and became popularized by such writers as Geoffrey of Monmouth until he was practically synonymous with England herself by the High Middle Ages. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
What the Saints Drank and Monks Brewed—Michael Foley
Michael Foley loves contradictions. He is a Catholic professor of patristics—a study of the lives of early Christian theologians—at a dry Baptist university. That didn't stop him from writing a book that pairs wines, beer, spirits, and cocktails with the solemnities and saints’ feast days of the Church calendar. Sadly, because he was in his office, he couldn't enjoy a cocktail himself while we were doing this interview. Michael is the author of Drinking with the Saints: The Sinner’s Guide to a Holy Happy Hour. It mixes Church history with drink recipes and adds a pinch of catechetical charisma to create a unique guide through the liturgical calendar. In addition to shedding light on the history behind each saint’s day, Foley brings to light the refined and temperate art of drinking, an art which involves a discerning palate, a sense of moderation, and a generous dose of self-knowledge. He promotes moderation and reverence, for pouring and mixing a special beverage in honor of a particular saint adds an extra note of jubilation and recognition. In this interview we discuss The Catholic origins of whiskey, tequila, sparkling wine, and much more The drinking habits of St. August, Pope John Paul II, and the disciples Tips on giving the perfect toast and on mixing the perfect drink The origin of Dom Pérignon:The méthode champenoise was invented by a Benedictine monk Perignon, who, when he sampled his first batch, cried out to his fellow monks: “Brothers, come quickly. I am drinking stars!” Original cocktails, including two for St. Augustine of Hippo: one for his sinful past and one for his holy conversion How Chartreuse, the world’s most magical liqueur, was perfected by Carthusian monks and is still made by them, even though only two monks at any time know the recipe. How the California wine industry began when Blessed Junipero Serra and his Franciscan brethren brought the first wine grapes to the region. And its rebirth in Napa County after Prohibition was thanks in large part to a chemistry teacher and LaSalle Christian Brother named Brother Timothy. RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE Drinking with the Saints: The Sinner's Guide to a Holy Happy Hour https://drinkingwiththesaints.com/ Drinking with the Saints Facebook Group TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Today's question comes from Nayeli Carpenter She asks about lost civilizations: pyramid builds, Egyptians, Mayans, Incans, especially the ones where cultures disappeared mysteriously. I'm going to confine this question to everyone's favorite historical conspiracy theory—that Egypt's pyramids were so advanced and contained hidden astronomical secrets that only an advanced civilization (coughcoughalienscoughcough) could have designed them. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Today's question comes to us from Kevin deLaplante, creator of the Critical Thinker Academy and host of the Argument Ninja Podcast. Can you tell me about the 1915 Armenian Genocide and why today's political leaders (such as Barack Obama) are hesitant to describe it as such? TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
How Important Was the Spice Trade to Medieval Europe?
Today's question comes from Jaime Martínez Bowness: Hi - here's a quick list of topics I thought of: The importance of the spice trade in Medieval times TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
What Happened to Places Like Catalonia After Rome’s Fall?
Today's question comes to us from Nate Finch: I would love for you to do a podcast (series?) on Mediterranean "empires" after Rome (e.g. the Catalonian "empire", which extended all the way to Italy, the empire of the Venetian merchants, etc.). Heck, you could even do a series on regional identities in Spain, France, Italy, Turkey... the possibilities are endless. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Was Hitler a Christian, Atheist, or Something Else? — Richard Weikart
No matter how little you know about history, you know something about Adolf Hitler. And if you want to shut down an opponent, you can claim that Hitler said/did/believed the same thing. Godwin's Law exists for a reason. But Hitler remains a persistent mystery on one front—his religious faith. Atheists tend to insist Hitler was a devout Christian. Christians contend that he was an atheist. And still others suggest that he was a practicing member of the occult. None of these theories is true, says historian Richard Weikart in his new book Hitler’s Religion: The Twisted Beliefs that Drove the Third Reich. Delving more deeply into the question of Hitler’s religious faith than any researcher to date, Weikart reveals the startling and fascinating truth about the most hated man of the twentieth century: Adolf Hitler was a pantheist who believed nature was the only true “God.” In this episode we discuss the following: How Hitler’s Frankenstein's monster religion of pantheism, eugenics, Germanic folk belief, and even Islam served to create the most notorious monster of the twentieth century Hitler constantly lied, so if he took a dose of truth serum, what would he say about his religious beliefs Why members of Hitler's inner circle (especially SS leader Heinrich Himmler) loved the occult so much that they regularly consulted astrologers...until Hitler stamped out the practice Why Hitler went on a propaganda crusade to white-wash Christian symbolism out of old photographs How atheists and conservative Christians both misunderstand what Hitler believed How Hitler actually was intent on destroying Christianity Check out Richard's book Hitler's Religion by clicking here. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Richard Weikart is a professor of modern European history at California State University, Stanislaus, and Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. He has published numerous scholarly articles, as well as five previous books including The Death of Humanity: and the Case for Life (Regnery, 2016) and From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany. He has appeared in several documentaries, including Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. In addition to scholarly journals, his work has been featured and discussed in the Washington Post, the Philadelphia Inquirer, National Review, Christianity Today, World magazine, BreakPoint, Citizen, various radio shows, and other venues. Weikart lives in Snelling, CA, with his wife and children. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Today's question comes from Dean Wallace: Could you tell me about the career of [World War Two] agent Zigzag? WANT ME TO ANSWER YOUR QUESTION ABOUT HISTORY? Click here to learn more. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Today's question comes from James Ganong: Could you please tell me the history of oldest university? I think it is in Egypt... WANT ME TO ANSWER YOUR QUESTION ABOUT HISTORY? Click here to learn more. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Tell Me About the Varangians (The Vikings of Russia)
Today's question is about the Varangians, a group of Vikings that conquered Kievan Rus and became the first rulers of the Russian state. I'd love it if you could talk about Kievan-Rus, the Rurik dynasty, The Varangians...any of these would be great. WANT ME TO ANSWER YOUR QUESTION ABOUT HISTORY? Click here to learn more. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Can We Really Know Anything in History Or Is It All Fake News?
Today's question comes from C. M. Ho: How much of history has been the figment of some power hungry person or group? Some historians or those that call themselves historians are not adhering to the truth either. The news, it is said, is also manipulated. Is this a new phenomena or has it always been like this? It scares me to think that truth is nowhere to be found. WANT ME TO ANSWER YOUR QUESTION ABOUT HISTORY? Click here to learn more. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher .
Every President’s Go-to Drink, From Washington’s Whisky to Obama’s Homebrew—Mark Will-Weber
There are books about presidents. There are books about cocktails. Then there are books that create and attribute a cocktail to each of the 45 U.S. presidents. Journalist and editor Mark Will-Weber has written such a book. He actually written three: Mint Juleps with Teddy Roosevelt: The Complete History of Presidential Drinking; Drinking with the Democrats; and Drinking with the Republicans What began as a fun exploration into Warren G. Harding's flask that he hid in his golf bag during the Prohibition years turned into a wide-ranging survey of America's love-hate relationship with alcohol...and how it affected each of its presidents. Some like George W. Bush and Donald Trump were complete tee-totalers. Others like Obama and Clinton drank in moderation. Still others imbibed so much that they gave inaugural addresses completely hammered or even went on drunk driving cruises with terrified Secret Service agents in tow. But most of all, Mark gets into America's complicated relationship with alcohol and how it transformed from the libertine years of the Founding Fathers to the alcoholic years of the Civil War to the stern years of Temperance. And he even offers suggestions for how Republicans and Democrats can use drink to get along in these divided times. In this episode we go over: Favorite libations of each president Richard Nixon's love of drunk dialing Mark's favorite cocktail: McKinley's Delight (whiskey, sweet vermouth, cherry liqueur and absinthe) RESOURCES FOR THIS EPISODE Recipe for McKinley's Delight How Gary Hart's Downfall Forever Changed American Politics George Washington's Tavern Porter from Yard's Brewing Company MARK'S BOOKS Mint Juleps With Teddy Roosevelt: The Complete History of Presidential Drinking Drinking with the Republicans: The Politically Incorrect History of Conservative Concoctions Drinking with the Democrats: The Party Animal's History of Liberal Libations ABOUT THE AUTHOR Mark Will-Weber, a seasoned journalist and magazine editor, is the author of Mint Juleps with Teddy Roosevelt: The complete History of Presidential Drinking, The Quotable Runner, and The Running Trivia Book. He lives in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Today's question comes from Suzanne: I would enjoy anything about the French in North America, Canada and the US, early American History of the Michigan Territory, Seven Years War, etc. WANT ME TO ANSWER YOUR QUESTION ABOUT HISTORY? Click here to learn more. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Did the Inventor of the Guillotine Die By Guillotine?
Today's question comes from August Berkshire: Is it true that the person who invented the guillotine was guillotined himself? What the story behind both events? WANT ME TO ANSWER YOUR QUESTION ABOUT HISTORY? Click here to learn more. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Today's question comes from Goa Yong: Is Bloody Mary a real person? WANT ME TO ANSWER YOUR QUESTION ABOUT HISTORY? Click here to learn more. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Today's question comes from Ryan: Was Leif Erikson really the first explorer of European descent to explore North America? WANT ME TO ANSWER YOUR QUESTION ABOUT HISTORY? Click here to learn more. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Tevi Troy on Pop Culture in the White House: From Washington’s Library to Trump’s Twitter Account
In the 21st century presidents can't stay out of the spotlight. Barack Obama released his NCAA tournament brackets every year on ESPN, was a regular guest on Jimmy Fallon and the rest of the late night circuit, and was the first president to use Twitter. Donald Trump has gone even further with social media, using Twitter as a permanent means to bypass traditional media channels. But they are not the first consumers, or producers, of popular culture in the White House. Throughout America’s history, occupants of the White House have interacted with and been shaped by popular culture. Our guest today, Dr. Tevi Troy, author of What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched, and Obama Tweeted: 200 Years of Popular Culture in the White House tells us fun and informative little-known anecdotes about everyone from George Washington to Donald Trump, revealing how each one has woven popular culture into different aspects of their leadership. In this episode we learn The literary works that shaped the political philosophy of Thomas Jefferson. Why Abraham Lincoln’s love of theater prompted him to ignore advice from advisors the night of his assassination. That voracious reader Teddy Roosevelt viewed books as job training and didn’t hesitate to read at parties. That Dwight D. Eisenhower loved Westerns so much that his staff struggled to keep him in supply. How Saturday Night Live irrevocably branded Gerald Ford as a klutz, contributing to his 1976 defeat. How Ronald Reagan identified the unifying role of film and often used movie quotes to rouse support. Why Barack Obama used celebrity endorsements to sell his policies to the American people. Tevi is not only a historian of U.S. politics. He was also a high-level player. In 2007 he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He was the chief operating officer of the largest civilian department in the federal government, with a budget of $716 billion and over 67,000 employees. Basically, he controlled Medicaid and Medicaid. In light of his experience Tevi has all sorts of fascinating stories about how the George W. Bush White House used history to dictate policy—in one instance all of Bush's advisors were requried to read a book on the 1918 Spanish influenza epidemic to develop public policy against disease outbreaks. In that position, he oversaw all operations, including Medicare, Medicaid, public health RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE Tevi Troy's Website What Jefferson Read, Obama Watched, and Ike Tweeted Tevi on Twitter TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Today's question comes from Melanie Padon: When did people start using last names and why? How did they come up with them? WANT ME TO ANSWER YOUR QUESTION ABOUT HISTORY? Click here to learn more. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Did Conquering Armies Really Salt the Earth of Their Enemies?
Today's question comes to us from Peter Swanson. My question is what is the history of "salting the earth" after a military victory. How would an army in the ancient world have transported tons and tons and tons of salt and spread it everywhere? Isn't that a waste of time? WANT ME TO ANSWER YOUR QUESTION ABOUT HISTORY? Click here to learn more. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Today's question comes to us courtesy of Brandon. Here's his question: This is Brandon Wall, and I'm wondering what would have happened if Nixon beat JFK in the 1960 presidential election. How would the world be looking these days, for instance, if Nixon had handled the Cuban missile crisis instead? WANT ME TO ANSWER YOUR QUESTION ABOUT HISTORY? Click here to learn more. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Justin from the Generation Why Podcast: What Assassination Had the Most Impact on History?
Today's question comes to us from Justin from the Generation Why Podcast. It's a true crime podcast that you should definitely check out. Here's his question: What murder or assassination through history do you think had the most impact on the world? From Cleopatra to Archduke Franz Ferdinand to JFK, which one do you think changed the world the most? WANT ME TO ANSWER YOUR QUESTION ABOUT HISTORY? Click here to learn more. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
Why Your Favorite Presidents (Lincoln, Washington) Actually Screwed Up America—Brion McClanahan
Quick – name your favorite president. You probably said Washington or Lincoln, right? C'mon. You can be more original than that. Well, Brion McClanahan is original. He gladly tells people that the greatest president in American history was John Tyler. Confused looks then follow, usually with a question of "Who was that again?" On the other hand, we all have presidents whom we think were terrible. You can point to a Jimmy Carter, a Herbert Hoover, a Warren G. Harding, or (if you're an insufferable history nerd like me) Millard Fillmore. But Abraham Lincoln? Brion McClanahan—again, being original here—makes the argument that Lincoln, far from being America's savior, may have done her irreparable harm. But he is not making this argument for the sake of being a contrarian. Rather it's a position grounded in thorough research an consideration of what the real responsibility of a president is. After all, he wrote a book called 9 Presidents Who Screwed Up America: And Four Who Tried to Save Her. I can almost guarantee that you won't be able to guess who he names as the good and bad presidents. In this episode we discuss who they were, why they were so good or bad, and whether Brion has seen Hamilton on Broadway (he has a book on him coming out later this year). McClanahan argues that... Lincoln violated the Constitution because as commander in chief he believed he had to “subdue the enemy,” no matter the collateral damage. His violations created a blueprint for more executive abuse in the future. By the time Obama left office earlier this year, Americans suffered under twenty-eight consecutive years of unconstitutional executive usurpation of power. Over a two-year period, the Obama administration delayed the implementation of the Affordable Care Act twenty-eight times, ostensibly to give employers time to comply with the law. This was a blatantly unconstitutional power grab by the executive office. History has shown that presidents tend to abuse their power in their second term, and that the best presidents tend to serve less than eight years in office. MORE ABOUT BRION Brion McClanahan is the author or co-author of four books, The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Founding Fathers, (Regnery, 2009), The Founding Fathers Guide to the Constitution (Regnery History, 2012), Forgotten Conservatives in American History (Pelican, 2012), and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Real American Heroes, (Regnery, 2012). He has written for TheDailyCaller.com, LewRockwell.com, TheTenthAmendmentCenter.com, Townhall.com, and HumanEvents.com. McClanahan is a faculty member at Tom Woods’ Liberty Classroom, has appeared on dozens of radio talk shows, and has spoken across the Southeast on the Founding Fathers and the founding principles of the United States. If you would like to book Dr. McClanahan for a speaking appearance, please email him. RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE Brion's website Brion's podcast Tom Woods' Liberty Classroom Brion's Book: 9 Presidents Who Screwed Up America: And Four Who Tried to Save Her TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
How a Horse Became a Sergeant in the Korean War — Robin Hutton
The story of Reckless—a pack horse in the Korean War who was a beloved household name in the 1950s and the only animal in U.S. history to officially achieve the rank of Sergeant—is one of the strangest, most inspiring, and (sadly) unknown stories of the 20th century. In battle, Reckless made 51 trips—on her own—through 35 miles of rice paddies to deliver ammunition and supplies to her fellow Marines. She was trained to step over communications lines, get down at the sound of incoming fire, and ignore the noise of battle. She carried wounded soldiers to safety and was injured twice herself during the war, earning her two Purple Hearts. Not only was Reckless a great war hero, she fit in with her comrades like any other Marine—regularly swilling beer with the other Marines and inserting herself into group activities. When Robin Hutton discovered her tale in 2006, she was so inspired by the little mare’s story that she was determined to reintroduce Reckless to the world. To rediscover the story of this heroic horse, Hutton interviewed seventy-five Marines who served with Reckless and uncovered over 200 photos, spanning her war days and beyond. Sgt. Reckless reveals heartwarming and hilarious anecdotes about Reckless’s feats and antics, bringing to life the touching story of how a young Korean man’s horse became one of the greatest Marine wartime heroes of all time. Here are other astounding facts about Reckless: In just one day of battle, Reckless made 51 trips carrying 386 rounds (almost five tons) of ammunition, walking over 35 miles through rice paddies and up steep mountains with enemy fire coming in at the rate of 500 rounds per minute. Reckless also carried wounded soldiers away from battle, and she herself was wounded twice, earning two Purple Hearts. Reckless ate anything and everything—but especially scrambled eggs and pancakes in the morning with her morning cup of coffee, along with beer in the evening with her comrades. The Marines loved Reckless so much that in the heat of battle, they threw their flak jackets over her to protect her when incoming fire was heavy, risking their own safety. On April 10, 1954, Reckless was officially promoted to sergeant—an honor never bestowed, before or since, on an animal. RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE Video: Sgt. Reckless: Korean War Horse Video Robin Hutton's Sgt. Reckless Website Sgt. Reckless Facebook Page Robin's Book: Sgt. Reckless: America's War Horse TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher
When Camels Roamed the American Southwest—The U.S. Camel Corps (1856-1866)
Welcome to the first episode of the History Unplugged podcast. We are kicking things off by exploring the US Army’s failed experiment of using camels as the military’s main pack animal in the American Southwest. Camels are more than a zoo curiosity that spits on you in front of a field trip of first-graders. They are more than the mascot of your favorite cigarette brand. Camels were the long haul-truck of the ancient world. They created the global economy and the spice road. Were you a Roman Senator you want cinnamon from Sri Lanka or nutmeg from Indonesia? It came to you by camel. Were you a Chinese emperor who wanted gold, henna, storax, frankincense, asbestos, cloth, silk gauze, silk damask, glass, and silver from Arabia? A camel brought it to you. But did you know that America almost chose the camel as its preferred method of long-distance travel in the early nineteenth century? Before railroads or long-distance trucks, some Americans dreamed of millions of camels flooding the Southwest to make desert crossings easy and safe. A Secretary of War named Jefferson Davis thought the plan would work. He dispatched an Army Officer to the Middle East to purchase several dozen dromedaries and hire a few cameleers. Thus the U.S. Camel Corps was born. RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE To listen to a country song inspired by one of the cameleers, Hi Jolly, click here. MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE HISTORY UNPLUGGED PODCAST This is the first episode of History Unplugged. It celebrates unsung heroes, mythbusts historical lies, and rediscovers the forgotten stories that changed our world. There are two sorts of episodes that we feature on the History Unplugged podcast: the call-in show and author interviews. For history lovers who listen to podcasts, it is the most comprehensive show of its kind because it's the only one that dedicates episodes to both interviewing experts and answering questions from its audience. It features a call-in show where you can ask our resident historian (Scott Rank, PhD) absolutely anything (What was it like to be a Turkish sultan with 4 wives and 12 concubines? If you were sent back in time, how would you kill Hitler?) and long form interviews with historians who have written about everything—and I mean everything—including gruff World War II generals who flew with airmen on bombing raids, a war horse who gained the rank of sergeant, and presidents who gave their best speeches while drunk. For the call-in show it features an actual history question submitted from a listener just like you. I (Scott) will answer your question in 5-10 minutes. You can submit your questions to me by going here. You can ask me anything. What did the Vikings eat? What was it like to be a Turkish sultan with 4 wives and multiple concubines? If you were sent back in time with your current knowledge, how would you conquer the Roman Empire? What would be the best way to assassinate Hitler? The second sort of episode on our podcast is the long form interview (40 minutes - 1 hour) with top history book authors. These authors have written about everything—and I mean everything—including gruff World War II generals who flew with airmen on bombing raids, a war horse who gained the rank of sergeant, and presidents who gave their best speeches while drunk. I sit down with them and go in-depth on their topics. So far I've been blown away by the stories I've heard. Here are some of our guests lined up in the next few days. Robin Hutton, author of Sgt. Reckless, America's War Horse Mark Will-Weber, author of Mint Juleps with Teddy Roosevelt: The Complete History of Presidential Drinking Prof. Richard Weikart, author of Hitler’s Relgion: The Twisted Beliefs that Drove the Third Reich TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher