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Professor Buzzkill: History 101

Professor Buzzkill is an exciting new blog & podcast that explores history myths in an illuminating, entertaining, and humorous way.
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Professor Buzzkill: History 101
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Now displaying: Page 1
Jul 20, 2017

FDR became governor of New York and later President for four terms despite having contracted polio. Professor Matthew Pressman from Seton Hall University joins us to discuss how the press and the American public were told about his disability, and how they reacted. We also learn how the Roosevelt campaign and administration tried to control public knowledge of FDR's condition by managing how information was obtained and used. We examine whether the famous "gentlemen's agreement" between the FDR administration and the press to suppress information about the president's condition was true. A fascinating episode about a complex historical issue.

Jul 13, 2017

How “clean” was the regular German army (Wehrmacht) during World War II? The Nazis and the SS usually get all the blame for war crimes and for the Holocaust. How much blame can be placed at the feet of “ordinary” German military units? Turns out that the “clean Wehrmacht” story is not only a myth, but it also greatly influenced how post-War Europe was re-built. Professor Nash joins us to examine how deep and wide the war guilt goes.

Jul 10, 2017

"Quotes" supposedly from the Founding Fathers seem to rear their misattributed heads in the United States every year in the weeks surrounding July 4th. And Americans are often treated to a number of false quotations from the George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and the rest of the boys to give them inspiration for the rest of the year. You often hear, "the best government is that which governs least…" attributed to Thomas Jefferson (primary author of the Declaration of Independence and the third US President). But did TJ ever say it, much less coin it? Was it Thomas Paine? Or was it someone else? The Professor explains all

Jul 4, 2017

When was the Declaration of Independence signed? July 4th? August 2? Later? Why did John Hancock sign so prominently and hugely right in the middle? Did he have signature envy? What price did the signers pay for their patriotism? And how did the story of the signers' sacrifices get so out of control by the mid-20th century? Professor Buzzkill puts his John Hancock on this episode, and answers all these questions.

Jun 26, 2017

Ah, Buzzkillers, good old Oscar Wilde, the author of so many excellent plays, novels, and poems. Dripping with epigrams, Oscar entertained literary circles in London, Paris and Dublin with his wit, often pairing philosophical and comical themes to excellent effect. There are dozens of legitimate Oscar-isms, but is there any evidence that he ever said "Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken"? Find out in this episode!

Jun 22, 2017

Professor Jeremy Young joins us to discuss the Age of Charisma (1870-1940). It was an exciting period in US history: industrialization was in high gear; railroads and telegraph lines were spreading widely; mass media was born; and increased concentration on charisma, magnetism, and emotion in politics, religion, and social reform. Styles of public speaking changed and founded the phenomenon of personality politics.

Jun 19, 2017

We all love, and should live by the sentiment expressed in "It's better to light a candle than curse the darkness." But did Eleanor Roosevelt say it? Was it Confucius or an ancient Chinese proverb? Or does it come from the 19th century? We explore the origins of the ideas behind the quote, who said it, and how it got attached to Eleanor Roosevelt. Listen to the brand new Quote or No Quote episode of Professor Buzzkill!

Jun 15, 2017

Professor Nash joins us to discuss the misconceptions and the realities of JFK's presidency, its successes, its failures, and its legacies. We look specifically at the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam, and Civil Rights. And we address the question of whether JFK was a liberal, a conservative, or a mixture of both. And on top of all that, we hear audio from some of Kennedy's most telling statements, speeches, and press interviews. It's a fully-rounded episode, Buzzkillers!

Jun 14, 2017

Samir Lakhani, the founder of Eco-Soap Bank (one of our Buzzkill partners) has been named a CNN Hero for 2017. We interview him about the project and how the CNN recognition has affected the Eco-Soap Bank. The Buzzkill Institute is committed to helping this great project by contributing $1 for every Buzzkiller who donates to the Eco-Soap Bank. Go to ecosoapsbank.org/donate and type “Buzzkill” in the comments section of the on-line donation form. A donation of just $25 provides soap and hygiene education for 250 Cambodians and recycles 35 pounds of soap from the hospitality industry. And it supports ongoing employment of local people in Cambodia. See the CNN Hero announcement at: http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/04/health/cnn-hero-samir-lakhani-eco-soap-bank/index.html

Jun 12, 2017

The exact wording of the "Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing…" quote varies a little bit from time to time, but it essentially conveys the same message -- Americans are a self-interested people, but they eventually do the right thing. But did Churchill ever say this, or even something like it? No. At least he never said it publicly, and there's certainly no evidence that he ever said it privately. Like dozens and dozens of other political quotes, they get attached to Churchill somehow. It's as if he's standing on a busy street corner and passers-by keep slapping unattributed quote bumper stickers on him until he rivals Shakespeare and the Bible for the world quote record.

Jun 8, 2017

Frank Lloyd Wright is the most famous architect in American history. But why is he so famous, and was it just about his architecture? In his own mind and in the popular mind, he is often considered a god and an artistic prophet. How did he become so famous and how did his fame and myth-making develop during his career? Architect Eric Osth helps us understand the deep complexities and twists-and-turns in Wright's highly public and media-savvy approach to his architectural design, as well as the public's embrace of it.

Jun 5, 2017

One of Yogi Berra's best-known "Yogi-isms," "it's like déjà vu all over again," has a complicated history, Buzzkillers. He may have said "déjà vu all over again" after Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle hit back-to-back home runs in a Yankee game in 1961, but there's no record of it. Further, "déjà vu all over again" attributions to Yogi Berra didn't really appear until the mid-1980s. And Yogi himself denied in 1987 that it was one of his Yogi-isms. What's the full story? Find out when you listen to the brand new Quote or No Quote episode of Professor Buzzkill!

Jun 1, 2017

D-Day, June 6, 1944, is one of the most well-known events of World War II. Why did it happen the way it did and why did it succeed? Was it the turning point in the war in Europe? How many other military operations were going on at the same time in Europe that might explain victory in Europe? There are so many complications to the story that you need the Buzzkill Institute to help explain it all!

May 30, 2017

Albert Einstein was a scientific genius, and he often discussed many topics outside his field. Is it any wonder, therefore, that the quote, "the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results" is attributed to him? Alas, Buzzkillers, quotes like this seem to attach themselves to Einstein at the speed of light, and there's no evidence he ever said it. Listen to this episode where Professor Buzzkill explains all! And don't forget -- it's not insanity to rate and review our podcast on iTunes!

May 25, 2017

John F. Kennedy was one of the most fascinating Presidents in US history. And perhaps more fascinating are the ways in which he is remembered by succeeding generations. In this first part of a three-part series, Professor Nash joins us to discuss JFK's background, youth, service in World War II, and his political career. The sweep of his life is as complex and interesting as you can imagine, Buzzkillers!

May 22, 2017

P. T. Barnum, the famous 19th century American showman and founder of the Barnum & Bailey Circus, is often quoted as saying "there's a sucker born every minute." This "quote" is usually trotted out to refer to something that con-men or other shysters who try to separate people from their hard-earned money (as in, selling them tickets to a circus) would say. But did good old P. T. ever say it? And how many Buzzkillers are born every minute? Find out here!

May 16, 2017

Is Watergate the story of heroic journalists working against all odds and in great danger to get at the truth of presidential corruption? Is it more complicated than that? How accurate was All the President's Men? Who really brought the Nixon presidency down? Professor Buzzkill's new episode explains all!

May 8, 2017

"History doesn't repeat itself, but it often rhymes," according to Mark Twain, perhaps the most most-quoted writers and humorists in American literary history. But does the history of quoting Twain repeat itself, or does it simply rhyme? In this episode of Quote or No Quote, we learn that Twain said something close, but more wordy. And we also learn the history of that concept and quote. Listen in, Buzzkillers and see how far back the idea goes!

May 5, 2017

The history of immigration to the United States is very complicated, Buzzkillers! Millions of people came from all over the world to the United States, and there are almost as many myths about immigration as there were immigrants. What did it mean to come to the United States "legally" during the high points of the history of immigration to the United States? When did the government try to restrict immigration and how did they do that? Professor Buzzkill's new episode explains all!

May 1, 2017

Did President Harry Truman coin the phrase, "The Buck Stops Here"? Did he use the quote as a way to define his Presidency? And what does the phrase "I'm from Missouri" have to do with it? It's all more more interesting than just a simple midwestern truism, Buzzkillers. The Quote Stops Here! Listen and learn!

Apr 26, 2017

What were "medieval indulgences"? Were they a way for rich people to buy their way into heaven, and help corrupt priests to line their own pockets at the same time? "Indulgences" aren't mentioned in the Bible, but they became heavily used in the Middle Ages. Why? Listen as one of greatest Buzzkillers, Professor William Campbell, enlightens us on the fascinating complexities! Won't cost you a cent, Buzzkillers!

Apr 24, 2017

Most people believe they know what Adolf Hitler's plans for a post-war world would be -- German domination. After all, didn't he say, "Today Germany, Tomorrow the World"? Well, Hitler certainly expressed ideas along these lines, although there is no record of him saying it in so few words. The closest Hitler quote that Buzzkill Institute researchers can find comes from Mein Kampf (1925): "If the German people, in their historic development, had possessed tribal unity like other nations, the German Reich today would be the master of the entire world." Where does "Today Germany, Tomorrow the World" come from? Professor Nash enlightens us!

Apr 18, 2017

Mohandas K. Gandhi should also be known as the Mahatma of Misquotation. Did he ever say, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” as we read in so many inspirational tweets and messages? Listen as Professor Buzzkill delves into the origin of this quote, avoiding snake bite and 1970s urban violence along the way

Apr 14, 2017

What is the actual history behind "The Nuclear Button" and "The Nuclear Football"? And what has to happen before the missiles are launched? Is it automatic, or are there confirmation measures in place? Could we ever find ourselves in a Dr. Strangelove scenario? Listen to Professor Buzzkill calm us down!

Apr 10, 2017

What do the letters “S.O.S.” actually stand for? “Save Our Ship”? “Save Our Souls”? And why were those three letters chosen? The Professor explains this famous quote, and also the myth that it was first used by telegraph operators on the Titanic after it struck the iceberg in 1912. It’s more complicated and interesting than you can possibly imagine! Send out a distress signal for your brain!

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