Border walls have long been a feature in history. But why were they built? Was it for protection, as imposing symbols, to regulate trade and migration? Did they work, and for how long? Despite what you may hear in contemporary political debates, the answers from history are murky and complicated. But listen as the Professor explains it all for you.
It’s a story that drives tour guides and historians of engineering crazy. A worker falls into a pool of wet concrete that’s being poured as part of a major construction project. Before he can be saved, his body slips beneath the surface and he drowns in the thick soup of the concrete. It’s too difficult to extract the body and the construction bosses don’t want to stop the “concrete pour,” so he gets entombed in the concrete pillars of the bridge, or the concrete walls of the dam, or whatever it is they’re building. Were bosses that cold? Was the march of progress so heartless? Find out, Buzzkillers.
St. Francis of Assisi is one of the most popular saints in the Christian religion. He’s known as a lover of animals, the first eco-warrior, and a peace-negotiator during the crusades. How much of this is true, and how much is myth? “Make me the instrument of your buzzkilling!”
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!
Flashback Friday Episode!
From 1876, when the first effective dynamo/generator that produced a steady current of electricity was invented, Americans reacted to this new phenomenon of electricity in many different ways. Professor Jennifer Lieberman is one of the first academics to study that reaction, especially how it appeared in popular literature, both fiction and non-fiction. And in doing so, she raises a lot of very important questions about our relationships with technology and the natural world. We interview her about the cultural reactions to electricity as a new technology is the topic of this episode. Listen and be electrified!
Madame C.J. Walker was a pioneer in the hair care industry, and in broad-based national marketing during the height of Jim Crow in the United States. As an African-American woman, she faced obstacles every time she tried to improve her business. Nevertheless, she went on to become one of the wealthiest women in America. Listen to Professor Corye Beene explain it all!
Professor Andrew Huebner joins us to discuss his fascinating new examination of the what World War I meant for Americans. Was it to “make the world safe for democracy” or was it for home and family. Find out!
William Henry Johnson eventually became one of the most decorated soldiers in World War I. His medals and military decorations came only eventually, however. He acted bravely and heroically in the Argonne Forest in May, 1918, killing multiple German soldiers and saving an American comrade, all the while being heavily wounded himself. The French military awards him the Croix de Guerre, their highest honor. Johnson’s heroism was not recognized by the American military and American government until much later. Find out how much later, and why there was such a delay, listen to this Man Crush Monday episode!
Did World War I end with a bang or a whimper? Prof Phil Nash joins us to discuss the complicated road to the armistice of November 11, 1918. A dozen countries were involved, the Russian Revolution intervened, and the US military provided fresh troops for the Triple Entente of Britain, France, and Russia. And the German alliance gradually fell apart. But there’s so much more than that! Listen and learn.
The poem that begins “First they came for the socialists, and I did not not speak out --- because I was not a socialist,” goes through a series of other oppressed, but ignored, groups, and ends with, “and then they came for me --- and there was no one left to speak for me,” is one of the most touching and thought-provoking expressions of human and communal responsibility of the 20th Century. It was, of course, said by Pastor Martin Niemöller, a German Lutheran, after the World War II and the Holocaust. But the history of that poem is just as heart-rending, and prompts just as much self-reflection about political and social responsibility as anything that came out of that horrific period. Please listen.
One of the things that makes the recent hate crimes in the United States so shocking and outrageous is that they seem to go against the grain of American life. They’re out of character, and un-American. But, as one of my fellow historians said recently, “The citizen in me hates what is happening in America now. The historian in me knows that this has always happened in America.” Today, I’ll say a few very general things about the history of hate crimes in the US. And then we’ll play the show we previously did on the KKK. It addresses many of the underlying issues of hate and bigotry that seem to be continually with us in the United States.
In the wake of over a dozen football-related deaths in 1905, President Teddy Roosevelt rode in in, and threatened football leaders that if they didn’t make the game safer, he’d ban it. They implemented reforms, and Rough Rider Teddy gets the credit for saving American football from itself. But is that what happened, or is it far more complicated and historically interesting than that? We explore how the American style of football started and developed, why it was so violent, and why it was reformed in the early 20th century. Listen and learn!
It’s a Woman Crush Wednesday! Maria Bochkareva’s life reflects almost all of the tumultuous period of the Russian Revolution (1917-1922). During World War I, she fights, and eventually leads, the “1st Russian Women’s Battalion of Death.” She then connects with the White forces in the Russian Civil War, does diplomatic work for them in the US and Britain, and returns to Russia to fight in 1918. Listen and learn what eventually happened to her!
Richard Nixon was already known as “Tricky Dick” long before the Presidential Election of 1968. But would he do anything so tricky as to negotiate with a foreign country against American interests in order to get elected? Professor Nash comes to the Buzzkill Bunker to explain all the shenanigans of the 1968 election, and whether the Nixon and his team crafted an October Surprise to win in November. This story is full of intrigue, drama, and dread. Listen in!
1968 was a dramatic, upsetting, and confusing year in many parts of the world. The American Presidential Election was equally strange and unusual. Protests, riots, assassinations, major political parties in turmoil, and a segregationist third party candidate. All in the shadow of the Vietnam War. No election before or since has been so tumultuous. How did the country survive. Professor Phil Nash explains it all in this episode!
Did Gandhi say, “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”? If he didn’t, where did it come from? The Bible? The Canadian House of Commons? Movie script writers? And is there something more significant in how this phrase has come down to us as an essential Gandhi-ism? Listen and learn with your eyes open, Buzzkillers!
20th century automobile travel was supposed to represent freedom, but what else did it represent? Professor Cotten Seiler from Dickinson College joins us to discuss the difficulties and hazards of traveling in the United States faced by African-American motorists in the 20th Century, especially during the height of segregation and Jim Crow. Specifically, we learn how important guides like the Negro Motorist Green Book and the popular Travelguide: Vacation and Recreation Without Humiliation were to the reality of “travelling while black.”
Ada Lovelace is frequently called “the first computer programmer,” but is her story more complicated than that? In this Woman Crush Wednesday show, we give a brief overview of what she contributed to the history of computing, and argue that she was more important than the “first computer programmer.” Find out how we give her more historical praise by listening now!
Journalist Mary Pilon joins us to discuss the history of the game Monopoly and its wonderful twists, turns, complications, and lawsuits! It all starts during The Depression and doesn't stop until the 21st Century! Make sure to listen, and tell a playing partner about the show!!
Ron Stallworth, featured in the new Spike Lee film, BlackKkKlansman, was a Colorado police detective who convinced the local Ku Klux Klan to accept him as a member in 1979. Using tremendously creative undercover skills, Stallworth was able to dupe the Colorado Springs KKK to accept him as a member. Stallworth was able to gather vital intelligence about Klan activities in the West, including plans for bombings and other major terrorist activities. Find out how he did it in today’s episode!
I got so sick of idiots posting completely ahistorical things about American Political Parties on Twitter and Facebook, that I called Professor Nash in for an emergency episode. We were able to diagnose the interpretative the wound, stop the bleeding, and heal the wound. We explain why political parties have the same name, but totally different attitudes and policies over the centuries of US history. Necessary listening for the elections coming up this year! Listen and be enlightened!
Professor Colin Woodward joins us to discuss the importance of slavery in the minds of Confederate soldiers, as well as its effects on military policy and decision making. He tells us about the Rebels’ persistent belief in the need to defend slavery and deploy it militarily as the war raged on. Slavery proved essential to the Confederate war machine, and Rebels strove to protect it just as they did Southern cities, towns, and railroads. Listen and learn, Buzzkillers!
Are you cursed to be living in interesting times? Would a boring era be easier on the Buzzkill blood pressure? And is “may you live in interesting times” actually an old Chinese curse, or is the history of the saying more complicated? We take you from Chinese folks tales in 1627 to 20th century British politicians in this episode of Quote or No Quote, trying to track down who said what when. Listen and learn.
All wars are bad. But why was World War II so extreme? Coming less than 20 years after World War I (the most extreme war up until that time), the Second World War’s death toll is _conservatively_ calculated at 60 million people. And some estimates are higher than that. Professor Phil Nash joins us to explain why the death and destruction were so severe, and to give us grim statistics on some overlooked facts. These include: the number of civilian deaths outweighing military deaths, and the number of Allied deaths far exceeding Axis deaths. If this episode doesn’t bring the peace-nix in you out into the open, we’ve failed to convince you. Listen and learn!
So far, this is the most famous woman we’ve ever featured on a Woman Crush Wednesday. Henrietta Lacks was a cancer patient in the early 1950s. Her cancer cells were studied and analyzed, and found to be “immortal” under laboratory conditions. They formed the famous “HeLa” cell line, the first immortalized cell line, which helped create the polio vaccine and hundreds of other medical advances. But the story is more complex than that. Listen to this episode to find out why!