He may have had a GPS system named after him, but Ferdinand Magellan wouldn't have needed it during his trip around the globe back in the early 1500s. He only made it halfway, dying in the Philippines at the hands of natives who got sick of him asking for directions. But since it was his ship that eventually got back to Europe, he gets the credit. Oh well, Buzzkillers. Who cares about the details anyway?
One of the most common Einstein No Quotes you see coursing around the internet is: “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” Sometimes the mis-quote-meisters add “so is a lot,” to this pithy quote saying about knowledge, and we end up with “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. So is a lot.” It’s probably the type of thing Einstein would say, but did he ever actually say it? Find out in this episode!
Burn the witch! Burn the witch! It makes for a dramatic story, with about as final an ending as you can imagine. Suspected witches were nabbed, but on trial, convicted, and burned at the stake in the 1690s in Massachusetts. But it's just not true. The convicted witches faced a far more mundane fate. Listen and find out!
1865. The Civil War is over. Slavery has been abolished. The country is “reconstructing” itself. This should have meant that the lives of African-Americans improved during this period. But it didn’t. 1865-1930 is often called the “nadir of African-American life.” Not only did they gain very little economic or social benefit from the end of slavery, white Southerners built up a system of race oppression that still stains American consciousness. Listen as Professor Phil Nash explains it all!
It's a great "Gone with the Wind" romantic-type story. The defeated, but honorable, General Robert E. Lee offered his sword to the victor, U.S. Grant, during the Confederacy's surrender at Appomattox Court House. Grant, just as honorably, refused to take it. But it didn't happen, Buzzkillers. It was a made-up press report that caught the public's attention and kept getting repeated.
The board game Monopoly seems too complicated to have had one single inventor, right? Well, no. Elizabeth Magie invented it in the first few years of the 20th century, and called it The Landlords Game. But the original game was anti-landlord, and embodied many aspects of communitarianism. Find out about it, about Elizabeth Magie, and why it became “Monopoly” on this Woman Crush Wednesday!
Walt Disney is one of the most famous names in entertainment. But have you ever heard of Ub Iwerks? Good old Ub was the real artistic genius behind many of Disney's most beloved characters, including Mickey Mouse. Yet there is no IwerksWorld, no Iwerks animation empire. Tune in to find out why, Buzzkillers!
The Reconstruction period (1865-1877) after the Civil War was at least as complicated as the war itself. It’s also been fraught with different historian interpretations over the generations. Professor Phil Nash joins us to untangle what happened and put the strands back together to understand the history of the period and the people involved.
Almost nothing about Sir Walter Raleigh is true, or at the very least it's all been highly exaggerated. He didn't lay his clock down for Queen Elizabeth, and he didn't introduce potatoes and tobacco to Europe after his travels in the New World. He cuts a dashing figure through popular history, nonetheless. Put your romanticizing aside, Buzzkillers and hear the truth!
Tommy Flowers was a very important British scientist and engineer during the first half of the 20th century. Not only did he do essential work in cracking secret German codes during World War II, he is usually credited with inventing (and building) the world’s first programmable electronic computer, the Colossus. He’s not as famous as Alan Turing, but he’s at least as important to history. Listen to our Man Crush Monday!
Did the Roman emperor Nero really fiddle while his glorious city of Rome burned? Politicians may often be bad guys, Buzzkillers, but there's no good evidence for this level of mania in old Nero. It's a good story, but that's all it is-- a story.
Major social and political forces led to the establishment of Mother's Day as a major and official holiday. Our new episode explains those forces, and also tells us who founded Mother's Day. Was it Julia Ward Howe with her famous "Appeal to Womanhood" Peace Proclamation in 1870? Or did Anna Marie Jarvis found it, honoring her own mother in 1908? And what did war and campaigns for international disarmament have to do with the history of Mother's Day?
One of the most popular history exercises in elementary schools these days is to have students learn about Quilt Codes and the Underground Railroad and make some design themselves. Students are told that quilt patterns gave escaped slaves directions and warnings on their way to freedom. Alas, it's a myth, Buzzkillers! But it's a highly textured one. Geddit? Listen in!
Politics is a messy business, even in the best of times, and especially in the worst of times. Many people console themselves with this reality by quoting Otto von Bismarck, the 19th century Prussian politician who, among other things, was the the first Chancellor of the German Empire (from 1871 to 1890). He was also a strong believer in realpolitik, the idea that realism and practicalities should outweigh ideology and emotion in political decisions. It’s not surprising, therefore, that he often quoted as saying, “Laws are like sausages. It is best not to see them being made.” The analysis implicit in that phrase certainly fits Bismarck’s political personality. But did he actually say it? Listen and learn!
Find any fraternity member who's also a freshman history major. Get him drunk, and he'll start reeling off myths like crazy. One of them will probably be that Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia (1729-1796) died by being crushed by a horse. While she was having sex with a horse! In bed! You can probably guess whether it's true, Buzzkillers!
You've probably always seen Napoleon depicted as a shorty. And you may have heard that his ambition was driven by a classic "short man's complex." Alas, it's not true. At least not by his measured height. The nickname came about differently. Listen to the podcast, Buzzkillers, to find out how and why.
Did the United States really “bail the French out in two world wars,” or is it a blustering, bigoted myth? Professor Phil Nash joins us to discuss what actually happened in World Wars I and II, and whether the United States was “bailing out” the French or repaying a major debt from the American Revolution. Join us as we discuss all the issues. Lafayette, the Buzzkillers are here!
Did Ben Franklin really discover electricity by flying a kite in a lightning storm? Well, he may have flown the kite, Buzzkillers, but knowledge of electricity's been around a long, long time. Take the journey of discovery back in time with the old Professor.
Alice Hamilton was a pioneer in occupational medicine and industrial toxicology. And it’s not an exaggeration to say that she was the most important person in helping to make the American workplace safer. She also campaigned for women’s rights, social and economic reform, and international peace. There are very few people who need more historical fame and glory than Dr. Alice Hamilton. Listen and be inspired!
Like all good Americans, I just had a PB&J for lunch. I couldn't help thinking of George Washington Carver, the reputed inventor of peanut butter. You won't be surprised to hear that the invention of peanut butter is much more complicated (and more important) than is usually told. Listen in over your own PB&J, Buzzkillers!
Historian Ray Boomhower joins us to analyze the famous speech given by RFK in Indianapolis, on hearing about the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968. It’s one of the most famous and touching speeches in modern American history, and is usually credited with keeping Indianapolis calm in the wake of that horrible tragedy. We talk about the background to the speech, what else contributed to Indianapolis’ peaceful reaction to what happened, and what part it played in the race for the 1968 Democratic Presidential Nomination. Listen and be inspired.
Martin Luther King did so much more for American society, and wanted so much more from the US government and US elite, than most people realize. Popular history has airbrushed out far too much about his life and work. Professor Phil Nash reminds us of the importance of King’s work, especially during the forgotten period between his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech and his assassination in 1968. Listen and learn.
What a great way to get taxes lowered! Get your land-owning husband to agree to lower property taxes if you ride naked on horseback right down main street. That's just what Lady Godiva agreed to do in 11th century England in order to get her tight-fisted husband to lighten up on his tenants. But is it true or just another mini-myth? Listen in, Buzzkillers!
Robert Sherrod was the pioneering journalist who portrayed the Pacific battles in World War II, and risked his life in doing so. In a time when stark battle news was largely kept from the American public, Sherrod convinced President Roosevelt to allow a grim documentary entitled With the Marines at Tarawa to be released to the general public, over the objections of Warner Brothers (who produced the film). This was perhaps the first instance in modern media history that some of the horrors of war were shown at home.
It's an exciting and romantic tale: a future Roman hero had to be cut out of his mother's womb as she's dying in childbirth. The procedure is later named after the famous baby who survived -- Julius Caesar. Alas, the story is as mythological as the one about storks delivering babies down chimneys. Hang on, I just heard a tiny thumb and a muffled cry coming from the living room...