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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: 2017
Dec 31, 2017

Should old acquaintance be forgot? What? Should we forget old friends? Should we sing about remembering them? What does Auld Lang Syne actually mean? Why do we sing it every New Year's Eve? Join the Professor in this classic Buzzkill episode as he waxes lyrical and sentimentally about Auld Lang Syne, Scotland, and good auld Robert Burns! 

Dec 29, 2017

How did New Year's Day end up in the middle of winter in the northern hemisphere (and the middle of summer in the southern hemisphere)? Wouldn't a day in spring be more fitting? Find out how people celebrated New Years in past centuries and why things turned out the way they did by listening to this Buzzkill favorite! 

Dec 26, 2017

The truce between the trenches in Christmas 1914 is one of the most famous stories from World War I. Was it one big truce across the whole Western Front? Or was it lots of little ceasefires? How did it happen, and what did the soldiers do during the Christmas Truce? Did they become friends for a day? Did they play football? Did they exchange cigarettes and pose for pictures? Professor Theresa Blom Croker explains all! 

Dec 22, 2017

Who was Santa Claus, Buzzkillers? The jolly old man from Miracle on 34th Street? The round-bellied man wearing a red costume, driving a sleigh pulled by 8 tiny reindeer? Was there a Rudolph involved? Check out this Buzzkill favorite to find out! 

Dec 20, 2017

Egyptologists consider Hatshepsut, the fifth pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt, one of the most powerful pharaohs in Egyptian history. Her name means "Foremost of the Noble Ladies" and she was very successful in trade negotiations, diplomacy, and building projects. Join us as we have a Woman Crush Wednesday about the Egyptian pharaoh who the famous American archaeologist and Egyptologist James Henry Breasted called, "the first great woman in history" that we know about.

Dec 15, 2017

General George Patton was one of the most famous, colorful, and talked about US generals in World War II. He is also among the most misunderstood military men in history. Famously played George C. Scott in a 1970 movie, Patton's image is one of the most enduring in 20th century American history. He is frequently referred to as one of America's great generals, and just as frequently referred to as one of the most arrogant, out-of-control, and over-rated. Listen to this Buzzkill favorite to learn more! 

Dec 12, 2017

Was there a special, secret meaning behind the lyrics in the famous Christmas song, The 12 Days of Christmas? Ten Lords a Leaping and Nine Ladies Dancing sounds like a pretty good party! But why wasn't Professor Buzzkill invited? We explain it all and wish all you Buzzkillers out there a happy holiday season! 

Dec 8, 2017

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! 

Dec 7, 2017

Movie scripts are responsible for more mis-quotes than almost any other source. In Tora! Tora! Tora! Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto is shown reacting to the attack on Pearl Harbor by saying, "I fear all we have done is awaken a sleeping giant." Like Rommel and Patton "quotes," this one seems so authentic to the character that it must be true. Is it? Find out here on Professor Buzzkill!

Dec 5, 2017

Professor Phil Nash joins us to explain the myths and misconceptions about the December 7th, 1941, as well as the complexities of the cultural importance of the attack since then. Did FDR know about the attack ahead of time? And who was the attack more devastating for - the United States or Japan? You'll learn more about an event that you thought you already knew well by listening to us! 

Dec 1, 2017

It's a Buzzkill favorite! Warner Bros Studios pumped out this myth, Buzzkillers, before production had even started on the movie. But Bogie had the part all along! 

Nov 27, 2017

Benjamin Lay was one of the most famous anti-slavery protestors in colonial Pennsylvania in the early 1700s. He agitated against slavery and the slave trade in very unusual ways, and was eventually kicked out of his church, the Quakers, for his actions. He was also one of the pioneers of political boycotting of certain consumer goods. Listen to the story of one of the most interesting men of the early 18th century, and learn why he deserves more attention from historians!

Nov 24, 2017

As the pilgrims pushed their chairs back from the first Thanksgiving table, their stomachs full of turkey and potatoes, Squanto appeared with bushels of popped corn and spilled it out on the tables for the Pilgrims to enjoy. That's how Americans got popcorn, right Buzzkillers? Well, maybe not, but you'll have to listen to this Buzzkill favorite to find out! 

Nov 23, 2017

The Pilgrims and Indians sat down on the fourth Thursday of November in 16-something and started the first Thanksgiving dinner, right? You guessed it. Wrong! It took almost 300 years to get to Norman Rockwell’s painting and the Macy’s Parade. Listen and learn, Buzzkillers!

Nov 21, 2017

Professor Phil Nash shows how the myths and misconceptions about the Vietnam War started, grew, and have plagued our historical consciousness since the late 1950s. Among other things, the large number of myths about the Vietnam War shows us that our understanding of even relatively recent historical events can be twisted. From the "JFK wouldn't have Americanized the war" to the "POW-MIA" myth, the true history of American involvement in South-East Asia has often been obscured by myths and myth-making. It's one of our very best episodes, and we hope you find it enlightening.

Nov 17, 2017

Was there an actual decision whether or not to use atomic bombs in World War II? If not, what were the questions and issues about using the bomb? Why did the US choose Hiroshima and Nagasaki as targets? Did Truman do it to scare the Soviets? Did dropping the bomb actually save lives compared with how many would have died during an invasion of Japan? Professor Philip Nash enlightens us.

Nov 14, 2017

There's a great quote and sentiment about sticking with a righteous movement for much-needed change, particularly when it's faced with a big, entrenched and powerful foe. That quote goes like this: "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." It's often attributed to Gandhi. That's not very surprising. But we here at the Buzzkill Institute don't call him the Mahatma of Misquotation for nothing, and as we'll see in a couple of minutes, if you were forced to boil down one of Gandhi's very lengthy and sophisticated arguments to a bumper sticker slogan, the "First they ignore you…" saying would fit, more or less. Find out the full story in this episode!

Nov 10, 2017

Did you struggle over long division, Buzzkillers? Did your math teacher try to console you by telling that Einstein was bad at math when he was young? Well, I hate to bust one of your cherished childhood stories, but it isn’t true. Einstein rocked the mathematics. Don’t use that excuse when you can’t balance your checkbook.

Nov 7, 2017

Professor Phil Nash explains the history of Vietnam in the 20th century, and the very complicated ways in which it was torn apart by war and civil war throughout the mid-century. Along the way, we learn about the deep complications in the history of the Vietnam War that have allowed myths and misconceptions to solidify. In particular, we talk about how post-World War II wars in Vietnam become Americanized. Finally, we discuss the impact of the war in the United States, as well as its impact in Vietnam itself. Listen and learn, Buzzkillers!

Nov 3, 2017

Prof. Phil Nash joins us once again to bust US history myths. This time it’s about President Woodrow Wilson. How much of a progressive was he? What were his real attitudes towards race? How much idealism did he pump into his policies on foreign affairs? How effective was he in ending World War I and negotiating things at Versailles? And, finally, did his wife really take over after his stroke in late 1919?

Nov 1, 2017

It's our first Woman Crush Wednesday! Professor Marie Hicks tells us the story of Stephanie Shirley, one of Britain's computer programming pioneers. Imagine starting your own company with just £6 (roughly $12) and building it into one of the most powerful programming companies in Europe. That was Stephanie Shirley did, starting in 1961. Later in life, she went on to become one of Britain's leading philanthropists and has donated most of her life to helping good causes, especially those close to her heart. She was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) by Queen Elizabeth II in 2000 for her work in information technology and for her extensive charity work. Listen and admire, Buzzkillers!

Oct 31, 2017

Halloween is a demonic holiday chock full of sin and endangered by razor blades in trick or treat candy, right? Wrong. Nothing about the origins of Halloween can be called demonic, satanic, or anti-Christian. And the adulterated candy thing is an urban legend. Get the full story from the Buzzkill Institute.

Oct 27, 2017

A Buzzkill favorite! A Viking horned helmet would have been very impractical, and perhaps dangerous, in battle, Buzzkillers. A sword blow to the head might glance off a smooth helmet. But it would surely catch on a horn and send the helmet flying, leaving the Viking bareheaded and highly vulnerable to a death blow to the skull. There is only one depiction of a horned helmet in ancient Nordic art, and it was probably ceremonial. We get the image of Vikings in horned helmets from the 19th-century revival of interest in Nordic culture. Northern Europeans romanticized what they saw as the purest form of medieval culture, as a kind of counter-balance to the glories of the ancient Mediterranean cultures of Greece and Rome. There was a mini-mania for all things Norse in the 19th century. This was nowhere more highly expressed than in Richard Wagner’s operas. Wagner’s costume designer, Hans Thoma, is primarily responsible for the image we have today of horned-helmeted Vikings.

Oct 23, 2017

The Russian Revolution of 1917 was one of the most important events in the 20th century. Professor Nash joins us to untangle the extremely complicated history of Russian politics between 1905 and 1917. He tells us what happened and why. Why, for instance, were there so many revolutions (or "state coups") between the Russo-Japanese War of 1905 and the October Revolution of 1917? Why did World War I have such an accelerating effect on the pace of changes in Russia? Why were there so many competing political parties in Russia, and how did the Bolsheviks eventually become paramount? Listen and learn, Buzzkillers.

Oct 20, 2017

“Amazing Grace” is one of the most popular songs in Christian songbooks, and one of the most recognizable songs in the world. By one account, it is sung over 10 million times annually. It has also been the font of historical myths and misunderstandings. One particularly dramatic one, and one that has been flying around the internet for over a decade, is that the author John Newton had a Christian conversion after surviving a devastating storm that almost wrecked his ship. True story? Afraid not. Listen and learn from a Buzzkill favorite! 

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