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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: 2018
Aug 17, 2018

Abner Doubleday didn't invent baseball, and he didn't do it in Cooperstown in 1839, Buzzkillers. Once again, a second- or third-hand story created a persistent myth. It was Alexander Cartwright in Manhattan in 1845. The Baseball Hall of Fame is still a great place to visit and I hope to run into you there sometime, Buzzkillers! 

Aug 14, 2018

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!

Aug 10, 2018

The silk top hat was common headwear in high society from the middle of the 18th century all the way to at least the beginning of the 20th. By the middle of the 20th century, however, the top hat was in rapid decline-- and many blame President John F. Kennedy for its demise. Did Kennedy break with tradition by not wearing a top hat during his inauguration-- and if he did, how much did that really contribute to changing fashions? Listen and find out, Buzzkillers! 

Aug 7, 2018

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.

Aug 3, 2018

Pity the poor Dutch, Buzzkillers! They traveled all over the world and get almost no credit for it. Captain James Cook of England wasn't the first European to discover Australia. Willem Janszoon was. Ever heard of him? I didn't think so. 

Jul 31, 2018

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!

Jul 27, 2018

The weather report for the morning of October 29, 1929, the day of the famous Wall Street Crash, called for falling stockbrokers. Ruined businessmen were supposed to be flinging themselves out of their high office windows in despair. Alas, Buzzkillers, the forecast didn't prove true. Stay tuned right here for the update. 

Jul 25, 2018

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!

Jul 20, 2018

Was a junk food diet really used as a defense in a murder case? Did the Twinkie do it? Alas, Buzzkillers, the answer is no, but the story about this myth is fascinating. Sit back, unwrap one of your favorite snacks, listen and learn! 

Jul 17, 2018

How close have the United States and the Soviet Union come to nuclear war in the past several decades? How many accidents, miscommunications, and misunderstandings have brought us to the brink of annihilation? Professor Phil Nash joins us to explain how many times we’ve been on the brink of nuclear war, what happened in these incidents, and what mistakes were made. You’ll be very surprised (and made uneasy) at how many times simple human error brought the world close to nuclear war. Take a deep breath, Buzzkillers, and listen with the lights on!

Jul 13, 2018

Droit du Seigneir (French: "right of the lord") refers to the "right" of a feudal lord to sleep with the bride of his vassals on their wedding night. While this "right" appears as early as the Epic of Gilgamesh (c 2100 BC), is an important plot device in The Marriage of Figaro (the play by Beaumarchais, written in 1788) and in Mel Gibson's film Braveheart (1995), there's no solid evidence that it ever existed in medieval European law or that it was ever practised then. 

Jul 9, 2018

Melvin Purvis, head of the Chicago Division of the young FBI, is usually overshadowed by the character of J. Edgar Hoover. But who did the real work of capturing or killing Pretty Boy Floyd and John Dillinger. Professor Nash joins us to discuss G-Man Melvin Purvis and where he belongs in the history of American law enforcement. Listen in!

Jul 6, 2018

The one thing that everyone knows about Marie Antoinette (Queen of France in the late 18th century) is that, when told that the peasants were starving because they had no bread, said, "then let them eat cake." How cold is that, Buzzkillers? It's Royal Arrogance of the First Order. She deserves some kind of medal for her sheer bravado. But did she actually say it? Listen and find out! 

Jul 4, 2018

It's a great and heart-warming story, Buzzkillers, but meek and modest Betsy Ross did not design or sew the first American flag. The story itself follows the classic myth pattern, a second-hand family tale that caught on with a receptive public. Listen up as some young American Buzzkillers help set the record straight. 

Jul 3, 2018

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.

Jul 1, 2018

Did Canadians burn the White House in 1814, in the last few months of the War of 1812, as President Trump apparently believes? Who was in command, Tim Horton? Bob and Doug MacKenzie? Or was it British forces, as we’ve been told in our history classes since, well, 1814. And, by the way, what the hell does Napoleon have to do with it? Find out!

Jun 30, 2018

Government internment of “enemy aliens” during World War II has been a controversial topic ever since the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Not only is the history much more complicated than is popularly known, the various policies applied at the time were very complicated, and often contradictory. In this episode we talk about how Japanese-Americans, Italian-Americans, and German-Americans were treated during the 20th Century’s darkest years.

Jun 29, 2018

Everyone was killed at the Alamo. Right, Buzzkillers? That's why "Remember the Alamo" is such a famous rallying cry in American history. But was everyone killed inside the Alamo? Civilians? Women and children? Was Santa Anna essentially a murderer? Find out, Buzzkillers, by listening to this Mini-Myth! 

Jun 22, 2018

"Give me liberty or give me death," Virginia patriot Patrick Henry was supposed to have said in a stirring speech before the American Revolution. We Buzzkill this quote and show that, like most "quotes," it was written decades after the event. Download Professor Buzzkill and download death to history myths! 

Jun 19, 2018

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!

Jun 15, 2018

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? 

Jun 12, 2018

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!

Jun 8, 2018

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! 

Jun 6, 2018

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!

Jun 5, 2018

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!

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