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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
"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!
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!
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!