It’s Tuesday, and this is a combined Man Crush Monday and Woman Crush Wednesday! Today we’re going to look at a couple, Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, who were a driving creative force behind perhaps the biggest popular music revolution in American history in the 1950s. Often called the first professional songwriters in Nashville, the Byants wrote songs for The Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, and nearly every aspiring singing act of the 1950s.
The "pizza effect" helps explain why assumptions about the history and development of certain cultural practices and traditions are among the strongest historical myths out there, how they are self-reinforcing, and how they can build up mistaken images and misunderstandings about cultural identity. Along the way, we'll learn about such things as the "pizza renaissance" in Italy, the "Hindu renaissance across India, the "Cornish pasty renaissance" in south-west England, and the "Clancy Brothers" or "traditional music renaissance" in Ireland! Listen and let it all sink in!
Today’s episode is special! It’s an interview I gave to Colin Woodward from the American Rambler podcast. Among other things, we talk about how I started doing the show, and about the nature of historical myths and how damaging they can be. Colin even drags a few personal things out of me! Lady Buzzkill will be horrified!
Hitler storming out of the stadium after Jesse Owens won the 100-meter dash in the 1936 Berlin Olympics is one of most enduring images we have of the tumultuous history of Nazi Germany. Hitler famously “snubbed” Jesse Owens and all African-American athletes because of his ideas of Aryan racial superiority. But did it actually happen? And did it happen the way we usually think? Find out, Buzzkillers!
Umrao Singh was one of thirty-one British Indian Army soldiers awarded the Victoria Cross during WWII, and was the only NCO in Royal Artillery or Royal Indian Artillery to receive a VC during WWII. On the night of 15-16 Dec 1944, Singh commanded a field gun detachment close to front. His defense of his position and his counter-attack on Japanese forces was heroic and has become legendary. But listen to our Man Crush Monday to get the full story!
Practically nothing in the history of the United States has suffered from myth-making and misunderstanding as much as the history of race relations and racist violence. The history Ku Klux Klan is no exception. This is ironic. In its various incarnations, the KKK was supposed to be a secret organization. But historians know a great deal about it, and have analyzed it deeply. We explain the three periods of KKK, how each version of the Klan was different, but also how each version had one crucial thing in common -- hate. Listen, learn, and contemplate.
Puerto Rican nationalists tried to assassinate President Harry Truman in 1950. Then, in 1954, different Puerto Rican Nationalists opened fire in the House of Representatives, wounding Congressmen. Professor Perry Blatz joins us to explain the background to Puerto Rican nationalism and its impact on US political life in the mid-20th century. Listen and learn!
Professor Marie Hicks joins us to talk about gender and employment in the emerging field of computing in Britain, and all the historical myths that surround them. In 1944, Britain led the world in electronic computing. By 1974, the British computer industry was all but extinct. We examine why this happened in the tense post-war world, as Britain was losing its role as a global leader and innovator. Professor Hicks calls this a story of gendered technocracy, and it undercut Britain's flexibility in the technology age. Listen and learn, Buzzkillers!
Many of you have written in to ask me to trace the origins of the phrase, “the pen is mightier than the sword.”. Was it Shakespeare, Voltaire, or Thomas Jefferson? Some of you have even seen it attributed to Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, and that famous magnet for all quotations, Winston Churchill. Well, we explain it all in this Quote or No Quote episode!
In the Academy Award-winning film, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Colonel Nicholson is portrayed as a man who willingly betrays his country and his men for an easier ride as prisoner of war. He collaborates with his captors in order to build a railway bridge that is key to Japan's war efforts in Burma and Thailand. While the men under his command are initially intent on sabotaging the bridge, Nicholson convinces them otherwise, ostensibly in order to maintain troop morale, and to show that British engineering is superior to that of the Japanese. The only problem, Dear Buzzkillers, is that the real commanding British Colonel on the River Kwai was was nothing like the character portrayed in the movie.
Income tax is a troubling issue in American politics and history. We explain its long and complicated history, and delve into the even more complicated history of how personal income tax has related to the question of equality and inequality in US society. Professor Nash tells us how the American government has raised funds for peacetime needs and, of course, times of war. It’s not a simple tale of taxes rising as the country grew and the US government grew. Taxation is perhaps the most difficult thing to explain in American governmental history, but we make it easy to understand.
Professor Jeremy Young joins us to discuss the Age of Charisma (1870-1940). It was an exciting period in US history: industrialization was in high gear; railroads and telegraph lines were spreading widely; mass media was born; and increased concentration on charisma, magnetism, and emotion in politics, religion, and social reform. Styles of public speaking changed and founded the phenomenon of personality politics.
It’s a rare thing indeed to find someone in history who stands up and rebels against almost all the things she finds oppressive in society. Such a woman was Qiu Jin, the Chinese revolutionary whose short but dramatic life has led her to be called “China’s Joan of Arc.” She rebelled not only against the strictures placed on her as an individual, but also against the broader restrictions and repression against women in Chinese society in politics and society in the early 20th century. A great woman for a Woman Crush Wednesday!
Meek and mild Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus in 1950s Alabama because she was just tired after a long day at work. That’s mostly myth, and it obscures all the work that Mrs. Parks did, as well as over-simplifying the complicated politics of the civil rights movement. Join us as we interview Professor Jeanne Theoharis, author of The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks.
Was Jesse James a famous “western outlaw” or is the story more complicated than that? Listen as Professor Nash takes us through James’ life and explains the centrality of the Civil War, and how the bitterness enhanced by the civil war motivated his post-war life of crime. And how about Jesse James as a modern-day Robin Hood? We explore that myth and how the celebration of Frank and Jesse James has been based on hype, hatred, and histrionics.
The Irish slaves myth claims that Irish people were enslaved by the British and sent to the Americas (especially the Caribbean) to work on plantations. This myth primarily appears in emails and Facebook posts, and goes like this: Irish people were enslaved in greater numbers than people enslaved from Africa, and treated worse than African slaves. Irish slave women were forcibly bred with African slaves in order to produce valuable mulatto children slaves. The history of Irish slaves has been buried by our politically-correct world, so the myth goes, and has been replaced by an over-emphasis on the enslavement of Africans in the New World. But is there any truth to it, Buzzkillers? Listen and learn.
The Professor seems to want to make enemies in this episode. He shows that many things central to Irish culture and identity are actually British in origin -- St. Patrick, “the craic,” and “Danny Boy” come under his withering analytical gaze. But he may surprise you with the ultimate conclusions he reaches. Maybe he’s not that much of a buzzkill after all.
Super Buzzkiller Prof Philip Nash joins us to examine some of the zillion myths surrounding Adolf Hitler and his early years. We discuss the myth of his brutal childhood and youthful poverty, the complicated story of his service in World War I (and the ways in which he wrote about it later in Mein Kampf), and the myths surrounding his early political career and political activism. It’s very deep and complicated, Buzzkillers!
The “Non-Smoker” as a category of persons seems obvious in the 21st century. But it wasn’t always this way. Professor Sarah Milov gives the history of the non-smoking movement, including the medical, legal, and political battles that eventually led to smoke-free public places. Hear about pressure groups like GASP, ASH, and the countless local movements that helped clear the air.
Huge numbers of listeners have flooded the Buzzkill Institute with emails, faxes, texts, and Tweets, asking about President Donald Trump’s Executive Orders. They’ve come so fast and furious! With a little help from Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Reagan, we explain the nature and operation of Executive Orders, as well as the history behind this fascinating aspect of American history and government.
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 “traveling while black.”
Did women’s rights protesters go so far as to burn their bras in public in the late 1960s and early 1970s, in the same way that anti-war protesters burned their draft cards? Well, no, Buzzkillers. They did throw them in “freedom trash cans,” along with girdles, high-heeled shoes, and cosmetics. Not as dramatic as burning them, but a whole more sensible, from a public safety point of view, wouldn’t you say?
The blackout of November 1965 was a big event in the north-east of the United States and in Ontario. But did it result in an increase in babies born nine months later? When deprived of other “entertainments,” did people divert themselves with love? Snuggle up with the Professor, Buzzkillers, and hear the full story.
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.