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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: Category: history
Oct 12, 2018

President Roosevelt's "Fireside Chats" are famous for breaking new ground in how political leaders communicate with their people. But were they really as ground-breaking as we all tend to believe? Did they really help the American people get through the Great Depression and World War II? Was it FDR's tone and confidence that connected to the people, or was there something more mundane that explains the popularity of the Fireside Chats? Professor Phil Nash enlightens us! 

Oct 5, 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? Listen to this Buzzkill favorite to find out! 

Sep 28, 2018

"Molly Pitcher" was the legendary water carrier who kept American soldiers hydrated and poured cool water on cannon barrels during the crucial Battle of Monmouth in 1778. But was she a real person? If so, who was she? As you'll find out, Buzzkillers, she was more a product of the American Revolutionary Centennial celebrations in 1876 than the Revolutionary War itself. 

Sep 21, 2018

Did Richard Nixon genuinely "concede" the 1960 Presidential Election to John Kennedy the day after the election, as so many commentators now tell us? Or did he qualify his remarks so much, and work so feverishly behind the scenes to overturn the election, that he should be considered a "sore loser"? Find out in this episode, Buzzkillers! 

Sep 14, 2018

For decades, a story flew around that Coke was originally full of coke, as in cocaine. The early developers of Coca-Cola stirred cocaine into its famous syrup, so the legend goes. Once mixed with energizing carbonated water, early Coca-Cola became irresistible, and customers became addicted. That's how Coke dominated the soft drink market. Is this a myth? Is it a half-myth? Find out, Buzzkillers! 

Sep 7, 2018

Enigma, the German World War II message encoding machine, was famously cracked by British codebreakers led by Alan Turing. But were there more people involved? Buzzkillers in Dayton, Ohio, will be very proud to hear that one of their native sons, Joseph Desch, was an Enigma hero. And Buzzkillers in Poland will welcome the fact that we're gonna remind everyone that Polish cryptanalysts were the first to crack Enigma. 

Aug 31, 2018

A Viking horned helmet would have been very impractical, and perhaps dangerous, in battle, Buzzkillers. There is only one depiction of a horned helmet in ancient Nordic art, and it was probably ceremonial. Horned helmets are most likely the invention of legendary opera composer Wagner's costume designer in the 19th century. 

 

Aug 24, 2018

The great influenza pandemic of 1918-1920 was one of the worst disasters in human history. Somewhere between 50 and 100 million people were killed by the flu worldwide. But did it start in Spain? Was the Spanish health-care system to blame? Listen and learn, Buzzkillers! 

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 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 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 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 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 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 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. 

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 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 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 1, 2018

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. 

 

May 22, 2018

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.

May 18, 2018

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! 

May 14, 2018

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!

May 11, 2018

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. 

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