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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
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. 

May 4, 2018

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! 

May 1, 2018

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!

Apr 27, 2018

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! 

Apr 20, 2018

You've probably always seen Napoleon depicted as a shorty. And you may have heard that his ambition was driven by a classic "short man's complex." Alas, it's not true. At least not by his measured height. The nickname came about differently. Listen to the podcast, Buzzkillers, to find out how and why. 

Apr 17, 2018

Did the United States really “bail the French out in two world wars,” or is it a blustering, bigoted myth? Professor Phil Nash joins us to discuss what actually happened in World Wars I and II, and whether the United States was “bailing out” the French or repaying a major debt from the American Revolution. Join us as we discuss all the issues. Lafayette, the Buzzkillers are here!

Apr 11, 2018

Alice Hamilton was a pioneer in occupational medicine and industrial toxicology. And it’s not an exaggeration to say that she was the most important person in helping to make the American workplace safer. She also campaigned for women’s rights, social and economic reform, and international peace. There are very few people who need more historical fame and glory than Dr. Alice Hamilton. Listen and be inspired!

Apr 6, 2018

Like all good Americans, I just had a PB&J for lunch. I couldn't help thinking of George Washington Carver, the reputed inventor of peanut butter. You won't be surprised to hear that the invention of peanut butter is much more complicated (and more important) than is usually told. Listen in over your own PB&J, Buzzkillers! 

Apr 4, 2018

Historian Ray Boomhower joins us to analyze the famous speech given by RFK in Indianapolis, on hearing about the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968. It’s one of the most famous and touching speeches in modern American history, and is usually credited with keeping Indianapolis calm in the wake of that horrible tragedy. We talk about the background to the speech, what else contributed to Indianapolis’ peaceful reaction to what happened, and what part it played in the race for the 1968 Democratic Presidential Nomination. Listen and be inspired.

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