“Amazing Grace” is one of the most popular songs in Christian songbooks, and one of the most recognizable songs in the world. By one account, it is sung over 10 million times annually. It has also been the font of historical myths and misunderstandings. One particularly dramatic one, and one that has been flying around the internet for over a decade, is that the author John Newton had a Christian conversion after surviving a devastating storm that almost wrecked his ship. True story? Afraid not. Listen and learn from a Buzzkill favorite!
The tragic story of the ship "Marie Celeste" has been told for over a hundred years. And the tale gets wilder and wilder every time. On December 5, 1872, the vessel was found drifting in the Atlantic Ocean about 1,400 miles west of Portugal. The crew and passengers were gone, but the ship was in near perfect condition, with all her lifeboats intact, and all the supplies, clothing, and provisions for her occupants intact. It was as if the people had evaporated. What happened? Find out, and also learn what the "Marie Celeste" tells us about how historical myths and misconceptions start and spread!
Myths about Poland during World War II are everywhere. Professor Philip Nash and I destroy some of the biggest ones in this episode. They include: Polish cavalry going up against Nazi tanks, and the story that Poland fell quickly and easily. Not only that, the overall Polish contribution to Allied victory in Europe is generally unknown and overlooked. Listen to us explain it all.
"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!
It's time to go over the top, Buzzkillers! We interview Professor Richard Grayson about the wildly popular BBC television series, BlackAdder, and how close it is to historical reality. There are probably more myths about war than any other part of history, and Black Adder addressed many of them. Let's "go forth!" and see if they got their history right.
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.
Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis became known as the “savior of mothers” due to his pioneering work in antiseptic procedures during childbirth. His clinical and laboratory research proved that hand disinfection for doctors was essential in preventing infections and complications for mothers and newborn infants. Shunned and ridiculed by the medical establishment at the time, Semmelweis fought valiantly to have his new procedures adopted in delivery rooms and maternity wards. He was the pioneer of antiseptic treatment that Louis Pasteur and Thomas Lister later turned into standard medical practice.
Why was Hitler’s fascist party named the “National-Socialist German Workers' Party”? “Socialist” and “Fascist” usually have totally different, indeed opposite, meanings. How did they get combined and what did the “National Socialist” label mean in the 1930s and 1940s? And why are democratic socialists nowadays tarred with the “Nazi” brush by the talk radio circus clowns? Professor Nash helps us understand it all. Listen and learn!
Seeing a German soldier killing an infant in 1942 was a transformative moment for Irene Gut, a young Polish nurse. She dedicated the rest of her wartime life to rescuing and hiding Jews, despite the some of the most harrowing circumstances imaginable. Listen to Professor Nash explain the life of a woman who truly deserves to be called “Righteous Among the Nations.”
Becoming a citizen by being born in a country is an topic that flares up whenever there are controversies about immigration and immigrants. This episode explains birthright citizenship and how it developed in the United States and the western hemisphere. And, of course, it explains the complicated history of the tradition, especially how it was applied to Native Americans and freed slaves. It wasn’t as simple as you might have thought. Listen and learn!
After the Treaty of Paris ended the Seven Years’ War in 1763, British America stretched from Hudson Bay to the Florida Keys, from the Atlantic coast to the Mississippi River, and across new islands in the West Indies. To better rule these vast dominions, Britain set out to map its new territories with unprecedented rigor and precision. Max Edelson’s The New Map of Empire pictures the contested geography of the British Atlantic world and offers new explanations of the causes and consequences of Britain’s imperial ambitions in the generation before the American Revolution. Listen and learn!
Listen to the FIRST Man Crush Monday episode (encore performance of episode #233):
Professor Phil Nash joins us on our very first Man Crush Monday to tell us about the most important American Civil Rights leader that most people haven't heard of -- A. Philip Randolph, labor leader, and founder of the idea for a march on Washington. Randolph started his national career by organizing the first major African-American labor union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, in 1925. His pressured FDR to ban discrimination in defense industries in 1941, and Truman to end segregation in the armed forces in 1948. Perhaps most importantly, his plan for a March on Washington in 1941 set the precedent for the eventual 1963 March on Washington. Listen and learn, Buzzkillers.
Professor Sarah Milov explains the political and medical environments in which the 1964 US Surgeon General’s Report on dangers of smoking appeared in 1964. In addition to the medical and scientific concerns in producing the report, there were significant non-medical concerns and obstacles to overcome. One of the most significant of these was the political ways in which the Report was treated, both inside and outside the government. Listen and learn!
Should old acquaintance be forgot? What? Should we forget old friends? Should we sing about remembering them. What does Auld Lang Syne actually mean? Why do we sing it every New Year’s Eve? Join the Professor as he waxes lyrical and sentimentally about Auld Lang Syne, Scotland, and good auld Robert Burns!
How did New Year’s Day end up in the middle of winter in the northern hemisphere (and the middle of summer in the southern hemisphere)? Wouldn’t a day in spring be more fitting? Find out how people celebrated New Years in past centuries and why things turned out the way they did.
Did George Washington have a vision one evening at Valley Forge? Did an angel descend and tell General George about the future of the country, and give him the emotional stamina to carry on and win the Revolutionary War? Or is this Revolutionary-era story really a product of the 1860s? Find out, Buzzkillers!
Was there special, secret meaning behind the lyrics in the famous Christmas song, The 12 Days of Christmas? Ten Lords a Leaping and Nine Ladies Dancing sounds like a pretty good party! But why wasn't Professor Buzzkill invited? We explain it all and wish all you Buzzkillers out there a happy holiday season!
“If you don’t have anything nice to say, come and sit here by me,” is one of the best snarky-isms ever uttered. But who said it? Dorothy Parker? Joan Crawford? Lady Buzzkill? Hear the full story and learn what in the world Teddy Roosevelt, Nellie Taft, and Thomas Dewey have to do with it all? Listen and learn!
The truce between the trenches in Christmas 1914 is one of the most famous stories from World War I. Was it one big truce across the whole Western Front? Or was it lots of little ceasefires? How did it happen, and what did the soldiers do during the Christmas Truce? Did they become friends for a day? Did they play football? Did they exchange cigarettes and pose for pictures? Professor Theresa Blom Crocker explains all!
Professor Brian Balogh from the University of Virginia enlightens us about how historians have studied the US Presidency since the 1950s. It’s certainly had its ups and downs, and many historians abandoned the study of the presidency during the 1970s. Rather than just track the fall and rise of presidential history, Professor Balogh explains that the widening of historical fields will “bring the presidency back in” to mainstream historical study. Listen and learn!
Professor Phil Nash joins us to explain the myths and misconceptions about the December 7th, 1941, as well as the complexities of the cultural importance of the attack since then. Did FDR know about the attack ahead of time? And who was the attack more devastating for - the United States or Japan? You’ll learn more about an event that you thought you already knew well by listening to us!
President Lincoln comforted Lydia Bixby over the loss of her five sons during the Civil War in one of the most famous letters in American history. But what really happened to Mrs. Bixby's five sons? Did they all die fighting for the Union? Or were things a lot more complicated than that? Find out, Buzzkillers!
As the pilgrims pushed their chairs back from the first Thanksgiving table, their stomachs full of turkey and potatoes, Squanto appeared with bushels of popped corn and spilled it out on the tables for the Pilgrims to enjoy. That's how Americans got popcorn, right Buzzkillers? Well, maybe not. But you'll have to listen to find out!
The Pilgrims and Indians sat down on the fourth Thursday of November in 16-something and started the first Thanksgiving dinner, right? You guessed it. Wrong! It took almost 300 years to get to Norman Rockwell's painting and the Macy's Parade. Listen and learn, Buzzkillers!
One of the legendary stories that re-appear during Thanksgiving season is that no less a luminary and Founding Father than Ben Franklin thought that the bald eagle was an improper choice as a national bird and a national symbol. Franklin preferred the more "dignified" turkey and tried to convince the Founding Fathers to agree. Apparently, they thought Ben was a senile old sentimentalist, and so they ignored him. But is any of this story true? Listen and find out!