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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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Dec 11, 2018

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!

Dec 7, 2018

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!

Dec 5, 2018

Madame C.J. Walker was a pioneer in the hair care industry, and in broad-based national marketing during the height of Jim Crow in the United States. As an African-American woman, she faced obstacles every time she tried to improve her business. Nevertheless, she went on to become one of the wealthiest women in America. Listen to Professor Corye Beene explain it all!

Nov 30, 2018

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! 

Nov 27, 2018

Professor Andrew Huebner joins us to discuss his fascinating new examination of the what World War I meant for Americans. Was it to “make the world safe for democracy” or was it for home and family. Find out!

Nov 23, 2018

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! 

Nov 22, 2018

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! 

Nov 19, 2018

William Henry Johnson eventually became one of the most decorated soldiers in World War I. His medals and military decorations came only eventually, however. He acted bravely and heroically in the Argonne Forest in May, 1918, killing multiple German soldiers and saving an American comrade, all the while being heavily wounded himself. The French military awards him the Croix de Guerre, their highest honor. Johnson’s heroism was not recognized by the American military and American government until much later. Find out how much later, and why there was such a delay, listen to this Man Crush Monday episode!

Nov 16, 2018

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! 

Nov 11, 2018

Did World War I end with a bang or a whimper? Prof Phil Nash joins us to discuss the complicated road to the armistice of November 11, 1918. A dozen countries were involved, the Russian Revolution intervened, and the US military provided fresh troops for the Triple Entente of Britain, France, and Russia. And the German alliance gradually fell apart. But there’s so much more than that! Listen and learn.

Nov 9, 2018

Everybody knows that Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel, but how did he do it? Did he really paint the entire ceiling from atop a scaffold while reclining on his back? Well, not really. In some cases, the truth is even more amazing than the myth, and this is one of those cases, Buzzkillers. Not only did Michelangelo paint one of the most famous masterpieces in the history of art, he did so under great duress. Listen to find out why the painting of the Sistine Chapel is even more awesome than you thought. 

Nov 6, 2018

The poem that begins “First they came for the socialists, and I did not not speak out --- because I was not a socialist,” goes through a series of other oppressed, but ignored, groups, and ends with, “and then they came for me --- and there was no one left to speak for me,” is one of the most touching and thought-provoking expressions of human and communal responsibility of the 20th Century. It was, of course, said by Pastor Martin Niemöller, a German Lutheran, after the World War II and the Holocaust. But the history of that poem is just as heart-rending, and prompts just as much self-reflection about political and social responsibility as anything that came out of that horrific period. Please listen.

Nov 2, 2018

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November, The Gunpowder treason and plot... Children's rhymes make poor history. So do modern day movies, like V for Vendetta. Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators weren't radicals fighting for the working people. So why do we all wear that mask? 

Nov 1, 2018

One of the things that makes the recent hate crimes in the United States so shocking and outrageous is that they seem to go against the grain of American life. They’re out of character, and un-American. But, as one of my fellow historians said recently, “The citizen in me hates what is happening in America now. The historian in me knows that this has always happened in America.” Today, I’ll say a few very general things about the history of hate crimes in the US. And then we’ll play the show we previously did on the KKK. It addresses many of the underlying issues of hate and bigotry that seem to be continually with us in the United States.

Oct 30, 2018

In the wake of over a dozen football-related deaths in 1905, President Teddy Roosevelt rode in in, and threatened football leaders that if they didn’t make the game safer, he’d ban it. They implemented reforms, and Rough Rider Teddy gets the credit for saving American football from itself. But is that what happened, or is it far more complicated and historically interesting than that? We explore how the American style of football started and developed, why it was so violent, and why it was reformed in the early 20th century. Listen and learn!

Oct 26, 2018

Halloween is a demonic holiday chock full of sin and endangered by razor blades in trick or treat candy, right? Wrong. Nothing about the origins of Halloween can be called demonic, satanic, or anti-Christian. And the adulterated candy thing is an urban legend. Get the full story from the Buzzkill Institute. 

Oct 24, 2018

It’s a Woman Crush Wednesday! Maria Bochkareva’s life reflects almost all of the tumultuous period of the Russian Revolution (1917-1922). During World War I, she fights, and eventually leads, the “1st Russian Women’s Battalion of Death.” She then connects with the White forces in the Russian Civil War, does diplomatic work for them in the US and Britain, and returns to Russia to fight in 1918. Listen and learn what eventually happened to her!

Oct 19, 2018

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! 

Oct 16, 2018

Richard Nixon was already known as “Tricky Dick” long before the Presidential Election of 1968. But would he do anything so tricky as to negotiate with a foreign country against American interests in order to get elected? Professor Nash comes to the Buzzkill Bunker to explain all the shenanigans of the 1968 election, and whether the Nixon and his team crafted an October Surprise to win in November. This story is full of intrigue, drama, and dread. Listen in!

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 8, 2018

Benjamin Lay was one of the most famous anti-slavery protestors in colonial Pennsylvania in the early 1700s. He agitated against slavery and the slave trade in very unusual ways, and was eventually kicked out of his church, the Quakers, for his actions. He was also one of the pioneers of political boycotting of certain consumer goods. Listen to the story of one of the most interesting men of the early 18th century, and learn why he deserves more attention from historians!

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! 

Oct 2, 2018

1968 was a dramatic, upsetting, and confusing year in many parts of the world. The American Presidential Election was equally strange and unusual. Protests, riots, assassinations, major political parties in turmoil, and a segregationist third party candidate. All in the shadow of the Vietnam War. No election before or since has been so tumultuous. How did the country survive. Professor Phil Nash explains it all in this episode!

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 25, 2018

Did Gandhi say, “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”? If he didn’t, where did it come from? The Bible? The Canadian House of Commons? Movie script writers? And is there something more significant in how this phrase has come down to us as an essential Gandhi-ism? Listen and learn with your eyes open, Buzzkillers!

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