The Great Escape (1963) is in the pantheon of World War II films, and deservedly so. Generations of Buzzkillers have grown up watching Richard Attenborough, Steve McQueen, and other film stars try to outsmart their captors at Stalag Luft III. But How true was the "Great Escape" story that became a best-selling novel and box-office smash at the movie theater? Listen carefully, or Professor Buzzkill will send you to the cooler!
We interview Professor Marcus Rediker about his new book, Benjamin Lay: The Quaker Dwarf Who Became the First Revolutionary Abolitionist. Benjamin Lay was one of the most famous anti-slavery protesters 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. Professor Rediker tells the story of one of the most interesting men of the early 18th century, and learn why he deserves more attention from historians!
I live a happy life. I really do. I've got Lady Buzzkill and the Buzzlings, a fulfilling career, and money in the bank. But I guess I never knew true happiness until I was asked to be on The Reality Check Podcast, also on the Entertainment One network. The Reality Check is the weekly podcast that explores a wide range of controversies and curiosities using science and critical thinking. We talked about historical controversies and curiosities, and this bonus episode brings you that show. Please subscribe to The Reality Check wherever you get your podcasts, and go to their website to get all their social media info.
Was Civil War Union General Joseph "Fightin' Joe" Hooker's last name the origin of the slang term for prostitute? He had a perhaps undeserved reputation as a party animal, but did that reputation actually add a new word to the language? Listen to this classic Buzzkill episode to find out!
Alison Palmer was a pioneer in gaining increased women's rights and human rights in the American State Department. While working there in the 1950s and 1960s, Palmer ran up against the glass ceiling when trying to advance in the civil service at the State Department. She found it almost impossible to become a foreign service officer, and was forced to remain in the clerical ranks until she sued the Department. She spent years in court, and wasn't fully vindicated until the mid-1970s. But even more complicated than that. Listen and learn!
The rule of thumb about history myths is that they're persistent. Ever hear the one about an ancient law that allowed a man to beat his wife with a stick as long as it was not thicker than his thumb? Well, it's a myth, Buzzkillers. But how it became a myth is fascinating!
Professor Phil Nash helps us explain the complicated and much-mythologized history of the Pentagon Papers, which is shorthand for the government-funded study of US involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967. Once leaked by Daniel Ellsberg and others, American newspapers, led by the New York Times, printed significant extracts from the Papers. This led to a large freedom of the press controversy, ending in a Supreme Court ruling which allowed publication. 2017's dramatic film, The Post, chronicles the Washington Post's participation in the Pentagon Papers controversy. We explain it all, and critique the film!
Professor Marie Hicks joins us again, this time to discuss the yummy history of computer dating. Did it start with Operation Match at Harvard? Or was it a young entrepreneur in London? What were their reasons for thinking that computers could match people better than people could match people? And was the early history of computer dating as neat and clean as a computer punch card? Perhaps not! If you don't want Professor Buzzkill to fill in your profile for you, you'd better give this episode a listen!
Valentine's Day is here again, Buzzkillers, and you can be certain that we're depleting the Buzzkill bank account at a rapid clip so that we can give Lady Buzzkill all the best tokens of lova and affection befitting her rank and station. And it's always around this time of year that people ask me about St. Valentine. Did he really pass a heart-shaped note to an admirer and sign it "Your Valentine"? Was this the first Valentine's Day card? Listen and learn!
Herr Hitler gets credit for an awful lot, Buzzkillers, including the invention of the Volkswagen. The story is that he demanded a "people's car" that the average German could afford. Alas, Buzzkillers, the story is much more complicated than that, and Adolph played only a small part in the invention of the cute, little VW Beetle.
Impeachment? The 25th Amendment? Resignation? How do the American people remove a president from office? Why is it so complicated, and what's the history behind each way to get a dangerous, criminal, or just plain crazy chief executive out of the highest office in the land. Join Professor Buzzkill and Professor Nash as they work through all the possibilities, and illuminate all the history and politics behind the various processes. Listen and learn, Buzzkillers!
From 1876, when the first effective dynamo/generator that produced a steady current of electricity was invented, Americans reacted to this new phenomenon of electricity in many different ways. Professor Jennifer Lieberman is one of the first academics to study that reaction, especially how it appeared in popular literature, both fiction and non-fiction. And in doing so, she raises a lot of very important questions about our relationships with technology and the natural world. We interview her about the cultural reactions to electricity as a new technology is the topic of this episode. Listen and be electrified!
The painting Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze is one of the most iconic images in the American cultural consciousness. But how accurate a depiction is it? By standing up in the boat, did George risk tipping over and falling into the icy river? Would his soldiers have laughed or panicked? Listen to this Buzzkill classic to find out!
Varian Fry started life as a journalist. He spent the early years of World War II, however, rescuing Jews from occupied Europe, and agitating against immigration restrictions against refugees. Working with a small team of dedicated volunteers in Marseilles, Fry saved the lives of over 2,200 people. He helped them get out of France, through Spain and Portugal, and to safety in the United States. Recognized as "Righteous Among the Nations" long after his death, Varian Fry should appear much more often in the history books. Listen and learn.
Gregor Rasputin (1869-1916) is one of the most fascinating people in modern history. Who was he? Religious visionary? Mystic healer? Charlatan? Spiritual con man? Political snake? All of the above? The story that it took being drugged, poisoned, shot, beaten, and drowned for him to die is a myth, Buzzkillers. But the broader story is fascinating. Listen and learn.
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!
Lots of people take comfort from the quote "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice," and it's usually credited to Martin Luther King Jr. He said it, but was it an original MLK thought? The long history of this famous quote is fascinating and uplifting. Listen to this Buzzkill favorite to find out!
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 BlackAdder addressed many of them. Let's "go forth!" and see if they got their history right.
"The Great Train Robbery" (1903) was not the first feature film, despite what you learned in film studies class, Buzzkillers (or from some tiresome, drunken film-studies major at a boring film-studies party). The Aussies beat Hollywood to the punch. Find out how they did it!
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 in this classic Buzzkill episode 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 by listening to this Buzzkill favorite!
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 Croker explains all!
Who was Santa Claus, Buzzkillers? The jolly old man from Miracle on 34th Street? The round-bellied man wearing a red costume, driving a sleigh pulled by 8 tiny reindeer? Was there a Rudolph involved? Check out this Buzzkill favorite to find out!
Egyptologists consider Hatshepsut, the fifth pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt, one of the most powerful pharaohs in Egyptian history. Her name means "Foremost of the Noble Ladies" and she was very successful in trade negotiations, diplomacy, and building projects. Join us as we have a Woman Crush Wednesday about the Egyptian pharaoh who the famous American archaeologist and Egyptologist James Henry Breasted called, "the first great woman in history" that we know about.
General George Patton was one of the most famous, colorful, and talked about US generals in World War II. He is also among the most misunderstood military men in history. Famously played George C. Scott in a 1970 movie, Patton's image is one of the most enduring in 20th century American history. He is frequently referred to as one of America's great generals, and just as frequently referred to as one of the most arrogant, out-of-control, and over-rated. Listen to this Buzzkill favorite to learn more!