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History Myths Buzzkilled

Admiral Yamamoto, “I fear all we have done is awaken a sleeping giant.” Quote or No Quote?

As we awake on December 7th, I am reminded of the supposed reaction of the Japanese Admiral Isoroku [EE so ro koo] Yamamoto when their attack on Pearl Harbor was completed. Pondering the reports of the successful attack, Yamamoto is reputed to have said, "I fear all we have done is awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with terrible resolve." Like so many dramatic quotes during times of war, however, this one is the product of dramatic scriptwriting, not a thoughtful leader's sobering analysis of wartime prospects. You see, the residue of the "awaken a sleeping giant" quote [...]

Man Crush Monday! Benjamin Lay

Members of the Society of Friends, better known as Quakers, are usually considered very thoughtful people. Their religious services, simply called "Meetings," are modest and quiet compared to those of most other Christian denominations. This modesty and emphasis on quiet is important, because one of their central principles is for church members to, "listen for the spirit, even if it is expressed in ways unfamiliar to you." If we can replace "unconventional" for "unfamiliar" in this Quaker advice, there could hardly have been a more unconventional person than Benjamin Lay, Born in England in 1681, Lay grew up a [...]

The Vietnam War: Myth and Memory

Professor Phil Nash explains how the myths and misconceptions about the Vietnam War started, grew, and have plagued our historical consciousness since the late 1950s. Among other things, the large number of myths about the Vietnam War shows us that our understanding of even relatively recent historical events can be twisted. From the "JFK wouldn't have Americanized the war" to the "POW-MIA" myth, the true history of American involvement in South-East Asia has often been obscured by myths and myth-making. It's one of our very best episodes, and we hope you find it enlightening.   Buzzkill Bookshelf: George Herring, [...]

Gandhi, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” Quote or No Quote?

It's been weeks and weeks since we looked at a Gandhi quotation. Given that he's probably the most misquoted person in human history after Windy Winston Churchill, it's about time that we examined another supposed Gandhi-ism. As you know, Gandhi was one of the leaders of the Indian Independence movement in the early 20th century, and is usually considered the spiritual leader of Indian nationalism. He spent the second half of his life seeking moral and religious meaning behind the fights against injustice and oppression. This led him to add a certain moral (sometimes moralistic) tone to his political [...]

Vietnam: War and History

Professor Phil Nash explains the history of Vietnam in the 20th century, and the very complicated ways in which it was torn apart by war and civil war throughout the mid-century. Along the way, we learn about the deep complications in the history of the Vietnam War that have allowed myths and misconceptions to solidify. In particular, we talk about how post-World War II wars in Vietnam become Americanized. Finally, we discuss the impact of the war in the United States, as well as its impact in Vietnam itself. Listen and learn, Buzzkillers!   Buzzkill Bookshelf: George Herring, America's [...]

Woman Crush Wednesday! Stephanie Shirley

It's our first Woman Crush Wednesday! Professor Marie Hicks tells us the story of Stephanie Shirley, one of Britain's computer programming pioneers. Imagine starting your own company with just £6 (roughly $12) and building it into one of the most powerful programming companies in Europe. That was Stephanie Shirley did, starting in 1961. Later in life she went on to become one of Britain's leading philanthropists, and has donated most of her life to helping good causes, especially those close to her heart. She was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) by Queen [...]

Great October Revolution – 100th Anniversary

The Russian Revolution of 1917 was one of the most important events in the 20th century. Professor Nash joins us to untangle the extremely complicated history of Russian politics between 1905 and 1917. He tells us what happened and why. Why, for instance, were there so many revolutions (or "state coups") between the Russo-Japanese War of 1905 and the October Revolution of 1917? Why did World War I have such an accelerating effect on the pace of changes in Russia? Why were there so many competing political parties in Russia, and how did the Bolsheviks eventually become paramount? Listen [...]

Programmed Inequality: Women and British Computing

Professor Marie Hicks joins us to talk about gender and employment in the emerging field of computing in Britain, and all the historical myths that surround them. In 1944, Britain led the world in electronic computing. By 1974, the British computer industry was all but extinct. We examine why this happened in the tense post-war world, as Britain was losing its role as a global leader and innovator. Professor Hicks calls this a story of gendered technocracy, and it undercut Britain's flexibility in the technology age. Listen and learn, Buzzkillers!   Buzzkill Bookshelf: Marie Hicks, Programmed Inequality: How Britain [...]

General Curtis LeMay, “Bomb the North Vietnamese Back to the Stone Age” Quote or No Quote?

  Many of you Buzzkillers have asked us to do shows about the Vietnam War, especially with the Ken Burns multi-part documentary that's finishing its run on PBS. And the quote we're going to examine today is one of the most well-known phrases supposedly to come out of that war. But there's another reason why we wanted to schedule it right after the Muhammad Ali "quote" about the Viet Cong. And that's because this is another example of a quote or phrase or saying becoming well-known in the culture of the time, but later being attributed [...]

Buzzkill Bookshelf

Hiroyuki Agawa, The Reluctant Admiral: Yamamoto and the Imperial Navy (2000).

Based upon Japanese naval documentary sources, this biography is an in-depth look at the life and times of the architect of the Pearl Harbor raid, and the military institution of which he was a part.

Marcus Rediker, The Fearless Benjamin Lay: The Quaker Dwarf Who Became the First Revolutionary Abolitionist.

Marcus Rediker chronicles the transatlantic life and times of a singular man—a Quaker dwarf who demanded the total, unconditional emancipation of all enslaved Africans around the world. Mocked and scorned by his contemporaries, Lay was unflinching in his opposition to slavery, often performing colorful guerrilla theater to shame slave masters, insisting that human bondage violated the fundamental principles of Christianity. He drew on his ideals to create a revolutionary way of life, one that embodied [...]

George Herring, America’s Longest War: the United States and Vietnam, 1950-1975 (2013).

Respected for its thorough research, comprehensive coverage, and clear, readable style, America’s Longest War explores the origins of the thirty-year war for Vietnam. It seeks to explain how the United States became involved and the consequences of its actions for the Vietnamese as well as Americans.

Buzzkill Book Shelf

Buzzkillers! Here are the books that we have featured on certain episodes. We highly recommend them!

American History, British History, and World History Myths Busted by Professor Buzzkill

Don’t forget to check-in every week for new history myths being busted.

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