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History Myths Buzzkilled

Martin Luther King, Jr. “I will mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy.” Quote or No Quote?

I like this week's "quote," Buzzkillers, because it's history is full of all the things we've been talking about on this show -- phrases and sentiments that "sound" like they were said by a prominent person so "they must be from him," misplaced (or moved) punctuation marks, and the glorious and rapid assumptions displayed on social media that keep the Buzzkill Institute swimming in cash. I will mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. - Martin Luther King, Jr. It's a clear and touching [...]

The JFK Legacy

Professor Phil Nash joins us for part three of our examination of John F. Kennedy in the 100th anniversary of his birth. This episode looks at how the JFK legacy was constructed in the immediate aftermath of the assassination in 1963, how it was burnished by the first generation of Kennedy historians, and how it has been revised and re-interpreted since the 1970s. Along the way, we hear about the vital roles played by Jackie Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Theodore H. White. Finally, we learn how the American public was as important in creating the legacy as well as [...]

Zhou Enlai on the Effects of the French Revolution: “Too Early to Say.” Quote or No Quote?

In 1972, Chinese premier Zhou Enlai was asked about the impact of the French Revolution. "Too early to say," he replied. Given that the French Revolution of 1789 had occurred nearly 200 years before, Zhou Enlai was expressing the long view of history in a very witty and Oscar Wildean way. News of this quote flew quickly around the chattering classes in the west, and it was soon used as evidence that the Chinese (especially Chinese intellectuals and leaders) took the long view of things, that they were a patient civilization, and that, when they thought about the future, [...]


It's 2017, Buzzkillers, 77 years after the Battle of Dunkirk and the subsequent evacuation of allied troops from that area between the 26th of May and the 4th of June 1940. The evacuation has become a very famous and celebrated event in World War II history and especially in British history. "Dunkirk Spirit," the British refusal to give up in the face of disaster, and to keep plugging away at a problem until it's solved, comes from the whole Dunkirk experience. As you now know, however, 2017 has also seen the release of a major motion picture, entitled "Dunkirk," [...]

Teddy Roosevelt: Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick – Quote or No Quote?

Finally a quote that's actually true! Yes, Teddy Roosevelt did say that the best advice he'd ever heard about dealing with foreign affairs and potentially hostile foreign powers is to, "speak softly and carry a big stick." Speaking softly and carrying a big stick will mean that, "you will go far." When he was Governor of New York at the very end of the 19th century, he sometimes said in letters to other politicians, "I have always been fond of the West African proverb: 'Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.'" And he used it [...]

FDR, Polio, and the Press

FDR became governor of New York and later President for four terms despite having contracted polio. Professor Matthew Pressman from Seton Hall University joins us to discuss how the press and the American public were told about his disability, and how they reacted. We also learn how the Roosevelt campaign and administration tried to control public knowledge of FDR's condition by managing how information was obtained and used. We examine whether the famous "gentlemen's agreement" between the FDR administration and the press to suppress information about the president's condition was true. A fascinating episode about a complex historical issue. [...]

The Declaration of Independence

July 4th is upon us and two things will likely happen, at least for American Buzzkillers. The first is that we will use the July 4th national holiday as an opportunity to take a mid-summer vacation (or extend a weekend vacation). The second thing that will happen is that we will be treated to a great number of canned, poorly-researched, even more poorly-argued, sound-byte stories about the Declaration of Independence from a lot of traditional media outlets. And, of course, the same type of thing will happen over email, social media, and podcasts. No doubt some of the stories [...]

Oscar Wilde: Be Yourself. Everyone Else is Already Taken.

Ah, Buzzkillers, good old Oscar Wilde, the author of so many excellent plays, novels, and poems. Dripping with epigrams, Oscar entertained literary circles in London, Paris and Dublin with his wit, often pairing philosophical and comical themes to excellent effect. Some examples include: It is always a silly thing to give advice, but to give good advice is absolutely fatal. (The Portrait of Mr. W. H., 1889, p. 5.) Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative. ("The Relation of Dress to Art," The Pall Mall Gazette, February 28, 1885.) Prayer must never be answered: if it is, it [...]

The Age of Charisma

Professor Jeremy Young joins us to discuss the Age of Charisma (1870-1940). It was an exciting period in US history: industrialization was in high gear; railroads and telegraph lines were spreading widely; mass media was born; and increased concentration on charisma, magnetism, and emotion in politics, religion, and social reform. Styles of public speaking changed and founded the phenomenon of personality politics. Buzzkill Bookshelf:

Buzzkill Bookshelf

Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love (2010).

"This book best explains the central element of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s philosophy of nonviolence." - Coretta Scott King

Robert Dallek, Camelot’s Court: Inside the Kennedy White House (2013).

Camelot's Court is a striking portrait of a leader whose wise resistance to pressure and adherence to principle offers a cautionary tale for our own time.

Eldest Son: Zhou Enlai and the Making of Modern China

In Eldest Son, Han Suyin brings this towering figure to life in a profoundly human and intimate portrait - the first full-scale biography of Zhou Enlai to be published in English.

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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