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History Myths Buzzkilled

JFK: the Man and the Myths, 1917-1963

John F. Kennedy was one of the most fascinating Presidents in US history. And perhaps more fascinating are the ways in which he is remembered by succeeding generations. In this first part of a three-part series, Professor Nash joins us to discuss JFK's background, youth, service in World War II, and his political career. The sweep of his life is as complex and interesting as you can imagine, Buzzkillers! Buzzkill Bookshelf:

P. T. Barnum: There’s a Sucker Born Every Minute

P. T. Barnum, the famous 19th century American showman and founder of the Barnum & Bailey Circus, is often quoted as saying "there's a sucker born every minute." This "quote" is usually trotted out to refer to something that con-men or other shysters who try to separate people from their hard-earned money (as in, selling them tickets to a circus) would say. But did good old P. T. ever say it? P. T. Barnum did a lot of different things in his life (including getting involved in politics, and promoting the anti-slavery cause in the 1850s), [...]

Watergate Myths

Buzzkillers have been asking lots of questions about the Watergate scandal of the early 1970s that brought down the Nixon presidency. And Buzzkill Nation clearly wants to know whether the common and well-known stories about Watergate are true and historically sound. The details of that tense period in American history have been steamrolled by those two great myth-making machines -- movies and the need for individual heroes. For so many of us, our understanding of "Watergate" and the unravelling of the Nixon presidency is defined by the book and subsequent film, All the President's Men. And many of us [...]

Legal Immigration to the United States

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? Professor Buzzkill's new episode explains all!

Harry Truman: The Buck Stops Here

Harry Truman was generally known as one of the most plain- and direct-speaking of American Presidents. So much so that he is generally credited with coining the phrase, "the buck stops here." By the time Truman became president in 1945, "passing the buck" had long been American slang for passing the responsibility for something onto to someone else, usually the next person up or down the chain of command in a certain group or organization. Originally, it comes from using a buckhorn handle knife as a marker in a game of poker. The "buck" would pass [...]

Medieval Indulgences

What were "medieval indulgences"? Were they a way for rich people to buy their way into heaven, and help corrupt priests to line their own pockets at the same time? "Indulgences" aren't mentioned in the Bible, but they became heavily used in the Middle Ages. Why? Listen as one of greatest Buzzkillers, Professor William Campbell, enlightens us on the fascinating complexities! Won't cost you a cent, Buzzkillers! Buzzkill Bookshelf

Adolf Hitler: Today Germany, Tomorrow the World

Most people believe they know what Adolf Hitler's plans for a post-war world would be -- German domination. After all, didn't he say, "Today Germany, Tomorrow the World"? Well, Hitler certainly expressed ideas along these lines, although there is no record of him saying it in so few words. The closest Hitler quote that Buzzkill Institute researchers can find comes from Mein Kampf (1925): "If the German people, in their historic development, had possessed tribal unity like other nations, the German Reich today would be the master of the entire world." The pithy phrase, "Today Germany, [...]

Churchill, Fleming, and Penicillin

In the early days of email, a wonderfully-constructed tale flew around the interwebs. It was about a medical emergency, a heroic rescue, and a family's gratitude. As so often happens, people believed this heart-warming tale and have forwarded it around their email and Facebook circles ever since. Here is that original email: In the late 19th century, an English noble family journeyed to Scotland for a summer vacation. The mother and father were looking forward to enjoying a beautiful Scottish countryside with their young son. But one day the son wandered off all by himself and got into trouble. [...]

Maya Angelou: A bird…sings because it has a song

The phrase and sentiment, "A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song," is one of the best-known expressions of the intrinsic nature of art and beauty. It has been quoted by presidents and school teachers, and practically everyone in between. And we all "know" that the quote comes from Maya Angelou. The US government even said so. In 2015, the United States Postal Service issued a stamp honoring Maya Angelou as one of the most important American poets of modern times. It put the "A bird doesn’t sing [...]

Buzzkill Bookshelf

Robert Dallek, An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917 – 1963 (2004).

An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917 - 1963. Dallek's well-researched bestseller forever changed how we think about JFK and his presidency.

The Life of P. T. Barnum, Written by Himself (2000).

The Life of P. T. Barnum, Written by Himself. The first modern edition of Barnum's original and outrageous autobiography, published in 1855 and unavailable for more than a century.

W. Joseph Campbell, Getting It Wrong: Debunking the Greatest Myths in American Journalism (2016).

Getting It Wrong: Debunking the Greatest Myths in American Journalism expertly shows how many of American journalism’s best-known and most cherished stories are exaggerated, dubious, or apocryphal.

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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