Professor Buzzkill History Podcast | American and World History Myths Buzzkilled!2020-02-19T18:46:22-05:00

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History Myths Buzzkilled

Levi and Catherine Coffin: the Underground Railroad

In 1876, an elderly man decided to write his memoirs. As we’ll see during this show, he and his wife were very important in 19th century America. They helped a great many people achieve freedom, but very few people have heard of them. As he was writing his autobiography, this old man wanted to stress the centrality and strength of one of his earliest experiences, and the impact it had on how he chose to live his life. You see, Levi Coffin became an opponent of slavery and an abolitionist at the age of seven when he saw a slave working on a chain gang. Young Levi asked him why he was being held in chains. The slave replied that the chains were there to [...]

Roy Cohn: Piece of Sh*t Saturday

Our inaugural POS Saturday episode is dedicated to the one of the biggest pieces of s**t in 20th century American history -- Roy Cohen. Cohen’s influence on American politics and society from the 1950s to the 1980s was almost completely negative. Along with a handful of others, he is responsible for the toxic tone and behavior that has polluted recent American politics. Professor Philip Nash from Penn State explains why Roy Cohen’s our first Buzzkill POS!

George Patton Conquers the World!

We hear this all the time in the US: “George Patton should have been unleashed and taken care of the Soviets in 1945 when we had the chance.” And from the movie, Patton: “We're gonna have to fight them sooner or later anyway. Why not do it now, when we got the army here to do it with?” If we had let Patton have his way, the Soviet Union would have been eliminated, there would have been no Cold War, and no threat of a nuclear WWIII. True? Professor Nash from Penn State explains all! One of our best episodes ever! --- Buzzkill Bookshelf Ladislas Farago, The Last Days of Patton “It would be as hard to give up all thought [of being a soldier] [...]

Ben Franklin, “A Republic, if You Can Keep It.” Quote or No Quote?

These are heady times for historians in the United States. The Trump impeachment saga has made Lady Buzzkill and I even more highly desired guests at dinners around town than we usually are. People in our social set have lots of questions about the history of impeachment, and all the historic references dropped by politicians talking about impeachment on television. Naturally, I get asked about the impeachment of Andrew Johnson in 1868, the near-impeachment of Richard Nixon in 1974, and Clinton’s impeachment in 1999. Given what a buzzkill I am about “quotes” from historical figures, however, most of these questions are about whether so-and-so really said this-or-that. And I got one of these questions at a soirée last month. When announcing [...]

Republicans and Impeachment: Nixon and Now

A Republican Senator is in his office, thinking about material he’s just seen regarding the sitting President from his own party. He’s troubled, because the evidence indicates a clear violation of US law and an abuse of Presidential power. The problem is that the rest of the Senator’s party is staunchly behind the President, is dismissive of the charges against him, and is lambasting the Democrats as partisan hacks on a witch-hunt. This Republican Senator fears that he will be ostracised by his party if he comes out in favor of impeaching the President, yet he is more troubled by whether he’ll be able to face the judgment of future generations if he doesn’t hold the President accountable for his behavior. Naturally, Buzzkillers, you think [...]

Martin Luther King: Arc of the Moral Universe Bends Toward Justice

All too often, researching the origins of well-known quotes leads to a kind of dead end. Famous people are credited with expressions and sayings that were in common use during their time, and those quotes are only attached to, for instance, Churchill or Gandhi, by later generations of admirers. Half the time, the humorous ones have their origins old vaudeville or music hall gags. And many of the serious quotes we investigate here at the Institute can’t be traced to one individual genius author. They seem to fall under the category of “old saying” or “well-known aphorism.” That doesn’t mean these quotes, and the sentiments behind them, aren’t very important. They usually are very important, and we all know folks who use quotes and [...]

1919: a Year in the Life of the United States

1919 was one of the most tumultuous years in American history. Economic struggles, labor unrest, the Red Scare, anarchist bombings, and race riots plagued the country. 1919 saw the end of the Progressive Era, the beginning of anti-immigration laws, an attempt to “return to normalcy,” and the approach of the much-heralded “Roaring 20s.” But is 1919 so easily defined by the well-worn phrases? Professor Nash joins us to explain all! --- Buzzkill Bookshelf Ann Hagedorn, Savage Peace: Hope and Fear in America, 1919 Written with the sweep of an epic novel and grounded in extensive research into contemporary documents, Savage Peace is a striking portrait of American democracy under stress. It is the surprising story of America in the year 1919.

The Berlin Wall

The Berlin Wall seemed to define Cold War tension and opposition in stone. From 1961 to 1989 it divided East Berlin from West Berlin, and was the focal point of potential Soviet vs. US confrontation. But the history of why it was built and how the citizens of Berlin lived with it is rife with myth and misunderstanding. Professor Philip Nash joins us to explain it all. --- Buzzkill Bookshelf Frederick Taylor, The Berlin Wall: A World Divided, 1961-1989 In the definitive history on the subject, Frederick Taylor weaves together official history, archival materials, and personal accounts to tell the complete story of the Wall's rise and fall. A physical manifestation of the struggle between Soviet Communism and American capitalism that stood for nearly thirty [...]


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