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History Myths Buzzkilled

The Irish Slaves Myth

Ah, Buzzkillers, all of you know the depth of my love/hate relationship with the internet. On the one hand, I love the internet and the crazy history stories that fly around it via email and blog posts. They provide grist for the Buzzkill Institute mill, and, of course, keep us floated financially, as well as emotionally. And I hate the internet because, despite our heroic efforts, these crazy and wholly misinformed stories still seem to be convincing large sections of humanity. Some of these good folks are adults and actually have drivers licenses and may be responsible for the [...]

Chief Seattle “We Do Not Inherit the Earth from Our Ancestors; We Borrow It from Our Children.” Quote or No Quote?

Chief Seattle, "We Do Not Inherit the Earth from Our Ancestors; We Borrow It from Our Children" Quote or No Quote? It's probably a sin, Buzzkillers, to think of some historical figures as job security for me and for those who work at the Buzzkill Institute. But an avalanche of words and sentiments are mis-attributed to Chief Seattle, the 19th century Native American leader. His "words" appear on bumper stickers, yoga posters, and almost countless Twitter and Facebook accounts. Generally these are taken from highly disputed sources: an 1855 a letter to President Franklin Pierce; and [...]

Mark Twain: “Life is just one damn thing after another” Quote or No Quote?

Sometimes, Buzzkillers, the stars just seem to align. There's a meteor shower and a rainbow on the same day. And a whole bunch of writers, pundits, journalists, and aphorists come up with roughly the same idea at roughly the same time. Or at least they come up with it over a couple of decades, and, in terms of the history of quotations, that's the story of the aphorism and witticism, "life is just one damn thing after another." But it's easier to attribute such a quotation to Mark Twain, and that's what people have done. The [...]

Cause of the Civil War

Cause. Singular. Not plural. We talk about the cause of the American Civil War because there was one overwhelming cause -- slavery. Not tariff disputes. Not states' rights. The Civil War was fought over the preservation of slavery in the south and its expansion to the west. But, perhaps no other aspect of the history of the United States has been so distorted and mythologized as the causes of the Civil War. Professor Philip Nash joins us to explain why slavery was such a dominant issue from the founding of the United States until 1865. Buzzkill Bookshelf: Bruce Levine, [...]

Lincoln: “Government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Quote or No Quote?

Ah, Buzzkillers, I have so much in common with Abraham Lincoln. Height (well, almost), a refusal to suffer fools (hence the founding of the Buzzkill Institute), we're both excellent wordsmiths, and we have a healthy man-crush on the 19th century Unitarian theologian Theodore Parker. (More on him later.) I must be getting soft in my old age, Buzzkillers. I've been rolling out some genuine quotes lately on Quote or No Quote, and this is another. Anybody who's completed an elementary school education knows that Abraham Lincoln finished his dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, [...]

Confederate Statues, Memorials, and Flags

When and why were statues to Confederate soldiers, generals, and politicians put up across the American south? Why is the Confederate Battle Flag so proudly waved and displayed in many parts of the US? Professor Nash joins us to explain why all of this happened, who was selected for commemoration, and what it all means for American history and culture. We expose the falsehoods that are used as rationale for the construction and retention of Confederate statues and memorials. The whitewashing of history, and the myths that support it, are a national disgrace. And we do our best to [...]

Woodrow Wilson: “It is like writing history with lightning.” Quote or No Quote?

Upon seeing "The Birth of a Nation," the ground-breaking, if highly racist, piece of cinematography in 1915, President Woodrow Wilson is often quoted as saying, "It is like writing history with lightning." Nearly every American Buzzkiller out there has probably heard this in a 20th Century US history class, or a cinematography class, or on the myth-sustaining History Channel. But did he say it? All the reliable evidence points to a solid "no." It's certainly true that the film was shown to Wilson and his family in a special screening at the White House in 1915. [...]

The KKK: History and Myths

No one actually cares why I started this show, Buzzkillers. But I did so because I worried about the strength with which cultures seem to hold on to historical myths. That strength seemed to be one of the things that affected our thinking and, sometimes, the way we acted, and perhaps even the way we do very important things, like choosing the people we associate ourselves with, and how we vote. Anyway, that's one of the things I stressed in our initial crowd-funding video. And I thought that, being a history show, there wouldn't be as much pressure to [...]

Winston Churchill: “Some Chicken. Some Neck.” Quote or No Quote?

In the aftermath of the Dunkirk evacuation and the fall of France in June 1940, things looked pretty bleak for the Allies, and indeed they were. The Battle of Britain followed almost immediately, and lasted until the end of October 1940, but the British outlast the German bombing raids. The next year, not long after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Churchill went to North America on a moral-boosting trip, both to welcome Britain's new ally (the United States) and to thank its long-standing ally (Canada). While addressing the Canadian Parliament in their House of Commons in [...]

Buzzkill Bookshelf

If the Irish Ran the World

Akenson provides compelling insights into whether ethnicity was central to the making of the colonial world and the usefulness of studies of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English imperialism in the Americas.

Wendell Berry, The Unforeseen Wilderness: Kentucky’s Red River Gorge (1971).

Only someone who values land enough to farm a hillside for more than thirty years could write about a wild place so lovingly. Wendell Berry just as easily steps into Kentucky’s Red River Gorge and makes the observations of a poet as he does step away to view his subject with the keen, unflinching eye of an essayist. The inimitable voice of Wendell Berry—at once frank and lovely—is our guide as we explore this unique [...]

Gary W. Gallagher, et al., The Myth of the Lost Cause and Civil War History (2010).

The Myth of the Lost Cause and Civil War History Gallagher and Nolan explain how the South lost the Civil War, but seemed to win the postwar battle to shape historical interpretations of the conflict.

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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