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History Myths Buzzkilled

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 [...]

Muhammad Ali: “No Viet Cong Ever Called Me Nigger.” Quote or No Quote?

  Muhammed Ali: No Vietcong Ever Called Me Nigger   Buzzkillers by the score have asked us here at the Institute for shows on the Vietnam War. The Ken Burns film on PBS, The Vietnam War, the 18-part, 10-hour interview-thon, is provoking many of you to ask questions about the war and about the protests against it. So today we're going to look at one of the most well-known quotes from the Vietnam era.   When asked about being drafted for the Vietnam War, Muhammad Ali, one of the greatest boxers in history, as well as [...]

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 [...]

Buzzkill Bookshelf

Marie Hicks, Programmed Inequality: How Britain Discarded Women Technologists and Lost Its Edge in Computing (2017).

Marie Hicks explores the story of labor feminization and gendered technocracy that undercut British efforts to computerize. That failure sprang from the government's systematic neglect of its largest trained technical workforce, simply because they were women.

Mark Clodfelter, The Limits of Air Power: The American Bombing of North Vietnam (2006).

Clodfelter explains how U. S. Air Force doctrine evolved through the American experience in these conventional wars only to be thwarted in the context of a limited guerrilla struggle in Vietnam.

Muhammad Ali, The Greatest: My Own Story

In his own words, the heavyweight champion of the world pulls no punches as he chronicles the battles he faced in and out of the ring in this fascinating memoir edited by Nobel Prize-winning novelist, Toni Morrison.

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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