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History Myths Buzzkilled

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:

Eleanor Roosevelt: “It’s Better to Light a Candle than to Curse the Darkness.” Quote or No Quote?

I try, every day, to live up to my name -- Professor Buzzkill. Some days are easier than others, and this is certainly one of those. People often take the quotation "It's better to light a candle than to curse the darkness," not only as comforting advice on how to get through tough times, but also wise words coming from a wholly admirable person, Eleanor Roosevelt. Today, I'm going to buzzkill this very popular and touching quote. As you know, while she was First Lady during the presidency of her husband, FDR, Eleanor Roosevelt worked for civil rights publically, [...]

JFK: the Presidency

Professor Nash joins us to discuss the misconceptions and the realities of JFK's presidency, its successes, its failures, and its legacies. We look specifically at the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam, and Civil Rights. And we address the question of whether JFK was a liberal, a conservative, or a mixture of both. And on top of all that, we hear audio from some of Kennedy's most telling statements, speeches, and press interviews. It's a fully-rounded episode, Buzzkillers! Buzzkill Bookshelf:

Special Episode: Samir Lakhani from Eco-Soap Bank Named CNN Hero 2017

Samir Lakhani, the founder of Eco-Soap Bank (one of our Buzzkill partners) has been named a CNN Hero for 2017. We interview him about the project and how the CNN recognition has affected the Eco-Soap Bank. The Buzzkill Institute is committed to helping this great project by contributing $1 for every Buzzkiller who donates to the Eco-Soap Bank. Go to and type “Buzzkill” in the comments section of the on-line donation form. A donation of just $25 provides soap and hygiene education for 250 Cambodians and recycles 35 pounds of soap from the hospitality industry. And it supports [...]

Churchill: “Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing, after they have exhausted all other possibilities.” Quote or No Quote?

The exact wording of the "Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing, after they have exhausted all other possibilities" quote varies a little bit from time to time, but it essentially conveys the same message -- Americans are a self-interested people, but they eventually do the right thing. But did Churchill ever say this, or even something like it? No. At least he never said it publicly, and there's certainly no evidence that he ever said it privately. Like dozens and dozens of other political quotes, they get attached to Churchill somehow. It's as if [...]

Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright is probably the most famous architect in American history. But why is he so famous, and was it just about his architecture? In his own mind and in the popular mind, he is often considered a god and an artistic prophet. How did he become so famous and how did his fame and myth-making develop during his career? Architect Eric Osth helps us understand the deep complexities and twists-and-turns in Wright's highly public and media-savvy approach to his architectural design, as well as the public's embrace of it. Buzzkill Bookshelf:

Yogi Berra: Déjà Vu All Over Again

Lawrence Peter Berra was born in St. Louis in 1925 and went on to become one of the most famous players in baseball history. In his 18 years with the New York Yankees, he anchored them at catcher, was a power hitter, and a mainstay for the team during their famous post-war run of dominance in Major League Baseball. Elected to the Hall of Fame in 1972 and named to Baseball's All-Century Team in 1999, Berra was one of the most dominant players of the second half of the 20th century. He's better-known in the wider [...]


D-Day, June 6, 1944, is one of the most well-known events of World War II. Why did it happen the way it did and why did it succeed? Was it the turning point in the war in Europe? How many other military operations were going on at the same time in Europe that might explain victory in Europe? There are so many complications to the story that you need Professor Phil Nash of the Buzzkill Institute to help explain it all. It's a gripping and captivating story! Buzzkill Bookshelf:

Albert Einstein: The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Albert Einstein was one of the most significant scientific geniuses of the 20th century. His theories helped scientists break through some of the barriers to our understanding the physical world and the universe. He also contributed greatly to the philosophy of science. Is it any wonder, therefore, that the quote, "the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results" is attributed to him? Alas, Buzzkillers, quotes like this seem to attach themselves to Einstein at the speed of light, and there's no evidence he ever said it. (By the [...]

Buzzkill Bookshelf

Jeremy C. Young, The Age of Charisma: Leaders, Followers, and Emotions in American Society, 1870-1940 (2016).

An innovative examination of American society, culture, and politics, The Age of Charisma shows how the modern relationship between American leaders and followers grew out of a unique group of charismatic social movements prominent in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. The Age of Charisma: Leaders, Followers, and Emotions in American Society, 1870-1940

Eleanor Roosevelt, You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life (2011 edition).

Eleanor Roosevelt, one of the world’s best loved and most admired public figures, offers a wise and intimate guide on how to overcome fears, embrace challenges as opportunities, and cultivate civic pride: You Learn by Living.

James N. Giglio, The Presidency of John F. Kennedy (2006).

Buzzkillers will get a new appreciation of JFK in this thoroughly revised and updated edition of James Giglio's bestselling study, widely acclaimed as the best and most balanced book on JFK's White House years.

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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