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History Myths Buzzkilled

The Pentagon Papers

The Pentagon Papers Professor Phil Nash helps us explain the complicated and much-mythologized history of the Pentagon Papers, which is shorthand for the government-funded study of US involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967. According to New York Times in 1996, the Pentagon Papers showed that the government had, "systematically lied, not only to the public but also to Congress." That secrecy and lying included hiding the expansion of US-led military action in south-east Asia to include Cambodia and Laos. Once leaked by Daniel Ellsberg and others, American newspapers, led by the New York Times, printed significant extracts from [...]

Computer Dating

Professor Marie Hicks joins us again, this time to discuss the yummy history of computer dating. Did it start with Operation Match at Harvard? Or was it a young entrepreneur in London? What were their reasons for thinking that computers could match people better than people could match people? And was the early history of computer dating as neat and clean as a computer punch card? Perhaps not! If you don't want Professor Buzzkill to fill in your profile for you, you'd better give this episode a listen!   --- Buzzkill Bookshelf   Joan Ball, Just Me (2014).   Joan [...]

Impeachment, Presidential Removal and Replacement

Impeachment? The 25th Amendment? Resignation? How do the American people remove a president from office? Why is it so complicated, and what's the history behind each way to get a dangerous, criminal, or just plain crazy chief executive out of the highest office in the land? Join Professor Buzzkill and Professor Nash as they work through all the possibilities, and illuminate all the history and politics behind the various processes. Listen and learn, Buzzkillers! --- Buzzkill Bookshelf Charles Black Jr., Impeachment: A Handbook (1998). Black's survey is a dispassionate, invaluable beam of light.This everyman's guide to impeachment outlines the [...]

Electricity in American Life 1882-1952

Electricity in American Life From 1876, when the first effective dynamo/generator that produced a steady current of electricity was invented, Americans reacted to this new phenomenon of electricity in many different ways. Professor Jennifer Lieberman is one of the first academics to study that reaction, especially how it appeared in popular literature, both fiction and non-fiction. And in doing so, she raises a lot of very important questions about our relationships with technology and the natural world. We interview her about the cultural reactions to electricity as a new technology is the topic of this episode. Listen and be [...]

Man Crush Monday! Varian Fry

You'll often hear the phrase that there's "a special place in hell (or a special circle of hell, or special level of hell) reserved for…" which then proceeds on to a quip about a relatively minor social infraction ("those who waste good whiskey," "those who split infinitives"). Obviously, it's also used to refer to the appropriate place for the especially evil (Hitler, Pol Pot). It's a way to remind us that we need constantly to remember how evil they were, and to be on guard for more like them. It's not as common to hear of a "special place [...]

The Pizza Effect

Yes, it's me, your favorite professor, here to get you back on the straight and narrow. Today I'm going to talk about something called "the pizza effect," but it's not the effect that pizza has on our collective waistlines. The pizza effect is something that affects our thinking about the history and origins of foods, traditions, and practices of different cultures. It's about what qualifies as culturally "authentic" in a culture, and how some of the history of different cultures has affected our perceptions of cultural attributes. Ask anybody where pizza was invented, and they will almost invariably reply [...]

Admiral Yamamoto, “I fear all we have done is awaken a sleeping giant.” Quote or No Quote?

As we awake on December 7th, I am reminded of the supposed reaction of the Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto when their attack on Pearl Harbor was completed. Pondering the reports of the successful attack, Yamamoto is reputed to have said, "I fear all we have done is awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with terrible resolve." Like so many dramatic quotes during times of war, however, this one is the product of dramatic scriptwriting, not a thoughtful leader's sobering analysis of wartime prospects. You see, the residue of the "awaken a sleeping giant" quote smells strongly of the [...]

Man Crush Monday! Benjamin Lay

Members of the Society of Friends, better known as Quakers, are usually considered very thoughtful people. Their religious services, simply called "Meetings," are modest and quiet compared to those of most other Christian denominations. This modesty and emphasis on quiet is important, because one of their central principles is for church members to, "listen for the spirit, even if it is expressed in ways unfamiliar to you." If we can replace "unconventional" for "unfamiliar" in this Quaker advice, there could hardly have been a more unconventional person than Benjamin Lay, Born in England in 1681, Lay grew up a [...]

The Vietnam War: Myth and Memory

Professor Phil Nash explains how the myths and misconceptions about the Vietnam War started, grew, and have plagued our historical consciousness since the late 1950s. Among other things, the large number of myths about the Vietnam War shows us that our understanding of even relatively recent historical events can be twisted. From the "JFK wouldn't have Americanized the war" to the "POW-MIA" myth, the true history of American involvement in South-East Asia has often been obscured by myths and myth-making. It's one of our very best episodes, and we hope you find it enlightening.   Buzzkill Bookshelf: George Herring, [...]

Buzzkill Bookshelf

Daniel Ellsberg, Secrets: a Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers (2003)

In this remarkable memoir, Ellsberg describes in dramatic detail the two years he spent in Vietnam as a U.S. State Department observer, and how he came to risk his career and freedom to expose the deceptions and delusions that shaped three decades of American foreign policy.

Joan Ball, Just me (1998).

Joan's autobiography of her extraordinary life -- the first person to set up a computer dating service, a successful business-woman, as well as the youngest mayor in British history.

Charles Black, Impeachment (1998).

Black's survey is a dispassionate, invaluable beam of light.This everyman's guide to impeachment outlines the process leading to the removal of a president by congress, places it in historical perspective, and discusses the conundrums that spring from it. Impeachment: A Handbook (Yale Fastback Series)

Jennifer Lieberman, Power Lines: Electricity in American Life and Letters, 1882-1952 (2017).

Power Lines examines a series of moments of technical change when electricity accrued new social meaning, plotting both power lines and the power of narratives in American life and literature. Power Lines: Electricity in American Life and Letters, 1882--1952 (Inside Technology)

Varian Fry, Surrender on Demand (1997).

Varian Fry's gripping original account of the various attempts to rescue Jewish refugees from Hitler's Europe. Surrender on Demand

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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