History Unplugged Podcast

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For history lovers who listen to podcasts, History Unplugged is the most comprehensive show of its kind. It's the only show that dedicates episodes to both interviewing experts and answering questions from its audience. First, it features a call-in show where you can ask our resident historian (Scot…

Scott Rank, PhD


    • May 19, 2022 LATEST EPISODE
    • weekdays NEW EPISODES
    • 38m AVG DURATION
    • 659 EPISODES

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    Latest episodes from History Unplugged Podcast

    Western Religion of the 19th Century Competed with Darwin and Marx By Dabbling in Hinduism, Occultism, and Wellness

    Play Episode Listen Later May 19, 2022 55:22

    We often think of the late nineteenth century in Western societies as an era of immense technological and scientific change, moving from religion to secularism, from faith to logic. But today's guest, Dominic Green, author of The Religious Revolution: The Birth of Modern Spirituality, 1848-1898 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux; April 19, 2022) religion in the past was much stronger, and much weirder, than we give it credit. Tsame period that introduced Darwin's theory of evolution, democratic revolutions, mass urbanization, and the Industrial Revolutions, also brought with it new kinds of religiosity. It wasn't an absence of religion, but instead new forms of spirituality that filled the vacuum left behind by the diminished prominence of the Church in European and American politics and life.While fueled by rapid scientific and technological innovation, these formative decades were also a time of great social strife. The same period that welcomed the invention of the telephone and the motor vehicle, the de jure abolishment of slavery and serfdom, the first women's rights convention at Seneca Falls, and countless seminal artistic and literary movements, was also plagued by the aggressive rise of capitalism and colonialism, subjecting entire populations to the West's bottomless appetite for money and power. In effect, another transformation was underway: the religious revolution.Green chronicles this spiritual upheaval, taking us on a journey through the lives and ideas of a colorful cast of thinkers. He traces the influence of new Sanskrit translations of Hindu and Buddhist texts on the work of Ralph Waldo Emerson. He follows the rise of occultism from upstate New York to Bombay to Italy. He examines the ways in which religion and nationalism entwined for Wagner and Nietzsche. We get warts-and-all portraits of the many figures who profoundly influenced the religious shifts of this era, including big names like Marx, Darwin, Baudelaire, and Thoreau, as well as some lesser-known figures such as Éliphas Levi and--my personal favorite of the bunch--Helena Blavatsky. In response to the challenges brought on by industrialization, globalization, and political unrest, these figures found themselves connecting with their religious impulses in groundbreaking ways, inspiring others to move away from the oppressive weight of organized faith and toward the intimacies and opportunities that spirituality offered.

    The 1541 Spanish Expedition Down the Amazon to Find the Imaginary “El Dorado” and Valley of Cinnamon

    Play Episode Listen Later May 17, 2022 42:04

    As Spanish conquistators slowly moved through Latin America, they encountered levels of wealth that were unimaginable. Most famously, Incan Emperor Atahualpa was captured by Francisco Pizarro and paid a ransom of a room filled with gold and then twice over with silver. The room was 22 feet long by 17 feet wide, filled to a height of about 8 feet. Such events fired the imaginations of the Spanish, who created myths such as of El Dorado, the “gilded man” who, legend held, was daily powdered from head to toe with gold dust, which he would then wash from himself in a lake whose silty bottom was now covered with gold dust and the golden trinkets tossed in as sacrificial offerings.The story was fake but it lead to real expeditions, some of which were so dangerous that they nearly killed party members. Such is the 1541 expedition led by Gonzalo Pizarro, Francisco's brother, to find El Dorado, and his well-born lieutenant Francisco Orellana down the Amazon to find these riches.Today's guest is Buddy Levy, author of River of Darkness: Francisco Orellana and the Deadly First Voyage through the Amazon. He reconstructs the first complete European exploration of the world's largest river and the relentless dangers around every bend. Quickly, the enormous retinue of mercenaries, enslaved natives, horses, and hunting dogs are decimated by disease, starvation, and attacks in the jungle. Hopelessly lost in the swampy labyrinth, Pizarro and Orellana make a fateful decision to separate. While Pizarro eventually returns home barefoot and in rags, Orellana and fifty-seven men continue downriver into the unknown reaches of the mighty Amazon jungle and river. Theirs would be the greater glory.

    Lost Airmen: The Epic Rescue of WWII U.S. Bomber Crews Stranded in the Yugoslavian Mountains

    Play Episode Listen Later May 12, 2022 32:28

    Late in 1944, thirteen U.S. B-24 bomber crews bailed from their cabins over the Yugoslavian wilderness. Bloodied and disoriented after a harrowing strike against the Third Reich, the pilots took refugee with the Partisan underground. But the Americans were far from safety.Holed up in a village barely able to feed its citizens, encircled by Nazis, and left abandoned after a team of British secret agents failed to secure their escape, the airmen were left with little choice. It was either flee or be killed.Today's guest is Charles Stanley Jr, author of The Lost Airmen and son of Charles Stanley Sr., a B-24 pilot who was one of the airmen shot down. Drawing on over twenty years of research, dozens of interviews, and previously unpublished letters, diaries, and memoirs written by the airmen, Stanley recounts the deadly journey across the blizzard-swept Dinaric Alps during the worst winter of the Twentieth Century-and the heroic men who fought impossible odds to keep their brothers in arms alive.

    The Way that Lincoln Financed the Civil War Led to Transcontinental Railroads, Public Colleges, the Homestead Act, and Income Tax

    Play Episode Listen Later May 10, 2022 42:47

    The financing of the Civil War was as crucial to the shaping of American history as the Emancipation Proclamation and the defeat of the Confederacy. Not only did the Lincoln government establish a national banking system, they invented many things to deepen and broaden the government's involvement in the lives of ordinary Americans—the transcontinental railroad, the Homestead Act, the Morrill Act (endowing land-grant colleges for the middle class), help for farmers, a government role in immigration, a new system of taxes including, for the first time, income taxes.Lincoln and his fellow Republicans created a new notion of what government could do—larger, more proactive, more responsible for the national welfare. Lincoln and his allies had been fighting for this agenda for years, and until the war had been on the losing side. In the case of Lincoln personally, and for many of the original GOP leaders, belief in government arose from personal experience. Lincoln wanted the government to promote opportunity for others like himself—that is, for pioneers, poor settlers, remote western farmers. So the party backed legislation to support transportation, education, credit facilities, and so forth.Today's guest is Roger Lowenstein, author of Ways and Means: Lincoln, His Cabinet and the Financing of the Civil War. Lincoln and his cabinet created a new notion of what government could be—larger, more proactive, more responsible for the national welfare.

    Lt. Sonia Vagliano Helped Liberate Concentration Camp Victims, Repatriate WW2 Refugees, All While Avoiding Landmines and Kidnapping

    Play Episode Listen Later May 5, 2022 50:40

    Following the German occupation of France in 1940, French women moved deftly into the jobs and roles left by their male compatriots—even the role of soldier. One of the more notable such female soldiers was Lt. Sonia Vagliano, who was part of a team of young French women attached to a US First Army unit that arrived in Normandy two weeks after D-Day. From 1943 to 1945, Vagliano followed her unit from Normandy to Paris, through Belgium, and finally into Germany, where they cared for 41,000 total displaced persons and prisoners of war.She published a memoir of her experiences under the title Les Demoiselles de Gaulle. Vagliano not only described her experiences in rich detail—from caring for thousands of refugees in the worst possible conditions to defusing landmines and being kidnapped, shot at, torpedoed, and bombed—she also recounted the major events of the war in Europe, including the liberation of Paris, the Battle of the Bulge, and finally, the liberation of the concentration camps. Spending five weeks at Buchenwald repatriating the 21,000 remaining prisoners, she is a unique witness to the transition period between the camp's liberation and its transferal to Russian oversight in July 1945. She saw firsthand "to what extremes the human imagination can go in its search for the most cruel methods of torture."Today's guest, Martha Noel Evans, is translator of Vagliano's memoir into English under the title Lieutenant Sonia Vagliano: A Memoir of the World War II Refugee Crisis. We discuss both the dare devil escapades and the sobering reality of a wartime account

    Little Slaughterhouse on the Prairie: The Serial Killer Family Who Terrorized 1870s Kansas

    Play Episode Listen Later May 3, 2022 29:47

    Lone-wolf serial killers like Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and John Wayne Gacy live in infamy – it's a familiar archetype in true crime. But a family of serial killers is much less common, and the killing spree committed by the Benders in 19th century Kansas is likely the most famous murder case in American history that you've never heard of. This family became known as the Bloody Benders—a mother, father and their daughter and son—and their exploits were called the “little slaughterhouse on the prairie.” Today's guest is Susan Jonusas , author of the book Hell's Half-Acre: The Untold Story of the Benders, a Serial Killer Family on the American Frontier. She discusses the dangers and lawlessness of the American West, and chroncles families of the victims, the hapless detectives who lost the trail, and the fugitives that helped the murderers escape. In 1873 the people of Labette County, Kansas made a grisly discovery. Buried by a trailside cabin beneath an orchard of young apple trees were the remains of countless bodies. Below the cabin itself was a cellar stained with blood . . . And the Benders were nowhere to be found. This discovery sent the local community and national newspapers into a frenzy that continued for decades, sparking an epic manhunt for the Benders. The idea that a family of seemingly respectable homesteaders—one among the thousands relocating farther west in search of land and opportunity after the Civil War—were capable of operating "a human slaughter pen" appalled and fascinated the nation. But who the Benders really were, why they committed such a vicious killing spree and whether justice ever caught up to them is a mystery that remains unsolved to this day. All of this takes place during a turbulent time in America, a place where modernity stalks across the landscape, violently displacing existing populations and building new ones. It is a world where folklore can quickly become fact and an entire family of criminals can slip through a community's fingers, only to reappear in the most unexpected of places.

    Benjamin Franklin – In the 200 Years After His Death – Funded New Businesses, Supported Boston and Philadelphia, and Play Pranks

    Play Episode Listen Later Apr 28, 2022 39:41

    When Benjamin Franklin died on April 12, 1790, he made a final bet on the future of the United States -- a gift of 2,000 pounds to Boston and Philadelphia, to be lent out to tradesmen over the next two centuries to jump start their careers. Each loan would be repaid with interest over ten years. If all went according to Franklin's inventive scheme, the accrued final payout in 1991 would be a windfall.Today's guest is Michael Meyer, author of Benjamin Franklin's Last Bet. He traces the evolution of these twin funds as they age alongside America itself, bankrolling woodworkers and silversmiths, trade schools and space races. Over time, Franklin's wager was misused, neglected, and contested—but never wholly extinguished. Franklin's stake in the “leather-apron” class remains in play to this day, and offers an inspiring blueprint for prosperity in our modern era of growing wealth disparity and social divisions.

    The Rise and Fall of 1970s Mob-Run Chicago

    Play Episode Listen Later Apr 26, 2022 42:14

    In 1970s America, no city was arguable under more mafia control than Chicago. Murderers operated without fear of retribution. Getting an “innocent” verdict took nothing more than one bribe. Everyone got a cut of the action: policemen, aldermen, lawyers, cops, and judges. But it all came crashing down when a lawyer and fixer went undercover with the FBI to try to bring down one of the most powerful criminal syndicates in the country.Today's guest is Jake Halpern, host of the new podcast series Deep Cover: Mob Land, an investigative series that looks at Chicago's criminal underworld and those involved This story culminates with the prosecution of prominent mob figures and politicians with the entire operation resulting in more than two dozen arrests including cops, lawyers, judges, and more – forever damaging the mob's stranglehold on the windy city. The fallout is still playing out in Chicago courtrooms today.

    An Antebellum-Era Irish Maid's Incredible Determination and Business Savvy Led to the Creation of the Kennedy Dynasty

    Play Episode Listen Later Apr 21, 2022 41:05

    The Kennedys are remembered the vanguard of wealth, power, and style. But their story begins in 1840s Boston, when a poor Irish refugee couple who were escaping famine created a life together in a city hostile to Irish, immigrants, and Catholics, and launched arguably the most powerful dynasty in America's history.The working class background and Irish ancestry JFK leveraged to connect to blue-collar voters referred to Patrick and Bridget, who arrived as many thousands of others did following the Great Famine—penniless and hungry. Less than a decade after their marriage in Boston, Patrick's sudden death left Bridget to raise their children single-handedly. Her rise from housemaid to shop owner in the face of rampant poverty and discrimination kept her family intact, allowing her only son P.J. to become a successful saloon owner and businessman. P.J. went on to become the first American Kennedy elected to public office—the first of many.To look at this story of survival and reinvention – and the powers and dangers of nepotism if left unchecked – is Neal Thompson, author of the book “The First Kennedys: The Humble Roots of an American Dynasty.” We look at what it took to rise from poverty to prosperity in antebellum America, the rough power politics of Irish Boston, and the seeds of empire planted by Joe Kennedy in Depression-era America.

    Six Kentucky Nuns Founded a Hospital in 1940s War-Torn India That Saved Hundreds of Thousands of Lives

    Play Episode Listen Later Apr 19, 2022 50:11

    The year was 1947, and the mother superior of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth had managed to keep her order safe from the perils of World War II, and focused on the work at home in Kentucky. But when the opportunity came for a mission in one of the poorest regions of India—an area scarred by corruption and Partition violence—she saw in some of the younger nuns a keen desire to “serve the world by being fully part of it,” and to take their faith and healing skills abroad. What followed was a pioneering mission that no one could have predicted. The development of the hospital and nursing school not only upended the lives of those six Kentucky nuns, it changed the shape of the surrounding region and gave opportunities to Indian nurses who were eager to forge new paths for themselves. Today's guest is Jyoti Thottam, author of the new book “Sisters of Mokama: The Pioneering Women Who Brought Hope and Healing to India. Her mother travel to Mokama, in Bihar, one of the poorest states in India, and train as a nurse at Nazareth. Thottam was always fascinated by this story: How did these nuns end up in Mokama, a town so small it didn't appear on most maps of India? Why did they fill their hospital with teenage nurses from the other side of the country? Did they have any idea how radical their work would be – creating an enterprise run almost entirely by women, and determined to care for anyone, regardless of caste or religion? With no knowledge of Hindi, and the awareness that they would likely never see their families again, the six founding nuns had traveled to the small town of Mokama determined to live up to the pioneer spirit of their order, founded in the rough hills of the Kentucky frontier. A year later, they opened the doors of the hospital; soon they began taking in young Indian women as nursing students, offering them an opportunity that would change their lives. Pain and loss were everywhere for the women of that time, but the collapse of the old orders provided the women of Nazareth Hospital with an opening—a chance to create for themselves lives that would never have been possible otherwise.

    A 1719 Prison Ship Transported Dozens of Women Accused of Sex Crimes to New Orleans. They Became the Founding Mothers of the Gulf

    Play Episode Listen Later Apr 14, 2022 48:15

    In 1719, a ship named La Mutine (the mutinous woman), sailed from the French port of Le Havre, bound for the Mississippi. It was loaded with urgently needed goods for the fledgling French colony, but its principal commodity was a new kind of export: women.Falsely accused of sex crimes, these women were prisoners, shackled in the ship's hold. They came from all walks of life: a disgraced noblewoman, a street vendor falsely accused of murder, a seamstress who became New Orleans's first fashionista, and an illiterate laundress who became an Indian captive and eventual world traveler. Of the 132 women who were sent this way, only 62 survived. But these women carved out a place for themselves in the colonies that would have been impossible in France, making advantageous marriages and accumulating property. Many were instrumental in the building of New Orleans and in the European settling of Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, and Mississippi.To discuss the incredible impact these women had on the French North American colony is today's guest, historian Joan DeJean, author of the book Mutinous Women: How French Convicts Became Founding Mothers of the Gulf Coast. They were among the pioneering European settlers who built New Orleans, and the French trading outposts and permanent settlements that spanned the Mississippi River from the Gulf Islands to Illinois. Their legacy is present not only in those contemporaneous communities they shaped, but also in the descendants of these “first grandmothers” of the Gulf South now spread across the United States. From their convictions and subsequent trials to their use of marriage to regain status, to relationships with Indigenous peoples amid changes in colonial governance and their ascension to property owners, these women's stories represent the struggles of.

    Introducing the Eyewitness History Podcast

    Play Episode Listen Later Apr 13, 2022 16:08

    Please enjoy this preview of the Eyewitness History Podcast, hosted by Josh Cohen. This show features first-hand testimonials of people who witnessed first-hand events such as the fall of the Berlin Wall, 9/11, the Vietnam War, and much more. Learn more about the show and enter a giveaway contest for the first people to review the show by going to eyewitnesshistorypodcast.com

    The Global Manhunt For The Confederate Ship That Sunk Union Supply Vessels, From the Caribbean to the South Pacific

    Play Episode Listen Later Apr 12, 2022 39:44

    Naval warfare is an overlooked factor of the Civil War, but it was a vitally important part of overall strategy for North and South, especially from the perspective of the Union, which used naval blockages from the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi River to deny critical resources to the Confederacy, forcing them the ultimately surrender. But the naval war was about much more than blockages. One Confederate ship managed to harass Union supply lines around the globe and sink dozens of merchant vessels. Its fate was sealed on June 19, 1864, after a fourteen-month chase that culminated in one of the most dramatic naval battles in history. The dreaded Confederate raider Alabama faced the Union warship Kearsarge in an all-or-nothing fight to the death, and the outcome would effectively end the threat of the Confederacy on the high seas. To talk about this story is historian Tom Clavin, author of the new book To the Uttermost Ends of the Earth: The Epic Hunt for the South's Most Feared Ship―and the Greatest Sea Battle of the Civil War.We look at historically overlooked Civil War players, including John Winslow, captain of the USS Kearsarge, as well as Raphael Semmes, captain of the CSS Alabama. Readers will sail aboard the Kearsarge as Winslow embarks for Europe with a set of simple orders from the secretary of the navy: "Travel to the uttermost ends of the earth, if necessary, to find and destroy the Alabama." Winslow pursued Semmes in a spectacular fourteen-month chase over international waters, culminating in what would become the climactic sea battle of the Civil War.

    Most Historians Consider Warren G. Harding America's Worst President. This One Thinks He Belongs in the Top 10

    Play Episode Listen Later Apr 7, 2022 38:33

    Most historians think of Warren G. Harding as a jazz-age hedonist who was much more of an empty suit than a serious president. Once in the White House, they argue, the 29th president busied himself with golf, poker, and his mistress, while appointees and cronies plundered the U.S. government. His secretary of the interior allowed oilmen, in exchange for bribes, to access government oil reserves, including one in Teapot Dome, Wyoming, the namesake for the scandal that hangs over Harding's legacy today.But one American history professor thinks that this narrative is hopelessly simplified andsimplistic. In fact, Walters, author of the book The Jazz Age President: Defending Warren G. Harding, that he belongs in the Top Ten list of U.S. chief executives.He credits Harding with the following: • Inheriting a postwar depression, Harding turned it into an economic boom. On his watch personal prosperity soared and unemployment fell to 1.6 percent• He reversed Wilson's grandiose plans to hand over American sovereignty to ambitious internationalist organizations• He healed a nation in the throes of social disruption, releasing citizens imprisoned by the Wilson administration under the controversial Sedition Act of 1918 and using the bully pulpit to promote civil rights in the heyday of Jim Crow

    Why the Information Revolution Would Happened in Europe Even Without the Printing Press

    Play Episode Listen Later Apr 5, 2022 55:07

    After Johannes Gutenberg invented the moveable type printing press, Europe changed irrevocably. What happened was a shift in the generation, preservation and circulation of information, chiefly on newly available and affordable paper, which created an information revolution. But it wasn't just the printing press that caused this. Today's guest, historian and author Paul Dover, argues there would have been a revolution in information in early modern Europe even without Gutenberg's invention. Most of the changes in institutions and mentalities were caused by a massive increase in manuscript writing, which injected massive amounts of information into society.Everything changed. Europe saw the rise of the state, the Print Revolution, the Scientific Revolution, and the Republic of Letters. Dover is author of the book “The Information Revolution in Early Modern Europe.” He interprets the historical significance of this 'information revolution' for the present day, and suggests thought-provoking parallels with the informational challenges of the digital age.

    Deeply-Held Religious Beliefs Can't Be Easily Eradicated. That's Why Stalin Co-Opted Russian Orthodoxy As a Ruler.

    Play Episode Listen Later Mar 31, 2022 37:47

    The Russian Revolution is thought to have everything to do with the writings of Karl Marx. He predicted in the 19th century that history was marching inevitably toward a proletarian revolution and workers would overthrow the capitalist system and replace it with a socialist one. To many observers in Moscow, that's exactly what was happening. But one Russian scholar disagrees. He believes the Russian Revolution had nothing to do with Marx and everything to do with, paradoxically, the Russian Orthodox Church. Namely, Russia's century-old history of Orthodox monasticism. Today's guest is Jim Curtis, a Russian scholar, professor emeritus, and author of In Stalin's Soviet Monastery. The story begins with the young Iosif Djugashvili, later known as Joseph Stalin, who was studying to be a priest in an Orthodox seminary. He took on the role that defined his political career, that of a sadistic elder who imposed fiendish vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience on hapless Soviet citizens. This led to Stalin's policies essentially copying passion-suffering, a practice in which one takes on the sufferings of Christi to achieve sanctification, which he used to force gulag slave labor to work on useless infrastructure projects to purify them as a proper Soviet.Applying Russia's heritage of Orthodox monasticism to Soviet history gives coherence and meaning to what is often portrayed as a chaotic and contradictory period. Thus, by ignoring Marxist rhetoric and emphasizing Russia's monastic heritage, it arguably makes sense that Russians would perceive Lenin as a Christ figure with appropriate symbolism.

    What “Dear John” Letters Tell Us About the Fragility of Wartime Relationships…and How They Unexpectedly Lead to Greater Camaraderie

    Play Episode Listen Later Mar 29, 2022 43:45

    During World War II nearly one billion letters were sent to the front, but none struck more fear in the heart of the average soldier than the one that began with the following: “Dear John: I don't know quite how to begin but I just want to say that Joe Doakes came to town on furlough the other night and he looked very handsome in his uniform, so when he asked me for a date…” Such is an example of the “Dear John” letters that World War II G.I.s received from sweethearts or wives at home who had decided to politely, but unceremoniously, end their relationship. Though the phrase “Dear John” was coined during World War II and the break-up letters have found their way into every American war since then, the exact origins of the term have always been shrouded in obscurity. In her new book Dear John: Love and Loyalty in Wartime America, historian and today's guest Susan L. Carruthers details the history of the “Dear John” letter and explores wartime relationships and breakdowns from multiple perspectives—civilian and military, male and female, historical and contemporary. Using a diverse range of research, using personal letters, declassified documents, press reports, psychiatric literature, movies, and popular music, Carruthers also shows how the armed forces and civilian society have attempted to weaponize romantic love in pursuit of martial ends, from World War II to today. Though many U.S. officers, servicemen, veterans, and civilians would agree that “Dear John” letters are lethal weapons in the hands of men at war, Carruthers explains that efforts to discipline feelings have frequently failed. We discuss the interplay between letter-writing and storytelling, breakups and breakdowns, and between imploded intimacy and boosted camaraderie. Incorporating vivid personal experiences in lively and engaging prose—variously tragic, comic, and everything in between—this compelling study will change the way we think about wartime relationships.As Carruthers explains, “Making romantic intimacy serve the cause of victory has never been straightforward for the military. Nor has making love work in wartime been simple for individuals and couples. The reasons why can be discerned by reading the subtexts and contexts of ‘Dear John' letters, and by listening attentively to what men and women have had to say about the fragility of love at war.”

    Cassie Chadwick Scammed the Gilded Age Elite Out of Millions and Convinced The World She Was Andrew Carnegie's Bastard Daughter

    Play Episode Listen Later Mar 24, 2022 52:10

    Of all the self-made millionaires of the Gilded Age (and there were many, such as John Rockefeller, son of a literal snake oil salesman who became the world's first billionaire), nobody can rival bootstrapping tenacity of Cassie Chadwick. She was a drifter from Canada who set herself up as wife of a rich doctor in Cleveland before moving on to a much bigger con involving the richest man in the world, Andrew Carnegie. With little education, no financial training, and at a time when women didn't even have the vote, Cassie Chadwick (Elizabeth Bigley) moved up the chain of bankers, getting each banker to loan her more than the one before telling each one a simple lie, she was none other than the illegitimate daughter of Carnegie and she was due to inherit his entire fortune. By the time the police caught up to her she had wrecked the banking system of Cleveland, sending one unfortunate banker to his grave and causing the collapse of a major bank. When the trial was held it was a media event that pushed the trial of Teddy Roosevelt off the front pages with a climactic moment when Andrew Carnegie appeared to face his accuser. Cassie was eventually convicted but not before taking others with her and leaving a legacy as the biggest con woman in the United States only to be eclipsed by Charles Ponzi.Today's guest is William Hazelgrove, author of the book Greed in the Gilded Age: The Brilliant Con of Cassie Chadwick. We explore the excesses of this age, and the very thin line between radical reinvention and outright deception.

    How China Changed Its Language From Archaic Confucian Bureaucracy to the Lingua Franca of Globalization

    Play Episode Listen Later Mar 21, 2022 33:59

    After a meteoric rise, China today is one of the world's most powerful nations. Just a century ago, it was a crumbling empire with literacy reserved for the elite few, as the world underwent a massive technological transformation that threatened to leave them behind. Today's guest is Prof. Jing Tsu, author of “Kingdom of Characters: The Language Revolution that Made China Modern.” She argues that China's most daunting challenge was a linguistic one: the century-long fight to make the Chinese language—with its many dialects and complex character-based script—accessible to the modern world of global trade and digital technology. We discuss the connection between language and power, challenges China faced to ensure their language remained dominant/widespread, the innovators who adapted the Chinese language to a world defined by the West and its alphabet, AND it was so important for China to preserve its ancient character set, even though it was seen as such a hindrance to their technological development.

    Which Statues Should We Take Down? How To Fairly Judge Historical Figures by Today's Standards

    Play Episode Listen Later Mar 17, 2022 38:25

    In the United States, questions of how we celebrate – or condemn – leaders in the past have never been more contentious. In 2017, a statue of Robert E. Lee was removed – leading to a race riot and terrorist attack. But in 2020, statues of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Christopher Columbus, and even Ulysses S. Grant were defaced or toppled. All of this comes to the question of how we judge the past. When are the morals and ethics of people born centuries earlier excusable for the conditions of their birth, and when are they universally condemnable? What separates a Thomas Jefferson from an Emperor Nero?To discuss this incredibly challenge is someone perhaps nobody better qualified: Dr. Victor Davis Hanson. He is an emeritus classics professor and author of books on the Peloponnesian War or assessing the ancient world's best military leader. He was also awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 and was a presidential appointee in 2007–2008 on the American Battle Monuments Commission.We discuss the following:•Times when American's feared the removal of Jefferson or Theodore Roosevelt statues in 2021 (or their toppling in riots. But we have also celebrated statue removal, such as the removal of Saddam Hussein's statues after the fall of his regime in 2003 or the removal of Marx/Lenin Statues in Eastern Europe in 1991. What is the the difference?•The criteria for a community to remove a statue in a healthy way•How we judge those of the past and determine that some character flaws are due to their times of birth, while other character flaws are universally condemnable – Essentially, what makes a slave-owning Jefferson a product of his time while, say, a Nero, is universally understood as cruel•The dangers of cancelling anyone who doesn't meet our 21st century standards; conversely, the dangers of slavish worship of them?•Who deserves more statues today

    On the Eve of World War One, Woodrow Wilson, Teddy Roosevelt, and the Suffragette Jane Addams Sought to Prevent Armageddon

    Play Episode Listen Later Mar 15, 2022 42:26

    In the early years of the twentieth century, the most famous Americans on the national stage were Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Jane Addams: two presidents and a social worker. Each took a different path to prominence, yet the three progressives believed the United States must assume a more dynamic role in confronting the growing domestic and international problems of an exciting new age.Following the outset of World War I in 1914, the views of these three titans splintered as they could not agree on how America should respond to what soon proved to be an unprecedented global catastrophe. To discuss their approaches is today's guest Neil Lanctot, author of “THE APPROACHING STORM: Roosevelt, Wilson, Addams, and Their Clash Over America's Future by Neil Lanctot. We explore the story of three extraordinary leaders and how they debated, quarreled, and split over the role the United States should play in the world. By turns a colorful triptych of three American icons who changed history and the engrossing story of the roots of World War I, this episode explores a surprising and important story of how and why the United States emerged onto the world stage.

    A Union Woman in Civil War Kentucky

    Play Episode Listen Later Mar 10, 2022 47:34

    Today's episode is a look at the life of Frances Peter, a Civil War-era Kentuckian who witnessed all the major events of the conflict, and watched her hometown switch hands from the Confederacy to the Union multiple times. She was one of the eleven children of Dr. Robert Peter, a surgeon for the Union army. The Peter family lived on Gratz Park near downtown Lexington, where nineteen-year-old Frances began recording her impressions of the Civil War. Because of illness, she did not often venture outside her home but was able to gather a remarkable amount of information from friends, neighbors, and newspapers. Peter's candid diary chronicles Kentucky's invasion by Confederates under Gen. Braxton Bragg in 1862, Lexington's month-long occupation by Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith, and changes in attitude among the slave population following the Emancipation Proclamation. Today's guest is Prof. John Smith, editor of Peter's diary, which has been published under the name “A Union Woman in Civil War Kentucky.” As troops from both North and South took turns holding the city, she repeatedly emphasized the rightness of the Union cause and minced no words in expressing her disdain for the hated ""secesh."" Her writings articulate many concerns common to Kentucky Unionists. Though she was an ardent supporter of the war against the Confederacy, Peter also worried that Lincoln's use of authority exceeded his constitutional rights. Her own attitudes towards blacks were ambiguous, as was the case with many people in that time. Peter's descriptions of daily events in an occupied city provide valuable insights and a unique feminine perspective on an underappreciated aspect of the war. Until her death by epileptic seizure in August 1864, Peter conscientiously recorded the position and deportment of both Union and Confederate soldiers, incidents at the military hospitals, and stories from the countryside. Her account of a torn and divided region is a window to the war through the gaze of a young woman of intelligence and substance.

    Does Waging War Viciously Actually Save Lives? A Look at the WW2 Decisions to Firebomb Tokyo and Drop Atomic Bombs

    Play Episode Listen Later Mar 8, 2022 50:59

    This is a special episode, in which the microphone is turned around and Scott is interview. He was recently on Ray Harris' History of World War Two Podcast. We discuss some of the biggest moral quandaries of the war. They include the Fire Bombing of Tokyo (in which hundreds of thousands of civilians died in a six-hour period), the justification for dropping the atomic bombs, and the likely casualties of an Allied invasion onto the main Japanese Islands. We also discuss the quantum leaps in technology, such as the B-29 campaign, which cost more money than the Manhattan Project, and was so complex that more crews in the early use of the plane died from mechanical failure than enemy fire.

    Successes and Failures of The Last Century of U.S. Presidents, From Harding to Trump

    Play Episode Listen Later Mar 3, 2022 34:20

    Today's Guest is Ronald Gunger, author of “We the Presidents: How American Presidents Shaped the Last Century. We explore the successes and failures of 100 years of chief executives, from Warren G. Harding to Donald Trump.Every generation tends to believe they live in unique times, but immigration, healthcare, civil rights, tax policy, income distribution, globalization and the evolving role of government have all had their roots in earlier presidencies - and continue to affect every American today.

    Teaser: Key Battles of WW2 Pacific - The Rise of Imperial Japan

    Play Episode Listen Later Mar 2, 2022 17:59

    Listen to this full episode by searching for "Key Battles of American History" on the podcast player of your choice or go to https://parthenonpodcast.com.

    Mutiny on the Rising Sun: A Tragic Tale of Slavery, Smuggling, and Chocolate

    Play Episode Listen Later Mar 1, 2022 49:00

    On the night of June 1, 1743, terror struck the schooner Rising Sun. After completing a routine smuggling voyage where the crew sold enslaved Africans in exchange for chocolate, sugar, and coffee in the Dutch colony of Suriname, the ship traveled eastward along the South American coast. Believing there was an opportunity to steal the lucrative cargo and make a new life for themselves, three sailors snuck below deck, murdered four people, and seized control of the vessel.Today's guest is Jared R. Hardesty, author of Mutiny on the Rising Sun. He recounts the origins, events, and eventual fate of the Rising Sun's final smuggling voyage in vivid detail. Starting from that horrible night in June 1743, it becomes a story of smuggling, providing an incredible story of those caught in the webs spun by illicit commerce. The case generated a rich documentary record that illuminates an international chocolate smuggling ring, the lives of the crew and mutineers, and the harrowing experience of the enslaved people trafficked by the Rising Sun. Smuggling stood at the center of the lives of everyone involved with the business of the schooner. Larger forces, such as imperial trade restrictions, created the conditions for smuggling, but individual actors, often driven by raw ambition and with little regard for the consequences of their actions, designed, refined, and perpetuated this illicit commerce.At once startling and captivating, Mutiny on the Rising Sun shows how illegal trade created the demand for exotic products like chocolate, and how slavery and smuggling were integral to the development of American capitalism.

    A Real-Life French Serial Killer Inspired Dostoyevsky to Write “Crime and Punishment”

    Play Episode Listen Later Feb 24, 2022 37:22

    As a young man, Fyodor Dostoevsky was a celebrated writer, but his involvement with the radical politics of his day that swept Europe during the Revolutions of the 1840s condemned him to a long Siberian exile. There, he spent years studying the criminals that were his companions. Upon his return to St. Petersburg in the 1860s, he fought his way through gambling addiction and debt, the death of those closest to him, epilepsy, and literary banishment.The inspiration for Crime and Punishment came from the sensational true crime story of a notorious murderer who charmed and outraged Paris in the 1830s--Pierre François Lacenaire—a glamorous egoist who embodied the instincts that lie beneath nihilism. Dostoevsky wanted to create a Russian incarnation of the Lacenaire: a character who could demonstrate the errors of radical politics and ideas. His name would be Raskolnikov.Today's guest is Kevin Birmingham, author of THE SINNER AND THE SAINT: Dostoevsky and the Gentleman Murderer Who Inspired a Masterpiece. We discuss how Raskolnikov then began to merge with his creator. Dostoevsky was determined to tell a murder story from the murderer's perspective, but his character couldn't be a monster. No. The murderer would be chilling because he wants so desperately to be good. The writing consumed Dostoevsky. As his debts and the predatory terms of his contract caught up with him, he hired a stenographer, Anna Grigorievna. She became Dostoevsky's first reader and chief critic and changed the way he wrote forever. By the time Dostoevsky finished his great novel, he had fallen in love.Dostoevsky's great subject was self-consciousness. Crime and Punishment advanced a revolution in artistic thinking and began the greatest phase of Dostoevsky's career.

    The NAACP Leader Who Passed As White, Infiltrated Lynching Rings, Architected ‘Brown v. Board of Education', and Ended His Life in Scandal

    Play Episode Listen Later Feb 22, 2022 39:50

    One of the most important Civil Rights Leaders in the 20th century, behind perhaps only the giants of the movement such as Martin Luther King Jr. WEB DuBois, or Booker T Washington, was Walter Francis White, a Black man who led two lives: one as a leader of the NAACP and the Harlem Renaissance, and the other as a white journalist who investigated lynching crimes in the Deep South. Although White was the most powerful political Black figure in America during the 1930s and 40s, his full story has never been told until now due to scandal that happened at the end of his life. I'm joined today by A.J. Baime, author of White Lies: The Double Life of Walter F. White and America's Darkest Secret. We discuss…•How Walter White was born mixed race with very fair skin and straight hair, which allowed him to “pass” as a white man and investigate 41 lynchings and 8 race riots between 1918 and 1931. As the second generation of the Ku Klux Klan incited violence across the country, White risked his life to report on the Red Summer of 1919, the Tulsa Massacre of 1921, the Marion lynchings of 1930, and more. His reports drew national attention and fueled the beginnings of the civil rights movement•White's rise in the NAACP to chief executive – as leader of the NAACP, he had full access to the Oval Offices of FDR and Harry Truman, and was arguably the most powerful force in the historic realignment of Black political power from the Republican to the Democratic party. He also made Black voting rights a priority of the NAACP, a fight that continues to this day.•How White helped found the Harlem Renaissance as a famed novelist and Harlem celebrity – he hosted apartment parties where Black and white audiences alike were introduced to Paul Robeson's singing, Langston Hughes' verse, and George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue.•Why White's full story has never been told until now, in part due to his controversial decision to divorce his Black wife and marry a white woman, which shattered his reputation as a Black civil rights leader.

    How Clocks Created Earth's First Global Supply Chain in the 1700s – And Keep GPS Alive Today

    Play Episode Listen Later Feb 17, 2022 54:40

    Our modern lives are ruled by clocks and watches, smartphone apps and calendar programs. While our gadgets may be new, however, the drive to measure and master time is anything but. It's a long story that traces the path from Stonehenge to your smartphone. Today's guest is Chad Orzel, a psychics professor who is also author of the book A Brief History of Timekeeping.Predating written language and marching on through human history, the desire for ever-better timekeeping has spurred technological innovation and sparked theories that radically reshaped our understanding of the universe and our place in it. Ancient solstice markers (which still work perfectly 5,000 years later) depend on the basic astrophysics of our solar system; mechanical clocks owe their development to Newtonian physics; and the ultra-precise atomic timekeeping that enables GPS hinges on the predictable oddities of quantum mechanics. In this episode we discuss the delicate negotiations involved in Gregorian calendar reform, the intricate and entirely unique system employed by the Maya, and how the problem of synchronizing clocks at different locations ultimately required us to abandon the idea of time as an absolute and universal quantity. It's a story not just about the science of sundials, sandglasses, and mechanical clocks, but also the politics of calendars and time zones, the philosophy of measurement, and the nature of space and time itself.

    Parthenon Roundtable: Which Person From History Would You Keep From Dying Too Soon? (And You Can't Choose JFK)

    Play Episode Listen Later Feb 15, 2022 71:21

    A couple of months ago, the guys from Parthenon Podcast Network (James Early, Key Battles of American History; Steve Guerra, History of the Papacy; Richard Lim, This American President; and Scott Rank, History Unplugged) discussed who they would erase from history of they could. This time, instead of destroying, we are going to do some saving. If you could save one person in history from an untimely death, who would it be? How would their survival make a positive impact?The only groundrule is that you can't choose JFK. Stephen King already showed us this was impossible in 11/22/63.

    Assassination Attempts of U.S. President – From JFK to Joe Biden

    Play Episode Listen Later Feb 10, 2022 34:29

    One of the most important – but overlooked – professions in U.S. history is a Secret Service agent assigned with presidential protection duty. That's because failure can change the course of history, as it did on 11/22/63.Protection for candidates changed and evolved from the free-wheeling style of the 1950s and early 1960s, which afforded presidential candidates little or no protection, to the growth of bodyguard personnel, increased intelligence facilities and state of the art technology employed today to keep the candidates safe. Presidential candidates relish connecting with the public and it has given greater visibility to the bodyguards who are willing to place themselves between a presidential candidate and a would-be attacker.In the milieu in which the Secret Service operates, bodyguards have witnessed the terrors of election campaigns when presidential candidates have waded into crowds to shake hands with their supporters, rode in open-top cars, and made sudden but risky changes to their schedules – oblivious to the fact that in every campaign there have been people stalking candidates with ill intent.Today's guest, Mel Ayton, author of Protecting the Presidential Candidates looks at these stories, from JFK to Joe Biden. We discuss the personal as well as professional relationships between the candidate and the bodyguards who protected them. Some candidates were so trusting of their bodyguards they embraced them as part of an ‘inner circle' of advisers. Bodyguards have also witnessed embarrassing moments in a candidate's campaign and how intrusive they have been at the most delicate of moments. "The president's day is your day," one agent said. "Nobody sees the president the way an agent does."

    No, the Ancient Greeks Weren't Color Blind. They Justed Had Unique Ways to Describe the World

    Play Episode Listen Later Feb 8, 2022 47:32

    Were ancients color-blind? They weren't but this idea has been passed around for centuries, usually by classicists confused by the Greeks' odd choice of descriptive language. Homer, author of The Iliad and The Odyssey, the first ‘great' poet of western civilization described the sea as oînops, or ‘wine-dark'.Today's guest is David Wharton, editor and contributor to “A Cultural History of Color in Antiquity,” is here to disabuse those ideas of the ancient world. Some prominent, recent research on Latin color language asserts that the ancient Romans mostly lacked abstract color concepts, instead conceiving of “color” as intimately connected with the material substances that Latin color terms typically referred to. Not only that the Romans were fully capable of forming and expressing abstract color concepts, but also that they expressed relationships among these concepts using structured metaphors of location and motion in an abstract color space. We also discuss how would a resident from the ancient world would view color differently from a modern person, techniques for color creation in the past, and how color was utilized iin such things as conspicuous consumption, sartorial purposes, and class distinction.

    The Severing Of a Sea Captain's Ear Led to a Global War Between Spain and Britain in the 1740s

    Play Episode Listen Later Feb 3, 2022 46:45

    In the early 1700s, decades of rising tensions between Spain and Britain culminated in a war that was fought all over the world. And it all started with a scene that sounds like it belongs in Reservoir Dogs: In 1731, a Spanish guarda costa abused its right to stop and search British merchant ships in the West Indies for contraband, and a Spanish privateer named Juan de León Fandiño cut off British captain Robert Jenkins's ear during a search of his trading brig Rebecca.Jenkins returned to England with his severed and then presented it to King George II. The incident helped spark arguably the first global war.Today's guest, Robert Gaudi, is author of the new book “The War of Jenkins' Ear.” We discuss the three-year war that laid the groundwork for the French and Indian War and, eventually, the War of the American Revolution. It was a world war in the truest sense, engaging the major European powers on battlefields ranging from Europe to the Americas to the Asian subcontinent.Yet the conflict barely known to us today, even though it resulted in the invasion of Georgia and even involved members of George Washington's own family. It would cost fifty-thousand lives, millions in treasure, and over six hundred ships. Overall, this was turly an American war; a hard-fought, costly struggle that determined the fate of the Americas, and in which, for the first time, American armies participated.

    Future History: The Story Behind '2001: A Space Odyssey'

    Play Episode Listen Later Feb 2, 2022 22:32

    Listen to the rest of this episode and others from Beyond the Big Screen at parthenonpodcast.com

    The Last King of America: George III, His Battles With Madness, and Being a Thoroughly Underrated Monarch

    Play Episode Listen Later Feb 1, 2022 42:12

    Most Americans dismiss George III as a buffoon: a heartless and terrible monarch with few, if any, redeeming qualities (picture the preening, spitting, and pompous version in Hamilton). But in 2017, the Queen of England put 200,000 pages of the Georgian kings' private papers online, about half of which related to George III, and these papers have forced a full-scale reinterpretation of the king's life and reign. Today's guest is Andrew Roberts, author of “The Last King of America.” He had unprecedented access to these archives. The result is the first biography of King George III in fifty years. We discuss how George III was in fact a wise, humane, and even enlightened monarch who was beset by talented enemies, debilitating mental illness, incompetent ministers, and disastrous luck.Above all, we see a much more nuanced picture than the villain of the American Revolution but rather a monarch who created the modern notion of royalty, a powerful leader who carries the weight of noblesse oblige and works for the betterment of his subjects, not throwing around the powers of divine right.

    Dragons Exist In Nearly Every Culture's Mythology As a Mirror of Their Fears. What Are Ours?

    Play Episode Listen Later Jan 27, 2022 50:19

    We live in the golden age of dragons – they appear in Game of Thrones, most film adaptations of the works of J.R.R. Tolkein, and nearly everything tangentially related to fantasy. They date back millennia, appearing in every cultures mythology, from ancient Greece and India to medieval Europe and China to the badlands of modern America. But what do they represent? Today's guest is Scott Bruce, a medievalist and author of the Penguin Book of Dragons. He's here to explain the meaning of dragons in myth and legend. We discuss their origins in the deserts of Africa; their struggles with their mortal enemies, elephants, in the jungles of South Asia; their fear of lightning; the world's first dragon slayer, in an ancient collection of Sanskrit hymns; the colossal sea monster Leviathan; the seven-headed “great red dragon” of the Book of Revelation; the Loch Ness monster; the dragon in Beowulf, who inspired Smaug in Tolkien's The Hobbit; the dragons in the prophecies of the wizard Merlin; a dragon saved from a centipede in Japan who gifts his human savior a magical bag of rice; the supernatural feathered serpent of ancient Mesoamerica; and a flatulent dragon the size of the Trojan Horse.Nearly a quarter of the selections are translated into English for the first time, from medieval European sources translated directly from the Latin, to medieval Greek stories. Bruce also dug deeply into obscure early modern and 19th century sources, like the reports of dragon sightings from two American newspapers around the turn of the 20th century.I'll conclude with a cautionary quote from Ursula K. Le Guin: “People who deny the existence of dragons are often eaten by dragons. From within.”

    Harry Guggenheim: The Elon Musk of the Gilded Age

    Play Episode Listen Later Jan 25, 2022 38:50

    Harry Guggenheim was a man of impressive achievements and staggering wealth. While most commonly known for the creation of the famed Solomon Guggenheim Museum, Harry was also the co-founder of Newsday, dubbed “The Godfather of Flight” by Popular Science, chosen as the US ambassador to Cuba, and a major thoroughbred racehorse owner. He even arguably had a greater impact on the development of aviation than the Wright Brothers. Wilbur and Orville did invent the airplane, but they did everything they could to stall the growth of aviation by zealously protecting their patents in court. Later, Harry and others jumpstarted the industry by funding aeronautical schools, design competitions, reliability tours, and breakthroughs in technology Today's guest, Dirk Smillie, author of The Business of Tomorrow - The Visionary Life of Harry Guggenheim: From Aviation and Rocketry to the Creation of an Art Dynasty shows that it was the singular force of Harry Guggenheim that guided the family's businesses into modernity. Part angel investor, part entrepreneur, part technologist, Harry launched businesses whose impact on 20th century America went far beyond the Guggenheims' mines or museums.

    Are Cities Humanity's Greatest Invention or an Incubator of Disease, Crime, and Horrific Exploitation?

    Play Episode Listen Later Jan 20, 2022 56:58

    During the two hundred millennia of humanity's existence, nothing has shaped us more profoundly than the city. From their very beginnings, cities created such a flourishing of human endeavor—new professions, new forms of art, worship and trade—that they kick-started civilization. Guiding us through the centuries, is today's guest Ben Wilson, author of Metropolis: A history of the City, Humankind's Greatest Invention. We discuss the innovations nurtured by the energy of human beings together: civics in the agora of Athens, global trade in ninth-century Baghdad, finance in the coffeehouses of London, domestic comforts in the heart of Amsterdam, peacocking in Belle Époque Paris. In the modern age, the skyscrapers of New York City inspired utopian visions of community design, while the trees of twenty-first-century Seattle and Shanghai point to a sustainable future in the age of climate change.

    Revolutionary Monsters: Why Lenin, Mao, Castro, and Others Turned Liberation into Tyranny

    Play Episode Listen Later Jan 18, 2022 25:39

    All sparked movements in the name of liberating their people from their oppressors—capitalists, foreign imperialists, or dictators in their own country. These revolutionaries rallied the masses in the name of freedom, only to become more tyrannical than those they replaced. Much has been written about the anatomy of revolution from Edmund Burke to Crane Brinton Crane, Franz Fanon, and contemporary theorists of revolution found in the modern academy. Yet what is missing is a dissection of the revolutionary minds that destroyed the old for the creation of a more harmful new. Today's Guest, Donald Critchlow, author of Revolutionary Monsters Five Men Who Turned Liberation into Tyranny presents a collective biography of five modern day revolutionaries who came into power calling for the liberation of the people only to end up killing millions of people in the name of revolution: Lenin (Russia), Mao (China), Castro (Cuba), Mugabe (Zimbabwe), and Khomeini (Iran). Revolutionary Monsters explores basic questions about the revolutionary personality, and examines how these revolutionaries came to envision themselves as prophets of a new age.

    Robert E. Lee Was America's Most Gallant, Decorated Traitor

    Play Episode Listen Later Jan 13, 2022 54:22

    Robert E. Lee was one of the most confounding figures in American history. From Lee's betrayal of his nation to defend his home state and uphold the slave system he claimed to oppose, to his traitorous actions against the country he swore to serve as an Army officer, to the ways he benefited from inherited slaves and fought to defend the institution of slavery despite considering slavery immoral, it's a major undertaking to understand him in all his complexity.Today's guest, Allen Guelzo, author of Robert E. Lee: A Life, describes the Virginian from his refined upbringing in Virginia high society, to his long career in the U.S. Army, his agonized decision to side with Virginia when it seceded from the Union, and his leadership during the Civil War. Overall, we explore the many complexities and unexpected paradoxes that existed within Robert E. Lee himself.

    Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the Winding Path to Emancipation

    Play Episode Listen Later Jan 11, 2022 54:38

    In a little-noted eulogy delivered shortly after Abraham Lincoln's assassination, Frederick Douglass called the martyred president “emphatically the Black man's president,” and the “first to show any respect for their rights as men.” To justify his description, Douglass pointed not just to Lincoln's official acts and utterances, like the Emancipation Proclamation or the Second Inaugural Address, but also to the president's own personal experiences with Black people. Referring to one of his White House visits, Douglass said: “In daring to invite a Negro to an audience at the White House, Mr. Lincoln was saying to the country: I am President of the Black people as well as the white, and I mean to respect their rights and feelings as men and as citizens.”But Lincoln's description as “the Black man's president” rests on more than his relationship with Douglass or on his official words and deeds. Lincoln interacted with many other Black Americans during his presidency. His unfailing cordiality to them, his willingness to meet with them in the White House, to honor their requests, to invite them to consult on public policy, to treat them with respect whether they were kitchen servants or abolitionist leaders, to invite them to attend receptions, to sing and pray with them in their neighborhoods – all were manifestations of an egalitarian spirit noted by Frederick Douglass and other prominent African Americans like Sojourner Truth, who said: “I never was treated by any one with more kindness and cordiality than were shown to me by that great and good man, Abraham Lincoln.” To discuss this issue is today's guest Michael Burlingame, author of the book The Black Man's President: Abraham Lincoln, African Americans, and the Pursuit of Racial Equality. We focus on Lincoln's personal interchange with Black Americans over the course his career, whichreveals a side of the sixteenth president that, until now, has not been fully explored.

    Henry Kissinger Used Cold Realpolitik to Create Order in the Middle East. Did it Work?

    Play Episode Listen Later Jan 6, 2022 52:35

    More than twenty years have elapsed since the United States last brokered a peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians. In that time, three presidents have tried and failed. Today's guest, Martin Indyk—a former United States ambassador to Israel and special envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in 2013—has experienced these political frustrations and disappointments firsthand. To understand the arc of American diplomatic influence in the Middle East, Indyk returns to the origins of American-led peace efforts and to Henry Kissinger, the man who created the Middle East peace process. He is the author of the new book “Master of the Game: Henry Kissinger and the Art of Middle East Diplomacy.” He discusses the unique challenges and barriers Kissinger and his successors have faced in their attempts to broker peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Based on newly available documents from American and Israeli archives, extensive interviews with Kissinger, and Indyk's own interactions with some of the main players, the author takes readers inside the pivotal negotiations and reveals how American diplomacy operates behind closed doors. He argues that understanding Kissinger's design for Middle East peacemaking is key to comprehending how—and how not—to make peace.

    Europe's Babylon: 16th-Century Antwerp was a City of Wealth, Vice, Heresy, and Freedom

    Play Episode Listen Later Jan 4, 2022 52:39

    Before Amsterdam, there was a dazzling North Sea port at the hub of the known world: the city of Antwerp. For half the sixteenth century, it was the place for breaking rules – religious, sexual, intellectual. Known as Europe's Babylon, the once-humble Belgian city had an outsized role in making the modern world.In the Age of Exploration, Antwerp was sensational like nineteenth-century Paris or twentieth-century New York. It was somewhere anything could happen or at least be believed: killer bankers, a market in secrets and every kind of heresy.And it was a place of change—a single man cornered all the money in the city and reinvented ideas of what money meant. Jews fleeing the Portuguese Inquisition needed Antwerp for their escape, thanks to the remarkable woman at the head of the grandest banking family in Europe. She set up an underground railroad for Jews so that they could flee persecution and find safe passage to friendlier lands like Poland or the Ottoman Empire.Thomas More opened Utopia there, Erasmus puzzled over money and exchanges, William Tyndale sheltered there and smuggled out his Bible in English until he was killed. Pieter Bruegel painted the town as The Tower of Babel.But when Antwerp rebelled with the Dutch against the Spanish and lost, all that glory was buried. The city that unsettled so many now became conformist. Mutinous troops burned the city records, trying to erase its true history.To discuss the growth and decline of this city is today's guest is Michael Pye, author of Europe's Babylon: The Rise and Fall of Antwerp's Golden Age.

    Parthenon Podcast Roundtable: Who Would You Eliminate From History? (And No, You Can't Choose Hitler)

    Play Episode Listen Later Jan 1, 2022 51:53

    Today is a group discussion in which the four guys that make up the Parthenon Podcast Network (Steve Guerra from Beyond the Big Screen, Richard Lim from This American President, James Early from Key Battles of American History, and Scott Rank from History Unplugged) discuss a beloved hypothetical that our listeners have separately asked each of us many times: if you could eliminate one person from our timeline, who would it be?And to force us to think outside of the box, we've eliminated Hitler as a choice. That one is too obvious.Check out all our shows at parthenonpodcast.com

    WASPs: The Splendors and Miseries of an American Aristocracy

    Play Episode Listen Later Dec 30, 2021 40:32

    From politics to fashion, their style still intrigues us. WASPs produced brilliant reformers—Eleanor, Theodore, and Franklin Roosevelt—and inspired Cold Warriors—Dean Acheson, Averell Harriman, and Joe Alsop. They embodied a chic and an allure that drove characters like F. Scott Fitzgerald's Jay Gatsby mad with desire.They were creatures of glamour, power, and privilege, living amid the splendor of great houses, flashing jewels, and glittering soirées. Envied and lampooned, they had something the rest of America craved.Yet they were unhappy. Descended from families that created the United States, WASPs felt themselves stunted by a civilization that thwarted their higher aspirations at every turn. They were the original lost generation, adrift in the waters of the Gilded Age. Some were sent to lunatic asylums or languished in nervous debility. Others committed suicide.Yet out of the neurotic ruins emerged a group of patriots devoted to public service and the renewal of society. In a new study of the WASP revolution in American life, today's guest Michael Knox Beran brings the stories of Henry Adams and Henry Stimson, Learned Hand and Vida Scudder, John Jay Chapman and Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney to life. These characters were driven by a vision of human completeness, one that distinguishes them from the self-complacency of more recent power establishments narrowly founded on money and technical know-how.WASPs shaped the America in which we live: so much so that it is not easy to understand our problems without a knowledge of their mistakes. They came to grief in Vietnam and through their own toxic blood pride, yet before they succumbed to the last temptation of arrogance, they struggled to fill a void in American life, one that many of us still feel.For all their faults, they pointed—in an age of shrunken lives and diminished possibility—to the dream.

    The Untold History of Earth: Hobbits Really Existed, Dinosaurs Had Feathers, and Yetis Roamed Our Planet

    Play Episode Listen Later Dec 28, 2021 71:08

    In the beginning, Earth was an inhospitably alien place―in constant chemical flux, covered with churning seas, crafting its landscape through incessant volcanic eruptions. Amid all this tumult and disaster, life began. The earliest living things were no more than membranes stretched across microscopic gaps in rocks, where boiling hot jets of mineral-rich water gushed out from cracks in the ocean floor.Although these membranes were leaky, the environment within them became different from the raging maelstrom beyond. These havens of order slowly refined the generation of energy, using it to form membrane-bound bubbles that were mostly-faithful copies of their parents―a foamy lather of soap-bubble cells standing as tiny clenched fists, defiant against the lifeless world. Life on this planet has continued in much the same way for millennia, adapting to literally every conceivable setback that living organisms could encounter and thriving, from these humblest beginnings to the thrilling and unlikely story of ourselves.Today guest, Henry Gee, author of A (Very) Short History of Life on Earth, zips through the last 4.6 billion years to tell a tale of survival and persistence that illuminates the delicate balance within which life has always existed. We discuss the following:Dinosaurs In Flight. It's 25 years since the discovery of the first feathered dinosaurs and Henry was (to quote Hamilton) In The Room Where It Happened, quite literally. Learn about Sinosauropteryx, how they came to be published and how it transformed our ideas of dinosaurs, birds, and flight.Whether We Are We Really Doomed As someone who studies the Earth from its beginning, Henry believes that the current crisis of climate and extinction, although real, has been overplayed and that we can turn the tide. In the context of the Earth's history, a rise of a degree or two amounts to no more than a hill of beans; and calls to ‘Save the Planet' look like a case of colossal narcissistic hubris. One might as well say ‘Stop Plate Tectonics', or even ‘Stop Plate Tectonics – NOW.' Henry is one of the few scientists who believes there is still hope, and, perhaps, some cause for cautious optimism.The Beowulf Effect. The Old English poem Beowulf is a vital source of information on history, language, story and belief from the darkest of the Dark Ages. Only one copy is known to exist (it's in the British Library), and that was rescued from a fire that is known to have destroyed many other manuscripts. If Beowulf didn't exist, how much would we know about that period? It's a sobering thought that between 410 and 597, no scrap of writing survives from what is now England. This is an interval comparable in length between now… and the Napoleonic Wars. The same is true about fossils — what we know of the fossil record is an infinitesimal dot on an infinitesimal dot on what really happened. Almost everything that once existed on our planet has been lost. This means that anything new we find has the potential to change everything. Henry can talk about the latest discoveries on human evolution showing how the story of human evolution was much stranger than we could have imagined even twenty years ago. There was a time, not so long ago, when hobbits, yetis and giants really did walk the Earth, and some of them have left their genetic heritage in us.

    George Washington's 1789 Road Trip Across the New United States

    Play Episode Listen Later Dec 23, 2021 37:46

    In the fall of 1789, George Washington, only six months into his presidency, set out on the first of four road trips as he attempted to unite what were in essence thirteen independent states into a single nation. In the fall of 2018, Nat Philbrick, his wife Melissa, and their dog Dora set out to retrace Washington's route across the country. By following Washington as he attempted to bring the country together, traveling as far north as Kittery Point, Maine, and as far south as Savannah, Georgia, Philbrick hoped to gain some historical perspective on our own politically divided times.Washington accomplished an extraordinary amount to bring this unruly collection of states together in support of the creation of a federal government, of a tax plan, of a Federal City – what would become Washington, DC. Without this road trip, America may never have made it, and today's leaders could stand to learn from George's methods.

    The Allied Race to Retake Paris in 1945 Before the Nazis Could Destroy It

    Play Episode Listen Later Dec 21, 2021 29:47

    In a stunning move, the armies of Nazi Germany annihilated the French military and captured Paris, the crown jewel of Europe, in a matter of a few weeks. As Adolf Hitler tightened his grip on the City of Lights, the shocked Allies regrouped and began planning for a daring counterattack into Fortress Europe. The longer the Nazis held the city, the greater danger its citizens faced. By 1944, over 120,000 Parisians died, and countless more tortured in the city's Gestapo prisons and sent to death camps. The exiled general Charles de Gaulle, headquartered in the bar of London's Connaught Hotel, convinced General Dwight Eisenhower to put Paris before Berlin. Unless Paris was taken immediately, he told him, the City of Light would be leveled. The race for Paris begins.Today's guest is Martin Dugar, author of “Taking Paris: The Epic Battle for the City of Lights.” We discuss the story of the people who set that city free and the account of the battle for the heart and soul of Paris in one of the twentieth century's darkest moments.

    The Son of Mississippi Slaves Who Fled to Russia and Brought Jazz to Istanbul

    Play Episode Listen Later Dec 16, 2021 57:18

    Frederick Bruce Thomas was born in 1872 to former slaves and spent his youth on his family's prosperous farm in Mississippi. However, a resentful, rich white planter's attempt to steal their land forced them to escape to Memphis. And when Frederick's father was brutally murdered by another black man, the family disintegrated. After leaving the South and working as a waiter and valet in Chicago and Brooklyn, Frederick went to London in 1894, then traveled throughout Europe, and decided to go to Russia in 1899, which was highly unusual for a black American at the time. Frederick found no color line in Russia and made Moscow his home. During the next nineteen years he renamed himself “Fyodor Fyodorovich Tomas,” married twice, acquired a mistress, took Russian citizenship, and by dint of his talents, hard work, charm, and guile became one of the city's richest and most famous owners of variety theaters and restaurants. The Bolshevik Revolution ruined him and he barely escaped with his life and family to Turkey in 1919. Starting with just a handful of dollars out of the millions he had lost, Frederick made a second fortune in Constantinople by opening a series of celebrated nightclubs that introduced jazz to Turkey. However, because of the long arm of American racism, the xenophobia of the new Turkish Republic, and his own extravagance, he fell on hard times, was thrown into debtor's prison, and died in Constantinople in 1928.Although widely known during his lifetime, Frederick Thomas is now virtually forgotten. The few references to him that have been published during the past eighty years are all brief and often wrong. Vladimir Alexandrov, today's guest and author of the book “The Black Russian,” researched Frederick Thomas's life and times exhaustively in archives and libraries throughout the United States, as well as in Russia, France, England, and Turkey, and found a great deal of information about him. Frederick Thomas is fascinating because of the extraordinary way he escaped the constraints of his humble origins and being black in the United States, because of how his life went from rags to riches to ruin not once but twice as a consequence of revolutionary transformations in two exotic societies, and because of the contrasting roles that race played in his life abroad--from being invisible in Russia, to returning to haunt him in Turkey, when he most needed help and the American government turned him down.

    What the Middle Ages Can Teach Us About Pandemics, Mass Migration, and Tech Disruption

    Play Episode Listen Later Dec 14, 2021 54:43

    The medieval world – for all its plagues, papal indulgences, castles, and inquisition trials – has much in common with ours. People living the Middle Ages dealt with deadly pandemics, climate change, mass migration, and controversial technological changes, just as we do now in 2021. Today's guest, Dan Jones, author of POWERS AND THRONES: A New History of the Middle Ages looks at these common features through a cast of characters that includes pious monks and Byzantine emperors, chivalric knights and Renaissance artists. This sweep of the medieval world begins with the fall of the Roman empire and ends with the first contact between the Old World and the New. Along the way, Jones provides a front row seat to the forces that shaped the Western world as we know it. This is the thousand years in which our basic Western systems of law, commerce, and governance were codified; when the Christian Churches matured as both powerful institutions and the regulators of Western public morality; and when art, architecture, philosophical inquiry and scientific invention went through periods of seismic change. We discuss: • The height of the Roman empire and its influential rulers, as well as the various reasons it fell, including climate change pushing the Huns and so-called “barbarian” tribes to the empire's borders. • The development of Christianity and Islam, as well as the power struggles and conflict ignited in the name of religion, chivalric orders such as the Knights Templar, and the rise of monasteries as major political players in the West. • The intimate stories of many influential characters of the Middle Ages, such as Constantine I, Justinian, the Prophet Muhammad, Attila the Hun, Charlemagne, El Cid, Leonardo Da Vinci, Genghis Khan, Marco Polo, Martin Luther, and many more. • The development of global trade routes and commerce across Europe, Asia, and Africa and the expanding map during the Age of Exploration. • The Black Death, which decimated up to sixty percent of the local population in the fourteenth century and led to widespread social unrest and the little Ice Age, the period between 1300-1850 triggered by volcanic activity that created a climate so regularly and bitterly cold that it contributed to the Great Famine of 1315-21.

    Marine Raiders: The WW2 Special Forces Who Conquered Pacific Islands One Knife Fight At a Time

    Play Episode Listen Later Dec 9, 2021 34:19

    At the beginning of World War II, military planners set out to form the most ruthless, skilled, and effective force the world had ever seen. The U.S. Marines were already the world's greatest fighters, but leadership wanted a select group to conduct special operations at the highest level in the Pacific theater. And so the Marine Raiders were born.These young men, the cream of the crop, received matchless training in the arts of war. Marksmen, brawlers, and tacticians, the Marine Raiders could accomplish their objective before the enemy even knew they were there.Yet even though one of their commanders was President Roosevelt's son, they have largely been forgotten. To explore their legacy, we are joined by Carole Engle Avriett, author of “Marine Raiders: The True Story of the Legendary WWII Battalions.”We discuss:- The personal narratives of four men who served as Marine Raiders- Frontline accounts of the Raiders' most important engagements- The explanation for their obscurity, despite their earlier fame

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