693 episodes

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 (Scott Rank, PhD) absolutely anything (What was it like to be a Turkish sultan with four wives and twelve concubines? If you were sent back in time, how would you kill Hitler?). Second, it features long-form interviews with best-selling authors who have written about everything. Topics include gruff World War II generals who flew with airmen on bombing raids, a war horse who gained the rank of sergeant, and presidents who gave their best speeches while drunk.

History Unplugged Podcast Parthenon

    • History
    • 4.2 • 3.2K Ratings

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 (Scott Rank, PhD) absolutely anything (What was it like to be a Turkish sultan with four wives and twelve concubines? If you were sent back in time, how would you kill Hitler?). Second, it features long-form interviews with best-selling authors who have written about everything. Topics include gruff World War II generals who flew with airmen on bombing raids, a war horse who gained the rank of sergeant, and presidents who gave their best speeches while drunk.

    Introducing: It Was Said Season 2

    Introducing: It Was Said Season 2

    It Was Said, the 2021 Webby Award winner for Best Podcast
    Series, returns with a new season to look back on some of the most powerful,
    impactful, and timeless speeches in history. Written and narrated by Pulitzer
    Prize winner and bestselling author-historian Jon Meacham, this documentary
    podcast series takes you through another season of ten generation-defining
    speeches. Meacham, along with top historians, authors and journalists, offers
    expert insight and analysis into the origins, the orator, and the context of the
    times each speech was given, and they reflect on why it’s important to never
    forget them.

    • 3 min
    How to Escape From a Nazi Prison Fortress

    How to Escape From a Nazi Prison Fortress

    Looking at Colditz Castle, it was no surprise why the Nazi’s chose the towering fortress as their prison-of-war camp for the most defiant Allied prisoners. Perched high above a rocky outcrop with thick medieval walls of stone, the men who had escaped other camps would surely have no such luck here, living out the war under the watchful eye of their German captors. But men do not resign themselves so lightly, and with nothing but time on their hands, the POWs of Colditz would engineer some of the most ingenious—and utterly reckless—methods of escape that could be imagined.

    Today’s guest is Ben Macintyre, author of “Prisoners of the Castle: An Epic Story of Survival and Escape From Colditz.” We metaphorically go inside the prison to live among side these men as they grapple with class conflict, bullying, boredom, insanity and farce. There are heroes and traitors, class conflicts and secret alliances, and ingenious escape attempts that would become legend.

    We get into character portraits of the inmates, along with their stories of bravery and sacrifice.

    • 47 min
    Thomas Jefferson’s European Travel Guide Includes Architectural Sketches, Farming Tips, and an Astronomical Wine Expense Report

    Thomas Jefferson’s European Travel Guide Includes Architectural Sketches, Farming Tips, and an Astronomical Wine Expense Report

    In 1784, Thomas Jefferson was a broken man. Reeling from the loss of his wife and humiliated from a political scandal during the Revolutionary war, he needed to remake himself. And to do that, he traveled. Traipsing through Europe, Jefferson saw and learned as much as he could, ultimately bringing his knowledge home to a young America. He wrote a travelogue called “Hints to Americans Traveling in Europe.”

    Jefferson documented his trip in order to educate the infant nation on cutting-edge techniques in agriculture and architecture. He included sketches of buildings with Roman domes and columns, which he thought should be incorporated into America’s buildings to celebrate one of the ancient world’s greatest democracies. But he also indulged in European luxury and spent a gilded carriage’s worth on wine, ivory-handled knives, and porcelain statuettes, and (most odd) an organ for teaching songs to birds.


    More than two hundred years later, Derek Baxter, a devotee of American history, decided to follow in his footsteps and see what he could learn from the Founding Father. Baxter is today’s guest and author of “In Pursuit of Jefferson: Traveling Through Europe With the Most Perplexing Founding Father.” He stumbled on Jefferson’s travelogue and used it as a roadmap, embarking on a new journey, following Jefferson to the same French wineries and rivers, even eating period-accurate food at Monticello. The goal was to figure out how to make sense of Jefferson and the multitude of contradictions in his life, the most debated being that he was a slaveholder who also wrote a world-historical testament to freedom.

    This is an unflinching look at a founding father, and a moving personal journey. We explore how we can be better moving forward only by first looking back.

    • 46 min
    The Michigan Politician Who Created a Proto-New Deal, Defeated the KKK in Court, and Defended Interred Japanese-Americans

    The Michigan Politician Who Created a Proto-New Deal, Defeated the KKK in Court, and Defended Interred Japanese-Americans

    Frank Murphy was a public servant that achieved the highest levels of civilian success in the early 20th century. After serving in World War I, he served as mayor of Detroit, then as the top appointed U.S. official to the Philippines, then as Governor of Michigan, U.S. Attorney General, and ultimately as a Justice on the Supreme Court, appointed by FDR. But it was his securing justice for a black doctor against a KKK mob that made him an icon.

    In 1925, Ossian Sweet, a black doctor, moved with his family into a traditionally white neighborhood in Detroit. The city did not have Jim Crow but it had the KKK and segregation, particularly in housing. On a daily basis, the Sweet family faced taunts and threats of violence from white mobs that gathered outside.

    One day in September, the mobs grew violent and threw rocks at the Sweet house, shattering glass windows as the police stood by. Sweet (or one of his companions) shot out from the house and killed a white bystander. He was arrested and tried for murder before an all-white jury.

    Judge Frank Murphy insisted on a fair trial for the Black defendants. As the trial judge, Murphy told the jury that Sweet had no duty to retreat if his home was threatened, as Americans had a right to live where they wanted. He evoked the house as a castle metaphor.

    Twice, the jury refused to convict and the charges were eventually dropped. The result was hailed by the NAACP and others as a rare triumph of the legal process for black defendants. When Murphy later ran for mayor of Detroit, he won in black precincts by margins of 30-1.

    Today’s guest, Greg Zipes, is here to share the story of Murphy. He’s the author of Justice and Faith: The Frank Murphy Story. Throughout his career, Murphy influenced the country’s values in tangible ways, cementing its focus on individual dignity and liberties at times in America’s history when it had moved in more authoritarian directions, whether through war-time suspension of rights or Jim Crow-era legislation or the internment of Japanese Americans.

    Other fascinating parts of his life include his Organization of Mayors, which helped pressure the federal government to provide aid directly to cities and individuals, bypassing the states; how the US did not learn lessons about colonial decoupling from Murphy's role in the Philippines prior to World War II; and Murphy’s dissent in the 1944 Supreme Court decision Korematsu vs. US, a decision that debated the legality of Japanese internment camps.

    • 50 min
    The Rag-Tag Art Renegades that Brought Picasso and Modernist Art to the United States

    The Rag-Tag Art Renegades that Brought Picasso and Modernist Art to the United States

    Today we think of New York as the center of the twentieth century art world, but it took three determined men, two world wars, and one singular artist to secure the city’s cultural prominence. Pablo Picasso was the most influential and perplexing artist of his age, and the turning points of his career and salient facets of his private life have intrigued the world for decades. However, the tremendous feat of winning support for his art in the U.S. has long been overlooked.

    To discuss this largely forgotten story is Hugh Eakin, author of Picasso’s War How Modern Art Came to America. He details the story of how a single exhibition, years in the making, finally brought the 20th century’s most notorious artist U.S. acclaim, irrevocably changed American culture, and in doing so saved dozens of the twentieth century’s most enduring artworks from the Nazis.

    A small group of eclectic figures made this happen: the renegade Irish-American lawyer John Quinn and the mountain-girl-turned-foreign correspondent, Jeanne Foster; the art dealer and Paris kingmaker, Paul Rosenberg; the wunderkind museum founder Alfred Barr and his sharp-witted, Irish-Italian wife, Margaret Scolari. Working sometimes together and often at odds, they were determined to bring the radical art revolutions of Europe to the States, no matter what stood in their way. In the end, they would have to overcome political revolutions, bankruptcies, divorces, art seizures—and years of American cultural hostility before they could achieve their goal. Collectively, it would take the destruction of New York’s first great modern art collection and finally, the Nazis’ war on modernism to bring this twenty-year quest to its surprising conclusion.

    • 50 min
    The Oldest Stories of King Arthur Have Female Warriors, Black Knights, and Whole Lot of Supernatural Encounters

    The Oldest Stories of King Arthur Have Female Warriors, Black Knights, and Whole Lot of Supernatural Encounters

    The stories of King Arthur and Merlin, Lancelot and Guinevere, Galahad, Gawain, Tristan and the rest of the Knights of the Roundtable, and the search for the Holy Grail have been beloved for centuries and are the inspiration of many modern fantasy novels, films, and shows. These legends began when an obscure Celtic hero named Arthur stepped on to the stage of history sometime in the sixth century, generating a host of oral tales that would be inscribed some 900 years later by Thomas Malory in his classic Morte D’Arthur (The Death of Arthur).

    But Malory had many more sources than he could ever use in his book. As such, historians of Arthur have thougth for decades than an update was necessary. Today’s guest, John Matthews, took up the challenge. He’s the author of “The Great Book of King Arthur & His Knights of the Round Table.” He brings these legends into the modern age, using accessible prose for contemporary readers for the first time. He includes many tales of Arthur and his knights either unknown to Malory or written in other languages, such as the story of Avenable, the girl brought up as a boy who becomes a famous knight; Morien, whose adventures are as fantastic and exciting as any found in Malory’s work; and a retelling of the life of Round Table favorite Gawain, from his strange birth to his upbringing among the poor to his ascension to the highest position—Emperor of Rome.

    • 46 min

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5
3.2K Ratings

3.2K Ratings

Doug P in a Class C ,

Varied and informative

No matter your interest in the history realm, this pod covers a wide range of notable dates and subjects. I am always listening to hear what is next in the chronology of historical events.

JB-neuro ,

Dr.

I have been listening to Dr. Scott Rank for 3 or 4 years (Battles of Civil War, Battles of Revolutionary War, Titanic stories, and, now, History Unplugged). He was the first "pod caster" that I ever heard, and because of his excellence I have been attracted to podcasts in general. Most of his book authors are quite eloquent, and his questions are always appropriate and thought-provoking.
I would like to find out how to contact Scott with comments on individual shows. For instance, I just listened to "The Allied Race to Retake Paris in 1945". I was surprised that Scott didn't mention the famous book "Is Paris Burning", and what Martin Dugar's new book added to the subject (it didn't seem like much!). Also, he could have mentioned an excellent 2014 movie on Choltitz's decision to spare Paris- "Diplomacy".

OC Chicago ,

Mostly great & a lot of whiny woke reviews lately

Almost all the long episodes are very good. My only issue with covering the American Revolution & civil war battles is there’s a lot of bios & background & very little coverage of the actual battles themselves.

As far as the whiny reviews on 1619, I will paraphrase some:
“I never thought this was political until he called out 1619 project for being a scam. But my leftist professor told me …. wahhhhh”.

There’s your answer - when actual historians point out its false premises, that doesn’t mean they are “Trumpian”, “white supremacists”, “racists”, “pro-slavery” or anything else. They just refuse to distort history & go along with the flavor of the day woke version of what people want to believe.

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