490 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 Scott Rank, PhD

    • Society & Culture

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.

    The Pilgrims and Native Americans Were Both On the Verge of Death Upon Meeting. Here's How They Saved Each Others' Lives.

    The Pilgrims and Native Americans Were Both On the Verge of Death Upon Meeting. Here's How They Saved Each Others' Lives.

    For thousands of years, two distinct cultures evolved unaware of one another’s existence. Separated by what one culture called The Great Sea and known to the other as the Atlantic Ocean, the course of each culture’s future changed irreversibly four hundred years ago. In 1620 the Mayflower delivered 102 refugees and fortune seekers from England to Cape Cod, where these two cultures first encountered one another. The English sought religious freedom and fresh financial opportunities. The Natives were recovering from the Great Dying of the past several years that left over two-thirds of their people in graves. How would they react to one another? How might their experience shape modern cross-cultural encounters?
    Today's guest, Kathryn Haueisen is the author of the book “The Mayflower Chronicles." Being descended from Elder William and Mary Brewster, Haueisen grew up knowing the English version of the story. She learned it both in school and at home. Once her life included grandchildren with Native American heritage, she became more curious about the Native side of the story. Her curiosity took her on a seven-year journey to England, the Netherlands, Plymouth, MA, and numerous museums, libraries, books, websites, and interviews with historians and descendants of the Native communities connected to the story

    • 46 min
    Thanksgiving Owes Its Existence To The 19th Century's Biggest Social Media Influencer

    Thanksgiving Owes Its Existence To The 19th Century's Biggest Social Media Influencer

    Thanksgiving today is now a commercially driven holiday with Black Friday following closely at its heels, celebrated with a department store parade, football, and at one point in time, masked costumes. But the holiday originally came into existence all thanks to a 19th-century widowed mother with no formal schooling. She eventually became one of America's most influential tastemakers.

    Sarah Josepha Hale worked at the helm of one of the most widely read magazines in the nation, Godey’s Lady’s Book, Hale published Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and others, while introducing American readers to such newfangled concepts as “domestic science,” white wedding gowns, and the Christmas tree. A prolific writer, Hale penned novels, recipe books, essays, and more, including the ubiquitous children’s poem, “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” But one theme ran throughout her life, from her first novel published in 1827, to a mission accomplished 36 years later; Hale never stopped pushing the leaders of her time to officially recognize and celebrate gratitude. She finally got her wish by personally petitioning Abraham Lincoln to make Thanksgiving a national holiday.

    Today's guest is Denise Kiernan, author of "We Gather Together." Alongside the story of Hale, Kiernan brings to the fore the stories of Indigenous peoples, immigrant communities, women’s rights activists, abolitionists, and more, offering readers an inspiring tale of how imperfect people in challenging times can create powerful legacies.

    From Ancient Rome through 21st-century America, festivals resembling Thanksgiving have been celebrated the idea of gratitude, as a compelling human instinct and a global concept, more than just a mere holiday.

    • 27 min
    The Empire Strikes Back: Germany's Final Push to Win WW1 in Spring 1918

    The Empire Strikes Back: Germany's Final Push to Win WW1 in Spring 1918

    Many thought that Germany was capable of winning World War One until the very end. Unlike World War 2, in which the Allies believed that victory was inevitable as early as 1943, this was not the case with the Great War. It is also easy to assume that German defeat was inevitable at the hands of an Allied coalition richer in manpower, weapons and money. Yet Germany nearly captured Paris in 1914, crushed Serbia and Romania, bled the French Army until it mutinied, drove Russia out of the war, and then came oh-so-close to victory on the Western Front in 1918. One should not underestimate the power of Imperial Germany. Until the armistice was signed in a French railway carriage on November 11, 1918, Germany's enemies didn't.

    • 45 min
    Tank Warfare--How Military Tech Took a Quantum Leap at the Battle of Cambrai (1917)

    Tank Warfare--How Military Tech Took a Quantum Leap at the Battle of Cambrai (1917)

    The British developed the tank in response to the trench warfare of World War I. In 1914, a British army colonel named Ernest Swinton and William Hankey, secretary of the Committee for Imperial Defense, championed the idea of an armored vehicle with conveyor-belt-like tracks over its wheels that could break through enemy lines and traverse difficult territory. The men appealed to British navy minister Winston Churchill, who believed in the concept of a “land boat” and organized a Landships Committee to begin developing a prototype. It all came together at the Battle of Cambrai in 1917. The British saw it as their greatest victory. Church bells tolled throughout great Britain, the first time this had happened in the entire war.

    • 23 min
    The Yanks Are Coming -- America Enters World War One

    The Yanks Are Coming -- America Enters World War One

    Most Americans are indifferent about the nation's involvement in World War One (under half say the U.S. had a responsibility to fight in the war; one-in-five say it didn't). Many figure it entered the conflict too late to claim much credit, or intervention was discreditable. Some say the U.S. had no compelling national interest to enter the Great War; worse, U.S. intervention allowed Britain and France to force on Germany an unjust, punitive peace that made the rise of Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers Party inevitable. But others argue that America's involvement saved Europe from a militaristic dictatorship that would have resulted in a worse 20th century. We look at all these aspects of America's involvement in the war in this episode.

    • 52 min
    The Slog of War -- the Passchendaele Campaign of 1917

    The Slog of War -- the Passchendaele Campaign of 1917

    The best way to describe the Third Ypres (Passchendaele) Campaign of 1917. It’s ‘slog.’ When you think about a drudging act that seems to accomplish nothing, this battle is it. Mud. Mud to your waist. Everything sinks down several feet into mud. Tanks, Cars, guns, horses, everything stuck in mud. Images of a battlefield landscape with pockmarked holes and mist rising from the plains with shattered trees is characterized by the third battle of Ypres.

    The battle took place on the Western Front from July to November 1917 over control of ridges near the Belgian city of Ypres in West Flanders.

    Private R.A. Colwell described the scene in 1918 as follows: "There was not a sign of life of any sort. Not a tree, save for a few dead stumps which looked strange in the moonlight. Not a bird, not even a rat or a blade of grass. Nature was as dead as those Canadians whose bodies remained where they had fallen the previous autumn. Death was written large everywhere.”

    • 39 min

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