300 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
    • 4.3, 1.7K 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.

    Empires of the Sky: Zeppelins, Airplanes, and Two Men’s Epic Duel to Rule the World

    Empires of the Sky: Zeppelins, Airplanes, and Two Men’s Epic Duel to Rule the World

    At the dawn of the twentieth century, when human flight was still considered an impossibility, Germany's Count von Zeppelin vied with the Wright Brothers to build the world's first successful flying machine. As the Wrights labored to invent the airplane, Zeppelin fathered the wondrous airship, sparking a bitter rivalry between the two types of aircraft and their innovators that would last for decades in the quest to control one of humanity's most inspiring achievements. And it was the airship--not the airplane--that would lead the way.

    In the glittery 1920s, the count's brilliant protégé, Hugo Eckener, achieved undreamt-of feats of daring and skill, including the extraordinary round-the-world voyage of the Graf Zeppelin. What Charles Lindbergh almost died doing--crossing the Atlantic in 1927--Eckener effortlessly accomplished three years before the Spirit of St. Louis even took off.

    I'm talking to Alexander Rose, author of the new book “Empires of the Sky,” which gets into this story. Even as the Nazis sought to exploit Zeppelins for their own nefarious purposes, Eckener built his masterwork, the behemoth Hindenburg--a marvel of design and engineering. Eckener met his match in Juan Trippe, the ruthlessly ambitious king of Pan American Airways, who believed his fleet of next-generation planes would vanquish Eckener's coming airship armada. It was a fight only one man--and one technology--could win. Countering each other's moves on the global chessboard, each seeking to wrest the advantage from his rival, the two men's struggle for mastery of the air was not only the clash of technologies, but of business, diplomacy, politics, personalities, and their vastly different dreams of the future.

    • 1 hr 11 min
    Nazis Nearly Assassinated Stalin, Churchill, and FDR in 1943. What If They Had Succeeded?

    Nazis Nearly Assassinated Stalin, Churchill, and FDR in 1943. What If They Had Succeeded?

    In the middle of World War II, Nazi military intelligence discovered a seemingly easy way to win the war for Adolf Hitler. The three heads of the Allied forces—Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Josef Stalin—were planning to meet in Iran in October 1943. Under Hitler's personal direction, the Nazis launched “Operation Long Jump,” an intricate plan to track the Allied leaders in Tehran and assassinate all three men at the same time. “I suppose it would make a pretty good haul if they could get all three of us,” Roosevelt later said. The plan failed, but what if it had succeeded?

    Perhaps some good could have come out of it, namely a less brutal Soviet premier who killed millions. But many frightening scenarios also emerge, such as an American-Soviet pact against Europe, or a Cold War that goes hot in the 1950s. In the infinite alternate timelines that include a successful assassination of theBig Three, most of them are bad.

    • 38 min
    In the 1850s, A Mormon Renegade Started a Massive Pirate Colony in Michigan

    In the 1850s, A Mormon Renegade Started a Massive Pirate Colony in Michigan

    In the summer of 1843, James Strang, a charismatic young lawyer and avowed atheist, vanished from a rural town in New York. Months later he reappeared on the Midwestern frontier and converted to a burgeoning religious movement known as Mormonism. In the wake of the murder of the sect’s leader, Joseph Smith, Strang unveiled a letter purportedly from the prophet naming him successor, and persuaded hundreds of fellow converts to follow him to an island in Lake Michigan, where he declared himself a divine king.

    From this stronghold he controlled a fourth of the state of Michigan, establishing a pirate colony where he practiced plural marriage and perpetrated thefts, corruption, and frauds of all kinds. Eventually, having run afoul of powerful enemies, including the American president, Strang was assassinated, an event that was frontpage news across the country.

    Today’s guest is Miles Harvey, author of “The King of Confidence.” Centering his narrative on this charlatan’s turbulent twelve years in power, Strang’s story gets into a crucial period of antebellum history and an account of one of the country’s boldest con men and the boisterous era that allowed him to thrive.

    • 51 min
    The Good Assassin: A Mossad Agent's Hunt For WW2’s “Butcher of Latvia”

    The Good Assassin: A Mossad Agent's Hunt For WW2’s “Butcher of Latvia”

    Before World War II, Herbert Cukurs was a famous figure in his small Latvian city, the “Charles Lindbergh of his country.” But by 1945, he was the Butcher of Latvia, a man who murdered some thirty thousand Latvian Jews. Somehow, he dodged the Nuremberg trials, fleeing to South America after war’s end.

    By 1965, as a statute of limitations on all Nazi war crimes threatened to expire, Germany sought to welcome previous concentration camp commanders, pogrom leaders, and executioners, as citizens. The global pursuit of Nazi criminals escalated to beat the looming deadline, and Mossad, the Israeli national intelligence agency, joined the cause. Yaakov Meidad, the brilliant Mossad agent who had kidnapped Adolf Eichmann three years earlier, led the mission to assassinate Cukurs in a desperate bid to block the amnesty. In a thrilling undercover operation unrivaled by even the most ambitious spy novels, Meidad traveled to Brazil in an elaborate disguise, befriended Cukurs and earned his trust, while negotiations over the Nazi pardon neared a boiling point.


    Today’s guest, Stephan Talty, is author of The Good Assassin, which uncovers this little-known chapter of Holocaust history and the undercover operation that brought Cukurs to justice.

    • 25 min
    Death From Above - How Paratroopers Evolved From a WW1 Pipe Dream To A Key Part of Combined-Arms Assault

    Death From Above - How Paratroopers Evolved From a WW1 Pipe Dream To A Key Part of Combined-Arms Assault

    “Paratroopers are about the most peculiar breed of human beings I have ever witnessed. They treat their service as if it were some kind of cult, plastering their emblem on almost everything they own, making themselves up to look like insane fanatics with haircuts to ungentlemanly lengths, worshiping their units almost as if they were a God, and making weird animal noises like a band of savages... [but] generally speaking, the United States Paratroopers I’ve come in contact with are the most professional soldiers and the finest men I have ever had the pleasure to meet.”

    This unattributed quote sums up the unique role that paratroopers have played in the wars of the 20th and 21st centuries. With the invention of the airplane, military strategists imaged troops clinging to the wings of Wright Bros. flyers and landing in enemy trenches. Such plans never came to fruition, but technical advances made it possible to drops thousands of soldiers with reasonable safety and accuracy. During WW2, Nazi Germany's paratroopers (Fallschirmjäger) had incredible success in Norway and the Netherlands and even rescued Benito Mussolini in a commando mission. Over 22,000 of them were dropped on Crete. Allied paratroopers famously landed in France on the eve of D-Day, making Operation Overlord a possibility.

    In this episode, we look at the origins of paratrooping, its function in war, and how it was part of the evolution of military strategy in the 20 century, in which different combat arms were integrated to achieve complementary effects.

    • 49 min
    Want to Star Your Own Nation? That's What a Family Did in 1967 When it Created "Sealand"

    Want to Star Your Own Nation? That's What a Family Did in 1967 When it Created "Sealand"

    In 1967, a retired army major and self-made millionaire named Paddy Roy Bates cemented his family's place in history when he inaugurated himself ruler of the Principality of Sealand, a tiny dominion of the high seas. And so began the peculiar story of the world's most stubborn micronation on a World War II anti-aircraft gun platform off the British coast.

    Today’s guest, Dylan Taylor-Lehman tells us the story of Sealand, a raucous tale of how a rogue adventurer seized the disused Maunsell Sea Fort from pirate radio broadcasters, settled his eccentric family on it, and defended their tiny kingdom from UK government officials and armed mercenaries for half a century. There were battles and schemes as Roy and his crew engaged with diplomats, entertained purveyors of pirate radio and TV, and even thwarted an attempted coup that saw the Prince Regent taken hostage. Incredibly, more than fifty years later, the self-proclaimed independent nation still stands--replete with its own constitution, national flag and anthem, currency, and passports.

    But Sealand is more than a quirky story. It hearkens back to the conquistadors who wanted to carve out their own sovereign nations and looks to the future of libertarian billionaires who want to build their own floating micronation of their own.

    • 38 min

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5
1.7K Ratings

1.7K Ratings

BoatingTracks ,

New Meaning to History

Every morning I take History Unplugged with me as I bicycle through a 10-mile workout. I’ve learned so much, I look forward to every episode.

k lauranzano ,

History

Love the Podcasts. Just discovered it. My morning is choosing which one to listen to. Learn so much. Interesting topics.

theweightofdust ,

Host is very mo-no-to-nous

Many people should not have a podcast. Scott Rank is one of those people.

He’s obviously done the reading, but he’s terrible on the microphone and isn’t providing any kind of interesting insight. It’s a recitation of known facts. Fine if this is the first time you’ve ever heard of Caligula or whoever he’s talking about in a given episode, but useless to anyone who took basic history courses in school.

Most history podcasts are like similar - the host writes an essay and reads it in a ve-ry mo-no-to-nous style that puts-me-to-sle-eeeeep. That’s why hosts like Dan Carlin and the guy who does MartyrMade really stand out, they seem to be working from notes but they’re improvising the actual wording. It leaves so much more room for heart and passion to emerge.

So much better than read-ing-your-book-in-the-same-cadence-for-an-hour.

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