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.
Atomic Bombs, Ancient Women Warriors, and Alien Conspiracy Theories of WW2
This episode is a 3-in-1, in which Scott answers a trio of questions from listeners.
First question: Did ancient female warriors exist, and if so, how common they were on the battlefield? The answer is yes, but in all but a few situations, they were involved in wars in ways that didn’t involve physical combat. They were strategists – like Eleanor of Aquitaine, figureheads (like Joan of Arc), or possibly legendary – like Shieldmaidens. If they were actually involved in combat, the place where they were most strongly represented were defending their cities during sieges. I’ll explain why so few women are involved in combat, then I’ll give examples where we know they do exist.
The second question has to do with arguments for and against the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Was it unfortunate but justified, or (what critics claim) a war crime?
The last topic is the Philadelphia Experiment. On October 28, 1943, the U.S. Navy destroyer escort USS Eldridge was claimed to have been rendered invisible (or "cloaked") to enemy devices. More specifically, it was made invisible, teleported to New York, teleported to another dimension where it encountered aliens, and teleported through time, resulting in the deaths of several sailors, some of whom were fused with the ship's hull.
This is the famed Philadelphia Experiment. And it's the perfect example of how conspiracy theories start. They rely on third or fourth-hand accounts. They make reference to scientific principles but are really built on half-baked theories that are poorly understood. Most importantly, they reference classified events so independent investigators can't confirm or deny them.
How Ancient Egypt Lives On
A nasty historical myth that won’t die is that aliens created the ancient pyramids. If you watch the show ancient aliens on the history channel you’ll see Giorgio A. Tsoukalos, the crazy hair guy.
Nevertheless, The enigmatic nature of the burial for these otherwise poor laborers is one of many reasons that these builders are a source of considerable speculation today. We have almost no information about them, except that they accomplished feats of engineering considered beyond the abilities of technology in the ancient world.
In today’s episode we’ll solve the myster of how the pyramids were built. But we’ll also talk abouthow they created or developed things like: mathematics, bowling, the alphabet, wigs, cosmetics, and centralized bureacracy, paper and writing, medicine, and primitive surgery. And of course, engineering – with the pyramids – and our understanding of how to commemorate the dead.
In 1813, a Shawnee "Prophet" Launched a War to Conquer the Great Lakes Region
Until the Americans killed Tecumseh in 1813, he and his brother Tenskwatawa were the co-architects of the broadest pan-Indian confederation in United States history. In previous accounts of Tecumseh's life, Tenskwatawa has been dismissed as a talentless charlatan and a drunk. But while Tecumseh was a brilliant diplomat and war leader--admired by the same white Americans he opposed--it was Tenskwatawa, called the "Shawnee Prophet," who created a vital doctrine of religious and cultural revitalization that unified the disparate tribes of the Old Northwest. Native American society and customs provide a window into a world often erased from history books and reveals how both men came to power in different but no less important ways.
Today’s guest, Peter Cozzens, author of the book “Tecumseh and the Prophet,” brings us to the forefront of the chaos and violence that characterized the young American Republic, when settlers spilled across the Appalachians to bloody effect in their haste to exploit lands won from the British in the War of Independence, disregarding their rightful Indian owners. Tecumseh and the Prophet presents the untold story of the Shawnee brothers who retaliated against this threat--the two most significant siblings in Native American history, who, Cozzens helps us understand, should be writ large in the annals of America.
Millions Were Left Homeless After WW2. What Happened To Those Who Were Permanently Exiled?
In May 1945, German forces surrendered to the Allied powers, putting an end to World War II in Europe. But the aftershocks of global military conflict did not cease with the German capitulation. Millions of lost and homeless concentration camp survivors, POWs, slave laborers, political prisoners, and Nazi collaborators in flight from the Red Army overwhelmed Germany, a nation in ruins. British and American soldiers gathered the malnourished and desperate refugees and attempted to repatriate them. But after exhaustive efforts, there remained more than a million displaced persons left behind in Germany: Jews, Poles, Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Ukrainians, and other Eastern Europeans who refused to go home or had no homes to return to. The Last Million would spend the next three to five years in displaced persons camps, temporary homelands in exile, divided by nationality, with their own police forces, churches and synagogues, schools, newspapers, theaters, and infirmaries.
Today’s guest, David Nasaw, author of “THE LAST MILLION: Europe’s Displaced Persons from World War to Cold War “ discusses the fate of these people.
The international community could not agree on the fate of the Last Million, and after a year of debate and inaction, the International Refugee Organization was created to resettle them in lands suffering from postwar labor shortages. But no nations were willing to accept the 200,000 to 250,000 Jewish men, women, and children who remained trapped in Germany. In 1948, the United States, among the last countries to accept refugees for resettlement, finally passed a displaced persons bill. With Cold War fears supplanting memories of World War II atrocities, the bill granted the vast majority of visas to those who were reliably anti- Communist, including thousands of former Nazi collaborators and war criminals, while severely limiting the entry of Jews, who were suspected of being Communist sympathizers or agents because they had been recent residents of Soviet-dominated Poland. Only after the controversial partition of Palestine and Israel's declaration of independence were the remaining Jewish survivors able to leave their displaced persons camps in Germany.
By 1952, the Last Million were scattered around the world. As they crossed from their broken past into an unknowable future, they carried with them their wounds, their fears, their hope, and their secrets. Here for the first time, Nasaw illuminates their incredible history and, with profound contemporary resonance, shows us that it is our history as well.
The Mafia Was the Glue That Held Entire American Cities Together in the 20th Century
The Mafia and many political machines ran entire American cities in the 19th and 20 centuries. But some mobsters claim that it went much further than that. Chicago-area Sam Giancana claims that he and the mafia "owned" Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and then Harry Truman, whose career they promoted; that they had all-star athletes in their pocket, including Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays; and that Giancana conspired with other top Mafia bosses, as well as Hoffa, Vice President Lyndon Johnson, Nixon, top CIA officials, top military officials, top Dallas police officials, top Texas oilmen etc. etc. to assassinate John F. Kennedy.
How much of this is true and how much is fiction? We will never know completely, but the roots of the mafia run deep in the soil of American politics.
Iron Empires: Robber Barons, Railroads, and the Making of Modern America
Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, and Tim Cook are just a few of today’s business pioneers who have succeeded in disrupting older existing business models, and whose motives and methods are constantly scrutinized by the government. They, in fact, resemble the robber barons of the 19th century.
Today's guest is Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik, author of the book "Iron Empires." He explores the aftermath of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad—how the country’s new railroad network expanded and was consolidated over the next four decades, and the incredible impact this had on the nation.
Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jay Gould, J. Pierpont Morgan, and Edward H. Harriman are the men responsible for driving the country into the twentieth century and almost derailing our nation’s economy and society in the process. Additionally, the railway tycoons are responsible for creating the big business playbook that today’s big tech business leaders still use.
Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, and Tim Cook are just a few of today’s business pioneers who have succeeded in disrupting an existing business model and whose motives and methods are constantly scrutinized by the government, much like the robber barons back in the day.
Customer ReviewsSee All
This podcast is pretty varied and covers a lot of different subjects. The mix of interviews and other episodes covering listener questions is nice. My only criticism at this point is the slightly stilted manner with which Scott appears to read his script while not doing interviews. The opening description where he calls it “an unscripted...” show doesn’t seem to fit. Very interesting subject matter though, and I would recommend it.
Love the variety of topics covered. I’m honestly glad this isn’t a lecture style podcast. This is what a history podcast should be fun, informative, and varied. Yes there’s a lot of ads but I’m ok with it since you can skip them easily. People seem really nit picky about the most minute details but it really is a high quality podcast. The variety of topics is impressive!!
Too much fundraising
Good material, frequently interrupted by obnoxious, unrelated ads and concluding with a pitch for Patreon sponsorship. How much fundraising does one podcaster need to do?