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History Unplugged Podcast

Scott Rank
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.

This show is part of the Spreaker Prime Network, if you are interested in advertising on this podcast, contact us at
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The History of America’s Ice Obsession: Why The U.S. Loves Frozen Drinks and Ice Rinks
August 22, 2023 - 42 min
Ice is everywhere: in gas stations, in restaurants, in hospitals, in hotels via noisy machines, and in our homes. Americans think nothing of dropping a few ice cubes into tall glasses of tea to ward off the heat of a hot summer day. Most refrigerators owned by Americans feature automatic ice machines. Ice on-demand has so revolutionized modern life that it’s easy to forget that it wasn’t always this way—in fact, the national obsession with ice can be traced back to a Bostonian merchant who, 200 years ago, figured out how to get Caribbean bartenders addicted to serving their drinks cold.Today’s guest is Amy Brady, author of “Ice: From Mixed Drinks to Skating Rinks.” She shares the strange and storied two-hundred-year-old history of ice in America: from the introduction of mixed drinks “on the rocks,” to the nation’s first-ever indoor ice rink, to how delicacies like ice creams and iced tea revolutionized our palates, to the ubiquitous ice machine in every motel across the US. But Ice doesn’t end in the past. Brady also explores the surprising present-day uses of ice in sports, medicine, and sustainable energy—including cutting-edge cryotherapy breast-cancer treatments and new refrigerator technologies that may prove to be more energy efficient—underscoring how precious this commodity is.This show is part of the Spreaker Prime Network, if you are interested in advertising on this podcast, contact us at
Introducing Mark Vinet's New Show: Historical Jesus
August 20, 2023 - 10 min
This is a preview of the new Parthenon Podcast Network show "Historical Jesus," hosted by Mark Vinet. This show explores the question of who was Jesus Christ and why did he inspire such admiration, fervor, and devotion? Join Mark as he unravels the truth, myth, legends, and mysteries surrounding this Titan of History.Subscribe to Historical Jesus:Apple Podcasts: more episodes of Historical Jesus:The Bible: / Testament: / of Christianity: / is Religion?: / show is part of the Spreaker Prime Network, if you are interested in advertising on this podcast, contact us at
Leyte Gulf: The Largest Naval Battle in History and the Downfall of the Japanese Navy
August 17, 2023 - 46 min
The WW2 battle of Leyte Gulf was the largest naval encounter in history and probably the most decisive naval battle of the entire Pacific War, and one that saw the Imperial Japanese Navy eliminated as an effective fighting force and forced to resort to suicide tactics.Leyte was a huge and complex action, actually consisting of four major battles. And much of the accepted wisdom of the battle has developed from the many myths that surround it, myths that have become more firmly established over time, such as the “lost victory” of the Japanese advance into Leyte Gulf that never happened. To explore this battle is today’s guest, Mark Stille, author of “Leyte Gulf: A New History of the World’s Largest Sea Battle.”This show is part of the Spreaker Prime Network, if you are interested in advertising on this podcast, contact us at
Britain Controlled the Globe by Farming Out Colonial Governance to the East Indian Company and other Corporations
August 15, 2023 - 73 min
How did Britain – an island nation the same size as Oregon – manage to control most of the world through its colonial empires? The answer is that it didn’t, at least not directly. Britain farmed out control to its imperial holdings by granting land rights to joint-stock corporations. And many of them, like the East India Company, were sovereign nations in all but name.Across four centuries, from Ireland to India, the Americas to Africa and Australia, British colonialism was above all the business of corporations. Corporations conceived, promoted, financed, and governed overseas expansion, making claims over territory and peoples while ensuring that British and colonial society were invested, quite literally, in their ventures. Colonial companies were also relentlessly controversial, frequently in debt, and prone to failure. The corporation was well-suited to overseas expansion not because it was an inevitable juggernaut but because, like empire itself, it was an elusive contradiction: public and private; person and society; subordinate and autonomous; centralized and diffuse; immortal and precarious; national and cosmopolitan—a legal fiction with very real power.Breaking from traditional histories in which corporations take a supporting role by doing the dirty work of sovereign states in exchange for commercial monopolies, today’s guest, Philip Stern (author of Empire, Incorporated) argues that corporations took the lead in global expansion and administration. Whether in sixteenth-century Ireland and North America or the Falklands in the early 1980s, corporations were key players. And venture colonialism did not cease with the end of empire. Its legacies continue to raise questions about corporate power that are just as relevant today as they were 400 years ago.This show is part of the Spreaker Prime Network, if you are interested in advertising on this podcast, contact us at
How the Monroe Doctrine Led to America Occupying Cuba, Panama, Hawaii, and Haiti
August 10, 2023 - 47 min
Following the Napoleonic Wars, a tidal wave of independence movements hit the Western Hemisphere. The United States was afraid that expansionist powers—namely Britain, France, Germany, and Japan—might extend their empires into these regions, threatening the growth of fledgling republics in the Americas. This kicked off a century of American launching well-intentioned but bloody imperialism in Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Pacific, with the annexation of Hawaii, the Spanish-American War, and military occupations of Cuba, Haiti, Panama, and other countries as a firewall against European expansion.Only after making these preemptive incursions to restore order and support democracy in its “mortal combat” against imperialism, as Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan put it, did the U.S. get bogged down in interventionist quagmires.Today’s guest is Sean Mirski, author of “We May Dominate the World: Anxiety, and the Rise of the American Colossus.” Mirski examines a lost chapter of American foreign policy, the century following the Civil War in which the United States carved out a sphere of influence and became the only great power in modern history to achieve regional hegemony.By understanding what drove the United States’ behavior, it offers a window into the trajectory that other regional powers—including China, Russia, and Iran—may take in the coming decades.This show is part of the Spreaker Prime Network, if you are interested in advertising on this podcast, contact us at
A 1943 Translation Blunder Saved FDR, Churchill, and Eisenhower From Being Assassinated
August 8, 2023 - 32 min
In a recently bombed, spy-infested Casablanca, Morocco, the architects of Allied victory in World War Two meet. It is January 1943, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, George C. Marshall, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and more assemble secretly at a resort hotel. Here, they will put together the plan to end the war – if they can make it out of the country alive. One word to the Germans, and it would be a bloodbath. Turns out, one word really was all they needed… to escape assassination. A spy in the Spanish division of German intelligence informs Berlin about the meeting at Casablanca. A wooden German officer, seemingly unfamiliar with Spanish or geography or both, translates “Casablanca” as “White House.” A slip-up that meant Hitler and his goons missed the singular chance to bomb the entire Allied command as they all assembled in one small spot. To talk about this incident and many more at the 1943 conference that determined the Allied course of the war (and the post-war world after that) is today’s guest Jim Conroy, author of “The Devilss Will Get No Rest: FDR, Churchill, and the Plan that Won the War.” We recount the the Casablanca Conference – a meeting that many historians now view as one of the most crucial conclaves directly associated with the Allied victory of World War II.This show is part of the Spreaker Prime Network, if you are interested in advertising on this podcast, contact us at
James Garfield – Overlooked for his Short Presidency – Was the Most Beloved Politician of Reconstruction
August 3, 2023 - 64 min
James Garfield was the last president born in a log cabin, and was raised by a poor widow on Ohio’s rugged Western Reserve. By his late twenties, he had become a respected preacher, state senator, and college president, and, after the Civil War broke out, joined the Union Army to help eradicate the “monstrous injustice of human slavery.” Soon Garfield was the youngest general fighting for the Union, and before war’s end was its youngest Congressman—as well as one of its most progressive. He helped establish equal citizenship and voting rights for Black Americans, and became one of the most powerful leaders of the postwar Republican Party. By 1880, Garfield was not only Minority Leader of the House, but also a practicing Supreme Court attorney, the founder of the Department of Education, the creator of a proof of the Pythagorean theorem, a Senator-elect, and (unwillingly) the Republican nominee for President. A more compelling “American Dream” story among Presidents does not exist.Garfield’s personal achievements are even more notable given the turmoil surrounding his ascent to power. He was the only major American politician who held national office for all of Reconstruction and the start of the Gilded Age. A crucial pragmatist of a divided era, he even brokered the peaceful but controversial settlement of the country’s first disputed Presidential election in 1876. “To be an extreme man is doubtless comfortable,” Garfield once remarked before his assassination. “It is painful to see so many sides to a subject.” The parallels between his time and our own are easy to spot. To explore forgotten aspects of Garfield’s life is today’s guest, C.W. Goodyear, author of “President Garfield: From Radical to Unifier.”This show is part of the Spreaker Prime Network, if you are interested in advertising on this podcast, contact us at
Road Tripping with Henry Ford and Thomas Edison Through Rural America In Beat-Up Model Ts
August 1, 2023 - 58 min
Some of the most important moments in the lives of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison weren’t their inventions or business successes. It was their road trips through the most remote, rustic parts of America. Between 1916 and 1924, Ford, Edison, Harvey Firestone went on a number of camping trips. Calling themselves the Vagabonds, they set up campsites, took photographs, and fixed cars themselves. They were also joined by famous naturalist John Burroughs, an elderly writer with a large white beard who looked like a gold prospector.The relationship began in 1913 between Burroughs, then 75, and Ford, nearly 50, and enjoying a banner year for the Model T. Both men were influenced by the writing of Ralph Waldo Emerson, but they disagreed about the role of the automobile in American life.To Ford’s chagrin, Burroughs wrote in an article in Atlantic Monthly that the automobile “was going to kill the appreciation of nature”; Ford believed it would open up facets of America that most people could not access. In response, Ford sent Burroughs a new Model T, which indeed changed the old naturalist’s life by prompting him to set out on wide-ranging road trips beyond his Hudson River homestead. Meanwhile, Ford and Edison, who had both “imbibed” the rural values of the Midwest, and Firestone, “the head of the largest tire manufacturing concern in the country,” were long-standing friends, busy plotting numerous new business ventures.Their road trips became increasingly ambitious to San Francisco, the Adirondacks of New York, and the Green Mountains of Vermont. Davis chronicles the memorable road trip of summer 1918, when the fast friends—who held wildly different views about the impending war—drove from the Allegheny range through West Virginia and into the “rustic magic of the Great Smoky Mountains,” all in the spirit of curiosity and exploration.To discuss these journeys, and the long-lasting impact it had on Ford, Edison, and 20th-century America, is today’s guest Wes Davis, author of “American Journey: On the Road with Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and John Burroughs.”This show is part of the Spreaker Prime Network, if you are interested in advertising on this podcast, contact us at
Did the South Lose the Entire Civil War Because One General Got Lost at the Battle of Gettysburg?
July 27, 2023 - 53 min
Did the Confederacy lose the entire Civil War on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863 because one of their generals showed up late to a battle site? That’s a very simple answer to a very complicated question, but as early as the 1870s, former Confederate generals like Jubal Early offered such an explanation, laying the war’s loss at the feet of Lt. General James Longstreet, who was hours late to a battle because of faulty intelligence delivered to him by Captain Samuel Johnston. Longstreet’s countermarch and Samuel Johnston’s morning reconnaissance are two of the most enigmatic events of the Battle of Gettysburg. Both have been viewed as major factors in the Confederacy’s loss of the battle and, in turn, the war. Yet much of it lies shrouded in mystery. To explore this event, and determine whether or not the war was really lost in one day, is today’s guest Allen Thompson, author of In the Shadow of the Round Tops. Though the Battle of Gettysburg is one of the most well-documented events in history, the vast majority of knowledge comes from the objective words and memories of the veterans and civilians who experienced it. In the Shadow of the Round Tops focuses on individual memory, rather than collective memory. It takes a personal psychological approach to history, trying to understand the people and explain why the historiography happened the way it did with new research from previously unused sources.This show is part of the Spreaker Prime Network, if you are interested in advertising on this podcast, contact us at
Alexander the Great’s Final Battle Nearly Killed Him with Drowning and War Elephants
July 25, 2023 - 65 min
In the years that followed Alexander the Great’s victory at Gaugamela on October 1, 331 BC, his Macedonian and Greek army fought a truly ‘Herculean’ series of campaigns in what is today Iran, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. But it was in the Indus Valley, on the banks of the Hydaspes River (known today as the Jhelum) in 326 BC that Alexander would fight his last major battle against King Poros.Alexander used feints and deception to transport a select force from his army across the swollen River Hydaspes without attracting the enemy’s attention, allowing his troops the crucial element of surprise. There was a fascinating array of forces that clashed in the battle, including Indian war elephants and chariots, and horse archers and phalanx formations. Although a tactical masterpiece, the Hydaspes was the closest that Alexander the Great came to defeat, and was one of the costliest battles fought by his near- exhausted army. To examine this battle is today’s guest, Nic Fields, author of “The Hydaspes 326 BC: The Limit of Alexander the Great’s Conquests.This show is part of the Spreaker Prime Network, if you are interested in advertising on this podcast, contact us at
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Meet Your Host
Meet Your Host
Scott Rank is the host of the History Unplugged Podcast and a PhD in history who specialized in the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey. Before going down the academic route he worked as a journalist in Istanbul. He has written 12 history books on topics ranging from lost Bronze Age civilizations to the Age of Discovery. Some of his books include The Age of Illumination: Science, Technology, and Reason in the Middle Ages and History’s 9 Most Insane Rulers.. Learn more about him by going to
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