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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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Parthenon Roundtable: Which Person From History Deserves a Movie?
October 5, 2023 - 51 min
Who are people from the past whose lives are so cinematic that they deserve their own movie, but haven't received the right silver screen treatment, such as, say, Abraham Lincoln from Steven Spielberg or Napoleon Bonaparte from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. Hosts from different shows on the Parthenon Podcast Network are here to discuss this question, including Steve Guerra (History of the Papacy), Richard Lim (This American President), yours truly, and Mark Vinet (History of North America).This show is part of the Spreaker Prime Network, if you are interested in advertising on this podcast, contact us at
Charlie Chaplin vs. America
October 3, 2023 - 44 min
Charlie Chaplin was the most famous movie star in the world, especially at his height in the 1920s, when the silent film star won the hearts of audience around the globe. But in the aftermath of World War II, Charlie Chaplin was criticized for being politically socialist and internationalist in outlook. He had never become a US citizen, something that would be held against him as xenophobia set in when the Red Scare took hold. As soon as he left the U.S. to promote a new picture, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover persuaded the State Department to revoke Chaplin's visa (a move of doubtful legality).Politics aside, Chaplin had another problem: his l interest in young women. He had been married four times, had had numerous affairs, and was publicly involved in at least three paternity suits. His inappropriate sexual proclivity became another reason for those who opposed his ideas to condemn him. Today’s guest is Scott Eyman, author of “Charlie Chaplin vs. America.” We discuss historically pivotal moment of Hollywood’s rise and a prescient narrative with modern implications: that of cancel culture, artistic freedom, censorship, and the all-important question of whether we should be separating art from the artist.This show is part of the Spreaker Prime Network, if you are interested in advertising on this podcast, contact us at
Joe McCarthy, the Hydrogen Bomb, and Ten Fateful Months That Kicked Off the Cold War
September 28, 2023 - 40 min
There’s a good argument to be made that the entire trajectory of the Cold War was set off by ten fateful months of American and global history, between the first Soviet atom bomb test in the late summer of 1949 and the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950. The following events then all occurred in rapid succession: the dawning of the Taiwan question, the rise of Senator Joe McCarthy, the birth of NATO, the hydrogen bomb, and the origins of the European Union. To look at these fateful months is today’s guest, Nick Bunker, author of “In the Shadow of Fear.” At the time, Sir Winston Churchill described the United States as “this gigantic capitalist organization, with its vast and superabundant productive power – millions of people animated by the profit motive.” The dollar reigned supreme, and Harry S. Truman and his Democratic allies in Congress hoped to use the country’s economic might to build on Franklin D. Roosevelt’s achievements with a bold new program of liberal reforms. However, in the autumn of 1949 and the first half of 1950, Truman and his party were overtaken by the unforeseen. While Mao Zedong’s army swept through China, in America the age of FDR gave way to the beginnings of a new conservatism. An aggressive Republican Party, desperate for power, seized on rifts among its opponents, and Truman’s programs went down to defeat. As he launched his first anti-communist campaign, the young Joe McCarthy ambushed Truman with a style of politics that polarized the country. Leaders and citizens were compelled to improvise as events spun out of control.This show is part of the Spreaker Prime Network, if you are interested in advertising on this podcast, contact us at
The SAS Began as a Lie but Became Britain’s Most Elite WW2 Commando Unit
September 26, 2023 - 51 min
Created during the World War II, the SAS was a small band of men brought together in the North African desert. They were the toughest and brightest of their cohort, the most resilient, most capable in close combat and most careful in surveillance. Winning approval for this radical new form of warfare was no small feat, but eventually it was achieved. The SAS was born, their mission to take on small-scale but often devastating raids and risks behind enemy lines. Today’s guest is Joshua Levine, author of “SAS: The Authorized Illustrated History of the SAS.” We discuss what it was like to fight and train in the SAS during the World War II by exploring individual stories and personal testimonies of the wartime experience.This show is part of the Spreaker Prime Network, if you are interested in advertising on this podcast, contact us at
Eyewitnesses of History Share Stories of the 1980 Miracle on Ice, Pablo Escobar, Jonestown, and Much More
September 22, 2023 - 44 min
In this special compilation episode, Josh Cohen of Eyewitness History shares his favorite interview moments and stories from people who witnessed some of history’s most extraordinary events.First up, revisit his conversation with Frank DeAngelis, former principal of Columbine High School, recounting the harrowing events of the 1999 massacre.Apple Podcasts: / Spotify: Next, dive into the world of podcasting with the podfather himself, Adam Curry. Discover the fascinating tale of his MTV days and presenting an award to Michael Jackson.Apple Podcasts: / Spotify: CIA Agent Valerie Plame takes the spotlight in the next segment, shedding light on the notorious 'Plame Affair' of 2003.Apple Podcasts: / Spotify: Sports enthusiasts, get ready! HBO Boxing legend Jim Lampley shares his experiences covering the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, including the unforgettable 'Miracle on Ice.'Apple Podcasts: / Spotify: Jonestown cult survivor and writer Eugene Smith takes a solemn turn as he revisits his journey through tragedy and survival.Apple Podcasts: / Spotify: Rock music lovers, stay tuned for insights from Ken Caillat, the record producer behind Fleetwood Mac's iconic albums, including the Emmy-winning 'Rumors.'Apple Podcasts: / Spotify: Hear from DEA Agents Steve Murphy and Javier Peña, the real-life heroes who took down Pablo Escobar, inspiring the hit Netflix series 'Narcos.'Apple Podcasts: / Spotify: Podcasting sensation Jordan Harbinger shares his adventures and observations in North Korea.Apple Podcasts: / Spotify: And finally, wrap up with a legendary performance – an interview with Queen's keyboardist, Spike Edney, discussing their iconic set at Live Aid in 1985.Apple Podcasts: / Spotify: show is part of the Spreaker Prime Network, if you are interested in advertising on this podcast, contact us at
In 1864, Nine Union Officers Escaped from a POW Camp and Trekked 300 Miles to the North
September 21, 2023 - 53 min
At the height of the Civil War in November 1864, nine Union prisoners-of-war escaped from a Confederate Prison known as Camp Sorghum in Columbia, South Carolina. They scrambled north on foot in rags that had once been uniforms of blue. Traveling in brutal winter conditions more than 300 miles with search parties and bloodhounds hot on their trail. On the difficult journey they relied on the help of enslaved men and women, as well as Southerners who sympathized with the North, before finally reaching Union lines on New Years Day 1865.After arriving in Knoxville, Tennessee, and checking in with Union authorities, one of the men had a wonderful idea. The nine officers and their three mountain guides found a local photographer, hoping to commemorate what they had accomplished by posing together for a photograph. The instant, frozen in time, showed twelve ragged men with determination strong on their faces. It was a Civil War selfie. A moment that Captured Freedom.Steve Procko, a documentarian, received a copy of the more than 150-year-old photograph from a descendant of one of the mountain guides. Upon identifying and researching the men in the photograph, he realized their remarkable story had never been told. Procko is today’s guest, and he’s here to tell the story. He’s also the author of “Captured Freedom: The Epic True Civil War Story of Union POW Officers Escaping From a South Prison.”This show is part of the Spreaker Prime Network, if you are interested in advertising on this podcast, contact us at
Teddy Roosevelt Nearly Died in a Cavalry Charge Against German Machine Guns in WW1
September 19, 2023 - 39 min
Teddy Roosevelt faced many challenges at the end of his life. Racked by rheumatism, a ticking embolism, pathogens in his blood, a bad leg from an accident, and a bullet in his chest from an assassination attempt. But none of that stopped Roosevelt from attempting to reassemble the Rough Riders for a final charge against the Germans in World War One, pushing them into a likely suicide mission of a cavalry attack against 50 caliber machine guns. Suffering from grief and guilt, marginalized by world events, the great glow that had been his life was now but a dimming lantern. But TR’s final years were productive ones as well: he churned out several “instant” books that promoted U.S. entry into the Great War, and he was making plans for another run at the Presidency in 1920 at the time of his death. Indeed, his political influence was so great that his opposition to the policies of Woodrow Wilson helped the Republican Party take back the Congress in 1918. To look at Roosevelt’s final years is today’s guest Bill Hazelgrove, author of “The Last Charge of the Rough Rider.” It was Roosevelt’s quest for the “vigorous life” that, ironically, may have led to his early demise at the age of sixty. "The Old Lion is dead,” TR’s son Archie cabled his brother on January 6, 1919, and so, too, ended a historic era in American life and politics.This show is part of the Spreaker Prime Network, if you are interested in advertising on this podcast, contact us at
Beyond the Wall: What Life Was Really Like in East Germany
September 14, 2023 - 43 min
When the Iron Curtain fell in 1990, East Germany ceased to be. For over forty years, from the ruin of the Second World War to the cusp of a new millennium, the German Democratic Republic presented a radically different Germany than what had come before and what exists today. Socialist solidarity, secret police, central planning, barbed wire: this was a Germany forged on the fault lines of ideology and geopolitics. Today’s guest is Katja Hoyer, author of “Beyond the Wall,” who was born in the GDR. She saw beyond the usual Cold War caricatures of the GDR and experienced the political, social, and cultural landscape that existed amid oppression and hardship to see the other Germany, beyond the Wall.This show is part of the Spreaker Prime Network, if you are interested in advertising on this podcast, contact us at
How An Unlikely Cohort of Black Nurses at a New York Sanatorium Helped Cure Tuberculosis
September 12, 2023 - 54 min
Nearly a century before the COVID-19 pandemic upended life as we know it, a devastating tuberculosis epidemic was ravaging hospitals across the country. In those dark, pre-antibiotic days, the disease claimed the lives of 1 in 7 Americans; in the United States alone, it killed over 5.6 million people in the first half of the twentieth century. Nowhere was TB more rampant than in New York City, where it spread like wildfire through the tenements, decimating the city’s poorest residents. The city’s hospital system was already overwhelmed when, in 1929, the white nurses at Staten Island’s Sea View Hospital began quitting en masse. Pushed to the brink of a major labor crisis and fearing a public health catastrophe, city health officials made a call for black female nurses seeking to work on the frontlines, promising them good pay, education, housing, and employment free from the constraints of Jim Crow. Today’s guest is Maria Smilios, author of “The Black Angels: The Untold Story of the Nurses Who Helped Cure Tuberculosis.” We look at the unlikely ways in which public health developed in America, by means of these nurses who put in 14-hour days caring for people who lay waiting to die or, worse, become “guinea pigs” to test experimental (and often deadly) drugs at a facility that was understaffed and unregulated.This show is part of the Spreaker Prime Network, if you are interested in advertising on this podcast, contact us at
The Mississippi Was First Mapped by a Polyglot Priest and a College Dropout-Turned-Fur Trapper
September 7, 2023 - 56 min
Perhaps the most consequential expedition in North American history wasn’t the Lewis and Clark Expedition. It was one that happened 130 years earlier and undertaken by a Catholic priest fluent in multiple Indian languages and a philosophy-student-drop-out-turned fur trapper. This was the 1673 Jolliet and Marquette expedition – in which French explorers mapped out the Mississippi Valley and confirmed that the river led to the Gulf of Mexico, not the Pacific or Atlantic – and it took place against a sprawling backdrop that encompassed everything from ancient Native American cities to French colonial machinations.Today’s guest, Mark Walczynski, author of “Jolliet and Marquette: A New History of the 1673 Expedition“ place the explorers and their journey within seventeenth-century North America. His account takes readers among the region’s diverse Native American peoples and into a vanished natural world of treacherous waterways and native flora and fauna.Walczynski also charts the little-known exploits of the French-Canadian officials, explorers, traders, soldiers, and missionaries who created the political and religious environment that formed Jolliet and Marquette and shaped European colonization of the heartland. A multifaceted voyage into the past, Jolliet and Marquette expands and updates the oft-told story of a pivotal event in North American history.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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