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History Unplugged Podcast

with Scott Rank

History Unplugged Podcast Episodes
Eating Roman Mouse-on-a-Stick, Shakespeare's Tavern Bread, and Other Forgotten Culinary "Treats" From the Past
July 14, 2022 - 63 min
You and your ancestor from 1,000 years ago have almost nothing in common. Your clothes are different. Your worship rituals are different. Your thoughts about the opposite sex are definitely different. Almost the only similarity is that both of you are driven to obtain food. In fact, one could say that civilization itself began in the quest for food.

In this episode, Professor Ken Albala of the University of the Pacific puts the subject of food and its importance in history on the table. Ken has studied widely on the types of cuisine that would be featured at a Roman feast, a medieval banquet, or a Renaissance Italian civic celebration. He’s ground Italian flour to make the sort of bread one would eat in Pompeii. He’s made stewed rabbit in a homemade clay pot the way an Elizabethean peasant would. He hasn’t tried field-mouse-on-a-stick (a popular Roman delicacy) but probably not for lack of trying.

We discuss how Roman food reflected social rank, wealth, and sophistication; why the Middle Ages produced some of history’s most outlandish and theatrical presentations of food, such as gilded boars’ heads, “invented” creatures, mixing parts of different animals; and cooked peacocks spewing flames; modern foody gastronomy; and finally, one of my favorite desserts, Turkish Chicken pudding.
Beyond Camelot: What It Was Like to Live Through the JFK Era
July 12, 2022 - 32 min
For those that have no living memory of JFK, it’s nearly impossible to think of his presidency as anything but a few preordained moments that move inevitably toward his tragic death: His 1961 inauguration marking a high point of the optimism of the post-war era in which Jackie Kennedy holds their infant son and JFK famously intones: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” This is quickly followed by the botched Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and Kennedy’s challenge for the US to land on the moon by the end of the decade. But his assassination tragically cuts his life short, and the legend of JFK becomes frozen in amber.

To get a sense of what it was actually like to live during the JFK presidency, we are joined by Mark Updegrove, author of Incomparable Grace: JFK in the Presidency. Looking back on Kennedy’s strength and challenges as a man and leader from the lens of today, we eschew the Camelot myths and look at the textured portrait of a complicated leader, examining the major challenges JFK faced and the influential figures that surrounded him.
After Custer’s Last Stand, Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse Fought an Impossible Battle To Preserve the Sioux Nation
July 07, 2022 - 61 min
Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull were two Lakota chiefs born in the final generation of Plains Indians who grew up in the manner similar to their ancestors: hunting herds of buffalo so large they seemed to cover the earth and moving freely with their nomadic tribes. But they always had contact with white settlers, first a trickle of fur traders and pioneers, then a flood of fortune seekers in 1874 Black Hills Gold Rush. The conflict came to a head in the 1876 Battle of Little Big Horn, in which they crushed George Armstrong Custer’s Seventh Cavalry. But what happened to them after this victory?

Today’s guest is Mark Lee Gardner, author of The Earth is All That Lasts: Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, and the Last Stand of the Great Sioux Nation. We look at the their stories and how their victory over the U.S military also marked and the beginning of the end for their treasured way of life. And in the years to come, both Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, defiant to the end, would meet violent—and eerily similar—fates. They were two fascinating leaders struggling to maintain the freedom of their people against impossible odds.
Introducing the Vlogging Through History Podcast
July 06, 2022 - 22 min
Please enjoy this preview of the Vlogging Through History Podcast, hosted by Chris Mowery. In his show, Chris tells the story of the private soldier as much as it is the story of the great general. It is the story of the farmer in the field as much as it is the story of the man in the Oval office. Go to vloggingthroughhistory.com to enter a giveaway to mark the show's launch.
How a WW2 Soldier Persevered Through Concentration Camps, Death Marches, and Starvation
July 05, 2022 - 45 min
One of the most widely read books of the 20th century is Viktor Frank’s “Man’s Search for Meaning.” In it, the author, a survivor of Nazi concentration camps during World War II, described his psychotherapeutic method to endure the most hellish experiences imaginable. One must hold onto a purpose in life and immersively imagine that outcome. Many have used Frankl’s method, one of which was Harold Frank, a WW2 rifleman who survived a Nazi POW camp, a multi-day death march, thousands of tons of bombs detonating nearby, and starvation conditions that caused him to lose over 100 pounds.

His combat began at D-Day in 1944: twenty-year-old PFC Harold Frank had moved as one with his battalion onto the shores of Utah Beach, pushing into France to cut off and blockade the pivotal Nazi-occupied deep-water port of Cherbourg. As a recognized crack shot with WW II's iconic American automatic rifle, Frank fought bravely across the bloody hedgerows of the Cotentin Peninsula.

During the most intense fighting, Frank was ambushed and wounded in a deadly, nine-hour firefight with Germans. Taken prisoner and with a bullet lodged under one arm, Frank found himself dumped first in a brutal Nazi POW concentration camp, then shipped to a grueling work camp on the outskirts of Dresden, Germany, where the young PFC was exposed to the vengeance of a crumbling Nazi regime, the menace of a rapidly advancing Russian military—and the danger of thousands of Allied bombers screaming overhead during the firebombing of Dresden.

Today’s guest is historian Mark Hager, author of The Last of the 357th Infantry: Harold Frank’s WWII Story of Faith and Courage. He builds on hundreds of hours of interviews with Frank, sharing the account of his journey as a child of the Great Depression to the bloody shores of the D-Day invasion, into the bowels of Nazi Germany, and back to the U.S. where as a young man Harold would spend years resolutely dealing with the lingering effects of starvation rations while determinedly building a new life—a life always mindful of the legacy of his POW experience and his faithful service in America’s hard-fought war against Nazi aggression.
Did Thomas Edison Murder The Real Inventor of the Motion Picture Camera and Steal His Invention?
June 30, 2022 - 81 min
In the late 1800s, there was an all-out sprint among inventors and tinkerers to create the first motion picture camera. The first across the finish line would get an incredibly valuable patent worth millions. The ultimate winner was an unassuming Frenchman named Louis Le Prince, who died before he could present his invention to the world, and some believe was murdered by Thomas Edison.
n 1890, Louis Le Prince, before any of his competitors, was granted patents in four countries for his “taker” or “receiver” device, the product of years of furious, costly work. The device would capture ten to twelve images per second on film, a reproduction of reality that could be replayed limitlessly, shared with those on the other side of the planet with only a few days delay. But just a month before unveiling his invention to the world, he mysteriously disappeared. Three and a half years later, Le Prince’s invention was finally made public – by his rival, Thomas Edison, who claimed to have invented it himself.
To unravel this mystery, I am joined by Paul Fischer, author of The Man Who Invented Motion Pictures: A True Tale of Obsession, Murder, and the Movies. Le Prince’s disappearance is one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of cinema history, and Fischer discusses what he and other film theorists think might have happened to this famous inventor and creator of the motion picture. But most of all, we explore the impact Le Prince’s work has had on centuries of filmmakers, and why it is so important to restore Le Prince’s place in history.
Cars Are the Id of the Countries that Built Them. What Do The Model T and Pontiac Aztek Tell Us About the US?
June 28, 2022 - 41 min
The earliest cars were nothing more than horse buggies with motors (the first Oldsmobile was a horseless carriage with a one-cylinder engine plunked in). But once sturdier cars were invented and mass production made them cheap, the 20th century was forever defined by the automobile. It was the first industry to use the assembly line. People had unimaginable levels of freedom and mobility. Whole new industries and services sprang up, including motels, amusement parks, restaurant franchises, and fast food.

Today’s guest is Eddie Alterman, host of the new podcast Car Show. He thinks all cars are great - even the awful ones (such as the Pontiac Aztek). But some cars, he says, transcend their "car-ness." Some cars have a story to tell us because changed how we drive and live, whose significance lies outside the scope of horsepower or miles per gallon. Such models include the Model T, Porsche 911, and even the Lunar Rover. Because some cars are more than just a pile of metal, glass, and rubber. Some cars are rolling anthropology.
Making Sense of America’s Worst Moments: Jon Meacham on Understanding -- But Not Excusing -- Slavery and the Indian Removal Act
June 23, 2022 - 37 min
John F. Kennedy once told a presidential biographer that rating presidents from best to worst that it was impossible without a deep appreciation of the office. Perhaps even first-hand experience was necessary: "No one has a right to grade a president - even poor James Buchanan - who has not sat in his chair, examined the mail and information that came across his desk, and learned why he made his decisions.”
While JFK’s view will never stop historians from ranking U.S. presidents from best to worst, he makes a good point that historical figures likely had good reasons for what they did, even if the end result was failure and their reputations were left in tatters. Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act or Thomas Jefferson’s failure to provide justice equally (even though he enshrined the equality of all in America’s founding documents) are explainable and understandable, even if they aren’t excusable.
To explore this theme further is today’s guest is Jon Meacham, host of the new podcast, Reflections of History. Meacham is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author of American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House, and several other biographies, presidential or otherwise.
We discuss the lasting legacies of Jefferson, Jackson, and other presidents who rose or fell to the moment. We also discuss which historical figures should get greater recognition, whether the aftermath of the Titanic gives us ideas on how to mourn national tragedies, and the greatest accomplishments of the 20th century, including, but not limited to, NATO, vaccines, the Space Race, and Jackie Robinson breaking down baseball’s color barrier and accelerating the Civil Rights Movement.
Parthenon Roundtable: Which Single Event Would You Eliminate From History
June 21, 2022 - 65 min
All of us have terrible regrets. Accepting that job that became dead-end. Marry someone from high school who ended up being a kleptomaniac with halitosis. Emptying out our life savings to invest in Logan and Jake Paul’s NFT collections Don’t you wish you could take it all back?
While we can’t help you with your personal problems, we are pleased to let you know that the hosts of the history programs that make up Parthenon Podcasts are here to get rid of some of the worst events in history and cleaning up our timeline. In just one hour, we will do the following:

•Prevent the Civil War and Emancipate all U.S. slaves in 1861
•Prevent Saddam Hussein from seizing power in Iraq, thus prevent the Iran-Iraq War and both Gulf Wars
•Prevent half a century’s worth of conspiracy theories that sprung up in the wake of the JFK assassination
•Accelerate the invention of the printing press by 1,500 years by stopping the Bronze Age Collapse
Hope you enjoy this talk with James Early from Key Battles of American History, Josh Cohen from Eyewitness History, Steve Guerra from History of the Papacy and Beyond the Big Screen, Richard Lim from This American President, and yours truly from History Unplugged.
The Worst Movie Ever Made Cast John Wayne as Genghis Khan and Exposed the Cast to Nuclear Radiation
June 16, 2022 - 46 min
John Wayne’s 1956 film The Conqueror was a historical biopic about Genghis Khan far worse than you can imagine. The All-American legend was in full Fu Manchu make-up and depicted the Great Khan as a Mongol madman. He was given Shakespear-esque dialogue that was as grandiose as it was misapplied to the Duke loose way of speaking (one example: “I feel this Tartar woman is for me, and my blood says, take her.”) It was a film so embarrassing that it disappeared from print for over a quarter century. Worse yet, half its cast and crew met their demise bringing the film to life by being exposed to nuclear radiation while on set.
To get into this story is today’s guest Ryan Uytdewilligen, author of “Killing John Wayne, the Making of the Conqueror. Filmed during the dark underbelly of the 1950s—the Cold War—when nuclear testing in desolate southwestern landscapes was a must for survival, the very same landscapes were where exotic stories set in faraway lands could be made. Just 153 miles from the St. George, Utah, set, nuclear bombs were detonated regularly at Yucca Flat and Frenchman Flat in Nevada, providing a bizarre and possibly deadly background to an already surreal moment in cinema history.
We discuss the story of the making of The Conqueror, its ignominious aftermath, and the radiation induced cancer that may have killed John Wayne and many others.
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