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History Unplugged Podcast

with Scott Rank

In 1970, a Cyclone Killed 500,000 in Pakistan, Triggered a Genocide, and Nearly Started a Nuclear War.

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One of the worst natural disasters of the 20th century happened in 1990, when cyclone struck the most densely populated coastline on Earth in today’s Bangladesh. Over the course of just a few hours, the Great Bhola Cyclone would kill 500,000 people and begin a chain reaction of turmoil, genocide, war, and a U.S-Soviet standoff. The storm formed on warm ocean currents of the Indian Ocean. By the time it made landfall, it was about the size of Texas, creating a 20-foot storm surge. Survivors had to climb to the tops of balm trees, as the deluge filled apartments to the second story.

But the worst was yet to come. The cyclone caused a domino effect of cascading catastrophes: flipping a democratic election in the country of Pakistan, which led to a genocide of 3 million Bengalis, a civil war, and all the way up to a nuclear brinksmanship between the American and Soviet navies in which the two nuclear superpowers were an hour away from mutually-assured destruction.

In this episode we are going to explore how revolutions are not always man-made affairs, but often in response to natural disasters. We are joined by Scott Carney and Jason Miklian, authors of The Vortex: A True Story of History's Deadliest Storm, an Unspeakable War, and Liberation.
We observe that seemingly unrelated small events can snowball not just into national revolutions but international ones or even global war (not least with the parallels to Ukraine today).
May 31, 2022
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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 scottrankphd.com.
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