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History Unplugged Podcast

Brought to you by, Scott Rank, PhD

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History Unplugged Podcast

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...

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Recent Episodes of History Unplugged Podcast


How Five Castaways Survived After Being Left for Dead on the Falklands in 1812

How Five Castaways Survived After Being Left for Dead on the Falklands in 1812

Charles H. Barnard, captain of the American sealing brig Nanina, had only the best of intentions. His aim was to ensure the survival of the people under his care. On June 11, 1813, Barnard and four other volunteers disembarked the anchored Nanina, climbed into a small boat, and sailed about 10 miles from New Island to Beaver Island, both part of the Falkland Islands archipelago in the South Atlantic. Armed with knives, clubs, lances, and guns, and with the assistance of Barnard’s trusty dog, Cent, the five men planned to kill birds and hogs and take them back to the Americans and Brit...

Episode 9 July 2024 44m and 49s


The Capetians: The Dynasty That Made Medieval France and Gave Us the Fleur-De-Lys

The Capetians: The Dynasty That Made Medieval France and Gave Us the Fleur-De-Lys

If Gothic cathedrals, troubadours, and the Crusades evoke a certain picture of medieval Europe, you might be surprised that these foundations of a shared French culture continue to shape European society, all beginning with a single dynasty. Reigning from 987 to 1328, the Capetians transformed an insecure foothold around Paris into the most powerful European monarchy of the Middle Ages.

Today’s guest is Justine Firnhaber-Baker, author of “House of Lilies: The Dynasty That Made Medieval France.” She tells the epic story of the Capetian dynasty, showing how their ideas about power, religion, and identity are all-too-relevant to the Europe we kno...

Episode 4 July 2024 56m and


Why the Book is Humanity’s Most Important Invention

Why the Book is Humanity’s Most Important Invention

Even in our increasingly digitized world, the print book endures as a technology at the heart of human culture. Throughout its 550-yearhistory, the book has transformed at the hands of countless printers, bookbinders, typographers, and illustrators who have yet to see their own stories of innovation on the printed page.

In “The Book-Makers: A History of the Book in Eighteen Lives,”  today’s guest Adam Smyth demonstrates the role of human agency in the evolution of technology, from binding to paper-making, typography to illustrations, and libraries to small presses. Beginning with the early printed books made by Dutc...

Episode 2 July 2024 48m and 55s


How and Why Humans Started Speaking

How and Why Humans Started Speaking

Most people know at least 50,000 words and speak around 16,000 per day. We speak between 120 and 200 words per minute and read them at twice that speed. We invent word games like crosswords, Scrabble, and Wordle, and we are constantly adding new terminology and slang to our dictionaries. Our love of words is no secret, but how we evolved to acquire so many words and manipulate them into complex thoughts is one of science’s greatest unsolved mysteries.

Today’s guest is Steven Mithen, author of “The Language Puzzle: Piecing Together the Six-Million-Year Story of How Words Evolved. “ He explor...

Episode 27 June 2024 52m and 45s


The American Detective Who Fought the Kaiser’s Spy Ring and an Anarchist Bombing Syndicate

The American Detective Who Fought the Kaiser’s Spy Ring and an Anarchist Bombing Syndicate

America in the early twentieth century was rife with threats. Organized crime groups like the Mafia, German spies embedded behind enemy lines ahead of World War I, package bombs sent throughout the country, and the 1920 Wall Street bombing dominated headlines. And one man was tasked with combating these threats.

Born to working-class parents in 1867, Willaim Flynn launched the first antiterrorist program, unraveled a German spy network, and took on the Mob. Dubbed “the bulldog” for his tenacity, Flynn earned a high-profile reputation as one of the most respected, incorruptible, and storied law enforcement officials in the country.

Episode 25 June 2024 43m and 28s


Patton’s Tactician: Geoffrey Keys, “The Best Tactical Mind” of WWII

Patton’s Tactician: Geoffrey Keys, “The Best Tactical Mind” of WWII

Nineteen months after Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor and forced the United States to enter World War II, boats carrying the 7th US Army landed on the shores of southern Sicily. Dubbed Operation Husky, the campaign to establish an Allied foothold in Sicily was led by two of the most noted American tacticians of the twentieth century: George S. Patton Jr. and Geoffrey Keyes.

 While Patton is the subject of numerous books and films, Keyes's life and achievements have gone unrecognized, but his anonymity is by no means an accurate reflection of the value of his contributions and d...

Episode 20 June 2024 39m and 47s


The Seven Cleopatras Who Ruled Egypt

The Seven Cleopatras Who Ruled Egypt

Behind the legendary, singular figure of Cleopatra stood six other women who bore her name. The infamous Cleopatra we think we know was actually the seventh queen in a long line of powerful female rulers whose stories have been lost to history. The seven queens named Cleopatra, ruling from 192–30 BC, defied the stereotype of the nameless, faceless women of antiquity and instead challenged the norms of their time.

Today’s guest, Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones unearths the lost stories of all seven monarchs in “The Cleopatras: The Forgotten Queens of Egypt.” Exploring a part of the Hellenistic World often neglected by histo...

Episode 18 June 2024 46m and 49s


Modern Black Ops Warfare Began with a British WW2 Operation to Steal Boats Off Africa’s Coast

Modern Black Ops Warfare Began with a British WW2 Operation to Steal Boats Off Africa’s Coast

When France fell to the Nazis in 1940, Churchill declared that Britain would resist the advance of the German army--alone if necessary. Churchill commanded the Special Operations Executive to secretly develop of a very special kind of military unit that would operate on their own initiative deep behind enemy lines. The units would be licensed to kill, fully deniable by the British government, and a ruthless force to meet the advancing Germans.

The very first of these "butcher-and-bolt" units--the innocuously named Maid Honour Force--was led by Gus March-Phillipps, a wild British eccentric of high birth, and an aristocratic, handsome...

Episode 13 June 2024 52m and 46s


The 7 Wonders of the Ancient World Were Colossal, Prone to Destruction, and Not All May Have Existed

The 7 Wonders of the Ancient World Were Colossal, Prone to Destruction, and Not All May Have Existed

For millennia, the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World have been known for their aesthetic sublimity, ingenious engineering, and sheer, audacious magnitude: The Great Pyramids of Giza, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Temple of Artemis, the Statue of Zeus, the Mausoleum of Halikarnassos, the Colossus of Rhodes, and the Lighthouse at Alexandria. Echoing down time, each of these persists in our imagination as an emblem of the glory of antiquity, but beneath the familiar images is a surprising, revelatory history.

Guiding us through it is today’s guest, Bettany Hughes, author of “The Seven Wonders of the Anci...

Episode 11 June 2024 46m and 45s


Being the Ultimate Constitutional Originalist in 2024 Means Donning a Tricorn Hat and Applying to Practice Piracy

Being the Ultimate Constitutional Originalist in 2024 Means Donning a Tricorn Hat and Applying to Practice Piracy

Many decisions impacting the lives of Americans today adhere to a set of rules established over 200 years ago. The Constitution is in the news more than ever as politicians and Supreme Court justices battle over how literally it should be taken.  Did the framers intend for Americans to follow their instructions as written for eternity?  Or did they want to offer a set of guidelines that would evolve as time marched on?  These are the questions today’s guest, A.J. Jacobs, author of the Year of Living Constitutionally, set out to answer.

For one year, he committed to li...

Episode 6 June 2024 46m and 24s

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