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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 flew with airmen on bombing raids, a war horse who gained the rank of sergeant, and presidents who gave their best speeches while drunk.

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George Washington as Man, General, Leader, and Mule Pioneer

George Washington is nearly as famous for his character as he is a general and statesman. In this episode we look at his famed attributes for leadership and doing such things as keeping together the fragile Continental Army in the hungriest, coldest days of the Revolutionary War. But perhaps the rarest quality of Washington was his ability not to seize power when he could. Many conquering generals – such as Napoleon – rode into the capital after great victories and took the throne. Washington was the opposite. He only assumed the presidency under great reluctance and refused to serve more than two terms – creating a status quo that lasted 150 years.


30 Jul 2019

Rank #1

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Why Your Favorite Presidents (Lincoln, Washington) Actually Screwed Up America—Brion McClanahan

Quick – name your favorite president. You probably said Washington or Lincoln, right? C'mon. You can be more original than that. Well, Brion McClanahan is original. He gladly tells people that the greatest president in American history was John Tyler. Confused looks then follow, usually with a question of "Who was that again?" On the other hand, we all have presidents whom we think were terrible. You can point to a Jimmy Carter, a Herbert Hoover, a Warren G. Harding, or (if you're an insufferable history nerd like me) Millard Fillmore. But Abraham Lincoln? Brion McClanahan—again, being original here—makes the argument that Lincoln, far from being America's savior, may have done her irreparable harm. But he is not making this argument for the sake of being a contrarian. Rather it's a position grounded in thorough research an consideration of what the real responsibility of a president is. After all, he wrote a book called 9 Presidents Who Screwed Up America: And Four Who Tried to Save Her. I can almost guarantee that you won't be able to guess who he names as the good and bad presidents. In this episode we discuss who they were, why they were so good or bad, and whether Brion has seen Hamilton on Broadway (he has a book on him coming out later this year). McClanahan argues that... Lincoln violated the Constitution because as commander in chief he believed he had to “subdue the enemy,” no matter the collateral damage. His violations created a blueprint for more executive abuse in the future. By the time Obama left office earlier this year, Americans suffered under twenty-eight consecutive years of unconstitutional executive usurpation of power. Over a two-year period, the Obama administration delayed the implementation of the Affordable Care Act twenty-eight times, ostensibly to give employers time to comply with the law. This was a blatantly unconstitutional power grab by the executive office. History has shown that presidents tend to abuse their power in their second term, and that the best presidents tend to serve less than eight years in office. MORE ABOUT BRION Brion McClanahan is the author or co-author of four books, The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Founding Fathers, (Regnery, 2009), The Founding Fathers Guide to the Constitution (Regnery History, 2012), Forgotten Conservatives in American History (Pelican, 2012), and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Real American Heroes, (Regnery, 2012). He has written for TheDailyCaller.com, LewRockwell.com, TheTenthAmendmentCenter.com, Townhall.com, and HumanEvents.com. McClanahan is a faculty member at Tom Woods’ Liberty Classroom, has appeared on dozens of radio talk shows, and has spoken across the Southeast on the Founding Fathers and the founding principles of the United States. If you would like to book Dr. McClanahan for a speaking appearance, please email him. RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE Brion's website Brion's podcast Tom Woods' Liberty Classroom Brion's Book: 9 Presidents Who Screwed Up America: And Four Who Tried to Save Her TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher


19 May 2017

Rank #2

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Constantine's Conversion to Christianity: Opportunism or a Sincere Gesture?

History Channel documentaries and pop historians have argued that when Constantine converted to Christianity in the fourth century, he was merely following the religious demographic trends of the Roman Empire and thought paganism to be a political dead end. The idea makes sense at first glance. But the story of Constantine's conversion—and later the entire empire's—goes far beyond political opportunism (although there is plenty of that). Constantine did not choose his new religion to chase after changing demographics in the Empire; Christianity was a lower-class religion disfavored by the pagans who overwhelmingly made up the Roman army and cavalry—the exact people that an emperor really needed to appease to hold onto power. Plus, recent studies on Constantine argue that Christianity would have spread regardless of the emperor's choice, although it would have happened at a later date. The Roman Catholic Church did drape itself in Roman symbolism and forged fictional lines of continuity between itself and the empire, but only after the sixth century, when the Western Roman Empire had completely collapsed and become a ghost that haunted Europe throughout the Middle Ages. Any resemblance between the empire and the church came after the former collapse and was largely coincidental.


5 Nov 2019

Rank #3

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Common Knowledge About The Middle Ages That Is Incorrect, Part 1: Why the Middle Ages, Not the Renaissance, Created the Modern World

The popular view of the Middle Ages is a thousand-year period of superstition and ignorance, punctuated by witch burnings and belief in a flat earth. But the medieval period, more than any other time in history, laid the foundations for the modern world. The work of scholars, intellectuals, architects, statesmen and craftsmen led to rise of towns, the earliest bureaucratic states, the emergence of vernacular literatures, the recovery of Greek science and philosophy with its Arabic additions, and the beginnings of the first European universities.This episode is the first in a five-part series to explore a revisionist history of the Middle Ages, starting with the Roman Empire’s collapse in the fifth century. We will march through the accounts of Charlemagne’s reign, the Black Plague, the fall of Constantinople, and everything in between. It explores social aspects of the Middle Ages that are still largely misunderstood (i.e., no educated person believed the earth was flat). There was also a surprisingly high level of medieval technology, the love of Aristotle in the Middle Ages, and the lack of witch burnings (those were not popularized until the Thirty Years War in the Renaissance Period).The Middle Ages were not a period to suffer through until the Renaissance returned Europe to its intellectual and cultural birthright. Rather, they were the fire powering the forge out of which Western identity was forged. The modern world owes a permanent debt of gratitude to the medieval culture of Europe. It was the light that illuminated the darkness following the collapse of Rome and remained lit into the world we inhabit today.


19 Feb 2019

Rank #4

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The Causes of World War 1

The reasons for the Great War go way beyond the assassination of Franz Ferdinand. Learn about the causes of one of humanity's most vicious wars.


30 Nov 2017

Rank #5

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Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun, and the Barbarian Empires of the Steppe—Kenneth Harl

Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan loom large in Western popular consciousness as two of history’s most fearsome warrior-leaders. Chroniclers referred to them as “The Scourge of God” and “Universal Lord” both fascinate and repel. But few people today are aware of their place in a succession of nomadic warriors who used campaigns of terror to sweep across the Eurasian steppes. They toppled empires and seizing control of civilizations. Today Professor Kenneth Harl joins us to talk about the effects of these steppe empires on world civilization. From antiquity through the Middle Ages, nomadic warriors repeatedly emerged from the steppes, exerting direct and indirect pressure on sedentary populations and causing a domino effect of displacement and cultural exchange. Dr. Harl and I discuss these turning points in history set into motion by steppe nomads: The fall of the Roman Empire can be blamed at least in part on the Huns. Christians of Asia Minor converted to Islam after the clergy fled the nomadic Turks. The Mongol sack of Baghdad destroyed the city and its role in the Muslim world. China’s modern-day Great Wall was constructed in response to the humiliation of Mongol rule. The spread of Buddhism and trade followed the Silk Road, which allowed cultural exchange between nomads and settled zones across Eurasia. Russia’s preemptive expansion into the northern regions was a reaction to the horror of being conquered by Mongols.   RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE Kenneth's course “The Barbarian Empires of the Steppes”   ABOUT KENNETH HARL Dr. Kenneth W. Harl is Professor of Classical and Byzantine History at Tulane University in New Orleans, where he teaches courses in Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Crusader history. He earned his B.A. from Trinity College and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Yale University. An expert on classical Anatolia, he has taken students with him into the field on excursions and to assist in excavations of Hellenistic and Roman sites in Turkey. Professor Harl has also published a wide variety of articles and books, including his current work on coins unearthed in an excavation of Gordion, Turkey, and a new book on Rome and her Iranian foes. TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher

1hr 1min

4 Sep 2017

Rank #6

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COVID-19 is Nothing Compared to the 1918 Spanish Flu

COVID19, aka - the coronavirus, has triggered mass quarantines and spooked markets across the globe. To date, over 3,000 have died and over 100,000 infected. But however dangerous this virus ends up being, it doesn't belong in the same galaxy as Spanish Flu, which killed up to 100 million in 1918, which was 5 percent of the earth's population.Today's guest is Dr. Jeremy Brown, director of emergency care at the National Institute of Health and author of Influenza: The 100-Year Hunt to Cure the Deadliest Disease in History. He notes that great strides have been made in medicine the last century, and whatever happens next, it won’t be a second 1918.We discuss the quarantine methods used in the ancient and medieval worlds during epidemics and pandemics; how the Spanish Flu pandemic began; what it was it like for an average person in 1918 and whether there was an omnipresent fear of death, or were people mostly resigned to their fate; how the Spanish flu pandemic ended; and finally, lessons from 1918 we should heed today.Here's the bottom line: with coronavirus, you will definitely have it much, much better than your great grandpappy did with Spanish flu.


12 Mar 2020

Rank #7

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George Washington Wasn’t the First President. He Was the Ninth

George Washington was the First President of the United States. This is the most basic fact that an American school child can learn. Only it isn't true. He wasn’t the first. Nor the second. He was actually the ninth president of the United States. How can that be? It all has to do with the ad hoc, make-it-up-as-you-go nature of the United States government between the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the signing of the Constitution in 1789.   TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher


10 Oct 2017

Rank #8

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The History of Slavery, Part 1: Shackled and Chained in the Ancient World

When asked “what is slavery?” most Americans or Westerners would respond with a description of an African slave in the antebellum South, picking cotton and suffering under the whip of a cruel master. But if you asked an Irishman in 1650, he would have answered differently. He would recount the horrors of Barbary Muslim pirates invading the town of Baltimore, dragging his kinsmen off to the slave markets of Algeria. A medieval Arab would have still answered differently. He would talk about the African slave trade, albeit the one that went east to Arabia instead of the one that went west to the New World. A Roman would answer differently again, describing slavery as the rightful spoils of war and what brought a Greek to his household that tutors his children. Slavery goes back to the beginning of the agricultural revolution. It is universal yet localized to the particular conditions in the society that enslaves others. Some researchers think slavery is common across history in that it leads to the social death of a slave. Others think that slaves were treated rather well in the ancient world, and it was only the weaponized racism of recent centuries that turned the chattel slavery of Africans brought to the New World into such a cruel institution. This episode is the beginning of a five-part series on slavery. We are looking at the origins of the practice, why it began, the work that slaves did, what was the “best” sort of work, and how they revolted. By looking into the past we will have a better understanding of this practice, and how much it resembles slavery in the modern world.

1hr 16mins

19 Jul 2018

Rank #9

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History of the Civil War in 10 Battles, Part 1: Background to the Civil War

The origins of the Civil War go back decades, even before the United States became an independent nation The federal union had always been precarious, ever since the framing of the Constitution, with the institution of slavery led to two distinct cultures and societies. In this inagurual episode of the History of Civil War in 10 Battles, Scott and James discuss the main social and political issues that sparked the Civil War


18 Sep 2018

Rank #10

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Why the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and the Norman Conquest of England Changed Everything—Jennifer Paxton

If you were to ask a scholar about one critical moment after which the history of the English-speaking world would never be the same again, it would undoubtedly be the year 1066. I know that because I asked Prof. Jennifer Paxton of the Catholic University of America this very question. She chose that year because during this pivotal time an event occurred that would have untold ramifications for the European continent: the Norman Conquest of England. This year matters deeply for two key reasons. It turned England away from a former Scandinavian orientation toward an orientation with mainland Europe, making the island nation a major player in Europe's political, social, cultural, and religious events. It created a rich hybrid between English and French culture that had a profound impact on everything from language and literature to architecture and law. In our discussion we talk about a world of fierce Viking warriors, powerful noble families, politically charged marriages, tense succession crises, epic military invasions, and much more. But it was the Battle of Hastings in 1066 that forever enshrined in the pages of history the name of William the Conqueror, whose military and political prowess made the Norman Conquest a success. After that England was never the same.   RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE Jennifer Paxton's Great Courses history course:—1066: The Year That Changed Everything     ABOUT JENNIFER PAXTON, PHD Dr. Jennifer Paxton is Director of the University Honors Program and Clinical Assistant Professor of History at The Catholic University of America. The holder of a doctorate in history from Harvard University, Professor Paxton is both a widely published award-winning writer and a highly regarded scholar. Professor Paxton's research focuses on England from the reign of King Alfred to the late 12th century, particularly the intersection between the authority of church and state and the representation of the past in historical texts, especially those produced by religious communities.     TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher

1hr 15mins

25 Sep 2017

Rank #11

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Lost Civilizations: Ancient Societies that Vanished Without a Trace, Part 1

A stock trope of literature is the king who believes that his kingdom will last forever, only to see it collapse under his own hubris (Exhibit A is Percy Bysshe Shelly's Ozymandias). But the trope is based on historical fact. Many great civilizations vanished without a trace, and why their disappearance still haunts us today.This episode is the first in a three-part series that will look atf the greatest lost civilizations in history. Some were millenia ahead their neighbors, such as the Indus Valley Civilization, which had better city planning in 3,000 B.C. than any European capital in the 18th century. Others were completely myth-based, such as Plato's lost city of Atlantis, a technological advanced utopia that sank into the ocean "in a single day and night of misfortune"Whatever the nature of their disappearance, these lost civilizations offer many lessons for us today -- even the greatest of societies can disappear, and that includes us.

1hr 8mins

30 Aug 2018

Rank #12

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Who Were Worse—The Spanish Conquistadors or the Aztecs?

The Spanish conquistadors have rightly been called out for their brutal treatment and enslavement of native populations. But did they behave worse than the Aztecs?


14 Nov 2017

Rank #13

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Key Battles of the Revolutionary War, Part 1: The World of the American Revolution

Grab your musket and your portion of rum, Yankee, because we have a war to fight! James Early returns to the History Unplugged Podcast to kick off a massive series called Key Battles of the Revolutionary War. We get in-depth into the battles that determined the outcome of one of the most consequential wars in history. But we also go deep into the background of social, political, cultural, and theological aspects of the of the 18th century.Scott and James kick off this episode by talking about the global-level changes in society that made the Revolutionary War possible in the 1770s, and almost impossible anytime earlier. They have to do with changes in warfare and weapons, government/society, political philosophy, British governing policy, and the American colonies themselves.


17 Sep 2019

Rank #14

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History of the Civil War in 10 Battles, Part 13: The Battle of Gettysburg

The 1863 Battle of Gettysburg stopped Robert E. Lee's second invasion of the North. It was the deadliest battle of the Civil War, with over 50,000 casualties during the three day battle, a scale of suffering never seen before or since in America. The Union won victory and had new life injected into its war effort. The Confederacy saw its best chance at striking a deadly blow against the North and demoralizing them slip away.

1hr 24mins

8 Nov 2018

Rank #15

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Dan Carlin of Hardcore History on Why the German Military Was Better in WW1 Than WW2

I was honored on this episode to interview Dan Carlin, whose podcast Hardcore History is the biggest history podcast in existence. It regularly features shows of 5-6 hours in length covering everything from the Mongol invasions to doomsday prophets of the Reformation. I met up with Dan at the Podcast Movement conference in August 2017. Since he had a six-part series on World War 1 (Blueprint for Armageddon), I wanted to ask Dan about a comment he made in the podcast, that Germany's army in World War 1 was superior to its army in World War 2. He elaborated in this episode, and as always, brings the goods.       TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher


13 Sep 2017

Rank #16

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Ulysses S. Grant Was (Mostly) Responsible For Winning the Civil War. Robert E. Lee Was Responsible For Losing It.

Ever since the end of the Civil War, a mythology of Robert E. Lee's military genius was developed by Confederate veterans as a way to support the idea that the South was defeated only because of the Union's overwhelming advantages in men and resources. Known as the “Lost Cause” interpretation of the Civil War, it provided a sense of relief to white Southerners who feared being dishonored by defeat.In this episode, I explore the research of the late Civil War historian Edward Bonekemper, who wrote many books challenging this thesis. He argues that Grant—far from being a bloodthirsty drunk who won by brute force alone—was the most successful Union or Confederate general of the war. Grant won the war by excelling in three theaters. He fought six Confederate armies, defeated all of them, and captured three of them. He succeeded for two years in the West with amazingly minimal casualties—particularly when compared with those of his foes. He conquered the Mississippi Valley and chased the Confederates out of Chattanooga and Tennessee. Lee, in contrast, has been praised for his offensives against the Union Army of the Potomac, he was carrying out an aggressive strategy with aggressive tactics that were inconsistent with what should have been a Confederate grand defensive strategy. The Union, not the Confederacy, had the burden of winning the war, and the South, outnumbered about four-to-one in white men of fighting age, had a severe manpower shortage. Nevertheless, Lee acted as though he were a Union general and attacked again and again as though his side had the burden of winning and also had an unlimited supply of soldiers.

1hr 8mins

12 Apr 2018

Rank #17

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Understanding the Rise of Islam Through Military History

How did an initially small religious movement envelope such enormous areas of the world? That is precisely what the community of believers under Muhammed did, conquering the Persian Empire and crippling the Byzantine Empire in a matter of decades, two global powers who were unable to do this to each other despite their best efforts. This episode looks at the rise of Islam, the most historically significant event of the early Middle Ages, through the perspective of military and social history.


17 Jan 2019

Rank #18

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How Texas Almost Became German

Like much of the United States, Texas has a large popular whose ancestors originated in Germany. But Texas takes it a step further. In the 1840s a massive immigration of Germans arrived when the Adelsverein (The Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas) organized at Biebrich on the Rhine near Mainz. It assisted thousands in coming to Central Texas and establishing such settlements as New Braunfels and Fredericksburg. So many arrived that Texas practically became an outpost of Germany.   TO HELP OUT THE SHOW Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher


28 Jul 2017

Rank #19

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Everything You Need to Know About D-Day: H-Hour, Weapons Info, and First-Hand Accounts from Soldiers, Beachmasters, and the French Resistanc

The D-Day landing of June 6, 1944, ranks as the boldest and most successful large-scale invasion in military history.On June 6, as Operation Overlord went forward, roughly 160,000 Allied troops crossed the English Channel, supported by seven thousand ships and boats, and landed on the coast of Normandy.The seaborne invasion included nearly 5,000 landing and assault craft, 289 escort vessels, and 277 minesweepers. They established a beachhead from which the Germans were unable to dislodge them. Within ten days, there were half a million troops ashore, and within three weeks there were two million.In this episode I take a comprehensive look at the largest amphibious assault in history


14 Jun 2018

Rank #20