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History Unplugged Podcast

Scott Rank, PhD

968
Followers
10.0K
Plays
History Unplugged Podcast

History Unplugged Podcast

Scott Rank, PhD

968
Followers
10.0K
Plays
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About Us

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.

Latest Episodes

America’s First Black Fighter Pilot Was Also a Boxer, Night Club Owner, and WW2 Spy in France

One of the greatest unsung heroes of the twentieth century is Gene "Jacques" Bullard, a World War One fighter pilot, boxer, spy, and overall adventurer. He was the first American-born black fighter pilot in history- and he flew for France. Bullard grew up in Georgia and ran away from home after a lynch mob forced his father to flee and leave his family. He ran away from home and lived with gypsies, then hopped on German freighter to Scotland. He then continued his sojourn as a pro boxer, then as a drummer and assistant nightclub manager in Paris during the Jazz Age. Bullard took advantage of all the opportunities in Europe that would be denied to a black man back in America. He married a white socialite in Paris, opened a successful nightclub, and joined the French Foreign Legion. After being wounded, he joined the French Air Corps during WWI and shot down two German planes. Prior to World War Two he worked a spy for French Intelligence. He rejoined the Foreign Legion in WWII but was wounded and transported on a hospital ship to New York City.Bullard spent the rest of his life as part of the French expatriate community in New York and was a fixture of the city’s multicultural life.Today’s guest is Jon Hagadorn, host of the podcast “1001 Heroes, Legends, Histories & Mysteries.” He shares the fascinating life of a man whose story is worth remembering.

46 MIN4 d ago
Comments
America’s First Black Fighter Pilot Was Also a Boxer, Night Club Owner, and WW2 Spy in France

Sam Colt's Six-Shooter Launched The American Industrial Revolution and Sped Western Settlement

In August of 1831, a 16-year-old from Connecticut named Sam Colt boarded a ship of missionaries bound for a round-trip voyage to Calcutta. Restless and rambunctious, with a particular fondness for blowing things up—he’d been expelled from Amherst Academy not long before for repeatedly firing a cannon from the top of a hill to the horror of frightened townspeople—Colt had long been a source of distress for his family, who hoped that this time at sea might prepare him for a stable career in a respectable trade. Instead, it would become the setting for an idea that would change the course of American history. Today's guest is Jim Rasenberger, author of "Revolver: Sam Colt and The Six-Shooter That Changed America. " We explore the life of the inventor who introduced repeating firearms to the world. With Colt’s revolver (allegedly dreamed up during that long stint at sea), one could for the first time shoot multiple bullets from a gun without reloading—a revolutionary mechanism that...

49 MIN6 d ago
Comments
Sam Colt's Six-Shooter Launched The American Industrial Revolution and Sped Western Settlement

The Nazi Spy Ring in America: The Third Reich's Agents, the FBI, and the Case That Stirred the Nation

In the mid-1930s, just as the United States was embarking on a policy of neutrality, Nazi Germany embarked on a program of espionage against the unwary nation. Hitler’s attempts to interfere in American affairs by spreading anti-Semitic propaganda, stealing military technology, and mapping US defenses. Today’s guest is Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones, author of the book “The Nazi Spy Ring in America.” Using recently declassified material, he shows how Germany’s foreign intelligence service, the Abwehr, was able to steal top secret US technology such as a prototype codebreaking machine and data about the latest fighter planes. Enlisting the services of German-American fascists and anti-Semites, they resorted to ruthless methods to achieve their goals, including murdering the wife and daughter of an American industrialist. When the spy ring was busted in 1938 by FBI agent Leon Turrou, the ensuing trial caused a national sensation and played a significant role in shifting public opinion aga...

48 MIN1 w ago
Comments
The Nazi Spy Ring in America: The Third Reich's Agents, the FBI, and the Case That Stirred the Nation

Introducing "The Sneak: Murders at Whiskey Creek"

This episode is a preview of the new season of Wondery's "The Sneak."World Champion surfer Jack Murphy pulled off the biggest jewel heist in American history. He became infamous as his face was plastered across the front pages of every newspaper in the country.After a massive manhunt, Jack was eventually caught. He was sent to prison, but somehow talked his way out of jail, and headed home to the beautiful beaches of Southern Florida - a free man.But this was only the start of his misadventures on the wrong side of the law. Jack was later arrested for the murder of two women, who were directly related to his other crimes.From Wondery and USA Today, comes a new season of The Sneak: Murders at Whiskey Creek - a new true crime show unlike any you have ever heard. With exclusive interviews with the victims and perpetrators, The Sneak reveals secrets that have been kept for decades. You’re about to hear a preview of The Sneak: Murders at Whiskey Creek. While you're listening, subscribe ...

5 MIN1 w ago
Comments
Introducing "The Sneak: Murders at Whiskey Creek"

In 1200 AD, This Indian City on the Mississippi Was Larger Than London And On the Verge Of Starting an Advanced Civilization

Many great Mesoamerican civilizations existed before and long after the arrival of Christopher Columbus: The Incans, Mayas, and Aztecs. But there was one civilization in North America you likely never have heard of that could have been more advanced as any of them, a reached a level of China or Mesopotamian civilization.The Mississippian Culture of North America built a number of settlements in the centuries before Columbus arrived in the new world. The largest settlement, Cahokia, may have had up to 50,000 residents in 1200 A.D. This made it larger than contemporary London and Paris. The entire city was planned and built on a grid that matched with celestial events. In the center of the city was a mound made up of 22 million cubic feet of earth, making it nearly as impressive as the Great Pyramid of Giza. Native cultures north of Mesoamerica (in the modern-day US) on the cusp of becoming an advanced civilization? Many of the ingredients were there, and perhaps a little more mixing would have done it.

51 MIN1 w ago
Comments
In 1200 AD, This Indian City on the Mississippi Was Larger Than London And On the Verge Of Starting an Advanced Civilization

America's Hub of Global Trade and Culture Was and Is....the Midwest?

When Kristin L. Hoganson arrived in Champaign, Illinois, after teaching at Harvard, studying at Yale, and living in the D.C. metro area with various stints overseas, she expected to find her new home, well, isolated. Even provincial. After all, she had landed in the American heartland, a place where the nation's identity exists in its pristine form. Or so we have been taught to believe. Struck by the gap between reputation and reality, she determined to get to the bottom of history and myth. The deeper she dug into the making of the modern heartland, the wider her story became as she realized that she'd uncovered an unheralded crossroads of people, commerce, and ideas. But the really interesting thing, Hoganson found, was that over the course of American history, even as the region's connections with the rest of the planet became increasingly dense and intricate, the idea of the rural Midwest as a steadfast heartland became a stronger and more stubbornly immovable myth. I’m speakin...

30 MIN2 w ago
Comments
America's Hub of Global Trade and Culture Was and Is....the Midwest?

How Hollywood First Depicted the Atomic Bomb and the Manhattan Project

Soon after atomic bombs exploded over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, MGM set out to make a movie studio chief Louis B. Mayer called “the most important story” he would ever film: a big budget dramatization of the Manhattan Project and the invention and use of the revolutionary new weapon.Over at Paramount, Hal B. Wallis was ramping up his own film version. His screenwriter: the novelist Ayn Rand, who saw in physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer the model for a character she was sketching for Atlas Shrugged.Today’s guest is Greg Mitchell’s, author of “The Beginning or the End,” and we discuss the first efforts of American media and culture to process the Atomic Age. A movie that began as a cautionary tale inspired by atomic scientists aiming to warn the world against a nuclear arms race would be drained of all impact due to revisions and retakes ordered by President Truman and the military—for reasons of propaganda, politics, and petty human vanity (this was Hollywood, after all).

50 MIN2 w ago
Comments
How Hollywood First Depicted the Atomic Bomb and the Manhattan Project

A Time of Perfect American National Unity is a Myth, But Some US Origin Stories Are Better Than Others

The cherished idea of United States as a unified country has been long believed. But today’s guest Colin Woodard argues that this is an invented tradition. He has argued for the existence of 11 separate stateless nations within the United States, where rival cultures explain the history, identity, and voting behaviors of the United States. At least 5 explanations for American ideology have existed, from Manifest Destiny to Frederick Douglas's civic nationalism. However, there is a vision of American that can bring us all together. In his new book “Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood,” he examines how the myth of our national unity was created and fought over by five men—George Bancroft, William Gilmore Simms, Frederick Douglass, Woodrow Wilson, and Frederick Jackson Turner—and how it continues to affect us today.If we’ve never been one America, but several, then where did the narrative of United States nationhood come from? Who came up with it, w...

47 MIN3 w ago
Comments
A Time of Perfect American National Unity is a Myth, But Some US Origin Stories Are Better Than Others

40 Thieves on Saipan: The Elite Marine Scout-Snipers in One of WWII’s Bloodiest Battles

Before there were Navy SEALs, before there were Green Berets, there were the 40 Thieves: the elite Scout Sniper Platoon of the Sixth Marine Regiment during World War II. Behind enemy lines on the island of Saipan—where firing a gun could mean instant discovery and death—the 40 Thieves killed in silence during the grueling battle for Saipan, the "D-Day" of the Pacific. Now Joseph Tachovsky—today's guest and whose father Frank was the commanding officer of the 40 Thieves, also called "Tachovsky's Terrors"—joins with award-winning author Cynthia Kraack to transport readers back to the brutal Battle of Saipan. World War 2 Marines were the poorest equipped branch of the services at that time, and they were notorious thieves. To improve their odds for victory against the Japanese, they found it necessary to improve their supply chains through “Marine Methods,” stealing. Being the elite of the Sixth Regiment, the Scout-Sniper Platoon excelled at the craft—earning them the nickname o...

38 MIN3 w ago
Comments
40 Thieves on Saipan: The Elite Marine Scout-Snipers in One of WWII’s Bloodiest Battles

George Washington’s Team of Rivals: How His Cabinet Forefathered One of America’s Most Powerful Institutions

The U.S. Constitution never established a presidential cabinet—the delegates to the Constitutional Convention explicitly rejected the idea. So how did George Washington create one of the most powerful bodies in the federal government?On November 26, 1791, George Washington convened his department secretaries—Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, Henry Knox, and Edmund Randolph—for the first cabinet meeting. Why did he wait two and a half years into his presidency to call his cabinet? Because the U.S. Constitution did not create or provide for such a body. Washington was on his own.Faced with diplomatic crises, domestic insurrections, and constitutional challenges—and finding congressional help lacking—Washington decided he needed a group of advisors he could turn to. He modeled his new cabinet on the councils of war he had led as commander of the Continental Army. In the early days, the cabinet served at the president’s pleasure. Washington tinkered with its structure througho...

42 MINJUL 9
Comments
George Washington’s Team of Rivals: How His Cabinet Forefathered One of America’s Most Powerful Institutions

Latest Episodes

America’s First Black Fighter Pilot Was Also a Boxer, Night Club Owner, and WW2 Spy in France

One of the greatest unsung heroes of the twentieth century is Gene "Jacques" Bullard, a World War One fighter pilot, boxer, spy, and overall adventurer. He was the first American-born black fighter pilot in history- and he flew for France. Bullard grew up in Georgia and ran away from home after a lynch mob forced his father to flee and leave his family. He ran away from home and lived with gypsies, then hopped on German freighter to Scotland. He then continued his sojourn as a pro boxer, then as a drummer and assistant nightclub manager in Paris during the Jazz Age. Bullard took advantage of all the opportunities in Europe that would be denied to a black man back in America. He married a white socialite in Paris, opened a successful nightclub, and joined the French Foreign Legion. After being wounded, he joined the French Air Corps during WWI and shot down two German planes. Prior to World War Two he worked a spy for French Intelligence. He rejoined the Foreign Legion in WWII but was wounded and transported on a hospital ship to New York City.Bullard spent the rest of his life as part of the French expatriate community in New York and was a fixture of the city’s multicultural life.Today’s guest is Jon Hagadorn, host of the podcast “1001 Heroes, Legends, Histories & Mysteries.” He shares the fascinating life of a man whose story is worth remembering.

46 MIN4 d ago
Comments
America’s First Black Fighter Pilot Was Also a Boxer, Night Club Owner, and WW2 Spy in France

Sam Colt's Six-Shooter Launched The American Industrial Revolution and Sped Western Settlement

In August of 1831, a 16-year-old from Connecticut named Sam Colt boarded a ship of missionaries bound for a round-trip voyage to Calcutta. Restless and rambunctious, with a particular fondness for blowing things up—he’d been expelled from Amherst Academy not long before for repeatedly firing a cannon from the top of a hill to the horror of frightened townspeople—Colt had long been a source of distress for his family, who hoped that this time at sea might prepare him for a stable career in a respectable trade. Instead, it would become the setting for an idea that would change the course of American history. Today's guest is Jim Rasenberger, author of "Revolver: Sam Colt and The Six-Shooter That Changed America. " We explore the life of the inventor who introduced repeating firearms to the world. With Colt’s revolver (allegedly dreamed up during that long stint at sea), one could for the first time shoot multiple bullets from a gun without reloading—a revolutionary mechanism that...

49 MIN6 d ago
Comments
Sam Colt's Six-Shooter Launched The American Industrial Revolution and Sped Western Settlement

The Nazi Spy Ring in America: The Third Reich's Agents, the FBI, and the Case That Stirred the Nation

In the mid-1930s, just as the United States was embarking on a policy of neutrality, Nazi Germany embarked on a program of espionage against the unwary nation. Hitler’s attempts to interfere in American affairs by spreading anti-Semitic propaganda, stealing military technology, and mapping US defenses. Today’s guest is Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones, author of the book “The Nazi Spy Ring in America.” Using recently declassified material, he shows how Germany’s foreign intelligence service, the Abwehr, was able to steal top secret US technology such as a prototype codebreaking machine and data about the latest fighter planes. Enlisting the services of German-American fascists and anti-Semites, they resorted to ruthless methods to achieve their goals, including murdering the wife and daughter of an American industrialist. When the spy ring was busted in 1938 by FBI agent Leon Turrou, the ensuing trial caused a national sensation and played a significant role in shifting public opinion aga...

48 MIN1 w ago
Comments
The Nazi Spy Ring in America: The Third Reich's Agents, the FBI, and the Case That Stirred the Nation

Introducing "The Sneak: Murders at Whiskey Creek"

This episode is a preview of the new season of Wondery's "The Sneak."World Champion surfer Jack Murphy pulled off the biggest jewel heist in American history. He became infamous as his face was plastered across the front pages of every newspaper in the country.After a massive manhunt, Jack was eventually caught. He was sent to prison, but somehow talked his way out of jail, and headed home to the beautiful beaches of Southern Florida - a free man.But this was only the start of his misadventures on the wrong side of the law. Jack was later arrested for the murder of two women, who were directly related to his other crimes.From Wondery and USA Today, comes a new season of The Sneak: Murders at Whiskey Creek - a new true crime show unlike any you have ever heard. With exclusive interviews with the victims and perpetrators, The Sneak reveals secrets that have been kept for decades. You’re about to hear a preview of The Sneak: Murders at Whiskey Creek. While you're listening, subscribe ...

5 MIN1 w ago
Comments
Introducing "The Sneak: Murders at Whiskey Creek"

In 1200 AD, This Indian City on the Mississippi Was Larger Than London And On the Verge Of Starting an Advanced Civilization

Many great Mesoamerican civilizations existed before and long after the arrival of Christopher Columbus: The Incans, Mayas, and Aztecs. But there was one civilization in North America you likely never have heard of that could have been more advanced as any of them, a reached a level of China or Mesopotamian civilization.The Mississippian Culture of North America built a number of settlements in the centuries before Columbus arrived in the new world. The largest settlement, Cahokia, may have had up to 50,000 residents in 1200 A.D. This made it larger than contemporary London and Paris. The entire city was planned and built on a grid that matched with celestial events. In the center of the city was a mound made up of 22 million cubic feet of earth, making it nearly as impressive as the Great Pyramid of Giza. Native cultures north of Mesoamerica (in the modern-day US) on the cusp of becoming an advanced civilization? Many of the ingredients were there, and perhaps a little more mixing would have done it.

51 MIN1 w ago
Comments
In 1200 AD, This Indian City on the Mississippi Was Larger Than London And On the Verge Of Starting an Advanced Civilization

America's Hub of Global Trade and Culture Was and Is....the Midwest?

When Kristin L. Hoganson arrived in Champaign, Illinois, after teaching at Harvard, studying at Yale, and living in the D.C. metro area with various stints overseas, she expected to find her new home, well, isolated. Even provincial. After all, she had landed in the American heartland, a place where the nation's identity exists in its pristine form. Or so we have been taught to believe. Struck by the gap between reputation and reality, she determined to get to the bottom of history and myth. The deeper she dug into the making of the modern heartland, the wider her story became as she realized that she'd uncovered an unheralded crossroads of people, commerce, and ideas. But the really interesting thing, Hoganson found, was that over the course of American history, even as the region's connections with the rest of the planet became increasingly dense and intricate, the idea of the rural Midwest as a steadfast heartland became a stronger and more stubbornly immovable myth. I’m speakin...

30 MIN2 w ago
Comments
America's Hub of Global Trade and Culture Was and Is....the Midwest?

How Hollywood First Depicted the Atomic Bomb and the Manhattan Project

Soon after atomic bombs exploded over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, MGM set out to make a movie studio chief Louis B. Mayer called “the most important story” he would ever film: a big budget dramatization of the Manhattan Project and the invention and use of the revolutionary new weapon.Over at Paramount, Hal B. Wallis was ramping up his own film version. His screenwriter: the novelist Ayn Rand, who saw in physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer the model for a character she was sketching for Atlas Shrugged.Today’s guest is Greg Mitchell’s, author of “The Beginning or the End,” and we discuss the first efforts of American media and culture to process the Atomic Age. A movie that began as a cautionary tale inspired by atomic scientists aiming to warn the world against a nuclear arms race would be drained of all impact due to revisions and retakes ordered by President Truman and the military—for reasons of propaganda, politics, and petty human vanity (this was Hollywood, after all).

50 MIN2 w ago
Comments
How Hollywood First Depicted the Atomic Bomb and the Manhattan Project

A Time of Perfect American National Unity is a Myth, But Some US Origin Stories Are Better Than Others

The cherished idea of United States as a unified country has been long believed. But today’s guest Colin Woodard argues that this is an invented tradition. He has argued for the existence of 11 separate stateless nations within the United States, where rival cultures explain the history, identity, and voting behaviors of the United States. At least 5 explanations for American ideology have existed, from Manifest Destiny to Frederick Douglas's civic nationalism. However, there is a vision of American that can bring us all together. In his new book “Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood,” he examines how the myth of our national unity was created and fought over by five men—George Bancroft, William Gilmore Simms, Frederick Douglass, Woodrow Wilson, and Frederick Jackson Turner—and how it continues to affect us today.If we’ve never been one America, but several, then where did the narrative of United States nationhood come from? Who came up with it, w...

47 MIN3 w ago
Comments
A Time of Perfect American National Unity is a Myth, But Some US Origin Stories Are Better Than Others

40 Thieves on Saipan: The Elite Marine Scout-Snipers in One of WWII’s Bloodiest Battles

Before there were Navy SEALs, before there were Green Berets, there were the 40 Thieves: the elite Scout Sniper Platoon of the Sixth Marine Regiment during World War II. Behind enemy lines on the island of Saipan—where firing a gun could mean instant discovery and death—the 40 Thieves killed in silence during the grueling battle for Saipan, the "D-Day" of the Pacific. Now Joseph Tachovsky—today's guest and whose father Frank was the commanding officer of the 40 Thieves, also called "Tachovsky's Terrors"—joins with award-winning author Cynthia Kraack to transport readers back to the brutal Battle of Saipan. World War 2 Marines were the poorest equipped branch of the services at that time, and they were notorious thieves. To improve their odds for victory against the Japanese, they found it necessary to improve their supply chains through “Marine Methods,” stealing. Being the elite of the Sixth Regiment, the Scout-Sniper Platoon excelled at the craft—earning them the nickname o...

38 MIN3 w ago
Comments
40 Thieves on Saipan: The Elite Marine Scout-Snipers in One of WWII’s Bloodiest Battles

George Washington’s Team of Rivals: How His Cabinet Forefathered One of America’s Most Powerful Institutions

The U.S. Constitution never established a presidential cabinet—the delegates to the Constitutional Convention explicitly rejected the idea. So how did George Washington create one of the most powerful bodies in the federal government?On November 26, 1791, George Washington convened his department secretaries—Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, Henry Knox, and Edmund Randolph—for the first cabinet meeting. Why did he wait two and a half years into his presidency to call his cabinet? Because the U.S. Constitution did not create or provide for such a body. Washington was on his own.Faced with diplomatic crises, domestic insurrections, and constitutional challenges—and finding congressional help lacking—Washington decided he needed a group of advisors he could turn to. He modeled his new cabinet on the councils of war he had led as commander of the Continental Army. In the early days, the cabinet served at the president’s pleasure. Washington tinkered with its structure througho...

42 MINJUL 9
Comments
George Washington’s Team of Rivals: How His Cabinet Forefathered One of America’s Most Powerful Institutions
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