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

    13 JUN 2024 · 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, and bloodthirsty young Danish warrior, Anders Lassen. Amped up on amphetamines, these assorted renegades and sociopaths undertook the very first of Churchill's special operations--a top-secret, high-stakes mission to seize Nazi shipping in the far-distant port of Fernando Po, in West Africa. Though few of these early desperadoes survived WWII, they took part in a series of fascinating, daring missions that changed the course of the war. It was the first stirrings of the modern special-ops team, and all of the men involved would be declared war heroes when it was all over. To discuss this unit, dubbed by Churchill “The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare” is today’s guest, Damien Lewis, author of the book by the same name.
    52m 45s
  • The 7 Wonders of the Ancient World Were Colossal, Prone to Destruction, and Not All May Have Existed

    11 JUN 2024 · 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 Ancient World.” She has traveled to each of the sites to uncover the latest archaeological discoveries and bring these monuments and the distinct cultures that built them back to life.
    46m 44s
  • Being the Ultimate Constitutional Originalist in 2024 Means Donning a Tricorn Hat and Applying to Practice Piracy

    6 JUN 2024 · 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 living as the original originalist, expressing his constitutional rights using the tools, lifestyle and mindset of when they were written in 1787. He bore muskets. He wrote pamphlets with a goose quill by candlelight. He quartered soldiers. He tried to pay for goods and services with gold. He applied for a letter of marque from Congress, which would make him a legal pirate (a practice that the U.S. government sanctioned during the Revolutionary War). He gave his friends the same gift that George Washington did: a lock of his own hair. This year-long project was Jacobs’ humble attempt to figure out how to interpret the Constitution and whether we can improve the American experiment.
    46m 23s
  • The Last Time Humanity Believed in Unstoppable Progress: Paris in the Belle Époque (1871-1914)

    4 JUN 2024 · Many of the specific features we associate with Paris today – impressive sites like the Eiffel Tower and Sacré Coeur, French cinemas, and even the distinguished Art Nouveau Metro entrances – were born out the period of the Belle Époque. This era, which lasted from the later 19th century up to the beginning of World War I, is oft characterized as one of pleasure, wealth, and beauty. But it was also an era riven by political unrest, plagued by many of the issues the contemporary world contends with today, with the rise of radical political factions that resorted to extreme protests and violence to achieve their This can be seen in the construction of the Basilica of the Sacré-Coeur, symbol of reactionary French Catholicism, and the Eiffel Tower, centerpiece for the Universal Exposition of 1889—both of which were the result of significant technological progress. That progress also brought electricity (Paris became “the city of light”) as well as industrial displacement, already underway with the other construction projects of Baron Georges Haussmann. To explore these themes is today’s guest, Mike Rappaport, author of “”  We explore social pressure from both right and left to address the deepening sense of social injustice and inequalities in the form of violent anarchism and syndicalism.
    46m 45s
  • The Silk Road Travel Adventures of a 16th Century Mughal Princess and Her Massive Royal Retinue

    30 MAY 2024 · To most Westerners, the Mughal Empire is a forgotten stepchild of world history. Even though it produced the Taj Mahal and controlled nearly all modern-day India, the Mughal Dynasty’s accomplishments are crowded out by those of the Romans, Chinese, and British. Nevertheless, it was a great Asian power from the 16th-19th centuries, comparable to the Ming Dynasty in wealth, population, and military strength, dwarfing its European contemporaries. And one of the greatest figures in that empire was Princess Gulbadan (1523-1603), a daughter of the first Mughal Emperor who wrote the empire’s first history.   Gulbadan was a dynamic and influential figure and a trusted advisor to the Empire. She was part of the peripatetic royal household. The Mughals had moved often across long distances, living for extended periods in the open country in royal tents pitched in gardens, and in citadels. But when Gulbadan was in her 50s, her nephew Akbar the Great established a walled harem in his capital Fatehpur-Sikri near Agra — an effort to showcase his regal authority as Emperor. From behind these walls, Gulbadan longed for the exuberant itinerant lifestyle she’d long known.   With Akbar’s blessing, Gulbadan led a remarkable and unprecedented four-year pilgrimage of Mughal women to the distant Muslim Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina and beyond. Amid increasing political tensions, the women were expelled for their “un-Islamic” behavior, a thinly veiled effort to curb Mughal influence in the Holy cities, controlled at the time by the Ottoman Sultans of Turkey. Their travels home included a dramatic shipwreck in the Gulf of Aden.   After her return to India, Akbar asked Gulbadan to record her memories of the Mughal Dynasty to serve as a source for the first official history of the Empire. What she wrote was unparalleled in both form and content. She captured the gritty and fabulous daily lives of ambitious men, subversive women, brilliant eunuchs, devoted nurses, gentle and perceptive guards, captive women, and children who died in war zones.     To explore Gulbadan’s life is today’s guest, Ruby Lal, author of “
    41m 34s
  • The Months Leading up to the Civil War That Inflamed North-South Tensions from Animosity to Murderous Hatred

    28 MAY 2024 · On November 6, 1860, Abraham Lincoln became the fluky victor in a tight race for president. The country was bitterly at odds; Southern radicals were moving ever closer to dividing the Union, with one state after another seceding and Lincoln powerless to stop them. Slavery fueled the conflict, but somehow the passions of North and South came to focus on a lonely federal fortress in Charleston Harbor: Fort Sumter. In today’s episode I’m speaking to Erik Larson, author of “The Demon of Unrest: A Saga of Hubris, Heartbreak, and Heroism at the Dawn of the Civil War. “ We analyze the chaotic months between Lincoln’s election and the Confederacy’s shelling of Sumter—a period marked by tragic errors and miscommunications, enflamed egos and craven ambitions, personal tragedies and betrayals. Lincoln himself wrote that the trials of these five months were “so great that, could I have anticipated them, I would not have believed it possible to survive them.” At the heart of this narrative are Major Robert Anderson, Sumter’s commander and a former slave owner sympathetic to the South but loyal to the Union; Edmund Ruffin, a vain and bloodthirsty radical who stirs secessionist ardor at every opportunity; and Mary Boykin Chesnut, wife of a prominent planter, conflicted over both marriage and slavery and seeing parallels between both. In the middle of it all is the overwhelmed Lincoln, battling with his duplicitous Secretary of State, William Seward, as he tries desperately to avert a war that he fears is inevitable—one that will eventually kill 750,000 Americans. Drawing on diaries, secret communiques, slave ledgers, and plantation records, Larson gives us a political horror story that captures the forces that led America to the brink—a dark reminder that we often don’t see a cataclysm coming until it’s too late.
    36m 36s
  • LSD’s Origins in Nazi Germany Brain-Washing Experiments, the CIA’s MKUltra Program, and the Dawn of the Psychedelic Age

    23 MAY 2024 · LSD has been banned in the United States for decades and became a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance in 1970, but it has experienced a resurgence among Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to overcome mental roadblocks and psychiatrists running tests to use it as a treatment for addiction, PTSD, and other mental illnesses. But what few know is that LSD has its origins in Nazi Germany. The drug was developed in Switzerland in 1943 and quickly acquired and militarized by the Third Reich. The Nazis coopted LSD for their mind control military research—research that the US was desperate to acquire. This research birthed MKUltra, the CIA's notorious brainwashing and psychological torture program during the 1950s and 1960s. Today’s guest is Norman Ohler, author of “” We discuss: ·    How the history of LSD is interwoven with that of the Cold War and its arms race, and how the US government’s introduction to LSD through Nazi research influenced much of the federal government’s early attitudes around it ·    How, in addition to LSD’s militarized misconception from the Nazis, there were other areasof US drug policy influenced by the Third Reich for over half a century ·    How psychedelic research was marginalized and stigmatized for so long by prohibition and the War on Drugs, and how high the hurdles remain today for approval of psychedelic medicine, despite the opportunities—rather than dangers—they represent
    43m 38s
  • How Duke Ellington and Other Jazzmen Became America’s First Globally Famous Musicians

    21 MAY 2024 · The first globally famous American musicians weren’t part of the 50s rock wave that included Elvis Pressly or Chuck Berry. They were three 3 jazzmen who orchestrated the chords that throb at the soul of twentieth-century America: Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Count Basie. While their music is well-known, their background stories aren’t. Duke Ellington was the grandson of slaves whose composing, piano playing, and band leading transcended category. Louis Daniel Armstrong was born in a New Orleans slum so tough it was called The Battlefield and, at age seven, got his first musical instrument, a ten-cent tin horn that drew buyers to his rag-peddling wagon and set him on the road to elevating jazz into a pulsating force for spontaneity and freedom. William James Basie was son of a coachman and laundress who dreamed of escaping every time the traveling carnival swept into town, and who finally engineered his getaway with help from Fats Waller. To explore their stories is today’s guest, Larry Tye, author of “The Jazz Men: How Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Count Basie Transformed America.
    42m 36s
  • Why America Could Have a Presidential Succession Crisis

    17 MAY 2024 · America has an unmatched record when it comes to the peaceful transfer of power. According to legal scholar Roy E. Brownell II, however, our country is not that far off from a presidential succession crisis. In this preview of an episode of "This American President," hosted by Richard Lim, Brownell covers the history of presidential succession and the flaws in the current system.
    20m 32s
  • Dunkirk from the German Perspective

    16 MAY 2024 · The British evacuation from the beaches of the small French port town of Dunkirk is one of the iconic moments of military history. The battle has captured the popular imagination through LIFE magazine photo spreads, the fiction of Ian McEwan and, of course, Christopher Nolan's hugely successful Hollywood blockbuster. But what is the German view of this stunning Allied escape? We are exploring that with today’s guest, Robert Kershaw, author of We look at what went wrong for the Germans at Dunkirk. As supreme military commander, Hitler had seemingly achieved a miracle after the swift capitulation of Holland and Belgium, but with just seven kilometers before the panzers captured Dunkirk – the only port through which the trapped British Expeditionary force might escape – they came to a shuddering stop. Only a detailed interpretation of the German perspective – historically lacking to date – can provide answers as to why. Sponsors Get Exclusive NordVPN deal here → It’s risk-free with Nord’s 30-day money-back guarantee!"
    39m 2s

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...

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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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