Episode 24: Trolley Problems and History

A train is barreling out of control towards five people. You have the opportunity to divert the track and send the train towards only one person instead. Do you do it? Surprisingly, the answer to this question can tell us a lot about history and how we interpret the past. 

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Episode 23: Rise of the Nazis-From Democracy to Dictatorship

How do you turn a democracy into a dictatorship while maintaining a thin veneer of legitimacy? Hitler and the Nazi party pulled out all the stops to turn the Weimar Republic into a totalitarian machine. The Reichstag Fire in early 1933 gave the Nazis all the justification they needed to incinerate the human values of compassion and decency. 

This is the final part in a four part series on the Rise of Nazi Germany. You might want to listen to the other episodes to get more context. Or maybe not. This episode deals with the implications of the Reichstag Fire and Hitler's methodical process of bending Germany to his will. 

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Episode 22: Rise of the Nazis-The Third Reich Begins

After Hitler's first attempt at violent revolution fails miserably, he is back to the drawing board. Sadly, the Weimar Republic gave him chance after chance to take control until he finally succeeded. Propaganda, the Great Depression, and a healthy dose of violence and intimidation are some of the factors that lead Hitler to become the most powerful man in Germany by the beginning of 1933. 

This is Part III in a multi-part series on the rise of the Nazis. It deals with Hitler and the Nazis rebuilding after the failed Beer Hall Putsch and finally taking power in 1933. Future episodes in the series will focus on Hitler solidifying control and turning the Third Reich into a disastrous totalitarian menace. 

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Episode 21: Rise of the Nazis-Building the Movement

The unstable conditions in Germany after World War I are ideal for a radical fringe party to come to power. Adolf Hitler builds his Nazi Party and unleashes them on the world. Violence, chaos, and polarization are the fuel that feed the Nazi fire. 

This is Part II in a multi-part series on the rise of the Nazis. It deals with the background and beliefs of Adolf Hitler and Nazi ideology. It then chronicles Hitler's failed attempt to seize power in the famous Beer Hall Putsch. Future episodes in the series will focus more on the specific build up to the Nazis taking full control of Germany. 

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Episode 20: Rise of the Nazis-The Perfect Storm

More so than maybe any other historical topic, students of history have been fascinated by the brutality and moral depravity of the Nazi totalitarian regime. This is the story of how they rose to power. In a perfect storm of political, economic, and social upheaval, a democratic society slowly steers itself into deadly waters.

This is Part I in a multi-part series on the rise of the Nazis. It deals with much of the background circumstances that were going on in Germany before the 1930's. Much of this background is crucial to understanding how the Nazis were able to take power. Future episodes in the series will focus more on Adolf Hitler, Nazi ideology, and some of the specific build up to the Nazis taking full control of Germany. 

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Episode 19: The Xhosa Cattle Killing

A young girl receives a strange vision that turns into a prophecy for an entire people. One year and 400,000 dead cattle later, more than 40,000 people would be dead as a result. The Xhosa Cattle Killing is one of the most tragic and bizarre stories in all of history, but it also has some interesting lessons for the study of history. 

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Episode 18: Judging History and Moral Relativism

In this episode I attempt to answer the question of whether or not we can make moral judgments about the past. All too often history gets boiled down to a simple good guy vs bad guy narrative in pop culture. I reflect on some of the dangers of that and discuss why moral relativism is not the answer to this conundrum.

I am calling episodes like this Reflection Shows. They will attempt to discuss some of the bigger ideas and themes of history while also synthesizing some of the themes from previous episodes of the podcast. I'm experimenting with different types of episodes, so let me know what you think. 

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Episode 17: The Stanford Prison Experiment

In what was maybe the most controversial and unethical psychological experiment of all time, psychologist Philip Zimbardo turned average university students looking for a summer job into either dehumanizing bullies or hapless victims. The only thing more ethically murky than the experiment itself is it's explanations of past history and it's implications for the future. This is the Stanford Prison Experiment.

Read more about the Stanford Prison Experiment and check out videos here

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Episode 16: The Great Leap Forward-Corpses For Dinner

It is said that desperate times call for desperate measures. The ultimate historical example of this might just be the Great Leap Forward. As the horrors of collectivization ramped up, how were the people of China impacted?

This is the final part in a multi-part series on the Great Leap Forward in China from 1958-1962. It focuses on the tragedies average people went through and the terrifying lengths they had to go to in order to survive.  

Check out the Visual Guide

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Episode 15: The Great Leap Forward-Digging China's Grave

Whether digging irrigation ditches or working backyard furnaces, the people of China were forced to smolder their lives away in the all-consuming destruction that was the Great Leap Forward. 

This is Part II in a multi-part series on the Great Leap Forward in China from 1958-1962. It focuses on the horrors of collectivization and the inefficiencies of Mao Zedong's schemes.

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 Mao Zedong looking out at the Yellow River. His belief that the party was master of nature and old ways led to millions of deaths.

Mao Zedong looking out at the Yellow River. His belief that the party was master of nature and old ways led to millions of deaths.

 Irrigation ditches and collectivized farms were the essence of communism during the GLF..

Irrigation ditches and collectivized farms were the essence of communism during the GLF..

 Millions of people literally melted their lives away in backyard furnaces.

Millions of people literally melted their lives away in backyard furnaces.

 The people's commune in action.

The people's commune in action.

Episode 14: The Great Leap Forward

Most people look to the Soviet Union when discussing the dangers of communism and totalitarianism. But from 1958-1962 Mao Zedong and the Communist Party of China initiated a system of incompetence, violence, and terror on a scale never before seen. The Great Leap Forward destroyed the lives of tens of millions. 

This is Part I in a multi-part series on the Great Leap Forward in China. It provides a general overview as well as some rationale for why it happened. More of the logistical details and impact on local populations will be discussed in future episodes. 

Episode 13: Ordinary Men

The Holocaust has been analyzed often from the victim's perspective (including by me, check out Episode 3: Night), but less often from the perspective of the perpetrators. How did a group of middle-aged men deemed unfit for real combat become some of the worst killers in history? The answers may surprise you.

Episode 12: The Social War-The Tyranny of Deterioration

The Social War may be won for Rome, but that doesn't mean it's over. Gaius Marius and Lucius Sulla take the stage in a winner take all battle for Rome. As the heads roll and the bodies pile up, nobody seems to be registering the destructive damage all this chaos is doing to the Republic. 

This is the final episode in a three part series on the Social War and its impact on the fall of the Roman Republic. My intention is to make each episode stand alone, so that each episode has its own feel and story while also contributing to the overall narrative. Hope you enjoy!

Episode 11: The Social War-When Conversation Fails

In 91 BC, reason and civil discussion have failed, so now it comes to war for Rome and the Italian Allies. A bizarre conclusion in 88 BC makes all sides wonder what it all was for. Hundreds of thousands would be dead by the time the fog of war is cleared. 

This is part two in a three part series on the Social War and its impact on the fall of the Roman Republic. My intention is to make each episode stand alone, so that each episode has its own feel and story while also contributing to the overall narrative. Hope you enjoy!

Episode 10: The Social War- The Beginning of the End

Most people learn that the Roman Republic ended with Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon in 49 BC. Maybe, but the seeds of its doom were planted in the years from 140 BC-91 BC. Seemingly small issues and efforts at reform would erupt into chaos and destruction on a scale never before seen.

This is part one in a three part series on the Social War and its impact on the fall of the Roman Republic. My intention is to make each episode stand alone, so that each episode has its own feel and story while also contributing to the overall narrative. Hope you enjoy!