Fascinating snippets of history
Calling all history buffs! There are many obscure tidbits of history that are not well known and are extremely interesting and often very funny. Test your knowledge with some of these websites, videos, television productions or podcasts.
We wrote an article about The History Chicks several years ago and are continuing to enjoy them more than ever. I love listening to their podcasts in the car or while I’m puttering around at home and I always feel smarter. Their goal is to introduce us to “female characters in history, factual or fictional”. Some of my favorite podcasts, have been Helen Keller, Julia Child, Agatha Christie, and Zelda Fitzgerald. There are over 100 to browse through.
Horrible Histories began 23 years ago as a book series from the U.K. The books, with titles like The Terrible Tudors and The Awful Egyptians, described British history through the context of ruling dynasties and explored significant worldwide cultures. Since then, Horrible Histories has evolved into an educational entertainment franchise with many medias including TV shows, audio books, magazines and stage shows.
Watch a short one “Historical Wife Swap – Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette” for a laugh and a bit of history.
Watch longer BBC Horrible Histories episodes 1 & 2
Stuff You Missed in History Class is a podcast by two history buffs who explore fascinating historical events in detail, sometimes more detail than you might want. It is a biweekly podcast from the HowStuffWorks team. If you are interested in a particular topic you will love the podcast. If the topic isn’t of interest I doubt you will hang around to finish the podcast as they are very detailed. The current podcast is The London Match Girls Strike of 1888. There are many topics to choose from.
Hip Hop Shakespeare is really an unusual bit of history! It is a dance group founded in 2009 by a U.K. hip-hop artist called Akala. The Hip-hop Shakespeare Company “explores the social, cultural and linguistic parallels between the works of William Shakespeare and that of modern day hip hop artists”. I have seen them perform and was fascinated. Their primary work is with students to present a different view of the arts. Listen to Akala’s TED talk and take his pop quiz about whether certain phrases are hip-hop or Shakespeare.
Drunk History is an American comedy series produced by Comedy Central. It is not for everyone but I find it hilarious. In each episode, an inebriated narrator, a well-known comedian, attempts to recount an important historical event from American history, while famous actors enact the narrator’s account and lip sync the dialogue. The series premiered in 2013 and is about to launch its fourth season. One of my favorites is about Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln’s friendship and the role it played in Lincoln’s desire to overcome slavery and racism. Will Ferrell plays Lincoln, Don Cheadle is Frederick Douglass and Zooey Deschanel is Mary Todd Lincoln.
Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History podcast, launched in 2015, reinterprets something in the past – an event, a person or an idea – something he feels was overlooked or misinterpreted. He wants to go back and “play with the past”. A couple examples of his episodes are: Saigon, 1965 when the Pentagon set up a secret research project to interview captured North Vietnamese to see if the U.S. bombing was pushing the North Vietnamese towards surrender. And, The Satire Paradox where in the British political turmoil of the 1990s a famous satirist took on Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The public loved it but the opposite of what the satirist expected happened. Gladwell poses the question “are laughter and social protest friends or foes?”