We didn’t set out to do a two-part episode on the Irish potato famine (or, as it’s known in Ireland, the Great Hunger or the Bad Life). But then my outline clocked in at more than 4,000 words. So, we decided to split it up, with this episode covering the context and the historical back story. We’re really answering a question I had as a child: If there were no potatoes, why didn’t people eat something else? The answer seems obvious: There wasn’t anything else. But the reasons why there was nothing else to eat are at the heart of the famine.
Between the Edwardians’ fussy fashion and the flappers’ straight lines was Paul Poiret, whose avant-garde work changed the fashion world significantly. He was also one of the first to think of his creative work as part of a brand, expanding his line out of fashion and into fragrance.
Our listener mail is from Gadi, who writes about how our episode on Margery Kempe nearly saved her in British lit class.
For further reading, 10 Most Amazing Parties of All Time
A link to the episode: Paul Poiret
Benjamin Banneker had very little formal education – as far as we know, just a few months at a Quaker school for boys that convened only in the wintertime. Yet he became an accomplished scientist and writer, building the first striking clock constructed in the United States and predicting a solar eclipse with better accuracy than more experienced astronomers. He was also an abolitionist before the U.S. had much of an abolitionist movement.
We recommend How Math Works for more knowledge.
A link to the episode: Benjamin Banneker
Following in the tradition of “Who was the real Indiana Jones,” “Who was the real Lone Ranger” and “Who was the real Professor Moriarty” (with its second part) (and along with many others) today’s episode looks at the real Robin Hood – and the question of whether there ever really was one.
Today’s episode is straight from the “mother of invention” files. The Phoenicians were shipbuilders and traders whose routes took them to nations that all spoke different languages and used incompatible writing systems. Needing a way to track all their transactions, the Phoenicians came up with a systemized way to break words into sounds and record sounds on paper.
Drawing once again from “Bioshock: Infinite,” today’s episode walks through the Boxer Rebellion, the extremely violent and gruesome uprising against Christians and foreigners in China – and the violent and gruesome response by an alliance of other nations.
In the 1840s, Boston’s West Roxbury suburb — which was completely rural at the time — was home to an experiment in transcendentalist utopian living: the Brook Farm community. The idea was to create an environment of balance and equality. But as is often the case when a group of people unprepared for the realities of living off the land try to live off the land, the Brook Farm Community wasn’t a completely successful endeavor.
Vladimir I is often credited with bringing Christianity to Russia, though he actually embraced paganism first as Grand Prince of Kievan Rus. Wishing to unite Russia under one religion, Vladimir worked his way through several religions before changing the spiritual path of his country forever.
Our listener mail today is from our actual mailbag that contains things written on paper. One is from Chaplain Rick, and another is from Andrew, and a third is from Christina, who tells us some cool information about Bran Castle.
We hadn’t been working on the podcast long when listener Karissa asked us to talk about India’s Karni Mata temple, which is home to 20,000 rats. I wasn’t expecting “rat temple” to take us to the legend of a goddess’ fight against a buffalo demon, but it did. I also wasn’t expecting it to touch on chaste marriages and medieval mysticism, which we’ve talked about before in our episode on Margery Kempe. Multiple surprises for me in this episode. It’s about a whole lot more than rats.
Cixi started out as one of Emperor Xianfeng’s many concubines, but she wound up ruling China from behind a screen for more than 45 years. Her decisions toward the end were factors in the eventual collapse of the Qing dynasty. But in spite of her long and notorious rein, much of what we know about her boils down to rumor and gossip.
Our listener mail today is a listener request and PSA from Lily Ann, reminding us of the importance of giving blood (or of giving in some other way, if you cannot give blood).
Episode link: China’s Empress Dowager Cixi
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