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Reflecting History
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Reflecting History is an educational history podcast that explores significant historical events and themes without losing track of the ordinary people involved. Covering a wide variety of topics, it is a narrative driven podcast that delves into the connection between history, psychology, and philosophy on a personal level.
 
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Colonialism and Imperialism are among the most controversial historical narratives. An outbreak of Sleeping Sickness disease in the Belgian Congo during the early 1900's provides a lens through which to examine the legacy of European Imperialism and the Scramble for Africa. The epidemic brings up interesting questions about the implementation o ...…
 
After the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, a fierce political battle ensued for the soul of modern China. But it was the ordinary people of China who had spent the past 10 years fighting through chaos, violence, and oppression who helped forge a new path. Many never made it through the revolution, but many also took matters into their own hands by ...…
 
In the 1970's Red Guards and "undesirables" were forced to toil away in rural China working at re-education camps or doing manual labor in the people's communes. The ordinary people of China continued to suffer and found little motivation to carry on the Cultural Revolution. Mao and the communist party realized they needed to add extra incentiv ...…
 
The Cultural Revolution began as a campaign against bad class elements, but spiraled out of control as counter-revolutions emerged throughout the country between rebel groups and the local party establishments. As the chaos got out of control, the army had to step in and take control of the country. But whose side would they be on? Sadly for th ...…
 
By 1967, China was engulfed in the chaos of the Cultural Revolution. But the violence of the counter-revolutions and counter-counter-revolutions was not the only source of misery for ordinary people in China. As fear spread and the Cultural Revolution expanded, it began to have a significant impact on the command economy of China. The campaign ...…
 
By the end of August in 1966, it was clear that the Cultural Revolution was going to be a unique historical period of violence and upheaval. Violence and brutality were becoming routine, symptoms of the incredibly modern issues that the Cultural Revolution was creating, including student protests and the psychology behind them, leadership seemi ...…
 
During the first month of the Cultural Revolution Mao Zedong unleashed a whirlwind of chaos and confusion in China. Mao mobilized students as "Red Guards"- one part student group, one part paramilitary group- to terrorize class enemies and spread fear and paranoia. As Red Guard violence escalated from attacks on teachers to attacks on the power ...…
 
After the deaths of tens of millions of people during the Great Leap Forward, Mao Zedong had to re-establish control over the Communist Party in China. Through a process of political maneuvering and ruthless policy making, by 1966 Mao was finally ready to begin his Cultural Revolution. This is Part II in a series on the Cultural Revolution. It ...…
 
The Cultural Revolution in China lasted roughly from 1966-1976. But the cultural disintegration and scars left from Mao Zedong's final campaign of terror and violence will last for generations to come. This is Part I in a series on the Cultural Revolution in China. It focuses on some of the bigger picture themes and ideas that will be discussed ...…
 
As Ji-Li Jiang describes in "Red Scarf Girl," the Cultural Revolution became more sinister over time and the psychological pressure on Ji-Li to conform became greater. When the humiliations, beatings, and deaths started hitting close to home, Mao Zedong's ultimate loyalty test was given to millions of children in China: Party or family? This is ...…
 
Kids often get overlooked in traditional historical narratives. But in China around 1966, the communist leader Mao Zedong realized that he could weaponize the youth of China to achieve his political goals. The result was disastrously tragic. In her memoir "Red Scarf Girl," Ji-li Jiang tells the horrifying story of the Cultural Revolution throug ...…
 
What is it that makes you, you? How would your identity change if you suddenly belonged to a new country? For the people of East Germany, this hypothetical became a reality shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War in the early 1990's. In her book "Where the World Ended," Daphne Berdahl takes a look at the complex in ...…
 
The end of the Cold War is often simplified to the triumph of democracy and capitalism over communism. But what impact did this triumph have on the everyday people involved? Shortly after the fall of the Berlin wall and the re-unification of Germany, anthropologist Daphne Berdahl traveled to the East German village of Kella to find out. Based o ...…
 
Picking up where the last episode left off, this episode looks at some of the core principles and wisdom contained in "The Tao of Pooh." The Taoist concepts of inner nature, yin and yang, wu wei, the uncarved block, simplicity, patience, and compassion are all discussed. It is difficult to read the book and not come away thinking that Taoism is ...…
 
Written in 1982 by Benjamin Hoff, "The Tao of Pooh" gives an overview of the ancient philosophy of Taoism. The book is accessible and full of wisdom, but perhaps its most useful element is how it sheds light on the concerning trends in the modern education system. Intellectual curiosity and the search for meaning seem to be taking a backseat to ...…
 
The Bystander Effect is a psychological term for the tendency for people to be less likely to help victims in need when other people are present. During the Holocaust, a significant number of people around the globe knew about the mass murders, deportations, and concentration camps, and yet did nothing to help the victims. Why? What made people ...…
 
The fighting may have ended in 1918, but the Treaty of Versailles negotiations in 1919 may have been just as important. Woodrow Wilson’s noble ideas like “self determination” and “fair and lasting peace” didn’t amount to much as the Allied powers sought mainly to punish Germany. A continued naval blockade, the war guilt clause, reparations, and ...…
 
As the rest of their alliance crumbled around them, Germany kicked off 1918 with Operation Michael-the first in a series of huge offensives designed to win the war. Desperate times call for desperate measures, but in the end exhaustion and futility ruled the day. The offensives backfired and resulted in a decisive military victory for the Allie ...…
 
Of all the crazy years during the Great War, 1917 was probably the most eventful. The Russian Revolution, Unrestricted Submarine Warfare, the Zimmerman Telegram, Woodrow Wilson and the United States entering the war, the Nivelle Offensive, and Passchendaele are just some of the momentous events. It can be difficult to make sense of it all witho ...…
 
Fake News and propaganda have been around as long as civilization itself. The modern epidemic of lies and deception as a means to influence public opinion can draw some interesting parallels to World War I. What can we learn from the efforts of both governments and private citizens to control the narrative of war? Reflecting History on Twitter: ...…
 
In 1916, World War I continued to corrupt and destroy everything it came into contact with. The rates of death and destruction at Verdun and the Somme were unlike anything ever seen before. Soldiers, governments, and civilians were decimated by the tragedy and the "lost generation" was born. Reflecting History on Twitter: @reflectinghist If you ...…
 
During 1915, it was apparent that World War I was becoming something truly malevolent. With the carnage and the devastation continuing on the Western and Eastern Front, new innovations and tactics had to be used in order to have any measure of success. With the horror show continuing to get worse, political and military leaders took part in a " ...…
 
The first year of World War I set the tone for the rest of the war. Violence, brutality, and chaos ruled the day as huge armies clashed in what many see as the first truly modern war. But could things have turned out differently? Should the Germans have won the war in 1914? What role did poor leadership play in the disaster that was to come? Wh ...…
 
It is amazing how misinformed the general public is regarding the origins of World War I. Even historians debate the causes of the Great War. Who or what is to blame for one of the greatest tragedies in history? Like most things that are complicated and nuanced, it turns out there is a mix of factors that led Europe down a path of terrible dest ...…
 
"Terror can be endured so long as a man simply ducks; but it kills, if a man thinks about it." Published by Erich Maria Remarque in 1929, "All Quiet on the Western Front" is one of the most important war novels of all time. This episode is a discussion of the novel and some of the themes it portrays, such as war, dehumanization, and the lost ge ...…
 
The Great War has it's share of amazing stories, but the Christmas Truce of 1914 stands out as one of the greatest. In a spontaneous outburst of humanity, soldiers on the Western Front put down their weapons and met the enemy in no-man's-land to exchange drinks and cigars, sing carols, and take a break from killing each other. But what did it a ...…
 
Fighting against historic odds, 53 slaves aboard "La Amistad" decided to take fate in their own hands. In an epic struggle of violence, politics, and public opinion, the Amistad Africans overcame incredible adversity to do the one thing they wanted more than anything else-go home. This is Part II and the conclusion of a two-part series on the A ...…
 
Historians estimate that 12.5 million African slaves were transported across the Atlantic Ocean from the 1500's into the early 1800's. Millions would die due to the horrible and dehumanizing conditions of the Middle Passage. But in July of 1839, slaves aboard "La Amistad" slave ship overthrew their captors and changed history forever. This is P ...…
 
What will be the main source of world conflict in the future? According to political scientist Samuel Huntington, the globe will be engulfed in a struggle of cultural identity called the Clash of Civilizations. What role does belief, identity, and the dangerous "us vs. them" mentality play in world events? Read Huntington's Clash of Civilizatio ...…
 
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. Reflecting History on Twitter: @reflectinghist If you like the podcast an ...…
 
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. Thi ...…
 
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 pow ...…
 
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 ...…
 
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 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. Reflecting ...…
 
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 ...…
 
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 im ...…
 
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 tragedi ...…
 
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 inefficienc ...…
 
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 se ...…
 
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. Reflecting History on Twitter: @ref ...…
 
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 S ...…
 
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 th ...…
 
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 Wa ...…
 
Marcus Aurelius was a complex man who dealt with absolute power in a way that no Roman Emperor ever had. He left a positive (but not uncontroversial) legacy of wisdom, justice, and leadership that has inspired humanity over the course of millennia. Reflecting History on Twitter: @reflectinghist If you like the podcast and have 30 seconds to spa ...…
 
War is the most extreme experience human beings can take part in. How did soldiers during the United States Civil War endure and survive? Reflecting History on Twitter: @reflectinghist If you like the podcast and have 30 seconds to spare, consider leaving a review on iTunes...It helps!
 
More than 150 years after the final shots were fired, few historical events are as hotly debated as the American Civil War. Sadly, the human element of the war often gets overlooked. Reflecting History on Twitter: @reflectinghist If you like the podcast and have 30 seconds to spare, consider leaving a review on iTunes...It helps!…
 
Factional disputes, midnight spy meetings, and a little light treason conclude the story of Benedict Arnold. Reflecting History on Twitter: @reflectinghist If you like the podcast and have 30 seconds to spare, consider leaving a review on iTunes...It helps!
 
Benedict Arnold is often regarded as America's first true villain. Is there more to the story? Reflecting History on Twitter: @reflectinghist If you like the podcast and have 30 seconds to spare, consider leaving a review on iTunes...It helps!
 
Armchair historians often say it's a bad idea to invade Russia in the winter. The Mongols aren't armchair historians. This episode discusses how the Mongols conquered Russia and why they were so successful. Reflecting History on Twitter: @reflectinghist If you like the podcast and have 30 seconds to spare, consider leaving a review on iTunes... ...…
 
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