Episodes
Eleanor of Aquitaine is one of the best remembered medieval Queens. She has been celebrated as one of the most daring and consequential women of her age. But despite her fame Eleanor is often misunderstood. Some writers have sullied Eleanor’s historical reputation by spreading scandalous rumours about the Queen. Other writers, in an attempt to revive her reputation, have overcorrected and have presented her as a completely exceptional “woman out of time.” These two skewed understandings of...
Published 10/20/21
The 30 Years War has reputation among history buffs as one of the most complicated conflicts you can study. Even though the war is filled with fantastic stories, it can sometimes scare away history podcasters (like Sebastian). The complexity of the war makes it difficult to break down simply and clearly. Luckily, in this episode Sebastian is joined by the one podcaster who has managed to bring the war to life, host of When Diplomacy Fails, Zack Twamley. Zack has also just written his first...
Published 10/06/21
There are three main culprits in the alleged burning of the Great Library of Alexandria. But weirdly they all lived roughly 300 years apart from one another. How is that even possible? It’s weird anomalies like this that complicate the history of the Great Library. Many have written poetically about the dramatic burning of this ancient institution, but is this cataclysm just an elaborate myth? Tune-in and find out how past life regression, The Great Gatsby, the Sandy Koufax of Roman Emperors...
Published 09/22/21
The Egyptian city of Alexandria was once the most magnificent city on the Mediterranean. It was a city of wonders, whose culture was the envy of the Greek world. Tragically many of Alexandria's ancient treasures have been lost to time. Of all of these lost wonders none has been more deeply mourned than the Great Library of Alexandria. For generations people have lamented the day that the Library was consumed by fire. But when was that day exactly? It turns out the time and circumstance of the...
Published 09/08/21
In this throwback episode Sebastian takes a look back at a show that explores one of the greatest legends in 20th century popular music. Did the legendary blues musician, Robert Johnson, really trade his immortal soul for superhuman musical talent? In the newly recorded intro, Sebastian shares one of the wildest pieces of listener mail he ever received--- a weird and spooky tale of a listener searching for the grave of the famous bluesman. This episode is a must for anyone obsessed with the...
Published 09/01/21
In this OFH Throwback episode Sebastian takes a look at one of the most fun and accessible episodes in the OFH catalog. The world of food and drink is filled with colourful mythology. How much should we believe about the origin stories of our favourite foods? Could this be the best episode to recommend to someone who thinks they don't like history shows? Tune-in and find out how all night gambling sessions, the taste of the stars, and guy named Gino Spaghetti all play a role in the story.
Published 08/24/21
In this throwback episode we take a look at an episode Sebastian thinks may have been the best "one-off" show created over the podcast's six seasons. Take a listen to how the host thinks this one has held up. Is this oddball episode about a German fairy tale secretly the best place to start listening to OFH? Tune-in and find out how perfect band names, a breadcrumb trail, and non-stop boogying all play a role in the story.
Published 08/17/21
In this throwback episode Sebastian revisits "Part II" in the Season One series on the conquest of Mexico. In the freshly recorded introduction the host reflects on criticisms that this episode first received when it was originally published in 2015. Do you think Sebastian goes too hard on Cortes and the conquistadors? Tune-in and find out how far-out flute concerts, the Wizard of Oz, and a creep with an agenda all play a role in the story.
Published 08/10/21
In this throwback episode Sebastian revisits a series from Season One of OFH. After the shows on Jared Diamond it seemed like a good time to take another look at the conquest of Mexico. This was also the first time "Ancient Aliens" came up on the show. Tune-in and find out how regrets about pacing, scallywags, and Christopher Walken all play a role in the story.
Published 08/04/21
Season 6 wraps up with Sebastian taking questions from the listeners! He get's into everything from the name of the podcast, to his most loved shows, to the nature of humanity itself. Tune-in and find out how obscure Canadian playwrights, stubborn Stratfordians, and a "wombly child" all play a role in the story.
Published 07/28/21
Is Jared Diamond's 1997 bestseller a work of staggering genius, or a piece of intellectual garbage? Has it moved our understanding of humanity forward, or has it set us back by decades? Are these binary choices ridiculously limiting? Totally! In this episode Sebastian does his best to parse the good ideas from Guns, Germs, and Steel, while also engaging with some of the best and most memorable criticisms of the book. Tune-in and find out how cantankerous zebras, the neglected history of...
Published 07/14/21
When Sebastian first read Jared Diamond's Pulitzer Prize winning book Guns, Germs, and Steel as an undergrad, he thought it was brilliant. That was until a Professor he deeply respected, dismissed it as being little better than the Da Vinci Code. It turns out that while the 1997 bestseller earned many high profile plaudits, it also spawned legions of of critics. What's in this book that has inspired such passionate responses? Did Jared Diamond crack the code of human history, or was he...
Published 06/30/21
Every spring thaw between 1812 and 1814 seemed to inaugurate a completely new war in North America. The momentum in the War of 1812 would swing wildly between the Americans and British until the two sides eventually hammered out a peace in 1814. Before the war was over the Niagara frontier would be desolated, York and Washington would both be ravaged by fire, and thousands would be dead. The war also remained somewhat inconclusive. Can Sebastian make a thoughtful case about who the true...
Published 06/16/21
When Sebastian first learned about the War of 1812 when he was a Canadian middle-schooler, there were two words he was told he had to remember of the test: manifest destiny. Back then it was heavily implied that this nefarious ideology was the most important cause of the war. Since then historians have largely dismissed this interpretation. But, that is just the start of misconceptions about this conflict. Canada beat the odds by resisting the first American invasion in 1812. How was this...
Published 06/02/21
American historians sometimes refer to War of 1812 as the "Forgotten War", but this has never really sat well with Canadians. You know who has not forgotten about the War of 1812? Canada, that's who! In the Anglo-Canadian historical imagination the War of 1812 looms large. Canadians (and especially Ontarians) learn that 1812 was a hard won Canadian victory against American aggression. But, it turns out, many Americans have learned that the war was more of a stalemate, and might even be...
Published 05/19/21
Ethiopia's history is nothing short of remarkable. The East African nation is home to one of the worlds oldest Christian traditions. For centuries the country was ruled by a line of kings who claimed to be descended from the biblical King Solomon. They also claimed to be the caretakers of the long lost Ark of the Covenant. However, Ethiopian archaeology and other historical sources can sometimes complicate these claims. How should we fit the story of the ark into a balanced understanding of...
Published 05/05/21
The Ark of the Covenant is one of the most fascinating objects mentioned in the Old Testament. The ancient Israelites believed the Ark held a divine power that made them unstoppable on the battlefield. When Solomon's temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians in 587BC, most assumed the Ark was lost. That is, except the Ethiopians. According to many pious Ethiopian Christians, the Ark was not destroyed in the sack of Jerusalem, because the Ark wasn't there that day. Could it be that...
Published 04/21/21
The search for a historical Gilgamesh is filled with red herrings. As Mesopotamia's best loved epic hero, images of Gilgamesh are littered throughout the ruins of the ancient cities of the Tigris and Euphrates. Ancient documents produced by Kings looking to bolster their image would claim that Gilgamesh was their "friend and brother". But despite these bits of historical misdirection, there is some evidence hinting at a real man behind the myth. Tune in and find out how distant radio...
Published 04/07/21
The oldest known piece of literature on the planet is the epic tale of Gilgamesh, king of the Mesopotamian city-state of Uruk. The story was a staple of middle-eastern storytelling for well over a thousand years. However, after the destruction of Assyrian city of Nineveh in the 600's BC, key manuscripts were lost and the tale faded from memory. When the story was rediscovered in the 1870's, by an unlikely assistant curator in the British Museum, it resumed its place among the great works of...
Published 03/24/21
There are few Christian saints more misunderstood than St. Patrick. Ireland's patron saint is best known for driving the snakes off the island, but that isn't even close to the most interesting thing about him. Both the legend of St. Patrick and the details of his real life have been poorly remembered. Driving the snakes out of Ireland is nothing compared to the wizard duels described in the medieval sources. Have we completely missed the boat on what makes St. Patrick worth remembering?...
Published 03/10/21
In 1611 a the Hungarian Countess, Elizabeth Bathory, was confined to her castle of Cachtice, never to leave again. This sentence was imposed on her by the Lord Palatine of Hungary. But strangely, even though Bathory had been accused of some truly heinous crimes, she was never formally charged, or given a proper trial. If she was so clearly guilty, then why was she denied due process? Elizabeth's case becomes even more suspicious once you consider that most of the testimony used to incriminate...
Published 02/24/21
Throw the name Elizabeth Bathory into your favourite search engine and you will quickly find superlatives like “history’s most prolific female serial killer” and leading questions like “Was Dracula Woman?” She is a figure with a reputation so terrifying that her name has been endorsed by Black Metal bands as a suitably evil band name. In 1611 the Hungarian Countess was imprisoned for allegedly torturing and killing as many as 600 young maidservants. It was not long before a vampire-like...
Published 02/10/21
In episode #125 a historical myth about the origins of karate snuck past Sebastian! In this bonus episode the host does his darndest to set the record straight. Many thanks to listener Philipp Surkov for pointing out the error and recommending sources.
Published 02/03/21
Martial arts myths are have been described as "savvy marketing". But, the most enduring bits of of fake martial arts history also combine Zen tradition, a Confucian veneration of the past, and a healthy dose of nationalism. Schools of martial arts will sometimes bend of backwards to prove that their form is a "pure" expression of their particular national culture. Sebastian is joined by history podcaster, and martial artist, Daniele Bolelli, to help separate the fact from the fiction. Tune-in...
Published 01/27/21
Asian martial arts are often coated in a thick layer of of legend. Many fighting styles have elaborate origin stories and mystical founding fathers. These stories often help enhance the prestige of a particular school and inspire new students. However, the "histories" of many of these martial arts disciplines are completely made up. The granddaddy of all of these martial arts myths is the tale of the Zen mystic, Bodhidharma, teaching the monks of the Shaolin Temple Kung Fu. Is any of it true?...
Published 01/13/21