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Extra History

Specials 2014 - 2021

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  • 2014-10-25T15:00:00Z on YouTube
  • 10 mins
  • 14 hours, 10 mins (85 episodes)
  • United States
  • English
  • Animation, Documentary, History
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85 episodes

The search for truth in history is always a matter of blazing a path through multiple sources, each with a different perspective. We hope this series about the events that lead to World War I not only taught you new things, but encouraged you to ask new questions. Our writer, James Portnow, sits down to talk about what he learned from researching and writing this series - as well as the mistakes we made along the way. Did the world really hinge on Gavrilo Princip's sandwich? How do we know so much about Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Sazonov's day? We answer these questions and more, but above all, we encourage you to do more research on your own!

James Portnow, our writer, takes some time out from traveling in Europe to talk about the historiography of Extra History and the Sengoku Jidai series. Although of course we are simplifying matters for the sake of a ten minute show, we mix both the "Marxist" or "people's" history approach (where broad social patterns drive change) and the "great man" theory of history (where individuals drive change) because we believe the reality lies somewhere in between. During this episode, we examine the mistakes and ommissions made during the Sengoku Jidai series and tell some of the stories we didn't have time for during these six episodes. We hope that it piques your curiosity enough to look into the sources on your own and decide for yourself how you would tell and analyze the story of Japan's Warring States Period!

Special 3 England - South Sea Bubble - Lies

  • 2015-05-09T15:00:00Z — 10 mins

No historian is perfect, so it's important we acknowledge our mistakes where we find them (with the help of our viewers, no less)! After we clear up some discrepancies that emerged during the South Sea Bubble series, we turn to answering some common questions that came up during this series on economic history. In a period where financial masterminds like John Blunt engaged in trickery meant to confuse other people and hide his real activities, it's no wonder that many viewers had questions about what insider trading is and how Blunt could endlessly inflate stock prices for his unprofitable company. This is a history show, but we do our best to explain! As a bonus, James also reads Robert Knight's letter to Parliament on the eve of his illegal flight and tells some cool stories about Robert "It was Me" Walpole.

Special 4 Zulu Empire - Lies

  • 2015-06-13T15:00:00Z — 10 mins

From pronunciation issues to flag errors (but at least we did it on purpose this time!), it's important to take a moment to look back over the series and remind ourselves that no historian is perfect, and you should always question what you are told. James answers some questions that kept cropping up in the comments, from how the Zulus obtained maize (European important during the 16th century) to the effect of the slave trade on Zulu history (minimal, since most of the slave trade occurred in West Africa). While some question the use of the word "empire" to describe the Zulu nation, the fact remains that they conquered other independent tribes and became their rulers, which qualifies the Zulus as an empire. Their conquests also explain another aspect of Zulu history: why was the basic flanking strategy of Shaka Zulu's bullhorn formation not already a common part of South African warfare? Previously, there had been plenty of land to go around, but the introduction of maize suddenly required lots of territory for fields and also caused a population boom. That excess population could now be dedicated to military training, and having so many people also meant that human lives had comparatively less value, so strategic innovations and more violent warfare suddenly came into play.

We take a rest in the middle of our Justinian and Theodora series to look back at the story so far and correct a few things! But the errors we made (minarets on the Hagia Sophia!) and the questions viewers have asked us give us the opportunity to expand on many parts of the story that we had to leave out of the series, and we encourage you to perform a full dive into this history to learn about the Hagia Sophia's construction, early doctrines of Christianity, and many more details about the life of Belisarius. Plus, James can't resist the temptation to play Five Degrees of Walpole to see how our infamous meddler from the South Sea Bubble series can be connected to the history of Justinian and Theodora!

Special 6 Europe - The First Crusade - Lies

  • 2015-09-19T15:00:00Z — 10 mins

Time to look back on the First Crusade and talk about errors and stories that didn't make the final cut! The religious nature of the First Crusade meant that many of the primary sources for it (certainly on the Christian side) had a vested interest in reinforcing the idea that the crusaders had the blessing of God. Untangling the truth from their stories reminds us that there is no such thing as "the real story" when it comes to history: our modern perspective cannot help but shape the way we see these events also, and even to the extent that we try to set aside our bias, the conflicting accounts mean we still have to conjecture about what's most correct. This episode also features answers to questions posed by our supporters on Patreon!

This was a short series, but we still want to set the record straight: correct our mistakes, elaborate on stories we left out, and reflect on what we've learned! One of the recurring themes of the Broad Street Pump series was people's continued resistance to John Snow's theories, even when he collected evidence to back them. But in the end, the truth won out: the march of progress can be very slow, since individual people cling to what they know and what feels most comfortable to them, but in the course of time, we do come to accept the truth. What seemed so unbelievable back then is common knowledge now. John Snow's struggles may have seemed futile at the time, and he watched himself dismissed at every turn, but his efforts added up to the foundation of epidemiology and contributed to the acceptance of germ theory.

♫ Music by Sean and Dean Kiner (Special Thanks: Wang Hong): http://bit.ly/1LBy9zh

James explains why World War II series on Extra History won't use the swastika of Nazi Germany.

Special 11 Justinian and Theodora - Lies 2

  • 2016-03-05T16:00:00Z — 10 mins

By the time Narses was sent to join him Italy, Belisarius had been away from Constantinople for a very long time. The royal family wasn't sure if they could still trust him, or if his repeated victories had gone to his head, so they sent Narses (who had been in Constantinople and earned their trust) to keep an eye on him. But this laid the groundwork for disputes that would unravel the military effort there. John looked down on the "barbarian" Ostrogoths and did not consider them a threat, so he viewed the war in Italy as a political battlefield between his friend Narses and his commander Belisarius. Although Procopius defends John's courage and capability as a cavalry commander, John did not see the bigger picture in Italy and his actions interfered with Belisarius's overall strategy even though Narses and his family connection to the previous emperor helped keep him safe from repercussions. Belisarius wound up doing the same thing when he refused Justinian's orders to leave Italy immediately. And in the end, the arrival of the plague - Bubonic Plague, the Black Death - interfered with all their plans. Although we believe Theodora's actions helped hold the empire together, historians like Procopius take a much darker view: he thought she went power-mad and ruined everything. It's also worth taking a moment to point out that Theodora was a miaphysite Christian, not a monophysite as we described her in this series. We'll clarify the difference in a future series on Early Christian Heresies, but for right now we decided to simplify. And there was one thing we left out of this series, a story we love about how Justinian succeeded (where so many had failed) in getting silk worms out of China by bribing monks to smuggle silk worm eggs away in their canes. He helped found a silk industry that brought a lot of money to the empire, and helped it survive longer than it might have otherwise.

♫ Music by Sean and Dean Kiner: http://www.kinerbrothersmusic.com/extra-history/

Special 13 Korea: Admiral Yi - Lies

  • 2015-11-07T16:00:00Z — 10 mins

Yi's life has been turned into a Confucian parable: a highly competent person who bore betrayal stoically and stayed loyal to the king. Since there was no record of his early life, that pattern is reflected in the way his early life is described. That pattern of thinking clearly influenced the historians who did cover Yi's life, but while it stands out as unusual to those of us who aren't familiar with that tradition, it has a subconscious impact on the people who were raised with Confucian thinking and wrote this history from it. If we looked at Western history from a foreign perspective, we would likely notice similar patterns being overlaid onto Western ways of telling history as well.

Special 15 Suleiman the Magnificent - Lies

  • 2016-04-23T15:00:00Z — 10 mins

Suleiman lost faith in those who surrounded him, fearing that they schemed to replace him. Why do we so rarely see such destructive suspicion in our governments today? We also need to talk about what made the West dub Suleiman "Magnificent," and the flourishing of arts and education which took place under his reign.

Towards the end of his reign, Suleiman saw his once trusted advisor, Ibrahim Pasha, and his own son, Mustafa, as enemies rather than allies. He feared that they would displace him to put Mustafa on the throne. Why don't we see such distrust turn into murder in our governments today, when it was such a common trope in the ancient world? Perhaps it's because our modern governments provide a regular means of succession, so that anyone with ambition is usually better served waiting for their turn rather than trying to take on the entire government.

The series was too short to allow us to give Suleiman's reign the coverage it really deserved, but we want to take advantage of this opportunity to talk about why the West dubbed him "Suleiman the Magnificent" and his people called him "The Lawgiver." The laws he put so much effort into rewriting improved equality in the society, including creating additional protections for Christians and Jews within his Muslim empire. He was also a patron of the arts, and even a poet himself, under whose reign a distinctive Ottoman style developed and many beautiful buildings were constructed. Finally, as a leader of armies, he took many cities that were considered the bulwark of European defense against the Ottomans, and though he had huge armies to do it, many huge armies had failed at those tasks before since the cities were heavily fortified and actually had the odds stacked in their own favor.

Special 16 Early Christian Schisms - Lies

  • 2016-05-28T15:00:00Z — 10 mins

We hope this series will serve as a primer to the Christian faith, specifically how it interacted with the Roman Empire - even though we had to simplify many complex theological concepts to fit an introductory series.

James wanted this series to be the primer he always wished he'd had when studying the later history of Rome. Since it was focused on the impact of Christianity upon the Roman Empire, we left out the Gnostic movement which had a greater impact on the Persian Empire. Our history begins with Paul the Apostle, whose fundamental belief was that the sacrifice of Christ erased the sins of mankind and freed them from having to follow the old laws, specifically the Mosaic Laws which Judaism believed were the path to salvation. In abolishing these laws, he emphasized that circumcision would no longer be necessary because Roman men, while perfectly willing to give their lives for a noble cause (and Christianity at the time often required sacrifice), were pretty hesitant to let anyone cut off parts of their penises. Not until Constantine, though, would Christianity be embraced in large numbers - but was Constantine really Christian? Many scholars have suggested otherwise, and it may be hard to say given our current sources, but he did originate as a monotheistic Sol Invictus worshipper and probably saw the political advantage of ruling a people united under one God instead of thousands of cults. He may not have realized the difficulty of that, however, until the Council of Nicaea which brought together many bishops who had been actively persecuted for their faith - hence the eyepatches and missing limbs! - and felt very strongly about how it should be practiced. Even Saint Nicholas, who is the foundation for Santa Claus, supposedly punched Arius during this council over his heretical statements. And they were none too tolerant of each other's opposing beliefs. Although there were many different beliefs that evolved from monophysitism, miaphysitism being the mos

Special 17 First Opium War - Lies

  • 2016-07-23T15:00:00Z — 10 mins

James talks about our mistakes, and adds additional stories, for Federico da Montefeltro and the First Opium War!

Special 20 The Brothers Gracchi - Lies

  • 2016-09-24T15:00:00Z — 10 mins

James talks about our mistakes, and adds additional stories, for the Brothers Gracchi!

James talks about our mistakes and adds additional stories and explanations for the History of Paper Money!

Special 24 Simón Bolívar - Lies

  • 2017-01-21T16:00:00Z — 10 mins

James talks about our mistakes, and adds additional stories, for the Simón Bolívar series!

Special 26 Catherine the Great - Lies

  • 2017-03-11T16:00:00Z — 10 mins

Catherine the Great ruled for many years - too many for a six episode show to cover completely. James talks about the mistakes we made and the stories we left out!

Listen to "Ascension in C," the theme song of our series on Catherine the Great! Music by Sean and Dean Kiner: http://bit.ly/23isQfx

Special 28 Ned Kelly - Lies

  • 2017-04-29T15:00:00Z — 10 mins

We know so much about Ned Kelly's life through documents recorded at the time, and yet disputes over those details remind us how much different people's perspectives shapes our understanding of events. James Portnow interviews series writer Soraya Een Hajji about Ned Kelly!

Listen to "Farewell to Greta," the theme song of our series on Ned Kelly! Lyrics below. Music by Sean and Dean Kiner: http://bit.ly/23isQfx

The Articles of Confederation gave the United States their name, but even beyond that, they exposed many of the issues that would underlie this new nation for the rest of its history. James Portnow interviews series writer Soraya Een Hajji about the Articles of Confederation!

Listen to "Article 11," the theme song of our series on the Articles of Confederation! Music by Sean and Dean Kiner: http://bit.ly/23isQfx

Special 32 D-Day - Lies

  • 2017-08-01T15:00:00Z — 10 mins

D-Day is too vast and important a topic to be completely covered by four short videos, but we hope our series offered some new insights into the massive effort that went into the Normandy beach landings. James Portnow and Richard Cutland, Wargaming's Head of Military Relations, take some time to chat about some more important D-Day stories.

Special 33 The Bronze Age Collapse - Lies

  • 2017-08-12T15:00:00Z — 10 mins

How did the Bronze Age Collapse affect civilizations other than the four discussed in our series? When trade fell apart, why didn't those who relied on bronze switch to forging with other metals? James and Soraya look back on these questions on Lies!

Listen to "Collapse," the theme song of our series on the Bronze Age Collapse!
Music by Sean and Dean Kiner: http://bit.ly/23isQfx

Special 35 Great Northern War - Lies

  • 2017-10-07T15:00:00Z — 10 mins

Could Sweden have won the Great Northern War? Was Charles XII actually assassinated? James answers questions from our Patreon supporters in this special edition of Lies!

Listen to "Song of Gunfire," the theme song of our series on the Great Northern War!
Music by Sean and Dean Kiner: http://bit.ly/23isQfx

Special 37 Otto von Bismarck - Lies

  • 2017-12-02T16:00:00Z — 10 mins

We've wrapped up our series on Otto von Bismarck, but we've only touched on the first half of his life! Maybe someday we'll get to come back. Until then, James answers questions and discusses errors in this episode of Lies!

Listen to "Art of the Possible," the theme song of our series on Otto von Bismarck! Music by Sean and Dean Kiner: http://bit.ly/23isQfx

Special 39 Khosrau Anushirawan - Lies

  • 2018-02-03T16:00:00Z — 10 mins

Why did we refer to Khosrau's empire as Iran, not Persia? Did Mazdak really exist, or was his proto-communist movement pure propaganda? Dan (narrator) and Soraya (writer) tackle these questions and address the large issue of how perspective can shape one's idea of the truth.

Listen to "Immortal Soul," the theme song of our series on Khosrau Anushirawan! Music by Sean and Dean Kiner: http://bit.ly/23isQfx

You gently corrected out our math mistakes and artistic slip-ups, and we're here to tell you it was all part of Bismarck's plans--er, it's Euclid's fault. Time for another episode of Lies!

Listen to "Postulate 5," the theme song of our series on the history of Non-Euclidean Geometry! Music by Sean and Dean Kiner: http://bit.ly/23isQfx

Special 47 1918 Flu Pandemic - Lies

  • 2018-08-18T15:00:00Z — 10 mins

Series writer Rob Rath is here to tell us about all the moving pieces and complex storylines he researched to write our Flu Pandemic episodes.

Listen to "The Cytokine Storm," the theme song of our series on the history of the 1918 Flu Pandemic!

Special 49 Kingdom of Majapahit - Lies

  • 2018-10-20T15:00:00Z — 10 mins

Our fantastic writer Rob Rath reviews the mispronunciations we made, the sources we used, and the extra stories we ran out of room to fit into our series on the Kingdom of Majapahit.

Listen to "Candhi Ayu," the theme track of our series on Majapahit!

Listen to "Subatomic Fugue," the theme track of our series on the history of Quantum Computing!

Listen to "March of the Northmen," the theme track of our series on the Viking Expansion!

Special 53 Viking Expansion - Lies

  • 2018-12-08T16:00:00Z — 10 mins

Writer Rob Rath talks about all the cool stories and facts we didn't get to cover in the already expansive Viking Expansion series.

Special 54 Sun Yat-sen - Lies

  • 2019-02-09T16:00:00Z — 10 mins

Writer Rob Rath talks about all the cool stories and facts we didn't get to cover in the Sun Yat-sen series.

Listen to "Across the Pacific," the theme track of our series on Sun Yat-sen! Music by Tiffany Román

Special 56 Irish Potato Famine - Lies

  • 2019-03-30T15:00:00Z — 10 mins

Writer Rob Rath talks about all the cool stories and facts we didn't get to cover in the Irish Potato Famine series.

Listen to "A Warmer Place - Rowan's Jig," the theme track of our series on the Irish Potato Famine!

Writer Rob Rath talks about all the cool stories and facts we didn't get to cover in our two special short series on the Siege of Vienna, and the life of Queen Nzinga.

Special 61 Joan of Arc - Lies

  • 2019-08-17T15:00:00Z — 10 mins

Writer Rob Rath talks about all the cool stories and facts we didn't get to cover in our recent series on the hated and beloved Joan of Arc.

Listen to "Visions of a Martyr," the theme track of our series on the life of Joan of Arc!

Special 63 Inca Empire - Lies

  • 2019-10-05T15:00:00Z — 10 mins

From the quipu to the conquistadors, writer Rob Rath talks about cool stories we couldn't quite squeeze into the series, as well as some of the mistakes we made (like the impossibly fast runners) in our series on the Inca Empire.

Special 64 ♫ Inca Empire: City of Cuzco

  • 2019-10-05T15:00:00Z — 10 mins

Listen to "City of Cuzco" the theme track of our series on the rise and fall of the Inca Empire!

Special 65 Angkor Wat - Lies

  • 2019-11-23T16:00:00Z — 10 mins

Where was the metric system?! What's the real deal with the dinosaur carving? And what is an axis mundi? We answer your questions from the comments, and Rob talks about all the cool things that we couldn't fit into the regular episodes.

Listen to "Nokor Thom" the theme track of our series on the building of the great temple city, Angkor Wat!

Special 67 Policing London - Lies

  • 2020-01-11T16:00:00Z — 10 mins

Here are answers to the first two episodes as well as a whole lot of fun facts from Rob's favorite subject!

Listen to "Alleyways and Truncheons" the theme track of our series on how the modern professional police force came into existence!

With coronavirus in the news, we've seen a resurgence of interest in our 1918 Flu Pandemic series. Given that, Head Writer Robert Rath (who lives in Hong Kong) provides a short video retrospective on the series in light of recent events, describes the quirks of life under voluntary self-quarantine, and shows us his castle of toilet paper and hand soap. Please note that this video was filmed on February 18th, and conditions may have changed since then.

Listen to "Crête-à-Pierrot" the theme track of our series on the slave revolt that blossomed into becoming a full-on nation, the Haitian Revolution.

Special 71 The Haitian Revolution - Lies

  • 2020-02-29T16:00:00Z — 10 mins

We answer your questions, correct small hiccups we made, and expand on the stories that were too wild, weird, or complicated to fit into the main series. Welcome to this episode of Lies! What about the Polish troops that helped the revolution? Where did we get our numbers from? How does Walpole fit into all of this???

Special 72 ♫ Ibn Battuta - Battuta's Voyage

  • 2020-04-18T15:00:00Z — 10 mins

Listen to "Battuta's Voyage" the theme track of our series on the extraordinary travels of Ibn Battuta and his accounts of the medieval world

Special 73 Ibn Battuta - Lies

  • 2020-04-18T15:00:00Z — 10 mins

We answer your questions, correct small hiccups we made, and expand on the stories that were too wild, weird, or complicated to fit into the main series. Welcome to this episode of Lies! Frightening bells, stretched truths, and too many kids to count.

Special 74 Dividing the Middle East - Lies

  • 2020-06-13T15:00:00Z — 10 mins

We answer your questions, correct small hiccups we made, and expand on the stories that were too wild, weird, or complicated to fit into the main series. Welcome to this episode of Lies! LARPing the crusades, Civil War vs Independence, and illegal hats.

Listen to "Thread of War" the theme track of our series on how the Middle East was divided and how maps were drawn after World War One.

Special 76 Exploring the Pacific - Lies

  • 2020-08-01T15:00:00Z — 10 mins

Welcome Extra Historians to Lies, where we talk about the mistakes we made and the details we couldn't quite squeeze into the episode proper. There were a few hiccups in this series, like Taiwan becoming Japan, and New Zealand with a new origin story. But we also get to talk about the interesting differences between Polynesian cultures, such as cosmetic dental work and the famous unique tattoo art.

Listen to "Pasifika" the theme track of our series on the exploration and expansion of human cultures and civilizations into the vast Pacific Ocean.

Special 79 Third Century Crisis - Lies

  • 2020-09-19T15:00:00Z — 10 mins

Welcome Extra Historians to Lies, where we talk about the mistakes we made and the details we couldn't quite squeeze into the episode proper. We Franced some Germanies, slighted Caesar, and are here to provide you with all the emperor names from the first episode and more.

Special 80 Cleopatra - Lies

  • 2020-11-07T16:00:00Z — 10 mins

Welcome Extra Historians to Lies, where we talk about the mistakes we made and the details we couldn't quite squeeze into the episode proper. What was up with that first episode? Can you make a grody pearl cocktail in under 36 hrs? And what does it mean to look at historical memory?

Special 82 End of the Samurai - Lies

  • 2020-12-26T16:00:00Z — 10 mins

Welcome Extra Historians to Lies, where we talk about the mistakes we made and the details we couldn't quite squeeze into the episode proper. Why did the French offer so much help to the traditionalists? The relatively in relatively bloodless is doing a LOT of work. And most importantly, how does Rob feel about The Last Samurai?

Listen to "The Streets of Kyoto" the theme track of our series on Japan's borders opening and the radical change that came to an end.

Special 84 Saladin & the 3rd Crusade - Lies

  • 2021-02-13T16:00:00Z — 10 mins

Welcome Extra Historians to Lies, where we talk about the mistakes we made and the details we couldn't quite squeeze into the episode proper. What's the deal with Baldwin V's leprosy? How holy is a city really? And did Richard benefit from absence makes the heart grow fonder?

Listen to "The Boy from Tikrit" the theme track of our series on Saladin and the struggle to hold onto Jerusalem.

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