Untangling history’s greatest controversies

Every month, host Zach Cornwell takes a hard look at the historical conflicts that raise difficult questions, stoke controversy, and send our moral compasses spinning.

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The Kitchen Cartel: Pure Food & Drug Act 1906

Fake coffee. Rotten meat. Poison milk. This is the story of a few good men and their bitter fight to make America’s food supply safe. Hounded by enemies and discredited at every turn, a handful of scientists and activists challenged the titans of the 19th century food industry – and won.

SOURCES:

Blum, Deborah. The Poison Squad: One Chemists Single-Minded Crusade for Food Safety at the Turn of the Twentieth Century. 2018.

Morris, Edmund. The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt. 1979

Sinclair, Upton. The Jungle. 1906.

Hilts, Philip J. Protecting America’s Health: The FDA, Business, and One Hundred Years of Regulation. 2003.

Wilson, Bee. Swindled: The Dark History of Food Fraud, from Poisoned Candy to Counterfeit Coffee. 2008.

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The Stock Market Crash of 1929 – Part 1: To The Moon!

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One of the worst financial disasters in history unfolded on Wall Street in late October of 1929. Within a week, 30 billion dollars had disappeared into thin air, leaving the global economy in tatters and heralding the beginning of a worldwide Depression. But what exactly happened? And why? In Part 1 of this 3-Part series on the Wall Street Crash of 1929, we discover how the American public became fatally infatuated with the stock market during the “Roaring 20’s”; and how one debauched day trader – Jesse Livermore – saw the whole thing coming.
Listen to The Stock Market Crash of 1929 – Part 1: To The Moon!

Gore: The Brutal History of Bullfighting

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Some revere it as an art form, others revile it as a blood sport, but no matter where you stand, few traditions stir up strong emotions quite like the centuries-old ritual of bullfighting. Born in the villages of rural Spain, refined in the crowded arenas of Seville, and fetishized by wandering aficionados like Ernest Hemingway, the “corrida de toros” holds a special place not only in Spanish cultural life but in human history. Beneath the pomp and pageantry, will we find senseless animal cruelty? Or a transcendent reflection on the human condition?
Listen to Gore: The Brutal History of Bullfighting

Ghosts in the Mountains: The Mujahideen Civil War (Part 4)

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It’s 1992. The 40th Army is long gone and the Soviet Union has collapsed, but war still rages across Afghanistan. As the Afghan communist regime crumbles, Ahmed Shah Massoud and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s forces clash in Kabul. While America turns its back and the Mujahideen turn on each other, new threats arise and threaten to sweep the old generation of freedom fighters away – The Taliban and Osama bin Laden. (Part 4 of Ghosts in the Mountains)
Listen to Ghosts in the Mountains: The Mujahideen Civil War (Part 4)

Ghosts in the Mountains: The Soviet-Afghan War – Part 3

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As the CIA wages a covert proxy war against the Soviet 40th Army, the Mujahideen are showered with billions of dollars and cutting-edge weaponry.
Listen to Ghosts in the Mountains: The Soviet-Afghan War – Part 3