Cover art for Great Zimbabwe

Great Zimbabwe

Summary

The modern history of Africa was, until very recently, written on behalf of the indigenous races by the white man, who had forcefully entered the continent during a particularly hubristic and dynamic phase of European history. In 1884, Prince Otto von Bismark, the German chancellor, brought the plenipotentiaries of all major powers of Europe together, to deal with Africa's colonization in such a manner as to avoid provocation of war. This event - known as the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 - galvanized a phenomenon that came to be known as the Scramble for Africa. The conference established two fundamental rules for European seizure of Africa. The first of these was that no recognition of annexation would granted without evidence of a practical occupation, and the second, that a practical occupation would be deemed unlawful without a formal appeal for protection made on behalf of a territory by its leader, a plea that must be committed to paper in the form of a legal treaty. In the meantime, in 1867, as Europe was awakening to the potential of Africa, a German-American hunter and explorer by the name of Adam Render happened to stumble upon an extensive complex of stone-built ruins on Mashonaland's central plateau that proved, upon brief examination, to be the surviving remnants of some great and ancient civilization. This immediately struck Render as improbable, and the following season, he guided Karl Mauch, the respected German explorer and geographer, to the site. Mauch, too, was astonished at the spectacle. Although half-buried under rubble and thoroughly overgrown, it was quite clear that there lay an archeological discovery of major significance.

©2017 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Category: History, Africa
Length: 1 hr and 19 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Mysterious Canada: A Collection of Hauntings, Mysteries, and Strange Creatures Across the Canadian Nation

Mysterious Canada: A Collection of Hauntings, Mysteries, and Strange Creatures Across the Canadian Nation

5 ratings

Summary

Canada has the reputation of being a boring place. More tranquil than its southern neighbor, it goes along in its quiet way sustaining one of the most stable and prosperous democracies in the world, and does so with little fuss or drama. It doesn't get in the news much, which considering the content of most news stories is a good thing. People get along, the economy is expanding, and there are no regular disasters. While all this makes Canada a pleasant place to live, it does not make it particularly interesting. But dig a little below the surface, and you'll find a different Canada, a stranger Canada, one of murder, mystery, and paranormal experiences. The stories that follow will show that Canada, far from being a dull, staid nation where nothing much happens, is an epicenter of the mysterious. Mysterious Canada: A Collection of Hauntings, Mysteries, and Strange Creatures Across the Canadian Nation offers a sampling of the many strange stories and unexplained phenomena that make Canada such an intriguing place. It is part of an ongoing series by Sean McLachlan and Charles River Editors that covers the mysteries and oddities of various places across the world, including The Weird Wild West, Weird West Coast, Mysteries of the South, Mysterious New England, and Weird Ireland. You will learn about the weird legends and mysteries of Canada like never before.

©2017 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Length: 1 hr and 19 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Underground Warfare in World War I

Underground Warfare in World War I

Summary

"It was a pretty gloomy business. We started sinking this shaft and it filled with water, so we pumped it out with hand pumps - lift and force. We got down about 10 feet or so. It was heartbreaking - I hated it. But I had to keep my men going. The Boche [Germans] saved us. We were making a lot of noise with spiling [timbering the tunnels]. The Boche opposite us were Saxons, rather friendly, and they put up a notice on a blackboard, 'No good your mining. We've tried. It can't be done.' The notice was in English. I reported this to my OC and it went up to HQ and they stopped the mine." - Major General F. Gordon Hyland World War I, also known in its time as the "Great War," or the "War to End all Wars," was an unprecedented holocaust in terms of its sheer scale. Fought by men who hailed from all corners of the globe, it saw millions of soldiers do battle in brutal assaults of attrition which dragged on for months, with little to no respite. Tens of millions of artillery shells and untold hundreds of millions of rifle and machine gun bullets were fired in a conflict that demonstrated man's capacity to kill each other on a heretofore unprecedented scale, and as always, such a war brought about technological innovation at a rate that made the boom of the Industrial Revolution seem stagnant. World War I was the first truly industrial war, and it created a paradigm which reached its zenith with World War II, and towards which virtually all equipment, innovation, and training were dedicated throughout the Cold War and the remainder of the 20th century. To this day, modern warfare remains synonymous with tanks and mass infantry battles, although a confrontation of this nature has not occurred, (except briefly during Operation Desert Storm), since World War II. The enduring image of World War I is of men stuck in muddy trenches, and of vast armies deadlocked in a fight neither could win. It was a war of barbed wire, poison gas, and horrific losses, as officers led their troops on mass charges across No Man's Land, and into a hail of bullets. While these impressions are all too true, they hide the fact that trench warfare was dynamic and constantly evolving throughout the war, as all armies struggled to find a way to break through the opposing lines. Underground Warfare in World War I: The History and Legacy of the Fighting Beneath and Between the Trenches examines one of the most forgotten aspects of the fighting on the ground during the Great War.

©2017 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Category: History, Military
Length: 1 hr and 28 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Studebaker Brothers

The Studebaker Brothers

Summary

“The automobile has come to stay. But when a man has no business, it is a rather expensive luxury, and I would advise no man, be he farmer or merchant, to buy one until he has sufficient income to keep it up. A horse and buggy will afford a great deal of enjoyment...” (John M. Studebaker)  For a couple of generations of Americans, along with Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors, there was Studebaker, and though it is no longer in existence, the Studebaker Automobile Company is still part of the popular culture. When a 1950's family is depicted on television today, the likelihood is that the family car is a Studebaker. The symbolic power of the Studebaker name was recently exemplified when South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg announced his candidacy for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. Kris Maher, writing in The Wall Street Journal, noted “For decades, the biggest symbol of this Midwestern city’s decline was the vacant Studebaker plant at one end of the city with its broken windows". Kevin Smith, a business owner in South Bend who bought the property to renovate it, said "the empty relic was holding the city back. It looms over the town", he said. "Everyone had the feeling that we could no longer compete. These days, some 40 organizations, including tech companies and a school that teaches coding to children, rent space on the 1.2 million-square-foot campus, including one building with an open floor plan and interior glass walls. Now called the Renaissance District, it is a symbol of the rebound in the state’s fourth-largest city". Today, people have likely heard of the name Studebaker without realizing that before Detroit was dominated by the Big Three automakers, there was a fourth major automobile company. The story of the Studebaker company and the Studebaker family exemplifies both the American dream and the difficulty in sustaining that dream. The Studebaker Brothers: The Lives and Legacy of the Family Behind the Famous Automobile Company chronicles how the family built up a manufacturing empire and made some of America’s most famous cars; you will learn about the Studebaker brothers like never before.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Length: 1 hr and 19 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Baron von Steuben: The Life and Legacy of the Prussian General Who Drilled the Continental Army at Valley Forge During the Revolutionary War

Baron von Steuben: The Life and Legacy of the Prussian General Who Drilled the Continental Army at Valley Forge During the Revolutionary War

Summary

"You say to your soldier, 'Do this' and he does it. But I am obliged to say to the American, 'This is why you ought to do this' and then he does it.” (Attributed to Baron von Steuben) By the time the Revolutionary War started, military confrontations between the world powers had become so common that combat was raised to the status of a fine art, consuming a large portion of time for adolescent males in training and comprising a sizable component of the economy. Weaponry was developed to a degree of quality not accessible to most North Americans, and European aristocrats were reared in the mastery of swordsmanship with an emphasis on the saber for military use. Likewise, the cavalry, buoyed by a tradition of expert horsemanship and saddle-based combat, was a fighting force largely beyond reach for colonists, which meant that fighting on horses was an undeveloped practice in the fledgling Continental Army, and the American military did not yet fully comprehend the value of cavalry units. Few sword masters were to find their way to North America in time for the war, and the typical American musket was a fair hunting weapon rather than a military one. Even the foot soldier knew little of European military discipline. German participation is historically noted for the Hessians, mercenary soldiers recruited in whole companies by Britain, whose standing army featured relatively low numbers when the American Revolution began. However, other Germans noted for their mastery of the science of war sided with the colonies, and among the most essential European contributors to the American cause turned out to be a Prussian officer of German descent. Despite the wavering attention paid by the colonial representatives to his biography, von Steuben may well have contributed more to the rebel victory than any other single presence on the American continent. After another disappointing year of defeats in 1777, Washington’s 11,000 men entered winter quarters at Valley Forge in Pennsylvania, about 20 miles outside of occupied Philadelphia. However, it was at Valley Forge that Washington truly forged his army, most notably by implementing a more rigorous training program for his troops that was led by von Steuben, who had fought with Frederick the Great. Despite speaking little English, von Steuben went about drafting a drill manual in French, and he personally presided over training drills and military parades. With the help of von Steuben, the Continental Army left Valley Forge in the spring of 1778 a more disciplined army than ever before, and the worst of Washington’s failures were behind him. Von Steuben would continue to serve with the Continental Army through the end of the war.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Length: 1 hr and 48 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Roma

The Roma

1 rating

Summary

“We are all wanderers on this earth. Our hearts are full of wonder, and our souls are deep with dreams.” (Old Romani proverb) In the 21st century, cultural differences and individuality are often celebrated and protected across much of the world, and given society's conscientious awareness of such phenomena, it is, therefore, all the more surprising when considering the ignorance or indifference that the world, at large, exhibits toward the Romani people.  Otherwise known as the “Roma” or by their popular misnomer “the gypsies”, the members of this highly undervalued and grossly misrepresented community have long been considered outcasts.  More often than not, the Romani are branded by even those who fancy themselves liberals as “pikeys”, “gyppos”, and “gips”. There's also a regrettably common term “gypped” meaning “to cheat, or swindle” which perpetuates the damaging stereotype that the Roma are dishonest nuisances and societal pests.  Even well-intentioned attempts to shine the spotlight on the community have sometimes been counterproductive, for they are often reduced to no more than exotic, whimsical entertainers for the privileged.  According to a shocking email authored by an anonymous whistleblower in 2012, the staff at the Laurieston Job Center in Glasgow's Southside regularly referred to their Romani customers as “gypos, scum, beggars, suicide bombers, thieves, and pedophiles”. The whistleblower cited the staff's disturbing comments regarding an unnamed Romani woman who had brought her two children along to the job center: “The staff were all joking and saying they should sanction her for claiming whilst pimping out her kids. They then went on to make horrible remarks about the children, saying they were "mongs". On August 5th of the same year, over 700 far-right “activists” stormed the heavily Romani-populated Hungarian village of Devescer. “Gypsy criminals,” the mob chanted as they hurled rocks, paving stones, and other projectiles at the homes of their prey. “We will set your homes on fire. You will burn inside your homes!” The police, who were called to the scene, supposedly stood on the sidelines with their arms crossed, unwilling to intervene.       The dangerous blanket statements issued by various European politicians in the past and recent years are also a cause for concern. In 1992, Bert Karlsson, a prominent member of the Swedish New Democracy Party, claimed that “Gypsies [were] responsible for 90 percent of crime against senior citizens”. In June 2008, the conservative Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi ordered the fingerprinting of the 150,000 Romani, children included, as a way to crack down on street crime. In France, political parties from either end of the spectrum have blamed the Romani for the nation's problems, economic and otherwise. The gypsies, asserted one interior minister, were responsible for one in every 10 crimes.  It’s fair to wonder why the abhorrent treatment of the Romani continues to slip below the radar of many social justice warriors, particularly in this age of globalization. This is all the more confounding given that many are aware of the ways the Roma have been persecuted over several centuries, most notoriously during the holocaust. 

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Category: History, World
Length: 1 hr and 35 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Gnosticism

Gnosticism

1 rating

Summary

Gnosticism is one of the great mysteries in the history of Western religion. At its core is an ancient Greek word, gnosis, a word prominent in the writings of Plato, which refers to a deep personal knowledge or understanding that often transcends the physical world. The Gnostics painted a picture of a fallen, broken world in which physicality was a product of a lesser deity. This deity was created in defiance of the One and in order to trap humans and blind them to the truths of their predicament and divine origins. By acquiring insight, or gnosis, in this secret nature of the world, humans might escape their prison. Only through knowledge can people be set free.  As that makes clear, Gnosticism as a belief system is difficult to define since it is not a well-organized or uniform doctrine like Christianity or Judaism, but at one time there was some synchronization with Christianity that nurtured both movements. As a religion and philosophy, Gnosticism flourished alongside Christianity, and it is not easy to say which one came first, but it is certain that both movements influenced each other. To paraphrase John Dominic Crossan, it is unclear whether Gnosticism was a Christian heresy, a Jewish heresy, or an original religion that powerfully merged with both. Gnosticism borrowed elements from Christians, just as the whole of Christianity took a certain Gnostic flavor, to the point that some books of the New Testament, especially the Gospel of John, could easily pass as a proto-Gnostic document. At the risk of oversimplifying, Gnosticism was the belief that the souls are divine sparks imprisoned in imperfect physical bodies, due to the machinations of a lesser and evil god who created the world. This evil god is identified with the creator of the Genesis and the Hebrew Bible. The material world and the body are prisons separated from the divine realm, from which humans must escape through the ascent of various levels. This is possible through the acquisition of secret knowledge reserved for the elect. This special revelation or gnosis (knowledge) was supposedly disclosed by Jesus to his dearest disciples, and it can be found in the Gnostic books, deliberately written in cryptic language. The acquisition of the secrets necessary for the salvation of the soul in many cases implied a radical asceticism and corporal sacrifice.  

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Available on Audible
Cover art for The Portuguese Empire and Africa

The Portuguese Empire and Africa

1 rating

Summary

By the mid-15th century, the Byzantine Empire had collapsed and the various Crusades that had taken place in the region had largely disrupted the overland routes of the Silk Road and trade. Compounding the difficulties of trade was the rise of the Ottoman Empire in place of the Byzantines and the outbreak of the Black Death in Europe. Around this time, a period of European exploration began, and major factors that contributed to this period of exploration were introduced by the Chinese, albeit indirectly. The magnetic compass had already been developed and used by the Chinese sailors, the Song Dynasty then began using the device for land navigation in the 11th century. The technology slowly spread west via Arab traders, although a case can be made for the independent European creation for the compass (Southey 1812: 210). Trade was able to increase around the world due to more effective ships being introduced, which were first introduced by the Chinese. The introduction of multiple mast ships and the sternpost rudders allowed the ships to travel quicker and be more maneuverable, with a minimum number of crew aboard. The Portuguese started exploring the west coast of Africa and the Atlantic under orders from Prince Henry the Navigator. At this point, Europeans had not yet been capable of navigating completely around Africa, but the Portuguese continued pushing down the western African coast looking for ways to bypass the Ottomans and Muslims of Africa who had been making overland trade routes difficult. In 1451, Prince Henry the Navigator helped fund and develop a new type of ship, the caravel, that featured triangular lateen sails and would be able to travel in the open ocean and sail against the wind. In 1488, Bartholomew Diaz rounded the southern tip of Africa, named the Cape of Good Hope by King John of Portugal, and entered the Indian Ocean from the Atlantic. When it became clear Christopher Columbus hadn’t landed in Asia, it was understood by everyone that this was not necessarily the route the Europeans were searching for, and the Portuguese continued to send explorers around the Cape of Good Hope in an attempt to reach the East Indies. After a two-year voyage, in 1499, Vasco da Gama had successfully reached India and returned to Portugal. They had found access to the trade regions that they had been searching for, but it would require too many resources to travel with at once; Portugal began establishing a number of forts and trading posts along the route and were able to establish a fort on the west coast of India, Fort Manuel, in 1500, and in 1505 a fort was erected off the coast of Tanzania, thus beginning a trend of European colonization in Africa and Asia that would last for the next 400 years.  This audiobook chronicles the early efforts by the Portuguese that helped initiate the Age of Exploration, and the ramifications the colonization had across the world.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Category: History, Africa
Length: 1 hr and 29 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for William Powell: The Life and Legacy of One of Early Hollywood's Most Acclaimed Actors

William Powell: The Life and Legacy of One of Early Hollywood's Most Acclaimed Actors

Summary

"My first scene with Bill, a night shot on the back lot, happened before we'd even met. Woody was apparently too busy for introductions. My instructions were to run out of a building, through a crowd, and into a strange car. When Woody called 'Action', I opened the car door, jumped in, and landed smack on William Powell's lap. He looked up nonchalantly: 'Miss Loy, I presume?' I said, 'Mr. Powell?' And that's how I met the man who would be my partner in fourteen films.” (Myrna Loy) Movie stars are revered for their ability to captivate audiences, and Hollywood began to flourish before the onset of television, allowing movies to enjoy relatively uncontested supremacy over American entertainment. The popularity of various actors would thus extend well beyond the success of any of their individual films, reflecting their much broader cultural significance as monuments of Hollywood during its Golden Age.  In the 1920s, the burgeoning movie industry was starting to come into its own, and while older silent film stars like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton reached the peak of Hollywood, some actors born near the beginning of the 20th century were ready to capitalize. While actors like Humphrey Bogart and Cary Grant remain household names, and actresses like Greta Garbo are still widely remembered, few had careers that enjoyed the success of William Powell. In a career spanning several decades, Powell would receive three Oscar nominations for Best Actor for critically acclaimed movies, so it is somewhat ironic that he is mostly remembered today for his association with the more famous Myrna Loy. Together, they starred in 14 films, including the 1934 box office hit, The Thin Man.  One thing that helped Powell’s career along in the old days when Hollywood would only cast white actors in major roles, no matter what the nationality of the character was supposed to be, were his dark good looks. In pointing this out, a contemporary profile of Powell explained, “Many people imagine that William Powell has a foreign look. His first big stage success, his first big picture roles, were all in foreign parts - Spanish, Italian, Cuban. As a matter of fact, he is American to the core. Perhaps, that look is his heritage from a paternal grandfather named Brady. The black Irish fit into any nationality. There is, too, a good strong strain of Holland Dutch, and a bit of French and English.” William Powell: The Life and Legacy of One of Early Hollywood’s Most Acclaimed Actors chronicles the long life and diverse career of Powell on and off the screen.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Length: 1 hr and 29 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for American Legends: The Life of Woodrow Wilson

American Legends: The Life of Woodrow Wilson

Summary

Includes Wilson's Fourteen Points, inaugural addresses, and his war message to Congress for World War I. As one of the most influential men of the 20th century, there is no shortage of adjectives to use when describing Woodrow Wilson's two terms as president of the United States. Wilson was a pioneer of the Progressive movement both before and during his presidency, becoming a populist champion a generation before Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. He ran for reelection by touting his neutrality during World War I, only to lead his nation into the war and become the architect of a world body that would lead to greater inter-connection among nations. Today Wilson is best remembered for his Fourteen Points, one of the most forceful arguments for an idealistic foreign policy in American history, and his fight for the League of Nations, which set the model for today's United Nations. Wilson's presidency was monumentally consequential, but it is not without its critics, nor is the man himself. Even as Wilson has come to be viewed as one of America's greatest presidents, perception of Wilson and his administration as racist have also taken hold. Despite being one of the early 20th century's most forceful proponents of a globalized foreign policy, Wilson's personal views and comments were ardently anti-immigration, and Wilson's administration entrenched and expanded segregation in the federal government.

©2014 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Length: 2 hrs and 15 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Prisoner 374215

Prisoner 374215

Summary

The cracks had opened wide one day, let the monsters out, and swallowed every bright thing. While the cell is sparse and cold, at least this one has a bed. The figure resting there is too thin; too still, the prominent bones the result of long starvation, the stillness the product of too much anguish and abuse. He watches, though. An anxious, intelligent mind still occupies this frail and failing body, one that watches and wonders about the new guard occupying his cell each night. ESTO Universe A Matter of Faces Gravitational Attraction Vassily the Beautiful Sub Zero Prisoner 374215 By Imperial Decree

©2013 Angel Martinez (P)2020 Angel Martinez

Narrator: Bill Hare
Length: 1 hr and 7 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for John Barrymore

John Barrymore

Summary

"A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.” (John Barrymore) Movie stars are revered for their ability to captivate audiences, and Hollywood began to flourish before the onset of television, allowing movies to enjoy relatively uncontested supremacy over American entertainment. The popularity of various actors would, thus, extend well beyond the success of any of their individual films, reflecting their much broader cultural significance as monuments of Hollywood during its Golden Age.  In the 1920s, the burgeoning movie industry was starting to come into its own, and virtually no actor was as famous - or infamous - as John Barrymore. Like many other film stars his age, Barrymore’s career had started in other forms of entertainment, in his case theater. By the time movies were becoming popular, Barrymore was one of the world’s foremost Shakespearean actors.  After standout performances in productions of Richard III and Hamlet, Barrymore transitioned for a time to working on films, including Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920), Sherlock Holmes (1922), and The Sea Beast (1926). His career would not be hampered by the end of the silent film era either, and he would continue to star in movies throughout the 1930s, including in critically acclaimed films like Grand Hotel (1932), Twentieth Century (1934), and Midnight (1939).  For a time, Barrymore was one of the most popular actors of the day, but more than 75 years after his death, he is likely better remembered more for his family lineage and his contributions to pop culture, voluntarily and involuntarily.  Barrymore hailed from an acting family, and he would become the patriarch whose descendants continued to be acclaimed actors, most recently his granddaughter Drew Barrymore. But while that might be his most tangential legacy in the 21st century, Barrymore’s personal life continues to draw interest, from his many marriages and paramours to the substance abuse that was common knowledge by the end of his life.  Barrymore even tried to play to his reputation and get in on the joke, often taking on roles that served as parodies of his own outlandish behavior. In a self-deprecating reference to his love life, he once joked, “I am thinking of taking a fifth wife. Why not? Solomon had a thousand wives, and he is a synonym for wisdom.” And when he appeared in My Dear Children in 1939, a critic for The New York Times noted, “Although he has recklessly played the fool for a number of years, he is nobody's fool in My Dear Children, but a superbly gifted actor on a tired holiday.”  As it turned out, he didn’t have much time left after that performance, as all of his excesses took a fatal toll on him in 1942, at the age of 60.  John Barrymore: The Life and Legacy of Early 20th Century America’s Most Famous Actor chronicles the dramatic life and career of Barrymore on and off the screen.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Length: 1 hr and 23 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Gullah

The Gullah

Summary

“If you do not know where you're going, you should know where you come from.” (Old Gullah Proverb) Charming drawls, bluegrass bops, NASCAR, mouthwatering barbecues, and the Great Smoky Mountains are all customs that make America’s Deep South home to some of the most vibrant, powerfully evocative, and culturally rich subregions on the continent, tethered to a heritage that rose from the ashes of the Civil War. There exists, however, a lesser-known, but equally indispensable subculture based within a 500-mile radius of the coastal South Atlantic states and Sea Islands. These culture bearers, who refer to themselves as the Gullah Geechee, or the “Gullah” for short, are the descendants and rightful heirs of the once-shackled slaves who resided in these parts. As the guardians and torch holders of the incredible legacy left behind by their persevering ancestors, the modern Gullah spare no effort in preserving the inherently unique customs and traditions, complete with their own creole tongue, that have been passed down from one generation to the next. Of course, the first Gullah people were not natives of the Deep South, nor were they eager immigrants who willingly crossed the North Atlantic in the hopes of landing opportunities available only in the “land of the free”. Rather, the Gullah were normal, everyday people who were forcibly extracted from their homes and shipped like chattel to a foreign land, where they were sold, purchased, and put to work on plantations, mines, factories, and elsewhere. Simply put, they were an ill-starred, yet fiercely diligent people who made the most out of their unimaginably horrific fates, constructing their own colorful customs and a remarkable legacy for their future successors. A number of notable figures have been linked with the Gullah in recent years. Michelle Obama, for instance, is said to be a descendant of a Gullah slave who once dwelled in a cotton plantation in the Low Country region of South Carolina. Little Melvinia was no older than eight when she arrived at the plantation of one Henry Wells Shields, soon after adopting the surname of her “master”, as per the customs of the mid-19th century. A teenaged Melvinia was ripped from her home once more in 1852 and relocated to Georgia, and it was there that she was impregnated by a white man and gave birth to the great-great-grandfather of the former First Lady. South Carolinian boxing icon Smokin' Joe Frazier and Cleveland Browns legend Jim Brown of St. Simons Island, Georgia also share Gullah blood. The Gullah: The History and Legacy of the African American Ethnic Group in the American Southeast examines the origins of the people, their culture, and how their history has winded over the centuries; you will learn about the Gullah like never before.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Category: History, Military
Length: 1 hr and 28 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Battle of Lepanto: The History of the Decisive Naval Battle Between the Ottoman Empire and the Holy League

The Battle of Lepanto: The History of the Decisive Naval Battle Between the Ottoman Empire and the Holy League

Summary

In terms of geopolitics, perhaps the most seminal event of the Middle Ages was the successful Ottoman siege of Constantinople in 1453. The city had been an imperial capital as far back as the fourth century, when Constantine the Great shifted the power center of the Roman Empire there, effectively establishing two almost equally powerful halves of antiquity’s greatest empire. Constantinople would continue to serve as the capital of the Byzantine Empire even after the Western half of the Roman Empire collapsed in the late fifth century. Naturally, the Ottoman Empire would also use Constantinople as the capital of its empire after their conquest effectively ended the Byzantine Empire, and thanks to its strategic location, it has been a trading center for years and remains one today under the Turkish name of Istanbul.  The end of the Byzantine Empire had a profound effect not only on the Middle East but Europe as well. Constantinople had played a crucial part in the Crusades, and the fall of the Byzantines meant that the Ottomans now shared a border with Europe. The Islamic empire was viewed as a threat by the predominantly Christian continent to their west, and it took little time for different European nations to start clashing with the powerful Turks. In fact, the Ottomans would clash with Russians, Austrians, Venetians, Polish, and more before collapsing as a result of World War I, when they were part of the Central powers.  In the wake of taking Constantinople, the Ottoman Empire would spend the next few centuries expanding its size, power, and influence, bumping up against Eastern Europe and becoming one of the world’s most important geopolitical players. It would take repeated efforts by various European coalitions to prevent a complete Ottoman takeover of the continent, and one of the most important battles among those efforts took place in 1571.  The Battle of Lepanto is one of the great iconic military clashes of history, ranked with Waterloo, Hastings, Somme, and the Battle of Britain. It was the last and largest great battle involving galleys - oared vessels that rammed and boarded enemy vessels - and also the first great naval conflict that effectively used cannons. It was a clash between two great civilizations fighting for supremacy in the world and for control of Europe: the Ottoman Empire and the Christian states of Europe. The Museu Maritim in Barcelona houses a life-sized replica of the Real, the flagship of the Holy League, as well as numerous small models and contemporary paintings. The Museo Storico Navale in Venice boasts models of galleys and galleasses (gunboats).  Christian (particularly Catholic) tradition has hailed the Battle of Lepanto as a triumph of the West, while the Islamic world has largely ignored it as insignificant. What is certain is that it temporarily checked Ottoman naval power and helped save Europe from a potential invasion.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Category: History, Middle East
Length: 1 hr and 37 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The La Brea Tar Pits

The La Brea Tar Pits

Summary

Even at a distance, the acrid stench of asphalt and sulfur singes the hairs of people’s nostrils, and when the blustering winds subside, the potent miasma lingers in the air. To the untrained eye, the La Brea Tar Pits seem to be nothing more than simply pools of thick, viscous black sludge, its obsidian-like surface bestrewn with an assortment of autumn leaves and dirt. Gooey methane bubbles spurt up periodically, shattering the glassy veneer of the grease-black lakes, and the shiny bubbles swell to varying sizes and wiggle from side to side before popping, the sticky collapse almost reminiscent of cracking open a chocolate molten lava cake. This black sludge might seem rather unremarkable after a few moments, as it appears to just sit there in its idle state, but in fact, the seemingly innocuous bubbles are symptomatic of the treacly dark substance lurking on the bottom of the pit. The pit’s contents have spelled the doom for a countless number of creatures both large and small, from legions of insects to mighty mastodons, mammoths, and snarling saber-toothed cats from the Pleistocene Era. Of course, this is what makes the area a natural landmark in the first place, and today the La Brea Tar Pits are considered by many scientists to be among the greatest finds in modern history. Technically, these lustrous lakes of ink-black, while branded “tar,” are in actuality pools of asphalt seeps that have remained in place for several millennia, gushing forth from a natural subterranean petroleum spring underneath the city of Los Angeles known as the “Salt Lake Oil Field.” Needless to say, the tar pits are a far cry from the glittering, crystalline ponds cooled by the shade of surrounding palm trees found throughout the City of Angels. Indeed, the pungent reek of asphalt, pulsing methane bubbles, and their hauntingly black surfaces, making it impossible to gauge the true depth of the asphalt abysses, should have seemingly served as clear deterrents to the animals that roamed the vicinity prior to their entrapment. Instead, judging by the treasure trove of bones and remnants that have been uncovered within the pits, the sludge seemed to have figuratively emitted a siren song that no animal, regardless of stature or physical power, could resist. The disturbing and fascinating implications of the silent death traps, situated in what is now 5801 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, only further heightens their mystery. Evidence shows that the slow, torturous deaths of many of the creatures who became permanently ensnared in the asphalt quicksand were worsened by passing predators who essentially stumbled upon supper served on a sticky platter. Unfortunate, or rather, clumsy predators sometimes slipped, struggled, and were ultimately swallowed up by the tar pit themselves, creating a macabre, yet natural cycle of death and despair. Unsurprisingly, the La Brea Tar Pits have also become a wellspring of supernatural legends. According to one such legend, the disembodied, bone-chilling shrieks of a desperate woman, supposedly the La Brea Woman, victim of Los Angeles' oldest cold murder case, can still be heard in the dead of the night. More curious yet, these liquid time capsules are swaddled in another layer of mystique, its fossils not only solving mysterious riddles of a bygone age, but also offering up even more questions that are begging to be answered. The La Brea Tar Pits: The History and Legacy of One of the World’s Most Famous Fossil Sites looks at the geological origins of the area and analyzes the fossil finds from the tar. Along with pictures depicting important people, places, and events, you will learn about the tar pits like never before."

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Length: 1 hr and 30 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Voyager Program

The Voyager Program

Summary

Today, the Space Race is widely viewed poignantly and fondly as a race to the Moon that culminated with Apollo 11 “winning” the race for the United States. In fact, it encompassed a much broader range of competition between the Soviet Union and the United States that affected everything from military technology to successfully launching satellites that could land on Mars or orbit other planets in the Solar System. Moreover, the notion that America “won” the Space Race at the end of the 1960s overlooks just how competitive the Space Race actually was in launching people into orbit as well as the major contributions the Space Race influenced in leading to today’s International Space Station and continued space exploration.

Although Apollo 11’s successful mission to the Moon is seen as the culmination of the Space Race and the Apollo program remains NASA’s most famous, one of the space agency’s most successful endeavors came about a decade later. In 1977, two spacecraft were launched from Earth to explore the outer Solar System, and incredibly, the now-ancient technology from the 1970s is still working, sending daily reports back to the planet that sent the two robotic envoys on their way, over 40 years ago.

Voyager 1 and 2 have done far more than accomplish their original missions. In fact, they are now exploring interstellar space, far beyond the outer planets, in the cold wasteland between the stars. Each spacecraft carries a copy of a golden record which contains an introduction to Earth, should some alien civilization happen to encounter either Voyager 1 or Voyager 2. In the first Star Trek movie, writers imagined just that, creating a story of a Voyager spacecraft being captured and adapted for its own uses. 

Whatever happens to these emissaries from Earth, they have delivered a wealth of data about the outer Solar System, and Voyager 2 remains the only probe to travel to Neptune and Uranus. 

The Voyager Program: The History and Legacy of NASA’s First Probes That Traveled to the Outer Solar System examines the origins behind the missions, the space probes involved, and the historic results.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Category: History, Americas
Length: 1 hr and 24 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Franco-Prussian War: The History of the War that Established the German Empire

The Franco-Prussian War: The History of the War that Established the German Empire

1 rating

Summary

After Prussia was victorious in the Austro-Prussian War, Bismarck played a waiting game where the unification of Germany was concerned, as the joining of the southern states - initially resistant to Prussian rule, friendly with Austria, and bent on independence - would have to be overcome. What was needed was “a clear case of French aggression” toward either Prussia or the southern states. Not only would such a move by Emperor Napoleon III trigger the terms of the treaty between the German states, but it would keep the remaining world powers out of the conflict.  The Franco-Prussian War started in August 1870, and a number of victories followed for the Prussians in battles in northeast France. By September, the strategic city of Metz was under siege, and forces fought a major battle at Sedan. Led by Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke, the Prussians forced the French to surrender at Metz, and then at Sedan. Emperor Napoleon III, commanding his country’s forces at Sedan, was taken prisoner, humiliating France and its impetuous leader.  The Prussians immediately marched on Paris, but the capital refused to submit, and a separate siege was mounted that ended up lasting 130 days. Obviously, French society was in tumult, but a Third Republic and Government of National Defence was pronounced in place of the French Empire. An uprising subsequently took place in the stricken city, dubbed the "Paris Commune", which sought to establish a radical alternative to the status quo and was itself put down by French troops. Prussian forces besieged Paris starting in September 1870, and although French units attempted to make inroads at battles in the north and east of the country, the Prussians were in comfortable control of the conflict. Food was becoming scarce, and an armistice was signed on January 26, 1871 with Paris on the brink of starvation. The Prussians lost 45,000 men during the conflict, while France suffered almost three times as many dead and wounded.  On January 18, 1871, King Wilhelm I was crowned Kaiser of the German Empire, and though the Franco-Prussian War was still taking place, this moment was essentially the point at which Germany was unified. German unification was the territorial expansion of Prussia by another name, but Berlin demonstrated it could protect the interests, or at least the safety, of German-speakers under their watch.  Despite the campaigns of nationalists and liberals over the previous decades, it was ultimately a victory on the battlefield that united the German states. This was the real-world application of Bismarck’s "Blood and Iron" concept. From this position of strength during war, Prussia achieved an unassailable position. During the relatively short wars of 1864, 1866, and 1870-71, Bismarck roused nationalist sentiment, and in so doing, he achieved the long awaited goal of German unification. 

©2018 Charles River Editors (P)2018 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Category: History, Europe
Length: 1 hr and 47 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Werewolves

Werewolves

Summary

Werewolves have long been a staple of popular culture. In the 19th and 20th century, there were countless books, plays, and films about people who turned into wolves or wolf-like humanoids and went on rampages. The figure of the werewolf is so familiar that people across the world are familiar with the folklore, and the beliefs that they transform during a full moon, can only be stopped with silver, and transmit their disease by biting their victims.  In fact, those beliefs were not originally part of werewolf folklore, but later embellishments by artists. The belief in lycanthropy is far older and more complex than most people suspect, dating all the way back to antiquity, and werewolves were once assumed to be very real. Indeed, people were even put on trial and executed because the courts of law were convinced they could change their form and kill innocent people. For thousands of years, werewolves have represented a strange and ancient tradition that still echoes through culture to this day.  Werewolves: The Legends and Folk Tales About Humans Shapeshifting into Wolves chronicles the ancient traditions and origins behind the belief in the existence of werewolves. You will learn about werewolves like never before.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Category: History, Europe
Length: 1 hr and 12 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Battle of Manzikert

The Battle of Manzikert

Summary

The Byzantine Empire existed for over a thousand years, with a history spanning from the division of the Roman Empire in 395 until the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453. It was formed from the previous Eastern Roman Empire, and during its long existence, the Byzantine inhabitants were very proud to call themselves Romans.  However, many things changed during the long lifespan of the Byzantine Empire, starting with a Hellenization in the sixth century. The use of the Latin language diminished and Greek took its place, while the typical Roman culture gave way to a more Hellenistic one. The Hellenization of Byzantium was detrimental to the relationship with the Holy Roman Empire, and the Christian world from that point would be split in two. The subsequent strengthening of the Orthodox Church caused many civil wars and conflicts to arise during the centuries, which shattered and reshaped the territory time after time. By the end of the Byzantine Empire’s existence, the old age had weakened both the state and church, making it an easy target for invading forces.  The most notable invaders were the the Turkish-speaking Seljuks, led through a series of battles by Kutalmishouglu Suleiman, who supported different usurpers against the Byzantine emperor. The expansion of the Seljuks was so successful that when Suleiman died, he had put all of Bithynia under his control as well as several important harbor towns along the shores on the Asian side of Bosphorus. With that accomplishment, he had managed to separate the Byzantines living in Anatolia from their emperor in Constantinople. This immediately weakened the unity of the Byzantine Empire.  When another invading Muslim army took control of what is now Syria, Israel, and Northern Africa, the dismembered Byzantine Empire lost significant portions of land, but that allowed it to grow into a smaller and stronger unity. It took a lot of power struggles and battles on many fronts for the empire to recapture some of the lands, but gradually the Byzantine Empire lost all influence in Anatolia. By the end of the 11th century, the Hellenic culture and Greek language were replaced by Islam and Turkish.  Of all the conflicts that brought this state of affairs into being, perhaps none was as instrumental as the Battle of Manzikert, a fact noted by Turkey’s current leader. In the Republic of Turkey, Victory Day is an important commemoration that remembers the Battle of Dumlupinar (August 26-30, 1922), when a Greek invasion of western Anatolia was effectively halted. Mustafa Kemal Pasha, the founder of modern Turkey, rescued Anatolia (Asia Minor) from an attempt by Greece to conquer the Greek-speaking regions. This nationalistic conflict severed Turkey from its imperial Ottoman past and set it on a path as a free, independent, and secular nation.  The memory of the battle still stirs up powerful emotions in the national psyche, not only in Turkey but among Armenians, Greeks, and other ethnicities who recall hundreds of years of oppression, particularly the Turkish-initiated genocides of the early 20th century. For all these nations, the Battle of Manzikert is no simple matter of historical record: Its consequences reach down to the present day and impact their lives. For historians, the study of the battle is usually a more academic consideration. Traditionally, it has been regarded as marking the end of Christian hegemony in Asia Minor and the beginning of the rise of Islam as a rival to Christianity in the battle over the fate of Western Civilization. While contemporary historians do agree that Manzikert had momentous consequences, the extent to which it actually changed the course of history is a matter of lively debate.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Length: 1 hr and 42 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Battle of Red Cliffs

The Battle of Red Cliffs

Summary

Even before the first Chinese dynasty, complex societies inhabiting the area now known as China, organized into settlements. The most important settlements were protected by rammed earth walls. The first dynasty, the Shang (1600-1050 BCE), built large walls as early as around 1,550 BCE. Differing from later walls, which were built along a strategic defense line, these walls were built to enclose the settlements and areas. The Shang would eventually be conquered from the west by the Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BCE), which developed a complex system of government. In fact, it was the Zhou system’s decline that Confucius (551-479 BCE) witnessed and drew from greatly for his political philosophy. The Zhou also created walled cities, and it was at this time that the first major conflicts with northern tribesman, the Xianyun, were recorded. As the newly independent states vied for supremacy in a state of constant warfare, northern barbarians were also a constant menace. Eventually, the Chinese succeeded in eliminating many of those on their immediate northern border, but it was a bittersweet victory because it meant there was no longer a buffer between China and the even fiercer Mongols further north. This new proximity led to increased cultural exchange, as well as the Chinese adoption of nomadic fighting techniques.  At the forefront of the Three Kingdoms was one of ancient China’s most famous battles, fought in late 208 CE. An area of the Yangtze River located near modern Chibi City in the central Chinese province of Hubei was filled with ships as far as the eye could see. They were swift wooden vessels, built for speed and filled with hard-faced men, arrows strung on their backs, ready to be released on the enemy. Massive warships with imposing war towers piled high with soldiers were also anchored in the river.  These military ships were part of the mightiest naval invasion ever seen in China, but on the ships, the sailors were weary. Contrary to their imposing facade, these men were unfamiliar with the trials of river combat - they were Northerners, more familiar with the frigid weather and the flat plains of northern China than being marooned on wooden ships in the water. Some of the men were ill, seasick from the prolonged exposure to life on the water. To combat this, Cao Cao, the supreme warlord of the northern Wei Kingdom and leader of the fleet, had ordered his men to tie their ships together to limit the swaying and to alleviate the sea sickness. It seemed to help, and ironically, this seemingly simple solution would also spell doom for the invaders.   The ensuing Battle of Red Cliffs changed Chinese history. It marked the end of the Han Dynasty, one of the greatest in China’s history, and pushed China into the era of the Three Kingdoms, an era of perpetual warfare and chaos. Furthermore, the battle also had a dramatic effect on Chinese culture, media, and literature, and the battle and its major participants remain legendary in China. Even today, movies, video games, and comic books about this battle can be found in China, from the blockbuster film Red Cliff in 2009 to the video game series Dynasty Warriors. Clearly, the ramifications of this period of Chinese history can still be felt, nearly 2,000 years later. The Battle of Red Cliffs: The History and Legacy of the Decisive Battle Fought Near the Start of Ancient China’s Three Kingdoms Period examines how the Han Dynasty unraveled and the fighting that ensued.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Category: History, Military
Length: 1 hr and 22 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Native American Tribes: The History and Culture of the Seminole

Native American Tribes: The History and Culture of the Seminole

Summary

From the "Trail of Tears" to Wounded Knee and Little Bighorn, the narrative of American history is incomplete without the inclusion of the Native Americans that lived on the continent before European settlers arrived in the 16th and 17th centuries. Since the first contact between natives and settlers, tribes like the Sioux, Cherokee, and Navajo have both fascinated and perplexed outsiders with their history, language, and culture. In Charles River Editors' Native American Tribes series, listeners can get caught up to speed on the history and culture of North America's most famous native tribes in the time it takes to finish a commute, while learning interesting facts long forgotten or never known. The Seminole tribe is one of the best known Native American tribes, and one of the most feared among 19th century Americans and Spaniards. In fact, the origin of the term Seminole comes from a Spanish description of them as "wild", which belies the fact that the Seminole had friendly relations with the British and Spanish during the colonial era. With the Spanish Empire foundering during the mid-19th century, the young United States sought to take possession of Florida. President Andrew Jackson's notorious policy of Indian Removal led to the Seminole Wars in the 1830s, and that was already after General Andrew Jackson had led American soldiers against the Seminole in the First Seminole War a generation earlier. The Seminole Wars ultimately pushed much of the tribe into Oklahoma, and the nature of some of the fighting remains one of the best known aspects of Seminole history among Americans. Native American Tribes: The History and Culture of the Seminole comprehensively covers the Native American tribe from its origins to today.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Category: History, Americas
Length: 1 hr and 12 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Pioneer Program

The Pioneer Program

Summary

Today the Space Race is widely viewed poignantly and fondly as a race to the Moon that culminated with Apollo 11 “winning” the Race for the United States. In fact, it encompassed a much broader range of competition between the Soviet Union and the United States that affected everything from military technology to successfully launching satellites that could land on Mars or orbit other planets in the Solar System. Moreover, the notion that America “won” the Space Race at the end of the 1960s overlooks just how competitive the Space Race actually was in launching people into orbit, as well as the major contributions the Space Race influenced in leading to today’s International Space Station and continued space exploration. Space exploration was always an expensive business, and throughout NASA’s history, the agency has had to justify to Congress its need for every dollar it intended to spend. This problem has helped NASA to be more careful and more creative with the money they did receive, and scientists had to justify the equipment they wanted to include on each space probe. They had to justify the size and the power demand, too. If they wanted too much, the entire mission might be scrubbed, and all their work would have been for naught. This made planning and designs leaner and more efficient, as scientists and engineers were more careful with their recommendations. At the same time, scientists have been repeatedly surprised by their discoveries. Some of those discoveries revealed the dangers of space, like the Van Allen radiation belt, dangerous to astronauts without the right kind of protection. NASA also discovered the massive radiation belt surrounding Jupiter thanks to the Pioneer probes in 1973 and 1974. Similarly, with the knowledge that Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, has a thick atmosphere, later missions were sent to investigate the moon up close. Thus, the Huygens lander pierced the Titan atmosphere in January of 2005 to investigate. Although Apollo 11’s successful mission to the Moon is seen as the culmination of the Space Race, and the Apollo program remains NASA’s most famous, one of the space agency’s most successful endeavors came a few years later. In fact, the Pioneer program was the most diversified sequence of any of NASA’s programs, and though they’re now remembered for being among the first probes in history to reach the Outer Solar System, the elaborate planning changed goals several times over several years before resulting in historic successes. NASA had wanted to do a Grand Tour of the Solar System toward the end of the 1970s to take advantage of the scheduled alignment of planets, which meant the Pioneer missions were meant to be test runs prior to the main events (Voyager 1 and Voyager 2), and a great many things discovered by Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 were essential to the successful planning of the Voyager probes. The Pioneer Program: The History and Legacy of NASA’s Unmanned Space Missions to the Outer Solar System examines the origins behind the missions, the space probes involved, and the historic results. You will learn about the Pioneer program like never before.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Category: History, Americas
Length: 1 hr and 46 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Lost City of Ubar

The Lost City of Ubar

Summary

The story of Atlantis has captured the minds and hearts of historians, scientists, artists, and writers for millennia, and yet, it never ceases to amaze people when told that the only literary evidence that exists comes from a single 4th century BCEE author. The Athenian philosopher Plato, famous for his dialogues in which the Socratic Method was invented, was the first writer to mention the mysterious continent of Atlantis. In his works Timaeus and Critias, Plato outlines the beginning of the story of Atlantis, but the Critias, where the longer and more detailed account takes place, was never finished and, therefore, has become the mysterious germ for millennia of thought. The annals of world history are filled with intriguing, although often outlandish stories of lost cities and kingdoms, and in addition to Atlantis, there are also Hyperborea, Shambhala, and Aztlan, to name just a few. Besides being cities and kingdoms that have been lost, often through some sort of catastrophe, all of these places are mentioned in religious texts or as part of a peoples’ national history. They play a major role in the identity of certain groups, at least in how certain groups identify with these mythical places. Although many, if not all, of these locations are mythical, they may have been based on actual locations, even if modern scholars are yet to definitively discover any such places. One of these lost cities is that known as Ubar, Wabar, or Iram, names which are all believed to refer to the same, possibly mythical, location. The city is mentioned as a den of iniquity that was destroyed by God, both in the Quran as well as the mythical Arabian Nights. As such, Ubar became a metaphor for how good Muslims should not act, and what could happen to non-believers, especially when allowed to congregate in a specific area. Later Islamic historians and geographers describe Ubar as being somewhere in the Arabian Desert, in what is today the nation-state of Oman. In modern times there were a few attempts to locate the lost city, but, for the most part, they were futile. Ubar and its location continued to fascinate people around the world, and it seemed as though its secrets would remain hidden beneath the Arabian sands until the 1980s, when a photojournalist named Nicholas Clapp became interested in the city. Clapp eventually turned his interest into a full-time endeavor to find Ubar and put together a team of adventurers and archaeologists, receiving funding from a number of different sources. Working backwards from the few scant historical and geographical accounts that portray Ubar as a prosperous city or kingdom in the centuries before Islam, Clapp and his team narrowed their search to a location on the edge of the Arabian Desert in the Dhofar region of Oman. It is there that they believed they found Ubar, which appeared to be a productive, wealthy, and growing city from the early 1st millennium BCEE until as late as the 6th century BCEE. Clapp received great fame for his discovery and recorded his journey in a book, even as some historians remained convinced that he had not actually discovered Ubar. In fact, some continue to believe that Ubar was a purely mythical place, even as others are convinced that it was a large, historical kingdom that remains lost. The Lost City of Ubar: The History and Legends of the Ancient Arabian City Known as the Atlantis of the Sands chronicles the origins of the city, the stories about it, the way the stories spread as they became more popular, and their impact on history. You will learn about the Atlantis of the Sands like never before.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Category: History, Middle East
Length: 1 hr and 19 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Amber Road

The Amber Road

1 rating

Summary

“Pytheas says that the Gutones, a people of Germany, inhabit the shores of an estuary of the Ocean called Mentonomon, their territory extending a distance of six thousand stadia; that, at one day's sail from this territory, is the Isle of Abalus, upon the shores of which, amber is thrown up by the waves in spring, it being an excretion of the sea in a concrete form; as, also, that the inhabitants use this amber by way of fuel, and sell it to their neighbors, the Teutones...” (Pliny the Elder)

The story of the Silk Road has been a popular topic among tourists, academics, economists, state parties, and daydreaming children for many centuries. In many ways the Silk Road can be seen everywhere, and it has existed for as long as people have traveled across Eurasia. Its impact is widely felt among the diverse peoples that live on the continent, through the unique regional art and architectural styles, as well as in countless films, books, academic studies, and organized tours devoted to the ancient trade routes.

At the same time, however, the Silk Road is an entirely abstract invention, first coined by the 19th century German geographer Ferdinand von Richthofen. There has never existed a single route - let alone a road - that was used to transfer goods, nor was silk the primary commodity traded across Eurasia. Instead, the Silk Road is more a multi-layered narrative about the rise and fall of nomadic confederations and sedentary societies, the consolidation and dissolution of kingdoms and empires, the exchange of commodities and fine crafts, and the transfer and mixture of ideas, religions, technology, science, art, architecture, myths, and legends. It is a story that is relevant for the present-day countries through which this exchange once took place, as they lay claim to the artifacts, heritage sites, and symbolic meaning of the Silk Road for political and economic purposes and to build their national identity.

In fact, international trade in the ancient world was a more intricate and far-reaching system than many have been led to believe. The Silk Road and the Incense Trade Route have been heavily investigated in recent decades, but the Amber Road trade network dominating northern Europe has been given far less attention. Amber, the hardened sap of prehistoric trees, has washed up on Baltic shores for generations, and though it had little value to the locals beyond religious symbolism and aesthetic beauty, they learned that foreign civilizations would pay massive sums for the beautiful substance.

Though written sources are scattered and tend to come and go depending on the civilization involved, much has been written by ancient authors, particularly of Greek and Roman origins. More importantly, archeologists have traced the spread of amber through the discovery of pieces with specific chemical construction, linking it back to the Baltic region. Once thought to have mainly been exported to Rome, Baltic amber has also been found in Mycenaean Greece, Egypt and Syria, though perhaps not surprisingly, it was Roman demand that formed the height of the amber exchange.

Perhaps even more interesting than the movement of the amber is regarding shifting trade operations from government controlled systems to private merchant enterprises to monopolies of guilds and orders, a return to government control, and finally, the selling of the trade to individual countries. It is a fascinating microcosm of changing political and governmental landscapes through millennia of change and development in northern Europe and the wider ancient Mediterranean world.

The Amber Road: The History and Legacy of the Ancient Trade Network that Moved Amber across Europe looks at the development of this crucial trade, and its impact on antiquity.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Length: 1 hr and 17 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The War of the Spanish Succession

The War of the Spanish Succession

Summary

The War of the Spanish Succession, fought at the beginning of the 18th century, was the last major war engaged in by French King Louis XIV, the legendary Sun King, and it was also the most famous of all military conflicts during his reign. While the length and the scope of the conflict are the primary reasons why people have given so much attention to it, another reason for its historical popularity is, no doubt, the fact that its outcome humbled the French king, to the delight of his many critics. He was, after all, the one who had given himself the lofty nickname of “the Sun King". During this lengthy European conflict, King Louis XIV of the Bourbon dynasty was pitted against Emperor Leopold of the Habsburg Dynasty of Austria as well as Leopold’s British and Dutch Allies. Lasting 13 years, the war spread from France and Austria to involve countries across the globe. All of it centered on what would become of Spain’s massive empire after the death of King Carlos II, who had no obvious successor to his crown. As an only child who had no children himself, Carlos II had been sickly his entire life, but as enfeebled as he was, he did preside over a rich empire that spread all the way across the Iberian Peninsula and included European territories in Italy and the Low Countries, land in North Africa, North and South America, and even as far away as the Philippines. Such an immense and wealthy empire needed a ruler, and as King Carlos II aged and weakened, everyone wanted to know who that would be.  Considering the age-old rivalry between the kingdom of France and the Austrian Empire, it is no surprise that those two powers both set their sights on the Spanish throne. As each side started to advance a claim that they were the legitimate heir to the throne, the initial idea across the continent was to find a peaceable solution that would manage to avoid a full-blown conflict. At the end of the 17th century, it seemed as though diplomacy would prevail and that King Louis XIV would emerge victorious, but the prideful king made some unexpected mistakes that pushed the continent and then the globe into a lengthy war. Indeed, the War of the Spanish Succession ended up being one of the largest wars the world had ever seen, with fighting taking place all across Western Europe, southern Germany, the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean, a significant portion of the Italian Peninsula, and even Scotland, the West Indies, and French Canada. Despite the massive scope of the conflict and the magnitude of the stakes, historians mostly concur that the War of the Spanish Succession was fought in a civilized manner, such that even prisoners of war were well treated, generally speaking. The generals in command on each side actually knew one another, counting some of their “enemies” as friends and even family. When the war finally came to an end, the Spanish people found themselves happy with the king who declared victory, a satisfactory solution after 13 bloody and expensive years. The War of the Spanish Succession: The History of the Conflict Between the Bourbons and Habsburgs That Engulfed Europe looks at the events that brought about the war, the major battles, and the results.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Category: History, Military
Length: 1 hr and 28 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The CIA

The CIA

1 rating

Summary

Though it might be hard to believe, the Americans did not have a covert operations organization when they joined the war, and like the British, it took them some time to realize it could be a powerful tool. As a result, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was not established until June 13, 1942, six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Voices within the Pentagon, State Department, and White House all opposed the establishment of this new and untested organization that would carry out activities normally considered unacceptable, so officials within the OSS had to fight for the very existence of the organization, battling through layers of bureaucracy to get the resources he needed and ensure its independence of action. They also worked hard to justify the use of covert tactics in warfare, to the extent that its leader, William “Wild Bill” Donovan, cited precedents that stretched back to the Bible. In time, all the hard work led to the growth of the OSS into an organization with over 13,000 staff and 40 offices scattered across the world. Its purposes were initially similar to that of Britain’s Special Operations Executive, including espionage, sabotage, and intelligence assessments, but with time and experience, it expanded to include economic, psychological, and guerrilla warfare, as well as counter-intelligence work. And of course, it would all chart a path for the early days of America’s most famous intelligence agency, the CIA. The 28-year period from 1933-1961, bracketed on one end by Hitler’s rise to power in Germany and on the other by the very height of the Cold War, was marked by a remarkably stable succession of American presidents. In fact, only three men held office in this period, and that predictability led to a general stability among government agencies. The CIA had five different directors in its first 15 years, from 1946-1961, but nine different directors in the next 20, with four of those directors serving less than a year. Although plagued by its own share of problems in its early existence during World War II and the early Cold War years, the agency’s early problems, smoothed over by a string of tenured presidents, paled in comparison to those it would face in the coming decades. The presidency became much more tumultuous and plagued by scandal and tragedy in the following decades. Beginning with Kennedy, the country had five presidents in the span of less than 20 years, and none of them completed two full terms, so it is perhaps not surprising that the CIA felt its way through its own tough days during this period. To place the agency’s blame for its own very real mistakes at the feet of the ever-churning office of the presidency is not entirely fair, because in many cases the CIA made its own bed and was forced to lie in it, but the continuously changing executive landscape and the subsequent jerky and often haphazard changes of directions certainly played a part in the agency’s troubles of this period. Through the 1980s and 1990s, presidential terms regained a measure of predictability, but the agency continued to struggle through the traps it had set for itself in the prior decades while trying to find its place in the new world of computers, 24 hour news coverage, and the sheer avalanche of information that came with technological advancements. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, it appeared the CIA might no longer have an adversary formidable enough to keep the agency funded and staffed, but 9/11 ended that fairy tale and brought the CIA’s next era into sharp focus. A war on terrorism replaced the Soviet Union as the spy service’s primary foil, and the years following the 9/11 attacks were dire for the agency, but the misguided invasion of Iraq and persistent claims of detainee torture and murder sullied the spy agency’s reputation right from the start of the 21st century.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Category: History, Americas
Length: 4 hrs and 11 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Great Siege of Malta

The Great Siege of Malta

Summary

“The darkness of the night then became as bright as day, due to the vast quantity of artificial fires. So bright was it indeed that we could see St Elmo quite clearly. The gunners of St Angelo...were able to lay and train their pieces upon the advancing Turks, who were picked out in the light of the fires." (Francisco Balbi, a Spanish soldier at the siege) For centuries, Christians and Muslims were embroiled in one of the most infamous territorial disputes of all time, viciously and relentlessly battling one another for the Holy Land. In the heart of Jerusalem sat one of the shining jewels of the Christian faith - the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Legend has it that this was where their Savior had been buried before his fabled resurrection. What was more, it was said to house the very cross Jesus Christ had died upon. It was for precisely these reasons that fearless pilgrims, near and far, risked their lives and made the treacherous trek to Jerusalem. Like other secretive groups, the mystery surrounding the Catholic military orders that sprung up in the wake of the First Crusade helped their legacies endure. While some conspiracy theorists attempt to tie the groups to other alleged secret societies like the Illuminati, other groups have tried to assert connections with them to bolster their own credentials. Who they were and what they had in their possession continue to be a source of great intrigue. After being forced out of Rhodes by the Ottomans in the early 16th century, the Knights Hospitaller spent seven years residing in Sicily without an official home or garrison, but around 1530, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V decided to gift the order the islands of Malta and Gozo, as well as the port city of Tripoli in North Africa, as a fiefdom. The emperor’s motivations varied, but most historians believe he granted the knights the territory partially out of religious devotion and mainly to protect those regions from the looming Ottoman threat. Both Malta and Gozo were between Sicily and the North African coast and were prime locations for the Ottoman Empire to try to make their next move to gain inroads into Europe. In 1565, the Knights Hospitaller were attacked by Suleiman, who sent 40,000 soldiers to attempt to wrest control of Malta from them. This would become known as the Great Siege of Malta, lasting from May 18 to September 11. The first two months of the siege were devastating for the Hospitallers, who lost most of their cities and half of their 8,000 knights. Resources were scarce and supplies were running low, resulting in starvation and disease. By August 18, the lines were ready to crumble, especially since the series of fortifications were spread out and difficult to defend.  No help was forthcoming from the Viceroy of Sicily, who was under no obligation to assist because of the vague wording of the orders he received from King Philip II of Spain. Indeed, it could have been disastrous for Sicily, since sacrificing their own troops would have left Sicily and Naples open to Ottoman invasion. When told to withdraw to spare the rest of the order, Grand Master Jean Parisot de Valette refused and held his ground, and finally, after months of ignoring the issue, the Viceroy of Sicily sent aid to the Knights Hospitaller after being badgered by his outraged officers. On August 23, the Ottomans launched their last assault upon Malta. The fighting was intense, and even wounded knights participated. The Ottoman army was unable to break through the Order’s fortifications, as the garrison had repaired the worst of the damages and any breakages to avoid giving the Ottomans an advantage.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Category: History, Middle East
Length: 2 hrs and 39 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Charles Ponzi and the Ponzi Scheme

Charles Ponzi and the Ponzi Scheme

Summary

“I went looking for trouble, and I found it.” (Charles Ponzi) Though few people are familiar with the story of his life, Charles Ponzi’s name is almost instantly recognizable thanks to the famous financial scandal named after him. This is somewhat ironic because, while his last name has become synonymous with financial scandal and many recognize how a Ponzi scheme works, some have argued that Ponzi really did not know what he was doing while it was taking place. When reading many of the books and articles written about him, it does seem as though Ponzi believed he would be able to pay back his investors at one point or another.  In fact, the scheme that Ponzi created was not a new one - it was historically known as “robbing Peter to pay Paul” - but Ponzi became famous for it because he was able to create a scam in this way on a massive scale. When he was finally caught, it led to the investigation and collapse of several estates and banks, and Massachusetts subsequently found itself in a banking crisis. Moreover, one of the most interesting aspects of the affair is that people from many different social backgrounds and classes were affected by Ponzi’s scandal. He took money from teenagers who had savings as low as $20, and he also took millions from New York City’s elite.  Ponzi’s scheme involved scamming investors by promising them a bigger return on their investments than was actually possible. Every investor’s money would just be put into a large pool to pay back past investors, and while Ponzi was hardly the first person to engage in such a scheme, the 1920s were ripe for this kind of financial conning. The Roaring Twenties became famous for frivolity, flappers, and Prohibition. Famously depicted in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, life after World War I in America was a time of great spending, and people believed that it as possible for them to make great fortunes, no matter what their social background was. The rich wanted to be richer, and the poor believed that they could also attain a quick rags-to-riches story. This kind of climate was ripe for individuals such as Ponzi to make their mark on history, for better and worse.  Charles Ponzi and the Ponzi Scheme: The History and Legacy of 20th Century America’s Most Famous Con Artist looks at the elaborate fraud designed by one of America’s most notorious criminals. You will learn about Ponzi like never before.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Length: 1 hr and 13 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Tom Horn

Tom Horn

Summary

“You're the sickest looking lot of sheriffs I ever seen.” (Tom Horn) The exploration of the early American West, beginning with Lewis and Clark’s transcontinental trek at the behest of President Thomas Jefferson, was not accomplished by standing armies, the era’s new steam train technology, or by way of land grabs. These came later, but not until pathways known only to a few of the land’s indigenous people were discovered, carved out, and charted in an area stretching from the eastern Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, and the present-day borders of Mexico and Canada. Even the great survey parties, such as Colonel William Powell’s exploration of the Colorado River, came decades later. The first views of the West’s enormity by white Americans were seen by individuals of an entirely different personality, in an era that could only exist apart from its home civilization. In the span of scarcely more than a half century, the West developed from a handful of scattered fur-trapping enterprises - predominantly inhabited by males - to a region full of burgeoning rustic communities, and before the government’s official “closure” of the frontier as a lawless expanse, Western societies were essentially living apart from traditional American rule of law. What judicial structures were at work across the West were erratic, often willing to exercise extremes without evidential justification, and manipulated by major corporate interests of the day, most notably cattle. The latter 19th century brought about both the heyday and decline of that industry, but the modernized and increasingly technology-oriented societies began to bloom while many of the legendary frontier figures were still alive. In some cases, the old and new worlds were able to coexist as the lone wolves and lawmen of the frontier became obsolete as an archetype, but still a part of folklore.  Wyatt Earp was the subject of several early motion pictures and lived long enough to consult on their productions and meet actors. Iconic rodeo stars, lawmen, and notorious outlaws who made themselves famous on horseback witnessed the beginnings of the age of flight. However, the transition from a mostly lawless region to an ordered society that more closely mirrored the East Coast could be rough for some, and, perhaps, nobody struggled to adapt to societal progress more than the infamous Tom Horn.  At the close of the 19th century, Horn undertook virtually every form of employment available on the frontier before ending his career as a paid assassin for the cattle industry, anonymously ambushing cattle rustlers. According to an ongoing debate, he was either the perpetrator or scapegoat in the murder of a young boy in Iron Mountain, Wyoming, an ambush execution that occurred in the context of a raging feud between the cattle and sheep industries that broke all borders of rationality. With a raft of unanswered questions, Horn remains among the most prominent and controversial figures in the annals of frontier America, a reputation due in large part to the sensationalistic autobiography he wrote in prison: Life of Tom Horn, Government Scout and Interpreter. Tom Horn: The Controversial Life and Legacy of One of the Wild West’s Most Famous Gunslingers chronicles Horn’s time as a scout, cowboy, Pinkerton agent, and writer, and how he became one of the most famous folk legends.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Length: 1 hr and 21 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Fritz Lang

Fritz Lang

Summary

“I was something that is always hated in Hollywood - a perfectionist; nobody likes a perfectionist, you know.” (Fritz Lang)   While it’s easily forgotten today, during the early 20th century, various European countries had vibrant film industries, and even though Hollywood had already staked its claim as the forerunner of the international cinematic landscape by the 1920s, national cinemas in Sweden, Germany, and elsewhere throughout Western Europe enjoyed great power during this period. In the early 20th century, Germany's most renowned film directors were pioneering the genre known as "expressionism", and within it, Fritz Lang was known as the "Master of Darkness". Together with his eventual wife Thea von Harbou, Lang wrote a number of acclaimed movies. Some of his well-known films include Dr. Mabuse the Gambler (1922), Die Nibelungen (1924), Metropolis (1927), and Woman in the Moon (1929).  Eventually, a number of Europe’s biggest movie stars and directors came to Hollywood, such as Greta Garbo, Ingrid Bergman, and Alfred Hitchcock, but Lang’s course to America came under far different circumstances. As Adolf Hitler rose to power and strengthened the Nazis’ grip over Germany, the party’s coarse antisemitism took root across all segments of society.  As Jews were further persecuted, German Jews from all walks of life went into exile, and the loss of so many bright minds has led historians to the conclusion that the exodus could have made the difference in World War II. As scientists like Albert Einstein made their way out of the country to safety, they served as further proof that in addition to being dogmatically racist, the Nazis were also incompetent and self-defeating. Coinciding with Hitler’s rise, Lang was filming The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, and it was quickly viewed as a biting commentary on the Nazi Party. On March 30, 1933, the Nazi regime banned it, and Lang later claimed that propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels confided to him that he loved the movie. By then, Lang was known for noir films, especially M, a dark movie about a child murderer.  Compelled to leave Germany, Lang made his way to Hollywood and quickly established himself there, leading to a career spanning 20 years. Continuing with the same themes as the ones he used in Germany, Lang helped establish noir as one of the most popular film genres of the 1950s in America, with influential works like Scarlett Street, and his most famous film, The Big Heat (1953).  By 1960, however, his health began to decline, and thus so did his output, which was somewhat ironic because he brought the Mabuse series of films full circle with 1960’s The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse, which revived interest in Mabuse and led to more films being made for the series. As fate would have it, though, those films would be produced by German producer Artur Brauner, not Lang himself. Fritz Lang: The Life and Legacy of the Influential German-American Film Legend chronicles his career in front of the camera and behind it.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Length: 1 hr and 31 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Chisholm Trail

The Chisholm Trail

Summary

The Lewis and Clark Expedition, notwithstanding its merits as a feat of exploration, was also the first tentative claim on the vast interior and the western seaboard of North America by the United States. It set in motion the great movement west that began almost immediately with the first commercial overland expedition funded by John Jacob Astor's Pacific Fur Company and would continue with the establishment of the Oregon Trail and California Trail. The westward movement of Americans in the 19th century was one of the largest and most consequential migrations in history, but the journey itself was fraught with risk. It's easy for people with modern transportation to comfortably reminisce about the West, but many pioneers discovered that the traveling came with various kinds of obstacles and danger, including bitter weather, potentially deadly illnesses, and hostile Native Americans, not to mention an unforgiving landscape that famous American explorer Stephen Long deemed "unfit for human habitation". Ninteenth century Americans were all too happy and eager for the transcontinental railroad to help speed their passage west and render overland paths obsolete. Around the time that the Civil War ended in 1865, the open ranges of south Texas were full of the cattle known as longhorns. Hundreds of thousands of the distinctive steer, with their horns spanning as much as seven feet from tip to tip, roamed free on the range, so cattle ranchers took advantage of the bounty and claimed the wild longhorns as their own. With a beef shortage on the East Coast, the demand for cattle was high, so the ranchers just needed to get the cattle north from Texas to the nearest railroad. Tennessee native Jesse Chisholm was a trader, not a cattleman, but the trail he blazed from his trading post in Wichita, Kansas, to the Red River in Texas became crucial to cattle drivers. The trail was straight, with few river crossing and no large hills to navigate, and in some spots it was over 400 yards wide. This made the Chisholm Trail ideal for both trade wagons and driving cattle. Between 1867 and 1872, over one million head of cattle were herded from Texas to Kansas, where they were then loaded onto a train and shipped east. In due time, cattle drives became a hallmark sight of the West, and they've frequently been depicted in modern media alongside typical Western images such as cowboys, saloons, mining towns, and Native Americans. Thus, even as the existence of paths like the Chisholm Trail proved brief, the Chisholm Trail provided a vital link in the cattle industry in a pivotal point in American history, ensuring it remains intimately associated with the legends of the Old West. The Chisholm Trail: The History and Legacy of 19th Century America's Most Famous Cattle Drive Route examines how the various paths were forged, the people most responsible for them, and the most famous events associated with the trail's history. You will learn about the Chisholm Trail like never before.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Category: History, Military
Length: 1 hr and 48 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Battle of Sekigahara

The Battle of Sekigahara

1 rating

Summary

On October 21, 1600, two massive Japanese armies, totaling an estimated 200,000 soldiers armed to the teeth with swords, yari (spears), arrows, muskets, and cannons, faced off on a battlefield near the town of Sekigahara. A bitter fight to the death ensued, and the results would determine the course of Japanese history for the next 250 years. On the battlefield was the warlord Leyasu Tokugawa, a man desiring domain over the entire island of Japan, but standing in his way was Ishida Mitsunari, a warlord controlling vast swaths of western Japan. Moving with his armies from the east, Ieyasu maneuvered into a position at Sekigahara. Leyasu was relying heavily on the legendary Japanese samurai, but contrary to popular belief, the samurai warriors of that era were avid firearm users, and this battle would be no exception, as both armies bristled with muskets and cannons. Leyasu was outnumbered, but he had a trump card: Traitors placed in the enemy army. These treacherous warlords would join Leyasu in the midst of the battle, turning it in his favor. When Leyasu became shogun (military dictator) of Japan, he presided over the beginning of the Tokugawa shogunate, which brought peace and stability to all of Japan if only by ending the constant civil wars. Many changes took place, most notably in the capabilities of the samurai, Japan’s ruling military class, who were no longer active combat participants. Instead, most of these warriors were fighters in name only, ruling, instead, as privileged bureaucrats. They served the Tokugawa Shogunate, a military government that moved to isolate Japan from the rest of the world, for more than two centuries, and military service became the exclusive domain of a privileged warrior class that combined the military with an intricate network of social status and vassalage to feudal lords. As a feudal government, the Tokugawa shogunate split control of state domains under feudal lords known as daimyo. Although given a high degree of autonomy, the daimyo were responsible to the shogun to provide “maintenance of armed forces, the protection of the coastline, and attendance on the shogun at appointed times”. The maintenance of these functions required a large amount of support from society in general, including merchants, peasants, and artisans, but this system of military governance ensured that the warriors’ social status was elevated to a position of high prestige. Thus, samurai held a virtual monopoly not only on military positions, but also administrative positions at both the central and regional levels, and as a symbol of their status, samurais were the only class allowed to carry weapons - a longsword and shortsword - in public. The blissful isolation changed with the arrival of American Commodore Matthew Perry in 1853. In awe of the American weapons and ships, the Tokugawa shogunate quickly realized that they needed to evolve and modernize their military to survive, and a time of rapid change descended on Japan. As it turned out, however, the shogunate would not have a chance to modernize the nation, because the Meiji Restoration supplanted the shogunate with a new dynasty, and within a mere 30 years, the Tokugawa shogunate and its samurai caste would be relics of the past. The Battle of Sekigahara: The History and Legacy of the Battle that Unified Japan under the Tokugawa Shogunate chronicles the events that led to one of the most important conflicts in Japanese history. You will learn about the Battle of Sekigahara like never before.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Category: History, Asia
Length: 1 hr and 27 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Babe Ruth: The Life and Legacy of Major League Baseball's Most Famous Player

Babe Ruth: The Life and Legacy of Major League Baseball's Most Famous Player

Summary

“I only have one superstition: I make sure to touch all the bases when I hit a home run.” (Babe Ruth) As one of America’s oldest and most beloved sports, baseball has long been touted as the national pastime, but of all the millions of people who have played it over the last few centuries, the first name that many associate with Major League Baseball is Babe Ruth, whose career spanned over 20 years on the way to becoming the sport’s biggest legend. The Bambino came onto the scene as a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, only to be infamously sold to the rival New York Yankees, where he went on to set records for most home runs (714), runs batted in (2,213), walks (2,062), slugging percentage (.690), and on-base plus slugging (1.164). The Sultan of Swat’s records would take decades to be surpassed, but he also managed to win more than 20 games as a pitcher for Boston, along with three World Series before heading to New York. Boston wouldn’t win another championship for over 80 years after Ruth’s departure, a drought famously referred to as “The Curse of the Bambino.” As if he wasn’t accomplished enough in Boston, Ruth went on to become a pop culture fixture in New York while playing 15 years for the Yankees on some of the sport’s most legendary teams. In addition to leading the Bronx Bombers to four World Series during his time there, Ruth set several single season and career records, elevating the team and MLB itself in ways that athletes could hardly dream of today. Ruth’s impact could be keenly felt in a 1922 article authored by Heywood Broun, "Cutting the Heart of the Plate,” which said of him, “No one ever requires more than one glance to identify Babe Ruth. Even a wholly ignorant person who had never heard of him would probably stop in wonder at the sight of Babe waddling by. It must be clear to all beholders that here is some great, primitive force harking back to the dim days of the race. William Jennings Bryan might well look upon the Babe and recant. To be sure, a certain ingenuity was required to fit just the proper name upon this personality. As George Herman Ruth he might have gone far but he could hardly have reached the heights. The man who made him by the gift of ‘Babe’ ought to draw a substantial royalty from Ruth's mighty income. But probably no single individual hit upon the happy thought. Undoubtably a mass movement was required. Babe Ruth has all the vigor and vitality of a piece of folk literature.” Over a century after his MLB debut, Ruth remains as well known as ever, and people continue to discuss his exploits both on and off the field. Ruth used to wink at his reputation, joking, "I learned early to drink beer, wine, and whiskey. And I think I was about five when I first chewed tobacco.” Biographer Leigh Montville described a typical scene after a game: “The outrageous life fascinated [pitcher Waite] Hoyt, the...freedom of it, the nonstop, pell-mell charge into excess. How did a man drink so much and never get drunk?.... The puzzle of Babe Ruth never was dull, no matter how many times Hoyt picked up the pieces and stared at them. After games he would follow the crowd to the Babe's suite. No matter what the town, the beer would be iced and the bottles would fill the bathtub.” Given the passage of time, people tend to debate how good Ruth would be today, including most recently a current MLB reliver, Adam Ottavino, who claimed he would strike out Ruth every time. That claim became even more controversial when Ottavino joined none other than the Yankees ahead of the 2019 season, which led to the reliever walking back some of the comments. But even as far back as 1929, Bucky Harris may have foreseen debates of this kind by pointing out, “These other home run hitters are neck and neck. When the Babe was doing his stuff, he was miles ahead of his field."

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Length: 1 hr and 29 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Ty Cobb

Ty Cobb

Summary

"I had to fight all my life to survive. They were all against me, but I beat the bastards and left them in the ditch." (Ty Cobb) "Cobb is a prick. But he sure can hit. God Almighty, that man can hit." (Babe Ruth) As one of America's oldest and most beloved sports, baseball has long been touted as the national pastime, but of all the millions of people who have played it over the last few centuries, few have influenced Major League Baseball like Ty Cobb, whose career spanned over 20 seasons. The Georgia Peach overcame early hardships to set nearly 100 MLB records in his time as a player and player-manager for the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Athletics. With an MVP and Triple Crown under his belt by the age of 25, Cobb went on to produce statistics that still lead MLB in several categories, including 4,065 combined runs scored and RBIs, a career batting average over .365, and at least 11 batting titles. In cases where he's no longer the record holder, it would take decades for players like Pete Rose to play in more games and collect more at bats and hits, for Rickey Henderson to score as many runs, and for Lou Brock to steal more bases.  Even Americans who are relatively unfamiliar with baseball's storied history have likely heard of Ty Cobb and can recognize him as one of the sport's all time greats, but today his legacy is better known for controversy. In his day, Cobb was cast as a villain by fans of teams he played against, but he was portrayed in flattering manners shortly after his death. Things changed when other contemporary accounts came out and cast him as a vile racist, among other personal failings, much of which can be credited to the writing of sportswriter Al Stump and the modern biopic Cobb, released in 1994. It has only been recently that modern historians have pushed back a bit on those portrayals of Cobb and attempted to depict him in a more balanced light, and even then some of them have struggled. For example, in The Journal of American Culture, writer Hunter M. Hampton noted that biographer Charles Leerhsen's Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty, released in 2015, "succeeds in debunking the myth of Cobb that Stump created, but...spawned a new myth by conflating Stump's shortcomings to depict Cobb as an egalitarian".  Ty Cobb: The Life and Legacy of the Player Who Set the Most Major League Baseball Records profiles the controversial legend, both on the field and off it. You will learn about Ty Cobb like never before."

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Length: 1 hr and 17 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Santa Fe Trail

The Santa Fe Trail

Summary

The Lewis and Clark Expedition, notwithstanding its merits as a feat of exploration, was also the first tentative claim on the vast interior and the western seaboard of North America by the United States. It set in motion the great movement west that began almost immediately with the first commercial overland expedition funded by John Jacob Astor’s Pacific Fur Company and would continue with the establishment of the Oregon Trail and California Trail.  The westward movement of Americans in the 19th century was one of the largest and most consequential migrations in history, and as it so happened, the paths were being formalized and coming into use right around the time gold was discovered in the lands that became California in January 1848.  Located thousands of miles away from the country’s power centers on the East Coast at the time, the announcement came a month before the Mexican-American War had ended, and among the very few Americans who were near the region at the time, many of them were army soldiers who were participating in the war and garrisoned there. San Francisco was still best known for being a Spanish military and missionary outpost during the colonial era, and only a few hundred called it home. Mexico’s independence, and its possession of those lands, had come only a generation earlier. Everything changed almost literally overnight. While the Mexican-American War technically concluded with a treaty in February 1848, the announcement brought an influx of an estimated 90,000 “Forty-Niners” to the region in 1849, hailing from other parts of America and even as far away as Asia. All told, an estimated 300,000 people would come to California over the next few years, as men dangerously trekked thousands of miles in hopes of making a fortune, and in a span of months, San Francisco’s population exploded, making it one of the first "mining boom" towns to truly spring up in the West. This was a pattern that would repeat itself across the West anytime a mineral discovery was made, from the Southwest and Tombstone to the Dakotas and Deadwood.  At the same time, the journey itself was fraught with risk. It’s easy for people with modern transportation to comfortably reminisce about the West, but many pioneers discovered that the traveling came with various kinds of obstacles and danger, including bitter weather, potentially deadly illnesses, and hostile Native Americans, not to mention an unforgiving landscape that famous American explorer Stephen Long deemed “unfit for human habitation.” Nineteenth century Americans were all too happy and eager for the transcontinental railroad to help speed their passage west and render overland paths obsolete.  One early trail got its start in Independence, Missouri, one of many cities marked as starting points for pioneers, settlers, or traders. From there, the trail went all the way to Santa Fe, which at that time was part of the newly independent country of Mexico. As Americans pushed steadily west along the frontier and the Mexican-American War was fought, both ends of the trail became part of the United States as well as the Santa Fe Trail that connected with other trails that continued on to Mexico.  From 1822 to 1880, the trail remained the prominent method of transportation until the railroads reached Santa Fe, ending the widespread use of a route that once connected two countries.  The Santa Fe Trail: The History and Legacy of 19th Century America’s Most Popular Overland Route to the Southwest examines how the path was forged, the people most responsible for it, and the most famous events associated with the trail’s history.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Category: History, Americas
Length: 1 hr and 59 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Robert Frost: The Life and Legacy of the Famous 20th Century American Poet

Robert Frost: The Life and Legacy of the Famous 20th Century American Poet

Summary

“I'd like to get away from earth awhile And then come back to it and begin over. May no fate willfully misunderstand me And half grant what I wish and snatch me away Not to return. Earth's the right place for love: I don't know where it's likely to go better. I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree, And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more, But dipped its top and set me down again. That would be good both going and coming back. One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.” (Robert Frost, Birches) Of all the authors and poets American schoolchildren may be exposed to over the course of their education, Robert Frost is often one of the first, and on rare occasions that he is not, it is still a near certainty that some of his most famous poems will be discussed at some point. Many will have memorized Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening before finishing grade school or will instantly recall the end of The Road Not Taken. Frost may not be as remembered or influential as other American literary giants, or even poets such as Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, but his career was historic in terms of its length and breadth of accomplishments. Over the course of several decades, Frost became the first to win four Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry, and he also earned such recognitions as a Congressional Medal of Honor before being made the poet laureate of Vermont shortly before the end of his life. The many works he put out and the various styles of prose all greatly influenced his contemporaries and future generations of writers, even as he ably described a rural America of a seemingly bygone era and managed to instill universal ideas and teachings therein. Poet Amy Lowell may have described his abilities best early on in Frost’s career, writing of him, “He tells you what he has seen exactly as he has seen it. And in the word exactly lies the half of his talent. The other half is a great and beautiful simplicity of phrase, the inheritance of a race brought up on the English Bible. Mr. Frost's work is not in the least objective. He is not writing of people whom he has met in summer vacations, who strike him as interesting, and whose life he thinks worthy of perpetuation. Mr. Frost writes as a man under the spell of a fixed idea. He is as racial as his own puppets. One of the great interests of the book is the uncompromising New Englander it reveals...Art is rooted in the soil, and only the very greatest men can be both cosmopolitan and great. Mr. Frost is as New England as Burns is Scotch, Synge Irish, or Mistral Provençal”. Robert Frost: The Life and Legacy of the Famous 20th Century American Poet looks at his remarkable life and work. You will learn about Robert Frost like never before.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Length: 1 hr and 19 mins
Available on Audible
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The Constitutional Convention of 1787

Summary

By 1787, it became evident that the Articles of Confederation were inadequate for the new nation. With these problems hampering the national government under the Articles of Confederation and the threat of default on the nation's massive war debt looming, plans began being made to fix the problems of the Articles of Confederation. Thus, that summer, a Constitutional convention was called, and each state sent delegates to Philadelphia. Among the delegates were prominent patriots and former members of the Continental Congress, including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. However, while most of the delegates came to Philadelphia virtually starting with nothing, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison arrived in Philadelphia well-prepared and well-studied. Hamilton had been a leader in calling for a Constitutional Convention to restructure the nation's government at the convention in Annapolis a year earlier. At that convention, Hamilton had been elected to draft a document describing the reasons for a stronger national government. The letter was sent to each of the 13 states, and it was instrumental in leading to the opening of the Constitutional Convention in 1787. Meanwhile, Madison had been brushing up on his political theory and actually prepared extensively for the Convention. Madison used his extensive knowledge of ancient and foreign languages to study Constitutions from across the world, which he had done this prior to helping craft the Virginia Constitution. Thus, he was already considered something of an expert on Constitutionalism. Given that background, and the fact that he had done more legwork than anybody else at the Convention, delegates looked to him as a leader on the subject. The Constitution was a decisive move away from the Articles of Confederation, which the proponents of the Constitution claimed promoted dissonance by giving the States too much autonomy. They argued that a strong federal government ought to be empowered to maintain standing armies, provide for a national militia, and be able to levy direct taxes to support its common defense and provide for economic prosperity. Certain fears about the federal government becoming omnipotent and abusing its military authority or right to tax, they argued, should be assuaged by understanding the role of legislature, or the representatives of the people, in determining the central government's authority to raise an army and levy taxes. This was a democratic experiment that had never been embarked upon before. The Constitutional Convention of 1787: The History and Legacy of the Drafting of the US Constitution looks at how America’s governing document came to be. You will learn about the Constitutional Convention like never before.

©2018 Charles River Editors (P)2018 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Category: History, Americas
Length: 1 hr and 19 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The FBI and J. Edgar Hoover: The History and Legacy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Under Its First Director

The FBI and J. Edgar Hoover: The History and Legacy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Under Its First Director

Summary

"We are a fact-gathering organization only. We don’t clear anybody. We don’t condemn anybody.” (J. Edgar Hoover)  No single figure in 20th century American history inspires such opposing opinions as J. Edgar Hoover, the iconic first Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In his time, he was arguably the most powerful non-elected figure in the federal government. Serving under eight presidents (and outliving two of them), he remains the longest-serving head of a major government office, and Hoover died as he began: a civil servant, having been appointed by the Attorney General and serving at the pleasure of the president. That said, no civil servant had ever accrued to themselves the power and public attention that Hoover did.  To many Americans in the 1930s, ‘40s, and ‘50s, Hoover was a real American hero. In a country suffering from the Great Depression and the crime wave of the early 1930s, Hoover was the symbol of law and order as his “G-Men” used the newest in scientific crime solving methods to bring gangsters like John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, and Baby Face Nelson to justice. In the 1940s, he protected a country at war from German and Japanese spies and saboteurs. In the 1950s, he led the charge against Soviet spies and domestic communists who he saw as undermining the institutions of the country. Every boy in the country wanted to be a G-Man, helping Mr. Hoover ferret out anyone who would harm the United States.  However, by the 1960s and 1970s, Hoover the hero had become Hoover the villain. Various exposes and investigations revealed a darker side to the legend, one that included serious violations of the civil liberties of individuals. Hoover’s G-Men, it was discovered, engaged in illegal break-ins and wiretaps of suspected subversives, wrote fake letters that undermined the reputations of public individuals, paid informants for information, and pushed the groups they belonged to into committing illegal acts. It was alleged that Hoover led a personal vendetta against Martin Luther King, Jr. and the entire Civil Rights Movement. Hoover, it was said, had stayed in office so long by gathering secret files of damaging information about politicians (including presidents) that shortly after his death in 1972, the Hoover legend was in tatters, replaced by a caricature of a vain, vindictive, power-mad petty dictator who was a closet cross-dresser.   As with most larger-than-life figures, the truth lies somewhere between two myths. Views of Hoover as hero and Hoover as villain contain elements of truth. The same man who took a small insignificant office of the Justice Department and transformed it into the premier national law enforcement agency in the world was the same man who approved (or at least had knowledge of) actions that violated the Constitution he was sworn to uphold. The director who ordered his agents in the 1960s to destroy the Ku Klux Klan when they were engaging in violent acts against Civil Rights protesters also surveyed the leading figure of the Civil Rights Movement. J. Edgar Hoover was in many ways a walking contradiction, but his apparent contradictions embodied the issues at the heart of 20th century America.   The FBI and J. Edgar Hoover: The History and Legacy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Under Its First Director examines the events that led to the formation of the FBI, the most important cases it was involved in, and the controversies surrounding Hoover’s methods. You will learn about the FBI under Hoover like never before.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Length: 2 hrs and 42 mins
Available on Audible
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Emperor Hirohito

Summary

“It was not clear to me that our course was unjustified. Even now I am not sure how historians will allocate the responsibility for the war.” (Emperor Hirohito) The man known to most of the world as Emperor Hirohito ruled during some of the most tumultuous years in Japanese history. When he came to the throne in 1926, he inherited control of a country which had only recently emerged as a major industrial and world power. Through the aggressive expansion and wars of the 1930s, Hirohito was at the head of one of the world’s foremost powers. Throughout the maelstrom of World War II, he remained in power, a distant and, to most outsiders, inscrutable factor in the rise of the Japanese Empire. Before and during the war, many people in America and elsewhere believed that Emperor Hirohito was at least partly responsible for both the confrontational Japanese approach to foreign affairs and for the often brutal conduct of the Japanese armed forces during the wars which followed.  As such, when the war ended, there were plenty of calls for the emperor to be indicted for war crimes along with other senior figures in Japan. However, a new feeling emerged at that time, suggesting that, in reality, Hirohito had been little more than a figurehead taken along by a tide of militarism, helpless to intervene or influence the course of events.  Modern scholarship suggests that neither of these views of Hirohito is entirely true. At the time he came to the throne, the emperor was revered as a semi-divine figure, and his influence on every level of Japanese political and military life was undeniable and considerable.  Although the emperor generally did not express his will through the issuance of direct orders, the displeasure of the emperor was something which every senior member of the military and political sphere sought strenuously to avoid. In this context, to imagine Hirohito as a helpless puppet, a purely constitutional monarch manipulated by ruthless politicians and generals, is an error. Indeed, he was always an active participant in the most important events before and during Japan’s war against the Allies.  In hindsight, it’s clear that the image of Hirohito as a powerless figurehead emerged as part of a legend deliberately created by America and its allies, following the war to help maintain a peaceful occupation of Japan. With the dawn of the Cold War, Japan was needed as an ally, allowing it to serve as a potential bulwark against Soviet expansion in Southeast Asia. Rebuilding Japan into a strong and stable power became a priority, and for this, Hirohito was needed to provide continuity and a form of rule to which the Japanese people were accustomed. Thus, Hirohito went on to rule throughout the astonishing Japanese economic recovery in the 1950s and 1960s, all the way until his death in 1989.  The new constitution imposed by America after the war was framed around the monarchy, and to justify keeping Hirohito in power, it was necessary to demonstrate that he had not been personally culpable for Japanese aggression or military brutality. This was so successful that for many years, few historians disputed this version of history. It was only relatively recently that new works have concluded that the personality and influence of the Japanese emperor were far greater than this post-war invention suggested.  Today, most modern historians agree that Hirohito was neither a helpless dupe nor an aggressive hawk who drove Japan into war - his role was more complex, and his personality played a far more significant role than either of these simplified views would suggest.  This book looks at the role of the enigmatic leader in the rise, fall and rebirth of modern Japan.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Category: History, Military
Length: 2 hrs and 13 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Maccabean Revolt

The Maccabean Revolt

Summary

In 722 BCE, the Neo-Assyrian Empire destroyed the kingdom of Israel, and after a siege of three years, the city of Samaria fell to the troops of Sargon II. As was a common practice in the ancient world, the victor uprooted the inhabitants and forced them into exile, scattering the refugees throughout Asia Minor and possibly Africa to destroy them as a cohesive group and prevent them from possibly revolting. That exile brought about the end of the 10 lost tribes of Israel. Only the much smaller and less important kingdom of Judah, nestled in the arid lands of the south, survived the campaign of the king of Assyria in 701 BCE, which the Bible attributed to the intervention of angels. Modern historians believe that the failure of an army as powerful as Sennacherib's to finish the job was due to a plague or a disease spreading among the ranks and forcing them to withdraw. However it happened, for a few more decades, the kingdom of Judah survived, at the southern tip of the ancient Promised Land, along the western shore of the Dead Sea. It was subjected first to the empire that had tried to destroy it, and then to the Neo-Babylonians. Finally, King Nebuchadnezzar II razed Jerusalem.  Jerusalem was uninhabited for much of the 6th century BCE. This period is known as the exile to Babylon, and Bible scholars believe that it was during those years that the Jewish people came into contact with several stories and legends that would later be incorporated into their sacred writings. A generation later, Achaemenid Persian Emperor Cyrus the Great allowed the Jews who so wished to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and reestablish their nation.  The reborn country, settled in the province called Yehud Medinata, survived semi-independently, although to a lesser extent than before, until it was again absorbed by the Greek kingdoms that arose after the conquests of Alexander the Great. After that, the Jews remained under the rule of the Hellenistic Seleucids, who ruled their Near Eastern kingdom from Mesopotamia, and occasionally under the rule of the Ptolemies, who reigned from Alexandria, Egypt.  For nearly two centuries, the Jews and Greeks of the region were able to live in relative peace. The Seleucid rulers allowed the Jews to practice their religion unmolested, and many of the Jews adopted aspects of Hellenism in order to ingratiate themselves with the rulers. Eventually, though, a number of factors led to a Jewish revolt against Seleucid rule that started in 167 BCE and came to be known as the Maccabean Revolt.  The uprising came about as the result of a growing sense of Jewish identity and a sort of proto-nationalism that viewed the Seleucids as enemy occupiers of the Holy Land. On the other side, the Seleucid King Antiochus IV (r. 175-164 BCE) viewed the Jews with suspicion due to their often insular nature and unwillingness to accept Hellenism. These attitudes collided, leading to the Maccabean Revolt.  The Maccabean Revolt never clearly ended, so historians continue to debate the timeline, but as it dragged on for some time, it evolved from an independence movement into a war of Jewish conquest. Judea’s sovereignty and temple worship were restored in Jerusalem, but as their luck would have it, the Jewish nation wouldn’t last long due to the rise of Rome. Nevertheless, the revolt had permanent effects on Jewish culture and identity, the Bible, the celebration of Hanukkah, and the geopolitical situation in the ancient Near East.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Length: 1 hr and 36 mins
Available on Audible