May 22 2017128 Quest For Thundercows

In 1910 the United States almost imported hippos as a meat animal. Had it done so, the US would have imported the single most dangerous large land animal on Earth and treated it like a cow. HR2361 also known as the American Hippo Bill, would have allocated $250,000 for the importation of hippos and other animals to the US. The bill had the support of former president Theodore Roosevelt, and even the New York Times favored importing hippos, calling it “lake cow bacon.”

May 15 2017127 Bummer and Lazarus, the San Francisco Superdogs

Bummer and Lazarus were a pair of stray dogs beloved of San Francisco in the 1860s. The two dogs were known for their exceptional rat-catching ability, and were a favorite topic of newspapers of the day. Nowadays the two dogs are often associated with Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, but Bummer and Lazarus belonged to no one. The dogs were their own, and are, very probably, the most beloved strays of all time.

May 08 2017126 Jenni L. Walsh on Becoming Bonnie

Jenni L. Walsh is the author of Becoming Bonnie, a historical fiction novel about how Bonnie met Clyde, and what happened afterward. We talked about the real history of the outlaws, the 1967 movie, and what it’s like to craft actual events into a fictional narrative.

May 03 2017125 Italian Fascism Part Fourteen, The Fall of Fascism

After the Kingdom of Italy surrendered to the Allies in 1943, Mussolini was a prisoner. But, during a German invasion of Northern Italy, he was sprung from his cell by German commandos and put in charge of the Italian Social Republic, a Nazi puppet state. Mussolini’s new assignment would prove to be short-lived. In less than two years the former dictator would be executed, and his body ripped apart by an angry mob.

Apr 24 2017124 Italian Fascism Part Thirteen, Italy in WWII

Italy did not perform well in WWII. The Italian economy was not able to support an effective industrial war machine, and Italy saw defeat in Greece, Ethiopia, and in North Africa. In 1943 Allied forces invaded Sicily, and with the noose gradually tightening, the High Council of Fascism voted Mussolini out of power.

Apr 10 2017123 Italian Fascism Part Twelve, Eve of Destruction

Italy was not well-positioned going into World War II. The Italian economy was still largely agricultural, and its industrial output was small compared with every other European great power. Also, Mussolini felt himself more and more unable to control Hitler. At the 1938 Munich conference Mussolini brokered a deal between Nazi Germany and the other European powers that gave Hitler the Sudetenland in return for not invading Czechoslovakia. A few months later, Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia anyway. Mussolini’s deal was kaput, and the Italian dictator was revealed to be powerless over Hitler.

Despite being a regime birthed in martial rhetoric and symbolism, fascist Italy was in no shape, economically or diplomatically at the start of World War II. Instead of leaping into the conflict alongside it’s ally, Germany, Italy wouldn’t join the war until 1940.

Apr 03 2017122 Italian Fascism Part Eleven, Race and Racism in Mussolini’s Italy

Italy’s alliance with Nazi Germany certainly influenced the adoption of racist and anti-Semitic policies by Mussolini’s government. In a 1938 document called the Manifesto of Race, the fascist regime declared Italians to be Aryans, and that Jews and other minorities would be expelled from civil life. However, even prior to the alliance with Germany fascist Italy was quite capable of being racist on its own. Laws in conquered Ethiopia banned marriages between blacks and whites, and the best available land in Ethiopia was redistributed to Italian immigrants. In the end, Italy became a willing partner in spreading Nazi racism, and thousands of Italian Jews would eventually die in the Holocaust.

Mar 27 2017121 Italian Fascism Part Ten, Mussolini and Hitler

Hitler and Mussolini never had a great relationship. The German dictator modeled his career on the Italian fascist, imitating Mussolini’s speech and mannerisms, and unsuccessfully tried to replicate the March on Rome with the Beerhall Putsch. Mussolini, for his part, didn’t pay Hitler much mind until 1930, much to the Furher’s chagrin. When the men first met in 1934 they got into a horrible argument about the fate of Austria, and Hitler later sent some material aide to Ethiopia during Italy’s conquest. However, the to fascists would eventually find themselves isolated from Europe’s liberal democracies, and by 1938 it was almost as if they were natural allies.

Mar 20 2017120 Italian Fascism Part Nine, War With Ethiopia

It wasn’t enough for fascist Italy to adopt the rhetoric and imagery of ancient Rome, it also hoped to have a present-day empire. To do that Mussolini launched an invasion of a country that had defeated Italy in 1896: Ethiopia. To win this time, Italy would not merely invade with ground troops, like it had the last time. Instead, it would rain down chemical death upon the African kingdom, and then declare it an imperial possession.