Revisionist History (podcast)

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Revisionist history
Revisionist History logo.jpg
Hosted byMalcolm Gladwell
Length30-40 mins
No. of seasons3
Original releaseJun 16, 2016 – present
ProviderPanoply Media

Revisionist History is a podcast by Malcolm Gladwell produced through Panoply Media. It began in 2016, and has aired 3 10-episode seasons.

Gladwell, who was already a successful author and essayist, was convinced to create a podcast by his friend Jacob Weisberg, editor-in-chief of the Slate Group, which also includes the podcast network Panoply Media.

Each episode begins with an inquiry about a person, event, or idea, and proceeds to question the received wisdom about the subject.

Season 1 (2016)[edit]

No. in
TitleOriginal air date
1"The Lady Vanishes"June 16, 2016 (2016-06-16)
Central Topic: The Roll Call, an 1874 oil-on-canvas painting by Elizabeth Thompson
Themes Explored: How success by a member of a minority group does not alleviate discrimination, but perpetuates it.
2"Saigon, 1965"June 23, 2016 (2016-06-23)
Central Topic: Leon Gouré, Konrad Kellen and the RAND Corporation recommendations regarding the Vietnam War
Themes Explored: How personal bias can lead to people drawing different conclusions from the same data.
3"The Big Man Can't Shoot"June 30, 2016 (2016-06-30)
Central Topic: Wilt Chamberlain, Rick Barry and the underhand free throw
Themes Explored: Why smart people sometimes refuse to accept the best ideas.
4"Carlos Doesn’t Remember"July 7, 2016 (2016-07-07)
Central Topic: Meritocracy in American schools
Themes Explored: How America is making use of its human capital.
5"Food Fight"July 14, 2016 (2016-07-14)
Central Topic: Bowdoin College, Vassar College and the budgetary choices of colleges
Themes Explored: How colleges get rewarded for distorting the educational system.
6"My Little Hundred Million"July 21, 2016 (2016-07-21)
Central Topic: The record-breaking Hank Rowan donation to Glassboro State University
Themes Explored: The ideologies behind educational philanthropy.
7"Hallelujah"July 28, 2016 (2016-07-28)
Central Topic: Deportee by Elvis Costello and Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso, and Leonard Cohen
Themes Explored: The role of time and repetition in the creation of works of genius.
8"Blame Game"August 4, 2016 (2016-08-04)
Central Topic: The 2009–11 Toyota vehicle recalls
Themes Explored: Human perception and misconception, our fraught relationship to technology, media dishonesty.
9"Generous Orthodoxy"August 11, 2016 (2016-08-11)
Central Topic: Chester Wenger, the Mennonite minister who confronted his own church
Themes Explored: Effective ways of dissent.
10"The Satire Paradox"August 18, 2016 (2016-08-18)
Central Topic: Harry Enfield and his creation of the Loadsamoney character
Themes Explored: How satire with the aim of social protest can backfire.

Season 2 (2017)[edit]

No. in
TitleOriginal air date
1"A Good Walk Spoiled"June 14, 2017 (2017-06-14)
Central Topic: Golf and golf clubs
Themes Explored: Property taxes, real estate, CEO productivity.
2"The Road To Damascus"June 21, 2017 (2017-06-21)
Central Topic:The CIA's use of former terrorists as informants
Themes Explored: Forgiveness and second chances.
3"Miss Buchanan's Period Of Adjustment"June 28, 2017 (2017-06-28)
Central Topic: Brown v. Board of Education
Themes Explored: The persistent legacy of racism in American schools.
4"The Foot Soldier of Birmingham"July 5, 2017 (2017-07-05)
Central Topic: A sculpture, The Foot Soldier, by Ronald McDowell as based on a photograph by Bill Hudson
Themes Explored: Artistic license, sanitizing of history.
5"The Prime Minister and the Prof"July 12, 2017 (2017-07-12)
Central Topic: The friendship between Winston Churchill and Lord Cherwell
Themes Explored: The Bengal Famine.
6"The King of Tears"July 19, 2017 (2017-07-19)
Central Topic: Country Music as illustrated by an interview with prolific song writer Bobby Braddock
Themes Explored: Sad songs as compared to general levity of the rock and roll genre.
7"State v Johnson"July 26, 2017 (2017-07-26)
Central Topic: Black Americans and the US justice system
Themes Explored: Institutional racism, power dynamics.
8"Mr. Hollowell Didn’t Like That"August 2, 2017 (2017-08-02)
Central Topic: Black Americans and the US justice system via an extended interview with Vernon Jordan about his work with Donald L. Hollowell
Themes Explored: Institutional racism, power dynamics.
9"McDonald’s Broke My Heart"August 9, 2017 (2017-08-09)
Central Topic: McDonald's decision to stop frying its french fries in beef tallow
Themes Explored: The link between saturated fats and heart disease, the power of individual persistence.
10"The Basement Tapes"August 16, 2017 (2017-08-16)
Central Topic: Dr. Ivan Frantz's "Minnesota Coronary Experiment" on the effects of vegetable oil in cholesterol reduction and on general health
Themes Explored: Medical effects of animal fats/vegetable and corn oil, Father and Son relationships

Season 3 (2018)[edit]

No. in
TitleOriginal air date
1"Divide and Conquer"May 17, 2018 (2018-05-17)
Central Topic: The complete, unabridged history of the world’s most controversial semicolon.
Themes Explored: The impact of grammar in interpretation of law, law reviews by Michael Stokes Paulsen
2"Burden of Proof"May 24, 2018 (2018-05-24)
Central Topic: Owen Thomas's story.
Themes Explored: Why we should sometimes act before having concrete proof, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy
3"A Polite Word for Liar (Memory Part 1)"May 31, 2018 (2018-05-31)
Central Topic: Harmonica player Larry Adler's recollections of his eventful life.
Themes Explored: The unreliable nature of memory.
4"Free Brian Williams (Memory Part 2)"June 7, 2018 (2018-06-07)
Central Topic: TV Anchor Brian Williams's fall from grace after inaccuracies appear in some of his reporting reminiscences.
Themes Explored: The unreliable nature of memory.
5"General Chapman's Last Stand"June 14, 2018 (2018-06-14)
Central Topic: The impact of General Leonard Fielding Chapman Jr. in securing the borders of the United States.
Themes Explored: American Immigration.
6"The Hug Heard Around The World"June 21, 2018 (2018-06-21)
Central Topic: Sammy Davis Jr. and his relationship with Richard Nixon.
Themes Explored: Race
7"Malcolm Gladwell's 12 Rules for Life"June 28, 2018 (2018-06-28)
Central Topic: The mathematics of 'pulling the goalie' in hockey and its application in life.
Themes Explored: Self-help manuals, disagreeableness
8"The Imaginary Crimes of Margit Hamosh (Scientific Fraud Part 1)"July 5, 2018 (2018-07-05)
Central Topic: Fear epidemics and suspected scientific fraud in the work of Professor of Medicine Margit Hamosh.
Themes Explored: Mass sociogenic illnesses, the policing of scientific research by the Office of Scientific Integrity.
9"Strong Verbs, Short Sentences (Scientific Fraud Part 2)"July 12, 2018 (2018-07-12)
Central Topic: The battle between Bernadine Healy, director of the National Institutes of Health, and congressman John Dingell.
Themes Explored: The policing of scientific research by the Office of Scientific Integrity.
10"Analysis, Parapraxis, Elvis"July 19, 2018 (2018-07-19)
Central Topic: Statistical analysis of lyrical lapses in Elvis' performances and what they tell us about his state of mind.
Themes Explored: Parapraxis (Freudian Slip), Elvis Presley, the psychology of performing.


Shortly after launching in June 2016, Revisionist History hit number one in the US on Apple's iTunes most downloaded podcasts, and took the number two spot in the UK.

Further reading[edit]

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