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New Book ‘Off the Edge of the Map’ Has Launched!

March 20, 2014

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My new book on history’s greatest travelers and explorers has launched! You can get it by clicking here. 

Synopsis:

From the #1 bestselling author of History’s Greatest Generals comes an exciting new paperback book on the greatest explorers in history and how their discoveries shaped the modern world

Whether it is Rabban Bar Sauma, the 13th-century Chinese monk commissioned by the Mongols to travel West form a military alliance against the Islam; Marco Polo, who opened a window to the East for Europe; or Captain James Cook, whose maritime voyages of discovery created the global economy of the 21st century, each of these explorers had an indelible impact on the modern world.

This book will look at the 11 greatest explorers in history. Some travelled for religious piety, such as Ibn Battuta, who travelled from North Africa to Indonesia in the 1300s, visiting every Islamic pilgrimage site between — and becoming counselor to over 30 heads of state. Others travelled for profit, such as Ferdinand Magellan, who wanted to consolidate Spain’s holdings on the spice trade. Still others travelled for discovery, such as Ernest Shackleton, who led two dozen men to the bottom of the world in an attempt to cross Antarctica on foot.

Whatever their reason for discovery, these explorers still inspire us today to push the limits of human achievement — and discover something about ourselves in the process.

Get the book at Amazon by clicking here. 

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New Book “Lost Civilizations” Is Out — Only $0.99 for a Limited Time!

December 5, 2013

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My new book “Lost Civilizations: 10 Societies that disappeared without a trace” is out today. You can get it from Amazon.com for a limited time for only $0.99!

Click here to get a copy.

Description: From the #1 bestselling author of History’s Greatest Generals comes an exciting new book on the greatest societies in history that vanished without a trace, and why their disappearance still haunts us today.

Whether it is Plato’s lost city of Atlantis, a technological advanced utopia that sank into the ocean “in a single day and night of misfortune”; the colony of Roanoke, whose early American settlers were swallowed up in the wild forest lands of the unexplored continent, or the Ancient American Explorers, who managed to arrive to the New World 2,000 years before Columbus, the disappearance of these societies is as cryptic as it is implausible.

This book will look at cultures of the 10 greatest lost civilizations in history. Some were millenia ahead their neighbors, such as the Indus Valley Civilization, which had better city planning in 3,000 B.C. than any European capital in the 18th century. Others left behind baffling mysteries, such as the Anasazi, whose cliff-dwelling houses were so inaccessible that every member of society would have to be an expert-level rock climber.

It will also at explanations as to how massive societies that lasted for centuries can disappear without a trace. Did the builders of the pyramids handy craftsmen whose method of transporting massive stones are still unexplainable simply disappear or were they part of an advanced alien race, as conspiracy theorists assert? Was the Kingdom of Aksum really the keeper of the Ark of the Covenant, and did this lead to their downfall?

Whatever the nature of their disappearance, these lost civilizations offer many lessons for us today — even the greatest of societies can disappear, and that includes us.

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HFM 046 | Lost Civilizations, Part 1: Atlantis: Did the Greatest Society that Ever Existed Ever Exist?

December 5, 2013

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Is there any good reason to believe that an advanced society that existed 11,000 years ago really exist, or do we have to take Plato’s word for it? Find out today in this episode.

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TRANSCRIPT

Click here to download the transcript to Episode 46 (PDF)

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5 Best Christmas Gifts for History Buffs

November 25, 2013

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Do you worry that this Christmas, your family will give you a membership to the Summer Sausage of the Month Club? (yes, that actually exists). Have no fear. If you happen to be a history buff, I have compiled a list of the five best Christmas gifts that you can pass on to your friends or family. If you are shopping for a history buff, then this list will make your life much easier. They will not be disappointed.

I have arranged these in the order from the cheapest to most expensive, depending on how extravagant you want to be.

1) History’s Most Insane Rulers – Audible Audio Edition. OK, OK, I had to include one of my own products on this list, and I promise you that this will be the only one. I only included it because it is the best-selling product of mine currently available. The audio version is a 2-hour recording narrated by professional voice actor Kevin Pierce. Learn about the eccentric reigns of Emperor Caligula, Kim Jong-Il, and 8 other megalomaniacs while in your car or at the gym!

Retail: $6.95 (only $4.99 if you buy the book and the Audio Edition together)

2)  John Adams HBO miniseries on DVD. One of my favorite series of all time. The seven-part miniseries looks at the life of our first vice president, from the Boston Massacre through the American Revolution, up to his presidency and death on the same day as Thomas Jefferson on July 4, 1826. This 8-hour-long box set is one of those rare works of historical study that doesn’t try to shoehorn in contemporary events into the past. Instead it lets history speak for itself. And what a fascinating history it is. Brilliantly acted and produced.

Retail: $16.96

3) Geno 2.0 – Genographic Project Participation and DNA Ancestry Kit. Did your ancestors join the march with Alexander the Great? Are you a direct descendant of Charlemagne or William the Conqueror? While this DNA test unfortunately won’t give you that level of precision, it will show you the migration patterns of your ancestors and your ethnic breakdown. It provides your ancestral information by accessing the database filed with the genetic information of the half million people that have participated in National Geographic’s Genographic Project. You will also learn what percentage of your genome is affiliated with specific regions of the world. Warning: not recommended if you pride yourself on being a “pure-breed” of any particular race, as you are likely in for a nasty shock!

Retail: $159.95

4) “The Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient World.” This course – available courtesy of the Great Courses – consists of 48 full-length lectures and is the mother of all history lessons. Professor Robert Garland of Colgate University narrates daily life for a dazzling cast of characters, from a Greek soldier marching on the front row of a phalanx to a Celtic monk running away with the Book of Kells during a Viking invasion. Available in video or audio download, or by DVD or CD.

Retail: $249.95 (Audio Download)

Screen Shot 2013-11-25 at 9.41.44 AM5) Men’s Skeepskin B-3 Bomber JacketYou may not know it, but these jackets played a major role in helping the Allies win World War II. This was the military-issued cold-weather flight jacket in 1934, and it kept pilots warm in their long flights over Europe in unpressurized cabins at altitudes of 30,000 feet, where temps dropped as low as 60 below zero. Without them, many a dogfight could have been lost to Nazi pilots or an Allied bombing run failed. Made from Napa leather, resistant to the most extreme cold weather. Imagine you are dropping the 101st Airborne Division over enemy lines right before D-Day, but in the coolest of style.

Retail: $595.

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HFM 038 | Love in Ancient Egypt – How to Win the Heart of a Pharoah or Priestess of Isis in a Few Stanzas, with Dominic Perry from Egyptian History Podcast

October 21, 2013

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What was love like in Ancient Egypt? Did a society that worshipped the sun and cats approach amor in the same way that we do today? We will find out all that and more with our special guest Dominic Perry from the Egyptian History Podcast.

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TRANSCRIPT

Click here to download the transcript for Episode 38 (PDF)

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HFM 034 | Alexander the Great, Part 2: How He Conquered Everything Between Macedonia and India

September 23, 2013

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How did Alexander the Great practically conquer the entire known world? By six easy steps. If you can do them, then maybe the sobriquet “Great” is yours for the taking!

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TRANSCRIPT

Click here to download the transcript to Episode 34 (PDF)

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HFM 033 | Alexander the Great, Part 1: Myths about Alexander’s Life

September 16, 2013

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It’s almost impossible to separate Alexander the man from Alexander the myth, but we’ll give it a try. Was he really tutored by Aristotle and cut a knot in half with his sword? Yes. Did he impregnate 300 Amazonian woman to create a master race? Hopefully not.

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TRANSCRIPT

Click here to download the transcript to Episode 33 (PDF)

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My October-November Blog Tour for “The Most Powerful Women in the Middle Ages” Has Been Scheduled!

September 13, 2013

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The Most Powerful Women in the Middle Ages: Queens, Saints, and

Viking Slayers, From Empress Theodora to Elizabeth of Tudor

by Michael & Melissa Rank

About The Authors

Melissa Rank writes extensively on intercultural communication and health on her blog http://hungaryforturkey.wordpress.com. An avid traveler, she has taught English as a Second Language in many countries, including Indonesia, Turkey, Hungary and Rwanda.

She is currently enjoying taking care of her young daughter and navigating the terrain of motherhood, and unlike many of the women in this book, has no plans of taking over the country or the world any time soon.

 

Michael Rank is a doctoral candidate in Middle East history. He has studied profilepicamazonTurkish, Arabic, Persian, Armenian, and French but can still pull out a backwater Midwestern accent if need be. He also worked as a journalist in Istanbul for nearly a decade and reported on religion and human rights.

He does his best to help out Melissa raise their daughter, whom he secretly hopes can one day be in a book like this. But he would like her to seize power without having to go through all those marriages to surly men, of course. Michael is also the author of the #1 Amazon best-seller “From Muhammed to Burj Khalifa: A Crash Course in 2,000 Years of Middle East History,” and “History’s Worst Dictators: A Short Guide to the Most Brutal Leaders, From Emperor Nero to Ivan the Terrible.”

Website | Twitter | Amazon

 
 

About The Book

Genre: History | Women’s Studies

Publisher: Five Minute Books

Release Date: August 13, 2013

Buy: Amazon

The idea of a powerful woman in the Middle Ages seems like an oxymoron. Females in this time are imagined to be damsels in distress, trapped in a high tower, and waiting for knights to rescue them, all while wearing traffic-cones for a hat. After rescue, their lives improved little. Their career choices were to be a docile queen, housewife, or be burned at the stake for witchcraft.

But what if this image of medieval women is a complete fiction?

It turns out that it is. Powerful female rulers fill the Middle Ages. Anglo-Saxon queen Aethelflaed personally led armies into direct combat with Vikings in the 900s and saved England from foreign invasion. Byzantine Empress Theodora kept the empire from falling apart during the Nika Revolts and stopped her husband Justinian from fleeing Constantinople. Catherine of Siena almost single-handedly restored the papacy to Rome in the 1300s and navigated the brutal and male-dominated world of Italian politics. Joan of Arc completely reversed the fortunes of France in the Hundred Years War and commanded assaults on English fortresses despite being an illiterate 17-year-old peasant.

This book will look at the lives of the ten most powerful women in the Middle Ages. Whether it is the famed scholar Anna Komnene, who wrote the first narrative history, or Ottoman Queen Mother Kösem Sultan, who ruled the Islamic empire through three of her sons – all these women held extraordinary levels of power at a time when women were thought to not have any.

It will explore how they managed to ascend the throne, what made their accomplishments so notable, and the impact they had on their respective societies after their deaths. It will also describe the historical background of these women, their cultures, and what about it helped or hindered their rise.

Their stories still echo down to today. They are a testimony to the resiliency of individuals to accomplish extraordinary things, even if society puts on them enormous constraints.


Excerpts

part 2 excerpt

Joan of Arc (1412-1431): The Maiden of Orléans and History’s Most Lethal ‘Heretic’

The character of Joan of Arc is unique. It can be measured by the standards of all times without misgiving or apprehension as to the result. Judged by any of them, judged by all of them, it is still flawless, it is still ideally perfect; it still occupies the loftiest place possible to human attainment, a loftier one than has been reached by any other mere mortal.” And so Mark Twain described the character of the legendary French commander in 1908 as the bravest soul in human history.

But is it true? More specifically, are the tales of her heroic deeds in fact tales, or the remarkable factual accounts of a hero remembered to this day? Much of Joan of Arc’s story is so fantastic that it approaches the outer limits of plausibility. A 17-year-old French peasant marches up to the king and demands that she be given the right to command his forces. He agrees, despite her having no education or military experience. She cuts her hair short and wears armor to appear as a man to her enemies on the battlefield.

Against all odds, she leads the army in a string of victories against the English, among the most elite fighting forces in the world. And this is an army composed of French soldiers, no less. These victories follow decades of French defeat in the Hundred Years War in which France is on the brink of annihilation. She turns the momentum of the war completely around and pushes the English off the continent. Joan is then captured and executed under trumped-up charges of witchcraft. Decades later she is declared innocent by a papal court, and centuries later canonized to become one of France’s five patron saints.

Separating fact and myth in her life is exceptionally difficult, but we have the benefit of a multitude of first-hand sources and testimonies about her life. Joan represented herself when the English put her on trial, and the entire court record survives. The Catholic Church opened a retrial years after her death to clear her of charges of heresy and interviewed over 100 of her personal acquaintances.

According to Stephen Richey’s summary of historical opinion about Joan, the interviews reveal a farm girl with an innate genius for politics and military strategy. She condensed years of learning into a matter of weeks and dealt as an equal with royalty, clerics, and battlefield commanders. As Mozart was able to intuit the workings of a piano and compose symphonies as a child, or Einstein could extrapolate relativity and quantum physics from general mathematics, Joan knew how to place artillery on the chessboard of the battlefield, lead cavalry charges at the weakest point in the enemy lines, storm a fortress, and conduct herself in military matters with as much clear-sightedness as a captain with 30 years’ experience. She also time and time again embarrassed any male commander who doubted her abilities.

Perhaps more important than her tactical brilliance, however, was her phenomenal force of will. Joan was on the front rank of every assault against the French that she ordered to be launched. Her squire Jean D’Aulon recounted that in a battle fought near the fort the Augustins, the French were withdrawing back to Orléans when the English launched a surprise attack at the rear of their column. Joan immediately arrived on the scene with the mercenary captain La Hire.

Armed with lances, the two leveled their lances and charged headlong at the enemy. They struck the first blows. The French knights and foot soldiers, emboldened by her bravery, turned and swept the English from the field. In other battles Joan was shot by enemy arrows but always returned to the battlefield in a few hours, if not immediately. At the Tourelles, Joan, with her shining armor and banner, was hit with a projectile and evacuated from the field.

The French were disheartened and the English emboldened. The tide turned once again when she returned a short time later with her wound staunched and banner raised in her good arm. Joan shouted for one more effort; the English trembled with fear while the French regained their courage for a final attack.


 
 
 
 
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HFM 031 | The Library of Alexandria and its Destruction

September 2, 2013

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The Great Library of Alexandria is believed to have housed many, if not most, of the books in the ancient world. All of the plays of Sophocles were held there, over 100, and we only have 7 that survive today. What did we lose by its destruction, and who burned it down?

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TRANSCRIPT

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HFM 030 | The Most Powerful Women in the Middle Ages, Part 3: Queen Elizabeth of Tudor

August 26, 2013

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Queen Elizabeth of Tudor is considered the greatest queen of England. Learn how she defeated the Armada, funded Shakespeare, and forged an English identity in this podcast.

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TRANSCRIPT

Click here to download a transcript to Episode 30 (PDF)

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