15th Century

The Defenestrations of Prague

“Defenestrate” just means “to throw out of a window.” And apart from sounding like the punch line to a joke about Daleks … there has been a surprising amount of defenestration in Czech history. And almost all of it has been connected religious wars.

The Donation of Constantine

In the 8th century, a document was written that had a lasting impact on the course of medieval Europe. The Donation of Constantine granted a large amount of Roman Empire land and power to Pope Sylvester I and his successors. It was a fake.

Charles VI of France: The Mad King

France’s mad king Charles VI reigned in the middle of the Hundred Years War between England and France. While his early reign hinted at greatness, things soon spiraled downward.

Copernicus

While he's known primarily as the astronomer who promoted the idea of a heliocentric solar system, Copernicus was also a master mathematician and a doctor. He worked for the church his entire life, and wrote a manuscript on devaluation of currency.

Great Zimbabwe

Great Zimbabwe was a massive stone city in southeastern Africa that was a thriving trade center from the 11th to 15th centuries. But when Europeans first learned of it in the 16th century, they were certain it wasn't African at all.

Zheng He and the Treasure Ships

Zheng He led expeditionary voyages from China in the 15th century. While there are many tall tales about his accomplishments, his actual life was pretty spectacular without them.

A Brief History of the Pietà

While Michelangelo's sculpture of Mary holding the deceased body of Christ is the most famous depiction of that moment in art, that scene has been the focus of many works. And once, the famous version took a trip across the ocean.

The Expulsion of the Jews From Spain

In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue ... and Ferdinand, king of Aragon, and Isabella, queen of Castile expelled the Jewish population from Spain.

King Eric XIV of Sweden

A handsome playboy who once courted Queen Elizabeth I, Eric started his time as king with focus and ambition. But his paranoia led him to alienate the aristocracy, fall into violent rages and stab a captive noble to death. Read the show notes here.

The Voynich Manuscript

The Voynich manuscript is named after Wilfrid Voynich, who acquired it in 1912 from a Jesuit library. There are many theories as to what this book from the 1400s contains, but no one knows whether it's a cypher text, a lost language or gibberish.