Revisionist History (podcast)

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

Revisionist history
Revisionist History logo.jpg
Hosted byMalcolm Gladwell
Length30–40 mins
No. of seasons6
No. of episodes51 (as of September 2020)
Original releaseJune 16, 2016 (2016-06-16) – present
ProviderCadence 13

Gladwell, who was already a successful author and essayist, was convinced to create a podcast by his friend Jacob Weisberg, then editor-in-chief of Slate Group, which includes the podcast network Panoply Media. Seasons 1 to 3 of Revisionist History were produced by Panoply Media. In September 2018, Gladwell announced he was co-founding a podcast company (later named Pushkin Industries) with Weisberg, which produced seasons 4 and 5 of the series. Season 6, also produced by Pushkin Industries, launched on June 24, 2021 (2021-06-24).[1]

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's 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; the relationship between a security service and a free press
Themes Explored: Forgiveness and second chances; transparency vs. security.
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; the 1943 Bengal famine
Themes Explored: How friendships affect people in power.
6"The King of Tears"July 19, 2017 (2017-07-19)
Central Topic: Country Music as illustrated by an interview with prolific songwriter Bobby Braddock
Themes Explored: Sad country 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: The story of college football player Owen Thomas and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy
Themes Explored: Why we should sometimes act before having concrete proof.
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 policy; whether good fences make good neighbors.
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 and tokenism, especially in public figures.
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: Suspected scientific fraud in the work of Professor of Medicine Margit Hamosh, and the policing of scientific research by the Office of Scientific Integrity
Themes Explored: Mass sociogenic illnesses, also known as fear epidemics.
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; fear epidemics.
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.

Season 4 (2019)Edit

No. in
TitleOriginal air date
1"Puzzle Rush (Education Part 1)"June 20, 2019 (2019-06-20)
Central Topic: The LSAT and its ability to judge potential law students
Themes Explored: How to judge human ability, standardized tests.
2"The Tortoise and the Hare (Education Part 2)"June 27, 2019 (2019-06-27)
Central Topic: Malcolm Gladwell’s Grand Unified Theory for fixing American Higher Education
Themes Explored: Meritocracy, standardized tests, the Tortoise and the Hare.
3"Tempest in a Teacup"July 4, 2019 (2019-07-04)
Central Topic: The Boston Tea Party’s actual relationship to the American Revolution
Themes Explored: Rhetoric vs. reality in national history, crime and its political influence.
4"Good Old Boys"July 11, 2019 (2019-07-11)
Central Topic: Randy Newman's album Good Old Boys, and its message about race and civil rights in America
Themes Explored: The value of discourse with people we disagree with; how conflict inspires creativity.
5"The Standard Case (Casuistry part 1)"July 18, 2019 (2019-07-18)
Central Topic: Andy Pettitte’s baseball career and maritime fines, examined using Jesuit problem-solving (casuistry)
Themes Explored: How we deal with novel problems.
6"Dr. Rock's Taxonomy (Casuistry part 2)"July 25, 2019 (2019-07-25)
Central Topic: Dr. John Rock, his invention of the birth control pill, and his Catholic views on birth control
Themes Explored: How we deal with novel problems, Casuist rationalizations.
7"Descend into the Particular (Casuistry part 3)"August 1, 2019 (2019-08-01)
Central Topic: The Jesuitical idea of “disordered attachments”, applied to the shootings of Michael Brown, Angel Navarro, and other police-involved shootings in the United States
Themes Explored: How we deal with novel problems; the importance of narratives.
8"In a Metal Mood"August 8, 2019 (2019-08-08)
Central Topic: Elvis Presley’s cultural appropriation of black music, compared to Pat Boone's album In a Metal Mood; Taco Bell and its relationship to Mexican food
Themes Explored: The difference between cultural appropriation and inspired innovation.
9"Chutzpah vs. Chutzpah"August 15, 2019 (2019-08-15)
Central Topic: The phenomenon of chutzpah, and its definitions in America and Israel. Case studies included.
Themes Explored: Audacity vs. shamelessness, as defined by chutzpah.
10"The Obscure Virus Club"August 22, 2019 (2019-08-22)
Central Topic: The scientists, particularly Howard Martin Temin, who discovered rous sarcoma virus and other retroviruses, the discovery of HIV/AIDS as a retrovirus, and the effect of those discoveries on the central dogma of molecular biology
Themes Explored: The power of persistence, the effect of dogma on scientific progress.
N/A"The Queen of Cuba"August 29, 2019 (2019-08-29)
Central Topic: How espionage plays off of human nature, common misconceptions about deception through a case study of Ana Montes and the 1996 Hermanos al Rescate incident; Tim Levine's studies of deception, and the Milgram experiment
Themes Explored: How human nature influences our interactions with strangers, truth-default theory, and the nature of deception.
Note: This episode is a chapter from the audiobook version of Malcolm Gladwell's 2019 book Talking to Strangers.

Season 5 (2020)Edit

No. in
TitleOriginal air date
1"Dragon Psychology 101"June 18, 2020 (2020-06-18)
Central Topic: The financial, curation, and storage policies of the Met and other art museums
Themes Explored: Hoarding; attachment, relationships, and memory through objects.
2"Hedwig's Lost Van Gogh"June 25, 2020 (2020-06-25)
Central Topic: Art Museums, Part 2: Van Gogh's "Vase with Carnations" and other MacGuffins
Themes Explored: The real value of the things we treasure; the hoarding habit in the curation of museum collections.
3"The Powerball Revolution"July 2, 2020 (2020-07-02)
Central Topic: Adam Cronkrite's idea of democratic lotteries, theories about predictions
Themes Explored: Elections, lotteries, and our ability to predict effective traits for performing vs. governing.
4"The Bomber Mafia (Curtis LeMay, part 1)"July 9, 2020 (2020-07-09)
Central Topic: Curtis LeMay, the "Bomber Mafia", the development of the B-29 bomber
Themes Explored: American innovation and technological obsession, applied to military airpower
5"May the Best Firebomb Win (part 2)"July 16, 2020 (2020-07-16)
Central Topic: Hoyt Hottel's "firebomb bake-off"; Louis Fieser and the development of napalm as an offensive weapon
Themes Explored: The impact of scientific innovation in modern warfare
6"Bombs-Away LeMay (part 3)"July 23, 2020 (2020-07-23)
Central Topic: Curtis LeMay’s problem-solving; area bombing and the events leading up to Operation Meetinghouse
Themes Explored: Leadership, adaptability, ethics, and problem-solving in times of conflict.
7"Goodbye, Farewell and Amen (part 4)"July 30, 2020 (2020-07-30)
Central Topic: The aftermath of the firebombing of Tokyo and the legacy of napalm incendiaries in modern warfare, told through M*A*S*H and the career of Curtis LeMay
Themes Explored: The legacy of ethically dubious weapons, and how we view atrocities and conflicts of our national past.
8"Hamlet Was Wrong"August 6, 2020 (2020-08-06)
Central Topic: A auto analysis of Malcolm Gladwell's nihilism in hiring practices, through use of Laurence Peter's hierarchy concept known as the Peter Principle
Themes Explored: Social practices and practical implications in hiring, and the possible benefits of nihilism.
9"Oh Howard, You Idiot!"August 13, 2020 (2020-08-13)
Central Topic: Clifford Irving's hoax autobiography, the influence of public image, and the real Howard Hughes
Themes Explored: How people manage their image, the power of fiction and public perception.
10"A Memorial For the Living"August 20, 2020 (2020-08-20)
Central Topic: The 9/11 memorial, the homeless in Jacksonville, and the management of memories — "a gorgeous mausoleum for the dead, a scatter plot for the living”
Themes Explored: Our attachment to memories and memorials, and what we collectively choose to remember.

Season 6 (2021)Edit

No. in
TitleOriginal air date
1"I Love You Waymo"June 24, 2021 (2021-06-24)
Central Topic: The future of automobiles, cities, and pedestrians, explored through Waymo’s development of autonomous cars.
Themes Explored: How we predict the future of technology; madman theory as it relates to pedestrians.
2"Lord of the Rankings (Rankings part 1)"July 1, 2021 (2021-07-01)
Central Topic: How U.S. News & World Report ranks colleges and universities in the US, and the flaws in how its algorithm ranks schools.
Themes Explored: The power of algorithms and ranking in our perceptions of institutions; how our personal biases can influence peer-rankings and the algorithms we create.
3"Project Dillard (Rankings part 2)"July 8, 2021 (2021-07-08)
Central Topic: Dillard University, and how US News & World Report’s college rankings misses and misuses data to misidentify HBCUs and other schools.
Themes Explored: The power of algorithms in our perceptions, racial biases and privilege, and how holistic evaluations can change our perceptions.
4"The Judgement of Helen Levitt"July 15, 2021 (2021-07-15)
Central Topic: Former screenwriter Helen Levitt (wife of Alfred Lewis Levitt), and the effect of her blacklisting during the Red Scare.
Themes Explored: How our society chooses to judge others, and the underestimated effect of social exclusion.
5"Little Mermaid Part 1: The Golden Contract"July 22, 2021 (2021-07-22)
Central Topic: The story presented in Disney's animated film The Little Mermaid, compared to the original story.
Themes Explored: Law, themes, and “moral sloppiness” in entertainment portrayals of older stories.
6"Little Mermaid Part 2: The Fairytale Twist"July 29, 2021 (2021-07-29)
Central Topic: The Little Mermaid vs. The Little Mermaid
Themes Explored:
7"Little Mermaid Part 3: Honestly Ever After"August 2, 2021 (2021-08-02)
Central Topic: The Little Mermaid vs. The Little Mermaid
Themes Explored:
8"Laundry Done Right"August 12, 2021 (2021-08-12)
Central Topic: Habits and practices for doing laundry; Procter & Gamble's effort to make environmentally friendly consumer products.
Themes Explored: The environmental effects of laundry and the tradeoffs for our habits and sustainable practices.


Revisionist History has received positive reviews from critics. In Podcast Review, Nic Dobija-Nootens called it "perplexing, frustrating, and always worth a second look".[2] The New York Times's Amanda Hess praises the show's impact, crediting it for creating a "podcast micro-genre ... [of] history-bending show[s]".[3]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Introducing Revisionist History Season Six". Pushkin Industries. 2021-06-03. Retrieved 22 June 2021.
  2. ^ "The World Through Malcolm Gladwell's Eyes". Podcast Review. 2018-07-31. Retrieved 2019-05-18.
  3. ^ Hess, Amanda (2017-12-15). "You Know Your History? These Podcasts Aren't So Sure". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-05-18.

General referencesEdit

External linksEdit