Fortresses on Sand: The History of Florida – 6 episodes

Ever heard “Florida has no history”? Dr. Sam wants you to know how incorrect that common perception actually is…

We examine how after European powers learned of the ‘New World’ and began to scramble to claim the islands of the Caribbean for themselves, they soon turned to Florida as the first beach-head in the exploration & conquest of the North American mainland itself, a hundred years before the colonizing of Virginia, New York or New England, all of which set off a centuries-long struggle to control the tropical peninsula, as it passed back and forth between Spanish, French, and English – and eventually American – control.

A bewildering array of people lived or settled in Florida over the generations, from Seminole warriors to early European conquerors and indentured workers, to Scottish speculators, to “Cracker” cattle-herders, to Jewish utopians, to slave-driving planters, to evangelical missionaries, and in the last century to messianic cult leaders, women’s suffragists, Cuban revolutionaries, bohemian poets and many more…each adding their own layer to the rich history of the area, and who’s conflicts with each other have led to winners and losers in ongoing battles on who gets to live where, and in the power structures we see in the state today.

Dr. Sam then explores how with 20th century innovations like DDT, orange-juice concentrate, and air conditioning, the population and economy of Florida grew at an unimaginable pace, leading to new collisions in use of the land, epitomized by some of the surreptitious amassing of farms in the creation of Disney world.

First, however, in Part 1, Dr. Sam begins with an examination of what we know of what came before European contact, with an exploration of the Native Peoples who we know lived on the peninsula for many thousands of years, and who’s settlements and cities are evident in landscape today, much it uncovered the construction boom of the 20th century, before eventually confronting the first European invaders…

Did Columbus really think that he was going to reach Asia?
Was there really an Exodus from Egypt like the one described in the Bible?
Does a single coin prove that Vikings came all the way to what’s now the United States over 800 years ago?
How – and why – did universities begin in the Middle Ages, long before the scientific revolution and the “Enlightenment”?
How did Tisquantum (popularly known as Squanto) already know how to speak English before the Pilgrims had even arrived?
Why is the dramatic 2019 fire at Paris’ Notre Dame actually a common occurrence for cathedrals around Europe, when looking across the centuries?
How is the growing field of genetics being used to sometimes tear down and sometimes reinforce the myth of people belonging to different ‘races’ today?
When pressed Why can no one agree on what “capitalism” actually is? And why does a lack of clear definition call into question so many other myths of the modern world?
Why don’t US citizens directly elect their President? Or have a more proportional Senate?
What did Netflix’s 2021 movie “The Dig”, with Ralph Fiennes and Carey Mulligan, leave out from the story of the great Sutton Hoo discovery? What can the highly-revealing Anglo-Saxon era treasure tell us about the significantly-obscured period of England during the “Dark Ages”?
How did so much of the Epic of Gilgamesh remain hidden and forgotten – but perfectly preserved – for over 2,000 years until being rediscovered in modern times?
What little do we actually know about Shakespeare, the person?
Why is it misleading to apply the word “religion” to Judaism and to Hinduism?
Why were cathedrals in southern Europe becoming more and more highly decorated and elaborately embellished in the 1500’s and 1600’s, while at the same time so many cathedrals in Northern Europe were being stripped of all of their ornamentation and symbolism?
How can one mid-sized U.S. city – Tulsa, Oklahoma – serve as a microcosm of so much of the triumphs and tragedies of American history?
How might a series of volcanic eruptions in the Americas have spurred the earliest Viking raids and the creation of the Ragnarok myth in Scandinavia, halfway around the world?
How could have mountains on the Moon helped accelerate the end of the Earth-centric view of the universe?
What does the English Civil War of the 1640s tell us about the American Civil War, and about the political structures in place across much of the English-speaking world today?
Who were the Freemasons of the 1700s? How did they grow from a local Scottish fraternity to a global network?
Ever heard that Florida has no history? It actually has far more then you ever could have known…
Could all of British history have turned out differently if the winds on the English channel had shifted direction on just one particular day in 1066?
How did changes in the climate in the 1600s lead people to believe they were living in the Apocalypse? How did this help spur the creation of institutions and forces that are still shaping the modern world of today?
Why did nearly every Renaissance-era ruler in Europe feel compelled to have a court astrologer, usually as one of their most pivotal advisors?
On average, are people really becoming less religious than they used to be hundreds of years ago?
How were the lines between who was a cowboy and who was an American Indian far more blurred then the surviving myth of the Old West would have us believe?
How did accusing people of witchcraft further several political agendas of the time, both in Europe and in the Americas?