Four Question for Cypher, "The Cynical Historian"
WWI: "A clear breaking point in world history, and American history is no exception to that."
By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, U.S. World War One Centennial Commission
As part of our series on historical resources online, we wanted to showcase a remarkable YouTuber named Cypher, who hosts the channel "The Cynical Historian. Cypher is an offbeat, frank, and fresh, voice in the world of historical review -- and thorough his insight, he has earned a wide & enthusiastic following online, with nearly 40,000 subscribers. His latest episode was one that he produced as a commemorative partner with the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission. The episode discusses the lasting effects of World War I.
Tell us about your new WWI episode on your YouTube Channel -- "What Were the Effects of WWI?" sounds like an pretty ambitious topic!
Awhile back I did an episode on the causes of WWI. Since we’re still within the centennial of the war, I thought I would talk about its effects. It is a clear breaking point in world history, and American history is no exception to that. But there is an interesting interpretive layer that many don’t explore when discussing WWI’s end.
Some of our readers are not well-acquainted with the history shows on YouTube, or with your particular Channel. Tell us about what aspects of history that you specialize in, and what interests you pursue in producing your shows.
I do a lot of analytical history on whatever I feel like doing really. The best explanation I can give for the channel is to direct you to the channel trailer: The Cynical Historian | Channel Trailer
As you researched and created this WWI episode -- What surprised you? What stuck out in your memory about the people who lived in that era, and the challenges that they faced?
I've actually done a lot of research into the Russian Intervention (did my capstone paper in undergrad on it and later an episode) and the Red Scare (did an episode on this) before, so much of this was already familiar territory.
What was probably the most surprising was the amount of revolutions that continued after the war, especially in regard to Turkey. I was in the midst of researching another episode on "The Promise" (2017), and totally unfamiliar with Ottoman history.
In terms of the American experience that stuck out, is that America had less of a per capita hit to population than everyone else, including small countries, except for Japan. That was a bit surprising.
Did you enjoy working in this milieu? Did you find inspiration for other future WWI episodes?
I definitely found much to talk about in that upcoming Promise "Based on a True Story." Gives a lot of good context. The progressive era has always been one of my interests, and I see Wilson as the abuser and ending of that movement. I've become rather famous for detesting Woodrow Wilson, so eventually I will actually record the 2 part "historians who changed history" I have written on him. So while this timeframe is not new to me, this research will certainly help with further episodes.