Monday, 29 September 2014
Did you know that the Bluestockings were actually a specific group of intellectual eighteenth century ladies who used to meet for tea and elevated conversation? I didn't until I listened to an episode of In Our Time devoted to the subject.
Elizabeth Montagu - known as 'the Queen of the Bluestockings', and at a time when nobody took the opinions of mere women seriously she provided an opportunity to shine to some gifted females.
Incidentally, it was only much later the term took on the pejorative tone it has still got today.
Saturday, 27 September 2014
The beauty of amateur history podcasts is that the person who is doing them can do what they like. So when Ray Harris Junior is researching his history of the second world war and gets interested in the life of Churchill, he can just stop the war and give us a biography.
I can't imagine that many people wouldn't find this digression interesting, but if you don't well its his podcast and his rules.
As it was, I really enjoyed it. I think in some ways it is easier to do biography via podcasts than straight military stuff. You don't have to worry so much about chronology and geography and can concentrate on the person's life story. But in any case, Ray does a good job and I was almost disappointed when he got to the end of his run of 26 (count them!) episodes on Churchill.
It would make a pretty decent standalone series apart from the fact that it stops just as the war starts, which would be a very curious point to end a life of Churchill.
Wednesday, 24 September 2014
History podcasting superstar Mike Duncan has now turned his attention to one of the most significant events in world history. He is tackling the French Revolution. In this episode he brings his characteristic clarity to the state of the Ancien Regime just prior to the revolution. You can't help wondering if the people of the time could have had such a clear explanation of what the problem was they might have come up with a slightly better solution. Had that been the case we'd have been worse off now, because we wouldn't have this rather marvellous series to listen to.
Saturday, 20 September 2014
Somebody at Librivox came up with the wizard wheeze of loading some of their catalogue onto iTunes. This is a great way of listening because you just download each episode when you have finished the previous one. Genius. But of course you might find it easier to download straight from the Librivox site as well. Librivox recordings are done by enthusiastic amateurs to whom we should all be grateful, but inevitably some people have better voices for listening to than others. The Byzantine Empire series is one of the better ones. This is very traditional history as story telling in the Victorian vein. To be fair, when Charles William Chadwick Oman wrote it, this was a pioneering style. It is out of fashion now with academic historians but does make for a good listen. If getting lost in the webs and intrigues of the Byzantine Empire is something that appeals to you, this is a good way to do it.
Friday, 19 September 2014
Dan Carlin's podcast is well named, it is indeed hard core history for hard core history fans. I don't think Dan's style is applicable to much of history. He needs the extreme, the dramatic and the ear catching for his dramatic style to work. But when he is on a subject that suits him, he is unbeatable. The build up to the first world war is just such a subject. Needless to say it goes on for a long time, and is definitely not too short. But the length makes it immersive. And compelling. You might want to get back to the reassuring reality of the day to day, but you just can't stop listening.
Not recommended for depressives, but superb for the rest of us.
Thursday, 18 September 2014
Simple ideas are often really good ideas. Why not just do a podcast about the myths and the stories from Ancient Greece and Rome? Why not indeed. That is just what Paul Vincent has done, and has done rather well. As is often the case, he takes a few episodes to get into his stride so if you are starting from the beginning bear with it. (I am not saying it is a bad start, just that the early episodes aren't representative of the normal standard.) This is very much a podcast to enjoy and not one that has any pretensions to being academic, but I have a feeling that that is what a lot of people want. And the stories of course have been road tested over many centuries.
Wednesday, 17 September 2014
The Russian Empire's antisemitism was just as morally reprehensible as antisemitism in other parts of Europe. But it had some unique features, in particular it was often rather short of Jews suitable to persecute. When it did engage in active persecution it took some strange forms. This podcast is about a book covering the trial of a particularly incongruous victim. He was a successful manager and fairly unobservant Jew who would not have attracted much attention. His misfortune was to be the Jew who happened to live closest to the place the body of a murdered Russian boy.
He had been stabbed multiple times and this somehow put some people in mind of the pervasive notion going back to the Middle Ages that Jews required the blood of Christian children for their religious ceremonies. There was, needles to say, not a scrap of evidence against the unfortunate Jew. The way the trial unfolded reveals a lot about the state of Russia at the time. A fascinating discussion that is well worth downloading.