Saturday, 30 April 2011

Tetrarchs at War - History of Rome

Diocletian ruled over an empire that had numerous external and internal military challenges.  All were dealt with, though not always easily. Diocletian was clearly an able and effective soldier, but not a spectacular one.  Maximin did most of that side of things.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Aethelred, Svein Forkbeard and years of misery - History of England Dave Crowther

Aethelred the Unready continues to be totally unready for anything in this episode of Dave Crowther's continuing chronicle of the kings of England.  Svein Forkbeard gave him a complete run around and was within a hair's breadth of taking over the kingdom.  A good solid podcast telling the story well.  It was let down a bit by the story itself which is unrelenting misery and failure - that of course is not Dave's fault but the fault of the man in charge at the time.  Even after all these years Aethelred is still a disappointment to his country.

Was Ethelred the worst king in English history? Discuss on the history podcasts forum.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Power, Violence, Sex and Nara - History of Japan Cameron Foster

An episode entitled Power, Violence, Sex and Nara sounds interesting enough, and it certainly is.  Though in the event although there is plenty of sex and enough violence to be getting on with, there is much more fascinating stuff about Buddhism and explains why the Japanese don't trust women to be emperors.

I have already been enthusiastic about the first two episodes, but Cameron really gets into his stride with this one.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The Tetrarchy - History of Rome

 With enemies on every side it was proving that there were just not enough emperors to go round. The Tetrarchy was Diocletian's solution to the problem.  By having two senior and two junior emperors, every frontier got sufficient attention.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Diocletian's Character - History Books Review

The character of Diocletian shone through every thing he did as emperor and Colin does a good job of explaining what he was like in this episode of his extended review of Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Octavia Hill - In Our Time Melvyn Bragg

Octavia Hill was a Victorian social reformer.  Unusually for a Victorian social reformer she was actually poor herself.  Despite this, and with a bit of help from John Ruskin, she managed to create housing estates that helped poor people to get out of the slums.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Ethelred the Unready - History of England Dave Crowther

Ethelred the Unready has a dismal reputation in English history.  Often on examination very good or very bad reputations turn out not to be justified.  But in this case, he does seem to be just as rubbish as we all thought he was all along.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Jupiter and Hercules - History of Rome

Diocletian instigated a new style of emperor, much more based on an appeal to the Gods than to a connection to the old Roman republic. He also appointed a co-emperor in the form of his old friend Maximian.  Diocletian was sponsored by Jupiter and Maximian by Hercules.

Friday, 22 April 2011

The Three Kingdoms - China History Podcast Laszlo Montgomery

I haven't got through that many of these podcasts yet, but this is far the most confusing one so far.  The period covered is sixty years in the third century when China split into three competing kingdoms.  This podcast is the story of that competition between them.  One of the things that Lazslo does is give the Chinese names an authentic pronunciation.  This is good most of the time but in this case it makes a difficult situation even worse.  But we get through it in the end.  At least we only have to listen to a podcast of it not actually live through it.

I wouldn't recommend this particular episode as an introduction to this series, but I think the fault lies with the period.  But as the aim is the whole history of China I suppose you have to take the rough with the smooth.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Buddhism arrives in Japan - History of Japan Cameron Foster

Buddhism and Shinto coexist comfortably in modern Japan.  Most Japanese are equally at home with both.  But it wasn't always so peaceful.  This podcast tells the story of the troubles caused when a new religion came into an island that still had its traditional religion intact.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Another and last golden age - History of England Dave Crowther

Edgar the Peaceable's reign was as his name suggests, peaceful.  It wasn't totally uneventful though, there were some pretty juicy palace politics just before he came to the throne and just how he came to be on it has a whiff of suspicion to it.  But he governed well and guarded his kingdom carefully giving England the thing it probably most wanted, peace.  I think the phrase Golden Age has to be understood as strictly relative here. In the Dark Ages, simply not being overrun by violent thugs is enough to count.  But Edgar did set the pattern for English coronations which has been used ever since.


Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Monday, 18 April 2011

Diocletian and the Borders - History Books Review

In this podcast Colin looks at the various wars that needed to be fought by Diocletian to protect the borders of the empire.  With barbarians still formidable and Persia still a threat, Diocletian went to some trouble to maintain and reform the empire's defences.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

The Last King in Jorvik - The History of England Dave Crowther

The Vikings that settled in England got steadily less wild and more like the locals.  By the time of the last king of  Jorvik they had more or less settled into normal English politics.  Jorvik, or York as we call it now, was their last stronghold.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Interregnum - History of Rome

Following the death of Aurelian, Probus did a very good job of keeping the empire back on track.  Sources from this period are a bit confused but Mike does a great job of making as much sense of them as it is possible to make.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Land of the Rising Sun - History of Japan Cameron Foster

The Japanese flag has the Sun on it because the imperial family is descended from the spirit of the Sun.  We know this because the story has been handed down from the oral tradition, making the Japanese royal family not only one of the oldest but one of the few that has its own religion.  The myths and legends surrounding the creation of and the early history of Japan are the subject of the first of a series on the history of Japan by Cameron Foster.

Cameron is an enthusiast and if you like your history to deal with the interesting details rather than the academic this is one for you.  His robust Australian humour is a bonus.


Wednesday, 13 April 2011

The Battle of Oudenarde - Historyzine

Historyzine is a podcast magazine about history podcasts.  It is presented by Jim Mowatt who would win a Gold Medal if being enthusiastic about history podcasts was an Olympic sport.  He reviews other podcasts and always finds lots of good things to say about them.  I think he is only critical because he feels that as a critic he should be, but even when he is finding fault he seems to do it in a way that makes the podcasts he is talking about sound good.

He is also running his own account of the War of Spanish Succession.  So he's not afraid to tackle tough tasks.   The battle of Oudenarde was one of the stellar victories of the Duke of Marlborough.  If you like really getting into the nitty gritty of a battle, this is one you'll enjoy.  But it isn't straight military history.  The political and personal aspects are covered fully as well.

Only one caveat - this episode came out last summer.  It may well be that this podcast has been abandoned so you may not get to hear what happened next.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Egbert and Almost England - The History of England Dave Crowther

Dave points out that although he rarely gets credited with it, Egbert of Wessex was very near to being the first king of most of what is now England.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Wolfe Tone and the Irish Rebellion - Napoleon Podcast

Having followed Napoleon all the way to his final end, the Napoleon podcast has had an obvious problem with material ever since.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

British Empire 1.0 -Two Very Different Revolts - History Books Review

Colin deals with a subject that will particularly interest British listeners, the revolt of Carausius that saw the province of Britain break away briefly from the Roman Empire.  Good listening as always.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Restitutor Orbis - History of Rome

Aurelian was in many ways the most remarkable emperor of them all.  He took over when the empire wasn't just on the point of collapse, but had actually split into three.  It was far from obvious that it would ever be reunited, and was in severe danger of actually being overrun by barbarians.  That Aurelian succeeded in getting the show back on the road is little short of miraculous.

A good solid podcast gives a great insight into this able soldier.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Julius is a Punk Rocker - Death Throes of the Republic V- Dan Carlin

There are plenty of accounts of the fall of the Roman republic.  If you want to know what happened this is as good as any of them, but where it really scores is the way Dan brings the people and the events to life.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Joseph Needham - Big Ideas

Now this really is a weird one.  Joseph Needham was an English chemist who wrote the definitive book on the history of Chinese science.  But this podcast is anything but as dull as that sounds.  I don't usually worry about spoilers on here because usually the events are aleady, well, history.  But in this case, I just suggest you give it a listen.  It won't be what  you expect.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

London School of Economics - David Owen in Sickness and in Power

Okay this is an odd one.  It is a podcast of a lecture given by David Owen at the London School of Economics promoting a book he had written.  The book sounds dreadful and I have no intention of reading it.   It is about whether psychology can spot when political leaders have lost the plot and think they are God.  Yawn.   I am also not recommending David Owen as a politician either.  I imagine that there are plenty of people living in Britain who have never heard of him, and despite him being the Foreign Secretary for a couple of years during the seventies I don't suppose more than a handful of people outside the UK have the faintest idea who he is.  If you are wondering, he briefly led a breakaway party from the Labour Party.

Most political careers tend to alienate more and more people as they progress.  David Owen's took this to remarkable extremes.  By the time he had finished being active in politics there wasn't a seat in the country he had a chance of winning or a party left, right or centre that would have him as a member.   This was an unsuccessful politician on an epic scale.

And that is what makes this lecture so interesting.  He is a compelling speaker and you do feel the the need to carry on listening.  Does he say anything interesting about the subject?  No.  Do you get an insight into his character?  Yes in spades.  You end up feeling quite sympathetic for him.   He's a man with a huge amount of ability but no clue about himself.  Have a listen and you'll see what I mean. You'll also understand why he never made it, nor was he ever likely to.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Diocletian and the Tetrarchy - History Books Review

Colin on the History Books Review has reached the reign of Diocletian, one of the pivotal figures in the history of Rome.  It may have been Diocletian's reforms - even though they didn't last long - that enabled the Roman Empire to make it through long enough for Constantine to move the capital to Constantinople and ensure that it survived in some form until the end of the Middle Ages.

Monday, 4 April 2011

The Dawn of the Iron Age- In Our Time

You can't avoid experts talking about definitions and speculating about dates, but it always seems to me that the Iron Age is one of those really useful self explanatory terms that don't need defining any more than an elephant does.  You don't need to be a zoologist to know what an elephant is all about.  And likewise, I think we can all grasp what the Iron Age is.

What this programme brings out well is that as the Iron Age dawned it wasn't just about technology.   Bronze had required a high level of skill and access to rare metals.  Once the knowledge was out, iron was much more abundant and came to be much more widely used.  In some ways it democratised technology and set off the chain of events that led to out modern world.