Sunday, 31 July 2011

This weeks most viewed podcast reviews

And this week Rex Factor have won out with their coverage of Richard the Lionheart.

24 May 2011
30 Pageviews
17 May 2011
25 Pageviews
24 Jul 2011
23 Pageviews
23 Jul 2011
21 Pageviews
16 Jul 2011
19 Pageviews

The Human Footprint - New Books in History Anthony Penna

Environmental history is a bit of a mix of disciplines, but with the great interest in the environment it does offer a new way of looking at a familiar problem.  It is also quite an eye opening way.  For example, this podcast points out a very surprising fact.  Cultivation of crops seems to have been invented independently about 14 times within the space of about a thousand years.  That doesn't sound like a coincidence.  You don't usually have to worry about spoilers when reviewing history podcast, but I'll let you find out the explanation Prof Penna comes up with when you listen yourself.

This is an intriguing podcast that made me think differently about some things I thought I knew all about already.  I am mightily tempted to seek the book out as well.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

The Lion of Justice - History of England Podcast Dave Crowther

Another week, another brutal Norman tyrant comes to the throne.  This week its Henry I.  I don't know much about this period of English history and I must say that these early monarchs, and I'll take Dave's word for it that Henry was famous for his justice.  In this episode he comes across as another brutal Norman thug, but it is an interesting listen nonetheless.  The bit about surnames at the end was interesting - if I were Dave I would have put it at the beginning rather than the end.  I find that if I am hearing a story I sort of turn off when it reaches the conclusion and reach for the fast forward button.  If I hear some background before the story it gives me something to look at for while I am listening.  But maybe that is just me.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

European Podcast Awards

There is a new award being talked about online.  It is called the European Podcast award and as the name suggests it is a set of awards for European podcasts.  It is a bit hard to get any idea of how important this is going to be  but it looks like fun.  Three podcasts regularly reviewed on here have been nominated: Historyzine, History Books Review and History of England.

You seem to be able to vote for as many as you like, so why not vote for them all.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Xenophon - In Our Time Melvyn Bragg

Xenophon's account of the failed attempt by a group of Greek mercenaries to topple a king of Persia and their difficulties getting back again afterwards (for fairly obvious reasons) has been a popular classic for centuries.  But one thing it doesn't do is tell you a huge amount about the guy behind it.  This is where this podcast comes in.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Hateful to his people and odious to God - History of England Dave Crowther

"Hateful to his people and odious to God"  was how a church historian described William Rufus.  I was hoping he was going to go an add that he farted in his general direction.  William Rufus was the first English king to run into relationship issues with the Catholic Church.  A handy completion of the account of this not very well known monarch.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Wycliffe and the Lollards - In Our Time Melvyn Bragg

Not a classic, but worth half an hour of your time. It is mainly about Wycliffe rather than the Lollards to be honest.  How often do you have this experience.  There is an historical figure about which you know one solitary fact.  You find out more, and it turns out the one thing you thought you knew is wrong. 

So in my case, the only thing I knew about this guy was that he translated the Bible into English.  Except he didn't.  If you want to know more you'll have to tune in to Melvyn and a couple of not all that animated experts on the subject.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Last Week's Most Viewed Podcast Reviews

A bit more of an even show this week, with Dan Carlin just ahead.

5 Feb 2011
  22 Pageviews

4 Jun 2011
  19 Pageviews

16 Jul 2011
  17 Pageviews

31 May 2011
  16 Pageviews

9 May 2011
  15 Pageviews

Julian the Pre Apostate - History of Rome Mike Duncan

This podcast is always good, but the highlight is always the portrayals of strong characters like Julius Caesar and Constantine.  It looks like we have another in the form of Julian the Apostate.  He was to be the last pagan emperor and we don't have that many emperors left now so lets hope we get the full treatment on this one.  This episode covers his early life while he was still a Christian, he only became the Apostate when he abandoned his Christianity. (Just in case you don't get the title.)

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Foundation of the Chinese Communist Party - History of China Podcast Lazlo Montgomery

One of the most significant events in the history of the twentieth century was the foundation of the Chinese Communist Party.  This podcast gives you the background to why it happened and some of the characters involved.  It works pretty well as a stand alone episode if you aren't that interested in the whole of Chinese history.  But if you are, there are now 50 podcasts in this series to work through so you won't be short of listening.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Constantinople - History Books Review Colin Sanders

I had begun to despair of Colin ever getting another podcast out, but at last one has reappeared.  He seems to be on great form with an account of the building of Constantinople.  Rome was to be eclipsed by this new city, but it is probable the Eastern Roman Empire would not have survived if Constantine hadn't done what he did.  (There isn't as much humour as usual in this one but even so, it might be worth giving it a skip if you are a lawyer.)

Thursday, 21 July 2011

What are you protesting against? What have you got?

Here is a great idea.  The proceedings of an historical conference posted online.  They are videos rather than podcasts and they look at various aspects of protesting over the years.  Its an interesting angle and it covers a lot of ground.  I always like to hear about Captain Swing for instance.  It is good to remember that the countryside wasn't the idyllic place it is often portrayed as.

The drawback is that the audio quality isn't good on any of them, and is terrible on a couple.  Also we could do with a bit of context about who the speakers are.

But it is a good initiative and I'd love to see more of this kind of thing.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

The Tsar Liberates Europe - LSE Dominic Lieven

Was Russia a marginal power that simply reacted to the threat from Napoleon and simply ended up with an army in Paris as a result of a series of unwise actions on the part of the French tyrant?  That may not be what historians say explicitly, but it is how the story often gets told.

But what if the Russians were well informed, pro-active and sophisticated players who worked out the character of the French Empire and used their intelligence to thwart it with well developed plans, strategies and tactics?  In particular, did their spies know in advance that Napoleon had been long planning to attack them?

Dominic Lieven makes a terrific case that the Russians led by Tsar Alexander knew exactly what they were doing all along.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Sir Orfeo - Corey Olsen

Here is an unusual one.  A professor of English with a particular interest in Medieval Literature and J.R.R.Tolkien has recorded verbatim one of the Middle English poems that inspired Tolkien's work.  It sounds like gobbledygook at first but I found that if I persisted I began to pick it up.

Its not exactly top notch blockbuster mass entertainment, but it is fascinating listening.  It is basically a retelling of the Orpheus myth but with fairyland taking the place of Hell.  It isn't bad, though the ending is a bit sudden.

An interesting read that repays the effort of getting into it in the first place.

Monday, 18 July 2011

The Gold Pavilion - History of Japan Cameron Foster

It has been a while since we last heard from Cameron, but he is back with an episode that whets your appetite for more podcasts and to visit Japan.

Not much interesting actually happens in this podcast but we do get some interesting descriptions of places in Japan.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

This Week's Most Viewed Podcast Reviews

A bit more of an even field this week.  Ray Harris Junior is still the top of the table, but only just ahead of History Books Review, and History Books Review has two entries in the top five.

The Minoans - In Our Time Melvyn Bragg

You'll learn a bit about the Minoans from this podcast.  You'll hear more about the skulduggery surrounding Victorian archeology.  It seems the first excavation was done in such haste that different teams competed with each other to get through the upper Roman layers and into the real Minoan deal as quickly as possible. 

Fascinating stuff, if a little hard to believe.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

William Rufus and the First Crusade - History of England Dave Crowther

William Rufus is introduced very quickly, and we then get a whistle stop account of the Crusades.  I must say I could easily have got by quite nicely without the Crusades bit.  Dave did anticipate this by saying that it was his podcast and he can do what he likes.  And of course it is and he can.

William Rufus is more interesting and I could have quite happily listened to more about him, though given that we are still way back in the 11th Century maybe there aren't enough sources for there to be much more to tell.  (And if you are reading this Dave, you might want to have another go at editing it.  There are a couple of short snaps that get repeated.)

Friday, 15 July 2011

The Significance of Reconstruction - LSE Eric Foner

We often think of progress as a one way process.  But as this talk about the reconstruction of the South after the American Civil War shows, sometimes things go backwards even when the constitution of the country has been changed.  A fascinating account of a period of history that doesn't often get much attention.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Dunkirk Continued - World War 2 Podcast Ray Harris Junior

The French and British are still on the beaches.  The Germans are closing in.  The government in Paris is wavering.  Get caught up in the minute with this podcast which is developing into compulsive listening.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Adam Smith - Cato Institute

The Cato Institute seems to be some kind of right wing think tank.  As such, they might be expected to have a particular angle on the work of Adam Smith, and on the whole highly partisan stuff is too predictable to be interesting.

The other thing that isn't very interesting is highly intellectual stuff using words and concepts that the academics all understand but which the general listener can't easily follow.  We get a bit of that right at the start.  The first ten minutes or so are highly turn off-able.  But after that things settle in to an intriguing account of one of the key figures of the Enlightenment.  Adam Smith has often been seen as an advocate for capitalism, but is actually much more important and significant than that.  His legacy belongs to everyone not just one side of the political debate.  If you don't know much about him this is a good place to start even if your politics don't match those of the Cato crowd.

Monday, 11 July 2011

How Terrorism Ends - New Books in History Audrey Kurth Cronin

As podcasts go this one was a bit dull.  I don't think the subject matter really lends itself to podcasting somehow.  But I have posted it anyway because it does sound like an interesting book.  Terrorist campaigns don't last forever and it is worth considering the ways the come to an end.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Last week's most viewed history podcast reviews

Ray Harris is way out in front this week, leaving History Books Review way behind.

13 Jun 2011
40 Pageviews
9 May 2011
19 Pageviews
8 May 2011, 1 comment
15 Pageviews
5 Feb 2011
14 Pageviews
8 Jun 2011
12 Pageviews

Brotherhood of Kings, really ancient diplomacy - New Books in History Amanda Podany

How long do the customs of diplomatic relationships that we read about on the Internet and in the newspapers every day go back?  If this podcast is right, then as far back as written records.

One of the things about this podcast series that I don't always like myself is that Marshal Poe is often very interested in the methods of history.  This is an interesting enough subject, but I am a bit impatient and I usually want to get straight onto the actual history.  But in this case it is fascinating to think that a whole history laid buried for thousands of years on clay tablets that nobody alive knew how to read.

And that is what this podcast is about - the diplomacy of the ancient world as revealed by one of the most enduring forms of information technology humans have come up with yet.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Death of the Republic - Hard Core History Dan Carlin

The notorious 5 and a half podcast has taken me so long to listen to it has actually a hiatus in this week's podcast reviews.  Sorry for missing a couple of reviews this week.

So is it any good?  Yes it is, if you have the time to listen to it.  There are no natural breaks so if you can't block off half a day to listen in a single sitting you might just as well stop at any point.

Did it need to be that long- well maybe not.  It could have been edited down a bit without too much loss.  

But there is something quite relaxing about knowing whose company you are going to be in for the next few podcast listening sessions.   I enjoyed it.  It is a bit like having a child.  You don't regret doing it, but you would think twice about doing it again.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Death of the Conqueror - History of England Dave Crowther

This week's podcast is basically a thumbnail of the character of William, a few jokes about the Doomsday Book and an account of his death.

All good entertaining stuff and well worth a listen.  He hasn't really done much to set up the next reign so he has some work to do next time.  But if you haven't heard any of the previous issues, I'd say that this one is a good sampler for the series.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Revolt of the Earls - History of England Dave Crowther

One of the things that William did that was to have a big impact on English history was to replace all the Saxon nobles with Norman ones.  In hindsight that all seems logical enough, it was a Norman invasion after all.  What did they expect, a brainstorming session?  But in fact it doesn't seem to have been part of the original plan at all.  William only got rid of the big Saxon aristocrats when they rebelled against him.  Even then he gave some of them a second chance.  Hear all about it on this podcast.  Personally I enjoy them more when they are dealing with the guys we don't know so much about, like this one.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Bismarck by Jonathan Steinberg - New Books in History

Nobody did more to shape the Twentieth Century in Europe than Bismarck.  He united the disparate German states to create Germany, instigated regime change in France and basically redrew the map and rewrote the rulebook.  But the man himself is an enigma. Was Bismarck a liberal or a conservative?  What were his values?  How did he see his role, and what was his motivation.  This podcast doesn't really answer any of these questions but you do feel yourself getting to know the man a bit more.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

This Week's Most Viewed Podcast Reviews

Ray Harris Junior's account of Mussolini tops the chart this week.  It is also great to see Epicurus getting into the ratings too.