Monday, 29 September 2014

In Our Time - Bluestockings

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

History of World War II Winston Churchill Sub Series

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

Revolutions - The Broken Regime by Mike Duncan

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

The Byzantine Empire by Charles William Chadwick-Oman

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

Inescapable Horror - Get Bogged Down in Dan Carlin's Blueprint for Armageddon

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

Myths and History of Greece and Rome By Paul Vincent

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

Antisemitism the Tsarist Way - The Blood Libel Trial

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.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

New Books in History - Andrew Demshuk The Lost German East: Forced Migration and the Politics of Memory, 1945-1970

George Orwell was one of the few journalists in western Europe who pointed out the issues raised by the displacement of the German population from the parts of Germany that were being transferred to Poland.  Borders had changed often in European history but it was rare for the people to be moved with them.  What became of those people was a major factor in the development of post-war Germany, but one that almost nobody wanted to talk about.

This podcast goes into some fascinating details about just how these people were discretely dealt with and how it turned out that one of the biggest groups of displaced people in history didn't give rise to one of the biggest political problems in history.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Scottish Independence

Colin of the History Books Review has decided he can't wait for somebody to write a book about the Scottish Independence vote and has gone ahead and done a podcast about it anyway.  He was in too much of a rush to provide his usual transcript - or at least he hasn't done so yet - so you'll have to find it on iTunes if you want to hear it.

He puts it in historical context and it sounds like he quite likes the idea in some ways even though he ends up with a plea to vote to maintain the union.  (It was recorded before the vote took place.)

It's good to hear something from someone without too much of an axe to grind.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

The History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps

The History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps podcast is a great podcast if you like philosophy, but obviously is not so good if you like gaps.  The ambition is no mean one.  It covers the whole history of philosophy from its beginnings in Ancient Greece onwards leaving nothing out.

For such a heavy subject the style is light with heavy use of puns and references to the host's, Peter Adamson, partiality for giraffes and Buster Keaton.  It is geared towards the person who is interested in philosophy rather than the philosopher and assumes no prior knowledge.  Well worth adding to your list - but do start from the beginning.  It does make frequent references to earlier episodes so it isn't designed for dipping into.   But with those very very minor caveats - this is highly recommended.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

The Three Estates Revolutions - Mike Duncan

Mike Duncan's latest project is one of the biggest historical events of all time - the French Revolution.  He starts at the beginning with a review of the state of pre-revolutionary France and its famous three estates.   It is made with the customary Mike Duncan clarity and humour.  This is a must listen to for all fans of the French Revolution, and if you don't know much about this is a great way to learn all about it.