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Historically Thinking

English, History, 1 season, 355 episodes, 6 days, 23 hours, 6 minutes
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Conversations about historical knowledge and how we achieve it
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Episode 361: Book Makers

Books have been made for over 530 years. That is, they have been created from raw materials– sometimes lovingly, sometimes not–printed, bound, and sold, only then to be read. When we think only of what is written in books, we ignore much of the history of the book. So ubiquitous is the book, so commonplace is the book, that we often neglect it both as a brilliant technology; the product of multiple technologies; and as an art. My guest has written the  story of how books have been made over that long half millennium by focusing on the individuals who have created the different aspects of the book that we now take for granted. It is a history of the physical printed book for a world that is increasing online–but a word which, curiously enough, the sale of ebooks  is down, and that of printed books is up. Adam Smyth is Professor of English literature and the history of the book at Balliol College in the University of Oxford. He is also one of the members of 39 Steps Press, “a small and unusual printing collective” that is housed in an old stables in Elsfield, Oxfordshire. His most recent book is The Book Makers: A History of the Book in 18 Lives, which is the subject of our conversation today.  For Further Investigation Previous conversations that relates to this one are: Episode 251, with Tom Misa, in which he discussed printing as beginning as a "courtly technology"; Episode 271, with Martin Clagget, in which among other things we discussed the marvelous place that Birmingham was in the eighteenth century An introduction to Baskerville's typographical art, with fine examples of the uppercase Q and the lower-case g, presented by A Type Supreme, a website that proclaims itself to be "a love letter to typography". Of course you can get a poster of the Baskerville Q, and I must say that I'm tempted. And Zuzana Licko's beautiful creation, Mrs Eaves Here is Sonnet 126, as printed by 39 Steps Press. Another guest, Kelsey Jackson-Williams who featured in Episode 162, has also experimented with printing. He's a member of the Pathfoot Press at the University of Stirling.
5/27/202457 minutes, 30 seconds
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Intellectual Humility and Historical Thinking: Joseph Manning

This is another of our series of conversations on intellectual humility and historical thinking.  With me today is Joseph Manning. He is the William K. and Marilyn Milton Simpson Professor of Classics and History, Professor in the Yale School of the Environment, and Senior Research Scholar in Law.  Manning has a specialized historical focus on Hellenistic history, with particular focus on the legal and economic history of Ptolemaic Egypt. His research focus over the last ten years has concentrated on historical climate change and its impact on premodern societies more widely. He is the principal investigator of the US National Science foundation project:  “Volcanism, Hydrology and Social Conflict: Lessons from Hellenistic and Roman-Era Egypt and Mesopotamia.” He is also on the editorial boards of Studia Hellenistica (Leuven) and the Palgrave Studies in Ancient Economies. He has coedited several volumes, and is the author of numerous monographs, the most recent of which is The Open Sea: The Economic Life of the Ancient Mediterranean World from the Iron Age to the Rise of Rome (Princeton University Press, 2018), which was the subject of a conversation in Episode 164 of Historically Thinking. He is now at work on a major new work on historic climate change and its impact since the last Ice Age.
5/20/202424 minutes, 38 seconds
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Episode 360: City of Light, City of Darkness

The Paris of the Belle Époque was a city divided by new and old conflicts–the tensions of modernity, and the schisms which had divided France since 1789. Modernity, which the city both exemplified and advanced, could be both celebrated and the source of anxiety–sometimes by the same person at more or less the same time, certainly by the same person at different times.  “The glories of the Belle Epoque were real enough,” writes my guest, “like many myths and cliches, they contain an element of truth–but they tell only one side of the story. The era was also riven by political conflict, crackling with social tension, and fraught with cultural friction. And, of course, it ended with the industrialised carnage of the First World War in 1914.” Michael Rapport is Reader in Modern European History at the University of Glasgow. He has previously written about topics related to the age of the French Revolution, and the revolution of 1848. His most recent book is City of Light, City of Shadows: Paris in the Belle Époque, which is the subject of our conversation today. For Further Investigation Michael Rapport has also written 1848: Year of Revolution; The Napoleonic Wars: A Very Short Introduction; and The Unruly City: Paris, London, and New York in the Age of Revolution, which is a fine companion read to Episode 350, Episode 281, and Episode 176 Urban Insider's guide to the Paris Metro A guide to Montmartre And a walk through Montmartre A guide to Art Nouveau in Paris A collection of Zola reading lists: his novels in their written order; his suggested way to read through his novels; a five-novel list; a ten-novel list; and a twenty-novel list
5/13/20241 hour, 13 minutes, 26 seconds
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Episode 359: Damascus Events

At 2 PM on July 9, 1860, a mob attacked the Christian quarter of Damascus. For over a week, shops, churches, houses, and monasteries were attacked, looted, and burned. Men were killed, women raped and abducted, children taken from their families. Some 5000 Christians were ultimately killed, about half of them refugees who had fled to the city from Mount Lebanon during an earlier outbreak of violence there, the others all native Damascenes—about 15% of the Christian population of Damascus. These eight days of terror became known as “the Damascus events.” In his new book my guest Eugene Rogan describes the external and internal pressures which led to the Damascus events; the immediate precipitation of the events; the eight days of violence; how the violence was ended; and finally how the Christian population was reintegrated into the Damascus community. Eugene Rogan is professor of Modern Middle Eastern History at the University of Oxford, where he is also the Director of the Middle East Center at Saint Anthony College, Oxford. Author of numerous books, his most recent is The Damascus Events: The 1860 Massacre and the Making of the Modern Middle East. For Further Investigation We haven't had that many podcasts on the Ottoman Empire: in fact, hitherto we have had precisely one, a conversation with Kaya Şahín in Episode 314 about Suleyman, one of the greatest Ottoman monarchs. We haven't had that many podcasts on the modern Middle East, either. The closest would be one of the most popular podcasts we've done, this conversation with the late Neil Faulkner in Episode 240, which dealt with the British Empire's attempts to cope with revolutionary Islamic movements in late nineteenth century Africa and Arabia.  
5/6/20241 hour, 10 minutes, 22 seconds
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Episode 358: Narrative

As you might have noticed, the world is awash in narratives. You hear people talk about “establishing the narrative”, or noting that “in the last 24 hours the narrative has changed.” We don’t talk about facts any more, we talk about narratives. And more than that. Narratives are, many have decided, cause conflict. They enable genocide, and wars. They are also embedded into our biology–”hardwired”, to use a word popular with neurobiological enthusiasts– due to evolutionary developments, and so by narrative we shall always be afflicted.  With me today to discuss narrative is Adrian Goldsworthy, who has committed numerous acts of narrative in both history and fiction. He was last on the podcast in Episode 332 to discuss the tangled history of Rome and Persia, which he wrote about in his most recent book Rome and Persia: The Seven Hundred Year Rivalry. This is his fifth appearance on the podcast. I should add that this episode was first dropped to our subscribers on Patreon, the members of Historically Thinking’s Common Room; and that if you were a member of the Common Room, you would have already heard it. For Further Investigation Adrian Goldsworthy has previously been on the podcast in the following episodes, and discussing these topics: Episode 63, on Julius Caesar as a historian; Episode 75, on Hadrian's wall; Episode 182, on Philip Macedonia and his spoiled-brat son; and finally the aforementioned Episode 332 on Rome v. Persia. We've discussed the problematic nature of narrative in Episode 243 with Jonathan Gottschall, the author of The Story Paradox: How Our Love of Storytelling Builds Societies and Tears Them Down. WARNING: he is not as keen on narrative as Adrian.
4/29/20241 hour, 11 minutes, 30 seconds
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Episode 357: Empire of Climate

"..Since ancient times, the idea that the climate exerts a determining influence on minds and bodies, health and well-being, customs and character, war and wealth has attracted a long line of committed followers.” Alarm over climate change brought about by anthropogenic global warming has renewed—or perhaps simply enhanced—an idea with a very long history. It was after all in 1748 when Montesquieu wrote that the “empire of climate is the first, the most powerful of all empires.” But intellectual attentiveness to climate predates that remark by at least two millennia.  In my guest David Livingstone’s new book The Empire of Climate:  A History of an Idea, his object is to “take a measure of this impulse over the longue durée.” To do that he travels from the Hippocratic treatise On Airs, Waters, and Places, to seemingly the very latest report of the International Panel on Climate Change, scaling a mountain of literature between those two points.  David N. Livingstone is Emeritus Professor of Geography and Intellectual History at Queen’s University Belfast. He is the author and joint editor of numerous books which congregate around the histories of geographical knowledge, the spatiality of scientific culture, and the historical geographies of science and religion.  For Further Investigation For some past HT episodes related to climate see Episode 156: Stories Told by Trees;  Episode 209: Climate, Catastrophe, and Faith, and Episode 340: Price of Collapse Clarence Glacken, Traces on the Rhodian Shore:  Nature and Culture in Western Thought from Ancient Times to the End of the Eighteenth Century (University of California Press, 1967) Dane Kennedy, The Magic Mountains: Hill Stations and the British Raj (University of California Press, 1996) Mike Hulme, “Reducing the Future to Climate: A Story of Climate Determinism and Reductionism.” Osiris 26 Klima (2011): 245–266 Diana K. Davis, The Arid Lands: History, Power, Knowledge (MIT Press, 2016) Dagomar Degroot, The Frigid Golden Age: Climate Change, the Little Ice Age, and the Dutch Republic, 1560–1720 (Cambridge University Press, 2018)
4/22/20241 hour, 1 minute, 7 seconds
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Episode 356: First Dark Ages?

In 1177 BC a series of very unfortunate events culminated in the collapse of numerous kingdoms centered upon the western Mediterranean. The nature of those events, and how one played upon the other, was the topic of our conversation with Eric Cline way back in Episode 62, when we talked about his book 1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed.  Now Eric Cline is back on the podcast to answer one of the great questions, “and then what happened?”  That is also the task of his most recent book After 1177 BC: The Survival of Civilizations. We shall talk about those who survived, those who didn’t, and why–and, for those of you who like rating Presidents and baseball players, we'll discuss the winners, the losers, and those who came out sort of even. Finally we'll even talk about whether there is ever such a thing as a "dark age". Eric H. Cline is professor of classics and anthropology at George Washington University. His most recent book is 1177 B.C.: A Graphic History of the Year Civilization Collapsed. For Further Investigation The website of Erich H. Cline We have talked about calamity, disaster, and disruption several times in past episodes. See conversations with Ed Watts, first on the fall of the Roman Republic in Episode 93; and then again on the "eternal fall" of Rome, in Episode 219. In Episode 224 I talked with David Potter about historical disruption, that moment when it feels as if a civilization is going over a waterfall.
4/15/20241 hour, 7 minutes, 13 seconds
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Episode 355: Steam Powered

At a pivotal moment in Chapter 17 of Nathanael Hawthorne’s House of the Seven Gables, two of his protagonists escape from haunted Salem, Massachusetts, and are whirled away from its power by the even greater power of steam: “…Looking from the window, they could see the world racing past them. At one moment, they were rattling through a solitude; the next, a village had grown up around them; a few breaths more, and it had vanished, as if swallowed by an earthquake. The spires of meeting-houses seemed set adrift from their foundations; the broad-based hills glided away. Everything was unfixed from its age-long rest, and moving at whirlwind speed in a direction opposite to their own.” As in Hawthorne, American literature of all kinds abounded with railroad and steam power metaphors. In an incredibly short time, a new technology became a point of reference for a nation. In 1858, when Sallie McNeill of Brazoria County in Texas first saw a train, she noted in her diary that “I could hardly realize that this was my first sight of the ‘iron horse’, because I have read and heard of the cars so often, that everything seemed natural.” With me to discuss steamboats, railroads, and steam engines, and their cultural power in the antebellum United States, is Andrew W. Marrs, author of The American Transportation Revolution: A Social and Cultural History. Andrew Marrs is a historian at the Department of State; and I should announce here that his views on steamboats, railroads, and steam engines, and related topics, are his own, and not those of the State Department or the federal government.   For Further Investigation In Episode 134, Cynthia Kierner and I touched on steamboat disasters–among many other disasters; and if you're interested in an overview of the history of technology since approximately 1450, listen to Episode 251. Andrew W. Marrs, Railroads in the Old South: Pursuing Progress in a Slave Society–"Far from seeing the Old South as backward and premodern, Marrs finds evidence of urban life, industry, and entrepreneurship throughout the region. But these signs of progress existed alongside efforts to preserve traditional ways of life. Railroads exemplified Southerners' pursuit of progress on their own terms: developing modern transportation while retaining a conservative social order." February 27, 1859: The Steamboat Princess Disaster Mark Aldrich, Death Rode the Rails: American Railroad Accidents and Safety, 1828-1965 Michael J. Connolly, Capitalism, Politics, and Railroads in Jacksonian New England
4/8/20240
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Episode 354: Collisions

In late July 2013, Vladimir Putin visited Kiev. There he celebrated the 1,025th anniversary of Christianity coming to the Kievan Rus. There he and Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych stood shoulder to shoulder and celebrated the unity of Russia and Ukraine. At that moment–my guest Michael Kimmage writes– Putin and Yanukovych, Russia and Ukraine, seemed to be “twin protagonists of the same story.” Seven months later things were very different indeed. This was because of what my guest Michael Kimmage describes as a series of collisions which resulted in the war that began in 2014, and which accelerated in 2022. The first collision was between Russia and Ukraine; the second between Russia and Europe; and the third between Russia and the United States. Michael Kimmage is Professor of History at the Catholic University of America where is chair of the department. From 2014 to 2016, he served on the Secretary’s Policy Planning Staff at the US Department of State, where he held the Russia/Ukraine portfolio. He was last on Historically Thinking in Episode 165 to discuss his book The Abandonment of the West: The History of an Idea in American Foreign Policy. His most recent book is Collisions: The Origins of the War in Ukraine and the New Global Instability, and it is the subject of our conversation today.   For Further Investigation The list of Historically Thinking conversations either directly connection or tangentially related to this conversation with Michael Kimmage is vast. Here are just a few... Episode 211: The (Quiet) Russian Revolution Episode 212: The Perennial Russian Pivot to Asia Episode 284: The Greatest Russian General, in War and Peace Episode 345: The Ecology of Nations
4/1/20241 hour, 9 minutes, 15 seconds
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Episode 354: Devils’ Rise

On June 24, 1894, President of France Sadi Carnot was stabbed by an anarchist; on September 10, 1898, Empress Elisabeth of Austria was stabbed by an anarchist; on July 29, 1900, King Umberto I of Italy was shot by an anarchist; on September 6, 1901, President of the United States William McKinley was shot by an anarchist. If you have ever wondered why people in the 1900s right up to the Great War, and beyond, all seem to have had anarchists on the brain, those are four of the reasons. But these attention-grabbing acts were far from the first anarchist attacks to capture the public imagination, and nowhere near the most violent or destructive, as my guest today makes clear. From the mid 19th century, the combination of technological and cultural developments in mass media and in weaponry made acts of violence resonate around the globe.  “What follows,” writes James Crossland in the preface to his new book, “is the story of how…revolutionaries, thinkers, killers and spies learned a lesson as heinous as it has proved enduring, resonating with menace into our own troubled age – the means by which to  bring terror to the world.” James Crossland is Professor of International History at Liverpool John Moores University, where he is co-director of the Centre for Modern and Contemporary History. His interests are in—among other things—terrorism, propaganda, the International Red Cross and the history of international humanitarian law. His third and most recent book is The Rise of the Devils: Fear and the Origins of Modern Terrorism, and it is the subject of our conversation today.   For Further Investigation The Orsini Bomb The Paris Commune William McKinley: Death of the President Anarchist Incidents
3/25/20241 hour, 6 minutes, 58 seconds
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Intellectual Humility and Historical Thinking: Mark Carnes

Today’s guest is Mark Carnes, Professor of History at Barnard College. His academic speciality is modern American history and pedagogy. Among his many books are an edited volume, Meanings for Manhood: Constructions of Masculinity in Victorian America (University of Chicago Press, 1992), and Secret Ritual and Manhood in Victorian America (Yale University Press, 1989). An interest in how history appears in things other than histories led him to edit Past Imperfect: History According to the Movies, and Novel History: Historians and Novelists Confront America's Past (and Each Other)—both of which have a dazzlingly impressive array of contributors. In 1995 Mark Carnes pioneered a new pedagogy, a role-playing pedagogy—now known as Reacting to the Past— which placed students and their efforts to understand the past in the center of the classroom experience. He has written several games in the Reacting to the Past series, as well as Minds on Fire: How Role-Immersion Games Transform College, which he and I discussed way back in Episode 16. (I also discussed RTP in Episode 77 with historian Nick Proctor; and the philosophy of educational games with Kellian Adams in Episode 18.)  As is always the case with these conversations, and unlike more typical conversations on the podcast, we will be following a set format of questions…though we reserve the right to wander off the set path.
3/14/202451 minutes, 43 seconds
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351: Pox Romana

By the reign of Marcus Arelius, Rome seems to be unquestioned in its reach of its power, its wealth, and its cultural and intellectual sophistication. The Pax Romana stretched from Britain and Portugal to Syria and Egypt. Yet at the moment of its seemingly greatest achievements, Rome was struck by a disease that annihilated its legions and ravaged its cities. This was the Antonine plague, perhaps history's first pandemic. Its origins and its diagnosis remain a mystery. But my guest Colin Elliott argues that it was both the cause and effect of the empire's decline, a disease which both exposed the crumbling foundations of the empire and then accelerated that crumbling. Colin Elliott is Associate Professor of History at Indiana University. His most recent book is Pox Romana: The Plague that Shook the Roman World, and it is the subject of our conversation today. For Further Investigation Colin Elliot's podcast is The Pax Romana Podcast If you've missed it, go back and listen to Tom Holland explain how The Romans Were Not Like Us in Episode 335 This podcast loves a good pandemic, so long as it is at a great historical distance. We've talked about the immediate consequences of the Black Death with Professor Mark Bailey in Episode 207, and the long term consequences of the Black Death with Jamie Belich in Episode 275 For more on historical disaster, see the conversation with David Potter on disruption in Episode 224
3/11/20241 hour, 9 minutes, 10 seconds
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Episode 350: Revolutionary Age

From the 1760s into the 1830s, waves of revolutions rolled up upon the shores of the Atlantic World, confusing or destroying entrenched political and social hierarchies, and ushering in a new era of democratic rule. These of course were headlined by the American and French Revolutions, but there were no less important ones that quickly followed: not only the Haitian revolution, but in the Andes, in Italy, and eventually throughout the Spanish and Portuguese empires in the Americas. It was a period of unprecedented and–perhaps–unmatched political, economic, social, and artistic upheaval.  This is the canvas for Nathan Perl-Rosenthal in his new book The Age of Revolutions: And the Generations Who Made It. It spans multiple continents, touching on both familiar and very unfamiliar people and places. Nathan Perl-Rosenthal is Professor of History at the University of Southern California. His previous book was Citizen Sailors: Becoming American in the Age of Revolution.  For Further Investigation As I said at the beginning of the conversation, this is one of a series on the revolutionary connections of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. For an intro, see my conversation with David Bell in Episode 176. Micah Alpaugh described how certain means were adopted and adapted by revolutionary movements in that era. And Episode 288 with Jonathan Singerton was about the influence of the American Revolution on the Hapsburg Empire.
3/4/20241 hour, 9 minutes, 7 seconds
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Intellectual History and Historical Thinking: Leah Shopkow

Today’s guest in our series of conversations on intellectual humility and historical thinking is Leah Shopkow, Professor of History at Indiana University in Bloomington. She is a historian of the Middle Ages, specifically of medieval France, and she began her career by studying the history written by medieval chroniclers, which led to her book History and Community: Norman Historical Writing in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries. Since then she has also edited one of those historical texts, William of Andres' The Chronicle of Andres.  Interest in medieval historiography morphed, naturally or unnaturally depending on your point of view, into an interest in the pedagogy of history. She has written numerous articles on the topic, and was the founding co-director and the principal investigator of the History Learning Project at Indiana University. Most recently she has combined both of these interests in her book The Saint and the Count: A Case Study for Reading Like a Historian, which she and I discussed in Episode 203 of this podcast.   For Further Investigation For more on the moves–or dispositions–of historical thinking, go to our series on historical thinking.
2/27/202442 minutes, 28 seconds
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Episode 349: Fallingwater

Fallingwater, perched above Bear Run in southwestern Pennsylvania is Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece, a house perhaps as recognizable as any other in the United States–and it's not even on the nickel. Less known is that it was designed and built at the end of decades of despair and seeming futility in the architect's life, a series of circumstances that would have broken nearly anyone else. Fallingwater is not only an instantiation of Wright’s developing philosophy of architecture, but of his near fanatical determination to prevail against all enemies — often, most notably, himself.  But Fallingwater is also a monument to the Depression era, even though it seems very far removed from our mental images of what "the Depression" was like. With me today is Catherine W. Zipf, an award-winning architectural historian. She is executive Director of the Bristol, historical and preservation Society in Bristol, Rhode Island, and author of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater: American Architecture in the Depression Era, which is the subject of our conversation today For Further Investigation Fallingwater Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin: the one in Wisconsin Midway Gardens Wingspread The classic book to read about Chicago and its hinterland is William Cronon's Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West William R. Drennan, Death in a Prairie House: Frank Lloyd Wright and the Taliesin Murders Wright in Los Angeles, and his "California Romanza": The Hollyhock House, and the Ennis House This 1996 Library of Congress exhibit, "Frank Lloyd Wright: Designs for an American Landscape, 1922-1932", covers one of the decades that Catherine Zipf and I talked about. It is full of beautiful designs, none of which were ever built. Some of the most impressive things in the exhibit are the meticulous models of the landscape in which Wright proposes to build. Catherine briefly mentioned that many houses of the 1920s, most of which are in revival style. For proof of this, see the architectural plans sold by Dover Publications Frank Lloyd Wright explains why he wrote his Autobiography Lincoln Logs and the Hollywood Bowl Listeners to recent podcasts will note some resonance with aspects of my recent conversation about Henry Wallace; but attentive long-time listeners will also note some curious resonance over the question of what is natural with Episode 222, about the career and views of Harvey Wiley.
2/26/20241 hour, 19 minutes, 54 seconds
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Episode 348: Nasty Little War

In the summer of 1918, hoping to somehow re engage the Russians in the First World War as the Allied offensive on the western front began, thousands of Allied troops began to land in ports in Russia’s far north, far east, and far south. It was the beginning of one of the most ambitious military ventures of the twentieth century. Following the armistice with Germany, Allied forces in Russian not only remained, but expanded. Eventually 180,000 troops from fifteen different countries would participate. As either a means of bringing Russian into the war, or strangling the Bolshevik regime in its crib, the intervention was a failure, and quickly forgotten in those nations who had participated in it. But it was a long-cherished memory in the Soviet Union, it arguably stoked global turmoil for decades to come, and it remains firmly a part of the “pick-n’-mix, might-is-right narrative” of Vladimir Putin’s Russia.  Anna Reid was the Kyiv correspondent for The Economist and The Daily Telegraph, from 1993 to 1995. She has written about Ukraine for Foreign Affairs, the Observer, and the Times Literary Supplement. Her books include The Shaman’s Coat: A Native History of Siberia; Leningrad: The Epic Siege of World War II; and Borderland: A Journey Through the History of Ukraine. Her most recent book is A Nasty Little War: The Western Intervention into the Russian Civil War, which is the subject of our conversation today. For Further Investigation There are numerous podcasts in the Historically Thinking archive that relate to this one. You might begin with Episode 65: The First Year of the Russian Revolution, before moving on to Episode 193: The Plot to Bring Down the Soviet Revolution, which covers some of the same territory as this conversation. We talk a little about Siberia; you might also be interested in listening to Episode 212: The Perennial Russian Pivot to Asia
2/19/20241 hour, 12 minutes, 37 seconds
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Intellectual Humility and Historical Thinking: Suzanne Marchand

In our latest in the series of conversations on intellectual humility and historical thinking, my interlocutor is Suzanne Marchand. She is Boyd Professor at Louisiana State University. Her interests are within the realm of European intellectual history, but she has ranged more widely than that. Her books include Down from Olympus: Archaeology and Philhellenism in Germany, 1750-1970 (Princeton, UP, 1996); German Orientalism in the Age of Empire: Race, Religion, and Scholarship (Cambridge UP, 2009); and Porcelain: A History from the Heart of Europe (Princeton UP, 2020), which was the subject of a conversation on this podcast in Episode 190. She has recently been writing a lot about the reception and interpretation of Herodotus from the Renaissance to the present, work which soon promises to become a book. As is always the case with these conversations, and unlike more typical conversations on the podcast, we will be following a set format of questions…though these might be shaken off, from time to time, by either myself or the guest.
2/2/202429 minutes, 37 seconds
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Episode 347: Abolitionist Civil War

Following the outbreak of the American Civil War, the abolitionist movement underwent an “astonishing transformation”, which would in time alter the direction of the war, the shape of the postwar settlement, and destroy the abolitionist movement itself. As the movement’s moral outsiders found themselves becoming interest group insiders, not only their approach but also their message and ultimately their goals changed. Ideological differences became ideological conflicts, and personal animosities were soon blended into the mix.  This is the argument of Frank J. Cirillo in his new book The Abolitionist Civil War: The Abolitionist Civil War: Immediatists and the Struggle to Transform the Union. Frank J. Cirillo is a historian of slavery and antislavery in the nineteenth-century United States. He has held positions at the University of Bonn, The New School, and the University of Virginia. This is his first book. For Further Investigation The photograph is of, from left to right: Wendell Phillips, William Lloyd Garrison, and George Thompson (an English advocate against slavery). The standard biography of Wendell Phillips is James Brewer Stewart, Wendell Phillips: Liberty’s Hero (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1986); Henry Mayer wrote a popular biography of William Lloyd Garrison titled All on Fire: William Lloyd Garrison and the Abolition of Slavery; for a wider focus, see the second edition of the classic study by Ronald G. Walters, American Reformers, 1815-1860 Numerous conversations on Historically Thinking have dealt with related issues. For an overview of abolitionism, see Episode 82: Abolitionism, A Long Conversation. The overlooked importance of Unionism was at issued in Episode 132: Armies of Deliverance and again in Episode 291: True Blue. The drive for black voting rights by American Blacks was the focus of Episode 294: Black Suffrage. And Abraham Lincoln's racial attitudes were the subject of a conversation with Michael Burlingame in Episode 242: Was Abraham Lincoln a Racist?  
1/22/20241 hour, 9 minutes, 48 seconds
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Episode 346: The World That Wasn’t

 Henry Wallace was an Iowan, an accomplished geneticist who hybridized corn; an entrepreneur who co-founded Pioneer Hi-Bred to produce seed, still an agricultural behemoth; the third-generation of editors of an influential American newspaper; a mystic who had a mysterious guru; and a “liberal philosopher”, according to no less an authority than Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  He was also at various times Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary of Commerce, Vice President of the United States, and a third-party candidate for President of the United States in the 1948 election. Like America, Henry Wallace contained multitudes.  With me today is Benn Steil, author of The World That Wasn’t: Henry Wallace and the Fate of the American Century. Benn Steil is a Senior Fellow and Director of International Economics at the Council of Foreign Relations. His previous books have been on the Marshall Plan, and on the financial arguments focused upon the Bretton Woods conference. In this book we have yet another study examining the central moment of the twentieth century–both chronologically as well as in many other ways–but from the extraordinary and idiosyncratic point of view of Henry Wallace.   For Further Investigation For more on Wallace's Midwestern ethos, see my conversations with Jon Lauck about the Midwest: here, way back in Episode 13 (!!!), and again in Episode 299: The Good Country Benn Steill's previous books are The Marshall Plan: Dawn of the Cold War, and The Battle of Bretton Woods: John Maynard Keynes, Harry Dexter White, and the Making of a New World Order Henry Cantwell Wallace (1866-1924): Secretary of Agriculture, father of Henry Cantwell Wallace  "A Magazine Called Wallace's Farmer" The connection between George Washington Carver, Henry Wallace, and Norman Borlaug
1/15/20241 hour, 5 minutes, 6 seconds
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Episode 345: Ecology of Nations

Some animals—like beavers, nesting ants, bees, and humans—actively reshape their environments to make them more favorable for their own species.  My guest today believes that the same is also true of nations. This, he argues,  is the true meaning of Woodrow Wilson’s phrase “to make the world safe for democracy.”  But animals also change as they are adapting their own environment. John Owen argues that liberalism has evolved in ways that are no longer conducive to its own survival; and meanwhile autocratic governments in Russia and China are actively reshaping the international environment to favor autocracy. He believes that the way to ensure democracy’s survival in the United States is to reimagine liberalism—to view it as less about disruption and perpetual openness, and more about commitment, community, and country.  John M. Owen IV is the Amb. Henry J. and Mrs. Marion R. Taylor Professor of Politics, and a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture and the Miller Center for Public Affairs, all the the University of Virginia. His latest book is The Ecology of Nations: American Democracy in a Fragile World Order, and it is the subject of our conversation today. I should add that John is a friend, now of many years standing; and while he might be a thorough-going political scientist, and this is not a work of history, there is a lot of historical thinking in it—but, more importantly, I wanted to have a chance to talk to him for one uninterrupted hour about the book. We recorded the conversation in his study.  
1/8/20241 hour, 5 minutes
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Intellectual Humility and Historical Thinking: Jonathan Zimmerman

This is the first of my interviews with historians touching on questions of intellectual humility and historical thinking. Today conversation is with Jonathan Zimmerman. He is the Judy and Howard Berkowitz Professor in Education and Professor of History of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. He received his PhD in 1993 from the Johns Hopkins University. His books have dealt with a variety of topics related to the history of education, including sex and alcohol education, history and religion in the curriculum, Americans who taught overseas, and historical memory in public schooling. Jonathan Zimmerman is also I think notable for the vareity of opinion pieces he has published across a range of American publications. Jonathan Zimmerman has been on Historically Thinking twice, in Episode 188, on the history of the apparently eternal inability of American college professors to teach, and in Episode 205, where we wondered (along with Eliot Cohen, another frequent guest) if there could ever be a civic history, a history for the common good. For Further Investigation Jonathan Zimmerman, The Amateur Hour: A History of College Teaching in America The Greater Good Science Center
12/21/202324 minutes, 21 seconds
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An Introduction to Disorder

We’re going to do something a little differently in today’s episode of Historically Thinking, in that it's not an episode of Historically Thinking. Instead I wanted to share with you a teaser of a podcast that I think you’ll like. It’s hosted by Jason Pack, our guest on episode 337, and it’s called Disorder. It’s produced by GoalHanger podcasts, the UK's number 1 podcasting company, makers of The Rest is History, hosted by friends of this podcast Tom Holland and Dominic Sandbrook. Disorder is hosted by Jason and former British diplomat Alexandra Hall Hall. The pod tackles small and easy questions like: how did the world get so disordered? What are the fundamental principles behind our current era of geopolitics? And how do seemingly disparate challenges from AI, to Climate Change, to Wars in the Middle East and Ukraine, to Tax Havens, to Unregulated Cyberspace all interact with each other and feed into our era of Global Enduring Disorder? The first full season of episodes are out now – you can find them by searching Disorder or by following the links in the show notes. For me, the Disorder pod hits on many of the same themes as Historically Thinking (that is how a range of of seemingly disparate historical phenomenon are actually interlinked), but tackles this phenomenon through  conceptual investigation with the doers of geopolitics rather than via an interview based podcast with historians. So since I think you’ll enjoy it, I wanted to give our listeners a little taste of what Disorder sounds like. We are going to tune in to episode 11, where Jason and Alex spoke with Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair's former Chief of Staff. They present an overview of  some humorous anecdotes from the Northern Ireland peace process and what they can tell us about what factors lead to successful negotiations and how we might be able to draw upon these lessons in the Middle East and Ukraine. You can find that episode in full as well as Jason's proposed plans for the post-war Govenance of Gaza by following the links in the show notes. Now over to Jason and Alex for that teaser… For Further Investigation Listen to the Disorder podcast here: Read Jason's ‘The Road to Middle East Peace Runs Through Doha’
12/11/202315 minutes, 30 seconds
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Episode 344: Founding Scoundrels

“Founders” is a term that we typically use to refer to just a few men–usually the first four Presidents of the United States, plus Ben Franklin and–nowadays–Alexander Hamilton. We think of them as typical representatives of their age, which produced civic saints of wisdom and service to the new nation.  We don’t usually think about the other Founders, all those men and women who created the institutions, the politics, and the culture of the new republic–from Richard Allen to Judith Sargent Murray to John Jay. And we certainly don’t consider that an age which considered people like Washington to be heroic had points of contrast–the “many unscrupulous figures who violated the era’s expectation of public virtue and advanced their own interests at the expense of others.” Think of them as America’s Founding Scoundrels, whose plots and cons ended up shaping the nation sometimes as much as did the plans and hard work of the institution-builders.   David Head and Timothy J. Hemmis are the co-editors of a new book A Republic of Scoundrels: The Schemers, Intriguers, and Adventurers Who Created a New Nation. Timothy Hemmis is an associate professor of history at Texas A&M University Central Texas, where his teaching focuses on Early American History and American Military History. David Head is history professor at the University of Central Florida, and the author of A Crisis of Peace: George Washington, the Newburgh Conspiracy, and the Fate of the American Revolution, which he and I discussed in Episode 145 of the podcast.   For Further Investigation I've previously on the podcast talked with Lorri Glover about "Founders as Fathers"; and we've also discussed the legal history of treason in the American Revolution with Carlton Larson. The following resources have all been suggested by David and Tim. The best place to read founders' mail is Founders Online William C. Davis, The Rogue Republic: How Would-Be Patriots Waged the Shortest Revolution in American History, (Boston, 2011). Edward Everett Hale, “The Man without a Country,” The Atlantic Monthly, Dec. 1863, 665–679. Andro Linklater, An Artist in Treason: The Extraordinary Double Life of General James Wilkinson (New York, 2009). Shira Lurie, The American Liberty Pole: Popular Politics and the Struggle for Democracy in the Early Republic (Charlottesville, VA, 2023). J. K. Martin, Benedict Arnold, Revolutionary Hero: An American Hero Reconsidered (New York, 1997). David Narrett, Adventurism and Empire: The Struggle for Mastery in the Louisiana–Florida Borderlands, 1762–1803 (Chapel Hill, NC, 2015)
12/4/20231 hour, 6 minutes, 43 seconds
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Episode 343: Talking Anglo-Saxon

In his Dictionary of the English Language, first published in 1755,  Samuel Johnson did not define the words Saxon, Angle, or Anglo-Saxon. But Noah Webster in his 1828 American Dictionary defines Anglo-Saxon as "adjective. Pertaining to the Saxons, who settled in England, or English Saxons." Something had happened in between the two, and not just the American Revolution, and Johnson's and Webster's different views of that event–but that probably did contribute to the difference. And when Webster published his definition, the term was already taking on new connotations. Indeed, the term Anglo-Saxon has a rich and complicated history, right to the present moment. And so does perception of the peoples to which it refers…or does it actually refer to them? With me to discuss the history of the definition and the ideology of the term is Rory Naismith, Professor of Early Medieval English History at the University of Cambridge, Fellow of Corpus Christi College. Author of numerous books, including Citadel of the Saxons: The Rise of Early London, he was last on the podcast talking about medieval money in Episode 328.  For Further Investigation Content, S., and Williams, H., ‘Creating the Pagan English, from the Tudors to the Present Day’, in Signals of Belief in Early England: Anglo-Saxon Paganism Revisited, ed. M. Carver, A. Sanmark and S. Semple (Oxford, 2010), pp. 181–200 Foot, S., ‘The Making of Angelcynn: English Identity before the Norman Conquest’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 6th ser., 6 (1996), 25–50 [on use of Anglo-Saxon and English terminology in the pre-Norman period itself] Frantzen, A. J., and Niles, J. D. (eds.), Anglo-Saxonism and the Construction of Social Identity (Gainesville, FL, 1997) [a collection of essays - the introduction is probably the most helpful single thing] Horsman, R., Race and Manifest Destiny: the Origins of American Racial Anglo-Saxonism (Cambridge, MA, 1981) [this is really good on the early modern and American side of the story] Kidd, C., British Identities before Nationalism: Ethnicity and Nationhood in the Atlantic World 1600–1800 (Cambridge, 1999), esp. ch. 4–5 and 9 [again, excellent on early modern Anglo-Saxonism] Mandler, P., The English National Character: the History of an Idea from Edmund Burke to Tony Blair (New Haven, 2006), esp. ch. 3 Niles, J., The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England 1066–1901 (Oxford, 2015) Rory Naismith observes, "There is also a welter of very polemical stuff on the web; for a selection, see below" Rubinstein, S., ‘Anglo-Saxon Extremists: the Strange Logic of the Activists who Insist the Term “Anglo-Saxon” is Racist’, The Critic, June 2023 Rambaran-Olm, M., ‘History Bites: Resources on the Problematic Term “Anglo-Saxon”’, a three-part series on Medium: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, 7 September 2020 Rambaran-Olm, M., ‘Misnaming the Medieval: Rejecting “Anglo-Saxon” Studies’, History Workshop, 4 November 2019 Rambaran-Olm, M., and Wade, E., ‘The Many Myths of the Term “Anglo-Saxon”’, Smithsonian Magazine, 14 July 2021 Sewer, A., ‘“Anglo-Saxon” is What You Say when “Whites Only” is Too Inclusive’, The Atlantic, 20 April 2021 Williams, H., ‘The Fight for “Anglo-Saxon”’, Aeon, 29 May 2020 Wood, M., ‘“As a Racism Row Rumbles on, is it Time to Retire the Term ‘Anglo-Saxon’?” Michael Wood Explores the Controversy’, History Extra, 4 November 2019  
11/28/202353 minutes, 52 seconds
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Episode 342: Fish Market

From its opening in 1822, the Fulton Market was an essential part of life in old New York, selling vegetables grown on Long Island, fruit harvested in Cuba, lobsters taken from the waters of Maine, chickens raised in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and oysters–and fish–hauled forth from New York harbor itself. Over the decades Fulton Market became known as Fulton Fish Market, dominated by wholesale dealers in fish that came not only from New York Harbor, but from all over the world. What Chicago became for beef, New York became for fish. “A business that specializes in fish,” writes my guest Jonathan Rees, “has to regularize an inevitably uneven supply through a mixture of knowledge and technology.” Rees’s book The Fulton Fish Market: A History is therefore not simply the story of the creation, life, and decline of a New York place, but a description of that place where community, politics, economy, nature, and culture all came together on the New York waterfront. Jonathan Rees is Professor of History at Colorado State University-Pueblo. This is his third appearance on the podcast; he was last on in episode 222 to describe the strange career of Harvey Wiley.   For Further Information Previous conversations with Jonathan were about refrigeration, and the purity and nutritional value of mass-produced food. It doesn't take too much of a guess to figure out why he's now writing about fish markets. Jonathan Rees and I talked briefly about Joseph Mitchell, a legendary New Yorker columnist not least because he eventually had a case of writer's block so massive that it transcended the metaphor "block". Here is Mitchell's book Up in the Old Hotel, in which the Fulton Fish Market is essentially a supporting character, if not primary character, and more on those thirty years without writing.    
11/13/202359 minutes, 57 seconds
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Episode 341: The Forgers

Beginning in 1940 a group of Polish diplomats based in Bern, Switzerland, orchestrated a program of forging passports and identity documents from Latin American countries. These were then smuggled into Nazi-occupied countries, where they were used to save thousands of Jews from the Holocaust. When the Ładoś Group–named after its leader, Aleksander Ładoś, the Polish ambassador to Switzerland–ended its activities in 1943 it had saved possibly as many as 10,000 people from extermination, making it one of the largest conspiracies on behalf of the survival of the European Jews.  Roger Moorhouse describes the Lados Group and its activities in his new book The Forgers: The Forgotten Story of the Holocaust’s Most Audacious Rescue Operation. His most recent book was Poland 1939: The Outbreak of World War II (which won the Polish Foreign Ministry History Prize). He is also the author of Berlin at War (shortlisted for the Hessell-Tiltman Prize), and The Devils’ Alliance.   He is a visiting professor at the College of Europe in Warsaw. For Further Information As mentioned in the podcast, Episode 273 was an exhaustive examination of the life of Josef Pilsudski: father of modern Poland, socialist, Siberian exile, civilian, military thinker, bank robber, master diplomat, and dictator. Also a friend of the podcast, or so we hope. Some common terrain was also discussed in Episode 317, about the village of Oberstdorf in the Allgauer Alps. More on the Ładoś Group The featured image was generated with AI ∙ November 4, 2023 at 12:26 PM  
11/6/20231 hour, 59 seconds
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Episode 340: Price of Collapse

“We live in a world that feels as though it is in the grip of rapid and capricious change. To rescue ourselves from the distress and dismay that change can induce, we tell ourselves that flux is the signature of contemporary life and sets us apart from the simpler worlds in which those before us lived... Yet we really have little ground to be so confident that present flux is outdoing past, for there have been times when the very conditions of survival were stripped from our predecessors, denying them the dignity of living well. This book is about one of those times, China in the early 1640s, when massive climate cooling, pandemic, and military invasion sent millions to their deaths.” Those are the words of my guest Timothy Brook, which begin his new book The Price of Collapse: The Little Ice Age and the Fall of Ming China. Founded in 1368, the Ming overthrew Mongol rule, eventually moved the capital of China to Beijing, and ushered in centuries of economic growth, dazzling cultural achievements, and a doubling of the population. This book is an inquiry into how that achievement collapsed–and why. Timothy Brook is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of British Columbia. His work focuses on the Ming Dynasty, but has extended to both earlier and much later eras. This is his second appearance on the podcast; he was last on in Episode 180 to discuss his book Great State: China and the World. For Further Investigation Porcelain was mentioned in the course of the conversation; for the European industrial aesthetic drive to match China's capacity to make beautiful porcelain, see my conversation with Suzanne Marchand in Episode 110 Tim Brook believe that prices are tools by which to diagnose climate change on par with taking sample cores from glaciers, or examining tree rings. While I've never had a conversation about glacier cores with anyone (but I'm open to it), I have had one about tree rings in Episode 156: The Stories Told By Trees. An even bigger perspective on climate–but one without the granularity and fine detail provided by price history–was provided by Philip Jenkins in Episode 209: Climate, Catastrophe, and Faith  Transcript [00:03:08] Al: Tim Brooke, welcome back to the podcast. [00:03:10] Tim: Thank you, Al. It's a pleasure to be here. [00:03:13] Al: Before we get to anything else, we should probably do a definition. What is price history? Since we're going to be discussing price history a lot. Before we get to China, let's get to the even stranger terrain of price history. [00:03:31] Tim: The project began not as a project to understand climate change. The project began because I wanted to understand the most basic, simple fact that Anyone in a somewhat commercialized society has to deal with, and that is, how much do things cost? It was, so it was a very kind of simple minded question that I had. [00:03:58] Tim: I just wanted to know, [00:04:00] what did you, what did it cost to live during the Ming Dynasty? And I've worked on the Ming Dynasty for long enough that I had a good sense of what society and economy and politics were like during the period. So what I wanted to do is go down to the level of daily life and figure out, what did things cost? [00:04:18] Tim: Did people have enough? income to be able to buy the things they needed. How was that income distributed? How were costs managed? So I started out with this very simple idea. And in fact, the idea was niggling in the back of my mind for about two decades. And so over the last two decades, Whenever I'm reading a source of the Ming, I pick out the prices of things when prices of things are mentioned. [00:04:43] Tim: Now, there is no European historians have got a huge edge on China historians over the question of prices because there's any number of sources that European scholars can use, market sources, parish records, and so [00:05:00] forth. In China,
10/30/202351 minutes, 13 seconds
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Episode 339: Hollow Crown

The plays of William Shakespeare contain within them a whole world of human action and purpose. They are, said Samuel Johnson, "a faithful mirror of manners and of life." We seem to watch over Shakespeare’s shoulder as he turns that mirror this way and that, from medieval England, to the coast of Bohemia, to republican Rome, to a desert island beset with the spirits of the air. And from time to time, as the mirror turns, we see our faces there as well. In those moments we sometimes come to realize, writes my guest Eliot Cohen, that while "we like to think that whatever we see in the mirror is beautiful…Shakespeare forces us to realize that there may be ugly or even hideous things there as well." Eliot Cohen has been a faithful viewer of William Shakespeare's mirror for many years, and his new book is a distillation of those lessons shaken together with his equally long study of statecraft and strategic thought. It is The Hollow Crown: Shakespeare on How Leaders Rise, Rule, and Fall. Eliot A. Cohen is the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Robert E. Osgood Professor at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). Among his many books are Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in Wartime. He has also served as an officer in the Army Reserve, as a director in Defense Department’s planning staff, and from 2007 to 2009 was Counselor to the Secretary of State. This is second appearance on Historically Thinking; since he was on to talk with Jonathan Zimmerman about civic education in Episode 205, he has gotten into podcasting, co-presenting “Shield of the Republic” with partner in crime Eric Adelman. I highly recommend it. For Further Investigation Our previous conversation on Shakespeare was with friend of the podcast Scott Newstok in Episode 186 After listening to the conversation, or in the midst of it, you'll want to watch several–or all–of these soliloquies from The Guardian's "Shakespeare Solos"
10/23/20231 hour, 2 minutes, 3 seconds
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Episode 338: Rivals

 “The scientific community is by any measure a very strange kind of community”, writes my guest. “For starters, no one knows who exactly belongs to it... Its members are a miscellany of individuals but also of disparate institutions…Nor does it have a fixed location. …the village conjured up by the term “scientific community” is scattered all over the globe and its inhabitants meet only occasionally, if at all. Far from living in neighborly harmony or even collegial mutual tolerance, the members of this uncommunal community compete ferociously and engage in notoriously vitriolic polemics … Although modern science has been called the locomotive of all modernity, the scientific community more closely resembles a medieval guild…” Given this, one is bound to ask how precisely this scattered contentious stratified “community” even exists, let alone cooperates. Yet cooperation has been a continuous strand uniting modern science.  Lorraine Daston has described the growth and mutations of that community in her new book Rivals: How Scientists Learned to Cooperate. She  is the Director Emerita of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, visiting professor in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago, and permanent fellow at the Berlin Institute of Advanced Study.  For Further Investigation Lorraine Daston, Rules: A Short History of What We Live By Here is an excellent conversation with Lorraine Daston about her book Rules which, unfortunately, was not a conversation on Historically Thinking We've had numerous conversations about topics within the history of science over the years. Here is a list. The featured image below is of the Fifth Solvay Conference, at which every luminary of past and future physics seems to have been gathered. Hopefully you recognize the bushy-haired man with the big mustache more or less in the center of the first row. Less identifiable than Albert Einstein: Max Planck (first row, 2nd from left); Marie Curie (first, row 3rd from left); Niels Bohr (second row, extreme right); Paul Dirac (second row, fifth from left); Ernst Schrödinger (third row, sixth from right); Wolfgang Pauli (third row, fourth from right); Werner Heisenberg (third row, third from right). And many more who deserve mention, which you can find here.
10/16/20231 hour, 3 minutes, 26 seconds
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Episode 337: Disorder

"Today’s international system is like a ship adrift during a pandemic. With the captain lost to the virus, and the most capable and conscientious members of the crew self-isolating in their cabins, the deck is now teeming with contagious megalomaniacs. Rather than collaborate, each thinks he knows how to steer the ship better than the admirals.” That is the cheerful first paragraph of Jason Pack’s book Libya and the Enduring Global Disorder. Jason Pack is also a NATO Foundation Senior Analyst, co-host of the new Disorder podcast, and international man of mystery who was kidnapped twice in Syria, led wine tours in Georgia, is a backgammon champion and–most importantly–is a long time listener to Historically Thinking who can only be described as a super-fan. He’s here to talk about his book, the ongoing disorder in Libya, how Historically Thinking changed his life, his new podcast, and Georgian wine. For Further Investigation Given its influence on Jason, you can't go wrong with listening to my conversation with Steele Brand (not a pseudonym) about the great Polybius of Megalopolis. Also very much related to this conversation is my conversation about "Empire and Jihad" with the late Neil Faulkner in Episode 240 (one of the most popular in the history of the podcast) and with Glenda Sluga in Episode 257 on the Congress of Vienna, titled "Inventing a New World Order." Jason Pack, "Libya's Chaos is a Warning to the World" Alexandra Sharp, "Mass Flooding Submerges Libya in Disaster" Lorenzo Rusconi, "Backgammon and the Meaning of Life"  The Georgian Wine House, importers to the United States of fine Georgian wines; and, once you're hooked, take a tour with the Birthplace of Wine Experience to see what "the wines of the Greeks, Romans, and ancient Near East tasted like". Or travel in your mind with Atlas Obscura's Guide to Georgia. Bake a khachapuri for a crowd  Visit Washington, DC, not for the monuments or museums, for its Georgian restaurant
10/10/20231 hour, 4 minutes, 5 seconds
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Episode 336: Tory’s Wife

In 1785, Jane Wellborn Spurgeon of Abbots Creek in Rowan County, North Carolina petititioned the North Carolina Legislature, attesting her right to 704 acres of land so that she might provide for her family of 12 children. Her husband, William Spurgeon, had been a leading Loyalist combatant during the Revolution. Now Jane sought to reclaim some of the property that had been taken from them by the rebel government of North Carolina. The Revolution had split their family, upended hierarchies, and now made James Spurgeon claim citizenship and some of the rights pertaining to it. Cynthia Kierner captures James Spurgeon, her world, and her voice in The Tory's Wife, A Woman and Her Family in Revolutionary America. Cindy Kerner is professor of history at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. She was last on the podcast to discuss her book, Inventing Disaster: The Culture of Calamity from the Jamestown Colony to the Johnstown Flood.   For Further Investigation The State Archives of North Carolina The Regulator Movement, described by the North Carolina Encyclopedia. For an overview of the American Revolution in the South, see my conversation with John Buchanan in Episode 110 Transcript [00:01:23] Al: Let's talk about your first meeting with Jane Wellborn Spurgeon. [00:01:30] Al: Do you remember? Do you remember where you were and what you felt? Because I bet you do. [00:01:37] Cindy: I, so like back in the mid 90s, I was writing a book about southern women, mostly white women. In the colonial and the revolutionary era, and it was a very open ended project, but from reading other books about the revolution, people like Linda Kerber in particular had used women's petitions to the state legislatures as a way of [00:02:00] getting at their voices. [00:02:01] Cindy: In other words, women who might not have left behind any other documents have left behind these documents where they told the legislators about their lives, about their problems as a way of getting some sort of help. And so I'm like, okay, I'm going to read all of these for Virginia and North and South Carolina, all the ones that were written by women. [00:02:22] Cindy: And what I'm really hoping to find is, women saying things like, Oh, we had this revolution. Isn't that awesome? Now we have rights. Woohoo. None of them did that. None of them did that. What they did when they asked for help was basically they said, Oh, I'm a poor, weak woman. Sob, sob, please help me. [00:02:43] Cindy: The one exception to that was Jane Spurgeon who, submitted three petitions between 1785 and 1791 and with each successive petition, when she didn't get what she wanted, she got madder and finally said, look [00:03:00] I should have the common rights of other citizens. And so I first. [00:03:03] Cindy: I met Jane in the North Carolina State Archives in Raleigh in the mid 1990s, and I wrote a little bit about her at that point, but I've really been thinking about her petitions and her very strongly worded [00:03:18] Al: So we have to talk more about petitionary literature in a little bit because I get so nerdy and excited about it. It's like the coolest damn thing. Petitionary literature throughout the 18th century. But how many are there of these petitions?  [00:03:32] Cindy: There were hundreds submitted by women alone within this sort of, 10 or 20 year period. Many more were submitted by men and groups of men. But what's different about this period is that prior to the revolution at least in these States women almost never, they did occasionally, but it was very rare. [00:03:55] Cindy: What the revolution did and what the war did really was created situations where a [00:04:00] lot of these women were on their own and they were needing to collect debts, needing tax relief, wanting their husbands back pay if their husbands were soldiers and so forth and so on. And they petitioned the legislature in order to get that.
10/2/20231 hour, 1 minute, 35 seconds
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Intellectual Humility Series: What’s Historical Thinking Got to Do With It?

Way back in April, I dropped the first two podcasts in what are intended to be a series on historical thinking and intellectual humility. They were designed to introduce the concept to an audience who had never really heard of "intellectual humility." The first was with philosopher Michael Patrick Lynch, on epistemology in the age of information, and the challenges of intellectual humility when confronting the “internet of us”. That was followed by a podcast with Igor Grossman, a social psychologist who has investigated the concept of intellectual humility as part of his research into how people make sense of the world around them through “their expectations, lay theories, meta-conditions [or] forecasts.” Today’s podcast is a long delayed follow-up to those two earlier podcast, making an introductory trilogy to the series. I thought I should try and make the connection to intellectual humility from historical thinking to be as clear and explicit as I could. And who better to do that, the Lendol Calder, the man who first taught me about the concept of historical thinking, and from who I first heard that one of the benefits of historical thinking was intellectual humility. In the weeks to come, each Thursday I'm going to drop a conversation of about thirty minutes with a historian in which I ask them about how they became a historian, about what they have gotten right in their work, and about what they have gotten wrong–and how they learned to tell the difference. I think you’ll find them interesting. But I’m also hopeful that social psychologists might find them a useful repository of. Information from which to theorize and conduct further studies on history and intellectual humility. Please let me know what you think of the series, and, better yet, if the concept of intellectual humility resonates with you, and why. Please send an email to [email protected], and put “Intellectual Humility” in the subject line.    Transcript 00:01:11] Al: Today's podcast is a long delayed followup to those two earlier conversations, making a sort of introductory trilogy to a series on historical thinking and intellectual humility. I thought I should try and make the connection to intellectual humility from historical thinking to be as clear and explicit as I possibly could. And who better to do that than Lendol Calder, the man who first taught me about the concept of historical thinking.\, And from who I first heard that one of the benefits of historical thinking was intellectual humility. While I was interested in hearing how he had made that connection and how it worked, I began by asking him to review what historical thinking is, and where did the concept come from. [00:01:53] Lendol: Historians in the United States, in Canada, in Great Britain, [00:02:00] in the Netherlands, Germany, Australia and Sweden, all in the 1990s began turning their attention to the problems of historical pedagogy. And independently, these historians began groping towards The idea that we should refocus history education away from just content towards learning how historians think. [00:02:36] Lendol: This probably was influenced by Simultaneous investigations being made in social psychology. There's been an off and on again interest in learning how experts think and what defines expertise and historians picked up on that movement and began trying to define what it is [00:03:00] that makes historical thinking different from any other kind of thinking such as mathematical thinking or natural science thinking or poetic thinking. [00:03:12] Lendol: I always think, what makes this practice different from any other practice? It's like a stonemason thinking about, how am I being a stonemason? What am I doing? How am I, what are the practices I do to be a stonemason? It's inhabiting a craft, which you have to do in order to pass on a craft to to someone else, I think. [00:03:33] Lendol: Yeah, I'd say that's half of it.
9/28/202344 minutes, 22 seconds
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Episode 335: PAX

 ‘If a man were called to fix the period in the history of the world, during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous, he would, without hesitation, name that which elapsed from the death of Domitian to the accession of Commodus…The frontiers of that extensive monarchy were guarded by ancient renown and disciplined valour. The gentle, but powerful influence of laws and manners had gradually cemented the union of the provinces. Their peaceful inhabitants enjoyed and abused the advantages of wealth and luxury.’ These are the words of Edward Gibbon, writing in the first volume of his history The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. That wealth, that luxury, that peace, had been purchased by the legions of Rome. As Tom Holland writes in his new book PAX, “the capacity of the legions to exercise extreme violence was the necessary precondition of the Pax Romana”. And despite Gibbon’s wistfulness about that happy and prosperous age, that bloodily-won peace was enjoyed by a people very different from ourselves.  Tom Holland is the author of numerous bestselling books. PAX: War and Peace in Rome’s Golden Age is the third volume of a Roman history which began with Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic, and Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar. He was last on Historically Thinking for Episode 139 to discuss his book Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World. Since then, he has started to podcast in a small way  himself and now The Rest is History–which he co hosts with Dominic Sandbrook–is by some measures one of the the most popular podcast in Britain. Which means that this is like the Chairman of Tesco visiting a small alternative co-op in north Devon that reeks of patchouli, and sells at least 99 products made of hemp.
9/25/202358 minutes, 19 seconds
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Episode 334: Civic Bargain

In 2016, Roberto Foa and Yascha Mounk published a chilling essay based on extensive survey data in the Journal of Democracy. It discovered that there was a growing desire for non-democratic alternatives among both young Americans and Europeans. Indeed, the younger and richer you were, the more likely you were to believe it would be “good” for the army to take over. That essay was one of the many indicators and auguries of  that and the preceding years something seemed just a touch off with the state of democratic institutions, and those who used to love them.  But my guests Brook Manville and Josiah Ober retain their confidence in the power of the ideas and the culture that democracy contains. In their new book The Civic Bargain they offer a “guide for democratic renewal”, contained within a history of the rise, fall, rise and evolution of democracies. By focusing on Athens, Rome, Britain, and the United States, they demonstrate some of the commonalities of democratic governance between very different cultures and ages–and they show how democracy remains the best way of establishing and maintaining the civic bargain.  Brook Manville is an independent consultant who writes about politics, democracy, technology, and business; in previous lives he was previously a partner with McKinsey & Co. and an award-winning professor at Northwestern University. His books include The Origins of Citizenship in Ancient Athens  and A Company of Citizens: What the World’s First Democracy Teaches Leaders About Creating Great Organizations, which he co-wrote with our second guest. Josiah Ober is the Constantine Mitsotakis Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University and Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. The author of many books, among them The Rise and Fall of Classical Greece, he is also co-author of the Reacting to the Past game The Threshold of Democracy: Athens in 403 BC, which in many ways is the seed that eventually sprouted into this podcast. For Further Investigation A podcast on Reacting to the Past with its originator, Mark Carnes More on the Roman Republic, with Steele Brand Transcript [00:02:00] Al Zambone: Gentlemen, welcome to Historically Thinking. [00:02:19] Brook Manville: Al, thank you for having us. [00:02:20] Josh Ober: Indeed. Thanks very much. [00:02:22] Al Zambone: Let's begin with the title which is provocative and clear at the same time. What's the Civic Bargain? Josh, why don't you start?  [00:02:31] Josh Ober: Our core argument is that democracy is based on a bargain. In order to figure that out, we had to come up with a new definition of democracy. And I'll throw that over to Brooke to give us that. [00:02:51] Brook Manville: Yeah, I think that, I think it's really the right place to start. The problem is there's so many books coming out about how to save democracy [00:03:00] and people argue about it all the time now. But very often they don't define it. And I think one of the features of our book is we tried to define it very simply. [00:03:09] Brook Manville: Something that was universal across anything that looks or smells like democracy. We basically say it's citizens governing themselves, but then we simplify it even further. And we say, look, at the end of the day, it's people making decisions together without a boss. And we use boss, obviously, in a figurative sense. [00:03:32] Brook Manville: Sometimes it's literal, but like a king, like an oligarch, like a authoritarian tyrant. But basically, at the very most fundamental level, it's People want to be free. And so living and making decisions together without a boss is our starting point. But, and now back to the bargain, we put a big asterisk on that. [00:03:54] Brook Manville: We say, people living and making decisions without a boss, yeah, but [00:04:00] actually, you do have a boss, each other. The whole notion of democracy is that if you don't have a boss,
9/18/202355 minutes, 47 seconds
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Episode 333: City of Echoes

An Ambassador from the Kingdom of the Kongo to the Papal Court On July 20, 817, Pope Paschal began a project to transform the Church of Santa Prassede, the resting place of the sisters and martyrs, Pudenziana and Prassede, executed in the second century, legendarily believed to be daughters of the Roman senator Pudens, the first or one of the first converts of St. Peter himself. To accompany them in their rebuilt church, Paschal removed 2,300 bodies from the catacombs and interred them in walls that were covered with glittering, colorful mosaics, lit by hundreds of candles. It was symbolic of everything the Roman church  had been, and had become: built upon the bones of martyrs, but now wealthy, sponsored by the Emperor of the West, and shepherded by a powerful Bishop, who at the very least was first among equals.  Indeed, as my guest writes, Paschal had himself depicted “shoulder to shoulder with Peter, Paul, Pudenziana, and Prassede.”  This was a key moment in the history of papal Rome–a period in the history of the city in which the Papacy was key to the identity of both the place and its inhabitants. With Constantine’s removal of the imperial capital to the new city of Constantinople, the papacy gradually became the point of reference for Romans, and then eventually for all of those people in western Europe who called themselves Christians. Eventually, even though its universal and awesome power had diminished by the middle of the nineteenth century, it still took an army to remove the Papacy from its position at the city’s heart. And still, from time to time, it has the ability to relativize all other powers in the city. My guest Jessica Wärnberg is a historian of the religious and political culture of Europe. She has written about popes, princes, inquisitors, and Jesuits. She is the author of City of Echoes: A New History of Rome, Its Popes, and Its People, which is the subject of our conversation today. For Further Investigation The episode is illustrated with a photograph of the Church of Santa Prassede, looking towards the altar and the portraits of Peter, Paul, Prassede, Pudenziana, and Pope Paschal in the apse. The small illustration is of the Kongolese ambassador to the Papal Court. If you're new to the podcast, and liked this episode, you'll also like my conversation with philosopher Scott Samuelson about his book Rome as a Guide to the Good Life: A Philosophical Grand Tour For a taste of that classical Roman stuff that we avoided in the discussion–or some of the lower layers of the Roman cake–try this conversation with Ed Watts about the later Roman Republic.   Conversation with Jessica Warnberg [00:00:00] Al: Welcome to Historically Thinking, a podcast about history and how to think about history. For more on this episode, go to historically thinking.org, where you can find links and readings related to today's podcast, comment on the conversation and sign up for our newsletter. And consider becoming a member of the Historically Thinking Common Room, a community of Patreon supporters. [00:00:22] Al: Hello, on July 20th, 817, Pope Pascal, the first began a project to transform the Church of Santa Procede, the resting place of the sisters and martyrs, Pudenziana and Prassede, executed in the second century, legendarily believed to be daughters of the Roman Senator Pudens, who was himself believed to be one of the first or the first convert of St. Peter himself. To accompany the two sisters in their rebuilt church, Pascal removed 2300 bodies from the catacombs and interred them in walls that were covered with glittering colorful mosaics, lit by hundreds of candles. [00:01:00] It was symbolic of everything the Roman Church had been and had become built upon the bones of martyrs. [00:01:06] Al: Now literally so wealthy, sponsored by the Emperor of the West and shepherded by a powerful bishop who at the very least was first among equals indeed. As my guest writes,
9/11/20231 hour, 12 minutes, 13 seconds
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Episode 332: Rome v. Persia

A Sassanid cataphract in Oxford–fortunately a re-enactor  From the Ionian revolt of the 490s, through the battles of Marathon, Thermopylae, Salamis, and Plataea, the vastAchaemenid Persian Empire was pitted against the pitifully small Greek states on its western periphery, until the astonishing successes of Alexander of Macedon decapitated it, placing him and his companions atop that imperial trunk. But Alexander’s death, and the wars of his successors, gave an opportunity for a new power to rise in the far west and march eastward. In time imperial Rome would face new Persian dynasties; and for centuries Rome and Persia warred in the Caucuses and across Mesopotamia, until at the beginning of the seventh century an apocalyptic struggle resulted in the downfall of Persia, and the crippling of Rome, just as a new world-changing force emerged from the Arabian peninsula.  That is a pretty good analogue to a Chat GPT description of a millennia’s worth of history, and while some of the facts are correct, nearly all of its interpretations are false. Such is Adrian Goldsworthy’s argument in his new book Rome and Persia: The Seven Hundred Year Rivalry. While there were periods of warfare, they were given the length of the two empires coexistence very sporadic indeed. Moreover, both empires had a respect for each other that they offered no other polity, and the trade and commerce between them–not just in products, but also in cultural mores–was perhaps the most important feature of their relationship. This is Adrian’s fourth appearance on the podcast. He was last on the podcast discussing his book Philip and Alexander: Kings and Conquerors; he has also explained how Hadrian’s Wall worked, and why Julius Caesar needs to be taken seriously as a historian. For Further Investigation The Roman Eastern Frontier and the Persian Wars AD 226-363: A Documentary History, edited by Michael H. Dodgeon and Samuel N. C. Lieu, and The Roman Eastern Frontier and the Persian Wars AD 363-628, edited by Geoffrey Greatrex and Samuel N. C. Lieu–Adrian writes that "both very well done for the later periods with sources and comments" Ammianus Marcellinus, The Late Roman Empire (AD 354-378) Goldsworthy also recommends the Perseus Digital Library for all your classical reading and research needs For why battles aren't as important as you think they are, see my conversation with Cathal Nolan   Conversation with Adrian Goldsworthy Al: [00:00:00] Welcome to Historically Thinking, a podcast about history and how to think about history. For more on this episode, go to historically thinking.org, where you can find links and readings related to today's podcast. Comment on the conversation and sign up for our newsletter, and consider becoming a member of the Historically Thinking Common Room, a community of Patreon supporters. Hello, from the Ionian Revolt of the 490s, through the battles of Marathon, Thermopylae, Salamis, and Plataea, the vast Persian Empire of the Achaemenid Dynasty was pitted against the pitifully small Greek states on its western periphery, until the astonishing successes of Alexander of Macedon decapitated it, placing him and his companions atop that imperial trunk. But Alexander's death, and the wars of his successors, gave an opportunity to a new power to rise in the far west. In time Rome, first as republic and then as empire, would face new Persian dynasties. For centuries, Rome and Persia warred in the Caucasus and across [00:01:00] Mesopotamia, until at the beginning of the 7th century, an apocalyptic struggle resulted in the downfall of Persia, the crippling of Rome, just as a new world changing force emerged from out of the Arabian Peninsula. That is a pretty good analogue to a chat GPT description of a millennia's worth of history. And, like lots of chat GPT descriptions, while some of the facts are correct, nearly all of the interpretations are false. Such would be Adrian Goldsworthy's argument in...
9/5/20231 hour, 17 minutes, 36 seconds
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Episode 331: Red Hotel

From 1941 to 1945, a platoon of Anglo-American reporters (and one or two Australians and Canadians) were housed in Moscow’s Metropol Hotel. They were there to report on the defense of the Soviet Union against the Nazi invasion, and many of them were not disposed to tell anything other than the most positive imaginable stories. Yet the regime of Josef Stalin treated them with the greatest possible suspicion, keeping them safely under watchful eyes in the Metropol, carefully controlling what they could see and hear. Nevertheless, even in the wilderness of mirrors that was Stalinist Russia, truth had a way of breaking through. While some of the women translators who assisted the reporters were spies, artfully delivering disinformation through the reporters to their western audiences, others were secret dissidents who took the opportunity to whisper the secrets of everyday Soviet life. Some of the reporters radically reversed the views which they brought with them to the Metropol; while others, seemingly less ideological at the start, sunk into a comfortable moral and intellectual torpor.  The Metropol as the stage, and the reporters who crossed it, are the subject Alan Philps new book Red Hotel: Moscow 1941, the Metropol Hotel, and the Untold Story of Stalin's Propaganda War. Alan Philps was Moscow correspondent for Reuters and the Daily Telegraph, has been foreign editor of the Telegraph, and editor of the journal of Chatham House, The World Today.  For Further Investigation Previous related conversations include Nadezhda Ulanovskaya in conversation with William F. Buckley
8/28/20231 hour, 10 minutes, 24 seconds
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Episode 330: His Majesty’s Airship

Hello, at 2:09 in the morning on October 5th, 1930, the British airship R-101 crashed some 90 miles northwest of Paris. It was just a few hours into a journey that was supposed to take it to Karachi, then a premier city of the British Empire of India. Impacting the ground at approximately 13 mph, the 5.5 million cubic feet of hydrogen gas that gave the airship its buoyancy immediately caught fire. Forty-eight of the fifty-four on board died, including Lord Christopher Birdwood Thomson, a Labour peer, and the Secretary of State for Air, who had staked his policy program on R101’s successful voyage. It was a greater loss of life than that suffered in the more notorious Hindenburg crash of 1937–but, incredibly enough, it was not the greatest number of lives to be claimed by an airship accident. And on that record of death and destruction–and why it was tolerated for so long–hangs a tangled story. The story of how R101 came to its rapid end is told by S.C. Gwynne in his new book His Majesty’s Airship: The Life and Tragic Death of the World’s Largest Flying Machine. S.C. Gwynne has written numerous books, including the New York Times bestsellers Rebel Yell and Empire of the Summer Moon. For Further Investigation Some of themes in the conversation were touched in earlier conversations: one with Tom Misa, on the history of technology, and the other with Iwan Rhys Morus on how Victorians conceived of the future. Harold G. Dick and Douglas H. Robinson, The Golden Age of the Great Passenger Airships: Graf Zeppelin and Hindenburg E. A. Johnston, Airship Navigator: One Man’s Part in the British Airship Tragedy 1916-1930 Nick Le Neve Walmsley, R101: A Pictorial History Nevil Shute, Slide Rule: An Autobiography Thomas Paone, "Before Top Gun, Hollywood Promoted Naval Aviation with Dirigible"
8/21/202356 minutes, 3 seconds
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Episode 329: Nature’s Messenger

On two separate trips, he traveled throughout the southeastern corner of the North American continent. He collected plants, and seeds, which he sent to interested amateur plantsmen and gardeners, as well as some of the foremost naturalists of the age. But he also collected animals and birds, and spent his time making drawings of birds. Eventually he would even read a scientific paper before the Royal Society in London that was the first to describe the migration of birds.  This pioneering naturalist was not, as some of you might have guessed, John James Audubon. Nor was it, as some of the smart kids in the front row might think, either John or William Bartram. It was Mark Catesby, whose two separate sojourns in Virginia and South Carolina–lasting together over a decade–led many years later to the publication Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands, the first ever illustrated account of American flora and fauna. And yet very few of you have ever heard his name. With me to talk about Mark Catesby and his world, both natural and cultural, is Patrick Dean, author of Nature’s Messenger: Mark Catesby and his Adventures in a New World. He was last on the podcast in Episode 223 describing the first expeditions to reach the top of Denali, described in his first book A Window to Heaven. For Further Investigation A digital edition of the Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands--Patrick Dean writes, "I used it a lot, as you can imagine!" For more on Catesby's era and context, see Julian Hoppit, A Land of Liberty?: England, 1689-1727; Paul Langford, A Polite and Commercial People: England, 1727-1783; and John Brewer, Pleasures of the Imagination: English Culture in the Eighteenth Century And if you're into coloring books for adults, why not Mark Catesby's Nature Coloring Book: Drawings from the Royal Collection
8/14/202356 minutes, 11 seconds
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Episode 328: Making Medieval Money

In the early 11th century, an English monk wrote an imaginary conversation between two men haggling over the price of a book. After finally agreeing to a price, they then “needed to establish what means of payment would be used, and the buyer reeled off a daunting list of thirteen possible ways of settling the transaction, ranging from gold and silver to beans, clothing, and goats.” But in the end the seller wants to be paid in coin for, he says, “he who has coins or silver can get everything he wants.” But those fictitious monks lived in a time of coin scarcity. Indeed, for about seven centuries–between the end of the western Roman Empire in the fifth century, and the economic growth of the twelfth, coins were in short supply. Yet nevertheless, argues my guest Rory Naismith, people found coins important because they established  a means of “articulating people's place in economic and social structure.”  Medieval money, and the making of it, turns out to be a point of contact between economic, social, and institutional history. Why? Because making money is also about making meaning. Rory Naismith is Professor of early medieval English history at the University of Cambridge, and a fellow of Corpus Christi. Among his previous books are Money and Power in Anglo-Saxon England: The Southern English Kingdoms, 757-865. His most recent book is Making Money in the Early Middle Ages, which is the subject of our conversation today. For Further Investigation We've talked about coins before, and their use as historical evidence, in Episode 217 with Frank Holt–which turns out to be a pretty good introduction to this conversation with Rory Naismith. As regular listeners know, I like talking about credit, and money. Past conversations about credit include Episode 218, with Sara Damiano about women's use of credit in early America. I talked about banking in the early American republic with Sharon Ann Murphy. And while our conversation wasn't focused on credit or banking, Rowan Dorin and I did talk a lot about both in Episode 304. Rory Naismith writes:  "I'd urge listeners to spend some time with the Portable Antiquities Scheme and the Corpus of Early Medieval Coin Finds. For reading, the classic overview (other than my new book!) is Peter Spufford, Money and its Use in Medieval Europe; also very good for what comes next in the story is Jim Bolton, Money in the Medieval English Economy. A very good survey of the wider historical picture in the early period is Chris Wickham, The Inheritance of Rome."  
8/7/20231 hour, 13 seconds
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Episode 327: American South

For more than two centuries, the American South has fascinated Americans–and increasingly those outside North America. Its economy, politics, religion, race relations, literature, and food have influenced all the commensurate parts of national life. Now A New History of the American South draws together the talents of several historians to create a new narrative of southern history, from the distant past of prehistory to the present. Drawing on old and new scholarship, the New History considers all the experiences of all the peoples of the South: indigenous, black, and white; male and female; poor, elite, and middling.  W. Fitzhugh Brundage is the editor of A New History of the American South, which means is the impresario and manager of the troupe of actors involved in the creation of an edited volume. Otherwise he is the William Umstead Distinguished Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has written on lynching, utopian socialism in the New South, white and black historical memory in the South since the Civil War, and the history of torture in the United States from the time of European contact to the twenty-first century; and he is currently working on a study of Civil War prisoner of war camps. For Further Investigation I've previously talked about the New New South with Zachary Lechner, author of The South of the Mind, way back in Episode 81, in a rare face-to-face, recorded in his office conversation C. Vann Woodward, Origins of the New South, 1877-1913 James Cobb, C. Vann Woodward: American's Historican W.J. Cash, Mind of the South John Shelton Reed, The Enduring South And I've talked with John Reed twice, once about Bohemian New Orleans, and another time about North Carolina barbecue. Both of them extremely important subjects. I mean it.
7/31/20231 hour, 5 minutes, 45 seconds
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Episode 326: The Professor and the Rough Rider

John Singer Sargent, Henry Cabot Lodge At the 1920 Republican Convention the journalist and H.L. Mencken observed with great amusement and interest the behavior of Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, the chair of the convention. “Lodge’s keynote speech, of course, was bosh,” wrote Mencken, “but it was bosh delivered with an air…Lodge got away with it because he was Lodge—because there was behind it his unescapable confidence in himself, his disarming disdain of discontent below, his unapologetic superiority. This superiority was and is quite real. Lodge is above the common level of his party, his country and his race, and he knows it very well, and is not disposed toward the puerile hypocrisy of denying it.”  It is extraordinary, given how Mencken saw Lodge, that we are much more likely to know who H.L. Mencken was then to recognize the name of Henry Cabot Lodge. Of a prominent seafaring family, he received one of the very first PhDs granted by Harvard, was involved in Massachusetts politics from 1880, and in 1892 was elected to the United States Senate—where he served until his death in 1924. He was one of the great political personalities of his age, alongside Theodore Roosevelt, his friend of 35 years, Theodore Roosevelt. Together, as Laurence Jurdem describes in his new book, The Rough Rider and the Professor: Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge, and the Friendship that Changed American History, they formed an unbeatable team, with Roosevelt thrusting ahead, while Lodge offered canny tactics and strategy, serving as Roosevelt’s one man think tank and advisory group. Though their friendship was threatened by Roosevelt’s third-party run for the White House, their final years were warmed by their mutual detest for Woodrow Wilson.  Laurence Jurdem is currently an adjunct professor of history at Fairfield University and Fordham College’s Lincoln Center campus.  The author of Paving the Way for Reagan: The Influence of Conservative Media on U.S. Foreign Policy, he is a frequent commentator on American politics. For Further Investigation Think of this conversation as begin the third of a Summer 2023 trilogy on late 19th century American politicians and political culture. It began with President Garfield, then moved backward to describe the context and foundation of "Civil War politics" in the "Age of Lincoln", and now moves out of the Age of Lincoln with two men who were very much born in the Age of Lincoln, but then shaped the foundations of progressivism. Henry Cabot Lodge, Alexander Hamilton–some have said that Roosevelt was one of the few people to respect Hamilton between his death and the late twentieth century. If so, he learned to do it from Lodge, for whom Hamilton was symbolic of what he desired to be as a politician and a policymaker. Henry Cabot Lodge and Theodore Roosevelt, Hero Tales from American History–a co-written book, composed of biographical essays they wrote for The Century Magazine. Lodge's heroes are George Washington, Gouverneur Morris, John Quincy Adams, Francis Parkman, Grant at Vicksburg, Robert Gould Shaw, James Russell Lowell, Sheridan at Cedar Creek, and Abraham Lincoln. With the exception of Grant and Sheridan, it's a collection of Federalists and Bostonians, which is about right. I quoted several times in the podcast from H.L. Mencken's "Lodge", an essay that he included in his A Mencken Chrestomathy. Very much worth seeking out.  H.W. Brands, T.R: The Last Romantic Two by Patricia O’Toole, The Five of Hearts: An Intimate Portrait of Henry Adams and  his Friends, 1880-1918, and  When Trumpets Fade: Theodore Roosevelt After The White House John Garraty, Henry Cabot Lodge: A Biography William H. Harbaugh, Power and Responsibility: The Life and Times of Theodore Roosevelt
7/24/20231 hour, 13 minutes, 18 seconds
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Episode 325: Brother Mauro’s Map

On a wall outside the reading room of the Museo Correr hangs a map of the world. It is not just any map. The oceans are painted cerulean blue, and on their waves travel ships of every nation. On land, the constructions of every culture are shown: cities and towns, castles and arches, mosques and cathedrals, tombs and towers. Moreover it is a map filled with words, the words written  in Veneziano, the Italian dialect of Venice, with beautiful multicolored penmanship.  The map was created in 1459 by a Venetian monk, who in doing so produced the most advanced description of the world yet seen in Europe–or, perhaps, anywhere else. It was, argues my guest Meredith Small, a key moment, when maps and cartography became a proto-science–something like we understand it today–rather than the expression of cultural and religious concepts, a view now very foreign to us.  Meredith F. Small is a professor of anthropology at Cornell University. She has previously written Inventing the World: Venice and the Transformation of Western Civilization. Her latest book is Here Begins the Dark Sea: Venice, a Medieval Monk, and the Creation of the Most Accurate Map of the World, and it is the focus of our conversation. For Further Investigation For other conversations related to this one, go at once to my conversation with Ioanna Iordanou about the Venetian Secret Service; and my conversation with Catherine Fletcher on the Italian Renaissance. As for mapmaking, this was touched on when Robyn Arianhrod and I talked about the versatile and curious Thomas Hariot. Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana– the home of Fra Mauro's map Museo Galileo–Fra Mauro's World Map The National Library of Australia–"Mapping Our World: From Terra Incognita to Australia"–as video mentioned by Meredith in our conversation, with wonderful details and commentary San Michele in Isola–the site of Fra Mauro's monastery. While the Venetian congregation of Camaldolese was closed in the early twentieth century, the order of Camaldolese Hermits of Mount Corona continues.
7/17/202355 minutes, 4 seconds
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Episode 324: Civil War Politics

It’s no secret that historians love to create periods and errors, and then physically argue about them. We love to talk about the long 18th century, the short 18th century, the long 19th century, the short 19th century, the short 20th century — and God knows what will say about the 21st, but we will have something to say about it, of that you can be sure. But often by breaking things into discrete periods such as antebellum, Civil War, and reconstruction, we miss commonalities between periods of time that amount, from the perspective of a medieval or classical historian or anyone focused on the longer duration, to just a few decades. Paul Escott’s new book The Civil War Political Tradition: Ten Portraits of Those That Formed It likewise refuses to divide things into neat and discrete boxes. Rather it profiles very different people who nevertheless all endorsed or rebelled against a political tradition that emphasized individual ambition, short-term thinking, compromise, and a pragmatic approach to problems—a tradition that did not, however, have the necessary power to resolve the crisis over slavery and race. Paul D. Escott is the Reynolds Professor of History Emeritus at Wake Forest University. He was last on the podcast in Episode 294. For Further Investigation Think of this as a background to last week's conversation about James Garfield; he's an example of a politician whose life and views were completely framed and formed by the Civil War. We've talked about John C. Calhoun with Bob Elder; and with Michael Burlingame about Abraham Lincoln. Note that Burlingame and Escott have different perspectives on Lincoln. There is a Papers of Jefferson Davis project, and they have a bibliography of works related to the best qualified American President ever. The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, which has an excellent web page on the reach of Uncle Tom's Cabin Albion Winegar Tourgée (1838-1905)
7/10/20231 hour, 2 minutes, 53 seconds
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Episode 323: President Garfield

"The Three-Story Head" When the Republican convention reconvened on the morning of June 8, 1880, Congressman James A. Garfield of Ohio had precisely two nominations to be the Republican candidate for President. But by the early hours of the next day, on the 36th ballot, following a day unlike that of any political convention in American history, James Garfield was the party’s nominee for the Presidency.  Late nineteenth century politicians acquired a bad name in their own day, and subsequently have been regarded not only as venal but, perhaps even worse, as boring. James Garfield was neither of those things. Literally born in a log cabin, he worked on a canal boat before schooling made him a teacher. Subsequent time as a student at Williams College revealed him to be a powerful intellect about whom tales were told ever after — for example, that he could write Greek with one hand, while simultaneously writing Latin with the other. He quickly became president of a small college, an itinerant minister for his church, and with the coming of the Civil War he volunteered, was made colonel of the 42nd Ohio Volunteer Regiment, and led an independent campaign which gave him the rank of brigadier general, and the position of chief of staff for one of the most important Union armies. All of this to say that if James Garfield had never been a politician, let alone been nominated and then elected to the presidency in such a dramatic fashion, he would still have been an interesting and impressive man. Now C.W. Goodyear has told his story in President Garfield: From Radical to Unifier, which just as easily might be subtitled An American Life. For Further Information The James A. Garfield Historic Site. Which also has the absolutely best twitter account of any historic site. Really and truly. The Garfield-Rosecrans Controversy Why the presidential history might (sigh) be important (this was Episode 2!) A past conversation which in part dealt with the passion for Union, now somewhat lost to us
7/7/20231 hour, 2 minutes, 59 seconds
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Episode 322: Roman Walks

Caravaggio, David and Goliath: a dangling self-portrait My guest Scott Samuelson didn’t visit Rome until he was in his mid 30s. Since then, with COVID exceptions, he has gone to Rome every summer.  These trips, and his thoughtfulness and wonder at what he  has seen there  has resulted in a wonderful and idiosyncratic book. He describes it as “an exploration of both the city and the visions of life inspired by it, an eclectic guide that blends history, art, literature, religion, and philosophy. My aim is to see how much our souls can be instructed not only by thinkers like Cicero, Seneca, and Giordano Bruno but also by sites like the Forum, the Villa Farnesina, and the Galleria Borghese.” The result is Rome as a Guide to the Good Life: A Philosophical Grand Tour.  Scott Samuelson is a professor at Kirkwood Community College in Iowa. He  also works with the Catherine Project—brainchild of friend of the podcast Zena Hitz–where experienced teachers engage great books with a small group of readers for free. For his work in bringing philosophy to the public, he won the 2015 Hiett Prize in the Humanities. This is his third book.   For Further Information If you enjoyed this conversation, and are new to the podcast, then give a listen to my conversations with Zena Hitz (mentioned above), and with Scott Newstok–who introduced me to Scott Samuelson. And if you are a student, and want to see Rome as Scott Samuelson sees it, why not go with him?. It's too late to do it this year, but there's always 2024...
6/26/202359 minutes, 20 seconds
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Episode 321: Amazing Iroquois

When on April 9, 1865, Ulysses S Grant received the surrender of Robert E Lee, one of the staff officers who accompanied him was Ely S. Parker.  He was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Union Army, an engineer, and a friend of Grants from Galena, Illinois. But he was also a member of the Wolf Clan of the Seneca, one of the Six Nations of the Iroquois or Haudenosaunee. And not only was he a member, but indeed the Sachem of the Six Nations. So it was that a man who was not actually a citizen of the United States drafte d the official copy of the terms of surrender which Grant and Lee signed. Parker was one in a lineage of people who shaped the modern conception of the Six Nations. He was preceded by his uncle Red Jacket, and succeeded by his friend and adopted Seneca tribe member Harriet Converse, and his nephew Arthur Parker.  All of them shaped a history of what Arthur Parker– in a ten-volume unpublished work–called “the amazing Iroquois “. John C. Winters describes their story in his new book The Amazing Iroquois and the Invention of the Empire State. He is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Southern Mississippi.  For Further Investigation The most recent mention of the Haudenosaunee on the podcast was in my conversation with Dean Snow, an eminent archaeologist who has excavated numerous Haudenosaunee sites in New York State and beyond. An important conversation on reintegrating Native American history into a broader narrative was with Jim Horn, when we had a conversation about the great chieftain Opechancanough. And self-representation by native leaders was the focus of an old conversation with my colleague Jane Simonsen, way back in Episode 58: What Black Hawk Wore "Red Jacket's Peace Medal returned to Seneca Nation after 116 years at Buffalo museum" Seneca-Iroquois National Museum Arthur Parker, Seneca Myths and Folktales Letter from Ely S. Parker to Harriet Converse   Al: So throughout the book, you play around with this idea of Iroquois exceptionalism. If my old [00:02:00] professor, David Hollinger, was on the podcast, he would immediately protest that American exceptionalism is wrongly used. It was invented by Stalin or the head of the Communist Party or something like that. But we won't get into that. You're enjoying playing around with Iroquois versus American exceptionalism, but defining our terms, what is Iroquois exceptionalism? I trust that it's not that Iroquois lacked a feudal class so that therefore their approach to post capitalism or socialism is different. John: No. No, not quite. What at this notion of Iroquois exceptionalism is of course at the heart of the book, but it's an invented category though, similarly, so it is really Capturing the idea that the Iroquois have this unique place in American history. If you're walking down the street in New York City or you're moving through New York State and you ask people what do you know of the Iroquois? Or have you heard of the Iroquois? The responses that [00:03:00] often spring to mind are these exceptional things like the Skywalkers, right? The Iroquoian steel workers most of them Mohawks, who are building the Empire State Building, and basically New York City's skyline, not only using Iroquoian mussel, but also Iroquoian steel. Some of them who have more like anthropological interests and maybe political theoretical interests are really interested in this idea that the Iroquois in effect invented modern American women's. Rights because as a matrilineal society, the Iroquois had this or granted women this extraordinary and exceptional power. So during the mid 19th through the early 20th century, we see lots of these suffrage reformers turn to the, I Iroquois to say, if we America, the United States, this progressive white nation can't [00:04:00] even do the same thing that these unquote Savage Indian are. Na, sa quote unquote, Savage Indian neighbors are doing and granting women equal repres...
6/19/20231 hour, 5 minutes, 18 seconds
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Episode 320: The Devils Will Get No Rest

As the President of the United States prepared to travel to Morocco for a wartime conference, his closest aide and advisor wrote down just why he was going to make the arduous trip. Franklin Roosevelt, wrote Harry Hopkins, “was going to Casablanca ‘because he wanted to make a trip. He was tired of having other people, particularly myself, speak for him around the world. He wanted to see our troops, he was sick of people telling him that it was dangerous to ride in airplanes. He liked the drama of it. But above all, he wanted to make a trip.” What Churchill called the most important Allied conference took place over ten days in January 1943. In a strange combination of resort accommodations, surrounded by barbed wire, anti-aircraft guns, and sandbags, a no-holds barred exchange laid out plans for the next year, and the years to come.  James Conroy describes the antecedents to the conference, the lengthy trip to get there, and what happened in his new book The Devils Will Get No Rest: FDR, Churchill, and the Plan That Won the War. A practicing lawyer until 2020, James Conroy’s first book Our One Common Country, was a finalist for the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize; his second, Lincoln’s White House, shared the Lincoln Prize.
6/15/20231 hour, 1 minute, 19 seconds
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Episode 319: Working College

Alice Lloyd: A serious woman In 1951 the Southern Association of Colleges, an accrediting agency, sent a committee to assess a small two-year institution in the mountains of eastern Kentucky named Caney Creek College. Their final report makes for interesting reading, which you can’t always say about accreditation reports. “This institution charges no tuition,” they reported. “...The understanding is that students will offer to work in the mountain area, and 90% have done so. There are amazing examples of outstanding service…The President is aged and crippled but otherwise alert, diligent, and confident. She works seven days a week…The fact is, this committees has never seen an institution like this. One must visit to understand and to be able to interpret.” The President was Alice Lloyd, and she was also the founder of the college–as well as a network of charitable organizations. After her death, the college was renamed in her honor. Allison Holbrook Southard is Associate Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Alice Lloyd College. She’s with us today to talk about this unique institution, explain what “institutional advancement” is, and the unique challenges that all college advancement officers face, as well as those specific to Alice Lloyd. For Further Information If you haven't, you should listen to Episode 311: Knowledge Towns; and give a listen to some other podcasts in our series "Higher Ed: A Guide for the Perplexed" The Work Colleges Consortium Having mentioned This is Your Life in the podcast, I am unable to resist linking to the great Sid Caesar spoofing the show with This is Your Story. Robert Browning, "Song from Pippa Passes"
6/5/202355 minutes, 56 seconds
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Episode 318: Speaking Yiddish to Chickens

East of Philadelphia and west of Atlantic City is the city of Vineland, situated in more or less the geographical center of South Jersey. Since the late 19th century, it had been the center of a dispersed community of Jewish farmers. Following the Second World War, a few thousand survivors of the Holocaust decided not to settle in American cities, but like earlier Jewish immigrants became farmers in South Jersey. Seth Sten’s grandparents were two of these refugees. In his new book Speaking Yiddish to Chickens: Holocaust Survivors on South Jersey Poultry Farms, he tells not only their own story, but that of their fellow immigrants, and of the community in which they settled–one in which previous waves of Jewish immigrants had built and rich network of cultural and religious institutions that Alexis de Tocqueville would have recognized, and admired. Like all new farmers in America, many failed; many regarded it as the worst time of their lives; and others, even those who left the rural life and moved to the cities for jobs and other opportunities, regarded it as their best years in America. Seth Stern is a legal journalist and editor at Bloomberg Industry Group. He previously reported for Bloomberg News, Congressional Quarterly, and the Christian Science Monitor. This is his second book.   For Further Investigation The Sam Azeez Museum of Woodbine Heritage, in Woodbine, NJ, preserves the history of the earliest Jewish agricultural settlements in South Jersey The Alliance Jewish Cemetery in Norma, New Jersey, founded in 1882. Jewish Farming in the Garden State: note the list of Jewish "colonies" "The History of Jewish Farming in the Garden State" The South Jersey Culture and History Center has further resources on Jewish settlements Miles Lerman (1920-2008): an obituary from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
5/30/20230
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Episode 317: Third Reich Village

The village of Oberstdorf lies in the midst of the Allgauer Alps, not that far from the Austrian border. While other Alpine towns like Garmisch-Partenkirchen, to the east in Oberbayern, or Andermatt in Switzerland benefited from proximity to mountain passes and the trade routes that crossed them, and other towns like Berchtesgaden grew rich from proximity to natural resources, or the development of a unique craft economy, Obertsdorf had none of those things. It was where the road literally ended, and for centuries remained an out of the way community dependent on subsistence farming, and some desultory iron mining.  But with the arrival of the railroad, and tourism, Obertsdorf began to be connected to a wider world. While some at first attempted to ignore the rise of Hitler and the Nazi movement, that movement eventually captivated many Oberstdorfers as well.  Julia Boyd and Angelika Patel have co-written A Village in the Third Reich: How Ordinary Lives Were Transformed by the Rise of Fascism. In it they describe the Third Reich as seen from Oberstdorf , and the Third Reich in Oberstdorf. They recount acts of violence, complicity, and various levels of resistance, from the 1920s through to the end of the war–which, for the republic of France, officially ended in Oberstdorf. For Further Investigation We covered some of the same ground in the conversation with Peter Fritzsche in Episode 244, in which he focused on Hitler's first hundred days as Chancellor of Germany Julia Boyd has previously written Travelers in the Third Reich: The Rise of Fascism, 1919-1945
5/25/20230
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Episode 316: Redcoat’s Son

William Hunter was a radical advocate for American democracy. Born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, he was the founder of the second newspaper west of the Alleghenies, and the first newspaper editor to protest the Alien and Sedition Acts. Arguably a Jacksonian Democrat before Andrew Jackson first ran for president, Hunter served the Jackson Administration, and as a civil servant seven successive administrations. Yet that brief biography obscures his very interesting origins. For William Hunter had been born in New Brunswick, yes, but as the son of John Hunter of the 26th Regiment of the Line. For the first ten years of his life William followed his father as his peacetime service in British America became combat service in the rebellious territory of the new United States. Departing for Britain at age ten in 1778 when his sick father was detached for recruiting duties, William returned to the United States fifteen years later, his father dead, his mother and sister left behind. He was now a committed republican, arriving in Philadelphia in the midst of the yellow fever epidemic of 1793. He would never again travel back across the ocean, or see his mother and again. Gene Procknow describes the ups and downs, and twist and turns of William Hunter’s eventful life in his new book William Hunter Finding Free Speech: A British Soldier’s Son Who Became an Early American. Formerly a management consultant with a global consulting firm, Gene Procknow has become a careful historian of early American history; William Hunter is his first book. For Further Investigation Gene's website has some wonderful "behind the book" material Here's an article Gene wrote for the Journal of the American Revolution on different perspectives on the quartering of British soldiers in New Brunswick, NJ In the course of the episode, Gene referenced Don Hagist. Here's a conversation with Don about punishment in the British Army during the American Revolution; and here's a conversation with Don that ranges much more widely into the society and culture of the British Army that fought in America Since Dan Gullotta, friend of the show, used to do a podcast called Age of Jackson, we've tended to avoid American history from roughly 1815 to 1850. But here's an exception to the rule, a conversation about a no less radical Democrat than William Hunter, none other than Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina. John Zaborney, Slaves For Hire: Renting Enslaved Laborers in Antebellum Virginia  
5/15/202355 minutes, 5 seconds
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Episode 315: Street Food

Since the Middle Ages, food has always been sold on the streets of London. Women and men, boys and girls, have seemingly sold everything that can be eaten, from shellfish and fried fish, to baked potatoes and baked pies, to handfuls of fruit and cups of milk. They were far from being the most respectable members of London’s society, either in the late sixteenth century, the late nineteenth century, or any of the periods in between. Yet they were absolutely an absolutely vital link in feeding the growing population, part of a chain that extended from the coasts, ports, the gardens of Kent and Surrey, and from suburban cows, until finishing its journey in a customers mouth. In his new book Street Food: Hawkers and the History of London, Charlie Taverner chronicles the daily life of the street vendors over three centuries, following them as they make their way with baskets and carts through the urban landscape. This enables him to not only reimagine a vital part of London’s history, but to reconsider the process of urbanization and modernization.  Charlie Taverner is a Research Fellow at Trinity College, Dublin. A social historian of cities and food, he was in a previous life a business and  agricultural journalist.  For Further Investigation Islington: no cows now present For rabbits traveling to London, and much more besides This is a conversation about urban history, and many other things besides. For another conversation which describes the life of the city in a very different way, listen to Episode 133: Mad Dogs and Other New Yorkers, or, Rabies in the City David Edgerton, The Shock of the Old: Technology and Global History since 1900 Transcript Al: Charlie Taverner, welcome to Historically Thinking. Charlie: Fabulous to be here. Thank you very much. Al: So I guess we'll talk later about how being a business and agricultural journalist and influenced this book. Imagine I could see it sort of the experience and fingerprints all over it. But this is a book about it's about a business, it's about a centuries of a sort of type of business and one intimately [00:02:00] connected with agriculture, but we're not gonna talk about that yet. As you make clear, the sources of who Hawkers were are very iffy. They're based on middle class or gentlemen. Taking long walks through the city, making observations, which may or may not be valid, or they're by court cases or whatever. So I think there's the idea, we have the, we should talk about the prototypical vision of the London Fish Wife, which is that seems to be the, that is the vision of the Hawker. But then going from the fish wife to who were they really, are they the lowest, they can't be the lowest of the lower class, but where are they? Do they fit into the new middling type in the 16th century? Where, who are they? Where do they come from? Charlie: Yeah, I think I talk about in the book, one of the sections I term all sorts of Londoners. And that's because Hawkers were a really diverse bunch of people. Many of them were very [00:03:00] poor. Really scraping by doing other forms of menial work. Things like sweeping the streets, collecting old bones and rubbish. Or later on holding up sandwich boards and signs on the streets, basic forms of work. And others were much closer to the kind of shopkeepers people who had a bit more respectability, respectability about them. And a range of complex kind of skills in trades like retail. So you've got a, you've got a wide range of abilities and skill within there. And what that means is you've got people kind of work doing this work very occasionally, and you've got people just doing this work kind of fulltime. So the job itself can be very different. And it meant also that in there were very different sorts of people involved in the street trade. And one of the big transitions we see is around the gender of street sellers. So you start off. Early in the early in the period that I'm interested in the late...
5/8/20231 hour, 4 minutes, 6 seconds
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Episode 314: Peerless Among Princes

In the early sixteenth century there emerged upon the world stage a cast of royal characters that could almost persuade the most hardened social historian to read Thomas Carlyle’s On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History. In Europe were Francis I of France, Henry VIII of England, and Charles V, King of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor. In Russia ruled Ivan IV, also known as Ivan the Terrible;  in India Babur and Akbar, founders of the Moghul Dynasty;  and in Persia the Savafid rulers Shah Ismail and Shah Tahmasb. As my guest writes, all of these monarchs “resorted to warfare as an instrument of empire building…sought to establish control over their own elites and aristocracies… paid particular attention to creating and maintaining a multilayered reputation as ruler, patron, soldier, [and] statesman… [and] sought to establish central control over religious matters during a time of intense theological debates and spiritual anxieties. They were also acutely aware of each other, and they openly competed among themselves for control of land and resources and for prestige.” In their geographical midst was one to whom all looked, against whom all compared themselves, and with whom nearly all of them competed in the game of kingdoms. This was Süleyman, the ruler of the Ottoman Empire, known to contemporaries as “the Grand Turk”, and ever after as “the Magnificent.” In all the endeavours of his contemporaries, he at the very least matched them, and he usually excelled. Peerless Among Princes: The Life and Times of Sultan Süleyman is a fascinating new biography of this towering figure, a study not only of his life but of his time. Its author Kaya Şahín is with us today; he is Associate Professor of History at Indiana University, where he also serves in the Department of Central Eurasian Studies and Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures For Further Investigation Some of the European side of this story has previously been discussed in Episode 166, a conversation with Catherine Fletcher about the Italian Renaissance; and in Episode 149, which focused on the history of Eastern Europe, a history that is unimaginable without the presence of the Ottoman Empire. The following books are suggested by Kaya, some with his comments. Cornell H Fleischer, Bureaucrat and Intellectual in the Ottoman Empire: The Historian Mustafa Ali (1541-1600) Leslie Peirce, Empress of the East: How a European Slave Girl Became Queen of the Ottoman Empire: "a biography of Suleyman’s wife." John Julius Norwich, Four Princes: Henry VIII, Francis I, Charles V, Suleiman the Magnificent and the Obsessions that Forged Modern Europe: "not a work of academic scholarship, but an open-minded treatment of Suleyman together with the other royal figures of the period." Suleymanname: The Illustrated History of Suleyman the Magnificent, edited by Esin Atil. Erdem Çipa, The Making of Selim: Succession, Legitimacy, and Memory in the Early Modern Ottoman World: "a study on Süleyman’s father." Emine Fetvaci, Picturing History at the Ottoman Court: "although mostly dealing with a period following Süleyman’s death, it is a terrific study of Ottoman visual culture, book arts, history-writing, etc." Nikolay Antov, The Ottoman 'Wild West': The Balkan Frontier in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries: "a solid treatment of Ottoman expansion in the Balkans as well as the issue of conversion to Islam, etc." Christopher Markiewicz, The Crisis of Kingship in Late Medieval Islam: Persian Emigres and the Making of Ottoman Sovereignty: on new Ottoman notions of sovereignty.
4/20/20231 hour, 13 minutes, 47 seconds
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Episode 313: Intellectual Humility, Social Psychologically Speaking

This is the second of our continuing series on intellectual humility and historical thinking. Today I'm interested in exploring the social science of intellectual humility. Igor Grossman is a social psychologist, an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Waterloo in Canada. “Most of our work,” he writes, describing his lab, “either focuses on how people make sense of the world around them—their expectations, lay theories, meta-cognitions, forecasts—or it concerns how larger cultural forces impact human behavior and societal change.” That makes him the perfect person to talk to about intellectual humility, and historical thinking. For Further Investigation Tenelle Porter, Abdo Elnakouri, Ethan A. Meyers, Takuya Shibayama, Eranda Jayawickreme and Igor Grossmann, "Predictors and consequences of intellectual humility" The Wisdom and Culture Lab World After COVID Igor Grossmann, Oliver Twardus, Michael E. W. Varnum, Eranda Jayawickreme, John McLevey, "Expert Predictions of Societal Change: Insights from the World after COVID Project" Brian Nosek of the University of Virginia (and the Center for Open Science) discusses the replication crisis with Russ Roberts The Center of Open Science has been a force for change in the "replication crisis"  
4/17/202351 minutes, 16 seconds
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Episode 312: Gods of Thunder

The medieval warm period began in the mid-tenth century, around and about  950 AD. A warmer climate led to higher agricultural yields, and in an agricultural society that meant surplus profits. These were invested in building monasteries and cathedrals; they attracted the attention of larcenous Scandinavians, who became known as the Vikings. Benefiting from warmer temperatures, they traveled widely, built colonies from Greenland to Ireland to central Russia. Nor were they alone. Medieval people settled in sparsely populated internal regions, like Yorkshire, and Abruzzi. And one of the many consequences of this wealth and growing cosmopolitan sphere was a wealthier and vigorous reforming Roman papacy. Europe was not alone in experiencing social, economic, and cultural changes caused by the Medieval warm period. While the climatic changes were different everywhere, my  guest Timothy Pauketat argues that in Meso America the medieval warm period also brought about a period of cultural interchange, stretching from the Mayan kingdoms north across Mexico, into what is now the American southwest, and as far east and north as  the central valley of the Mississippi River.  Timothy Pauketat is a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and as Illinois State Archaeologist is the Director of the Illinois State Archaeological Survey. He is the pre- eminent archaeologist of the Mississippian civilization that centered on the area around modern St. Louis, and his latest book Gods of Thunder: How Climate Change, Travel, and Spirituality connects the Mississippians to their neighbors near and far. It gives the reader a unique portrait of a world now almost completely lost to us–but still visible, in places, if you know where to look.   For Further Investigation  One of the unique things about Tim Pauketat's book is that each chapter concludes with a list of places to visit that have been mentioned in the chapter, or are related to something in the chapter. Here are a few of them; the descriptions are his own, from Gods of Thunder Teotihuacan, Mexico: "No archaeological site in the Americas, possibly the entire world, is greater in ruins than the Classic-period city of Teotihuacan, north of Mexico City." The website CultureTrip provides the "Ultimate Guide to Discovery Mexico's Teotihaucán." Tamtoc (Tantoc), Mexico: "Fly to the site virtually using Google Earth (Ruinas deTamtoc) before you arrive in the city of Tamuín by car or air.Tamtoc park sits on the inner bend of the Tampaon River, and only the central core of the site is publicly owned. Other portions lie in fields and pastures outside the park boundaries, including the eastern half of the site’s largest mound." Horseshoe Lake State Park, Illinois: "To begin your tour of the archaeological site of Cahokia, start with some environmental context... Entering the park, you will immediately see a great oxbow lake in front of you.The other side of this lake is actually an island, with the oxbow and the park continuing to the industrial landscape on the horizon. Even today, Horseshoe Lake and its teeming animal and plant life give you a good idea of the richness and variety of the landscape a thousand years ago." Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, Illinois: "After touring the Interpretive Center, exit the building on the west side and walk into the site’s Grand Plaza. Ignore the mowed green grass, which would not have covered the grounds centuries ago. It takes ten to fifteen minutes to traverse the plaza to the front steps of Monks Mound, which you climb to reach the 100-foot-high summit. From the top, you can see Horseshoe Lake to the north, St. Louis to the west, and the bluff horizon to the east and south."  
4/10/202359 minutes, 2 seconds
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Episode 311: Knowledge Towns

From the beginning of the university in the middle ages, relations between town and gown–between students and citizens– began badly and got worse. Perhaps the lowest point was the St. Scholastica Riot in Oxford, beginning on February 12th, 1355, in which a tavern punchup led to an episode of urban warfare–which is no exaggeration in describing three days of street battles, and besieged colleges, with showers of arrows going back and forth that ultimately claimed the lives of somewhere between seventy and one hundred on both sides. In comparison to this, complaints by modern students that townies’ cars  speed up when they see undergraduates crossing the street seem positively quaint. David Staley and Dominic Endicott have a different model in mind for town and gown interaction. In their new book Knowledge Towns: Colleges and Universities as Talent Magnets, they seek “to inspire as many people to act, moving their town, college, company, philanthropy, endowment into a more sustainable growth model.” They envision a new societal model, anchored solidly in the local, while enmeshed in the global knowledge economy. At the heart of this model will be a new way of doing college. Dominic Endicott is a venture capitalist, a partner at Northstar Ventures, and lives in New Hampshire. David Staley is a Professor of History at the Ohio State University; this is his third appearance on the podcast. For Further Investigation David Staley has previously appeared on Historically Thinking in Episode 111 to talk about this book Alternative Universities (which is very connected to Knowledge Towns) and again in Episode 169 to talk about how he works out scenarios about the future–with which Knowledge Towns is replete. If you haven't already, consult the many podcasts which are cataloged as "Higher Education: A Guide for the Perplexed" The website and social movement Strong Towns was very influential in the conception of Knowledge Towns. I've been listening since about 2015, and highly recommend it! Biochar is referenced several times in the book. I had to look it up here. Regenerative Agriculture also gets referenced many times, including in our conversation. You can find out more here from Gabe Brown of North Dakota, who believes (or, really, has proven) that regenerative agriculture not only is beneficial to the earth, but allows farmers to actually make money rather than descending ever deeper into debt. Main Street America The Walton Foundation's research on micropolitan areas
4/6/202355 minutes, 15 seconds
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Episode 310: Intellectual Humility and Historical Thinking

If we believed in click bait, we would title this "one weird historical thinking trick to save your country." But it's not, so you get a boring but highly accurate title. For this is the first of special series of occasional episodes through the rest of 2023 that explore the connection between intellectual humility and historically thinking. Since the podcast began, we’ve made the claim that historical thinking “gives thinkers a knack for recognizing nonsense; and that it cultivates not only intellectual curiosity and rigor, but also intellectual humility.” But what exactly do we mean by intellectual humility? What is it? What’s it for? Why should we want it? And how is it related to historical thinking? In the last decade there’s been an explosion of interest in the concept of intellectual humility. One of the leaders in the field has been Michael Patrick Lynch. He’s the Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of Connecticut, where he is also Director of the Humanities Institute. Lynch began his professional career as an epistemologist, writing books with titles like  The Nature of Truth, and Truth as One and Many. But  then In 2015, Lynch published what now seems like an even more prophetic and insightful book than it was at the time, The Internet of Us: Knowing More and Understanding Less in the Age of Big Data. In it he explored the philosophical implications of the rapid shift to a knowledge economy, and the cataracts of information available to us from the devices that we carry around in our pockets. He has since published Know-It All Society: Truth and Arrogance in American Political Culture, which is a title that seems almost too on-the-nose. For Further Investigation To find out more about historical thinking, go here; for an introduction, try Episode 39 Michael Lynch's TED talk on "How to see past your own perspective and find truth" Michael Lynch's "Conviction and Humility", the focus of the second half of the discussion, was a chapter in The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Humility Lynch's Exercise in Historical Reimagining–do the following without using information available on the internet. What is the capital of Bulgaria? Is a four-stroke outboard engine more efficient than a two-stroke? What is the phone number of my US representative? What is the best-reviewed restaurant in Austin, Texas, this week? Transcript Al: [00:00:00] This episode of historically thinking was made possible by a grant from the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California at Berkeley. To learn more, go to ggsc.berkeley.edu.  Welcome to Historically Thinking, a podcast about history and how to think about history. For more on this episode, go to historically thinking.org, where you can find links and readings related to today's podcast, comment on the conversation, and sign up for our newsletter. And consider becoming a member of the Historically Thinking Common Room, a community of Patreon supporters. Since this podcast began, we've made the claim that historical thinking gives thinkers a knack for recognizing nonsense. And that it cultivates not only intellectual curiosity and rigor, but also intellectual humility.  But what exactly do we mean by intellectual humility? What is it? What's it for? Why should we want it? And how is it related to historical thinking? In the last decade, there's been an [00:01:00] explosion of interest in research over the concept of intellectual humility. One of the leaders in the field has been Michael Patrick Lynch. He's the Board of trustees. Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of Connecticut. where he is also director of the humanities Institute. Lynch began his professional career as an epistemologist, writing books with titles, like The Nature of Truth and truth as one and many. But then in 2015 Lynch published, what now seems, and even more prophetic,
4/3/20231 hour, 55 seconds
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Episode 309: What’s the Use of Your Humanities Degree in an AI World?

So, said an uncle to a student of mine, you’re getting a history degree, huh? When you graduate, you gonna get a job in a history store?  The numbers show that the uncle’s jab is winning. As friend of the podcast Jon Lauck has demonstrated in a Fall 2022 editorial in the Middle West Review,  the number of history majors in US colleges and universities has dropped by more than 50%. Departments have begun to shrink as a consequence of this, and that shrinkage shows no sign in many institutions of stopping until numbers hit zero. And it’s hard not to believe that fueling this is the question of where you are ever going to use that history degree–or any liberal arts degree. Add to that disheartening news of the recent arrival of ChatGPT, followed closely by New Bing, AI programs that promise to write every term paper that any professor ever contemplated assigning, and there doesn’t seem to be a point to the liberal arts Today I’m talking with my old friend Brent Orrell, a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, where he specializes in (among other things) workforce and retraining programs, and preparing youths for jobs–and of late he’s also been thinking a lot about the impact of artificial intelligence on work, labor, and vocation. He’s been a guest on the podcast, back in episode 169, and he has his own podcast, Hardly Working, which I recommend to you for all your labor, workforce, and vocation needs. The accompanying picture was created by AI image generator DALL-E 2, which was asked to "create a painting in the style of Vermeer of a young woman working in a history store." "For Further Investigation Two articles from Brent on technology, AI, and work: "Brave New Technology" and "The Federal AI Shambles" At Inside Higher Education, Susan D'Agostino has basically cornered the Higher Ed AI beat. On October 26, IHE posted her article "Machines Can Craft Essays. How Should Writing Be Taught Now?", and that was followed by another, and another, and yet another, until the most recent (as of this podcast's drop) "Chat GPT is Here. But Most Faculty Lack AI Policies." HUMANITIES WORKS: Myths and Realities about Humanities Majors The Knowledge Navigator Video from Apple–an amazing piece of speculative fiction. Though as outlandish as any movie when it comes to depicting a professor's office.
3/27/202356 minutes, 13 seconds
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Episode 308: Breakfast Cereal

Everything has a history, even breakfast cereal. And that history is involved with the history of grain–which means it is involved with both the history of agriculture and urbanism; how humans mark time during the day; meal customs, which means it’s also involved with the history of the family; nutrition and health, and all the ideas and fears involved with those terms, as well as the history of science and, believe it or not, the history of religion and of political progressivism;  and, since the late twentieth century, marketing and mass-culture. Breakfast cereal, it turns out, is connected to just about everything. With me to talk about her new book Breakfast Cereal: A Global History is Kathryn Cornell Dolan. She is an associate professor in the department of English and Technical Communication at Missouri University of Science and Technology. Her previous books are Beyond the Fruited Plain: Food and Agriculture in US Literature, 1850-1905 and Cattle Country: Livestock in the Cultural Imagination. For Further Investigation Previous podcasts interlink with this conversation in ways that I didn't anticipate. Rachel Laudan spoke about the history of food in Episode 44; Jonathan Rees and I discussed nutrition and diet as part of our conversation about J. Harvey Wiley in Episode 222; and John Arthur talked about the importance of beer to nutrition and culture throughout world history in Episode 253. Atlas Obscura has an article on the surviving buildings of the Battle Creek Sanitarium. They are amazingly big. If you would like to benefit from the wealth of C.W. Post, you can do so thanks to his only child, Marjorie Merriweather Post who grew the fortune even bigger. She also built amazingly big houses, including one in Florida she named Mar-a-Lago...can't think if I've ever heard of it before. Her home in Washington, DC, was Hillwood, and is now a museum now open to the public. Kathryn's book is notable for having recipes at the back. Until you buy it, you can content yourself with these porridge recipes from around the world, collected by at Saveur magazine. Who hasn't at some point really craved turkey congee? Better than a gobbler sandwich the day after Thanksgiving!
3/20/202356 minutes, 46 seconds
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Episode 307: Eisenhower’s Guerrillas

In August 1944, Fred Bailey jumped out of a perfectly good airplane and parachuted into Nazi-occupied France, landing in a disused brickyard. Growing up he had been  a sickly child with a heart condition, which led his family to move out of London for his health. But in 1941 at age 18  he had joined the British Army’s Royal Armored Corps, and served with the Desert Army. Bored after the fight for North Africa was over,  he volunteered for special duties, and soon found himself in the Special Operations Executive, assigned to be a radio officer in a Jedburgh team–groups of three soldiers designed to jump into France and support the French resistance in conjunction with the Allied invasion.  Fred Bailey died on January 29, 2023, at age 99, the last veteran of the Jedburgh teams living in Britain. When I read his obituary it seemed to me a very good time to have Ben Jones back on the podcast. Ben Jones is the State Historian of South Dakota and Director of the South Dakota State Historical Society, and he appeared in Episode 290 to talk about both of those jobs. But he is also a historian of the Second World War, and author of Eisenhower’s Guerrillas: The Jedburghs, the Maquis, and the Liberation of France, which is the subject of our conversation today. For Further Investigation At the Imperial War Museum in London are records related to the Special Operations Executive, Section F, Operation Jedburgh. Among them are oral histories, including one with Fred Bailey. Recorded on December 11, 1990, it's wonderful. Interestingly Bailey emphatically says "we went in far too late...", and very crisply and incisively explains how the effects of the operation would have been better had they arrived two or three months before. You can also listen to his team leader, John Smallwood, talk about his experiences. Obituary of Fred Bailey Bernard Knox, "Premature Anti-Fascist" John K. Singlaub William Colby in Norway A Brian Lamb interview with Robert Merry about Joseph Alsop and (more importantly, for our conversation) Stewart Alsop    
3/13/20231 hour, 7 minutes, 6 seconds
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Episode 306: Long Walk

In October 1569, a captain of a French ship off the northern coast of Nova Scotia was summoned on deck. Alongside was a canoe, and in it were three Englishmen–David Ingram, Richard Browne, and Richard Twide. They claimed to be the survivors of a group of 100 men marooned on the Gulf coast of Mexico by an English slave-trading expedition. From that point, the three of them had walked north for 3,600 miles, making the journey in about a year. Thirteen years later, in August 1582, David Ingram was interviewed and his answers recorded by none other than Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth I’s secretary of state and chief of intelligence. Shortly after the publication of his testimony, and ever after, Ingram has been regarded as one of the great liars of his era. He described such impossibilities as large cities, kings carried about in crystal chairs, American natives working with and using iron, and the appearance of penguins and elephants along the eastern seaboard of North America.  Add to that the claim of his extraordinary journey, and little wonder that Samuel Purchas in 1625 observed of his account that “the reward of lying is not to be believed in truths.” But Dean Snow, who once believed like most people that Ingram was at best given to tall tales, has changed his mind about Ingram’s journey. In his new book The Extraordinary Journey of David Ingram: An Elizabethan Sailor in Native North America, Snow reconsiders the evidence and recreates the context of Ingram and his journey through an America that just fifty years after his long walk had faded away. Dean Snow is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Penn State. A past President of the Society for American Archaeology, he is particularly known for his work on archaeology of native North America with a long-standing focus on the Haudenosaunee (or Iroquois) people. For Further Investigation If you haven't already, get a great overview of David Ingram's era in Episode 303 when Lucy Wooding described some of the characteristics of Tudor England; and while we didn't talk about him in the conversation, Dean Snow has a lot to say about Thomas Harriot. If you listen to Episode 109, you can find out why Thomas Harriot is one of the most fascinating intellectuals that you have never heard of. When Dean Snow referred to Francis Drake escaping from the Battle of San Juan de Ulua in small ship, he was not getting. Drake's Judith was just 5o tons. By way of comparison the Pride of Baltimore II, a modern reconstruction of a early 19th century Baltimore sailing ship, is 97 tons. And that doesn't mean it's a particularly big ship... The Susquehannock town that Ingram visited was probably the "Schultz site"; you can find out more about the Susquehannocks' culture and landscape here. There are apparently a lot of crystal mines in upstate New York, enough for a great vacation.
3/6/20231 hour, 4 minutes, 28 seconds
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Episode 305: Degrading Equality

In 1835, Oberlin College in Ohio determined that it would admit black students. A very few other colleges did at the time, but Oberlin was unique in that it chose to do so as an explicit matter of college policy. At Oberlin, and a few other places both before and after the Civil War, black and white students were allied first in the cause of emancipation, and then for civil rights.  Yet following the end of Reconstruction, even once revolutionary campuses like Oberlin and Berea College in Kentucky began to have color lines drawn across them. As John Frederick Bell demonstrates in his new book, Degrees of Equality: Abolitionist Colleges and the Politics of Race, while blacks remained in the classroom at Oberlin and Berea, they were gradually discriminated against in every other aspect of college life. Given that these colleges had been established to shape not the mental so much as the moral community on its campus, this amounted to a counter revolution that overthrew the ideals upon which Oberlin and Berea College had been established. John Frederick Bell  is Assistant Professor of History at Assumption University in Worcester, Massachusetts. Degrees of Equality is his first book.  Erratum: At 34:30, John Chapin was named as the fundraiser for New York Central College; John Bell says he should have said William Chaplin. (About whom you can read here on Professor Wikipedia.) For Further Investigation In the course of asking "why" I mentioned my conversation with Doug Egerton on the decline and fall of the Adams family; and I should also note an even older conversation with Doug about the history of Reconstruction The featured image is a late 19th century stereoscope of the campus of Oberlin College Berea College, according to Professor Wikipedia; and Adam Harris,  "The Little College Where Tuition Is Free and Every Student Is Given a Job". The Atlantic (October 2018) Nat Brandt, The Town That Started the Civil War: The True Story of the Community That Stood Up to Slavery–and Changed a Nation Forever Kabria Baumgartner, In Pursuit of Knowledge: Black Women and Educational Activism in Antebellum America  Ronald Butchart, Schooling the Freed People: Teaching, Learning ,and the Struggle for Black Freedom, 1861-1876 Christi Smith, Reparation & Reconciliation: The Rise and Fall of Integrated Higher Education John Frederick Bell, “Early Black Collegians and the Fight for Full Inclusion” Black Perspectives (May 24, 2022)
2/27/20231 hour, 18 minutes, 55 seconds
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Episode 304: Mass Expulsion

 “At the start of the twelfth century,” writes Rowan Dorin, “western European rulers almost never resorted to the collective expulsions of wrongdoers from their domains; ecclesiastical authorities evinced little concern about the Jewish communities living under Christian rule; and the church’s efforts to repress usury focused largely on clerics who engaged in money lending. By the late thirteenth century, expulsion had become a recurring tool of royal governance in both England and France; bishops across Latin Christendom were advocating for harsh restrictions on Jewish life; and Popes, theologians, and canon lawyers had recast usury as menacing the whole of society…” Why and how this dramatic change comes about is the focus of Dorin’s new book No Return: Jews, Christian Usurers, and the Spread of Mass Expulsion in Medieval Europe. There is much in it which will overturn casual assumptions, and provoke new perspectives on the present–for if the use of expulsion by governments has a beginning, its ending has certainly not yet occurred.  Rowan Dorin is Assistant Professor of History at Stanford University. No Return is his first book. (Below are his wonderful suggestions for further reading, complete with Rowan's own summaries.)   For Further Investigation Robert Chazan, Refugees or Migrants: Pre-Modern Jewish Population Movement (2018)–"A wonderfully readable overview of Jewish migrations during antiquity and the Middle Ages that overturns many widespread assumptions about the dynamics of the Jewish diaspora." Benjamin Z. Kedar, “Expulsion as an Issue of World History,” Journal of World History 7, no. 2 (1996), 165-180–"A provocative and insightful article that outlines the emergence of mass expulsion as a historical phenomenon." R. I. Moore, The Formation of a Persecuting Society: Authority and Deviance in Western Europe, 950-1250 (1987; 2nd ed. 2007)–"The book that launched a thousand dissertations - still essential reading for anyone interested in how medieval authorities came to see deviance as dangerous." Jacques Le Goff, Your Money or Your Life: Economy and Religion in the Middle Ages, trans. Patricia Ranum (1988)–"A brilliant account of the growing concern with usury and moneylending in medieval Europe, written by one of the twentieth century's greatest historians." Miri Rubin, Cities of Strangers: Making Lives in Medieval Europe (2020)–"For anyone wondering what life was like for foreigners or Jews living in a medieval city, this collection of lectures is the place to start." Daniel Lord Smail, Legal Plunder: Households and Debt Collection in Late Medieval Europe (2016)–"A wide-ranging exploration of debt and debt collection in the medieval Mediterranean world." Francesca Trivellato, The Promise and Peril of Credit: What a Forgotten Legend about Jews and Finance Tells Us about the Making of European Commercial Society (2019)–"The histories of Jews and Lombards continued to be intertwined even after the Middle Ages, as Trivellato shows in this masterful study of early modern commercial culture."
2/20/20231 hour, 3 minutes, 56 seconds
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Episode 303: Victorian Jacobites

On a January night in 1897, a crowded Episcopal church in Philadelphia was the stage for a curious ceremony. In the Church of the Evangelists, located in south Society Hill just ten or so blocks from Independence Hall, a gaggle of clerics unveiled a life-size painting of Charles I, King of England and–so far as the clerics were concerned–saint and martyr. Then Williams Stevens Perry, the Episcopal Bishop of Iowa, ascended to the pulpit to explain to the assembled multitude how Charles I, far from being an absolutist and enemy of liberty, had laid the foundations of American political order. This striking scene begins Michael Connolly’s description of a curious moment in the history of Anglo-American political thought and sentiment, a resurgent Jacobite movement that championed the cause of the Stuart monarchs as a means of opposing the corruptions of the modern age. It begins his new book Jacobitism in Britain and the United States, 1880-1910. Michael Connolly is Professor of History at Purdue University Northwest; this is his third time on the podcast. For Further Investigation Michael Connolly has previously talked on the podcast about American presidents, way back in Episode 2 (!!!) and then in Episode 60 We touched on the execution of Charles I in Episode 127, which focused on the escape of two of the men who signed his death warrant into the wilds of Connecticut
2/13/202353 minutes, 39 seconds
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Episode 302: Tudor England

On 11 October 1537, Henry VIII finally received the son for which he had been waiting for decades. The day before the future Edward VI was born, friars, priests, livery companies, and the mayor and aldermen of London all processed through the city streets, praying for the Queen’s safe delivery. With his birth te deums were sung in London’s churches, bells were rung, fires were lit in every street, and volleys of gunfire resounded from the walls of the Tower of London  It was a classic Tudor event, combining as it did fears of a failed royal secession; civic drama; at times contradictory religious impulses and emotions; thrusting military power; and seemingly endless classical images and allusions.  Tudor England is not composed  simply of the reigns of the Tudor monarchs but by “decades of war and poverty, disease and destruction…a subtle but strong transformation in the nature of government, and complex shifts within economy and society… an outpouring of words [and] an ideological revolution in religious belief…” With me to touch on some of the characteristics of this tumultuous era is Lucy Wooding, Langford fellow and and Tutor at Lincoln College in the University of Oxford, and author of Tudor England: A History. For Further Investigation Scott Newstok in Episode 186 on how Shakespeare benefited from an English grammar school education If you can't get enough of Henry VIII, then travel through time with Dominic Sandbrook in Episode 226 Stephen Berry in Episode 279 explains why he think constant deaths took their toll Robert St. George, ed., Material Life in American, 1600-1860, for all your atropopaeic needs.
2/6/20231 hour, 2 minutes, 37 seconds
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Episode 301: Wandering Army

On May 11th, 1745, the British Army went into battle against the army of France near the village of Fontenoy, in what is now Belgium. 15,000  British soldiers marched forward bearing not only their muskets, but the reputation that they had gained in the continental campaigns of John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough. But Marlborough had by then been dead for nearly 25 years, and the British Army had not adapted or altered. The result was a humiliating defeat, with 6,000 of those 15,000 British either killed or wounded. Another result was a long process of reform, the creation of new forms of knowledge, new approaches that had to be conceived, innovated upon, and then deployed “in the face of organizational tradition, institutional resistance and personal suspicion of change.” My guest Huw Davies describes this long process of reform, and the always speedier process of forgetting, in his new book The Wandering Army: The Campaigns That Transformed the British Way of War. It is not only a book about the British Army, the “Second 100 Years War”, the Enlightenment, and the long 18th century, but also one about creating new institutional cultures, change management, and the reform of complex organizations in difficult circumstances. Huw J. Davies is reader in early modern military history at King’s College, London. His previous books include Wellington’s Wars: The Making of a Military Genius and Spying for Wellington: British Military Intelligence in the Peninsular War. For Further Investigation Kutuzov and the military enlightenment in Russia was the subject of my conversation with Alex Mikaberidze Cathal Nolan described the enduring and nearly always futile quest for a decisive, war-determining victory in battle in Episode 79 The experience of an army learning, and then forgetting; and learning, and then forgetting, was also a focus of Episode 215, on the book The Other Face of Battle I discussed the Howe family with Julie Flavell when we talked about her book The Howe Dynasty: The Untold Story of a Military Family and the Women Behind Britain's Wars for America
1/23/20231 hour, 8 minutes, 43 seconds
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Episode 300: Wild Problems

 Welcome to Episode 300 of Historically Thinking!  Design theorists popularized the idea of “tame problems” and “wicked problems.” “Tame problems” are answers to questions  like how to get to Chicago, or how to increase the battery life of a cell phone. As in mathematics and chess have clarity in their aims and their solutions. “Wicked problems” have neither clarity in their aims or in their solutions.  But what about wild problems?  By wild problems, my guest Russ Roberts refers to the problems of who to marry, whether to have children, where to move, how to forge a life well-lived. These are problems that can’t be solved by calculation; in fact, argues Roberts, they are in parts of life that are “outside the reach of science or the scientific mind.” But wild problems are not wicked problems, which are very nearly impossible to solve. Wild problems are the most important struggles of each and every life. They are also, not too surprisingly given the title, the subject of Roberts' most recent book Wild Problems: A Guide to the Decisions That Define Us. Russ Roberts is the President of Shalem College in Jerusalem, and John and Jean De Nault Research Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, and host of the podcast EconTalk. This is his second appearance on Historically Thinking; he previously appeared in Episode 99, when we discussed his essay Gambling with Other People’s Money: How Perverse Incentives Caused the Financial Crisis, and what thinking through the 2008 financial crisis had taught him about intellectual humility. For Further Investigation To see if there is any editorial theme at work in this podcast, we suggest you listen to Episode 100 and to Episode 200, after finishing this one of course. Send notes! You might have noticed that Shalem College doesn't sound much like any college you know about in the United States. But you might also notice that it's beginning to seem that colleges in the United States increasingly resemble one another. Why might this be the case, and how we can do things differently, was the topic of an old conversation with David Staley in Episode 111: Alternative Universities, or, Thinking Way Outside the Box
1/9/20231 hour, 8 minutes, 42 seconds
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Episode 299: The Good Country

What lover of American literature doesn’t remember these haunting lines: “Tell about the Midwest. What's it like there. What do they do there. Why do they live there. Why do they live at all.” Of course that was, as some of you quickly recognized, a deliberate mangling of a famous passage from William Faulkner’s Absalom Absalom. It’s more than a little disconcerting, as I hope you noticed, to substitute Midwest for South. The South is haunted, and mysterious, and interesting. The Midwest…isn’t. But the charge that Shreve McCannon laid upon Quentin Compson  can be laid upon any historian of any place in any era.  Even the Midwest, as Jon Lauck would certainly agree. He’s the author of The Good Country: A History of the American Midwest, 1800-1900. The last time he was on the podcast was way back in Episode 13, when we talked about his manifesto The Lost Region: Toward a Revival of Midwestern History. For Further Investigation We haven't had that many talks about the Midwest, or its people; but recently we talked about South Dakota with Jon Lauck's friend and neighbor Ben Jones. Much farther in the rear view mirror is a conversation with Jane Simonsen about Black Hawk, chief of the Saux and Meskwaki tribes, which involved the forced removal of those people from the lands in the Midwest. The Midwestern History Association The Midwestern History Association has a journal, the Middle West Review; and a podcast, Heartland History Was the Midwest the American Boeotia? There's a comparative history question for you. Episode 294: Black Suffrage The Town That Started the Civil War was mentioned in the course of the conversation; the book for children or teens I was thinking of is The Price of Freedom: How One Town Stood Up to Slavery One book to read about Oberlin, Ohio as a utopian community that failed is Elusive Utopia, which focuses on Oberlin after the Civil War I was trying to remember Rick Atkinson's An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943, which focuses on Villisca's Company F (which is the only company in the Iowa National Guard to build its own armory with funds raised from the local community) as well as other units from southwest Iowa that served in the battles for North Africa. Know Your Memes: "This is Fine"
1/5/20231 hour, 7 minutes, 42 seconds
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Episode 298: How the Victorians Took Us to the Moon

The Victorians didn’t actually travel to the moon. But they were the first people, observes my guest Iwan Morus, to think that travel to the Moon was not only possible, but that “their science already possessed – or would soon possess – the means of getting there.” This confidence was based on the cascades of “new technologies, new ways of making knowledge and new visions about the future came together during the nineteenth century to create a new kind of world.” In an important sense, then, it was indeed the Victorians who took us to the moon. Iwan Rhys Morus is professor of history at Aberystwyth University in Aberystwyth, Wales. Among his recent books are Michael Faraday and the Electrical Century (20127) and Nikola Tesla and the Electrical Future (2019); his most recent book is How the Victorians Took Us to the Moon.  For Further Investigation For a related conversations, see Episode 251 on the history of technology, from the early modern world to the present; and Episode 258 with Simon Heffer on the early Victorian era as the "pursuit of perfection" The Public Domain Review offers "A 19th Century Vision of the year 2000" An excellent website devoted to the Wright brothers and their achievement Collections at the Oxford History of Science Museum "On Verticality": a blog about "the innate human need to leave the surface of the earth"
12/19/20221 hour, 3 minutes, 14 seconds
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Episode 297: Reign of Arrows

If the Parthian Empire is known at all, it’s by students of Roman history who see it pop up from time to time, before disappearing once again. Marcus Licinius Crassus, a member of the first triumvirate– consisting of himself, Pompey, and  Julius Caesar– died in battle against the Parthians. At the moment of his assasination, Caesar was preparing for a campaign against Parthia; and  Mark Anthony, of the second triumvirate, was defeated by the Parthians when he attempted to realize Caesar’s dream. The Emperor Trajan some 150 years later finally achieved victories against Parthia, making his way as far as the shore of the Persian Gulf. But who were the Parthians, on their own terms, not just as antagonists of the Romans? Where did they come from? How did they come to power? What was the extent of their Empire? And how were they integrated with the world around them, apart from their seemingly continual warfare with the ever-growing Roman Empire? With me to answer these questions is Nicholas Overtoom, Assistant Professor of History at Washington State University, and author of Reign of Arrows: The Rise of the Parthian Empire in the Hellenistic Middle East. For Further Investigation Think of this as the second in a series of conversations on the powers and principalities that occupied the territory of Iran. The first of these was with Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones, about the Achaemenid Persian Empire. Some time in the next six months we'll get to the Sassanids, who overthrew the Parthians. For more on the importance of nomads, see my conversation with Pamela Crossley in Episode 185; her book on the importance of nomadic thought and culture for all of Eurasia is Hammer and Anvil: Nomad Rulers at the Forge of the Modern World.
12/12/20221 hour, 17 minutes, 40 seconds
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Episode 296: Mercy

I can't introduce Cathal Nolan's book Mercy: Humanity in War any better than he does himself, with these words: This is not a book about war. It is about mercy and humanity… Mercy happens in a microsecond, wrapped inside a surprise moment of mortal danger; it restrains baser instinct and reminds us about higher things. This book shows that mercy limits cruelty in ways laws and honor codes seldom do, because mercy is the highest personal and moral quality any of us achieves. It is above all other virtues, even justice and courage. It is superior to bravery, especially in a soldier. It is the greatest gift we give to those we meet in civilian life who are suffering and for whom it is in our power to aid or harm. Greater still when offered to the defenseless in war. Mercy is the grace that happens between those who have a fleeting superiority of physical power and those who cannot save or protect themselves. It is greater than a gift to the helpless and the innocent, for as Shakespeare wrote, it elevates the merciful, too. Cathal J. Nolan is Director of the International History Institute at the Pardee School of Global Studies and Professor of History at Boston University. His most recent book was The Allure of Battle: A History of How Wars Have Been Won and Lost, which we discussed in Episode 79.
12/5/202257 minutes, 48 seconds
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Episode 295: New England Fashion

When the Massachusetts Historical Society was founded in 1791, its august members probably did not anticipate that one day its archives would contain not only family papers, but family dresses–as well as waistcoats, wigs, and at least two scarlet cloaks worn by fashionable men in the late eighteenth century. Kimberley Alexander (who is Director of Museum Studies and Lecturer at the University of New Hampshire) was last heard on the podcast talking about shoes, but more recently curated a 2018 exhibition "Fashioning the New England Family." Our conversation is about the book that eventually accompanied that exhibition, also titled Fashioning the New England Family. In it, with the help of an able supporting cast, Alexander describes the history of New England in what some New Englanders wore over three centuries, from the first English settlement, to the beginning of the twentieth century. For Further Investigation A New York Times article on cochineal Priscilla Mullins and John Alden A swatch from the dress of Priscilla Mullins Alden's dress The tracing of a quilted petticoat pattern from the Leverett family John Leverett's buff coat  Two waistcoats: one from the wardrobe of Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor William Tailer (d. 1732), and a truly incredible one worn by Andrew Oliver, Jr. (1731-1799) Henry Bromfield's wig; and a short history of the rise and fall of the wig Two crimson cloaks: one belonging to Peter Oliver (1713-1791) and another belonging to Henry Bromfield (1727-1820), described as "the last gentleman in Boston to cling to old fashioned styles of the 18th century" Abigail Adams, painted by Gilbert Stuart, an exemplar of how to modulate the latest French fashion in a way that suits you; and a more billowing style, from c. 1830
11/28/20221 hour, 27 minutes, 53 seconds
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Episode 294: Black Suffrage

On April 11, 1865, Abraham Lincoln addressed a crowd gathered outside the White House. He spoke not of recent  victories, or those to come, but to the shape of the peace that would follow. Now that the Thirteenth Amendment had been passed by Congress, he urged that it be ratified. Moreover, it seemed to him, Lincoln said, that it was necessary for “the colored man” to have the right to vote. “I myself,” Lincoln told the crowd, “would prefer that it were now conferred on the very intelligent, and on those who serve our cause as soldiers.” That might now seem like a timid suggestion, but not to one man then standing  in the listening crowd. When John Wilkes Booth heard Lincoln’s words, he turned to a companion and vowed “That’s the last speech he will ever make!” It was not the fall of Richmond, the flight of the Confederate government, or the surrender of Robert E. Lee’s army that finally made Booth decide to act, but the threat of black suffrage. With me to discuss the cause of black suffrage in the weeks, months, and years following Lincoln’s death is Paul D. Escott, Reynolds Professor of History Emeritus at Wake Forest University. He is the author of numerous books, including Slavery Remembered: A Record of Twentieth-Century Slave Narratives; The Worst Passions of Human Nature: White Supremacy in the Civil War North; and most recently Black Suffrage: Lincoln’s Last Goal. For Further Investigation Many previous conversations on this podcast are related to this one. For an overview of Reconstruction, see my conversation with Douglas Egerton in Episode 67; how Black Americans created American citizenship was the focus of a conversation with Christopher Bonner in Episode 167; and most recently my conversation with Clayton Butler discussed Unionism as an ideology, and in part how it explains part of the mentality of Andrew Johnson. For a different take on Lincoln than that held by Paul Escott, see my conversation with Michael Burlingame in Episode 242; Burlingame would argue that Lincoln was never interested in colonization prior to the war, and never serious about colonization during the war.
11/21/202254 minutes, 38 seconds
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Episode 293: Brilliant Commodity

At the end of the 19th century, Amsterdam was home to nearly seventy diamond factories, in which were 7,500 steam-powered polishing mills. The workers who cut and polished the diamonds, brought there from the mines of South Africa, were not all Jewish–but many of them were. Indeed, in the late 1890s Jews were about 10% of the population of Amsterdam, and half of them were economically reliant on what the Dutch called simply “the profession”.  The Jewish community in Amsterdam were not the only Jews who worked with diamonds.  In her new book A Brilliant Commodity: Diamonds and Jews in a Modern Setting, Saskia Snyder traces the involvement of Jews not only in Amsterdam factories, but in the fields of South Africa, in London, and in the growing consumer market of the United States during the late 19th century. She also examines how the involvement of Jews with diamonds became a feature of anti-semitism.  Saskia Coenen Snyder is Associate Professor of History at the University of South Carolina, where she is also a core faculty member of the Jewish Studies Program.  For Further Investigation Numerous conversations on this podcast tie in with something mentioned in the course of this conversation. Way, way back in the beginning, when this podcast was newly hatched, is Episode 5: Diamonds are a Problem, which focused on the mining of diamonds in South Africa, and elsewhere in Southern Africa. In Episode 19, I talked with historian Vicki Howard about small local department stores in the United States, which were often founded and managed by immigrants like Jews and Italians. Some of the themes of the "democratization of luxury" were touched on along with many other things in Episode 91: Wanamaker's Temple, which was about the very, very large department store created by John Wanamaker. And most recently we talked about postcards and the importance of mail delivery with Lydia Pyne in Episode 249: Postcards from the Past.
11/14/202257 minutes, 17 seconds
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Episode 292: Mutiny!

It is perhaps the greatest scandal and sea-story of the first half of 19th Century America that nearly everyone has forgotten. It led to a court martial, endless headlines, a fistfight in a meeting of the President’s cabinet, and quite possibly to the foundation of the United States Naval Academy. And given that nearly everyone who went to see in the early American republic seemed to know one another, there was one degree of separation between this story and James Fenimore Cooper, Herman Melville, Richard Henry Dana, Jr., Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry, and future Confederate naval captain Raphael Semmes. It was nothing less than an attempted mutiny aboard the USS Somers in November 1842, led by–of all the people in the United States of America—the son of the United States Secretary of War who supposedly wanted to become a pirate. With me to discuss this incredible story is James Delgado, historian and underwater archaeologist, whose new book is The Curse of the Somers: The Secret History Behind the US Navy’s Most Infamous Mutiny   For Further Investigation James Fenimore Cooper: proud of his four years a merchant sailor and then a midshipman in the United States Navy, Cooper's fourth novel was The Pilot: A Tale of the Sea, probably the first American nautical novel. Richard Henry Dana, Jr.: now curiously forgotten, Dana was a Harvard dropout who enrolled as a merchant seaman, sailed to California and back, wrote about it in a bestseller titled Two Years Before the Mast, and then went on to become a prominent lawyer. Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry: young brother of naval hero Oliver Hazard Perry, "Old Bruin" became one of the most prominent officers of the US Navy between 1814 and 1861, most famously leading the expedition that forced Japan open to trade and international interaction Raphael Semmes: once commander of the USS Somers, he became an officer in the Confederate Navy, and most famously commanded the CSS Alabama Herman Melville: elements of the Somers mutiny can be found in both White Jacket and Billy Budd
11/7/20221 hour, 2 minutes, 57 seconds
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Episode 291: True Blue

In late November, 1864, David R. Snelling visited his uncle, who then lived in Baldwin County near Milledgeville, Georgia. As a boy, he had worked in his uncle’s fields alongside those his uncle enslaved. Now Snelling returned home as a Lieutenant in the Army of the United States, commanding Company I of the First Alabama Cavalry–though detached on temporary duty as commander of the headquarters escort for General William Tecumseh Sherman. The homecoming was not a happy one, at least for Snelling’s uncle. The troopers who accompanied Snelling took what provisions they could find, and then at Snelling’s direction burned down the family’s cotton gin. Snelling and the First Alabama were some of the very small percentage of Unionists who persisted in the Deep South following secession. Yet Clayton Butler argues that their importance in the minds of both the Union and the Confederacy “helps to shed light on some of the most crucial issues of the entire era.”  He examines these Unionists, and those illuminated issues, in his new book True Blue: White Unionists in the Deep South During the Civil War and Reconstruction.  For Further Investigation The Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, in Greeneville, Tennessee An informative website constructed by historical reenactors who interpret the First Alabama Cavalry (USV) The image is of a Union scout in Louisiana, during the Red River campaign of 1864. For more,  ""Union Scouts in Louisiana," artist's impression, Harper's Weekly, May 1864, detail," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College For an introduction to Reconstruction, see the conversation in Episode 67 with Douglas Egerton. For a view of the Civil War that dovetails nicely with this conversation, see Episode 132, a conversation with historian Elizabeth Varon.
10/31/20221 hour, 4 minutes, 26 seconds
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Episode 290: Oh, Dakota!

My guest today is Dr. Ben Jones, Director of the South Dakota State Historical Society and the South Dakota State Historian.  Ben Jones served for 23 years in the United States Air Force, attaining the rank of lieutenant colonel. During his service he taught  at the Air Force Academy. Subsequently he was dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at South Dakota State University from 2013 to 2019, and  Secretary of Education of South Dakota from January 2019 to December 2020. He is now the 9th director in the 120-year history of the South Dakota State Historical Society.  In 2016, he published Eisenhower's Guerrillas: The Jedburghs, the Maquis, and the Liberation of France. Currently he  is working on a history of South Dakota and hosts a bi-monthly podcast, History 605. For Further Investigation Take a look at the Cultural Heritage Center of the South Dakota State Historical Society Jon Lauck was mentioned; we talked way, way, way back in Episode 13 about the history of the Midwest. It's not South Dakota related, but for an interesting insight into Native American history, see Episode 58: What Black Hawk Wore "All Guns Fired At One Time": Native Voices of Wounded Knee, one of the excellent productions of the publishing arm of the South Dakota State Historical Society
10/27/202253 minutes, 14 seconds
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Episode 289: Peace and Friendship in the American West

For over a generation the history of the American West has been described by scholars as one of violence, including genocide, ethnic-cleansing, and settler colonialism. While it replaced an older history which spoke of “winning the West” and the triumph of civilization, curiously enough both the old and the now aging histories of the west focused on violence. After all, in the popular imagination, every Western town hosted a gunfight in its one street on a nearly daily basis. But what if amidst the violence there were also moments of concord and overcoming difference? What if these moments of concord played out in more or less the same place and time as moments of violence? This is the argument of Stephen Aron in his new book Peace and Friendship: An Alternative History of the American West, which investigates moments where unexpectedly peaceful relationships were built in the American West. Stephen Aron is Professor Emeritus of History at UCLA, and President of the Autry Museum of the American West in Los Angeles. (The painting by Thomas Cole, done in 1826, is titled "Daniel Boone Sitting at the Door of His Cabin on the Great Osage Lake") For Further Investigation It was mentioned in the conversation, so here is Episode 149: Edges are Interesting, or, A History of Eastern Europe Two other podcasts very much connected to our brief discussion of Dodge City is Episode 101: Yippie-Ki-Yi-Yay and Episode 131: Red Meat Republic, or, the American Beef Economy of the Late 19th Century The book that began the new history of the American west was Patricia Limerick's The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West Also mentioned in the podcast was John Mack Farragher, who has written several books on these themes including a biography of Daniel Boone;  Eternity Street: Violence and Justice in Frontier Lost Angeles; and most recently California: An American History
10/24/20221 hour, 2 minutes, 25 seconds
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Episode 288: The American Revolution in Hapsburg Lands

In 1780, captured American naval officer Joshua Barney escaped from prison in Plymouth, made his way to London, and with the help of some English sympathizers to the American Revolution was able to take the ferry to Ostend, the principal port of the Austrian Netherlands. During his journey he struck up an acquaintance with an Italian noblewoman after curing her seasickness. Grateful, she insisted that he accompany her by carriage to Brussels, where in a “certain hotel” a porter ushered the two of them into the presence of the Holy Roman Emperor, Joseph II of Austria. As Barney remembered it decades later using the third person, he was surrounded by “big whiskered Germans and spruce Italians who eyed him with a stare of surprise equal to his own.” Barney’s was far from the only interaction between American rebels, and the Austro-Hungarian empire, its rulers, or its inhabitants. Take, for example, the proud parents who in 1778 at the baptismal font of St. Stephen’s Cathedral in the heart of Vienna had their infant son christened Benjamin Silas Arthur Schuster, his first three names those of the three American commissioners then in Paris–Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane, and Arthur Lee.  This is one of numerous anecdotes and instances that Jonathan Singerton deploys in his new book The American Revolution and the Hapsburg Monarchy, to support the somewhat surprising argument that “the American Revolution had a deep-rooted impact in the Habsburg lands which ultimately lasted through to the nineteenth century.” Jonathan Singerton is currently a lecturer and research associate at the University of Innsbruck; this is his first book. For Further Investigation For previous conversations related to this topic, you might consider Episode 149: Edges are Interesting, or, a History of Eastern Europe (in which I propose the radical and unprovable hypothesis that the Habsburg Empire was doomed because Joseph II hated his Latin tutor); and my conversation with Glenda Sluga in Episode 257 on the Congress of Vienna in 1815. Jonathan Singerton recommends the website Die Welt der Hapsburger (in English, if necessary) when you want "to get into the Habsburg's more" Jonathan says that, for more reading, Pieter M. Judson's The Habsburg Empire: A New History "is essential, as is" Martyn Rady's The Habsburgs: To Rule the World (as it's titled by in the States)
10/20/20221 hour, 3 minutes, 2 seconds
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Episode 287: The Hessians are Coming!

In 1776 a massive British fleet of more than 400 ships carrying tens of thousands of soldiers arrived outside New York Harbor. Many of these soldiers were German, hired from their princes by the British government. Americans then and now have called them Hessians. For the next seven years, these German soldiers marched, fought, and suffered seemingly everywhere in eastern North America, from the walls of Quebec City to the sandy beaches of Pensacola Bay. When the British army left, many Germans were left behind–both the living, deserters who had found new lives or others who settled with Loyalists in Canada, and the dead. Just this summer, on the battlefield of Fort Mercer, across from Philadelphia, an archaeological dig discovered a grave with the remains of thirteen German soldiers–and that just a fraction of the Germans who died in that place on October 22nd, 1777.  With me to describe the Hessians and their American odyssey is Friederike Baer, Associate Professor of History  at Pennsylvania State University, Abington College, and author of the new book Hessians: German Soldiers in the American Revolutionary War.      For Further Investigation Friederike writes, "for those interested in researching their Hessian ancestors, try this database of records at Hessian State Archives, Marburg, Germany and the Johannes Schwalm Historical Association (which also publishes an annual journal) A digitized collection of maps related to the Revolutionary war in the Hessian State Archives Marburg, Germany (collections 28 and 29)  "A classic to read is" Edward J. Lowell, The Hessians and the other Auxiliaries of Great Britain in the Revolutionary War. Port Washington, 1965; orig. publ. 1884. "A study with focus on troops from Hessen-Kassel is" Rodney Atwood, The Hessians: Mercenaries from Hessen-Kassel in the American Revolution. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1980. "On German prisoners of war see" Daniel Krebs, A Generous and Merciful Enemy: Life for German Prisoners of War during the American Revolution. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2013 and Kenneth Miller, Dangerous Guests: Enemy Captives and Revolutionary Communities during the War for Independence. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2014. "Stephen Conway has published extensively about Britain’s use of foreign troops more broadly." Read Stephen Conway. Britannia’s Auxiliaries: Continental Europeans and the British Empire, 1740-1800. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017. See also Mark Wishon, German Forces in the British Army: Interactions and Perceptions, 1742-1815. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. And here's a list of particularly informative published primary records:  Marvin L. Brown and Marta Huth. Baroness von Riedesel and the American Revolution: Journal and Correspondence of a Tour of Duty, 1776-1783. University of North Carolina Press, 1965. Helga Doblin, ed. An Eyewitness Account of the American Revolution and New England Life: The Journal of J.F. Wasmus, German Company Surgeon, 1776-1783. New York: Greenwood, 1990.  Helga Doblin and Mary C. Lynn, eds. The American Revolution, Garrison Life in French Canada and New York: Journal of an Officer in the Prinz Friedrich Regiment, 1776-1783. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1993. Helga Doblin and Mary C. Lynn, eds. The Specht Journal: A Military Journal of the Burgoyne Campaign. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1995. Charlotte S. J. Epping, ed. Journal of Du Roi the Elder, Lieutenant and Adjutant, in the Service of the Duke of Brunswick, 1776-1778. Americana Germanica 15. [Philadelphia]: University of Pennsylvania, 1911. Bernhard A. Uhlendorf, ed. Revolution in America: Confidential Letters and Journals 1776 -1784 of Adjutant General Major Baurmeister of the Hessian Forces. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1957.
10/17/20221 hour, 12 minutes, 49 seconds
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Episode 286: Weavers, Scribes, and Kings

The history of the ancient Near East can seem like staring down a deep, deep well of time, so deep that it gives one vertigo. It stretches back to 3,500 BC: that is, I’ll do the math for you, 5,522 years ago. In thinking about its 3,000 years of history, one begins to think not in terms of years, but in decades and centuries. Yet there were continuities amidst change, not simply within those three-plus millennia, but between then and now. For surely it would be impossible to imagine what 2022 would be like without writing, families, getting right with higher powers, kings and rulers, laws and litigation, cities and watering the garden. And all of those things can be found in the Ancient Near East With me to give a I hour overview of 3,500 years is Amanda H. Podany. She is Professor Emeritus of History at California State Polytechnic University, and author most recently of Weavers, Scribes, and Kings: A New History of the Ancient Near East. By the way, if you were listening to the conversation, you'll recognize our featured image: it's Amanda's drawing of the clay impressions of the feet one of the children sold into slavery, found in the Museum of Aleppo–which has by now experienced its own much more contemporary tragedies. For Further Investigation Amanda writes: "since we talked about brick-makers, an interesting image is of a clay brick with a cuneiform inscription. And this impression of a cylinder seal shows weaving women working at a loom..." "There are just so many books and articles and websites that might be interesting for listeners. Here's a list I wrote recently for Shepherd.com" "Another option is this website created by the British Museum about ancient Mesopotamia, though apparently it will only be available until December, after which it will be retired." Three previous podcasts have gone back to about 1000 BC, which now seems a trivial, juvenile sort of date. They were with Dimitri Nakassis, who discussed Mycenaean Greece and his excavations of the site at Pylos in Episode 33; Eric Cline on the First Dark Ages in Episode 62 (though admittedly he argued that the term "dark ages" was a base slander); and Joe Manning laid out his arguments about the ancient Mediterranean economies prior to the rise of Rome in Episode 164.
10/13/20221 hour, 19 minutes, 13 seconds
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Episode 285: Finding Agatha Christie

At her 80th birthday party Agatha Christie described a conversation she had once overheard about herself. She had been on a train, and there listened to two ladies talking about her, copies of her latest mystery  perched on both their knees. “I hear,” said one, “that she drinks like a fish.” Christie’s latest biographer Lucy Worsley begins her new book with that anecdote because for her it so nicely captures at least three things about the author. First, that she told the story on her 80th birthday shows her longevity. Second, that both of the ladies had a copy of her latest book—Christie was a bestselling author of truly titanic  sales records. Third, that Christie was a close observer of life around her, always ready to transmute it into art. And fourth, that in the story Agatha Christie was part of the background, so ordinary as to not excite any interest from anyone—yet, all the while, being quite extraordinary.  As she describes it, by day, Lucy Worsley is Joint Chief Curator of the Historic Royal Palaces—and by night she enters peoples homes by means of documentary films, and best-selling books–the latest of which is titled, in the United States at least, Agatha Christie: An Elusive Women.   For Further Investigation Lucy Worsley has previously written about another great English author, Jane Austen, in her Jane Austen at Home: A Biography. She has also previously written The Art of English Murder: From Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock Agatha Christie was a surfer, maybe one of the first Britons to learn to stand upright on a board. No, really, it's true. Lord Flashheart; and Archie Christie. I rest my case, m'lud. Thought Archie does need a bigger mustache, to be quite honest.
10/10/20221 hour, 3 minutes, 12 seconds
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Episode 284: The Greatest Russian General, in War and Peace

If we know Mikhail Ilarionovich Golenischev-Kutuzov, we know him as Tolstoy imagined him, as an old man, before Austerlitz, “with his uniform unbuttoned so that his fat neck bulged over his collar if escaping… in a low chair with his podgy old hands resting symmetrically on its arms'' who begins to snore loudly and rhythmically as his generals plan the battle. Why? Because he alone understands the hand of providence, or the finger of fate; because he alone “recognizes that there are forces in the universe that are ‘stronger and more important than his own will’.” Tolstoy’s Kutuzov therefore decides not to decide; diminishes himself in order to triumph; realizes that he is an observer rather than pretending to be an actor. But who was Kutuzov really? And how can we know him? Those are the questions at the heart of Alexander Mikaberidze’s new biography Kutuzov: A Life in War and Peace. It is as concerned with Russia in the late eighteenth century, and with what was subsequently made of Kutuzov’s legacy–to the very moment we record this conversation–as he is in Kutuzov’s life story. Alexander Mikaberidze is Professor of European History at the Louisiana State University at Shreveport, where he is also Ruth Herring Noel Endowed Chair for the Curatorship of the James Smith Noel Collection. This is his fourth appearance on Historically Thinking. For Further Investigation Alex Mikaberidize talked about the Napoleonic Wars as a world war in Episode 14,  and then again in Episode 155, after the publication of his book The Napoleonic Wars: A Global History (which won the 2020 Gilder-Lehrman Military History Prize) He also appeared in Episode 241: Doing the Research Brian Cox seems pretty well-cast as Kutuzov; but if you listened to the podcast closely, you'll see that the makeup people made an error
10/3/20221 hour, 8 minutes
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Episode 283: Two Houses, Two Kingdoms

For centuries the Kingdom of England faced northeast, across the northern seas towards Scandinavia. Indeed, under King Canute, England was part of Scandinavia. But with the Norman invasion–even though the Normans were eponymously “North-men”–that changed dramatically. Within a few decades, the French and English royal trees began to intertwine, to graft branches to one another, to make love and war, sometimes at one and the same time.  Catherine Hanley's new book Two Houses, Two Kingdoms: A History of France and England, 1100-1300 with these words: This is a book about people. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the personal could influence the political to a great extent, and nowhere is this better exemplified than in the relationship between the ruling houses of France and England, whose members waged war, made peace and intermarried – sometimes almost simultaneously – in a complex web of relationships. These people, these kings and queens, siblings, children and cousins, held positions determined by birth; positions that often involved playing a role on the national and international stage from a very young age. Their life stories, their formative experiences and their interpersonal relationships shaped the context of decisions and actions that had the potential to affect the lives and livelihoods of millions.  Catherine Hanley was last on the podcast in Episode 122, discussing the Empress Matilda, the subject of her previous book Matilda: Empress, Queen, and Warrior. She was born in Australia, lives in Somerset in the west of England, and when watching cricket supports “Somerset, Australia, and Tasmania—in that order.” For Further Investigation Two books by Catherine who are set within the period she chronicles in Two Houses, Two Kingdoms, are the aforementioned Matilda: Empress, Queen, and Warrior and Louis: The French Prince Who Invaded England, For just a taste of what comes after the end of Catherine's book, that whole "Hundred Years War" business, you might listen to Episode 66: A People's History of the Hundred Years War An introduction to medieval France, from the Metropolitan Museum Medieval English timeline at the British Library The Magna Carta Project, which Catherines says "has some good stuff about the early thirteenth century, King John, and Louis’s invasion" Relevant primary sources for England and for France at the invaluable Internet Sourcebook
9/29/20221 hour, 10 minutes, 46 seconds
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Episode 282: Griffins, Greek Fire, and Ancient Poisons

For thousands of years humans have in war and peace attempted to poison one another—or, perhaps for variety,  burn each other to death. We might think of poison gas, biological weapons, or the use of unwitting victims to spread epidemics as being modern innovations, but such horrors have been employed since the earliest recorded history.  Moreover, for nearly that entire time humans have debated the morality of employing those weapons.  My guest Adrienne Mayor describes this history in Greek Fire, Poison Arrows, and Scorpion Bombs: Unconventional Warfare in the Ancient World, now being issued in a revised and updated edition by Princeton University Press, along with her collection of essays entitled Flying Snakes and Griffin Claws. As she does in all of her books, in both of these she travels through that complicated landscape where the borders of history, science, archaeology, anthropology, and popular knowledge all adjoin each other, and seeks there the realities and insights embedded in myth, legend, and folklore.  Adrienne Mayor’s other books include The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome’s Deadliest Enemy, a finalist for the National Book Award. She was previously on the podcast in Episode 107 discussing her book Gods and Robots: Myths, Machines, and Ancient Dreams of Technology.
9/26/202250 minutes, 39 seconds
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Episode 281: The Great Atlantic Freedom Conspiracy

In 1815, John Adams wrote to a correspondent of the importance, of all things, of the Boston Committee of Correspondence in the 1760s: …I never belonged to any of these Committees and have never Seen one of their Letters Sent or received... But in my Opinion the History of the United States never can be written, till they are discovered. What an Engine! France imitated it, and produced a Revolution. England and Scotland was upon the Point of imitating it, in order to produce another Revolution and all Europe was inclined to imitate it for the Same Revolutionary Purposes. The History of the World for the last thirty Years is a Sufficient Commentary upon it. That History ought to convince all Mankind that Committees of Secret Correspondence are dangerous Machines. That they are Causticks and Inscision Knives, to which Recourse Should never be had but in the last Extremities of Life; in the last question between Life and Death. My guest Micah Alpaugh believes that John Adams was, despite his typical gift for epistolary hyperbole, absolutely and interestingly correct. And Alpaugh makes that argument in his new book Friends of Freedom: The Rise of Social Movements in the Age of Atlantic Revolutions. Micah Alpaugh is Associate Professor of History at the University of Central Missouri; this is his second book. For Further Investigation The English cartoonist James Gillray, who has claim to be the first great political cartoonist, made the London Corresponding Society a frequent target of his artistic abuse. The "London Corresponding Society, Alarm'd" imagined the members of the corresponding societies as feral subhumans, alarmed at the charges made against Tom Paine for the second part of his Rights of Man. On the other hand "Copenhagen House" was an almost sympathetic depiction of a mass-meeting of corresponding societies–with plenty of dissenters and abolitionists among them. A related conversation, covering the curious connections between revolutions in Europe and the Americas, was in Episode 176: Men on Horseback, or, What Charisma Has to Do With It. And for a deep dive into the French Revolution, see the conversation with Jeremy Popkin  in Episode 144: The French Revolution; and Episode 234: The Fall of Robespierre      
9/16/20221 hour, 4 minutes, 20 seconds
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Episode 280: Thinking about Historically Thinking

Well, this is something new. After 279 podcasts, someone is asking Al Zambone questions about the podcast. Carol Adrienne, recently heard talking on Episode 278 about her book Healing a Divided Nation: How the Civil War Revolutionized Western Medicine insisted that it was a really good idea that she be allowed to record a podcast about this podcast. So she did. It turns out to be a pretty good introduction to the podcast, if you're new to the podcast, as many references are made to past episodes. Even if you've listened to most of those 279 episodes, you'll still learn something as Zambone explains  the methods and perspectives that enables him to put together the podcast. For Further Investigation Here's the Edmund Morgan quote which still blurbs Charles Royster's book: "[The book] is social history, intellectual history, institutional history, political history, and not any single one of them, which is to say that it is good history." Boundary crossers Elisabeth Leake and Jamie Belich Three historians writing one big book in many volumes: Dominic Sandbrook, Tom Holland, and Warren Eugene Milteer Jr. Multi-lingual historians of the medieval and early-modern Mediterranean World: Hussein Fancy, Daniel Hershenzohn, Hannah Barker Thomas Gieryn discuss "truth spots" in Episode 106 Based on the advice of Professor Wikipedia, Zambone is forced to withdraw his remarks about Jerusalem Syndrome, despite this Culture Trip essay; or Paris Syndrome. Statistically. given the number of visitors to Jerusalem or Paris, it seems insignificant.
9/14/20221 hour, 6 minutes, 58 seconds
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Episode 279: Count the Dead

Stephen Berry begins his new book Count the Dead: Coroners, Quants, and the Birth of Death as We Know It with these two paragraphs:  This is a book about death and data or, more specifically, about the dead as data. The dead and the formerly living are not the same. The formerly living built the Parthenon and the Brooklyn Bridge…[they] also made brutal wars and ghastly decisions we are still struggling to live down. Revered or reviled, however, the formerly living have always counted because we still talk about them. Loved or hated, they built our world. This is a book about a group that did not count for a very long time—the actual dead—the great ghostly horde who made their mark not in their living but in their collective dying, producing patterns of mortality that proved critical to the systematization of public health, casualty reporting, and human rights… In Berry's telling, one of the greatest episodes in the history of humanity is the doubling of life expectancy between 1850 and 1950. But for him this is not a story simply of medical progress. It begins with the seemingly simple, mundane, and boring creation of death registration, beginning with the 1850 census when for the first time causes of death were recorded. This, Berry argues, was the foundation of the public health profession, and of the progress that followed. Without knowing a thing, without naming a thing, progress could not be made. Stephen Berry is a "historian of mortality", which craft he practices at the University of Georgia, where he is Gregory Professor of the Civil War Era. He has authored or edited six books, including House of Abraham: Lincoln and the Todds, a Family Divided by War, and Weirding the War: Stories from the Civil War's Ragged Edges.
9/8/202259 minutes, 45 seconds
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Episode 278: Healing a Divided Nation

When Confederate cannons fired on Fort Sumter in April 1861, the United States Army was comprised of only 16,000 soldiers. Its medical staff was numbered just 113 doctors. And here’s another fun fact: taking into account all of the doctors then practicing in the United States, possibly as few as 300 doctors in the entire United States had witnessed surgery, or seen a gunshot wound.  Over the next four years all of those numbers would dramatically increase. To meet the unprecedented casualties of the American Civil War, American medicine had to make unprecedented changes. As my guest Carole Adrienne describes in her new book Healing a Divided Nation: How the American Civil War Revolutionized Western Medicine, these changes are reflected “in every ambulance, every vaccination, every woman who holds a paying job, and in every Black university graduate.” Carole Adrienne received her B.F.A. from Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia.  She has organized an archive for Old St. Joseph’s National Shrine, twice chaired “Archives Week” in Philadelphia and has served on advisory panels for the Philadelphia Archdiocesan Historic Research Center, The Mutter Museum’s “Civil War Medicine” exhibit and its “Spit Spreads Death: The 1918 Flu Epidemic” exhibit.  She is working on a documentary film series on Civil War medicine and lives in Philadelphia, PA.   For Further Investigation You might think of this conversation as a prequel to Episode 252: The Great War and Modern Medicine; the Civil War changed the culture of American medicine, and possibly accelerated the postwar changes in the field. The Great War–the First World War–changed nearly everything about medicine everywhere. For another related discussion, this time on rabies and medicine in the late 19th century United States, see Episode 133: Mad Dogs and Other New Yorkers. The United States Sanitary Commission  Frederick Olmstead and the United States Sanitary Commission Clara Barton National Historic Site Clara Barton Missing Soldiers Museum A video introduction to Thomas Eakins' Portrait of Dr. Samuel Gross (The Gross Clinic) Dorothea Dix, Social Reformer, Superintendent of Nurses Cornelia Hancock  
9/5/202258 minutes, 54 seconds
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Episode 277: Saving Freud

On March 15, 1938, Adolf Hitler addressed 250,000 Austrians in Vienna, announcing the end of the Austrian state. Close by on that same day, Nazis entered the apartment of Dr. Sigmund Freud and his family. They were literally bought off when first his wife Martha offered them cash, and then daughter Anna Freud opened a safe and gave them the equivalent of $840. At this point “the stern figure of Sigmund Freud himself suddenly appeared,” writes my guest Andrew Nagorski, “glaring at the intruders without saying anything…They addressed him as Herr Professor, and backed out of the apartment... After they left, Freud inquired how much money they had seized... He wryly remarked, 'I have never taken so much for a single visit'." It seems astonishing that the author of Civilization and Its Discontents, who seemed to have so few illusions about mankind and its “aggressive cruelty”, should have been there to witness the Anschluss. It’s even more astonishing that even after the Anschluss he continued to insist that his life was safe, and that it was possible to “ride out the storm.” But a circle of friends and disciples not only persuaded Freud to leave, but then arranged his emigration to England, where he lived he last sixteen months of his life. Andrew Nagorski was bureau chief for Newsweek in Hong Kong, Moscow, Rome, Bonn, Warsaw, and Berlin. Author of seven books, his latest book is Saving Freud: The Rescuers Who Brought Him to Freedom, which is the subject of our conversation today.   For Further Investigation One of Nagorksi's previous books is Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Nazi Rise to Power. We discussed a part of that dystopian country's terrain, and how it came into being with horrifying speed, in a conversation with Peter Fritzsche that you can find in Episode 244: Hitler's First One Hundred Days. The general recommendation for the first place to read Freud are the lectures he gave at Clark University in 1909, published as Five Lectures on Psychoanalysis. Given the topic of Nagorski's book, you might also want to have a look at Civilization and Its Discontents The Sigmund Freud Archives in the Library of Congress; and a brief history of the collection Sigmund Freud Museum, Vienna Freud Museum, London
8/29/20221 hour, 3 minutes, 53 seconds
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Episode 276: The Secret Syllabus

New college students usually get lots of advice.  “Go to office hours.” “Ask good questions.” “Declare a major as soon as you can.” “Take some time to figure out who you are.” “Get some research experience.” “Get good internships with real-life experience.” “Sit in the front row.” “Avoid procrastination.” Some of this advice is obvious, some of it is contradictory, and some of it is bad.. It almost never explains why, or even how. So the new college student is apt to ignore all of it. In their new book The Secret Syllabus: A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of College Success, Jay Phelan and Terry Burnham begin at the most foundational level, and work upwards. The result is probably the best book that you could give to a first-year college student–or a second-year college student. Or maybe even a senior who’s finally getting it together.    For Further Investigation At the end of the conversation, I said that students should be given this book before going to college, while their parents should read Chambliss and Takacs, How College Works. I stand by that recommendation, and to see why you can listen to my conversation in Episode 56, in which I talk to Dan Chambliss. There are a lot of other conversations about higher ed on the podcast, and here they all are gathered under the title "Higher Ed: A Guide for the Perplexed." Among them are some of the best conversations I've had on the podcast.  
8/22/20221 hour, 5 minutes, 30 seconds
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Episode 275: The World the Plague Made

The pandemic  of 1346–the Black Death–in some areas of Europe killed as much as 50% of the population. But this first outbreak, while the worst, was not the last. For three centuries it persisted, with at least 30 further outbreaks. Such numbers indicated that the Black Death resulted in unimaginable suffering and tragedy from which no-one was untouched. But the Black Death also brought about a cultural and economic renewal. Labor scarcity encouraged the development of new or improved technologies, like wind power, water power, and gunpowder. A growth in disposable incomes led to an increase in consumption of silks, sugars, spices, furs, gold, and slaves.  It was not despite the Black Death that Europe flourished, argues my guest James Belich, but because of the Black Death.  James Belich is the Beit Professor of of Imperial and Commonwealth History at the University of Oxford, and cofounder of the Oxford Centre for Global History. His books include a two-volume history of New Zealand, but his most recent book is The World the Plague Made: The Black Death and the Rise of Europe, which is the focus of our conversation today. For Further Investigation Belich's two-volume history of New Zealand is comprised of Making Peoples: A History of the New Zealanders from Polynesian Settlement to the End of the Nineteenth Century and Paradise Reforged: A History of the New Zealanders, 1880-2000 Most recently Belich wrote Replenishing the Earth: The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the Angloworld, which as he mentioned in the conversation raised many questions in his head that required him to write The World the Plague Made We've previously talked about some of the more immediate consequences of the Black Death with Mark Bailey in Episode 207: After the Black Death. Another conversation which discussed disease and history and much more besides, from a very wide perspective indeed, was with Philip Jenkins in Episode 209: Climate, Catastrophe, and Faith
8/8/20221 hour, 4 minutes, 50 seconds
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Episode 274: Afghan Crucible

In December 24, 1979, Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan. They entered a country already engaged in a civil war. Figuratively, Afghans had been engaged in a war for nearly 100 years over their identity and direction. Dissension had finally led to political violence in 1978, as Afghans sought to impose upon one another their preferred model of statehood. What happened in Afghanistan, argues Elisabeth Leake, was never determined solely by the rules of the Cold War, or the desires of policymakers in Moscow and Washington. It was the crucible of regional desires, and above all the crucible of Afghan desires, plans, and dreams. “This failure of Afghan politics,” she writes, “was not preordained and was a messy, protracted affair.” Elisabeth Leake has been Associate Professor of International History at the University of Leeds, and as of August 1 is the Lee E. Dirks Chair in Diplomatic History at Tufts University. Previously the author of The Defiant Border: The Afghan-Pakistan Borderlands in the Era of Decolonization, 1936-65, her latest book is Afghan Crucible: The Soviet Invasion and the Making of Modern Afghanistan.  
8/1/20221 hour, 9 minutes, 39 seconds
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Episode 273: Founder of Modern Poland

The Dictator and His Daughter (c. 1934) On the morning of November 10, 1918, the overnight train from Berlin arrived in Warsaw station. One of its passengers was Josef Pilsudski. For twenty-six years he had been striving for the liberation of Poland from the Russian Empire, and its re-creation as an independent state and culture. Now, at the end of that train journey, he not only found himself at long last in a free Poland but surrounded by ever-growing crowds that saw him as the leader of the new nation.  Pilsudski did become the leader and defender of that nation, and in 1922 ceded dictatorial powers to democratically elected representatives. Yet just four years later this avowed champion of democracy, pluralism, and federalism seized power in a coup, and ruled Poland as a dictator to his death in 1935. He imprisoned his enemies, suppressed the press, ignored the legislature, and turned old friends against him. ”So much did his style of rule change,” writes my guest Joshua Zimmerman, “that he is often portrayed as if he were two entirely different men…Poland’s greatest champion for freedom and independence…abandoned the principle of democracy as freedom bound by the rule of law.”  Joshua Zimmerman is is Eli and Diana Zborowski Chair in Holocaust Studies and East European Jewish History and Professor of History at Yeshiva University. Two of his previous books include The Polish Underground and the Jews: 1939-1945, and Poles, Jews and the Politics of Nationality: The Bund and the Polish Socialist Party in Late Tsarist Russia, 1892-1914. Given that, it was as close to inevitable as a historian could allow that his most recent book would be Josef Pilsudski: Founding Father of Modern Poland. For Further Investigation Joshua Zimmerman recommends, for further reading about Pilsudski, Waclaw Jedrzejewicz, Pilsudski. A Life for Poland (New York: Hippocrene Books, 1981) and Antony Polonsky, Politics in Independent Poland (1972) You might also consult Norman Davies, God's Playground: A History of Poland. Volume II relates the story from 1795 to the present. The Jozef Pilsudski Institute of America George Washington had his seasoning; Josef Pilsudski has mustard. Earlier podcasts that recall some of the themes in this conversation are my discussion with David Bell in Episode 176 about his book Men on Horseback: Charisma and Power in the Age of Revolutions. While it ends long before Pilsudski's life, he also was a man on horseback. Also my conversation with Rick Hernandez way back in Episode 65 on the first year of the Russian Revolution.
7/25/20221 hour, 50 minutes, 25 seconds
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Episode 272: Germans without Borders

When the Bavarian naturalist Moritz Wagner travelled in the kingdom of Georgia, in 1819, he encountered there thousands of Germans, some of them living in what he described as a “ganz deutscher Bauart”, a German-designed village. They or their parents hhd emigrated there after the Napoleonic Wars. What Wagner found in the Caucusus could also be encountered elsewhere in Russia, as well as in Argentina, Chile, Brazil, “the triangular area between Cincinannti, St. Louis, and St. Paul”, and in places considerably closer to his native Bavaria. They were communities of people who were, as my guest Glenn Penny describes them, “German and something else.” Their stories are the heart of Penny’s new book, German History Unbound: From 1750 to the Present. Glenn Penny is Professor of History and the Henry J. Bruman Endowed Chair in German History at the University of California, Los Angeles. His most recent publications include In Humboldt’s Shadow: A Tragic History of German Ethnology. He is currently working on a book entitled Belonging in the Southern German Borderlands since 1800.   For Further Investigation One interesting moment in the conversation was when it turned to imagining German history without necessarily including the Third Reich. A couple of conversations from the podcast do indeed discuss German history without the telos of Adolf Hitler. They are Episode 119: The Curious Case of the Lion's Blood, or, How Anna Zieglerin Came to Be Burned at the Stake and Episode 190: Porcelain We talked about Germans who emigrated to Russia; and some of that population who then left Russia for the Americas. Here's the Germans from Russia Heritage Society, where you can learn more about these peripatetic people. They even have a list of German villages in the Caucasus.  
7/18/20221 hour, 3 minutes, 48 seconds
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Episode 271: The Man at the Center of Two Revolutions

My guest today is Martin Clagget, author of A Spark of Revolution: William Small, Thomas Jefferson, and James Watt; The Curious Connection Between the American Revolution and the Industrial Revolution. It’s the first biography of William Small ever written. If Small is remembered at all, it’s because he was the tutor of Thomas Jefferson at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg. But Clagget meticulously demonstrates that his life contained much more than that.  For Small was a Scotsman who was clearly one of the great eighteenth century polymaths. His interests extended from the moral philosophy of the Scottish “common sense” school, to medicine and surgery, and even to building and tinkering with machines. Amazingly enough, all of these talents were employed in his short life. Not only did he become a fixture of Williamsburg society, educating a future generation of revolutionary leaders, but on returning to Britain he settled in the growing almost-industrial city of Birmingham. There he became fast friend with Matthew Boulton, a pioneering industrialist, and brought together the influential group of thinkers and  tinkerers known as the “Lunar Society.” And there in Birmingham  he encountered a fellow Scot, James Watt, and interested Boulton in Watt’s design for a steam engine. Indeed, so closely linked was Small to the project, that had he lived he would have split the royalties on the steam engine with Watt and Boulton. Truly Small was at the heart of two revolutions, both the American Revolution, and the Industrial Revolution that sprang forth from the English Midlands.   For Further Investigation Martin Clagett speaks at Monticello about his book. Martin Clagett, Scientific Jefferson, Revealed Jenny Uglow, The Lunar Men–"In the 1760s a group of amateur experimenters met and made friends in the English Midlands. Most came from humble families, all lived far from the center of things, but they were young and their optimism was boundless: together they would change the world."
7/4/20221 hour, 10 minutes, 49 seconds
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Episode 270: Great Tomatoes of World History

Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson of Salem County, New Jersey Joseph T. Buckingham, editor of the Boston Courier in the 1830s, had a way with invective: The mere fungus of an offensive plant which one cannot touch without an immediate application of soap and water with an infusion of eau de cologne, to sweeten the hand…O ye caterers of luxuries, ye gods and godesses of the science of cookery! Deliver us from tomatoes. You have to wonder what Buckingham said about politicians. Everything has a history, and that includes tomatoes. For when Buckingham wrote his anti-tomato diatribe, not very coincidentally the United States was in the midst of tomato-eating health craze that included (for some) the consumption of life-enhancing tomato pills; while in that very year, Italians persisted in eating pasta that had been cooked in broth for as much as hour before being tossed with pork lard and eaten by hand. These and other excellent facts are found in William Alexander’s Ten Tomatoes That Changed the World: A History. His previous books include The $64 Tomato: How One Man Nearly Lost His Sanity, Spent a Fortune, and Endured an Existential Crisis in the Quest for the Perfect Garden. For Further Investigation If you haven't already listened to it, find out more about Dr. Wiley and his crusade for pure food in my conversation with Jonathan Reese; for a discussion that busted lots of myths regarding food, and how we came to eat things the way we do, see the conversation with Rachael Laudan Bill Alexander's website The Tomato Pill Craze New York Times article on the GMO tomato Andrew Smith, Pure Ketchup: A History of America's National Condiment, with Recipes Massimo Mortinari, A Short History of Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce: The Unbelievable True Story of the World's Most Beloved Dish
6/27/20221 hour, 13 minutes, 17 seconds
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Episode 269: Free People of Color

By 1861, there were 250,000 free people of color living in the American South. They were signs of contradiction amidst a slave society built upon the concept of white supremacy in a racial hierarchy. Laws curtailed and denied their rights seemingly in every conceivable way, from prohibiting their legal testimony against whites to barring them from the ballot box. Whites attempted to control them through classification, variously and contradictorily terming them "negroes," "mulattoes," "mustees," "Indians," "mixed--bloods," or simply "free people of color". The last of these was the only one which these people seemed to accept for themselves, and make their own. But while these free people of color faced every conceivable attempt to deny them of power and personhood, they succeeded in raising families, building communities, establishing businesses and organizations, and enabling them to flourish. Some even rose to economic prominence in their own communities, even gaining the respect of their white neighbors. And often both groups interacted: in business, in churches, and even in families. My guest Warren Eugene Milteer, Jr., has written three books about free people of color: Hertford County, North Carolina’s Free People of Color; North Carolina’s Free People of Color, 1715-1885; and Beyond Slavery’s Shadow: Free People of Color in the South. As you can see from the tiles, they have moved from investigating a North Carolina county, to gradually encompassing the entire American South. This is therefore a very comprehensive and purposeful project; as you'll find out in our conversation, it's also a deeply personal one. Warren Milteer is Assistant Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. For Further Investigation This is the third and final podcast of the month focusing on the experience of Black Americans in both slavery and freedom. In Episode 266, I had a conversation with Isabela Morales about the incredible story of the Townsend family; and in Episode 267, David Hackett Fischer described some of the regional cultures of Blacks in early America. Melvin Patrick Ely,  Israel on the Appomattox: A Southern Experiment in Black Freedom from the 1790s through the Civil War. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004. Jack D. Forbes, Africans and Native Americans: The Language of Race and the Evolution of Red-Black Peoples. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1993. Luther P. Jackson, Free Negro Labor and Property Holding in Virginia, 1830–1860. New York: D. Appleton-Century, 1942.  Patricia Phillips Marshall and Jo Ramsay Leimenstoll. Thomas Day: Master Craftsman and Free Man of Color. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press,2010.  A. B.Wilkinson, Blurring the Lines of Race and Freedom: Mulattoes and Mixed Bloods in English Colonial America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2020.
6/20/202247 minutes, 3 seconds
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Episode 268: Feeding Washington’s Army

In early December, 1777, Joseph Plumb Martin and his comrades in the Continental Army sat down to feast upon a Our Hero: Rhode Island Quaker ironworker turned Major General and logistician Thanksgiving meal, mandated by the Second Continental Congress.  “...To add something extraordinary to our present stock of provisions, our country, ever mindful of its suffering army,” wrote Martin decades later, “ opened her sympathizing heart so wide, upon this occasion, as to give us something to make the world stare.  And what do you think it was dear reader?—Guess.—You cannot guess, be you as much of a Yankee as you will.  I will tell you: it gave each and every man a half a gill of rice, and a table spoon full of vinegar!!” Martin’s faux banquet was the result not of tightfistedness, but of bankruptcy and what my guest Ricardo Herrera describes as “the slow moving, staggering debacle that was its supply and transportation system.” If it’s true that amateurs study tactics, and professionals study logistics, then Herrara’s new book Feeding Washington’s Army: Surviving the Valley Forge Winter of 1778  is definitely for professionals—but there is much in it for others to learn from as well. Ricardo A. Herrera is professor of military history at the School of Advanced Military Studies at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. The views that he expresses here are not those of the SAMS, the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense, the United States Government; really, any person or institution other than Ricardo Herrera himself. For Further Investigation We've talked about Harry Lee with biographer Ryan Cole for two hours; and in Episode 110 about Nathanael Greene and the campaign for the South with John Buchanan, author of The Road to Charleston. Wayne K. Bodle, Valley Forge Winter: Civilians and Soldiers in War (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002) Bodle, “Generals and ‘Gentlemen’: Pennsylvania Politics and the Decision for Valley Forge,” Pennsylvania History 62, no. 1 (Winter 1995): 59–89 Benjamin H. Newcomb, “Washington’s Generals and the Decision to Quarter at Valley Forge,” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 117, no. 4 (Oct 1993): 311–29 Ricardo A. Herrera, “‘[T]he zealous activity of Capt. Lee’: Light-Horse Harry Lee and Petite Guerre.” The Journal of Military History 79, no. 1 (January 2015): 9-36 Herrera, “‘[O]ur Army will hut this Winter at Valley forge’: George Washington, Decision-Making, and the Councils of War.” Army History, no. 117 (Fall 2020): 6-26 Herrera, “Foraging and Combat Operations at Valley Forge, February-March 1778.”  Army History, no. 79 (Spring 2011): 6-29 Valley Forge National Historic Park Valley Forge Muster Roll You might remember that I tried to pronounce auftragstaktik, at least once. Rick Herrera doesn't really care if I pronounced it correctly or not...as you can see here in this YouTube conversation "The Myth of Auftragstktik and the history of Mission Command"
6/13/20221 hour, 13 minutes, 42 seconds
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Episode 267: African Founders

In 1609 a free man of African and European ancestry, Juan Rodriguez, left the Dutch ship Jonge Tobias anchored off Manhattan Island with “eighty hatchets and some knives” to set himself up in trading with the local Indians. Ashore in coming years he fought off Dutch rivals, married an Indian woman, and started a family, all the while prospering by trading in bear and beaver pelts. His is one of the many stories presented by David Hackett Fischer in his new book African Founders: How Enslaved People Expanded American Ideals, which examines nine Afro-European regional cultures in North America. Following in the footsteps of his previous books Albion’s Seed, Liberty and Freedom, and Champlain’s Dream, in African Founders, Fischer seeks to determine in this case how individuals both free and enslaved within these cultures “acted with purpose and resolve to change the ways that free and open systems worked in what is now the United States.” David Hackett Fischer is University Professor and Warren Professor of History Emeritus at Brandeis University. Author of numerous books in addition to those already mentioned, his Washington’s Crossing won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize in History.
6/6/202253 minutes, 20 seconds
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Episode 266: Happy Dreams of Liberty

Hello, when Samuel Townsend died in 1856 near Huntsville, Alabama, he was the era’s equivalent of a multimillionaire. He had thousands of acres of cotton-land, and hundreds of enslaved people who planted, harvested, and processed that cotton to make him rich. Like many other parents, he left it all to his five sons, four daughters, and two nieces. But in this case all of them were slaves. And that crucial event is not even the beginning of the intricate, horrible, thrilling, and ennobling story of the Townsend family, which Isabela Morales tells in her new book Happy Dreams of Liberty: An American Family in Slavery and Freedom.  R. Isabela Morales is the Editor and Project Manager of the Princeton & Slavery Project and the Digital Projects Manager at the Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum. She received her PhD in history from Princeton University. Happy Dreams of Liberty is published by Oxford University Press. For Further Investigation For more on the internal slave trade, and the kidnapping of free blacks in the north for enslavement in the South, see Episode 141; for a discussion on American slavery, see Episode 25 The Septimus D. Cabaniss Papers at the University of Alabama–Isabela writes "The full collection has been digitized, so you can explore the actual letters and other sources I use in the book." Direct link to the 1856 will of Samuel Townsend Martha Hodes, The Sea Captain's Wife: A True Story of Love, Race, and War in the Nineteenth Century (W. W. Norton, 2006) Tiya Miles, Ties That Bind: The Story of an Afro-Cherokee Family in Slavery and Freedom (University of California Press, 2005) Daniel Sharfstein, The Invisible Line: Three African American Families and the Secret Journey from Black to White (The Penguin Press, 2011)
5/30/20221 hour, 2 minutes, 21 seconds
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Episode 265: How to Win a Power Struggle

You might as well admit it; you’ve always wondered how you would do in a vicious struggle for power. Those thoughts might be prompted by an over-long project planning meeting for a new software produce, an angry meeting of a humanities department with an associate dean, or from binge-watching Game of Thrones one too many times. But for high-ranking officials in authoritarian regimes, such thoughts are simply part of careful and judicious Thinking Ahead. In his new book Prestige, Manipulation, and Coercion: Elite Power Struggles in the Soviet Union and China after Stalin and Mao, Joseph Torigian anaylyzes four power struggles in Leninist regimes, arguing that party institutions did not prevent power struggles from being shaped by “the politics of personal prestige, historical antagonisms, backhanded political maneuvering, and violence.” If he’s right, then we might even be able to learn something about the future from studying the past. Joseph Torigian is an assistant professor at the School of International Service at American University and a Global Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center’s History and Public Policy Program. For Further Investigation Some of the same events discussed here  with Tony Saich, when in Episode 213 we discussed the one-hundred year long history of the Chinese Communist Party. Another conversation in which historical knowledge is applied to political possibilities. 
5/23/20221 hour, 1 minute, 51 seconds
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Episode 264: The Persian Version

Some 5,000 years ago nomadic peoples of central Asia settled on the Iranian plateau. Their descendants would be the nucleus of an extraordinary empire that reached north to the lands of their ancestors, eastwards to India and China, and west as far as the Libyan desert and the Aegean Sea. These were the Persians, who not only created the first of the world-empires, but also brought about the first period of significant and continuous contact between the east and the west.  What is typically known about the Persians comes from Herodotus, who in his Histories told the story of how Persia came to invade Greece, and how the Greeks were able to repel the greatest empire yet known to mankind. But what is the Persian version of the story? What would the Persians have said about themselves? With me to discuss the Persian Empire of the Achaemenid Kings is Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones, chair of ancient history at Cardiff University, and director of the Ancient Iran Program for the British Institute of Persian Studies. His latest book is Persians: The Age of the Great Kings, and it is the subject of our conversation today. For Further Investigation Early in the conversation, when discussing the importance of the Persian's nomadic past, I made reference to a conversation with Pamela Crossley. This was Episode 185; her book on the importance of nomadic thought and culture for all of Eurasia is Hammer and Anvil: Nomad Rulers at the Forge of the Modern World. Lloyd had some tough things to say about Herodotus; for a different perspective, see my conversation in Episode 116 on "The First Historian" with Jennifer Roberts, a Herodotus scholar.
5/16/20221 hour, 14 minutes, 10 seconds
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Episode 263: The Man Who Understood Democracy (Part Two)

This is the second and final part of my conversation with Olivier Zunz about his new biography of Alexis de Tocqueville, The Man Who Understood Democracy, just published by Princeton University Press. When last we left Tocqueville, he had just experienced a brilliant success with the publication of the first volume of Democracy in America. In this conversation, we will as promised discuss Tocqueville’s formative trip to Britain, and how it influenced his writing of volume II of Democracy; his political career; his experiences of the revolution of 1848, and the Second Empire; his great work The Ancien Régime and the French Revolution; and his death at a moment when it seemed that in both France and America the experiment to which he had devoted his life was on the point of failure. Olivier Zunz is the James Madison Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Virginia. He is the author, most recently, of Philanthropy in America: A History (also published by Princeton University Press ). He has edited the Library of America edition of Democracy in America, Tocqueville’s Recollections: The French Revolution of 1848 and Its Aftermath, Alexis de Tocqueville and Gustave de Beaumont in America: Their Friendship and Their Travels, all in collaboration with the translator Arthur Goldhammer. He has also co-edited The Tocqueville Reader: A Life in Letters and Politics. For Further Investigation Exploring American Democracy with Alexis de Tocqueville as Guide: a 2015 seminar led by Olivier Zunz and Arthur Goldhammer at the University of Virginia still has a website, with an unparalleled collection of resources, including bibliographies of magnificent detail. Arthur Goldhammer describes his collaboration with Olivier Zunz: a "harmonious collaboration" that became an "intellectual friendship" The benchmark historical-critical edition of Democracy in America by Eduardo Nolla
5/9/20221 hour, 18 minutes, 20 seconds
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Episode 262: The Man Who Understood Democracy (Part One)

In 1835 a young French author on the verge of publishing his first book wrote “the best thing that can happen to me is if no one read my book, and I have not yet lost hope that this happiness will be mine.” But Alexis de Tocqueville’s hopes were not fulfilled. Although the first printing was just 500 copies, Tocqueville almost immediately became an intellectual celebrity. When he heard people speaking about his book, said Tocqueville, he wondered “whether they are really talking about me.” Olivier Zunz argues in his new biography The Man Who Understood Democracy: A Life of Alexis de Tocqueville that Tocqueville was a passionate advocate for democracy, judging it the only system that could provide both liberty and equality. He did this both as a scholar and a politician, dying at a moment when it seemed that in both France and America the experiment to which he had devoted his life was on the point of failure. In the first of two conversations, Zunz and I discuss Tocqueville's family; his early life and intellectual development; his unhappy attempt at a legal career; and his famous journey to the young United States. We conclude this conversation with the moment described above, when the publication of the first volume of Democracy in America led to Tocqueville's instant intellectual celebrity. In our second conversation, we will discuss his turn to political action, and its outcomes. Olivier Zunz is the James Madison Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Virginia. He is the author, most recently, of Philanthropy in America: A History (also published by Princeton University Press ). He has edited the Library of America edition of Democracy in America, Tocqueville’s Recollections: The French Revolution of 1848 and Its Aftermath, Alexis de Tocqueville and Gustave de Beaumont in America: Their Friendship and Their Travels, all in collaboration with the translator Arthur Goldhammer. He has also co-edited The Tocqueville Reader: A Life in Letters and Politics. For Further Investigation Exploring American Democracy with Alexis de Tocqueville as Guide: a 2015 seminar led by Olivier Zunz and Arthur Goldhammer at the University of Virginia still has a website, with an unparalleled collection of resources, including bibliographies of magnificent detail. Arthur Goldhammer describes his collaboration with Olivier Zunz: a "harmonious collaboration" that became an "intellectual friendship" The benchmark historical-critical edition of Democracy in America by Eduardo Nolla
5/2/20221 hour, 11 minutes, 42 seconds
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Episode 261: The Long Land War

For most of human history, the wealthy of any given society have been those who owned land. Therefore to change concepts of property ownership has been to change concepts of society itself. In her new book The Long Land War: The Global Struggle for Occupancy Rights, Jo Guldi focus on land and its distribution as an overlooked engine driving politics in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Of course, the history of land reform is far older "strategies for turning the land over to the poor date as far back as ancient Canaan or the Roman empire; and yet, modern proposals for state-engineered 'land reform' appeared for the first time in nineteenth-century Britain, and the first “rent control” law dates from Ireland in 1881." From land reform policies in nineteenth century Ireland and India, to post-colonial Africa, Guldi's study ranges the globe. She argues that land redistribution is crucial to understanding the rise and fall of nationalism, communism, and internationalism, as well as the spread of information technology and free-market economics. Jo Guldi is associate professor of history at Southern Methodist University, where she teaches courses on the history of Britain, the British Empire, modern development policy, and property law. She describes herself as a "historian of capitalism [whose] interests have ranged widely over problems of the past and methods for knowing the truth." For Further Investigation You might be interested in reading some of Jo's many essays. They can be found here, on her excellent website. I learned about Jo's book from Scott Nelson, who was on to talk about grain and history. You can listen to that conversation here, if you haven't already heard it. In our conversation about his book Petrarch's War: Florence and the Black Death in Context, Bill Caferro offered some criticisms of "the long view" and some reasons why focusing on the "short view" is a good thing.  
4/25/20221 hour, 6 minutes, 36 seconds
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Episode 260: The Making of History

Richard Cohen begins his new book Making History: The Storytellers Who Shaped the Past with two particularly appropriate epigrams. First, from the historian E.H. Carr: “Before you study history, study the historian.” Second, the historical novelist Hilary Mantel: “Beneath every history, there is another history—there is, at least, the life of the historian.”  The life of historians is the subject of Cohen’s book, and he ranges from Herodotus and Thucydides in the Very Long Ago, to Ibram X. Kendi and the 1619 Project of Just Yesterday. Since this is a book about how historians make make history, it is therefore a book about how historians see the past, and think about it.   Richard Cohen is the author of By the Sword,Chasing the Sun, and How to Write Like Tolstoy. The former publishing director of two leading London publishing houses, he has edited numerous prize-winning and bestselling books, and written for most UK quality newspapers. He is a Fellowof the Royal Society of Literature.   For Further Investigation The podcast now has several conversations devoted to the subject of "Historians and Their Histories". To mention two historians of Rome who were also men of action, here's one with Adrian Goldsworthy on Julius Caesar, and another with Steele Brand on Polybius, onetime soldier, Greek, and historian of the Roman Republic. A site devoted to Shakespeare and history, which is suitably named shakespeareandhistory.com Sir Walter Scott's Abbotsford: the house that historical novels built David Irving, mentioned in the podcast conversation, became notorious as Holocaust denier. In turn denying this charge, he sued historian Deborah Lipstadt for libel, the stakes of which were "not only Irving's contention that his reputation and livelihood had been harmed, but also a bitter argument about the nature of historical evidence and its interpretation." You can read more about the result of the trial in a contemporary source here.
4/18/20221 hour, 7 minutes, 27 seconds
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Episode 259: In Praise of Good Bookstores

The sociologist Edward Shils said or wrote somewhere that one of the three principle means of education were bookstores—preferably a used bookstore. Shils, for two generations a student and then faculty member at the University of Chicago, spent a lot of time in bookstores, and particularly in the Seminary Co-operative Bookstore, of which he was the 8,704thmember. Jeff Deutsch is the director of Chicago’s Seminary Co-op Bookstores, which in 2019 he helped incorporate as the first not-for-profit bookstore whose mission is bookselling. (You can get some idea of the range of the Co-Op's enterprises from Jeff's annual letter.) He is the author of In Praise of Good Bookstores, which is the subject of our conversation today. It is not only a loving tribute to an endangered civic institution, but an imagining of a future in which bookstores not only endure but thrive. Jeff and I talk about many things, including his grandfather and my great-grandfather; how to arrange your books; types of browsing; and the need for getting lost in a bookstore. For Further Investigation At the back of Jeff's book, you'll find a QR code that takes you to this site: Princeton University Press has set up a page through which you can find an independent bookstore near you. New Dominion Books: the closest independent bookshop to my house City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco Hub City Bookshop in Spartanburg, SC      
4/11/20221 hour, 5 minutes, 12 seconds
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Episode 258: The Pursuit of Perfection

Britain in the 1840s should have been, observes Simon Heffer, a time of great social improvement. Instead it was a country that was beset by poverty, unrest, assassination attempts on young Queen Victoria and her Prime Minister, and fears of revolution. Yet just forty years later, it was as if none of that had ever happened. It had become a prosperous and progressive nation, transformed by advances not only in industrialization, but also in politics, science, religion, and education. That Britain had become such a society was not an accident, but the result of intelligent and directed purpose The story of that purpose, and what it wrought, is the subject of Heffer’s book High Minds: The Victorians and the Birth of Modern Britain. It is an investigation not simply of political, social, or cultural change, but of a change of mind—by which I mean not merely changing ideas, like changing clothes from season to season, but of changing the way things are seen Simon Heffer is an eminent British journalist, essayist, historian, and author of numerous books, including lives of the 19th century Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle and 20th century politician Enoch Powell, and a series of histories of Britain of which High Minds is the first. For Further Investigation In our wide-ranging conversation we touched on topics covered in previous episodes of the podcast. If you haven't already, then listen to Jonathan Rose talk about the intellectual life of the British working class; or Will Hay describe the importance of an obscure Prime Minister. High Minds was published in 2013 in Britain, but is only now being published in the United States by Pegasus Books. It has been followed by The Age of Decadence–A History of Britain: 1880-1914, which was confusingly published in the United States before High Minds. Staring at God: Britain in the Great War has not been published in America; you'll need to order it from Britain along with the good Cadbury's chocolate they keep for themselves. The final volume in the series, now being written, will end the story in 1939.
4/4/20221 hour, 9 minutes, 21 seconds
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Episode 257: Inventing a New World Order

In 1814, representatives of the grand coalition that had defeated Napoleon gathered in Vienna. There in meetings and balls–interrupted only by Napoleon’s 100 days after his return from exile on Elba–they developed a new order for Europe that connected peace to multilateralism, diplomacy, philanthropy, and rights. These ideas, writes Glenda Sluga, came not only from male aristocrats and diplomats, but from female aristocrats, and bourgeois men and women, who imagined a new kind of European politics. Glenda Sluga is professor of international history and capitalism at the European University Institute, Florence, and Kathleen Fitzpatrick Laureate Fellow and professor of international history at the University of Sydney. Her most recent book is The Invention of International Order: Remaking Europe after Napoleon, and it's the subject of our conversation. For Further Inquiry  On two podcasts Historically Thinking listener favorite Alex Mikaberidze has held forth on the global consequences of the wars of the French Revolution and Napoleon. They can be found here and here. Napoleon's "100 Days" rudely interrupted the Congress of Vienna, before he and his reconstituted armies were stopped at Waterloo. Way back in the early days of the podcast, Gareth Glover gave a detailed account of that battle, based on his comprehensive knowledge of the related sources. Further reading: two books mentioned by Glenda that might be of interest to you are Beatrice de Graaf, Fighting Terror after Napoleon: How Europe Became Secure after 1815, and Brian E. Vick, The Congress of Vienna: Power and Politics after Napoleon For a quick read, see Stella Ghervas, "What was the Congress of Vienna?", History Today Volume 64 Issue 9 September 2014 The historical novelist Shannon Selin, author of Napoleon in America, has a very nice miniature biography of Klemens Prince von Metternich on her website.
3/28/202257 minutes, 54 seconds
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Episode 256: The War That Made the Roman Empire

On the coast of Greece there is an ancient monument that no-one pays very much attention to; and yet it marks one of the most consequential battles in the history of Rome, or really all of Europe. It was ordered to be built by Augustus, first Emperor of Rome, to mark his victory at Actium. At that place a fleet loyal to him defeated one commanded by Mark Antony and Cleopatra. The result determined not simply politics, but society, culture, and possibly even religion for hundreds of years to come With me to describe Actium, what led to it, and what came from it, is Barry Strauss. He is Bryce and Edith M. Bowmar Professor in Humanistic Studies at Cornell University, and Corliss Dean Page Fellow at the Hoover Institution, as well author of numerous books. This is third appearance on Historically Thinking; he has previously been with us to discuss the death of Caesar, and the historian Thucydides. His most recent book is The War That Made the Roman Empire: Antony, Cleopatra, and Octavian at Actium. For Further Investigation Barry Strauss' website I highly recommend Barry's memoir Rowing Against the Current: On Learning to Scull at Forty. "In the midst of the standard dreary midlife crisis--complete with wine-tasting courses, yoga classes, and a failed attempt at a first novel--a 40-year-old Strauss falls unexpectedly and passionately in love with rowing." You might find yourself wondering where you can start rowing.
3/21/202254 minutes, 46 seconds
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Episode 255: Denmark Vesey’s Bible

On July 2, 1822, Denmark Vesey was hung for attempting to lead a slave revolt in Charleston, South Carolina. Also executed that day were five of his supporters. Over the next month, a total of 35 men were hung in public executions for their involvement in Vesey’s plot—on one day, 22 were killed in a mass execution. Both “Vesey’s prosecutors and his allies”, writes my guest Jeremy Schipper “appealed to the Bible to decry or justify the insurrection plot.” In this way their behavior mirrored Abraham Lincoln’s words decades later in his Second Inaugural Address: “Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God and each invokes His aid against the other.” Yet while Lincoln seems to have been referring to Northerner and Southerner, in this instance those words applied to White and Black Southerners, to enslavers and enslaved. How they read the same texts, how they prayed them, is therefore of intense interest to anyone seeking to understand that moment in Charleston, or for that matter any other moment in the history of slavery and racial conflict in the United States. Jeremy Schipper is Professor of Religion at Temple University, in Philadelphia, PA. Author of several books, his most recent is Denmark Vesey’s Bible: The Thwarted Revolt That Put Slavery and Scripture on Trial, which is the subject of our conversation today. For Further Investigation  We have previously discussed Nat Turner's Revolt in Episode 161. Doug Egerton was mentioned in the conversation, and is thanked by Jeremy Schipper in his acknowledgements. Doug has been on the podcast in Episode 67 talking about Reconstruction, and again in Episode 137 discussing the Adams' family.
3/14/20221 hour, 2 minutes, 25 seconds
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Episode 254: Saving Yellowstone

In 1871 an expedition entered the territory now encompassed by Yellowstone National Park. Led by doctor and self-taught geologist Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden, it was to be the first scientific expedition into that mysterious place. But it was also, says my guest Megan Kate Nelson, part of a larger struggle over the expansion of federal power during Reconstruction. Hayden would be one of the three men who would strive for control of Yellowstone, and the surrounding territory. The others were Jay Cooke, a Philadelphia investment banker raising capital for the Northern Pacific Railroad; and a Lakota leader known to English speakers as Sitting Bull, who was determined to stop the building of the Northern Pacific. These are some of the protagonists of Nelson’s new book Saving Yellowstone: Exploration and Preservation in Reconstruction America.   Megan Kate Nelson is a writer and historian, living in Massachusetts. She was previously on the podcast in Episode 23 discussing her book Ruin Nation: Destruction and the American Civil War. For Further Investigation An excerpt from Megan's book appears on the website of Smithsonian magazine If you're interested in learning more about the historical discipline of Environmental History, you should listen to this very early conversation with my old friend Brian Leech
3/7/20221 hour, 7 minutes, 26 seconds
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Episode 253: Beer!

“The story of beer,” writes John Arthur, “is a chronicle about how we as a species have interacted with each other, created prosperous societies, survived difficult and challenging times, and ended up where we are today. Beer continues to be a critical food source for millions of Indigenous people today, providing a fulfilling and nutritious meal. After water and tea, it is the most consumed beverage in the world and continues to unite the vast majority of communities through daily and ritual life.” Through its very long history, beer has “led to new technologies, ensured health and well-being, imbu[ed] life with ritual and religious connections, and [built] economic and political statuses.” John Arthur is Professor of Anthropology at the University of South Florida. His most recent book is Beer: A Global Journey Through the Past and Present, which ranges from Mesopotamia to 21st century sour beer hipsters. For Further Investigation A scientific paper on Raqefet Cave Cider made by burying and fermenting the apples
3/3/20221 hour, 1 minute, 53 seconds
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Episode 252: The Great War and Modern Medicine

From the first weeks of the Great War, in August 1914, medical practice was overwhelmed, not simply by the mass casualties produced by the war, but the types of trauma to which human bodies were being subjected. The result was a transformation over four years not just of warfare, but of medicine. Ideas and hypotheses that had been developed in the thrilling decades of laboratory discovery prior to 1914 were implemented on a gigantic scale; and new ones were developed and tested and put into practice, in a matter of months. By 1919, medicine was utterly different than it had been just five years before. My guest Thomas Helling is Professor of Surgery and head of the Division of General Surgery at the University of Mississippi in Jackson. He has vast experience in military medicine, trauma, and critical care, and is the author of The Great War and the Birth of Modern Medicine, which is the focus of our conversation today. For Further Information  Books by Thomas Helling Timothy J. Jorgensen, "Marie Curie and her X-ray vehicles’ contribution to World War I battlefield medicine" An old online exhibit– "Harvey Cushing: A Journey Through His Life"
2/28/20221 hour, 7 minutes, 15 seconds
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Episode 251: The History of Technology, from Leonardo to the Internet

“My underlying goal,” writes my guest Tom Misa, “has been to display the variety of technologies, to describe how they changed across time, and to understand how they interacted with diverse societies and cultures. There’s no simple definition of technology that adequately conveys the variety of its forms or sufficiently emphasizes the social and cultural interactions and consequences that I believe are essential to understand. The key point is that technologies are consequential for social and political futures. There is not “one path” forward.” These words come from the conclusion of Misa’s Leonardo to the Internet: Technology and Culture from the Renaissance to the Present, now being published in a third edition by Johns Hopkins University Press, as one of the structural pillars of the Johns Hopkins Series in the History of Technology. Thomas J. Misa recently retired as Professor of the History of Technology at the University of Minnesota, where he directed the Charles Babbage Center (history of computing); taught courses in the Program for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine; and was a faculty member in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering For Further Investigation Dutch fluit ships, the embodiment of the commercial/capitalist era  FIAT Lingotto factory on YouTube; chase-scene in original Italian Job movie (1969) [and our "cover art" for this episode's web page] Reading Questions for every chapter of From Leonardo to the Internet More interesting web sites!
2/24/20221 hour, 11 minutes, 24 seconds
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Episode 250: Amber Waves of Grain

Grain traders wandering across the steppe; boulevard barons and wheat futures; railroads; the first fast food breakfast; and war socialism. It's all crammed into this discussion of wheat, and what it wrought, with Scott Nelson. Scott Reynolds Nelson is the Georgia Athletics Association Professor of the Humanities at the University of Georgia. Author of numerous books, his latest is Oceans of Grain: How American Wheat Remade the World, and it is the subject of our conversation today.
2/21/20221 hour, 9 minutes, 58 seconds
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Behind the Book: The Family That Lost America

The Howe famly was at the heart of Britain’s long eighteenth century. Connected to the Hanoverian ruling family by blood, they were addicted to Whig politics, high society, warfare and statecraft, and writing letters. In no less than four wars, Howe men bled and died for Britain, leading ships, regiments, fleets, and armies from Savoy and the western approaches of the Atlantic, to Quebec, India, and Brooklyn; while at home in England, the women of the Howe famly engaged in the politics of supporting and furthering their family’s ambition and position. With me to describe the Howe’s, and their importance to Britain and America, is Julie Flavell, author of the new book The Howe Dynasty: The Untold Story of a Mlitary FAmly and the Women Behind Britain’s Wars for America. It’s a book based on hitherto overlooked or unconsidered sources, providing us with both an exciting narrative and a comprehensive reassessment of the Howe family.   For Further Investigation Rules for Period Games "In Praise of Older Women" Battle of Brooklyn Brandywine Battlefield
2/17/20221 hour, 20 minutes, 52 seconds
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Episode 249: Postcards from the Past

“Postcards,” writes today’s guest Lydia Pyne, “have left an indelible imprint on the history of human communication, unmatched by any other material medium. They owe their success to the decentralization of their manufacture as well as the physical material connection they created between sender and recipient. Postcards and their digital descendants continue to be about personal connections…We recreate old social networks—old postcard social lines, if you will—with every post of a digital picture.” In her book Postcards: The Rise and Fall of the World’s First Social Network, Julie Pyne describes the history of the postcard, and those connections it created between senders and recipients.  Lydia Pyne is a writer and historian, who has previously written about how phony things teach us about real stuff; a history of seven celebrity human fossils, and what they taught their descendants; and bookshelves. For Further Investigation Lydia Pyne's fantastic website Postcards at the Library of Congress If you like a podcast about postcards, how about one on shoes? The importance of the history of everyday life
2/14/202244 minutes, 3 seconds
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Episode 248: Athens

In 510 BC, an obscure Greek city located literally on a backwater revolted against its tyrant. This was not extraordinary; such things happened regularly in the many Greek city-states. What followed however was extraordinary, and even world-changing. Athens became a democracy. Then just seventeen years after that, Athens and its tiny ally  of Plataea defeated a raid by the mighty Persian Empire. The great century of Athenian glory had begun.Yet the history of Athens did not end with either Spartan victory in the Peloponnesian War, or with the supremacy of Macedon, or even with conquest by Rome. While never quite attaining its heights under Pericles, Athens was often important; and even when it was relatively unimportant, it always remained interesting. The history of Athens, both during its decades of glory and its centuries of relative peace and quiet, is chronicled by Bruce Clark in his new book Athens: City of Wisdom. Clark is a writer for The Economist, where he covers European affairs and religion. He moves from Athenian origins, to Periclean Athens; from to the medieval city when the Parthenon was the castle of the Duke of Athens, to Ottoman conquest; to Greek independence, and Athens becoming the capital of a new Kingdom of Greece; and all the way into the 21st century. For Further Investigation Also by Bruce Clark, a history of events mentioned in our conversation (as well as in the conversation with Roderick Beaton): Twice a Stranger: The Mass Expulsions That Formed Modern Greece and Turkey  For a very important part of Athenian history we deliberately ignored, see the conversation with classical historian Jennifer Roberts in Episode 121: The War Between the Greeks, or, The Forever War For another different perspective on Athens, see Episode 179: What's the Good of Ambition, or, Socrates and Alcibiades The Acropolis Museum Atlas Obscura is one of my favorite sites to browse, and here's The Atlas Obscura Guide To Athens: 55 Cool, Hidden, and Unusual Things to Do in Athens Greece
2/10/202259 minutes, 3 seconds
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Episode 247: The Greeks

For nearly 3,000 years, the question of what it means to be Greek has been one of perennial interest—and, incredibly enough, not only to the Greeks. How a collection of of small cities and kingdoms around the northeastern Mediterranean Sea laid down precepts for science, the arts, politics, law, and philosophy is one of the great historical stories. Their influence would eventually reach far beyond the shores of the Mediterranan, and for long after what is typically thought of as the zenith of their civilization—and not simply throught the continuation of ideas that Greeks originally put in motion. For throughout their history, the Greeks have not only excelled in exporting ideas, but exporting goods through trade, exporting faith through missionary endeavour, and exporting themseves, most recently in a 20th century diaspora that took them to five continents. Roderick Beaton surveys these Hellenic millennia in his magisterial The Greeks: A Global History. He is the Emeritus Koraes Professor of Modern Greek & Byzantine History, Language & Literature at King’s College London, a Fellow of the British Academy, and one of the foremost authorities on modern greek literature.   For Further Investigation Hiva Panahi: her blog (in Greek, of course), and a little about her   
2/7/20221 hour, 13 minutes, 58 seconds
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Episode 246: The Rule of Laws

For thousands of years, laws have not only been used to impose order by the powerful on the powerless. In the very process of their codification they often became instruments of control by the powerless, the expression of their hope for a better world. The "common people", not only the rulers, used laws to define their communities, regulate trade, and build their civilization. What truly unites humanity, argues Fernanda Pirie, is an amazingly common belief  that laws can produce justice, combat oppression, and create order from chaos.  Law is very closely connected to the holy and the numinous. That should not be surprising. The Hammurabi stele (shown on the right) shows the eponymous King of Babylon receiving the legal code we name after him from Shamash, the god of the sun. Fernanda Pirie, Professor of the Anthropology of Law at the University of Oxford. A specialist in Tibetan anthropology, she is author most recently of The Rule of Laws: A 4,000 Quest to Order the World, which is the subject of our conversation today. For Further Investigation Fernanda Pirie, The Anthropology of Law. Oxford Scholarship Online, 2014. ____"What Ancient Laws Can Teach Us About Holding Autocrats to Account Today", Time, December 23, 2021 More legal history: the intermingling of law and love, as seen in Episode 208 Even more legal history: The importance of bourbon to American corporate and consumer law  
2/3/202257 minutes, 48 seconds
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Episode 245: Queens of Jerusalem

For nearly a century after the First Crusade captured Jerusalem, that ancient city became the nucleus of a several kingdoms and principalities established by the crusaders.  At the political, social, and cultural heart of their subsequent history were a series of remarkable women who exercised power and influence in a way nearly unknown in western Europe at that time. Katherine Pangonis is the author of the Queens of Jerusalem: The Women Who Dared to Rule, a remarkable chronicle of lives lived in times of extreme danger and immense complexity.   For Further Investigation Another medieval woman who tried to rule, briefly mentioned in the podcast, was Mathilda (who married Fulk of Anjou's son, Geoffrey). Mathilda was the subject of Episode 122, a conversation with her biographer Catherine Hanley. The Melisende Psalter Sarah J. Biggs, "Twelfth-Century Girl Power" Catherine Pangonis, "Crusader Queens: the formidable female rulers of Jerusalem"
1/31/20221 hour, 2 minutes, 3 seconds
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Episode 244: Hitler’s First One Hundred Days

On January 30, 1933, German President Paul von Hindenburg appointed Adolf Hitler as the Chancellor of Germany. Occurring simultaneously with Franklin Roosevelt's "One Hundred Days", Hitler's first one hundred days were even more dramatic and consequential–the most sudden change, Peter Fritzsche writes, in all of German history. "A very partisan and divided society, fragmented between left and right, between Social Democrats, Communists and National Socialists (Nazis), between Catholics and Protestants, seemingly transformed itself – by terror from above and “conversion” from below – into a seemingly unified society recognized widely as a 'people’s community'." In his book Hitler's First Hundred Days: When Germans Embraced the Third Reich, Fritzsche examines this transformation in its tumultuous, kaleidoscopic, and terrifying details. He describes elections and arrests, bonfires and executions, the patriotic rallies and anti-Jewish boycotts, getting at the transformation that Germany experienced between January 30th and May 10th. "Compared with day one, Jan. 30, 1933, Germany was not recognizable on day 100, at least to outsiders. To sympathizers, German history had healed itself in 100 days." Peter Fritzsche is the W.E. and Sara E. Trowbridge Professor of History at the University of Illinois in Champagne-Urbana. The author of numerous fascinating studies of German history, Hitler's First Hundred Days is his lates.
1/27/20221 hour, 4 minutes, 47 seconds
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Episode 243: The Story Paradox

Storytelling, writes my guest Jonathan Gottschall, is the way in which people have for thousands of years not only bound themselves together into communities, but the art which built civilization. But story-telling is also the best way of forcing people apart, for manipulating one another, for destroying the capacity to think rationally. Behind our greatest ills, he argues, are mind-disordering stories. This naturally has implications for how we tell stories about the past. Jonathan Gottschall is distinguished research fellow in the English department at Washington and Jefferson College in Washington, Pennsylvania. He is the author most recently of The Story Paradox: How Our Love of Stories Builds Societies and Tears Them Down, which is the focus of our conversation today.
1/24/202257 minutes, 21 seconds
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Behind the Book: Down the Road to the Cedars

This is the first in a new series of podcasts. Long time listeners will remember that when my book Daniel Morgan: A Revolutionary Life was published, I did a number of podcasts with experts delving into aspects of Daniel Morgan’s life—from the place where he lived, to how he was flogged, to the rifles that he carried. But I thought that this was unsatisfactory for a podcast called “Historically Thinking”. It’s the conversations that historians have before they write a book that show how a research project comes together, and how historical thinking gets done. So, in something of a leap of faith, I’m going to have conversations with other historians on topics that apply to a project that I’m now working on…more about that, perhaps, at the end of our conversation. In effect I'm doing podcasts on spec, which fills me with superstitious dread.  My guest today Mark Anderson, author of Down the Warpath to the Cedars: Indians’ First Battles in the Revolution. It's a fascinating study of native politics, diplomacy, and war on the Canadian border during the first year of the American Revolution, a politics which would have confused a Renaissance Italian diplomat. Mark has previously written The Battle for the Fourteenth Colony: America’s War of Liberation in Canada, 1774-1776. In a previous life, before establishing himself as one of the few American authorities on revolutionary-era Canada, he was an officer in the United States Air Force.  
1/20/202245 minutes, 51 seconds
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Episode 242: Was Abraham Lincoln a Racist?

In a eulogy to Abraham Lincoln delivered on June 1, 1865, Frederick Douglass posed the question “what was Lincoln to the colored people or they to him?” His answer was that Lincoln was “emphatically the black man’s President, the first to show any respect for the rights of a black man, or to acknowledge that he had any rights the white man ought to respect.” With me to discuss his new book The Black Man’s President: Abraham Lincoln, African Americans, and the Pursuit of Racial Equality is Michael Burlingame. The Chancellor Naomi B. Lynn Distinguished Chair in Lincoln Studies at the University of Illinois Springfield, Burlingame is perhaps the foremost living authority on the sixteenth president.
1/17/20221 hour, 48 seconds
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Episode 238: Generations of Reason

In February, 1853, Augustus De Morgan, Professor of Mathematics at University College London, drew the last of a series of diagrams illustrating logical syllogisms. A the center of this one was a face, writes Joan L. Richards, of “a calmly alert being… For [De Morgan] this image of the human and the divine meeting in logical space was…an expression of his aspiration to find…a map of reason that encompassed both the human and divine mind.” De Morgan was one of a series of fascinating people whose family experience, and intellectual and spiritual lives, are chronicled by Richards in her book Generations of Reason: A Family Search for Meaning in Post-Newtonian England. She describes an all-encompassing pursuit of reason that takes readers into all of the chief events in English cultural and political history, as well as into some rather more obscure corners. Joan L. Richards is emeritus professor of history at Brown University, where she served as director of the Program of Sciences, Society, and Technology.   For Further Investigation William Frend, Evening Amusements, or, the beauty of heavens displayed... A quick bio of Augustus De Morgan The wit and wisdom of Augustus De Morgan
1/13/20221 hour, 16 minutes, 39 seconds
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Episode 241: Doing the Research

So what does research mean to you? Does it mean looking for someone somewhere on the internet who agrees with you? Then you should really listen to this podcast. This is another of our continuing series on the “moves” of historical thinking, or what I like to think of as “what historical thinking can do for you.” For if history is a way of seeing the past, then it is also a way of knowing. And that means that history can teach habits of seeing and knowing that are useful for everyone, not just professionals. Defining research in the form of a question, it means "where can I find more evidence?" It uses relevant, significant sources, found on one's own in other books, on scholarly websites, and in other places. With us to talk about research, and how he does it, is Alexander Mikaberidze, Professor of European History at the Louisiana State University at Shreveport, where he is also Ruth Herring Noel Endowed Chair for the Curatorship of the James Smith Noel Collection, one of the largest private collections of antiquarian books, prints, and maps in the United States. Acclaimed as one of the “great Napoleonic scholars of today”, this is his third appearance on the podcast. He was last on to discuss his book The Napoleonic Wars: A Global History.   For Further Investigation Zotero: this program could change your life The IRISCan Book 5 Wifi–not Mikaberidze approved, but useful Episode 155: The Second World War, or, the Napoleonic Wars Episode 14: Alex Mikaberidze on the World History of the Napoleonic Wars
1/10/202249 minutes, 35 seconds
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Episode 240: Empire and Jihad

In 1914, at the start of the Great War, the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire called for a “Great Jihad” against France, Russia, and Great Britain. It was a logical conclusion to over fity years of conflict between European and indigenous powers in the Middle East and North Africa, a conflict that eventually became a radical Islamic insurgency supporting an ancient slave trade against Western colonialism that exploited “coolie capitalism”. This is the complex story that Neil Faulkner tells in his new book Empire and Jihad: The Anglo-Arab Wars of 1870-1920. Ranging from the Congo basin to the deserts of North Africa, he traces the complex interweaving of humanitarianism, colonialism, nationalism, and Islamism—arguing that Jihad was a reactionary response to modern imperalism. Neil Faulkner is an archaeologist and historian, who works as a lecturer, writer, excavator, and occasional broadcaster. He is editor of Military History Matters, and the author of fifteen books. For Further Investigation Neil Faulkner, Lawrence of Arabia's War: The Arabs, the British and the Remaking of the Middle East–the precursor to Empire and Jihad Neil Faulkner, A Radical History of the World–there's much of this previous book also to be found in Empire and Jihad Last year in Episode 148 we discussed the exploitation of the Congo with Robert Harms, an intimately related topic to this. Together they're really a matching set of conversations.
1/3/20221 hour, 10 minutes, 29 seconds
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Episode 239: The Chicken and the Egg, or, What Keeps (Some) Historians Awake at Night

This is one of the last in our year-long series about the skills of historical thinking, and today our focus is on one of simplest, but perhaps also the most contentious. It is Change and Causality. Defined in the form of a question it’s to ask “What has changed, and why?” Among other things, it’s the skill that allows us to recognize and sometimes even explain notable change over time.  It’s attentive to multiple causations, and thereby avoids simplistic monocausal explanations. (As faithful listeners know, monocausal explanations are very, very, very bad.) With me to discuss change and causality are Pamela Crossley, Charles and Elfriede Collis Professor of History at Dartmouth College, a specialist in modern China, last heard on this podcast in Episode 185 describing what the Central Asians did for us; and Suzanne L. Marchand, Boyd Professor of History at Louisiana State, who joined us in Episode 190 to explain the importance of porcelain in European history.
12/27/202154 minutes, 23 seconds
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Episode 237: A Brave and Cunning Prince, or, Following the Evidence Where It Leads

At about 8 in the morning on March 22, 1622, warriors of the chiefdoms making up the Powhatan confederacy attacked the settlements of the colony of Virginia. By nightfall, the devastating attacks had killed between a quarter and a third of the English settlers, destroyed many settlements and farms—including their food supplies, and forced the survivors to take shelter in fortified locations where they were unable to grow their food because of groups of warriors who continued the attack. Suddenly, just when Virginia seemed to be on the verge of success, it was thrown back into the position where it had been 13 years before when it was just a few hundred people within the palisade surrounding the settlement of Jamestown—under attack, and on the verge of the starvation. It was the beginning of a brutal war that would last for years, the second fought between the native of Virginia and the English interlopers. With me to explain the long life of the man who planned the attack of 1622 is James Horn, President and Chief Officer of the Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation, which is affiliated with Preservation Virginia, a private non-profit organization and a leader in historic preservation. Horn is the author of numerous books, from Adapting to a New World: English Society in the Seventeenth Century Chesapeake, to his most recent A Brave and Cunning Prince: The Great Chief Opechancanough and the War for America. While this is conversation will be about one of the most critical moments in the history of North America, and about one of its most fascinating unknown personalities, it’s also a conversation in our continuing series on historical thinking. As you’ll see, James Horn’s book deals with many questions of evidence. And evidence is the answer to the question “How do I know what I claim to know about my question?” As you’ll hear, that is a question that James Horn had to ask himself many times as he worked on this book. For Further Investigation A Land as God Made It: Jamestown and the Birth of America  A Kingdom Strange: The Brief and Tragic History of the Lost Colony of Roanoke 1619: Jamestown and the Forging of American Democracy Opechancanough--his biography in the Encyclopedia Virginia Historic Jamestowne
12/13/20211 hour, 14 minutes, 23 seconds
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Episode 236: Let Me Put That Into Context

Great podcast title, right? Those words still trigger a sort of survival reflex in me, based upon experience with an eminent professor. When he said those very words, you could bet that he would be talking for at least the next ten minutes, seemingly without commas, certainly without periods. By minute five you began to wonder if it was really possible to sleep with your eyes open; by minute eight you began to suspect that words could beat you to death. Detail of " Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, c.1555" (oil on canvas) by Bruegel, Pieter the Elder (c.1525-69) Today in our continuing series on historical thinking we're talking with David Staley about what “context” actually means.  The official podcast definition of context, which as always is in the form of a question, is “what background knowledge helps us understand these documents?” For example, a sentence in a memoir reading “After our wedding, my husband travelled alone to California” has different weight if it was written in 1850, then if it was written in 1935—the difference between the California Gold Rush, and the Dust Bowl; or to be literary, between Mark Twain and John Steinbeck. David Staley is an associate professor of history at The Ohio State University, where he also holds courtesy appointments in the Departments of Design--where he has taught courses in Design History and Design Futures--and Educational Studies. His research interests include digital history, the philosophy of history, historical methodology, and the history and future of higher education(following him on Twitter @davidstaley8). This is his third appearance on the podcast; he has previously been on to talk about alternative universities, and the history of the future—wherein we talked with my friend Brent Orrell about life after COVID, four months after COVID hit the United States.   For Further Investigation  Julie Flavell, When London Was Capital of America Crane Britton, The Anatomy of Revolution David Bell, Men on Horseback: The Power of Charisma in the Age of Revolution  David Armitage, Civil Wars: A History in Ideas Alan D. Beyerchen, Scientists Under Hitler: Politics and the Physics Community in the Third Reich
12/7/202153 minutes, 12 seconds
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Bonus Episode: The Higher Ed Scene, with Mark Salisbury

Sometimes, Higher Ed can feel like a battle. But not because of COVID, or CRT, or POTUS, or FL GOV...it's because someone in the administration asked the faculty if they might be so kind as to fill in for cafeteria staff. Now that's going too far. That makes Hulk want to smash.   For Further Investigation Historically Thinking's Higher Ed: A Guide for the Perplexed. Prime Salisbury steak can be here, in our last conversation about Higher Ed during COVID. Charlie Munger's simple plan for USCB; and what it's like to live in a Mungerbox TuitionFit...which could really improve its twitter game, if you ask us.
12/1/202158 minutes, 18 seconds
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Episode 235: The Great Little Madison

If there’s one thing Americans know about James Madison, it might be that he was the shortest American President, ever–just 5’4”, or that he was married to Dolley Madison, who was not only a first lady but the baker of snack cakes. If they know a little bit more about James, then they know that he is remarkably, even dangerously, contradictory: an author of The Federalist Papers, the “Father of the Constitution”, who also penned the dangerous doctrine of nullification, and opposed his friend Alexander Hamilton at every step of the way; a creator of political parties who as a practical politician was one of the worst presidents in history, presiding over the half-baked disaster of the War of 1812 before slinking off the executive stage. With us to demonstrate how a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing—indeed, perhaps one of the most dangerous things of all–is Jay Cost, author of James Madison: America’s First Politician, a book which is not only about Madison, but about the political culture that he more than anyone else put into place, the ideas he set in motion—and those that he ignored. Jay Cost is the Gerald R. Ford Nonresidential Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. This is his fourth book.
11/18/20211 hour, 37 minutes, 23 seconds
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Episode 234: The Fall of Robespierre

“We seek an order of things in which all the base and cruel passions are enchained, all the beneficent and generous passions are awakened by the laws; where ambition becomes the desire to merit glory and to serve our country; where distinctions are born only of equality itself; where the citizen is subject to the magistrate, the magistrate to the people, and the people to justice; where our country assures the well-being of each individual, and where each individual proudly enjoys our country's prosperity and glory…” These are the words of Maximilien Robespierre, delivered on 5 February 1794. It all sounds very good, if you’re not a monarchist. Yet later in this speech, sometimes labeled “On Political Virtue”, Robespierre also makes his clearest call for terror as the means with which to save the future of the republic from the enemies within as well as those without. In the end, he would himself be identified as one of those internal enemies, and be himself eliminated. This is the subject of Colin Jones’ new book The Fall of Robespierre: 24 hours in Revolutionary France. It is an hour by hour, sometimes minute by minute chronicle of Robespierre’s last full day. But it is also more than that. It is a day in the life of the French Revolution, in which not only Robespierre crosses the stage, but journalists, the public executioner, shopkeepers, laborers, and all the faces of the crowd. Colin Jones is Professor of History at Queen Mary University of London, a fellow of the British Academy, past president of the Royal Historical Society, and currently visiting professor at the University of Chicago. Among his previous books is The Smile Revolution: In Eighteenth-Century Paris; yes, even smiles have a history.
11/15/202147 minutes, 20 seconds
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Episode 233: Generation Myth

Each year millions and millions of whatever currency you’d care to have are spent explaining generations to one another. Inherent in that expensive explantation is the idea that people born at about the same time are basically alike, and very different from people born at other times. But, as Bobby Duffy explains in his book The Generation Myth: Why When You’re Born Matters Less Than You Think, while this can be the case, it ain’t always necessarily so. Generational identities are not fixed, but fluid. They change over time. And beware of those who try to sell you simplistic—or simply false–concepts like generational warfare, or inevitable social decline; that only the kids care about the environment, or that Gen Z is “the suicidal generation”. Bobby Duffy is Professor of Public Policy and Director of the Policy Institute at King’s College London. Formerly director of research at the public opinion firm Ipsos MORI, his most recent book was published in the United States under the title Why We’re Wrong About Nearly Everything.  
11/8/202155 minutes, 15 seconds
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Episode 232: Talking About Each Other’s Gods

In 1924 the eminent nerve-specialist Sir Roderick Glossop urged Bertie Wooster and his friend Charles “Biffy” Biffen to attend the British Empire Exhibition being held at Wembley. “It is the most supremely absorbing and educational collection of objects,” Glossop enthused, “both animate and inanimate, gathered from the four corners of the Empire that has ever been assembled in England’s history.” After arrival at Wembley, Bertie’s genius-level manservant Jeeves shimmered off, and the heat, exertion, and education of it all became so overwhelming that Bertie and Biffy sought solace inside an ice-cold glasses of Green Swizzle, served up by a bartender in the Jamaican Tent. Perhaps Jeeves, who was known to curl up with a volume of Spinoza in his off-hours, attended the principal intellectual attraction at Wembley, the Conference on Some Living Religions within the Empire. This awkwardly named meeting of world religions is one of several chronicled by my guest Tal Howard in his new book The Faiths of Others: A History of Interreligious Dialogue. In doing so, he traces how inter-religious dialogue was defined; how it in turn defined religion; and how it reflected and reinforced ideals and concepts such as pluralism, cosmopolitanism, and orientalism—not always in the ways one might expect. Tal Howard is Professor of History and Humanities, and Richard and Phyllis Dusenberg Chair of Christian Ethics, at Valparaiso University. This is his second appearance on Historically Thinking; he was previously on the podcast talking about the historian Jakob Burckhardt.
11/1/20211 hour, 5 minutes, 23 seconds
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Episode 231: Multiple Perspectives, or, Seeing the Same Thing in Different Ways

This is another episode in our year-long series about the skills of historical thinking, and today our focus is on multiple perspectives. Putting it in the form of a question, it’s when a historian asks herself How might others plausibly interpret this evidence differently?  To do that, we must consider more than one point of view, and then either refute or concede objections to our argument. The theme of “multiple perspectives” takes us into a strange and interesting landscape where history, logic, phenomenology, and ethics meet—and hopefully assist one another. Touring that landscape with me today are two frequent guests of the podcast. Lorri Glover is the John Francis Bannon Endowed Chair in the Department of History at Saint Louis University. Her last appearance on the podcast was in January when she talked about her most recent book Eliza Lucas Pinckney: An Independent Woman in the Age of Revolution. Bob Elder is Associate Professor of History at Baylor University, and we most recenlty talked about his book Calhoun, American Heretic. It should be noted that neither of them are from South Carolina.
10/28/20211 hour, 4 minutes, 18 seconds
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Episode 230: What the Amish Can Do For Us

When people speak of “the Amish” they are using a very simple term that covers over rather than reveals. It’s a term that applies to forty affliations or subgroups, each with a distinctive way of life—from dress and carriages, to technological and cultural choices. And within those forty affiliations are 2,600 church districts, with different religious and social practices. “Yet amidst this diversity,” writes Donald Kraybill, “many common traits—beliefs and rituals—still make it possible to talk about ‘the Amish’ as one social group.” Donald Kraybill is Distinguished College Professor at Elizabethtown College, where he is also Senior Fellow of the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies. He has written numerous books about the Amish and their related brethren; the latest is What the Amish Teach Us: Plain Living in a Busy World, just published by the Johns Hopkins Univeristy Press.
10/25/20211 hour, 12 minutes, 16 seconds
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Episode 229: Mr. Jefferson and His University

Alumni of the University of Virginia enjoy pointing out that while Thomas Jefferson’s tombstone declares his foundation of that university as his third great achievement, it does not so much as mention his presidency of the United States. Jefferson had a vision of what a great university could and should be, and the political talent and allies to see that vision implemented. That vision was an intimate part of his republican political philosophy, and of his hopes and fears for the fate of the republic in whose creation he had participated. As Andrew O’Shaughnessy writes in his new book The Illimitable Freedom of the Human Mind: Thomas Jefferson’s Idea of a University, “Acknowledging that his ideas were utopian, [Jefferson] regarded himself as an idealist who wanted to benefit humankind, improve society, and offer a happier life.” Andrew O’Shaughnessy is Vice President of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello, and the Saunders Director of the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies. His most recent book was The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of Empire, which was awarded the George Washington Book Prize.  
10/21/20211 hour, 3 minutes, 16 seconds
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Episode 228: The Intellectual Life in Difficult Circumstances

Joseph Wright, a native of the West Riding of Yorkshire, started working in a factory at the age of 6. He did not learn to read until he was 15, inspired to do so by a workmate who read news bulletins about the Franco-Prussian War. Wright was taught by another worker who used the Bible and Pilgrim’s Progress as texts. He then attended night school, for six pence a week;  practiced shorthand by taking down sermons in the Methodist chapel his family atteneded; was part of a Sunday school where he organized a lending library; and at the age of 18 started his own night school. But the time time he was 21, he had saved up enough for a term at the University of Heildelberg, to which he walked 250 miles from the port of Antwerp in order to save his money. Eventually he earned  a PhD from Heidelberg in comparative linguistics, and from 1901 to 1925, Joseph Wright was Professor of Comparative Philology at the University of Oxford, a pioneer in the study of regional English dialect, and taught among others J.R.R. Tolkein. While his eventual profession might make Wright extraordinary, many of the particulars of his education were absolutely typical, as Jonathan Rose makes clear in his monumental book The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes. Published in 2001, it won the Jacques Barzun Prize in Cultural History, the Longman-History Today Historical Book of the Year Prize and the British Council Prize. Its third edition is published this fall by Yale University Press. Jonathan Rose is the William R. Kenan Professor of History at Drew University. He served as the founding president of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing, and also as the president of the Northeast Victorian Studies Association.  
10/18/202158 minutes, 35 seconds
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Episode 227: The First French Revolution

In the last days of 1358, thousands of French villagers across northern France revolted against a faltering regime, from Normandy in the west, to Picardy and Champagne in the east. Castles and manor houses were burned and looted, noblemen and the families were assaulted, murdered, and possibly raped. Enraged nobles counterattacked, executing rebels, or those they believed to be rebels, and burning whole villages. This was the Jacquerie, taking its name from “Jacques Bonhomme”, the sobriquet given to its participants. It was one of the many calamitous events of that decade, which had begun with the Black Death in 1348. But what is its story? Why did the Jacquerie arise? Who were they? Why did this revolt so quickly end? And were there any lasting effects? With me to describe the story of the Jacquerie is Justine Firnhaber-Baker, Senior Lecturer at the University of St. Andrew’s, and author of The Jacquerie of 1358: A French Peasant’s Revolt. A former fellow of All Souls Oxford, she is also a general editor of The Medieval Journal, and editor in chief of St. Andrew’s Studies in French History and Culture.
10/11/20211 hour, 10 minutes, 26 seconds
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Episode 226: Adventures Through Time, with Dominic Sandbrook

Go into an American bookshop, and you’ll get the impression that the only two most important events that ever happened in all of human history were the American Civil War and the Second World War. In England, it's all very different. There the two most important events in human history are the  Tudors (Henry VIII, Good Queen Bess, the Spanish Armada and all that)...and the Second World War. So in the spirit of giving the people what they want, the first two books in Dominic Sandbrook’s new Adventures in Time series–written for children of all ages, but particularly for his son Arthur—are The Six Wives of Henry VIII and The Second World War. Dominic Sandbrook has reached Tudor England and Nazi Germany by a curious road that began with his first book, a biography of Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota, and has wandered through a series of fantastic books on modern Britain after 1957, most recently Who Dares Wins: Britain, 1979-1982. He is a columnist for The Daily Mail, and is the co-host with Tom Holland of a charming niche podcast, The Rest is History. Dominic Sandbrook's website Follow Dominic on Twitter Regular listeners of this podcast might recall Tom Holland from Episode 139, in which I persuaded the notoriously reticent Holland to open up about the argument of his book Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World, something that he rarely does. Early in the conversation I mentioned this essay by Jon Zimmerman, Eliot Cohen, and I talked briefly about the Landmark Books in Episode 205, during our discussion of civics and history
10/4/20211 hour, 6 minutes, 49 seconds
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Episode 225: Noble Volunteers, or, The British Soldier in the American Revolution

Sometimes Americans are pretty sure that they know a few things about the British soldiers who fought in the American Revolution. A list of them probably is something like this: They were the scum of the earth, scraped from the London gutter and the prisons to unwillingly serve in America They were stupid, so stupid that they obligingly wore red coats and stood in long lines, the easier to be shot by clever Americans who hid behind trees and rocks They had no idea how to fire their guns, and when they did they always missed They plundered and looted and deserted as often as they could, when they weren’t drunk As punishment they were flogged until they were dead. Just about every one of those concepts is wrong, as Don Hagist explains in his book Noble Volunteers: The British Soldiers Who Fought the American Revolution. He has written several previous books on the British Army of the American Revolution, as well as The Revolution's Last Men: The Soldiers Behind the Photographs. In addition to writing, and his day job, he is the editor of the Journal of the American Revolution. Don was previously on the podcast to talk about flogging and punishment, in a “Behind the Book” episode of the podcast (Behind the Book 6: The Floggings Will Continue Until Morale Improves), when I sought to discover whether Daniel Morgan could have actually been given the punishment of five hundred lashes, and whether or not that should have been a death sentence.
9/27/20211 hour, 16 minutes, 8 seconds
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Episode 224: Disruption

Historians are always interested in how things change over time, and it helps for the survival of the profession that most things do. But there are certain moments in history when things don't just change, they change so radically that it feels like going over a waterfall in a kayak. How do these moments of change come about? How can an entire social order change in a decade or two? And how does radical change in the social order not only occur, but succeed? My guest David Potter untangles these questions in his new book Disruption: Why Things Change. David Potter is Francis W. Kelsey Collegiate Professor of Greek and Roman History and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Greek and Latin at the University of Michigan, making him a man with at least two chairs in his office. Previously he has written on prophecy and history, the origins of the Roman Empire, on sport in the Greco-Roman world—and many other books.
9/20/20211 hour, 16 minutes, 55 seconds
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Episode 223: Climbing Denali

Denali, the mountain formerly sometimes known (but not by Alaskans) as Mt. McKinley, is one of the most impressive mountains in the entire world. It is not only the highest mountain in North America, it is the highest northern-most mountain. That means that the weather at its summit is ferocious and ever-changing. It's height is so great that when that weather clears away, it can be seen across an enormous swathe of Alaska. It is the kind of mountain that challenged Victorians to climb it. By 1913 several attempts had already been made to summit Alaska’s Denali, the highest mountain in North America. That year its peak was finally reached by four men: Harry Karstens, a prospector, hunter, and guide; Walter Harper, a native Alaskan; Robert Tatum, an Episcopalian seminary student; and the Right Reverend Hudson Stuck, missionary archdeacon of the Episcopal Church in Alaska. What that curious group was doing at such an altitude is the story of Patrick Dean's book A Window to Heaven: The Daring First Ascent of Denali: America's Wildest Peak. It’s by turn a biography of Hudson Stuck, a history of religious life in late 19th century America, a history of Alaska at the moment of immense social change, and a story seemingly co-written by Jack London. For Further Investigation Hudson Stuck's books are all open domain and available through archive.org  The Alaska Native Reader: History, Culture, Politics, edited by Maria Sháa Tláa Williams Denali: Deception, Defeat, & Triumph–a history of early attempts to summit
9/13/20211 hour, 5 minutes, 9 seconds
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Episode 222: The Chemistry of Fear

The wrong food can kill you. The right kind of food can help you live longer. Additives are unnatural. Unnatural food is unhealthy food. These are assumptions that many or most of us have today about the things we eat. That we believe eating to be a matter of life or death is in part due to a man most of us have never heard of, Harvey Wiley. Head of the Division of Chemistry at the Department of Agriculture, and later employed by the magazine Good Housekeeping, Wiley became an advocate of "pure food", and got his ideas out through masterly use of newspapers eager for copy. "You don't understand, sir," said President Theodore Roosevelt to one businessman complaining about Wiley, "that Dr. Wiley has the grandest political machine in the country." Jonathan Rees's new biography of Wiley, The Chemistry of Fear: Harvey Wiley's Fight for Pure Food, is not only about Wiley, but about scientific progress, the meaning of food and health, progressivism, the bureaucratic state, and that place where science and publicity meet.  It's a great read. Professor of History at Colorado State University, Jonathan Rees was previously on the podcast in Episode 96 talking about the curious history of keeping things cold.    
9/9/20211 hour, 30 seconds
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Episode 221: Prohibition Wasn’t American

Carrie Nation was, of course, a prohibitionist. But so was Leo Tolstoy, Czar Nicholas II, and Vladimir Lenin; in fact, the first nation to prohibit the sale of alcohol was Russia. The first Socialist Prime Minister of Sweden was an advocate for temperance, and so was Tomas Masaryk, liberal founding-father of Czechoslovakia.  As Mark Schrad writes in his new book Smashing the Liquor Machine: A Global History of Prohibition, around the globe the “temperance-cum-prohibition movement harnessed the forces of organized religions into a broad-based progressive movement to capture the instruments of legislation and statecraft against powerful, established political actors.” We can only understand American prohibition by realizing that it was just one part of a worldwide movement, advocated by people who often had little in common other than their interest in limiting alcoholism in their society. Moreover, as we discuss in the podcast, "prohibition" is a simple word that conceals much. While some advocates did press for the prohibition of the sale of liquor, others advocated temperance, which might take the form of advocating drinking beer instead of schnapps, or wine instead of brandy. There was never just one approach to dealing with the problems of alcoholism. Mark Schrad is Associate Professor of Political Science at Villanova University. This is his third book touching on some aspect of governmental policies towards alchohol, or networks promoting prohibition or temperance. He also restores old typewriters; that didn't come up in the conversation but, man, he has a very, very impressive collection.
9/6/20211 hour, 16 minutes, 6 seconds
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Episode 220: From the Archive, The First Three Weeks of College

For many colleges, this is the first week of class. And that means for both new teachers and new students, it's the beginning of one of three weeks that will influence the rest of their year, and their time in college. Believe us, it's science, as you'll hear in this conversation from long ago with our old friend Mark Salisbury. This is one of the many conversations about college that Historically Thinking has done that we think of as Higher Ed: A Guide for the Perplexed. You can find numerous conversations there which will hopefully illuminate areas that for many people are very obscure indeed.  (But why the University of Chicago has bagpipes amongst its traditions...this will forever remain a mystery locked in a closet. We just don't want to know.)
9/1/202147 minutes, 44 seconds
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Episode 219: The Eternal Decline and Fall of Rome

Edward Gibbon tells us that it was in the ruins of the Temple of Jupiter while listening to the singing of the barefooted friars that he first began to meditate on a history of the decline and fall of the city of Rome. He was far from the first English visitor to Rome to be deeply and profoundly moved by the ruins of the ancient empire; an early medieval English visitor in the 8th or 9th century wrote a poem describing the “works of giants decaying.” Nor was Gibbon the first to speak of the decline of Rome. As Edward Watts makes abundantly clear in his new book, The Eternal Decline and Fall of Rome: The History of a Dangerous Idea, no one was ever more preoccupied by the decline of Rome than the Romans themselves. Edward J. Watts is Professor & Alkiviadis Vassiliadis Endowed Chair in Byzantine Greek History at the University of California San Diego. The author of numerous books, he was last on the podcast in Episode 93 discussing his book Mortal Republic.
8/23/20211 hour, 23 minutes, 8 seconds
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Episode 218: To Her Credit

In 1756 an unmarried Quaker woman wrote “Deborah Morris, her book, 1756” in, of all things, a book entitled The American Instructor, or, Young Man’s Best Companion. That might seem to have been an odd choice. But as my guest Sarah Damiano explains, it was a very useful book for Deborah Morris to have, because Deborah Morris was a landlady, a retailer, and an investor. In this she was far from alone among 18th century American women, as much as that surprise us. Credit was at the heart of the overlapping circles of finance, law, and sociability. Since early America was cash poor, most transactions were based on credit--simply noted in a ledger, until such time as the creditor required hard cash. Sara Damiano explains in detail how free women in Newport, Rhode Island and Boston used credit in pursuit of profits in her new book To Her Credit: Women, Finance, and the Law in Eighteenth Century New England.  She shows how women were borrowers, lenders, litigants, and even witnesses in the many, many, many court cases that revolved around credit. Sarah Damiano is Assistant Professor of History at Texas State University, and we hope you'll agree that she shows us a whole new way of looking at early America.
8/16/20211 hour, 1 minute, 11 seconds
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Episode 217: When Money Talks

Those of us who still carry coins or cash—and I notice that I do that less and less—carry around “a pocket guide to world history and culture.” Money, writes Frank Holt, provides us with a historical record “unrivaled by papyrus, paper and parchment. Coins are perhaps the most sucessful information technology ever devised.” In his new book When Money Talks: A History of Coins and Numismatics, Holt briskly and whimsically explores the life of coins; the importance of coins; and how to decode the information that coins provide, as well as providing us with a history of the history of doing that. Frank Lee Holt is Professor of Classical History at the University of Houston, with research emphases on the subject matter of the forgotten peripheries of the classical world and on the methodology of cognitive numismatics—of which much more will be said in this conversation.
8/9/20211 hour, 20 minutes, 58 seconds
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Episode 216: The Appalachian Trail

Nearly every introduction to the Appalachian Trail seems to begin by giving its length (about 2,100 miles) and that it goes from Georgia to Maine. Which is strange, when you think about it. No one much talks about I-95, or the I-10, or the I-5—maybe they should—and when they do they don’t tell us about their length, or where they begin and end. Neither really tell us much about the thing itself. Philip D’Anieri has done something different. He has written a biography of the Appalachian Trail (it's called, sensibly enough, The Appalachian Trail: A Biography) and done it by writing about the lives of those involved with it, as creators, hikers, planners, and writers—a wonderfully curious collection of Americans. But in the end, these human lives end up becoming the collective life of that 2,100 mile path that goes all the way from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Katahdin in Maine.   For Further Investigation Here's a helpful collection of web-based resources and books about the Trail, put together by Philip D'Anieri
8/2/202157 minutes, 14 seconds
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Episode 215: The Other Face of Battle

Throughout their history Americans have found themselves fighting “unexpected enemies—foes from different cultural backgrounds, who fought in unfamiliar ways, and against whom they were unprepared to fight.” In the new book The Other Face of Battle: America's Forgotten Wars and the Experience of Combat, a group of military historians has put together three exemplars of such fights, woven together with an analysis of the discontinuity and continuity of the way that Americans have waged such wars. With me to talk about The Other Face of Battle are three of its four co-authors. They are David Silbey, Adjunct Associate Professor and Associate Director of Cornell in Washington; David Preston, General Mark W. Clark Distinguished Chair of History at the Citadel; and Wayne Lee, Bruce W. Carney Distinguished Professor of History at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
7/26/20211 hour, 13 minutes, 46 seconds
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Episode 214: Just a Few Questions

This our fourth episode in our year-long series about the skills of historical thinking, and it’s about that terrifying moment which leads to actually writing about history: the question, and the thesis. When we ask historical questions, we’re first asking a bigger question: What questions make historical sense of these documents? Then, in the thesis, we try to answer it, hopefully with a claim that’s worth making. What good questions are, and what claims are worth making, are some of the things we talk about with Bill Caferro. William Caferro is the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of History at Vanderbilt University, where he is also Director and Professor of Classical and Mediterranean Studies; and Director of the Economics and History Program in the Department of History. He was last on the podcast in Episode 103 talking about his book Petrarch’s War: Florence and the Black Death in Context. Most recently he has published Teaching History.
7/19/202156 minutes, 57 seconds
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Episode 213: From Rebel to Ruler

In July and August of 1921 a group of young men met in Shanghai to found the Chinese Communist Party. They undoubtedly had great dreams, but even so they might have found it hard to believe that they were initiating the largest revolutionary movement of the 20th century, and that their party would thirty years later rule China.  Certainly they would have scoffed at the idea that, one hundred years after their meeting, their party’s far from doctrinaire Marxist reforms would have not only led to unprecedent economic growth, but to China becoming one of the two great world superpowers. With me to discuss the history of the Chinese Communist Party is Anthony Saich, the director of the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, and Daewoo Professor of International Affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School. He is author most recently of From Rebel to Ruler: One Hundred Years of the Chinese Communist Party. It is not a book about Mao, Deng Xiaoping, Xi Jinping, or any one personality. Nor is it about the Chinese Civil War, or the Great Leap Forward, the Culture Revolution, the economic transformation of the late 20th century, or any one event. It is instead about all those things, as reflected in the one-hundred year life of what is arguably the most powerful and masterful institution anywhere in the world, which has achieved that mastery by being highly adaptable.
7/12/20211 hour, 26 minutes, 36 seconds
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Episode 212: The Perennial Russian Pivot to Asia

Peter the Great is known to history as the ruler who pushed for the westernization of Russia; who defeated Sweden, thereby making Russia a Baltic power; and who then built a great capital on that Baltic Sea to be Russia’s window to the west. Yet on his deathbed Peter was thinking of Asia, dreaming of a passage to China and India through the Arctic Sea. It's with this vignette that Chris Miller begins his new book We Shall Be Masters: Russia’s Pivots to East Asia from Peter the Great to Putin. As Miller makes clear, Russia has never been constantly interested in Asia, but cyclically interested. The Tsar's colonized Alaska, California, and Hawaii, and abandoned them all. They leveraged the Qing Dynasty to control the Amur River, imagining that it would be an Asian Mississippi–and then lost interest in it. Most Russian attempts to find security, wealth, and glory in Asia end up being half-hearted, and result in failure. What can explain these cycles of fascination and indifference? Chris Miller is Assistant Professor of International History at the Fletcher School at Tufts University. He was last heard on Historically Thinking in Episode 153 discussing the Chinese surveillance state.
7/8/20211 hour, 1 minute, 26 seconds
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Episode 211: The [Quiet] Russian Revolution

For Russia the year 1837 began with the death of the poet Alexander Pushkin in a duel, and ended with a fire that destroyed the Czar’s Winter Palace. These two happenstance events in the imperial capital of St. Petersburg frame a series of extraordinary changes that occurred that year throughout Russia. For historian Paul Werth these events amount to a “quiet revolution”, one that changed Russia and provided it with features—religious, cultural, intellectual, institutional, political, and ethnic—that are visible to this day. Paul W. Werth is Professor in the Department of History at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The author of numerous studies on religion, religious freedom, and the role of religious institutions in Russian imperial governance, his most recent book is 1837: Russia’s Quiet Revolution, now available from Oxford University Press. Twice he has given conference presentations in verse.   For Further Investigation Paul Werth, "To know Russia, you really have to understand 1837" Chaadaev, Peter, translated by Raymond T. McNally. The Major Works of Peter Chaadaev. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1969  
6/28/20211 hour, 5 minutes, 48 seconds
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Episode 210: Very Personal History

One California afternoon William Damon received a call from his daughter. A sleepless night had led her to do a little internet sleuthing, and the result was Damon discovering that the father he had thought died in World War II had in fact not only lived, but had a career in the United States Information Agency, before dying in Thailand in 1992 after a long illness. One of the results of that discovery, and the years spent not only learning about his father but reviewing his own life, is Damon’s new book A Round of Golf with My Father: The New Psychology of Exploring Your Past to Make Peace with Your Present. As one friend of Damon’s has written, it is “a gripping detective story, a deeply touching personal memoir, a critique of developmental psychology, a compendium of life-giving maxims, and a celebration of disciplined life review.” William Damon is Professor of Education at Stanford University, and Director of the Stanford Center on Adolescence.   For Further Investigation Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets Joseph Amato, Jacob's Well: A Case for Rethinking Family History Episode 50: Family History is Knowing Yourself--a conversation with Joseph A. Amato
6/17/20211 hour, 1 minute, 20 seconds
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Episode 209: Climate, Catastrophe, and Faith

Throughout human history, we have been deeply affected by our environment, particularly climate. At certain times there have been such alterations in climate that they amount to cultural shocks, resulting not only in famine, disease, and violence, but also in religious changes. That's the argument presented by this week's guest, Philip Jenkins, in his new book Climate, Catastrophe, and Faith: How Changes in Climate Drive Religious Upheaval. We discuss the mechanisms by which the climate is altered, and then alters human history, particularly religious history. Then we move on to discuss several periods of climatic shock that resulted in religious change; and speculate about how future climate change will change world religion. Finally I ask Jenkins for his secrets of being a highly productive historian, and whether or not all of his books are just chapters in an enormous book. Philip Jenkins is Distinguished Professor of History at Baylor University, where he is also Co-Director of the Program on Historical Studies of Religion.
6/9/20211 hour, 10 minutes, 57 seconds
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Episode 208: What’s Love Got to Do With It?

Throughout early modern Europe it was expected that neighbor would love neighbor as a spiritual practice, and that this corresponded with a discernible set of rules for everyday living. That's Katie Barclay's argument in her most recent book  Caritas: Neighbourly Love and the Early Modern Self. Moreover she also argues that not only was caritas an ethical norm, it was also an emotion that was part of the experience of people of all levels of society. Using Scottish legal records from the 17th and 18th centuries, she studies how this ethic and emotion of caritas shaped relationships between couples, families, and through the surrounding community. Katie Barclay is Deputy Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence in the History of Emotions and Associate Professor in History, University of Adelaide. With Andrew Lynch and Giovanni Tarantino, she edits Emotions: History, Culture, Society. 
6/2/202157 minutes, 32 seconds
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Episode 207: After the Black Death

In 1347 the population of England was something on the order of 5.5 million. After the first wave of the Black Death had crashed upon the island’s shores and then receded, that population had been reduced to 2.8 million. Immense tragedy lies behind that number, and immense consequences as well. But the plague would return to England again in 1361, 1369, and 1375, with further human cost. And the climate made war against the English as well, with a cold period that led to crop loss and famine. Investigating the consequences of the Black Death has been one of the major areas of research for historians of medieval England since nearly the creation of modern history. Now Professor Mark Bailey offers us a new interpretation of those consequences, in a deeply researched and thought through study After the Black Death: Economy, society, and the law in fourteenth-century England. Mark Bailey is Professor of Late Medieval History at the University of East Anglia.
5/26/20211 hour, 4 minutes, 30 seconds
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Episode 206: Sick and Tired

In her new book Sick and Tired: An Intimate History of Fatigue, Emily K. Abel has written the first history of fatigue, one which also contains a memoir of her own experiences as a cancer survivor afflicted with fatigue. In this wide-ranging history, Abel shows how our view of fatigue is intimately connected with our view of work, and how "the American cultural emphasis on productivity intersect to stigmatize those with fatigue...When fatigue limits our ability to work, our society sees us as burdens or worse." Beyond that one of the particular burdens of fatigue is that is has such an immediate effect on one's life that no friend or medical test can confirm. Abel explains how fatigue how it has been ignored and misunderstood by both the general public and medical professionals, but she also shows how we have attempted to treat it through a variety of sometimes terrifying means. Emily K. Abel is professor emerita of public health and women’s studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the author of several books, including Hearts of Wisdom: American Women Caring for Kin, 1850–1940.
5/12/202156 minutes
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Episode 205: Can There Ever Be History for the Common Good?

A young boy hands out  flags to the public prior to the start of the 1981 Inauguration Day parade. Source: US National Archives “Patriotic history is more suspect these days than it was when I was its young student, 50 years ago,” writes Eliot Cohen. But, he continues, “civic education is also inextricably interwoven with patriotism, without which commitment to the values that make free government possible will not exist” since “civic education depends not only on an understanding of fundamental processes and insttitions, but on a commitment to those processes and institutions…” These are observations contained in Cohen’s contribution to a new title from Templeton Press, How to Educate an American: The Conservative Vision for Tomorrow's Schools, edited by Michael J. Petrilli and Chester E. Finn, Jr. With me to discuss this essay, civic education, and the possibility of teaching history for the common good are Jonathan Zimmerman, Professor of the History of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, himself a former public school social studies teacher, and Eliot Cohen, Dean and Robert E. Osgood Professor of the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. We've never tried anything like this on Historically Thinking before--getting together people who disagree about some things, but also respect one another and have a basis from which to reach agreement. But we think that you'll like the result. For Further Investigation Eliot A. Cohen, “History, Critical and Patriotic: Americans need a history that educates but also inspires," Education Next Jonathan Zimmerman, "Civic Education in the Age of Trump: Public schools in the United States Public schools in the United States aren’t teaching students how to engage diverse opinions."
5/5/202153 minutes, 56 seconds
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Episode 204: The Peace Treaty of 1916 That Didn’t Happen

By August of 1916, the combatants in the First World War had been locked in struggle for two years. While the German Empire had enjoyed astonishing and unexpected success on the eastern front, on the Western Front things were very different. The German plan to bleed the French Army dry at Verdun had begun in February, and had months of further futility and agony to go. The Allied attempt to break the German lines along the River Somme had begun on July 1, and would go on to November, with increasingly marginal and catastrophic results. If ever there was a time for both sides to consider a peace settlement, the autumn of 1916 was it. As Philip Zelikow argues in his new book The Road Less Traveled: The Secret Battle to End the Great War, 1916-1917, the possiblity of peace was much more substantial than has been generally realized. The failure to achieve it would have consequences that are almost too many to categorized, and provides us today with profound lessons. Philip Zelikow is White Burkett Miller Professor of History and J. Wilson Newman Professor of Governance at the University of Virginia. A past director of the Miller Center at UVA, he was also Executive Director of the 9-11 Commission.
4/28/20211 hour, 4 minutes, 55 seconds
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Episode 203: The Saint, the Count, and Sourcing (Historical Thinking Series)

This is the third of our conversations on the skills of historical thinking, and this time the subject is sourcing. It’s a term invented by Sam Wineburg–patron saint of this podcast, whom you can listen to in Episode 100, also talking about sourcing–and it refers to the act of identifying sources, contextualizing and assessing documents for bias, reliability, relevance, and point of view. To paraphrase the title of one of Sam's books, sourcing is perhaps the most unnatural act of historical thinking, and it's one that teachers of history perhaps find the most difficult to teach. That's certainly the case for Leah Shopkow, Professor of History at Indiana University in Bloomington. The difference is that she decided to something about it, not just for herself, but for all those attempting to teach sourcing. This she has done in a new book The Saint and the Count: A Case Study for Reading Like a Historian. It’s an exciting book because it's really what I hope will be a new genre.  Simultaneously it's both a monograph on a medieval subject that should be of interest to any medieval historian, and a primer for undergraduates (and graduates; and even faculty) on the art of historical thinking. This is like finding a delicious candy bar that scares away bears, and helps you lose weight. (This week's image was suggested by Leah Shopkow; it's of a reliquary designed to contain a relic of St. Thomas Becket, and on its sides shows his murder. When you listen to the podcast you'll realize how appropriate this is.)
4/8/20211 hour, 6 minutes, 54 seconds
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Episode 202: Talking History, Podcasting, and the Age of Jackson, with Daniel N. Gullotta

Today's podcast is something we haven't done for a year, a conversation with another history podcaster. A year ago, just as the pandemic was beginning to ooze out over the globe, I talked with Michael Robinson, host of the great Time to Eat the Dogs. This week I talk with Daniel Gullotta, who hosts a podcast I’ve thoroughly enjoyed since it began, The Age of Jackson. Daniel focuses on talking with authors of the latest books that focus on American politics, culture, religion—and just about everything else—in the first fifty years of the 19th century. Lately he has featured conversations on the two Shawnee brothers who shaped American history; fear of Mormons in Jacksonian politics; and “sexual tumult” in 19C America. I talk with Daniel about his funny accent; Sicilian-Australians; why he got interested in American religion; and bespoke tailoring, as well as podcasting, and American evangelical support for the Democratic Party in the 1820s.
3/31/202148 minutes, 47 seconds
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Episode 201: Isaac Newton, After Gravity

In 1696, Isaac Newton, then Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University, moved rather suddenly to London. There he took the position of Master of the Royal Mint, residing at first nearby the mint in the Tower of London. He would by the end of his life have spent more time living in London then in Cambridge. Yet historians have often been reticent, even embarrassed, to delve into the second act of Newton's life. After gravity, the calculus, and optics it all seems so pedestrian. Fortunately Patricia Fara, Emeritus Fellow at Clare College, Cambridge, has taken Newton's London life seriously. In her book Life After Gravity: Isaac Newton's London Career she unpacks Newton's other life: as a royal official, a courtier, a builder of institutions, a proponent and beneficiary of empire, and an acquirer of worldly goods. Along the way she shares such gems with us as the number of silver chamberpots Newton owned when he died (two); what Newton changed about Britain's money;  his favorite book of the Bible (Daniel); where he invested his money; and his time in Parliament as Member for the University of Cambridge. And, connecting the various episodes of the book, is an analysis of a painting by William Hogarth, in which there are many Newtonian resonances.
3/24/202159 minutes, 47 seconds
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Episode 200: Connecting, from an English Portrait to Galileo and Beyond, with J.L. Heilbron

This is the second of Historically Thinking’s  yearlong series on the the skills of historical thinking. In our first installment this year, which was Episode 196, we heard cognitive psychologist Daniel Willingham explain reading comprehension, without which none of the other skills really work. Today in the podcast's 200th episode we’re going to tackle Connecting. If we put connecting into the form of a question, it would be something like “How does this document [or any other source, from portraits to shoes to stone walls] fit into a bigger picture?” Connecting joins together information from various sources, near and far from each other. It compares & contrasts, it corroborates testimony, it observes interesting links. Connecting introduces the idea that history is first a way of seeing, before it can become a way of thinking. There’s no better way to discuss connecting, or any other skill of historical thinking, than to consider an exemplar of that skill. If you were trying to craft a silver teapot, you wouldn’t want to read a book about it, not even a stack of books. You’d want to watch a master craftsman at work, and be able to ask lots of questions; maybe even have a go at it yourself, under their careful and experienced eye. Today’s exemplar is the book The Ghost of Galileo…in a Forgotten Painting from the English Civil War, just published by Oxford University Press. Its author and our guest is John Lawrence Heilbron, Professor of History at the University of California at Berkeley, where he is also Vice Chancellor Emeritus. Professor Heilbron is a native of the Bay Area, and earned both his AB and MA in Physics from Berkeley, before continuing on at Berkeley to take a PhD Degree in the History of Science under the direction of Thomas S. Kuhn. He has also served as Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Museum for the History of Science, and is an Honorary Fellow of Worcester College, Oxford. His work has ranged across the history of physics and astronomy, from Niels Bohr: A Very Short Introduction (also published by Oxford) to my favorite The Sun in the Church: Cathedrals as Solar Observatories. He now divides his time between Berkeley and west Oxfordshire, where his local is the Rose and Crown in Shilton.
3/17/202156 minutes, 34 seconds
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Episode 199: George Washington, Politician

If you count up all his military service, George Washington was a soldier for about thirteen years. But as an elected representative he served for 26 years, first as a member of the House of Burgesses in Virginia, then as President of the United States. And that's not counting being appointed by Virginia's legislature to the First and Second Continental Congresses, and to the Constitutional Convention. That also passes over his simultaneous service as a Justice of Fairfax County, and member of the church vestry, both of which were important local political roles. Yet for some reason we don't think of Washington as a politician, nor recognize that the use of political power was perhaps his greatest talent. Fortunately David O. Stewart has remedied this deficit with his new book, George Washington: The Political Rise of America’s Founding Father. There are few better people with whom to talk about George Washington then David O. Stewart. He’s the author of numerous histories, including Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln’s Legacy. For Further Investigation David O. Stewart writes, "I'm a fan of small books on Washington." He suggests: Edmund Morgan, The Genius of George Washington Don Higginbotham, ed., George Washington Reconsidered Paul Longmore, The Invention of George Washington    
3/10/20211 hour, 1 minute, 46 seconds
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Bonus: Comprehending Dante, with Guy Raffa

This bonus episode is with Guy Raffa, last heard in Episode 183 discussing his book Dante's Bones: How a Poet Invented Italy. It was a great conversation about Italy, and the culture and idea of Italy. But then and since I've been wanting to talk about Dante's poetry, particularly about the Divine Comedy. This was my chance to not only do that, but to talk with Guy about how to approach poetry which is notoriously difficult to understand. It's hard enough for us to do that. How does Guy help other people do it? What do we have to do to comprehend difficult things? Here are the passages that Guy and I talk about, with Guy's brief explanations of them: Inf. 34.70-81, 88-93: Virgil’s flip, and the 180 degree change in perspective. Through center of gravity, the world is truly upside down! Purg. 1.1-6, 130-136: Opening verses (poem as voyage, def. of Purgatorio) and final verses of the canto, with the reed of humility (golden bough), Ulysses intratext, main theme—cleansing, renewal, hope—of the entire second cantica. Par. 1.64-72: Blast off from Terrestrial Paradise to the Celestial realm. Glaucus simile (Ovid), neologism (trasumanar)—new language—to represent Paradise,  a place “beyond the human”.. They're conceptually difficult passages, which is why Guy chose them. We recommend that you follow along, either in your own copy made from dead trees, or online at Digital Dante.
3/5/20211 hour, 1 minute, 24 seconds
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Episode 198: American Heretic

"Calhoun, the cast-iron man, who looks as if he had never been born, and never could be extinguished." -Harriet Martineau John C. Calhoun was, for his contemporaries, an unforgettable presence whether they despised or cherished him. Harriet Martineau, an English social theorist and pioneering feminist, made the above unforgettable observation. Compared to others of his opponents, she was positively kind. They saw him as the human embodiment of Milton's Satan, a burning bright Lucifer with magnetic personality and brilliant arguments for evil–in Calhoun's case for the "positive good" of racial chattel slavery. Yet even his supposed followers could recoil from him, or rather resent the strong hands by which he guided them. Calhoun was born of a Scots family in the South Carolina backcountry. Raised a Democratic Republican, he was educated in the Federalist bastions of Yale College and the Lichfield Law School. Within a few short years following his graduation he had become one of the leaders of the House of Representatives, and from 1818 to 1824 he served as one of the most dynamic and effective peacetime American Secretaries of War. A contestant for President in the 1824 election, had he secured that office, the political history of the United States might have been somewhat altered. But as Vice President first to John Quincy Adams, and then to Andrew Jackson, he became enmeshed in South Carolina's struggles against the tariff and the power of the Federal government. For nearly the rest of his life, following his falling out with Jackson and his departure in 1832 from the office of the Vice President, Calhoun would serve as Senator from South Carolina, and leader of the Southern forces arrayed against the Northern forces that were bent on destroying the "Southern way of life"–by which they meant chattel slavery. While Calhoun's arguments might be thought to have died with the last guns of the Civil War, his political theories have had a long and curious afterlife. All of this is made clear by Robert Elder in his new biography Calhoun: American Heretic. Bob is Assistant Professor of History at Baylor University. This is second book, and his second appearance on the podcast.  
3/3/20211 hour, 40 minutes, 47 seconds
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Episode 197: An Independent Woman of the Eighteenth Century

Eliza Lucas Pinckney was born in 1722 on the island of Antigua in the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean, one of the tinier colonies of the British Empire, and she died in 1793 in Philadelphia, the capital of the new American Republic. Those places of birth and death, and the seventy-odd years between the two events, encapsulate a life that not only saw tumultuous change, but helped to create it. For Eliza Pinckney was one of the wealthiest, most respected, and influential women of her era. This was not only through the legacy of her remarkable children, and the labor of those she enslaved, but because of her own intelligence, entrepreneurship, and keen understanding of the world around her in all its diversity and complexity—with one or two important exceptions, as Lorri Glover makes clear in her new biography Eliza Lucas Pinckney: An Independent Woman in the Age of Revolution. Lorri Glover is the John Francis Bannon Endowed Chair in the Department of History at Saint Louis University. Her previous books include Founders as Fathers: The Private Lives and Politics of the American Revolutionaries, and The Fate of the Revolution: Virginians Debate the Constitution. This is her third appearance on the podcast. (The fabric in the image in the header, and in full beneath, is from Eliza Pinckney's bed canopy which featured a design of an indigo plant. As Lorri wrote me, "I love it that she slept below indigo." The fragment of the canopy now held in the Charleston Museum.) For Further Investigation Books and digital resources recommended by Lorri Glover Books "I loved this book on the history of indigo": Andrea Feeser, Red, White, and Black Make Blue: Indigo in the Fabric of Colonial South Carolina Life (2013) "For people interested in women in the Revolution, I suggest this collection of essays": Barbara Oberg, ed., Women in the American Revolution: Gender, Politics, and the Domestic World (2019) "A great general overview": Matthew Mulcahy, Hubs of Empire: The Southeastern Lowcountry and British Caribbean (2014) "For capturing the material culture and society of 18th-century Charleston": Emma Hart, Building Charleston: Town and Society in the Eighteenth-Century British Atlantic World (2010) Digital Resources "For the Pinckneys, the starting point is Connie Schulz's digital projects. Both are behind paywalls, but this is necessary to support the team's important work." The Papers of Eliza Lucas Pinckney and Harriott Pinckney Horry  The Papers of the Revolutionary Era Pinckney Statesmen "Here is the entry on Eliza from the South Carolina Encyclopedia." Photos "And here is a link to the Smithsonian's photos of Eliza's dress." 
2/24/20211 hour, 8 minutes, 40 seconds
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From the Archives: Episode 39: The Skills of Historical Thinking

We've just begun a unique experiment, creating a year long series devoted to explain what historical thinking is, why it's important, and how to do it. The series kicked off this week with a conversation I had with Daniel Willingham about "comprehension", the first necessary skill for historical thinking–without understanding what we read, it's very hard to think about the past. When we're done, there will be twelve monthly conversations, eleven devoted solely to one skill. (The twelfth, in case you're wondering, will wrap it up in a bow and put it by the tree, which is an apt metaphor because it will come in December.) Additionally there will be other conversations (most of them short ones, we hope) that you can find on the Historically Thinking website, three or more devoted to each of the skills. It will be we hope an unparalleled resource for students, teachers, and anyone who's interested in history. So it seems useful to moment to bring a golden oldie up out of the archives, a conversation with my friend Lendol Calder in which we discuss the skills of historical thinking. Note that the list could be shorter; it could be longer. But this is a list that he likes, and that I like, and it's what we're sticking with. As I wrote way back when this was the thirty-ninth episode of the podcast, there are few better to discuss history and how to think historically than Lendol Calder, my onetime colleague in Augustana College's department of history, and a recognized authority in the scholarship of teaching and learning. A Carnegie Scholar, and the 2010 Illinois Professor of the Year, Calder shares these insights with history teachers around the country. Today, we're delighted to have him share them with us. An eminent historian once wrote to me "Lendol Calder has done more than anybody else to teach us about what history teaching is, or should be." So give Calder a listen; he has a right to his opinion. For Further Investigation Lendol Calder, "But What is Our Story?" (teachinghistory.org) Sam Wineburg, "Reading Abraham Lincoln: An expert/expert study in the interpretation of historical texts." Cognitive Science, Volume 22, Issue 3, Pages 319-346. –Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts: Charting the Future of the Teaching of the Past (Temple University Press, 2011. Sam Wineburg, Daisy Martin, and Chauncey Monte-Sano, Reading Like a Historian: Teaching Literacy in Middle and High School History Classrooms Paperback (Teachers College Press, 2012).
1/29/202136 minutes, 52 seconds
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Episode 196: Comprehending What We Read (Historical Thinking Series)

When I used to grade historical essays, I would provide students with a rubric that I stole from Lendol Calder, and which allowed them to understand how they were being evaluated, and for what. The very first item on the rubric reads as follows: Comprehension:  What do the documents say/mean?  Accurately reconstructs the meaning of documents.  No misreadings, serious misconceptions of authors’ meanings, or relevant documents ignored. Comprehension is not something I had ever given a lot of thought to, until I began to teach. I think that was a mistake, because the more I taught, the more I realized that comprehension was first on that rubric for a reason. Indeed, I have a hypothesis that most academic problems begin with a problem in comprehension–perhaps rooted in the mistaken belief that just because we've read something we have comprehended it. Without appreciating comprehension and how it works it's impossible to teach reading; and without good reading, there is no historical thinking. But historians don't think a lot about comprehension. That's not our fault, it's not something that we should study. We should leave that to those who study the mind and how it works, and that's why in this conversation I talk with Daniel Willingham, Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia. Dan's research is focused upon the application of cognitive psychol0gy to K-16 education. Today’s conversation is based around the arguments of his book The Reading Mind: A Cognitive Approach to Understanding How the Mind Works. You'll hear us talk about why reading is like cooking Chicken Milanese; what task analysis is, and how it can help us break down the act of reading; why background knowledge is indispensable for reading; and why digital devices are not the problem they're often made out to be.  
1/27/20211 hour, 17 minutes, 54 seconds
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Episode 195: Battling for the Classics

On December 2, 2020, the University of Vermont announced that it would be eliminating the geology, religion, and classics departments, and also eliminating majors in Asian Studies, German, and Italian as part of cuts to programs in the College of Arts and Sciences with less than 25 or fewer students enrolled, or fewer than five graduates per year. The Academic Socal Internet (or at least its humanities sector) predictably exploded, along lines which are pretty familiar by now to those who follow such things, with anger at neo-liberal corporatism, American anti-intellectualism, and so on. Those who mustered a defense did so by proclaiming that the arts and humanities foster necessary critical thinking skills; or that these were necessary parts of general education at the University of Vermont; that the liberal arts are devalued. Incredibly enough, many of these points repeat those made for over a hundred years, as Eric Adler explains in his illuminating book The Battle for the Classics: How a Nineteenth-Century Debates Can Save the Humanities Today. While the book centers upon intellectual debates in late 19th and early 20th century America, it ranges as far back as Marcus Tullius Cicero, and is as contemporary as the news from Vermont of December 2, 2020. Dr. Eric Adler is Associate Professor of Classics at the University of Maryland. His scholarly interests include Roman historiography, Latin prose, the history of classical scholarship, and the history of the humanities.   For Further Investigation Charles Francis Adams, Jr. 1884. A College Fetich: An Address Delivered before the Harvard Chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa in Sanders Theatre, Cambridge, June 28, 1883, 3rd edition. Boston: Lee and Shepard. Irving Babbitt. 1986. Literature and the American College: Essays in Defense of the Humanities. Washington, DC: National Humanities Institute. Originally published in 1908. Charles W. Eliot. 1969. A Turning Point in Higher Education: The Inaugural Address of Charles William Eliot as President of Harvard College, October 19, 1869. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Roger L. Geiger. 2015. The History of American Higher Education: Learning and Culture from the Founding to World War II. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press. Robert E. Proctor. 1998. Defining the Humanities: How Rediscovering a Tradition Can Improve Our Schools, 2nd edition. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.
1/20/20211 hour, 9 minutes, 31 seconds
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Episode 194: If This Be Treason, Make the Most of It

During the American Revolution just about everyone in the thirteen colonies—or, after July 2, 1776,  the new United States—could be justly termed a traitor. For rebellious colonists prior to 1776, it was Parliament who had betrayed the English constitution. For royal officials, resistance and then rebellion was treason to the monarch. After independence, those who Americans identified numerous traitors in their midst—not only those who remained loyal to the old order of things, but even those who persisted a little too long in neutrality, or pacifism. As a legal issue, treason was in practice connected to numerous other things—to the power to arrest and detain; to the authority of the American  military; to the composition of juries; and to the meaning of citizenship. With me to discuss the legal history of treason in the American Revolution is Carlton F.W. Larson, author of The Trials of Allegiance: Treason, Juries, and the American Revolution, published in 2019 by Oxford University Press. It is a legal history, but also a social history of how treason was defined, prosecuted, and adjudicated in the colony, and then the commonwealth, of Pennsylvania. Carlton Larson is Martin Luther King, Jr. Professor of Law at the Davis School of Law at the University of California Davis. A leading expert on the laws of treason, he has also just published On Treason: A Citizen’s Guide to the Law.
1/13/20211 hour, 19 minutes, 6 seconds
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Bonus: Mark Salisbury on Higher Ed at the End of 2020, or Continuing Higher COVIDucation

Here's a little lagniappe, a conversation with frequent guest Mark Salisbury of TuitionFit on higher ed headlines of December 2020, and some speculation about the year in higher ed to come. Also contains news you can use!  
1/12/202140 minutes, 12 seconds
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Episode 193: The Plot to Bring Down the Soviet Revolution

In the spring of 1918, a young Scottish diplomat began to put together a plot that was intended to change the entire direction of the Great War, and save the Allies from defeat. As Robert Hamilton Bruce Lockhart began making his plans, Germany’s Operation Michael was threatening to break the western front open before American troops arrived in full strength. Lockhart thought that he could bring Russia back into the war that it had abandoned the year before. He would do this by killing Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky, overthrowing the Bolshevik government, and installing a new regime that would attack Germany and reestablish an eastern front. This plot, and the extraordinary personalities and stakes involved in it, are recounted in Jonathan Schneer’s new book The Lockhart Plot: Love, Betrayal, Assassination and Counter-Revolution in Lenin's Russia, which among other things demonstrates the truth of the moldy old cliché that fact is stranger than fiction. Jonathan Schneer is Professor of Emeritus of History at Georgia Tech in the School of History and Sociology. A specialist in the history of modern Britain, his books include London 1900: The Imperial Metropolis, The Thames: England’s River, Ministers at War: Winston Churchill and his War Cabinet, 1940-45, and The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of Arab-Israeli Conflict, which won a 2010 National Jewish Book Award.  He is currently working on a book about the British General Strike of 1926.
1/6/20211 hour, 12 minutes, 31 seconds
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Episode 192: Distracted, or, How to be Attentive

Anyone who has been in a classroom in the last 25 years has heard someone—perhaps themselves—worry about the effects of “digital distraction” on students’ attention span–perhaps even on their minds. In the 90's there were arguments about whether professors should allow laptops for note-taking, which now seems very quaint. Now we’re wondering if Zoom turns us into Zombies. (Or should that be Zoombies?) My guest Jim Lang has written a book that takes that fretful conversation in a different direction. Rather than worrying about distraction, he argues that we should be increasing our students’ (and children’s) ability to properly attend to things. James M. Lang is Professor of English and director of the D’Amour Center for Teaching Excellence at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts . Among is previous books is Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning. His most recent book is Distracted: Why Students Can’t Focus and What You Can Do About It.
12/30/202057 minutes, 53 seconds
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Episode 191: Pacifist Prophet

In 1775 Johannes Papunhunk died in a Moravian village in Ohio. He was not a Moravian, or any other kind of European, but a member of the Munsee tribe who had been born some seventy years before. In his long life he had been a prophet, preacher, reformer, and diplomat, dedicated to finding a home where his people could live in peace. As Richard Pointer observes, Papunhunk bewilders us because he breaks apart our categories. He was a prophet who inspired peacemaking not war; a nativist reformer who embraced Christianity; a critic of white practices admired by leading Pennsylvanians; a war refugee, protected by some whites against other whites.  Papunhunk refuses to be who we think he ought to be. In his complicated life, we can find a different way of seeing early America. Dr. Richard Pointer is Emeritus Professor of History at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. He has previously written Encounters of the Spirit: Native Americans and European Colonial Religion and Protestant Pluralism and the New York Experience: A Study of Eighteenth-Century Religious Diversity.
12/23/20201 hour, 7 minutes, 20 seconds
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Episode 190: Porcelain

In 1709, one of the great European technological achievements of the 18th century was realized—the reverse engineering of a formula for porcelain that the Chinese had used for almost two millennia. That this recipe was recreated in Saxony, in the heart of middle Europe, meant that porcelain would have a special place not merely in the technology, business, industry, and culture of the German states, but at the center of their political economy and in their relation to an ever-globalizing capitalist economy. With me to discuss this fascinating history is Suzanne L. Marchand. She is Boyd Professor of History at Louisana State University, with a particular focus on European intellectual history, and the history of the humanities in modern Europe. But her most recent book is Porcelain: A History from the Heart of Europe, which is the subject of our conversation today.
12/16/20201 hour, 11 minutes, 41 seconds
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Episode 189: Keeping in Time

Beginning in the Middle Ages, western culture became increasingly interested in regulating society through the precise, accurate measurement of time. “By the late fourteenth century,” writes my guest Ken Mondschein in his new book On Time: A History of Western Timekeeping, “mechanical clocks controlled the bells in medieval towns…These regular bells arguably produced a change in time consciousness at a general level: a device for measuring abstract time began to be used to regulate both personal and public activities.” Ultimately, Mondschein argues, without clocks the western world as we know it would not exist. Ken Mondschein is a historian of the middle ages, with a particular interest in technology and the arts of warfare. He is also credentialed as a master of historical fencing by the United States Fencing Coaches' Organization, and is the translator of several historical fencing treatises.
12/9/20201 hour, 5 minutes, 55 seconds
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Episode 188: The Amateur Hour, or, A History of Why College Professors Can’t Teach

In 2008 when Jonathan Zimmerman received a teaching award, his dean introduced him by telling the assembled audience what he books and scholarly articles he had written. He writes, “I don’t begrudge her for that, at all. What else could she go on, really? She had never been to one of my classes. And even if she had, how would a single visit—or two—help her say anything meaningful or important about my instruction? What other evidence could she invoke? What did she know about me as a teacher, really? What do any of us know about that?” The answer provided by his new book is…not very much, at all. In The Amateur Hour: A History of College Teaching in America, he chronicles the ups and downs of teaching in American colleges: the great teachers; the lazy teachers; the complaints by students; the attempts at reform; the denial that such a things as mysterious as teaching are capable of reform; and then the recurrence of the entire cycle, until for the battered reader it seems that time has become a flat circle. Warning: reading the book might be for you like drinking one or three good dry martinis, stimulation and wit, soon followed by haze and depression.
12/2/20201 hour, 11 minutes, 26 seconds
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From the Archives: Episode 40: We Gather Together, or, The History of Thanksgiving

On a day of tradition (or maybe not; more about that in a bit), we brush the dust off an old HT tradition. Back in the day, to be honest, we used to do a lot of "From the Archive" episodes mostly because we were pressed for time. Five years and almost two hundred episodes and bonus episodes later, we've got bigger archives, and listeners who might not have gone as far back as Episodes 1 through 50. (I mean, who does that?) So here's a personal favorite, a conversation with Dr. Tracy McKenzie about the history of Thanksgiving, based on his book The First Thanksgiving: What the Real Story Tells Us about Loving God and Learning from History. It's not just about turkey, and Pilgrims, and Native Americans, and English Separatism, but about football and bicycle races. For the cognoscenti, there's a lot of "invention of tradition" here as well; and there's a lot of historical thinking. Enjoy it in between the lawn football game and dinner, or the other way around.
11/26/202051 minutes, 57 seconds
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Episode 187: The Light Ages

Hello, in 1951 a young historian of science named Derek Price was examining a medieval manuscript in the library of Peterhouse College in Cambridge. When the pages of parchment were unbound from their 19th century binding, to his delight he saw the name “Chaucer”. But this was not a manuscript copy of the Canterbury Tales, or even a letter, but an instruction manual for a scientific instrument. In the end, as my guest Sebastian Falk explains, the manuscript turns out to have been authored not by Geoffrey Chaucer, but an obscure Benedictine monk named John of Westwyk. John’s life, and his scientific interests, affords us a window into the fascinating world of medieval European science, which Falk takes full advantage of in his new book The Light Ages: The Surprising Story of Medieval Science. Using the few scraps of information about John that remain, Falk fills out at the rich context of medieval scientific investigation, from the colleges of Oxford, to John's own monastery of St. Alban's, and even to his participation in a crusade to (of all places) Flanders. Seb Falk is not only a historian of medieval science and qualified teacher, but at various times in his life a civil servant, lecturer, museum curator, yachmaster, marathon runner, mountaineer, and a Special Constable.
11/25/20201 hour, 5 minutes, 50 seconds
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Episode 186: Think More Like Shakespeare

Based simply on the title, I never would have thought I would be recording a conversation with someone who wrote a book titled How  to Think Like Shakespeare: Lessons from a Renaissance Education.  It might sound like that book from a couple of decades book which encouraged readers to become like Leonardo—I have to admit that I never did learn to write with my left hand as a way of becoming ambidextrous and thus much more creative. But Scott Newstok is not just writing a self-help book. It's a series of meditations on certain features of education, many of them lost, and how they might be carefully rediscovered and appropriated. At the heart of it is a really great question, which has bedeviled the minds of many: how did Shakespeare get to know so much? Newstok knows that the answer is the way in which Shakespeare was taught, in both its drudgery as well as in its pedagogical creativity. By recapturing how Shakespeare was taught, we can learn a lot about how we teach, and how we might be better teachers–and students. Scott Newstok is Professor of English and founding director of the Pearce Shakespeare Endowment at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee; and a very nice guy, as I think you'll agree.
11/18/20201 hour, 22 minutes, 24 seconds
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Episode 185: The Anvil and Forge That Created the Modern World

For generations, both Asians and Europeans have thought of the Silk Road has been thought of as a highway connecting east to west. But what if both Asians and Europeans have gotten the whole point of the Silk Road wrong. What if instead of connecting the two important ends of Eurasia by bridging the empty central bit, the whole point of the Silk Road was that it was really a network that connected the heart of Eurasia to its distant peripheries. And what if it was thanks to the influences that filtered down that network of roads, the societies at the peripheries were transformed over a period of millennia, with certain eras seeing very rapid changes indeed—particularly from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century My guest today is Pamela Crossley, the Charles and Elfriede Collis Professor of History at Dartmouth College, where she specializes in the quing empire and modern Chinese history. Her most recent book is Hammer and Anvil: Nomad Rulers at the Forge of the Modern World, published in 2019; and it is the focus of our conversation today.   For Further Investigation Akhilesh Pillalamarri, "The Epic Story of How the Turks Migrated From Central Asia to Turkey: How did modern Anatolia come to be occupied by the Turks? The historical story may surprise you." The Diplomat (June 5, 2016) Peter Golden, "The Turkic Peoples: A Historic Sketch" Global and Eurasian History: A research and reading guide created by the Rutgers University Libraries Sino-Platonic Papers: who can resist a website with such an intriguing title?  
11/11/20201 hour, 7 minutes, 44 seconds
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Episode 184: This is Sparta

Ὦ ξεῖν', ἀγγέλλειν Λακεδαιμονίοις ὅτι τῇδε κείμεθα, τοῖς κείνων ῥήμασι πειθόμενοι. Stranger, tell the Lacedaemonians that we lie here, obedient to their words So read, Herodotus tells us, an engraving on a memorial commemorating the Spartans who died at Thermopylae, fighting a Persian Army that ridiculously outnumbered them. It has become probably the best known battle of the ancient world. Napoleon, it must be said, could never understand why; after all, he pointed out, it was a defeat. But who were these people, who seem to have willingly committed suicide by fighting against overwhelming odds? What was the society into which they were born, the culture that curbed and directed them? What did they love? What did they hate? These and other questions are the focus of Andrew Bayliss’ new book, The Spartans, which summarizes, synthesizes, and adroitly assesses a mass of scholarship to provide us with a vision of what was Sparta. Dr. Andrew Bayliss is Senior Lecturer in Greek History in the Department of Classics, Ancient History, and Archaeology at the University of Birmingham. He first remembers learning of the 300 Spartans and their stand at Thermopylae when he was 12. For Further Investigation Andrew Bayliss on video: a quick three-minute dip into "The Problem with the Spartans", or a long, long swim at 110 minutes with "Playing by the Rules? The Importance of Obedience in Spartan Society" Past HT guest Paul Cartledge is perhaps best known for his studies of ancient Sparta. Here's his classic The Spartans: The World of the Warrior-Heroes of Ancient Greece and Thermopylae: The Battle That Changed the World. For more on the Spartans (and much else besides), give a listen to the two conversations with the classical historian Jennifer Roberts. In Episode 116: The First Historian, we discuss Herodotus and his history of the Persian Wars.  Then in Episode 121: The War Between the Greeks, or, The Forever War, we have a conversation about the war in which Sparta and Athens fought, with all the Greeks choosing one or another side. For more on Thermopylae, you can read about it HT guest Tom Holland's book Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West, and in his translation of Herodotus.
11/4/20201 hour, 14 minutes, 56 seconds
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Episode 183: Dante’s Bones, or, A History of the Idea of Italy

In 1321 Dante Alighieri died in the city of Ravenna, near the shores of the Adriatic. In the years since his perpetual exile from his native Florence, he had lived in a variety of places in Italy. Now he was at rest. But in future centuries even his bones would continue to move, although not so far as his body had moved in life.  And, as his body diminished, his influence  and legacy grew and grew, sometimes appearing in the oddest of places. Ultimately, the history of Dante’s bones is the history of the idea of Italy.  Guy Raffa has written a history of Dante’s legacy, appropriately titled Dante’s Bones: How a Poet Invented Italy. He is Associate Professor of Italian Studies at the University of Texas, and among other achivements has created the brilliant and wonderful Danteworlds website, which is “an integrated multimedia journey­­–combining artistic images, textual commentary, and audio recordings” of the three realms of the afterlife found in Dante’s Divine Comedy. For Further Investigation The website of Guy Raffa Danteworlds: "A multimedia journey–combining textual commentary, artistic images, and audio recordings–through the three realms (Inferno, Purgatory, Paradise) of Dante’s Divine Comedy. This site contains, in addition to an abridged version of the original commentary in The Complete Danteworlds: A Reader’s Guide to the Divine Comedy and Danteworlds: A Reader’s Guide to the Inferno, Italian recordings of selected verses and a vast gallery of images depicting characters and scenes from the Divine Comedy. Like the books, the Danteworlds Web site is structured around a geographic representation of Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise–the three worlds of Dante’s Divine Comedy." Digital Dante: "Digital Dante offers original research and ideas on Dante: on his thought and work and on various aspects of his reception." Dante's Tomb: a little essay with many photos at Atlas Obscura Canto per Canto: Conversations with Dante in our time
10/28/20201 hour, 24 minutes, 14 seconds
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Episode 182: Philip of Macedonia, and Son

When Alexander of Macedonia took the throne of his father Philip, he inherited an expansive and wealthy kingdom; a hardened and meticulously constructed army; and a cadre of aristocrats and nobles who were used to victory, and wanted more of it. Moreover, Alexander was well-educated—in part by none other than Aristotle himself—and a military veteran. But when Philip took the throne he possessed none of these advantages. It is impossible to understand the campaigns of Alexander against Persia, and how they transformed Eurasia, without first understanding Philip of Macedon and what he accomplished. Such is the premise of Adrian Goldsworthy’s new history, Philip and Alexander: Kings and Conquerors. Adrian Goldsworthy is a prolific historian and novelist, who lives in southern Wales; this is third appearance on Historically Thinking.
10/21/20201 hour, 12 minutes, 37 seconds
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Episode 181: Westward to Zion

Each year tens of thousands of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints visit sites across the United States, like the recreated town of Nauvoo on the Mississippi River, or to "This is the Place" Heritage Park, just outside Salt Lake City. Thousands of young church members push handcarts across the plains, or up over the highest nearby hill, dressed in 19th century clothes. Sara Patterson argues that “as the Latter Day Saints community globalized in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, its relationship to space was transformed...Contemporary Mormons still want to touch and to feel [the principles of their early church], so they mark and claim the landscapes of the American West with versions of their history carved in stone.” Sara Patterson is Professor of Theological Studies at Hanover College in Hanover, Indiana. She is the author of Pioneers in the Attic: Place and Memory Along the Mormon Trail, which is the focus of our conversation today.
10/14/202042 minutes, 49 seconds
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Episode 180: Great State, or, China and the World since 1250

In Xanadu, Kublai Khan had a leopard. Well, it wasn’t a leopard really, it was a cheetah. And upon that fact, and upon many other anecdotes and material objects, Timothy Brook builds a bridge that connects the history of China to the history of the world around it. He demonstrates in overwhelming and fascinating detail that far from cut off from the world, China has always been in and of the world, and the world has always been coming to China. Timothy Brook is the Republic of China Chair in the Department of History of the University of British Columbia. The general editor of Harvard University Press' series History of Imperial China, his work has tended to focus on the Ming Dynasty, but has gone back as far at the Mongol occupation of China and forward as far as the Japanese occupation of China. He is particularly interested in China in the world, as attested to by his most recent book, The Great State: China and the World, which is the focus of our conversation today
10/7/20201 hour, 2 minutes, 9 seconds
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Episode 179: What’s the Good of Ambition, or, Socrates and Alcibiades

In 415 BC, Athens sent a fleet of over 100 ships and 5,000 hoplites to attack the city of Syracuse, in Sicily, an expedition that would result in catastrophe. The philosopher Plato writing decades later described a drinks party, held perhaps a few months or weeks before, given by the poet Agathon to celebrate his winning first prize in the Lenaia festival not long before. Among Agathon’s famous guests was philospher and Athenian gadfly Socrates; and coming unvited to the feast later on in Plato’s telling was Alcibiades, the chief mover and proponent of the Sicilian Expedition, and a one-time student of Socrates. Any Athenian who read Plato would have known that; and know also  that Alcibiades had ultimately been exiled from Athens not once but twice; and that Socrates had been executed by the city for having “corrupted the young”, young men like Alcibiades, and others. With me to discuss what Alcibiades learned from Socrates, and the importance of political ambition, is Ariel Helfer. He is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Wayne State University, and author of Socrates and Alcibiades: Plato’s Drama of Political Philosophy and Ambition, published in 2017 by the University of Pennsylvania Press. For Further Investigation Faulkner, Robert K. The Case for Greatness: Honorable Ambition and Its Critics. Yale University Press, 2008. Forde, Steven. The Ambition to Rule: Alcibiades and the Politics of Imperialism in Thucydides. Cornell University Press, 1989. Plato. Socrates and Alcibiades. Plato: Alcibiades I, Plato: Alcibiades II, Plato: Symposium (212c-223b), Aeschines of Sphettus: Alcibiades. Translated by David M. Johnson, Focus Philosophical Library/Focus Pub., 2003. Plutarch. “Life of Alcibiades.” Lives, vol. 4.  Translated by Bernadotte Perrin, Harvard University Press., 1916. Romilly, Jacqueline de. Life of Alcibiades: Dangerous Ambition and the Betrayal of Athens. Translated by Elizabeth Trapnell Rawlings, Cornell University Press, 2019. Thucydides. The Landmark Thucydides: a Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War. Edited by Robert B. Strassler. Translated by Richard Crawley, Free Press, 2008.
9/30/20201 hour, 23 minutes, 9 seconds
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Episode 178: Medieval Mediterranean Slavery

“Medieval Mediterranean slavery”  is a phrase that might seem a bit puzzling to some listeners—surely there wasn’t slavery in the medieval Mediterrean? Was there? Indeed there was. For hundreds of years a slave trade existed throughout the Medieval Mediterranean world, taking captives from the shores of the Black Sea to Egypt, and to Italy. The slave traders were from the Republics of Venice and Genoa, and the Mameluk Sultanate. “Late medieval slavery was not an afterthought or an aberration,” writes Hannah Barker. “It lay at the heart of Mediterranean society, politics, and religion. A complex of slavery, captivity, trade, and ransom tied disparate parts of the Mediterranean together.” Hannah Barker is Assistant Professor of History at Arizona State University in Tempe. Her book  That Most Precious Merchandise: The Mediterranean Trade in Black Sea Slaves, 1260-1500, was this yeear awarded the Paul E. Lovejoy Prize by the Journal of Global Slavery; and it is the subject of our conversation today. For Further Investigation Hannah Barker has kindly provided the following list of resources and books, complete with descriptions. You should also go back and listen to Episode 95, a conversation with Daniel Hershenzon on captivity and captives in the western Mediterranean. Teaching Medieval Slavery and Captivity: "this is a project that I’m leading to provide English translations of interesting primary sources and selected bibliographies to illustrate what kind of scholarship is already available on the topic of medieval slavery and captivity. The primary audience is teachers, but it’s also set up for browsing by the curious." Jeffrey Fynn-Paul, “Empire, Monotheism and Slavery in the Greater Mediterranean Region from Antiquity to the Early Modern Era,” Past and Present 205 (2009): 3-40. "He explains how the idea of slavery based on religious difference evolved over the medieval period." Debra Blumenthal, Enemies and Familiars: Slavery and Mastery in Fifteenth-Century Valencia (2009) "I see this book, along with Hershenzon’s, as parallel to mine but focused on the western Mediterranean." Christopher Brown, Moral Capital: Foundations of British Abolitionism (2006) "This is a brilliant explanation of why the abolitionist movement emerged and succeeded at the precise moment it did." Daniel Hershenzon, The Captive Sea: Slavery, Communication, and Commerce in Early Modern Spain and the Mediterranean (2018) Eve Troutt Powell, A Different Shade of Colonialism: Egypt, Great Britain, and the Mastery of the Sudan (2003) "This is also a brilliant book explaining how Ottoman and post-Ottoman elites saw slavery in the context of both colonialism and abolitionist pressure."
9/23/20201 hour, 27 minutes, 41 seconds
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Episode 177: The Forgotten City

In the history of ancient Greece, three cities dominated its politics, society, and culture. Of these, Athens and Sparta are now best known. But set in the plains of central Greece was the third apex of this “fateful triangle”, the city of Thebes. Dismissed by both Spartans and Athenians as rustics, clods, and peasants–“Boeotian swine” according the Athenians–Thebes was nevertheless deeply consequential to the life of those two rival cities. Its myths and legends became the topics of some of the greatest of Athenian drama. Its alliance with Sparta helped tip the balance of the Pelopponesian War in Sparta’s favor. And in the period of Thebes’ greatest power, when it had turned against its old ally, Boeotian armies freed the helots of Sparta in successful campaigns of liberation the like of which would not be see again, until Toussaint L'Ouverture raised up an army in Haiti, and Sherman made Georgia howl. With me to discuss the city of Thebes is Paul Cartledge, the A.G. Leventis Senior Research Fellow at Clare College, and the Emeritus A.G. Leventis Professor of Greek Culture. He is the newly elected President of the Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies, and is an Honorary Citizen of (modern) Sparta. Author, editor and co-editor of (by my count) 32 books, his 33rd is Thebes: The Forgotten City of Ancient Greece, which is the subject of our conversation today. For Further Investigation The Archaeological Museum of Thebes Map of Classical Thebes Essays by Paul Cartledge at History Today Plutarch, Life of Pelopidas
9/16/20201 hour, 28 minutes, 14 seconds
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Episode 176: Men on Horseback, or, What Charisma Has To Do With It

In 1763, James Boswell was accompanied by his new friend Samuel Johnson to Harwich, from which the young Scot then travelled to Utrecht in the Netherlands. There he was supposed to study law, which he did with great energy. But he also energetically whored, proposed marriage to eligible young ladies of fortune, and traveled about Europe making the acquaintance of the great and good. One of these was Rousseau; and it was he who suggested that Boswell travel to Corsica, and visit the Corsican revolutionary Pasquale Paoli. So Boswell did, and the book the wrote about his experiences and Paoli made Boswell's career, and made Pasquale Paoli an 18th century celebrity on either side of the Atlantic. For David Bell, Boswell's biography of Paoli is a significant moment of transition. Here was a man engaged in a democratic revolution, at the beginning of an age of revolutions fighting to establish democratic republics in North America, Europe, the Caribbean, and South America. Yet those revolutions were led by leaders who were literally men on horseback, and who had either nascent or actual cults of personality constructed around them by ardent admirers and zealous followers. So democratic republics, militarism, the cult of the dictator, all emerged simultaneously. For Bell, "the history of democracy is inextricable from the history of charisma, its shadow self." David Bell is the Sidney and Ruth Lapidus Professor in the Era of North Atlantic Revolutions at Princeton University. He has previously written or co-edited seven books; Men on Horseback: Charisma and Power in the Age of Revolutions, is his eighth, and it is the subject of this week's conversation. For Further Investigation The website of David A. Bell David A. Bell, The First Total War: Napoleon's Europe and the Birth of Warfare as We Know It David A. Bell, "What Donald Trump and George Washington Have in Common: Charisma doesn’t have to be earned for its impact on democratic politics to be very real." Foreign Policy, August 17, 2020.
9/9/20201 hour, 9 minutes, 54 seconds
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Episode 175: American Dorm

This is Nassau Hall. When it was built, it was the largest building in colonial America. Anyone walking through it today when visiting Princeton University might have some strange resonance with their own college experience. There are some differences, but...parts of it look amazingly like a late 20th century dormitory. Historians are supposed to be chroniclers of change, and sternly against the claim that things are “always that way.” But American dormitory makes one question historicism. Students are now very, very different than their predecessors of even fifty years ago, let alone three hundred years ago. And yet the residence hall remains, and thrives, often in ways that the young men of the College of New Jersey in 1772 might recognize. My guest Carla Yanni—picking up on the ideas of Marta Gutman—argues that this is because physical space is not simply a backdrop for college students. The two build each other. Or, as the architectural critic Winston Churchill once said, "We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us." Carla Yanni is Professor of Art History at Rutgers University, specializing in social history of architecture in 19th- and 20th-century Britain and the United States. Her most recent book is  Living on Campus: An Architectural History of the American Dormitory. For Further Investigation Carla Yanni's website Educated in Tyranny: Slavery at Thomas Jefferson's University Alan Taylor, Thomas Jefferson's Education Frederick Rudolph, The American College and University: A History J. David Hoeveler, Creating the American Mind: Intellect and Politics in the Colonial Colleges
9/2/20201 hour, 11 minutes, 42 seconds
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Bonus: The Virus and the Dorm, or, Higher COVIDucation Part One

This is a bonus episode of Historically Thinking, hopefully the first of several short episodes that will deal with higher ed in the time of COVID. It's changed much else, and it would seem (as the autumn semester of 2020 begins, more or less) that American higher education is going to be very different on the other side of the pandemic. Maybe. I talk with two people of very different perspectives and ways of thinking and seeing. Holly Taylor is a bioethicist at the National Institutes of Health. Carla Yanni is an architectural historian at Rutgers University, whose latest book is on the history of American dormitories. Together they have a interesting take on what's going on now on campuses across the nation, and what isn't going on.
8/31/202024 minutes, 32 seconds
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Episode 174: Polybius of Megalopolis

“In terms of time, my work will start with the 140th Olympiad” wrote the historian Polybius at the beginning of his History:  Before this time things happened in the world pretty much in a sporadic fashion, because every incident was specific, from start to finish, to the part of the world where I happened. But ever since then history has resembled a body, in the sense that incidents in Italy and Libya and Asia and Greece are all interconnected, and everything tends toward a single outcome. That is why I have made this period the starting point of my treatment of world events. With me to discuss the historian Polybius and his work is Steele Brand. He is Professor of History at The King’s College in New York, and author of Killing for the Republic: Citizen-Soldiers and the Roman Way of War, which he and I discussed in Episode 124. For Further Investigation Arthur Eckstein, Moral Vision in the Histories of Polybius  Frank W. Walbank, A Historical Commentary on Polybius   Brian C. McGing, Polybius' Histories  Bruce Gibson and Thomas Harrison, eds., Polybius and His World: Essays in Memory of F.W. Walbank Polybius, translated by Robin Waterfield, The Histories  Episode 45: The View from Thucydides' Tower Episode 11: The First Historian
8/26/20201 hour, 5 minutes, 30 seconds
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Episode 173: Thinking is Human, or, Lost in Thought

Hello, the French thinker Blaise Pascal wrote this when considering the ability of humans to think: Man is but a reed, the weakest thing in nature; but he is a thinking reed. The entire universe need not arm itself to crush him. A vapour, a drop of water suffices to kill him. But, if the universe were to crush him, man would still be more noble than that which killed him, because he knows that he dies and the advantage which the universe has over him; the universe knows nothing of this. A thinking reed.—It is not from space that I must seek my dignity, but from the government of my thought. I shall have no more if I possess worlds. By space the universe encompasses and swallows me up like an atom; by thought I comprehend the world. This week's conversation is about thinking: the necessity of doing it for its own sake, and its essential aspect as part of human happiness. Talking with me is Zena Hitz, a tutor at St. John’s College in Annapolis, and author of Lost in Thought: The Hidden Pleasures of an Intellectual Life. For Further Investigation Scott Newstok, How To Think Like Shakespeare: Lessons from a Renaissance Education Francis Su, Mathematics for Human Flourishing A.G. Sertillanges, The Intellectual Life: Its Spirit, Conditions, Methods Joseph Pieper, Leisure, the Basis of Culture Mortimer Adler, How To Read A Book
8/19/20201 hour, 6 minutes, 7 seconds
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Episode 172: The Last Voyage of the Whaling Ship Progress

In 1892, the whaling ship Progress under the command of Captain Daniel W. Gifford made an unusual voyage, not out to sea for a two to three year voyage, but up the St. Lawrence River and into the Great Lakes—the entire time under tow, rather than under sail. Its destination was Chicago and the great Columbian Exposition of 1893. With me to discuss the last voyage of the Progress, and the decades of experience that led to that voyage, is the great-great-grandson of Daniel Gifford—who is also named Daniel Gifford, but instead of a ship captain teaches history at the University of Louisville. His book that we’re discussing today is The Last Voyage of the Whaling Ship Progress: New Bedford, Chicago, and the Twilight of an Industry. It is a microhistory, a community history, the history of an inudstry, and it is full of questions about memorialization, memory, and public history. For Further Investigation The New Bedford Whaling Museum  The Mystic Seaport: where among many other wonderful things you can find the Charles Morgan, the whaling ship that survived. The Chicago World's Fair The opening pages of The Last Voyage of the Whaling Ship Progress can be found here 
8/12/20201 hour, 8 minutes, 8 seconds
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Episode 171: The Gunpowder Revolution, or, China and the West

In 1280 a enormous eruption disturbed the peace of the Chinese city of Yangzhou. It was “like a volcano erupting,” wrote one who experienced it, “a tsunami crashing.” Ceiling beams three miles away were thrown down, and tiles rattled on buildings as far as thirty miles away. The reason for this destruction was an explosion of gunpowder in Yangzhou’s imperial arsenal, which killed at least 100 men, and left behind a crater ten feet deep. How did Chinese scholars first develop gunpowder? And what does the development of gunpowder tell us not only about technological and military progress, but about innovation of all kinds, including political innovation? These are some of the questions at the heart of Tonio Andrade’s book The Gunpowder Age: China, Military Innovation, and the Rise of the West in World History, published by Princeton University Press in 2016. Tonio Andrade is Professor of History at Emory University, where he researches and teaches in the areas of Chinese and Global history.
8/5/202058 minutes, 3 seconds
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Episode 170: Bound by War, or, the Philippines and the United States in the First Pacific Century

My great-grandfather Louis Corsiglia emigrated to the United States as a boy from Genoa, and he was a lifelong anti-imperialist Democrat. So it followed from those two things that a dictum of his was that “A Sicilian is no more an Italian than a Filipino is an American.” In its way, it’s a phrase from a lost world. If you know that Genoa is in the far north of Italy, and Sicily the uttermost south, then you get the picture. But what’s the connection between Filipinos and Americans? My guest Christoper Capozzola’s book Bound by War: How the United States and the Philippines Built America’s First Pacific Century is a long answer to that question about conections. In 2011, the Obama Administration announced that the United States would be making a “pivot” to the Pacific. But as Capozzzola makes clear, the United States has always always been involved in the Pacific, and the Phillippines has always been near the heart of that involvement. Christopher Capozzola is professor of history at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology He has previously authored the award-winning Uncle Sam Wants You: World War I and the Making of the Modern American Citizen, and is a co-curator of “The Volunteers: Americans Join World War I, 1914-1919,” a traveling exhibition that originated at The National WWI Museum and Memorial—which devoted listeners to the podcast will know I think is one of the best history museums in the country. For Further Investigation Bound by War: the Instagram account Photography & Power in the Colonial Philippines: the US Conquest and Occupation (1898-1902) Photography & Power in the Colonial Philippines: Dean Worcester's Ethnographic Images of Filipinos (1898-1912) FilVetREP, the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project
7/29/202053 minutes, 2 seconds
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Episode 169: The History of the Future

This week’s conversation is a rather unusual. There’s one guest, as there usually is, but this time there are two hosts—or, two people asking the questions. The guest is David Staley, whom longtime listeners to the podcast will recognized from Episode 111, where he talked about his book Alternative Universities: Speculative Design for Innovation in Higher Education, a collection of ideas about the kind of higher education we might have in America if we wanted to. What I didn’t really appreciate then was that David is the rare historian who is as interested in the future as he is in the past. Indeed, he’s written essays, and even an entire book about this, which is appropriately enough titled History and the Future: Using Historical Thinking to Imagine the Future. We’ve talked about history and the future before, in Epsiode 46 with Professor David Hochfelder, and since I’m deeply skeptical about this concept I thought it good to talk with David about it. And even more reason to, considering how in the summer of 2020 we are deeply uncertain about our future. The other fellow asking questions is an old friend of mine, Brent Orrell, who is a Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, where he focuses on issues of career and technical education, criminal justice reform, and prison education and reentry.  Indeed, he has a podcast about these issues called “Hardly Working” (here's a link to the latest episode, which has some very handy ways of subscribing). I thought that Brent would have a lot of great questions to ask David from a very different perspective, and I hope you agree that it was.  
7/22/202058 minutes, 17 seconds
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Episode 167: How Black Americans Created American Citizenship

On January 15, 1817, a group of some of the most prominent African-American leaders called a public meeting at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, which had at that time one of the largest communities of free blacks in the United States. They had intended to support a plan for settling American blacks in Africa. But the audience of supposed supporters vociferously disagreed. They saw themselves as American citizens, and had no desire to go to an Africa which they had never seen. My guest Christopher Bonner argues that African-Americans did not seize onto American citizenship; they actually created it. Citizenship in the early nineteenth century was a malleable concept. African-Americans took advantage of that, and by contributing to the developing legal and political definition of citizenship were an essential part of transforming the legal order of the republic. Christopher Bonner is Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is the author of Remaking the Republic: Black Politics and the Creation of American Citizenship, which is the focus of our conversation today.
7/16/20201 hour, 3 minutes, 11 seconds
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Episode 166: Beauty and Terror, or, the Italian Renaissance Re-envisioned

In the movie The Third Man, Orson Welles delivered this sensational adlibbed speech: You know what the fellow said – in Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. This was unfair to Swabia, which invented the cuckoo clock, and to Switzerland, whose mercenaries had been up to their elbows in that bloodshed, transmuting blood into gold which flowed into Switzerland funding banks, dairies, clockmakers, and the multiplex knife. But Welles’ take on 16th century history is not that far removed from Catherine Fletcher’s new history The Beauty and the Terror: The Italian Renaissance and the Rise of the West, which reminds us that the art of the Renaissance existed in a world of warfare; and that its literature thrived despite, or because of, deep religious passions. Catherine Fletcher is a historian of Renaissance and Early Modern Europe, and Professor of History at Manchester Metropolitan University. She has previously published The Black Prince of Florence, a biography of Duke Alessandro de Medici of Florence, and has served as adviser to the set designers of the TV series Wolf Hall. For Further Investigation Michael Mallett and Christine Shaw, The Italian Wars 1494-1559–a detailed account of the military side. BBC In Our Time: discussions on The Borgias and The Medici. Alexander Lee Machiavelli and Erica Benner Be Like the Fox–two recent contrasting takes on the thinker’s life and times. The Hidden Florence app for a virtual walking tour through Florence A virtual tour of the Palazzo Te in Mantua: Ali Smith, How To Be Both–a fascinating piece of fiction on the themes of gender and Renaissance art
7/8/20201 hour, 5 minutes, 17 seconds
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Episode 165: Western Civ Has Got to…

In 1728, philosopher, theologian, and Anglican minister George Berkeley wrote these verses: The Muse, disgusted at an age and clime Barren of every glorious theme, In distant lands now waits a better time, Producing subjects worthy fame. Not such as Europe breeds in her decay: Such as she bred when fresh and young, When heavenly flame did animate her clay, By future poets shall be sung. Westward the course of empire takes its way; The first four acts already past, A fifth shall close the drama with the day; Time’s noblest offspring is the last. As Michael Kimmage reminds his readers in his new book The Abandonment of the West: the History of an Idea in American Foreign Policy, in the 1860’s Americans took this poem as a kind of prophecy, so much so that they memorialized it with a painting in the United States Capitol, and named the new home of the University of California for the philosopher-bishop. How that idea of the West became enshrined in American architecture, politics, and diplomacy is Kimmage’s story—as well as how it has fallen out of all those things. Michael Kimmage is Ordinary Professor and Chair of the Department of History at the Catholic University of American in Washington, DC. From 2014 to 2016 he served on the Secretary's Policy Planning Staff at the U.S. Department of State, where he held the Russia/Ukraine portfolio.
7/1/20201 hour, 3 minutes, 37 seconds
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Episode 164: The Open Sea, or, the Economies of the Ancient Mediterranean

For generations historians have talked about "the ancient economy". When they want to be more specific, they have written of "the ancient Mediterranean economy." Given the diversity of the ancient Mediterranean world, that's not much more specific. Indeed, sometimes the search for unity has obscured the beauty of specificity, and even how economies and cultures changed over time. In his book The Open Sea: The Economic Life of the Ancient Mediterranean World from the Iron Age to the Rise of Rome, J.G. Manning seeks to understand the economies of the ancient Mediterranean prior to the rise of Rome. But he's also meditating on theories of the origin of economies, and their interconnection both to one another and to the human and natural world around them.. It's not a large book, physically, but there is a great deal between its covers. Joseph G. Manning has 2009 been the William Kelly and Marilyn Milton Simpson Professor of Classics and History at Yale University. He is also a Senior Research Scholar at Yale Law School and, believe it or not, Professor of Forestry and Environmental Studies in the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Author of numerous monographs and articles, he’s most recently published The Open Sea: The Economic Life of the Ancient Mediterranean World from the Iron Age to the Rise of Rome, which is the subject of our conversation today.
6/24/202059 minutes, 19 seconds
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Episode 163: The First Martyr of the American Revolution

On June 18, 1775, 245 years ago tomorrow, Abigail Adams took up her pen to write to her husband John, far away in Philadelphia at the Second Continental Congress: The Day; perhaps the decisive Day is come on which the fate of America depends. My bursting Heart must find vent at my pen. I have just heard that our dear Friend Dr. Warren is no more but fell gloriously fighting for his Country—saying better to die honourably in the field than ignominiously hang upon the Gallows. Great is our Loss. He has distinguished himself in every engagement, by his courage and fortitude, by animating the Soldiers and leading them on by his own example. A particular account of these dreadful, but I hope Glorious Days will be transmitted you, no doubt in the exactest manner. Joseph Warren was the family physician of the Adams Family, but he was much more . He was arguably the most important man in the Massachusetts rebellion, more so than John Adams, orr even John’s cousin Samuel Adams, or John Hancock. At the moment of his death Joseph Warren was indeed in many ways the most prominent of all the American rebels against the British crown. With me on the 245th anniversary of Joseph Warren’s death to discuss that death but also his life and afterlife of Joseph Warren is Christian DiSpigna, author of Founding Martyr: The Life and Death of Dr. Joseph Warren, the American Revolution’s Lost Hero. For Further Investigation Christian di Spigna's website "John Trumbull and Historical Fiction"–a splendid lecture, one of a series given at the Yale University Art Gallery in 2013 by John Walsh on "historical paintings" in the gallery. You'll have to watch the series to find out what a historian painting is, and I recommend that you watch them all. Walsh is a brilliant lecturer, who effortlessly conveys ideas, pathos, and context. Imagining the Battle of Bunker Hill–a lesson plan from the American Revolution Institute  
6/17/202057 minutes, 21 seconds
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Episode 162: The First Scottish Enlightenment

Typically the "Scottish Enlightenment" is the term for the great burst of intellectual creativity, centered on Edinburgh and Glasgow and beginning in the 1720's. It saw advances made in philosophy, law,  economics, medicine, and geology,  by such great names as David Hume, Adam Fergusson, Francis Hutcheson, Adam Smith, Lord Kames, Thomas Reid, Dugald Stewart, and William Robertson–to name but a few. A typical view sees it as an unlikely event following "a century of relative turmoil" which was capped by the failure of the Darien colony, the Union of Scotland and England of 1707, and the Jacobite rebellions. However my guest today, Kelsey Jackson-Williams, argues that even amidst the turmoil of Scotland's late seventeenth century, there were still intellectual forces at work without which there would have been no subsequent intellectual explosion. But rather than centered on the Scottish cities and Lothian, this "First Scottish Enlightenment" was focused on  great houses in the northeast of Scotland, and on the city and university of Aberdeen. Rather than Presbyterian, it was Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, and Jacobite. And, finally, it was primarily focused upon untangling the history of the kingdom of Scotland, as well as upon its literary heritage. For Further Investigation Kelsey Jackson Williams, The First Scottish Enlightenment: Rebels, Priests, and History The Website of Kelsey Jackson Williams Pathfoot Press: "dae ye ken yer ane leid?"
6/10/202054 minutes, 38 seconds
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Episode 161: In the Matter of Nat Turner

In early November 1831, Thomas Ruffin Gray was searching for a publisher. He had been one of those whites who had travelled from his home in Richmond to Southampton County, Virginia, to put down the most effective revolt of enslaved persons in the state's history. Gray later returned to Southampton to serve as defense lawyer for the alleged revolutionaries. From November 1 - 3, he interviewed Nat Turner, leader of the revolt, and supplemented that material with interviews of other participants and survivors. Following these interviews, Gray had quickly written the remarkable story; but in the end he had to ride all the way to Baltimore to get it printed. It sold 50,000 copies. In the Matter of Nat Turner: A Speculative History is in part Christopher Tomlins' meditation on how Turner's story has been told by generations of whites, most notably by Gray and by novelist William Styron. It is also Tomlins' meditation on the meaning and uses of history, and of the craft of historians. Most important, it is a deeply thoughtful reconstruction of what Nat Turner believed, and how he made sense of the world around him. As Tomlins writes, after years of wanting to write about Nat Turner, "I soon found myself writing about God." Christopher Tomlins is the Elizabeth Josselyn Boalt Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley. His recent book was Freedom Bound: Law, Labor, and Civic Identity in Colonizing English America, 1580-1865.
6/3/20201 hour, 29 minutes, 3 seconds
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Episode 160: The Original Refugees

On October 22, 1685, King Louis XIV of France revoked the Edict of Nantes, the decree promulgated by his grandfather Henri IV which provided French Protestants with a degree of limited toleration. The choices facing those approximately 700,000 French Protestants were stark: they could renounce their beliefes and convert to Catholicism; resist, which could lead to imprisonment or death; or leave France, which was itself an illegal act. Ultimately some 150,000 made new homes across Europe, from Switzerland to Berlin, and from Rotterdam to Ireland. Others went even farther abroad, to Virginia, Carolinas, the West Indies, even as far as the Cape of Good Hope. With me to discuss the Huguenot diaspora, and it changed the society, culture, and politics of the Atlantic World is Owen Stanwood. He’s Associate Professor of History at Boston College, and author of The Global Refuge: Huguenots in an Age of Empire. For Further Investigation Oxford, Massachusetts: The Huguenot Fort and the Oxford Colony New Rochelle, New York Manakin Town, Virginia Purrysburg, South Carolina Owen Stanwood, The Empire Reformed: English American in the Age of the Glorious Revolution
5/27/20201 hour, 4 minutes, 41 seconds
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Bonus: Okinawa, the Crucible of Hell

Just to remind you, this is Memorial Day weekend–do not be alarmed if you have forgotten that it's a weekend, let alone that it's Memorial Day. As Professor Wikipedia might tell you, Memorial Day was instituted to remember the Northern dead of the Civil War. It then in time became a memorial encompassing the Southern dead, and eventually the dead of other wars. In the modern American imagination, it's increasingly hard to tell the difference between Memorial Day and Veteran's Day, especially since Memorial Day is now the beginning of summer and not at all a time of reverent memory for the fallen. But given the purpose of Memorial Day, it seems an especially appropriate time to post this conversation about the Battle of Okinawa. If war is hell, then Okinawa is the name of one of Hell's most infernal levels. On April 1, 1945—not only April Fool’s Day that year but Easter Sunday as well—an invasion force of American and British ships landed an army of four United States Army divisions and three United States Marine Corps divisions on the island of Okinawa. These 180,000 men would fight to gain control of the island, the first of the Japanese islands to be invaded, until June 22. It was the bloodiest battle of the Pacific, a battle that in its cruelty and ferocity was akin to a battle on the Eastern Front or to the most vicious combat of the First World War. With me to discuss the Battle of Okinawa and its effects is Saul David. He is Professor of Military History at the University of Buckingham; author of numerous works of history, as well as of fiction; and a broadcaster. His most recent book is Crucible of Hell, which is the subject of our conversation today, and which Amazon has designated as a "History Book of the Month" for May 2020. The story of the picture: Davis T. Hargraves and Gabriel Chavarria at Wana Ridge, 18 May, 1945 The Final Campaign: Marines in the Victory on Okinawa Saul David on the Battle for Okinawa in the BBC History Magazine Recent Books by Saul David: Operation Thunderbolt: Flight 139 and the Raid on Entebbe Airport The Force: The Legendary Special Ops Unit and WWII”s Mission Impossible For more about Saul David and his work: www.sauldavid.co.uk www.buckingham.ac.uk/research/hri/fellows/david
5/23/20201 hour, 7 minutes, 31 seconds
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Episode 159: Other People’s Money

Imagine, if you would, a world without either money or banks. How could anyone conduct business? How could anyone procure goods and services? How could you have a diversified economy? How could a person plan for the future?  This was the world of early America, prior the Revolution. One of the many changes brought about by that event was the creation of both money and banks. But neither of them worked in the ways that we now expect.  With us to explore this strange yet oddly resonant world of money and finance is Sharon Ann Murphy. She is Professor of History at Providence College, and author most recently of Other People’s Money: How Banking Worked in the Early American Republic, published by Johns Hopkins University Press as part of their series “How Things Worked.”
5/20/20201 hour, 15 minutes, 28 seconds
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Episode 158: Priests of the Law

My guest today is Thomas J. McSweeney, Professor of Law at the William and Mary Law School in Willamsburg, Virginia. He earned both his JD and his PhD in History from Cornell University, and is the author of Priests of the Law: Roman Law and the Making of the Common Law's First Professionals, which is the subject of today’s conversation. 
5/13/202053 minutes, 34 seconds
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Episode 157: They Knew They Were Pilgrims

Most Americans think they know something about the Pilgrims, based on a dimly remembered High School textbook, or perhaps from a second-grade Thanksgiving pageant: that the men wore stove pipe hats with brass buckles, and carried blunderbusses; that they were the first settlers in America, had the first Thanksgiving, got on well with the Indians; that they were uniquely tolerant while others all around them were not; that they were the most important settlers of New England, or the most influential. And just about all of these things are wrong. With me to discuss the Pilgrims, their origins, beliefs, settlement, and their importance is John Turner, author of the new book They Knew They Were Pilgrims: Plymouth Colony and the Contest for American Liberty, published by Yale University Press. John Turner is Professor of Religious Studies at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. His previous works include the award-winning Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet, as well as The Mormon Jesus: The Place of Jesus Christ in Latter-Day Saint Thought, Artwork, and Sprituality.
5/6/202053 minutes, 38 seconds
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Episode 155: The Second World War, or, the Napoleonic Wars

Winston Churchill termed the Seven Years War (what Americans think of as the French and Indian War) the “First World War” since its battles took place from Germany to western Pennsylvania to Manila. If that title is accepted, then the “War of the American Revolution” was the Second World War, stretching as it did from the thirteen British American colonies to Europe to India; and thus the Napeoleonic Wars were the Third World War. But neither of those two previous wars could approach the size and scale of the cataclysm that were the Napoleonic Wars. As my guest Alexander Mikaberidze argues, they were the most consequential events between the Protestant Reformation and the Great War of 1914-1918. And like those events, the Napoleonic Wars had effect which continue to our own time. Alexander Mikaberidze is Professor of European History at the Louisiana State University at Shreveport, where he is . He has been acclaimed as one of the “great Napoleonic scholars of today”, the author of what has been described as a “masterpiece” The Napoleonic Wars: A Global History, published this year by Oxford University Press. This his second appearance on Historically Thinking; our previous conversation, held five years ago on this topic, is one of our most popular.
4/29/20201 hour, 29 minutes
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Episode 156: Stories Told by Trees

Trees, as you may know, have rings. I don't know about you, but I remember the wonder I first felt when my Dad showed me tree rings. He explained that I could tell about the tree's life from the rings; the wide rings were from years of plenty of rain, and the thin ones from years of drought. Those tree rings turn out to be remarkably useful for not just telling us about a tree’s past, but about that of the world in which it grew. Which means, in a funny way, that trees can tell us something about what it meant to be human—and indeed what it means to be human, at least insofar as we can measure in trees the effects of our causes With me to discuss trees, their history, and human history, is Valerie Trouet. She is Associate Professor and University of Arizona Distinguished Scholar in the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research at the University of Arizona, and the author of Tree Story: The History of the World Written in Rings. Further Links Trouet Lab The amazing bristlecone pine A.E. Douglas, astronomer and dendrochronology pioneer  
4/22/20201 hour, 1 minute, 57 seconds
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Episode 154: The Cabinet

The Presidential Cabinet has, it would seem, been a reality of the American republic since soon after its foundation. Yet while executive departments are mentioned in the Constitution, the Cabinet is not. And while the heads of departments were present—or soon to arrive—in New York City when Washington took the first inaugural oath, they did not function as an institution until later With me today to discuss George Washington’s cabinet, its personalities and personality, its history, and its legacy, is Lindsay M. Chervinksy. Listeners to the podcast will remember that in Episode 118 she and I talked about this book and the research she had done for it, while carefully avoiding as best as we could actually discussing the material of the book. Now the book is done and published: it’s called, surprisingly enough, The Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution, published this week by Harvard University Press. Apologies, by the way, for the artwork. It's precisely the same artwork used for Episode 118. Curiously enough, it's also the artwork used on the cover Lindsay's book. That's because it's seemingly the only depiction of Washington's cabinet. And it happens to be the cover of a cigar box whose manufacturer was in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which is why Henry Knox is named "Hendrick". A Dutch Calvinist cigar box cover depicting George Washington's cabinet; it's a strange and wonderful country.
4/8/20201 hour, 1 minute, 6 seconds
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Episode 153: Thinking Historically About the Surveillance State

My guest today is Christopher Miller. He’s Assistant Professor of International History at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, where he is co-director of the school's Russia and Eurasia Program. He is author of  the books Putinomics: Power and Money in Resurgent Russia (2018) and The Struggle to Save the Soviet Economy (2016). He's also the author of a very recent essay in The American Interest, “The False Promise of the Surveillance State.” In it he argues that while the Chinese Communist Party has "forged a surveillance state without peer...information alone provides no ironclad guarantee of the Communist Party's future."  Reviewing numerous historical examples, he argues that "because analysis is hard, and because predictions are vulnerable to falsification, surveillance chiefs prefer to devote resources to collecting rather than predicting.” It's a conversation that reaches back to several others over the last year, while examining something that's news behind the news.
4/2/202027 minutes, 19 seconds
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Episode 152: Modern Dance and Modern America, or, Martha Graham and the Cold War

Martha Graham has been described as the “Picasso of modern dance”; she was and remains an icon of modernist high culture. But she was also received at the White House by every President from Franklin Roosevelt to George H.W. Bush, and was a cultural ambassador sent abroad by the United States to demonstrate, as today’s guest writes, a “freedom of expression that was available only in a democracy in which artists were not tools of the state and thus not subject to totalitarian intervention or suppression, be it Nazi or Soviet.” Victoria Phillips is Lecturer in History at Columbia University, and author of Martha Graham’s Cold War: The Dance of American Diplomacy, published in January by Oxford University Press. Dr. Phillips has been a dancer, a portfolio manager on Wall Street; and is an editor of the journal American Communist History and of Dance Chronicle; and a member of the board of the Society of Dance Historians.
3/26/20201 hour, 3 minutes, 18 seconds
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Episode 151: Time to Eat the Historically Thinking

This is a crossover episode of Historically Thinking. That's because my guest today is Michael Robinson. He’s Professor of History at Hillyer College, of the University of Hartford. He’s the author of two books: The Coldest Crucible: Arctic Exploration and American Culture, winner of the 2008 Book Award from the Forum for the History of Science in America, takes up the story of Arctic exploration in the United States during the height of its popularity, from 1850 to 1910; and The Lost White Tribe: Scientists, Explorers, and the Theory that Changed a Continent. So why is this is a crossover episode? Because Michael also has a great podcast called Time to Eat the Dogs, “a weekly podcast about science, history, and exploration.” It's eclectic and interesting, one of my favorites. We talk about Time to Eat the Dogs, how it came about, academic and historical podcasting, his first book The Coldest Crucible...and then we're on to talk about a big subject, the sub discipline of history called the history of science.
3/19/202052 minutes, 11 seconds
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Episode 150: The Science of History, or, the Thought of Giambattista Vico

Giambattista Vico first published his masterwork The New Science in 1725. He revised it twice more before he died. It was intended to be nothing less than a reinterpretation of the history of human civilization, resulting in a new science of history. It’s influence was somewhat less than Vico might have hoped; it took more than a century and a half after its first publication, before the book emerged from obscurity. Arguably it was in the late 20th century that Vico’s influence was finally felt, and perhaps at no other time has his work been as widely read as it is now. Yet The New Science is not an easy work to read: obscure allusions, an unusual method, eccentric terminology, are all combined along with the occasional stunning aphorism or turn of phrase that land on the reader like a hammer. With me to discuss Giambattista Vico are the two most recent translators of The New Science, an edition published early this year by Yale University Press. Jason Taylor is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Regis College; and Robert Miner is Professor of Philosophy at Baylor University. As you'll see from the conversation, the picture above is actually very, very important.
3/10/20201 hour, 30 minutes, 17 seconds
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Episode 149: Edges Are Interesting, or, a History of Eastern Europe

What is a people? What is a nation? Why do some peoples insist that nations must be synonymous with their particular group of people? And why are others content to be simply part of larger nations composed of many peoples? These are some of the questions that John Connelly addresses in his new book From Peoples into Nations: A History of Eastern Europe, published early this year. Nor are they the only questions with which Connelly is preoccupied. Why exactly is the history of Eastern Europe over the last two centuries one of conflict? Was this inevitable? Were these peoples always atagonistic towards one another? The answers that he gives may surprise you. John Connelly is Professor of History and Director of the Institute for East European, Eurasian, and Slavic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Past books by Professor Connelly include Captive University: The Sovietization of East German, Czech, and Polish Higher Education, 1945-1956 (University of North Carolina Press, 2000) and From Enemy to Brother: The Revolution in Catholic Teaching on the Jews (Harvard University Press, 2012).
3/4/20201 hour, 12 minutes, 25 seconds
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Episode 148: Land of Tears, or, the Exploitation of the Congo

Between 1870 and 1900, the Congo River basin became "one of the most brutally exploited places on earth." Traders in slaves and natural resources; explorers; and builders of would-be empires entered it from the west, east, and north. They were Arab, English, Belgian, French, and even occasionally American. What they entered into was an ecosystem and culture dominated by the Congo River and its navigation, a complex world that was soon irreparably destroyed. Robert Harms in his new book Land of Tears: The Exploration and Exploitation of Equatorial Africa does not focus simply on the interlopers into the Congo, or what happened after they entered, but what existed before their arrival. Nor does he allow villains to be easily chosen; it is soon clear that even those with the best of intentions in the Congo ended up assisting in villainy. Robert Harms is the Henry J. Heinz Professor of History and African Studes at Yale University. Professor Harms has written on both African history, and on the slave trade from and within Africa.
2/26/20201 hour, 8 minutes, 33 seconds
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From the Archives: Episode 92: Blood Letters

Given events in China, I thought it might be good to go back to the archive and to one of the most important, and also the most moving, conversations I've had. Recorded in Professor Lian Xi's office at Duke Divinity School, he and I discuss Lin Zhao's life and times, the survival of her writings, and her growing influence in modern China. Please listen, and share with others interested in history, China, human rights, and the triumph of the human person over tyranny. In 1960, a poet and journalist named Lin Zhao was arrested by the Communist Party of China and sent to prison for re-education. Years before, she had –at approximately the same time– converted to both Christianity and to Maoism. In prison she lost the second faith but clung to the first. She is, judges her biographer Lian Xi, the only Chinese citizen to have openly and steadfastly opposed Mao and his regime–denouncing lies such as those conveyed in the "Great Leap Forward" poster, reproduced above. From her cell, Lin wrote long poems and essays, some written in her own blood, denouncing those who had brought China into such a condition of misery and oppression. Eventually she was judged incapable of re-education and executed. Her family was billed (as was typical) for the cost of the bullet that ended her life. But Lin Zhao's writings survived: Totalitarian societies are also bureaucratic ones, strangely loath to destroy even the evidence of their own tyranny. When Lin Zhao's sentence was commuted during the rule of Deng Xiaoping, her family gained access to her work. In 21st century China, these writings have made her a prophet of change and a voice denouncing oppression. They have also made her as much an opponent of the current government as she was of Mao's dictatorship. For Further Investigation Lian Xi, Blood Letters: The Untold Story of Lin Zhao, a Martyr in Mao's China (Basic Books, 2018) Xi Lian, bio at Duke Divinity School website Review of Blood Letters in the South China Morning Post Xi Lian gives a short presentation on Lin Zhao
2/20/20201 hour, 15 minutes, 4 seconds
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From the Archives: Episode 2: Presidential History

This is a podcast from deep in the past of this podcast; in fact, it's the second ever episode. It in I talk with my old friend and colleague Michael Connolly about "Presidential History." It's a category I'm not particularly fond of, no more than I am "presidential historians". But Michael pushes back here against me and other skeptics, arguing that given public interest in presidential history, Connolly asserts, historians disregard it at their own risk. He argues that presidential history is a very real and necessary sub-discipline. He also surveys past presidents, and argues that the way in which we assess them is often mistaken. Where else can you find a discussion of Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and James Buchanan? Books, Articles, and Links to Things Mentioned in the Conversation Michael Connollly, Capitalism, Politics, and Railroads in Jacksonian New England Jordan Michael Smith, "The Letters the Harding Family Didn't Want You to See." The New York Times, July 7, 2014. The Harding-Fulton Correspondence, Library of Congress The Center for Presidential History, Southern Methodist University The Miller Center, University of Virginia Warren Harding House and Tomb Calvin Coolidge Historic Site Wheatland, Home of President James Buchanan  
2/12/202055 minutes, 19 seconds
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Episode 146: The Historically Informed Investment Portfolio; or, the Historian as Financial Analyst

My guest is Daniel Peris, a historian trained in the history of modern Russia. But by day he is Senior Vice President and Senior Portfolio Manager at Federated Investors in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of three books on investing, the most recent of which is Getting Back to Business: Why Modern Portfolio Theory Fails Investors and How You Can Bring Common Sense to Your Portfolio. But he’s also the author of Storming the Heavens: The Soviet League of the Militant Godless. Yet oddly enough, for a podcast called Historically Thinking, we’re going to be talking about the first book—the one on portfolio investing, not the one on Soviet religious policy Why? Because I want to know if historical thinking can be applied to investing. If it can, then how is that done? Daniel has given a lot of thought to that question, as you'll find out in the course of the conversation. And if you'd like to hear more of Daniel, he's a regular host at New Books in Finance, one of the great podcasts from the New Books Network.
2/5/20201 hour, 2 minutes, 48 seconds
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Episode 145: The Newburgh Conspiracy

On March 15, 1783, a group of some 100 officers of the Continental Army were gathered in the Temple of Virtue, a meeting hall built in their winter encampment near New Windsor, NY (a reconstruction is pictured above). They were there to “consider the late letter from our Representative in Philadelphia” read an unsigned note that circulated around the army’s camp and “what measure (if any) should be adopted, to obtain that redress of grievances, which they seem to have solicited in vain.” This was the crisis moment of what historians have taken to calling the Newburgh Conspiracy. But what was it? Who was conspiring, if anyone, and what were their goals? And was the American Revolution really in jeopardy at this moment? These and other question are addressed by David Head in his new book A Crisis of Peace: George Washington, the Newburgh Conspiracy, and the Fate of the American Revolution. David Head is Professor of History at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. This is his fourth book.
1/29/20201 hour, 17 minutes, 40 seconds
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Episode 144: The French Revolution

In 1856, meditating on the French Revolution, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote: When I came to gather all the individual wishes, with a sense of terror I realized that their demands were for the wholesale and systematic abolition of all the laws and all the current practices in the country. Straightaway I saw that the issue here was one of the most extensive and dangerous revolutions ever observed in the world. This week we discuss that most "extensive" revolution with Jeremy D. Popkin, the William T. Bryan Professor of History at the University of Kentucky. Professor Popkin is the author of numerous books, including on the press in revolutionary France; the Haitian Revolution; and the story of historiography. His most recent book is A New Age Now Begins: The History of the French Revolution, and it is the subject of today’s conversation.
1/22/202059 minutes, 33 seconds
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Episode 143: Horace Greeley, American Editor, or, the Method in His Madness

On October 30, 1872, the wife of Presidential candidate Horace Greeley died. On November 6, Greeley lost in a landslide to President Ulysses S. Grant, winning only six out of 37 states in the electoral college. By November 13, he entered into an asylum for the treating of “mental and nervous disorders”, where he died on November 29. Yet the last month of his life was probably not the most eventful of Greeley’s life. For decades he had been the founder and editor of the New York Tribune, and known throughout the United States. Greeley was in many ways one of America’s first celebrities—he was famous to many for simply being Horace Greeley. But he was also, especially in his own eyes, a species of public intellectual, doing his often erratic thinking in full view of his public. And that was a public of tens of thousands, for whom the words of Horace Greeley were oracular in their import, if not lack of clarity; words which at times could shape public events. How those words did or did not shape events, and how Greeley succeeded and failed in his intellectual mission is at the heart of the arguments marshalled by James Lundberg in his book Horace Greeley: Print, Politics, and the Failure of American Nationhood.  James M. Lundberg is the director of the Undergraduate Program in History and an assistant professor of the practice at the University of Notre Dame.
1/15/20201 hour, 2 minutes, 9 seconds
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Episode 142: Cloak and Gondola, or, on Secret Service for the Republic of Venice

Apologies for the delayed posting of this podcast. Some of us might not like our siblings, but this is ridiculous: “Your excellences must know that my ill-born brother, whose name will shortly be revealed to you…is a traitor to our motherland; he reveals the most important secrets of the negotiations of our councils to Zuane Pecchi, who lives in calle Sporca, inthe neighborhood of San Luca…and then Pecchi reveals them to his compatriot; who is the servant of the Holy Roman Emperor’s ambassador…” This was not a secret denuciation to a block captain in a 20th century dictatorship, but one written in Renaissance Venice, to the the Heads of the Council of Ten, the masters of Venetian counterintelligence. (It was probably deposited in a special box reserved for such denunciations, like the one above.) And when you realized that the Republic of Venice’s foreign intelligence and cryptographic services  were no less developed than its internal secret police, it becomes clear that, as my guest Ioanna Iordanou writes, Venice had created “one of the world’s centrally organized state intelligence services.” Morever it shows how “organizational entities and managerial practices existed long before contemporary terminology was coined to describe them.” Interest in organizational entities and managerial practices is to be expected from Dr. Ioanna Iordanou, Reader in Human Resource Management at Oxford Brookes Business School in Oxford, England. She has investigated the pedagogic role of coaching and mentoring; and in the emergence of proto-modern organizations in the pre-industrial world. Related to this last is her research in early modern intelligence; and from this research has come the book Venice’s Secret Service: Organizing Intelligence in the Renaissance.
1/8/20201 hour, 9 minutes, 6 seconds
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Episode 141: Stolen, or, a Journey on the Reverse Underground Railroad

In late August, 1825, a sloop sailed down the Delaware Bay from the port of Philadelphia, bound for the Indian River in southern Delaware. Chained in its hold were five young African-American boys, the eldest of whom was about 14. They were being taken into slavery, kidnapped from the streets of Philadelphia, destined for the lower Mississippi River four months later. Their story is emblematic of what my guest Richard Bell calls the “Reverse Underground Railroad”, the network of criminals who kidnapped free African-Americans in the north and moved them south, into the insatiable maw of the slave economy. But unlike so many others, four of the kidnapped boys returned to the north. How they were taken, and how they returned, is the subject of Richard Bell’s Stolen: Five Free Boys Kidnapped Into Slavery and Their Astonishing Odyssey Home. Richard Bell is Associate Professor of History at the University of Maryland, College Park. He has previously written about suicide in the early American republic, and co-edited another on incarceration in early America. Richard Bell, welcome to Historically Thinking.
12/30/20191 hour, 2 minutes, 1 second
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Episode 140: Christmas Feasting, or, Meat, Sugar, Alcohol

“There is a moment that comes to so many of us in the late afternoon on Christmas Day,” writes my guest Madeline Shanahan, “when we look at the postmeal dining table festooned with scrunched paper crowns, splattered with cranberry sauce and gravy, and graced with a half-eaten hacked-up plum pudding, and we are torn be- tween cracking on with the inevitable tidy-up and retreating to the sofa for a double Baileys and a snooze. In this moment we vow that we “will never eat again,” and our resolve lasts for an hour or so, until a box of Cadbury Roses chocolates is passed around and we somehow find room. If excitement and anticipation are the feelings almost universally shared by children at 5:00 a.m. on Christmas morning, being stuffed and exhausted are the ones that unite their parents come 5:00 p.m.” Christmas turns out to have always been about feasting, even from before the time that it was Christmas. Feasting is about excess; but feasting is also about fasting, and far removed from a world of dieting. Yet Christmas celebrations retain a cultural ethic of feasting, focusing on what were luxury foods: meats, sugary things, and alcohol. These used to be luxurious because they were expensive. Now they are luxurious because they taste forbidden. Madeline Shanahan has investigated the history of Christmas dinner as it has developed in the English-speaking world, and has shared her findings in her book Christmas Food and Feasting: A History. She has a PhD in Archaeology from University College, Dublin, and is Manager of Public History and Research for GML Heritage in Sydney. In this conversation we range far beyond the Dickensian Christmas, ranging from spiced beef in Ireland to seafood barbecues at the "Antipodal Christmas."
12/23/20191 hour, 4 minutes, 9 seconds
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Episode 139: Dominion, or, How Christianity Changed Everything

In the introduction to his new book Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World, my guest Tom Holland writes: “For a millennium and more, the civilization into which I had been born was Christendom. Assumptions that I had grown up with—about how a society should properly be organized, and the principles that it should uphold—were not bred of classical antiquity, still less of “human nature”, but very distincitvely of that civilizations’ Christian past. So profound has been the impact of Chritianity on the development of Western civilization that it has come to be hidden from view. It is the incomplete revolutions which are remembered; the fate of those which triumph is to be taken for granted.” Holland's goal is to make the reader stop taking the Christian Revolution for granted, and I think he succeeds brilliantly. It's not just that as a classicist he can explain the jarring dichotomy between the Roman and Christian ways of thinking about the world around them. Holland can just as effortlessly explain the links of "wokeness" to Christianity, and why progressives and evangelicals are so similar. Tom Holland is a classical historian, an award-winning and bestselling author of numerous books, a translator of Herodotus’ Histories, the maker of numerous documentaries—and co-host for a number of years of the best radio program on history, BBC Radio 4’s Making History.
12/18/201959 minutes, 20 seconds
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Episode 138: Music, a Subversive History

“A recurring phenomenon traced in these pages,” writes Ted Gioia in his new book Music: A Subversive History, “a surprisingly consistent one, despite marked differences in epochs and cultures—finds innovations coming from disruptive outsiders who shake up the very same institutions that later lay claim to them.” This is just one of tens or hundreds of insights in Gioia’s book, scattered across its pages, including the importance of bells to music history; the sacrificial ritual of the musician’s death; and the reason for similarity in the music of societies who herd animals. And Gioia concludes this feast with a list of forty points that is titled “This Is Not a Manifesto,” which for me was pretty much the same as vowing not to think about dancing purple elephants for the next five minutes. Ted Gioia has written eleven books, and this makes at least the fifth book he’s written on music history. He is an noted and notable critic, and is also a jazz pianist, who in the 1980’s worked to establish a Jazz Studies program at his alma mater Stanford University.
12/11/201954 minutes, 50 seconds
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Episode 137: The Decline and Fall of the Adams Family

Hello, on February 21, 1848, Congressman John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts had just cast a “nay” vote on a resolution thanking American officers and soldiers for the victories of the Mexican War. In the next moment he suffered a stroke. Lingering for the next two days in the chambers of the Speaker of the House, he died on February 23rd. His death was, for my guest Douglas Egerton, the beginning of the decline of the Adams family as both a political but also as a moral force in American life. This was not immediately apparent. As Egerton amply displays in his new book, Heirs of an Honored Name: The Decline of the Adams Family and the Rise of Modern America, Charles Francis Adams, Sr., the patriarch of the third generation of Adams', was a formidable man. He was an early proponent of a movement that would become one of the foundations of the Republican Party, a powerful Congressman at the moment of the 1861 rebellion, and then perhaps the greatest ambassador in the history of American diplomacy. But his children, while brilliant and accomplished, were...different. Charles Francis Adams, Jr., was the commander of a African-American cavalry regiment and a lifelong racist who became a supporter of the "lost cause" story of the American Civil War. So too did Henry Brooks Adams, the brilliant son who would eventually write of his confusion in the Autobiography of Henry Adams. And Brooks Adams, the baby of the family, wrote a series of books on the inevitable decline of commercial societies. Douglas R. Egerton is Professor of History at Le Moyne College. The author of numerous books his most recent were a documentary history of the Denmark Vesey affair, and Thunder At the Gates: The Black Civil War Regiments That Redeemed America (2016), This is his second appearance on Historically Thinking; when he was last with us, he discussed Reconstructionm, based on the research of his book The Wars of Reconstruction: The Brief, Violent History of America's Most Progressive Era (2014).
12/4/20191 hour, 14 minutes, 1 second
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Episode 136: Thanksgiving and Terroir, or, the South You Never Ate

My guest today begins his newest book with this declaration of purpose. “This is a book about the taste of place and the styles and stories of cooking that define it. It is a book about how people talk about their lives and their histories through the stories that flow from field, marsh, kitchen, and table. This is a book about tradition—the human process of making sense and discovering invention through experience, lived, remembered, imagined…It is a book about how the taste of place expresses a love of place. This book originates in a particularl place, but it resonates with foodways far beyond its borders. The place in question is the Eastern Shore of Virginia.” Those are some of the first words in Bernard L. Herman’s new book A South You Never Ate: Savoring Flavors and Stories from the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Bernard L. Herman is the George B. Tindall Distinguished Professor of American Studies and Folklore at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. He has previoulsy published on numerous topics, ranging from the artist Thornton Dial to the development of the townhouse in early American city. And given when this podcast drops, it’s particularly appropriate that his 2012 Thanksgiving essay for the magazine Saveur was anthologized in a collection of the year’s best food writing.
11/27/20191 hour, 12 minutes, 1 second
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Episode 135: Timefulness, or, Where Geology and History Meet

“Timefulness," writes guest Marcia Bjornerud, "includes a feeling for distances and proximities in the geography of deep time. Focusing simply on the age of the Earth is like describing a symphony in terms of its total measure count. Without time, a symphony is a heap of sounds; the durations of notes and recurrence of themes give it shape. Similarly, the grandeur of Earth’s story lies in the gradually unfolding, interwoven rhythyms of its many movements, with short motifs sampering over tones that resonate across the entire span of the planet’s history.” Is geology just history without people? What can zircon crystals tell us about the deep past? How did shattering a tourmaline make Marcia mindful of timefulness? And what does an annual sturgeon fishing festival tell us about how people interact with time? All this and more in this week's conversation.
11/20/201947 minutes, 1 second
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Episode 134: Inventing Disaster, or, the Creation of a Culture of Calamity

Cultures give us guardrails for behavior, beyond which we can only pass with difficulty. They also give us what to say in a difficult situation, a script that helps us to get the words out, even gives us a template for how to behave. Sometimes these guardrails shift, and the scripts and templates are rewritten. In her new book, Inventing Disaster: The Culture of Calamity, from the Jamestown Colony to the Jonestown Flood, Cynthia Kierner describes the ways in which people (particularly in North America) gradually began to speak of disaster in the way that we do now. From the "starving time" at Jamestown in 1609, to the Johnstown Flood of 1889, Kierner chronicles not the disasters themselves so much as the response to the disaster. The results might surprise you. "Although how we interpret and respond to disasters has changed in some ways since the nineteenth century, Kierner demonstrates that, for better or worse, the intellectual, economic, and political environments of earlier eras forged our own twenty-first-century approach to disaster, shaping the stories we tell, the precautions we ponder, and the remedies we prescribe for disaster-ravaged communities." Cynthia A. Kierner is Professor of History at George Mason University, and author of many books including Martha Jefferson Randolph, Daughter of Monticello.
11/13/20191 hour, 16 minutes, 23 seconds
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Episode 133: Mad Dogs and Other New Yorkers, or, Rabies in the City

Hello, in antebellum and late 19th century New York City, nothing could clear a street faster than the cry of “mad dog!” Rabies was perhaps the most feared disease of the era; and because animals and humans lived in such close proximity, even as New York was growing into a city of millions, that proximity led people to always have in the back of their mind a dread of what might possibly happen to either them or their children. As Jessica Wang describes in her wittily titled new book Mad Dogs and Other New Yorkers: Rabies, Medicine, and Society in an American Metropolis, 1840-1920, rabies overlaps many areas of transformation in an era of transformation. Medicine, urban politics, urban geography, and cultural imagination all take their turn under her investigative gaze. The result is not a history of a disease, but the history of a society at a particularly important moment in its self-creation. Jessica Wang is Associate Professor of History at the University of British Columbia. She has previously written American Science in an Age of Anxiety: Scientists, Anticommunism, and the Cold War.
11/6/20191 hour, 52 seconds
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Episode 132: Armies of Deliverance, or, a New Interpretation of the American Civil War

"Of all the ongoing debates over the Civil War," writes my guest Elizabeth Varon, "perhaps none has proven so difficult to resolve as the issue of Northern war aims." Some historians have emphasized, particularly in the last few years, the important point of consensus between many Republicans and Democrats that the Union needed to be saved. Others have emphasized the growth of the antislavery movement in the Republican Party as the force that gave coherence to the North's war effort. But each of these approaches, observes Varon, "focuses on only part of the broad Northern political spectrum." Varon's suggestion is that "deliverance" is the concept that unites all the different northern perspectives. Northerners believed that they were bringing deliverance to the South: to the poor whites who were economically controlled by the wealthy slaveholders; to a region blighted with chattel slavery; and to the enslaved themselves. And of course Southerners also believed in the narrative of deliverance, only they believed that they were delivering themselves from those who would take their property; and their chief war aim was to deliver the border states of Missouri, Kentucky, and Maryland from Federal oppression. Elizabeth Varon is the Langbourne M. Williams Professor of American History at the University of Virginia. She is the author of numerous books; Armies of Deliverance: A New History of the Civil War is her most recent, and it's the focus of our discussion.
10/30/20191 hour, 7 minutes, 26 seconds
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Episode 131: Red Meat Republic, or, the American Beef Economy of the Late Nineteenth Century

Americans love red meat. More particularly, they love beef. Always have. Archaeology of colonial America shows that British North Americans ate as much beef as they possibly could. Fish? No thank you. Beef? More, please. This British chauvinism for beef (the French, after all, called the English "les rosbifs") became an American chauvinism. But where colonial Americans ate their beef in a variety of strange cuts, mostly boiled, by the post Civil War having the freshest possible beef became a passion, a health craze in fact. We've talked about cattle drives in Episode 101 with Tim Lehman. This time, though, we're eating the whole cow. I talk with Joshua Specht, whose new book Red Meat Republic: A Hoof-to-Table History of How Beef Changed America describes the entire "beef economy" of the nineteenth century–from the seizing of ranch land from Plains Indians, to the dining room tables of New York and Indiana. Along the way he touches not only on cattle drives, but on feedlots, packing plants, and "beef riots" that happened in the most unusual places. It's a delicious podcast, even if you're Vegan.
10/23/201949 minutes, 5 seconds
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Episode 130: What’s the Point of College, or, Why There Should Be No Business Majors on Campus

Today's guest, Johann Neem, has recently written an essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education entitled “Abolish the Business Major”. Here’s a taste: The business major is for students who want a college degree without a college education. The philosopher Tal Brewer has written that the very notion of business school is an “oxymoron.” The word “scholar” derives from the Greek word for leisure. Colleges are places where people step aside from the world of need — from the world of business — to engage in reflection. “Devoted to discussion and thought unfolding under its own internal demands,” a college cannot with integrity offer “training for the sort of life that has no place for such thought.” Business schooling is “a scholé of the negation of scholé.” This essay was excerpted from Johann Neem’s new book, What’s the Point of College?: Seeking Purpose in an Age of Reform. It is a provocative collection of short punchy essays, written from the standpoint of a historian, but ranging across the entire terrain of the modern university.  I think that it forms a nice trilogy with previous conversations we’ve had this year with David Staley and Chris Gallagher—and I should note that all of three of these books have been published by the Johns Hopkins University Press. Johann Neem is Professor of History at Western Washington University. His most recent book was Democracy’s Schools: The Rise of Public Education in America, and you can listen to us discuss that book in Episode 112.
10/16/20191 hour, 16 minutes, 28 seconds
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Episode 129: Who Fought for the South, or, the Myth of Black Confederates

On January 12, 1865, the Charleston Mercury gave its pronouncement upon plans in the Confederate Congress to enlist Black southerners into the Confederate Army in exchange for their emancipation: By the compact we made with Virginia and the other States of this Confederacy, South Carolina will stand to the bitter end of destruction. By that compact she intends to stand or to fall. Neither Congress, nor certain makeshift men in Virginia, can force upon her their mad schemes of weakness and surrender. She stands upon her institutions—and there she will fall in their defence. We want no Confederate Government without our institutions. And we will have none.” And, further, “We are free men, and we chose to fight for ourselves—we want no slaves to fight for us…. Hack at the root of the Confederacy—our institutions—our civilization—and you kill the cause as dead as a boiled crab.” Notwithstanding this pronouncement against the possibility of slaves fighting for an independent South, for decades some have persisted in the belief that by 1865 slaves were already fighting for the Confederacy, and indeed had been fighting for it since the beginning of the Civil War. (One piece of evidence for this is the picture above, which we discuss in the podcast.) The continuing controversy over “Black Confederates” is not only an argument about the Civil War, or civil rights, or the racial history of the United States—important as all those things are. It is at its root also an argument about how to think historically, perhaps even how to read. With me today to discuss this is Kevin Levin, who has for years been at the center of this argument. Kevin is a teacher, a long time blogger at Civil War Memory, and his latest book is Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth.
10/9/20191 hour, 4 minutes, 23 seconds
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Episode 128: Unbundling or Rebundling, and Making College Integrated

Many would-be college reformers, says my guest Chris Gallagher, talk about "unbundling". By this they mean breaking a college into parts to save on costs and increase efficiency. In reality, Gallagher argues, colleges are already far too unbundled; or, perhaps, dis-integrated. What we need he argues are integrated colleges, ones which are coherently designed so that all of their parts fit together and support one another. The ideal result would be an institution that supports a life-long experience, an experience that would necessarily be greater than the sum of its parts. Like our previous guest David Staley, he suggests some audacious reforms; but many of these can be begun by professors at every stage of their career. We discuss these, the first steps that even an assistant professor can take towards making things better. Chris Gallagher is the Vice Chancellor for Global Learning Opportunities and Professor of English at Northeastern University in Boston. He's taught writing at every level of the college curriculum at Northeastern and elsewhere. The focus of our conversation is his most recent book, College Made Whole: Integrative Learning for a Divided World, now available from Johns Hopkins University Press.
10/2/20191 hour, 1 minute, 31 seconds
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Episode 127: King-Killers on the Run, or, The Curious Case and Afterlife of Whalley and Goffe

On Tuesday, January 30, 1649, Charles I, King of England, was beheaded. Fifty-nine men had signed his death warrant; and when, after a series of extraordinary events Charles II was restored to the throne, he took revenge against his father’s executioners. Some of them, anticipating this, fled from England by as it were the back door as young Charles entered through the front. Many of these fled to the continent. But three of them braved a 3,000 mile sea voyage to take refuge amongst fellow Puritans in New England. With me to describe the curious tale of the King’s executioners in America, and the equally curious tale of their legacy in British and American history, is Matthew Jenkinson. He is the headmaster of New College School in Oxford, and author most recently of Charles I’s Killers in America: The Lives and Afterlives of Edward Whalley and William Goffe, published by Oxford University Press
9/25/20191 hour, 8 seconds
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Episode 126: Applying to College, or, How to Both Get in and Keep the Family Together

This is another of Historically Thinking’s occasional series on higher education, collectively titled “Higher Ed: A Guide for the Perplexed,” and it could hardly be more timely.  There are few things more genuinely perplexing to any outsider, let alone a prospective undergraduate and said undergraduate’s parents, than the college admissions process. If you have any doubts about that, then you don't know what the words "Varsity Blues" signify. It's not only perplexing, it can feel demeaning. When you're in the admissions process, you begin to feel like poor Oliver Twist, queuing up for a bowl of gruel. Only it's not a bowl of gruel, it feels like your entire future is on the line. And that's just what parents are thinking. The tensions of the modern admissions process can turn nice families into a tribe of malevolent bickering hyenas. But it doesn't have to be that way. Brennan Barnard and Rick Clark have co-authored The Truth About College Admission: A Family Guide to Getting In and Staying Together. As a professor of mine used to say of someone who had not only read a lot, but thought a lot and one a lot, “They have a right to their opinion.” Brennan Barnard is the director of college counseling at the Derryfield School and US Performance Academy. Rick Clark is the director of undergraduate admission at the Georgia Institute of Technology. I think this is one of the most important and helpful episodes of "Higher Ed: A Guide for the Perplexed" that we're ever likely to record, and I think you'll agree. Once you've listened to this conversation, you'll want to go back and listen to the all the others from the beginning. Together they are themselves a unique guide to college, and to keeping sane about higher education.
9/18/20191 hour, 4 minutes, 4 seconds
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Episode 125: Asking Good Questions, or, How to Talk to People

Samuel Johnson once said "Questioning is not the mode of conversation among gentlemen. It is assuming a superiority, and it is particularly wrong to question a man concerning himself. There may be parts of his former life which he may not wish to be made known to other persons, or even brought to his own recollection." Of course Johnson said that to James Boswell, and had Boswell not asked Johnson plenty of questions, Boswell never would have written his Life of Samuel Johnson. And so I would be unable to give you the anecdote. My guest today is Dean Nelson, who has written for (among other publications) the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and San Diego Magazine. A PhD in Journalism, he directs the journalism program at Point Loma Nazarene University. He has won several awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for his reporting, and has written or co-written 14 books, and today we’re talking abou this most recent, Talk to Me: How to Ask Better Questions, Get Better Answers, and Interview Anyone Like a Pro. As Dean says in the conversation, while he had intended this book to be for journalism students, an editor pointed out to him that all of us have to ask people questions. Since good historical thinking always begins with good questions, that's as true for historians and those interested in history as it is for anyone else.
9/11/201959 minutes, 8 seconds
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Episode 124: Killing for the Republic, or, the Army of Ancient Rome

One of the best known legends of Ancient Rome, perhaps of more importance to subsequent centuries and millennia than even to Rome itself, was the legendary Cincinnatus. An opponent of allowing plebeians to vote in the early republic, he nevertheless returned–twice–to serve as dictator, first when the republic was threatened by a neighboring tribe, and then again to deal with the plot of a Roman. Yet in both cases he held the dictatorship, which made him in effect a king, for not one day longer than required. This selfless service to the republic became especially important in the 18th century, as republics were created and then threatened to potentially become dictatorships. But was this true? And, if not, why did Romans choose to believe it? Indeed, what does it say about Romans that someone like Cincinnatus, rather than someone like Alexander the Great, became their hero? In part this is a story of the Roman army under the republic. But it's also a story of Roman civic order, or what that order valued. That's the story that Steele Brand tells in Killing for the Republic: Citizen-Soldiers and the Roman Way of War. As you'll hear, Brand believes the lesson of what a citizen-soldier is, and should be, are as applicable to modern republics as they are to ancient one. Previous conversations about the Roman Republic Episode 11: Barry Strauss on the Death of Caesar Episode 63: Julius Caesar, Historian Episode 93: Mortal Republic–Edward Watts on how the Roman republic fell  
9/4/20191 hour, 14 minutes, 3 seconds
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Behind the Book 06: The Floggings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

The subject for today's "Behind the Book" conversation is flogging. Rather than showing you a depiction of someone having their back flayed with a whip, I instead of chosen to show you the smiling visage of today's guest, Don Hagist. You may thank me. But, as Don and I discuss, it's awfully hard to find an image of a flogging from the era of the American Revolution, roughly 1770 through 1793. Why might that be? And is flogging what we think it was? Was being sentence to 500 lashes–as Daniel Morgan was in 1755–more or less a death sentence? How often were men flogged? Could they ever be trusted again? And what exactly were they flogged with? And where? These and numerous other questions are answered by Don, who is I think one of the foremost experts on the life of the British soldier during the American Revolution. Don is an engineering consultant who in his spare time somehow manages to be Managing Editor of the Journal of the American Revolution, and an independent historian. His books include The Revolution's Last Men: the Soldiers Behind the Photographs (Westholme Publishing, 2015), British Soldiers, American War (Westholme Publishing, 2012), and A British Soldier’s Story: Roger Lamb’s Narrative of the American Revolution (Ballindalloch Press, 2004).
8/28/20191 hour, 15 minutes, 43 seconds
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Behind the Book 05: The Strange, Stirring, and Sad Life of Henry Lee

Henry Lee III is one of the most interesting personalities of the American Revolution and the early American republic. He was one of the innumerable Lee's of Virginia, sent north for schooling to the College of New Jersey in Princeton, from which he graduated in 1774. The plan seems to have been for Henry–or Harry, as he was generally called–to travel to London to learn law. But the war intervened, and Harry Lee soon discovered that he could be a soldier. Indeed, a very good soldier. By the time he left the war, he was commander of the Second Partisan Corps, a combination of cavalry and infantry. Peace was not as kind to Harry Lee. True, he excelled politically, serving as Governor of Virginia, and at various times in the House of Representatives. More importantly, he along with James Madison and John Marshall were the chief proponents of the new Constitution at the Virginia Ratification Convention. But Harry was very bad at business of all kinds, including farming and land speculation. To make things worse, he could not resist land speculation. By 1809, he finally was imprisoned for debt. Three years later he was beaten almost to death by a mob in Baltimore. Honor and health ruined, he fled from his ever-growing family to the West Indies, to enjoy both the climate and a refuge from creditors. Eventually knowing that the end was near, he attempted to return to his family in Alexandria. But he died on the coast of Georgia, in the home built by the family of his old commander Nathanael Greene. It's a sad story, for all sorts of reasons. In a very, very long discussion with Lee's new biographer Ryan Cole, we talk about the strange, stirring, and sad life of Harry Lee. If you thought "founding fathers" were boring men in wigs, you should really get to know Light Horse Harry Lee.
8/21/20192 hours, 10 minutes, 12 seconds
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Behind The Book 04: Andrew Pickens, or, The Wizard Owl

For some reason, South Carolinians love to give their Revolutionary heroes nicknames. Maybe it was Francis Marion who started it, when he was christened the Swamp Fox. But there are others. Thomas Sumter is now known only inside the Palmetto State, but there his nickname of "the Gamecock" now also refers to the teams of the University of South Carolina. Marion and Pickens fought in the eastern and central parts of South Carolina. The western regions, the far backcountry as it then was, and Upstate as its now known, were home to Andrew Pickens. And his nickname was actually a name the Cherokee gave to him: it is variously spelled Skyagunsta, Skijagusta, and Kittagusa, which seems to have meant "Wizard Owl." Which is an even cooler nickname than Swamp Fox. Andrew Pickens was a Presbyterian who founded a church wherever he moved. He was a slaveowner who didn't believe slavery was right. He was a man of whom one contemporary said "he would remove words from his mouth and examine them before speaking." The picture of Pickens that accompanies this post is, as his biographer Rod Andrew likes to say, Andrew Pickens at his happiest. Rod Andrew is a retired Marine who teaches history at Clemson University. His biography of Andrew Pickens is a tremendous book, a model for me when I was writing Daniel Morgan's biography. As it happens, Pickens was perhaps the essential contributor to Morgan's victory at the Battle of Cowpens. So Rod and I have a lot to talk about.
8/14/201946 minutes, 58 seconds
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Behind The Book 03: Clarke County

Today's another "Behind the Book" bonus episode, in which I talk with some "subject-matter experts" about a topic related to the life of Daniel Morgan. In this installment (recorded about nine months ago) I talk with the staff of the Clarke County Historical Association, Nathan Stalvey and Mary Morris. Clarke County wasn't founded until 1836, when it was split out of Frederick County. Most of Daniel Morgan's life was spent in the part of Frederick that became Clarke. He built two houses there, and supervised the building of the mill you see in the watercolor above. Clarke is a lovely place, which I liked long before I knew that Morgan had lived there, or that I would write a biography of him. I'm convinced that to understand Morgan, you have to understand Clarke. You have to know the man's terroir in order to understand the man. So in this episode you'll hear the three of us talking about that terroir, and what it has meant for its residents. So you can also think of this as one of HT's occasional episodes that investigates concepts of place, like the conversation I had with Thomas Gieryn back in Episode 106 on the importance of place as a way of believing in something. But it's also a return to thinking about the importance of local history with people who actually do local history, and believe in its importance. (For more on local history, see Episode 49, with the great Joe Amato, and Episode 24 with Bob Beatty.)
8/9/201940 minutes, 16 seconds
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Episode 123: The Mind of Marshall Poe, or, History for Everyone

My guest today is Dr. Marshall Poe. He’s the founder and editor of the New Books Network, a podcast network that each month features at least 125 podcasts on a variety of topics, from genocide studies to folklore to Jewish studies to science, technology, and society...and many, many more topics in which to browse freely. Recently NBN has started to "republish" previous episodes from the Historically Thinking archive on their New Books in History podcast. But, even if Marshall hadn’t been kind enough to do that, I have long wanted to record a conversation with Marshall for at least three reasons. For one thing, he has one of the most interesting Wikipedia bios of any historian, and that presents a way of talking about history and how someone can fall in love with it; and it says something about higher education, as well. He's also recently published a book called How to Read a History Book, which is something every HT listener is interested in doing, sometimes a lot. So I certainly wanted to talk with Marshall about the book, and what's in it. But most important of all, he’s just as passionate about communicating to people about history and ideas as I am. This might be a little too much of what some people refer to disparagingly as that type of podcast which is just “dudes chatting.” But what we’re chatting about are some of the foundational ideas behind Historically Thinking, and the New Books Network. So, I think it's important, and I certainly enjoyed it. I hope you do as well.
8/7/201956 minutes, 44 seconds
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Episode 122: Empress Matilda, or, The Forgotten Queen of England

On a wintry December, a woman clothed in white fled from Oxford Castle. Besieged by her enemies, she took the opportunity of a snowstorm to move undetected through their siege lines, and down the frozen Thames to safety. This is the most famous incident in the life of Matilda, Empress and Queen of England, featured in countless English stories and legends. But Matilda is much more than that daring escape. She was the daughter of Henry I of England, the granddaughter of William the Conqueror. Betrothed to the Emperor Henry at the age of 8, she had lived in Germany and Italy until the death of her husband, though she retained the title of Empress until her death. Her father made her his heir; and that escape from Oxford Castle was a incident in the war that she waged to maintain her kingdom. She would live to see her son Henry take the throne, and create an kingdom that dominated both the British Isles and France. With me to discuss one of the most remarkable yet sadly forgotten women of the Middle Ages–or any other age–is Catherine Hanley, author of Matilda: Empress, Queen, and Warrior.
7/31/20191 hour, 13 minutes, 11 seconds
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Episode 121: The War Between the Greeks, or, The Forever War

“In 431 BC, the long simmering rivalry between the city-states of Athens and Sparta erupted into open warfare, and for more than a generation the two were locked in a life-and-death struggle. The war embroiled the entire Greek world, provoking years of butchery previously unparalleled in ancient Greece. Whole cities were exterminated, their men killed, their women and children enslaved.” This was the Peloponnesian War, which its historian Thucydides described as “a great war and more worthy of relation than any that had preceded it.” It might seem that a war of approximately 27 years was long enough to be getting on with. But  Jennifer T. Roberts, Professor of Classics and History at the City University of New York has written a history of the Peloponesian War which argues that the war actually went on much longer than that. In her book Plague of War: Athens, Sparta, and the Struggle for Ancient Greece–issued in paperback this May by Oxford University Press—she traces the war’s titanic influence, not only on the lives of the Greeks, but on the subsquent history of art, architecture, politics, and philosophy—influences that echo down to the present day.
7/24/20191 hour, 32 minutes, 21 seconds
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Episode 120: Now or Never!, or, the 54th Massachusetts Regiment Fights for Freedom

On Saturday, July 18, 1863, the 54thMassachusetts Regiment attacked Fort Wagner, a Confederate fortification defending Charleston Harbor. The assault began at about 7:45 PM. Within two hours, of the 624 men who made the attack, 54 were killed, 149 were wounded, 76 taken prisoner—half the regiment killed, wounded or captured. But Fort Wagner was not the beginning of the story of the 54thMassachusetts Infantry nor its end. The complete story of both the regiment and the men who formed it is told by Ray Anthony Shepard in his book Now or Never: 54thMassachusetts Infantry’s War to End Slavery, written for middle-readers, but, as one reviewer wrote, “an enlightening read for adults as well.” Ray Shepard has been both a teacher and an editor; this is his first book of creative non-fiction.
7/17/20191 hour, 1 minute, 56 seconds
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Episode 119: The Curious Case of the Lion’s Blood, or, How Anna Zieglerin Came to Be Burned at the Stake

In 1573, an alchemist named Anna Zieglerin gave her patron, the Duke of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel, the recipe for something she called “the lion's blood” which she claimed could “stimulate the growth of plants, create gemstones, transform lead into the coveted philosophers' stone—and would serve a critical role in preparing for the Last Days.” And that was not all that it could do. “Anna proposed that the lion's blood, paired with her own body, could even generate life, repopulating and redeeming the corrupt world in its final moments.” This is an incredible story about an incredible woman in an incredible time; and I mean incredible almost in the true sense of the word, on the bounds—perhaps beyond the bounds—of the credible. In fact, I haven't even told you the craziest parts in this summary. It is all told by Tara Nummedal in her book Anna Zieglerin and the Lion's Blood: Alchemy and End Times in Reformation Germany, in which she weaves not only biography and history, enabled by meticulous detective work and imagining of what is now nearly unimaginable, but also the histories of gender, early modern science, the Reformation, and European power politics as practiced perhaps in its most vicious form within the principalities of Germany. Tara Nummedal is Professor of History at Brown University, and is also author of Alchemy and Authority in the Holy Roman Empire. She's also recently co-authored with Donna Bilak Furnace and Fugue: A Digital Edition of Michael Maier’s Atalanta fugiens (1618) with Scholarly Commentary, an alchemical text with both music and pictures. It's amazing, please do take a look at it: it's even on Instagram.
7/10/20191 hour, 27 minutes, 44 seconds
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Episode 118: The First Cabinet, or, George Washington’s Greatest Creation

Today's conversation is a little different. Usually I talk to people who have already written a book. But today's guest Lindsay Chervinsky is in the process of writing a book. I thought it was a good opportunity for listeners to see how the sausage gets made: how a historian puts together an argument, contextualizes, connects sources, and do all the other "moves" of historical thinking that this podcast is concerned with. Lindsay is studying Washington's "first cabinet." The whole idea of the presidential cabinet is just touched on the Constitution. As with many things in his presidency, Washington has to make it up as he went along. It was further created by the extraordinary collection of personalities that he brought together literally in one room. Thinking about the intended and unintended consequences of Washington's first cabinet seems to me a great way of celebrating America's Independence Day. [Note: the illustration is from a brand of cigars that emanated from, of all places, Grand Rapids, MI. That I suppose accounts for Henry Knox being rechristened Hendrick Knox. It doesn't explain why they left out Attorney General Edmund Randolph, poor chap.]
7/3/201946 minutes, 46 seconds
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Episode 117: The Treaty of Versailles, 100 Years Later

Hello, from January 18, to June 28, 1919, the fate of the world seemed as if it would be decided in Paris. There leaders of the victorious powers met to determine the nature of the peace it would imposed upon Germany, and its allies, following the armistice of November 11, 1918. The results were complex and contentious even before the German government signed the final peace treaty—and there were many more treaties yet to be signed, by Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Turkey, a process that went on for over another year. With me to discuss the Treaty of Versailles, its complexities, controversy, and legacy, is Michael S. Neiberg, inaugural chair in War Studies at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He is the author of many books—most recently, The Path to War: How the First World War Created Modern America, and The Treaty of Versailles: A Concise History, both published by Oxford University Press.
6/26/201948 minutes, 18 seconds
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Episode 116: The First Historian

"Herodotus, from Halicarnassus, here displays his enquiries, that human achievement may be spared the ravages of time, and that everything great and astounding, and all the glory of those exploits which served to display Greeks and barbarians alike to such effect, be kept alive–and additionally, and most importantly, to give the reason why they went to war." So begins the Histories, or the Enquiries, of Herodotus. He is rightly the father of history since he was the first to use the term. But even in that first sentence you can also see that he is a historian because he not only seeks to preserve, but to understand–and to make an argument about how things happened. This is part of our continuing series on "Great Historians and Histories". With me to discuss Herodotus is Jennifer Roberts, Professor of Classics at the City College of New York. An eminent historian, Jennifer Roberts has co-edited a translation of the Histories, and written Herodotus: A Very Short Introduction, published by Oxford University Press. She is also the author of The Plague of War, a new history of the Peloponnesian War, which will be the focus of a future conversation.
6/19/20191 hour, 3 minutes, 50 seconds
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Episode 115: Samurai, or, Myths and Realities of Japanese Warriors

In late 19thcentury Japan, sam