Now for another podcast series, Zack Twamley’s When Diplomacy Fails, one which I mentioned briefly in my post on the History of England. In that Zack contributed a guest episode on the Battle of Bannockburn, an episode that would act as a prototype for this series. It focused on the war and specifically on why the war happened. Now, I don’t mind military history but at times I find it can descent into “A moved to B and did this, then C moved to D and did this …” until you end up with a long list of individually inconsequential events and start losing sight of the big picture. This podcast promised to be different, with an emphasis on the reasons behind wars and the factors that caused them to finished up as the do.
In some ways, that isn’t that different an idea from Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History with his attempts to really bring history and the thought processes of those involved to life. Dan Carlin though has a great habit of tackling big, abstract issues and wandering off on unusual tangents. Zack Twamley on the other hand brings a nice sense of the practical to his telling of history, we really get into the details a lot more and focus on the minute details of how and why the situation deteriorated into war. There’s a nice focus on certain characters and statesmen that brings a familiarity to the characters involved. Also of note is the use of music and quotations, which is very well done and helps to add a little bit of spice to the episodes.
The choice of topic is also pleasantly ambitious. From wars like the Franco-Prussian or Russo-Japanese Wars, which may have been overlooked elsewhere, to extended features on the Thirty Years War and World War One, which will be a big challenge for anyone to tackle, – WDF doesn’t shy away from a challenge and choose the simple, populist option. It’s clearly the work of someone who wants to cover areas he is interested in and areas that he feels he can add his own take on.
However, at times though, I do find that the podcast falls into the traps it set out to avoid. Rather than tedious lists of troop movements, you get drawn into lists of diplomatic meetings and Zack doesn’t quite manage to inject enough of his own personality into these to liven things up. The delivery can be a little robotic and although the episodes have a tendency to start and end well (Thankssssss), there’s sometimes a lull in the episodes. This would be fine if the podcasts were a bit shorter, but they tend to be on the long side – typically lasting over an hour. He’s still young so there’s plenty of time for him to develop his own style and there’s clearly a huge amount of effort going into making and improving these epic shows. On the other hand, the TALK episodes that follow many of the installments are a fantastic idea and don’t have the same flaws in execution. Zack and a friend will discuss the episode, what aspects they found interesting and so on. These episodes give that more relaxed and discursive atmosphere that is sometimes missing in the main episode, with some nice energy and back and forth between the two.
It may not be quite the same level, but it is well worth a look for anyone who enjoys the epic scope of Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History but suffers withdrawal in the gaps between releases, especially once you add in the extra talk episodes. As with Hardcore History, I’ll pick out a few particular episodes I found to be interesting:
- 1. Franco-Prussian War – the first episode. There’s definitely been improvement from this, but it’s a great topic and it’s got Bismarck in it
- 20. World War One – epic in length and scope. I’ll admit that I haven’t tried this because of Dan Carlin tackling the same topic, but it’s definitely an ambitious project.
- 22. The Dutch Revolt – by now WDF has got into it’s stride, and it’s nice to see it take on a lesser known topic.
- 25. Thirty Years War – another epic, and a famously complicated topic. It’s dealt with very clearly and very capably.