This is yet another in the History of X mould – the name happens to be flipped around to Egyptian History, so I guess its already breaking that formula, but how will it stand up against its predecessors? On first glance things look good – the presenter Dominic Perry is actually a graduate student in Egyptian history. As much as I love David Crowther’s ‘man in a shed’ amateurism on History of England podcast, Egyptian history is an area with so many conspiracy theories, myths and general nonsense that it is reassuring to have someone who can give a modern academic view. It’s also great to have someone with access to and experience of materials and locations that wouldn’t be possible for the amateur podcaster.
I should say at this point that I’ve struggled with Egyptian history in the past. Even recently, I attempted to read Toby Wilkinson’s epic history of Egypt but balked halfway through in the face of incomprehensible names and a seemingly never ending succession of kings that we know little about. That’s the potential problem with such a show, the kingdoms of Egypt lasted for so long and the culture changed so much over that time – pacing things correctly can be difficult.
Previously I was barely able to get a handle on things before a new king or god or style of temple would pop up and blow everything out of the water. With this said, it is very much to Dominic Perry’s credit that he has managed to bring me along with him. The show does move quickly, but things are well placed with a special focus on new concepts as they arrive. This is balanced well, with episodes often split between a narrative and another topic (for example, women or the economy).
He has a soft New Zealand accent (I think?) and a concise factual delivery that explains the material clearly. The shows have a nice length and definitely don’t drag, but one criticism I might have is that they can be a little straight. There are rare hints of humour and he has a real enthusiasm for the topic, but I think these could certainly be used more during the podcast. However Perry has been going back and re-editing some of the older podcasts so there is clearly a willingness to improve his skills as he goes on. He has also sounded more relaxed as the series has progressed, so I’d expect this criticism to fade away later in the series.
Things have also improved in the recent episodes as the Middle Kingdom has begun and he has had the opportunity for a tour of a temple or a extra long episode on the epic tale of Sinue. So I would expect it to continue so as more and more colourful accounts start to appear. Though it may be serious at times, it is certainly never dry – explanations of the culture and characters are detailed but don’t get bogged down, so one appreciates the changes and developments that are happening without getting lost in a sea of very similar looking funerary monuments.
The podcast has just recently started the middle kingdom so there’s still plenty of time to catch up with it, and some of the best known and loved parts of the history still to go. Egyptian history is a huge and, to the newcomer, mysterious story that has attracted the attention of historians and adventurers for millennia. It’s something that I think is definitely worth understanding and Dominic Perry has made a very good way into that – even for people who have struggled with the subject before. Check it out on libsyn at http://egyptianhistory.libsyn.com/ or on its Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/EgyptianPodcast. If you want a slightly different approach Egyptian History, I’d also recommend checking out Scott Chesworth’s Ancient World Redux which has been covering the rediscovery of this civilization.