Revolutions Podcast Fundraiser II

Mike Duncan of Revolutions Podcast is doing another fundraiser (possibly more of a downsizing, as he moves house).  As ever, I’m interested in the books he’s selling – largely to add to my own reading list, so I’ve reproduced them below.  Check out his podcasts if somehow you haven’t, and if you are familiar with them, check out the extra episodes and some good t-shirts (I do like his “Livia did it” one).

Philosophy

  • Critique of Pure Reason – Immanuel Kant
  • On Revolution – Hannah Arendt
  • The Prince – Niccolo Machiavelli
  • Leviathan – Thomas Hobbes
  • Second Treatise of Government – John Locke
  • Essential Rousseau – JJ Rousseau
  • Birth of Tragedy – Nietzsche
  • Beyond Good And Evil – Nietzsche
  • Thus Sprach Zarathustra – Nietzsche
  • Genealogy of Morals – Nietzsche
  • Autobiography – John Stuart Mill
  • On Liberty – John Stuart Mill
  • Utilitarianism – Mill and Bentham
  • An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding – David Hume
  • Political Essays – David Hume
  • Cambridge Companion to David Hume
  • Surveys From Exile – Karl Marx
  • Common Sense and Rights of Man – Thomas Paine
  • Guerrilla Warface – Che Guevara

The English Civil War

  • The Causes of the English Revolution – Lawrence Stone
  • The Causes of the English Civil War – Conrad Russell
  • Britain in Revolution – Austin Woolrych
  • The Crisis of Parliaments – Conrad Russell
  • History of the Great Rebellion – Earl of Clarendon
  • Revolution, Riot and Rebellion – David Underdown
  • The World Turned Upside Down – Christopher Hill
  • The Century of Revolution – Christopher Hill

The American Revolution

  • Rules of Civility – George Washington
  • Washington – Ron Chernow
  • A Defence of the Constitutions – John Adams
  • The Federalist Papers
  • The Americans – Daniel Boorstein
  • American Scripture – Paulin Maier
  • Paul Revere’s Ride – David Hackett Fischer
  • The Birth of the Republic – Edmund Morgan
  • The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution – Bernard Bailyn
  • Radicalism of the American Revolution – Gordon Wood
  • The Unknown American Revolution – Gary Nash
  • Colonial Merchants and the American Revolution – Arthur Schlesinger
  • American Slavery, American Freedom – Edmund Morgan
  • The Glorious Cause – Robert Middlekauff

The French Revolution

  • Massacre at the Champs de Mars – David Andress
  • Talleyrand – Duff Cooper
  • The Longman Companion – Colin Jones
  • The Peasantry in the French Revolution – PM Jones
  • Twelve Who Ruled – RR Palmer
  • The Sans-culottes – Albert Soboul
  • The French Revolution and Human Rights – Lynn Hunt
  • Becoming a Revolutionary – Timothy Tackett
  • Reflections on the Revolution in France – Edmund Burke
  • The Origins of the French Revolutionary Wars – TCW Blanning
  • Interpreting the  French Revolution – Francois Furet
  • The Coming of the  French Revolution – Georges Lefebvre
  • The Social Interpretation of the  French Revolution – Alfred Cobban
  • The King’s Trial – David Jordan

The Haitian Revolution

  • Toussaint L’Ouverture – Jean-Bertrand Aristide
  • The Haitian Revolution – David Geggus
  • Slave Revolution in the Caribbean – Laurent Dubois and John Garrigus
  • Haiti – Laurent Dubois
  • Before Haiti: Race and Citizenship in French Saint-Domingue – John Garrigus
  • You Are All Free – Jeremy Popkin
  • Confronting Black Jacobins – Gerald Horne
  • The Making of Haiti – Carolyn Fick
  • Facing Racial Revolution – Jeremy Popkin
  • The Slaves Who Defeated Napoleon – Philippe Girard
  • A Concise History of the Haitian Revolution – Jeremy Popkin

Spanish-American Independence

  • Bolivar – Marie Arana
  • The Spanish-American Revolutions – John Lynch
  • Francisco de Miranda – Karen Racine
  • For Glory and Bolivar: The Remarkable Life of Manuela Saenz – Pamela Murray
  • Simon Bolivar – John Lynch
  • Writings of Simon Bolivar
  • Bolivar – JL Salcedo-Bastardo
  • The United States and the Independence of Latin America – Arthur Whitaker
  • The General in His Labyrinth – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Jose Antonia Paez – RB Cunninghame Graham

Rome

  • Scipio Aemillianus – AE Astin
  • The Civil War – Caesar

There’s also a baseball section, but I think that’s beyond my interests.

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April in Podcasts: History of England (also John Julius Norwich’s Four Princes)

A long time ago, I posted on David Crowther’s History of England podcast.  Since then Crowther has went from strength to strength, with at least another hundred episodes and two more centuries.  He has also explored ways of expanding the podcast – with a patreon platform and additional members podcasts – though I think he does still record in his shed.  I faded out of listening to it a year ago, as he reached the Tudors (a topic that has never really been close to my heart).

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I’ve picked it up again in the last month or two and actually quite enjoyed the topic.  Although Crowther still loved to quote from the Ladybird Book of kings and queens, Sellar and Yeatman, and Winston Churchill (though the latter mostly just to wheel out an impression), he really seems to have dug into the historiography on the Tudors.  His coverage of Henry VII finds a surprisingly light and positive tone, different to many popular histories, and his coverage of Henry VIII finds him exploring academic opinion over time.  It’s detailed without getting bogged down – very well done.

Tacking a different tack on the subject, I recently re-read John Julius Norwich’s Four Princes.  A quadruple biography of Henry VIII, Charles V, Francis I and Suleiman the Magnificent.  Norwich is as opinionated as ever – writing offhand comments on topics that Crowther agonised over for episodes – but he is still a very entertaining writer.  There may not really be much new material there, even the focus on the relationships between the princes and their effect on foreign policy, but the inclusion of Suleiman is a good touch.  Norwich does show how the Ottomans could drive the politics of Europe that the other three fought to rule, and it feels good to have them in their proper place in a history of Europe.

March Podcasts: The Fall of Rome by Patrick Wyman

In my last post, I said I had been listening to two new podcasts this month.  The first was Slow Burn by Slate.  The second is a show called The Fall of Rome by a podcaster called Patrick Wyman – who went into sports journalism after finishing a history PhD, but still provides a state of the art view of the end of the Western Roman empire (whatever form that may take).  I’ve read plenty on Rome, what makes this different?

Well, Wyman is able to approach the topic on multiple levels, from multiple angles: not just the political fall of the empire and its military causes that went along with it, but the economic and social processes that went along with it.  He’s well versed in the unresolved debates and discussions that go along with the topic – were the barbarians ethnically unified peoples or mixed bands of soldiers under particular leaders; what exactly did it mean when these armies settled?  Going higher, what do we even mean by the Fall of Rome?  Wyman’s own PhD topic was to show a decline in transport and communication, by showing a decline in the frequency of letters that would have been sent via travellers.  And that is the level of detail that he can delve into.  His grasp of the material feels reassuringly secure, but he’s open about having own take on some of the topic’s controversies.

He does make these ideas accessible through fictional biographies of invented characters – describing how these processes and changes would have appeared to those who were living through them.  Some of these changes would have been gradual, but others (Britain in particular) had a short, sharp decline.  I’ve tried reading various views on this area of Late Antiquity – Peter Heather, Chris Wickham, Bryan Ward-Perkins – but seeing the ideas compared and contrasted directly, Wyman presents a very plausible story.  In podcasts, Mike Duncan is still probably the best narrative start to this topic but Patrick Wyman is definitely essential for anyone who wants a more detailed analytical approach to the end of Rome.

March in Podcasts: Slow Burn

This month, I have been mostly listening to two new podcasts for me.  The first of these is Slow Burn, a podcast from Slate.com exploring aspects of the Watergate scandal.  There’s an open political agenda here – comparing the slow drip of sleazy stories from the Nixon White House to the abundance of stories coming from the Trump administration.  There’s nothing killer, no knockout against Trump (yet); but maybe this is what a scandal unfolding looks like.

600x600bbIn the days immediately after the Watergate break in, there were bizarre and disturbing stories in the news, with Martha Mitchell the wife of the Attorney General being tranquillised and imprisoned by hired goons; cheques from the break in being linked with republican donations.  Then came investigations, some stymied by Nixon.  Then the oval office tapes became known.  The information is interesting, and not necessarily in the main narrative of Watergate as it is told.  Sometimes it would be nicer to have the main narrative before spinning off on a tangent, but it should be a fresh take for even those familiar with the story.

Direct comparisons to the events surrounding Trump are made, and the many figures in the current Republican party are involved enough to not come across well.  It does steer clear of commenting too deeply however – largely limiting its analysis to presenting both governments as having a similar tendency towards chaos and sleaze.  We can’t say that Trump is going to end like Nixon, but if he was this is probably what it would look like from the sidelines.

Season two will be on the impeachment of Bill Clinton.  Not as interesting a topic for me, but Leon Neyfakh did delve into some of the unfounded conspiracy theories (mostly by Mae Brussell) on Nixon – so I have no doubt that he can do similar for Clinton.  The podcast is smooth and professionally produced, and I’m definitely happy to get more of it.

 

February in podcasts

This month, i have been mostly reading Umberto Eco’s Prague Cemetery (try doing that in the voice of Jesse from the Fast Show).  There are so many tangents and odd bits of history in there that I could spend as long on Wikipedia as I spent reading the book.  Podcasts help, I can read them while walking (without bumping into things). This month I caught up on Italian Unification and learned about Alexandre Dumas three times.  I also tried the remastered When Diplomacy Fails.

Zack Twamley of When Diplomacy Fails does like his big projects.  In fact he tweeted this the other day;

The Korean War: 48/48 written, 13/48 recorded.
1956: 28/33 written, 2/33 recorded.
Poland Is Not Yet Lost: 40/100? written, 0 recorded.

He does seem to manage the time better nowadays.  When I first listened to him, I found him sounding drained and tired towards the end of his Thirty Years War series.  Now, I’m working through the big project from last year – celebrating five years of the show by remastering his early episodes.  It’s actually rather good – he has removed bits that didn’t work (horrific Russian accents) and revised his opinion when he feels necessary.  Some introductions add a nice personal touch too.  The topics as ever are the selling point – a quick zip through the Spanish American War or the War of Polish Succession in a few half hour episodes quickly informs without being a commitment.

The Italian Unification podcast has also been running for almost five years; but less consistently – life commitments have meant that the pass has slowed to just five shows in the last two years, as it creeps towards the finish.  There is one more episode to go, and the topic was brilliantly relevant for the early parts of Prague Cemetery – Garibaldi, Cavour and the battle for a unified Italy.  Officially by “Talking History” (mostly Benjamin Ashwell – his brother Adam seems to have faded away from the project as it has overrun), it has polished up since I posted on its early episodes, I now like the production of the show.  It’s the content that really shines, there’s a pacy narrative, but still with plenty of detail (every time I have a question they seem to pre-emptively answer it).  I’m looking forward to it ending, but I’m also looking forward to any new projects that emerge (if they find the time).

Finally, I returned to Land of Desire for a series of episodes on three generations of Alexandre Dumas.  I still find the tone of the show a bit uneven.  The exasperation at Napoleon’s resentment of Dumas (grandpère?) worked but the show occasionally hinted at a more general criticism of racism in 19th century France, and I was disappointed to find that never emerged (especially as the treatment of anti-semitism in her Dreyfus podcast was rather good).  I’ve been spoilt by Mike Duncan’s Haitian Revolution, so that the colonial relations seemed slightly shallow in comparison.  The two more famous Dumas were interesting enough in their way, but never going to be quite as exciting a narrative.  I still don’t love this podcast, but some of the topics are good – I think I’ll be dipping in and out of this one for a while.

The Dreyfus Affair / The Land of Desire podcast

A while back I downloaded some episodes of a podcast that I had seen a few good reviews of: The Land of Desire.  It basically acts as a miscellany for different aspects of France and French culture.  After flicking through a few episodes, I landed on the six episode mini series on the Dreyfus Affair (from late 2016, I’m not exactly up to date here).

71avifompzlUntil recently my knowledge of the Dreyfus Affair began and ended with a vague memory of seeing a print of Emile Zola’s J’Accuse newspaper headline in a history classroom.  Then I read Robert HarrisAn Officer And A Spy – and found it gripping.  Told from the point of view of Colonel Picquart, a counter intelligence officer who uncovered the conspiracy, it is easy to be shocked by the forged evidence and military cover up.  It really is a good book.  But after the opening act of the (real life) scandal Picquart spends much of his time in exile or prison, so it is hard to see the real comings and goings.  In addition, unlike Dreyfus, Picquart was not Jewish so it hard to really get into the rise of anti-semitism.

image001That’s where this podcast comes in – The Land of Desire is able to explore the full story of the scandal, in which a Jewish army officer was clumsily framed for selling military secrets to the Germans, even as the story unravelled and the real culprit became obvious.  The need for a scapegoat coincided with the rise of anti-semitic feeling in France, and with a cultural divide between conservatives and progressives.  The podcast is at its best when covering this battle, even if it has to remain brief to avoid spamming the listener with names and sidetracks.

The problem with the podcast is that Diana, the Californian writer/presenter/producer, is so polished that her delivery comes across as blandly earnest and upbeat, no matter the material.  Part of this is the writing: she clearly can handle the big issues and complexities – as she does when describing the cultural divide in France or the continuing antisemitism – but at some points she oversimplifies (in an attempt to be accessible, I think).

I think the other part comes from a desire for professionalism, she is clearly very passionate about the material in this podcast (and rightly so) but that rarely shines through as she keeps her delivery level.  When it does come through: the anger, the frustration, the sheer exasperation at the farcical conspiracy is actually very engaging – it’s a sense of personality that I’d like to see elsewhere.  On the plus side, this upbeat delivery is great at dealing with the more comical parts of the story – the bizarre Major du Paty de Clam, the ridiculous handwriting expert Bertillon, the blocking of military judges.

I’m still in the early stages of the podcast, and there is a tendency for shows to improve over time, so I’m happy to continue listening and hope things even out.  Back on topic, the mini-series does end on a sad note.  Although Dreyfus and his supporters were ultimately pardoned, it would only be a few short decades before the Jews of France were decimated in World War Two – often with the support of parts of the local population.  And anti-semitism remains a problem to this day – many of the arguments throughout the show felt oddly familiar, even down to the less direct things like the Socialists arguing that having to deal with a case like Dreyfus would be a distraction from the main battle against capitalism.

January in Podcasts

This month I have mostly confined my listening to some old favourites.

Hardcore History

Seemingly Dan Carlin has been looking for a way to up his output from two shows a year.  With Hardcore History shows now verging on six hours in length, it’s easy to see why it takes so long to prepare.  Carlin however wants to communicate with fans more regularly – I guess there’s only so many times you can respond “I’m working on it” on twitter.  Therefore we now have Hardcore History Addendum, in which he plans to carry out interviews or discuss short digressions that don’t find into the long digression that is the main show.

The first two of these are up: the first a comparison of the German armies within World War One and World War Two; the second an interview with Mike Duncan of History of Rome/Revolutions and the author of The Storm Before The Storm.  The first of these is a typically speculative HH topic, initially it sounded like it might get a bit military history focused for my taste but it curved back and largely centred on political influence.  The second is interesting.  Both podcasters are interested in Roman history and American politics and, despite any other differences they may have they, both remain dubious about comparing the US to the late Roman Republic.

History of Byzantium

I was actually a little behind here, as I wasn’t commuting into work for a few months so my listening habits fell away.  Robin Pierson has stopped at the end of Basil II’s reign, so that gave me time to catch up.  It’s a nice part to take as a block – Basil grew up under a series of regent generals, seeing his mother remarried then exiled, and experiences shocking palace coups.  As a young man he re-took the throne, then re-gained his powers and spent the later parts of his life crushing the Bulgarians (or so the propaganda would say).

Pierson is helped on the topic by historian Anthony Kaldellis – with a lengthy interview on his new book Streams of Gold, Rivers of Blood and many small segments broken up throughout the narrative.  The interview was very interesting and the book have made it onto my ‘to buy’ list (along with his Byzantine Republic from a previous interview).  Pierson is as level and patient as ever with some exciting but often confused material.

Revolutions

Mike Duncan continues his trek through the world of Revolutions, tackling the challenging world of 1848.  He’s switching between the many areas of interest: the revolution in France, German unity, the fragmented Austrian empire, and Italian independence.  This does mean that I enjoy some episodes more than others (I’m liking the budding class war of France). but Duncan excels at explaining how these are connected and how they are not.

The news from France sparks everything off, but Duncan stresses the difference between the Liberal “political question” of constitutions and who can or cannot vote and the “social question” of inequality and early socialism.  Meanwhile nationalism is raising its head and complicating matters.  I have read books and listening to podcasts on 1848 before – but they only ever focused on parts of it.  Despite the regional differences, the wide overview that Duncan provides really makes the whole thing come together.

 

Campaigns of Alexander

As part of a self-improving attempt to actually read ancient historical sources (albeit translated into English), I read Appian‘s Campaigns of Alexander recently.  Given some of the dry stuff out there, I was surprised at how well it stood up.  It reads like the more narrative end of modern military history.  It would be pushing it to compare it to historical fiction, but there is elements of that.

I also listened to Jamie Redfern‘s A History of Alexander podcast for some commentary on the source.   Originally from 2011-2012, it’s probably in the first wave of podcast inspired by Mike Duncan’s History of Rome.  As with many of these, initially the production can be a little rough but it settles down (I think there’s even a remastered version that I somehow missed).

There were some nice comparisons of the sources (Appian being his favourite) and discussions where things may have been obscure, as well as the occasional bit of humour.  Actually, with the most exciting scenes quoted on the podcast it almost worked as an audiobook alternative.

What else is there to add?  The story of Alexander is a classic.  There are battles, intrigue, a clash of cultures.  In either form, it’s very enjoyable.

Post 63: History of Rome/Revolutions Fundraiser

With the ease that the internet allows, many people who run blogs or podcasts (even very good ones) will be amateurs making the most of their spare time. However, time can be limited and running things can cost money – so podcasts will sometimes consider ways to raise funds. Some of these methods work better than others, but there’s plenty of room for inventiveness.

Some like the History of Byzantium podcast may sell occasional special episodes. Others like Hardcore History may sell large parts of their back catalogue (at a fairly decent price too, given the length – they’re worth checking out). Many like David Crowther’s History of England podcast, may just have an option for donations. Peter Adamson at the History of Philosophy gets a grant. And some like The History of Iran podcast are even funded via Kickstarter.

Continue reading Post 63: History of Rome/Revolutions Fundraiser

Post 60: Emperors of Rome podcast

LogoAfter Mike Duncan’s superb History of Rome, do we really need another podcast about Romans?  Obviously more than a few people think so, by the way that this series, by La Trobe University in Australia has rocketed up the iTunes charts. In fairness, the show itself has a different format and tone – it’s much more biographical in focus and is presented as an interview between the host, Matt Smith, and a lecturer at the university, Dr Rhiannon Evans. Pieces of the interviews are then put together to tell the story and discuss any interesting points that crop up.

Continue reading Post 60: Emperors of Rome podcast