Last month there were two big podcasts for me to listen to: a new episode of Hardcore History from Dan Carlin, and When Diplomacy Fails’ Korean War podcast. The two together almost simultaneously introduce me to a major historical figure that I had somehow escaped hearing about before – the Chiang Kai-shek of the title.
Dan Carlin takes on the extreme nationalism and militarism of the Japanese empire in the half century or so before the Second World War. It’s an interesting topic – and as ever Carlin, it’s possible to see relevance to modern political situations as the Japanese government is forced down a harder and harder line by the threats (and occasionally assassinations) of the hardcore minority. The episode ends with Japan in China in the early stages of what would become World War Two – and hence my introduction to the struggles of the Chinese warlords.
Zack Twamley of WDF is slowly working his way through the Korean War (at the point I’ve got to, we’re only in the first few days of the war after twenty episodes of setup). The focus is, as ever, diplomatic. There’s also an extra set of provocative theses here: that Stalin engineered the war to pull Mao’s China away from the West; that elements within the US ignored the warning signs in order to justify military spending and strategy. As presented these seem reasonable, the former even more so than the latter, but there’s a lot of diplomatic meetings and messages. Setting these ideas up required a lot of background, particularly in China, much of which was new to me.
I don’t tend to read twentieth century history, and especially not that of World War Two, but both of these were very interesting – taking me to places that I don’t tend to go. I look forward to reaching the conclusion of both, but I understand that will take a while for these two podcasters (for different reasons).
This month I have mostly confined my listening to some old favourites.
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.
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.
I decided to start this blog because I wanted to have a bit of a play around with html and a few other things like that – so apologies if I start abusing marquee text at some stage. Now I need to actually find some content to fill it!
I was thinking through my previous experiences with wordpress – mostly via history podcasts. I therefore came up with the idea of listing a few of these history podcasts I’ve enjoyed over the last few years. On closer inspection, I had wordpress and typepad mixed up but it provided me with that little bit of inspiration for my first post. Apologies for the quality of the writing – I’m doing this for my own amusement as much as anything else, I don’t expect anyone to actually read this.
I’ll begin by briefly covering two of the classics in the field, Hardcore History by Dan Carlin and History of Rome by Mike Duncan. I’m not going to go into much detail as these are relatively well known.
Continue reading History podcasts