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.
Mike Duncan is known, among people who follow such a thing, as a history podcaster. He paved the way for the now ubiquitous “History of …” style with his History of Rome, before moving onto covering Revolutions (so far: the English Civil War, the American, a variety of French, Haiti and South American independence). He has a dry wit and interests in politics that allow him to take the most detailed of topics, and explain them through modern analogies, jokes and good old fashioned story telling. The Storm Before The Storm is his first outing as an author.
In it he returns to ground he covered back in the History of Rome – the downfall of the Roman Republic. But unlike other books he steers clear of Pompey, Julius Caesar or Octavian. For Duncan, it’s the earlier stages that bear more attention. TSBTS deals with the Italian struggle for citizenship, the reformist Gracchi brothers, and ultimately the struggle for supremacy between Marius and Sulla.
This isn’t obscure by any means, but in most tellings it is left as an introduction or a few short chapters before the main story arc begins. (One of my favourite books is Rubicon by Tom Holland. In that he get through the same period in the first 20% of the book) But Duncan explains how the damage to the political structure was dealt in this period, with increasing deviation from the traditions and conventions (mos maiorum) that held the Republic together. By the time Sulla is putting up proscription lists of enemies for execution, the whole thing is doomed.
Duncan’s story telling is as good as ever and re-centring the story around convention and the Italians does add something, even for readers already familiar with the story. Even so, there is a part in between the Gracchi and the Social War where the names keep coming and going too quick to follow and the book (briefly) becomes a little dry. The fast pace stops this becoming an issue however. I’d definitely recommend it. Maybe not over Rubicon as a first introduction, but it’s in the same league. It’s less personality focus, but it may give a better picture of how the system of the Republic collapsed.
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
The History of Byzantium podcast by Robin Pierson is another series in the “History of X” mould that follows the style of Mike Duncan’s History of Rome. Even more than that, it is intended as an unofficial follow up to that series which ended at the fall of the Western Roman Empire. It therefore aims to tell the story of the Eastern Roman Empire from where that left off in 476 A.D to the fall of Constantinople in 1453 A.D (though it is currently paused at 620, so there’s still quite some way to go). A continuation to cover this was much requested from Mike Duncan towards the end of his series, not just for the sake of some more episodes but also because Byzantine history can be pretty awesome in its own right, so it was great to see someone step up to fill in that gap. It’s not an easy task either, the culture, politics, religion and challenges of the Empire are obviously different to those of the old unified Roman empire and will change considerably over the next thousand years. Juggling these different aspects and painting a detailed picture of the world they combine in is essential.
Continue reading Post 20: History of Byzantium Podcast
Created by Scott Chesworth and hosted at http://ancientworldpodcast.blogspot.co.uk/ and intended as a broad introduction to ancient history, cultures, technologies and achievements – this podcast, beginning in April 2012 and originally running to October 2013*, gave a brief trip through world history from the Elamites and Summerians settling down in 4000 B.C to the Roman Republic around 500 B.C.
And this does mean world history – understandably** most of the focus is on the Middle East and Egypt, but we do get some welcome diversions around the world to the Norte Chico people of Peru, the Shang dynasty in China and even ancient Britain. Along with this broad geographical scope, it also steers clear from being a purely military or political history, and the growth of agriculture (for example) and its role in these civilizations is covered particularly well. These give it a well rounded take on ancient history, which can sometimes have a tendency to focus solely on the military campaigns of the comparatively well documented Mediterranean and Middle East.
Continue reading Post 13: The Ancient World Podcast
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