Podcast Reviews – 3 – History podcasts for your delight

More Podcast recommendations for those who like podding while you do other things.  Me, I listen to podcasts when I drive, when I cook, when I clean, when I draw diagrams and, as of this weekend, when I’m painting the house.

I’m ambling slowly through the History of Rome in the company of Mike Duncan.  (Website including earlier episodes / the later ones are on on iTunes). This is a polite and courteous podcast, with the occasional flash of sly humour.  Duncan’s telling the entire story from the She-wolf to the Goths (there’s got to be some sort of Death Metal reference there, surely?).  He’s got as far as the late Republic.  I get rapidly bored by most narrative history and prefer analysis and commentary and there’s just enough of both to keep me interested.  In fact, I think I’ll re-run the lot when I’m painting the house, because I listened to a lot of these while mildly distracted, and they and I deserve better than that.

12 Byzantine Rulers.  (Website / iTunes). Another ancient history podcast.  The downside of this one is that it’s not a complete history of Byzantium and it’s a little hard to keep track.  The upside is that it’s Extreme History, and it’s rather fun.  Full of beautiful heterai who become empresses, fathers hurling their sons from city walls and emperors as satisfyingly mad as any you’d find in third rate science fiction.  It’s not science fiction though, it’s history and it’s true.  Lars Brownworth tells these sensational stories without too much sensationalism.  I could have done with more about Byzantine culture and I’d have preferred fewer gaps in the record, but that’s a compliment really.

Binge-Thinking History.  (Website / iTunes) Tony Cocks starts with the premise that the American Constitution didn’t spring out of thin air and looks for its intellectual antecedents in medieval and renaissance England.  I like his gentle and discursive style and I enjoyed his take on the history of the king, power and the people.  Enough analysis to keep the attention and enough information to tell me stuff I didn’t know already.  He then goes rather geekily on to the Battle of Britain, which I didn’t enjoy quite as much, but I’ll happily listen to whatever he does next.

Shakespeare-upon-ipod.  (Website / iTunes) A conspiracy theory in doublet and hose.  Please don’t assume that this podcast successfully puts the case that the Earl of Oxford wrote the plays of Shakespeare.  Mark Anderson doesn’t put up any of the arguments against, which are considerable, and the case is most definitely ‘not proven’. However, I found these podcasts dirtily compelling, like pot-noodles, and they certainly contributed to my understanding of the 16th and 17th C context of the plays.  But I like my arguments balanced not biased.

History Center.  (Website / iTunes) These seem to have stopped, which is a shame.  These deliberately set out to compare the present and the past, and discuss topics like Iran, war journalism and spying as well as more anodyne stuff like food or Abraham Lincoln.  They caught my attention, even the ones which were clearly the soundtrack for tv shows about photographs.  They are insightful, analytical and subversive and, to my delight, they come as close to criticising the Bush regime and the war in Iraq as, I suspect, public broadcasting ever does in the USA.  Unexpected and informative.  Highly recommended.

The BBC History Magazine Podcast. (Website / iTunes) I rather like this.  It is designed to up the circulation of the printed copy of the BBC History Magazine, but the subjects are varied, the interviewees are grown-up academics, the interviewees are intelligent, and the thing holds together well.  It’s the only multi-topic podcast I listen to, because most of the others irritate me but this one I enjoy.

The National Archives Podcast.  (Website / iTunes) I’ve mentioned these before.  There are three main categories here, ones about how to track down records in the archives, ones about the archival records for specific people, and ones about particular historical documents.  The latter two groups in particular are fascinating.  Eclectic is the only possible word, you are never entirely sure what you’re going to get or who the speaker will be.  The one on Orton and the one on Jermyn stand out, but the standard’s high throughout.  I do recommend them.

Hard Core History.  (Website / iTunes) The marmite of history podcasting: you either love Dan Carlin or hate him.  His approach is almost entirely analytical with just enough narrative to hold things together.  I can appreciate that not everyone would like Carlin’s opinionated and partial view of the historical world, but I love his energy and passion.

2 responses to “Podcast Reviews – 3 – History podcasts for your delight

  1. Thanks for the review/comment on BTHP and I’m glad you liked the US Constitution stuff. I’ve been very concious of the ‘geek’ element of the Battle of Britain stuff and fair comment…but I suppose after all is said and done the aircraft geek stuff is central to the story of the Battle of Britain. All the best.

  2. Hey – Geeky is Good! I’m a geek myself, just on different subjects.

    Keep podding.

    All the best


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