Here’s my second podcast roundup. Yes, I’m sticking with the Roman numerals. This time I picked a theme, these podcasts are all history-related.
The History of English Podcast
A podcast about the history of the English language. I enjoy it, but I have to admit this is a somewhat dry academic subject, tracing the etymology of the words we use today back to early human migrations and later medieval geo-political shifts. But it is fascinating, and the host seems to delight in sharing collections of related words with common roots. The connections between these words and the way they arose can be really interesting. The history is recounted chronologically, so if you start at the first episode you can hear the language evolve before your ears over the course of a hundred episodes or so. The host, Kevin Stroud, has done a wonderful job making this material accessible, and his knowledge of the subject seems to be boundless.
Dan Carlin does a tremendous amount of research and preparation for these podcasts. Each podcast or series of podcasts focuses on a specific subject, whether it’s a person, an era, a war. Dan Carlin explores the subject inside and out, the personalities and motivations of the major players, with lots and lots of contextualising the society of the time, and contrasting it with today’s values. He seems to be trying to strip away all the context and reframe the major episodes of history through the lens of examining humanity itself. How much of human nature is innate, and how much is absorbed through our cultural backdrop? If modern people were dropped into history’s gruesome guts, would we recognise ourselves? Would we devolve? The podcasts tend to be long, three hours minimum. I think there were a couple of episodes in the WWI series that topped five hours. That was my favourite series. It was pretty much a day-by-day account of the First World War. Each podcast is just Dan Carlin on the mic, with his compelling dramatic style, laying out the facts, but always posing questions, exploring might-have-beens, and reminding you how high the stakes are, how all of history as we know it hangs in the balance, hangs on his every word.
Stuff You Missed In History Class
I previously recommended Stuff You Should Know, this is another How Stuff Works podcast with a large back catalogue, covering a breadth of historical material. Hosts Holly and Tracy get together and pick apart their chosen historical subject, whether it’s a time, an incident, or an individual. As the title suggests, they try to select subjects that you may not have heard about in detail before, the interesting figures and eras that aren’t so widely known. The hosts are American, but I’m always particularly interested when they cover Irish history. I recommend their recent episode on Constance Markievicz.