Friday, April 5, 2013

Podcast Histories

I’ve just discovered podcasts.

What? you might say. You’ve JUST discovered them? They’ve been around for years now!

I know. Pretty sad. It was just something I didn’t explore. Better late than never, right?

In truth, I’ve been listening to some podcasts for authors for some time now (The Creative Penn and The Self-Publishing Podcast are brilliant!) but it’s only recently that I discovered some fantastic history-related podcasts that I think are worth sharing.

The days get very full, very quickly. Between the all-important family time, writing, publishing, trying to stay fit and finally the presence of a day-job, there really is little or no time to sit down and peruse a reference book on the ancient world or even watch a documentary.

That’s why I love podcasts. I can listen to them whilst at work, commuting, doing the dishes or working out. And they’re FREE! At the same time, I’m immersing myself in the ancient world, getting new ideas and learning some new information.

So, here are my recommendations for history podcasts:

This is the latest one I have discovered and it has a wide range of podcast subjects from the ancient
world to the modern era. You can peruse the back list and download the ones that interest you. I listened to one on Drusus the Elder (brother of future Emperor Tiberius) and learned a lot about that Roman hero who made headway along the Rhine frontier. Currently, I’m listening to an episode on the Varus disaster in the Teutoberg forest. There are others I’ve downloaded as well, such as an episode on the Albigensian wars in the Languedoc of medieval France. There is something for everyone on The History Network.

However, if you want to be entertained by a fast-paced narrator, this may not be the podcast for you. It is definitely more academic and so far, the episodes I have listened to have only one narrator whose voice is a little too monotone for my liking. That said, the information you get is brilliant and well-researched. If you are looking to increase your knowledge in a specific area, this is well worth a listen.

This podcast is actually put on by the same History Network organization that puts on the previous podcast, but is more specific and a bit more refreshing as far as delivery. There are episodes on all aspects of ancient warfare from the campaigns of Alexander and the Wars of Succession to the use of cavalry in the ancient world and much more.

The nice thing about this podcast is that there is always more than one person. The host’s voice is less monotone and there are usually invited guests, experts and authors, who add to the discussion which is, in fact, quite good. Of course, I haven’t listened to all the podcasts but I’m happy with what I’ve heard so far. The list of episode titles is like a candy store for the historian in me. Lots of good stuff!

Of all the podcasts that I have listened to thus far, this one is far and away the best yet. Dan Carlin, the host, has a great personality and is a dynamic speaker. His enthusiasm is catching and his passion for the subject is evident. He is also very knowledgeable, though he does call himself an ‘amateur historian’. He has a knack for explaining situations using hypothetical, modern-day equivalents that help to listener to get a sense of what was happening in the period about which he is talking.

Hardcore History looks at all periods of history from the ancient world to the modern. Needless to say, I have been focussing on the ancient world, beginning with his series of podcasts on the Death Throes of the Roman Republic. Carlin intersperses his narrative with excerpts of text from ancient writers, contemporaries of the period, and reads them out in the style of news broadcasts during the World Wars of our modern era, except this newscast focuses on the battles between the populares and the optimates or the intense political back and forth between Sulla and Marius.

Dan Carlin also explores themes such as ‘toughness’ and what that means for successive generations. He asks pointed questions like What is the price of peace? and In a war, could we beat our grandparents’ generation? Unorthodox questions like these lead to some very fresh ideas and discussion and are very entertaining. You might not agree with everything Dan Carlin says but you definitely can’t dismiss the fact that he makes history accessible, interesting and entertaining. If you’ve been reading my posts for any length of time, you will know that making history accessible and entertaining is something I really believe in.

I highly recommend Hardcore History!

So, those are my top three podcast histories. As I find more, I will let you know.

Do you have any podcasts that you would like to share?

Let us know about them in the comments boxes below!

Happy listening!

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