I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 8-15 May 2020

Heather Cox Richardson.  Once again, her Tuesday 5 May video looks at current political questions through a historic lens. In this episode she talks about the relationship between the Republican party and the Catholic Church, which only emerged in the Nixon era, when he lost the sympathies of many middle-class parents over the Kent State University shootings. She moves on to a brief history of abortion, and how it has become so politicized. A second question was over the possibility of a Constitutional Convention and her fears should one be agreed to. The final question looked at how the judicial branch of government had changed the political landscape over the last 100 years. She goes back further, to the highly conservative 1890-1908 Supreme Court which passed the pro-segregation Plessy v Ferguson case (‘Separate but equal’) and legitimized the invasion of territories and the creation of foreign nationals.  On Thursday 7 May The American Paradox Part 7 she looked at the Depression and WWII, when big government stepped in during a time of emergency.  However, That didn´t stop the forces that were trying to roll back Reconstruction by denying rights to African Americans (and Native Americans too, although the focus is not on them). She looks at the rise of Big C conservatives and their conceptualization (and demonization) of Big L liberals. Ronald Reagan emerges as a symbol of West Coast conservative, anti-government individualism, and McCarthy attacks liberals whom he links to Communism. Really good.

Dan Snow’s History Hit. The coronavirus pandemic has spared us quite a few  big expensive commemorations:the Captain Cook 250th anniversary, and V.E. day and most probably V. J. day too.  But Dan Snow marks V.E. day in his program with an interview with historian Lucy Noakes, from the University of Essex, who has been working on the early to mid 20th century, with an interest in those who experienced the First and Second World Wars, particularly from the perspective of the history of emotions.  (She did her PhD on the Mass Observation project- something that fascinates me). In this podcast, she points out that the way a war is remembered is largely framed by the current questions and issues of the moment – noting the use of the Blitz as a touchstone for the current pandemic lockdown. You can hear it at


Fifteen Minute History (which often goes over 15 minutes) There have been lots of parallels drawn between coronavirus and the ‘Spanish’ influenza, and this episode looks at it from an American perspective. The guest, Christopher Rose wrote his PhD on a social history of the Egyptian home front during World War One through the lens of public health, which would certainly be a different perspective. The ‘Spanish’ Influenza of 1918-1920 gives a good 15 minute summary.

Revolutionspodcast  At last- we’ve reached the 1905 Revolution.  Well, not quite, because this episode 10.32 The Union of Liberation looks at 1904 when the liberals, who had been pretty quiet for the last 20 years, called for a convention like the Third Estate had done just before the French Revolution. But Tsar Nicholas wouldn’t hear of it, so they held banquets instead in the guise of celebrating the 40th anniversary of the liberal court statues to circumvent the ban on political gatherings. But the Russo-Japanese war is getting worse, and as a calming mechanism on the part of Tsar Nicholas, it’s not going to work. And in 10.33 Bloody Sunday we finally reach the 1905 Revolution. It wasn’t the revolutionaries leading it: instead it was a priest Georgy Gapon who seemed to be playing both sides a bit, and the liberals. He had police protection, and claimed to be supporting the Tsar, but when the army attacked peaceful protesters, all went a bit pear shaped.

NPR I often read the British historian Timothy Garton Ash’s articles. In this podcast from the On Point program, What the U.S. Response to Cornoavirus Says About America’s Role on the World Stage he talks about the great sadness that he feels as an enthusiastic Atlantic historian when he looks at America during the time of coronavirus.  He’s joined by Catherine De Vries, professor of political science at Bocconi University and On Point’s political analyst Jack Beatty. Garton Ash is far more optimistic about America’s potential than the other two commentators, but all agree that if America does manage to redeem itself (after all, US leadership bounced back after Nixon) it will not return to its former prominence.

BBC The Documentary.  Wuhan: the beginnings of coronavirus COVID-19 I started listening to this at 5.30 and missed the start of it. Going back to listen to it by light of day, it was more critical of China’s initial response and coverup than I realized, but I found the description of the rapid and forceful deployment of doctors and harsh lockdown fascinating. There is a backing sound track of people blowing whistles in protest after the death of the doctor who tried to report the outbreak – quite eerie-  I found this Facebook video here but I don’t know about its provenance.


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