Monthly Archives: June 2020

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 24-31 May 2020

Heather Cox Richardson. Her Politics and History video on 19 May looked at 1. the changing meaning of communism and socialism between 1850 and the present and the erroneous use of ‘socialism’ to decry any broadscale government initiative  2. the role of the inspector-general (did you know that there are 14,000 of them covering all facets of government?) 3. the World Health Organization.

Soul Search (ABC)  A couple of months back, I read Jill Roe’s Beyond Belief: Theosophy in Australia (my review here). With the republication of this book, Meredith Lake looks at Theosophy both historically and in its present form in a program following the name of Roe’s Book Beyond Belief. In many ways Theosophy as it is presented here is not unlike Unitarianism (which I follow) but many of its more contentious propositions are elided here, I feel. The podcast has an archived interview with Jill Roe (who died in 2017) and interviews with historian Wayne Hudson and Pedro Oliveira the Education Officer, Theosophical Society, Australia.

Rear Vision (ABC) What a weird, pugnacious guy Rudy Giuliani is. This episode Greek Tragedy or Farce: The Life and Career of Rudy Giuiliani traces through his career as a lawyer and public servant, then mayor of New York. Originally a Democrat, he shifted to the Republican party during the 1980s. The program suggests that had 9/11 not occurred, he probably would not have been re-elected as mayor of New York.

Southbank Centre (UK) On the 6 March – a lifetime ago- Hilary Mantel appeared at the Southbank Centre in London to talk about her most recent book The Mirror and the Light, the third in her Thomas Cromwell trilogy. I’ve just finished reading it (and have not yet written my review) and this program was perfect listening for someone who has read all three. She has spent 15 years on this magnificent trilogy. They had actors read from all three books, and it made me regret being a fast, non-vocalizing reader because they read aloud beautifully. So, if you’re a Mantel fan and have spent your lockdown with The Mirror and the Light, listen to this- it’s fantastic!

Dan Snow’s History Hit. I hadn’t realized that the Thames was so tidal until we were actually there, close to the Globe, walking along the banks of it. (Nor did I realize that if we picked anything up – which we didn’t- we would have needed a permit from the Port of London Authority). Picking along the banks of the Thames is called Mudlarking and in this episode Dan goes mudlarking, and talks with Lara Maiklem who has been scouring the banks for over 15 years.

The Documentary (BBC) In this program, they get listeners to record their own reports on how the coronavirus lockdown has affected their country. In Lockdown: Tales from Lebanon, Australia, Atlanta and India  from 19 May you realize (if you didn’t already) just how fortunate we have been.

Essay: The Settler Fantasies Woven into the Prairie Dresses


Those of you who know me personally will know that I have absolutely no interest in fashion. Apparently during the 2010s the Prairie Dress – shapeless, high-necked, ‘modest’ dresses- became a thing.


Recently I’ve been listening to podcasts by Heather Cox Richardson, and she has referred several times to Little House on the Prairie and the Prairie Dress as a way of valorizing conservative, white, racialized, gendered American values that completely elide any consideration of Native American and African American presence in the homesteading   American past.

The Settler Fantasies Woven into the Prairie Dresses by Peggy O’Donnell, published on the Jezebel website explores the reincarnation of the prairie dress, the attitudes in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s work and questions the statements that adoption of the prairie dress make about women, femininity and gender.

Historians on the coronavirus pandemic #4: Pandemic narratives and the historian LA Review of Books

In   Alex Langstaff, a PhD candidate at New York University convenes a roundtable with a number of international historians to discuss the coronavirus pandemic.

IN APRIL 2020, we interviewed an international group of leading historians of public health, epidemics, and disaster science. Alex Langstaff (A. L.) asked them to reflect on how history is being used in coverage of COVID-19, and how they themselves are responding to the virus in their research, reading, and work life. Who gets to tell the story of epidemics? And more particularly, who gets to decide when an epidemic like COVID-19 ends? Is 1918 really the best parallel? In general, what are the historian’s tools for understanding pandemics?

Each of the historians comes very much from the perspective of work that they have completed previously. The historians are listed below:

Alison Bashford is Research Professor in History at the University of New South Wales Sydney. Her work connects the history of science, global history, and environmental history. Her books include Global Population: History, Geopolitics, and Life on Earth (Columbia, 2014), Contagion, w/ Claire Hooker (2002, Routledge), and the edited volumes Quarantine (2016) and Medicine at the Border (2006).  She also wrote Imperial Hygiene: A Critique of Colonialism, Nationalism and Public Health, which is the book that I am most familiar with amongst her work.

Simukai Chigudu is associate professor of African Politics and Fellow of St Antony’s College, University of Oxford. Prior to academia, he was a medical doctor in the UK’s National Health Service. He is the author of The Political Life of an Epidemic: Cholera, Crisis and Citizenship in Zimbabwe (Cambridge, 2020).

Deborah Coen is professor in the Department of History at Yale University and chair of the Program in the History of Science and Medicine. Her research focuses on the modern physical and environmental sciences and on central European intellectual and cultural history. Her books include Climate in Motion (2018, Chicago) and The Earthquake Observers: Disaster Science from Lisbon to Richter (2013, Chicago).

Richard Keller is professor in the Department of History, and Department of Medical History and Bioethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research focuses on the history of European and colonial medicine, as well as public health and environmental history. His books include Fatal Isolation: The Devastating Paris Heat Wave of 2003 (2015, Chicago).

Julie Livingston, Silver Professor of History and Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University, was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2013. Her work is at the intersection of history, anthropology, and public health. Self-Devouring Growth: A Planetary Parable (2019, Duke) is her latest book.

Nayan Shah is professor of American Studies and Ethnicity and History at the University of Southern California. His research examines historical struggles over bodies, space and the exercise of state power from the mid-19th to the 21st century. His books include Contagious Divides: Epidemics and Race in San Francisco’s Chinatown (2001, Berkeley).

Paul Weindling is Wellcome Trust Research Professor in the History of Medicine at Oxford Brookes University. His research covers evolution and society, public health, and human experimentation post-1800. His books include Epidemics and Genocide in Eastern Europe, 1890–1945(2000, Oxford) and Victims and Survivors of Nazi Human Experiments (2014, Bloomsbury).

As you can see, they represent different perspectives, which comes through in their responses to the questions posed.