Category Archives: Podcasts 2020

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

Heather Cox Richardson I’m back listening to her history podcasts on Thursdays her time. Her podcast of 10 December starts with the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the takeover of power by Andrew Johnson, a Southern Democrat vice-president, who “fixed up” Reconstruction in a few months before Congress returned, by returning power to the southern Confederates. What an ****hole. No wonder many historians consider him the worst president in American history ( I wonder if DJT will knock him from No.1?)

Latin American History Podcasts I’m on a bit of a Mexican History quest at the moment, having enjoyed the SBS series Hernán and re-read Anna Lanyon’s Malinche’s Conquest. Max Serjeant is a travel writer and journalist, currently based in Western Australia. His podcasts are nothing flash technologically, but the narrative is well written. I’ve started off (as you might expect) with The Conquest of Mexico Part I.

It’s a Wonderful Lie We don’t seem to receive those Christmas yearly updates sent to family and friends any more. Perhaps because people like Ashley Flowers, Holly Laurent and Greg Hess make podcasts like Its a Wonderful Lie where they read between the lines and out-and-out make up stuff about these lives that are being put out there for everyone to read. There’s 12 of them, each self-contained and each going for about 20 minutes. They provide a little window into middle-class American life, and the CCPVC episode is particularly interesting. So mean. So funny. I listened to them all, laughing my head off, as I walked around the park.

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 16-23 December 2020

Dan Snow’s History Hits How Slavery Built Modern Britain examines the way that modern industrialized Britain was reliant on the wealth and products generated in the West Indies, and enabled the planter lobby to ‘buy’ parliamentary protection.

Heather Cox Richardson. After a bit of a break, I’m back to listening to Heather Cox Richardson’s Thursday History podcasts. At the moment she’s going through the history of Reconstruction, which I must admit I know nothing about. December 4 is number one, where she mainly talks about the Civil War (which is I guess where you have to start for Reconstruction).

Rough Translation (NPR). Two Rough Translation programs this week. The first, from ‘It’s Been a Minute’ (another affiliated program) called White Supremacy and its Online Reach is about Jewish female reporter Talia Lavin who adopted a number of different online personas to infiltrate online white supremacist groups. She made an interesting link between white supremacism and anti-semitism. She pointed out that many white supremacists were disenchanted with Donald Trump who surrounded himself with Jewish advisors, to say nothing of his support for Israel.

A second program was The Loneliness of the Climate Change Christian. It seems strange to me that evangelical Christians are often climate change deniers. I would have thought that protecting God’s creation would have fitted in perfectly well with their beliefs – but that’s not the case. Instead, there is a strange emphasis on being given lordship over the earth in Genesis (so it’s OK to stuff it up) and an anti-science streak that means that environmentalism is now akin to blasphemy. The story of former evangelical lobbyist Richard Cizik shows how the evangelical church has changed its stance over recent decades.

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 1-7 December 2020

The History Listen (ABC). So- a proposal for a coal mine on the coast, to be constructed by a foreign-owned company, and the community and environmentalists outraged. Does this sound familiar? No- it’s not Adani, but instead the Clutha mine that was proposed on the Illawarra escarpment in 1970. The plan was that the coal would be mined, put on conveyor belts down the escarpment to ships waiting at newly-constructed docks on the waterfront. This program Clutha 1970- the biggest battle over coal you’ve never heard of tells how local activists gained the support of politicians on both sides, unionists, lifesavers and the community to stop this going ahead.

Rear Vision (ABC) It looks as if we’re getting to the sticky end of the Brexit arrangements. EU and Brexit – the view from the continent gives a good summary of the Brexit saga. In a way, it has all been pushed off stage with COVID, migration and far-right Eastern European politics. What a self-imposed mess.

I didn’t end up travelling to South America this year, and I can’t see much possibility of doing so next year either. Mass tourism – how everyone became a traveller discusses the history of mass tourism from the Great Tour of the 18th century, the post WWI British holiday camp (what a dreary prospect), post WW2 American driving holidays and the mass tourism that has ruined Venice, Barcelona etc. They end up with a prediction that in a few years, tourism will be 50% more expensive than it was pre-COVID and suggest that perhaps that’s a good thing. Hmmm.

Nothing on TV Well, the smell of the dead rat in the wall of Robyn Annear’s house has cleared, and she comes to us with another of her delightful episodes about Australian history, drawn from newspaper columns via Trove. In The Hatpin Menace, she explores the international public furore over the hatpins that women used to tether their ‘Merry Widow’ Hats (which could measure 2 ft or 60 cms across). These hats had very wide brings- Robyn likens it to wearing a stockpot on your head! – but women used Gibson Girl hairstyles and false hairpieces to bouff out their hair so that the hat fitted. The hatpins, required to hold the hat onto the whole confection were about 30 cm. long. Men fulminated about the perils of the hatpin on public transport; sometimes hatpins were used as weapons; other times women held their hatpins as a form of reassurance (like the way women hold their car keys on a dark night, I suppose). It’s a funny episode and I’m pleased to say that Melbourne was the last Australian city to pass laws against them.

The Documentary (BBC) The episode The Mapuche: fighting for their right to heal investigates the fight by the Mapuche, the indigenous people of Chile, for recognition of their traditional healing and control of their own health service. I hadn’t realized that there was so many parallels with Australia: Chile is the only South American country that doesn’t recognize their indigenous people in their constitution (although that may change when Chile creates a new constitution in the coming years) and their language and practices were banned under Pinochet. Their land was appropriated and given to timber plantation companies and large agricultural firms, and there is currently a lot of unrest over land rights etc.

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 25 -30 November 2020

99% Invisible Remember when we could fly? Remember the safety card in the pocket of the seat in front? My daughter-in-law must not listen to In the Unlikely Event, which looks at the design of the Safety Card on airlines. The first safety cards were completely prose, without diagrams, lest the passengers should be deterred from flying. The reality is that most people do not read the card, and that in any crash, many passengers are frozen with fear into immobility. Many design considerations go into the Safety Car (pictures only; highlighting colours that are significant; making them specific that that particular aircraft; depicting effort required e.g. opening the emergency door). So, if I ever get to fly again, I’ll look at it with new eyes.

Rough Translation (NPR) There’s a language warning at the start of Radical Rudeness and yes, it sure is offensive. Really offensive. Stella Nyanzi, a Ugandan poet, sacked from her university job, took on the President Yoweri Museveni with very offensive poetry, and ended up in jail. She has since served her sentence, but is a damaged, dangerous woman. Very confronting.

Hay Literary Festival. This podcast, (well actually it’s a YouTube video) from 2014, is of Tom Holland talking about his (then) recent translation of Herodotus’ Histories. He’s an engaging, fluent speaker and he’ll make you want to race straight to your nearest library or bookshop to buy a copy.

West Midlands History. I did quite a bit of local research on the 1919 Spanish flu epidemic here in my local suburb in Melbourne, and it was interesting to hear the experience in UK with Spanish Flu Comes To Birmingham. In UK, the first wave occurred in 1918 while the war was still under way, with food shortages and all medical resources directed towards the war.

My Marvellous Melbourne. I really do enjoy these podcasts produced by Andy May at Uni of Melbourne with members of the Melbourne History Workshop. Episode 3 of My Marvellous Melbourne looks at the history of bells in the Melbourne soundscape, an oral history recorded in the 1980s where an old Preston resident Evan Luly remembers back to post WWI. He and his daughter Lexie were keen photographers. Their photos between 1950 and 1970 have been digitized and are available as the Luly collection at The program finishes with the case of Ivy Cogden who was found not guilty of murder when she attacked her 19 year old daughter with an axe in Oakleigh in 1950. The jury found that she killed her daughter while she was sleepwalking, and committed her to Mont Park where she died in 1952.

The Last Archive. Episode 2: Detection of Deception will take you on a wild ride. It starts off with the inventor of the lie detector William Moulton Marston, who hoped to have his invention accepted by a court of law in 1920 in the case of James Frye, a young African-American man accused of murder. But this is not just a podcast about a courtcase. It turns the lens back onto William Moulton Marston, with lots of surprises!

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 17- 24 November 2020

Rough Translations There’s much talk of trolling and cancelling online, and the episode Dream Boy and the Poison Fans looks at the story of Chinese celebrity Xiao Zhan, whose fans took trolling to a new level. Xiao Zhan was riding the celebrity wave, earning huge sums for product endorsements, until a story on a fan fiction website prompted his fans to turn on the fan fiction site. Supporters of the fan fiction site then attacked the products that he had endorsed. In the end, it was Xiao Zhan who suffered most. The ‘reporting’ culture of China’s past seems to have revived, now using social media.

99% Invisible How perverse! Ecologically fragile peat bogs are drained in order to plants trees to soak up carbon, thereby releasing the carbon from the bog! For the Love of Peat looks at peat bogs, how they are formed, and ecological programs that threaten or protect them.

Nothing on TV. I do enjoy Robyn Annear with her quirky little podcast program! Deadwood Dick and the Picture Show Panic looks at the moral panic about boys reading comics and watching the picture shows. She then goes on to explain the craze for the ‘movies’, all over Australia, where the audience consisted almost entirely of children under 14 who would save up their bottles and threepences to go to the movies – often! By post WWI, there was more restriction on the morals depicted in the movies. Fascinating!

Dan Snow’s History Hit The title How Deep History Swung the US election sounds pretty out-there, given that Deep History deals with the distant past of human history, integrating archaeology, anthropology, geology, primatology and genetics. What Lewis Dartnell is arguing is that the geological construction of America has encouraged particular industries (cotton growing; iron; coal) which in turn has political implications for party affiliations.

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 9-16 November 2020

I’ve had enough of America. All my listening this week comes from anywhere other than the Disunited States of America.

The History Listen (ABC). This is fantastic! The Scholar’s Hut is about Thomas Shadrach James, a Mauritian born school teacher who worked with indigenous students at Maloga Mission (about 15 ks from Moama) in 1883-8, and after the mission closed, he reopened his school at Cummeragunja. The program featured a restaged roll-call of students, and at first I thought that it was just for effect, because it’s a virtual who’s-who of 20th century southeastern Australian aboriginal activists : Bill Onus, Doug Nicholls, Jack Patten, William Cooper, Margaret Tucker. But it’s not just for effect: Thomas Shadrach James taught them all, and encouraged them to use ‘leading and writing’ (rather than ‘reading and writing’) to agitate for change.

My Marvellous Melbourne Episode 13: St Kilda Main Drain may not sound very exciting, but for a Melburnian who likes sticky-beaking, it’s just the thing – especially as the lockdown has prompted us to walk our neighbourhood more than we ever have before. Andy May starts off with a reflection on Darebin Creek, then Sophie Couchman talks about the St Kilda Main Drain. Living on the other side of town, I wasn’t familiar with a lot of the streets that she mentioned, but she has a blog with maps and pictures.

Rear Vision (ABC) In July 2020 during the COVID lockdown here in Melbourne, suddenly the Housing Commission residents of high-rise towers in Flemington and North Melbourne found themselves quarantined, with chaotic service delivery and a heavy police presence. Cruise ships in the sky- the story of public housing and high-rise towers looks at the move across the world during the 20th century to build multi-storey housing, at first of relatively good quality, and the political decisions that resulted in its later success or failure.

And here’s one of my favourite historians, Graeme Davison, among others, talking about petrol stations in Fill ‘er up- the history of the Australian servo. After talking about the history of servos, the program talks about the future of petrol stations. If and when electric vehicles are more common,petrol stations will be leisure stops while you rapid-charge your car – or at least, that’s what they’re planning to do. And did you know that the best selling product at petrol stations with convenience stores attached (i.e. nearly all of them) is not petrol but 500 ml energy drinks?

The Documentary (BBC) I often listen to the BBC in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep and wish days later that I could remember what program it was that interested me. I did find these ones again- The Burning Scar is about the dodgy deals that Indonesian palm oil companies are making with traditional owners in Papua. Don’t trust that Forest Stewardship Council accreditation you see on packets of printer paper: they have accredited Korindo, one of the worst offenders. Here’s a video by Greenpeace about recent burning.

India’s Missing Children is about the selling and kidnapping of children in India to work in factories, as domestic labour and in brothels. It’s estimated that a child goes missing every eight minutes, and the coronavirus pandemic has only made things worse.

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 1-8 November 2020

Heather Cox Richardson. Her podcast on Thursday 29 October was the last one before election day. If you haven’t listened to her before, this would be a good catchup one, because she went over things that she has said many times previously (hence, it was a little repetitious for rusted-on listeners like myself). Her podcast on Thursday 5th November was before the results had been announced, and she was soothing about waiting for the process to play itself out.

History Workshop. The Violence of Empire was originally broadcast in May 2019 and it features Kim Wagner – author of Amritsar 1919: An Empire of Fear and the Making of a Massacre. His book argues that colonial violence didn’t start after the war, and he draws a link between the Indian Rebellion/Mutiny/First War of Independence (it has various names) of 1857 and the Amritsar Massacre or Jallianwala Bagh Massacre where at least 379 (and some say 1000) were fired upon in a confined area by members of the British Indian Army. He rejects the politicized anti-British feeling of Shashi Tharoor’s Inglorious Empire (my review here) and likewise pro-Empire British historians (like Niall Ferguson, I guess), arguing for a more nuanced approach. His book seems to take a thick description, microhistory approach to the Massacre. Both the author and the interviewer assume that the listener knows about Amritsar (I had to look it up) and a bit more backgrounding wouldn’t have gone astray.

America if you’re listening. It’s the 5th November, and counting continues in the U.S. elections. I’d better hurry up and listen to these podcasts, because if Trump wins I’ll be too discouraged and depressed to do so. Episode 7 How Donald Trump turned the Presidency into a business looks at Trump’s use of his hotels and golf courses as a way of leveraging public money into his wallet. The man is shameless. Episode 8 How China fooled Donald Trump examines the way that once Xi Jinping worked out that all Trump wanted was a trade deal, then he could get away with anything- Hong Kong, Uighurs, the South China Sea etc. And the final Episode 9 How Coronavirus destroyed Trump’s MAGA promise traces through the last year, and Trump’s mishandling of the whole thing.

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 25-31 October 2020

Sydney Writers Festival. Did you know that the Sydney Writers Festival has a site with podcasts by writers who would have participated in the Sydney Writers Festival in a COVID free world? I listened to Cassandra Pybus being interviewed by Jakelin Troy about her book Truganini which I reviewed here. She spoke about lots of things that I don’t remember from the book- I wonder if she was talking from her familiarity with the sources, or whether I just forgot?

The Last Archive. This podcast series is presented by American historian Jill Lepore whose book These Truths: A History of the United States I must read one of these days. In it, she poses the question “Who Killed Truth?”. In episode 1 The Clue of the Blue Bottle, she looks at a murder case from 1919 in Barre, Vermont where a young woman was strangled. Instead of crimes being seen as acts of god, there were now clues, and facts and photographs. It’s a case that was reported in great detail as far as the body was concerned, but the press reports of the trial itself glided over facts that were deemed “unfit for publication”.

Heather Cox Richardson The History and Politics Chat on Tuesday 27th November talks about the opinion polls. She points out that polls are useful for highlighting the issues that people are concerned about, but not for how people vote. She cautions that only Associated Press are in a position to ‘call’ a poll: the other polls are going unofficially on projections from exit polls. She points out that Americans can recall their votes- how weird! I am so grateful to live in a country with compulsory voting.

In Our Time BBC. A few episodes from their ‘Religion’ series. The Thirty Years War pitched Catholics against Protestants, Lutherans against Calvinists and Catholics against Catholics, although it wasn’t a war that the soldiers necessarily believed in from an ideological and political point of view, as 20th century wars are. Instead, it was pretty much soldiers for hire as various kingdoms fought themselves to a point where it was possible to sue for peace.

Papal Infallibility traces through the history of the doctrine of Papal Infallibility from its origins as a means of cementing the authority of the Bishop of Rome, through the Franciscans wanting to ensure that arrangements granted under one pope couldn’t be withdrawn by the next, through the Reformation- and most importantly the Counter Reformation- then the Enlightenment and more recent papal history. If you were Pope, you’d want to keep a handle on what the ‘infallible’ Popes before you had said, because if he could be wrong, so could you.

West Midlands History Beatrice Cadbury: The Heiress Who Gave Away Her Fortune is really good. It’s based on the book by Fiona Joseph. Born into the wealthy Quaker Cadbury family, Beatrice became increasingly uncomfortable about her unearned wealth, and after becoming a Christian Socialist, she tried to give it away. A peace activist, philanthropist and a woman who lived her faith and her politics.

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 17-24 October 2020

Heather Cox Richardson On 24 September, she finally finished her History of the Republican Party. She reminded us that Donald Trump was not the most conservative of the Republican candidates standing in 2016, and suggests that he was more angling for a TV career as a pundit, rather than President. He is not ideological: instead he makes himself what ever his supporters want him to be. She finished by suggesting that even if Trump wins, the Republican Party has painted itself into a corner, and that the older Lincolnesque Republicanism will re-emerge. I’m not so sanguine.

Her History and Politics Chat of October 21st looks in detail at Hunter Biden, and I certainly learned new things here: he is a History graduate and has a law degree from Yale; he joined the navy in his early 40s and was discharged but it was not a ‘dishonorable discharge’, and he was appointed to Burisma by George W. Bush. And certainly, there are just so many holes in the New York Post story.

America if You’re Listening. If Matt Bevan had given Trump a few leave passes in earlier episodes, he doesn’t here. Episode 6 Trump’s desperate measure to halt immigration is a sordid tale, and with his family separation policy, just possibly worse than what Australia is doing.

A. C. Grayling ‘The Good Book: A Humanist Bible’ I’ve been reading this book each morning, a chapter at a time, so it will take me until about 2023 to finish it! In the meantime, I jumped ahead to learn about why Grayling wrote it and why. This is actually a video, but I listened to it on my walk, as if it were a podcast. The Good Book is set out like a bible, with two columns on each page, verses and fairly short chapters, and it draws on humanist wisdom from many sources. I’m one of the people he complains about who want to know what bits came from where- but that’s what Google is for, isn’t it?

99% Invisible My son recommended this episode in particular to me, and it’s great! Goodnight Nobody looks at the popular children’s book Goodnight Moon (which I admit, I never read to my children but there’s a beautiful animated version narrated by Susan Saradon here). Despite its enormous popularity, it was not listed among the 10 most borrowed books from the New York Public Library, because it didn’t appear on its shelves until 1972. The formidable and yet revolutionary librarian Anne Carroll Moore started the children’s library at the NYPL at the turn of the century, and she had very clear ideas about children’s literature- and Goodnight Moon didn’t fit her criteria. A lovely podcast about reading and children.

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 9-16 October 2020

Conversations (ABC) I’ve just finished reading William Dalrymple’s The Anarchy and so I listened to Richard Fidler interviewing him on Conversations in a program called ‘William Dalrymple on the ruthless rise of the British East India Company‘. This conversation was more topical than the book itself, which is largely based on history, drawing parallels with current day corporations and the East India Company.

Heather Cox Richardson Although I’m running behind on HCR’s History chats, I’m right up to date with her History and Politics chats because so much is happening in America at the moment. This week she missed her History and Politics chat on the Tuesday, so she moved it to the Thursday instead. So on Thursday 16 October she gave a review of the American constitution and the respective roles of the Congress, Executive and Supreme Court. She comes right out and says that if Trump wins, that will be the end of Democracy in the United States. She predicts a period of violence in the wake of the election result no matter what happens. I just can’t believe that America has ended up here.

In her History chat of 17 September she picks up with George W. Bush’s presidency after the contested ballot of 2000. Now that the USSR had splintered there was no Manichean ‘baddies’ any more, so in effect that had to create them. She picks up on the comment of ‘a senior advisor to Bush’ to Ron Suskind “We’re an empire now, and when we act we create our own reality. And while you are studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors, and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.” She goes on to talk about 9/11, Iraq, the Weapons of Mass Destruction, Hurricane Katrina, the Global Financial Crisis etc. etc. In 2008 McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate, thus further embedding Movement Conservatism into the Republican Party. When Barak Obama was elected, he was everything that Movement Conservatives hated, and it is here that you can see the planting of the tropes that Trump is pushing now: ‘voter fraud’, ‘socialism’ ‘UnAmericanism’.

The History Listen (ABC) Spies, Lies and Hairdryers is the story of Kay Marshall, who became an ASIO double agent during the Cold War, who became involved in the Skripov Affair (which I’d never heard of). She seemed so ordinary, and yet there she was hanging around Taronga Park zoo, with a copy of the Age in her hand, waiting to meet with a Soviet spy.