Category Archives: Podcasts 2020

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 1-7 February 2020 Back to the Russian Revolution.Episode 10.25 Senseless Dreams picks up again with Csar Nicholas II who was crowned in May 1896. He seemed to gather ill-omens as he went: marrying a week after his father’s funeral, after which everyone went back into their mourning weeds; his wife sleeping in Marie Antoinette’s bed when they visited Paris, and then the Khodynka Tragedy, a stampede during the coronation festivities that left 1389 (!!) people dead. After his coronation, he proved himself to be conservative and easily swayed.  Not a good start. Episode 10.26 The Far East takes us to the other side of Russia, where the Trans-Siberian railway ends up at Vladivostok, entangling Russia in the tensions between the Japanese, Chinese and Koreans. Add to this, Nicholas’ almost innate racism and this isn’t going to end well either.

Backdoor Broadcasting Another Australian voice recorded at the Birkbeck Institute, this time that of Professor Victoria Haskins from the University of Newcastle on 2 November 2017. In “Stories My Great-Grandmother Didn’t Tell Me or Family History and the Memories of Nations” she talks about her discoveries of her great-grandmother’s activism  when she herself was at a rather low and disspirited point in her academic career. For her great-grandmother, this activism within conservative circles on behalf of aboriginal people was deeply personal because of  family connections, and it propelled Haskins into a new research direction. I must look for her book One Bright Spot.



Werombi bushfires. Creator: Helitak430 Wikimedia Commons

Rear Vision (ABC) 2 Feb 2020 The story of fire in the Australian landscape is excellent, and should be compulsory listening for those who are calling for a quick, national, urgent response to this summer’s terrible bushfires. Notable historians Tom Griffiths, Steven Pyne, Bill Gammage and David Bowman talk about the history of fire in Australia- and yes, we have always had fire – and the differentiated response that is needed, especially in times of climate change. “Local, ecological and historical” are the watchwords, and I hope that the Royal Commission takes this advice on board.

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

rn_presentsMyths of War. This really is an excellent program, even though I’m rather disconcerted that Mark Dapin sounds quite old, even though he’s actually younger than I am! He also sounds more English than I thought he would, given that he emigrated here in 1989. In Episode 5: Was There Ever a Battle for Australia? he follows Dr Peter Stanley in challenging the idea of a Battle for Australia Day,  (a celebration which dates only from 2008)  and the idea that there was an actual Battle for Australia. Certainly, people were fearful during WW2, especially during 1942 (and I think that Kate Darian-Smith’s On the Home Front captured this beautifully), but he notes that there wasn’t actually one battle, but a series of Allied battles. He argues the Japanese Army didn’t actually land in Australia or have plans to do so (the Solomon Islands, Papua yes, but not Australia; air bombing of Darwin and subs in Sydney yes, but as a way of distracting attention and disrupting the Allies rather than actual invasion and occupation). Instead, the idea of a ‘Battle for Australia’ arose in the 1990s, with the 50 year anniversary in 1995, promoted largely by the children of WWII veterans. He speaks with Dr Karl James from the AWM, who suggests that the Keating-era emphasis on Kokoda risks sidelining the Rats of Tobruk and El Alamein, battles without the easy availability of tourism to keep them in the public consciousness. Episode 6 The Thai-Burma Railway and the Bridge on the River Kwai does not at all refute the suffering of POWs working on the Thai-Burma Railway.  But if you’ve visited ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’ in your travels, it’s a tourist invention that isn’t even on the River Kwai.  And the ‘mateship’ on the Railway that John Howard lauded so fulsomely was not exclusive to Australian soldiers. In Episode 7 Gay Servicemen in Vietnam, he rejects Bruce Ruxton’s views about the impossibility of gay servicemen, focusing instead on gay soldiers who wanted to serve in Vietnam.  He continues this theme in the final episode 8 Vietnam: The War’s Forgotten Supporters, reminding us that the majority of Australia’s supported compulsory military service- it was the Vietnam part that was controversial.  Just as in WWI, with the white feather movement, we don’t want to ‘own’ those pro-war supporters any more. And just as in WWI, our ideas about Vietnam have been shaped largely by the film industry, especially American cinema.  This is a fantasic series- check it out.

History Extra and Start the Week. I’ve just finished reading The Human Tide by Paul Morland, so I searched out a few podcast interviews where he talks about his book. It’s a long book, and often a podcast interview encapsulates it.  The History Extra interview from May 2019 How Population has shaped world history is a good summary with him one-on-one. The Start the Week interview from February 2019 (BBC) has an interesting panel of guests: Paul Morland (who reprises much of the same information), Julia Blackland whose recent book Time Song – Searching for Doggerland is about the disappearance in approx. 5000 B.C. of a land bridge that connected the east coast of England with Europe, and Diarmaid Ferriter, whose book The Border: The Legacy of a Century of Anglo-Irish Politics has been very apposite, given the concern about the border with Ireland in Brexit times.

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

Malcolm_Turnbull_PEOBackground Briefing (ABC). I’m still cleaning out files from my over-stuffed phone, and I stumbled on Burning Down the House, which was recorded in the wake of Scott Morrison’s overthrow of Malcolm Turnbull – was it only a year and a half ago? (recorded 2 September 2018)  As a Labor/Green voter, there’s a wistful naivete about programs recorded before Labor lost the unloseable election last year. Hugh McKay said that people craved policies that saw them as more than economic units – well, he was wrong there, wasn’t he? Negative gearing and franking credits won the day.

Rear Vision (ABC) We’re fed up to the back teeth in Australia hearing about the Second Amendment every time there’s another gun massacre in the US. But this episode takes a different perspective, by looking at The American Gun Industry historically.  It goes right back to the War of Independence, where it was only the decision by France, Spain and the Netherlands to secretly ship arms to the colonists (as a way of getting back at the British) that made it possible for them to win. The colonists decided never to be at the mercy of international gun manufacturers again, and so the government decided to establish a gun industry. For all the “I’m an individual with a gun” strutting that goes on, 40% of gun sales today go to government contracts rather than individuals. Eventually, the quality and longevity  of the guns produced meant that the industry had to look at building in obsolescence, so that people would keep buying them. The Austrian Glock and the Italian Beretta competed with the US gun companies as well.  Add to that the frisson of fear, especially after Barak Obama became President, and the gun industry and NRA was off and running.

Earshot (ABC)  Where the bloody hell were you is a four-part series, riffing on Our Marketer in Chief,  Scott Morrison’s Tourism Australia advertisement.  Presented by Dee Madigan, who often appears on the Gruen Transfer, this feels as if it should be on television, but the advertisements they feature have embedded themselves so much into our consciousness, you only have to hear the jingle or background music to be able to visualize it.  Episode 1  When Television Arrived in Australia discusses the shift from radio advertising into television, and notes that advertising was an industry that attracted ‘creatives’. Not that there was much creativity for Australian advertisers- they were expected to just mirror American campaigns. Episode 2 When the TV Jingle Reigned Supreme  looks at the ‘golden days’ of the 1970s and 1980s when an Australian voice was finally let loose on the airwaves – not always a good thing!     Episode 3 When TV advertising went mad was about the introduction of market research into the advertising industry, meaning that the marketing strategy came from the ‘strategic plan’ rather than from the creativity of the agency. Episode 4 When the Tobacco Ads Came Down talks about the rise of social advertising by government. There’s a really good, affecting section here about a doctor talking (and weeping) about why he joined BUGA-UP.  It’s an interesting little series if you’re old enough to remember the 60s and 70s, and a bit of a wallow in auditory nostalgia.

Big Ideas (ABC). Two more blasts from the past.  First, a panel discussion at the Perth Writers Festival on 23rd February 2018 featuring Kim Scott and Helen Garner. Called Literature Matters, it was a bit ho-hum really. I think I would have felt a bit cheated if I had attended in person. Another from February 2018 is Angela Merkel- the private person behind the German chancellor is perhaps misnamed, because Merkel’s unofficial American biographer Kati Marton, is having a lot of trouble finding the private person, just as nearly every other biographer has. Still, an interesting podcast.

Backdoor Broadcasting. Another recording of an academic seminar, this time the 2018 Hayes Robinson Lecture presented by Royal Holloway. The speaker is Phillipa Levine, and her talk is titled The Empire Has No Clothes: Nudity and the Imperial Imagination. Obviously a practiced speaker, she presents clearly and without rushing as she traces through attitudes towards nudity as art as distinct from nakedness in depictions of exotic colonies, the use of the ethnographic postcard, and the ‘white slave’, always depicted disrobed but demure amongst those lascivious heathens.  The website has the Powerpoint slides that she is discussing.  Interesting and well presented.

Outlook (BBC) The Black Woman Who Cared for a Clansman. Stephanie Summerville was brought up very differently to the other Afro-American kids in her neighbourhood. Her father wouldn’t let her play, talk and share interests with the other kids, propelling her instead towards a middle-class, intellectual future. But when she dropped out of college, she found herself working as a personal carer. It was her first job, and she needed the job, but then she realized that her patient was a Clansman.

Myths of War (ABC) I recently read Mark Dapin’s book Australia’s Vietnam, where he challenged many of the myths that had grown up about the response to soldiers on their return from Vietnam. In this series, he looks at other myths about Australia’s involvement in war.  In Episode 1 The white feather women and their unwelcome gifts,he looks at those women who supported the war, a group not often embraced by present-day feminists (Judith Smart and Marion Quartly and their work on the National Council of Women and the Australian Womens National League excepted). Episode 2, Gallipoli: ANZAC mis-remembered is a real hum-dinger and very much in the Honest History mode. So many half-truths and transpositions from film (especially Peter Weir’s Gallipoli) that have become embedded in the national imagination. Episode 3 General Sir John Monash: a flattering self-portrait challenges the recent adulation of Sir John Monash and the rather outlandish claims made for his military prowess. Episode 4 Changi and the POWs behind the wire argues that (again, largely through a television program), ‘Changi’ has become short-hand for all POW experience, and that compared with the death marches, it was a relatively self-governing, already-existing prison with little presence of Japanese guards. He is not arguing that there was not atrocity, but it didn’t necessarily happen at Changi.

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


The Founding of Australia, 26 January 1788, by Captain Arthur Phillip R.N. Sydney Cove. Original oil sketch [1937] by Algernon Talmage R.A. ML 1222.

Rear Vision (ABC) Well, January is Australia Day month, and no doubt we’ll reheat the old argument about the appropriateness of 26 January as our national day.  I’ve got in early by listening to a Rear Vision podcast from 20 January 2019  Sydney: first encounters which looks at the very first months of contact between the First Fleet and the indigenous people they had encountered. The program features top historians, and sheds some interesting perspectives. For example, Captain Cook didn’t encounter any aboriginal people at Sydney Cove when he visited it because it was winter, whereas when Arthur Phillip sailed in with the First Fleet, it was high summer and the place was teeming with people. Well worth a listen.

Shooting the Past. In a strange and gratifying turnabout, most of us know Claire Wright through her books but she’s also a very active media presenter. In Shooting the Past, she takes a photograph and contextualizes it.  In Bones, she takes a picture of a tattooed Richmond footballer, Robert McGie, sitting in the middle of the MCG at the 1973 Grand Final, doing up his shoelaces, with a cigarette hanging from his mouth.  You’re not likely to see that today! Sports historian Chris McConville and former ABC Sports Presenter Angela Pippos give their perspectives on the photograph, how football has changed, and the difference that women’s AFL has made.

Outlook (BBC) From Homeless Kid to hero of Africa’s biggest slum (Sept 2019) tells the story of Kennedy Odede, who grew up in Kibera, the slum right in the middle of Nairobi. (When I stayed in Nairobi, it was just a few suburbs across from us.)  Teaching himself to read, and inspired by Martin Luther King, he started a charity Shining Hope for Communities (Shofco). If you look at their website, you can see a video of little-girl’s-eye view of Kibera as she walks to a school provided by Shofco.  The Underground Network saving gay Iraqis (August 2019) tells the story of Majid and Ahlam, whose network originally assisted women facing domestic violence from their husbands, then women endangered by ISIS and eventually gay couples who faced death after being raped by ISIS soldiers (ah, the hypocrisy).

Reith Lectures 2016. In the final lecture of the 2016 series, Culture, Kwame Anthony Appiah challenges the idea of'”Western Culture’ (take that, Ramsay centre!) He argues that the concept of ‘Western Culture’ is a recent one, and that what is perceived as being ‘Western Culture’ incorporates Greek, Roman and Islamic cultures. Taken together, these four lectures have rejected the idea of the 4 Cs ( Creed, Country, Colour and Culture) as being unitary, essential entities, arguing that there is just as much variation within these markers of identity, as between them.


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

RevolutionsPodcast Well, you can wait 10,000 years for the Proletariat to develop their revolutionary consciousness through Workers Education and propaganda, or you can listen their greivances, write them up in a pamphlet and use them to agitate. And that’s just what Lenin and Martov were happy to do in Episode 10.23 On Agitation.  In Episode 10.24 The Union of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class,Lenin travels overseas to meet the exiled revolutionaries from the 1880s. For a little while he, Plekhanov and Martov are all on the same page- that the revolution in Russia must be led by Russians, not exiles fro outside Russia, and that agitation is the way to go – but this unanimity isn’t going to last.

The Reith Lectures 2016 Okay, so I’m a year or two (or three or four) late. In 2016 Philosopher and cultural theorist Kwame Anthony Appiah delivered the 2016 lecture series “Mistaken Identities”, with each of the lectures rather neatly starting with “C”. In Creed, he argues that religions have always claimed a stronger authority for their sacred texts than they actually have, and that a religion’s reading of  so-called ‘unchangeable’ scripture changes from time to time, in the light of the present. In Country, he suggests that people sign up to a shared set of beliefs, institutions, procedures and precepts and this (rather than a mythical and romanticized view of nationhood)  is what binds them together.  His Colour lecture was recorded in his birthplace, Ghana, where he tells the story of Anthon Wilhelm Afo Afer, brought to Germany from the Gold Coast as a child in 1707n who became an eminent Enlightenment philosopher. He was a living challenge to the idea of a ‘racial essence’.

The History Listen (ABC) 20 October 2019. Right now Bradley Edwards is facing trial for the Claremont Killings, at least three killings and disappearances that took place in upper class Claremont between 1996-97. This episode Claremont: the murders that rocked Perth is not so much about the current trial, as about the two other men that police thought had committed the crimes. Twice the police thought they had “their man”, only to ruin the lives of innocent men they accused.

Outlook (BBC) 12 September 2019. Another old episode rattling round on my phone.I Raised 1000 Children But Gave My Own Away is about Indian activist Sindhutal Sapkal, who was married off at the age of 10, and at 20 and heavily pregnant, was bashed unconscious by her husband. When she recovered consciousness, she had given birth to a daughter. Escaping her violent marriage, she became aware of hundreds of abandoned children, and took on their care as well. Despite her own feeling of abandonment by her own mother, she enrolled her daughter in a boarding school. There’s a surprising spirit of love and forgiveness here.

Emile-ZolaBirkbeck Institute. You can access seminars recorded by the Birkbeck Institute, and I always enjoy hearing an Aussie accent there.  In this lecture, recorded in November 2017, Alison Moore from Western Sydney University talks on Morbid Love in Late Nineteenth Century France. L’amour morbide – morbid love – was an umbrella term for a number of pathologies including frigidity, inversion, fetishism, nymphomania, sadism and masochism. ‘Morbid love’ was of great interest to psychiatrists, especially in relation to degenerationist thought, and the literary works of writers like Stendhal, Zola and Wilde. By the end of WWI this interest had spread into low/middle-brow culture, and is was no longer of interest to psychiatry.  These lectures are very low-tech and often theoretically complex- a bit like sitting in a seminar where you’re straining to hear the audience questions. Nonetheless, very ‘meaty’.