Dan Carlin’s take

The other night I had my iPod on when I scanned through the new Podcasts I had received and came across Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History Podcast. If you have never had the pleasure of listening to Dan Carlin’s take on history and you are interested in this sort of thing, like say you’re a Social Studies/History teacher, than I highly recommend that you go and download his podcasts (available on iTunes). One of the things he does really well is look at history in a non standard fashion. I mean that he doesn’t look at the social side of history, or political history or any of the threads that are ‘common’ in historical study, he tries as best he can combine all these sides history, and sometime to look at something you might never have heard of. His recent 4 part series on the Ostfront (Eastern Front) in WWII tackled its history from many different perspectives and recounted the savagery in a respectful yet not easily forgettable fashion. What prompted me to write this entry however was not this great series on the history of World War II, but his most recent entry on child abuse through the ages, and the questions and ideas that it raises. Studying history in ‘textbooks’ often overlooks the unglamourous topics and child abuse can certainly be described as unglamourous, but does that mean its unimportant? Listening to Carlin’s take it’s hard not to think that maybe it’s had a greater role in the evolution of our society than we care to admit.  In this session Carlin also talks a lot about psycho-historians which I will admit is strand of history that I’ve never heard of previously, but which provides a whole new perspective on history.

Carlin’s podcasts and others like his are one of the things that I love about the Internet, it gives you access to thoughtful people who have an interesting perspective and who are not available on the ‘public’ airwaves (unfortunately I understand the downside too, but that is not part of this discussion).  Additionally Carlin has a modern political discussion podcast called ‘Common Sense‘ which while focused on the politics of the United States has elements which are applicable to political discourse in many countries.  I found his recent discussion of the significance of Barack Obama’s election and why many people feel let down to be a wonderful take (Show 165 – The Relative Decline) on what’s happening in the United States right now that’s not driven by a hardcore/extreme ideology.

The only warning I have is that his podcasts are probably too long to be used in a class (usually about an hour), but there is no need to play a full one, some parts of his discussions would be enough to provoke discussion or to encourage thinking. As a lifelong learner I consider his podcasts essential listening if I am going to make sense of the world in which I live. While I realize that I don’t need to be the ‘sage on stage’ in the classroom I do think it’s important that I be able to provoke thought, and encourage my students to learn and I think Hardcore History and Common Sense offer two extremely useful resources for getting them to do that.

While I’m at it, my other favourite history podcast is BBC History Magazine’s Podcast.  If you happen to have access to the magazine, which in North America is not cheap, the two go very well together, but even by itself the podcast has very interesting, and are perhaps a little bit more useful due to their shorter length.  One proviso is that this podcast tends to be more focused on British history, which doesn’t bother me, I’m interested in anything, but does limit your choices in North America.

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