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Conversations about historical knowledge and how we achieve it.


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Conversations about historical knowledge and how we achieve it.




Episode 344: Founding Scoundrels

“Founders” is a term that we typically use to refer to just a few men–usually the first four Presidents of the United States, plus Ben Franklin and–nowadays–Alexander Hamilton. We think of them as typical representatives of their age, which produced civic saints of wisdom and service to the new nation. We don’t usually think about the other Founders, all those men and women who created the institutions, the politics, and the culture of the new republic–from Richard Allen to Judith Sargent Murray to John Jay. And we certainly don’t consider that an age which considered people like Washington to be heroic had points of contrast–the “many unscrupulous figures who violated the era’s expectation of public virtue and advanced their own interests at the expense of others.” Think of them as America’s Founding Scoundrels, whose plots and cons ended up shaping the nation sometimes as much as did the plans and hard work of the institution-builders. David Head and Timothy J. Hemmis are the co-editors of a new book A Republic of Scoundrels: The Schemers, Intriguers, and Adventurers Who Created a New Nation. Timothy Hemmis is an associate professor of history at Texas A&M University Central Texas, where his teaching focuses on Early American History and American Military History. David Head is history professor at the University of Central Florida, and the author of A Crisis of Peace: George Washington, the Newburgh Conspiracy, and the Fate of the American Revolution, which he and I discussed in Episode 145 of the podcast. For Further Investigation I've previously on the podcast talked with Lorri Glover about "Founders as Fathers"; and we've also discussed the legal history of treason in the American Revolution with Carlton Larson. The following resources have all been suggested by David and Tim. The best place to read founders' mail is Founders Online William C. Davis, The Rogue Republic: How Would-Be Patriots Waged the Shortest Revolution in American History, (Boston, 2011). Edward Everett Hale, “The Man without a Country,” The Atlantic Monthly, Dec. 1863, 665–679. Andro Linklater, An Artist in Treason: The Extraordinary Double Life of General James Wilkinson (New York, 2009). Shira Lurie, The American Liberty Pole: Popular Politics and the Struggle for Democracy in the Early Republic (Charlottesville, VA, 2023). J. K. Martin, Benedict Arnold, Revolutionary Hero: An American Hero Reconsidered (New York, 1997). David Narrett, Adventurism and Empire: The Struggle for Mastery in the Louisiana–Florida Borderlands, 1762–1803 (Chapel Hill, NC, 2015)


Episode 343: Talking Anglo-Saxon

In his Dictionary of the English Language, first published in 1755, Samuel Johnson did not define the words Saxon, Angle, or Anglo-Saxon. But Noah Webster in his 1828 American Dictionary defines Anglo-Saxon as "adjective. Pertaining to the Saxons, who settled in England, or English Saxons." Something had happened in between the two, and not just the American Revolution, and Johnson's and Webster's different views of that event–but that probably did contribute to the difference. And when Webster published his definition, the term was already taking on new connotations. Indeed, the term Anglo-Saxon has a rich and complicated history, right to the present moment. And so does perception of the peoples to which it refers…or does it actually refer to them? With me to discuss the history of the definition and the ideology of the term is Rory Naismith, Professor of Early Medieval English History at the University of Cambridge, Fellow of Corpus Christi College. Author of numerous books, including Citadel of the Saxons: The Rise of Early London, he was last on the podcast talking about medieval money in Episode 328. For Further Investigation Content, S., and Williams, H., ‘Creating the Pagan English, from the Tudors to the Present Day’, in Signals of Belief in Early England: Anglo-Saxon Paganism Revisited, ed. M. Carver, A. Sanmark and S. Semple (Oxford, 2010), pp. 181–200 Foot, S., ‘The Making of Angelcynn: English Identity before the Norman Conquest’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 6th ser., 6 (1996), 25–50 [on use of Anglo-Saxon and English terminology in the pre-Norman period itself] Frantzen, A. J., and Niles, J. D. (eds.), Anglo-Saxonism and the Construction of Social Identity (Gainesville, FL, 1997) [a collection of essays - the introduction is probably the most helpful single thing] Horsman, R., Race and Manifest Destiny: the Origins of American Racial Anglo-Saxonism (Cambridge, MA, 1981) [this is really good on the early modern and American side of the story] Kidd, C., British Identities before Nationalism: Ethnicity and Nationhood in the Atlantic World 1600–1800 (Cambridge, 1999), esp. ch. 4–5 and 9 [again, excellent on early modern Anglo-Saxonism] Mandler, P., The English National Character: the History of an Idea from Edmund Burke to Tony Blair (New Haven, 2006), esp. ch. 3 Niles, J., The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England 1066–1901 (Oxford, 2015) Rory Naismith observes, "There is also a welter of very polemical stuff on the web; for a selection, see below" Rubinstein, S., ‘Anglo-Saxon Extremists: the Strange Logic of the Activists who Insist the Term “Anglo-Saxon” is Racist’, The Critic, June 2023 Rambaran-Olm, M., ‘History Bites: Resources on the Problematic Term “Anglo-Saxon”’, a three-part series on Medium: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, 7 September 2020 Rambaran-Olm, M., ‘Misnaming the Medieval: Rejecting “Anglo-Saxon” Studies’, History Workshop, 4 November 2019 Rambaran-Olm, M., and Wade, E., ‘The Many Myths of the Term “Anglo-Saxon”’, Smithsonian Magazine, 14 July 2021 Sewer, A., ‘“Anglo-Saxon” is What You Say when “Whites Only” is Too Inclusive’, The Atlantic, 20 April 2021 Williams, H., ‘The Fight for “Anglo-Saxon”’, Aeon, 29 May 2020 Wood, M., ‘“As a Racism Row Rumbles on, is it Time to Retire the Term ‘Anglo-Saxon’?” Michael Wood Explores the Controversy’, History Extra, 4 November 2019


Episode 342: Fish Market

From its opening in 1822, the Fulton Market was an essential part of life in old New York, selling vegetables grown on Long Island, fruit harvested in Cuba, lobsters taken from the waters of Maine, chickens raised in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and oysters–and fish–hauled forth from New York harbor itself. Over the decades Fulton Market became known as Fulton Fish Market, dominated by wholesale dealers in fish that came not only from New York Harbor, but from all over the world. What Chicago became for beef, New York became for fish. “A business that specializes in fish,” writes my guest Jonathan Rees, “has to regularize an inevitably uneven supply through a mixture of knowledge and technology.” Rees’s book The Fulton Fish Market: A History is therefore not simply the story of the creation, life, and decline of a New York place, but a description of that place where community, politics, economy, nature, and culture all came together on the New York waterfront. Jonathan Rees is Professor of History at Colorado State University-Pueblo. This is his third appearance on the podcast; he was last on in episode 222 to describe the strange career of Harvey Wiley. For Further Information Previous conversations with Jonathan were about refrigeration, and the purity and nutritional value of mass-produced food. It doesn't take too much of a guess to figure out why he's now writing about fish markets. Jonathan Rees and I talked briefly about Joseph Mitchell, a legendary New Yorker columnist not least because he eventually had a case of writer's block so massive that it transcended the metaphor "block". Here is Mitchell's book Up in the Old Hotel, in which the Fulton Fish Market is essentially a supporting character, if not primary character, and more on those thirty years without writing.


Episode 341: The Forgers

Beginning in 1940 a group of Polish diplomats based in Bern, Switzerland, orchestrated a program of forging passports and identity documents from Latin American countries. These were then smuggled into Nazi-occupied countries, where they were used to save thousands of Jews from the Holocaust. When the Ładoś Group–named after its leader, Aleksander Ładoś, the Polish ambassador to Switzerland–ended its activities in 1943 it had saved possibly as many as 10,000 people from extermination, making it one of the largest conspiracies on behalf of the survival of the European Jews. Roger Moorhouse describes the Lados Group and its activities in his new book The Forgers: The Forgotten Story of the Holocaust’s Most Audacious Rescue Operation. His most recent book was Poland 1939: The Outbreak of World War II (which won the Polish Foreign Ministry History Prize). He is also the author of Berlin at War (shortlisted for the Hessell-Tiltman Prize), and The Devils’ Alliance. He is a visiting professor at the College of Europe in Warsaw. For Further Information As mentioned in the podcast, Episode 273 was an exhaustive examination of the life of Josef Pilsudski: father of modern Poland, socialist, Siberian exile, civilian, military thinker, bank robber, master diplomat, and dictator. Also a friend of the podcast, or so we hope. Some common terrain was also discussed in Episode 317, about the village of Oberstdorf in the Allgauer Alps. More on the Ładoś Group The featured image was generated with AI ∙ November 4, 2023 at 12:26 PM


Episode 340: Price of Collapse

“We live in a world that feels as though it is in the grip of rapid and capricious change. To rescue ourselves from the distress and dismay that change can induce, we tell ourselves that flux is the signature of contemporary life and sets us apart from the simpler worlds in which those before us lived... Yet we really have little ground to be so confident that present flux is outdoing past, for there have been times when the very conditions of survival were stripped from our predecessors, denying them the dignity of living well. This book is about one of those times, China in the early 1640s, when massive climate cooling, pandemic, and military invasion sent millions to their deaths.” Those are the words of my guest Timothy Brook, which begin his new book The Price of Collapse: The Little Ice Age and the Fall of Ming China. Founded in 1368, the Ming overthrew Mongol rule, eventually moved the capital of China to Beijing, and ushered in centuries of economic growth, dazzling cultural achievements, and a doubling of the population. This book is an inquiry into how that achievement collapsed–and why. Timothy Brook is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of British Columbia. His work focuses on the Ming Dynasty, but has extended to both earlier and much later eras. This is his second appearance on the podcast; he was last on in Episode 180 to discuss his book Great State: China and the World. For Further Investigation Porcelain was mentioned in the course of the conversation; for the European industrial aesthetic drive to match China's capacity to make beautiful porcelain, see my conversation with Suzanne Marchand in Episode 110 Tim Brook believe that prices are tools by which to diagnose climate change on par with taking sample cores from glaciers, or examining tree rings. While I've never had a conversation about glacier cores with anyone (but I'm open to it), I have had one about tree rings in Episode 156: The Stories Told By Trees. An even bigger perspective on climate–but one without the granularity and fine detail provided by price history–was provided by Philip Jenkins in Episode 209: Climate, Catastrophe, and Faith Transcript [00:03:08] Al: Tim Brooke, welcome back to the podcast. [00:03:10] Tim: Thank you, Al. It's a pleasure to be here. [00:03:13] Al: Before we get to anything else, we should probably do a definition. What is price history? Since we're going to be discussing price history a lot. Before we get to China, let's get to the even stranger terrain of price history. [00:03:31] Tim: The project began not as a project to understand climate change. The project began because I wanted to understand the most basic, simple fact that Anyone in a somewhat commercialized society has to deal with, and that is, how much do things cost? It was, so it was a very kind of simple minded question that I had. [00:03:58] Tim: I just wanted to know, [00:04:00] what did you, what did it cost to live during the Ming Dynasty? And I've worked on the Ming Dynasty for long enough that I had a good sense of what society and economy and politics were like during the period. So what I wanted to do is go down to the level of daily life and figure out, what did things cost? [00:04:18] Tim: Did people have enough? income to be able to buy the things they needed. How was that income distributed? How were costs managed? So I started out with this very simple idea. And in fact, the idea was niggling in the back of my mind for about two decades. And so over the last two decades, Whenever I'm reading a source of the Ming, I pick out the prices of things when prices of things are mentioned. [00:04:43] Tim: Now, there is no European historians have got a huge edge on China historians over the question of prices because there's any number of sources that European scholars can use, market sources, parish records, and so [00:05:00] forth. In China,


Episode 339: Hollow Crown

The plays of William Shakespeare contain within them a whole world of human action and purpose. They are, said Samuel Johnson, "a faithful mirror of manners and of life." We seem to watch over Shakespeare’s shoulder as he turns that mirror this way and that, from medieval England, to the coast of Bohemia, to republican Rome, to a desert island beset with the spirits of the air. And from time to time, as the mirror turns, we see our faces there as well. In those moments we sometimes come to realize, writes my guest Eliot Cohen, that while "we like to think that whatever we see in the mirror is beautiful…Shakespeare forces us to realize that there may be ugly or even hideous things there as well." Eliot Cohen has been a faithful viewer of William Shakespeare's mirror for many years, and his new book is a distillation of those lessons shaken together with his equally long study of statecraft and strategic thought. It is The Hollow Crown: Shakespeare on How Leaders Rise, Rule, and Fall. Eliot A. Cohen is the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Robert E. Osgood Professor at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). Among his many books are Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in Wartime. He has also served as an officer in the Army Reserve, as a director in Defense Department’s planning staff, and from 2007 to 2009 was Counselor to the Secretary of State. This is second appearance on Historically Thinking; since he was on to talk with Jonathan Zimmerman about civic education in Episode 205, he has gotten into podcasting, co-presenting “Shield of the Republic” with partner in crime Eric Adelman. I highly recommend it. For Further Investigation Our previous conversation on Shakespeare was with friend of the podcast Scott Newstok in Episode 186 After listening to the conversation, or in the midst of it, you'll want to watch several–or all–of these soliloquies from The Guardian's "Shakespeare Solos"


Episode 338: Rivals

“The scientific community is by any measure a very strange kind of community”, writes my guest. “For starters, no one knows who exactly belongs to it... Its members are a miscellany of individuals but also of disparate institutions…Nor does it have a fixed location. …the village conjured up by the term “scientific community” is scattered all over the globe and its inhabitants meet only occasionally, if at all. Far from living in neighborly harmony or even collegial mutual tolerance, the members of this uncommunal community compete ferociously and engage in notoriously vitriolic polemics … Although modern science has been called the locomotive of all modernity, the scientific community more closely resembles a medieval guild…” Given this, one is bound to ask how precisely this scattered contentious stratified “community” even exists, let alone cooperates. Yet cooperation has been a continuous strand uniting modern science. Lorraine Daston has described the growth and mutations of that community in her new book Rivals: How Scientists Learned to Cooperate. She is the Director Emerita of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, visiting professor in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago, and permanent fellow at the Berlin Institute of Advanced Study. For Further Investigation Lorraine Daston, Rules: A Short History of What We Live By Here is an excellent conversation with Lorraine Daston about her book Rules which, unfortunately, was not a conversation on Historically Thinking We've had numerous conversations about topics within the history of science over the years. Here is a list. The featured image below is of the Fifth Solvay Conference, at which every luminary of past and future physics seems to have been gathered. Hopefully you recognize the bushy-haired man with the big mustache more or less in the center of the first row. Less identifiable than Albert Einstein: Max Planck (first row, 2nd from left); Marie Curie (first, row 3rd from left); Niels Bohr (second row, extreme right); Paul Dirac (second row, fifth from left); Ernst Schrödinger (third row, sixth from right); Wolfgang Pauli (third row, fourth from right); Werner Heisenberg (third row, third from right). And many more who deserve mention, which you can find here.


Episode 337: Disorder

"Today’s international system is like a ship adrift during a pandemic. With the captain lost to the virus, and the most capable and conscientious members of the crew self-isolating in their cabins, the deck is now teeming with contagious megalomaniacs. Rather than collaborate, each thinks he knows how to steer the ship better than the admirals.” That is the cheerful first paragraph of Jason Pack’s book Libya and the Enduring Global Disorder. Jason Pack is also a NATO Foundation Senior Analyst, co-host of the new Disorder podcast, and international man of mystery who was kidnapped twice in Syria, led wine tours in Georgia, is a backgammon champion and–most importantly–is a long time listener to Historically Thinking who can only be described as a super-fan. He’s here to talk about his book, the ongoing disorder in Libya, how Historically Thinking changed his life, his new podcast, and Georgian wine. For Further Investigation Given its influence on Jason, you can't go wrong with listening to my conversation with Steele Brand (not a pseudonym) about the great Polybius of Megalopolis. Also very much related to this conversation is my conversation about "Empire and Jihad" with the late Neil Faulkner in Episode 240 (one of the most popular in the history of the podcast) and with Glenda Sluga in Episode 257 on the Congress of Vienna, titled "Inventing a New World Order." Jason Pack, "Libya's Chaos is a Warning to the World" Alexandra Sharp, "Mass Flooding Submerges Libya in Disaster" Lorenzo Rusconi, "Backgammon and the Meaning of Life" The Georgian Wine House, importers to the United States of fine Georgian wines; and, once you're hooked, take a tour with the Birthplace of Wine Experience to see what "the wines of the Greeks, Romans, and ancient Near East tasted like". Or travel in your mind with Atlas Obscura's Guide to Georgia. Bake a khachapuri for a crowd Visit Washington, DC, not for the monuments or museums, for its Georgian restaurant


Episode 336: Tory’s Wife

In 1785, Jane Welborn Spurgin of Abbots Creek in Rowan County, North Carolina petititioned the North Carolina Legislature, attesting her right to 704 acres of land so that she might provide for her family of 12 children. Her husband, William Spurgeon, had been a leading Loyalist combatant during the Revolution. Now Jane sought to reclaim some of the property that had been taken from them by the rebel government of North Carolina. The Revolution had split their family, upended hierarchies, and now made Jane Spurgin claim citizenship and some of the rights pertaining to it. Cynthia A. Kierner captures Jane Spurgin, her world, and her voice in The Tory's Wife, A Woman and Her Family in Revolutionary America. Cindy Kierner is professor of history at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. She was last on the podcast to discuss her book, Inventing Disaster: The Culture of Calamity from the Jamestown Colony to the Johnstown Flood. For Further Investigation The State Archives of North Carolina The Regulator Movement, described by the North Carolina Encyclopedia. For an overview of the American Revolution in the South, see my conversation with John Buchanan in Episode 110 Transcript [00:01:23] Al: Let's talk about your first meeting with Jane Wellborn Spurgeon. [00:01:30] Al: Do you remember? Do you remember where you were and what you felt? Because I bet you do. [00:01:37] Cindy: I, so like back in the mid 90s, I was writing a book about southern women, mostly white women. In the colonial and the revolutionary era, and it was a very open ended project, but from reading other books about the revolution, people like Linda Kerber in particular had used women's petitions to the state legislatures as a way of [00:02:00] getting at their voices. [00:02:01] Cindy: In other words, women who might not have left behind any other documents have left behind these documents where they told the legislators about their lives, about their problems as a way of getting some sort of help. And so I'm like, okay, I'm going to read all of these for Virginia and North and South Carolina, all the ones that were written by women. [00:02:22] Cindy: And what I'm really hoping to find is, women saying things like, Oh, we had this revolution. Isn't that awesome? Now we have rights. Woohoo. None of them did that. None of them did that. What they did when they asked for help was basically they said, Oh, I'm a poor, weak woman. Sob, sob, please help me. [00:02:43] Cindy: The one exception to that was Jane Spurgeon who, submitted three petitions between 1785 and 1791 and with each successive petition, when she didn't get what she wanted, she got madder and finally said, look [00:03:00] I should have the common rights of other citizens. And so I first. [00:03:03] Cindy: I met Jane in the North Carolina State Archives in Raleigh in the mid 1990s, and I wrote a little bit about her at that point, but I've really been thinking about her petitions and her very strongly worded [00:03:18] Al: So we have to talk more about petitionary literature in a little bit because I get so nerdy and excited about it. It's like the coolest damn thing. Petitionary literature throughout the 18th century. But how many are there of these petitions? [00:03:32] Cindy: There were hundreds submitted by women alone within this sort of, 10 or 20 year period. Many more were submitted by men and groups of men. But what's different about this period is that prior to the revolution at least in these States women almost never, they did occasionally, but it was very rare. [00:03:55] Cindy: What the revolution did and what the war did really was created situations where a [00:04:00] lot of these women were on their own and they were needing to collect debts, needing tax relief, wanting their husbands back pay if their husbands were soldiers and so forth and so on. And they petitioned the legislature in order to get that.


Intellectual Humility Series: What’s Historical Thinking Got to Do With It?

Way back in April, I dropped the first two podcasts in what are intended to be a series on historical thinking and intellectual humility. They were designed to introduce the concept to an audience who had never really heard of "intellectual humility." The first was with philosopher Michael Patrick Lynch, on epistemology in the age of information, and the challenges of intellectual humility when confronting the “internet of us”. That was followed by a podcast with Igor Grossman, a social psychologist who has investigated the concept of intellectual humility as part of his research into how people make sense of the world around them through “their expectations, lay theories, meta-conditions [or] forecasts.” Today’s podcast is a long delayed follow-up to those two earlier podcast, making an introductory trilogy to the series. I thought I should try and make the connection to intellectual humility from historical thinking to be as clear and explicit as I could. And who better to do that, the Lendol Calder, the man who first taught me about the concept of historical thinking, and from who I first heard that one of the benefits of historical thinking was intellectual humility. In the weeks to come, each Thursday I'm going to drop a conversation of about thirty minutes with a historian in which I ask them about how they became a historian, about what they have gotten right in their work, and about what they have gotten wrong–and how they learned to tell the difference. I think you’ll find them interesting. But I’m also hopeful that social psychologists might find them a useful repository of. Information from which to theorize and conduct further studies on history and intellectual humility. Please let me know what you think of the series, and, better yet, if the concept of intellectual humility resonates with you, and why. Please send an email to alz@historicallythinking.org, and put “Intellectual Humility” in the subject line. Transcript 00:01:11] Al: Today's podcast is a long delayed followup to those two earlier conversations, making a sort of introductory trilogy to a series on historical thinking and intellectual humility. I thought I should try and make the connection to intellectual humility from historical thinking to be as clear and explicit as I possibly could. And who better to do that than Lendol Calder, the man who first taught me about the concept of historical thinking.\, And from who I first heard that one of the benefits of historical thinking was intellectual humility. While I was interested in hearing how he had made that connection and how it worked, I began by asking him to review what historical thinking is, and where did the concept come from. [00:01:53] Lendol: Historians in the United States, in Canada, in Great Britain, [00:02:00] in the Netherlands, Germany, Australia and Sweden, all in the 1990s began turning their attention to the problems of historical pedagogy. And independently, these historians began groping towards The idea that we should refocus history education away from just content towards learning how historians think. [00:02:36] Lendol: This probably was influenced by Simultaneous investigations being made in social psychology. There's been an off and on again interest in learning how experts think and what defines expertise and historians picked up on that movement and began trying to define what it is [00:03:00] that makes historical thinking different from any other kind of thinking such as mathematical thinking or natural science thinking or poetic thinking. [00:03:12] Lendol: I always think, what makes this practice different from any other practice? It's like a stonemason thinking about, how am I being a stonemason? What am I doing? How am I, what are the practices I do to be a stonemason? It's inhabiting a craft, which you have to do in order to pass on a craft to to someone else, I think. [00:03:33] Lendol: Yeah, I'd say that's half of it.


Episode 335: PAX

‘If a man were called to fix the period in the history of the world, during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous, he would, without hesitation, name that which elapsed from the death of Domitian to the accession of Commodus…The frontiers of that extensive monarchy were guarded by ancient renown and disciplined valour. The gentle, but powerful influence of laws and manners had gradually cemented the union of the provinces. Their peaceful inhabitants enjoyed and abused the advantages of wealth and luxury.’ These are the words of Edward Gibbon, writing in the first volume of his history The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. That wealth, that luxury, that peace, had been purchased by the legions of Rome. As Tom Holland writes in his new book PAX, “the capacity of the legions to exercise extreme violence was the necessary precondition of the Pax Romana”. And despite Gibbon’s wistfulness about that happy and prosperous age, that bloodily-won peace was enjoyed by a people very different from ourselves. Tom Holland is the author of numerous bestselling books. PAX: War and Peace in Rome’s Golden Age is the third volume of a Roman history which began with Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic, and Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar. He was last on Historically Thinking for Episode 139 to discuss his book Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World. Since then, he has started to podcast in a small way himself and now The Rest is History–which he co hosts with Dominic Sandbrook–is by some measures one of the the most popular podcast in Britain. Which means that this is like the Chairman of Tesco visiting a small alternative co-op in north Devon that reeks of patchouli, and sells at least 99 products made of hemp.


Episode 334: Civic Bargain

In 2016, Roberto Foa and Yascha Mounk published a chilling essay based on extensive survey data in the Journal of Democracy. It discovered that there was a growing desire for non-democratic alternatives among both young Americans and Europeans. Indeed, the younger and richer you were, the more likely you were to believe it would be “good” for the army to take over. That essay was one of the many indicators and auguries of that and the preceding years something seemed just a touch off with the state of democratic institutions, and those who used to love them. But my guests Brook Manville and Josiah Ober retain their confidence in the power of the ideas and the culture that democracy contains. In their new book The Civic Bargain they offer a “guide for democratic renewal”, contained within a history of the rise, fall, rise and evolution of democracies. By focusing on Athens, Rome, Britain, and the United States, they demonstrate some of the commonalities of democratic governance between very different cultures and ages–and they show how democracy remains the best way of establishing and maintaining the civic bargain. Brook Manville is an independent consultant who writes about politics, democracy, technology, and business; in previous lives he was previously a partner with McKinsey & Co. and an award-winning professor at Northwestern University. His books include The Origins of Citizenship in Ancient Athens and A Company of Citizens: What the World’s First Democracy Teaches Leaders About Creating Great Organizations, which he co-wrote with our second guest. Josiah Ober is the Constantine Mitsotakis Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University and Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. The author of many books, among them The Rise and Fall of Classical Greece, he is also co-author of the Reacting to the Past game The Threshold of Democracy: Athens in 403 BC, which in many ways is the seed that eventually sprouted into this podcast. For Further Investigation A podcast on Reacting to the Past with its originator, Mark Carnes More on the Roman Republic, with Steele Brand Transcript [00:02:00] Al Zambone: Gentlemen, welcome to Historically Thinking. [00:02:19] Brook Manville: Al, thank you for having us. [00:02:20] Josh Ober: Indeed. Thanks very much. [00:02:22] Al Zambone: Let's begin with the title which is provocative and clear at the same time. What's the Civic Bargain? Josh, why don't you start? [00:02:31] Josh Ober: Our core argument is that democracy is based on a bargain. In order to figure that out, we had to come up with a new definition of democracy. And I'll throw that over to Brooke to give us that. [00:02:51] Brook Manville: Yeah, I think that, I think it's really the right place to start. The problem is there's so many books coming out about how to save democracy [00:03:00] and people argue about it all the time now. But very often they don't define it. And I think one of the features of our book is we tried to define it very simply. [00:03:09] Brook Manville: Something that was universal across anything that looks or smells like democracy. We basically say it's citizens governing themselves, but then we simplify it even further. And we say, look, at the end of the day, it's people making decisions together without a boss. And we use boss, obviously, in a figurative sense. [00:03:32] Brook Manville: Sometimes it's literal, but like a king, like an oligarch, like a authoritarian tyrant. But basically, at the very most fundamental level, it's People want to be free. And so living and making decisions together without a boss is our starting point. But, and now back to the bargain, we put a big asterisk on that. [00:03:54] Brook Manville: We say, people living and making decisions without a boss, yeah, but [00:04:00] actually, you do have a boss, each other. The whole notion of democracy is that if you don't have a boss,


Episode 333: City of Echoes

An Ambassador from the Kingdom of the Kongo to the Papal Court On July 20, 817, Pope Paschal began a project to transform the Church of Santa Prassede, the resting place of the sisters and martyrs, Pudenziana and Prassede, executed in the second century, legendarily believed to be daughters of the Roman senator Pudens, the first or one of the first converts of St. Peter himself. To accompany them in their rebuilt church, Paschal removed 2,300 bodies from the catacombs and interred them in walls that were covered with glittering, colorful mosaics, lit by hundreds of candles. It was symbolic of everything the Roman church had been, and had become: built upon the bones of martyrs, but now wealthy, sponsored by the Emperor of the West, and shepherded by a powerful Bishop, who at the very least was first among equals. Indeed, as my guest writes, Paschal had himself depicted “shoulder to shoulder with Peter, Paul, Pudenziana, and Prassede.” This was a key moment in the history of papal Rome–a period in the history of the city in which the Papacy was key to the identity of both the place and its inhabitants. With Constantine’s removal of the imperial capital to the new city of Constantinople, the papacy gradually became the point of reference for Romans, and then eventually for all of those people in western Europe who called themselves Christians. Eventually, even though its universal and awesome power had diminished by the middle of the nineteenth century, it still took an army to remove the Papacy from its position at the city’s heart. And still, from time to time, it has the ability to relativize all other powers in the city. My guest Jessica Wärnberg is a historian of the religious and political culture of Europe. She has written about popes, princes, inquisitors, and Jesuits. She is the author of City of Echoes: A New History of Rome, Its Popes, and Its People, which is the subject of our conversation today. For Further Investigation The episode is illustrated with a photograph of the Church of Santa Prassede, looking towards the altar and the portraits of Peter, Paul, Prassede, Pudenziana, and Pope Paschal in the apse. The small illustration is of the Kongolese ambassador to the Papal Court. If you're new to the podcast, and liked this episode, you'll also like my conversation with philosopher Scott Samuelson about his book Rome as a Guide to the Good Life: A Philosophical Grand Tour For a taste of that classical Roman stuff that we avoided in the discussion–or some of the lower layers of the Roman cake–try this conversation with Ed Watts about the later Roman Republic. Conversation with Jessica Warnberg [00:00:00] Al: Welcome to Historically Thinking, a podcast about history and how to think about history. For more on this episode, go to historically thinking.org, where you can find links and readings related to today's podcast, comment on the conversation and sign up for our newsletter. And consider becoming a member of the Historically Thinking Common Room, a community of Patreon supporters. [00:00:22] Al: Hello, on July 20th, 817, Pope Pascal, the first began a project to transform the Church of Santa Procede, the resting place of the sisters and martyrs, Pudenziana and Prassede, executed in the second century, legendarily believed to be daughters of the Roman Senator Pudens, who was himself believed to be one of the first or the first convert of St. Peter himself. To accompany the two sisters in their rebuilt church, Pascal removed 2300 bodies from the catacombs and interred them in walls that were covered with glittering colorful mosaics, lit by hundreds of candles. [00:01:00] It was symbolic of everything the Roman Church had been and had become built upon the bones of martyrs. [00:01:06] Al: Now literally so wealthy, sponsored by the Emperor of the West and shepherded by a powerful bishop who at the very least was first among equals indeed. As my guest writes,


Episode 332: Rome v. Persia

A Sassanid cataphract in Oxford–fortunately a re-enactor From the Ionian revolt of the 490s, through the battles of Marathon, Thermopylae, Salamis, and Plataea, the vastAchaemenid Persian Empire was pitted against the pitifully small Greek states on its western periphery, until the astonishing successes of Alexander of Macedon decapitated it, placing him and his companions atop that imperial trunk. But Alexander’s death, and the wars of his successors, gave an opportunity for a new power to rise in the far west and march eastward. In time imperial Rome would face new Persian dynasties; and for centuries Rome and Persia warred in the Caucuses and across Mesopotamia, until at the beginning of the seventh century an apocalyptic struggle resulted in the downfall of Persia, and the crippling of Rome, just as a new world-changing force emerged from the Arabian peninsula. That is a pretty good analogue to a Chat GPT description of a millennia’s worth of history, and while some of the facts are correct, nearly all of its interpretations are false. Such is Adrian Goldsworthy’s argument in his new book Rome and Persia: The Seven Hundred Year Rivalry. While there were periods of warfare, they were given the length of the two empires coexistence very sporadic indeed. Moreover, both empires had a respect for each other that they offered no other polity, and the trade and commerce between them–not just in products, but also in cultural mores–was perhaps the most important feature of their relationship. This is Adrian’s fourth appearance on the podcast. He was last on the podcast discussing his book Philip and Alexander: Kings and Conquerors; he has also explained how Hadrian’s Wall worked, and why Julius Caesar needs to be taken seriously as a historian. For Further Investigation The Roman Eastern Frontier and the Persian Wars AD 226-363: A Documentary History, edited by Michael H. Dodgeon and Samuel N. C. Lieu, and The Roman Eastern Frontier and the Persian Wars AD 363-628, edited by Geoffrey Greatrex and Samuel N. C. Lieu–Adrian writes that "both very well done for the later periods with sources and comments" Ammianus Marcellinus, The Late Roman Empire (AD 354-378) Goldsworthy also recommends the Perseus Digital Library for all your classical reading and research needs For why battles aren't as important as you think they are, see my conversation with Cathal Nolan Conversation with Adrian Goldsworthy Al: [00:00:00] Welcome to Historically Thinking, a podcast about history and how to think about history. For more on this episode, go to historically thinking.org, where you can find links and readings related to today's podcast. Comment on the conversation and sign up for our newsletter, and consider becoming a member of the Historically Thinking Common Room, a community of Patreon supporters. Hello, from the Ionian Revolt of the 490s, through the battles of Marathon, Thermopylae, Salamis, and Plataea, the vast Persian Empire of the Achaemenid Dynasty was pitted against the pitifully small Greek states on its western periphery, until the astonishing successes of Alexander of Macedon decapitated it, placing him and his companions atop that imperial trunk. But Alexander's death, and the wars of his successors, gave an opportunity to a new power to rise in the far west. In time Rome, first as republic and then as empire, would face new Persian dynasties. For centuries, Rome and Persia warred in the Caucasus and across [00:01:00] Mesopotamia, until at the beginning of the 7th century, an apocalyptic struggle resulted in the downfall of Persia, the crippling of Rome, just as a new world changing force emerged from out of the Arabian Peninsula. That is a pretty good analogue to a chat GPT description of a millennia's worth of history. And, like lots of chat GPT descriptions, while some of the facts are correct, nearly all of the interpretations are false. Such would be Adrian Goldsworthy's argument in...


Episode 331: Red Hotel

From 1941 to 1945, a platoon of Anglo-American reporters (and one or two Australians and Canadians) were housed in Moscow’s Metropol Hotel. They were there to report on the defense of the Soviet Union against the Nazi invasion, and many of them were not disposed to tell anything other than the most positive imaginable stories. Yet the regime of Josef Stalin treated them with the greatest possible suspicion, keeping them safely under watchful eyes in the Metropol, carefully controlling what they could see and hear. Nevertheless, even in the wilderness of mirrors that was Stalinist Russia, truth had a way of breaking through. While some of the women translators who assisted the reporters were spies, artfully delivering disinformation through the reporters to their western audiences, others were secret dissidents who took the opportunity to whisper the secrets of everyday Soviet life. Some of the reporters radically reversed the views which they brought with them to the Metropol; while others, seemingly less ideological at the start, sunk into a comfortable moral and intellectual torpor. The Metropol as the stage, and the reporters who crossed it, are the subject Alan Philps new book Red Hotel: Moscow 1941, the Metropol Hotel, and the Untold Story of Stalin's Propaganda War. Alan Philps was Moscow correspondent for Reuters and the Daily Telegraph, has been foreign editor of the Telegraph, and editor of the journal of Chatham House, The World Today. For Further Investigation Previous related conversations include Nadezhda Ulanovskaya in conversation with William F. Buckley


Episode 330: His Majesty’s Airship

Hello, at 2:09 in the morning on October 5th, 1930, the British airship R-101 crashed some 90 miles northwest of Paris. It was just a few hours into a journey that was supposed to take it to Karachi, then a premier city of the British Empire of India. Impacting the ground at approximately 13 mph, the 5.5 million cubic feet of hydrogen gas that gave the airship its buoyancy immediately caught fire. Forty-eight of the fifty-four on board died, including Lord Christopher Birdwood Thomson, a Labour peer, and the Secretary of State for Air, who had staked his policy program on R101’s successful voyage. It was a greater loss of life than that suffered in the more notorious Hindenburg crash of 1937–but, incredibly enough, it was not the greatest number of lives to be claimed by an airship accident. And on that record of death and destruction–and why it was tolerated for so long–hangs a tangled story. The story of how R101 came to its rapid end is told by S.C. Gwynne in his new book His Majesty’s Airship: The Life and Tragic Death of the World’s Largest Flying Machine. S.C. Gwynne has written numerous books, including the New York Times bestsellers Rebel Yell and Empire of the Summer Moon. For Further Investigation Some of themes in the conversation were touched in earlier conversations: one with Tom Misa, on the history of technology, and the other with Iwan Rhys Morus on how Victorians conceived of the future. Harold G. Dick and Douglas H. Robinson, The Golden Age of the Great Passenger Airships: Graf Zeppelin and Hindenburg E. A. Johnston, Airship Navigator: One Man’s Part in the British Airship Tragedy 1916-1930 Nick Le Neve Walmsley, R101: A Pictorial History Nevil Shute, Slide Rule: An Autobiography Thomas Paone, "Before Top Gun, Hollywood Promoted Naval Aviation with Dirigible"


Episode 329: Nature’s Messenger

On two separate trips, he traveled throughout the southeastern corner of the North American continent. He collected plants, and seeds, which he sent to interested amateur plantsmen and gardeners, as well as some of the foremost naturalists of the age. But he also collected animals and birds, and spent his time making drawings of birds. Eventually he would even read a scientific paper before the Royal Society in London that was the first to describe the migration of birds. This pioneering naturalist was not, as some of you might have guessed, John James Audubon. Nor was it, as some of the smart kids in the front row might think, either John or William Bartram. It was Mark Catesby, whose two separate sojourns in Virginia and South Carolina–lasting together over a decade–led many years later to the publication Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands, the first ever illustrated account of American flora and fauna. And yet very few of you have ever heard his name. With me to talk about Mark Catesby and his world, both natural and cultural, is Patrick Dean, author of Nature’s Messenger: Mark Catesby and his Adventures in a New World. He was last on the podcast in Episode 223 describing the first expeditions to reach the top of Denali, described in his first book A Window to Heaven. For Further Investigation A digital edition of the Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands--Patrick Dean writes, "I used it a lot, as you can imagine!" For more on Catesby's era and context, see Julian Hoppit, A Land of Liberty?: England, 1689-1727; Paul Langford, A Polite and Commercial People: England, 1727-1783; and John Brewer, Pleasures of the Imagination: English Culture in the Eighteenth Century And if you're into coloring books for adults, why not Mark Catesby's Nature Coloring Book: Drawings from the Royal Collection


Episode 328: Making Medieval Money

In the early 11th century, an English monk wrote an imaginary conversation between two men haggling over the price of a book. After finally agreeing to a price, they then “needed to establish what means of payment would be used, and the buyer reeled off a daunting list of thirteen possible ways of settling the transaction, ranging from gold and silver to beans, clothing, and goats.” But in the end the seller wants to be paid in coin for, he says, “he who has coins or silver can get everything he wants.” But those fictitious monks lived in a time of coin scarcity. Indeed, for about seven centuries–between the end of the western Roman Empire in the fifth century, and the economic growth of the twelfth, coins were in short supply. Yet nevertheless, argues my guest Rory Naismith, people found coins important because they established a means of “articulating people's place in economic and social structure.” Medieval money, and the making of it, turns out to be a point of contact between economic, social, and institutional history. Why? Because making money is also about making meaning. Rory Naismith is Professor of early medieval English history at the University of Cambridge, and a fellow of Corpus Christi. Among his previous books are Money and Power in Anglo-Saxon England: The Southern English Kingdoms, 757-865. His most recent book is Making Money in the Early Middle Ages, which is the subject of our conversation today. For Further Investigation We've talked about coins before, and their use as historical evidence, in Episode 217 with Frank Holt–which turns out to be a pretty good introduction to this conversation with Rory Naismith. As regular listeners know, I like talking about credit, and money. Past conversations about credit include Episode 218, with Sara Damiano about women's use of credit in early America. I talked about banking in the early American republic with Sharon Ann Murphy. And while our conversation wasn't focused on credit or banking, Rowan Dorin and I did talk a lot about both in Episode 304. Rory Naismith writes: "I'd urge listeners to spend some time with the Portable Antiquities Scheme and the Corpus of Early Medieval Coin Finds. For reading, the classic overview (other than my new book!) is Peter Spufford, Money and its Use in Medieval Europe; also very good for what comes next in the story is Jim Bolton, Money in the Medieval English Economy. A very good survey of the wider historical picture in the early period is Chris Wickham, The Inheritance of Rome."


Episode 327: American South

For more than two centuries, the American South has fascinated Americans–and increasingly those outside North America. Its economy, politics, religion, race relations, literature, and food have influenced all the commensurate parts of national life. Now A New History of the American South draws together the talents of several historians to create a new narrative of southern history, from the distant past of prehistory to the present. Drawing on old and new scholarship, the New History considers all the experiences of all the peoples of the South: indigenous, black, and white; male and female; poor, elite, and middling. W. Fitzhugh Brundage is the editor of A New History of the American South, which means is the impresario and manager of the troupe of actors involved in the creation of an edited volume. Otherwise he is the William Umstead Distinguished Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has written on lynching, utopian socialism in the New South, white and black historical memory in the South since the Civil War, and the history of torture in the United States from the time of European contact to the twenty-first century; and he is currently working on a study of Civil War prisoner of war camps. For Further Investigation I've previously talked about the New New South with Zachary Lechner, author of The South of the Mind, way back in Episode 81, in a rare face-to-face, recorded in his office conversation C. Vann Woodward, Origins of the New South, 1877-1913 James Cobb, C. Vann Woodward: American's Historican W.J. Cash, Mind of the South John Shelton Reed, The Enduring South And I've talked with John Reed twice, once about Bohemian New Orleans, and another time about North Carolina barbecue. Both of them extremely important subjects. I mean it.


Episode 326: The Professor and the Rough Rider

John Singer Sargent, Henry Cabot Lodge At the 1920 Republican Convention the journalist and H.L. Mencken observed with great amusement and interest the behavior of Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, the chair of the convention. “Lodge’s keynote speech, of course, was bosh,” wrote Mencken, “but it was bosh delivered with an air…Lodge got away with it because he was Lodge—because there was behind it his unescapable confidence in himself, his disarming disdain of discontent below, his unapologetic superiority. This superiority was and is quite real. Lodge is above the common level of his party, his country and his race, and he knows it very well, and is not disposed toward the puerile hypocrisy of denying it.” It is extraordinary, given how Mencken saw Lodge, that we are much more likely to know who H.L. Mencken was then to recognize the name of Henry Cabot Lodge. Of a prominent seafaring family, he received one of the very first PhDs granted by Harvard, was involved in Massachusetts politics from 1880, and in 1892 was elected to the United States Senate—where he served until his death in 1924. He was one of the great political personalities of his age, alongside Theodore Roosevelt, his friend of 35 years, Theodore Roosevelt. Together, as Laurence Jurdem describes in his new book, The Rough Rider and the Professor: Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge, and the Friendship that Changed American History, they formed an unbeatable team, with Roosevelt thrusting ahead, while Lodge offered canny tactics and strategy, serving as Roosevelt’s one man think tank and advisory group. Though their friendship was threatened by Roosevelt’s third-party run for the White House, their final years were warmed by their mutual detest for Woodrow Wilson. Laurence Jurdem is currently an adjunct professor of history at Fairfield University and Fordham College’s Lincoln Center campus. The author of Paving the Way for Reagan: The Influence of Conservative Media on U.S. Foreign Policy, he is a frequent commentator on American politics. For Further Investigation Think of this conversation as begin the third of a Summer 2023 trilogy on late 19th century American politicians and political culture. It began with President Garfield, then moved backward to describe the context and foundation of "Civil War politics" in the "Age of Lincoln", and now moves out of the Age of Lincoln with two men who were very much born in the Age of Lincoln, but then shaped the foundations of progressivism. Henry Cabot Lodge, Alexander Hamilton–some have said that Roosevelt was one of the few people to respect Hamilton between his death and the late twentieth century. If so, he learned to do it from Lodge, for whom Hamilton was symbolic of what he desired to be as a politician and a policymaker. Henry Cabot Lodge and Theodore Roosevelt, Hero Tales from American History–a co-written book, composed of biographical essays they wrote for The Century Magazine. Lodge's heroes are George Washington, Gouverneur Morris, John Quincy Adams, Francis Parkman, Grant at Vicksburg, Robert Gould Shaw, James Russell Lowell, Sheridan at Cedar Creek, and Abraham Lincoln. With the exception of Grant and Sheridan, it's a collection of Federalists and Bostonians, which is about right. I quoted several times in the podcast from H.L. Mencken's "Lodge", an essay that he included in his A Mencken Chrestomathy. Very much worth seeking out. H.W. Brands, T.R: The Last Romantic Two by Patricia O’Toole, The Five of Hearts: An Intimate Portrait of Henry Adams and his Friends, 1880-1918, and When Trumpets Fade: Theodore Roosevelt After The White House John Garraty, Henry Cabot Lodge: A Biography William H. Harbaugh, Power and Responsibility: The Life and Times of Theodore Roosevelt