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The Last Best Hope?: Understanding America from the Outside In

History Podcasts

From Oxford University's Rothermere American Institute, host Professor Adam Smith talks to guests doing world-leading research that sheds light on the United States from the outside in. We ask what forces have shaped the culture and politics of the US, how its role in the world has changed and what it might be in the future. Is America now, or has it ever been, the "last best hope of earth"? Probably not, but plenty of people have thought so. We try to understand why.

From Oxford University's Rothermere American Institute, host Professor Adam Smith talks to guests doing world-leading research that sheds light on the United States from the outside in. We ask what forces have shaped the culture and politics of the US, how its role in the world has changed and what it might be in the future. Is America now, or has it ever been, the "last best hope of earth"? Probably not, but plenty of people have thought so. We try to understand why.

Location:

United Kingdom

Description:

From Oxford University's Rothermere American Institute, host Professor Adam Smith talks to guests doing world-leading research that sheds light on the United States from the outside in. We ask what forces have shaped the culture and politics of the US, how its role in the world has changed and what it might be in the future. Is America now, or has it ever been, the "last best hope of earth"? Probably not, but plenty of people have thought so. We try to understand why.

Twitter:

@TLBHpodcast

Language:

English


Episodes

The From Slavery to Snowdonia Episode

2/11/2021
Throughout the Victorian period, Black abolitionists toured the British Isles. In an effort to enlist British support for ending slavery in America--and later to enlist support for black rights--African Americans spoke not just in London or Leeds but in small towns and villages from the north of Scotland to the foot of Snowdonia and beyond. In this episode, Adam talks to Hannah-Rose Murray to ask why they came and how they were received. Abraham Lincoln may have thought America was the "last...

Duration:00:34:59

The Confederates who wanted to be Garibaldi Episode

2/4/2021
After their own successful secession from the British Empire in the War of Independence, Americans cheered on other plucky nations attempting to wrest themselves from the yoke of others. Whether in Latin America, Hungary, Poland, Ireland or Italy, Americans mostly thought that national self-determination was a good thing. So naturally, when they created the Confederacy, Southerners--some of them at least--hoped that the rest of the world would think them as heroic as Garibaldi. They were to...

Duration:00:33:05

The Reconstruction Episode

1/27/2021
In this episode Adam talks to Eric Foner, the pre-eminent historian of the Civil War and Reconstruction, about the resonances of the Reconstruction era in the present day. In the aftermath of the Civil War, the US had to deal with a recalcitrant white population in the South who rejected the legitimacy of the Federal government's attempt to give political rights to Black people and who used political violence to achieve their aims. What lessons are there for the present day in an America...

Duration:00:48:57

The My Whole Soul Episode

1/24/2021
Adam talks to Mitch Robertson and Kate Guy about Joe Biden's inaugural address and the prospects for his administration. Is this a “new page in America’s story” as Joe Biden says? Adam and guests discuss the new president's appeal to his understanding of the "American tradition" and whether it will work.

Duration:00:55:07

The Insurrection Episode

1/21/2021
When Trump supporters invaded the US Capitol on Jan 6, 2020, in an attempt to prevent the ratification of the election of Joe Biden, the immediate response of many in the American media was that it was "not who we are". But in this episode, Adam talks to Bruce Baker from the University of Newcastle and Grace Mallon from Oxford, who explain that in fact there is a long American tradition of insurrection. When groups of people who feel entitled to be in control feel like they’ve lost control,...

Duration:00:37:54

The Elected King Episode

1/14/2021
Why did the framers of the American constitution invest the President with so many of the powers and trapping of a king? Why does he have the power to pardon felons (including his friends), to command the army and to veto legislation? More to the point why did the framers end up creating a Presidency that although elected nevertheless wields more power than did King George III, or any British monarch since the reign of James II? Adam talks to Steve Sarson, Professor of American Civilisation...

Duration:00:46:06

The Uncle Tom Episode

11/19/2020
Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin was an outsized media event. No one in America in the 1850s could avoid knowing something of its characters and themes. It brought into the homes and hearts of millions of Americans a dramatic and heartrending story about an enslaved family. White people who wanted to avoid thinking about the reality of human enslavement found it harder to avoid. Uncle Tom reached places that nothing else had -- but did it really play a role in bringing about...

Duration:00:32:43

The Better Angels Episode

11/10/2020
A week after election day in 2020, Joe Biden has won the election with a margin of at least 5 million votes but President Trump hasn't conceded and may never do so. A defeated incumbent, an election that underlined the deep partisan polarisation of the American nation and a President-Elect who appealed in his acceptance speech to the "better angels" of the country -- quoting, once again, who else but Abraham Lincoln. In this episode, Adam talks to Mitch Robertson and Kate Guy about what the...

Duration:00:47:44

The Viva La Revolución Episode

11/5/2020
In September 1960 Fidel Castro, leader of the Cuban revolution and hipster lodestar for the countercultural left visited the belly of the beast, New York City, to attend the UN General Assembly. It was a visit that exposed the contradictions and tensions within the United States' efforts to present itself as the last best hope for the free world at the height of the Cold War. Adam talks to Simon Hall about this extraordinary event and what it tells us.

Duration:00:37:20

2020 Election Special: Who Will Win

10/31/2020
As a once-in-a-lifetime election campaign nears its end, still so many questions remain unanswered. The largest question, of course, is who will win. But beyond that, other questions – such as projected turnout, the impact of mail-in voting, and the importance of ‘Never Trump’ Republican groups, remain outstanding. To answer these questions and more, Professor Adam Smith chaired a discussion with FiveThirtyEight senior political writer Clare Malone as well as two well-renowned political...

Duration:01:01:15

The Last Best Hope Shorts: Simone de Beauvoir

10/27/2020
In this special episode, Oxford historian Charlotte Moberly tells the story of how the French intellectual and pioneer of second-wave feminism, Simone de Beauvoir was personally and intellectually transformed by her visit to America in 1947. This is the first of a new occasional series of short podcasts exploring individuals' encounters with America -- both the idea and the reality. In this episode Simone de Beauvoir was played by Olivia Marshall. Izzy Collie-Cousins was Janet Flanner, and...

Duration:00:18:53

2020 Election Special: Race and the Election

10/26/2020
This is an audio recording of a live event held in Oxford on Oct 26, 2020 to discuss the role of race in the 2020 election. The panel were Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Wesley Lowery, Michigan State political scientist Nazita Lajevardi, and Maria Givens from the Native American Agricultural Fund. The chair is Dr Mitch Robertson, Fellow of the Rothermere American Institute at Oxford University. For details of all our election events see https://www.rai.ox.ac.uk/election2020

Duration:00:56:59

2020 Election Special

10/13/2020
This is a special episode of the podcast: a panel discussion on zoom recorded on Monday 12 October, 2020, to analyse the state of the 2020 presidential race. The participants were Thomas Edsall of the New York Times, Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report, and Samara Klar of the University of Arizona. The chair was Adam Smith of the Rothermere American Institute at Oxford.

Duration:00:58:57

The Harmonious Episode

10/9/2020
We can't imagine a political campaign without music -- whether it's an election rally, a protest movement or a TV ad, music is essential. In this episode, Adam talks to Billy Coleman, author of a recent book about music and politics in the nineteenth century United States and asks him what music brings to politics and what we can learn from it about how politics works.

Duration:00:30:42

The Did the South Win the Civil War After All Episode

10/7/2020
In this episode Adam talks to Heather Cox Richardson about how the values the South fought for -- oligarchy, and racial and gender inequality -- outlived the Confederacy. Heather argues that American history can be understood as a conflict between oligarchs and masses. Adam asks her why that is. How does a "democracy" become an oligarchy? And is the politics of today an echo of the politics of 150 years ago?

Duration:00:41:24

The Last Best Hope Episode

6/21/2020
"We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth" -- Abraham Lincoln's phrase in his message to Congress in December 1862. What did he mean? In this episode, Adam talks to Rachel Shelden of the Richards Civil War Era Center at Penn State. They talked about Lincoln, his opposition to slavery, his vastly more complex view of racial equality... and why he coined that memorable phrase. If Lincoln thought America had a "mission", the Last Best Hope? podcast has a mission too: to...

Duration:00:31:27

The new New Deal Episode

6/1/2020
Does America and the world need a new New Deal? If so, what lessons can we learn from how old orthodoxies in economic policy-making were challenged in the interwar period? In this episode, Adam talks to Eric Rauchway about the year 1933, when Franklin D. Roosevelt came into office and immediately set a course that challenged some of the sacred shibboleths of economic policy-making.

Duration:00:49:07

The "Don't Tread on Me" Episode

5/8/2020
Is a country that’s had a successful revolution doomed to endlessly re-enact it? In this episode, Adam talks to Professor Margaret Weir (Brown University and Oxford) about why anti-lockdown protests take the form they do in America: armed men entering legislatures and the waving of flags with the slogan "Don't Tread on Me".

Duration:00:32:37

The Crisis Episode

5/2/2020
What is the difference between a "crisis" and a "not-crisis"? How do crises happen and how have they shaped history? Adam talks to Jay Sexton of the University of Missouri, author of "A Nation Shaped by Crisis: A New American History" who thinks we're now in a crisis that, unlike previous crises, will leave the United States weaker.

Duration:00:33:51

The Federalism Episode

5/2/2020
Dividing power between the Federal government and the states may have seemed a good idea in theory to the founding fathers but in practice it's led to confusion and conflict. Donald Trump claims that his power is "total". State governors -- and constitutional experts -- beg to differ. In this episode, Adam talks to Grace Mallon of Oxford University, an expert in the reality of Federal-state relations in the early republic who tells us that's it's always been like this.

Duration:00:32:32