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Second Decade

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United States

Twitter:

@Sean_Munger

Language:

English


Episodes

23: Murder in Charleston

7/8/2017
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You may not have heard of David Ramsay, but if you lived in Charleston, South Carolina in the second decade, you would probably know him—if you were part of the city’s rich white elite, that is. Ramsay, born in Pennsylvania, Princeton-educated, served in the South Carolina State Legislature and the Confederation Congress, was a protegé of revolutionary doctor Benjamin Rush—a signer of the Declaration of Independence—and tried to rid Charleston’s steamy streets of yellow fever by predicting...

Duration: 01:13:51


22: Old Ironsides

5/14/2017
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The early months of the War of 1812 served up a relentless drumbeat of bad news for the United States: our untrained and ill-equipped forces, fighting a war they were unprepared for in the first place, suffered reverse after reverse on the battlefield. But on the high seas, the exploits of one remarkable ship, the USS Constitution, provided the only bright spot in the gloom and demonstrated that the new republic could, when circumstances called for it, compete militarily even with the...

Duration: 00:45:17


21: Frankenstein

5/7/2017
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The image and concept of Frankenstein’s monster—most notably personified by Boris Karloff in the 1931 Universal horror film—are indelible in literature, cinema and popular culture. Far more than just an 1818 novel by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein is a philosophical journey as well as a cultural phenomenon. But how did it come about? The idea for the novel was famously hatched at a lakeside chateau in Switzerland, the Villa Diodati, in the late spring and early summer of 1816 by...

Duration: 00:42:19


20: Second Decade on Film

4/23/2017
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Since the beginning of film as a narrative and artistic medium, historical events and eras have been popular subjects for filmmakers. The decade of the 1810s, however, has not tended to show up in movies or on TV as frequently or consistently as other eras—but there are still plenty of examples of the second decade on film. Beginning in the 1920s with French filmmaker Abel Gance, depictions of the 1810s, many involving Napoleon or adaptations of popular and classic novels, have woven their...

Duration: 00:33:01


19: Curious King George

4/9/2017
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Despite being one of the longest-reigning British monarchs as well as wildly popular among his own people, King George III gets a bad rap as the “mad king who lost America.” In truth the story of George’s life is touching and sad. After dealing with not one but two world wars that occurred on his watch, as well as two world-shaking revolutions in America and France, George was ultimately felled by a mysterious illness that affected his body as well as his mind. Signs of his recurring...

Duration: 00:53:13


18: Let China Sleep

3/26/2017
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Despite seeming to the West as if it was “sleeping,” China in the 1810s was in fact experiencing the crucial transition of the Qing (Manchu) Dynasty from its cultural and political zenith under the Qianlong Emperor to the ruin and chaos that would ramp up in the later 19th century. Ruled at this time by Aisin Gioro Yongyan, also known as the Jiaqing Emperor, China rebuffed not one but two British diplomatic missions and continued its policy of isolation and indifference to the West. But at...

Duration: 00:48:07


17: The War of 1812, Part III

3/19/2017
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The year 1814 was one of the bleakest in American history. It opened with the country embroiled in war, with most of its coast blockaded by the British Navy, the economy collapsing, the frontiers aflame with violence, and the government teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. And now that Britain’s war with Napoleon was effectively over, things were bound to get even worse for the United States. American troops scored a few victories in the field, some of them surprising, but the capture and...

Duration: 00:50:07


16: The War of 1812, Part II

3/12/2017
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Having declared war at a time it was woefully unprepared to face the world’s most powerful country on the battlefield, the United States spent the first phase of the War of 1812—at least on land—lurching from disaster to disaster, with most efforts aimed at the theoretically achievable goal of conquering Canada. Unable at first even to feed or supply its troops competently, and with serious doubts about the objects of the war still lingering in the public mind and the halls of Congress,...

Duration: 01:01:29


15: The War of 1812, Part I

3/5/2017
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What was the War of 1812? Which countries were involved? What were the stakes? Why is it so obscure? Why does it have such a funny name? How come you were never taught much about it in school? These questions, and many more, lie at the heart of understanding the first military conflict fought by the United States since the founding of the Constitution. The causes of the war are surprisingly murky and confusing, everything from a mutual misunderstanding between the U.S. and Great Britain as...

Duration: 00:59:15


14: Down & Out at Harvard

2/19/2017
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Harvard, America’s first college, is thought of as a bastion of privileged patricians, a place filled with old brick buildings, ivy-covered walls and inscrutable ancient traditions. But it’s also a real college where real young people live, learn, struggle and try to find themselves. In 1813 two boys, Stephen Salisbury and Aaron White, fifteen and sixteen, respectively, left their homes in Massachusetts to become freshmen in the Harvard College class of 1817. The remarkable personal...

Duration: 00:41:49


13: Kid Lincoln

2/12/2017
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Most of us were taught in school about Abraham Lincoln’s humble origins: the log cabin on the Kentucky frontier, his lack of formal education, and colorful tales of rail splitting and backwoods adventures. But the traditional American mythology leaves out a lot about Lincoln’s formative years. Lincoln was born at the beginning of the Second Decade into a complex and deeply contested environment, shaped by economic hardship, conflict with Native Americans, and simmering resentments over...

Duration: 00:37:50


12: Napoleon in Russia, Part III

2/5/2017
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Why did Napoleon, with the largest army the world had ever seen up until that time, lose his war with Russia so badly and so tragically? You may have heard that it’s because he didn’t take the threat of the cold Russian climate seriously enough, and his army froze to death on the retreat from ruined, burnt-out Moscow. This is at best a half-truth. The French Army was already disintegrating even before Napoleon occupied Moscow, and despite the “alternative facts” that Bonaparte desperately...

Duration: 01:09:28


11: Napoleon in Russia, Part II

1/22/2017
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Despite being warned repeatedly—by his enemy, Tsar Alexander, and even by some of his own generals—Napoleon Bonaparte, the self-proclaimed Emperor of France, made one of the costliest and most lethal mistakes in the history of warfare by invading Russia in the summer of 1812. Though it’s usually the harsh Russian winter that’s credited with crushing the French Army, in reality Napoleon and his troops were in deep trouble long before that, from literally the moment they crossed the Niemen...

Duration: 00:40:44


10: Napoleon in Russia, Part I

1/15/2017
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In the summer of 1812 Napoleon’s France invaded Russia, ruled by Tsar Alexander I, with the largest army ever assembled in pre-modern times. Leo Tolstoy famously called this conflict “an event opposed to human reason and human nature.” How and why did it happen? In the first of three parts, the complicated political backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars comes into focus through an examination of the lives and personalities of the two men most responsible for it, Napoleon and Alexander. After...

Duration: 01:00:07


9: Theodosia

1/8/2017
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On New Year’s Eve, 1812, Theodosia Burr Alston, First Lady of South Carolina and daughter of former U.S. Vice-President Aaron Burr, boarded a ship bound for New York City and was never seen alive again. More than 50 years later, in Nag’s Head, North Carolina, an old woman gave a doctor a painting, as payment for medical services, that the doctor came to believe was a portrait of Theodosia. But was it, and if so, how did it get there? These two unsolved mysteries bookend the unusual life...

Duration: 00:47:51


8: Christmas 1814

12/20/2016
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Second Decade wishes you happy holidays with this Christmas-themed episode. Of all the Christmases of the 1810s, the year 1814 stands out as especially significant. The world was celebrating its first holiday season in over two decades in the midst of general peace, except for one last pesky war that wouldn’t quite die. While the crowned heads at the Congress of Vienna—supposedly working for world peace but in reality boozing and partying like there was no tomorrow—were exposed to the...

Duration: 00:46:37


7: Volcano

12/11/2016
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On the island of Sumbawa, in what is now Indonesia but was previously called the East Indies, there is a collapsed, sunken shell of a volcano that was once a mighty peak taller than Mt. Fuji in Japan. On a warm spring night in 1815 this mountain, Tambora, exploded with a force so powerful that it can scarcely be measured in terms intelligible to humans. In addition to being an environmental disaster of staggering proportions that killed over 100,000 people and changed the world’s climate,...

Duration: 01:35:18


6: Jefferson in Winter

12/4/2016
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When Thomas Jefferson retired from public life in 1809 after serving two terms as U.S. President, he thought his retirement years at Monticello, his Virginia plantation, would be peaceful, quiet and relaxing. He couldn’t have been more wrong. Utterly broke as a result of his out-of-control spending sprees while in the White House, Jefferson returned home to his farm just as a series of environmental disasters made it almost impossible to earn a living from his sole remaining source of...

Duration: 00:49:43


5: Cast Away

11/27/2016
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This is the story of Charles Barnard, a real-life Robinson Crusoe who spent nearly two years marooned in one of the most forbidding and desolate landscapes on Earth: the Falkland Islands, far south in the Atlantic, near Antarctica. It happened in 1813 as a result of war between the United States and Great Britain, and after a dizzying series of double-crosses, table-turns and stabs-in-the-back that wouldn’t be out of place on the modern TV show Lost. Barnard is forced to find shelter,...

Duration: 00:46:51


4: Hawaii

11/20/2016
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Hawaii, known to Westerners in the Second Decade as “the Sandwich Islands,” was a rich and vibrant place, and the 1810s were arguably the most exciting time in its history. In 1810 Kamehameha, a nobleman from the Big Island, completed his 30-year struggle to unify Hawaii under his own rule, initiating an era of somewhat fragile peace. But there were fractures beneath the surface of Hawaiian society which led to a cultural and religious upheaval in 1819—at the exact same time that a group...

Duration: 00:51:47

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