Episode 88: The Search for Family Lost in Slavery

Host: Joan Neuberger, Professor, Department of History
Guest: Heather Andrea Williams, Presidential Professor and Professor of Africana Studies, University of Pennsylvania

OHelp me to find my people coverne of the most callous and tragic aspects of slavery in the United States was the slave owners’ practice of dividing families: children were taken from parents, husbands and wives were separated, brothers and sisters too. Why was this practice initiated? How did it impact families? Did the slaveowners feel any responsibility or remorse? And, after the Civil War, how did families scattered across the south try to reconnect?

Our guest today, Heather Andrea Williams, Presidential Professor and Professor of Africana Studies, has written a moving book about on the subject, Help Me To Find My People: The African American Search for Family Lost in Slavery.

Editor’s note: this is a much longer episode than normal, however we have decided to leave the interview in its entirety. So, for this week, we are 50 Minute History!

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Episode 87: Nigeria’s Civil War & The Origins of American Humanitarian Interventions

Host: Samantha Rose Rubino, UT School of Law
Guest: Brian McNeil, Fellow, Institute for Historical Studies, UT-Austin

Humanitarian intervention has become such an accepted part of international relations, and our news headlines are full of stories about humanitarian efforts from the Balkans in the 1990s to Syria today. But it wasn’t always the case – the concept of humanitarian intervention originates at a specific time and place, as today’s guest explains.

Brian McNeil specializes in history of United States foreign relations, and is currently revising his book manuscript titled, Frontiers of Need: the Nigerian Civil War and the Origins of American Humanitarian Intervention, the subject of this episode.

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Episode 86: Rethinking the Agricultural “Revolution”

Host: Christopher Rose, Department of History
Guest: Rachel Laudan, independent scholar

Thousands of years before recorded human history, anthropologists have traced the evolution of human society from a nomadic hunter-gatherer phase to the rise of agricultural practices, which allowed people to stay settled in one place, form complex societies, and ultimately early civilizations. This transition, it is said, was so momentous that it has become known as the Agricultural Revolution. A few decades ago, however, a scholar posited that humans lost leisure time in the process, becoming virtual slaves to their new agricultural lifestyles that required hours of maintenance daily. This counterargument declared that the Agricultural Revolution was nothing less than the greatest disaster to ever befall mankind.

Not so fast, says our guest this week. Rachel Laudan, a renowned food historian and author of Cuisine and Empire: Cooking in World History, argues that this thesis, which has found a champion in Jared Diamond’s best-selling Guns, Germs & Steel, fails to take food preparation into account. Our interview offers a different perspective and raises some new questions about the social impact of the beginnings of agriculture.

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Episode 85: Brexit

Host: Christopher Rose, Department of History
Guest: Philippa Levine, Mary Helen Thompson Centennial Professor in the Humanities; Co-Director, Program in British Studies

Brexit cartoonOn June 23, 2016, British voters stunned many political observers (if not themselves) by voting to leave the European Union. To many outside observers, the election result was unthinkable, provoking a major political shakeup in the UK as well as an identity crisis within the EU. The factors that led Britain’s electorate to reject the EU, however, are rooted in decades of uneasy alliance with former rivals and enemies in the European bloc.

Philippa Levine from UT’s Department of History and Program in British Studies walks us through the contemporary British politics and rocky history of Britain and the EU that contributed to this historic decision.

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Episode 84: Behind the Tower: New Histories of the UT Tower Shooting

Fifty years ago, on August 1, 1966, twenty-five year old student Charles Whitman killed 16 people and wounded at least 32 more at UT Austin.  A former Marine sharpshooter, he went to the 28th-floor observation deck of the UT Tower and began shooting people on the ground as they walked by or tried to hide. A news cameraman set up a camera under the tower so the shooting was broadcast on television. Several police officers and a recently retired Air Force officer made their way to the top of the tower not knowing what they would find and, after the rampage had lasted 96 minutes, Houston McCoy and Ramiro Martinez killed the sniper. Later it was found that Whitman had killed his mother and wife in the early hours of the morning.

These events were seared into the memory of everyone living in Austin, but historians have neglected the story and, for decades, the university avoided and eventually suppressed it. A small plaque on a hard to locate rock was only erected in 2008. Why?

In Spring 2016, as the fiftieth anniversary neared, graduate students in the UT History Department’s Public History seminar led by Joan Neuberger decided to make the history of the tower shooting more widely available and accessible to the public. They examined documents in local archives and wrote a collection of historical essays on many important aspects of that day’s events, as well as on the historical context, and the aftermath. And they put these essays on a website. In this episode, Neuberger discusses the project with four of those students: Itza Carbajal, Maria Hammack, Rebecca Johnston, and John Lisle.

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Episode 83: Simone de Beauvoir and ‘The Second Sex’

Host: Joan Neuberger, Department of History, University of Texas at Austin
Guest: Judith Coffin, Department of History, University of Texas at Austin

8096538479_a55803aa28_bSimone de Beauvoir was one of the most important intellectuals, feminists, and writers of the 20th century. Her life and writings defied the expectations of her birth into a middle class French family, and her philosophies inspired others, including Betty Friedan. Her seminal work, The Second Sex, is a dense two volume work that can be intimidating at first glance, combining philosophy and psychology, and her own observations.

Fortunately, Judith Coffin from UT’s Department of History, is here to help contextualize and parse out the context, influences, and impact of one of the 20th century’s greatest feminist works.

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Episode 82: What Writing Can Tell Us About the Arabs before Islam

Host: Christopher Rose, Department of History, UT-Austin
Guest: Ahmad al-Jallad, University of Leiden

TaymaniticIn most world history survey courses, Arabia is introduced for the first time only as backstory to the rise of Islam. We’re told that there was a tradition of oral poetry in Arabic, a language native to central Arabia, and that the Qur’an was the zenith of this oral tradition. New evidence, however, suggests that Arabia was linguistically diverse, that the language we’ve come to know as Arabic originated in modern day Jordan, and that the looping cursive writing system that’s become the language’s hallmark wasn’t the original system used to write it. What to make of all this?

Guest Ahmad al-Jallad co-directs archaeological/epigraphic projects in Jordan and Saudi Arabia, uncovering new inscriptions thousands of years old, and shares his research that’s shedding new light on the writings of a complex civilization that lived in the Arabian peninsula for centuries before Islam arose.

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Episode 81: The Trans Pacific Silver Trade and Early-Modern Globalization

Host: Kristie Flannery, Department of History, UT-Austin
Guest: Ashleigh Dean, Assistant Professor of Asian History, Monmouth University

Pages from VAB8326With the establishment of Manila as a Spanish trading port in 1571, one of the most important economic links in the pre-modern world was established. Spanish silver flowed from the mines of Potosí (in modern Bolivia) through Manila to Ming-dynasty China. The interplay between these two empires created a global financial system that linked far flung parts of the world in a way that mirrors the 20th century phenomenon that has become known as “globalization.”

Guest Ashleigh Dean just completed her doctorate in history at Emory University examining the impacts of this pre-modern trans-Pacific linkage whose far-reaching impact touched nearly every part of the globe.

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Episode 80: Colonial Medicine and STDs in 1920s Uganda

Host: Samantha Rose Rubino, Department of History, UT-Austin
Guest: Ben Weiss, Department of History, UT-Austin

Part of the civilizing mission of European powers in their colonies in Asia and Africa was an interest in encouraging hygiene and health among the population, according to recently established medical practices in Europe. Diseases such as cholera and plague were often targeted, but in sub-Saharan Africa, British colonial officials were especially concerned with sexually transmitted diseases (or, rather, what were assumed to be sexually transmitted diseases), which allowed colonial officials to tackle both the disease as well as what was assumed to be the licentious behavior that led to its spread.

Guest Ben Weiss has been studying the history of public health in Africa from the colonial era through to the current HIV/AIDS epidemic, and discusses these earliest encounters between indigenous Africans and European medical practitioners.

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Episode 79: Fishmeal—The Superfood That Never Was

Host: Christopher Rose, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Kristin Wintersteen, Department of History, University of Houston

After World War II, governments and international aid agencies were looking for a way to ameliorate the widespread hunger and malnutrition that populations faced in areas devastated by war, poverty, and other ‘natural’ disasters. They found an unlikely suspect in fishmeal, and with it, lit up the economies of South America along the Humboldt Current. But the fish, as it turned out, had other ideas.

Guest Kristin Wintersteen has worked on the history of industry subject to the temperaments of on-again off-again current cycles in the Pacific, and how the boom and bust of one of the first superfoods has led to new discussions about global nutrition.

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