Episode 95: The Impossible Presidency

Host: Christopher Rose, Department of History
Guest: Jeremi Suri, Mack Brown Chair for Leadership in Global Affairs, LBJ School of Public Affairs and Professor, Department of History, University of Texas at Austin

Over the past two and a half centuries, the expectations placed upon the office of the President have changed and evolved with each individual charged with holding the position. From George Washington to Barack Obama, each occupant has left his mark on the office. However, since WWII, the occupant of America’s highest office has aspired to do more and more, but seems to have accomplished less and less. Have the expectations placed upon the office actually made the position less effective?

In his new book The Impossible Presidency: The Rise and Fall of America’s Highest Office, returning guest Jeremi Suri (UT-Austin) takes a long historical look at what has made presidents successful in the role of chief executive, and asks whether the office has evolved to take on too much responsibility to govern effectively.

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Episode 94: Populism

Host: Henry Weincek, Institute for Historical Studies
Guest: Steven Hahn, New York University

1892populistposterPopulism seems to describe everything in America these days, from politics to styles of communication. Some might say that it’s used so often, and in so many context, that it’s lost most of its meaning. But populism, or the movement from which it gets its name, arose in a specific context in American history at the end of the 19th century, and revisiting the history of this specific movement can help us understand how and why the term is used the way it is in present day politics.

Our guest for this episode, Dr. Steven Hahn of New York University, literally wrote the book on populism and helps us turn this political buzzword into a historical phenomenon from a time period in American history that has a number of parallels with our own.

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Episode 91: The History of the Family

Host: Joan Neuberger, Professor, Department of History
Guest: Steven Mintz, Professor, Department of History

9780674019980“Kids today.” Everyone says it, it seems, in reference to the idea that children today are spoiled, raised with poor values, and somehow have it worse than their parents generation. This notion dominates discussions from political debates to stand up comedy acts. But, what defines the stages of life and how people are supposed to act in each? Has it always been that way?

Steven Mintz has long been interested in the transformations of family life through the ages and, in this episode, talks about how nearly everything we think we know about family life would be unrecognizable even a century ago.

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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 65: Darwinism and the Scopes “Monkey Trial”

Host: Joan Neuberger, editor, Not Even Past
Guest: Adam Shapiro, Lecturer in Cultural and Intellectual History, Birkbeck University, London

561px-Origin_of_Species_title_pageControversies over the theory of evolution are well documented in American society: according to a Gallup poll conducted in the late 1990s, 44% of the American public rejects it in favor of the Biblical account of creation. Has this always been the case? Did Charles Darwin and early proponents of evolution encounter the same objections when the theory was first proposed in the late 19th century? And did evolution come out of nowhere as a radical new idea, taking the world by surprise? Not necessarily, as it turns out.

In an episode recorded on location in London, Adam Shapiro from Birkbeck University describes how evolution was first received in the United States, and the debates that led up to its most famous test–the Scopes “Monkey Trial” held in Dayton, Tennessee, in the 1920s.

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Episode 54: Urban Slavery in the Antebellum United States

Host: Joan Neuberger, Editor, Not Even Past and Professor, Department of History
Guests: Daina Ramey Berry, Associate Professor, Department of History
Leslie Harris, Department of History, Emory University

When most people think about slavery in the United States, they think of large agricultural plantations and picture slaves working in the fields harvesting crops. But for a significant number of slaves, their experience involved working in houses, factories, and on the docks of the South’s booming cities.  Urban slavery, as it has come to be known, is often overlooked in the annals of slave experience.

This week’s guests Daina Ramey Berry, from UT’s Department of History, and Leslie Harris, from Emory University, have spent the past year collaborating on a new study aimed at re-discovering this forgotten aspect of slave experience in the United States.

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Episode 53: Cats and Dogs in History

Host: Joan Neuberger, Editor, Not Even Past and Professor, Department of History
Guest: Francesca Consagra, Senior Curator of Prints, Drawings, and European Paintings, Blanton Museum of Art

Takahashi Hiroaki (Shotei), Published by Fusui Gabo Cat Prowling Around a Staked Tomato Plant, 1931 Woodblock print, 20 7/8 x 13 7/8 in. The Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Gift of Stephanie Hamilton in memory of Leslie A. Hamilton

Our first episode of season 3 features the curator of the exhibition In the Company of Cats and Dogs. We consider some of the inherent personalities and temperaments of these animals as well as those imposed or projected by humans onto them. Throughout history, these animals have been viewed and represented as family members, hunters of prey, strays, and as figures and symbols in mythological, religious, political, and moral images.

Guest Francesca Consagra helps us make connections across centuries and genres and underscores our complex relationships to these animals, revealing the many ways in which they say as much about us as we do about them.

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Episode 43: Segregating Pop Music

Host: Joan Neuberger, Editor, Not Even Past and Professor, Department of History
Guest: Karl Hagstrom Miller, Associate Professor, Department of History

51mq2FtFjrLAnyone who’s been to the music store lately (or shopped for digital downloads) is probably familiar with the concept of music categorized not only by genre, but also more subtler categorizations that might make us think of country music as “white” or hip-hop as “black.”  It might be surprising that such categorizations were a deliberate mechanism of the music industry and that, even at a time when American society was as racially divided as the late 19th century, such distinctions were usually neither considered nor proscribed onto genres of music.

Guest Karl Hagstrom Miller has spent a career using popular music to explore the economic, social, legal, and political history of the United States. In this episode, he helps us understand how popular music came to be segregated as artists negotiated the restrictions known as the “Jim Crow” laws.

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Episode 42: The Senses of Slavery

Host: Joan Neuberger, Editor, Not Even Past and Professor, Department of History
Guest: Daina Ramey Berry, Associate Professor, Department of History

Slavery marks an important era in the history of the United States, one that is often discussed in terms of numbers and dates, human rights abuses, and its lasting impact on society. To be sure, these are all important aspects to understand, but one thing that is often given relatively short shrift is what it was like to actually be a slave. What were the sensory experiences of slaves on a daily basis? How can we dig deeper into understanding the lives of slaves and understand the institution as a whole?

Guest Daina Ramey Berry has given this question serious thought. In this episode, she discusses teaching the “senses of slavery,” a teaching tool that taps into the senses in order to connect to one of the most important eras in US history and bring it to the present.

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Episode 41: The Myth of Race in America

Host: Joan Neuberger, Editor, Not Even Past
Guest: Jacqueline Jones, Professor, Department of History

American Revolutionary War soldiers. On the far left is an African American in a Rhode Island regiment

There is no question that the idea of race has been a powerful driving force in American history since colonial times, but what exactly is race? How did it become the basis for the institution of slavery and the uneven power structure that in some ways still exists?  How has the idea of what constitutes race changed over time, and how have whites, blacks (and others) adapted and reacted to such fluid definitions?

Guest Jacqueline Jones, one of the foremost experts on the history of racial history in the United States, helps us understand race and race relations by exposing some of its astonishing paradoxes from the earliest day to Obama’s America.

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