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 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 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 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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Episode 78: The U.S. and Decolonization after World War II

Host: Joan Neuberger, Professor, Department of History
Guest: R. Joseph Parrott, Doctoral Candidate, Department of History

William_Orpen_–_The_Signing_of_Peace_in_the_Hall_of_Mirrors,_Versailles_1919,_AusschnittFollowing World War II, a large part of the world was in the hands of European powers, established as colonies in the previous centuries. As one of the nations that came out on top of the geo-political situation, the United States was looked to with hope by aspiring nationalist movements, but also seen as a potential source by European allies in the war as a potential supporter of the move to restore the tarnished empires to their former glory. What’s a newly emerged world power to do?

Guest R. Joseph Parrott takes a look at the indecisive position the United States took on decolonization after helping liberate Europe from the threat of enslavement to fascism.

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Episode 73: The Borderlands War, 1915-20

Host: Joan Neuberger, Professor, Department of History
Guest: John Moran Gonzalez, Associate Professor, Department of English

prospective-farmersIn the early part of the 20th century, Texas became more integrated into the United States with the arrival of the railroad. With easier connections to the country, its population began to shift away from reflecting its origins as a breakaway part of Mexico toward a more Anglo demographic, one less inclined to adapt to existing Texican culture and more inclined to view it through a lens of white racial superiority. Between 1915 and 1920, an undeclared war broke out that featured some of the worst racial violence in American history; an outbreak that’s become known as the Borderlands War.

Guest John Moran Gonzales from UT’s Department of English and Center for Mexican American Studies has curated an exhibition on the Borderlands War called “Life and Death on the Border, 1910-1920,” and tells us about this little known episode in Mexican-American history.

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Episode 71: The Rise and Fall of the Latvian National Communists

Host: Christopher Rose, Assistant Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Mike Loader, Doctoral Candidate, King’s College, London

Eduard Berklavs

For a period in the 1950s known as the Khruschev Thaw, the Soviet Republics enjoyed a brief moment of relative autonomy from the heavy handed leadership of Moscow. Latvia, a small republic on the Baltic Sea, took prime advantage of this period of liberalization under the leadership of a group called the Latvian National Communists. They saw a way forward that diverged considerably from Moscow, and took concrete steps to resist Russification of Latvia’s politics and culture. The Thaw was short lived, however, and the Latvian National Communists were eventually thwarted and the republic brought back into the Soviet fold.

Guest Mike Loader gives an enthusiastic look at this high drama at the peak of the cold war, which gives us a glimpse into the inner workings of the Soviet Union from a different perspective.

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Episode 69: The Amateur Photography Movement in the Soviet Union

Host: Christopher Rose, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Jessica Werneke, Department of History, University of Texas at Austin

How to repair a how to repair Zorkii camera for amateurs. M. Iakovlev, Untitled, black-and-white photographs. Sovetskoe foto no. 1 (January 1959)

In its early days, photography occupied an awkward middle ground between documentation and an art form, a debate which dragged on in the west for decades. The debate took place in the Soviet Union as well, where it was encouraged, discouraged, and then encouraged again in a roller-coaster of official policies between the eras of Lenin, Stalin, and Khrushchev. This interplay reveals a surprising amount about the lives of the artistically inclined Soviet middle class.

Guest Jessica Werneke has just completed her doctorate that looks at this oft-overlooked aspect of Soviet society, and discusses the turbulent world of amateur photography in the Soviet Union.

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Episode 68: The Russian Empire on the Eve of World War 1

Host: Joan Neuberger, Editor, Not Even Past & Professor, Department of History
Guest: Dominic Lieven, Professor, London School of Economics and Political Science; Fellow, British Academy; Fellow, Trinity College, Cambridge

UnknownWorld War I is often described as “the war to end all wars,” a global conflagration unprecedented in human society whose outbreak reshaped the face of Europe, and led to the collapse of the Russian Empire and the rise of the Soviet Union. But did the war really come out of nowhere? What else was going on in Europe—and around the world—that led to the outbreak of this “global” conflict?

Our guest, Dominic Lieven of the London School of Economics, has spent his career examining problems of political stability in Europe in the 19th century, and the history of the Russian Empire’s waning days, and helps us understand the world on the eve of its first global war.

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