In 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.
With 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.
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.
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.
Following 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.
For four months in 1871, angry citizens of Paris seized control of the city after a humiliating defeat against the Prussian Empire and the collapse of the Second Empire. The radical and revolutionary government and its brutal suppression was the inspiration for Karl Marx’s “dictatorship of the proletariat.” Although the experimental regime met a violent end, it has become part of the French national narrative.
John Merriman, Charles Seymour Professor of History at Yale, has just published a book about the Paris Commune that takes a new look at how a radical government managed to find support from rich and poor, conservative and liberal, to try to regain dignity in the face of France’s brutal defeat.
At the height of the Spanish Empire, the Manila Galleon – an annual flotilla between Manila and Acapulco – was considered the lifeline of Spain’s economy, bringing silver from the mines of New Spain to the markets of Asia. On the reverse trip, the galleons would be loaded with Asian luxury goods, such as spices, silks — and slaves. This episode presents a micro history of the Trans-Pacific slave trade through the lens of Diego de la Cruz, a chino slave who managed to escape and evade capture for three years in the highlands of Central America.
Guest Kristie Flannery found Diego’s story in the Spanish colonial archives, and narrates his tale in the broader context of the powerful political and economic forces at work in Spain’s global empire.
New episodes are coming soon! In the meantime, fans might be interested in hearing an interview co-host Christopher Rose did about the history and behind the scenes processes that go into producing 15 Minute History with the FIR Podcast Network.
When Chris Rose, Outreach Director at the University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies, launched the 15 Minute History Podcast in 2013, he had no idea that within eight months it would shoot to the number one ranked podcast on iTunesU.
15 Minute History is a podcast about world and US history produced by the History Department at the University of Texas at Austin. The series is devoted to short, accessible discussions of important topics in World History and US History led by the faculty and graduate students at the school. The original goal in setting up the podcast was to take the school’s research and make it accessible to the public, something that they seem to be doing quite well as evidenced by the 3,000 – 4,000 downloads per episode.
In the summer of 2015, an obscure Qur’ān manuscript hidden in the far reaches of the Cadbury Research Library at the University of Birmingham grabbed attention worldwide when carbon dating revealed that the book was one of the oldest Qur’āns known to exist. In fact, it might have been written during the lifetime of the Prophet Muḥammad … or might it even have been written before Muḥammad’s lifetime?
Guest Christopher Rose (yes, our regular co-host) has been following the headlines and puts the discovery of the Birmingham Qur’ān within the larger field of Islamic and Qur’ānic Studies, and explains how the text might raise as many questions as it answers.
In the waning days of China’s Qing Empire, a riot broke out in Changsha, the capital of Hunan Province. After two years of flooding, a starving woman had drowned herself in desperation after an unscrupulous merchant refused to sell her food at a price she could afford. Three days of rioting followed during which symbols of Qing power were destroyed by an angry mob, which then turned its sights on Changsha’s Western compound. Historians have long assumed the mob was controlled by the landed gentry, but as nearly every dictator knows, a crowd has a mind of its own.
James Joshua Hudson, Visiting Assistant Professor of History at Knox College, describes the riots and some surprising finds he made conducting fieldwork in Hunan that offer a glimpse into the deeply layered tensions on the eve of the downfall of the Qing dynasty.