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 59: John D. Rockefeller and the Standard Oil Company

Host: Joan Neuberger, Editor, Not Even Past and Professor, Department of History
Guest: Henry Wiencek, Doctoral Candidate, Department of History

John D. Rockefeller in 1885 (The Rockefeller Archive)Perhaps no individual in American history has achieved such meteoric heights as John D. Rockefeller, who embodies the image of the self-made man who rose from humble origins to become one of the richest and most powerful men in the world.  He has also become the archetype of the ruthless capitalist, singlehandedly crushing competition and ignoring attempts to restrict or regulate his activities. Love him or hate him, his name casts a long shadow over the early 20th century.

Guest Henry Wiencek explores the deep contradictions and equally varied representations of John D. Rockefeller, the self-made millionaire whose name became synonymous with industry and free enterprise.

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Episode 58: Islam’s First Civil War

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Shahrzad Ahmadi, Doctoral Student, Department of History

Miniature depicting Aisha (in the howdah) at the Battle of the Camel.

In 7th century Arabia, the Islamic community was nearly torn apart by a civil war over the assassination of the third caliph, Uthman ibn Affan (d. 656), and the accession to the caliphate of Muhammad’s adopted son Ali, supported by Uthman’s assassins. The events of the first fitna, as it is known, are often portrayed as a struggle over the right to rule the Islamic community, but it was much more—a power struggle between Muhammad’s wife Aisha and Ali, and a dispute over who had the right to avenge the murder of Uthman.

In picking up where Episode 57 left off, guest Shahrzad Ahmadi describes this tragic turn of events that sent shockwaves through the nascent Islamic community, and that continue to reverberate today.

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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 23: European Imperialism in the Middle East (part 1)

Host: Joan Neuberger, Professor, Department of History, and editor, Not Even Past
Guest: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies

Artistic rendition of the newly formed U.S. Navy putting down piracy during the Barbary Wars (artist and date unknown)

The relationship between European, North African, and Southwest Asian nations that border the Mediterranean stretches back to antiquity and reflects a long tradition of trade, colonialism, and acculturation. Yet, by the end of World War II, Europe had come to dominate the region politically and militarily. When did this long-symbiotic relationship transform into one of imperialism and colonization?

In this first of a two part podcast, guest and co-host Christopher Rose from UT’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies walks us through the beginnings of European imperialism in the Middle East.

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Episode 22: Causes of the U.S. Civil War (Part 2)

Host: Henry A. Wiencek, Assistant Editor, Not Even Past
Guest: George B Forgie, Distinguished Teaching Associate Professor, Department of History

Designed to exhibit the comparative area of the free and slave states and the territory open to slavery or freedom by the repeal of the Missouri compromise. With a comparison of the principal statistics of the free and slave states, from the census of 1850.

In the century and a half since the war’s end, historians, politicians, and laypeople have debated the causes of the U.S. Civil War: what truly led the Union to break up and turn on itself? And, even though it seems like the obvious answer, does a struggle over the future of slavery really explain why the south seceded, and why a protracted military struggle followed? Can any one explanation do so satisfactorily?

Historian George B Forgie has been researching this question for years. In the second half of this two-part podcast, he’ll walk us through five common–and yet unsatisfying–explanations for the most traumatic event in American history.

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Episode 21: Causes of the U.S. Civil War (part 1)

Host: Henry A. Wiencek, Assistant Editor, Not Even Past
Guest: George B Forgie, Distinguished Teaching Associate Professor, Department of History

Designed to exhibit the comparative area of the free and slave states and the territory open to slavery or freedom by the repeal of the Missouri compromise. With a comparison of the principal statistics of the free and slave states, from the census of 1850.

In the century and a half since the war’s end, historians, politicians, and laypeople have debated the causes of the U.S. Civil War: what truly led the Union to break up and turn on itself? And, even though it seems like the obvious answer, does a struggle over the future of slavery really explain why the south seceded, and why a protracted military struggle followed? Can any one explanation do so satisfactorily?

Historian George B Forgie has been researching this question for years. In this two-part podcast, he’ll walk us through five common–and yet unsatisfying–explanations for the most traumatic event in American history.

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Episode 20: Reconstruction

Host: Joan Neuberger, Professor of History and Editor, Not Even Past
Guest: H.W. Brands, Dickson, Allen, Anderson Centennial Professor of History, UT-Austin

After the chaos of the American Civil War, Congress and lawmakers had to figure out how to put the Union back together again–no easy feat, considering that issues of political debate were settled on the battlefield, but not in the courtroom nor in the arena of public opinion. How did the defeated South and often vindictive North manage to resolve their differences over issues so controversial that they had torn the Union apart?

Historian H.W. Brands from UT’s Department of History reflects on this issues and how he has dealt with them in his thirty years of experience in teaching about Reconstruction: “It’s one of the hardest parts of American history to teach, in part because I think it’s the hardest to just understand.”

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