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 60: Texas and the American Revolution

Host: Joan Neuberger, Editor, Not Even Past and Professor, Department of History
Guest: Ben Wright, Public Information Officer, Briscoe Center for American History, UT-Austin

Spanish_troops_at_PensacolaWhat role did Texas play in the American revolution?  (What–Texas?  It wasn’t even a state yet!)  And yet, Spain and its empire–including what is now the Lone Star State, did play a role in defeating the British Empire in North America. New archival work is lending light on the ways that Spain, smarting from its loss of the Floridas to Britain in the Seven Years War, backed the American colonists’ push for independence.

Ben Wright of UT’s Briscoe Center for American History has been working with the Bexar archives and documents how Spain’s–and Texas’s–efforts to divert sources of food and funding to the American troops helped to tip the balance of power in North American forever.

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Episode 39: The Royal Proclamation of 1763

Host: Henry Wiencek, Assistant Editor, Not Even Past
Guest: Robert Olwell, Associate Professor, Department of History

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Between 1754 and 1763, Great Britain, France, and a collection of French-allied Native American tribes fought a brutal war over trading rights in colonial North America. This war, generally called the “French and Indian War,” or “The Seven Years’ War,” resulted in a British victory and a large acquisition of French territory across the eastern half of North America. So, faced with the task of how colonists would settle all of this land, King George III issued a Royal Proclamation in 1763 which attempted to reorganize the boundaries of colonial America, as well as the lives of its inhabitants.

Guest Robert Olwell describes the proclamation, its effects on the history of colonial North America, and ponders whether the Royal Proclamation is really the smoking gun that caused the American Revolution as some have claimed.

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Episode 33: The American Revolution in Global Context, Part II

Host: Henry A. Wiencek, Assistant Editor, Not Even Past
Guest: James M. Vaughn, Assistant Professor, Department of History

stampact-skullEvery veteran of high school American history knows that the rallying cry of the American revolution was “No taxation without representation!” But what did that rallying cry actually mean? What were the greater principles behind it? And, in an empire upon which the sun never set, were the 13 North American colonies the only place that Britain’s colonial subjects were agitating for a larger role back in London?

In this second of a two-part episode, guest James M. Vaughn walks us through the long and often painful process that took our founding fathers away from their original goal of from wanting representation and equal standing with the British motherland to the decision to split off from the world’s most powerful empire and go their own way.

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Episode 30: Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an

Host: Joan Neuberger, Editor, Not Even Past & Professor, Department of History
Guest: Denise A. Spellberg, Professor, Department of History

TJQIn 2006, Keith Ellison, a newly elected congressman from the state of Minnesota, and the first Muslim elected to Congress, took his oath of office on a Qur’an from Thomas Jefferson’s personal library. Why did one of the founding fathers own a Qur’an?  What was his opinion of it? And how did it influence his ideas about concepts of religious liberty that would eventually be enshrined in the Constitution?

Guest Denise A. Spellberg, author of a new book called Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an: Islam and the Founders, sheds light on a little known facet of American history: our earliest imaginings of and engagements with the Islamic world, and comes to some surprising conclusions about the extend of religious freedoms envisioned by one of the key founding fathers.

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Episode 14: Early Drafts of the Declaration of Independence

Host: Henry A. Wiencek, Assistant Editor, Not Even Past
Guest: Robert Olwell, Associate Professor, Department of History

One of the "Dunlap broadsides"

The Declaration of Independence is arguably one of the most recognizable documents in American history, quoted and recited often. But the first draft that Thomas Jefferson wrote contained passages that were edited and deleted by the Continental Congress before its approval. What did they say? What might have been different about the early Republic if they were left in? And is there really a treasure map hidden on the back of the original document?

Guest Robert Olwell from UT’s Department of History takes a deeper look to get insight into Jefferson, the workings of the Congress, and the psyche of the American colonists on the eve of revolution—plus, we’ll put that whole treasure map thing to rest once and for all.

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Episode 13: Simón Bolívar

Host: Joan Neuberger, Professor of History and Editor, Not Even Past
Guest: Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra, Alice Drysdale Sheffield Professor of History

Miniature portrait of Simón Bolívar painted in Paris, 1804 or 1805

He’s been called Spanish America’s answer to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson combined, but Simón Bolívar was both and yet neither. An orphaned child shuttled between distant relatives, he was educated in the principles of the Enlightenment and cut his political teeth watching Napoleon take over most of Europe. He is revered as the Liberator of Spanish America, even though he held most of his compatriots in disdain and eventually declared himself dictator before dying a political failure on his way to exile.

Guest Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra from UT’s Department of History discusses the intricacies of Simón Bolívar, an enigma who is still revered and reviled two centuries after his death.

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Episode 12: America’s Entry in to World War I

Host: Joan Neuberger, Professor, Department of History and Editor, Not Even Past
Guest: Jeremi Suri, Professor of History and Mack Brown Distinguished Chair for Leadership in Global Affairs (LBJ School of Public Affairs)

"Well, what are you going to do about it?," political cartoon by R.A. Allen depicting Woodrow Wilson and German Ambassador Johann von Bernstorff (date unknown, believed to be 1915).

World War I ended the long-standing American policy of neutrality in foreign wars, a policy seen as dating back to the time of George Washington. What forces conspired to bring the United States into World War I, and what was the reaction at home and abroad?

Historian Jeremi Suri walks us through the events and processes that brought the United States into The Great War.

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Episode 4: Perspectives of the Founding Fathers

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Henry A. Wiencek, doctoral student, Department of History, and assistant editor, Not Even Past.

American political discourse refers a lot to the ideals of the Founding Fathers, but the Founding Fathers often found themselves at odds with one another with very different religious, political, and economic ideas. In this episode, we’ll examine some of the lesser known Founding Fathers, and examine the ranges of opinions they held about issues from slavery to states’ rights and their opinions on the form of the new American Republic.

Guest Henry A. Wiencek from UT’s Department of History walks us through an era of American history that, it turns out, isn’t so easy to summarize as it might appear.

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