Episode 108: A History of the U.S. Marine Corps

Host: Augusta Dell’Omo, Department of History
Guest: Aaron O’Connell, Department of History

The US Marine Corps may now proudly boast to be the home of the few and the proud, but this wasn’t always the case. In the early part of the 20th century, it was the poorest funded and least respected branch of the military, and at the end of World War Two there was actually a movement to shut them down. How, then, did this transformation from relative unpopularity to the most prestigious armed service in the United States occur?

Aaron O’Connell, a history professor at UT Austin, joins us today to describe how, as the Cold War heated up, Marines utilized their own internal culture to win power and influence throughout U.S. political and social circles.

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Episode 105: Slavery and Abolition

Host: Brooks Winfree, Department of History, UT-Austin
Guest: Manisha Sinha, Draper Chair in American History, University of Connecticut

It’s well known in American history that slavery was abolished with the 13th amendment to the constitution, however, the debate over slavery and the movement to abolish it is as old as the American republic itself. Who were abolitionists? How did they organize? What were their methods? And, considering that it took a Civil War to put an end to slavery, did they have any real effect?

Yes, they did! Dr. Manisha Sinha from the University of Connecticut joins us to discuss her research on the deeper legacy of abolitionists–men and women, blacks and whites, Northern and Southern–and how the debate over slavery shaped American history from the Revolution to the Civil War.

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Episode 102: The “Servant Girl Annihilator”

Host: Augusta Dell’Omo, Department of History
Guest: Lauren Henley, Department of History

In 1885, the world’s attention was focused on a series of grisly murders that took place in the otherwise quiet town of Austin, Texas. Several African-American women were murdered in the middle of the night, leading the press to dub the unknown assailant “the Servant-Girl Annihilator.” The serial killer phenomenon was so new that some even went so far as to speculate that Jack the Ripper was the same person.

Lauren Henley describes America’s first (known) serial killer, what the events tell us about the racial history of the region and the reason why true crime fascinates so many.

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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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Episode 34: The Social Legacy of Andrew Jackson

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

jackson cartoonAndrew Jackson’s presidency marked the introduction of a real maverick to the White House: a frontiersman from Tennessee, not part of the Washington elite, who brought the ideas of the people to the national government — or, at least that’s what his supporters claimed. But Jackson’s lasting political legacy instead comes from expanding the vote to all white males (not just landholder), and the tragic effects of the Indian Removal Act of 1830.

Guest Michelle Daneri from UT’s Department of History helps us sort through the political forces that brought Jackson to office, and the long lasting impact of his presidency.

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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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Episode 18: Eugenics

Host: Joan Neuberger, Department of History and Editor, Not Even Past
Guest: Philippa Levine, Professor; Mary Helen Thompson Centennial Professorship in the Humanities; Co-Director British Studies Program

Harry H. Laughlin, The Second International Exhibition of Eugenics held September 22 to October 22, 1921, in connection with the Second International Congress of Eugenics in the American Museum of Natural History, New York (Baltimore: William & Wilkins Co., 1923).

Early in the twentieth century, governments all over the world thought they had found a rational, efficient, and scientific solution to the related problems of poverty, crime, and hereditary illness.  Scientists hoped they might be able to help societies control the social problems that arose from these phenomena. All over the world, the science-turned-social-policy known as eugenics became a base-line around which social services and welfare legislation were organized.

Philippa Levine, co-editor of a newly published book on the history of eugenics, explains the appeal and wide-reaching effects of the eugenics movement, which at its best inspired access to pre-natal care, access to clean water, and the eradication of harmful diseases, but at its worst led to compulsory sterilization laws, and the horrific experiments of the Nazi death camps.

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Episode 16: The First Illegal Aliens?

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Madeline Y. Hsu, Associate Professor, Department of History, and Director, Center for Asian-American Studies

 "Another Field of American Industry Invaded by the Chinese": From Harper's Weekly: Harper's Weekly, Vol. 27 (1883).

Fears that the U.S. is being invaded by illegal aliens, of vast numbers waiting to stream across the border and undermine the American working class may seem ripped from the today’s headlines today, but a century and a half ago politicians weren’t looking south toward Mexico when debating immigration policies, they were looking west, toward China. Concerns over Chinese immigration shaped U.S. immigration policies in ways we still observe today.

Guest Madeline Y Hsu from UT’s Center for Asian-American Studies discusses the tumultuous experience of Chinese immigration to the U.S., the passing of the Chinese Exclusion Act, and sheds light on the lingering immigration issues first discussed in the 19th century that continue to concern us in contemporary political debates.

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Episode 5: Mapping Perspectives of the Mexican-American War

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Chloe Ireton, doctoral student, Department of History

J. Disturnell's 1847 Map of Mexico

This episode looks at US perceptions of Mexico through map making during the US / Mexico War, in which a private publisher sold maps that were reissued annually to reflect ongoing progress in the campaign. Intended for a general, popular audience, these maps served as propaganda in aid of the conflict, but historians and military analysts alike have ignored them until recently—even though they may well have influenced the positioning of the border at the war’s end.

Guest Chloe Ireton looks at the intriguing history of maps as propaganda and the role of two publishing houses—J. Disturnell and Ensigns & Thayer—not only in rewriting the history of the Mexican-American war, but in influencing the outcome of the war even as it was still ongoing.

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