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 92: Disability History in the United States

Host: Augusta Dell’Omo, Graduate Student, Department of History
Guest: John Carranza, Graduate Student, Department of History

freakshow Americans with disabilities compose approximately 50 million people today, and yet remains largely removed from the historical record. The road to recognition has been long and varied; from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s use of a wheelchair while in office, to the popularity of “freak shows,” wherein physical ailments were put on display. How have organizations and activist groups groups dealt with stigma and asked for rights to be able to participate in the public sphere in the United States?

First year history graduate student John Carranza, specializing in disability history, sheds some light on historical representations of disability, and how modern understanding of disability is informed by the past.

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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 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 8: America and the Beginnings of the Cold War

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)

British Prime Minister Clement Atlee, President Harry Truman, Soviet Premier Josef Stalin in Potsdam, Germany, 1945.

The Cold War dominated international politics for four and a half decades from 1945-1989, and was defined by a rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union that threatened—literally—to destroy the world. How did two nations that had been allies during World War II turn on each other so completely? And how did the United States, which had been only a marginal player in world politics before the war, come to view itself as a superpower?

In this episode, historian Jeremi Suri discusses the beginnings of the Cold War (1945-1989) its origins in the “unfinished business” of World War II, the role of the development of atomic weapons and espionage, and the ways that it changed the United States in just five short years between 1945 and 1950.

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