Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Roman Nightmares - Dan Carlin Hardcore History

It is called Punic Nightmares, the trilogy Dan Carlin produced in his podcast Hardcore History , and deep into the third episode , the Romans are still suffering a nightmare, brought upon them by the Carthaginian genius Hannibal. And Carthage is an important Punic power in the Western Mediterranean. In the east they rule in the coastal city of Tyre. Mostly they are better known as the Phoenicians. And they could have become the major power in the Classical world, if not for the Romans. (feed)

And so, the Punic Nightmare of the Romans, experiences a turn of tables and become a Roman Nightmare for the Phoenicians of Carthage. The way Dan Carlin tells this story goes way beyond the realms of history podcast. He apologetically proclaims: "I am not a historian, I am a fan." This serves as an excuse to go on a What If tangent, but that tangent and that kind of thinking is no the most profound quality of Hardcore History. It is part of Dan Carlin's method of telling the story. Carlin brings home the drama of the facts, the intensity of the experience, the experience itself, as far as possible.

Hannibal, in spite of all his successes, has to fight it alone and eventually is worn out by the nearly defeated Romans. He barely makes it back to Carthage, but can no longer lead. The Roman hero of this turn of events, Scipio Africanus, also eventually is slid out through the back door. And while these heroes die their ignominious death, Carthage, at long last is cruelly and ruthlessly destroyed by the Romans. The Romans will come to rule the Mediterranean and leave their footprint on our world.

It has always been the great quality of Hardcore History, but in these 23 shows, Carlin has gotten a firm grip on how to do it. He knows better than ever to balance the facts with the analysis, the drama with the sources, his excitement with standing historiography. I would say, by now, Dan Carlin has developed his way of relating to history into an art form.

More Dan Carlin:
Punic Nightmares II ,
Punic Nightmares I,
Under the Influence,
and Dan Carlin praises Anne is a Man!

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Gretchen Reilly history podcasts

Gretchen Ann Reilly is a history professor at Temple College, Texas. She is involved in all of the basic history programs and has developed podcasts series for several of them. A couple of these I have commented on in the past and here I want to return to the course History 2311, Western Civilization until 1600. (feed)

There are many more college and university programs I can compare this with, but there are two significant differences one should keep in mind before taking the podcast. One is that Reilly did not record here lectures in class, she quietly sat down with her microphone and recorded what she had to say. This makes the lecture more smooth, more clear, but also a little less lively. She has also cut the issues into pieces extending no longer than 15 minutes. This is a wise decision, because it will help the listener to stay focused on these unadorned monologues.

In important second difference is the entry level, or the target audience Reilly has chosen. She addresses the listener at a much lower level than others. She makes no assumption as to what you already know, understand and are familiar with. If you do, this can be quite a bore. If you don't you will find yourself in relief. She will explain where is Europe, what AD and BC stand for and mean. She will avoid saying the sixteenth century and leave it to you to figure this is some year in the 1500s. Still, she makes sure you will get the basics of the history mainstream right. A perfect introductory history podcast for the absolute beginner.

One last remark. Reilly's feeds are frequently unavailable and than batched back. I am not sure she is uploading new lectures every time - it sure doesn't sound that way. If you cannot reach a feed, just stay subscribed and the content will come back on-line sooner or later.

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