Friday, May 22, 2009

American Exceptionalism - NBIH

In many nations people have the idea their nation is special and quite a few will not be especially modest in conversation about it. The podcast New Books In History takes on this trait where the United States is concerned. Guest Godfrey Hodgson wrote a book about American Exceptionalism and host Marshall Poe interviews him.

Poe makes sure Hodgson systematically takes on the idea and splits it up in 'American Messianism', the ideology that America is special and the factual question: whether America has a significantly different history from other nations and stands out on exceptional values (freedom and democracy) and achievements (winning all world wars, one, two and three).

As can be expected Hodgson attempts to counter these two ideas extensively and while this may seem annoying for the average American listener (I guess non-Americans will feel rather pleased, but their turn will come one day as well), the interview is actually very worthwhile and entertaining. Neither Poe nor Hodgson really bash the country, should you be afraid.

More NBIH:
The Great War in short,
How Rome Fell,
Glancing over the backlog,
Jews in the Russian army,
Who will write our history?.

History 131

On The Podcast Parlor in one of the forum discussions a remark was made that almost everybody agreed to. Podcasts that are recordings of live lectures have a lot of issues, mostly with audio, but also others, and as a result of that are seemingly more difficult to follow. However, their being live makes up for this, they are actually more easy to follow than crisp recorded monologues.

And so, on the subject of American History, where I have reviewed Gretchen Reilly's series (Before 1870 and After 1870), she has the advantages of good audio, but the drawback of not being live. I am beginning to compare this to two history courses from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, which actually were also recommended on The Podcast Parlor: David Hoogland Noon's History 131 and History 132. (History 131 feed, History 132 feed)

I have made a beginning of History 131 and am learning a lot about the early history of North America (before 1776) a lot of which I know next to nothing about. Professor Hoogland Noon gives a lot of interesting information. The Americas' development and their place in European conflicts and their influx of people from Europe and of course, sadly, from Africa comes out very detailed. Some people enjoy the professor's quirky love of eccentric days on the calendar, but if you do not, they make up only a warm up five minutes of the lectures. I guess he needs it to overcome his nervousness. After that he is off and quite good.

More American History:
Gilder Lehrmann history podcasts,
American Independence (in Hebrew),
US History since 1877 (Gretchen Reilly),
American History before 1870 (Gretchen Reilly),
Religion and Law in US society (UCSD).