Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Boffins and WW I - Thinking Allowed

Here is a quick heads up about BBC's sociology program Thinking Allowed, before the newest will be put on line.

There was a fine show last week with two interesting issues. One, about so-called Boffins or Nerds or whatever the high achieving school children are pejoratively called. Presenter Laurie Taylor spoke with researcher Becky Francis from Roehampton University who studied the children and found out how they struggle in the balancing act between being good at school and being popular. What struck me the most is how thoroughly kids are aware of their position in the school class hierarchy - as if I did not remember.

The second subject may interest listeners beyond sociology. I know I have a lot of history podcast listeners among my readers who are profoundly interested in World War I. They might consider taking up Thinking Allowed's second subject. A study was made of letters sent home by soldiers in WWI and Laurie Taylor speaks with Michael Roper and Joanna Bourke what can be learned from these.

More Thinking Allowed:
Richard Hoggart,
Secular vs. Religious,
Renoir and Slumming,
Mizrahi Jews,
The weekly social science stop.

Yuval Malchi's History Pieces - קטעים בהיסטוריה

I love Yuval Malchi's podcast קטעים בהיסטוריה (pieces of history). It is one of those amateur history podcasts, where the author occasionally finds the time to share his knowledge with us. In Yuval's case this means jumping back and forth through periods and subjects in history, just as his personal research has come up - I assume.

And so, apparently, Yuval has taken up an economics perspective on history. His previous episode was about the Tulip Mania in 17th century Netherlands as the oldest and most obvious example of market bubble. Now, Mr. Malchi has come with two issues with more stories of economic history, this time from 19th and 20th century US. Why this had to be cut into two episodes, escapes me. The chapters came out simultaneously and neatly connect on to another. But this is merely a side step.

The stories we get are presented as the biggest enterprise mistakes on the last centuries, but although they are about enterprise decisions that were proven wrong by consecutive events, one can hardly cast the label mistake in advance. If Western Union didn't see anything in Bell's telephony or Mars didn't want to sponsor the movie ET, consecutive events may have caused the decision makers to deeply regret the route taken, but they must still have felt that the considerations were sound. There must be business decisions taken on much worse grounds and regardless the consequences, they could be regarded as more faulty. Still, the stories are very poignant, making the podcast informative and entertaining.

More קטעים בהיסטוריה (Pieces of History):
The Tulip Mania,
American Independence,
Lewis and Clark.