Thursday, May 31, 2012

Moral and Political thought of Gandhi (History 175c) - UCLA

Unfortunately, the audio is incomplete, but Vinay Lal's course at UCLA -History 175c- still gives a compelling series of lectures digging into the biography of Gandhi, his thought and his critics. (feed)

Even if the life of Gandhi and his thought are well-known, there are many surprises when you start digging into it. As a concept, nonviolence is not so difficult to understand, but a theory how this might work in a political theory and in a spiritual philosophy is far from self-explanatory. Vinay Lal's lectures are a good way to get acquainted. Although Lal certainly reveres Gandhi there is ample distance to let you feel you are getting a fair introduction.

In comparison, the old Berkeley courses on nonviolence are much more engaged. These two, PACS 164A&B are among those podcast lectures that are no longer available through Berkeley, not even among the classical courses on iTunesU. The Metta Center for nonviolence however still points at them, including video recordings of those lectures. Should you want to take on these, start with Lal's course.

Lal's course is a great complement to other podcasts about Gandhi. When Joseph Lelyveld published his controversial biography of Gandhi, I reviewed a couple of podcasts that paid attention to this book.

Also among other Indian History courses Lal teaches at UCLA this one stands out. It clearly is the subject that is most closely to Lal's areas of interest. The other courses are History of India and the History of British India.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Agatha Christie - Oxford Biographies

Oxford University Press has a Dictionary of National Biographies which probably is also available in print, but can be accessed on-line at a premium. It contains biographies of some sixty thousand people in British history, from 400 BC to today. For promotion they have a podcast every fortnight Oxford Biographies that delivers spoken biographies in seven to fifteen minutes. (feed)

Each free issue is maintained for a limited amount of time in the feed. Names I have commented on in the past such as Roald Dahl and George Best, can no longer be had, but if you are quick PG Wodehouse can still be had, along with William Morris (of the Morris cars) and Hannah Snell an 18th century female soldier.

The latest issue, Agatha Christie, is also one not to miss out on. In nineteen minutes you will get every thing you need to know. How she was shy as a youngster, still loathed being a celebrity as an elderly woman, still such a prolific and successful writer and made a Dame by the end of her life. What I particularly liked was the attention given to her writing methods and the technique she applied to giving the clues, yet manipulating their ambiguity such that it would confuse the reader towards the wrong conclusion until the truth was revealed and the right solution to the whodunnit would be perfectly correct.

More Oxford Biographies:
George Best
Roald Dahl,
Biography Podcasts,
Oxford Biographies podcast review.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Early Middle Ages (Yale)

Open Yale is a great source for academic podcasts. Thanks to a tip from my reader Charles Lipson, I learned about a set of new courses that have become available at Yale, among others Paul Freedman's series about the Early Middle Ages (284-1000 CE) - (feed). After having heard the first four lectures (out of 22), I warmly recommend this series.

In the world of history podcasts there are a couple of other options to get information about the early Middle Ages; UCSD has an MMW part dedicated to this era and there is also a series about the Byzantine Empire that should be had when you are interested in these centuries and there is the multimedia experience of Europe From Its Origins. All of these tend to start with the Roman emperors Diocletian and Constantine to mark the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and then move on to cover the fall of Rome in the West and the consecutive developments in Western Europe.

Yale's Paul Freedman does the same, but with his lectures I was made to realize for the first time, how radical the change is, especially under Constantine and how this truly is the beginning of the Middle Ages, that era in the history of Western Europe that is dominated by Christianity and the Church power. It has been said before, but as Freedman emphasizes how odd it is that an insignificant minority sect such as the Christians, that is known for its pacifism, within a hundred years becomes the dominant creed and political power in this mighty and militaristic empire, I have come to understand more profoundly how remarkable the development is. Really the start of a new age. Neither religion nor the state were the same as before.

More Yale:
The Moral Foundations of Politics
History of epidemics,
Early Modern England,
European Civilization 1648-1945,
France since 1871,
New Testament, history and literature,
The Hebrew Bible.

More Medieval History:
Europe From Its Origins
Norman Centuries
12 Byzantine Rulers,
Byzantine Empire (UCSD),
Medieval Heritage (UCSD - Chamberlain),
Medieval Heritage (UCSD - Herbst).