To close out Season 3, host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling turn to a fellow podcaster and early American scholar, Liz Covart (@lizcovart), the host of the wildly successful Ben Franklin’s World. They discuss how podcasting has emerged as a new form of scholarship, with John offering additional comments on the increased importance of this kind of public historical thinking within our particular political moment.
When we historians say, “everything has a history,” we mean it. Even charity and philanthropy have rich histories and have changed over time. Host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling explore this history in an American context, touching on everything from robber-baron philanthropy to more recent trends like all-night college dance marathons and the ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge.” They are joined by the David M. Rubenstein Curator of Philanthropy at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Amanda Moniz (@AmandaMoniz1).
On May 4, 2017, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act, the first step towards fulfilling the GOP’s promise of “repealing and replacing” the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. But already what used to be a winning issue for Republicans appears to be turning against them. This is but the latest shift in a rich history of healthcare in America. Host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling tackle this politically-charged issue. They are joined by historian Nancy Tomes who just collected one of historical scholarship’s highest honors, the Bancroft Prize, for her book Remaking the American Patient: How Madison Avenue and Modern Medicine Turned Patients into Consumers, out now with the University of North Carolina Press.
The liberal arts vs. STEM. A degree in the humanities vs. a degree in business. The current conversation around higher education consistently pits the study of history, philosophy, or English against more “practical” pursuits like engineering or computer science. But both data and the insights of business leaders tell us that this is a false dichotomy. Host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling discuss the value of the liberal arts within both the current economic and political climate. They are joined by venture capitalist Scott Hartley (@scottehartley), author of The Fuzzy and the Techie: Why the Liberal Arts will Rule the Digital World.
In fact, it is a map indicating all of the states where we have received pledges! If you aren’t already a pledged supporter of the podcast, and you’re from an unclaimed state, consider helping us color the entire map. It actually would be the greatest electoral college victory ever!
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It’s that time of year again—Opening Day. Once again, host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling make their way to the ballpark and get ready to discuss Americas’1 pastime. This time around, they tackle race and ethnicity in baseball while also discussing this year’s prospects for their favorite teams. They are joined by University of Illinois historian and La Vida Baseball (@lavidabaseball) editor-in-chief Adrian Burgos, Jr. (@adburgosjr).
1No, that is not a typo. For an explanation, listen to the episode!
America has long been a home to prophets. Tenskwatawa, Joseph Smith, Anne Hutchinson, and Martin Luther King, Jr. have all spoken truth to power. In today’s episode, John Fea and Drew Dyrli Hermeling discuss America’s prophetic tradition. They are joined by documentary filmmaker Martin Doblmeier whose film, An American Conscience: The Reinhold Niebuhr Story, documents the life and theology of one of America’s most outspoken and revered prophets.
Of all the places for a couple of American historians, why are John Fea and Drew Dyrli Hermeling going to 1930s Czechoslovakia? In this episode, the team try their hands at some comparative history while John discusses the internationalization of the study of the American past. They are joined by Bruce Berglund, who explores the search for meaning in one of Europe’s most secular societies with an added dose of international sports history for good measure.
History always matters, but in times of great political change, good historical thinking is especially important. And since it’s Presidents’ Day, we thought the best place to start Season 3 is at historic Mount Vernon. In this episode we discuss George Washington’s leadership, paying special attention to his 1796 Farewell Address. We are joined by Douglas Bradburn (@douglasbradburn), the founding director of the Fred W. Smith National Library for the study of George Washington (@gwbooks) at Mount Vernon.
Two weeks ago, we discussed the Civil War. But the Civil War didn’t just occur
spontaneously. Instead, it was a reaction to many larger political currents that had their roots in the very foundation of the United States. One such current was abolitionism. Host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling discuss this issue and connect it to John’s own work on the American Bible Society. They are joined by the highly decorated historian Manisha Sinha (@ProfMSinha), who has just released The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition.
Perhaps there is no story more important to the United States than that of our Civil War. It is no surprise then that historians continue to find new things to say about the conflict. Host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling discuss such things as living in the shadow of Gettysburg, the war’s most famous battle, teaching the Civil War, and the continued applicability of Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address. They are joined by the graphic historian Jonathan Fetter-Vorm (@fetter_vorm) who illustrated and co-wrote Battle Lines: A Graphic History of the Civil War.
When the Chicago Cubs finally ended the “Curse of the Billy Goat,” they demonstrated just how historic “America’s Pastime” truly is. When Michael Phelps won his 28th Olympic medal in Rio de Janeiro, he furthered his case for being known as the greatest Olympian history has ever know. Host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling once again tackle the history of sports, and are joined by Emmy award-winning sports historian, Amy Bass (@bassab1).
Well, we have finally arrived at Election Day. After a long and grueling campaign, we are about to find out who will serve as the president of the United States for the next four years.
Over the course of the campaign, there has been a lot of talk about whether we are witnessing the undermining of democracy. Host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling tackle this question historically. They are joined by NPR correspondent Sarah McCammon (@sarahmccammon), who discusses her time spent covering the Donald Trump campaign.
Is it truly possible for academic historians to climb down from the ivory tower and connect with the public? Host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling discuss the ways in which historians can engage with people outside of the academy, whether that be on Twitter or at the invitation of a mega-church. They are joined by Slate historian Rebecca Onion, who’s own work on the Vault invites readers to engage with intriguing documents and artifacts.
Perusing the shelves of your local bookstore, it’d be easy to assume that historians love biographies. However, historians have long wrestled with the problems of hero worship that are so often present within biographical literature. Join host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling as they discuss this genre of historical writing. They are joined by historian Ann Little, who discusses her latest work on the eighteenth-century life of Esther Wheelwright.
Host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling are back and ready for season 2. In this episode, they tackle the issue of historical reenacting. Is it just another kind of historical thinking? Or is it something different? They are joined first by “Thomas Jefferson” who discusses the current state of his 1800 campaign for the presidency. He is followed by Steve Edenbo, a professional “actor-historian” who portrays Thomas Jefferson. Edenbo discusses the process of researching and embodying such a famous historical figure along with the state of his profession in a post-“Hamiltonian” world.
The long awaited Bruce Springsteen episode has arrived! Host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling address the historical, political, and even spiritual significance of the Boss. They are joined by Marc Dolan, author of Bruce Springsteen and the Promise of Rock N’ Roll, who discusses how Springsteen has changed over time with an emphasis on his live performances.
In Episode 8 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home podcast John Fea and Drew Dyrli Hermeling talk about the complex life and legacy of Thomas Jefferson. Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Annette Gordon-Reed and Jefferson scholar Peter Onuf talk with John about their new book, The Most Blessed of Patriarchs: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination.
Host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling discuss America’s national pastime. That’s right–it’s The Way of Improvement Leads Home podcast’s first annual baseball episode! John and Drew talk about the marketability of nostalgia, the youthful dreams of a World Series for the home team, and the way sports turn even the most critical historian into an uncritical fan. They are joined by espn.com uniform expert, Paul Lukas.
Historians often wrestle over how to tell their stories of the past. Complex jargon can make their work inaccessible to non-academics while readable narratives can draw the ire of the academy. Host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling address this tension while discussing dissertation research and Fea’s new book, The Bible Cause: History of the American Bible Society. They are joined by Nate DiMeo, author, producer, and host of the popular historical podcast, the memory palace.