Podcasts Help Historians Speak to the Public

Are you listening to The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast?  We are heading into the studio today to record an episode on history teaching with special attention to the “Reacting the Past” model.

Over at The Anxious Bench, Chris Gehrz reminds us that podcasts are just another way in which historians are connecting to public audiences.  He writes in the wake of Max Boot’s recent criticism of historians.

Gehrz mentions several history podcasts trying to reach-out beyond the academy.  And The Way of Improvement Leads Home is one of them.  Here is a taste of Gehrz’s post:

Hosts: John Fea, Drew Dyrli Hermeling

Total Episodes: 46

Typical Length: 50-65 minutes

Sample Recent Episode: “A City Upon a Hill

Speaking of engaging hosts… This one is already well known to many readers of this blog, where he used to be a contributor. In many ways, John is the epitome of the 21st century historian: equally at home writing serious scholarly monographs and engaging with any and all comers through digital media.

As he does with a recurring “Author’s Corner” series at his venerable blog, John often uses his podcast to share the work of fellow historians. In this episode, he featured Daniel T. Rodgers, author of a new book on one of the most famous sermons in American history. (Agnes blogged about it at Anxious Bench last November.) John, producer Drew Hermeling, and their guests delve into many aspects of religion, politics, and U.S. history, but TWOILH can range widely, as in the Season 4 episode on the history of the “Memphis sound.”

Perhaps the recurring question of TWOILH is whether the past is “usable.” In the “City Upon a Hill” episode, John added a commentary inspired by the Greenwich Tea Burning of 1774, which he notes has been used to promote everything from the assimilation of immigrants to Cold War anti-Communism to the 21st century version of the Tea Party. (Learn more from John’s 2017 post on the topic for Omohundro, plus an accompanying episode of Ben Franklin’s World.) “The past should always be useful,” John agrees. But he warns that the past may not be usable as we’d like it to be:

…sometimes the past is not easily consumable. Sometimes what happened in previous eras has no direct relevance for our lives today… Sometimes the past introduces us to people whose ideas and behavior we want to forget, rather than resurrect for some modern-day agenda… In the end, good historical thinking requires us to see the past in all its fullness, whether it fits our pet causes or not…. This is why historical thinking is central to our role as citizens in a democracy

Thanks!  And don’t forget to check out Chris’s new podcast on sports and history: “The 252.”  A rumor is circulating that Sportianity‘s own Paul Putz will soon be making an appearance on this podcast.

The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast at Harvard’s “Sound Education” Conference

Podcast Conference 2

The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast co-host and producer Drew Hermeling is in Cambridge, Massachusetts this weekend.  He is doing a presentation on the podcast at Sound Education: A Conference for Educational Podcasts and Listeners.  Harvard University is hosting the event.

Here is a description of his session:

Seeing Early America Everywhere: Connecting Eighteenth-Century History to Unexpected Places with Andrew Hermeling (The Way of Improvement Leads Home)
@ Divinity Hall, Room 106

Colonial Puritans and Colin Kaepernick. Mount Vernon and Mar-a-Lago. Eighteenth-century midwifery and Obamacare. These may seem like odd connections, but in their efforts to prove that #everythinghasahistory, early American historians and podcasters John Fea and Drew Dyrli Hermeling regularly demonstrate that today’s hot-button issues have eighteenth-century antecedents. If you look close enough, you can see early America everywhere.

There are some great podcasters at Harvard this weekend.  Here are a few that caught my attention:

Nate DiMeo of The Memory Palace.  (Listen to our interview with Nate in Episode 6 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast)

Ed O’Donnell of In the Past Lane

Blair Hodges of the Maxwell Institute Podcast

Marshal Poe of New Books Network

Liz Covart of Ben Franklin’s World (Listen to our interview with Liz in Episode 24 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast)

Dan Carlin of Hardcore History

We will try to get Drew to write a report of the conference and post it here.  Stay tuned.

Podcast Conference 1

It looks like Drew is playing to a good crowd

Episode 24: The Way of Improvement Leads to Ben Franklin’s World

podcast-icon1To 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.


Liz Covart Joins the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture

Liz CovartHistory podcaster Liz Covart has a new full-time job. The creator and host of Ben Franklin’s World just announced that she will be joining the staff of the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture as its New Digital Projects Editor.

Here is a taste of her announcement at Uncommon Sense–The Blog:

I’m excited to announce that I’ve joined the staff at the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture as its new Digital Projects Editor.

This is a really exciting opportunity because it means long-term support for Ben Franklin’s World and the Doing History series and a chance to continue working and collaborating with the OI’s great staff of talented historians and professionals.

Over the last two years, the team at the Omohundro Institute has helped develop Ben Franklin’s World into a serious and professional media outlet for scholarly history. Their knowledge has played a major role in growing Ben Franklin’s World into a podcast that receives over 160,000 downloads per month and has garnered more than 2 million downloads in less than 3 years. Plus, the Doing History series has evolved into a dynamic series that not only shows the world how historians work and why our work matters, but encourages us to experiment with adapting our traditional modes of historical interpretation and communication to new media. (Thus far these experiments have proven successful as episodes in the Doing History: To the Revolution! series are the most downloaded episodes in the entire BFWorld catalog.)

Read the entire post here. Congratulations, Liz!

The Intended Audience of “Ben Franklin’s World”

6253f-covart2bfranklinCheck out Sadie Bergen’s interview with historian Liz Covart at AHA Today.  As many of you know, Covart is the host and creator of the popular “Ben Franklin’s World” podcast.  I am a fan and regular listener.

During the interview Covart talks about her intended audience.  She has obviously given this a lot of thought.  Here is a taste:

Like many podcasters, I created my show with an ideal listener, or podcast avatar, in mind. Her name is Janet Watkins. She’s a 22-year-old pre-med student at the University at Buffalo. She loves science and dislikes the fact that she has to take a history class. Her dislike for history comes from the fact that as a young, African American woman, she long ago grew tired of hearing her teachers talk of dates and the deeds of dead, white men. Besides, she loves science; what does she need history for? I try to cover topics that will inspire Janet to love and appreciate history; to see that the topic is bigger than dead, white men, and that historical thinking can help her with her scientific thinking. My goal is to produce content that makes it hard for Janet to turn off the podcast. I want Janet’s boss at the student clinic to catch her listening to Ben Franklin’s World in a supply closet when she is supposed to be working. I want to produce content that makes Janet think,, “Boy, I can’t learn enough about early American history.” That’s my goal. 

By the way, Liz Covart and Ben Franklin’s World gets a shout-out in Episode 8 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast, scheduled to drop on Sunday.

Providence to Harrisburg Playlist

95Here was the playlist for the ride home from the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians in Providence:

Outtakes from Springsteen, The Ties That Bind Box Set

Podcast:  In the Past Lane.  Episode on political primaries

Podcast: Ben Franklin’s World.  Episode with Andrew Schocket on memory and the founding.

Podcast: Ben Franklin’s World. Episode with John D. Wilsey on American exceptionalism

Podcast: Ben Franklin’s World. Episode with Kathleen DuVal

Album: The Very Best of the Doobie Brothers 

Album: Bruce Springsteen, High Hopes

Mark Noll Visits “Ben Franklin’s World”

Noll BibleLiz Covart, the host of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, talks with Notre Dame University historian Mark Noll about his most recent book  In the Beginning Was the Word: The Bible in American Public Life,  1492-1783.

Here is a taste of what you will discover in this episode:

  • The role the Bible played in the lives of American colonists
  • How Americans in different regions interpreted and used the Bible
  • The bibles European immigrants brought to and used in North America
  • Details about the Geneva Bible
  • The separation of church and state and why it happened in the United States
  • Religious pluralism of the thirteen British American colonies
  • How colonists adapted biblical scripture to fit their North American environment
  • The role the Bible played in the public lives of Puritans and Pilgrims
  • How American Protestants’ reliance on the Bible affected American literacy rates
  • How historians measure literacy rates in early America
  • Protestant groups that settled in North America
  • How religious pluralism affected how colonial Americans interpreted scripture
  • The First Great Awakening
  • Participation in the Great Awakening by African Americans and Native Americans
  • African American interpretations of scripture
  • Women and scripture
  • How early American men incorporated the Bible and scripture into their lives
  • How the Bible fit within Americans’ conceptions of the British Empire
  • The American bishop controversy

Should Liz Covart Start a History Podcast Network?

BF WorldI love it when Liz Covart, host of the popular Ben Franklin’s World podcast, thinks in public on her blog.  In her most recent ruminations she writes about the potential of a history podcast network.  I think it’s a great idea, and Liz has the entrepreneurial spirit to pull it off, but I also agree with her when she worries about the time commitment.

Here is a taste of her post “A Podcast Network for Historians?“:

Will I follow the podcasters’ advice and use Ben Franklin’s World to start a historian-driven podcast network?

I don’t know.

I have the knowledge and a well-established first show. I also know I could help historians learn how to podcast and produce great, compelling content.

But, starting a network would require me to place my current research and publication plans largely on hold for an unknown period of time. Sure, I could create opportunities to blend my research agenda with that of the network, but it may take several years before I could really go back into the archives and work on a book-length project.

There is also the fact that starting a network would multiply the business/administrative aspects of producing a podcast that I don’t always enjoy.

Network creators are both the face of the network and its “janitor.” I would be responsible for finding and training new talent, creating or finding new shows, managing network hosts and show edits, show promotion, finding and securing advertising partners, and solving problems that arise.

With that said, I love the idea of building something that would allow historians to expand the reach and impact of their important research. And I think I could find a partner or two to assist with the administrative work.

Now is also the perfect time to start a network.

Historians are embracing the history communications movement and podcast networks and digital content providers are beginning to bring order to the “Wild West” atmosphere of digital media. Starting a network now will be easier than it will be two years from now. And starting now would give historians the opportunity to help shape the order content providers and networks are applying to the digital media landscape.

Over the last six months or so, I have felt like I am standing at a crossroads with my work, but I couldn’t articulate why. The idea of starting a network has forced me to figure out why I have this feeling. It’s because I need to make a choice about the type of scholarship I want to produce over the long term.

Do I want to be a historian who dabbles in digital media and researches and writes books and articles that contribute to the historiography?

Or do I want to be a historian who uses their training to shape the way historians utilize new media to present their scholarship to the world?

I have been podcasting long enough, and I see the landscape well enough, to know that I have to make this choice and I must make it soon. If I wait too long, I will miss this opportune moment.

Read the entire post here.

Liz Covart and the Omohundro Institute Team-Up for “Doing History”

CovartLiz Covart, the prolific podcaster responsible for Benjamin Franklin’s World, is teaming up with the Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture for a new podcast series.

“Doing History: A Podcast Serious About How Historians Work,” will be a monthly feature on Ben Franklin’s World.

Here is a taste of the announcement on the OIEAHC website:

Over the next twelve months, Liz will interview scholars about how we frame historical problems, research in different kinds of archives, analyze primary materials including text, objects, and images, synthesize and critically engage secondary literature, present our work for collaborative feedback, and work with editors and publishers. She’ll be looking at what it means to present historical work in different contexts, including as teaching material, as published text, and in a public history context. She’ll be asking questions about different approaches to understanding the past, including the literary and the genealogical.

Liz has made Ben Franklin’s World into an important platform for discussing scholarship with historians; past episodes have featured scholars such as Joyce Chaplin, Kathleen DuVal, Eric Foner, and Alan Taylor. Liz will be the 2016 Omohundro Institute-Lapidus Initiative Assistant Editor for New Media, and she will join, on an ongoing basis, the Advisory Group for the Lapidus Initiative.

I am really looking forward to this.

Liz Covart Takes Us Inside *Ben Franklin’s World*

Ben Franklin’s World has taken the history podcast world by storm. In this video Liz Covart, the creator and host of the show, gives us a glimpse of how the podcast is made.  Liz reads every book that is featured on the show.  She also makes sure to keep her Thomas Jefferson bobblehead away from her Alexander Hamilton bobblehead in order to preserve peace and order on the show.  She even has a “Ben Franklin’s World” microphone!

Yesterday I listened to her wonderful conversation with Marla Miller about the history and legend of Betsy Ross.  I highly recommend it.