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What does it mean to be a man in white evangelical Christianity? In this episode we talk with historian Kristin Kobes Du Mez, author of Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation. We discuss definitions of masculinity, the Gospel Coalition, Beth Moore, Donald Trump, the 2016 election, the differences between White and Black views of Christian manhood, and how the thesis of her book might be applied to American evangelical culture during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In this episode we talk with Daniel Feller, the editor of The Papers of Andrew Jackson at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. We discuss his work as a documentary editor, the uses of Andrew Jackson in the age of Trump, and a controversial paper he recently delivered at the annual meeting of the Society for the Historians of the Early American Republic (SHEAR).
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At their podcast “The Whiskey Rebellion,” Frank Cogliano and David Silkenat, American historians at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, discuss the recent controversy in the Society for the History of the Early American Republic.
Listen to “SHEAR Madness” here.
Have you ever wanted to write a children’s, middle-grade, or young adult history book? How do you get started? What is the process like? Do I need an agent? In this episode, we talk about writing history for young readers with former Smithsonian educator and author Tim Grove. Tim is the author, most recently, of Star Spangled: The Story of a Flag, a Battle, and the American Anthem. Learn more about his work at TimGrove.Net.
We have done several episodes on race in America at The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast. They are now more relevant than ever as people are showing an interest in learning more about the African-American experience.
Episode 8: Historians Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter Onuf on Thomas Jefferson
Episode 16: Historian Manisha Sinha talks about the history of the abolitionist movement.
Episode 25: Historian Kelly Baker talks about religion and the history of the KKK.
Episode 27: Historian Julian Chambliss discusses the relationship between race, the environment, and Mar-a-Lago.
Episode 28: Public historian and Stax Museum director Jeff Kollath talks about the “Memphis Sound.”
Episode 39: Historian Nicole Hemmer on the one-year anniversary of the 2017 Charlottesville, Virginia race riots.
Episode 43: Public historian Chris Graham on how a Richmond, Virginia congregation is coming to grips with its racist past.
Episode 48: Historian Jemar Tisby on Christianity and race in America.
Episode 58: Historian Richard Bell on the “reverse underground railroad.”
Episode 63: Historian Tom Mackaman on the 1619 Project
Episode 69: Sports historian Paul Putz on the legacy of Michael Jordan
The members of Donald Trump’s controversial cabinet are regular features of the 24-hour news cycle. He has fired members of his cabinet who challenge his thinking on a host of foreign and domestic issues. Just ask Rex Tillerson, James Mattis, and Jeff Sessions. But how did our first president, George Washington, imagine the role of the cabinet? In this episode, we think historically about this important part of the executive branch with historian Lindsay Chervinsky, author of The Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution.
But we can’t do it without your help!
The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast is back after a short COVID-19 hiatus. We have been out of the studio, but with the help of studio producer-extraordinaire Kaci Lehman (now a resident of Nashville!), we have figured out a way to produce episodes with decent sound quality.
In the past, we have taken summers off. But this year we are hoping to not only produce summer episodes, but drop one every week! Right now we are close to making this happen, but we still need a bit more support. If you are interesting in supporting the podcast, or our work here at the blog, click on “Support,” follow the link to our Patreon page, and join our community of patrons. Your money goes directly toward our work here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home. And all of the benefits of membership–mugs and books–are still available! You can also go directly to the Patreon page by clicking here.
We already have three summer episodes in the can.
Episode 67 (Dropped on May 24, 2020): Public historian Susan Fletcher, author of Exploring the History of Childhood and Play Through 50 Historic Treasures, talks about the history of your favorite games and toys. This episode dropped on May 24, 2020.
Episode 68 (Drops on May 31, 2020): Historian Lindsay Chervinsky, author of The Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution, talks about the first presidential cabinet.
Episode 69 (Drops on June 7, 2020): We talk NBA history, Michael Jordan, and the ESPN documentary “The Last Dance” with Baylor University historian of sport Paul Putz.
Stay tuned. We are ready and eager to go with more episodes, but we can’t do it without you! Shoot me a DM on Facebook or Twitter and let me know what guests you want to hear from this summer.
And, as always, a BIG THANK YOU to our current and ongoing patrons!
What happened when British soldiers and their families arrived in Boston in 1768? In Episode 66 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast, we talk with Carleton College history professor Serena Zabin about her new book, The Boston Massacre: A Family History. Zabin’s close reading of everyday life in revolutionary Boston will forever shape how we understand this important moment in our shared past.
The American historian and cultural critic Christopher Lasch (1932-1994) had a powerful influence on the world of ideas. What would the author of the best-selling Culture of Narcissism (1979) have to say about Donald Trump and his particular brand of populism? In this episode we talk about Lasch, Trump, populism, progress, and “evangelical elitism” with intellectual historian Eric Miller, author of the award-winning Hope in a Scattering Time: A Life of Christopher Lasch (2010).
If not, you are missing a great season:
Forthcoming: Eric Miller on Christopher Lasch; Serena Zabin on the Boston Massacre; Katherine Stewart on the Christian Right; Lindsay Chervinsky on the first presidential cabinet; and more!
Download episodes or subscribe at Apple Podcasts.
We operate on shoe-string budget. If you would like to support our work (and possibly receive valuable gifts!), head over to our Patreon page and make a pledge or a one-time gift.
Thanks for listening!
In August 2019, The New York Times Magazine published The 1619 Project, an attempt to reframe American history by “placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.” American historians have praised and criticized the project. In this episode we talk with Thomas Mackaman, a history professor at Kings University in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania and a writer for World Socialist Web Site. Mackaman has not only criticized The 1619 Project, but has interviewed other critics of the project, including several award-winning historians. Why are socialists so upset about this project? What is the backstory behind Mackaman’s interviews with Gordon Wood, James McPherson, Clayborne Carson, and other 1619 Project critics? Anyone interested in debates over how historians do history and connect the past to present political and social issues will learn something from this episode.
For four years Drew Dyrli Hermeling has been the heart and soul of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast. We are saddened that he has decided to step away from his work here, but excited that he will have more time to devote to his history students at The Stone Independent School, a college-prep school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Drew joins us for one final episode to reminisce with John about their work together on this project.
Are you watching Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial? Are you trying to make sense of it all? We want to help. In this episode we talk with CNN presidential historian and Southern Methodist University professor Jeffrey Engel on the history of impeachment. Engel sheds light on the debates over impeachment in the Constitutional Convention, the historic meaning of “bribery” and “high crimes and misdemeanors,” and the inevitable political and partisan nature of American impeachments.
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Season Six is under way and we are already off to a great start.
Follow the archival adventures of Lady and Alaina, both history majors at the University of South Florida, as they conduct research on the George Washington’s Birthplace National Monument. Their project is supervised by Philip Levy, professor of history at South Florida and the scholar behind the project.
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
On Sunday we dropped Episode 46 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast. Co-host Drew Dyrli Hermeling interviewed Penn State historian Julie Reed about presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren’s claim to be a descendant of native Americans. I hope you enjoy it. (There is also a brief “blooper reel” after the credits!) Drew tells me that it has one of the highest number of “launch day” downloads in the history of the podcast. (Maybe I should just turn the hosting duties over the Drew!) 🙂
As we approach 50 episodes, the podcast is preparing for some transitions. Our studio producer Abigail LaBianca is graduating in May and our funding for her replacement is almost gone (we are still paying Abby through a one-time gift from an angel donor). Meanwhile, Drew is going through some changes in his work life that might limit the number of hours he can work with the podcast. I would like to keep going, but I am not willing to sacrifice on quality.
Over the next several months we are going to have to make some hard decisions about the future of the podcast. I am not a big fan of asking for money, but our ongoing Patreon campaign could really use a boost in the next 8-10 weeks. We need to know if there are folks out there who like our product enough to support it. Learn more about how you can help fund our work here.
A big thank you for those who are already supporting our work. Patrons come and go and we appreciate all of you. We especially appreciate those of you have stuck with us from the beginning.
And we still have several more episodes coming this Spring! Stay tuned. I think you will enjoy them.
I am happy to have Matt Lakemacher writing for us this weekend from the annual meeting of the American Historical Association in Chicago. Matt is one of the most engaged middle school teachers I know. He teaches at Woodland Middle School in Gurnee, Illinois and is a veteran of numerous summer history seminars and institutes. Here is his first dispatch:
Can podcasting help to stem the tide of declining enrollment in history departments? For the panelists and audience members in an opening American Historical Association roundtable today on “History Podcasting as Graduate Students,” the answer was a resounding, if qualified, yes. Producers and hosts from two historical podcasts, Sexing History and The Way of Improvement Leads Home, gave brief remarks on their experiences with history podcasting and then opened it up for audience members to share the ways that they’ve used podcasts in the classroom and with students. In the end, it became clear that while podcasting (as well as blogging) might not be the silver bullet that saves history education, it can be another tool in the history teacher’s arsenal to make the subject relevant, keep students’ interest, and in jargon that all K-12 educators know their administrators want to hear: promote 21st century skills.
Two dual themes emerged from the panel: podcasting is good for history and history is good for podcasting. Each panelist related in one way or another how working on a podcast actually improved their work as grad students and as historians. According to Saniya Lee Ghanoui, podcasting with Sexing History taught her the importance of story-telling and has greatly improved her dissertation writing. In a similar vein, Devin McGeehan Muchmore shared how blogging for Notches and working on Sexing History got him to think about ways of narrating the past outside of the traditional historical monograph or journal article. And Drew Dyrli Hermeling credited his work on The Way of Improvement Leads Home with getting a job at the Digital Harrisburg Project. As a whole, the panel embraced the role that podcasting can play in public history – bringing the past to those outside of the academy (although it was conceded that podcasting is still very much a niche medium and can be somewhat of an echo chamber). Ghanoui offered some advice to her fellow grad students: “It does take away time from your dissertation . . . but it’s a welcome distraction.” She added, “I love how collaborative it is . . . it is worth it.”
Hermeling set the table for the audience discussion that followed and the pivot to history being good for podcasting, by sharing how he had students in his J-Term class on indigenous culture at Messiah College create a podcast as one option for a project assignment. He, as well as the audience, made clear that audio quality and production values should not be heavily weighted on any rubric used for grading such an assignment. But Hermeling was surprised by the quality of the research and sources that students used in their podcast. “It’s a good way of tricking them into using a lot of citations.” One audience member admitted that compared to other assignments, grading student podcasts was a pleasure. Another said that Wisconsin Public Radio was looking to possibly use some of his students’ short pieces on the air. And everyone who shared during the session had positive experiences doing a podcasting assignment in class, thought the students were engaged, and plan on doing them again.
So, can podcasting turn around sagging interest in history as a K-12 subject and as a major? Perhaps the jury is still out. But if it provides another way of getting students to apply historical thinking skills to a (relatively) new technology and opens another venue for bringing historical literacy to the public at large, then it’s an effort well worth pursuing. As the roundtable’s chair and host of Sexing History Lauren Gutterman stated, “graduate students are at the forefront of history podcasting,” and for that this history teacher and fellow grad student is grateful. Of course, as Hermeling put it in one final word of advice for potential history podcasters, “At the risk of being flippant, I’d go the Sexing History route.”