The word “evangelical” has a number of meanings and connotations. However, in the current political and social climate, people are most likely to hear the word in association with politics. In this context, it is often synonymous with the Christian Right. Host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling unpack this term further, especially as it pertains to the “Age of Trump.” They are joined by Pulitzer, Bancroft, and National Book Award-winner Frances FitzGerald, who discusses her newest National Book Award-nominated book, The Evangelicals.
Many voices in American politics have been sounding the alarm about the influence of the Koch brothers as a threat to voting rights, the direction of American conservatism, and the very sanctity of American democracy. But like all things, the Koch brothers have a history. In this episode, host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling discuss the rise and influence of American libertarianism within the conservative movement. They are joined by Nancy MacLean who discusses her book, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, which was just nominated for the National Book Award.
Otis Redding. Booker T and the M.G.s. Eddie Floyd. Isaac Hayes. The Staples Sisters. What do all of these classic soul and R&B artists have in common? Stax Records. As he toured the history of the Civil Rights Movement this summer, host John Fea included a stop at the Stax Museum (@StaxMemphis) in Memphis, Tennessee. Eager to relive the experience and share such attractions as a floor-to-ceiling record room and Isaac Hayes’s gold-plated Cadillac, Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling are joined by the museum’s executive director, Jeff Kollath. They discuss the importance of that “Memphis Sound” for the city as well as creating a “usable past” with popular music history.
Here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home, we have traveled to both Mount Vernon and Monticello in our explorations of presidential history. Today, we explore a much more recent addition to the world of presidential real estate, Mar-a-Lago. While host John Fea explores the history of presidential vacations, guest Julian Chambliss (@JulianChambliss), historian and author of the Boston Review article “Draining the Swamp,” dives deeper into Mar-a-Lago as a lens for understanding Florida’s unique history, the disproportionate effects of climate change, and the origin of Trump’s unique and at times inscrutable blend of everyman populism and billionaire branding.
Host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling have returned to their classrooms for another semester of college teaching. What better time to once again explore the importance of pedagogy? John discusses issues surrounding secondary history standards and the way we train our teachers. They are joined by “The Tattooed Prof” Kevin Gannon (@TheTattooedProf) who unpacks his own “Teaching Manifesto.”
In our opening episode of Season 4, host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling catch up on some of the important historical work that still needs to be done in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville. John shares his thoughts on “Make American Great Again” as a historical statement. They are joined by historian Kelly J. Baker (@kelly_j_baker) who discusses the connections between her work Gospel According to the Klan: The KKK’s Appeal to Protestant America, 1915-1930 and the emergence of an increasingly vocal white supremacy movement in America today.
Producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling here. We have bonus podcast content being released this summer. However, it is a special treat that we’re only making available to our patrons. That means if you want to hear any of our fascinating interviews with movers and shakers in the world of historical thinking, you’ll need to head over to our support page. But don’t worry, there’s no minimum pledge for receiving this content.
So thank you again to all of our generous patrons and thank you to all of those who join us in the next few weeks. And even if you can’t make a pledge right now, don’t worry, we’ll be back in the fall with standard, unrestricted episodes!
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.
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 tries 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.
Over the past year we have worked hard at bringing you two seasons (16 episodes!) of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast. I hope you have enjoyed our work. We have interviewed award-winning historians, history educators, journalists, and even a former president of the United States. 🙂
As the podcast enters its third season, we need your help. If you love history and want to hear more discussions about history and historical thinking with people like Annette Gordon-Reed, Ann Little, Peter Onuf, Rebecca Onion, Manisha Sinha, Sam Wineburg, Yoni Appelbaum, and Jonathan Fetter-Vorm, we kindly ask that you consider becoming a regular supporter of the podcast.
We are launching a Patreon campaign complete with gifts from GearHungry for various pledge tiers. So head over and give what you can in support of historical thinking! We look forward to continuing to bring you high quality historical analysis with some of the most exciting thinkers today!
We wish you Happy Holidays and a Merry Christmas from all of us who bring you this podcast. And may your way of improvement always lead home!
Learn more about our pledge drive by downloading this special episode:
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 known. 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.