Friday, March 9, 2012

In Our Time Moment: History of History


I was quite excited to listen to History of History, first aired in January 2009. Many people who haven’t studied history are quite unaware of how much the discipline has changed since the first Historian, Herodotus, wrote about the Persian Wars in the 5th century BCE.  Since this podcast was billed as examining “how the writing of history has changed over the years” I thought it would be a quick and painless way for you, the reader, to learn about the subject. The panelists were John Burrow, Paul Cartledge and Miri Rubin.

I must admit that I was so frustrated with the podcast I really couldn’t enjoy it. It starts off well, but almost the entire time is spent in the Ancient World, then in the last 10 minutes skips several hundred years to the Renaissance Humanists and then another huge leap to the Enlightenment. Paul Cartledge takes on the inhuman task of summing up the past 50 years of historiography in about two sentences in the last minute of the show.

I suppose that to discuss 2500 years of historiography in 45 minutes was an ambitious task for Melvyn Bragg to set.  On the other hand, the panelists didn’t help Bragg out much with all their ‘oh let me add to that comment’ and ‘before we move on, I need to footnote that.’ However, many of these comments and footnotes, to my mind, weren’t really relevant to the task at hand.

While, the podcast might not be what I hoped for, it is an interesting discussion of historiography in the Classical and Post-Classical World. The best bits, I think, are at the very beginning and at the very end.

Find this episode at the IOT History archive here or search iTunes.

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