I very much enjoy the History genre of podcasts of all varieties and topics, which can be seen in past reviews. I wasn’t really looking for another one to add to the list. However, Luke Moore, from The Football Ramble podcast, made reference to BBC Radio 4’s “In Our Time: History,” and it’s host, so I had to check it out. I was not disappointed.
Some radio shows have attempted to move to podcast form, by simply substituting the advertisements. This doesn’t really work as a radio show is live, so is repetitive as listeners can tune in at anytime. Although, with History as the driving force this one moves along, avoiding that pitfall.
I would say one of the strength’s of this show is the format: a panel of experts discussing the chosen topic. The topic can be anything from Carthaginian General “Hannibal” to “Napoleon’s Retreat from Moscow” to something as simple as “Coffee.” I often find myself thinking oh that doesn’t sound interesting, but listening anyway, and enjoying it.
Having more than one or two people really helps keep the episode moving, and provides different perspectives and even contentious moments (in a professional and scholarly manner of course). Even if they agree, they might have a different reasoning, or provide different evidence. This allows for everyone to state their case and discuss counterpoints, and moves the episode along.
The main strength of this podcast is the host, Melvyn Bragg. He has no issues interrupting his guests, even as they are in the middle of an explanation, to keep the show on track. It is often blunt, but with a tone of British formality, and coming from an 80-year-old (at the time of writing), makes for some great unintentional comedy.
Bragg is not just a radio show host, and boasts a long resume, starting his broadcasting career in 1961, being appointed to the House of Lords in 1998, serving as Chancellor of the University of Leeds from 1999 to 2017, among many other accomplishments. While he can be blunt, he is well suited for the job, and keeps the show on topic, and time, with a bluntness and dryness that often induces some smiles.
You don’t have to be a student/fan of History to enjoy this podcast, but it helps. While there are many topics which crossover from a pure Historical genre, such as coffee, they often go deep into origins and what can be considered the mundane.
If you are a more casual fan, I would say pick and choose the episodes based on topics. I’ll even admit, I don’t listen to everyone, but the chances a topic comes up that you wish to know more about, and don’t have the time for an entire book on it, this is the podcast for you. Plus, you will get a bit of humor out of the host’s style.