Fierce Girls is a podcast aimed at primary school girls, produced by ABC Radio in Australia. Each episode narrates the story of an Australian girl or woman—some historical figures, some in the recent past—who has somehow pushed beyond boundaries and achieved more than was expected of her.
The episodes are narrated by well-known Australian women, and include sound effects and some voice actors playing the role of the protagonist. This is at times a bit grating to the adult ear, but the variety of voices seems to keep children interested and propels the narrative along.
The standout episodes for me have been the historical ones—about World War II spy Nancy Wake, pilot Nancy Bird-Walton and ground-breaking Olympic swimmers Fanny Durack and Mina Wylie. Episodes about more recent events include Jessica Watson’s solo sailing voyage around the world and Cathy Freeman’s (brilliant!) run at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. I’ve mentioned a number of sportswomen and girls here, but Series 1 also covered social activists, indigenous women and women in education and the arts.
I recommend the podcast for children and adults—and I would say it is certainly not just for girls. The themes and issues raised (subtly) are universal. Children can spot a ‘moral of the story’ a mile away. For the most part, this podcast manages to tell great stories in an engaging way, raise some questions, and provide good fodder for discussion afterwards. Australian boys deserve to know about the exploits of these fierce girls just as much as Australian girls do.* We’re all in this together!
Series 2 is currently in production.
*Also no reason why this podcast wouldn’t translate internationally.
An illustration from The Life of Toussaint L’Ouverture: the Negro Patriot of Hayti by J.R. Beard (London, 1853). From the New York Public Library.
Mike Duncan is an historian, author, and podcaster. Since 2013 he has produced a number of podcast series, each focusing in depth on a different revolution in the past. Series 4 of Revolutions Podcast (which spanned 19 episodes) covered the Haitian revolution in all its confusing glory. Duncan takes the listener through the background in Saint Domingue pre-revolution, explains who was who, and traces the twists and turns of the revolution. The detail can get confusing at times, but this podcast is well worth investing time in. If, like me, you really want to understand how the history of Haiti unfolded, then I highly recommend this series.
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Archaeologists Alice Samson and Angus Mol use a different object or artefact in each episode of their podcast The History of the Caribbean in 100 Objects to tell the story of past and present cultures and societies of the Caribbean. What I particularly enjoy about the podcast is that they have selected artefacts from across the Caribbean, crossing language barriers to teach us about artefacts from the formerly Spanish, British and Dutch parts of the region, as well as the pre-Columbian era. This is no mean feat—historians are all too often limited by language barriers in studying the Caribbean, particularly those who are reliant upon documentary (written) evidence. As archaeologists, Samson and Mol have managed to cross some of those barriers. Episode 1 discusses a guaíza, which is a small sculpture of a face, dating back to between 1200-1300. Studying this artefact opens up research on the people who lived in today’s Dominican republic, before…
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The Irish Passport, hosted by historian Tim McInerney and journalist Naomi O’Leary, is now into its second series. The aim of the podcast is to tie current events in Ireland to the history and culture that explain them. As a result, there is an underlying thread of politics to the series—think Brexit (primarily!) and more recently the referendum to repeal the 8th amendment of the Irish Constitution.
McInerney and O’Leary do a brilliant job, however, of unravelling the misconceptions which often swirl around Irish history and culture. In Series 1, the podcast investigated Britain’s ‘knowledge gap’ about Ireland, and in so doing provided a potted history of British/Irish relations going back hundreds of years. They also delved into the 1916 Easter Rising, the Great Hunger, the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and the recently uncovered scandal at the Tuam Mother and Baby Home. Other episodes focused on cultural issues such as the Irish language and folklore.
A word of warning about The Irish Passport—the episodes are long! Most episodes are about an hour long, although recently McInerney and O’Leary have begun publishing shorter Halfpint episodes, available only to subscribers.
I highly recommend the podcast for anyone interested in understanding the deeply complicated history of the island of Ireland, and its relationship with Britain, Europe and the Atlantic world. As well as providing a solid grounding in Irish history and culture, the podcast will entertain you. The hosts may be rigorous in their research, but they are charming in their delivery. After a while, I suspect most listeners don’t mind the hour+ running time!
Ben Franklin’s World is a weekly podcast hosted by Dr Liz Covart which focuses on the early American colonial period, broadly conceived. The topics covered over the 3+ years of the podcast are varied, and are only rarely connected with the subject of Benjamin Franklin himself.
Most episodes take the form of a detailed interview with an academic historian, usually centred around a book the historian has published. Covart’s skill as a podcaster is in keeping the conversation accessible to a generalist audience, but also in delving deep into the historical issues at play. The breadth of historical approaches (eg. social history, cultural history, history of ideas) covered by the podcast is impressive, exposing listeners to a variety of historical methodologies as well as some downright fascinating stories. There have been occasional interviews with public historians – one of which was the very first episode in which Covart went behind the stacks at the Library Company of Philadelphia, which was founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1731.
In conjunction with the Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture Covart has released two Doing History series within the podcast. Season 1 (2016) was entitled How Historians Work and focused on how scholars frame historical problems; research in different kinds of archives; analyse primary materials including text, objects, and images; synthesize and critically engage secondary literature; present their work for collaborative feedback; and work with editors and publishers. Series 2 (2017), To The Revolution, built on Season 1’s discussions and demonstrated how differently scholars approach, understand, and portray the events comprising the American Revolution. I highly recommend the Doing History Series to undergraduate and postgraduate students, but also to those pursuing their own non-academic research and writing.
The show notes accompanying each episode summarise the interview and include links to the interviewee’s work and other resources discussed during the episode. The show notes also helpfully link to complementary episodes of Ben Franklin’s World, allowing listeners to delve into other discussions around the topic.
Ben Franklin’s World has won many awards. It currently stands as the reigning best history podcast and performs in the top 7 percent of all podcasts. A key to the show’s success is its accessibility. The podcast can be enjoyed by those inside and outside of academia. Covart’s goal with Ben Franklin’s World has always been to make great scholarly history available to people outside the profession—she has certainly achieved that goal, and the show goes from strength to strength.