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.
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!
Dr Carrie Gibson, author of Empire’s Crossroads, which I reviewed here, recently gave a paper at UCL in London on the US’s many attempts to buy Cuba from Spain throughout the nineteenth century.
The paper is packed with information about nineteenth-century Cuba, and the various parties vying for power and influence there. Dr Gibson sets the story in the wider context, explaining how European imperial powers, and the US and Cuba interacted at that time. The paper is fascinating, I highly recommend it for anyone interested in Cuba, or interested in the US’s intentions in the region during its formative years as a nation.
The paper is available to download or listen to via soundcloud – click here to listen.
For further information about the events, videos & podcasts from UCL’s Institute of the Americas, click here.
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 Columbus ‘discovered’ the region.
The episodes are of a manageable length—some as short as 15 minutes, but most about 25 minutes long. The hosts’ discussions provide all sorts of information, and give us a fascinating insight into the fieldwork and research undertaken by archaeologists across the Caribbean. The episodes range across topics as diverse as the discovery of a blue bead from Statia, a coin from St.Kitts, and three statutes from a house in the centre of Santo Domingo. There is also an associated website which has some stunning photography of the objects (and of the Caribbean itself).
This is a link to the podcast on iTunes: A History of the Caribbean in 100 Objects
and this is a link to the website, with show notes: Shores of Time Podcast Notes
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.
Click here to see Revolutions Podcast on iTunes, and here for Duncan’s website, which includes some images, maps and further commentary.
Duncan’s current series is equally fascinating—he’s covering Simón Bolívar and Gran Colombia.