If you find yourself with some spare time this week (wouldn’t that be nice) or are looking for a new podcast to listen to on the way to lectures, I can highly recommend The Rest is History. In this podcast presenters Dominic Sandbrook and Tom Holland bring their different specialisms (Holland in ancient history and Sandbrook in post war social history) to ‘interrogate’ different aspects of the past with episodes on topics as diverse as the 1990s and Persia. Episodes vary greatly with some more funny and some more serious and scholarly. Episodes also don’t shy away from popular culture or current events with reviews of the James Bond film No Time to Die and two episodes on Afghanistan released during the crisis earlier this year, demonstrating an understanding of history’s importance for our present and future. This relevancy gives the podcast a down to earth feeling and it is certainly a happy median compared to others, in that it is not too scholarly that the listener feels stupid, or too simple that they feel patronised.
The best thing though is that the podcast does not take itself too seriously, as such it is far more enjoyable to listen to than BBC Radio Four’s In Our Time with its pretentious host Melvyn Bragg constantly interrupting guests and giving little thought to the listeners, other than a begrudging ‘hello’ at the start of each episode. In comparison, the listeners are Holland and Sandbrook’s prime concern with new ways constantly being innovated to engage with the audience. For example, the podcast has staged ‘World Cups’ of Prime Ministers, Gods and most recently English Monarchs with listeners voting in polls to decide who progresses to the next round. Audience questions are also an important feature of every episode, as such the listener does not feel like they are being preached to but involved in a discussion. It is this friendly atmosphere combined with a slightly chaotic energy that makes the podcast so entertaining to listen to, even though I do sometimes find topics going straight over my head.
If I have convinced you, and you are considering listening I would recommend the episode on conspiracy theories or the world cup of British Prime Ministers for those looking for a funnier episode. Conversely, if you are looking for something a bit more scholarly, I found the episode on fascism interesting and thought provoking as well as the one on the Western Front. However, there are such a range of episodes it is easy to find something you are interested in or explore something you know nothing about. Before I started listening I had little to no interest in ancient history but through listening to episodes of the podcast, particularly the one on Nero, I can no longer say this is the case.
The Rest is History is a podcast for everyone. From those studying history, looking for something related to a module, to those who just want to know why 1981 was voted the worst year in living memory. Whatever your interest you are certain to find an episode you enjoy.