Tag: podcast

Why you should be listening to the History of Byzantium podcast (review)

I stumbled across the History of Byzantium podcast and fell head over heels in love. Host Robin Pierson tells the story of the Roman Empire from the collapse of the West in 476 to the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Most episodes convey the history in a chronological and state-centric narrative; that is, it focuses on the actions of emperors, high officials, religious leaders, as well as military leaders’ actions and battles and the like. At the end of each century though, Pierson surveys what’s going on in nearby regions and societies. These episodes are invaluable in helping listeners connect Byzantium’s story with what’s taking place in, say, Western Europe, Russia, the Balkans, or the Middle East. Many listeners are doubtless more familiar with that history, so this helps connect what you are learning with what you already know. He also discusses Byzantine society and culture. These episodes offer a glimpse of real people and what their lives were like, and how they may have perceived the events taking place. As sources for much ancient history are spotty, I particularly appreciate Pierson’s commentary on the strength, weakness, and likely direction of biases of important sources.

Pierson’s writing and narration is superb, exceeding all other history podcasts I’ve listened to. He helpfully supplements the audio content with graphics, very often maps, and occasionally pictures of the locations or characters he is discussing. At the end of each century, he also responds to listener questions. These episodes are very well done and they combine with the podcast episode blog commentary and Facebook page to engender a feeling of community among podcast listeners. I listen to at least an episode a day; I am always in a state of anticipation, wondering what will happen in the next episode. I highly recommend the podcast to anyone with even a passing interest in the topic.

What I’m listening to: “Conversations with Tyler” podcast

Many of you likely know Tyler Cowen through the Marginal Revolution blog he runs with Alex Tabarrok, or, perhaps his contributions to the New York Times Economic View column . Tyler recently began conducting interviews with a variety of people who are “making an impact on the world through their ideas” (e.g. Peter Thiel, Dani Rodrik, Jonathan Haidt, Luigi Zingales, Jeff Sachs). I find many of the interviews thought-provoking, and here is why: Tyler steers conversations down less-traveled paths thereby liberating his guests from recounting or rationalizing their position on topics for which they are known. He asks quirky, sometimes provocative, questions. For more reflective interviewees, this approach elicits responses which are far more interesting than what you’d encounter in their most recent “book talk”. The rich conversations with Dani Rodrik, Jonathan Haidt and Luigi Zingales vividly illustrate the virtues of this approach. Tyler’s off-piste interview style doesn’t work as well with less reflective guests. Jeff Sachs, for example, appears to have little of interest to say, beyond recounting and justifying his well-known positions. But hey, it’s a pod- and vid-cast, you can easily skip to the next episode.

You can subscribe to audio and/or video feeds of “Conversations with Tyler” through your favorite podcast manager or youtube.