Podcasts are radio at its finest. As such, they should be lauded and enjoyed, and most importantly shared. I am an official podcast connoisseur, listening in only the fanciest of rooms with the fanciest of headsets. These shows come in such varied flavors that anyone can find something to like. While we continue many of my own personal favorite shows, this is about exploring new shows as much as sharing old ones. From the dreadfully popular to the freaky basement recordings of strangers, welcome to Podcap. This week we visit with Hardcore History, for the episode “Show 51: Blueprint For Armageddon II,” released January 31, 2014.
Who Made This History?Hardcore History is one of the shows that proves you don’t have to release something new every week, or even every month, to do great podcasting. In fact, Dan Carlin has poo-pooed the idea of the traditional podcast. Instead every few months, typically around every 3 months, a new mega episode goes up. Often clocking in at well over 3 hours, Dan tackles the specifics of history. It’s not just the boring history we all know of from school, either. I’ve had a thirst for knowledge my whole life, but until I listened to Dan Carlin I had no passion for knowing the past.
How Dare You! I No Like The Learnings!Dan Carlin’s show doesn’t fit into the podcast mold. There are no inside jokes, and no niche concepts that fans can share as a bond between the true Hardcore History lovers. Nope, this one is PBS’ The Civil War for the podcasting world. it’s informative, innovative, full of tremendous insight, and made with entertaining panache. Dan Carlin, whether you agree with his politics, paints a fascinating picture of history time periods. More so than any modern historian, or lover of history, besides maybe Ken Burns. What’s more, Hadcore History is all about a man’s passion for something being shared.
The topics vary from episode to episode. You may find Dan waxing poetic a bit about Napoleon for a few hours one time, and then hear his recount of what happened with “The Trail Of Tears” next time around. Some of the best podcasting to have ever been done is the multi-part series of episodes “Wrath of the Khans,” wherein Dan lays out the fascinating history of the Khan clan’s rise to power in China. I’ll honestly say that if you will only ever listen to one podcast episode in your life, then make it “Wrath of the Khans I.”
The PodcapThis episode is 3 hours and 20 minutes long. There’s just no way we can go through the whole thing, or even just a portion, and have this Podcap be of reasonable length. Instead, let’s go over what Dan Carlin lays out in this mega-episode of podcasting bliss in generalities. I’ve known since the moment we began Podcap that no matter what happened that week, when the new Hardcore History released it would be that week’s featured show. It may not be one of the Khan episodes that I have listened to numerous times, but “Blueprint for Armageddon II” is another examination of the changing of the world due to the forces of the world clashing on the grand stage.
“Part I” of this series set us up for the first major war between multiple super powers since the age of Napolean. While Dan is adamant that he is not a historian, he nevertheless is fervent in his desire to ensure you’re aware of the nuances of history. It’s in the details that you get lost in an episode of the show. Much of this episode is spent looking at the French and how their very nature was changed as the world went to war again.
We look back at the French, and make jokes from our 2014 judgy pedestals about how they retreat and run away from battle. But when you look at who the French were, they were possibly the greatest land army for multiple centuries up until this point. The problem is that those in charge kept to the old way of military thinking. The uniforms were vibrantly colored, the officers wore white gloves and hats, and those same officers raised their swords in battle cry only to be targeted and slaughtered. The men who fought for France stood bravely and died. It’s despicable to look upon the French as cowards, when the truth is that the men came in to the war hindered by decisions made years prior. The French believed the war would end quick, and no heavy artillery was needed. That theory proved wrong, but it does not make the people cowards.
Like most episodes, “Blueprint for Armageddon II” is about how humans are changed by a historical event. Sometimes Dan finds the niche topics, like in the episode about the anabaptists, but he still finds those same small moments in the big events like WWI. We all studied the war in Global Studies, but never did we get a good look at The Battles of the Frontiers. And the accounts that Carlin recounts of an Irishman’s perception of the British army reservists is riveting. He talks about watching all these men coming into the camp with joviality, having a grand old time with their suits and hats on, looking the part of proper gentlemen. The Irish soldier observes all the various classes of men pouring in from the reserves, and is astounded to see them transform into grizzled war vets. Men who’ve seen battle, and know what’s to come. These men, known as The Old Contemptible's, who were at one moment so full of life, turn instead into serious soldiers hell bent on survival and victory.
While the episode is about the war, it’s really an examination of the final transition into what we’d call modern warfare. A point in the history of war in which no longer would an older force be capable of standing up to a current one. Throughout history you could postulate what would happen if Alexander the Great’s army had clashed with Ghengis Khan, and the victor isn’t clear. But you pit the U.S. Military of 2014 against the U.S. Military of 1944 and our guys win that fight, and they do it without any noticeable loss. Any modern army after WWI would decimate a force from the past, even the great military minds like Hannibal couldn’t withstand modern tactics and technology.
This is not an ordinary telling of history. Dan has a unique way of delivering information, especially his fantastic reading voice when he goes into a historical character’s writing. Plus, even in the most mundane of events Carlin finds the humanity that changes things. He shares his passion for the subject by infecting you with the same passion. It only happens a few times a year, but when Dan Carlin releases a Hardcore History podcast episode, it is in your best interest to stop whatever you’re listening to and lose yourself for a weekend.