Discover more from Noahpinion
Video interview: Mike Duncan, history podcaster and author
In which we talk about popularizing history.
I thought this would be the perfect time to interview Mike, since I recently got into a big debate about historians in the public sphere. I think of Mike as sort of my opposite number on the history side of things — not an academic historian, but a well-known popularizer whose role is basically to explain history to the public. So I thought he might have some interesting thoughts about how historians apply the lessons of the past to the issues of the present. And indeed, I was not disappointed.
We also discuss Mike’s recent book, Hero of Two Worlds: The Marquis de Lafayette in the Age of Revolution, which sounds pretty great and which is going on my reading list.
Some key points from this interview:
The Marquis de Lafayette probably deserves to be thought of as a “main character” of the U.S. and French revolutions. He was pretty awesome.
Like many initiators of revolution, the Marquis ended up getting “cancelled” by the more extreme people who came after him.
I think Mike should turn the French Revolution portion of his podcast series into a popular book; he is not sure he’s ready for such a monumental undertaking.
Mike’s and my thoughts about historians in the public sphere were far more in agreement than I had expected. But he is much better than I am at expressing those ideas in a way that doesn’t seem like interdisciplinary bomb-throwing.
Though some people (predictably) interpreted my post as an attack on the history profession as a whole, it was not; indeed, I think academic history is great, and we should hire more history professors!
Mike had a great idea for how historians can be more empirical when making claims about the lessons of history for modern politics: Historians, he says, should partner with political scientists on interdisciplinary projects. That sounds like a great idea to me!
The tempest-in-a-teacup about the American Historical Association president’s weird, rambling, controversial op-ed is not worth paying attention to.