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Second Decade

Author: Recorded History Podcast Network

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This is a historical show examining the momentous events and interesting people of the second decade of the 19th century, the 1810s. From Jefferson to Napoleon, from Iceland to Antarctica, historian Sean Munger will give you a tour of the decade's most fascinating highlights.
55 Episodes
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For many people around the world, 1816 was the oddest summer they ever lived through. Snow from the previous winter was still left in places well into the deep summer; rains and floods lashed central Europe; New England was cold and parched; and nearly everybody worried about what the anomalies were going to do to that season’s crops and foodstuffs. The effects of the strange weather ran deeper, however. It caused some people to be depressed and melancholy; others sought answers in prayers and religion; some, particularly in Europe, literally thought the end of the world was nigh. But everyone filtered the events through their own uniquely human experiences, reflecting a diverse range of reactions and world-views that our scientific understanding of the phenomenon can’t really communicate.  In this episode, the second in the series, you’ll experience a shocking midnight hallucination with Percy Bysshe Shelley; you’ll rub shoulders with recently-exhumed corpses in a New England cemetery; you’ll learn how making end-of-the-world predictions became a police matter in Italy; and you’ll ride along with a simple Massachusetts farmer as he tries to reap his stunted crops in a growing season where nothing was as it should have been. This episode contains threads that connect to various other SD installments, including Episode 14 (Down & Out at Harvard), 21 (Frankenstein), and 8 (Christmas 1814).  Sean’s Patreon  Make a PayPal Donation  Sean's Book: "The Warmest Tide: How Climate Change is Changing History"  Brexit Webinar, October 22, 2019 (mentioned at the end of the episode)  Additional Materials About This EpisodeLearn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
The “Year Without Summer,” 1816, is one of those things that many people have heard of, but very few know anything substantive about. It was the largest environmental event of the Second Decade. Two volcanic eruptions, one from an unknown mountain in 1809 and the second the disastrous blast of Mt. Tambora in April 1815, filled the atmosphere with toxic particulates and triggered a period of global temporary climate change. But what was it like on the ground to the people who lived through it? What does the name “Year Without Summer” really mean, and what doesn’t it mean? Who noticed it first, and how? These are some of the many questions still swirling around this much-misunderstood event in environmental history.  In this episode, perhaps the touchstone of the entire podcast, historian Sean Munger will take you to the frigid roads of New England during an unseasonable blizzard, and the decks of ships sailing the South Pacific in conditions that baffled even the most seasoned mariners as well as many other places in the strange spring and early summer of 1816. This is the central story of the Second Decade, and as such connects with numerous other SD installments, such as Episode 7 (Tambora), 13 (Lincoln), 3 (Frost Fair) and 24 (Cold Friday). This is the first of a projected three-part miniseries on the topic.  Sean’s Patreon  Make a PayPal Donation  Sean's Book: "The Warmest Tide: How Climate Change is Changing History"  Additional Materials About This EpisodeLearn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
44: The Fires of St. John's

44: The Fires of St. John's

2019-07-1400:46:25

In the 1810s, St. John’s, Newfoundland was possibly the most remote and inaccessible corner of British America. Located on an island that was often icebound in the winter months, St. John’s was far from self-sufficient, depending on the Royal Navy for its food, building materials and governance. In February 1816, during the midst of an already dangerous winter made lean by economic depression, fire broke out on the city’s waterfront. It was only the beginning of a cycle of destruction that would char the streets of St. John’s four more times in just a few years, igniting class, ethnic and religious tensions as well as having political repercussions. This is the story of how St. John’s dealt with—or failed to deal with—numerous challenges to its very existence. In this episode, historian Sean Munger not only recounts the story of the fires themselves, but also examines the complicated social and political backdrop against which they occurred. You’ll meet the hapless and bronchial Royal Navy governor of Newfoundland, Francis Pickmore; you’ll learn why war meant feast and peace meant famine in St. John’s; and you’ll rub shoulders with the destitute Irish-born fishery workers who were reduced to picking through smoldering ruins for scraps of food. This is a story, not just of a series of disasters, but a community living on the edge whose ultimate survival was nothing less than miraculous.  Sean’s Patreon  Make a PayPal Donation  Additional Materials About This EpisodeLearn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
43: Austen-tatious

43: Austen-tatious

2019-06-0900:49:36

Jane Austen is rightly considered perhaps the greatest British novelist of her day, or any age. Her novels about women, marriage and family among the English gentry, especially Pride and Prejudice, have defined how we think about British society in the late Georgian and Regency eras for all time. Like almost no other person, Austen is the living historical embodiment of the 1810s, the decade that saw the publication of all of her novels—and her untimely death. But how did she come to be? What was her story? What drove her, and why, after a lifetime of writing, did she finally achieve her long-awaited success during the Second Decade?  In this episode of Second Decade, Dr. Sean Munger takes you into the modest bedrooms and parlors of Chawton Cottage, Jane Austen’s home for the most productive period of her life, and investigates how Jane’s wonderful literary creations came to be and why they reflect the spirit of the time and the society in which she lived. You’ll get a crash course in the tangled relations of Austen’s family, you’ll learn how and why Jane kept her literary vocation a secret from all but her closest kin, and you’ll gorge on Hog’s Puddings, Vegetable Pie and Toasted Cheese at the dinner table of the Austen women. This is a fascinating look at a genius at work in a very special historical and cultural moment, one that has come to define a country and an age in popular consciousness.  Correction: in this episode I mistakenly refer to Tom Lefroy as English-born. I meant to say he was Irish-born.  Sean’s Patreon  Make a PayPal Donation  Additional Materials About This EpisodeLearn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
42: Tomb Raider

42: Tomb Raider

2019-05-1300:54:14

One of the most bizarre and mysterious cultures in human history, ancient Egypt still holds considerable interest for us today. This was even more true in the 1810s, not long after battles between France and Britain in the region of the Nile brought European travelers, scholars and opportunists to the desert to hunt for ancient Egyptian artifacts. One of the most notorious of these characters was Giovanni Battista Belzoni, a former barber and circus strong man who in 1815 became the go-to guy for British agents seeking to make a killing on selling Egyptian artifacts back in Europe. Belzoni’s incredible run of luck in the tomb raiding business, especially in October 1817, resulted in the discovery of numerous undiscovered and forgotten tombs in the Valley of the Kings, bringing to light their mysteries and questions that have lingered for the past 3,000 years.  In this episode of Second Decade, Dr. Sean Munger will trace the rise of Europe’s interest in Egypt, why the 1810s was such a crucial part of that story, and the discoveries on (and under) the ground that still tantalize us today. You’ll meet not only the audacious character of “The Great Belzoni,” but an ambitious and superstitious Ottoman prince, a wily British agent seeking to move as much loot as possible from the land of the pharaohs to the British Museum, and an Egyptian king who left behind over 800 wooden servants to work for him in the afterlife. Dr. Munger also has a rare occasion to share a story from his own childhood, one of his very first encounters with history.  Sean’s Patreon  Make a PayPal Donation  Additional Materials About This EpisodeLearn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
41: Caragea's Plague

41: Caragea's Plague

2019-04-2700:48:19

If you’ve never heard of John Caragea and have no idea where Wallachia is, you’re certainly not alone. This look at the seamy underbelly of Eastern Europe in the 1810s may be obscure, but it’s no less fascinating than anything else covered on Second Decade. Wallachia, now part of the modern nation of Romania, was 200 years ago a minor province of the Ottoman Empire, and except as a breadbasket the Turkish sultans couldn’t be bothered to care much about it. That’s why rule of provinces like Wallachia ultimately fell to an elite class of Turkish-born Greeks, the Phanariotes, who outdid each other at sending the sultan lavish gifts to secure political offices. But in 1813 the new hospodar of Wallachia, John Caragea, immediately inherits a hot mess when people start dropping like flies from one of the most virulent outbreaks of the bubonic plague since the 14th century. Things get even worse when Caragea puts the city of Bucharest on lockdown, triggering a wave of lawlessness, violence and thievery that pushes Wallachian society to its limit. In this unusual look at an event little-studied in the English-speaking world, Dr. Sean Munger pulls back the curtain on the inner workings of the Ottoman Empire and also paints a grim picture of what it was like to live in Eastern Europe two centuries ago. In this episode you’ll find out what a nosegay is, you’ll understand the utterly disgusting biology of bubonic plague, and you’ll appreciate why residents of modern Bucharest are a little wary when construction contractors start digging holes into the sites of plague pits. When this episode is over you’ll finally know something about the history of Romania that has nothing to do with vampire lore, Vlad the Impaler or the Communist era. Fair warning: though not profane, this episode contains descriptions of medical conditions that some listeners may find disturbing. Sean’s Patreon Make a PayPal DonationAdditional Materials About This EpisodeLearn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
40: Antarctica

40: Antarctica

2019-04-0700:48:20

For most of human history, Antarctica was more of a concept than a reality. Geographers from ancient times and voyagers in the Age of Discovery supposed there was a continent at the bottom of the world, but no one had actually seen it, and some, like Captain Cook, declared that there was nothing useful down there at all. Then, quite suddenly, at the end of the Second Decade, the envelope of humanity’s geographic knowledge stretched just far enough to enable discovery of the icy islands that lie at Antarctica’s northern tip. Exactly who “discovered” Antarctica is not entirely clear, both because there are differing definitions of what “counts” both as discovery and as Antarctica. But we know it happened in 1819 or 1820, and one of the discoveries coincided with the single deadliest disaster ever to occur on the frozen continent.  In this episode, Dr. Sean Munger will paint the historical context in which the discovery of Antarctica occurred, and he’ll take you onto the ships and into the icy waters of the land at the end of the world to get to the historical truth of what happened there. You’ll meet a reluctant Spanish admiral, a horde of rapacious, blood-soaked seal hunters, you’ll toast the claiming of the continent for the dying King George III several times with rum and spirits, and you may be haunted by the grim discoveries made on one of the world’s most desolate beaches—mysterious echoes of what may have been humanity’s first doomed struggle for survival in Antarctica. This episode also connects with various threads and stories discussed throughout the entire previous run of the Second Decade podcast.  Sean’s Patreon  Make a PayPal Donation  Additional Materials About This EpisodeLearn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
It’s been a while—too long—since the last episode of Second Decade. In this brief bonus episode, Sean Munger talks to you, the listeners, about the future of the show (yes, it is continuing), some announcements of other podcasts he’s going to be on, and makes an appeal to help Kristaps Andrejson, the producer and host of the popular Eastern Border podcast, who needs your help to return home to Latvia. Please do help out, it will be greatly appreciated!Kristap’s email address, for PayPal purposes, is ihatebalrog@gmail.com.You can find the Andy Social podcast here; Sean will be a guest on the March 28 show.The History by Hollywood podcast is here; Sean will be a guest on the April 7 show (April 6 in North America), discussing The Right Stuff.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
This bonus episode, the third one released in conjunction with Sean Munger’s newly-released novel Jake’s 88 (which is set in the 80s), examines how the 1980s ended and the transition to a new decade. In the immediate aftermath of the collapse of Soviet satellite states in Eastern Europe, the year 1990 begins with an invasion of Panama by the United States to terminate the troublesome narco-dictator Manuel Noriega, an episode that serves as a sort of dress rehearsal for a much more consequential conflict that develops when another dictator, Saddam Hussein, invades Kuwait later in the year. In the meantime, American pop culture begins to change as the era of Cyndi Lauper and Madonna segues into a darker and seemingly less innocent time. In this episode you’ll learn how AC/DC and Guns N’ Roses helped topple a dictator, why Saddam viewed Kuwait as his personal ATM machine, how Bart Simpson and Al Bundy killed the family sitcom, and you’ll encounter guys in Ninja Turtle suits, vengeful Dignity Battalions, an overconfident Prime Minister, a movie with only four colors in it, and much more about the end of the century’s strangest decade.Jake’s 88 is a coming-of-age romance set in the year 1988. It’s deeply steeped in the curious head space of the decade and loaded with pop culture references. It’s available here on Amazon Kindle and in paperback. Additional Materials About This EpisodeLearn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
This bonus episode, the second one released in conjunction with Sean Munger’s upcoming novel Jake’s 88 (which is set in the 80s), examines the political, cultural and social history of the 1980s. Sean begins with two dreadful disasters in 1988 involving airliners being blown out of the sky, one over the Persian Gulf, the other over Scotland, and how both were related to the most destructive war of the 20th century, excluding the two world wars, which almost drew in the United States. Pivoting from geopolitics to pop culture, a spot-check of the most popular movies, TV shows and recording artists of 1988 takes you into a dizzying thicket of competing cultural ideas. You’ll learn why Die Hard was not originally a Christmas movie, how television’s most beautiful ingenue was punished for daring to want to have a baby while starring on a hit show, and what cartoon rabbits, airborne cocktail shakers and misheard Beach Boys lyrics have to do with each other.Jake’s 88 is a coming-of-age romance set in the year 1988. It’s deeply steeped in the curious head space of the decade and loaded with pop culture references. It’s available for preorder here on Amazon Kindle (and a paperback version will also be available). The book releases January 15, 2019.Additional Materials About This EpisodeLearn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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Comments (1)

Terry Jones

love your work, but consider mixing the background music a little lower. this ep, in particular, is difficult to listen to with the loud, chaotic piano work in the audio bed. why you have it makes perfect sense, but the background level is just kinda foreward.

Jan 6th
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