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The Road to Now

Bob Crawford (The Avett Brothers) & Dr. Ben Sawyer (MTSU History) share conversations with great thinkers from a variety of backgrounds – historians, artists, legal scholars, political figures and more –who help us uncover the many roads that run between past and present. For more information, visit TheRoadToNow.com If you'd like to support our work, join us on Patreon: Patreon.com/TheRoadToNow
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Now displaying: Page 5
Jul 4, 2022

Jenna Spinelle joins Ben & Bob for a discussion about her new podcast, When the People Decide, which traces the origins of ballot initiatives in the United States and their impact on American politics in recent years.

Jenna Spinelle is the Communications Specialist for the McCourtney Institute for Democracy at Penn State, where she also teaches classes in the college of communications. You can follow her on twitter at @JennaSpinelle.

To learn more about the differences between initiatives and popular referenda and which states allow citizens to directly propose laws, visit The National Conference of State Legislatures’ guide to the Initiative and Referendum Processes.

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

Jun 27, 2022

One episode. Two historians/podcasters. Four stories from American history that you’ve probably never heard. And an unknown number of listeners that we hope will find these stories as fascinating and surprising as we do.

Greg Jackson is the creator of History That Doesn’t Suck and a Professor at Utah Valley University. Ben Sawyer hosts this podcast and has been teaching history at the university level for over a decade and a half. You might think that at this point they’ve heard it all, but when you keep digging into history, it just keeps surprising you. In this episode, Greg and Ben each share two stories that they discovered in the last year that they found to be the most fascinating. Enjoy!

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

Jun 20, 2022

Since 1995, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame located in Cleveland, Ohio has worked to engage, inspire and teach people about the power of Rock music and the musicians. During a recent Avett Brothers tour stop in Cleveland, Bob dropped by the RRHF and spoke with Rock Hall director of guest experience John Goehrke about the history of hall and the broad definition of the term “Rock and Roll” the hall uses in the induction process.

If you enjoy this episode, check out our patron-only bonus episode!: Bob and Avett Brother’s tour manager, Dane Honeycutt, get a tour of the Hall of Fame’s vault from Joe Wickens, Rock Hall’s collections and exhibits manager. Get the episode (and more) while supporting our work at Patreon.com/TheRoadToNow.

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

Jun 13, 2022

George Carlin had a comedy career that spanned half a century, and his take on the US remains relevant more than a decade after his death in 2008. The new HBO documentary George Carlin’s American Dream tells Carlin’s story as he evolved from a clean-cut comic in the 1950s into the edgy critic who remains one of the most influential comedians of all time. In this episode, Michael Bonfiglio, who directed the film (along with Judd Apatow) and Kliph Nesteroff, a historian of comedy who is featured in the film, join Bob & Ben for a conversation about the life and times of George Carlin.

If you enjoy this episode, check out our previous conversation w/ Michael in episode #174 Direction w/ Michael Bonfiglio.

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

Jun 6, 2022

Long-time friend of RTN Doug Heye returns to share his take on the state of politics in the US. Doug has served as communications director for the Republican National Committee, chief-of-staff to House majority leader Eric Cantor and has been active in national politics since the 1990s. Our conversation covers the recent primary elections, the prospects for the midterm elections this fall and, in a transition that’s increasingly easy to make, professional wrestling.

You can follow Doug on twitter at @DougHeye. This is Doug’s fifth appearance on RTN, and if you haven’t heard our episode w/ Doug, Rufus Edmiston & Molly Worthen recorded live at Cat’s Cradle in January 2022 (RTN #158), we highly recommend you check that one out!

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

May 30, 2022

On August 15, 1824, the Marquis de Lafayette arrived in the United States to say farewell to the country whose independence he helped secure more than four decades earlier. Over the next 15 months, Lafayette visited all 24 states, meeting with old friends and attending celebrations hosted by Americans who flocked to see the last-living Major General of the Revolutionary War whose close friendships with George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson shaped both the American and French Revolutions.

Since 2017, Julien Icher has been working to document the 5,000 mile journey that Lafayette took during his farewell visit. Icher, himself a Frenchman, has a remarkable skill set that combines the best of primary source-based research with the technical knowledge required for digital mapping. The result is The Lafayette Trail– a publicly accessible map that allows users to see Lafayette’s physical route, as well as the people, places and events he encountered along the way.

In this episode, Julien joins Ben to talk about Lafayette’s contribution to American Independence, his life after returning to France, and the farewell tour that inspired Julien to create The Lafayette Trail. We also speak about the history of Franco-American friendship and why both countries are better when we work together.

For more on The Lafayette Trail, check out their YouTube channel. Since April 2021, Julien has been posting episodes of his travels in the series “Follow the Frenchman.” You can also follow the project on twitter at @LafayetteTrail.

This is a rebroadcast of RTN #132, which originally aired on June 9, 2019. This rebroadcast was edited by Ben Sawyer.

May 23, 2022

Heather Cox Richardson returns to the show to talk history, politics, and life in general. Heather shares her thoughts on what history has to teach us about navigating division and finding unity, the sources she thinks are critical in following US policy, and why she remains optimistic despite increasing polarization in American society. She also discusses what she’s learned from her public engagement work on facebook and from “Letters From an American,” where she has published her thoughts daily for over two years now.

Dr. Heather Cox Richardson is Professor of History at Boston College and co-host of the Now & Then podcast (w/ Joanne Freeman). She is also the author of multiple books including West From Appomattox: The Reconstruction of America after the Civil War (Yale Univ. Press, 2008) and, most recently, How the South Won the Civil War (Oxford University Press, 2000). You can follow her on twitter at @HC_Richardson.

If you enjoy this episode, check out our previous conversations w/ Heather Cox Richardson in RTN episode #177 How the South Won the Civil War and #38 The History of the Republican Party.

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

May 19, 2022

Brian Rosenwald joins Bob and Ben to talk about the state of American political media, its impact on the divide between Democrats & Republicans, and how the party primary election process in most states exacerbates the problem. Brian also discusses his book Talk Radio’s America: How an Industry Took over a Political Party that Took Over the United States, (Harvard University Press, 2019) and how his conclusions are holding up three years after publication.

Dr. Brian Rosenwald is scholar in Residence at the Partnership for Effective Public Media Administration and Leadership Ethics at the University of Pennsylvania and senior editor of Made By History, a Washington Post history section. You can follow him on twitter at @brianros1.

If you enjoy this episode, check out Brian’s previous appearances on the Road to Now in episodes #30 The Origins of Conservative Talk Radio and #142 How Talk Radio Took Over the Republican Party.

This episode was edited by Ben Sawyer.

 

 

May 16, 2022

Hidetaka Hirota joins Bob and Ben for a conversation about the history of immigration law in the United States and the ways that government officials have decided who could and could not enter the United States. Hidetaka discusses the creation of Federal immigration law and the ways that looking at state immigration policies in the early to mid-19th century can help us understand the Immigration and Chinese Exclusion Acts of 1882.

Dr. Hidetaka Hirota is Associate Professor of History at the University of California Berkeley who specializes in the history of US immigration. His book Expelling the Poor: Atlantic Seaboard States and the Nineteenth-Century Origins of American Immigration Policy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017) has won multiple awards.

Want to support The Road to Now and get extra episodes and other content? Join us on Patreon!

This is a rebroadcast of RTN #126 which originally aired on April 8, 2019. This rebroadcast was edited by Ben Sawyer.

May 9, 2022

The Road to Now just celebrated its 6 year anniversary, so we invited our old friend (and all-time record holder for most RTN appearances) Matt Negrin to join us for a conversation about what's happening in the world and how to deal with it. Along the way, our Associate Producer, Gary Fletcher drops in for an update, and our friend (and long-time Patron) Fig White gets surprisingly brought into the conversation as well.

Click here to watch the video of this episode on YouTube.

Like a lot of anniversaries, this episode went to some surprising and unplanned places, but we'll be back to business as usual next week!

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

May 2, 2022

Bob and Ben catch up to talk about Jonathan Haidt’s recent article in the May issue of The Atlantic, “Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid,” and their take on the problems of social media and the solutions posed by Haidt and others.

This episode was edited by Ben Sawyer

Apr 25, 2022

The first amendment right to the freedom of speech is a cornerstone of American liberty, but this broad principle becomes a bit narrower when put into practice. Why, for example, is burning an American flag in protest protected by the first amendment but burning your draft card is not? Lynn Greenky, whose new book When Freedom Speaks: The Boundaries and Boundlessness of our First Amendment Rights joins Ben and Bob to answer these questions and others in a master session on the freedom of speech.

Lynn Greenky is a former lawyer and current teaching professor in Syracuse University’s Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies, where she teaches a course on the First Amendment. Her book, When Freedom Speaks, will be available on May 15th from Brandeis University Press and can be pre-ordered from her website, LynnGreenky.com.

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

Apr 18, 2022

Ron Suny joins Ben for a conversation about the Armenian Genocide. Ron, one of the world’s foremost experts on the history of the Armenian genocide, explains why the Ottoman government tunred on its Armenian subjects during World War I and the methods it used to carry out this atrocity. He also explains why, in spite of the evidence, recognizing this as genocide remains a political hotspot both internationally and within modern Turkey, and why it is important to remember tragedies even when doing so makes us uncomfortable.

Dr. Ronald Grigor Suny is the William H. Sewell Jr. Distinguished University Professor of History at the University of Michigan and Emeritus Professor of Political Science and History at the University of Chicago. He is the author of numerous books, including “They Can Live in the Desert But Nowhere Else:” A History of the Armenian Genocide (Princeton University Press, 2015).

This is a rebroadcast of RTN #92, which originally aired on April 23, 2018. In 2019, the both houses of US Congress recognized the Armenian Genocide.

This episode was edited by Ben Sawyer.

Apr 11, 2022
In this episode, music writer Michaelangelo Matos joins Bob and Ben to break down why he thinks 1984 was a crucial year for the music industry. Michaelangelo also shares why he loves books about a single year.

Check out Michaelangelo Matos' book Can't Slow Down: How 1984 Became Pop's Blockbuster Year here.

Apr 4, 2022

It’s difficult to fathom how Benjamin Franklin accomplished so much in a single lifetime. It’s equally difficult to imagine how to take such an incredible life and consolidate it into four hours of documentary film. In this episode, we cover both feats with writer Dayton Duncan and producer David Schmidt, two of the great minds behind Ken Burns’ new documentary on Benjamin Franklin. Dayton and David discuss Franklin’s life, the work that goes into creating a historical documentary film, and their process for deciding the best way to tell an American icon’s story in a pair of two-hour episodes.

Benjamin Franklin: A Film by Ken Burns premieres Monday, April 4th and Tuesday, April 5th on your local PBS station and we highly recommend it!

If you enjoy this episode, check out Ben and Bob's conversation with Ken Burns in episode #191.

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

Mar 28, 2022

The Russian Revolution that began with the fall of Tsar Nicholas II in February of 1917 and continued into a second revolution the following October, is unquestionably one of the most significant events in modern history. The October Revolution brought Vladimir Lenin and the Bolshevik Party from relative obscurity to the leaders of the first communist nation, later called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), and the economic and ideological system espoused by Soviet leaders transformed Russia from an underdeveloped nation on the periphery of Europe into a global super power in just a few decades. In this episode we speak with Russian history expert (and Ben’s former dissertation advisor) Lewis Siegelbaum to discuss the series of events that led to the Russian Revolution and the establishment of the Soviet Union, and why he tells his students that ignoring the Soviet Union in 20th century is like “clapping with one hand.”

Dr. Lewis Siegelbaum is the Jack & Margaret Sweet Professor of History at Michigan State University, and one of the most prolific historians on the history of the Soviet era. He has published and edited twelve books, the most recent of which are Cars for Comrades: The Life of the Soviet Automobile (Cornell University Press, 2008) and Broad is My Native Land: Repertoires and Regimes of Migration in Russia’s Twentieth Century (Cornell, 2014), which he co-wrote w Leslie Page Moch. His most recent book is Stuck on Communism: Memoir of a Russian Historian (NIU Press, 2019).

This episode was edited by Ben Sawyer and is a rebroadcast of episode 79, which originally aired on November 16, 2017.

Mar 21, 2022

For the past year, Bob has been working on an audio docu-series that traces musicians’ activism for human rights through benefit concerts from the 1970s to the 1990s. That series, Concerts of Change: The Soundtrack of Human Rights, airs Tuesday, March 22 on Siriux/XM’s Volume Channel (106), so in this episode, Bob and Ben mark the occasion by discussion Bob’s work on the series, how studying and speaking with musicians who inspired him helped Bob reflect upon his own role as a musician, and what he learned from his conversations with those involved in Live Aid, Band Aid, and other musicians’ efforts to use their talents to help improve the lives of others.

Concerts of Change: The Soundtrack of Human Rights begins on March 22 at 1 p.m. ET and will air bi-weekly on SiriusXM’s Volume channel 106. Extended bonus content with longer interviews and outtakes will be available exclusively on the SiriusXM app beginning March 22. Click here to sign up for SiriusXM so you can keep up with Concerts of Change!

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

Mar 14, 2022

The Russian government recently made moves to nationalize the property of foreign owned firms that ceased operation in response to Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Ben’s research is all about the history of foreign investment in Russia/the Soviet Union, so he and Bob sit down for a discussion about the very severe consequences that nationalization has had for Russia in the past and how this decision may do damage that far outlast sanctions.

For more on Singer Sewing Machines in Russia, check out Ben's article "Manufacturing Germans: Singer Manufacturing Company and American Capitalism in the Russian Imagination during World War I.: (Enterprise & Society, Vol. 17, No. 2 (June 2016) pp 301-323.)

This episode was edited by Ben Sawyer.

Mar 7, 2022

Vladimir Putin’s decision to launch a brutal invasion of Ukraine has sparked a coordinated wave of sanctions from the US and members of the European Union. This may be the most comprehensive set of sanctions that Moscow has seen, but it is certainly not the first. In this episode, Bob & Ben speak with Kristy Ironside, who specializes in the history of the Russian & Soviet economy, for a conversation about the long history of western sanctions against Russia, the Ruble’s tenuous position in the global economy, and how Russia’s long-term economic isolation has, and may continue to, impact people around the world. Although things remain uncertain, it is our hope that these sanctions help to bring an end to the tragedy that Vladimir Putin has unleashed against the people of Ukraine.

Dr. Kristy Ironside is Assistant Professor of Russian, Soviet & International History at McGill University in Montreal, Canada and the author of A Full-Value Ruble: The Promise of Prosperity in the Postwar Soviet Union, 1945-1964 (Harvard University Press, 2021). You can follow her on twitter at @Kristy_Ironside.

This episode was edited by Ben Sawyer.

Feb 28, 2022

Journalist Heath Druzin’s new podcast Extremely American examines the American militia movement through first-hand interviews with militia members and their opponents. In this episode, Heath joins Bob and Ben for a discussion about what he learned while spending time with individuals in the movement, how the militia movement has changed in the last few years, and the way that these groups draw on historical events to shape their worldview.

Heath Druzin is a journalist who covers the intersection of far-right movements and mainstream politics for Boise State Public Media and Postindustrial Media. He previously covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for Stars & Stripes. You can follow him on twitter at @HDruzin.

Extremely American (NPR/Postindustrial Media) is available anywhere you get The Road to Now. Click here to visit the podcast page on Postindustrial Media.

If you enjoy this episode, check our episode on American militias with Vanderbilt Sociologist Dr. Amy Cooter.

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

Feb 21, 2022

The Constitution empowers the electoral college to select the President, but the process for counting electors’ votes remains in the hands of Congress. In this episode, Constitutional Law Professor Edward Foley explains the origins of the electoral college, how and why the 12th Amendment changed the process for electing Presidents, and the concerns that led Congress to codify the procedure for counting electors’ votes in 1887. Edward also offers some specific ways that updating the Electoral Count Act of 1887 might help us avoid some of the potential problems that might arise in upcoming elections.

Edward Foley holds the Ebersold Chair in Constitutional Law at The Ohio State University, where he also directs its election law program. He is a regular contributor to The Washington Post and the author of multiple books, including Ballot Battles: The History of Disputed Elections in the United States (Oxford University Press, 2016) and Presidential Elections and Majority Rule (Oxford University Press, 2020). You can follow him on twitter at @NedFoley.

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

Feb 14, 2022

Bob & Ben catch up to talk about the Presidential Records Act and how Trump's violations of the act stack up to other Presidents' handling of their records. They also discuss Neil Young and other artists' decision to pull their music from Spotify as a response to Joe Rogan's prominent position on the platform, as well as recent evidence that the 1776 report still matters.

This episode was edited by Ben Sawyer.

For more on The Road to Now: https://linktr.ee/RoadToNow

Feb 7, 2022

Bob speaks with Messiah College’s John Fea about Christianity in Early America and the ways that the founders viewed the relationship between faith and politics. Fea outlines the “5 Cs” of history, the importance of approaching history with an open mind, and explains why he thinks the title of his book Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? may not be the question in approaching Christianity’s role in the establishment of the United States.

John Fea is Professor of American History and Chair of the Department of History at Messiah College and host of the podcast The Way of Improvement Leads Home. He is the author or editor of four books, including Was America Founded as a Christian Nation: A Historical Introduction (Westminster/ John Knox Press, 2011) & Why Study History?: Reflecting on the Importance of the Past (Baker Academic, 2013) and his essays and reviews have appeared in a variety of scholarly and popular venues.

This episode originally aired in February 2018 as part of RTN Theology #2. We are releasing it as RTN #222 because it's an important conversation that we think should be featured on both feeds. A full list of RTN Theology episodes are available anywhere you're listening to The Road to Now.

Jan 31, 2022

Ukraine has gotten a lot of intermittent attention in the US over the last few years, but the stories we hear are usually about the US and Russia. To counter that tendency, we offer you a story about Ukraine that is actually about Ukraine. In this episode, historian Kimberly St. Julian-Varnon joins Ben to talk about the key historical events that have shaped Ukraine and its place in the world today.

Kimberly St. Julian-Varnon holds a MA in Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies from Harvard University and is currently a doctoral student in history at the University of Pennsylvania. You can learn more about her at her website www.kstjulianvarnon.com and follow her on twitter at @KSVarnon.

This episode was edited by Gary Fletcher.

Jan 29, 2022

Today we’ve got a little something special for you- something we’re calling “Crossroads.” From time to time, on weekends, Bob and I will be sharing episodes of podcasts that we think our audience might enjoy, and our first ever featured podcast is History Daily.

History Daily is hosted by our friend and podcaster extraordinaire, Lindsay Graham. You might know Lindsay from some of the biggest podcasts in the country, including American Scandal and American History Tellers. Lindsay’s newest endeavor, History Daily, drops new episodes every weekday featuring stories of events that happened on that date in the past. The episodes run about 20 minutes and are well produced, so they’re interesting gateways into bigger topics in history and they’re pleasant listens.

For today’s episode, Ben picked wpisodes that work well together- the story of Laika the Soviet space dog’s Nov. 3, 1957 launch into space and the story of Apollo 8- which sent the first crewed spacecraft to orbit the moon on Dec. 21, 1968. They’re both great on their own, but together they illustrate the firm lead that the Soviets had early in the space race, and the incredible effort NASA put into surpassing the Soviets by the end of the 1960s.

 

If you enjoy these episodes, you can follow History Daily anywhere you get the Road to Now.

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