Dan Carlin has the perfect background to generate a history podcast. He has experience in broadcast journalism, first in television, then as a talk-radio host. He also has a B.A. in History, so his enthusiasm for the subject is evident. The result is that he has the perfect mix of experience, skills, and passion to craft compelling narratives for historical topics in audio form.
Hardcore History is Carlin’s extremely popular podcast that tackles thrilling and thorny topics from history.
The structure of the episodes has changed over time. Early episodes were shorter one-shot topics with titles such as “Alexander versus Hitler”, “Guns and Horses”, and “Thoughts on Churchill.” These early episodes were self-contained and roughly an hour long, giving listeners a bite-sized taste of what was to come.
Eventually Carlin switched to presenting topics that spanned a series of episodes, each episode running multiple hours. These series, with titles such as “Punic Nightmares”, “Ghosts of the Ostfront”, and “Wrath of the Khans”, each constitute full-length audiobooks by themselves.
Carlin repeatedly reminds his audience that he is not a historian. He is a history enthusiast. His enthusiasm for the topic and vocal intonations give a driving sense of urgency to the narrative that captures and immerses listeners. It is his amateur status that allows him to present topics in a thrilling way, complete with counter-factual exercises and open public speculation, that would not perhaps play well for the career of an academic historian.
I think that Carlin sells himself a bit short when it comes to his vocational status. Although he is not doing the same sort of work as most academic historians, he is synthesizing the diverse views of multiple historians and asks questions in a way that can stimulate new lines of inquiry or provide fresh vigor for existing unanswered questions in academia.
What Makes it Epic Grit:
- Adventure and Wonder: Carlin delivers stories from history with an adventurous bent.
- Believable Characters: They’re real people, so we believe it; but it can seem really crazy at times.
- Real Consequences: Umm… yes.
- Epic in Scope: There’s big wars, big conquests, and empires rising and falling.
- Subverts “Good versus Evil” Tropes: Carlin generally presents a Realpolitik view of events and motivations, and then presents the ethical, moral, and sociological implications.
- Different Perspectives: Carlin reads as many different sources as he can and tries to look at all sides of an issue before synthesizing the narrative for each episode.
This podcast is all epic grit. You must listen to it.