Two Brits banter about the past

Review of 'The Rest is History', a podcast hosted by Tom Holland and Dominic Sandbrook.

Most history podcasts sound like modified lectures or highly detailed disquisitions on discrete issues, requiring copious quantities of listening time and a certain degree of monomania. For the history fans for a moderately long walk, run, or drive, The Rest is History is an accessible, entertaining, and well-produced listening experience.

The hosts are two British popular historians, Tom Holland and Dominic Sandbrook. The format is simple: each episode focuses on a single historical subject, which is elaborated and debated via a mixture of exposition, question and answer, and witty banter between the hosts, sometimes supplemented by a guest host, usually an expert on the particular subject under discussion. Those subjects include specific events (“The Seven Years’ War”, “The French Revolution”, “1066”), wide-ranging ideas (“Communism”, “Empires”, “Culture Wars”), and the utterly random and peculiar (“Top Ten Eunuchs”, “Weird Wars”, “The World Cup of Gods”).

A consistent theme throughout the podcast is the search for modern resonances for historical events, and parallels between past times and our own (“Is Trump Caeser or Nixon?”, “We’re all so 17th century”). Since both hosts are non-academic historians, they are able to comment as outsiders on many of the vitriolic present-day battles being waged in the media and the academy over our cultural inheritance or the proper role of history and memorial culture in society.

Readers of Christian Courier will also appreciate Holland’s regular discussion of Christianity’s pervasive and continuous influence in Western society.


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