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Podcasting, Context, and Why You Actually Don’t Know the Great War: an interview with Daniel Clark — April 24, 2018

Podcasting, Context, and Why You Actually Don’t Know the Great War: an interview with Daniel Clark

In this week’s post, Jolie interviews podcaster Daniel Clark, of The Great War Podcast. Podcasts are a great way to learn about history while you’re out and about, or while doing housework. Do you have a favourite podcast? Tell us in the comments!

 

As a boy, Daniel Clark would spend his time watching airshows and playing flight simulators with his friends. Still an aviation enthusiast, he attributes his love of history to those early years admiring the history of flight. Now, he’s the creator of The Great War Podcast, an ongoing show about the First World War that will delight history newcomers and weathered professors alike.

What makes someone jump into the world of podcasting? “I had no idea how to start,” Daniel admits. “I realized that it was a fast market and it didn’t seem that you needed a lot of experience in terms of technology or audio recording.” He had also been inspired by Mike Duncan’s History of Rome podcast, a now-complete behemoth of 179 episodes spanning thousands of years of history. Undoubtedly, his brief undergraduate experience in producing videos also helped him with technical work.

But what about the decidedly non-technical history analysis? “I had an honours diploma in history, so I used some of my training there to go through the archives and find really good sources.” He told me about how during his studies at McMaster University, he had discovered different ways of seeing WWI. Now, perspective is the name of the game for him – he describes the teaching of WWI as, “almost like a quick, dismissed event before going on to the Second World War.”

“I knew bits and pieces of the war beforehand, but what I know now about the war completely dwarfs what I knew before.” Daniel attributed most of his new knowledge to his better understanding of historical context. For many students, the context they receive is between the dusty covers of a textbook. “How did people think at the time? What was influencing their day-to-day lives? What were the governments like? Social life of the people?” Our conversation saw no shortage of Daniel’s advocacy for historical understanding. “The issues I have always seen with history, or poorly-written history, is that they tend to put modern perspectives on past events.” He raised the point that before 1914, the world was still ruled by empires and kingdoms, and that the idea of the nation is relatively modern. “Many studies pretend that it was not so different from, say, the 1950’s or 60’s…things change and they can change very quickly.”

One particular aspect of the war that surprised Daniel was the public’s opinion throughout the war. “The public supported the war one hundred percent. The soldiers that fought it didn’t view it the way we view it today.” After the Second World War, the Cold War, and numerous other conflicts around the world, modern society is much more jaded than the people of 1914 would have been. With our 21st-century eyes, we tend to view the actions of many historic military leaders as nearsighted, or even senseless at times. Daniel has an apt rebuttal: “They were grappling with developing technologies and they didn’t have twenty years of hindsight about what should or should not have happened. They were acting on the spot. That shattered the views that I had always been taught—that unless you’re Arthur Currie, you’re a stupid general.”

The exhaustive research required for The Great War Podcast also forced Daniel to explore non-Canadian perspectives to the war. “I saw the German perspective, the Austrian perspective…you realize that for any event, you need to give a well-rounded view.” Exploring other perspectives isn’t to diminish the Halifax Explosion or the Battle of Vimy Ridge, two notable Canadian examples Daniel raised, but rather to help students understand the other belligerents in the conflict.

Nearing the end of our interview, I asked Daniel how youth could get into history podcasting. “Cover the big events,” he said immediately, but changed his mind in moments: “More importantly, cover some of the big misconceptions.” As a prime example, he brought up popular conception of the war. “The main misconception is that [people] think the war was pointless, waste[ful], and ultimately futile, and that nothing bad has come out of the post-war belief that the Treaty of Versailles was unfair against Germany, leading to Hitler.” He himself had been a subscriber to the common belief, but after entering university, his research helped him overcome century-old pent-up myths. “It overlooks the twenty years in between the wars. What happened? The economics, populism…it glances over that.” He describes it as a convenient, but inaccurate, story to tell.

As a final question, I asked him for advice that he would give to young podcasters and historians. He implored rising historians to be unafraid of two things: writing something different, and using secondary sources. For podcasters? “Uh, I would ask them for their advice, actually.” It seems the secret to podcast success is to keep learning, even with four years and over 60 episodes under your belt.

Sports & Society in Canada — April 14, 2018

Sports & Society in Canada

Today, Veronica is here to share with us her love of the development of sports and culture in Canada.

We also have a favour to ask – would you share this post, or your favourite post from the past, with a friend or two? Or, let us know your favourite historical topic in the comments and maybe you’ll see a blog post about it!

Sports1.jpg

Boys’ high school 50-yard dash at Star Indoor Games in 1985

 

Something which I always notice and am interested in is how culture reflects society and vice versa. In this post, I want to look specifically at sports, looking at it from a societal perspective, and culture in light of sports trends.

Indigenous Sports

The obvious beginning would be with Indigenous sports, which were present before European contact. Many of these sports helped develop skills related to survival, such as wrestling, archery, spear throwing, and foot and canoe racing, while others had religious significance, such as dancing and lacrosse (which was known as baggataway).

Similarly, Inuit games, such as dogsledding, tug-of-war, and ball games, prepared one for survival. They also aimed to help develop a sense of one’s own tolerance level through games such as arm-pull, leg-wrestling and finger-pull. These sports are a clear example of how sports and society are connected, as they clearly reflect the need for survival, as well as their religious culture.

Early Settlers

As Europeans settled in Canada, they brought with them a different culture of sports. While the settlers were mainly occupied with survival, social activities did occur, where sports played a big role. Social gatherings in a pioneer settlement provided a chance for cooperative labour, while also offering opportunities for wrestling, horse racing, and weight-lifting. These sports reflected the need for cooperation and for survival, highlighting abilities such as strength and equestrian skill. Sports figures also began to emerge. For example, Louis Cyr became known for lifting incredible weights. In 1895, in Boston, he lifted on his back a platform with eighteen men, with a total weight of 1967 kg. These feats made Cyr a legend.

1750s to Early 1800s

During the Seven Years’ War (1755–63), an influx of British soldiers and settlers arrived in Canada, bringing with them cricket and equestrian sports, while Scots introduced golfing and curling. Golf did not become an established sport until Confederation, however curling quickly gained popularity. This clearly demonstrates the relationship between sports and society: the large amounts of land (which was also covered in snow and ice for a significant portion of the year) necessary made golfing unaffordable, but curling was easily accessible with Canada’s plentiful winter ice.

By the early 1800s, sports were mainly limited to those in the upper class, who had the time and money to participate. Their eagerness to establish traditional sports from their homelands, as well as adopt new ones, resulted in the establishment of many new sports in Canada.

Sporting events also played a role in society, both bringing together different people, and, at the same time, reinforcing the separate social classes. They provided a mixing ground for different people: city and country dwellers, Europeans and Indigenous, middle class and high class. However, the elite resisted this mixing, and tried to bar the lower classes from these events by erecting fences, charging admission, and creating events for “gentlemen amateurs.”

Pioneer women, meanwhile, were too busy to participate in sports, and when an opportunity presented itself, social conventions deterred women’s participation. However, in the 1850s, this began to change. Female participation in fox hunting, figure skating, snowshoeing, archery, and other sports increased, demonstrating a growing emancipation.

Mid-1800s

By about the mid-1800s, sports also provided a sense of nationalism and played a major role in developing Canada’s identity. Canadians were at the forefront of the development and popularization of lacrosse, baseball, football, hockey, and basketball. These sports all rapidly evolved, gaining popularity across Canada. By now, lower and middle classes had access to numerous sports, however, they were often still excluded.

In addition, with the rapid development of technology, sports were greatly changed. Improved modes of transportation also carried entire sporting teams to further places to compete. More widely representative associations could be formed and sports became more standardized. The steam-powered printing press and the telegraph brought sports to a wider audience than ever before. In this, one can see how technological trends in society affected an aspect of culture, sports.

1900s

With urbanization and industrialization, similar trends in sports continued in the 20th century. Professional sports became major attractions, as industrialization gave people more leisure time to participate in extracurricular activities. Sports spread across Canada with the establishment of leagues, and entire sports developed their own unique cultures. International competition gave Canada a chance to compete against other countries, and provided a sense of national pride. Meanwhile, more women began to participate in sports as they redefined gender roles.

Evidently, parallels can be found between sports and society. By looking at our world through different lens such as this, we can better understand it and the forces which affect us.

 

Source: http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/sports-history/