Second Decade podcast

Second Decade

Sean Munger

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.

65 Episoden

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    55: Smuttynose Island

    47:40

    Nine small islands, called the Isles of Shoals, lie off the coast just over the line between New Hampshire and Maine. One of them, Smuttynose Island, has a mysterious past. Traditional stories going back to the early 19th century, amplified by poetry, folklore and modern tour-guide apocrypha, speak of a Spanish ship called the Sagunto having been wrecked on the shore of Smuttynose Island in January 1813 and fourteen (in some accounts fifteen) of its crew buried on the island by the patriarch who once ruled it. The story of the “Graves of Spanish Sailors” has made it from town records and court documents, through Victorian-era poetry, the mid-20th century tall tales of Edward Rowe Snow, all the way to Google Maps and modern tourist websites. Whether there really are Spanish sailors buried on Smuttynose Island is surprisingly difficult to determine. In this episode, Dr. Sean Munger again takes on salty New England tall tales, which have surfaced before on this show, to reach a reasonable conclusion about whether there really are 14 Spaniards buried on Smuttynose Island. In addition to former “flying Santa” and coastal historian Edward Rowe Snow, who we tangled with back in Episode 9, you’ll meet the two confusingly-named proprietors of Smuttynose Island during the Second Decade, a histrionic poet who immortalized the story for the benefit of disaster tourists, a Boston abolitionist and doctor whose 1858 “X marks the spot” survey missed a crucial fact about the island’s geography, and the intrepid modern-day archaeologist who set out to science her way to solving the mystery. This is a lighter-hearted episode of Second Decade with some surprising twists. Note: after this episode, Second Decade will be on hiatus until September 2021. History Classes Online at Sean's Website Sean’s Patreon Make a PayPal Donation Sean's Book: "The Warmest Tide: How Climate Change is Changing History" Additional Materials About This Episode Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
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    54: The Dumplings of Death

    1:05:00

    In March 1815, in London, Elizabeth Fenning served a plate of dumplings to the family that employed her as a cook. Almost all members of the household, including Eliza herself, became violently ill, apparently poisoned. Barely four months later Eliza was dead, hanged for attempted murder after a drumhead trial tainted with misogyny, class prejudice and official corruption. An angry newspaper reporter who witnessed her execution, William Hone, took up her cause and began to expose the web of lies that led to Eliza’s wrongful conviction—but Hone would soon find himself on trial for daring to speak truth to power. This was a major event in the birth of investigative journalism as we now know it, but it didn’t exist before the Second Decade. This is the story of the case that brought it into being. In this episode, Dr. Sean Munger connects the disparate threads of the Eliza Fenning case and how it affected media and legal history. You’ll hear the likely real story of what happened in the troubled Turner household the day Eliza baked the dumplings, including her own words—ignored by legal authorities and historians alike—suggesting that the genesis of the whole thing was Eliza’s act of resistance against an attempted assault. You’ll meet a parade of corrupt officials and incompetent bureaucrats who tried to railroad her, from a feckless doctor who made a supposed murder weapon out of a sniff of garlic to the odious John Silvester, London’s chief criminal judge who demanded sexual favors in exchange for legal ones. And you’ll learn about the life of William Hone, briefly the most famous man in England, whose own trials in 1817 proved as much of a sensation as Elizabeth Fenning’s. There’s a lot more to this episode of Second Decade than the title suggests! Content Warning: this episode contains a brief discussion of sexual assault. History Classes Online at Sean's Website Sean’s Patreon Make a PayPal Donation Sean's Book: "The Warmest Tide: How Climate Change is Changing History" Additional Materials About This Episode Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
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    53: The Lithuanian Rabbi

    1:03:24

    For centuries, the historic region of Lithuania, torn between its powerful European neighbors, was one of the great centers of Jewish culture and intellectual life. In the 1810s, the small town of Volozhin was the site of a uniquely influential yeshiva—a school of Jewish learning—founded by a charismatic rabbi beloved by the community, the brilliant Chaim of Volozhin. But as influential as Chaim’s own contributions were to Judaism, he was also part of a broader movement, spearheaded by an even more legendary rabbi, thinker and philosopher: the mighty Vilna Ga’on, the “Genius of Vilnius.” Together the two men helped plant a uniquely hardy seed of Jewish settlement in the Holy Land whose germination would come to have profound consequences, especially after the vast majority of Lithuania’s Jews who stayed behind perished in the Holocaust. In this unusual episode of Second Decade, Dr. Sean Munger puts a rare spotlight on the religious life of Europe in the 1810s, but the story of Chaim of Volozhin eventually becomes epic pageant of adventure, settlement and resistance. In this episode not only will you meet the Genius of Vilnius and his dogged disciple, but you’ll delve into the doctrinal and intellectual disputes among 18th and 19th century rabbis, you’ll walk among the jumbled stones of Jerusalem’s ruined Hurva Synagogue, and you’ll trace the perilous journey that dozens of Jewish families made from Eastern Europe to the land of Israel—only to find, in too many cases, tragedy waiting for them. This episode of Second Decade has been nearly three years in the making. Content Warning: this episode contains brief descriptions of atrocities during the Holocaust. History Classes Online at Sean's Website Sean’s Patreon Make a PayPal Donation Sean's Book: "The Warmest Tide: How Climate Change is Changing History" Additional Materials About This Episode Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
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    Bonus: Trailer for Age of Confusion Podcast

    3:06

    This brief trailer is to introduce you to Second Decade host Sean Munger's newest podcast, a fiction/alternate history show called Age of Confusion. The show examines an alternate timeline of American and world history from 1963 to 1985. Website for Age of Confusion Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
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    52: War and Peace

    1:03:57

    This is a crossover episode with the Green Screen podcast. Leo Tolstoy’s epic 1869 novel War & Peace is undeniably one of the great classics of world literature. Although it covers a considerable time period, its climactic episodes involve the Napoleonic Wars and specifically the French invasion of Russia in 1812. In this, a special crossover episode with Dr. Sean Munger’s other podcast Green Screen, Sean and guest host Cody Climer delve into the 2016 BBC miniseries adaptation of War & Peace, starring Paul Dano and Lily James, focusing specifically on its finale which deals with the Battle of Borodino, the 1812 French sack of Moscow and the aftermath. In this episode, you will revisit the French invasion of Russia in 1812 (a saga which made an appearance earlier in Second Decade, episodes 10-12) but this time we will see it specifically through the lens of modern cinema. While the 2016 miniseries is the focus, you’ll also compare and contrast this adaptation with previous versions of the novel, filmed in 1915, 1956, 1966-67 and 1972. As Green Screen is specifically about the environment, the environmental and ecological dimensions of the French-Russian war, and of Tolstoy himself, are emphasized. If this is your first exposure to Green Screen, we encourage you to check it out! History Classes Online at Sean's Website Sean’s Patreon Make a PayPal Donation Sean's Book: "The Warmest Tide: How Climate Change is Changing History" Additional Materials About This Episode Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
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    51: Norway, Part II

    59:03

    After being sold out by the great European powers, especially Great Britain, as a sop to Sweden, the people of Norway felt angry and betrayed. The Norwegian nobility had united behind Danish Crown Prince Christian Frederick, who had promised to lead them to independence—but Christian Frederick’s revolution increasingly looked like a long shot, particularly in the face of resistance by Sweden’s regent, former Napoleonic general Jean Bernadotte. Nevertheless, Christian Frederick and his allies forged ahead, hoping to forge a new vision of the Norwegian nation and its sovereignty, even if full independence couldn’t be obtained. The result was Sweden’s last war and one of the most complicated political deals of the Napoleonic era. In this, the concluding part of a two-part series, Dr. Sean Munger continues the story of Norway’s tumultuous founding in the final months of Napoleon and how the political and constitutional ideas surrounding the independence movement came to have a legacy that lasted well into the 20th century. In this episode you’ll meet the conservative politician who thought Christian Frederick was moving too fast, his opposite number who thought it was going too slowly, a British diplomat who was taken with the idea of Norwegian independence, and you’ll encounter the complicated legacy of Jean Bernadotte—also known as Karl Johan—who is maybe the villain of the story, but maybe not. You’ll also take a brief stroll down Norway’s main drag in modern times, join dinner table conversation about Norway’s experience in World War II, and track the battles in the forts and fjords of the Scandinavian north. This is one of the more complex stories told on Second Decade. History Classes Online at Sean's Website Sean’s Patreon Make a PayPal Donation Sean's Book: "The Warmest Tide: How Climate Change is Changing History" Additional Materials About This Episode Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
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    50: Norway, Part I

    53:02

    At the beginning of the Napoleonic era, Norway was not its own country, but rather the junior partner in the unequal combination of Denmark-Norway. Just before Bonaparte was defeated and exiled (for the first time), somehow Norway ended up detached from Denmark and "unified" with Sweden, in an act of diplomatic legerdemain that left the Norwegians fuming, the Swedes boastful and just about everyone else bewildered. As it turned out, the Norwegians decided not to take their wholesale selling-out lying down, and in 1814 an independence movement blossomed which, 91 years later, would become the basis of the modern nation of Norway that we know today. The story of this process is supremely complicated but quite interesting, featuring war at sea and on land, the intrigues of kings and princes, and a fundamental sea change in how nations are built and defined. In this episode of Second Decade, the first of a two-part series, historian Dr. Sean Munger takes you into the convoluted backdrop of Scandinavian politics in the Napoleonic era and how Norway came to be a distinct national and cultural entity. In this episode you'll learn a bit of European geography and medieval history; you'll find out what kind of craft the Danes decided to build to challenge the British Navy in a war that might otherwise have seemed hopeless; you'll meet a French field marshal who dreams of becoming Swedish royalty, a Danish crown prince who fancies the Norwegian throne, and a timber merchant and part-time diplomat who designed an independence movement from the ground up. Various other characters from the long story of the Napoleonic era make cameo appearances, including one-eyed, one-armed Lord Nelson submerged in a coffin of brandy and the little Corsican upstart himself, on his way down after the epic clowning he took in Episodes 10 through 12 of this podcast. History Classes Online at Sean's Website Free Webinar: How Historical is Indiana Jones? 22 December 2020 Sean’s Patreon Make a PayPal Donation Additional Materials About This Episode Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
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    49: Theo the Pipe Smoker

    49:58

    The bodies of dead human beings can tell us a lot about the past, but most human remains from the distant past tend to be rich or important people. A discovery in Basel, Switzerland in 1984 proved an exception to this rule when a number of skeletons were recovered from a forgotten graveyard for the city’s poor. One particular set of bones entranced researchers because of two strange notches found in his front teeth. An exhausting effort to identify the man known only as “Theo the Pipe Smoker” would eventually involve a worldwide search for his relatives, sophisticated DNA analysis, and possibly unearth evidence of a 200-year-old murder. In this episode of Second Decade, historian Dr. Sean Munger will profile the Theo case, the physical evidence from his bones, the historical questions raised by his discovery, and the possible identities that he might have had. In doing so you’ll get a glimpse of life among Basel’s underclass, a world of bakeries, tanneries, factories and dead-end jobs where disease was rampant and economic survival precarious. You’ll meet the two men who are the most likely candidates for being Theo, who surprisingly died on the same weekend in 1816 but whose life stories are markedly different. We may not be able to reach a full resolution of the mystery of Theo, but the journey is illuminating. History Classes Online at Sean's Website Free Webinar on the Vietnam War, 17 November 2020 Sean’s Patreon Make a PayPal Donation Additional Materials About This Episode Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
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    48: Heritage Lost

    48:38

    America was growing rapidly in the 1810s, and growth meant building. Buildings of all kinds, from churches, markets and houses to banks and government offices, were sprouting up everywhere. Only a tiny fraction of the many buildings constructed between 1810 and 1820 still survive today, and the loss of the majority—through demolition, development, decay, accident, neglect, or deliberate destruction—represents a staggering loss of architectural heritage and history. Though many buildings have been lost, traces of some remain, through photographs, drawings, eyewitness accounts, memories, and, in a few lucky cases, some physical artifacts. These traces tell tantalizing and compelling stories of what the built environment of the Second Decade was like, and, by extension, glimpses of the lives of the people who lived and worked within it. In this unique, stand-alone episode of Second Decade, historian Sean Munger will profile 9 specific buildings, constructed between 1808 and 1820 and which no longer exist, that represent a piece of the architectural heritage of the decade. You’ll visit Federal-style mansions in Rhode Island, an Ohio courthouse built to try to lure politicians to a frontier boomtown, a market and exhibition hall at the center of Boston, more than one Southern plantation built by slave labor, a farmhouse that remained frozen in time for nearly two centuries, and several others. The stories of these buildings, the people who built them and why they were lost represent only a small portion of the enormous wealth of historical and architectural heritage of America that is now gone forever. Sean’s Patreon Make a PayPal Donation Additional Materials About This Episode Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
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    47: Year Without Summer, Part III

    51:46

    The mysterious weather and climate anomalies of the Year Without Summer did not end with the coming of fall or the end of the calendar year 1816. The Tambora effect—the chilling of the world’s climate by volcanic dust from the 1815 mega-eruption—lingered long after that. The failure of summer crops in many parts of America, Europe and the world meant a lean and hungry winter for millions of people. And for many of them, the brutally cold winter of 1816-17 was much colder and more harrowing than any they had ever lived through before, or would again. In this episode, the final in this minseries, you’ll shiver along with missionaries and Indians on the frontier; you’ll learn about some of the bizarre theories that people advanced for what was causing the events, such as an “electrical fluid” around the Earth supposedly linked to earthquakes; and you’ll meet a very eccentric Scotsman whose obsession with weather, sparked by the 1816 anomalies, utterly consumed his life for the next half century. This episode contains threads that connect to various other SD installments, including Episode 6 (Jefferson in Winter), 7 (Volcano), 24 (New England’s Cold Friday), and 25 (The Man in the Buffalo Fur Suit). Sean’s Patreon Make a PayPal Donation Sean's Book: "The Warmest Tide: How Climate Change is Changing History" Additional Materials About This Episode Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

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