Professor Adam Smith from Oxford University's Rothermere American Institute explores the America of today through the lens of the past. Is America -- as Abraham Lincoln once claimed – the last best hope of Earth? And why have so many people believed it was? Blending a documentary style with interviews with top scholars and public figures, Adam looks at America from the outside in to find out what makes it the place it is.
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The House Divided Episode
47:40The speech that triggered the Civil War? In a speech in the State Capitol building in Springfield, Illinois, in 1858, Abraham Lincoln warned that a "house divided against itself cannot stand" and that the nation, like a house divided, could not remain "half slave and half free" but would have to become all one thing or all the other. The crisis had arrived; the choice was between complete freedom and complete slavery. Why did Lincoln say this, and what were the consequences? Adam travels to Springfield to find out. Featuring Professor Graham Peck, Distinguished Professor of Lincoln Studies at the University of Illinois, Springfield, and Christian McWhirter, Lincoln Historian at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
The Second Amendment Episode
40:01Why is gun control so hard to accomplish in American politics, despite the number of mass shootings now averaging one a week? Adam talks to Saul Cornell, the leading historian of the Second Amendment, about how the Constitution shapes the politics and culture of guns in the United States. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
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The Black Ships Episode
36:26In the 1853, the closed society of Japan under the Tokugawa Shogunate was suddenly confronted by the naval reach of the “last best hope of earth” – Commodore Perry’s naval expedition to “open up” Japan to American trade. The Americans were, of course, as alien to the Japanese as the Japanese were, to the Americans. Adam talks to historians Brian Rouleau and Robert Hellyer about how each side saw the other, and what happened next. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
The Polarisation Episode
47:13It is conventional to say that the US is more polarised now than ever before – at least since the Civil War. But intense partisanship has been a feature of American politics since the Revolution. So what is different about polarisation today? And if there is a “cold civil war” in America at the moment, how will it end? Adam talks about this with the political scientist James Morone, one of the shrewdest observers of America’s ever-divided soul. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
The Propaganda Episode
37:40Is 'fake news' new? Or have we always lived in a world of 'alternative facts'? Adam talks to John Maxwell Hamilton, who has written a book arguing that government propaganda started not in the age of social media or Donald Trump but with American entry into the First World War in 1917. Also joining Adam at the British Library's Breaking the News exhibition are curator Tamara Tubb and Professor Jo Fox from the University of London and one of the world's leading historians of propaganda. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
The Memorialising Covid Episode
30:42The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the deaths of over one million Americans to date. How have people memorialised their dead through grassroots memorials and how do we memorialise something that has affected different groups of people in vastly unequal ways? Should there be a national COVID memorial in the US and what form would it take? In this episode, RAI Fellow Dr Alice Kelly speaks to Professor Marianne Hirsch and Professor James Young about the challenges of a national memorial, the idea of ‘reparative memory’, and how we remember separately and together. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
The Cotton Famine Episode
35:02In Manchester on new year’s eve 1862, thousands turned out for a public meeting to congratulate President Abraham Lincoln for issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. What motivated these people to come along on a wet Wednesday night to listen to fiery speeches about a foreign war? Especially since the most obvious impact of the American Civil War on Lancashire was that the supply of raw cotton was cut off – the so-called ‘cotton famine’ – causing huge economic distress in the textile mill towns. The answer seems to lie in the faith that – somehow – the US represented the last, best hope of earth. Even to people in Lancashire. In this episode, Adam talks to David Brown of the University of Manchester and Richard Blackett of Vanderbilt, to find out about the impact of the cotton famine and what it tells us about the meaning of America in mid-Victorian Britain. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
The Book of Mormon Episode
39:11The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is simultaneously the most American and the most 'un-American' of projects. Out of the intense religious revival of the 'burned-over district' of New York in the 1820s, "Mormonism" made the astonishing claim that the Risen Christ had literally walked on American soil. They were thus the first truly homegrown American religious movement even as they were reviled for being an alien threat to the Republic. In this episode, Adam talks to Laurie Maffly-Kipp and Rick Turley to find out how Mormonism related to the American nation, why they attracted so much opprobrium, and why, against all the odds, they succeeded. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
The Free World Episode
34:33Has the Russian invasion of Ukraine restored America's role as the leader of the 'free world'? What are the challenges for US diplomats and politicians in trying to advance American interests while also speaking about universal values like democracy? In this episode, Adam explores these issues with Ambassador Philip T. Reeker, who served as the chargé d'affaires at the US Embassy in London. Reeker was present when the Berlin Wall came down, and his career -- mostly in Europe -- has spanned the post-Cold War decades. As the Russian tanks rolled into a European country in 2022, did he feel that the world has come full circle? Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.