History Talk from Origins

  • Hosted by Leticia Wiggins and Patrick Potyondy

Smart conversations about today’s most interesting topics - a history podcast for everyone, produced by Ohio State's Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective.

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Socialism Takes Over France, Again?

Sep 15, 2012

After François Hollande’s victory in the French presidential elections in May followed by socialist victories in the more recent legislative elections, many commentators declared a decisive swing to the Left in Europe’s second largest economy, at a moment of intense political paralysis in the Eurozone. This month historian Alice Conklin explores why the socialists won now in France, after two decades out of power, and what their return portends for the future of the country.

In the midst of a presidential election campaign that pits a wealthy Republican businessman against a self-proclaimed warrior for the middle class, Americans are talking a lot these days about “class.” Many credit the Occupy Wall Street movement with making “class warfare”—which, in its contemporary use, is really about tax policy—a driving issue in 2012. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ original idea of class struggle emerged with the creation of a class of factory wage earners during the Industrial Revolution.

Global climate change has caused unprecedented changes to the Arctic environment, especially a rapid decrease in the summer sea ice sheet. While perilous to the survival of the iconic polar bear, many humans are watching these changes with an eye to what riches an open Arctic Ocean might bring forth: in oil and gas, mining, and open-water transportation. Five countries can lay claim to the potential wealth of the Arctic Ocean: Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia, and the United States.

Elizabeth Arrott.

The events of the "Arab Spring" took the world by surprise. Yet, the roots of those rebellions run deep and nowhere more so than in Syria, where the fighting continues to be fierce and deadly. This month, Fred H. Lawson traces the history of one leading force in the ongoing Syrian uprising: the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. The Brothers led a violent campaign to overthrow the Syrian regime in the 1970s, but more recently have advanced a platform that calls for liberal reform and constitutional government.

Many of us think of humanitarian intervention as a recent phenomenon of United States foreign policy. Certainly, critics of Barack Obama’s intervention in Libya saw America’s humanitarian involvement there as some new-fangled excuse to go mucking around in other countries. This month historian Jeff Bloodworth traces a much longer history of humanitarian intervention that goes back to the administration of William McKinley and is connected with the Protestant ideals of some of the nation's founders.

The controversies generated by climate science in recent years center around the human relationship with the natural world and with natural resources. This month, historian John Brooke puts that critical question in historical perspective—deep historical perspective. For most of human history, our species had to struggle to survive powerful natural forces, like climate and disease. In the past three centuries, however, things have changed dramatically: that struggle has been reshaped by the unprecedented growth of the human population—from under one billion to now over seven.

As the American combat mission in Iraq comes to end, the Obama administration and Pentagon officials have repeatedly assured the world that American involvement with Iraq will continue. They are undoubtedly right. Since the founding of Iraq in the aftermath of World War I, U.S. policy has included cooperation, confrontation, war, and, most recently, an ongoing experiment in state-building. This month, Peter Hahn, an expert on the history of U.S.

In the summer of 2011, the streets of Dakar, Senegal filled with a mass of demonstrators “fed up” with the political machinations of President Abdoulaye Wade. Led by popular rappers, the oppositional collective “Y’En A Marre” became spokespeople for a generation at the end of their rope. As Senegal approaches critical elections in February 2012, historian James Genova offers an eyewitness account of these political upheavals, placing the current turmoil in its broader historical and African context.

Alongside the Presidential nomination process, the most prominent American political news stories these days are about the heated, high-stakes struggles over redistricting. The modern era of reapportioning state and federal legislative districts began almost exactly a half century ago when the U.S. Supreme Court decided Baker v. Carr (1962).

With the ongoing East African drought crisis, the persisting threat of global climate change, and the world population now estimated at 7 billion, global concerns about food insecurity are again in the news. Little mentioned, however, is the continuing loss of genetic diversity of the foods we eat today—a trend that has rapidly accelerated since the twentieth century and that raises troubling questions about the vulnerability of the world’s food supply.

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