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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U.S. government photographer Marjory Collins

Baby boomers, 78 million strong, are turning 65 at a rate of 4 million per year. The press, the government, and the medical community claim, often and loudly, that these numbers augur a mass dependency crisis. Such spokesmen envision a world of decrepit elders afflicted with chronic disease slurping their way through the country’s resources. This month historian Tamara Mann explores how, in the United States, the so-called “geriatric crisis” is less related to age itself than to the relationship between old age and government funds, particularly Medicare.

In May 2012, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced a partnership to offer on-line courses, free to anyone anywhere in the world. There is a historical resonance in MIT's involvement in the MOOC (massive open on-line courses) movement. MIT is a land-grant university and the announcement came during the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Land Grant Act which created the land-grants. Arguably the greatest democratization of higher education in history, the Morrill Act stressed that higher education should be practical and that it should be accessible. This month historian David Staley looks back over the 150 year history of this experiment in state-funded, democratic higher education.

As we try to sort out the causes and consequences of armed conflicts around the globe, we seldom ask the question: where do all those weapons come from that make these wars possible? With the United States racking up a record shattering $66.3 billion in overseas weapons sales last year, the question has become even more pressing. This month, historian Jonathan A. Grant looks at the history of the governments and individuals who have created a global trade in armaments. Except when they run afoul of the law, as Russian arms dealer Victor Bout did in 2011, these men tend to operate out of public view but the impact they have had on societies around the world is hard to over-estimate.

As the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the US Supreme Court case legalizing abortion, approaches, many Americans assume that legalized abortion is only as old as that ruling. In fact, as Anna Peterson discusses this month, abortion had only been made illegal at the turn of the 20th century. The different histories of abortion in Europe and the United States reveal much about the current state of American debates-so prominent in the 2012 elections campaigns-over abortion and women's health.

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.

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