Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species is one of the most controversial books ever written. For most Americans, Darwin’s theories are associated with the 1925 Scopes trial and the near century-long “evolution vs creation” debate has that emerged as a dominant theme in American society in the years since the trial. In this episode of The Road to Now, we speak with Dr. Randall Fuller about his new book The Book That Changed America: How Darwin’s Theory of Evolution Ignited a Nation, and the various ways that Darwin’s work has been interpreted since its publication in 1858. As it turns out, Darwin and Origin of Species are far more complex and have a much deeper history in the United States than most of us realize.
At The Road to Now, we don’t just make history podcasts- we also listen to them. In this episode we’re excited to share our conversation with fellow history podcaster Dr. Liz Covart, whose podcast Ben Franklin’s World covers the history of early America. Bob, Ben and Liz discuss the concept of the frontier in American history, the work that goes into writing history and sharing findings, and why it’s a good idea to follow the evidence even when it makes you uncomfortable. We also talk about the place that podcasts fit within the field of history and why it’s so exciting to share history with others.
Oil is one of the oldest fuel sources known to man. Its impact on the world is not simple; while it has powered the vehicles that have made human mobility possible, it has also propped up some of the most repressive regimes in recent history. In the last installment of our four-part history of energy series, we speak to journalist and author Paul Roberts to discuss the complex role that oil has played in shaping the industrialized world, and the costs/benefits that oil has as an energy source in the 21st century.
Paul Roberts is a journalist and author who covers energy and technology. His work has appeared in many publications including Rolling Stone, Harpers, and the Washington Post. His book The End of Oil (2004), examined the history of petroleum and its impact on the world.
When most Americans think of sustainable technology, they think of Jimmy Carter's solar panels or the windmills that are beginning to pop up across the country. But so-called "sustainable" or "green" energy has a history that can be traced back to the 19th century. In this episode of The Road to Now, Alexis Madrigal explains sustainable energy's deep roots in American history, and discusses the viability of green energy as an alternative to coal, oil, and solar energy production in the 21st century.
Alexis Madrigal is technology correspondent at The Atlantic and Editor-at-Large at Fusion. His 2009 book, Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology was published by Da Capo Press in 2011.
-Alexis Madrigal, "All the Promises Automakers Have Made About the Future of Cars, The Atlantic, July 7, 2017.
-Alexis Madrigal, Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology (Da Capo Press, 2011).
-Alexis Madrigal at Fusion.net
- Alexis Madrigal on twitter
Since August 6, 1945, when the Enola Gay dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, the world has been aware of the awesome force that nuclear science could unleash. Using that force for energy production proved that nuclear technology could improve our lives, but nuclear energy has had a hard time shaking its association with destruction, and the catastrophes at Three Mile Island (1979), Chernobyl (1986) & Fukushima (2011), have only heightened public concern over the safety of nuclear power.
In other words, nuclear power has a bad rap. But does it deserve it?
Not according to scientists Jim Clarke and Steve Krahn of Vanderbilt University. Both men have distinguished careers in the nuclear power industry that have spanned half the history of nuclear energy. In this episode of The Road to Now, Jim and Steve break down the risks and rewards of using nuclear energy, and argue that the public response to Three Mile Island and other spectacular events may have led us to poor conclusions about how we produce energy. They also remind us that nuclear energy produces no carbon, which makes it particularly valuable in the age of global warming.
Dr. Jim Clarke is Professor of the Practice of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Vanderbilt University. Jim has served as an advisor to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and is currently on the NRC Advisory Committee for Reactor Safeguards and its subcommittee on Radiation Protection and Nuclear Materials. He has over 35 years of professional experience with approximately 150 publications and presentations.
Dr. Steven Krahn is Professor of the Practice of Nuclear Environmental Engineering in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Vanderbilt University. He has more than 30 years of experience in his field and previously served in the U. S. Department of Energy as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Safety & Security in the Office of Environmental Management.
Both guests highly recommend that you visit the US Energy Information Administration website (eia.gov) for accurate and updated information on energy production in the United States.
We'd also like to thank Brenda Ellis in the Vanderbilt School of Engineering for her help in arranging our interview with Jim and Steve.
List of Sources Complied by Jim Clarke and Steve Krahn
Videos from the CRESP Fuel Cycle Course:
-Radioactive Waste Management - Dr. Steve Krahn
-Environmental Performance Assessment - Dr. Jim Clarke
-Reactors and Fuels and Nuclear Reactors - Allen Croff
-Quantifying the Risk of Nuclear Fuel Recycling Facilities – Dr. John Garrick
-Overview of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Its Chemistry - Dr. Raymond G. Wymer
-The Reporter’s Handbook on Nuclear Materials, Energy, and Waste Management, M. R. Greenberg, B. M. West, K. W. Lowrie and H. J. Mayer, Vanderbilt University Press, 2009.
-Nuclear Waste Management, Nuclear Power and Energy Choices Public Preferences, Perceptions and Trust, M. R. Greenberg, Springer, 2013.
-Future Energy: Opportunities and Challenges, Thomas W. Kerlin, International Society for Automation, 2013.
-Fuel Cycle to Nowhere: U. S. Law and Policy on Nuclear Waste, R. B. Stewart and J. B. Stewart, Vanderbilt University Press, 2013.
In our first episode of the second season of The Road to Now, Bob and Ben speak with Dr. Chuck Keeney about the history of coal in the United States. Chuck explains the ways that the coal industry has shaped not only the physical landscape of mining towns, but also, through lobbying efforts and information campaigns, the way we understand our nation’s history. Chuck is uniquely qualified to tell the story of coal; not only does he hold a PhD in history from West Virginia University, he is the great-grandson of coal miner and labor organizer Frank Keeney, who was part of The Battle of Blair Mountain.
(The Battle of Blair Mountain was a 1921 shootout between coal miners and the coal companies that was the largest domestic insurrection since the Civil War. If you want to know more, it’s all in this episode. Or you could stop by the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum where Chuck Keeney is on the Board of Directors).
Chuck Keeney on twitter
May 19th was the one-year anniversary of The Road to Now, so we invited our good friends/RTN contributors Matt Negrin and Alex Trowbridge to join us in taking a look at where the road has turned since we launched in 2016. A year ago, Matt and Alex worked at Bloomberg Politics. Today Matt is a Digital Producer for The Daily Show and Alex is a Producer for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. A year ago, The Road to Now was just Bob Crawford and Ben Sawyer, but now we have Ian Skotte. Also, we have a different President now.
We’d like to thank everyone for the support they’ve given us in this first year! We’re going to take a few weeks to develop ideas we’ve been working on, and to schedule some great guests for season 2. We’ll keep your feed going these next weeks with some of our favorite episodes from the last year, and we’ll be back with all-new episodes on Monday, July 10th.
In the meantime, please let us know if there are any questions you’d like us to answer, or if there’s a guest you think would be a great fit for our show. You can email us at RoadToNowCast@gmail.com or tweet at us at @Road_To_Now.
We look forward to sharing our new episodes with you on Monday, July 10th!
Other episodes featuring Matt Negrin and Alex Trowbridge:
Episode 3: Alexander Trowbridge and Matt Negrin on the Media
Episode 15: Live from Coney Island with Matt Negrin and Alexander Trowbridge
Episode 20: Debate Extravaganza!: The History of Presidential Debates and Media Spin
Episode 27: Matt Negrin and Alexander Trowbridge on Campaign Surrogates and Presidential Elections
Here's a bit of what Alex and Matt have been up to lately:
On April 6, 1917, the United States House of Representatives voted to declare war on Germany, bringing the United States into the brutal war that had raged across Europe since the summer of 1914. America’s entry into World War I helped turn the tide of the war, securing a victory for the US and its allies. And while the final shots of the war took place on November 11, 1918, the consequences of “The Great War” live on nearly a century after its end.
Why did the United States become involved in World War I after remaining neutral for so long? How did the war in Europe shape American society? And who actually won World War I? In this episode of The Road to Now, we get the answers to these questions and more in our conversation with military historian and archivist Mitch Yockelson.
Dr. Mitchell Yockelson teaches military history at Norwich University. He has published four books on US history, the most recent of which is Forty-Seven Days: How Pershing’s Warriors Came of Age to Defeat the German Army in World War I (Caliber, 2016). He is also an archivist at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and a member of the Historical Advisory Board of the United States World War I Centennial Commission.
-Mitchell Yockelson, Forty-Seven Days: How Pershing’s Warriors Came of Age to Defeat the German Army in World War I, (Caliber, 2016).
-World War I Centennial Commission website
More on World War I
-For World War I's impact on the modern Middle East, check out our interview with Sean Foley on the History of Syria (The Road to Now #53)
-Benjamin Sawyer, "Manufacturing Germans: Singer Manufacturing Company and American Capitalism in the Russian Imagination During World War I, Enterprise & Society (Vol. 17, Issue 2), June 2016, 301-323.
North Korea is a hard place for most Americans to understand. Kim Jung-un and his inner circle keep a tight grip on information, and what the North Korean government does share with outsiders can be hard to decipher. What is clear though, is that the current state of relations between Washington DC and the regime in Pyongyang is growing colder every day, and North Korea’s pursuit of long-range nuclear weapons makes resolving this conflict an urgent matter in US foreign policy today.
How did the standoff between the US and North Korea begin, and who is to blame for this conflict? How has the Kim family, now in its third generation of leadership, managed to stay in power this long, and what are the prospects of removing them from power? And how has our policy toward North Korea been shaped by its geographic proximity to China and Russia?
In this episode of The Road to Now, we get the answer to these questions and more in our interview with North Korea expert, Dr. Sheena Greitens.
Sheena Greitens is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Missouri. She is also a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Center for East Asian Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution and an Associate in Research at the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University.
On February 17, 2017, President Donald J. Trump tweeted that the American news media is the enemy of the people. This was an escalation from the rhetoric candidate Trump used along the campaign trail, continually rebuking the mainstream media as purveyors of fake news. The President’s disdain for the media made it no surprise when he announced that he would not attend last week’s White House Correspondence Association Dinner, which is a long-held Washington tradition that celebrates the free press of the United States and honors the work of journalists.
So what’s it like to be a journalist covering a President who is so openly antagonistic to your profession? Is Donald Trump’s disdain for the media as fierce when he’s behind closed doors as it is when he speaks at rallies? And what is it like to go from covering the Obama White House to that of Donald Trump?
In this episode of The Road to Now, we get the answers to these questions and more in our interview with Bloomberg White House Correspondent Margaret Talev.
Margaret Talev is White House Correspondent for Bloomberg Politics, and Vice President of the White House Correspondent Association. She has covered the White House since the beginning of the Obama administration. The full text and audio of her May 1, 2017 interview with Donald Trump is available in the links below.
-"Transcript: President Donald Trump's Interview with Bloomberg News." Bloomberg.com, May 1, 2017. (Interview by Margaret Talev & Jennifer Jacobs of Bloomberg Politics)
-Margaret Talev stories from Bloomberg Politics
-Margaret Talev on twitter
The Harlem Globetrotters are one of those great parts of American culture that almost everyone knows and loves. For most of us today, the Globetrotters are outstanding entertainers. But did you know that in the mid-20th century the Globetrotters were probably the single best basketball team on the planet? Did you know that they did travel the globe as agents of the US Department of State during the Cold War, but that they are not, in fact, from Harlem? If you want to know how all of this happened (and how the Globetrotters saved the NBA), you’re going to love this interview with historian Ben Green on the History of the Harlem Globetrotters.
Neil Hanson is one of the most interesting people we know. He’s written books on World War I, the Spanish Armada, and the fire that destroyed London in 1666. He once teamed up with history’s greatest treasure hunter to tell the story of retrieving over $100 million in gold from a sunken Soviet ship in the arctic. He’s been the owner of the highest Inn in all of Great Britain. And, in 1999 he published a book called The Custom of the Sea, which tells the story of a shipwrecked crew that was put on trial in London after resorting to cannibalism. The ship, which fell victim to forty-foot waves off the coast of Africa in 1884, was named the Mignonette, and Hanson’s book was so good that in 2004 it inspired an album by an up-and-coming group of musicians called The Avett Brothers.
How could someone turn a gruesome tale of cannibalism into an inspirational work of history? How do you track down the sources that allow you to answer so many questions about history? And how does one individual accomplish so much in one life? In this episode of The Road to Now, we get the answers in our conversation with Neil Hanson.
-Neil Hanson's Website
“Who is James K. Polk?” If you’re asking this question to yourself right now, you’re not alone. In fact, “Who is James K. Polk?” was a slogan Polk’s political rivals used to mock him in the 1844 Presidential election. This made sense at the time; despite serving as Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1835 to 1839 and Governor of Tennessee from 1839 to 1841, Polk lacked the dynamic personality that defines many of America’s great Presidents. Yet a late compromise in the Democratic Party and the changing mood of the American people thrust Polk from a failed Gubernatorial candidate in Tennessee to the White House in less than a year.
Who is James K. Polk? He’s America’s first dark horse President. He’s the Commander-in-Chief who oversaw the annexation of the southern portion of the Oregon territory, the admission of Texas into the United States, and the invasion of Mexico that forced the Mexican government to cede about half of its territory to the United States in 1848 (you know New Mexico? It used to be part of old Mexico). He’s the man who may have done more to transform the United States in a single term than any other President in American history.
And, strangely enough, he’s also the man whose corpse has been dug out of the ground more times than any other President. His current resting spot in Nashville is Polk’s third grave, but he may be moving again in the near future.
So how did Polk go from relative obscurity to President of the United States in such a short period of time? Why does his place in Americans’ minds fall so far short of his impact on American history? And why are lawmakers in Tennessee considering moving Polk’s body for a fourth time more than 150 years after his death? In this episode of The Road to Now we answer these questions and more in our conversation with the Curator of the James K. Polk Home & Museum, Tom Price.
The Syrian Civil War, which began in 2011, has been one of the most tragic events in recent history. The implications of the situation in Syria stretch far beyond the borders of the country, and the UN estimates that more than 5 million people have fled the country to escape the violence that has claimed that lives of more than 400,000 Syrians. But how did the conflict start? What is at stake for the various factions at war in Syria? And how have foreign countries such as Russia and the United States influenced Syria? In this special edition of The Road to Now, we answer these questions and more in our conversation with Dr. Sean Foley.
Dr. Foley specializes in the contemporary history and politics of the Middle East and the wider Islamic world. He frequently visits Asia and the Middle East, follows events in both regions closely, and speaks Arabic and Bahasa Malaysian. He has published widely and has delivered public presentations to audiences around the world. He has also held Fulbright fellowships in Syria, Turkey, and Malaysia. From April 2013 until January 2014, he lived and traveled extensively in Saudi Arabia.
The 1960s was a decade of individualism, and few individuals from this era are as iconic as Bob Dylan and John F. Kennedy. For Dylan, the 60s was just the beginning of a half-century career that has included over 2,500 shows, 38 studio albums, 13 Grammys and the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature. Kennedy, on the other hand, like so many of the decade’s giants, was taken from us too soon, leaving us to wonder what he may have accomplished if not for his tragic assassination in 1963. In this episode of The Road to Now we talk about the life, times, and cultural influence of Bob Dylan and John F. Kennedy with award-winning historian, Dr. Douglas Brinkley.
Dr. Douglas Brinkley is Professor of History at Rice University and Fellow at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy. He has authored more than 20 books, including Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America (HarperCollins, 2016) and Cronkite (HarperCollins, 2012). Dr. Brinkley is the CNN Presidential Historian and a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and Audubon.
Douglas Brinkley's website at Rice University
Douglas Brinkley, "Bob Dylan's Late-Era, Old-Style American Individualism," Rolling Stone, May 14, 2009.
Douglas Brinkley List of Publications from HarperCollins Publishers
Throughout the latter part of the 20th century the perception of Golf in popular culture was that of a sport for wealthy white men who gathered at their exclusive country clubs to make business deals over 18 holes of golf, all the while smoking expensive cigars and drinking martinis (you know, like in CaddyShack?). But then, seemingly from out of nowhere, Tiger Woods burst onto the scene, changing the look and style of the sport forever.
It turns out, however, that most Americans’ perception of the sport is does not quite fit the reality. The truth behind golf’s history is much more complicated and a bit more noble. And today, Golf raises more money for charity than all other major sports combined. For example, since 1970 the FedEx St Jude Classic Golf tournament has raised over 33 million dollars for the hospital.
The Cold War that developed between the United States and the Soviet Union after World War II, defined the second half of the 20th century. In these years, the two so-called superpowers competed to win the hearts and minds of the world, all the while trying not to destroy all of humanity with the atomic weapons they had stockpiled en masse. Yet after decades of bitter confrontation, American President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev were able to bring the Cold War to an end in just a few years. Given that Moscow has once again emerged as a focal point in American politics, we’d be wise to learn what we can from the end of the Cold War. On this episode of The Road to Now, we are honored to share our interview with a man who was, in fact, in the room where it happened- Ambassador Jack Matlock.
Ambassador Jack Matlock began working for the US Foreign Service in 1956 and served as Ambassador to Czechoslovakia from 1981 to 1983, and to the Soviet Union from 1987 until his retirement in 1991. He is the author of multiple books on US-Russian relations and is currently a Rubenstein Fellow at Duke University, where he teaches classes that draw a connection between history and the current geopolitical climate. You can learn more about Ambassador Matlock and his work on his website: http://jackmatlock.com/
A special thanks to the Department of History and the Department of Political Science and International Relations at MTSU for supporting the live podcast, and to Susan Myers-Shirk and Kelle Knight for helping us make the event a success. We are also grateful to John Merchant of MTSU’s Department of Recording Industry and his students Colin Bell, Logan Eley, and Caleb King for recording the event.
On Monday, March 27th Nicholas Carr will give the keynote lecture for Scholars Week at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, TN. The lecture begins at 7:00pm and is free/open to the public. For more details click here.
The internet has revolutionized the human experience in the 21st century. Our ability to communicate with others, find locations in unfamiliar places, and access information from across the globe has never been easier, and new media like blogs and podcasts have connected voices with audiences in ways that were not possible just a few decades ago. Yet, despite all these incredible benefits, many of us are beginning to sense that all this connectivity is affecting the way we think and interact with one another. How is the internet affecting our brains, and should we be concerned about it? How is the internet different from other media technologies such as print, radio and television? And is google making us stupid? In this episode of the Road to Now, we get the answer from New York Times Best Selling Author Nicholas Carr.
Nicholas Carr writes about technology and culture, and is the author of 5 books and numerous articles for major media outlets including The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. For more on Nicholas & his writings, check out his website in the links below.
George Washington is one of the most revered figures in American history. As Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, Washington led his troops to one of the most unlikely and world-shaking victories in modern history, and his selection as President of both the Constitutional Convention and the new government designed that summer in Philadelphia, demonstrate the unmatched faith that the founders had in General Washington. Today, however, we tend to remember Washington more for the positions he held than for the personal qualities that made him a peerless member of the founding generation, but the wisdom left to us by our first President in his farewell address is perhaps more relevant today than ever before. In this episode of The Road to Now we explain why in our discussion with Daily Beast editor-in-chief John Avlon about his book Washington’s Farewell: The Founding Father’s Warning to Future Generations.
Are faith and reason compatible? How do people of faith reconcile themselves to a secular world? These are difficult and complex questions that have shaped America long before the founding of the United States. On this episode of The Road to Now, we sit down with Molly Worthen to talk about the development of Christianity in the United States, and its impact on American society, culture and government.
Dr. Molly Worthen is Assistant Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill whose research focuses on North American religious and intellectual history. Her most recent book, Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism was published by Oxford University Press in 2013. Molly is also a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times.