#120 The History of Influenza w/ John Barry

The influenza strain that hit the world in 1918 killed between 50 and 100 million people. It was not the first flu to have such an impact on humanity, and it also may not be the last. In this episode we talk with John Barry about his research on the history of influenza, the current state of preparedness, and the unexpected ways that influenza has shaped modern history.

Read More

#119 Karl Marx and History

When Americans think of Karl Marx, they probably think of the self-proclaimed Marxist governments whose rivalry with the US & Western Europe defined the 20th Century. Marx, however, formulated a theory of historical change and social relationships under capitalism that was more productive than the Communist governments who ruled in his name. In this episode, Bob and Ben talk about how Marx viewed history, what we can learn from it, and the ways Marx’s theory has both contributed to, and limited, historical research.

Read More

#115 The 1970s w/ Jefferson Cowie

The 1970s was a pivotal decade in American history. In a ten-year span, the United States admitted defeat in Vietnam, saw a President resign in shame, and came face to face with many of the atrocities it had committed abroad. American citizens also faced a score of economic problems, including “stagflation,” an energy crisis, and the realization that many of them would end the decade worse off than they had been when it began. In today’s episode we reflect on what happened in the 1970s, and what we can learn from it, in a conversation with RTN favorite, Vanderbilt University’s Jefferson Cowie.

Read More

#114 Making the Government Talk: US Covert Operations and Freedom of Information w/ Peter Kornbluh

In this episode, Bob and Ben speak with National Security Archives' Senior Analyst Peter Kornbluh about the National Security Archive and how he and others have used the Freedom of Information Act to gain access to the records of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and other formerly classified US operations abroad. Peter explains the impact that these documents have had on modern politics at home and abroad, the difference between his work and that of Edward Snowden and Julian Assange (Wikileaks), and why he believes that access to government documents is essential to a strong democracy. He also shares one of the greatest “how I got here” stories we’ve ever heard on The Road to Now!

Read More

#112 The Ottoman Empire and the Rise of the Modern Middle East w/ Eugene Rogan

At the beginning of the 20th century, most of the territory that we call the Middle East- including Syria, Iraq, Israel and Turkey- were part of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman alliance w/ Germany and Austria-Hungary during World War I provided Britain and France w/ the opportunity to divide the once-great empire into many states based on European imperial ambitions. In this episode Bob and Ben speak w/ Dr. Eugene Rogan to learn more about why the Ottoman Empire was divided, how that process explains a lot about the region today, and how this history can help us make better decisions today.

Read More

#23.2 Felon Disfranchisement and Citizenship in the US w/ Pippa Holloway (w/ update)

On November 6, 2018, the people of Florida voted to amend their state’s constitution to restore voting rights to an estimated one and a half million citizens who had lost this right due to a prior felony conviction. In recognition of this significant restoration of rights, we’re re-airing our interview w/ Pippa Holloway on the history of felon disfranchisement and citizenship in America (originally aired Oct. 10, 2016) along with an additional interview w/ Pippa recorded Nov. 10, 2018 on the Florida amendment’s implications and the path to ratification.

Read More

#111 Dvořák in America w/ Matt Negrin

What does it mean to be American? This isn't just a question for us in 2018 -- it was an unanswered question for the country in the late 19th century when it came to musical identity. And of all the people to try to answer it, it may have been the Czech composer Antonin Dvorak who came closest, while living in New York City and a small town in Iowa during the 1890s. Dvorak harnessed what he experienced -- African-American folk tunes, Native American culture, sounds of nature -- and worked them into four pieces including his most famous, the symphony "From the New World." In this episode, Bob Crawford and Matt Negrin (neither of whom are experts on Dvorak but who did play viola like Dvorak) sit in the Russian Tea Room next to Carnegie Hall where the New World symphony debuted to discuss their favorite classical music composer, and what it must have been like to be Dvorak in America.

Read More

#110 Gerry Adams and the Global Road to Peace

Gerry Adams has dedicated most of his life to finding an end to the conflict that engulfed Northern Ireland since his youth. As the President of Sinn Féin, he played a crucial role in facilitating the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, which brought about an end to a three decade-long period of violence known as “The Troubles.” In doing so, he built connections with civil rights leaders from around the world, including Rosa Parks and Nelson Mandela, and learned some valuable lessons about the humanity that connects all people regardless of their race, religion or national origins. In this episode of The Road to Now, Gerry shares his story of struggle and how he found a road to peace at a time when few believed it was possible. Also joining us on today’s episode is Ben’s friend and colleague, Dr. Mark Doyle, who was kind enough to help explain the history of Northern Ireland and why Gerry Adams was such a crucial figure in that country’s history.

Read More

RTN Theology #6 The Road to Hope? The Challenges of Faith in Politics

Discussing the relationship between faith and the public sphere has been a part of America’s story since its beginning. Over the past decade, the presence of Christian faith in public policy and politics has been questioned and challenged in new and unique ways. How are citizens, Christian and non-Christian alike, to respond to issues of faith in politics? Join former Obama staffer Michael Wear and Josiah C. Trent Professor of Medical Humanities at Duke University Farr Curlin for a conversation moderated by musician and The Road to Now podcast host Bob Crawford to hear Christian perspectives on these enduring questions.

Read More

#109 Presidential Impeachment w/ Jeffrey Engel

Bob and Ben speak with Southern Methodist University’s Jeffrey Engel about the history of Presidential impeachment and how understanding the past can inform the debates surrounding the impeachment of current and future Presidents. Jeff’s new book Impeachment: An American History, which he co-authored w/ Peter Baker, Jon Meacham, and Timothy Naftali is out from Modern Library on October 16, 2018.

Read More

#107 Laughing at Stalin: The Politics of Humor w/ Jon Waterlow

Bob and Ben speak with Jon Waterlow about his new book It’s Only a Joke Comrade! Humor, Trust and Everyday Life Under Stalin and the role humor plays in helping humans make sense of the world in even the darkest times. Jon also shares his take on humor’s role in politics under Stalin and today, the process he went through to uncover these jokes, and how the artistic technique of crosshatching helps us understand what it was like to live under the Stalinist system. He also discusses his decision to forego publishing his book with an academic publisher and why he decided to leave a bright future in the academy to purse fulfillment elsewhere.

Read More

#106 Why You Should Vote w/ Andy Bernstein

National Voter Registration Day is Tuesday, September 25th, and Bob and Ben are doing their part to get the word out. In this episode we speak with HeadCount Executive Director Andy Bernstein to talk about the work HeadCount has been doing to get people registered to vote, the importance of staying on top of local and national politics, and why your vote counts. Since 2004, HeadCount has registered more than half a million voters by working with bands (including The Avett Brothers) to use their concerts as a forum for reaching out to young voters.

If you’re not registered to vote, go to HeadCount.org and learn how to make sure your voice is heard in the 2018 elections and beyond!

Read More

RTN Theology #5: Jeremy Begbie on Theology Of And Through the Arts

In this installment of Road to Now Theology, Bob and Pastor Chris Breslin of Oak Church in Durham, NC sit down with Duke University’s Thomas A. Langford Distinguished Professor of Theology, Jeremy Begbie for a discussion about how we can see God’s presence in our own creative expression. Begbie uses music to try and explain hard to grasp theological concepts like the trinity, as described in his 2018 Eerdmans release, Redeeming Transcendence in the Arts

Read More