Dehler on Barnhouse and Keohane-Burbridge and Caccipuoti and Hevert and Uscinski, 'Footnoting History'
Lucy Barnhouse, Elizabeth Keohane-Burbridge, Christine Caccipuoti, Josh Hevert, Kristin Uscinski. Footnoting History. https://www.footnotinghistory.com/: Footnoting History, 2013-2021. .
Reviewed by Gregory J. Dehler (Front Range Community College) Published on H-Podcast (November, 2021) Commissioned by Robert Cassanello (he/him/his) (University of Central Florida)
Printable Version: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showpdf.php?id=57105
As stated on its website, “Footnoting History is a bi-weekly podcast series dedicated to overlooked, popularly unknown, and exciting stories plucked from the footnotes of history.” In keeping with this mission statement, Footnoting History (FN) delivers content on a broad range of historical topics. The last ten episodes at the time of this review, for example, examined pirates, baseball players, food, explorers, queens, divorce, and wars.
The diversity of subject matter is matched by the different perspectives of FH’s five podcasters, each of whom brings their own special field of expertise. They are Elizabeth Keohane-Burbridge, the founder of FH, a professor at Woodward Academy, and Europeanist; Christine Caccipuoti, an independent scholar with passion for the French Revolution and Napoleon; Kristin Uscinski, adjunct professor and medievalist; Lucy Barnhouse, a visiting professor specializing in the Middle Ages; and Josh Hevert, assistant professor at El Paso Community College with a strong interest in the history of religion. Although these historians specialize in mostly European fields, Asia, Africa, and the Americas are represented. In addition to the current roster, nine “alumni” hosts are named on the website.
Episodes typically run between fifteen and thirty minutes and follow a narrative format that moves chronologically through the topic. It is a smooth delivery with few pauses and no “ums,” “ahhhs,” and the like. Production is good and the audio is clear. While the historians approach their topic seriously, they often tell their stories in an entertaining way. There is little to no jargon, which makes FH accessible to a general audience, students, and specialists. Two fun exceptions to the narrative format are roundtable discussions with Pod Academy hosts on the depiction of the American, Chinese, French, and Russian Revolutions in film. While most shows might be one-offs, others combine to form a series that could either be told sequentially in successive episodes, such as “Footnoting Disney,” which examined the historical background of five different films, or, as in the case of the “Revolutionary France” series, sprinkled throughout FH’s feed. Four representative episodes by different hosts are described below to give the reader a sample of FH content. These four shows capture the podcast’s frequent emphasis on social, cultural, racial, and gender history.
In episode 242 Kristin Uscinski delves into tikka masala, the ubiquitous “Indian” dish, and its uncertain origins. She begins by asking if it is British or Indian. After overviews of Indian cuisine, the introduction of the tomato and chili pepper to Asia by the Portuguese, and British imperialism on the subcontinent, Uscinski examines the title dish itself. As demonstrated in early cookbooks, the British adopted Indian cuisine as early as the mid-eighteenth century. Likewise, new food crops, especially those, like the aforementioned Portuguese imports, that found a hospitable climate on the subcontinent, spread rapidly through the various regions into Indian cuisine. This story of people adapting to new foods and the role of race and imperialism in this process, underlie the story of tikka masala. After sharing some apocryphal origin myths, Uscinski concludes that tikka masala is “Indianish,” meaning a product of cultural blending, and does not represent the adoption of a stable dish from one country by another.
In “Florida Frontier and Cracker History,” Elizabeth Keohane-Burbridge looks at the cultural and social history of this term and the people it was used to describe. She confesses that she thought little of the Sunshine State’s pre-Disneyworld, pre-retirement-haven history prior to a visit to the Pioneer Village at Shingle Creek, part of the Osceola History Center. There she saw the term “Cracker” used to variously describe Florida’s frontiersmen, itinerant farmers and ranchers, squatters, and others who lived on the edge of civilization. Liberally referencing historians Frank Owsley, Grady McWhiney, Nancy Isenberg, and Keri Merritt, among others, Keohane-Burbridge describes the uncertain origin of the term, the role that class played in applying it, and the history of Florida’s Crackers from colonial settlement through the nineteenth century and the Civil War to their demise in the mid-twentieth century.
In “Divorcing in Revolutionary France,” Christine Caccipuoti walks the listener through the legal sea changes on the subject from the ancien regime to the fall of Napoleon. As many as fifty thousand might have divorced between 1792, when it was first legalized, and 1803, when Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte implemented much more restrictive codes, but still allowed divorce. Caccipuoti discusses the various circumstances that allowed couples to obtain a legal divorce in this period, the changing roles of blame, and the responsibility of families in the process. Unlike the episode on Florida Crackers, this one does not refer to the historiography of the topic in the podcast itself (one can see the sources in the further reading section on the webpage). Caccipuoti ends by asking the audience to imagine how they would react if they had wanted a divorce in the different circumstances she describes during the monarchy, the revolution, and Napoleonic era.
In “William Miller and the Great Disappointment,” Josh Hevert opens with the confession that he once found it “hilarious” that people in the 1840s had been so desperate as to actually expect the Second Coming of Christ on a particular day. After sharing that he has since matured, and, following a description of the Second Great Awakening, Miller’s biography and his formula for calculating the exact date for the return of Jesus, and his follower’s reactions to failure, Hevert concludes the episode by reminding us that apocalyptic visions in our own day are not that far removed from those of Miller and his followers. In both cases, people struggle to make sense of a world undergoing tremendous change and upheaval. Hevert liberally uses humor and sarcasm in his podcasts and this episode was no exception.
The FH website houses all the episodes back to their debut on February 3, 2013, and includes a brief description of content, the identity of the host, and further readings for each one. Book titles in the further reading section are hyperlinked to Amazon. I could not find a search function that would allow one to, for example, isolate episodes dedicated to the age of discovery, medieval England, the French Revolution, films, or slavery, to name some fields that have appeared in several shows since it its creation. There are short biographies of the hosts and a hyperlink to the podcasts that they recorded. There are also tabs for merchandise, Patreon donations (since it is open access), and to contact the show. There is a tab dedicated to teaching that contains nine sample assignments Elizabeth Keohane-Burbridge used in her AP US History and World History classes. For example, after listening to the episodes “Martha, the Last Passenger Pigeon” and “Jumbo the Elephant,” students are directed to write a two-hundred-word essay answering the question, “Do these episodes demonstrate change or continuity in the treatment of animals in the late 19th and early 20th century?” Unfortunately, this information does not seem to have been updated recently. The most current example dates to January 2019. Finally, every episode page gives a link to YouTube for a captioned version. However, the link leads to the FH YouTube page, not the specific episode. I found it difficult to find episodes outside of those in the playlists because they are not arranged in chronological order. In the sampling of three recent episodes, the single image remained constant for the duration of the episode as captioning appeared on the bottom of the screen.
Due to the spectrum of topics and length of the episodes, FH has potential for classroom assignments. Instructors might find it useful for classroom preparation. At the least, it provides listeners with entertaining and informative podcasts.
. “About,” Footnoting History, https://www.footnotinghistory.com/about.html.
. Christine Caccipuoti, Gil Kidron, Elizabeth Keohane-Burbridge, and Rutger Vos, “Revolutionary Movies, Part I: The Patriot and Les Miserables,” July 11, 2020, in Footnoting History, podcast, MP3, 1:14:35, https://www.footnotinghistory.com/home/revolutionary-movies-part-i-the-patriot-and-les-mis... Christine Caccipuoti, Gil Kidron, Elizabeth Keohane-Burbridge, and Rutger Vos, “Revolutionary Movies, Part II: Dr. Zhivago and The Last Emperor,” July 25, 2020 in Footnoting History, podcast, MP3, 1:18:12, https://www.footnotinghistory.com/home/previous/2.
. Kristin Uscinski, #242: “The History of Tikka Masala,” July 24, 2021, in Footnoting History, podcast, MP3, 23:43, https://www.footnotinghistory.com/home/the-history-of-tikka-masala.
. Elizabeth Keohane-Burbridge, #237: “Florida Frontier and Cracker History,” April 17, 2021, in Footnoting History, podcast, MP3, 16:34, https://www.footnotinghistory.com/home/florida-frontier-and-cracker-history.
. Christine Caccipuoti, #235: “Divorcing in Revolutionary France,” March 20, 2021, in Footnoting History, podcast, MP3, 18:02, https://www.footnotinghistory.com/home/divorcing-in-revolutionary-france.
. Josh Hevert, #225: “William Miller and the Great Disappointment,” October 3, 2020, in Footnoting History, podcast, MP3, 27:41, https://www.footnotinghistory.com/home/william-miller-and-the-great-disappointment.
Citation: Gregory J. Dehler. Review of Barnhouse, Lucy; Keohane-Burbridge, Elizabeth; Caccipuoti, Christine; Hevert, Josh; Uscinski, Kristin, Footnoting History. H-Podcast, H-Net Reviews. November, 2021. URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=57105This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.