I've been listening to Dan Carlin's take on the fall of the Roman Republic on the way to and from work over the last couple of weeks and found myself really enjoying his enthusiastic take on the story. When I say 'story', that's exactly what I mean as Dan is a story teller par excellence. He confesses he is a history 'fan' rather than a historian, and this definitely is evident in his delivery. His breathy 'gosh-darn!' delivery is a little off-putting to begin with, but once you get acclimatised to it, it's actually part of the fun.
He seems to focus mainly on World War II and the ancient world, along with the odd show where he answers questions he poses himself such as 'Does the toughness of peoples play any role in history?' He's not just some guy who rambles on about his favourite topic, but an ex-radio presenter and journalist who does his homework before each episode and also posts the references he's used on the website. He is even-handed when talking about historical theories, especially where the evidence is limited; always explaining the differing theories and explaining which he finds more credible and why. When compared to the Napoleon 101 podcast reviewed previously, this is a breath of fresh air! Dan is a fan of the history, rather than the personalities of history; he doesn't twist the evidence to suit his own viewpoint.
Not really having an in depth knowledge of the history of the late Roman Republic period I found his take on the major issues, events and personalities of the period very educational and entertaining at the same time. His comparison to Marius as Charles Bronson and Sulla as Clint Eastwood facing off in some Hollywood action movie, while ludicrous, certainly painted a picture easily understood by a contemporary lay audience. His perky use of PC swear words made me smile and he even actually said '...going to heck in a handbasket...' rather than the usual Anglo-Saxon HELL (ooh, wash your mouth out with soap Monsieur Rosbif!).
His latest podcast, entitled Thor's Angels, dwells on the fall of the Roman Empire and the Germanic tribes that rose to power from the ashes of the Western Empire. Another fascinating take on a period of history I know only the basics of, explained in his own unique style using such modern cultural memes as Planet of the Apes and outlaw biker gangs to illustrate his points!
I find it very engaging. The programmes are a launching pad for further investigation of the issues he raised by tracking down the sources he used.