278 – The Thunderbolt

There’s a dirty secret to history podcasts, and it only becomes clear when you actually start one. The truth is that many people will SAY that they want to learn something new, and hear new stories and hear new facts. But every time, without fail, the most popular episodes – and the most popular history shows – are about stories and figures that people already know.

Now, this isn’t because the people who say they want to hear something new are lying. It’s just because they’ve forgotten what else they are looking for – they want to know more about stories that are important.

Which is reasonable. But the problem is that this creates a self-defeating loop, because we often judge whether someone or something is important based upon whether or not we have heard about it before. If you have already heard about something, there’s a good chance you’re going to assume it was significant. Similarly, if you haven’t heard about something, you very well may assume that it’s unimportant.

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  1. Vern nicw episode…your prologue concerning the common desire no to learn new but to reconfirm long hlld narratives is quite well put. How many Americans think they “know” the stories of Washington and the cherry tree and his wooden teeth, of Paul Revere’s ride, of Davy Crockett and the Alamo, and the like, all of which are either completely untrue or contain a smidgen to fact in a mound of fantasy.

  2. Are your quotations of William of Malmesbury actually verbatim? I ask because they sound like a very modern English. I don’t know what I would have expected, but whatever it was, I would have thought it would be tougher to follow than that.

  3. Good points, one of my pet annoyances about Roman history in popular culture is it always starts with Ceasar and then late in his life – they talk about Pompey but not the importance of his wife Julia, Caesars daughter etc etc. I always looking for them to do more about Sulla, who acheived pretty much everything he wanted to do, then retired and lived the party life until he died.

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