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Recovery part one – Black Death

Welcome to Recovery, a new series from The Anthill podcast, exploring key moments in history when the world recovered from a major crisis or shock.


In this first episode, we find out what happened after one of history’s worst epidemics, the Black Death. This was the name given to the bubonic plague that hit Europe in the late 1340s. Somewhere between a third and half of Europe's population died from the disease.


Needless to say, this had a huge impact on those that survived – from living with PTSD to higher wages. Innovations and an outpouring of poetry followed the epidemic too, as people grappled with the changes that took place off the back of it. 


We speak to three academic experts who've researched different elements of the Black Death and the period of history that followed. Adrian Bell, chair in the history of finance at the University of Reading, tells us about the immediate aftermath of the disease in England. Workers could demand better pay because there were fewer of them to go around but the government tried to limit their new bargaining powers by introducing laws to limit pay and the amount that people could move around for work.


Mark Bailey, professor of late medieval history at the University of East Anglia, explains how different countries in Europe responded to the Black Death. The recovery ultimately took centuries, in part because of repeated outbreaks of the plague, but it marked an important turning point on the road to modernity. And Eleanor Russell, a PhD researcher at the University of Cambridge, tells us how the Black Death spawned a new wealthy, entrepreneurial elite. They were able to capitalise on the new normal and wield increasing influence over government policy.

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7/1/2020

Recovery part five – the post-Soviet transition

In this fifth episode of Recovery, a series from The Anthill Podcast exploring key moments in history when parts of the world recovered from a major crisis or shock, we’re looking at what happened in the former Soviet Union during the transition from communism to capitalism in the 1990s.When the USSR was finally dissolved at the end of 1991 it was a massive shock to the system for millions of people. The transition from a state-controlled command economy to a market-driven capitalist one was a hugely complex structural change. What followed was what’s come to be known as “shock therapy” – post-communist states were suddenly subject to mass privatisation and market reforms. Price controls were lifted. State support – which had been such a fundamental part of everybody’s way of life in the former Soviet Union and eastern bloc – was withdrawn.Jo Crotty, professor of management and director of the Institute for Social Responsibility at Edge Hill University, was living in between Belarus and Russia in the early 1990s. She describes the hyperinflation and economic breakdown she witnessed during this period. Companies tried to keep people employed, but these were jobs in name only and there was a huge problem of hidden unemployment – which she says offers a warning as coronavirus furlough schemes end today.Some parts of the former Soviet Union and Eastern bloc countries recovered quicker than others. Lawrence King, professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and a research associate at Cambridge University’s Judge Business School, explains why, and what political upheaval the drastic economic reforms provoked. He also describes the devastating impact that waves of privatisation had on mortality rates in Russia in the 1990s.And Elisabeth Schimpfössl, lecturer in sociology and policy at Aston University, talks about a new group of oligarchs emerged in Russia during the transition in the 1990s, benefitting from the waves of privatisation and shift to a capitalist system. She describes the enduring legacy this period has had on wealth inequality in Russia.You can read more about the post-Soviet transition and its legacy alongside other articles in our Recovery series accompanying this podcast.This episode was produced by Gemma Ware and Annabel Bligh with sound design by Eloise Stevens.The Anthill is produced by The Conversation UK. We’re an independent news media outlet that exists purely to take reliable, informed voices direct to a wide audience. We’re a charity, with no wealthy owner nudging an editorial line in one direction or another.The only opinion we hold is that knowledge is crucially important, and must be made widely available to help as many people as possible understand the world and make informed decisions. If you can help us do what we do, please click here to donate. And if you’ve already supported what we do, thank you!
6/24/2020

Recovery part four – the second world war

In this fourth episode of Recovery, a series from The Anthill Podcast exploring key moments in history when the world recovered from a major crisis or shock, we’re looking at what happened in the UK after the second world war.The second world war decimated landscapes, killed tens of millions of people and left many more unable to work, in need of long-term healthcare and help to rebuild their lives.In the UK, some had been calling for action to deal with poverty, squalid housing and better education since before the conflict, but the particular circumstances of the war seemed to provide the impetus needed to get things moving. The recovery project that followed the end of the war in 1945 transformed the nation into one that provided free healthcare for all, better education and massive housing regeneration.Pat Thane, visiting professor of history at Birkbeck College, takes us through the recommendations of a landmark government report written by William Beveridge that got the whole project moving. This set out a comprehensive cradle-to-grave welfare system designed to tackle the five giants of want, squalor, idleness, ignorance and disease.Bernard Harris, professor of social policy at the University of Strathclyde, reveals how this report turned into a series of changes to the law that ultimately constructed the welfare state. That included establishing the world-famous National Health Service. He explains how the shared trauma of the war helped people imagine a different future in which a greater number of people would be cared for by the government.Pippa Catterall, professor of history and policy at the University of Westminster, discusses the political context of the post-war period in the UK. After the suffering of the conflict, it was the left-wing Labour party that grasped how urgently the public wanted bold new thinking. The recovery promised by Labour Party leader Clement Attlee was based around a total restructuring of the state, and voters were prepared to take the plunge – not least because more of them had been exposed to hardship during the war.Finally, the panel explore what lessons this unique period in history can offer us today, as governments look to rebuild after the coronavirus pandemic. After years of retreat, states are stepping in on an unprecedented scale to offer rescue packages. Could we be witnessing the rebirth of the welfare state?You can read more about the aftermath of the second world war and the welfare state as well as other articles in our Recovery series to accompany this podcast.This episode was produced by Gemma Ware and Annabel Bligh, with sound design by Eloise Stevens.The Anthill is produced by The Conversation UK. We’re an independent news media outlet that exists purely to take reliable, informed voices direct to a wide audience. We’re a charity, with no wealthy owner nudging an editorial line in one direction or another.The only opinion we hold is that knowledge is crucially important, and must be made widely available to help as many people as possible understand the world and make informed decisions. We’re in the middle of a donations campaign so if you can help us do what we do, please click here. And if you’ve already supported what we do, a massive thank you!
6/17/2020

Recovery part three – Spanish flu and the first world war

In this third episode of Recovery, we’re looking at what happened after the combined shocks of the Spanish flu and world war one.It was called the Spanish flu because the first reports of the virus were in Spanish newspapers, due to wartime censorship restrictions elsewhere. The 1918-19 flu was the worst pandemic in human history. More than half the world’s population was infected. Estimates for the number of people who died range from between 20 and 50 million. And this off the back of a devastating world war in which 9.7 million military personnel and another 10 million civilians died.To find out about the recovery after these combined shocks of war and pandemic, we hear from three experts in this episode who study the period.Caitjan Gainty, lecturer in the history of science, technology and medicine at King’s College London, explains what measures were put in place to recover from the Spanish flu and how the pandemic lead to a rethink in the way cities and buildings were designed, and a focus on fresh air.Tim Hatton, professor of economics at the University of Essex, outlines how an economic boom followed the end of the war due to pent up demand, but it was followed by a severe economic slump and high unemployment. He explains what policies were introduced to help the recovery and why that recovery was patchy in the UK.And Chris Colvin, senior lecturer in economics at Queen’s University Belfast, tells us why it’s so hard to unpick the economic impact and recovery from the Spanish flu from the recovery from WW1. And he explains why in their desire to return to what they thought of as “normal”, some politicians decided to re-introduce the gold standard in the early 1920s, with mixed consequences.You can read more about the Spanish flu on The Converasation here as well as other articles in our Recovery series to accompany this podcast.This episode was produced by Gemma Ware and Annabel Bligh, with sound design by Eloise Stevens.The Anthill is produced by The Conversation UK. We’re an independent news media outlet that exists purely to take reliable, informed voices direct to a wide audience. We’re a charity, with no wealthy owner nudging an editorial line in one direction or another.The only opinion we hold is that knowledge is crucially important, and must be made widely available to help as many people as possible understand the world and make informed decisions. We’re in the middle of a donations campaign so if you can help us do what we do, please click here. And if you’ve already supported what we do, we want to say a massive thank you!