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Dan Snow's History Hit

Big Data and History

Dan Hoyer and Peter Turchin joined me on the podcast to talk about the new transdisciplinary field of Cliodynamics, which uses the tools of complexity science and cultural evolution to study the dynamics of historical empires and modern nation-states.


Subscribe to History Hit and you'll get access to hundreds of history documentaries, as well as every single episode of this podcast from the beginning (400 extra episodes). We're running live podcasts on Zoom, we've got weekly quizzes where you can win prizes, and exclusive subscriber only articles. It's the ultimate history package. Just go to historyhit.tv to subscribe. Use code 'pod1' at checkout for your first month free and the following month for just £/€/$1.

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  • 1439. The Royal Navy's Darkest Night & The Origins of Longitude

    33:13
    A mix of treacherous seas, navigation errors, and historical intrigue led to one of the Royal Navy's darkest nights. Dan travels to the Scilly Isles to tell the tragic tale of Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell and the 1707 naval disaster off the Isles of Scilly that caused a staggering loss of over 2000 men. Dan ventures out to the place where the ship went down to see this dangerous stretch of sea for himself. He discovers how this catastrophe spurred advancements in navigation and the quest to solve the problem of longitude.Written by Dan Snow, produced by Mariana Des Forges and edited by Dougal PatmoreEnjoy unlimited access to award-winning original documentaries that are released weekly and AD-FREE podcasts. Get a subscription for £1 per month for 3 months with code DANSNOW - sign up at https://historyhit.com/subscription/.
  • 1438. Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt: The Impossible Alliance that Won WWII

    31:28
    In the summer of 1941, Hitler invaded the Soviet Union. As the Germans drove towards Moscow, a catastrophic Soviet defeat seemed imminent - a defeat that would have made the Allied liberation of Europe virtually impossible. To keep the Allied victory in sight, Roosevelt and Churchill assembled a crack team of diplomats to secretly travel to wartime Moscow and negotiate with the intractable Stalin.Dan is joined by Giles Milton, bestselling historian and author of 'The Stalin Affair: The Impossible Alliance That Won the War'. Giles tells us how the leaders who had wanted to destroy Stalin's Russia ended up desperately trying to keep it afloat.Produced by James Hickmann and edited by Dougal Patmore.Enjoy unlimited access to award-winning original documentaries that are released weekly and AD-FREE podcasts. Get a subscription for £1 per month for 3 months with code DANSNOW - sign up at https://historyhit.com/subscription/.We'd love to hear from you - what do you want to hear an episode on? You can email the podcast at ds.hh@historyhit.com.You can take part in our listener survey here.
  • 1437. Twelve Caesars with Mary Beard

    50:42
    The title of Caesar has echoed down the ages as the pinnacle of absolute power and perhaps even tyranny. A single man at the head of a nation or empire with untouchable power. But how powerful were they really and why are they seen as an example to follow when many of the men who became Caesar met a bloody end? Dan is joined by the legendary classicist Mary Beard to explore the history of the first twelve Caesars. They discuss how these autocratic rulers have been portrayed throughout history, how the Roman Empire was really ruled and how their legacy still lives with us today.Enjoy unlimited access to award-winning original documentaries that are released weekly and AD-FREE podcasts. Get a subscription for £1 per month for 3 months with code DANSNOW sign up at https://historyhit/subscription/We'd love to hear from you- what do you want to hear an episode on? You can email the podcast at ds.hh@historyhit.com.You can take part in our listener survey here.
  • 1436. Marshal Pétain: Hero or Traitor?

    40:19
    Marshal Pétain emerged from the First World War as a French national hero. His defence of Verdun had set him on course to become one of France's most venerated commanders. But by 1945 the Marshal was on trial for treason, having collaborated with Nazi Germany as the head of the Vichy regime.Dan is joined by Julian Jackson, author of the Pol Roger Duff Cooper Prize-winning book 'France on Trial: The Case of Marshal Pétain'. Julian explains how Marshal Pétain went from the hero of Verdun to the traitor of Vichy, and why his trial remains divisive eight decades later.Produced by James Hickmann and edited by Dougal Patmore.Enjoy unlimited access to award-winning original documentaries that are released weekly and AD-FREE podcasts. Get a subscription for £1 per month for 3 months with code DANSNOW - sign up at https://historyhit.com/subscription/.We'd love to hear from you - what do you want to hear an episode on? You can email the podcast at ds.hh@historyhit.com.You can take part in our listener survey here.
  • 1435. Stéphane Breitwieser: The Greatest Thief in History?

    29:09
    This is the remarkable story of the greatest art thief in history. After an eight-year long spree, Stéphane Breitwieser and his girlfriend Anne-Catherine Kleinklaus had amassed a staggering two billion dollars worth of stolen art, stashed away in his mother's attic.Dan is joined by Michael Finkel, a journalist and author of 'The Art Thief: A True Story of Love, Crime, and a Dangerous Obsession'. Michael explains how and why these fanatic art lovers looted this collection of treasures, and what brought it all crashing down.Produced by Mariana Des Forges and James Hickmann, and edited by Dougal Patmore.Enjoy unlimited access to award-winning original documentaries that are released weekly and AD-FREE podcasts. Get a subscription for £1 per month for 3 months with code DANSNOW - sign up at https://historyhit.com/subscription/.We'd love to hear from you - what do you want to hear an episode on? You can email the podcast at ds.hh@historyhit.com.You can take part in our listener survey here.
  • 1434. Merlin, The Occult and British Politics

    30:10
    Who was the real Merlin? Dr Francis Young says the closest is John Dee, Elizabeth I's occultist advisor who gave her the idea for a British Empire. Dee believed it was her destiny to rule the New World - from his supposed conversations with angels - and that she could trace her lineage back to King Arthur. His mystical and astrological calculations influenced her decision to take on the Spanish.So, the Philosopher's Stone, the occult and spell books aren't just in fantasy novels but very real things that have determined the decisions of those in the highest seats of power throughout Britain's history for centuries. Dan is joined by Dr Young, a historian and folklorist specialising in the history of religion and belief who takes Dan through a potted history of magic and magical advisors from the Middle Ages to the Victorians.Dr Francis Young's book is called 'Magic in Merlin's Realm.'Produced by James Hickmann, and Mariana Des Forges and edited by Anisha Deva.Enjoy unlimited access to award-winning original documentaries that are released weekly and AD-FREE podcasts. Get a subscription for £1 per month for 3 months with code DANSNOW sign up at https://historyhit/subscription/We'd love to hear from you- what do you want to hear an episode on? You can email the podcast at ds.hh@historyhit.com.You can take part in our listener survey here.
  • 1433. The Dynasty That Made Medieval France

    37:22
    From Hugh Capet to Eleanor of Aquitaine, the Capetian dynasty considered itself divinely chosen to fulfil a great destiny. From an insecure foothold around Paris, the Capetians built a nation that stretched from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean and from the Rhône to the Pyrenees, founding practices and institutions that endured until the French Revolution. In this episode of Gone Medieval, Matt Lewis explores the Capetians’ dramatic rule and legacy with Professor Justine Firnhaber-Baker, author of House of Lilies: The Dynasty that Made Medieval France.This episode was produced by Rob Weinberg.Enjoy unlimited access to award-winning original documentaries that are released weekly and AD-FREE podcasts. Get a subscription for £1 per month for 3 months with code DANSNOW sign up at https://historyhit/subscription/We'd love to hear from you- what do you want to hear an episode on? You can email the podcast at ds.hh@historyhit.com.You can take part in our listener survey here.
  • 1432. Why Are We Drawn to Dictators?

    49:14
    Is liberal democracy facing an existential crisis? A 2023 poll conducted by the Open Society Barometer found that faith in democracy among young people is waning. But what does this mean? Why might young people become more 'strongman-curious'?To get to the bottom of this, Dan is joined by an all-star cast of experts. We have the renowned journalist Anne Applebaum, author of the upcoming book 'Autocracy, Inc.', Professor of Politics David Runciman, host of the 'Past Present Future' podcast, and Professor Robert Saunders, an expert in political history and the history of ideas. They join us to discuss why democracy is foundering and to remind us why the myth of the strongman is so dangerous.Produced by James Hickmann and edited by Dougal Patmore.Enjoy unlimited access to award-winning original documentaries that are released weekly and AD-FREE podcasts. Get a subscription for £1 per month for 3 months with code DANSNOW sign up at https://historyhit/subscription/We'd love to hear from you- what do you want to hear an episode on? You can email the podcast at ds.hh@historyhit.com.You can take part in our listener survey here.
  • 1431. The Atomic Bomb & Civil War Cigars: Greatest 'What Ifs' from History

    29:28
    We think of history as a neat chain of predictable events; but what if the truth is far wilder than that? Today, we're talking about the pivotal forces of randomness and chance, and how tiny moments can change the course of our human story.Dan is joined by Brian Klaas, associate professor in global politics at University College London and author of 'Fluke: Chance, Chaos and Why Everything We Do Matters'. Brian unpicks our traditional telling of history, and explains how our world really works.Produced by James Hickmann and edited by Anisha Deva.Enjoy unlimited access to award-winning original documentaries that are released weekly and AD-FREE podcasts. Get a subscription for £1 per month for 3 months with code DANSNOW - sign up at https://historyhit.com/subscription/.We'd love to hear from you - what do you want to hear an episode on? You can email the podcast at ds.hh@historyhit.com.You can take part in our listener survey here.