By Dr. Michael Patrick Cullinane

September 21, 2021

During the first COVID lockdown, in April 2020, a query flashed across my computer screen as I scrolled through H-Net: “Can anyone recommend any podcasts devoted specifically to the History of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era?” As an avid podcast listener, I should have been able to rattle off at least one suggestion. Instead, I blanked.

There are dozens of podcasts about the American presidency, as many about wars and military history, and plenty more generic U.S. history shows. Early Republic buffs are spoiled for choice with Ben Franklin’s World and The Junto Cast to name a couple. Antebellum historians have The Age of Jackson and The History of American Slavery. The Civil War, Cold War, and contemporary history have their favorites, too. So, where is the podcast on the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries?

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In an attempt to fill the “GAPE”, I launched The Gilded Age and Progressive Era podcast. Ideally, it will connect scholars and students of the period by discussing relevant topics, publications, and historiographical debates through interviews, shared research, and conversations with academics about the era’s relevance for today. Each episode clocks in at less than an hour, but for eager listeners, I have added a “Footnotes” mini-episode with additional readings and bonus content. The first four episodes demonstrate the contemporary value of studying the era:

  • First, I discuss the 1918-1919 global flu pandemic with Christopher McKnight Nichols. The parallels to COVID-19 are uncanny, and the differences are enlightening. The history of the flu can tell us a great deal about the politics of public health and the way that pandemics influence our idea of community and identity.
  • Second, I interview Cecelia Tichi about her latest book Gilded Age Cocktails. As a former bartender and a keen sampler of potent potables, her book jumped out as a cultural history of the era. We find the era’s characteristics in every recipe. Cocktails tell the story of migration, excess, place, and trade.
  • Third, I speak to Barbara Schneider who published Corporal Rhetoric: Regulating Reproduction in the Progressive Era. With the recent news that the Supreme Court has effectively upheld abortion legislation in Texas, the book is a timely addition to our knowledge. In fact, it begins with a quote from Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes about eugenics that too easily connects with our present debates about women’s rights.
  • Fourth, the show turns to another issue in the headlines: critical race theory. Reiland Rabaka joins me to talk about W. E. B. Du Bois, the era’s most important African American male intellectual. His ideas shaped public conversations about civil rights, social justice, and equality throughout the twentieth century and they still resonate today.

I would ask colleagues of SHGAPE to give it a go. If you love it, please subscribe and write a short review. It helps increase the profile of the show. If you’re on Twitter, please follow the show @GildedandProg. After you listen, please send any suggestions on how to make it better. And if you would like to share your research, please get in touch. I hope the show can complement SHGAPE’s work.

Dr. Michael Patrick Cullinane
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Michael Patrick Cullinane is Professor of U.S. History at the University of Roehampton, London. He is the author of Theodore Roosevelt’s Ghost: The Memory and History of an American Icon, which won the Theodore Roosevelt Book Prize in 2018. His most recent book Remembering Theodore Roosevelt (2021) presents intimate interviews with Roosevelt’s friends, family, and contemporaries. Never before published, the accounts reveal colorful details about the Rough Riders, New York politics, and the lives of his extended family, including Franklin and Eleanor. Mike also writes about U.S. diplomacy and is a regular contributor to national media, press, and hosts a fortnightly podcast.

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