History on the run (or walk to be more accurate but less pithy)

To paraphrase Sting; “The Gentleman Administrator will walk, but never runs”. I have been partaking in a gentle constitutional in order to get to work every weekday morning for the last six months. The walk lasts about an hour and takes place along a pretty dull and uneventful 4 mile uphill/downhill slog through city streets. I had cycled the route for three years, that was until my combined rage at daily punctures and exorbitant cycle repair fees finally got the better of me. Oh and 4×4 drivers… bastards. So while I can drive I tend to choose not to and I walk.

However, three good things have come from this daily perambulation.

1. Exercise (sarcastic yay)
2. Decreased rage
3. Podcasts

And it’s number three that I want to focus on briefly in this post. As I’ve already said elsewhere in this blog I have had a somewhat snobbish attitude to non book or face-to-face learning or any nu-media (christ, is that a real phrase? I hope I didn’t just make that one up) and I did not quite see the point in podcasts and talking books &c., certainly as an educational tool. But, walking the same route gets boring pretty quickly. Sure you can listen to music, but that can get repetitive. So too does staring absently at drivers, taking mental note of each ludicrously dangerous piece of motoring they partake in.

So, in my desperation and armed with my trusty I-Pod Touch I scoured I-Tunes for something interesting and stumbled upon the audiobook version of Andy Marr’s History of Modern Britain. I missed the TV series and would never have found time to read the book, but in the dead time spent walking to work I managed to get through it within a week. Since then I have been hooked on that perennial favorite of the Restoration historian: Samuel Pepys diaries.

Walking and learning is a whole new educational experience for me but it blooming well works, with Pepys I’m even getting in a bit of primary research as well (sort of). Added to the wonders of audiobooks is the podcast. Podcasts are no new thing, along with audiobooks(!), but I sense that more academies, libraries, museums and other purveyors of knowledge are increasingly using this tool to expand the educational experience of their ‘product’. It means that while I didn’t make it to the Henry VIII exhibition last week I have since been able to bring myself up to speed with the British Libraries great series of podcasts, in particular the three by David Starkey. I suspect that when I do get to the exhibition I’m going to enjoy it the more for having been brought up to speed by Starkey’s acid tongue:

David Starkey: The Young Henry VIII 1491-1509

David Starkey: The Young Henry VIII 1491-1509

David Starkey: The Change 1509-1533

David Starkey: The Change 1509-1533

David Starkey: The Achievement 1533 - 1547

David Starkey: The Achievement 1533 - 1547


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