It’s Hardcore History

The biggest win of the podcast Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History is the flavour.

Most episodes range from 30 minutes up to an hour or more. They generally involve Dan, alone at the mic, talking about some particularly interesting historical time and place – Europe during the Black Death, or the Mediterranean just after Alexander the Great died, or the Assyrian Empire before and after its fall. He just did a three-episode telling of the Punic Wars.

I find this material a goldmine for creative inspiration. If I’m creating an Evil Empire, I’ll listen to Episode 17 again, “Judgment at Nineveh”, about the Assyrian Empire, and their long succession of ruthless, brutal Emperors, and the direct, to-the-hilt brutality they used to keep their provinces in line. If I’m writing about barbarins and horse archers, I’ll listen to Episode 12, “Steppe Stories”.

He doesn’t promise scholarly rigor. Quite the contrary, he cheerfully refers to himself as a “history fan”, rather than a “historian” or any such. He speculates, and he repeats anecdotes of questionable provenance, all for the sake of a good story. He always does a fantastic job of setting the scene, of putting you into the time and place he’s discussing.