The Last Best Hope?

From Oxford University's Rothermere American Institute, host Professor Adam Smith talks to guests doing world-leading research that sheds light on the United States from the outside in. We ask what forces have shaped the culture and politics of the US, how its role in the world has changed and what it might be in the future. Is America now, or has it ever been, the "last best hope of earth"? Probably not, but plenty of people have thought so. We try to understand why. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.

37:40 2022-07-19
Is 'fake news' new? Or have we always lived in a world of 'alternative facts'? Adam talks to John Maxwell Hamilton, who has written a book arguing that government propaganda started not in the age of social media or Donald Trump but with American entry in...
30:42 2022-06-15
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the deaths of over one million Americans to date. How have people memorialised their dead through grassroots memorials and how do we memorialise something that has affected different groups of people in vastly unequal ways...
35:02 2022-06-08
In Manchester on new year’s eve 1862, thousands turned out for a public meeting to congratulate President Abraham Lincoln for issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. What motivated these people to come along on a wet Wednesday night to listen to fiery sp...
39:11 2022-06-01
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is simultaneously the most American and the most 'un-American' of projects. Out of the intense religious revival of the 'burned-over district' of New York in the 1820s, "Mormonism&qu...
34:33 2022-05-23
Has the Russian invasion of Ukraine restored America's role as the leader of the 'free world'? What are the challenges for US diplomats and politicians in trying to advance American interests while also speaking about universal values like ...
30:38 2022-05-17
The Dust Bowl: the ecological disaster within the larger disaster of the Great Depression. It’s a story that generations of Americans have come to know through John Steinbeck's classic novel, The Grapes of Wrath and Dorothea Lange's unforgetta...
33:04 2022-02-16
The Battle Hymn of the Republic is one of the most recognisable songs in the world. Easy to sing, and to march to, its words are stirring and optimistic, and filled with vivid images: trumpets that never call retreat, watch-fires of a hundred circling cam...
35:26 2022-02-09
Was Richard Nixon responsible for the rightward turn of the Republican Party, or was he in fact the “the last liberal Republican”? John R. Price, who worked on social policy in Nixon’s White House, has written a book making the case that Nixon has b...
28:49 2022-02-02
Billy Graham, with his film star good looks and his baritone voice, seemed to be everywhere in postwar America – the confidante of presidents, and the closest the nation came to having a national pastor.  At a time when we often think of religion as in...
38:50 2022-01-26
How did the Declaration of Independence come to be the signature document of the American nation? What was its role in forging Americans’ conception of themselves as somehow exceptional – the last best hope of earth? Adam talks to Professor Patrick Gr...
34:30 2021-12-03
Since the founding of the United States, Americans have been arguing about the correct balance of power between the federal government and the governments of the individual states. Many today still invoke the idea of 'states' rights' as the...
31:22 2021-11-26
From the 1980s until quite recently, the mood music of American politics was to “roll back” the public programmes created during Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. Now, taxes and spending are rising and the New Deal – maybe in the guise of the “Gree...
40:03 2021-11-18
The American Civil War did not end ambiguously – it ended in complete military defeat for the South. And yet for a century and a half, it is the losers – the men who took up arms against the United States to defend the cause of human enslavement – w...
36:22 2021-11-12
The shocking attacks of September 11, 2001, were one of those "wake up" moments for the US, raising troubling questions about the nation's place in the world, how it could defend itself and what kind of a country it wanted to be. Looking ba...
35:40 2021-11-04
At the close of the First World War, the U.S. Government gave the American people a choice unlike that of any other nation: to leave their dead loved ones where they fell, or repatriate them to the US for burial at home. Of the 116 000 dead, over 45 000 f...
41:06 2021-10-29
Why does Joe Biden often refer to his mother's Irish ancestry but not his father's English roots? Why does being "Irish" in America have such cachet? In this episode, Adam talks to Professors Kevin Kenny of New York University and Davi...
28:53 2021-06-11
Has the "American Dream" died? If the "dream" is one of a confident expectation of increasing affluence across generations, then perhaps it has. While politicians in both parties talk about a crisis of the "middle class", you...
31:28 2021-05-28
What are we to make of the most famous of American Paradoxes: that Thomas Jefferson, who claimed as a "self-evident truth" the principle that "all men are created equal" was a slaveholder? In this episode, Adam discusses this problem w...
36:41 2021-05-21
Has America lost its allure to the rest of the world? Has it lost its confidence, its optimism, its sense of openness?  In this episode, Adam talks to Nick Bryant, the BBC correspondent in New York and author of  When America Stopped Being Great about t...
34:30 2021-05-14
The soap opera of Meghan and Harry, the deploying of Prince Philip in America's culture wars: why does  the British royal family exerted so strong an appeal in republican America ? This is not a new phenomenon. Queen Victoria's son, later Edwar...
24:21 2021-05-07
In 1980, Jimmy Carter's administration leaned on the US Olympic Committee to boycott the Moscow Games.  Today, there are calls for the US to once again boycott the Olympics -- this time in Beijing. What are the lessons of the 1980 boycott? Can sport...
31:47 2021-04-30
Jenny Lind, the "Swedish Nightingale": a soprano who made strong men weep with the beauty of her voice. In this episode, Adam explores the Nightingale's sensational tour of the US in 1850-52. She was described as the "most famous woman...
34:59 2021-02-11
Throughout the Victorian period, Black abolitionists toured the British Isles. In an effort to enlist British support for ending slavery in America--and later to enlist support for black rights--African Americans spoke not just in London or Leeds but in s...
33:05 2021-02-04
After their own successful secession from the British Empire in the War of Independence, Americans cheered on other plucky nations attempting to wrest themselves from the yoke of others. Whether in Latin America, Hungary, Poland, Ireland or Italy, America...
48:57 2021-01-27
In this episode Adam talks to Eric Foner, the pre-eminent historian of the Civil War and Reconstruction, about the resonances of the Reconstruction era in the present day.  In the aftermath of the Civil War, the US had to deal with a recalcitrant white p...
55:07 2021-01-24
Adam talks to Mitch Robertson and Kate Guy about Joe Biden's inaugural address and the prospects for his administration. Is this a “new page in America’s story” as Joe Biden says? Adam and guests discuss the new president's appeal to his u...
37:54 2021-01-21
When Trump supporters invaded the US Capitol on Jan 6, 2020, in an attempt to prevent the ratification of the election of Joe Biden, the immediate response of many in the American media was that it was "not who we are". But in this episode, Adam...
46:06 2021-01-14
Why did the framers of the American constitution invest the President with so many of the powers and trapping of a king? Why does he have the power to pardon felons (including his friends), to command the army and to veto legislation? More to the point wh...
32:43 2020-11-19
Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin was an outsized media event. No one in America in the 1850s could avoid knowing something of its characters and themes.  It brought into the homes and hearts of millions of Americans a dramatic an...
47:44 2020-11-10
A week after election day in 2020, Joe Biden has won the election with a margin of at least 5 million votes but President Trump hasn't conceded and may never do so. A defeated incumbent, an election that underlined the deep partisan polarisation of t...
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