History Podcasts Offer New Ways of Connecting with the Field

It started with a midnight walk through Budapest, under a full moon near St. Stephen’s basilica.

(OK, that last part up was totally made up.)

“We were walking along, and someone came up with the idea of doing a podcast,” say the producers of Ceteris Never Paribus, one of two major podcasts devoted to the history of economics.

Of course, what seemed like a good idea at the time might look a bit different in the light of day.

“But in this case, morning came and we looked at each other and said, yes, let’s do this.”

Three years later, Ceteris Never Paribus is still going strong, produced by a team consisting of Juan Acosta, Maria Bach, Erwin Dekker, Christina Laskaridis, Camila Orozco Espinel, and Reinhard Schumacher.

Juan, Christina, Camila, and Reinhard are or have been HOPE Center fellows. Maria attended the Center’s 2018 Summer Institute.

The scholars who were walking through Budapest that night had noticed that there was no podcast on the history of economic thought. They were also aware that historians of economics already have a lot to read, so they thought a new medium could provide a convenient way to learn about new research.

A similar motivation lies behind the other major podcast in the field, Smith and Marx Walk into a Bar.

“Our primary motivation was to provide a service to the community of historians and philosophers of economics,” says Scott Scheall, a professor at Arizona State University.

Scott hosts the podcast with Carlos Eduardo Suprinyak, who is on the faculty at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, and Gerardo Serra, a presidential fellow in economic cultures at the University of Manchester.

All three have been HOPE Center fellows.

“We wanted to reach out to the public or at least to that part of the public interested in nerdy topics like the history of economics, and expose them to some of the fascinating work being done in the field. We especially hope that the podcast provides value to students in economics, history, and philosophy,” Scott says.

The typical episode for both podcasts lasts about an hour and consists of an interview with a special guest—usually a scholar in the field. Recent episodes of have featured interviews with such scholars as Robert Leonard, Alain Marciano, and Tiago Mata.

The producers of both podcasts hope that listeners, and especially young scholars, can get a good sense of how research is done in the field—the missteps, the decisions that are made, the dead ends that every researcher encounters.

Whereas Scott, Carlos, and Gerardo host their podcast together, Ceteris Never Paribus is usually hosted by one of several historians who take turns producing episodes of the podcast.

The creators of both podcasts say that producing a podcast has involved a lot of learning-by-doing. Getting good sound, striking a balance between an interview and a discussion, learning how to conduct interviews in a radio-friendly way—those are all skills that have been developed along the way.

Ceteris Never Paribus hopes to link scholars who may be geographically isolated. “We expect the podcast to bring research work to life and provide a kind of ongoing conversation between academic conferences,” say the producers. “It should be a bridge between different researchers, a conversation that still starts from the research but that involves both the goals of the person as well as broader issues that often cannot be discussed in writing.” 

Carlos Eduardo Suprinyak, one of the cohosts of Smith and Marx Walk into a Bar, says that it’s important to remember that not everyone who listens to the podcast will be a historian of economics. “The whole experience of producing the podcast has made me more conscious of some of the difficulties we encounter when trying to explain to society the value of what we do,” Carlos says.

Of course, any project involving more than one person can have its conflicts—good-natured though they may be. As Gerardo Serra of Smith and Marx Walk into a Bar says, “For me personally the biggest challenge is to remain tolerant and diplomatic in the face of Scott's opinions. Thankfully at least Carlos is a man of wisdom and solid common sense!” 

The podcasts can be heard online at https://ceterisneverparibus.net/ and at http://hetpodcast.libsyn.com/.

[Image courtesy of Pixabay.]