Nov. 13, 2020

Consolation Prize in your syllabus

‘Tis the season when professors start planning their syllabi for the spring semester. As you contemplate what to include, especially if you’re expecting some or all of your teaching to be remote, we invite you to incorporate a little Consolation Prize

We have tried to make it as easy as possible to work with our podcast. Every episode of Consolation Prize has a page on the website with an audio player, biographies of the guest experts, a full transcripts, and a further reading list (in that order). The transcript not only makes it easy to find beats and quotes to highlight, but it also increases the accessibility of the podcast, especially for anyone with auditory processing issues or hearing-related disabilities. 

Our episodes are clearly relevant to a course on American foreign relations, especially our bonus episode explaining what a nineteenth century American consul was. But that’s not the only context our episodes could be used. 

Are you teaching a course on United States military history? Episode 2 has a detailed discussion of British Impressment of American sailors, a key factor in the War of 1812. You might also pull from Episode 1 to complicate discussions of the Mexican-American War. Compare the views of the people on the ground —Americans in Mexico, American sailors and consuls in the Atlantic—with the official narratives. 

Courses on the Atlantic World could incorporate any of our first three episodes. Episode 3 in particular offers a perspective on the international slave trade in the mid-nineteenth century, including British opposition to and possible US involvement in the trade. For a more global perspective on the history of enslavement, include episode 5 (forthcoming) which discusses Zanzibar. 

The life and times of Alexander Russell Webb, discussed in Episode 4a and 4b, provides a lively starting point for discussions of spiritualism, missionary work, and philosophical movements of late nineteenth century American religious history. Students might explore other representatives at the World Parliament of Religions, both their writings and how they were described in US newspapers. 

Even without including the entire episode, the lives and events in episodes 1 and 3 would add new primary and secondary sources, and new conversations, to any class on the Antebellum United States or the Antebellum South. How unique was Nicholas Trist’s idea of what a Southern (Jacksonian) Gentleman should be? How many men were like John Baldwin, doing business in New Orleans and Mexico? 

Consolation Prize isn’t just for US-centric courses, either! Every episode discusses not only the consul but the place in which he was stationed: Mexico, England, Cuba, the Philippines, and Zanzibar, thus far. The first three episodes all involve discussions of the movement of peoples, voluntary and forced, as well as questions of national identity, and could be to talk about migration, diaspora, and identity. 

Zooming out, why not take Consolation Prize itself as a point of study? A public history or digital history course might look at Consolation Prize as a case study of a podcast, looking at the choices we have made in terms of social media outreach, assessing possible audiences for the show, examining how we structure the posts for each episode, and comparing these decisions with other history podcasts. 

Whether you use a short clip, an episode, or the show in its entirety, we hope you’ll consider including Consolation Prize in your syllabus. And if you do, let us know! We might even send you a sticker.