Plymouth academics take alternative view of history

What links zebras to the Second World War?

What connects partying to mental illness in Victorian Britain?

And what ties the bed to the expansion of the British Empire?

The answers to these questions and many more that will have never crossed your mind will be revealed in a new series of podcasts, which aims to unlock history in ways you never dreamt possible.

Histories of the Unexpected is the brainchild of broadcaster and historian Dr Sam Willis and James Daybell, Professor of Early Modern History at Plymouth University.

It will be available to download on the History Hit Podcast network which is home to the hugely successful Dan Snow’s History Hit, and aims to demonstrate that anything can have a fascinating history and that everything links together in unexpected ways.

The first episode will explore the unexpected history of windows, but other topics up for discussion during the series will include the orange, zombies, gloves, paperclips, dragons, graffiti, and blood.

Dr Willis, an Honorary Research Fellow at Plymouth University:

“We believe this is the way to get history to give you a buzz of excitement as you come to realise how everything links together in unexpected ways. Take the orange: we do not want to teach you who was the first to discover it, or grow it, or import it. And we do not know the first person to make orange juice. But we want to tell you how it was used to make secret ink and was instrumental in the Gunpowder Plot, and how it is actually linked to dogs, the invention of clinical trials and modern medicine.”

Professor Daybell, Director of the University’s Arts Institute, added:

“People may think there’s nothing unexpected about the past, or about history. But this series adopts a new approach to exploring our past arguing that, in fact, everything has a history – it is just about unpicking it. So whether it is the itch or crawling, clouds or lightning, zombies or even rubbish, we want to show that all of them have fascinating histories that can change the way you think about the past and present.”

Dan Snow’s History Hit brings to life the most extraordinary, dramatic, tragic and fascinating of our shared past and is regularly the number one history podcast on iTunes in the UK.

Speaking about the launch of Histories of the Unexpected, Dan Snow said:

“Whether we realise it or not, all of us are interested in some aspect of history. Making history exciting is often about presenting it in a way that captures and holds people’s imagination. This new series does that and much more, and we are delighted to be hosting it on the History Hit Podcast Network.”

James Daybell, Professor of Early Modern History at Plymouth University, said:

People may think there’s nothing unexpected about the past, or about history. But this series adopts a new approach to exploring our past arguing that, in fact, everything has a history

Find out more about the new podcast series

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So, what comes next? It’s often said that the best way to see the future is to understand the past. History with Plymouth University helps you do just that, while gaining the professional skills you’ll need throughout your career.

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