Matt Christman and Daniel Bessner

Nov 23, 2021

Hinge Points

A Podcast about Historical Contingency

New Books Network 2021

How do we balance the importance of individual human agency with our understanding of larger socio-economic structures? How do we explore crucial “what ifs” in history? How do we make this stuff accessible to a wider audience? These are the questions central to Daniel Bessner and Matt Christman’s new podcast mini-series “Hinge Points”. In this conversation we talk historical turning points, history podcasting, and Marx. Indeed, the conversation seemed to be guided by the famous line from “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon”: “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.” The same could be said for history podcasts. “Hinge Points” can be found on the “Chapo Trap House” Patreon page and other podcast sites.

Matt Christman is best known for his work on “Chapo Trap House”, a political humor podcast. He also posts almost daily vlogs where he reflects on history. He co-authored the Chapo Guide to Revolution with his fellow Chapo Trap House hosts. Matt and I chatted about that book previously on the New Books Network.

Daniel Bessner, an intellectual historian of U.S. foreign relations, is the author of Democracy in Exile: Hans Speier and the Rise of the Defense Intellectual (Cornell, 2018) and co-editor, with Nicolas Guilhot, of The Decisionist Imagination: Sovereignty, Social Science, and Democracy in the Twentieth Century (Berghahn, 2019). He currently holds the Joff Hanauer Honors Professorship in Western Civilization at the University of Washington. He is also a Non-Resident Fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft and a Contributing Editor at Jacobin. In 2019-2020, he served as a foreign policy advisor to Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. In addition to his scholarly articles, he has published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, and other venues. Daniel Bessner also co-hosts the “American Prestige” podcast with Derek Davison.

Michael G. Vann is a professor of world history at California State University, Sacramento. A specialist in imperialism and the Cold War in Southeast Asia, he is the author of The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt: Empires, Disease, and Modernity in French Colonial Vietnam (Oxford University Press, 2018). When he’s not reading or talking about new books with smart people, Mike can be found surfing in Santa Cruz, California.

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Michael Vann

Michael G. Vann is a professor of world history at California State University, Sacramento. A specialist in imperialism and the Cold War in Southeast Asia, he is the author of The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt: Empires, Disease, and Modernity in French Colonial Vietnam (Oxford University Press, 2018). When he’s not reading or talking about new books with smart people, Mike can be found surfing in Santa Cruz, California.

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