Ra-Tan Lines: Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History

Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History is a marathon. It is a never ending avalanche of blood and steel, shining a harsh light onto the dark past of our species. Each episode is a mammoth: all the episodes made in the last two years are over 3 hours long. The 5 episodes from 2012 and 2013 during which Carlin discussed the Mongol conquests were each a “mere” 1 and a half hours long, give or take.

A bland description of troop movements in the First World War could conceivably have taken 10 minutes. Carlin is not so pedestrian. He is not a textbook writer, banging out curriculum points one after the other. Nor is he motivated by ideology or nationalism (hear Common Sense by Dan Carlin for a look at his views on his country’s current-day foreign affairs). He is unbound, free to say anything and everything. He discusses the political and economic forces leading to a conflict (quoting from dozens of different sources, in most cases), the cultural views adversaries in the conflict had of each other, the conditions under which people lived during said conflict (quoting from first hand accounts) and the differences between his subject’s value systems and his audiences’. That last part is crucial; it is one thing to know that sixteenth century heretics were burned at the stake, and quite another to know that crowds of people would show up to these burnings and found them both correct and entertaining.

Why were the people in such distant times so horrible to each other? They were all humans, but their circumstances and mindsets had radical differences from our own. Differences that Carlin explains at length: of course, he makes no attempt to cut the ancients (or the moderns, during his series on World War I) any slack.

His metaphors are entertaining and repeated several times. Indeed, Carlin is very repetitive in general. This is a good thing considering that pretty much nobody would listen to a full episode in a single sitting.

While most podcasts which feature some form of dialogue, Hardcore History is a constant stream of Dan Carlin’s rough, raspy voice. There are no guests on the show, but there is a lot of quoting, always preceded by the word “quote”, executed with a grander-than-usual voice, and terminated by the phrase “end quote”.

If you are interested in dark humour, discussions of military legends, and hearing Darius the Great compared to Steve Jobs, Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History is the podcast for you. The current topic is the Achaemenid Persian Empire, so tune in next … hold on one more thing.

Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History updates once in a blue moon. The last episode was released 3 months ago, and in all of 2015 only two were released. Probably best to subscribe, listen to the old episodes (starting with “Wrath of the Khans I”, the episodes prior to that were pay-to-hear) and spend your time listening to some other podcasts until the random lucky day when Hardcore History updates.

Leave a Reply