Meet the New Ben Franklin’s World Team Member

Christopher JonesI’m pleased to announce that Christopher Jones has joined the Ben Franklin’s World team for the summer.

Christopher is a contributing blogger to Religion in American History, a founding member of The Junto: A Group Blog on Early American History, and a soon-to-be doctoral graduate of the College of William & Mary.

Christopher will be helping me research two projects I have in development: A new, occasional format for Ben Franklin’s World and a new podcast that I would like to launch before the end of 2016. Both of these projects will benefit from his expertise in early American history and our ability to bounce ideas off of one another.

BFWorld Centered No NameAs Ben Franklin’s World approaches its second anniversary on October 7, I’ve been thinking about ways to add fresh perspectives and formats to the show. I have several ideas about ways to accomplish these feats, but as most of my time goes to producing the podcast, I lack the time to research these ideas thoroughly. Christopher will add more productive hours to my day. Additionally, as one of my goals is to add fresh perspectives to the show, it will be good to have someone on the team who thinks differently than I do to help add different viewpoints.

Thinking about digital media networks and how I can add to the format of Ben Franklin’s World sparked an idea for a new, short-form podcast that I would like to launch before the end of 2016. I’m not ready to divulge too many details, but like Ben Franklin’s World its mission will be to help connect people who have an interest in history to the work of professional historians. Unlike Ben Franklin’s World, it won’t be limited to early American history. (Fear not my early Americanist colleagues, I’m an early Americanist for life. I have a Trello board filled with ideas for more early American history-centric long-form podcasts.)

Now that you know what we will be working on this summer, what will you be working on?

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Ben Franklin’s World: Academy Award Nominee for Best History Podcast

It’s been a BIG week for Ben Franklin’s World.

On Monday, May 23, the show received its first award nomination: “Best History Podcast” from the Academy of Podcasters. The award is the equivalent of a podcast Oscar and Academy judges award it based on craft.

The Academy nominated 10 podcasts for the award. The top 5 podcasts in iTunes’ history category received automatic bids and the Academy voted in the other 5 nominees.

Ben Franklin’s World will be judged alongside powerhouse podcasts such as NPR’s Radio Diaries, Lore (which HBO will turn into a television show), The Art of Manliness, and, of course, Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History–the most popular history podcast, which receives 3 million downloads per episode.


Admittedly, it took a few hours for the fullness of the news to sink in. Ben Franklin’s World is successful, but it’s not yet a “Top 5” podcast in iTunes’ history category. It doesn’t offer fancy storytelling or presentist diatribes or opinions about history (which are very popular), it offers two historians talking about well-researched early American history in a way that offers listeners insight into the world of professional historians and historical ideas they can think about.

My fellow podcasters voted this very different type of history podcast as standing among the 10 best in its category. Not only do they like the content we historians provide, but they appreciate the craft that goes into each episode.

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Plan for a Historian Digital Media Network

Historian Digital Media NetworkOn March 3, 2016, I explored the idea of whether it makes sense to create a podcast network for historians. Eight weeks later, I am convinced that historians need a network. But we need more than a podcast network. We need a digital media network.

Presently, digital media consists of blogs and online magazines, podcasts, and on-demand video. In the near future, virtual and augmented reality devices will enhance each of these media types with immersive experiences.

A digital media network offers historians the ability to cultivate and convey their work to wide and receptive public audiences. Digital media compliments books and articles by providing additional ways to disseminate ideas. A digital media network also provides historians with flexibility. Flexibility to present history in different media and flexibility to work in and develop new forms of media as they enter our digital world.

In this post, you will discover my plan to start a historian digital media network.


Overall Vision

If granted convenient access to the work of professional historians, the public will take an interest in history and historians’ work and become advocates for it. Convenient access to professional historical work will not only increase the ability of society to think historically, but having more advocates for history will help ensure that we have the funding we need for our research and the majors we need to keep our departments alive and fresh with talent.

The historian digital media network has a two-part mission: 1. To create wide public awareness about history and the work of professional historians by providing convenient access to history and historical research through digital media. 2. To educate historians how to use digital media to communicate history to people within and outside of the historical profession.

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A Traditional Historian in a Digital World: How I Write History for Podcasts

Digital AudioAt NCPH 2016, someone asked the panelists of “Drafting History for the Digital Public” how we acquired the digital skills to work on our various projects. My answer: My historical training drives my digital work.

For the next three days, colleagues asked me about my response and since the conference more questions have found their way into my inbox. Most of the questions inquire about the “specialized” and “technical” training I use to write history for digital audio.

Confession: I am a traditional historian using traditional historical skills to work in an accessible digital media.

Ben Franklin’s World represents an interview-driven form of narrative history. The end product of each episode may be a digital audio file, but the historian’s traditional tools—research, analysis, interpretation, and writing—give birth to each episode.

In this post, you will take a behind-the-scenes tour of Ben Franklin’s World to see how I use my traditional historical training to produce its digital audio content.



Like most history books and journal articles, Ben Franklin’s World episodes begin with questions and research.

Listeners determine most episode topics. They e-mail, tweet, Facebook message, and verbally request topics such as the American Revolution, Everyday Life, the Constitutional Convention, and George Rogers Clark. It’s helpful to know what aspects of early American history listeners want to explore, but as we learned in graduate school, what makes history fascinating is asking the right questions of broad topics. It’s up to me to come up with the historical questions each episode will explore.

How do I know what questions to ask and investigate? I research. I look at the historiography to see what arguments and interpretations of the broad topic exist and which historians to contact. After I schedule a guest, I prepare for each interview by reading their work or researching their project/historic site.


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How to Bridge Academic and Public History

BridgingDo you consider yourself an academic or a public historian?

How do you bridge public and academic history?

I get asked these questions quite often. People ask via e-mail messages and when we meet in-person at seminars and conferences.

In this post, you will discover how I work in both the academic and public history disciplines.

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