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I was delighted when I opened my podcast app (Overcast) and found a new episode of Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History. I’ve raved before about how great Carlin’s work is, but new episodes don’t appear very often. And when you listen you understand why. I can’t imagine the hours that go into creating each episode. The research alone for a single episode must take weeks or months. And a four-hour episode flows seamlessly, meaning the preparation and editing involved in laying out the narrative so smoothly has to take a lot of time.

This latest episode is the fifth in his series on World War I. The complexities of that conflict are overwhelming, and I would not, even after hours of listening to this series, be able to recall the names of the constantly changing cast of generals and political figures. But what I get from this podcast, from the accretion of details and small stories and heartbreaking anecdotes, is an overarching sense of the insanity of our history. It’s fascinating and compelling to follow the flow of events and lives that collide in often tragic circumstances.

I listen while driving alone or while walking. My drive to work is only around fifteen minutes, but I look forward to Dan Carlin regaling me in those short bursts of time with true stories of humanity’s biggest events and told with Carlin’s characteristic enthusiasm and drama.

Here’s a good interview with Dan Carlin that explores how this podcast came to be and how he works.

If you haven’t discovered podcasts yet, Hardcore History is an excellent one to start with. It’s not light or quick. But it’s as rewarding a show to listen to as any I’ve discovered.