In Review

Podcasts of the week: politics, time travel and Ukrainian culture

Featuring The Rest is Politics, Travels Through Time, Revolutions, Olive and more

The terrific Talking Politics podcast hosted by Cambridge professors Helen Thompson and David Runciman – always insightful, if at times a touch “wonkish” – released its final episode earlier this month, said James Marriott in The Times. Its demise has left a “gaping hole in the listening lives of politics nerds” like me. “But! Just in time, a successor has arrived.” 

The Rest is Politics (from the producers of the brilliant The Rest is History) is hosted by Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart. They make a “formidable” and unexpectedly funny pairing – Campbell “chippy and humorous” and Stewart combining unflappable smoothness with “moral earnestness”. The pair have great fun needling one another over their political differences, and both are “sufficiently far enough out in the political wilderness to be able to speak their minds”.

As with many new podcasts, it feels slightly unfocused: a recent episode covers Bill Clinton’s intellect, prison reform, Ukraine, the problem with private schools and the Iraq War. Give each episode a sharper theme, and this is a “classic” in the making.

Another excellent history podcast, said Elle Hunt in The Guardian, is Travels Through Time, which bills itself as a blend of “serious history and playful parlour game”. In each episode, a leading historian or other public figure is asked: if they could travel back through time, which year would they visit? They then guide the listener through their chosen year, picking out “three telling scenes” that illuminate the era in question.

The strength of the podcast is the “narrow slice of the past it presents”, whether that’s the Athens of 450 BC, London in AD 62, India in 1837 or the Moon in 1969. Also recommended are Dan Snow’s History Hit (“broader in scope, with less storytelling”), and the US podcast Revolutions (detailed accounts of historical uprisings).

With “compelling, searing testimony” from ordinary Ukrainians, File on 4 – Ukraine: War Stories (BBC Sounds) is one of the best of the podcasts covering the Ukraine war, said Patricia Nicol in The Sunday Times. I’d also strongly recommend two from earlier, happier times that offer insights into the culture of Ukraine and its diaspora.

In episode 212 of the Olive podcast, Olia Hercules, the Ukrainian-born author of the “transporting” cookery books Mamushka and Summer Kitchens, talks “evocatively about the food culture that has shaped her”. And in 2015’s A Short History of Ukrainians in Britain, now available on BBC Sounds, Oliver Bullough travels to Ukrainian-British communities across the UK, and meets people descended from prisoners of war and previous waves of refugees. Filled with music and the sounds of dance, it’s “a lovely listen”.

Recommended

Roti King Battersea: a masterful Malaysian eatery
The menu at Roti King in Battersea is ‘glorious’
In Review

Roti King Battersea: a masterful Malaysian eatery

Six of the best headphones
Man wearing headphones sitting on roof
The wish list

Six of the best headphones

Mercure Gloucester, Bowden Hall Hotel: an impressive country house
Mercure Gloucester, Bowden Hall Hotel in Gloucestershire
In Review

Mercure Gloucester, Bowden Hall Hotel: an impressive country house

A weekend in Dublin
The Ha’penny Bridge over the River Liffey at Temple Bar in Dublin
The big trip

A weekend in Dublin

Popular articles

The mysterious Russian oligarch deaths
Vladimir Putin has previously deployed ‘extreme measures’ to crush opposition
Why we’re talking about . . .

The mysterious Russian oligarch deaths

Is Vladimir Putin seriously ill?
Vladimir Putin
Why we’re talking about . . .

Is Vladimir Putin seriously ill?

Nato vs. Russia: who would win?
Nato troops
In Depth

Nato vs. Russia: who would win?

The Week Footer Banner