Recognition is always good, and Wednesday morning I got an unexpected but very welcome bit of news. Bello Collective, an online group of writers and journalists who analyze the world of podcasts and online audio communication, chose an episode of my history podcast Second Decade as one of their “100 Outstanding Pieces of Audio for 2017.” And they did not just pick any old episode: the specific episode they chose was “Down & Out at Harvard,” Episode 14, which happens to be (thus far) my all-time favorite episode I’ve ever done. The fact that Bello recognized what I think is my best work is really gratifying!
Though it kind of got lost in the middle of season one between stories about Napoleon in Russia and the War of 1812, “Down & Out at Harvard” is, I think, a stand-out episode. My intention was to put the listener on the campus of Harvard University during the decade of the 1810s, as seen through the first-person writings of two young Harvard students, Stephen Salisbury (age 15) and Aaron White (age 17), who both attended Harvard between 1813 and 1817. Though their accounts are very different and never mention one another, Aaron and Stephen together document what it was really like to go to college in this era, and how privilege, wealth and tradition collided with more earthy concerns, like laundry, spending money and depression. While Stephen’s memoirs of Harvard were published a century after he attended, Aaron White’s never were; I found them in the archives of the Massachusetts Historical Society.
I’m really proud to have been featured on Bello Collective’s end-of-year list. The honor is even more prestigious considering some of the other podcasts they chose were from shows much more well-known and popular than Second Decade, such as ESPN’s 30 for 30, Reply All, Our Fake History, The Memory Palace, Radiolab, This American Life and S-Town. Getting noticed amongst this illustrious company is really amazing.
I thank Calen Cross of Bello Collective for choosing my episode and my show. Please do browse the other 99 on Bello’s list–I’ve heard some of them and they’re amazing. In the meantime, keep listening to Second Decade, and keep an eye out for the Second Decade book coming in a few months.