Lars Brownworth: History Teacher Becomes Podcast Celebrity

Historians in the News

... In barely 18 months, Mr. Brownworth’s podcast, “12 Byzantine Rulers” (at http://www.anders.com/lectures/lars_brownworth/12_byzantine_rulers/), has become one of the phenomena of the podcasting world. A survey of 1,200 years of rather abstruse history, starting with Diocletian in 284 and finishing with Constantine XI Palaeologus in 1453, “12 Byzantine Rulers” routinely ranks in the top five educational podcasts on iTunes, and in the top 50 of all podcasts.

In the digital era, this self-taught amateur has emerged as a figure somewhat akin to Will Durant in books or Jacob Bronowski on public television, an effective and engaging popularizer. Mr. Brownworth’s podcast competes favorably with far more conventional and credentialed online fare — university courses in beginning French or Psychology 101, test-prep drills for the SAT. Even the other highly rated personal podcasts, like “Word Nerds” and “Grammar Girl,” appeal to dependably large audiences for etymology and grammar.

“It’s a slightly frightening idea to think there are so many people,” Mr. Brownworth said. “But without question it’s the most exciting part of my professional life. We’re in the middle of a revolution, and I feel incredibly blessed to be part of it.”

While listeners address him in their e-mail messages with the respectful honorific “Professor,” Mr. Brownworth, in fact, holds only a bachelor’s degree in history, from Houghton College in upstate New York. He started teaching at Stony Brook, an independent school, only in 1999, and his initial assignment was in the science department. To the extent that he had any specialty as an undergraduate, it was the Battle of Hastings, a long way from Constantinople....
Read entire article at Samuel Freedman in the NYT

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