the rest is history

I’ve never really been a podcast person — until I was introduced to The Rest is History by my friend, Mark.  Barby and I no longer drive those long distances, but when we did, I would download a few episodes and we would partake — from the signature tune, to the sparkling rapport between the hosts and on to the fascinations of history.  It is infotainment of the highest quality.
Tom Holland was familiar to me.  He is a kind of secular evangelist, an unbelieving apologist, a bouncer at the door of Christianity — known across the world for his book, Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind.  His sparring partner, is Dominique Sandbrook, a journalist in the UK.  Humour mingles with expertise to leave me chuckling my way through topic after topic.  It is me to a tee.

What prompted this post are the two episodes earlier this week: #87 — Afghanistan (Part 1) and #88 — the First Anglo-Afghan War.  The second one enlisted William (“Willie”) Dalrymple as their special guest, with Dalrymple’s A Return of the King (link here) covering the story of that war (in 1842). 
Our journey with The Rest is History began with Episodes #35 — The Prime Minister’s World Cup and #36 — Our Greatest Prime Minister. Holland and Sandbrook comb through history and select their top sixteen British prime ministers.  They ‘seed’ them, place them in a knock-out ‘draw’, and then go to Twitter to collect votes from the public — before commentating their way through to the Final.  It is awfully good fun (as I try to express myself in a thoroughly British manner!).  It must have been a great success because, later on, they return with A World Cup of Gods (Episodes #55, #58 and #59)…
This is one of the features I enjoy.  The way they mix this sort of nonsense (although, to be fair, they do slip in serious stuff, as they chat away), with an ‘interrogation’ of the past and a ‘de-tangling’ of the present — as the words on their strapline express it. 
They do this in a couple of ways. 
One is to allow current events to set an agenda that takes them back into history.  Sporting events are an easy example.  The Olympics provoked three episodes — #79, #80, #81 — on the Ancient Olympics and the Modern Olympics.  The Euro 2020 football championship, with England advancing all the way to the final, prompted successive episodes on England vs Ukraine (#69), England vs Denmark (#71) and England vs Italy (#72).  Another example is the way they contribute to this ‘cancel culture’ debate, by walking their way around the statues, together with the traffic and the public, in Trafalgar Square (#76), Whitehall (#77), and Parliament Square (#78) — and debating which ones should be removed. 

The other thing they do is pick a random historical topic and then, go for it.  #41 — Persia was fascinating, as were #29 —Americanisation and #48 — The French Revolution.  And ne’er will we forget driving that windy road from Ohakune to Whanganui, listening to #45 — Top Ten Eunuchs
It is frightfully British (and North Atlantic) in its focus, but then they are British — and so I guess that is to be expected.  Every now and then it can feel a bit like Wikipedia is being read aloud to me.  But that won’t stop me — and when they reach Episode #100, I am rooting for a cricketing theme to mark the century (“did you see what I did there, cricket fans?” — it was ever so subtle).
When all is said and done — mostly ‘said’ in this case — I haven’t yet listened to even half of these episodes. So I am feeling the need for a long rest in order to feast on all of The Rest is History.

nice chatting


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About Me


the art of unpacking

After a childhood in India, a theological training in the USA and a pastoral ministry in Southland (New Zealand), I spent twenty years in theological education in New Zealand — first at Laidlaw College and then at Carey Baptist College, where I served as principal. In 2009 I began working with Langham Partnership and since 2013 I have been the Programme Director (Langham Preaching). Through it all I've cherished the experience of the 'gracious hand of God upon me' and I've relished the opportunity to 'unpack', or exegete, all that I encounter in my walk through life with Jesus.


  1. Mark Meynell on August 29, 2021 at 11:01 pm

    Just got to this – great stuff!

  2. Paul on August 30, 2021 at 7:17 am

    Thanks, Mark, for letting me know about this podcast!


  3. Paul on August 30, 2021 at 7:18 am

    My friend, Mike, sent me this excellent article by Dalrymple on the Afghan Wars:

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