I’ve just finished listening to a bunch of podcasts that were in my backlog. One of them was ‘The California Gold Rush’ from the BBC Radio 4 show In Our Time With Melvyn Bragg. In Our Time is one of the best podcasts around, seemingly capable of introducing complex issues discussed by experts to an informed audience. Even on topics that I knew quite a bit about, I ended up learning something new.
While American history is a passion of mine – though it has taken a back seat to others in recent years – there were a number of thoughts that stroke me while listening to the podcast. Firstly, the connection between the American war with Mexico which led to gaining California and the Civil War. Secondly, the impact of the Californian gold rush in the world economy.
There were a number of other tidbits in there, and if anyone doesn’t know about some of the experiences of native americans and Chinese immigrants to the USA in the 1800’s, it does provide some very introductory information. I particularly liked how one of the guests equated the acquisition of California and the subsequent discovery of gold and its repercussions as a testosterone injection to the United States; how the concept “manifest destiny” grew out of this process and its relation to the idea of the “city upon a hill” formed when the first settlers arrived; and the differences and links between the gold rush and the California that grew out of it with what it is today – a melting point, Silicon Valley. Some might also be interested in the beginnings of a certain Stanford, who would later fund Stanford University.
In conclusion, go ahead and listen. Just be prepared to be a regular listener.