Malcolm Gladwell Has Launched a New Podcast, Revisionist History: Hear the First Episode

Malcolm Gladwell has a podcast. Some of you will require no further information, and in fact have already clicked over to iTunes (or another podcast downloading application of your choice), desperate to download the first episode. Allow me to inform those cooler heads who remain that Revisionist History won’t begin its ten-week run, with one episode out per week, until June 16th. (Update: The first episode is now live and you can stream it below.) But you can subscribe right now (iTunesStitcherRSS), and while you wait over the next few days, you can listen to the preview that Gladwell has already posted.

You can also get a little a taste of Gladwell’s new project by watching the trailer at the top of the post. “Every week, I’m going to take you back into the past,” Gladwell promises in the video’s narration, “to examine something that I think has been overlooked and misunderstood.”

He gets into more detail on the Brian Lehrer Show segment below, in which he describes the first episode of Revisionist History as about the question of what it means to be “the first outsider to enter a closed world,” starting from the career of British painter Elizabeth Thompson, whose 1874 canvas The Roll Call became, for a time, the most famous image in the country. It broke its female artist into the male-dominated world of painting, and seemed, for an even shorter time, to herald a new era rich with high-profile female painters. “Everyone waits and waits for the revolution to happen,” Gladwell says, already into his characteristic storytelling mode, “and it never happens.”

Lehrer reacts to Gladwell’s choice of the story of “the first woman to break through in a male-dominated field” with the obvious question: “Is that a coincidence?” It is absolutely not a coincidence, Gladwell replies, going on to connect the phenomenon in question to not just modern figures like Hillary Clinton but Barack Obama, Julia Gillard, and Margaret Thatcher as well, and in the podcast itself surely many others besides. He also hints at an episode later in the season that begins with an obscure Elvis Costello song — and a “terrible” one at that, he adds — and uses it “as a way of finding out how creativity works, and how an awful lot of what we consider works of genius had an incredibly circuitous path to greatness,” ending up at a gallery looking at Cézannes.

You can sign up for episode updates at the official Revisionist History site. The show comes as a product of Panoply, the podcast network of The Slate Group, and its first season promises slick production in addition to the kind of compelling stories and memorable social-science insights with which Gladwell has made himself famous. And we shouldn’t ignore his talent for marketing, either, fully in evidence from nothing more than the tagline he speaks in the trailer: “Because sometimes the past deserves a second chance.” All this together sounds like more than a good reason to give his podcast a first one.

Revisionist History is listed in our new collection, The 150 Best Podcasts to Enrich Your Mind.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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Comments (9)
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  • Wanda Duchesne says:

    Looking forward to a new perspective on historical events.

  • Renee Lemieux says:

    Mr. Gladwell’s new podcast is wonderful.. I really enjoyed the first episode. The level of research and analysis were very captivating.
    I look forward to the next episode.

  • Dorothea Dorenz says:

    Dear Mr. Gladwell;
    The mistake you make in your blog is that although people can accept one Jew they will say he /she is the “exception” which gives them the permission to hate all the others. I really don’t think it is because they have overall accepted Jews; the anti-Semitism continues despite the “exception”. I don’t’ think your thesis holds water because there really is no way to prove that people who chose a Black president for example, now feel ok to be as racist as they want to be going forward. Rather, it is the fact that a Black president was elected that brought out the racism into the open that was already there. If we had Sanders as our nominee, the anti-Semites would have a field day: any Jewish journalist who speaks out against Trump has experienced extremely hateful messages from his followers that reference Hitler again and again.

    Wagner hated Jews, but exploited a Jewish young musician who transcribed his work to piano, because Wagner couldn’t play piano very well. He also wanted the conductor Levy (name?) to convert. Levy’s patron told W that he would not stage Parsifal without his conductor, Levy, doing it. So W had to accept a Jew to conduct the premier of Parsifal. W stopped trying to get Levy to convert since Levy refused. Levy’s father was a rabbi.

    I really don’t think that if one woman’s artwork is accepted that male dominated society feels that all women are valuable and equal to men. The subject matter of the painting may also have had a big influence on the value of this painting to the Academy in Britain. You should have looked into the effect that the subject matter had on their choice of Thompson’s painting, and also that a woman, the Queen, who chose to buy her work. So perhaps the Queen had real influence on the Academy’s choice of Thompson’s painting. It is odd that you have not mentioned that the Queen was an important female figure in Britain, so why would a powerful woman at the head of the country, have had no effect on the status of women in England?

    I don’t think the men in the Australian’s congress elected a woman prime minister: the people did. You cannot conflate these two categories of people. The misogyny that manifested in their congress may not have manifested in the general population.

    Now we have Hilary Clinton who will face the worst attacks ever in the history of this country by one of the worst misogynists in our history despite the fact that many people men and women, will vote for her. There are now more women in congress than ever before although they are predominantly Democrats: the Republicans are way behind in electing women to Congress, sad to say.

  • Joe Shphered says:

    I wonder how many people will end up visiting the dot org website with the same name and getting some genuine revised history?

  • Jennifer Feldman says:

    I find this series incredibly good. It’s enlightening!

  • Jan says:

    Thank you for a clarified way of looking at the incredible inequities of our time. I know I look for programs that further my understanding of issues so important to our lives. We need a voice that goes deeper into the mucky rhetoric to parse out the unapparent truth in spite of satire which carries us only so far. I applaude your tenacity and courage. Pointing out the “elephants in the room” is not enough. Thx for taking the conversation further. I’m a fan.

  • Sharon Zibart says:

    How do cancel subscription to Revisionist podcast?

  • Tony Criswell says:

    Didn’t last long. 6/3/16 – 8/17/17. Would like to see it return.

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