It is quite possible that I release too much content, but thanks to my inherent, in-built need to never sit still, 2018 will be the year that When Diplomacy Fails is joined by several other history podcasts. Yes that’s right I said several.
While most of you know that we’ll be releasing Poland Is Not Yet Lost on 18th May 2018, in line with our Patreon goal, we also have another surprise podcast on the way this year, which will result in our podcast family becoming rather crowded indeed. By the end of the year we’ll have enough pods to start our own network, but if you’re aware of other creators out there, then I’m not all that special. Many podders, including some within the Agora sphere, host and run multiple shows, and I’m about to enter into that intimidating, but also deeply exciting world.
All of this takes an immense amount of planning to be done right, especially considering the fact that from October 2019, I may well be forced to take a hiatus from all things podcasting for a time, as Cambridge takes over. The goal then is to have things sufficiently prepared so that we don’t go dark for however long it takes while I’m there. Those immensely generous (and greatly appreciated) $5 patrons will be feasting on The Age of Bismarck from early 2019, but for normal listeners, I wanted to be sure that you don’t forget about me, or my personal pledge to make history thrive.
I want to get history podcasting out there, and that brings me to my latest project, and the real reason you clicked on that link in the first place – we are making a ‘sequel’ of sorts to the Korean War, and it will be called 1956 – The Eventful Year. What does this mean? Well, to begin with, before I go into what it’s actually about, I need to explain how I’m going to present it. 1956 – The Eventful Year, or 1956 for short, will be the Patreon exclusive series, and this will keep $5 Patrons fed and watered for 2018. The fact that it is FOR patrons, however, does NOT mean that the rest of you will miss out, which brings me to the most striking aspect of 1956…
We will be releasing a total of FOUR episodes to normal listeners, so that you can tune in and decide for yourselves whether 1956 is for you, and whether it deserves your hard earned cash. Maybe, on the other hand, you just don’t have time for more podcasting in your life – maybe the Korean War is more than enough for you, and you don’t feel that you need to know what happens next? That’s your right! But to those of you that are curious right now even before you listen in, let me say that 1956 is a very special series. It’s something I’ve been working hard on since I finished researching the Korean War, and it is something which fans of my style and approach to history will definitely enjoy.
So now that you know that listeners will get some episodes and that $5 Patrons (Diplomats) will get all 30 or so episodes, we must address why I am releasing 1956 as though it was a brand new podcast. This is the biggest difference between 1956 and other Patron exclusive series I’ve released in the past. While before, I gave regular listeners a teaser for Jan Sobieski’s biography for example and just stuck it in the normal feed, 1956 is a different beast altogether because it is the biggest and most ambitious Patreon exclusive series I’ve yet to tackle. As such, because it is so large, and because it deserves your attention, I felt it made sense to mark this occasion and to place it in a brand new podcast feed, where it wouldn’t clog up the regular WDF feed.
There’s an arguably selfish reason for me doing this as well. With 1956 being so visible and separate from the normal feed, the hope is that more people see it and are drawn to its singular objectives. I have seen other podcasters release exclusive membership podcast series by first laying down a few episodes in a self-contained, freely accessible podcast feed. Ray and Cam have done this, and the model always intrigued me. You should know that the plan was always to use this model when releasing the Age of Bismarck series, because there is no Bismarck type podcast – as far as I know – and by releasing it in its own feed, it will really stick out. 1956 is the kind of test-run for this model. By being more visible, more people will hopefully sign up, and then I’ll be released from the trappings of a normal life, and be able to commit to working harder on all things history podcasting.
I want you guys to like 1956, and I want you to like Age of Bismarck too, when it releases next year. If Patrons or other listeners want to signal that they’re enjoying 1956, then they can leave a review in the new feed’s iTunes page or what have you, and then potential listeners/Patrons will see that the series is worth it. Consider it a kind of product review process – would-be Patrons will know that signing up is worthwhile, because they can read the (hopefully positive) reviews, just as you would for any other product before you spend your money. If money isn’t forthcoming, and if time is scarce, then if nothing else, it is immensely more aesthetically pleasing to release a new series of episodes rather than clog up the old feed, since it is looking a little bloated at over 300 episodes (and counting!).
I am of course immensely excited to release this new show, and to see you guys talk about it. As much as you may be sick of the sound of my voice at this stage, it is worth considering the fact that we’ve only ever been ONE show for over five and a half years, yet we’ve covered so much in that time. 2018 is thus a significant year, because we’re breaking out of this mould, and signalling our intentions to really make history podcasting something great. I hope that I will have you along for the journey with me.
A reputation I am trying to build up is that of having the best value Patreon membership system out there. Paying $5 will get you an hour of content every month – that’s always been my default slogan – but the more time passes, the more this becomes less and less appropriate. If you sign up now, for example, there’s nearly twenty hours’ worth of content. 1956 will contain in and around 30 episodes; The Age of Bismarck could well contain over 100, so with every month that passes, this bank of extra content is only going to grow – exponentially.
The point I’m trying to make is that I’ve massively expanded my ambitions for this podcast, and that there has never been a better time to throw a fiver my way every month. We’re also coming up on a year on Patreon, which is incredible considering all that this podcast has been through over the last year. The fact that this podcast is now my part time job would not be possible without the support I’ve received from you guys, and it is thanks to your generosity that we’ve been able to bring When Diplomacy Fails Podcast so far.
So now, after you’ve heard the pitch and hopefully you understand what 1956 will look like, structure wise, it’s time to tackle that important other question – what will 1956 look like, content wise. Answering this question helps to explain why I decided to stick around in this era for a bit, rather than jump ahead with Bismarck, as some of you may have expected. The more I pondered what to do for Patrons in 2018, the more I kept coming back to the year 1956, a year which, even for history nerds and fans, rarely appears on the radar of interest. I’m hoping to change all that with this series, by bringing you guys some of the most gripping struggles, fascinating characters and emotive scenes yet encountered in When Diplomacy Fails’ life cycle.
1956 is, as its full name suggests, an eventful year of history. In fact, it was so eventful, that I was forced to approach it quite differently. Rather than examine the year chronologically, it made sense to me to divide into two distinct parts – consider each a different story arc, if you like. In part one, we’ll be examining the Soviet experience of 1956, and how the death of Josef Stalin led to a power vacuum, and thereafter a moderate quest to improve Soviet society. The ripples of this quest, initiated by Nikita Khrushchev in his infamous de-Stalinisation speech of February 1956, led to passionate expressions of revolution and sovereignty in Poland and Hungary above all.
These revolts, in Hungary most notably, played host to legendary scenes which today, form an integral part of the national memory and folklore of these states. If you walk the streets of Budapest, you can still find bullet holes which were fired during those eventful days, and monuments to those that lost their lives are vividly present. The question of how these revolts fit into the Cold War, are just as interesting as what was occurring simultaneously, in the other arc of this story, in Part 2.
It is in Part 2 that we examine 1956 in the context of the build up to the Suez Crisis, that pivotal event in the Cold War where an Anglo-French attack on Egypt, in league with Israel, led to an American sanction, an Anglo-French retreat, and a humiliating climbdown for those three states. For the British, this was the straw that broke the imperial camel’s back, so to speak. With results that are still being debated today, Suez taught the British that they were not a world power any longer, and that they were, at the end of the day, subservient to American interests.
These pills were bitter to swallow, but like the crushing of Hungary’s revolution, the Anglo-French retreat represents a paradigm shift in how the Cold War progressed. As the scales fell from the eyes of British statesmen, so too did they fall from the eyes of anyone, who in the past, had argued that communism in Eastern Europe was based upon more than the threat of brute force. Such changes had consequences great and small, tragic and inspiring. My primary aim during this series is to present the history to you in its raw, enthralling entirety, but also to explain why 1956 was a critical year in the history of 20th century, and why it is deserving of your attention and time.
So history friends and Patrons, I hope that you will all join me on Friday 23rd February 2018 – one year to the day that I got my first ever Patron. Whether it is in the new podcast feed for 1956, or in the XTRA feed for all you lovely Diplomats at the $5 level, 1956 – The Eventful Year has something for everyone, and I cannot wait to unleash it upon you after so much time in the preparation room! Until then though, you can of course find WDF in the usual places, and you can contact me through the usual channels. Thankssss!
Zack Twamley is a history podcaster, author and Masters graduate. His long-running history podcast When Diplomacy Fails is soon to be joined by another pod, 1956 – The Eventful Year, as well as several others in 2018. If you like your history to focus on diplomacy, on international relations or on the human agency behind complex stately decisions, then WDF is the podcast for you!