I’ve been doing something revolutionary of late: recording meetings in person. Occasionally I did this in the WAUG studio
at Augustana College, with a colleague who walked over to join me. But I’ve never actually taken my laptop and Blue Yeti microphone to someone’s office or place of business, sat down with them, and had a conversation. I’m curious to see if you notice the difference, not just in quality of sound, but in quality of interaction. I strive in this podcast not to interview the other person, but to have a conversation about the history that they’ve done. An conversation, I think, can capture a little of how historical thinking is done by historians. Ideally you should feel that you are the third person in the room, listening to two of us talk things through.
Today I talk through things with one of my favorite people with whom to do so, Brent Tarter. As you will hear, Brent has been with the Library of Virginia, the commonwealth’s equivalent to the Library of Congress, for a long time. In the course of his labors he has mastered a knowledge of Virginia’s history, all of it, that is really unparalleled. We talk over a few things: why elites remained powerful for so long in Virginia; why the success of slavery after 1830 gives the lie to the widely believed notion that Virginia and the upper South were in economic and social decline from 1830 to 1860; and the difficulties of doing genealogy.
[Apologies for the sound, and the late drop of the conversation: I hit the wrong button and Brent’s office was much noisier than I thought it would be, requiring Jon Ruddat to do some extra audio magic.]
- The Library of Virginia
- Brent Tarter, “The New Virginia Bookshelf” (VMHB 104.1, Winter 1996)
- Dictionary of Virginia Biography
- Books by Brent Tarter