The Last Best Hope?
Understanding America from the Outside In
On our podcast, our Director Professor Adam Smith talks to guests doing world-leading research that sheds light on the United States from the outside in. We ask what forces have shaped the culture and politics of the US, how its role in the world has changed and what it might be in the future. Is America now, or has it ever been, the "last best hope of earth"? Probably not, but plenty of people have thought so. We try to understand why.
The title comes from Abraham Lincoln’s second annual message to Congress, delivered on 1 December 1862, one month before the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation:
"In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free – honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth."
This is the classic formulation of the powerful and enduring idea that America matters because of what it stands for. It is a reminder of the importance of knowing how the rest of the world has seen America, as well as how America has seen the rest of the world, a task that is easier with the sense of perspective and context that is possible from Oxford. The question mark matters: on this podcast we don't swallow the Lincolnian claim to exceptionalism, but we do take it seriously.
Guests have included Annette Gordon-Reed, Eric Foner, Richard Carwardine, Heather Cox Richardson, Rachel Shelden, Ty Seidule, Erik Rauchway, Richard Blackett, Devin Fergus and many others.
The Last Best Hope? is available on all podcasting platforms (including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify). Follow the podcast on Twitter for regular updates on new episodes: @TLBHpodcast
The “must-listen US podcast”
—Nick Bryant, former BBC correspondent in New York