The Last Best Hope?
Understanding America from the Outside In
Historian and broadcaster Professor Adam Smith explores the America of today through the lens of the past. Is America - as Abraham Lincoln once claimed - the last best hope of Earth?
Produced by Oxford University’s world-leading Rothermere American Institute, each story-filled episode looks at the US from the outside in – delving into the political events, conflicts, speeches and songs that have shaped and embodied the soul of a nation.
From the bloody battlefields of Gettysbury to fake news and gun control, Professor Smith takes you back in time (and sometimes on location) to uncover fresh insights and commentary from award-winning academics and prominent public figures.
Join us as we ask: what does the US stand for – and what does this mean for us all?
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