The Last Best Hope? Understanding America from the Outside In

How has history shaped America?  What does it stand for? Why is it so divided? And what does this mean for us all? Is America – as Abraham Lincoln once claimed – the last best hope of Earth?

RAI Director Adam Smith explores these questions in our podcast, The Last Best Hope?

Each story-filled episode delves into the political events, conflicts, speeches and songs that have shaped and embodied the soul of a nation. From the bloody battlefield of Gettysburg to fake news and gun control, The Last Best Hope? takes you back in time (and sometimes on location) to uncover fresh insights and commentary from award-winning academics and prominent public figures.

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, Kevin Kruse, Stacy Schiff, Liz Varon, Emily Bazelon, Eric Foner, Richard Carwardine, Heather Cox Richardson, Rachel Shelden, Ty Seidule, Eric Rauchway, Richard Blackett, Devin Fergus, Dan Jackson 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