Clear and Present Danger - A history of free speech

32 EpisodesProduced by Jacob MchangamaWebsite

Why have kings, emperors, and governments killed and imprisoned people to shut them up? And why have countless people risked death and imprisonment to express their beliefs? Jacob Mchangama guides you through the history of free speech from the trial of Socrates to the Great Firewall.Stay up to date… read more

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Episode 31 - The Old Regime

September 12th, 2019


In Nov. 2018, French President Emanuel Macron declared war on “offensive and hateful content” on the internet. Subsequently, France adopted strict …

Episode 30 - Northern Lights, The Scandinavian Press Freedom Breakthrough

August 23rd, 2019


In the 1760s and 1770s, Sweden and Denmark-Norway shortly became the epicenter of press freedom protections in Enlightenment Europe. 

In 1766, the Swedish Diet passed the Press Freedom Act, making Sweden the first …

Episode 29 - The Philosopher King - Enlightened Despotism, part 2, Prussia

August 2nd, 2019


In his famous essay “What is Enlightenment?” the Prussian philosopher Immanuel Kant declared: “[E]nlightenment requires nothing but freedom … to make public use of one’s reason in all matters. Now I hear the cry from …

Episode 28 - Writing on Human Skin - Enlightened Despotism, part I, Russia

July 12th, 2019


The Enlightenment´s emphasis on science, progress, tolerance and rationality not only attracted philosophers. Even absolute monarchs dreamt of …

Episode 27 - How Enlightening

June 21st, 2019


data-contrast="auto">After a brief detour into the present, we return to Ground Zero of the Enlightenment in 18th century Europe, with this recap of past episodes and a brief overview of the themes and countries to …

Episode 26 – Oslo Freedom Forum Special with Megha Rajagopalan and Yuan Yang

June 4th, 2019


June 4th, 2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the bloody culmination of the Chinese government´s Tiananmen Massacre of pro-democracy students and …

Episode 25 – Oslo Freedom Forum Special with Larry Diamond

May 28th, 2019


Today´s episode is going to be a radical departure from the chronological timeline of the general podcast so far. I´m currently in Oslo for the …

Episode 24 – Expert Opinion: Stephen Solomon part two - The Sedition Act

May 10th, 2019


In 1787, the newly authored U.S. Constitution was sent out to the states for ratification. Despite fierce objections from Anti-Federalists, the Constitution did not include a bill of rights protecting freedom of speech …

Episode 23 – Expert Opinion: Stephen Solomon part one - The First Amendment

April 17th, 2019


The First Amendment of the US Constitution was adopted as part of the Bill of Rights in 1791. This “Great bulwark of liberty” provides that 

Episode 22 - Fighting Words - Free Speech in 18th Century America, Part II

March 8th, 2019


In the second half of the 18th Century American, Patriots showed that freedom of the press was a potent weapon against authority. Not even the …

Episode 21 - The Bulwark of Liberty - Free Speech in 18th Century America, Part I

February 14th, 2019


18th century America was impacted and influenced by the so-called Glorious Revolution in the Motherland. And no-one had a bigger impact on American …

Episode 20 - The Seeds of Enlightenment

January 25th, 2019


1685 was a watershed year for events that would lead to what we call the Enlightenment. France´s Sun King Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes and …

Episode 19 – Expert Opinion: Steven Nadler on Spinoza’s ‘book forged in hell” and the right to “think what you like and say what you think”

January 3rd, 2019


Baruch Spinoza (also known as Benedict de Spinoza) was born in Amsterdam in 1632. While his given name means “blessing” in both Hebrew and Latin, …

Episode 18 - Colonial Dissent: Blasphemy, Libel and Tolerance in 17th Century America

December 14th, 2018


Americans are more supportive of free speech than any other people. 95 % of Americans think it’s “very important” to be able to criticize the government without censorship and 77% support the right to offend religious …

Episode 17 - Global Inquisition

November 17th, 2018


In the 16th Century Spain and Portugal globalized the inquisition by spreading the fight for religious orthodoxy and against heresy, blasphemy and apostasy to the Americas, Africa and Asia allowing inquisitors to pry …

Episode 16: Expert Opinion - Michael Shermer

November 2nd, 2018


In this episode, we join up with historian of science Dr. Michael Shermer to investigate the cross-fertilization between science and free speech.

Episode 15 - Paper-bullets and the forgotten martyrs of radical free speech

October 11th, 2018


Episode 15 returns to Europe and formative events in 17th Century England, where a mostly forgotten group of radicals demanded a written constitution guaranteeing free speech, liberty of conscience, and democracy. But …

Episode 14 - ‘Universal Peace’: Religious tolerance in the Mughal empire

September 20th, 2018


Episode 14 leaves the West and heads to 16th and 17th Century India and the Mughal empire. In particular, the rule of Akbar the Great.

A century …

Episode 13: Expert Opinion - Jonathan Haidt

September 6th, 2018


In this episode, we do a bit of time travel and leave the 17th century for a discussion of free speech on American college and university campuses …

Episode 12: Expert Opinion - Teresa Bejan

August 23rd, 2018


We enter the early modern age with an expert opinion featuring Teresa Bejan, associate professor at Oriel College, Oxford University and author of …

Episode 11: The great disruption - Part II

August 9th, 2018


In episode 11 we continue to survey the wreckage after hurricane Luther was unleashed on Europe with the Reformation. When the Reformation mutated and spread across the continent a burning question arose: Can people of …

Episode 10: The great disruption - Part I, the printing press and the viral Reformation

June 14th, 2018


The disruptive effects of the internet and social media on the spread of information are unprecedented. Or are they?  

In episode 10 of Clear and Present Danger, we cover the invention, spread, and effects of the …

Episode 9: Expert Opinion - Christine Caldwell Ames

May 24th, 2018


Our last stop in the Middle Ages is an interview with professor Christine Caldwell Ames, who is an expert on medieval heresy and inquisition in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The discussion highlights the …

Episode 8: The hounds of God - medieval heretics and inquisitors

May 17th, 2018


From the High Middle Ages, Europe developed into a “persecuting society,” obsessed with stamping out the “cancer” of heresy. But questions about how this was accomplished — and the consequences of these developments — …

Episode 7: Expert Opinion - Peter Adamson

April 26th, 2018


In our second expert opinion episode, Jacob Mchangama talks with Peter Adamson, who is a professor of philosophy at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and host of the podcast “History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps.”

Episode 6: The not-so-Dark Ages, medieval intellectuals, and freethinkers

April 5th, 2018


In episode 6, we get medieval!

Find out why the Middle Ages were as much a period of reason and inquiry as inquisition and superstition.

Why was the famous medieval intellectual Pierre Abelard castrated, forced to burn …

Episode 5: The Caliphate

March 22nd, 2018


Why did the medieval Abbasid Caliphs have almost all ancient Greek works of philosophy and science translated into Arabic? How did the long list of …

Episode 4: Expert Opinion - Paul Cartledge

March 8th, 2018


In our first expert opinion segment, Jacob Mchangama talks to Emeritus Professor of Greek Culture at Cambridge University Paul Cartledge. With his …

Episode 3: The Age of Persecution

March 1st, 2018


Why did the polytheist Ancient Romans persecute the followers of the new Jewish sect of “Christians” in the first three centuries AD”? How high was …

Episode 2: Liberty or License - Free Speech in Ancient Rome

February 15th, 2018


Rome was the most powerful empire in antiquity. But were the Romans free to speak truth to power? Did history’s first successful Women’s March take …

Episode 1: Who wishes to speak? - Free Speech in Ancient Athens

February 1st, 2018


The democracy of Ancient Athens was the birthplace of equal and uninhibited speech. Or Isegoria and parrhesia to the Athenians. Jacob Mchangama guides you through how oratory was central to the idea and practice of …

Episode 0: Why free speech?

January 24th, 2018


Only 13% of the world’s 7,4 billion people enjoy free speech. 45% live in countries where censorship is the norm. Still, more than half the world’s …

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