WSJ The Assignment Desk For NPR?

From the Wall Street Journal Weekend Interview with British historian Paul Johnson:

Mr. Johnson says he doesn’t follow politics closely anymore, but he quickly warms to the subject of the Middle East. The rash of uprisings across the Arab world right now is “a very interesting phenomenon,” he says.

“It’s something that we knew all about in Europe in the 19th century. First of all we had the French Revolution and its repercussions in places like Germany and so on. Then, much like this current phenomenon, in 1830 we had a series of revolutions in Europe which worked like a chain reaction. And then in 1848, on a much bigger scale—that was known as the year of revolutions.”

In 1848, he explains, “Practically every country in Europe, except England of course . . . had a revolution and overthrew the government, at any rate for a time. So that is something which historically is well-attested and the same thing has happened here in the Middle East.”

Then there’s this report from Saturday’s All Things Considered:

Revolutions in the Middle East have inspired many comparisons, but they may look more like the European revolutions of 1848. As University of Missouri professor Jonathan Sperber tells Guy Raz, 1848 — like the modern Middle East — saw a wave of working-class uprisings spurred by frustration with entrenched dictators, high food prices and a citizenry with new access to information.

Coincidence? The hardworking staff has no idea. So – in a spasm of actual reporting – we sent this email to Weekend All Things Considered host Guy Raz:

Dear Guy Raz,

I simultaneously write the Campaign Outsider blog and admire your work on Weekend All Things Considered.

Your segment on Saturday about revolutions in the Middle East inspiring comparisons with the European revolutions of 1848 resembled a Wall Street Journal interview with British historian Paul Johnson, who made many of the same observations.

Just curious: Any connection between the two? Or is this the serendipity of contemporary news coverage?

Many thanks for your consideration.


The hardworking staff at Campaign Outsider

We’ll keep you posted.

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4 Responses to WSJ The Assignment Desk For NPR?

  1. Guy Raz says:


    Thanks for your query and for listening to our program, Weekends on All Things Considered. The short answer is neither.

    I am a big fan of Paul Johnson’s work. He’s an estimable figure. Unfortunately, I missed the piece you refer to that ran in the WSJ. I am happy to hear him make that comparison.

    We’ve been mulling the 1848 idea for some weeks now but couldn’t quite figure out how to make it good radio until this weekend.

    I saw Anne Applebaum make a brief reference to it in her WP column about 3 weeks ago and I thought it was smart. So we started to look around for historians who specialize in the revolutions of 1848. We found Jonathan Sperber at Univ. of Missouri who wrote a book on that period. And indeed, he was intrigued by the similarities between then and now. So we interviewed him and, voila! the sausage was made.

    But now that I know about THIS blog…you can be sure I’ll be checking it out a lot for interesting ideas.


    Guy Raz
    Host, Weekends on All Things Considered from NPR News

  2. Michael Pahre says:

    I heard a reference earlier in the week, I thought, during some kind of NPR show (which, I don’t remember), and was motivated to look it up on the intertubes for background.

    NPR’s website three weeks ago linked out to an external story on the comparison between 1848 and 2011.

    Methinks both the WSJ and NPR found the idea for the comparison from someone else…

  3. Pingback: WSJ NOT The Assignment Desk For NPR | Campaign Outsider

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