Podcast recommendation: Revolution at Sea

Revolution at Sea image
Hoksai’s “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” is a fitting image for retired Fletcher Professor John Curtis Perry’s podcast series.

I was watching an episode of the truly insane, brilliant Cartoon Network Adult Swim mainstay “Rick and Morty” last night. As Rick, Morty, and Summer approached an alien planet too strange to recount here (though Wikipedia does a nice job of it), Rick remarks: “Podcasts are boring.”

Podcasts are universally slower-moving than “Rick and Morty,” but the good ones aren’t boring, and I write this to highlight an extremely good one: Revolution at Sea. It features a 90-year-old man who has, I would bet, never heard of “Rick and Morty.”

That man is John Curtis Perry. He taught at the Fletcher School at Tufts from 1980-2015, and I count my having failed to take one of his courses during my time in Medford, Mass., among my major academic regrets. Perry is an Asia and maritime-history expert, no question. But foremost, he’s a storyteller and a writer with a rare knack for pithy observation, adroit and brave summary, and the extraction of telling (and often funny) detail.

The scope is global; the story spans centuries. But the episodes are digestible, most less than 20 minutes long and only one so far longer than a half hour. Perry, also known for his abilities as a speaker, commands a soothing presence more or less opposite to that of either Rick or Morty.

“Revolution at Sea” covers commerce, conquest, and discovery on a global scale. While the Greeks get short shrift, his treatment of the sequence of Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, and English maritime supremacy provides the the most pleasant sweeping historical overview one could hope for while driving home from dropping one’s kid off at school. I’m on episode 16 at the moment; Perry and accomplices – a couple of former Fletcher students are helping him get this done – just posted episode 29.

Were Rick real, he might be bored with “Revolution at Sea.” But I doubt you will be.