Upper school history teacher Adam Walsh produces podcast on Western civilization
In 2013 new upper school history teacher Adam Walsh started a podcast. Now, after nine years, it has 213 episodes, close to 1 million downloads and 619 listens per day. Walsh’s podcast, “Western Civ,” is all about history. In his first episode he talked about early civilization in Syria and Sumeria. His current episodes feature Henry VIII’s era.
“History is the most interesting thing to me, so I knew I wanted to do a narrative,” Walsh said. “I was an English major and a history major in college, so stories come easy to me.”
While the earlier episodes are about half an hour long, Walsh’s most recent episodes are upwards of an hour, diving deep into each topic.
“At this point it is probably more [helpful] to AP Euro [students] or anyone doing earlier civilizations,” Walsh said. “They are useful, it just depends on how detailed you want to get.”
“Western Civ” is available on Spotify, Audible and Amazon for free. Walsh also has a subscription based service for $5 a month and it includes re-recordings of his early low audio quality work in higher fidelity quality.
“It is for people who really like the story, but want it in more detail,” Walsh said. “I spend a lot more time on each topic. I did 30 minutes on New Kingdom Egypt the first time around, on [the second] one I did two and a half hours. Sometimes I will do deep dives or historical rambles where I talk about a subject more off the cuff.”
A lot of work goes into producing a podcast. From editing, to writing a script, to setting up his studio. What people don’t know is that each hour-long episode has about six to eight hours of work behind it.
“What takes the most time is writing the episodes,” Walsh said. “In the beginning, I tried to use a page of notes and do it extemporaneously, but that didn’t work very well. The episodes weren’t concise, and I found myself rambling a lot.”
A new podcast comes out about every week. Walsh also interviews popular historians, such as Adrien Goldsworthy, a British historian and novelist who specializes in ancient Roman history.
“I had no sense of whether or not I would be good at interviews,” Walsh said. “A publisher reached out to me about two years ago and asked me if I wanted to interview Adrian Goldsworthy about his latest book. I love Goldsworthy as an author so I jumped at the chance. I found I liked doing the interviews and kept doing them.”
Walsh began doing interviews after a publisher reached out to advertise of Goldswothy’s newest book. This has now become his way of finding interesting people with interesting topics.
“Each year Basic Books (publisher) sends me a list of books coming out that year,” Walsh said. “I look over the list and send back the names of the titles I think might fit with the show. But sometimes they email me again about doing additional books, which I normally try to accommodate.”
Walsh usually records in the mornings to avoid mistakes and believes he sounds best at the early hours. Walsh also created his own studio to record himself.
“You do need to purchase a nice microphone and a hanging stand that eliminates a lot of the reverb,” Walsh said. “I have a giant styrofoam wall that I can put up and put down, that will take care of your echo. You don’t want to record, for anyone who is starting, in a big open room, because you will get a ton of echo if you do that. It’s going to sound awful to anyone who is listening.”
ESD parents have discovered Walsh’s podcast through their children. Sherry Yeaman, Rider Yeaman’s ’22 and Easterly Yeaman’s ’24 mother, recently began listening.
“I listened to the episode about the Italian Renaissance in Florence,” Yeaman said. “[It’s] always interesting to me because I’ve been to Florence a few times and actually got engaged there.”
Each podcast begins with an ad, Bank of Texas and Kroger are a few of many. Walsh began doing ad’s after….
“The only thing I don’t do is my own hosting and my own advertising,” Walsh said. “The company that I work with, they pick the ads, they put the ads in. That just pays for stuff like books and other things that I need to do [the podcast].”
Walsh is also a writer. While many people during quarantine in 2020 were learning how to make sourdough bread or binging television shows, Walsh’s quarantine project was writing books.
“I sat down right before the pandemic, I said ‘I wonder if I can write a book,’” Walsh said. “I [realized] I could, and It was kind of fun. Stephen King says that you are supposed to write 15,000 to 20,000 words a day. If I get 5,000 words done in a morning I was pretty happy.”
During this time, Walsh wrote a historical fiction series for middle school aged children, which is available to read on Amazon.
“There wasn’t a lot of historical fiction, especially [books] that focused on things outside of American History,” Walsh said. “I wanted something that would get kids interested. History is just declining as an interest; it would be nice if we could pick that back up again.”
Not only does Walsh write historical fiction, he also has a murder mystery series based on Shakespeare’s most famous character’s deaths.
“I love Shakespeare, I’ve always loved Shakespeare,” he said. “There is a depth of emotion that you don’t see in anything prior to him.”
Even though Walsh is now deeply invested in education, he was not always a teacher. After graduating from The University of Wisconsin- Madison, Walsh took a break before going to law school.
During that two year period he waited tables and acted in the Royal Shakespeare Company in Washington D.C. He acted in plays like “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Caesar.”
“I encourage people to take those breaks,” Walsh said. “If you know you’re going to be in school for a long time, I encourage you to try something totally different.”
After law school, Walsh became a criminal defense lawyer in Manhattan and then became a teacher in New York. Last year he taught for the Dallas Independent School District as an English teacher, so changing to ESD was a big change.
“Everyone seems very calm [at ESD],” Walsh said. “It is nice to see everyone be interested and eager and excited about their plans for the future.”