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We imagine the end of the world as an exotic, even unreal phenomenon. In movies, superheroes battle world-ending threats. In religion, the end times can stand as a time of judgment or renewal. In reality, however, world-ending processes are routine. From the time the Puritans, fired by apocalyptic visions, arrived in New England to now, when rising sea levels threaten coastal towns, Massachusetts has seen more than its share. In this podcast series, Commonwealth Honors College students look at the politics of the end of the world in projects created as their course’s Final Examination.

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Episode 1: The Ghosts of Ponkapoag

We explore how the discovery of a set of bones in Canton, Massachusetts in 1969 led to the rediscovery of the 17th century Praying Indians in Massachusetts. In the midst of violent colonization and devastating epidemics, one man’s effort to Christianize the area's Native populations by putting them into "praying towns" ultimately contributed to their end. We recount the perfect storm of political, cultural, and religious clashes that brought the world of Simon George, one of the last members of the Ponkapoag praying town, to its end and left his bones to be discovered centuries later.

Created by:
Nate Reynolds
Abby McDonough
Kathrine Esten
Deepika Singh
Mike Orlando
Greg Fournier

Episode 2: The Millerites and Hillary Clinton

What if we told you the end of the world already happened? What if we told you it happens all the time? No, we’re not talking about a meteor impact or zombie apocalypse, but that moment when a movement fails and leaves its followers devastated. In this podcast, we compare two world-ending events: the religious world of the Millerites that was smashed by the “Great Disappointment” when the world failed to end and how Democrats and progressives confronted the unexpected 2016 election of Donald Trump. We're joined by Congresswoman Katherine Clark, Harvard Professor David F. Holland, and University of Massachusetts Amherst graduate student Basileus Zeno.

Image by Flickr user Kelly Poull

Created by:
Kekely Dansouh
Nick Edwards
Chris Kosteva
Courtney Murtagh
Alexandra Pigeon

Episode 3: Fire and Ice: Massachusetts in the Cold War

The Cold War brought an ever-present fear of ultimate death and destruction by nuclear weapons. Over time, the era of schools holding nuclear weapons drills faded into the past with the end of the Cold War. But nuclear weapons are still found all over the world today. Are nuclear weapons still a threat to Massachusetts? Does anyone care? In this episode, Nicolle, Brad, and Yulia explore the realities of the history of the Cold War, tour a Cold War nuclear bunker, and how people made the end of the world an ordinary experience.

Created by:
Lauren Crociati
Sifa Kasongo
Jared Nussbaum
Brad Polumbo
Yulia Suvorova
Nicolle Mathison

Episode 4: There’s Something in the Water

The classic New England film Jaws explores a town terrorized by a murderous, stealthy shark. These days, another threat lurks in the water--but it isn't a shark. We travel to Newburyport, a coastal paradise slowly losing its bid for survival. Climate change and rising water levels have a devastating effect on the town and the solutions in place right now are simply not enough. We speak with City Council President Barry Connell to explore how Newburyport's politics are changing in the face of the end of its world.

Created by:
Sean Kealey
Mallika Nagan
Clara Silverstein
Tara Dugan
Matthew Tabola