Episode 21: Zombies

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

‘Before I’m a zombie nerd, before I’m a science-fiction nerd, I am a history nerd.’  (Max Brooks, ‘I’m just a zombie nerd’, Time, 15 July 2010). For this episode let us join the assassin in the archives Dr Sam Willis, and the antidote to the antecedent Professor James Daybell, as they swing their cricket bats, reeve up the chainsaw and discover the unexpected history of zombies. Our zombie slayers will take you on a flesh-tingling journey from slave-driven Haitian folklore and travel narratives of the 1920s to Zora Neale Hurston’s real-life zombie encounter and the case of Felicia Felix-Mentor in 1938, from the French reign of terror in 1793 to the Gordon Riots, London 1780 and the royal pardon of Benjamin Bowsey and John Glover, and from the book of Revelations to the seventeenth-century Fifth Monarchists.

James and Sam take aim with the Dire Straits and the Batman Soundtrack vinyl LPs, but not Purple Rain, to discover that this unexpected history is actually all about: capitalism and consumerism, pandemics and contagion, fear of the silent majority and social disorder, decline and denial, loss of agency and control, heroism and symbolism, disembodiment and end of world fears. Want to know what book burning has to do with zombies? Want to know what weapon of choice James will pick if the zombie apocalypse happens? Life is after all wasted on the living!

‘Don’t forget to kill Philip’ (Ed – Shaun of the Dead, 2004).

More Podcasts


3, 11, 2021 - In this latest episode, the Unexpected duo, Professor James Daybell and Dr Sam Willis uncover .... Read More


11, 5, 2020 - Rainbows! In this episode of Histories of the Unexpected, James and Sam explore the unexpected .... Read More

Backstabbers!: Homeschooling the Bolsheviks and the Rise of Stalin

13, 1, 2021 - James and Sam tackle the fascinating history of BACKSTABBERS! From the politics of Tudor .... Read More

Subscribe to our newsletter

Keep up to date with Histories of the Unexpected