12 History Podcasts You Should Be Listening ToCulture Watch
Andrew Fletcher is an intern at the History News Network.
Stuff You Missed in History Class
The name is pretty self-explanatory, but Stuff You Missed in History Class definitely should not be (missed, that is). Each episode features the hosts, Holly and Tracy, telling the story of a new historical event that isn’t usually covered in standard history classes. They take turns explaining the event chronologically, with some humorous commentary on the side. If you feel that your history education is lacking, or just want to know more about niche topics of history, this podcast is number 19 on Spotify’s list of top educational podcasts. It’s easy to listen to and the 30 to 45-minute episodes go very quickly.
Recommended first episode: The Bone War Pt. 1 (and 2, if you like it)
This weekly podcast, which sits at 21 on the US iTunes podcast charts and is hosted by journalist and author Malcolm Gladwell, tackles news topics of history that have either been overlooked or conventionally misunderstood. It typically runs from 30 to 40 minutes in length, and “asks whether we got it right the first time.” Gladwell adopts a pseudo-documentary style for each episode, which feature primary interviews and various recorded sounds that establish setting. He goes in-depth every episode and does the important job of debunking common misconceptions about the events of the past.
Recommended first episode: McDonald’s Broke My Heart
Ridiculous History is iHeart Radio’s history podcast. Its two hosts, Ben Bowlin and Noel Brown tackle new topics twice a week and “dive into some of the weirdest stories from across the span of human civilization.” The two hosts give an introduction and briefly explain the concepts they will be discussing at the beginning of each episode. Episodes sometimes feature guests, like podcasters Jack O’Brien and Miles Gray from the Daily Zeitgeist, that supplement the retelling. This podcast has some of the most unique subject matter of any of the podcasts on this list.
Recommended first episode: (Some of) History’s Dumbest Military Prototypes
The History of Rome
In this series that ran continuously from 2010 to 2012, host Mike Duncan takes listeners through the complete history of the Roman Empire. The episodes are much more scripted than some of the podcasts in this list and sound like reading from the chapters of a book. It is a limited series, meaning one should listen to the episodes in order, rather than skipping around. Although it is admittedly dry, this podcast is a great in-depth exploration of one of the more famous and formidable civilizations of human history. At only 15 to 30 minutes in length for each episode, it is perfect for a morning or afternoon commute.
Recommended first episode: 001 – In the Beginning
The History Chicks
The History Chicks introduces listeners to various historical female figures as hosts Beckett Graham and Susan Vollenweider discuss the challenges the figures faced and the most interesting parts of their lives. Graham and Vollenweider give a little introduction of historical background to set up the figure they then talk about. Their side commentary interspersed throughout episodes keeps listeners entertained. This podcast, posted twice a month, is on the longer side, usually running between 60 and 90 minutes.
Recommended first episode: Mary, Queen of Scots
Our Fake History
This podcast tackles different historical myths and commonalities that are either not completely true or sometimes completely false. Host Sebastian dramatically reads out historical accounts from newspapers, public documents, and even historians; he then goes through challenges to those accounts from eyewitness testimony or other historians. The podcast is well-researched and gives a lot of information on interesting topics.
Recommended first episode: Episode 38 – Was There a Real Atlantis? (Part 1 & 2)
BBC Witness History
Witness History is a short podcast produced by BBC and describes itself as “history told by those who were there.” It covers various topics from modern history, from the war on drugs to women airplane pilots. The host is supplemented by primary audio recordings and interviews. As a result, it’s more journalistic and has a news report feel to it. There is a new episode covering a different topic every couple days and episodes only run 9 to 12 minutes, so if you’re looking for a podcast to listen to on your walk, this is it.
Recommended first episode: D-Day
This podcast is a personal favorite. Comedians Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds host. In each episode, Anthony takes on one subject of American history and reads the historical account, while Reynolds reacts to hearing it for the first time. It features more commentary than some other podcasts, but it makes the educational component fun. Some of the stories they cover are just so genuinely entertaining, they almost don’t even require any commentary.
Recommended first episode: 210 – The New Jersey Shark Attacks
If true crime series interest you, this is your podcast. Host Payne Lindsey adopts an investigative journalism style as he covers the notorious Atlanta Child Murders that took place between 1979 and 1981. The podcast uses audio from news clips and is more reliant on interviews, which highlight first-person perspectives and experiences that make the podcast really interesting to listen to. Atlanta Monster is a true crime podcast, meaning it covers a single historical event in a season.
Recommended first episode: S1 Ep1 – Boogeyman
BackStory is the product of four historians at Virginia Humanities. Ed Ayers, Brian Balogh, Nathan Connolly, and Joanne Freeman take current events that people in the US are talking about and approach them from a historical perspective. They consistently choose interesting topics, like college sports, women in congress, and gambling. Episodes run from 30 to 70 minutes and the hosts do a good job of staying on topic.
Recommended first episode: 276 – Red in the Stars and Stripes? A History of Socialism in America
In Our Time
In Our Time, produced by BBC Radio, covers older history that isn’t typically covered in the podcasts on this list, such as the Inca, Moby Dick, and the Epic of Gilgamesh. Each episode, host Melvyn Bragg gets right into the subject matter immediately and brings historical scholars on as guests to interview and offer explanations. The interviews keep things moving and offer expert analysis. This fast-paced, 40 to 60-minute podcast offers a different style as opposed to podcasts that focus on modern history.
Recommended first episode: 1816, the Year Without a Summer
Past Present Podcast
Past Present tackles current political events from the perspective of professional historians. Hosted by historians Neil Young, Natalia Petrzela, and Nicole Hemmer, Editor of the Washington Post’s history section, Made by History, this podcast tries to make sense of what’s happening in the world by placing it in the context of history. It attempts to avoid partisan punditry and offers a nice alternative to current news cycles. Recent episodes cover various aspects of the 2020 election race, including Elizabeth Warren’s candidacy, Joe Biden and the 1994 Crime Bill, and tariffs.
Recommended first episode: Episode 184 – YouTube, Tariffs, and Elizabeth Warren
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