I absolutely love listening to podcasts in my spare time. It’s an easy way to delve into history topics I know little about, and it provides an alternative to reading. I can listen to a podcast on my morning walk with the dog, or when I’m cleaning up a garden bed. History podcasts often focus on forgotten history or smaller stories that are missed by textbooks or survey courses, and they help me to make connections in my own understanding.
I love history podcasts that strike a conversational tone. I find that it helps if there is more than one person who talks. (I’ll admit, I have a tendency to tune out if it’s just one person talking to me.) I also prefer it when the stories are related to social history or really, the humans of history.
With that said, below I’ve tried to include a well-rounded list of history podcasts that I think you should check out. Most of these I’ve personally enjoyed over the years, however, I’ve also included a few that are really popular, even if I don’t listen to them personally. I’ve linked to the actual webpage homes of these podcasts, but you can find most all of them on iTunes or Stitcher.
Is your favorite history podcast missing from the list? Let me know in the comments.
Stuff You Missed in History Class – This podcast is just delightful. Hosted by Holly Frey and Tracy V. Wilson, Stuff You Missed in History Class focuses on a specific story with each episode. It’s all over the place with topics. One week they’ll discuss the prison uprising in Attica, and another week they’re onto a story about Raymond Bessone, the man who developed the “teasy-weasy” hairstyle. See? Random. I love the way they explore history, and their discussions always prove entertaining, even if the topic isn’t one I would seek out on my own.
Suggested Episode – The Whiskey Rebellion
The Bowery Boys – This podcast is specifically focused on the history of New York City. It discusses stories large and small. Some just relay the story of one particular person who made the headlines, and others focus on much larger scandals, buildings or events. The stories are told through discussions between Greg Young and Tom Meyers, and while the stories are somewhat scripted, the conversation flows really naturally. I love how these guys are really interested in their own stories, and that interest shows through in the enthusiasm in their voices.
Suggested Episode – Great Hoaxes of Old New York
The Dollop – I’m a history teacher who loves to make a good, bad joke. You know that kind of joke, it’s a joke that makes you laugh a little, and groan a bit more (I’m known for my bad history puns). The guys who run the Dollop, Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds, are better at the laughing portion of the joke. As they weave a story, they pick it apart, make jokes, and assess the logic behind the development of events. Of all the podcasts on this list, this one probably makes me laugh the most! (Just an FYI, this one is NSFW. Nothing crazy, but there is some swearing. Sometimes the episode topics are quite adult.)
Suggested Episode – The Terror of 1741
Visions of Education – This podcast is specifically directed towards teachers of history. As they note in their introduction, they try to “bring the fuzzy ideas of education into focus.” It’s hosted by an education professor, Dan Krutka and Michael Milton, a high school history teacher. I love their discussions because they try and connect educational research into teaching history, history as a topic, and the developing of new history curriculum. The research they discuss is very current, and as someone who is in the process of transforming my curriculum into C3 teaching, I really appreciate the topics they choose.
Suggested Episode – Media Literacy and Fake News
Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History – Frankly, this podcast is a bit nuts. Each episode runs hours long, and it feels more like you’re listening to an audiobook rather than a regular podcast. Carlin goes deep into narrative history, and he has a penchant for world history topics – the kind of stories that sound like they belong in an epic poem. Only his most recent episode are available for free. Eventually, they’re placed in an archive for purchase. Carlin has a particular style, either you’ll find his podcasts obsessive, or they’re just not for you. Either way, you should give them a try.
Suggested Episode – King of Kings III
Backstory – Backstory is a really popular public radio show (that always appears in podcast form. It’s a coordinated effort with three hosts -Ed Ayers, Peter Onuf, and Brian Balogh – all historians. These guys pick a specific topic and then interview other historians who have expertise on that particular topic. There are adorable history nerd type jokes, and a storytelling approach that really makes the history engaging and absorbing. This is probably my newest favorite, and I’ve been going back and listening to older episodes these past few months.
Suggested Episode – Four More Years (Just a recent favorite)
Ben Franklin’s World – This podcast focuses on early American History, and it’s more serious in tone. What I love about this podcast is that it focuses on real historians who are writing history. This podcast is hosted by Liz Covart. She interviews historians with relevant historical expertise. Being a podcast about early American History, some of the topics are a little dry for my taste, but they are excellent with the detail and explanation. I love that this podcast also discusses the process of “doing” history. Sometimes the work of historians tends to rather insular, and this helps to break that barrier. If I knew I needed a more detailed understanding of a particular topic from this time, I would most certainly turn to this podcast.
Suggested Episode – Mary Beth Norton – The Tea Crisis of 1773
The History Chicks – This is another new favorite of mine. History Chicks focuses on famous women in both U.S and World History. Beckett Graham and Susan Vollenweider are the hosts, and I find them both delightful. Generally speaking, each host the show separately. While I generally find myself tuning out when there’s just one voice, I don’t have a problem with these ladies. Some are more famous (Like Lucille Ball), and others focus on more obscure women in History (like Lillian Moller Gilbreth).
Suggested Episode – Ida B. Wells
That’s it! I know there are many more history related podcasts out there, however, these are the podcasts that I thought would be most useful for teachers of History.
Do you have a favorite History podcast? Add it in the comment section below!