BackStory

BackStory

www.backstoryradio.org
BackStory is a weekly public podcast hosted by U.S. historians Ed Ayers, Brian Balogh, Nathan Connolly and Joanne Freeman. We’re based in Charlottesville, Va. at Virginia Humanities. There’s the history you had to learn, and the history you want to learn - that’s where BackStory comes in. Each week BackStory takes a topic that people are talking about and explores it through the lens of American history. Through stories, interviews, and conversations with our listeners, BackStory makes history engaging and fun.


325: American Empire: From Scene on Radio
May 22 • 76 min
“America” and “empire.” Do those words go together? If so, what kind of imperialism does the U.S. practice, and how has American empire changed over time?
324: Best of BackStory: The Time Joanne Freeman Went to Congress
May 15 • 44 min
In this best of BackStory, Joanne presents three striking conversations from her time on the show.
276: Red in the Stars and Stripes?: A History of Socialism in America
May 8 • 59 min
On this episode of BackStory, Brian and Nathan reveal the rich history of socialism in the United States.
323: Zooming Ahead: How Virtual Learning is Shaping the College Classroom
May 1 • 21 min
On this episode of BackStory, Brian dives into the topic of teaching and where the virtual college classroom fits into the history of higher education in the United States.
322: 1980s Environmentalism and How the Reagan-Era Shaped the Natural World
Apr 24 • 61 min
On this episode of BackStory, Ed and Brian dig into the 1980s and explore how actions in both federal policy and grassroots movements shaped environmentalism.
321: Give Us the Ballot: From LBJ and the Great Society
Apr 17 • 52 min
How did Lyndon Johnson, who made so ruinous a mess in Vietnam, pull off such an extraordinary set of accomplishments on the domestic front? That’s the question “LBJ and the Great Society” will be exploring through the recorded recollections of those who…
320: Best of BackStory: The Time Nathan Connolly Had A Close Encounter
Apr 10 • 37 min
In this best of BackStory, Nathan presents three of his favorite interviews from his time on the show.
319: Overcoming An Outbreak: How San Francisco Survived the Plague
Apr 9 • 25 min
In this special bonus episode, Ed talks with David K. Randall, author of Black Death at the Golden Gate: The Race to Save America from the Bubonic Plague.
281: Mind, Body and Spirit: The History of Wellness In America
Apr 3 • 56 min
On this episode of BackStory, Ed and Brian explore the history of the wellness industry in the U.S.
318: Best of BackStory: The Time Brian Balogh Went to a Monastery
Mar 27 • 27 min
In this edition of the “Best of BackStory,” Brian brings you three of his favorite interviews from his time at BackStory.
317: Fighting Jane Crow: The Multifaceted Life and Legacy of Pauli Murray
Mar 20 • 76 min
This week on BackStory, Ed and Joanne explore the life and legacy of Pauli Murray.
316: Blacks and Indians: From What’s Ray Saying?
Mar 13 • 40 min
What’s Ray Saying? is a podcast that takes a deeper view into Black life in America by examining the intersection of history, narrative, and experience.
Past Pandemics: What Can We Learn That May Help Us Today?
Mar 12 • 24 min
The coronavirus might be new. But this is by no means the first time that America and the world have been in the grips of a deadly virus.
315: New Stories for an Old Conflict: Rethinking Civil War Narratives
Mar 6 • 35 min
On this episode of BackStory, Joanne and Ed speak with two scholars who are offering new takes on the Civil War you think you know.
314: People Making History: The Power and Perils of Telling History Through Individual Stories
Feb 28 • 34 min
On this episode of BackStory, Joanne, Ed and Brian present and discuss a particular person from their time period, someone who they think sheds much-needed light on our current moment.
313: Best of BackStory: The Time Ed Ayers Marched Into Richmond
Feb 21 • 39 min
A founding host of the show, Ed Ayers has had hundreds of conversations on a huge variety of topics. But some of his favorite BackStory moments touched on anniversaries and events related to his own field in American history: slavery, the Civil War, and…
312: From Music to Madiba: A History of U.S. Relations with South Africa
Feb 14 • 50 min
On this episode of BackStory, Joanne, Ed and Brian take a look at the complicated and often contentious relationship American officials and anti-racism activists have had with South Africa.
311: “The Gay Agenda” from American Hysteria
Feb 7 • 44 min
This week, we’re showcasing another incredible history podcast, American Hysteria.
310: Seminoles, Retirees and Florida Man: A Brief History of the Sunshine State
Jan 31 • 74 min
On this episode of BackStory, Joanne, Nathan and Brian learn about the history of the state of Florida.
309: Best of BackStory: The Time Peter Onuf Declared Independence
Jan 24 • 31 min
On this episode of BackStory, Peter Onuf brings you some of his favorite segments from his time with the show.
235: The Real Martin Luther King: Reflecting on MLK 50 Years After His Death
Jan 17 • 51 min
On this episode of BackStory, Ed, Brian, Nathan and Joanne explore the legacy of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.
308: The U.S. and Iran: A Brief History of an Often Tense Relationship
Jan 10 • 32 min
On this episode of BackStory, Brian speaks with Hussein Banai about the history of U.S./Iran relations.
307: Those Were The Days: Nostalgia in American History
Jan 3 • 69 min
On this episode of BackStory, Ed, Nathan, and Joanne explore how a longing for bygone eras has shaped politics and culture throughout American history.
257: Stuffed - Taxidermy in the History of America
Dec 27, 2019 • 70 min
On this episode of BackStory, Ed, Brian and Nathan explore the history of American taxidermy.
306: The Best of BackStory 2019
Dec 20, 2019 • 46 min
305: From BackStory to You: A History of Giving and Receiving
Dec 13, 2019 • 59 min
On this episode of BackStory, Brian, Joanne and Nathan explore the many different forms gift giving has taken in American history.
304: Telling Stories About the Past: Historians on Historical Fiction
Dec 6, 2019 • 44 min
On this episode, Nathan, Joanne, Brian and Ed turn our annual Holiday Book Show into an opportunity to talk all things historical fiction. They offer their picks for movies and books about history, and unpack the many ways fiction can help us understand…
225: What’s Cooking? A History of Food in America
Nov 29, 2019 • 50 min
Brian, Joanne, and Nathan sit down to discuss some of America’s many homegrown culinary traditions and what the food we eat says about American identity.
303: Sunny Days: The History of Sesame Street in America and the World
Nov 22, 2019 • 56 min
On this episode of BackStory, Brian, Ed and Joanne explore the history of Sesame Street and what made a show about muppets and their neighbors so revolutionary.
Sponsored: Introducing Clearstory, from This Old House
Nov 20, 2019 • 26 min
Brought to you by This Old House, Clearstory sheds light on the surprising stories behind our homes.
302: The End of an Era: History That Was Made - and Unmade - in the 2010s
Nov 15, 2019 • 29 min
On this episode of BackStory, Brian, Nathan and Joanne talk about the memorable moments of the last 10 years and what future historians might say about the decade.
301: The Chinese in American History: How Afong Moy, Mayling Soong and Bruce Lee Changed the Narrative About China
Nov 11, 2019 • 66 min
On this episode of BackStory, Nathan, Joanne and special guest host Erika Lee go beyond the standard narrative of US-China relations.
195: Call To Arms: Enlistment in America
Nov 8, 2019 • 42 min
In this episode of BackStory, Ed, Joanne and Brian look at the many reasons for joining the US armed services - from a sense of patriotism, to escaping poverty, to earning American citizenship.
300: Blasts from the Past: A History of Dynamite in the United States
Nov 1, 2019 • 35 min
In this episode, Brian teams up with Lizzie Peabody, host of Sidedoor, a podcast from the Smithsonian, to detonate some explosive stories in dynamite’s history.
Coming Up: The History of Dynamite in America
Oct 29, 2019 • 6 min
This is a preview of our upcoming episode, in which BackStory teams up with Lizzie Peabody, host of Sidedoor, a podcast from the Smithsonian, to present the explosive history of dynamite in America.
299: Haunted Histories: A BackStory Halloween Special
Oct 25, 2019 • 37 min
On this episode, Joanne brings you a sampling of some of our spookiest segments just in time for Halloween.
298: Rallying Behind Racism: The Women of White Supremacy
Oct 18, 2019 • 55 min
On this episode of BackStory, Brian, Nathan and Joanne dig into the little known history of white women and white supremacy.
“The Schizophrenic Sixties” from episode “States of Mind”
Oct 16, 2019 • 12 min
In this excerpt from the 2014 episode “States of Mind,” sociologist Jonathan Metzl talks with Brian about the rise of black protest in the 1960s and 70s, and how it was increasingly redefined in psychiatric terms.
297: How Reconstruction Transformed the Constitution: A Feature Conversation with Pulitzer Prize-winning Historian Eric Foner
Oct 11, 2019 • 36 min
On this episode, Ed sits down with Eric Foner to talk about public perceptions of Reconstruction, the landmark amendments to the Constitution and how they have the power to change the country today.
“Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight” from episode #0136 “Where There’s Smoke”
Oct 9, 2019 • 14 min
In this segment from BackStory’s 2015 show, “Where There’s Smoke: A History of Fire,” host emeritus Peter Onuf presents a story by reporter Chelsea Davis about how San Francisco’s thriving Chinatown emerged from the ashes of the 1906 Earthquake and the…
Sponsored: Introducing American Elections: Wicked Game
Oct 8, 2019 • 8 min
296: Darkness Over the Plain: The Bison in American History
Oct 4, 2019 • 47 min
On this episode of BackStory, Brian and Nathan explore the history of bison in America.
231: Life After the Oval Office: Presidential Legacies
Oct 2, 2019 • 49 min
Joanne, Brian, and Nathan explore the ‘afterlives’ of presidents: what do they do with their time once they’re out of office — and how do we remember them once they’re gone?
295: Impeachment Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: High Crimes and Misdemeanors in American History
Sep 27, 2019 • 30 min
On this episode of BackStory, Joanne, Nathan and Brian talk about impeachment in the past, present and (possibly) future of American history.
Sponsored: Introducing Lost at the Smithsonian with Aasif Mandvi
Sep 26, 2019 • 8 min
294: The Long Shadow of the Plantation: How a Weighted Past Creates a Complicated Present
Sep 20, 2019 • 57 min
On this episode of BackStory, Ed, Joanne, and Nathan explore how people are repurposing plantations and engaging with the sites’ nuanced histories.
218: Close Encounters: UFOs in American History
Sep 18, 2019 • 62 min
On this episode of BackStory, Nathan, Brian and Ed discuss the things in the sky we struggle to explain – unidentified flying objects.
216: What’s in a Number?: Thirteen in American History
Sep 13, 2019 • 52 min
On this episode of BackStory, Joanne, Nathan and Brian explore stories of superstition and the surprising roles the number 13 has played across American history.
“Trade Winds” from episode #0141 “They Might Be Giants: China and the U.S.”
Sep 11, 2019 • 12 min
In this segment from BackStory’s 2015 show, “They Might Be Giants: China and the U.S.,” host emeritus Peter Onuf talks to historian John Haddad about how Americans smuggling opium into China during the 19th century led the Chinese to crack down on trade…
293: Standing Rock and the History of Indigenous Resistance in the United States
Sep 6, 2019 • 37 min
On this episode of BackStory, Nathan talks with historian and activist Nick Estes about his experience at Standing Rock, the history of Indigenous resistance, and the current state of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate” from episode #043 “Weathering the Storm”
Sep 4, 2019 • 12 min
In this segment from BackStory’s 2012 show, “Weathering the Storm,” host emeritus Peter Onuf learns from Oxford University professor Gareth Davies that responses to disasters are often fraught with politics.
292: BackStory’s Labor Day Special: A History of Work and Labor Relations in the U.S.
Aug 30, 2019 • 38 min
On this episode of BackStory, Brian presents a compilation of BackStory’s best segments about work and workers.
“Let Freedom Ring” from episode #075 “Fierce Urgency of Now”
Aug 28, 2019 • 11 min
In this segment from BackStory’s 2013 show, “Fierce Urgency of Now: The 1963 March on Washington,” Ed talks with historian David Blight about the continuing impact of the Civil War in shaping the context within which the March on Washington took place.
291: 1619: The Arrival of the First Africans in Virginia
Aug 23, 2019 • 60 min
On this episode of BackStory, Ed, Nathan and Joanne dig into the complicated history of 1619 and the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first Africans to the English colonies.
Teaser: 1619: The Arrival of the First Africans in Virginia
Aug 22, 2019 • 3 min
On Friday’s episode, BackStory digs into the complicated history of 1619 and the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first Africans to the English colonies.
“Above the Law” from episode #104 “Serve and Protect?”
Aug 21, 2019 • 13 min
Producer Nina Earnest explores how the professionalization of the Los Angeles Police Department ended up putting the department above the law they were supposed to enforce.
290: Enlightened America?: A History of Buddhism in the United States
Aug 16, 2019 • 64 min
On this episode of BackStory, Brian, Joanne, and Nathan, explore the ways “American Buddhism” has adapted and evolved throughout the 20th century.
184: Border Patrols: Policing Immigration in America
Aug 14, 2019 • 38 min
On this episode of BackStory, Brian, Nathan and Joanne consider the origins of illegal immigration and look at how the government’s deportation powers have grown over time.
289: Man Up: A Look at Masculinity in American History
Aug 9, 2019 • 28 min
On this episode of BackStory, Ed, Brian and host emeritus Peter Onuf explore the changing perceptions of American manhood.
“Armed For Freedom” from episode #183 “Taking it to the Streets”
Aug 7, 2019 • 11 min
In this segment from BackStory’s 2017 show, “Taking it to the Streets,” Brian and Ed talk to Adam Winkler of UCLA about when the Black Panthers became one of the first groups to claim gun ownership as a constitutional right.
Sponsored: Introducing Sean Carroll’s Mindscape
Aug 5, 2019 • 10 min
252: Thar She Blows Again: The History of Whales and America (Part 2)
Aug 2, 2019 • 64 min
On this episode of BackStory, Ed joins Brian, Nathan and Joanne as they continue to explore the history of America’s relationship to the largest marine mammals.
251: Thar She Blows: The History of Whales and America
Jul 31, 2019 • 44 min
On this episode of BackStory, Brian, Nathan and Joanne explore the history of America’s relationship to the largest marine mammals.
288: Making the Team: Sports and Equality in American History
Jul 26, 2019 • 29 min
On this episode of BackStory, Ed revisits past segments that explore the issue of sports and equality throughout American history.
“Jose Julio Henna & the Invasion of Puerto Rico” and “What is Puerto Rico?” from episode 248 “After Hurricane Maria”
Jul 24, 2019 • 19 min
In this segment from BackStory’s 2018 show, “After Hurricane Maria,” Brian, Ed and Nathan take a look at the historical relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States.
287: Moon, Man, and Myths: The 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11
Jul 19, 2019 • 65 min
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, BackStory launches into the history of America’s race to the moon.
286: Historians in the Press: Why Citation by the Media is Important, Even if it Rarely Happens
Jul 17, 2019 • 28 min
On this special episode of BackStory, Nathan and Ed talk to Professor Sarah Milov about her omission in the credits of last week’s Here & Now and about the broader issues facing historians who are regularly in the media.
285: How Silicon Valley Remade America in Its Image: A History of Digital Disruption
Jul 12, 2019 • 33 min
On this episode of BackStory, Brian talks with historian Margaret O’Mara about Silicon Valley’s rise to global tech capital.
212: The Melting Pot: Americans and Assimilation
Jul 5, 2019 • 62 min
On this episode of BackStory, Brian, Joanne, and Nathan wrestle with a long-running tension in our country’s history: what it means to assimilate and “become American.”
284: A History of Stonewall, the Riot That Started the LGBTQ Revolution
Jun 28, 2019 • 50 min
On this episode of BackStory, Brian and Nathan discover how the Stonewall uprising led to a wave of activism, protest and political agitation. #Stonewall50
283: In God We Trust? The History of Religious Identity in America
Jun 21, 2019 • 40 min
On this episode of BackStory, Joanne presents segments from BackStory’s archive that look at religious identity in America.
Sponsored Promotion: Bleeped
Jun 18, 2019 • 11 min
Bleeped is a new podcast about censorship and the people who stand up to it.
282: The Many Lives of Roe v Wade: The Little Known History Behind the Famous Ruling
Jun 14, 2019 • 65 min
On this episode of BackStory, Nathan and Joanne dig into the history and explore the legacy of Roe V. Wade.
Sponsored Promotion: Unknown History Podcast
Jun 11, 2019 • 16 min
In this bonus content for BackStory listeners, author and historian Giles Milton of “Unknown History” podcast shares a segment from a recent episode about D-Day.
281: Mind, Body and Spirit: The History of Wellness in America
Jun 7, 2019 • 57 min
On this episode of BackStory, Ed and Brian explore the history of the wellness industry in the U.S.
280: Song of Ourselves? Walt Whitman and the American Imagination
May 31, 2019 • 66 min
On this episode of BackStory, Ed, Nathan and Joanne explore Walt Whitman’s life and legacy in honor of the poet’s 200th birthday.
279: Paying for the Past: Reparations and American History
May 24, 2019 • 74 min
On this episode of BackStory, Nathan, Ed and Brian explore the complicated - and often contentious - history of reparations in America.
Sponsored Promotion: Family Ghosts
May 20, 2019 • 10 min
Every house is haunted. In each episode of Family Ghosts, we investigate the true story behind a mysterious figure whose legend has followed a family for generations. Grandmothers who were secretly jewel smugglers, uncles who led double lives, siblings…
234: You Have The Right to Remain Silent: A History of the Miranda Warning
May 17, 2019 • 35 min
On this episode of BackStory, Nathan and Joanne look at the interrogation that led to the landmark Supreme Court case “Miranda v. Arizona.”
278: The Year of the Woman: A History of Women in Congress
May 10, 2019 • 55 min
On this episode of BackStory, Brian and Joanne look at the history of women in Congress.
277: The Civil War in the 21st Century: A New Museum Marks an Old Conflict
May 3, 2019 • 56 min
On this episode of BackStory, Ed and senior producer Melissa Gismondi get an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the American Civil War Museum.
275: Alternative Facts, Falsehoods and Delusions: The Lies We’ve Told Ourselves and Each Other in American History
Apr 19, 2019 • 30 min
On this episode of BackStory, Nathan digs into the BackStory archives to bring you a selection of segments that look at alternative facts in American life.
274: Death on the Assembly Line: Industrial Tragedies in American History
Apr 12, 2019 • 71 min
On this episode of BackStory, Brian and Nathan consider the history of industrial disasters and how they’ve changed the nature of American capitalism.
273: All the Presidents’ Vetoes: A Brief History of Saying No to Legislation
Apr 5, 2019 • 40 min
On this episode of BackStory, Joanne and Brian look at presidential vetoes through two periods in American history.
236: Teen Activists: A History of Youth Politics and Protest
Mar 29, 2019 • 66 min
On this episode of BackStory, Joanne, Brian and Ed talk about the role young people have played in American politics.
272: Burnt Corks & Cakewalks: The Toxic Legacy of Blackface in American History
Mar 22, 2019 • 67 min
On this episode of BackStory, Ed, Nathan and Brian explore the history of blackface and look to explain its long life in American culture.
243: Shore Thing: A History of the Beach
Mar 15, 2019 • 52 min
On this episode of BackStory, Ed, Joanne, and Brian dip their toes into four tales from America’s shoreline.
271: Oh, Bloody Hell: BackStory’s History of Profanity in America
Mar 8, 2019 • 56 min
On this episode of BackStory, Ed, Brian and Nathan look at the history of profanity in America.
270: Shattering the Glass Ceiling in America: BackStory Celebrates Women’s History Month
Mar 1, 2019 • 39 min
On this episode of BackStory, Brian showcases our favorite segments that highlight female achievement in American history.
269: Man vs. the Machine: Technophobia and American Society
Feb 22, 2019 • 42 min
268: Love Off Limits: A History of the Relationships Once Considered Taboo in America
Feb 15, 2019 • 51 min
267: The Faces of Racism: A History of Blackface and Minstrelsy in American Culture
Feb 8, 2019 • 36 min
266: BlackStory: BackStory Celebrates Black History Month with a Compilation
Feb 1, 2019 • 53 min
265: Nixon Beyond Watergate: A History of the Presidency Before the Scandal
Jan 25, 2019 • 65 min
264: When You Just Want to be Alone: The History of Solitude in America
Jan 18, 2019 • 55 min
263: The BackStory Prize: Our Choice for the Best Public History Project in America
Jan 11, 2019 • 36 min
262: Finding Americana: Butter Sculptures, Tiny Towns and Other Irresistible Gems
Jan 4, 2019 • 55 min
What could be more American than … butter carving? Maybe miniature roadside towns or perhaps a dead whale on a train. On this episode of BackStory, Ed, Brian and Nathan explore the best of Americana, finding the unique and the kitschy in American culture.…
225: What’s Cooking? A History of Food in America
Dec 28, 2018 • 51 min
261: Playing the Past: Video Games and American History
Dec 21, 2018 • 58 min
260: The BackStory Holiday Book Show: 19 History Books for the Holiday Season
Dec 14, 2018 • 63 min
259: Out of the Closet: The LGBTQ Community in American History
Dec 7, 2018 • 81 min
230: Forgotten Flu: America & the 1918 Pandemic
Nov 30, 2018 • 45 min
The CDC recommended flu shots for all this year after more than 80,000 Americans succumbed to influenza in 2017 - a four-decade high. But 100 years ago, a strain of H1N1 that was first found in soldiers in the spring of 1918 rapidly spread across the…
257: Stuffed: Taxidermy in the History of America
Nov 23, 2018 • 70 min
256: Divided States of America? The History of An Often Disjointed Union
Nov 16, 2018 • 58 min
Google the phrase “divided America” and you’ll find numerous, stories, opinion pieces and even psychological theories on why we’re so disconnected. From race and class to gender and politics, it seems that Americans can’t see eye-to-eye - to the point…
255: Lincoln the Lawyer: Abraham Lincoln’s Early Life and Career
Nov 9, 2018 • 56 min
184: Border Patrols: Policing Immigration in America
Nov 2, 2018 • 39 min
Thousands of Central American migrants, dubbed the “migrant caravan,” have traveled north on foot towards the U.S. border since mid-October. Originating in Honduras, the group includes men, women and children attempting to escape high poverty, violence…
254: The War to End All Wars: Remembering WWI
Oct 26, 2018 • 50 min
On November 11, 1918, Germany formally surrendered to the Allied Powers, about 19 months after the United States entered the conflict. On this episode, Brian and Nathan reflect on how, 100 years later, “the war to end all wars” is still with Americans.
253: To be a Citizen? The History of Becoming American
Oct 19, 2018 • 56 min
Around three quarters of a million people applied to be American Citizens in 2017. But what does citizenship actually mean? The way Americans have defined citizenship has changed over time and many have found their citizenship challenged, undermined,…
250: Land of the Free? The History of Incarceration in the U.S.
Sep 28, 2018 • 40 min
(Contains archival audio in segments 1 and 3 (see backstoryradio.org for details).) The United States imprisons more of its citizens than any other nation in the world. This month prisoners across the U.S. took part in a National Prison strike protesting…
249: Who Wants to be a Millionaire? The History of America’s Wealthy Elite
Sep 14, 2018 • 48 min
It’s been ten years since the collapse of Lehman Brothers shook the world’s economy. Today Ed, Nathan and Brian explore the iconic figure of the American Millionaire, telling the story of one of the first African American Millionaires, delving into the…
248: After Hurricane Maria: The History of Puerto Rico and the United States
Sep 7, 2018 • 54 min
In August of 2018, officials in Puerto Rico reported that over 3,000 people died in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. One year after the disaster, Brian, Ed and Nathan take a look at the historical relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States.…
181: Fit to Print?: A History of Fake News
Aug 31, 2018 • 35 min
As we approach the midterm elections, concerns about fake news - widely circulated news stories that are inaccurate, misleading, or completely made-up – continue to dominate the headlines. The topics, targets, and sources of this content continues to…
247: Hot Enough For You? The History of Climate Change
Aug 24, 2018 • 32 min
246: In the Shadow of the Mushroom Cloud: A History of the Atomic Age
Aug 17, 2018 • 56 min
187: A More Perfect Union? The Reconstruction Era
Aug 10, 2018 • 44 min
On this episode of BackStory, Ed, Nathan and Joanne explore the central questions of the Reconstruction era.
245: The Battle for Charlottesville’s Soul: One Year Later, A Community Looks Back
Aug 3, 2018 • 47 min
244: Elementary Mr. President: Sherlock Holmes, the Supreme Court and Dr. Spock
Jul 27, 2018 • 39 min
212: The Melting Pot: Americans & Assimilation
Jul 20, 2018 • 62 min
This week, Brian, Joanne, and Nathan wrestle with a long-running tension in our country’s history: what it means to assimilate and “become American.” We’ll explore the 19th-century notions of who could become an American and the ways they were expected to…
216: What’s in a Number? Thirteen in American History
Jul 6, 2018 • 51 min
The 13th of any month is more likely to occur on a Friday than any other day of the week and it’s happened as many as three times in a single calendar year. So, why is it considered bad luck? In this episode, Joanne, Nathan and Brian explore stories of…
191: Saving American History
Jun 29, 2018 • 41 min
242: Summer Reading List: 14 History Books You’ll Want to Read
Jun 22, 2018 • 55 min
What should you be reading this summer? BackStory’s hosts and special guests share their recommendations of the history page turners you should pack for the beach.
241: The Camera Never Lies? History Through the Viewfinder
Jun 15, 2018 • 36 min
210: Death Before Dishonor: Shame and Reputation in American History
Jun 8, 2018 • 47 min
This week, Ed, Nathan and Joanne discuss the importance of honor throughout American history. We’ll explore how 19th-century honor culture demanded that a man’s good name be saved by any means necessary — even murder. And we’ll consider how the concept…
205: Are We There Yet? Americans On Vacation
Jun 1, 2018 • 35 min
As Americans hit the road and take to the skies for summer vacation, Joanne, Ed, and Nathan explore the ways Americans have spent their time off.
240: Reflecting on Darkness: Lynching; Americans and the Holocaust
May 25, 2018 • 40 min
On this week’s episode, Nathan, Brian, Joanne & Ed talk about how Americans remember and reckon with systematic violence, and how we keep this difficult history alive and in the public eye. Historian Kidada Williams reads letters from a man seeking…
239: Upward Nobility: American-Made Royalty
May 18, 2018 • 45 min
The marriage of England’s Prince Harry to American actress Meghan Markle is making headlines around the world. U.S. women marrying into aristocracy has a surprisingly long history. This week, Ed, Brian, and Joanne look at the outsized political impact…
238: Shock of the New: The Legacy of the 1893 World’s Fair
May 11, 2018 • 57 min
199: Crowning Glory: A History of Hair in America
May 4, 2018 • 52 min
237: “Dear Mr President…”: Letters to FDR, #twitterstorians, and one man’s experience of slavery’s legacy
Apr 27, 2018 • 31 min
185: Behind the Bylines: Advocacy Journalism in America
Apr 20, 2018 • 49 min
193: The Habit: Opioid Addiction in America
Apr 6, 2018 • 42 min
235: The Real Martin Luther King: Reflecting on MLK 50 Years After His Death
Mar 30, 2018 • 51 min
Civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated 50 years ago. Today he is celebrated as an American hero and championed in children’s books and inspirational posters. But have Americans lost sight of the real MLK?
233: Wherever Green is Worn: The Irish in America
Mar 16, 2018 • 52 min
52: Turf War: A History of College Sports
Mar 9, 2018 • 50 min
On this episode, Brian, Peter, and Ed unpack the origins of college sports and the ways universities originally justified athletics on campus. From the first collegiate PHYS ED program at Amherst College to the little-known story about the integration of…
204: Too Good To Be True?: Myths in American History
Mar 2, 2018 • 56 min
232: Billy Graham, Black Panther and Haiti, and Thomas Edison’s Reputation
Feb 23, 2018 • 34 min
231: Life After the Oval Office: Presidential Legacies
Feb 16, 2018 • 49 min
138: Catholics in America
Feb 9, 2018 • 48 min
99: US vs Them: Sports on the World Stage
Jan 26, 2018 • 55 min
This year’s Winter Olympics have already seen their share of drama — and political jockeying — and the games haven’t even begun. So, BackStory is digging into the history of the power of international sports. We’ll discuss how sports have been tangled up…
229: All that Glitters? Legacies of the California Gold Rush
Jan 19, 2018 • 53 min
228: Presidents in the Public Eye, Slogans, and the Value of History
Jan 12, 2018 • 37 min
227: Schism: The Branch Davidians at Waco
Jan 5, 2018 • 38 min
226: History for the Headlines: 2017 in Review
Dec 29, 2017 • 48 min
On this episode, Brian, Ed, Joanne, and Nathan look back at the stories we produced in 2017. Topics include fake news, the opioid crisis, and the August 12th white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.
133: Untrammeled: Americans and the Wilderness
Dec 22, 2017 • 51 min
224: Man of The People: A New Technology Falls Into the Wrong Hands
Dec 8, 2017 • 44 min
223: Men Apologizing, Alabama Senate Race, Net Neutrality
Dec 1, 2017 • 38 min
222: On the Take: Corruption in America
Nov 24, 2017 • 50 min
221: The Thin Light of Freedom
Nov 17, 2017 • 46 min
220: Red Dawn: Americans and the Bolshevik Revolution
Nov 10, 2017 • 55 min
One hundred years ago, Vladimir Lenin and his Bolshevik Party seized power in a revolution that would change the world. They would establish the world’s first Marxist state, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, a few years later. As the 20th century…
219: Other People’s Battles: American Volunteer Soldiers
Nov 3, 2017 • 53 min
An estimated 200 American volunteer soldiers have joined the fight against the Islamic State. They’re part of a much longer tradition of freelance fighters, like early 19th century American privateers who fought in Latin America’s wars of independence and…
217: Boy Scouts Welcome Girls, Trump Drums Up Support for War, America as a Judeo-Christian Nation
Oct 20, 2017 • 34 min
215: It is So Ordered: 4 Landmark Decisions of the Supreme Court
Oct 6, 2017 • 47 min
This month, the Supreme Court hears oral arguments for cases that may have a profound impact on the lives of everyday Americans — ranging from cell phone privacy and the rights of workers during labor disputes, to whether a baker has the right to turn…
214: Enemies: A History of Bad Blood
Sep 29, 2017 • 45 min
213: Longer Commutes, Equifax Data Breach, and Income Inequality
Sep 22, 2017 • 38 min
In this week’s roundtable discussion, Brian, Joanne and Ed discuss the history behind 3 stories in the news: our lengthening work commutes, the massive data breach at Equifax, and the Census Bureau’s latest numbers on income inequality in America.
212: The Melting Pot: Americans & Assimilation
Sep 15, 2017 • 64 min
This week, Brian, Joanne, and Nathan wrestle with a long-running tension in our country’s history: what it means to assimilate and “become American.” We’ll explore the 19th-century notions of who could become an American and the ways they were expected to…
211: A Conversation with Karl Rove
Sep 8, 2017 • 40 min
Starry-Eyed: A History of the Heavens
Aug 25, 2017 • 50 min
Why do we want to travel to the moon, to Mars, or beyond? We’re saluting this week’s total solar eclipse by looking at how Americans in the past have made sense of meteors, eclipses, and the stars.
Charlottesville: Our Town, Our Country
Aug 18, 2017 • 29 min
Brian, Ed, Joanne, and Nathan share their personal reactions to last week’s violence in Charlottesville, when white supremacists and Neo-Nazis showed up in town, some of them heavily armed. Violent clashes left one counter protester dead, and 34 injured.…
Revisionist Climate: Americans & the Atmosphere
Aug 11, 2017 • 46 min
On this week’s episode, Nathan, Brian and Ed, talk about how Americans have interacted, dealt with, and tried to actively change the North American climate.
Skin Deep: Whiteness in America
Jul 14, 2017 • 53 min
Hometown History: Local Stories From Across The Country
Jul 7, 2017 • 71 min
Contested Landscape: The Battle over Confederate Monuments
Jun 16, 2017 • 46 min
Prying Eyes: Privacy in America
Jun 9, 2017 • 55 min
Is privacy a guaranteed American right? Or is it just continually under threat? On this episode, Joanne, Ed and Nathan explore the places where the private and the public collide. We’ll look at voting in the 19th century, surveillance of gay employees in…
Body Politics, JFK at 100 and African American Memorials
Jun 2, 2017 • 36 min
In this episode of BackStory, Brian’s off, but Joanne, Ed, and Nathan are holding it down and talking about the history behind items in this week’s news. They’ll discuss the art of the Presidential Handshake, John F. Kennedy’s 100th birthday and public…
National Lampoon: A History of American Satire
May 19, 2017 • 35 min
The Habit: Opioid Addiction in America
May 12, 2017 • 43 min
Opioid addiction is a national epidemic. According to the U.S Department of Health & Human Services, “drug overdose deaths are the leading cause of injury death in the United States.” In this episode, Nathan, Ed and Brian look at America’s long history…
Over There: America Enters WWI
Apr 14, 2017 • 46 min
Seeing Red: A History of U.S./Russia Relations
Apr 7, 2017 • 42 min
In recent years, the White House’s relationship with the Kremlin has dominated the headlines in America — from Syria to Ukraine. According to CNN, Vladimir Putin denounced last night’s U.S. airstrike against Syria (a response to a Syrian chemical weapons…
Border Patrols: Policing Immigration in America
Mar 10, 2017 • 40 min
Taking it to the Streets: Protest in America
Mar 3, 2017 • 42 min
On the Outs: Restricting American Immigration
Feb 10, 2017 • 31 min
On Thursday, a federal appeals panel unanimously rejected President Trump’s move to reinstate the ban on travel from seven largely Muslim nations into the United States. The restriction, put into effect by executive order on Jan. 27, is commonly believed…
Worlds Apart: Urban/Rural Divides in America
Feb 3, 2017 • 51 min
PREVIEW - Worlds Apart
Jan 31, 2017 • 4 min
According to the New York Times, the 2016 election “highlighted a growing rural-urban split.” So, on this episode of BackStory, Brian, Ed and Nathan look at what happens when urban and rural Americans collide. They’ll tell the story of one coastal…
Best of BackStory Pt. 2
Jan 25, 2017 • 53 min
Best of BackStory Pt. 2 by BackStory with the American History Guys
Preview
Jan 20, 2017 • 3 min
BackStory is going through some big changes. Take a listen to this preview and learn about everything that’s going into the new BackStory - premiering on Feb. 3!
Best Of BackStory Pt. 1
Jan 18, 2017 • 53 min
We’ll spend our last regularly scheduled broadcasts reviewing some of BackStory’s most memorable moments. We’ll revisit BackStory interviews with history makers, the Guys’ expeditions to see history being made, and the unexpected stories behind some of…
Four More Years: Presidential Inaugurations [rebroadcast]
Jan 8, 2017 • 53 min
As Washington prepares for the next four years, BackStory looks back at some of the more dramatic presidential transitions from the past. On this show, the Guys explore several high-stakes presidential inaugurations and learn what each one tells us about…
Health Nuts: A History of Nutritional Advice [rebroadcast]
Jan 4, 2017 • 59 min
Health Nuts: A History of Nutritional Advice [rebroadcast] by BackStory with the American History Guys
Judaism In America [rebroadcast]
Dec 20, 2016 • 60 min
On Dec. 24th, Jewish communities across the country begin celebrating Hanukkah. The annual holiday celebrates the victory of the Jews over the Greeks, and marks the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in the 2nd century BC. Roughly 2% of the U.S.…
Counter Culture: A History of Shopping [rebroadcast]
Dec 14, 2016 • 53 min
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Or is it? The holiday season is notorious for bringing out the beast in shoppers. On this episode of BackStory, the Guys plunge into the history of shopping in America—the glitz and glamour, the overflowing…
Separation Anxiety: Church & State In America
Dec 7, 2016 • 56 min
From the persecution of Quakers in colonial Massachusetts, to 21st century battles over nativity scenes in public squares, the wall separating church and state is hardly set in stone. On this episode of BackStory, the History Guys explore the often blurry…
Short Take: Native Americans, the U.S. Government, and a History of Treaties
Dec 6, 2016 • 15 min
On Sunday, the Army Corps of Engineers refused to issue a permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline. The water protectors, which includes members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and other tribes (as well as climate activists), celebrated the decision. But…
New & Improved: Advertising in America [rebroadcast]
Nov 30, 2016 • 60 min
Nieman-Marcus’ 2016 Christmas Book, which was first published nearly a century ago as a 16-page leaflet, is 300 pages long. According to Advertising Age, catalogs remain an effective way to reach consumers all year round. This episode of BackStory tackles…
Short Take: A History Of Rigged Elections
Nov 30, 2016 • 18 min
President-elect Donald Trump said the election was rigged because millions of non-citizens voted (although there is no evidence to support the claim), 2016 Green Party Presidential Candidate Jill Stein has requested audits in multiple swing states with…
American As Pumpkin Pie: A History Of Thanksgiving [rebroadcast]
Nov 22, 2016 • 53 min
If a Pilgrim were to attend a contemporary Thanksgiving celebration, he or she would probably be stunned by our “traditional” foods. In this episode of BackStory, The Guys discuss Puritan foods with historian James McWilliams, and religion scholar Anne…
A Whole New World: A History of Utopias
Nov 16, 2016 • 53 min
In his recent book “Utopia for Realists,” Rutger Bregman advocates a 15-hour workweek, universal basic income, and open borders. Sounds like paradise to us! From the Oneida Community’s dream of open, or “complex marriage” to the rise and spectacular fall…
American Exodus: A History of Emigration [rebroadcast]
Nov 11, 2016 • 52 min
With Donald Trump vowing to keep undocumented Mexicans out of the U.S. with a wall and Hillary Clinton promising the same immigrants a path to citizenship, immigration was a big issue in the 2016 presidential election. But what about the flip side –…
Short Take: The 2016 Election
Nov 9, 2016 • 14 min
Early this morning, Donald J. Trump was declared president-elect and will become the 45th President of the United States. The victory came as a surprise to many and it feels like a rupture in American history. Just what should we make of this and how can…
Pulling the Curtain: Voting in America [rebroadcast]
Nov 2, 2016 • 53 min
If the record TV viewership of the Clinton-Trump presidential debates is any guide, voter turnout for the November election could reach levels not seen since the Gilded Age. It’s easy to be nostalgic for the consistently high voter turnout in the late…
Short Take: FBI and U.S. Elections
Nov 1, 2016 • 17 min
Last Friday, FBI Director James Comey informed Congress of a potential link between a device owned by disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The disclosure effectively reopened the investigation…
Bridge For Sale: Deception In America [rebroadcast]
Oct 19, 2016 • 53 min
America has a long and colorful history of confidence men and counterfeiters. On this episode of BackStory, we go back to the time when fake money and fly-by-night banks dominated the economy, and uncover the origins of the lie detector test, known as…
A History of Manufacturing in 5 Objects
Oct 12, 2016 • 58 min
Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have talked about loss of manufacturing jobs, and the importance of having things “Made In America.” In this episode of BackStory, we take a look at the history of American manufacturing by exploring several objects…
Fighting Words: A History of Debate in America
Oct 5, 2016 • 60 min
With the presidential debates between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton dominating the final weeks of the 2016 campaign, we’re taking a look at the history of political debate in America. Do Americans like to argue with –or past – each other? From the…
Keeping Tabs: Data & Surveillance in America [rebroadcast]
Sep 28, 2016 • 54 min
Calls to pardon Edward Snowden, the former CIA contractor who blew the whistle on the NSA’s secret internet and phone surveillance programs, have increased with the recent release of the “Snowden” movie. As the country once again debates whether Snowden…
Banned: A History of Censorship [rebroadcast]
Sep 20, 2016 • 59 min
Americans have sought to censor all kinds of expression: political speech, music, radio, TV, film, even books. In this episode, Peter, Ed, and Brian mark the annual Banned Books Week with an uncut account of censorship in American politics, media, and…
Believer-In-Chief: Faith & The Presidency
Sep 13, 2016 • 58 min
American presidential candidates are expected to proclaim their religious faith and the 2016 election is no exception. In this episode of BackStory, Peter, Ed, and Brian explore the complicated relationship between American presidents and their spiritual…
Body Politics: Disability in America [rebroadcast]
Sep 7, 2016 • 39 min
In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act made everything from parking lots to bathrooms accessible. But before this legislation, disabled people found their own ways to navigate society. On this episode of BackStory, we explore the history of…
Nose to the Grindstone: A History of American Work Ethic
Aug 31, 2016 • 59 min
The Labor Day holiday offers some of us a much-needed break from work, but most Americans don’t get much vacation time. In this episode, the Guys look at American attitudes towards the value, meaning, and importance of work. We examine the meaning of the…
Untrammeled: Americans and the Wilderness [rebroadcast]
Aug 24, 2016 • 53 min
BackStory is quitting the city and heading into the wild. In this episode, Brian, Ed, and Peter revisit America’s fascination with wild places and learn how humans have impacted even the most remote corners of our country. The Guys explore how the first…
Serve & Protect? A History of the Police [rebroadcast]
Aug 16, 2016 • 53 min
For many Americans, police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota earlier this summer were strikingly reminiscent of similar instances across the nation in recent years. The prominence of both the shooting—and the retaliation—has sparked a new round of…
Wish You Were Here: A History of American Tourism
Aug 10, 2016 • 59 min
As summer winds down, millions of Americans are packing their bags and hitting the road. In this episode of BackStory, Peter, Ed and Brian explore the history of American tourism. We’ll hear how asylums and prisons were popular tourist destinations in the…
Another Man’s Treasure: A History Of Trash [rebroadcast]
Aug 3, 2016 • 53 min
Let’s just call this episode trashy. The Guys pick through America’s history of garbage - from the filth-eating pigs that once ran free in New York City and kept the city clean, to the soda industry’s promotion of recycling to boost their bottom line -…
You’ve Come A Long Way?: A History Of Women In Politics
Jul 27, 2016 • 61 min
Hillary Clinton moved a giant step closer to becoming the first woman elected President of the United States when she accepted the Democratic nomination at the party’s convention in Philadelphia. Clinton stands on the shoulders of generations of women who…
Conventional Wisdom: A History of American Political Conventions [rebroadcast]
Jul 21, 2016 • 53 min
The 2016 presidential race switches into high gear this month with the back-to-back Republican and Democratic party conventions. Before they became heavily scripted affairs for TV, conventions were where some of the most critical policy questions were…
The GOP: A History Of The Republican Party
Jul 13, 2016 • 64 min
Donald Trump has clinched the Republican party presidential nomination, and some political pundits wonder if his nomination represents a watershed for the GOP. On this episode of BackStory, we unpack the origins, evolution, and reinvention of the Grand…
Rare History Well Done: Meat In America [rebroadcast]
Jul 7, 2016 • 59 min
Eating meat is a time-honored tradition in America. Whether it’s a 4th of July BBQ, a TV dinner of Salisbury steak or a plate of Hawaiian musubi, meat has always had a big place on the national platter. But over the years, changing technologies and tastes…
Independence Daze: A History of July 4th [rebroadcast]
Jul 4, 2016 • 54 min
In the early days of our nation, July Fourth wasn’t an official holiday at all. In fact, it wasn’t until 1938 that it became a paid day-off. So how did the Fourth become the holiest day on our secular calendar? This episode offers some answers. With…
The Pursuit: A History Of Happiness [rebroadcast]
Jun 29, 2016 • 53 min
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - it’s a phrase we’ve all heard. But do we really know what Thomas Jefferson meant by that? For that matter, did Jefferson place a period or comma after happiness? In this episode, Peter, Ed and Brian begin by…
Above The Fray?: Ideology & The Court
Jun 24, 2016 • 53 min
As of June 2016, the Republican controlled Senate is still refusing to consider President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court. Supreme Court nominees, and the sitting justices have often been at the center of political storms. From Marbury v. Madison,…
Committed: Marriage In America [rebroadcast]
Jun 17, 2016 • 52 min
The month of June gets its name from Juno, the Roman goddess of marriage. This could be part of the reason why June continues to be the most popular month to get married. In this hour of BackStory, we look at how generations of Americans have defined and…
Hamilton: A History
Jun 10, 2016 • 53 min
Alexander Hamilton is living large these days! Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit musical about the Founding Father won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and scored a record-breaking 16 Tony award nominations. In addition, Hamilton’s surge in popularity helped keep his…
Politically Incorrect: Speech In American Politics
Jun 3, 2016 • 53 min
***CONTENT ADVISORY: THIS EPISODE CONTAINS STRONG, UNBLEEPED LANGUAGE*** Donald Trump has clinched the Republican presidential nomination for the 2016 election. On issues including immigration, race, and terrorism, supporters applaud Trump for saying what…
The Beasts Within Domesticated Animals In America [rebroadcast]
May 27, 2016 • 53 min
This past March, Sea World announced it will stop breeding orca whales in captivity, and is phasing out its killer whale shows. Meanwhile, the elephants of Ringling Bros. held their last performance earlier this month. Americans have always loved animals…
All Hopped Up: Drugs In America [rebroadcast]
May 20, 2016 • 53 min
To date, four states have legalized recreational marijuana, 23 states allow it for medical purposes and at least another five are expected to pass marijuana-related legislation this year. Meanwhile, heroin addiction and abuse of prescription painkillers…
Watch The Throne: America & Royalty
May 13, 2016 • 59 min
Queen Elizabeth celebrates her 90th birthday this June and royal watchers around the globe will join the festivities. Despite the Founding Fathers rejecting the British monarchy, Americans have always been fascinated by royalty. For this episode of…
All In: A History of Gambling in America
May 6, 2016 • 54 min
This May, thousands of Americans will bet on the Kentucky Derby, the most heavily-wagered horse race in the U.S. On this episode of BackStory, the Guys explore the history of gambling in America, from 18th century horse racing to cards, lotteries and the…
On The Money: A History Of American Currency [rebroadcast]
Apr 29, 2016 • 52 min
This month, the U.S. Treasury announced that Harriet Tubman would replace Andrew Jackson on the front of the $20 bill. In this episode, we evaluate America’s relationship with money, exploring the transformations of currency over the centuries. The Guys…
Judaism in America
Apr 22, 2016 • 60 min
This month, Jewish communities across the country celebrate Passover, a holiday that marks the end of the Israelites’ enslavement by the Egyptians. Only about 2% of the U.S. population is Jewish, but the influence of American Jews far outweighs their…
Stuck: A History of Political Gridlock [rebroadcast]
Apr 15, 2016 • 53 min
While Senate Republicans refuse to consider President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, the History Guys review the history of gridlock in American politics. In this episode, Peter, Ed and Brian will look at other moments when our system of…
Pass/Fail: An American History of Testing
Apr 8, 2016 • 53 min
This spring, millions of American high school students are taking the newly redesigned SAT, which was first administered in 1926. It’s just one of many types of tests Americans have devised to measure and sort ourselves. In this episode, the Guys delve…
TURF WAR [2016]: A HISTORY OF COLLEGE SPORTS [rebroadcast]
Apr 1, 2016 • 53 min
With less than 2% of ESPN March Madness brackets still perfect, the madness may be more like sadness for many college basketball fans right now. In this episode, the American History Guys unpack the origins of college sports and the ways universities…
Little Caesars: Local Power in America
Mar 28, 2016 • 59 min
As the presidential candidates continue their contentious path to the White House, it’s easy to overlook what’s happening at the local level. For this episode of BackStory, the Guys take a break from the race for the White House and examine local power…
Small Island, Big Shadow Cuba and the U.S. [rebroadcast]
Mar 18, 2016 • 53 min
No sitting U.S. president has visited Cuba in nearly 90 years, but this month President Obama will do just that. This historic visit could signal a new chapter in U.S.-Cuban relations. In this episode, Peter, Ed and Brian consider dramatic moments in…
Well-Regulated Militias: A History Of Armed Protest
Mar 11, 2016 • 54 min
Earlier this year, tensions between federal officials and anti-government militia occupying a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon came to a somewhat violent end. Federal agents shot one of the protesters, while the rest surrendered to the FBI. It’s hardly…
The Middling Sort: Visions of the Middle Class [rebroadcast]
Mar 4, 2016 • 53 min
On this BackStory, we’ll take a look at what it means to be “middle-class” in America. Who belongs to the middle class? Who doesn’t? The Guys explore the rise and fall of the middle class and why so many Americans consider themselves members of this group.
Hard Times: A History Of Unemployment
Feb 26, 2016 • 53 min
President Barack Obama claims that the country’s low unemployment rate shows that we’ve rebounded from the Great Recession. But presidential candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders say the “real” unemployment rate is much higher. During this episode of…
Contagion: Responding to Infectious Disease [rebroadcast]
Feb 19, 2016 • 52 min
As the Zika virus spreads across the Americas, it’s worth looking at how the U.S. has responded to past epidemics. In this episode of BackStory, the Guys consider the impact of smallpox on New York City’s 19th century immigrant communities, and explore…
Real To Reel 2016: History At The Movies
Feb 12, 2016 • 56 min
The 2016 Academy Awards are just around the corner, and Peter, Brian, and Ed are taking a trip to the movies, considering likely Oscar contenders from Trumbo to The Hateful Eight to find out how history made its mark on the silver screen this year.
New & Improved: Advertising In America [rebroadcast]
Feb 5, 2016 • 60 min
More than 100 million Americans will tune in to watch the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers duke it out at Super Bowl 50. And in between the plays, we’ll be bombarded by dozens of commercials, all competing for our attention. The next episode of…
PROMO - New & Improved: Advertising In America [rebroadcast]
Feb 2, 2016 • 2 min
More than 100 million Americans will tune in to watch the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers duke it out at Super Bowl 50. And in between the plays, we’ll be bombarded by dozens of commercials, all competing for our attention. The next episode of…
Court Of Public Opinion: Trial Watching In America
Jan 29, 2016 • 53 min
On this episode of BackStory, the Guys will explore our fascination with courtroom drama. What makes for a compelling case and why have some landmark proceedings received little attention? We’ll consider why so many Americans followed the trial of a young…
City Upon A Hill: A History Of American Exceptionalism [rebroadcast]
Jan 22, 2016 • 54 min
In his final State of the Union address, President Obama called America “the most powerful nation on Earth,” saying, “When it comes to every important international issue, people of the world do not look to Beijing or Moscow to lead—they call us.”…
Color Lines: Racial Passing In America
Jan 15, 2016 • 66 min
On this episode of BackStory, the Guys will consider how and why Americans throughout the centuries have crossed the lines of racial identity, and find out what the history of passing has to say about race, identity, and privilege in America. We’ll look…
The Future Then: Visions of America Yet to Come [rebroadcast]
Jan 8, 2016 • 52 min
For as long as anyone can remember, Americans have imagined the future—from the flying cars and 3-hour workdays of The Jetsons to World War III and nuclear holocaust. Sometimes we’ve even made those dreams come true, or at least we’ve tried. On this…
Cheers and Jeers: Alcohol in America [rebroadcast]
Dec 31, 2015 • 53 min
A new year has dawned, and we’re willing to bet that Americans across the nation are fighting off hangovers after ringing it in with a drink—or three. On this episode of BackStory, we’re raising our glasses to the long history of alcohol in America. The…
History for the Headlines: 2015 in Review
Dec 25, 2015 • 53 min
Here at BackStory, we’re always on the lookout for stories from the past that help us make sense of our lives today. As 2015 comes to a close, we’re winding back the clock to find out what some of our favorite BackStory moments have to say about the…
Islam and the United States [rebroadcast]
Dec 18, 2015 • 55 min
On this episode of BackStory, we’ll take a look at the long and surprising history of America’s relationship with Islam, from the Barbary Wars of the early 19th century to the clash between American-born Muslims and more recent immigrants from the Middle…
American Prophets: Religions Born in the U.S.
Dec 11, 2015 • 53 min
History textbooks often argue that the United States was founded on the principle of religious freedom, beginning with the Pilgrims who sought refuge from the Church of England. But the America of centuries past was more than a safe haven for religious…
Counter Culture: A History of Shopping [rebroadcast]
Dec 4, 2015 • 53 min
On this episode of BackStory, the Guys jump headlong into the history of shopping in America—the glitz and glamor, the overflowing shelves, and the cheesy muzak. They’ll consider the role consumption played in the revolutionary politics of the colonies,…
Three Squares: Mealtime in America [rebroadcast]
Nov 24, 2015 • 53 min
Three square meals a day. Three to five servings of fruits and vegetables, two to three servings of milk, yogurt, or cheese. Avoid fats and sugar. Red meat in moderation. We’re used to hearing these kinds of instructions. But eating isn’t just about…
Contested Landscape: Confederate Symbols in America
Nov 20, 2015 • 59 min
In July of this year, the murder of nine African-American parishioners at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina reignited a longstanding debate about the Confederate flag. Soon after the shooting, South Carolina lawmakers voted to remove…
Body Politics: Disability in America
Nov 13, 2015 • 58 min
The impact of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act is visible in parking lots, bathrooms, and public buildings across the country. But for centuries before the ramps and signs were erected, disabled people had to find their own ways to navigate…
Coming Home: A History of War Veterans [rebroadcast]
Nov 5, 2015 • 55 min
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have created tens of thousands of new combat veterans. But what happens to these soldiers once they return home? In honor of Veterans Day, BackStory looks at the experiences of veterans across American history. What kinds…
People’s Choice: A History of Populism
Oct 23, 2015 • 58 min
Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have packed stadiums as they make their case for the 2016 Republican and Democratic presidential nominations. Many pundits have labeled them 21st century “populists,” but invoking the “voice of the people” is a tradition as…
Green Acres: A History of Farmers in America [rebroadcast]
Oct 16, 2015 • 53 min
As the fall harvest comes in, BackStory takes a look at how farmers came to wield so much influence in American politics and life. In the 18th century, Thomas Jefferson viewed farmers as ideal citizens,their agricultural lifestyle providing the foundation…
They Might Be Giants: China and the U.S.
Oct 9, 2015 • 58 min
Americans have traded with China since the earliest days of the Republic. During the colonial era and for early Americans, China was a source of luxury goods like tea, porcelain, and silk. For some of their descendants, it was the destination for an…
Little Feet: Children Starting Over in America [rebroadcast]
Oct 2, 2015 • 53 min
Tens of thousands of refugees have been arriving in Western Europe, fleeing civil war and unrest in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of the migrants making these perilous border crossings are children. This is hardly the first time minors have made such…
Banned: A History of Censorship
Sep 25, 2015 • 56 min
September 27 marks the beginning of Banned Books Week, an annual event celebrating literature and the freedom to read, by highlighting and exploring efforts around the country to remove or restrict access to certain books. Indeed, Americans have sought to…
Catholics In America
Sep 18, 2015 • 54 min
On September 22, Pope Francis will begin his first American tour, making stops in Washington, Philadelphia, and New York along the way. In this episode, the BackStory Guys explore American Catholicism—recounting the struggles, triumphs, and unique impact…
Fear Tactics: A History of Domestic Terrorism [rebroadcast]
Sep 11, 2015 • 55 min
As Americans wrestle with the aftermath of the mass shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, and as we observe the 14th anniversary of terror attacks on New York and Washington, BackStory returns to our episode on domestic terrorism. What are the…
Rare History Well Done: Meat in America
Sep 4, 2015 • 59 min
Eating meat is a time-honored tradition in America. Whether it’s Thanksgiving Day turkey, a TV dinner of Salisbury steak, or a plate of Hawaiian Spam musubi, meat has been a constant presence on the national platter. But over the years, changing…