Podcast

BackStory

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 ...more

Episodes

  • Teaser: 1619, First Africans

    Aug 22 2019

    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. In this preview, BackStory travels to Hampton, Virginia to meet with members of the Tucker family. Using oral history and official records, they’ve traced their lineage back to William Tucker, the first African-American born in British North America in 1624. Image: BackStory producer Melissa Gismondi speaks to Walter Jones, Vincent Tucke...more

  • "Above the Law" from episode #104 "Serve and Protect?"

    Aug 21 2019

    This week, NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo was fired for his involvement in the 2014 death of Eric Garner. The incident helped to stimulate the Black Lives Matter movement, and sparked public debate about the limits of and accountability for law enforcement. With these debates once again at the fore, BackStory revisits a segment originally published in 2016. In it, producer Nina Earnest explores how the professionalization of the Los Angeles Police Department ended up putting the department above t...more

  • 290: Enlightened America?: A History of Buddhism in the United States

    Aug 16 2019

    Today, Americans generally view Buddhists favorably, according to the Pew Research Center. Meanwhile, terms like “zen” and “mindfulness” are often used as buzzwords to evoke the religion. However, over the last century, Buddhism wasn’t always viewed as a peaceful practice by a mainstream population. On this episode, Brian, Joanne, and Nathan, explore the ways the religion adapted and evolved throughout the 20th century into a distinctive form of “American Buddhism.”Image: Lama in meditation, Sik...more

  • 184: Border Patrols: Policing Immigration in America

    Aug 14 2019

    On the heels of what may have been the biggest single-day sweep of undocumented immigrants last week in Mississippi, this week the Trump administration released a new "Public Charge" rule. The idea of a public charge – an individual who isn’t considered capable of self-sufficiency – became a part of U.S. immigration law after the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. The new rule will make it harder for immigrants who fail the public charge test to obtain a Green Card.  Efforts to curb immigration in t...more

  • 289: Man Up: A Look at Masculinity in American History

    Aug 09 2019

    It’s an age-old question: What makes a man? Americans have thought about it for generations. So this week on BackStory, we go back into the archives to look at past segments that explore the changing perceptions of American manhood. We’ll look at why so many men started growing beards in 19th century America, and we’ll explore how ideas about the perfect male body used to be very different from what you might think of today.Image: The “Manly art of self-defense” Newsboys’ Protective Association,...more

  • “Armed For Freedom” from episode #183 “Taking it to the Streets”

    Aug 07 2019

    At least 31 people were killed this past weekend in mass shootings in the U.S. The violence that took place during the early morning hours of August 4 in Dayton, Ohio was the nation’s 251st mass shooting of 2019.  As the U.S. and its leaders once again debate gun control, BackStory revisits a segment originally published in 2013. In it, UCLA legal scholar Adam Winkler talks to Brian about the day in 1967 that 30 Black Panthers walked into the California State House in Sacramento carrying loaded ...more

  • Sponsored: Introducing Sean Carroll's Mindscape

    Aug 05 2019

    Each week, Sean Carroll hosts conversations with some of the most interesting thinkers in the world. From neuroscientists and engineers to authors and television producers, Sean and his guests talk about the biggest ideas in science, philosophy, culture and more. Start listening now at:  http://wondery.fm/MindscapeAB

  • 252: Thar She Blows Again: The History of Whales and America (Part 2)

    Aug 02 2019

    Whale deaths are reaching record numbers in 2019. According to the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Association, gray whale deaths are “notably greater than the average” and have led the NOAA to declare the occurrence an Unusual Mortality Event (UME). In addition, NOAA considers the death rates of North Atlantic right whales an urgent conservation crisis leading the U.S. to begin working with Canada this month to help protect the species. This week, BackStory revisits our two episodes on the h...more

  • 251: Thar She Blows: The History of Whales and America

    Jul 31 2019

    Whale deaths are reaching record numbers in 2019. According to the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Association, gray whale deaths are “notably greater than the average” and have led the NOAA to declare the occurrence an Unusual Mortality Event (UME). In addition, NOAA considers the death rates of North Atlantic right whales an urgent conservation crisis leading the U.S. to begin working with Canada this month to help protect the species. This week, BackStory revisits our two episodes on the h...more

  • 288: Making the Team: Sports and Equality in American History

    Jul 26 2019

    This month, the US Women’s Soccer Team won the Women’s World Cup for the fourth time since the tournament was established in 1991. But alongside the celebrations were calls for female players to be paid the same as their male counterparts. So, on this episode of BackStory, we’re revisiting past segments that explore the issue of sports and equality throughout American history. Image: Althea Gibson, U.S. and Wimbledon tennis champion, gives some pointers on the game which has brought her internat...more

  • "Jose Julio Henna & the Invasion of Puerto Rico" and "What is Puerto Rico?" from episode 248 "After Hurricane Maria"

    Jul 24 2019

    On Monday, hundreds of thousands of people surged through the capital of Puerto Rico in the largest protest the island has ever seen. It is the latest in a series of demonstrations calling for the resignation of Puerto Rico's governor, Ricardo A. Rosselló, who is expected to finally resign today.While the recent unrest was sparked by the publication of messages between Rosselló and his friends and advisors in which they mocked an obese man, a poor man, a gay pop star, and several women, it was a...more

  • 287: Moon, Man, and Myths: The 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11

    Jul 19 2019

    We’ll hear from flight director Gene Kranz about what it was like in Mission Control during the moon landing. And we’ll explore a kind of Apollo nostalgia that has crept into movies and other forms of pop culture. Plus, stay tuned throughout the episode to hear from our listeners about their memories of the moon landing.Image: New York City welcomes Apollo 11 crewmen in a showering of ticker tape down Broadway and Park Avenue in a parade termed as the largest in the city's history. Source: NASAB...more

  • 286: Historians in the Press: Why Citation by the Media is Important, Even if it Rarely Happens

    Jul 17 2019

    This is a special episode that’s a little bit different from our usual programming. For several years, BackStory hosts have appeared on WBUR’s Here & Now, discussing a range of topics that have been in the news. Last week, Nathan and Ed appeared on the program to talk about America’s relationship with tobacco. They relied on the research of Sarah Milov, an assistant professor of history at the University of Virginia, whose book, The Cigarette: A Political History, comes out in October.  As y...more

  • 285: How Silicon Valley Remade America in Its Image: A History of Digital Disruption

    Jul 12 2019

    Whether its smartphones, laptops, or the Internet, there’s no doubt the products of Silicon Valley are a part of our daily lives. According to the Pew Research Center, 81% of Americans own a smartphone, and nearly three-quarters of adults have a desktop or laptop computer. But how did a slice of northern California turn into one of the most influential industries in history? Brian talks with historian Margaret O’Mara about the Valley’s rise to global tech capital. O’Mara’s new book is called “Th...more

  • 212: The Melting Pot: Americans and Assimilation

    Jul 05 2019

    In the spirit of July 4th, BackStory revisits an episode on the abiding question: What does it mean to be an American? We’ll explore 19th-century notions of who could become an American and the ways they were expected to change. Plus, we’ll discuss how much room there was for a hyphenated American identity in the past and if there is any room for it today.Image: Cover of Theater Program for Israel Zangwill's play "The Melting Pot," 1916. Source: Wikimedia CommonsBackStory is funded in part by ou...more

  • 284: A History of Stonewall, the Riot That Started the LGBTQ Revolution

    Jun 28 2019

    In the early hours of June 28, 1969, a riot broke out at a rundown gay bar in New York City. Today the Stonewall uprising is famous around the world as a clash that helped spark a gay political revolution. Brian and Nathan talk to scholars and participants and discover how Stonewall led to a wave of activism, protest and political agitation.Image: Marsha P. Johnson hands out flyers for support of gay students at N.Y.U., 1970. Source: New York Public Library Digital CollectionsBackStory is funded...more

  • 283: In God We Trust? The History of Religious Identity in America

    Jun 21 2019

    The Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment forms the basis for the separation of church and state: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Yet, throughout American history, this principle hasn’t stopped Americans from using religious differences to draw boundaries around who is and isn’t American. Joanne digs into the BackStory archives to bring you a selection of segments that look at religious identity in America and ...more

  • Sponsored Promotion: Bleeped

    Jun 18 2019

    Bleeped is a new podcast about censorship and the people who stand up to it. Each episode relives a time someone was censored, examines how they fought back, and explores what the things we try to censor reveal about our culture. Subscribe to Bleeped on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you're listening now. Find out more at their website: https://www.bleeped.org/

  • 282: The Many Lives of Roe v Wade: The Little Known History Behind the Famous Ruling

    Jun 14 2019

    In 1973, the landmark ruling in Roe v. Wade decriminalized abortion. But since then, the court’s findings have been simultaneously celebrated and contested. Now, Roe is in the news again. States including Alabama and Missouri have passed laws that challenge the Roe decision, leading some to ask: Are we close to seeing the Roe v. Wade ruling overturned? On this episode, we dig into the history of Roe and explore the life and legacy of a case whose details are often forgotten or misunderstood.Imag...more

  • Sponsored Promotion: Unknown History Podcast

    Jun 11 2019

    In honor of the 75th anniversary of D-Day, "Unknown History" podcast, author and historian Giles Milton takes listeners through the perilous 24 hours of D-Day, sharing the tales of the men and women who risked their lives by land, sea, and air.For more from "Unknown History" visit https://www.quickanddirtytips.com/unknown-history.

  • 281: Mind, Body and Spirit: The History of Wellness in America

    Jun 07 2019

    Recent estimates have put the value of the “Wellness Industry” at $4.2 billion, with celebrities like Jay-Z and Gwyneth Paltrow offering advice on how to get, and stay, well. But being holistically healthy hasn’t always involved a daily dose of meditation. Ed and Brian explore the history of Wellness, a story which takes in breakfast cereal, leotards and Sigmund Freud.  Image: Aerobics created by Fotoburo de Boer between 1983 and 1985 Subscribe to American Hysteria on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, St...more

  • 280: Song of Ourselves? Walt Whitman and the American Imagination

    May 31 2019

    May 31st marks Walt Whitman’s 200th birthday. In honor of the man known as America’s “bard of democracy,” we explore diverse aspects of Whitman’s life and legacy - from sexuality to spirituality, poetics to place.Image: Walt Whitman by George C. Cox, 1887. Source: Library of CongressBackStory is funded in part by our listeners. You can help keep the episodes coming by supporting the show: https://www.backstoryradio.org/support

  • 279: Paying for the Past: Reparations and American History

    May 24 2019

    Reparations for African-Americans has been a hot topic on the presidential campaign trail, with Democratic candidates including Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren coming out in favor of compensation for unpaid African-American labor.But the debate around reparations is nothing new. In fact, it goes back centuries.On this episode, Nathan, Ed and Brian explore the complicated - and often contentious - history of reparations, from the first mass reparations movement led by Callie House, an ex-slave...more

  • Sponsored Promotion: Introducing The Shrink Next Door

    May 21 2019

    Marty Markowitz had his share of problems. His parents had recently died. He had troubles at work. A failing relationship. He needed someone to help him through this rough patch in his life. So he decided to get some professional help from a psychiatrist. What he did not count on, was what happened in his life over the next twenty-nine years. This is a story about power, control, and turning to the wrong person for help. Listen now at wondery.fm/boom

  • Sponsored Promotion: Family Ghosts

    May 20 2019

    Announcing Season 2 of Family Ghosts, a podcast that takes a closer look at the legendary tales that shape our family histories.Listen: https://megaphone.link/FG7245488954

  • 234: You Have The Right to Remain Silent: A History of the Miranda Warning

    May 17 2019

    When a man named Ernesto Miranda confessed to a rape and kidnapping on March 13, 1963, his trial went all the way to the Supreme Court becoming one of the most well-known cases of the 20th century: "Miranda v Arizona." Nathan and Joanne look at the interrogation that led to the Supreme Court decision and ask how the Miranda warning transformed from technical bit of police procedure to pop-culture lexicon.Download a full transcript of this episode.Image: Ernesto Miranda, 1963. Source: Arizona Sta...more

  • 278: The Year of the Woman: A History of Women in Congress

    May 10 2019

    Today, 131 women serve in the House and Senate, making Congress the most female and most diverse it’s ever been.But women in politics continue to face an uphill battle. Even after their election, Congresswomen such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib have faced criticism for their choice of clothing and language. One radio commentator in Atlanta even suggested Lucy McBath should quote “go back to the kitchen.” We look at the history of “women in Congress,” how much progress we’ve made ...more

  • 277: The Civil War in the 21st Century: A New Museum Marks an Old Conflict

    May 03 2019

    On May 4, 2019, the American Civil War Museum opens in Richmond, Virginia. It’s a historic endeavor, building upon a merger of several museums and historical sites in the region, including the former Museum of the Confederacy. The museum’s goal is to tell an inclusive and balanced version of the Civil War. But for an event that’s arguably the most contentious conflict in American history, that’s a tall order.So on this episode, BackStory gets an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the museum to ...more

  • 276: Red in the Stars and Stripes?: A History of Socialism in America

    Apr 26 2019

    More candidates for political office in America today identify themselves as socialists than ever before. But isn’t the idea of socialism anathema to American values of free enterprise and entrepreneurism? BackStory reveals the rich history of socialism in the USA. Image: The cover art for the album "Power to the Working Class: Revolutionary songs written & sung by workers & students in struggle." Source: Library of CongressBackStory is funded in part by our listeners. You can he...more

  • 275: Alternative Facts, Falsehoods and Delusions: The Lies We've Told Ourselves and Each Other in American History

    Apr 19 2019

    Late last month, the Washington Post reported President Trump has made some 9,451 false or misleading claims throughout his term in office. Yet, Trump’s supporters have maintained he’s not lying — he’s presenting so-called alternative facts. No matter how you look at it, it’s clear we’re living in what many pundits are calling a post-truth moment — where misinformation, lies and alternative facts are everywhere. Nathan digs into the BackStory archives to bring you a selection of segments that lo...more

  • 274: Death on the Assembly Line: Industrial Tragedies in American History

    Apr 12 2019

    On Wednesday an explosion from a gas leak in Durham, NC killed one person and injured 25 others. Local authorities say the leak started after a construction worker hit a gas line. The explosion occurred soon after. From explosions to pollution, tragedies like the one in Durham have wreaked havoc on Americans and their communities throughout history. This week, BackStory considers the history of industrial disasters and how they’ve changed the nature of American capitalism.Image: The front page o...more

  • 273: All the Presidents’ Vetoes: A Brief History of Saying No to Legislation

    Apr 05 2019

    To veto or not to veto? That was the question President George Washington wrestled with on this day in 1792. In honor of that decision, and the precedent it set for subsequent leaders, this week BackStory looks at presidential vetoes through two periods in American history. First, Joanne unpacks Washington’s complicated feelings about his first (and only) veto. Then, Brian speaks with historian Jeffrey Engel about how President Trump’s recent use of the veto pen fits into the big picture of pres...more

  • 236: Teen Activists: A History of Youth Politics and Protest

    Mar 29 2019

    This month, youth around the globe participated in Youth Strike 4 Climate, coordinated demonstrations by school students who are demanding action by world leaders to prevent further climate change. So, in this episode, Joanne, Brian & Ed talk about the role young people have played in American politics. They’ll look at how the desegregation movement in Virginia was sparked in part by a 16-year-old girl, how young Americans made it okay to be independent voters and thinkers in the early centu...more

  • 272: Burnt Corks & Cakewalks: The Toxic Legacy of Blackface in American History

    Mar 22 2019

    Ed, Nathan and Brian explore the history of blackface, from its heyday as the most popular form of entertainment in America to its afterlife in the controversial images that appear in college yearbooks. What explains the long life of blackface in American culture?BackStory is funded in part by our listeners. You can help keep the episodes coming by supporting the show: https://www.backstoryradio.org/support

  • 243: Shore Thing: A History of the Beach

    Mar 15 2019

    Spring Break is here and BackStory has gone to the beach. Ed, Joanne, and Brian dip their toes into four tales from America’s shoreline. We’ll talk about race, health, and daringly provocative woolen swimsuits. And the hosts will add their own experiences of the beach as a weird, magical place.Download a full transcript of this episode.BackStory is funded in part by our listeners. You can help keep the episodes coming by supporting the show: https://www.backstoryradio.org/support

  • 271: Oh, Bloody Hell: BackStory’s History of Profanity in America

    Mar 08 2019

    WARNING: THIS EPISODE CONTAINS UNCENSORED USE OF THE STRONGEST PROFANITIES. PLEASE DO NOT LISTEN IF YOU ARE LIKELY TO BE OFFENDED AND PLEASE DO NOT PLAY IF CHILDREN ARE LISTENING. This week, BackStory looks at the history of profanity in America. We’ll discover how soldiers returning from World War Two brought home more than just tales from the battlefield, explore what it really means to swear like a sailor, and discover how Lenny Bruce challenged and provoked the America of the 1950’s and 60’s...more

  • 270: Shattering the Glass Ceiling in America: BackStory Celebrates Women's History Month

    Mar 01 2019

    In celebration of Women’s History Month, Brian showcases our favorite BackStory segments that highlight female achievement in American history. We’ll hear from a former switchboard operator about her experiences at New York Telephone in the 1970’s and learn how Ida B. Wells found her voice as an advocacy journalist. We’re also sharing a Radio Diaries story on Margaret Chase Smith, a Republican Senator from Maine whose 1964 presidential bid inspired a generation of women to enter politics.

  • 269: Man vs. the Machine: Technophobia and American Society

    Feb 22 2019

    What drives people to reject technology? Though American society has been driven by technological leaps forward, not everyone has come along for the ride. We explore the strain of technophobia in American society from Neo-Luddism to Sabbatarianism and the anti-technology terrorism of the Unabomber.About the image: Original Film Title: METROPOLIS. English Title: METROPOLIS. Film Director: FRITZ LANG. Year: 1927. Credit: U.F.A / Album. Source: Album / Alamy Stock Photo

  • 268: Love Off Limits: A History of the Relationships Once Considered Taboo in America

    Feb 15 2019

    In this episode, Joanne, Brian, and Nathan discuss stories of love that challenged social norms and transcended class, race, and gender. They explore how people subverted laws banning interracial marriage, and why a wave of heiresses running away with their coachmen caused a moral panic in the Gilded Age.

  • 267: The Faces of Racism: A History of Blackface and Minstrelsy in American Culture

    Feb 08 2019

    Nathan talks with historian Rhae Lynn Barnes about Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s 1984 yearbook page and its link to a long and disturbing history of blackface minstrelsy. They discuss how white civic organizations used minstrel shows for fundraising, why the era known as Jim Crow is named after a minstrel character, and what must happen to prevent people from donning blackface going forward. THIS EPISODE CONTAINS SOME LANGUAGE THAT PEOPLE MIGHT FIND OFFENSIVE. 

  • 266: BlackStory: BackStory Celebrates Black History Month with a Compilation

    Feb 01 2019

    Nathan showcases some of BackStory’s best content about African American history in honor of Black History Month. In this episode, hear about one historian’s heartbreaking research into the human effects of lynching to the extraordinary story of Korla Pandit, the turban-wearing showman of California’s cocktail lounges. We’re also sharing a segment from “Scene On Radio” about the racial cleansing in Corbin, Kentucky that took place 100 years ago, but mostly remains hidden from the town’s official...more

  • 265: Nixon Beyond Watergate: A History of the Presidency Before the Scandal

    Jan 25 2019

    Today the Presidency of Richard Nixon is mostly remembered for how it ended - with the Watergate scandal, impeachment and resignation. But what about early Nixon, the man sworn into office in January 1969? As Nathan, Ed and Brian discover, Nixon ran a more imaginative and ideologically flexible administration than its ignominious ending might suggest. 

  • 264: When You Just Want to be Alone: The History of Solitude in America

    Jan 18 2019

    We all have times when we want to be alone, but what is the history of solitude in America? How are experiments on dolphins connected with consciousness raising and isolation tanks? And what does Thoreau’s solitary experiment at Walden Pond have to teach us all in the digital age? 

  • 263: The BackStory Prize: Our Choice for the Best Public History Project in America

    Jan 11 2019

    BackStory is ten years old, and to celebrate our birthday we’ve created an important new prize - the BackStory Prize for Public History. Join Ed, Brian, Joanne, Nathan and special guest judges Margot Lee Shetterly (author of Hidden Figures) and actor Chris Jackson (who played George Washington in “Hamilton” on Broadway) as they discuss the exhibitions, books, websites and museums competing to become the winner of the first ever BackStory Prize.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm...more

  • 262: Finding Americana: Butter Sculptures, Tiny Towns and Other Irresistible Gems

    Jan 04 2019

    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. (This show features two segments from previous episodes.)Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • 225: What’s Cooking? A History of Food in America

    Dec 28 2018

    It’s the holidays -- that time of the year when food is everywhere. So, 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.In this episode we talked to Pati Jinich of "Pati's Mexican Kitchen." Find her recipe for Chilorio Burritas (and more) on her website. We also talked about Maida Heatter's "Best Damn Lemon Cake." Learn more about Heatter and find her lemon cake recipe (as well as a few other...more

  • 261: Playing the Past: Video Games and American History

    Dec 21 2018

    The Department of Defense developed the very first video game and the Oregon Trail taught a generation to live as a pioneer. Red Dead Redemption 2 might be a major commercial success, but how historically accurate is it of the Old West? On this episode, Brian, Nathan and Ed explore the relationship between history and video games in America.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • 260: The BackStory Holiday Book Show: 19 History Books for the Holiday Season

    Dec 14 2018

    What history books should you gift - or get- this holiday season?  BackStory’s hosts and special guests share their recommendations of the history page turners you should pack for the holidays.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • 259: Out of the Closet: The LGBTQ Community in American History

    Dec 07 2018

    Brian, Nathan and Joanne explore the history of the LGBTQ community in the US, from tales of gender fluidity in the Old West to early gay liberation, and from the political career of Harvey Milk to the barrier breaking career of one SFPD cop. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • 230: Forgotten Flu: America & the 1918 Pandemic

    Nov 30 2018

    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 United States killing about 675,000 by 1919 and making it “the most severe pandemic in recent history,” according to the CDC. Brian, Nathan, and Joanne look back at the so-called “Spanish Flu,” how it affected the U.S., and why it’s often overlooked...more

  • 257: Stuffed: Taxidermy in the History of America

    Nov 23 2018

    This Thanksgiving week BackStory is all about stuffing and being stuffed. We’ll find out about the father of American natural history dioramas, talk to a man with a condor in his freezer, discover how a mischievous raven connects Edgar Allan Poe to Charles Dickens and unravel the extraordinary story of the man who proposed stuffing the Founding Fathers.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • 256: Divided States of America? The History of An Often Disjointed Union

    Nov 16 2018

    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 that a recent NBC News headline stated, “Americans are divided over everything except division.” On this episode, Ed, Nathan and Joanne look at other times in history when Americans were split.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/ad...more

  • 255: Lincoln the Lawyer: Abraham Lincoln’s Early Life and Career

    Nov 09 2018

    Abraham Lincoln wasn’t the first lawyer to occupy the Oval Office (and he wouldn’t be the last). Lincoln came to national prominence after a long career settling disputes between farmers and representing litigious railway companies. So what did this enterprising lawyer pick up along the way and how did his legal career influence the President he became? Ed and guest host Lindsay Graham of the American History Tellers podcast explore the career of Lincoln the Lawyer.Learn more about your ad choic...more

  • 184: Border Patrols: Policing Immigration in America

    Nov 02 2018

    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 and corruption. In response, President Trump deployed 5,200 active duty troops to the U.S. border with Mexico this week and indicates that number could reach 15,000. On this episode of BackStory, Brian, Nathan and Joanne consider the origins of il...more

  • 254: The War to End All Wars: Remembering WWI

    Oct 26 2018

    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.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • 253: To be a Citizen? The History of Becoming American

    Oct 19 2018

    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, resisted and even revoked. On this episode of BackStory, Brian, Nathan and Joanne discover the path to citizenship has never been easy.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • 250: Land of the Free? The History of Incarceration in the U.S.

    Sep 28 2018

    (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 how they are used as cheap labor, and calling for an end to “prison slavery.” In this episode, Brian, Nathan and Joanne reflect on the history of prison labor and learn more about the challenges facing those behind bars. Learn more about your ad...more

  • 218: Close Encounters: UFOs in American History

    Sep 21 2018

    The national Sunspot Solar Observatory was mysteriously shut down on Sept. 6. Located near Almagordo, New Mexico, local law enforcement reported that the FBI was behind the closure that lasted approximately one week. However, the FBI would neither confirm nor deny the reports. The shutdown sparked numerous rumors across the internet with many believing that alien activity was involved. So, on this week’s episode, Nathan, Brian and Ed discuss things in the sky we can’t explain - unidentified flyi...more

  • 249: Who Wants to be a Millionaire? The History of America’s Wealthy Elite

    Sep 14 2018

    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 ambiguities around Andrew Carnegie’s philanthropy, and finding out that there is more to the board game Monopoly than just rolling the dice and passing “Go.”Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • 248: After Hurricane Maria: The History of Puerto Rico and the United States

    Sep 07 2018

    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. Are Puerto Ricans really Americans in the eyes of the federal government?Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • 181: Fit to Print?: A History of Fake News

    Aug 31 2018

    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 expand, while labelling stories as “fake news” has become a commonplace tactic to blur the lines between fiction and reality. On this episode, Nathan, Joanne and Ed will look at other times in history when Americans had to be a bit more careful abou...more

  • 247: Hot Enough For You? The History of Climate Change

    Aug 24 2018

    According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2018 is on pace to be the fourth hottest year on record. So, on this week’s episode, Nathan, Brian and Joanne talk about how Americans understood climate and weather in centuries past. They also explore how the invention of air conditioning changed America forever. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • 246: In the Shadow of the Mushroom Cloud: A History of the Atomic Age

    Aug 17 2018

    In 1942, American scientists created the first sustained, controlled nuclear reaction, under the bleachers of a football field. Needless to say, it was the beginning of a new era. On this week’s show, Brian, Joanne and Ed talk atomic power, and the indelible mark it left on American culture. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • 187: A More Perfect Union? The Reconstruction Era

    Aug 10 2018

    Lately, Americans feel the country is more divided (at least politically) than ever and often wonder how to go about repairing our divisions. Those same questions were asked when the nation started to come back together after the very real split of the Civil War. When Congress passed the first Reconstruction Acts, paving the way for Confederate states to rejoin the Union after the war, many also asked who belonged in the country and what rights they would have. So, in this episode, Ed, Nathan an...more

  • 245: The Battle for Charlottesville's Soul: One Year Later, A Community Looks Back

    Aug 03 2018

    On August 11 & 12, 2017, a “Unite the Right” rally brought chaos, violence and death to the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia. To mark the anniversary, BackStory broadcasts an episode of “A12,” a new podcast series presented by historian, writer and podcaster Nicole Hemmer. “A12” looks at the legacy of August 12th in Charlottesville and beyond. In it Hemmer, who witnessed the rally and attack, brings together city leaders, activists, scholars, and witnesses to make sense of all the forces...more

  • 244: Elementary Mr. President: Sherlock Holmes, the Supreme Court and Dr. Spock

    Jul 27 2018

    Ed, Joanne and Brian explore the history of filling vacant seats on the Supreme Court, discover the secret connections between 221B Baker Street and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and find out why the publication date of a successful child rearing manual is a Day that Changed America.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • 212: The Melting Pot: Americans & Assimilation

    Jul 20 2018

    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 change. Plus, we’ll discuss how much room there was for a hyphenated American identity in the past and if there is room today.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • 216: What’s in a Number? Thirteen in American History

    Jul 06 2018

    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 superstition and the surprising roles the number 13 has played across American history.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • 191: Saving American History

    Jun 29 2018

    How is the history of a nation remembered? Well -- it all depends on what you keep. We’re talking about recipes, your old record collection, wedding dresses, newspapers, family letters or even your own personal diary. These are the types of documents future generations depend on to understand past American culture.On this episode, Joanne, Ed and Nathan talk about the people who decided to take it upon themselves to collect stuff they knew people would care about someday -- even if others thought...more

  • 242: Summer Reading List: 14 History Books You’ll Want to Read

    Jun 22 2018

    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.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • 241: The Camera Never Lies? History Through the Viewfinder

    Jun 15 2018

    In the 21st century, we often assume that a picture captures what really happened in a given moment. But on this week’s show, Joanne and Brian look at the early days of photography - when Americans had to figure out how to ‘read’ images - and learn if photos should be trusted at all.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • 210: Death Before Dishonor: Shame and Reputation in American History

    Jun 08 2018

    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 lives on today.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • 205: Are We There Yet? Americans On Vacation

    Jun 01 2018

    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.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • 240: Reflecting on Darkness: Lynching; Americans and the Holocaust

    May 25 2018

    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 justice for his son who was lynched, and Brian visits an exhibit at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • 239: Upward Nobility: American-Made Royalty

    May 18 2018

    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 these marriages often have around the globe. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • 238: Shock of the New: The Legacy of the 1893 World’s Fair

    May 11 2018

    The World’s Columbian Exposition opened 125 years ago this month. Known today as the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, it put the emerging United States and its host city on shining display. So, on this episode, Joanne, Ed, and Nathan explore the fairgrounds. They’ll discuss how electric power - a new experience for many Americans - illuminated the White City. And they’ll consider how this presentation of American progress came at a cost.    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoice...more

  • 199: Crowning Glory: A History of Hair in America

    May 04 2018

    It’s been fifty years since “Hair” debuted on Broadway. The groundbreaking play featured an integrated cast and defined the rock musical genre.On this episode, Brian, Joanne and Nathan explore some of the many meanings Americans have attached to hair - as a marker of personal identity, a living connection to distant loved ones, and even as the root of business empire. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • 237: “Dear Mr President…”: Letters to FDR, #twitterstorians, and one man's experience of slavery's legacy

    Apr 27 2018

    Joanne talks about the letters that flooded into FDR’s Whitehouse and how historians reach the public using social media. Also, Justin Reid, director of African American programs at Virginia Humanities, reflects on his family’s experience of slavery.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • 185: Behind the Bylines: Advocacy Journalism in America

    Apr 20 2018

    In 2015, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly challenged Univision journalist Jorge Ramos on his role as a voice for Latinos in America. In an interview with the reporter on the O’Reilly Factor, he called Ramos “an advocate for people who enter the U.S.A. illegally.”In recent decades, however, more journalists have vocally advocated for underrepresented communities. Websites like the theGrio.com are unapologetic about finding stories the mainstream media aren’t picking up. On this episode, Nathan, Joanne...more

  • 193: The Habit: Opioid Addiction in America

    Apr 06 2018

    As the opioid epidemic continues, Surgeon General Dr. Jerome M. Adams said this week that Americans should carry and learn to use naloxone, an overdose antidote. In this episode, Nathan, Ed and Brian look at America's long history with opioids - like opium, morphine and heroin. They’ll discuss how late 19th century doctors spurred the nation’s first addiction crisis and how race and class have shaped our perception of addicts and addiction.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adc...more

  • 235: The Real Martin Luther King: Reflecting on MLK 50 Years After His Death

    Mar 30 2018

    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?Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • 233: Wherever Green is Worn: The Irish in America

    Mar 16 2018

    On this St. Patrick’s Day special, Brian, Joanne and Nathan explore Irish American culture and identity. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • 52: Turf War: A History of College Sports

    Mar 09 2018

    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 the University of Alabama’s football team - the hosts discover why college sports even exist in the first place.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • 204: Too Good To Be True?: Myths in American History

    Mar 02 2018

    On this week’s episode, Brian, Joanne, and Nathan explore some of the stories Americans tell about our past and find the kernels of truth that lie at the heart of a few American legends.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • 232: Billy Graham, Black Panther and Haiti, and Thomas Edison’s Reputation

    Feb 23 2018

    The BackStory hosts look back on the rise of influential pastor Billy Graham, who died this week. Nathan probes how Black Panther’s mythical kingdom of Wakanda is a fully realized dream of a black-led country. And Joanne introduces a new segment, in which the hosts reevaluate American icons and their reputations. First up, Thomas Edison: gifted inventor or corporate thief?Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • 231: Life After the Oval Office: Presidential Legacies

    Feb 16 2018

    In honor of President’s Day, 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?Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • 138: Catholics in America

    Feb 09 2018

    Ed, Brian and Nathan mark the beginning of Lent with an exploration of American Catholicism—recounting the struggles, triumphs, and unique impact of Catholics on the history of the United States. From Spanish missionaries on the California coast and early converts among the Mohawk, to JFK and modern nuns living in the Blue Ridge Mountains - BackStory considers how what it means to be Catholic in America has changed over time.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • 99: US vs Them: Sports on the World Stage

    Jan 26 2018

    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 in what’s going on off the field, from Cold War politics to Americans’ sense of ourselves at home and abroad.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • 229: All that Glitters? Legacies of the California Gold Rush

    Jan 19 2018

    Gold was discovered in California 170 years ago this month. It set off a mad rush from across the United States -- and around the world. Ed, Joanne, and Nathan delve into what happened in California after gold was found and some of the lasting impacts of the Gold Rush.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • 228: Presidents in the Public Eye, Slogans, and the Value of History

    Jan 12 2018

    In this week’s roundtable conversation, Ed, Joanne, and Brian focus on President Trump’s Twitter habit and look back at how presidents have interacted with the public. They discuss this year’s Golden Globes, the scene of very public activism around the #TimesUp campaign - how have slogans affected the causes we’ve championed? Finally, how do we put a price on history?Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • 227: Schism: The Branch Davidians at Waco

    Jan 05 2018

    This year marks the 25th anniversary of one of the most infamous law enforcement confrontations in American history: a bloody stand-off between federal agents and an apocalyptic Christian group known as the Branch Davidians near Waco, Texas. In this episode, Brian and Ed explore the 51 day siege, and what the Branch Davidians actually believed.This episode is sponsored by Paramount Network’s presentation of WACO. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • 226: History for the Headlines: 2017 in Review

    Dec 29 2017

    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.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • 133: Untrammeled: Americans and the Wilderness

    Dec 22 2017

    With President Trump moving to drastically reduce the size of two national monuments in Utah, Brian, Ed, and Nathan return to our episode on Americans’ fascination with wild places. They explore how early European arrivals actually created wilderness out of a landscape long shaped by human intervention, how humans impact even the most remote corners of our country, and ask how our ideas about wild places have changed over time. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • 224: Man of The People: A New Technology Falls Into the Wrong Hands

    Dec 08 2017

    BackStory features a guest podcast this week, from Reply All. The episode, Man of the People, first aired on January 19, 2017.  It’s about the rise and fall of an American demagogue. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • 223: Men Apologizing, Alabama Senate Race, Net Neutrality

    Dec 01 2017

    In this week’s roundtable conversation, Ed, Joanne, Nathan and Brian focus on three stories in the news: famous men apologizing (or not) for bad behavior,  the Alabama Senate race between Roy Moore and Doug Jones, and the FCC’s plans to repeal net neutrality. In this episode, Brian mentions Richard Nixon's "Checkers" speech. View the full speech (with transcript) via the Miller Center. And to hear the segment of Brian interviewing Tyrone Jones, a Black Santa, check out "Being Santa."Learn more a...more

  • 222: On the Take: Corruption in America

    Nov 24 2017

    With allegations of corruption flying on both sides of the aisle in Washington, Brian, Joanne, and Nathan return to our episode on how Americans have wrestled with political corruption.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • 221: The Thin Light of Freedom

    Nov 17 2017

    Brian sits down with Ed to talk about a project of his that’s been twenty-five years in the making. We’re talking about Ed’s series on the American Civil War and Reconstruction. The first volume, In The Presence of Mine Enemies came out in 2003, and won the Bancroft Prize.  It opened with John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859, and ended just before the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863.  Ed has just published the second volume in the series: The Thin Light of Freedom: The Civil War and Emancipat...more

  • 220: Red Dawn: Americans and the Bolshevik Revolution

    Nov 10 2017

    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 wore on, the USSR became the United States’s chief military and ideological foe. On this episode of BackStory, Brian, Joanne, and Nathan explore how that distant revolution had an immediate impact in the United States. Learn more about your ad ch...more

  • 219: Other People’s Battles: American Volunteer Soldiers

    Nov 03 2017

    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 those who participated in the Spanish Civil War. On this episode, Ed, Brian and Joanne explore when and why Americans signed up to fight for other countries’ causes.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • 217: Boy Scouts Welcome Girls, Trump Drums Up Support for War, America as a Judeo-Christian Nation

    Oct 20 2017

    In this week’s roundtable, the hosts tackle three stories that have been in the news: the Boy Scouts’ decision to include girls, growing GOP support for war with North Korea, and America’s identity as a Judeo-Christian nation. Advisory: the footnote segment contains references to sexual assault. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • 215: It is So Ordered: 4 Landmark Decisions of the Supreme Court

    Oct 06 2017

    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 away same-sex couples because of his religious beliefs. So this week, Joanne, Ed, and Nathan dip into the BackStory archive to look at four rulings that shaped public life in America. survey.panoply.fmLearn more about your ad choices. Visit megaph...more

  • 214: Enemies: A History of Bad Blood

    Sep 29 2017

    As tensions rise with North Korea, Brian, Ed, and Nathan return to our episode on enemies. What distinguishes friend from foe - both at home and abroad - and how has America dealt with our adversaries across time? survey.panoply.fmLearn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • 213: Longer Commutes, Equifax Data Breach, and Income Inequality

    Sep 22 2017

    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. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • 212: The Melting Pot: Americans & Assimilation

    Sep 15 2017

    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 change. Plus, we’ll discuss how much room there was for a hyphenated American identity in the past and if there is room today. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • 211: A Conversation with Karl Rove

    Sep 08 2017

    Brian Balogh sits down with Republican political strategist Karl Rove to talk about his book, “The Triumph of William McKinley: Why the Election of 1896 Still Matters.” They also discuss Rove’s former boss President George W. Bush, the election of 2016, and how his study of history has guided his work as a Republican party strategist. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • Starry-Eyed: A History of the Heavens

    Aug 25 2017

    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. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • Charlottesville: Our Town, Our Country

    Aug 18 2017

    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.  The BackStory hosts also discuss the meaning of Confederate statutes, and why they’re suddenly so polarizing. They conclude the conversation with why we’re seeing this resurgence in white nationalist activism in 2017.   Learn more about your a...more

  • Revisionist Climate: Americans & the Atmosphere

    Aug 11 2017

    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. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • Skin Deep: Whiteness in America

    Jul 14 2017

    This week, BackStory looks at whiteness in America by broadcasting segments from podcasts we admire. These stories -- from the podcasts Scene on Radio and What’s Ray Saying along with a segment from BackStory’s archives -- explore what it means to be white in America, and how the concept of whiteness has fundamentally shaped our country. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • Hometown History: Local Stories From Across The Country

    Jul 07 2017

    This week, BackStory looks at local history by broadcasting segments from podcasts we admire. These stories -- from Chicago, New Orleans, St. Louis and San Francisco -- illuminate big themes in American history and tell us something about what makes these places so unique. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • Contested Landscape: The Battle over Confederate Monuments

    Jun 16 2017

    Communities from New Orleans to Charlottesville, Virginia have been debating the presence of Confederate monuments. On this episode of BackStory, Ed, Nathan and Brian discuss when and why many of the nation’s Confederate statues were erected, and what they stood for.  They’ll examine the many meanings of the Confederate flag and hear a Civil War re-enactor take a closer look at his Southern heritage. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • Prying Eyes: Privacy in America

    Jun 09 2017

    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 the federal government, the newsworthiness of your private life, and find out if there was ever a golden age of privacy in America. Image credit: The Right to Privacy by Unarmed Civilian via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) Learn more about your ad choi...more

  • Body Politics, JFK at 100 and African American Memorials

    Jun 02 2017

    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 monuments of African Americans.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • Call To Arms: Enlistment In America

    Jun 01 2017

    Memorial Day honors those who’ve died while serving in the military. In this episode of BackStory, Ed, Joanne, and Brian look at the many reasons for joining the U.S. armed services - from a sense of patriotism, to escaping poverty, to earning American citizenship. They’ll discuss the struggles of the Continental Army to find enough soldiers during the Revolutionary War and how thousands of Filipinos became American citizens by enlisting in the US Navy after World War II.Learn more about your ad...more

  • National Lampoon: A History of American Satire

    May 19 2017

    The election of Donald Trump has been a boon to political satirists.  Saturday Night Live is enjoying its highest ratings in 20 years, andThe Late Show with Stephen Colbert is now the most successful late night program on TV.  Joanne, Ed and Brian look at the long history of political satire in America - how Mark Twain became the country’s most famous satirist by mostly sticking to safe subjects, a look at the 1987 Supreme Court case that made political satire protected speech, and talk to the s...more

  • The Habit: Opioid Addiction in America

    May 12 2017

    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 with opioids - like opium, morphine and heroin. They’ll discuss how late 19th century doctors spurred the nation’s first addiction crisis and how race and class have shaped our perception of addicts and addiction.  Learn more about your ad cho...more

  • Over There: America Enters WWI

    Apr 14 2017

    This April marks the 100th anniversary of the United States’s entry into World War I. So on this episode of BackStory, Brian, Joanne, and Ed discuss how this oft-forgotten war set the stage for the American century. We’ll explore how Woodrow Wilson led a decidedly isolationist country into war. We’ll also discuss the repressive ways Wilson and his administration cracked down on anti-war sentiment. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • Seeing Red: A History of U.S./Russia Relations

    Apr 07 2017

    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 attack earlier this week) as "aggression against a sovereign state in violation of the norms of international law." In addition, an FBI probe into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russians in the 2016 election has turned into a full-bl...more

  • A More Perfect Union?: The Reconstruction Era

    Mar 31 2017

    It’s been 150 years since Congress passed the first Reconstruction Acts, which paved the way for Confederate states to rejoin the Union after the Civil War. Ed, Nathan and Joanne explore the central questions of this period: how would the country be put back together? Who belonged in it? And what rights would they have?Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • Border Patrols: Policing Immigration in America

    Mar 10 2017

    President Donald Trump recently announced his plans to crackdown on undocumented immigration. In his first address to Congress, the president claimed: “We are removing gang members, drug dealers and criminals that threaten our communities and prey on our very innocent citizens. Bad ones are going out as I speak.”Coupled with his second attempt at a travel ban from Muslim-majority countries and his promise to build a border wall, the president and his team are focusing the nation’s attention on w...more

  • Taking it to the Streets: Protest in America

    Mar 03 2017

    The election of Donald Trump set off a seemingly continuous wave of protests across the country. This is just the latest surge of resistance. Past protests have included varied groups - from the Tea Party to Occupy Wall Street. On this episode of BackStory, Ed, Nathan and Brian look at the central role that political protests have played throughout American history.Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • On the Outs: Restricting American Immigration

    Feb 10 2017

    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 to be a ban on Muslims. So, on this episode of BackStory, Ed, Brian, and Joanne look back at sweeping immigration restrictions in the 19th and 20th centuries, and how immigrant communities navigated these changing rules.Learn more about your ad ...more

  • Worlds Apart: Urban/Rural Divides in America

    Feb 04 2017

    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 couple’s proposal to make part of the Great Plains a vast nature preserve and how it wasn’t received too kindly by the residents of those states. They’ll look at how attitudes towards small town voters shaped American politics in the 1920s. Finally, the...more

  • PREVIEW - Worlds Apart

    Jan 31 2017

    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 couple’s proposal to make part of the Great Plains a vast nature preserve and how it wasn’t received too kindly by the residents of those states. They’ll look at how attitudes towards small town voters shaped American politics in the 1920s. Finally, th...more

  • Best of BackStory Pt. 2

    Jan 26 2017

    Best of BackStory Pt. 2 by BackStory with the American History Guys Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • Preview

    Jan 20 2017

    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! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • Best Of BackStory Pt. 1

    Jan 19 2017

    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 the 21st century’s most basic assumptions. You’ll hear portions of the very first broadcast of BackStory in 2008, Brian Balogh’s roadside conversation with a man from a jail’s work gang, Ed’s interview with a member of the Sons of Confederate Vete...more

  • Four More Years: Presidential Inaugurations [rebroadcast]

    Jan 09 2017

    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 the social and political forces at work at the time. From George Washington’s trembling voice while taking the Oath of Office to the general apathy surround Lincoln’s second inauguration, we’ll remember why inaugurations really matter. p3v647s9 ...more

  • Health Nuts: A History of Nutritional Advice [rebroadcast]

    Jan 05 2017

    Health Nuts: A History of Nutritional Advice [rebroadcast] by BackStory with the American History Guys Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • Judaism In America [rebroadcast]

    Dec 21 2016

    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. population is Jewish, but the influence of American Jews far outweighs their relatively small numbers. In this episode of BackStory, the Guys (along with guest host Joanne Freeman of Yale University) explore the history of Judaism in America. ...more

  • Counter Culture: A History of Shopping [rebroadcast]

    Dec 15 2016

    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 shelves, and the cheesy Muzak. They’ll consider the role that consumption played in the revolutionary politics of the colonies, look at the curious rash of shoplifting among well-heeled women in the country’s first department stores, and reveal the co...more

  • Separation Anxiety: Church & State In America

    Dec 08 2016

    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 line between church and state in America - from Congress’ attempts to block the first Mormon Senator in the early 1900’s, to the federal government’s imprisonment of religious pacifists who refused to fight in the first world war. Learn m...more

  • Short Take: Native Americans, the U.S. Government, and a History of Treaties

    Dec 06 2016

    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 the celebration was brief as the opposition realized that this might be just another battle won in an ongoing war that has spanned centuries. In this Short Take, Brian talks to Robert T. Anderson, a Professor of Law and Director of the Native Ame...more

  • New & Improved: Advertising in America [rebroadcast]

    Dec 01 2016

    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 the tangled history of American advertising - from the nation’s first billboards to catchy radio and TV jingles. When did the industry come into being and how did advertising executives sell Americans on the idea of lunar exploration? We’ll a...more

  • Short Take: A History Of Rigged Elections

    Nov 30 2016

    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 Wisconsin being the first to begin a recount, and Hillary Clinton's campaign is willing to go along with a recount despite that Clinton allies are, according to Politico, "irritated with Jill Stein." Even with all of the talk of tampering, the ac...more

  • American As Pumpkin Pie: A History Of Thanksgiving [rebroadcast]

    Nov 23 2016

    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 Blue Wills reveals the surprising, 19th century origins of our national holiday. We’ll also hear from legendary NFL quarterback Roger Staubach about what it was like to spend every turkey day on the football field. Learn more about your ad c...more

  • A Whole New World: A History of Utopias

    Nov 17 2016

    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 of Pullman’s model company town, the Guys look at why the idea of “utopianism” has such strong appeal to Americans. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • American Exodus: A History of Emigration [rebroadcast]

    Nov 11 2016

    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 – emigration? In this episode of BackStory, we ask who’s chosen to leave the U.S. and what parts of their American identities they took with them - from the free blacks who sailed to Liberia in search of true freedom to the Depression-era refugees who...more

  • Short Take: The 2016 Election

    Nov 09 2016

    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 we draw lessons from the past? In this BackStory short take, Brian and Ed look to add perspective to this historic event. (Photo credit: Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons) Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • Pulling the Curtain: Voting in America [rebroadcast]

    Nov 03 2016

    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 19th century, until you consider all the people who weren’t eligible to vote back then. In this episode of BackStory, the History Guys look at voting trends - from the changing mechanisms of voting to how the electoral college system maintained r...more

  • Short Take: FBI and U.S. Elections

    Nov 02 2016

    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 into Clinton's private server and email activity during her time as Secretary of State. It also set off a firestorm of protests from both sides of the aisle. Just what is the role of the FBI when investigating politicians and did Comey cross a l...more

  • Bridge For Sale: Deception In America [rebroadcast]

    Oct 20 2016

    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 “the truth compelling machine.” We’ll also try to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • A History of Manufacturing in 5 Objects

    Oct 13 2016

    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 that transformed American life. From 18th century colonists struggling to produce that most coveted of tems -- porcelain -- to the invention of nylon stockings and the TV picture tube in the 20th century, Peter, Ed, and Brian explore the surprisi...more

  • Fighting Words: A History of Debate in America

    Oct 06 2016

    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 popularity of amateur debate clubs among young men in the late 18th century, to the famed Lincoln-Douglas debates in 1858, and Gerald Ford’s infamous gaffe in the 1976 presidential debate, Ed, Brian, and Peter unpack the central role of debating in...more

  • Keeping Tabs: Data & Surveillance in America [rebroadcast]

    Sep 29 2016

    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 is a traitor or a hero, BackStory takes a look at the changing ways we’ve collected information on each other – and when it crosses from a matter of national security into something more sinister. (Photo credit: Uncle Sam wants your privacy. Sour...more

  • Banned: A History of Censorship [rebroadcast]

    Sep 21 2016

    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 culture. We look at efforts to prevent the discussion of controversial subjects from slavery to sex, Hollywood’s production code and how the line between free speech and censorship has changed over time. LANGUAGE ADVISORY: PROFANITY IS USED IN “THE...more

  • Believer-In-Chief: Faith & The Presidency

    Sep 14 2016

    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 beliefs. We’ll look at how many early leaders, like Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, didn’t belong to a particular church, and how Democratic presidential candidate Al Smith’s Roman Catholicism was a flashpoint in the 1928 election. We’ll a...more

  • Body Politics: Disability in America [rebroadcast]

    Sep 08 2016

    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 disability in America. From the “ugly laws” that barred the disabled from public spaces to the grassroots activism that set the stage for the passage of the ADA, the Guys consider how people with disabilities shaped America and how attitudes towards dis...more

  • Nose to the Grindstone: A History of American Work Ethic

    Sep 01 2016

    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 Puritan work ethic, and how race and class are often more important than hard work in determining achievement. We also ask why a strong work ethic has long been a key part of what it means to be American. Learn more about your ad choices....more

  • Untrammeled: Americans and the Wilderness [rebroadcast]

    Aug 25 2016

    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 European settlers encountered a landscape long shaped by human intervention, and later, how the city of San Francisco found a way to control the remote Hetch Hetchy valley, hundreds of miles away. They also consider how our ideas about wilderness...more

  • Serve & Protect? A History of the Police [rebroadcast]

    Aug 17 2016

    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 questioning about the role of local police in their communities. On this episode, we’ll explore how the first municipal police departments were assembled to quell riots in the 1840s, not fight crime. And we’ll consider what happens when the police...more

  • Wish You Were Here: A History of American Tourism

    Aug 11 2016

    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 19th century, and how the tiny community of Gettysburg, PA became a tourist town just days after the bloody battle. We’ll also look back on a western mountain resort that catered exclusively to black Americans during the era of segregated trav...more

  • Another Man’s Treasure: A History Of Trash [rebroadcast]

    Aug 04 2016

    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 - we’ll learn why Americans produce so much garbage and the different ways we’ve disposed of it. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • You've Come A Long Way?: A History Of Women In Politics

    Jul 28 2016

    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 fought for the right to vote. On this episode of BackStory, we look at the different ways women have influenced American politics, including: • The bread riots by Confederate soldiers' wives. • The 1913 Women's Suffrage Parade in Washington, ...more

  • Conventional Wisdom: A History of American Political Conventions [rebroadcast]

    Jul 22 2016

    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 resolved, and where political careers were made or ruined. On this episode, we venture into the back rooms, chaotic halls, and streets where these political clashes unfolded. The History Guys bring us the voices of anti-corruption crusaders in the...more

  • The GOP: A History Of The Republican Party

    Jul 14 2016

    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 Old Party. From its birth in 1854 by anti-slavery activists in the North, to the party of small government and low taxes, we look at how theRepublican party has reinvented itself at various points in its history. Learn more about your ad c...more

  • Rare History Well Done: Meat In America [rebroadcast]

    Jul 08 2016

    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 have altered which meats Americans consume. As millions of folks fire up their grills this summer, the Guys will look back on America's long love affair with all things meat. How did we get from smokehouses and stockyards to cellophane-wrapped ...more

  • Independence Daze: A History of July 4th [rebroadcast]

    Jul 04 2016

    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 perspective from guests and taking questions from listeners, Peter, Ed, and Brian explore the origins of July Fourth. They highlight the holiday’s radical roots, look at how the Declaration’s meaning has changed over time, and consider how the descen...more

  • The Pursuit: A History Of Happiness [rebroadcast]

    Jun 30 2016

    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 exploring Jefferson’s intent with his choice of punctuation. Along the way, they will consider how Americans have defined success, prosperity and contentment. They’ll also look at the many ways we’ve pursued happiness, and learn if history squares...more

  • Above The Fray?: Ideology & The Court

    Jun 24 2016

    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, which elevated the court to a co-equal branch of government, to FDR’s infamous court packing plan, and the failed nomination of conservative judge Robert Bork in the 1987 - the Guys look at how political pressures have shaped the country’s high...more

  • Committed: Marriage In America [rebroadcast]

    Jun 17 2016

    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 redefined marriage. We explore the surprising 20th century origins of marriage counseling, as well as a panic over child brides that swept the nation in the late 1930s. The Guys take a look at how the experience of marriage changed for enslave...more

  • Hamilton: A History

    Jun 10 2016

    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 face on the front of the $10 bill. Peter, Ed and Brian take apart the Hamilton phenomenon by considering who Alexander Hamilton was, his legacy (and how it was remade) and why a white migrant from the British West Indies appeals to so many Ameri...more

  • Politically Incorrect: Speech In American Politics

    Jun 03 2016

    ***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 many Americans think but are afraid to say, while opponents charge him with inciting bigotry and hatred. On this episode of BackStory, the Guys look at how American society and culture has shaped what topics could-- or couldn't-- be talked abo...more

  • The Beasts Within Domesticated Animals In America [rebroadcast]

    May 27 2016

    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 and pets, but the history of human-animal interaction hasn’t always been pretty. In this episode, the Guys will look at the contributions of pigs to the colonization of America, our complicated feelings about animal performers and explore what ...more

  • All Hopped Up: Drugs In America [rebroadcast]

    May 20 2016

    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 are becoming a national epidemic. We have a checkered past where drug usage is concerned. Brian, Ed and Peter start this episode by looking at the 19th century, when opium and cocaine were legal. Along the way, we’ll explore the influence of the ...more

  • Watch The Throne: America & Royalty

    May 13 2016

    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 BackStory, the History Guys will consider what happened when Napoleon’s little brother married an American teenager, whether Americans had more or less freedom after independence from Great Britain, and why Americans sometimes try to emulate royal fam...more

  • All In: A History of Gambling in America

    May 06 2016

    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 birth of Las Vegas. We’ll hear how lotteries help raise money for the Virginia colony, and when horse racing was America’s most popular spectator sport. We’ll also learn how gambling, once outlawed in much of the U.S., has also been a major so...more

  • On The Money: A History Of American Currency [rebroadcast]

    Apr 29 2016

    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 and their guests discuss the profusion of currencies in the past, and consider how Americans decided which ones to trust. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • Judaism in America

    Apr 22 2016

    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 relatively small demographic size. In this episode of BackStory, the Guys explore the history of Judaism in America, from George Washington’s famous letter to the Jewish congregation of Newport, Rhode Island, to efforts to establish a Jewish city of...more

  • Stuck: A History of Political Gridlock [rebroadcast]

    Apr 15 2016

    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 checks and balances devolved into open warfare between political factions. They’ll discuss how the Missouri Compromise failed to resolve the political battle over the expansion of slavery. They’ll also look at the war within the Democratic party ...more

  • Pass/Fail: An American History of Testing

    Apr 08 2016

    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 into the history of testing in America, from duels and religious tests in colonial New England to the development of the civil service exam in the wake of President James Garfield’s assassination in 1881 by a disgruntled job seeker. They’ll also l...more

  • TURF WAR [2016]: A HISTORY OF COLLEGE SPORTS [rebroadcast]

    Apr 01 2016

    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 originally justified athletics on campus. From the first collegiate PHYS ED program at Amherst College to the little-known story about the integration of the University of Alabama’s football team, Peter, Ed and Brian discover why college sports even...more

  • Little Caesars: Local Power in America

    Mar 28 2016

    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 brokers; from big city political bosses and small town sheriffs to some of the social reformers who’ve shaped their communities from the ground up. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • Small Island, Big Shadow Cuba and the U.S. [rebroadcast]

    Mar 18 2016

    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 U.S.-Cuba relations that reflect Cuba’s outsized influence throughout American history. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • Well-Regulated Militias: A History Of Armed Protest

    Mar 11 2016

    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 first time in our history that American citizens have staged armed protests. In this episode of BackStory, the Guys will consider different groups who have taken up arms - from Revolutionary War veterans protesting taxes, to the birth of th...more

  • The Middling Sort: Visions of the Middle Class [rebroadcast]

    Mar 04 2016

    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. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • Hard Times: A History Of Unemployment

    Feb 26 2016

    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 BackStory, the Guys will look at the invention of the official unemployment rate, discuss the struggle among Baltimore’s working classes in the early 19th century to find and keep work, and uncover the hidden history of unemployment in the U.S....more

  • Contagion: Responding to Infectious Disease [rebroadcast]

    Feb 19 2016

    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 the rampant spread of diseases in the wake of the Civil War and the first World War. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • Real To Reel 2016: History At The Movies

    Feb 12 2016

    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. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • New & Improved: Advertising In America [rebroadcast]

    Feb 05 2016

    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 BackStory tackles the tangled history of American advertising, from the nation’s first billboards to catchy jingles. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • PROMO - New & Improved: Advertising In America [rebroadcast]

    Feb 02 2016

    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 BackStory tackles the tangled history of American advertising, from the nation’s first billboards to catchy jingles. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • Court Of Public Opinion: Trial Watching In America

    Jan 29 2016

    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 clerk accused of murdering a New York City prostitute in 1836, and why we’re still talking about Sacco and Vanzetti nearly a century after they were sentenced to death. From public hanging in Puritan Massachusetts, to the murder trial of Black ...more

  • City Upon A Hill: A History Of American Exceptionalism [rebroadcast]

    Jan 22 2016

    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.” President Obama is hardly the first leader to talk about American exceptionalism. But just how “exceptional” is America? And why does it matter? In this episode of BackStory, we’ll go behind the rhetoric to unpack the history and meaning of the term an...more

  • Color Lines: Racial Passing In America

    Jan 15 2016

    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 at stories of African-Americans who passed as white to escape slavery or Jim Crow and find out how the “one-drop rule” enabled one blonde-haired, blue-eyed American to live a double life without ever arousing suspicion. We'll also explore the sto...more

  • The Future Then: Visions of America Yet to Come [rebroadcast]

    Jan 08 2016

    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 episode of BackStory, Brian, Ed and Peter kick off the new year by asking what past visions of the future tell us about the times that conjured them. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • Cheers and Jeers: Alcohol in America [rebroadcast]

    Dec 31 2015

    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 Guys will consider how and why the consumption and production of alcohol have ebbed and flowed throughout the centuries. We’ll learn how rum became the drink of choice among revolutionary troops, explore why Native Americans were rejecting alcoho...more

  • History for the Headlines: 2015 in Review

    Dec 25 2015

    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 year’s major news stories. What does the 19th century populist movement tell us about the 2016 presidential campaign? And how does the 1897 battle over America’s first long-distance oil pipeline connect to the Keystone XL debate? In this episode, we’...more

  • Islam and the United States [rebroadcast]

    Dec 18 2015

    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 East. What does it mean to be Muslim in America? And how has the practice of Islam in the U.S. changed over time? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

  • American Prophets: Religions Born in the U.S.

    Dec 11 2015

    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 dissenters. It was also fertile ground for many new religious faiths. In this hour of BackStory, the History Guys will consider religions that originated or transformed in America, from Christian Science to Scientology. They’ll find out how the t...more

  • Counter Culture: A History of Shopping [rebroadcast]

    Dec 04 2015

    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, look at the curious rash of shoplifting among well-heeled women in the country’s first department stores, and reveal the connection between the Wizard of Oz and window shopping. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices...more

  • Three Squares: Mealtime in America [rebroadcast]

    Nov 24 2015

    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 finding the perfect nutritional balance—it has profound social implications, too. On this episode of BackStory, the Guys recover from their Thanksgiving feasts by looking back over the history of mealtime in America. From Victorian table manners to t...more

  • Contested Landscape: Confederate Symbols in America

    Nov 20 2015

    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 the flag from the State House building, and many other states followed suit. But while some Americans applaud the decision as a victory against racism and hatred, others argue that the flag’s removal dishonors the memory of those who died defen...more

  • Body Politics: Disability in America

    Nov 13 2015

    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 American society. This week on BackStory, we’re exploring the history of disability in America, from the “ugly laws” that barred the disabled from public spaces to the grassroots activism that set the stage for the passage of the Americans with Disabi...more

  • Coming Home: A History of War Veterans [rebroadcast]

    Nov 05 2015

    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 of challenges did veterans face in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries? How did Americans understand the psychological effects of war before PTSD was a diagnosis? What was expected of soldiers’ wives and mothers from one war to the next? Are vete...more

  • People's Choice: A History of Populism

    Oct 23 2015

    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 old as the country itself. In this episode, the Guys trace populism’s influence on American politics—from mob justice in Revolutionary Boston to the original presidential outsider, Andrew Jackson. BackStory will explore how farmers built a mass...more

  • Green Acres: A History of Farmers in America [rebroadcast]

    Oct 16 2015

    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 for a virtuous republic. Just two percent of Americans live on farms today, but farmers still occupy a special place in the national identity. In this episode, BackStory considers why the ideal of the self-sufficient, independent American farme...more

  • They Might Be Giants: China and the U.S.

    Oct 09 2015

    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 illicit and lucrative trade in opium. Later, Chinese immigrants helped to build the American West. But the relationship between the two countries has often been fraught, with each side fearing that the other is seeking the upper hand. In this episode...more

  • Little Feet: Children Starting Over in America [rebroadcast]

    Oct 02 2015

    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 treacherous journeys. This week, BackStory revisits our episode on the many paths of child migrants in our own country. Some were thought of as innocents to be saved, whether from the Nazi bombing of London or from overcrowded urban orphanages....more

  • Banned: A History of Censorship

    Sep 25 2015

    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 censor all kinds of things: music, radio, TV, and film have also run up against assumed limits on what is acceptable to say or portray. In this episode, Peter, Ed, and Brian offer an uncut account of censorship in American politics, media, and ...more

  • Catholics In America

    Sep 18 2015

    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 of Catholics on the history of the United States. From Spanish missionaries on the California coast and early converts among the Mohawk, to JFK and modern nuns living in the Blue Ridge Mountains, BackStory considers how what it means to be Catho...more

  • Fear Tactics: A History of Domestic Terrorism [rebroadcast]

    Sep 11 2015

    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 origins of domestic terrorism in the United States? And what kinds of people and movements have been labeled as “terrorist?” Brian, Ed, Peter and their guests explore the relationship between terror and the state and ask when, if ever, terroris...more

  • Rare History Well Done: Meat in America

    Sep 04 2015

    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 technologies, tastes, and policies have altered not only which meats Americans consume but also how they consume them. As millions of Americans fire up their grills this Labor Day, the Guys will look back on America’s love affair with all things meat. Ho...more