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BackStory

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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 the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. Each week we take a topic that people a...Show More

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

35:53 | Feb 8th

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 fundrais...Show More

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

56:52 | Mar 8th

On this episode of BackStory, Ed, Brian and Nathan look at the history of profanity in America.

BlackStory: BackStory Celebrates Black History Month with a Compilation

54:43 | Feb 1st

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 Korl...Show More

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

36:27 | Mar 23rd, 2018

Fifty-five years ago this month, a man named Ernesto Miranda confessed to rape and kidnapping in a Phoenix police station. His trial would go all the way to the Supreme Court in one of the most well-known cases of the 20th century: "Miranda v Arizona...Show More

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

1:11:47 | Apr 12th

On this episode of BackStory, Brian and Nathan consider the history of industrial disasters and how they’ve changed the nature of American capitalism.

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

40:17 | Apr 5th

On this episode of BackStory, Joanne and Brian look at presidential vetoes through two periods in American history.

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

1:06:07 | Mar 29th

On this episode of BackStory, Joanne, Brian and Ed talk about the role young people have played in American politics.

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

1:07:36 | Mar 22nd

On this episode of BackStory, Ed, Nathan and Brian explore the history of blackface and look to explain its long life in American culture.

243: Shore Thing: A History of the Beach

52:05 | Mar 15th

On this episode of BackStory, Ed, Joanne, and Brian dip their toes into four tales from America’s shoreline.

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

39:53 | Mar 1st

On this episode of BackStory, Brian showcases our favorite segments that highlight female achievement in American history.

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

42:18 | Feb 22nd

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 l...Show More

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

51:49 | Feb 15th

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 wit...Show More

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

1:06:49 | Jan 25th

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 ...Show More

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

56:21 | Jan 18th

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 t...Show More

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

38:03 | Jan 11th

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...Show More

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

56:26 | Jan 4th

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...Show More

What’s Cooking? A History of Food in America

53:07 | Dec 28th, 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...Show More

Playing the Past: Video Games and American History

59:16 | Dec 21st, 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 episo...Show More

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

1:04:19 | Dec 14th, 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.

Out of the Closet: The LGBTQ Community in American History

1:22:17 | Dec 7th, 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. 

Forgotten Flu: America & the 1918 Pandemic

46:20 | Nov 30th, 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...Show More

Stuffed: Taxidermy in the History of America

1:12:05 | Nov 23rd, 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 C...Show More

Divided States of America? The History of An Often Disjointed Union

59:46 | Nov 16th, 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 poin...Show More

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

57:23 | Nov 9th, 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 ...Show More

Border Patrols: Policing Immigration in America

40:17 | Nov 2nd, 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, violen...Show More

The War to End All Wars: Remembering WWI

52:39 | Oct 26th, 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 American...Show More

To be a Citizen? The History of Becoming American

56:40 | Oct 19th, 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,...Show More

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

1:06:02 | Oct 12th, 2018

BackStory shoots up from the depths and spouts another great episode exploring the extraordinary tale of whales and whaling in America. Brian, Nathan, Joanne and Ed uncover the story of Cabin Boys who were women in disguise, find out why a decomposin...Show More

Thar She Blows: The History of Whales and America

45:54 | Oct 5th, 2018

Whale deaths are defying yearly averages on the East Coast according to the New England Aquarium, once again increasing concerns about our conservation responsibilities and the continued recovery of the species after nearly two centuries of whaling. ...Show More

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

42:09 | Sep 28th, 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 protes...Show More

Close Encounters: UFOs in American History

1:04:50 | Sep 21st, 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 co...Show More

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

49:44 | Sep 14th, 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 t...Show More

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

56:15 | Sep 7th, 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 Stat...Show More

Hot Enough For You? The History of Climate Change

34:39 | Aug 24th, 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 i...Show More

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

58:34 | Aug 17th, 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 i...Show More

A More Perfect Union? The Reconstruction Era

46:04 | Aug 10th, 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 t...Show More

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

48:40 | Aug 3rd, 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 a...Show More

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

40:51 | Jul 27th, 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 ...Show More

The Melting Pot: Americans & Assimilation

1:04:06 | Jul 20th, 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 expect...Show More

Shore Thing: A History of the Beach

52:27 | Jul 13th, 2018

Summer’s 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 o...Show More

What’s in a Number? Thirteen in American History

52:42 | Jul 6th, 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...Show More

Saving American History

42:17 | Jun 29th, 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...Show More

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

56:19 | Jun 22nd, 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.

The Camera Never Lies? History Through the Viewfinder

38:06 | Jun 15th, 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 i...Show More

Death Before Dishonor: Shame and Reputation in American History

48:32 | Jun 8th, 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 conce...Show More

Are We There Yet? Americans On Vacation

37:02 | Jun 1st, 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.

Reflecting on Darkness: Lynching; Americans and the Holocaust

41:56 | May 25th, 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 j...Show More

Upward Nobility: American-Made Royalty

46:58 | May 18th, 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 impac...Show More

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

58:55 | May 11th, 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 fairground...Show More

Crowning Glory: A History of Hair in America

53:11 | May 4th, 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...Show More

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

32:16 | Apr 27th, 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.

Behind the Bylines: Advocacy Journalism in America

50:48 | Apr 20th, 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. ill...Show More

Teen Activists: A History of Youth Politics and Protest

1:06:18 | Apr 13th, 2018

As students organize protests around the country, 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 Am...Show More

The Habit: Opioid Addiction in America

43:22 | Apr 6th, 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...Show More

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

52:56 | Mar 30th, 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?

Wherever Green is Worn: The Irish in America

54:02 | Mar 16th, 2018

On this St. Patrick’s Day special, Brian, Joanne and Nathan explore Irish American culture and identity. 

Turf War: A History of College Sports

52:09 | Mar 9th, 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 integratio...Show More

Too Good To Be True?: Myths in American History

57:38 | Mar 2nd, 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.  

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

35:02 | Feb 23rd, 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 ...Show More

Life After the Oval Office: Presidential Legacies

50:11 | Feb 16th, 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?

Catholics in America

49:16 | Feb 9th, 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 ...Show More

Forgotten Flu: America & the 1918 Pandemic

46:01 | Feb 2nd, 2018

The U.S. is in the grips of the worst flu season in nearly a decade, with hospitals full across the country. But it’s nothing compared to the flu season one hundred years ago, when a nationwide pandemic killed over half a million Americans. Brian, Na...Show More

US vs Them: Sports on the World Stage

56:51 | Jan 26th, 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 tang...Show More

All that Glitters? Legacies of the California Gold Rush

54:20 | Jan 19th, 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 impact...Show More

Presidents in the Public Eye, Slogans, and the Value of History

37:58 | Jan 12th, 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 t...Show More

Schism: The Branch Davidians at Waco

38:20 | Jan 5th, 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 ...Show More

History for the Headlines: 2017 in Review

50:01 | Dec 29th, 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.

Untrammeled: Americans and the Wilderness

52:40 | Dec 22nd, 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...Show More

What’s Cooking? A History of Food in America

53:40 | Dec 15th, 2017

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.

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

44:49 | Dec 8th, 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. 

Men Apologizing, Alabama Senate Race, Net Neutrality

39:48 | Dec 1st, 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 ne...Show More

On the Take: Corruption in America

52:00 | Nov 24th, 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.

The Thin Light of Freedom

48:33 | Nov 17th, 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 ...Show More

Red Dawn: Americans and the Bolshevik Revolution

57:24 | Nov 10th, 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 cent...Show More

Other People’s Battles: American Volunteer Soldiers

55:26 | Nov 3rd, 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 independenc...Show More

Close Encounters: UFOs in American History

1:04:48 | Oct 27th, 2017

On this week’s episode, Nathan, Brian and Ed discuss things in the sky we can’t explain - unidentified flying objects. What the heck are they? And what do they say about American history?

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

36:39 | Oct 20th, 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 ...Show More

What’s in a Number? Thirteen in American History

53:06 | Oct 13th, 2017

This Friday the 13th, Joanne, Nathan and Brian explore stories of superstition and the surprising roles the number 13 has played across American history. survey.panoply.fm

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

48:51 | Oct 6th, 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 tu...Show More

Enemies: A History of Bad Blood

47:26 | Sep 29th, 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.fm

Longer Commutes, Equifax Data Breach, and Income Inequality

39:44 | Sep 22nd, 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. 

The Melting Pot: Americans & Assimilation

1:05:41 | Sep 15th, 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 expect...Show More

A Conversation with Karl Rove

38:59 | Sep 8th, 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 20...Show More

Death Before Dishonor: Shame and Reputation in American History

46:38 | Sep 1st, 2017

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 conce...Show More

Starry-Eyed: A History of the Heavens

49:16 | Aug 25th, 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. 

Guns v. Speech: When Protesters Are Armed

16:48 | Aug 23rd, 2017

When hundreds of armed white supremacists descended on Charlottesville on August 12th, violence broke out across the city. In this Short Take, Brian sits down with University of Virginia Law School Vice Dean Leslie Kendrick to discuss the constitutio...Show More

Charlottesville: Our Town, Our Country

28:06 | Aug 18th, 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 inj...Show More

Revisionist Climate: Americans & the Atmosphere

45:22 | Aug 11th, 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. 

Are We There Yet?: Americans On Vacation

34:07 | Aug 4th, 2017

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.

Too Good To Be True?: Myths in American History

54:04 | Jul 28th, 2017

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.  

Campus Protests, First Female “Doctor Who” & Voter Suppression

32:51 | Jul 21st, 2017

In this History Grab Bag, Nathan, Ed, Brian and Joanne discuss the history behind stories in the news. They look at the changing nature of student protests on campuses and the reaction to the first time a woman is cast to play “Doctor Who,” the title...Show More

Skin Deep: Whiteness in America

52:11 | Jul 14th, 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...Show More

Hometown History: Local Stories From Across The Country

1:09:44 | Jul 7th, 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 ...Show More

iPhone Turns 10, The Health Care Mess & Political Violence

50:55 | Jun 30th, 2017

In this History Grab Bag, Nathan, Ed, Brian and Joanne discuss the history behind stories in the news. They’ll look at the introduction of the iPhone 10 years ago, and the dimming prospects for the Senate Republicans’ health care plan. They also welc...Show More

Crowning Glory: A History of Hair in America

48:37 | Jun 23rd, 2017

From Katy Perry’s new pixie to cut to Lebron James going bald - hair (or the lack of) is in the headlines a lot recently. On this episode, Brian, Joanne and Nathan explore some of the many meanings Americans have attached to hair - as a marker of per...Show More

Contested Landscape: The Battle over Confederate Monuments

45:15 | Jun 16th, 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 wha...Show More

Prying Eyes: Privacy in America

53:27 | Jun 9th, 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 employee...Show More

Body Politics, JFK at 100 and African American Memorials

34:48 | Jun 2nd, 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 publ...Show More

Call To Arms: Enlistment In America

42:22 | Jun 1st, 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 Americ...Show More

National Lampoon: A History of American Satire

34:01 | May 19th, 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 lo...Show More

The Habit: Opioid Addiction in America

41:44 | May 12th, 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 histo...Show More

History Grab Bag 5.5

32:06 | May 5th, 2017

In this History Grab Bag, Joanne, Ed, Brian and Nathan discuss the history behind items in this week’s news. They’ll discuss why the Civil War and its monuments remain so divisive, consider the varied paths of ex-Presidents, and talk about this week’...Show More

American Hoarders: Saving History

39:58 | Apr 28th, 2017

How is the history of a nation remembered? Well -- it all depends on what you keep. We're talking about recipes, old record collections, wedding dresses, newspapers, family letters or even your own personal diary. These are the types of documents fut...Show More

History Grab Bag 4.21

31:07 | Apr 21st, 2017

In this History Grab Bag, Joanne, Ed, Brian and Nathan discuss the history behind items in the news. They’ll look at the deep history of sanctuary cities and rule of law, and look at America’s history of boycotts all the way back to the Boston Tea Pa...Show More

Over There: America Enters WWI

44:55 | Apr 14th, 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 l...Show More

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

40:42 | Apr 7th, 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 w...Show More

A More Perfect Union?: The Reconstruction Era

44:35 | Mar 31st, 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 ...Show More

History Grab Bag 3.24

40:23 | Mar 24th, 2017

In BackStory’s second history grab bag, Joanne, Ed, Brian, and Nathan discuss the history behind items in this week’s news. They’ll look at Boston Public School’s decision to ditch the traditional world map for a new one that reflects the true propor...Show More

Behind the Bylines: Advocacy Journalism in America

48:41 | Mar 17th, 2017

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. ill...Show More

Border Patrols: Policing Immigration in America

38:47 | Mar 10th, 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...Show More

Taking it to the Streets: Protest in America

41:04 | Mar 3rd, 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 Bac...Show More

History Grab Bag 2.24

37:12 | Feb 24th, 2017

In BackStory’s first history grab bag, Joanne, Brian and Nathan discuss the history behind items in this week’s news. They’ll look at how institutions like government agencies and the press have pushed back against presidents in the past and explore ...Show More

Fit to Print?: A History of Fake News

33:36 | Feb 17th, 2017

Since the 2016 election, concerns about “fake news-” widely circulated news stories that are inaccurate, misleading, or completely made-up - have dominated the headlines. A Buzzfeed study found that in the three months before the election, false news...Show More

On the Outs: Restricting American Immigration

30:20 | Feb 10th, 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 beli...Show More

Worlds Apart: Urban/Rural Divides in America

50:12 | Feb 4th, 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 cou...Show More

PREVIEW - Worlds Apart

02:29 | Jan 31st, 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 co...Show More

Best of BackStory Pt. 2

51:43 | Jan 26th, 2017

Best of BackStory Pt. 2 by BackStory with the American History Guys

Preview

01:30 | Jan 20th, 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!

Best Of BackStory Pt. 1

51:40 | Jan 19th, 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 ...Show More

Four More Years: Presidential Inaugurations [rebroadcast]

51:28 | Jan 9th, 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 a...Show More

Health Nuts: A History of Nutritional Advice [rebroadcast]

57:36 | Jan 5th, 2017

Health Nuts: A History of Nutritional Advice [rebroadcast] by BackStory with the American History Guys

Judaism In America [rebroadcast]

58:34 | Dec 21st, 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 th...Show More

Counter Culture: A History of Shopping [rebroadcast]

51:30 | Dec 15th, 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 s...Show More

Separation Anxiety: Church & State In America

55:20 | Dec 8th, 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 b...Show More

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

14:14 | Dec 6th, 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. B...Show More

New & Improved: Advertising in America [rebroadcast]

58:59 | Dec 1st, 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 ...Show More

Short Take: A History Of Rigged Elections

16:33 | Nov 30th, 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 wi...Show More

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

51:28 | Nov 23rd, 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 An...Show More

A Whole New World: A History of Utopias

51:40 | Nov 17th, 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...Show More

American Exodus: A History of Emigration [rebroadcast]

51:18 | Nov 11th, 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 –...Show More

Short Take: The 2016 Election

13:02 | Nov 9th, 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 ho...Show More

Pulling the Curtain: Voting in America [rebroadcast]

52:00 | Nov 3rd, 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 la...Show More

Short Take: FBI and U.S. Elections

15:54 | Nov 2nd, 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 investiga...Show More

Bridge For Sale: Deception In America [rebroadcast]

51:26 | Oct 20th, 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 ...Show More

A History of Manufacturing in 5 Objects

57:14 | Oct 13th, 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 obje...Show More

Fighting Words: A History of Debate in America

59:05 | Oct 6th, 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 th...Show More

Keeping Tabs: Data & Surveillance in America [rebroadcast]

52:38 | Sep 29th, 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 Snow...Show More

Banned: A History of Censorship [rebroadcast]

57:47 | Sep 21st, 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, an...Show More

Believer-In-Chief: Faith & The Presidency

57:00 | Sep 14th, 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 spiri...Show More

Body Politics: Disability in America [rebroadcast]

37:34 | Sep 8th, 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 dis...Show More

Nose to the Grindstone: A History of American Work Ethic

58:04 | Sep 1st, 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...Show More

Untrammeled: Americans and the Wilderness [rebroadcast]

51:33 | Aug 25th, 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 fi...Show More

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

51:26 | Aug 17th, 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 ...Show More

Wish You Were Here: A History of American Tourism

57:52 | Aug 11th, 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 ...Show More

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

51:42 | Aug 4th, 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 lin...Show More

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

1:00:06 | Jul 28th, 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 wome...Show More

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

51:32 | Jul 22nd, 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 we...Show More

The GOP: A History Of The Republican Party

1:03:15 | Jul 14th, 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 Gr...Show More

Rare History Well Done: Meat In America [rebroadcast]

58:20 | Jul 8th, 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 t...Show More

The Pursuit: A History Of Happiness [rebroadcast]

51:53 | Jun 30th, 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 ...Show More

Above The Fray?: Ideology & The Court

51:28 | Jun 24th, 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. Mad...Show More

Committed: Marriage In America [rebroadcast]

51:14 | Jun 17th, 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 defin...Show More

Hamilton: A History

51:33 | Jun 10th, 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...Show More

Politically Incorrect: Speech In American Politics

51:38 | Jun 3rd, 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 sayin...Show More

The Beasts Within Domesticated Animals In America [rebroadcast]

51:39 | May 27th, 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 an...Show More

All Hopped Up: Drugs In America [rebroadcast]

52:15 | May 20th, 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 painkill...Show More

Watch The Throne: America & Royalty

57:51 | May 13th, 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 B...Show More

All In: A History of Gambling in America

52:25 | May 6th, 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...Show More

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

51:18 | Apr 29th, 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 G...Show More

Judaism in America

58:47 | Apr 22nd, 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...Show More

Stuck: A History of Political Gridlock [rebroadcast]

51:36 | Apr 15th, 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...Show More

Pass Fail: An American History of Testing

51:47 | Apr 8th, 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 del...Show More

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

51:25 | Apr 1st, 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...Show More

Little Caesars: Local Power in America

58:08 | Mar 28th, 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 pow...Show More

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

51:30 | Mar 18th, 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 i...Show More

Well-Regulated Militias: A History Of Armed Protest

53:16 | Mar 11th, 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 ha...Show More

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

51:40 | Mar 4th, 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 th...Show More

Hard Times: A History Of Unemployment

51:30 | Feb 26th, 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 episo...Show More

Contagion: Responding to Infectious Disease [rebroadcast]

51:24 | Feb 19th, 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 explo...Show More

Real To Reel 2016: History At The Movies

54:55 | Feb 12th, 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.

New & Improved: Advertising In America [rebroadcast]

59:00 | Feb 5th, 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 ...Show More

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

00:30 | Feb 2nd, 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 ...Show More

Court Of Public Opinion: Trial Watching In America

51:50 | Jan 29th, 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 ...Show More

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

52:53 | Jan 22nd, 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.” Pr...Show More

Color Lines: Racial Passing In America

1:05:14 | Jan 15th, 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 l...Show More

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

51:21 | Jan 8th, 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 ...Show More

Cheers and Jeers: Alcohol in America [rebroadcast]

51:36 | Dec 31st, 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. ...Show More

History for the Headlines: 2015 in Review

51:31 | Dec 25th, 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 ...Show More

Islam and the United States [rebroadcast]

54:19 | Dec 18th, 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 Mi...Show More

American Prophets: Religions Born in the U.S.

51:32 | Dec 11th, 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 religio...Show More

Counter Culture: A History of Shopping [rebroadcast]

51:30 | Dec 4th, 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 coloni...Show More

Three Squares: Mealtime in America [rebroadcast]

51:33 | Nov 24th, 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 ...Show More

Contested Landscape: Confederate Symbols in America

57:59 | Nov 20th, 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 r...Show More

Body Politics: Disability in America

57:05 | Nov 13th, 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 A...Show More

Coming Home: A History of War Veterans [rebroadcast]

53:35 | Nov 5th, 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 k...Show More

People's Choice: A History of Populism

1:20:01 | Oct 23rd, 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 traditi...Show More

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

52:02 | Oct 16th, 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 found...Show More

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

56:57 | Oct 9th, 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 ...Show More

Little Feet: Children Starting Over in America [rebroadcast]

52:02 | Oct 2nd, 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...Show More

Banned: A History of Censorship

55:16 | Sep 25th, 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 soug...Show More

Catholics In America

53:22 | Sep 18th, 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 im...Show More

Fear Tactics: A History of Domestic Terrorism [rebroadcast]

53:52 | Sep 11th, 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 ar...Show More

Rare History Well Done: Meat in America

58:21 | Sep 4th, 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 tech...Show More