Anna Kent – ‘History in your Ears’

Postgraduate student Anna Kent shares her key history podcasts:

History in your ears…

If the saying ‘the medium is the message’ is correct, the message of 2017 is podcasts. Podcasts are everywhere, on every topic, in many languages – all accessible on your phone. One of the interesting things about podcasts is the accessibility of the technology – all it takes is a recording device and you too can get your thoughts or research or jokes out into the world.

Not surprisingly given the recent surge in popular interest in history (thanks global political uncertainty!), there are hundreds of history podcasts out there. I am a regular podcast listener, my normal podcast roster includes political podcasts, sports podcasts, feminist podcasts, comedy podcasts and yes, history podcasts. I have, for the purposes of this piece, expanded that roster to include some new podcasts – some recommended by colleagues and friends, others in magazine articles, and searches in podcast players. Below is my view on the ones I’ve listened to, and a few more that are on my ‘to listen to list’.

My regulars

The Dollop – An American History Podcast

The opening line of the Dollop is always the same – ‘You’re listening to the Dollop, an American history podcast, where I Dave Anthony, reads a story of American history to Garath Reynolds, who has no idea what the topic is going to be about.’ It’s a good summary of the premise of the podcast, which is usually hilarious, often insightful, and sometimes (such as recent live in Australia episodes) actually stories from Australian history! They often have guests (Wil Anderson is a regular), and look into some obscure moments in history – Whalesplosion is particularly bizarre. There are also profiles of interesting characters – the episode on Huey Long was particularly interesting just prior to the election of Donald Trump.

This is not a podcast for everyone, and one to avoid if you don’t like swearing, but I love it.

Revisionist History by Malcolm Gladwell

This is a really interesting podcast that has two, quite different, seasons. Malcolm Gladwell looks at events in history from a different perspective – and provides a useful lesson in not accepting evidence on face value. The second season has a strong focus on race in America, including a fascinating episode on a photo taken during a civil rights protest. Gladwell has a delightfully soothing voice, which makes for easy and interesting listening.

New to my rotation

The History Chicks

This podcast is made by two women, Beckett Graham and Susan Vollenweider. Their podcast is well researched, and focuses on the female characters of history (factual and fictional). The style is quite conversational, but revealing and insightful. The episodes are quite long (usually over an hour), but I learnt a whole lot about Wallis Simpson while gardening one afternoon. Definitely worth a listen.

Backstory

This is a particularly good one for the Contemporary Histories Research Group – given they take a topic that is in the headlines, and explore it through the lens of American history. The program is funded in part by the Virgina Foundation for the Humanities.

Shooting the Past

This is a short series of podcasts by Dr Claire Wright, that starts with a photo from a particular event or era in Australian history – and expands on that story. It is a fascinating approach to the topics, and covers a lot of ground over the series.

Eyewitness

This is a Radio New Zealand podcast, that looks at events in history and uses recordings from the RNZ archive to revisit key moments. The episodes are short and talk to those who were on the spot at the time along with the archive material.

For kids

The Past and the Curious

This is a history podcast for kids, looking at interesting characters and events of history. In one episode my kids even learnt what the word egress means! As with many of these podcasts, it is very North American focused, but it is well researched and presented – and is a great car trip podcast.

Some other recommendations

In a Contemporary Histories Research Group Seminar a few months ago, Dr Carolyn Holbrook talked about two Washington Post podcasts – Presidential and Constitutional. I am only one episode into Presidential but I am enjoying the framing of the story and I’m sure this would be great for those interested in American history, or those interested in analysis of leadership in history. BBC Radio 4 also has The Long View podcast, by Jonathan Freedland.

Roman history is covered by both the Emperors of Rome (produced by Dr Rhianon Evans from La Trobe University), and The Fall of Rome. If you’re into very long, very in depth stories – Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History is one to check out.

And more!

Stuff You Missed in History Class, Revolutions By Mike Duncan, The WW2 Podcast by Angus Wallace, Tides of History by Patrick Wyman, Making Gay History by Eric Marcus, True Crime Historian, The History Network, Ben Franklin’s World: A podcast about Early American History by Liz Covart, Unarchived History, Family Ghosts.

How do I listen?

Listening to podcasts is easy if you have a smartphone – there are many apps you can use (I use Podcast Addict, Spotify and ABC Listen). Most work similarly – search, subscribe, download and listen. Enjoy your audio history and please let me know if you come across any great history podcasts I should be listening to!

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