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Tip of the Week: 13 history podcasts that you actually want to listen to

Maybe it’s just me. But I have a hard time listening to fiction audio books. It’s a little better with non-fiction but it’s gotten to the point that I don’t even try.

But listening to history podcasts? Absolutely, yes please.

If you haven’t noticed, there’s been an absolute podcast explosion in the last few years. And with that huge spike in available podcasts, it makes sense that there would be more history casts available. The problem, of course, is trying to figure out which podcasts you should spend your time listening to.

I’m here to help.

Today we’ve got 13 top-notch history and social studies related podcasts perfect for making you and your kids smarter. But realize that by top-notch, I mean podcasts that I enjoy – your mileage may vary. There should be  something here for just about everybody. Try them all and then head back to your favorites.

Stuff You Missed in History Class

The Queen Mother of history podcasts. US. World. Politics. Geography. Military. Economics. Tracy Wilson loves the humanities and Holly Frey’s true historical passion is fashion from every era. But they talk about all sorts of stuff – you’re guaranteed to find something you like.

BackStory

A weekly public podcast hosted by U.S. historians Ed Ayers, Brian Balogh, Nathan Connolly and Joanne Freeman. There’s the history you had to learn, and the history you want to learn – that’s where BackStory comes in. Each week BackStory takes a topic that people are talking about and explores it through the lens of American history. Through stories, interviews, and conversations with our listeners, BackStory makes history engaging and fun.

Sidedoor

Who doesn’t love the Smithsonian? They’ve got so much stuff – more than 154 million treasures fill the Smithsonian’s vaults – and we’ll never see even 10% of it. But Sidedoor can help. With the help of biologists, artists, historians, archaeologists, zookeepers, and astrophysicists, host Lizzie Peabody sneaks listeners through Smithsonian’s side door to search for stories that can’t be found anywhere else.

Revisionist History

Revisionist History is author and now podcaster Malcolm Gladwell’s journey through the overlooked and the misunderstood. Every episode re-examines something from the past – an event, a person, an idea, even a song – and asks whether we got it right the first time. Because sometimes the past deserves a second chance.

American History Tellers

Every part of your life – the words you speak, the ideas you share – can be traced to our history, but how well do you really know the stories that made America? American History Tellers takes you to the events, the times and the people that shaped our nation. And they’ll show you how our history affected them, their families, and affects you today.

Cabinet of Curiosities

My daughter hooked me into Cabinet. I didn’t want to be hooked – the narrator Aaron Mahnke drives me nuts with his cadence. But his world is full of the unexplainable – mysterious events, unusual objects, and people who defy the tidy little categories that make us feel safe – and I can’t look away.

The Way I Heard It

I’ve been a fan of Mike Rowe since his time at Dirty Jobs. And his easy to follow storytelling chops make these short, 10ish minutes podcasts super easy listening. “All good stories have a twist, and all great storytellers are just a little twisted. Join me for a different take on the people and events that you thought you knew, from pop culture to politics, Hollywood to history . . . The Way I Heard It is a series of short mysteries for the curious mind with a short attention span.”

The Dollop

American history as filtered through the lens of comedians Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds. Each podcast is Anthony reading a quick history snippet to Reynolds. They spend the rest of their time basically trying to make each other laugh and we get to listen. History fun? Absolutely.

Burnt Toast

I love history. I love food. So how perfect is Burnt Toast? In its very tasty episodes, Burnt Toast explores the history of food, explains why we eat what we eat and highlights some of the world’s craziest food stories. Start with The Worst Food in White House History. (And it was bad on purpose!)

Our Fake History

An award-winning podcast about myths people think are history and history that might be hidden in myths. Have you ever heard that old story about how Napoleon shot the nose off the sphinx, or that Shakespeare was an illiterate fraud, or that Queen Elizabeth was actually a man? This show explores those tall-tales and tries to figure out what’s fact, what’s fiction, and what is such a good story it simply must be told.

The History Chicks

The goal is to introduce you to female characters in history, factual or fictional. There are extensive show notes that come in very handy for digging deeper. And I love their tagline – “Two women. Half the population. Several thousand years of history. About an hour. Go.”

Letters from War
I just ran across this limited edition podcast but it sounds so good. Four brothers, hundreds of letters, one war. Hundreds of letters, written between the Eyde brothers fighting in the Pacific during World War II. Almost one a day, for every day of the war – the monotony of training, the Great Depression back home, Chicago Cubs scores, and eventually the horrors of the war in the Pacific. In this podcast, you’ll hear the story of these brothers and of World War II, as told through their letters, in their own words.

The Memory Palace

A semi-random podcast by Nate DiMeo, the former Artist in Residence at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Rather than hour long episodes, Nate decided to focus on that one thing, that one fact or person or situation that he found unshakeable – “Once I hit on this idea of finding the specific moment, finding the emotional core,  it weirdly became this deeply moving process.”

My History Can Beat Up Your Politics

“TV pundits discuss politics in a vacuum. Cable news tells you everything is breaking news but in most cases, events have long roots in history.” But things are always more nuanced that we’d like to think. MYCBUYP has been around forever in podcast years, bringing some much needed historical context to the politics of today.

Need a few extras? Try:

  • This American Life
  • Radio Lab
  • Anti-Social Studies
  • Left, Right and Center
  • Pod Save America

If you’re like me and podcasts are all you can listen to, what are your faves? Spread the wealth and share in the comments.

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Glenn is a curriculum and tech integration specialist, speaker, and blogger with a passion for technology and social studies. He delivers engaging professional learning across the country with a focus on consulting, presentations, and keynotes. Find out more about Glenn and how you might learn together by going to his Work with Me page.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. John Raby #

    Thanks for giving me a few more podcasts to listen to. Throughline should be on this list. Presidential and Constitutional from the Washington Post would be good additions as well. I guess I’ll keep going and add Civics 101 from New Hampshire Public Radio and More Perfect from WNYC. There are just too many to include.

    August 11, 2019
    • glennw #

      John,

      You’re right. There are so many! I love More Perfect but the others look awesome. Civics 101 should be required for every social studies teacher and kid. What a great way to flip a government classroom! Will also explore the others you listed.

      Thanks so much for sharing!

      glennw

      August 12, 2019

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