Home Content Areas Read Dead People’s Mail: 25 Fun History Podcasts

Read Dead People’s Mail: 25 Fun History Podcasts

by Miguel Guhlin
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“That’s what historians do, they read dead people’s mail,” says Professor Joanne Freeman in her 2011 lecture on The American Revolution. Your students and you can join historians, and journalists exploring dead people’s mail through this collection of podcasts that will enlighten and educate you about how society works.

“Those who tell the stories rule society.”― Plato

history podcasts
Fort Wagner, South Carolina , 18 July 1863
The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment 

I’m an XYZ Teacher. Why History Podcasts?

Familiar with CER? That is Claim, Evidence, and Reasoning, a critical thinking framework. It “encourages students to analyze evidence and draw conclusions.”

Image Source: Think like a Scientist: Using Claim, Evidence, and Reasoning, Science Lessons That Rock

However, applying critical thinking approaches like CER may not make the transition to learning history. A better approach may be the one I encountered in this EdCircuit podcast.

Introducing the Four Question Method

In the podcast, the authors of Four Question Method assert:

Form lessons around historical stories. Stories define the “what.” They also add the motivations behind the “characters” at a particular time and place. This encourages students to draw their personal interpretations and connections. This inquiry method leaves a lasting impression on students. It leads to deeper understanding of historical events and the associated social context (source: Four Questions That Transform History Teaching).

History must serve as our laboratory. Data from the past must serve as our most vital evidence in the unavoidable quest to figure out why. The goal is to discover why our complex species behaves as it does in societal settings. It offers the only evidence for the analysis of how societies function (source: Stearns, P. N. 1998. Why Study History?).

Podcasts provide access to the evidence you need to teach with authority. History, like science, facts continue to be unearthed and their appearance changes the conclusions we draw.

Their Voices Speak History

Challenge the stories that describe what happened. To do that, you have to keep learning, unearthing what happened. And you have to apply critical thinking skills. Do so, and you may be like these history educators who listen to these podcasts and have committed to learning more to teach their students.

Where do these intrepid historians journey to learn history? Below you will find a list of podcasts you can listen to that will have you sitting up and taking notice. Taken from each podcast website, I have edited the descriptions for readability. At the end, you’ll find an RSS feed you can import into your favorite pod catcher to listen.

history podcastsAmerican History Podcasts

  1. American Elections: Wicked Game: On February 10, 1796, Vice President John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail. The election was nearing and he lamented the state of discourse in the country. Newspapers screamed, factions warred. A dismayed John Adams described it as  “the wicked Game.”
  2. American History Tellers: The Cold War, Prohibition, the Gold Rush, the Space Race. You can trace every part of your life (the words you speak, the ideas you share) to our history. How well do you know the stories that made America? We’ll take you to the events, the times and the people that shaped our nation. And we’ll show you how our history affected them and their families and still impacts you today.
  3. BackstoryAn innovative public radio program and podcast produced from 2008-2020. Historian-hosts Ed Ayers, Brian Balogh, and Peter Onuf, among others, picked a topic from the news and then explored its roots through the American past.
  4. History That Doesn’t Suck: Professor Greg Jackson hosts a bi-weekly podcast that delivers a researched, hard-hitting survey of American history through entertaining stories.
  5. Studying the American Revolution: Professor Joanne Freeman offers a course introduction and summarizes the readings.
  6. Very Presidential: Join host Ashley Flowers as she shines a light on the darker side of the American presidency. She exposes controversies you never knew existed.
  7. U.S. History Repeated: History Repeated discusses important historical and political concepts that are essential to understanding and discussing U.S. history and politics. These are topics and concepts that you should have learned in school, but weren’t interested in at the time.

Human History Podcasts

  1. Age of Napoleon: The Age of Napoleon is about the life and career of Napoleon Bonaparte. It also includes background information about Europe from the early 18th to early 19th century.
  2. A Moment in Time: This podcast  makes history come alive with brief segments on all the important events of human history.
  3. Hardcore History: Access commentary from Dan Carlin on history. Free episodes include The Destroyer of Worlds, King of Kings, Supernova in the East, parts 1-3. Other titles include The Celtic Holocaust and Painfotainment.
  4. History Hit: Dan Snow offers reports from the weird and wonderful places around the world where history happens. It includes interviews with the world’s leading historians, academics, actors, and politicians.

History Chicks: Get introduced to female characters in history, both factual and fictional. You get an introduction, an overview and a little push to explore and learn more on your own.

  • History from Room 213: This is a five-minute podcast for students inside and outside the classroom recorded by a high school history teacher. Listen to her short trailer.
  • In the Thick: This podcast covers all the topics that intersect with history from a fresh perspective.
  • The Latin American History Podcast: The Latin American History Podcast shares the story of Spanish and Portuguese America. It starts with its beginnings and continues until the present day.
  • Our Fake History: This is a podcast about historical myths, awesome stories that may, or not, have happened.
  • Now and Then: How can the past help inform today’s most pressing challenges? Every Tuesday, award-winning historians Heather Cox Richardson and Joanne Freeman explain. They use their encyclopedic knowledge of U. S. history to bring the past to life. Together, they make sense of the week in news by discussing the people, ideas, and events that got us here today.
  • Professor Buzzkill: The Professor Buzzkill podcast explores history myths embedded in our culture.
  • Remedial HERstory: The Remedial HERstory podcast (RHP) develops and provides free inquiry-based learning materials that focus on women’s history.
  • Revisionist History: This podcast is Malcolm Gladwell’s journey through the overlooked and the misunderstood. Every episode re-examines something from the past and asks whether we got it right the first time because sometimes the past deserves a second chance.
  • The History of Rome: A weekly podcast tracing the history of the Roman Empire. It begins with with Aeneas’s arrival in Italy and ends with the exile of Romulus Augustulus.
  • Stuff You Missed in History Class: Seeks out history you may have missed out on. The podcasters consider a wide variety of topics.
  • Teacher’s History of the United States: In this podcast, podcasters re-examine United States history one lesson at a time.
  • Throughline: The past is never past. Every headline has a history. Join us every week as we go back in time to understand the present. These are stories you can feel and sounds you can see from the moments that shaped our world.
  • You’re Wrong About: Every week, this podcast reconsiders a person or event that’s been miscast in the public imagination. You will find a variety of current topics.
  • My Top Three

    If you’re like me, life events and priorities have you buried. Where should you start with this powerful list of podcasts? My top three podcasts aligned to my own interests include:

    • American History Tellers. This includes American history that I never learned about in high school.
    • In the Thick with NPR’s Maria Hinojosa and Julio Ricardo Varela. This has current topics that are exciting, relevant, and grounded in history.
    • The Latin American History Podcast. This podcast provides history of Latin America. Since that is my heritage, I am delighted to learn more.

    I bet you are wondering what’s the least technical way to get and listen to these podcasts about history. Let’s find out.

    How to Get Podcasts

    You can listen to all these podcasts online via your browser. If you are like me, you may want to listen to them on the go while you are in your car or at the grocery store. Try one of these pod catcher apps, including AntennaPod (Android), Overcast (iOS), or PocketCasts (iOS).

    Feature Image Source

    Free public domain CC0 image via Raw Pixel.

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