Can you recommend some history podcasts?
June 9, 2016 4:16 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for more good history podcasts to try. I'm most interested in pre-20th century. Any area of the world. Caveats: do not like Dan Carlin. Do very much like, but have already listened to, Mike Duncan's History of Rome and Revolutions.

Basically if I could clone Mike Duncan and get him to do every era I'm interested in that'd be ideal, he's pretty much what I like in a podcast --- well-sourced, thoughtful, leavened with a bit of dry humour and enough detail to give you a sense of the personality and motives of major figures beyond just a list of events. Carlin I find a bit too bombastic. Does anyone know of any other history podcasts that are along those lines?
posted by Diablevert to Media & Arts (18 answers total) 65 users marked this as a favorite
Here are some of my favorites:

10 U.S. Presidents -- Known podcasting personalities take an in-depth look at ten U.S. Presidents and their influence on politics. They've already featured Mike Duncan and Dan Carlin -- you can skip the Carlin episodes if you want since each podcaster is doing different presidents.

Backstory -- Hour-long podcasts about American history starring three professors specializing in different centuries. They don't just talk for hours, they do interviews and travel as well.

Footnoting History -- A mostly-female-hosted podcast about little interesting overlooked bits of history. Unique in that it has a number of rotating hosts who have different specialties. Covers a lot of different civilizations/eras.

You Must Remember This -- A history podcast about the old Hollywood era. I stayed away from this podcast for a long time because I don't really have much interest in the era, but as soon as I started listening, I was completely hooked. The female host tells a great, true story. I am mostly interested in pre-20th century stuff as well, but I definitely encourage you to check this one out if you make an exception.
posted by possibilityleft at 4:21 AM on June 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

In Our Time from the BBC. It's not specifically a history podcast - they cover all sorts of academic topics - but their archives are split by topic so you can isolate history episodes. Explaining it makes it sound boring: a life peer invites three academics to discuss a topic relating to their common academic interests. It is not boring. It's usually quite enjoyable, almost always educational, and sometimes actually rather funny (if you appreciate dry, British humor).
posted by kevinbelt at 4:28 AM on June 9, 2016 [12 favorites]

It's not a podcast, exactly, but The Teaching Company produces tonnes of amazing history audio books. I listened to literally dozens, and nearly all are good and many are phenomenal. Let me know if you're interested in this - you can get them from libraries or very cheaply as part of an audible plan, and I can make some recommendations. I love them so much!
posted by smoke at 4:41 AM on June 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

I love this question, because I have the same exact listening desire. Scientists: plz clone Mike Duncan, kthx.

That said:

The History of Byzantium is a decent spiritual sequel to Duncan's The History of Rome that's got a fairly large backlog. The narrator/producer quite explicitly positions it as following on from where Duncan left off. It's not quite as great, but I've enjoyed it pretty well (I'm maybe 15-20 episodes from finishing the backlog).

The History of Philosophy (Without Any Gaps) is at times a little dense, but nonetheless pretty fascinating. It has an obviously narrower focus (philosophy), but because it aims to cover basically all philosophy, there's a lot of interesting new content each episode. This has an even more huge backlog (255 episodes right now), I'm only about halfway through and it's still quite engaging. There's a secondary podcast as well that's specifically doing the history of philosophy in India, but I haven't started that yet.

I would also heartily second You Must Remember This. Really well produced, really interesting. I wasn't a major "old Hollywood" person before listening to it, and it was both super engaging and also made me go watch a bunch of old movies.

As a final "maybe" option, you could try The History of England. I've only listened to maybe 15-20 episodes, and I'm still a little iffy on it. It's interesting, but I find myself wondering if it improves a bit as it goes -- sometimes it feels like the producer/narrator assumes you know more than I do about English history already, and so doesn't explain some things. So: iffy, but try it out, you may like it.
posted by tocts at 5:02 AM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

A bit on the lighter side is Rex Factor (site) (Podbean feed), which "reviews" all the kings/queens of England/Great Britain, and (currently running) Scotland.

Basically, there's one fairly serious guy, who runs through the historical events, and one funnier guy, who reacts to things, and then they give a numerical ranking to each king based on their criteria. Kings get points for more scandal, which helps to liven up some of the Anglo-Saxons that you've never heard of.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:30 AM on June 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

Also: Have you already listened to The Ancient World?
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:31 AM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Whistlestop with John Dickerson is a great look at mostly post-WWII presidential campaigns. Dickerson occasionally makes some small attempt to tie the particular story he's telling to current events, but mostly he's just telling the story for the sake of the story.
posted by Etrigan at 5:35 AM on June 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

Stuff You Missed in History Class is a lot of fun, and it has a HUGE back catalog so you can pick and choose just the subjects that are the most interesting to you.

If you don't mind a little storytelling in your history, Lore is an excellent podcast that looks at strange and mysterious true historical events and the folklore and anachronisms that surround them. It's a good one for dark, spooky nights.

Sawbones is probably one of my favorites right now. A husband and wife duo (she's a doctor, he's...not) talk about medical conditions and anomalies and look at how these conditions were viewed or treated in the past and in different cultures before modern medicine. Pliny the Elder is a pretty regular fixture of these podcasts. I think they may have finally given him his own episode recently. :)
posted by helloimjennsco at 6:40 AM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Agree with In Our Time. Here are 3 others in my rotation:

History on Fire

History of the Crusades

15 Minute History
posted by 6thsense at 8:31 AM on June 9, 2016

The Memory Palace concentrates mostly but not exclusively on US history, and is presented in a narrative style. The episodes are short (the stories top out at about 10 minutes) but very thoughtfully written and presented. I like it a lot.
posted by parm at 11:36 AM on June 9, 2016

Came in to say "stuff you missed in history class". Sometimes I don't listen to them right away because I see the title and think "eh, that sounds boring" but whenever I DO - they're awesome. Seconding that they have a huge backlog you will probably enjoy. I lost my mind when I saw they had one about Laura Ingalls Wilder, your favorite thing is probably in there, too.
posted by rubster at 11:46 AM on June 9, 2016

There are two I recommend:

Backstory with the American History Guys

Presidential with Lillian Cunningham of the Washington Post
posted by zooropa at 6:49 PM on June 9, 2016

Thanks for all the suggestions! So far I've tried Rex Factor, which I am enjoying. Definitely keep the coming, though --- if y'all have an non-American, non-European history podcasts that would be especially interesting to me.
posted by Diablevert at 8:01 AM on June 10, 2016

Isaac Meyer's History of Japan podcast is great. No elaborate audio production (though his editing and microphone get considerably better after the early episodes), just a host who knows and loves his subject. For pre-20th century, there's plenty to choose from -- try the massive "Fall of the Samurai" series that he finished earlier this year.
posted by chimpsonfilm at 8:18 AM on June 10, 2016

Check out The Dollop. One comedian, Dave Anthony, tells another comedian, Gareth Reynolds, a story from American history. Topics include Frank Rizzo, the USS Monitor, and Disco Demolition Night.
posted by whuppy at 12:03 PM on June 10, 2016

Norman Centuries, which finished up a couple of years ago. Much more to the story than "1066 and all that".
posted by whuppy at 12:15 PM on June 10, 2016

Just a note on Norman Centuries, I believe it's by the same guy who did a Byzantium series as well. I can't speak for the Norman one, but his Byzantium histories were, as history, not very good. Outright wrong in parts, inaccurate in more, and the wrong emphasis in many places.
posted by smoke at 5:12 PM on June 11, 2016

Hey, smoke, that's interesting to hear. It is the same guy, Lars Brownworth. I followed up your comment with a little Googling but couldn't find anything critical. Maybe he gets a free ride because his listeners come in knowing nothing about the subject matter?
posted by whuppy at 1:14 PM on June 15, 2016

« Older Help us plan our non-London UK trip!   |   Sick & sexified exercise music videos Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.