13 Best History Podcasts to Listen to Right Now
If only high school history class were as fun as these history podcasts...
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Stuff You Missed in History Class
It’s the history podcast that “never disappoints,” advises one of the Apple Podcast reviewers of Stuff You Missed in History Class, brought to you on I Heart Radio by How Stuff Works. “Even when I’m not interested in a topic, the hosts make it interesting to me so I listen to all of them eventually.” Of course, how can you not be interested in a Brief History of Doughnuts or the game-changing story of the nine-day reign of “Queen” Lady Jane Grey, right before the Queen known as Bloody Mary stepped in and took over? A total of 15,000 reviewers gave this fun, female-narrated, exploration of the quirky people who put the “story” into history, a 4.2 out of 5-star rating. In addition to missing things in history class, it’s also possible your teacher lied to you about other lessons.
The history of our world has been shaped by revolutions against the status quo, so one way of understanding the way things are today is to examine how things were and why they changed. That’s the essence of the Revolutions history podcast, which is “an intellectual goldmine,” according to one of the 5,400 reviewers who collectively gave it a 4.8 out of 5-star rating on Apple Podcasts. Start with the doomed reign of England’s King Charles I, continue chronologically through the 20th century, and “graduate” from this podcast empowered with the knowledge that any change worth making comes at a price.
The History of England
Whether you’re obsessed with the British monarchy or English history and culture in general, The History of England podcast will never disappoint. Rated 4.8 stars out of 5 by 2,200 reviewers, The History of England takes a chronological approach from the fall of Roman Britain to the present day but doesn’t forget to stop and smell the roses, so to speak, with fascinating detours such as daily life in the Middle Ages and the difference between ale and beer.
The History of English
Although The History of English is billed as the spoken history of the English language (as opposed to the English people or nation), it’s actually framed by the events that shaped the language, including the invention of parchment, the story of the first English Bible, and the role of poetry in the peasant’s revolt of the 14th century. It’s 4.9 out of 5-stars rating by nearly 3 million listeners suggests it appeals to word-nerds and history-buffs alike. Find out the scientific reason why you should be listening to podcasts during your commute.
Another Parcast production, Historical Figures was formerly known as Remarkable Lives, Tragic Deaths. As its earlier name suggests, Historical Figures focuses on the lives and deaths of some of the more interesting people who shaped the world, from world leaders to Hollywood celebrities. Recent episodes have been devoted to Muhammad Ali, Nefertiti, and Johann Sebastian Bach.
Did the mafia actually start in New Orleans? What on earth are “cow shoes”? The answers are out there if you know which questions to ask, or you can listen to the highly-rated Ridiculous History podcast, which is devoted to probing the weird, stupid, nonsensical, and just plain ridiculous aspects of our world’s history. To whet your appetite for the ridiculous, don’t miss these 50 funny, inspiring, and just plain bizarre historic facts.
A History of the World in 100 Objects
One hundred objects, 100 fascinating stories dating back 2,000,000 years. That’s the essence of The History of the World in 100 Objects, a 100-episode podcast created and narrated by Neil MacGregor during his stint as the Director of the British Museum. Each episode is devoted to one object, yet manages to tell a complex and vivid story in under 15 minutes. You can also follow along with the accompanying book of the same name. Podcasts aren’t the only ways to get smarter in your spare time.
Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History
If you’re looking for the abridged version of anything, then you should stick to the History of the World in 100 Objects. If you’re open to a deeper, more intricate exploration of world history, you’ll want to check out Dan Carlin’s history podcast, Hardcore History, and your time will be well-spent as journalist Dan Carlin poses and probes into complex questions like “Was Alexander the Great as bad a person as Adolf Hitler?” and “What would Apaches with modern weapons be like?”
History in Five
Want to know five important things about the American space program? Give the History in Five five minutes of your time. The same goes for 159 other historical topics of interest such as the Chernobyl Disaster, Fidel Castro, and the Oregon Trail. Brought to you by Simon & Schuster, each episode of this podcast is literally “five things you want to know” about some person, place, or thing in history. Concluded in 160 episodes, this podcast comes in at a total of 800 minutes, each one representing a single, manageable bite of valuable information.
Every episode of the Lore podcast (and TV show) examines some dark and mysterious event or episode from history that you’ve probably never heard of before and will marvel at how that’s even possible. For example, the very first episode, “They Made a Tonic,” narrates a truly ghastly grave-robbing incident from rural Rhode Island in 1892. While we don’t dare tell you more without spoiling the suspense, we can promise that you’ll come away from these episodes suitably spooked. Award-winning and critically acclaimed, this bi-weekly 30 to 40-minute exploration of the “creatures, people, and places of our wildest nightmares” boasts 200 million listens and has earned 5 stars by more than 26,000 reviewers. If you love the sound of this, you won’t want to miss these totally messed-up historical facts you’ll wish weren’t true.
If you’ve ever suspected the reason there’s no cure for cancer is that “they” don’t want there to be, Conspiracy Theories is the podcast for you. “Conspiracy? Maybe. Coincidence? Maybe. Complicated? Absolutely,” the Parcast Network teases about this fascinating history podcast. Anyone who finds cover-ups and controversy compelling (and who doesn’t?) is apt to love this 40 to 60 minute deep dive into “what they’re not telling you.” And for those who scoff, please note: some conspiracy theories turn out to be…true.
The Dollop is an American history podcast hosted by a pair of comedians, Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds, and focusing on what might be considered the more obscure and finer points of the “story.” For example, recently, Anthony and Reynolds spent an entire episode focused on America’s “war against squirrels.” The Dollop is considered “laugh out loud” funny by many and has earned 4.8 out of 5 stars thanks to the love of nearly 11,000 listeners.
“It’s hard to overstate the impact of “Revisionist History” on the podcast landscape,” The New York Times has raved about Malcolm Gladwell’s history podcast, produced by Pushkin Industries. Gladwell is the brilliant, ground-breaking author of Blink and Outliers, among others. Each of the 40 episodes that Gladwell has made thus far reaches back and reinterprets a story, person, or idea from the past to find something that’s been overlooked or misunderstood. If you’re a fan of Gladwell’s writing or simply agree that “even the past deserves a second chance,” you’ll want to check out this wildly popular history podcast. And then you’ll want to check out these historical moments that…never happened.