The History Podcasts No History Buff Should Ever Miss

The History Podcasts No History Buff Should Ever Miss

Best History Podcasts: Photo of a father and daughter listening to FDR's "Fireside Chats" on the radio.
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They say those who don’t learn their history are doomed to repeat it! And those who don’t remember their history podcasts are doomed to put them on repeat, so it’s kind of similar. Here’s our list of the 12 best.

Mashoid’s Top 12 Favorite History Podcasts

We’ve put together a  list of the podcasts that no history buff should ever miss. Whether you’re amateurs, or pros, or somewhere in between, you’ll find at least some of these fascinating.  All of the podcasts on this list have interesting hosts and a wealth of fascinating topics. And of course, each of these has their own unique take on the pursuit of the past.

1. Hardcore History (140 each)

Hosted by Dan Carlin, Hardcore History is definitely among the classic history podcasts. It’s also an easy recommendation for any budding historian. This former radio host excels at transforming even the most obscure moments in history into a theatre of the mind.

Not only does he always read primary sources, but he also gives you a ground-level look at what major events meant for regular people. These sources include journal entries, letters, and other materials from people of the time period. Furthermore, Carlin just has that kind of voice where you can feel his excitement about the topic. Because of this, his podcasts never feel dry or rote.

All things considered, his most stellar episode is: “Hardcore History #50 – Blueprint for Armageddon I”. It’s the first of a multi-part series that takes our grainy textbook memories of World War I… And transforms it into one of the most fascinating conflicts in history.

Here are another one of Carlin’s more gripping history podcasts.

2. Lore

Lore has a special place on our list of history podcasts. It started as a horror podcast. In fact, Amazon recently adapted it into a spooky serial. But forget the ghosts and goblins of fiction – Lore dives deep into the local history of real areas and explores their myths, legends, and the cultural fears of a populace.

Aaron Mahnke hosts the Lore podcast, which airs twice a month on Mondays. Lore has won awards, such as the “Best History Podcast of 2016” by the Academy of Podcasters. iTunes also honored it as their “Best of 2015” and “2016” as well.

Although it’s hard to choose, “Episode #25 – The Cave” gives the best idea of what this podcast’s like. In it, Mahnke takes a scalding look at cults and how their leaders manipulate people into following them. It involves a self-proclaimed warlock who became master of an island in Chile in the 1800s. He gathered a kind of “supernatural” mob and ruled the island with fear, paranoia, and the paranormal.

Here’s another one of Mahnke’s history podcasts via YouTube.

3. You Must Remember This

Are you a fan of the Golden Age of Hollywood? Starlets, big-shot producers, and heroes with dark secrets when the cameras stop rolling?

You Must Remember This is a history podcast focused solely on what they call “the first century of Hollywood.” It’s a deep-dive podcast, too – don’t expect a bunch of the more famous stories you’ve heard before.

Created in 2014 by film writer and author Karina Longworth, You Must Remember This seeks the real stories behind the glitz and glamour. Starting with the murky innuendo and stew of half-truths, she uncovers something even more compelling.

When you check this out, start with “Bela and Boris Episode 1: Where the Monsters Came from.” This is actually the first episode in a multi-part series that explores the most famous masters of the macabre in film history. This podcast follows Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff from cradle to grave while exploring the strange world of 1930s Hollywood.

Here’s part one from this history podcast via YouTube.

4. Medieval Death Trip

When it comes to history, primary sources rule. By “primary source,” we mean an original document or piece of evidence that’s actually from the time of the event. These include diaries, letters, and original texts, After all, they’re the kind of things that aren’t filtered through the interpretations of others.

Medieval Death Trip takes these original texts and leaps into their stories, pulling out the odd and the shiny bits and holding them up to the light. This is a fascinating podcast because you can really see the cultural and language differences yourself, but at the same time appreciate how, no matter the span of centuries, we still have something in common with those folks.

So where to start? Try “MDT Episode #37 – Concerning a Prank, a King’s Death, Manslaughter, and a False Pregnancy.” This podcast takes on the tragic-but-quirky fate of Alexander III, a King of Scotland with extremely bad luck.  The text is “The Chronicle of Lanercost” from 1272 and details the strange end of the king and most of his family.

5. Stuff You Missed in History Class

Did you have a tendency to snooze off during 2nd period Western Civ? Was your phone or paperback more interesting than the lecture-of-the-day in World History? If you love history but your teacher was just a bore, this is the podcast you’re looking for.

Each episode takes on a small topic, a famous person, place, or event in history and blows it up for your amusement. A kind of sub-podcast for the popular “How Stuff is Made” podcast, “Stuff You Missed in History Class” is hosted by Tracy V. Wilson and Holly Frey.

So where should you start? Try “Stuff You Missed in History: Frederick Douglass.” It’s a stunning take on one of the most influential statesman and abolitionists, Frederick Douglass.

Here’s another one of Wilson’s and Frey’s more popular podcasts.

6. Revisionist History

Revisionist History is hosted by Malcolm Gladwell, the famous author of Outliers. If you’ve ever heard that “it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill,” that’s probably because of Malcolm Gladwell’s popular take on the topic.

The entire concept of “Revisionist History” is to take a look back at misunderstood events in history and give them a second chance. To peer at monolithic interpretations of past events and see if facts haven’t been glossed over, romanticized, or villainized without cause.

Most Indicative Episode: “Episode 2.9 – McDonald’s Broke My Heart” researches the popular idea that McDonald’s changed their menu recipes in the early ‘90s, which is the food got so “bland” according to popular thinking.

Watch Malcolm travel to food R&D labs to find out the truth.

7. Burnt Toast

Tired of civil wars and revolutions and tariff bills? Burnt Toast has a unique take on the “history podcast” genre – instead of generals and great orators, this podcast explores the history of food. It wades into the origin, cultural significance, and evolution of popular food dishes, giving them context and texture.

The podcast also goes on to explain how to cook the food, too, creating a nice modern application for the lessons being learned in the podcast. The host, Michael Turkell, really loves finding little-known facts and surprising twists in these old tales, giving you a full, well-rounded look at the food that’s on the menu that day.

Most Indicative Episode: “Episode 58 – The Worst Food in White House History” explores some of the most gag-inducing cuisines to march through the hallowed doors of the White House.

8. Witness

The tagline for Witness is “history as told by the people who were there.” Each episode uses an account from a real-life participant in the historical events and world-shaking changes that still affect our world to this day.

This podcast is part of BBCs network of podcasts and carries with it the storied reputation of its parent. And, because they’re brief – roughly 10 minutes long – it’s easy to sneak in these podcasts.

Most Indicative Episode: “World War One – Russia at War” follows the Russian front, and talks about how their defeat against the Austro-Hungarians and the Germans may have been what caused the Russian revolution.

9. The British History Podcast

Unlike many of the podcasts on this list where the hosts simply choose whatever topic interests them that week, the British History Podcast is unique because it actually goes in chronological order. The primary goal of the podcast is to retell all of British history in the order that it actually happened.

Whether you’re a big fan of Aethelflaed or don’t know your Roman Britain from your Tudor period, this podcast is a fascinating trip through old Albion.

Where to Start: Because this is a chronological podcast starting from the Ice Age and ending at the modern era, you pretty much have to start at the first episode to get the most out of the podcast. Check out “Episode 1 – A History of Britain” to begin your journey through time. British time.

Here’s another great one.

10. Backstory

Backstory is a fascinating podcast that appeals to historians and news aficionados. This podcast starts with a current event or news story. First, they discuss it. And then they wind the clock back in America to ask the question: “How did we get here?”

By illuminating the back stories, listeners gain a stronger understanding of the context and the event itself.

The host schedule changes every now and again. But it’s most commonly hosted by some combination of Joanne Freeman, Ed Ayes, Brian Balogh, Peter Onuf, and Nathan Connolly. However, it’s not just the hosts ringing in on the topics. They also include voices from audience calls and guest hosts.

So which episode should you start with? They’re all great, but since this is a topical show I do recommend to listening some of the newest episodes to get more out of the experience. And if you like it? Swing back and check out some of the older episodes for a peek at recent history.

Here’s one of their more popular ones via YouTube.

11. The Last Podcast on the Left

The Last Podcast on the Left is not for the faint of heart. It’s a history podcast, yes, but it explores our past through the macabre lens of serial killers, cults, and myth.

Each episode takes on a topic (John Wayne Gacy, Jonestown), and then does a deep dive on the topic. Host Marcus Parks and permanent guest-host Henry Zebrowski really do their research. That means everything from books, to interviews and documentaries, to audio recordings. He also does everything in his power to get in the minds of these men and women compelled to kill.

Ben Kissel – political commentator and podcaster – tries to keep the circus under control. In fact, he as a kind of pleasant ringmaster. This reigns in Parks’ more macabre whims while controlling Zebrowski’s impish energy.

The best part about the show, though, is that the three guys are extremely funny. Not only that, but they manage to keep such dark topics relatively light-hearted. Their banter, sarcasm, and a tiny bit of perspective helps lighten things up.

So where do you start? We recommend “Episode 200: H.H. Holmes Part 1.” H.H. Holmes was a famous serial killer in the late 1800s. In fact, he operated a custom-made “murder hotel” during the Chicago World’s Fair.

Here’s the first of Kissel’s history podcasts on HH Holmes via YouTube.

12. The History of Rome

Hosted by podcaster Mike Duncan, “The History of Rome” has won multiple awards. These include “best educational podcast” from the Podcast Awards in 2010.

Much of the research for this show comes from Titus Livius Patavinus, a prolific Roman historian from 64 BC. Not only did he make an exhaustive study of events in his time, but he also covered the history. Tacitus also figures prominently in the host’s source. Tacitus was a historian and senator who wrote volumes about both current events and ancient history.

So where to start… While you can certainly cherry-pick topics that you’re interested in, The History of Rome covers a lot of ground. After all, it tracks the entire founding, rise, and fall of the Roman Empire.

We recommend starting at the first episode and letting Mike take you through the entire tale.

Here’s the first of Duncan’s history podcasts via YouTube.

The Future of History Podcasts

You can find any of these great history podcasts through the links on this page. Also, you can browse them through your favorite podcast app or RSS feed.

Enjoy your trip through time! And remember the best part about podcasting… If you can’t find the podcast you want, you can always turn your love of history into your own podcast!

Featured image: CC0 Public Domain, Library of Congress, U.S. Census Bureau (cropped).

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