The events of the past week have taught us many things – including the fact that many people only know the ‘basics’ of their history.
I run a history blog and am passionate about helping people live in the past – its the only way you can truly understand the world we live in today. However, I also appreciate that not everyone shares my love for the subject, with many people saying a ‘boring’ curriculum at school turned them off history.
But history can be FUN! Most recently the medium of podcasting is helping people wake up to this fact. Its not all kings and queens, and endless dates to remember… there are thousands, if not millions, of incredible stories waiting to be heard. And all you need to do is download a podcast episode.
So here’s my roundup of podcasts that will appeal to the non-history lover.
You’re Dead To Me started less than a year ago, but has quickly become one of the most popular history podcasts out there. Created by Horrible Histories chief nerd Greg Jenner, it’s a podcast that combines comedy and history, and is aimed at people who hated the subject at school.
The format is simple. Greg is the host, and is joined in each episode by both an expert historian and comedian to discuss an historical topic. Greg starts by summarising what most people know about the subject, before everyone has a nice, long chat about it. Then there’s ‘The Nuance Window’ – where the historian gets to go full on history geek for 2 minutes. The podcast then ends with a quick fire quiz to see what the comedian has remembered.
This is one of my fave history podcasts of all time! Its so funny and a little bit bitchy – and it does come with an explicit language warning!
Hilarious hosts Katy and Nathan pair cocktails with amazing women of history. They discuss female rulers throughout history who handled their business and slayed. Women’s history has had something of a renaissance over the last few years, and this is really one of the best podcasts out there to learn more about badass, independent women from history. A must listen.
There has never been a better time to listen to Evil Genius, a BBC podcast hosted by Russell Kane. The Black Lives Matter movement has forced people to take a long, hard look at their heroes from history – and sometimes the truth they find is shocking. To be deigned a hero means that the less palatable aspects of your life are glossed over in favour of some major achievements – but this podcast reveals the whole truth!
People you have long admired like Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi and even Mother Teresa are striped bare and the darker parts of their life exposed. At the end of the episode the guests have to decide – hero or villain?
You may have already heard of Aaron Mahnke from his other award-winning podcast Lore, which is all about the darker side of history. His Cabinet of Curiosities podcast follows a similar tone. Twice a week, you’ll get a guided tour through some of the most bizarre corners of history, from unexplained moments and coincidences, to people and objects that come with unusual backstories. The stories are so unreal they feel more like fantasy than history!
One of the advantages about this particular podcast is the length – they only tend to be about ten minutes long, which is sometimes more convenient.
You Must Remember This is a podcast dedicated to exploring the secret and forgotten histories of Hollywood’s golden age. The Guardian describes it as ‘a dreamy mix of film noir voiceover, 1940s gossip column and Pathe news broadcast’. However you choose to describe it, it is completely addictive.
The podcast is written, produced and hosted by Karina Longworth. It is immaculately well-researched. The show’s website is also really good and contains show notes, including research sources, information about special guests and even the music if you want to learn more. Think of it more as a movie podcast than a history podcast.
The newest podcast on the list, Petticoats and Poppies is a podcast devoted to that television genre we all love – period drama. You may deny it in public, but I know that on a wintry evening I’m going to find you curled up on the sofa watching the latest Downton Abbey-esque series.
Podcast hosts Maggie & Nicole discuss period drama films from both a historical and film industry perspective. I’ve watched a few of the films they have featured previously, but watching them again after listening to this podcast and learning more about the history behind the period drama is an eye-opening experience.
I do hope you’ll give some of these podcasts a try, and learn more about history through this fun and entertaining medium. Or perhaps there is another history podcast you simply love – let us know in the comments below.