History over the Air

One of the most interesting discussions in my Writing of History course last spring was the choice between writing history in a new way and providing new outlets and audiences for history. One of the projects in the latter category was a plan for a new history radio show, one using the audio effects and approach of RadioLab or This American Life to tell stories about history.

As we work to expand the project, I have been looking for other examples of history over the air, audio programs either made for radio or podcast on the Web. Of course one local example came to mind, along with New Books in History, the podcast lectures of the Gilder Lehrman Institute, Library of Congress and other history venues, and walking tours, from Civil War battlefields to urban streets. Then there are the history talkshows, most notably BackStory with the American History Guys, who always seem to be having a great time.

For short-form work, I found the great pieces in the BBC’s History of the World in 100 Objects series, and the historical commentaries offered on a few National Public Radio affiliate stations, from Nevada Yesterdays to a Moment of Indiana History and the seemingly defunct PA History. Personal histories appear weekly thanks to StoryCorps, and the NPR website’s search function finds a number of stories tagged for “history.”

A Google site works to collect a scattershot set of history over the air, from church historians to 8th-grade projects; interesting work is definitely lurking within. And then, topping the iTunes history podcast charts, there is the fun Stuff You Missed In History Class and the edgy Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, which explore the world past in the manner closest to RadioLab and This American Life (which has its own list of keyworded history programs.)

So – how much history do you listen to? Have I missed your favorite outlet? Are you trying to broadcast your view of the past? We look forward to hearing from you, and perhaps a snippet from my student’s project will appear here, improved by all those suggestions, someday soon.

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6 Responses to History over the Air

  1. Katrina says:

    Thanks for all these links! I listen to Missed In History and New Books in History, I’m interested to try some of the others you mention.

    Check out the podcasts from the Institute of Historical Research here http://www.history.ac.uk/digital/podcasts
    They’re adding more, too!

  2. adamarenson says:

    Thanks for the reference. Katrina and others with the power of comparison:

    Do you find more/less/the same amount of interest in history over the air in Europe, as compared to the United States? have more/fewer institutions made arrangements to support these endeavors?

  3. Andrea says:

    I get a little bit of a kick out of “You Are There!”, an historical reenactment series produced by CBS Radio in the late 40s. It’s a very dramatic news-style program. I wouldn’t suggest it as a model for a current show, but it’s an interesting take. http://www.archive.org/details/You_Are_There_OTR

    • adamarenson says:

      Yes, that was a great era for radio, from You Are There to the historically set radio dramas like Sergeant Preston, The Lone Ranger, and more. What a window into mid-twentieth-century historical fantasies!

      Walter Cronkite reflected on You Are There for his NPR series looking back at his historic broadcasts; hear it at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1480691

  4. Oliver says:

    I’m a big fan of Nate Dimeo’s Memory Palace: http://thememorypalace.us/

  5. Adam Arenson says:

    Thanks! We try to keep it interesting, informative, and frequent; check out the latest here: http://www.makinghistorypodcast.com/?p=922