Latest Podcast Episode
204 The Life and Lies of George Psalmanazar
In the first decade of the 1700s a visitor to London claimed to be from a far-off land: Formosa. He described it as being an idyllic paradise, albeit one filled with cannibalism. The supposed Formosan, who called himself George Psalmanazar, […]
203 Iran-Contra Part, Four: Fallout
The Iran-Contra affair was a failure. It didn’t topple the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua, nor did it improve U.S. relations with Iran. And yet, the subsequent cover-up and damage-control by the Reagan administration was a success. Almost no one talks […]
202 The Solitude of Michael Collins
Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Most people remember Neal Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, but fewer remember Michael Collins, the member of the mission who did not set foot on the moon. However, even though […]
201 Duncan Ryuken Williams on American Sutra
Duncan Ryuken Williams’s new book, American Sutra, explores Japanese Internment with a focus on Buddhism. Most Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans were Buddhists, and before and during internment these members of the Japanese-American community were treated very differently than those […]
200 Q&A Dinosaur Party Extravaganza!
We’ve hit two hundred episodes! To celebrate we’re taking your questions. Designer, photographer, and all-around superhero Sarah Giffrow joined Joe to answer talk about how to think about history, the state of podcasting, and dinosaurs.
199 Melissa Kwasny on Putting on the Dog
Humans are the only animals to wear clothing, and much of that clothing is made out of other animals. In Putting on the Dog: The Animal Origins of What We Wear author Melissa Kwasny explores the worlds of leather, wool, […]
198 Iran-Contra, Part Three: Secret Wars
Congress had made its view clear with the Boland amendments: The United States government would not support the Contras in Nicaragua. However, the Reagan administration was determined to support the anti-Sandinista fighters. To get funds where they needed to be […]
197 Joshua Specht on Red Meat Republic
Beef occupies a unique place in American culture. In his new book Red Meat Republic Joshua Specht examines the history of the American beef industry. He examines how ranching and range land was seized from Native Americans, how beef shaped […]
196 Iran-Contra Part Two: The Boland Amendments
In the early 1980s the Reagan administration changed how the U.S. engaged with Communism abroad. Instead of following a policy of containment, the U.S. would actively support anti-Communist insurgents around the world. This policy, which later became known as the […]
195 Iran-Contra, Part One: Revolution in Nicaragua
The Cold War defined geopolitics for much of the 20th century, often turning local conflicts and regional politics into large, proxy battles between the United States and Soviet Union. In 1979 the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) successfully ousted Nicaragua’s […]
194 Shakespeare Was Shakespeare
Since the late 1800s numerous figures such as Mark Twain, Sigmund Freud, and Malcolm X have expressed doubt about the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays. These deniers, variously known as anti-Stratfordians, have put forward a variety of other candidates as the […]
193 The Many Lives of Notre Dame
Notre Dame Cathedral, the world’s best-known example of Gothic architecture, was partially destroyed in a fire. The church requires extensive restoration, but this is not the first time that Notre Dame has fallen into ruin. When Victor Hugo wrote his […]
192 False Alarm
In 1983 a Soviet satellite system erroneously detected five incoming American nuclear missiles. Stanislav Petrov, the man tasked with reporting the alert to the USSR’s leadership, suddenly had a dire choice: He could do his duty and start a nuclear […]
191 The Black Paintings
Francisco Goya is one of the first modern artist, and toward the end of his life he painted his most well-known works, the Black Paintings, into the walls of his home outside Madrid. The most famous of the Black Paintings […]
190 Faro, the Hottest Game in the West
The image of cowboys playing poker has shown up again and again in Westerns. However, if you walked into a saloon in the late 1800s, you likely wouldn’t find poker, blackjack, or other contemporary casino games. Instead, you’d probably find […]
189 Thom Wall on The History of Juggling
Thom Wall is a professional juggler and who’s known both for his feats of dexterity and his enthusiasm for old-style vaudeville performance. His new book Juggling From Antiquity to the Middle Ages traces the history of the art across time […]
188 Swingin’ on the Flippity-Flop
Find out what a badly-sourced article in the Toronto Sun, a fake list of grunge slang in the New York Times, and an oft-repeated anecdote about a floating bordello can tell us about better evaluating sources and looking at how […]
187 Presidential Pets
This week we look at the animal companions of America’s chief executives, including opossums, eagles, and very good dogs.
186 Crystal King on The Chef’s Secret
Crystal King is the author of two novels about Italian food history. Her first book Feast of Sorrow delved into the world of food in ancient Rome, and her follow up moves forward over a thousand year to explore food […]
185 The Georgia Guidestones
In 1980 a mysterious benefactor who only identified himself as “R.C. Christian” commissioned a granite monument in rural Georgia bearing advice on how to reconstruct civilization after the apocalypse. Unfortunately, it’s not very good advice.
184 Is Taiwan a Country?
Taiwan’s status is a matter of debate. In this episode we get into its history and try to suss out whether it’s part of China or an independent country.