Latest Podcast Episode
228 The Mustache Strike
In 1907 French waiters went on strike, and won the right to wear facial hair.
227 The Rasputin Disclaimer
Nearly every English-language movie has a disclaimer in the credits that says something like “This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, is purely coincidental.” Obviously this isn’t true. Historical epics, […]
226 Sara and Jack Gorman on Denying to the Grave
Covid-19 has killed and sickened hundreds of thousands of people, and transformed our economy, how we work, and how we relate to each other. Even in the midst of this world-historic crisis, though, people deny it. Conspiracy theorists and naysayers […]
225 Los San Patricios
The Mexican-American War was not fought for good reasons. The war was one of imperial and expansionist ambition and territorial expansion, and even in the 1840s many Americans at the time knew they were on the wrong side of history. […]
224 Carlton F.W. Larson on Treason in the U.S.
Treason is the only crime specifically defined in the U.S. Constitution, and talk of treason has been in the air for the last four years. Carlton F.W. Larson is a professor of constitutional law at University of California at Davis, […]
223 Grand Guignol Part Two: Tales of Terror!
It’s not enough to just talk about the history of the Grand Guignol. We also want to bring you a little bit of what it was like to take in a night of horror there. On this special Halloween episode, […]
222 Grand Guignol Part One: Theater of Horror!
The Grand Guignol was a small Parisian theater which regularly produced original works of horror. The theater, which operated from 1897 until 1962, showcased short plays about murder, insanity, dismemberment, disease, and other horrors, much to the delight of regulars […]
221 Sasha Abramsky on Lottie Dod
Sasha Abramsky is a journalist and author whose new book Little Wonder tells the story of Lottie Dod, the modern world’s first female sporting celebrity. Dod came to prominence as a tennis prodigy and later excelled in other sports like […]
220 Michel Paradis on Last Mission to Tokyo
Today’s show is a conversation with Michel Paradis, attorney and author of Last Mission to Tokyo. Early in WWII the U.S. launched the Doolittle Raids against Japan, attacking the Japanese mainland for the first time. Most of the raiders were […]
219 Patient Zero
In 1987 journalist Randy Shilts chronicled the early years of AIDS in North America in his book And the Band Played On. Shilts’ reporting was mostly concerned with the failures of the U.S. government and healthcare infrastructure to respond to […]
Slavery in the United States did not end all at once. Even though the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect in 1863, the last enslaved persons in the United States didn’t know they were legally free until June 19th, 1865 when […]
217 The War of 1812 Part Two: Other Causes
British impressment of American sailors and restrictions on maritime trade are only part of the story in the run-up to the War of 1812. Another major factor was American expansionism. The British, at the time, were supplying munitions to Native […]
216 The War of 1812, Part One: Surface Causes
America doesn’t talk much about the War of 1812. In the historical narrative that the U.S. likes to construct for itself, its first official, declared war might as well not exist. The war’s been ignored for a variety of reasons […]
215 Vortex One: An Excerpt From Storied and Scandalous Portland, Oregon
In 1970 Oregon governor Tom McCall had a problem: An American Legion convention was descending on Portland in August of that year, with a potential visit by then-president Richard Nixon. A group called the People’s Army Jamboree promised to protest […]
214 In Which Loki Ruins a Dinner Party
The Poetic Edda is one of our main sources for Norse mythology, and the poems in it feature tales of gods, heroes, giants, and (of course) Ragnarok. However, not everything in the Poetic Edda focuses on quests, battles, heroes, or […]
Bonus: A Visit From the Spirit of Vengeance or Ghost Rider Saves Christmas
Happy Holidays, everyone!
213 Where Does Santa Claus Come From?
Santa Claus is the result of cultural crossover and exchange. Historical and folkloric figures like St. Nicholas, Sinterklaas, and Father Christmas combined in various ways over several generations to create the English-speaking world’s most popular personification of Christmas. It was […]
212 St. Nicholas
Saint Nicholas is not Santa Claus, but he’s now inescapably bound up with Santa’s story and identity. Nicholas was the bishop of Myra, a town in what we no call Turkey, and we don’t have any surviving sources about him […]
World monuments get replicated all the time. There are no shortage of Statues of Liberty or Eiffel Towers, for instance. However, the world monument that’s probably replicated more than any other is Stonehenge. Copies and parodies of the stone circle […]
210 Soviet Pepsi
In 1959 a Pepsi executive successfully showcased his product at the American National Exhibition in Moscow, an event created to foster cultural exchange during the Cold War. Nikita Khrushchev himself tasted the beverage, and years later Pepsi became one of […]