Latest Podcast Episode

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.

183 Krampus and Friends

Over the past decade or so the Krampus, a demonic figure from German folklore, has become something of a Christmas staple in the United States. However, the Krampus is by no means the only German Christmas monster. Frau Berchta, Knecht […]


182 Atlantropa, the Plan to Drain the Mediterranean

In the 1920s German architect Herman Sorgel had a plan: Solve nearly all of Europe’s social, economic, and environmental problems by partially draining the Mediterranean. He called the project “Atlantropa,” and it would have been a massive environmental disaster. View […]

181 Thanksgiving Mummery

Thanksgiving, at least in New York City at the end of the 1800s and early 1900s, used to look a lot like Halloween. Traditional trappings like turkey and family gatherings were certainly present, but it was also a day for […]


180 Lucy Bellwood on Sailor Tattoos

Lucy Bellwood is a cartoonist and author in Portland, Oregon. Last year her illustration of sailor tattoos went viral. We talked about nautical tattoos, their meanings, and what it means to get well-known on the Internet very quickly. We also […]

179 Buried Alive!

Being buried alive was one of the most common phobias of the Victorian era. Fear of premature interment in a coffin inspired the creation of the London Association for the Prevention of Premature Burial, an Edgar Allan Poe short story […]