When I visit my parents, I can usually count on one thing: My dad coming home from work and turning on the History Channel. He really can’t help himself; he loves history and always has. I remember many a family vacation spent in museums throughout the U.S., learning about what happened where and when. My dad’s interest in history was something I didn’t really understand until I became an adult. I’ve recently yearned to know where I came from and how events that happened hundreds of years before I was born have shaped the trajectory of humanity today. How did we get here and where are we going?
While I’ll never have a television channel devoted to it (I’m a cord cutter), I’ve found a great way to consume history-related content is by utilizing my daily commute. Listening to a history podcast on my drive not only keeps me engaged on the road, but I usually learn something new. And who doesn’t love facts? Whether you’re interested in U.S. history, the way people ruin it, or how your beloved fairy tales came to be, there’s a podcast for it. To prove my point, I’ve done some search and found the best history podcasts to add to your rotation.
Revisionist History journeys with New York Times best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell as he reexamines something from the past and reinterprets it. It can be an event, a person, or an idea, but no matter what it is, it’s been overlooked or misunderstood. Podcast episodes include "Saigon 1965" and "Food Fight," which examines how the food served in university cafeterias can improve or distort the educational system.
You may know him from his shows Dirty Jobs or Somebody’s Gotta Do It, but Mike Rowe also has a podcast, and it strives to offer a different take on people and events you thought you knew. The Way I Heard It podcast bills itself as "short mysteries for the curious mind with a short attention span." Episodes are usually under 10 minutes, so you can give it a shot without making a huge time investment.
10 American Presidents
In Roifield Brown’s 10 American Presidents podcast, Brown features an expert narrator who gives a take on the life of each president the episode is featuring. The podcast moves beyond biographical data, with each episode featuring music and archived news clips (when possible) or dramatizations to bring each time period to take the listener to a place and time they probably haven’t experienced.
The Singing Bones podcast offers a different kind of history podcast—the history of fairy tales. Since fairy tales are the basis of so many forms of entertainment, the podcast looks to their origin, which unknowingly impacted the world beyond the initial stories. The podcast unpacks stories like Rapunzel and Rumpelstiltskin with experts who can discuss the time period and historical happenings.
Fascinated by the Salem Witch Trials? The Witch Hunt podcast starts there and then continues to explore other witch hunts throughout history. From the beginning, experts like a tour guide in Salem tell the tales of those who were victim to literal and metaphorical scapegoating throughout history.
Our Fake History
It’s no secret that it’s easy to pass down legend as history. That’s where Our Fake History comes in. The podcast dives into the myths people believe as history and the history that may be hidden in the myths. Our Fake History seeks to determine "what’s fact, what’s fiction and what’s such a good story it simply must be told."
Nathaniel Lloyd’s Historical Blindness podcast zeroes in on aspects of history that have been overlooked. And sometimes, that is probably for a reason. The podcast examines cases of outrageous hoaxes, mass hysteria, baffling mysteries, and unreliable historiography. You’ll probably leave the podcast thinking Can I really trust history as I’ve received it?
Tides of History
In the Tides of History podcast, host Patrick Wyman helps us understand how our world got to be the way it is. The podcast seeks to help us understand our past and how it impacts us today. "Everywhere around us are echoes of the past," the podcast states. "They determine what money we spend and how we earn it at work, what language we speak and how we raise our children."
The Wilderness podcast examines the history and future of the Democratic Party in the U.S., as told by Jon Favreau. As the party tries to find its way out of the political wilderness, Favreau speaks with strategists, historians, voters and policy experts about hot-button issues, like sexism, race, and immigration. Will the Democratic Party make it through the wilderness?
Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History
Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History podcast is so densely packed with information about world events, you might have to re-listen to an episode for the full effect. Though Carlin isn’t a historian—he’s a TV broadcaster—his high-drama podcast that asks questions like "What would Apaches with modern weapons be like?" are heavily researched, so you’ll have to wait for a while for a new one, once you’re hooked.