I was interviewed last week for an environmental history podcast. I was pretty excited as I listen of all kinds of podcasts including a number of history podcasts. While there are not nearly enough high quality history podcasts, there are some really good general podcasts that deal with history on a regular basis. Two of my favorite are BBC Radio 4 shows that are re-posted online: In Our Time (iTunes) (Website) and Thinking Allowed (iTunes) (Website). In Our Time records discussions of round tables on a wide range of interesting topics. These include history, the history of science, the history of literature and the history of philosophy. They normally attracted some of the top academics in the field and the host, Melvyn Bragg, is adept at keeping his guest on track. Thinking Allowed tends to focus on sociology research, but it regularly features social and cultural history. This show interviews the authors of recently published academic papers. The host, Laurie Taylor, is skilled at picking apart these academic papers and presenting them in a highly accessible manner. The show really highlights the interesting and important research published by social scientists and would be a great model for public broadcasters or independent podcasters in North America. The BBC also posts a History Magazine podcast that I discovered when researching this blog post, but have not listened to (iTunes)(Website).
Here in Canada there is a lot less to choose from. CBC’s ideas (iTunes) occasionally deals with history or the history of ideas and our popular history magazine, Canadian History (formerly the Beaver) posts some short interviews (iTunes). The Network of Canadian Environment and History produces a great podcast that I will address further below.
Two history buffs, who are not academic historians, produce interesting independent podcasts in the United States. Bruce Carlson’s My History Can Beat Your Politics (iTunes)(Website) examines many of this same political issues address by pundits on Sunday talk shows and cable news networks from a historical perceptive. It is largely the kind of “Great Men” political history rarely found in university departments now a days, but nonetheless it is often much more informative and thoughtful than the talking points and spin found in mainstream American news analysis. I believe it challenges us to think about what kind of “applied history” is useful to inform our politics and whether we can present social, cultural or environmental history in such an engaging way. A second podcast, which I’ve only listened to one episode, called Hardcore History (iTunes)(Website), was both well produced and thought provoking. Dan Carlin openly admits that he is not a historian, but he reads widely on a topic and presents a well developed argument. I plan on listening to more episodes in the future. Continue reading