The entire world is listening to podcasts these days, aren’t they? Because I enjoy outdoor fitness so much and because my favorite subject is history, I have been excited to find so many history-related podcasts out there, and all for free with my Spotify subscription. Things have flipped for me now and instead of making my walks and hikes a bit more interesting, I find myself scheduling in more fitness so I can listen to more episodes and learn more about my favorite history topics. I feel fit and informed at once!
I have come to follow a great list of super creative podcasts that explore some really great history and it is always fun to discover more shows and find out just how niche a podcast can get. Because I am a couple of years into my podcast junkie journey I thought I’d share my top 10 picks with you. Here are the first 5 for your listening pleasure, with the next 5 to follow in another post (you have to have time to check each of them out, after all!).
If you are into women’s history you will soon find yourself absolutely besotted by this well-researched yet light hearted podcast. Now up to their 141st episode, the hosts, Beckett and Susan, have covered women from history that are both somewhat “obscure” and household names. I appreciate that the well-known women featured in episodes are discussed with sensitivity and with a passion for their true stories. The Lucille Ball episode, for instance, was broken into two parts with a strong emphasis given to her road to stardom and her many accomplishments other than I Love Lucy. Each episode also includes a great list of resources that the hosts recommend for further learning and a great feature where they “drop” each woman into history and provide a summary of what else was going on in the world during her life. It is academic while also conversational and a great place to start if you’re looking to add some extra learning to your commute or workout.
What’s Her Name podcasts gets my thumbs up for so many reasons. First of all, it is written and produced by female academics who revel in making their stories digestible and relatable to all. Their mission is to “tell the fascinating stories of women you’ve never heard of (but should have).” Each episode features a woman from history with an emphasis on her accomplishments. Some episode titles include: “The Revolutionary Actress – Sahib Gizzatullina,” “The Aeronaut – Sophie Blanchard,” and “The Baker – Sally Lunn.” Whether or not the names sound familiar, you will love hearing them expand on or introduce their stories to you.
While the podcast is highly conversational, scholars and fellow academics are often included, adding depth to the stories of remarkable women destined to be household names. These women are true history enthusiasts with a passion for women’s stories and the stories of communities as well. In addition to their weekly podcast the power pair have put together multiple walking tours of Ogden, Utah, filled with stories known to the town and sure to put a special spin on your visit to the interesting area (my favorite is the fued between Brigham Young and the town’s top madame). Additionally, their website features several fun and educational products related to women’s history such as trading cards, books by their guests, and a women’s history board game.
If you’d like a bit of intrigue to go along with your history podcasts, The Dark Side Of will hit the spot. This podcast takes a close and detailed look at the other side of well-known aspects of American pop culture and things we all know well. The first season had me hooked for good as it explored the “dark side of” the Golden Age of Hollywood. In each episode I learned fascinating stories about the backstory of the founding of Hollywood (did you know it was originally meant to be a Christian utopian community?), the rise of production companies still dominating the industry today, Hollywood cover-ups of horrendous crimes, and the making of The Wizard of Oz. The current season takes a look at the less-than-festive stories behind the most beloved American holidays.
Hosted by two professional art historians, Dressed is a fun, unpredictable historical fashionista extravaganza that I was thrilled to come across. The podcast is great if you have a general interest in what people wore and when, with topics covered such as the Japanese origins of flip-flops, the tuxedo, and the bustle. It is also great fun for those interested in specific periods of history with topics covered such as the suffrage movement, the flapper, ancient Egypt, and the French Revolution. Care to hear about the fashion of your favorite historical figure? From Frida Khalo to Marie Antoinette to Cleopatra, the hosts outline the wardrobes of famous style icons.
And then there are just the fun and unexpected episodes such as the history of polka dots or the history of the codpiece.
You get the point. When it comes to clothing and the many centuries of stories behind it, Dressed has it covered.
I said I would get niche, didn’t I? This is a very clever podcast covering every aspect of the history of Christmas that you can think of, and many that you won’t fathom. I was just the slightest bit skeptical at first about whether or not each episode would really dive into a new aspect of the holiday, but I have been pleasantly surprised. The history of how the holiday evolved into what it looks like today is complex, involves hundreds of years of tradition spread out over hundreds of cultures around the entire globe, and is of course, festive. The episode I listened to this morning covered the short-lived popularity of Christmas ghost stories in England during the 19th century and included the telling of one such story at the end of the episode. Other episodes include Christmas in Japan, why we drink eggnog at Christmas, the Golden Age of Christmas cartoons, Gingerbread houses, and so much more.
Some episodes also include a listener describing one of their own favorite Christmas traditions or memories. It is a history lesson and conversation-starter material in one. I am looking forward to trying to nerd out this Christmas with anyone who will listen to me.
Make sure to check back next week for five more of my favorite history podcasts!