Welcome back to another list of history podcasts! If you haven’t checked it out already, head over to my first list to see what I recommend for all of your listening needs. If you are even the slightest bit like me, you will soon find that you won’t have enough time to listen to all the great history podcasts out there.
I love the diversity of the podcast hosts and how they structure their shows. I had been in a bit of a rut before I discovered the range of history podcasts available and listening to the shows covered in this post and the first part really re-ignited my passion for learning. Podcasts are a great way to learn as auditory input goes so well with the busy on-the-run lives many of us lead. I hope this list helps you to find a podcast that will ignite a spark for you as well — leave a comment below and let us know what you think of my selection or if you have suggestions for a third post.
I have always been interested in the Salem Witch Trials and learning the truth about what happened in that small Massachusetts village that lead to the deaths of all those community members. You can imagine my delight then, in discovering an entire podcast dedicated to providing an in-depth exploration of the events. Hosted by well-regarded history podcaster Aaron Manke, each episode explores another aspect of the local dynamics that allowed for such a travesty to occur and a look at the Salem community that is so detailed that it almost feels intimate. Manke’s narration style is unique with many of the opening stories for each episode being told from the point of view of one of the townspeople.
I was absolutely hooked on season one and excited to hear what moment in history would be covered in season two. I was far from disappointed to discover that the rise and fall of the spiritualist movement would be the topic of the second season, currently taking place.
If you have an interest in the history of the midwest, the history of the west, 19th-century women’s history, or American religious movements, please check out Year of Polygamy by Mormon feminist podcaster Lyndsay Hansen.
This show is brilliant and has recently kept me from keeping up with my other faves because it is so compelling. Hansen takes the controversial topic of 19th-century Mormon polygamy and breaks it down into more detail than the average American, Mormon or not, could ever think possible. The first 34 episodes tell the story of each of the “plural wives” of Mormon founder Joseph Smith, followed by an intricately detailed discussion of the practice of Mormon polygamy following his death. I am not sure how this mother of three managed to research each episode, as they are so detailed and highly referenced. Many of the episodes also include guests from various backgrounds and with various expertise in Mormon history. A special emphasis is placed on highlighting the lives of the women involved in the early days of the Mormon movement and their experiences. I am currently on episode 108 out of 175 and waiting with excitement as Hansen is still releasing new episodes.
Get ready for an adventure! This is a women’s history podcast like no other. Host and researcher Kate Armstrong takes a look at the history of women through the exploration of their lives in different eras of history. The first season was an absolutely riveting dive into the lives of women in 19th century America with topics covered such as women of the Wild West, sexuality in 19th-century America and my favorite episode, female Civil War spies. The narration is done in such a way that you really feel like you have gone back in time while listening and while Armstrong obviously does a TON of research for each episode, it is very easy to listen to and digest.
The second season appears to have just wrapped and takes an in-depth look at the lives of women in ancient Egypt, Rome, and Greece. Plus, she has released a popular episode on the history of female hair removal and a history of women and beer. Bottoms up!
In part one I introduced one of my favorite history podcasts, The Dark Side Of, which provides a more sinister look at history. Another one of my favorites, Cults, is produced by the same company and offers a similar experience. Religious and cultural cults is the topic of this compelling podcast, with a special focus on American cult movements and leaders. Each episode is two parts, allowing for a close look at the founder of each cult and the circumstances of his or her life that led up to the founding of a cult and then typically (though not always), a look at the series of events that led to the fall of the cult. It’s a great show for those interested in American history as well as religious movements, as the societal dynamics of the time are discussed in relation to why certain groups and leaders were able to flourish when they did.
Remarkably, the hosts have been producing episodes since 2017, with a new episode each Tuesday and a new cult introduced every two weeks. While it is highly scripted, I appreciate the detailed accounts of the cult leaders and the timelines they provide in each episode. Recently a resource list was added to each episode, which is great if you want to dive in even more into the mystery, intrigue, and even murder involved with cult movements. My favorite episodes so far have been Heaven’s Gate and the Branch Davidians.
To round out my list of the ten best history podcasts is another women’s history show, this one with a definite twist (pun intended). Herstory on the Rocks is a fun podcast created by feminists Allie and Katie, who discuss two different women in each episode while sipping cocktails made in each woman’s honor. Their website states “we talk about good women, bad women, cartoon women, game-changing women and all women in between – because ladies have nuance.” The two do cover it all, from Monica Lewinsky to Betty Boop and Mary Shelly. It is really fun to hear the stories and the cleverly designed cocktails (the recipe for each is provided on their website).
Additionally, the two run a great Instagram feed that I would highly recommend checking out if you want fun posts about women from history.