Finding time to read? Even though Kindles and Nooks abound, it’s not always easy to sit and pick one up. Those of us with busy schedules can scarcely find time to sit down, period. And 9-hour long eBooks? Not likely going to happen.
But what about historical podcasts? These bite-sized pieces of history can offer a quick introduction to fascinating topics.
Though not all produced by academic historians, the following podcasts might give you a taste of a topic or a period. And the best part is that you can listen to them on your commute, your morning jog, or your weekend cleaning spree.
- Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History. In Dan Carlin’s world, no nation, famous figure, or historical perspective is exempt from scrutiny. This podcast dives into a myriad of broad historical topics with zeal. Carlin employs a number of primary sources showing multiple perspectives, and does a great job of connecting past events with contemporary themes.
- Rex Factor. Like your history with some comedy? The two hosts of Rex Factor review each of England’s historical monarchs according to categories such as “Battly-ness” and “Subject-ivity.” The series is currently concluding with some particularly delightful “playoffs.” Beware of listening at work – you may find yourself frequently laughing out loud.
- The China History Podcast. Laszlo Montgomery does a wonderful job hopping around a variety of China history topics. The sheer span of time covered by the podcast is seriously impressive. But it is Montgomery’s personal anecdotes, sarcastic sense of humor, and incorporation of modern Chinese views of China’s history that sets this podcast apart.
- History of Rome. The clear “king-daddy” of all history podcasts, the History of Rome officially ended May 6, 2012, after 179 episodes. The linear narrative of the episodes makes this podcast particularly useful for those who need an overview of the ancient empire’s history. The podcast also does a great job of separating fact from myth, while still incorporating some of the oh-so-fascinating-but-not-technically-historically-accurate details.
- The History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps. And when we say no gaps, we are completely serious. Peter Adamson, professor at the LMU in Munich and King’s College in London, provides an overview that is both entertaining and academic. Though technically a philosophy podcast, Adamson’s work is based on the historical evolution of philosophical thought.
- The History of England. Maybe it is David Crowther’s thick, British accent, but this historical podcast seems to be one of the funniest around. Even more importantly, the episodes tell a holistic story that incorporates the perspectives of monarchs, commoners, and everyone in between. Though Crowther follows a linear trajectory, episodes on topics such as fashion, the English legal system, and religion frequently crop up.
- Backstory with the American History Guys. One of the greatest pleasures about this podcast, which features prominent historians Ed Ayers, Peter Onuf, and Brian Balogh, is the amount of audience participation in shaping each episode. Previews of each show are discussed in advance by listeners, some of whom are featured via phone call on the show. Backstory also incorporates fascinating interviews with academics on relevant topics.
- History of Byzantium. After the closing of the History of Rome podcast, Robin Pierson decided to continue the series past the fall of the West. Though shows are few and far between, each one is rich with information. Pierson does not gloss over details, and is particularly adept at capturing the personalities of historical figures.
- History of Central Florida Podcasts. Despite the title, this series actually looks at national themes, all through the lens of central Florida history. The current series discusses how artifacts found in central Florida’s area museums and historical societies relate to wider historical topics. Best of all, each episode features pictures of the objects under discussion, as well as historical photographs, documents, sound effects, and video clips.
Check some of these out and let us know your thoughts on them! What other podcasts should be added to the list? Share your favorites in the comments below!