I’m a big fan of podcasts and audiobooks, on every topic from pop-culture to science and technology. I shuffle them all together and listen to this odd audio salad while driving or working out.
I’m also endlessly fascinated by history, from the history of the Universe itself to the history of specific fascinating figures. It’s amazing what you can learn about yourself and our current world by looking at the path people have traveled before us. If you’re a history buff or just mildly curious for some new stories, there is some amazing material out there created by history buffs.
These four excellent history podcasts really stand out in my rotation, each for different reasons.
Stuff You Missed In History Class – Casual, conversational, broad. Part of the great Stuff You Should Know network, each episode Deblina and Sarah explore random topics from throughout human history. The format is very casual and engaging, and even when they cover topics I already know fairly well I rarely decide to skip ahead.
A History of the World in 100 Objects – Fascinating, obscure, well produced. What do the objects we leave behind tell us about ourselves? As part of their History of the World production, the BBC put together a list of 100 objects from the British Museum that represented major turning points in the history of mankind, ranging from the first religions to the the invention of money. Each one has its own episode, and listening to them in order is an incredibly engaging trip through human history that follows a very different path than most historical summaries. The series is, sadly, complete, as I could have listened to another 100 episodes of this easily.
The History of Rome – Casual, quirky, fast-moving. Mike Duncan starts from the mythical founding of Rome by Romulus and Remus, and continues past the Republic, through the Empire, and ends with the last of the Western Emperors 178 episodes later. If Rome has ever seemed like a dry topic, this podcast might change your mind. Mike is not a scholar, just a big fan of Roman history who loves to talk about it. Start from the first episode and listen right on through. You’ll not only get a better understanding of the history of Rome and the rise of Christianity, but the politics and issues that plagued Rome might look a wee bit familiar…
Hardcore History – Deep, engaging, insightful. Dan Carlin’s podcast is aptly named. I won’t see an episode from him in a month, then a two-hour monster suddenly lands on my iphone unlock. I never get that long to listen at once, so I groan when these beasts show up but I always plow through them. Dan is also an enormous history fan, and he covers topics ranging from the Eastern Front in WWII, to whether our modern civilization could fall entirely apart like it has in the past. He gets not only into the “facts”, but also how our perception of them changes over time. He likes to compare our view of an event today from what it must have been like to someone living at the time. Very engaging, but not a casual listen.
Those are my standouts in the history category for me, and I’m always looking for new ideas if you know one I missed.
Kevin O'Reilly says
Good stuff, Jeff. I am embarking on (at least) my second Big Workout Comeback of this year, and am looking for new podcasts to fuel the hours of intense focus I intend to commit to this endeavor each week. Downloading History of Rome now….