Many of us are currently looking for activities to occupy our time while sheltering in place, and podcasts have emerged as an excellent source of entertainment and information to stay engaged. Of course, there are a number of podcasts to help listeners understand and adjust to the current moment, but for those looking for deeper dives into specific subjects, history podcasts serve as an excellent way to examine stories and moments from the past that warrant greater attention. Here are a handful of podcasts for history enthusiasts, from political history to art history, to catch up on in the upcoming weeks.
Every season of Slate’s “Slow Burn” focuses on a different historical narrative. Season one examines the unraveling of the Watergate scandal, while season two tells the story of Bill Clinton’s impeachment. Featuring commentary from a number of sources close to the main players, every episode of “Slow Burn” feels like a much more detailed, personal retelling of stories that listeners may be familiar with primarily through textbooks and mainstream media sources. The most recent season involves the rivalry between and the sudden, tragic deaths of rappers Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G., analyzing a moment in music history that remains pivotal and unresolved.
Film journalist and historian Karina Longworth examines the many myths and hidden histories of old Hollywood in “You Must Remember This.” While some seasons of the show examine a specific moment or relationship in the film industry, others look into the lives of various artists woven together through a certain theme. The most recent season of the show, “Make Me Over,” is advertised as a sort of spinoff of “You Must Remember This,” although it generally follows the same style and subject matter. The season involves Longworth breaking down various aspects of Hollywood’s seeming obsession with appearance, told through the specific stories of artists who faced industry pressures to present themselves in a certain way. The season, and the show as a whole, is essential for anyone who’s interested in behind-the-scenes Hollywood history.
“ArtCurious” is the perfect podcast for those who consider themselves well-versed in the language of art history and analysis, as well as those who may not be as familiar. The show tackles the art history world from a variety of angles, with some episodes breaking down the stories behind iconic art pieces and other episodes debating the merits of different art styles in their respective time periods. The most recent season of the show focuses on artists who were either extremely influential or entirely forgotten in the zeitgeist of the art world, but either way, those who are much lesser-known than their contemporaries. Whether or not you consider yourself a fan of art history, “ArtCurious” is sure to provide listeners with a new appreciation for the space.
For those who are perhaps more concerned with current events than stories from history that seem to hold no bearing today, fear not: “Throughline” is an excellent blend of current events and history, examining the context behind many of the moments, conversations and phenomena we’re tackling today. Check out its recent episodes on the biggest takeaways from the 1918 influenza pandemic and the history of the census. Understanding what the past can tell us about the present, and where comparisons are perhaps no longer useful, is all the more important for understanding the news today.