BackStory show

BackStory

Summary: BackStory is a weekly public podcast hosted by U.S. historians Ed Ayers, Brian Balogh, Nathan Connolly and Joanne Freeman. We're based in Charlottesville, Va. at Virginia Humanities. There’s the history you had to learn, and the history you want to learn - that’s where BackStory comes in. Each week BackStory takes a topic that people are talking about and explores it through the lens of American history. Through stories, interviews, and conversations with our listeners, BackStory makes history engaging and fun.

Podcasts:

 Short Take: FBI and U.S. Elections | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 959

Last Friday, FBI Director James Comey informed Congress of a potential link between a device owned by disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The disclosure effectively reopened the investigation into Clinton's private server and email activity during her time as Secretary of State. It also set off a firestorm of protests from both sides of the aisle. Just what is the role of the FBI when investigating politicians and did Comey cross a line with a move that many are interpreting as interfering with a presidential election within two weeks of Americans voting? In this BackStory short take, the Guys talk to Yale historian Beverly Gage about the history of the FBI's involvement in U.S. elections. 

 American Horror Story | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:51:47

What’s a Halloween show without a helping of horror, one of America’s favorite forms of entertainment? Rooted in legend and culture, horror stories play on our fears while often providing a distraction from the real sources of anxiety. In this episode of BackStory, the Guys look at the different forms horror has taken in American culture - from witches and vampires to slave revolts and haunted houses.

 Bridge For Sale: Deception In America [rebroadcast] | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 3091

America has a long and colorful history of confidence men and counterfeiters. On this episode of BackStory, we go back to the time when fake money and fly-by-night banks dominated the economy, and uncover the origins of the lie detector test, known as “the truth compelling machine.” We’ll also try to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge.

 A History of Manufacturing in 5 Objects | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 3439

Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have talked about loss of manufacturing jobs, and the importance of having things “Made In America.” In this episode of BackStory, we take a look at the history of American manufacturing by exploring several objects that transformed American life. From 18th century colonists struggling to produce that most coveted of tems -- porcelain -- to the invention of nylon stockings and the TV picture tube in the 20th century, Peter, Ed, and Brian explore the surprising history behind five inventions and innovations.

 Fighting Words: A History of Debate in America | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 3550

With the presidential debates between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton dominating the final weeks of the 2016 campaign, we’re taking a look at the history of political debate in America. Do Americans like to argue with –or past – each other? From the popularity of amateur debate clubs among young men in the late 18th century, to the famed Lincoln-Douglas debates in 1858, and Gerald Ford’s infamous gaffe in the 1976 presidential debate, Ed, Brian, and Peter unpack the central role of debating in American democracy.

 Keeping Tabs: Data & Surveillance in America [rebroadcast] | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 3163

Calls to pardon Edward Snowden, the former CIA contractor who blew the whistle on the NSA’s secret internet and phone surveillance programs, have increased with the recent release of the “Snowden” movie. As the country once again debates whether Snowden is a traitor or a hero, BackStory takes a look at the changing ways we’ve collected information on each other – and when it crosses from a matter of national security into something more sinister. (Photo credit: Uncle Sam wants your privacy. Source: Jeff Schuler via Flickr (https://secure.flickr.com/photos/jeffschuler/2585181312/in/set-72157604249628154))

 Banned: A History of Censorship [rebroadcast] | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 3472

Americans have sought to censor all kinds of expression: political speech, music, radio, TV, film, even books. In this episode, Peter, Ed, and Brian mark the annual Banned Books Week with an uncut account of censorship in American politics, media, and culture. We look at efforts to prevent the discussion of controversial subjects from slavery to sex, Hollywood’s production code and how the line between free speech and censorship has changed over time. LANGUAGE ADVISORY: PROFANITY IS USED IN “THE ABSOLUTE TRUTH” AND “UP TO CODE." ALL INSTANCES ARE BLEEPED.

 Believer-In-Chief: Faith & The Presidency | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 3425

American presidential candidates are expected to proclaim their religious faith and the 2016 election is no exception. In this episode of BackStory, Peter, Ed, and Brian explore the complicated relationship between American presidents and their spiritual beliefs. We’ll look at how many early leaders, like Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, didn’t belong to a particular church, and how Democratic presidential candidate Al Smith’s Roman Catholicism was a flashpoint in the 1928 election. We’ll also hear how evangelical preacher Billy Graham became the spiritual advisor to a dozen Presidents.

 Body Politics: Disability in America [rebroadcast] | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 2260

In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act made everything from parking lots to bathrooms accessible. But before this legislation, disabled people found their own ways to navigate society. On this episode of BackStory, we explore the history of disability in America. From the “ugly laws” that barred the disabled from public spaces to the grassroots activism that set the stage for the passage of the ADA, the Guys consider how people with disabilities shaped America and how attitudes towards disability have changed.

 Nose to the Grindstone: A History of American Work Ethic | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 3489

The Labor Day holiday offers some of us a much-needed break from work, but most Americans don’t get much vacation time. In this episode, the Guys look at American attitudes towards the value, meaning, and importance of work. We examine the meaning of the Puritan work ethic, and how race and class are often more important than hard work in determining achievement. We also ask why a strong work ethic has long been a key part of what it means to be American.

 Untrammeled: Americans and the Wilderness [rebroadcast] | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 3098

BackStory is quitting the city and heading into the wild. In this episode, Brian, Ed, and Peter revisit America’s fascination with wild places and learn how humans have impacted even the most remote corners of our country. The Guys explore how the first European settlers encountered a landscape long shaped by human intervention, and later, how the city of San Francisco found a way to control the remote Hetch Hetchy valley, hundreds of miles away. They also consider how our ideas about wilderness have changed over time.

 104: Serve & Protect? A History of the Police | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 3091

On this episode of BackStory, Ed, Brian and Peter explore how the first municipal police departments were assembled to quell riots in the 1840s, not fight crime, and consider what happens when the police don’t protect those they serve.

 Wish You Were Here: A History of American Tourism | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 3477

As summer winds down, millions of Americans are packing their bags and hitting the road. In this episode of BackStory, Peter, Ed and Brian explore the history of American tourism.  We’ll hear how asylums and prisons were popular tourist destinations in the 19th century, and how the tiny community of Gettysburg, PA became a tourist town just days after the bloody battle. We’ll also look back on a western mountain resort that catered exclusively to black Americans during the era of segregated travel, and we’ll explore the links between tourism and the development of a national identity.

 Another Man’s Treasure: A History Of Trash [rebroadcast] | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 3107

Let’s just call this episode trashy. The Guys pick through America’s history of garbage - from the filth-eating pigs that once ran free in New York City and kept the city clean, to the soda industry’s promotion of  recycling to boost their bottom line - we’ll learn why Americans produce so much garbage and the different ways we’ve disposed of it.

 You've Come A Long Way?: A History Of Women In Politics | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 3611

Hillary Clinton moved a giant step closer to becoming the first woman elected President of the United States when she accepted the Democratic nomination at the party’s convention in Philadelphia. Clinton stands on the shoulders of generations of women who fought for the right to vote. On this episode of BackStory, we look at the different ways women have influenced American politics, including: • The bread riots by Confederate soldiers' wives. • The 1913 Women's Suffrage Parade in Washington, D.C. • Shirley Chisholm's historic 1972 presidential campaign.

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