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:

 Grave Matters: A History of Death and Mourning [rebroadcast] | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:52:01

On Memorial Day, we pay public tribute to those who lost their lives fighting for our country. But how do we live with the memory of the dead the rest of the year? In this special Memorial Day episode, the American History Guys and their guests explore Americans’ changing attitudes about death: historian Drew Gilpin Faust talks about how the Civil War altered the American way of dying; writer Kate Sweeney explores the 20th Century shift toward private, restrained mourning; and host Ed Ayers tours Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery — and discovers his own gravesite. For more on the guests and stories featured in this episode, and for an array of resources exploring death and mourning in American history, check out BackStory's website: http://backstoryradio.org/?p=12941

 Health Nuts: A History of Nutritional Advice | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:58:15

Until recently, the link between a high fat diet and heart disease was one of the touchstones of modern medicine. But new research has thrown that connection into question, just as numerous studies over the years have brought new advice about health and diet to the fore. So in this episode, the BackStory guys take the long view on nutritional advice and explore some of the more surprising ways that past generations have defined “health food.” For more on the guests and stories featured in this episode, and for an array of resources exploring the history of nutritional advice in America, check out BackStory's website: http://backstoryradio.org/?p=12910

 Mommy Dearest: A History of American Motherhood [rebroadcast] | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:52:02

Some say motherhood is the hardest job in the world; turns out, there's a lot of history to back that up. In this Mother's Day episode, the Guys explore the changing expectations of mothers over the centuries. For most of American history, women were charged with raising productive citizens, even as they lacked the status of full citizens themselves. The guys and their guests explore this paradox, looking to the ways that motherhood was used to enhance women's claims to a say in society, and how the nature of mothering itself has changed over time. What has it meant to be a “good mom” in American history? For more on the guests and stories featured in this episode, and for an array of resources exploring the history of motherhood in America, check out BackStory's website: http://backstoryradio.org/?p=12826

 American Exodus: A History of Emigration [rebroadcast] | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:52:02

As House Speaker John Boehner hints that immigration reform might yet have a chance at passage, BackStory takes a look at the flip side of the immigrant story – emigration – and finds stories of Americans who left this country in search of a better life elsewhere, and sometimes, a fuller realization of American values. From the Loyalists who fled to Canada in the wake of the Revolution, to the free blacks who sailed to Liberia in search of freedom (and a spot at the top of the racial hierarchy), to the Depression-era refugees who sought a better life in the Soviet Union, we ask who's chosen to leave America, and what parts of their American identities they've taken with them. For more on the guests and stories featured in this episode, and for an array of resources exploring the history of emigration, check out BackStory's website: http://backstoryradio.org/?p=12781

 Stars & Tsars: A History Of US/Russia Relations | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:52:42

In the past year, the White House and the Kremlin have sparred over Syria, the Winter Olympics, and now, the crisis in Ukraine. It can be tempting to view these events through the familiar lens of the Cold War, but in this episode, the Guys probe the deeper history of our relationship with Russia, and discover moments of comity as well as conflict. They discuss Alexis de Tocqueville's famous prediction in the 1830s, that the United States and Russia were “two great nations” that would each come to “hold in its hands the destinies of half the world.” And they find long-term connections and comparisons between the countries over time. From Civil War-era analogies between freeing American slaves and freeing Russian serfs, to early 20th-century debates over women’s suffrage, Americans have often looked to Russia as a counterpart, if sometimes a cautionary one. For more on the guests and stories featured in this episode, and for an array of resources exploring the history of US-Russia relations, check out BackStory's website: http://backstoryradio.org/shows/stars-and-tsars/

 The Departed: Extinction In America | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:55:16

Some 20,000 species across the globe are at high risk of extinction, experts say – many here in the United States – and some of our natural fauna have already disappeared. So in this Earth Day episode, the American History Guys explore how Americans have grappled with the idea of extinction over time, and what the loss of native species has meant for our ecosystems and everyday lives. When did we first realize that species could go extinct? To what extent did earlier extinctions shape the emergence of today's environmentalism? And how have ideas about biological extinction factored into American thinking about human cultures? These are just some of the questions the American History Guys and their guests explore in this episode, with stories on our obsession with dinosaurs, the bird that helped birth the conservation movement, the unlikely fish that galvanized a new generation of environmental activists, and much more. For more on the guests and stories featured in this episode, and for an array of resources exploring extinction in America, visit BackStory's website: http://backstoryradio.org/?p=12671

 Fear Tactics: A History of Domestic Terrorism [2014] | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:52:00

The Boston Marathon bombings took place one year ago this week, leaving a stunned nation to wrestle with what the government response should be. But how did Americans in the past understand terrorism? How did they experience it in their own time? This episode of BackStory explores those questions, placing the focus on terrorism within the United States. On September 16th, 1920, a bomb exploded on Wall Street as workers took their lunch break. The explosion killed 38 people and injured hundreds. The targets? What today we’d call “the one percent”—powerful financiers who ran J.P. Morgan & Co. The Wall Street attack remained the deadliest terrorist bombing in the U.S. until Oklahoma City in 1995. But at the time, people saw it as just one more bombing in a long string of anarchist attacks. So what are the origins of domestic terrorism in the United States? And what kinds of people and movements have been identified as “terrorists”? The American History Guys and their guests explore, tracing the relationship between “terror” and the state and asking when, if ever, is terrorism justified? For more on the guests and stories featured in this episode, and for an array of resources exploring domestic terrorism in the United States, take a look at BackStory's website: http://backstoryradio.org/?p=12632

 Responsibility to Protect? A History of Humanitarian Intervention [rebroadcast] | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:52:02

In 1898, President McKinley called for war with Spain to liberate Cuba from the “barbarities, bloodshed, starvation, and horrible miseries now existing there”—offering a humanitarian justification that has underpinned other interventions, from Haiti in 1915 to Libya in 2011. But in 1994, President Clinton took a stance against intervening in Rwanda, even as the scale of the humanitarian crisis there became clear. As we mark the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, BackStory takes on the history of humanitarian intervention. Where does the idea of a humanitarian obligation originate? When and why has the US felt justified to intervene in other nations’ affairs? And how have these interventions shaped Americans’ attitudes toward the world — and the world’s attitudes toward us? These are the questions that Brian, Ed, and Peter explore in this episode, looking to history to help us make sense of America’s international role. For more on the guests and stories featured in this episode, and for an array of resources exploring the history of humanitarian intervention, check out BackStory's website: http://backstoryradio.org/?p=12586

 Fair Wages: A History of Getting Paid | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:54:42

In his 2014 State of the Union address, President Obama called on Congress to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10. And last month, he signed an executive order putting it into effect for federal contract workers. With legislation on the table in Congress and increases being debated in many states, this episode of BackStory looks to the origins of the minimum wage, and explores how we’ve thought about fair pay over time. Along with their guests, Ed, Brian, and Peter discuss how slaves in the antebellum period could sometimes be brought into the wage economy, and how convict labor played havoc with wages in the wake of the Civil War. They discover why early 20th century feminists cheered the demise of state minimum wage legislation in the 1920s, and find out how the federal minimum wage came to be, a decade later. For more on the guests and stories featured on this episode, and for an array of resources exploring wages and fairness in American history, check out BackStory's website: http://backstoryradio.org/?p=12536

 Turf War: A History of College Sports [2014] | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:52:02

As the nation plunges into March Madness 2014, betting on who will make it to the Final Four and claim college basketball’s championship, we're offering some historical perspective on college sports. Why do sports programs even exist at colleges and universities? In this episode, the American History Guys unpack the origins of college sports and the ways universities originally justified athletics on campus. Peter, Ed, and Brian take us to Amherst College in the 19th century, where the first collegiate PHYS ED program blossomed. They also recount a little-known story about the integration of the University of Alabama’s football team. And as for questions about paying student athletes—it turns out that this particular debate goes back a lot further than you might guess. For more on the guests and stories featured in this episode, and for an array of resources exploring the history of college sports, check out BackStory's website: http://backstoryradio.org/?p=12516

 The Green Show | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:52:59

With St. Patrick’s Day on the horizon, the color green seems to be everywhere we look. So BackStory sets out to celebrate the holiday with an offbeat, wide-ranging, and colorful look at green in American history… From the Green Mountain Boys in colonial America, to the Irish Brigade’s emerald-green flags in the Civil War, and the green superheroes fighting crime in 1970s comic books, this episode captures the varied and verdant ways green has worked its way into our history and culture. For more on the guests and stories featured in this episode, and for an array of resources dedicated to the color green in American history, check out BackStory's website: http://backstoryradio.org/?p=12441

 On the Clock: A (Brief) History of Time [2014] | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:53:03

As we all get ready to switch the clocks and "spring forward," we're taking a look at time itself in American history. In this episode, we explore the changing ways Americans have experienced the 24-hour day - from pre-industrial times right on up through today's era of time-shifted media. Along with their guests, Peter, Ed, and Brian examine the role of economic forces in shaping our relationship with the clock – like the powerful Gilded Age railroad officials who got together in 1883 and carved the continental U.S. into five time zones, introducing Americans to the idea of “standard time.” And they explore how people have experienced the rhythm of night and day - and why the advent of electric lighting changed that rhythm forever. And finally, they ask, is unlimited time always a good thing? A loving look at basketball’s iconic “shot-clock” offers answers. For more on the guests and stories featured in this episode, and for an array of resources exploring time in American history, take a look at BackStory's website: http://backstoryradio.org/?p=12410

 Real to Reel: The 2014 Oscars Show | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:52:23

The Academy Awards are right around the corner, and so BackStory is heading to the movies! With Oscar-nominated movies like "12 Years A Slave" bringing the antebellum United States to the fore, and others like "American Hustle" or "Dallas Buyer’s Club" presenting aspects of the more recent past, the Guys explore how well history is represented in this year’s big contenders. Along with their guests, Ed, Peter, and Brian consider the political context of the original Solomon Northup slave narrative, and examine how certain kinds of narratives – like those dealing with captivity – show up again and again in American storytelling. And they ask how factual accuracy weighs up against dramatic imperatives, and whether movies can tell larger truths about history. For more on the stories and guests featured in this episode, and for an array of resources on history in the movies, take a look at BackStory's website: http://backstoryradio.org/?p=12196

 On The Money: A History of American Currency | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:52:02

There’s a lot of talk about Bitcoin these days—the digital currency that's been gaining ground. Bitcoin allows online payments to be made person-to-person, instead of via a bank, and sidesteps government involvement, too. Is it a more democratic approach to financial exchanges? Could it be “the future” of money? Brian, Ed, and Peter look to American history for answers. In this episode, we unpack America’s relationship with money, exploring the transformations of currency over the centuries. The Guys and their guests discuss the profusion of currencies in the past, considering how Americans decided which ones to trust—and which were only flashes-in-the-pan. From Continental Dollars at the Founding, to Greenbacks and “Greybacks” during the Civil War; from the gold and silver crises of the Gilded Age, to the new Federal Reserve notes of the 20th century—this episode considers the many ways money has shaped, and been shaped by, America’s politics, economy, and society. For more on the guests and stories featured in this episode, and for an array of resources exploring money in American history, check out BackStory's website: http://backstoryradio.org/?p=12193

 Contagion: Responding to Infectious Disease [rebroadcast] | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:52:37

It’s the height of the flu season, and federal agencies have been spending millions of dollars trying to keep this year’s virus under control. But when yellow fever struck Philadelphia in 1793, the entire federal government picked up and left town, leaving stricken individuals to fend for themselves. How and why has the pendulum swung so sharply toward government action? And how have epidemics themselves shaped American history? In this episode, we trace the shifting role of the state when it comes to coping with epidemics. Where do we draw the line between promoting the public good and protecting individual rights? And how did people understand the causes and experience of disease in their own time? Along with their guests, Ed, Peter, and Brian look at the impact of smallpox on a New York City immigrant neighborhood at the turn of the 20th Century, and explore how diseases ravaged camps of escaped slaves behind Union lines during and after the Civil War. And they share the devastating story of what happened in Philadelphia when soldiers returning from World War I brought the Spanish flu home with them. For more on the guests and stories featured in this episode, and for an array of resources exploring the history of epidemics in America, check out BackStory's website: http://backstoryradio.org/?p=12120

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