Podcasting has become increasingly popular over the past several years with the ubiquity of smartphones. We can now listen anywhere, and we don’t have to be limited to what’s streaming at the moment. Podcasts offer a variety of sources and topics to help fill out time while working out or on long drives.
But it’s not just the convenience that’s driving this trend. Podcasts offer a powerful platform to deliver content and tell all types of stories. Many topics that would have been confined in the past to a book or documentary can now be explored through a podcast. This is particularly true in the history genre. Dan Carlin can cover World War I in a podcast that stretches six episodes and almost 23 hours total hours. Rachel Maddow can cover the fall of Spirow Agnew in seven episodes of roughly one hour each. Countless others tell stories in a single 30 or 60-minute episode.
The production costs are also minimal, so practically anyone can create a podcast, and countless services and production companies have sprung up to enable the creation and delivery of podcasts. Most importantly, when compared to the traditional documentary format, podcasts eliminate the need for copyright clearance for the video clips and photos that are essential to telling a story in a visual format. This saves an enormous amount of cost and time and gives the podcaster enormous flexibility in telling a story.
The result has been an explosion of creativity. Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History is the gold standard of history podcasts having covered a wide variety of topics from the world wars of the 20th century to the Mongols to the Romans and Persians in the ancient world. Carlin is a talented storyteller who is able to work in discussions about the reliability of sources and debates among historians seamlessly into his narratives. Carlin studied history in college but doesn’t consider himself to be an historian, but rather a fan of history. He has experience as a professional radio host and the intense enthusiasm and curiosity required to tackle big subjects and present them in a manner that captivates his audience.
Podcasting has also become a career option for historians after completing their PhD. Two excellent podcasters are Patrick Wyman and Brad Harris. Wyman began with a podcast called “Fall of Rome” and now hosts “Tides of History.” Harris started a podcast called “How it Began” and now hosts “Context.” Both have their PhDs in history and cover the rise of the modern world in their podcasts. Their podcasts are more “professorial” than a Dan Carlin podcast but they still know how to tell story that will resonate with the average listener. Each has their distinct style but both reminded me of some of the best professors I had in college who made you look forward to their lectures. We’ll cover both in more detail when we provide a full review of their podcasts.
Like Dan Carlin, Lillian Cunningham isn’t an historian. Yet she created an excellent podcast called “Presidential” with episodes covering each of our presidents in chronological order leading up to the 2016 election. She a journalist at The Washington Post who covers leadership topics and was looking for a good podcast to brush up on her knowledge of presidents as she contemplated covering the topic of leadership skills required for that office. She couldn’t find one, so she decided to create one on her own. She was far from an expert on this topic, so her podcast brought the audience along on her own journey to learn about these presidents as she brought in historians and other experts to shed light on the leadership qualities and personalities of each president. The episodes were unconventional, informative and entertaining, and this unique approach helped make this one of the more compelling history podcasts available.
The emergence of all these great history podcasts is one of the inspirations for this website. These podcasts have been growing in popularity over the years, but I’ve also felt that so many more people would enjoy them if they’re made aware of their existence. So the pages we create for various topics will always be centered on providing recommendations of the best podcasts, books, documentaries, videos, and other resources one should explore when interested in a topic. So if someone is interested in Genghis Khan and the Mongols and they find our page in a search, we will be highlighting the fantastic Dan Carlin series called “Wrath of the Khans.” Someone searching Chester Arthur and finding our page will be directed to that excellent episode in the “Presidential” podcast.
The convenience of podcasts coupled with the explosion of quality content make the subject of history accessible to so many more people. Someone who is interested in a particular topic but can’t ever find the time to read that book sitting on a shelf at home can now learn about it an be entertained while driving, working out, traveling, doing chores or relaxing on a long walk.
The podcasts mentioned above are just a few of the many excellent history podcasts available, and we will be covering more in more detail over the coming months. If you’re a history buff or just love a good story or intelligent discussion, you’ll certainly find many great podcast options in the history genre. Hopefully our pages and guides will help you discover some of the best.