Everybody loves historical yarn. We can watch the trials of humanity from a safe distance, then judge how well we did as a species or, more likely, how badly. And when you think things are getting better, along comes a figure or an act of nature that pushes us back to the brink again. Whatever your taste in bygone times, we've got some compelling history podcasts here, some light and humorous, some stuff you missed in history class in high school, but all ripe for learning more about the backstory on how we got where we are today.
Dan Carlin is a history buff from America well known in these circles for his historical podcast called Dan Carlin's Hardcore History. On the show, he gets experts in to discuss the whole sweep of history, in what's always captivating and fascinating. Nothing is off-limits – one time, they could be talking about Romans, Celts, or the Medieval period in Europe, and the next, it could be Japanese dynasties, civil wars, American history, or the Cold War. Indeed, the conversation often creeps into modern or future stories. However, with so much to talk about, Carlin does sometimes run out of time, and if he feels the subject deserves more of a deep dive or that a particular branch of the subject went underexplored, here's where it might end up – in his Addendum podcast. It's always worth listening if you want to dive even deeper into a subject. This podcast is undoubtedly one of the best history podcasts out there, with new episodes always making ripples, and we're delighted to host it.
Egypt has played host to perhaps the longest-lasting culture in human history. Stretching back to 5,000 years ago and only really petering out in the Roman era gives us about 3,000 years to play within this remarkable podcast. In each episode, a single event, character, object, or structure is discussed, which makes The History of Egypt Podcast run from ten minutes long to over an hour, so it's perhaps best to set it to continuous play if you're on a long journey or working out. If you have more than a passing interest in this remarkable land around the Nile, you will be inspired by the depth and detail in every listen.
Read on if you like your history light, sprinkled with belly laughs. Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds are two US comedians who have found a loyal following over their 500+ episodes of The Dollop. In each episode, history buff Anthony reads a story or theme from American history, but it's always one that Reynolds knows next to nothing (and sometimes literally nothing) about. The result is a hilarious romp as the two comedians riff off each other and brings their unique perspectives to often highly obscure events. They might talk about a theme from centuries ago, a current event, or a living figure, so buckle up for a humorous walkthrough of US history. Note that this might not be one for the kids, as it contains strong language throughout.
Stephen Fry is an official National Treasure in the UK, known for his books, TV presentation on the BBC and other channels, and comedy with Hugh Laurie. He's internationally known as a movie actor thanks to roles in The Hobbit, Gosford Park, and Alice Through the Looking Glass. In his Victorian Secrets series of podcasts, he takes us through the dark underbelly of society in the 1800s. With contributions from experts, you'll learn about everything from scandals, fashions, freak shows, and more. This podcast is delivered with Fry's inimitable avuncular style that has made him such a joy to listen to. Do you know a lot about Victorian Britain? A few hours in Fry's company will probably show you that you were only scratching the surface.
It's a given in most societies that drugs are "bad" and must be illegal. Unfortunately, the fact that society has an insatiable demand for them drives the supply underground, leading to gang warfare and unregulated products. It's also generally accepted that some are worse than others, with marijuana occupying a space somewhere around tobacco and alcohol, which are usually legal. So what happened when Canada legalized cannabis for recreational use? Did it become just an alternative to whisky, beer, or smokes? Not quite. The transition made hitherto criminal operations into legitimate businesses, and regulation quickly became problematic. This enlightening 9-part series, Highly Illegal, is essential listening for governments, recreational users, and anyone thinking of setting up the cannabis business.
The United States Mafia is dominated by five families, one of which is the much-feared Gambino family. One man who attained notoriety and respect across the underground world was Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano, who became underboss, or second in command, to the family right up to the 1990s, when he testified against the families and served time in prison for his involvement in multiple murders. He's now reinvented himself and has carved out a career writing and talking about mob life in books, YouTube videos, and here in his podcast. If you want to learn about this high-stakes world from the horse's mouth, there's no better listen than Our Thing with Sammy The Bull.
History is always open for debate, with the picture of what happened to get more transparent as new evidence is (often quite literally) unearthed. But what about those stories that evidence seems to evade? The mysterious goings-on, the peculiar decisions made by people hundreds of years ago without an obvious rationale? That's where Unexplained picks up the story. In each episode, a story is explored that has baffled historians, scientists, or both, and they're sure to have you scratching your head. While sometimes a tentative conclusion is reached, you're often left convinced that there's more to it, thanks to too many blind alleys and unsettling coincidences. Settle down and listen if you can.
Disasters are the bane of humanity. They're where normality is ripped from beneath our feet, and we are plunged into emergencies that we can barely comprehend. But amid the destruction, death, and confusion, humanity will almost always persevere, whether through unlikely survivors or a conviction that such an event should never happen again. In each episode of Disaster Area, WABC-TV producer Jennifer Matarese examines a single event in great detail, with a forensic mindset but a sensitive feel for the human stories therein. Whether it's a natural disaster like an earthquake or hurricane, transport disasters, the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, or industrial accidents, you'll get the same level of detail and come out with a new appreciation of the fragility of life, but also of hope for a better future.
Everyone knows something about Napoleon Bonaparte, his rise to prominence in post-Revolutionary France, and his subsequent brutal quest to dominate as much of Europe, North Africa, and the New World as he could. But he was also a key figure in a pivotal phase of human history, between the late 18th and early 19th centuries, when Europe was industrializing, and warfare was starting to become mechanized. This fantastic podcast takes you through Napoleon's life, his successes, his failures, his complicated personality, and the characters and events that surrounded him. If you're interested in how modern France was born and why everything happened, The Age of Napoleon Podcast is your next listen.
Greek and Roman mythology isn't just a series of ancient stories and religious origins even to modern folk. These tales still resonate as fables from which we can still learn, whether Icarus flying too close to the sun, King Midas and his touch of gold, Romulus and Remus founding Rome, Pandora's Box, or Jason and the Argonauts and their epic voyage. But let's face it – they are often told in less than inspiring tones on the one hand or given inaccurate Hollywood treatment on the other. Well, not in Let's Talk About Myths, Baby! Greek & Roman Mythology Retold. The stories are explored in intimate detail in this podcast but with humour and pace to keep you interested and entertained. It's very light on its feet and perfect for a journey or housework. And you'll be picking up plenty of timeless tales that remain relevant today.
Many historians in the West get frustrated at how Persia is overshadowed by the Egyptian, Greek, and Roman dynasties in popular history. And so they should be. This region around modern-day Iran has been instrumental in the birth of civilization, great conquering powers, and vast areas of control that date back 2,500 years. It arguably had a line of succession that can be traced to 1979, when the royal family was overthrown in the Iranian Revolution. That's a massive chunk of time and geography to explore. The History of Persia podcast guides you through it wonderfully, with no stone left unturned in its quest to describe and explain the remarkable cities, rulers, and battles that fall under the Persian umbrella.
History is, so the saying goes, written by the victors. It's one thing that searches for ancient truths. Historians need to find out what happened when all traces of the truth have been erased so that the next leader can look benevolent, wise, or ruthless. Looking into fake news from the past has motivated British historian and broadcaster Dominic Sandbrook to delve into how stories and truths of historical events have been manipulated and utterly disregarded. More damning shows how some of these lies have been adopted wholesale by historians. Part revisionist history, a part cautionary tale, Hijacked Histories is essential listening.
The idea of the populist strongman leading a country is nothing new. They often arrive out of the blue, with events lining up to create the most fertile ground for them to flourish. They'll tear up social and political norms, twist the rule of law, and usually try to suppress opposition to keep them in post indefinitely. But in the past decade, there's been a destabilizing cluster of them in some key economies worldwide. From Russia to America, from the Philippines to Turkey, from Brazil to the UK, populism has never been so popular among leaders. Whether populism translates to popularity among the people that's another story, and crime and security journalist Misha Glenny amply examines it in this urgent podcast, The Rise of the Iron Men.
Gold is the metal most associated with wealth and luxury and has been throughout history. Its acquisition has led to wars, conquests, corruption, murder, and theft. Yet its dark story has done little to tarnish its allure among romantic couples seeking an engagement ring or fashionistas splashing the cash on jewellery. What is so captivating about this particular corner of the periodic table? Why is it so rare, and what is its actual value? This remarkable six-part podcast, Power, Lust and Glory, has some of the answers and takes you back through history to discover the power behind mining, buying, and selling gold.