Great History Podcasts

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As I kid I was a bit of a history nerd. OK, perhaps I barely just qualified for the ‘nerd’ bit and was more on the ‘really interested in’-side but I was definitely fascinated by the ancient Romans and Greeks and read a lot of (child-friendly) books on the subject.

Soon I also began devouring historical novels. Not only about Greeks and Romans. There was Rainer M. Schröder, a German historical YA-author who set his books all over the place (or rather time) and Ellis Peter’s Cadfael-novels, set during the English Anarchy. (There were much more but those are the ones I remember best).

And then it somehow stopped. I’m not even sure why. Life got in the way might be the best explanation. It wasn’t that I’d ever said ‘I’m not interested in history anymore’ and if somebody asked me what my favourite genres were I still listed historical…but read much more fantasy and crime.

Recently, I’ve rediscovered my love for history and started reading more again, fiction as well as non-fiction. And when I don’t feel like reading there are history documentaries (some are great, some are…not so great, and some…let’s not talk about them) and, thanks to this fancy new internet there are also podcasts. on almost every topic. 12-year-old Me would have squeed with joy…to be fair: present me does so, as well. It’s like paradise. And I’ve gotten addicted to quite a few history-podcasts (well and true-crime podcasts but that’s for a different post). There are three I’m especially fond of:

 

The Lesser Bonapartes

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“Nobody cares about the Hussites”

(I care about them. I really do. Especially after the episode on the Protestant reformation)

The lesser Bonapartes offer a humorous look at – well – lesser known history. Which can mean anything from lesser known facts about well-known figures (spoiler: turns out they were often dicks) to lesser known but still important people and events. Refreshingly that often includes non-Western (European) History.
Besides, they manage the perfect balance of humour and facts. I enjoy information mixed with jokes but not when the facts of a one-hour programme could have been summed up in ten minutes and were just padded out with jokes.

 

The Podcast of Doom

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“The Black Death got its name because of its dark and grim nature. In contrast to those other light-hearted, cheerier diseases”

This podcast is as cheery as the title lets you expect. It discusses epic failures. Deadly epic failures: natural disasters, plain-crashes or various man-made catastrophes. Usually, the episode first give an overview of what happened before and during the disaster. Depending on the available sources that part goes into more or less detail. The second part discusses why it happened and if and how it could have been prevented. When answering these question the podcast makes the important distinction between cases where only the knowledge (or perhaps technology) we have today would have prevented a disaster and those where people should already have known better.

Overall The Podcast of Doom is more on the serious sides but also contains a few jokes and yes they are dark and morbid (after all, you are listening to a podcast discussing disasters with more than 100 fatalities) but never tasteless.

Oh. They are also kittens. And no bad things happen to them.

 

Bohemican

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“You know you’ve made it when they named a comet after you”

Bohemican is not a pure history-podcast but a very history-heavy one. The focus is on the history, people, places and traditions of the Czech Republic/Bohemia but even if they discuss a modern topic like ice-hockey they will also go into its history so there aren’t really any completely history free episodes. Some episodes episodes just take a different approach. Instead of discussing a certain person or event they look at a place and its history or the way traditions changed over time.

It is hosted by two American ex-pats who live in Prague and the podcast’s only weakness is that, especially in the earlier episodes,  they are occasionally a bit too sure about what Czech people are thinking about a certain topic. However, that gets better with time, and in the later ones you even get some soundbites from Czech people giving their point of view.

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