BackStory with the American History Guys
Naughty & Nice: A History of the Holidays [2014...12/23/14
Christmas may be the Big Kahuna of American holy days… but it wasn’t always so. For centuries it was a time of drunken rowdiness, when the poor would aggressively demand food and money from the rich. Little surprise, then, that the Puritans banned...
Counter Culture: A History of Shopping
The word shop first appeared as a verb in the 16th century — when it meant to put someone in prison. And boy can shopping feel that way, especially around the holiday season. The smells, the colors, the teeming shelves and showcases, the muzak. On...
What Gives: Generosity in America
’Tis the season for giving. And on this episode, we’re going to give you the history of that. The stories we’re working on explore gifts in the American past and consider how ideas about charity, philanthropy and generosity have changed over the...
Tyrannophobia: Uses & Abuses of Executive Power
With Republicans expected to gain seats in the House and Senate, it looks like President Obama will cap off his time in office with more gridlock. But if Congress can’t act, he says, he’ll use executive authority to sidestep the legislative process on...
Health Nuts: A History of Nutritional Advice
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...
Imagined Nations: Depictions of American Indians
Is the name of a certain NFL team from Washington a racial slur? The U.S. Patent Office says so. So do many Native Americans who have protested the use of the term by that team. Activists say the team’s name and its logo — the image of a generic...
Stuck A History of Gridlock [rebroadcast]
On this episode of BackStory, Brian, Ed, and Peter take an in-depth look at stalemate in American history. Are there other times when the system has so routinely ground to a halt? Is compromise the main way of ending legislative standoffs, or does...
Let's Make Up: Reconciliation And Its Limits
25 years ago this November, East and West Berliners began chipping away at the iconic wall that had kept them apart for three decades and symbolized the deep divisions that the Cold War had inflicted on the world at large. As this piece of history...
On the Clock: A (Brief) History of Time [Fall 2014 rebroadcast]
In 1883, a coalition of railroad officials carved the continental U.S. into five time zones, introducing Americans to the idea of “standard time.” Twenty five years later, the revolutionary idea was codified into law, with the 1918 Standard Time Act....
Islam & the United States
The fastest growing major religion in the world today, Islam has some 1.6 billion followers practicing a wide array of religious traditions and speaking hundreds of different languages. And yet, even as more and more Americans convert to the faith and...
Bridge for Sale: Deception in America [rebroadcast]
In America, you can be anything you want to be. Or anyone. Literally. So on this edition of BackStory, we dig into the long story of confidence men and counterfeiters. We discover a time when fake money jump-started the economy, and take a look at the...
1492: Columbus in American Memory [rebroadcast]
Columbus remains a central figure in American history: his name has been worked into numerous cities across the United States, ships, universities – even a space shuttle. And from an early age, schoolchildren learn about the voyages of the Niña,...
Little Feet: Children Starting Over in America
Stories about the surge in unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S./Mexico border filled news pages this summer. It’s often been referred to as an immigration “crisis.” But American history is replete with stories of children leaving their families to...
Degrees of Freedom: Higher Education in America [rebroadcast]
Fall has arrived, and all across the country, college students are returning to campus - and so is BackStory. Last year, President Obama proposed sweeping changes to the way government helps to finance students’ higher education, and an unprecedented...
Untrammeled: Americans and the Wilderness
In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, BackStory heads into the wilderness, exploring Americans’ fascination with, and fear of, wild places – and the ways in which humans have impacted even the most remote corners of the country. From...
The War Of 1812: Which One Was That? [rebroadcast]
200 years ago, the United States was engulfed in a war that had seen Washington, D.C. attacked and burned, and the nation's independence seriously threatened. Today, few people remember who we were even fighting in that conflict - the War of 1812 -...
Fair Wages: A History Of Getting Paid [rebroadcast]
In his 2014 State of the Union address, President Obama called on Congress to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10, and then signed an executive order putting it into effect for federal contract workers. With legislation on the table in...
The Great War: The Long Shadow of WWI
World War I was sometimes called "the war to end all wars." But 100 years after the fighting began, it's become a war that's often forgotten in American history, or viewed as a prelude to WWII. In this episode, we explore some of the ways the conflict...
Starry-Eyed: A History of the Heavens [rebroadcast]
Americans have had an ongoing fascination with the skies above us, so in this episode, we’re taking on space. How have people made sense of meteors, eclipses, and the stars? What has made us want to travel among them, to go to the moon, to Mars, or...
On the Take: Corruption in America
It’s a worry as old as the Republic: Do politicians look out for the public good, or their own private interests? But what exactly Americans consider the corruption of public office has changed over time. This week, BackStory shines a light on fears...
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