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From Neanderthals to Napoleon's sister, Footnoting History's team of academics share their favorite stories from across history. New episodes every other Saturday.

From Neanderthals to Napoleon's sister, Footnoting History's team of academics share their favorite stories from across history. New episodes every other Saturday.
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From Neanderthals to Napoleon's sister, Footnoting History's team of academics share their favorite stories from across history. New episodes every other Saturday.




Mao and His Mango

(Lesley) In 1968, an act of diplomacy between the Government of Pakistan and China’s Chairman Mao set off a series of actions that would create a cult around the mango fruit. Chairman Mao did not taste this fruit. Instead, he passed it on to workers as a symbol of his gratitude for their allegiance to him. What followed was a stunning spread of the mango throughout China. Set against the backdrop of famine and the “Four Pests,” the worship of this single fruit created complexity and...


Potosí: The Silver Mine that Changed the World

(Nathan) In 1545, a new Spanish mining town was founded in the Andes mountains of modern-day Bolivia, and for next 250 years, the mines of Potosí would fund the Spanish crown and its imperial ambitions. But what the Spanish did not know is that having too much silver could have disastrous consequences. In this episode, we will examine the history of New World silver and its effect on the world economy, the lives of the people who mined it, and how Bolivian silver contributed to global...


King Henry I of England and the White Ship

(Christine) In 1120, just when King Henry I of England thought he had achieved a much-needed peace, tragedy struck. What happened to the White Ship that broke the king's heart and changed the trajectory of the English monarchy? Find out on this episode.


History for Halloween V

(Christine, Lucy, Elizabeth) It's that time of year again! Hauntings, mayhem, and spooky happenings abound and we are here to feed your dark side with some creepy bits plucked from history.


How to Make a Fortune in Fictional Poyais

(Lesley) While the brave, the curious, and the outlawed began new lives in New World colonies, industrialists in Europe began searching for investment opportunities. The realities of travel, however, meant that leaps of faith were common for investors. In this episode, Lesley digs deep into the story of a confidence trickster who fabricated an entire country in need of investment. Unfortunately, exotic Poyais did not exist. Who wants to buy the Brooklyn Bridge when you could buy a country...


The Legend of Pope Joan

(Nathan) One of the most famous stories about the medieval papacy is that, supposedly sometime in the 9th or 11th century, there was a woman named Joan who disguised herself as a man and became Pope John. While it might sound like a modern, anti-Catholic creation, this story was actually invented in the Middle Ages. In this episode, Nathan returns to the realm of medieval conspiracy theories to talk about the medieval origins and development of the myth of Joan, as well as the social role...


Escape from Slavery: The Story of Mary and Emily Edmonson

(Elizabeth) Mary and Emily Edmonson were two of the youngest passengers who attempted to escape slavery on the ill-fated Pearl voyage in 1848. Join Elizabeth as she and a descendant of the Edmonson family discuss the role of these young women in not only the escape but also the abolition movement and Reconstruction.


Beyond the Trenches: Other Fronts of WWI

(Lucy) In popular memory and on the big screen, the First World War was fought in the mud of northern France — or maybe in the skies above it. But what about the war beyond the irreverently-nicknamed trenches? This episode will explore the war as it was fought in the wheat fields of Romania, in the plains of Cameroon, the waters of the Mediterranean, and the deserts of Libya. Examining lesser-known fronts of WWI will also show us different experiences, and different soldiers, as the...


How to Avoid Serving in Napoleon's Army

(Christine) Napoleon Bonaparte built his career and maintained his empire with soldiers at his back. Often, the fate of the France seemed to hinge on his military success, but that did not mean every man in the country was eager to join the fight. In this episode, Christine looks at some of the ways men avoided serving in Napoleon's army.


Who Was Bass Reeves?

(Samantha) Bass Reeves was born a slave but escaped from his master and lived as an outlaw in the Indian Territory until the Emancipation Proclamation officially made him a free man. He went on to use the knowledge he gained during his time in hiding to become one of the most successful U.S. Deputy Marshals of his day.


Ancient Authoritative Animals

(Lesley) Today's modern economy allows those with resources to lavish love and attention on their pets. In 2017, the pet industry represented $96 billion in sales in the US alone. Countless hours are spent calming our anxiety by watching cute cat videos. Is this behavior so new and modern? In this episode, Lesley explores the ancient world and three case studies when an adored pet was lavished with unparalleled praise and opportunity -- our animals have always had a special meaning in our...


Special Edition: The Marriage of John Quincy and Louisa Adams

(Christine and Elizabeth) This weekend Britain celebrates the wedding of Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle, and we at Footnoting History are thrilled. Join us as we mark the occasion by discussing another cross-Atlantic union: the marriage of US President John Quincy Adams and Louisa Johnson of London, England.


The Blazing World of Lady Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle

(Nathan) Poet, playwright, philosopher, science theorist, and science fiction author--just a few of the occupations held by the 17th-century noblewoman, Lady Margaret Cavendish. One of the towering intellects of her day, Cavendish was a prodigious writer who was by her own account painfully shy, but whose works were revolutionary in their imaginativeness and insight. In this episode, we will explore the life of this remarkable woman, the story of her family during the tumult of the English...


Yolande Du Bois and the Weight of W.E.B. Du Bois's Dreams

(Elizabeth) In the 20th Century, W.E.B. Du Bois was one of the leading intellectuals of the movement to gain equality for African-Americans. His daughter, Yolande Du Bois, found much of her life shaped by her father's desire for his daughter to be the exemplar of the abilities and potential of African-Americans. In this episode, Elizabeth examines Yolande's life and to what it extent it was shaped by her father.


Ambition, Anxiety, and the Unseen Universe: Science and Victorian Fiction

(Lucy) It’s a truism to say that the Victorian age was a period of rapid technological and social change. It was also a period when science, increasingly, posited proofs for the unseen, from bacteria to mental illness to sexual orientation. Scientific discoveries and debates were cause for anxiety, as well as excitement. Whether through fictional scientists or science fiction, literature could be a place to explore society’s complex relationships to scientific change.


Evacuating the Loyalists

(Christine) During the American Revolution, not everyone living in the rebellious colonies wanted to separate from Great Britain. In this episode, find out how loyalists (those still devoted to King George III) coped with the war ending and the colonies achieving independence.


Hoelun the Stolen Bride

(Samantha) Some time before 1162, a Mongol girl named Hoelun was kidnapped and taken as a bride. A short time later she gave birth to a future emperor. Although the details of her story are shrouded in mystery, the tales that are told of her reveal a wealth of information about steppe culture and hint at the motivations of her son as he rewrote the very fabric of that society.


The Papal Pornocracy

(Nathan) When popes are elected today, the cardinals of the Catholic Church meet in secret conclave. But it wasn't always so. In the 9th through 11th centuries, control of the Chair of St. Peter was fiercely contested between several Roman families, who put their sons, brothers, and lovers on the papal throne. In this episode, we will look at the murders, depositions, adultery, illicit relationships, trials of papal cadavers, and debauched behavior that allegedly characterized this period,...


Censorship in Reformation England

(Lesley) The arrival of the printing press on the scene of early modern Europe helped to spread seditious ideas that became the Protestant Reformation. Monarchs across Europe and beyond had to establish new policies governing regarding the publication and distribution of potentially dangerous ideas. In this episode, Lesley describes a few laws designed to keep information under control and shares what might happen when a printer ignored the law to publish radical, challenging ideas.


Jewish Fighters of Medieval Europe

(Elizabeth) When we think of medieval Europe, knights, jousting, and sword fights come to mind. New light has been shed on fighting practices in medieval Europe, however, by the discovery of treatises, some of which describe the techniques employed and taught by Jewish fighting masters. Join Elizabeth as she delves into this little known field of fighting styles, and learn about how you too can learn to fight like a medieval European.