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The History Fangirl Podcast

History Podcasts

An interview podcast about historic places for history lovers and travel enthusiasts. Stephanie Craig is a history and travel blogger. She travels full-time and writes at


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An interview podcast about historic places for history lovers and travel enthusiasts. Stephanie Craig is a history and travel blogger. She travels full-time and writes at





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World History by the Numbers

In this episode, I chat with Daniel Hoyer from Seshat about looking at history through a statistical lens. We discuss the Seshat Databank and his new book, Figuring Out the Past: The 3,495 Vital Statistics that Explain World History. Let's Stay in Touch! You can join the conversation in our Facebook Group, the History Fangirl Podcast Community, or come say hi on Instagram! My Travel Websites History Fangirl - Culture & History Travel Guides in the USA, Europe, and Beyond Sofia Adventures - Balkan Travel Blog Oklahoma Wonders - Travel in Oklahoma & Route 66 The theme music for the podcast is "Places Unseen" by Lee Rosevere.


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Veliko Tarnovo: Bulgaria's Medieval Capital

In this episode, I chat with Eric Halsey from the Bulgarian History Podcast about the hidden gem of Veliko Tarnovo. This once-important Bulgarian city is one of the most picturesque in Europe, and yet not many outside of Bulgaria know much about it. You can find Eric's podcast here. Let's Stay in Touch! You can join the conversation in our Facebook Group, the History Fangirl Podcast Community, or come say hi on Instagram! More on Veliko Tarnovo: If you are planning to visit Veliko Tarnovo, here are our Veliko Tarnovo travel guides. Things to do in Veliko Tarnovo How to Get from Sofia to Veliko Tarnovo Best Instagram SpotsWhat to Do in Winter My Travel Websites History Fangirl - Culture & History Travel Guides in the USA, Europe, and Beyond Sofia Adventures - Balkan Travel Blog Oklahoma Wonders - Travel in Oklahoma & Route 66 The theme music for the podcast is "Places Unseen" by Lee Rosevere.


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Stalking Chernobyl

Yes, it's been two years, and for that I'm very sorry! But I'm back with new episodes next week. In the meantime, enjoy this interview on Chernobyl I did a few weeks ago with Darmon Richter, the author of the new book Chernobyl, a Stalker's Guide. The theme music for the podcast is "Places Unseen" by Lee Rosevere.


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The Great Kazakh Famine

On today’s episode of the History Fangirl Podcast, we talk with renowned travel blogger Megan Starr, whom we spoke to a few months back about Kiev. But this week, we’re talking in person, in Kazakhstan, at the site of the memorial to the Great Kazakh Famine, a historical event which not many people know about in the West but looms large in the history of Kazakhstan. And, we both have recovered from the Kazakhstani flu that has been going around, so we’re ready to get rolling! The Great Famine We’ve talked before about the Great Famine in Ukraine, but similar tragedies hit all over the Soviet region. There were actually two terrible genocides in the region. In 1919, many Kazakhs were killed by a drought. But due to the forced farm collectivization of the nomadic peoples in the region from 1931 to 1933, the Soviet Union ended up killing nearly 2 million people. It’s a terrible story, one not well-known outside the region, but one that everyone should hear. Outline of This Episode Resources Mentioned Megan StarrMegan’s Facebook Group Info about the memorial Connect With Stephanie stephanie@historyfangirl.comhttps://historyfangirl.comSupport Stephanie on Patreon Featuring the song “Places Unseen” by Lee Rosevere.


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The World Nomad Games

This week’s episode is something a little different. I am in Isyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan, covering the World Nomad Games, a festival of sports that’s sort of like the Olympics for nomadic peoples. The sports, though, are way more interesting than, say, basketball. My first interview this episode is with the co-captain of the American Kok Boru team (I’ll explain later), and the sports include horse archery, tug of war, arm wrestling and more. I have a whole slew of interviews in this week’s episode, and next week we’ll dive into what makes these games so special, and what importance the history of this event has to the people who play in it. The Blue Wolf My first interview is with Garrett, the co-captain of the U.S.’s Kok Boru team, who describes playing in these games as a “wild ride.” Kok Boru is the national sport of Kyrgyzstan, and translates to the Blue Wolf. As Garrett says, it’s not a game, it’s “one of the most intense competitions” you could ever take part in. As he says, it’s essentially rugby on horseback, but it dates back centuries in Kyrgyzstan, and stems from a time when men would chase away wolves who were attacking livestock, and pick up the wolves and toss them from one horse to the other. So yeah, a little different than baseball. World-Class Mangala One of the many things that distinguish the World Nomad Games from the Olympics is that it includes intellectual games. Imagine if chess was in the Olympics, that’s the place that the Turkish game of Mangala (mancala in the U.S.) holds in the World Nomad Games. As the competitor I interviewed said, he was drawn to the sport because he could sit down. I also had the opportunity to speak with the president of the Turkish horse archery federation. Next-Level Tug-of-War One of the American teams I was able to interview were a man and woman who compete in mas wrestling, a sort of tug-of-war competition between two people who grasp a stick, and try to pull their opponent over a board. I also was able to chat with Kyle, a Peace Corps volunteer in Kyrgyzstan, about the cultural traditions of the country. One of the fascinating aspects of the culture that Kyle mentioned is that younger men must approach an older gentleman they encounter and introduce themselves, as a sign of respect. I also got to speak with Ashley, another Peace Corps volunteer, who is actually Kyle’s teammate on the American arm-wrestling team. We Are the World (Nomad Games) The World Nomad Games are an incredible experience, filled with unbelievable characters (as you can tell from my interviews) from all across the country. Whether it’s the Scottish caber tosser who’s skeptical of Americans’ tartans or the Pakistani representative calling for World Peace, it’s an amazing competition. Make sure you tune in next week as we dig into the history of the games. Outline of This Episode Resources Mentioned The World Nomad GamesStephanie's Kyrgyzstan Travel Advice How to Get a Sim Card in Kyrgyzstan Connect With Stephanie stephanie@historyfangirl.comhttps://historyfangirl.comSupport Stephanie on Patreon Featuring the song “Places Unseen” by Lee Rosevere. More info and photographs for this episode at:


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The Massacre at Srebrenica

Last year, Alex Cruikshanks came on the show to talk about Belgrade, a really detailed and wide-ranging episode. And we had such a great time, he’s back again to talk about more recent history in Yugoslavia, specifically the brutal massacre at Srebrenica. Yugoslavia, as anyone who was alive in the 1990s knows, was falling apart in the early part of the decade. The Bosnian War was raging, and in 1995, some 8,000 Bosniaks, mostly men and boys, were killed. What led up to this genocide, how could something like this happen in our recent history, and what has been the fallout since? Alex is the perfect person to about this, not just because of his podcast, but he just made a trip to participate in a peace march in the region. How the massacre began As Alex told me this episode, in the late 1980s, a sort of coalition-by-default formed as Yugoslavia held elections, as the parties that represented the various ethnic factions of the country won a majority. But they soon realized that all that was holding them together was an anti-Communist stance, so the coalition immediately began dissolving. In a referendum in 1992, Bosnians voted for independence, and in the Spring and Summer of 1992, Serbian nationalists begin staging coups throughout the country, placing Serbs in power, and begin massacring non-Serb populations. Srebrenica stronghold But while all of this was going on, there were pockets where Bosniaks were able to hold off the Serbian nationalists from taking over. One such stronghold was the small town of Srebrenica, which was able to maintain its autonomy for three years. As Alex says, it only had about 6,000 people before the war, but because so many have been killed or expelled throughout the region, it swells to an unsustainable population of 40,000. In 1993 a militia forms in Srebrenica to try to fight back, and the Serbian army takes notice, planning an invasion. But just as that was heating up, UN peacekeepers visited the town, and ended up putting a small force there, keeping the violence at bay for two years. How the UN peacekeepers couldn’t keep the peace But in 1995, Slobodan Milosevic decides it’s time to try to shut down the enclaves, and he issues what becomes known as Directive 7, which orders the separation of Srebrenica from the other enclaves and “by planned and well-thought-out combat operations, create an unbearable situation of total insecurity with no hope of further survival or life for the inhabitants of Srebrenica.” That’s about as grim and awful as it gets, but as Alex says, it’s likely Milosevic was not thinking of massacre, but rather starving the residents until they give up. The Serb national army then takes UN peacekeepers as hostages to ward off UN airstrikes, and in July they begin their combat operations in earnest. Unfortunately, the Bosnian militia were not well-trained fighters, and they ended up falling back. How the massacre happened, and what happened after As the Serbian army advanced, many hoped the UN would step in and be able to save the Bosniaks. But many men and boys had a feeling that if they stayed, they would be killed. So they fled, but unfortunately, the Serbs were able to ambush them. It’s a truly horrific story of ethnic cleansing that happened not that long ago. But as Alex and I discuss in this week’s episode, the Bosnian people are actually some of the most liberal and optimistic people we’ve met. It’s an incredible story, and it’s important that we never forget it. Outline of This Episode Resources Mentioned The History of Yugoslavia PodcastBelgrade: The Rise of the White City Connect With Stephanie stephanie@historyfangirl.comhttps://historyfangirl.comSupport Stephanie on Patreon Featuring the song “Places Unseen” by Lee Rosevere. More info and photographs for this episode at:


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The Strangely Competitive History of the CN Tower

Every city has that one landmark that seems like a tourist trap and practically begs you not to visit. For me, that was the CN Tower in Toronto. I didn’t go near it the first time I visited the city, and the second time, this past July, I planned to steer clear. But it turns out the joke was on me, as the CN Tower is an amazing building with a funny, competitive and ingenious bit of Canadian history. My guest today is Christopher Mitchell, who not only knows a lot about Toronto’s landmark, but is also the co-host of our new podcast, Rick Steves Over Brunch. This is a really fun episode and so Canadian you may find yourself reaching for a hockey stick afterwards. How the CN Tower came to be In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Toronto was growing rapidly, but the skyscrapers that were going up were all about the same height. This began messing with the communications of the city, so lawmakers decided to build something that would literally tower above the skyscrapers to allow reception through. And, as Chris says, they said, “While we’re at it, why don’t we build the largest free-standing structure on the planet?” And so they did, thumbing their noses at America in the process. Why the Green Book was necessary Construction of the tower began in 1973, and once they had the functional structure down, they realized they had something that could become a true tourist destination. So they added the iconic structure on the top with the restaurant and the observation tower in 1974. A helicopter, famously named Olga, placed the needle on the top, and on April 2, 1975, the project is complete. On June 26, 1976 the top of the tower is opened to the public, and now it’s visited by somewhere between 1.5 and 2 million people a year. Modern changes to the tower The one place where Chris and I diverge is whether either of us would do the CN Tower’s “Edge Walk,” where visitors can walk, hands-free, around the top of the tower (while harnessed to the building, of course). It’s a popular new adventure for visitors, and if you’re a thrill-seeker, it’s worth checking out. We also talk about the enormous complex that has risen around the tower, which includes the Rogers Centre, where the Toronto Blue Jays play. We also take a very necessary side trip through what exactly constitutes Canadian cuisine (based on whether the restaurant at the top of the Tower is worth the high prices). What else to see in Toronto As Chris tells me, Toronto is massive, comprising 20% of Canada’s total population. Some of his suggestions for where to go in Toronto: Visit the incredible Chinatown, which is close to the CN Tower. He also recommends Kensington Market, one of the city’s hipper neighborhoods (and a good destination for anyone interested in weed tourism), and Queen Street West. He also makes a pitch to catch a Blue Jays game thanks to the incredible views if the dome is open. But be forewarned: The product on the field is, as he says, “mediocre at best.” Outline of This Episode Resources Mentioned Traveling MitchRick Steves Over BrunchCN Tower Connect With Stephanie stephanie@historyfangirl.comhttps://historyfangirl.comSupport Stephanie on Patreon Featuring the song “Places Unseen” by Lee Rosevere. More info and photographs for this episode at:


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Traveling the Green Book

In the first half of the 20th century, the automobile became a symbol of freedom to American families. Middle-class families able to afford their own car were no longer restricted to train or bus timetables, and the great American road trip was born. But for black Americans, this new freedom collided with old hatred, prejudices and dangers. The road trip’s appeal called to everyone equally, but not everyone was treated equally. African Americans began using “the Green Book,” a guide to places that were friendly to them along their journey. In September, I met Tamiko Harvey, the travel blogger behind Passports and Grub, who actually took her daughter on a family road trip using the Green Book. How Tomiko became interested in the Green Book Tomiko and I met while touring the Civil Rights Trail in Birmingham, Alabama, where they actually have a Green Book on display there in the Civil Rights Museum. That really sparked her interest in learning more about the book, and she was able to purchase a copy on Amazon. As she says, we’re supposed to be living in a post-racial society, but of course that’s not true. So she wanted to see what it would be like traveling the Green Book today. Why the Green Book was necessary As Tomiko says, black people in the early 20th century had to plan out every detail of a road trip. They had to dress a certain way, they had to be sure of what time of day they would be traveling in certain areas, and they had to know their route precisely because a wrong turn could literally be deadly. It was a really planned and methodical process that we don’t even think about now. Black motorists had to think about where they were going to eat, where they were going to get gas, where they could use a restroom. A lot of these travelers were Civil Rights activists or business travelers. Leisure travel was not as prominent as we think of it today. “Vacation and recreation without humiliation.” The book was originally published in 1936 in New York, and as Tomiko says it became a sort of Yellow Pages for black travelers. It outlined friendly restaurants, gas stations, hotels, drug stores and barber shops that were safe during Jim Crow. It came about because Victor Green, the author, was having difficulty traveling. The book was circulated in black establishments, even in hotels and restaurants. And it was marketed with the tagline: “Vacation and recreation without humiliation.” About 15,000 copies a year were sold to black travelers. Brittany told me a great story about brothers divided over the revolution that you have to hear. Tomiko travels the book Tomiko and her family live outside of Nashville, Tennessee, and when her daughter had to go to Orlando, Florida for a cheering competition, she decided to take the book and see what it was like to travel through those Southern states for black people in the 1930s. As she says, they often had to go an hour or two out of their way just to ensure they were going somewhere safe. A lot of the places on the routes were actually people’s homes, old gas stations or even empty lots now. She said it added something like three hours to their trip to go out of the way. Her story, and the story of the book, is so fascinating. I highly recommend checking out this episode. Outline of This Episode Resources Mentioned Passports and GrubBirmingham and the Civil Rights Movement Tomiko’s piece about the Civil Rights Museum Connect With Stephanie stephanie@historyfangirl.comhttps://historyfangirl.comSupport Stephanie on Patreon Featuring the song “Places Unseen” by Lee Rosevere. More info and photographs for this episode at:


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The Best of The History Fangirl Podcast's First Year

We did it! Next week will mark a full year of publishing The History Fangirl Podcast, and this week marks the 50th episode, so it felt like the right time to do a retrospective of the first 12 months of the show. My producer picked a handful of his favorite clips (it was too hard for me to pick!) from the past year, and so this episode looks back on some of the fun and fascinating stories my amazing guests have told. As we wrap up this year and focus on the next one, I do want to say that I'm blessed to have had so many smart, insightful and entertaining guests on this show. I'm a travel writer by trade and a history buff by passion, and honestly the guests that have come on have done such a great job of fueling my love of both. I also want to say thanks to all of the listeners who have downloaded the show, reviewed it on your podcast app of choice, or sent me a note to say they enjoyed a particular episode. Putting this show out into the world was a big leap for me, and it's turned out to be one of the most rewarding experiences I've had. So thank you. Episodes featured this week If you haven't heard every single episode of the show (how dare you!), and one of the clips this week interests you, you can check them all out below: The Boston Witch TrialsThe Colorful History of Lindisfarne The Lost History of the Black Pioneers Barcelona’s Groundbreaking Monument to Trans HistoryThe Grand PlaceThe Civil War Defenses of Washington, D.C.The Roman ForumThe Oracle of Delphi Connect With Stephanie stephanie@historyfangirl.comhttps://historyfangirl.comSupport Stephanie on Patreon Featuring the song “Places Unseen” by Lee Rosevere. More info and photographs for this episode at:


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Philadelphia's Elfreth's Alley

Philadelphia is by far one of my favorite American cities. I used to live there and run a photo-a-day website there, and it’s one of the best cities to live in if you’re a history buff. On today’s episode, we talk about the amazing Elfreth’s Alley, the oldest continually lived-on residential street in the country (hard to fit that on a title belt, but still pretty cool). I had the chance to take a tour of the street with the Elfreth’s Alley Association’s Board Member Brittany Thomas. If you have an interest in early American history, this is the perfect episode for you. The early days of Elfreth’s Alley While there is a street in Florida that lays claim to the title of the oldest street in America, Elfreth’s Alley is the oldest street where people have actually lived. The first homes sprung up in 1702, and were built all the way up into the 1800s. And while the street now may appear affluent, the first residents would have lived and worked on the street, being unable to afford a home and a business elsewhere. The Port of Philadelphia was originally at the end of the street, but now there’s a wall there that butts up against I-95. The homes were built along the dirt road of Elfreth’s Alley, and while buyers have, over the years, added on and built up the original houses, their footprints remain small. It really looks, as close as a city street can, to colonial times. The story of William Penn If you’ve never spent much time in Philadelphia, or know much about its history, you may not know that just about everything in Philadelphia goes back to a man named William Penn. The story Brittany tells me is fascinating, about how the King of England owed William Penn money, so he gave him land in the colonies, and then shipped a thorn in his side—the Quakers—over there, as well. Penn was actually good to the Native Americans who were on the land the King gave him, and he eventually decided to name the state Pennsylvania, with “sylvania,” signaling that the state was heavily forested. Brittany also tells me about a standoff between the Baltimore family and the Penn family, but you’ll have to listen to hear it. Elfreth’s Alley in the American Revolution One of the fascinating aspects of Elfreth’s Alley history is the women’s history that runs throughout it. In the house next door to the building Brittany and I met in housed two seamstresses who made mantuas, sort of loose gowns that you may know from your American Girl days. (In fact, Elfreth’s Alley was saved by a woman.) Another intriguing part of life on Elfreth’s Alley is that it wasn’t exactly a hotbed of revolutionary fervor. There was conflict around independence all around the colonies, and that conflict was alive and well, right down the street from Independence Hall. Brittany told me a great story about brothers divided over the revolution that you have to hear. Outline of This Episode Resources Mentioned Elfreth’s Alley Independence Hall Visiting Gettysburg as a day trip from Philadelphia Connect With Stephanie stephanie@historyfangirl.comhttps://historyfangirl.comSupport Stephanie on Patreon Featuring the song “Places Unseen” by Lee Rosevere. More info and photographs for this episode at:


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Atlanta’s Ponce City Market

One of the fascinating things about the city of Atlanta, Georgia is how often it has had to change and adapt to forces around it. Sometimes it’s gone kicking and screaming, and sometimes it’s forged its own path. Because it’s arguably undergone more major cultural and economic changes than most American cities, it’s a great opportunity to study the evolution of American life. Specifically, we’re talking today about the Ponce City Market, formerly the Sears and Roebuck building, which is a great example of how business models come and go, how commerce affects cultural life, and how businesses can impact a city by investing in the structures they will eventually leave behind. My guest today is Caroline Eubanks, a freelance travel writer whose book This is My South comes out this fall. We chat about how Sears came to Atlanta in the 1920s and what legacy its building leaves behind. Atlanta after the Civil War As Caroline tells me, Atlanta has had a rocky relationship with its past. The city was notoriously burned during the Civil War, and then suffered another major fire in 1916. So when Sears & Roebuck came to town, their building was the first major structure in their chosen neighborhood. Atlanta has also not always appreciated its landmarks, tearing down many buildings that are just a few decades old to replace with new ones, so the fact that the Ponce City Market building is still around is remarkable. Atlanta was struggling for jobs after Reconstruction, so Sears coming to town in 1926 was a big deal. What Sears meant to the South The Sears business model of mail-order goods and home delivery was a huge boon to the South, where many rural communities couldn’t otherwise get access to many of the things Sears sold. So when the city was looking to attract businesses, an entrepreneur named Ivan Allen Sr. teamed up with the Chamber of Commerce and wooed Sears to Atlanta (along with another little-known company, General Motors). But the city Sears landed in was still struggling with the after-effects of the Civil War, with hard segregation between whites and blacks, race riots and more. The decline of Sears By the 1970s, Atlanta was experiencing what a lot of major urban areas in the U.S. saw happening: the rise of the suburbs and white flight. Where going into the city to shop at Sears was once a big part of life in the region, large shopping malls were opening in the ‘burbs, and the entire way people bought things shifted. Sears ended up closing its retail store in 1979, and then by 1987 the offices closed as well. The City of Atlanta purchased the two-million-square-foot building in 1990 to use for government offices, but they really only needed the first two floors. But then, in 2010, the city sold the building to a developer named Jamestown, who has developed huge complexes across the United States. The Rise of Ponce City Market In 2013, Jamestown began developing the space and it opened a year later. Now it’s a thriving residential and commercial complex, including a world-class food hall. It’s transformed the neighborhood, of course, and it’s truly an example of what can happen if cities hold onto their landmarks and think creatively about how they can be used. And there’s more to see around the Market as well. As Caroline tells me, it’s important to check out Sweet Auburn, the area where many Civil Rights leaders grew up and came together to plan actions. This is a really fascinating chat about a place that doesn’t get a lot of attention from tourists, the American South, and I highly recommend checking out Caroline’s book when it publishes this fall. Outline of This Episode Resources Mentioned Caroline’s travel blogThis is My South website Connect With Stephanie stephanie@historyfangirl.comhttps://historyfangirl.comSupport Stephanie on Patreon Featuring the song “Places Unseen” by Lee Rosevere. More info and photographs for this episode at:


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Bonus! Petra

The last three weeks have been crazy, and I haven't been able to record anything new. My apologies for the delay! As a quick explanation, I found out that I had to move out of my apartment with only ten days left in the country to deal with packing up my place before heading off for three weeks traveling around North America. This ate up all of my work time. Never fear, as new episodes will be back next week! For today, please enjoy this interview I did for The Wonders of the World podcast about the history of Petra and my experiences traveling there. Episode description: The lost city of the Nabataeans, the rock-cut city of Petra has been rightfully celebrated as a Wonder of the World, at least since that Indiana Jones movie. But the story is well worth telling. We'll talk about the Nabataeans, their caravans, and their run-ins with the Greeks, Romans, and Judeans. We'll meet Pompey the Pompous. And we'll eat Bedouin classics from underground pit ovens. Stephanie Craig from the History Fangirl podcast shares her experiences traveling in Jordan. For such a small country, there's so much there. You will have chosen wisely to download this episode. Enjoy!


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Bonus: Copenhagen!

I have a new show! Rick Steves Over Brunch is a podcast where Chris Mitchell (from travelingmitch) and I break down episodes of the classic travel tv show, Rick Steve’s Europe. The show launched on April 30, 2018, and new episodes drop every other Sunday. This is a preview episode for you guys so you can check it out. If you enjoy the show, subscribe to Rick Steves Over Brunch wherever you get your podcasts. Wach the Episode "Copenhagen" from Rick Steves Europe here: More Info Here:


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England's Roman Baths

The town of Bath in England is famous for many things. It was the setting for one of Chaucer’s most famous stories from The Canterbury Tales, “The Wife of Bath’s Tale,” it was a Georgian pleasure town and its hot springs have attracted people to it since Neolithic times. However, for most history lovers, interest in the town begins with the Roman baths and its status as one of the most fascinating Roman ruin sites in Great Britain. My guest today is David Crowther, host of the History of England Podcast. We talk about how the Romans came to Britain, why they were interested in Bath, and what happened to the town in the years since they left. Dipping a toe in Bath When David was a kid, he went on a school trip to Bath, and as he says, he followed the grand tradition of school kids not being interested in the subject of a field trip. But then the Bath Museum got in touch, and he went back and realized it was, in his words, “the most stunning town and the most stunning museum.” Bath is the second-most visited town in England, and David tells us why: It was built out of gorgeous yellow limestone, the environment surrounding the town is gorgeous, and it has the famous Roman baths. So as David says, it’s really several things at once, and they all recommend a visit. Caesar declares victory, runs away The Romans first invaded Bath in 56 B.C., when Julius Caesar was fighting the Gauls, and many of the Gauls were escaping into Britain. David says the myth has it that Caesar invaded Bath, “realized he didn’t have the right kid, declared victory and ran away.” He says there’s a lot of truth to that myth, but regardless, Claudius came after and did the job properly. What’s interesting is that at first, Romans just shipped everything over to Bath, and it wasn’t until the third century that they truly began to make a real society and a mixed and varied economy. By the third and fourth century, the Romans start putting in a lot of work on the complex. It’s a religious complex, with a priest presiding over it. But by 420, after years of invasions, Roman Britain is, as David says, “absolutely dead.” How the monument came to be It’s a little strange for modern people to imagine a temple in a public bath, but the Roman baths were holy places, as well. As David tells me, the gray ruins we see now bare little resemblance to the colorful places Roman baths used to be. He provides a great picture of what you would have seen if you had prayed at the altar in, say the fourth century. The deities in that particular temple included Minerva. But what’s fascinating is that the Romans incorporated the deities into the temples. So while Minerva is a prominent Roman deity, Sulis, a Celtic goddess was also worshipped at Bath. The many “careers” of Bath While there was some attempt to preserve the baths, eventually the city falls to pieces, as David says, and by the time Henry I comes along, the baths are completely gone. And Bath underwent numerous transformations after that, including as the setting for one of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. And then, in the 18th century, it became a posh spot, and that’s the city you see today when you visit. The original Roman baths were rediscovered in the 19th century, and excavation continues to this day. It sounds like an amazing place to visit, and David provides some great suggestions for where and how to see it today. Outline of This Episode Resources Mentioned The History of England PodcastRoman Bath Museum Rick Steves Over Brunch Connect With Stephanie stephanie@historyfangirl.comhttps://historyfangirl.comSupport Stephanie on Patreon Featuring the song “Places Unseen” by Lee Rosevere. More info and photographs for this episode at:


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Barcelona’s Groundbreaking Trans Monument

When traveling, or thinking of where to visit to memorialize civil rights events and advances, it’s all too easy for straight people to forget about LGBTQ monuments. That’s partially because of the lack of proper sites memorializing LGBTQ rights. But on today’s episode of the History Fangirl Podcast, I talk with someone who completely changed my perspective on travel. We’re talking with José Ramón Harvey of the travel blog My Normal Gay Life about the Barcelona transsexual monument in Parc de la Ciutadella, how and why it was created, and why it is unfortunately so singular. Barcelona’s history of gay rights As José tells me, Barcelona was actually ahead of the curve of many European cities when it came to gay rights, even if “being ahead of the curve” can still seem so backwards. In the 1970s, for instance, it decriminalized “engaging in homosexual acts,” long before other places took those laws off the books. But in the 1990s, there weren’t many protections for trans people, and in 1991, Sonia Rescalvo, a trans woman, was murdered by six Neo-Nazis because of her gender identity. Who was Sonia? Sonia Rescalvo was a trans woman who ran away from home when she was 16, after her family rejected her identity. She was able to work in theater for some time, but as José tells me, she had to resort to prostitution, as many trans people had to, because it was difficult for her to find work. So because of these circumstances, she was sleeping in a park at night, in a bandstand. And during this time, the Olympics were coming to Barcelona, and there was a crackdown on sex workers, making it extra difficult for someone like Sonia. The bandstand became a place where many homosexual and trans people who had been marginalized would meet and sometimes sleep at night. And it was there that six Neo-Nazis brutally attacked Sonia and two of her friends, killing her and badly injuring her friends. How the monument came to be In 1993 a gay liberation organization go into the Parc de la Ciutadella and place a plaque near the bandstand where the murder happened. And the authorities allowed it to stay, and for more than a decade, that’s what the monument was. Then in 2011, an official plaque is put in place by the city, and then in 2013, the bandstand is renamed in Sonia’s honor, with a new plaque to ensure visitors understand the significance of the location. The plaque specifically spells out that the bandstand is where Sonia was murdered by Neo-Nazis, and that the city of Barcelona rebukes anyone who would infringe on the rights of someone because of their gender identity. Other LGBTQ historical sites in Barcelona Of course, the bandstand is not the only place of historical significance for LGBTQ people in Barcelona, and José walked me through the other sites he visited during his time in the city. This is a really eye-opening episode for me, and as I said José’s approach to travel completely re-oriented my thinking on what to see when I visit a place, and the need to recognize not only LGBTQ historical sites, but important people like Sonia, whose lives continue to impact us to this day. I hope you’ll give this episode a listen. Outline of This Episode Resources Mentioned My Normal Gay Life Parc de la Ciutadella Info about the Bandstand Rick Steves Over BrunchSofia Adventures The History of Vikings Podcast Connect With Stephanie stephanie@historyfangirl.comhttps://historyfangirl.comSupport Stephanie on Patreon Featuring the song “Places Unseen” by Lee Rosevere. More info and photographs for this episode at:


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The Lost History of the Black Pioneers

On today’s episode of the History Fangirl Podcast, we discuss an aspect of history that, I don’t mind saying, was a total blind spot for me. I was so honored to talk with Anna-Lisa Cox, an adjunct member of the History Department and fellow at Harvard University's Hutchins Center for African and African American Research. She’s also the author of the new book, The Bone and the Sinew of the Land, about the free African-American pioneers who helped settle American frontier. It’s a fascinating discussion about how the settlements were formed, the challenges faced by the families there, and why this almost became a part of American history lost to our country’s past. The Lost History of Black Pioneers When Anna-Lisa went out for her first book tour, she began to hear stories from people about their family heritage, and she discovered that she’d stumbled upon what was really the first Great Migration in American history. In the late 18th century, tens of thousands of free African-Americans headed to the Northwest Territory (what is now known as the Midwest). But why was this vital piece of American history lost? As Anna-Lisa tells me, it had a “triple-hit” against it: It took place in the Northwest Territory, which was not as well-documented as the early settlements. It concerned African-Americans, who history books have long given short shrift to, and they were rural communities as well. So the odds were stacked against these communities being remembered, but luckily Anna-Lisa has in her new book. The families on the frontier Anna-Lisa’s research turned up more than 300 African-American farming settlements throughout the Midwest by 1850. These were communities of free African-Americans, typically made up of multiple families. I asked her to tell me some of her favorite stories, and she told me of Charles and Keziah Grier, who were brought into what eventually became Indiana, essentially enslaved. Their story is incredible: Being freed in Indiana but having nothing to their names. But Charles was a skilled farmer, and while he was freed in 1813, by 1815 he was able to buy his first 40 acres of frontier land. Keziah’s story is just as inspiring, but you’ll have to listen to the episode (or buy the book) to experience it. The purest pioneers What’s so fascinating about this part of America’s history is that these settlements were populated by what Anna-Lisa calls the “purest pioneers,” meaning that they were not just moving for economic advancement, they were moving for ideological reasons. They were activists essentially, and they were looking to create a part of the country that lived up to the American ideals that all men are created equal and everyone should be granted freedom and liberty to pursue their dreams. And that’s a big part of why these settlements became important cogs in the functioning of the Underground Railroad. Violence in the settlements While the black settlers were an idealistic lot, their contemporaries did not necessarily share those views. And as Anna-Lisa told me, there was mass violence against the African-American pioneers, so much so that the Klan’s origins can be traced to the attacks on the settlers. As she says, the word “pogrom” would not be out of place in describing what happened to the purest pioneers. This is truly an important and astounding piece of American history, and I feel very lucky to have been able to spend time talking with, and learning from, Anna-Lisa about this topic. Outline of This Episode Resources Mentioned Anna-Lisa Cox The Bone and the Sinew of the Land Connect With Stephanie stephanie@historyfangirl.comhttps://historyfangirl.comSupport Stephanie on Patreon Featuring the song “Places Unseen” by Lee Rosevere. More info and photographs for this episode at:


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What happened at Chernobyl?

On today’s episode of the History Fangirl Podcast, we talk with a woman on a quest to visit every country on the planet, Jessica Elliott of How Dare She. And this week, Jessica and I talk about Chernobyl, a word that signifies a place, a devastating catastrophe, and a cultural moment that has resonated long after the explosion of the nuclear power plant there. We talk about the early days of Chernobyl, the small city of Pripyat, and of course the infamous meltdown. Jessica has a journalists’ ear for both truth-telling and storytelling, and I think you’re really going to find this week’s episode fascinating. The Town of Pripyat Much like the way mining towns popped up in America to house workers who went down into the mines Pripyat was essentially built to house the people who worked on the Chernobyl power plant. Kiev was 90 miles from the plant, but Pripyat was only two, and both the town and the plant were constructed in 1970. As Jessica and I discuss, the town was full of optimism as families moved there for the economic opportunity surrounding this new technology of nuclear power. Of course, in hindsight, it’s a place that was filled with optimism but suffered greatly in the end, but it was very much a boomtown, a rare thing in the Soviet Union of the time. The Invisible Enemy When the plant melted down, there still tragically still wasn’t a good understanding of what that meant. As Jessica tells me, people talked of the threat of the meltdown as an “invisible enemy.” In other words the radiation wasn’t something like an enemy army or airplane coming at the townspeople, which led to a lot of people ignoring the first warnings and evacuation orders. But as Jessica tells me on this week’s episode, the catastrophe was the result of bad design, bad safety measures and bad operations. She tells us how poor handling of a test led to a power surge, which then led to steam literally blowing the lid off of a reactor at about 1:30am. That caused a fire, and that fire then burns for 10 days. And that was one of the most tragic aspects of the meltdown: The effort to put out the fire led to pouring water on the facility, which caused more damage, and led to a lot of distraction: The fire seemed to be the problem, rather than the radiation. Preventing a second explosion Once authorities grasped the seriousness of the situation, the focus became stopping a second explosion. And as Jessica tells me, the reason they needed to stop that second explosion was because it would render essentially all of Europe uninhabitable. And another explosion wasn’t hypothetical there was literal magma sliding toward water they had thrown on the fire from the first event, and if the magma touched the water, the steam would build up and cause the second boom. So they sent in 10,000 miners to dig, but it was so hot in there the miners wore no protective gear. It had become both a localized disaster and an international one, as high levels of radiation suddenly begins to be noticed in Sweden and other Nordic countries. But it was 10 days until any international help was allowed to come into Ukraine. Chernobyl as a tourism destination One of the strangest things about Chernobyl is that it’s now a tourism destination. You have to get approved to go there, but it is a place to visit, and is opened up specifically for visitors. As Jessica told me, it was opened for tourists in 2011, though after some bureaucratic wrestling it was shut down again until 2013. But why do people go there? As Jessica says, there’s been a rise in “dark tourism,” where people visit to see where some of the most tragic moments in history happened. But it’s also a “wild” place, as Jessica says, where you see not only decaying buildings, but how nature has taken it over. This is a really fascinating conversation about one of the most unique travel destinations in the heart of one of the late 20th century’s great tragedies. Outline of This Episode Resources Mentioned How Dare She...


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Kiev: Beauty through Tumult

On today’s episode of the History Fangirl Podcast, we talk with renowned travel blogger Megan Starr, who has carved out a fascinating niche in the travel world as an expert in the post-Soviet countries, particularly Ukraine. As Megan tells me, Kiev is a city that has been conquered and taken over and claimed so many times across its history, its own culture reflects those who have occupied the city in the past. We talk about Ukraine’s struggle for independence, why it’s in the news recently in both the East and the West, and where and how to travel to this fascinating city. The Great Famine Ukraine became independent from Russia in 1917, but that independence didn’t last long. Five years later the Soviet Union took it over. And then in the early 1930s, the Ukrainians suffered a terrible famine, which some believe was created by the Soviet policies. The Great Famine, as it was known, resulted in somewhere between 7 and 10 million ethnic Ukrainians dying. Many historians believe the famine was “man-made,” with Stalin orchestrating it to quell a Ukrainian independence movement. Ukrainian Independence and the Orange Revolution After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine was still besieged with political unrest. President Leonid Kuchma was caught on tape ordering the arrest of a journalist. Massive protests broke out around the country, and in the next presidential election, there was a run-off vote between candidates Viktor Yushchenko and Viktor Yanukovych, the latter being Kuchma’s candidate. Yanukovych won, but the results were seen as rigged, and a re-vote was held which found Yushchenko as the winner. Yanukovych actually won the presidential election in 2010. But while the Orange Revolution was bloodless, a new uprising began in 2013 called Euromaidan. The protests were massive, with around 100 people being killed and Yanukovych fleeing the country. He was later removed by the Ukrainian parliament in 2014. And Megan has traveled Ukraine before and after Euromaidan, and has some great insights into how it’s changed the country. Russia and Crimea After Yanukovych left, Russia made a move into Crimea, which sparked international outrage, and which has yet to resolve itself. As Megan says, the scene there is bleak, and there have been a lot of deaths in the conflict, but not a lot of people in the West even realize that Russia and Ukraine are technically still at war. As Megan says, every Ukrainian she knows has someone in their life who has died in the war. It’s a very tenuous situation, and one that reaches far beyond Crimea, even into American politics. Traveling in Ukraine Despite all of the recent conflicts and political instability, Kiev and Ukraine is a beautiful place to visit, and few know it better as a traveler than Megan. You do have to be careful with how you travel there, and Megan does a great job walking us through what to see and where to go. But as Megan says, the majority of Ukraine is safe to travel through. As Megan says, Kiev is her favorite city to visit, and it gives her butterflies every time she’s Outline of This Episode Resources Mentioned Megan StarrCoffee Guide to KievWhat Happened at ChernobylChernobyl Tours: 10 Things to Know Before You Tour Pripyat and Chernobyl Chernobyl Today: 30 Pictures that Show What Life is like at Chernobyl Now Connect With Stephanie stephanie@historyfangirl.comhttps://historyfangirl.comSupport Stephanie on Patreon


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No Place Like It: A History of Singapore

On today’s episode of the History Fangirl Podcast, we talk with Ravi Mehta, host of The Wealth of Nations podcast. If you’ve ever traveled through southeast Asia, you know the one place you do not want to stop is Singapore, unless you’re flush with cash. How did this small nation on the Malay peninsula come to have such a crazy economy? Ravi walks us through the history of Singapore, how it got to where it is today, and where it’s headed. If you want to talk Singapore, you have to talk to an economist, and we’re so lucky we got Ravi here today. Raffling off Singapore As Ravi tells me on this week’s show, the Dutch had colonized Singapore in the late 1600s early 1700s, and then the British took it over in 1819. A man named Sir Stamford Raffles claimed Singapore for Britain, and the colony became an important part of the British Empire’s trade route. Stamford Raffles opened up a map and saw that the easiest way from East Asia to Europe was through Singapore, so strategically it was vital to the Empire’s trade. But another unusual feature favored Singapore: A deep, natural port where large ships could dock. And so it was geography and topography that made the country such a sought-after conquest. Singapore in World War II World War II wasn’t kind to anyone, but Singapore suffered a brutal period when the Japanese occupied the colony. The British were not prepared to defend Singapore, and so the Japanese were able to swoop in and take over. The Sook Ching massacre was a systemic cleansing of the ethnic Chinese in Singapore. The British surrendered the colony in 1942, and the Japanese army began purging what they perceived to be Chinese sympathizers. And while it was supposed to be limited to identified Communists and activists, the violence quickly spread. Japan claims 5,000 were killed, but the current Singapore government puts the number closer to 70,000. Modern Singapore Democracy came to Singapore after World War II, but the first free and fair elections in Singapore didn’t truly happen until 1955. But it wasn’t until 1965 that Singapore separated from Malaysia and declared itself the Republic of Singapore. And really since the 1960s, Singapore has been a powerhouse economy. Ravi told me how its gross domestic product grew more than 10% every year in the late 1960s and early 1970s. To put that into perspective, the U.S. economy grows at about 2 or 3%. Singapore adopted very pro-business policies that helped it woo international trade partners. The result has been a wholly unique country, with very strict rules on its citizenry, high-paying government workers, and an economy that is the envy of many all over the world. This is a fascinating episode about a fascinating corner of the world. Outline of This Episode Resources Mentioned Wealth of Nations PodcastWealth of Nations Facebook Connect With Stephanie stephanie@historyfangirl.comhttps://historyfangirl.comSupport Stephanie on Patreon Featuring the song “Places Unseen” by Lee Rosevere. More info and photographs for this episode at:


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Josiah Henson and the Underground Railroad

I lived in South Philadelphia for seven years, and knew very little about the area’s connection to the Civil War or the Underground Railroad. But just a couple years ago, I read a story about how a house not far from where I used to live was actually visited by Harriet Tubman. And I think this is how many Americans live, right on top of history, particularly the history of the Civil War and the Underground Railroad, and don’t even realize it. My guest today, Jared Brock, author of The Road to Dawn: Josiah Henson and the Story That Sparked the Civil War, says that roughly one in three Americans live in close proximity to Civil War or Underground Railroad history, many never realizing it. On this episode we talk about what the Underground Railroad really was, the incredilble journey of Josiah Henson, and how listeners can learn more about Jacob’s documentary. History in our backyard The story goes that when Abraham Lincoln met Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of the classic work of American literature Uncle Tom’s Cabin, he said, “So you’re the little lady who started the Civil War.” That’s how important that book was. But as Jared told me, the book was based on a real man, Josiah Henson, and he soon found out Josiah’s house wasn’t far from where Jared lived at the time. As Jared says, this is the “history in our backyard” episode. But it’s also about how the Civil War and the Underground Railroad permeate our current lives. Raiders of the Lost York The Underground Railroad was the name for the network of people who worked to bring slaves north to freedom, but as Jared tells me in this episode, it meant a lot of different things. People traveled by rail, by foot, by boat, however they could to escape slavery. And while there were general routes taken, the “railroad” was always changing to avoid predictability. And the people who operated the railroad cut across cultural lines. The Quakers played a large role in the railroad, but so did free blacks. The life of Josiah Henson The story of Josiah Henson is incredible. As a child he was so sick that he was given to another slave owner, the man who owned Josiah’s mother, to see if she could nurse him back to health. He does get better and becomes very strong and distinguishes himself with his skill. He then becomes a preacher, and begins collecting money to buy his freedom. But it turned out the slave owner had pulled a scam on him, and sold him on the New Orleans slave market. Josiah’s escape actually predates the Underground Railroad, but it is an amazing story of being helped up into Canada, and arriving with a wife and four children. Jared provides amazing details from Josiah’s life, and great places to visit to connect with Josiah’s story. Outline of This Episode Resources Mentioned The Road to DawnWatch The Road to Dawn preview Connect With Stephanie stephanie@historyfangirl.comhttps://historyfangirl.comSupport Stephanie on Patreon Featuring the song “Places Unseen” by Lee Rosevere. More info and photographs for this episode at: