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History As It Happens

News & Politics Podcasts

This is a podcast for people who want to think historically about current events. Everything happening today comes from something, somewhere. The past shapes the present. History As It Happens, hosted by award-winning broadcaster Martin Di Caro, features interviews with today's top scholars and thinkers, interwoven with audio from history's archive. New episodes every Tuesday and Thursday.


United States


This is a podcast for people who want to think historically about current events. Everything happening today comes from something, somewhere. The past shapes the present. History As It Happens, hosted by award-winning broadcaster Martin Di Caro, features interviews with today's top scholars and thinkers, interwoven with audio from history's archive. New episodes every Tuesday and Thursday.






When the Press Was Partisan

In these politically polarized times, Americans have a partisan media that suits the circumstances. Or do biased news and information sources drive the polarization? Whatever the case, public trust in the mass media to accurately report the news is about as low as pollsters have ever found it. The marked ebbing of trust comes as people consume information, credible or not, from more sources than ever before: social media, blogs, podcasts, web sites, YouTube channels, etc., etc. But before...


Church Committee(s)

One of the first moves House Republicans made upon assuming the chamber’s majority was to create, in a party-line vote of 221-211, the “Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government.” But rather than use that unwieldy moniker, GOP leaders appropriated the name of an iconic investigative committee from a bygone era. In 1975, in an 82-4 vote, the Senate created the Church committee, which was chaired by Idaho Democratic Sen. Frank Church, to investigate the FBI, CIA, and...


A World Without US?

What if the U.S. had taken a more active and constructive role in international affairs after the First World War, rather than reject the Treaty of Versailles and refuse to join the League of Nations? In the view of historian Robert Kagan, another global conflict would have been avoided, and Adolph Hitler might never have been appointed German chancellor as he was in January 1933. This is the subject of Kagan's latest book, "The Ghost at the Feast," and in this episode, he defends his thesis...


Useless Resolution

For all the legitimate concern about the fate of American democracy and our governing institutions, relatively little attention is paid to Congress' inability or unwillingness to check the war powers of the "imperial presidency." The War Powers Resolution of 1973, passed in the aftermath of the Johnson and Nixon administrations' abuses during the Vietnam War, was supposed to empower Congress to end endless wars, but a half century later we can see that the U.S. still intervened in many...


House Divided w/ Manisha Sinha

As politics grew increasingly violent in the 1850s, Americans understood that unresolvable conflicts over the extension of slavery and the disproportionate political power of the slaveholders could lead to disunion and war. In the view of some historians, activism outside Congress, driven by radical abolitionists as well as pro-slavery ruffians, forced the major parties to seek compromises to hold the country together, only to fall short because of the immensity of the problem and...


House Divided w/ Sean Wilentz

The election of California Rep. Kevin McCarthy as House speaker after five days and 15 ballots exposed divisions within the Republican Party that may not portend well for the immediate future of his party, the chamber, or the country. With one exception (1923), no speakership election since the Civil War needed more than one ballot. And in the antebellum U.S. is where we might find parallels to today's political turmoil. Before the Civil War, speakership fights were often acrimonious,...


Biden Doctrine

As President Biden enters the third year of his presidency, his only obvious foreign policy success lies in Ukraine, where U.S. and NATO support has proved decisive in stopping -- at least so far -- Russia's war of aggression. Mr. Biden has framed his foreign policy by saying the U.S. is in a global contest pitting democracies versus autocracies. Is that a Biden Doctrine? In this episode, we examine the history of presidential doctrines, and The Washington Times' reporters Guy Taylor and Ben...


Understanding Emancipation at 160

January 1 marked the 160th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, a major step in a process of world historical importance, the abolition of slavery in the United States. Yet nowadays some historians argue that the proclamation was illegal, unconstitutional, or without important consequences for the enslaved. Others contend that the antislavery amendment that followed in 1865 was a betrayal of Black Americans, because it allowed for their "re-enslavement" in prisons. In this episode,...


Putin Problems

Note: This is the final episode of 2022. History As It Happens will be back with new episodes the first week of January, 2023. Enjoy the holidays! In his misguided drive to reassert Russian power by trying (and failing) to turn Ukraine into a vassal state, Vladimir Putin has exposed his country's weakness while doing incalculable damage to his neighbor. Yet despite his epic miscalculation, Putin retains the support of Russia's elites, some of whom fear that defeat in Ukraine will lead to...


The Munich Fallacy

Since British prime minister Neville Chamberlain attempted to avoid war with Hitler in 1938 by agreeing to carve up Czechoslovakia, the word appeasement has been synonymous with moral weakness and wishful thinking. While the failure to appease the Nazi dictator offers important lessons, politicians -- and even some historians -- often invoke the infamous Munich Conference as a political cudgel with which to bash their foes. It happened during Vietnam, the wars in Iraq, and it's happening...


Voices of Iran

Since September thousands of ordinary Iranian citizens have risked their lives -- and hundreds have lost their lives -- protesting the ayatollahs' rule after the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini. The 22-year-old woman had been arrested by the clerical regimes' morality police for not wearing her hijab the way the clerics have prescribed. The street protests are said to be the biggest challenge for the regime since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, but it remains unclear if the...


Commercialization of Christmas

Merry Christmas! Or is it Happy Holidays?! Either way, the most intense shopping season of the year is underway. American consumers' senses are being assaulted by non-stop commercials for Christmas gifts. Songs, movies, and other forms of pop culture lend a secular element to what is for many Christians a religious celebration, too. There's also Santa Claus and Christmas trees and yule logs and more. Our modern version of Christmas is an amalgam of traditions that developed over many...


Voices of China

Remarkable scenes are unfolding across China. Ordinary citizens are taking to the streets to protest the regime's "Zero Covid" strategy that has locked millions of people in their homes and disrupted the country's economic output. The demonstrations are the largest show of resistance to the Communist Party's power since the pro-democracy movement that flowered in Tiananmen Square in 1989. In this episode, China analyst Weifeng Zhong of the Mercatus Center explains the roots of the regime's...


One-Term Presidents

It's a small group no one wants to be a member of. Since the dawn of the republic only 10 elected presidents have been rejected by voters in their bids for a second term. Only one of those, Grover Cleveland, was able to win a non-consecutive term after losing his first re-election campaign. This is another way of saying that history doesn't offer many guides to help us understand our turbulent politics today, as Donald Trump seeks another shot at the White House after his bitter 2020 defeat....


Bonus Episode! HAIH Live w/ David Silverman

This conversation with George Washington University historian David Silverman was featured on C-SPAN's 'American History TV.' Silverman talks about the history of Thanksgiving and the importance of mythic origin stories in American society and culture.


Reagan's Vision

After some of the coldest years of the Cold War came a thaw in U.S.-Soviet relations that witnessed historic summits and the signing of groundbreaking disarmament pacts. In this episode, historian William Inboden discusses the pillars of Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy and why, in his view, his strategy of “peace through strength” brought about a peaceful end to the Cold War and a world without Soviet Communism. By bolstering U.S. alliances and supporting anti-Communist insurgencies...


The First 'America Firsters'

Donald Trump's announcement that he will seek the presidency once more has brought a renewed focus on his worldview, his vision for the U.S. role in a complicated world. 'America First' has a long lineage in our politics, reaching back to a time when isolationism was the dominant foreign policy constituency in the country. In this episode, historian Christopher McKnight Nichols explores the continuities and major differences between the America First attitudes of the interwar period and...


History Makers

Is it possible for an individual leader to change the course of history? This question is as important today as it was in the past century, when “charismatic” rulers made an enormous impact, often with catastrophic consequences. In this episode, historian Ian Kershaw talks about how certain political leaders obtained and exercised power in 20th century Europe, in an effort to solve the question of the role of individual decision-makers in determining historical change. As Kershaw writes in...


The End of Trumpism?

Voters largely rejected Donald Trump's slate of favored candidates in the midterm elections, and Democrats avoided the "red wave" many pollsters and pundits expected. The surprise outcome has led to recriminations on the right, with some conservatives calling on the GOP to move on from Trump's toxic brand of populism. In this episode, political journalist Damon Linker, the author of the "Eyes on the Right" substack, says it's too early to know if Trumpism is receding from the political...


When Volcker Ruled

In the late 1970s, the national mood was dark. In the words of President Carter, Americans faced a "crisis of confidence." Inflation reached double digits. Stagflation entered the lexicon. An OPEC price increase led to an energy crisis. And there was the Iran hostage fiasco of 1979. As his presidency strained to regain its footing, Carter made an appointment that would leave a lasting mark on history. He picked Paul Volcker to lead the Federal Reserve. Volcker took up his new post by taking...