20 of the Best History Podcasts for Bringing the Past to Life

A curated podcast list by
Morgan DeLisle
Creation Date July 21st, 2018
Updated Date Updated July 3rd, 2019
 7 people like this
The very best - in my humble opinion - history podcasts on all things old and dusty. Categories include: Everyone, Everywhere (podcast that cover all the world's history at any time), A Bit More Specific (shows that cover some people or just some places), The American Ones (American history, clearly), Even More Specific History (the history of the things you like), and History at High Speed (short and sweet shows)

Everyone, Everywhere

Dan Carlin's Hardcore History
130
In "Hardcore History" journalist and broadcaster Dan Carlin takes his "Martian", unorthodox way of thinking and applies it to the past. Was Alexander the Great as bad a person as Adolf Hitler? What would Apaches with modern weapons be like? Will our modern civilization ever fall like civilizations from past eras? This isn't academic history (and Carlin isn't a historian) but the podcast's unique blend of high drama, masterful narration and Twilight Zone-style twists has entertained millions of listeners.
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Morgan DeLisle

Dan carlin is not a historian and he wants you to know that, but the podcasting world has made it clear that he is our historian, as his show has won awards and gained a massive following over the years. Hardcore History is the place you go if you want to be prepared to lecture on a topic, because Carlin has done more research than you can imagine and makes it available in episodes that average around four hours a piece. From Rome to the Asia-Pacific War, Carlin is covering everything and sparing no detail to make sure you can learn everything possible about the world, and I am always so excited to listen.
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In Our Time: History
Historical themes, events and key individuals from Akhenaten to Xenophon.
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Morgan DeLisle

This is a podcast that goes in depth on all sorts of stories. A BBC Radio show, Melvyn Bragg discusses history from all over the world and from every century to reveal things you may have never heard or give more information on something you’ve heard many times. I appreciate that Bragg has different guests who specialize in the history being discussed, who he makes sure he turns to for expertise, varying perspectives, and to answer his questions. I like that the show is discussion driven but stays on topic and gives me all the information I could want. Episodes average forty-one minutes in length.
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Revisionist History
48
Revisionist History is Malcolm Gladwell's journey through the overlooked and the misunderstood. Every episode re-examines something from the past—an event, a person, an idea, even a song—and asks whether we got it right the first time. From Pushkin Industries. Because sometimes the past deserves a second chance.
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Morgan DeLisle

What about history do you feel you know for a fact? That there is no debate on, that is set in stone? Well, Malcolm Gladwell is here to show you what you may have missed and how that little detail or perspective or person or word, just might change how we understand the topic altogether on his podcast, Revisionist History. I love how Malcolm weaves a fascinating story using narration, interviews, recordings, and dramatic reenactments to make old history and overlooked stories something I am happy to get lost in for a while. Episodes average thirty-six minutes in length.
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Lore
Lore is a bi-weekly podcast (as well as a TV show and book series) about dark historical tales. Each episode explores the mysterious creatures, tragic events, and unusual places that fill the pages of history. Because sometimes the truth is more frightening than fiction.
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Morgan DeLisle

This is a storytelling podcast for all the stories you’ve never heard and probably the ones you never really wanted to hear. Aaron Mahnke takes a deep-dive into the dark parts and people that are scattered across the centuries by telling gruesome, frightful, or horrifying stories that are easily overlooked because that’s just much more comfortable. But the subjects combined with Mahnke’s grim sense of humor make this an addicting and educational show. And, if you do become addicted, you can get even more content as Lore has become a book and a television show. Episodes average twenty-nine minutes in length.
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Stuff You Missed in History Class
Join Holly and Tracy as they bring you the greatest and strangest Stuff You Missed In History Class in this podcast by HowStuffWorks.
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Morgan DeLisle

I hit this podcast up when I don't want to hear more details on topics I already know way too much about. The title says it all; Holly and Tracy take listeners through events and lives you probably haven't heard of but that had major repercussions throughout history. Personally, I love how balanced the two make the show, presenting an argument and immediately explaining the multiple — and often oppositional — viewpoints of the people involved at the time. This is also a show recognizing the many people groups whose history will never be formally taught and thus spends time on those stories. Episodes average thirty minutes in length.
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1001 Heroes, Legends, Histories & Mysteries Podcast
Where History Comes Alive! A fast-paced, well-researched weekly podcast covering a wide range of historical events, persons, places, legends, and mysteries, hosted by Jon Hagadorn. 1001 Heroes Podcast is a proud part of the 1001 Stories Podcast Network, which includes 1001 Classic Short Stories & Tales Podcast, 1001 Radio Days, and 1001 Stories For the Road Podcast. The network enjoyed over 5 million listens in the past year from a worldwide audience. SUPPORT OUR SHOW BY BECOMING A PATRON! www.patreon.com/1001storiesnetwork. Thank you!
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Morgan DeLisle

History is clearly all about stories, and this is the place for every story imaginable, including the ones that may or may not be true but are still inspiring us and our culture today. Jon Hagadorn walks you through history as if you were reading a fictional short story and with as much enthusiasm as the nerdiest of history lovers. I love the fact that this podcast covers anything, from where Winnie the Pooh came from to UFO’s, all with the same care and historical research. Nothing is off limits and nothing is too insignificant to cover. Episodes average forty-four minutes in length.
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A Bit More Specific

The History Chicks
2
Two women. Half the population. Several thousand years of history. About an hour. Go.
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Morgan DeLisle

If you're like me and tired of white men dominating the history scene, this is the podcast for you. Beckett and Susan walk through every century and continent to let you know what the other sex has been up to all these years through well-researched and often humorous narratives of the women that shaped our world. I love that Beckett and Susan investigate these stories with the critical eye of a historian, but never lose sight of the fact that their subject was a human being, a woman, with feelings and thoughts and fears and choices to face. That reminder always makes these stories resonate with me. Episodes average around one hour and you can read my conversation with the hosts in Podchaser's "Articles" section.
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Revolutions
15
A weekly podcasting exploring great political revolutions. Now: The Russian Revolution Next: ???
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Morgan DeLisle

When Mike Duncan finished explaining to us Rome from beginning to end, he started on a new project: teaching the world about every major revolution that has happened in world history. Revolutions is now ten revolutions down and there is no end in sight as Duncan opens our eyes to where revolutions come from and who sat at the center of each of them. I love the way that Duncan focuses on a lot of different people and moments as he builds toward the revolution, providing a much larger and clearer picture of each one than I had ever encountered. Episodes average thirty-four minutes in length.
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The History of Rome
16
A weekly podcast tracing the history of the Roman Empire, beginning with Aeneas's arrival in Italy and ending with the exile of Romulus Augustulus, last Emperor of the Western Roman Empire. Now complete!
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Morgan DeLisle

Mike Duncan started this podcast because he couldn’t find a show on Rome to listen to. Though the series has ended, it earned Duncan his name as a leader in the history podcasts category. I love how he spares no detail in telling this incredible story, but he keeps the tone light and uses modern enough language that there are glimmering moments of humor throughout each episode. I also really like that the podcast has finished, so I won’t start it and have to find a new one halfway through. This is the place for meticulously researched history in easily digestible pieces that keeps you engaged. Episodes average twenty-three minutes in length.
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The American Ones

American History Tellers
3
The Cold War, Prohibition, the Gold Rush, the Space Race. Every part of your life -the words you speak, the ideas you share- can be traced to our history, but how well do you really know the stories that made America? We’ll take you to the events, the times and the people that shaped our nation. And we’ll show you how our history affected them, their families and affects you today. Hosted by Lindsay Graham (not the Senator). From Wondery, the network behind Tides Of History, Fall Of Rome and Dirty John.
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Morgan DeLisle

There is a vast difference between learning about history and living it, experiencing it yourself. American History Tellers is a show that puts you in the shoes of normal, everyday people during some of the most formative moments in American history. Moving from a narrative of a specific, important moment to a narrator’s explanation of how this moment came to be and who was involved, the podcast also informs you of the ways and reasons these events still affect you today. I love how narrative driven this podcast is and how it demands we recognize the impact of our history, including the history we’d rather keep quiet about. Episodes average thirty-seven minutes in length.
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Slow Burn
24
Leon Neyfakh excavates the strange subplots and forgotten characters of recent political history—and finds surprising parallels to the present. Season 1 of Slow Burn captured what it felt like to live through Watergate; Season 2 does the same with the saga of Bill Clinton’s impeachment.
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Morgan DeLisle

If ancient or even old history isn’t your thing, Slow Burn is the podcast for you. Having covered Watergate and the Clinton scandals, this is a podcast committed to recent American political history as investigated by Leon Neyfakh, who tends to find the stories of people who fall far from the spotlight and yet played pivotal roles in these major events in the nation’s history. Through interviews, public records, and news outlets from the time, this is an engaging podcast that teaches a lot and leaves no stone unturned. Episodes average thirty-seven minutes in length.
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BackStory
BackStory is a weekly public podcast hosted by U.S. historians Ed Ayers, Brian Balogh, Nathan Connolly and Joanne Freeman. We're based in Charlottesville, Va. at Virginia Humanities. There’s the history you had to learn, and the history you want to learn - that’s where BackStory comes in. Each week BackStory takes a topic that people are talking about and explores it through the lens of American history. Through stories, interviews, and conversations with our listeners, BackStory makes history engaging and fun.
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Morgan DeLisle

There are things we understand as facts that are functioning in our world today like healthcare, abortion rights, racism and such. But these things have not always been facts or have not always been understood as they are now, and Back Story is here to tell you where these things came from in history. Because there is a lot of ground to cover in every subject they examine, I appreciate that they tell you at the beginning what will be discussed and what the segments will be, from narrative to investigation to recordings and interviews. I think that all of these together also keep me very engaged. Episodes average around one hour in length.
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Even More Specific History

Burnt Toast
Food intersects with our lives in more ways than we think. Food52's Burnt Toast podcast chases those stories to give listeners the perfect pieces of snackable dinner-party fodder—all inside of a commute's time. In each episode, host Michael Harlan Turkell explores a different aspect of food culture and community, highlighting the often-surprising past informing what we eat every day, and meeting some of the people shaping food's present and future.
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Morgan DeLisle

Okay, maybe world history or American history or political history isn’t really your thing, but who doesn’t love food? Burnt Toast is here to answer all of your food history questions, from how burnt toast happens and what it’s good for to why we all love breakfast so much, through engaging interviews and fascinating history and culture lessons. Personally, I love that this show gives a new twist to the foods we all love and eat all the time. The tone is light and conversational, like good dinner-table-talk, and that’s a lot of fun to listen to. Episodes average twenty-three minutes in length.
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SpyCast
Each week, the International Spy Museum will offer a new SpyCast featuring interviews and programs with ex-spies, intelligence experts, and espionage scholars. The SpyCast is hosted by Dr. Vince Houghton, historian and curator at the International Spy Museum. Dr. Houghton specializes in intelligence, diplomatic, and military history, with expertise in the late-WWII and early-Cold War eras. The International Spy Museum in Washington, DC is the only public museum in the U.S. solely dedicated to espionage.
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Morgan DeLisle

Arguably one of the coolest museums in Washington, D.C. is the International Spy Museum which tells the stories of everyone who has lived in the shadows and mastered in deception for a country at some point. And SpyCast is here to share the stories the museum specializes is. I love that these stories are so intricate that we get to hear from specialists in all sorts of fields in order to really understand what is going on. There is a conversational tone that reminds me that these incredible people were human and what that meant as they accomplished their missions. Episodes average around one hour in length.
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The Art History Babes
1
Four fresh Masters drink wine and discuss all things visual culture. *Regular episodes: Discussion and critical analysis of art historical topics fueled by alcohol. *Art History Babe Briefs (Art History BBs) : quick art history facts minus the expletives. *Hot Takes: The Babes mix it up, chatting about topics outside the realm of art history
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Morgan DeLisle

Art is and always has been the way a society and a culture separate themselves from any other and define themselves and their values. Which means it and the history surrounding it is an absolutely necessary part of studying history, and The Art History Babes know that and are here to help out. With good friends, Masters degrees, and something alcoholic, these women are here to educate you on great artists and art movements throughout time and I love that they tell me how these things were received and what kind of culture they came out of. This is just a fun time all around and you’re sure to learn a lot. Episodes average around one hour in length.
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Philosophize This!
11
Beginner friendly if listened to in order! For anyone interested in an educational podcast about philosophy where you don't need to be a graduate-level philosopher to understand it. In chronological order, the thinkers and ideas that forged the world we live in are broken down and explained.
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Morgan DeLisle

If you’re a philosophy nerd or you think you may want to be, you may have started reading different famous writers and their works. But there is a lot you can miss about those philosopher’s lives and cultures if you only read their writing. Stephen West is here to help fill in those gaps and has created a history of philosophy and philosophers and their cultures that anyone, especially people without a master’s level philosophy degree, can understand (if you listen in order). I love how accessible this show is and how he defines any term he happens to use along the way. Episodes average twenty-nine minutes in length.
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You Must Remember This
You Must Remember This is a storytelling podcast exploring the secret and/or forgotten histories of Hollywood’s first century. It’s the brainchild and passion project of Karina Longworth (founder of Cinematical.com, former film critic for LA Weekly), who writes, narrates, records and edits each episode. It is a heavily-researched work of creative nonfiction: navigating through conflicting reports, mythology, and institutionalized spin, Karina tries to sort out what really happened behind the films, stars and scandals of the 20th century.
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Morgan DeLisle

Do you love film and television? Does sitting in a movie theater for hours on end sound like the perfect day to you? Do you know the major actors from today and every black-and-white classic? Then this is the podcast for you. Karina Longworth takes a deep dive into the very first century of Hollywood's existence and how all of the things that happened in that space have shaped the film industry as we currently know it. I love how informative this show is, especially because entertainment is such a huge part of our daily lives and also because I love movies. Episodes average around one hour.
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History at High Speed

the memory palace
16
From public radio producer, Nate DiMeo, comes The Memory Palace, a finalist for the 2016 Peabody Award and one of iTunes Best Podcast of 2015. Short, surprising stories of the past, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes hysterical, often a little bit of both. "The most potent pieces of audio being produced today." - The AvClub thememorypalace.us The Memory Palace is a proud member of Radiotopia, from PRX, a curated network of extraordinary, story-driven shows. Learn more at radiotopia.fm
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Morgan DeLisle

If you don’t have a lot of time but you aren’t interested in sacrificing quality, The Memory Palace is the place for you. In under fifteen minutes, Nate DiMeo transports you to another time in history through incredible storytelling and vivid description, making sure you can see and hear and smell everything from the period he is covering. I think that this is one of the most beautiful podcasts currently running, and I am consistently impressed by DiMeo’s writing ability and the way he brings everything so close to where I am at. You walks away with an entire world in your mind and I really appreciate that when I am studying history. Episodes average twelve minutes in length.
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Witness History: Witness Archive 2017
1
History as told by the people who were there. All the programmes from 2017.
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Morgan DeLisle

This is a BBC podcast that tells compelling stories throughout history from the perspective of someone who lived through that moment. From the breakdown of the Soviet Union to Jewish ghettos, black activists in America to hikers in Russia, you’ll here the history you know alongside the personal stories and lives of incredible individuals. I love hearing the voices of those being interviewed, it makes the history real and tangible in a brand new and exciting way. It also means that none of these things happened too long ago, which is a stark and shocking realization. Episodes average ten minutes in length. (The show is separated by year, and extra topics are covered in other podcast with "Witness History" in the title)
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15 Minute History
15 Minute History is a history podcast designed for historians, enthusiasts, and newbies alike. This is a joint project of Hemispheres, the international outreach consortium at the University of Texas at Austin, and Not Even Past, a website with articles on a wide variety of historical issues, produced by the History Department at the University of Texas at Austin. This podcast series is devoted to short, accessible discussions of important topics in world history, United States history, and Texas history with the award winning faculty and graduate students at the University of Texas at Austin, and distinguished visitors to our campus. They are meant to be a resource for both teachers and students, and can be enjoyed by anyone with an interest in history. For more information and to hear our complete back catalog of episodes, visit our website!
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Morgan DeLisle

Produced by the University of Texas at Austin, 15 Minute History is “for educators, students, and history buffs alike.” Discussing world history from every century, this is a podcast that allows you to hear some fascinating research from impressive academics around every major event, and lots of things you’ve never heard of, in order to give you a succinct and eye-opening glimpse into history. I love that the hosts are there basically to tell me who the new expert is and then they let them teach me something. This is perfect for people who may not have a lot of time but still want to get into the details of history. Episodes average (shockingly) fifteen minutes in length.
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