Lately, I’ve been listening to the 1865 podcast. [1865] I’m finding it interesting, illuminating, and well-produced.

It’s history as a radio-drama and it works well. Shortly after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, we pick up the story of Edward Stanton, Andrew Johnson, and others, as they manage the reaction to the crime. One of the things that leaps out at us is the closeness of the connection between the southern states, the surrender of Lee’s army, and the murder of the president. Booth was attempting to derail reconstruction, and it worked – Johnson took over and gutted Lincoln’s plans. [Surprise fact: Johnson may have actually been a worse president than Trump] One of the things I like the most about the podcast is the “afterward” sessions in which the producers discuss the real events in the episode and how much is known or unknown about what happened. I’m enjoying it tremendously and I’m learning a great deal of things they never told me in elementary school. You know: “Lincoln tragically slain by a crazed actor” does not exactly line up with “Lincoln slain in a strategic move to stave off southern defeat.”

What are some of the other podcasts you all listen to?

Here’s my list:

  • On The Media [wnyc] – analysis of media’s effect on news and current affairs. Often fascinating. Bob Garfield and Brooke Gladstone have wonderfully soothing voices, if you like to trance out and listen as you are drifting off to sleep.
  • Reveal [reveal] – I believe that Reveal is the future of news. Journalism in the big newspapers may be dead, but Reveal does some fascinating and clarifying digging around in the attic. This is what I imagined journalism was always supposed to be.
  • Back Story [bs] – Backstory used to suffer from a surplus of old white guys but has re-arranged its staff and is now greatly improved. It’s one of the better history podcasts out there, in my opinion; they bring history to bear on current events and often provide eye-opening perspective shifts.
  • Hardcore History [dc] – Dan Carlin’s gobstopper-huge whacks of narrative are perfect for long flights or sleepless nights. Seriously, at 3+ hours per episode, it’s pretty heavy. It’s been hard for Dan to keep up with his own schedule (try smaller bites, Dan!) so it is getting a bit spotty. Still, lots of fun. Carlin also does a podcast about current affairs which is very spotty; he has some libertarian stealthy politics going on that I wonder about. He’s fairly sympathetic to horrible authoritarians.
  • Scene On Radio [sc] – This is the home of the Seeing White episodes, and a recent series on masculinity. I find it interesting and thought-provoking and well-produced. It gets a bit hip and fussy here and there but generally it’s very very good.
  • Behind the Bastards [btb] – Some fascinating stuff here. The delivery has a bit more hipsterish insouciance than I enjoy but the content is really interesting. I especially enjoyed the episode on John McAfee.
  • BBC, Witness [bbc] – Some of these are flat-out amazing. Interviews and eyewitness accounts of important moments in history, drawn from BBC’s huge library of recordings. The episodes are short and I often listen to one as I am drifting off.
  • BBC, In Our Time [bbc] – Melvyn Bragg interviews a wide variety of guests about a huge palette of topics. His questions are incisive, the experts he brings to the show are amazing, and it sounds like a conversation between very knowlegeable people. This is one of my favorites! There are more things in heaven and earth and most of them are discussed at some time on this show.
  • The Memory Palace [mp] – Nate DiMeo digs out quirky stories and tells them with beautifully designed audio. It’s right on the edge of being over-produced, sometimes, but it has moments of greatness.
  • Still Untitled, The Adam Savage Project [su] – This one has been falling down my favorites list for a while, because I’m tired of Adam and his crew’s endless foaming about Avengers movies and Star Wars. Otherwise, there’s lots of fun nerdiness (verging on a bit too much nerdiness) and sometimes the guests are really interesting.
  • American Scandal [as]This also verges on radio-drama as history, like 1865; it’s often mind-bustingly distressing. They go into great detail about the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, which is enough to make you want to march on the CDC’s headquarters and burn it to the ground. The production is very high quality. It’s the content that is horrifying.
  • Snap Judgement [sj] – A mix of stuff that’s never uninteresting and sometimes mind-bendingly cool. Stories, comedy, news, etc.
  • Under the Influence [uti] – Terry O’Reilly, an old-school marketing maven, talks about marketing and the various historical trends and tradeoffs that affect how we are fed new products and ideas. It’s slick and well-produced. O’Reilly, naturally, dances around the massive fact that marketing is manipulation and may be repellent to some of his listeners.
  • 99% Invisible [99%] – Listening to Roman Mars is like drinking cough syrup. This podcast is devoted to digging out interesting things about our social infrastructure. It’s always thought-provoking and interesting.

Yow, that’s a lot of podcasts! Well, I need something to tease my brain while I am filing and grinding.

------ divider ------

One thing I have realized from listening to podcasts is the degree to which good production values affect our overall impression.

I like when the podcasts are not daily; the data rate just gets too high for me. I prefer things that drop weekly, and that way my “inbox” rotates a bit, topic-wise.


  1. Ketil Tveiten says

    The podcasts I listen to:
    – *Revolutions* by Mike Duncan (of *The History of Rome* fame), going through the major revolutions from the English Civil War onwards (including all the obvious ones, but also some less famous ones like Haiti and Mexico); he’s just started on the Russian revolution.
    – *The History of Byzantium* by Robin Pierson, which picks up where *The History of Rome* ended (so from 476 onwards); he just did Manzikert and is setting up the Komnenian restoration.
    – *The British History Podcast* by Jamie Jeffers, the history of Britain from the stone ages onwards, with lots of usually-ignored detail on the Anglo-Saxons; currently on Æthelred Unred (aka ‘The Unready’), where the feudal culture of corruption is making everything fall apart. Very much recommend signing up for his members’ feed, where he often brings on his co-producer/wife for sociological commentary on Anglo-Saxon culture, among other things.
    – *The History of English* by Kevin Stroud, chronicling the development of the English language, from its early Indo-European and Old Germanic roots, through Old English, and now in the Middle English period (Chaucer is a recurring character these days), along with a narrative of regular history to tie in the linguistic developments to events on the ground.
    – *BBC Inside Science* with Adam Rutherford, because I like to stay up to date on the sciencing going on.
    – *The Curious Cases of Rutherford and Fry* with Adam Rutherford and Hannah Fry, light-hearted sciencing fun of the “how does X work anyway?” genre.

  2. kestrel says

    Wow, some really great podcasts mentioned here, I’ll have to remember some of these as they sound fascinating.

    My favorite podcast is not very serious, though. It’s not filled with science or history. It just makes me laugh out loud a lot. God Awful Movies: https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/scathing-atheist/god-awful-movies Each week they review some religion-themed movie. They even have a Mormon Movie Month every year and since I grew up in UT I appreciate it. The same guys also do Scathing Atheist: https://audioboom.com/channel/scathing-atheist which covers religious news as well as some other recurring features such as This Week in Misogyny.

  3. Jazzlet says

    I listen to Inside Science, and to Inside health although that does often focus on the NHS so some of it will be less applicable to people outside the UK. I listen to various of the Radio Four 6.30 pm funnies. Otherwise I am rather a slut and wander all over the place. I have difficulty with a lot of podcasts because of the voice of the podcaster grates, also at the moment Im not doing muchh of the things that I would normally listen to podcasts while doing like knitting. Oh I do listen to SBTB fairly often.

  4. voyager says

    Not too many on a regular basis, but there are a few. Let’s see,
    Scene on Radio (Thanks Marcus!) I finished the series Seeing White (season 3) and now I’m listening to season 2 – Men. Both series are well researched and well presented.
    CBC Quirks and Quarks. An ask and answer science show.
    CBC The Secret Life of Canada. History and stories about up here.
    Oh, and I also listen to books on tape. Right now I’m listening to Lolita read by Jeremy Irons, who could read the phone book aloud and I would listen.

    I do have a new list of great stuff to check out, though. Thanks everyone.

  5. jimmf says

    I much prefer to reading over listening because I tend to think about things and reread them. The only podcast I listen to regularly is All the Presidents Lawyers from KCRW. Your list has some interesting things that I’ll have to check out.

  6. siwuloki says

    Harry Shearer’s weekly Le Show is an amalgam of regular features (News from Outside the Bubble, Apologies of the Week, News of the Warm) the occasional one-man skit and a bit of music. Also check out iTunes U – David Blight’s Civil War and Reconstruction Era is really worth a listen.

  7. nastes says

    Many good podcasts listed, let me just add one more, “Criminal” by Phoebe Judge:
    Its a true crime podcast, but does not necessarily focus on the crime itself but more on the social and personal implications of it.

    It also comes with the female voice equivalent of Roman Mars…


  8. says

    “Criminal” sounds really cool. I just subscribed. Thank you.

    It also comes with the female voice equivalent of Roman Mars…

    I’m starting to see that there are some “brands” emerging in podcasting. I’ll pretty much give anything from Radiotopia or WNYC a try, and I haven’t been disappointed.

Leave a Reply