BackStory

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 the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.

Each week we take a topic that people are talking about and explore it through the lens of American history. Through stories, interviews, and conversation with our listeners, we make history engaging and fun.

Categories & Tags
Society & Culture History

Start listening to BackStory

Close Encounters: UFOs in American History

BackStory

On this episode of BackStory, Nathan, Brian, and Ed discuss things in the sky we can’t explain - unidentified flying objects.

61 Min

Sep 21, 2018

Who Wants to be a Millionaire? The History of America’s Wealthy Elite

BackStory

On this episode of Backstory, Ed, Nathan and Brian explore the iconic figure of the American Millionaire.

46 Min

Sep 14, 2018

After Hurricane Maria: The History of Puerto Rico and the United States

BackStory

On this episode of BackStory, Brian, Ed and Nathan take a look at the historical relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States.

53 Min

Sep 7, 2018

Episode
Podcast
Time
Released
31 min
Aug 24, 2018
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On this episode of BackStory, Nathan, Brian and Joanne talk about our past understanding of climate and weather and how the invention of air conditioning changed America forever.

55 min
Aug 17, 2018
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On this week’s episode of BackStory, Brian, Joanne and Ed talk atomic power, and the indelible mark it left on American culture.

43 min
Aug 10, 2018
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On this episode of BackStory, Ed, Nathan and Joanne explore the central questions of the Reconstruction era.

45 min
Aug 3, 2018
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On this episode of BackStory, Brian talks to "Past Present" podcast host Nicole Hemmer about her six-part series, "A12," a reflection on the one-year anniversary of the "Summer of Hate." You'll also hear part 6 of "A12" in this show.

38 min
Jul 27, 2018
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On this episode of BackStory, Ed, Joanne and Brian explore the history of filling SCOTUS seats, the connections between Sherlock Holmes and U.S. presidents, and consider how Dr. Spock's book changed America.

61 min
Jul 20, 2018
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On this episode of BackStory, Brian, Joanne, and Nathan wrestle with a long-running tension in our country’s history: what it means to assimilate and “become American.”

49 min
Jul 13, 2018
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On this episode of BackStory, Ed, Joanne, and Brian dip their toes into four tales from America’s shoreline.

49 min
Jul 6, 2018
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On this episode of BackStory, Joanne, Nathan and Brian explore stories of superstition and the surprising roles the number 13 has played across American history.

39 min
Jun 29, 2018
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On this episode of BackStory, Joanne, Ed and Nathan talk about the people who decided to take it upon themselves to collect stuff they knew people would care about someday -- even if others thought they were weird.

53 min
Jun 22, 2018
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On this episode of BackStory, Brian, Ed, Joanne and special guests share their recommendations of the history page turners you should pack for the beach.

35 min
Jun 15, 2018
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On this episode of BackStory, Joanne and Brian look at the early days of photography and learn if photos should be trusted at all.

45 min
Jun 8, 2018
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On this episode of BackStory, Ed, Nathan and Joanne discuss the importance of honor throughout American history.

34 min
Jun 1, 2018
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On this episode of BackStory, Joanne, Ed, and Nathan explore the ways Americans have spent their time off.

39 min
May 25, 2018
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On this episode of BackStory, Nathan, Brian, Joanne & Ed talk about how Americans remember and reckon with systematic violence, and how we keep this difficult history alive and in the public eye.

44 min
May 18, 2018
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On this episode of BackStory, Ed, Brian, and Joanne look at the long history and political impact of Americans marrying royals.

56 min
May 11, 2018
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On this episode of BackStory, Joanne, Ed, and Nathan explore the grounds of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

50 min
May 4, 2018
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On this episode of BackStory, Brian, Joanne and Nathan explore some of the many meanings Americans have attached to hair.

29 min
Apr 27, 2018
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On this episode of BackStory, Joanne talks about letters written to FDR and #twitterstorians. We also hear from a man who reflects on his family's experience of slavery.

48 min
Apr 20, 2018
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On this episode of BackStory, Nathan, Joanne, and Brian look at the deep roots of advocacy in journalism.

63 min
Apr 13, 2018
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On this episode of BackStory, Joanne, Brian & Ed talk about the role young people have played in American politics.

40 min
Apr 6, 2018
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On this episode of BackStory, Nathan, Ed and Brian look at America's long history with opioids - like opium, morphine and heroin.

50 min
Mar 30, 2018
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On this episode of BackStory, Ed, Brian, Nathan and Joanne explore the legacy of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. 50 years after his death.

33 min
Mar 23, 2018
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On this episode of BackStory, Nathan and Joanne look at the interrogation that led to the landmark Supreme Court case "Miranda v. Arizona."

51 min
Mar 16, 2018
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On this special St. Patrick’s Day episode of BackStory, Brian, Joanne and Nathan explore Irish American culture and identity.

49 min
Mar 9, 2018
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On this episode of BackStory, Brian, Peter, and Ed unpack the origins of college sports.

54 min
Mar 2, 2018
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On this episode of BackStory, Brian, Joanne, and Nathan explore some of the stories Americans tell about our past and find the kernels of truth that lie at the heart of a few American legends.  

32 min
Feb 23, 2018
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On this episode of BackStory, Ed, Brian, Nathan and Joanne look at the influence of the late Billy Graham, the parallels between “Black Panther” and Haitian history and, in a new First Draft segment, evaluate the reputation of Thomas Edison.

47 min
Feb 16, 2018
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On this episode of BackStory, Joanne, Brian, and Nathan honor President’s Day by exploring the ‘afterlives’ of U.S. presidents.

46 min
Feb 9, 2018
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On this episode of BackStory, Ed, Brian and Nathan explore American Catholicism—recounting the struggles, triumphs, and unique impact of Catholics on the history of the United States.

43 min
Feb 2, 2018
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The U.S. is in the grips of the worst flu season in nearly a decade, with hospitals full across the country. But it’s nothing compared to the flu season one hundred years ago, when a nationwide pandemic killed over half a million Americans.

54 min
Jan 26, 2018
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This year’s Winter Olympics have already seen their share of drama and political jockeying and the games haven’t even begun. So, BackStory is digging into the history of the power of international sports.

51 min
Jan 19, 2018
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On this episode of BackStory, Ed, Joanne, and Nathan delve into what happened in California after gold was found and some of the lasting impacts of the Gold Rush.

35 min
Jan 12, 2018
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On this episode of BackStory, Ed, Joanne, and Brian focus on three stories in the news.

36 min
Jan 5, 2018
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On this episode of BackStory, Brian and Ed explore the 51 day siege at Waco and explore what the Branch Davidians actually believed.

46 min
Dec 29, 2017
i

On this episode of BackStory, Brian, Ed, Joanne and Nathan look back at the stories we produced in 2017.

49 min
Dec 22, 2017
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On this episode of BackStory, Brian, Ed, and Nathan explore Americans’ fascination with wild places

50 min
Dec 15, 2017
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On this episode of BackStory, Brian, Joanne, and Nathan discuss some of America’s many homegrown culinary traditions and what the food we eat says about American identity.

42 min
Dec 8, 2017
i

On this episode of BackStory, we're featuring "Man of the People" an episode from the podcast "Reply All" that first aired January 19, 2017.

36 min
Dec 1, 2017
i

On this episode of BackStory, Ed, Joanne, Nathan and Brian focus on three stories in the news.

48 min
Nov 24, 2017
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On this episode of BackStory, Brian, Joanne, and Nathan look at how Americans have wrestled with political corruption.

45 min
Nov 17, 2017
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Brian sits down with Ed to talk about his new book "The Thin Light of Freedom: The Civil War and Emancipation in the Heart of America."

54 min
Nov 10, 2017
i

100 years ago, the Bolshevik Party seized power in Russia. Brian, Joanne, and Nathan explore how that distant revolution had an immediate impact in the U.S.

52 min
Nov 3, 2017
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On this episode, Ed, Brian and Joanne explore when and why Americans signed up to fight for other countries’ causes.

61 min
Oct 27, 2017
i

On this episode of BackStory, Nathan, Brian and Ed discuss things in the sky we can’t explain - unidentified flying objects.

33 min
Oct 20, 2017
i

On this episode of BackStory, Ed, Brian, Nathan, and Joanne tackle three stories that have been in the news recently.

49 min
Oct 13, 2017
i

On this episode of BackStory, Joanne, Nathan and Brian explore stories of superstition and the surprising roles the number 13 has played across American history.

45 min
Oct 6, 2017
i

In this episode of BackStory, Joanne, Ed, and Nathan dip into the BackStory archive to look at four rulings that shaped public life in America.

44 min
Sep 29, 2017
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On this episode of BackStory, Ed, Brian, and Nathan look at how America has dealt with our adversaries across time.

36 min
Sep 22, 2017
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In this episode of BackStory, Brian, Joanne, and Ed discuss the history behind 3 stories in the news

62 min
Sep 15, 2017
i

On this episode of BackStory, Brian, Joanne, and Nathan wrestle with a long-running tension in our country’s history: what it means to assimilate and “become American.”

38 min
Sep 8, 2017
i

On this episode of BackStory, Brian sits down with Republican political strategist Karl Rove to talk about his book, “The Triumph of William McKinley: Why the Election of 1896 Still Matters.”

46 min
Sep 1, 2017
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In this episode of BackStory, Ed, Nathan and Joanne explore how 19th-century honor culture demanded that a man’s good name be saved by any means necessary — even murder.

49 min
Aug 25, 2017
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In this episode of BackStory, we look at how Americans in the past have made sense of meteors, eclipses, and the stars. 

16 min
Aug 23, 2017
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In this BackStory Short Take, Brian sits down with University of Virginia Law School Vice Dean Leslie Kendrick to discuss the constitutionality of regulating weapons at public protests.

28 min
Aug 18, 2017
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On this episode of BackStory, Brian, Nathan, Joanne and Ed discuss the horrific events that happened in Charlottesville last weekend, and how it fits into American history.

45 min
Aug 11, 2017
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On this episode of BackStory, Nathan, Brian and Ed, talk about how Americans have tried to actively change the North American climate.

34 min
Aug 4, 2017
i

On this episode of BackStory, Joanne, Ed, and Nathan explore the ways Americans have spent their time off.

54 min
Jul 28, 2017
i

On this episode of BackStory, Brian, Joanne, and Nathan explore some of the stories Americans tell about our past and find the kernels of truth that lie at the heart of a few American legends.  

32 min
Jul 21, 2017
i

In this episode of BackStory, Nathan, Ed, Brian and Joanne discuss the history behind stories in the news.

52 min
Jul 14, 2017
i

In this episode of BackStory, we explore what it means to be white in America, and how the concept of whiteness has fundamentally shaped our country.

69 min
Jul 7, 2017
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On this episode of BackStory, we look at local history by broadcasting segments from podcasts we admire.

50 min
Jun 30, 2017
i

In this episode of BackStory, Nathan, Ed, Brian and Joanne discuss the history behind stories in the news and celebrate the 200th show with founding host Peter Onuf.

48 min
Jun 23, 2017
i

On this episode of BackStory, Brian, Joanne and Nathan explore some of the many meanings Americans have attached to hair.

45 min
Jun 16, 2017
i

On this episode of BackStory, Ed, Nathan and Brian discuss when and why many of the nation’s Confederate statues were erected, and what they stood for.

53 min
Jun 9, 2017
i

On this episode of BackStory, Joanne, Ed and Nathan explore the history of privacy in America.

34 min
Jun 2, 2017
i

In this episode of BackStory, Joanne, Ed, and Nathan talk about the history behind items in this week’s news.

42 min
May 26, 2017
i

In this episode of BackStory, Ed, Joanne, and Brian look at the many reasons for joining the U.S. armed services.

34 min
May 19, 2017
i

In this episode of BackStory, Joanne, Ed and Brian look at the long history of political satire in America.

41 min
May 12, 2017
i

In this episode of BackStory, Nathan, Ed and Brian look at America's long history with opioids - like opium, morphine and heroin.

32 min
May 5, 2017
i

In this episode of BackStory, Joanne, Ed, Brian and Nathan discuss the history behind items in this week’s news.

39 min
Apr 28, 2017
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On this episode of BackStory, Joanne, Ed and Nathan talk about the people who collect items that preserve the nation's history.

31 min
Apr 21, 2017
i

In this grab bag, Joanne, Ed, Brian and Nathan look at the deep history of sanctuary cities and rule of law, at America’s history of boycotts, and talk about why it’s so hard for presidents to actually shrink the federal government.

44 min
Apr 14, 2017
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On this episode of BackStory, Brian, Joanne, and Ed discuss how this oft-forgotten war set the stage for the American century.

40 min
Apr 7, 2017
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In this episode of BackStory, Joanne, Ed and Brian probe the deeper history of the U.S. relationship with Russia — and discover moments of comity as well as conflict.

44 min
Mar 31, 2017
i

In this episode of BackStory, Ed, Nathan and Joanne explore the central questions of the Reconstruction era.

40 min
Mar 24, 2017
i

In BackStory’s second history grab bag, Joanne, Ed, Brian, and Nathan discuss the history behind items in this week’s news.

48 min
Mar 17, 2017
i

On this episode of BackStory, Nathan, Joanne, and Brian look at the deep roots of advocacy in journalism.

38 min
Mar 10, 2017
i

In this episode of BackStory, we explore how the federal government monitors and polices the undocumented.

41 min
Mar 3, 2017
i

On this episode of BackStory, Ed, Nathan and Brian look at the central role that political protests have played throughout American history.

37 min
Feb 24, 2017
i

In BackStory’s first history grab bag, Joanne, Brian and Nathan discuss the history behind items in this week’s news.

33 min
Feb 17, 2017
i

On this episode of BackStory, Nathan, Joanne and Ed will look at other times in history when Americans had to be a bit more careful about what they read.

30 min
Feb 10, 2017
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On this episode of BackStory, Ed, Brian, and Joanne look back at sweeping immigration restrictions in the 19th and 20th centuries.

50 min
Feb 3, 2017
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On this episode of BackStory, Brian, Ed and Nathan look at what happens when urban and rural Americans collide.

2 min
Jan 31, 2017
i

Urban/Rural Divides in America

51 min
Jan 25, 2017
i

Best of BackStory Pt. 2 by BackStory with the Ame…

1 min
Jan 20, 2017
i

BackStory is going through some big changes. Take…

51 min
Jan 18, 2017
i

We’ll spend our last regularly scheduled broadcas…

51 min
Jan 8, 2017
i

As Washington prepares for the next four years, B…

57 min
Jan 4, 2017
i

Health Nuts: A History of Nutritional Advice [reb…

58 min
Dec 20, 2016
i

On Dec. 24th, Jewish communities across the count…

51 min
Dec 14, 2016
i

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Or is i…

55 min
Dec 7, 2016
i

From the persecution of Quakers in colonial Massa…

14 min
Dec 6, 2016
i

On Sunday, the Army Corps of Engineers refused to…

58 min
Nov 30, 2016
i

Nieman-Marcus’ 2016 Christmas Book, which was fir…

16 min
Nov 30, 2016
i

President-elect Donald Trump said the election wa…

51 min
Nov 22, 2016
i

If a Pilgrim were to attend a contemporary Thanks…

51 min
Nov 16, 2016
i

In his recent book “Utopia for Realists,” Rutger …

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