Here on the Hisdoryan blog, I am passionate about helping people live in the past. However, I also appreciate that not everyone shares my love of history, with many people saying a ‘boring’ curriculum at school turned them off it.
But history can be FUN! And the medium of podcasting is helping people wake up to this fact.
Its not all kings and queens, and endless dates to remember… there are thousands, if not millions, of incredible stories waiting to be heard. And all you need to do is download a podcast episode.
So here’s my roundup of six great history podcasts for non-history lovers.
You’re Dead To Me is easily one of the most popular history podcasts out there. Created by Horrible Histories chief nerd Greg Jenner, it’s a podcast that combines comedy and history. Its aimed at people who hated the subject at school.
The format is simple. Greg is the host, and is joined in each episode by both an expert historian and comedian to discuss an historical topic. Greg starts by summarising what most people know about the subject, before everyone has a nice, long chat about it. Then there’s ‘The Nuance Window’ – where the historian gets to go full on history geek for 2 minutes. The podcast then ends with a quick fire quiz to see what the comedian has remembered.
Fave episode? Owain Glyndŵr – Greg Jenner and his guests discuss Owain Glyndŵr, one of the great heroes of Welsh history, who led an uprising against English rule and was the last native-born Prince of Wales.
This is one of my fave history podcasts of all time! Its so funny and a little bit bitchy – and it does come with an explicit language warning!
Hilarious hosts Katy and Nathan pair cocktails with amazing women of history. They discuss female rulers throughout history who handled their business and slayed. Women’s history has had something of a renaissance over the last few years, and this is really one of the best podcasts out there to learn more about badass, independent women from history. A must listen.
Fave episode? Jane Seymour – It was so hard to chose just one episode to recommend, but the Jane Seymour one is a classic (#PoorBabyJane). Was Jane as boring as everyone thinks or just like, really smart?
Eye-opening is the best way to describe Evil Genius, a BBC podcast hosted by Russell Kane. To be deigned a hero means that the less palatable aspects of your life are glossed over in favour of some major achievements – but this podcast reveals the whole truth!
People you have long admired like Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi and even Mother Teresa are striped bare and the darker parts of their life exposed. At the end of the episode the guests have to decide – hero or villain.
Fave episode? Winston Churchill – Winston Churchill is seen as such a great hero that many people are not aware of the darker sides of his history. Russell and guests discuss the man voted the Greatest Briton.
You may have already heard of Aaron Mahnke from his other award-winning podcast Lore, which is all about the darker side of history. His Cabinet of Curiosities podcast follows a similar tone. Twice a week, you’ll get a guided tour through some of the most bizarre corners of history, from unexplained moments and coincidences, to people and objects that come with unusual backstories. The stories are so unreal they feel more like fantasy than history!
One of the advantages about this particular podcast is the length. Episodes only tend to be about ten minutes long, which is sometimes more convenient.
Fave episode? It’s hard to chose one episode as they are short and sweet, so why not listen to them all?!
You Must Remember This is a podcast dedicated to exploring the secret and forgotten histories of Hollywood’s golden age. The Guardian describes it as ‘a dreamy mix of film noir voiceover, 1940s gossip column and Pathe news broadcast’. However you choose to describe it, it is completely addictive.
The podcast is written, produced and hosted by Karina Longworth. It is immaculately well-researched. The show’s website is also really good and contains show notes, including research sources, information about special guests and even the music if you want to learn more. Think of it more as a movie podcast than a history podcast.
Fave episode? Gossip Girls: Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper – I really enjoyed this series of episodes YMRT did about the first female Hollywood gossip columnists – and the power they wielded! Start with the first episode.
The newest podcast on the list, Petticoats and Poppies is a podcast devoted to that television genre we all love – period drama. You may deny it in public, but I know that on a wintry evening I’m going to find you curled up on the sofa watching the latest Downton Abbey-esque series.
Podcast hosts Maggie & Nicole discuss period drama films from both a historical and film industry perspective. I’ve watched a few of the films they have featured previously, but watching them again after listening to this podcast and learning more about the history behind the period drama is an eye-opening experience.
Fave episode? Little Women – Maggie and Nicole are joined by writer and producer Adam Lance Garcia to discuss 2019’s Little Women, directed by Greta Gerwig and starring an incredible ensemble cast. Listen as the History Girls and Adam talk about what makes this particular version stand out above the rest from the actors, director, costumes, and even down to the blocking.
I do hope you’ll give some of these history podcasts for non-history lovers a try, and learn more about history through this fun and entertaining medium. Or perhaps there is another history podcast you simply love – let us know in the comments below.