History podcasting is on the up and up, and it has never been easier to fill your ears (and your device) with quality content on the most fascinating, and obscure, topics in history. This of course brings me a great deal of joy, because it means that history is being brought to more people than ever before! With that in mind, here’s six of my favourite producers that currently bring the goods every time they get in front of a microphone. In no particular order, here is Six History Podcasts You Need in Your Life!
The history of France is obviously chock full of tons of incredible events and characters, but where to begin? Why not start your quest for learning more about France with someone who loves the country of France as much as she seems to know about it. That’s right – she! A much appreciated female voice in the storm of male voices, let Diana guide you through French history in a non-chronological fashion, while somehow managing to maintain a level of audio quality that would put even the most accomplished history podcasters to shame.
How does Diana do it? Is the question I find myself asking, especially when looking over the sheer diversity of her back catalogue. All manner of subjects come under her microscope, from the cultural, to the military, to the social. The examination of the Dreyfus Affair, a profoundly important but largely overlooked event in French history, is as clear an indication as any of Diana’s attention to detail, of her passion for the subject, of her quality diction and presentation. The story flows easily, like some fine French wine, as the complex and confusing is made smooth and digestible, even to those unfamiliar with the topic at hand.
One of the really striking things about Diana’s podcast isn’t merely its quality and broad appeal, but the fact that she has been tirelessly plugging away for only a year or so. Diana, it seems, skipped the whole 'teething' part of history podcasting, where one is finding their feet (or more accurately, their speaking voice and style. When listening to The Land of Desire, you can’t help but feel that this is a podcast that will go places. Occasionally I have to remind myself that I’m listening to an ‘amateur’ podcaster and not some kind of broadcaster who has been on the air for years.
Sometimes a new podcaster comes along who just gets it, and Diana is definitely one of those. I cannot recommend her work enough, so go and check out her show, and show her some well-deserved love while you're at it!
The Danes have been fairly battered in our narrative, and we have mostly missed the tales of their epic rise through the strategic use of geographic and economic strongholds. At one point, Denmark was the power of Northern Europe, and through the additional device of marriage, they held sway over the entirety of Scandinavia. The Baltic, crazy as it may seem, was a Danish Lake at the dawn of the 16th century. Everything changed, as Denmark was eclipsed by its more martial and arguably luckier neighbour, but for a time, Denmark was a power with a profoundly important role in European affairs.
Even as the tides turned against Danish power, representatives in Copenhagen right up to the end of the 18th century continued to court the Danes in a bid to counterbalance the Swedes. Danish interests in the Holy Roman Empire couldn’t be ignored, and successive Danish Kings made successive power plays (with varying degrees of success) for its royal family. The Danes were a small fish in an ocean, yet they had the appetite and ambition of a shark in a paddling pool.
There is, in other words, more to the story of Denmark than the one you have heard from me, so you’ll be happy to know that someone else has taken the plunge and taken it upon himself to tackle that story for both of us. Want to know something really special? Soren Krarup, the man in charge, is not only Danish and thus well-suited to explain the history of his country, but the guy is only recently out of high school! Talk about a podcast prodigy!
The fact that Soren has such a passion for his subject that he felt compelled to begin a podcast on it before even refining himself in college is both inspiring and disconcerting – how can someone so young and uneducated, a sceptic might ask, be capable of delivering a quality show? Well, Soren is not your average dude. Not only does his podcast voice sound like someone else’s veteran podcast voice, he’s also immensely capable – disarmingly so in fact – and he takes us through different portions of Danish history with an ease and calmness which makes listening in as easy as slurping on a cold pint of Carlsberg. One thing’s for sure, if I ever meet the guy, the first pint is on me!
This is certainly the most famous history podcast on this list, but I felt it’d be wrong to leave it out, on the off chance that you missed out on Kevin Stroud and his fantastic body of work. Still more pleasing is the fact that Kevin has recently posted his 100th episode which, by the way, is the number he believed he would need to complete the story. Instead, the History of English has turned into one of the most well-respected and professionally produced podcasts out there. It’s a good thing that Kevin was wrong about it taking 100 episodes, because I’d wager that his listeners (myself included) don’t want it to end!
All good things will come to an end of course, but by the time he is finished, Kevin will have done an immeasurable service to both historians and linguists alike, and I can only hope that he sees fit to one day turn his whole series into a rather large tome. This is one of those podcasts that has taken off, never looked back, and now sits in the top tier of quality audio programming. You’ll be happy to know that Kevin is as pleasant as he is professional, which yours truly discovered when I got to collaborate with him all those months ago. That collaboration, the first proper one WDF has done, will always hold a special place in my super nerdy heart.
EDIT: Kevin recently posted an episode about Gregorian Chant, which, if you know me, is something that I am a little bit OBSESSED about!
History is of course, full of hot garbage. Sometimes one of your peers may spout something that you know full well to be incorrect on so many levels, but thanks to the consensus in the office, you’re the one that looks like a tool for ruining everyone’s fun. Well, it’s a good thing that when you want to ruin everyone’s fun, Professor Buzzkill is there to do some stomping on the stupid, the irritating, the frequently parroted myths in history. It is similar in a vein to Our Fake History (and we’ll get to that!) but the two shows are refreshingly different in their own unique ways.
One episode in particular stood out to me. It is often said that the Irish were used as slaves, were treated far worse and had less rights than those slaves from Africa. In fact, you may even have received an email sent on a chain promoting this very view. Still, the Irish Slaves Myth is used by those (and I have even heard one of my friends use it with total seriousness) who wish to both draw attention to the historical plight of the Irish, and to emphasise how great we were to pick ourselves up after that experience. Professor Buzzkill takes a chainsaw to this and several other myths, yet he does so in a way that is both captivating and effective.
Before you know it, you’re hooked on the Professor’s knack for dismantling not just this myth, but so many others. A really fascinating part of the podcast’s approach is the regular ‘Did They Really Say That?’ sections, where a so-called ‘famous’ quote from history is put through its paces, and before long, we emerge from the other side with a newfound respect for people like Professor Buzzkill, who deals with these myths and misconceptions with an infectious enthusiasm, but also with a degree of caution that reminds you why seeking out the truth is so important, even if, at times, that truth can be hard to accept.
Poland is of course very topical for us at the moment, with our history of the Polish decline Poland Is Not Yet Lost due to hit your shelves in May 2018. That of course is a long way off, and you may also notice that since we’ll largely be focused on only the decline of the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth, we won’t be dedicating much time to the story of what came before the downward spiral. If only, you may think, there was a trusty fellow doing the rounds that could fill in the blanks for you. Well, enter Trevor Gilbert and his podcast, suitably titled, a History of Poland.
Trevor is one of those history podcasters that probably thought to himself ‘Hmmm, Poland, sounds interesting, I’ll look into it.’ Like all true history nerds, he has since become enmeshed in the intense complexities of the Polish successions following the death of that scion in Polish history, Miesko II…or was that Boleslaw, or perhaps Aldabert? How on earth can we keep up? Well, thankfully, neither me nor you have to, because Trevor guides us through the era like a tour guide familiar with his route.
One of the things I love about the podcast is Trevor’s ability to keep us with him even when the story gets murky. Despite the onrush of names and the unfamiliar world of the 11th century, I never felt lost or confused – a tremendous achievement considering the task at hand. What’s that? Trevor has taken on even more tasks, like assessing the Holy Roman Empire? Wow, the guy reminds me of another history lunatic I know of… Trevor does a great job tackling the muddied history of a criminally understudied nation, so make sure to do him a favour and check out his show!
#1: Our Fake History
Sebastian Major has created something really special. He’s managed to blend together some of the best aspects of history – telling a story, with the most important aspects – searching for the truth. Walking a fine line between giving it to you straight but also not making you feel like a dumb-dumb for believing such historical malarkey, Sebastian is both a pleasure to listen to and to talk to. The collaboration I did with Sebastian is one of my favourites, because not only is he thorough and professional, he’s also a genuinely good dude doing his bit for history.
It’s an Irish stereotype that we can’t stand seeing people we actually like do well, but I am happy to say that Sebastian’s rise from podcast obscurity to stardom (or something close to it) couldn’t have happened to a nicer or more talented guy. If you have an interest in history, or even just like a good story, then make sure to check out Our Fake History. Take a look at the shows on offer, everything from Who Killed Rasputin, to Was There Really An Atlantis to the 101 on Robin Hood – it’s a smorgasbord of delights, so tuck in now, and let him know who sent you!
Thankssss for reading, and as you can see history friends, history podcasting is indeed in good hands. With that in mind, why not share a bit of love? If you have a history podcast that makes your day better, why not share it down below or better yet, contact that podder yourself and let them know you appreciate their stuff? Together, we will make history thrive!