The 15 Best History Podcasts of 2018

Discover the past in new, interesting ways

Best history podcasts in 2018

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You can't have informed opinions about anything without understanding its historical context. Whether you're a history major in college, or you just want to expand your worldview, here's a list of the best history podcasts for anyone looking to add historical nonfiction to their media diet.

Revolutions podcast homepage

Major social change rarely comes without bloodshed. Mike Duncan narrates the dramatic events leading up to the English Civil War, the French Revolution, ​and other major social upheavals. Next season will focus on the Russian revolutions on 1917. Fans of Revolutions may also enjoy Duncan’s History of Rome podcast. Both are available for free on iTunes.

What We Like:

  • Since each season is dedicated to one revolution, you'll learn a lot about a single subject.

What We Don't Like:

  • So far not as much has been covered, but it is a continuing series, so there's plenty of hope for more.
Dan Carlin's Hardcore History

Host Dan Carlin often engages in speculative history and finds new ways to look at ancient figures and events. For example, was Alexander the Great a genocidal maniac on par with Hitler? Recent episodes of Hardcore History are free to download, while older podcasts must be purchased.

What We Like:

  • Carlin's commentary is entertaining and thought-provoking. He excels at invoking the past to address present-day issues.

What We Don't Like:

  • Although the individual topics are well researched, don't expect this podcast to help you pass a history class.
BBC Witness Podcast

Each 10-minute episode of this BBC series presents listeners with first-person accounts of historical events through the words of those who lived through them. Topics covered range from life under Gaddafi to the invention of Instant Noodles. More than 2,200 episodes are available for free on the BBC website.

What We Like:

  • First-person perspectives make each episode unique.
  • The topics range in tone from heavy to lighthearted.

What We Don't Like:

  • Since the episodes are so short, this series isn't ideal if you're looking for something to listen to during long commutes.
The History Chicks Podcast

Hosts Beckett Graham and Susan Vollenweider explore the lives of present-day women, ranging from monarchs like Queen Elizabeth I to entertainers like Lucille Ball. Episodes are arranged in historically-chronological order on the website for easy browsing.

What We Like:

  • In addition to profiles of historical figures, some episodes focus on the origins of fairy tale characters like Cinderella and Red Riding Hood.

What We Don't Like:

  • Many episodes are about queens, authors, and artists history buffs may already be familiar with.
Ben Franklin's World home page

Become a better citizen by listening to history experts discuss the early days of the American experiment. Topics aren't limited to Ben Franklin and his exploits; host Liz Covart discusses life under colonial rule, relationships between natives and Europeans, and the formation of the republic. Listen for free via iTunes or the Google Play App.

What We Like:

  • Each episode features an interview with an expert historian, so the information provided is thoroughly researched.

What We Don't Like:

  • While the show covers a range of topics, they all pertain to one subject, so it may not be everyone's cup of tea.
Lore podcast

For lovers of truly horrifying nonfiction, this podcast is a must-listen. Urban legends, unsolved murders, and mysterious locales are commonly explored themes on Lore. Anyone can listen for free, and Amazon Prime members can watch the show based on the podcast.

What We Like:

  • This show is especially entertaining for fans of mysteries, conspiracy theories, and speculative fiction.

What We Don't Like:

  • The subject matter is often dark, and some of the tales will haunt you for days. This isn't a show for the easily disturbed.
SpyCast podcast

The International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. broadcasts interviews with former spies and espionage experts to illuminate a profession that operates in the shadows. You'll learn about aspects of history you never knew existed.

What We Like:

  • The hosts and guests are experts in their fields.
  • The spy stories are often actioned packed and fun to listen to while on the go.

What We Don't Like:

  • Discussions often veer into current politics, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it may put off some listeners.
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Best World History Podcast: 15 Minute History

15 Minute History podcast

Broadcasted from the University of Texas at Austin, 15 Minute History is produced by students for students. Each episode focuses on a singular topic in a different part of the world and guests typically include history professors and authors from various disciplines.

What We Like:

  • The website usually includes suggestions for further reading if you find an episode particularly interesting.

What We Don't Like:

  • Episodes are released sporadically, but there's enough content on the website to keep history buffs occupied.
Art Curious Podcast

Art historians and casual listeners alike can enjoy learning about the lives of famous painters such as Van Gogh, Picasso, and the Ninja Turtles' namesakes. Guests delve into the rivalries between contemporary artists and the historical contexts that shaped their work.

What We Like:

  • Host Jennifer Dassel is an expert in her field. She often brings fresh perspectives to centuries-old debates.

What We Don't Like:

  • Most of the episodes are about European art and artists, so you may have to look elsewhere for a broader perspective. 
Burnt Toast podcast

We are what we eat, and what we eat shapes our societies. Host Michael Harlan Turkell explores spicy bits of world history through the lens of food culture and interviews culinary experts for a fascinating look at why we eat what we eat.

What We Like:

  • Burnt Toast makes for great lighthearted listening.
  • The website features recipes if all the food talk makes you hungry.

What We Don't Like:

  • The episode titles and summaries are somewhat vague, so starting an episode is like biting into a mystery-flavored jelly bean.
Philosophize This! podcast

In over 100 episodes, host Stephen West has covered more than 2,500 years of philosophical theory. From the words of Buddha to the tomes of Foucault, ​Philosophize This! analyzes the history of human thought for the purpose of applying old lessons to modern life.​​

What We Like:

  • Episodes are in historically-chronological order, so you can listen to them sequentially.

What We Don't Like:

  • Since the subject matter is so "heady," it might not appeal to casual listeners.
Our Fake History

Fake news isn't a new problem; urban legends have long blurred the lines between fact and fiction. Sebastian Major dispels some of the most popular historical myths and traces their origins in Our Fake History. Recent episodes can be downloaded for free, while older ones can be purchased from the website.

What We Like:

  • The host's humorous tone makes this podcast an enjoyable listen.

What We Don't Like:

  • Sometimes single topics are covered extensively over three or four episodes.
The Dollop home page

Comedians Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds look at the lighter side of American history in The Dollop. In every episode, the duo offers a humorous take on people and events. More than 300 episodes are available for free, and you might even be able to catch The Dollop duo on a live tour.

What We Like:

  • You'll laugh as you learn, which can't be said for most history podcasts. 

What We Don't Like:

  • The humor may not be for everyone. After listening to one episode, you'll know whether or not you enjoy the show.
Stuff You Missed in History Class podcast

HowStuffWorks.com produces this podcast to fill in the blanks left by your history textbooks. Never heard of Bessie Coleman, the first African American pilot? What about wireless technology inventor Hedy Lamarr? Learn about these unsung heroes and others with hosts Tracy Wilson and Holly Frey.

What We Like:

  • The website has episodes categorized by topic and time period, so it's easy to find an episode that you'll enjoy.

What We Don't Like:

  • Since the show focuses on lesser-known history, it won't help you pass an A.P. history exam, but you might find inspiration for a research paper.
My History Can Beat Up Your Politics podcast

Are you tired of political commentary devoid of historical perspective? This show brings much needed historical context to today's political landscape. Host Bruce Carlson regularly interviews authors and journalists for a well-rounded look at the present through the lens of the past.

What We Like:

  • When discussing political topics, the host and guests give far more historical background than anyone you'll hear on cable news networks.

What We Don't Like:

  • If you listen to podcasts for a break from​ the modern political news, this isn't the show for you.