History Podcasts

Podcasts provide a rich opportunity for the creative historian. Podcasts, which were very popular up until the early 2000s, then their popularity died out due to their relative inaccessibility, until 2007 with the invention of the smart phone. (Kang) The podcast is now slowly encroaching on the niche that the ever-popular radio usually fills. (Kang)

Some of the same problems of accuracy and authority that plague digital history in general, are issues in podcasting. Often, times it is not a professional historian that is creating these podcasts. It is an amateur. They lack the necessary skills to make historical interpretations that reflect the latest understandings of history. One such example would be how an amateur historian told the story of the Whitman massacre, as mentioned in Cebula’s blog here. The amater historian interprets events in a manifest destiny/American myth manner that glorifies the white settlers and dehumanizes the Native Americans.

However, there are very popular history podcasts with professional historians involved in all aspects of creating the podcast. An example, of such a show is Backstory with the American History Guys. Three “renowned historians” lead the show and its content. They dive in deep to a subject in an hour long show. When looking at their website and listening to their shows I wondered who their intended audience was.

According to Kang, of the Washington Post, podcasts are most popular among men, and when I listened to Backstory I could see why. First of all, the three stars of the show are well-educated white men. There is nothing wrong with this, and their scholarship is solid. However, their manner of speaking, style of the website, and the information they provide is created by a select group of the US population. I can tell you as a historian and a woman I find their work interesting, but not as compelling as I would of hoped. Perhaps, a diversity in the voices represented in the show would change that.