Historical Podcasts you might like

All the podcasts on this page in my humble opinion are well worth listening to. And I should say that does NOT mean that if they are not here they are not worth listening to! If you see what I mean. Anyway, I have however divi’d them up a bit now that there are a lot of them.

Section 1: Ancient and Classical

Belisarius – A History by Andy Bones

The story of Belisarius is quite extraordinary – a general of the most amazing skills, and luck, and a complex relationship with his Emperor and Empress. Very unusually we are blessed with the personal and wicked commentary of Procopius which makes the history of the man so much more 3 dimensional than normal. My view is heavily influenced by Robert Graves, my favourite historical novellist of all time, but Andy has started with a great job I think, which I am thoroughly enjoying.

The History of Rome by Mike Duncan

Like many others,  I love this ‘award winning’ podcast. Mike’s delivery is dry and witty, pitched at the perfect level  for the amater, enthusiastic, ever-so-slightly geeky historian.  I listened to this for a few months then though maybe I could copy/rip off/plagiarise/be inspired and do my own thing along the lines. And the rest is history … podcasting . . .

The Egyptian History Podcast by Dominic Perry

I was so pleased to have found this – since THOR it’s seemed to me that there are two obvious candidates for podcasts – Ancient Greece and ancient Egypt. And so here’s one of them – and it is really good. Dominic Perry clearly knows his stuff, he speaks really well, there’s some personality that comes through – so basically I am very confident this will be in my shortish list of ‘I-must- listen-to-these-if-none-others’ list. Really good.

The Ancient World by Scott C

Now this is a really good one; a survey of the ancient world, which in this idiom means from the earliest civilisations to about 500BC. Apparently it’s going to be done in 15 episodes, so that’s an impressive coverage! The pace is really good, Scott’s reading is clear and engaging. The content though is the real thing about this podcast; it’s not stuff I know much about so it’s really fascinating. Give it a go, it’s excellent.

Myths and History of Ancient Greece by Paul Vincent

Has been produced for his sons; so it’s produced in a simple, straightforward style suitable for the audience. I have found that I’ve enjoyed it very much for my self as well though; I thought I knew the myths pretty well, but I’ve picked the odd thing up, and it’s just a thoroughly interesting topic that Paul tells really well.

The Life of Caesar by Cameron Reilly and Ray Harris

Here’s a new podcast on the life of (arguably of course – this is history after all) the greatest Roman of them all; and possibly the greatest politician and general of all time? It’s hosted by Cameron Reilly of Napoleon Podcast fame, and you get exactly what you’d expect – he’s an upbeat, articulate and genial host who keeps things moving along. Co host is Ray harris of WWII podcast fame, so you know you are getting  a good deal. It’s a conversation format, so if you like that approach this is for you. It means the information take a while to come across, but is engaging and fun on the way.

Section 2: Medieval

The History of Byzantium by Robin Pierson

Robin Pierson bravely took up the challenge of carrying on where the History of Rome left off. As soon as you hear Robin’s delivery you feel in the hands of a professional, with a superbly professional and clear delivery.  I’ve just listened to some excellent scene setting episodes about the city of Constantinople which were fascinating.

The History of the Crusades by Sharyn Eastaugh

I had mixed feelings when Ben pointed this out to me. On the one hand, it really is a superb topic for a podcast; on the other hand I’d hoped to do it when I’d finished with England! Never mind. Sharyn clearly really knows her topic well, and the things I like most are her use of original sources, and the sprinkling of understatement.  The sound production needs a bit of work yet, but then who am I to comment!

Section 3: Modern

The Civil War (1861-1865)  by Richard & Tracey Youdahl

This is really a enjoyable, detailed coverage of the American Civil War. It’s nicely presented – and having two presenters really helps change the voice a bit and keep the interest up. It’s very carefully thought through  and clearly very thoroughly researched, and there’s no doubt that it’s going to be a regular for me from now on. If I was going to try to be picky, it’d be the title. The Civil War. Definite article. Sure ‘A’ civil war, or the American Civil War? Ok, so that is indeed picky. It’s a great show, and I heartily recommend it.

The Napoleon Podcast by David Markham and Cameron Reilly

Thanks to Matt for recommending this one. This is quite different to most of the ‘shed based podcasts’ if I can put it like that – i.e. it’s not just some bloke in a shed like me droning on endlessly about their favourite subject. Or at least the two episodes I’ve listened to haven’t been like that, it’s been interview based, and often a couple of super enthusiastic blokes talking about their favourite subjects. The presenters are upbeat, interesting and energetic. I could gripe; there’s an awful lot of whitewashing going on (‘poor old Napoleon…he didn’t cause any wars he was just a sorrowful victim of violence…’) and good old bit of Anglo bashing (‘…its those nasty English again, telling horrid lies’) but in general the general thesis is that he was a fascinating, exceptional figure who changed much for the better, and I’m not going to argue with that!

Imperial War Museum Voices of the First World War

This is a unique podcast from the Imperial War Museum. They have a superb library of assets, and are building up to the centenary of the First World War. Here they use some of their audio assets, in this case first hand records from men and women who went through the experience, and what it meant to them. It’s quite superb and unique, especially for a free resource.

The History of World War II

The detail in Ray Harris’s podcast is superb, and together with his enthusiasm for the subject makes this a captivating podcast. It really covers everything, including the build up to the war, the personalities involved, and gives you a sense of having been in the room with the main characters as they made their decisions. There is a really excellent and professional website, with a wealth of images and maps that’s worth visiting all on its own.

Section 4: National histories

The British History Podcast by Jamie Jeffers

Slightly irritatingly, Jamie has essentially cornered the market for British history. People love his style, his humour, and his passion for the subject. He’s built great communities around the podcast too, so you can join loads of other people. Definitely worth trying out, if you haven’t done so already.  

Erika’s History of Sweden by, um, Erika Sandstrom

Ah, I was super pleased to see this go up! I do love the history of the Scandinavian countries, in so far as I know them (more than a bit limited). So here’s my chance to find out more. Erika has a style that is…well…just very Swedish, if I can indulge in the slightly dicey game of national characteristics. Straight forward, an edge of dry humour, professional, while personal. PLUS Erika is actually a proper historian who knows what’s she talking about. First two episodes are great, no doubt the rest will be too!

 

A Short History of Japan

Just like me, I think Cameron Foster has been inspired by Mike Duncan and THOR. So it’s a similar format, and there’s no doubt that it’s a fascinating history. Also since I know relatively little about Japanese history, it keeps my attention, and Cameron clearly knows his stuff. One tiny word of warning is that there are so many foreign names that it can be a little hard to keep up.

The China History Podcast

This should by rights be a gripper – after all, China has its fair share of history! I have not listened to all the episodes by any means, but have jumped about. This is well worth a listen – but bear a couple of things in mind. In the earlier history, there’s so much to cover that the author doesn’t really manage to find a thread through and the right level of detail – I got a bit lost, so like my early Anglo Saxon’s then ! So secondly, head for the more recent years; the author is much more confident there.

Rex Factor

It’s a different approach and maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but I really enjoy it. It’s a two-blokes-in-a-pub, light-hearted format marking all England’s monarchs and deciding if they have the Rex Factor or not. But actually the work behind it is impressive.

Section 5: Themed

The History of Islam by Elias Belhaddad

This is an excellent topic so I was very excited to see this appear – and I was not disappointed! Elias is very fluent, and has bags of personality and enthusiasm, which is so important to a good podcast. He clearly works hard at the research, and allows himself to go into interesting digressions or expansions, which I really enjoy. He’s got some great ideas as well about format – his footnotes bit is great, and lots of materials on the website. I hope he keeps going.

The Maritime History podcast by Brandon Huebner

I do love boats and stuff, and so was very excited when I saw this podcast. It then took me absolutely ages to get round to listening to it, but when I did it is a joy and a delight; a soft spoken host, who speaks with great clarity and authority; and a nice website which made me jealous. Very much worth a try.

Revolutions by Mike Duncan

I was slightly conflicted when this came out, and am getting more so. I really enjoyed THOR, and Revolutions is equally good; It’s pretty thorough, but as ever Mike’s very good at finding the stporyline and picking what’s interesting, without getting bogged down. So that’s great, yes? Well yes and no. It’s one of my favourite periods, and I have no idea how I am going to improve on the way Mike’s done it. Anyway, it’s really good, and is now a staple for me.

When Diplomacy Fails by Zack Twambley. 

Zack did a guest appearance, with a great podcast on Bannockburn, so you’ll know him anyway. It’s a great idea for a podcast, and allows him to pick all the most dramatic conflicts in world history; but it’s much more than just the wars themselves. Zack mixes it up a bit as well, with some conversational episodes. The style is very upbeat and conversational.

A Brief History of Mathematics

I enjoyed this – mainly because it’s about a subject I know little about, and also because it’s pretty self contained and short – i.e 10 15 minute podcasts. It’s not perfect, the presenter over eggs it a bit I think, but it has a personal feel so I think I’m being picky!

Space Rocket History by Michael Annis

This is great – such a good idea for a topic, and as a sad washed up Sci-Fi fan the story of the space race and it’s associated rocketry is just fascinating. There’ a bit of technology, but not too much toie over-face a medieval historian; the delivery is slow and slightly deadpan but not so that it’s a problem and Michael’s passion for the subejct comes across loud and clear.

The History of Philosophy (without any gaps)

There are some ambitious podcast projects out there and no mistake – but I think this one has got to be the winner. We got to episode 53, and just got past Aristotle… I have to admit that I found the first 2 or 3 a bit slow, but after Heraclitus I really found myself enjoying it. The style is definitely academic, but engaging and constantly witty and relaxed. He gets some other people to contribute as well, so there’s a nice variety. But you’ve got to be really interested in philosophy!

The History of English by Kevin Stroud

The story of the development of the English language is fascinating – like any language I guess, but hey it’s my language. So I was delighted to find Kevin’s new podcast. It’s got loads of depth, and is much broader than just English. It’s a real find.

The History of Witchcraft by Sam Hume

This is a great topic, and Sam does a great job of using sources to add reality, and fortunately includes critical evidence such as Monty Python sketches. It takes a cultural perspective as well, to explain what lay behind the growth of Witchcraft.

Section 6: Magazine

BBC – In our Time

I had avoided putting on the BBC series, just on the basis that I’m sure everyone knows them anyway. But I supposed I should put them up for completeness. So this one is my favourite; Melvyn Bragg the presenter has become something of a national institution in the UK and he is very good. Because it’s the BBC, it means that the contributors are excellent, the subjects great, and of course the production top notch. So it should be a first port of call.

BBC – Great Lives

The same applies to this really – Matthew Paris is also an excellent presenter. The Lives they pick are a bit eclectic, so you have to pick and choose, but when they fall in an area you are interested in, they are superb.

BBC History Magazine

The podcast is really good – a series of interviews with people, usually the authors of articles in the magazine. The ones I listened to from the back catalogue and liked were February 2011 issue which had a good article on the Black Death, March 2008 with an interesting piece about Edward I and Scotland. The articles are thought provoking is the thing – and gives you a subject to take forward, or gives a different perspective.

Binge Thinking History

Tony Cocks has a great, rapid fire delivery that’s quite different from THOR, but just as good. The Podcast often goes into a bit of depth and covers really interesting topics. It’s well worth a try – I’d bet the vast majority of you will like it. I do.

32 thoughts on “Historical Podcasts you might like

  1. Hi David
    Can I add two more recommendations for this page. 1st of all The China History Podcast by Laszio Montgomery and the 2nd which I’m surpised you having put there is In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg from BBC Radio 4 (which is a combination of history, science, relgion, Culture, Philosophy and probably other things) but history comes up a lot and the is a archive for history called called In Our Time: History. Hope you and my other history of england fans like my personal recommendadations. I also think The History Of World War II is really good.

  2. Hi Ben
    Thanks for the recommendations; I’ll try the history of china one – a subject I’d be interested in, though I’d guess makes doing the history of England look like slacking! I have listened to the In our Time one… and I agree it’s OK, but consciously decided not to put up here. Of course it is really good, and they get authoritative contributors, and I like Melvyn – but I find it a bit dry, a bit Radio 4. So I only pick up the odd one here and there now when I’m particularly interested in the subject.
    The one I’ve started to listen to now is the History of Philosophy – the first 2 or 3 were hard work, but once he gets into Heraclitus it get’s really good. Definitely worth a try.

  3. If I may suggest another: check out Open Yale (Yale University) as they have an excellent free podcast history course (about 20+ hours long) on the History of Tudor England, covering off from Henry VII through to Charles II.

  4. Hi David
    I am a recent discoverer of your “History of England” podcasts and just can’t get enough of them!! They are particularly enjoyable because of the humour you bring to them – the people become credibly human rather than simply names from the past! I am especially interested as many of them are my ancestors. Thank you!!

  5. I also enjoyed “Norman Centuries” and”12 Byzantine Rulers” by Lars Brownworth and the the “British History Podcast” by Jamie Jeffers.
    I’d like to thank you for listing these resources. I love listening to your podcast though once I caught up I find that it works better for me in clumps. So I let a few accumulate then listen to the last from the the last clump and immerse myself (otherwise I’ll forget who’s who). Then I can be seen on my walks with headphones on laughing with abandon.
    I think I’ll eventually know more about your long history that our short one, since most American history podcasts emphasize the 1) colonial days, 2) revolution, 3) Civil War and 4) WWII. unless I’m missing something…

  6. Don’t forget the History Books Review podcasts by Colin Saunders. He is working through Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and does it so you think you have read it.

  7. Thanks so much for suggesting these. I’ve just gotten into Ray Harris’ The History of World War II podcast – I hadn’t come across that one yet. I’d just finished listening to the Modern Scholar audio book on World War I (and finally learned how to pronounce Ypres – I’m a Yank and had only seen it written before – and was looking for something similar on WWII.

  8. There is a relatively new podcast on the scene which is 5 episodes (and a introduction episode) in. It’s called History of the Crusades by Sharyn Eastaugh. I’m still warming to it but so far it’s good.

  9. No Dan Carlin? Hardcore History is the best history podcast.
    He made an EPIC Fall of the Roman Republic Series clocking in at about 12 hours long. Not the most frequent podcast, which is OK with me because I squee with joy when it comes and gives me time to listen to other stuff.

  10. Ok, Dan Carlin. I did listen to an episode (something Rome-like I think) but his style wasn’t quite for me. So take this as a full retraction, shamed by your email I have been listening to the Ghenghis Khan episodes – which are excellent. So I will update at some point…

  11. The (quite frankly adorable) married couple who do the “The Civil War (1861-1865” podcast also have another: ‘The Life & Legacy of Napoleon Bonaparte’.
    I was surprised by how much I like it, even though (it being my personal favorite era) I know much of the information already.
    I’ve only gotten up to the tenth or so episode, so not past the French Revolution. My only concern is a few of the history books they’ve been using are the Nappy-bashing sort, but it hasn’t really shown so far.
    Oddly, it’s not appearing on itunes just now, though the thirty-somethingth episode showed in my subscription feed. Hmm. Anyway, if you like their other, try this.

  12. Some very good recomendations here, agree that the genghis khan series by dan carlin was great! Question, does anyone know of a good podcast (series) on the scientific revolution (i.e not just the enlightenment)? Thanks!

  13. The History of England is the best podcast from a man in a shed. What happened to Historyzine by Jim Mowatt? his War of the Spanish Succession was very good. You might look at The British History podcast by Jamie Jeffers. Do not be deceived by Rex Factor, it is a casual approach but loaded with information. History of Crusades a winner too.

  14. I’m enraptured with ‘In Our Time’, listening to it on the hourly journey by bike to work in the morning and then again home in the dark. This is just the ticket; thank you for compiling and recommending these.

  15. Thought i would throw my hat into the ring regarding podcasts- in particular Dan Carlin. I see his name has cropped up a few times but no one seems to have comemented recently. Dan Carlin produced 6 episodes entiltled ‘Blueprint for Armageddon’, all about WW1. A number of the episodes are in excess of fours hours, however, if listeners have any interest at all in the subject, I strongly recommend a listen!

  16. What a great collection of podcast, some of which I am familiar with but others that I am not. The Ancient world in 15 episodes? Sounds crzy but I will have to give it a try.

    1. I’m sure you’ll be amused to know that at the time of writing Scott has just completed he 95th episode…none of us podcasters stick to our promises!

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