Most Popular Episodes

The most popular episodes of all time from across all of the different playlists!

Each Full-Episode Details page links to the specific recordings on Apple, SoundCloud, Patreon, Spotify and several other major podcast platforms…

History of the British and Irish Travellers

Quick Sample:

Travellers, Tinkers, Gypsies, Kale, Scottish Travellers, Gypsy Travellers, Romani Gypsies, Romanichal, Pavee, Showmen, Van People, Boat People, Bargers - All of these multivarious peoples, with different ancestries, religions, and traditions, their different languages, dialects, and "cants," share in common a longstanding itinerant lifestyle and the distinct identity that stems from it. Roving all around the British Isles and sometimes settling down, the various tribes of Travellers have provided metal goods, horses, music, and entertainment to British and Irish markets for centuries, but have become the flashpoint of political fury and even of violence in the twenty-first century.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Doorways in Time: The Great Archaeological Finds #1: The Sutton Hoo Treasure

Quick Sample:

Why was the excavation depicted in Netflix's "The Dig" the most important archaeological discovery ever made in Britain, or arguably in all of Europe? How did some artifacts found in a mound near an English widow's garden in Suffolk on the eve of World War II revolutionize our understanding of the Dark Age? Why would they come to serve as symbols of the ancient roots of the English nation, and how did Sutton Hoo vindicate the new science of archaeology? The story that Netflix did not tell you.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Myth of the Month 2: The Exodus

Quick Sample:

We examine the origins and the political and theological meanings of the myth of the Israelites' exodus from Egypt. We consider the possible real historical events that might underly the exodus story, including the argument put forward in Richard Elliot Friedman's new book, The Exodus. Finally, we trace some of the many ways that peoples around the world, from the early Christians to Rastafaris, have adopted the exodus myth and cast themselves as the new Israelites.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Myth of the Month 20: Conspiracy Theories

Quick Sample:

Unlocked after one year for patrons only: Where do conspiracy theories come from? Why do people believe them? What do they mean? Did the CIA drug people with LSD against their will? Is Queen Elizabeth a reptilian? We consider the merits and pitfalls of conspiracy theories, trace the history and evolution of the conspiratorial tradition from rumors about lepers in the 1300s to Alex Jones and Q-Anon, and examine the biases and double standards built into the very concept of "conspiracy theories." This is it: the most thorough, fair, and impartial examination of conspiracy theories that you will ever find anywhere.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Myth of the Month 5: Capitalism

Quick Sample:

There is no such thing as capitalism. With debates over the relative meanings and merits of socialism and capitalism currently flaring up in the United States, we examine why "capitalism" is an undefinable and meaningless concept, and how it came nevertheless to hold a mythic and almost magical power over the minds of academics and ordinary citizens alike.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Back to the Dark Age - How People Adapted to the Fall of the Roman Empire

Quick Sample:

What did people do when the Roman empire fall apart around them? Recent scholarship, based on new archeological discoveries and techniques, argues that in the "dark" centuries between 450 and 750 AD, the people of western Europe, from conquering kings to ordinary peasants, improvised new political alliances, maintained law and order, improved the productivity of their land, and invented new crafts and art forms, building a resilient and inventive society on the foundations (often literally) of the old.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

The Middle Ages: History of Universities, Part 1 - Flower of the Middle Ages

Quick Sample:

Universities are unique -- a quintessential product of the High Middle Ages that has miraculously survived and even flourished in the modern world. In the first part of the history of universities, we examine the origins of the first universities in the power struggles of Popes and emperors; the ways that medieval students learned, lived, and annoyed their elders; and the ways that universities adapted to and withstood serious challenges from Renaissance humanism and the republic of letters. Next will be the rise of universities in America, the modern research university, and the current crisis of academia.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Becoming Modern: Columbus - The Tragedy and the Enigma

Quick Sample:

We examine the enigmatic and elusive figure of Columbus, from his likely Jewish background, to his bizarre and hairbrained scheme of sailing to Asia, his brutal and chaotic invasion of the West Indies, his struggle to defend his honors and titles, and finally his apocalyptic vision of his own role in the End Times. We consider how Columbus, a fairly obscure and rejected figure after his death, came to be held up as a symbol of both the best and the worst of the American psyche.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Myth of the Month 1: The Enlightenment

Myth of the Month 1: The Enlightenment
Currently available to Patrons only, on the Patreon App and website: What do I get as a supporter?
I'm already a supporter
Quick Sample:

There was no Enlightenment. Steven Pinker's new book, "Enlightenment Now," is a classic re-statement of the myth of the Enlightenment which holds that in the 1600s and 1700s, Europeans threw off the tired dogmas of the Middle Ages and embraced a new philosophy of Reason, Progress, Science, and Humanism. In fact, the 1700s were a period of confusion, with no clear unifying ideas or trends: occultism, mysticism, and absolute monarchy flourished alongside experiments in democracy and chemistry. "The Enlightenment" forms one of the central pillars of Whig history, serving to re-affirm the notion that our present-day beliefs and values are rational and coherent.

Listen on Patreon Full Episode Details

Also see:

Myth of the Month 10: Who Was Shakespeare? - pt. 1: The Monument and the Man

Quick Sample:

Who was William Shakespeare? He is far more elusive, and his life more obscure, than his fans and biographers will admit. We consider the massive, bloated mythology that has built up around the great Bard over the centuries, and then examine the remarkably scant surviving documentary records from the writer's own lifetime, which tend to paint a both bizarre and unflattering picture. The first of three installments examining the reality of Shakespeare.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Unlocked: Myth of the Month 10, pt. 4: the Shakespeare Authorship Controversy

Quick Sample:

Unlocked for the public, after one year for patrons only, the final lecture of the series on Shakespeare: Could it be that "Shakespeare" wasn't Shakespeare? -- That someone else, perhaps a highly-educated aristocrat, actually wrote the works attributed to the actor from Stratford? Am I a crackpot for even entertaining such a ridiculous idea? We consider the evidence. I know this is an absurdly long one, but forgive me, it was so much fun to research and record.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Becoming Modern: Witchcraft and the Great Witch-Hunt, 1484-1700

Quick Sample:

We trace the roots of the idea of witchcraft in the "cunning folk" of the Middle Ages. We consider how the church and state began to fuel fear of witchcraft and persecute witches in the tens of thousands during the age of the Renaissance and the Reformation. We consider theories of why witch-hunting arose so dramatically in this age, including economic strain and political agendas. Finally, we examine evidence for an enduring shamanic belief system centering on ecstatic night journeys that may have provided the inspiration for the mythical witches' sabbath.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Becoming Modern: Age of Ice and Fire: The General Crisis Of The Seventeenth Century

Quick Sample:

We trace the waves of crop failure, famine, pestilence, and war that swept over Europe in the 1600s as the climate sunk into a "Little Ice Age" and armies literally marched across frozen seas. In the midst of unimaginable crisis, alchemists, astrologers, and apocalypticists scoured the Bible for prophecies to explain the disasters around them as part of the approaching End Times. Many of the defining institutions of the modern world we know today - such as overseas colonization, investor-owned corporations, public education, religious toleration, and scientific academies - have their origins as attempts to cope with the crisis of the seventeenth century and prepare the way for the Second Coming.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Unlocked: Myth of the Month 14: Astrology

Quick Sample:

Released to the public after one year for patrons only: Why do we divide history into epochs separated by "revolutions"? Astrology. How did Magellan chart his course around the globe? Astrology. How did Ronald Reagan schedule his acts of state? Astrology. We trace how the highest of the occult arts evolved from interpreting omens in ancient Babylonia, to containing medieval epidemics, to providing fodder for middle-brow magazines. Whether you are a believer or not, is the secret rhythm of our lives.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Fortresses on Sand: The History of Florida - pt. 1

Quick Sample:

We discuss the complex and multilayered history of Florida, beginning with the prehistoric peoples that survived in and mastered the tropical landscape, built monumental mound complexes, and formed powerful kingdoms that would eventually confront the first European invaders.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

In Search of the Dawn: Human Prehistory

Quick Sample:

Most of the human story is so-called "pre-history," which in fact is inseparable from history and still going on today. We trace the origins of the human species around 300,000 years ago in Africa, including our early adaptation into long-distance hunters. We examine our long and awkward co-existence with other human-like species such as Neanderthals and Ebu Gogo, as well as our slow development of critical technologies like sewing and pottery that allowed us to out-compete them. We trace the dangerous and improbable journey across sea channels and deserts that a small band of our distant ancestors had to make in order to populate the entire world beyond Africa. Finally, we consider the mysterious roots of the technology that eventually allowed for the rise of urban civilization -- agriculture.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Myth of the Month 17: Anglo-Saxonism

Quick Sample:

Who the heck are the "Anglo-Saxons," and why are Americans getting all lathered up about "Anglo-Saxon institutions"? Find out where the Anglo-Saxon myth came from and how over the past three hundred years it's been used to justify Parliamentary supremacy, the Rhodes Scholarship, the American entry into World War I, immigration restrictions, and college admission quotas. You never knew you were suffering under the Norman yoke, but now you do.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Myth of the Month 9: The US Constitution and the Origins of the Senate and Electoral College

Quick Sample:

Why does our government work the way it does? Is it supposed to represents citizens, or states? We consider the origins of the U. S. Constitution, particularly the creation of the controversial bodies (Senate and Electoral College) that represent the public in skewed and disproportionate ways. We dispel the false notion that these bodies were created in order to protect small states, tracing instead the Framers' quest to tamp down the "excess of democracy" of the 1780s, wrest control over monetary policy away from the poor majority, and strike a careful balance between slave and non-slave states.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

History as it Happens: Notre Dame and the Nine Lives of Gothic Cathedrals

Quick Sample:

We put the disastrous fire at Notre Dame de Paris into historical perspective -- by considering the history of Gothic cathedrals, their cosmic religious meanings, and their remarkably powerful and mysterious construction. How did medieval builders create these massive, complex structures without steel, steam power, electricity, or even written plans? We also follow the tumultuous experiences of Notre Dame itself, the social and symbolic center of Paris--from religious riots and Revolutionary iconoclasm to malign neglect and controversial restorations. Finally, we consider the resilience of Gothic buildings through fire, lightning, earthquake, war, and revolution, and ask what other important monuments or community buildings we should support in our own communities.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Myth of the Month 18: Robin Hood -- pt. 1: The Master of the Forest

Quick Sample:

In the first installment on the Robin Hood mythos, we consider how the legend of Robin Hood has evolved from a series of brutal tales of a medieval outlaw bandit in the fifteenth century to that of the swashbuckling champion of the poor of modern pop culture, and how he picked up sidekicks like Friar Tuck and Maid Marion along the way; we consider the literary significance of the early stories as as an expression of the frustrations and aspirations of the yeoman class.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

The Middle Ages: Freemasonry - Its Origins, Its Myths, and Its Rituals

Freemasonry: What is it? Where does it come from? What is one taught as a Freemason? What do they do in their closed-door rituals -- and why? Freemasonry in the 1700s is my own field of research, and as a thank-you for reaching 50 patrons, I give a deep illumination of this unusual Society's roots in the gatherings of stonemasons in the late Middle Ages, its mythical connections to Solomon's Temple and the Crusades, and its elaborate system of symbols and initiatory rituals, which cast the Masons as a quasi-priestly caste with a shamanic connection to the world of the dead.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Middle Ages 1: Exploding the Myth of the Middle Ages

Quick Sample:

In Dr. Sam's first lecture on the Middle Ages, we start by clearing out the junk, such as the notions that medievals smelled bad and hunted witches, and then look into the mystical and apocalyptic roots of the idea of the "middle age."

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Becoming Modern: Scientific Revolution, Part 1 -- Alchemy and Apocalypse, 1500-1660

Quick Sample:

We unearth the tangled roots of the earliest forms of modern science, beginning with the radical alchemical theories of the rabble-rousing healer called Paracelsus, and running through the heated debates over Galileo's astronomy, which broke down the distinction between the earth and the heavens. Due to these shocks, the old teleological, or purpose-driven, scheme of the world broke down, giving way to a free-for-all of speculation and apocalyptic excitement.We question the historical meaning of the concept of "science," and consider how modern-day pop scientists like Neil DeGrasse Tyson portray the past selectively in order to build the myth of reason and science as beacons of light amidst superstition.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Becoming Modern: Spanish and Portuguese Expansion and the Conquest of the Americas

We trace how Portugal and Spain, two previously marginal European kingdoms, rapidly and unexpectedly exploded onto the world scene, building a chain of fortified colonies stretching from North Africa to China, and conquering the larger and richer empires of Mexico and Peru. The early Iberian colonizers sought to continue the tradition of the Crusades and the Reconquista, and saw their foreign conquests as steps towards retaking Jerusalem; the benefited not only from superior weaponry and navigation, but from cataclysmic disease epidemics that brought the Pre-Columbian empires to their knees.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Roots of Religion: Islam 1 - Muhammad, the first Caliphate, and the core teachings

We trace the shocking and rapid rise of Islam in the 600s, as a confederation of desert towns and tribes unite around Muhammad and his prophesies from the Abrahamic god, then swiftly launch a stunning campaign of conquests against the major empires of the age. We consider the roots of the basic teachings and practices of the new religion, including the Qur'an, the hadiths, the Five Pillars, jihad, shariah, the divide between Sunni and Shiah, and Islamic laws regarding the status of women and of Jews and Christians or "people of the Book."

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Land of Vital Blood: Pre-Columbian America

Land of Vital Blood: Pre-Columbian America
Currently available to Patrons only, on the Patreon App and website: What do I get as a supporter?
I'm already a supporter
Quick Sample:

The Americas before Columbus were not an idyll frozen in time. They were a world of struggle and ambition, with a history just as complex and tumultuous as Europe's. We trace how hunting-gathering peoples invented agriculture and built cities and empires that rose and fell across the centuries, all depending on human power, without the benefit of pack animals. We consider the shared norms and practices that seem to unite the diverse and far-flung peoples of the Americas, such as intensive multi-crop agriculture, fascination with astronomy and the calendar, and a highly formalized diplomatic language governing war and peace.

Listen on Patreon Full Episode Details

Also see:

The Middle Ages: The Jews of Europe, from the Middle Ages to the French Revolution

The Middle Ages: The Jews of Europe, from the Middle Ages to the French Revolution
Currently available to Patrons only, on the Patreon App and website: What do I get as a supporter?
I'm already a supporter
Quick Sample:

We trace the winding paths by which Jews, after the diaspora, sought out social and economic niches in which they were able to survive within European Christian society. We uncover the origins of the two main Jewish groups in Europe -- the Sephardic and Ashkenazi -- and consider how they adapted to changing conditions, including the increasing assimilation of German Jews in the 1700s, which led on the one hand to the beginnings of Jewish reform and on the other to the appearance of Hasidism, a mystical renewal movement. Most importantly, we consider the deep and long-denied influence of the messianic fervor that swept over Europe in the 1660s surrounding the mercurial and mischievous Greek rabbi, Sabbatai Zvi.

Listen on Patreon Full Episode Details
Also see all 7 episodes On Judaism and Jewish History

Roots of Religion: Who Wrote the Bible? - Hebrew Scriptures

Quick Sample:

We dissect the origins of the Hebrew Bible (also called the Old Testament by Christians), excavating the deepest layers of the collection of holy books, including the very ancient songs and prayers that were likely passed on orally for centuries before being written down, the scholarly theories of the lost documents that were stitched together to form Genesis and Exodus, and the differing points of view of the various prophets, scribes, and propagandists whose books made their way into the Hebrew canon...

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Roots of Religion: Judaism - What Is It and Where Did It Come From?

Quick Sample:

We consider how best to understand the origins of the laws and customs of the Jewish people, or what we call "Judaism." We begin by dispelling the notion that Judaism (or any other belief system apart from Christianity) can properly be called a "religion" -- a category that derives originally from Christian practice and does not make sense anywhere else. We further examine the roots of the idea of "Judaism" as a concept for the Jewish way of life, concluding with a careful analysis of the meaning of the ancient Greek word "ioudaismos," which originates in the Book of Maccabees. Finally, we trace the best possible explanation for the origins of the Jewish people in the Bronze-Age Near East, using archaeological evidence including an ancient Egyptian monument and the vandalized ruins of Canaanite temples. Ultimately, we should be able to understand Judaism and its God as the creations of a particular Middle Eastern people not entirely unlike their ancient neighbors.

Special thanks to Daniel Boyarin for his help and inspiration.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Taking Stock of Money in Politics: The Powell Memo Fifty Years Later

At a time of intensifying hope and anxiety over the direction of the Supreme Court, we take stock of how the lawmaking process and the judiciary have changed over the past fifty years with the mobilization and funneling of large amounts of money into the political realm; we focus especially on the little-known but pivotal "Powell Memo" of 1971, in which a lawyer for the Tobacco Institute decried the rising tide of attacks on the "free enterprise system" and proposed a coordinated counter-offensive by the business class that sounds uncannily close to our present reality. The Powell Memo forms a critical moment for understanding the intense politicization of judicial appointments, the ubiquity of paid political advertising on the airwaves and in print, and ironically, the rise of a new "anti-capitalist" radicalism.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

History of the United States in 100 Objects # 4: The Maine Norse Coin

Quick Sample:

After one year, my lecture on the only authentic pre-Columbian European artifact ever found in the United States becomes public.

Created in Norway, 1069-1080 AD, during reign of King Olaf Kyrre
--Made of silver alloy
--Found at Goddard Site, Naskeag Point, Maine, dated 1100s-1200s AD

The only authentic Norse artifact ever found in the United States, this small silver coin dated to the 11th century may be an elaborate hoax, or a crucial clue to trade and contact between Europe and America in the centuries between the fall of Vinland and the arrival of Columbus.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

History of the Roma ("Gypsies"), part 1 -- From Ancient Origins to the Eighteenth Century

Quick Sample:

Who are the Roma -- also colloquially called "Gypsies"? Where did they come from, and how did they end up all over Europe? How have they endured through persecution, expulsions, and political upheaval, without a state or country of their own? We trace the path of this remarkable and resilient people from their mysterious origins in India to their arrival in Constantinople and medieval Europe and through the wave of persecution and ethnic cleansing in the 1600s.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Becoming Modern: The Print and Gunpowder Revolutions, 1300-1700

The early modern era - from the 1400s through the 1700s - is the monarchical age par excellence, with royal courts presiding over consolidated realms and monstrous armies capable of crushing smaller neighbors and internal rivals. The map of Europe transformed, and the reasons were, firstly, technological: the printing press broke through previous barriers to the creation of texts, allowing for the rapid spread of new ideas and propaganda, while new infantry tactics and gunpowder allowed royal governments to batter down the power of mounted knights and castles. Society became ever more centered on royal power and patronage, leaving behind a vestigial nobility to seek out a new role in the world or give way to nostalgia, as dramatized in the first great psychological novel, Don Quixote. We conclude by considering Cervantes' novel as a touchstone of the shift from the medieval world, where reality is defined by social relationships, to the modern, where reality is defined by the senses.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Roots of Religion: The Historical Jesus

We join in the ongoing quest for the historical Jesus -- the struggle to unearth and understand who Jesus really was, what he said and did, and how he inspired a movement. We trace the basic bare-bones facts that can be deduced from early Christian writings and brief references in other texts, including Jesus' baptism and crucifixion. We throw out the flimsy theories of hacks like Reza Aslan and Bill O'Reilly, as well as the junk theory that no Jesus existed at all, and instead examine the new archeological evidence that helps to account for some of the strangest passages in the Gospels.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Unlocked: Doorways in Time: The Great Archaeological Discoveries #4: The Library of Ashurbanipal

Quick Sample:

One moonlit night in 1853, an Iraqi excavator named Hormuzd Rassam and his team snuck into the hills outside of Mosul and began to uncover the massive palace of the last ancient Assyrian emperor, Ashurbanipal. Inside the palace was the largest trove of surviving documents from the ancient world that has ever been found. The massive library of over 30,000 tablets illuminated what had been the most mysterious empire of the Iron Age, brought to light the ancient masterpiece of the Epic of Gilgamesh, and provided the first window into the lost Near Eastern mythology that influenced the Biblical book of Genesis. While the discovery provided the greatest triumph of British imperial antiquarianism, in recent times Saddam Hussein and other Arab nationalists have attempted to reclaim its legacy by building a modern Library of Ashurbanipal.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

The Myths We Make: Using the past as an ideological tool

Quick Sample:

All of history is, to one degree or another, mythology -- the weaving of a coherent, usable narrative out of the chaos of people's lives. We consider how societies all over the world, since before the beginning of civilization, have developed myths to explain the world that they experience. We also trace some of the major schools of academic history, which have tried to fashion overarching storylines to give meaning to human struggles -- from Biblical providential history to Marxism to postmodernism. We begin by examining the most central myth of the origins of American society: the "first Thanksgiving."

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Roots of Religion: Who Wrote the Bible? - New Testament

Roots of Religion: Who Wrote the Bible? - New Testament
Currently available to Patrons only, on the Patreon App and website: What do I get as a supporter?
I'm already a supporter
Quick Sample:

We consider the long ideological struggles in the early church that led to the gradual collection of a canon of Christian writings that we now call the New Testament. We trace when, where, and why the various gospels and letters in the New Testament were written (hint: Matthew was not the first, not even close) and how they present different theological views. All in all, though, the New Testament writings were created to respond to the dilemma that as the years dragged on and Jesus' disciples died off, the Second Coming that early Christians anticipated simply wasn't happening.

Listen on Patreon Full Episode Details

Blood and Oil: The History of Tulsa

Quick Sample:

America marked this year the 100th anniversary of the race massacre that destroyed the Greenwood district of Tulsa, the so-called "Black Wall Street," but left out of the commemorations were the contexts that led to the outbreak of civil violence: the town's Indian origins in the Trail of Tears; the massive cattle and oil booms that gave rise to a powerful and organized class of business magnates; the city's chaotic and crime-ridden expansion, which fueled vigilantism, including lynchings of both white and black victims; and the patriotic frenzy of the First World War and the Red Scare, with its hysterical fear of Bolshevism and revolution. Finally, we consider the recovery of Tulsa from the shocks of the 1921 massacre, the Klan's reign of terror, and the Depression, after which it has evolved into a comparatively liberal cultural capital amidst the conservative Plains Midwest. Tulsa is an extreme example in miniature of America's tumultuous and confused rise to industrial power.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Becoming Modern: Scientific Revolution, Part 2 -- The New Powers, 1660-1800

How did the Restoration of the English monarchy and the dawn of empire set the stage for the peculiar set of practices and assumptions that we now call "science," and how did they begin to unlock powerful secrets of the earth, the heavens, fire, and steam? And why did John Locke kind of secretly hate Isaac Newton? Image: "An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump," by Joseph Wright, 1768How did the Restoration of the English monarchy and the dawn of empire set the stage for the peculiar set of practices and assumptions that we now call "science," and how did they begin to unlock powerful secrets of the earth, the heavens, fire, and steam? And why did John Locke kind of secretly hate Isaac Newton?

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

History of the United States in 100 Objects #18: Jesuit Brass Medallion with Image of Ignatius Loyola

Quick Sample:

Unlocked after one year for Patrons only:
--Made of brass, most likely in France, ca. 1720-1750
--1 inch long, with depictions of St. Ignatius Loyola & Saint Mary with Latin inscriptions
--Found in ruins of Fort Michilimackinac; in collection of Mackinac State Historic Parks, Michigan

A small brass religious medallion found in the house of a French fur trader inside a fortress on the remote Straits of Mackinac shows the immense power of small numbers of merchants and missionaries to control sprawling networks of diplomacy and trade, stretching from Europe all the way into the deep interior of North America, and to sway the course of wars and imperial power struggles.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

The Vikings, pt. 1 - In the Norsemen's World

Quick Sample:

Unlocked after one year for patrons only: We have all seen images of axe-wielding Vikings raining destruction upon the shores of medieval Europe -- but who were these berserking Norsemen and where did they come from? What society produced them? How did the Scandinavians of the Viking age understand the world and their place in it? We examine the Norsemen's complex and mysterious cosmos described in the poems and prophesies of the Eddas, and compare it to the realities of survival, trade, kingship, politics, warfare, art, gender, and the family in Scandinavia from the eight to eleventh centuries, as reconstructed from surviving documents and the latest archaeology.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Myth of the Month 19: The Holy Grail - pt. 1

Quick Sample:

Why did an enigmatic relic discussed in a series of medieval romances of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table leap out of the Arthurian myths and rise to become the most famous object in the history of literature? What does the vessel represent spiritually, morally, and sexually? And what the heck is a "grail" anyway? We begin by examining the medieval legends and what they say about the origin, nature, and miraculous powers of the sought-after holy relic.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Myth of the Month 16: "The Founding Fathers"

Quick Sample:

Released to the public after one year for patrons only:

The "Founding Fathers" -- the most rarefied club in American history -- stand in for everything we love or hate about this country, from its civic an religious freedom to its white supremacism. As if carved in stone (which they oftentimes are), they loom over every political debate, even though most of us know next to nothing about them, or even who counts as one of the group. Coined by that immortal wordsmith, President Warren Harding, the phrase "Founding Fathers" serves as an empty vessel for civic emotion, conveniently covering over the actual history of struggle, conflict, and contention that shaped the American republic.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

History of the British and Irish Travellers

Quick Sample:

Travellers, Tinkers, Gypsies, Kale, Scottish Travellers, Gypsy Travellers, Romani Gypsies, Romanichal, Pavee, Showmen, Van People, Boat People, Bargers - All of these multivarious peoples, with different ancestries, religions, and traditions, their different languages, dialects, and "cants," share in common a longstanding itinerant lifestyle and the distinct identity that stems from it. Roving all around the British Isles and sometimes settling down, the various tribes of Travellers have provided metal goods, horses, music, and entertainment to British and Irish markets for centuries, but have become the flashpoint of political fury and even of violence in the twenty-first century.

Listen on SoundCloud

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Doorways in Time: The Great Archaeological Finds #1: The Sutton Hoo Treasure

Quick Sample:

Why was the excavation depicted in Netflix's "The Dig" the most important archaeological discovery ever made in Britain, or arguably in all of Europe? How did some artifacts found in a mound near an English widow's garden in Suffolk on the eve of World War II revolutionize our understanding of the Dark Age? Why would they come to serve as symbols of the ancient roots of the English nation, and how did Sutton Hoo vindicate the new science of archaeology? The story that Netflix did not tell you.

Listen on SoundCloud

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Myth of the Month 2: The Exodus

Quick Sample:

We examine the origins and the political and theological meanings of the myth of the Israelites' exodus from Egypt. We consider the possible real historical events that might underly the exodus story, including the argument put forward in Richard Elliot Friedman's new book, The Exodus. Finally, we trace some of the many ways that peoples around the world, from the early Christians to Rastafaris, have adopted the exodus myth and cast themselves as the new Israelites.

Listen on SoundCloud

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Myth of the Month 20: Conspiracy Theories

Quick Sample:

Unlocked after one year for patrons only: Where do conspiracy theories come from? Why do people believe them? What do they mean? Did the CIA drug people with LSD against their will? Is Queen Elizabeth a reptilian? We consider the merits and pitfalls of conspiracy theories, trace the history and evolution of the conspiratorial tradition from rumors about lepers in the 1300s to Alex Jones and Q-Anon, and examine the biases and double standards built into the very concept of "conspiracy theories." This is it: the most thorough, fair, and impartial examination of conspiracy theories that you will ever find anywhere.

Listen on SoundCloud

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Myth of the Month 5: Capitalism

Quick Sample:

There is no such thing as capitalism. With debates over the relative meanings and merits of socialism and capitalism currently flaring up in the United States, we examine why "capitalism" is an undefinable and meaningless concept, and how it came nevertheless to hold a mythic and almost magical power over the minds of academics and ordinary citizens alike.

Listen on SoundCloud

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Back to the Dark Age - How People Adapted to the Fall of the Roman Empire

Quick Sample:

What did people do when the Roman empire fall apart around them? Recent scholarship, based on new archeological discoveries and techniques, argues that in the "dark" centuries between 450 and 750 AD, the people of western Europe, from conquering kings to ordinary peasants, improvised new political alliances, maintained law and order, improved the productivity of their land, and invented new crafts and art forms, building a resilient and inventive society on the foundations (often literally) of the old.

Listen on SoundCloud

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

The Middle Ages: History of Universities, Part 1 - Flower of the Middle Ages

Quick Sample:

Universities are unique -- a quintessential product of the High Middle Ages that has miraculously survived and even flourished in the modern world. In the first part of the history of universities, we examine the origins of the first universities in the power struggles of Popes and emperors; the ways that medieval students learned, lived, and annoyed their elders; and the ways that universities adapted to and withstood serious challenges from Renaissance humanism and the republic of letters. Next will be the rise of universities in America, the modern research university, and the current crisis of academia.

Listen on SoundCloud

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Becoming Modern: Columbus - The Tragedy and the Enigma

Quick Sample:

We examine the enigmatic and elusive figure of Columbus, from his likely Jewish background, to his bizarre and hairbrained scheme of sailing to Asia, his brutal and chaotic invasion of the West Indies, his struggle to defend his honors and titles, and finally his apocalyptic vision of his own role in the End Times. We consider how Columbus, a fairly obscure and rejected figure after his death, came to be held up as a symbol of both the best and the worst of the American psyche.

Listen on SoundCloud

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Myth of the Month 1: The Enlightenment

Myth of the Month 1: The Enlightenment
Currently available to Patrons only, on the Patreon App and website: What do I get as a supporter?
I'm already a supporter
Quick Sample:

There was no Enlightenment. Steven Pinker's new book, "Enlightenment Now," is a classic re-statement of the myth of the Enlightenment which holds that in the 1600s and 1700s, Europeans threw off the tired dogmas of the Middle Ages and embraced a new philosophy of Reason, Progress, Science, and Humanism. In fact, the 1700s were a period of confusion, with no clear unifying ideas or trends: occultism, mysticism, and absolute monarchy flourished alongside experiments in democracy and chemistry. "The Enlightenment" forms one of the central pillars of Whig history, serving to re-affirm the notion that our present-day beliefs and values are rational and coherent.

Listen on Patreon Full Episode Details

Also see:

Myth of the Month 10: Who Was Shakespeare? - pt. 1: The Monument and the Man

Quick Sample:

Who was William Shakespeare? He is far more elusive, and his life more obscure, than his fans and biographers will admit. We consider the massive, bloated mythology that has built up around the great Bard over the centuries, and then examine the remarkably scant surviving documentary records from the writer's own lifetime, which tend to paint a both bizarre and unflattering picture. The first of three installments examining the reality of Shakespeare.

Listen on SoundCloud

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Unlocked: Myth of the Month 10, pt. 4: the Shakespeare Authorship Controversy

Quick Sample:

Unlocked for the public, after one year for patrons only, the final lecture of the series on Shakespeare: Could it be that "Shakespeare" wasn't Shakespeare? -- That someone else, perhaps a highly-educated aristocrat, actually wrote the works attributed to the actor from Stratford? Am I a crackpot for even entertaining such a ridiculous idea? We consider the evidence. I know this is an absurdly long one, but forgive me, it was so much fun to research and record.

Listen on SoundCloud

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Becoming Modern: Witchcraft and the Great Witch-Hunt, 1484-1700

Quick Sample:

We trace the roots of the idea of witchcraft in the "cunning folk" of the Middle Ages. We consider how the church and state began to fuel fear of witchcraft and persecute witches in the tens of thousands during the age of the Renaissance and the Reformation. We consider theories of why witch-hunting arose so dramatically in this age, including economic strain and political agendas. Finally, we examine evidence for an enduring shamanic belief system centering on ecstatic night journeys that may have provided the inspiration for the mythical witches' sabbath.

Listen on SoundCloud

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Becoming Modern: Age of Ice and Fire: The General Crisis Of The Seventeenth Century

Quick Sample:

We trace the waves of crop failure, famine, pestilence, and war that swept over Europe in the 1600s as the climate sunk into a "Little Ice Age" and armies literally marched across frozen seas. In the midst of unimaginable crisis, alchemists, astrologers, and apocalypticists scoured the Bible for prophecies to explain the disasters around them as part of the approaching End Times. Many of the defining institutions of the modern world we know today - such as overseas colonization, investor-owned corporations, public education, religious toleration, and scientific academies - have their origins as attempts to cope with the crisis of the seventeenth century and prepare the way for the Second Coming.

Listen on SoundCloud

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Unlocked: Myth of the Month 14: Astrology

Quick Sample:

Released to the public after one year for patrons only: Why do we divide history into epochs separated by "revolutions"? Astrology. How did Magellan chart his course around the globe? Astrology. How did Ronald Reagan schedule his acts of state? Astrology. We trace how the highest of the occult arts evolved from interpreting omens in ancient Babylonia, to containing medieval epidemics, to providing fodder for middle-brow magazines. Whether you are a believer or not, is the secret rhythm of our lives.

Listen on SoundCloud

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Fortresses on Sand: The History of Florida - pt. 1

Quick Sample:

We discuss the complex and multilayered history of Florida, beginning with the prehistoric peoples that survived in and mastered the tropical landscape, built monumental mound complexes, and formed powerful kingdoms that would eventually confront the first European invaders.

Listen on SoundCloud

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

In Search of the Dawn: Human Prehistory

Quick Sample:

Most of the human story is so-called "pre-history," which in fact is inseparable from history and still going on today. We trace the origins of the human species around 300,000 years ago in Africa, including our early adaptation into long-distance hunters. We examine our long and awkward co-existence with other human-like species such as Neanderthals and Ebu Gogo, as well as our slow development of critical technologies like sewing and pottery that allowed us to out-compete them. We trace the dangerous and improbable journey across sea channels and deserts that a small band of our distant ancestors had to make in order to populate the entire world beyond Africa. Finally, we consider the mysterious roots of the technology that eventually allowed for the rise of urban civilization -- agriculture.

Listen on SoundCloud

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Myth of the Month 17: Anglo-Saxonism

Quick Sample:

Who the heck are the "Anglo-Saxons," and why are Americans getting all lathered up about "Anglo-Saxon institutions"? Find out where the Anglo-Saxon myth came from and how over the past three hundred years it's been used to justify Parliamentary supremacy, the Rhodes Scholarship, the American entry into World War I, immigration restrictions, and college admission quotas. You never knew you were suffering under the Norman yoke, but now you do.

Listen on SoundCloud

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Myth of the Month 9: The US Constitution and the Origins of the Senate and Electoral College

Quick Sample:

Why does our government work the way it does? Is it supposed to represents citizens, or states? We consider the origins of the U. S. Constitution, particularly the creation of the controversial bodies (Senate and Electoral College) that represent the public in skewed and disproportionate ways. We dispel the false notion that these bodies were created in order to protect small states, tracing instead the Framers' quest to tamp down the "excess of democracy" of the 1780s, wrest control over monetary policy away from the poor majority, and strike a careful balance between slave and non-slave states.

Listen on SoundCloud

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

History as it Happens: Notre Dame and the Nine Lives of Gothic Cathedrals

Quick Sample:

We put the disastrous fire at Notre Dame de Paris into historical perspective -- by considering the history of Gothic cathedrals, their cosmic religious meanings, and their remarkably powerful and mysterious construction. How did medieval builders create these massive, complex structures without steel, steam power, electricity, or even written plans? We also follow the tumultuous experiences of Notre Dame itself, the social and symbolic center of Paris--from religious riots and Revolutionary iconoclasm to malign neglect and controversial restorations. Finally, we consider the resilience of Gothic buildings through fire, lightning, earthquake, war, and revolution, and ask what other important monuments or community buildings we should support in our own communities.

Listen on SoundCloud

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Myth of the Month 18: Robin Hood -- pt. 1: The Master of the Forest

Quick Sample:

In the first installment on the Robin Hood mythos, we consider how the legend of Robin Hood has evolved from a series of brutal tales of a medieval outlaw bandit in the fifteenth century to that of the swashbuckling champion of the poor of modern pop culture, and how he picked up sidekicks like Friar Tuck and Maid Marion along the way; we consider the literary significance of the early stories as as an expression of the frustrations and aspirations of the yeoman class.

Listen on SoundCloud

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

The Middle Ages: Freemasonry - Its Origins, Its Myths, and Its Rituals

Freemasonry: What is it? Where does it come from? What is one taught as a Freemason? What do they do in their closed-door rituals -- and why? Freemasonry in the 1700s is my own field of research, and as a thank-you for reaching 50 patrons, I give a deep illumination of this unusual Society's roots in the gatherings of stonemasons in the late Middle Ages, its mythical connections to Solomon's Temple and the Crusades, and its elaborate system of symbols and initiatory rituals, which cast the Masons as a quasi-priestly caste with a shamanic connection to the world of the dead.

Listen on SoundCloud

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Middle Ages 1: Exploding the Myth of the Middle Ages

Quick Sample:

In Dr. Sam's first lecture on the Middle Ages, we start by clearing out the junk, such as the notions that medievals smelled bad and hunted witches, and then look into the mystical and apocalyptic roots of the idea of the "middle age."

Listen on SoundCloud

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Becoming Modern: Scientific Revolution, Part 1 -- Alchemy and Apocalypse, 1500-1660

Quick Sample:

We unearth the tangled roots of the earliest forms of modern science, beginning with the radical alchemical theories of the rabble-rousing healer called Paracelsus, and running through the heated debates over Galileo's astronomy, which broke down the distinction between the earth and the heavens. Due to these shocks, the old teleological, or purpose-driven, scheme of the world broke down, giving way to a free-for-all of speculation and apocalyptic excitement.We question the historical meaning of the concept of "science," and consider how modern-day pop scientists like Neil DeGrasse Tyson portray the past selectively in order to build the myth of reason and science as beacons of light amidst superstition.

Listen on SoundCloud

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Becoming Modern: Spanish and Portuguese Expansion and the Conquest of the Americas

We trace how Portugal and Spain, two previously marginal European kingdoms, rapidly and unexpectedly exploded onto the world scene, building a chain of fortified colonies stretching from North Africa to China, and conquering the larger and richer empires of Mexico and Peru. The early Iberian colonizers sought to continue the tradition of the Crusades and the Reconquista, and saw their foreign conquests as steps towards retaking Jerusalem; the benefited not only from superior weaponry and navigation, but from cataclysmic disease epidemics that brought the Pre-Columbian empires to their knees.

Listen on SoundCloud

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Roots of Religion: Islam 1 - Muhammad, the first Caliphate, and the core teachings

We trace the shocking and rapid rise of Islam in the 600s, as a confederation of desert towns and tribes unite around Muhammad and his prophesies from the Abrahamic god, then swiftly launch a stunning campaign of conquests against the major empires of the age. We consider the roots of the basic teachings and practices of the new religion, including the Qur'an, the hadiths, the Five Pillars, jihad, shariah, the divide between Sunni and Shiah, and Islamic laws regarding the status of women and of Jews and Christians or "people of the Book."

Listen on SoundCloud

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Land of Vital Blood: Pre-Columbian America

Land of Vital Blood: Pre-Columbian America
Currently available to Patrons only, on the Patreon App and website: What do I get as a supporter?
I'm already a supporter
Quick Sample:

The Americas before Columbus were not an idyll frozen in time. They were a world of struggle and ambition, with a history just as complex and tumultuous as Europe's. We trace how hunting-gathering peoples invented agriculture and built cities and empires that rose and fell across the centuries, all depending on human power, without the benefit of pack animals. We consider the shared norms and practices that seem to unite the diverse and far-flung peoples of the Americas, such as intensive multi-crop agriculture, fascination with astronomy and the calendar, and a highly formalized diplomatic language governing war and peace.

Listen on Patreon Full Episode Details

Also see:

The Middle Ages: The Jews of Europe, from the Middle Ages to the French Revolution

The Middle Ages: The Jews of Europe, from the Middle Ages to the French Revolution
Currently available to Patrons only, on the Patreon App and website: What do I get as a supporter?
I'm already a supporter
Quick Sample:

We trace the winding paths by which Jews, after the diaspora, sought out social and economic niches in which they were able to survive within European Christian society. We uncover the origins of the two main Jewish groups in Europe -- the Sephardic and Ashkenazi -- and consider how they adapted to changing conditions, including the increasing assimilation of German Jews in the 1700s, which led on the one hand to the beginnings of Jewish reform and on the other to the appearance of Hasidism, a mystical renewal movement. Most importantly, we consider the deep and long-denied influence of the messianic fervor that swept over Europe in the 1660s surrounding the mercurial and mischievous Greek rabbi, Sabbatai Zvi.

Listen on Patreon Full Episode Details
Also see all 7 episodes On Judaism and Jewish History

Roots of Religion: Who Wrote the Bible? - Hebrew Scriptures

Quick Sample:

We dissect the origins of the Hebrew Bible (also called the Old Testament by Christians), excavating the deepest layers of the collection of holy books, including the very ancient songs and prayers that were likely passed on orally for centuries before being written down, the scholarly theories of the lost documents that were stitched together to form Genesis and Exodus, and the differing points of view of the various prophets, scribes, and propagandists whose books made their way into the Hebrew canon...

Listen on SoundCloud

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Roots of Religion: Judaism - What Is It and Where Did It Come From?

Quick Sample:

We consider how best to understand the origins of the laws and customs of the Jewish people, or what we call "Judaism." We begin by dispelling the notion that Judaism (or any other belief system apart from Christianity) can properly be called a "religion" -- a category that derives originally from Christian practice and does not make sense anywhere else. We further examine the roots of the idea of "Judaism" as a concept for the Jewish way of life, concluding with a careful analysis of the meaning of the ancient Greek word "ioudaismos," which originates in the Book of Maccabees. Finally, we trace the best possible explanation for the origins of the Jewish people in the Bronze-Age Near East, using archaeological evidence including an ancient Egyptian monument and the vandalized ruins of Canaanite temples. Ultimately, we should be able to understand Judaism and its God as the creations of a particular Middle Eastern people not entirely unlike their ancient neighbors.

Special thanks to Daniel Boyarin for his help and inspiration.

Listen on SoundCloud

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Taking Stock of Money in Politics: The Powell Memo Fifty Years Later

At a time of intensifying hope and anxiety over the direction of the Supreme Court, we take stock of how the lawmaking process and the judiciary have changed over the past fifty years with the mobilization and funneling of large amounts of money into the political realm; we focus especially on the little-known but pivotal "Powell Memo" of 1971, in which a lawyer for the Tobacco Institute decried the rising tide of attacks on the "free enterprise system" and proposed a coordinated counter-offensive by the business class that sounds uncannily close to our present reality. The Powell Memo forms a critical moment for understanding the intense politicization of judicial appointments, the ubiquity of paid political advertising on the airwaves and in print, and ironically, the rise of a new "anti-capitalist" radicalism.

Listen on SoundCloud

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

History of the United States in 100 Objects # 4: The Maine Norse Coin

Quick Sample:

After one year, my lecture on the only authentic pre-Columbian European artifact ever found in the United States becomes public.

Created in Norway, 1069-1080 AD, during reign of King Olaf Kyrre
--Made of silver alloy
--Found at Goddard Site, Naskeag Point, Maine, dated 1100s-1200s AD

The only authentic Norse artifact ever found in the United States, this small silver coin dated to the 11th century may be an elaborate hoax, or a crucial clue to trade and contact between Europe and America in the centuries between the fall of Vinland and the arrival of Columbus.

Listen on SoundCloud

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

History of the Roma ("Gypsies"), part 1 -- From Ancient Origins to the Eighteenth Century

Quick Sample:

Who are the Roma -- also colloquially called "Gypsies"? Where did they come from, and how did they end up all over Europe? How have they endured through persecution, expulsions, and political upheaval, without a state or country of their own? We trace the path of this remarkable and resilient people from their mysterious origins in India to their arrival in Constantinople and medieval Europe and through the wave of persecution and ethnic cleansing in the 1600s.

Listen on SoundCloud

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Becoming Modern: The Print and Gunpowder Revolutions, 1300-1700

The early modern era - from the 1400s through the 1700s - is the monarchical age par excellence, with royal courts presiding over consolidated realms and monstrous armies capable of crushing smaller neighbors and internal rivals. The map of Europe transformed, and the reasons were, firstly, technological: the printing press broke through previous barriers to the creation of texts, allowing for the rapid spread of new ideas and propaganda, while new infantry tactics and gunpowder allowed royal governments to batter down the power of mounted knights and castles. Society became ever more centered on royal power and patronage, leaving behind a vestigial nobility to seek out a new role in the world or give way to nostalgia, as dramatized in the first great psychological novel, Don Quixote. We conclude by considering Cervantes' novel as a touchstone of the shift from the medieval world, where reality is defined by social relationships, to the modern, where reality is defined by the senses.

Listen on SoundCloud

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Roots of Religion: The Historical Jesus

We join in the ongoing quest for the historical Jesus -- the struggle to unearth and understand who Jesus really was, what he said and did, and how he inspired a movement. We trace the basic bare-bones facts that can be deduced from early Christian writings and brief references in other texts, including Jesus' baptism and crucifixion. We throw out the flimsy theories of hacks like Reza Aslan and Bill O'Reilly, as well as the junk theory that no Jesus existed at all, and instead examine the new archeological evidence that helps to account for some of the strangest passages in the Gospels.

Listen on SoundCloud

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Unlocked: Doorways in Time: The Great Archaeological Discoveries #4: The Library of Ashurbanipal

Quick Sample:

One moonlit night in 1853, an Iraqi excavator named Hormuzd Rassam and his team snuck into the hills outside of Mosul and began to uncover the massive palace of the last ancient Assyrian emperor, Ashurbanipal. Inside the palace was the largest trove of surviving documents from the ancient world that has ever been found. The massive library of over 30,000 tablets illuminated what had been the most mysterious empire of the Iron Age, brought to light the ancient masterpiece of the Epic of Gilgamesh, and provided the first window into the lost Near Eastern mythology that influenced the Biblical book of Genesis. While the discovery provided the greatest triumph of British imperial antiquarianism, in recent times Saddam Hussein and other Arab nationalists have attempted to reclaim its legacy by building a modern Library of Ashurbanipal.

Listen on SoundCloud

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

The Myths We Make: Using the past as an ideological tool

Quick Sample:

All of history is, to one degree or another, mythology -- the weaving of a coherent, usable narrative out of the chaos of people's lives. We consider how societies all over the world, since before the beginning of civilization, have developed myths to explain the world that they experience. We also trace some of the major schools of academic history, which have tried to fashion overarching storylines to give meaning to human struggles -- from Biblical providential history to Marxism to postmodernism. We begin by examining the most central myth of the origins of American society: the "first Thanksgiving."

Listen on SoundCloud

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Roots of Religion: Who Wrote the Bible? - New Testament

Roots of Religion: Who Wrote the Bible? - New Testament
Currently available to Patrons only, on the Patreon App and website: What do I get as a supporter?
I'm already a supporter
Quick Sample:

We consider the long ideological struggles in the early church that led to the gradual collection of a canon of Christian writings that we now call the New Testament. We trace when, where, and why the various gospels and letters in the New Testament were written (hint: Matthew was not the first, not even close) and how they present different theological views. All in all, though, the New Testament writings were created to respond to the dilemma that as the years dragged on and Jesus' disciples died off, the Second Coming that early Christians anticipated simply wasn't happening.

Listen on Patreon Full Episode Details

Blood and Oil: The History of Tulsa

Quick Sample:

America marked this year the 100th anniversary of the race massacre that destroyed the Greenwood district of Tulsa, the so-called "Black Wall Street," but left out of the commemorations were the contexts that led to the outbreak of civil violence: the town's Indian origins in the Trail of Tears; the massive cattle and oil booms that gave rise to a powerful and organized class of business magnates; the city's chaotic and crime-ridden expansion, which fueled vigilantism, including lynchings of both white and black victims; and the patriotic frenzy of the First World War and the Red Scare, with its hysterical fear of Bolshevism and revolution. Finally, we consider the recovery of Tulsa from the shocks of the 1921 massacre, the Klan's reign of terror, and the Depression, after which it has evolved into a comparatively liberal cultural capital amidst the conservative Plains Midwest. Tulsa is an extreme example in miniature of America's tumultuous and confused rise to industrial power.

Listen on SoundCloud

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Becoming Modern: Scientific Revolution, Part 2 -- The New Powers, 1660-1800

How did the Restoration of the English monarchy and the dawn of empire set the stage for the peculiar set of practices and assumptions that we now call "science," and how did they begin to unlock powerful secrets of the earth, the heavens, fire, and steam? And why did John Locke kind of secretly hate Isaac Newton? Image: "An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump," by Joseph Wright, 1768How did the Restoration of the English monarchy and the dawn of empire set the stage for the peculiar set of practices and assumptions that we now call "science," and how did they begin to unlock powerful secrets of the earth, the heavens, fire, and steam? And why did John Locke kind of secretly hate Isaac Newton?

Listen on SoundCloud

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

History of the United States in 100 Objects #18: Jesuit Brass Medallion with Image of Ignatius Loyola

Quick Sample:

Unlocked after one year for Patrons only:
--Made of brass, most likely in France, ca. 1720-1750
--1 inch long, with depictions of St. Ignatius Loyola & Saint Mary with Latin inscriptions
--Found in ruins of Fort Michilimackinac; in collection of Mackinac State Historic Parks, Michigan

A small brass religious medallion found in the house of a French fur trader inside a fortress on the remote Straits of Mackinac shows the immense power of small numbers of merchants and missionaries to control sprawling networks of diplomacy and trade, stretching from Europe all the way into the deep interior of North America, and to sway the course of wars and imperial power struggles.

Listen on SoundCloud

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

The Vikings, pt. 1 - In the Norsemen's World

Quick Sample:

Unlocked after one year for patrons only: We have all seen images of axe-wielding Vikings raining destruction upon the shores of medieval Europe -- but who were these berserking Norsemen and where did they come from? What society produced them? How did the Scandinavians of the Viking age understand the world and their place in it? We examine the Norsemen's complex and mysterious cosmos described in the poems and prophesies of the Eddas, and compare it to the realities of survival, trade, kingship, politics, warfare, art, gender, and the family in Scandinavia from the eight to eleventh centuries, as reconstructed from surviving documents and the latest archaeology.

Listen on SoundCloud

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Myth of the Month 19: The Holy Grail - pt. 1

Quick Sample:

Why did an enigmatic relic discussed in a series of medieval romances of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table leap out of the Arthurian myths and rise to become the most famous object in the history of literature? What does the vessel represent spiritually, morally, and sexually? And what the heck is a "grail" anyway? We begin by examining the medieval legends and what they say about the origin, nature, and miraculous powers of the sought-after holy relic.

Listen on SoundCloud

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Myth of the Month 16: "The Founding Fathers"

Quick Sample:

Released to the public after one year for patrons only:

The "Founding Fathers" -- the most rarefied club in American history -- stand in for everything we love or hate about this country, from its civic an religious freedom to its white supremacism. As if carved in stone (which they oftentimes are), they loom over every political debate, even though most of us know next to nothing about them, or even who counts as one of the group. Coined by that immortal wordsmith, President Warren Harding, the phrase "Founding Fathers" serves as an empty vessel for civic emotion, conveniently covering over the actual history of struggle, conflict, and contention that shaped the American republic.

Listen on SoundCloud

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Myth of the Month 1: The Enlightenment

Myth of the Month 1: The Enlightenment
Currently available to Patrons only, on the Patreon App and website: What do I get as a supporter?
I'm already a supporter
Quick Sample:

There was no Enlightenment. Steven Pinker's new book, "Enlightenment Now," is a classic re-statement of the myth of the Enlightenment which holds that in the 1600s and 1700s, Europeans threw off the tired dogmas of the Middle Ages and embraced a new philosophy of Reason, Progress, Science, and Humanism. In fact, the 1700s were a period of confusion, with no clear unifying ideas or trends: occultism, mysticism, and absolute monarchy flourished alongside experiments in democracy and chemistry. "The Enlightenment" forms one of the central pillars of Whig history, serving to re-affirm the notion that our present-day beliefs and values are rational and coherent.

Listen on Patreon Full Episode Details

Also see:

Land of Vital Blood: Pre-Columbian America

Land of Vital Blood: Pre-Columbian America
Currently available to Patrons only, on the Patreon App and website: What do I get as a supporter?
I'm already a supporter
Quick Sample:

The Americas before Columbus were not an idyll frozen in time. They were a world of struggle and ambition, with a history just as complex and tumultuous as Europe's. We trace how hunting-gathering peoples invented agriculture and built cities and empires that rose and fell across the centuries, all depending on human power, without the benefit of pack animals. We consider the shared norms and practices that seem to unite the diverse and far-flung peoples of the Americas, such as intensive multi-crop agriculture, fascination with astronomy and the calendar, and a highly formalized diplomatic language governing war and peace.

Listen on Patreon Full Episode Details

Also see:

The Middle Ages: The Jews of Europe, from the Middle Ages to the French Revolution

The Middle Ages: The Jews of Europe, from the Middle Ages to the French Revolution
Currently available to Patrons only, on the Patreon App and website: What do I get as a supporter?
I'm already a supporter
Quick Sample:

We trace the winding paths by which Jews, after the diaspora, sought out social and economic niches in which they were able to survive within European Christian society. We uncover the origins of the two main Jewish groups in Europe -- the Sephardic and Ashkenazi -- and consider how they adapted to changing conditions, including the increasing assimilation of German Jews in the 1700s, which led on the one hand to the beginnings of Jewish reform and on the other to the appearance of Hasidism, a mystical renewal movement. Most importantly, we consider the deep and long-denied influence of the messianic fervor that swept over Europe in the 1660s surrounding the mercurial and mischievous Greek rabbi, Sabbatai Zvi.

Listen on Patreon Full Episode Details
Also see all 7 episodes On Judaism and Jewish History

Roots of Religion: Who Wrote the Bible? - New Testament

Roots of Religion: Who Wrote the Bible? - New Testament
Currently available to Patrons only, on the Patreon App and website: What do I get as a supporter?
I'm already a supporter
Quick Sample:

We consider the long ideological struggles in the early church that led to the gradual collection of a canon of Christian writings that we now call the New Testament. We trace when, where, and why the various gospels and letters in the New Testament were written (hint: Matthew was not the first, not even close) and how they present different theological views. All in all, though, the New Testament writings were created to respond to the dilemma that as the years dragged on and Jesus' disciples died off, the Second Coming that early Christians anticipated simply wasn't happening.

Listen on Patreon Full Episode Details

History of the British and Irish Travellers

Quick Sample:

Travellers, Tinkers, Gypsies, Kale, Scottish Travellers, Gypsy Travellers, Romani Gypsies, Romanichal, Pavee, Showmen, Van People, Boat People, Bargers - All of these multivarious peoples, with different ancestries, religions, and traditions, their different languages, dialects, and "cants," share in common a longstanding itinerant lifestyle and the distinct identity that stems from it. Roving all around the British Isles and sometimes settling down, the various tribes of Travellers have provided metal goods, horses, music, and entertainment to British and Irish markets for centuries, but have become the flashpoint of political fury and even of violence in the twenty-first century.

Listen on YouTube

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Doorways in Time: The Great Archaeological Finds #1: The Sutton Hoo Treasure

Quick Sample:

Why was the excavation depicted in Netflix's "The Dig" the most important archaeological discovery ever made in Britain, or arguably in all of Europe? How did some artifacts found in a mound near an English widow's garden in Suffolk on the eve of World War II revolutionize our understanding of the Dark Age? Why would they come to serve as symbols of the ancient roots of the English nation, and how did Sutton Hoo vindicate the new science of archaeology? The story that Netflix did not tell you.

Listen on YouTube

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Myth of the Month 2: The Exodus

Quick Sample:

We examine the origins and the political and theological meanings of the myth of the Israelites' exodus from Egypt. We consider the possible real historical events that might underly the exodus story, including the argument put forward in Richard Elliot Friedman's new book, The Exodus. Finally, we trace some of the many ways that peoples around the world, from the early Christians to Rastafaris, have adopted the exodus myth and cast themselves as the new Israelites.

Listen on YouTube

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Myth of the Month 20: Conspiracy Theories

Quick Sample:

Unlocked after one year for patrons only: Where do conspiracy theories come from? Why do people believe them? What do they mean? Did the CIA drug people with LSD against their will? Is Queen Elizabeth a reptilian? We consider the merits and pitfalls of conspiracy theories, trace the history and evolution of the conspiratorial tradition from rumors about lepers in the 1300s to Alex Jones and Q-Anon, and examine the biases and double standards built into the very concept of "conspiracy theories." This is it: the most thorough, fair, and impartial examination of conspiracy theories that you will ever find anywhere.

Listen on YouTube

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Myth of the Month 5: Capitalism

Quick Sample:

There is no such thing as capitalism. With debates over the relative meanings and merits of socialism and capitalism currently flaring up in the United States, we examine why "capitalism" is an undefinable and meaningless concept, and how it came nevertheless to hold a mythic and almost magical power over the minds of academics and ordinary citizens alike.

Listen on YouTube

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Back to the Dark Age - How People Adapted to the Fall of the Roman Empire

Quick Sample:

What did people do when the Roman empire fall apart around them? Recent scholarship, based on new archeological discoveries and techniques, argues that in the "dark" centuries between 450 and 750 AD, the people of western Europe, from conquering kings to ordinary peasants, improvised new political alliances, maintained law and order, improved the productivity of their land, and invented new crafts and art forms, building a resilient and inventive society on the foundations (often literally) of the old.

Listen on YouTube

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

The Middle Ages: History of Universities, Part 1 - Flower of the Middle Ages

Quick Sample:

Universities are unique -- a quintessential product of the High Middle Ages that has miraculously survived and even flourished in the modern world. In the first part of the history of universities, we examine the origins of the first universities in the power struggles of Popes and emperors; the ways that medieval students learned, lived, and annoyed their elders; and the ways that universities adapted to and withstood serious challenges from Renaissance humanism and the republic of letters. Next will be the rise of universities in America, the modern research university, and the current crisis of academia.

Listen on YouTube

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Becoming Modern: Columbus - The Tragedy and the Enigma

Quick Sample:

We examine the enigmatic and elusive figure of Columbus, from his likely Jewish background, to his bizarre and hairbrained scheme of sailing to Asia, his brutal and chaotic invasion of the West Indies, his struggle to defend his honors and titles, and finally his apocalyptic vision of his own role in the End Times. We consider how Columbus, a fairly obscure and rejected figure after his death, came to be held up as a symbol of both the best and the worst of the American psyche.

Listen on YouTube

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Myth of the Month 1: The Enlightenment

Myth of the Month 1: The Enlightenment
Currently available to Patrons only, on the Patreon App and website: What do I get as a supporter?
I'm already a supporter
Quick Sample:

There was no Enlightenment. Steven Pinker's new book, "Enlightenment Now," is a classic re-statement of the myth of the Enlightenment which holds that in the 1600s and 1700s, Europeans threw off the tired dogmas of the Middle Ages and embraced a new philosophy of Reason, Progress, Science, and Humanism. In fact, the 1700s were a period of confusion, with no clear unifying ideas or trends: occultism, mysticism, and absolute monarchy flourished alongside experiments in democracy and chemistry. "The Enlightenment" forms one of the central pillars of Whig history, serving to re-affirm the notion that our present-day beliefs and values are rational and coherent.

Listen on Patreon Full Episode Details

Also see:

Myth of the Month 10: Who Was Shakespeare? - pt. 1: The Monument and the Man

Quick Sample:

Who was William Shakespeare? He is far more elusive, and his life more obscure, than his fans and biographers will admit. We consider the massive, bloated mythology that has built up around the great Bard over the centuries, and then examine the remarkably scant surviving documentary records from the writer's own lifetime, which tend to paint a both bizarre and unflattering picture. The first of three installments examining the reality of Shakespeare.

Listen on YouTube

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Unlocked: Myth of the Month 10, pt. 4: the Shakespeare Authorship Controversy

Quick Sample:

Unlocked for the public, after one year for patrons only, the final lecture of the series on Shakespeare: Could it be that "Shakespeare" wasn't Shakespeare? -- That someone else, perhaps a highly-educated aristocrat, actually wrote the works attributed to the actor from Stratford? Am I a crackpot for even entertaining such a ridiculous idea? We consider the evidence. I know this is an absurdly long one, but forgive me, it was so much fun to research and record.

Listen on YouTube

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Becoming Modern: Witchcraft and the Great Witch-Hunt, 1484-1700

Quick Sample:

We trace the roots of the idea of witchcraft in the "cunning folk" of the Middle Ages. We consider how the church and state began to fuel fear of witchcraft and persecute witches in the tens of thousands during the age of the Renaissance and the Reformation. We consider theories of why witch-hunting arose so dramatically in this age, including economic strain and political agendas. Finally, we examine evidence for an enduring shamanic belief system centering on ecstatic night journeys that may have provided the inspiration for the mythical witches' sabbath.

Listen on YouTube

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Becoming Modern: Age of Ice and Fire: The General Crisis Of The Seventeenth Century

Quick Sample:

We trace the waves of crop failure, famine, pestilence, and war that swept over Europe in the 1600s as the climate sunk into a "Little Ice Age" and armies literally marched across frozen seas. In the midst of unimaginable crisis, alchemists, astrologers, and apocalypticists scoured the Bible for prophecies to explain the disasters around them as part of the approaching End Times. Many of the defining institutions of the modern world we know today - such as overseas colonization, investor-owned corporations, public education, religious toleration, and scientific academies - have their origins as attempts to cope with the crisis of the seventeenth century and prepare the way for the Second Coming.

Listen on YouTube

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Unlocked: Myth of the Month 14: Astrology

Quick Sample:

Released to the public after one year for patrons only: Why do we divide history into epochs separated by "revolutions"? Astrology. How did Magellan chart his course around the globe? Astrology. How did Ronald Reagan schedule his acts of state? Astrology. We trace how the highest of the occult arts evolved from interpreting omens in ancient Babylonia, to containing medieval epidemics, to providing fodder for middle-brow magazines. Whether you are a believer or not, is the secret rhythm of our lives.

Listen on YouTube

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Fortresses on Sand: The History of Florida - pt. 1

Quick Sample:

We discuss the complex and multilayered history of Florida, beginning with the prehistoric peoples that survived in and mastered the tropical landscape, built monumental mound complexes, and formed powerful kingdoms that would eventually confront the first European invaders.

Listen on YouTube

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

In Search of the Dawn: Human Prehistory

Quick Sample:

Most of the human story is so-called "pre-history," which in fact is inseparable from history and still going on today. We trace the origins of the human species around 300,000 years ago in Africa, including our early adaptation into long-distance hunters. We examine our long and awkward co-existence with other human-like species such as Neanderthals and Ebu Gogo, as well as our slow development of critical technologies like sewing and pottery that allowed us to out-compete them. We trace the dangerous and improbable journey across sea channels and deserts that a small band of our distant ancestors had to make in order to populate the entire world beyond Africa. Finally, we consider the mysterious roots of the technology that eventually allowed for the rise of urban civilization -- agriculture.

Listen on YouTube

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Myth of the Month 17: Anglo-Saxonism

Quick Sample:

Who the heck are the "Anglo-Saxons," and why are Americans getting all lathered up about "Anglo-Saxon institutions"? Find out where the Anglo-Saxon myth came from and how over the past three hundred years it's been used to justify Parliamentary supremacy, the Rhodes Scholarship, the American entry into World War I, immigration restrictions, and college admission quotas. You never knew you were suffering under the Norman yoke, but now you do.

Listen on YouTube

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Myth of the Month 9: The US Constitution and the Origins of the Senate and Electoral College

Quick Sample:

Why does our government work the way it does? Is it supposed to represents citizens, or states? We consider the origins of the U. S. Constitution, particularly the creation of the controversial bodies (Senate and Electoral College) that represent the public in skewed and disproportionate ways. We dispel the false notion that these bodies were created in order to protect small states, tracing instead the Framers' quest to tamp down the "excess of democracy" of the 1780s, wrest control over monetary policy away from the poor majority, and strike a careful balance between slave and non-slave states.

Listen on YouTube

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

History as it Happens: Notre Dame and the Nine Lives of Gothic Cathedrals

Quick Sample:

We put the disastrous fire at Notre Dame de Paris into historical perspective -- by considering the history of Gothic cathedrals, their cosmic religious meanings, and their remarkably powerful and mysterious construction. How did medieval builders create these massive, complex structures without steel, steam power, electricity, or even written plans? We also follow the tumultuous experiences of Notre Dame itself, the social and symbolic center of Paris--from religious riots and Revolutionary iconoclasm to malign neglect and controversial restorations. Finally, we consider the resilience of Gothic buildings through fire, lightning, earthquake, war, and revolution, and ask what other important monuments or community buildings we should support in our own communities.

Listen on YouTube

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Myth of the Month 18: Robin Hood -- pt. 1: The Master of the Forest

Quick Sample:

In the first installment on the Robin Hood mythos, we consider how the legend of Robin Hood has evolved from a series of brutal tales of a medieval outlaw bandit in the fifteenth century to that of the swashbuckling champion of the poor of modern pop culture, and how he picked up sidekicks like Friar Tuck and Maid Marion along the way; we consider the literary significance of the early stories as as an expression of the frustrations and aspirations of the yeoman class.

Listen on YouTube

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

The Middle Ages: Freemasonry - Its Origins, Its Myths, and Its Rituals

Freemasonry: What is it? Where does it come from? What is one taught as a Freemason? What do they do in their closed-door rituals -- and why? Freemasonry in the 1700s is my own field of research, and as a thank-you for reaching 50 patrons, I give a deep illumination of this unusual Society's roots in the gatherings of stonemasons in the late Middle Ages, its mythical connections to Solomon's Temple and the Crusades, and its elaborate system of symbols and initiatory rituals, which cast the Masons as a quasi-priestly caste with a shamanic connection to the world of the dead.

Listen on YouTube

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Middle Ages 1: Exploding the Myth of the Middle Ages

Quick Sample:

In Dr. Sam's first lecture on the Middle Ages, we start by clearing out the junk, such as the notions that medievals smelled bad and hunted witches, and then look into the mystical and apocalyptic roots of the idea of the "middle age."

Listen on YouTube

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Becoming Modern: Scientific Revolution, Part 1 -- Alchemy and Apocalypse, 1500-1660

Quick Sample:

We unearth the tangled roots of the earliest forms of modern science, beginning with the radical alchemical theories of the rabble-rousing healer called Paracelsus, and running through the heated debates over Galileo's astronomy, which broke down the distinction between the earth and the heavens. Due to these shocks, the old teleological, or purpose-driven, scheme of the world broke down, giving way to a free-for-all of speculation and apocalyptic excitement.We question the historical meaning of the concept of "science," and consider how modern-day pop scientists like Neil DeGrasse Tyson portray the past selectively in order to build the myth of reason and science as beacons of light amidst superstition.

Listen on YouTube

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Becoming Modern: Spanish and Portuguese Expansion and the Conquest of the Americas

We trace how Portugal and Spain, two previously marginal European kingdoms, rapidly and unexpectedly exploded onto the world scene, building a chain of fortified colonies stretching from North Africa to China, and conquering the larger and richer empires of Mexico and Peru. The early Iberian colonizers sought to continue the tradition of the Crusades and the Reconquista, and saw their foreign conquests as steps towards retaking Jerusalem; the benefited not only from superior weaponry and navigation, but from cataclysmic disease epidemics that brought the Pre-Columbian empires to their knees.

Listen on YouTube

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Roots of Religion: Islam 1 - Muhammad, the first Caliphate, and the core teachings

We trace the shocking and rapid rise of Islam in the 600s, as a confederation of desert towns and tribes unite around Muhammad and his prophesies from the Abrahamic god, then swiftly launch a stunning campaign of conquests against the major empires of the age. We consider the roots of the basic teachings and practices of the new religion, including the Qur'an, the hadiths, the Five Pillars, jihad, shariah, the divide between Sunni and Shiah, and Islamic laws regarding the status of women and of Jews and Christians or "people of the Book."

Listen on YouTube

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Land of Vital Blood: Pre-Columbian America

Land of Vital Blood: Pre-Columbian America
Currently available to Patrons only, on the Patreon App and website: What do I get as a supporter?
I'm already a supporter
Quick Sample:

The Americas before Columbus were not an idyll frozen in time. They were a world of struggle and ambition, with a history just as complex and tumultuous as Europe's. We trace how hunting-gathering peoples invented agriculture and built cities and empires that rose and fell across the centuries, all depending on human power, without the benefit of pack animals. We consider the shared norms and practices that seem to unite the diverse and far-flung peoples of the Americas, such as intensive multi-crop agriculture, fascination with astronomy and the calendar, and a highly formalized diplomatic language governing war and peace.

Listen on Patreon Full Episode Details

Also see:

The Middle Ages: The Jews of Europe, from the Middle Ages to the French Revolution

The Middle Ages: The Jews of Europe, from the Middle Ages to the French Revolution
Currently available to Patrons only, on the Patreon App and website: What do I get as a supporter?
I'm already a supporter
Quick Sample:

We trace the winding paths by which Jews, after the diaspora, sought out social and economic niches in which they were able to survive within European Christian society. We uncover the origins of the two main Jewish groups in Europe -- the Sephardic and Ashkenazi -- and consider how they adapted to changing conditions, including the increasing assimilation of German Jews in the 1700s, which led on the one hand to the beginnings of Jewish reform and on the other to the appearance of Hasidism, a mystical renewal movement. Most importantly, we consider the deep and long-denied influence of the messianic fervor that swept over Europe in the 1660s surrounding the mercurial and mischievous Greek rabbi, Sabbatai Zvi.

Listen on Patreon Full Episode Details
Also see all 7 episodes On Judaism and Jewish History

Roots of Religion: Who Wrote the Bible? - Hebrew Scriptures

Quick Sample:

We dissect the origins of the Hebrew Bible (also called the Old Testament by Christians), excavating the deepest layers of the collection of holy books, including the very ancient songs and prayers that were likely passed on orally for centuries before being written down, the scholarly theories of the lost documents that were stitched together to form Genesis and Exodus, and the differing points of view of the various prophets, scribes, and propagandists whose books made their way into the Hebrew canon...

Listen on YouTube

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Roots of Religion: Judaism - What Is It and Where Did It Come From?

Quick Sample:

We consider how best to understand the origins of the laws and customs of the Jewish people, or what we call "Judaism." We begin by dispelling the notion that Judaism (or any other belief system apart from Christianity) can properly be called a "religion" -- a category that derives originally from Christian practice and does not make sense anywhere else. We further examine the roots of the idea of "Judaism" as a concept for the Jewish way of life, concluding with a careful analysis of the meaning of the ancient Greek word "ioudaismos," which originates in the Book of Maccabees. Finally, we trace the best possible explanation for the origins of the Jewish people in the Bronze-Age Near East, using archaeological evidence including an ancient Egyptian monument and the vandalized ruins of Canaanite temples. Ultimately, we should be able to understand Judaism and its God as the creations of a particular Middle Eastern people not entirely unlike their ancient neighbors.

Special thanks to Daniel Boyarin for his help and inspiration.

Listen on YouTube

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Taking Stock of Money in Politics: The Powell Memo Fifty Years Later

At a time of intensifying hope and anxiety over the direction of the Supreme Court, we take stock of how the lawmaking process and the judiciary have changed over the past fifty years with the mobilization and funneling of large amounts of money into the political realm; we focus especially on the little-known but pivotal "Powell Memo" of 1971, in which a lawyer for the Tobacco Institute decried the rising tide of attacks on the "free enterprise system" and proposed a coordinated counter-offensive by the business class that sounds uncannily close to our present reality. The Powell Memo forms a critical moment for understanding the intense politicization of judicial appointments, the ubiquity of paid political advertising on the airwaves and in print, and ironically, the rise of a new "anti-capitalist" radicalism.

Listen on YouTube

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

History of the United States in 100 Objects # 4: The Maine Norse Coin

Quick Sample:

After one year, my lecture on the only authentic pre-Columbian European artifact ever found in the United States becomes public.

Created in Norway, 1069-1080 AD, during reign of King Olaf Kyrre
--Made of silver alloy
--Found at Goddard Site, Naskeag Point, Maine, dated 1100s-1200s AD

The only authentic Norse artifact ever found in the United States, this small silver coin dated to the 11th century may be an elaborate hoax, or a crucial clue to trade and contact between Europe and America in the centuries between the fall of Vinland and the arrival of Columbus.

Listen on YouTube

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

History of the Roma ("Gypsies"), part 1 -- From Ancient Origins to the Eighteenth Century

Quick Sample:

Who are the Roma -- also colloquially called "Gypsies"? Where did they come from, and how did they end up all over Europe? How have they endured through persecution, expulsions, and political upheaval, without a state or country of their own? We trace the path of this remarkable and resilient people from their mysterious origins in India to their arrival in Constantinople and medieval Europe and through the wave of persecution and ethnic cleansing in the 1600s.

Listen on YouTube

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Becoming Modern: The Print and Gunpowder Revolutions, 1300-1700

The early modern era - from the 1400s through the 1700s - is the monarchical age par excellence, with royal courts presiding over consolidated realms and monstrous armies capable of crushing smaller neighbors and internal rivals. The map of Europe transformed, and the reasons were, firstly, technological: the printing press broke through previous barriers to the creation of texts, allowing for the rapid spread of new ideas and propaganda, while new infantry tactics and gunpowder allowed royal governments to batter down the power of mounted knights and castles. Society became ever more centered on royal power and patronage, leaving behind a vestigial nobility to seek out a new role in the world or give way to nostalgia, as dramatized in the first great psychological novel, Don Quixote. We conclude by considering Cervantes' novel as a touchstone of the shift from the medieval world, where reality is defined by social relationships, to the modern, where reality is defined by the senses.

Listen on YouTube

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Roots of Religion: The Historical Jesus

We join in the ongoing quest for the historical Jesus -- the struggle to unearth and understand who Jesus really was, what he said and did, and how he inspired a movement. We trace the basic bare-bones facts that can be deduced from early Christian writings and brief references in other texts, including Jesus' baptism and crucifixion. We throw out the flimsy theories of hacks like Reza Aslan and Bill O'Reilly, as well as the junk theory that no Jesus existed at all, and instead examine the new archeological evidence that helps to account for some of the strangest passages in the Gospels.

Listen on YouTube

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Unlocked: Doorways in Time: The Great Archaeological Discoveries #4: The Library of Ashurbanipal

Quick Sample:

One moonlit night in 1853, an Iraqi excavator named Hormuzd Rassam and his team snuck into the hills outside of Mosul and began to uncover the massive palace of the last ancient Assyrian emperor, Ashurbanipal. Inside the palace was the largest trove of surviving documents from the ancient world that has ever been found. The massive library of over 30,000 tablets illuminated what had been the most mysterious empire of the Iron Age, brought to light the ancient masterpiece of the Epic of Gilgamesh, and provided the first window into the lost Near Eastern mythology that influenced the Biblical book of Genesis. While the discovery provided the greatest triumph of British imperial antiquarianism, in recent times Saddam Hussein and other Arab nationalists have attempted to reclaim its legacy by building a modern Library of Ashurbanipal.

Listen on YouTube

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

The Myths We Make: Using the past as an ideological tool

Quick Sample:

All of history is, to one degree or another, mythology -- the weaving of a coherent, usable narrative out of the chaos of people's lives. We consider how societies all over the world, since before the beginning of civilization, have developed myths to explain the world that they experience. We also trace some of the major schools of academic history, which have tried to fashion overarching storylines to give meaning to human struggles -- from Biblical providential history to Marxism to postmodernism. We begin by examining the most central myth of the origins of American society: the "first Thanksgiving."

Listen on YouTube

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Roots of Religion: Who Wrote the Bible? - New Testament

Roots of Religion: Who Wrote the Bible? - New Testament
Currently available to Patrons only, on the Patreon App and website: What do I get as a supporter?
I'm already a supporter
Quick Sample:

We consider the long ideological struggles in the early church that led to the gradual collection of a canon of Christian writings that we now call the New Testament. We trace when, where, and why the various gospels and letters in the New Testament were written (hint: Matthew was not the first, not even close) and how they present different theological views. All in all, though, the New Testament writings were created to respond to the dilemma that as the years dragged on and Jesus' disciples died off, the Second Coming that early Christians anticipated simply wasn't happening.

Listen on Patreon Full Episode Details

Blood and Oil: The History of Tulsa

Quick Sample:

America marked this year the 100th anniversary of the race massacre that destroyed the Greenwood district of Tulsa, the so-called "Black Wall Street," but left out of the commemorations were the contexts that led to the outbreak of civil violence: the town's Indian origins in the Trail of Tears; the massive cattle and oil booms that gave rise to a powerful and organized class of business magnates; the city's chaotic and crime-ridden expansion, which fueled vigilantism, including lynchings of both white and black victims; and the patriotic frenzy of the First World War and the Red Scare, with its hysterical fear of Bolshevism and revolution. Finally, we consider the recovery of Tulsa from the shocks of the 1921 massacre, the Klan's reign of terror, and the Depression, after which it has evolved into a comparatively liberal cultural capital amidst the conservative Plains Midwest. Tulsa is an extreme example in miniature of America's tumultuous and confused rise to industrial power.

Listen on YouTube

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Becoming Modern: Scientific Revolution, Part 2 -- The New Powers, 1660-1800

How did the Restoration of the English monarchy and the dawn of empire set the stage for the peculiar set of practices and assumptions that we now call "science," and how did they begin to unlock powerful secrets of the earth, the heavens, fire, and steam? And why did John Locke kind of secretly hate Isaac Newton? Image: "An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump," by Joseph Wright, 1768How did the Restoration of the English monarchy and the dawn of empire set the stage for the peculiar set of practices and assumptions that we now call "science," and how did they begin to unlock powerful secrets of the earth, the heavens, fire, and steam? And why did John Locke kind of secretly hate Isaac Newton?

Listen on YouTube

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

History of the United States in 100 Objects #18: Jesuit Brass Medallion with Image of Ignatius Loyola

Quick Sample:

Unlocked after one year for Patrons only:
--Made of brass, most likely in France, ca. 1720-1750
--1 inch long, with depictions of St. Ignatius Loyola & Saint Mary with Latin inscriptions
--Found in ruins of Fort Michilimackinac; in collection of Mackinac State Historic Parks, Michigan

A small brass religious medallion found in the house of a French fur trader inside a fortress on the remote Straits of Mackinac shows the immense power of small numbers of merchants and missionaries to control sprawling networks of diplomacy and trade, stretching from Europe all the way into the deep interior of North America, and to sway the course of wars and imperial power struggles.

Listen on YouTube

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

The Vikings, pt. 1 - In the Norsemen's World

Quick Sample:

Unlocked after one year for patrons only: We have all seen images of axe-wielding Vikings raining destruction upon the shores of medieval Europe -- but who were these berserking Norsemen and where did they come from? What society produced them? How did the Scandinavians of the Viking age understand the world and their place in it? We examine the Norsemen's complex and mysterious cosmos described in the poems and prophesies of the Eddas, and compare it to the realities of survival, trade, kingship, politics, warfare, art, gender, and the family in Scandinavia from the eight to eleventh centuries, as reconstructed from surviving documents and the latest archaeology.

Listen on YouTube

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Myth of the Month 19: The Holy Grail - pt. 1

Quick Sample:

Why did an enigmatic relic discussed in a series of medieval romances of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table leap out of the Arthurian myths and rise to become the most famous object in the history of literature? What does the vessel represent spiritually, morally, and sexually? And what the heck is a "grail" anyway? We begin by examining the medieval legends and what they say about the origin, nature, and miraculous powers of the sought-after holy relic.

Listen on YouTube

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Myth of the Month 16: "The Founding Fathers"

Quick Sample:

Released to the public after one year for patrons only:

The "Founding Fathers" -- the most rarefied club in American history -- stand in for everything we love or hate about this country, from its civic an religious freedom to its white supremacism. As if carved in stone (which they oftentimes are), they loom over every political debate, even though most of us know next to nothing about them, or even who counts as one of the group. Coined by that immortal wordsmith, President Warren Harding, the phrase "Founding Fathers" serves as an empty vessel for civic emotion, conveniently covering over the actual history of struggle, conflict, and contention that shaped the American republic.

Listen on YouTube

Full Episode Details + Listen on Any Platform

Also see:

Or see A Simple List of All Episodes

with the most recent episodes at the top of the list.



And Wait, There’s More

In addition to the 7 main playlists, Historiansplaining boasts full-video lectures on western architecture, guest interviews, commentary on current events, and critiques of recent books, film & television, plus our Most Popular Episodes and Hot Off the Presses lists – all with Quick Samples of featured episodes:



Unlock the most content by becoming a supporter through Patreon. You choose the amount you want to contribute, and your support helps keep the podcast commercial free! Learn more

Use the Patreon App or Patron website for the best listening experience of exclusive patron-only content…

Things You Don’t Know

Did Columbus really think that he was going to reach Asia?
What little do we actually know about Shakespeare, the person?
Why is it misleading to apply the word “religion” to Judaism and Hinduism?
How did Tisquantum (popularly known as Squanto) already know how to speak English before the Pilgrims had even arrived?
Ever heard that Florida has no history? Dr. Sam wants you to know how incorrect that common perception actually is…
How did so much of the Epic of Gilgamesh remain hidden and forgotten – but preserved – for over 2,000 years until being rediscovered in modern times?
What did Netflix’s movie “The Dig” miss about the most dramatic part of the whole Sutton Hoo discovery?
What does the English Civil War of the 1640s tell us about the American Civil War, and about the present?
How is the growing field of genetics being used to both tear down and reinforce the myth of ‘Race’ today?
Who were the Freemasons of the 1700s? How did they grow from a local Scottish fraternity to a global network?
How can one mid-sized U.S. city – Tulsa, Oklahoma – serve as a microcosm of so much of the triumphalism and tragedy of American history?
Why can no one agree on what “capitalism” actually is? And why does a lack of clear definition call into question so many other myths of the modern world?
How – and why – did universities begin in the Middle Ages, long before the scientific revolution and the “Enlightenment”?
Was there really an Exodus from Egypt like the one described in the Bible?
How did accusing people of witchcraft further several political agendas of the time?
How did mountains on the Moon help bring about an end to the Earth-centric view of the universe?
Why did every Renaissance-era ruler in Europe have a court astrologer?
Does a single coin prove that Vikings came all the way to what’s now the United States?
Why is the dramatic 2019 fire at Paris’ Notre Dame actually a common occurrence for cathedrals around Europe?
Why were churches in southern Europe becoming more and more highly decorated and elaborately embellished in the 1500 and 1600’s, while at the same time churches in northern Europe were being stripped of almost all of their ornamentation?
Why don’t US citizens directly elect their President? Or have a more proportional Senate?
How might a series of volcanic eruptions in the Americas have spurred the earliest Viking raids and the creation of the myth of Ragnarok in Scandinavia, halfway around the world?
Are people really becoming less religious than they used to be?
What did followers of the ancient and secretive branch of Christianity, Gnosticism, actually believe?
How did changes in the climate in the 1600s lead people to think they were living in the Apocalypse? How did this help spur the creation of institutions and forces that still shape the world today?
Could all of British history have turned out differently if the winds on the English channel had shifted direction on just one day in 1066?