BackStory

The American History Podcast

A Program Of Virginia Foundation for the Humanities

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Into the Not-So-Wild

  What is the wilderness, exactly? For most of us, it means land untouched by humans,  allowed to exist in a state of nature. A place “untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain… retaining its primeval character and influence,” in the words of the 1964 Wilderness Act, which set aside […]

The report that could have stopped Ferguson

  If you’re a member of the United States Congress, chances are you spend a good chunk of your waking life in meetings. Committee meetings, town hall meetings, meeting with donors, meetings with fellow Senators or Congressmen, special commission meetings. So, perhaps it wasn’t so unusual for Senator Fred Harris of Oklahoma to get a […]

Listener Mail: Longtime Listener, First Time Song

We’re always happy to hear from listeners, and a few days ago we received this email from listener Daniel Hornsby giving us some backstory  that we never expected on our own episode : Two nights ago, while lying in bed and listening to your program, I was at once perplexed and pleasantly surprised to hear […]

The Great War’s Forgotten Monuments

Mark Levitch wants you to take a good, hard look around your home town. Is there a small, rusty plaque in an alleyway downtown? A chipped, decaying statue perched in an out-of-the-way square? Chances are, they just might be forgotten relics of World War I. Levitch runs the World War I Memorial Inventory Project. At a time […]

Romance, Passion, and…the War of 1812?

Here’s a little quiz to start off today’s post. Is “Beauty and Booty”: A) Ke$ha’s latest hit pop song B) a British catchphrase during the War of 1812   We’re sorry to say that: A) We tricked you, because B) It’s neither. But if you asked an American that question in 1815, they’d tell you […]

The photograph that changed Earth

When you think of any historical event over the last century and a half, chances are it calls to mind an image. Most likely, that image is a photograph. From the daguerreotypes of Civil War battlefields, to images of the Berlin Wall coming down, we live in an age shaped by photography.  But in the […]

Government for Profit

  It’s an age-old problem: an underpaid government worker tries to get ahead by abusing his job privileges and access to get a little bit of green on the side. Each generation thinks they’ve figured out how to keep government workers honest. For most of American history, this meant making sure that workers were paid to […]

How is WWI Still With Us?

    These photos, taken by photographer Michael St. Maur Sheil, show how the landscape of modern Europe still bears the scars of WWI battlefields. But there are other legacies of the Great War that are still with us today. It was a time of great social and technological change. The Guys reminded us WWI […]

Did Abraham Lincoln Wear A Beard?

Was Abraham Lincoln the first bearded President?  Well, yes and no. He was the first president with extensive facial hair. But that facial hair brings us into what one of this week’s guests called “the tricky territory of what defines a beard in the 19th century.”                   Which […]

Segregating Schizophrenia

  “They diagnosed Malcolm X with having schizophrenia, particularly because he was paranoid against the government….And even though it’s incredibly tragic to read this file, you can’t but think like, of course he was paranoid against the government, because the government was profiling him and tapping his phone.”   And yet, the people who diagnosed […]

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