The American History Podcast

A Program Of Virginia Foundation for the Humanities


History Behind the Headlines: Government Shutdowns

The government shutdown will become the longest in US history if it persists through Saturday. With President Trump and the Democrat-controlled House at loggerheads over the issue of funding for a wall along the US-Mexico border, roughly 800,000 federal employees are either furloughed or working without pay. But while funding disputes have occurred as long […]

Recognizing the Best in Public History

For the first time ever, BackStory is acknowledging the work of other public history projects with a prize. The BackStory Prize recognizes excellence in public history – work that is often discounted or overlooked because it occurs outside of academia. Exhibitions, musicals, books, paintings, films and podcasts were all eligible. Buildings and other structures, like […]

The War Before the War: Q&A with Andrew Delbanco

Andrew Delbanco’s latest book, “The War Before the War,” explores American slavery and fugitive slaves, and the role these issues played from the founding of the United States to its disintegration in the years leading up to the Civil War. Delbanco examines the series of compromises created around these issues, and the moral and political […]

Preserving History: Martha A. Maxwell and the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition

Taxidermy may suspend the decay of animal specimens, but the process cannot completely protect the remains from the ravages of insects, humidity, and well, time. But, digitized artifacts can be preserved for posterity. So, thanks to’s digital archives, today we present American taxidermist Martha A. Maxwell.  You might recognize Maxwell from the cover art […]

Did Walter O’Malley Betray New York When He Took the Dodgers to California?

Adapted from “Baseball Goes West: The Dodgers, the Giants, and the Shaping of the Major Leagues” by Lincoln Mitchell.  From the New York perspective, the story of why the Dodgers and Giants left the New York is one with many potential villains and no heroes. The two individuals most often described as the villains in […]

History Behind the Headlines: Armistice Day

November 11 is the 100thanniversary of Armistice Day. It is an international commemoration of the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany, ending hostilities on the Western Front on the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918. Armistice Day sits as a historical anchor for collective […]

5 BackStory Episodes on Citizenship and Immigration

Immigration and citizenship have been on the forefront of the political debate most of this year and especially recently. On Tuesday, President Trump announced his intention to end birthright citizenship with an executive action. This comes one day after the Pentagon announced plans to send more than 5,000 American troops to the Southwest border to […]

Q & A with Neil Perry Gordon

The news of the past week has largely revolved around questions of immigration and citizenship. With that in mind, a recently released novel caught our eye: “A Cobbler’s Tale,” by Neil Perry Gordon, explores his family’s struggle for survival as Jewish immigrants passing through Ellis Island into the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the […]

Bodies on the Floor

As World War I wound down in the Spring of 1918, soldiers around the world began getting sick with something flu-like. But this form of influenza far outpaced the normal illness, spreading quickly from city to city. Its progression through a single patient was very rapid in many cases. By the time the pandemic ended, […]

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