My Favorite Podcasts Using Primary Sources to Share American History
Why I'm sharing podcasts on a blog.
I appreciate you all being here reading my blog but I get it. Sometimes you just want to kick back and listen. Whether it's on your couch, while preparing a meal, or in your car running errands or stuck in traffic, podcasts can be a fantastic source of entertainment. And of course: learning history.
If you've been following along this blog, you know how focused (and spoiled) I am on primary sources. (You can read more on that here.) So now that I've gotten into the whole podcast thing, imagine how I'm nerding out on what I find based on primary sources!
I'm starting a list for y'all. My favorites. Because I've honestly come across some duds. What makes a dud? Voices that don't draw you into the history or content that is unstructured or not well-communicated.
And of course: when I question the source.
So check out my list below, which I intend to update over time. A list of interesting hosts, and sometimes guests, that are clearly passionate about history. Podcasts where primary sources rule.
RELATED: My post on the Free At 50 blog about my readers' favorite podcasts that inspired me to write this one!
Disclaimer: As a blogger, I use affiliate links sometimes! I may receive commission from purchases I share; it does not change your price but sometimes you might get a discount.
The list of my 3 favorite podcasts about American History, based on primary sources.
Host: Bryan Austin. I met Bryan in his long-time role as James Madison here in Colonial Williamsburg (CW). Change must happen and as of this weekend, he'll no longer be part of the team of Nation Builders in CW. However, his podcast is growing and he will continue to bring primary-sourced information to life!
The theme: Perspectives on topics as somber as our American Revolution to the lighthearted episode about the tin whistle toy. Speaking as Ben Franklin in first person, using the writings of Franklin, Bryan brings history, and the man himself, to life. Occasionally Bryan features a modern-day guest and the conversation crosses centuries, a unique approach to learning history.
Link to show: Let's Be Frank
An episode to get you going- focused on coffee first.
Host: Katherine Gehred. I found Katherine and her podcast purely by accident. Digging through many many American History podcasts, Spotify recommended hers and I couldn't stop listening. She's a research editor with the Washington Papers, a women's historian, and a former Monticello guide. Her connections are fantastic and you won't be disappointed as she brings in colleagues, former colleagues, and experts from all over.
The theme: Each episode focuses on a letter written by a woman who lived our American History. It's amazing- the letters she and her guests have found. Sometimes from names and families you may know and other times, episodes built around someone whose impact on history you may not be aware of. A letter is read and then discussion about the people, the history, the topic... it all ties together in a way that truly brings history alive.
Link to show: Your Most Obedient and Humble Servant
An episode I loved based on a letter written by Elizabeth Willing Powel, who bought a desk from outgoing President George Washington- and he left something in it!
Host: Liz Covart. This podcast is a production of Colonial Williamsburg's Innovation Studio Team. Liz narrates and brings on experts both from CW and the College of William and Mary- and sometimes beyond. Keeping in line with everything CW, primary sources and interpretation of them into the modern world are the focus.
The theme: American history as diverse as our history is. From historic sites to events in history. All of it with the focus of learning history from multiple perspectives. You might be learning about how a building was built (IE the materials used) to the people that built them. You could be learning about the impact of the Revolution on the enslaved, or the children that attended the Brafferton School. Hundreds of episodes and truly, as many topics!
Link to show: Ben Franklin's World
As I learn more about the Brafferton School, this episode is one I had to share!
Bonus: Patrick Henry's Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death speech.
Sometimes you can do a search and just get lucky!
I found a clear and concise version of Patrick Henry's famous speech given on March 23rd 1775 at St. John's Church in Richmond, Virginia. At this time of writing this post, you can visit the site and watch it re-enacted.
Click here to open the link in a new tab.
The closing call to action:
I'll be sharing more fantastic and informative podcasts by adding to this list in the future. Sooner, later, I'm not sure.
But you can help out: if you have a podcast that uses primary sources you want to share, please drop it in the comments!
If you enjoy the blog and want to support both my ability to continue it and my habit for caffeine, click below to buy me a coffee using my online tip jar!
There is a huge practical disclaimer to the content on this blog, which is my way of sharing my excitement and basically journaling online.
1) I am not a historian nor an expert. I will let you know I’m relaying the information as I understand and interpret it. The employees of Colonial Williamsburg base their presentations, work, and responses on historical documents and mainly primary sources.
2) I will update for accuracy as history is constant learning. If you have a question about accuracy, please ask me! I will get the answer from the best source I can find.
3) Photo credit to me, Daphne Reznik, for all photos in this post! All photos are personal photos taken in public access locations or with specific permission.