BackStory with the American History Guys

Mar 7, 2014

Our weekend documentary slot features episode of BackStory for the next 5 weeks.  Saturdays at 3 pm and Sundays at 6 pm.

Public radio’s contemporary take on American history, "BackStory with the American History Guys" is a show that brings historical perspective to the events happening around us today. Each week, renowned historians Ed Ayers, Peter Onuf, and Brian Balogh take a topic from the contemporary world and spend an hour plumbing its depths, looking for the connections and disconnections between past and present.

BackStory isn’t history the way you may remember it. The Guys deliver smart, deeply informed talk on such wide-ranging topics as the history of marriage, extreme weather, birthing, time, home ownership, apocalyptic thinking, college sports, alcohol, the post office, the War of 1812, emigration, American exceptionalism, and the Mississippi river, among many others. Brian, Ed, and Peter trade ideas with guest experts, debate each other, present features that delve into the little-known past, and talk with listeners who call in

Affectionate Valentine couple, c1890.
Credit Image by: Wikimedia Commons

Saturday 3/8 & Sunday 3/9
Outed: Sexual Identity in America    
As the Winter Olympics in Sochi approached countries around the world expressed concerns over Russian legislation outlawing LGBTQ “propaganda.” The Obama administration called the law offensive, and the president pointedly chose several openly gay athletes for the US Olympic delegation. But recent Supreme Court decisions on gay marriage have highlighted our own internal debate on sexuality and its expression in the public sphere. So this episode of BackStory explores the often hidden stories of sexuality - and the breaking of sexual norms – in American history.

Detail from Chicago Department of Health vaccination poster, produced by the Works Progress Administration, late 1930s
Credit Image by: Library of Congress

Saturday 3/15 & Sunday 3/16
Contagion: Responding to Infectious Disease   3/15   and 3/16
It’s the height of the flu season, and federal public health agencies have been spending millions of dollars trying to keep this year’s virus under control. But when yellow fever struck Philadelphia in 1793, the entire federal government picked up and left town, leaving stricken individuals to fend for themselves. How and why has the pendulum swung so sharply toward government action? And how have epidemics themselves shaped American history?

“The Almightier,” illustration from Puck, May 15th, 1907
Credit Image by: Library of Congress

Saturday 3/22 & Sunday 3/23
On the Money: A History of American Currency
There’s a lot of talk about Bitcoin these days—the digital currency that's been gaining ground. Bitcoin allows online payments to be made person-to-person, instead of via a bank, and sidesteps government involvement, too. Is it a more democratic approach to financial exchanges? Could it be “the future” of money? Brian, Ed, and Peter look to American history for answers.

Harlem Newsboy, 1943, by Gordon Parks
Credit Image by: Library of Congress

Saturday 3/29 & Sunday 3/30
Young Americans: A History of Childhood  
BackStory takes on the history of childhood in America. Have children shared a common core experience across American history? Or has the nature of childhood—and how adults view children—changed in substantial ways? Peter, Brian, and Ed cast their minds back…

A rabbit serves a meal to three kittens
Credit Harry Whittier Frees, c1870

Saturday 4/5 & Sunday 4/6
The Beast Within: Domesticated Animals in America
From household pets to beasts of burden, domesticated animals are a major part of American life – and we spend billions of dollars each year looking after them. But what drives our desire to bring animals under our control in the first place? And how has that desire manifested itself over time? In this week’s episode, the American History Guys take a deep-dive into the history of human-animal interaction.