History podcasts

I decided to start this blog because I wanted to have a bit of a play around with html and a few other things like that – so apologies if I start abusing marquee text at some stage. Now I need to actually find some content to fill it!

I was thinking through my previous experiences with wordpress – mostly via history podcasts. I therefore came up with the idea of listing a few of these history podcasts I’ve enjoyed over the last few years. On closer inspection, I had wordpress and typepad mixed up but it provided me with that little bit of inspiration for my first post. Apologies for the quality of the writing – I’m doing this for my own amusement as much as anything else, I don’t expect anyone to actually read this.

History Podcasts

I’ll begin by briefly covering two of the classics in the field, Hardcore History by Dan Carlin and History of Rome by Mike Duncan. I’m not going to go into much detail as these are relatively well known.


Hardcore History

Hardcore History logo This podcast by Dan Carlin is one of the older and best known history podcasts, known for its meandering epic episodes (epicsodes?) in which Carlin sets the scene and tries to provide his own insight to various historical topics. Following Dan Carlin’s train of thought on these meanders is perhaps the selling point of the show – he tries to take the historical situations and mindsets and place them in a context that makes the listener appreciate the importance or subtleties of the topic. The show content has a good amount of variety, from long narrative series to stand alone stories or off beat discussion episodes – Hardcore History covers them all. Dan Carlin Dan Carlin’s voice sounds a bit like that of Dr Marvin Monroe from The Simpsons, but you soon get used to that. Like Dr Monroe, he is actually from a US radio background and also has a current affairs podcast called Common Sense, but I’m pretty sure he avoids the therapy phone-ins. With over fifty episodes and who knows how many hours of podcast to choose from, where should a newcomer start? As the podcast deals with many different topics there is no right answer to this – but I’ve listed a few of my favourites below.

  • Wrath of the Khans – the story of Genghis Khan, possibly my favourite of his long series.
  • Ghosts of the Ostfront – the eastern front in WW2, possibly everyone else’s favourite.
  • Thor’s Angels – on the Dark Ages in europe, imagining the barbarian hordes as biker gangs.


History of Rome

HoR logo This is also one of the older podcasts and, unlike Hardcore History, has now finished – although the creater Mike Duncan is continue to podcast about history with the Revolutions Podcast. The show runs from the early stages of Rome’s history in the 8th century until the fall of the western empire in 476 A.D, with the narrative cut up into handy chunks of roughly thirty minutes. These narrative episodes are occasionally interspersed with episodes giving a look at a particular cultural aspect of Rome at a particular time. With short episodes and a smooth, laconic style this is maybe a bit more accessible than Hardcore History for newcomers. He also paces the episodes brilliantly, pausing to give a short summary and opinion of each emperor at the end of their reign. This accessibility helps to make HoR one of the more influential shows in the area of history podcasts, in the years since it has begun numerous other “History of X” podcasts have sprung up, giving a similar journey through the histories of other nations or regions.
I’m a big fan of Roman history, but there’s a lot of it to grasp and in this regard the extent of this series is particularly useful. As it moves naturally from the founding of Rome to the high point of the Empire, through the crisis of the 3rd century, into Constantine and Diocletian’s reforms and finally into the decline, the podcast covers everything in a level of detail that gives the listener the groundwork to go out and learn more about anything that interests them (including book recommendations), or to just sit back and enjoy the story.

Where to begin for newcomers? At the beginning would probably be the traditional starting point here. The first few episodes can be a little rougher as the style and the recording techniques settles, but stick with it – it becomes very slick, very quickly. I will however mention a few of my favourite topics:

  • Trajan – in many ways the high point of the empire, Duncan is clearly a fan and these episodes are particularly enjoyable.
  • Diocletian/Constantine – a time of great change in the empire, very well explained.

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