US historians Ed Ayers, Peter Onuf and Brian Balogh tear a topic from the headlines and plumb its historical depths. Over the course of the hour, they are joined by fellow historians, people in the news, and callers interested in exploring the roots of what's going on today.
Friday, August 29, 2014 11:39amIn his 2014 State of the Union address, President Obama called on Congress to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10, and then signed an executive order putting it into effect for federal contract workers. With legislation on the table in Congress and increases being debated in many states, this episode looks to the origins of the minimum wage, and explores how we’ve thought about fair pay over time. Along with their guests, Ed, Brian, and Peter discuss how slaves in the antebellum period could sometimes be brought into the wage economy, and how convict labor played havoc with wages in the wake of the Civil War. They discover why early 20th century feminists cheered the demise of state minimum wage legislation in the 1920s, and find out how the federal minimum wage came to be, a decade later. For more on the guests and stories featured in this episode, and for an array of resources exploring the history of Americans competing in sports on the world stage, check out BackStory's website: http://backstoryradio.org/?p=13857
Friday, August 22, 2014 6:04pmWorld War I was sometimes called "the war to end all wars." But 100 years after the fighting began, it's become a war that's often forgotten in American history, or viewed as a prelude to WWII. In this episode, we explore some of the ways the conflict affected Americans far beyond the battlefields of Europe -- from debates about the meaning of free speech, to the fight over how the war would be remembered.
Friday, August 15, 2014 11:05amAmericans have had an ongoing fascination with the skies above us, so in this episode, we’re taking on space. How have people made sense of meteors, eclipses, and the stars? What has made us want to travel among them, to go to the moon, to Mars, or beyond? And how do things change for those of us here on earth when we do? Peter, Ed, and Brian will be looking up, and looking back. We've got the story of a New England day in 1780 when the sun did not rise, and a midwestern evening a century later when meat fell from the skies. That’s right, meat. Plus, Peter, Ed, and Brian learn about the powerful impact of first photograph of the earth taken from space, and talk with the astronaut who took it. And they hear from a few Americans who signed up for a trip to the moon in the 1960s…and are still waiting to get there.
Friday, August 8, 2014 4:17pmIt’s a worry as old as the Republic: Do politicians look out for the public good, or their own private interests? But what exactly Americans consider the corruption of public office has changed over time. This week, BackStory shines a light on fears of corruption in America--from back room deals in Congress, to paying bureaucrats on commission, to the taint of corporate money in modern politics.
Friday, August 1, 2014 2:49pmThe Western U.S. is in the grip of a punishing drought. Reservoir levels are dropping, and farmers are struggling to ensure water access for their crops and livestock. In this episode, we’re looking at how Americans have managed access to water throughout our history. From early legal struggles over natural waterways to the shared irrigation systems of New Mexico, we’ll consider how Americans have divided up water rights for private profit and public good.