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, July 18, 2014 2:54pmRecent estimates suggest that more than 50% of Americans will suffer from a "mental disorder" at some point in their lifetime, making the once "abnormal" - well, normal. So in this episode, BackStory looks back over the history of mental illness in America - exploring how the diagnostic line between mental health and madness has shifted over time, and how Americans have treated those on both sides of it. Listeners will hear how the desire of slaves to escape bondage was once interpreted as a psychological disorder, how a woman’s sleepwalking landed her in the state asylum, and how perspectives on depression altered in the 1970s. Plus, the Guys walk us through a mid-20th century quiz that promised to identify a new kind of mental “disorder” - our susceptibility to fascism. For more on the guest and stories featured in the episode and for an array of resources exploring mental illness in American history, check out BackStory's website: http://backstoryradio.org/?p=13398
Friday, July 11, 2014 5:14pmThe World Cup has put the spotlight, once again, on Americans’ decidedly mixed relationship with soccer. Have Americans finally succumbed to the lure of the world’s most popular sport? Or do we like to stand apart when it comes to international contests—whether in soccer or other sports? In this episode, BackStory digs into the history of Americans as competitors on the international stage, and explore what’s really been at stake when the games begin. What kind of sporting prowess has the United States shown over the years? Are international competitions a form of non-military conflict, or a chance to build a global community? And what does it all mean for pride and patriotism at home? 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=13221
Friday, July 4, 2014 7:52pmIn the early days of our nation, July Fourth wasn’t an official holiday at all. In fact, it wasn’t until 1938 that it became a paid day-off. So how did the Fourth become the holiest day on our secular calendar? This episode offers some answers. With perspective from guests and taking questions from listeners, Peter, Ed, and Brian explore the origins of July Fourth. They highlight the holiday's radical roots, look at how the Declaration's meaning has changed over time, and consider how the descendants of slaves embraced the Declaration's message of liberty and equality. For more on the guests and stories featured in this episode, and for an array of resources exploring July 4th in American history, check out BackStory's website: http://backstoryradio.org/?p=13206
Friday, June 27, 2014 8:10pmIn the summer of 1963, the prospects for a long-awaited civil rights bill looked dim. One book published that year called the situation hopeless, saying that Americans "underestimate the extent to which our system was designed for deadlock and inaction." But a year later, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the law of the land. So how did something that seemed so unlikely become a reality? On this episode, we mark the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act by tracing the various strands of history that culminated in this momentous legislation. For more on the guests and stories featured in this episode, and for an array of resources exploring the background to the Civil Rights Act, check out BackStory's website: http://backstoryradio.org/?p=13156
Friday, June 20, 2014 3:16pmThe Supreme Court will soon rule on whether Hobby Lobby, a chain of craft stores, can be exempted from parts of the Affordable Care Act on account of the corporation’s religious beliefs. Raising questions about “corporate personhood,” and coming just a few years after the Court’s still-controversial Citizens United ruling, the case has further fueled the debate over corporate power today. But how did corporations become such powerful institutions in American life? And how did Americans in the past view their role and influence? In this episode, BackStory explores the changing status of the corporation throughout American history. From the proliferation of corporations in the post-Revolutionary era to the rise of the Gilded Age giants, the guys and their guests consider how corporations have been viewed in the courts and by the population-at-large. For more on the guests and stories featured in this episode, and for an array of resources exploring the history of corporations in the United States, take a look at BackStory's website: http://backstoryradio.org/?p=13130