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, September 12, 2014 1:30pmIn honor of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, BackStory heads into the wilderness, exploring Americans’ fascination with, and fear of, wild places – and the ways in which humans have impacted even the most remote corners of the country. From early early English colonists who saw wilderness in an already settled land, to 19th and 20th century Americans who sought to flee cities and find peace in nature, we're taking a look at how our physical and mental landscapes have changed over time.
Friday, September 5, 2014 12:49pm200 years ago, the United States was engulfed in a war that had seen Washington, D.C. attacked and burned, and the nation's independence seriously threatened. Today, few people remember who we were even fighting in that conflict - the War of 1812 - much less what we were fighting for. But despite its forgotten status, the War of 1812 was hugely influential in shaping the nation we live in today. And so in this episode, we go beyond the trivia, and explore some of the war's deeper legacies. We look at why the war loomed so large in novels & poems of the post-war years, how the war re-defined government policies towards Native Americans, and why the war nearly led to a civil war within the U.S. Through it all, we set out to answer the most fundamental questions about the War of 1812: what did we win, what did we lose, and why should we care?
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.