Word of Mouth Presents: BackStory

Jul 3, 2017

All this week we're sharing episodes from the podcast all about American History: BackStory.

BackStory is a public radio program & podcast that brings historical perspective to the events happening around us today. On each show, renowned U.S. 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. Together, they drill down to colonial times and earlier, revealing the connections (and disconnections) between past and present. With its passionate, intelligent, and irreverent approach, BackStory is fun and essential listening no matter who you are.

Click on the titles to listen to these episodes again. 

Monday - Health Nuts: A History of Nutritional Advice

Until recently, the link between a high fat diet and heart disease was one of the touchstones of modern medicine. But new research has thrown that connection into question, just as numerous studies over the years have brought new advice about health and diet to the fore. So in this episode, the Guys take the long view on nutritional advice and explore some of the more surprising ways that past generations have defined “health food.”

Tuesday - Rare History Well Done: Meat in America

Eating meat is a time-honored tradition in America. Whether it’s Thanksgiving Day turkey, a TV dinner of Salisbury steak, or a plate of Hawaiian Spam musubi, meat has been a constant presence on the national platter. But over the years, changing technologies, tastes, and policies have altered not only which meats Americans consume but also how they consume them. As millions of Americans fire up their grills this Labor Day, the Guys will look back on America’s love affair with all things meat. How did we get from smokehouses to supermarkets? Why do we love hot dogs so much? And in the era of modern appliances, why do we still insist on grilling steak, wings and burgers on an open flame?

Wednesday - Wish You Were Here: A History of American Tourism

As summer winds down, millions of Americans are packing their bags and hitting the road. In this episode of BackStory, Peter, Ed and Brian explore the history of American tourism. We’ll hear how asylums and prisons were popular tourist destinations in the 19th century, and how the tiny community of Gettysburg, PA became a tourist town just days after the bloody battle. We’ll also look back on a western mountain resort that catered exclusively to black Americans during the era of segregated travel, and we’ll explore the links between tourism and the development of a national identity.

Thursday - Untrammeled: American and the Wilderness

Like millions of Americans this summer, BackStory is quitting the city and heading into the wild. In this episode, Brian, Ed, and Peter return to Americans’ fascination with wild places, and how we impact even the most remote corners of our country. The Guys explore how early European arrivals actually created wilderness out of a landscape long shaped by human intervention. They also find out how the city of San Francisco controlled the remote Hetch Hetchy valley, hundreds of miles away. Plus, they ask how our ideas about wild places have changed over time. Is there any wilderness left in the twenty-first century?