What We’re Listening To: The Global History Podcasts Roundup #EarlyModern Edition

By Dr Kristie Patricia Flannery

History podcasts allow us to learn about the past while we go about our mundane lives—commuting, washing the dishes, exercising at the gym. This round-up of the best early modern global history podcasts (in English) tells you where you can tune in to keep up to date with the latest research in this diverse field. Podcasts can be excellent teaching resources too. Consider assigning history podcasts to cover basic content outside of the classroom, allowing more class time to be dedicated to discussion and other engaged learning activities.

15 Minute History 
Faculty and graduate students in the Department of History at the University of Texas at Austin created Fifteen Minute History for educators. The short format of this podcast makes it ideal for teaching high school and university history courses. Complete transcripts are available for each episode and ensure that they are more accessible and easily searchable. You will find a lot of early modern global history here, including the episode I recorded with Ashleigh Dean on the transpacific silver trade and early modern globalization.

Witch Hunt 
I’m a big fan of BBC Radio Scotland’s Witch Hunt podcast produced by a historian (Louise Yeoman) and a comedian (Susan Morrison). The eight-episode series dropped in late 2019. It traces the rise and fall of the witch hunt craze that swept across Scotland in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and resulted in the executions of more than three thousand people, most of whom were women. Listeners learn what a witch hunt with Scottish characteristics looked like: witnesses and the accused mentioned meetings with fairies (and fairy Queen herself!) as well as with the devil as Scottish folk culture intersected with Christian belief systems. I only wish that the producers would tell us more about the broader global context in which these Scottish events occurred, including their connections to the surge of witch hunts across Europe and in European colonies. This is an excellent example, nevertheless, of doing early modern history in a way that engages experts and the general public. 

Kingdom, Empire and Plus Ultra
This History Hub production is the best English-language podcast on the history of early modern Spain and Portugal and their global empires. The podcast is created by University College Dublin’s Edward Collins. Here leading scholars discuss their latest research on the history of the Iberian world. Highlights include Adrian Masters’s analysis of how laws that governed life in Spanish colonies in the Americas were created from below, by a multitude of petitioners. Barbara Mundy’s episode on Tenochtitlan explores the transformation and resilience of the Aztec city in the aftermath of the Spanish conquest. The long format, with each episode running for over an hour, allows for a rich conversation.

The Ottoman History Podcast
There are over four hundred episodes of the Ottoman History Podcast. The series section of the accompanying blog is the best way to dive in and explore all that this podcast has to offer. Here you will find curated collections of episodes organized thematically, such as “Urban Space in the Ottoman World.” Another good place to start is with an overview of the most popular episodes of 2019. In one of my favorite episodes, Heghnar Watenpaugh traces the centuries-long transoceanic journey of the medieval Armenian illuminated manuscript the Zeytun Gospels. Listeners learn how an object can reveal histories of exile, migrations, genocide, and diaspora.

New Books Network
Looking for scholarly book reviews in a podcast format? This is the podcast for you. The New Books Network’s (NBN) podcasts are devoted to exploring new academic monographs in various disciplines. Each hour-long episode is devoted to a single book. The format is a conversation between the host and the book’s author, allowing for a deep-dive into the book’s key concepts, main arguments, and contributions to the field. Archives and methodologies also get the attention they deserve. Tuning in is a good strategy for staying abreast of new research and historiographical trends. The NBN boasts decent coverage of early modern history, although episodes tend to focus on the Americas, Europe, and the Atlantic world. We are eagerly waiting coverage of new books on the pre-modern Pacific and Indian Ocean Worlds. Check out the episode dedicated Jesse Cromwell’s new book The Smuggler’s World, which includes valuable advice to PhD students and early career historians on choosing a research project.

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