Throughline

Throughline

By NPR

The past is never past. Every headline has a history. Join us every week as we go back in time to understand the present. These are stories you can feel and sounds you can see from the moments that shaped our world.

Episodes

Stories of How We Cope With Chaos (2021)

You've been looking at screens for what feels like forever. Now it's time to sit back, close your eyes, and come with us to worlds you've never seen, and histories you've never imagined. This is the first episode of our summer series "Movies for Your Mind."What happens when teenagers are shipwrecked on a deserted island? Can you find the fingerprint of God in warzones? Why was the concept of zero so revolutionary for humanity? More than a year into a pandemic that has completely upended the lives of people around the world, we look at how we cope with chaos, how we're primed to make order out of randomness, and why the stories we're taught to believe about our propensities for self-destruction may not actually be true.
05/08/211h 5m

Grenada: Nobody's Backyard

A Marxist revolution, a Cold War proxy battle, and a dream of a Black utopia. In 1983, Ronald Reagan ordered the U.S. military to invade the island of Grenada. Almost four decades later, many Americans don't remember why — or that it even happened. This week, Martine Powers, from Post Reports, brings us a story of revolution, invasion, and the aftermath of unresolved history.
29/07/2159m 58s

Olympics: Behind The Five Rings

The Olympics originated in Ancient Greece, and were resurrected in the 1890's after a 1,500 year ban. Since then, the International Olympic Committee has been behind every Olympic Games. In this episode, we explore the story of how the IOC turned the Olympics into a huge commercial success and whether the cities that host the games end up winning or losing.
22/07/2143m 42s

Home/Front: Marla's War

What do we owe innocent civilians who are killed or injured in war? This is one of the thorniest ethical questions that any military faces, but it was not abstract for anti-war activist Marla Ruzicka. From Rough Translation's new series Home/Front.
20/07/2136m 10s

The Most Sacred Right (2020)

Frederick Douglass dreamed of a country where all people could vote and he did everything in his power to make that dream a reality. In the face of slavery, the Civil War and the violence of Jim Crow, he fought his entire life for what he believed was a sacred, natural right that should be available to all people - voting.
15/07/211h 4m

Bonus: Do The Golden Arches Bend Toward Justice?

This week we're featuring an episode from Code Switch, Do The Golden Arches Bend Toward Justice?. Calls for racial justice are met with a lot of different proposals, but one of the loudest and most enduring is to invest in Black businesses. But can "buying Black" actually do anything to mitigate racism? To find out, they taking a look at the surprising link between Black capitalism and McDonald's.
12/07/2129m 39s

Capitalism: God Wants You To Be Rich

In the New Testament, Jesus says it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. In the United States today, many Christians believe in something radically different. In what's known as the prosperity gospel, wealth is a sign of virtue and God's favor. The effects of this belief can be seen throughout American life from business to politics to social policy.
08/07/2152m 20s

Capitalism: What Makes Us Free?

What's the role of government in society? What do we mean when we talk about individual responsibility? What makes us free? 'Neoliberalism' might feel like a squishy term that's hard to define and understand. But this ideology, founded by a group of men in the Swiss Alps, is a political project that has dominated our economic system for decades. In the name of free market fundamentals, the forces behind neoliberalism act like an invisible hand, shaping almost every aspect of our lives.
01/07/2154m 4s

Bonus: The Vanishing of Harry Pace

This week we're featuring an episode from Radiolab's latest new series, The Vanishing of Harry Pace. Harry Pace founded the first major Black-owned record label in the U.S., ushering in a new wave of American music. But it's also a mystery story, because one day, Harry Pace just disappeared. The Vanishing of Harry Pace is a series about the phenomenal but forgotten man who changed the music scene in the United States. It's a story about betrayal, family, hidden identities, and a time like no other.
29/06/211h 14m

Capitalism: What Is It?

What do we mean when we talk about capitalism? Our economic system might seem inevitable, but it's a construction project hundreds of years in the making and no part of it is natural or left to chance. This week, we kick off our series on the past, present and future of capitalism with Kristen Ghodsee, Vivek Chibber, and Bryan Caplan, who debate how an economic system became an all-encompassing force that rules our lives and our minds.
24/06/2158m 27s

Before Stonewall (2019)

In 1969, a gay bar in New York City called The Stonewall Inn was raided by police. It was a common form of harassment in those days but what followed, days of rebellion as patrons fought back, was anything but ordinary. Today, that event is seen as the start of the gay civil rights movement, but gay activists and organizations were standing up to harassment and discrimination years before. On this episode from our archives, the fight for gay rights before Stonewall.
17/06/2142m 45s

Who is NPR (For)?

Who is the media meant to serve? And why does it matter today, arguably, more than ever? 50 years ago, National Public Radio began as a small, scrappy news organization with big ideals and a very small footprint. Over the subsequent years of coverage and programming, NPR has grown and evolved into a mainstream media outlet, with a mission of serving audiences that reflect America. This week, Michel Martin, host of Weekend All Things Considered, talks to us about her time at NPR and the importance of representing all voices in news.
10/06/2138m 19s

The Supreme Court

When, why, and how did the Supreme Court get the final say in the law of the land? The question of the Court's role, and whether its decisions should reign above all the other branches of government, has been hotly debated for centuries. And that's resulted in a Supreme Court more powerful than anything the Founding Fathers could have imagined possible.
03/06/211h 0m

Palestine

The recent violence that engulfed Gaza and Jerusalem began with an issue that's plagued the region for a century now: settlements. In East Jerusalem, Palestinian residents are facing forced removal by Israeli settler organizations. It's a pattern that has repeated over the history of this conflict. Historian Rashid Khalidi guides us through the history of settlements and displacement going back to the age of European colonialism.
28/05/2155m 52s

A Symphony of Resistance

The Arab Spring erupted ten years ago when a wave of "pro-democracy" protests spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa. The effects of the uprisings reverberated around the world as regimes fell in some countries, and civil war began in others. This week, we remember the years leading up to the Arab Spring, and its lasting impact on three people who lived through it.
20/05/2158m 32s

Five Fingers Crush The Land

Over one million Uyghur people have been detained in camps in China, according to estimates, subjected to torture, forced labor, religious restrictions, and even forced sterilization. The vast majority of this minority ethnic group is Muslim, living for centuries at a crossroads of culture and empire along what was once the Silk Road. This week, we explore who the Uyghur people are, their land, their customs, their music and why they've become the target of what many are calling a genocide.
13/05/2157m 53s

Operation Nemesis

An estimated 1.5 million Armenian Christians were killed by the Ottoman government during World War I, in what came to be known as the Armenian Genocide. The perpetrators escaped Constantinople in the middle of the night and began new lives undercover in Europe. So, a small group of Armenian survivors decided to take justice into their own hands. In this episode from Kerning Cultures, the secretive operation to avenge the Armenian Genocide, and how it changed the idea of justice in the modern world. This story originally aired on Kerning Cultures, a podcast telling stories from across the Middle East and North Africa and the spaces in between.
06/05/2153m 22s

James Baldwin's Shadow

James Baldwin believed that America has been lying to itself since its founding. He wrote, spoke, and thought incessantly about the societal issues that still exist today. As the United States continues to reckon with its history of systemic racism and police brutality, Eddie S. Glaude Jr. guides us through the meaning and purpose of James Baldwin's work and how his words can help us navigate the current moment.
29/04/2146m 14s

Force of Nature

Rivers on fire, acid rain falling from the sky, species going extinct, oil spills, polluted air, and undrinkable water. For so long, we didn't think of our planet as a place to preserve. And then in the 1960's and 70's that changed. Democrats and Republicans, with overwhelming public support, came together to pass a sweeping legislative agenda around environmental protection. In today's episode, what led to Earth Day, and what Earth Day led to.
22/04/2151m 44s

The Real Black Panthers

The Black Panther Party's battles for social justice and economic equality are the centerpiece of the Oscar-nominated film 'Judas and The Black Messiah.' In 1968, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover said the Black Panther Party "without question, represents the greatest threat to internal security of the country." And with that declaration he used United States federal law enforcement to wage war on the group, But why did Hoover's FBI target the Black Panther Party more severely than any other Black power organization? Historian Donna Murch says the answer lies in the Panthers' political agenda and a strategy that challenged the very foundations of American society.
15/04/2157m 49s

Policing in America

Black Americans being victimized and killed by the police is an epidemic. As the trial of Derek Chauvin plays out, it's a truth and a trauma many people in the US and around the world are again witnessing first hand. But this tension between African American communities and the police has existed for centuries. This week, the origins of policing in the United States and how those origins put violent control of Black Americans at the heart of the system.
08/04/211h 7m

Our Own People

"Build bridges, not walls." Solidarity was at the heart of Yuri Kochiyama's work. A Japanese-American activist whose early political awakenings came while incarcerated in the concentration camps of World War II America, Kochiyama dedicated her life to social justice and liberation movements. As hate crimes against AAPI people surge in this country, we reflect on Yuri Kochiyama's ideas around the Asian American struggle, and what solidarity and intersectionality can mean for all struggles.
01/04/2153m 52s

The Land of the Fee

Tipping is a norm in the U.S. But it hasn't always been this way. A legacy of slavery and racism, tipping took off in the post-Civil War era. The case against tipping had momentum in the early 1900's, yet what began as a movement to end an exploitative practice just ended up continuing it.
25/03/2150m 53s

Chaos

What happens when teenagers are shipwrecked on a deserted island? Can you find the fingerprint of God in warzones? Why was the concept of zero so revolutionary for humanity? A year into a pandemic that has completely upended the lives of people around the world, we look at how we cope with chaos, how we're primed to make order out of randomness, and why the stories we're taught to believe about our propensities for self-destruction may not actually be true.
18/03/211h 3m

N95

The N95 respirator has become one of the most coveted items in the world during the pandemic, especially by medical professionals. But how did this seemingly simple mask become the lifesaving tool it is today? From bird beaks to wrapping paper to bras, we follow the curious history of one of the most important defenses in our fight against COVID-19.
11/03/2141m 52s

Levittown: Where the Good Life Begins

In this episode from WNYC's La Brega, Alana Casanova-Burgess traces back the story of the boom and bust of the Puerto Rican Levittown. For many Americans, Levittown is the prototypical suburb, founded on the idea of bringing Americans into a middle-class lifestyle after WWII. But while the NY Levittown was becoming a symbol of American prosperity, there was a parallel story of Levittown in Puerto Rico during a time of great change on the island. Casanova-Burgess (herself the granddaughter of an early PR Levittown resident) explores what the presence of a Levittown in Puerto Rico tells us about the promises of the American Dream. It's a story that reflects and reveals how la brega has defined so many aspects of life in Puerto Rico.
04/03/2146m 13s

Bayard Rustin: The Man Behind the March on Washington

Bayard Rustin, the man behind the March on Washington, was one of the most consequential architects of the civil rights movement you may never have heard of. Rustin imagined how nonviolent civil resistance could be used to dismantle segregation in the United States. He organized around the idea for years and eventually introduced it to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But his identity as a gay man made him a target, obscured his rightful status and made him feel forced to choose, again and again, which aspect of his identity was most important.
25/02/211h 11m

Octavia Butler: Visionary Fiction

Octavia Butler's alternate realities and 'speculative fiction' reveal striking, and often devastating parallels to the world we live in today. She was a deep observer of the human condition, perplexed and inspired by our propensity towards self-destruction. Butler was also fascinated by the cyclical nature of history, and often looked to the past when writing about the future. Along with her warnings is her message of hope - a hope conjured by centuries of survival and persistence. For every society that perished in her books, came a story of rebuilding, of repair.
18/02/211h 8m

Marcus Garvey: Pan-Africanist

Decades before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey attracted millions with a simple, uncompromising message: Black people deserved nothing less than everything, and if that couldn't happen in the United States, they should return to Africa. This week, the seismic influence and complicated legacy of Marcus Garvey.
11/02/211h 4m

The Lasting Power Of Whitney Houston's National Anthem

Why does Whitney Houston's 1991 Super Bowl national anthem still resonate 30 years later? Listen to this episode from our friends at It's Been A Minute with Sam Sanders where they chat with author and Black Girl Songbook host Danyel Smith about that moment of Black history and what it says about race, patriotism and pop culture.
07/02/2125m 17s

What Happened After Civilization Collapsed

What happens after everything falls apart? The end of the Bronze Age was a moment when an entire network of ancient civilizations collapsed, leaving behind only clues to what happened. Today, scholars have pieced together a story where everything from climate change to mass migration to natural disasters played a role. What the end of the Bronze Age can teach us about avoiding catastrophe and what comes after collapse.
04/02/2158m 25s

The Anatomy Of Autocracy: Masha Gessen

Russian-born journalist Masha Gessen talks to us about how the rule of the people becomes the rule of the one, the role of the media, and what we can learn about the building blocks of autocracy from the work of philosopher and writer Hannah Arendt, and what history tells us are the ways to dismantle it.
28/01/2145m 49s

The Anatomy of Autocracy: Timothy Snyder

When a mob of pro-Trump supporters violently stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6, they also incited a defining moment in United States history. Now what? Historian Timothy Snyder talks to us about how we got here and what an insurrection could mean for the future of America.
21/01/2140m 8s

Impeachment

When Andrew Johnson became president in 1865, the United States was in the midst of one of its most volatile chapters. The country was divided after fighting a bloody civil war and had just experienced the first presidential assassination. We look at how these factors led to the first presidential impeachment in American history.
14/01/2119m 20s

Outside/In: Everybody Knows Somebody

In the mid-1980's a woman who didn't consider herself a feminist was asked to solve perhaps the biggest problem women face. How she and a small group of people seized on that rare moment and fought back in the hopes that something could finally be done.
07/01/2159m 39s

Outside/In: War of the Worlds

The Sunni-Shia divide is a conflict that most people have heard about - two sects with Sunni Islam being in the majority and Shia Islam the minority. Exactly how did this conflict originate and when? We go through 1400 years of history to find the moment this divide first turned deadly and how it has evolved since.
31/12/2038m 47s

Outside/In: The Dark Side Of The Moon

50 years ago the world watched as man first landed on the moon, an incredible accomplishment by the engineers and scientists of NASA. But what if some of those same engineers and scientists had a secret history that the U.S. government tried to hide? This week, the story of how the U.S. space program was made possible by former Nazis.
24/12/2043m 28s

Outside/In: Rules of Engagement

The US and Iran have been in some state of conflict for the last 40 years, since the Iranian revolution. This week, we look at three key moments in this conflict to better understand where it might go next.
17/12/2052m 56s

Supreme

When, why, and how did the Supreme Court get the final say in the law of the land? The question of the Court's role, and whether its decisions should reign above all the other branches of government, has been hotly debated for centuries. And that's resulted in a Supreme Court more powerful than anything the Founding Fathers could have imagined possible.
10/12/201h 2m

The Modern White Power Movement

It has been nearly twenty years since 9/11 and during that time much of the media coverage and government attention has been directed at the threat of radical Islamist terrorism. Yet, during that time, it has been domestic terrorism from armed, mostly white American men, that has posed the biggest threat. This week, the rise of the modern white power movement.
03/12/2052m 8s

The Spotted Owl

The story of how the Endangered Species Act went from unanimous passage under a Republican president to becoming a deeply partisan wedge. The act was passed to protect big, beloved animals like bald eagles and blue whales; no one thought it would apply to a motley, reclusive owl. In this episode from Oregon Public Broadcasting's Timber Wars, a story about saving the last of America's old growth forests and the push to roll back environmental protections.
26/11/2035m 36s

The Invention of Race

The idea that race is a social construct comes from the pioneering work of anthropologist Franz Boas. During a time when race-based science and the eugenics movement were becoming mainstream, anthropologist Franz Boas actively sought to prove that race was a social construct, not a biological fact.
19/11/2042m 48s

BONUS: Louder Than A Riot

This week we're bringing you something extra, an episode from the NPR Music series, Louder Than A Riot. The series examines the relationship between hip hop and mass incarceration and you can find the rest of the series here.
16/11/2052m 13s

The Shadows of the Constitution

The Constitution is like America's secular bible, our sacred founding document. In her play, What the Constitution Means to Me, Heidi Schreck goes through a process of discovering what the document is really about – who wrote it, who it was for, who it protected and who it didn't. Through Heidi's personal story, we learn how the Constitution and how it has been interpreted have affected not just her family but generations of Americans.
12/11/2046m 6s

Bush v. Gore and Why It Matters in 2020

In the 2000 presidential election, results weren't known in one night, a week, or even a month. This week, we share an episode we loved from It's Been A Minute with Sam Sanders that revisits one of the most turbulent elections in U.S. history and what it could teach us as we wait for this election's outcome.
05/11/2030m 57s

The Most Sacred Right

Frederick Douglass dreamed of a country where all people could vote and he did everything in his power to make that dream a reality. In the face of slavery, the Civil War and the violence of Jim Crow, he fought his entire life for what he believed was a sacred, natural right that should be available to all people - voting.
29/10/201h 5m

How We Vote

Drunken brawls, coercion, and lace curtains. Believe it or not, how regular people vote was not something the founding fathers thought much about, or planned for. Americans went from casting votes at drunken parties in the town square to private booths behind a drawn curtain. In this episode, the process of voting; how it was originally designed, who it was intended for, moments in our country's history when we reimagined it altogether, and what we're left with today.
22/10/201h 0m

The Electoral College

What is it, why do we have it, and why hasn't it changed? Born from a rushed, fraught, imperfect process, the origins and evolution of the Electoral College might surprise you and make you think differently about not only this upcoming presidential election, but our democracy as a whole.
15/10/2058m 53s

(mis)Representative Democracy, A New Series From Throughline

America has never been a country of one person, one vote. And that's by design. Our system was built by a select few, for a select few. We were never all supposed to get a say. In this series, we'll take a close look at voting in America, and how that's shaped what American democracy is, what it was meant to be, where it's failed, and what it might become.
08/10/201m 46s

The United States vs. Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday helped shape American popular music with her voice and unique style. But, one song in particular has become her greatest legacy — "Strange Fruit." The song paints an unflinching picture of racial violence, and it was an unexpected hit. But singing it brought serious consequences.
08/10/2035m 9s

The Everlasting Problem

Health insurance for millions of Americans is dependent on their jobs. But it's not like that everywhere. So, how did the U.S. end up with such a fragile system that leaves so many vulnerable or with no health insurance at all? On this episode, how a temporary solution created an everlasting problem.
01/10/2056m 0s

The Evangelical Vote

With the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the president is hoping to fill the seat with a more ideologically conservative justice. And evangelical Christians, who've become a powerful conservative voting bloc, have been waiting for this moment. But how and when did this religious group become so intertwined with today's political issues, especially abortion? In this episode, what it means to be an evangelical today and how that has changed over time.
24/09/201h 4m

James Baldwin's Fire

In a moment when America is undertaking an uncomfortable reckoning with its racial inequality and violence, we wanted to look back at someone who concentrated on race in America his entire life. Considered to be one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, James Baldwin wrote incessantly about the societal issues that still exist today.
17/09/2045m 59s

The Postal Service

The US Postal Service has played a role throughout American history - from the Declaration of Independence to today's mail-in voting. It was conceived of by the founders as the way to create a united, informed and effective American democracy. But today, the postal service's future is in danger. How the postal service created the United States and the case for this pivotal institution.
10/09/2030m 6s

Reframing History: Mass Incarceration

The United States imprisons more people than any other country in the world, and a disproportionate number of those prisoners are Black. What are the origins of the U.S. criminal justice system and how did racism shape it? From the creation of the first penitentiaries in the 1800s, to the "tough-on-crime" prosecutors of the 1990s, how America created a culture of mass incarceration.
03/09/2050m 12s

Reframing History: Bananas

The banana is a staple of the American diet and has been for generations. But how did this exotic tropical fruit become so commonplace? How one Brooklyn-born entrepreneur ruthlessly created the modern banana industry and the infamous banana republics.
27/08/2058m 20s

Reframing History: The Commentator

Today the foundations of philosophy are seen as a straight line from Western antiquity, built on thinkers such as Plato and Aristotle. But, between the 8th century and 14th century, the West was greatly overshadowed by the Islamic world and philosophy was in very different hands. This week, how one Medieval Islamic philosopher put his pen to paper and shaped the modern world.
20/08/2032m 36s

Reframing History: The Litter Myth

There is more waste in the world today than at any time in history, and the responsibility for keeping the environment clean too often falls on individuals instead of manufacturers. But, why us? And why this feeling of responsibility? This week, how one organization changed the American public's relationship with waste and who is ultimately responsible for it.
13/08/2034m 19s

America's Caste System

"Race" is often used as a fundamental way to understand American history. But what if "caste" is the more appropriate lens? In conversation with Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson, we examine the hidden system that has shaped our country.
06/08/2040m 43s

A.D.A. Now!

This month marks the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which is considered the most important civil rights law since the 1960s. Through first-person stories, we look back at the making of this movement, the history of how disability came to be seen as a civil rights issue, and what the disability community is still fighting for 30 years later.
30/07/201h 2m

Lives Of The Great Depression

The Great Depression was a revolutionary spark for all kinds of things — health insurance, social safety nets, big government — all of which were in response to a national crisis. Through the personal accounts of four people who lived during the Great Depression, we look back at what life was like back then and what those stories can teach us about the last time the U.S. went through a national economic cataclysm.
23/07/2047m 42s

Borinquén

Puerto Rico became a U.S. territory in 1898 and for much of the next fifty years Puerto Ricans fought fiercely about this status. Should they struggle for independence, or to be a U.S. state, or something in between? In this episode, we look at Puerto Rico's relationship with the mainland U.S. and the key figures who shaped the island's fate.
16/07/201h 7m

The Long Hot Summer

Starting in 1965, summer after summer, America's cities burned. There was civil unrest in more than 150 cities across the country. So in 1967, Lyndon Johnson appointed a commission to diagnose the root causes of the problem and to suggest solutions. What the so called "Kerner Commission" returned with was hotly anticipated and shocking to many Americans. This week, how that report and the reaction to it continues to shape American life.
09/07/2043m 1s

Mecca Under Siege

Hajj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, is effectively canceled this year, due to concerns around the spread of the coronavirus. But, for two weeks in 1979, visits to the holy site were also upended when a group of Islamic militants seized Mecca, taking thousands of visitors hostage.
02/07/2045m 4s

There's Something About Mary

When a cook who carried typhoid fever refused to stop working, despite showing no symptoms, the authorities forcibly quarantined her for nearly three decades. Perfect villain or just a woman scapegoated because of her background? What the story of Typhoid Mary tells us about journalism, the powers of the state, and the tension between personal responsibility and personal liberty.
25/06/2042m 38s

Why 2020 Isn't Quite 1968

Protests, racial divisions, political polarization, and a law-and-order president – it's easy to draw comparisons between 2020 and 1968. But, Adam Serwer, who covers politics at The Atlantic, says that a much better point of comparison actually starts a century earlier – 1868. This week, we share an episode we loved from It's Been A Minute with Sam Sanders that explores a moment when white Republicans fought for years for the rights of Black Americans, before abandoning them to pursue white voters.
18/06/2028m 29s

Presidential Power

What can and can't the president do, and how do we know? When the framers of the U.S. constitution left vague the powers of the executive branch they opened the door to every president to decide how much power they could claim. This week, how the office of the presidency became more powerful than anything the Founding Fathers imagined possible.
11/06/2052m 52s

American Police

Black Americans being victimized and killed by the police is an epidemic. A truth many Americans are acknowledging since the murder of George Floyd, as protests have occurred in all fifty states calling for justice on his behalf. But this tension between African American communities and the police has existed for centuries. This week, the origins of American policing and how those origins put violent control of Black Americans at the heart of the system.
04/06/201h 4m

Hong Kong

Last week, the Chinese government made the latest and perhaps the most serious move yet to crack down on Hong Kong's semi-autonomy. It's just the latest such effort by Beijing in the decades-long tensions between China and Hong Kong and it seems to take advantage of the quarantine calm that has subdued months of protests. But when did these tensions begin and what have Hong Kongers been fighting for?
28/05/2045m 38s

Conspiracy

Since the beginning of the pandemic, conspiracy theories about the coronavirus have exploded. But conspiracy theories themselves are nothing new - in fact, they're fundamental to American life. In this episode, how conspiracy theories helped to create the U.S. and became the currency of political opportunists.
21/05/2042m 40s

The Mask

The N95 respirator has become one of the most coveted items in the world, especially by medical professionals. But how did this seemingly simple mask become the lifesaving tool it is today? From bird beaks to wrapping paper to bras, we follow the curious history of one of the most important defenses in our fight against COVID-19.
14/05/2041m 17s

Endless War

North Korea's famous for being a black box, one of the most secretive and authoritarian countries in the world. It has a nuclear stockpile. A history of erratic behavior. And a particular fixation on antagonizing the outside world — especially the United States. This cycle of antagonism isn't an accident – the U.S. has played a formative role in the history of North Korea. And North Korea's leaders have been invoking that history from the very beginning.
07/05/2036m 3s

Meltdown

In the early hours of March 28, 1979, a system malfunction began what would become the worst nuclear accident in American history. What ensued punctured the public's belief in the safety of nuclear energy and became an awful study in the consequences of communication breakdown during a crisis. This week, the fallout of who and what to trust when a catastrophic event occurs.
30/04/2054m 47s

Aftermath

In 1927, the most destructive river flood in U.S. history inundated seven states, displaced more than half a million people for months, and caused about $1 billion dollars in property damages. And like many national emergencies it exposed a stark question that the country still struggles to answer - what is the political calculus used to decide who bears the ultimate responsibility in a crisis, especially when it comes to the most vulnerable? This week, the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and what came after.
23/04/2055m 43s

Buzzkill

In the whole of human history, no predator has killed more of us than the lowly mosquito. And this killing spree, which we still struggle in vain to stop, means the mosquito has been an outsized force in our history — from altering the fate of empires to changing our DNA. This week, three stories of the quiet legacy and the potential future of the mosquito.
16/04/2035m 13s

Throughline Presents: Code Switch

The Principal Chief of Cherokee Nation told his people to stay strong during this pandemic, and to remember how much they've endured over a long history that includes the Trail of Tears. This week, we share an episode from Code Switch that takes a look at an almost 200-year-old Cherokee family feud, the right to representation and what both things have to do with the Trail of Tears.
09/04/2032m 9s

A Race To Know

For nearly as long as there has been a United States there has been a census, it is in some ways how we know ourselves. And in every single census there has been at least one question about race. The evolution of these questions and the fight over asking them is at the heart of the American story. This week, how race has played a central role in who is counted-in America.
02/04/2041m 59s

1918 Flu

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic it's tempting to draw comparisons to the most severe pandemic in recent history - the 1918 flu. But as much as we can learn from the comparison, it's important to also understand just how much these two pandemics differ. This week, what we can learn from what happened then and, just as importantly, where the comparison should end.
26/03/2038m 33s

American Socialist

It's been over a century since a self-described socialist was a viable candidate for President of the United States. And that first socialist candidate, Eugene V. Debs, didn't just capture significant votes, he created a new and enduring populist politics deep in the American grain. This week, the story of Eugene V. Debs and the creation of American socialism.
19/03/201h 3m

Savarkar And India

In the past few weeks Delhi has become the latest place in India convulsed with religious violence as Hindu mobs burned Muslim neighborhoods, mosques and killed over 40 people. The violence comes in the wake of a new citizenship law that excludes undocumented Muslims, but it also follows years of incendiary rhetoric and policies from the ascendant right-wing Hindu nationalist party, the BJP, and India's Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. As the political philosophy of Hindu nationalism gains ground in India we look back at one of its architects - Vinayak Savarkar.
12/03/2032m 43s

Public Universal Friend

America in the run-up to the Revolutionary War wasn't just a period of dramatic political change, it was also a time of great religious and social instability, anxiety and experimentation. And in the midst of it all there arose a self-proclaimed genderless prophet — the Public Universal Friend. This week, how the Public Universal Friend rocked society's norms and paved the way for others to reject religious and gender expectations for centuries to come.
05/03/2048m 32s

The Invisible Border

Today, the border that divides Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is "soft", in most places you could almost forget that it's there. But for decades it was a deadly flash point in the bitter conflict known as "The Troubles" . This week, we share an episode from Today, Explained that takes a look at the history of this conflict and how Brexit could jeopardize a fragile peace.
27/02/2033m 2s

The Stars

Astrology has existed for thousands of years and has roots that span the globe. But is it a science or a religion or just a kind of personality test? And why is it more popular than ever? This week, the story of how finding our fates in the stars moved from the fringes to the mainstream and became a multi-billion dollar industry.
20/02/2058m 38s

Becoming America

When the United States of America was founded, it was only a union of a small number of states. By the beginning of the 20th century, the United States had become an empire; with states and territories and colonies that spanned the globe. As a result, the country began to not only reconsider its place in the world, but also its very name.
13/02/2033m 8s

She Got Next

There are more female candidates in this presidential campaign cycle than at any other time in American history. But women were running for the highest office before they could even vote. How three women ran and challenged the notion of who could and should be president of the United States.
06/02/201h 1m

Vaccination

It's a longstanding fight in the U.S., whether people can opt out of vaccination if that means jeopardizing the greater public's health. In this episode, we look back at a 1905 Supreme Court case that set a precedent for whether or not the state can enforce compulsory vaccinations.
30/01/2023m 34s

Soleimani's Iran

When Qassem Soleimani was assassinated by the United States on January 3rd, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander suddenly became a household name. But in Iran, he's been a potent symbol for decades, shaping conflicts in the region and with the U.S. In this episode, the origins of the shadow commander and the complicated legacy of what he means to Iran.
23/01/2047m 50s

Everybody Knows Somebody

In the mid-1980's a woman who didn't consider herself a feminist was asked to solve perhaps the biggest problem women face. How she and a small group of people seized on that rare moment and fought back in the hopes that something could finally be done.
16/01/2059m 21s

There Will Be Bananas

The banana is a staple of the American diet and has been for generations. But how did this exotic tropical fruit become so commonplace? How one Brooklyn-born entrepreneur ruthlessly created the modern banana industry and the infamous banana republics.
09/01/2056m 52s

Fear of Technology

Artificial intelligence, gene modification, and self-driving cars are causing fear and uncertainty about how technology is changing our lives. But humans have struggled to accept innovations throughout history. In this episode, we explore three innovations that transformed the world and show how people have adapted — and ask whether we can do the same today.
02/01/2036m 59s

Russia's Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin has been running Russia since 2000 when he was first elected as President. How did a former KGB officer make his way up to the top seat — was it political prowess or was he just the recipient of a lot of good fortune? In this episode, we dive into the life of Vladimir Putin and try to understand how he became Russia's new "tsar."
26/12/1936m 38s

Planned Obsolescence

Have you ever wondered why your smartphone or toaster oven doesn't seem to last very long, even though technology is becoming better and better? In a special collaboration with Planet Money, we bring you the history of planned obsolescence – the idea that products are designed to break.
19/12/1934m 55s

America's Opioid Epidemic

A record number of Americans have died from opioid overdoses in recent years. But how did we get here? And is this the first time Americans have faced this crisis? The short answer: no. Three stories of opioids that have plagued Americans for more than 150 years.
12/12/1946m 12s

The Electrical Grid

Today, electricity in the U.S. is a utility we notice only when it's suddenly unavailable. But over a hundred years ago, electricity in the homes of every American was a wild idea and the subject of a bitter fight over who would power, and profit from, the national grid. This week, the battle that electrified our world and the extreme measures that were taken to get there.
05/12/1943m 27s

Conspiracy Theories

This week we're revisiting one of our favorite episodes about one of our favorite topics: Conspiracy theories. They're a feature of today's news and politics. But they've really been a part of American life since its founding. In this episode, we'll explore how conspiracy theories helped to create the U.S. and how they became the currency of political opportunists.
28/11/1943m 48s

A Year Of Wonders

As extreme weather wreaks havoc around the globe we look at a natural disaster more than 200 hundred years ago that had far-reaching effects. This week, how the eruption of the Icelandic volcano Laki awed, terrified and disrupted millions around the world and changed the course of history.
21/11/1941m 6s

The Siege of Mecca

On November 20th, 1979, a group of Islamic militants seized Islam's holiest site — the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. They took thousands of hostages and held the holy site for two weeks, shocking the Islamic world. This week, how one man led an uprising that would have repercussions around the world and inspire the future of Islamic extremism.
14/11/1944m 21s

Throughline Presents: Short Wave

NPR science correspondent Geoff Brumfiel shares the story of Nazi Germany's attempt to build a nuclear reactor — and how evidence of that effort was almost lost to history. It's a tale he heard from Timothy Koeth and Miriam Hiebert at the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Maryland in College Park.
09/11/1925m 5s

No Friend But The Mountains

Over the decades the Kurds have been inspired by, allied with, relied upon and betrayed by the United States. This week we explore who the Kurds are, who they are to the United States and what, if anything, we owe to them.
07/11/1943m 59s

ZOMBIES

Zombies have become a global phenomenon — there have been at least ten zombie movies so far this year. Which made us wonder, where did this fascination for the undead come from? This week, how one of our favorite monsters is a window into Haiti's history and the horrors of slavery.
31/10/1943m 52s

The Dark Side Of The Moon

50 years ago the world watched as man first landed on the moon, an incredible accomplishment by the engineers and scientists of NASA. But what if some of those same engineers and scientists had a secret history that the U.S. government tried to hide? This week, the story of how the U.S. space program was made possible by former Nazis.
24/10/1940m 42s

A Borrowed Time

Over the past six months, demonstrations in Hong Kong have increasingly become more violent and more determined. What started out as a protest against a proposed extradition law has now become a call for China to recognize Hong Kong's semi-autonomy. But what is at the root of this tumultuous relationship between Hong Kong and China? This week, how Hong Kong became one of the most important, and most contested, cities in the world.
17/10/1944m 6s

The Commentator

Today the foundations of philosophy are seen as a straight line from Western antiquity, built on thinkers such as Plato and Aristotle. But, between the 8th century and 14th century, the West was greatly overshadowed by the Islamic world and philosophy was in very different hands. This week, how one Medieval Islamic philosopher put his pen to paper and shaped the modern world.
10/10/1930m 41s

High Crimes And Misdemeanors

When Andrew Johnson became president in 1865, the United States was in the middle of one of its most volatile chapters. The country was divided after fighting a bloody civil war and had just experienced the first presidential assassination. We look at how these factors led to the first presidential impeachment in American history.
03/10/1919m 32s

American Exile

For centuries, the United States has been a prime destination for migrants hoping for better economic opportunities, fleeing danger in their home countries or just seeking a new life. But has there ever been a moment when Americans were the ones who felt compelled to flee elsewhere? In this episode, two stories that challenge the idea of who and why Americans sought refuge in other countries.
26/09/1955m 40s

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico became a U.S. territory in 1898 and for much of the next fifty years Puerto Ricans fought fiercely about this status. Should they struggle for independence, or to be a U.S. state, or something in between? In this episode, we look at Puerto Rico's relationship with the mainland U.S. and the key figures who shaped the island's fate.
19/09/191h 6m

Three Chords And The Truth

When Lil Nas X released his viral hit "Old Town Road" last year, he sparked a conversation about what country music is and who is welcome in the genre. To better understand the deep and often misunderstood history of country music, we sat down with renowned filmmaker Ken Burns to talk about his new documentary series Country Music and his process as a storyteller.
12/09/1934m 11s

The Litter Myth

There is more waste in the world today than at any time in history, and the responsibility for keeping the environment clean too often falls on individuals instead of manufacturers. But, why us? And why this feeling of responsibility? This week, how one organization changed the American public's relationship with waste and who is ultimately responsible for it.
05/09/1935m 48s

On The Shoulders Of Giants

When Colin Kaepernick stopped standing for the national anthem at NFL games it sparked a nationwide conversation about patriotism and police brutality. And in the last few weeks that conversation was rekindled when the NFL announced a deal with Jay-Z that some thought moved attention away from Kaepernick's continued absence from the league. The discussion about the utility of athletes taking a stand is nothing new — black athletes using their platform to protest injustice has long been a tradition in American history.
29/08/1940m 12s

Strange Fruit

Billie Holiday helped shape American popular music with her voice and unique style. But, her legacy extends way beyond music with one song in particular — "Strange Fruit." The song paints an unflinching picture of racial violence, and it was an unexpected hit. But singing it brought serious consequences.In a special collaboration with NPR Music's Turning the Tables Series, how "Strange Fruit" turned Billie Holiday into one of the first victims of the War on Drugs.
22/08/1931m 4s

Mass Incarceration

The United States imprisons more people than any other country in the world, and a disproportionate number of those prisoners are Black. What are the origins of the U.S. criminal justice system and how did racism shape it? From the creation of the first penitentiaries in the 1800s, to the "tough-on-crime" prosecutors of the 1990s, how America created a culture of mass incarceration.
15/08/1948m 43s

Scorched Earth

The term "concentration camp" is most associated with Nazi Germany and the systematic killing of Jews during World War II. But colonial powers used concentration camps at the turn of the 19th century to crush rebellions. In this episode, how a war between Britain and South African Boers gave rise to some of the first camps.
08/08/1931m 42s

Huey Long Vs. The Media

Huey Pierce Long: you either loved him, or hated him. He combined progressive economic ideas with an autocratic streak, earning him thousands of adoring fans and fearful enemies. Long went from traveling salesman to Louisiana governor, and then US senator, through his mastery of the media. Then once in power, he waged a war against it.
01/08/1932m 0s

Milliken v. Bradley

After the landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education, public schools across the country were supposed to become more integrated, but by the 1970s, many weren't. As a way to remedy segregation in their city, the Detroit school board introduced busing across Detroit. But the plan was met with so much resistance that the issue eventually led all the way to the Supreme Court.This week, segregation in Detroit public schools and the impact of a Supreme Court case that went far beyond that city.
25/07/1936m 37s

Rules Of Engagement

After Iran shot down an American surveillance drone in June, tensions between the two countries have only gone up. But the US and Iran have been in some state of conflict for the last 40 years, since the Iranian revolution. This week, we look at three key moments in this conflict to better understand where it might go next.
18/07/1950m 4s

Four Days In August

The U.S. and Iran have had a tense relationship for decades — but when did that begin? Over the next two weeks, we're exploring the history. This week, we feature our very first episode about an event from August 1953 — when the CIA helped to overthrow Iran's Prime Minister.
11/07/1938m 40s

American Anthem

The Star-Spangled Banner is the official anthem for the United States, but there are plenty of songs that have become informal American anthems for millions of people. This week, we share three stories from NPR Music's American Anthem series that highlight the origins of songs that have become ingrained in American culture.
04/07/1928m 2s

Before Stonewall

Fifty years ago, a gay bar in New York City called The Stonewall Inn was raided by police, and what followed were days of rebellion where protesters and police clashed. Today, that event is seen as the start of the gay civil rights movement, but gay activists and organizations were standing up to harassment and discrimination years before. On this episode, the fight for gay rights before Stonewall.
27/06/1940m 25s

The X On The Map

In 1965, Jimmie Lee Jackson was an unarmed black civil rights activist who was murdered in Marion, Ala., after a peaceful protest. His murder brought newfound energy to the civil rights movement, leading to the march to Montgomery that ended in "Bloody Sunday." This week, we share an episode we loved from White Lies as they look for answers to a murder that happened more than half a century ago.
20/06/1941m 11s

Apocalypse Now

Evangelicals have played an important role in modern day American politics - from supporting President Trump to helping elect Jimmy Carter back in 1976. How and when did this religious group become so intertwined with today's political issues? In this episode, what it means to be an evangelical today and how it has changed over time.
13/06/1956m 12s

Mitch McConnell

Mitch McConnell has been described as "opaque," "drab," and even "dull." He is one of the least popular - and most polarizing - politicians in the country. So how did he win eight consecutive elections? And what does it tell us about how he operates? This week, we share an episode we loved from Embedded that traces McConnell's political history.
06/06/1933m 29s

Savarkar's India

Right-wing Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi has won reelection as India's Prime Minister. As the political philosophy of Hindu nationalism gains ground in India we look back at one of its architects - Vinayak Savarkar.
30/05/1934m 27s

A Dream Of Modern China

China is a world superpower today. But just over a century ago, the country was in complete turmoil — foreign powers had carved up the country, the ruling dynasty was losing control, and millions of citizens were struggling to survive. However, that political chaos inspired a nationalist movement that reshaped China as we know it, and it was led by one man - Sun Yat-sen.
23/05/1947m 29s

El Libertador

Venezuela is facing an economic and humanitarian crisis as extreme poverty and violence have forced many to flee the country in recent years. How did a country once wealthy with oil resources fall into such turmoil? Through the lives of two revolutionaries turned authoritarian leaders separated by two centuries, we look back at the rise and fall of Venezuela.
16/05/1956m 31s

White Nationalism

The white nationalist ideas of Madison Grant influenced Congress in the 1920s, leaders in Nazi Germany, and members of the Trump administration. This week, we share an episode we loved from It's Been A Minute with Sam Sanders that explores a throughline of white nationalism in American politics from the early 20th century to today.
09/05/1934m 53s

Outbreak

More than 700 measles cases have been recorded in the U.S. in the recent outbreak, the worst being in New York. This past April, Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a public health emergency that required residents in parts of Brooklyn to get vaccinated or face a fine of $1,000. In this episode, we look back at a 1905 Supreme Court case that set a precedent for enforcing compulsory vaccinations.
02/05/1922m 22s

Resistance Is Futile

Artificial intelligence, gene modification, and self-driving cars are causing fear and uncertainty about how technology is changing our lives. But humans have struggled to accept innovations throughout history. In this episode, we explore three innovations that transformed the world and show how people have adapted — and ask whether we can do the same today.
25/04/1937m 6s

War Of The Worlds

The Sunni-Shia divide is a conflict that most people have heard about - two sects with Sunni Islam being in the majority and Shia Islam the minority. Exactly how did this conflict originate and when? We go through 1400 years of history to find the moment this divide first turned deadly and how it has evolved since.
18/04/1935m 47s

Nancy Pelosi

Nancy Pelosi is the highest-ranking woman in American politics. She made her first run for public office at 47 years old and went on to become Speaker of the House twice. How has she had such an enduring career, and where does her power lie? On this episode, we trace the rise of the Speaker.
11/04/1924m 16s

Opioids In America

A record number of Americans have died from opioid overdoses in recent years. But how did we get here? And is this the first time Americans have faced this crisis? The short answer: no.
04/04/1944m 47s

The Phoebus Cartel

Have you ever wondered why your smartphone or toaster oven doesn't seem to last very long, even though technology is becoming better and better? This week, in a special collaboration with Planet Money, we bring you the history of planned obsolescence – the idea that products are designed to break.
28/03/1932m 46s

The Border

In February, President Trump declared a national emergency at the US-Mexico border. Last year, he ordered thousands of National Guard troops to the border. Is this the first time an American president has responded with this level of force? In this week's episode, the history of militarization at the U.S.-Mexico border.
21/03/1915m 2s

The Moth

Vladimir Putin has been running Russia since 2000 when he was first elected as President. How did a former KGB officer make his way up to the top seat — was it political prowess or was he just the recipient of a lot of good fortune? In this episode, we dive into the life of Vladimir Putin and try to understand how he became Russia's new "tsar."
14/03/1934m 43s

American Shadows

Conspiracy theories are a feature of today's news and politics. But they've really been a part of American life since its founding. In this episode, we'll explore how conspiracy theories helped to create the U.S. and how they became the currency of political opportunists.
07/03/1941m 35s

High Crimes And Misdemeanors

When Andrew Johnson became president in 1865, the United States was in the middle of one of its most volatile chapters. The country was divided after fighting a bloody civil war and had just experienced the first presidential assassination. We look at how these factors led to the first presidential impeachment in American history.
28/02/1917m 2s

The Forgotten War

President Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un are preparing to meet for a second nuclear summit. What has fueled the hostility between these two countries for decades? On this episode, we look back at the tangled history.
21/02/1934m 13s

On the Shoulders of Giants

When Colin Kaepernick stopped standing for the national anthem at NFL games it sparked a nationwide conversation about patriotism and police brutality. Black athletes using their platform to protest injustice has long been a tradition in American history. In this episode we explore three stories of protest that are rarely told but essential to understanding the current debate: the heavyweight boxer Jack Johnson, the sprinter Wilma Rudolph, and the basketball player Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf.
14/02/1939m 5s

Four Days in August

It's no secret that Iran and the U.S. have a history of animosity toward each other. But when and how did it begin? This week we look back at four days in August 1953, when the CIA orchestrated a coup of Iran's elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh.
07/02/1937m 54s

Introducing Throughline

NPR's new history podcast hosted by Ramtin Arablouei and Rund Abdelfatah. New episodes every Thursday starting February 7th.
30/01/192m 24s
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