Tues 9-10 PM, Sat 8-9 PM

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.


  • Friday, February 16, 2018 9:19am
    In honor of President’s Day, Joanne, Brian, and Nathan explore the ‘afterlives’ of presidents: what do they do with their time once they’re out of office -- and how do we remember them once they’re gone?

    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
  • Friday, February 9, 2018 9:00am
    Ed, Brian and Nathan mark the beginning of Lent with an exploration of American Catholicism—recounting the struggles, triumphs, and unique impact of Catholics on the history of the United States. From Spanish missionaries on the California coast and early converts among the Mohawk, to JFK and modern nuns living in the Blue Ridge Mountains - BackStory considers how what it means to be Catholic in America has changed over time.

    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
  • Friday, February 2, 2018 8:25am
    The U.S. is in the grips of the worst flu season in nearly a decade, with hospitals full across the country. But it’s nothing compared to the flu season one hundred years ago, when a nationwide pandemic killed over half a million Americans. Brian, Nathan, and Joanne look back at the so-called “Spanish Flu,” how it affected the U.S., and why it’s often forgotten today.

    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
  • Friday, January 26, 2018 1:33pm
    This year’s Winter Olympics have already seen their share of drama -- and political jockeying -- and the games haven’t even begun. So, BackStory is digging into the history of the power of international sports. We’ll discuss how sports have been tangled up in what’s going on off the field, from Cold War politics to Americans’ sense of ourselves at home and abroad.

    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
  • Friday, January 19, 2018 9:00am
    Gold was discovered in California 170 years ago this month. It set off a mad rush from across the United States -- and around the world. Ed, Joanne, and Nathan delve into what happened in California after gold was found and some of the lasting impacts of the Gold Rush.

    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit