2019 round-up: we choose our top 12 HistoryExtra podcasts of the year

As we near the end of the year, the team behind the HistoryExtra podcast offer their top picks to listen to over the holidays…

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This year, we’ve created more than 100 episodes of the HistoryExtra podcast, ranging on topics from medieval warrior queens to the British Isles’ most exciting archaeological sites.

We’ve also offered closer looks at history headlines, from the fire that struck Notre Dame in April to the 75th anniversary of D-Day in June. Elsewhere, there were interviews about the real history behind the year’s best period TV and film, including Peaky Blinders, Gentleman Jack and The King.

This year, we’ve created more than 100 episodes of the HistoryExtra podcast, ranging on topics from medieval warrior queens to the British Isles’ most exciting archaeological sites.

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We’ve also offered closer looks at history headlines, from the fire that struck Notre Dame in April to the 75th anniversary of D-Day in June. Elsewhere, there were interviews about the real history behind the year’s best period TV and film, including Peaky Blinders, Gentleman Jack and The King.

Here, four of our team offer their top picks from 2019…


Rob Attar, editor of BBC History Magazine and the HistoryExtra podcast

Chernobyl: the story of a tragedy | August 2019

Having watched the acclaimed HBO historical drama, I was really interested to learn more about the Chernobyl disaster, and our interview with Serhii Plokhy was a great place to start. The discussion draws on research from his recent history of the catastrophe and highlights what the TV series did and didn’t get right.

Listen here

The Fortress: An epic battle of World War I | October 2019

In our coverage of World War I we tend to focus mostly on the western front, but I’m very glad that we found space for the story of an ageing Habsburg fortress that faced the might of the Russian army in 1914. Alexander Watson is a superb popular historian and in his narrative of the events you get a real sense of what life was like for these imperilled soldiers and civilians.

Listen here

The corner shop revolution | August 2019

On a very different topic, I’d strongly recommend people check out my interview with Babita Sharma on the history of the humble corner shop. For me it had extra relevance as my wife (like Babita) grew up above one of these stores, but I’m sure everybody will be interested in a story that takes in immigrant communities, economic turbulence and social change over the decades.

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Ellie Cawthorne, section editor of BBC History Magazine and host of the HistoryExtra podcast

The Women Killed by Jack the Ripper | March 2019

Hallie Rubenhold’s The Five was one of the most exciting new history books of 2019, presenting a completely fresh take on a much-sensationalised topic – the Jack the Ripper murders. I’ve always been fascinated by the 19th-century, and Hallie offered some myth-busting insights on society’s macabre obsession with the murders. She brings the stories of the women involved to the fore and reveals what they expose about the grim realities of women’s lives in Victorian Britain.

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The Crusades, with Dan Jones | September 2019

Self-proclaimed ‘history baller’ Dan Jones is always an entertaining speaker. Here he tackles medieval history on an epic scale, telling the stories of the crusaders who waged religious war in the Holy Land. It’s especially interesting to hear Dan talking with medievalist Helen Castor, in a conversation that spans not only the crusades, but also the process of writing a blockbuster history book.

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The Amritsar assassin | April 2019

The 1919 Amritsar massacre was one of the most shocking incidents in Britain’s imperial history. One hundred years on, broadcaster and author Anita Anand discusses her gripping book, The Patient Assassin, which chronicles one man’s 20-year quest for vengeance on those responsible. It’s an eye-opening story that deserves to be more widely known.

Listen here


Elinor Evans, deputy digital editor of HistoryExtra.com

Victorian freak shows | June 2019

Were Victorian ‘freak shows’ exploitative or empowering for those who performed in them? This discussion with Dr John Woolf focuses on the Victorian era – the peak of these shows’ popularity – and ‘freak performers’ such as PT Barnum’s star General Tom Thumb. A fascinating listen about some complex history.

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The true history of The Favourite | January 2019

As one of the most popular historical films of the year, The Favourite sparked a wave of fresh interest in ‘forgotten’ monarch Queen Anne. Though the last Stuart’s reign is the main subject of this lively chat with three historians – Amanda Vickery, Hallie Rubenhold and Hannah Greig – there are also broader takes on the choices made by period dramas, plus a pretty frank chat about how to (and can you?) portray a historically accurate sex scene.

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Margaret Beaufort: mother of the Tudors | November 2019

Best remembered as the mother of the Tudor dynasty, Margaret Beaufort was also a rule-breaker and a power player in a male-dominated world. This detailed discussion of her life with historian Nicola Tallis is a must-listen – and not just for fans of the ever-popular Tudors.

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David Musgrove, content director of BBC History Magazine

Peter Hennessy on Britain in transition | October 2019

As a commentator on modern British history, Peter Hennessy is a voice of immense insight and sagacity, so this is a great listen. It takes you deep into the story of the changing face of British politics and society in the early 1960s and is peppered with illuminating personal insights.

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The problem with the Anglo-Saxons | July 2019

Susan Oosthuizen’s research on the evidence, or otherwise, for the arrival, settlement and cultural influence of the Anglo-Saxons in early medieval Britain is extremely thought-provoking. I was delighted to have the chance to chat to her about it and came away with a lot to think about. I’m sure you will too if you listen to this podcast.

Listen here

 

Bart van Es on The Cut Out Girl | February 2019

Costa Book of the Year winner Bart van Es researched a remarkable and very personal account of the human impact of the Second World War in The Cut Out Girl, so it was brilliant to get him on our podcast (and to hear him in person at our History Weekends too). Download this one for a really affecting story of what happened to one Jewish girl in the Netherlands under Nazi occupation.

Listen here

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Browse our full podcast archive here, which includes more than 550 episodes on our website.

The HistoryExtra podcast is produced by Ben Youatt and Jack Bateman.