The History Today Podcast

Join us as we explore a fantastic range of historical subjects and eras with those who know it best.

History Today | Published in History Today

In this new series, leading historians share insights and stories in conversation with Paul Lay, editor of History Today.

These discussions will be interspersed with long reads: articles specially selected from the magazine for an eclectic, fascinating and informative mix. 

Episode 22: Medicine Woman

'Doc' Susan Anderson set out to prove that 'a woman could be a good doctor'. She did so in the most difficult surroundings: America's Wild West.

Episode 21: The Crown Lost at Sea

The sinking of the White Ship – a vessel carrying the English king Henry I’s sole heir – on 25 November 1120, was a disaster from which anarchy would follow. 

Join Charles Spencer, author of The White Ship: Conquest, Anarchy and the Wrecking of Henry I’s Dream (William Collins, 2020) in conversation with History Today Editor Paul Lay.

Episode 20: The Queen who Lost Everything

n the Wars of the Roses, Margaret is remembered as a warrior queen, the ‘she-wolf of France’. But the means by which she operated in the period of Lancastrian exile from 1461-71 – her unceasing diplomatic efforts in Europe and campaign of resistance in northern England – have tended to be sidelined in histories of this apparently national conflict. 

Episode 19: Foreign Correspondents in the Soviet Union

Over the past hundred years, foreign correspondents have been central to the West’s understanding of Russia’s political and cultural turning points, the revolutions, wars and changes in political power.

In this episode, History Today Editor Paul Lay is joined by James Rodgers, whose latest book, Assignment Moscow, focuses on the stories of those journalists who have forged this understanding.

Episode 18: Nagorno-Karabakh’s Myth of Ancient Hatreds

The Nagorno-Karabakh dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan is sometimes explained as a result of ‘ancient hatreds’. In reality, it is nothing of the sort, despite both sides using history to bolster their claims to the region. 

Episode 17: ‘The Terrible Lioness’

The Sikh queen Jind Kaur inherited an empire shaken by unexpected deaths and embroiled in civil war, but her biggest problem was the British. Who was Jind Kaur and how did she become such a formidable woman?

Episode 16: Terror on Wall Street

A terrorist attack on Wall Street on 16 September 1920 aroused suspicion of anarchists, socialists and foreigners, as America saw danger around every corner.

Episode 15: The Power of the Royal Mistress

How the French tradition of the royal mistress gave new opportunities for women at the court of Charles II.

Join Annalisa Nicholson in conversation with History Today Editor, Paul Lay, as she discusses her article from the August issue.

Episode 14: The Rise of the Valkyries

Life and death in a Viking battle depended not on military prowess, but on the favour of the valkyries. Why were these mythical figures, who decided a warrior’s fate, female?

Episode 13: Henry VIII Meets his Match

Shortly after 5pm on 7 June 1520, Henry VIII of England and Francis I of France met for the first time. That first meeting, and their time together over the following fortnight, became known to history as the Field of Cloth of Gold.

Episode 12: A History of the Oceans 

In this podcast, History Today Editor Paul Lay is joined by David Abulafia, who was the winner of the 2020 Wolfson History Prize for his book The Boundless Sea.

Episode 11: The Wrongful Death of Toussaint Louverture

The hero of the Haitian Revolution’s lonely death in a French prison cell was not an unfortunate tragedy but a cruel story of deliberate destruction. An audio long read from the June issue.

Episode 10: Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian Revolution

Join Marlene Daut in conversation with History Today Editor, Paul Lay, as they discuss the background of the Haitian Revolution, Toussaint Louverture, and the revolution's legacies.

Episode Nine: Thebes, the Forgotten City

The city of Thebes was central to the ancient Greeks’ achievements in politics and culture. For many centuries it has been largely – and often deliberately – forgotten. Join Paul Cartledge in conversation with History Today Editor, Paul Lay, as they discuss Paul Cartledge's article on 'Thebes: The Forgotten City', which is in the June issue of History Today.

Episode Eight: The Great Migration Mystery

In the 17th century, fanciful solutions to the mystery of the swallow’s whereabouts were the result of an intense battle over the nature of scientific reasoning, which had been raging for centuries – and which is still raging today.

Episode Seven: The State of Myanmar

To understand why Rakhine State is in such turmoil we need to follow the threads of ethnic nationalism back to before Myanmar existed.

Episode Six: What can History tell us about Epidemics?

Four historians discuss what we learn from history about how diseases spread, and how we respond to them.

Episode Five: The Rights of France

Since the late 19th century, French politics has provided a testing ground for right-wing populism.

Episode Four: Soviet Super Sniper

How the ‘Guerrilla Queen’ of Soviet Russia became a role model for women in combat.

Episode Three: Sexual Eeling

How the slippery subject of eel reproduction evaded human understanding for millennia. A long read from the March issue.


Episode Two: Before the Mayflower

Paul Lay and Stephen Tomkins discuss the first expedition to North America by the Separatists. They had attempted to become the pilgrim fathers as early as 1597, trying to settle in Newfoundland.Read more in the February issue of History Today.

Episode One: The FGM Scandal that Shocked Victorian London

Our first episode is an audio long read on the female genital mutilation scandal that shocked Victorian London, as featured in the February issue.