Tartan scarf woven by Mary Warner with pocket watch from Beatrice Rasmussen, 2019 photo.
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Can You Recommend a Good History Podcast?

Tartan scarf woven by Mary Warner with pocket watch from Beatrice Rasmussen, 2019 photo.
Tartan scarf woven by Mary Warner with pocket watch from Beatrice Rasmussen, 2019 photo.

Sampling the World of Podcasts

Within the past month I have taken the plunge into podcasts. Yes, yes, I’m horrendously late to the podcast party. There’s so much else going on online, plus there is real life to live and loads of music to listen to and TV to watch, that I simply haven’t had time to explore podcasts prior ’til now. (Growing tired of the social media scene certainly is part of my shift to podcasts.)

I’ve been sampling different podcasts by topic and/or presenters in order to get a scope on the podcast landscape. All of the ones I’ve listened to thus far have been well produced, like good radio shows on Minnesota Public Radio. But, of course, podcasts are an extension or re-imagining of radio.

I have noticed that I can’t be doing anything that takes intent brainpower (like writing a blog post, for example) while listening to a podcast. I need to be able to focus on the podcast in order to follow the thread of the story or information being presented. Otherwise, like radio, it just becomes background noise and pretty soon I’ve missed everything.

For this reason, it is difficult for me to listen to podcasts that are more than a half-hour in length. In my search to find podcasts and podcast channels, I am astonished at how many podcasts run around an hour. That represents serious work on a topic, but it also means setting aside a significant chunk of time to listen properly.

Finding Shorter Podcasts

I’ve done some online searching to try to find shorter podcasts and have come up with some interesting ones to subscribe to, such as TED Talks Daily and NPR’s Up First.

I wanted to find some short (less than half an hour) podcasts on history and have found 5 Minute History, a podcast whose last episode was in February. (That link is to Apple Podcasts, but I found it on Google’s podcast app, too.)

This Day in History Class features podcasts that are less than 10 minutes in length, with a new one posting each day in order to let you know what happened in history on that particular day. (Love that the name of the podcast tells you what it’s about.)

While This Day in History Class manages to post every day, having started in June 2018, that’s a pace that can be difficult to keep up, just as it is in blogging, unless you’ve got a professional team producing podcasts. So it’s not uncommon to find podcasts like 5 Minute History that get started then suddenly stop.

Some podcasts are intentionally limited in number of episodes, which I think is a fine way to produce media. We are seeing that with limited series on Netflix and Amazon Prime. (Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett is the hot new limited series on Amazon Prime now.) Growing up in the heyday of prime time television, wherein there were limited channels and everyone watched according to the network’s schedule, these limited series used to be called “miniseries.”  (There really is nothing new under the sun. We just keep reworking the same sorts of things.)

A Podcast on Plaid

I stumbled upon one of these limited series podcasts in my hunt for podcasts. It is called Articles of Interest and discusses the clothing we wear. There are only 6 episodes and I just listened to the one on plaid. It was fascinating.

Did you know that what we call plaid is actually called tartan by the Scots? Plaid is a piece of clothing; tartan is the pattern on it. Plaid grew in popularity after it was banned in Scotland. There is a registry for tartans and you can invent your own and have it registered. The pandas at the Edinburgh Zoo have their own plaid. These are all things I learned from this episode.

Having trained as a weaver, I’ve woven tartan. But, I had also heard somewhere along the line that the phrase “the whole nine yards” referred to how much fabric was used in a tartan kilt. This podcast episode inspired me to look that up again and I found an article that dispels that myth.

Therein lies the beauty of a good podcast … it encourages you to dig further into the topics it presents.

Now, then, I have a request of you, dear reader. Can you recommend good podcasts, preferably those shorter than a half hour or those with a limited series, that I should check out in order to continue my exploration?