I Was Never There
Widely available, episodes weekly from 9 Jun
Marsha Ferber made an impression on most people she met – and many have an opinion on what happened when she disappeared in 1988. In this eight-parter, mother-and-daughter team Karen and Jamie Zelermyer, who lived with Marsha in a West Virginia commune, explore her evolution “from suburban housewife to back-to-the-land hippy to drug dealing bar owner”, and dive into their unconventional past in the search for answers. Hollie Richardson
Gay Pride & Prejudice
Spotify, episodes weekly
This slickly produced, gleefully campy remake of Jane Austen’s novelrevolves round Bennet, a single gay man whose friends are all coupling up. Modern Family’s Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Rosie O’Donnell inject plenty of fun into the scenes, and a lack of slavish devotion to the original includes Adderall-fuelled attempts to meet lovers in twink-filled nightclubs. Alexi Duggins
Widely available, episodes weekly
What does it mean to be woke? Or a centrist? This intensely researched, discursive podcast from Dorian Lynskey and political columnist Ian Dunt takes a deep dive into the origins of ideas to try to restore something that’s too often missing from their usage: context. AD
The Village: The Montreal Murders
Widely available, episodes weekly from Tuesday
When a serial killer struck Montreal’s gay community in the 1990s, the police were slow to investigate, so activists took matters into their own hands. This podcast focuses on the events, with brilliant eyewitness accounts shining a light on homophobia and the advent of Aids, but also giving a sense of what a beautiful, fun time it was. Hannah Verdier
BBC Sounds, episodes weekly from 10 Jun
This mysterious podcast drama’s second season opens with a vision of 2052 and “it’s a bit like Middle-earth without the orcs or all the boring bits”. But in reality, siblings Maya (Siena Kelly) and Jake (Alex Austin) have been framed for murder and are on the run. If you can resist a binge there are plenty of cliffhangers. HV
This week, Ammar Kalia chooses five of the best history podcasts, from Dan Snow’s deep dives to the New York Times’ powerful six-part series on the true history of slavery
The Memory Palace
History is a story to be told on Nate DiMeo’s charming series, with episodes running anywhere from eight to 20 minutes long. DiMeo’s calming narration presents vignettes on people, places and objects from the past, all recounted through the hazy frame of recollection. Running since 2008, there are hundreds of episodes to delve into, but highlights include the impressionistic story of the Dreamland amusement park in Coney Island, which burned down in 1911, and the remarkable tale of Harriet Quimby, the first woman to fly across the Channel.
Dan Snow’s History Hit
TV’s favourite meandering historian puts his RP accent to work in this wide-ranging series exploring significant anniversaries, the history behind the headlines, and the places in the world where history has been made. Snow’s free range of topics give this podcast a real sense of enthusiasm and expertise, as he expounds passionately on everything from John Donne’s poetry to the myths surrounding the battle of Agincourt.
You’re Dead to Me
For children of the 90s who grew up getting to grips with the past through the illustrations of Horrible Histories books, this audio series from Greg Jenner – the historical consultant on the books’ BBC spin-off show – is a must-listen. Taking the Horrible Histories tack of pairing facts with jokes, Jenner enlists a different comic and historian each episode, to both make sense of the past through humour. Highlights include a romp through the history of ice-cream with sweet-toothed Pointless sidekick Richard Osman, as well as an illuminating insight into a thousand years of disability in history with comic Rosie Jones.
Marking the 400th anniversary of the first arrival of enslaved African people on American shores, this six-part 2019 series from the New York Times is an ambitious, necessary and emotive listen. Host Nikole Hannah-Jones takes us through the history of how enslaved people provided the impetus for an independent United States, as well as how the long shadow of slavery has shaped the country’s economy, society and ongoing inequalities ever since. Critic Wesley Morris’s contributions on The Birth of American Music episode are typically insightful, while the concluding two-parter on the current state of Black land ownership is an urgent reminder of how much work there is yet to be done.
You’re Wrong About
History podcasts have become fertile ground for reassessing the events of the past through a 21st-century lens. Series like Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History or journalist Afua Hirsch’s We Need to Talk About the British Empire open up the context surrounding historical developments in order to affirm that history is an ever-changing discourse, as much as it is fixed in facts. This offering from journalist Sarah Marshall has a playful, pop-culture range to its reexamined topics. From the legacies of Diana, Princess of Wales to Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah’s couch, learn how headline-grabbing events have been miscast in the public imagination.