BackStory on RADIO IQ

Saturdays at 3:00 p.m. on RADIO IQ
Ed Ayers, Peter Onuf, Brian Balogh

BackStory with the American History Guys  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. With its passionate, intelligent, and irreverent approach, BackStory with the American History Guys is fun and essential listening no matter who you are.

Composer ID: 
5187f8c9e1c84d4a4b12564e|5187f8c5e1c84d4a4b12563e

Program Headlines

  • Friday, May 15, 2015 2:19pm
    Two hundred years ago, there was no such thing as the “workplace” — and the tools of one’s trade were rudimentary by today’s standards. Since then, of course, America has witnessed the Industrial Revolution, the rise of white-collar work and, now, an age of digital devices that allows the workplace to follow us everywhere. So on this episode of BackStory, from utopian visions of the cubicle to video surveillance in law enforcement, the Guys size up some of the stuff Americans have worked with — and, in turn, how that stuff has shaped the lives of American workers.
  • Friday, May 8, 2015 2:01pm
    Some 20,000 species across the globe are at high risk of extinction, experts say – many here in the United States – and some of our natural fauna have already disappeared. So in this episode, the American History Guys explore how Americans have grappled with the idea of extinction over time, and what the loss of native species has meant for our ecosystems and everyday lives. When did we first realize that species could go extinct? To what extent did earlier extinctions shape the emergence of today's environmentalism? And how have ideas about biological extinction factored into American thinking about human cultures? These are just some of the questions the American History Guys and their guests explore in this episode, with stories on our obsession with dinosaurs, the bird that helped birth the conservation movement, the unlikely fish that galvanized a new generation of environmental activists, and much more.
  • Friday, May 1, 2015 5:29pm
    This week on the show we’re picking through history’s waste basket. What does America’s garbage tell us about its past? How have ideas about what is disposable and what isn’t changed over time? And have Americans always generated so much junk? To get to the bottom of things, the Guys are salvaging all kinds of trashy stories... about filth-eating pigs that once ran amok in New York City… about Americans’ legal rights to their own garbage… and about how Big Soda promoted recycling to boost the industry’s own bottom line. Plus, find out what an anthropologist sees in the decades-old debris now washing ashore at a place called Dead Horse Bay.
  • Friday, April 24, 2015 2:23pm
    A lot happened in April 1865: Richmond fell to the Yankees, Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House, Lincoln's funeral train set out on a long and meandering route for Springfield, Ill., and four years of brutal conflict came to an end. But at the close of the Civil War — 150 years ago this month­ — no one knew how things would turn out for the United States and the defeated Confederacy. This time on BackStory, the Guys dwell on that moment and explore the uncertainty of 1865. Would the rebellion resurge? Would Southern leaders be hung for treason? Would freed men and women enjoy full citizenship? ... How would a nation torn asunder ever rebuild?
  • Friday, April 17, 2015 1:50pm
    This past week, a federal judge handed down lengthy prison terms to four former Blackwater security guards in the massacre of 14 unarmed men, women and children in Iraq in 2007 — a terrible reminder that not all is fair in war. Pope Francis meanwhile made headlines for labeling as “genocide” the mass killing of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey during World War I. And in recent years, America’s targeted drone strikes against terror suspects has raised questions about what is and isn’t an appropriate means of waging war. So what are the “rules of war,” and who gets to decide them? In this episode, Brian, Ed and Peter look at how past generations have answered those questions. They explore the role the Civil War played in defining modern warfare, and, earlier, the violent battle tactics of European colonizers versus American Indian ways of war. And with the Syrian government facing accusations that it used toxic chemicals in a bombing raid on its own citizens, the Guys consider what made the use of chemical weapons taboo in the first place.