BackStory on RADIO IQ, RADIO IQ w/BBC News & WVTF

Thursdays at 7:30 PM on WVTF and 3:00 PM Saturdays on RADIO IQ and RADIO IQ W/BBC News.

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.


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Program Headlines

  • Friday, March 27, 2015 3:27pm
    The western United States is in the grip of a punishing drought. Reservoir levels are dropping, and farmers are struggling to ensure their access to water for crops and livestock. Consider California. According to a water scientist at NASA, the state has only a year's worth of water left in its reservoirs. Some scientists even fear the West has reached “peak water” -- the point at which water resources simply can't keep up with water usage. In this episode, Brian, Ed and Peter look at how Americans have managed access to water across the generations. From early legal struggles over natural waterways to the shared irrigation systems of New Mexico, they'll consider how Americans have divvied up water rights for private profit and public good. And they'll dive into the debate over who could and couldn't use swimming pools in the 1920s.
  • Friday, March 20, 2015 8:37pm
    For those of us who live on the mainland, islands are something we often tend to think about as destinations. As places to visit, perhaps, to take a break from our ordinary lives. And then to leave again. They’re places on the periphery -- and that’s borne out not only in the way we draw our maps, but also in the way we write our history. On this episode, we make the peripheral central. From the Caribbean to the Great Lakes to the San Francisco Bay, it's an hour all about islands in American history.
  • Friday, March 13, 2015 10:09am
    With St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner, we bring you this reprise of last year's St. Patty's Day episode: an offbeat, wide-ranging, and colorful look at the color green in American history. From the Green Mountain Boys in colonial America, to the Irish Brigade’s emerald-green flags in the Civil War, and the green superheroes fighting crime in 1970s comic books, this episode captures the varied and verdant ways green has worked its way into our history and culture.
  • Friday, March 6, 2015 2:06pm
    As we switch the clocks to "spring forward" this week, we're taking a look at time itself in American history. In this episode, we look at the changing ways Americans have experienced the 24-hour day -- from pre-industrial times right on up through today's era of time-shifted media.
  • Friday, February 27, 2015 5:42pm
    In his 2015 State of the Union address, the president defined “middle-class economics” as “the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, everyone plays by the same set of rules.” Now, however you think of it, the middle class is a powerful idea in American culture. So on this episode, we explore the rise — and, some would say, the fall — of the middle class in the United States. What is the middle class, anyway? Who’s in it, and who isn’t? And how have middle-class lives and middle-class values changed over time?