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Contagion

Responding to Infectious Disease [rebroadcast]

It’s the height of the flu season, and federal agencies have been spending millions of dollars trying to keep this year’s virus under control. But when yellow fever struck Philadelphia in 1793, the entire federal government picked up and left town, leaving stricken individuals to fend for themselves. How and why has the pendulum swung so sharply toward government action? And how have epidemics themselves shaped American history? In this...

Contagion

Responding to Infectious Disease

When yellow fever struck Philadelphia in 1793, the entire federal government picked up and left town, leaving individuals to fend for themselves. A hundred years later, the pendulum had swung sharply in the other direction. Health workers took extreme measures to contain disease – imprisoning the sick, burning entire districts, and vaccinating resistant citizens at gunpoint. In this hour of BackStory we trace the trajectory of that change...

Contagion 2016

Responding to Infectious Disease [rebroadcast]

...As the Zika virus spreads across the Americas, it’s worth looking at how the U.S. has responded to past epidemics. In this episode of BackStory, the Guys consider the impact of smallpox on New York City’s 19th century immigrant communities, and explore the rampant spread of diseases in the wake of the Civil War and the first World War.        ...

American Exodus

A History of Emigration [rebroadcast]

As House Speaker John Boehner hints that immigration reform might yet have a chance at passage, we take a look at the flip side of the immigrant story – emigration – and find stories of Americans who left this country in search of a better life elsewhere, and sometimes, a fuller realization of American values. From the Loyalists who fled to Canada in the wake of the Revolution, to the free blacks who sailed to Liberia in search of freedom (and...

American Exodus

A History of Emigration

With immigration reform in the headlines, BackStory takes a look at the flip side of the Ellis Island story: emigration. This week, we bring you the stories of Americans who have left the country in search of a better life elsewhere. From the Loyalists who fled to Canada in the wake of the Revolution, to the free blacks who sailed to Liberia in search of freedom (and a spot at the top of the racial hierarchy), to the Depression-era refugees who...

Little Feet

Children Starting Over in America [rebroadcast]

Tens of thousands of refugees have been arriving in Western Europe, fleeing civil war and unrest in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of the migrants making these perilous border crossings are children. This is hardly the first time minors have made such treacherous journeys. This week, BackStory revisits our episode on the many paths of child migrants in our own country. Some were thought of as innocents to be saved, whether from the Nazi...

Bridge for Sale

Deception in America

...In America, you can be anything you want to be. Or anyone. Literally. So on this April Fools edition of BackStory, we dig into the long story of confidence men and counterfeiters. We discover a time when fake money jump-started the economy, and take a look at the long, strange history of “the truth compelling machine.” And, oh yeah… we try to sell the Brooklyn Bridge....

Bridge for Sale

Deception in America [rebroadcast]

...In America, you can be anything you want to be. Or anyone. Literally. So on this edition of BackStory, we dig into the long story of confidence men and counterfeiters. We discover a time when fake money jump-started the economy, and take a look at the long, strange history of “the truth compelling machine.” And, oh yeah… we try to sell the Brooklyn Bridge....

American Apparel

A History of Fashion

Summer might mean taking off the layers, but what Americans wear reflects so much more than the weather. In this episode, we explore what our self-presentation can say about our society and culture, and what fashions reflect about moments and movements in American history. Can fashion statements be political statements? How does fashion evolve, or does it revolve? And does the United States have a unique style? Just some of the questions...

American Apparel

A History of Fashion [rebroadcast]

Summer vacation is drawing to a close, and for many Americans that means heading to the mall for some back-to-school shopping. What better time to revisit our show on the history of American fashion? In this episode, Peter, Ed, and Brian explore what self-presentation says about our society and culture, and how fashion has reflected moments and movements in American history. When do fashion statements become political statements? Does fashion...