Pitch a Show (Spring/Summer 2013)

Published: December 5, 2012
Joe "Toots" Shultz, Phillies pitching prospect (1913, c/o Library of Congress)

Joe “Toots” Shultz, Phillies pitching prospect (1913, c/o Library of Congress)

This past fall we received nearly 100 pitches for show topics – some of which made it on the air! Episodes about illicit drugs and voting were pitched by listeners, and lots of individual stories had their origins in your brains as well. So help us keep up the process! Propose a topic below and explain why you think it would make a compelling subject for us to tackle.

If you’ve never listened to BackStory, spend some time in our archive of past shows to get a sense of what we’re all about. You can also read what others have pitched in the past here and here. Basically, we’re looking for topics we can trace over the entire course of American history, rather than single chapters from that history. In other words…

The history of the Civil Rights Movement = Bad

The history of “outsiders” = Good

The history of the car = Bad

The history of environmental destruction = Good

To suggest a topic, either join the discussion below OR send an email detailing your thoughts to backstory@virginia.edu. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

g

Comments (181)

{Discussion is closed
  1. Bonnie Yap

    The history of “witch hunts” in America.

    This could include Salem withchunts (are there predecessors to Salem?), Macarthyism, etc.

  2. Bonnie Yap

    The history of “witch hunts” in America.

    This could include Salem withchunts (are there predecessors to Salem?), Macarthyism, etc.

  3. aldadebater

    How about the history of religious intolerance or tensions… or the history of religous sects like Mormonism or Scientology.

    • Evan

      Lots of people don’t know about the extermination order of the Mormons in 1838. Missouri Executive Order 44 was issued by the Governor. This order remained intact (although pretty much forgotten) for over 130 years. Kind of weird.

  4. aldadebater

    How about the history of religious intolerance or tensions… or the history of religous sects like Mormonism or Scientology.

  5. Stephen Ohs

    These Honored Dead: How The Story Of Gettysburg Shaped American Memory is about the incredible distortion of Gettysburg that Ken Burns even kept reinforcing. What was most distorted event from each of the centuries. When were they were corrected?

  6. Stephen Ohs

    These Honored Dead: How The Story Of Gettysburg Shaped American Memory is about the incredible distortion of Gettysburg that Ken Burns even kept reinforcing. What was most distorted event from each of the centuries. When were they were corrected?

  7. MaryLou

    Gender in America: How gender roles have changed over the course of our history. What was expected of men vs women, as well any differences between cultures. Irish vs Germans vs Japanese, etc…. How did these changes affect the function of the family & when we talk about “Family Values” & “traditional roles” are we inventing something that never existed? Or has been continually evolving anyway? And what of treatment of homosexuality?
    Love the show, thanks!

  8. MaryLou

    Gender in America: How gender roles have changed over the course of our history. What was expected of men vs women, as well any differences between cultures. Irish vs Germans vs Japanese, etc…. How did these changes affect the function of the family & when we talk about “Family Values” & “traditional roles” are we inventing something that never existed? Or has been continually evolving anyway? And what of treatment of homosexuality?
    Love the show, thanks!

  9. Marc Naimark

    I have been wondering about the period between the War for Independence and the War of 1812 (or to take another period, the time of the Articles of Confederation). What did Americans think about this new country? What were their preoccupations, their fears, their hopes?

    And to make this Backstory-worthy: how was this period seen in later centuries? Was the Articles of Confederation period in any way a model for the Civl War South?

  10. Marc Naimark

    I have been wondering about the period between the War for Independence and the War of 1812 (or to take another period, the time of the Articles of Confederation). What did Americans think about this new country? What were their preoccupations, their fears, their hopes?

    And to make this Backstory-worthy: how was this period seen in later centuries? Was the Articles of Confederation period in any way a model for the Civl War South?

  11. Jerome

    A few ideas:

    How public opinion on either law enforcement or soldiers changed over the centuries?

    The history of law enforcement/any other major institution such as hospitals.

    Perceptions of academia in America.

    Counter-culture in America.

    American conspiracy theories.

    Forgotten social movements in America

  12. Jerome

    A few ideas:

    How public opinion on either law enforcement or soldiers changed over the centuries?

    The history of law enforcement/any other major institution such as hospitals.

    Perceptions of academia in America.

    Counter-culture in America.

    American conspiracy theories.

    Forgotten social movements in America

  13. aldadebater

    How about the history of “special relationships” with other countries? From France during and immediately after the Revolution to the rapprochement of Great Britain with the US in the late 19th century to the development of our relationship with Israel, this could be an interesting topic to follow.

  14. aldadebater

    How about the history of “special relationships” with other countries? From France during and immediately after the Revolution to the rapprochement of Great Britain with the US in the late 19th century to the development of our relationship with Israel, this could be an interesting topic to follow.

  15. MaeLou

    The history of how world exploration transformed in the modern world into various attempts to re-create the wild west. I live in the backwood jungles of Hawaii, the Big Island, Puna District, and this area used to be known as the “wild west” before we retired baby boomers moved in and built sprawling subdivisions. There is still little to no building codes here so mfg plants can build in farm designated housing divisions – an oil refinery is next door to a restaurant in Hilo, Kona, and across the road in Kawaihae. There are elderly characters living here right out of history books – like riding a bike down mainstreet with chickens balanced on his head and shoulders; another wearing a kilt (and nothing else) blowing his bagpipe at 6AM. Sure there are the usual jungle dwellers living in junk shacks built by economic drop outs, drug addicts, homeless elderly, and other social misfits (in abundance). But many of those living on the edge peak the interest. E.G., a retired college professor living in a tent and lava tube at an ocean park with a loaded rifle (even the park rangers give him a wide berth). I’ve picked up emaciated barefoot hitchhikers with long dirty hair and missing teeth tell me amazing stories of intellectual pursuits and discoveries in environmental, scientific and medical fields. What is it about human nature that craves the unexplored wild and how do they go about pursing that dream in the modern world? There is an even larger and younger group, and having families, living here who choose to live outside of “normal” society and explore ways to live off the grid, eating only locally grown food and avoiding wearing or eating anything produced by the modern industrial complex. They actively and loudly push back and protest every innovation brought forward by politicians, scientists and economic reformers to this poorest area of Hawaii. (Local geothermal energy is considered a lethal plot to kill them, any GMO produce is considered poison, and even county water has additives and the electric field is suspect.) There is a growing base of American expats living in Mexico and other countries. There are famous stories about hard-core explorers living in the wilds of Alaska. Do any of their stories peak your interest to find out why they continue to explore the unknown in a known and catalogued world?

  16. MaeLou

    The history of how world exploration transformed in the modern world into various attempts to re-create the wild west. I live in the backwood jungles of Hawaii, the Big Island, Puna District, and this area used to be known as the “wild west” before we retired baby boomers moved in and built sprawling subdivisions. There is still little to no building codes here so mfg plants can build in farm designated housing divisions – an oil refinery is next door to a restaurant in Hilo, Kona, and across the road in Kawaihae. There are elderly characters living here right out of history books – like riding a bike down mainstreet with chickens balanced on his head and shoulders; another wearing a kilt (and nothing else) blowing his bagpipe at 6AM. Sure there are the usual jungle dwellers living in junk shacks built by economic drop outs, drug addicts, homeless elderly, and other social misfits (in abundance). But many of those living on the edge peak the interest. E.G., a retired college professor living in a tent and lava tube at an ocean park with a loaded rifle (even the park rangers give him a wide berth). I’ve picked up emaciated barefoot hitchhikers with long dirty hair and missing teeth tell me amazing stories of intellectual pursuits and discoveries in environmental, scientific and medical fields. What is it about human nature that craves the unexplored wild and how do they go about pursing that dream in the modern world? There is an even larger and younger group, and having families, living here who choose to live outside of “normal” society and explore ways to live off the grid, eating only locally grown food and avoiding wearing or eating anything produced by the modern industrial complex. They actively and loudly push back and protest every innovation brought forward by politicians, scientists and economic reformers to this poorest area of Hawaii. (Local geothermal energy is considered a lethal plot to kill them, any GMO produce is considered poison, and even county water has additives and the electric field is suspect.) There is a growing base of American expats living in Mexico and other countries. There are famous stories about hard-core explorers living in the wilds of Alaska. Do any of their stories peak your interest to find out why they continue to explore the unknown in a known and catalogued world?

  17. Tom

    The rise and fall of civic clubs and organizations. The book “Bowling Alone” by Robert D. Putnam lays out a brief history of the membership numbers over the 20th century. If we go back to the guilds and move thru the centuries to socities, faternal groups and civic clubs we can trace their role in society.

  18. Tom

    The rise and fall of civic clubs and organizations. The book “Bowling Alone” by Robert D. Putnam lays out a brief history of the membership numbers over the 20th century. If we go back to the guilds and move thru the centuries to socities, faternal groups and civic clubs we can trace their role in society.

  19. Justin Reznick

    The history of corporations in America–and the attempt to limit them.

    Maybe too large of a topic for a single show, but I find my high school students struggling to understand why Progressive Era & New Deal-era courts find it so hard to understand the power of the precedents set by the Marshall Era and 19th century courts that made the US such a friendly place for economic growth by these “artificial people”… and also a place that resisted regulation even as mild as federal laws to restrict child labor.

    That topic seems huge now that I write it–I’d be eager to listen to a podcast *series* on that topic alone, frankly!

    A narrower suggestion might be a show on child labor… or simply on childhood itself? A bit an earlier Xmas show that discussed the evolving discourse of “childhood” was particularly good!

  20. David

    How about a show on the history of thinking about the future? Were these visions utopias or dystopias? Were power dynamics expected to change in the future? How would Americans support themselves economically? How were ideas about the future affected by race, class, gender, class, age, and region? Was there a time when the notion that the future would be different from the present became more prevalent? A work like “looking backward,” enormously popular in its own time but now rarely mentioned, might be worth discussing.

  21. David

    How about a show on the history of thinking about the future? Were these visions utopias or dystopias? Were power dynamics expected to change in the future? How would Americans support themselves economically? How were ideas about the future affected by race, class, gender, class, age, and region? Was there a time when the notion that the future would be different from the present became more prevalent? A work like “looking backward,” enormously popular in its own time but now rarely mentioned, might be worth discussing.

  22. Janet

    What about political gridlock? I keep hearing commentators say that the current state of affairs in Washington is unprecedented which always makes me skeptical. When has Congress been this unable/willing to act in the past?

  23. Janet

    What about political gridlock? I keep hearing commentators say that the current state of affairs in Washington is unprecedented which always makes me skeptical. When has Congress been this unable/willing to act in the past?

  24. rebecca douglass

    Here’s the Pitch….
    “Swear Words” and its prominence in the American vernacular. Comedian Lewis Black is quoted that the reason why Americans swear so much, is so we don’t take a crow-bar to the heads of every A-hole we meet.. Ha Ha.
    Love-Love-Love that your voices are as pleasing as your topics.
    RD

  25. rebecca douglass

    Here’s the Pitch….
    “Swear Words” and its prominence in the American vernacular. Comedian Lewis Black is quoted that the reason why Americans swear so much, is so we don’t take a crow-bar to the heads of every A-hole we meet.. Ha Ha.
    Love-Love-Love that your voices are as pleasing as your topics.
    RD

  26. AJ

    Two ideas:

    Corrupted youth: in recent months, politicians and other public figures have tried to blame violent video games for a series of mass shootings, arguing that these games promote anti-social values and lead especially young people to commit actual crimes. Their criticisms sound an awful lot like the criticisms from reformers through American history: from Joe Lieberman against musician Marilyn Manson after the Columbine shootings in 1999; general criticism of rock ‘n’ roll and comic books in the 1950s; and against “adventure stories” in the late nineteenth century. Are there earlier examples of such criticisms against new forms of popular culture, especially criticisms that argue that these forms of entertainment corrupt young people?

    Peace/Non-violence in American history: war, soldiers, and veterans are popular themes in many of your podcasts. I’d like to hear a story from a different side: efforts to promote peace or oppose war throughout American history. Examples that come to mind: William Penn’s attitude toward Indian peoples on Pennsylvania’s western frontier; antebellum pacifist groups such as the American Peace Society; the American Anti-Imperialist Society that formed in response to American imperialism in Cuba and the Philippines; and the nonviolent activists after World War I. Most of these groups, in contrast to the New Left opponents of the Vietnam War, were motivated by their religious beliefs. Any other common themes or big changes over time?

    Great show, by the way.

  27. AJ

    Two ideas:

    Corrupted youth: in recent months, politicians and other public figures have tried to blame violent video games for a series of mass shootings, arguing that these games promote anti-social values and lead especially young people to commit actual crimes. Their criticisms sound an awful lot like the criticisms from reformers through American history: from Joe Lieberman against musician Marilyn Manson after the Columbine shootings in 1999; general criticism of rock ‘n’ roll and comic books in the 1950s; and against “adventure stories” in the late nineteenth century. Are there earlier examples of such criticisms against new forms of popular culture, especially criticisms that argue that these forms of entertainment corrupt young people?

    Peace/Non-violence in American history: war, soldiers, and veterans are popular themes in many of your podcasts. I’d like to hear a story from a different side: efforts to promote peace or oppose war throughout American history. Examples that come to mind: William Penn’s attitude toward Indian peoples on Pennsylvania’s western frontier; antebellum pacifist groups such as the American Peace Society; the American Anti-Imperialist Society that formed in response to American imperialism in Cuba and the Philippines; and the nonviolent activists after World War I. Most of these groups, in contrast to the New Left opponents of the Vietnam War, were motivated by their religious beliefs. Any other common themes or big changes over time?

    Great show, by the way.

  28. Kyle Sweeney

    How about the History of Intellectual Property: Patents, Copyright, Trademarks, and Trade Secrets. I know its changes a bit in the last century, but when were the various categories formed, and how well did we respect the intellectuctual property of foreign powers. Intellectual Property is itself a fairly recent term but copyright has been around for quite a while, and often ignored to suite the needs of countries.

  29. Kyle Sweeney

    How about the History of Intellectual Property: Patents, Copyright, Trademarks, and Trade Secrets. I know its changes a bit in the last century, but when were the various categories formed, and how well did we respect the intellectuctual property of foreign powers. Intellectual Property is itself a fairly recent term but copyright has been around for quite a while, and often ignored to suite the needs of countries.

  30. SC

    I would be excited to hear any of the following:

    1. A history of what was considered beautiful/handsome at any time, including also behaviors that were considered “manly” or particularly attractively feminine.

    2. A history of schooling, including experimental education ideas that may not have gotten off the ground.

    3. An investigation of rumors and popular myths/stories – common or uncommon: Were George Washington’s teeth really wooden? What of those rumors about the relationship between Lewis and Clark? How did the rumors about Area 51 begin?

    4. How have American celebrities changed over time? Were there popularly famous people in every time period? If so, what did they do and how did Americans treat/talk about them?

  31. SC

    I would be excited to hear any of the following:

    1. A history of what was considered beautiful/handsome at any time, including also behaviors that were considered “manly” or particularly attractively feminine.

    2. A history of schooling, including experimental education ideas that may not have gotten off the ground.

    3. An investigation of rumors and popular myths/stories – common or uncommon: Were George Washington’s teeth really wooden? What of those rumors about the relationship between Lewis and Clark? How did the rumors about Area 51 begin?

    4. How have American celebrities changed over time? Were there popularly famous people in every time period? If so, what did they do and how did Americans treat/talk about them?

  32. Jon

    I am curious about pet ownership in the US. My dogs live a luxurious life compared to their counterparts of previous centuries. I want to know when pet foods, pet toys, etc became the norm. Cats too. I can see the purpose of someone with a barn having a cat but when did they become a modern family pet? What types of pets were kept by 18th century Americans? How about famous pets like those of the president?

  33. Jon

    I am curious about pet ownership in the US. My dogs live a luxurious life compared to their counterparts of previous centuries. I want to know when pet foods, pet toys, etc became the norm. Cats too. I can see the purpose of someone with a barn having a cat but when did they become a modern family pet? What types of pets were kept by 18th century Americans? How about famous pets like those of the president?

  34. Eric Marr

    Gentlemen
    What a very nice show you have. For show suggestions, how about notable Americans gone abroad. These could be notable immigrants like John Paul Jones ending up in Russia. Americans who fought in the English Civil War? People like Count Rumford who rose so well (Ha Ha). The Maryland engineer and inventor Ross Winans who worked on Russian railways and built cigar shaped steamers that may have inspired Jules Verne. There must be more in South America, In South Asia there is Josiah Harlan Prince of Gohr in Afghanistan. We always think about folks coming here. Even in the 17th and 18th C. Americans were going all over and moving things and shaking things.

    All the best for your continued success.

    Sincerely,

    Eric Marr

  35. Eric Marr

    Gentlemen
    What a very nice show you have. For show suggestions, how about notable Americans gone abroad. These could be notable immigrants like John Paul Jones ending up in Russia. Americans who fought in the English Civil War? People like Count Rumford who rose so well (Ha Ha). The Maryland engineer and inventor Ross Winans who worked on Russian railways and built cigar shaped steamers that may have inspired Jules Verne. There must be more in South America, In South Asia there is Josiah Harlan Prince of Gohr in Afghanistan. We always think about folks coming here. Even in the 17th and 18th C. Americans were going all over and moving things and shaking things.

    All the best for your continued success.

    Sincerely,

    Eric Marr

  36. Erica

    I’d be interested to explore the origins of the assumption that returning to an older state of being (whether it’s societal structures, cultural norms, forms of government, etc) is desirable. You even see this in language ideologies- the assumption that the grammar the generation before us learned is “better” than what the youth of today are learning (or not).
    It seems that there’s always political and popular discourse about notions of returning to simpler or better times of the past. Was this always the case? If not, when and and why did it start? Is this specific to any particular group, and have there ever been times or groups of people that didn’t have this “past is better” ideology? Is there a limit on how past is defined- we don’t talk about returning to the Middle Ages, so there’s clearly limits of what “past” is better (and maybe it’s dependent on what norm is in question). Thanks!!

  37. Erica

    I’d be interested to explore the origins of the assumption that returning to an older state of being (whether it’s societal structures, cultural norms, forms of government, etc) is desirable. You even see this in language ideologies- the assumption that the grammar the generation before us learned is “better” than what the youth of today are learning (or not).
    It seems that there’s always political and popular discourse about notions of returning to simpler or better times of the past. Was this always the case? If not, when and and why did it start? Is this specific to any particular group, and have there ever been times or groups of people that didn’t have this “past is better” ideology? Is there a limit on how past is defined- we don’t talk about returning to the Middle Ages, so there’s clearly limits of what “past” is better (and maybe it’s dependent on what norm is in question). Thanks!!

  38. Hannah

    How about the history of roads and transportation in America- the rise and fall of mass transit, our obsession with cars, how we decided to invest in different forms of travel, and how our infrastructure supported (or not) those methods.

    Also- the history of natural resources and how they are allocated. I recently drove through the Imperial Valley, and while talking to some locals discovered that there is a lot of drama about the ownership and dispersal of water resources in the area. How did people in history deal with this? Were land and water rights more “take what you can get?” or were they allocated to create the most growth? Actually, a history of water in general might be cool. How did we begin our civic water systems? When did the finding of natural resources stop being a private responsibility?

  39. Hannah

    How about the history of roads and transportation in America- the rise and fall of mass transit, our obsession with cars, how we decided to invest in different forms of travel, and how our infrastructure supported (or not) those methods.

    Also- the history of natural resources and how they are allocated. I recently drove through the Imperial Valley, and while talking to some locals discovered that there is a lot of drama about the ownership and dispersal of water resources in the area. How did people in history deal with this? Were land and water rights more “take what you can get?” or were they allocated to create the most growth? Actually, a history of water in general might be cool. How did we begin our civic water systems? When did the finding of natural resources stop being a private responsibility?

  40. Hannah

    Talked with the husband (we love listening together!) and came up with two other ideas-

    Exoticism- Our fascination with the Romantic East. How did our love of the stories, art and “otherness” of Middle Eastern and Asian countries shape our association with them? How did these views clash with the realities of immigration and trade deals?

    The Fourth Estate- how the press has changed and been changed by American culture. How did we view attempts to “shape the story” throughout history? How did journalism evolve- has it always attempted to influence opinion? Was there ever a time in which reporting the story was the sole purpose of the news? Were there always dedicated news outlets? Or was news taken from wherever we could get it (merchants, travelers etc)? How often was news reported incorrectly? Was there ever any fallout?

  41. Hannah

    Talked with the husband (we love listening together!) and came up with two other ideas-

    Exoticism- Our fascination with the Romantic East. How did our love of the stories, art and “otherness” of Middle Eastern and Asian countries shape our association with them? How did these views clash with the realities of immigration and trade deals?

    The Fourth Estate- how the press has changed and been changed by American culture. How did we view attempts to “shape the story” throughout history? How did journalism evolve- has it always attempted to influence opinion? Was there ever a time in which reporting the story was the sole purpose of the news? Were there always dedicated news outlets? Or was news taken from wherever we could get it (merchants, travelers etc)? How often was news reported incorrectly? Was there ever any fallout?

  42. Jessica Cochran

    With the proliferation of “frontier” themed TV shows right now – such as Gold Rush, Alaska the Last Frontier, Yukon Men, and many, many more – I wonder if a show about frontiers would help us think about why this is such a popular (or, pervasive, at least) genre. Where have American frontiers been, what have those frontiers looked like – what qualifies a place and time as a frontier? How does the frontier of our historical imagination compare with the historical record? Each of the guys would have lots to talk about! I come back to the question, do we need a frontier to feel American? Is the frontier an essential aspect of the “American identity?” If so, how did it become internalized as such? (Frederick Jackson Turner’s 1893 “frontier thesis” comes to mind…)

    I’d love to hear the BackStory team’s take on this topic!
    Thanks!

  43. Jessica Cochran

    With the proliferation of “frontier” themed TV shows right now – such as Gold Rush, Alaska the Last Frontier, Yukon Men, and many, many more – I wonder if a show about frontiers would help us think about why this is such a popular (or, pervasive, at least) genre. Where have American frontiers been, what have those frontiers looked like – what qualifies a place and time as a frontier? How does the frontier of our historical imagination compare with the historical record? Each of the guys would have lots to talk about! I come back to the question, do we need a frontier to feel American? Is the frontier an essential aspect of the “American identity?” If so, how did it become internalized as such? (Frederick Jackson Turner’s 1893 “frontier thesis” comes to mind…)

    I’d love to hear the BackStory team’s take on this topic!
    Thanks!

  44. Hannah

    Hospitality- how we have been expected to act towards our friends and strangers.

    Home Ownership- how home and land ownership gave way to renting, and how we define ourselves by our homes. Also- when did yards become a thing? When did we start manicuring grass and taking pride in it- and why?

  45. Hannah

    Hospitality- how we have been expected to act towards our friends and strangers.

    Home Ownership- how home and land ownership gave way to renting, and how we define ourselves by our homes. Also- when did yards become a thing? When did we start manicuring grass and taking pride in it- and why?

  46. Chuck I.

    THE HISTORY OF TRUTH, JUSTICE & THE AMERICAN WAY…..

    The history of comic books, and our concept of “super-heroes: in America.

  47. Chuck I.

    THE HISTORY OF TRUTH, JUSTICE & THE AMERICAN WAY…..

    The history of comic books, and our concept of “super-heroes: in America.

  48. Sam Diener

    Hello,

    I have a number of ideas:
    I’d like to echo some suggestions from past years about a show on the history of people with disabilities. It might include the practices of a variety of native american nations, the treatment of disabled veterans through time, some early investigative reporting (Nellie Bly investigating insane asylums), the impact of Alexander Graham Bell, the origins and fight for the right to use American Sign Language, the early disability rights advocacy of GINI by and for polio survivors, and the efflorescence of the modern disability rights movement with the creation of the independent living center movement, the nonviolent fight for Section 504, the ADAPT public transit protests (including the DC metro struggle), and the Gallaudet University campaign.

    As I think about it, this might be too big a subject. Maybe it would be better to do a separate show on the history of the treatment of mental illness, for example, and other shows on the history of different forms of disability, e.g. the history of deaf people in the US.

    Mentioning Nellie Bly above gave me another idea. How about a show on the history of investigative reporting? The 1735 seditious libel trial of John Peter Zenger could be an auspicious beginning. The abolitionist press exposed the crimes of slavery (William Lloyd Garrison was thrown in jail in Baltimore for exposing a slave trader, which helped give him enough credibility in the free black community in the north to later start the Liberator). Nellie Bly as mentioned above. Ida B. Wells bravely wrote repeated exposés of lynching. The muckrakers exposed corporate crimes at the turn of the 20th century. The reporters who challenged McCarthyism are fascinating (Murrow being most famous). We could go into the modern period with Gloria Steinem undercover as a Playboy “Bunny,” Seymour Hersh and his many astonishing scoops (My Lai and Abu Ghraib), and Allan Nairn, who, though less well known than Hersh, has exposed the US role in creating death squads in El Salvador, US ties to death squads in Haiti, and exposed the Indonesian military’s war crimes and massacres in East Timor. To bring it right to the present, there’s Bradley Manning and Wikileaks, and the impact of David Corn’s scoop re: Romney’s infamous 47% speech.

    I also think there’s a whole clutch of shows that could be done on the history of people who try to be anti-discrimination allies – the courage, contradictions, and complexities of members of privileged groups who speak out against the injustices of discrimination against others.

    So, there could be a show on anti-sexist allies (most famously, perhaps, Frederick Douglas), but also Garrison, Stephen Foster, Wendell Philips, and Samuel May among abolitionists alone. (And, of course, the latter four could be in a show on white anti-racist allies). The men who supported women’s suffrage in the early 20th century are important but all too forgotten. Men like Don Long and Craig Norberg-Bohm helped create the first groups of men counseling and confronting men who batter (conflict of interest alert: I know Don and Craig through this work). Derrick Bell famously resigned from his professorship at Harvard Law School because of their refusal to hire women of color.

    As I mentioned, there could be a great show on anti-racist white allies, starting with Bartolome de las Casas, Thomas Morton and Merry Mount in 1620s and 30s Massachusetts, and Cabeza de Vaca, and continuing with other white people who objected to the theft of native american lands (e.g. Roger Williams), (though I know you don’t have a 16th or 17th century specialist). In the 18th century the story of how Quaker abolitionists campaigned to first convince their co-religionists to abandon slavery is fascinating (see, for example, the petition of the Germantown (PA) Friends Meeting). I don’t know the story of how Vermont’s constitution came to abolish slavery in 1777, but I think it could be fascinating. The role of white anti-racist lawyers was important for the Mum Bett and Qwok Walker cases in Massachusetts that led to the abolition of slavery in Massachusetts. Several “Founding Fathers,” including Hamilton, Franklin, and Paine, were abolitionists. The role of whites in the Underground Railroad, while it was operated primarily by free blacks who don’t get enough credit, is dramatic and compelling. In the 20th century, I’m curious about the history of the white people who joined in the founding of the NAACP. Eleanor Roosevelt’s anti-racist outspokenness is fascinating, though couldn’t she have done more? White pacifists emerging from jail after World War II, such as David Dellinger and Igal Roodenko (both of whom I had the pleasure of knowing), were also important anti-racist allies, even staging successful anti-racist hunger strikes while in Federal jail to desegregate the prison. The role of whites in the US civil rights movement is much better known, but there are fascinating stories there. I’m curious about the story behind Marlon Brando refusing to show up for the Oscars in protest against racism against native americans.

    One other idea: the history of war tax resistance. (see http://www.warresisters.org/node/328). According to the WRL site above, in “1637… the relatively peaceable Algonquin Indians opposed taxation by the Dutch to help improve a local Dutch fort.” Of course, war tax resistance was crucial for the launching of the revolution of the 13 North American colonies. This was true in general, in the sense of not wanting to pay for the Seven Years War, and in particular, after Boston was occupied by British troops, Bostoners did not want to pay for what they increasingly saw as an occupying army. Amos Bronson Alcott (father of Louisa May) refused to pay taxes in protest against might, probably inspiring Henry David Thoreau to do likewise, thus leading to his speech and essay we now call “Civil Disobedience.” Stephen and Abby Kelly Foster were also feminist and anti-slavery and anti-war tax resisters during this time. There were some war tax resisters during WWII, and the movement built into the hundreds of thousands refusing the to pay the telephone tax to protest the US war in Vietnam.

    In any case, that’s plenty of suggestions for now.

  49. Sam Diener

    Hello,

    I have a number of ideas:
    I’d like to echo some suggestions from past years about a show on the history of people with disabilities. It might include the practices of a variety of native american nations, the treatment of disabled veterans through time, some early investigative reporting (Nellie Bly investigating insane asylums), the impact of Alexander Graham Bell, the origins and fight for the right to use American Sign Language, the early disability rights advocacy of GINI by and for polio survivors, and the efflorescence of the modern disability rights movement with the creation of the independent living center movement, the nonviolent fight for Section 504, the ADAPT public transit protests (including the DC metro struggle), and the Gallaudet University campaign.

    As I think about it, this might be too big a subject. Maybe it would be better to do a separate show on the history of the treatment of mental illness, for example, and other shows on the history of different forms of disability, e.g. the history of deaf people in the US.

    Mentioning Nellie Bly above gave me another idea. How about a show on the history of investigative reporting? The 1735 seditious libel trial of John Peter Zenger could be an auspicious beginning. The abolitionist press exposed the crimes of slavery (William Lloyd Garrison was thrown in jail in Baltimore for exposing a slave trader, which helped give him enough credibility in the free black community in the north to later start the Liberator). Nellie Bly as mentioned above. Ida B. Wells bravely wrote repeated exposés of lynching. The muckrakers exposed corporate crimes at the turn of the 20th century. The reporters who challenged McCarthyism are fascinating (Murrow being most famous). We could go into the modern period with Gloria Steinem undercover as a Playboy “Bunny,” Seymour Hersh and his many astonishing scoops (My Lai and Abu Ghraib), and Allan Nairn, who, though less well known than Hersh, has exposed the US role in creating death squads in El Salvador, US ties to death squads in Haiti, and exposed the Indonesian military’s war crimes and massacres in East Timor. To bring it right to the present, there’s Bradley Manning and Wikileaks, and the impact of David Corn’s scoop re: Romney’s infamous 47% speech.

    I also think there’s a whole clutch of shows that could be done on the history of people who try to be anti-discrimination allies – the courage, contradictions, and complexities of members of privileged groups who speak out against the injustices of discrimination against others.

    So, there could be a show on anti-sexist allies (most famously, perhaps, Frederick Douglas), but also Garrison, Stephen Foster, Wendell Philips, and Samuel May among abolitionists alone. (And, of course, the latter four could be in a show on white anti-racist allies). The men who supported women’s suffrage in the early 20th century are important but all too forgotten. Men like Don Long and Craig Norberg-Bohm helped create the first groups of men counseling and confronting men who batter (conflict of interest alert: I know Don and Craig through this work). Derrick Bell famously resigned from his professorship at Harvard Law School because of their refusal to hire women of color.

    As I mentioned, there could be a great show on anti-racist white allies, starting with Bartolome de las Casas, Thomas Morton and Merry Mount in 1620s and 30s Massachusetts, and Cabeza de Vaca, and continuing with other white people who objected to the theft of native american lands (e.g. Roger Williams), (though I know you don’t have a 16th or 17th century specialist). In the 18th century the story of how Quaker abolitionists campaigned to first convince their co-religionists to abandon slavery is fascinating (see, for example, the petition of the Germantown (PA) Friends Meeting). I don’t know the story of how Vermont’s constitution came to abolish slavery in 1777, but I think it could be fascinating. The role of white anti-racist lawyers was important for the Mum Bett and Qwok Walker cases in Massachusetts that led to the abolition of slavery in Massachusetts. Several “Founding Fathers,” including Hamilton, Franklin, and Paine, were abolitionists. The role of whites in the Underground Railroad, while it was operated primarily by free blacks who don’t get enough credit, is dramatic and compelling. In the 20th century, I’m curious about the history of the white people who joined in the founding of the NAACP. Eleanor Roosevelt’s anti-racist outspokenness is fascinating, though couldn’t she have done more? White pacifists emerging from jail after World War II, such as David Dellinger and Igal Roodenko (both of whom I had the pleasure of knowing), were also important anti-racist allies, even staging successful anti-racist hunger strikes while in Federal jail to desegregate the prison. The role of whites in the US civil rights movement is much better known, but there are fascinating stories there. I’m curious about the story behind Marlon Brando refusing to show up for the Oscars in protest against racism against native americans.

    One other idea: the history of war tax resistance. (see http://www.warresisters.org/node/328). According to the WRL site above, in “1637… the relatively peaceable Algonquin Indians opposed taxation by the Dutch to help improve a local Dutch fort.” Of course, war tax resistance was crucial for the launching of the revolution of the 13 North American colonies. This was true in general, in the sense of not wanting to pay for the Seven Years War, and in particular, after Boston was occupied by British troops, Bostoners did not want to pay for what they increasingly saw as an occupying army. Amos Bronson Alcott (father of Louisa May) refused to pay taxes in protest against might, probably inspiring Henry David Thoreau to do likewise, thus leading to his speech and essay we now call “Civil Disobedience.” Stephen and Abby Kelly Foster were also feminist and anti-slavery and anti-war tax resisters during this time. There were some war tax resisters during WWII, and the movement built into the hundreds of thousands refusing the to pay the telephone tax to protest the US war in Vietnam.

    In any case, that’s plenty of suggestions for now.

  50. aldadebater

    How about a show about the history of the medical profession and medical knowledge (ie doctors, nurses, apothecaries) in the United States?

    Or how about the history of anti war sentiments in the United States? That would be interesting to look at.

  51. aldadebater

    How about a show about the history of the medical profession and medical knowledge (ie doctors, nurses, apothecaries) in the United States?

    Or how about the history of anti war sentiments in the United States? That would be interesting to look at.

  52. Adelaide King

    How about the history of college admission criteria? Financial aid?
    Medical education and accreditation?
    Spies?
    footwear?

  53. Adelaide King

    How about the history of college admission criteria? Financial aid?
    Medical education and accreditation?
    Spies?
    footwear?

  54. Joanne Witt

    Just heard this story on NPR, “Some Gun Control Opponents Cite Fear Of Government Tyranny”. I think in some of your episodes you’ve touched on the long history of American citizens distrust of the federal government, for various reasons, at various times, with various actions and results. I really hope you produce an episode on this topic.

  55. Joanne Witt

    Just heard this story on NPR, “Some Gun Control Opponents Cite Fear Of Government Tyranny”. I think in some of your episodes you’ve touched on the long history of American citizens distrust of the federal government, for various reasons, at various times, with various actions and results. I really hope you produce an episode on this topic.

  56. Charles

    I have a show idea! The family farm(er) in American history. Segments could include Jefferson’s ideal of the independent yeoman farmer; Horace Greeley writing that farming is the best way to Honesty and Truth; the Homestead Acts and western settlement in general, about sod houses and so on; New Deal programs like the FSA that tried to prop up family farms; the technological, social, economic, and political changes that led to the end of the family farm in the 20th century.

  57. Charles

    I have a show idea! The family farm(er) in American history. Segments could include Jefferson’s ideal of the independent yeoman farmer; Horace Greeley writing that farming is the best way to Honesty and Truth; the Homestead Acts and western settlement in general, about sod houses and so on; New Deal programs like the FSA that tried to prop up family farms; the technological, social, economic, and political changes that led to the end of the family farm in the 20th century.

  58. April Muniz

    Hi, I just attended your show live Thomas Jefferson at UVA’s Harrison Institute. Thanks for doing what you do. I listened to your podcasts while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Senegal from 2010-12. Not only were they entertaining, but hearing your voices made me feel a bit closer to home. One of the gals in the audience today asked a question about what Jefferson may have thought of the prominent service component of the current mission at the University which sparked an idea for a show topic—Volunteerism. What prompts people to volunteer and serve others and how has that changed through the centuries?

  59. April Muniz

    Hi, I just attended your show live Thomas Jefferson at UVA’s Harrison Institute. Thanks for doing what you do. I listened to your podcasts while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Senegal from 2010-12. Not only were they entertaining, but hearing your voices made me feel a bit closer to home. One of the gals in the audience today asked a question about what Jefferson may have thought of the prominent service component of the current mission at the University which sparked an idea for a show topic—Volunteerism. What prompts people to volunteer and serve others and how has that changed through the centuries?

  60. Brian Parkinson

    How about a show on the use of the filibuster in the Senate–has it ever protected minority rights in a good way? The episode could also touch on John Quincy Adam’s fight against the “gag rules” in Congress against discussing the abolition of slavery in the 1830s and 40s: how did he manage to overcome that obstacle to free speech?

  61. Brian Parkinson

    How about a show on the use of the filibuster in the Senate–has it ever protected minority rights in a good way? The episode could also touch on John Quincy Adam’s fight against the “gag rules” in Congress against discussing the abolition of slavery in the 1830s and 40s: how did he manage to overcome that obstacle to free speech?

  62. aldadebater

    Has there been one on organized crime, the Mob, or infamous criminals in the United States? I’m wondering what criminal organizations, if any, existed in early American history and how outlaws operated in the 18th or 19th centuries.

  63. aldadebater

    Has there been one on organized crime, the Mob, or infamous criminals in the United States? I’m wondering what criminal organizations, if any, existed in early American history and how outlaws operated in the 18th or 19th centuries.

  64. Deborah Brower

    Like Marc Nalmarc, I’d like to see something on the era of the Articles of Confederation. In today’s political climate it seems like some people would prefer the Articles to the Constitution. It would helpful to take a look at how successful they were and why they were abandoned.

    As an interesting side light, the story of John Hanson. Here in Frederick, Maryland, a seven foot bronze statue of Hanson was installed in front of our County Courthouse. It proclaims Hanson as the first President of the nation’s first government. By extension the real first President of the United States. To under score the point another monument is in the planning stages for his wife Jane, as First Lady.

    The claims about John Hanson have echoed for a little over a century. It even attracted the attention of the Daily Show in the early 2000s. In a 2010 history the winning question was; “Who was the first President of United States? The winner answered John Hanson.

    This bleeds over into a related topic, Public History. Why do myths like this survive in the face of clear dismissal by respected historians? What is their appeal?

  65. Deborah Brower

    Like Marc Nalmarc, I’d like to see something on the era of the Articles of Confederation. In today’s political climate it seems like some people would prefer the Articles to the Constitution. It would helpful to take a look at how successful they were and why they were abandoned.

    As an interesting side light, the story of John Hanson. Here in Frederick, Maryland, a seven foot bronze statue of Hanson was installed in front of our County Courthouse. It proclaims Hanson as the first President of the nation’s first government. By extension the real first President of the United States. To under score the point another monument is in the planning stages for his wife Jane, as First Lady.

    The claims about John Hanson have echoed for a little over a century. It even attracted the attention of the Daily Show in the early 2000s. In a 2010 history the winning question was; “Who was the first President of United States? The winner answered John Hanson.

    This bleeds over into a related topic, Public History. Why do myths like this survive in the face of clear dismissal by respected historians? What is their appeal?

  66. Brian Parkinson

    The latest kerfuffle over the failed gun control bill in the Senate (especially the argument that the “political dynamic” in Washington has failed to keep pace with public opinion) leads me to wonder about the clash between the “Will of the People” and the interests of politicians in American history. Have there been other times when what the people wanted, and what the politicians decided to give them, have been diametrically opposed?

  67. Brian Parkinson

    The latest kerfuffle over the failed gun control bill in the Senate (especially the argument that the “political dynamic” in Washington has failed to keep pace with public opinion) leads me to wonder about the clash between the “Will of the People” and the interests of politicians in American history. Have there been other times when what the people wanted, and what the politicians decided to give them, have been diametrically opposed?

  68. D. Borel

    An episode on the Grand DérangementI (or the Expulsion of the Acadians) would be greatly appreciated. Being a Cajun myself I’ve looked into it more than once and it seems that the story changes a bit every time I do. I find it fascinating cause it is my (and my son’s) history, it is not a well known event and if it hadn’t happened I wouldn’t be American.

    Thank you

  69. D. Borel

    An episode on the Grand DérangementI (or the Expulsion of the Acadians) would be greatly appreciated. Being a Cajun myself I’ve looked into it more than once and it seems that the story changes a bit every time I do. I find it fascinating cause it is my (and my son’s) history, it is not a well known event and if it hadn’t happened I wouldn’t be American.

    Thank you

  70. Ellen W.

    I second the suggestion for a show on pets. I just adopted a fully grown 2 pound rabbit. He is litter trained and gets to wander around my house. I had no idea this was possible with rabbits until I started to research getting a pet. I’m sure there are several other animals that have transitioned from food or work sources to pets who are parts of the family.

  71. Ellen W.

    I second the suggestion for a show on pets. I just adopted a fully grown 2 pound rabbit. He is litter trained and gets to wander around my house. I had no idea this was possible with rabbits until I started to research getting a pet. I’m sure there are several other animals that have transitioned from food or work sources to pets who are parts of the family.

  72. Sam Diener

    [quote comment="123099"]An episode on the Grand DérangementI (or the Expulsion of the Acadians) would be greatly appreciated. Being a Cajun myself I’ve looked into it more than once and it seems that the story changes a bit every time I do. I find it fascinating cause it is my (and my son’s) history, it is not a well known event and if it hadn’t happened I wouldn’t be American.

    Thank you[/quote]

    I know you prefer topics that aren’t particular to a time period, but I think a show including the Acadian expulsion is a great suggestion. I wonder if this could be folded into a show on ethnic cleansing in US history, and resistance to it.

    This could start with pre-Columbian evidence of genocide (e.g. the Gallina findings in New Mexico circa 1275 CE (http://mattbille.blogspot.com/2007/07/genocide-in-pre-columbian-america.html). Move to the Pequot war (or of course one could choose an earlier example); then Bacon’s Rebellion (started initially over the refusal of the Virginia colonial government to more vigorously engage in ethnic cleansing). Examine Andrew Jackson’s genocidal campaigns in the Southeast (including the “Seminole Wars,”) even before the Trail of Tears. Look into the attacks on Mormons driving the sect out of Missouri to the Mountain Meadows massacre perpetrated by Mormon militia (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountain_Meadows_massacre).

    There’s also the push-factor of immigrants coming to the US in response to literal or de facto ethnic cleansing, These might include the Irish potato (and export of other foodstuffs to England) famine) the pogroms that drove Eastern European Jews to the US at the turn of the 19th century, the Jews who emigrated to the US after the holocaust, and the Hmong driven out of Vietnam by repression after 1975. But maybe immigrants coming to the US in response to ethnic cleansing is a show in itself.

    Then, their could be a segment on the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, and the creation of “Sunrise Towns” (see http://sundown.afro.illinois.edu/sundowntowns.php) and the many so-called “race riots” which are better described as white racist ethnic cleansing pogroms against African-American communities (e.g. the East St. Louis “race riot” of 1917 (http://muse.jhu.edu/login?auth=0&type=summary&url=/journals/american_studies/v050/50.3-4.capeci.html). I just found an Independent Lens documentary I haven’t yet seen on this wave of attacks on African-American communities called “Banished: American Ethnic Cleansings” (see http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/banished/)). Eliot Jospin’s book, Buried in the Bitter Waters: The Hidden History of Racial Cleansing in America (see http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=8893124), would be useful here too.

    I wonder if financial block-busting (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blockbusting) by racist real estate agents in the 1960s could even by examined as a comparison/contrast piece with these previous examples. I’ve heard that where I grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, there was an anti-racist coalition that formed, including anti-racist real estate agents, in order to prevent the practice.

  73. Sam Diener

    [quote comment="123099"]An episode on the Grand DérangementI (or the Expulsion of the Acadians) would be greatly appreciated. Being a Cajun myself I’ve looked into it more than once and it seems that the story changes a bit every time I do. I find it fascinating cause it is my (and my son’s) history, it is not a well known event and if it hadn’t happened I wouldn’t be American.

    Thank you[/quote]

    I know you prefer topics that aren’t particular to a time period, but I think a show including the Acadian expulsion is a great suggestion. I wonder if this could be folded into a show on ethnic cleansing in US history, and resistance to it.

    This could start with pre-Columbian evidence of genocide (e.g. the Gallina findings in New Mexico circa 1275 CE (http://mattbille.blogspot.com/2007/07/genocide-in-pre-columbian-america.html). Move to the Pequot war (or of course one could choose an earlier example); then Bacon’s Rebellion (started initially over the refusal of the Virginia colonial government to more vigorously engage in ethnic cleansing). Examine Andrew Jackson’s genocidal campaigns in the Southeast (including the “Seminole Wars,”) even before the Trail of Tears. Look into the attacks on Mormons driving the sect out of Missouri to the Mountain Meadows massacre perpetrated by Mormon militia (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountain_Meadows_massacre).

    There’s also the push-factor of immigrants coming to the US in response to literal or de facto ethnic cleansing, These might include the Irish potato (and export of other foodstuffs to England) famine) the pogroms that drove Eastern European Jews to the US at the turn of the 19th century, the Jews who emigrated to the US after the holocaust, and the Hmong driven out of Vietnam by repression after 1975. But maybe immigrants coming to the US in response to ethnic cleansing is a show in itself.

    Then, their could be a segment on the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, and the creation of “Sunrise Towns” (see http://sundown.afro.illinois.edu/sundowntowns.php) and the many so-called “race riots” which are better described as white racist ethnic cleansing pogroms against African-American communities (e.g. the East St. Louis “race riot” of 1917 (http://muse.jhu.edu/login?auth=0&type=summary&url=/journals/american_studies/v050/50.3-4.capeci.html). I just found an Independent Lens documentary I haven’t yet seen on this wave of attacks on African-American communities called “Banished: American Ethnic Cleansings” (see http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/banished/)). Eliot Jospin’s book, Buried in the Bitter Waters: The Hidden History of Racial Cleansing in America (see http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=8893124), would be useful here too.

    I wonder if financial block-busting (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blockbusting) by racist real estate agents in the 1960s could even by examined as a comparison/contrast piece with these previous examples. I’ve heard that where I grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, there was an anti-racist coalition that formed, including anti-racist real estate agents, in order to prevent the practice.

  74. Mikey D. B.

    How about the history of Capitalism?….I’m really struggling with the idea and how it is still beneficial to the world. I wrote an essay for a political ideologies class and came to the conclusion that it is an ideology that has run its course. I could send you my paper via email or something if you’d like to give you more of an idea of what I’m talking about and where I’m coming from. Let me know.

  75. Mikey D. B.

    How about the history of Capitalism?….I’m really struggling with the idea and how it is still beneficial to the world. I wrote an essay for a political ideologies class and came to the conclusion that it is an ideology that has run its course. I could send you my paper via email or something if you’d like to give you more of an idea of what I’m talking about and where I’m coming from. Let me know.

  76. KH Edwards

    An English book about women’s place in society through the centuries got me thinking. What particularly raised my interest? Women in 15th century England could be business owners, land owners, participants indirectly in local governance. By the 17th century this situation had made a 180. Women then needed a man to manage the $$. Why?

    Did the same thing happen in America? When in America’s history could women start businesses of their own? Were there women entrepreneurs in the 18th century who couldn’t start a business without male sponsorship? Could they leave their legacy to female relatives? Who was successful?

    Was the cycle that occurred in England repeated here and, if so, when did that situation begin to change? What stimulated the change? Wars? Depressions? Change in societal attitudes?

    Who were the female entrepreneurs who kept businesses going when the males were absent or taken away by illness or death? Why did those who thrived do so?

    Was there a time when a woman had to go West in order to become an entrepreneur? Who were they? What kinds of businesses did they run?

    Are these enough questions to answer?
    :-)
    KH Edwards

  77. KH Edwards

    An English book about women’s place in society through the centuries got me thinking. What particularly raised my interest? Women in 15th century England could be business owners, land owners, participants indirectly in local governance. By the 17th century this situation had made a 180. Women then needed a man to manage the $$. Why?

    Did the same thing happen in America? When in America’s history could women start businesses of their own? Were there women entrepreneurs in the 18th century who couldn’t start a business without male sponsorship? Could they leave their legacy to female relatives? Who was successful?

    Was the cycle that occurred in England repeated here and, if so, when did that situation begin to change? What stimulated the change? Wars? Depressions? Change in societal attitudes?

    Who were the female entrepreneurs who kept businesses going when the males were absent or taken away by illness or death? Why did those who thrived do so?

    Was there a time when a woman had to go West in order to become an entrepreneur? Who were they? What kinds of businesses did they run?

    Are these enough questions to answer?

    :-)
    KH Edwards

  78. Brian Parkinson

    What about a history of intermingling? So much of America’s past is the quest to set oneself off from others and to prevent others from getting too close (e.g., the riots of “Red Summer” 1919). But I’m sure there are instances throughout American history where people have had to stay involved in each other’s lives for better or worse…how did that work out for them?

  79. Brian Parkinson

    What about a history of intermingling? So much of America’s past is the quest to set oneself off from others and to prevent others from getting too close (e.g., the riots of “Red Summer” 1919). But I’m sure there are instances throughout American history where people have had to stay involved in each other’s lives for better or worse…how did that work out for them?

  80. Chuck I.

    “TRUTH, JUSTICE & HISTORY:” The history of comic books in America, and the concept of the “superhero” in general.

  81. Chuck I.

    “TRUTH, JUSTICE & HISTORY:” The history of comic books in America, and the concept of the “superhero” in general.

  82. Jonathan tomassetti

    How about the HIstory of the Furture.

    People always envision America in the future. What did Americans in the 18th, 19th & 20th centuries think would happen to America in the future. Were any of them correct?

  83. Laura C.

    [quote comment="112032"]The history of corporations in America–and the attempt to limit them.

    Maybe too large of a topic for a single show, but I find my high school students struggling labor.
    ——
    I am for this one too, especially since the History channel”s show on the “men who built america” and also since I read this article some time back:

    http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Corporations/Hx_Corporations_US.html

    And what went wrong from the time that buisnesses were only allowed to incorporate if it served a public good to now when any tom dick or harry can incorporate for protection.

  84. Eric

    What about the history of streets? Certain people including the president having pitching designing more walkable communities. Many point to Europe as an example but haven’t American cities always been a but different? Historically how have Americans designed their cities and why? Anyway I’ve been thinking a lot about this and would love to hear your thoughts.

  85. Kate T.

    I’d like to hear a podcast about the Farm Bill and/or how all of the US Farm subsidies got their start

  86. Kate T.

    I’d like to hear a story about the Farm Bill and/or how the insane number of US Farm subsidies got their start and got to where they are today.

  87. Jerry

    History of public libraries in America and the tremendous transformation they experienced from Andrew Carnegie to Bill Gates

  88. Chuck I.

    “11 & UP: A History of Amending the Constitution”

    This would follow our attempts at amending the Constitution following the Bill of Rights.

  89. Eigo

    I read through the ideas, and there are so many I like that I don’t know if this one will be picked. Building on top of the idea of transportation and how cities were shaped, how about the other transportation, ships/boats?
    This is a transportation method that shaped not only our life style but also decided where cities were built, and how culture between native tribes and settlers was exchanged.
    How did the rise and fall of the ship building industry shape the lifestyle of the people and the cities that depended on these industries? There was the whole whaling industry that sprung up and flourished. That affected many lives and also left many cities isolated after that industry disappeared. For the 20th Century guy the topic can be how the shipping industry is thriving now with globalization, and how globalization is now affecting American rivers and lakes via ships. The Great Lakes have to deal with invasive species that are transported by clinging to the bottom of ships that come from foreign water. What were the differences between coastal shipping industry and those along the Great Lakes?
    How did the roles of battle ships change throughout the American history? The aircraft carriers in WWII completely changed how wars were being fought. Oh, and there was the submarine that was built during the Civil War.
    There is also the history of how pirates and their ships affected the regional cultures within the US.
    Steamships must have had a huge influence on how people traveled, and how people moved to settle, not only immigrants but also within the US.
    The more I think of it, the more ideas I can think of that are related to ships/boats. I hope this has not been covered (I did a quick search on the website and did not see it), and that it is of interest to you.
    Thank you.

  90. Sam Ulmschneider

    As a teacher, there are some topics my students love using Backstory for, and some they find less engaging. But most important here is the thing that is missing: pop cultural history.

    I would suggest: “All Shook Up: Musical Fads and Their Reactions,” which could cover everything from tavern dancing in the 1780s to Shakers in the 1830s and blackface music, the emergence of vaudeville and ethnic theater music, to the rise of jazz in the Harlem Renaissance, Elvis as the first real youth culture music, the role of rock ‘n roll in the counterculture, and the way rap reflected the urban crisis of the 1980s and 1990s.

    I would also suggest: “Out To Get Me: Conspiracies and Conspiracy Theories In American History,” where you could cover everything from the fear that Jacobin Jeffersonians would burn good Congregationalist bibles in 1800 to the “Slave Power” of the 1850s, the Antimasons of the 1830s, the John Birch Society, and “real” conspiracies like Cointelpro and the Business Plot.

    • Sam Diener

      The “Slave Power” wasn’t real? Maybe you wouldn’t consider it a conspiracy because it was so overt, but the stranglehold the slaveocracy had on the lives of 4 million enslaved African-Americans, and the power they wielded in Washington to prevent any questioning, let alone attack, on that system, was quite real. This was true from the beginning of the Constitution (and why Garrison burned a copy of it), and was the purpose behind the 3/5 clause. It was doubly true after the Dred Scott case. Lincoln, despite his erudite opposition to Dred Scott (see his Cooper Union speech of 1860), didn’t during the campaign even question the legal “right” of southern whites to continue enslaving African-Americans, saying there was nothing that could be legally done against slavery where it existed. The “Slave Power” was so powerful that the new, supposedly anti-slavery Republican Party didn’t oppose slavery where it existed.

      • Sam Ulmschneider

        I didn’t mean to suggest that slavery wasn’t a powerful political interest. The Slave Power theory, though, was a conspiracy theory according to Richard Hofsteader’s definition in his famous essay on the Paranoid Style In American Politics. Though slavery was powerful, and its defenders were often able to organize politically, they were far from the multifarious, coordinated, wealthy beyond belief, monstrous unit that Slave Power believers made them up to be. Southerners and other defenders of the evil institution of slavery were made up by the Slave Power ideology to be something like the Communists were in the 1940s and 1950s — omnipresent, manipulative, insidious, etc.

      • Sam Diener

        Sam, I haven’t read that wonderful essay by Hofstadter for many a year. But I still don’t understand how indicting the very real stranglehold the slave power had over US politics constitutes anything but an all-too-clear-headed analysis of the stranglehold that pro-slavery politicians and judges had over Federal policy. As the old saying goes, “You’re not paranoid if they’re really out to get you.” For the 4 million enslaved, the slaveocracy was torturing bodies and minds, selling loved ones away, exploiting labor, enforcing bans on education, censoring all publications in the South that dared question either racism or the institution of slavery (the Liberator, for example, was banned throughout the region), and insuring that the Federal government did nothing to challenge these ongoing crimes against humanity. Mass enslavement was not some delusional fear: it was an unfolding and expanding reality – one backed by all branches of the Federal Government, and one that was even more entrenched after the more draconian Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.

        Pro-slavery politicians banned Congress from even accepting any anti-slavery petitions or debating the subject. Pro-slavery politicians dominated the major political parties and the judiciary.

        You compared what you call paranoia about the slave power to the paranoia about communists in the 1950s, but members of the CPUSA did not even come close to constituting majorities in both houses of Congress and the Supreme Court (there were exactly zero such members), whereas pro-slavery politicians dominated both branches of government, and the Presidency to boot (I would argue, even after Lincoln was elected – since, as I said earlier, Lincoln was elected swearing not to challenge slavery where it already existed). I think the better analogy, re paranoia, was the paranoia the slave-power politicians had regarding abolitionism.

  91. Laura C.

    [quote comment="124246"]As a teacher, there are some topics my students love using Backstory for, and some they find less engaging. But most important here is the thing that is missing: pop cultural history.

    I would suggest: “All Shook Up: Musical Fads and Their Reactions,” which could cover everything from tavern dancing in the 1780s to Shakers in the 1830s and blackface music, the emergence of vaudeville and ethnic theater music, to the rise of jazz in the Harlem Renaissance, Elvis as the first real youth culture music, the role of rock ‘n roll in the counterculture, and the way rap reflected the urban crisis of the 1980s and 1990s.

    I would also suggest: “Out To Get Me: Conspiracies and Conspiracy Theories In American History,” where you could cover everything from the fear that Jacobin Jeffersonians would burn good Congregationalist bibles in 1800 to the “Slave Power” of the 1850s, the Antimasons of the 1830s, the John Birch Society, and “real” conspiracies like Cointelpro and the Business Plot.[/quote]

    If we are allowed to vote I vote for these too ideas… they sound really interesting.

  92. kirk

    Hi Backstory,

    Love the show, I was just thinking that it is the end of the school year and I was wondering how America came up with the Schedule? Why do we take 3 months off in the middle of the summer? When did this happen? Is that still the trend or are we going to longer school years or shorter? I hope you think this is a good idea and keep up the good work.

    Thanks.

  93. Laura C.

    [quote comment="124439"]Hi Backstory,

    Love the show, I was just thinking that it is the end of the school year and I was wondering how America came up with the Schedule? Why do we take 3 months off in the middle of the summer? When did this happen? Is that still the trend or are we going to longer school years or shorter? I hope you think this is a good idea and keep up the good work.

    Thanks.[/quote]

    Could be wrong, but I believe it has to do with the farming schedule back in the day when many American’s farmed and the most help was needed for tending and harvesting crops. Totally unnecessary today, now it is just habit. School should probably be yearlong but I don’t see that happening with the teacher’s union.. though I understand that teachers need extra time off.

  94. Eigo

    You have done a show on health care in the past. How about the history of insurance in general? Our lives are so closely dependent on insurance. Now with more natural disasters in the news, it is a perfect topic.
    How did insurance come into the US? How has it changed over the years?
    In 1752, the Philadelphia Contributionship for the Insurance of Houses from Loss by Fire became the first mutual fire insurance company in America. Since then, we have had home and life insurance starting up. According to investopedia, at the beginning “With the explosion in insurance products and the companies issuing them, the young industry was fraught with fraud and scandal.” Sounds like a juicy topic.

  95. SC

    I’m also a teacher and I also love “All shook up” and “Out to get me”.

    My idea (though not as much detail as above):

    A history of “imposters” by which I mean women who posed as men, or blacks who posed as white, children who posed as adults – any individuals who crossed lines to do things they otherwise couldn’t do, even if those things make little sense in hindsight. I came by the idea because I recently visited Manzanar, where I found the following story: “When sixteen-year-old RALPH LAZO registered with relocation authorities, they assumed he was Japanese American. In fact, he was Mexican Irish American. Although he wanted to accompany his friends to camp, they were sent to Heart Mountain while he came to Manzanar.”

  96. Emily@BackStory

    Thanks for the suggestions all! Keep ‘em coming!

    And a note for the teachers out there – we’re putting together some new teaching resources – so keep checking our website (soon to be updated), and if you have ideas about using BackStory in the classroom, please send them our way! (backstory@virginia.edu)

  97. Eigo

    The history of charity.
    Charity is a big part of the American way, but has this always been the case?

    • Heather Thorwald

      I like this topic! It’s especially newsworthy right now, as Congress and the President consider changing the rules about tax deductions for charitable contributions.

  98. Eigo

    How about a “History of Children’s Playground Games”? There must have been various children’s games brought in from different countries over the centuries. The change in popular games must have reflected the dominant immigrants’ cultures over the years and also signifying the regional uniquness.
    What are some of the games that no longer exist? How did some games change over the years? For example, I read that jump rope was only a boys game until the 1900′s because girls were not encouraged to play outdoors.

  99. Jonathan

    * Traditional Family Values – how each generation views change as a threat to the traditional family they know, from woodstoves to the Internet.
    * Conspiracy Theories that Stick – tracing the lifetime of conspiracy theories that have lasted for long periods of time, what makes them stick, what makes them fall out of favor?
    * Religious Utopias, Religious Cults
    * Political Correctness and Propaganda
    * Class Warfare
    * Special Interest Politics – how small minorities game the system
    * Sizing the Military – the debate over the size, structure, and power of the military
    * Civilian Control of the Military – if we have a military strong enough to defend us, how do we keep it from taking over?
    * Iron Triangles – I’ll wash your back if you wash mine …

  100. Joshua Padilla-Finez

    Government controlling technology, though this would almost entirely play into the 20th century. Like the ratings system.

  101. Gerry Zahavi

    Two quick ideas that have a long temporal range:
    1) history of American socialism — encompassing early socialist experiments (impact of Robert Owen and Charles Fourier on utopian socialist movements) and moving into socialist and communist parties in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. If you want a narrower temporal period, call the program “Marx in America” and cover the evolution of Marxism in America from the mid-19th century through the present.

    2) a history of unionism in America: from guilds to early 19th century trade unions, through the first regional and national unions (Knights of St. Crispin; National Labor Union), through early industrial unionism (Knights of Labor), the rise of national craft unionism and the AFL, New Deal era unionization (CIO), and the late 20th century decline of unionism.

    • Sam Diener

      I think, Gerry, these are great ideas. Regarding the early history of socialism, I think it would be fascinating to examine a variety of native american economic systems to evaluate how socialist they were. I had thought, for example, that the Kwakwaka’wakw (Kwakiutl) practice of the potlatch indicated a redistributive socialist impulse, but then learned of the extensive practice of slavery within these societies (see for example http://books.google.com/books/about/Aboriginal_slavery_on_the_Northwest_Coas.html?id=QRHLy4xwcboC).

      After the Europeans arrive, it might be interesting to examine the short-lived Merrymount experiment (1620-1625) as a proto-socialist community founded by Thomas Morton (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Morton_%28colonist%29 for an intro).

      • Mr. Bill

        Interesting- I wonder if this is in any way connected to the Levelers and the Diggers of the English Civil War, who tried to reclaim the commons from aristocracy and establish co-operative societies after the war, but who were eventually violently suppressed: http://libcom.org/history/1642-1652-diggers-levellers I wonder if the lines of thought behind these respective movements had anything to do with one another…

    • Leah T

      I would absolutely love to hear Backstory talk about the history of organized labor and workers’ rights in America. Maybe in order to touch more directly on current news topics, they could do a show on socioeconomic class in America? Or if that’s too big a topic, “class warfare” or class mobility?

  102. Sam Diener

    What about “Keep it Cool” the history of ice and refrigeration? I thought of this because I live in Arlington, MA whose ice industry lasted from 1840-1930. At its peak it exported, it is claimed 150,000 tons of ice a year (see http://www.friendsofspypondpark.org/NewsLetters/FSPP_newsletter_winter_11.pdf, page 3).

    It could begin with the impact of the ice age and glaciation on our geography.

    There’s always the impact of cold weather on soldiers during the multitudinous wars. (Ray Raphael argues that the Valley Forge winter wasn’t particularly cold – and other winters during the Revolution were worse: http://www.rayraphael.com/Founding_Myths.htm).

    The impact of the refrigerator on the urban geography of US cities, and on our public health could be fascinating. The demographic implications of air conditioning for the US population in recent decades would be interesting to explore – and the potential implications for global over-heating are dire.

  103. ShanHart

    How about the history of the view of childhood. Early on, kids were considered to be small adults or they should be”seen but not heard”. Through the 1800-1900s a focus on early childhood education (the kindergarten movement for example) evolved. During the 20th century we see the movement toward nursery schools, childcare, early childhood education (think: Baby Einstein!). This would also encompass the history of gender roles (see above) as the “sphere” of women expanded.

  104. Spiro Bolos

    How about a history of American regional “accents”? Considering that the Midwest is the pronunciation standard for news anchors, why is that so?

  105. Heather Thorwald

    In the midst of another terrible fire season here in Colorado, I’ve been thinking about the history of fires and firefighting in America. How have Americans tried to fight and control fires over the centuries? If you do tackle this topic, I highly recommend Timothy Egan’s book “The Big Burn” about a massive forest fire on the Idaho/Montana border that led to creation of the Forest Service.

    On a related topic, I’d be interested in a show about the history of water and drought in America. I’ve heard a bit about the early 20th century notion that “the rain follows the plow” – that dryland farming would be self-sustaining, which proved very wrong and led to many abandoned farms and communities. Was dealing with drought only an issue once settlers began moving into the drier West, or were there droughts in the East that impacted earlier periods of American history?

  106. Jon

    How about the history of preserving food. Ice, salt, alcohol, plastic. How have Americans preserved food through the ages and what are some if the conflicts that arise from the food supply? How has the preservation of food limited the growth of the nation or allowed for its expansion.?

  107. Patrick McCartney

    I suggest the history of important technologies, and focusing on how at their introduction they were seen as endangering individuals, society, and humanity as a whole. Examples are robots, microwave ovens, the Walkman, tv, radio, electricity, fast cars, trains, etc. The story of John Henry comes to mind.

    What has happened during the technology adoption process from introduction, to perceived as a danger, to acceptance and full utilization?

    What makes a new technology scary; how were some technologies seen as dangerous, while some others were just accepted?

    How have attitudes about new technology changed, in general, across time?

  108. Laura Cody

    This post seems to be spam.. clicking on the link takes you to a place with Asian writing.

    So.. owners of this site… you might want to check this out and possibly delete it.

  109. Mr. Bill

    I grew up near Indian Boundary Park in Chicago, which I only much later in life learned marked an actual early-19th century boundary between white settlers and Native Americans, demarcated by the 1816 Treaty of St. Louis. We often think of Native Americans in terms of the Great Plains conquest – something happening after the Civil War and west of the Mississippi- while overlooking the conquest and displacement of native peoples in the late 18th and early 19th century- in the Southeast, the Ohio River valley, and the Northwest Territories (Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa). Of course, even though it replaced a previous treaty in 1804, this boundary didn’t last either – the year the native peoples were finally driven from the north and west side of the Indian Boundary line was the same year Chicago was founded- 1833.

    This got me thinking of the idea of the Shifting Indian Boundary, tracing the geographic line of broken treaties and broken promises, of displacement and development and recombination of Indian peoples elsewhere (e.g. in Indian Territory in Oklahoma), and how the remnants of former treaty boundaries evidence themselves physically- in Chicago’s case, Indian Boundary Park, Rogers Ave., and Forest Preserve Drive:
    http://www.rpwrhs.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=35:the-indian-boundary-line&catid=9:general-history-of-rogers-park-west-ridge&Itemid=26

    We rarely make the connection between the displacement of native peoples and the founding and development of settlements and urban municipalities- as if these were two processes that operated completely independent of one another. I suspect that is because one process was military and violent, while the other was civilian and peaceful- but this division in our popular understanding continues to this day, divorcing our present reality from the very violent conflicts of the past. As such, I thought it would be a topic appropriate for Backstory to explore. The Indian Boundary is still shifting after all- though now it’s in Brazil, Peru, sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere…

  110. Bruce Pencek

    The history of standards — technical standards, innovation, capitalism (and the state); “community standards,” communication, creativity, individualism (and the state); the moral and rhetorical place of standardization as the loci/foci of Americans’ identity have shifted.

  111. Stephen

    How about the history of popular music? From Stephen Foster to Kanye West? I bet this would also tell the story of empire, racial segregation, and immigration.

  112. Chuck I.

    UNTRUE: “The History of Slander & Defamation in America”

    While I previously mentioned this topic, I wanted to elaborate on it a bit. Accusations of slander, libel, defamation, ect., present an unusual tension in America The most notable reason being the First Amendment. As Justice Marshall famously suggested, it is after all a WRITTEN Constitution we are dealing with. That makes certain principles, such as free speech and freedom of the press, particularly difficult to reconcile with common law understandings of defamation. One way we have tried to incorporate actionable defamation is to impose additional requirements (such as concepts of “malice” and “public versus private” concepts).

    Nonetheless, it is apparent that our society continues to give these concepts some merit. These are recognized causes of action under the laws of every state (as far as I know). For example, most states recognize “Slander/Libel Per Se” as well as “Slander/Libel Per Quod” (i.e., a statement that impeaches you in your trade or business, as opposed to saying something that is only damaging when understood in a specific context). I assume these ideas can be traced back to our English roots. But how have such concepts evolved? Has there ever been significant movements to ban lawsuits for defamation? Or, alternatively, to ensure their protection (constitutionally or otherwise)?

    Are there any examples of some of the most-revered persons in American history to be accused of defamation, or who have accused others of the same?

    Finally, I think it is equally important to go beyond the legal definitions of slander and defamation. The best example (in my mind) was through the use of duels in order to defend one’s honor. We all know about Arron Burr shooting Alexander Hamilton, but dueling lasted long in to our history afterwards. It became especially prevalent in the south during Reconstruction. Do we have any idea as to when the last recorded incident of a duel took place in the United State? Or are there even any modern incidents of dueling?

  113. Andy

    In California some lawmakers in San Bernardino have proposed seizing mortgages of “underwater” borrowers by way of eminent domain. I would be interested in learning the history of the use and broadened interpretation of eminent domain in the US. The use of eminent domain for the Central Artery highway in Boston and for acquiring Chavez Ravine which would eventually become Dodger Stadium would both make interesting topics for exploring the use.

  114. Jon

    Recently I studied the Industrial Revolution. The course introduced the idea that industrialization was a process not a moment. Long before the 19th century, America was settled in such a way that prepared for industrialization later. Long after the “revolution” we are still feeling the effects even into today.

    This made me think of the internet and networking. During the industrial revolution the telegraph was born. This explosion of information spread into a network not unlike today’s internet. In fact the internet is a link in the chain (like optical telegraph to wire telegraph to phonic telegraph to telephone to dial up internet to ___).

    I am curious about prior networks as well. Maybe networks of sailing ships? Perhaps horse networks like pony express?

  115. Mary

    I was listening to a story on On The Media about an autism tv channel and thought about disability as culture – particularly deaf culture. Or maybe participation of the disabled on sports – onbiosuly closely linked to wars and veterans, but also disabled rights movements.

    Another idea that fascinates me is American-flavored rligions and denominations. My great great grandfather – an Anglican minister – immigrated here post WWI and converted to “American Catholicism” which is distinct from Roman Catholicism. How did it arise? What’s peculiarly American about it? Are Shakers American-specific? What about Southern Baptist?

    Love love love this show. It’s my alltime favorite on NPR and is about the only thing that’s getting me out to run these days (it’s on so godawfully early here in DC that I have to download the podcast for listening later – and I’m only allowed to listen while running).

  116. Kristin

    I’d love to see something about homosexuality in the late 19th/early 20th centuries. I just read a fascinating book by Graham Robb called “Strangers,” which is largely about the creation of gay and lesbian (and, in some cases, trans*) cultures in Europe before there was the idea of “LGBT culture” through medicine, legal arguments and activism, and literature. Because so many otherwise excellent queer histories act as though homosexuality and transsexuality were magically invented in the 1950s or 1960s, and some fascinating materials get ignored.

    • Jason

      Yes, this!! My great grandmother, who was born in 1897 used to say that being gay was no big deal at the early part of the 20th century. Was there really a wax and wane of acceptance of gays in our society?

  117. The Language Nerd

    They call me the Language Nerd for a reason, so I’m definitely biased, but I would love to see the history of American English(es) — the break from British English, the creole of New Orleans, the mountain men lingo of the fur-trade-era Rockies, the movement of dialects up and down the Mississippi River, the current debates about African American English, why New York City and Boston have famous city-wide accents but Boulder and Cheyenne don’t. There are so many places where our language reflects and influences our history, and it would be great to see what you fascinating fellows could dig up. Thanks for all that you do.

  118. nancy noteman

    I think you touched on this topic with the history of childhood but there are two offshoot topics I think are good: the history of a sense of risk and the history of responsibility that parents have to their children. It seems as if now a days parents are resposible for possible risks to children like cancer and heart disease long after the child is an adult.

  119. Beth Cottam

    Just read through most of the comments and would like to second the ideas of:

    *Religous intolerance starting of course with the puritains, and how did it shape the “seperation of church and state”, and what does that mean today.

    *The Language Nerd: What he said!

    * The Last frontier, america expansion. From the East to the Wild Wild West. The buying up of hudge lands (aka Alaska), space exploration and beyond. Love the show but sometimes I can tell you are from the East, I live in the West. I find it interesting that there are still differences in our culture from different regions and ever from state to state.

  120. J Whitt

    I have heard mention of the Gilded Age in some of your shows. I finally looked it up on Wikipedia, and in quickly reading the article, was initially struck by the apparent similarities between that historical period and today’s America. I am thinking specifically about the massive inequality in income, the technological explosion, immigration, and so on. I just watched the following brief video of James Fallows, the Atlantic writer, speaking at the Aspen Institute, on why he thinks it is legitimate to compare today’s America to the Gilded Age:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/events/archive/2013/06/the-curious-relevance-of-the-gilded-age/277289/

    I was particularly affected by the hopeful end of his speech. I grew up in the 1960′s, with all its societal upheaval (civil rights, feminism, Vietnam, etc.) and must admit that in watching events in America today I have become very worried about the future prospects of the American people. So hearing Mr. Fallows challenge all of us to make what is possibly the “Second Gilded Age” similar in that it spurs very positive developments in America gives me hope. I want to suggest that you consider doing a show on whether an analogy between the Gilded Age and today is, I don’t know the right word: correct; truthful; useful?

  121. Tiffany

    I would be really interested in a show on clothing – the making of and what people wore. I am especially interested as someone on another blog repeated idea that the ‘flapper’ was a woman that somehow broke down barriers and revolted against Victorian oppression and their corsets and bustle skirts (nevermind that this always seems to ignore the Edwardian period and that not every woman dressed like a flapper). How did people see flappers at the time? (I imagine more like how we view the clothing choices of today’s teens and pre-teens).

    Also, how people got there clothes changed a lot in the past few centuries. i.e. how the US was once a big textile maker, how many women made the clothes for families, and then clothes were made in factories, etc. There seems to have been a shift in the 1970s when there was a recession towards women making their own clothes, which died off when times were better. And with the rise of the internet and the most recent recession, many women (and some men) and making there own clothes again. What do you think?

    • Erin

      The other side of this is the evolution of women’s (and sometimes men’s) undergarments. A big piece of how women dressed was dictated by notions of the female form, and by the way that that was reflected, or modified by the way a woman dressed. As these notions changed, so did the shape of the underpinnings, and thus the shape of the woman. Morality was also unsurprisingly bound up in this, and there was much thought about how a woman was as loose as her stays (so tie ‘em tight!). You could take this thread all the way through to the invention of the brassiere in the 20′s, to the bra-burning in the 70′s.

  122. Jason

    The history of literature in the US, as in what people were actually reading and how that affected their lives. E.G., was “To Kill a Mockingbird” really read by the masses at the time or was it just for the NY Times readers of the day? Or maybe it should be the history of story-telling in the US? How did we share stories before there was a bookstore at every corner? Did people gather at the town square and listen to one guy read? Did they pass around the same book? How did they handle fiction/nonfiction? Guess we could roll theater into the mix if we’re talking story-telling.

  123. Laura Cody

    “JASON
    AUGUST 14, 2013 AT 11:26 PM
    Yes, this!! My great grandmother, who was born in 1897 used to say that being gay was no big deal at the early part of the 20th century. Was there really a wax and wane of acceptance of gays in our society?”

    Added Emphasis to this IDEA!

  124. Jason

    This seems like an obvious one, so maybe it’s been done before and I’ve just missed it, but how about the history of free speech in America, and our struggles with what that really means. Seems like the Alien and Sedition Acts were probably the first challenge to free speech, and free speech lost only to be redeemed a few years later when Jefferson repealed them. I feel like we’ve probably always struggled with this concept, and it would be fascinating to see the different ways free speech was challenged over the centuries.

  125. Lonnie Murray

    I’d love to see a show on the history of Lawns, golf courses and roadsides in America, and our unusual relationship with them. I’d also like to see something about Lady Bird Johnson, Lorrie Otto and other attempts to rethink our vast artificially mown spaces.

  126. Ian

    Seems to me that a history of American mortuary practices would be interesting and appropriate in October. Maybe a history of the Appalachian trail would also be really interesting given the of the through-hike season is coming. Or maybe a broader look, like a history of public land in America. Anyway, this podcast is exceptionally informative, which makes it really flippin cool. Thanks guys.

  127. Sarah McClure

    Visions of the Future: I’m really interested in what our expectations and hopes for the future say about our current values. The ideas of the future set out at Futureland in Epcot, and on the Jetsons seem to show the focus on the family unit during the 50′s and 60′s. Are there other examples of this through history?

    Thank you for your consideration. I appreciate the thoughtful, and informed take from the history guys!

  128. Frank

    What americans know of US military proposed and current military actions has changed considerably over the history of our country. In era of television (especially 24/7 news networks) and the internet, combat is seen in real time. Vietnam was really the first “war” where teelvision brought it into our living rooms ..on a delayed basis. That changed with Iraq with its media imbedded reporters who brought us “real time” reprorting of military action. It is certainly more true today with the alleged Syrian gas attack and the impact of smart video phones. But it wasn’t always that way. WWII saw heavy censorship and the public knew very little about what was taking place most times only months later. FDR and other policy makers could make decisions in the absence of pubic limelight. Defeats or missteps didn’t become instant fodder for debate. I would like to see a show devoted to how technology has impacted our military
    options.and foreign policy. It has made for a different dynamic.

  129. Kelsey

    A history of Body Modification!
    What forms of body modification have Americans practiced over time? How has the public perception of body modification changed? Who participated in these practices?
    I am especially curious about the history of tattoos. Who gets tattoos, and how has that changed? Not only do tattoos reflect an individual’s values, they also often display an individual/society’s perception of foreign cultures. I suspect that the history of tattoos is closely tied with an American fascination with the ‘exotic’ other. I’m interested in how we’ve used tattoos to portray foreign cultures, and how these depictions of ‘exotic’ cultures have evolved over time.

  130. Andrew

    The life and career of John J. Crittenden and especially his attempt at avoiding war through the “Crittenden Compromise.” Why did the compromise never take shape? McPherson (Battle Cry for Freedom) states that war was inevitable but was it really?

  131. Bill Shepherd

    I’d like to hear a show about economic booms and busts in American history. The Great Recession has dominated public discourse in recent years, while at the same time North Dakota is being transformed by a boom in natural gas.

    The California gold rush and Great Depression are probably the best know examples, but I know there are several other examples of booms and busts in American history.

  132. Bill Young

    I think an interesting program would focus on the history of U.S. trade and economic sanctions, their successes and failures and other ramifications. This topic is particularly timely in light of the current developments relating to U.S. sanctions against Iran, but the the history of U.S. trade and economic sanctions covers all three of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, including: the original Tea Party; sanctions against Great Britain for harassment of U.S. sailors prior to the War of 1812; sanctions on trade with the Confederacy during the Civil War, and the Confederate efforts at “cotton diplomacy;” limits on trade with Japan prior to WWII; sanctions against South Africa because of apartheid; the long-standing sanctions against Cuba, etc.

  133. Alexa

    Honor culture accross American history. I read a psychological piece (of course can’t recall where) about honor culture. There was an experiment where someone says fuck you instead of thank you for a simple kindness. Northerners (college students of course) laughed it off, Southerners tended to confront back… You called out honor culture (a sentance or two) in your piece on eduction and particularly the duels and shootouts at UVA in the early years. Great topic for all 3 of you – I can’t wait to hear your history on to me (northerner) this unusual world view.

    • Sam Diener

      Hello,
      I believe the study you’re referring to is, “Insult, Aggression, and the Southern Culture of Honor: An ‘Experimental Ethnography’” by Cohen, Nisbett, Bowdle, and Schwartz in 1996. It’s available in PDF form at http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/92155/InsultAggressionAndTheSouthernCulture.pdf. One implication of the study is that the more honor-based culture of the south shaped the biology of southern white mens’ brains (to produce more cortisol and testosterone in reaction to an insult) differently than the less honor-focused culture of the north shaped northern white men’s brains.
      It’s a fascinating, great study, with all sorts of philosophical, cognitive scientific, anthropological, historical, and peace studies implications. I teach about the study in my peace studies class. I think it’s a great idea for a show. Bertram Wyatt-Brown was a historian who also studied this topic, arguing that the US leaders have often gone to war using Southern-masculine honor-culture rhetoric in an attempt to promote and justify it. Ssee http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bertram_Wyatt-Brown for a summary, and for more of a cv: http://www.humiliationstudies.org/whoweare/bert.php).

  134. Hope

    The “What’s the Matter with Kansas” episode. Since reading as a middle school student about how politicians and elites in the south used race, class, gender, and religion to divide groups (and pit them against each other) so as to further subjugate them, I have been fascinated by how those characteristics and others have been used, with great success, to get people to vote and otherwise act against their own interests. I think it would be great to explore and explain the historical backstory for this. For example, wouldn’t a fully inclusive labor movement have been much more powerful working on behalf of workers than the segregated one that to a large degree still operates?

  135. Erin

    How about a show about how Florida got so weird? Watching the news, when there’s a story that is so odd you think it has to fake, chances are there’s a connection to my home state. This is a place that has a citrus police, laws about where you can and cannot take your alligator, Indian reservations, sugar plantations and a history of conquistadors. Somewhere in there has got to be an explanation for how the state got the way it is, and I’d love to hear it.

  136. Jacqui Howard

    I suggest a show that focuses on how genetically modified food become implemented into America. When it comes to the foods that Americans eat, people might be surprised to find out how a significant number of their food is genetically engineered. Monsanto has been heavily in the spotlight regarding their genetically modified corn, specifically due to their business practices. Quite recently, Mexico banned genetically engineered corn in order to help prevent future harm to the environment. Furthermore, Washington state is in the midst of initiative 522 which would mandate the labeling of GMOs. Will other states follow? If more information is released to the public regarding the health and environmental impact of GMOs, how will that effect the economic food market and future of mass production in order to feed a growing population?

  137. Rob Collins

    I like the “mortuary practices” idea. It’s narrow enough (compared to, say, “death in America”) to fit in a show and can range across regions and centuries. Might begin with some native practices (mounds, platforms, grave houses, etc.). — Remind us how people used to sit up with the dead. — Responding to challenges such as epidemics (mass graves) or the endemic death rate in colonial Virginia (consigning orphans to unrelated neighbors in case of parents’ deaths). — What happened when a slave died? — Civil War: the inability to find and bury a loved one’s body. — Immigrant practices such as wakes and yohrtzeits. — The rise of the mortuary industry. — Life support. — Living wills. — There’s a lot to talk about.

  138. Fred Merkle

    Have you guys done an episode on healthcare? WIth the rollout of ACA/Obamacare this seems particularly topical. Topics could include historical views of doctors (snake oil, etc.), the interesting story of how healthcare became bundled with benefits in WWII and the controversy over medicare/medicaid in the 1960s.

    • Emily@BackStory

      Great idea Fred! We’ll throw it into the hopper! And thanks for all the great suggestions we’ve been receiving on this “Pitch a Show” page!

  139. Todd

    “Great Rivalries in American History”

    Hatfields vs McCoys, North vs South, Jackson vs Calhoun, Virginia vs North Carolina, Yankees vs Redsox, West Coast vs East Coast, Jefferson vs Hamilton…for a united states we’ve sure been divided. I want to know how some of the more famous (or infamous) rivalries started, and why they’ve persisted. What does this teach us about America?

  140. Jon

    A program recounting the causes, the history and the influence of businesses and corporations on American politics at the local, state and federal level would be very enlightening for a lot of listeners.

  141. Josh Trujillo

    Failed Legislation in America: I’m not necessarily talking about the big ones like Prohibition, but rather laws or constitutional amendments that never passed in the first place (often despite overwhelming public support.) There are curiosities like the District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment that seemed like a good idea but never got close. Although anyone can come up with an idea for a law certain political powers must be aligned for it to be enacted. How have those powers changed over time? Why was the Congressional Apportionment Amendment not only the first proposed amendment, but also the first one to fail?

  142. James Myall

    The History of Borders in America

    How have our attitudes to borders changed over time? In different places? Here in Maine, the border with Canada was so invisible that buildings were built over it in the past. Now it’s been formalized with check points, etc.
    How did we draw borders? How did we enforce them? When did border disputes lead to wars?
    What about borders between the states? How were those determined, and why?
    What about borders within states – gerrymandering, etc.

    • Jess@BackStory

      Hey James — Take a look at our “In the Works” section and you’ll see that we’re working on a show about US-Mexican relations. It’s not quite the same as your idea, but we can promise that borders will feature prominently!

  143. James Myall

    A two-fer :-) – Language in America.

    How has the idea of an official language waxed and waned over the years? Was Ben Franklin seriously suggesting German be the national language? How has the US protected or trampled minority language rights – both foreign and native American? How have Americans seen their own dialect (or those of other Americans)? Have Americans tried to imitate British English in the past? Or been proud of their distinctiveness?

  144. Brian Parkinson

    Here’s another way that you might add an international dimension to the show: how about choosing a year, begin with a story set in the United States during that year, and then tell stories set in other countries that take place during that same year and that share the same theme. Here’s one off the top of my head: 1864 marked both the winding down of the U.S. Civil War and the end of the Tai Ping rebellion in China, which was arguably the bloodiest civil war ever fought in human history. –I’d love to learn something more about those events in China, and the common theme would better anchor my understanding of it.

  145. Timothy

    this may be a bit broad or not but how about a show on the history of getting a job in america. i.e. apprentice, journeyman, master craftman, and whatever else.

  146. Maureen Schneider

    What about a story of the role and expectations of corporations and businesses in America? When I was young, it was expected that businesses (esp banks) had civic responsibilities. They were responsible to their communities. Now, it appears that the prime responsibility is to shareholders. When did that shift occur? How has a business’s responsibility to it employees evolved? How do unions fit into all of this?

    • Rob Collins

      This could be broadened into a survey of the forms that large capitalist enterprises have taken over time, from family firms (before the word capitalism was coined) and corporations formed by royal charter (including the earliest form of most? American colonies) to the joint-stock company and so on, with a short history of the stock exchange. I’d like to know how our image of the archetypal capitalist has shifted over time, from the merchant / planter to “business man” to “executive” or “entrepreneur.” Many people seem to assume that capitalist concepts were fixed onto stone tablets in 1776.

  147. Troy Swanson

    I would like to 2nd the idea of a show on libraries in America. This is one of those topics which would have a richness that would surprise listeners. There are more public libraries in the US than McDonalds. They are in every college, and it was the US that really invented that idea than an informed citizenry through free, public libraries was vital to a democracy. Both Franklin (early lending libraries) & Jefferson (Univ of Virginia and the Library of Congress) had their hands in the creation of libraries. They took root and spread through gilded-age idealism. Today, they are going through transformations as digital repositories and community centers. Librarians were at the front lines of the fight against the PATRIOT Act. They fight the banning of books, and played a vital role in the transformation of fiction reading as a basic practice of educated people. Countless authors spent years and years in libraries. This could be a quirky, fun topic that still has commentary to offer on education, the idea of community, the “latest” implementations of information technologies, and a uniquely American institution. –Thanks!

  148. Barbara Fleischman

    History of hysteric illness in America (and post-war syndrome).
    When my sister (a historian) was diagnosed with fibromyalgia one of my first questions was what her symptoms would have been diagnosed as historically. She guessed it would be classed as hysteria. Since than I’ve been wondering what the medical history was of various relatives with “poor constitutions”. I once read a poetic letter about her invalid life written by my GGGrandmother at the age of 15 in 1864. My mother dismissed it, saying that it was fashionable then to be an invalid. She said that Mary Baker Eddy developed Christian Science based on her experience on using prayer to escape the trap of fashionable invalidism. It seems that each generation has their name for a general malaise, including hypoglycemia, chronic fatigue, IBS, food intolerances, etc. The Civil War soldiers in my family filed paperwork that listed the symptoms of an old soldier disease – including life-long dyspepsia. I’m interested in the lives of those whose medical symptoms fall outside the medical paradigm of doctors in each generation, and how that changes over time, and what is society’s changing view of the invalid over time – whether seen romantically or as weak-minded, or just as silly and self-indulgent.

    • Barbara Fleischman

      I’d add allergies, and even asthma to the list of maladies once thought to be due to lack of strength of character. Even I remember when people thought it was indulgent and slightly embarrassing to say you had hay fever, and I’m only in my 50′s. It was morally suspect to have migraines. I remember people being proud that they didn’t succumb to food poisoning – as if you were a better person if you managed to not vomit. And don’t even get me started on the moral superiority of those who never admitted to having “women’s problems”.

  149. Barbara Fleischman

    I’d like to hear a history of the “right” attitude toward life, and the fashionable temperament.

    That is, I’d like to hear about the historical trends of which was more valued – introversion / extroversion; optimism / realism / pessimism; scholarship / practicality; sense / sensibility.

    I’ve read that 18th century photographs were unsmiling not because people couldn’t maintain a pleasant expression during exposure time, but because appearing to be serious was more valued. I’ve also heard that when the WWII veterans were coming to universities, professors protested that their practicality would have an adverse effect on the learning atmosphere at school, which was properly a place of silliness and pranking, which was demonstrated by the 20′s college-boy. And, most important, I’ve heard that it is only recently that introversion has been seen as an unfortunate character trait that you can and should train yourself out of. The current social necessity of maintaining positive thinking and the appearance of extroversion has become rather oppressive.

  150. J Whitt

    I found myself wondering if the wide availability of info in the US via public support is unique, throughout its history.

    One: I heard on one of your shows that the Postal Service was founded to distribute newspapers, to encourage colonists to think of themselves as citizens of a new nation, rather than individual colonies. Only later did it also handle regular mail. Two: public libraries, on Wikipedia it is claimed that the US had the first truly “public libraries”, in that the libraries were supported by public funds and could be used by anyone. The Wikipedia article on public libraries in England, cites subscription, circulating, university libraries etc in being different as being supported by philanthropists, universities, business, and at least at first, restricted who could use the library. Three: public schools: according to the website “TheUSAonline.com”: Americans were more inclined to regard education as a solution to various social problems; They had confidence in the power of public education, Americans provided more years of schooling for a larger percentage of the population than other countries. Four: on Wikipedia: The origins of the Internet reach back to research commissioned by the United States government in the 1960s to build robust, fault-tolerant communication via computer networks, The funding of a new U.S. backbone by the National Science Foundation in the 1980s, as well as private funding for other commercial backbones, led to worldwide participation in the development of new networking technologies, and the merger of many networks.

    I know these four topics are somewhat unrelated, but right now I can’t think of anything else. Hope you find this topic worth further investigation.

  151. Rob

    Next time an “official English” movement makes headlines, you ought to give us a history of English in America. Or tie it to the Fourth: I’d look forward to hearing clips of the Star-Spangled Banner sung in German and Spanish, and any other languages bilingual citizens have sung it in. This show could also lay to rest that myth about the Continental Congress almost choosing German as the national language.