Pitch a Show

Spring/Summer 2014

Published: January 22, 2014
Joe “Toots” Shultz, Phillies pitching prospect (1913, c/o Library of Congress).

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

Last year we received nearly 200 pitches for show topics – some of which made it on the air! Episodes about higher education and the US relationship with Mexico 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 take a look at what others have pitched in the past herehere, or 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 American transportation = 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!

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Comments (47)

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  1. Charles C.

    A subject tightly bound, the history of sheriffs, or in early colonial times, maybe bailiffs. How was law held in these very rural, very early periods of America’s history?

    The degree of subtle but persuasive power of a savvy sheriff, it is quite unique.. The typical citizen is completely unaware of it’s influence

    Texas, is awfully proud of their sheriff’s, see “http://www.amazon.com/The-Texas-Sheriff-Lord-County/dp/0806134712″ , but in Texas Sheriff’s reach often went well beyond what might be thought of as the standard roles of a sheriff. In some case these Texas sheriffs on no know name were legends in their region, many time with well earned fear and dread.

    We surmise the duties and obligations of a modern sheriff are not much different for years past but is this true? Do they uphold the law and protect the county ? Are they the defacto strong arm of the county’s politically powerful ? Or is it as mundane as the providing court room security functions, serving warrants, issuing speeding tickets and hauling in Otis at 9pm when he’s good and drunk ?

    Joe Arpaio ?

    Charles

    Reply
    • backstory

      Thanks Charles! There are certainly many examples of fascinating Sheriffs throughout American History. Perhaps we could include it in a future show about the history of law enforcement in general.

      Reply
  2. aldadebater

    What about the history of America’s relationship with the Middle East? I don’t think that’s ever been touched upon.

    Reply
  3. Joe Carlson

    Do politics and alcohol mix? They do with an exuberant high often followed by a head-banging hangover from the Whiskey Rebellion in the 18th century, through the Temperance Movement in the 19th century, to Prohibition in the 20th century.

    Reply
  4. Heather T.

    I’m going to stump again for a show about the history of fires and firefighting in America, especially as wildfires are back in the news again in California. How have attitudes changed toward this kind of natural disaster — an Act of God or a force we can control with technology? There are so many iconic moments and symbols associated with this topic – from Mrs. O’Leary’s cow (What’s the real story there? Were other immigrant communities blamed for fires elsewhere?) to Smokey the Bear. If you do tackle this topic, be sure to check out Timothy Egan’s gripping book “The Big Burn”, about a massive fire that led to the creation of the National Forests.

    Reply
    • Joe Carlson

      Q. Do you know how the fire caught?
      A. I could not tell anything of the fire, only that two men came by the door. I guess it was my husband got outside the door and he ran back to the bedroom and said, ‘Kate the barn is afire!’ I ran out and the whole barn was on fire. Well, I went out to the barn and upon my word I could not tell anymore about the fire.

      – Catherine O’Leary, explaining to an official inquiry that she
      did not know how the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 started.

      Reply
  5. Alec Rogers

    How about Freedom of Speech? From the colonial times to the constitution’s failure to explicitly protect it (followed rapidly by a first amendment that only applied to the federal government) all the way through the southern states attempts to surpress anti-slavery speech, etc.

    Reply
  6. Joshua Pierce

    I feel like I mentioned this in an email a while back, but can’t remember if I just thought that I did, but after the episode on home ownership, I’d love to hear an episode on the history of renting, not just as a contrast to home ownership.

    What have been the historical attitudes and issues relating to renting outside of it’s contrasting nature to ownership? Did folks in the colonial era rent? When did rental housing like what we’re familiar with now arise, and how? How did the concept of rent control in larger cities come about? What about the company towns? What of the history of public housing, and how did early intentions lead to what is often urban blight now? It seems like there’s a lot of interesting topics that intersect the history of renting on it’s own outside the discussing of renting vs. home owning.

    Reply
  7. David Menefee-Libey

    A question raised by the ending of marijuana prohibition in Colorado and Washington state: When Prohibition ended in 1933, what happened to all the people in jail for violating it between 1920 and 1933?

    Knowing the history could help us think more constructively about the current conundrum, which will only grow in coming years as more and more states repeal their marijuana laws.

    There must be hundreds of thousands of Americans in jail and prison now for possession and sale of marijuana, just as there were for alcohol when Prohibition ended. Those people are now in jail because of their actions with a substance most Americans think should no longer be illegal, just as they thought about alcohol in 1933.

    OTOH, those people are/were in jail because they broke the law, and even people against prohibition might not want law-breakers released. Etc.

    Help us, Obi Wan. You’re our only hope.

    Reply
  8. Denis Sugrue

    I don’t know if you’ve done it already but how about a “History of St. Patrick’s Day”? It covers the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries

    Reply
  9. aldadebater

    What about the history of feminism or women’s rights? That could be relevant considering “equal pay for equal work” and the 40th anniversary of Roe Vs. Wade.

    Reply
  10. Patrick

    With the territory of Puerto Rico frequently coming up in the news it seems there exists a lack of understanding of this entity’s particular status within the US system. I believe that a show on American territories would be interesting and would address the wide range of issues related to the transitional status of these “pre”-states through all three of your centuries of US history. Issues relating to the Northwest Ordinance, Kansas-Nebraska Act, Spanish-American War acquisitions, citizenship and territorial representation, could be addressed through this theme. If this is too specific, perhaps an episode on American expansion in general would work better. Either way, love the show!

    Reply
  11. Stefan Swanson

    Hey Guys,

    Love the show. Now, I don’t know if you’ve done this, I completely admit I didn’t check the backlog of shows before suggesting this show, but I don’t think you’ve covered it since I started listening, which is about a few months now.

    I think all of America is fed up with Congress. And it’s not something that I just think, because we have seen this Congress have absolutely horrible approval ratings, including those funny ratings of whether or not Congress is better than things like traffic jams, brussel sprouts, France, lice, colonoscopies, cockroaches, and even nickelback (and if you haven’t seen the articles around with this, Congress got a worse approval rating than all of these listed items).

    Commentators have noted that this (2013) is one of the most ineffective Congresses to exist, enacting the least amount of laws in the history of Congress. They have also noted this to be (whether it is true or not) because of the rise of the radical right, with the Tea Party essentially taking over the pragmatic end of the Republican party, with people such as Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Paul Ryan taking the reins.

    Now, to finally get to my idea for the show, I’d be extremely interested, as I think everyone else would be living with this reality, to hear a history of partisanship. Surely, everyone is fed up with the government, but I also can’t imagine that this amount of bickering and partisanship has never existed in the past. I imagine the battles between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton to be quite similar to this. Has the U.S. government always been a smoothly working system as compared to today’s Congress? In the way that modern commentators have characterized it? It seems that human beings have always thought their time to be the culmination of something, the worst point of this….the greatest time for that….etc. You get the picture, I am interested in the real history, because history, as you guys remind me every week, is always far more complicated than it seems. “There is no surer basis for fanaticism than bad history, which is invariably history oversimplified.” (Diarmaid MacCulloch, Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, pg. 12)

    Reply
  12. Hugh Manatee

    How about the history of grocers in America? You could trace the early days of independent grocery stores that sold mostly local foodstuffs up to the megamart giants that currently dominate the landscape today that sell products from all the over the globe. You could include mention of how different types of grocery stores determined what people ate, quality of goods, food waste, etc.

    Reply
  13. Janene

    What about the history of piracy in America? You could follow the traditional idea of piracy with America’s involvement with privateers, Barbary pirates and Jean Lafitte through to modern Somali pirates. You could also explore how the term piracy has come to almost exclusively refer to copyright infringement. Also, could the types of targeted cyber attacks on credit card information seen recently on store and hotel chains be considered the 21st century version of piracy?

    Reply
  14. Bruce Pencek

    Mascots. With the Washington, DC, football team in the news, I wonder how mascots have been chosen (and transmuted?), by whom, to represent what, to whom? There’s a curious rebelliousness embodied in many that suggests a tension between the people who adopted their mascots and their larger organization or community: animals in military units; devils and demons representing church-affiliated schools and colleges; Cavaliers prancing about Mr Jefferson’s more Roundheaded university (and ritual cannibalism in mine); Redskins in the home city of an oppressive government. What distinguishes a mascot from a marketing gimmick (eg, Ronald McDonald, Smokey Bear)?

    Reply
  15. Samuel Ulmschneider

    I’d like to submit three show ideas – I was thrilled when you all picked up and used my idea for the history of conspiratorial thinking earlier!

    1) Puttin’ On The Ritz: The History of Appearances. How have Americans used clothes, makeup, and hairstyles in their history to demonstrate social, political, and other statuses? Some suggestions for this show include the evolution and eventual death of the men’s formal hat, the American Revolution reconsidered as a revolution in fashion and class, the ridiculous heights of fashion expenses in the Gilded Age, and the influence of unexpected individuals on everyone else’s fashion decisions, like Mamie Eisenhower.

    2) A More Perfect Union: The History of Joining & Leaving the U.S. of A. We like to think of America as a pretty united place for most of our history, the 1860s excepted. But what it means to “really belong” geographically, culturally, and politically has always been in flux. In the 1760s, plans for an “Albany Confederation” flounder on the rocks of differing identities, in the 1780s Vermont, Jefferson, and other semi-independent states try to define themselves, in the 1870 and 1880s far-flung corners of the nation might as well be a different country – down to their marriage customs! And of course, today the bind in which our overseas imperial possessions like Saipan, Puerto Rico, and others find themselves is politically and culturally vexing.

    3) Here To Save The Day: Popular Heroism In American History. How and why have Americans picked and chosen their popular heroes throughout history, and who were they? In the era of limited literacy and communication, how fine was the line between folk heroes and real statesmen? When did we move people like George Washington from men to myths, and where did the folk heroes of early America come from? Who were the ‘pop heroes’ of the 1870s and 1890s? How has the evolution of superheroes since the early 20th century pointed to political and cultural-social change in our society? Is there really that much of a difference between Iron Man and George Washington, culturally speaking?

    Reply
  16. Aimee Duffy

    The history of coffee in America? Coming over with John Smith, coffee houses in Boston, “over our cups of coffee” with Eleanor Roosevelt, first item off the ration list in WWII, the anthora cup, Starbucks, third wave coffee.

    Oil is a fascinating one, too. We drank it when it was first discovered! Ida Tarbell went after Standard Oil partially because JD Rockefeller put her father out of business. And now? Oil, oil, everywhere.

    Keep up the great work!

    Reply
  17. Sylvia

    I would love to hear a show about major public works projects – specifically the massive changes we’ve wrought to the American landscape over the centuries. I think it’s easy to forget that the view our windows today is not only different due to roads and houses, but the very shape of the land that has been changed for commercial, political, and agricultural reasons.

    Reply
  18. David Dana

    I’ve always been interested in the interaction between African and European music in America, and especially how African influence has often been seen as a threatening, with the magnitude of the threat seemingly proportional to it popularity. I’m most familiar with this phenomenon starting with ragtime in the late 19th century, but I suspect it existed, at least underground, throughout the era of slavery. I believe there are very strong parallels between ragtime, rock and roll, and hip hop, each in turn coming to dominate popular music. Or perhaps a better way to frame it for your show would be to look at how African-influenced music was forced into the shadows until it was liberated by the end of slavery.

    Reply
  19. Samuel Ulmschneider

    Enemies, Frenemies: American’s Images of Foreign Rivals. With America in the middle of long-term confrontations with China and immediate problems with Russia in Crimea and Syria, re-imagining relations with Europe since the Cold War, and so on, why not have a show focused on how Americans have understood and conceptualized and reacted to the big changes in our foreign relations? How long did it take us to go from seeing the British as a bunch of tyrannical Tories and screaming ’44-40 or fight’ to building the “special relationship,” and why? What about the American image of the “far east,” from Boston clipper ships in the Opium War to American missionaries caught in the Boxer Rebellion to Nixon with chopsticks and cheap ipods and the ‘Chinese Professor’ commercial? There’s a gold mine here, so much so that it make me write a run-on sentence!

    Reply
  20. Ryan Van Meter

    I’d be interested in the history of the concept of “neighborhood change.” Gentrification is in the news again, with Spike Lee’s comments on the impact of white neighbors in formerly majority-black Brooklyn neighborhoods. This debate — who owns a neighborhood? what steps can/should/shouldn’t be taken to keep it the same? who decides who belongs? — is alive and well in my community. Atlanta and other cities in the South are experiencing growth and racial change in neighborhoods that were largely abandoned during the “white flight” era of the 1970s and 80s, and there’s some resentment in the community about the loss of low-income housing, loss of political power for existing leaders, and the like. I expect these same debates have happened before in communities experiencing rapid social change – I’m thinking of ethnic neighborhoods in the northeast being overwhelmed with new arrivals from other countries, or orange growers watching their orchards get plowed under by suburban growth in southern California. How have these debates exploded, been resolved, and what do they tell us about how to handle these new challenges — which should be signs of a greater integration of society, but are still being pitched as an us vs. them narrative? As an avid listener, thanks for your consideration.

    Reply
  21. Neil McDade

    Maybe this topic is too pedestrian, but I have recently been seduced by the straight razor to maintain my facial hair. While this tool has quite a learning curve, it occurred to me that men through history have dealt with this chore in evolving ways. I believe the protraits of the U.S. Presidents reflect how this chore has trended through American history.

    Reply
  22. Alicia Harder

    So you touched on this topic with a caller during one of the more recent episodes, but I think the subject of how we define adulthood would be a really interesting topic given the recent term “emerging adulthood” and the rise of millennial panic. I think it would be interesting especially compared to the rise of the American teenager in the ’50s.

    Reply
  23. Samuel Ulmschneider

    I have to second Neil McDade. Hair and hairstyling through American history would make for a fabulous/hilarious show. There’s a rich and interesting history of free African-Americans in the antebellum world working as barbers (the main high status profession open to them), the 20th century importance of African-American “barber shop culture,” the arrival of Chinese migrants on the west coast and the disappearance of the queue both in China and among Chinese migrants here in the US, the fading and blossoming of modern facial hair from Reconstruction to the modern hipster…man, there’s a lot there!

    Reply
  24. Bruce Pencek

    History as judgment. Within the past couple weeks, President Obama and associates have said the US shouldn’t be “on the wrong side of history.” Huh? History has a “right” side?

    How has “History” been invoked as some sort of judge, including as a surrogate for notions of diving judgment? There’s sacred/prophetic history in the 17th century and assorted revivals (and the vexed question of how much God is as much inside history as we are, or independent of it).. Then Whiggery in one form or another. There’s Hegelianism imported via Germanic universities and the Progressive movement, culminating in the rhetoric of the Communist movement to excuse various deviations and sins. Conversely, at least among intellectuals, some flavors of Darwin and Nietzsche called the bluff of people who saw meaning and purpose in history, though their manifestation in the dominant culture was spotty at best (cf. Bloom’s Closing of the American Mind)

    Reply
  25. Jennifer

    The Civil War compared and contrasted to other civil wars. As a modern American, when I hear about a civil war (is, Crimea), I think “Let them secede. It’s the will of the people.” But when I listen to your show and the subject of the Civil War comes up, I don’t have the same reaction. Why is that? Is it my bias as a “Northerner”, the perspective of time…or something fundamentally different about the circumstances of the American Civil War compared with other civil wars? A show like this would not be 100% American history, but would shed important light on American attitudes about our history as well as current foreign policy. Just an idea.

    Reply
  26. Brian

    Isn’t it time for BackStory and Comedy Central’s “Drunk History” to join forces? DH does a brilliant job of making history come to life in a concise, yet nuanced fashion (much like BackStory) and yet it’s also hilarious! At the very least, the American History Guys should host a DH episode. That would be sublime.

    Reply
  27. Samuel Ulmschneider

    All The World’s A Stage: Theater, Opera, and Performance in American History: We think of opera, Shakespeare, political satirical stage plays, and so on today as “high art,” removed from the ordinary people and dense or uninteresting. But for most of American history, the stage play and theater format has been front and center (so to speak) in the entertainment and culture of Americans. You could go from the religious plays of the Great Awakening, the patriotic plays (and farces!) of the Revolution and Early Republic. You could explore the culturally loaded anti-English theater/Shakespeare riots of Irish immigrants in the 1830s and 1840s, the changing nature of opera and musical theater as ‘high’, ‘low’, and with the invention of an American middle class, ‘middlebrow.’ You could look at the complex and sometimes groundbreaking history of race on stage, from blackface to Showboat, at new mediums – the radio play still has its fans – and talk about the strange place theater and other performance arts have today in our mass culture, from Disney on Broadway to your local tiny community theater company.

    Reply
  28. kwixote

    Please do something on the history of the middle class in America — or on class in general. I would guess that colonial and early American concepts of class were very different than at present — based on household economies and farming, etc. — while in the South written on top of race. Our Founding Fathers were all “gentlemen” of one sort or another, but rejected aristocracy — while Jefferson idolized the “yeoman farmer” (what class did that represent, by modern understandings?)

    Then industrialization drove men out of the house and into hourly jobs, changing how the economy and class worked. But if you were middle class, maybe your wife didn’t have to work. Eventually, the upper class preference for pale skin was replaced by one for tanned skin, indicating a person’s ability to be outside during the day, etc.

    Eventually, we get mid-20th century America with TV & popular culture’s appeal to a broad but bland middle class taste. (Middlebrow vs. highbrow?)

    Now: how do we determine class? Is it home ownership? A college education? Is it about money or manners? (Many poor people develop “middle-class” values — e.g. future orientation, delayed gratification, emphasis on education — in order to succeed in life, even if they don’t start out with money).

    Theoretically, in the US everyone has always wanted to be middle class — nobody admits to being rich. But now that incomes and prospects in life are diverging so radically, is this changing? The prospects of middle-class children (like mine, just graduating!) are quite a bit dimmer than they once were. What does it mean now — and in the future — to be middle class in America?

    Reply
    • kwixote

      From today’s news: Rick Santorum doesn’t believe class even exists in America..

      Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum told his fellow conservatives on Friday that they should stop using the term “middle class” because it exemplifies ”class-envy, leftist language.”

      Santorum, who failed to secure the Republican Party nomination for president in 2012, described his own campaign as different because it had focused on “those who are working Americans.”

      “Notice I didn’t say middle class,” he said.

      “Why do we use a term I should say that is of the other side?” he asked. “Why do we, as Republicans who believe in the dignity of every human life, who believe in equality of opportunity for everyone to rise, adopt a class-envy leftist language that divides America against themselves?”

      “Do we really accept the fact there are classes in America?” he continued. “Then why do we use that term? Why do we adopt their language? We have to stop that.”

      “We should use the term working Americans,” he added later. “Because unlike them, we believe work is a good thing.”

      Santorum has criticized the term “middle class” in the past, telling a group of Iowa Republicans in August 2013 that “there’s no class in America.”

      “Don’t use the term the other side uses. What does Barack Obama talk about all the time? The middle class,” he said. “Since when in America do we have classes? Since when in America are people stuck in areas or defined places called a class? That’s Marxism talk.”

      Santorum ended his CPAC remarks Friday by suggesting his party take a lesson from Pope Francis, who he described as “maybe the most popular person in the world right now,” in part because he highlights not what Christianity is against, but what it is for.

      “We will win not by further dividing,” he added. “We will win by uniting.”

      http://www.msnbc.com/politicsnation/santorum-middle-class-leftist-talk

      Reply
  29. John Plunket

    Did you know an American artist is considered The Father of Camouflage?

    Here’s a fascinating “Back Story” –one of America’s most brilliant artists of the late 1800s took on *both* Roosevelts, from his studio in the woods of New Hampshire, aiming to convince them that “Concealing Coloration” could hide ships and soldiers and save millions of lives.

    Spurned and ridiculed here in the States, Abbott Handerson Thayer then took his ideas to England and France, where the ravages of WWI had focused military minds more sharply. In short order, “troops” of civilian artists –including several early Cubists– were designing “Dazzle” schemes to paint on ships, painting wild patterns on huge net canvasses to cover artillery banks, and fashioning uniforms in primitive blobby motifs.

    This literal avant-garde of artists put Thayer’s ideas to work. Many other soon delved more deeply into the intricate mystery of “invisibility” in the animal kingdom, as the world’s great military powers –including the U.S., in time– adopted camouflage as the single most efficient means of saving lives in warfare.

    On Saturday, March 15, The Army & Navy Club in Washington, D.C. is hosting a colloquium with The Freer and Sackler Galleries of the Smithsonian, bringing artists, scholars and historians together for the first time in nearly a century to remind an elite audience of “The Origins of Camouflage”.

    Back Story should be there, too!!

    See more at http://abbottthayer.com/

    Reply
  30. Jerry Eliaser

    Your show on the color green made me think about the “:color of the prophet of Islam.” What is the relationship of Islam to American History? How is the experience of current Muslims similar or different from other groups that came to our shores with their respective identities? What about Black Muslims? Arabs were involved with the slave trade, though in East Africa. So, how was this reconciled by Black Muslims?

    Reply
  31. Ken Rosenbaum

    I recently suggested “Trees” as the most important green item in American history. Now I’d like to suggest it as the topic of a show, perhaps for Earth Day.

    In the 18th Century, as I said in my earlier post, the story is trees and tall ships … how from the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony the Crown reserved certain trees to itself, and how enforcement of that led to the Pine Tree Riot of New Hampshire, which some say set the precedent for the Boston Tea Party and led to the Pine Tree Flag of the revolution. Down south, the role of the “Tarheels” is just as important, providing pitch and tar for caulking. This is a really big deal to English shippers, who no longer have to seek supplies from the countries around the Baltic Sea. (I understand, though, that the name Tarheel is really a 19th Century coinage.)

    In the 19th Century we could talk about trees for energy – for the first half of our history, the USA ran on wood fuel – but you covered energy use in a previous show. So let’s talk paper. Paper used to be made from rags and in limited supply, until mid 19th Century people figured out how to make it from trees. I suspect that opened the door for small town newspapers, for mail order catalogs, and many other changes in communication and business.

    In the 20th Century, the story might be the changing attitudes towards our forested public lands. But another, less often told story about our public lands bridges the 19th and 20th centuries. We went from a hugely corrupt land administration in the 1870s to a relatively clean one by the end of Teddy Roosevelt’s administration, thanks to colorful leaders like Carl Schurz, Roosevelt himself, and Gifford Pinchot. Of course, land scandals came back to embarrass the Harding Administration, proving we can never rest on our laurels (hey, a tree metaphor) when it comes to corruption.

    I’m sure we could come up with lots more tree history ideas to explore — Liberty Trees, chestnut blight, the idea that planting trees could make it rain on the arid Great Plains. There’s a show in here somewhere!

    Reply
  32. Alexa

    Individualism is one of the great American themes. But I bet it hasn’t mean the same thing through all the eras of our history. I know there are religions (Unitarianism in the antebellum era comes to mind) that foster it, and others that don’t. The economic structure made that easier or harder at different times, and what about community anyway?

    Reply
  33. Samuel Ulmschneider

    I have to agree with Jerry above – a show focusing on America’s relationship with Islam and Islamic nations would have a huge amount of potential for interesting and enlightening discussion.

    There are plenty of scholars to interview – a story with Peter Onuf and Denise Spellberg about some of the parts of her book Jefferson’s Koran could be fascinating, for example. Peter Balakian’s book, Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and American Response is also very revealing about American attitudes towards Islam in the early 20th century. Jane Smith, author-editor of Muslims In America, could also point you towards other interviews or provide stories galore. The diasporic importance of Islam could be an opportunity to bring on board important scholars of slave culture or tell a memorable story like that of Omar Ibn Said, who became a celebrity because of his religion and education in the 1820s. Then there are the obvious modern applications – from an examination of the Sikh temple shooting from a few years ago and American’s tendency to conflate minority religions to the elephant in the room of 9/11, Iraq, and Guantamo.

    There are so many potential routes in such a show, it’s really very exciting to think about.

    Reply
  34. suraygo

    I’d like to hear a show about the history of tenure and other employment policies (such as some union and government jobs) that confer a life-long or “work life”-long guarantee to the person holding the job. I hope the show would include the arguments, past and present, for allowing or prohibiting life-time employment guarantees. Given current political discussions to change teacher unions or to allow non-union charter schools, an episode on this topic would be very interesting.

    Reply
  35. Megan

    In the same vein as “freedom of the press,” I would really like to hear about the history of “the news.” You covered it a little bit within the Postal Service episode, but I feel like you could expand it.

    There would be so many different subjects to cover-
    -How colonial Americans got their news from the crown and how long it took news to travel.
    -The first news papers and their readers- and any big rivalries that might arise from them.
    -Various forms of “niche” newspapers/magazines
    -How the idea of “freedom of the press” has evolved.
    - How news has been manipulated- either intentionally or unintentionally (like in the children’s game of “telephone”)
    -How delayed news might have caused problems over time, and how new technologies have been utilized to transmit stories.

    Reply
  36. Rya

    There are two subjects I’d be interested to hear shows on.

    1) The history of public diplomacy conducted by other nations in America.

    2) The history of legal immigration requirements. How have the requirements and options changed over the years? What would a person need to do to get here legally then /now?

    Reply
  37. Andrew Conkling

    I had come here a few weeks ago thinking to pitch a show about the Electoral College, but decided to search the archives and found the episode “Early and Often” covered most of my question about the existence of—and objection to—the Electoral College.

    However, in the wrap-up discussion, Brian mentioned the evolution of the Presidency, particularly in the 20th century. I’d be interested in exploring that and its potential causes: the President as our international voice, particularly during wartime? stronger Executive as a more unifying presence in the growing country?

    Reply
  38. Jason

    I would be interested in hearing about the history of charity and welfare in America. There are the New Deal programs and the Great Society programs, but what institutions, both public and private were there for the poor, disabled, extremely young and old (to name a few groups) before these programs existed? How have the programs evolved since they were created? Were there state-level programs that existed before the federal government stepped in? How much were private charities able to help and how did they do so?

    Reply
  39. aldadebater

    How about the history of midterm elections, with 2014 elections coming up? How did lame duck sessions of Congress develop? Speaker of the house?

    Heck, a show on the history of CONGRESS ITSELF would be appreciated! Was there ever a time when our national legislature was popular? If so, then when? What was the most productive Congress in history? The most ineffective? The most important?

    Reply
  40. Susan Osborne

    So, as the ACA makes its own history, I am thinking of the history of doctors in the US. In medical school, I was researching the start of the AMA, the Flexner report, DOs and Mark Twain (there’s always a famous literary figure weighing in). Doctors were not always a privileged class. Now, as we wonder where we are going, would it help to review our past?

    Reply
  41. Tony

    While sitting here (abroad) doing my US taxes and contemplating requesting my absentee ballot, I would love to hear a show about expats and exodus… essentially, why do people choose to leave the US and what has their experience been at the time?

    Recent events include banking regulations have cracking down on international bank reporting, making it difficult to hold international accounts in some countries (some turning away people from the States). On the one hand I still have “representation” in government and can vote, but their focus is more internal.

    I’m also interested in the reasons that led groups to leave en masse; be it missionaries, adopted ideologies that led them abroad, or escape.

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  42. Rob Lucas

    I’m surprised that there hasn’t been a show about games. I work in the fields of history education and educational technology, and I’d like to help historicize students’ experience of video games. I’m not a gamer, but I’m perpetually looking for ways to contextualize the things that are important to today’s students, and there is surprisingly little historical attention to video games. I believe the industry is now larger than the film industry, and it deserves more. I’m also interested in how historically themed games might reflect and/or shape students’ historical understandings…but I digress.

    I really liked Jill Lepore’s piece on transformations of the Mansion of Happiness and the Game of Life. Henry Lowood at Stanford would probably have something to say. He was on 99% invisible once talking about related issues. Mimi Ito has an anthropological/historical book on genres in educational video games.

    Seems like there are plenty of interesting angles: Right now, Silicon Valley types are running around talking (ahistorically) about the “gameification” of everything.

    When I mentioned my idea to a friend who’s in Henry Jenkins’ group at USC, he brought up the idea of histories within games (e.g. the backstory in the Legend of Zelda or the histories that are built up through gameplay in a World of Warcraft.

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