53 minutes | Jun 8, 2023
Before Roe: The Physicians' Crusade (2022)
Abortion wasn't always controversial. In fact, in colonial America it would have been considered a fairly common practice: a private decision made by women, and aided mostly by midwives. But in the mid-1800s, a small group of physicians set out to change that. Obstetrics was a new field, and they wanted it to be their domain—meaning, the domain of men and medicine. Led by a zealous young doctor named Horatio Storer, they launched a campaign to make abortion illegal in every state, spreading a potent cloud of moral righteousness and racial panic that one historian later called "the physicians' crusade." And so began the century of criminalization. In the first episode of a two-part series, we're telling the story of that century: how doctors put themselves at the center of legal battles over abortion, first to criminalize — and then to legalize.
52 minutes | Jun 1, 2023
The Ghost in Your Phone
It's hot. A mother works outside, a baby strapped to her back. The two of them breathe in toxic dust, day after day. And they're just two of thousands, cramped so close together it's hard to move, all facing down the mountain of cobalt stone. Cobalt mining is one of the world's most dangerous jobs. And it's also one of the most essential: cobalt is what powers the batteries in your smartphone, your laptop, the electric car you felt good about buying. More than three-quarters of the world's cobalt supply lies in the Democratic Republic of Congo, whose abundant resources have drawn greed and grifters for centuries. Today on the show: the fight for control of those resources, and for the dignity of the people who produce them.
49 minutes | May 25, 2023
The Freedom of Speech
Book bans, disinformation, the wild world of the internet. Free speech debates are all around us. What were the Founding Fathers thinking when they created the First Amendment, and how have the words they wrote in the 18th century been stretched and shaped to fit a world they never could have imagined? It's a story that travels through world wars and culture wars. Through the highest courts and the Ku Klux Klan. What exactly is free speech, and how has the answer to that question changed in the history of the U.S.?
51 minutes | May 18, 2023
History Is Over (2021)
As the end of the 20th century approached, Radiohead took to the recording studio to capture the sound of a society that felt like it was fraying at the edges. Many people had high hopes for the new millennium, but for others a low hum of anxiety lurked just beneath the surface as the world changed rapidly and fears of a Y2K meltdown loomed. Amidst all the unease, the famed British band began recording their highly anticipated follow ups to their career-changing album OK Computer. Those two albums, Kid A and Amnesiac, released in 2000 and 2001, were entrancing and eerie — they documented the struggle to redefine humanity, recalibrate, and get a grip on an uncertain world. In this episode, we travel back to the turn of the millennium with Thom Yorke and Stanley Donwood and the music of Kid A and Amnesiac.
52 minutes | May 11, 2023
Mythos and Melodrama in the Philippines
Corruption. Wealth. Authoritarianism. Torture. These are the words many people associate with Ferdinand Marcos, the former dictator of the Philippines, and his wife, Imelda. But in 1965, on the day of his presidential inauguration, clad in bright white traditional Filipino clothing, Ferdinand and Imelda were the picture of hope and progress: the Camelot of the Philippines. They styled themselves as mythical figures with a divine right to rule, even as their democratic ascent reached a dictatorial peak. Ferdinand Marcos ruled for two decades. And then, in 2022, more than thirty years after his death, the Philippines elected a new president: Ferdinand's son, Bongbong. Both in his campaign and since taking office, Bongbong has evoked the Marcos era as a golden age — effectively, rewriting history. Welcome to the "Epic of Marcos." In this tale of a family that's larger than life, Ferdinand Marcos is at the center. But the figures that surround him are just as important: Imelda, his muse; Bongbong, his heir; and the United States, his faithful sidekick. The story of the Marcos family is a blueprint for authoritarianism, laying out clearly how melodrama, paranoia, love, betrayal and a hunger for power collide to create a myth capable of propelling a nation. Today on the show, the rise, fall, and resurrection of a dynasty — and what that means for democracy worldwide.
49 minutes | May 4, 2023
What's Your Worth?
The credit score: even if you don't think much about it, that three-digit number can change your life. A high score can mean the keys to a new apartment or a new car, while a low score can keep you locked out of the American Dream. Around 40% of people in the U.S. have a low credit score or no credit score at all. So what happened? Today on the show, we talk with media historian Josh Lauer about credit's origins as a moral judgment, and how a tool intended to level the playing field has instead created haves and have-nots.
51 minutes | Apr 27, 2023
Cinco de Mayo and the Rise of Modern Mexico (2022)
Does history have a border? That is the question at the heart of Cinco de Mayo, May 5th, a holiday that symbolizes Mexico's fight for autonomy, even as it's come to be associated with sales and cervezas and margaritas in the U.S. Cinco de Mayo is part of a much deeper story of two nations — Mexico and the U.S. — trying to define themselves at a time when old empires were crumbling and borders were in flux. A story that culminated in a revolution in Mexico that was at the forefront of a worldwide movement against predatory capitalism and foreign domination. So in this episode, we're going back to the first Cinco de Mayo and exploring how it helped shape the future on both sides of the border.
53 minutes | Apr 20, 2023
The Way Back
Our society is saturated in apologies. They're scripted, they're public, and they often feel less than sincere. Political, corporate, celebrity apologies – they can all feel performed. It's not even always clear who they're for. So what purpose do these apologies serve? Because real apologies are not just PR stunts. Not just a way to move on. At their best, they're about acknowledgement and accountability, healing and repair. So how did apology go from a process to a product – and how can we make them work again?
50 minutes | Apr 13, 2023
Past is Prologue: Talking Taxes
Benjamin Franklin said the only certainties in life are death and taxes. Sifting through receipts, deciphering confusing codes, and filling out forms is an annual ritual that's about much more than money. The history of the income tax and the battle over who should pay how much is about what we value as a nation. In this conversation with historian Molly Michelmore we'll explore the past, present, and future of the income tax.
51 minutes | Apr 6, 2023
Student Loans: The Fund-Eating Dragon (2022)
At the start of the 20th century, only the most privileged could afford to go to college. Today, millions of students pursue higher ed — and owe $1.7 trillion in debt. Would you believe us if we said it started with Sputnik? This week on Throughline, we explore the origins of federal student loans, the promises the government made, and how an idealistic vision transformed into what some have called a monster.
56 minutes | Apr 4, 2023
Throughline Presents: Louder Than A Riot
Louder Than A Riot breaks down how hip-hop history is told. Who gets to be remembered and who gets left out? Decades before hip-hop's current renaissance of women rappers, there was MC Sha-Rock. Despite her influence on future generations, her contribution to the craft of hip-hop is not widely known. In this episode, we break down legacy: who gets to leave one in hip-hop and who gets left out. This week, we're bringing you an episode from Louder Than A Riot's newest season, dedicated to examining who hip-hop marginalizes, and how misogynoir — the specific racist misogyny against Black women — is embedded into the fabric of the culture that we love.
50 minutes | Mar 30, 2023
The Mystery of Inflation (2022)
Rising interest rates. Layoffs. A shrinking dollar. Over the past year, the US economy has been squeezed: The same amount of money gets you less stuff. It's inflation: a concept that's easy to feel but hard to understand. Its causes are complex, but it isn't some kind of naturally-occurring phenomenon — and neither are the ways in which governments try to fight it. This week, we look at the history of inflation in the U.S., how we've responded, and who pays the price.
49 minutes | Mar 23, 2023
Everyone Everywhere All At Once
This year's Oscars were one of the most diverse in history, in all kinds of ways. Everything Everywhere All At Once swept some of the biggest categories, notching incredible victories for Asian and Asian American actors, directors, and writers. At the same time, huge gaps persist – to take just one example, only seven women have ever been nominated for Best Director, and only three have won. What does it mean to be seen? Can you measure it in numbers? Does representation matter? And if so, how much? In this episode, we take a trip through film history to explore how these questions have played out over the last century, and where we might have yet to go — starting when the American film industry was incredibly diverse, and the most successful director in Hollywood was a woman.
51 minutes | Mar 16, 2023
What happens when an accident puts the public at risk? In the early hours of March 28, 1979, a system malfunction set off what would become the worst nuclear accident in American history. What ensued punctured the public's belief in the safety of nuclear energy and became a cautionary tale about the consequences of communication breakdown during a crisis. This week, the fallout of a catastrophic event, and its ramifications for the public trust.
53 minutes | Mar 9, 2023
A More Perfect Human
The dream of AI — artificial intelligence — has been around for centuries: the idea of an intelligent machine without free will popped up in ancient Taoist scrolls, Buddhist fables, and the tales of medieval European courts. But it wasn't until the 20th century that science caught up to our imaginations. Today, AI is everywhere. Breakthrough technologies like ChatGPT make news, while less glamorous but more ubiquitous programs are woven into every part of our lives, from dating apps to medical care. In many ways, AI is the invisible architecture of modern life. It's a reality that's both mundane and terrifying. And it's accelerating at a rapid rate, even as we still grapple with some of the most fundamental questions it raises about what, if anything, is uniquely human. In this episode, we explore the tension between our love of AI and our fear of it — and try to decode the humans behind the machines.
50 minutes | Mar 2, 2023
Dance Yourself Free
Ever since Beyonce's Renaissance dropped last summer, house music has found its way back to mainstream audiences, prompting some to ask "Is house back?" But the truth is, it never went away. Born out of the ashes of disco in the underground clubs of Chicago by Black queer youth in the late 1970s and 80s, house music has been the continued soundtrack of parties around the world, and laid the groundwork for one of the most popular musical genres in history – electronic dance music. And yet, the deeper you dig into the origins of house music, the more clear it becomes that the history of house, like the history of rock and roll, is a complicated tale of Black cultural resistance.
52 minutes | Feb 23, 2023
Of Rats and Men (2022)
Rats. Love 'em or hate 'em, (though you probably hate 'em), they're part of our world. And they've been out in full force: In New York City, health data show rat sightings doubled in the past year. It turns out they're a lot like us: They've colonized the whole planet; they're incredibly adaptable; they go wherever the resources are. And, they share one-fourth of our genome—meaning that when you look in the mirror, you're kinda seeing a rat staring back at you. So for this episode, we dove into the history of our rodent doppelgängers. What we found was a story that spans thousands of years and nearly every continent on Earth, from the fields of ancient Mongolia to the palaces of Victorian England to the laboratories of 20th century Maryland... and probably to a burrow near you.
47 minutes | Feb 16, 2023
Throughline Presents: White Lies
It all started with a photograph. A photograph from 1991 of a prison takeover in rural Alabama. A photograph of a group of men on the roof of that prison holding a bedsheet scrawled with a message: "Pray for us." In the first episode of the new season of White Lies, hosts Chip Brantley and Andrew Beck Grace go searching for answers to the questions raised by this photograph. Who were these men? What on earth had made them want to take over that prison? And what became of them after? As they search, they uncover a sprawling story: a mass exodus across the sea, a secret list, and the betrayal at the heart of this country's ideals. This week, we're bringing you an episode of White Lies, a series by NPR's documentary podcast Embedded, which unearths the stories behind the headlines.
50 minutes | Feb 9, 2023
The Whiteness Myth
In 1923, an Indian American man named Bhagat Singh Thind argued before the U.S. Supreme Court that he was a white man and was therefore eligible to become a naturalized citizen. He based his claim on the fact that he was a member of India's highest caste and identified as an Aryan and therefore white. His claims were supported by the so-called Indo-European language theory, a controversial idea at the time that says nearly half the world's population speak a language that originated in one place. Theories about who lived in that place inspired a racist ideology that contended that the original speakers of the language were a white supreme race that colonized Europe and Asia thousands of years ago. This was used by many to define whiteness and eventually led to one of the most horrific events in history. On this episode of Throughline, we unpack the myths around this powerful idea and explore the politics and promise of the mother tongue.
51 minutes | Feb 2, 2023
The Real Black Panthers (2021)
In 1968, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover said the Black Panther Party "without question, represents the greatest threat to the internal security of the country." And with that declaration he used United States federal law enforcement to wage war on the group. But why did Hoover's FBI target the Black Panther Party more severely than any other Black power organization? Historian Donna Murch says the answer lies in the Panthers' political agenda: not their brash, gun-toting public image, but in their capacity to organize across racial and class lines. It was a strategy that challenged the very foundations of American society. And it was working.