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History Extra podcast
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History Extra podcast

Author: Immediate Media

Subscribed: 34,644Played: 2,962,943


HistoryExtra brings you interviews with the world's best historians, on everything from the ancient world and the Middle Ages to the Second World War and the history behind current events. Subscribe for fresh takes on history's most famous figures and events, the real stories behind your favourite historical films and TV shows, and compelling insights into lesser-known aspects of the past.

1685 Episodes
Even in the ancient Roman world of ruthless politicking, suspicious deaths and high-stakes schemes, the scandalous reputation of Empress Valeria Messalina stands out. The third wife of Emperor Claudius, she has gone down in history as a sexually insatiable schemer, whose cutthroat deeds kept her at the top of the Palatine court. Speaking with Emily Briffett, Honor Cargill-Martin, author of a new book on Messalina, interrogates the rumours that have long swirled around the empress. (Ad) Honor Cargill-Martin is the author of Messalina: A Story of Empire, Slander and Adultery (Apollo, 2023). Buy it now from Amazon: ​​ Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
You may think that Indiana Jones created a swashbuckling vision of archaeology that only exists on the silver screen – but, in fact, real archaeological history is also packed full of exciting and awe-inspiring tales of discovery. Professor Michael Scott digs into some of these sensational stories with David Musgrove, considering how far fictional images of intrepid treasure hunters are an accurate reflection of archaeological reality. (Ad) Michael Scott is the author of X Marks the Spot: The Story of Archaeology in Eight Extraordinary Discoveries (Hodder & Stoughton, 2023). Buy it now from Amazon:" Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
When Greek soldiers captured the royal command tent of the Persian king during the Greco-Persian wars, they were stunned by what they saw. Their mighty adversary’s seat of power was absolutely dripping with dazzling decadence – and, to the Greeks, indulging in this luxurious lifestyle was the reason for the Persians’ downfall. Speaking to Emily Briffett, curators Jamie Fraser and Kelly Accetta Crowe explain what a new British Museum exhibition can reveal about how the Persians and Greeks thought about luxury, wealth, democracy and power. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
As the recent past will attest, the discovery of vaccines can not only save lives, but also change the course of human history. Speaking with Matt Elton, Simon Schama explores the story of inoculation, charting the individuals and organisations who played a pivotal role in its use against deadly diseases including plague, smallpox and cholera. (Ad) Simon Schama is the author of Foreign Bodies: Pandemics, Vaccines and the Health of Nations (Simon & Schuster, 2023). Buy it now from Waterstones: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
When were the first attempts to summit Mount Everest? Did Mallory really say he wanted to climb it just “because it’s there”? How did climbing expeditions spark diplomatic crises in the 20th century – and what was the ‘Affair of the Dancing Lamas’? To mark the 70th anniversary of the first summit of Everest on 29 May 1953, Dr Jonathan Westaway answers listener questions on the history of Everest mountaineering. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
We’re always looking to improve, so it’s really important to us to give you a voice in what we do next. Are you listening during a commute, while you potter around in the garden, or in a nice comfy chair with a cup of tea? We’d love to know how the podcast fits into your life. Have you always wanted us to cover a certain topic, or interview your favourite expert? This is your chance to tell us, so we can give you more of what you want. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
The relationship between politics and history has long been a fraught one – particularly in recent years, when concerns that a political agenda may be shaping our view of the past have been rife. Speaking to Matt Elton, Zareer Masani details his thoughts on whether our view of the past is becoming distorted by present-day political concerns, and discusses his involvement in the scholarly group History Reclaimed. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Katherine Parr was not just the “survivor”. She was also a ground-breaking intellectual, passionate religious reformer and canny political player. In episode six of our new series on the dramatic marital history of England’s most notorious monarch, Dr Estelle Paranque and Dr Tracy Borman join Ellie Cawthorne to share the tumultuous life story of Henry VIII’s final wife. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
The history of the British empire has often been told as the story of an all-conquering spread of British values and influence across the globe. But, according to historian David Veevers’ new book The Great Defiance, in its early years the progress of the colonial project was much more halting – characterised by resistance, violence and, often, failure. Speaking to Ellie Cawthorne, David highlights places across the globe where local people put up fierce resistance to Britain’s imperial aims. (Ad) David Veevers is the author of The Great Defiance: How the World Took on the British Empire (Ebury, 2023). Buy it now from Amazon: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
William the Conqueror famously defeated King Harold at the battle of Hastings in 1066. But in order to achieve this victory, he first had to get his army (and some 2000 horses) across the sea from Normandy. So how exactly did he manage that gargantuan task? Speaking to David Musgrove, Rebecca Tyson reveals how a wealth of maritime knowledge and experience was required to pull off this extraordinary feat. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
The Black Death unquestionably wrought a horrific death toll in the mid-14th century, but did it also sweep in social and cultural changes that eventually led to the rise of Europe? Professor James Belich certainly thinks so, and he lays out his argument in new book The World The Plague Made. Speaking to David Musgrove, James considers how the inventiveness required in a depopulated world led to global changes with long-term consequences. (Ad) James Belich is the author of The World the Plague Made: The Black Death and the Rise of Europe (Princeton University Press, 2022). Buy it now from Amazon: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
The first half of the 19th century witnessed the rise of an extraordinary working-class campaign for political reform: Chartism. What made this movement so remarkable was its size and sophistication – and the level of anxiety it provoked among the British establishment. But who were the Chartists? Why was the authorities' reaction to them so draconian? And did they actually achieve any of their aims? Speaking with Spencer Mizen, Joan Allen answers your top questions about Chartism. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Before being scattered across different kingdoms, Catherine de’ Medici, Elisabeth de Valois and Mary, Queen of Scots spent many years of their formative years at the French court. Speaking to Lauren Good, Leah Redmond Chang explores the bonds between these extraordinary women and considers how French king Henry II’s death changed the course of their futures in unexpected ways. (Ad) Leah Redmond Chang is the author of Young Queens: Three Renaissance Women and the Price of Power (Bloomsbury, 2023). Buy it now from Amazon: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Catherine Howard was a teenaged bride who captivated King Henry VIII, but was brought down by secrets from her past that refused to remain buried. In episode five of our new series on the dramatic marital history of England’s most notorious monarch, Ellie Cawthorne is joined by Kate McCaffrey and Dr Tracy Borman to rehabilitate the executed queen’s image. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Ramesses II is the only pharaoh in history to be known as ‘the great’, but does he deserve that title? Was he the pharaoh in the Exodus story? And was his mummy really given a passport when he travelled to France? Egyptologist Toby Wilkinson has just written a new biography of Ramesses and he answered these questions and more in conversation with Rob Attar. (Ad) Toby Wilkinson is the author of Ramesses the Great: Egypt's King of Kings (Yale University Press, 2023). Buy it now from Amazon: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Look at a Tudor family portrait, and you’ll often find children depicted like miniature adults, standing confidently alongside their parents in their doublets and dresses. But how far is this an accurate portrayal of what childhood was like in the 16th century? Nicholas Orme, author of new book Tudor Children, joined Emily Briffett to talk about the lives of young people in the era, from nursery rhymes and moralistic bedtime stories, to playtime, punishment and more. (Ad) Nicholas Orme is the author of Tudor Children (Yale University Press, 2023). Buy it now from Waterstones: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Was Richard I homosexual, and would it matter if he was? Although he was known to have shared a bed with the King of France, according to Dr Gabrielle Storey, that was part and parcel of being a king in the Middle Ages. Speaking to Kev Lochun, she unpicks the debates surrounding Richard I’s sexuality, explores what his life tells us about concepts of masculinity in the medieval era, and considers why we need to be careful about applying modern labels to historical figures. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
It was the decade that saw the fall of the Soviet Union, the rise of Tony Blair and the landmark Good Friday Agreement. But what was behind the landslide victory of New Labour? How did the death of Princess Diana change the monarchy? And was ‘Cool Britannia’ really that cool? Speaking to Spencer Mizen, Alwyn Turner answers listener questions on Britain in the 1990s. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
The story of East Germany has been largely told in the context of Cold War geopolitics. But while the country may have been an ideological battleground, ordinary life there still carried on regardless – people picked up supplies at the local shop, took their kids to school and enjoyed trips to the cinema. Speaking to Ellie Cawthorne, Katja Hoyer reexamines the experiences of ordinary people in the GDR to uncover a new perspective on the communist state. (Ad) Katja Hoyer is the author of Beyond the Wall: East Germany, 1949-1990 (Penguin, 2023). Buy it now from Waterstones: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Anne of Cleves is remembered as a comedy anecdote, a figure of mockery who repulsed King Henry VIII on first sight. But her reputation deserves to be rescued from this myth. In episode four of our new series on the dramatic marital history of England’s most notorious monarch, Dr Elizabeth Norton and Dr Tracy Borman join Ellie Cawthorne to reveal how the so-called “Flanders mare” was in fact a much-admired woman with a full, fascinating and independent life. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Comments (156)

Alex K.

excellent episode, Martin Davidson was articulate and made some fantastic points about a subject where he's obviously an expert. I am sure the book is very good.

May 19th

Katy Dane

The expert on this laughs and it's not at appropriate moments. I'm fascinated by the medieval & women's history but this was quite trying to listen to. Maybe it's an American thing but it's not for me.

Apr 14th

Adrian Lord

these podcast keeps stopping. it's very frustrating.

Mar 12th

Mark Power

Not the most promising material, but the speaker here was very good.

Feb 1st


Oh please, Professor. The BLM protests were not exacerbated by covid restrictions. The anger had been building for many years, as police kept performing summary executions, and as schools shootings have escalated without any senisible measures for remediation. Also, have you forgotten the Watts (and other) riots of the sixties? Or the anti-capitalism riots when summits were held in the US? The anger was about the return of 1950s-1960s rollback of civil rights and the rise of right-wing militancy. ALSO, the US mishandling of covid (and Britain's) was about the amateurism of conservative politics, their disdain for expertise and their desire to cronyize the response to politically connected favorites. The US experts were sidelined, and Jared Kushner was tasked with inventing the wheel again. Even now in 2023 Dr. Fauci is held in scorn by the right as are vaccines.

Jan 30th

Chris ryan

FDR. The greatest president we've ever had. The president we desperately need today.

Jan 23rd


not. a . conspiracy. another word with meaning being utilised for completely different purposes.

Jan 2nd


How come after all these years haven't H.E. solved the basic issue of having good audio? The guest's voice is clear, but not the interviewer's, and it's his show!

Dec 3rd


I was surprised that Kyle Harper is not an epidemiologist, but when he said he was an historian his name clicked. He also wrote "The Fate of Rome", a groundbreaking book, and excellent read, where he examined the western Roman Empire from a climatological and epidemiological perspective.

Dec 1st


Gore Vidal already covered the _great philosopher_ material in considerable detail quite a while ago.

Nov 30th


What is this club of Scott devotees? Lt. Scott represented the epitome of "Jolly good" amateur officers who thought any venture could be tossed together, improvised and muddled through with grit and determination. Amundesen with a much smaller team studied and trained on Norwegian glaciers and Greenland's icecap, and made a science out of their expedition. They made it to the pole and back (gaining body weight!) with no real mishap, because they were professionals. I was gobsmacked to remember that I had seen this current guy being here interviewed in National Geographic decades ago, and he too did man hauling, and repeating other inefficiencies Scott used. It resembled a personal quest to prove a cult figure could have, should have, deserved to have triumphed over Amundsen, just because he was a Jolly Good old-school English officer! By Jove. Right-o!

Nov 23rd


A gem of an interview with a wonderful, loving human. He dares look inward where 99% of the rest of us never would.

Nov 22nd


Would like to see the Mary Rose someday. Our Wasa here in Stockholm is another must-see recovered old warship. We had better luck in the Wasa sank in very sheltered water and is largely intact. But the half-ship you have is a beautiful cross-section of the full ship, if the photos do it justice.

Oct 23rd

Asia Jaeso

is there any lyrics?

Sep 12th

Andrea Manconi

Really? Roms' genocide was different? The usual unacceptable philo-nazism. Unsubscribed.

Sep 7th

Jouel Liriano

This was exceptional! Dr Mike Rapport was insightful and entertaining. Well done!

Aug 31st

David Sisson

Interesting, but it appeared author is in a gentile bubble and slightly out of touch. Media outlets like the BBC are very slowly becoming distanced from the broader community and he appears not to notice it. Likewise the BBC does not have a monopoly on left of centre news for the upper middle class demographic, other TV stations and newspapers like the Guardian also catered to that market very well. So while I found the historical parts of this series fascinating, the author misses where media is going in this present and future episode

Aug 23rd


how can i see the subtitle?

Jun 22nd

Susan Irvine

And no mention that Gillies was born and bred in Dunedin, New Zealand. He was even called the "British surgeon" in the introduction. I would have thought NZ's creative ingenuity (known as ' the Number 8 wire' culture) would gave been an interesting theme for examination...

Jun 6th

Peter Maruff

The academic says argh and umm too frequently. She needed to relax and let her speech flow.

Apr 24th
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