This week, something momentous happened. Whether or not it made the textbooks, it most certainly made history. Join the HISTORY This Week podcast as we turn back the clock to meet the people, visit the places and witness the moments that led us to where we are today.


To get in touch with story ideas or feedback, email us at HistoryThisWeek@History.com, or leave us a voicemail at 212-351-0410.

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Mutiny on the Black Sea

June 27, 1905. It’s the last morning of Ippolit Gilyarovsky’s life. He wakes up in a battleship on the Black Sea. The Potemkin. He’s a despised Russian naval officer who doesn’t care that his sailors are refusing to eat their lunch of rotten borscht. They’ll do it because he says so. And if they don’t, he’ll hang them. Why did these sailors, many of them peasants accustomed to abuse from high-born men like him, decide on this day to rise up instead and mutiny? And how would their rebellion help take down the Czar of Russia?

Special thanks to our guests; Neal Bascomb, author of Red Mutiny: Eleven Fateful Days on the Battleship Potemkin and Russian Revolution; and historian Dr. Mark Steinberg of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. His most recent book is Russian Utopia: A Century of Revolutionary Possibilities.

The Church Kidnaps Edgardo Mortara

June 23, 1858. A knock at the door—it’s the papal police. For the Mortaras, a Jewish family living in Bologna, this is not a good sign. And soon, the officers break the agonizing news: “You have been betrayed.” The Mortaras’ six-year-old son, Edgardo, has been secretly baptized, and the Church has ordered him to be taken away. Why did the Catholic Church order a young Jewish boy to be kidnapped? And how would that decision end up re-making the map of modern Europe?

Special thanks to our guest, David Kertzer, author of The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara and The Pope at War.

Watergate from the Inside (Replay)

June 17, 1972. In the early morning hours, five men are caught after breaking into the Watergate building in Washington, DC. The failed break-in that night will eventually lead to the unraveling of a major American scandal that reaches the highest levels of government. Why did President Nixon and the men around him believe that they could get away with something so obviously illegal? And how - for one of our producers - did this episode hit close to home?

Thank you to our guest expert, Michael Dobbs, author of King Richard: An American Tragedy.

Thank you also to Ken Hughes and Michael Greco from The Miller Center at UVA for speaking with us for this episode.

Bayard Rustin Marches Free

June 11, 1946. Bayard Rustin walks out of the Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary after serving a sentence for conscientiously objecting to WWII. A pacifist organizer, his efforts reach the ears of Mahatma Gandhi, who invites him to India. And Rustin never looks back. Soon he’s mentoring a young Alabama preacher, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as Rustin thrust into the middle of a Civil Rights Movement. But Rustin’s enemies want him gone, and the entire movement along with him. So how does this one man become responsible for the national reach and spread of active nonviolent resistance? And why, as the chief architect of the historic 1963 March on Washington, is his name not more known?

Never Give Up: The Anna May Wong Story

June 4, 1939. Anna May Wong steps off an ocean liner to greet her fans in Australia. In many ways, she is a classic Hollywood actor. Glamorous and famous. She’s made some sixty movies that have been seen around the world. But in other ways, Anna May Wong is singular. She’s the first–and at this time only–Chinese American movie star. But behind the scenes...she is reaching the end of her rope. How did a Chinese American girl from a poor family defy expectations to become an international star? And what is now fueling her Hollywood rebirth?

Reconstruction III: Voting Rights At Last

May 26, 1965. One hundred years after the Civil War, Congress is debating a bill whose goal is to enforce the 15th amendment, which, in 1870, promised the right to vote regardless of race. But that’s not what happened. Now the Civil Rights movement is saying: It’s time to make real the promises of the Constitution for all Americans. The forces that undermined the First Reconstruction, and gutted the 15th Amendment, are resisting those demands. In the middle stands Lyndon B. Johnson, a Southern Senator with a record of opposing civil rights. Robert Caro, acclaimed journalist and Johnson biographer, tells us, what will change Johnson’s mind and turn him into a champion of the Voting Rights Act? And how will he manage the impossible task of getting it passed when so many Southern Senators are hellbent against it?

Visit History.com/Reconstruction for more.​​

BONUS: Eric Foner and Henry Louis Gates Jr. on Du Bois’ Black Reconstruction

In 1935, famed Black sociologist and scholar W.E.B. Du Bois published Black Reconstruction, a revolutionary reassessment of the period of Reconstruction after the Civil War. The book was also a critique of the flawed way others had been telling the story—including leading scholars of the day. Sally Helm sits down with professors Eric Foner and Henry Louis Gates Jr. to discuss Du Bois’ insights. They hone in on his argument that a biased portrayal of Reconstruction was used for over a century to justify the oppression of Black Americans.

Visit History.com/Reconstruction for more.​​

Reconstruction II: The First Presidential Impeachment

May 16, 1868. The Capitol is filled with spectators, anxiously trying to predict how each Senator will vote. It’s the first presidential impeachment trial in American history, and its outcome will have profound effects on Reconstruction, the great project of rebuilding the nation after the Civil War. What made many members of Congress declare President Andrew Johnson unfit to lead that effort? And what motivated this former ally of Abraham Lincoln to declare himself an enemy of true Reconstruction?

Visit History.com/Reconstruction for more.​​

Reconstruction II: The First Presidential Impeachment

May 16, 1868. The Capitol is filled with spectators, anxiously trying to predict how each Senator will vote. It’s the first presidential impeachment trial in American history, and its outcome will have profound effects on Reconstruction, the great project of rebuilding the nation after the Civil War. What made many members of Congress declare President Andrew Johnson unfit to lead that effort? And what motivated this former ally of Abraham Lincoln to declare himself an enemy of true Reconstruction?

Visit History.com/Reconstruction for more.​​

Reconstruction I: Secession on Trial

May 10, 1865. Jefferson Davis is awakened by gunshots. The president of the defeated and disbanded Confederate States of America is on the run, and today, federal troops finally catch him. His arrest puts the face of the Confederacy behind bars. But it also creates a problem for federal officials: what exactly do we do with this guy? How will they hold Davis accountable for his acts without turning him into a martyr for his cause? And then there’s the larger question: how can they piece a shattered nation back together?

Visit History.com/Reconstruction for more.​​

Beethoven's Silent Symphony (Replay)

History repeats itself this week with an episode from the HISTORY This Week archives: May 7, 1824. One of the great musical icons in history, Ludwig Van Beethoven, steps onto stage at the Kärntnertor Theater in Vienna. The audience is electric, buzzing with anticipation for a brand new symphony from the legendary composer. But there’s a rumor on their minds, something only a few know for certain... that Beethoven is deaf. He is about to conduct the debut of his Ninth Symphony—featuring the now-famous ‘Ode to Joy’—yet Beethoven can barely hear a thing. How was it possible for him to conduct? And more importantly, how could he have composed one of the greatest works in the history of classical music?

​​Special thanks to Jan Swafford, author of Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph.

Audio from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is provided courtesy of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and Riccardo Muti Music.

"Beethoven - Piano Concerto No.3, Op.37 - III. Rondo. Allegro" by Stefano Ligoratti is licensed under CC BY 3.0 (https://bit.ly/35uhbRw).

"Beethoven - Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 - IV. Presto - Allegro Assai (For Recorder Ensemble and Chorus - Papalin)" by Papalin is licensed under CC BY 3.0 (https://bit.ly/2YukIxM).

Dividing the Desert

April 25, 1859. About 150 people have gathered on the shores of Lake Manzala in Egypt. And one of them, a mustachioed, retired French diplomat, steps forward. He raises his pickaxe and strikes a ceremonial blow. The audacious goal is to cut through the desert to connect the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea, creating a new trade route between the East and the West. Changing global trade and geopolitics forever. Today: the Suez Canal. Why did the tremendous efforts of a Frenchman end up enriching the British Empire? And how, decades later, did the canal play an unexpected role in the birth of modern Egypt?

​​Thank you to our guests, Ibrahim El-Houdaiby and Professor Aaron Jakes for speaking with us for this episode. Thank you also to Dr. Bella Galil for talking with us. If you want to read more about the Suez Canal, Zachary Karabell's "Parting the Desert: The Creation of the Suez Canal" is a great resource.

The Luddites Attack

April 25, 1859. About 150 people have gathered on the shores of Lake Manzala in Egypt. And one of them, a mustachioed, retired French diplomat, steps forward. He raises his pickaxe and strikes a ceremonial blow. The audacious goal is to cut through the desert to connect the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea, creating a new trade route between the East and the West. Changing global trade and geopolitics forever. Today: the Suez Canal. Why did the tremendous efforts of a Frenchman end up enriching the British Empire? And how, decades later, did the canal play an unexpected role in the birth of modern Egypt?

​​Thank you to our guests, Ibrahim El-Houdaiby and Professor Aaron Jakes for speaking with us for this episode. Thank you also to Dr. Bella Galil for talking with us. If you want to read more about the Suez Canal, Zachary Karabell's "Parting the Desert: The Creation of the Suez Canal" is a great resource.

The Luddites Attack

Dividing the Desert

April 25, 1859. About 150 people have gathered on the shores of Lake Manzala in Egypt. And one of them, a mustachioed, retired French diplomat, steps forward. He raises his pickaxe and strikes a ceremonial blow. The audacious goal is to cut through the desert to connect the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea, creating a new trade route between the East and the West. Changing global trade and geopolitics forever. Today: the Suez Canal. Why did the tremendous efforts of a Frenchman end up enriching the British Empire? And how, decades later, did the canal play an unexpected role in the birth of modern Egypt?

​​Thank you to our guests, Ibrahim El-Houdaiby and Professor Aaron Jakes for speaking with us for this episode. Thank you also to Dr. Bella Galil for talking with us. If you want to read more about the Suez Canal, Zachary Karabell's "Parting the Desert: The Creation of the Suez Canal" is a great resource.

The Luddites Attack

April 20, 1812. An angry crowd approaches a mill in Lancashire, England. They’re fed up with what’s happening to their knitting industry, and they’re here to smash the machines taking their jobs. They call themselves the Luddites. Today, their name is invoked when talking about anyone who is anti-technology. But what actually drove this group of knitters to take up arms against their employers? And what does their struggle show us about the relationship between workers and employers today?

Thank you to our guest, Dr. Richard Gaunt from the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom.Thank you also to Dr. Kevin Binfield, Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in English at Murray State University, for speaking with us for this episode.

Jackie Robinson Tries Out for the Majors

April 16, 1945. Jackie Robinson is ready. He’s won a tryout with the Boston Red Sox, and if he makes the team, he will become the first player to break baseball’s long-standing racial divide. Robinson puts his supreme athletic skills on full display… but never hears back from the Red Sox. The tryout was just for show. It’s not the first deception or indignity that Robinson has endured because of his race. But ultimately, nothing could stop him from breaking baseball’s color line. What does his experience reveal about the history of race in America? And how did Robinson’s life prepare him for his historic achievement?

Special thanks to Howard Bryant, senior writer for ESPN and author of Full Dissidence: Notes from an Uneven Playing Field; Ralph Carhart, baseball historian and editor of the upcoming book Not an Easy Tale to Tell: Jackie Robinson on the Page, Stage, and Screen; and Amira Rose Davis, assistant professor of history and African American studies at Penn State and co-host of the sports podcast Burn It All Down and host of season three of American Prodigies: Black Girls in Gymnastics.

The Titanic’s First and Last Voyage

April 10, 1912. As the RMS Titanic pulls away from a crowded port on the south coast of England, it almost crashes. Just in time, it’s able to turn off its engines and prevent a collision with a smaller ship. Four days later, though, a serious disaster will not be avoided, and the Titanic’s first voyage will be her last. But during her brief life, the vessel is a microcosm of the Gilded world around her. How did this opulent luxury liner come to exist? And how did it foretell the dangers of wealth, technology, and arrogance that shaped the world around it, and the world we live in now?

Special thanks to our guests, Susie Milar and Gareth Russell, author of The Ship of Dreams: The Sinking of the Titanic and the End of the Edwardian Era.

Ethel Rosenberg's Day in Court

March 29, 1951. The world is waiting for the jury’s verdict. Ethel and Julius Rosenberg have been accused of spying for the Soviet Union, conspiring to send atomic secrets to America’s enemy in the Cold War. Ethel and Julius are tried in court together, and after the jury finds both Rosenbergs guilty, they receive the same punishment – the death penalty. But while they were treated the same, these two individuals have very different stories. Today, who was Ethel Rosenberg, the only woman executed for espionage in U.S. history? And why is her guilt still a topic of debate today?

Special thanks to Anne Sebba, author of Ethel Rosenberg: An American Tragedy; Michael and Robert Meeropol, the sons of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg; and Steven Usdin, journalist and author of Engineering Communism: How Two Americans Spied for Stalin and Founded the Soviet Silicon Valley.

First Antiwar Teach-In

March 25, 1965. The US is bombing North Vietnam. On the University of Michigan’s campus, students and professors are gathered for a first-of-its kind protest event. They’re holding a “teach-in,” staying up all night to discuss what’s going on in Vietnam. How did the classroom become a powerful tool for protest? And what impact did this “teach-in” have in shaping the antiwar movement on college campuses—and around the world?

Special thanks to our guests: Zelda Gamson, Alan Haber, Susan Harding, Richard Mann, Stan Nadel, Gayl Ness, Jack Rothman, Howard Wachtel, and Michael Zweig. Thanks also to Ellen Schrecker, author of The Lost Promise: American Universities in the 1960s, and to Greg Kinney at the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan.

The Serial Killer Who Helped Abolish the Death Penalty

March 20, 1953. A middle-aged man named John Christie packs up a suitcase and leaves his apartment in Notting Hill, London. No one knows where he’s gone. But a few days later, people realize why he left… a new tenant makes an unsettling discovery: bodies, hidden in the walls of the kitchen. Today: the case of serial killer John Christie. Why, decades later, are parts of his story still a mystery? And how did that very mystery play into a big change in the UK – the abolition of the death penalty?

Thank you to our guests: Professor Kate Winkler Dawson, author of the book Death in the Air and the forthcoming book All That is Wicked. Jonathan Oates, author of the book John Christie of Rillington Place: Biography of a Serial Killer. And Sir Julian Knowles, author of The Abolition of the Death Penalty in the United Kingdom; How it Happened and Why it Still Matters.

New York Goes Underground

March 12, 1888. There’s been a blizzard in New York. Wind, ice, and snow have brought the city to a halt. Stagecoaches are stuck, elevated trains are frozen. By the time the storm is over, 400 New Yorkers will die. The public outrage is severe, and many blame New York City’s faulty transportation network for the deaths. Suddenly, a solution that had been ignored in the past comes to the forefront – traveling under the earth. Today, the story of the New York City subway. How did an epic snowstorm drive the city to try a dangerous and daring idea? And why was the subway such a unique invention from the very start?

Special thanks to Concetta Bencivenga, director of the New York City Transit Museum; John Morris, author of Subway: The Curiosities, Secrets, and Unofficial History of the New York City Transit System; and Clifton Hood, professor of history at Hobart and William Smith Colleges and author of 722 Miles: The Building of the Subways and How They Transformed New York.

Claudette Colvin Doesn’t Give Up Her Seat

March 2, 1955. Claudette Colvin and her classmates are let out early from school. They hop on a bus heading toward downtown Montgomery and sit in the back section, reserved for Black riders. Before long, there’s a white woman standing in the aisle, expecting them to give up their seats. 15-year-old Colvin refuses, and she’s arrested that day—nine months before an almost identical act of defiance from activist Rosa Parks will ignite the Montgomery bus boycott and the modern Civil Rights movement. Who is Claudette Colvin? And how does her story reveal the broader picture behind a protest that would change the nation?

Hitler Stands Trial

February 26, 1924. 10 Defendants enter a courtroom in Munich. They are being charged with an attempted coup. They tried to overthrow the government of the Weimar Republic…and almost succeeded. All eyes are on the second defendant to enter the room. When the judge reads this man’s name into the record, he identifies him as a Munich writer named Adolf Hitler. Today: Hitler’s first attempt to seize power. How did his 1923 coup fail? And why would Hitler later say that this failure was “perhaps the greatest good fortune of my life?”

Thank you to Thomas Weber for speaking with us for this episode, author of the book “Becoming Hitler”. Thank you also to our guest Peter Ross Range, author of “1924: The Year that Made Hitler”. We also read David King’s book “The Trial of Adolf Hitler” in researching this episode–it’s a great resource if you want to learn more about this story.

The Lincoln County War

February 18, 1878. A group of men is leading their horses along a New Mexico mountain trail. This is the Wild West, and danger is never that far away. In fact, before they reach their destination, the leader of their group will be shot. The rest of the cowboys watch the scene unfold in horror, including a future notorious outlaw: Billy the Kid. Over their boss’s dead body, Billy and the others vow to avenge his murder. In the next five months, as much as a quarter of the county's population will be killed. How did this murder turn a community into a battlefield? And what does this conflict reveal about how we understand the Wild West?

Special thanks to Gwendolyn Rogers, president of the Lincoln County Historical Society, and Paul Hutton, whose most recent book, The Apache Wars, tells the story of another war that played out during this time in the Southwest.

Black Baseball Goes Pro

Feb 13, 1920. For over thirty years, Black baseball players have been locked out of the major leagues. So on this day in Kansas City, Rube Foster, a former pitcher and now a team owner, is trying to make his own league just for Black players. He has gathered owners of other Black baseball teams, who currently play each other in one-off matchups or face independent teams in random games around the country. But Foster wants them to get organized, and soon, the Negro National League would be born. But up to this point, how did Black baseball survive after segregation became the unofficial policy of the major leagues? And how did Black players, owners, and managers join together to create something that no baseball fan could ignore?

The Great Comic Book Scare

February 4, 1955. In a New York courtroom, the Comics Czar takes the stand. He’s in charge of enforcing a new code, meant to keep comic books from corrupting America’s youth, and he’s here to prove that his work has cleaned up the industry. But that afternoon, a noted psychologist named Fredric Wertham argues that his work has not nearly gone far enough. When the hearing comes to a close, the committee is left to decide: what is the future of the comic book? Why did one of the country’s leading psychologists see them as a major threat to American children? And what can the Great Comic Book Scare teach us about moral panics?

Special thanks to our guests, David Hajdu, author of The Ten-Cent Plague, and Jeremy Dauber, author of American Comics.

Surviving Auschwitz (Replay)

January 27, 1945. Four Russian soldiers arrive at Auschwitz, one of Nazi Germany's largest concentration and extermination camps. The soldiers have come to liberate the survivors inside, but they are not met with the celebration and rejoicing they expect. On this day, what did liberation actually mean for its survivors - and is the full story being forgotten?

Thank you to Mindu Hornick and Bill Harvey for sharing their personal story of surviving Auschwitz and to Fulwell 73 for helping make it happen. Thank you to Jeremy Dronfield, author of the Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz, and to the work of Robert Jan Van Pelt, curator for the international exhibit, "Auschwitz. Not Long Ago. Not Far Away."

Archival material accessed at United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of The Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archives of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of National Archives & Records Administration and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, gift of Thomas P. Headen.

The Apple Ad That Changed the World (Replay)

History repeats itself this week with an episode from the HISTORY This Week archives: January 22, 1984. Apple launches the very first Macintosh computer, unveiling the machine to the public in a showstopping Super Bowl commercial. Not only was the ad itself revolutionary, but the product it launched almost single-handedly brought computers into the mainstream. The Macintosh PC would change technology, and the world as we know it forever.

Special thanks to Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, author and producer of the “Making the Macintosh” digital archive.

The Great Boston Molasses Flood (Replay)

History repeats itself this week with an episode from the HISTORY This Week archives: January 15, 1919. Boston PD receives a call: “Send all available rescue personnel...there's a wave of molasses coming down Commercial Street." The bizarre flood decimated Boston's North End. How did it happen? And why does it still affect us all today?

Special thank you to our guest Stephen Puleo, author of Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919.

Declaring War on Poverty (Replay)

History repeats itself this week with an episode from the HISTORY This Week archives: January 8, 1964. In his State of the Union address, Lyndon Johnson unveils his War on Poverty, an effort to tackle subpar living conditions and create jobs across the United States. Johnson discovers that declaring war—even one on an idea—always comes with great costs. Why did LBJ pick poverty as one of his major initiatives? And what issues did he face in waging this war?

This episode features Doris Kearns Goodwin (presidential historian and executive producer of The HISTORY Channel’s documentary series, Lincoln and Roosevelt) and Guian McKee (associate professor in Presidential Studies at UVA’s Miller Center).

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