On the road this week for Thanksgiving? Or expecting to spend long hours in the kitchen? For some of us, this holiday means listening to podcasts. (And podcasters have noticed. Thanks, Serial.) Whether you’re downloading them for the road or streaming them from a browser, this could be a good week to catch up on episodes related to the history and culture of the Thanksgiving holiday. Here are a few suggestions we’ve compiled for your convenience this year.
Past Present: “Thanksgiving Feasting, Football Controversies, and Black Friday Shopping” (43 mins.)
On this week’s episode, Nicole Hemmer, Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, and Neil Young discuss controversies related to Thanksgiving traditions—including the violence of football, anger about cultural appropriation, and the great tradition of arguing with relatives about politics. How has such a fraught holiday escaped from the angst attached to American celebrations of Christmas?
On Point: “The Deep Story of Mayflower Pilgrims” (47 mins.)
Tom Ashbrook interviews Ric Burns (the maker of the new PBS documentary The Pilgrims), Kathleen Donegan (the author of Seasons of Misery: Catastrophe and Colonial Settlement in Early America), and Linda Coombs (a historian of the Aquinnah Wampanoag) about the history of the Plymouth colony.
Ben Franklin’s World: “John D. Wilsey, American Exceptionalism: The History of an Idea” (52 mins.) and “Adam D. Shprintzen, The Vegetarian Crusade: The Rise of an American Reform Movement” (48 mins.)
Intrepid friend-of-this-blog Liz Covart specializes in thorough but accessible interviews with other historians. These two recent episodes illuminate topics that may seem relevant to your Thanksgiving feast.
Kurt Andersen’s show features interviews, music, and documentary sequences related to “American icons” and other artifacts of cultural history. These classic episodes examine several pieces of Americana that are well worth revisiting this week.
BackStory: “Green Acres: A History of Farmers in America” (52 mins.); “Three Squares: Mealtime in America” (53 mins.); “Health Nuts: A History of Nutritional Advice” (58 mins.); “Counter Culture: A History of Shopping” (52 mins.); “Imagined Nations: Depictions of American Indians” (58 mins.); and “American as Pumpkin Pie: A History of Thanksgiving” (53 mins.)
No podcast list for the history of Thanksgiving would be complete without BackStory. The “American History Guys” (Peter Onuf, Ed Ayers, and Brian Balogh) have produced a number of appropriate shows over the years, including an episode on the history of the Thanksgiving holiday itself.