• Alyson Heisler

Listening in: 'History This Week"

On another adventure through the vast land of podcasts, I stumbled upon the category of history podcasts. The topics of these podcasts go beyond the general discussions of history class and dive deeper into the details of history’s people and events.

The History Channel recently launched their first original podcast titled “History This Week.” Each episode discusses a historical event that occurred on that day or week in history.

The podcast began in January of this year and is the sound-only equivalent to watching a documentary, with backtracking and sound effects added to enhance the feeling of the podcast. The casual but information-filled narration offers useful knowledge without the boring, researched tone that can often come from documentaries. Unlike a documentary, the narration is occasionally combined with an interview or statement made by an expert on the event or subject, who is often an author.

“History This Week” is hosted by radio producer Sally Helm. Helm previously produced NPR’s “Planet Money” podcast and currently produces another podcast titled “Family Ghosts.” She has a comforting yet intriguing tone of voice that keeps the listener’s attention.

The episodes begin like a story is being read to you and discusses the succession of smaller events that led up to the major event. After the story has ended, the overarching impact of the event on the world is highlighted by the differences made in the event’s aftermath.

The second episode, titled “The Great Boston Molasses Flood,” caught my attention immediately because I had never heard of a molasses flood, and who wouldn’t be interested by a title like that?

Here’s what happened: On Jan. 15, 1919, an elevated metal drum containing 2.3 million gallons of molasses exploded and unleashed a wave that moved at 35 mph down Commercial Street in Boston, Massachusetts. How did this happen? Why was that much molasses in an elevated drum? And most importantly, how on earth do you clean up millions of gallons of molasses?

To find out those answers, take a listen to the episode.

Usually, I’m more of a conversation-based podcast listener and, upon first listen, I wasn’t sure that I was going to enjoy this almost animated, more edited podcast style. But one thing that this podcast does do is fulfill my interest in knowing about strange historical facts and events.

What I will say is that “History This Week” is not a podcast that I would be able to listen to while doing another task that takes up much of my mental energy. This is something I will listen to while doing menial tasks, like cleaning or folding laundry.

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