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For the Ages: A History Podcast

New-York Historical Society

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Explore the rich and complex history of the United States and beyond. Produced by the New-York Historical Society, host David M. Rubenstein engages the nation’s foremost historians and creative thinkers on a wide range of topics, including presidential biography, the nation’s founding, and the people who have shaped the American story. Learn more at nyhistory.org.
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John F. Kennedy was one of the most iconic political figures of the 20th century, a man known universally by his initials. From his college days to the end in Dallas, he was fascinated by the nature of political courage and its relationship to democratic governance. David M. Rubenstein is joined by historian Frederik Logevall to discuss how we shou…
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Today, Latinos represent 20% of the US population, with census reports projecting that one-third of Americans will identify as having Latino heritage by 2050. Exploring the complex history of immigration across the Americas, demographic diversity within US borders, and the impact on US politics, inaugural literary director of the Library of Congres…
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In popular memory, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the quintessential political “natural.” However journalist and author Jonathan Darman argues that this political acumen was the hard-earned result of Roosevelt’s seven-year journey through illness and recovery from polio. In that decade of adapting to the stark new reality of his life, he discovered …
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In 1991, a crew of New York City construction workers found the remains of a massive burial ground under twenty feet of rubble, just blocks from City Hall. The forgotten cemetery contained the remains of as many as 20,000 African Americans, and pointed to the countless untold stories of the enslaved and free people who lived, labored, and died in N…
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The discovery of the cell in the 17th century caused a paradigm shift in medicine, with the human body coming to be seen as something never before imagined: an ecosystem in and of itself; a collection of innumerable organic parts working in tandem to fulfill our biological functions. Physician and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Siddhartha Mukherjee …
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Throughout history, Americans have looked to their president for guidance, seeking leadership from the nation’s highest office during times of turbulence. Historian and lawyer Talmage Boston speaks with David M. Rubenstein to discuss the leadership lessons that can be learned from America’s most effective presidents—from Washington’s precipitous ri…
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J. Edgar Hoover was not only the inaugural director of the FBI, but the architect of modern American law enforcement. Hoover’s stewardship over America’s justice system was as robust as it was ruthless, while his connections to white supremacists and the religious right spun a complex web between policing, politics, and race. Historian Beverly Gage…
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In December 1941, Nazi Germany controlled much of Europe, Japan was fighting a brutal campaign in China, and the United States had yet to enter into combat on either front. The attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, however, changed everything. Historians Brendan Simms and Charlie Laderman join moderator David M. Rubenstein to dissect the five cruci…
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In an exhilarating and, at times, harrowing account of exploration, survival, and betrayal, author and journalist Candice Millard joins David M. Rubenstein to discuss the story of two men’s search for the headwaters of the Nile River. Richard Burton, an intelligent, highly capable, and decorated soldier, and John Speke, an ambitious aristocrat and …
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Author and journalist Kate Andersen Brower rejoins David M. Rubenstein to continue their conversation on the legacy of the great Elizabeth Taylor. Taylor’s triumphs––her precocious rise to megastardom, her fight for fair and equal pay despite the sexism present in Hollywood during her lifetime, her advocacy for those with HIV/AIDS––as well as the d…
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Elizabeth Taylor, a legend of cinema known across the world, was one of the last great Classical Hollywood stars whose talent and beauty led her to universal renown. Beyond the artist, though, Taylor was a feminist trailblazer, a human rights advocate, and a fighter—someone who championed the needs of others and struggled bravely against problems o…
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Kentucky fought alongside the Union for the entirety of the Civil War, yet in the decades that followed, the state embraced many political and cultural traditions of the Confederacy, enacting Jim Crow laws and erecting monuments to embrace this adopted identity. In a fascinating conversation on identity and political myth-making, historian Anne E. …
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In an incisive analysis of national mourning following the deaths of presidents across US history, historian Lindsay Chervinsky joins David M. Rubenstein to discuss how such losses and the subsequent expressions of grief affected American culture and politics. Examining what can be learned from the ways we have grieved and remembered late president…
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The arc of Abraham Lincoln’s political career existed in the context of the ideologically tumultuous 19th century. From a period of cultural pessimism in the 1840s and 1850s alongside the Millerites’ prediction of a Second Coming, this period saw the rise of utopian philosophies, the intwining of slavery and Southern identity, the merging of Manife…
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In the wake of a pandemic and amidst deep partisan divisions and a looming budgetary crisis, Calvin Coolidge faced monumental challenges when he assumed the presidency following the abrupt death of his predecessor Warren G. Harding in 1923. From the Boston Police Strike to the rapid social and economic changes of the Roaring Twenties, Coolidge’s po…
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Jonathan Freedland once again joins David Rubenstein to discuss the story of Walter Rosenberg, one of the few Jews to successfully escape Auschwitz. Following Rosenberg’s arrival in Auschwitz, this conversation dives into the details of the risky escape plan he hatched alongside Fred Wetzler, the dangers that met them outside the camp once they had…
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In April of 1944, Walter Rosenberg escaped from Auschwitz alongside Fred Wetzler, making them two of a very small number of Jews who were able to escape a concentration camp and make their way to safety during the Second World War. In the first of this two-part conversation, Jonathan Freedland and David Rubenstein discuss how anti-Semitism shaped R…
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Biographer James Traub continues the story of John Quincy Adams. Drawing on the sixth US president’s diaries, letters, and writings, Traub discusses Adams’ ascendance to the White House, his numerous achievements and failures in office, his stewardship of American foreign policy, and his continuous dedication to a code of ethics beyond the desire f…
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As the son of a Founding Father and with a political career that lasted until his death in 1848, John Quincy Adams was eulogized by many of his peers as one of the last links between the founding generation and the United States of the 19th century. In this first of two conversations, James Traub, author of John Quincy Adams: Militant Spirit, explo…
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Described by former mayor Ed Koch as “the closest we’ve got to royalty in New York City,” the Morgenthau family immigrated from Germany to the United States in 1866 and went on to build a powerful real estate empire and make history in international diplomacy, domestic politics, and America’s criminal justice system. With links to figures ranging f…
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The conflicts that have marked the past 60 years have seen new weapons, new strategies, and complex new webs of alliance, enmity, and proxy violence. However, the evolution of warfare shows that certain challenges and solutions echo across history. General David H. Petraeus (US Army, Ret.) and Lord Andrew Roberts examine the nuances of warfare over…
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While the Supreme Court is often presented in American history as a protector of civil liberties, its record across the centuries provides a more complex picture. While the short period of the 1930s to the 1970s saw the Court end segregation and safeguard both free speech and the vote, during the preceding period, the Court largely ignored or suppr…
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The US Constitution did not create or provide for the presidential cabinet. When George Washington called for the first convening of his department secretaries two and a half years into his presidency, he drew on his military experience to seek counsel on the wide array of challenges facing the new nation. Presidential historian Lindsay Chervinsky …
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Exploring the final installment of the Liberation Trilogy, historian Rick Atkinson discusses the titanic battle for Western Europe that defined the later years of the Second World War. Beginning with the commencement of D-Day, this period of the war saw the final campaign for European liberation, including the pivotal fight at Normandy, the liberat…
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In this first of two conversations, Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Atkinson dives into the first two volumes of his monumental Liberation Trilogy, looking at North Africa during WWII and the harrowing campaigns that took place in Sicily and Italy. A pivotal point in history, this period of the war saw American and British armies clash with Vichy France…
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Since the dawn of civilization, land stewardship has served as the foundation for how societies coalesce and interact. In a wide-ranging conversation that examines European imperialism, the dispossession of Native American populations, and Joseph Stalin’s brutal collectivization in Society territories, bestselling author Simon Winchester illuminate…
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In the harsh New England winter of 1692, a minister’s daughter began to scream and convulse, as if possessed by a demonic spirit. This incident marked the beginning of a year-long panic in Salem, Massachusetts, which culminated in the infamous witch trials and the execution of 20 individuals. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Stacy Schiff uncovers the …
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While American presidents are only eligible to serve two terms in office and are beholden to protect the peaceful transfer of power to their successors, their influence in politics and public service can span decades following their presidency. Douglas Brinkley joins David M. Rubenstein to look at the post-presidential lives of the commander-in-chi…
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Although Jimmy Carter left the White House in January 1981 following a failed bid for reelection, his career in public service was far from over. Outside the boundaries of the Oval Office, he dedicated himself to finding peaceful solutions to international conflicts and fighting for human rights. Award-winning historian Douglas Brinkley explores th…
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Making up the earliest class of United States presidents, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe were all born and raised within the same sixty-mile circle east of the Blue Ridge Mountains, making up a “Virginia Dynasty” that came to shape America during the formative decades following the revolution. Author Lynne Chen…
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Historian Alan Shaw Taylor continues his conversation with David M. Rubenstein on the decades that followed the American Revolution. This defining era saw Native Americans seeking to defend their homes from a flood of American settlers, the intertwining of slavery in American politics, economics, and daily life, and an emerging expansionist vision …
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Contrary to the popular narrative of a confident and stable young republic, the United States emerged from its constitution as a fragile, internally divided union of states still contending with European empires and other independent republics on the North American continent. Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and the author of American Republics: A …
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Hailed as the founding father of America’s conservation movement, President Theodore Roosevelt championed the protection of the nation's natural treasures and embarked on visionary initiatives to preserve 234 million acres of wilderness for posterity. In conversation with David M. Rubenstein, presidential historian Douglas Brinkley explores Theodor…
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In 1961, as the Cold War cast a shadow across the globe, John F. Kennedy inspired Americans to look up to the sky as he announced his goal of putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade. Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley dives into the history of the unprecedented expansion of the American space program under President Kennedy, and how…
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Flora MacDonald’s life continued to be marked by dramatic political upheaval following her involvement in the escape of Prince Charles Edward Stuart. In this second conversation with David M. Rubenstein, Flora Fraser details Flora MacDonald’s marriage, her move to the American colonies, and how her family was eventually swept up in the Revolutionar…
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Biographer Flora Fraser tells the thrilling story of the young Scotswoman who helped Prince Charles Edward Stuart evade capture following the defeat of the Jacobite army at Culloden, Scotland, which marked the end of the House of Stuarts’ attempts to reclaim the British throne. While the story of Flora MacDonald has become the subject of songs, sto…
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World War II in the Pacific entered its endgame in June 1944, after the U.S. waged a crushing assault on the Japanese navy in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. In a conversation that explores the conflict’s harrowing final year—from the maritime war front to the halls of power in Washington and Tokyo—historian Ian W. Toll illuminates the grand stra…
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The period of Reconstruction following the Civil War saw a transformation of the United States from a slaveholding republic into an interracial democracy, all alongside the rise of industrial capitalism and the violent and ambitious conquest of the American West. What was the historical significance of this monumental transformation? Manisha Sinha …
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For decades, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist George F. Will has been regarded as one of this country’s leading columnists and public intellectuals. In an expansive conversation that encompasses American history, the Supreme Court, and beyond, Will shares his perspective on the political, social, and cultural trends that have shaped the…
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Half a century later, the contested history of the war in Vietnam continues to elicit national debate, deep soul-searching, and purported lessons for America's role overseas. In a conversation that visits new historical terrain of the Vietnam War past, award-winning historian and former war refugee Lien-Hang T. Nguyen draws on her personal and prof…
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Long before the first battle of the American Revolution, the conflict between Loyalists and Patriots swept through all facets of American society, with colonists, Native Americans, and the enslaved all forced to choose a side. Would this constitute America’s first civil war, beginning before the Revolution had even been won? Pulitzer Prize finalist…
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The post-World War II economic boom came at a high cost: smog made breathing difficult in cities, the oceans were dying, wilderness vanished, and species went extinct at alarming rates. Acclaimed historian Douglas Brinkley chronicles how Rachel Carson’s 1962 book, Silent Spring, launched an eco-revolution and inspired the rise of environmental acti…
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In the United States, World War II is often regarded as a time of unrivaled national unity and optimism, however in reality this traumatic period tested the American resolve in the most significant way since the Civil War. How did the nation rise to the occasion? Author and historian Tracy Campbell, in conversation with David M. Rubenstein, examine…
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Whether you are looking at proxy conflicts during the Cold War, the power of the Cuban-American voting bloc, or how Cuban-American relations are used as a cipher for a president’s foreign policy, the power of Cuba on American politics is undeniable. From the severing of diplomatic relations in 1961 to the hard-won normalization of Cuba-U.S. relatio…
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Adam Hochschild, author of American Midnight: The Great War, a Violent Peace, and Democracy's Forgotten Crisis, once again joins David M. Rubenstein to discuss the culture of violence, vigilantism, and censorship that permeated US government and society in the years during and immediately following World War I. In this conversation, they explore th…
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The US’s entrance into World War I marked the beginning of a period in American history characterized by lynching, aggressive union-busting, mass civilian arrests, and stringent government censorship of the press, all amidst the backdrop of the war, a pandemic, and the specter of the Russian Revolution. In this first of two discussions, Adam Hochsc…
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Roger Lowenstein once again joins David M. Rubenstein to discuss the complex financial circumstances of the Civil War. In this episode, he explores the financial challenges faced by the Confederacy; looking at the resources they had available to them compared to the North, how they envisioned global trade impacting their cause, and how the desire t…
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For both the Union and the Confederacy, one of the most persistent battles of the Civil War was financing. To meet this challenge head-on both Lincoln and Jefferson Davis attempted a number of strategies to tackle the enormous financial demands of their armies, subsequent gold shortages, and an evolving diplomatic landscape abroad. In this first of…
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How was slavery written into America’s founding? David M. Rubenstein is once again joined by historian Edward J. Larson to discuss this question and explore how legal frameworks around slavery evolved in the new republic. Looking at the battle between the new country’s pro- and anti-slavery leaders, the Treaty of Paris, the Articles of Confederatio…
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While the Revolutionary War was waged as a fight for freedom, slavery was omnipresent in America before, during, and after the war. In this two-part conversation, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Edward J. Larson discusses how the twin strands of liberty and slavery were joined in the nation’s founding and the limits of the Founders’ conception of …
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