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Hear UT’s Chart-Topping History Lessons

The “15 Minute History” podcast is one of the most popular collections on iTunes U. Learn something new from these nine standout episodes.

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History is hot.

Just ask the fans who keep putting UT’s “15 Minute History” podcast on the top of the charts in iTunes U, routinely topping other content providers such as Harvard University, NASA, Smithsonian Libraries and TED.

Since being added to the University of Texas iTunes U channel in July 2013, the podcast collection featuring short, accessible discussions from UT faculty and graduate students has frequently held the number-one spot in iTunes U’s Top Collections category. It has drawn 104,488 downloads and more than 20,000 subscribers.

15 Minute History on iTunesU

The topics are wide-ranging and likely to intrigue any history buff. They’re drawn from the World History and U.S. History Standards for Texas K-12 social studies courses, making them a strategic educational resource for teachers and students.

With 40 episodes and counting, there is plenty of material to dig into. Below, sample a few highlights. [Links open to the 15 Minute History podcast website.]

15 Minute History is a joint project of Hemispheres, the international outreach consortium at the University of Texas at Austin, and Not Even Past, a website with articles on a wide variety of historical issues, produced by the Department of History.

Episode 2: Islamic Extremism in the Modern World

In this episode, we tackle “that pesky standard” in the Texas World History course that requires students to understand the development of “radical Islamic fundamentalism and the subsequent use of terrorism by some of its adherents.” This is especially tricky for educators: how to talk about such an emotional subject without resorting to stereotypes and demonizing? What drives some to turn to violent actions in the first place?

Guest Christopher Rose from UT’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies offers a few suggestions and some background information on how to keep the phenomenon in perspective.


Episodes 21
and 22: Causes of the U.S. Civil War (Parts 1 and 2)

In the century and a half since the war’s end, historians, politicians and laypeople have debated the causes of the U.S. Civil War: what truly led the Union to break up and turn on itself? And, even though it seems like the obvious answer, does a struggle over the future of slavery really explain why the south seceded, and why a protracted military struggle followed? Can any one explanation do so satisfactorily?

Historian George Forgie has been researching this question for years. In this two-part podcast, he’ll walk us through five common and yet unsatisfying explanations for the most traumatic event in American history.


Episode 38: The International Energy Crisis of the 1970s

Most Americans probably associate the 1973 oil crisis with long lines at their neighborhood gas stations, but those lines were caused by a complex patchwork of international relationships and negotiations that stretched around the globe.

Guest Chris Dietrich explains the origins of the energy crisis and the ways it shifted international relations in its wake.


Episode 16: The First Illegal Aliens?

Fears that the U.S. is being invaded by illegal aliens, of vast numbers waiting to stream across the border and undermine the American working class may seem ripped from today’s headlines today, but a century and a half ago politicians weren’t looking south toward Mexico when debating immigration policies. They were looking west, toward China. Concerns over Chinese immigration shaped U.S. immigration policies in ways we still observe today.

Guest Madeline Hsu from UT’s Center for Asian American Studies discusses the tumultuous experience of Chinese immigration to the U.S., the passing of the Chinese Exclusion Act, and sheds light on the lingering immigration issues first discussed in the 19th century that continue to concern us in contemporary political debates.


Episode 29: The Slavic Vampire

Long before Bill and Sookie, Bella and Edward, there was the upyr’, a mythical creature that caused crops to fail, infants to die in their cribs, and plagues to spread throughout the Slavic lands of eastern Europe. How did we go from upyr’ to Vampire: the creature of the night who survives by drinking on blood and sparkles in the sunshine? And, more importantly, what can we learn about medieval Eastern Europe by talking about vampire myths and mythology?

Guest Thomas Garza takes us on the trail of vampires from their 11th-century origins to the days of Stoker, Harris and Meyer, and helps us learn a thing or two about how society copes with its deepest fears along the way.


Episode 36: Apartheid

With the death of Nelson Mandela in December 2013, attention turned once again to the conditions that brought him international acclaim as the first black president of South Africa and overseer of a process of national reconciliation that kept the country from falling into bloodshed. But what was the system of apartheid that he and millions of other South Africans had rallied against for so long? Where did it come from? How was it enforced? And what brought it to an end?

Guest Joseph Parrott helps us understand the system of “separateness” that dominated the lives of South Africans of all races for so long and introduces us to the key organizations and players that fought against it and finally dismantled it.


Episode 14: Early Drafts of the Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence is arguably one of the most recognizable documents in American history, quoted and recited often. But the first draft that Thomas Jefferson wrote contained passages that were edited and deleted by the Continental Congress before its approval. What did they say? What might have been different about the early Republic if they were left in? And is there really a treasure map hidden on the back of the original document?

Guest Robert Olwell from UT’s Department of History takes a deeper look to get insight into Jefferson, the workings of the Congress, and the psyche of the American colonists on the eve of revolution plus, we’ll put that whole treasure map thing to rest once and for all.


Episode 6: Effects of the Atlantic Slave Trade on the Americas

The Atlantic slave trade was one of the most important examples of forced migration in human history. While slavery in the U.S. is well documented, only 10 percent of the slaves imported from Africa came to the United States; the other 90 percent were disbursed throughout the Americas nearly half went to Brazil alone. Where did they go? What did slavery look like in other parts of the New World? And what are the lingering effects on the modern world?

Guest Natalie Arsenault, formerly of UT’s Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies the oft-ignored impact of the slave trade on other parts of the Americas.