Throughline

Throughline

The past is never past. Every headline has a history. Join us every week as we go back in time to understand the present. These are stories you can feel and sounds you can see from the moments that shaped our world. Subscribe to Throughline+. You'll be supporting the history-reframing, perspective-shifting, time-warping stories you can't get enough of - and you'll unlock access bonus episodes and sponsor-free listening. Learn more at plus.npr.org/throughline

Episodes

April 18, 2024 47 mins
Whether it's pesticides in your cereal or the door plug flying off your airplane, consumers today have plenty of reasons to feel like corporations might not have their best interests at heart. At a moment where we're seeing unprecedented product recalls, and when trust in the government is near historic lows, we're going to revisit a time when a generation of people felt empowered to demand accountability from both companies and el...
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Of all the amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the 14th is a big one. It's shaped all of our lives, whether we realize it or not: Roe v. Wade, Brown v. Board of Education, Bush v. Gore, plus other Supreme Court cases that legalized same-sex marriage, interracial marriage, access to birth control — they've all been built on the back of the 14th.

The amendment was ratified after the Civil War, and it's packed full of lofty...
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April 4, 2024 45 mins
Tipping is a norm in the United States—and it's always been controversial. The practice took off after the Civil War, as employers sought cheap labor from formerly enslaved people: if tips were expected, companies could get away with paying laughably low wages. But the practice was always controversial, and has been vehemently challenged since it first came to the U.S. from Europe. We speak with Nina Martyris, a journalist who's wr...
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March 28, 2024 49 mins
Hezbollah is a Lebanese paramilitary organization and political party that's directly supported by the Islamic Republic of Iran. In the wake of the October 7, 2023 Hamas-led attack on Israel, and Israel's invasion of Gaza, Hezbollah and Israel have been exchanging missile fire across the border they share, causing growing fears of a regional conflict with the U.S. and Israel on one side and Iran along with its allies in Hezbollah, ...
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March 21, 2024 47 mins
What is school for? Over a hundred years ago, a man named Harold Rugg published a series of textbooks that encouraged students to confront the thorniest parts of U.S. history: to identify problems, and try and solve them. And it was just as controversial as the fights we're seeing today. In this episode: a media mogul, a textbook author, and a battle over what students should – or shouldn't – learn in school.

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March 19, 2024 38 mins
What was the worst year to be alive on planet Earth? We make the case for 536 AD, which set off a cascade of catastrophes that is almost too horrible to imagine. A supervolcano. The disappearance of shadows. A failure of bread. Plague rats. Using evidence painstakingly gathered around the world - from Mongolian tree rings to Greenlandic ice cores to Mayan artifacts - we paint a portrait of what scientists and historians think went ...
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March 14, 2024 55 mins
In 2011, the world was shaken by the Arab Spring, a wave of "pro-democracy" protests that spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa. The effects of the uprisings reverberated around the world as regimes fell in some countries, and civil war began in others. This week, we revisit the years leading up to the Arab Spring and its lasting impact on three people who lived through it.

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March 7, 2024 53 mins
For most of its early history, Israel was dominated by left-leaning, secular politicians. But today, the right is in power. Its politicians represent a movement that uses a religious framework to define Israel and its borders, and that has aggressively resisted a two-state solution with Palestinians. And its government – led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — is waging a war in Gaza which, according to the Gaza Health Ministry,...
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February 29, 2024 50 mins
Most of us take it for granted that if we're ever in court and we can't afford a lawyer, the court will provide one for us. And in fact, the right to an attorney is written into the Constitution's sixth amendment. But for most of U.S. history, it was more of a nice-to-have — something you got if you could, but that many people went without.

Today, though, public defenders represent up to 80% of people charged with crimes....
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February 22, 2024 50 mins
Beyonce's Renaissance brought house music back to mainstream audiences. But even when it wasn't gracing the Grammys, house never went away. Born from the ashes of disco in the late 1970s and '80s, house was by and for the Black, queer youth DJing and dancing in Chicago's underground clubs. Since then it's become the soundtrack of parties around the world, and laid the groundwork for one of the most popular musical genres in history...
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February 15, 2024 53 mins
We asked you to call us with your stories of looking for love in the 21st century — and man, did you come through. We heard the whole range of human experience in your stories, but one theme rang out loud and clear: dating, and especially online dating, is a struggle.

The data backs this up. Despite the fact that meeting someone today doesn't require much more than swiping on your phone, people who are looking for long-ter...
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February 8, 2024 51 mins
What if we told you that the key to time travel has been right in front of our eyes this whole time? Well, it has: it's in our noses. Today on the show, the science — and politics — of smell, and how it links our past and our present.

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February 1, 2024 44 mins
James Baldwin believed that America has been lying to itself since its founding. An insightful commentator on Black identity, American democracy, and racism, he saw something deep and ugly and stubborn in American culture, and never hesitated to call it by its name — to bear witness, regardless of what it cost him. As the United States continues to reckon with all aspects of its history, writer and professor Eddie S. Glaude Jr. gui...
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January 30, 2024 49 mins
In October of 1983, Grenada's Prime Minister Maurice Bishop was assassinated in a coup, along with seven of his cabinet members and supporters. Six days later, the United States invaded the island country, and took control of it. The bodies of those eight people were never found.

Annie Bain's husband, Grenada's Minister of Housing, was one of the people killed alongside the Prime Minister. For 40 years, she's sought answe...
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January 25, 2024 49 mins
In 1899, Elie Metchnikoff woke up in Paris to learn that he had defeated old age. At least, that's what the newspaper headlines said. Before long he was inundated with mail from people begging him to help them live forever. The only problem? He didn't know how to do it.

At the time, Metchnikoff was one of the world's most famous scientists. And he believed aging was a disease he could cure. He dedicated his life to that q...
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January 18, 2024 51 mins
In April 1938, an Oklahoma bank robber was arrested for carrying an unregistered sawed-off shotgun across state lines. The robber, Jack Miller, put forward a novel defense: that a law banning him from carrying that gun violated his Second Amendment rights.

For most of U.S. history, the Second Amendment was one of the sleepier ones. It rarely showed up in court, and was almost never used to challenge laws. Jack Miller's cas...
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January 11, 2024 49 mins
Climate change, political unrest, random violence: modern society can often feel like what the filmmaker Werner Herzog calls "a thin layer of ice on top of an ocean of chaos and darkness." In the United States, polls indicate that many people believe law and order is the only thing protecting us from the savagery of our neighbors. This idea is often called "veneer theory." But is it true?

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January 4, 2024 56 mins
They say "everything old becomes new again." Today, that's baggy jeans, shag haircuts, 90s music, TV sitcoms – the latest version of finding comfort in nostalgia and familiarity in what came before. We constantly look for safety in the permanence of the past, or at least, what we think the past was. But, when it first appeared, nostalgia itself wasn't considered a feeling; it was a deadly disease. This episode traces the history of...
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December 28, 2023 52 mins
We live in divided times, when the answer to the question 'what is reality?' depends on who you ask. Almost all the information we take in is to some extent edited and curated, and the line between entertainment and reality has become increasingly blurred. Nowhere is that more obvious than the world of reality television. The genre feeds off our most potent feelings – love, hope, anxiety, loneliness – and turns them into profit... ...
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December 21, 2023 52 mins
Our society is saturated in apologies. They're scripted, they're public, and they often feel less than sincere. Political, corporate, celebrity apologies – they can all feel performed. It's not even always clear who they're for. So what purpose do these apologies serve? Because real apologies are not just PR stunts. Not just a way to move on. At their best, they're about acknowledgement and accountability, healing and repair. So ho...
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