Now & Then

Now & Then

How can the past help inform today’s most pressing challenges? Every Tuesday, award-winning historians Heather Cox Richardson and Joanne Freeman use their encyclopedic knowledge of US history to bring the past to life. Together, they make sense of the week in news by discussing the people, ideas, and events that got us here today. Now and Then is produced by CAFE and the Vox Media Podcast Network.

Episodes

June 25, 2022 37 min

Heather and Joanne react to the overturning of Roe v. Wade. How did we get here? What does the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs signal for the future of women’s reproductive rights and broader civil rights in America? What kind of unique perspective do women historians bring to understanding this moment?

Join CAFE Insider to listen to “Backstage,” where Heather and Joanne chat each week about the anecdotes and ideas that formed the...

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On this encore episode of Now & Then, originally aired in June 2021 amid a Republican filibuster of an independent commission investigating January 6th, Heather and Joanne discuss the history of congressional commissions, from the investigation of the 1856 caning of Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner, to the 1871 Ku Klux Klan hearings, to 1954 back-and-forth between Senator Joseph McCarthy and the Army. 


We’ll be back with a n...

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June 14, 2022 52 min

What are the political purposes of nostalgia? Why does the GOP idealize the American past? And what can this backward-looking perspective give or take away from our collective future?


On Now & Then, Heather and Joanne discuss the role of nostalgia in American political history, from Puritan Jeremiads, to the 1913 Gettysburg and Fort Wagner reunions, to the emergence in the 1970s of a cultural obsession with the 1950s. 


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Why have NFTs captured the American imagination? What can the recent instability in the NFT market tell us about the history of speculative bubbles? 


Heather and Joanne put the NFT craze in context with other American financial booms & busts, from the Panic of 1792, to the 1890s Yukon Gold Rush, to the late 1990s dot-com bubble. 


Join CAFE Insider to listen to “Backstage,” where Heather and Joanne chat each week about the anecdot...

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Why are Americans so preoccupied with so-called “cancel culture”? What are the lines between accountability and cancellation? And what drives citizens to stand against objectionable statements?


On this final episode in a three-part series on free speech, Heather and Joanne discuss the fall from grace of Loyalist politician Thomas Hutchinson during the Revolutionary period, the suppression of the German language during World War I, a...

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What have been the gravest threats to a free press over the nation’s history? And how can the past tell us how to safeguard our access to information today? 


On this second episode in a three-part series on free speech, Heather and Joanne discuss the 1837 murder of abolitionist journalist Elijah P. Lovejoy, the role of Joseph Pulitzer in the creation of the independent press, and the rise and fall of the Fairness Doctrine. 


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May 17, 2022 49 min

How has the federal government limited and protected free speech rights over the course of American history? How have citizens responded when Washington has limited their speech rights? And what can Elon Musk’s commentary on online free speech tell us about the difficult lines between free speech, disinformation, and political power? 


In this first installment of a three-episode series on free speech, censorship, and so-called cance...

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Heather and Joanne are off this week, so we’re showcasing an episode from another Vox Media Podcast Network show: “How the 1918 Flu Pandemic Ended,” from The Weeds. Hosts Dara Lind and Dylan Matthews often explore the roots of our current political issues, from healthcare, to immigration, to housing.  


In this installment, originally aired in January, host and Senior Vox Correspondent Dylan Matthews talks with historian John Barry, ...

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May 3, 2022 51 min

How has America historically defined physical disabilities? How have disability rights activists achieved hard-fought wins? And how does the current debate over mask mandates and pandemic restrictions leave out those with disabilities or chronic illness? 


Heather and Joanne discuss the impact of pensions for disabled war veterans in the Revolutionary and Civil War periods, the interlocking histories of racism, sexism, and ableism, a...

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April 26, 2022 54 min

How have Jewish Americans fought for their identities? And how have other American groups used Jews to define themselves? White House celebrations of the recent Passover holiday have sparked conversations over how Jewish identity interacts with broader American self-definitions.  


Heather and Joanne discuss the early American contention that indigenous Americans were the Lost Tribes of Israel, the controversy over Ulysses S. Grant’s...

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Who should support the needy in American society? The news is filled with controversies over the use and misuse of philanthropy, from Mackenzie Scott’s giving drive, to Elon Musk tax avoidance claims, to GoFundMe campaigns. 


Heather and Joanne look at historical debates over philanthropy, from colonial community support and “warning out” laws, to Carnegie’s “Gospel of Wealth,” to the relationship between nonprofits and President Joh...

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April 12, 2022 48 min

State lawmakers have proposed almost 250 anti-LGBTQ laws in 2022 alone. Why are we seeing such a virulent political backlash to sexual identity? And what can the current vitriol tell us about the entwinement of sexual orientation and politics in American history? 


Heather and Joanne discuss the history of categorizing sexual preference, from the relative fluidity of early American sexual choices, to the rise of “Boston Marriages” an...

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Senate Republicans have attacked Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson for her past public defense work. How have defense attorneys elicited criticism and praise through American history? Why is the right to counsel so important to democracy? 


Heather and Joanne discuss past moments of transition for legal counsel, from John Adams’s representation of British soldiers implicated in the Boston Massacre, to Clarence Darrow’s plea...

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March 29, 2022 46 min

The State Department and President Biden have both declared that Russian President Vladimir Putin has committed war crimes in Ukraine. What are the rules of war? What constitutes a war crime? And what consequences might Putin face for the brutality of his invasion?


Heather and Joanne look back at the centuries-long quest by world leaders and humanitarians to regulate violence in wartime, from General George Washington’s rules of civ...

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March 22, 2022 62 min

What information should a president keep secret? Recently, we’ve seen revelations about former President Trump’s removal of classified materials and a tense exchange about the Biden administration’s handling of intel on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 


Heather and Joanne connect these current controversies to historical debates about the balance between statecraft and transparency, from President Adams’ disclosure of the XYZ Affair, t...

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March 15, 2022 45 min

Stories of remarkable heroism by women in Ukraine have captured the imagination of the world over the past few weeks. How have women warriors shaped conversations over gender, violence, and heroism over the course of United States history? 


Heather and Joanne discuss the Revolutionary War figures Molly Pitcher and Deborah Sampson, Harriet Tubman’s Civil War spying raids, and Ukrainian sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko’s 1942 tour of the U...

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has become a symbol of democracy around the world. What does this mean for the United States? This week, Heather and Joanne look at past foreign and international figures who’ve fought fervently for democratic values and have compelled and challenged Americans. 


Heather and Joanne discuss how Zelensky’s current battle against Russia evokes the quests of the French-born Revolutionary War hero La...

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Historian Heather Cox Richardson sat down with President Biden last week in the immediate aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson to serve on the Supreme Court. 


Heather posted the interview on her Facebook and Substack profiles and is sharing it here for the CAFE and Vox Media audience. 


Listen to this timely conversation between a historian and a president during a time of great upheava...

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March 1, 2022 49 min

How do small and extreme groups take over the American political conversation? In this final installment of a three-part series on educating citizens, Heather and Joanne look at how reactionary movements utilize bullying tactics to wrest control from the majority.


Heather and Joanne offer a comparison between the path to secession at the start of the Civil War, the rise of American Nazi-sympathizing groups in the 1930s, and the curr...

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February 22, 2022 52 min

How do small and extreme groups take over the American political conversation? In this final installment of a three-part series on educating citizens, Heather and Joanne look at how reactionary movements utilize bullying tactics to wrest control from the majority.


Heather and Joanne offer a comparison between the path to secession at the start of the Civil War, the rise of American Nazi-sympathizing groups in the 1930s, and the curr...

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Mark as Played

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