The Last Archive

The Last Archive

The Last Archive is a show about the history of truth, and the historical context for our current fake news, post-truth moment. It’s a show about how we know what we know, and why it seems, these days, as if we don’t know anything at all anymore. The show is driven by host Jill Lepore’s work as a historian, uncovering the secrets of the past the way a detective might.... Show More

Episodes

July 23, 2020 16 min
The Last Archive presents: The Chronicles of Now. Three billion birds have gone missing in North America over the past 50 years. Or is that fake news? J. Courtney Sullivan, the New York Times bestselling author of five novels, including her most recent, Friends and Strangers, tells the stories of two sisters forever connected by birds and forever divided by politics. Narrated by Cindy Katz. Hosted by Ashley C. Ford.  
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July 16, 2020 54 min
For ten episodes, we’ve been asking a big question: Who killed truth? The answer has to do with a change in the elemental unit of knowledge: the fall of the fact, and the rise of data. So, for the last chapter in our investigation, we rented a cherry red convertible, and went to the place all the data goes: Silicon Valley. In our season finale, we reckon with a weird foreshortening of history, the fussiness of old punch cards, the ...
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July 9, 2020 52 min
In the spring of 1958, when the winter snow melted and the warm sun returned, the birds did not. Birdwatchers, ordinary people, everyone wondered where the birds had gone. Rachel Carson, a journalist and early environmentalist, figured it out — they’d been poisoned by DDT, a pesticide that towns all over the country had been spraying. Carson wrote a book about it, Silent Spring. It succeeded in stopping DDT, and it launched the mod...
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July 2, 2020 47 min
In 1969, radical feminists known as the Redstockings gathered in a church in Greenwich Village, and spoke about their experiences with abortion. They called this ‘consciousness-raising’ or ‘speaking bitterness,’ and it changed the history of women’s rights, all the way down to the 1977 National Women’s Convention and, really, down to the present day. The idea of ‘speaking bitterness’ came from a Maoist practice, and is a foundation...
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June 25, 2020 47 min
In 1966, just as the foundations of the Internet were being imagined, the federal government considered building a National Data Center. It would be a centralized federal facility to hold computer records from each federal agency, in the same way that the Library of Congress holds books and the National Archives holds manuscripts. Proponents argued that it would help regulate and compile the vast quantities of data the government w...
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June 18, 2020 50 min
In the 1950s, polio spread throughout the United States. Heartbreakingly, it affected mainly children. Thousands died. Thousands more were paralyzed. Many ended up surviving only in iron lungs, a machine that breathed for polio victims, sometimes for years. Scientists raced to find a vaccine. After a few hard years of widespread quarantine and isolation, the scientists succeeded. The discovery of the polio vaccine was one of the br...
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June 11, 2020 47 min
The election of 1952 brought all kinds of new technology into the political sphere. The Eisenhower campaign experimented with the first television ads to feature an American presidential candidate. And on election night, CBS News premiered the first computer to predict an American election — the UNIVAC. Safe to say, that part didn’t go according to plan. But election night 1952 is ground zero for our current, political post-truth m...
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June 4, 2020 44 min
In 1945, Ralph Ellison went to a barn in Vermont and began to write Invisible Man. He wrote it in the voice of a black man from the south, a voice that changed American literature. Invisible Man is a novel made up of black voices that had been excluded from the historical record until, decades earlier, he’d helped record them with the WPA’s Federal Writers Project. What is the evidence of a voice? How can we truly know history with...
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May 28, 2020 42 min
In 1804, an Invisible Lady arrived in New York City. She went on to become the most popular attraction in the country. But why? And who was she? In this episode, we chase her through time, finding invisible women everywhere, wondering: What is the relationship between keeping women invisible and the histories of privacy, and of knowledge?
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May 21, 2020 51 min
When James Frye, a young black man, is charged with murder under unusual circumstances in 1922, he trusts his fate to a strange new machine: the lie detector. Why did the lie detector’s inventor, William Moulton Marston, a psychology professor and lawyer, think a machine could tell if a human being is lying better than a jury? And what does it all have to do with Wonder Woman?
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May 14, 2020 45 min
On a spring day in 1919, a woman’s body was found bound, gagged, and strangled in a garden in Barre, Vermont. Who was she? Who killed her? In this episode, we try to solve a cold case - reopening a century-old murder investigation - as a way to uncover the history of evidence itself. What is a clue? What is a fact? What is a mystery? We put the pieces of the puzzle together: photographs, newspaper articles, a private eye’s notebook...
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April 30, 2020 2 min
The Last Archive​:​ a new podcast about the history of evidence written and hosted by New Yorker writer, author, and celebrated historian Jill Lepore.
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