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.

Episodes

September 15, 2021 56 min
How did a small group of Islamic students go from local vigilantes to one of the most infamous and enigmatic forces in the world? The Taliban is a name that has haunted the American imagination since 2001. The scenes of the group's brutality repeatedly played in the Western media, while true, perhaps obscure our ability to see the complex origins of the Taliban and how they impact the lives of Afghans. It's a shadow that re...
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Afghanistan has, for centuries, been at the center of the world. Long before the U.S. invasion - before the U.S. was even a nation - countless civilizations intersected there, weaving together a colorful tapestry of foods, languages, ethnicities and visions of what Afghanistan was and could be. The story of Afghanistan is too often told from the perspective of outsiders who tried to invade it (and always failed) earning it the nick...
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What happens after everything falls apart? The end of the Bronze Age was a moment when an entire network of ancient civilizations collapsed, leaving behind only clues to what happened. Today, scholars have pieced together a story where everything from climate change to mass migration to natural disasters played a role. What the end of the Bronze Age can teach us about avoiding catastrophe and what comes after collapse.
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Octavia Butler's alternate realities and 'speculative fiction' reveal striking, and often devastating parallels to the world we live in today. She was a deep observer of the human condition, perplexed and inspired by our propensity towards self-destruction. Butler was also fascinated by the cyclical nature of history, and often looked to the past when writing about the future. Along with her warning is her message of ho...
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Venezuela is facing an economic and humanitarian crisis as extreme poverty and violence have forced many to flee the country in recent years. How did a country once wealthy with oil resources fall into such turmoil? Through the lives of two revolutionaries turned authoritarian leaders separated by two centuries, we look back at the rise and fall of Venezuela.
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August 11, 2021 48 min
The Great Depression was a revolutionary spark for all kinds of things — health insurance, social safety nets, big government — all of which were in response to a national crisis. Through the personal accounts of four people who lived during the Great Depression, we look back at what life was like back then and what those stories can teach us about the last time the U.S. went through a national economic cataclysm. This is the secon...
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You've been looking at screens for what feels like forever. Now it's time to sit back, close your eyes, and come with us to worlds you've never seen, and histories you've never imagined. This is the first episode of our summer series "Movies for Your Mind."

What happens when teenagers are shipwrecked on a deserted island? Can you find the fingerprint of God in warzones? Why was the concept of zero so revoluti...
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July 28, 2021 59 min
A Marxist revolution, a Cold War proxy battle, and a dream of a Black utopia. In 1983, Ronald Reagan ordered the U.S. military to invade the island of Grenada. Almost four decades later, many Americans don't remember why — or that it even happened. This week, Martine Powers, from Post Reports, brings us a story of revolution, invasion, and the aftermath of unresolved history.
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July 21, 2021 43 min
The Olympics originated in Ancient Greece, and were resurrected in the 1890's after a 1,500 year ban. Since then, the International Olympic Committee has been behind every Olympic Games. In this episode, we explore the story of how the IOC turned the Olympics into a huge commercial success and whether the cities that host the games end up winning or losing.
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July 19, 2021 36 min
What do we owe innocent civilians who are killed or injured in war? This is one of the thorniest ethical questions that any military faces, but it was not abstract for anti-war activist Marla Ruzicka. From Rough Translation's new series Home/Front.
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July 14, 2021 64 min
Frederick Douglass dreamed of a country where all people could vote and he did everything in his power to make that dream a reality. In the face of slavery, the Civil War and the violence of Jim Crow, he fought his entire life for what he believed was a sacred, natural right that should be available to all people - voting.
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This week we're featuring an episode from Code Switch, Do The Golden Arches Bend Toward Justice?. Calls for racial justice are met with a lot of different proposals, but one of the loudest and most enduring is to invest in Black businesses. But can "buying Black" actually do anything to mitigate racism? To find out, they taking a look at the surprising link between Black capitalism and McDonald's.
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In the New Testament, Jesus says it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. In the United States today, many Christians believe in something radically different. In what's known as the prosperity gospel, wealth is a sign of virtue and God's favor. The effects of this belief can be seen throughout American life from business to politics to social policy.
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June 30, 2021 54 min
What's the role of government in society? What do we mean when we talk about individual responsibility? What makes us free? 'Neoliberalism' might feel like a squishy term that's hard to define and understand. But this ideology, founded by a group of men in the Swiss Alps, is a political project that has dominated our economic system for decades. In the name of free market fundamentals, the forces behind neoliberali...
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June 28, 2021 74 min
This week we're featuring an episode from Radiolab's latest new series, The Vanishing of Harry Pace. Harry Pace founded the first major Black-owned record label in the U.S., ushering in a new wave of American music. But it's also a mystery story, because one day, Harry Pace just disappeared. The Vanishing of Harry Pace is a series about the phenomenal but forgotten man who changed the music scene in the United States. I...
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June 23, 2021 58 min
What do we mean when we talk about capitalism? Our economic system might seem inevitable, but it's a construction project hundreds of years in the making and no part of it is natural or left to chance. This week, we kick off our series on the past, present and future of capitalism with Kristen Ghodsee, Vivek Chibber, and Bryan Caplan, who debate how an economic system became an all-encompassing force that rules our lives and ou...
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June 16, 2021 42 min
In 1969, a gay bar in New York City called The Stonewall Inn was raided by police. It was a common form of harassment in those days but what followed, days of rebellion as patrons fought back, was anything but ordinary. Today, that event is seen as the start of the gay civil rights movement, but gay activists and organizations were standing up to harassment and discrimination years before. On this episode from our archives, the fig...
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June 9, 2021 38 min
Who is the media meant to serve? And why does it matter today, arguably, more than ever? 50 years ago, National Public Radio began as a small, scrappy news organization with big ideals and a very small footprint. Over the subsequent years of coverage and programming, NPR has grown and evolved into a mainstream media outlet, with a mission of serving audiences that reflect America. This week, Michel Martin, host of Weekend All Thing...
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June 2, 2021 60 min
When, why, and how did the Supreme Court get the final say in the law of the land? The question of the Court's role, and whether its decisions should reign above all the other branches of government, has been hotly debated for centuries. And that's resulted in a Supreme Court more powerful than anything the Founding Fathers could have imagined possible.
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May 27, 2021 55 min
The recent violence that engulfed Gaza and Jerusalem began with an issue that's plagued the region for a century now: settlements. In East Jerusalem, Palestinian residents are facing forced removal by Israeli settler organizations. It's a pattern that has repeated over the history of this conflict. Historian Rashid Khalidi guides us through the history of settlements and displacement going back to the age of European coloni...
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