American History Hit

American History Hit

Join Don Wildman twice a week for your hit of American history, as he explores the past to help us understand the United States of today. We’ll hear how codebreakers uncovered secret Japanese plans for the Battle of Midway, visit Chief Powhatan as he prepares for war with the British, see Walt Disney accuse his former colleagues of being communists, and uncover the dark history that lies beneath Central Park. From pre-colonial America to independence, slavery to civil rights, the gold rush to the space race, join Don as he speaks to leading experts to delve into America’s past. New episodes every Monday and Thursday. Brought to you by History Hit, the award-winning podcast network and world’s best history channel on demand, featuring shows like Dan Snow’s History Hit, Not Just The Tudors and Betwixt the Sheets. Hosted on Acast. See for more information.


March 27, 2023 38 min

While the President of the United States is often seen as the most powerful person in the world, the vastness of the Federal government is too much for just one person to oversee. The president needs someone to control events, run the White House, respond to challenges and handle emergencies. That person is the Chief of Staff. Chris Whipple, author of The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency, tel...

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You are what you eat - and so is America. Various foods have played their part in the country’s history. Anna Zeide, author of US History in 15 Foods, takes us through 5 of them - Corn, Peanuts, Graham Bread, Spam and The Big Mac.

Produced by Freddie Chick. Mixed by Stuart Beckwith. Senior Producer: Charlotte Long.

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March 20, 2023 31 min

At its height the Iroquois Confederacy (or Haudenosaunee) - a union of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca nations - controlled lands from Quebec to Ohio.

Its origin story goes back to the legend of the warrior Hiawatha and the Peacemaker. In the end its system of governance may have been an inspiration for the founding fathers.

Joining Don to explore the history of the Haudenosaunee is Jen Birch, archaeologist a...

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March 16, 2023 45 min

When it was completed in 1931, the Empire State Building became the tallest building in the world. While it has long been surpassed, it is still one of the most recognised skyscrapers on the planet, synonymous with the city in which it stands. Its imposing but elegant art deco design, a tribute to the roaring ’20s from which it came. Carol Willis, author of Form Follows Finance: The Empire State Building, tells Don how it became a ...

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March 13, 2023 29 min

Completed in 1825, the Erie Canal was the first navigable waterway connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. Alice Shay tells Don how ‘the Nation’s First Superhighway’ accelerated the westward expansion of the United States, carrying goods, people, wealth and prosperity along it. Until the railroad came along, able to carry a lot more, a lot faster, rendering the canal obsolete. Though it remains used and loved by many stil...

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March 9, 2023 31 min

Don talks to former White House reporter Kate Andersen Brower about how the role of First Lady has changed - and stayed the same - since the 1960s. Supporting their husband's presidency, while pursuing their own agenda. Each putting their stamp on their time in office - while often forming stronger bonds than their male counterparts.

Produced and mixed by Benjie Guy. Senior Producer: Charlotte Long.

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March 6, 2023 36 min

Before New York was New York, it was New Amsterdam. Dutch colonists arrived on the East Coast in the early 17th century, creating the New Netherlands. At its heart was a settlement on the tip of the island of Manhattan, centred on the fur trade. Russell Shorto tells Don how New Amsterdam became integral to all trade between Europe and the New World, becoming a version of the multicultural melting pot that is the (renamed) city toda...

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George III is forever known as the king who lost the 13 American colonies. In the US he is thought of by many as a tyrant king, taxing and subduing from across the Atlantic. Professor Jeremy Black tells Don that there is much more to his character, and his relationship with America.

Produced and mixed by Benjie Guy. Senior Producer: Charlotte Long.

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February 27, 2023 41 min

On a cold winter morning in February 1908, six cars lined up in Times Square, attempting to be the first to drive from New York to Paris, the long way round. Lindsey Lauren Visser tells Don how teams from the US, France, Italy and Germany attempted to complete the race, faced with adverse weather, a distinct lack of roads, and sabotage.

Produced by Benjie Guy. Mixed by Stuart Beckwith. Senior Producer: Charlotte Long.For more Hi...

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February 23, 2023 48 min

The revolution in Haiti freed the country from French control and created the first Black republic after years of fighting, in 1804. Leslie Alexander tells Don how the revolution became possible and why it had such an impact on the United States - which doubled in size following the Louisiana Purchase from France when the revolution was almost won; and whose white population feared a similar uprising by its own enslaved black commu...

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February 20, 2023 35 min

One of the Founding Fathers of the United States, Samuel Adams was a political force of nature. Stacy Schiff tells Don how Adams, fuelled by discontent under British rule, instilled a revolutionary spirit in his peers. The result was the Declaration of Independence - and the fight to earn it.

Produced by Benjie Guy. Mixed by Joseph Knight. Senior Producer: Charlotte Long.

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February 16, 2023 33 min

Harriet Tubman is perhaps the most famous African American woman in the world, but she’s usually remembered in two-dimensions - the hero of the underground railroad rescuing slaves from the misery of the plantation system.

The real Tubman did far more than this in her remarkable life, not least by being the first woman to lead a military raid in US history.

Helping Don understand the truth behind the legend is Janell Hobson, ...

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February 13, 2023 34 min

The Waldorf-Astoria, the Plaza and the Algonquin all tell their own stories of New York City. Don talks to Anthony Melchiorri, host of Travel Channel's Hotel Impossible, about the histories of these hotels. How they reflect the city they were built in and how that has changed around them.

Produced by Benjie Guy. Mixed by Stuart Beckwith. Senior Producer: Charlotte Long.

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February 9, 2023 46 min

The first naval engagement of the American War of Independence took place on Lake Champlain, which straddles modern-day New York state and Vermont and extends into Canada. Marine archaeologist Art Cohn tells Don how the British and American forces raced to build their fleets in the summer of 1776 and ultimately clashed in October. Both sides knowing that control of the lake meant access to the heart of the colonies and would be key...

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February 6, 2023 41 min

In late April 1607, three ships carrying a hundred men and boys arrived in Chesapeake Bay, having set sail from London four months earlier. They travelled up a river and created what became the first English settlement in North America. Benjamin Woolley tells Don about the many struggles that the people of Jamestown would face in the years to come.

Produced by Benjie Guy. Mixed by Joseph Knight. Senior Producer: Charlotte Long.


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February 2, 2023 40 min

In Spring 1961, the Space Race between the US and Soviet Union was well underway. Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first person in Space in April and the Americans knew his achievement had to be matched. Alan Shepard was chosen as the man for the job. Jay Gallentine tells Don how we went from satellites, to dogs, then humans in space; as the competition outside Earth's atmosphere intensified between the US and the USSR.

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January 30, 2023 38 min

For thousands of years, nomadic Native American peoples crossed the Yellowstone River basin, in awe of its stunning landscape and geothermal wonders. Very few colonial Americans had set sight on its mountains, geysers and hot springs before geologist Ferdinand Hayden and his party arrived in the summer of 1871.

Hayden's survey, the first of the region, contributed to Yellowstone becoming the first National Park in America....

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January 26, 2023 34 min

From 1956 to 1971, J. Edgar Hoover ran COINTELPRO (Counterintelligence Program). A series of covert and illegal FBI operations aimed at surveilling, infiltrating, discrediting, and disrupting political organisations in America. The leaders of pro-civil rights, anti-Vietnam war and pro-choice groups were among those targeted. When the programme was uncovered, it revealed the paranoia that consumed Hoover in his last decades in power...

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January 23, 2023 43 min

J. Edgar Hoover was the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for 48 years. He grew the FBI from a small, obscure operation to one that employed thousands of agents, investigating everything from kidnapping and bank robberies to political subversion and international espionage. Beverley Gage tells Don how Hoover guided every aspect of the FBI's operation for his decades in charge. And how, if he had decided to step down a...

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January 19, 2023 33 min

From the 1880s to the 1920s the United States experienced a huge wave of immigration. People fleeing poverty and political instability in Europe, plus a huge demand for labour in the US, meant record numbers of people came to America. Most arrived by ship and were processed on Ellis Island, in New York harbour - an immigration station opened in 1892 when the facility on Manhattan couldn't deal with the numbers coming in. Vincent Ca...

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