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. Enjoy unlimited access to award-winning original documentaries that are released weekly and AD-FREE podcasts. Get a subscription for £1 per month for 3 months with code AMERICANHISTORY - sign up at You can take part in our listener survey here.


May 27, 2024 27 mins

Please note, this episode contains discussion of suicide.

On 1 April 1945, as the Second World War in Europe was reaching its end, one of the bloodiest battles in the whole conflict commenced on a small island south of mainland Japan. It was the Battle of Okinawa.

Saul David joined Dan Snow on our sister podcast, Dan Snow's History Hit, to provide a fascinating rundown of this truly horrific battle.

Enjoy unlimited access ...

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Vice President to a narrow election winner, Chester Arthur was a very unlikely President. But on September 20th 1881 he took his seat as the 21st President of the United States at the dawn of the modern administrative state and presidency.

So what kind of President did he become? Was he progressive? What was his role in the creation of the Civil Service? And how did the Presidency impact him as a person?

Don is joined by Mich...

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May 19, 2024 35 mins

11 Tonys, a Grammy, a Pulitzer Prize and broken box office records - there's no denying the impact of Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton.

Throughout this series on the real Hamilton, we have been trying to uncover the man the musical is based on. But how much of the show and its production is truthful? And how much does this matter?

Renee Romano joins Don to look into this new American Myth. Renee is a writer, historian and profes...

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Today we dive into the little-known true story of American castaways abandoned on the Falkland Islands during the War of 1812 ― a tale of treachery, shipwreck, isolation and a desperate struggle for survival.

In this fascinating episode, best-selling author Eric Jay Dolan joins Don to explore this wild encounter between an American sealing vessel, a shipwrecked British brig and a British warship in the desolate Falklands, all wh...

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When Alexander Hamilton took a bullet to the abdomen on the morning of the 11th July 1804, he joined a long list of people who had fallen foul of this very strange practice. So where did duelling come from? And how did these two revolutionary American politicians find themselves with pistols in their hands?

Don is joined for this third episode of our Real Hamilton series by Mike Loades, British author and presenter of History Hi...

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This may have been the second shortest Presidency in the history of the United States, but the term of James Garfield is definitely not one to miss.

From his dark horse nomination to his assassination by Charles Guiteau, Don is speaking with bestselling author of ‘An Assassin in Utopia,' Susan Wels.

Produced by Sophie Gee. Edited by Aidan Lonergan. Senior Producer was Charlotte Long.

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Founding Father, first Secretary of the Treasury and focus of one of the world's first political sex scandals - we couldn't do a series about Alexander Hamilton without touching on his personal life.

Don is joined by Elizabeth Cobbs in this episode to explore the private lives of the Hamiltons. Who was Elizabeth Schuyler? Did her sister have an affair with her husband? And was the Reynolds affair an elaborate plot or an unhappy ...

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Theodore Roosevelt is arguably the most masculine president in American history. So how was he influenced by the women around him? And how was he impacted by the deaths of two of them on the same day?

In this episode, Edward O'Keefe introduces us to Theodore Roosevelt's mother, two sisters, and two wives: Mittie, Bamie, Conie, Alice and Edith.

Edward O'Keefe, Prime Time Emmy award and Peabody winner, CEO of the Theodore Roose...

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April 28, 2024 44 mins

Who really was Alexander Hamilton, and what do we actually know about his life?

A Founding Father, he fought in the Revolutionary War, founded the American financial system and was the first ever Secretary of the Treasury. But who really was Hamilton? How did his face come to be on our bank notes? Did he love his wife? And why would he go to duel even after his son had died in doing so?

In this first episode of our 4 part ser...

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Emerging victorious from an electoral quagmire in 1876, Rutherford B. Hayes became the 19th President of the United States.

Professor Mark Zachary Taylor joins Don to explore the first great depression and how Hayes navigated the US towards recovery from it.

From strike and unrest to growth and stability, how did Hayes lay the groundwork for economic prosperity?

Produced by Freddy Chick. Edited by Sophie Gee. Senior Produc...

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April 22, 2024 40 mins

An iconic signature on the Declaration of Independence - that is what John Hancock is best known for. But how did he come to be the first signatory? What was his role in the American Revolution?

Brooke Barbier joins Don in this episode to take us through the life and works of John Hancock, and to explain how he got the nickname, 'King Hancock'.

Brooke is the author of ‘Boston in the American Revolution’ and ‘King Hancock: The...

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During the spring of 1921, eleven bodies were found in in rural Georgia. These men were victims of horrific murders, and also of a more widespread crime - peonage.

Whilst enslavement had legally ended with the surrender at Appomattox and the 13th Amendment, black people across the south were still being entrapped into debt slavery half a century later, in the Twentieth Century.

To find out more about this, and about what drov...

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How does a heroic general of the Civil War become one of the lowest rated Presidents (at least until recently)?

To discuss Grant's commitment to reconstruction, civil rights, and the crushing of the Ku Klux Klan, Don is joined by Professor Anne Marshall. Anne is a historian of the Nineteenth century U.S. South and the Civil War in historical memory at Mississippi State University.

Produced by Freddy Chick. Edited by Sophie Ge...

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April 11, 2024 40 mins

Strategic brilliance? Relentless determination? Unbeatable leadership and cooperation with Lincoln? How did Ulysses S. Grant distinguish himself in the Civil War?

Don speaks to Cecily Zander, a historian specializing in the Civil War era and the American West. Together, they discuss Grant's rise to General, his role in the war and why he has been known as 'the Butcher'.

Produced by Freddy Chick and Charlotte Long. Edited by A...

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April 8, 2024 50 mins

Al Capone is one of the most notorious gangsters in US history. His story of rags to riches, set against the backdrop of the prohibition era, is worthy of the many movies that it has inspired.

Violent mobster, genius businessman or semi-professional baseball player, who was the real Al Capone? To find out, Don speaks to Claire White, Director of Education at the Mob Museum in Las Vegas.

Produced and edited by Sophie Gee. Seni...

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April 4, 2024 29 mins

It comprises more than half of the world's defence spending, but what is the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation? How has the United States influenced it from its inception to today? And how, during its 75 years, has it impacted the United States in return?

Don is joined by Peter Apps, journalist and Reuters global defence commentator. From the signing of the treaty by the first 12 members on 4th April 1949, through tensions, fai...

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April 1, 2024 25 mins

A wealthy man in his early 30s. An army man. A German immigrant. A bootlegger. A lover. Who was Jay Gatsby? And if he was based on a real person, what do we know about them?

To delve into one of the most famous fictional characters of the 20th century (from one of Don's favourite authors, F Scott Fitzgerald) Don speaks to Joe Nocera. Joe is the host of a new eight-part investigation that delves into the shrouded mystery behind t...

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Three quarters of a million people dead in the Civil War. A country separated in to two. How do you join it back together? Do you punish the secessionists? How do you grapple with the question of enslavement? And who do you choose to be at the controls?

When Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, his Vice President, Andrew Johnson, became President. Johnson was a Southerner who had sided with the Union during the war. To hear...

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March 24, 2024 40 mins

More than 200 accused, 20 executed and a village plagued with hysteria. Were the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 and 1693 the work of superstition, a power struggle, fungus or actual witchcraft? What makes them stand out in the history of witch trials?

In this episode, Don speaks to Jessica Parr from Northeastern University about the alleged crimes, persecution and lasting memory of the so-called Salem witches.

Jessica is a histor...

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March 21, 2024 56 mins

Would the Cold War have happened if the nuclear bomb was never created? How did Gorbachev, Reagan and Thatcher reduce tensions between the East and West? And, according to one of the Russian authorities' most wanted journalists, how are echoes of the Cold War felt today?

'Turning Point: The Bomb and the Cold War' is a new, 9-part Netflix documentary which answers these questions and more. In this episode of American History Hit,...

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