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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.

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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.

When Parties Push Back

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When have American leaders confronted particularly hostile political opposition? How can fighting back against an unjust party help the nation? And what might the history of these back-and-forths say about the recent vibe shift in the Democratic Party? 


Heather and Joanne discuss other moments where politicians pushed back, from Massachusetts Representative Anson Burlingame’s willingness to duel South Carolina's Preston Brooks after the caning of Charles Sumner in 1856, to FDR’s 1936 “I Welcome Their Hatred” speech, to the ubiquity of 1980s underdog movies. 


Join CAFE Insider to listen to “Backstage,” where Heather and Joanne chat each week about the anecdotes and ideas that formed the episode. Head to: cafe.com/history


For more historical analysis of current events, sign up for the free weekly CAFE Brief newsletter, featuring Time Machine, a weekly article that dives into an historical event inspired by each episode of Now & Then: cafe.com/brief


For references & supplemental materials, head to: cafe.com/now-and-then/when-parties-push-back/

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Sep 13 2022

50mins

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Forgiving (and Unforgiving) Debts

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How have Americans viewed personal debt over the course of history? What can the morality and functionality of debt tell us about the debate over President Bident’s student loan forgiveness program? 


Heather and Joanne discuss the history of debtors’ prisons in early America, the rise of bankruptcy laws after the Civil War, and the Cold War origins of federal student loans. 


Join CAFE Insider to listen to “Backstage,” where Heather and Joanne chat each week about the anecdotes and ideas that formed the episode. Head to: cafe.com/history


For more historical analysis of current events, sign up for the free weekly CAFE Brief newsletter, featuring Time Machine, a weekly article that dives into an historical event inspired by each episode of Now & Then: cafe.com/brief


For references & supplemental materials, head to :cafe.com/now-and-then/forgiving-and-unforgiving-debts/


Now & Then is presented by CAFE and the Vox Media Podcast Network.

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Sep 06 2022

45mins

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Encore: Abortion: Whose Choice?

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Who gets to decide the future of reproductive rights? 


In this encore presentation of a Now & Then episode originally broadcast in September 2021, Heather and Joanne discuss the history of abortion from the colonial period to the present: the surprising availability of abortion until the mid-19th century, the physician-led campaign to ban abortion, and the GOP’s decision in the early 1970s to embrace the “pro-life” movement. 


Join CAFE Insider to listen to “Backstage,” where Heather and Joanne chat each week about the anecdotes and ideas that formed the episode. Head to: cafe.com/history


For more historical analysis of current events, sign up for the free weekly CAFE Brief newsletter, featuring Time Machine, a weekly article that dives into an historical event inspired by each episode of Now & Then: cafe.com/brief


For references & supplemental materials, head to:cafe.com/now-and-then/encore-abortion-whose-choice


Now & Then is presented by CAFE and the Vox Media Podcast Network.

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Aug 30 2022

45mins

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Vacation Nation

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How have vacations shaped American democracy? What can travel reveal about identity and national culture? And how does the history of tourism reflect the uncertainty of travel today? 


Heather and Joanne discuss the Grand Tour in early America, the rise of the post-Civil War “See America First” movement, and the efforts by Black motorists to remain safe during the mid-20th century. 


Join CAFE Insider to listen to “Backstage,” where Heather and Joanne chat each week about the anecdotes and ideas that formed the episode. Head to: cafe.com/history


For more historical analysis of current events, sign up for the free weekly CAFE Brief newsletter, featuring Time Machine, a weekly article that dives into an historical event inspired by each episode of Now & Then: cafe.com/brief


For references & supplemental materials, head to: cafe.com/now-and-then/vacation-nation


Now & Then is presented by CAFE and the Vox Media Podcast Network.

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Aug 23 2022

49mins

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From Monopoly to Mystery Date

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How do board games reflect America? How do debates over politics and identity show up in popular games? And how have these games shifted along with the nation?


Heather and Joanne discuss the development of the American board game, from the influence of the Game of the Goose in Early America, to the pre-Civil War origins of the Checkered Game of Life, to several impactful 1960s games. 


Join CAFE Insider to listen to “Backstage,” where Heather and Joanne chat each week about the anecdotes and ideas that formed the episode. Head to: cafe.com/history


For more historical analysis of current events, sign up for the free weekly CAFE Brief newsletter, featuring Time Machine, a weekly article that dives into an historical event inspired by each episode of Now & Then: cafe.com/brief


For references & supplemental materials, head to: cafe.com/now-and-then/from-monopoly-to-mystery-date


Now & Then is presented by CAFE and the Vox Media Podcast Network.

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Aug 16 2022

51mins

Play

Does Anyone Love Taxes?

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How do Americans respond to taxation? What do trends around taxation say about American culture and values? And how can the history of tax policy help us to understand the recently-passed Inflation Reduction Act? 


Heather and Joanne discuss the legacies of the 1765 Stamp Act, the introduction of the income tax during the Civil War, and the tax-slashing ideology of 1920s Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon. 


Join CAFE Insider to listen to “Backstage,” where Heather and Joanne chat each week about the anecdotes and ideas that formed the episode. Head to: cafe.com/history


For more historical analysis of current events, sign up for the free weekly CAFE Brief newsletter, featuring Time Machine, a weekly article that dives into an historical event inspired by each episode of Now & Then: cafe.com/brief


For references & supplemental materials, head to: cafe.com/now-and-then/does-anyone-love-taxes/


Now & Then is presented by CAFE and the Vox Media Podcast Network.

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Aug 09 2022

51mins

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Tracking History's Mysteries

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What happens when there are gaps in the historical records of some of America’s most seismic political events? How do historians try to piece together those mysteries? And how might these question marks help to contextualize the missing Secret Service texts from January 6th? 


Heather and Joanne discuss the mysteries surrounding the 1804 Burr-Hamilton Duel, the 1865 Hampton Roads Conference, and the 1920 Wall Street bombing. 


Join CAFE Insider to listen to “Backstage,” where Heather and Joanne chat each week about the anecdotes and ideas that formed the episode. Head to: cafe.com/history


For more historical analysis of current events, sign up for the free weekly CAFE Brief newsletter, featuring Time Machine, a weekly article that dives into an historical event inspired by each episode of Now & Then: cafe.com/brief


For references & supplemental materials, head to: cafe.com/now-and-then/tracking-historys-mysteries/


Now & Then is presented by CAFE and the Vox Media Podcast Network. 

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Aug 02 2022

49mins

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Gastropod: The Milk of Life

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Heather and Joanne are off this week, so we’re showcasing an episode from another Vox Media Podcast Network show: “The Milk of Life,” from Gastropod. On Gastropod, hosts Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley explore the history and science behind everyday foods. Past episodes have examined everything from the evolution of the cookie to the surprising impact the coffee bean has had on world history.


In this installment, originally aired on June 21st, Cynthia and Nicola use the ongoing baby formula shortage as inspiration for a wide-ranging investigation of the origins and development of formula. 


Heather and Joanne will be back next Tuesday with a brand new episode of Now & Then, which will focus on how the missing Secret Service records from the days before January 6 evoke other political mysteries from American history. 


In the meantime, enjoy this episode of the Gastropod podcast. And if you like it, you can find more episodes of Gastropod at link.chtbl.com/Gastropod. New episodes drop every other Tuesday. For a transcript and show notes for “The Milk of Life,” head to gastropod.com/the-milk-of-life

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Jul 26 2022

53mins

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Militia Movements

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How have American militias shaped the nation? And why do ‘militia movements’ keep returning to the fore of our national politics? 


On Now & Then, Heather and Joanne discuss the role of militias in the 1786 Shays’ Rebellion, during the tumultuous Reconstruction years, and in the 1990s ‘Modern Militia Movement.’ 


Join CAFE Insider to listen to “Backstage,” where Heather and Joanne chat each week about the anecdotes and ideas that formed the episode. Head to: cafe.com/history


For more historical analysis of current events, sign up for the free weekly CAFE Brief newsletter, featuring Time Machine, a weekly article that dives into an historical event inspired by each episode of Now & Then: cafe.com/brief


For references & supplemental materials, head to: cafe.com/now-and-then/militia-movements


Now & Then is presented by CAFE and the Vox Media Podcast Network. 

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Jul 19 2022

50mins

Play

Racism and the Second Amendment (with Carol Anderson)

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What are the origins of the Second Amendment? And what can America’s painful racial history illuminate about our national relationship to guns? 


On this special Live Taping of Now & Then, Heather and Joanne talk to Carol Anderson, professor of African American Studies at Emory University and author of The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America


The trio discuss how the recent spate of mass shootings — and Supreme Court decisions striking down gun control measures in liberal-leaning cities and states — echo the longstanding inequalities embedded in American gun ownership. 


Join CAFE Insider to listen to “Backstage,” where Heather and Joanne chat each week about the anecdotes and ideas that formed the episode. Head to: cafe.com/history


For more historical analysis of current events, sign up for the free weekly CAFE Brief newsletter, featuring Time Machine, a weekly article that dives into an historical event inspired by each episode of Now & Then: cafe.com/brief


For references & supplemental materials, head to: cafe.com/now-and-then/racism-and-the-second-amendment-with-carol-anderson


Now & Then is presented by CAFE and the Vox Media Podcast Network. 

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Jul 12 2022

46mins

Play

Alcohol in American Politics

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Following the news of Rudy Giuliani’s inebriated advice to Donald Trump on election night, Heather and Joanne dive into the historical role of alcohol in American politics. How have the norms around alcohol shifted — and how has that impacted our history?

Heather and Joanne cover Franklin Pierce’s alcoholism, Warren Harding’s Prohibition-era hypocrisy, and the 1970s reckonings over alcohol in Congress. 

Join CAFE Insider to listen to “Backstage,” where Heather and Joanne chat each week about the anecdotes and ideas that formed the episode. Head to: cafe.com/history

For more historical analysis of current events, sign up for the free weekly CAFE Brief newsletter, featuring Time Machine, a weekly article that dives into an historical event inspired by each episode of Now & Then: cafe.com/brief

Executive Producer: Tamara Sepper; Editorial Producer: David Kurlander; Audio Producer: Matthew Billy; Theme Music: Nat Weiner; CAFE Team: Adam Waller, David Tatasciore, Sam Ozer-Staton, Noa Azulai, and Jake Kaplan. Now & Then is presented by CAFE and the Vox Media Podcast Network.

REFERENCES & SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIALS 

  • Dana Milbank, “Rudy Giuliani, drunk on conspiracy theories,” The Washington Post, 6/13/2022
  • Trish Bendix, “Late Night Blames It on the Alcohol,” New York Times, 6/14/2022
  • Cameron Joseph, “Trump’s Top Advisers Say Drunk Giuliani Urged Him to Declare Victory,” VICE, 6/13/2022

FRANKLIN PIERCE

  • Katherine Winton Evans, “Rebellious Spirits: Hard Liquor in Early America,” The Washington Post, 12/30/1979
  • Jacob Appel, “The Derailment of Franklin Pierce,” Hektoen International, 3/26/2021
  • Cromwell Whipple, “Mr. Whipple's address to the sober, moral and temperate men, of all parties!” Brown University, 10/22/1852
  • J. Childs, “Social Qualities of Our Candidate,” Library of Congress, 1852
  • “Franklin Pierce’s murky legacy as President,” National Constitution Center, 10/8/2021
  • “The Triumph and Tragedy of Franklin Pierce,” New England Historical Society, 2021
  • “President Franklin Pierce Warmly Endorses the Kansas-Nebraska Act as ‘Demonstrably Right and Patriotic,’” Shapell, 3/9/1854

WARREN HARDING

THE RECKONING

  • Mark Kelly, “Ted Kennedy on the Rocks,” GQ, February 1st, 1991
  • Josh Sandburn, ““The Kennedy Machine Buried What Really Happened”: Revisiting Chappaquiddick, 50 Years Later,” Vanity Fair, 7/17/2019
  • Wayne King, “Wilbur Mills Offers Sober Testimony to an Alcoholic Past,” New York Times, 12/4/1978
  • Stephen Green and Margot Hornblower, “Mills Admits Being Present During Tidal Basin Scuffle,” The Washington Post, 10/11/1974
  • Julian Zelizer, “The sex scandal that reshaped Congress — and the warnings for today,” The Washington Post, 3/1/2021
  • Hugh Sidey, “In Defense of the Martini,” TIME, 10/24/1977
  • “Betty Ford Says That She Is Addicted to Alcohol,” The Washington Post, April 22nd, 1978
  • “Betty Ford on Admitting She was an Alcoholic,” ABC News, 1987
  • Elaine Sciolino, “Washington at Work; A Year After Rejection in Senate, Tower Replays Loss of Coveted Job,” New York Times, 4/5/1990
  • Jamie Dupree, “Flashbacks to John Tower as Senators review Kavanaugh FBI file,” Atlanta Journal Constitution, 10/3/2018


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Jul 05 2022

46mins

Play

Processing Roe’s Reversal in Real Time

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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 episode. Head to: cafe.com/history

For more historical analysis of current events, sign up for the free weekly CAFE Brief newsletter, featuring Time Machine, a weekly article that dives into an historical event inspired by each episode of Now & Then: cafe.com/brief

Executive Producer: Tamara Sepper; Editorial Producer: David Kurlander; Audio Producer: Matthew Billy; Theme Music: Nat Weiner; CAFE Team: Adam Waller, David Tatasciore, Sam Ozer-Staton, Noa Azulai, and Jake Kaplan. Now & Then is presented by CAFE and the Vox Media Podcast Network.

REFERENCES & SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIALS

  • “Now & Then: Abortion: Whose Choice?” CAFE.com, 9/14/2021

  • “The Dobbs v. Jackson Decision, Annotated,” New York Times, 6/24/2022
  • Justice Benjamin Robert Curtis, “Dissenting Opinion, Dred Scott v. Sanford,” Rutgers, 1857
  • Amy Howe, “In 6-3 ruling, court strikes down New York’s concealed-carry law,” SCOTUSBlog, 6/23/2022
  • “Anson Burlingame,” HarpWeek, 1998
  • Frida Ghitis, “Opinion: These two women reminded America why Tr… must be prosecuted,” CNN, 6/23/2022

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Jun 25 2022

37mins

Play

Encore: Investigating Democracy

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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 new episode next Tuesday! 


Join CAFE Insider to listen to “Backstage,” where Heather and Joanne chat each week about the anecdotes and ideas that formed the episode. Head to: cafe.com/history


For more historical analysis of current events, sign up for the free weekly CAFE Brief newsletter, featuring Time Machine, a weekly article that dives into an historical event inspired by each episode of Now & Then: cafe.com/brief


For references & supplemental materials, head to: cafe.com/now-and-then/encore-investigating-democracy


Now & Then is presented by CAFE and the Vox Media Podcast Network. 

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

Jun 21 2022

47mins

Play

Nostalgia & Political Power

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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. 


Join CAFE Insider to listen to “Backstage,” where Heather and Joanne chat each week about the anecdotes and ideas that formed the episode. Head to: cafe.com/history


For more historical analysis of current events, sign up for the free weekly CAFE Brief newsletter, featuring Time Machine, a weekly article that dives into an historical event inspired by each episode of Now & Then: cafe.com/brief


For references & supplemental materials, head to: cafe.com/now-and-then/nostalgia-political-power


Now & Then is presented by CAFE and the Vox Media Podcast Network. 

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

Jun 14 2022

52mins

Play

The Mirage of Money (or, NFTs, WTF?)

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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 anecdotes and ideas that formed the episode. Head to: cafe.com/history


For more historical analysis of current events, sign up for the free weekly CAFE Brief newsletter, featuring Time Machine, a weekly article that dives into an historical event inspired by each episode of Now & Then: cafe.com/brief


For references & supplemental materials, head to: cafe.com/now-and-then/the-mirage-of-money-or-nfts-wtf


Now & Then is presented by CAFE and the Vox Media Podcast Network. 

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Jun 07 2022

49mins

Play

Free Speech: What IS Cancel Culture?

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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, and the 2003 controversy over The Chicks’ public condemnation of the Iraq War. 


Join CAFE Insider to listen to “Backstage,” where Heather and Joanne chat each week about the anecdotes and ideas that formed the episode. Head to: cafe.com/history


For more historical analysis of current events, sign up for the free weekly CAFE Brief newsletter, featuring Time Machine, a weekly article that dives into an historical event inspired by each episode of Now & Then: cafe.com/brief


For references & supplemental materials, head to: cafe.com/now-and-then/free-speech-what-is-cancel-culture

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May 31 2022

56mins

Play

Free Speech: The Power of an Independent Press

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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. 


Join CAFE Insider to listen to “Backstage,” where Heather and Joanne chat each week about the anecdotes and ideas that formed the episode. Head to: cafe.com/history


For more historical analysis of current events, sign up for the free weekly CAFE Brief newsletter, featuring Time Machine, a weekly article that dives into an historical event inspired by each episode of Now & Then: cafe.com/brief


For references & supplemental materials, head to: cafe.com/now-and-then/free-speech-the-power-of-an-independent-press


Now & Then is presented by CAFE and the Vox Media Podcast Network. 

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

May 24 2022

56mins

Play

Free Speech: The Government and Us

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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 cancel culture, Heather Cox Richardson and Joanne Freeman explore the Alien & Sedition Acts, the Palmer Raids and the post-WWI rise of the ACLU, and the 1980s debate over burning the American flag. 


Join CAFE Insider to listen to “Backstage,” where Heather and Joanne chat each week about the anecdotes and ideas that formed the episode. Head to: cafe.com/history


For more historical analysis of current events, sign up for the free weekly CAFE Brief newsletter, featuring Time Machine, a weekly article that dives into an historical event inspired by each episode of Now & Then: cafe.com/brief


For references & supplemental materials, head to: cafe.com/now-and-then/free-speech-the-government-and-us

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May 17 2022

49mins

Play

The Weeds: How the 1918 Flu Pandemic Ended

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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, who wrote an authoritative account of the 1918 flu pandemic, “The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic.”


Heather and Joanne will be back next Tuesday for the first installment in a new three-episode series about free speech, censorship, and so-called “cancel culture.” 


In the meantime, enjoy this episode of the Weeds podcast. And if you like it, you can find more episodes of the Weeds at vox.com/the-weeds, or by searching for “The Weeds” in your favorite podcast app. 

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May 10 2022

38mins

Play

A Disability Discourse

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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, and the impact of the 1970s disability rights movement. 


Join CAFE Insider to listen to “Backstage,” where Heather and Joanne chat each week about the anecdotes and ideas that formed the episode. Head to: cafe.com/history


For more historical analysis of current events, sign up for the free weekly CAFE Brief newsletter, featuring Time Machine, a weekly article that dives into an historical event inspired by each episode of Now & Then: cafe.com/brief


For references & supplemental materials, head to: cafe.com/now-and-then/a-disability-discourse


Now & Then is presented by CAFE and the Vox Media Podcast Network. 

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

May 03 2022

51mins

Play