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In a sense, 1521 is Mexico's 1619. A foundational moment that for centuries has been shaped by just one perspective: a European one. The story of how Hernán Cortés and a few hundred Spaniards conquered the mighty Aztec Empire, in the heart of what's now modern Mexico City, has become a foundational myth of European dominance in the Americas. And for a long time it was largely accepted as truth. But in recent decades researchers have pieced together a more nuanced, complicated version based on Indigenous accounts: a version that challenges what one historian calls "the greatest PR job in the history of the West." In this episode, the real story of the fall of Tenochtitlán.
David v Goliath

David v Goliath

2023-09-2155:116

In the year 1258, more than 100,000 soldiers amassed outside the great Islamic city of Baghdad. They were the Mongol Army, led by the grandson of the fearsome Genghis Khan. Within weeks, they'd left the city – which had stood as the center of power and commerce in the Muslim world for nearly 500 years – smoldering in a grotesque heap. And that was just the beginning. The Mongols would continue to push West, conquering Muslim cities until there was just one left in their way: Cairo.In the valley where it is said David once met Goliath, an unlikely group of slave soldiers fought a battle that would decide the fate of the Islamic world. A battle you may never have heard of that's as important to world history as D-Day or Gettysburg. It's a story full of personal and societal rivalries, political scheming, vengeance, and treachery – a real-life Game of Thrones. The Battle of Ayn Jalut.
The word "reservation" implies "reserved" – as in, this land is reserved for Native Americans. But most reservation land actually isn't owned by tribes. Instead it's checkerboarded into private farmland, federal forests, summer camps, even resorts. That's true for the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe in northern Minnesota, where the tribe owns just a tiny fraction of its reservation land. But just northwest of Leech Lake is Red Lake: one of the only reservations in the country where the tribe owns all of its land. So what happened? In this episode, we take a road trip through Leech Lake and Red Lake to tell a tale of two tribal nations, the moments of choice that led them down very different paths, and what the future looks like from where they are now
Silicon Island (2022)

Silicon Island (2022)

2023-09-0751:015

In a world where computer chips run everything from laptops to cars to the Nintendo Switch, Taiwan is the undisputed leader. It's one of the most powerful tech centers in the world — so powerful that both China and the U.S. have vital interests there. But if you went back to the Taiwan of the 1950s, this would have seemed unimaginable. It was a quiet, sleepy island; an agrarian culture. Fifty years later, it experienced what many recall as an "economic miracle" — a transformation into not just one of Asia's economic powerhouses, but one of the world's.
From BTS to Squid Game to high-end beauty standards, South Korea reigns as a global exporter of pop culture and entertainment. Just 70 years ago, it would have seemed impossible. For the next episode in our "Superpower" series, exploring U.S. connections to East Asia, we tell the story of South Korea's rise from a war-decimated state to a major driver of global soft power: a story of war, occupation, economic crisis, and national strategy that breaks around the world as the Korean Wave.
By Accident of Birth (2022)

By Accident of Birth (2022)

2023-08-2401:01:017

In August of 1895, a ship called the SS Coptic approached the coast of Northern California. On that boat was a passenger from San Francisco, a young man named Wong Kim Ark. He was returning home after visiting his wife and child in China, and he'd taken similar trips before. But when the ship docked, officials told him he couldn't get off. The customs agent barred him according to the Chinese Exclusion Act, which denied citizenship to Chinese immigrants. Though Wong Kim Ark had been born in the U.S. and lived his whole life here, the agent said he was not a citizen. U.S. history, politics, and culture is deeply linked to East Asian countries like China, South Korea, and Taiwan. This month, we're telling some of those stories, in our series "Superpower." Today, the story of Wong Kim Ark, whose epic fight to be recognized as a citizen in his own country led to a Supreme Court decision affirming birthright citizenship for all.
Today, China is a global superpower. But less than two hundred years ago, the nation was in a state of decline. After what became known as the 'century of humiliation' at the hands of Western imperialist powers, its very survival was in question. A movement arose to fight off foreign interference and preserve Chinese culture in the face of intense pressure from a rapidly-changing world. And the key to that movement was language.In this episode, we follow three key reformers who worked to modernize written and spoken Chinese, sometimes risking their lives to do so. Their work simplified Chinese, standardized it, and took it from an inaccessible language built for the elite to a modern language for the masses. It was a struggle that spanned generations, changed the fate of millions of people, and helped create the powerful modern nation-state of China.
The Lavender Scare

The Lavender Scare

2023-08-1053:127

One day in late April 1958, a young economist named Madeleine Tress was approached by two men in suits at her office at the U.S. Department of Commerce. They took her to a private room, turned on a tape recorder, and demanded she respond to allegations that she was an "admitted homosexual." Two weeks later, she resigned. Madeleine was one of thousands of victims of a purge of gay and lesbian people ordered at the highest levels of the U.S. government: a program spurred by a panic that destroyed careers and lives and lasted more than forty years. Today, it's known as the "Lavender Scare." In a moment when LGBTQ+ rights are again in the public crosshairs, we tell the story of the Lavender Scare: its victims, its proponents, and a man who fought for decades to end it.
American schools have always been more than where we go to learn the ABCs: They're places where socialization happens and cultural norms are developed. And arguments over what those norms are and how they're communicated tend to flare up during moments of cultural anxiety — like the one we're in now.When it premiered in 1969, the kids' TV show Sesame Street was part of a larger movement to reach lower-income, less privileged and more "urban" children. It was part of LBJ's Great Society agenda. And though it was funded in part by taxpayer dollars, Sesame Street is a TV show, not a classroom, and it set out to answer the question of what it means to educate kids. Today: how a television show made to represent Harlem and the Bronx reached children across a divided country, and how the conversations on the street have changed alongside us
The Hidden War

The Hidden War

2023-07-2755:486

How does a country go from its leader winning the Nobel Peace Prize to all-out war in just one year? That's the question surrounding Ethiopia, which has become embroiled in one of the deadliest wars of the 21st century. The U.S. has called it an ethnic cleansing campaign against Tigrayans, a minority group in the country; some human rights organizations have called it a genocide. But many people outside Ethiopia and its diaspora had no idea it was happening. In U.S. media, it's hardly discussed, even as violence has intensified throughout the country. In this episode, we tell the story of Ethiopia — the oldest independent country in Africa — and the political, cultural and religious factors that led to this war.
"All wars are fought twice, the first time on the battlefield, the second time in memory," writes Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen. This week on Throughline, we want to pause the news cycle to think about not just how war is experienced or consumed, but how it's remembered. A refugee from the Vietnam War, Nguyen calls himself a scholar of memory — someone who studies how we remember events of the past, both as people and as nations. As the war in Ukraine continues and conflicts around the globe displace millions, we speak with Nguyen about national memory, selective forgetting, and the refugee stories that might ultimately help us move forward.
No Bad Ideas?

No Bad Ideas?

2023-07-1354:034

Humans have always created. But historian Samuel W. Franklin argues that "creativity" didn't become a social value until the Cold War. Today, we're at another inflection point for humanity, technology, and national identity. The meaning of originality is blurring; there are legal disputes about what constitutes original art; and AI can write a song like your favorite artist in seconds. So what does it mean to put creativity on a pedestal? And what would it look like to tear it down? On this episode, we talk with Franklin, author of "The Cult of Creativity: A Surprisingly Recent History," about original thinking, AI, and how the human drive to create gets branded, packaged, and sold.
Depending on where you stand, Henry Kissinger is either a foreign policy mastermind or a war criminal. Some see him as a brilliant strategist who made tough but necessary decisions to advance American interests in a complex world; others point to his infamous order that American warplanes should "bomb anything that flies, on anything that moves" as evidence that he bears responsibility for the loss of countless civilian lives. But one thing both sides agree on is that few figures in the 20th century have had a more profound influence on how the U.S. conducts foreign policy.Kissinger grew up in an orthodox Jewish household in Germany, under the shadow of the Nazis' rise to power; he and his family fled to the U.S. when he was a teenager. Professor Jeremi Suri, author of "Henry Kissinger and the American Century," argues that Kissinger's experiences during the Holocaust have informed his approach to global politics throughout his career, as well as his relationship with democracy, war, and power. Today on the show, how Henry Kissinger shaped, and was shaped by, the 20th century.
The Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade transformed the landscape of abortion rights overnight. For the doctors, lawyers, feminists, and others who had fought for nationwide legalization, Roe was the end of a long battle. But for the growing movement against abortion rights, it was the beginning of a new battle: to protect the fetus, challenge abortion providers, and ultimately overturn Roe. This is the story of how opponents of abortion rights banded together, built power, and launched one of the most successful grassroots campaigns of the past century.
The Labor Of Love

The Labor Of Love

2023-06-2254:137

There's a powerful fantasy in American society: the fantasy of the ideal mother. This mother is devoted to her family above all else. She raises the kids, volunteers at the school, cleans the house, plans the birthday parties, cares for her own parents. She's a natural nurturer. And she's happy to do it all for free. Problem is? She's imaginary. And yet the idea of her permeates our culture, our economy, and our social policy – and it distorts them. The U.S. doesn't have universal health insurance or universal childcare. We don't have federally mandated paid family leave or a meaningful social safety net for when times get rough. Instead, we have this imaginary mother. We've structured our society as though she exists — but she doesn't. And we all pay the real-life price.
Affirmative Action

Affirmative Action

2023-06-1553:0812

This conversation was recorded ahead of the Supreme Court's expected decision on affirmative action. As of publishing, no decision has been issued.The Supreme Court is expected to rule on affirmative action sometime this month. Most of us understand that some colleges use race as a factor in college admissions. But journalist Jay Caspian Kang argues that this focus is too narrow, and that it avoids harder conversations we need to have as a culture. In his view, focusing on the admissions practices of a select few universities creates "a fight for spots in the elite ranks of society" — and blinds us to the bigger problems plaguing American democracy. On today's episode, we talk with Kang about affirmative action's origins in the civil rights era, what it does and doesn't achieve, and what a more equitable education system could look like.
Abortion wasn't always controversial. In fact, in colonial America it would have been considered a fairly common practice: a private decision made by women, and aided mostly by midwives. But in the mid-1800s, a small group of physicians set out to change that. Obstetrics was a new field, and they wanted it to be their domain—meaning, the domain of men and medicine. Led by a zealous young doctor named Horatio Storer, they launched a campaign to make abortion illegal in every state, spreading a potent cloud of moral righteousness and racial panic that one historian later called "the physicians' crusade." And so began the century of criminalization.In the first episode of a two-part series, we're telling the story of that century: how doctors put themselves at the center of legal battles over abortion, first to criminalize — and then to legalize.
The Ghost in Your Phone

The Ghost in Your Phone

2023-06-0154:5712

It's hot. A mother works outside, a baby strapped to her back. The two of them breathe in toxic dust, day after day. And they're just two of thousands, cramped so close together it's hard to move, all facing down the mountain of cobalt stone. Cobalt mining is one of the world's most dangerous jobs. And it's also one of the most essential: cobalt is what powers the batteries in your smartphone, your laptop, the electric car you felt good about buying. More than three-quarters of the world's cobalt supply lies in the Democratic Republic of Congo, whose abundant resources have drawn greed and grifters for centuries. Today on the show: the fight for control of those resources, and for the dignity of the people who produce them.
The Freedom of Speech

The Freedom of Speech

2023-05-2550:5912

Book bans, disinformation, the wild world of the internet. Free speech debates are all around us. What were the Founding Fathers thinking when they created the First Amendment, and how have the words they wrote in the 18th century been stretched and shaped to fit a world they never could have imagined? It's a story that travels through world wars and culture wars. Through the highest courts and the Ku Klux Klan. What exactly is free speech, and how has the answer to that question changed in the history of the U.S.?
History Is Over (2021)

History Is Over (2021)

2023-05-1853:599

As the end of the 20th century approached, Radiohead took to the recording studio to capture the sound of a society that felt like it was fraying at the edges. Many people had high hopes for the new millennium, but for others a low hum of anxiety lurked just beneath the surface as the world changed rapidly and fears of a Y2K meltdown loomed.Amidst all the unease, the famed British band began recording their highly anticipated follow ups to their career-changing album OK Computer. Those two albums, Kid A and Amnesiac, released in 2000 and 2001, were entrancing and eerie — they documented the struggle to redefine humanity, recalibrate, and get a grip on an uncertain world. In this episode, we travel back to the turn of the millennium with Thom Yorke and Stanley Donwood and the music of Kid A and Amnesiac.
Comments (289)

Aakash Amanat

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Sep 21st
Reply

Roberto Ocampo

Prob one of my fave pod episode all time.

Aug 5th
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TH3N0RTHSID3

Great episode! The only thing I felt that you missed was covering the move to HBO. I would have been interested in learning thoughts from the original crew about that move and what consequences that has had for the show. Questions like "Did this move detract from the show's original mission?" would have been insightful.

Aug 4th
Reply

squogg

The lack of creativity used to make this episode engaging kinda made me laugh. This was more of a conversation than the usual Throughline-style episode where you're captivated by the topic by way of storytelling, sound design and production.

Jul 19th
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squogg

Can't even begin to count how many times Molly Michelmore says, "Right?" She says it so much that Ramteen and Rund are doing it now too. So grating.

Apr 25th
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Ex muslim India

people feelings got hurt in smallest criticism or a cartoon about false prophet muhammad and it's hate manual quran(full of hatred towards non muslim, abuse cursus and threat non believers).. and they spread islamic terrorism , Our felings also got hurt, about Slaughtering of Cow. your victim card will not work.. your stupidity and hypocrisy will be openly exposed.. now we are agressive and assertive.. we will stand for us..we will snatch back our right.. and in-human crazy saitannic cult Islam will be shown it's right place gutter

Apr 6th
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squogg

This made me want to go to a club and dance myself silly. I miss that feeling of letting go of everything and just dancing the night away. Clearly need to get back to it. Thanks for the reminder :)

Mar 11th
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Marcus Watt

as a longtime researcher into this history, it really saddens me to see political correctness redeploy a narrative with Europeans as evil. the Mexica living in peaceful bliss. absurd

Feb 8th
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Hayley The best

this is brilliant.

Feb 6th
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squogg

I'm completely flabbergasted! I had no idea that the Stanford Prison Experiment was basically a sham. Hearing the audio of the experimenters coaxing the "guards" and lying to them in order to get the results they want is disgusting.

Jan 28th
Reply (1)

Shawna

such an important topic!!! thanks for talking about this!!!

Jan 14th
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Shawna

thanks for sharing about the "Hello Girls"

Jan 7th
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Shawna

I never knew this deep and ancient history . thank you for educating me today!!! much appreciated

Dec 31st
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sogol khanof

It's maybe good for you to learn after these many years that "Persian Gulf" has only one name and it's "Persian Gulf"!

Nov 17th
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APK886

Oh my…in tears listening to this one. Sesame St. and Mr. Rogers were my whole childhood. This hits the feels right on.

Nov 16th
Reply

Soraya Ansari

#mahsaamini

Sep 22nd
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Laura Burns

Doctors have also put themselves at the center of birth - too dangerous, painful and slow, to leave it to women's bodies.

Jun 2nd
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Christa NR

so annoying how the recording skips forward and back at times... Definitely seems part of the recording is actually missing :( I notice this happens on other episodes too, but worse on this one.

May 21st
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PlusCH3

Wow, I missed this the first time it aired and I'm so glad I caught it this time! Truly mind blowing and yet makes so much sense 🤯 #TIL #NPRthroughline #npr @nprthroughline

Apr 17th
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Mike

background music was really annoying. turned it of after 10 min and moved on to another episode.

Feb 7th
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