The Internet Age is a golden age for history buffs. Think of the sheer quantity of material -- lectures, conferences, books, articles, photographs, paintings, maps, census records, historic audio and video clips, all kinds of of primary and secondary resources -- available at the click of a mouse.
There are also podcasts devoted to history. Podcasts (for the uninitiated) are audio or video series produced by amateurs or professional outlets on every imaginable topic. Some are quite serious and educational, some very silly and superficial. You can get apps for your computer, smart phone or media player to automatically download new episodes of a podcast as soon as they're available.
Lately I've been enjoying three history-oriented programs that are smart, well-researched and thought-provoking. (I'm sure there are others. Share your favorites in the comment section below.) You can find these in the iTunes store. (They're free to download.)
BackStory with the American History Guys. Hosted by three experts representing the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, BackStory aims to bring a "historical perspective to the events happening around us today." Episodes take a contemporary political or cultural issue or trend and trace its evolution from colonial times to the present. Recent topics include: the concept of "American Exceptionalism;" the role of the Post Office in U.S. development; the changing character of courtship and marriage; and the continuing battle over teaching evolution in the schools. It's an engaging, well-produced series -- sort of history's answer to the science program RadioLab.
My History Can Beat Up Your Politics. My History examines the historical antecedents of today's hot political trends and debates. Host Bruce Carlson is articulate, well-informed and refreshingly neutral in his politics. His romps through American history often reveal lesser-known facts that cast a thought-provoking light on contemporary events. Recent topics include: choosing a Vice President; the legal history behind the Supreme Court's healthcare decision; Presidential communication; what Obama can learn from Truman's 1948 election; and the critical role of swing states in the 1912 election.
C-Span Lectures in History. Part of C-Span's American History TV series, Lectures in History lets viewers drop into a history class led by some of the country's top university professors. Recent topics include: the Great Migration from the South of African Americans in the early 20th century; the Truman/MacArthur conflict; socialism in America; political economy in the 1970s; and redistricting and gerrymandering in U.S. history.