Second Decade

This is a historical show examining the momentous events and interesting people of the second decade of the 19th century, the 1810s. From Jefferson to Napoleon, from Iceland to Antarctica, historian Sean Munger will give you a tour of the decade's most fascinating highlights.

55: Smuttynose Island
Whether the remains of the crew of a Spanish ship wrecked in 1813 were buried on a small island off the coast of Maine presents a puzzling 200-year-old mystery.
45 min
54: The Dumplings of Death
In 1815 London, the case of a domestic servant wrongfully accused of poisoning her employer’s family leads to the invention of modern investigative journalism.
62 min
53: The Lithuanian Rabbi
In a small town in Lithuania, a beloved and brilliant rabbi establishes a legendary yeshiva that sparks a wave of immigration to the Holy Land in the 1810s.
60 min
Bonus: Trailer for Age of Confusion Podcast
Here is a brief trailer for Sean Munger's new alternate history podcast, Age of Confusion.
3 min
52: War and Peace
In this crossover episode with the Green Screen podcast, Dr. Munger and co-host Cody Climer examine the history behind the 2016 BBC miniseries depicting the Napoleonic era.
61 min
51: Norway, Part II
In 1814, a group of Norwegian nobles and a Danish crown prince challenge the powers of Europe to establish Norway as its own country, with mixed but long-lasting results.
56 min
50: Norway, Part I
Toward the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the modern nation of Norway is born amidst royal intrigue and crooked great-power deals in the crucible of Scandinavian politics.
50 min
49: Theo the Pipe Smoker
An attempt to identify a skeleton found in a 200-year-old cemetery paints a fascinating picture of life among the poor in Basel, Switzerland in the 1810s.
47 min
48: Heritage Lost
The individual stories of nine buildings, constructed between 1810 and 1820 and since demolished or destroyed, paint a unique picture of the period’s built environment.
46 min
47: Year Without Summer, Part III
The long tail of the strange summer of 1816 stretches into the following year, where crop failures, famine and a bitterly cold winter affects most of the world.
49 min
46: Year Without Summer, Part II
The strange weather of summer 1816 has all manner of repercussions, from ghoulish hallucinations to religious conversions to a massive forest fire in New England.
53 min
45: Year Without Summer, Part I
In 1816, a temporary disruption in the Earth’s climate system, caused by volcanoes, triggers a series of bizarre weather anomalies from the South Pacific to Massachusetts.
50 min
44: The Fires of St. John's
The raw and often lawless frontier town of St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada suffers five devastating fires in a row between 1816 and 1819.
44 min
43: Austen-tatious
Jane Austen begins the 1810s as a frustrated and unpublished writer, but then rises to become one of the towering giants of English literature.
47 min
42: Tomb Raider
In 1817, a former circus performer goes hunting for ancient Egyptian artifacts and finds four stunning tombs in the Valley of the Kings over a 10-day period.
52 min
41: Caragea's Plague
In 1813, the arrival of a corrupt Ottoman prince in the province of Wallachia coincides with the outbreak of a ghastly epidemic that leaves thousands dead.
45 min
40: Antarctica
After centuries of speculation, near misses and tantalizing glimpses, mariners from four different countries suddenly scramble to discover Antarctica at the end of the 1810s.
46 min
Second Decade Update and Special Appeal
Here’s a brief update from Dr. Munger about the podcast, and how you can help another member of the history podcasting community.
5 min
Off Topic: The 80s (Jake's 88 Special, Part III)
The end of the 1980s is marked with hot wars heating up in Panama and the Middle East, the Cold War cooling down, and transitions in popular culture.
45 min
Off Topic: The 80s (Jake's 88 Special Part II)
From acts of war in the Persian Gulf to cartoon rabbits and the sexual politics of sitcoms, various aspects of the year 1988 are examined.
46 min
39: The Monster of Gloucester
Sightings of a “sea serpent” in a small coastal Massachusetts town in 1817 reignite a heated transatlantic debate about nature, science, and the origin of species.
40 min
Off Topic: The 80s (Jake's 88 Special Part I)
In this bonus episode about the history of the 1980s, Ronald Reagan makes a hasty three-minute decision that proves to be perhaps the most important event in modern history.
41 min
38: Napoleon's Hundred Days, Part III
Determined to crush him once and for all, Napoleon’s enemies, particularly the British and Prussians, provoke the French emperor into his last desperate battle: Waterloo.
48 min
37: Napoleon's Hundred Days, Part II
Having taken over the French government easily and with enemies closing in around him, Napoleon faces a difficult question: now what do I do?
41 min
36: Napoleon's Hundred Days, Part I
After his defeat, forced abdication and exile to Elba, Napoleon Bonaparte thirsts for revenge and launches an audacious attempt to return to power in France.
39 min
Second Decade Off Topic: Astoria, A Pacific Jou...
This bonus episode presents several vignettes from the history of Astoria, Oregon, including Lewis and Clark, the first American to visit Japan, and a famous shipwreck.
35 min
Second Decade Off Topic: The Oak Island Folly
In this bonus episode, the 150-year-old legend of buried treasure beneath a remote island in Nova Scotia is thoroughly examined—and refuted.
34 min
35: Bolivar, Part III
Venezuelan revolutionary Simon Bolivar turns his attention to liberating much of the rest of South America from Spanish rule, while at the same time his political power becomes dictatorial.
41 min
34: Bolivar, Part II
Plagued by infighting, racial and class resentment, bad luck and his own passionate nature, Bolivar’s revolution against the Spanish advances in fits and starts.
38 min
31: Bolivar, Part I
In Venezuela in 1810, fiery revolutionary Simon Bolivar begins his extraordinary journey to liberate Latin America from three centuries of Spanish rule.
41 min
32: Dawn of the Zulu
Born the illegitimate son of a minor tribal chieftain, a warrior named Shaka rises to build the mightiest empire in Africa in the early 19th century.
39 min
31: The Great Iceland Road Trip
A British botanist embarks on a bizarre booze-soaked boondoggle across Iceland in 1809, in a colorful example of early 19th century travel literature.
41 min
Second Decade Off Topic: The White House, Part II
Between 1820 and the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, eleven First Families come and go, each making a different mark on America’s most famous address.
39 min
30: The White House, Part I
During the War of 1812, the President’s mansion is burned to the ground by the British, but manages to rise from the ashes even more stately than before.
38 min
29: Australia, Part II
During the 1810s, bolters, bushrangers, explorers and aborigines all make their mark on the infant colony of Australia as it struggles to become more than just a prison.
39 min
28: Australia, Part I
In 1810, Britain’s dismal prison at the end of the earth spins badly out of control, until a tough Scottish army officer arrives determined to make it a real colony.
42 min
Second Decade Off Topic: Benihana Nights
In this bonus episode, delve into the love-hate relationship between Japan and the United States, which involves shipwrecked sailors, Pearl Harbor, Datsun trucks and sushi restaurants.
29 min
27: The Belle of Nagasaki
In 1817, a Dutch housewife and her servant almost unwittingly become the first Western women to visit Japan during its period of self-imposed isolation from the world.
39 min
26: The Queenston Hostages
A group of Irish-born American soldiers, captured by the British on the battlefield in the War of 1812, becomes the flash point of an international hostage crisis.
39 min
Second Decade Off Topic: The Sunn Also Rises
In this bonus episode, the history of Sunn Classic Pictures, a movie studio specializing in “fake history” documentaries during the 1970s, is examined.
30 min
25: The Man in the Buffalo Fur Suit
Wearing a rather odd costume, New England mountain man Estwick Evans sets off on a journey of self-discovery that illuminates what America was like in 1818.
37 min
24: New England's Cold Friday
In January 1810, an extreme cold snap and violent windstorm becomes a key event in New England’s history, memory and local folklore.
34 min
23: Murder in Charleston
In May 1815, Dr. David Ramsay, one of Charleston’s leading citizens, is gunned down in broad daylight, a sad end to a rich and fascinating life.
26 min
22: Old Ironsides
In the darkest days of the War of 1812, the USS Constitution scores two surprising naval victories against the overconfident British Navy.
39 min
21: Frankenstein
In 1816, four intense literary personalities spend a stormy week in a gloomy house telling ghost stories, giving rise to the ultimate masterpiece of horror in English literature.
42 min
20: Second Decade on Film
From “Becky Sharp” in 1935 to the 2016 BBC series “War and Peace,” depictions of the 1810s in movies and TV have ranged from lackluster to truly spectacular.
29 min
19: Curious King George
After having ruled 50 years, Britain’s King George III is forced from power by a mysterious mental illness that has a ripple effect on the whole royal family.
37 min
18: Let China Sleep
Beset by political corruption, internal rebellions and Western imperialism, China in the 1810s begins its century-long slide into chaos that will ultimately end in revolution.
41 min
17: The War of 1812, Part III
A series of military and political disasters, including the burning of Washington, ultimately makes the War of 1812 unwinnable for the United States.
43 min
16: The War of 1812, Part II
Plagued by government inepitude and military incompetence, the United States struggles to make headway against Britain in the first year and a half of the war.
44 min
15: The War of 1812, Part I
A series of blunders, missteps and miscommunications sets the United States and Great Britain on the path to war in 1812—a war that only a few really wanted.
42 min
14: Down & Out at Harvard
In 1813-17, the lives and struggles of two introverted teenagers at Harvard paint a vivid picture of what it was like to go to college 200 years ago.
44 min
13: Kid Lincoln
In the first 12 years of his life, Abraham Lincoln’s legacy is shaped by hardscrabble poverty, family tragedy and a bizarre genetic disease inherited from his mother.
46 min
12: Napoleon in Russia, Part III
In fall 1812, self-deluded by hubris and baffled by Russian tactics, Napoleon withdraws his army from Moscow, triggering an epic disaster of incredible human suffering.
43 min
11: Napoleon in Russia, Part II
In 1812 Napoleon leads his disintegrating army into Russia, resulting in the bloodiest single-day battle of the 19th century and a cataclysmic fire that reduces Moscow to ashes.
42 min
10: Napoleon in Russia, Part I
Iron-willed rulers Napoleon and Alexander first become friends and then bitter enemies, setting the stage for one of the most destructive wars of the 19th century.
43 min
9: Theodosia
In early 1813, one of the most remarkable women in America vanishes without a trace. Decades later a mysterious painting, supposedly of her, appears in North Carolina.
43 min
8: Christmas 1814
Holiday special! Amidst Yuletide traditions old and new, peace is concluded between the U.S. and Great Britain on Christmas Eve, 1814.
41 min
7: Volcano
In 1815, the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history, Tambora, shatters the East Indies at an awkward time of political transition in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars.
43 min
6: Jefferson in Winter
After leaving the presidency, Thomas Jefferson returns to Monticello only to face the struggle of his life against an unrelenting series of personal, financial and environmental disasters.
43 min
5: Cast Away
An American sailor finds himself marooned on an uninhabited island in the South Atlantic by the same group of British shipwreck survivors he was trying to rescue.
41 min
4: Hawaii
After King Kamehameha’s epic struggle to unify the islands, the nation of Hawaii suddenly finds itself in cultural collision with American missionaries who arrive unexpectedly.
44 min
3: The Last Frost Fair
The brutal winter of 1813-14 turns London into an apocalyptic wasteland, but also unleashes a magical winter festival that only happens once or twice in a lifetime.
40 min
2: Barbados Vault and Dead Tea Woman
Coffins reportedly moving around by themselves in Barbados and a strange case of corpse disposal in Nevis are two unsolved mysteries from the Caribbean in the 1810s.
38 min
1: The Election of 1816
In 1816, the President is chosen not so much by an election at the polls, but by a group of self-interested Congressmen distracted by other issues.
38 min