Hardcore History – Punching You In The Face With The Past


“It’s History.  The events. The figures. The drama. The deep questions.  It’s Hardcore History.” – Intro to Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History Podcast

I know what you’re thinking, ‘History. is. borrrring.’  I am here to tell you why you are wrong, dead wrong. (trying to be hardcore, sorry)

Enter: Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History

This amazing podcast came to my attention while I was listening to another favorite podcast of mine, The Tim Ferris Show

Each episode of Hardcore History revolves around the host, Dan Carlin, reading a crap-ton of books on a specific event in history, gathering as much information as he can from historians with varying viewpoints, locking himself in a studio, and recording a multi-part, 8-10 hour podcast series where he presents his findings.  The show gets its title from the often intense and graphic first-person accounts that Carlin likes to include to help the listener enter the mind of someone who lived through the events as they happened.

The result is something that I can only describe as a mix between the awe-filled, totally-immersive experience of watching an epic blockbuster in IMAX 3D and listening to your grandpa tell you the tale of the time he survived an attack by Genghis Khan’s horseback armies.  It’s personal, it’s epic, and once you start listening, it’s impossible to stop.

And then they killed 90,000 people with axes...
And then they killed 90,000 people with axes…

My favorite thing about Carlin’s take on history is that he doesn’t choose sides.  He is always very careful to point out that he’s not a historian, but references several historians with different viewpoints on whatever subject he’s speaking on to give the listener a full picture of the event and let them decide who’s right and who’s wrong.  The effect of this approach makes it easy to imagine being alive in 13th century Asia, sitting across the table from two old men debating the character of Genghis Khan, listening to two completely different opinions on why the Khan is a murderer or a unifying force that is bettering the world.

The name ‘Hardcore History’ comes from the personal and often tragic stories from history that Carlin weaves into every episode.  They are usually bloody, intense, and full of emotion.  Carlin doesn’t celebrate violence, or purposely try to make events gory. In fact, as I heard him explain it in one of his podcasts, Carlin’s empathy for the people in the stories he finds make his imagination run wild and his quest to understand what their suffering must have been like results in his sharing his amazingly vivid re-telling of the stories he reads in a way that makes you feel like you are watching the events unfold before your eyes.

I became totally obsessed with this podcast as soon as I started listening.  If you want to try it for yourself, I’d recommend listening to The Wrath of the Khans series first, and then the most recent series, Blueprint for Armageddon, which is a fantastic summary of the events of World War I.