Throughline

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The past is never past. Every headline has a history. Join us every week as we go back in time to understand the present. These are stories you can feel and sounds you can see from the moments that shaped our world.Subscribe to Throughline+. You'll be supporting the history-reframing, perspective-shifting, time-warping stories you can't get enough of - and you'll unlock access bonus episodes and sponsor-free listening. Learn more at plus.npr.org/throughline

  • 51 minutes 52 seconds
    Mythos and Melodrama in the Philippines (Throwback)
    Welcome to the "Epic of Marcos." In this tale of a family that's larger than life, Ferdinand Marcos, the former dictator of the Philippines, is at the center. But the figures that surround him are just as important: Imelda, his wife and muse; Bongbong, his heir; and the United States, his faithful sidekick. The story of the Marcos family is a blueprint for authoritarianism, laying out clearly how melodrama, paranoia, love, betrayal and a hunger for power collide to create a myth capable of propelling a nation. Today on the show, the rise, fall, and resurrection of a dynasty — and what that means for democracy worldwide.

    To access bonus episodes and listen to Throughline sponsor-free, subscribe to Throughline+ via Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/throughline.

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    23 May 2024, 7:00 am
  • 54 minutes 58 seconds
    The Mandela Effect
    For nearly thirty years, the South African government held a man it initially labeled prisoner number 46664, the anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela. But in 1994, Mandela transformed from the country's 'number one terrorist' into its first Black president, ushering in a new era of democracy. Today, though, many in South Africa see Mandela's party, the ANC, as corrupt and responsible for the country's problems. It's an ongoing political saga, with all sides attempting to weaponize parts of the past – especially Nelson Mandela's legacy. On today's episode, we tell Mandela's story: the man, the myth, and the cost of freedom.

    To access bonus episodes and listen to Throughline sponsor-free, subscribe to Throughline+ via Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/throughline.


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    16 May 2024, 7:00 am
  • 51 minutes 50 seconds
    The Labor Of Love (Throwback)
    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.Today on the show, we look at three myths that sustain the fantasy: the maternal instinct, the doting housewife, and the welfare queen. And we tell the stories of real-life people – some mothers, some not – who have fought for a much more generous vision of family, labor, and care.

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    9 May 2024, 7:00 am
  • 48 minutes 50 seconds
    The 4th Amendment: Search and Seizure
    The Fourth Amendment is the part of the Bill of Rights that prohibits "unreasonable searches and seizures." But — what's unreasonable? That question has fueled a century's worth of court rulings that have dramatically expanded the power of individual police officers in the U.S. Today on the show, how an amendment that was supposed to limit government power has ended up enabling it.

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    2 May 2024, 7:00 am
  • 51 minutes 58 seconds
    The Ghost in Your Phone (Throwback)
    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.

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    25 April 2024, 7:00 am
  • 47 minutes 11 seconds
    Ralph Nader, Consumer Crusader
    Whether it's pesticides in your cereal or the door plug flying off your airplane, consumers today have plenty of reasons to feel like corporations might not have their best interests at heart. At a moment where we're seeing unprecedented product recalls, and when trust in the government is near historic lows, we're going to revisit a time when a generation of people felt empowered to demand accountability from both companies and elected leaders — and got results. Today on the show, the story of the U.S. consumer movement and its controversial leader: the once famous, now infamous Ralph Nader.

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    18 April 2024, 7:00 am
  • 49 minutes 34 seconds
    The 14th Amendment
    Of all the amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the 14th is a big one. It's shaped all of our lives, whether we realize it or not: Roe v. Wade, Brown v. Board of Education, Bush v. Gore, plus other Supreme Court cases that legalized same-sex marriage, interracial marriage, access to birth control — they've all been built on the back of the 14th.

    The amendment was ratified after the Civil War, and it's packed full of lofty phrases like due process, equal protection, and liberty. But what do those words really guarantee us?

    Today on the show: how the 14th Amendment has remade America – and how America has remade the 14th.

    Clarification: A previous version of this episode did not make clear that the 14th amendment guarantees equal protection and due process to all people in the United States, regardless of citizenship.

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    11 April 2024, 7:00 am
  • 45 minutes 8 seconds
    The Land of the Fee (Throwback)
    Tipping is a norm in the United States—and it's always been controversial. The practice took off after the Civil War, as employers sought cheap labor from formerly enslaved people: if tips were expected, companies could get away with paying laughably low wages. But the practice was always controversial, and has been vehemently challenged since it first came to the U.S. from Europe. We speak with Nina Martyris, a journalist who's written about the history of tipping in the United States, to find out how tipping—once deemed a "cancer in the breast of democracy"— went from being considered wholly un-American to becoming a deeply American custom.

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    4 April 2024, 7:00 am
  • 49 minutes 57 seconds
    A History of Hezbollah
    Hezbollah is a Lebanese paramilitary organization and political party that's directly supported by the Islamic Republic of Iran. In the wake of the October 7, 2023 Hamas-led attack on Israel, and Israel's invasion of Gaza, Hezbollah and Israel have been exchanging missile fire across the border they share, causing growing fears of a regional conflict with the U.S. and Israel on one side and Iran along with its allies in Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Houthi rebels of Yemen on the other.

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    28 March 2024, 7:00 am
  • 47 minutes 40 seconds
    The Great Textbook War
    What is school for? Over a hundred years ago, a man named Harold Rugg published a series of textbooks that encouraged students to confront the thorniest parts of U.S. history: to identify problems, and try and solve them. And it was just as controversial as the fights we're seeing today. In this episode: a media mogul, a textbook author, and a battle over what students should – or shouldn't – learn in school.

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    21 March 2024, 7:00 am
  • 38 minutes 37 seconds
    Radiolab: Worst. Year. Ever
    What was the worst year to be alive on planet Earth? We make the case for 536 AD, which set off a cascade of catastrophes that is almost too horrible to imagine. A supervolcano. The disappearance of shadows. A failure of bread. Plague rats. Using evidence painstakingly gathered around the world - from Mongolian tree rings to Greenlandic ice cores to Mayan artifacts - we paint a portrait of what scientists and historians think went wrong, and what we think it felt like to be there in real time. (Spoiler: not so hot.) We hear a hymn for the dead from the ancient kingdom of Axum, the closest we can get to the sound of grief from a millennium and a half ago.

    The horrors of 536 make us wonder about the parallels and perpendiculars with our own time: does it make you feel any better knowing that your suffering is part of a global crisis? Or does it just make things worse?"

    This week we're sharing a bonus episode from Radiolab: Worst. Year. Ever.


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    19 March 2024, 2:51 pm
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