About the show

A look at history one year at a time, from as many angles as possible. Famous people, infamous people, obscure people; wars, revolutions, peace treaties, art, science, sports, religion. The big picture, in an entertaining podcast package.

The Year That Was on social media


  • The Last Night of the Bubbling Glass: The Passage of the 18th Amendment

    September 24th, 2020  |  Season 1  |  1 hr 2 mins
    18th amendment, 1919, american history, prohibition, season 1, temperance, woman suffrage

    By 1914, the temperance movement had achieved significant gains in its goal to outlaw the sale of alcohol in the United States. But every push for nationwide prohibition had failed. Would the war--and the accompanying anti-German hysteria--give the Anti-Saloon League enough power to cross the finish line? Was a golden age of sobriety waiting on the other side?

  • Do You Expect Us to Turn Back Now: Alice Paul and the Fight for Woman Suffrage

    June 28th, 2020  |  Season 1  |  55 mins 48 secs
    1919, alice paul, american history, season 1, spanish flu, woman suffrage, woman's history

    Women in the United States began fighting for the right to vote in 1848, and by 1910 they had achieved a few hard-won victories. But success nationwide seemed out of reach. Then Alice Paul arrived on the scene with a playbook of radical protest strategies and an indomitable will. She focused in on one target: the president, Woodrow Wilson. How far would Paul and her fellow suffragists have to go to get Wilson's support?

  • Flu Fences and Chin Sails: Answering New Questions about the Spanish Flu

    May 26th, 2020  |  Season 1  |  55 mins 28 secs
    1919, african-american history, american history, labor, medicine, red scare, science, season 1, spanish flu

    Living through the COVID-19 pandemic raises all sorts of new questions about the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-1919. This episode seeks to answer those questions. We look at the multiple waves of the flu, popular home remedies, who went to the hospital and who stayed home, how the federal government responded to the outbreak, the effect on the economy, resistance to face masks, and how the flu shaped the Roaring Twenties.

  • Say It Ain't So: The Black Sox Scandal and Baseball in 1919

    May 5th, 2020  |  Season 1  |  59 mins 48 secs
    1919, american history, baseball, labor, season1, spanish flu, world war i

    Baseball was the only truly national American sport in 1919, loved by fans across the United States. But the mood among players was grim--team owners kept salaries artificially low. When the Chicago White Sox won their league championship, the temptation to accept hard cash from gamblers to deliberately lose the World Series was irresistible. After all, what could possibly go wrong?

  • Radical and Agitator: William Monroe Trotter and the Fight for Justice

    February 17th, 2020  |  Season 1  |  59 mins 9 secs
    1919, african-american history, american history, lynching, race riots, radicals, red summer, season1, spanish flu

    William Monroe Trotter was among the richest, best-educated, and most-well-connected African-American men in the United States--and he dedicated every ounce of his privilege into helping his fellow black Americans. By 1919, he had fought with the elder statesmen of his community, been arrested in protests over "Birth of a Nation," and denounced Woodrow Wilson's racial policies to president's face. But 1919 would bring one of Trotter's greatest challenges: he would need to learn how to peel potatoes.

  • There Is No Justice Here: The Red Summer of 1919

    January 21st, 2020  |  Season 1  |  57 mins 55 secs
    1919, african-american history, american history, bolsheviks, lynching, race riots, radicals, red summer, reds, season1, wobblies

    A constant threat of violence hung over the lives of African Americans in the early 20th century, an unrelenting terror that served to deter economic progress and enforce a racist social order. But 1919 was different: violence spread out of the south into northern and midwestern cities and took the form of random, terrifying riots. But the response of African-American leaders in 1919 was also different. They decided enough was enough. The time had come to fight back.

  • Reign of Terror: The First Red Scare

    December 19th, 2019  |  Season 1  |  1 hr 1 min
    1919, american history, bolsheviks, labor, radicals, red scare, reds, season1, wobblies

    Americans felt under attack in 1919 as a series of riots, strikes, disasters, and bombings hit the country. After radicals attempted to blow up the house of Attorney General Mitchell Palmer, he decided enough was enough. It was time to stop the Red Menace using any means possible. But would Americans tolerate the loss of their civil liberties in the pursuit of Bolsheviks?

  • Pie in the Sky: The Wobblies and the Fight for Labor

    December 10th, 2019  |  Season 1  |  58 mins 56 secs
    1919, american history, i.w.w., labor, season 1, wobblies

    The I.W.W. was a tough, militant, radical union, and its very existence terrified business owners, factory bosses, and the entire U.S. government. Since its founding, the law had been out to get the Wobblies. In 1919, as a record number of Americans went on strike for better wages and working conditions, would the union be able to help them? Would the union even survive?

  • Send All Available Personnel: The United States and the Great Molasses Flood

    November 26th, 2019  |  Season 1  |  59 mins 19 secs
    1919, american history, labor, molasses flood, season 1

    The Purity Distilling Company molasses tank dominated the North End of Boston, standing 50 feet tall over the surrounding tenements. Residents of the area were accustomed to the sight of tank oozing syrup from its seams and making strange rumbling noises from its depths. And one day in January 1919, life changed forever for Bostonians when the walls of the tank suddenly, inexplicably failed. Was it negligence? Or a vicious attack by anarchists?

  • The Great Tide of Our Age: Colonies, Mandates and the Failed Promise of Self-Determination

    November 19th, 2019  |  Season 1  |  50 mins 29 secs
    1919, afghanistan, china, colonies, egypt, fascism, fiume, gabriele d'annunzio, imperialism, italy, japan, korea, league of nations, mussolini, season1, vietnam

    Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points promised self-determination to colonies around the globe, raising hopes of independence and freedom for millions. But Wilson and the Allies had no intention of letting occupied peoples throw off imperialism. What would be the long-term consequences of raising the hopes and then dashing the dreams of so many people?

  • A Grubby Little War: The Collapse of the Ottoman Empire

    November 12th, 2019  |  Season 1  |  57 mins 9 secs
    1919, colonies, imperialism, iraq, israel, mesopotamia, ottoman empire, palestine, season 1, turkey, world history

    The collapse of the Ottoman Empire set off a mad scramble for territory. No one paid any attention to what the people who actually lived in the former empire actually wanted. But in the heart of Anatolia, one Turkish general was determined to preserve his homeland.

  • No Question of Undue Severity: The India Independence Movement

    October 29th, 2019  |  Season 1  |  59 mins 29 secs
    1919, colonies, imperialism, india, indian history, season 1, world history

    At the end of World War I, Great Britain promised India increased autonomy with one hand and took civil rights away with another. The furious population welcomed the leadership of a nationalist with a compelling message of non-violence and self-reliance, one Mohandas K. Gandhi. But when Gandhi organized nationwide protests, the British reacted with fear and force, especially in Amritsar, where a mob lashed out against English residents. The confrontation would end in one of the most shocking events in colonial history.

  • Giving the Natives a Free Hand: The Irish Fight for Independence

    October 22nd, 2019  |  Season 1  |  48 mins 19 secs
    1919, colonies, great britain, imperialism, ireland, irish history, season 1, world history

    The Irish had tried to free themselves from British control for centuries, always to fail. But in 1922, the Irish Free State took its place among the world's independent nations. Learn how an election, a shadow government, and a key literally baked into a cake brought independence to Ireland--along with a bloody civil war.

  • No Cause for Panic: The Spanish Flu Pandemic

    October 15th, 2019  |  Season 1  |  43 mins 8 secs
    1919, american history, history, india, ireland, season 1, spanish flu, world history

    The emergence of the flu virus that swept the globe between 1918 and 1920 was entirely unexpected, but the resulting pandemic can't be called an entirely natural disaster. Governments made decisions that made the flu much, much worse, and those decisions would have long-lasting consequences--and leave between 50 and 100 million dead.

  • Eggshells Loaded with Dynamite: Allied Intervention in the Russian Revolution

    October 8th, 2019  |  Season 1  |  20 mins 24 secs
    1919, american history, history, russian history, russian revolution, season 1, world history

    In 1919, thousands of American soldiers fought Russian troops on Russian soil--despite the fact President Woodrow Wilson had promised to allow Russia to determine its own political future. Why did the Allies rush to land troops in eastern Siberia and along the Arctic Ocean? And why have we forgotten all about it?

  • The Object of Power: The Russian Revolution and Conflict in Eastern Europe, Part II

    October 1st, 2019  |  Season 1  |  46 mins 51 secs
    1919, czech history, european history, russian history, russian revolution, season 1, sudetenland, tsar nicholas

    The world has been obsessed with the tragedy of the Romanov family for more than a century. It's easy to forget that the Tsar's family were among hundreds of thousands of people killed in the Revolution as well as in conflicts that swept across Eastern Europe. These conflicts would have lasting implications for the entire world.