Throughline 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.
Throughline
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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.

Most Recent Episodes

Hokyoung Kim

The Nostalgia Bone

The global pandemic has spawned a different type of epidemic, one of an entirely different nature: a nostalgia outbreak. Longing for 'simpler times' and 'better days', many of us have been turning to 90s dance playlists, TV sitcoms, and sports highlights. We're looking for comfort and safety in the permanence of the past, or at least, what we think the past was. But, when it first appeared, nostalgia itself wasn't considered a feeling; it was a deadly disease. This episode traces the history of nostalgia from its origins as an illness to the dominating emotion of our time. And in doing so, we wrestle with its eternal paradox to both hold us back and keep us going.

The Nostalgia Bone

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Retreat of Hernando Cortes form Tenochtitlan, Mexico, 1520. Getty Images hide caption

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Getty Images

Tenochtitlan: A Retelling of The Conquest

In a sense, 1521 is Mexico's 1619. A foundational moment that has for a long time been shaped by just one perspective, a European one.The story of how Hernán Cortés and his small army of conquistadors conquered the mighty Aztec Empire, in the heart of what's now modern Mexico City, has become a foundational myth of European dominance in the Americas. This is the story that for centuries was largely accepted as the truth. But in recent decades researchers have pieced together a more nuanced, complicated version based on indigenous accounts, a version that challenges many of the bedrock assumptions about how European Christians came to control the Western Hemisphere. In this episode, the story of the fall of Tenochtitlán.

Tenochtitlan: A Retelling of The Conquest

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Soul Train made its national television premiere 50 years ago, in October 1971. Blake Cale hide caption

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Blake Cale

Bonus: Soul Train

When Soul Train was first nationally syndicated in October 1971, there was nothing else like it on TV. It was the iconic Black music and dance show, a party every weekend that anyone could join from their living room. Our friends at It's Been A Minute with Sam Sanders break down the lasting influence of Soul Train on the culture and ask why there's never been a show like it since.

Bonus: Soul Train

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The preamble to the US Constitution. Universal Images Group via Getty hide caption

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Universal Images Group via Getty

The Shadows of the Constitution (2020)

The Constitution is like America's secular bible, our sacred founding document. In her play, What the Constitution Means to Me, Heidi Schreck goes through a process of discovering what the document is really about – who wrote it, who it was for, who it protected and who it didn't. Through Heidi's personal story, we learn how the Constitution and how it has been interpreted have affected not just her family but generations of Americans.

The Shadows of the Constitution (2020)

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Left: Mariner Books; Right: Photograph by Kristin Herbruck

Bonus: We're Not Broken

This week we're featuring an episode from Life Kit that focuses on myths surrounding autism, how to talk about it and how to help your autistic loved one live their most fulfilling life.

Bonus: We're Not Broken

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Kaz Fantone

The Supreme Court (2020)

When, why, and how did the Supreme Court get the final say in the law of the land? The question of the Court's role, and whether its decisions should reign above all the other branches of government, has been hotly debated for centuries. And that's resulted in a Supreme Court more powerful than anything the Founding Fathers could have imagined possible.

The Supreme Court (2020)

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Isabel Seliger

Afghanistan: The Rise of the Taliban

How did a small group of Islamic students go from local vigilantes to one of the most infamous and enigmatic forces in the world? The Taliban is a name that has haunted the American imagination since 2001. The scenes of the group's brutality repeatedly played in the Western media, while true, perhaps obscure our ability to see the complex origins of the Taliban and how they impact the lives of Afghans. It's a shadow that reaches across the vast ancient Afghan homeland, the reputation of the modern state, and throughout global politics. At the end of the US war in Afghanistan we go back to the end of the Soviet Occupation and the start of the Afghan civil war to look at the rise of the Taliban. Their story concludes Throughline's two-episode investigation on the past, present, and future of the country that was once called "the center of the world."

Afghanistan: The Rise of the Taliban

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Isabel Seliger for NPR

Afghanistan: The Center of the World

Afghanistan has, for centuries, been at the center of the world. Long before the U.S. invasion - before the U.S. was even a nation - countless civilizations intersected there, weaving together a colorful tapestry of foods, languages, ethnicities and visions of what Afghanistan was and could be. The story of Afghanistan is too often told from the perspective of outsiders who tried to invade it (and always failed) earning it the nickname "Graveyard of Empires." In this episode, we're shifting the perspective. We'll journey through the centuries alongside Afghan mystical poets. We'll turn the radio dial to hear songs of love and liberation. We'll meet the queen who built the first primary school for girls in the country. And we'll take a closer look at Afghanistan's centuries-long experiment to create a unified nation.

Afghanistan: The Center of the World

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Deborah Lee

The Aftermath of Collapse: Bronze Age Edition (2021)

What happens after everything falls apart? The end of the Bronze Age was a moment when an entire network of ancient civilizations collapsed, leaving behind only clues to what happened. Today, scholars have pieced together a story where everything from climate change to mass migration to natural disasters played a role. What the end of the Bronze Age can teach us about avoiding catastrophe and what comes after collapse.

The Aftermath of Collapse: Bronze Age Edition (2021)

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Joelle Avelino

Octavia Butler: Visionary Fiction (2021)

Octavia Butler's alternate realities and 'speculative fiction' reveal striking, and often devastating parallels to the world we live in today. She was a deep observer of the human condition, perplexed and inspired by our propensity towards self-destruction. Butler was also fascinated by the cyclical nature of history, and often looked to the past when writing about the future. Along with her warning is her message of hope - a hope conjured by centuries of survival and persistence. For every society that perishes in her books comes a story of rebuilding, of repair.

Octavia Butler: Visionary Fiction (2021)

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