For the Ages: A History Podcast

By New-York Historical Society

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Explore the rich and complex history of the United States and beyond. Produced by the New-York Historical Society, host David M. Rubenstein engages the nation’s foremost historians and creative thinkers on a wide range of topics, including presidential biography, the nation’s founding, and the people who have shaped the American story. Learn more at

Episode Date
Breathless: The Scientific Race to Defeat a Deadly Virus

While COVID-19 caused tragedy and disruption in ways that few had ever seen before, scientists and infectious disease experts had warned of the likelihood of the ‘next big’ pandemic for decades. While political and economic interests often took precedence over the bolstering of resources to fight the spread of new diseases, the scientific community nonetheless rallied to fight the COVID-19 virus even as everyday life came to a standstill. David Quammen, referencing interviews with hundreds of scientists, speaks to David M. Rubenstein about how the virus emerged, how nations responded, and what the future may hold in store.
Recorded on October 8, 2022

Nov 28, 2022
The Nation That Never Was: Reconstructing America's Story

There’s a common story we tell about America: that our fundamental values as a country were stated in the Declaration of Independence, fought for in the Revolution, and made law in the Constitution. But, with the country increasingly divided, are cracks in this narrative beginning to show? Law professor Kermit Roosevelt III argues for a reinterpretation of the American story, that our fundamental values, particularly equality, are not part of the vision of the Founders.
Recorded on October 15, 2022

Nov 21, 2022
His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope

U.S. Congressman John Lewis (1940–2020) dedicated his life to public service and the pursuit of civil rights. A member of Martin Luther King Jr.’s inner circle, Lewis channeled his faith in humanity and in God to champion nonviolence as not only a tactic but a philosophy to achieve positive change and appeal to the best qualities of the American spirit. Drawing on decades of interviews with Lewis, Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Jon Meacham offers an intimate portrait of a national treasure. Recorded September 11, 2020

Nov 14, 2022
The Peaceful Transfer of Power: An Oral History of America’s Presidential Transitions

The peaceful transfer of power from one U.S. President to another is the most delicate and hazardous period in the entire political cycle. Americans learned the stakes in 2020, when President Donald Trump’s refusal to trigger the formal start of the transition process to President-Elect Joe Biden created perhaps the worst crisis for American democracy since the Civil War. In a conversation with David M. Rubenstein, former director of the Partnership for Public Service’s Center for Presidential Transition David Marchick illuminates the long history, complexity, and current best practices associated with this most vital of democratic institutions.
Recorded October 8, 2022 

Nov 07, 2022
A Conversation with Tom Brokaw

Tom Brokaw, one of the most respected and trusted figures in U.S. broadcast journalism—best known for his more than 20-year tenure as managing editor and sole anchor of NBC Nightly News—joins David M. Rubenstein for an in-depth conversation on his prolific life and career delivering the news to millions of Americans.
Recorded on November 27, 2017 

Oct 24, 2022
A Conversation with Annette Gordon-Reed

Acclaimed historian Annette Gordon-Reed is renowned for her work uncovering both the political and the private life of one of America’s most celebrated Founders, Thomas Jefferson. In a conversation moderated by American philanthropist David M. Rubenstein, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family looks at the enigmatic third President’s vision of himself, the Revolution, and the American experiment taking shape around him.
Recorded on March 19, 2017

Oct 17, 2022
Presidential Elections and the Supreme Court

On the evening of December 12, 2000, following weeks of confusion surrounding the outcome of the recent presidential election, the Supreme Court handed down its decision to halt further vote counting in Florida, thus confirming the electoral victory of George W. Bush. Looking at the context of the 2020 election, what constitutional protections and loopholes exist pertaining to the presidential electoral process? Supreme Court columnist Linda Greenhouse, in conversation with David M. Rubenstein, explores this complex topic. Recorded October 12, 2020 

Oct 10, 2022
A Conversation with Billie Jean King

Billie Jean King—former No. 1 tennis player in the world and the first female athlete and first member of the LGBT community to be honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom—speaks with David M. Rubenstein about her iconic life and career, highlighting pivotal moments including her historic victory in the 1973 “Battle of the Sexes” match and underlining her mission to incorporate equality into the larger fabric of the American story. Recorded on March 7, 2017 

Oct 03, 2022
Exercise of Power: American Failures, Successes, and a New Path Forward in the Post-Cold War World

How has global perception of the United States shifted since the end of the Cold War? Once seen as a dominant international leader, the country’s reputation has evolved into that of a disorganized entity, seemingly unwilling to accept the mantle of leadership. In an insightful discussion with David M. Rubenstein, bestselling author and former secretary of defense Robert M. Gates uses his firsthand knowledge to uncover how this transformation unfolded, how political leaders have wielded American power, and how future leaders can rise to the challenges to come.
Recorded on September 18, 2020

Sep 26, 2022
Robert E. Lee: A Life

In a tale ranging from Lee’s wealthy but scandal-ridden upbringing in Virginia to his long career in the U.S. Army, award-winning historian Allen C. Guelzo takes a hard look at Lee’s character, including his deceptively genteel demeanor and corrosive insecurities. Discover what led Lee to the treasonous fight for slavery that continues to sow division in American society today.
Recorded on March 30, 2022

Sep 19, 2022
A Conversation with Eric Foner

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Eric Foner discusses his illustrious career, including his work on American icons such as Thomas Paine and Abraham Lincoln. In a wide-ranging conversation moderated by David M. Rubenstein, Eric Foner covers his substantial scholarship on the Civil War, slavery, and 19th-century America.
Recorded April 13, 2017 

Sep 12, 2022
A Conversation with Louise Mirrer

The New-York Historical Society, New York’s first museum, has been a great destination for history since 1804. David M. Rubenstein speaks with New-York Historical’s President and CEO Louise Mirrer about her life and career, as well as the past, present, and future of the institution.  
Recorded on February 18, 2022 

Jun 27, 2022
How to Lead: Wisdom from the World’s Greatest CEOs, Founders, and Game Changers

What are the qualities of a great leader? For the past five years, David Rubenstein has spoken with some of the world’s most distinguished visionaries in government, finance, technology, and beyond. In a discussion with historian Douglas Brinkley, Rubenstein reveals what he has learned in his conversations with influential history-makers such as Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Warren Buffett, and others.
Recorded on September 22, 2020 

Jun 20, 2022
Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge

In May of 1796, 22-year-old Ona Judge escaped enslavement from the household of the most powerful man in the United States: George Washington. Soon thereafter she became the subject of an intense manhunt led by Washington himself. In a discussion that spans her scholarship on slavery, racial injustice, and gender inequality, Erica Armstrong Dunbar explores the incredible story of this courageous young woman who defied the man who had brought freedom to some, but not all, who lived in the United States.
Recorded January 7, 2021.

Jun 13, 2022
Three Days at the Brink: FDR’s Daring Gamble to Win World War II

Bestselling author and Fox News Channel anchor Bret Baier, in conversation with David M. Rubenstein, illuminates the complex character of Franklin D. Roosevelt through three essential days in Tehran, Iran during November of 1943. Roosevelt, alongside Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin, met in secret for the first time to chart a strategy for defeating Hitler, and made essential decisions that would direct the final years of the war and its aftermath. 
Recorded June 4, 2021

Jun 06, 2022
His Very Best: Jimmy Carter, a Life

Jimmy Carter’s term as America’s 39th president has drawn both censure and celebration, resulting in a complex presidential legacy. Drawing on new archival material and five years of extensive access to Carter and his entire family, author Jonathan Alter traces Carter’s journey growing up during the Depression in the Jim Crow South to the governorship of Georgia, the Oval Office, and finally to his receiving the Nobel Peace Prize for his humanitarian work and outspokenness on international conflicts.
Recorded November 20, 2020

May 23, 2022
The Cause: The American Revolution and Its Discontents, 1773–1783

Award-winning author and historian Joseph J. Ellis, in conversation with David M. Rubenstein, sheds new light on the War for American Independence. Focusing on 1773 to 1783, Ellis illuminates how the nation’s founders—including George Washington and John Adams, among others—prudently but imperfectly established a new republic.
Recorded June 11, 2021

May 16, 2022
Abraham Lincoln in His Times

Few historical figures are as revered as Abraham Lincoln. From humble beginnings, Lincoln’s enduring desire for self-improvement and extraordinary ability to strike a balance between opposing forces led him to become one of the most consequential figures of the 19th century. Prize-winning author and historian David S. Reynolds illuminates the forces that shaped Lincoln and how our nation’s 16th president rose to the unprecedented challenges of the time.
Recorded April 30, 2021

May 09, 2022
How Ike Led: The Principles Behind Eisenhower’s Biggest Decisions

Serving as Allied Commander during World War II and later as President of the United States, few people have made decisions as momentous and consequential as Dwight D. Eisenhower. Guided by his heritage and upbringing, as well as his strong character and his personal discipline, Eisenhower was a steadying force during some of the most tumultuous decades in human history. Susan Eisenhower discusses the life and legacy of her distinguished grandfather and what we can learn from him today.  
Recorded on April 30, 2021

May 02, 2022
JFK: Coming of Age in the American Century, 1917–1956

Born in 1917 to a family destined to become one of the most influential in American politics, John F. Kennedy knew ambition from an early age. Focusing on Kennedy's first 39 years, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Fredrik Logevall, in conversation with David M. Rubenstein, examines the coming-of-age of the nation's 35th president during a time of national turmoil and transformation.
Recorded on  November 6, 2020 

Apr 25, 2022
A Conversation with Jeffrey Rosen: The Life and Legacy of Justice Ginsburg

Starting in the 1990s, Jeffrey Rosen met with Ruth Bader Ginsburg to discuss both her political and personal life, gleaning priceless observations from the Justice about topics ranging from the Constitution to how to be a good listener to the #MeToo movement. Join us to hear Rosen’s reflections on their three decades of conversations as well as Justice Ginsburg’s legacy.
Recorded on  November 13, 2022

Apr 18, 2022
The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race

Bestselling author Walter Isaacson, in conversation with David M. Rubenstein, discusses the life and work of the Nobel Prize-winning Jennifer Doudna who, with her collaborators, created a DNA-editing tool with the power to revolutionize human health.
Recorded on  February 19, 2021 

Apr 11, 2022
A Conversation with Brenda Child

Scholar Brenda Child sheds light on how America’s first inhabitants were impacted in a wide-ranging discussion that will include President Jackson’s Indian Removal Act, efforts by the American government to expand rights and grant citizenship to native peoples, as well as the activism and grassroots advocacy that continue to this day.
Recorded on  April 16, 2021 

Apr 04, 2022
The American Experiment: Dialogues on a Dream

The American experiment began with a revolutionary idea that a nation could be founded on the principles of democracy, equality, and liberty. In this talk, New-York Historical Society President and CEO Louise Mirrer speaks with David M. Rubenstein about the subject of his latest book: how the American experiment, in all its promise and imperfection, has evolved over the past 250 years. Discover the ingenuity, setbacks, and social movements that continue to define what America is—and what it can be.
Recorded on December 7, 2021 

Mar 28, 2022
Cover Story: Katharine Graham, CEO

Publisher Katharine Graham, one of the most influential figures of the 20th century, championed excellence in journalism. Under her leadership, the Washington Post evolved into one of the nation’s most respected news sources and forever changed American history with its groundbreaking investigative reporting into the Watergate scandal. In conversation with David M. Rubenstein, Graham’s children Donald E. Graham and Lally Graham Weymouth discuss their mother’s life and legacy.
Recorded on January 7, 2021

Mar 21, 2022
A Conversation with John M. Barry: The Great Influenza

At the height of World War I, a lethal influenza virus erupted in an army camp in Kansas, spreading rapidly as it moved east with American troops. The influenza pandemic of 1918 ended up killing as many as 100 million people worldwide. Author John M. Barry joins David M. Rubenstein for a conversation on how the 1918 pandemic began and spread, as well as what was ultimately done to stop it.
Recorded on June 25, 2020 

Mar 14, 2022
The World: A Brief Introduction

We live in a global era with events that happen hundreds or thousands of miles away having a direct impact on our lives. This is all too clear in recent months, with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing individual countries to develop unique methods to contain the outbreak within their borders. Foreign policy expert Richard Haass, in a discussion with David Rubenstein, illuminates how we got here through the lens of his own life and work, including his most recent book, The World: A Brief Introduction.
Recorded on July 9, 2020 

Mar 07, 2022
Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic

Originally published in 2012, science author David Quammen’s book Spillover hypothesized the increasing frequency of diseases spreading from animals to humans, coupled with the speed and ease of modern world travel, could be the recipe for a global pandemic. Recorded in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in June 2020, Quammen discusses his work and unique insights into how, where, and why diseases emerge.
Recorded on June 25, 2020 

Feb 28, 2022
A Conversation with Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Henry Louis Gates Jr. has helped reshape the nation’s collective understanding of the legacy of slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction, and the ongoing struggle for racial equality. The storied filmmaker, literary scholar, journalist, cultural critic, and institution builder discusses this important history and how his scholarly work has developed how we learn about and understand the American story.
Recorded on January 22, 2021

Feb 21, 2022
The Splendid and the Vile: Churchill, Family, and Defiance during the Blitz

During World War II, the Nazis bombed Great Britain relentlessly, killing 45,000 Britons and destroying two million homes. Drawing on recently declassified files, intelligence reports, and personal diaries that are only now available, author Erik Larson, in conversation with David Rubenstein, offers fresh insight into the experience of the Blitz through the lens of the newly elected Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his family. The Splendid and the Vile will be available in paperback in bookstores nationwide starting February 15.
Recorded on Thursday, July 9, 2020

Feb 14, 2022
Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom

Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian David W. Blight delves into the life of one of the most important figures of the 19th century: Writer, orator, and abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Born into slavery, Douglass rose to become one of the most revered critical thinkers of his time, and his insights continue to shape contemporary understanding of the legacies of slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction.
Recorded on October 30, 2020 

Feb 07, 2022
A Conversation with Akhil Reed Amar: The Electoral College

The Electoral College has been a source of much debate throughout American history. The controversy was amplified following the 2000 and 2016 elections after the runners-up in the popular vote were able to claim the presidency. In a conversation with David M. Rubenstein, esteemed constitutional scholar Akhil Reed Amar uncovers the fascinating history of the nation’s electoral process.
Recorded on January 22, 2021 

Jan 31, 2022
Lincoln on the Verge: Thirteen Days to Washington

Overcoming formidable obstacles, including an assassination attempt, Abraham Lincoln’s presidency was fraught with danger before it even officially began. Ted Widmer provides a riveting account of Lincoln’s pivotal 13-day train ride to Washington for his inauguration, and how this fateful trip played a vital role in shaping him for his role as president of a rapidly fracturing nation.
Recorded on February 5, 2021

Jan 24, 2022
Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

The Pulitzer Prize-winning, bestselling author of The Warmth of Other Suns Isabel Wilkerson examines an unspoken hierarchy that transcends race, class, and other lines of division in modern society. By comparing the caste systems of America, India, and Nazi Germany, explore how the nation can orient itself around common humanity instead of artificial and destructive separations between those who have power and those who do not.
Recorded on May 7, 2021

Jan 17, 2022
A Conversation with Michael Beschloss

Michael Beschloss, one of the most prominent presidential historians in the country, joins David M. Rubenstein for an intimate conversation on his life, career, and his 2018 book, Presidents of War, which is the culmination of 10 years of research. The U.S. Constitution grants Congress the sole power to declare war, however throughout history presidents have waged conflicts across the globe–both with and without formal Congressional approval. In this conversation, Beschloss traces presidential leadership and executive power in times of conflict from the founding to the 21st century, including the actions Lincoln took during the Civil War and Lyndon B. Johnson’s approach to the Vietnam War.
Recorded on April 17, 2019. 

Jan 10, 2022
A Conversation with Bernard L. Schwartz

In celebration of 15 years of transformative support of New-York Historical, Bernard L. Schwartz highlights his fascinating life—from his youth and service during the Second World War to his life’s work in private investment, public policy, philanthropy, and industry. He also discusses his book, Just Say Yes: What I've Learned About Life, Luck, and the Pursuit of Opportunity, a memoir and primer for readers seeking their own opportunities.
Recorded on March 25, 2019

Dec 27, 2021
A Conversation with Walter Isaacson

Walter Isaacson discusses his career as a preeminent historian and biographer, how he chooses the people he writes about, and why he is fascinated by them. This includes his books Steve Jobs, the authorized biography of the Apple Inc. co-founder written by Isaacson at the subject’s request, and Leonardo da Vinci.
Recorded on December 18, 2018

Dec 20, 2021
Churchill: Walking with Destiny

Andrew Roberts, New York Times bestselling author of Churchill: Walking with Destiny, discusses the life of one of the most venerable personalities of the Second World War: including why one of the most oft-written about figures in history needed a new biography.
Recorded on May 8, 2019

Dec 13, 2021
Americana: A 400-Year History of American Capitalism

Entrepreneur and author Bhu Srinivasan explores the surprising intersections of democracy and capitalism throughout history, from the days of the Mayflower and Virginia Company through Silicon Valley start-ups.
Recorded on September 18, 2020

Dec 06, 2021
One Mighty and Irresistible Tide: The Epic Struggle Over American Immigration, 1924-1965

In 1924, Congress put in place strict quotas that impacted national immigration policy for decades. Interweaving her own family’s story, New York Times deputy national editor Jia Lynn Yang uncovers how presidents from Harry S. Truman through LBJ and a coalition of lawmakers and activists fought to transform the American immigration system.
Recorded on September 11, 2020

Nov 29, 2021
Shakespeare in a Divided America

James Shapiro, Shakespeare Scholar in Residence at the Public Theater in New York City, discusses his book Shakespeare in a Divided America, connecting the American story, from politics to pop culture, with those of history’s most famous playwright. Recorded on December 4, 2020 

Nov 15, 2021
An Evening with Drew Gilpin Faust

Esteemed American historian Drew Gilpin Faust, 28th President of Harvard University, discusses her work as a Civil War historian and uncovers the pivotal role universities play in modeling cultural and political understanding and strengthening American society. Recorded March 20th, 2018

Nov 08, 2021
An Evening with Robert A. Caro: Working

Robert A. Caro, who has twice won the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, and in 2010 was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama, discusses his experiences as a researcher and writer, offering a first-hand perspective on the process that produced his award-winning book The Power Broker and multi-volume series The Years of Lyndon Johnson.
Recorded on April 22, 2019

Nov 01, 2021
An Evening with Jill Lepore

Jill Lepore discusses her prolific career, her contribution to the study of American history, and her books: the New York Times bestseller These Truths: A History of the United States and This America: The Case for the Nation.
Recorded on October 7, 2019

Oct 18, 2021
A Conversation with Ron Chernow

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Chernow discusses his work as a biographer, including how he came to be involved in the production of the hit musical Hamilton, based on his book Alexander Hamilton, and his sweeping biography of the often misunderstood Union general and American president Ulysses S. Grant.
Recorded on December 18, 2018

Oct 04, 2021
Silver, Sword, and Stone: A History of Latin America

Asylum-seeking refugees at the southern border often dominate national headlines and ignite contentious debates on how to address the crisis. But why and what are they fleeing? Award-winning author Marie Arana examines the critical forces—including exploitation, violence, and religion—that have shaped Latin America for the past millennium and continue to reverberate today.
Recorded on July 23, 2020 

Sep 20, 2021
The Zealot and the Emancipator: John Brown, Abraham Lincoln, and the Struggle for American Freedom Featuring: H.W. Brands

Two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist H.W. Brands discusses the early days of the American struggle to end slavery using the stories of two men who were at its forefront: Abraham Lincoln and John Brown.
Recorded September 4, 2020 

Sep 06, 2021
A Conversation with Joanne Freeman: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War

Esteemed historian and Yale University professor Joanne B. Freeman illuminates the tensions and conflicts in U.S. Congress in the decades leading up to the Civil War, when legislative sessions were often punctuated by mortal threats and physical altercations. Recorded January 7, 2021 

Aug 23, 2021
The Hardest Job in the World: The American Presidency

John Dickerson delves into the history of presidential campaigns in the United States, focusing on some of the best stories of memorable moments from past election runs. Recorded November 13, 2020

Aug 08, 2021
The Man Who Ran Washington: The Life and Times of James A. Baker III

Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent for the New York Times, and Susan Glasser, a staff writer at the New Yorker, examine the life and lasting legacy of James A. Baker, one of the most influential political power brokers in American history.
Recorded December 3, 2020

Jul 26, 2021
A Conversation with Philip Deloria: America’s First Inhabitants

Harvard University professor Philip Deloria examines the social, cultural, and political histories of the relations among American Indian peoples and the United States and how these relationships impacted indigenous peoples throughout history.
Recorded September 4, 2020

Jul 12, 2021
A Conversation with Cokie Roberts

The late Cokie Roberts illuminates her family’s legacy in public service, her career as a journalist and political commentator, and the importance of highlighting the oft-forgotten stories of women and the integral role they played in the shaping of American history. Recorded December 18, 2018

Jun 29, 2021
The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle

The fight for LGBTQ civil rights is long and hard-fought—and it still continues today. Award-winning author and renowned scholar Lillian Faderman discusses the history of the movement, from the 1950s up through the fight for marriage equality and beyond.
Recorded September 25, 2020

Jun 10, 2021