History of the Germans Podcast

“A great many things keep happening, some good, some bad” (Gregory of Tours 539-594)

The Podcast

A narrative retelling of German history from the coronation of Henry the Fowler in 919 AD to German Reunification in 1990. Weekly 20-30 minute episodes are available here and with all major providers of fine audio entertainment.

History of the Germans – Trailer
byDirk Hoffmann-Becking

My name is Dirk and I want to take you through German history from the early middle ages to German Reunification in 1990.

Why would you want to come along to this journey? Can German history reach places, other histories cannot?

Why would you want to listen to me, not a professional historian?

Answers to these and other question in this 6 minute trailer

The music for the show is Flute Sonata in E-flat major, H.545 by Carl Phillip Emmanuel Bach (or some claim it as BWV 1031 Johann Sebastian Bach) performed and arranged by Michel Rondeau under Common Creative Licence 3.0.

Click here for links to Apple Podcasts, Spotify and other listening platforms

The music for the show is Flute Sonata in E-flat major, H.545 by Carl Phillip Emmanuel Bach (or some claim it as BWV 1031 Johann Sebastian Bach) performed and arranged by Michel Rondeau under Common Creative Licence 3.0.

Recent Reviews

Current Season: The Hohenstaufen (1125-1268)

Almost 700,000 people visited the Alte Schloß in Stuttgart to see an exhibition entitled “Die Zeit der Staufer” (the Time of the Hohenstaufen in English) in 1977. Over 1,000 items from 17 countries were on display, with the Cappenberger Kopf, the portrait image of emperor Frederick Barbarossa, as its star exhibit.

Nobody expected these numbers of visitors for what was a quite modest exhibition space. At peak times there was barely a square meter per person. People fainted in the low and badly ventilated rooms. They sold 150,000 copies of the enormous four volume exhibition catalogue, one of which to my father who proudly displayed it in his office for 40 years and is now in a box en route over to mine.

Most other medieval German rulers are all but forgotten, but interest in the Hohenstaufen never completely disappeared. Why is that? They were by no means the most successful emperors, that crown has to go the Ottonians nor was their reign the most fateful, that was the reign of the later Salians.

Frederick Barbarossa and his grandson Frederick II have been such fascinating personalities that almost any age could project their own perceptions and expectations onto them, from champion of national unity to modern man before his time. Time to find out what really happened, who they really were. As always a great many things keep happening, some good, some bad.

Since by the ordination of God I both am called and am Emperor of the Romans, in nothing but name shall I appear to be ruler if the control of the Roman city be wrested from my hands.

Frederick Barbarossa (Emperor from 1152-1190)

Latest Episode

Support the Show

The History of the Germans Podcast has been advertising free since the very beginning and will remain so. The point of the exercise is not to make me rich (there are many smarter ways to do that), but to make the whole of German history more accessible, in particular to English speakers. But Podcasting is hard work. Each episode takes me about 2- 2.5 working days to prepare and record. So if I want to keep the podcast ad-free and keep my marriage going, I need to make this economically viable. And that is where you fine people come in. If you feel the urge to support this endeavour, are in need for some heartfelt gratitude or just want to have some great extra HotG stuff, choose a membership level that suits your wallet – please!

Reichsritter/Edelfrau

£2 per month

A Reichsritter (Imperial Knight) protects the poor, defends the church and serves the emperor freely and truly. He does not expect anything in return, apart from honour and respect. Nor does an Edelfrau (Dame) debase herself to barter for goods in return for her generosity.
Only an exchange of gifts is suitable for such august personalities, so please receive the occasional bonus episode as a token of the Podcast’s appreciation.

  • Heartfelt Gratitude
  • Bonus Episodes about German Art, Architecture and Literature
  • Posing questions in the Q&A sessions at the end of each season

Reichsfuerst

£4 Per MontH

As Peer of the Realm your great privilege is a seat in the Reichstag where you can deliberate the affairs of the day and advise on future policy. The peers of the ream included not just counts and dukes, but also bishops and mighty abbesses

  • Sincere and Heartfelt Gratitude
  • Bonus Episodes about German Art, Architecture and Literature
  • Having your (first) name called out at the start of an episode
  • Posing questions in the Q&A sessions at the end of each season
  • You can suggest specific topics to be included into an episode

Kurfuerst

£8 Per Month

The noblest of rights of a Prince Elector is to choose. The History of the Germans Podcasts offers you the opportunity here to choose to be even more generous than Imperial Knights/Dames and Peers of the Realm.
The Empire being impecunious ever since your ancestors have broken central power during the Investiture Conflict, there is sadly not much in added benefit that can be offered. We hope you recognise your good fortune and give according to your might.

  • Eternal, Sincere and Heartfelt Gratitude
  • Bonus Episodes about German Art, Architecture and Literature
  • Having your (first) name called out at the start of an episode
  • Posing questions in the Q&A sessions at the end of each season
  • You can suggest specific topics to be included into an episode

Click here for links to Apple Podcasts, Spotify and other listening platforms
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Or make a one-time Donation – very much appreciated

£10.00

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42 Comments

  1. I like how you say that the German History is difficult to understand fully and leaves a blank canvas that is filled depending on the perspective of the individuals who are biased depending on whether one was Prussian, protestant, Catholic, Austrian, from the Third Reich, the EU, from communist East German, as well as American, British, French or Italian.

    We have the same problem in America where people today judge our fore fathers’ past history based on present day standards, present day ethics, present day values, present day events, present day propaganda/fake news/political spin with the powerful projection of internet projection. The same way children do not understand their parents world because they were not exposed to those times.

    It was what it was.

    Thank you.

  2. Great podcast series so far. I have listened to every episode and am really enjoying learning about German history for the first time. Thanks Dirk!

  3. Thanks Dirk! I have a Lot to read and learn! I wish daddy could do they same, but he has already passed away. Love your excellent information. 🙂

  4. Great series. Currently my go-to listening anytime I’m out and about, doing dishes, whatever. I’m a serious history nut myself, and this is history as I like it – the interesting bits! Gossipy, factual, and insightful.

  5. So happy to have discovered this excellent podcast … Dirk gives a clear and easily followed chronological narrative but also includes a clear and easy to follow analysis of events … makes for really enjoyable listening and learning… thank you Dirk

  6. Thanks again for the podcast. I can’t tell you how much I’m enjoying. It feels like a great odyssey. One which I am really enjoying and strapped into, with life jacket on and whistle at the ready 😊

  7. Got lazy? First you use the thugs and miracles (for what I am immensely greatfull as I have no idea how would I find a so stupidly named podcast, i was looking for a history of France like a week before your anouncment about t&m) and then no episode next week. When will you get to work?
    Ps. My comment i obviously (partially) a joke. Great work, if you d like to give even more details it would be great (never to much). I have a suggestion to, would you be willing to make special episodes about the medieval times in German context? Like about architecture, weapons, metalurgy, industry, food, clothing, German city law etc. If you know that some this has been made and you don t want to repeat could you direct the listeners to it?
    Pps. Good work with the prononciation of polish names.

  8. Just started listening to the podcast! I’ve been searching for a good German history podcast, and this one ticks all the boxes for me. I’m greatly enjoying it so far and can’t wait to listen to more!

  9. Excellent podcast!

    Very German and yet still a sense of humor lurks inside this intelligent, thoroughly researched, well organized and professional production.

    For now, Ottos, Conrads, Henrys, warfare, religion and backroom politics supply enough entertainment, but please cover Metropolis when you reach the 1920s!

  10. Wonderful and informative podcast. European history tends to be about Napoleon and then the World Wars here in the U.S. history curriculum. Thank you!

  11. There is a saga about the two emperors Henry IV and V, telling that in the cathedral of Speyer the bells magically started ringing by themselves on the days when these emperors died: For Henry IV it was the biggest one, called the imperial bell; and for Henry V, it was the small “bell of the poor sinners”.
    The saga is obviously somewhat biased, from the point of view of the 19th century. This was the era when those sagas were written down, when after the demise of the Holy Roman Empire, the Germans were seeking to find a new identity, and therefore searching for their roots in history. The protestant majority in Prussia felt sympathy with Henry IV and his struggle against the pope and the catholic church.
    This saga has been made into a poem and song by Maximilian von Oër and Carl Loewe:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXZai1aGT4g
    Another song about this topic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J4JpCz19BOU

  12. Excellent podcast, really interesting to see the differences and similarities with English history. Like the witty presentation too.

  13. In episode 38 you should t say about racial violence, it was religious violence, if a jew converted he wasn’t a jew anymore. I think it is an important distinction.

    1. Hi Marcus – thanks so much for your support! The Music is the third movement of the Flute Sonata in E-flat major, H.545 most probably by Carl Phillip Emmanuel Bach. Some claim it as by Johann Sebastian Bach (BWV 1031) performed and arranged by Michel Rondeau, a trumpeter and composer from Canada who kindly allows its use under Common Creative Licence 3.0. I must say I stumbled over the piece when researching suitable music for the podcast and it stuck….

  14. Thanks! Aaaah that explains it, the trumpet completely threw me. I’ll search for the full piece now! Keep up the great work

  15. Herzlichen Dank für diesen interessanten und spannenden Podcast. Obwohl ich mich selber mit deutscher Geschichte beschäftige, erfahre und lerne ich eine Menge neuer Details. Und ganz banal: eine wunderbare Unterhaltung beim Laufen oder auf langen Fahrten. Nochmals herzlichen Dank!

  16. I love this podcast. I’ve been listening to it using my waterproof ipod nano while I swim laps. The time flies by. Dirk is a wonderful History geek. I appreciate the research and big shout out for the delivery. I envy Dirk’s mastery of my mother tongue and impeccable timing with the jokes! Sometimes I get water up my nose! Thank you for this labor of love!

  17. One of two historical podcasts that have been a constant companion from doing things inside the house or outside shovelling snow. It has been a useful reminder that medieval Germany was not just about Frederick Barbarossa or the Hanseatic League. I have particularly enjoyed how the story behind otherwise confusing Investiture Controversy has panned out.

  18. Dirk, just a quick note to say thank you for your efforts at creating and presenting this superb podcast. You and your fellow history podcasters have added mightily to my knowledge of world history. I am truly grateful.

    You recently asked for feedback on the new webpages for individual episodes. I have only quickly glanced at these, but the embedded images and maps are wonderful. This is essentially what Doug Metzger of the outstanding Literature and History podcast does. At least for some time, you should remember to remind listeners of these pages and what they have available. Thank you!!

    Best regards,

    Spencer

  19. Excellent podcast, great introduction to my surroundings while living in southwest Germany. One request: could you make the supporting blog material for previous seasons more accessible? I can only see the current season but am taking my time going through earlier seasons, having started from the beginning when the podcast was already well advanced. Thank you in any case for this unique offering!

  20. I love your podcast. Listening to the episode about Henry II right now. Which you posted on twitter today. I would love to share your tweets, but you’ve blocked me.

      1. That’s me! I was just really enjoying your thread, because it was about the same episode I was listening to.

  21. Dirk, The History of the Germans podcast quickly rose to the top tier of the 35+ history podcasts I listen to regularly. Thank you for your efforts at putting together this excellent history podcast.
    I have one complaint. In the most recent episode, #73, and in another fairly recent episode (I don’t recall which one), you apparently felt the need to use an expletive. From my vantage, there was absolutely no justification for this low-class word usage. English has more than 100,000 words and yet you could not select a word other than an expletive! I expect better from someone presenting an educational podcast. Rather, this is what I expect from middle school or high school boys who are trying to show how tough they are and have a limited vocabulary. If I want to hear expletive-laced content, I’ll simply watch most any Netflix or HBO show, as the script writers for those shows also seem to select words from George Carlin’s “Seven Words” category continuously.

    I see Episode #73 is marked as “clean” on iTunes, which is not accurate or truthful.

    Unless you are quoting content that contains expletives, there is no reason to dive into that sewer.

    I would have written an email to you, but cannot find an email for you. I do not use social media. I do not understand why all history podcaster do not set up and make available a podcast-specific email.

    I have in the past recommended The History of the Germans to others. If expletive use continues, I will not only retract those recommendations but will cease to listen myself.

    I hope you can find suitable alternative words so that I can continue to listen happily.

    Best regards,

    Spencer

  22. Hi Spencer,

    Let’s face it; swear words are an integral part of any language. Both German and English have wonderful collections of swear words. Sad about it is that most people lack the phantasy to use the right swear word for the right occasion. And yes, I agree, swear words have become too common in our languages which is both bad taste and boring. But there are situations where swear words are appropriate, where a “oh dear oh dear, how unfortunate!“ simply doesn’t rise to the occasion and a „fuck!“ and a „shit“ is exactly what needs to be said. And any author has the right to use expletives when he needs to colour a situation if he can’t use a quote because it has not been recorded.

    Kind regards
    Alexander, Cologne

  23. I never listen to podcasts, and hardly ever lectures. I also don’t watch movies, documentaries, or television–I really only like reading. This is the first podcast I’ve managed to listen to, because it’s like a good book: information-dense, clear, and entertaining, in a way surpassed only by Robert Sapolsky.

    Things I appreciate about this podcast:
    – The rate at which new information keeps coming.
    – The selection of interesting information. He makes it so you can tell apart an endless stream of historical figures with the same 5 names. Well done.
    – The Middle Ages are not my period (that would be the 18th century), so I can’t speak to the quality of the scholarship, but the fact that he keeps refering to chroniclers and pointing out that they can’t be trusted blindly inspires some confidence. Some biases are emerging, but nothing that’s interfered too much with my enjoyment.
    – The clear diction.
    – The neutral tone of voice, no trying to jazz things up with breathless excitement (the other reason I can’t stand to listen to a lot of audio media). The material itself is interesting enough, or I wouldn’t be here.
    – The sprinkling of humorous observations.
    – The fact that the humor is deadpan, see above.

    There are podcasts I would listen to if Dirk were the one reading the script aloud. Thugs and Miracles, I’m looking at you.

    Dirk, you asked at one point early on if you were striking a good balance when it comes to callbacks. It’s perfect as far as I’m concerned: I especially appreciate the way you can remind me of who someone is with only one or two words, at most a sentence. I also appreciate that by the time you give me the reminder, it’s been long enough that I could use one, and also that the reminders frequently serve the purpose of linking historical events together and showing trends through time.

    In conclusion, I’m about halfway through, all paid up on Patreon, and looking forward to more episodes! I’ve been recommending this podcast to all and sundry, now with one caveat:

    Listeners, be warned that my wife found the trigger warnings in episode 38 inadequate. When I got there, I wasn’t triggered myself, but I have to agree “extreme violence, religiously motivated crimes, and suicide” doesn’t cover it. I’ve been trying to come up with a warning that won’t actually describe what happens in enough detail to be triggering itself, and the best I can come up with is, “Child harm and death, and if you find first-person Holocaust survivor narratives emotionally distressing, this will be very similar.” Maybe someone else can do better.

  24. Hi Dirk,
    I am just getting to Barbarossa and I am enjoying it immensely. What a wild and wacky history it is.
    Thanks,
    Ed

  25. Dear Dirk,

    I was looking for a modern history of Germany, but I found your podcast, which captivated me nonetheless; and I have been listening for over a year. You have a wonderful storytelling style, and you are a gifted teacher of history. I am really enjoying the background for the story I was looking for, and the joy of sticking with you – to as close to the present as you eventually make it. Reunification in 2026? I’ll surely enjoy the ride.

    Thank you for expanding my view, and for the homely company of your voice. I have just made a small contribution to express my appreciation, although it is only a very small amount compared to your contribution. Still, I hope it helps.

    Many thanks,
    An anonymous fan:)

  26. At one time during one of the earllier podcasts, you recommended a podcast on French history and then right before Barbarosso, you mentioned one onByzantium. Couuld you please tell me what they were? I have really enjoyed the podcasts and have learned soooo much. Keep up the good work!

    1. Not sure I replied. The Podcast is called Thugs & Miracles, Ben has got to the early Carolingian period so lots to listen to already. he is gone on an extended breather so I do not know when he will be back. And there is the History of Byzantium by Robin Pearson, also excellent with a couple of hundred episodes going from Constantine to 1453….

  27. Hi Dirk,

    I just listened to your bonus episode on Elisabeth of Thuringia, which I really enjoyed (depressing or no). I was wondering, though, if there will be more bonus episodes similar to your very first one on the Aula Palatina in Trier? As a non-German who is living, off and on, in Germany for my research, I find such episodes relating to historical sites very interesting and would love to hear more of them. This is not to say that I do not enjoy the more biographical type of bonus episode, but perhaps a bit more of a mix would be nice.

    Anyway, regardless, I really love the podcast.

    All the best,
    -Mike

    1. Hi Michael, I will do my best. At the moment the weekly production schedule is quite stressful, so I am just using leftovers from that research for the bonus episodes. Not quite what you guys deserve but not sure how else I can keep my head above water.

  28. Hi Dirk, I very much enjoyed your latest episode on the art of hunting with birds, and I liked your rant. I’m not a historian but what you said sounds plausible to me. It also occurred to me that the exceptions you mentioned to the rule of pious medieval kings (Roger II, Frederick II, etc.) were (i) literally related to one another so it isn’t that surprising that they share some features in common, (ii) more importantly, ruling in _southern_ Europe where they came into contact with Arab culture which, at the time, was more advanced scientifically than the northern Europeans. So (in support of what you say) it isn’t surprising that they were less pious and more scientifically-minded than many of their other christian contemporaries. Anyway just a thought.

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