The History of English Podcast-logo

The History of English Podcast

History Podcasts

The Spoken History of a Global Language


United States


The Spoken History of a Global Language




Episode 172: Succession

In this episode, we explore the concept of a successful succession. During the early 1590s, France was divided by a bitter conflict over the succession of Henry of Navarre to the French throne. Meanwhile, William Shakespeare wrote a couple of … Continue reading →


Episode 171: Shakespeare’s English (featuring Ben Crystal)

In this episode, we turn our attention to the wordcraft of William Shakespeare. Today, many people have mixed opinions about his plays and poems. They know that he is widely regarded as the greatest English writer of all time, but … Continue reading →


Episode 170: Printers, Plague and Poets

In this episode, we examine the connection between poetry and plague in the early 1590s. An outbreak of the recurring sickness contributed to Shakespeare’s early career as a poet, and that poetry likely included his many sonnets. We also examine … Continue reading →


Episode 169: Shakespeare Documented

William Shakespeare is widely considered to be the most important writer in the history of the English language, but relatively little is known about his personal life. The desire to know more about the ‘Bard of Avon’ has led to … Continue reading →


Episode 168: Witches, Demons and Fairies

In this episode, we explore the Elizabethan fascination with witchcraft and mysterious creatures like fairies and demons. Those subjects feature prominently in the literature of the period, and they reveal a lot about the world view of the people who … Continue reading →


Episode 167: The Rhythm of English

All languages have their own rhythm and cadence, and English is no exception. That rhythm has actually shaped the language over time. It contributed to the structure of English poetry, and during the Elizabethan period, it shaped the way drama … Continue reading →


Bonus Episode: Rise and Fall of the Classic Movie Accent

In this episode from the Patreon archives, we examine the accent used by actors and actresses in very old movies. We look at the origin of that accent and examine why it was adopted by the film industry in the … Continue reading →


Episode 166: The Arte of Warre

In 1588, the Spanish Armada set sail for England in an attempt to depose Elizabeth I and replace her with a Spanish princess. In this episode, we examine how the English victory secured the status of English within the Church … Continue reading →


Episode 165: Glamorous Grammar

William Bullokar composed the first formal grammar of the English language in 1586. Prior to that point, the concept of grammar had been largely restricted to Latin. Bullokar’s work extended the concept to English, but it did so by employing … Continue reading →


Episode 164: Somewhere in the Middle

Throughout her long reign, Queen Elizabeth I was faced with many difficult decisions, and she often chose a middle path when she could. In this episode, we explore the middle paths taken during her reign, and the consequences of those … Continue reading →


Episode 163: An Elementary Education

By the second half of the Elizabethan period, the perception of English had changed significantly in England. It was increasingly perceived as a sophisticated language capable of matching the refinement of other European languages. One of the language’s most vocal … Continue reading →


Episode 162: The Pirate Queen

In the 1570s, Francis Drake plundered Spanish ships throughout the New World with the private permission of Elizabeth I. His actions marked the first direct challenge to Spanish naval supremacy in the region, and also marked the beginning the English … Continue reading →


Episode 161: Y U and I Have a Problem

In this episode, we explore the complicated history of the letters Y, U and I, and we examine how they gave birth to the letters W, V and J. We also look at the Gothic script of the Middle Ages … Continue reading →


Episode 160: Approximant-ly English

In this episode, we explore the sounds represented by the letters L and R. Linguists refer to these sounds as ‘approximants,’ and they are some of the most challenging sounds in the English language. They are consonants with vowel-like qualities. … Continue reading →


Episode 159: Elizabethan Voices

In 1569, an English scholar named John Hart published a manuscript called ‘An Orthographie.’ The text argued for a phonetic spelling system, and it provided one of the earliest detailed descriptions of the sounds of English. In this episode, we … Continue reading →


Episode 158: Planting Seeds

In the mid-1500s, England attempted to expand its influence in Ireland by establishing plantations there. This same process would soon be applied to North America. In this episode, we explore those early attempts at Irish colonization and England’s first encounters … Continue reading →


Episode 157: Highlands, Lowlands and Netherlands

During the first decade of the reign of Elizabeth I, Protestants in Scotland and the Netherlands rebelled against the Catholic authorities who controlled those countries. Those rebellions were supported by England, and eventually Scotland and the Netherlands joined England as … Continue reading →


Episode 156: Beggars, Cheats and Thieves

In the 1500s, England saw a significant rise in the number of beggars and vagabonds. Those who couldn’t survive by begging often turned to thievery, gambling and fraud. By the mid-1500s, books and pamphlets were being published that highlighted the … Continue reading →


Episode 155: Back to Basics

In the 1553, Mary Tudor became the first queen to rule England as the head of the government. She promptly turned back the clock on the religious reforms that had taken place over the prior few years. Meanwhile, scholars of … Continue reading →


Episode 154: English Equality

By the mid-1500s, scholars were becoming more confident in the ability of English to express sophisticated ideas and concepts associated with classical learning. Writers began to use English beside Latin and Greek in many scholarly works during this period. English … Continue reading →