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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Wisconsin chapter.

learn about politics, history, law, and economics on 2x speed

Listening to podcasts has become increasingly popular in the last few years, with a large focus on influencers who make conversational and lifestyle shows that are highly entertaining to listen to. But while many podcasts are just great entertainment, there are countless out there that simultaneously serve an educational purpose. Personally, listening to podcasts is one of my favorite ways to increase my knowledge in a form that is easy and genuinely interesting. Over the past couple of years, I’ve listened to a multitude of podcasts and have formed a pretty good list of the most interesting shows that teach me a thing or two while keeping me captivated for countless episodes.

1.Behind the Bastards (iHeartPodcasts)

Behind the Bastards is a witty and vulgar podcast hosted by Robert Evans that focuses on some of the worst people in history. Every episode, co-hosted by various comedians and influencers, goes through the nitty-gritty of the lives and actions of grifters, corrupt leaders, and other assholes throughout history. Evans does extensive research on every topic and his expertise is obvious, but he keeps the show light-hearted with a plethora of swearing, sex talk, and trials of new weapons he receives from fans of the show (a side-hobby of his). Some of my favorite topics have included Hitler’s sex life, Stalin’s youth, King Leopold II’s Belgian Congo, the Jewish scientist who helped develop the gas used in Nazi chambers, the inventor of the lobotomy, and the Reagans. Every episode is wildly entertaining and I walk away from it itching to tell someone what I just learned!

2.Freakonomics (Freakonomics Radio + Stitcher)

Freakonomics is a podcast hosted by an economist from the University of Chicago, Stephen Dubner, that “explores the hidden side of everything” (and it’s true!). Everything from the police, Covid, America’s individualism, unique names, and more is examined through an economic lens on this show, which features various scholars and experts in said fields to speak on the topics. One episode even outlines how supermarkets in the U.S. actually helped us “win” the Cold War, and another had me enthralled to learn about roundabouts for 45 minutes! The show aims to explain the effects of just about everything on economics and broader society, and it truly makes you look at everyday phenomena differently. The topics are so unique that it quickly became one of my favorite shows, and I’ve learned to view the world differently since listening.

3.The Weeds (Vox)

For anyone interested in politics, The Weeds is a great podcast that goes into the details of the most currently debated issues. It focuses on the political processes and arguments made for a given issue and is nearly always up to date with the latest events. There are recent episodes about Ukraine, student debt, affirmative action, gerrymandering, and more, and the show makes these complex issues far easier to understand. It’s a great choice if you want to stay updated on current events and be better informed about how politics work in the U.S.

4.Court Junkie (PodcastOne with Law & Crime)

Court Junkie is perfect for those die-hard true crime fans who also want to learn about the legal system. Each episode revolves around a different criminal case, and the show goes through the details of the crime and how it played out in court. One reason I love this podcast is because it gives the court details separated by defense and prosecution, so hearing one side will have you almost convinced of the result until you hear the other side. It’s thrilling to listen to as you’re taken through evidence, interrogations, and witness statements as if you’re actually hearing the case as a judge or jury. It’s a fascinating way to learn about legal procedures and the justice system, especially for true crime lovers.

5.Ridiculous History (iHeartPodcasts)

Ridiculous History is exactly what it sounds like – truly ridiculous/unique/bizarre events in history that you’ve probably never heard of! This podcast stands out because all of the episodes are so interesting and completely different from one another. Some of my favorite topics they’ve discussed are the Donner Party, Tylenol murders, cannibalism in Victorian England, Key West’s one-minute war against the U.S., and so many more truly astonishing events. This podcast has something for almost everyone, and it makes for some great fun facts to share. So if you’re into anything odd, disturbing or niche in history, this is the perfect podcast to learn a thing or two.

Hopefully, this list is a great starter for anyone who loves podcasts and wants to dedicate more free time to learn more! Personally, sometimes it is hard for me to set aside my free time because school and work burn me out easily. However, podcasts are my one exception, as if you find the right shows, it feels like you aren’t even learning! So throw on an episode while you clean, do laundry, get read or any other time. You’ll be surprised how easy and genuinely fun it is to grow your knowledge!

Angie Bloechl

Wisconsin '25

Angie is a junior at UW-Madison this year studying economics. She love listening to podcasts, reading & painting!