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The History of English Podcast


The Spoken History of a Global Language

Popular episodes

Episode 154: English Equality

Nov 30 • 01:01:11

By the mid-1500s, scholars were becoming more confident in 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 also replaced Latin in the regular services of the Church of England. Some people embraced these changes, but oth...

Episode 153: Zombie Letters

Oct 30 • 01:11:08

In early Modern English, writers and printers began to revise the spelling of many English words to reflect their etymological origins. Old letters were revived from the dead to reflect sounds that had disappeared over time in those words. This fad reached its height in the mid-1500s, and it wreaked havoc on Modern English spelling and pronunciation. In this episode, we ex...

Episode 152: As the Saying Goes

Sep 29 • 01:03:21

John Heywood was a playwright and poet who made two important contributions to the history of English. He was a key figure in the emergence of modern English drama which led directly to William Shakespeare at the end of the century. He was also a proverb collector who assembled most of the common proverbs in English into a popular poem that serves as an important resource ...

Episode 151: Sick to Death

Aug 30 • 01:13:54

During the reign of Henry VIII, medical books and herbals proved to be some of the most popular publications in England. The people of England wanted medical books that they could read in the own language. The largely unregulated medical marketplace meant that people often had to find a way to treat diseases on their own. In this episode, we explore the nature and terminol...

Episode 150: A Capital Offense

Jul 29 • 01:14:41

In the 1530s, Henry VIII declared himself to be the ‘Supreme Head’ of the Church of England, and he demanded absolute loyalty from his subjects. Those who crossed him risked the loss of their heads. Meanwhile, the modern punctuation system started to emerge with the introduction of the comma and other punctuation marks. In this episode, we look at the intersection of ‘capi...

Episode 149: Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Jun 28 • 01:06:40

In the years following Martin Luther’s protest against the Catholic Church, small fractures soon turned into a major rift. The Protestant Reformation led to the break-up of the Western Church. Meanwhile in England, the marriage of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon was also coming to an end.  Those two events came together in the 1520s to set the stage for the permanent br...

Episode 148: A Marital Union

May 26 • 01:09:42

In the early 1500s, a series of marriages between European royal families re-shaped the face of Europe and brought together separate regions under the leadership of a single ruler.  This led to creation of modern Spain and the formation of a massive European empire ruled by the Habsburg family.  It also secured the position of the Tudors in England, and laid the foundation...

Episode 147: A Rude and Rusty Language

Apr 28 • 58:23

The European Renaissance provided a transition to the early modern era by looking back to the culture of classical Greece and Rome. It led to a renewed interest in ancient Greek and Latin and a new world view known as humanism. But scholars in England doubted the ability of English to handle the new learning associated with this cultural movement. They felt that English wa...

Episode 146: A Brand New World

Mar 24 • 01:20:05

In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. The voyage marked the beginning of the European discovery of the Americas. Columbus encountered natives in the Caribbean who spoke a Native American dialect called Arawakan. As the Europeans encountered the native culture of the region, several Arawakan words passed into Spanish and then into English. In this episode, we look at wha...

Episode 145: A Sea Change for Europe

Feb 18 • 01:08:12

The period of European exploration and discovery began in the 1400s as part of an effort to find new trading routes to Africa and Asia. In this episode, we look at how European sailors and merchants began to think of the ocean as an international highway rather than a barrier to travel. We also examine the naval accounts of Henry VII’s ships to reveal a variety of words re...

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