How It Began: A History of the Modern World

By Brad Harris

On Going since Mar 2017 • Updated monthly

A thrilling podcast about the History of the Modern World. Humanity has been hard at work for centuries to empower itself with better tools and insights, from science and surgery to electricity and the Internet, and this series celebrates the history of those triumphs.

Compared to our ancestors, we live like superheroes and sorcerers, endowed with powers they could never have imagined. But how did we achieve all this? Historian Brad Harris tackles that question head on, revealing how the most important scientific, technological, and cultural advancements in history began, and inspiring us to keep reaching for new historical triumphs along the way.

All Episodes

  Direct Link   Download 73 Minutes 10 Apr 2018

Our submergence in the flow of time can make it difficult to comprehend how fundamental timekeeping technology has been to the evolution of our civilization. But, to wind up the mechanism of modernity, our mastery of clockwork was critical. Where did the authority of our clockwork come from? How did the perfection of this mechanism become the guiding force of our age? I give you measuring time, and how it began. To support How It Began, https://howitbegan.com/support. For more information, https://howitbegan.com.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 49 Minutes 05 Mar 2018

The Enlightenment was an intellectual movement centered in northern Europe during the late 1600s and 1700s that is largely responsible for establishing our modern convictions concerning the virtues of representative government, religious toleration, and human rights. It inaugurated the very idea that humanity could learn how to make the world a better a place, but why is its legacy so misunderstood? To help support How It Began, go to https://howitbegan.com/support. For more information on this episode, go to https://howitbegan.com.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 51 Minutes 05 Feb 2018

We've all heard about how the printing press revolutionized book production. But, the real revolution was in how printed books, as opposed to handwritten ones, obliterated the intellectual barriers between us, leading to the Scientific Revolution, The Enlightenment, and beyond. Witness how the ancient trickle of handwritten knowledge was transformed into the flood of printed knowledge, as we discover the printed book, and how it began. To help support How It Began, go to https://howitbegan.com/support. For more information on this episode, go to https://howitbegan.com.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 60 Minutes 08 Jan 2018

The transition from the Stone Age to the age of metals marks the historical arrival of civilization. But, how was it that people first learned to see stone not as a tool in itself but as a reservoir of better tools? And how did we master that material revolution to forge cars & computers from sticks & stones? Discover the triumph of mastering metals, and how it began. To help support How It Began, go to https://howitbegan.com/support. For more information on this episode, go to https://howitbegan.com.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 50 Minutes 18 Dec 2017

Historian Brad Harris reveals the correlations between the spread of coffee consumption and the rise of modern institutions. From science to security, insurance to stock exchanges, and all the way through to democratic liberation, coffee's arrival into Europe in the 1600s helped awaken Western Civilization from centuries of booze-induced slumber, catalyzing an entirely new age of progress that featured revolutionary change on practically every front. To help support the How It Began podcast, go to https://howitbegan.com/support. For more information on this episode, go to https://howitbegan.com.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 45 Minutes 29 Nov 2017

Historian Brad Harris reveals what empowered us to wield cold. While most of the achievements of technology seem based on our conquest of heat, the unsung technological hero of modernity is refrigeration. It’s on-demand cold is critical in preserving the unprecedented cornucopia of foods we eat. But refrigeration does so much more... How It Began is supported by CuriosityStream! Check them out at curiositystream.com/howitbegan. For more information on this episode, visit howitbegan.com.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 6 Minutes 20 Nov 2017

In this introduction to Season Two, historian Brad Harris challenges the growing cynicism toward the ideas of progress and modernity, recalling what The Enlightenment was all about. Music provided by Zack Hemsey, "Redemption," from the album, The Way, 2011. How It Began is supported by CuriosityStream. Go to curiositystream.com and use the promo code "howitbegan" when you sign up for a membership to get your first month free! For more information on this episode, visit howitbegan.com.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 46 Minutes 03 Aug 2017

In the Season One finale of How It Began, historian Brad Harris reveals the beautiful history of how life came to know its true origins through humanity's theory of evolution. Witness the courage and the brilliance of investigators, from modest coal miners to scientists like Darwin, as they challenged traditional beliefs in their quest to discover where all of the plants and animals came from. By Brad Harris, Historian of Science & Technology. For more information on this episode, including a select bibliography, visit howitbegan.com.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 42 Minutes 20 Jul 2017

In this episode, historian Brad Harris takes us back to collapse of the Roman Empire to reveal how the world's most popular and expressive language, English, emerged from the dimmest moment of the dark ages. Hear how English actually sounded a thousand years ago and discover how it evolved through the centuries by absorbing other languages. By Brad Harris, Historian of Science & Technology. For more information on this episode, including a select bibliography, visit howitbegan.com.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 42 Minutes 06 Jul 2017

In this episode, historian Brad Harris reveals the surprisingly fascinating history of financial markets and how the development of stock sales since the 1600s powered everything from the age of discovery to the ability of senior citizens to avoid poverty and retire comfortably. By Brad Harris, Historian of Science & Technology. For more information on this episode, including a select bibliography, visit howitbegan.com.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 35 Minutes 22 Jun 2017

In this episode, historian Brad Harris takes us back to the launch of Sputnik in 1957 and reveals how that moment scared America's best scientists and engineers into inventing the Internet. Discover how a series of brilliant technical breakthroughs enabled us to connect our computers and build a world wide web of everything that everyone everywhere knows. By Brad Harris, Historian of Science & Technology. For more information on this episode, including a select bibliography, visit howitbegan.com.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 37 Minutes 08 Jun 2017

In this episode, historian Brad Harris uncovers how we managed to advance from building machines for our muscles to building machines for our minds. Explore the history behind the life or death struggle to process information at the speed of light through two World Wars, a Space Race, and a digital revolution. By Brad Harris, Historian of Science & Technology. For more information on this episode, including a select bibliography, visit howitbegan.com.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 37 Minutes 25 May 2017

In this episode, historian Brad Harris reveals the incredible story of how humanity learned to harness electricity. From William Gilbert's work with magnets and sparks in the 1600s to Nikola Tesla's establishment of the modern electric grid in the 1900s, discover the history behind the defining technology of the modern age. By Brad Harris, Historian of Science & Technology. For more information on this episode, including a select bibliography, visit howitbegan.com.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 29 Minutes 11 May 2017

In this episode, historian Brad Harris illuminates the history of humanity's efforts to heal. Discover the origins of surgery 12,000 years ago and follow the heroic efforts of doctors through the ages as they conquered pain and infection first in the home, then on the battlefield, and finally in the hospital. By Brad Harris, Historian of Science & Technology. For more information on this episode, including a select bibliography, visit howitbegan.com.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 25 Minutes 27 Apr 2017

In this episode, historian Brad Harris unearths the history of engineering that has made possible the biggest construction projects of all time, from Stonehenge and the Pyramids to the Golden Gate Bridge and the Empire State Building. Learn how humanity managed to enslave gravity in its effort to defy it and build our monuments to civilization. By Brad Harris, Historian of Science & Technology. For more information on this episode, including a select bibliography, visit howitbegan.com.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 26 Minutes 13 Apr 2017

In this episode, historian Brad Harris brings us back in time over 35,000 years ago to reveal the very beginning of dog domestication. Learn how humanity gained the upper hand in an ancient competition with wolves to enable more friendly interaction and cooperation, and how the subsequent alliance between humans and dogs helped both species to thrive. By Brad Harris, Historian of Science & Technology. For more information on this episode, including a select bibliography, visit howitbegan.com.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 28 Minutes 30 Mar 2017

In this episode, historian Brad Harris explores the origins of our modern methods of scientific discovery. From ancient Greeks who developed rational inquiry to Galileo and Newton who led the Scientific Revolution, the historical process of moving beyond belief to securing real knowledge about the world is revealed. By Brad Harris, Historian of Science & Technology. For more information on this episode, including a select bibliography, visit howitbegan.com.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 25 Minutes 30 Mar 2017

In this episode, historian Brad Harris compares the horsepower of our modern machines to the power of stallions that helped empires rise and fall for millennia. Travel 30,000 years into the past to witness the first cave paintings of horses, and follow the story through James Watt's steam engine of Industrial Revolution and beyond. By Brad Harris, Historian of Science & Technology. For more information on this episode, including a select bibliography, visit howitbegan.com.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 274 Minutes 30 Mar 2017

In this exciting introduction to the series, historian of science and technology Brad Harris gives an epic preview of what's to come as he shares his vision for the show. While there may be much in the modern world to inspire our condemnation, How It Began celebrates the good and the true in humanity's efforts through the ages. By Brad Harris, Historian of Science & Technology. For more information on How It Began, including select bibliographies for each episode, visit howitbegan.com. Intro music: "Nero" by Thomas Bergersen and Nick Phoenix, licensed by Extreme Production Music USA.. . .

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