How It Began: A History of the Modern World

21 EpisodesProduced by Brad Harris, Historian of Science & TechnologyWebsite

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, w… read more

21 Episodes | 2017 - 2018


June 11th, 2018


I’m thrilled to announce the launch of my new podcast: Context. If you’ve enjoyed engaging in history with me so far, I think you’ll continue to find …

Money: From Barter to Blockchain

May 15th, 2018


Money is a form of trust.  Credit, not coins, has been the heart of financial innovation.

Communities that have learned how to leverage credit most effectively and facilitate its transfer between parties most …

Measuring Time: The Hidden Mechanism of Modernity

April 10th, 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 …

The Enlightenment: From a Medieval to a Modern Mindset

March 5th, 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 …

The Printed Book: Opening the Floodgates of Knowledge

February 5th, 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 …

Mastering Metals: From Sticks & Stones to Cars & Computers

January 8th, 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 …

Coffee: Sobering Up for The Enlightenment

December 18th, 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 …

Refrigeration: From Ice Harvests to Superconductivity

November 29th, 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 …

What Defines the History of the Modern World?

November 20th, 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, …

The Theory of Evolution: A Triumph of Wonder, from Coal Miners to Darwin

August 3rd, 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 …

The English Language: From a Dark Ages Dialect to Global Domination

July 20th, 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, …

The Stock Market: How Democratized Investment Changed the World

July 6th, 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 …

The Internet: From Sputnik to the World Wide Web

June 22nd, 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 …

Computers: From Charles Babbage to Steve Jobs

June 8th, 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 …

Electricity: The Beacon of Modernity

May 25th, 2017


In this episode, historian Brad Harris reveals the incredible story of how humanity learned to harness electricity. From William Gilbert's work with …

Surgery: How We Learned to Heal

May 11th, 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 …

Monumental Infrastructure: From Stonehenge to the Golden Gate Bridge

April 27th, 2017


In this episode, historian Brad Harris unearths the history of engineering that has made possible the biggest construction projects of all time, from …

Wolves to Dogs: The Origins of Our Alliance

April 13th, 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 …

Modern Science: From Belief to Knowledge

March 30th, 2017


In this episode, historian Brad Harris explores the origins of our modern methods of scientific discovery. From ancient Greeks who developed rational …

Horsepower: From Stallions to Steam Engines

March 30th, 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 …

Introduction: Discovering the Origins of Progress

March 30th, 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 …

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