LittleFire Podcast

Working Over Time

Hosted by Dr. Karen Bellinger, the Working Over Time podcast features experts as they explore jobs from the past, lives of the workers and how their greater economic systems impact the world. Produced by LittleFire & Past Preservers. 

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Latest Podcasts

Feb 13, 2021

“I Can’t Believe It’s Not Piracy!” – 17th-18th Century Privateers

On today’s episode – our last of this season – we’re addressing an age-old question: “Privateer or Pirate?” Ok, maybe not age old, exactly, but it’s a question I didn’t even know to ask until I spoke with maritime archaeologist Neil Dobson, whose work spans decades of deep-water shipwreck exploration and recovery. In his all his years of studying ships and their legendary captains, none has captured Neil’s imagination, and heart quite so much as that of the famous Captain William Kidd, who was a “privateer” wrongly convicted as a pirate and, as Washington Irving writes in our opening passage, hanged for his “crimes.” If you’re wondering what the heck a privateer is, how one could be confused with a pirate, and above all, why that would be such a terrible thing in the eyes of the law, you’ve come to the right time machine. So – Hoist the sails! Yo ho ho and a bottle of… beer? Well, that’s what Neil says, anyway.

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Feb 06, 2021

“Eyes in the Sky” – Physicists and Satellites in the 1950s-70s.

For the past 60 years, following the trail blazed by Sputnik, we’ve put thousands of satellites into orbit, looping sentinels that serve critical functions in modern society, transmitting TV and radio signals, tracking the weather, and providing communications and positioning channels that serve a range of military and civilian needs. In this episode, we talk about one such technology, which has transformed everyday life for the 4billion people – nearly half the globe’s population – who use smartphones. That’s the GPS tracking feature which means most of us couldn’t get lost, even if we wanted to; and which is making good old paper maps (the ones you never could fold right anyway) increasingly obsolete. Join Karen as she speaks with guest Richard Easton, who brings a unique viewpoint on the roots of this innovation, having grown up as the son of a Naval Research Laboratories physicist who led the charge in developing America’s first satellites in the 1950s, in the Silicon Valley of its time. So – get those white jackets on, we’re headed to the lab! (recorded over zoom) Follow today’s guest on social media: @RDEIL Find us on Patreon:

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Jan 30, 2021

“From Reeds to Regulators” – 18th-20thc Deep Sea Divers

Today, we’re going to swim with some of the earliest and most intrepid explorers the world has ever known. We’re talking about the brave souls who plunged to the ocean floors, beginning thousands of years ago, as free divers, collecting sponges, pearls, and the stuff to make princely dyes which could be found nowhere else on the planet. The human desire to reach the deep has never waned, but fortunately, the technology to make underwater activities easier and safer has evolved to the point that today, pretty much anyone can acquire the skills to do it, whether for work or pleasure. So take a deep breath, and join Dr. Karen Bellinger in following maritime archaeologist Ziad Morsy down this long, watery path of discovery. (recorded over zoom) Music by rozen Follow today’s guest on social media: @ziad_morsy Find us on Patreon:

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Jan 22, 2021

“The Golden Cage” – Imperial Life in the Ottoman Harem

Join Karen and her guest Jem Duducu for a conversation about a unique element of the Ottoman Empire- a central but often misconstrued aspect of this traditional Muslim household – called the harem – and the sometimes surprising influence it had on Ottoman politics. The members of the harem – the sultan’s many wives, concubines, and servants – were enmeshed in a dizzying web of responsibilities and – for those savvy enough – unique opportunities for political maneuvering in a world where the alternative to being attached to the Ottoman ruling machinery was… well, pretty much, yikes. (recorded over zoom) You can listen to Jem’s Condensed Histories @:

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Jan 15, 2021

“Attagirls Take Flight” – Women Aviators of the Mid-20th Century

In this episode, we fly alongside the pioneering “Attagirl” female pilots of World War II, who have roots even deeper in history, over 100 years before! It’s no exaggeration to say that World War II might well have ended very differently without the courageous contributions of these amazing women. Join us as we speak with archeologist and historian Georgina Dorothy for a memorable flight through time. (recorded over zoom). music by Bear McCreary Follow today’s guest on IG @georgina_dorothy_. We’re on Patreon! Learn how to join our community and support the show:

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Jan 08, 2021

“Under Wraps” – Ancient Egypt’s Business of Death

On this episode, Karen talks with Sofia Aziz, an expert on the thriving business of death and funerary work in Ancient Egypt’s New Kingdom. We’ll cover everything you thought you knew about Egyptian mummification and burial, based on the incredible new biomedical technologies used by Sofia and her colleagues at the University of Manchester’s KNH Centre to learn more about this central concern of an eternally fascinating culture. (recorded over zoom). Follow today’s guest on Twitter @SofiaAziz5 & IG @sofia_aziz_ We’re on Patreon! Learn how to join our community and support the show:

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Jan 01, 2021

“Roman Rubdown” – On The Job At An Ancient Roman Bathhouse

Who’s ready to start this year off with a good old-fashioned, relaxing “Roman rubdown?” Today we welcome returning guest, Tim Moller, to lead us through all the delightful distractions of an ancient Roman bathhouse. From lubing up for massages, poolside dining, shopping, politicking, and public posturing, the Roman bathhouses were central hubs of personal and cultural, as well as economic exchange: They were dim, dank, but also discreet venues where people from all walks of life could mix and mingle, dropping the cares of everyday life along with their togs. So – grab that bikini or speedo, and let’s head in for a well-deserved day of rest and relaxation, ancient Roman style. (recorded on zoom) Music by Joe Hisaishi

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Dec 24, 2020

“Mall Santas! A Job Fair” – The Industry of Holiday Joy

It’s the story of the department store, or mall, Santa – the origins of the job, who were the big players, and its lasting legacy on the industry of holiday joy. Join us as we talk with Dr. Sheila Hoffman, and hear the tale of the very first Department Store/Mall Santa, in a fireside story with Working Over Time Producer/Writer Aidan Laliberte. (recorded over zoom)

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Dec 18, 2020

“The Magic of Constant Change” – Alchemists in the Early Modern Age”

We’re talking with Dr. Boria Sax about all things alchemy, from its medieval roots to what it actually was, what it represented, and how those in the not-so-distant past could make a heck of a career out of it. First, you’ll need some supplies: Go grab one part Fiery Dragon, a few Doves of Diana, and seven Eagles of Mercury. Now, mix them together. What do you get? According to a recently discovered manuscript by none other than famed physicist Isaac Newton, you’ve got the basis for the legendary Philosopher’s stone. We’ll also hear a little from the journals of a young alchemist in training and some of the patrons he had to deal with. (recorded over zoom) Music by Yasunori Nishiki

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Dec 11, 2020

“Kiln & Kinship” – Pottery Artisans of 17th-Century England

Today on the podcast, we’re talking about archaeology and an artifact class that I nerd out over every time – pottery! We’re trekking back to 17th-century Liverpool with Dr. Liz Stewart, who researches the work and lives of the pottery artisans who lived in Rainford, a nearby village that played a key role in the emergence of Liverpool as a major international port. And you thought the Beatles were the first big thing out of Liverpool… Time to fire up the kiln and get right to it! (recorded over zoom) Music by Yo Yo Ma

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Dec 04, 2020

“For Every Tea A Season” – Ancient Chinese Tea Farmers

We’re riding the time machine straight back to Ancient China, to discuss the origins and evolution of one of the world’s oldest industries: Tea. Today’s show is all about the work of ancient Chinese tea farmers, guided by Dr. Justin Hill – author, historian, and tea aficionado (Writer; Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny & The Drink and Dream Teahouse). We’ll cover what was – and still is – required to source and prepare a dizzying array of tea varieties. And we’ll explore the origins of the world’s first global commodity, and its continued cultural importance in China, and around the world. So – grab a nice warm cup of your favorite infusion, sit back, and enjoy our ancient tales of tea. (recorded over zoom) Music by Samuel Kim

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Nov 28, 2020

“Plague, Sepsis & Cinnamon” – Physicians in Ancient Rome

Today we have an appointment with the doctor in Ancient Rome, when the practice of medicine was a little bit different than it is today. Antibiotics, we love you! But, despite their less sophisticated understanding of medical science, the tools and techniques of Ancient Romans hit surprisingly close to the mark, in terms of human anatomy and its ailments. In fact, they were pretty darned effective with cinnamon, scalpels, and the odd bone axe. (recorded over zoom) Music by Thomas Newman

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Nov 20, 2020

“Death by Tiger” – Korean Tiger Hunters of the Joseon Dynasty

The elite tiger hunting corps of Korea’s Joseon Dynasty, which ruled for five centuries beginning around the year 1400. As always, we’ll talk about the job itself, but we’ll focus more than usual on the job’s place within its cultural and historical contexts. The human-tiger relationship in Korea always has been rich and complex. While having posed a deadly threat to human life and limb over the centuries they roamed the Korean peninsula, Tigers also symbolized everything from traditional Korean values to its people, and the nation’s geography itself. Once plentiful, wild tigers are believed to be extinct in Korea. As such, in our conversation today, we’ll touch on all the usual suspects: economy, trade, and culture, but we’ll do so from the unique perspective of conservation biology. Music by Devlin & Kelly Valleau

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Nov 13, 2020

“Fast & Brutal” – Life Aboard a 19thc Clipper Ship

This week, we’re heading to the deep blue sea! We’ll join the captain and crew of a 19thc clipper ship, an iconic maritime innovation that revolutionized sailing and global trade, despite being something of a flash in the pan itself. Boatbuilder and maritime archaeologist Graham McKay joins us to navigate a not-so- distant past, stormy seas and all. Jimmy Buffett aside, the life of a Clipper ship sailor was anything but easy-breezy. This was soul-deep hard work. So – let’s rig up and set out on another grand adventure, nothing but the vast horizon ahead as we ride the wind! (recorded over zoom) Music by Yasunori Nishiki

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Nov 06, 2020

“Devils on the Stage” – Elizabethan Actors at the Globe Theater

We’re heading to Shakespeare’s Globe Theater in London. That’s right, we’re talking about the life and work of Elizabethan stage actors with our guest, Clive Greenwood, who in addition to being a Museum Heritage Educator, happens to be an actor himself. Turns out that learning lines as a Shakespearean actor was a lot more than that. For starters, in those days, they rarely even had a full script to work from! The stage that Shakespeare wrote for had to be a uniquely dynamic and versatile space. Put simply, it had to be an entire world. And was it ever for the actors who trod it. (recorded over zoom) Music by Max Richter

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Oct 30, 2020

“A Changing Oath” – Presidents in the American Republic

Guess what! IT’S ELECTION TIME. Finally. So, what better job to cover than President of the American Republic. In this episode, we discuss this one-of-a-kind job with Kenny Ryan, a journalist and fellow podcaster whose own show examines the lives and work of each of the former U.S. presidents. How did this job work? How was it intended to work? How has it changed? So many questions. So let’s dive in to the very best civics lesson we’ve ever had. Seriously. Remember Schoolhouse Rock? Well, Kenny rocks civics ten times harder. (recorded over zoom) Music by Naoki Satō

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Oct 23, 2020

“Job Fair: Ancient Bloodsports!” – Maya Ball Players & Roman Gladiators

Bloodsports!!! It’s the match of last century! Maya Ball Players vs Gladiators! Join Dr. Karen Bellinger as she speaks with Andrew Kinkella and Cody Amens about what it took be an athlete in two different times and places, and whether or not one match would mean certain death. (recorded over zoom)

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Oct 16, 2020

“A Community in Chaos” – Puritan Ministers of the Salem Witch Trials

With Halloween fast approaching, what better time to dive into today’s topic – the role of religious ministers in the Salem Witch Trials of Puritan New England. 17th-century New England is a time and place that many find hugely fascinating. Join Dr. Karen Bellinger as she has the privilege of exploring it from a new perspective with our guest, historian and author Isabella Connor. As scary as witches and demons are, it’s the human stuff – the devastating effects of mass hysteria and unchecked wielding of political power – that frightens me the most. So. Let’s hop onto our broomsticks and zoom back to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the winter of 1692! (recorded over zoom) Music: Danny Elfman

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Oct 09, 2020

“Worlds Collide” – Sachems in 17thc Plymouth Colony

Karen with Dr. Elic Weitzel about the 17th-century Plymouth Colony, founded 400 years ago by a tiny group of  ‘Pilgrims’ determined to carve a “New” England from wilderness that had long been occupied, in highly sustainable fashion, by tens of thousands of Native Americans. The immediate burden of dealing with these settlers fell to local chiefs, or Sachems. But the impacts of this small colonial enterprise’s changes to the land track straight through to today’s climate crises. So let’s dive in. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover.  (recorded over zoom) Music by Yasunori Nishiki

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Oct 02, 2020

“The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare” – Woman Spies in World War 2

Welcome to Season TWO of Working Over Time, where we examine society through the lens of work, over time, and across cultures. In this episode, join Dr. Karen Bellinger as she kicks things off with historian and playwright Danielle Wirsansky, who illuminates the astonishing world of Britain’s World War II women spies. That’s right, we’ll hear about all kinds of state-sanctioned espionage, a few eyebrow-raising Winston Churchill quotes, and a figure named Blonde Poison who, despite her name, is not a Marvel superhero. Not yet, at least. (recorded over zoom) Music from Alison Sparrow & Max Richter

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Sep 14, 2020

“Breakroom” – A Bonus Behind the Scenes episode with the Team

An off season, behind the scenes peek episode, featuring insights from the Working Over Time team, as well as two peers within the podcast/live stream heritage content community. Get to know LittleFire and Past Preservers a little bit more and learn what motivated the team to create the show. (recorded over zoom).

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Sep 04, 2020

“Stealing History” – Ancient Tomb Raiders & the Digital Underworld

It’s the Season One Finale, and we’re ending with a bang, not a whimper! It’s pretty much common knowledge that Facebook violates its users’ basic data privacy rights. But did you know that Facebook also is one of the prime vectors for billions of dollars of criminal trafficking in looted artifacts, inflicting catastrophic economic and cultural damage on vulnerable populations in conflict regions across the Middle East, fueling regional violence and transnational terrorism? Whether your answer is yes or no, we implore you to listen in to hear impassioned Archaeoactivist and everyday hero, Katie Paul, on this vitally important but little known crisis, complete with pointers on what we all can do to combat this global security threat. Join her as she walks Karen through a day in the life of an ancient Egyptian tomb raider and brings to light some of the most important issues facing the future of both history, and those who love it. For more information about these deeply important issues, visit and @ATHARProject on Twitter. (recorded over zoom)

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Aug 29, 2020

“True Grit & Conquest” – Legionaries in Ancient Rome

The Roman Legionary: All that, and so, SO much more. Join Karen and guest Dr Simon Elliott as they discuss the astonishingly array of ways in which the fabled foot-soldier underpinned Roman society in more ways than you could ever have imagined! (recorded over zoom)

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Aug 22, 2020

“Cult of Beauty” – Influencers in 18th Century Dublin

If you can’t imagine an 18th-century “beauty influencer” as a precursor to today’s social media megastar, listen in as Laura Fitzachary dishes all the soap with Karen! Spoiler: The quest for beauty can be pretty ugly…

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Aug 15, 2020

“Welcome to the Freak Show” – Freak Performers in the Victorian Age

Free tickets to the Victorian Freak Show, courtesy of expert escort Dr John Woolf! Grab yours now. Guaranteed to provoke a bit of revulsion plus …. a measure of uncomfortable recognition. See how our obsession with celebrity can trace its roots back to Victorian Freak Show performers, and maybe even further.

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Aug 08, 2020

“Voyeurs & Pointe Shoes” – Ballerinas in Fin de Siecle Paris

Beautiful girls executing ethereal dance steps. Intoxicating music. The frisson of a bare ankle atop a precipitous pointe shoe… Hot lights. Entitled patrons. Join Karen and Dr Sheila Hoffman for an exclusive tour of the backstage fin de siècle Paris ballet. The frothy tutus and bouquets were just the beginning of a day in the life of its ballerinas, who catered to wealthy male patrons as well as adoring audiences.

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Aug 01, 2020

“Stomping Over The Known World” – Elephant Traders in the Hellenistic Period

(recorded over zoom) Elephants, ivory, and war, oh my! Join Karen and historian Tim Moller as they discuss the ancient elephant trade sponsored by Ptolemaic Egypt nearly 3,000 years ago. An exotic earful, indeed!

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Jul 25, 2020

“Entering the Waves” – Seaside Dippers in the Regency Period

(recorded over zoom) Join Dr. Karen Bellinger as she talks with Dr. Kathryn Ferry. when they explore the curiosities and pleasures of the 18th century British seaside, anchored by the brawny, colorful, and largely female “Dippers” who brokered middle and upper class beach visits.

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Jul 17, 2020

“Between a Rock and Hard Place” – Work & Home in Industrial Age England

Peek into the home lives of Industrial Age factory workers, led by house historian Melanie Backe-Hansen! Experience the last great shift in work-life balance, and how working class families managed the intersection of work and home life during a time of epic shifts in productive systems.

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Jul 09, 2020

“Survival of the Smartest” – Early Modern Hunter-Gatherers and the Cognitive Revolution

We look at more than just a typical day in the life of an average Hunter Gatherer. Join us and survival expert Klint Janulis as he helps us track the seriously ancient roots of modern human ingenuity, and its continued relevance for our species’ survival today. We’re going all the way to the Stone Age and back, in less than an hour, so hang on tight and enjoy the ride! (recorded over zoom).

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