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

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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Jul 03, 2020

“They Promised Her The Moon” – The Hidden Women of the Space Race

(recorded over zoom) The women of the top-secret Mercury13 training program were as ready as their male counterparts to serve their country in the Cold War Space Race. But it was the early 1960s and they were passed over. It would be 20 more years before NASA accepted women into its astronaut ranks. Join host Karen Bellinger and guest Analog Astronaut Dr Sian Proctor to get the inside story of the largely unknown women who gave their all as pioneers in America’s race to be first into space.

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Jun 26, 2020

Rock Stars and Rural Remedies – Snake Oil Salesmen in Reconstruction America

(recorded over zoom) 19th-century “medicine shows” marketed cure-alls in a moveable feast of showmanship that compelled rural pain sufferers to exchange hard-earned cash for “miracle” elixirs, tonics, and liniments. Most of these treatments were dubious at best, dangerous at worst. But these shows were more than just a particularly vivid chapter in America’s long history of rewarding savvy hustlers peddling questionable products. The medicine show was also a vitally important social phenomenon, providing unique social and economic mobility for people who had talent, but were otherwise shut out from the opportunities of post-Reconstruction America. Join Dr. Karen Bellinger as she speaks with writer and historian Deb Hunter about the role of Snake Oil Salesmen in the early days of the pharmaceutical industry.

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Jun 19, 2020

“Got Omens?” – The Greek Mantis

The Ancient Greeks saw omens everywhere they looked: in the natural world, in their ritual sacrifice of animals, even in their own mundane actions, such as sneezing. They believed the accurate reading of such omens was essential to making decisions large and small. Manteis were freelance interpretive experts called upon to read these omens. For a price, of course. Would you believe that the most successful manteis were as skilled in reading people as they were signs?

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Jun 13, 2020

Working Over Time – A New Podcast – Trailer

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to fight as a gladiator in Ancient Rome? What about life as a small business shop owner on a Crusades route? An artisan in Han Dynasty China? A seamstress during the French Revolution? What was life like for these workers and others like them? Welcome to Working Over Time, the show where we walk in the shoes of everyday workers, artisans, scientists, teachers, and tradespeople, tracking how economic systems shape and reshape societies, and are shaped by them. Each week, join me, Dr. Karen Bellinger – anthropologist, historical archaeologist and wannabe time traveler – and my guests – historians, archaeologists, and other experts, as we examine how we work, explore the sometimes surprising origins of modern commerce systems, and even peek at the future technologies and systems that could change everything yet again. Listen & subscribe to Working Over Time on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and iHeart Radio. New episodes out every Friday! For show updates and more fun content, be sure to follow @WorkingOverTimeSeries on Instagram.

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Jun 12, 2020

“Job Fair!” – Tudor Royal Appointments

(recorded over zoom) Isn’t it heartening to see such an ample supply of toilet paper – in Tudor England, no less? We cut straight to the chase in a day in the life of a Groom of the Royal Stool at Court. Or Head Cook. Totally separate. Obviously. Join Dr. Karen Bellinger as she speaks with Sheila Hoffman and Jem Duducu.

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Jun 05, 2020

“Rain & Corn!” – Maya Kings in the Classic Period

(recorded over zoom) A great city rises from dense jungle, ca AD 700. Its people flock to watch their king’s blood sacrifice to bridge his mortality and divine lineage, warding off drought and famine. It’s showtime! Host Dr. Karen Bellinger is joined by Dr. Andrew Kinkella (Archeologist & Anthropologist) for a discussion of the job of a Maya King in the Classic Period.

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May 29, 2020

“One Word: Travel” – Silk Road Traders in the time of the Crusades

(recorded over zoom) Traders and Crusaders and Mongols, oh my! Historian & Author Jem Duducu speaks with Host Dr. Karen Bellinger about a day in the life of a silk road trader during the time of the crusades. Learn all about the roots of global trade and exchange.

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May 22, 2020

“Nothing Medical” – Nurses in the American Civil War

“There was nothing medical about this” Dr. Kenya Davis-Hayes (Professor of History, California Baptist University) speaks with Host Dr. Karen Bellinger about a day in the life of a nurse and their role during the American Civil War.

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