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Who We Are

Isaac Meyer is a historian, high school teacher, and podcaster. He started The History of Japan Podcast in 2013. Isaac believes that history should be accessible for everyone, both because it is important for us to know our common past and because really, who doesn’t love a good story?

Demetria Spinrad is an author and digital marketing professional. She’s been writing the science fiction web serial Astra Nullius since 2017. A storyteller and a true crime fanatic, Demetria likes to use criminal records to help show you the humanity behind the history.

Isaac Meyer

Historian and teacher

Be Our Guest

Check our guest policy page for information about how to appear on the Criminal Records Podcast as a guest.

Episodes Listen in your web browser

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Episode 14 – Narutaki Mansuke

This week, Isaac and Demetria make use of a tale of revenge from 1820s Japan to discuss one of the most interesting legal practices we’ve ever seen: kataki-uchi, the system of legally permitted revenge of Japan’s samurai era. Why turn revenge into something akin to getting your license renewed at the DMV? What are the rules? And what can we learn about the nature of justice from thinking about this?

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Episode 12 – Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti

This week, Isaac and Demetria investigate the case that grabbed headlines across 1920s America. We’ll talk about the intersection of xenophobia, violent anarchism, and the American legal system, and how all of them manifested in a bungled case that remains divisive to this day.

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Episode 11 – The Dead Body of Pope Formosus

This episode has it all: Pope-on-pope legal drama! Corpse desecration! 3 separate French kings named Charles! Come for an explanation of the Corpse Synod, stay to find out how why it’s not easy being pope.

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Episode 11 – Benedict Arnold

This week, Demetria and Isaac tackle America’s great traitor! Who was Arnold, and what did his trial for a series of ridiculous charges have to do with his decision to betray his country?

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Episode 10 – Margaret Clap

This week, Isaac and Demetria discuss the story of Margaret Clap, proprietor of a coffee house with a big secret. What was a molly house, why was the government prosecuting men for buggery, and why are trial records some of our best surviving documents about gay culture in 1720s England?

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Episode 09 – Govinda Prasad Mainali

This week, Isaac and Demetria tackle the case of Govinda Mainali, a Nepalese man accused in Japan of a murder he obviously didn’t commit. But obviously he didn’t do it, so there’s no way he could end up serving 12 years in prison just to make the Japanese government look more efficient at solving crimes than it really is, right?

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Episode 08 – Bo Xilai and Gu Kailai

This week, we cover the fall from grace of Bo Xilai and Gu Kailai. From rising stars of the communist party to convicted murderers, what does their story tell us about the workings of the modern Chinese Communist Party?

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Episode 07 – Willem Arondeus

This week, we cover the Dutch resistance fighter Willem Arondeus and his sabotage of government archives being used by the Nazis to hunt down the Jews of the Netherlands. How does a hero get written out of his own story, and why was the Dutch resistance so much different than the resistance movements we’re familiar with?

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Episode 06 – Naftaly Frenkel

This week we cover one of the architects of the infamous Soviet GULAG system, who started his career as an inmate of the very system he would reshape forever!

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Episode 05 – Björn Pétursson (Axlar-Björn)

This week, we tackle Iceland’s most famous (and only) serial killer, Axlar-Björn. Who was he? Why is his case difficult to reconstruct? Why did all these dead bodies keep mysteriously showing up on his farm in a totally inexplicable way?

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Episode 4 – Li San

This week, we cover a fratricide from China’s Qing dynasty. Who were the Li family? Why did one of the brothers of the family kill another? And how was the case handled by one of the world’s most complex justice systems?

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Episode 3 – Abe Sada

This week, we cover one of the most scandalous criminal cases in Japanese history. In 1936, Abe Sada commits a grizzly murder that captures the attention of all of Japan. Why did she do it? How was the crime investigated? And why do we care so much? All of that, plus some tasteless genital jokes (far fewer than we could have made!)

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Episode 2 – Arnaud du Tilh/”Martin Guerre”

This week, we cover one of history’s most famous imposture cases. Eight years after leaving his home town of Artigat, Martin Guerre comes home. But of course, all of us change after a long time away — sometimes into different people altogether!

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Episode 1 – Introduction

In this episode, we talk a bit about why we’re doing the podcast, how legal codes aren’t universal, and the difference between calling a historical figure a criminal and calling them a bad or morally wrong person.

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