Witness History

History as told by the people who were there.


  • The frozen zoo

    Jan 24 2020

    In 1975, San Diego Zoo began placing tissue samples of rare animals in cryogenic storage for the benefit of future generations. Called the Frozen Zoo, the refrigeration system now contains the cells of more than 1000 species ranging from the white rhinoceros to the black-footed ferret. Scientists are now using the collection to try to save species threatened by extinction. Simon Watts talks to Dr Oliver Ryder, who has worked at the Frozen Zoo from the very beginning. PHOTO: Northern White Rhino...more

  • The discovery of whalesong

    Jan 23 2020

    Whales were being hunted to extinction, when in 1967, a biologist called Dr Roger Payne realised they could sing. It changed the perception of whales and helped found the modern conservation movement. Claire Bowes spoke to Dr Payne about his discovery in 2017. This programme is a rebroadcast. (Photo: Humpback Whale, courtesy of Christian Miller of Ocean Alliance)

  • Silent Spring: A book that changed the world

    Jan 22 2020

    Silent Spring, written by marine biologist Rachel Carson, looked at the effect that synthetic pesticides were having on the environment. Within years of its publication in 1962, the widespread use of DDT had been outlawed in the USA. Louise Hidalgo has been speaking to Carson's adopted son Roger Christie about the author and her work. Image: A copy of Silent Spring (Credit: Science Photo Library)

  • How the dodo died out

    Jan 21 2020

    A flightless bird, the dodo became extinct just decades after being discovered on the uninhabited island of Mauritius by European sailors. Because dodos couldn't fly they, and their eggs, were eaten by explorers and the cats and rats that came with them on board their ships. By the late 1600s there were none left. Simon Watts charts the demise and subsequent popularisation of the dodo. Image: An engraving of a dodo. Credit: Science Photo Library.

  • The mystery of the disappearing frogs

    Jan 20 2020

    How scientists discovered that a deadly fungus was killing off amphibians around the world. The chytrid fungus has caused the greatest loss of biodiversity in our time. Alejandra Martins spoke to biologist Dr. Karen Lips, one of the key scientists who unravelled the mystery of the extinctions. Photo: dead frog infected with chytrid fungus. Credit: Forrest Brem

  • The killing of Osama Bin Laden

    Jan 17 2020

    The US tracked down the al Qaeda leader to a city in northern Pakistan in May 2011. Special operations troops were sent to capture or kill bin Laden in a top secret raid in the dead of night. The Americans didn't tell their Pakistani allies about the raid beforehand. Gabriela Jones has been speaking to Nicholas Rasmussen who was in the White House situation room with President Barack Obama and US military chiefs as the raid took place. Photo: Osama bin Laden. Credit:AFP/Getty Images

  • The story of George Stinney Jr

    Jan 16 2020

    How a 14-year-old boy became the youngest person to be executed in the USA during the 20th century. George Stinney Jr was sent to the electric chair in 1944. He had been tried for the murder of two young girls, but when the case was reviewed by a court in South Carolina in 2014 his conviction was annulled. Ashley Byrne has been speaking to George Stinney Jr's sister Katherine Robinson, and to Matt Burgess who was one of the team of lawyers who fought to clear his name. Photo: George Stinney Jr...more

  • The woman who negotiated peace with a rebel group

    Jan 15 2020

    In January 2014 after decades of violent struggle, a peace deal was agreed in the Philippines between a Muslim separatist organisation and the government. The deal granted largely Muslim areas of the southern Mindanao region greater autonomy in exchange for an end to armed rebellion. Farhana Haider has been speaking to the government's chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer about the difficulties posed by being a woman negotiating with a Muslim rebel group. (Photo: MILF peace panel chief Mohagh...more

  • Storming the Stasi HQ

    Jan 14 2020

    Just weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall East Germans found themselves able to walk into the communist secret police headquarters in Berlin. The much-feared Stasi agents had kept files on millions of their fellow citizens. Soon people were searching the archives. Jim Frank has spoken to Bert Konopatzky who took part in the demonstration which led to the Stasi opening its gates. Photo:East Germans streaming into the secret police headquarters in Berlin on the night of January 15th 1990. Cred...more

  • Britain's National Trust

    Jan 13 2020

    The National Trust was founded in 1895, and initially focused on preserving Britain's rural heritage. But their mission expanded in the 1930s to include protecting stately homes - the grand old houses of the British aristocracy - which were under threat. Higher taxation meant many landowners were struggling to maintain their properties while sweeping social changes made it harder for them to find servants. James Lees Milne worked for the National Trust's Country House Scheme, travelling around...more

  • The battle for Fallujah

    Jan 10 2020

    A US Marine's account of the massive US-led assault on the Iraqi city in November 2004. Amid post-invasion chaos in Iraq, the city was seen as a stronghold of insurgents. It was hoped the battle would be a turning point in the fight against the Iraqi insurgency. Alex Last spoke to Colonel Andrew Milburn, author of When The Tempest Gathers, who served as a US military advisor to a frontline Iraqi army unit during the battle. Photo: US Marines of the 1st Battalion 3rd Marines, clear a houses he...more

  • The Computers for Schools revolution

    Jan 09 2020

    In 2009, Uruguay became the first country in the world to give a laptop computer to every child in state primary schools. At the time, only 10 per cent of poor Uruguayan children had access to IT, and the Plan Ceibal initiative is credited with transforming the lives of the students and teachers. Alejandra Martins talks to Miguel Brechner, the man behind Plan Ceibal, and Rocio Martinez, one of the first children to get a computer. PHOTO: Two Uruguayan children enjoying their laptops (courtesy...more

  • The murder of environmentalist Chico Mendes

    Jan 08 2020

    In December 1988 the Brazilian environmental campaigner, Chico Mendes, was shot dead by cattle ranchers, unhappy at being prevented from exploiting land in the Amazon jungle. The 44-year-old leader of the rubber tappers union had become a powerful symbol of the struggle to save the Amazon and his death sparked renewed interest in environmental issues world-wide. Mike Lanchin has been hearing from the anthropologist Mary Allegretti, who was a close friend of Mendes and worked alongside him in the...more

  • The exodus of Kashmiri Hindus

    Jan 07 2020

    In January 1990 over 100,000 Hindus fled the Kashmir valley after an increase in tension between the Indian military and Muslim independence activists. Iknoor Kaur has been speaking to Utpal Kaul one of the so-called 'pandits' who was displaced. Photo: Indian Border Security Forces in Srinigar in 1993. Credit: Robert Nickelsberg/Liaison/Getty Images.

  • German atrocities in Poland during WW2

    Jan 06 2020

    Towards the end of World War Two in Europe, Polish civilians suffered terribly at the hands of retreating German troops. But many never received any reparations for what they’d been through. Kevin Connolly has been speaking to one survivor who was a child in those final brutal days of the war in Europe. Photo: Undated image of Nazi soldiers travelling by motorcycle and car stop to watch a Polish village burn to the ground. (Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis via Getty Images)

  • East Germany's punks

    Jan 03 2020

    In the early 1980s, thousands of young people in communist East German became punks, attracted by the DIY culture and anti-establishment attitude. But the East German secret police the Stasi believed the subculture represented an existential threat to the state and tried to crush the movement. Lucy Burns speaks to former punk Jürgen Gutjahr, aka Chaos, and Tim Mohr, author of "Burning Down The Haus: Punk Rock, Revolution and the Fall of the Berlin Wall." Photo: Young punks posing in Lenin Squ...more

  • Desmond's: A sitcom that changed Britain

    Jan 02 2020

    Desmond's was the most successful black sitcom in British TV history. It ran on Channel 4 for over five years, attracting millions of viewers. Trix Worrell, the man who wrote it, believes that Desmond's changed attitudes to race in the UK. Trix has been speaking to Sharon Hemans about the show, and the people who inspired it. Image: Ram John Holder, Norman Beaton and Gyearbuor Asante (Credit: Courtesy of Channel 4)

  • The book that predicted an end to civilisation

    Jan 01 2020

    The Limits to Growth was published in 1972 and predicted global decline from 2020. It was based on a computer model which analysed how the Earth would cope with unrestricted economic growth. Researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology fed in huge amounts of data on population, pollution, industrialisation, food production and resources. They found that if the trends continued, the result would be a sudden and uncontrollable downturn beginning around 2020. Claire Bowes hears from one o...more

  • Negotiating an end to El Salvador's civil war

    Dec 31 2019

    On December 31 1991 the two warring parties in El Salvador's brutal civil war agreed to end the fighting. Left-wing FMLN rebels pledged to disarm and demobilise all their fighters, in exchange for the US-backed government and military carrying out sweeping political and security reforms. The Salvadoran peace process was heralded as a major victory for UN diplomacy. Its top negotiator, the Peruvian Alvaro de Soto, tells Mike Lanchin about his role in the long road to peace in El Salvador. Photo:...more

  • The Chippendales

    Dec 30 2019

    The Chippendales nightclub in downtown Los Angeles was looking for ways to attract customers on a weeknight – when they hit upon the idea of male strippers. The Male Exotic Dance Night for Ladies Only became wildly successful and inspired imitators all over the world. But there was a dark side to the Chippendales’ story. Lucy Burns speaks to Chippendales co-founder Bruce Nahin. Picture: Actress Linda Blair with Chippendales dancers, 1984 (Ann Clifford/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty ...more

  • Vietnam war: Surviving the 'Christmas bombing' campaign

    Dec 27 2019

    In December 1972 the US military launched its heaviest bombardment on the Vietnamese city of Hanoi. Around twenty thousand tonnes of explosives were dropped in just a few days. Ha Mi was just ten years old and living in the city with her family when the bombs began to fall. She told Rebecca Kesby what is was like. (Photo: Ha Mi in the summer of 1972. Credit: Ha Mi's own collection)

  • Cirque du Soleil

    Dec 26 2019

    The global circus phenomenon Cirque du Soleil was born in 1984 when a group of street performers in Quebec bought a big top tent and went on tour. Lucy Burns speaks to Cirque du Soleil co-founder Gilles Ste-Croix, who walked 56 miles on stilts to raise money for the show. Picture: Cirque du Soleil acrobats perform during the dress rehearsal of Kooza at the Royal Albert Hall in January 2013 in London, England. (John Phillips/UK Press via Getty Images)

  • The secret history of Monopoly

    Dec 25 2019

    In 1904, a left-wing American feminist called Lizzy Magie patented a board game that evolved into what we now know as Monopoly. But 30 years later, when Monopoly was first marketed in the United States during the Great Depression, it was an out-of-work salesman from Pennsylvania who was credited with inventing it. Louise Hidalgo has been talking to American journalist Mary Pilon about the hidden history of one of the world's most popular board games, and to the economics professor Ralph Anspach ...more

  • The invasion of Afghanistan

    Dec 24 2019

    On 24 December 1979 Soviet troops poured into Afghanistan in support of an anti-government coup. Their first targets were the palace in which the president was staying, and Afghanistan's radio and TV headquarters. Mahjooba Nowrouzi has been speaking to Shahsawar Sangerwal who was a young producer at Afghan National Radio at the time. Photo: Soviet troops at Kabul Airport in late December 1979. Credit: Getty Images.

  • Fighting cancer

    Dec 23 2019

    In the 1960s doctors began ground-breaking work into using several toxic chemicals at once to treat cancer. Combination chemotherapy, as it was called, would revolutionise cancer survival rates, particularly for Hodgkin Lymphoma, until then a virtual death sentence. Louise Hidalgo has been talking to the doctor who played a key part in that breakthrough, clinical oncologist, Vincent DeVita who has spent his more than 50-year career trying to cure cancer. Picture: Vincent DeVita (centre) and col...more

  • The creation of Abuja

    Dec 20 2019

    Why Nigeria came to build a brand new capital from scratch.and created one of the world 's fastest growing cities. During the 1970s oil boom, Nigeria's military rulers wanted to create a new symbol of national unity and decided to spend billions on constructing a new capital in the geographic centre of the country. Alex Last speaks to Professor John Paden of George Mason University, a veteran political scientist and expert on Nigeria who was hired to advise the American consortium tasked with p...more

  • Bee crisis: Colony Collapse Disorder

    Dec 19 2019

    In 2007, the mysterious loss of commercial honey bees in the United States made headlines around the world. Researchers called the phenomenon Colony Collapse Disorder. The sudden loss of bee colonies had serious implications for modern agriculture as the commercial honey bees were used to pollinate many crops. The crisis served to highlight the broader threat to bees and other crucial pollinators from disease, pesticides and the destruction of habitat. Alex Last has been speaking to Dr Dennis va...more

  • The Romanian revolution

    Dec 18 2019

    Of all the revolutions that swept across Eastern Europe 30 years ago in the winter of 1989, the over throw of Nicolae Ceaușescu and his wife Elena was the bloodiest. But few communist regimes had been as brutal as theirs, dominating every aspect of daily life. The uprising began in the western city of Timisoara, where a local pastor, László Tőkés, took a stand against the authorities and his loyal parishioners stood with him. László Tőkés tells Rebecca Kesby about the fall of the Ceaușescus a...more

  • Women and the Sabarimala temple

    Dec 17 2019

    Priests reacted with horror when a South Indian actress, Jayamala, admitted she had inadvertently touched a statue of a god at the Sabarimala temple in Kerala - a Hindu holy site. The priests had purified the temple and said that women of childbearing age were banned from setting foot inside it. But a young lawyer, Bhakti Pasrija, decided to take on the religious authorities in the courts. She has been telling Iknoor Kaur what happened next. PHOTO: Hindu devotees wait in queues inside the premi...more

  • Black GIs during World War Two

    Dec 16 2019

    For much of World War Two African-American soldiers were relegated to support roles and kept away from the fighting. But after the Allies suffered huge losses during the Battle of the Bulge, they were called on to volunteer for combat. Janet Ball has been speaking Reverend Matthew Southall Brown who saw action in Europe towards the end of the war. He fought in the US Army's 9th Division, 60th Regiment, Company E. Photograph:Volunteer combat soldiers from the 9th Division prepare for shipment to...more

  • The attack on India's parliament

    Dec 13 2019

    In December 2001 armed men attacked India's Parliamentary compound in broad daylight. Islamist extremists were blamed and the attack brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war. Indian politician Renuka Chowdhury was just arriving at the Parliament building when the shooting started. She has been telling her story to Prabhat Pandey. Photo: Security forces outside the Parliament building during the attack in Delhi. (Credit: Bandeep Singh/The India Today Group /Getty Images)

  • The killing of Amadou Diallo

    Dec 12 2019

    When police in New York shot a young immigrant 41 times in 1999, thousands of people took to the streets to protest. But Amadou Diallo's mother Kadiatou wanted her son to be remembered for the way he lived, not the way he died. So she flew to the US to speak on his behalf. She has been telling Sharon Hemans her story.

  • The IRA siege at Balcombe Street

    Dec 10 2019

    In December 1975, four members of one of the IRA’s deadliest units were chased by police through the streets of London before hiding out in a small flat owned by a middle-aged couple called John and Sheila Matthews. The resulting six-day siege was covered live on television and radio, and gripped Britain. It ended when Metropolitan Police negotiators persuaded the gunmen to leave the flat peacefully. Simon Watts talks to Steven Moysey, the author of the book and audiobook, The Road to Balcombe S...more

  • The battle of the Louvre pyramid

    Dec 09 2019

    In 1983 French president Francois Mitterand commissioned a major renovation of Paris' most famous art museum, the Louvre. But the resulting great glass pyramid, designed by American architect IM Pei, caused a storm of controversy, dividing Parisian public opinion as the Eiffel Tower had done a century earlier. Louise Hidalgo talks to IM Pei's colleague and friend, Yann Weymouth, who worked with him on what is now recognised as one of the great landmarks of the city. Picture: the Louvre pyramid ...more

  • The Cuban writer who defied Fidel Castro

    Dec 06 2019

    On 7 December 1990 the dissident Cuban novelist and poet Reinaldo Arenas killed himself in New York after years of suffering from AIDS. Before fleeing Cuba, Arenas had been jailed for his homosexuality, sent to re-education camps and prevented from writing. He left behind his autobiography - Before Night Falls - a powerful denunciation of Fidel Castro’s regime which later became a successful film. Simon Watts talks to Arenas’ friend and fellow writer, Jaime Manrique. The recordings of Reinald...more

  • Jaslyk – Uzbekistan’s infamous prison

    Dec 05 2019

    A prison camp called Jaslyk opened in the desert in western Uzbekistan in 1999. Even by the standards of the Uzbek prison system it would become notorious for torture and human rights abuses, including reports of a prisoner being boiled alive. Journalist Muhammad Bekjanov was imprisoned in Jaslyk during the 18 years he spent in Uzbek jails. He speaks to Lucy Burns along with independent human rights observer Acacia Shields. PHOTO: Muhammad Bekjanov in Istanbul, 1995 (courtesy of Muhammad Bekjan...more

  • The British sculptor who won over the world

    Dec 04 2019

    During the 20th century a British coal miner's son changed the world of art. Henry Moore revolutionised sculpture, altering the way we view the human figure and setting his works in natural landscapes. He became internationally renowned and by the 1970s hundreds of his sculptures could be seen outside government buildings, universities and museums around the world. His daughter, Mary Moore, remembers how initially his work shocked his teachers and art critics. Photo: BBC Henry Moore 1960 With ...more

  • Shackleton

    Dec 03 2019

    Hear first hand accounts from the doomed Antarctic expedition which became a legendary story of survival. In 1914, polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton led an expedition to become the first to cross the Antarctic continent. But before they could land, their ship, SS Endurance, became trapped in pack ice and sank. Marooned on a floating ice field, Shackleton and his men, embarked on an epic odyssey to reach safety. Alex Last has been listening to BBC archive interviews with the survivors. Photo:...more

  • The killing of Pablo Escobar

    Dec 02 2019

    The Colombian drug trafficker, once one of the richest men in the world, was shot dead by police on 2nd December 1993. He had been on the run from the authorities for over a year. Jordan Dunbar has been speaking to Elizabeth Zilli who worked for the US Drug Enforcement Agency in Colombia and who helped track down Pablo Escobar. Photo: Colombian police and military forces storm the rooftop where drug lord Pablo Escobar was shot dead just moments earlier during an exchange of gunfire between secu...more

  • The first confirmed case of HIV in America

    Nov 29 2019

    Robert R was a teenager who died of a mysterious illness in Saint Louis, Missouri in 1969. It was only in the 1980s that doctors studying the Aids epidemic realised Robert had died of Aids. Ned Carter Miles has been speaking to Dr Memory Elvin Lewis was one of the doctors who treated Robert R. She was so intrigued by his case that she kept tissue samples after his death, which later proved that he had contracted HIV/Aids. Photo: HIV particles, computer artwork. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS...more

  • Handing back Uluru

    Nov 28 2019

    In 1985 Australia's most famous natural landmark, Uluru, the huge ancient red rock formerly known as Ayers Rock, was handed back to its traditional owners, the indigenous people of that part of central Australia, the Anangu. But as one of the government officials involved in the negotiations for the transfer, former private secretary for aboriginal affairs, Kim Wilson, tells Louise Hidalgo, not everyone in Australia was pleased. Picture: Uluru, formerly Ayers Rock, in Kata Tjuta National Park,...more

  • From cakes to computers

    Nov 27 2019

    In the early 1950s, the leading British catering firm, J Lyons & Co, pioneered the world's first automated office system. It was baptised LEO - the Lyons Electronic Office - and was used in stock-taking, food ordering and payrolls for the company. Soon it was being hired out to UK government ministries and other British businesses. Mary Coombs worked on the first LEO and was the first woman to become a commercial computer programmer. She tells Mike Lanchin about her memories of those heady days ...more

  • India's economic revolution

    Nov 26 2019

    In the 1990s India began to open up its largely state-controlled economy to foreign investment. Subramanian Swamy wrote the blueprint for reform and he's been speaking to Iknoor Kaur about what worked - and what didn't. Photo: Subramanian Swamy (r) with Manmohan Singh. Credit: Getty Images.

  • The man who gave his voice to Stephen Hawking

    Nov 25 2019

    American scientist Dennis Klatt pioneered synthesised speech in the 1980s. He used recordings of himself to make the sounds that gave British physicist Stephen Hawking a voice when he lost the ability to speak. Friend and colleague of Dr Klatt, Joseph Perkell, told Rebecca Kesby about the man who gave his voice to Prof Hawking allowing him to educate the world in science. (Photo: BOMBAY, INDIA: World-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking answers questions with the help of a voice synthesiser du...more

  • Exploring Arabia's Empty Quarter

    Nov 22 2019

    In the 1940s, British gentleman explorer Wilfred Thesiger travelled extensively in one of the world's harshest environments - the Empty Quarter of Arabia. Thesiger lived with nomads in order to cross a desert that was then considered a place of mystery and death. He captured a final glimpse of their way-of-life before the arrival of the oil industry, and was inspired to write the classic travel book Arabian Sands. Simon Watts introduces recordings of Wilfred Thesiger in the BBC archive. PHOTO: ...more

  • The man who got Delhi on track

    Nov 21 2019

    India's capital city built a brand new mass transit system to tackle its traffic jams and air pollution. The first section of the Delhi Metro was opened to the public in 2002. E Sreedharan was managing director of the Metro project and he's been speaking to Prabhat Pandey about the challenges he faced. Photo: the inside of a Delhi Metro carriage. Credit: Getty Images.

  • I saw the soldiers who killed El Salvador's priests

    Nov 20 2019

    In November 1989 Salvadoran government soldiers dragged six Jesuit priests from their beds and murdered them along with their housekeeper and her teenage daughter. The Salvadoran government tried to blame the killings on left-wing rebels, but one woman provided key testimony that contradicted the official version, at great personal danger. Lucia Cerna tells her story to Mike Lanchin (Photo: a plaque commemorating the murdered priests in San Salvador- courtesy of David Mee)

  • The 'Woman in Gold'

    Nov 19 2019

    The 'Woman in Gold' was one of Gustav Klimt's most famous paintings. It was a portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, but it was taken from her family by the Nazis and only returned to them after a long legal battle. Louise Hidalgo has been speaking to Randol Schoenberg the young lawyer who took on the case. Picture: Adele Bloch-Bauer I, or 'The Woman in Gold', painted in 1907 by Gustav Klimt, from the collection of the Neue Galerie in New York. (Credit: Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

  • The first Tasers

    Nov 18 2019

    In the 1970s, an American engineer Jack Cover designed a new experimental stun gun. He called it a Taser. But the device only really became popular when it started to be used by US law enforcement agencies. The Los Angeles Police Department were among the first to use the device. Retired police Captain Greg Meyer was then the young officer given the task of evaluating non-lethal weapons for the LAPD. He tells Alex Last about the origins of the Taser and its dramatic impact on the streets. Phot...more

  • The first Indian to win Miss World

    Nov 15 2019

    Reita Faria was the first Indian to win the Miss World beauty competition in 1966. She was studying medicine in Mumbai when a spur of the moment decision to take part in the contest turned her life upside down. Orna Merchant has been speaking to Reita Faria about her win, and whether she believes there is still a place for beauty contests in the 21st Century. Photo: Reita Faria wearing the Miss World crown in November 1966. Credit: Staff/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

  • The Love Canal disaster

    Nov 14 2019

    In the late 1970s toxic chemicals were discovered oozing from the ground in a neighbourhood in upstate New York. The neighbourhood was called Love Canal. Hundreds of houses and a school had been built on top of over 20,000 tonnes of toxic industrial waste. The disaster led to the formation in 1980 of the Superfund program, which helps pay for the clean up of toxic sites. Farhana Haider has been speaking to former Love Canal resident and campaigner Luella Kenny about her fight for relocation. ...more

  • The demolition of the Babri Masjid

    Nov 13 2019

    Hindu extremists demolished a 16th century mosque in the Indian city of Ayodhya in December 1992 prompting months of communal violence across India. Photojournalist Praveen Jain witnessed rehearsals for the demolition the day before the activists stormed the mosque. He has been talking to Iknoor Kaur about what he saw. On November 9th this year the Indian Supreme Court ruled that a Hindu temple can be built on the disputed site. Photo: Hindu extremists rehearsing the demolition of the Babri Ma...more

  • Cap Anamur: A rescue that led to jail

    Nov 12 2019

    In 2004, a German aid agency ship, Cap Anamur, was sailing to the Suez Canal, when it came across 37 Africans on a sinking rubber boat. The captain, Stefan Schmidt, rescued the men and headed for a port in Sicily to drop them off. But for almost 2 weeks, Italy blocked the ship from entering port and when the ship was finally granted permission to dock, Captain Schmidt and two others were arrested and prosecuted by Italian authorities for aiding and abetting illegal immigration. The case made hea...more

  • Memories of Wilfred Owen

    Nov 11 2019

    Wilfred Owen died just a few days before the end of World War One but his poetry ensured he would be remembered. Little is known about the man behind the poems but his younger brother Harold spoke to the BBC about him in the 1960s. Vincent Dowd pieces together a picture of the young soldier-poet using the BBC's archive, Owen's letters home, and by speaking to Jean Findlay, biographer of CK Scott Moncrieff, the translator of Proust, who fell in love with Wilfred Owen. (Photo: Wilfred Owen in 191...more

  • The concert that rocked the Berlin Wall

    Nov 08 2019

    Former Berlin resident David Bowie was among the performers at a pop concert in West Berlin in 1987 credited with helping to create the atmosphere that led, two years later, to the fall of the Berlin Wall. During the three-day concert, there were riots in East Berlin as East Berliners were prevented by police from gathering near the Berlin Wall to listen. And German journalist Christoph Lanz tells Louise Hidalgo it was the first time shouts were heard of 'the wall must go'. Picture: David Bowie...more

  • The Bhagalpur blindings

    Nov 07 2019

    WARNING: This programme contains distressing descriptions of violent torture from the beginning. In 1980 police in a small city in the Indian state of Bihar were revealed to be torturing petty criminals. Iknoor Kaur has been talking to several people with first-hand experience of the disturbing events that came to be known as the Bhagalpur blindings. Ram Kumar Mishra was the lawyer who represented the victims, Amitabh Parashar made a documentary film about what happened, and Umesh Yadav was one...more

  • Britain's secret propaganda war

    Nov 06 2019

    How sex, jazz and 'fake news' were used to undermine the Nazis in World War Two. In 1941, the UK created a top secret propaganda department, the Political Warfare Executive to wage psychological warfare on the German war machine. It was responsible for spreading rumours, generating fake news, leaflet drops and creating fake clandestine German radio stations to spread misinformation and erode enemy morale. We hear archive recordings of those involved and speak to professor Jo Fox of the Institute...more

  • A ground-breaking change to treating breast cancer

    Nov 05 2019

    In 1975 the Canadian oncologist Dr Vera Peters released ground-breaking data to prove that breast-conserving surgery could at times be as effective as having a radical mastectomy. Her findings were received with lukewarm support and even open opposition from many of her colleagues in the male-dominated medical profession. Mike Lanchin hears from Dr Peters' daughter, Dr Jennifer Ingram, about her mother's tenacious attempt to improve the well-being of breast-cancer sufferers. Photo:Dr Vera Pete...more

  • Iran hostage crisis: the humanitarian delegation

    Nov 04 2019

    On November 4th 1979 revolutionary students overran the US Embassy in Tehran and took everyone inside hostage. In February 1980 the students invited a humanitarian delegation from the US to visit them in Iran. The group were shown around Tehran to highlight the country's poverty. They were also allowed to meet some of the American hostages. Rabbi Hirshel Jaffe was a member of the delegation and Masoumeh Ebtekar was the spokesperson for the students. Rachael Gillman reports on a crucial moment i...more

  • Saving the Great Barrier Reef

    Nov 01 2019

    In the 1960s conservationists began a campaign to prevent the Queensland government from allowing mining and oil drilling on Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Eddie Hegerl told Claire Bowes that he and his wife were prepared to sacrifice everything to protect the world's biggest coral reef from destruction. Photo: Science Photo Library

  • 'Jane' - the underground abortion service

    Oct 31 2019

    A group of feminists working under the name “Jane” carried out underground abortions in 1960s Chicago – when abortions were still illegal in most of the US. Initially they gave abortion counselling and put women who wanted to terminate their pregnancies in touch with doctors who would perform the procedure. But when they discovered that one doctor they had been working with was not medically qualified, the women started to perform the abortions themselves. Martha Scott was a member of the grou...more

  • The Algerians who fought with France

    Oct 30 2019

    The Harkis were Algerian Muslims who volunteered to fight with France in Algeria's war of independence. When the conflict came to an end in 1962 and France was forced to abandon its former colony, thousands of its Harki allies were left to face persecution and brutal repression. Serge Carel was an Algerian Harki who joined the French army when he was just 18 years old. When the independence war ended, he was imprisoned and tortured by the country's new rulers. He's been telling Mike Lanchin abo...more

  • The Paris hotel that hosted Holocaust survivors

    Oct 29 2019

    At the end of the Second World War the grand Parisian hotel, the Lutetia, was allocated to receive thousands of prisoners and Nazi concentration camp survivors returning home from across a ravaged Europe. Louise Hidalgo talks to two people for whom the Hotel Lutetia played a crucial role in 1945: Maurice Cling, a survivor of Auschwitz, and Christiane Umido who, as a young girl, was reunited there with her father. Picture: concentration camp survivors camps in the Lutetia restaurant in 1945 (cre...more

  • Margaret Thatcher's anti-Europe speech

    Oct 28 2019

    The British Prime Minister started expressing doubts about the European Union during a speech in the Belgian city of Bruges in 1988. The now famous "Bruges speech" is seen by many as the spark which ignited the anti-European movement within Britain's Conservative party. Susan Hulme has been speaking to Sir Stephen Wall who wrote an early version of the speech and to David McWilliams who was a student in the audience at the College of Europe when Mrs Thatcher spoke. (Photo: Margaret Thatcher giv...more

  • The fall of the Berlin Wall

    Oct 25 2019

    The border between communist East Germany and the West opened on November 9th 1989. It marked the beginning of the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. Michaela Graichen spoke to two East Germans who believe they were the first people to cross from East to West on the night of November 9th. (Photo: East Germans climbing onto the top of the Berlin Wall at the Brandenburg Gate after the opening of the East German border was announced in Berlin. November 9, 1989. Credit: REUTERS/Staff/Files)

  • The Leipzig demonstrations

    Oct 24 2019

    Mass demonstrations in the East German city of Leipzig in October 1989 shook the communist authorities to their core. The protests are seen as paving the way for the fall of the Berlin Wall just a month later. Lucy Burs spoke to Martin Jankowski who was one of the protesters. (Photo:A young East German protesting against the communist government flashes the peace sign. Credit: Peter Turnley/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

  • East German refugees in the Prague embassy

    Oct 23 2019

    Thousands of East Germans fled to the West in the summer and autumn of 1989, before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Many of them sought refuge in the West German embassy in Prague, where they camped in the grounds and slept in stairwells and corridors, fed by the Red Cross. On September 30th, West German foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher announced that they were free to travel to West Germany. Hubert and Susanne Kuhn lived in the embassy with their three children for three months. They spoke...more

  • The reburial of a Hungarian hero

    Oct 22 2019

    In 1989 the body of Imre Nagy, Prime Minister during the 1956 Hungarian uprising, was reburied in a public ceremony in Budapest. He had been executed on the orders of Moscow. It marked the beginning of the end of communism in Hungary. Nick Thorpe spoke to Ivan Baba who was master of ceremonies at the 1989 funeral. Photo: Imre Nagy's coffin and mourners in June 1989.(Credit: Jean Francois Luhan/AFP/Getty Images)

  • The legalisation of Solidarity

    Oct 21 2019

    When the banned Polish trade union organisation, Solidarity, was legalised in April 1989 it was one of the first signs that communism was about to collapse in Eastern Europe. Within months Solidarity was leading a coalition government in Poland and soon afterwards the Berlin Wall fell. In 2015 Tom Esslemont spoke to the former Solidarity spokesman Janusz Onyszkiewicz about the events of that historic year. This programme is a rebroadcast. Image: Lech Walesa, pictured in March 1989 (Credit: Mar...more

  • Wangari Maathai Nobel Prize-winning environmentalist

    Oct 18 2019

    Kenyan Wangari Maathai became the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. She was an environmentalist and human rights activist who founded the Green Belt Movement in the 1970s. She focused on the planting of trees, conservation, and women's rights but repeatedly clashed with the government while trying to protect Kenya's forest and parks. She was arrested and beaten on several occasions. Witness speaks to her daughter, Wanjira Mathai. (Photo: Kenya's Wangari Maathai (L) chall...more

  • Britain's worst nuclear accident

    Oct 17 2019

    Things started to go wrong at the Windscale nuclear plant in October 1957. A reactor was overheating and workers were rushed in to help. In 2011 Chris Vallance spoke to Vic Goodwin and John Harris, two of the men who helped bring things under control during Britain's worst nuclear accident. Photo: the Windscale nuclear plant. Credit: Getty Images.

  • The man who fed the world

    Oct 16 2019

    In 1970 the American scientist, Norman Borlaug, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his pioneering work developing disease-resistant crops. At the time famine and malnutrition were claiming millions of lives across the world, particularly in South Asia. Dr Borlaug’s work meant countries like India were able to become self-sufficient. Critics said the new grain varieties were too reliant on chemical fertilizers, but it’s thought millions of lives were saved. Rebecca Kesby has been speaking to P...more

  • Mexico City slashes car use

    Oct 15 2019

    By the 1980s a deadly cocktail of factory fumes and car exhausts had turned Mexico City into the world's most polluted city. Hundreds of thousands of people were falling ill each month, many of them children. The Mexican authorities came up with an ambitious plan to curb the use of each of the city's two million cars for one day a week. The scheme was an immediate success and has been copied in other major cities around the world. Ramon Ojeda Mestre, the environmentalist behind the Mexican initi...more

  • Proving climate change: The Keeling curve

    Oct 14 2019

    How a young American scientist began the work that would show how our climate is changing. His name was Charles Keeling and he meticulously recorded levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. His wife Louise and son Ralph spoke to Louise Hidalgo about him in 2013. (Photo: Thick black smoke blowing out of an industrial chimney. Credit: John Giles/PA)

  • Britain's World War Two 'Brown Babies'

    Oct 11 2019

    The US first began sending troops to the UK in 1942 to help in the war effort. It is estimated that at least two million American servicemen passed through the UK during World War Two and tens of thousands of them were black. The African-American GIs stationed in Britain were forced by the American military to abide by the racial segregation laws that applied in the deep south of the US. But that didn't stop relationships developing between British women and the black soldiers, some of whom wen...more

  • The Bristol bus boycott

    Oct 10 2019

    In 1963 a small group of British black activists started a pioneering protest against racism within the local bus company in Bristol. It had specified that it did not want to employ black bus drivers. Inspired by the example of the US Civil Rights Movement the boycott ended in victory and led to the passage of Britain's first anti-discrimination laws. Paul Stephenson and Roy Hackett spoke to Louise Hidalgo in 2013 about their part in the protest. Photo: Park Street in Bristol in the early 1960...more

  • The Notting Hill riots

    Oct 09 2019

    In August 1958 Britain was shocked by nearly a week of race riots in the west London district of Notting Hill. The clashes between West Indian immigrants and aggressive white youths known as Teddy Boys led to the first race relations campaigns and the creation of the famous Notting Hill Carnival. Using voices from the BBC archives Simon Watts tells the story. Photo: Street scene in Notting Hill at the time the race riots broke out in 1958. Credit: Getty Images.

  • The first black woman MP in Britain

    Oct 08 2019

    In 1987 Diane Abbott became the first black woman elected to the British Parliament. The daughter of first generation immigrants she was one of only four black MPs elected that day. In 2015 Diane Abbott spoke to Farhana Haider about her journey into the political history books. Photo: Diane Abbott in 1986. Copyright: BBC

  • Learie Constantine - fighting racism in the UK

    Oct 07 2019

    The great West Indian cricketer, lawyer and member of the House of Lords took a London hotel to court when it refused to let him and his family stay there in 1943. Susan Hulme brings us his story from the BBC archives. Photo: Sir Learie Constantine outside Westminster Abbey in 1966. Credit: Douglas Miller/Keystone/Getty Images.

  • China opens up to capitalism

    Oct 04 2019

    In May 1980 China allowed capitalist activity for the first time since the Communist Revolution, in four designated cities known as the Special Economic Zones. The most successful was Shenzhen, which grew from a mainly rural area specialising in pigs and lychees to one of China's biggest cities. In 2017 Lucy Burns spoke to Yong Ya, a musician who has lived in Shenzhen since the 1980s, and to ethnographer Mary Ann O'Donnell. IMAGE: Pedestrians and cars stream by a giant poster of Chinese patriar...more

  • The 1967 Hong Kong riots

    Oct 03 2019

    Throughout much of 1967 striking workers and students filled the streets of Hong Kong. They were inspired by the Cultural Revolution in China and demanded an end to colonial British rule. Jasper Tsang Yok-sing was then an idealistic young student and he spoke to Rebecca Kesby in 2014. (Photo: Left wing workers put up anti-British posters in Hong Kong outside Government House. Credit: Central Press/Getty Images)

  • Mao's Cultural Revolution

    Oct 02 2019

    In 1966 Chairman Mao declared the start of the Cultural Revolution in Communist China, a radical and brutal attempt to reshape Chinese society. Saul Yeung was 20 years old at the time and in 2016 he spoke to Lucy Burns about his decision to join the Red Guards, tasked with carrying out Mao's revolution. Photo: Chinese Red Guards reading from Chairman Mao's Little Red Book (Getty Images)

  • My memories of Chairman Mao

    Oct 01 2019

    American Sidney Rittenberg first met Mao Zedong in the 1940s during the final years of China's civil war and before Mao's victory over the Nationalist forces. Already a committed socialist, Rittenberg had been stationed in China during WW2 but decided to stay on and fight alongside Mao's Communists. In 2013 he spoke to Rebecca Kesby about his memories of one of the world's great revolutionaries. Photo: a poster of Chairman Mao in Beijing in the 1960s. Credit: AFP.

  • The birth of the People's Republic of China

    Sep 30 2019

    On 1 October 1949 Chairman Mao declared China to be a communist state. Zhu Zhende was a young recruit in the People's Liberation Army who marched in the celebrations in Beijing that day. He has been speaking to Yashan Zhao about the optimism and excitement of that time. Photo: An officer reads a newspaper to soldiers while they are waiting for the announcement of the foundation of the People's Republic of China on Tiananmen Square on October 1, 1949 in Beijing, China. (Credit: Visual China Grou...more

  • The death of a matador

    Sep 27 2019

    In September 1984, the famous Spanish matador, Francisco Rivera, also known as Paquirri, was gored to death by a bull during a fight in the small town of Pozoblanco. The bravery he showed during his final moments turned Paquirri into a legend. In 2013 Simon Watts spoke to El Soro, a matador who shared the bill that fateful day, and to Muriel Finer, an American journalist married to a Spanish bullfighter. Photo: A recent bullfight (Getty Images).

  • The Large Hadron Collider

    Sep 26 2019

    In September 2008, the world's biggest science experiment, the Large Hadron Collider, was started up for the first time at the European Organisation For Nuclear Research, or CERN, in Geneva. Simon Watts talks to Paul Collier, a British engineer whose team built the multi-billion dollar machine designed to investigate the structure of the universe. PHOTO: Inside the Large Hadron Collider (Getty Images)

  • Fighting the Islamic State group online

    Sep 25 2019

    When the Islamic State group took over Mosul in Iraq in 2014 they flooded the internet with propaganda, claiming life under IS was fantastic. One historian living in the city decided to post a counter-narrative online. Omar Mohammed set up "Mosul Eye" to expose the atrocities and failings of IS fighters, but it was at great risk to his own safety. Omar tells Rebecca Kesby how he posted news from Mosul to the outside world from right under the noses of the Islamic State group. He says he felt...more

  • Being black in Nazi Germany

    Sep 24 2019

    Theodor Wonja Michael was a child when Hitler came to power in Germany. The son of a German mother and a Cameroonian father he faced discrimination and danger under Nazi rule. He has been speaking to Caroline Wyatt about how working as a film actor helped him to survive World War Two. Photo: Theodor Wonja Michael at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2013. Credit: Alamy

  • The Sound of Music on Broadway

    Sep 23 2019

    The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical was first performed on stage in New York in 1959, several years before it was made into a film. Vincent Dowd has been speaking to two people with connections to the original Broadway production. Tim Crouse is the son of Russel Crouse who wrote the book for "The Sound of Music". Lauri Peters played the eldest daughter of the von Trapp family on stage. Photo: The original Broadway cast of "The Sound of Music" in 1959. Lauri Peters is at the top of the stairs. ...more

  • Sir Anthony Blunt - Soviet spy

    Sep 20 2019

    Sir Anthony Blunt, a distinguished British art historian and curator of the Queen's pictures was exposed as a former Soviet spy in the autumn of 1979. He was stripped of his knighthood and publicly shamed as a traitor for being part of the Cambridge spy ring. Susan Hulme has been speaking to Christopher Morris who was the BBC reporter sent to interview Blunt when the story broke. Photo: Sir Anthony Blunt at the press conference in which he explained his motivation in 1979 (Credit: Aubrey Hart...more

  • CS Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia

    Sep 19 2019

    The first book in the Chronicles of Narnia series by the Northern Irish-born writer CS Lewis was published in autumn 1950. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe would go on to become one of the great classics of children's literature. CS Lewis's stepson, Douglas Gresham, talks to Louise Hidalgo about the academic and theologian who created Narnia's magical world. Picture: CS Lewis, the children's and theological author, seated in his Cambridge study in the early 1950s (Credit: Camera Press/Arthu...more

  • Free breakfast with the Black Panthers

    Sep 18 2019

    The Black Panther Party hit the headlines in the late 1960s with their call for revolution. But they also ran a number of "survival programmes" to help their local communities - the biggest of which was a project providing free breakfasts for schoolchildren. Reverend Earl Neil was one of the organisers of the first Free Breakfast for Children programme at St Augustine's Church in Oakland, California. He speaks to Lucy Burns. (IMAGE: Shutterstock)

  • The repeal of 'Don't ask, don't tell'

    Sep 17 2019

    LGBT servicemen and women in the US armed forces had to keep their sexuality secret until the 'Don't ask, don't tell' policy was repealed in 2011. Lieutenant Colonel Heather Mack served under the policy for most of her military career. She has been speaking to Rachael Gillman about her experiences. Photo: Lieutenant Colonel Heather Mack (l) with her wife Ashley (r) and their two children. Courtesy of Heather Mack

  • An Ethiopian war hero

    Sep 16 2019

    In the early 1950s the Ethiopian Emperor, Haile Selassie, sent thousands of Ethiopian troops to fight in the Korean war. They were called the Kagnew Battalions and they formed part of the American-led UN force supporting South Korea against communist North Korea and their Chinese allies. Alex Last spoke to Captain Mamo Habtewold who won his country's highest honour. This programme is a rebroadcast. Photo: The Captain as a young man. Courtesy of Mamo Habtewold.

  • Magellan and the first voyage around the world

    Sep 13 2019

    In September 1519, a fleet led by the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan set off on what would be the first circumnavigation of the world. Magellan was the first navigator to find a route round South America, but he had to quell several attempted mutinies and he was eventually killed by tribesmen in what is now the Philippines. His circumnavigation was completed in 1522 by one of his subordinates, Juan Sebastian Elcano. Simon Watts tells Magellan’s story through the book published by his on-...more

  • Conflict timber in Liberia's civil war

    Sep 12 2019

    How the timber industry fuelled a brutal civil war in West Africa. In the late 1990s, timber companies worked closely with Liberia's warlord-turned-president, Charles Taylor. In return for money and support for his militias, the regime allocated huge swathes of the country's valuable rainforest to timber companies for logging. A group of young Liberians started to document what was happening. Alex Last has been speaking to the award winning activist, Silas Siakor, whose work led to a UN ban on L...more

  • India's affirmative action controversy

    Sep 11 2019

    In 1990 the Indian government introduced an affirmative action plan that had been lying unimplemented for a decade. The Mandal Commission recommended guaranteeing a percentage of government jobs to lower caste Hindus. It's implementation was an attempt by the government to quell the rise of Hindu nationalism. But the move proved controversial from the outset and led to weeks of student protests across India.  Farhana Haider has been speaking to a retired superintendent of police, Dilip Trivedi ...more

  • The TV series Friends

    Sep 10 2019

    A new show called Friends hit American TV screens in September 1994. It was based on the lives of six young New Yorkers and became one of the most successful comedies of all time. It sold around the world. Farhana Haider spoke to one of the show's creators, Kevin Bright. Photo: The cast of Friends in 1994. Copyright: Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.

  • The coup, the president and the embassy

    Sep 09 2019

    In September 2009 the deposed president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, made a sudden return from exile, seeking refuge in the Brazilian embassy in the Honduran capital. Zelaya had been whisked out of the country at gunpoint after a military coup three months earlier. His unexpected return took the coup leaders totally by surprise. Mike Lanchin has been hearing from two men who spent several months holed up inside the embassy building alongside the Honduran leader. Photo: Manuel Zelaya with suppor...more

  • The businessman who defied the Italian Mafia

    Sep 06 2019

    In 1991, Palermo businessman Libero Grassi published an open letter in Sicily’s main newspaper denouncing the Mafia for constantly demanding extortion payments. Grassi was hailed as a hero, but his public refusal to pay was intolerable to the Mafia and a few months later he was executed in person by one of Cosa Nostra’s top bosses. Libero Grassi’s defiance is credited with inspiring a new grass-roots movement among businesses in Sicily that stands up to the Mafia. Simon Watts talks to his daught...more

  • The Holocaust denial trial

    Sep 05 2019

    The controversial historian, David Irving, tried to sue Penguin Books and professor Deborah Lipstadt for libel after she called him a Holocaust denier in one of her books. The case drew intense media interest. Deborah Lipstadt told Rebecca Kesby what it was like to have to defend her work and the memories of survivors of the Holocaust at the High Court in London in 2000. History was on trial. (Photo: American academic Deborah Lipstadt (C) exults 11 April 2000 at the High Court in London after w...more

  • Inside lunar astronaut quarantine

    Sep 04 2019

    When the crew of Apollo 11 returned to earth after their historic mission to the Moon, they were immediately placed in quarantine for 3 weeks. It was done to protect the Earth from the dangers of possible lunar alien life. Dr William Carpentier was the flight surgeon for the Apollo 11 mission and was placed in quarantine with the crew to monitor their health and check for any signs of alien life. He talks to Alex Last about his memories of working with the Apollo programme and life in quarantine...more

  • The first all-women peacekeeping unit

    Sep 03 2019

    The UN deployed its first all-female contingent of peacekeepers in Liberia in West Africa. The country was still recovering from its long civil war when the Indian policewomen arrived in 2007. Jill McGivering has been hearing from Seema Dhundia of India's Central Reserve Police Force who led the unit. Image: Seema Dhundia in front of her contingent of Indian policewomen on their arrival in Monrovia, Liberia, in January 2007. (Credit:Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty Images)

  • The outbreak of World War Two

    Sep 02 2019

    On September 1st 1939 German forces invaded Poland. Douglas Slocombe, a British cameraman, was there at the time and filmed the build-up to the war. In 2014 he spoke to Vincent Dowd about what he saw in Gdansk and Warsaw, before escaping from the country. This programme is a rebroadcast (Image: German citizens in Gdansk (also known as Danzig) welcoming German troops during the invasion of Poland on September 3rd 1939 . Credit:EPA/National Digital Archive Poland.)

  • The paedophile identified by his hands

    Aug 30 2019

    In 2009 a paedophile was convicted with the help of a new form of identification - hand analysis. Dame Sue Black of Lancaster University explains how her team developed this tool and how criminal courts in Britain first responded to the evidence. She says vein patterns as well as scars and skin creases suggest hands may eventually be found to be as identifiable as fingerprints. Photo: Courtesy of Lancaster University

  • Nina Simone moves to Liberia

    Aug 29 2019

    The great African-American jazz singer Nina Simone moved to the Liberian capital Monrovia in September 1974. Simone was famous for her vocal support for the civil rights movement in the USA as well as for songs like I'm Feeling Good, Mississippi Goddam and I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free, and she was invited to the West African republic by her friend the singer Miriam Makeba. Lucy Burns speaks to Nina Simone's friend James C Dennis Sr. Picture: Nina Simone performs on stage at Newp...more

  • The Kindertransport children who fled the Nazis

    Aug 28 2019

    In the months leading up to outbreak of World War Two in September 1939, some 10,000 unaccompanied children were sent by their parents out of Germany and Austria, to safety in the UK. Many of them never saw their families again. Dame Stephanie Shirley was just five years old when she and her older sister were put on a train by their mother in Vienna. She has been telling Mike Lanchin about arriving in a foreign land as a little girl. Photo:Getty Images

  • Mexico's murdered women

    Aug 27 2019

    In 1993 young women began disappearing in the Mexican border town of Ciudad Juarez. Since then hundreds are reported to have been kidnapped and killed. Mike Lanchin has spoken to a forensic scientist who used to work in the city; and to the mother of one of the murdered girls. This programme was first broadcast in 2013. Photo: Jorge Uzon. AFP/Getty Images

  • The murder of black teenager Emmett Till

    Aug 26 2019

    Emmett Till was an African-American teenager from Chicago who was brutally murdered in Mississippi in America's deep south in August 1955. His lynching was one of the key events that energized the American civil rights movement. An all-white jury acquitted the two white suspects. Emmett Till's mother insisted on an open casket funeral to let everyone see how her son had been brutally killed. Farhana Haider has been listening through interviews with some of Emmett's family to tell the story of ...more

  • The death of Brazil's Getulio Vargas

    Aug 23 2019

    In August 1954 the President of Brazil took his own life rather than quit his post. Getulio Vargas had been one of Brazil’s most influential leaders. But by 1954 the country was saddled with hundreds of millions of dollars of overseas debt and inflation was high. Worse, Vargas had been accused of involvement in the attempted assassination of a political opponent. Julian Bedford spoke to his granddaughter Celina Vargas do Amaral Peixoto. This programme was first broadcast in 2012. Photo: Getuli...more

  • The return of the wolf

    Aug 22 2019

    Wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park in 1995. It was the start of one of the most famous and controversial wildlife restoration projects in the United States. Beginning in the late 19th century wolves had been subjected to a mass extermination programme as ranchers feared the wolf was a threat to their livestock. By the mid 20th century, wolves had effectively been wiped out across the country except for a few isolated pockets in the far north. But the loss of this key predat...more

  • I helped liberate Paris from the Nazis

    Aug 21 2019

    On August 25 1944 General Charles De Gaulle, who had been in exile in London for the majority of World War 2, finally entered Paris at the head of the Free French forces. But the French capital was far from secure. Ashley Byrne hears from Charles Pegulu de Rovin, who as an 18-year-old student fought with other resistance fighters against the Nazis in the final battle for Paris. (Photo by Pierre Jahan/Roger Viollet via Getty Images)

  • Finding El Salvador's missing children

    Aug 20 2019

    At the end of El Salvador's civil war human rights investigators began the search for hundreds of children reportedly kidnapped by the army during anti-guerrilla operations. In early 1994, two years after the end of the conflict, the first six children were located in an orphanage in the capital San Salvador. Among them was Maria Elsy Dubon, who had been seized by soldiers who killed her father in May 1982. Mike Lanchin has been hearing about Maria Elsy's distressing ordeal and about the difficu...more

  • The first human Cyborg

    Aug 19 2019

    In 1998, a transponder or silicon chip was surgically implanted into the forearm of a British scientist. It sent identifying signals to a central computer that tracked his movements and allowed him access to his workplace, by opening doors and switching on lights. Professor Kevin Warwick has been speaking to Farhana Haider about becoming a more enhanced version of himself and as a result the world's first Cyborg: a man-machine hybrid. Photo: Professor Kevin Warwick with chip transponder Cre...more

  • Dr Seuss: the man who taught America to read

    Aug 16 2019

    The Dr Seuss books revolutionised the way American children learnt to read in the 1950s. Books like 'The Cat in the Hat' were designed to help young children enjoy reading simple words and sentences using rhymes, anarchic characters and lively illustrations. Claire Bowes spoke to Christopher Cerf who knew Theodor Geisel, the author of the books. Photo: Author and illustrator Ted Geisel sits at his drafting table with a copy of his book, 'The Cat in the Hat' in 1957. (Gene Lester/Getty Images...more

  • Catching 'Carlos the Jackal'

    Aug 15 2019

    In the 1980s Ilich Ramírez Sánchez known as 'Carlos the Jackal' was seen as the world's most-wanted terrorist. He had carried out bombings, killings and kidnappings and had been on the run for decades. He was finally arrested in Khartoum in August 1994. Alex Last spoke to former CIA operative, Billy Waugh, who tracked him down. Photograph: Rare photo of Carlos the Jackal, taken in the 1970s (AFP/Getty Images)

  • The warnings before 9/11

    Aug 14 2019

    Throughout 2001 the US authorities were being given warnings that a terror attack was imminent. A Congressional Commission, FBI officers and the CIA were all worried. There were even specific warnings about planes being flown into buildings. Louise Hidalgo has been speaking to former Senator Gary Hart who co-chaired the Congressional Commission that tried to convince the government to take action. Photo: Smoke pours from the World Trade Centre after it was hit by two passenger planes on Septem...more

  • The daily disposable contact lens

    Aug 13 2019

    The contact lens was once a precious and expensive piece of eyewear which had to be looked after and carefully cleaned every night. But that all changed in the 1990s. Ron Hamilton was involved in developing lenses and packaging which could be made so cheaply they could be worn just once and then thrown away. He has been speaking to Ashley Byrne. Photo: Ron Hamilton (l) with his business partner Bill Seden (r) and their wives with their original contact lens machine. Courtesy of Ron Hamilton.

  • The division of Kashmir

    Aug 12 2019

    In October 1947, an invasion of Kashmir by tribal fighters led to the division of the state between India and Pakistan. Andrew Whitehead speaks to victims of the invasion and political leaders in Kashmir to find out more about the roots of a crisis that endures to this day. PHOTO: Indian troops arriving in Kashmir in October 1947 (Getty Images)

  • The Yangtze Incident

    Aug 09 2019

    In 1949 a British warship, HMS Amethyst, launched a daring escape after it was held captive for months by Chinese Communists on the Yangtze river. The ship had been badly damaged when it was fired on by Communist forces as it sailed up the river to help evacuate British citizens from Nanking during the final months of China's civil war. Using eyewitness accounts in the BBC Archive, we tell the story of HMS Amethyst. Photo: The HMS Amethyst (F116) arrives in Hong Kong after it's epic escape down...more

  • British troops take to the streets of Northern Ireland

    Aug 08 2019

    In August 1969 the British Army was first deployed in Northern Ireland. Their job was to keep the peace on the streets of Londonderry where sectarian violence had broken out. To begin with the soldiers were welcomed by residents, but attitudes soon changed and what became known as 'The Troubles' got underway. Picture: Armed British soldiers on the streets of Northern Ireland, 15th August 1969 (Credit: Press Association)

  • Criminals in the community

    Aug 07 2019

    In the 1970s the UK tried to reduce its growing prison population. An experimental new punishment was introduced for convicted criminals. It was called Community Service. The scheme was soon copied around the world. Witness History speaks to John Harding, a former Chief Probation Officer, who was in charge of the introduction of Community Service in one of the first pilot schemes. Photo: BBC

  • Under the North Pole

    Aug 06 2019

    In 1958 the nuclear submarine USS Nautilus travelled under the North Pole. Julian Bedford spoke to retired vice Admiral Kenneth Carr in 2012 about the mission spurred by the Cold War battle for technological supremacy. Photo: The USS Nautilus arriving in the UK. Copyright: BBC

  • The mass exodus of Algeria's 'Pieds Noirs'

    Aug 05 2019

    Hundreds of thousands of French people who'd been living in Algeria for generations fled for safety to France in the summer of 1962. It was in the last days of the war of independence in the North African nation. Known as the 'Pieds Noirs', the new arrivals were not generally well-received back in France. Mike Lanchin has been speaking to Michelle Hensel, who left Algeria for France as a small child. Photo: French repatriates leaving Algeria May 1962. (Photo by REPORTERS ASSOCIES/Gamma-Rapho vi...more

  • The invasion of Kuwait

    Aug 02 2019

    Thousands of Iraqi troops and tanks began pouring into Kuwait on 2 August 1990. The tiny, oil-rich Gulf state was immediately taken over by Saddam Hussein's military. Sumaya Bakhsh has spoken to Sami al-Alawi who joined the Kuwaiti underground resistance trying to free the country. Photo: Soldiers shelter behind a tank during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on August 2nd 1990. Credit: REUTERS.

  • The Warsaw uprising

    Aug 01 2019

    On 1 August 1944, resistance fighters in the Polish capital rose up against German occupying forces. The uprising lasted for 63 days and some 200,000 people were killed, Warsaw itself was largely destroyed. Zbigniew Pelczynski was one of the young Poles fighting to free Warsaw from the Nazis, in 2014 he spoke to Louise Hidalgo about the battle. (Photo: Zbigniew Pelczynski in 1946)

  • The anti-nuclear protesters who won

    Jul 31 2019

    In 1980 the Bavarian government announced plans to build a nuclear reprocessing plant in Wackersdorf in southern Germany. Eight years later construction on the plant was halted after a sustained protest campaign which saw tens of thousands of demonstrators and sometimes violent clashes with the police. Lucy Burns speaks to local district administrator Hans Schuierer, who became a figurehead for the protests. Picture: demonstrators fight against police during a protest at the Wackersdorf constr...more

  • The treasures of Sutton Hoo

    Jul 30 2019

    One of the most remarkable archaeological discoveries in British history was made in the summer of 1939, when a huge hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold was found at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk. Lucy Burns presents material from the BBC archives. Picture: the Sutton Hoo Helmet on display at the British Museum on March 25, 2014 in London, England (Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

  • The death of David Kelly

    Jul 29 2019

    How the death of a UK weapons inspector intensified arguments over Britain's involvement in the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Rebecca Kesby has been speaking to one of the doctors who signed a letter calling for further investigation of the circumstances surrounding Dr Kelly's death. Photo: Dr David Kelly during questioning by the Commons select committee, in London in July 2003. Credit: Press Association.

  • Humanity's earliest ancestor

    Jul 26 2019

    In July 2001 a team of palaeontologists led by Michel Brunet discovered a seven million year-old fossilised skull in the Djurab desert in Chad. Ahounta Djimdoumalbaye was the member of the team who first uncovered the skull which has been nicknamed Toumai. Freddy Chick has been speaking to Professor Brunet about his hunt for hominid fossils in West Africa. Photo: French palaeontologist Professor Michel Brunet, holding Toumai's skull along with Ahounta Djimdoumalbaye who discovered the skull. (Ph...more

  • When Tunisia led on women's rights

    Jul 25 2019

    When Tunisia achieved independence it brought in a new equality law that revolutionised women's lives. In August 1956 under the socialist President Habib Bourguiba, the north African country became the first in the muslim world to legalise civil divorce and abortion and to ban polygamy. He also gave women the vote and widened access to education. Nidale Abou Mrad spoke to Saida El Gueyed a founding member of the Tunisian Women's Union who was asked by President Bourguiba to help both men and w...more

  • The Chappaquiddick Incident

    Jul 24 2019

    In July 1969, United States Senator Edward Kennedy was involved in a car accident on Chappaquiddick Island in which a young woman named Mary Jo Kopechne died. Around 10 hours elapsed before the politician reported the incident to police. In 2014 Paul Schuster spoke to retired police chief Jim Arena who investigated the accident. (Photo: US Senator Edward Kennedy. Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

  • LGBT 'cooperative' marriages in China

    Jul 23 2019

    LGBT people in China sometimes arrange fake marriages to hide their sexuality. In 2005 Lin Hai set up a website to allow lesbians and gay men to get in touch with each other. He came up with the idea to stop his family from putting pressure on him to get married. Homosexuality is not illegal in China but there is discrimination against LGBT people. (Photo: Lin Hai and his partner on holiday in Thailand in 2014. Credit: Lin Hai)

  • Mamma Mia!

    Jul 22 2019

    The hit musical Mamma Mia! opened in London's West End in 1999. Using the songs of the Swedish pop group ABBA, the stage show was followed in July 2008 by Mamma Mia! the movie and ten years later by a sequel, both of which have broken musical box-office records. Louise Hidalgo has been talking to Mamma Mia's creator Judy Craymer about how it all began. Picture: Mamma Mia! the musical West End promotional poster (Credit: Littlestar Services)

  • The Beagle 2 mission to Mars

    Jul 19 2019

    On Christmas Day 2003, a British spacecraft was due to land on Mars and begin searching for signs of life. The late Professor Colin Pillinger was the man behind the mission, his daughter Shusanah spoke to Rob Walker about Beagle 2 in 2015. This programme is a rebroadcast. Photo:Lead scientist Colin Pillinger poses with a model of Beagle 2 in November 2003. (Credit: Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

  • Apollo 13

    Jul 18 2019

    The 1970 Moon mission that almost ended in tragedy after an explosion on board the spaceship. Fred Haise was one of the Apollo 13 astronauts. In 2010 he spoke to Richard Howells about how they managed to get back to Earth despite the odds. Photo: The Apollo 13 astronauts after they were picked up from the Pacific. Left to right: Fred Haise, Jim Lovell and Jack Swigert. Credit: SSPL/Getty Images.

  • The Moon Landing

    Jul 17 2019

    In July 1969, the world watched in awe as NASA’s Apollo 11 mission landed on the Moon and Neil Armstrong took the first steps on the lunar surface. Former NASA flight controller Gerry Griffin taks to Simon Watts. Photo: Buzz Aldrin on the Moon (Getty Images)

  • Valentina Tereshkova, cosmonaut

    Jul 16 2019

    In June 1963 Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova was sent into orbit around the Earth, in a solo voyage which lasted for nearly three days. Lucy Ash went to Russia to find out more about her. Photo: Valentina Tereshkova before boarding Vostok 6, at Baikonur cosmodrome, on June 16, 1963. Credit:AFP/TASS

  • Laika, the first dog in space

    Jul 15 2019

    The Russian stray was the first dog to orbit the Earth. She was sent into space in November 1957 in a flight which had been timed to mark the anniversary of the Russian Revolution. She died after orbiting the Earth four times. Professor Victor Yazdovsky's father was in charge of the dogs in the Russian space programme. Professor Yazdovsky tells Olga Smirnova about playing with Laika, before her flight, when he was just nine years old. Photo: Laika. Credit: Keystone/Hulton/Getty Images.

  • Kenya's ivory inferno

    Jul 12 2019

    Twelve tonnes of ivory was set alight by President Daniel Arap Moi in Nairobi National Park in July 1989, to highlight the threat from poaching.The ivory burn was organised by conservationists who wanted to save the world's elephants. Alice Castle has been speaking to Richard Leakey, former head of the Kenya Wildlife Service. (Photo: Ivory tusks arranged in a pile and set alight. Credit: Andrew Holbrooke/Corbis/Getty Images)

  • Cuba executes top military officers

    Jul 11 2019

    Four army officers were sentenced to death for drug trafficking by the Castro government in July 1989. Critics accused the communist authorities of carrying out a show trial of opponents of President Fidel Castro. In 2016, Mike Lanchin spoke to Ileana de la Guardia, daughter of one of the four men executed. Photo: Col Antonio de la Guardia and his daughter Ileana, Cuba 1986 (AFP)

  • The Common Cold Unit

    Jul 10 2019

    The Common Cold Unit was created after World War Two to find the cause of the illness. Its work depended on thousands of volunteers who came to the unit to catch a cold. Given food, accommodation and some pocket money, many volunteers regarded it as a holiday and came back year after year. Witness spoke to eminent virologist, Professor Nigel Dimmock who worked at the Common Cold Unit in the 1960s. Photo: Two volunteers take part in the clinical trial at the Common Cold Unit in Salisbury, 1958 (P...more

  • China puts tampons on sale

    Jul 09 2019

    Tampons first went on sale in China in 1985. But many Chinese women, especially in rural areas still didn't have access to basic sanitary products. Even now only a tiny percentage of Chinese women use tampons on a regular basis. Yashan Zhao has been talking to the man behind the first advertising campaign for tampons in China, and to a woman from the countryside where sanitary products were not widely available until the late 1980s. Photo: Chinese women looking at educational material about tam...more

  • The secret diaries of 'Gentleman Jack'

    Jul 08 2019

    The discovery of the diaries of 19th-century Englishwoman Anne Lister, who wrote in secret code about her love affairs with women and has been called the first modern lesbian. A landowner and a businesswoman, she defied the conventions of the time and was nicknamed by local people in the Yorkshire town of Halifax where she lived 'Gentleman Jack' because of the way she dressed and acted. Louise Hidalgo has been talking to Helena Whitbread, who discovered Anne Lister's diaries in 1983 and spent fi...more

  • The indigenous fight to stop nuclear waste disposal

    Jul 05 2019

    In 1995 a group of senior, indigenous Australian women started a campaign to halt the construction of a nuclear waste facility in a remote part of South Australia. Karina Lester, a granddaughter of one of the women and a translator for the campaign, spoke to Rachael Gillman about their unlikely victory against the Australian government. Photo: Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta, the group of senior aboriginal women who led the campaign (Umoona Aged Care)

  • The launch of the Walkman

    Jul 04 2019

    The portable cassette player that brought us music on the move was launched in July 1979. By the time production of the Walkman came to an end thirty years later, Sony had sold more than 220 million machines worldwide. Farhana Haider has been hearing from Tim Jarman, who purchased one of the original blue-and-silver Walkmans. (Photo by YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

  • Surviving Cambodia's 'Killing Fields'

    Jul 03 2019

    Extremist communists, the Khmer Rouge took power in 1975 and began a social engineering project displacing millions to forced labour camps, and committing class genocide. Conditions in the camps were so appalling they became known as 'the killing fields'. Sokphal Din survived four years in one and told Rebecca Kesby what it was like. (PHOTO: CHOEUNG EK, CAMBODIA - 1993/02/01: Skulls are piled up at a monument situated outside Phnom Penh to serve as a constant reminder of the genocide under th...more

  • Germans kidnapped by Nicaragua's rebels

    Jul 02 2019

    In the 1980s thousands of young activists from around the world flocked to Nicaragua to support the fledgling left-wing Sandinista revolution. They came to build houses, pick coffee, or work in local health centres. Some of the foreigners were caught in the middle of the ongoing civil war between the Sandinista government and right-wing rebels, or Contras, supported by the US government. Mike Lanchin has been speaking to two Germans who were kidnapped by the Contras in the summer of 1986 and hel...more

  • The US judge accused of sexual harassment

    Jul 01 2019

    In 1991 the US Supreme Court nominee Judge Clarence Thomas was publicly accused of sexual misconduct by a law professor, Anita Hill. She was called to testify in front of a Senate committee, where her explosive testimony sent shock waves across America. Katy Fallon has been speaking to a close friend of Anita Hill, Shirley Wiegand. Photo: Clarence Thomas during his confirmation hearing. (Credit: Mark Reinstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

  • Defending a British serial murderer

    Jun 28 2019

    **Warning: Some listeners might find parts of this programme disturbing** In June 1994 Fred and Rosemary West were charged with a series of gruesome murders of young women and girls, committed over a twenty-year period in the south of England. Among the victims were the couple's 16 year-old daughter. Mike Lanchin speaks to Leo Goatley, Rosemary West's defence lawyer. (Photo: Composite image of victims of Fred and Rosemary West)

  • The Stonewall Riot

    Jun 27 2019

    In June 1969, the gay community in New York responded to police brutality and harassment by rioting outside the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. The protest sparked the creation of the modern LGBT rights movement and the first Gay Pride events. Simon Watts talks to Stonewall veteran, John O'Brien. PHOTO: The Stonewall Inn today (Getty Images).

  • The Anfal genocide

    Jun 27 2019

    In June 2007, an Iraqi court ruled that a 1980s campaign by Saddam Hussein against the Kurds was genocide. More than 100,000 Kurds were killed in chemical attacks and mass executions, and their villages destroyed, during the five-month Anfal campaign. Saddam Hussein's cousin, Ali Hassan al-Majid, who was the architect of the campaign, was executed for his part in it in 2010. Picture: Ali Hassan al-Majid in court during the Anfal trial in Baghdad, November 2006 (Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

  • Catch-22

    Jun 25 2019

    Joseph Heller's funny, tragic satirical anti-war novel was published in 1961 and sold millions. For many it epitomised the growing anti-establishment mood of the 1960s. Heller had served in a bomber squadron during World War Two. Though his experiences provide the setting for the book, its target was actually the America of the 1950s. Using interviews with the author from the BBC archive, Alex Last tells the story behind Catch-22. (Photo: A first edition of Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, published...more

  • The fat acceptance movement

    Jun 24 2019

    The National Association to Aid Fat Americans, NAAFA, held its first meeting in June 1969. Its first president was Bill Fabrey, a thin man married to an overweight woman who had realised how difficult life was for fat people in the USA. One of NAAFA's first members Sue Morgan, and Bill Fabrey, have been speaking to Lucy Burns about the early days of fat acceptance. Photo: Participants in the Million Pound March, 1998 in Santa Monica, California. Sponsored by NAAFA. (Credit: Gilles Mingasson/Li...more

  • The yoga teacher and the violinist

    Jun 21 2019

    To mark world yoga day, how a chance encounter between the great violinist Yehudi Menuhin and the yoga teacher, BKS Iyengar in 1952 led to a life-long friendship and played a crucial role in bringing the ancient Indian tradition of yoga to the West. Louise Hidalgo has been speaking to Iyengar teacher and friend of the Iyengar family, Rajvi Mehta, and listening back to archive of BKS Iyengar himself talking about that first meeting. Picture: BKS Iyengar teaching yoga to Yehudi Menuhin, circa 195...more

  • Sister Lotus - early Chinese online star

    Jun 20 2019

    Sister Lotus was an early online celebrity in China. She first became famous in 2004 after posting pictures of herself on China's early social media sites. But she was a slightly unlikely star because she became famous not for being exceptional, but for being very ordinary. She has been speaking to Yashan Zhao about the online bullying she experienced and how she got through it. (Photo: Sister Lotus in a park near Peking University 2003. Credit: Sister Lotus)

  • The assassinaton of Medgar Evers

    Jun 19 2019

    In June 1963 the murder of a prominent black civil rights activist and war hero in Mississippi shook the civil rights movement. Medgar Evers was working to overturn the racist policies in the American south which made him a target for white supremacists. His death caused national outrage and he was given a military funeral at the US national cemetery in Arlington as Farhana Haider reports. Photo: Roy Wilkins and Medgar Evers Being Arrested 1st June 1963 in Jackson, Mississippi. Credit Getty

  • Carl Gustav Jung

    Jun 18 2019

    One of the most influential figures in modern psychoanalysis, the Swiss thinker and writer, Carl Gustav Jung, died in June 1961. Although he had worked alongside Sigmund Freud in the early years of the 20th Century, Jung created a different style of psychoanalysis which acknowledged spiritual elements to the human psyche. Photo: Carl Gustav Jung at home in Switzerland in 1959. Copyright: BBC.

  • The death of Neda Soltan

    Jun 17 2019

    In June 2009 after the presidential elections in Iran, millions took to the streets to dispute Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's victory. A young woman, Neda Agha Soltan, became a symbol of the protest movement after she was shot dead at a demonstration in Tehran. Her death was captured on a mobile phone and uploaded on to the internet. That footage was seen around the world within hours. Farhana Haider has been speaking to Arash Hejazi who tried to save Neda's life as she bled to death on the streets. (Ph...more

  • The first gay marriage in the USA

    Jun 14 2019

    Long before same-sex marriage became legal in the USA in 2015, one gay couple in Minneapolis got married in 1971. Their names were Jack Baker and Mike McConnell. They'd been issued with a marriage licence and the man who held their wedding ceremony was Methodist pastor Roger Lynn. He spoke to Claire Bowes in 2013. This programme is a rebroadcast. Photo: Jack Baker and Mike McConnell, photographed by R. Bertrand Heine. Courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society.

  • How America 'lost' China

    Jun 13 2019

    After the end of WW2 the US feared its wartime ally, China, would become communist. In 1946 after the end of Japanese occupation China returned to a civil war which had been fought on and off for years. America saw China as a future ally in business and politics and sent General George Marshall to broker peace between the nationalists and the communists. But just as the communist leader of the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin, was advising the Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong to enter into a truce...more

  • Wrapping the Reichstag

    Jun 12 2019

    In June 1995 artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude wrapped the Reichstag in Berlin in fabric. The former German parliament building sat on the border between East and West Berlin. It had been gutted by fire in 1933 and extensively damaged during the Second World War. The monumental public art project was seen by more than five million people and became a symbol for Berlin’s renewal after the fall of the Wall and the collapse of communism. Christo talks about the motivation behind the project and...more

  • The first anti-psychotic drug

    Jun 11 2019

    In the first half of the 20th century, most mentally ill patients were locked away in psychiatric hospitals and asylums. Those suffering from severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia, were often sedated or restrained. Shock therapies were standard treatments. Then in France in the 1950s, a new drug was discovered which dramatically reduced psychotic symptoms in many patients. It was called Chlorpromazine. Soon it was being used around the world. Alex Last has been speaking to the psychiatrist ...more

  • The end of the war in Kosovo

    Jun 10 2019

    Hundreds of thousands of Kosovan Albanians were forced to leave their homes when NATO started bombing Serb targets in the former Yugoslavia in 1999. By the time the bombing stopped, on June 10th 1999, over 800,000 people had been displaced. Qerim Nuridhini is a Kosovan Albanian refugee who fled first to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and then to the UK. He's been speaking to Rachel Wright. A refugee from Kosovo confronting a Macedonian Policeman at Blace, Macedonia, April 5th 1999....more

  • The Gurkha soldiers fight for equality

    Jun 07 2019

    For over 200 years soldiers from Nepal have fought in a special regiment in the British army called the Gurkhas. In 2009 all retired Gurkhas won the right to live in Britain, following a high profile media campaign. The announcement by the British government reversed previous guidelines that prevented all but a small number of Gurkha veterans being granted the right to settle in the UK. Farhana Haider has been speaking to retired Major Tikendra Dal Dewan who was instrumental in the Gurkhas camp...more

  • Broadcasting D-Day

    Jun 06 2019

    Hear how the BBC reported the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France on June 6th 1944. The operation was a crucial step in the liberation of western Europe. Using original BBC reports from the time - from Chester Wilmot, Richard Dimbleby, Robin Duff, Ward Smith and Alan Melville - we tell the story of D-Day. Photo: D-Day Landings: US troops in an LCVP landing craft approach Omaha Beach in Colleville Sur-Mer, France, on June 6th 1944 (US National Archives)

  • The Little Prince

    Jun 05 2019

    In July 1944, a plane piloted by the author of the world famous children's story The Little Prince, disappeared over the south of France. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, an experienced aviator, was on a reconnaissance mission for the Free French airforce fighting Nazi Germany. No one knew how or where his plane had come down. French diver Luc Vanrell has been telling Mike Lanchin about finding the wreckage of the missing aircraft off the coast of Marseille almost sixty years later. Photo: The Folio ...more

  • D-Day

    Jun 04 2019

    Eyewitness accounts of the Allied landings on the coast of Normandy during World War Two on 6 June 1944. The massive operation was a crucial step in the liberation of western Europe from years of Nazi rule and the defeat of Hitler's Germany. In this episode, we present the accounts of veterans held in the BBC archive. Photo: The photo titled "The Jaws of Death" shows a landing craft disembarking US troops on Omaha beach, 6th June 1944 ( Robert Sargent / US COAST GUARD)

  • Vikings in York

    Jun 03 2019

    When archaeologists uncovered perfectly preserved evidence of domestic life in Viking York in the 1970s, it changed the way the Vikings were viewed. No longer just violent pirates who terrorised communities all over Europe, they were revealed to be merchants and craftsmen who mostly led peaceful lives. Dr Peter Addyman and Professor Julian Richards worked on the dig in the 1970s and told Rebecca Kesby the significance of what they found. (PHOTO: The Sea Stallion Timewatch - Viking Voyage fol...more

  • Six Degrees - the first online social network

    May 31 2019

    Six Degrees was the first online social network, allowing users to connect with their real-world contacts by creating a profile within a database. It was created by entrepreneur Andrew Weinreich. But Six Degrees never achieved the scale of later social networks like Facebook or MySpace, and Weinreich sold the site in 1999. He speaks to Lucy Burns about the challenges and adventures of setting it up.

  • Behind the scenes on Sesame Street

    May 30 2019

    A TV show for young children, Sesame Street aimed to educate and promote tolerance at the same time. It was first broadcast in 1969 and went on to become one of the most popular children's shows ever made. Sonia Manzano starred as Maria on Sesame Street for 44 years and she has been speaking to Ned Carter Miles about how the show's ethos shaped its characters and storylines. Photo: Three of the Sesame Street puppets. Credit: Getty Images.

  • Tiananmen Square escape

    May 29 2019

    On the evening of June the 3rd 1989, the Chinese People’s Army opened fire on thousands of students who had been campaigning for democracy in the middle of Beijing. Dan Wang was a 20-year-old student leader from the elite Peking University and was one of the most high profile democracy activists. He says the demonstrators never thought their protests would end in bloodshed. He spoke to Witness History about how the Tiananmen Square crackdown changed his life. (Photo: Dan Wang speaking in Tian...more

  • Bokassa's massacre of the children

    May 28 2019

    Protests about expensive school uniforms in the Central African Republic eventually led to Jean-Bédel Bokassa's fall from power in 1979. The demonstrations started with school children, but soon widened to involve university students. Bokassa ordered brutal reprisals and within months his regime had lost its international support and French troops had invaded. André Nalke Dorogo was a university student at the time and he as been speaking to Ashley Byrne about the events of that year. Image: J...more

  • The death of Jawaharlal Nehru

    May 27 2019

    The man who led India to independence and its first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, died on May 27th 1964. His niece Nayantara Sahgal spoke to Louise Hidalgo about the great activist and intellectual in 2014. This programme is a rebroadcast. Photo: Jawaharlal Nehru, 1958 (Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

  • The Acid Survivors Foundation

    May 24 2019

    In 1999 a charity was founded in Bangladesh that was dedicated to treating and rehabilitating the survivors of acid violence. The majority of the attacks were against young women, the acid was usually thrown at their faces causing life-altering disfigurement and long-term psychological issues. Farhana Haider has been speaking to Monira Rahman who help set up the charity. Photo: Monira Rahman with survivors of acid attacks 2011 . Credit Monira Rahman)

  • How environmental campaign group Greenpeace was formed

    May 23 2019

    The environmental campaign group, Greenpeace, was formed in 1971 in western Canada, after a group of activists met in a Vancouver kitchen and decided to sail an old fishing boat to Alaska to stop a US nuclear test. Greenpeace is today one of the biggest environmental organisations in the world, known for its direct action, with offices in over 39 countries. Louise Hidalgo has been talking to one of the founders of Greenpeace, Rex Weyler, about that first campaign. Picture: Members of the origin...more

  • Fighting Uganda's anti-gay laws

    May 22 2019

    In 2009 Ugandan MPs tried to introduce new laws against homosexuality that would include life imprisonment and even the death penalty. Homophobia was rife in the media with tabloid papers printing the names and addresses of gay men and lesbians. Many activists suffered intimidation and assault. The law was eventually overturned by the Constitutional Court in 2014 but homosexuality is still illegal in Uganda. Victor Mukasa shares his story of fighting for LGBT rights in Uganda, first as a lesbian...more

  • The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs

    May 21 2019

    65 million years ago an asteroid hit the earth, causing the extinction of the dinosaurs along with three quarters of all species on earth at the time. The crater where it hit was discovered on the Yucatan peninsula in 1978 during a geological survey for the Mexican state oil company Pemex. It was named Chicxulub. Lucy Burns speaks to Glen Penfield, who first identified the crater, and Alan Hildebrand, whose research confirmed the discovery. Image: NASA high resolution topographical map of th...more

  • Walking the Great Wall of China

    May 20 2019

    It took 508 days for three friends to complete the first trek along the entire length of the ancient structure, well over 8000 kms. They began in May 1984 and finally reached their destination at the Jiayu Pass on September 24th 1985, having documented the condition of the wall every step of the way. The three men became national heroes as the press followed their progress. Yaohui Dong spoke to Rebecca Kesby in 2017 about what inspired him to make the journey. This programme is a rebroadcast. ...more

  • Hitler's stolen children

    May 17 2019

    During the Second World War Nazi officials searched for blonde blue-eyed children in the countries they had occupied. The children were removed from their families as part of a plan to build an Aryan master race. Ingrid Von Oelhafen grew up in Germany and only found out in her 50's that she had been born to Slovenian parents. At nine months old she was taken away and sent to a 'Lebensborn' children's home. She has been speaking to Kate Bissell about what happened during her childhood, and the ef...more

  • China's One Child policy

    May 16 2019

    The Chinese Communist Party started ruthlessly enforcing birth control in the early 1980s. People with more than one child faced fines, or lost their jobs, or had children forcibly adopted. Yashan Zhao has been speaking to Zhou Guanghong who experienced the policy first-hand, both as a father and as a birth control official. Photo: a propaganda poster extolling the virtues of China's "One Child Family" policy. (Credit:Peter Charlesworth/LightRocket/GettyImages)

  • The final days of Sri Lanka's civil war

    May 15 2019

    In May 2009 the Sri Lankan army finally crushed the Tamil Tiger rebels, ending 25 years of bloody civil war. In the final weeks of the conflict, thousands of civilians were trapped alongside the rebels under heavy shelling as the government forces closed in. Journalists and aid workers were prevented from reaching the war zone. Mike Lanchin has been hearing from one Tamil woman trapped in the siege zone, and from the former UN spokesman in Sri Lanka, Gordon Weiss, who watched on from the capital...more

  • Predicting the financial crash

    May 14 2019

    In the early 2000s, a handful of experts warned that the world was sleep-walking towards a financial crisis. Among them were South-African born political economist Ann Pettifor and the IMF's chief economist at the time, Raghu Rajan. But their warnings were ignored, and instead in 2008 the world plunged into the worst financial crash since the Great Depression, whose shadow still hangs over our politics. Louise Hidalgo has been talking to the Cassandras of the crash. Picture: Traders at the New ...more

  • The Karakoram highway

    May 13 2019

    In 1979 one of the great engineering feats of the 20th Century was completed and the Karakoram highway between Pakistan and China was finally opened. The highway, known as the Friendship Highway in China, was started in 1959. Due to its high elevation and the difficult conditions under which it was constructed, it is also sometimes referred to as the 'Eighth Wonder of the World'. Farhana Haider has been speaking to Major General Pervez Akmal who worked on the construction and maintenance of the ...more

  • Strictly Come Dancing

    May 10 2019

    One of the most successful TV formats in the world started back in May 2004, bringing ballroom dancing to a new generation. Its format has been sold around the world under the title 'Dancing With The Stars'. Co-creator and executive producer of Strictly, Karen Smith, has been speaking to Ashley Byrne about the show. Photo: Celebrities and professional dancers from Strictly Come Dancing 2018. Credit: BBC.

  • The war on drugs

    May 09 2019

    The first 'war on drugs' was launched by US President Richard Nixon in 1971. He described drug abuse as a 'national emergency' and asked Congress for nearly four hundred million dollars to tackle the problem. Claire Bowes has been speaking to one of Nixon's policy advisors, Jeffrey Donfeld, about an approach to drugs which he describes as more 'find them and help them' than 'find them and lock them up'. And how he convinced the President to roll out a nationwide programme of methadone treatment...more

  • The Bauhaus

    May 08 2019

    The groundbreaking Bauhaus school of art and design was founded in Germany in 1919. It would go on to have a huge impact on architecture and design around the world, with the clean lines and minimalist elegance of its distinctive modernist aesthetic influencing everything from skyscrapers to smartphones. In this interview from the BBC archive, Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius explains his goals for the school - and the challenges involved in setting it up. (Photo: View of one of the wings of the...more

  • The siege of Dien Bien Phu

    May 07 2019

    On May 7th 1954, French forces surrendered after a bloody 56-day siege of their base at Dien Bien Phu in the north of Vietnam. Their defeat by the communist independence movement, the Viet Minh, signalled the end of French colonial rule in Indochina. We hear from two veterans who fought on opposing sides in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu. (Photo: A French military Red Cross helicopter preparing to land, while French soldiers try to defend their positions in Dien Bien Phu against the Viet Minh, 1954...more

  • Jack Ma: The founder of Alibaba

    May 06 2019

    The Chinese billionaire set up his online shopping site in 1999. When Alibaba first started, Jack Ma and his team were working out of a small flat in Hangzhou. The BBC's Michael Bristow has been hearing from Duncan Clark, who first worked with the internet entrepreneur in those early days. Photo: Jack Ma attends the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, January 2019. (Credit: REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann)

  • The Malayan Emergency

    May 03 2019

    In 1948, British colonial authorities declared a State of Emergency in the territory of Malaya, now part of Malaysia. It was in response to the start of a Communist rebellion. From their bases in the jungle, Communist fighters carried out hundreds of guerrilla attacks across the country, targeting Malaya's valuable rubber estates, tin mines, and infrastructure. Alex Last speaks to Gus Fletcher, a decorated former Special Branch officer in Malaya, about his memories of Britain's attempt to combat...more

  • The sinking of the Belgrano

    May 02 2019

    The Argentine ship, General Belgrano, was sunk by a British submarine during the Falklands War on 2nd of May 1982. 323 people died in the attack. Dario Volonte, now an opera singer, was one of the survivors and he spoke to Louise Hidalgo about the attack. Photo: The General Belgrano. Credit: Getty Images

  • The Arctic African

    May 01 2019

    Tété-Michel Kpomassie, grew up in West Africa but he was obsessed with the Arctic. When he was 16 years old he ran away from his village in Togo determined to reach Greenland.. It took him eight years but in 1965, he finally arrived. He then went north to fulfil his dream of living among the indigenous people. Years later, he wrote an award-winning account of his odyssey, An African in Greenland, which has been translated into eight languages. Photo: Tété-Michel Kpomassie in Greenland in 1988.(...more

  • Rupert Brooke

    Apr 30 2019

    In April 1915, Britain mourned when poet and national hero Rupert Brooke died on a troopship in the Dardanelles during World War One. Often compared to a Greek god because of his blond good looks, Brooke had written a series of famous sonnets that reflected the optimistic mood at the beginning of a conflict that would claim tens of millions of lives. Simon Watts introduces the memories of three of Brooke's friends, as recorded in the BBC archives. (Photo: Rupert Brooke. Credit: Culture Club/Get...more

  • Ellen comes out

    Apr 29 2019

    Ellen DeGeneres came out as a lesbian publicly in April 1997 – and so did the fictional character she played in her self-titled sitcom. The Puppy Episode would be watched by more than 40 million people and represented a milestone for LGBT representation in popular culture. Lucy Burns speaks to the episode’s writer and executive producer Dava Savel. Picture: Comedian Ellen DeGeneres and actress Anne Heche attend the 49th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on September 14, 1997 at the Pasadena Civic A...more

  • The al-Yamamah arms deals

    Apr 26 2019

    A record series of arms sales from the UK to Saudi Arabia was worth tens of billions of dollars. The first al-Yamamah deal was agreed between Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and King Fahd of Saudi Arabia. But the deals were dogged by allegations of corruption. Louise Hidalgo has been speaking to Jonathan Aitken who was involved in later al-Yamamah deals. (Photo: Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and King Fahd in London in 1987. Credit: Tim Graham/Getty Images)

  • Sri Lanka: A journalist's editorial from the grave

    Apr 25 2019

    The assassination of newspaper editor, Lasantha Wickramatunga, shocked the world in 2009. Sri Lanka's civil war between the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority was nearing its climax when he was shot dead by gunmen on motorbikes. After his murder his newspaper, the Sunday Leader, printed his final article in which he predicted his own death and wrote that the government would be behind his killing. Farhana Haider has been speaking to his widow, Sonali Samarasinghe, about press freedom in ...more

  • South Africa's first free elections

    Apr 24 2019

    After Apartheid all South Africans, regardless of race, were finally able to vote for the first time in April 1994. Organising the elections was a huge logistical challenge, white supremacists staged terror attacks to try to sabotage the vote and violent clashes between rival political groups threatened to disrupt voting day. Rev Frank Chikane was on the Independent Electoral Commission, the body charged with running the elections, and he explained to Rebecca Kesby how much stress, and joy there...more

  • Britain's first vegans

    Apr 23 2019

    The Vegan Society was established in 1944 by British 'non-dairy vegetarians'. They wanted to persuade other people not just to give up meat, but milk and eggs too. But the first vegans often got ill, because there was one vital element missing from their diets - vitamin B12. Kirsty Reid has been speaking to former Chair of the Vegan Society, George Rodger, about the history of vegans in the UK. Photo: Fruit, vegetables, nuts and pulses. Credit: Getty creative stock.

  • Nato bombs Serbian TV

    Apr 22 2019

    In April 1999 Nato bombed the Serbian state TV station in Belgrade, killing 16 people. It was part of a military campaign to force Serbia to withdraw from Kosovo. Mike Lanchin has been speaking to one of the survivors, Dragan Suchovic, a TV technician, who was working at the station that night. Photo: The damage caused by the Nato bombing on the TV station in Belgrade (courtesy of Duco Tellegen, 2015)

  • The Columbine massacre

    Apr 19 2019

    On April 20th 1999 a mass shooting in the USA shocked the world and started a devastating trend of violence in American schools. 13 people were killed and more than 20 were injured by two armed school students. Ashley Byrne has been speaking to Craig Scott, who survived the Columbine massacre but whose sister Rachel was killed that day. Photo: Students from Columbine High School run under cover from police, following a shooting spree by two masked teenagers. April 20th 1999. Credit: Mark Leffi...more

  • How organic farming started

    Apr 18 2019

    In the aftermath of World War Two pesticides and chemical fertilisers started to become more widespread in the UK. Worries about the effect this would have on soil quality led Lady Eve Balfour to establish the Soil Association to promote natural farming techniques. John Butler has been a farmer all his life and he has been speaking to Dina Newman about Lady Eve and the early days of Britain's organic farming movement. Photo: Lady Eve Balfour with some of her friends. Copyright: The Soil Associ...more

  • Auto-destructive art

    Apr 17 2019

    In 1959 the German artist Gustav Metzger came up with a new and subversive form of art. He called it auto-destructive art. It was art as a political weapon and a challenge to the established status quo. Metzger, a survivor of the Nazi Holocaust, organised a series of events in London, called the Destruction in Art Symposium, DIAS, and invited radical artists from all over the world, including a relatively unknown young Japanese American, Yoko Ono. Mike Lanchin has been hearing from Welsh artist...more

  • The first play on Broadway written by a black woman

    Apr 16 2019

    'A Raisin in the Sun' opened on Broadway in 1959. It had an almost exclusively black cast and a black director too. The playwright, Lorraine Hansberry, based it on her own family's story of being forced out of a white neighbourhood in Chicago. The title is from a poem by African American poet Langston Hughes about a dream deferred - 'does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?'. Photo: Still from the 1961 film version of the play A Raisin in the Sun featuring Sidney Poitier (Photo by George Rinhar...more

  • Dennis Tito - the first space tourist

    Apr 15 2019

    In April 2001 an American multi-millionaire paid Russia's space agency millions of dollars to blast him into space. He spent time on the International Space Station and returned to earth after eight days in space. Dennis Tito, who was 60 years old at the time of his space flight, spoke to Louise Hidalgo in 2011 about his experiences. (This is a rebroadcast) Photo: Dennis Tito immediately after his return to earth. Credit: Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images.)

  • Chinese restaurant syndrome

    Apr 12 2019

    Diners at Chinese restaurants in America in the 1960's began to report unusual symptoms, including headaches, flushing, numbness at the back of the neck. It was linked to the man-made flavour enhancer monosodium glutamate or MSG – but it was also part of wider attitudes towards Chinese restaurants at the time. Lucy Burns speaks to restaurateurs Philip Chiang and Ed Schoenfeld about their memories of what became known as 'Chinese restaurant syndrome'. Photo credit: Plates of Chinese food (Dea...more

  • The rise of Hindu nationalism

    Apr 11 2019

    In 1990 the president of Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP, LK Advani, embarked on a political and religious rally called the Rath Yatra or chariot march. Championing a politics based on Hindutva or militant Hinduism. Farhana Haider has been speaking to RK Sudhaman a journalist who covered the journey and followed the rise of the BJP. Photo LK Advani during rath yatra 15/10/1990 Credit: Getty Image

  • The man who invented wingsuits

    Apr 09 2019

    The wingsuit is the ultimate in extreme sports clothing. An aerodynamic outfit for BASE jumpers and skydivers it allows them to free-fall for longer before opening a parachute. Skydiver Jari Kuosma developed the first commercial wingsuits and he has been speaking to Jonathan Coates about how exciting, but also how dangerous they can be. Photo: Jari Kuosma. Copyright: BBC

  • The Amritsar Massacre of 1919

    Apr 09 2019

    On 13 April 1919, British Indian troops fired on an unarmed crowd at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar in the Punjab. Hundreds were killed. The massacre caused an outcry in India and abroad, and would be a turning point for the growing Indian nationalist movement. Lucy Burns brings you eye-witness testimony from the time. Photo: Indian visitors walk past the Flame of Liberty memorial at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar. Credit:Narinder Nanu/AFP/Getty Images.

  • The man who made Marilyn Monroe dance

    Apr 08 2019

    Choreographer Jack Cole had a huge influence on musical theatre and Hollywood films - most memorably with Marilyn Monroe in the film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. But much of his inspiration came from Indian dance. Vincent Dowd has been speaking to the American actress and singer, Chita Rivera, who danced with him.

  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

    Apr 05 2019

    Maya Angelou's iconic first memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, was published in spring 1969. The book was an instant best-seller, and was one of the first literary accounts of growing up as a black girl in the southern states of America, including graphic depictions of rape and racism. Louise Hidalgo talks to Maya Angelou's friend and biographer, former magazine editor, Marcia Gillespie, about the book and how it helped to establish Maya Angelou as one of the great voices of her generation...more

  • Abolishing the army

    Apr 04 2019

    After a brief civil war in March-April 1948, the new president of Costa Rica, Jose Figueres, took the audacious step of dissolving the Armed Forces. Since then Costa Rica has been the only Latin American nation without a standing army. Mike Lanchin has been hearing from 94-year-old Enrique Obregon, who served in the military before its dissolution. Photo: Costa Rican soldiers in San Jose after the end of the civil war, April 1948 (Credit:Getty Images)

  • The warship lost for more than 300 years

    Apr 03 2019

    In 1628, at the height of Sweden’s military expansion, the Swedish Navy built a new flagship, the Vasa. At the time it was the most heavily armed ship in the world. But 2 hours into its maiden voyage, it sank in Stockholm's harbour. It remained there for more than three hundred years, until its discovery in 1961. Tim Mansel hears from the former Swedish naval officer, Bertil Daggfeldt, about the day that the warship was recovered in near-perfect condition. Image: The Vasa after its recovery (T...more

  • EMDR: the eye-movement therapy

    Apr 01 2019

    EMDR is a form of psychotherapy which works for many sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder. The 'eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing' technique was first developed in the USA in the late 1980s by Francine Shapiro. She set up an EMDR Institute and Ashley Byrne has been speaking to psychologist Dr Gerald Puk, one of its senior trainers. (Picture: a model looking downwards. Credit: Getty Images.)

  • Patty Hearst the rebel heiress

    Apr 01 2019

    Patty Hearst was kidnapped by an extreme left-wing group called the Symbionese Liberation Army in 1974. She had been held hostage for two months when, in April of that year, she announced that she had come to share their beliefs. She would go on to take part in an attempted bank robbery before being arrested and put on trial. Louise Hidalgo spoke to two women who remember the impact of her kidnapping in California in 1974. Photo: Patty Hearst posing with a machine gun in front of a Symbionese...more

  • Mindfulness for the masses

    Mar 29 2019

    In 1979 scientist Jon Kabat-Zinn opened the Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, pioneering a meditative approach to treat pain and depression.  In a few decades mindfulness has gone from being a specialist element of Buddhist teaching to a billion dollar industry. Farhana Haider has been speaking to Dr Kabat-Zinn about the popularising of mindfulness to tackle the stresses of modern life. (Photo Jon Kabat-Zinn teaching MBSR at the Univers...more

  • The secret Nazi past of Kurt Waldheim

    Mar 28 2019

    Witness History talks to the American lawyer who led the investigation into the secret Nazi past of former United Nations Secretary-General, Kurt Waldheim. Kurt Waldheim was standing for election to the Austrian presidency when the allegations first emerged in the New York Times in March 1986. Lawyer Eli Rosenbaum, on whose information the New York Times story was based, tells Louise Hidalgo how he helped to expose the truth about Waldheim's wartime record and how UN war crimes files naming Kurt...more

  • Around the world in 20 days

    Mar 27 2019

    In March 1999 Brian Jones and Bertrand Piccard made the first non-stop flight around the world in a balloon. Beginning in Switzerland and finishing over Africa, the record-breaking trip took just 20 days. Pilot Brian Jones has been telling Mike Lanchin about the highs and lows of the amazing and dangerous journey. (Photo credit BBC)

  • Drama in the British parliament

    Mar 26 2019

    In March 1979, the British Prime Minister James Callaghan was struggling desperately to govern with a parliamentary majority of just three. When the Conservative opposition tabled a motion of no-confidence, his party whips fought a furious - and ultimately unsuccessful - battle to keep him in power. Simon Watts listens through the BBC's archives to tales from the collapse of the Callaghan government. Picture: James Callaghan outside 10 Downing Street (Fox Photos/Getty Images)

  • The first home pregnancy test

    Mar 25 2019

    A female designer working for an American pharmaceutical company came up with the idea in the 1960s, but her bosses didn't like it at first. Margaret Crane has been telling Maria Elena Navas how she had to develop her designs on her own after being told that women couldn't be trusted to use a home testing kit properly. Photo: Margaret Crane's first home testing kit. Credit: National Museum of American History.

  • The rise of Viktor Orban

    Mar 22 2019

    Viktor Orban, now the populist Hungarian Prime Minister, was an anti-communist youth leader in 1988. Over the years his party has become increasingly nationalist. His former friend and fellow activist Gabor Fodor shared personal memories of Viktor Orban with Dina Newman. Photo: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban delivers his annual state of the nation speech in Budapest, Hungary, 10 February 2019. Credit: European Press Agency.

  • Autism and the MMR vaccine

    Mar 21 2019

    A British doctor published an article in the leading medical journal The Lancet in 1998 that led to a global panic over the triple vaccine protecting children against measles, mumps and rubella. Dr Andrew Wakefield linked the MMR vaccine with autism. He advocated the use of single vaccines instead while the link was explored. Meanwhile many parents stopped vaccinating their children entirely, leading to outbreaks of measles. In 2010 the General Medical Council in the UK found Dr Wakefield 'di...more

  • The discovery of the Aztec Moon Goddess

    Mar 20 2019

    Electricity workers in Mexico City accidentally uncovered a massive stone sculpture in 1978. It turned out to be the Aztec Goddess of the Moon, Coyolxauhqui. The sculpture was found in an area where the Aztecs, 500 years earlier, had built the capital of their empire: the city of Tenochtitlán. The discovery changed the face of the Mexican capital. María Elena Navas spoke to Raúl Arana, one of the archaeologists who identified the sculpture as the Moon Goddess. Photo: The sculpture of Coyol...more

  • The first democratic elections in the USSR

    Mar 19 2019

    On March 26th 1989, Soviet citizens were given their first chance to vote for non-communists in parliamentary elections. Democrats led by Boris Yeltsin won seats across the country. Dina Newman spoke to Sergei Stankevich who was one of the successful candidates. This programme was first broadcast in 2014. (Photo: Boris Yeltsin on the campaign trail. Credit: Vitaly Armand. AFP/Getty Images)

  • The millionaire Nazi war criminal

    Mar 18 2019

    The story of how one of the wealthiest men in the Netherlands was exposed as a Nazi war criminal. In the 1970s, Pieter Menten was a respected art dealer, but it was revealed that during the Second World War, he had led mass killings in eastern Poland. We hear from Dutch journalist, Hans Knoop, whose investigation into Menten caused a national scandal and finally led to the millionaire's arrest. Photo: Pieter Menten photographed in 1977.(credit: National Archives of the Netherlands)

  • How Little America was built in Afghanistan

    Mar 15 2019

    In the 1950s, US engineers were sent to Afghanistan to build a huge dam. The aim was to irrigate the deserts of Helmand. The town of Lashkar Gah was built to house the workers. Photo: Lashkar Gah from the air, 1957.

  • Slaughterhouse-Five

    Mar 14 2019

    In March 1969, the cult American author, Kurt Vonnegut, published his famous anti-war novel, Slaughterhouse-Five. The novel is a mixture of science fiction and Vonnegut's experiences as a prisoner-of-war during the fire-bombing of the German city of Dresden at the end of World War Two. Simon Watts introduces the memories of Kurt Vonnegut, as recorded in the BBC archives. PHOTO: Kurt Vonnegut in the 1980s (Getty Images)

  • China's breakthrough malaria cure

    Mar 13 2019

    Chinese scientists used ancient traditional medicine to find a cure for malaria in the 1970s. Artemisinin was discovered by exploring a herbal remedy from the 4th century, a small team of scientists managed to harness the medicinal properties from the Artemisa Annua plant. It can cure most forms of malaria with very few side effects and has saved millions of lives all over the world. Professor Lang Linfu was one of the scientists involved, he told Rebecca Kesby how they made the discovery in t...more

  • Lenin and the deadly mushrooms

    Mar 12 2019

    As communism was crumbling in the early 1990s a spoof made for Soviet TV, persuaded some Russians that Vladimir Lenin's personality had been seriously affected by hallucinogenic mushrooms. The mushrooms in question were the deadly poisonous fly agaric fungi which the programme alleged Lenin had eaten whilst in exile in Siberia. Dina Newman has spoken to journalist Sergei Sholokhov who presented the TV spoof. Photo: two fly agaric toadstools. Copyright: BBC.

  • The fall of Singapore

    Mar 11 2019

    In 1942, during the Second World War, the British colony of Singapore fell to Japanese forces. Its capture marked the start of Japan's three-and-a-half year occupation of the island state, during which many ethnic Chinese living in Singapore were rounded up and killed. Louise Hidalgo has been listening to the memories of some of those who lived through that time. Picture: British soldiers surrender to Japanese forces in Singapore in 1942. (Credit: Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Image)

  • Britain's first female black headteacher

    Mar 08 2019

    Yvonne Conolly was appointed head of Ringcross Primary school in North London in 1969. She had moved to the UK from Jamaica just a few years earlier and quickly worked her way up the teaching profession. She faced racist threats when she first took up the post but refused to allow them to define her relationship with the children she taught. Photo: Yvonne Conolly in a classroom. Copyright: Pathe.

  • The woman who asked Britain to return the Parthenon marbles

    Mar 07 2019

    Melina Mercouri, famous actress turned politician, visited Britain in 1983 as Greek Minister of Culture and made the first official request for the return of the Parthenon marbles. The marbles were removed in 1801 by Lord Elgin, who was the British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire at the time. Lord Elgin, who was based in Istanbul sent his agents to Athens to remove the marbles which he claimed were at risk of destruction. He later sold them to the British parliament who in turn entrusted them ...more

  • Speaking out against my abuser: Daniel Ortega

    Mar 06 2019

    In March 1998 Zoilamérica Narváez publicly accused her step-father, Nicaragua's revolutionary leader, Daniel Ortega of having sexually abused her since she was a child. The 31-year-old Narváez said that the abuse had continued for almost twenty years. Ortega, who was re-elected as Nicaragua's president for a third consecutive term in 2016, has consistently denied the accusations. Mike Lanchin has been speaking to Zoilamérica Narváez about her disturbing story. Photo: Zoilamerica Narváez announc...more

  • The creation of the Barbie doll

    Mar 05 2019

    The first Barbie doll was sold in 1959. Ruth Handler, one of the founders of the Mattel toy company who created Barbie, describes how it took years to convince her male colleagues that it would sell. Picture: Ruth and Elliot Handler, creators of Barbie. Courtesy of Mattel Inc.

  • Britain's first Muslim woman in government

    Mar 04 2019

    Sayeeda Warsi made history when she was appointed to the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government's Cabinet in May 2010, and was also made Conservative party co-chair. The daughter of working-class Pakistani immigrants, she walked up Downing Street for her first Cabinet meeting dressed in a traditional South Asian salwar-kameez; it was a landmark moment in British politics. Sayeeda Warsi talks to Farhana Haider about her journey into government and about Islamophobia in politics. ...more

  • Happy Beer Day!

    Mar 01 2019

    On March 1st 1989 Icelanders were allowed to buy full-strength beer for the first time in decades. Beer had been outlawed in the country since 1915. Roger Protz has been looking into the history of prohibition in Iceland. Photo: A bartender pouring beer. Credit: Getty Creative Stock/iStock.

  • Asama Sanso: Japanese hostage crisis

    Feb 28 2019

    Armed left-wing extremists held off Japanese police for 10 days during a hostage crisis in the mountains in February 1972. Young members of the so-called United Red Army had hoped to bring about a communist revolution in Japan. Their hideout was discovered and most of them were arrested but five extremists took over a mountain lodge and held a woman hostage in a final stand-off. Ashley Byrne has been speaking to Michinori Kato one of the five who took part in the shoot-out. Photo: The police ...more

  • Sucked out of a plane

    Feb 27 2019

    Nine passengers were sucked out of a plane when a cargo door opened mid-flight over the Pacific. United Airlines Flight 811 was flying from Hawaii to New Zealand in February 1989 when the accident happened. In 2012 Claire Bowes heard from two passengers on board the plane. This programme is a rebroadcast. Photo: The damaged side of the plane. Credit: Courtesy of Bruce Lampert.

  • Swine flu shuts down Mexico City

    Feb 26 2019

    Mexico City, the world's third largest metropolis, was effectively shut down when a new and deadly virus, swine flu appeared. Soon the virus started to spread and was seen as a massive threat to global health. Experts feared millions of people could become infected and many countries began screening airline passengers for symptoms and suspending flights to Mexico. Photo: People wear surgical masks as they ride the subway in Mexico City (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Venezuela's oil bonanza

    Feb 25 2019

    Rocketing oil prices in the mid 1970s fuelled massive consumer and government spending in Venezuela, earning the South American country the nickname "Saudi" Venezuela. Buoyed by the extra revenue, the government moved to nationalise the iron and oil industries. But by the end of the decade, corruption and nepotism had set in and the economic bubble burst. Mike Lanchin hears from the former Venezuelan oil executive, Luis Giusti and the artist and photographer Frank Balbi, about their memories of ...more

  • How science ended the search for Josef Mengele

    Feb 22 2019

    An international panel of experts gathered in Brazil in 1985 to identify the remains of a man thought to have been the infamous doctor from Auschwitz. 'To see that this man was finally in his grave was important' says Eric Stover, part of the team of American and German experts who examined the body from a cemetery near São Paulo. Mengele's family in Germany claimed that it was his. Thomas Pappon has spoken to Eric Stover about the efforts to prove that one of the most wanted war criminals of th...more

  • The men who tried to warn us about smoking

    Feb 21 2019

    British doctors produced an alarming report in 1962 warning that 1 in 3 smokers would die before the age of 65. The doctors suggested restrictions on advertising and on smoking in public places but the UK government did little except launch a health education campaign. Credit: Interviews with Sir George Godber and Charles Fletcher courtesy of the Medical Sciences Video Archive, part of a project run by Oxford Brookes University and the Royal College of Physicians. Photo: 1956 (Thurston Hopkins...more

  • The curse of Agent Orange

    Feb 20 2019

    Millions suffered from exposure to toxic chemicals sprayed by US forces during the Vietnam war. The chemicals were defoliants and herbicides designed to destroy jungles and vegetation which provided cover for communist guerrillas. But the defoliants contained dioxin, one of the most toxic chemicals known to man. The most notorious defoliant was called Agent Orange. Decades later, Vietnamese are still being affected. Witness speaks to Dr. Nguyen Thi Ngoc Phuong about her struggle against the toxi...more

  • The Columbia space shuttle disaster

    Feb 19 2019

    The US space shuttle Columbia broke up on its way back to Earth on February 1, 2003. It had been in use since 1981. Iain Mackness has spoken to Admiral Hal Gehman who was given the job of finding out what went wrong. His final report led to the winding-up of the American space shuttle programme in 2011. Photo: The space shuttle Columbia during take-off. Credit: NASA.

  • The true story of Roma

    Feb 18 2019

    Alfonso Cuarón's critically acclaimed film Roma portrays a student massacre that took place in México City in 1971. The Corpus Christi massacre, known locally as the Halconazo, sent shock waves throughout México. A paramilitary group trained by the Army attacked students as they demonstrated against the government, leaving about 120 people dead. María Elena Navas speaks to Rosa Maria Garza Marcué and Jesús Martín del Campo, who were among the protesters that day. Photo: The massacre scene in Ro...more

  • Maastricht: The birth of the European Union

    Feb 15 2019

    In February 1992, European ministers from 12 countries signed a treaty that would lead towards greater economic and political unity. The European Union would become the biggest free trading bloc in the world, but over the years it has survived several rocky moments as individual countries have questioned whether they want to be included. Senior EU Official Jim Cloos was one of those involved in drafting the Maastricht Treaty, and he explained to Rebecca Kesby how exciting it was to be involved...more

  • Confessions of a Soviet alcoholic

    Feb 14 2019

    In 1969, homeless Russian alcoholic Venedikt Yerofeev wrote a hugely popular book which was passed illegally from person to person. The book gave voice to a generation of Soviet intellectuals who were unable to fit into mainstream Soviet society. The author's friend poet Olga Sedakova shared her memories with Dina Newman. Photo: Venedikt Yerofeev. Credit: Olga Sedakova archive.

  • British Cameroons' historic referendum

    Feb 13 2019

    In 1961, the British run territories of Northern and Southern Cameroons in West Africa were given a vote to decide their future. They could choose either to become part of Nigeria, or to become part of Cameroon. They were not given the choice of becoming their own country. The decision taken in that referendum would lay the seeds for the conflict which erupted in Cameroon's English speaking region in 2016. Alex Last spoke to the Cameroonian historian Prof. Verkijika Fanso about his memories of t...more

  • Women Airline Pilots

    Feb 12 2019

    Airlines in America finally allowed women to pilot passenger planes in the 1970's. But women like Bonnie Tiburzi and Lynn Rippelmeyer had been fighting for years to be allowed to train as pilots. They tell Maria Elena Navas about their early days in a male-dominated industry. Photo: Bonnie Tiburzi, 24, is shown in a cockpit of an aircraft shortly after receiving her wings in 1974 when she became the first female pilot for American Airlines. (Getty Images)

  • Iceland Jails Its Bankers

    Feb 11 2019

    The 2008 global economic crisis hit hard in Iceland. Its three major banks and stockmarket collapsed and it was forced to seek an emergency bail-out from the IMF. But unlike many other countries affected by the global downturn, Iceland decided to prosecute its leading bankers. Around forty top executives were jailed. Mike Lanchin has been hearing from Special Prosecutor, Olafur Hauksson, who led the investigations. (Photo: Protesters on the streets of Reykjavik demand answers from the governmen...more

  • The Bombardment of Baghdad

    Feb 08 2019

    When the US and its allies began their invasion of Iraq in 2003 the population of Baghdad faced three weeks of bombing and fear. Hear what life was like for one ordinary family in the capital. This programme is a rebroadcast (Photo: Baghdad, March 20 2003, AFP/Getty Images)

  • Disney Goes to Europe

    Feb 07 2019

    In 1992 Disney opened its first theme park in Europe. But it had taken years of delicate negotiations and diplomacy get it off the ground. In 2013 Rebecca Kesby spoke to Robert Fitzpatrick who had the job of bringing the magic of Mickey Mouse to France. Photo: Celebrations during the 25th anniversary of Disneyland Paris at the park in Marne-la-Vallee in April 2017.(Credit: REUTERS/Benoit Tessier)

  • The Soweto Uprising

    Feb 06 2019

    A former schoolgirl remembers the children's demonstration against having to study in Afrikaans that sparked the Soweto Uprising against South Africa's apartheid regime. Bongi Mkhabela spoke to Alan Johnston in 2010 about her memories of the protest. This programme is a rebroadcast. Photo: Schoolchildren demonstrating on June 16th 1976 in Soweto. (Credit:Bongani Mnguni/City Press/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

  • The Capture of Che Guevara

    Feb 05 2019

    In October 1967 the Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara was captured and killed in Bolivia. Mike Lanchin spoke to former CIA operative, Felix Rodriguez, who helped track him down. (Photo: Felix Rodriguez (left) with the captured Che Guevara, shortly before his execution on 9 October 1967. Courtesy of Felix Rodriguez)

  • The Death of Hitler

    Feb 04 2019

    A first-hand account of Hitler from our archives. Traudl Junge worked as a secretary for the German Nazi leader. She was in the bunker in Berlin when he killed himself in 1945 as the Red Army closed in. She spoke to Zina Rohan for the BBC in 1989. Photo: Hitler and some of his officers. Credit: Getty Images.

  • Women and the Iranian Revolution

    Jan 31 2019

    Many women supported Iran's 1979 Revolution against the monarchy but some later became disillusioned. Islamic rules about how women dressed were just one of the things that women objected to. Sharan Tabari spoke to Lucy Burns in 2014 about her experiences during, and after, the Iranian Revolution. Photo: Women on the streets during a May 1st demonstration in 1979.(Credit: Christine Spengler/Getty Images.)

  • Iran Hostage Rescue Mission

    Jan 31 2019

    In April 1980, the US launched Operation Eagle Claw - a daring but ultimately disastrous attempt to free dozens of hostages held captive in the US Embassy in Tehran. The rescue mission ended in tragedy almost as soon as it began. Rob Walker spoke to Mike Vining, a member of the US special forces team in 2015. This programme is a rebroadcast (Photo:Special forces troops returning from the failed mission. Credit: US Army)

  • Iran Hostage Crisis

    Jan 30 2019

    In 1979 young revolutionaries stormed the US Embassy in Tehran. 52 Americans were taken captive and held hostage for 444 days. Barry Rosen was one of the hostages. In 2009 he told his story to Alex Last. This programme is a rebroadcast. Photo: Boy in camouflage points a toy pistol at an effigy of US President Carter during a demonstration outside the US Embassy, 18 November 1979. (Credit:STAFF/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Ayatollah Khomeini Returns From Exile

    Jan 29 2019

    In February 1979 an Islamic revolution began to unfold in Iran. The Islamic leader Ayatollah Khomeini, who had been in exile for 14 years, flew back to Tehran from Paris on the 1st of February. Mohsen Sazegara was close to the heart of events and in 2011 he spoke to Louise Hidalgo for Witness. Photo: Ayatollah Khomeini leaving the Air France Boeing 747 jumbo that flew him back from exile in France to Tehran.(Credit: Gabriel Duval, AFP/Getty Images.)

  • Musicians of the Iranian Revolution

    Jan 28 2019

    During the heat of Iran's revolution the country's top musicians decided to join the popular uprising. After the massacre of demonstrators by the Shah's armed forces in Jaleh Square in September 1978, state employed musicians went underground and started recording revolutionary songs. These songs became some of the most iconic in recent Iranian history. In 2015 Golnoosh Golshani heard from Bijan Kamkar about the musicians of the revolution. This programme is a re-broadcast. (Photo: Bijan Kamk...more

  • The Publisher Who Tried to Change the World

    Jan 25 2019

    Virago Press opened as a feminist publisher in 1972 to promote women's writing. Its founder, Carmen Callil, says she wanted both men and women to benefit from the female perspective. She tells Witness how she hoped to put women centre stage at a time when she and many other women felt sidelined and ignored at work and at home. Photo: Carmen Callil, 1983 (Photo by Peter Morris/Fairfax Media) Music: Jam Today by Jam Today courtesy of the Women’s Liberation Music Archive.

  • Vatican II: Reforming the Catholic Church

    Jan 23 2019

    Pope John XXIII wanted to modernise the Catholic Church. In January 1959 he announced a council of all the world's Catholic bishops and cardinals in Rome. It led to sweeping reforms, including allowing the Mass to be said in languages other than Latin and an attempt to build relationships with other denominations and faiths. But not everyone was happy with the changes. Msgr John Strynkowski was a student priest in Rome at the time and told Rebecca Kesby about the excitement and controversy su...more

  • The Carry On Films

    Jan 22 2019

    The comic film franchise which churned out movie after movie mocking British stereotypes and pomposity. The first Carry On film hit cinema screens in 1958 and the team behind it would go on to make more than 30 movies using slapstick comedy and sexual innuendo to win fans around the world. Ashley Byrne has spoken to writer John Antrobus and actor Valerie Leon. It was a Made in Manchester Production. Photo: Two of Carry On's biggest stars, Kenneth Williams(l) and Sid James (r) filming Carry On A...more

  • India's First Call Centre

    Jan 21 2019

    Pramod Bhasin returned home to India in 1997 after working abroad for years. He spotted an opportunity to start a new industry that would revolutionise the country's economy. He tells Witness how he set up India's first call centre in spite of telecom challenges that might have put most entrepreneurs off. Photo: Pramod Bhasin in one of the call centres he started. Credit: BBC.

  • The Case of Dr Crippen

    Jan 18 2019

    How one of the most notorious murderers in Edwardian London was captured as he fled to Canada. Listen to an astonishing BBC archive account of his arrest and hear from Dr Cassie Watson, a historian of forensic medicine and crime, about why the case of Dr Crippen lived so long in the public's memory. Photo: Dr Hawley Harvey Crippen (Getty Images)

  • The Thames Whale

    Jan 17 2019

    In January 2006, London was entranced by the appearance of a large bottlenose whale in the Thames – the first such sighting for more than a century. Large crowds gathered to watch the whale swimming in front of the Houses of Parliament and many of the city’s most famous landmarks. But the whale’s health began to deteriorate and a team of specialist divers were called in to try – unsuccessfully – to save its life. Simon Watts talks to Mark Stevens, the man who organised the rescue attempt. PHOT...more

  • Strikers In Saris

    Jan 16 2019

    In 1976 South Asian women workers who had made Britain their home, led a strike against poor working conditions in a British factory. Lakshmi Patel was one of the South Asian women who picketed the Grunwick film-processing factory in north London for two years, defying the stereotype of submissive South Asian women. They gained the support of tens of thousands of trade unionists along the way. Lakshmi talks to Farhana Haider about how the strike was a defining moment for race relations in the U...more

  • Mexico's Miracle Water

    Jan 15 2019

    Thousands of people flocked to the village of Tlacote in central Mexico in 1991. They were hoping to be cured by 'magical' water after rumours spread that it had healing powers. Maria Elena Navas has been speaking to Edmundo Gonzalez Llaca who was an official in the local environment ministry in 1991 and who was sent to Tlacote to check out what all the fuss was about. Photo: Hands under a stream of water (Getty Images)

  • Judy Garland's Final Shows

    Jan 14 2019

    Judy Garland ended her long and glitzy stage and screen career at a London theatre club in January 1969. She was booked for five weeks of nightly shows at the 'Talk of the Town', but by that time, the former child star of the 'Wizard of Oz' was struggling with a drug and drink addiction. Mike Lanchin has been hearing the memories of Rosalyn Wilder, then a young production assistant, whose job was to try to get Judy Garland on stage each night. Photo: Judy Garland on stage in London, December 1...more

  • 'Fat is a Feminist Issue'

    Jan 11 2019

    Susie Orbach's best-selling book Fat is a Feminist Issue led many in the Women's Liberation Movement of the 1970s to rethink body-image from a feminist perspective. Millions of people have read the book, which is still in print four decades later. Susie Orbach explained to Rebecca Kesby how she came up with the idea, and why she is devastated that it is still selling copies. (Photo: Susie Orbach, author of Fat is a Feminist Issue. Credit: Getty Images)

  • Diary of Life in a Favela

    Jan 10 2019

    A poor single mother of three, Carolina Maria de Jesus lived in a derelict shack and spent her days scavenging for food for her children, doing odd jobs and collecting paper and bottles. Her diary, written between 1955 and 1960, brought to life the harsh realities faced by thousands of poor Brazilians who arrived in cities like São Paulo and Rio looking for better opportunities. Her daughter, Vera Eunice de Jesus Lima, speaks to Thomas Pappon about how the book changed her family's life. Pict...more

  • When Stalin Rounded Up Soviet Doctors

    Jan 09 2019

    In the last year of his rule Stalin ordered the imprisonment and execution of hundreds of the best Soviet doctors accusing them of plotting to kill senior Communist officials. Several hundred doctors were imprisoned and tortured, many of them died in detention. Professor Yakov Rapoport was among the few survivors of what was known as the 'Doctors' Plot'. His daughter Natasha remembers her family's ordeal in an interview with Dina Newman. Photo: Professor Yakov Rapoport, 1990s. Credit: family a...more

  • Fidel Castro Takes Havana

    Jan 08 2019

    On January 8 1959 Fidel Castro and his left wing guerrilla forces marched triumphantly into the Cuban capital, ending decades of rule by the US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista. It was the beginning of communist rule on the Caribbean island. Mike Lanchin spoke to Carlos Alzugaray, who was a 15-year-old school boy when he joined the crowds in the Cuban capital that turned out to watch the rebel tanks roll into town. (Photo: Fidel Castro speaks to the crowds in Cuba after Batista was forced to f...more

  • The Doomsday Seed Vault

    Jan 07 2019

    In January 2008, seeds began arriving at the world's first global seed vault, buried deep inside a mountain on an Arctic island a-thousand kilometres north of the Norwegian coast. The vault was built to ensure the survival of the world's food supply and its agricultural history in the event of a global catastrophe. Louise Hidalgo has been speaking to the man whose idea it was, American agriculturalist Cary Fowler. (Photo: journalists and cameramen outside the entrance of the Svalbard Global See...more

  • Vikings in North America

    Jan 04 2019

    The discovery that proved Vikings had crossed the Atlantic 1000 years ago. In 1960, a Norwegian couple, Helge and Anne Stine Ingstad arrived in the remote fishing village of L'Anse aux Meadows on the tip of Newfoundland in Canada. They were searching for evidence of the Norse settlement of North America which had been described in ancient Norse sagas. What they found would make headlines around the world, and turn L'Anse aux Meadows into a World Heritage Site. Alex Last spoke to Loretta Decker w...more

  • Ceausescu's 'House of the People'

    Jan 03 2019

    In the early 1980s the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu ordered the construction of a massive building in central Bucharest. Dubbed the "House of the People", it was to become the world's 2nd largest building. Now, decades after the fall of Communism, the building remains a lasting monument to the excesses of the dictator's totalitarian rule. Robert Nicholson speaks to Eliodor Popa, one of the architects behind the building. (Photo by Laszlo Szirtesi/Getty Images)

  • Barbara Cartland - Queen of Romance

    Jan 02 2019

    Dame Barbara Cartland was best known for her historical romances and is thought to have sold hundreds of millions of books around the world. She was step-grandmother to Princess Diana and was at her most prolific in the 1970s and 80s when she appeared regularly on British television. Kirsty Reid has been listening to some of her interviews from the BBC archives and hearing what it was like to meet her in person from Joe McAleer, author of Call of the Atlantic: Jack London's Publishing Odyssey Ov...more

  • Brazil's Marijuana Summer

    Jan 01 2019

    In September 1987, fishermen and surfers in the states of Rio and São Paulo started spotting mysterious tin cans floating in the sea. Soon those tins became a talking point across the country, because they were packed full of high quality marijuana. The tin cans inspired books, fashion, poems, films and many songs. Thomas Pappon has been speaking to two Brazilians who remember that summer well. Photo: Tin cans picked up by the Brazilian police in Rio. Credit: Agência Estado/AFP

  • Rebels Rout The Army In El Salvador

    Dec 31 2018

    On December 30 1983 Marxist rebels in El Salvador attacked and occupied the El Paraiso army base in the north of the country. It was the first time an important military installation had fallen to the guerrillas and dealt a humiliating blow to the Army and its US backers. Mike Lanchin has spoken to a former rebel fighter who took part in the operation, and to Todd Greentree who worked at the US Embassy in San Salvador. Photo: Damage caused to the El Paraiso military base in El Salvador after th...more

  • When Animals Go To War

    Dec 28 2018

    In December 1943, a British charity created the Dickin Medal to honour the bravery of animals serving in war. The first medals went mainly to pigeons used in World War Two, although dogs and one cat were also among the winners. Simon Watts tells the story of the Dickin Medal using recordings from the BBC archive. PHOTO: Winkie the Pigeon receives a Dickin Medal in 1943 (Getty Images)

  • Trautonium: A Revolution in Electronic Music

    Dec 27 2018

    'I like it, carry on', said Joseph Goebbels, after listening to the trautonium, invented in Berlin. It was used first in classical music in the early 1930s. Paul Hindemith composed pieces for it. For decades it was played by one man only, Oskar Sala. Thomas Pappon spoke to him in 1997, and to Peter Pichler, who still performs on the trautonium. Picture: Alfred Hitchcock observes Oskar Sala playing the trautonium in the latter's studio, Berlin, in 1962. Credit: Heinz Koester/ Ullstein Bild via G...more

  • The Soviet Afghan War Begins

    Dec 26 2018

    In late December 1979, the world held its breath as thousands of Soviet troops were sent into Afghanistan. Moscow said the troops would be there six months, to help bring peace to the country. In fact, the Soviet army stayed almost ten years, and Afghanistan came to be seen as the Soviet Union's Vietnam. Louise Hidalgo has been talking to journalist Andrei Ostalski and former soldier Vyacheslav Ismailov about that time. Picture: Soviet tanks in front of the Darulaman Palace in Kabul (Credit: He...more

  • UFO Sightings: The Rendlesham Forest Incident

    Dec 25 2018

    At Christmas 1980 strange objects and lights were seen over a US military base in Suffolk, England, for three consecutive nights. Several military service people reported seeing them, including the deputy commander of the base, Lt Colonel Charles Halt. He explains what he saw to Rebecca Kesby, and why the experience changed his opinion on the existence of UFOs. (Photo: Computer illustration of UFOs - Unidentified Flying Objects)

  • Scotland's Stone of Destiny

    Dec 24 2018

    On Christmas Eve 1950 four young Scottish students took the 'Stone of Destiny' from Westminster Abbey. The symbolic stone had been taken from Scotland to England centuries earlier and had sat beneath the Coronation Chair in the Abbey ever since. Anya Dorodeyko has been speaking to Ian Hamilton who took part in the daring escapade in order to draw attention to demands for Scottish Home Rule. Photo: Ian Hamilton. Credit: BBC

  • Stopping The 'Shoe Bomber'

    Dec 21 2018

    On December 22 2001 a British-born man tried to bring down American Airlines flight 63 from Paris to Miami. His plan failed when the bomb didn't go off. He was then overpowered by a group of passengers and tied to his seat. Former professional basketball player, Kwame James, was among those who helped subdue Reid. He has been telling Mike Lanchin about the drama on board. Photo: One of the shoes worn by Richard Reid on the American Airlines flight to Miami (ABC/Getty Images)

  • The Woman Who Wrote Mary Poppins

    Dec 20 2018

    Writer PL Travers created a children's classic when she invented the magical English nanny. But was the character built around her own personality? Vincent Dowd has been speaking to PL Travers' granddaughter. Photo: Emily Blunt is Mary Poppins in Disney's original musical MARY POPPINS RETURNS, a sequel to the 1964 MARY POPPINS (credit: Walt Disney)

  • Hacking The First Computer Password

    Dec 19 2018

    Scientists at MIT in the 1960s had to share computer time. They were given passwords to access the computer and could not use more than their allowance. But one man, Allan Scherr, hacked the system by working out the master password. He has been talking to Ashley Byrne. Photo: Allan Scherr at his workstation connected to the MIT central system in 1963. Courtesy of Allan Scherr

  • Theatre in the Sahara

    Dec 18 2018

    Theatre director Peter Brook led a troupe of actors on a three-month-long journey across the Sahara Desert starting in December 1972. They performed improvised pieces to local villagers. Louise Hidalgo has been speaking to author and journalist John Heilpern who went with them. Photo: Peter Brook in the 1990s. (Credit: Jean Pimentel/Kipa/Sygma via Getty Images)

  • China and Japan at War

    Dec 17 2018

    Japanese troops reached the Chinese city of Nanjing in December 1937. The violence that followed marked one of the darkest moments in a struggle that continued throughout WW2. Rebecca Kesby has been speaking to former General Huang Shih Chung, who survived the slaughter in Nanjing as a boy and then fought in China's war of resistance against the Japanese. Photo: Huang Shih-Chung as a young soldier.

  • The US Apologises for Wartime Internment

    Dec 17 2018

    In 1988 President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act which gave a presidential apology and compensation to Japanese Americans interned during World War II. Farhana Haider has been speaking to Norman Mineta a former congressman who was instrumental in pushing through the landmark legislation and was himself incarcerated as a child. Image: Japanese-American child waits with luggage to be transported to internment camps for the duration of WWII 01/07/1942 Copyright Getty Images

  • Englandspiel: The Deadly WW2 Spy Game

    Dec 13 2018

    In 1942, a Dutch secret agent was captured by German military intelligence in the Netherlands. The agent's name was Haub Lauwers and he worked for the Special Operations Executive, a secret organisation set up by the British to wage a guerrilla war against the Nazis in Europe. So began, the Englandspiel, the England Game, a German counter-intelligence operation that led to the capture and deaths of dozens of Dutch agents. Photo: Haub Lauwers identity card when he joined the Dutch army in exile.

  • Cicely Saunders And The Modern Hospice Movement

    Dec 12 2018

    In 1967, Dame Cicely Saunders opened the first modern hospice in South London. St Christopher's inspired the creation of thousands of similar hospices around the world and its scientific research helped establish the modern discipline of palliative medicine. Simon Watts introduces archive interviews with Dame Cicely, who died in 2005. PHOTO: Dame Cicely Saunders (BBC)

  • Apollo 8

    Dec 12 2018

    The biggest audience in TV history watched NASA's Apollo 8 mission beam back the first pictures from an orbit around the moon at Christmas 1968. The broadcast captured the world's imagination and put the Americans ahead of the Soviet Union in the Cold War battle to make the first lunar landing. Simon Watts talks to Apollo 8 commander, Frank Borman. Picture: The Earth as seen from the Moon, photographed by the Apollo 8 crew (NASA)

  • When China Joined the WTO

    Dec 11 2018

    China had to relax its strict communist system to join the World Trade Organisation. Charlene Barshefsky was the US trade negotiator looking after American interests at the time. Freddie Chick has been hearing from Ms Barshefsky about the years of negotiations that led to the final deal. This is a Made in Manchester production. Beijing China: US Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky (2nd Left), Chinese Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation Shi Guangsheng (Right) toast with ch...more

  • Angela Merkel's Rise to Power

    Dec 07 2018

    Angela Merkel rose to power in German politics after the fall of her mentor, Helmut Kohl. He had accepted secret donations on behalf of their political party the CDU. After the scandal erupted in December 1999 Angela Merkel wrote a newspaper article condemning his actions. Soon she was the party's new leader. Tim Mansel has been speaking to her biographer Evelyn Roll. Photo: Angela Merkel in 1999. Credit: Getty Images.

  • Adopted By The Man Who Killed My Family

    Dec 06 2018

    Ramiro Osorio Cristales was just five years old when his family was murdered by the Guatemalan army, along with more than 200 other civilians from the Mayan village of Dos Erres. One of the soldiers who participated in the killings, Santos Lopez, took Ramiro with him and later adopted him. In November 2018, Ramiro gave evidence in the trial against his adoptive father for his part in the massacre. He has been telling Mike Lanchin about his horrific ordeal. (This programme contains disturbing ac...more

  • The Armenian Earthquake

    Dec 05 2018

    A catastrophic earthquake hit northern Armenia on the morning of December 7th 1988. At least 20,000 people were killed and thousands more injured. Anahit Karapetian was in school when the tremors hit her hometown of Spitak close to the epicentre. She was trapped in the rubble for hours, surrounded by injured and dead classmates. She has been speaking to Dina Newman about what she went through. Photo: Ruins in Armenia in 1988. Credit: Getty Images

  • The Coronation of Jean-Bédel Bokassa

    Dec 04 2018

    Jean-Bédel Bokassa crowned himself Emperor of the Central African Republic in a lavish ceremony on the 4th of December 1977. He'd already been President for several years since taking power in a military coup - but he wanted more. Janet Ball has spoken to one of his sons, Jean-Charles Bokassa, and to a French journalist, about the events of that day. Photo: Jean-Bédel Bokassa, stands in front of his throne after crowning himself. 04 December 1977 in Bangui. (Credit: Pierre Guillaud/AFP/Getty I...more

  • Berlin's Rubble Women

    Dec 03 2018

    At the end of WW2 much of Germany's capital had been destroyed by bombing and artillery. Almost half of all houses and flats had been damaged and a million Berliners were homeless. Caroline Wyatt has been speaking to Helga Cent-Velden, one of the women tasked with helping clear the rubble to make the city habitable again. Photo: Women in post-war Berlin pass pails of rubble to clear bombed areas in the Russian sector of the city. (Photo by Fred Ramage/Keystone/Getty Images)

  • Norway's EU referendum

    Nov 30 2018

    At the end of November 1994, Norway voted in a referendum not to join the European Union. The issue had split the country, and Norway was the only one of four countries that had referendums on EU membership that year to vote against. A senior member of the Yes campaign, former Norwegian foreign minister and Labour politician, Espen Barth Eide, tells Louise Hidalgo about the night they lost. Picture: fishing vessels with banners reading "No to EU" in the harbour of Tromso two weeks before the re...more

  • The Discovery of Dinosaur Eggs

    Nov 29 2018

    The discovery of a nest of complete dinosaur eggs in Mongolia in 1923 provided the first proof that the prehistoric creatures hatched out of eggs rather than giving birth to live young. The American explorer who found them, Roy Chapman Andrews, became a legend and many consider him the inspiration for the film hero Indiana Jones. Claire Bowes spoke to his granddaughter, Sara Appelbee. Photo: Roy Chapman Andrews examining first find of dinosaur eggs by George Olsen, Mongolia, 1925 (courtesy of ...more