Johnny Smythe was one of very few West Africans to fly with Britain's air force during WW2. Recruited in Sierra Leone in 1941 he was trained as a navigator and flew 26 missions on RAF bombers before being shot down over Germany and taken prisoner in 1943. His son Eddy Smythe spoke to Tim Stokes about his father’s story. Photo: Johnny Smythe in his RAF uniform. Copyright: Eddy Smythe.
The Ghanaian president, Kwame Nkrumah, was one of Africa's most famous independence leaders. But in 1966, while he was out of the country, the Ghanaian military and police seized power in a coup. The legendary Ghanaian film maker Chris Hesse worked closely with Nkrumah and was with him at the time. He spoke to Alex Last about his memories of the coup and his friendship with the man who'd led Ghana to independence. Photo: Kwame Nkrumah c 1955 (Getty Images)
In the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis Ireland had to borrow billions to stop its banks from going under and to keep its economy afloat. The IMF, the EU and the European Central Bank provided the money. Matt Murphy has been speaking to Patrick Honahan, who was Ireland's central banker at the time of the bailout. Photo: Protesters take to the streets of Dublin in November 2010 to oppose savage public spending cutbacks needed to secure an international bailout. Credit:Ben Stansall/AFP v...more
In the 1960s, Swedish scientists documented how acid rain was poisoning lakes, killing fish, damaging soils and forests. Crucially they said it was an international problem, because the acid rain was caused by industrial pollution being carried on the prevailing winds from countries thousands of miles away. Acid rain is primarily created by the burning of fossil fuels, particularly coal, which releases large amounts of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides into the air. These particles then mix wi...more
The Motown group The Supremes had a string of number one hits in 1964. They would become the most popular girl group of the 1960s. One of the three original singers, Mary Wilson, spoke to Vincent Dowd about growing up in Detroit, commercial success, and civil rights. Photo: The Supremes, (left to right) Florence Ballard, Mary Wilson, Diana Ross, on a visit to London in 1964. Credit: PA Wire.
The Black Panther Party hit the headlines in the late 1960s with their call for a revolution in the USA. 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 spoke to Lucy Burns. (IMAGE: Shutterstock)
The story of an African American woman who played a largely unsung role in countless medical breakthroughs over more than half a century. Henrietta Lacks had cells taken from her body in 1951 when she was suffering from cancer. Those cells were found to be unique in a most particular way. They continued to reproduce endlessly in the laboratory. Culture from those cells have since been used in thousands of scientific experiments. But as Farhana Haider reports, Henrietta herself was never asked if...more
How one man used research by historians at University College London into Britain's forgotten slave-owners to track down the descendants of the family who'd owned his ancestors two centuries earlier. Dr James Dawkins tells Louise Hidalgo how his quest led him to the famous evolutionary biologist, Professor Richard Dawkins, author of the Selfish Gene, with whom he shares a name and a past. Picture: slaves unloaded from slave ship at their destination; from Amelia Opie The Black Man's Lament: or ...more
It wasn't until recently that researchers working in the national archive in London discovered the extent to which ordinary people in Britain had been involved in the slave trade in the 18th and early 19th century. Louise Hidalgo has been talking to Dr Nick Draper, who uncovered volumes of records detailing the thousands of people who claimed compensation when slavery was abolished in Britain in 1834. He and colleagues at University College London set up the Legacies of British Slave-ownership d...more
More than 400 civilians were killed when two US precision bombs hit the Amiriya air raid shelter in western Baghdad on the morning of 13 February 1991. The Americans claimed that the building had served as a command and control centre for Saddam Hussein's forces. It was the largest single case of civilian casualities that ocurred during Operation Desert Storm, the US-led campaign to force Iraq to withdraw from neighbouring Kuwait. Mike Lanchin has been hearing from one Iraqi woman whose four chi...more
Nurses from outside the UK form a vital part of the country's National Health Service. Many come from African countries. Cecilia Anim - who left Ghana for England in 1972 - became the first black woman to be made president of the Royal College of Nursing. In 2017 she was awarded a CBE by the Queen. She has been speaking to Sharon Hemans for Witness History. Photo: Cecilia Anim as a student nurse in Ghana in the 1960s. Credit: Cecilia Anim.
In 1989 celebrities in New York set up the 'Street News' paper to help the homeless. People living rough sold the paper at a profit instead of begging, initially it was very successful with around 250,000 copies sold per issue and the idea was copied around the world. Lee Stringer was living on the street when he began selling 'Street News', he discovered a talent for writing and went on to be a columnist and then editor of the paper. He told Witness History how living on the streets made him ...more
In 1984 a group of lesbians and gay men organised a benefit concert to support striking coal-miners. They sent the money they raised to a mining village in Wales. The miners' strike was the biggest industrial dispute in British history. Hear from Mike Jackson, one of the gay men inspired by the miners' struggle. Photo: Campaign activists on the 1985 Lesbian & Gay Pride march. Credit: Colin Clews
Francis Bacon painted distorted and disturbing images but his works are now widely considered one of the great achievements of post-war British art. Vincent Dowd has been trawling through the BBC archives listening to Bacon talking about his work, and gaining an insight into his Bohemian, hard-drinking ways. Photo: Francis Bacon in London in 1970. Credit: Press Association
DES or Diethylstilbestrol was a form of synthetic estrogen developed in the 1930s, regularly prescribed to pregnant women to prevent miscarriage. But in the 1960s it was discovered that not only did it not prevent miscarriage, it also had dangerous side effects for the daughters of the women who had taken it while pregnant – including reproductive problems and rare gynaecological cancers. Millions of women were exposed all over the world. Lucy Burns speaks to mother and daughter Linda and Katie ...more
The US Civil War of 1861-65 left 700,000 troops dead. The Southern Confederate states rebelled against the Union of the North because the Confederates wanted to protect the right to own slaves. The hero of the rebel cause, General Robert E Lee, was charged with treason and had his citizenship revoked. So why did Congress reinstate his citizenship in 1975 more than one hundred years after his death? Claire Bowes has been speaking to former Democrat Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman who was one of ...more
During the Vietnam war, US commanders grew increasingly concerned about the widespread use of drugs by US troops in Vietnam. Initially the focus was on marijuana. But in the early 1970s, reports began to emerge of the large scale use of heroin by US military personnel. The drug had became widely available in South Vietnam. Alex Last spoke to Dr Richard Ratner, then a psychiatrist in the US army in Vietnam, about his memories of treating soldiers suffering from heroin addiction. Photo: Two sold...more
On August 8th 1988 the Burmese military cracked down on anti-government demonstrators, killing hundreds possibly thousands of people. In the weeks of protest that followed, Aung San Suu Kyi rose to prominence as an opposition figure. The date 8.8.88 has come to symbolise the resistance movement in Myanmar at the time. Ma Thida was a medical student working at Rangoon General Hospital when the dead and injured began to arrive. In 2018 she spoke to Rebecca Kesby about treating gunshot wounds for t...more
The biggest circus in Soviet Russia opened in Moscow in April 1971. Circus was considered the “people’s art form” in the USSR and was highly popular. The new Moscow State Circus building on Vernadsky Avenue could seat up to 3400 people and was filled with state of the art technology. Alexander Egorenko was one of the backstage crew, and still works at the circus today. He tells Lucy Burns about his memories of the circus. (Elephant Nicole celebrates her birthday at the Great Moscow State Cir...more
The first Eurostar train left London's Waterloo station heading for the Gare du Nord in Paris in November 1994. It was the first commercial passenger train to travel through the Channel Tunnel which had only been finished a few months earlier. Robert Priston was one of the drivers on that three-hour journey and he has been telling Bethan Head about that day. Photo: one of the first Eurostar trains. Credit: AFP/Getty Images.
In December 2010, anti-government protests broke out in Tunisia after a young fruit-seller called Mohammed Bouazizi set himself alight outside a government office in the south of the country. At one of the huge rallies in Tunis, a young singer called Emel Mathlouthi sang a song called "Kelmti Horra" or "My Word is Free". A video of her passionate performance immediately went viral and inspired protestors to take to the streets in other parts of the Middle East in what became known as the Arab Sp...more
In the early months of 2011 demonstrators took to the streets across the Arab world in what became known as the Arab spring. In February, protests in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi soon turned into an armed revolt seeking to overthrow the dictator, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Six months later, following fierce fighting, Libyan rebel forces swept into the capital, Tripoli. After more than 42 years the Libyan leader was forced from power. He was later captured and killed. Farhana Haider has been...more
Inspired by events in Tunisia and Egypt young Yemenis took to the streets in January 2011. Ishraq al-Maqtari was a lawyer and women's rights activist from the southwestern city of Taiz. She took her two young daughters on the first demonstration in her home town. She has been speaking to Sumaya Bakhsh about how the uprising was an unprecedented opportunity for women to have their voices heard. But in Yemen, war and a humanitarian catastrophe followed the popular uprising, so does Ishraq regret t...more
Protests erupted across the Arab world in 2011, people wanted change, an end to tyranny and dictatorship. But in Syria the unrest, and its put down by the authorities, led to civil war, years of violence and the survival of the Assad regime. One eye witness to events was Rami Jarrah, he was at the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus when one of the first protests began in Syria. He told Rebecca Kesby how powerful it felt just to even shout the word "freedom" during the protests. (Photo:
A wave of popular anti-government uprisings swept through the Arab world in the early months of 2011. Many of the activists who took to the streets were inspired by social media posts. Israa Abd el Fattah was one of the first Egyptian activists to use social media. In April 2008 she tried to organise a general strike in protest at low wages, and rising prices. She was given the nickname "Facebook Girl". In 2011 she used her experiences with Facebook to help mobilise people before the Egypt's Ara...more
Anti-Sikh violence erupted in India after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards in 1984. Looting, raping and killing broke out in Sikh areas. One of those killed was Nirpreet Kaur's father who was burnt to death by a furious mob in Delhi. She spent decades trying to bring to justice a politician she had seen encouraging the violence. She has been telling her story to Ishleen Kaur. Photo: Nirpreet Kaur's family before the events of 1984. Copyright:Nirpreet Kau...more
When Dr Henry Chakava became Kenya's first African book editor in 1972, there were virtually no books or educational material published in African languages, even in Kiswahili. He made it his priority to translate work by African authors into African languages, he also commissioned original work in several of Kenya's many languages, and published hundreds of textbooks. A champion of cultural diversity across East Africa, Dr Chakava tells Rebecca Kesby why he devoted his life to preserving and en...more
Following the assault on the US Capitol earlier this month, Amazon banned The Turner Diaries, a racist novel blamed for inciting American neo-Nazis to violence. The book calls for a race war and a coup against the institutions of US democracy. It was the favourite reading of Timothy McVeigh, the white terrorist who blew up a federal government building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168 people. The Turner Diaries was published in 1978 by a former physics professor and neo-Nazi called William...more
Adolf Hitler made his first attempt to overthrow democracy in Germany in Munich in 1923. It started at a beer hall called the Bürgerbräu in Munich, so it has become known as the "beer hall putsch" or the "Munich putsch". It ended with 16 Nazis and four policemen dead. Although the coup failed, Hitler's trial allowed him to raise his profile on the national stage, and within ten years he became chancellor of Germany. PHOTO: Nazi members during the Beer Hall Putsch, Munich, Germany 1923 (Universa...more
The story of the remarkable mission to land on Titan, one of the moons of Saturn. The large mysterious moon has a thick orange atmosphere. No-one had ever seen the surface. In the late 1990s, the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft was sent on a 7 year, 3.5 billion km journey through space to explore Saturn and Titan. Alex Last spoke to Prof. Emeritus John Zarnecki of the Open University who worked on the mission. Photo: A flattened (Mercator) projection of the Huygens probe's view of Titan. Taken by t...more
Cornelia Sorabji was the first woman lawyer working in India. She helped women living in purdah or seclusion in the 19th century who had no access to the law. The women were married into royal families and prevented from seeing men other than their husbands or family. This meant they had no way of seeking justice when they received cruel treatment, attempts on their lives or were disinherited by their husbands' families. Cornelia Sorabji was able to visit these women and often helped free them ...more
In March 1954, a group of Puerto Rican militants opened fire from the public gallery of the US Congress in an effort to promote their fight for independence for the American territory. Five members of the House of Representatives were wounded in an attack which made headlines around the world and turned its leader, Lolita Lebron, into a nationalist heroine on the Caribbean Island. Simon Watts has been listening to archive accounts of the incident. PHOTO: Lolita Lebron and two Puerto Rican colle...more
In February 1981 armed Civil Guards tried to take control of the Spanish parliament. For 18 hours they held 350 politicians hostage in the debating chamber. One of those politicians was a young Socialist MP called Joaquin Almunia. Photo: The leader of the coup attempt, Lt Col Antonio Tejero, on the speaker's platform (AFP/Getty Images)
The Limits to Growth was published in 1972 and warned of global decline from 2020. Claire Bowes spoke to one of the authors of the book, Professor Dennis Meadows, in 2019. He described how they used computer modelling to analyse how the Earth would cope with unrestricted economic growth. In the early 1970s he and his team from Massachusetts Institute of Technology fed in huge amounts of data on population, pollution, industrialisation, food production and resources. They found that if the trend...more
When the deadly Ebola virus broke out in West Africa in 2014, scientists in the USA set to work analysing it. What they discovered would eventually lead to a treatment. Pardis Sabeti is a virologist at Harvard University and leads the team who sequenced the Ebola virus genome - she has been speaking to Ibby Caputo for Witness History. Photo: Pardis Sabeti (front row, right) with some of the team who sequenced the virus in the lab.
The three astronauts on the Skylab 4 space research mission in 1973 got behind schedule when one of them vomited before they'd even got onto the space station. They felt they were being micromanaged by ground control, and that their workload was unreasonable - and one day, all three of them missed their daily radio briefing. Some people at Nasa thought they'd gone on strike. But what really happened? Lucy Burns speaks to Dr Edward Gibson, the only surviving member of the trio, about an incident ...more
In the 1990s a practising Buddhist called Anna Cox began visiting a murderer called Frankie Parker in jail. After his execution by lethal injection she carried on talking to prisoners on death row in Arkansas. Anna Cox has been speaking to Ibby Caputo for Witness History. Photo: Anna Cox and Frankie Parker.
A 3,500 year old song was found on a clay tablet by archaeologists in Syria in the 1950s. Often called the Hurrian Hymn, it had been unearthed amid the ruins of an ancient palace which belonged to the ancient Hurrian civilization. It is the oldest complete song ever found. The tablet was inscribed in the Hurrian language but using cuneiform script. Academics have spent decades debating how to interpret the song's ancient musical notation. Alex Last spoke to Richard Dumbrill, a leading archaeomus...more
In March 2001 the Taliban destroyed huge ancient statues of Buddha in Afghanistan. The statues were carved into the cliffs above the Bamiyan valley. Sayid Mirza Hossein, a local farmer, was taken prisoner by the Taliban and forced to pack explosives around the ancient Buddhas. He told Witness History what it felt like to destroy something that he had seen every day of his life. (Photo: Taliban fighters looking at the Bamiyan cliffs. Credit: Getty Images)
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
Shortly after Indian independence Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru persuaded the maverick Swiss-French architect, Le Corbusier, to help reinvent a newly independent India by building a new capital city for the province of Punjab. Le Corbusier had revolutionised architecture and urban planning in the first half of the twentieth century. He was loved and hated in equal measure for his modernist approach, favouring flat roofs, glass walls and concrete. Nehru said this new city would be "symbolic o...more
In July 1970, one of the largest dams in the world - the Aswan High Dam in Egypt - was completed. It had taken ten years to build, and was not without controversy. Louise Hidalgo brings us voices from the archives and from one man who was there, Professor Herman Bell, about the cost of the dam to the region's people and its antiquities. This programme is a rebroadcast. (Photo: The Aswan High Dam under construction in southern Egypt in the 1960s. Credit: AFP)
UNESCO – the educational, scientific and cultural arm of the United Nations was first established in 1945. Its aim was to use education as a means of sustaining peace after the horrors of the Second World War. Addressing race and racism was a key part of its mission. Caroline Bayley has been speaking to Doudou Diene who spent many years at UNESCO working on anti-racism and tolerance. (Photo: UNESCO logo seen at 39th General Conference of the organization, 2017 in Paris, France. Credit: Chesno...more
In December 1946, the classic Christmas film "It's a Wonderful Life" had its premiere in Hollywood. Starring Jimmy Stewart, the movie's message of hope and redemption is loved by millions. Simon Watts talks to former child star, Karolyn Grimes, who played six-year-old Zuzu Bailey. The programme was first broadcast in 2015. PHOTO: Karolyn Grimes with Jimmy Stewart in "It's a Wonderful Life" (Getty Images)
In August 1986 the first Studio Ghibli film hit the cinema screens. It would go on to bring Japanese animation to a world audience. Hirokatsu Kihara was a young animator who joined the studio to work on Castle in the Sky, its first feature length film. He spoke to Ashley Byrne of Made in Manchester about the early days of the great animation studio. Photo: Oscar-winning animator Hayao Miyazaki, one of the founders of Studio Ghibli. Credit: Getty Images.
Bengali film director Satyajit Ray has been described as one of the most influential directors in world cinema, with acclaimed US director Martin Scorsese among those crediting him as an inspiration. Early on in his career, Satyajit Ray released the classic Apu trilogy, which followed the life of a character called Apu from his childhood in rural Bengal to adulthood. Soumitra Chatterjee, the actor who played the title character in the final film, spoke to Farhana Haider. Soumitra Chatterjee died...more
The heart-warming musical, The Sound of Music, was released in 1965 and went on to become one of the most successful films of all time. It was based on the true story of the von Trapp family singers. But was their life really as it was portrayed in the movie? Maria von Trapp's youngest child, Johannes, talks to Louise Hidalgo. The programme was first broadcast in 2015. (Photograph: The Trapp Family Singers, whose story inspired the film The Sound of Music, in Salzburg in 1937. Credit: BBC Photo...more
In late 1940, The Great Dictator was first released in the USA. In his first role in talking movies, Charlie Chaplin satirised Adolf Hitler and his Nazi followers, before America had joined World War II. The film was a commercial success, but at the time, many people thought it should never have been made. Louise Hidalgo hears the memories of Hollywood set designer, Laurence Irving, and Chaplin's official biographer, David Robinson. The programme was first broadcast in 2010. PHOTO: Charlie C...more
On December 18th 1979 hundreds of Namibian children were taken to East Germany to escape the war in their home country. But after communism in Europe collapsed in 1989 the children were sent back to Africa and an uncertain future. Johannes Dell has been speaking to Selma Kamati who was just four years old when she found herself experiencing a snowy East German Christmas. Photo: Selma Kamati (far right of picture) and some of the of the other Namibian children.
In December 1982, Spain reopened its border with Gibraltar after a 13-year blockade of the disputed British territory. The border was closed by the dictator General Franco and led to the separation of families as well as a hardening of Gibraltarian attitudes towards Spain. It was only reopened when the new democratic government in Madrid wanted to join the European Union. Simon Watts talks to Tito Vallejo Smith, a retired defence worker and historian. PHOTO: Gibraltarian and Spanish police off...more
The first British fly-on-the-wall documentary series aired on the BBC in 1974. It was called The Family and followed the lives of the Wilkins family in Reading. Marian Wilkins - now Archer - was the eldest daughter in The Family and has been speaking to Bethan Head about what it was like to be followed by cameras and have her wedding broadcast on television. Photo: Screengrab from the first episode of The Family (1974).
In December 1970 Pakistan held its first democratic elections since gaining independence from British colonial rule in 1947. The elections led to war, the break up of Pakistan and the creation of a new country, Bangladesh. Farhana Haider has been speaking to the economist and leading figure in the Bengali independence movement, Rehman Sobhan, about the historic elections and their aftermath. Photo East Pakistan 1971 The flag of Bangladesh is raised at the Awami League headquarters. Credit G...more
American entertainer Bing Crosby made 'White Christmas' by Irving Berlin, one of the defining songs of World War Two. Rebecca Kesby has been speaking to his nephew Howard Crosby about the song and its importance to his uncle. Photo: Bing Crosby in London in 1944 recording a performance for British and American troops. Credit: BBC.
In 2009, beavers were released into the wild in the Knapdale forest on the west coast of Scotland, some 400 years after they were wiped out in the UK. The Scottish Beaver Trial was the first official beaver re-introduction programme in the UK and was considered a landmark conservation project. The beaver is seen as a keystone species which can help shape and restore the environment. Alex Last spoke to Simon Jones, who was then the project manager of the Scottish Beaver Trial. Photo: A beaver i...more
A teenage potholer discovered a cave system near the town of Bruniquel in France in 1990 which contained a mysterious circular structure. It turned out to be nearly 200,000 years old, and built by Neanderthals – transforming our understanding of Neanderthal culture and society. Lucy Burns speaks to Bruno Kowalczewski, who discovered the cave, and geologist Sophie Verheyden, who was part of the research project which discovered the structure’s incredible age. Picture: taking measurements for the...more
When Chief Albert Luthuli won the Nobel Peace Prize he was living under a banning order in rural South Africa. He won the prize for advocating peaceful opposition to the Apartheid regime. His daughter Albertina spoke to Rob Walker for Witness History in 2010. Also listen to archive recordings of his acceptance speech. (Picture: Albert Luthuli receives the Nobel Peace Prize in 1961. Credit: Keystone/Hulton Archive)
In 1920 a German filmmaker called Arnold Fanck shot his first film - 'Marvels of the Snowshoe' - high in the mountains. He and his team dragged cameras on sledges to reach the highest peaks. They even attached cameras to their skis to make the early action films. Johannes Dell has been watching some of those films and talking to his grandson Matthias Fanck. Photo: A still from one of Fanck's early Mountain Films. Copyright: Matthias Fanck.
The African-American crime writer Chester Himes first found widespread success in France. Although his early works had been published in the USA it was only after he moved to Europe and started writing crime fiction that he began to sell large numbers of books. Vincent Dowd has been speaking to writer Alex Wheatle, and Himes' biographer, Pim Higginson, about his life and works. Photo: Chester Himes. (Copyright: Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images)
In 1944, Nazi Germany launched the V1s against the UK. The V1 was a pilotless, jet-propelled flying bomb - the first of its kind in the world and a precursor to the modern cruise missile. The V1 was also the first of Hitler's secret "revenge weapons" which he hoped would change the course of the Second World War. Some 10,000 V1s were fired at the UK. They killed more than 6,000 people and injured 20,000 more. Using archive recordings we hear from civilians who survived V1 attacks and from those ...more
The first successful slave uprising in modern times happened in present-day Haiti. Former slave, Toussaint Louverture, forced the French colony to abolish slavery in 1794. The rebellion sent shock waves across America and Europe and made its leader famous around the world. France eventually lost its colony completely when its great military leader, Napoleon, was defeated by the former slaves. They then created the world's first black republic, which they named 'Haiti' from the indigenous Taino l...more
A controversial law banning Islamic headscarves and other religious symbols from French state schools came into effect in 2004. The ban was designed to maintain France's tradition of strictly separating state and religion. It resulted in many Muslim girls being excluded from the classroom. Farhana Haider has been speaking to Ndella Paye a Muslim mother and activist who campaigned against the law. Photo: 2004 February Demonstration in Paris against the French law forbidding manifestation of rel...more
Dr Naziha Al-Dulaimi became the first woman to hold a ministerial office in the Arab world when she was appointed to head Iraq's Municipalities Ministry in 1959. As a minister, Dr Al-Dulaimi set about clearing some of Baghdad's slum areas, creating the first public housing projects. A leading feminist, she was also the driving force behind a secular Civil Affairs Law, that liberalised marriage and inheritance laws for Iraqi women. Mike Lanchin has been hearing about her from Mubejel Baban, a fri...more
In May 1991, the brutal Ethiopian dictator, Colonel Mengistu and his miltary regime were on the verge of collapse after years of civil war. The end came when a Tigrayan-led rebel movement advanced on the capital Addis Ababa and took power. They would rule for Ethiopia for decades. In 2014, we spoke to an American diplomat who witnessed the end of Ethiopia's civil war. Photo: EPRDF rebels in Addis Ababa, 28 May, 1991. Photo: Rebels in Addis Ababa (BBC)
The UK government passed the landmark Disability Discrimination Act in November 1995. The legislation made it illegal for employers or service providers to discriminate against disabled people. Campaigners brought London to a standstill in the run up to the passing of the Act. Baroness Jane Campbell was at the forefront of that fight for equality and remembers the time when disabled people seized control of their destiny. Photo: A disabled woman on her mobility scooter is carried away by four ...more
In 2012, the Rwandan sitting volleyball team became the first Paralympians from their country. The sport began in Rwanda after thousands of people were mutilated during the genocide of 1994, and there were emotional scenes in London when the Rwandan side eventually won a match. Bob Nicholson talks to Rwanda’s captain, Emile Vuningabo, and the side’s Dutch coach, Peter Karreman. The programme is a Whistledown Production. PHOTO: The Rwandan team blocking a shot at the 2012 Paralympics (Getty Imag...more
In December 1995, the first disability rights legislation was passed by India's parliament. An estimated 60 million people, almost six percent of India's population, are affected by physical or mental disabilities. Farhana Haider spoke to Javed Abidi who led the campaign to change the law. Photo: Disability rights campaigners protest in Delhi, December 19th 1995. (Credit: Javed Abidi)
For decades disabled people in the UK were offered tiny, three-wheeled, turquoise cars as their main form of transport. They were known as Invacars and they were provided, free of charge, to people who couldn't use ordinary vehicles. They were phased out in the 1970s because they were accident-prone and people were given grants to adapt conventional cars instead. Daniel Gordon has been hearing from Colin Powell, who was issued with his first Invacar at the age of 16. Photo: an Invacar. Credit: ...more
Helen Keller was born in Alabama in the USA in 1880. A childhood illness left her deaf and blind, but she still learned to speak and read and write. She wrote several books, graduated from college, and met 12 US presidents. By the end of her life she was famous around the world. Lucy Burns spoke to her great-niece, Adair Faust for Witness History. This programme is a rebroadcast. (Photo: Helen Adams Keller (1880-1968). Credit: Hulton Archive)
In 1977, Anwar Sadat became the first Egyptian president to visit Israel and address the Israeli parliament the Knesset. At the time, Egypt was still formally at war with Israel - a country which no Arab nation then recognised. Sadat's visit led to a formal peace treaty between the two countries. Louise Hidalgo spoke to the Egyptian cameraman, Mohamed Gohar who knew Sadat. PHOTO: Sadat addressing the Knesset (AFP/Getty Images)
Some have described Our Bodies, Ourselves as “obscene trash” – for others it’s a vital source of information about women’s health and sexuality. First published in 1973, this radical, and sometimes controversial, book has become a best-seller and a global phenomenon. Josephine Casserly talks to one of the authors, Joan Ditzion.
In August 1944 President Franklin D Roosevelt agreed to allow nearly one thousand Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe to come to America. They were allowed entry only as "guests", so as not to breach strict US immigration quotas in place during the whole of WW2. The refugees, who arrived on a troop ship from Italy, were housed in a former military barracks, Fort Ontario, near the city of Oswego in upper state New York. For those who'd recently been imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps...more
Sirimavo Bandaranaike was elected the modern world's first female head of government in 1960 when she became Prime Minister of Sri Lanka or Ceylon as it was known then. She entered politics after the assassination of her husband Solomon Bandrainaike in 1959. Farhana Haider has been speaking to her daughter Sunethra Bandaranaike about her mother's remarkable political achievement. Photo Sirimavo Bandaranaike the Prime Minister of Ceylon (later Sri Lanka), 1960. Credit Keystone/Hulton Archive...more
In 2008, Captain Colin Darch and his crew were taking a tug boat from Russia to Singapore when they were attacked by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden. They were held hostage for 47 days. In the late 2000s, Somali piracy was starting to become a major threat in the Indian Ocean. Over the next few years there were hundreds of attacks a year until naval forces from around the world deployed to the Gulf of Aden to protect shipping. Alex Last has been talking to Captain Colin Darch about his ordeal...more
Psychoanalyst and paediatrician Donald Winnicott helped shape childcare in Britain through a series of BBC radio broadcasts in the 1940s and 50s. He suggested mothers did best when they followed their instincts, got to know their babies and ignored prescribed rules. He became most famous for developing the idea of what he called ‘the good-enough mother’. He also introduced the term 'transitional object' to describe the favourite teddy that babies cling to, He suggested it represented an importan...more
An international committee of astronomers agreed Pluto wasn't really a planet in 2006. They reclassified it as a 'dwarf planet' instead. The decision was made after Mike Brown of the California Institute of Technology identified a larger body, Eris, in the Kuiper Belt. He has been telling Bethan Head about his discovery and the public outcry that followed. Photo: Dwarf planet Pluto Credit: DottedHippo /Getty Images
At the start of World War One, British and German colonial forces went into battle in East Africa. Tens of thousands of African troops and up to a million porters were conscripted to fight and keep the armies supplied. We hear very rare recordings of Kenyan veterans of the King's African Rifles, talking about their experiences of the war. The interviews were made in Kenya in the early 1980s by Gerald Rilling with the help of Paul Kiamba. Photo: Locally recruited troops under German command in Da...more
In the 1970s, British speech therapist Margaret Walker invented a revolutionary system of communication for children and adults with special needs. Makaton uses simple signs to reinforce spoken speech and make it easier for people with learning difficulties to understand the meaning. Makaton is now used by millions of people in around 40 countries around the world; it helps everyone from children with Down’s Syndrome to pensioners with dementia. Margaret Walker talks to Simon Watts. PHOTO: A Ma...more
In 1985, a group of anonymous female artists in New York began dressing up with gorilla masks on their heads and putting up fly-posters around the city's museums and galleries. It was part of a campaign to demand greater representation for women and ethnic minorities in the art world. The guerrilla girls' campaign later went international. Laura Fitzpatrick has been talking to the activists known as "Frida Kahlo" and "Kathe Kollowitz". PHOTO: Some of the Guerrilla Girls in 1990 (Getty Images)
In 2005 Dresden’s Lutheran church, the Frauenkirche, opened its doors to the public for the first time in 60 years. The Frauenkirche in the East German city of Dresden was destroyed in 1945 by British and American bombing. The church remained in ruins for over 40 years. Then, in 1993, a painstaking project began to piece the church back together and restore it to its former glory. Josephine Casserly talks to Thomas Gottschlich who was one of the architects leading the reconstruction. Ruins of ...more
The 5th Pan-African Congress was held in Manchester in 1945 to shape the post-war struggle against colonialism and racial discrimination. Prominent black activists, intellectuals and trade union leaders from around the world attended the meeting - among them Kwame Nkrumah and Jomo Kenyatta, the future leaders of independent Ghana and Kenya. We delve into the archive to hear from one of the delegates, the late ANC activist and writer Peter Abrahams, and we speak to the historian Prof Hakim Adi fr...more
On November 4th 1995 the Israeli rock star Aviv Geffen sang at a peace rally in Tel Aviv alongside Israel's leader Yitzhak Rabin. Moments later the Prime Minister was shot. Aviv Geffen spoke to Louise Hidalgo about that night, and its effect on his life. This programme was first broadcast in 2010. Photo: Yitzhak Rabin in 1993. Credit: Getty Images.
In the immediate aftermath of World War Two, thousands of children were born to white German women and black American soldiers who were stationed in Allied-occupied Germany. The mixed-race infants were viewed with contempt by many Germans and endured constant abuse and racism. Black activist and author Ika Hügel-Marshall was one of the so-called "occupation babies". She tells Mike Lanchin about the painful struggle to discover her own identity as a result of the racism she experienced growing up...more
In 1969, a theatrical revue called Oh Calcutta opened in New York featuring extensive male and female nudity. Created by renowned critic Kenneth Tynan, a London version followed the next year and the show ran in both cities for thousands of performances. Vincent Dowd talks to Margo Sappington and Linda Marlowe, two members of the original cast. PHOTO: The Oh Calcutta cast from the New York Production in 1981 (Ron Galella/Getty Images)
On September 11 2001, President George W. Bush was visiting an elementary school in Florida as two planes hit the World Trade Center. In an image that would become iconic, the White House chief of staff, Andrew Card, broke the news to the president by whispering in his ear as he listened to schoolchildren practising their reading. In interviews from 2011, Andrew Card recalls the moment that transformed President Bush’s presidency and the course of recent history. PHOTO: President George W. Bush...more
In June 1979 the Moral Majority was launched and changed the course of American politics. It was set up to promote family values by religious conservatives from Catholic, Jewish and evangelical Christian communities. It urged protestants in particular to go against the tradition of separating politics and religion and register to vote, and to vote Republican. Richard Viguerie was one of the driving forces behind the movement. He spoke to Claire Bowes in 2016. (Photo: Ronald Reagan with Richard ...more
In 1973, the US Senate began an investigation which would eventually lead to Richard Nixon standing down as President a year later. Senator Howard Baker was on the Watergate committee. In 2013, he spoke to Louise Hidalgo. (Photo: Senator Howard Baker (left), Senator Sam Irvin, Sam Dash, Senator Herman Talmadge. Credit: Gene Forte/Getty Images.)
In January 1972 Shirley Chisholm became the first major-party black candidate to make a bid for the US Presidency. She was also the first black woman elected to Congress. In 2015, Farhana Haider spoke to former Congressman Charles Rangel who worked with Shirley Chisholm. (Photo: Shirley Chisholm at the Democratic National Convention in 1972. Credit: Getty Images)
Ted Sorensen was a close aide and speechwriter for John F Kennedy. In an interview with Lucy Williamson he remembered the night that Kennedy won the US presidential election in 1960. It was a close race against the Republican contender Richard Nixon. Photo: US President John F. Kennedy giving his first State of the Union address to Congress in January 1961. (Credit: NASA/SSPL/Getty Images)
Usually it is the names of astronauts that people remember about the space race. But less celebrated are the teams of people working on how to put a rocket into orbit. Only in recent years have stories come to light of the contributions of the black women involved. Many were recruited as 'computers', meaning that they carried out complex mathematical calculations by hand, before machines were invented that could do the job. Christine Darden started her career in the computer pool, helping the ...more
In 2005, South Africa set up the Missing Persons Task Team to trace and locate the remains of the hundreds, possibly thousands, who disappeared in "political circumstances" during the brutal years of white minority rule. Many were victims of the state security services. Some were victims of secret death squads which abducted and murdered opponents of the regime. Alex Last talks to the leader of the team, Madeleine Fullard, about her work and how the cases reveal the dark and complicated history ...more
In April 1955, more than 100,000 children in America were inoculated with a defective batch of the brand-new polio vaccine. Because of a manufacturing mistake at a small company called Cutter Laboratories, the children were given live polio virus; around 160 were permanently paralysed and 10 died in the worst disaster in US pharmaceutical history. Simon Watts talks to Anne Gottsdanker, one of the victims of what became known as the Cutter Incident. PHOTO: Anne Gottsdanker with her father Bob Go...more
The working class woman who shook up the British theatre establishment in the 1950s and 60s. Joan Littlewood introduced improvisation and helped break down class barriers. She set up a theatre in a working class area in the east end of London which put on plays written by amateur writers and actors, many without classical training. She delighted in the fact that the laziest person in the company might be working class and the poshest the one scrubbing the stage. She went on to create successes ...more
In the grip of a drugs crisis, the country took a radical approach in 2001 and became the first country in the world to decriminalise all drugs for personal use. Drug abuse and addiction began to be seen as a public health issue, not a criminal offence. Initial resistance to the policy faded after statistics proved that treatment, rather than punishment, was reducing the number of deaths caused by drugs in Portugal. Dr João Castel-Branco Goulão was one of the chief architects of the shift in ...more
In 1980 the Iraqi strongman, Saddam Hussein, tried to launch his country's entry into the world of movie making. He spent millions of dollars on an epic movie called Clash of Loyalties, filmed almost entirely on location in Iraq, and staring some of Britain's leading actors , including Oliver Reed, Helen Ryan and James Bolam. But soon after shooting of the film began, war erupted between Iraq and neighbouring Iran. Mike Lanchin speaks to the film's Iraqi-born British producer Lateif Jorephani an...more
Although African Americans were guaranteed the right to vote by the constitution, many in the south were being denied that right. During the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s black voting rights activists had been beaten and killed but it was events in Selma Alabama in 1965 that outraged many Americans. In March 1965 hundreds of peaceful protesters were brutally beaten by Alabama state troops as they tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The bloodshed in Selma prompted President Lyn...more
Many of the nomadic herders in Kazakhstan left the USSR and moved to China in the 1920s. They feared being forced into collective farms by the Soviet state. Then in the 1950s many of them moved back again. Monica Whitlock has been listening to the story of Nazylkhan, a Kazakh herder and matriarch of a huge extended family, who lived through those epic journeys and who died in 2018. Photo: members of Nazylkhan's extended family, and friends. Credit: BBC.
On October 13th 1990, the Syrian airforce pushed their most outspoken opponent in Lebanon, General Michel Aoun, to take refuge in the French embassy in Beirut, ending the last chapter of Lebanon's bitter 15-year civil war. Veteran Lebanese journalist Hanna Anbar told Louise Hidalgo about that day for Witness History. This programme is a rebroadcast. Photo: Syrian soldiers celebrate in front of the presidential palace in east Beirut after capturing it from troops loyal to General Michel Aoun, O...more
In June 1980, US media mogul Ted Turner launched the first TV station dedicated to 24 hour news, Cable News Network or CNN. Some were sceptical that there would be enough news to stay on air, others warned that the public wouldn't be interested in news 24 hours a day. But it marked a shift in broadcast journalism and paved the way for many more rolling news stations across the world. Rebecca Kesby has been speaking to Senior Executive at CNN, Rick Davis, about how 24 hour news has influence...more
In August 1977, the racist National Front organisation planned to stage a march into Lewisham in South London at a time of high racial tension in the area. The National Front activists were met by a huge counter-demonstration organised by anti-racist campaigners – in the clashes that followed, hundreds of people were arrested and injured before the National Front were forced to withdraw. The so-called Battle of Lewisham is now seen as having halted the rise of the far-right in British politics....more
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 for Witness History. Image: Ram John Holder, Norman Beaton and Gyearbuor Asante (Credit: Channel 4)
New laws were used to stop nightclubs and discos from banning black and ethnic minority customers in 1978. The first club to be taken to court was a disco called Pollyanna's in the city of Birmingham. The Commission for Racial Equality ruled their entry policy racist. David Hinds, vocalist for the reggae band, Steel Pulse, spoke to Farhana Haider for Witness History in 2015 about the racism in Birmingham's club scene in the 1970s. This programme is a rebroadcast (Photo: Reggae Band, Steel Pul...more
Yvonne Conolly was made headteacher 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. She spoke to Jonathan Coates about her life. Photo: Yvonne Conolly in a classroom. Copyright: Pathe.
Hundreds of pioneering migrants travelled from the Caribbean to the UK on board the SS Empire Windrush in 1948. The passage cost £28,10 shillings. Passenger Sam King described to Alan Johnston the conditions on board and the concerns people had about finding a job in England. He also talked about what life was like in their adopted country once they arrived. This programme is a rebroadcast Photo: The SS Empire Windrush. Credit:Press Association.
A summer house built by a lake outside Berlin in the 1920s reflects much of Germany's 20th century history. Its first owners fled the Nazis. The Berlin Wall was built through its garden. Then after the reunification of Germany it was recognised as a historic monument and made into an education and reconciliation centre. Alex Stanger has been speaking to Thomas Harding whose great grandfather built the house, and who has written a children's book about its changing place in the world. Photo: Th...more
Three Californian gray whales got caught in ice off Alaska in October 1988. Indigenous people, environmentalists, oil companies and even the Soviet Navy joined forces to try to free them. Rich Preston has been hearing from Cindy Lowri who was working for Greenpeace and who joined the battle to save the whales. Photo: Local indigenous children watch a gray whale nosing up through the ice. (Credit: Taro Yamasaki/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images)
The world's most popular search engine was launched in September 1998 by two PHD students from Stanford University in California. Larry Page and Sergey Brin had an idea that would revolutionise the internet and create one of the world's most valuable companies. Farhana Haider has been speaking to Tamara Munzner a computer scientist who was at Stanford with the two founders of Google. Photo Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, 2003. Credit Getty.
Prosecutor Gian Carlo Caselli explains how leading Italian politician Giulio Andreotti was put on trial in Sicily in September 1995, accused of collusion with the Mafia. Andreotti had been prime minister seven times and journalists dubbed it the trial of the century. Bob Howard has been hearing from Gian Carlo Caselli about compelling evidence that Andreotti had met the Mafia kingpin Stefano Bontade and even knew in advance of the planned assassination of the president of the Sicilian regional g...more
The charismatic Egyptian president dominated Arab politics for almost two decades up until his death on September 28th 1970. His funeral was attended by millions of grief-stricken Egyptians. In 2010 Mike Gallagher spoke to an ordinary Egyptian who remembered his death, and its aftermath. This programme is a rebroadcast. Photo: Crowds in Cairo mourning Nasser on October 1st 1970. Credit: Fred Ihrt/LightRocket via Getty Images.
The US presidential election of 2000 was one of the closest and most contested in history. It was more than a month before the result was decided after a Supreme Court decision. It all came down to the vote in Florida, a 'swing-state', where irregularities and technical problems added to the confusion. In the end it's thought there were just a few hundred votes in it, but years later, the result, and the handling of the election in the state, divides opinion. Callie Shell was the official ph...more
On 16 September 2007 private security guards employed by the American firm Blackwater opened fire on civilians in Baghdad's Nisour Square. Seventeen Iraqis were killed, and another 20 injured. The Blackwater guards, who were escorting a convoy from the American embassy, claimed that they had come under attack from insurgents, but eye-witnesses and Iraqi offficials quickly dismissed that version of events. Mike Lanchin has been speaking to Mohammed Kinani who was driving through the area at the t...more
Just months after his release from prison in 1990 the South African freedom fighter Nelson Mandela toured the USA. One of the eight cities he went to visit was Detroit. Benita Barden has been speaking to Reverend Wendell Anthony who was one of the people who welcomed him to the city. Photo: Nelson Mandela and Rev Wendell Anthony in 1990. Courtesy of Rev Wendell Anthony.
How the Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was negotiated to write off billions of dollars of debt, accumulated over two decades of civil war. Coming to power in 2006, Johnson Sirleaf had to govern the West African country with little tax revenue and owing large sums to countries and institutions it could never hope to pay back. Over four years, with intensive negotiations with multiple parties and even support from the Irish rock star Bono, in 2010 the World Bank and International Monetar...more
The Galileo mission to examine the planet Jupiter had its beginnings in the 1970s. It finally came to an end on 21st September 2003. Professor Fred Taylor is one of the few scientists who worked on it from start to finish and he has been telling Dan Whitworth about some of the highs and lows of the project. Photo: The Galileo Jupiter probe being tested before launch. Credit:Roger Ressmeyer/Corbis/VCG/Getty Images
In April 1977 a group of women in Argentina held the first ever public demonstration to demand the release of thousands of opponents of the military regime. It was the start of a long campaign by the women, who became known as the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. In 2017 Mike Lanchin spoke to Mirta Baravalle who has spent decades searching for her missing daughter and son-in-law, and for the grandchild she has never met. (Photo: Mirta Baravalle, with the photograph of her daughter, Ana Maria. Cred...more
A photo of a man confronting a tank in Tiananmen Square in Beijing caught the world's imagination. Carrying two plastic shopping bags, unarmed and alone, he seemed to embody the protest movement crushed by the Chinese authorities in 1989. Stuart Franklin was one of the photographers who captured the image of Tank Man - he has been speaking to David Edmonds for Witness History. Photo: Tank Man on Tiananmen Square, June 4th 1989. Credit: Stuart Franklin/Magnum.
Franklin McCain was one of four young black men who took a stand against racial segregation in the USA in 1960. They sat down at a "whites only" lunch counter and asked to be served. When they were asked to leave, they refused, and soon their quiet protest was attracting attention from around the country. In 2011 Franklin McCain spoke to Alan Johnston about that time. This programme is a rebroadcast. Photo: Franklin McCain in 2010. Credit: Getty Images.
During the 1950s in Kenya, armed rebels known as the Mau Mau fought against British rule. Thousands were taken captive and interned in camps by the British authorities. In 2011 Gitu wa Kahangeri, a Mau Mau veteran, spoke to Louise Hidalgo about his experiences. Photo: Gitu wa Kahangeri speaking to the BBC in 2016. Credit: BBC
For more than 20 years, people in Belarus have been protesting against the authoritarian rule of President Alexander Lukashenko - who's been dubbed Europe's last dictator. Lukashenko came to power in a landslide election victory in 1994 but he soon changed the constitution to give himself sweeping new powers. He has remained in office ever since, winning elections which observers say are rigged. Opponents of the regime have faced harassment, violence and arrest. Some are believed to have been ki...more
The USA is the only rich democracy not to provide universal healthcare. After WW2 US President Harry Truman was horrified that only a fifth of all Americans could afford proper healthcare. Most middle class Americans had no private health insurance and many found medical fees unaffordable. He calculated that more than 300,000 people died every year because they couldn't pay for proper treatment. In 1945 he tried to persuade Congress to push through legislation for an insurance programme meaning ...more
Punyavathi Sunkara recalls how she campaigned to stop the sale of alcohol in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh to protect women from domestic violence and safeguard family finances. Pressure from women like Punyavathi helped persuade the state's chief minister, NT Rama Rao, to pass the prohibition law in 1995.
Steve Huffman had been programming software since he was eight-years-old. At the University of Virginia, he met his future business partner, Alexis Ohanian. The pair went on to found Reddit, a discussion website where anyone can post links, photos, videos or questions on all kinds of different topics. The website now has an online following of over 430 million users, who contribute to over 138,000 different communities. Robbie Wojciechowski has been speaking to Steve Huffman about how it all beg...more
Barbara Mensch recalls how she was hijacked and held in Jordan by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in September 1970. Barbara’s plane was forced to fly to a disused British airbase in Jordan, whilst on the final leg of a flight from Tel Aviv to New York. She was imprisoned on board the TWA plane for almost a week and then held hostage in the Jordanian capital Amman for a further fortnight, as the so called Black September conflict erupted between militant Palestinian groups and...more
In October 2010, Haiti was hit by an outbreak of cholera, the first in recent history of the impoverished Caribbean nation. Nepalese peacekeepers belonging to the international MINUSTAH mission were blamed for introducing the deadly disease, but for many years the UN refused to accept any responsability. More than 10,000 Haitians have died from cholera, and thousands more were infected. The UN finally apologised to the Haitian people in December 2016. Mike Lanchin speaks to the French specialist...more
In the 1990s Britain closed down many of its long-stay hospitals and asylums and their patients were sent to new lives in the community. But the transition wasn't always easy. Some people had suffered abuse and found it hard to adjust to life outside. Lucy Burns has been speaking to "Michael" who has a learning disability, about his experiences both inside and outside of institutions. Photo: A now derelict asylum in Colchester, England. Credit: Simon Webster/Alamy Stock Photo
Between the late 1990s and 2002 there were more than 150 bomb attacks in the South African city of Cape Town. The authorities blamed them on a group known as Pagad - People Against Gangsterism And Drugs. But no one was ever convicted of the bombings. Darin Graham has been speaking to Elana Newman whose daughter Olivia lost a leg in a blast at the pizza restaurant where she was working in 1999. Photo: Olivia (l) and Elana Newman (r). Copyright: Elana Newman.
The portable cassette player that brought music-on-the-move to millions of people was launched in 1979. By the time production of the Walkman came to an end 30 years later, Sony had sold more than 220 million machines worldwide. In 2019 Farhana Haider spoke to Tim Jarman, who purchased one of the original blue-and-silver Walkmans. This programme is a rebroadcast. (Photo by YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
When a British Airways flight carrying 248 passengers took off one evening in 1982 heading from Kuala Lampur to Australia, everything seemed fine. But two hours later all of the jumbo jet’s engines shut down and no one knew why. The plane had flown into the ash cloud of the erupting volcano, Mount Galunggung, without realising it. Darin Graham speaks to retired Captain Eric Moody, who flew the plane that night.
The author Ian Fleming created the fictional super-spy, James Bond, in the 1950s. Fleming, a former journalist and stockbroker, had served in British naval intelligence during the Second World War. Using interviews with Fleming and his friends from the BBC archive, Alex Last explores how elements of James Bond were drawn from Ian Fleming's own adventurous life. Photo: Ian Lancaster Fleming, British author and creator of the James Bond character, in 1958. (Getty Images)
The Voting Rights Act of 1965, a landmark civil rights-era electoral law was designed to protect African-American and other minority voters. It was introduced to remove the many obstacles that were in place to prevent African-Americans from being able to vote. Many states, particularly in the south, used intimidation, local laws and so-called literacy tests to prevent black people from being able to register to vote. In 2010 Shelby County in Alabama attempted to overturn a key part of the law. ...more
In August 1930 the last inhabitants left their homes on the remote Scottish islands of St Kilda. It was the end of a traditional Gaelic-speaking community who were once believed to live at the end of the world. Simon Watts has been listening to some of their stories, as recorded in the BBC archives. PHOTO: The men of St Kilda pictured in the late 19th century (Getty Images)
In 2011, the Occupy movement staged demonstrations against financial inequality across the world. The biggest was in New York, where a retired police officer called Ray Lewis became one of the best-known protestors when he was arrested in his old dress uniform. He talks to Robbie Wojciechowski. PHOTO: Ray Lewis at the Occupy Wall Street protest (Getty Images)
In 1993, Jeannie Leavitt became the first woman to fly a US Air Force fighter plane after the Pentagon lifted its ban on female pilots engaging in combat. After hundreds of F15 missions over Iraq and Afghanistan, Leavitt went on to become the first woman to command a fighter unit. She talks to May Cameron. PHOTO: Major-General Jeannie Leavitt in a recent picture (US Department of Defence)
One of the leading figures in Nigeria's fight for democracy was Margaret Ekpo, a feminist politician and trades union leader. After Nigerian independence in 1960, Ekpo became an MP and a hero to a generation of Nigerians - men and women. Rebecca Kesby tells the story of her life. PHOTO: Margaret Ekpo in London in August 1953 (ANL/Shutterstock)
Randy Weaver was a white separatist in Idaho in the north-west United States who was wanted by the government on firearms charges. When government agents approached his remote cabin on Ruby Ridge in August 1992, it was the start of an eleven day siege involving hundreds of police officers – which ended with the deaths of Weaver’s wife and teenage son, along with a US marshal. The incident would become a touchstone for the far right and a rallying cry for the American militia movement. Lucy Burns...more
In November 1946, Emperor Hirohito proclaimed a new post-war constitution for Japan which contained clauses establishing women's rights for the first time. They were the brainchild of Beate Sirota Gordon, a young American woman working for the Allied occupying forces. Simon Watts tells her story using interviews from the BBC archives. PHOTO: Beate Sirota Gordon in Japan in 1946 (Family Collection)
A team of American doctors, led by the distinguished physician Dr John Cutler, carried out secretive STD tests in Guatemala from 1946 to 1948. The doctors experimented on more than one thousand prisoners, sex workers, mental institution inmates and soldiers, injecting them without their consent with syphilis and gonorrhea. In some cases the victims were provided with penicillin to combat the diseases; in many others they weren't given anything. Mike Lanchin speaks to Susan Reverby, a medical his...more
Asthma affects more children than any other non-communicable disease - and it was a teenager who first asked her father "why can't they put my asthma medication in a spray can like hairspray?". Luckily her father ran a pharmaceutical company and got a team of scientists to work on the idea. Charlie Thiel is the one surviving member of the team. The chemist helped create a drug formulation of fine spray that reached further into the lungs than any previous treatment. Claire Bowes hears from him...more
In 2012, archaeologists from the University of Leicester discovered the lost grave of Richard III under a car park in Leicester. Richard was the King of England more than 500 years ago and for centuries was portrayed as one of the great villains of English history. He was killed in 1485 leading his army in battle against a rival claimant to the throne, Henry Tudor. After the battle, Richard III corpse was stripped naked, paraded around down, before being hastily buried in a church within a friar...more
Zainab Salbi grew up in the inner social circle of the Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, in the 1980s because her father worked as Saddam’s personal pilot. It was a world of apparently glamorous parties on the River Tigris, but where the slightest falling-out with the dictator could lead to execution. After years of psychological pressure, Zainab’s family got her out of Saddam’s Iraq by setting up an arranged marriage for her in the US. She tells her story to Susan Hulme. PHOTO: Zainab Salbi as a...more
In August 1952, the Blegdam Hospital in the Danish capital Copenhagen was overwhelmed by hundreds of seriously ill polio patients. During the first weeks of the epidemic over 80 percent of the patients died, most within days of admission. The patients, who were mostly children, were dying of respiratory failure. Desperate for a solution an anaesthetist, Bjørn Iben, came up with a strategy that led to today’s ventilators and revolutionised medicine. Farhana Haider has been speaking to Anne Holton...more
In 2004 feminist campaigners in Turkey forced a radical change in the law on crimes against women. The overhaul of the country's 80-year-old penal code meant a redefinition of crimes such as rape and sexual assault; references to chastity, honour and virginity were also removed from the legislation. It was a major victory for a group of women who had been pressing for reform for years and was also one of the conditions for Turkey's accession talks with the European Union. Mike Lanchin has been s...more
At the start of the Lebanese Civil War in 1975, Beirut’s luxury hotel district was turned into a battlefield, with rival groups of gunmen holed up in some of the most expensive accommodation in the Middle East. In 2014, William Kremer spoke to two former employees of the Holiday Inn about what came to be known as the Battle of the Hotels. Photo: The ruins of the Holiday Inn. (Credit: Getty Images)
Amid the ongoing debate about how to handle historical monuments which commemorate colonialism and slavery, Witness History hears the story of a giant statue of an elephant in the German city of Bremen. The port city had played a significant role in Germany's colonial past, and after Germany lost its territories in Africa following the First World War the statue was built there in memory of the period. But in the 1980s, a group of anti-apartheid activists campaigned to raise awareness of Germa...more
During World War Two, British women were employed as operators of a top-secret radar system for detecting aircraft. The new technology had helped shift the balance of power in the air war with Nazi Germany. Laura Fitzpatrick talks to Margaret Faulds, who was stationed at a Royal Navy Air Station during the war. PHOTO: Margaret Faulds in naval uniform during World War Two (Personal Collection).
The USA dropped its first atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on August 6th 1945. Three days later a second atomic bomb was detonated over Nagasaki. The explosion was bigger than the blast at Hiroshima and killed 70,000 people. Louise Hidalgo introduces recordings from the BBC archive. (Photo: Mushroom cloud in the sky. Credit: US Air Force/Press Association)
On 4th June 1942, aircraft carriers of the Japanese and American fleets fought a huge naval battle near Midway Atoll in the Pacific. The outcome marked a turning point in the war. Using archive recordings we hear from American and Japanese airmen who flew in combat that day. Photo: (Original Caption) This official United States Navy photo shows the American aircraft carrier Yorktown, already listing badly to port, as she received a direct hit from a Japanese bomber in the Battle of Midway Isla...more
Thousands of Japanese Americans were sent to prison camps after the USA entered World War Two following the bombing of Pearl Harbour. Whole families found themselves housed in barracks behind barbed wire fences. Former Star Trek actor, George Takei, was just a child when he was locked up in one of the camps. In 2010 he spoke to Lucy Williamson about his experiences there. This programme is a rebroadcast. Photo: Japanese American children on their way to internment camps. Credit: Dorothea Lang...more
On 7 December 1941, Japan launched a surprise strike on the American naval base, Pearl Harbor, in Hawaii. Thousands of American servicemen were killed or injured in the attack, which severely damaged the US Pacific Fleet. The next day, President Franklin Roosevelt declared war on Japan and America entered World War II. Adolph Kuhn was a US Navy mechanic stationed at Pearl Harbor when the bombs began to fall. Photo: The USS Arizona sinking at Pearl Harbor. (Credit: Getty Images)
One of Hitler's most important henchmen was caught by British troops in the chaos of post-war Germany just after WW2 had ended in Europe. A British soldier described to the BBC how the leading Nazi bit down on a cyanide capsule and died. Gordon Corera has been listening to the archive account of Himmler's death, and finding out more about the situation in Germany immediately after its surrender to the Allies. Photo: Heinrich Himmler in 1939. Credit: Central Press/Getty Images
The Spanish town of Benidorm is now one of the world's most popular holiday resorts - receiving more than 10 million visitors a year. The hotels and skyscrapers are the vision of Benidorm's mayor in the 1950s and 60s, Pedro Zaragoza. Zaragoza personally convinced Spain's dictator, General Franco, to allow more tourism - and to allow sunbathers to wear the bikini. Simon Watts introduces the memories of Pedro Zaragoza, as recorded by Radio Elche Cadena Ser shortly before his death. PHOTO: A busy ...more
A remarkable story of survival. In 1982, Steven Callahan was sailing alone across the Atlantic when one night his yacht hit something in the water and began to sink. He managed to get into a life raft but no one knew he was in trouble. For the next two months he drifted 2000 miles across the ocean. How did he survive? He told his story to Alex Last. Photo: Steve Callahan shows how he hunted fish from his life raft. © Steve Callahan
The forest fires of 2019-2020 in Australia were the worst the country had ever experienced - but ten years earlier Australia had a foretaste of that disaster when 400 separate bushfires burnt their way across the state of Victoria. At the time they were the worst fires Australia had ever seen. Rachael Gillman has been speaking to one of the firefighters who battled to bring the fires under control. Photo Credit: Getty Images
The Cuban-American Dolores Prida wrote with a distinctive voice in her plays, newspaper columns and as an agony aunt in the Latina magazine. She challenged perceptions of how Latin Americans should be viewed in the US. When she died in 2013, President Obama paid tribute to her "conviction, compassion and humour." Mike Lanchin speaks to Prida's close friend, the former editor at New York's Daily News, Maite Junco. Photo: Dolores Prida (left) with Maite Junco, Jan 2013 (courtesy of Maite Junco)
In the 1960s five-year-old Jeryl Lynn Hilleman got ill with mumps. Her father Dr Maurice Hilleman took a swab from the back of her throat and used it to help create a vaccine for the disease - more quickly than any previous vaccine had ever been completed. During his decades long career Dr Hilleman worked on vaccines for measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, hepatitis and meningitis. Photo: Jeryl Lynn Hilleman with her sister, Kirsten, in 1966 as a doctor gave her the mumps vaccine developed by ...more
In 2003 the first refuge for women fleeing violence and abuse was opened in Kabul, Afghanistan, a country that has been labelled one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman. The UN estimates that over 50% of women in Afghanistan face domestic abuse from their partner in their lifetime. Farhana Haider has been speaking to Mary Akrami who risked her life to help set up and run Afghanistan's first women's safe house. Photo Mary Akrami Credit Getty
The rainforests of Sarawak in Malaysia on the island of Borneo are some of the richest and most biodiverse ecosystems on earth - but for decades they've been under threat from commercial logging, permitted by the Malaysian government. In the 1980s, local people from the Penan and Kelabit ethnic groups began to fight back against the logging, setting up blockades and appealing to international environmental groups for support. Their campaign would make headlines around the world. Lucy Burns spea...more
On 16th October 1995 hundreds of thousands of African American men marched on Washington D.C. in an attempt to put black issues back on the government agenda and to present a positive image of black men. Aquila Powell – 23 at the time – was one of the few women who attended the march. She was working for the National Coalition on Black Voter Participation and trying to encourage attendees to register to vote. She talks to Ben Carter about her recollections of that day. (Photo:The Million Man Ma...more
On 20th July 1944 Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg put a bomb under Adolf Hitler's desk. Although the bomb exploded, it failed to kill the German Nazi leader. Alex Last spoke to Berthold von Stauffenberg, son of the WW2 army officer, in 2014. Photo:Claus von Stauffenberg. Credit: Gedenkstaette Deutscher Widersta/AFP/Getty Images
A so-called Social Purification project led to thousands of ordinary citizens being imprisoned under the military government in South Korea in the 1980s. Under the pretence of clearing the streets of vagrants and undesirables, people were sent to camps disguised as 'social welfare centres' where many of them suffered torture, forced labour, and physical and sexual abuse. Bugyeong Jung has been speaking to Seung-woo Choi who was taken to a centre in the port city of Busan when he was just 13 yea...more
During World War Two, thousands of Chinese sailors and engineers served in the British Merchant Navy, keeping supplies flowing into the port of Liverpool and risking their lives in crossings of the Atlantic. Many settled in the port city and started families with local women but, after fighting ended in 1945, the British authorities began forcing them to leave. Simon Watts talks to Yvonne Foley, whose Chinese father was pressured to return to Shanghai, never to be seen again. PHOTO: Chinese sai...more
The Stele of Axum, a 4th century Ethiopian treasure, was finally returned by Italy in 2005. It had been taken from the ancient town of Axum in northern Ethiopia by invading Italian fascist forces in 1937. The huge 24 metre tall stele was originally erected to mark the site of a royal tomb during the Kingdom of Axum. The Axumites were a powerful and sophisticated civilisation which emerged in northern Ethiopia more than 2000 years ago. Alex Last spoke to Ethiopian archaeologist Tekle Hagos of Add...more
Holidaymakers arrived at the first Club Med resort on the Spanish island of Majorca in summer 1950. The French company - full name Club Méditerranée - was founded to offer a new kind of post-war holiday by Belgian water polo player Gérard Blitz, who believed that "the time to be happy is now". The facilities were initially rudimentary, with guests sleeping in huts and sharing tables at meals - but the all-inclusive holiday model they pioneered soon spread all over the world. Lucy Burns speaks t...more
In 1988, a group of Jewish feminists demanded the right to pray as freely as Jewish men at one of Judaism’s holiest sites. They called themselves the ‘Women of the Wall’. The organisation is made up of every Jewish denomination including reform, conservative and orthodox Jews. Its focus is one of the holiest sites in Judaism - the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Rachael Gillman has been speaking to Anat Hoffman, one of the founding members of 'Women of the Wall'. (Photo: Members of 'Women of the Wal...more
In the summer of 1967 more than 100 cities in America were caught up in riots. US Senator Fred Harris urged the President, Lyndon B Johnson, to investigate the causes. He set up the Kerner Commission and appointed Fred Harris as one of 11 members to find out why America was burning. The final report shocked many Americans when it blamed white racism for creating and sustaining black ghettos. It said the US was dividing into two separate and unequal societies - one black and one white. Claire...more
The great Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo, died on July 13th 1954, at the age of 47. The art critic, Raquel Tibol, lived in Frida's house during the last year of the artist's life. In 2014 she spoke to Mike Lanchin for Witness History about the pain and torment of Kahlo's final days. This programme is a rebroadcast. Photo: Frida Kahlo with her husband Diego Rivera in 1939. (Copyright Getty Images /Bettmann /Corbis)
When Montreal's police force went on strike for one day over pay in 1969, there was looting and rioting in the streets. But the city's problems leading to the unrest had been building for more than a decade. Organised crime, militant separatists and commercial rivalries all erupted on 7th October, just as police officers decided to protest that their pay was much lower than officers in other Canadian cities. Sidney Margles was a local reporter, and described the scene, and the underlying probl...more
The black former soldier choked to death in handcuffs on the floor of a British police station in 1998. CCTV footage taken from the police station showed the 37 year-old father of two gasping for air as officers chatted and joked around him. It took 11 minutes for him to stop breathing. An inquest found he was unlawfully killed but no-one has been held accountable for his death. Farhana Haider speaks to Janet Alder about her long fight to get justice for her brother. Photo:Christopher Alder an...more
In the 1800s cholera was a mysterious disease killing millions around the world. No-one knew how to stop it till an English doctor, John Snow, began investigating the outbreak of 1854. At a time before germ theory was properly understood, many public health experts thought disease was carried on what they called "bad air". John Snow was alone in thinking cholera was spread through contaminated water and by the time of his death - in 1858 - his theories had still not been fully accepted. Claire...more
In 1990, South Africa became the first country in the world to ban skin-lightening creams containing the chemical compound hydroquinone. For years the creams had caused an irreversible form of skin damage called ochronosis for the black and Asian South Africans using the products. Rachael Gillman has been speaking to Dr Hilary Carman, one of the activists who worked to ban the creams and Dr Ncoza Dlova who became one of the country's first black dermatologists. Photo: A woman applying a skin-li...more
In 2012 a stunning, secret collection of art was found in Germany. Much of it had disappeared during Nazi rule in the 1930s and 40s. It had once belonged to one of the Nazi's top art dealers, Hildebrand Gurlitt. It was found by chance in the Munich apartment of his elderly, reclusive son, Cornelius. It contained lost works by Renoir, Matisse, Chagal and the masters of the German expressionist movement. Many of the works had been confiscated during the Nazis "Degenerate Art" campaign in the late ...more
What it was like to be a child quarantined in a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients in the 1950s. Ann Shaw was nine when she was first admitted to the Craig-y-nos sanatorium in Wales and 13 when she was finally allowed home. Until antibiotic treatments came along, to stop the disease spreading, TB patients were kept apart from the general population and their families, often for years. This included babies and children, leaving many traumatised. Ann Shaw tells Louise Hidalgo about the half-life...more
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards went on trial for drugs offences in June 1967. The case attracted attention around the world, and sealed their reputation as rebels. The men were originally sentenced to prison but on appeal their sentences were drastically cut and the trial came to symbolise Britain's changing values. Photo: Mick Jagger (left) and Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones walk in the garden of Redlands, Richards' Sussex house, after the disclosure of their sentences for drug violatio...more
A people’s movement called Jana Andolan brought an end to Nepal’s absolute monarchy in the spring of 1990. Political parties worked together with students, workers and civil society groups to organise strikes and street protests – but although the king eventually agreed to their demands, it was the beginning of a long period of political instability. Lucy Burns speaks to activist and writer Devendra Raj Pandey about his memories of the first Jana Andolan. PHOTO: Jubilant protesters take to the ...more
Chaos and hardship hit Russia with the rapid market reforms in early 1992, just weeks after the collapse of the USSR. In 2018 Dina Newman spoke to one of the architects of this “shock therapy” - Andrei Nechaev, who was then the Minister for Economic Development. This programme is a rebroadcast. Photo: Old women selling cigarettes on the streets of Moscow in 1992. Credit: BBC.
Following the violent military coup that overthrew Chile's socialist government in 1973, the new regime led by General Augusto Pinochet began a radical overhaul of the economy. It was based on a free-market economic plan created by a group of economists known as the Chicago Boys. Mike Lanchin has been speaking to one of them, Rolf Lüders. Photo: General Augusto Pinochet (L) poses with socialist Chilean president Salvador Allende (R) in Santiago, just after Allende appointed him the head of the ...more
In the late 1960s Tanzania's first post-independence president, the charismatic Julius Nyerere, believed that endemic poverty in rural areas could only be addressed if peasant farmers relocated to larger villages and worked collectively. It was part of a new experimental form of socialism, known as Ujamaa. In 2016 Rob Walker spoke to two Tanzanians who remember it well. This programme is a rebroadcast. Photo: Tanzanian women cultivating the soil (AFP/Getty Images)
An eyewitness account of how a poor, war-ravaged nation became a global economic powerhouse. We hear the memories of Dr Kongdan Oh, who grew up in South Korea in the 1950s, in the aftermath of the Korean War. The country had been left devastated by the conflict. Then, in the early 1960s, South Korea's new military leader, General Park Chung-hee, launched an ambitious national drive for rapid economic growth. For many, it marked the start of South Korea's economic transformation. Photo: South K...more
When Franklin D Roosevelt became President in 1933 he promised to spend his first 100 days rescuing the USA from the Great Depression with one of the biggest public spending projects in history - the New Deal. Photo: Franklin D Roosevelt in 1935. Credit: Getty Images.
When Dr Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968, US school teacher, Jane Elliott, decided to try to teach her all-white class about racism. She decided to segregate them according to the colour of their eyes, and treated them differently. Although controversial from the start, the “blue eyes/brown eyes” teaching exercise has been adapted in schools and workplaces for diversity training ever since. Jane Elliott has been explaining to Rebecca Kesby why she still thinks the model has value t...more
The passenger train service between India and Bangladesh was resumed after more than 40 years. The train service had been suspended after the 1965 war between India and Pakistan of which Bangladesh was then a part. Partitioned in 1947, Bengal was divided in half between Hindu majority India and Muslim majority East Pakistan. Families were torn apart. East Pakistan later become Bangladesh after gaining independence in 1971. The Maitree or Friendship Express was the first passenger train service ...more
In the late 1990s, whistle-blowers implicated UN peacekeepers and international police in the forced prostitution and trafficking of Eastern European women into Bosnia, which was just emerging from a bitter civil war. Louise Hidalgo has been talking to one of those who sounded the alarm, British human rights lawyer, Madeleine Rees, who was then working for the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Bosnia. Picture: the United Nations Peacekeeping Force patrols the Bosnian capital Sarajevo in Mar...more
During the early years of Cultural Revolution in China, all European music was banned. Even enjoying traditional Chinese music and art was illegal. Anyone found with old instruments or recordings could be imprisoned. But that didn’t stop some musicians and enthusiasts from playing or listening to the music they loved, sometimes as an act of rebellion. A favourite during those times in China was the German composer – Ludwig Van Beethoven. Conductor, Jindong Cai tells Rebecca Kesby how he decide...more
Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance. When Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross published her bestselling book On Death and Dying in 1969, she described a series of emotional stages that she had seen terminally ill patients experience – later known as the Five Stages of Grief. But there was much more to her work in end of life care. Her son Ken speaks to Lucy Burns. Photo: Dr. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, Virginia Farm, 1987. Photo courtesy of Ken Ross www.ekrfoundation.org
One man's experience of the controversial US law that saw thousands locked up for life. Under the law in California, a third conviction for a felony offence would lead to a life sentence. At times in California, 45% of "three strikers" were African American. Many were sentenced to life in prison for non-violent or minor offences. Alex Last hears the story of Bilal Chatman, and his hopes for reform. Photo credit: Getty Images
People took to the streets of Los Angeles in fury after police, who had assaulted a black driver called Rodney King, were acquitted in 1992. His assault had been captured on video and played repeatedly on US television. In 2012 Nina Robinson spoke to Rodney King about the beating, the trial of the police, and the anger and mayhem that followed their acquittal. Photo: Rodney King in 2012. Credit: REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
In 1966, an all-black team went head-to-head with an all-white team for the National College Basketball championship - one of the biggest prizes in American sport. To much surprise, the African-Americans of Texas Western College defeated the University of Kentucky, then the number one team in the country. The game is now regarded as breaking the colour barrier in US basketball. In 2016 Nija Dalal-Small spoke to Nevil Shed, one of that groundbreaking Texas Western team. The programme is a Sparkla...more
Four young black girls were killed in a racist attack on a church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. The 16th Street Baptist Church was a centre for civil rights activists in the city. One of the girls who died was Addie Mae Collins, her sister, Sarah Collins Rudolph was badly injured but survived. In 2013 she spoke to Eddie Botsio about the bombing. Photo: men carrying the coffin of Addie Mae Collins at her funeral. Copyright: BBC
In 1954 the US Supreme Court ruled that the segregation of public schools on the basis of race was unconstitutional. The case was a turning point in the long battle for civil rights in America. In 2017 Farhana Haider spoke to Cheryl Brown Henderson, the youngest daughter of Oliver Brown, who was the named plaintiff in the class action against the local board of education. Photo: African American student Linda Brown, Cheryl Brown Henderson's eldest sister (front, C) sitting in her segregated cla...more
In the 1960s, doctors in Northern Ireland launched the world’s first mobile coronary emergency service using a new invention – the portable defibrillator. The defibrillators – which initially worked off ambulance car batteries - saved dozens of heart attack victims every year. Modern versions are now commonly seen and used in places like offices and shopping malls. The man behind the portable defibrillator was Belfast hospital doctor Frank Pantridge. Simon Watts tells his story using the BBC Nor...more
The WHO was first proposed as part of the new United Nations programme to reform the post-war world. The idea for an international health organisation to help promote good health globally was put forward by a member of the Chinese delegation, Szeming Sze. His memoirs reveal the political difficulties which dogged the process and his son remembers his passion for the project. We also hear from historian, Professor Theodore M Brown on what was really going on behind the scenes. Photo: Official lo...more
The artist Christo died on May 31st 2020. Famous for wrapping landmarks in fabric and plastic, one of his most ambitious projects was the former German parliament building which 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. In June 1995 Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude completed the monumental public art project which was seen by more than five million people and became a symbol for Berlin’s renewal after...more
Just one month after gaining independence there was an uprising in Zanzibar in 1964. It was billed as a leftist revolution but the worst of the violence was ethnically targeted. Zanzibar’s complex history meant the islands were home to a very diverse population, and the legacy of the slave trade had left deep scars and lingering resentment. Ahmed Rajab was a student in 1964 and remembers the night the revolution broke out. He’s been telling Rebecca Kesby what it was like, and how it was a Ug...more
The Monteverde cloud forest reserve in Costa Rica was established in the 1970s with the help of a group of American Quakers. The aim was to protect its unique habitat and abundant exotic wildlife. It has become one of Central America's top tourist attractions. Mike Lanchin has been hearing from 97-year-old Marvin Rockwell and 88-year-old Lucky Guindon, two of the Quakers who left the US to settle in the mountains of Costa Rica. (Photo by: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Image...more
Ann Cole Lowe designed Jackie Kennedy's wedding dress in the 1950s. As a black woman working in high fashion she was a groundbreaking figurein New York. Sharon Hemans has been speaking to Judith Guile who went to work with Ann Lowe in her Madison Avenue studio in the 1960s.
Many people were shocked when Winston Churchill's personal doctor published his memories of Britain's wartime leader in 1966. Churchill's family tried to halt the publication, but as historian Piers Brendon has been telling Vincent Dowd, the doctor, Lord Moran, had unique insights into the great man's behaviour. Photo: Winston Churchill arriving in Downing Street, May 1940. Credit: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images.
The South Korean army crushed a popular uprising in the city of Gwangju on 27 May 1980. Pro-democracy demonstrators had taken control of the city and were calling for an end to military rule. Hundreds of people, many of them students, were shot and beaten to death. Mike Lanchin spoke to Kim Jong and Linda Lewis who were living in Gwangju at the time. This programme is a rebroadcast. Photo: soldiers beating men in Gwangju in May 1980. Credit: 5.18 Memorial Foundation/AFP via Getty Images
The best selling book that highlighted the health and environmental benefits of a plant based diet. The publication of "Diet for a Small Planet" in 1971 helped start a conversation about the social and environmental impacts of the foods we choose. Frances Moore Lappé has been telling Farhana Haider about the writing of her ground breaking book. Photo Cover of first edition, first print Diet for a Small Planet 1971. Courtesy of Frances Moore Lappé
During times of crisis in the UK, World War Two is often remembered as a period when the country rallied together to fight a common enemy. British politicians still refer to the so-called "Blitz Spirit" when calling for national unity. But as Simon Watts has been finding out from the BBC archives, there was a crime wave during the war years, with a massive increase in looting and black marketeering. PHOTO: A government poster from World War Two (Getty Images)
Ground-breaking work by developmental psychologist Professor Uta Frith has revolutionised our understanding of autism. Beginning in the 1960s, Professor Frith's research has overturned the long-held belief that autism was a social or emotional disorder, showing instead that it's the result of physical differences in the brain. Uta Frith has been talking to Louise Hidalgo. Picture: Uta Frith at her desk at the Medical Research Council Developmental Psychology Unit in London in the late 60s/early...more
In 1983 Chuck Hull invented the first 3D printer. It could produce small plastic objects directly from a digital file on a computer. Instead of using ink the printer used plastic - adding layer upon layer to create an object. At first no-one was interested but now 3D printing technology is used widely, both by amateur hobbyists and industry. It's been taken up enthusiastically in the medical world to help separate conjoined twins and the next step is to help create human tissue for regenerative ...more
A unique way of life came to an end in Hong Kong in 1993 when Kowloon Walled City was demolished. When the rest of Hong Kong was a British colony, the seven acres of the Walled City were still nominally under the control of mainland China – but it became a lawless world of its own, a haven for gang crime and illegal dentistry. At one point it was one of the most of the most densely populated places the world has ever seen. Lucy Burns speaks to Albert Ng, who grew up in Kowloon Walled City, and ...more
After four white policemen were acquitted of killing a black man - Miami rioted. Citizens took to the streets on the night of May 17th 1980. The unrest lasted for three days. 18 people died, hundreds were injured, and hundreds of millions of dollars worth of damage were done to property. Sheila Cook has been hearing from Lonnie Lawrence who was a childhood friend of the dead man, but also a spokesman for the police force involved. Photo: A Florida National Guardsman directs traffic away from th...more
The story of a scientist who helped solve a Cold War mystery involving flatulent fish and Soviet submarines. During the Cold War, foreign submarines infiltrated neutral Sweden's territorial waters. In response, the Swedish navy built up a secret database of tell-tale signs to detect the presence of lurking subs and conducted high profile submarine hunts. But the country's submarine scare continued even after the end of the Cold War. So in 1995, the Swedish government launched an investigation. ...more
Over a period of four years before his death in December 2004, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, the consort and husband of former Queen Juliana, gave a series of secret interviews to two Dutch journalists, on condition that nothing was published until after his funeral. In his conversations with the reporters, the German-born Prince sought to justify a string of extra-marital affairs and a million dollar bribe he had received in the 1970s from the American aircraft manufacturer Lockheed. Prin...more
After decades of campaigning in Japan, the pill was finally legalised in 1999. In contrast the male impotency drug Viagra was approved for use in just six months, and legalised before the contraceptive pill for women. Politician Yoriko Madoka pushed hard for the right to take the pill and told Rebecca Kesby that sexism and male dominance in Parliament is why it took so long. (Photo: A collection of contraceptive pills. Getty Images)
How a group of broadcasters and social workers in the UK set up the world’s first 24-hour telephone counselling service for children. It revealed just how widespread child abuse was in Britain. Esther Rantzen was the TV presenter behind Childline, and she has been speaking to Laura FitzPatrick about how it got started. Photo: Esther Rantzen on the day Childline was launched in 1986. Credit: Childline.
The only part of the British Isles to be occupied during World War Two was liberated when the German army surrendered in May 1945. The Channel Islands are situated just off the coast of France, and yet even after the Allies had invaded the French coast, they remained under German occupation. Barbara Frost was 17 years old when liberation came. She has been telling Robbie Wojciechowski about life under occupation. Photo: Barbara a year after the war ended. Courtesy of Barbara Frost.
On the 8th of May 1945, hundreds of thousands of Londoners took to the streets to celebrate the end of the Second World War in Europe. BBC correspondents captured the scenes of joy across the city - from the East End to Piccadilly Circus. This programme is made up of material from the BBC Archives recorded on VE Day in 1945. Photo: Londoners dancing on VE Day (Getty Images)
After Germany's surrender to Allied forces in May 1945 Soviet soldiers occupied the German capital Berlin. For ordinary German citizens it was a time of fear and uncertainty. The city had been reduced to rubble and for women in particular, the presence of Soviet troops was terrifying. In 2011 one German woman told her story of rape by a Red Army soldier to Steve Evans. This programme is a rebroadcast. Photo: A young Soviet soldier and a German woman struggle over a bicycle - Berlin 1945. Credi...more
Hear the eyewitness account of a female Russian soldier and a German schoolboy who fought on opposing sides in the final, brutal battle for the capital of Nazi Germany. The fall of the city to Soviet forces led to the end of the Second World War in Europe in May 1945. Photo: A Soviet soldier running during a street battle in Berlin, late April 1945 (Photo by ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
The German leader Adolf Hitler killed himself on April 30th 1945. He had taken shelter in a bunker beneath his government headquarters as the Red Army closed in on Berlin. Louise Hidalgo has gathered firsthand accounts of his death from the BBC's archives.
An exhibition about the role of the German army the Wehrmacht during the Second World War caused a scandal when it launched in Hamburg in March 1995. “War of Annihilation: Crimes of the Wehrmacht 1941-1944” was a key moment in Germany’s reassessment of its Nazi past – but it was highly controversial. Lucy Burns speaks to curator Hannes Heer. Picture: Jewish forced labourers serving the Wehrmacht in Mogilev, Belarus, taken from the exhibition “War of Annihilation: Crimes of the Wehrmacht 1941 – ...more
When an atomic bomb was detonated over the Japanese city of Hiroshima in 1945, hundreds of thousands of people were killed and injured. Despite many survivors believing nothing would grow in the city for decades, 170 trees survived close to the epicentre and are still growing 75 years later. Green Legacy Hiroshima is a project which sends seedlings from those trees around the world, spreading a message of hope. Rachael Gillman has been speaking to Teruko Ueno who survived the bombing of Hiroshi...more
A boom in demand for sea cucumbers in Asia in the 1990s set off a confrontation between fishermen and conservationists in the waters off the Galapagos islands, where the protein-rich sea creature was found in abundance. The high price being paid for the sea cucumbers led to a gold rush on the South American archipelago, a chain of 21 islands home to many unique wild-life species. Mike Lanchin has been speaking to a Galapagos fisherman and a British conservationist, who found themselves on opposi...more
The UN's first Middle East mediator, Count Folke Bernadotte, was assassinated in Jerusalem in 1948. A Swedish diplomat and member of the Swedish royal family, Count Bernadotte was killed by Jewish extremists four months after being appointed to try to bring peace to what was already proving to be one of the most intractable conflicts in the world. Louise Hidalgo has been talking to his son, Bertil Berndotte, about the count and his mission. Picture: Count Folke Bernadotte (centre foreground) i...more
In 1957 a new strain of flu emerged in East Asia and quickly spread around the world, killing a million people. It was dubbed the "Asian flu" but it spread to Europe and North and South America. Gabriela Jones has been listening to archive news reports from the time and speaking to Sumi Krishna who was nine years old when she caught the virus in India in 1957. Photo: Americans worried about "Asian flu" wait their turns at Central Harlem District Health clinic in October 1957. Credit: Getty Ima...more
Nancy Iskandar is a magician, snake dancer, former sex worker, committed Muslim and long-time campaigner for transgender women’s rights in Indonesia. Josephine Casserly talks to her about the fight for transgender women to be accepted into Indonesian society in the 1970s and 1980s. Photo: Nancy Iskandar. Credit: BBC
The great American playwright gave several interviews to the BBC over the years and some of them provide revealing insights into his personal life. He spoke about loneliness, mental illness and even touched on his own homosexuality at a time when very few people were open about those things in public. Vincent Dowd has been delving through the BBC archive. Photo: Tennessee Williams in London in 1965. Credit: Getty Images
In 1970 a modern portable ventilator system was designed for use in intensive care units. The Brompton Manley’s designer was Dr Ian English a gifted anaesthetist who worked at the Royal Brompton, a specialist London hospital that treated patients with heart and lung disorders. Farhana Haider has been speaking to Margaret Branthwaite, a doctor who worked with Dr English, about how innovative the new ventilator was. (Photo Dr Ian English Cardiothoracic Anaesthetist. Credit Family: Handout)
Abdul Sattar Edhi built one of the biggest welfare charities in the world. He started with a small pharmacy in Karachi dispensing free medication to the poor in the 1950s. His wife Bilquis Edhi shared his passion for charity and together they built more than 300 health clinics, trained thousands of nurses, took care of tens of thousands of orphans and set up a nationwide ambulance service. Bilquis Edhi tells Rebecca Kesby how she first met Edhi when she was training to be a nurse. (Photo: Abdu...more
The last surviving person to be captured in Africa in the 19th century and brought to United States on a slave ship, has been identified as a woman called Matilda McCrear, who died in Alabama in 1940. Sean Coughlan has spoken to the historian Hannah Durkin who uncovered Matilda's extraordinary life story and to Matilda's grandson, Johnny Crear. Photo: Matilda McCrear in later years. Copyright: Johnny Crear.
On 20th April 2010, a deadly explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico left 11 people dead. As the rig sank, the riser pipe connecting the platform to the oil well ruptured and began spewing vast amounts of crude oil into the sea. The broken pipe lay near the sea bed, 5000ft down. The well's operators, BP, tried and failed to stem the flow of oil. Soon a huge oil slick had developed threatening the ecosystem in the Gulf. After 87 days the well was finally capped. But ...more
In April 1970, hundreds of millions of viewers around the world tuned into TV coverage of the drama on board Apollo 13 as it attempted to return safely to Earth after a devastating on-board explosion. The drama revitalised interest in the NASA space programme, which had been dwindling after the first lunar landing a year earlier. Simon Watts talks to David Schoumacher, former Space Correspondent for America’s CBS news, and to former CBS producer Mark Kramer. PHOTO: The crew of Apollo 13 after ...more
Michael Foale was on board the Mir space station when a resupply vessel crashed into it in June 1997. It was the worst collision in the history of space flight and it sent Mir spinning out of control. Michael was one of the three astronauts who had to try to repair the damage and get the space station back on course. In 2016 he told Alex Last about their ordeal. This programme is a rebroadcast. Photo: Mir Space Station. Credit: Getty Images.
In 1979 the world held its breath as the American space station Skylab, re-entered the Earth's atmosphere. NASA tried desperately to control Skylab's descent, but large fragments hit south-west Australia instead of falling into the sea. Simon Watts heard from two residents of Esperance, a remote coastal town which bore the brunt of the impact. (Image: Saturn V giant booster used for all the Apollo and Skylab NASA space missions between 1967 and 1972. Credit: AFP/Getty Images)
In 1972 the American space agency NASA carried out its final Moon mission. One of the three astronauts on board was geologist Harrison Schmitt. In 2012 he spoke to Louise Hidalgo about those moonwalks, and the discoveries they made. Photo credit: Harrison Schmitt/Science Photo Library.
The touchscreen smartphone changed mobile technology for ever. It was unveiled on January 9th 2007 by the Apple boss Steve Jobs. Within a few years smartphones had changed the way billions of people lived their lives. Ashley Byrne has been speaking to Andy Grignon a senior developer on the project. (Photo: Steve Jobs at the iPhone launch in San Francisco in 2007. Credit: David Paul Morris/Getty Images)
Five 'aquanauts' became the first women to front a mission for America's space agency, Nasa, in 1970. But their mission was underwater rather than in space. They spent two weeks being continuously monitored on camera in an undersea habitat. When they emerged from the experiment they were given a ticker tape parade and invited to the White House. Laura FitzPatrick has been speaking to Alina Szmant one of the aquanauts.
In 1984, a 72-year-old grandmother became the first to try a new online shopping system, years before the arrival of the internet. Mrs Jane Snowball had been given new Videotex technology which allowed her to order her groceries using a tv and a remote control. The system was part of a community project to help the elderly and vulnerable in the English town of Gateshead. The technology was the brainchild of Michael Aldrich, head of the communications firm, Rediffusion (later ROCC). Alex Last spo...more
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 spoke to Lucy Burns.
The world's first webcam went online in 1993. Its camera was focused on a coffee pot so that computer scientists in Cambridge, in the UK, could see if there was any coffee available. Dr Quentin Stafford-Fraser, Martyn Johnson and Paul Jardetzky explained to Rebecca Kesby how they developed it. This programme is a rebroadcast (Photo: The Trojan Room coffee pot)
In 1975 a group of Californian computer enthusiasts began meeting to share ideas. Among those who took part were the founders of Apple. In those days though, many of them were students or even high school kids. Mike Lanchin spoke to two early members of the group. This programme is a rebroadcast Photo: Former Homebrew member Len Shustek.
Practising a religious faith in communist China has always been hard. Uighur Muslims face incarceration in re-education camps. But other Muslims have seen repression under communism too.Things were particularly tough in the 1960s during Chairman Mao's Cultural Revolution. Then there was a brief period in the 1980s when the state seemed to ease its pressure on believers. Rebecca Kesby has been speaking to two Chinese Muslims about their lives and worship. Photo: A child waits during prayers at a...more
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 two 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 (...more
A former governor of Punjab, Sir Michael O'Dwyer, was killed by an Indian immigrant in London in 1940. The assassin, Udham Singh, said he was avenging the deaths of hundreds of civilians who had been fired on by colonial troops in Amritsar in India in April 1919. When he was put on trial at the Old Bailey, he gave a defiant speech against colonial rule. Sajid Iqbal has been speaking to Avtar Singh Jouhal who campaigned to have Udham Singh's courtroom speech made public. Photo:An Indian man take...more
Scientists believe that the biggest living organism on Earth is a fungus. But the heaviest organism, and the most massive organism, is a tree, or rather a giant colony of quaking aspen tree stems which has been growing across a hillside in the west of America for thousands of years. The colony - called Pando - was first discovered in the late 1960s. But it wasn't until many years later that scientists proved it was one genetic entity. Two of the scientists involved in researching Pando's story h...more
Rose Heilbron was a trailblazer for women in the legal profession in Britain. She was made the first woman judge in the UK in the 1950s and made headlines around the world when she became the first to sit at the world famous criminal court, London's Old Bailey. Her daughter, Hilary Heilbron QC remembers how hard she fought to be accepted. Photo: English KC (King's Counsel) Rose Heilbron (1914 - 2005) arrives at the House of Lords in London, for the traditional champagne breakfast hosted by the...more
In 1985 activists hand-stitched a giant quilt to commemorate friends and relatives killed by AIDS, and to campaign for more funding and research into the disease. It was the brain child of Cleve Jones, who explains to Rebecca Kesby what it was like to live through the HIV/AIDS epidemic in San Francisco. How the LGBT community had to pull together, as victims of AIDS were ostracised by the wider community during their worst moment of suffering. (Photo: A section of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. Ge...more
On March 26th 2010 a South Korean naval ship, the Cheonan, sank after an explosion on board. 48 sailors were killed in an alleged torpedo attack carried out by North Korea. The North Korean authorities have always denied any involvement. Bugyeong Jung has been speaking to a survivor of the attack about what happened that night. Photo: A giant floating crane lifts the stern of the South Korean warship to place it on a barge on April 15, 2010. The 1,200-tonne patrol combat corvette PCC-772 Cheona...more
On the night of March 25 2015 Saudi Arabia and its allies launched an intense aerial bombardment of the Yemeni capital Sana'a. The attacks pushed one of the poorest countries in the Arab world to breaking point. Sumaya Bakhsh has been speaking to surgeon, Dr Ali al-Taifi, about his memories of that first night of bombing and the suffering that has carried on in Yemen ever since. Photo: citizens of Sana'a searching through rubble for survivors on morning of March 26th 2015, after the Saudi bombi...more
Over 50 million people died from influenza during the 1918-19 influenza pandemic. Scientists trying to understand why that particular strain of flu was so virulent, dug into Alaska's permafrost to find traces of it to study. Kate Lamble has been speaking to Dr Jeffery Taubenberger who sequenced the genome of the so-called "Spanish" flu virus. Photo: an influenza ward in 1918. Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images.
In the 1970s, scientists in China used ancient traditional medicine to find a cure for malaria. Artemisinin was discovered by exploring a herbal remedy from the 4th century, and can cure most forms of malaria with very few side effects. It has saved millions of lives all over the world. Rebecca Kesby talks to Professor Lang Linfu, one of the scientists involved. PHOTO: Professor Lang Linfu (family archives)
In 1990, NASA launched the historic mission which put into orbit the Hubble Space Telescope. The orbiting observatory has revolutionized astronomy and allowed us to peer deeper than ever before into the Universe. Alejandra Martins talks to astronaut, Kathryn Sullivan, about the Hubble mission and the telescope's initial teething problems. PHOTO: The Hubble Space Telescope (NASA)
In May 2000, a virus created by a college dropout in the Philippines caused chaos around the world. Millions of people received - and opened - an email titled I Love You, which then jammed computer networks. Gabriela Jones talks to IT security expert, Graham Cluley. (Photo: The I Love You email. Credit: Getty Images)
The story of how a car that had originally been the idea of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler was saved by a British army officer at the end of World War Two. In August 1945 the British Army sent Major Ivan Hirst to take control of the giant Volkswagen plant in Germany, built under the Nazis to produce 'people's cars' for the German masses. Ivan Hirst persuaded the British authorities to allow production to restart of the Volkswagen Beetle, which Hitler had had designed before the war as an affordable ca...more
In 1950, a 200-page-long directory called "Red Channels " was published in America. It was a list of people working in the media who were suspected of being Communists or Communist sympathisers. It ruined careers and sent actors, writers and directors into exile. Most of the people named in it are no longer alive. But Vincent Dowd has been speaking to former Hollywood actress Marsha Hunt who is still with us, aged 102. PHOTO: Marsha Hunt in 1938 (Getty Images)
In 1986, the US Supreme Court heard a landmark case which would define sexual harassment as a crime in America. The lawsuit, brought by bank clerk Mechelle Vinson, established that abuse in the workplace was a breach of civil rights. It was built on pioneering legal scholarship by feminist lawyer Catharine MacKinnon, who talks to Sharon Hemans. PHOTO: Mechelle Vinson in 1986 (Getty Images)
A deadly new form of haemorrhagic fever was discovered in the small town of Marburg in West Germany in the summer of 1967. The first patients all worked at a factory in the town which made vaccines. In the course of their work they had all come into contact with blood or tissue from monkeys from East Africa who were infected with a disease similar to Ebola. Lucy Burns speaks to virologist Werner Slenczka and former laboratory worker Frederike Moos about their experiences of the outbreak. Photo:...more
In early 2003 a medical emergency swept across the world. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, was a deadly virus which had first struck in southern China but soon there were cases as far away as Canada. William Ho and Tom Buckley were at the forefront of the battle against the epidemic. Photo: The SARS virus (Science Photo Library)
In 1955 scientists in the US led by Dr Jonas Salk announced they had developed an effective vaccine against polio. The poliomyelitis virus had caused paralysis and death particularly amongst children since time immemorial. Louise Hidalgo spoke to Dr Salk's son Peter, who was one of the first children to be vaccinated by his father, and to a nurse who worked on the polio vaccination programme. PHOTO: Jonas Salk innoculating his son, Peter (Courtesy of March of Dimes)
Some 300 people died during the first documented outbreak of the deadly disease occurred in the 1970s in the Democratic Republic of Congo - then known as Zaire. The virus was named after the river which flowed close to the village where it was discovered. Two doctors, Dr Jean Jacques Muyembe and Dr David Heymann, were among those who worked to bring the outbreak under control. They spoke to Claire Bowes in 2009. This programme is a rebroadcast. Image: The Ebola virus under a microscope. Credit...more
In 1918, more than fifty million people died in an outbreak of flu, which spread all over the world in the wake of the first World War. We hear eye-witness accounts of the worst pandemic of the twentieth century. (Photo: An American policeman wearing a mask to protect himself from the outbreak of Spanish flu. Credit:Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
The story of Dr. Semen Gluzman, a Ukrainian psychiatrist, who took a stand against the psychiatric abuse of political dissidents in the Soviet Union. During the Cold War, Soviet authorities had many dissidents declared mentally ill and confined them to special psychiatric hospitals for 'treatment'. In the 1970s, a young Ukrainian psychiatrist, decided to write a counter-diagnosis of one of the most famous of these incarcerated dissidents. For this, he would pay a high price. Alex Last speaks to ...more
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 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 UK in the 1970...more
The UK was one of the first in Europe to declare it would ban lead from petrol after a successful campaign showing it was poisoning children and leaving them permanently brain damaged. But it took until the year 2000 to finally remove leaded petrol from sale. Lead was first added to petrol in the 1920s to make the fuel run more efficiently. The latest figures show only three countries worldwide still sell leaded petrol. Claire Bowes spoke to Dr Robin Russell Jones from the "Campaign for Lead Fre...more
One of the toughest challenges facing Japan’s economy is that its population is ageing rapidly and its workforce is shrinking dramatically. But a Japanese investment analyst, Kathy Matsui, came up with a visionary idea to help her country, and she even invented a new word for it: Womenomics. The answer, according to her, was to tap into the talent of half the population. Kathy Matsui speaks to Alejandra Martins. (Photo: Kathy Matsui. Courtesy of Goldman Sachs)
In 2009, three American hikers were arrested and jailed after they crossed an unmarked border into Iran while on holiday in Iraqi Kurdistan. Sarah Shourd was released first and fought a long campaign to get her friends Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal released from prison in Teheran. Their freedom was eventually brokered by diplomats from Oman – opening up a diplomatic channel between Iran and the US which was later used in their nuclear negotiations. Sarah Shourd talks to Simon Watts. PHOTO: Sarah ...more
Thousands of people died in India during the world's last major smallpox epidemic. Individual cases had to be tracked down and quarantined to stop the deadly disease spreading. Ashley Byrne spoke to Dr Mahendra Dutta and Dr Larry Brilliant who took part in the battle to eradicate smallpox once and for all. Photo: Smallpox lesions on the human body. 1973. Credit: Getty Images.
A group of Californian nuns left their convent and set up their own independent community in 1970. They’d been inspired by the social change they saw around them in Los Angeles in the 1960s, and the Pope's promise to modernise the Catholic Church. They wanted to stop wearing their traditional habit and abandon their set prayer times, but their conservative cardinal refused to discuss change. So three hundred of the sisters left to set up their own lay community – the Immaculate Heart Community, ...more
In 1973, an engineer called Marty Cooper made the world’s first mobile phone call from a street in New York City. Cooper worked for a then tiny telecoms company called Motorola, but he had a vision that one day people would all want their own personal phone that could be reached anywhere. He talks to Louise Hidalgo. Picture: Martin Cooper in New York City in 1973 with the first prototype mobile phone (Credit: Martin Cooper)
In 1985, human remains were found by chance on a remote island in Antarctica by Chilean biologist Dr Daniel Torres. But whose were they? It would take years to determine their remarkable origin. We speak to Dr Torres about his discovery and how it revealed an unknown chapter of indigenous South American history. Photo: Skull discovered on LIvingstone Island, Antarctica in 1985 (D.Torres/INACH)
In October 1991, an international protocol to protect the world’s last wilderness, Antarctica, from commercial exploitation was agreed at a summit in Madrid. The agreement was the result of a long campaign by environmental organisations to stop oil and gas companies being allowed to explore the continent. Louise Hidalgo has been talking to Kelly Rigg from Greenpeace. Picture: Blue icebergs in Antarctica (Credit: Getty Images)
An insider's account of Project Babylon, the plan to build the largest gun in the world for Saddam Hussein's Iraq. The "Supergun" was the brainchild of Canadian artillery maverick, Dr Gerald Bull. He'd long wanted to build a gun capable of launching satellites into space. In the 1980s Saddam Hussein agreed to fund this plan. But was it a science project or a weapon? In 1990, the "Supergun" hit the headlines and it became an international scandal. Alex Last spoke to Chris Cowley an engineer who w...more
"Battle Bus" was a sculpture made by Sokari Douglas Camp in memory of Nigerian environmentalist Ken Saro Wiwa and eight other activists who were controversially executed in 1995. The sculpture was seized and impounded by Nigerian port authorities in 2015 when the art work was shipped to Nigeria. Sokari Douglas Camp talks to Rebecca Kesby about growing up in the Niger Delta and how it's shaped her art work. PHOTO: "Battle Bus" by Sokari Douglas Camp on show in London in 2015 (Sam Roberts Photo...more
In 2002, scientists in the US began performing a landmark series of experiments on Buddhist monks from around the world. The studies showed that the brains of experienced meditators alter, allowing them to focus better and manage their emotions. Alejandra Martins talks to Professor Richard Davidson of the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. PHOTO: A monk taking part in the experiment (Center for Healthy Minds).
In February 1990, the Nasa space probe Voyager took a famous photo of Earth as it left the Solar System. Seen from six billion kilometres away, our planet appears as a mere dot lit up by the Sun, and the image is credited with giving humanity a sense of our small place in the Universe. Darryll Morris speaks to Nasa planetary scientist, Candice Hansen, who worked on the Voyager programme. The programme is a Made-In-Manchester Production. Photo: The Earth seen as a pale blue dot in a band of sunl...more
On Valentine's Day 1995, authors Sherrie Schneider and Ellen Fein published a dating handbook called The Rules: Time Tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr Right. The book advised women that if they wanted to find a husband they should not approach a man first or pay for themselves on dates. Criticised in some quarters as anti-feminist, it soon became a bestseller, with celebrity fans from Beyonce to Meghan Markle. Lucy Burns speaks to Sherrie Schneider about creating a cultural phenomenon...more
The groundbreaking novel about female sexuality, called Fear of Flying, was first published in 1973. Dina Newman has been speaking to its author, Erica Jong. Photo courtesy of Erica Jong
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. (Photo...more
In 1996, after many rejections, author JK Rowling at last finds a publisher for her first Harry Potter novel. Louise Hidalgo hears from editor, Barry Cunningham, who spotted the boy wizard's potential and helped create a phenomenon that would revolutionise childrens' book publishing, selling more than 450 million copies. Picture: author JK Rowling holds the sixth and penultimate Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. (Credit: AP) Audio recording © J.K. Rowling
In 1966, the collected thoughts of China's communist leader became an unexpected best-seller around the world. A compendium of pithy advice and political instructions from Mao Zedong, it was soon to be found on student bookshelves everywhere. (Photo: Front cover of Mao's Little Red Book)
On 11th February 1990 anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela walked free after spending 27 years in a South African jail. It was a day that millions of black South Africans had been waiting for and marked the beginning of the end of white rule. Fellow activist Valli Moosa remembers that day, and the hasty preparations to make it possible and tells Louise Hidalgo how things almost didn't go to plan. Picture: Nelson Mandela raises his fist in salute as he walks out of Victor Verster prison near Cap...more
In February 1987, a small Native American tribe from California won a landmark ruling at the US Supreme Court granting them the right to conduct gambling activities on their reservation. The campaign by the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians led to the creation of a multi-billion-dollar gaming industry on Indian land across the United States. Simon Watts talks to former Cabazon Band president, Brenda Soulliere, and their lawyer, Glenn Feldman. PHOTO: An Indian-run casino in California (Getty Imag...more
In the early 1980s deaf children in Nicaragua invented a completely new sign language of their own. It was a remarkable achievement, which allowed experts a unique insight into how human communication develops. Mike Lanchin has been speaking to American linguist Judy Shepard-Kegl, who documented this process and says "our belief is that you are born with a language-ready brain". (Photo credit should read INTI OCON/AFP via Getty Images)
The Empress Dowager Cixi ruled China for 47 years until her death in 1908. But it wasn't until the 1970s that her story began to be properly documented. She'd been vilified as a murderous tyrant, but was that really true or was she a victim of a misogynistic version of history? Prof Sue Fawn Chung was the first academic to go back to study the original documents, and found many surprises. She tells Rebecca Kesby the story of "the much maligned Empress Dowager". (Photo: Chinese Empress Dow...more
Norwell Roberts joined the Metropolitan police in 1967. He was put forward as a symbol of progressive policing amid ongoing tensions between the police and ethnic minorities in the capital. But behind the scenes, he endured years of racist abuse from colleagues within the force. Norwell Roberts QPM spoke to Alex Last about growing up in Britain and his determination to be a pioneer in the police force. Photo: London's first black policeman PC Norwell Roberts beginning his training with colleag...more
The treaty which established the European Economic Community was signed by six countries in 1957 - France, West Germany, Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. It was hoped that European countries would never go to war again, if they were tied together by economic interests. The treaty formed the basis for what is now the European Union. Photo: European leaders at the Palazzo dei Conservatori in Rome. Credit: Keystone/Getty Images
Madam C. J. Walker was the first ever self-made female millionaire. She was born to former slaves in the USA and was orphaned at seven but against all the odds she went on to create her own business selling black hair-care products. By the time of her death in 1919 she'd become a famous philanthropist and civil rights campaigner. Claire Bowes has been speaking to her great great granddaughter A'Lelia Bundles. Photo: Madam Walker Family Archives/A'Lelia Bundles
The remarkable Turner's oak in Kew Gardens in London not only survived the Great Storm that ravaged the south of England in 1987, but also changed the way that trees are cared for around the world. Alejandra Martins has been speaking to Tony Kirkham, head of the Arboretum at Kew. (Photo: Turner's oak. Credit: Alejandra Martins)
In January 2013 the Indian government began to overhaul the country's laws on rape following the brutal gang rape and killing of a 23 year old physiotherapy student in Delhi. The public outcry across India forced the government to commission a legal review. Farhana Haider has been speaking to Gopal Subramanium, one of the three senior lawyers tasked with reforming the way India tackled violence against women. (Photo: Justice Leila Seth. Justice J Verma and Justice Gopal Subramanium and team d...more
Prince Harry and Meghan’s announcement that they will step back from their royal duties is not the first time the British royal family has tried to reform itself from within. In 1992 Queen Elizabeth had what she called her “annus horribilis” . It was the year that her sons Prince Charles and Prince Andrew both separated from their wives, while her daughter Princess Anne got divorced - and it was also the year that Windsor Castle caught fire. The Way Ahead group was set up by senior members of t...more
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
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, 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)
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.
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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)
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 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 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
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