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
The Chippendales nightclub in downtown Los Angeles was looking for ways to attract customers on a weeknight – when they hit upon the idea of male strippers. The Male Exotic Dance Night for Ladies Only became wildly successful and inspired imitators all over the world. But there was a dark side to the Chippendales’ story. Lucy Burns speaks to Chippendales co-founder Bruce Nahin. Picture: Actress Linda Blair with Chippendales dancers, 1984 (Ann Clifford/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty ...more
In December 1972 the US military launched its heaviest bombardment on the Vietnamese city of Hanoi. Around twenty thousand tonnes of explosives were dropped in just a few days. Ha Mi was just ten years old and living in the city with her family when the bombs began to fall. She told Rebecca Kesby what is was like. (Photo: Ha Mi in the summer of 1972. Credit: Ha Mi's own collection)
The global circus phenomenon Cirque du Soleil was born in 1984 when a group of street performers in Quebec bought a big top tent and went on tour. Lucy Burns speaks to Cirque du Soleil co-founder Gilles Ste-Croix, who walked 56 miles on stilts to raise money for the show. Picture: Cirque du Soleil acrobats perform during the dress rehearsal of Kooza at the Royal Albert Hall in January 2013 in London, England. (John Phillips/UK Press via Getty Images)
In 1904, a left-wing American feminist called Lizzy Magie patented a board game that evolved into what we now know as Monopoly. But 30 years later, when Monopoly was first marketed in the United States during the Great Depression, it was an out-of-work salesman from Pennsylvania who was credited with inventing it. Louise Hidalgo has been talking to American journalist Mary Pilon about the hidden history of one of the world's most popular board games, and to the economics professor Ralph Anspach ...more
On 24 December 1979 Soviet troops poured into Afghanistan in support of an anti-government coup. Their first targets were the palace in which the president was staying, and Afghanistan's radio and TV headquarters. Mahjooba Nowrouzi has been speaking to Shahsawar Sangerwal who was a young producer at Afghan National Radio at the time. Photo: Soviet troops at Kabul Airport in late December 1979. Credit: Getty Images.
In the 1960s doctors began ground-breaking work into using several toxic chemicals at once to treat cancer. Combination chemotherapy, as it was called, would revolutionise cancer survival rates, particularly for Hodgkin Lymphoma, until then a virtual death sentence. Louise Hidalgo has been talking to the doctor who played a key part in that breakthrough, clinical oncologist, Vincent DeVita who has spent his more than 50-year career trying to cure cancer. Picture: Vincent DeVita (centre) and col...more
Why Nigeria came to build a brand new capital from scratch.and created one of the world 's fastest growing cities. During the 1970s oil boom, Nigeria's military rulers wanted to create a new symbol of national unity and decided to spend billions on constructing a new capital in the geographic centre of the country. Alex Last speaks to Professor John Paden of George Mason University, a veteran political scientist and expert on Nigeria who was hired to advise the American consortium tasked with p...more
In 2007, the mysterious loss of commercial honey bees in the United States made headlines around the world. Researchers called the phenomenon Colony Collapse Disorder. The sudden loss of bee colonies had serious implications for modern agriculture as the commercial honey bees were used to pollinate many crops. The crisis served to highlight the broader threat to bees and other crucial pollinators from disease, pesticides and the destruction of habitat. Alex Last has been speaking to Dr Dennis va...more
Of all the revolutions that swept across Eastern Europe 30 years ago in the winter of 1989, the over throw of Nicolae Ceaușescu and his wife Elena was the bloodiest. But few communist regimes had been as brutal as theirs, dominating every aspect of daily life. The uprising began in the western city of Timisoara, where a local pastor, László Tőkés, took a stand against the authorities and his loyal parishioners stood with him. László Tőkés tells Rebecca Kesby about the fall of the Ceaușescus a...more
Priests reacted with horror when a South Indian actress, Jayamala, admitted she had inadvertently touched a statue of a god at the Sabarimala temple in Kerala - a Hindu holy site. The priests had purified the temple and said that women of childbearing age were banned from setting foot inside it. But a young lawyer, Bhakti Pasrija, decided to take on the religious authorities in the courts. She has been telling Iknoor Kaur what happened next. PHOTO: Hindu devotees wait in queues inside the premi...more
For much of World War Two African-American soldiers were relegated to support roles and kept away from the fighting. But after the Allies suffered huge losses during the Battle of the Bulge, they were called on to volunteer for combat. Janet Ball has been speaking Reverend Matthew Southall Brown who saw action in Europe towards the end of the war. He fought in the US Army's 9th Division, 60th Regiment, Company E. Photograph:Volunteer combat soldiers from the 9th Division prepare for shipment to...more
In December 2001 armed men attacked India's Parliamentary compound in broad daylight. Islamist extremists were blamed and the attack brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war. Indian politician Renuka Chowdhury was just arriving at the Parliament building when the shooting started. She has been telling her story to Prabhat Pandey. Photo: Security forces outside the Parliament building during the attack in Delhi. (Credit: Bandeep Singh/The India Today Group /Getty Images)
When police in New York shot a young immigrant 41 times in 1999, thousands of people took to the streets to protest. But Amadou Diallo's mother Kadiatou wanted her son to be remembered for the way he lived, not the way he died. So she flew to the US to speak on his behalf. She has been telling Sharon Hemans her story.
In December 1975, four members of one of the IRA’s deadliest units were chased by police through the streets of London before hiding out in a small flat owned by a middle-aged couple called John and Sheila Matthews. The resulting six-day siege was covered live on television and radio, and gripped Britain. It ended when Metropolitan Police negotiators persuaded the gunmen to leave the flat peacefully. Simon Watts talks to Steven Moysey, the author of the book and audiobook, The Road to Balcombe S...more
In 1983 French president Francois Mitterand commissioned a major renovation of Paris' most famous art museum, the Louvre. But the resulting great glass pyramid, designed by American architect IM Pei, caused a storm of controversy, dividing Parisian public opinion as the Eiffel Tower had done a century earlier. Louise Hidalgo talks to IM Pei's colleague and friend, Yann Weymouth, who worked with him on what is now recognised as one of the great landmarks of the city. Picture: the Louvre pyramid ...more
On 7 December 1990 the dissident Cuban novelist and poet Reinaldo Arenas killed himself in New York after years of suffering from AIDS. Before fleeing Cuba, Arenas had been jailed for his homosexuality, sent to re-education camps and prevented from writing. He left behind his autobiography - Before Night Falls - a powerful denunciation of Fidel Castro’s regime which later became a successful film. Simon Watts talks to Arenas’ friend and fellow writer, Jaime Manrique. The recordings of Reinald...more
A prison camp called Jaslyk opened in the desert in western Uzbekistan in 1999. Even by the standards of the Uzbek prison system it would become notorious for torture and human rights abuses, including reports of a prisoner being boiled alive. Journalist Muhammad Bekjanov was imprisoned in Jaslyk during the 18 years he spent in Uzbek jails. He speaks to Lucy Burns along with independent human rights observer Acacia Shields. PHOTO: Muhammad Bekjanov in Istanbul, 1995 (courtesy of Muhammad Bekjan...more
During the 20th century a British coal miner's son changed the world of art. Henry Moore revolutionised sculpture, altering the way we view the human figure and setting his works in natural landscapes. He became internationally renowned and by the 1970s hundreds of his sculptures could be seen outside government buildings, universities and museums around the world. His daughter, Mary Moore, remembers how initially his work shocked his teachers and art critics. Photo: BBC Henry Moore 1960 With ...more
Hear first hand accounts from the doomed Antarctic expedition which became a legendary story of survival. In 1914, polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton led an expedition to become the first to cross the Antarctic continent. But before they could land, their ship, SS Endurance, became trapped in pack ice and sank. Marooned on a floating ice field, Shackleton and his men, embarked on an epic odyssey to reach safety. Alex Last has been listening to BBC archive interviews with the survivors. Photo:...more
The Colombian drug trafficker, once one of the richest men in the world, was shot dead by police on 2nd December 1993. He had been on the run from the authorities for over a year. Jordan Dunbar has been speaking to Elizabeth Zilli who worked for the US Drug Enforcement Agency in Colombia and who helped track down Pablo Escobar. Photo: Colombian police and military forces storm the rooftop where drug lord Pablo Escobar was shot dead just moments earlier during an exchange of gunfire between secu...more
Robert R was a teenager who died of a mysterious illness in Saint Louis, Missouri in 1969. It was only in the 1980s that doctors studying the Aids epidemic realised Robert had died of Aids. Ned Carter Miles has been speaking to Dr Memory Elvin Lewis was one of the doctors who treated Robert R. She was so intrigued by his case that she kept tissue samples after his death, which later proved that he had contracted HIV/Aids. Photo: HIV particles, computer artwork. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS...more
In 1985 Australia's most famous natural landmark, Uluru, the huge ancient red rock formerly known as Ayers Rock, was handed back to its traditional owners, the indigenous people of that part of central Australia, the Anangu. But as one of the government officials involved in the negotiations for the transfer, former private secretary for aboriginal affairs, Kim Wilson, tells Louise Hidalgo, not everyone in Australia was pleased. Picture: Uluru, formerly Ayers Rock, in Kata Tjuta National Park,...more
In the early 1950s, the leading British catering firm, J Lyons & Co, pioneered the world's first automated office system. It was baptised LEO - the Lyons Electronic Office - and was used in stock-taking, food ordering and payrolls for the company. Soon it was being hired out to UK government ministries and other British businesses. Mary Coombs worked on the first LEO and was the first woman to become a commercial computer programmer. She tells Mike Lanchin about her memories of those heady days ...more
In the 1990s India began to open up its largely state-controlled economy to foreign investment. Subramanian Swamy wrote the blueprint for reform and he's been speaking to Iknoor Kaur about what worked - and what didn't. Photo: Subramanian Swamy (r) with Manmohan Singh. Credit: Getty Images.
American scientist Dennis Klatt pioneered synthesised speech in the 1980s. He used recordings of himself to make the sounds that gave British physicist Stephen Hawking a voice when he lost the ability to speak. Friend and colleague of Dr Klatt, Joseph Perkell, told Rebecca Kesby about the man who gave his voice to Prof Hawking allowing him to educate the world in science. (Photo: BOMBAY, INDIA: World-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking answers questions with the help of a voice synthesiser du...more
In the 1940s, British gentleman explorer Wilfred Thesiger travelled extensively in one of the world's harshest environments - the Empty Quarter of Arabia. Thesiger lived with nomads in order to cross a desert that was then considered a place of mystery and death. He captured a final glimpse of their way-of-life before the arrival of the oil industry, and was inspired to write the classic travel book Arabian Sands. Simon Watts introduces recordings of Wilfred Thesiger in the BBC archive. PHOTO: ...more
India's capital city built a brand new mass transit system to tackle its traffic jams and air pollution. The first section of the Delhi Metro was opened to the public in 2002. E Sreedharan was managing director of the Metro project and he's been speaking to Prabhat Pandey about the challenges he faced. Photo: the inside of a Delhi Metro carriage. Credit: Getty Images.
In November 1989 Salvadoran government soldiers dragged six Jesuit priests from their beds and murdered them along with their housekeeper and her teenage daughter. The Salvadoran government tried to blame the killings on left-wing rebels, but one woman provided key testimony that contradicted the official version, at great personal danger. Lucia Cerna tells her story to Mike Lanchin (Photo: a plaque commemorating the murdered priests in San Salvador- courtesy of David Mee)
The 'Woman in Gold' was one of Gustav Klimt's most famous paintings. It was a portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, but it was taken from her family by the Nazis and only returned to them after a long legal battle. Louise Hidalgo has been speaking to Randol Schoenberg the young lawyer who took on the case. Picture: Adele Bloch-Bauer I, or 'The Woman in Gold', painted in 1907 by Gustav Klimt, from the collection of the Neue Galerie in New York. (Credit: Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)
In the 1970s, an American engineer Jack Cover designed a new experimental stun gun. He called it a Taser. But the device only really became popular when it started to be used by US law enforcement agencies. The Los Angeles Police Department were among the first to use the device. Retired police Captain Greg Meyer was then the young officer given the task of evaluating non-lethal weapons for the LAPD. He tells Alex Last about the origins of the Taser and its dramatic impact on the streets. Phot...more
Reita Faria was the first Indian to win the Miss World beauty competition in 1966. She was studying medicine in Mumbai when a spur of the moment decision to take part in the contest turned her life upside down. Orna Merchant has been speaking to Reita Faria about her win, and whether she believes there is still a place for beauty contests in the 21st Century. Photo: Reita Faria wearing the Miss World crown in November 1966. Credit: Staff/Mirrorpix/Getty Images
In the late 1970s toxic chemicals were discovered oozing from the ground in a neighbourhood in upstate New York. The neighbourhood was called Love Canal. Hundreds of houses and a school had been built on top of over 20,000 tonnes of toxic industrial waste. The disaster led to the formation in 1980 of the Superfund program, which helps pay for the clean up of toxic sites. Farhana Haider has been speaking to former Love Canal resident and campaigner Luella Kenny about her fight for relocation. ...more
Hindu extremists demolished a 16th century mosque in the Indian city of Ayodhya in December 1992 prompting months of communal violence across India. Photojournalist Praveen Jain witnessed rehearsals for the demolition the day before the activists stormed the mosque. He has been talking to Iknoor Kaur about what he saw. On November 9th this year the Indian Supreme Court ruled that a Hindu temple can be built on the disputed site. Photo: Hindu extremists rehearsing the demolition of the Babri Ma...more
In 2004, a German aid agency ship, Cap Anamur, was sailing to the Suez Canal, when it came across 37 Africans on a sinking rubber boat. The captain, Stefan Schmidt, rescued the men and headed for a port in Sicily to drop them off. But for almost 2 weeks, Italy blocked the ship from entering port and when the ship was finally granted permission to dock, Captain Schmidt and two others were arrested and prosecuted by Italian authorities for aiding and abetting illegal immigration. The case made hea...more
Wilfred Owen died just a few days before the end of World War One but his poetry ensured he would be remembered. Little is known about the man behind the poems but his younger brother Harold spoke to the BBC about him in the 1960s. Vincent Dowd pieces together a picture of the young soldier-poet using the BBC's archive, Owen's letters home, and by speaking to Jean Findlay, biographer of CK Scott Moncrieff, the translator of Proust, who fell in love with Wilfred Owen. (Photo: Wilfred Owen in 191...more
Former Berlin resident David Bowie was among the performers at a pop concert in West Berlin in 1987 credited with helping to create the atmosphere that led, two years later, to the fall of the Berlin Wall. During the three-day concert, there were riots in East Berlin as East Berliners were prevented by police from gathering near the Berlin Wall to listen. And German journalist Christoph Lanz tells Louise Hidalgo it was the first time shouts were heard of 'the wall must go'. Picture: David Bowie...more
WARNING: This programme contains distressing descriptions of violent torture from the beginning. In 1980 police in a small city in the Indian state of Bihar were revealed to be torturing petty criminals. Iknoor Kaur has been talking to several people with first-hand experience of the disturbing events that came to be known as the Bhagalpur blindings. Ram Kumar Mishra was the lawyer who represented the victims, Amitabh Parashar made a documentary film about what happened, and Umesh Yadav was one...more
How sex, jazz and 'fake news' were used to undermine the Nazis in World War Two. In 1941, the UK created a top secret propaganda department, the Political Warfare Executive to wage psychological warfare on the German war machine. It was responsible for spreading rumours, generating fake news, leaflet drops and creating fake clandestine German radio stations to spread misinformation and erode enemy morale. We hear archive recordings of those involved and speak to professor Jo Fox of the Institute...more
In 1975 the Canadian oncologist Dr Vera Peters released ground-breaking data to prove that breast-conserving surgery could at times be as effective as having a radical mastectomy. Her findings were received with lukewarm support and even open opposition from many of her colleagues in the male-dominated medical profession. Mike Lanchin hears from Dr Peters' daughter, Dr Jennifer Ingram, about her mother's tenacious attempt to improve the well-being of breast-cancer sufferers. Photo:Dr Vera Pete...more
On November 4th 1979 revolutionary students overran the US Embassy in Tehran and took everyone inside hostage. In February 1980 the students invited a humanitarian delegation from the US to visit them in Iran. The group were shown around Tehran to highlight the country's poverty. They were also allowed to meet some of the American hostages. Rabbi Hirshel Jaffe was a member of the delegation and Masoumeh Ebtekar was the spokesperson for the students. Rachael Gillman reports on a crucial moment i...more
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
A group of feminists working under the name “Jane” carried out underground abortions in 1960s Chicago – when abortions were still illegal in most of the US. Initially they gave abortion counselling and put women who wanted to terminate their pregnancies in touch with doctors who would perform the procedure. But when they discovered that one doctor they had been working with was not medically qualified, the women started to perform the abortions themselves. Martha Scott was a member of the grou...more
The Harkis were Algerian Muslims who volunteered to fight with France in Algeria's war of independence. When the conflict came to an end in 1962 and France was forced to abandon its former colony, thousands of its Harki allies were left to face persecution and brutal repression. Serge Carel was an Algerian Harki who joined the French army when he was just 18 years old. When the independence war ended, he was imprisoned and tortured by the country's new rulers. He's been telling Mike Lanchin abo...more
At the end of the Second World War the grand Parisian hotel, the Lutetia, was allocated to receive thousands of prisoners and Nazi concentration camp survivors returning home from across a ravaged Europe. Louise Hidalgo talks to two people for whom the Hotel Lutetia played a crucial role in 1945: Maurice Cling, a survivor of Auschwitz, and Christiane Umido who, as a young girl, was reunited there with her father. Picture: concentration camp survivors camps in the Lutetia restaurant in 1945 (cre...more
The British Prime Minister started expressing doubts about the European Union during a speech in the Belgian city of Bruges in 1988. The now famous "Bruges speech" is seen by many as the spark which ignited the anti-European movement within Britain's Conservative party. Susan Hulme has been speaking to Sir Stephen Wall who wrote an early version of the speech and to David McWilliams who was a student in the audience at the College of Europe when Mrs Thatcher spoke. (Photo: Margaret Thatcher giv...more
The border between communist East Germany and the West opened on November 9th 1989. It marked the beginning of the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. Michaela Graichen spoke to two East Germans who believe they were the first people to cross from East to West on the night of November 9th. (Photo: East Germans climbing onto the top of the Berlin Wall at the Brandenburg Gate after the opening of the East German border was announced in Berlin. November 9, 1989. Credit: REUTERS/Staff/Files)
Mass demonstrations in the East German city of Leipzig in October 1989 shook the communist authorities to their core. The protests are seen as paving the way for the fall of the Berlin Wall just a month later. Lucy Burs spoke to Martin Jankowski who was one of the protesters. (Photo:A young East German protesting against the communist government flashes the peace sign. Credit: Peter Turnley/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)
Thousands of East Germans fled to the West in the summer and autumn of 1989, before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Many of them sought refuge in the West German embassy in Prague, where they camped in the grounds and slept in stairwells and corridors, fed by the Red Cross. On September 30th, West German foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher announced that they were free to travel to West Germany. Hubert and Susanne Kuhn lived in the embassy with their three children for three months. They spoke...more
In 1989 the body of Imre Nagy, Prime Minister during the 1956 Hungarian uprising, was reburied in a public ceremony in Budapest. He had been executed on the orders of Moscow. It marked the beginning of the end of communism in Hungary. Nick Thorpe spoke to Ivan Baba who was master of ceremonies at the 1989 funeral. Photo: Imre Nagy's coffin and mourners in June 1989.(Credit: Jean Francois Luhan/AFP/Getty Images)
When the banned Polish trade union organisation, Solidarity, was legalised in April 1989 it was one of the first signs that communism was about to collapse in Eastern Europe. Within months Solidarity was leading a coalition government in Poland and soon afterwards the Berlin Wall fell. In 2015 Tom Esslemont spoke to the former Solidarity spokesman Janusz Onyszkiewicz about the events of that historic year. This programme is a rebroadcast. Image: Lech Walesa, pictured in March 1989 (Credit: Mar...more
Kenyan Wangari Maathai became the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. She was an environmentalist and human rights activist who founded the Green Belt Movement in the 1970s. She focused on the planting of trees, conservation, and women's rights but repeatedly clashed with the government while trying to protect Kenya's forest and parks. She was arrested and beaten on several occasions. Witness speaks to her daughter, Wanjira Mathai. (Photo: Kenya's Wangari Maathai (L) chall...more
Things started to go wrong at the Windscale nuclear plant in October 1957. A reactor was overheating and workers were rushed in to help. In 2011 Chris Vallance spoke to Vic Goodwin and John Harris, two of the men who helped bring things under control during Britain's worst nuclear accident. Photo: the Windscale nuclear plant. Credit: Getty Images.
In 1970 the American scientist, Norman Borlaug, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his pioneering work developing disease-resistant crops. At the time famine and malnutrition were claiming millions of lives across the world, particularly in South Asia. Dr Borlaug’s work meant countries like India were able to become self-sufficient. Critics said the new grain varieties were too reliant on chemical fertilizers, but it’s thought millions of lives were saved. Rebecca Kesby has been speaking to P...more
By the 1980s a deadly cocktail of factory fumes and car exhausts had turned Mexico City into the world's most polluted city. Hundreds of thousands of people were falling ill each month, many of them children. The Mexican authorities came up with an ambitious plan to curb the use of each of the city's two million cars for one day a week. The scheme was an immediate success and has been copied in other major cities around the world. Ramon Ojeda Mestre, the environmentalist behind the Mexican initi...more
How a young American scientist began the work that would show how our climate is changing. His name was Charles Keeling and he meticulously recorded levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. His wife Louise and son Ralph spoke to Louise Hidalgo about him in 2013. (Photo: Thick black smoke blowing out of an industrial chimney. Credit: John Giles/PA)
The US first began sending troops to the UK in 1942 to help in the war effort. It is estimated that at least two million American servicemen passed through the UK during World War Two and tens of thousands of them were black. The African-American GIs stationed in Britain were forced by the American military to abide by the racial segregation laws that applied in the deep south of the US. But that didn't stop relationships developing between British women and the black soldiers, some of whom wen...more
In 1963 a small group of British black activists started a pioneering protest against racism within the local bus company in Bristol. It had specified that it did not want to employ black bus drivers. Inspired by the example of the US Civil Rights Movement the boycott ended in victory and led to the passage of Britain's first anti-discrimination laws. Paul Stephenson and Roy Hackett spoke to Louise Hidalgo in 2013 about their part in the protest. Photo: Park Street in Bristol in the early 1960...more
In August 1958 Britain was shocked by nearly a week of race riots in the west London district of Notting Hill. The clashes between West Indian immigrants and aggressive white youths known as Teddy Boys led to the first race relations campaigns and the creation of the famous Notting Hill Carnival. Using voices from the BBC archives Simon Watts tells the story. Photo: Street scene in Notting Hill at the time the race riots broke out in 1958. Credit: Getty Images.
In 1987 Diane Abbott became the first black woman elected to the British Parliament. The daughter of first generation immigrants she was one of only four black MPs elected that day. In 2015 Diane Abbott spoke to Farhana Haider about her journey into the political history books. Photo: Diane Abbott in 1986. Copyright: BBC
The great West Indian cricketer, lawyer and member of the House of Lords took a London hotel to court when it refused to let him and his family stay there in 1943. Susan Hulme brings us his story from the BBC archives. Photo: Sir Learie Constantine outside Westminster Abbey in 1966. Credit: Douglas Miller/Keystone/Getty Images.
In May 1980 China allowed capitalist activity for the first time since the Communist Revolution, in four designated cities known as the Special Economic Zones. The most successful was Shenzhen, which grew from a mainly rural area specialising in pigs and lychees to one of China's biggest cities. In 2017 Lucy Burns spoke to Yong Ya, a musician who has lived in Shenzhen since the 1980s, and to ethnographer Mary Ann O'Donnell. IMAGE: Pedestrians and cars stream by a giant poster of Chinese patriar...more
Throughout much of 1967 striking workers and students filled the streets of Hong Kong. They were inspired by the Cultural Revolution in China and demanded an end to colonial British rule. Jasper Tsang Yok-sing was then an idealistic young student and he spoke to Rebecca Kesby in 2014. (Photo: Left wing workers put up anti-British posters in Hong Kong outside Government House. Credit: Central Press/Getty Images)
In 1966 Chairman Mao declared the start of the Cultural Revolution in Communist China, a radical and brutal attempt to reshape Chinese society. Saul Yeung was 20 years old at the time and in 2016 he spoke to Lucy Burns about his decision to join the Red Guards, tasked with carrying out Mao's revolution. Photo: Chinese Red Guards reading from Chairman Mao's Little Red Book (Getty Images)
American Sidney Rittenberg first met Mao Zedong in the 1940s during the final years of China's civil war and before Mao's victory over the Nationalist forces. Already a committed socialist, Rittenberg had been stationed in China during WW2 but decided to stay on and fight alongside Mao's Communists. In 2013 he spoke to Rebecca Kesby about his memories of one of the world's great revolutionaries. Photo: a poster of Chairman Mao in Beijing in the 1960s. Credit: AFP.
On 1 October 1949 Chairman Mao declared China to be a communist state. Zhu Zhende was a young recruit in the People's Liberation Army who marched in the celebrations in Beijing that day. He has been speaking to Yashan Zhao about the optimism and excitement of that time. Photo: An officer reads a newspaper to soldiers while they are waiting for the announcement of the foundation of the People's Republic of China on Tiananmen Square on October 1, 1949 in Beijing, China. (Credit: Visual China Grou...more
In September 1984, the famous Spanish matador, Francisco Rivera, also known as Paquirri, was gored to death by a bull during a fight in the small town of Pozoblanco. The bravery he showed during his final moments turned Paquirri into a legend. In 2013 Simon Watts spoke to El Soro, a matador who shared the bill that fateful day, and to Muriel Finer, an American journalist married to a Spanish bullfighter. Photo: A recent bullfight (Getty Images).
In September 2008, the world's biggest science experiment, the Large Hadron Collider, was started up for the first time at the European Organisation For Nuclear Research, or CERN, in Geneva. Simon Watts talks to Paul Collier, a British engineer whose team built the multi-billion dollar machine designed to investigate the structure of the universe. PHOTO: Inside the Large Hadron Collider (Getty Images)
When the Islamic State group took over Mosul in Iraq in 2014 they flooded the internet with propaganda, claiming life under IS was fantastic. One historian living in the city decided to post a counter-narrative online. Omar Mohammed set up "Mosul Eye" to expose the atrocities and failings of IS fighters, but it was at great risk to his own safety. Omar tells Rebecca Kesby how he posted news from Mosul to the outside world from right under the noses of the Islamic State group. He says he felt...more
Theodor Wonja Michael was a child when Hitler came to power in Germany. The son of a German mother and a Cameroonian father he faced discrimination and danger under Nazi rule. He has been speaking to Caroline Wyatt about how working as a film actor helped him to survive World War Two. Photo: Theodor Wonja Michael at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2013. Credit: Alamy
The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical was first performed on stage in New York in 1959, several years before it was made into a film. Vincent Dowd has been speaking to two people with connections to the original Broadway production. Tim Crouse is the son of Russel Crouse who wrote the book for "The Sound of Music". Lauri Peters played the eldest daughter of the von Trapp family on stage. Photo: The original Broadway cast of "The Sound of Music" in 1959. Lauri Peters is at the top of the stairs. ...more
Sir Anthony Blunt, a distinguished British art historian and curator of the Queen's pictures was exposed as a former Soviet spy in the autumn of 1979. He was stripped of his knighthood and publicly shamed as a traitor for being part of the Cambridge spy ring. Susan Hulme has been speaking to Christopher Morris who was the BBC reporter sent to interview Blunt when the story broke. Photo: Sir Anthony Blunt at the press conference in which he explained his motivation in 1979 (Credit: Aubrey Hart...more
The first book in the Chronicles of Narnia series by the Northern Irish-born writer CS Lewis was published in autumn 1950. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe would go on to become one of the great classics of children's literature. CS Lewis's stepson, Douglas Gresham, talks to Louise Hidalgo about the academic and theologian who created Narnia's magical world. Picture: CS Lewis, the children's and theological author, seated in his Cambridge study in the early 1950s (Credit: Camera Press/Arthu...more
The Black Panther Party hit the headlines in the late 1960s with their call for revolution. But they also ran a number of "survival programmes" to help their local communities - the biggest of which was a project providing free breakfasts for schoolchildren. Reverend Earl Neil was one of the organisers of the first Free Breakfast for Children programme at St Augustine's Church in Oakland, California. He speaks to Lucy Burns. (IMAGE: Shutterstock)
LGBT servicemen and women in the US armed forces had to keep their sexuality secret until the 'Don't ask, don't tell' policy was repealed in 2011. Lieutenant Colonel Heather Mack served under the policy for most of her military career. She has been speaking to Rachael Gillman about her experiences. Photo: Lieutenant Colonel Heather Mack (l) with her wife Ashley (r) and their two children. Courtesy of Heather Mack
In the early 1950s the Ethiopian Emperor, Haile Selassie, sent thousands of Ethiopian troops to fight in the Korean war. They were called the Kagnew Battalions and they formed part of the American-led UN force supporting South Korea against communist North Korea and their Chinese allies. Alex Last spoke to Captain Mamo Habtewold who won his country's highest honour. This programme is a rebroadcast. Photo: The Captain as a young man. Courtesy of Mamo Habtewold.
In September 1519, a fleet led by the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan set off on what would be the first circumnavigation of the world. Magellan was the first navigator to find a route round South America, but he had to quell several attempted mutinies and he was eventually killed by tribesmen in what is now the Philippines. His circumnavigation was completed in 1522 by one of his subordinates, Juan Sebastian Elcano. Simon Watts tells Magellan’s story through the book published by his on-...more
How the timber industry fuelled a brutal civil war in West Africa. In the late 1990s, timber companies worked closely with Liberia's warlord-turned-president, Charles Taylor. In return for money and support for his militias, the regime allocated huge swathes of the country's valuable rainforest to timber companies for logging. A group of young Liberians started to document what was happening. Alex Last has been speaking to the award winning activist, Silas Siakor, whose work led to a UN ban on L...more
In 1990 the Indian government introduced an affirmative action plan that had been lying unimplemented for a decade. The Mandal Commission recommended guaranteeing a percentage of government jobs to lower caste Hindus. It's implementation was an attempt by the government to quell the rise of Hindu nationalism. But the move proved controversial from the outset and led to weeks of student protests across India. Farhana Haider has been speaking to a retired superintendent of police, Dilip Trivedi ...more
A new show called Friends hit American TV screens in September 1994. It was based on the lives of six young New Yorkers and became one of the most successful comedies of all time. It sold around the world. Farhana Haider spoke to one of the show's creators, Kevin Bright. Photo: The cast of Friends in 1994. Copyright: Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.
In September 2009 the deposed president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, made a sudden return from exile, seeking refuge in the Brazilian embassy in the Honduran capital. Zelaya had been whisked out of the country at gunpoint after a military coup three months earlier. His unexpected return took the coup leaders totally by surprise. Mike Lanchin has been hearing from two men who spent several months holed up inside the embassy building alongside the Honduran leader. Photo: Manuel Zelaya with suppor...more
In 1991, Palermo businessman Libero Grassi published an open letter in Sicily’s main newspaper denouncing the Mafia for constantly demanding extortion payments. Grassi was hailed as a hero, but his public refusal to pay was intolerable to the Mafia and a few months later he was executed in person by one of Cosa Nostra’s top bosses. Libero Grassi’s defiance is credited with inspiring a new grass-roots movement among businesses in Sicily that stands up to the Mafia. Simon Watts talks to his daught...more
The controversial historian, David Irving, tried to sue Penguin Books and professor Deborah Lipstadt for libel after she called him a Holocaust denier in one of her books. The case drew intense media interest. Deborah Lipstadt told Rebecca Kesby what it was like to have to defend her work and the memories of survivors of the Holocaust at the High Court in London in 2000. History was on trial. (Photo: American academic Deborah Lipstadt (C) exults 11 April 2000 at the High Court in London after w...more
When the crew of Apollo 11 returned to earth after their historic mission to the Moon, they were immediately placed in quarantine for 3 weeks. It was done to protect the Earth from the dangers of possible lunar alien life. Dr William Carpentier was the flight surgeon for the Apollo 11 mission and was placed in quarantine with the crew to monitor their health and check for any signs of alien life. He talks to Alex Last about his memories of working with the Apollo programme and life in quarantine...more
The UN deployed its first all-female contingent of peacekeepers in Liberia in West Africa. The country was still recovering from its long civil war when the Indian policewomen arrived in 2007. Jill McGivering has been hearing from Seema Dhundia of India's Central Reserve Police Force who led the unit. Image: Seema Dhundia in front of her contingent of Indian policewomen on their arrival in Monrovia, Liberia, in January 2007. (Credit:Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty Images)
On September 1st 1939 German forces invaded Poland. Douglas Slocombe, a British cameraman, was there at the time and filmed the build-up to the war. In 2014 he spoke to Vincent Dowd about what he saw in Gdansk and Warsaw, before escaping from the country. This programme is a rebroadcast (Image: German citizens in Gdansk (also known as Danzig) welcoming German troops during the invasion of Poland on September 3rd 1939 . Credit:EPA/National Digital Archive Poland.)
In 2009 a paedophile was convicted with the help of a new form of identification - hand analysis. Dame Sue Black of Lancaster University explains how her team developed this tool and how criminal courts in Britain first responded to the evidence. She says vein patterns as well as scars and skin creases suggest hands may eventually be found to be as identifiable as fingerprints. Photo: Courtesy of Lancaster University
The great African-American jazz singer Nina Simone moved to the Liberian capital Monrovia in September 1974. Simone was famous for her vocal support for the civil rights movement in the USA as well as for songs like I'm Feeling Good, Mississippi Goddam and I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free, and she was invited to the West African republic by her friend the singer Miriam Makeba. Lucy Burns speaks to Nina Simone's friend James C Dennis Sr. Picture: Nina Simone performs on stage at Newp...more
In the months leading up to outbreak of World War Two in September 1939, some 10,000 unaccompanied children were sent by their parents out of Germany and Austria, to safety in the UK. Many of them never saw their families again. Dame Stephanie Shirley was just five years old when she and her older sister were put on a train by their mother in Vienna. She has been telling Mike Lanchin about arriving in a foreign land as a little girl. Photo:Getty Images
In 1993 young women began disappearing in the Mexican border town of Ciudad Juarez. Since then hundreds are reported to have been kidnapped and killed. Mike Lanchin has spoken to a forensic scientist who used to work in the city; and to the mother of one of the murdered girls. This programme was first broadcast in 2013. Photo: Jorge Uzon. AFP/Getty Images
Emmett Till was an African-American teenager from Chicago who was brutally murdered in Mississippi in America's deep south in August 1955. His lynching was one of the key events that energized the American civil rights movement. An all-white jury acquitted the two white suspects. Emmett Till's mother insisted on an open casket funeral to let everyone see how her son had been brutally killed. Farhana Haider has been listening through interviews with some of Emmett's family to tell the story of ...more