Cover image of Witness History
(619)
History

Witness History

Updated 6 days ago

History
Read more

History as told by the people who were there.

Read more

History as told by the people who were there.

iTunes Ratings

619 Ratings
Average Ratings
476
70
30
18
25

Continuing education

By igneous2x - Sep 14 2018
Read more
Every episode is so informative and enlightening—what a service this is. Thank you, BBC!

So interesting!

By hannahmacxx - May 13 2018
Read more
I learn about things, people, events that I didn’t even know existed. Very captivating and fun

iTunes Ratings

619 Ratings
Average Ratings
476
70
30
18
25

Continuing education

By igneous2x - Sep 14 2018
Read more
Every episode is so informative and enlightening—what a service this is. Thank you, BBC!

So interesting!

By hannahmacxx - May 13 2018
Read more
I learn about things, people, events that I didn’t even know existed. Very captivating and fun
Cover image of Witness History

Witness History

Latest release on Sep 24, 2020

Read more

History as told by the people who were there.

Rank #1: The 'Spanish' flu

Podcast cover
Read 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)

Mar 09 2020

9mins

Play

Rank #2: The warnings before 9/11

Podcast cover
Read more
Throughout 2001 the US authorities were being given warnings that a terror attack was imminent. A Congressional Commission, FBI officers and the CIA were all worried. There were even specific warnings about planes being flown into buildings. Louise Hidalgo has been speaking to former Senator Gary Hart who co-chaired the Congressional Commission that tried to convince the government to take action.

Photo: Smoke pours from the World Trade Centre after it was hit by two passenger planes on September 11, 2001 in New York City. (Credit: Robert Giroux/Getty Images)

Aug 14 2019

10mins

Play

Rank #3: How meditation changes your brain

Podcast cover
Read 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).

Feb 18 2020

12mins

Play

Rank #4: Sequencing the 1918 influenza virus

Podcast cover
Read 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.

Mar 24 2020

8mins

Play

Rank #5: The fall of the Berlin Wall

Podcast cover
Read 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)

Oct 25 2019

8mins

Play

Rank #6: The battle for Fallujah

Podcast cover
Read 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 held by insurgents during the battle for Fallujah November 23, 2004,(Photo by Scott Peterson/Getty Images)

Jan 10 2020

14mins

Play

Rank #7: CS Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia

Podcast cover
Read 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/Arthur Strong)

Sep 19 2019

9mins

Play

Rank #8: Battling Soviet psychiatric punishment

Podcast cover
Read more
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 Dr Semen Gluzman about his struggle to oppose Soviet punitive psychiatry.

Photo: Semen Gluzman in 1989.(Gluzman)

Mar 05 2020

12mins

Play

Rank #9: The secret history of Monopoly

Podcast cover
Read more
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 who unearthed the story.

Picture: A family playing a game of Monopoly in the 1930s (Credit: SSPL/Getty Images)

Dec 25 2019

9mins

Play

Rank #10: The first confirmed case of HIV in America

Podcast cover
Read 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. Credit: Science Photo Library

Nov 29 2019

8mins

Play

Rank #11: An Antarctic mystery

Podcast cover
Read more
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)

Feb 24 2020

9mins

Play

Rank #12: Britain's secret propaganda war

Podcast cover
Read 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 of Historical Research about the secret history of British "black propaganda".

(Photo: The actress and singer Agnes Bernelle, who was recruited to be a presenter on a fake German radio station during the war)

Nov 06 2019

13mins

Play

Rank #13: The outbreak of World War Two

Podcast cover
Read more
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.)

Sep 02 2019

8mins

Play

Rank #14: Britain's World War Two 'Brown Babies'

Podcast cover
Read more
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 went on to have children. Babs Gibson-Ward was one those children. She has been speaking to Farhana Haider about the stigma of growing up as mixed raced child in post-war Britain.

(Photo: Hoinicote House children, c.1948. Boys and girls whose parents of mixed ancestry met during WWII. Credit: Lesley York)

Oct 11 2019

10mins

Play

Rank #15: German atrocities in Poland during WW2

Podcast cover
Read more
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)

Jan 06 2020

8mins

Play

Rank #16: The Leipzig demonstrations

Podcast cover
Read more
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)

Oct 24 2019

8mins

Play

Rank #17: The Wehrmacht exhibition that shocked Germany

Podcast cover
Read more
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 – 1944”

May 04 2020

9mins

Play

Rank #18: Shackleton

Podcast cover
Read 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: Return of the sun over the 'Endurance' after the long winter darkness during the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 1914-17, led by Ernest Shackleton. (Photo by Frank Hurley/Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge/Getty Images)

Dec 03 2019

11mins

Play

Rank #19: Exploring Arabia's Empty Quarter

Podcast cover
Read 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: Wilfred Thesiger (Pitt Rivers Museum via Bridgeman Images)

Nov 22 2019

9mins

Play

Rank #20: Marburg virus

Podcast cover
Read more
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: A Grivet monkey looks out from an enclosure at Egypt's Giza Zoo in Cairo on August 1, 2017 (Mohamed El-Shahed/AFP via Getty Images)

Mar 13 2020

10mins

Play

Blackwater killed my son

Podcast cover
Read 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 time, and whose 9-year-old son Ali, was shot dead by the Americans.

Photo: An Iraqi looks at a burnt car on the site where Blackwater guards opened fire on civilians in Baghdad on 16 September 2007 (Credit ALI YUSSEF/AFP via Getty Images)

Sep 24 2020

9mins

Play

When Nelson Mandela went to Detroit

Podcast cover
Read 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.

Sep 23 2020

8mins

Play

How Liberia wrote off its debts

Podcast cover
Read more
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 Monetary Fund announced they would forgive 4.6 billion dollars of the country’s debt.Bob Howard speaks to former president Johnson Sirleaf about the long road to debt forgiveness.

Photo: Ellen John Sirleaf Credit: Olivier Polet/Getty Images

Sep 22 2020

8mins

Play

The Galileo project

Podcast cover
Read 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

Sep 21 2020

9mins

Play

The mothers of Argentina's disappeared

Podcast cover
Read more
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. Credit: BBC)

Sep 18 2020

9mins

Play

Tank Man

Podcast cover
Read 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.

Sep 17 2020

8mins

Play

The Greensboro lunch counter sit-in

Podcast cover
Read more
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.

Sep 16 2020

9mins

Play

The Mau Mau struggle against British rule

Podcast cover
Read more
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

Sep 15 2020

9mins

Play

Resisting 'Europe's last dictator' in Belarus

Podcast cover
Read more
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 kidnapped and murdered by the state. Alex Last has been speaking to the exiled dissident and co-founder of the Belarus Free Theatre, Nikolai Khalezin, about the origins of the protest movement in Belarus.

Photo: A banner compares Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to Stalin and Hitler, during a protest march in Minsk, Belarus, March 15, 2000 (Getty Images)

Sep 14 2020

12mins

Play

Why the US rejected universal healthcare

Podcast cover
Read 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 all workers would pay for their healthcare through a monthly fee or tax. But the American Medical Association - representing doctors - employed a public relations firm to lobby against the move. Claire Bowes has been listening to archive material of Harry Truman and speaking to Jonathan Oberlander a Professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Photo: President Harry Truman in 1947 (courtesy of US National Archives)
Archive material: courtesy of the Harry S Truman Library

Sep 11 2020

12mins

Play

Banning alcohol in an Indian state

Podcast cover
Read 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.

Sep 10 2020

8mins

Play

The birth of Reddit

Podcast cover
Read more
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 began.

Photo: The Reddit logo (Credit: Reddit)

Sep 09 2020

9mins

Play

The Dawson's Field hijacking

Podcast cover
Read 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 the Jordanian Army.

Sep 09 2020

8mins

Play

Haiti's cholera outbreak

Podcast cover
Read 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 in tropical medicine and infectious diseases, Dr Renaud Piarroux, whose investigation helped force the UN's hand.

Photo: Haitians wait for medical treatment for cholera, Oct 22 2010 (REUTERS/St-Felix Evens)

Sep 08 2020

9mins

Play

Care in the Community

Podcast cover
Read 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

Sep 04 2020

8mins

Play

The Cape Town bombings

Podcast cover
Read more
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.

Sep 03 2020

8mins

Play

The birth of the Sony Walkman

Podcast cover
Read more
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)

Sep 02 2020

9mins

Play

Flying through a volcano

Podcast cover
Read more
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.

Sep 01 2020

9mins

Play

Inventing James Bond

Podcast cover
Read more
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)

Aug 31 2020

10mins

Play

Who has the right to vote in America?

Podcast cover
Read more
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. In 2013 the US Supreme Court upheld their challenge. Now voters who are discriminated against bear the burden of proving they are disenfranchised. Farhana Haider hears from civil rights attorney Kristen Clarke who fought to protect the Voting Rights Act.

Photo Washington DC June 25. Supporters of the Voting Rights Act outside the U.S. Supreme Court. Credit Getty Images

Aug 28 2020

15mins

Play

iTunes Ratings

619 Ratings
Average Ratings
476
70
30
18
25

Continuing education

By igneous2x - Sep 14 2018
Read more
Every episode is so informative and enlightening—what a service this is. Thank you, BBC!

So interesting!

By hannahmacxx - May 13 2018
Read more
I learn about things, people, events that I didn’t even know existed. Very captivating and fun