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The History Hour podcast

The History Hour

An hour of historical reporting told by the people who were there.

An hour of historical reporting told by the people who were there.

 

#287

The war in Transnistria

With speculation mounting that President Putin might mount an attack on Moldova, Max Pearson hears a first-hand account of the war in the 1990s between the Moldovans and Russian-backed separatists in the disputed region of Transnistria. There's also a chilling story from the Cold War about how a Soviet air defence official prevented a potential catastrophe by realising that a computer warning about a US nuclear attack was a false alarm. In the second-half of the History Hour, an Egyptian poet remembers how 48 hours of unrest in 1977 forced the government to scrap a huge increase in the cost of bread, and an Icelandic geophysicist recalls how the 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano caused disruption all over Europe. PHOTO: Russian-speaking Transnistrian fighters during the war (Getty Images) ... Read more

14 May 2022

50 MINS

50:08

14 May 2022


#286

Fighting for Uyghur rights in China

Max Pearson gets a first-hand account of how the minority Uyghur community in China staged some of the first protests against the all-powerful Communist Party in the 1980s. Plus, the young lawyer who won the landmark Roe v Wade abortion rights case in the US, the chemistry of cannabis and the personal stories of two veterans of the 1982 Falklands War. PHOTO: A Uyghur yurt on the Xinjiang steppe (Getty Images) ... Read more

07 May 2022

49 MINS

49:57

07 May 2022


#285

Algeria's War of Independence

Sixty years after Algeria's independence from France, first-hand accounts of a traumatic 'birth of a nation': a female Algerian bomber who was part of the battle for Algiers; how the French military responded with brutal tactics; a massacre on the streets of Paris; and reprisals against Algerians who fought alongside the French. Plus,the flowering of a national spirit through football. (Photo: French soldiers in the kasbah of Algiers, 1960. Credit: Getty Images) ... Read more

30 Apr 2022

53 MINS

53:57

30 Apr 2022


#284

The Falkands War

On the fortieth anniversary of the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands, Max Pearson hears two contrasting accounts of the war with Britain. Patrick Watts was the manager of the radio station on the Falklands; he kept broadcasting calmly as Argentine troops burst into the studio. Patrick Savage was a conscript in the Argentine army; for him, the fighting was a cold, frightening and brutal experience that culminated in defeat. Max also gets analysis of the conflict from Argentine political scientist, Dr Celia Szusterman. In the second half of the programme, there are first-hand accounts of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979; the US-USSR trade deal that fuelled inflation in the 70s; and a historic handshake in space between an American astronaut and a Soviet cosmonaut. PHOTO: Argentine troops on the Falklands shortly after the 1982 invasion (Getty Images) ... Read more

09 Apr 2022

49 MINS

49:59

09 Apr 2022


#283

Protesting against Putin

Starting in late 2011, tens of thousands of protestors took to the streets to try to stop what they saw as a power grab by Russian leader Vladimir Putin. The movement was not successful, but analysts say it worried the Russian leader so much that he launched a crackdown on dissent that has lasted to this day. We hear from Russian rock journalist, Artemy Troitsky, who composed a song that became an anthem of what was sometimes called the "Snow Revolution". Also, the launch of the first women's newspaper in Afghanistan, how black stuntmen demanded work from the big studios in Hollywood, and the dramatic story of the women who escaped a violent cult based in South London. Photo: An anti-Putin rally in Moscow in December 2011. Credit: Getty Images ... Read more

02 Apr 2022

49 MINS

49:50

02 Apr 2022


#282

Ukrainian history special

To mark the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a special edition on episodes from Ukrainian history. In April 1986 a reactor exploded at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Soviet Ukraine. Sergii Mirnyi monitored radiation levels in the exclusion zone around the plant. How the international community - including both Russia and the USA - offered security "assurances" to Ukraine in return for giving up its share of the Soviet nuclear arsenal. A survivor's account of Ukraine's great famine in the 1930s, the Holodomor, when several million people died. The mass killing of Ukrainian Jews by Nazi Germany during World War Two, and how Artek, on the shores of the Black Sea in Crimea, became the Soviet Union's most popular holiday camp. Photo: The Chernobyl plant shortly after the explosion in 1986 Credit: Getty Images ... Read more

26 Mar 2022

50 MINS

50:17

26 Mar 2022


#281

Women who made history

To celebrate International Women's Day, a special edition on five women who've made their mark on history. US feminist Gloria Steinem remembers founding Ms Magazine in 1972; Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi discusses the human rights campaigning which won her the Nobel Peace Prize; and a friend of Anna Akhmatova remembers the great Russian poet. Plus, a leading Italian feminist on the international movement in the 1970s which demanded women get paid for housework; and the Australian women who helped turn public opinion against the Vietnam War. Picture: Gloria Steinem, centre, at the offices of Ms Magazine in New York circa 1974 (Credit: PL Gould/IMAGES/Getty Images) ... Read more

12 Mar 2022

50 MINS

50:03

12 Mar 2022


#280

Russia under Putin

How Vladimir Putin, a former KGB agent, rose to power and transformed Russia. We hear eyewitness accounts of Putin's war in Chechnya, his campaign against Russia's independent media, and the war in Georgia, which became a blueprint for the invasion of Ukraine. Plus the BBC's Russia specialist Lucy Ash tells us why Putin was shaped by his experience of the end of the Cold War, and we talk to Dr Katerina Tertytchnaya of UCL about Putin's popularity and a turning point in Russian popular protest. Photo: A Russian soldier walks through the streets of the destroyed Chechen capital Grozny, February 25, 2000. (Photo by Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images) ... Read more

05 Mar 2022

50 MINS

50:22

05 Mar 2022


#279

LGBT history special

In the 1990s, doctors in Berlin began a cutting-edge treatment programme that led to a patient being cured of HIV/AIDS. The so-called "Berlin patient" was Timothy Ray Brown: he was suffering from leukemia as well as HIV/AIDS, and was given a bone marrow transplant from a donor with a rare genetic mutation which killed off the HIV virus. We find more about Timothy Ray Brown's story and the latest research on an HIV cure. Also, in a special edition on LGBT history, how Bollywood lesbian drama "Fire" raised awareness of LGBT issues in India; the trans film star who made headlines in Yugoslavia during a time of war; and the first couple in the world to celebrate a same-sex civil union. PHOTO: Timothy Ray Brown in 2012 (Getty Images) ... Read more

19 Feb 2022

50 MINS

50:08

19 Feb 2022


#278

The Ukraine crisis: an eyewitness history

Former presidents and protestors recount two key moments in the history of the Ukraine crisis - from the historic meeting that ended the USSR to the dramatic anti-government protests in Ukraine in 2013-14. And the BBC's Lucy Ash explains how Russian-Ukrainian relations have evolved. Also in the programme, an eyewitness account of the forgotten mass killings in Burundi in 1972, plus the inventors of Google Maps and how Manolo Blahnik became a legend in the world of shoes. Photo: Kyiv, Ukraine - December 9th 2013. Anti-government protesters stand guard at one of the barricades defending Maidan Square against police. Credit: Etienne De Malglaive/Getty Images ... Read more

12 Feb 2022

49 MINS

49:58

12 Feb 2022


#277

Kazakhstan's new capital

How Kazakhstan's strongman president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, created a new capital, which would eventually be named after him; transformation in the UEA - the first Emirati female teacher in the 1960s; the murder of American journalist, Daniel Pearl; from 70 years ago, the passing of Britain’s King George VI; and a once-in-a-lifetime transit of Venus. Picture: Kazakhstan's capital, Astana, since renamed Nur-Sultan (credit: Shutterstock) ... Read more

05 Feb 2022

50 MINS

50:08

05 Feb 2022


#276

Fifty years since Northern Ireland's Bloody Sunday

In one of the most controversial episodes of 'The Troubles' in Northern Ireland, UK soldiers fired on unarmed Catholic protesters, killing 13 in January 1972. We look at why British troops were there, what happened on that day, and how it further polarised Protestant Unionist and Catholic Republican communities. Successive UK governments insisted the soldiers had returned fire in self defence, until a public inquiry reported in 2010 that the soldiers had in fact fired first - and at fleeing, unarmed, protesters. The then Prime Minister, David Cameron, apologised on behalf of the government. We'll speak to former BBC Northern Ireland Editor, Eimear O'Callaghan, who as a teenager kept a diary of life in sectarian Belfast in the 1970s, later published into a book, and who reported for years on the struggle for peace. Photo: A British soldier grabs hold of a protester by the hair. (Credit: AFP/Getty Images) ... Read more

29 Jan 2022

50 MINS

50:21

29 Jan 2022


#275

The rise of Boko Haram

In 2009, Boko Haram, a small Islamist group, launched an insurgency in the north eastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri. The conflict would eventually force hundreds of thousands from their homes, and leave tens of thousands dead. We hear a witness account of how the violence started. Plus, this past week Americans have been observing the Martin Luther King Jr. Day national holiday. The long campaign to have Dr King formally recognized in the US was led by his widow, Coretta Scott King. We hear from her daughter, Dr Bernice King, about the campaign. We dip into the BBC archive to bring you the story of the notorious Stanford Prison Experiment. Also, from the 1980s, a time when many wanted to get out of East Germany and into the West, the young woman who decided to go the other way and set up a new life in the East. And the Dutchman behind the first bike sharing scheme. Photo: A suspected Boko Haram house in Maiduguri set ablaze by Nigerian security forces, 30th July 2009 (AFP/Getty Images) ... Read more

22 Jan 2022

50 MINS

50:04

22 Jan 2022


#274

Hitler's Indian ally: Subhas Chandra Bose

The Indian independence campaigner, Subhas Chandra Bose, sided with Hitler's axis powers in World War Two to try to free his country from British rule. We'll hear from his great-niece about why she thinks that if he had lived he could have changed the course of India's history. We'll also hear from Dr Shruti Kapila of Cambridge University about why India's current government is celebrating Bose. Plus a nuclear scientist tells us about his role in a secret project to make safe vast swathes of nuclear-contaminated land in post-Soviet Kazakhstan - as well as preventing nuclear material from falling into the wrong hands. Also, the reckless actions which led to the sinking of the Costa Concordia cruise ship, the first woman to have silicone breast implants and Malick Sidibé, the Malian photographer whose work altered people's perceptions about 1960s Africa. Photo: Subhas Chandra Bose giving a speech in Nazi Germany in 1942. ... Read more

15 Jan 2022

50 MINS

50:20

15 Jan 2022


#273

Mozambique's Eduardo Mondlane: From professor to freedom fighter

Mozambique’s struggle to end Portuguese colonial rule and the assassination of Eduardo Mondlane, we'll hear from his daughter Nyeleti Brooke Mondlane and Dr Eric Morier-Genoud from Queen's University Belfast. Also, the brainwashing of Albanian youth under Stalinist Enver Hoxha's leadership, the fight for democracy in Taiwan and the worst ever loss of life at sea - the sinking of the German military transport ship, Wilhelm Gustloff in World War Two. All that plus, from the archives, the life and work of the celebrated French author Marcel Proust 100 years after his death. PHOTO: Eduardo Mondlane in 1966 (Getty Images) ... Read more

08 Jan 2022

50 MINS

50:00

08 Jan 2022


#272

A history of games

The inside story of games that shaped the modern world. Including Atari's Nolan Bushnell on his game Pong which helped launch the video game industry. Plus the origin of Grand Theft Auto, the man who invented Tetris, the son of the Lego brick pioneer and the true story of Monopoly. Max Pearson also talks to the technology journalist Louise Blain about the development of the huge gaming industry and where it goes next. Photo: Pong being played at a retro games event in Germany (Getty Images) ... Read more

01 Jan 2022

50 MINS

50:25

01 Jan 2022


#271

The right to drive in Saudi Arabia

In 2011, cybersecurity expert Manal Al-Sharif helped found the Women2Drive movement. It was designed to force the Saudi Arabian government to overturn its ban on women driving cars - one of the many restrictions on women in the Kingdom. Inspired by the mood of the Arab Spring, Saudi women got behind the wheel and then posted videos of themselves all over social media. The movement attracted international attention and the ban on women drivers was eventually lifted. Saudi journalist Safa Al-Ahmad describes how the lifting of the ban was a radical change to Saudi society, but women in the country still face many severe restrictions. Plus, how in 2010 a Tanzanian man with albinism braved threats and discrimination to become the country's first albino elected politician. Also, the dramatic story of how the great Russian ballet dancer, Rudolf Nureyev, defected from the Soviet Union in 1961. Finally, the festive history of how a town in Finnish Lapland, eviscerated during WWII, rose from the ashes to become the unofficial home of Santa Claus. Presented by Max Pearson. ... Read more

25 Dec 2021

49 MINS

49:55

25 Dec 2021


#270

The birth of Bangladesh

A special edition on the Bangladesh War of Independence, which ended 50 years ago in December 1971. The conflict killed hundreds of thousands of people and redrew the political map of South Asia. The programme features first-hand accounts from leading activists and politicians, as well as the people caught up in the war - from a Pakistani soldier to one of the many Bangladeshi women who suffered appalling sexual violence. There is expert analysis from Sabir Mustafa, the head of the BBC Bengali Service, and Witness History's Farhana Haider. PHOTO: The flag of Bangladesh is raised at the Awami League headquarters in 1971. Credit: Getty Images. ... Read more

18 Dec 2021

50 MINS

50:00

18 Dec 2021


#269

Four decades of HIV/Aids

It’s forty years since the first report on HIV/Aids appeared in a medical journal. Back in the early days in the 1980s a misunderstanding made one man the face of the epidemic. A Canadian air steward, Gaetan Dugas was mistakenly identified as ‘Patient Zero’. A misreading of scientific data had given the impression that he was responsible for the spread of the disease. We hear from people who knew him. Also one woman who was diagnosed in the 1980s tells us of the stigma at the time. And the discovery of the first successful treatment for HIV/Aids, as well as the story of how South African activists led the charge to make drugs widely available. And we hear from the former partner of the British film maker, Derek Jarman who was one of the first artists to speak openly about being HIV positive. Photo: Gaetan Dugas. (Credit: Rand Gaynor) ... Read more

04 Dec 2021

49 MINS

49:45

04 Dec 2021


#268

The assassination of the Mirabal sisters

The three Mirabal sisters were leading figures in the Dominican Republic's opposition movement against the dictator General Rafael Trujillo. They were all killed on the 25th November 1960. We hear from the daughter of one of them, Minerva, who tells us about her family and from Professor Elizabeth Manley on the Mirabal sister's legacy in the Dominican Republic. Also in the programme, the last case of Smallpox in Europe, the woman who helped her mother to die and laid the groundwork for the Netherlands becoming the first country in the world to legalise euthanasia. Also how Estonia led the way on connecting up schools to the internet and the painting by Gustav Klimt which was stolen by Nazis and only returned to its Jewish owners after a lengthy legal battle. Photo: The three Mirabal Sisters, Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa (Credit: Mirabal family collection) ... Read more

27 Nov 2021

50 MINS

50:10

27 Nov 2021


#267

Sudan's October Revolution

How in 1964 Sudanese civilian protesters first brought down a military regime, plus the hunt for former Serbian leader Radovan Karadžić later convicted of genocide and war crimes. Also in the programme, Russia's public outcry at the killing of human rights pioneer and leading female politician Galina Starovoitova in the 1990s, the birth of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for anxiety and depression, and getting shot in the arm for the sake of 'art' in the USA. Photo: People celebrate the fall of the military regime in Khartoum, November 1964 (Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images) ... Read more

20 Nov 2021

50 MINS

50:19

20 Nov 2021


#266

The South African football star murdered for being a lesbian

In 2008, the brutal murder of Eudy Simelane shocked South Africa and highlighted the widespread violence faced by South African women and members of the LGTBI community. But has anything changed? We hear from a friend of Eudy and speak to Sibongile Ndashe, a South African lawyer and human rights activist. Plus, we look back at the massive oil fires in Kuwait in 1991, battling racial discrimination in British schools in the 1960s, Cold War intelligence gathering in East Germany and the invention of Chanel No.5, 100 years ago. Photo: Eudy Simelane’s parents sat at the bridge named in their daughter’s honour. Credit: BBC ... Read more

13 Nov 2021

50 MINS

50:08

13 Nov 2021


#265

When Eritrea silenced its critics

An hour of first hand accounts from the past. Starting with a crackdown on opposition voices in Eritrea from twenty years ago, plus memories of the 1956 Hungarian uprising, the Nuremberg trials, a breakthrough in orthopaedics, and how the fictional character Fu Manchu prejudiced popular opinion against China and the Chinese for decades. ... Read more

06 Nov 2021

49 MINS

49:58

06 Nov 2021


#264

The child environmental activist of the 1990s

To mark the start of the UN Climate Change Conference, or COP26, taking place in Glasgow in the UK, we’re looking back at the history of our awareness of climate change with some of the scientists and activists who have been trying to solve this global crisis in recent decades. We hear from environmental activist Severn Cullis-Suzuki, who was just 12 years old when she implored world leaders to take action, at the 1992 UN Earth Summit in Rio De Janeiro. Plus, how a pioneering American scientist provided compelling evidence of man-made global warming back in the 1950s, and measuring melting glaciers at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Photo: Severn Cullis-Suzuki (2nd left) and her friends at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992. Courtesy of Severn Cullis-Suzuki. ... Read more

30 Oct 2021

50 MINS

50:11

30 Oct 2021


#263

The Greenham Common women's peace camp

The anti-nuclear weapons protest began in 1981 and lasted nineteen years. Also the first transgender priest in the Church of England, WW2 Polish refugees in Africa, plus why lesbian mothers caused such a stir in the 1970s and was the untimely death of Mozambique's President Samora Machel an assassination? Photo: Women from the Greenham Common peace camp blocking Yellow Gate into RAF Greenham Common , 1st April 1983 . (Photo by Staff/Reading Post/MirrorpixGetty Images) ... Read more

23 Oct 2021

50 MINS

50:12

23 Oct 2021


#262

The Pakistani law that jailed rape survivors

Under legislation known as the Hudood Ordinances introduced in 1979, a nearly blind teenaged rape survivor was jailed herself for having sex outside marriage. In 1983 Safia Bibi was sentenced to three years imprisonment, 15 lashes and a fine. The verdict and the draconian punishment galvanised the women's rights movement in Pakistan. Also in the programme the terrible price paid by an abortion doctor in 1990s America, the rise of a fascist movement in 1960s Britain plus the Saudi author who shook up Arabic fiction in the early 2000s and from 1987 how a baby stuck down a well in Texas gripped the world’s attention. ... Read more

16 Oct 2021

56 MINS

56:54

16 Oct 2021


#261

Black history: Britain and race

As part of our British black history coverage we look back at the racism faced by London's first black policeman from his own colleagues. We also hear about the death in police custody of black ex-soldier Christopher Alder. Plus, the intriguing story of a Somali sailor based in the UK in the early 20th century; the heartbreak faced by the children of black American soldiers and white British mothers during World War Two; and the story of Clyde Best, Britain's pioneering black footballer. Presenter Max Pearson also hears from Dr Martin Glynn of Birmingham City University's Black Studies course. Photo: London's first black policeman PC Norwell Roberts beginning his training with colleagues at Hendon Police College, London, 5 April 1967. Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images ... Read more

09 Oct 2021

49 MINS

49:41

09 Oct 2021