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Witness History podcast

Witness History

History as told by the people who were there.

History as told by the people who were there.

 

#300

How the world woke up to climate change

Professor James Hansen finally got US politicians to listen to his warnings about climate change in June 1988 after years of trying. He and fellow NASA scientists had first predicted global warming almost a decade earlier. Professor Hansen spoke to Ashley Byrne about his discoveries in 2018. This programme is a rebroadcast.It is a Made in Manchester production. Image: Map of the world. Credit: Science Photo Library. ... Read more

27 Oct 2021

09 MINS

09:36

27 Oct 2021


#299

The world's first environment conference

The first international conference on the problems of the environment took place in Stockholm in 1972. It didn't concentrate on climate change but on the damage that was being done to animals and forests by the encroachment of humans and industry. It also highlighted some of the splits between rich and poor nations over who should make the greatest changes to save the planet. Maurice Strong, who organised the gathering, spoke to Claire Bowes about why it was so difficult to get the countries of the world to agree on change. Photo: Maurice Strong (right) shakes hands with Brazilian indigenous chief Kanhok Caiapo. AFP/Getty. ... Read more

26 Oct 2021

08 MINS

08:59

26 Oct 2021


#298

Proving climate change: the 'Keeling Curve'

A young American scientist began the work that would show how our climate is changing in 1958. His name was Charles Keeling and he started meticulously recording levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. He would carry on taking measurements for decades. His wife Louise and son Ralph spoke to Louise Hidalgo about him and his work. (Photo: Thick black smoke blowing out of an industrial chimney. Credit: John Giles/PA) ... Read more

25 Oct 2021

08 MINS

08:49

25 Oct 2021


#297

Britain’s lesbian families ‘scandal’

In January 1978 a London newspaper revealed how several British lesbians had conceived babies using donor sperm with the help of a respected gynaecologist. The doctor hadn’t broken any laws in providing the fertility treatment but the stigma surrounding homosexuality at the time meant the revelations started a media frenzy and a heated national debate. There were discussions in the press, in the streets and in Parliament. One MP called for a ban on the practice and called it ‘evil’, ‘selfish’ and ‘horrific’. Dr Gill Hanscombe had used artificial insemination to start a family with her two lesbian partners. When the press found out about them she was terrified that they were about to lose their jobs, and potentially their child. Produced and presented by Viv Jones. (PHOTO: Gill Hanscombe (left) with her partners Dee and Pru, and their son. Courtesy of Gill Hanscombe.) ... Read more

22 Oct 2021

08 MINS

08:58

22 Oct 2021


#296

The Greenham Common women's peace camp

The anti-nuclear weapons protest was the biggest women-led movement in the UK since the Suffragettes. It began in 1981 when Ann Pettitt from Wales organised a women-led peace march from the Welsh capital Cardiff to the airbase at Greenham Common, where American nuclear-tipped cruise missiles were being kept. A small group of women decided to set up camp outside the fences of Greenham Common to continue their protest. Women from all over the UK joined the demonstrations, some travelled from Europe and beyond to lend their support. At its peak, thousands of women camped around the base, and some form of protest camp remained for 19 years until all the nuclear weapons were moved and the airbase was decommissioned. It's now an open nature reserve. Ann Pettitt has been telling Rebecca Kesby why the women were prepared to leave jobs and families to sleep out in the cold to try to stop a nuclear war. 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

21 Oct 2021

14 MINS

14:45

21 Oct 2021


#295

Polish refugees in Africa

During World War Two, close to 20,000 Polish people found refuge in Africa. They arrived after surviving imprisonment in Soviet labour camps and a harrowing journey across the Soviet Union to freedom. Casimir Szczepanik arrived as a child in a refugee camp in Zimbabwe (then Southern Rhodesia). He talks to Rob Walker about his life there and the impact the war still has on him. Photo:Casimir Szczepanik and his mother in the refugee camp. Credit:Casimir Szczepanik ... Read more

20 Oct 2021

08 MINS

08:58

20 Oct 2021


#294

The mysterious death of Samora Machel

When the socialist leader of Mozambique and some of his senior advisers were killed in a plane crash on the border with South Africa, many were suspicious. It was 19 October 1986 and the two countries were divided over Apartheid. The plane made a sudden direct turn straight into a range of mountains, and one of the air crash investigators at the scene, Dr Alan Diehl, told Rebecca Kesby there are reasons to suspect the plane was deliberately diverted off course. (Photo: The socialist leader of Mozambique Samora Machel delivers a speech. Credit: Getty Images.) ... Read more

19 Oct 2021

09 MINS

09:07

19 Oct 2021


#293

The first transgender minister in the Church of England

Sarah Jones is the first person who had undergone a gender change to be ordained in the Church of England. She has been talking to Phil Marzouk about her journey towards the priesthood. She says that in her early life she knew that although she had been born a boy, she wasn’t one. She also knew that she wanted to work in the church. She transitioned as a woman in 1991, and was first ordained as a deacon in the Church of England in 2004. Photo: Sarah Jones. ... Read more

18 Oct 2021

09 MINS

09:03

18 Oct 2021


#292

The doctor killed by an anti-abortion extremist

In America, there are few issues as controversial as abortion. It’s a major fault line that runs through society, dividing families and even influencing elections. In the 1980s and 1990s, some groups within America’s anti-abortion movement became militant. There were hundreds of bombing and arson attacks on clinics. Some groups began to argue that to save the lives of what they called ‘pre-born babies’, it was morally justifiable to murder abortion providers. Journalist Amanda Robb tells Viv Jones how her uncle, Dr Barnett Slepian, was killed in 1998. An anti-abortion extremist shot him through his kitchen window in front of his wife and four young sons. His shooting followed years of harassment and intimidation. (Photo: Portrait of Doctor Barnett Slepian, his wife and his four sons. Getty/Liaison) ... Read more

15 Oct 2021

08 MINS

08:47

15 Oct 2021


#291

The Pakistani law that jailed rape survivors

Under legislation known as the Hudood Ordinances introduced in 1979, a nearly blind teenage girl who'd been raped by two men and then became pregnant, was jailed herself for having sex outside marriage. In 1983 Safia Bibi was sentenced to three years imprisonment, 15 lashes and a fine. There was public outrage and anger from Pakistani women against the verdict and draconian punishment. Farhana Haider has been speaking to leading Pakistani lawyer and human rights advocate, Hina Jilani, who helped overturn the verdict. ... Read more

14 Oct 2021

12 MINS

12:50

14 Oct 2021


#290

The story of 'Baby Jessica'

Eighteen-month-old Jessica McClure fell down a well-shaft while playing with other children in Texas in October 1987. It took almost three days to free her, and as the rescue effort got underway the American media became transfixed by her story. Susan Hulme has been talking Joe Faulkner, a neighbour who watched the drama unfold. Photo: a policeman carries Jessica away from the well shaft. Credit: Barbara Laing/Liaison Agency/Getty Images. ... Read more

13 Oct 2021

08 MINS

08:59

13 Oct 2021


#289

Colin Jordan and the British Nazi rally

In 1960s Britain extreme right-wing groups were on the rise. A schoolteacher called Colin Jordan led a Nazi rally in Trafalgar Square in central London. He openly praised Hitler and called for Britain to be freed from what he called 'Jewish control'. He was also a white supremacist who called for the repatriation of black people. Claire Bowes has been speaking to Gerry Gable, a Jewish anti-fascist activist who helped infiltrate Jordan's National Socialist Movement as well as helping secure the arrest of his former wife, Francoise Dior, for inciting arson attacks on two London synagogues. (Photo: British neo-Nazi politician Colin Jordan and French socialite Francoise Dior, UK, 7 October 1963; she is wearing a swastika shaped pendant and behind them, a portrait of Adolf Hitler. Credit: Felkin/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images) ... Read more

12 Oct 2021

10 MINS

10:35

12 Oct 2021


#288

Winning the Arabic Booker prize

Saudi author Raja Alem was a voracious reader from an early age and thanks to her liberal-minded father, grew up immersed in books. She was in her early teens when she began to write novellas and then articles in the cultural supplements of newspapers in her native Saudi Arabia. In 2011, she became the first woman to win the prestigious international Booker prize for Arabic fiction for her novel The Dove's Necklace - a murder mystery set in modern-day Mecca. Mike Lanchin has been speaking to Raja about her writing and the influences that have made her unique among Saudi authors. Photo by Leonardo Cendamo/Getty Images ... Read more

11 Oct 2021

08 MINS

08:58

11 Oct 2021


#287

Clyde Best - A black footballing pioneer

Bermuda-born Clyde Best came to England as a teenager in 1968 and went on to play for West Ham United alongside the likes of Bobby Moore and Geoff Hurst. Best made a name for himself as a talented goal-scorer in more than 200 appearances for the Hammers, but he faced constant racist abuse from fans, and on occasion, from opposition players. Clyde Best told Mike Lanchin about how he stood up to the racists in English soccer. (Photo: Clyde Best on the ball, 4 March 1972. Credit: Mirror Group Newspapers/Mirrorpix/Getty Images) ... Read more

08 Oct 2021

10 MINS

10:16

08 Oct 2021


#286

The unlawful death of Christopher Alder

In 1998, Christopher Alder, a black former soldier, choked to death in handcuffs on the floor of a British police station. CCTV footage 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 Christopher Alder was unlawfully killed but no-one has ever been held accountable for his death. Farhana Haider spoke to Janet Alder about her long fight to get justice for her brother. Photo:Christopher Alder (Alder family handout) ... Read more

07 Oct 2021

13 MINS

13:20

07 Oct 2021


#285

A Somali sailor in 1920s Britain

In the early 20th century, many Somali seafarers made their way to Britain on merchant ships, establishing communities in cities such as Cardiff. One of them, Ibrahim Ismaa'il, made his way to the UK from the port of Aden. He then struck up an unlikely friendship with an eminent anthropologist who lived in an alternative community in the Cotswolds. The anthropologist later recorded Ismaa'il's remarkable life-story. Chloe Hadjimatheou reports. PHOTO: A British liner in the port of Aden in the 1920s (Getty Images). ... Read more

06 Oct 2021

10 MINS

10:09

06 Oct 2021


#284

Britain's World War Two 'Brown Babies'

During World War Two, tens of thousands of African-American US servicemen passed through the UK as part of the war effort. The black 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 spoke 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) ... Read more

05 Oct 2021

10 MINS

10:45

05 Oct 2021


#283

London's first black policeman

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, Norwell endured years of racist abuse from colleagues within the force. Norwell Roberts spoke to Alex Last about growing up in Britain and his determination to be a pioneer in the police. (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

04 Oct 2021

10 MINS

10:10

04 Oct 2021


#282

The Tanker War

In November 1987, the Romanian cargo ship, the Fundulea, was attacked by an Iranian gunboat in the Persian Gulf. It was just one of hundreds of merchant ships hit by missiles or mines in the Gulf during the Iran-Iraq war, as both sides sought to damage each other's oil exports and trade. The conflict at sea became known as the Tanker War. Major naval powers deployed to the Gulf to protect their shipping, but many ships, like the Fundulea, ran the gauntlet unescorted. Alex Last has been speaking to Florentin Dacian Botta, who was on board the Fundulea when it was attacked. Photo: Tug boats spray water to extinguish fires onboard the stricken Romanian freighter, the Fundulea, after it was attacked by an Iranian gunboat, 23rd November 1987 ( NORBERT SCHILLER/AFP via Getty Images) ... Read more

01 Oct 2021

10 MINS

10:01

01 Oct 2021


#281

Petra Kelly and the German Greens

In the early 1980s in West Germany, a radical new political party was on the rise. Die Grünen - the Greens - championed protecting the environment, scrapping nuclear power plants and nuclear missiles, and stopping pollution. A movement as well as a party, the Greens brought together disparate groups of environmentalists, conservative farmers and youthful anti-nuclear activists. Petra Kelly, the party’s most prominent spokesperson, was a charismatic speaker who became an international name. Her life was cut short when she was killed by her partner in 1992. Sara Parkin, friend and biographer of Petra Kelly, shares her memories of the Greens’ early successes and reflects on Kelly’s legacy today. Image: Petra Kelly. Credit: Mehner/ullstein bild via Getty Images ... Read more

30 Sep 2021

08 MINS

08:57

30 Sep 2021