The story of our times told by the people who were there.

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The story of our times told by the people who were there.
🇬🇧 English
last modified
2019-05-20 04:46
last episode published
2019-05-17 08:30
publication frequency
1.43 days
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Date Thumb Title & Description Contributors

Hitler's stolen children

During the Second World War Nazi officials searched for blonde blue-eyed children in the countries they had occupied. The children were removed from their families as part of a plan to build an Aryan master race. Ingrid Von Oelhafen grew up in Germany ...
BBC World Service author

China's One Child policy

The Chinese Communist Party started ruthlessly enforcing birth control in the early 1980s. People with more than one child faced fines, or lost their jobs, or had children forcibly adopted. Yashan Zhao has been speaking to Zhou Guanghong who experienc...
BBC World Service author

The final days of Sri Lanka's civil war

In May 2009 the Sri Lankan army finally crushed the Tamil Tiger rebels, ending 25 years of bloody civil war. In the final weeks of the conflict, thousands of civilians were trapped alongside the rebels under heavy shelling as the government forces clos...
BBC World Service author

Predicting the financial crash

In the early 2000s, a handful of experts warned that the world was sleep-walking towards a financial crisis. Among them were South-African born political economist Ann Pettifor and the IMF's chief economist at the time, Raghu Rajan. But their warnings ...
BBC World Service author

The Karakoram highway

In 1979 one of the great engineering feats of the 20th Century was completed and the Karakoram highway between Pakistan and China was finally opened. The highway, known as the Friendship Highway in China, was started in 1959. Due to its high elevation ...
BBC World Service author

Strictly Come Dancing

One of the most successful TV formats in the world started back in May 2004, bringing ballroom dancing to a new generation. Its format has been sold around the world under the title 'Dancing With The Stars'. Co-creator and executive producer of Strict...
BBC World Service author

The war on drugs

The first 'war on drugs' was launched by US President Richard Nixon in 1971. He described drug abuse as a 'national emergency' and asked Congress for nearly four hundred million dollars to tackle the problem. Claire Bowes has been speaking to one of Ni...
BBC World Service author

The Bauhaus

The groundbreaking Bauhaus school of art and design was founded in Germany in 1919. It would go on to have a huge impact on architecture and design around the world, with the clean lines and minimalist elegance of its distinctive modernist aesthetic in...
BBC World Service author

The siege of Dien Bien Phu

On May 7th 1954, French forces surrendered after a bloody 56-day siege of their base at Dien Bien Phu in the north of Vietnam. Their defeat by the communist independence movement, the Viet Minh, signalled the end of French colonial rule in Indochina. W...
BBC World Service author

Jack Ma: The founder of Alibaba

The Chinese billionaire set up his online shopping site in 1999. When Alibaba first started, Jack Ma and his team were working out of a small flat in Hangzhou. The BBC's Michael Bristow has been hearing from Duncan Clark, who first worked with the int...
BBC World Service author

The Malayan Emergency

In 1948, British colonial authorities declared a State of Emergency in the territory of Malaya, now part of Malaysia. It was in response to the start of a Communist rebellion. From their bases in the jungle, Communist fighters carried out hundreds of g...
BBC World Service author

The sinking of the Belgrano

The Argentine ship, General Belgrano, was sunk by a British submarine during the Falklands War on 2nd of May 1982. 323 people died in the attack. Dario Volonte, now an opera singer, was one of the survivors and he spoke to Louise Hidalgo about the at...
BBC World Service author

The Arctic African

Tété-Michel Kpomassie, grew up in West Africa but he was obsessed with the Arctic. When he was 16 years old he ran away from his village in Togo determined to reach Greenland.. It took him eight years but in 1965, he finally arrived. He then went nort...
BBC World Service author

Rupert Brooke

In April 2015, Britain mourned when poet and national hero Rupert Brooke died on a troopship in the Dardanelles during World War I. Often compared to a Greek god because of his blond good looks, Brooke had written a series of famous sonnets that reflec...
BBC World Service author

Ellen comes out

Ellen DeGeneres came out as a lesbian publicly in April 1997 – and so did the fictional character she played in her self-titled sitcom. The Puppy Episode would be watched by more than 40 million people and represented a milestone for LGBT representatio...
BBC World Service author

The al-Yamamah arms deals

A record series of arms sales from the UK to Saudi Arabia was worth tens of billions of dollars. The first al-Yamamah deal was agreed between Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and King Fahd of Saudi Arabia. But the deals were dogged by allegations of co...
BBC World Service author

Sri Lanka: A journalist's editorial from the grave

The assassination of newspaper editor, Lasantha Wickramatunga, shocked the world in 2009. Sri Lanka's civil war between the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority was nearing its climax when he was shot dead by gunmen on motorbikes. After his murder...
BBC World Service author

South Africa's first free elections

After Apartheid all South Africans, regardless of race, were finally able to vote for the first time in April 1994. Organising the elections was a huge logistical challenge, white supremacists staged terror attacks to try to sabotage the vote and viole...
BBC World Service author

Britain's first vegans

The Vegan Society was established in 1944 by British 'non-dairy vegetarians'. They wanted to persuade other people not just to give up meat, but milk and eggs too. But the first vegans often got ill, because there was one vital element missing from t...
BBC World Service author

Nato bombs Serbian TV

In April 1999 Nato bombed the Serbian state TV station in Belgrade, killing 16 people. It was part of a military campaign to force Serbia to withdraw from Kosovo. Mike Lanchin has been speaking to one of the survivors, Dragan Suchovic, a TV technician,...
BBC World Service author

The Columbine massacre

On April 20th 1999 a mass shooting in the USA shocked the world and started a devastating trend of violence in American schools. 13 people were killed and more than 20 were injured by two armed school students. Ashley Byrne has been speaking to Craig S...
BBC World Service author

How organic farming started

In the aftermath of World War Two pesticides and chemical fertilisers started to become more widespread in the UK. Worries about the effect this would have on soil quality led Lady Eve Balfour to establish the Soil Association to promote natural farmin...
BBC World Service author

Auto-destructive art

In 1959 the German artist Gustav Metzger came up with a new and subversive form of art. He called it auto-destructive art. It was art as a political weapon and a challenge to the established status quo. Metzger, a survivor of the Nazi Holocaust, organi...
BBC World Service author

The first play on Broadway written by a black woman

'A Raisin in the Sun' opened on Broadway in 1959. It had an almost exclusively black cast and a black director too. The playwright, Lorraine Hansberry, based it on her own family's story of being forced out of a white neighbourhood in Chicago. The titl...
BBC World Service author

Dennis Tito - the first space tourist

In April 2001 an American multi-millionaire paid Russia's space agency millions of dollars to blast him into space. He spent time on the International Space Station and returned to earth after eight days in space. Dennis Tito, who was 60 years old at...
BBC World Service author

Chinese restaurant syndrome

Diners at Chinese restaurants in America in the 1960's began to report unusual symptoms, including headaches, flushing, numbness at the back of the neck. It was linked to the man-made flavour enhancer monosodium glutamate or MSG – but it was also par...
BBC World Service author

The rise of Hindu nationalism

In 1990 the president of Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP, LK Advani, embarked on a political and religious rally called the Rath Yatra or chariot march. Championing a politics based on Hindutva or militant Hinduism. Farhana Haider has been speaking to RK...
BBC World Service author

The man who invented wingsuits

The wingsuit is the ultimate in extreme sports clothing. An aerodynamic outfit for BASE jumpers and skydivers it allows them to free-fall for longer before opening a parachute. Jonathan Coates has been speaking to skydiver Jari Kuosma, about the suits ...
BBC World Service author

The Amritsar Massacre of 1919

On 13 April 1919, British Indian troops fired on an unarmed crowd at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar in the Punjab. Hundreds were killed. The massacre caused an outcry in India and abroad, and would be a turning point for the growing Indian nationalist mo...
BBC World Service author

The man who made Marilyn Monroe dance

Choreographer Jack Cole had a huge influence on musical theatre and Hollywood films - most memorably with Marilyn Monroe in the film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. But much of his inspiration came from Indian dance. Vincent Dowd has been speaking to the Am...
BBC World Service author

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Maya Angelou's iconic first memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, was published in spring 1969. The book was an instant best-seller, and was one of the first literary accounts of growing up as a black girl in the southern states of America, includin...
BBC World Service author

Abolishing the army

After a brief civil war in March-April 1948, the new president of Costa Rica, Jose Figueres, took the audacious step of dissolving the Armed Forces. Since then Costa Rica has been the only Latin American nation without a standing army. Mike Lanchin has...
BBC World Service author

The warship lost for more than 300 years

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 2 hours into its maiden voyage, it sank in Stockholm's harbour. It remained there f...
BBC World Service author

EMDR: the eye-movement therapy

EMDR is a form of psychotherapy which works for many sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder. The 'eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing' technique was first developed in the USA in the late 1980s by Francine Shapiro. She set up an EMDR Ins...
BBC World Service author

Patty Hearst the rebel heiress

Patty Hearst was kidnapped by an extreme left-wing group called the Symbionese Liberation Army in 1974. She had been held hostage for two months when, in April of that year, she announced that she had come to share their beliefs. She would go on to ta...
BBC World Service author

Mindfulness for the masses

In 1979 scientist Jon Kabat-Zinn opened the Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, pioneering a meditative approach to treat pain and depression.  In a few decades mindfulness has gone from being a ...
BBC World Service author

The secret Nazi past of Kurt Waldheim

Witness History talks to the American lawyer who led the investigation into the secret Nazi past of former United Nations Secretary-General, Kurt Waldheim. Kurt Waldheim was standing for election to the Austrian presidency when the allegations first em...
BBC World Service author

Around the world in 20 days

In March 1999 Brian Jones and Bertrand Piccard made the first non-stop flight around the world in a balloon. Beginning in Switzerland and finishing over Africa, the record-breaking trip took just 20 days. Pilot Brian Jones has been telling Mike Lanchin...
BBC World Service author

Drama in the British parliament

In March 1979, the British Prime Minister James Callaghan was struggling desperately to govern with a parliamentary majority of just three. When the Conservative opposition tabled a motion of no-confidence, his party whips fought a furious - and ultima...
BBC World Service author

The first home pregnancy test

A female designer working for an American pharmaceutical company came up with the idea in the 1960s, but her bosses didn't like it at first. Margaret Crane has been telling Maria Elena Navas how she had to develop her designs on her own after being tol...
BBC World Service author

The rise of Viktor Orban

Viktor Orban, now the populist Hungarian Prime Minister, was an anti-communist youth leader in 1988. Over the years his party has become increasingly nationalist. His former friend and fellow activist Gabor Fodor shared personal memories of Viktor Orba...
BBC World Service author

Autism and the MMR vaccine

A British doctor published an article in the leading medical journal The Lancet in 1998 that led to a global panic over the triple vaccine protecting children against measles, mumps and rubella. Dr Andrew Wakefield linked the MMR vaccine with autism. ...
BBC World Service author

The discovery of the Aztec Moon Goddess

Electricity workers in Mexico City accidentally uncovered a massive stone sculpture in 1978. It turned out to be the Aztec Goddess of the Moon, Coyolxauhqui. The sculpture was found in an area where the Aztecs, 500 years earlier, had built the capita...
BBC World Service author

The first democratic elections in the USSR

On March 26th 1989, Soviet citizens were given their first chance to vote for non-communists in parliamentary elections. Democrats led by Boris Yeltsin won seats across the country. Dina Newman spoke to Sergei Stankevich who was one of the successful c...
BBC World Service author

The millionaire Nazi war criminal

The story of how one of the wealthiest men in the Netherlands was exposed as a Nazi war criminal. In the 1970s, Pieter Menten was a respected art dealer, but it was revealed that during the Second World War, he had led mass killings in eastern Poland. ...
BBC World Service author

How Little America was built in Afghanistan

In the 1950s, US engineers were sent to Afghanistan to build a huge dam. The aim was to irrigate the deserts of Helmand. The town of Lashkar Gah was built to house the workers. Photo: Lashkar Gah from the air, 1957.
BBC World Service author


In March 1969, the cult American author, Kurt Vonnegut, published his famous anti-war novel, Slaughterhouse-Five. The novel is a mixture of science fiction and Vonnegut's experiences as a prisoner-of-war during the fire-bombing of the German city of Dr...
BBC World Service author

China's breakthrough malaria cure

Chinese scientists used ancient traditional medicine to find a cure for malaria in the 1970s. Artemisinin was discovered by exploring a herbal remedy from the 4th century, a small team of scientists managed to harness the medicinal properties from the ...
BBC World Service author

Lenin and the deadly mushrooms

As communism was crumbling in the early 1990s a spoof made for Soviet TV, persuaded some Russians that Vladimir Lenin's personality had been seriously affected by hallucinogenic mushrooms. The mushrooms in question were the deadly poisonous fly agaric ...
BBC World Service author

The fall of Singapore

In 1942, during the Second World War, the British colony of Singapore fell to Japanese forces. Its capture marked the start of Japan's three-and-a-half year occupation of the island state, during which many ethnic Chinese living in Singapore were round...
BBC World Service author