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
2018-12-18 12:43
last episode published
2018-12-18 09:00
publication frequency
1.44 days
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Date Thumb Title & Description Contributors

Theatre in the Sahara

Theatre director Peter Brook led a troupe of actors on a three-month-long journey across the Sahara Desert starting in December 1972. They performed improvised pieces to local villagers. Louise Hidalgo has been speaking to author and journalist John H...
BBC World Service author

The US Apologises for Wartime Internment

In 1988 President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act which gave a presidential apology and compensation to Japanese Americans interned during World War II. Farhana Haider has been speaking to Norman Mineta a former congressman who was instru...
BBC World Service author

China and Japan at War

Japanese troops reached the Chinese city of Nanjing in December 1937. The violence that followed marked one of the darkest moments in a struggle that continued throughout WW2. Rebecca Kesby has been speaking to former General Huang Shih Chung, who sur...
BBC World Service author

Englandspiel: The Deadly WW2 Spy Game

In 1942, a Dutch secret agent was captured by German military intelligence in the Netherlands. The agent's name was Haub Lauwers and he worked for the Special Operations Executive, a secret organisation set up by the British to wage a guerrilla war aga...
BBC World Service author

Cicely Saunders And The Modern Hospice Movement

In 1967, Dame Cicely Saunders opened the first modern hospice in South London. St Christopher's inspired the creation of thousands of similar hospices around the world and its scientific research helped establish the modern discipline of palliative med...
BBC World Service author

Apollo 8

The biggest audience in TV history watch NASA's Apollo 8 mission beam back the first pictures from an orbit around the moon at Christmas 1968. The broadcast captured the world's imagination and put the Americans ahead of the Soviet Union in the Cold Wa...
BBC World Service author

When China Joined the WTO

China had to relax its strict communist system to join the World Trade Organisation. Charlene Barshefsky was the US trade negotiator looking after American interests at the time. Freddie Chick has been hearing from Ms Barshefsky about the years of nego...
BBC World Service author

Angela Merkel's Rise to Power

Angela Merkel rose to power in German politics after the fall of her mentor, Helmut Kohl. He had accepted secret donations on behalf of their political party the CDU. After the scandal erupted in December 1999 Angela Merkel wrote a newspaper article c...
BBC World Service author

Adopted By The Man Who Killed My Family

Ramiro Osorio Cristales was just five years old when his family was murdered by the Guatemalan army, along with more than 200 other civilians from the Mayan village of Dos Erres. One of the soldiers who participated in the killings, Santos Lopez, took ...
BBC World Service author

The Armenian Earthquake

A catastrophic earthquake hit northern Armenia on the morning of December 7th 1988. At least 20,000 people were killed and thousands more injured. Anahit Karapetian was in school when the tremors hit her hometown of Spitak close to the epicentre. She...
BBC World Service author

The Coronation of Jean-Bédel Bokassa

Jean-Bédel Bokassa crowned himself Emperor of the Central African Republic in a lavish ceremony on the 4th of December 1977. He'd already been President for several years since taking power in a military coup - but he wanted more. Janet Ball has spok...
BBC World Service author

Berlin's Rubble Women

At the end of WW2 much of Germany's capital had been destroyed by bombing and artillery. Almost half of all houses and flats had been damaged and a million Berliners were homeless. Caroline Wyatt has been speaking to Helga Cent-Velden, one of the women...
BBC World Service author

Norway's EU referendum

At the end of November 1994, Norway voted in a referendum not to join the European Union. The issue had split the country, and Norway was the only one of four countries that had referendums on EU membership that year to vote against. A senior member of...
BBC World Service author

The Discovery of Dinosaur Eggs

The discovery of a nest of complete dinosaur eggs in Mongolia in 1923 provided the first proof that the prehistoric creatures hatched out of eggs rather than giving birth to live young. The American explorer who found them, Roy Chapman Andrews, became...
BBC World Service author

The Man Who Inspired Britain's First Aids Charity

In 1982, Terrence Higgins became the first known British victim of a frightening new disease called HIV/AIDS. In his memory, his friends set up the Terrence Higgins Trust - now Europe's leading charity in the area. Simon Watts talks to his former partn...
BBC World Service author

The Antarctic Whale Hunters

A personal account of the huge Antarctic industry which left whales on the brink of extinction. For centuries, whaling had been big business. Whale products were used in everything from lighting, to food and cosmetics. Hunting had decimated the whale p...
BBC World Service author

The Destruction Of Iraq's Marshlands

In the early 1990s, Saddam Hussein ordered the draining of southern Iraq's great marshes. It was one of the biggest environmental disasters of the twentieth century and an ancient way of life, dating back thousands of years, was almost wiped out. In 20...
BBC World Service author

The USSR Opens Up to the West

In 1957, just four years after Stalin's death, 30,000 students from 130 countries attended the 6th International Youth Festival in Moscow, a two week celebration of 'Peace and Freedom' with music, dance, theatre and sports. British student Kitty Hunter...
BBC World Service author

The Last Days of Yasser Arafat

The Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat died in November 2004. French doctors treating him at the military hospital in France where he died said Arafat had an unidentified blood disorder and gave the cause of death as a stroke. Since then there have been ...
BBC World Service author

The Story Behind The Man Who Shot JFK

What did Lee Harvey Oswald do for two years in the Soviet city of Minsk? And why did the American authorities let him return without any fuss in 1963? A few months later he would be arrested for shooting the US President. Vincent Dowd has been listenin...
BBC World Service author

The 'Braceros', America's Mexican Guest Workers

During the last years of World War Two, the American government began hiring poor Mexicans to come to work legally on US farms. The scheme was known as the 'Bracero' programme and lasted until 1964. Mike Lanchin presents archive recordings of some of t...
BBC World Service author

The Funeral of the Duke of Wellington

A man recorded by the BBC shares his memories of the funeral of the Duke of Wellington in 1852. The Duke was given a state funeral after defeating Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815. The British General was credited with preventing Napoleon Bonaparte from es...
BBC World Service author

Britain's Little Blue Disability Car

For decades disabled people in the UK were offered tiny, three-wheeled, turquoise cars as their main form of transport. They were known as Invacars and they were provided, free of charge, to people who couldn't use ordinary vehicles.They were phased ou...
BBC World Service author

Japanese Murders in Brazil

When WW2 was over, a fanatical group of Japanese immigrants living in Brazil refused to believe that Japan had lost the war. They decided to punish their more prominent compatriots who accepted that Japan had lost. The extremists killed 23 people. Aiko...
BBC World Service author

The Shah in Exile

In November 1979, Iranian students seized the American embassy in Tehran after Washington agreed to allow the deposed Shah into the US for medical treatment. It would be more than a year before the US embassy hostages were released and the crisis irrep...
BBC World Service author

Jewish in Imperial Russia

Pearl Unikow was a young woman who grew up in a segregated Jewish community in Russia before WW1. Her stories, recorded in Yiddish in the 1970s, provide a rare account of traditional Jewish life. Her granddaughter Lisa Cooper wrote a book based on thos...
BBC World Service author

How The Brazilian Dictatorship Made My Father Disappear

On a hot summer day in 1971, six armed men invaded the house of former Congressman Rubens Paiva in Rio de Janeiro. He was taken from his wife and children, never to be seen again. Paiva was one of the most famous Brazilians to disappear during the mili...
BBC World Service author

WW1: Revolution in Germany

After four years of war Germany was on the verge of defeat. Its armies were exhausted and in retreat, its civilian population enduring hardship and hunger. As unrest grew at home, the German government and military struggled to maintain control. The Ge...
BBC World Service author

Women Nurses during World War One

During World War One, two British nurses set up a first aid station just a few hundred metres behind the trenches of the Western Front. Mairi Chisholm and Elsie Knocker became known as 'the Madonnas of Pervyse'. Mairi Chisholm spoke to the BBC in 1977,...
BBC World Service author

African Troops during World War One

At the start of World War One, British and German colonial forces went into battle in East Africa. Tens of thousands of African troops and up to a million porters were conscripted to fight and keep the armies supplied. Alex Last brings you very rare re...
BBC World Service author

The Battle of Passchendaele

It was one of the defining battles of the First World War. Britain and its allies had ambitious plans to break through German lines - but they ended up mired in mud. Listen to the voices of soldiers who took part - from the BBC archive. Photo: Getty...
BBC World Service author

My Kristallnacht Story

On 9 November1938 Nazis led attacks on Jewish homes and businesses across Germany. Because of the number of windows that were smashed it would be remembered as the 'night of broken glass' or Kristallnacht. Writer and artist Nora Krug investigated what ...
BBC World Service author

Why I Slapped the German Chancellor

In November 1968 a young activist hit Germany's leader in public, to draw attention to his Nazi past. The activist was Beate Klarsfeld - the Chancellor was Kurt Georg Kiesinger. Tim Mansel has been listening to Beate Klarsfeld's memories of what happ...
BBC World Service author

Princess Margaret And The War Hero

In October 1955, Britain was gripped by a romance between the young Princess Margaret and a glamorous, but divorced, ex-fighter pilot called Captain Peter Townsend. The couple had been in love for years, but after opposition from Buckingham Palace cour...
BBC World Service author

Life With America's Black Panthers

Eldridge Cleaver, one of the leaders of the radical African American Black Panther party, spent more than three years in exile in Algeria in the late 1960s. He set up an international office for the Black Panthers, mingling with dozens of left-wing rev...
BBC World Service author

The KGB's Whistleblower

Senior KGB archivist Vasili Mitrokhin risked his life smuggling thousands of top-secret Soviet intelligence files out of KGB headquarters, and bringing them to the West. His archive was one of the largest hauls of information to leak out of a major int...
BBC World Service author

The Day Nigeria Struck Oil

An eyewitness account of a discovery that changed Nigerian history. Chief Sunday Inengite was 19 years old when prospectors from the Shell D'Arcy oil company first came to his village of Oloibiri in the Niger Delta in search of crude oil. It was there ...
BBC World Service author

When Russia's Richest Man Was Jailed

When Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky was jailed in 2003, it was the start of President Putin's crackdown on the oligarchs. He shares his memories of that time with Dina Newman. Photo: former head of Yukos Mikhail Khodorkovsky leaving the courtroo...
BBC World Service author

The Arrest in London of Augusto Pinochet

The former Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet, was arrested in London in October 1998. Spanish lawyers wanted him extradited to Spain to face charges of torturing and murdering political opponents in Chile. He claimed immunity as a former head of state...
BBC World Service author

Desmond Tutu Wins the Nobel Peace Prize

In October 1984, one of South Africa's most well-known human rights activists, Desmond Tutu, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his opposition to apartheid. Two years later he became the first black head of the Anglican church in Southern Africa. Ar...
BBC World Service author

When Belgium Banned Coca Cola

In 1999 Belgian teenagers started to become ill after drinking Coca Cola. Many ended up in hospital and the government banned the sale of all Coca Cola products but the fizzy drink was given the all-clear so what was making the children sick? Claire Bo...
BBC World Service author

The Pergau Dam Affair

In October 1993 news broke about an arms deal with Malaysia that led to the biggest development aid scandal in British history. It became known as the Pergau Dam Affair. Tim Mansel has been speaking to Tim Lankester, a British civil servant, who found...
BBC World Service author

Brazil's Hidden War in the Amazon

In the early 1970's, at the peak of political repression and persecution in Brazil, a collection of left-wing students and liberal professionals decided to move to a remote region in the Amazon to fight the military dictatorship. Two survivors from the...
BBC World Service author

The 1973 Oil Crisis

In October 1973 Arab nations slashed oil production in protest at American support for Israel during it's war against Egypt and Syria. Oil prices sky rocketed. Alex Last heard from former deputy secretary general of OPEC, Dr Fadhil Chalabi, about the s...
BBC World Service author

Fighting Mount Etna

The Italian authorities tried to divert the stream of molten lava pouring down the slopes of the Etna volcano on the island of Sicily in 1983. Susan Hulme has been speaking to volcanologist, Dr John Murray, who was there watching their efforts to save...
BBC World Service author

Archbishop Oscar Romero

The murdered Archbishop of San Salvador, Oscar Romero, is being made a saint of the Roman Catholic church. He was killed in 1980 by a right-wing death squad as he said mass at the altar. His death pushed El Salvador into its bloody civil war. Mike La...
BBC World Service author

Austria at War

In October 1945, Austria got its first provisional government since its annexation by Nazi Germany a year before the Second World War. Wilfriede Iwaniuk was 14 when Hitler marched into Vienna; she tells Louise Hidalgo about the harshness of the war yea...
BBC World Service author

The Nazi Black Book

During World War Two the German secret service compiled a book listing all the people they wanted to arrest in Britain if it fell to the Nazis. The top-secret 'Special Search Index GB' contained details of politicians and intellectuals and people who h...
BBC World Service author

Anti-traveller Riots in Sweden

In 1948 racist violence broke out against Romany-speaking traveller people in Sweden. The riots in the town of Jönköping lasted for several days. Birgitta Hellström and Barbro Gustafsson are sisters from the traveller community and they have been spe...
BBC World Service author

Reform of the House of Lords

Britain's Labour government was determined to get rid of the unelected aristocrats sitting in the House of Lords - Parliament's second chamber. But the hereditary peers didn't go without a fight. Susan Hulme has been speaking to Marquis of Salisbury th...
BBC World Service author