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The History Hour


A compilation of the latest Witness History programmes.

A compilation of the latest Witness History programmes.


United Kingdom




A compilation of the latest Witness History programmes.




Dassler brothers' rift

A collection of this week's Witness History programmes, presented by Max Pearson. The guest is Nicholas Smith, author of "Kicks: The Great American Story of Sneakers" and Presenter of the BBC's "Sneakernomics" podcast. He explains how footwear revolutionised sport and became high-fashion. In 1948, two brothers from a small German town called Rudi and Adi Dassler created the sportswear firms Puma and Adidas. Reena Stanton-Sharma hears from Adi Dassler’s daughter, Sigi Dassler, who remembers...


Queen Elizabeth II and broadcasting

We look at some of the broadcasts delivered by Queen Elizabeth II including her first radio address to the children of the Commonwealth on 13 October 1940. Former BBC royal correspondent Jennie Bond looks back on the Queen's significant moments in front of a microphone. Pope Paul VI's first visit to Africa when he travelled to Uganda in 1969, and was hosted by an Ismaili Muslim family and the start of the Iran-Iraq war in September 1980. (Photo: Princess Elizabeth makes a broadcast from the...

Queen Elizabeth II

We hear personal accounts of historical moments during the seventy year reign of Queen Elizabeth II. Memories from the Queen's maids of honour from her coronation in 1953; the huge race her horse very nearly won as well as the Windsor Castle fire and the opening to the public of Buckingham Palace. Presented by Max Pearson. (Photo: Queen Elizabeth II. Credit: Getty Images)



Stories from Brazil, ahead of the presidential election in October, including the murder of Tim Lopes, the hero of Brazilian democracy and the Candelaria Massacre. Plus the creation of the capital, Brasilia, and the history of the Fusca - the car that charmed Brazil. This programme contains descriptions of violence and some listeners may find parts of it distressing. (Photo: Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro. Credit: Buena Vista Images)


Gorbachev's legacy

The former President of the Soviet Union's reforms in 1987, known as Perestroika, and the release of the dissident poet Irina Ratushinskaya in 1986. Plus a survivor of the Marikana Massacre in South Africa, the Native American nicknamed 'the Last Indian' and Princess Diana's dance with John Travolta at the White House. (Photo: Mikhail Gorbachev (centre right) meets with the Warsaw Pact Foreign Ministers' Committee in Moscow in 1987. Credit: AFP / Getty Images)


Inflation and the cost of living

A compilation of witness accounts from when inflation and the cost of living were seriously affecting people's lives, among other topics. In 1971, inflation was a huge problem in the USA so the President, Richard Nixon, made one of the most drastic moves in economic history; abandoning the Gold Standard. It became known as the 'Nixon Shock' and nearly caused a trade war between America and its allies. But, it also saved the US economy from a crisis. Ben Henderson spoke to Bob Hormats, an...


Seventy-five years since India's Partition

Max Pearson presents a compilation of stories marking 75 years since India's Partition. We'll hear the stories of people from both sides of the divide and find out about partition’s effect on the subcontinent’s diaspora. Also, the daughter of the last British Viceroy in India, Lord Mountbatten, remembers the transfer of power in 1947. Plus, we'll hear about the death of India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and how one of India’s greatest poets known as the ‘Bard of Bengal’,...


The nightclub that changed Ibiza

Max Pearson introduces first-hand accounts of the nightclub that changed Ibiza, some of the worst forest fires in history, the resignation of Richard Nixon, discovering the Hale Bopp comet and Sweden’s pronoun battle. (Photo: Sunset over the sea in Ibiza with boats in the distance. Credit: BBC and Minnow Films)


Fifty years since Asians were kicked out of Uganda

Compilation of stories marking 50 years since Idi Amin expelled thousands of Asians from Uganda in 1972. We hear about why they migrated there, their expulsion, and what they did next. Jamie Govani’s grandparents always dreamed about finding a better life away from India. After getting married in the Indian state of Gujarat in the 1920s, they decided to pack their bags and move to Uganda with their young family. It was a wonderful place to grow up for Jamie, but racial segregation lingered...


The Revolution on Granite

A student protest in Ukraine, the Surkov leaks, the world’s deadliest ever earthquake, a leaflet bomber in South Africa and the invention of the nicotine patch. (Photo: Oksana Zabuzhko wearing a red jumper at the Revolution on Granite in 1990)


Stories from iconic TV shows from around the world

The history of television from around the world and its enduring impact, including a look at Nigeria's sitcom Papa Ajasco and an interview with actor turned food writer and Indian TV cook Madhur Jaffrey. Also we take you behind the scenes of telenovelas- Mexican soap operas and one of the most successful drama schools in Latin America The Centro de Educación Artística.


Stories from the abortion fight frontline

Stories from around the world on women's reproductive rights. Women fighting both sides of the abortion debate as well as the first Muslim country to legalise abortion. Also, the development of the Pill and why Japan took so long to make it legal for women. (Image: Speakers from Tunisia Women's Union at an event. Credit: Saida El Gueyed)


America’s first gay election candidate

In 1961 the first openly gay person ran for public office in the United States. He was a drag queen called Jose Sarria, well-known for his performances at the bohemian 'Black Cat' bar in San Francisco. He was determined to stop gay people being second-class citizens. His friend and fellow drag performer Mike-Michelle spoke to Josephine McDermott about his memories of the campaign. In 1928 the smear test was invented by Dr George Papanicoloau, a Greek immigrant who had made a new life in the...


Hong Kong: 25 years since the handover from British to Chinese rule

Stories from Hong Kong, 25 years on since the handover from British to Chinese rule. We hear from the last governor of Hong Kong, a pro democracy campaigner and about life in Kowloon Walled City. (Photo: Chris Patten at the handover ceremony of Hong Kong from Britain to China. Credit: Getty Images)


Egypt's first democratic Presidential election

In June 2012, Egypt held its first ever free democratic Presidential election. Mohamed Morsi, representing the Muslim Brotherhood, emerged victorious. Ben Henderson spoke to Rabab El-Mahdi, Chief Strategist to one of Morsi’s rival candidates. She described what it was like to be involved in the first election of its kind, how Morsi tried to recruit her, and the personal impact of political campaigning in such a polarised country. In June 1982 a young Chinese-American engineer was murdered...


Cambodian genocide trials

In 2009, Rob Hamill testified in the trial of Comrade Duc, who ran the notorious Tuol Sleng prison during the Cambodian genocide. Josephine McDermott spoke to him. It is 50 years since Kim Phuc's village in Vietnam was bombed with napalm. The photograph of her, running burned from the attack, became one of the iconic images of the Vietnam War. Kim Phuc talks to Christopher Wain, the man who helped save her. In 2001 a violent, sectarian dispute took place outside Holy Cross Primary School in...


How Sri Lanka's president survived a suicide bombing

Max Pearson introduces first-hand accounts of the 2006 suicide bombing attack on Sri Lanka's president, the 75th anniversary of Anne Frank's diary and the 1968 assassination in the US of Bobby Kennedy. Plus, the birth of a crime fighting women's rights group in India and the moment the President of Gabon was shown the treasures of the rainforest.


The Syrian civil war

Max Pearson introduces first-hand accounts of the 2013 chemical weapons attack in Syria and the opening of a refugee camp for Syrians fleeing the civil war. Plus, how lynching was finally outlawed in America, the opening of the Sydney Opera House and the Queen's coronation. PHOTO: A UN inspector at work in Ghouta, Syria in August 2013 (Reuters)


Artists who made history

Max Pearson introduces the memories of people who knew Picasso, Frida Kahlo and Georgia O'Keeffe; plus, how a collector in the Soviet Union managed to open a museum for Russian artists banned by Stalin, and how a festival in Senegal in the 1960s inspired artists across a newly-independent Africa. PHOTO: Pablo Picasso in 1955 (Getty Images)


The Marcos regime in the Philippines

Max Pearson introduces first-hand accounts of the rule of Ferdinand Marcos Senior in the 1970s and 80s; plus, Shanghai during World War Two, and the opening of the first McDonald's in the Soviet Union. The History Hour also hears how the murder of a young West Indian called Kelso Cochrane changed race relations in Britain in the late 1950s. PHOTO: Imelda and Ferdinand Marcos in Manila in 1977 (Getty Images)