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Cautionary Tales
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Cautionary Tales

Author: Pushkin Industries

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We tell our children unsettling fairy tales to teach them valuable life lessons, but these Cautionary Tales are for the education of the grown ups – and they are all true. Tim Harford (Financial Times, BBC, author of “Messy” and “The Undercover Economist”) brings you stories of awful human error, tragic catastrophes, daring heists and hilarious fiascos. They'll delight you, scare you, but also make you wiser. Featuring original music and an award-winning cast including Alan Cumming and Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife), Toby Stephens (Die Another Day), Russell Tovey (Quantico) – and Malcolm Gladwell.
7 Episodes
In 1917, a brilliant British officer developed a way to use an emerging military technology: the tank. The British army promptly squandered the idea – but the Germans did not. Blitzkrieg, the devastating advance of German tanks across Europe in 1940, was invented by the British.This is a common story: Sony invented the forerunner of the iPod, Xerox the personal computer, and Kodak the digital camera. In each case they failed to capitalize on the idea. Why?Read more about Tim's work at
Both of the world’s greatest economists, Irving Fisher and John Maynard Keynes, thought they could see into the future and make a killing on the stock market - and then both were wiped out by the Wall Street Crash. One died a pauper, the other millionaire. What does it take to bounce back from ruin? Oh... and UFOs.Read more about Tim's work at
The Deadly Airship Race

The Deadly Airship Race


A British Lord wanted to build the best airship in the world - and so he had two rival design teams battle it out to win the juicy government contract. Competition is supposed to bring the best out of people, but run in the wrong way it can cause people (and the things they produce) to fall apart in the most horrifying ways.Read more about Tim's work at
La La Land: Galileo's Warning

La La Land: Galileo's Warning


Galileo tried to teach us that adding more and more layers to a system intended to avert disaster often makes catastrophe all the more likely to happen. His basic lesson has been ignored in nuclear power plants, financial markets and at the Oscars... all resulting in chaos.Read more about Tim's work at
The Rogue Dressed as a Captain

The Rogue Dressed as a Captain


One crisp morning in Berlin, in 1906, a small group of soldiers were led on an extraordinary heist by a man they believed to be a Captain. So how did an ageing nobody in a fake uniform trick them into aiding him in the crime of the century? Some say we humans will obey orders from anyone who dresses the part... but the real reason why we fall for tricksters time and again is far more interesting. Fraudsters and charlatans reel us in slowly by using psychology against us.Read more about Tim's work at
DANGER: Rocks Ahead!

DANGER: Rocks Ahead!


Torrey Canyon was one of the biggest and best ships in the world - but its captain and crew still needlessly steered it towards a deadly reef known as The Seven Stones. This course seemed like utter madness, but the thinking that resulted in such a risky manoeuvre is something we are all prone to do when we fixate on a goal and a plan to get us there.Read more about Tim's work at
Coming November 15 from Tim Harford and Pushkin Industries, Cautionary Tales relates a true story of a time when something did not go according to plan. Some of these true stories are tragic, some are comic, but like the great fables and parables, each of them has a moral. Equipped with the latest research from psychology, economics and the social sciences, Harford explains why things went so awry – and teaches us lessons that we won’t forget.
Comments (10)

Garrett Dickson

This hardly seems to be a tale of competition, and more a tale of how corrupt socialist governments inevitably become.

Dec 8th

Bahram Kalviri

That's enjoyable, well polished, enlightening and original #podcast.

Dec 7th

Dan Pullar

Great job guys. so original!

Dec 7th

Mark Kenna

Great job excellent show thanks a mill

Dec 3rd

eyal Vadai

Wonderfully made! Very interesting, thank you very much

Nov 29th

Michael O'Connell

Amazing show, I'm hooked already!

Nov 28th

yamilee tats

i cant wait to here more tales...good stuff

Nov 26th
Reply (1)

Barry Hemmings

fabulous wisdom here

Nov 24th


I like!

Nov 22nd
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