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Witness History

Author: BBC World Service

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History as told by the people who were there.
1187 Episodes
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In April 1977 a group of women in Argentina held the first ever public demonstration to demand the release of thousands of opponents of the military regime. It was the start of a long campaign by the women, who became known as the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. In 2017 Mike Lanchin spoke to Mirta Baravalle who has spent decades searching for her missing daughter and son-in-law, and for the grandchild she has never met. (Photo: Mirta Baravalle, with the photograph of her daughter, Ana Maria. Credit: BBC)
Tank Man

Tank Man

2020-09-1708:59

A photo of a man confronting a tank in Tiananmen Square in Beijing caught the world's imagination. Carrying two plastic shopping bags, unarmed and alone, he seemed to embody the protest movement crushed by the Chinese authorities in 1989. Stuart Franklin was one of the photographers who captured the image of Tank Man - he has been speaking to David Edmonds for Witness History. Photo: Tank Man on Tiananmen Square, June 4th 1989. Credit: Stuart Franklin/Magnum.
Franklin McCain was one of four young black men who took a stand against racial segregation in the USA in 1960. They sat down at a "whites only" lunch counter and asked to be served. When they were asked to leave, they refused, and soon their quiet protest was attracting attention from around the country. In 2011 Franklin McCain spoke to Alan Johnston about that time. This programme is a rebroadcast. Photo: Franklin McCain in 2010. Credit: Getty Images.
During the 1950s in Kenya, armed rebels known as the Mau Mau fought against British rule. Thousands were taken captive and interned in camps by the British authorities. In 2011 Gitu wa Kahangeri, a Mau Mau veteran, spoke to Louise Hidalgo about his experiences. Photo: Gitu wa Kahangeri speaking to the BBC in 2016. Credit: BBC
For more than 20 years, people in Belarus have been protesting against the authoritarian rule of President Alexander Lukashenko - who's been dubbed Europe's last dictator. Lukashenko came to power in a landslide election victory in 1994 but he soon changed the constitution to give himself sweeping new powers. He has remained in office ever since, winning elections which observers say are rigged. Opponents of the regime have faced harassment, violence and arrest. Some are believed to have been kidnapped and murdered by the state. Alex Last has been speaking to the exiled dissident and co-founder of the Belarus Free Theatre, Nikolai Khalezin, about the origins of the protest movement in Belarus. Photo: A banner compares Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to Stalin and Hitler, during a protest march in Minsk, Belarus, March 15, 2000 (Getty Images)
The USA is the only rich democracy not to provide universal healthcare. After WW2 US President Harry Truman was horrified that only a fifth of all Americans could afford proper healthcare. Most middle class Americans had no private health insurance and many found medical fees unaffordable. He calculated that more than 300,000 people died every year because they couldn't pay for proper treatment. In 1945 he tried to persuade Congress to push through legislation for an insurance programme meaning all workers would pay for their healthcare through a monthly fee or tax. But the American Medical Association - representing doctors - employed a public relations firm to lobby against the move. Claire Bowes has been listening to archive material of Harry Truman and speaking to Jonathan Oberlander a Professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Photo: President Harry Truman in 1947 (courtesy of US National Archives) Archive material: courtesy of the Harry S Truman Library
Punyavathi Sunkara recalls how she campaigned to stop the sale of alcohol in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh to protect women from domestic violence and safeguard family finances. Pressure from women like Punyavathi helped persuade the state's chief minister, NT Rama Rao, to pass the prohibition law in 1995.
The birth of Reddit

The birth of Reddit

2020-09-0909:02

Steve Huffman had been programming software since he was eight-years-old. At the University of Virginia, he met his future business partner, Alexis Ohanian. The pair went on to found Reddit, a discussion website where anyone can post links, photos, videos or questions on all kinds of different topics. The website now has an online following of over 430 million users, who contribute to over 138,000 different communities. Robbie Wojciechowski has been speaking to Steve Huffman about how it all began. Photo: The Reddit logo (Credit: Reddit)
Barbara Mensch recalls how she was hijacked and held in Jordan by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in September 1970. Barbara’s plane was forced to fly to a disused British airbase in Jordan, whilst on the final leg of a flight from Tel Aviv to New York. She was imprisoned on board the TWA plane for almost a week and then held hostage in the Jordanian capital Amman for a further fortnight, as the so called Black September conflict erupted between militant Palestinian groups and the Jordanian Army.
In October 2010, Haiti was hit by an outbreak of cholera, the first in recent history of the impoverished Caribbean nation. Nepalese peacekeepers belonging to the international MINUSTAH mission were blamed for introducing the deadly disease, but for many years the UN refused to accept any responsability. More than 10,000 Haitians have died from cholera, and thousands more were infected. The UN finally apologised to the Haitian people in December 2016. Mike Lanchin speaks to the French specialist in tropical medicine and infectious diseases, Dr Renaud Piarroux, whose investigation helped force the UN's hand. Photo: Haitians wait for medical treatment for cholera, Oct 22 2010 (REUTERS/St-Felix Evens)
Care in the Community

Care in the Community

2020-09-0408:581

In the 1990s Britain closed down many of its long-stay hospitals and asylums and their patients were sent to new lives in the community. But the transition wasn't always easy. Some people had suffered abuse and found it hard to adjust to life outside. Lucy Burns has been speaking to "Michael" who has a learning disability, about his experiences both inside and outside of institutions. Photo: A now derelict asylum in Colchester, England. Credit: Simon Webster/Alamy Stock Photo
The Cape Town bombings

The Cape Town bombings

2020-09-0308:58

Between the late 1990s and 2002 there were more than 150 bomb attacks in the South African city of Cape Town. The authorities blamed them on a group known as Pagad - People Against Gangsterism And Drugs. But no one was ever convicted of the bombings. Darin Graham has been speaking to Elana Newman whose daughter Olivia lost a leg in a blast at the pizza restaurant where she was working in 1999. Photo: Olivia (l) and Elana Newman (r). Copyright: Elana Newman.
The portable cassette player that brought music-on-the-move to millions of people was launched in 1979. By the time production of the Walkman came to an end 30 years later, Sony had sold more than 220 million machines worldwide. In 2019 Farhana Haider spoke to Tim Jarman, who purchased one of the original blue-and-silver Walkmans. This programme is a rebroadcast. (Photo by YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
Flying through a volcano

Flying through a volcano

2020-09-0109:041

When a British Airways flight carrying 248 passengers took off one evening in 1982 heading from Kuala Lampur to Australia, everything seemed fine. But two hours later all of the jumbo jet’s engines shut down and no one knew why. The plane had flown into the ash cloud of the erupting volcano, Mount Galunggung, without realising it. Darin Graham speaks to retired Captain Eric Moody, who flew the plane that night.
Inventing James Bond

Inventing James Bond

2020-08-3110:431

The author Ian Fleming created the fictional super-spy, James Bond, in the 1950s. Fleming, a former journalist and stockbroker, had served in British naval intelligence during the Second World War. Using interviews with Fleming and his friends from the BBC archive, Alex Last explores how elements of James Bond were drawn from Ian Fleming's own adventurous life. Photo: Ian Lancaster Fleming, British author and creator of the James Bond character, in 1958. (Getty Images)
The Voting Rights Act of 1965, a landmark civil rights-era electoral law was designed to protect African-American and other minority voters. It was introduced to remove the many obstacles that were in place to prevent African-Americans from being able to vote. Many states, particularly in the south, used intimidation, local laws and so-called literacy tests to prevent black people from being able to register to vote. In 2010 Shelby County in Alabama attempted to overturn a key part of the law. In 2013 the US Supreme Court upheld their challenge. Now voters who are discriminated against bear the burden of proving they are disenfranchised. Farhana Haider hears from civil rights attorney Kristen Clarke who fought to protect the Voting Rights Act. Photo Washington DC June 25. Supporters of the Voting Rights Act outside the U.S. Supreme Court. Credit Getty Images
St Kilda

St Kilda

2020-08-2709:051

In August 1930 the last inhabitants left their homes on the remote Scottish islands of St Kilda. It was the end of a traditional Gaelic-speaking community who were once believed to live at the end of the world. Simon Watts has been listening to some of their stories, as recorded in the BBC archives. PHOTO: The men of St Kilda pictured in the late 19th century (Getty Images)
Occupy Wall Street

Occupy Wall Street

2020-08-2609:04

In 2011, the Occupy movement staged demonstrations against financial inequality across the world. The biggest was in New York, where a retired police officer called Ray Lewis became one of the best-known protestors when he was arrested in his old dress uniform. He talks to Robbie Wojciechowski. PHOTO: Ray Lewis at the Occupy Wall Street protest (Getty Images)
In 1993, Jeannie Leavitt became the first woman to fly a US Air Force fighter plane after the Pentagon lifted its ban on female pilots engaging in combat. After hundreds of F15 missions over Iraq and Afghanistan, Leavitt went on to become the first woman to command a fighter unit. She talks to May Cameron. PHOTO: Major-General Jeannie Leavitt in a recent picture (US Department of Defence)
One of the leading figures in Nigeria's fight for democracy was Margaret Ekpo, a feminist politician and trades union leader. After Nigerian independence in 1960, Ekpo became an MP and a hero to a generation of Nigerians - men and women. Rebecca Kesby tells the story of her life. PHOTO: Margaret Ekpo in London in August 1953 (ANL/Shutterstock)
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Comments (24)

Stephen Gabriel

Sadly he isn't the only dictator in Europe. He has his partner in crime Putin. Full support to the people of Belarus, they deserve better and to be safe from the people they elect to run their country.

Sep 14th
Reply

Nay E.

16th street church bombing and Brown v board episode were hard to listen to....blacks should’ve fought to not have their towns burned down and not try to be integrated with white people... it still didn’t do us any good til this day.

Jun 9th
Reply

Abhishek Kokate

amazing podcast, Dr Utah has explained it so well. Debunking the earlier theories of bad moms and making sure that Autism is neurological or genetic glitch. Amazing smilies like looking at a sky with dirty telescope.And the presenter Louisa has arranged the podcast so well. Kudos to BBC team, you guys rock in all situations. thanks for choosing such a topic 😁

May 25th
Reply

Alex K.

22nd April 1945 was 2 days after Hitler's 56th birthday, not his 50th birthday (2 mins 55 seconds into podcast)

May 7th
Reply

Tom Thring

I had a moment of panic when I read "the earth when it left the solar system". At least global warming would be fixed.

Feb 22nd
Reply

Oleksii Yaresko

good to know that story

Dec 7th
Reply

Kenny Milne

barbaric sport , he no doubt slaughterd many bulls

Sep 27th
Reply

Michael McGrath

English? Lewis was from Northern Ireland.

Sep 22nd
Reply (1)

Jaroslaw Iwaszkiewicz

ok

Aug 28th
Reply

Thanaam Thanaam

Perfecto podcast!

Jun 16th
Reply

Katie Hone

great podcast.

Apr 14th
Reply (1)

Benjamin Craft-Rendon

I'm shocked if not surprised that the BBC stood by equating left-wing kidnapping of senior fascist military leaders with government tied assassinations of lawyers for defending workers rights

Mar 23rd
Reply

Liam Garland

It's a same there is no mention at the beginning of the hundreds of Jehovah's Witnesses who were murdered due to their refusal to support the Nazi movement.

Feb 5th
Reply

Benjamin Craft-Rendon

Direct action gets the goods #antifa #punchnazis

Feb 2nd
Reply

Simon Hastings

We used to call them plastic pigs!

Nov 16th
Reply

Benjamin Craft-Rendon

This episode is a terrible (and completely one-sided) piece of apologia for Pinochet. The BBC doesn't even discuss why every British court ruling was in favour of Pinochet facing criminal trial

Oct 24th
Reply

Vee N

such an amusing tale

Sep 17th
Reply

Vee N

what a wonderful story

Sep 17th
Reply

Linus Moses

Really interesting podcast

Jul 29th
Reply

Benjamin Craft-Rendon

No idea that anarchists in Amsterdam started first bike share project, but makes sense

May 28th
Reply
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