The story of our times told by the people who were there. We take listeners back in time to key events in history - featuring a witness to the event, archive material and hear from historians.

The story of our times told by the people who were there. We take listeners back in time to key events in history - featuring a witness to the event, archive material and hear from historians.
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The story of our times told by the people who were there. We take listeners back in time to key events in history - featuring a witness to the event, archive material and hear from historians.




BBC World Service Bush House Strand London WC2B 4PH


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 himself caught up in the aid deal. Photo: Roger Briottet, director of the World Development Movement, celebrates with supporters after their High Court victory. The organisation had challenged the right of Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd to...


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 so-called Araguaia Guerrilla War spoke to Thomas Pappon about how they endured life and war in the jungle. Photo: Two guerrilla fighters after being captured in 1974 (Archive PCdoB)


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 struggle for the control of oil in the early 1970s. Photo: Cars queuing at a petrol station in London, during a petrol shortage, November 1973. (Credit: Aubrey Hart/Evening Standard/Getty Images)


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 homes and businesses from destruction. Photo: Mount Etna erupting in 2017. Credit:Reuters/Antonio Parrinello


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 Lanchin spoke to local journalist, Milagro Granados, who was there at the moment of his assassination. Photo: Archbishop Romero, pictured in July 1979 (Credit: Corbis via Getty Images)


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 years and how, after the war too, there was no food and few jobs. Picture: Wilfriede Iwaniuk in 1946.(Credit: the Iwaniuk family)


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 had fled Germany before the war - but it also included relatively ordinary British citizens. Vincent Dowd has been speaking to someone whose father appeared in the book, and to historian Terry Charman who published a facsimile edition of the...


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 speaking to Tim Mansel about the events of that time. (Photo: Birgitta Hellström (L) and Barbro Gustafsson (R). Credit: Tim Mansel)


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 the man at the centre of the backroom deal to keep some seats for the nobility. Photo: Lords at the State Opening of Parliament in Westminster. in 2008. Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire


Howl: The Poem That Revolutionised US Writing

Allen Ginsberg first read his poem Howl, at an art gallery in San Francisco in October 1955. It marked a turning point in American literature and is credited with starting the "Beat Generation" of American writers. Michael McClure, a fellow poet, took part in the reading that night. The programme was first broadcast in 2012. Photo: Allen Ginsberg, front row centre, with other poets in 1965. Express/Getty Images.


The Soviet Union's Fashion Revolutionary

Slava Zaitsev was the first designer to create high fashion collections in the Soviet Union. He tells Dina Newman about the challenges he faced working under communism. Photo: a sketch of a dress designed by Slava Zaitsev; credit: courtesy of Slava Zaitsev.


The Invention of Artificial Skin

How a chemist and a surgeon found a way of helping burns to heal. Chemist Ioannis Yannas was working alongside surgeon John Burke when they first made the breakthrough using a membrane made of collagen to cover burns which were too large for skin grafts. Photo: Professor Ioannis Yannas with some of his collagen membrane. Credit: MIT.


The Street Battle That Rocked Brazil

On the 2nd and 3rd of October 1968, students from two neighbouring universities in the centre of São Paulo clashed in a battle which left one dead and many injured. Thomas Pappon talked to two former students who were at the so called 'Battle of Maria Antônia'. Photo: the 'Battle of Maria Antonia', São Paulo, 1968. Credit: Agência Estado/AFP


Racial Equality in Britain - Learie Constantine

The former West Indies cricketer, Learie Constantine, took the Imperial Hotel in London to court in 1943. It had refused to let him and his family stay because they were black. He won his case. Susan Hulme brings you his story from the BBC Archives. Photo: Sir Learie Constantine and his wife in the 1960s. Credit: Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.


The Bridge Which United Sweden and Denmark

In 1993 work began to build Europe's longest road and rail bridge. The Oresund Bridge links Sweden to Denmark connecting them by land for the first time in thousands of years. In an unlikely twist, it also inspired a hit TV drama which has been broadcast in more than 150 countries. Claire Bowes spoke to Ajs Dam, head of information at the consortium which built the bridge. Photo: Oresundsbron by night from Lernacken (courtesy of Pierre Mens/Øresundsbron)


Fighting in the Iran-Iraq War

The war lasted for eight years. The death toll is estimated at over a million people. It began when Saddam Hussein sent planes and troops into Iran in September 1980. Ahmed Almushatat was a young Iraqi medic who was sent to the front line towards the end of the war. He spoke to Louise Hidalgo. Photo: An Iraqi tank in action. Credit:AFP/Getty Images


The Creation of the Cervical Cancer Vaccine

How a scientific breakthrough led to the invention of the revolutionary cancer vaccine. In the 1980s, it was established that cervical cancer was caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) which is usually spread through sexual intercourse. In 1989, scientists Ian Frazer and Jian Zhou at the University of Queensland began working on the basis of a possible vaccine for HPV Their solution was to use parts of the virus's own genetic code to create a virus like particle (vlp) which would trigger...


Isadora Duncan - Dance Pioneer

Sometimes called the 'Mother of Modern Dance' she was born and brought up in the USA. Isadora Duncan performed across Europe in the early 20th Century, and her free-flowing movements caused a sensation among dancers and choreographers alike. Simon Watts brings together archive accounts of the dancer whose private life was almost as controversial as her dancing. Photo: Isadora Duncan. Credit: Getty Images


The South African Army In Lesotho

South Africa sent 600 soldiers into Lesotho to quell political unrest in September 1998. Mamello Morrison was an opposition protestor. She spoke to David Whitty in 2014 about the ensuing violence. This programme is a rebroadcast. Photo: Members of South African National Defence Force (SANDF) deployed in Lesotho. Credit: Walter Dhladhla/AFP


Brazil's Nuclear Accident

In September of 1987, two waste pickers in the Brazilian town of Goiania broke into a disused medical clinic and stole a radiotherapy machine, triggering the biggest ever radioactive accident outside a nuclear facility.Hundreds of people were contaminated and four people died. Thomas Pappon spoke to one of the victims and the physicist who was the first to assess the scale of the accident. Photo of technicians collecting nuclear waste in the contaminated scrap yard in Goiania. Copyright CNEN.