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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.

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 Writer With Cerebral Palsy Who Made History

Irish writer Christopher Nolan became the first severely disabled person to win the prestigious British literary prize, the Whitbread Book of the Year in 1988. Nolan was physically disabled at birth by severe cerebral palsy, leaving him paralysed from the neck down. He won for his autobiographical book: "Under the Eye of the Clock". Christy wrote by tapping a keyboard with a device strapped to his head. Farhana Haider has been listening to the BBC archives and speaking to the art critic...

Duration: 00:09:11

Eisenhower's farewell address

American president Dwight Eisenhower's farewell address in January 1961 is regarded as one of the greatest speeches made by a US president. In it, he warned Americans against the military industrial complex, a phrase that he coined for the first time, and not to live just for today. Eisenhower, who'd been the allied commander in Europe during World War Two, was succeeded by his young Democratic rival, John F Kennedy, who was seen as representing the new post-war generation. Louise Hidalgo...

Duration: 00:08:59

South Africa's Truth And Reconciliation Commission

When Apartheid was abolished in the 1990's, South Africans had to find a way to confront their brutal past without endangering their chance for future peace. But it was a challenging process for many survivors of atrocities committed by the former racist regime. Justice Sisi Khampepe served on the Amnesty Committee of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and as she tells Rebecca Kesby, she had to put aside her own emotions and experiences at the hands of the police, to expose the truth...

Duration: 00:10:58

How British Women Helped Win World War One

For the first time women were encouraged to join the workforce to help win the war. As millions of men were mobilised for military service, British women began to do many jobs that had been the preserve of men. They worked in industry, on the land, in the civil service. But tens of thousands were employed in munitions factories. It was long, hard and dangerous work. Using the BBC archive we hear from women who worked as 'Munitionettes' Photo: British recruitment posters urging women to work...

Duration: 00:09:26

Reaching Out After The Second World War

German children from Dusseldorf were invited to stay in the English town of Reading shortly after WW2 had ended. Hear how two girls became lifelong friends as a result. Chris Browning has been hearing from June Whitcombe and Gretel Rieber about their memories of that time, and about the local mayor, Phoebe Cusden, who single-handedly organised the exchange. Photo: June (left) and Gretel (right) in the 1940s. Courtesy of June Whitcombe.

Duration: 00:08:58

When France Said 'Non' To Britain Joining Europe

In 1963 France stopped Britain from joining the European Economic Community, now the EU. The news shocked Britain which had been negotiating to join the EEC for more than a year. Claire Bowes has been speaking to Juliet Campbell, a diplomat who was at the talks in Brussels about the moment when Britain was shut out of the club which was making Europe prosperous. Photo: 14th January 1963 Charles de Gaulle, President of France, at a press conference during which he stated that Britain was not...

Duration: 00:09:07

The Algerian Massacres

In the 1990s, the Algerian military was locked in a brutal struggle with radical Islamists. It's estimated that more than 150,000 people were killed. The conflict was marked by massacres of entire villages. In 2013, Alex Last spoke to Marc Marginedas, a Spanish journalist who reported on the infamous massacre of Sidi Hamed in January 1998. (Photo: Women mourn victims in Sidi Hamed. Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

Duration: 00:09:12

The First iPhone

The touchscreen smartphone changed mobile technology for ever. It was unveiled on January 9th 2007 by the Apple boss Steve Jobs. Within a few years smartphones had changed the way billions of people lived their lives. Ashley Byrne has been speaking to Andy Grignon a senior developer on the project. Photo: Steve Jobs at the iPhone launch in San Francisco in 2007. Credit: David Paul Morris/Getty Images

Duration: 00:09:05

The Boy Who Stayed Awake For Eleven Days

California high school student Randy Gardner set the world record for staying awake in 1964, going without sleep for over 264 hours. He was monitored by his school friend Bruce McAllister and Stanford University sleep scientist William Dement - they speak to Lucy Burns about their memories of the experiment. Photo: Bruce McAllister takes notes while Randy Gardner (in blindfold) describes scents offered to him by Joe Marciano Jr., San Diego, California, 1964 (Don Cravens/The LIFE Images...

Duration: 00:09:00

Iran Student Protests 1999

In July 1999, students in Iran took to the streets demanding reform. At the time it was the largest anti government protest since the Islamic revolution. Alex Last spoke to Ahmad Batebi in 2013, about how he became an unwitting symbol of the protest movement and suffered years of mistreatment in prison. (Photo: Ahmad Batebi holds up a T-shirt belonging to an injured friend, Tehran, July 12, 1999. Credit: Reuters)

Duration: 00:09:38

I Hijacked A Plane To Save My Children

On 4 January 1970 a hijacked plane touched down in Cuba after a dramatic four day journey. The plane, its crew and passengers had been seized on New Year’s Eve by a small group of left-wing guerrillas fighting military rule in Brazil. Mike Lanchin has spoken to one of the hijackers, Marilia Gimaraes, who took her two young children with her. Photo: Marilia Gimaraes, 2017 (courtesy of the family)

Duration: 00:09:51

Spelling Bee - The Children's Competition that Grips America

In 1985 one of the most famous children’s competitions in the world was won by an Indian-American for the first time. Balu Natarajan was 13 years old when he won the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which has been running in the USA since 1925. Balu tells Farhana Haider how he first got interested in competitive spelling and why he thinks people of South Asian background have excelled in the Bee. Photo: Balu Natarajan poses with his National Spelling Bee championship trophy 1985. Credit: Balu...

Duration: 00:09:27

Boris Yeltsin's Surprise Resignation

On New Year's Eve 1999 the Russian President went on TV and said he was leaving office. Tired and emotional, he apologised to the people for the state of the country. Dina Newman spoke to his widow, Naina Yeltsina, about that day. Photo: Russian President Boris Yeltsin with his wife Naina in 1998. Credit: ITAR-TASS POOL/AFP/Getty Images

Duration: 00:08:54

"Spend, Spend, Spend" - The Miner's Wife Who Won Big

In 1961, Viv Nicholson became a household name in Britain when she and her husband scooped a massive win on the football pools. Asked what she would do with the money, Nicholson famously replied "Spend, Spend, Spend" and the tabloids followed her closely over the next few years as she spent the winnings on the high life. Viv Nicholson's story later became a successful West End musical and stage play. Simon Watts talks to her son, Howard Nicholson, author of "You Don't Know Viv". PHOTO:...

Duration: 00:09:37

Voyager: Around The World On One Tank of Fuel

How two pilots, Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, became the first to fly non-stop around the world without refuelling in December 1986. Their experimental aircraft was designed by Dick's brother, Burt Rutan. It had to be incredibly light to carry the huge weight of fuel required. But that meant the plane was vulnerable to breaking up in turbulence. Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager endured storms and equipment malfunctions to set the world record. They spent 9 days, 3 minutes and 44 seconds in the...

Duration: 00:11:40

The Climbers of Leningrad

Mountaineers risked their lives to camouflage churches and palaces in the great Russian city during World War Two. The city was besieged by the Germans and under bombardment. The climbers used paint and canvas to conceal the landmarks from enemy attack. Mikhail Bobrov was just 18 years old when first got sent up the city's spires. He's been speaking to Monica Whitlock about his wartime experiences. Photo: A climber suspended from a spire in Leningrad. Credit: Tass/PA.

Duration: 00:09:36

The First Kwanzaa

In December 1966, a group of Black activists in Los Angeles created the winter holiday Kwanzaa to try to reclaim their African heritage. It's now celebrated by millions across the US. Lucy Burns speaks to Terri Bandele, who attended the first Kwanzaa celebrations aged 11. Picture: Children at the first Kwanzaa celebration - courtesy of Terri Bandele (on right)

Duration: 00:09:40

Trivial Pursuit

The game has become a holiday tradition with families around the world since its launch in 1981. Ashley Byrne has been speaking to the designer of Trivial Pursuit, Michael Wurstlin, about how it was first created. Photo: The original Trivial Pursuit game. Credit: BBC.

Duration: 00:09:42

To Kill A Mockingbird

One of the most successful American films of all time was released on Christmas Day 1962. Written by the best-selling author Harper Lee it starred Gregory Peck as a lawyer who stood against prejudice in the Deep South of the USA. Louise Hidalgo has been speaking to Gregory Peck's son Carey Peck about the film, and about his family's long-standing friendship with the reclusive Harper Lee. Photo: Gregory Peck with the author Harper Lee in 1962. Credit: Getty Images.

Duration: 00:10:01

BR Ambedkar

When Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar was a schoolboy, he was not allowed to drink from the same tap as his fellow students because he was a member of what was then known as an "untouchable" caste. But he went on to become a prominent leader in the campaign for Indian independence and oversaw the writing of the Indian constitution - which made the idea of "untouchability" illegal. A hero to many, he died in December 1956. Lucy Burns hears recordings of BR Ambedkar from the BBC archives and speaks to...

Duration: 00:09:37

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