299 episodes

History as told by the people who were there.

Witness Histor‪y‬ BBC

    • History
    • 4.6 • 14 Ratings

History as told by the people who were there.

    Churchill's 'Iron Curtain' speech

    Churchill's 'Iron Curtain' speech

    In March 1946, the UK's former wartime leader, Winston Churchill, gave a historic speech which would come to symbolise the beginnings of the Cold War. Churchill had lost power following a crushing election defeat in Britain in 1945. Encouraged by the US President Harry Truman, Churchill agreed to give a speech on world affairs at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. But why did the speech have such an impact. Alex Last hears from the historian Prof David Reynolds of Cambridge University, author of The Kremlin Letters: Stalin's wartime correspondence with Churchill and Roosevelt.

    Photo: Winston Churchill at the podium delivering his "Iron Curtain" speech, at Westminster College in Fulton Missouri, 5th March 1946 (PA)

    • 14 min
    The Sharpeville massacre

    The Sharpeville massacre

    In March 1960, the South African police opened fire on a crowd of demonstrators in the township of Sharpeville, killing 69 people and injuring nearly 200 more. The massacre outraged black South Africans, leading to a radicalisation of anti-apartheid organisations such as the ANC and a ruthless crackdown on dissent by the whites-only government. Simon Watts hears the memories of Nyakane Tsolo, who organised the demonstration in Sharpeville, and Ian Berry, a photographer whose pictures of the killings caused an international outcry.

    PHOTO: The crowd fleeing from the police at Sharpeville in 1960 (Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

    • 9 min
    When US police dropped explosives on a Philadelphia home

    When US police dropped explosives on a Philadelphia home

    On 13 May 1985 a police helicopter dropped explosives on a house in residential Philadelphia, in an attempt to end a stand-off with radical black activists from an organisaton called MOVE. Fire spread quickly through the surrounding buildings and 11 people died, including five children. All the victims belonged to MOVE. A total of sixty houses in the area were also burnt or badly damaged in the botched police operation. Mike Lanchin speaks to Mike Africa, who lost his great uncle and a cousin in the fire, and to the former Philadelphia reporter, Linn Washington.

    Photo: Aerial view of smoke rising from smouldering rubble in Osage Avenue, West Philadelphia, May 1985 (Getty Images)

    • 9 min
    Refugee Island

    Refugee Island

    In 2001, boats carrying hundreds of, mainly Afghan, refugees arrived on the tiny Pacific island of Nauru. This marked the beginning of the “Pacific Solution” – a policy by the Australian government to establish offshore centres for processing asylum claims. The policy was intended to act as a deterrent, discouraging people from travelling to Australia. Many of the refugees lived in the cramped conditions of Nauru for years.

    In this Witness History, Josephine Casserly speaks to Yahya, an Afghan refugee who left his home country as a school student when the Taliban gained control of his local area. Yahya was one of the first refugees to arrive at Nauru’s detention centre. Like many, he was hopeful that his stay in the makeshift camp would be a temporary measure, and he’d be quickly resettled in Australia. But that was not to be.


    (Asylum seekers on their first day in the compound at Nauru after their long voyage, Sept 2001. Credit: Angela Whylie/Getty images)

    • 9 min
    The world's deepest dive 11km down

    The world's deepest dive 11km down

    Don Walsh was the first to go to the very bottom of the deepest part of the ocean in 1960 in a specially designed submarine, the Bathyscaphe Trieste. The water pressure was 800 tonnes per square inch, and the successful mission to "Challenger Deep" in the Mariana Trench under the western Pacific, was a technological breakthrough in marine engineering. Don Walsh describes the dive to Rebecca Kesby, and explains why understanding the deep ocean is crucial in the fight to reduce climate change.

    (Photo: The Bathyscaphe Trieste in 1960. Getty Images)

    • 10 min
    The WW2 airman from Sierra Leone

    The WW2 airman from Sierra Leone

    Johnny Smythe was one of very few West Africans to fly with Britain's air force during WW2. Recruited in Sierra Leone in 1941 he was trained as a navigator and flew 26 missions on RAF bombers before being shot down over Germany and taken prisoner in 1943. His son Eddy Smythe spoke to Tim Stokes about his father’s story.

    Photo: Johnny Smythe in his RAF uniform. Copyright: Eddy Smythe.

    • 9 min

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
14 Ratings

14 Ratings

Niggashrekfarts ,

History as it happened

These eyewitness accounts of known or forgotten worldwide events bring history to life. By linking it to actual events, the programmers make it very actual. One of my favourite podcasts.

tim_v_r ,

Concise and always interesting

This 10 minute podcast is an excellent source of world history. Concise and very enjoyable, I highly recommend Witness History (former name was simply "Witness"). May it have another 10 years (at minimum!) of success

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