300 episodes

History as told by the people who were there.

Witness History BBC

    • History
    • 4.5, 632 Ratings

History as told by the people who were there.

    The doctor who discovered how cholera spread

    The doctor who discovered how cholera spread

    In the 1800s cholera was a mysterious disease killing millions around the world. No-one knew how to stop it till an English doctor, John Snow, began investigating the outbreak of 1854. At a time before germ theory was properly understood, many public health experts thought disease was carried on what they called "bad air". John Snow was alone in thinking cholera was spread through contaminated water and by the time of his death - in 1858 - his theories had still not been fully accepted. Claire Bowes spoke to Dr Nigel Paneth, a biographer of John Snow, about the skills he brought to the developing science of epidemiology.

    Photo: Portrait of John Snow (Science Photo Library BBC)

    • 9 min
    How South Africa banned skin-lightening creams

    How South Africa banned skin-lightening creams

    In 1990, South Africa became the first country in the world to ban skin-lightening creams containing the chemical compound hydroquinone. For years the creams had caused an irreversible form of skin damage called ochronosis for the black and Asian South Africans using the products. Rachael Gillman has been speaking to Dr Hilary Carman, one of the activists who worked to ban the creams and Dr Ncoza Dlova who became one of the country's first black dermatologists.

    Photo: A woman applying a skin-lightening cream to her face. Credit: AFP/Getty Images

    • 9 min
    The lost Nazi-era art trove

    The lost Nazi-era art trove

    In 2012 a stunning, secret collection of art was found in Germany. Much of it had disappeared during Nazi rule in the 1930s and 40s. It had once belonged to one of the Nazi's top art dealers, Hildebrand Gurlitt. It was found by chance in the Munich apartment of his elderly, reclusive son, Cornelius. It contained lost works by Renoir, Matisse, Chagal and the masters of the German expressionist movement. Many of the works had been confiscated during the Nazis "Degenerate Art" campaign in the late 1930s, when the Nazis stripped thousands of works of art from public display. Alex Last spoke to Dr Meike Hoffmann, an expert on Nazi art policy, who was one of the first to examine the collection.

    Photo: One of the art works discovered in the Gurlitt collection was Pferde in Landschaft (Horses in Landscape) by famous German expressionist Franz Marc.

    • 13 min
    Quarantined in a TB sanatorium

    Quarantined in a TB sanatorium

    What it was like to be a child quarantined in a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients in the 1950s. Ann Shaw was nine when she was first admitted to the Craig-y-nos sanatorium in Wales and 13 when she was finally allowed home. Until antibiotic treatments came along, to stop the disease spreading, TB patients were kept apart from the general population and their families, often for years. This included babies and children, leaving many traumatised. Ann Shaw tells Louise Hidalgo about the half-life they lived in the sanatorium.

    Picture: boys on the balcony of the Craig-y-nos TB sanatorium; fresh mountain air was regarded as one of the best treatments for TB (Credit: from the private collection of the family of Mari Friend, a former patient at Craig-y-nos)

    • 9 min
    The Rolling Stones drugs trial

    The Rolling Stones drugs trial

    Mick Jagger and Keith Richards went on trial for drugs offences in June 1967. The case attracted attention around the world, and sealed their reputation as rebels. The men were originally sentenced to prison but on appeal their sentences were drastically cut and the trial came to symbolise Britain's changing values.

    Photo: Mick Jagger (left) and Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones walk in the garden of Redlands, Richards' Sussex house, after the disclosure of their sentences for drug violations, July 1967. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

    • 8 min
    Jana Andolan – Nepal’s people power movement

    Jana Andolan – Nepal’s people power movement

    A people’s movement called Jana Andolan brought an end to Nepal’s absolute monarchy in the spring of 1990. Political parties worked together with students, workers and civil society groups to organise strikes and street protests – but although the king eventually agreed to their demands, it was the beginning of a long period of political instability. Lucy Burns speaks to activist and writer Devendra Raj Pandey about his memories of the first Jana Andolan.

    PHOTO: Jubilant protesters take to the streets on April 9, 1990 in Kathmandu after the government announced an end to the 30-year ban on multi-political parties. (DOUGLAS CURRAN/AFP via Getty Images)

    • 10 min

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632 Ratings

632 Ratings

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