The History Hour

BBC World Service

A compilation of the latest Witness History programmes.

  • 50 minutes 14 seconds
    Brazil's ban on women in football and the first air fryer

    We hear about the law in Brazil which made it illegal for women and girls to play football for 40 years.

    Dilma Mendes shares her incredible experience of being arrested numerous times as a child, just for kicking a ball. Our guest, Alexandra Allred, herself a pioneering sportswomen, discusses the discrimination women have faced to break into competitive sport.

    Plus, the moment when the 'Queen of Salsa', banned from Cuba by Fidel Castro, was allowed to return to Cuban territory for one performance.

    We learn about the brutal crushing of a student movement in 1968 in Mexico City 10 days before the Olympic Games, which ended in dozens being killed.

    Also, the start of an environmental movement in Italy in 1988, and the invention of the air fryer. The prototype was nearly as big as a dog kennel and made of wood and aluminium.

    Contributors: Dilma Mendes - defied Brazil's ban on women playing football. Alexandra Allred - author of When Women Stood: The Untold History of Females Who Changed Sports and the World. Omer Pardillo Cid - manager and close friend of Celia Cruz. David Huerta - witness to the Mexico City massacre in 1968. Rosa Porcu - a protester against the 'poison ships' docked in Italy in 1988. Suus van der Weij - daughter of Fred van der Weij, inventor of the air fryer.

    13 July 2024, 2:26 pm
  • 50 minutes 2 seconds
    Subway Art and terror in Georgia

    Max Pearson presents a collection of the week's Witness History episodes.

    We hear about the era-defining book Subway Art and how Fight the Power became a protest anthem. Artist curator Marianne Vosloo explains how both street art and hip-hop are linked.

    Plus, two stories from Georgia. Firstly, how Stalin carried out his most severe purge in Georgia in 1937, killing thousands of people, and then how after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, the newly independent state was thrown into a political and economic crisis.

    Finally, we hear from a former Canadian prime minister, on how her party was left with just two seats after the election in 1993.

    Contributors: Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant – authors of Subway Art. Marianne Vosloo - artist curator who works within the field of street art and urban art intervention. Chuck D – Public Enemy frontman. Levan Pesvianidze – Georgian whose grandfather and uncle were both executed. Lamara Vashakidze - a survivor of Georgia’s crisis in 1991. Kim Campbell – former Canadian prime minister. Preston Manning – founder and former leader of Reform.

    (Photo: People queing to buy Subway Art. Credit: Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

    5 July 2024, 11:30 pm
  • 50 minutes 2 seconds
    The Sagrada Família and Hello Kitty

    Max Pearson presents a collection of the week's Witness History episodes.

    We hear the story of the largest unfinished Catholic church in the world and the creation of one of the most recognisable characters on the planet.

    Plus, an amazing first hand account of the expulsion of German-speakers from Czechoslovakia at the end of the Second World War, the man behind Dignitas, the assisted dying organisation in Switzerland, and the son of a Guatemalan president who was overthrown in an American-backed coup in the 1950s.

    Contributors: Mark Burry - architect, who was part of a team trying to piece together Gaudí's vision for the Sagrada Família. Madeleine Kessler - architect from Madeleine Kessler Architecture. Yuko Shimizu - the artist who designed Hello Kitty. Helmut Scholz - a Sudeten German, who was expelled from Czechoslovakia after the Second World War. Ludwig Minelli - the lawyer behind Dignitas, the assisted dying organisation. Juan Jacobo - the son of the former Guatemalan president Jacobo Árbenz.

    (Photo: The Sagrada Família, in Barcelona. Credit: Getty Images)

    28 June 2024, 11:30 pm
  • 50 minutes 55 seconds
    Bungee jumping and the Benidorm boom

    Max Pearson presents a collection of this week’s Witness History episodes from the BBC World Service on the history of travel. Our guest is Dr. Susan Houge Mackenzie, Associate Professor in the Department of Tourism at the University of Otago in New Zealand.

    First, we'll hear from the man responsible for the first commercial bungee jump.

    Then, the pioneers of low-cost transatlantic flights and luxury cruises describe how they revolutionised travel.

    Finally, we hear the remarkable stories of how Cancún and Benidorm transformed into holiday hotspots, involving General Franco, bikinis and excommunication.

    Contributors: Dr. Susan Houge Mackenzie - Associate Professor in the Department of Tourism at the University of Otago in New Zealand. AJ Hackett - pioneer of the world's first commercial bungee jump. Edda Helgason - daughter of Sigurdur Helgason who launched Loftleioir Icelandic, the first budget transatlantic airline. Hans Indridason - ran Loftleioir Icelandic's sales and marketing department. Tor Stangeland - Captain of Sovereign of the Seas cruise ship. Juan Enríquez - son of Antonio Enríquez Savignac, who turned Cancún into a world-beating tourist destination. Pedro Zaragoza - former Mayor of Benidorm.

    (Photo: Bungee jumping. Credit: Getty Images)

    21 June 2024, 11:30 pm
  • 50 minutes 55 seconds
    Boko Haram massacre in Nigeria and the Irish shopworkers strike

    Max Pearson presents a collection of this week’s Witness History episodes from the BBC World Service.

    First, we hear about Boko Haram militants driving into Gwoza in north-east Nigeria in 2014, to begin an assault which left hundreds dead.

    Next, the Irish shopworkers who went on strike after refusing to handle South African goods.

    Then, it’s 25 years since Nato bombed the Serbian state TV station in Belgrade.

    Plus, Norway’s biggest industrial disaster.

    And, Brazil’s iconic egg-shaped telephone booth.


    Ruoyah who lived through the Boko Haram massacre.

    Makena Micheni - Associate Lecturer at St Andrews University.

    Irish shopworker Mary Manning.

    TV technician Dragan Šuković.

    Harry Vike and his wife Greta.

    Chu Ming Silveira’s son Alan Chu.

    (Photo: A woman from Gwoza displaced by the violence. Credit: Reuters/Stringer)

    14 June 2024, 11:30 pm
  • 51 minutes 15 seconds
    The weather report that delayed D-Day and panda-mania in Taiwan

    Max Pearson presents a collection of this week’s Witness History episodes from the BBC World Service.

    First, we hear how a young Irishwoman called Maureen Flavin Sweeney drew up a weather report that delayed the date of D-Day.

    Then, 99-year-old former field medic, Charles Norman Shay, shares his remarkable account of landing on the Normandy beach in France codenamed Omaha on D-Day.

    Next, we also talk to Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi who hurled his shoes at the President of the United States.

    Plus, we hear about China gifting Taiwan two giant pandas, in a practice known as ‘panda diplomacy’.

    Finally, it’s the 40th anniversary of the popular computer game Tetris being invented.


    Edward Sweeney – Maureen Flavin Sweeney’s son. Charles Norman Shay – former field medic in the United States Army. Muntadhar al-Zaidi – Iraqi journalist. Eve Chen – curator of the Giant Panda House at Taipei Zoo. Alexey Pajitnov – Russian engineer. Henk Rogers – American businessman.

    (Photo: U.S Troops rushing to the Normandy beaches. Credit: Photo12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

    7 June 2024, 11:30 pm
  • 50 minutes 31 seconds
    South American revolutionaries and the first Aboriginal MP

    A warning for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander listeners - this programme contains the names and voices of people who have died.

    Max Pearson presents a collection of this week’s Witness History episodes from the BBC World Service.

    First, the story of Brazil's most wanted, Carlos Lamarca. He was a captain who deserted the army in the 1960s and joined in the armed struggle against the military regime in the country.

    Then, Bill Booth - historian of twentieth century Latin America at University College London - joins Max to talk about other revolutionary figures from South America.

    Next, the story of Australia's first Aboriginal MP and how he fought for indigenous rights.

    Plus, the 90th anniversary of the first ever quintuplets, the 1984 Apple commercial that changed advertising and the 2014 Flint, Michigan water contamination crisis.

    Contributors: João Salgado Lopes - friend of Carlos Lamarca. Bill Booth - historian of twentieth century Latin America at University College London. Joanna Lindgren - great niece of Neville Bonner. Jeneyah McDonald - Flint, Michigan resident. Dr Mona Hanna-Attisha – a paediatrician and professor of public health, Michigan. Mike Murray - former Apple marketing manager.

    (Photo: Subcomandante Marcos pictured in 2001. Credit: Getty Images)

    31 May 2024, 11:30 pm
  • 50 minutes 8 seconds
    The first Air Jordan and Imelda Marcos's 3,000 pairs of shoes

    Max Pearson presents a collection of this week’s Witness History episodes from the BBC World Service.

    This week’s programmes are all about the history of footwear.

    First we take a trip back to the 1960’s when Brazilians were introduced to a new type of footwear, which went on to become one of the country’s biggest exports.

    Plus the story of how a then rookie basketball player called Michael Jordan signed a deal with Nike that revolutionised sports marketing.

    We also hear about the thousands of shoes owned by the former first lady of the Philippines, Imelda Marcos.

    Then we learn how one family feud led to the creation of two massive sportswear companies, Adidas and Puma.

    Finally, we hear how a Czech company revolutionised shoe production and brought affordable footwear to the world.

    Contributors: Sergio Sanchez - Author and former employee of Havainas. Sonny Vaccaro - Former Nike executive. Dr Alex Sherlock – Lecturer in the school of Fashion and Textiles at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia and founder of the Footwear Research Network. Sigi Dassler – Daughter of Adi Dassler the founder of Adidas. Mick Pinion – Former Bata engineer.

    (Photo: Air Jordan Original. Credit: Getty Images)

    24 May 2024, 11:30 pm
  • 51 minutes 30 seconds
    Independence in French Polynesia and the 'Queen of Cuba'

    Max Pearson presents a collection of this week’s Witness History episodes from the BBC World Service.

    This week, we hear how nuclear testing changed politics in French Polynesia.

    Plus, the story of how the FBI caught Ana Montes, the spy known as the ‘Queen of Cuba’.

    We also talk to Jewish and Palestinian people about the moment the state of Israel was proclaimed in 1948.

    Finally, we tell the unlikely story of how a heavy metal rock band emerged during the violent years of Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq.

    Contributors: Antony Géros - President of the Assembly of French Polynesia KDee Aimiti Ma'ia'i – doctoral candidate at University of Oxford Pete Lapp – former FBI agent Hasan Hammami Arieh Handler Zipporah Porath Firas Al-Lateef – bass player

    (Photo: Antony Géros. Credit: Getty Images)

    17 May 2024, 11:30 pm
  • 51 minutes 1 second
    India’s ambitious ID scheme and the iconic Princess Diana photo

    This week, how more than one billion people living in India were given a unique digital ID during the world's largest biometric project. The Aadhaar scheme was launched in 2009 but it wasn't without controversy. Our guest, digital identity expert Dr Edgar Whitley, tells us about the history of ID schemes around the world.

    Plus, the Spanish doctor whose pioneering surgery helped millions of people to get rid of their glasses and see more clearly. And why East Germany's thirst for caffeine in the 1980s led to an unusual collaboration with Vietnam.

    Also, the story behind one of the most famous royal photographs ever taken – Princess Diana sitting alone on a bench in front of the Taj Mahal in 1992. The man who took the image tells us more.

    And finally, how a Ghanaian athlete, Alice Annum, earned the nickname ‘Baby Jet’ after her medal-winning success in the 1970 Commonwealth Games.

    Contributors: Nandan Nilekani - former chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India Dr Edgar Whitley - digital identity expert at the London School of Economics Dr Carmen Barraquer Coll – daughter of ophthalmologist Jose Ignacio Barraquer Moner Siegfried Kaulfuß – East German official in charge of coffee production in Vietnam Anwar Hussein – royal photographer Alice Annum – retired Ghanaian athlete

    (Photo: Scanning fingerprints for Aadhaar registration. Credit: David Talukdar/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

    10 May 2024, 11:30 pm
  • 50 minutes 53 seconds
    Paraguay’s ‘disappeared’ and the history of the Channel Tunnel

    Max Pearson presents a collection of this week’s Witness History episodes from the BBC World Service.

    This week we hear the story of Rogelio Goiburu, who has dedicated his life to finding the victims of Alfredo Stroessner's dictatorship in Paraguay, including the remains of his own father. Our expert Dr Francesca Lessa talks about other enforced disappearances in South America.

    Plus, we hear about how, in February 2014, ordinary people got to see inside Mezhyhirya, the extraordinarily extravagant home of Ukraine's former president.

    Also, a shocking psychological experiment from the 1960s. Just to warn you, this includes original recordings of the experiments which listeners may find disturbing.

    The programme also includes the breakthrough moment when the Channel Tunnel was finally completed linking England and France beneath the sea and, finally, the story behind one of the world's most popular self-help books.

    Contributors: Rogelio Goiburu - dedicated to finding the victims of Stroessner's Paraguay Dr Francesca Lessa - Associate Professor in International Relations of the Americas at University College London (UCL) Denys Tarakhkotelyk - from the Mezhyhirya estate Graham Fagg - the Englishman who broke through the Channel Tunnel Donna Dale Carnegie - daughter of Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People (Photo: Alfredo Stroessner. Credit: STR/AFP via Getty Images)

    3 May 2024, 11:30 pm
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