Series looking at key events in history, featuring archive accounts from the people who were there.


History as told by the people who were there.


In March 1966 Mexican-American farm workers staged a protest that inspired the Latino civil rights movement in the USA. It was led by Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. Chavez died in 1993 but Dolores Huerta has been speaking about their long struggle against California's grape growers, and about the phrase that came to signify their movement "si se puede - yes we can".

Photo: Cesar Chavez in 1979. AP.


Series looking at key events in history, featuring archive accounts from the people who were there.


Series looking at key events in history, featuring archive accounts from the people who were there.


Series looking at key events in history, featuring archive accounts from the people who were there.


History as told by the people who were there.


Series looking at key events in history, featuring archive accounts from the people who were there.


When German monk Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of All Saint's Church in Wittenberg on 31 October 1517, he started a religious revolution. The document was about the church's practice of selling indulgences - but Luther's protest would grow into the Protestant Reformation. Witness hears primary sources from the time, and speaks to historian Lyndal Roper.

(Photo: A portrait of Martin Luther by Lucas Cranach the Elder on display at the German Historical Museum in Berlin, Germany (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)


In the Lebanese city of Tripoli there is an exceptional architectural site which has never been used. The great modernist architect Oscar Niemeyer designed all the buildings for an international fair which was about to open when civil war broke out in the 1970s. Architect Wassim Naghi has been speaking to Nidale Abou Mrad about the fair.

Photo: The Tripoli international fair from above. Credit: BBC.


In 1997 the US Supreme Court ruled against censoring sex on the internet. It overturned a law, signed the previous year which had been designed to protect children from sexual content on the internet. Claire Bowes has been speaking to an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who fought the case for freedom of speech.

Photo: A computer. Credit: Anilakkus/iStock


In 1967 the zoologist and broadcaster, Desmond Morris, wrote about humans in the same way that animals were described. The Naked Ape provoked criticism from religious thinkers and feminists alike, but it was an instant bestseller. His idea that we're not so different from our animal cousins was revolutionary at the time. Farhana Haider speaks to Desmond Morris about his provocative book.

Photo: Desmond Morris author of the Naked Ape. Credit: BBC


History as told by the people who were there.

Series looking at key events in history, as told by the people who were there

A Black Gi In China20161128

In November 1950 Clarence Adams, an African-American soldier fighting in the Korean War was captured by the Chinese Red Army. He was held prisoner until the war ended but then, instead of returning to the USA, Adams and 20 other GIs chose to settle in China. Rob Walker has been speaking to his daughter Della Adams about her father's life in Communist China.

Albania's Economic Chaos20170302
Angela Merkel20160630

As Britain begins to negotiate its exit from the European Union we're looking back at the early career of one of the key players in those negotiations, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel. She started her career, not in politics, but as a chemist in a laboratory in Communist East Germany. Lucy Burns has spoken to someone who worked alongside her in the days before she took up politics.

Attack On Fela Kuti2012050820120509

The day the Nigerian military stormed the musician's compound in Lagos.

They burned down the buildings and threw his mother out of a window - she never recovered.

Hear from one of his former wives about the events of that day.

Attack On Fela Kuti2012050820120513

The day the Nigerian military stormed the musician's compound in Lagos.

Australia's Rabbit Plague20150526

Rabbits were introduced to Australia for sport in the 19th century. By the 1950s they posed a serious threat to Australia's agricultural economy. Hear from one farmer who took part in the battle to bring the alien species under control.

Baby Fae And The Baboon's Heart20130113

In 1984 doctors in California tried to save a baby girl's life by giving her a heart transplant. Unable to find an infant human donor, they used the heart of a baboon. Dr Leonard Bailey, who led the transplant team, and nurse Marie Hodgkins, talk about their attempts to save Baby Fae.

Photo: Baby Fae in the isolation unit listening to her mother's voice a few days after her operation. Courtesy of Loma Linda University Medical Center.

Battle Of Tora Bora20160324

After the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan, in late 2001, the hunt for Osama bin Laden began in earnest. CIA commander Gary Berntsen led the drive to catch the Al Qaeda leader. In December 2001 he ordered a small group of special forces soldiers and Afghan fighters into the White Mountains close to Pakistan in the hope of cornering bin Laden in the caves of Tora Bora.

Bay Of Pigs Invasion20120715

In 1961 Alfredo Duran was part of a group of CIA-trained Cuban exiles who invaded the island to try to overthrow Fidel Castro's revolutionary government.

He tells Witness how the scheme went badly wrong, and how the promise of help from the Americans never came.

Bloods And Crips20150819

In the early 1990s, gang warfare in South Central Los Angeles was claiming hundreds of lives a year. Then, in 1992, peace activist Aqeela Sherrills helped negotiate a truce between the two main black gangs, the Bloods and the Crips. He tells Witness how it transformed his local neighbourhood of Watts.

Bob Marley Survives Assassination Attempt20170301

In December 1976 gunmen tried to kill the most famous reggae artist of all time, Bob Marley, at his home in Kingston, Jamaica. Marley's friend and neighbour, Nancy Burke, was at the singer's house that night. She's been telling Mike Lanchin about life in the reggae star's entourage, and how she hid in a back room when the unidentified gunmen broke in.

Camouflaging Leningrad In World War Two20180208

Russian mountaineers disguised monuments in the city to protect them from enemy fire.

Canadian Indigenous Protest20180525

Plans to expand a golf course led to a stand-off between Mohawks and Canadian police.

Series looking at key events in history, as told by the people who were there

Throughout the summer of 1990 the authorities in Canada found themselves in a standoff with indigenous people over the question of land rights. The Oka crisis, as it became known, started when a small group of Mohawk protesters in Quebec attempted to block plans for a golf course on an ancient burial ground. Rebecca Kesby has been speaking to one of the indigenous protestors.

Chairman Mao's Red Guard20170224
China's Barefoot Doctors20180521

In 1968 Chairman Mao sent thousands of young people into rural China to work as doctors.

Series looking at key events in history, as told by the people who were there

In 1968 Chairman Mao officially launched a scheme to provide health care to the rural masses. He ordered basic medical training for thousands of young people and sent them out to work in China's villages. They were known as the 'barefoot doctors'. Lucy Burns has been speaking to Gordon Liu who became a barefoot doctor in Sichuan province after leaving secondary school.

China's Crackdown On Falun Gong20180202

The Chinese government banned the spiritual movement, Falun Gong, in 1999.

The spiritual movement Falun Gong was banned in China in July 1999. Thousands of people were arrested and the Chinese government announced that Falun Gong was an 'evil cult', but followers of the movement say they have been the victims of state persecution. Lucy Burns has been hearing from Falun Gong practitioner Chao Yu who spent time in jail because of his beliefs.

Date Rape20160627

25 years ago, in June 1991, a young American college student, Katie Koestner, became a talking point across the USA when she appeared on the front cover of Time Magazine after refusing to let a 'date rape' go unchallenged. She has been speaking to Claire Bowes about the rape, and the notoriety that followed it.

Deaf University Protest20180522

How deaf students forced their American university to appoint a deaf president.

Series looking at key events in history, as told by the people who were there

In 1988 a protest got underway at the world's only university for the deaf. Two thousand students occupied their campus at Gallaudet University in Washington DC in protest against the selection of a hearing person as the institution's new president. Their action caught the media's attention and helped change attitudes towards deaf people. Claire Bowes spoke to the man who became the first deaf President of Gallaudet, his name is I. King Jordan.

Deaf University Protest20180522

How deaf students forced their American university to appoint a deaf president.

Series looking at key events in history, as told by the people who were there

In 1988 a protest got underway at the world's only university for the deaf. Two thousand students occupied their campus at Gallaudet University in Washington DC in protest against the selection of a hearing person as the institution's new president. Their action caught the media's attention and helped change attitudes towards deaf people. Claire Bowes spoke to the man who became the first deaf President of Gallaudet, his name is I. King Jordan.

In 1988 a protest got underway at the world's only university for the deaf. Two thousand students occupied their campus at Gallaudet University in Washington DC in protest against the selection of a hearing person as the institution's new president. Their action garnered media attention and helped change attitudes towards deaf people. Claire Bowes spoke to the man who became the first deaf President of Gallaudet, his name is I. King Jordan.

Death In The Amazon20170223
Death In The Boxing Ring20131123

In November 1982, the boxer Deuk-Koo Kim died of brain damage after a world title fight against the American Ray Mancini. Kim fell into a coma after being repeatedly knocked down in the 14th round. His death led to a series of reforms in boxing. Ray Mancini shares his memories of the fight and its aftermath.

Series looking at key events in history, featuring archive accounts from the people who were there.

Duke Ellington Plays Kabul20130922

In September 1963 the jazz legend gave a concert in the Afghan capital. In those days the city was open to all sorts of cultural experiments. Hear from Faiz Khairzada, the man who organised Duke Ellington's appearance.

Eichmann In Argentina20150729

In 1960 the Nazi war criminal, Adolf Eichmann, was abducted in Argentina and smuggled to Israel to face trial. He had been living in Buenos Aires under an assumed name. During his time in Argentina, he had spent hours talking to Willem Sassen a Dutch journalist and Nazi sympathiser. His daughter, Saskia Sassen, remembers.

Farzad Bazoft - Observer Journalist In Baghdad20120902

In September 1989 the Observer journalist Farzad Bazoft was arrested in Baghdad and accused of spying for Britain. Six months later he was executed by the Iraqi authorities.

A British nurse called Daphne Parish was also arrested. She was eventually released and returned to the UK. She, and British diplomat Robin Kealy, spoke to Witness about their memories of Farzad Bazoft.

In 1989, journalist Farzad Bazoft was arrested in Iraq and accused of spying for Britain.

Fidel Castro Takes Havana20160322

In January 1959 the rebel leader entered Cuba's capital city. The US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista had fled and Castro immediately set about establishing his left-wing revolution. Carlos Alzugaray was then a teenager, and one of thousands of people who turned out to greet him.

Fighting In The Iran-iraq War20130106

When Saddam Hussein ordered the invasion of Iran in 1980, he said his war would be over in days or weeks. But the Iran-Iraq War lasted for almost 8 years and claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. Ahmad al-Mushatat was a young medic who served in front line trenches during the last months of that war. Hear his story.

Photo: Ahmad al-Mushatat during the Iran-Iraq war, second from the right.

Fighting The Contras In Nicaragua20140309

A former left-wing Sandinista soldier talks about the war against US-backed Contra rebels in the early 1980s.

"Daniel Alegria" was an idealistic follower of the Sandinistas when he joined the brutal struggle against the rebels as a member of the Sandinista special forces.

(Warning: This programme contains descriptions some listeners might find distressing).

Forced Sterilisation In Peru20160708

It is 20 years since the Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori launched a family planning programme. He argued that a lower birth rate would drive down poverty but many Peruvian women now claim that they were forcibly sterilised without their permission. Mike Lanchin reports.

Haile Selassie Visits Jamaica20130721

In 1966, Haile Selassie the Emperor of Ethiopia made his first and only visit to Jamaica - home of the Rastafari movement which revered him. Alex Last has been speaking to two Jamaicans who witnessed his historic arrival.

Harrer In Tibet20160330

In 1944, two Austrian mountaineers fled into the forbidden land of Tibet to escape from a prisoner-of-war camp in India. Heinrich Harrer and his friend Peter Aufschnaiter spent seven years as guests of the Tibetans, gaining a unique perspective on a way-of-life that was about to disappear. Harrer became the young Dalai Lama's unofficial tutor and later wrote a famous account of his visit called Seven Years in Tibet. Hear Heinrich Harrer's memories of Tibet from the BBC archive.

Hungary's Jewish Underground20180131

During WW2 thousands of fake documents helped save Jews from the Nazis in Hungary.

Soon after Hitler ordered the invasion of Hungary in March 1944, the Nazis began rounding up hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews. Most were immediately sent to their deaths in the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. David Gur was a member of the Jewish Hungarian underground, who helped produce tens of thousands of forged identification documents. These allowed Jews to hide their true identities and escape deportation to the death camps. David Gur has been speaking to Mike Lanchin about his part in one of the largest rescue operations organised by Jews during the Holocaust.

In Prison With Nelson Mandela20120708
India's Disability Law20170303

Series looking at key events in history, featuring archive accounts from the people who were there.

Jailed For Speaking His Mind In China20140826

In 1957 the Chinese Communist leader Chairman Mao made a speech encouraging criticism of the Communist system, saying 'Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend'. But when one student, Harry Wu, made his views known, he ended up in prison for nearly twenty years.

James Salter: Writer And Pilot20150715

The acclaimed American writer died in June 2015 aged 90. He was one of the most admired novelists of his generation. But in his youth Salter was a US fighter pilot, battling against Soviet MIGs in the skies above the Korean war.

Kathrine Switzer: Women's Marathon Pioneer2014041520140418

In 1967, Kathrine Switzer broke the gender barrier and ran the historic Boston Marathon.

In April 1967, Kathrine Switzer became the first woman to run the historic Boston Marathon. At the time, athletics officials tried to stop her, believing women were incapable of running more than a mile and a half. Switzer managed to cross the finishing line, but was later disqualified. It was an experience that turned her into a lifelong campaigner for women's sport.

Ken Kesey And The Merry Pranksters20140916

In the summer of 1964 the author Ken Kesey led a group of friends on a roadtrip across America. Travelling in a converted school bus and experimenting with LSD along the way, they called themselves the Merry Pranksters. Their trip would become one of the defining moments of American counterculture. Hear from Ken Babbs who was on that bus.

Lahore Cricket Attack20180201

Islamist militants attacked a convoy of international cricketers in Pakistan in 2009.

Heavily armed gunmen attacked buses carrying the Sri Lankan Cricket team and match officials to a stadium in the Pakistani city of Lahore, in March 2009. Rebecca Kesby spoke to two survivors of the attack, Ahsan Raza, a Pakistani umpire who was badly injured, and Chris Broad, the British referee credited with saving his life.

Last Of The Red Hot Mamas20160325

Sophie Tucker was a singer, a comedian and a radio and recording star. She was funny and outspoken, and in the early part of the 20th century she was one of America's most popular celebrities. Hear from two people who knew her, alongside interviews from the BBC archives.

Leipzig - Before The Wall Came Down20141103

Massive demonstrations in the East German city of Leipzig in October 1989 triggered the fall of the Berlin Wall. Martin Jankowski was one of the young opposition protestors on the streets.

Life In The Warsaw Ghetto20120722

The memories of Janina Dawidowicz who as a child lived in the Warsaw Ghetto during WWII.

Janina Dawidowicz was a nine-year old girl when World War Two engulfed Poland. As Jews, she and her family were soon driven into the Warsaw Ghetto. Seventy years ago, during the summer of 1942, the Nazis began to send the inhabitants of the Ghetto to their deaths in gas chambers. Janina escaped but her family and friends were killed. Hear her memories of the Ghetto - the sights, the characters, the coping mechanisms that people used to survive.

Series looking at key events in history, featuring archive accounts from the people who were there.

Marcel Duchamp In New York20161122

In October 1942 the great French conceptual artist Marcel Duchamp helped to put on the first major surrealist exhibition in New York. Carroll Janis' parents were friends of Duchamp. He has been speaking to Louise Hidalgo about his own minor role in that exhibition, and about Duchamp and his art.

Nehru And Edwina20120909

Lady Pamela Hicks talks about her mother's love for India's first post-independence leader

As India gained its independence from Britain, the last Viceroy's wife was falling in love. Edwina Mountbatten's younger daughter, Lady Pamela Hicks remembers her mother's deep love for India's first post-independence leader. She talks to Witness about Pandit Nehru's charm and sense of fun, and the correspondence that continued until Edwina Mountbatten died.

Series looking at key events in history, featuring archive accounts from the people who were there.

Nigeria's War On Indiscipline20160401

In 1984, General Muhammadu Buhari's military regime launched an unusual campaign to clean up Nigeria. Soldiers forced Nigerians to queue, be punctual and obey traffic laws. The punishments for infractions could be brutal. Veteran Nigerian journalist, Sola Odunfa, recalls the reaction in Lagos to the War Against Indiscipline. Photo: The Oshodi district of Lagos , 2008. AFP/Getty Images).

No Sex In The Ussr20180130

How a satellite TV link-up between American and Soviet women led to misunderstanding.

In the summer of 1986 in an effort to promote 'Glasnost' or openness, Soviet women were linked up with American women via satellite for a TV debate. But the dialogue would be remembered above all for the moment when a Russian woman stated 'We have no sex in the USSR'. Dina Newman has tracked down the woman who blurted that out, and Vladimir Posner, the talk show host in the studio at the time.

Re-education In China20130929

In China 're-education' is still used as a form of punishment. It was introduced by the Communist Party and the police still send people for re-education without trial. Listen to the story of Robert Ford, an Englishman who spent 5 years being taught the error of his ways in Chinese jails in the 1950s. He had been captured by the Red Army during the invasion of Tibet.

Remembering Chairman Mao20140909

The Chinese leader Mao Zedong died on September 9th 1976. American Sidney Rittenberg first met him in the 1940s and he spent half a century living in communist China. Hear his memories of one of the world's great revolutionaries.

Romania's Orphans20160328

After the fall of the communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, camera crews were allowed inside Romania's state-run orphanages and children's homes for the first time. The appalling conditions shocked the world and a wave of charity workers and volunteers streamed into the country to help improve children's lives. Hundreds of children were adopted by western families. Izidor Ruckel grew up in a Romanian home for 'irrecoverable' children.

Sanctuary Cities20170227

So-called 'sanctuary cities' in the USA have been protecting undocumented immigrants from the threat of deportation for almost 30 years. But President Trump has said he will cut their funding if they don't change their ways. Simon Watts looks back at how San Francisco became one of the first 'sanctuary cities'.

Sara Ginaite, Lithuanian Jewish Partisan20170228

The story of Sara Ginaite, a young Jewish Lithuanian who escaped the ghetto in the city of Kaunas to join communist partisans in the forest. She has spoken to Alex Last about her life on the frontline of the battle against the Nazis.

Sartre And De Beauvoir20180209

The love affair between Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir lasted for 50 years.

Sexual Harassment In India20170221

It's nearly thirty years since the first time a case of sexual harassment was brought to court in India. It became headline news and divided the country because the accused was a senior policeman, celebrated for fighting militants. Claire Bowes has been speaking to the plaintiff, Rupan Deol Bajaj, about the incident she just couldn't ignore.

Siege Of Sarajevo20160331

Bosnian Serb guns bombarded the city of Sarajevo for almost 4 years in total. Inhabitants of the city suffered malnutrition and sniper fire, as well as daily shelling.

Vedrana Seksan lived through the siege - hear her story.

Soviet Imaginary Heroes20160628

It is 75 years since the German invasion of the Soviet Union during World War 2. Millions of Soviet soldiers and citizens would lose their lives in the struggle that followed, and many of their stories of heroism and self-sacrifice were absorbed into war propaganda. But one story raised questions right from the beginning..the tale of the so-called 'Panfilov heroes' who were reported to have committed an almost impossible feat of bravery in the face of the Nazi advance against Moscow. Dina Newman reports.

Space Crash20160629

In June 1997 a resupply vessel crashed into the Mir space station. Alex Last has been speaking to Michael Foale, one of the 3 astronauts on board, about what happened next.

Spanish Republic20160706
Starbucks: The Early Days20160704

It is 45 years since the Starbucks coffee company was established in Seattle. But its original founders had no intention of selling hot drinks. Claire Bowes has spoken to Zev Siegl and Jerry Baldwin, two of the enthusiasts who started the company, which has changed the way millions of people around the world start their days.

Steve Biko20140812

In August 1977 Steve Biko, leader of the Black Consciousness Movement, was arrested in South Africa. Weeks later, he was killed while in police custody. We hear from Mamphela Ramphele, who was in a relationship with Biko.

Suicide Of Gay Footballer2012050320120504

Justin Fashanu, Britain's first openly gay footballer, killed himself in May 1998.

He committed suicide in London, following allegations that he had sexually assaulted a teenager.

His niece Amal Fashanu speaks to Witness about her favourite uncle.

Suicide Of Gay Footballer2012050320120506

Justin Fashanu, Britain's first openly gay footballer, killed himself in May 1998.

Taiwan - The 228 Incident20140316

In early 1947, Chinese nationalist forces, led by Chiang Kai-Shek, killed an estimated twenty thousand Taiwanese islanders after protests in Taipei. The Chinese had taken control of the island at the end of WW2 after more than 50 years of Japanese rule. Dr Chau Wu was a young boy at the time of the killings.

The Abduction Of Mehdi Ben Barka20161124

In 1965 French agents in Paris helped kidnap the Moroccan dissident and left-wing activist Mehdi Ben Barka. He was taken to a villa in Paris where it is believed he was murdered by Moroccan security officials. His body has never been found. Alex Last spoke to Bachir Ben Barka who is still fighting to find out what happened to his father.

The Assassination Of Benigno Aquino20140302

In 1983 the Philippines opposition leader, Benigno Aquino, was shot dead at Manila airport as he returned from exile in the USA. Hear from his brother-in-law, the journalist Ken Kashiwahara, who was with him that day.

The Attica Prison Riot20161202

Series looking at key events in history, featuring archive accounts from the people who were there.

The Back To Africa Movement20160329

In the 1890s racial violence in the American south was so extreme that many black people tried to emigrate to Liberia in West Africa. Although the Civil War had brought an end to slavery, conditions were still terrible for many African Americans. The largest number of migrants came from one US state - Arkansas. Listeners may find parts of this programme distressing.

The Ballerina And The Coup2013082520130828

In 1959, Dame Margot Fonteyn was part of a bizarre plot to overthrow the Panama government

In 1959, Dame Margot Fonteyn became involved in a bizarre plot to overthrow the government of Panama. The Royal Ballet's prima ballerina was briefly arrested and then deported from the Central American country, after the intervention of British officials. Mike Lanchin speaks to Judy Tatham, a former friend of Dame Margot's, who took part in the failed conspiracy.

The Battle For Mount Longdon20120812

It is 30 years since the end of the Falklands War. Hear two very different views of the conflict from an Argentine veteran and a British veteran. Miguel Savage was a 19 year-old student conscript. He had never wanted to join the army but ended up a reluctant member of Argentina's Falklands invasion force nonetheless. Quintin Wright was a well-trained member of the 3rd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment. He had joined-up voluntarily, and was excited at the thought of action. They both fought in one of the decisive encounters at the end of the war - the battle for Mount Longdon.

An Argentine soldier and a British soldier tell their stories of the Falklands War.

The Battle Of The Carmens20140209

At the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, an East German, Katarina Witt, and an American, Debi Thomas, were vying for Gold in the ice dance competition. It was portrayed as a clash between East and West. Completely by chance they were both dancing to the same music, Bizet's opera, Carmen.

The Biafran War20130120

ended in January 1970. It had lasted for almost 3 years and split Nigeria. The word Biafra had become synonymous with famine and suffering. Ben Okafor was 12 years old when the fighting started. He fled his hometown with his family, worked in a refugee camp and even volunteered as a child soldier. Hear his memories of the failed bid for Biafran independence.

The Birth Of The Water Baby20180205

French obstetrician Dr Michel Odent encouraged women to use water to ease childbirth.

French obstetrician Dr Michel Odent believed that childbirth had become too medicalised. So, in 1977 he began promoting a more natural approach at the French state hospital where he worked. He introduced a pool which women could climb into, to ease the pain of labour. Eventually some babies were even born in the pool. Dr Odent looks back at his innovation which changed the way millions of women approached childbirth.

The Bugging Of The Us Embassy In Moscow20161125

In the mid 1980s the Americans discovered that the Soviets had hidden listening devices deep inside the walls of its new embassy building in Moscow, while it was still under construction. The discovery led to a major trans-Atlantic row and President Ronald Reagan threatened to have the whole building pulled down. Mike Lanchin has spoken to Thomas Jendrysik, an American engineer stationed at the embassy, whose job was to find the secret Soviet equipment.

The Capture Of Abimael Guzman20161201

In September 1992 security forces in Peru tracked down and arrested the country's most wanted criminal, the leader of the Maoist rebel group, Sendero Luminoso, or Shining Path. After months staking out a safe house in a quiet residential neighbourhood of the capital, Lima, police seized the 58-year-old Guzman, who was found hiding in an upstairs room. Mike Lanchin has been hearing from the two officers who caught the elusive rebel leader.

The Capture Of President Izetbegovic2012050120120506

In May 1992 the Bosnian president was taken captive by Serb soldiers.

The siege of Sarajevo had just begun.

With him, was his daughter Sabina - hear her story.

Photo: President Alija Izetbegovic - VT Freeze Frame.

The Chile Coup20130908

In September 1973 General Pinochet launched a military coup against the socialist government of Salvador Allende in Chile. The playwright Ariel Dorfman was a young assistant to President Allende. Hear his story of regret and exile.

The Concordski Crash20161123

In June 1973 the Russian rival to Concorde, the Tupolev Tu-144, crashed at the Paris Air Show, killing the crew and people on the ground. At the time the Soviet Union was competing with the West to produce the world's first supersonic passenger aircraft. Former British test pilot, John Farley, recalls the day of the fatal crash of the plane dubbed 'Concordski'.

The Crime That Shocked Argentina20140819

The brutal kidnap and murder of Axel Blumberg, a 23-year-old student, provoked a wave of protests in Argentina in 2004. The demonstrators demanded a tough government response to rising crime. The protests were led by Axel's father, Juan Carlos.

The Cultural Revolution In China20130303

In the mid 1960s the young people of China were encouraged to turn on their parents and teachers and 'criticise' them. It was part of Chairman Mao's plan to rejuvenate his communist state. Violence and upheaval followed as young Red Guards took his message to extremes. Paul Crook was a foreign teenager living with his family in Beijing. His whole world was turned upside down by the Cultural Revolution.

History as told by the people who were there.

The Death Of Che Guevara20141104

In October 1967 the Marxist revolutionary was captured and killed in Bolivia. Felix Rodriguez was a Cuban exile working for the CIA who helped track him down. He interrogated Che just before he was shot.

The Death Of Frida Kahlo20140805

On July 13 1954, the celebrated Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo, died at the age of 47. Married to the famous mural painter, Diego Rivera, Kahlo was best known for her vivid and often brutal self-portraits depicting different episodes in her tragic life. Witness hears from 90-year-old art critic Raquel Tibol, a friend of Kahlo's, and the veteran Mexican journalist, Elena Poniatowska.

The Death Of Grenada's Revolution20131019

On October 19th 1983, Grenada's leftist Prime Minister, Maurice Bishop, was killed following a coup. Six days later the US invaded the tiny Caribbean island. We hear from Ann Peters, who was with Maurice Bishop in his final hours.

In October 1983 Grenada's leftist prime minister was killed. Six days later the US invaded

The Death Of Jan Palach20160323

In January 1969 a student set himself alight in protest at the crushing of the Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia. Soviet tanks had rolled into the country the year before to bring an end to liberalising reforms. Jan Palach's funeral became, briefly, a rallying point for opposition to Soviet rule.

This is a Made in Manchester Production for the BBC.

The Death Of Walter Rodney20150722

It is 35 years since the Guyanese opposition leader and academic, Dr Walter Rodney, was killed in a bomb explosion. He was one of the leaders of a movement trying to bridge the racial divide in Guyana's politics. His supporters said he had been assassinated on the orders of the government. We hear from his widow, Patricia Rodney, and from Wazir Mohamed who was a young activist at the time.

(Photo: Walter Rodney. Credit: the Walter Rodney Family).

The Destruction Of Iraq's Marshes20150826

In the early 1990s, Saddam Hussein ordered the draining of southern Iraq's great marshes. It was one of the biggest environmental disasters of the twentieth century, and with it, an ancient way of life - dating back thousands of years - was almost wiped out. We hear from the Iraqi environmentalist Azzam Alwash, who has been trying to restore the marshes, and to the journalist Shyam Bhatia, who saw the destruction.

The End Of Apartheid20170222
The Execution Of Ken Saro-wiwa20140119

Series looking at key events in history, featuring archive accounts from the people who were there.

The Exile Of Solzhenitsyn20140223

In February 1974, Russia's most famous dissident writer, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, was sent into exile in the West.

His widow, Natalia, remembers the day the Soviet policemen came to their house and took him away. The couple would spend the next 20 years living in Europe and the US.

The Fall Of Saigon20150805

In 1975 US troops airlifted hundreds of people out of the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon as North Vietnamese troops closed in. They were the final days of the Vietnam war and although most American soldiers had long since left the city, there were some left who helped desperate people escape to aircraft carriers waiting off the coast. Hear from Stu Herrington and Vern Jumper, two former American servicemen.

The Fall Of Singapore20130217

In February 1942 when Singapore fell to Japanese forces, tens of thousands of Commonwealth soldiers became prisoners of war. They were sent to work in prison camps across South East Asia. Maurice Naylor was put to work building a railway bridge over a river in Thailand - the River Kwai. After World War Two ended, he typed up his memories of internment.

The First Panda In The West20140112

In 1936 American socialite Ruth Harkness and her Chinese-American guide, Quentin Young, captured a giant panda cub in the forests of China. Ruth Harkness took the panda to the USA and kept it in her New York flat, before selling it to a Chicago zoo. It was the first time the animal had been seen outside China and panda-mania ensued. It was named 'Su-Lin' and celebrities such as Shirley Temple and Al Capone flocked to see it. Hear from Quentin Young's niece, Jolly Young, about the expedition in search of the panda.

The General Strike2012050420120505

In May 1926 workers across Britain went on strike in support of coal miners.

Hear the memories of Hetty Bower, a left-wing Londoner who helped the strikers.

Photo: Armoured cars protect a food convoy in London during the strike. Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

The Gi Who Chose China2012072720120729

At the end of the Korean War, 21 American prisoners chose not to go home to the USA.

At the end of the Korean War, POWs on both sides could choose where they wanted to go next. Thousands of North Korean and Chinese prisoners headed for a new life in the USA. David Hawkins was one of the 21 Americans who had been held prisoner in North Korea, who chose to go to communist China. He explains his decision, made at the height of the Cold War, and recalls the treatment he recieved as a prisoner, and then as a celebrated guest in Beijing.

The Greek Military Coup20140422

In April 1967, seven years of military dictatorship began in Greece. During the rule of the generals, thousands of people were arrested and tortured. Sociologist Gerasimos Nortaras was part of the armed resistance to the military. He was captured, but refused to give away his fellow fighters, even under brutal torture.

The Hanafi Hostage Siege20180206

How American Muslim gunmen took more than 100 people hostage in the US capital in 1977.

In 1977 a group of American Muslim converts took more than 100 people hostage in Washington DC. They were held captive for more than three days and the siege only ended after ambassadors from Islamic countries helped negotiate with the gunmen. Simon Watts has been speaking to Paul Green, one of the hostages who was held at the Jewish B'nai B'rith centre.

The Hong Kong Riots Of 196720141230

Throughout much of 1967 striking workers and students filled the streets of Hong Kong. They were inspired by the Cultural Revolution in China and wanted an end to British rule. Witness hears from Jasper Tsang Yok-sing, now the president of Hong Kong's Legislative Council, then a young left-wing student.

The Imprisonment Of Irina Ratushinskaya20161129

In October 1986 the dissident poet, Irina Ratushinskaya, was released from a Soviet prison camp on the eve of a US-Soviet nuclear summit. She has been speaking to Louise Hidalgo about her imprisonment, her poetry, and the day she was set free.

The Inuit Children Experiment20150812

In 1951 22 Inuit children from Greenland were taken from their families and sent to live with foster parents in Denmark. It was part of a social experiment aimed at improving the lot of the indigenous people of Greenland but for the children concerned it was a confusing and often traumatic experience. Helen Thiesen was one of those children.

The Kidnapping Of Frank Sinatra Jr20140105

In December 1963 the 19-year-old son of Frank Sinatra - Frank Jr - was kidnapped for a ransom. He was released unharmed after two days. Barry Keenan, the man behind the crime, speaks to Mike Lanchin and describes the events of his doomed 'get rich quick' plot.

The Killing Of Dian Fossey20140202

In 1985 the celebrated American gorilla expert was murdered in her cabin at the research station she had set up in the mountains of Rwanda. Hear from Kelly Stewart who worked alongisde Fossey for 10 years in the Volcanoes National Park.

Photo of Dian Fossey courtesy of Kelly Stewart.

The Killing Of Vincent Chin20180207

The brutal murder of a young Chinese-American man sparked a civil rights movement.

In 1982 a young Chinese-American engineer was murdered with a baseball bat by two white men in the city of Detroit. The lenient sentences the perpetrators received sparked an Asian-American activist movement with protests across the USA. At the time America was going through an economic depression and many were blaming Japan which was perceived to be flooding the US with its cars. For Asian-Americans it was a time of fear. Farhana Haider has been speaking to Helen Zia, one of the activists leading the fight for justice.

The Los Angeles Riots2012050220120503

In May 1992 the people of South Central LA took to the streets in fury at police brutality.

They were angry that LAPD officers accused of beating a motorist called Rodney King, had been acquitted.

Hear Rodney King's take on the beating, and the unrest and violence that followed it.

The Los Angeles Riots2012050220120506

In May 1992 the people of South Central LA took to the streets in fury at police brutality

The Making Of Kind Of Blue20141223

Drummer Jimmy Cobb recalls playing with Miles Davis on the album that changed jazz for ever. Kind of Blue was recorded in just two sessions at 30th Street Studios in New York City in 1959.

The Man Who Tried To Kill Hitler20140729

In July 1944, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg attempted to kill Adolf Hitler by planting a briefcase bomb in a meeting at Hitler's headquarters. The attack was supposed to be the trigger for a coup against the Nazi regime. We hear from von Stuaffenberg's son, General Berthold Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg.

The Murder Of Anna Politkovskaya20141107

In October 2006 the campaigning Russian human rights journalist Anna Politkovskaya was shot dead outside her Moscow flat. Her son Ilya Politkovsky was the first member of her family at the scene.

The Murder Of Archbishop Oscar Romero20150519

The outspoken Archbishop of El Salvador was killed by gunmen whilst preaching in church in March 1980. Hear from two people who were there when he was shot. Archbishop Romero will be beatified by the Catholic Church later this week - a step on the road to sainthood.

The Murder Of Brazil's Leading Journalist20171030

Journalist Vladimir Herzog was killed in detention by the secret police in October 1975.

In October 1975 the prominent Brazilian journalist Vladimir Herzog was killed by the secret police. His murder became a symbol of the brutality of the military regime. Mike Lanchin speaks to his son, Ivo, who was just nine years old at the time.

Photo: Vladimir Herzog with Ivo as a baby (courtesy of the Herzog family).

The Nepali Royal Massacre20130818

In 2001, the Crown Prince of Nepal killed nine people and then turned the gun on himself in a shooting at the royal palace. His cousin, Ketaki Chester, was injured in the massacre. She tells Witness about the events of that day and why she thinks the Prince murdered his own relatives.

The Opening Of Euro Disney20130811

21 years ago the Walt Disney Company opened a theme park near Paris. But it had taken years of delicate negotiations and diplomacy to bring Mickey Mouse to France.

The Poisoning Of Viktor Yushchenko20160321

In 2004, the Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko was mysteriously poisoned during his election campaign. He has spoken to Witness about the night he was taken ill and the symptoms he suffered. Badly disfigured, he managed to carry on campaigning and win the Presidency against his Moscow-backed rival.

The Port Arthur Massacre20140902

35 people were killed by a single gunman during a mass shooting in the Tasmanian town of Port Arthur in 1996. The killings led to sweeping changes in Australia's gun laws. John and Gaye Fidler survived the massacre and immediately began to campaign for changes to firearms law.

The Rajneesh Poisoning Scandal20180523

How the followers of an Indian guru tried to poison their opponents in Oregon, USA.

Series looking at key events in history, as told by the people who were there

In the summer of 1984 disciples of an Indian guru clashed with locals in a small town in Oregon in the USA. The guru was the hugely popular Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh whose followers wore orange and believed in sexual experimentation. But in Oregon some of his disciples were eventually found guilty of poisoning hundreds of people. Dina Newman has been speaking to a local official from Oregon, and a former member of the Rajneesh commune there.

The Rajneesh Poisoning Scandal20180523

How the followers of an Indian guru tried to poison their opponents in Oregon, USA.

Series looking at key events in history, as told by the people who were there

In the summer of 1984 disciples of an Indian guru clashed with locals in a small town in Oregon in the USA. The guru was the hugely popular Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh whose followers wore orange and believed in sexual experimentation. But in Oregon some of his disciples were eventually found guilty of poisoning hundreds of people. Dina Newman has been speaking to a local official from Oregon, and a former member of the Rajneesh commune there.

The Renovation Of Leonardo Da Vinci's Last Supper20160705

Series looking at key events in history, featuring testimony from the people who were there.

The Right To Die2012043020120506

In 2002 a paralysed woman, known as Miss B, was allowed to die in a London hospital.

She had gone to the High Court to win the right to have a ventilator which kept her alive, switched off.

The judge in the case was Baroness Elizabeth Butler Sloss.

Photo of Baroness Butler Sloss, Press Association.

The Soviet Gulag20130714

Millions of people were sent to brutal labour camps in the Soviet Union during Stalin's rule. Political prisoners and criminals worked alongside each other as slave labourers. Many died of disease, starvation, or exhaustion. Leonid Finkelstein spent more than 5 years in the Gulag. Hear his story.

The Soweto Uprising20141106

In 1976 schoolchildren marched through Soweto to protest against a decision by the South African government to force them to study in Afrikaans. But security forces policing the march opened fire and the Soweto Uprising began. Bongi Mkhabela was a schoolgirl who helped organise the protest.

The Stockholm Syndrome20161121

In August 1973 Kristin Enmark and three of her colleagues were taken hostage during a bank siege in Stockholm, Sweden. Kristin came to trust one of the kidnappers more than the police, a condition which was later named the 'Stockholm Syndrome'. Dina Newman spoke to Kristin about her story.

The Suicide Of Yukio Mishima20120826

Yukio Mishima, the celebrated Japanese author, killed himself in very public circumstances in Tokyo in 1970.

Henry Scott Stokes was working as a foreign correspondent in Japan at the time and knew the great writer well. He remembers the day of Mishima's death, and his long-standing interest in ritual suicide.

A friend remembers the dramatic death of one of Japan's greatest 20th century writers.

The Theremin2012031220120313 (WS)
20120318 (WS)

In 1929 a Russian inventor brought an electronic musical instrument to the USA.

His name was Leon Theremin, and at the time many people thought it would revolutionise music making.

He taught Lydia Kavina to play it when she was a child.

The Trial Of Charles Manson2012050720120513

He was responsible for a series of gruesome murders in the Hollywood hills.

But he was not actually present at the killings.

Hear how the prosecution managed to persuade a jury that he was the man behind the deaths.

Photo: Manson before his trial. Associated Press

The Trial Of Saddam Hussein20160701

On July 1st 2004 the former Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein made his first appearance in an Iraqi courtroom. Farhana Haider has spoken to his American defence lawyer, Ramsey Clark, about the trial and about his relationship with the former dictator.

The Us School Bible Controversy20161130

In November 1956 a protest by an American schoolboy challenged the requirement for daily Bible reading in many US schools. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court and eventually thousands of schools in the USA had to change their teaching practices. The schoolboy's name was Ellery Schempp and he has spoken to Claire Bowes for Witness.

Tilikum The Orca20170220

On February 20th 1991 a performing killer whale at a water park in Canada drowned one of its trainers. Rebecca Kesby has been speaking to two people close to the story of Tilikum the orca.

Tunnelling Under The Berlin Wall20140126

In 1964 a group of West German students helped more than 50 people escape from East Berlin through a tunnel that they had dug under the Berlin Wall. Joachim Neumann and Ralph Kabisch were two of the students who did the digging - Joachim's wife Christa was one of the people they helped to flee.

Series looking at key events in history, featuring archive accounts from the people who were there.

Us Airman Shot Down By Syrian Forces20130915

In 1983, a US airman was captured while attacking Syrian positions in Lebanon. Lt Robert Goodman was taken to Damascus and held for a month. He was only released after Reverend Jesse Jackson went to Syria to plead his case with President Hafez al-Assad.

Us Psychological Warfare In Vietnam20180129

How American military PSYOP teams waged war in Vietnam in the 1960s.

During the Vietnam war, the US army's Psychological Operations, or PSYOP, teams were deployed to battle communist Viet Cong guerillas and the North Vietnamese Army. Their goal was to try to weaken the enemy's willingness to fight. They used a variety of methods including playing spooky "Wandering Soul" tapes which preyed on local beliefs about the afterlife. Alex Last has been speaking to PSYOP veteran Rick Hofmann who was deployed to Vietnam in the late 1960s.

Vietnam - The 'christmas Bombings'20130127

On January 27th 1973 a ceasefire took effect in Vietnam, allowing the USA to pull its troops out of the country. It followed an intense aerial bombardment of North Vietnam by American B-52s - the 'Christmas Bombing Campaign'. 40 years on, it is still not clear what the bombardment was meant to achieve, as the January deal was much the same as one that had been drawn up before the bombing started. Ha Mi was just ten years old and living in Hanoi with her family when the bombs began to fall.

Photo: Ha Mi in the summer of 1972.

Vietnam - Us Prisoner Of War20130804

In August 1964, US Air Force pilot, Everett Alvarez, was shot down over the Gulf of Tonkin by communist North Vietnamese forces. He spent more than 8 years in captivity, suffering physical and psychological torture. He is one of the longest-held American POWs ever.

Photo: Everett Alvarez (left) and other POWs on their release in 1973. Credit: Getty Images.

Voting Against The War On Terror20141105

After the 9/11 attacks on America, the US Congress voted to give the President extra powers to fight the 'War on Terror'. Only Congresswoman Barbara Lee voted against the decision. Hear her reasoning.

Water Polo And The Hungarian Uprising In 195620120805

In November 1956 the Hungarian uprising against Soviet rule was quickly quashed. Tanks were sent into the capital Budapest and rebels were rounded up. But the Olympics in Melbourne later that month, gave the country's water polo team one last chance to stand up to the USSR. Before his death in April this year, Hungarian water polo player Ervin Zador, spoke to Witness about the clash which became known as the 'blood in the water match'.

How a water polo match came to symbolise Hungary's fight for freedom against Soviet rule.

Wine Shock: The Judgement of Paris20180524

How California stunned the French wine world in the 1970s.

Series looking at key events in history, as told by the people who were there

Unknown Californian wines beat top French wines in a blind tasting in Paris in May 1976. The result shocked the wine world, transformed the reputation of Californian wine, and horrified the French wine industry. Steven Spurrier, the man who organised the tasting spoke to Alex Last about what became known as 'the Judgement of Paris'.

Women And The Iranian Revolution20140216

In February 1979 Iran was undergoing a popular revolution. Liberals had joined forces with Islamic believers and taken to the streets. But what happened next would disappoint many of the people who had welcomed the end of the Shah's rule - particularly the women.


The Woodstock music festival, held 43 years ago this weekend, has come to symbolise much of the idealism of the 1960s.

Hear from one man whose life was changed by those 3 days of peace, love and chaos in August 1969.

Patrick Colucci was training to become a Roman Catholic priest when he decided on the spur of the moment to join the stream of young people heading for a dairy farm in the Catskills in New York state.

The Woodstock music festival has come to symbolise much of the idealism of the 1960s.

01Witness: Five Plays From The Gospel Of Luke, The Lake20090324
02Witness: Five Plays From The Gospel Of Luke, Outsiders20090331
03Witness: Five Plays From The Gospel Of Luke, Jerusalem20090407
04Witness: Five Plays From The Gospel Of Luke, Tested20090409
05 LASTWitness: Five Plays From The Gospel Of Luke, Beginnings20090414