Explaining History


Empire, Fascism and War 1931-39

In today's episode of the podcast, I explore Richard Overy's arguments in Blood and Ruins and discuss his ideas around the necessity for expansionism during the 1930s among the three Axis powers, Germany, Italy and Japan. The great depression triggered ideas of expansionism as a solution to economic hardship and eugenic beliefs about growing, vital populations taking the resources of 'lesser' peoples.

More Episodes

Thursday, June 1, 2023

Agent Twister - The life and faked death of John Stonehouse

This week, we have an intriguing episode as we converse with acclaimed author Philip Augur, who brings to life the tale of John Stonehouse, the controversial Labour MP. We explore the remarkable and complex narrative depicted in the book 'Agent Twister', co-written with Keely Winstone. Discover Stonehouse's tumultuous journey from political prominence to disgrace, marked by an infamous scandal that astonished the British public, a story truly stranger than fiction. Our conversation uncovers the man behind the headlines, delivering a nuanced understanding of his life, actions, and legacy. John Stonehouse, the British Labour MP, was a man whose life was as gripping as it was perplexing. Born in 1925, Stonehouse served as an MP for two constituencies over his political career, marking his presence in the British Parliament from 1957 to 1976. However, it was the controversy that eclipsed his achievements and turned him into a figure of national notoriety.Stonehouse's political career was initially noteworthy. A charismatic orator and dedicated servant of the Labour Party, he championed various causes, including postal services and aviation. As Postmaster General in Harold Wilson's government, Stonehouse was in a position of considerable influence and seemed set for a promising future in British politics.However, beneath the respectable facade, Stonehouse's life was spinning into a maelstrom of intrigue. Over time, he became embroiled in numerous financial scandals, which eventually led to his dramatic fall from grace, all the time spying for the Czech secret intelligence service. But the defining moment of his career was undoubtedly his audacious attempt to fake his own death in 1974.Plagued by financial troubles and fearing arrest for fraud, Stonehouse devised an elaborate plan to disappear. He left a pile of clothes on a beach in Miami, leading many to believe he had drowned. He then fled to Australia under a pseudonym, where he hoped to start a new life with his mistress. The audacity of this move stunned the world and resulted in a media frenzy.However, his escape was short-lived. Less than two months after his disappearance, he was discovered by Australian police and arrested. He was returned to Britain, where he faced a high-profile trial and was subsequently sentenced to seven years in prison for fraud.The Stonehouse saga, involving politics, scandal, deception, and romance, captivated the nation, transforming him into an infamous figure. Despite the downfall and disgrace, his story continues to hold a fascinating allure, providing a remarkable lens into the human capacity for ambition, deception, and ultimately, self-destruction.Stonehouse's life story, told with fresh insights and perspectives by Philip Augur and Keely Winstone in their book 'Agent Twister', offers readers an engaging exploration of a man who was as complex as he was controversial.You can purchase the book here in hardback and also in paperback
Wednesday, May 24, 2023

The SAS and World War Two: In conversation with Damien Lewis

Join us on an enthralling journey into the annals of history as we delve into the extraordinary exploits of the Special Air Service (SAS) during World War Two. In this captivating episode of Explaining History, host [Podcast Host's Name] sits down with acclaimed author and historian, Damien Lewis, to explore the gripping tales of war, trauma, and the birth of modern special forces.Drawing on extensive research and first hand accounts, Damien Lewis takes us back to the harrowing days of the Second World War when the world hung in the balance. From the sands of North Africa to the treacherous battlefields of Europe, the SAS emerged as an elite force, spearheading daring operations and transforming the nature of warfare forever.In this thought-provoking conversation, Damien Lewis uncovers the human stories behind the legendary unit, revealing the true impact of war on the individuals who served. Through tales of courage, resilience, and sacrifice, we gain insight into the profound effects of combat on the minds and souls of those who confronted unimaginable horrors.Examining the origins of the SAS, Damien Lewis takes us back to the pivotal moments when visionary commanders like David Stirling conceived the audacious concept of small and highly trained units capable of striking deep behind enemy lines with lightning speed and precision. We delve into the challenges faced by these early special forces pioneers as they sought to establish an unconventional approach to warfare, pushing the boundaries of traditional military tactics.
Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Los Angeles and Core - The Freedom Rides 1947-61

This podcast episode "Los Angeles and CORE - The Freedom Rides 1947-61" delves into the origins of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and their pivotal role in the civil rights movement. The episode focuses on James Farmer, a civil rights activist and one of the founders of CORE, who was instrumental in organizing the Freedom Rides of 1961 in Alabama and Mississippi.The Freedom Rides were a series of bus trips taken by civil rights activists to challenge segregation in public transportation. The activists, both black and white, faced brutal violence from the Ku Klux Klan and local authorities, including the notorious Eugene 'Bull' Connor. Despite this, the Freedom Rides gained national attention and brought the issue of segregation to the forefront of American politics.The podcast also explores the weakness and indifference of President John F. Kennedy's administration towards the civil rights movement. Although Kennedy had initially expressed support for the Freedom Rides, he ultimately failed to take decisive action in response to the violence and discrimination faced by the activists.Overall, this podcast episode provides a compelling and informative look into the history of the civil rights movement, highlighting the bravery and determination of activists like James Farmer and the ongoing struggle for racial equality in the United States.You can find more study help and information at the Explaining History website Regenerate response
Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Save the last bullet - stories of Hitler's child soldiers 1943-45

In this captivating episode of the Explaining History podcast, we sit down with Heidi Langbein Hall, author and daughter of World War II survivor Willi Langbein. Heidi shares the harrowing story of her father's life during the war and how his memoirs have been transformed into a powerful book.At just 13 years old, Willi was taken from his family by the Nazis under the guise of protection. In reality, he and his fellow children were groomed to become sacrificial pawns in the final days of the war. Sent to confront the advancing Russian forces, they were not expected to return alive. Miraculously, Willi survived and returned to a devastated homeland, where he realized the truth behind the lies he had been fed.Six decades later, Heidi conducted extensive interviews with her father, capturing his experiences and insights. These conversations have been skillfully woven into a compelling book, preserving Willi's story for future generations. With significant distribution throughout Europe and pending foreign rights deals, the memoir is set to make a profound impact on readers worldwide.In this thought-provoking episode, listeners will gain an intimate understanding of Willi's journey as a child soldier and his subsequent path to healing. Through Heidi's recounting of her father's ordeal, we explore the resilience of the human spirit and the power of truth in the face of deception.Join us for this unforgettable conversation with Heidi Langbein Hall, as we delve into the true story of a remarkable survivor who defied the odds and reclaimed his life from the clutches of a twisted regime. Don't miss this riveting episode of the Explaining History podcast, where history comes alive through the voices of those who experienced it firsthand.You can grab a copy of Save the last bullet hereRemember to check out www.explaininghistory.org for help for study and other handy content.
Saturday, March 25, 2023

Asian Nationalism and the end of the British Empire - 1945

In this episode of the Explaining History podcast, we delve into the complex relationships between Asian nationalism and the British Empire in the aftermath of World War II. Focusing on India, Burma, and Malaya, we examine how the war had radicalized nationalist movements in these countries, leading to increasing demands for independence and the eventual end of British colonial rule in the region.We discuss the impact of the war on these societies, including the disruption of traditional power structures, the mobilization of millions of people for military and industrial purposes, and the emergence of new political ideologies and movements. We also examine how the British responded to these challenges, often relying on force and repression to maintain their control over the region.Throughout the episode, we explore the different strategies employed by Indian, Burmese, and Malay nationalists to achieve their goals, including mass protests, strikes, and armed resistance. We also consider the role of key figures such as Gandhi, Aung San, and Tunku Abdul Rahman in shaping the course of these movements.In addition to this episode, history students can find a wealth of study resources and content on the Explaining History website at www.explaininghistory.org. From detailed articles and essays to study guides and interactive timelines, the website offers a range of tools and materials to help students deepen their understanding of key historical events and themes. So be sure to check it out for additional support and guidance on your history studies.