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There are numerous competing histooriographies of the Stalinist terror, which peaked in 1937. The pretext of the assassination of Kirov, that Stalin may well have had a hand in was simply that, an excuse for Stalin to shore up his own personal power by targeting for the first time the party itself. The disaster of collectivisation and the failure o…
 
Anti communism became a defining aspect of American politics during the 1940s and 1950s, not just for the right wing of the Republican Party, but also for the Democrats and the liberal intelligentsia and journalists the traditionally supported the party. They shifted to the right throughout the period, and whilst some decried McCarthy's methods, ot…
 
Margaret Thatcher was deposed by her party in 1990, but the legacy of her ideas in some form lingers on. The Tory Party itself has abandoned any pretence of interest the operating of free markets and is led my the antithesis of her views on social conservatism. Instead of the offspring of a lower middle class shop keeper who values financial pruden…
 
In the first year of the war, from September 1939 to September 1940, Germany's military forces fought four seperate European campaigns (Poland, Scandanavia, France and the Low Countries, Britain), three of which could be described as blitzkrieg, rapid, armoured 'lightning wars' using aircraft and armour. The fourth campaign, the Battle of Britain, …
 
The Second World War was a national humiliation for France, enduring occupation, collaboration with the Nazis and Vichy complicity in the Holocaust. The violent purge of collaborationists after the war saw tens of thousands of mainly low level members of Vichy and the French civilians who had been friendly with the occupying Germans assaulted, impr…
 
The conquest of the Soviet Union was an idea that had been at the forefront of HItler's thoughts since the 1920s. Exploiting the resources of Russia and the Ukraine for the benefit of Germany was not a new concept and it had most recently been tried during the last year of the First World War. Hitler and Himmler had grand visions of a transformed l…
 
In 1937 many Soviet citizens had traumatic memories of collectivisation, anti Kulak campaigns and famine from the period 1928-33. Many could sense that a new time of crisis was emerging and saw the arrest of party members as the beginnings of a dramatic change. Few had any knowledge of how indescriminate and far reaching the terror would become, as…
 
In the decade before the FIrst World War, Germany and Austria-Hungary put little effort in to coordinating their military strategies in the event of a war on two fronts. Germany's chief of General Staff Helmuth Von Moltke assured Austria that the plans inherited from Alfred Von Schlieffen, his predecessor, would offer the best chance that the centr…
 
The landslide victory for Eisenhower and the Republican Party in the 1952 Presidential Election showed Democrats that a right of centre, socially conservative America in the grip of an obsessive anti communism would decide their political fate for decades to come. The continuing Korean War and the loss of China to communism three years earlier shap…
 
History teaching is within the confines of a curriculum and under the pressure of examinations is riven with unfortunate compromises and unintended outcomes. The question of the civil rights movement in America is a case in point. Textbooks in the UK tend to focus on the 1950s and 1960s, centring mainly around the story of Martin Luther King and th…
 
In early 1942 the American Eighth Air Force existed on paper only. Within twelve months it was a formidable fighting force in daylight raids over Germany and by 1945 was mounting the first two thousand bomber raids. In this episode of the Explaining History podcast, we hear from military historian David Dean Barrett about the 'Mighty Eighth' and th…
 
During the First World War, much of the fighting occurred in colonial Africa, which in 1918, the victorious powers believed could not rule itself. President Woodrow Wilson of the USA and Britain were able to collude on a neo colonial mandate system that mainly benefited them at the expense of France. All three had agreed that it was unthinkable tha…
 
A popular view of the July crisis that led to the start of the First World War was the excitement and enthusiasm across Europe for war. Examining Alexander Watson's Ring of Steel, we discuss the validity of this view and the motivations of the crowds that filled the streets of Berlin and Vienna in July 1914. This podcast also explores the motivatio…
 
For the Republican Party in the 1940s and 1950s, the only means of attacking the Democrats was by inflating the fear of communism and accusing their rivals of treason. In 1951, following the dismissal of General Douglas MacArthur for challenging the authority of President Truman, Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin used the end of MacArthur's care…
 
In the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, the belief that anything was now possible in the reshape and redesign of societies was widespread in the liberal capitalist and communist worlds. The role that planning had played in the victory over fascism was beyond doubt and politicians, intellectuals, planners and citizens in Europe, Asia, Am…
 
The invasion of Australian ruled Papua New Guinea in 1942 by the Japanese presented a direct threat to Australia and to Supreme Commander in the South West Pacific Douglas MacArthur's plans to retake the Japanese held Pacific. The tenuous fighting across the Owen Stanley mountain range by the retreating Australian 'diggers' was one of the most desp…
 
In the years following the Conservative Party's defeat in the 1945 general election, the Tories were forced to accept significant parts of Labour's programme, recognising their un-electability otherwise. A right wing fringe of the party rejected this centre ground compromise and demanded an extreme brand of supply side economics known as monetarism…
 
In 1958 as part of Mao's attempts to improve productivity and create a socialist economic miracle in China, Mao waged war against private property and family life during the disastrous 'Great Leap Forward'. He removed from families the ability to privately farm vegetables and rice, own livestock and prepare food in their own homes. Following the co…
 
In the mid 1930s, successive waves of state terror devastated not only Soviet society, but also coopted Soviet citizens into the processes of state violence. A deep fatalism was commonplace throughout much of the country, as Soviet citizens struggled to avoid becoming victims, and many became the denouncers and informants of the state. See acast.co…
 
In the last years of Jimmy Carter's presidency, the ruthless Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua was overthrown by the Sandinista revolutionaries, a coalition of the moderate and revolutionary left. The incoming Reagan administration in 1981 immediately froze aid to the Nicaragua and began to arm the anti Sandinista rebels, the Contras. See acast.com/…
 
By the mid 1930s a widespread working class anti fascist movement was established in Britain, in response to the development of the British Union of Fascists, and the growth of fascist movements in Europe. When the Spanish government was attacked by the country's fascist generals, many from Britain's anti fascist movement took up arms to defend the…
 
In 191, following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie in Belgrade, the Austrian government sent a list of demands to Serbia, who they alleged was behind the plot. The final demand, a partial surrender of sovereignty in order for Austria to apprehend the culprits was rejected, presenting Austria with a case for war. Thi…
 
During the Second World War the imperial government of India, ruled by Lord Linlithgow, the Viceroy of India, was desperate for manpower and the traditional 'martial classes' that the British had relied on were to small in number to supply all the troops needed. The vast scope of the conflict meant that millions of men not normally considered for m…
 
In the mid 1950s, Anthony Eden and Guy Mollet, Britain and France's respective prime ministers initially showed little determination to overthrow Colonel Nasser of Egypt. However, mounting French problems in Algeria and Britain's dependence on 'holding out' in Egypt against further imperial decline, and the small and conspiratorial groups of minist…
 
At the allied wartime conferences it was agreed by the big three that the Poles, Czechs and Hungarians could remove German civilians who had occupied lands now in newly recognised nation states, in some cases for generations. This decision was taken in large part because national governments and vigilante bands had already started the expulsions. S…
 
In the immediate aftermath of the October Revolution, European governments looked nervously at the poor and dispossessed, the peasants, workers and soldiers whose conditions were frequently intolerable. The spectre of communism, both real and imagined hung over Europe, but in Spain, France and Britain, strikes and protests had more to do with the h…
 
In the half decade after the end of the First World War, the size and the militancy of the trade union movement was at its height and the largest union was the Miner's Federation of Great Britain. The appalling treatment of miners by pit owners was exacerbated by the decline in the industry's fortunes after the war, leading to strike action by the …
 
When Britain, France and Russia secretly planned to carve up the Ottoman Empire in 1915, France made a claim on Ottoman Syria and acquired it as a mandate during the Paris Peace Conference. Brutality, colonial mendacity and a refusal to acknowledge the demands of Druze leaders and Syrian nationalists led to an explosion of anti colonial violence in…
 
Following the Bolshevik seizure of power in October 1917, class based terror and repression of social and political enemies became central to the party's attempts to establish itself. In addition to this, the savagery of the civil war and Lenin's belief that a parallel class war needed to be waged saw the earliest improvised camps, of which there w…
 
In 1956 the British Government, led by Anthony Eden, embarked on a disastrous military adventure with France and Israel that divided the country, split both political parties and was conducted despite the misgivings of the navy and air force. The agreement to attack Egypt was decided by the three main powers at a villa at Sevres weeks before the in…
 
Following the shock of the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, Vienna, Sarajevo, and other parts of the German and non German speaking empire saw outbreaks of public anger and mourning. However, it was the popular press that falsely presented the assassination as part of a wider conspiracy and created fear and anxiety among Germ…
 
By the end of the First World War, the British, French and American Armies were using gas more effectively than Germany, and the German Army's ability to resist gas attacks was crumbling. After the war, the view in Britain that gas had been a uniquely German crime persisted, as did the fear of gas use in future conflicts, particularly against civil…
 
In the 1970s and 1980s two political figures came to define the polarisation of British politics and society and the end of political consensus between the Conservative and Labour Parties. This podcast explores the ideological worlds of Thatcher and Benn and their impact on the trajectory of both parties. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-o…
 
In all totalitarian societies, individuals instinctively find ways of navigating and interacting with a repressive state. In the USSR, rumours, jokes and anonymous letters to the authorities, were often ways of expressing deep seated anger with the Stalinist state, whilst trying to avoid the most severe punishments. See acast.com/privacy for privac…
 
Following the assassination of John F Kennedy, his vice president, Lyndon Johnson, was unexpectedly propelled into the White House, but faced a staff of Kennedy loyalists, including the president's brother Bobby, who he could not trust. Johnson was also faced with the myth of JFK, a public perception of a great and now martyred president. Johnson s…
 
The long battle of attrition by the Japanese Army against the resilient US Marine Corps on Guadalcanal began with serious miscalculations by Japan. Both sides saw the island as a linchpin in the Pacific War and Japan's over confidence and their imperial over stretch led to their eventual defeat, but not before inflicting immense losses on America, …
 
Working class life in Britain during the 1930s was shaped and reshaped by economic forces. In the first part of the decade, a devastating economic slump in the staple industries of coal, cotton, ships and steel saw the migration of working people to more prosperous parts of the country. In the later 1930s, rising living standards and wages gave som…
 
In 1941 Sachsenhausen concentration camp became the first of the existing pre war concentration camps to become a site of mass killings as 9,000 Soviet POWs were murdered there by gas or shooting. Heinrich Himmler, anxious to find more efficient methods of mass murder, was kept informed by his henchman Theodore Eicke and took a keen interest in the…
 
After the appointment of Adolf Hitler as chancellor in 1933, Stalin began to privately regret his decision to prevent a popular front of communist and social democratic forces emerge in Germany. Across Europe communist parties found themselves in uneasy alliances with social democrats and in Britain the threat of the British Union of Fascists galva…
 
Following the victory over Japan at Midway, the US Navy was unprepared for a devastating defeat inflicted on its landing force at Guadalcanal. The Japanese sought to control islands close to the sea lanes vital to Australia's survival; shutting them off would bring the country to its knees and prevent it becoming a staging post for the liberation o…
 
In the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, civilian governments struggled to establish law and order and in many cars failed to prevent a wave of vigilante violence against those suspected of collaboration. The complicity in Nazi crimes and the everyday experience of occupation created huge divisions in societies of western and eastern Eur…
 
The Battle of Midway was the first major victory of the US Navy in the Second World War, resulting in the loss of four out of Japan's six carriers. This devastating defeat was not the end of Japan's war in the Pacific, but it signalled the start of a downward trajectory from which Japan would not deviate, despite the ability to inflict losses on Am…
 
During the 1950s, as Britain attempted to hold on to its African colonies, it had to deal with the ambitions of white colonial settlers for domination of the black population on a more explicitly racist model of government, exemplified by apartheid South Africa and the growing force of black nationalism. The British attempted to foster 'moderate' A…
 
The rapid industrialisation of the USSR, poor housing, poverty and family breakdown led to countless children being abandoned to fend for themselves by uncaring and cruel parents and step parents. The Soviet state often intervened and prosecuted fathers who refused to pay for the upkeep of their families. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-o…
 
As French power and influence declined in Vietnam from 1953 onwards, the conflict started to become a proxy for the wider cold war and not simply an anti colonial struggle. The enormous French miscalculation at Dien Bien Phu, where the garrison was surrounded in a north Vietnamese valley by DRV armies came just as France prepared peace talks at Gen…
 
Despair and defeatism defined the French political class's response to the worsening situation in Vietnam following the French defeat at Cao Bang in 1950. This lack of hope led to a gradual decline in the necessary resources to defeat the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. At the same time the DRV was becoming an increasingly professional and organise…
 
In the half decade after the Second World War, a stream of wanted Nazi war criminals, including Adolf Eichmann and Josef Mengele fled from Germany and escaped via Italy to Argentina and Brazil. They lived relatively openly in the established German communities in both countries and only a handful were ever brought to justice. In this special editio…
 
The German airforce was designed to support its army on the battlefield and act as a tool for rapid military operations or 'blitzkrieg'. Unlike British and American air fleets that pursued a policy of strategic bombing away from the battlefield, lighter German aircraft were focused on ground support. Their role in the terror bombing of the defended…
 
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