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Today In History with The Retrospectors

English, Comedy, 1 seasons, 667 episodes, 4 days 19 hours 38 minutes
What happened on this day in history? Curious moments curated each weekday by Olly Mann, Rebecca Messina and Arion McNicoll. It's history, but not as you know it.
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Who Needs A Switchboard?

Queen Elizabeth II made Britain’s first long-distance automated phone call on 5th November, 1958 - when, from Bristol, she spoke directly to the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, 300 miles away, without the need for an Operator.&nbsp;Subscriber Trunk Dialing (STD) transformed the telephone network, but was not without its challenges: automation brought efficiency but also led to job losses, sparking some labour disputes, and the roll-out was not completed for twenty years.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider why women were selected over men as telephone operators; track the evolution of phone technology through international calls and push-button phones; and propose a future role for the monarchy in testing out social media DMs…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Caller, putting you through!’ (Daily Express, 2012): <a href="" rel="noopener noref
05/12/202310 minutes 36 seconds
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Elvis, Jerry Lee, Johnny & Carl

Today we discover the iconic jamming session that birthed ‘The Million Dollar Quartet’ - Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ Perkins - who spent the day making music together at Sun Studios, Memphis on 4th December, 1956.Although the event began as an impromptu get-together, Sun’s Sam Phillips was quick to call a press photographer to document the troupe, which also included Elvis’s then-girlfriend, Marilyn Evans. Luckily, a savvy recording engineer also switched on the mics.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider why this rock n’ roll quartet quickly reverted to gospel, bluegrass, blues, and country; unpick Johnny Cash’s claim that he can’t be heard on-mic because he was matching Presley’s higher register; and marvel at Elvis’s impression of Jackie Wilson…Further Reading:• ‘Million Dollar Quartet - Dec. 4 1956’ (Sun Records, 2008):•
04/12/202310 minutes 16 seconds
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When Gnomes Took Over The World

Lampy, Britain’s oldest surviving garden gnome, was insured for £1 million on 28th November, 1997.Imported from Germany, his human dad was Sir Charles Isham, an eccentric aristocrat who adorned his rockery in Northampton with a selection of gnomes, the rest of whom were later destroyed by his daughters.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly trace how gnomes have experienced moments of fashion and disdain throughout their history; explain how World War II disrupted the British gnome industry; and consider how the phenomenon of "gnoming"—photographing gnomes at various landmarks - hit its peak (literally) in the 1970s…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Gnome expense spared’ (BBC News, 1997):• ‘The home in 50 objects from around the world #36: the Lamport Gnome’ (Financial Times, 2022): <a href="
01/12/202310 minutes 6 seconds
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Football's First International

England played Scotland in a publicly-advertised game for the first time on 30th November, 1872 - kickstarting international football as we know it today. The English team included players drafted in from Oxford University. The Scottish team was entirely made up of teammates from Queen’s Park. The score was 0-0.Much of the game was yet to be codified - for example, that you couldn’t catch a ball with your hands. Readers of the match-report in The Guardian had to have it explained to them that half-time was 45 minutes. But the game was an indisputable hit.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly reveal why Scotland still wear dark blue in international competitions; consider the role of cricket stadiums in the continuing confusion over pitch sizes; and question the wisdom of the photographer booked to document the occasion - who decided not to turn up…Further Reading:• ‘Scotland v England 1872’ ( https://www.scottishsporthisto
30/11/20239 minutes 27 seconds
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Marriage of the Moonies

The first American mass marriage ceremony of the Unification Church - for 28,000 couples in matching garb, led by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon - took place at the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, Washington, D.C. on 29th November, 1997.Newleyweds had to confirm their virginity and abstain from sexual relations for 40 days afterwards, but many participants were already legally married, and the event was a blend of existing unions and Moonie recruits. Whitney Houston was slated to perform at the post-marriage party, but her last-minute cancellation led to disappointment among attendees, who had paid varying ticket prices, starting at $35.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain the appeal and recruiting practices of this cult / church; trace back Moon's claims to continue Jesus' interrupted work on Earth; and reveal how the Moonies became an accepted part of Korean cultural representation in the United States…Further Reading:• ‘Follow
29/11/202310 minutes 30 seconds
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The Sound of Luxury

In the annals of automotive innovation, November 28th, 2018 marked a peculiar milestone: the birth of the Lincoln Chimes. The brainchild of Jennifer Prescott, overseer of "Vehicle Harmony" at the motor company, this warning system replaced the synthetic sound of in-car emergency alerts with a blend of violin, viola, and marimba played by The Detroit Symphony Orchestra.Lincoln's endeavour followed in the wake of Bentley revamping its alert and indicator sounds, drawing inspiration from the gentle ticking of a grandfather clock - but cars are not the only luxury products to dabble in ‘sonic branding’. From computer startup chimes to the noise accompanying credit card transactions, there’s a soundscape of jingles which have become an integral part of our conditioned understanding of products and experiences.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly discover how NBC were the first company to trademark&nbsp; a sound; check out MasterCard’s deviation into recorded mus
28/11/202310 minutes 12 seconds
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The Berners St Hoax

We reveal how, on 27th November, 1809, a respectable house on the well-to-do Berners Street in London became ground zero for one of the most disruptive practical jokes in history: the Berners Street Hoax.First a chimney sweep turned up at the address, then another and another, then cake makers, surgeons, lawyers, physicians, obstetricians, butchers, priests and more. The archbishop of Canterbury also showed his face, as did the Governor of the Bank of England, the chairman of the East India Company, and even the Duke of York.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly revisit the practical joke that brought London to a standstill; discuss why exactly 54 Berners Street was the chosen address for the prank; and debate whether it was funny or just incredibly tiresome…Further Reading:• ‘Lippincott's Monthly Magazine: Volume 42’ (J.B. Lippincott Company, 1888): <a href="
27/11/202310 minutes 24 seconds
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QVC's First Day

The ‘Windsor Shower Companion’ ($11.49) was the first product sold on home shopping network QVC, which made its debut on 24th November, 1986, quickly becoming a cable TV&nbsp;phenomenon.Joe Segel, the channel’s founder, focussed on a ‘soft sell’ approach that emphasised authenticity and a friendly, neighbourly connection. The channel's anonymity factor allowed customers to indulge in, um, unusual purchases without fear of judgement, contributing to its ongoing appeal.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly reveal the rigorous selection process for QVC presenters; explain why some products’ failure on the network can be ruinous for the companies who made them; and uncover Marlon Brando's extraordinary QVC near-miss…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘15 Things You Might Not Know About QVC’ (Mental Floss, 2015): <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_bl
24/11/20239 minutes 41 seconds
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The Tamagotchi Effect

With cutesy graphics and a female-focussed origin story, Tamagotchi was positioned as a ‘nurturing toy’ for Japanese girls when Bandai launched the brand on 23rd November, 1996. But the gadget's massive popularity soon transcended gender and nationality - shifting 40 million units globally in just three years.Users had to check in regularly with their virtual pets, which buzzed when they were hungry or needed attention. Otherwise, neglectful owners would witness their Tamagotchi transition into virtual TOMBSTONES.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly reveal how a stay-at-home tortoise inspired the concept; explain how the U.S. release of the toy was less brutal than its Japanese precursor; and wonder if now, with our pathetic attachments to Alexa and Siri, we are finally experiencing what 90s psychologists termed ‘The Tamagotchi Effect’...Further Reading:• ‘A Brief History of the Tamagotchi’ (Mental Floss, 2021):
23/11/202310 minutes 23 seconds
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Fall of the Knights Templar

Pope Clement V ordered the arrest of all Knights Templar and seizure of their properties on 22nd November, 1307: a day that sealed the fate of the once-celebrated Christian military order. They had attracted the ire of Philip IV of France, who began an international conspiracy to smear their name.Founded in 1118, the Knights Templar initially served as protectors for pilgrims travelling to the Holy Land. Over time, they became wealthy and influential, with a system of castles, churches, and even banks across Western Europe. Many aristocrats, drawn by the prospect of being both monks and knights, joined and supported the order, contributing to its extensive holdings.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly examine the bizarre charges chucked at the Templars; explain how Philip’s crusade against them solidified the concept of Friday the 13th being unlucky; and consider how the knights *may* have taken their revenge, via the ‘Templar’s Curse’...&nbsp;Fu
22/11/20239 minutes 24 seconds
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The First Hanukkah

When the Maccabees celebrated the recapture of Jerusalem from the Macedonian emperor Antiochus IV, they lit a menorah in the city's holy temple. The date, in the ancient Hebrew calendar, was the twenty-fifth day of the third month of Kislev 3597… the first Hanukkah.&nbsp;Hanukkah's significance waned in some early Jewish texts due to the favourable portrayal of Romans in the Book of Maccabees, but gained prominence in the Diaspora during the late 19th century, as it offered a distinct celebration for Jews in Western societies during the festive season.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider whether the Maccabees were freedom fighters or religious fundamentalists; explain why donuts may have played a crucial role in the widespread adoption of Hanukkah; and recall Adam Sandler’s totemic contribution to Hanukkah lore…Further Reading:‘The story of Hanukkah: how a minor Jewish holiday was remade in the image of
21/11/202310 minutes 17 seconds
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The Real Moby Dick

The ill-fated whale-ship The Essex, was rammed by an 85-foot sperm whale on 20th November, 1820. The incident inspired Herman Melville’s sea-faring novel, Moby Dick.Left to fend for themselves in tiny whaling boats, the young crew had to make terrible choices in order to preserve their own survival - including how and when to eat each other.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why it was not only whales, but also tortoises and mockingbirds that had to fear the crews from Nantucket; consider Captain Pollard’s position as a ‘Jonah’ on his return to New England; and reveal how family ties played their part in the crew’s grizzly dilemma…CONTENT WARNING: description of cannibalism, animal cruelty.Further Reading:• ‘The Essex Disaster’ (American Heritage, 1983):• ‘The Whaleship Essex Disaster And The True Story Behind 'Moby Dick'’ (All Thats Interesting, 2020): https://a
20/11/202310 minutes 41 seconds
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Turn To Page 3

Rupert Murdoch, controversial owner of The Sun, launched "The Birthday Suit Girl", a topless photo feature, on 17th November, 1970. Within a year, the paper’s circulation had nearly doubled to 2.5 million.Editor Larry Lamb intended his ‘Page 3 girls’ to be wholesome and clean, skating on the edge of what was acceptable in a family newspaper. But by the 80s, Editor Kelvin Mackenzie had introduced raunchier shots, to compete with a resurgent Daily Star.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly recall how the long-running feature eventually fizzled out; reveal how little money massive stars like Samantha Fox, Melinda Messenger and Jordan were paid for their appearances; and examine how the Editorial team got their knickers in a twist over News in Briefs…Further Reading:• ‘What 80s glamour models did next - from selling 30m records to dating Eric Clapton &amp; jail time for money laundering’ (The Sun, 2021): <a href="
17/11/202310 minutes 29 seconds
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When Space Mountain Saved EuroDisney

Rerun. Disneyland Paris, now Europe’s most popular theme park, initially haemorrhaged money - at a rate of around $1 million per day. But, after three hard years, it returned its first annual profit on 16th November, 1995.&nbsp;This change in the park’s fortunes can be attributed to the popularity of two trains: the opening of the Eurostar direct line from London, and the building of the world’s most expensive roller coaster, Space Mountain, which first launched from Discoveryland on 1st June.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly unpick how the Disney Corporation consistently underestimated the French traditions of wine with lunch, surly customer service and a unionised workforce; reveal how Spain and Britain had competed for the opportunity to be considered as alternative sites for the park’s development; and recall the French antipathy for Americana that led to one critic to label the attraction ‘a cultural Chernobyl’...&nbsp;Further Re
16/11/202310 minutes 28 seconds
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The Queen's Soviet Spy

Sir Anthony Blunt, esteemed art historian and a favourite of the Royal family, was publicly revealed as a Soviet spy on 15th November, 1979, when Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher confirmed he had been part of the "Cambridge Five", a group of double agents who secretly passed sensitive information to the Soviet Union.Despite his confession to MI5 in 1964, Blunt continued his association with the royal household, working as a surveyor of the Queen's pictures until his retirement in 1972. The response in Parliament included disbelief and accusations of deliberate cover-ups to protect Blunt, leading, eventually, to his knighthood being rescinded.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider how Blunt's privilege facilitated his double-dealing at the very highest levels of British society; ask whether his homosexuality influenced his relationship with Guy Burgess and his willingness to betray the British establishment; and explain how a fictional work - and some
15/11/202310 minutes 26 seconds
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Let's Go On Strike

Workers involved in tomb construction in the Valley of the Kings staged the earliest recorded strike in history on 14th November, 1157 B.C. Having not been paid their ration of food for 18 days, they set about disrupting temple life and rituals, to the shock of Pharaoh Ramses III’s administration.The workers' struggle wasn't solely about wages; it reflected broader discontent, too, as they voiced concerns about alleged corruption, such as barley being replaced with dirt in payments. And the strike indicated a shift in the workers' perceptions, as they realised they couldn't rely solely on the divine authority of the Pharaoh to meet their basic needs.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly reveal how Ancient Egypt was financially decimated by the suppression of the ‘Sea Peoples’; explain how an offer of cake was (unsurprisingly) not enough to pacify the protests; and consider whether the workers’ picket-line slogans needed a little workshopping…&nbsp;<p
14/11/202310 minutes 24 seconds
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Hypnosis Goes Legit

In this episode we uncover the incredible story of Scottish surgeon James Braid, who entered the Manchester Athenaeum on 13th November, 1841 as a skeptic of what was then known as ‘mesmerism’, or ‘animal magnetism’ - and left as perhaps the most enthusiastic proponent in Britain of what he came to call ‘hypnosis’.The performance he saw, however, was not especially scientific: it consisted of Swiss mesmerist Charles Lafontaine putting participants into a trance via a dubious magnetic field; and then shocking them with live batteries, burning them with candles, and making them breathe ammonia.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how Braid invented, and then regretted, the term ‘hypnosis’; review the bookings policy of the Manchester Athenaeum; and consider if the sideshow origins of stage hypnotism hampered the widespread adoption of hypnotherapy for decades…&nbsp;&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Mind Over Matter: The Fascinating Tale
13/11/202310 minutes 24 seconds
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The Temple of Reason

The French government introduced a new State religion on 10th November, 1793: the ‘Cult of Reason’, which attempted to reflect the anti-clerical attitudes of the French Revolution.&nbsp;But - as with the new secular calendar that reset the year to zero and gave democratic names to the months - the general public did not take to their local Church becoming a ‘Temple of Reason’, and most of the men involved in propagating the idea were ultimately executed.The worship of reason was personified by living women in Roman dresses, who were met with ridicule, and a mishmash of Greek and Roman-inspired ceremonies that struggled to define their purpose, often resembling confused and peculiar public exhibitions rather than a cohesive religious doctrine.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider Robespierre's replacement religion, the "Cult of the Supreme Being"; explain how Napoleon's rise marked the end of both cults; and reveal how the Temples of
10/11/202311 minutes 21 seconds
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Roosevelt's Panamanian Photoshoot

Presidential diplomacy now routinely involves hundreds of trips on Air Force One - but, until Theodore Roosevelt travelled to inspect the Panama Canal on 9th November, 1906, no serving US President had ever ventured abroad.It was the biggest infrastructure project a President had ever undertaken, costing hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of lives. To reassure Americans he was at the helm, Roosevelt was photographed sitting atop a steam shovel, wearing a pristine white suit.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly reveal the most recent President to remain ‘at home’ throughout his Presidency; consider whether Roosevelt had ADHD; and explain why one of George H W Bush’s foreign trips inadvertently inspired the Japanese to create a new word for vomiting.&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘7 Little-Known Legacies of Teddy Roosevelt’ (HISTORY, 2020):• ‘The Panama Canal’s Forgotte
09/11/20239 minutes 19 seconds
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The Instant Message Murder

Bruce Miller appeared to be the victim of a violent robbery at his salvage yard when his body was discovered on 8th November, 1999 - but he had actually been killed as part of a disturbing love triangle; one that led to his wife, Sharee Miller, being imprisoned for second degree homicide in a case frequently labelled ‘the internet’s first murder’.Sharee, 20 years Bruce’s junior, had been flirting in AOL chatrooms with Jerry Cassaday, a 39-year-old former homicide detective, whom she convinced that her husband was abusive. She told Cassaday she was pregnant with his child, and presented fabricated evidence to support her story, along with instructions of how to kill her husband.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly reveal how Sharee meticulously plotted the murder from afar; explain how the prosecution used computer forensics for the first time in a murder case; and discover how Sharee initially tried to frame another man, but ultimately confessed from prison
08/11/202311 minutes 5 seconds
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The first meteorite to crash land into Earth - and have its date recorded - impacted the hamlet of Ensisheim (in modern-day France, then Austria) on 7th November, 1492. The stone's descent created a crater in a wheat field, captivating villagers who believed such occurrences were cosmic signs.A striking deafening noise accompanied the meteor's descent; the bright trail it left was blinding. A young boy witnessed the fall and alerted the townsfolk, leading to a frenzy of villagers rushing to collect souvenirs and good luck charms from the impact site. The local magistrate intervened, preserving the meteorite by having it relocated to the church for safekeeping.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly reflect on how the villagers reacted to the coming of what they called the Thunderstone, or Firestone; explain how the event was widely interpreted as a divine warning mainly thanks to the invention of the printing press; and reveal why the meteorite was affix
07/11/20239 minutes 46 seconds
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Creating The At-Home Pregnancy Test

This episode first premiered in 2022, for members of 🌴CLUB RETROSPECTORS🌴 - where you can also DITCH THE ADS and get weekly bonus bits, unlock over 70 bits of extra content and support our independent podcast. Join now via Apple Podcasts or Patreon<stro
06/11/202310 minutes 31 seconds
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Muhammad Ali and the Hail of Toothbrushes

In a quirky blend of sports, public health, and self-promotion, boxing legend Muhammad Ali took on an unusual opponent at the Washington Monument on 3rd November, 1979: ‘Mr. Tooth Decay’.The demonstration, promoted by Don King, culminated with Ali knocking down Decay in the sixth round, prompting the crowd of children to celebrate by tossing toothbrushes. It was part of an extended dental health campaign that included Ali’s bizarre LP, "Muhammad Ali and His Gang vs. Mr. Tooth Decay," featuring Frank Sinatra and released in 1976.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca, and Olly dare each other to listen to the album in full; consider how Ali transitioned his public personality away from his stand against the Vietnam War and embrace of Islam; and seek out the even lesser-known sequel, "Dope! The Dope King's Last Stand", featuring a guest appearance from no less than President Jimmy Carter…Further Reading:• ‘Ali Still The Most in 6
03/11/202310 minutes 28 seconds
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The First Cheerleader

Johnny Campbell, a medical student from the University Of Minnesota, spurred on his alma mater’s struggling football team by leading spectators in a rousing cheer on 2nd November, 1898 - and, in so doing, became the world’s first recognised cheerleader.&nbsp;Even though the sport now features predominantly female participants these days, the first women cheerleaders weren't recorded until 1923. Indeed, four men who would later become U.S. President cheered on their teams at College: Dwight D Eisenhower, Franklin D Roosevelt, George W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly reveal the ‘grandfather of cheerleading’, who patented pom-poms; explain how the Dallas Cowboys played a pivotal role in the perception of modern cheerleading; and consider the most comical cheerleading names in the canon…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Almanac: The 1st cheerleader’ (CBS News, 2014):• A
02/11/202310 minutes 5 seconds
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The Flying Artilleryman

Dropping bombs from planes was unheard of until 1st November 1911, when Italian Lieutenant Giulio Gavotti embarked on an aerial mission over Libya. With a handful of lightweight grenades resting in his lap, he headed to Ain Zara, a village near Tripoli, and chucked them overboard.This audacious act occurred only eight years after the Wright brothers' initial flight. Early planes were difficult to manoeuvre, and unable to handle significant weight due to their construction from lightweight wood and paper. Nonetheless, the haphazard nature of the bombing attempt, involving improvised techniques and a lack of sophistication, was a bold step in the evolution of military aviation.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how Gavotti’s act laid the groundwork for aerial warfare, sparking discussions about the morality and strategic implications of bombing civilian sites; consider how the Italian press celebrated the achievement as ‘the art of winged deat
01/11/20239 minutes 55 seconds
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The BBC's Halloween Hoax

‘Ghostwatch’, a Halloween drama in the style of a documentary, reached 11 million viewers on its first and only UK broadcast on BBC 1, on 31st October, 1992. It starred Sarah Greene, Craig Charles, Mike Smith, and - in a stroke of genius - trusted veteran broadcaster Michael Parkinson, who became possessed by the voice of ‘Pipes’ as the programme reached its terrifying climax.&nbsp;The show caused outrage for its disturbing content and the way it blurred the line between fact and fiction. Most of the 30,000 complainants didn’t believe the events portrayed were real; they were simply distressed that the BBC would make a horror drama that borrowed the visual language of current affairs television.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why the entire cast and crew were holed up in a Chiswick sailing club during the transmission; consider how the show’s pioneering style influenced the likes of Derek Acorah and ‘Most Haunted’; and document the astonishing
31/10/20239 minutes 48 seconds
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Building The Chunnel

On 30 October, 1990, with little fanfare and without any cameras present, the first connection was made between the French half and the British half of the Channel Tunnel, when a two-inch metal probe broke through to link Great Britain with the European mainland for the first time in more than 8,000 years.&nbsp;In the words of the British team, the hole was just big enough to give them “a whiff of garlic”. Final construction took another four more years, with the “Chunnel” officially opening for passenger service in May, 1994.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why not all Brits were enthusiastic about the project; describe the gifts the British and French sides presented one another with when the connection was made; and discuss why the original scheme to link the two countries included an artificial island in the middle where you would change horses...Further Reading:• 'The Channel Tunnel or 'Chunnel'' (The Train Line, 2022): ht
30/10/202310 minutes 37 seconds
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Rebel Without A Script

Nicholas Ray’s ‘troubled teen’ picture, ‘Rebel Without A Cause’ opened in the US on 27th October, 1955. The film was eagerly anticipated, partly due to the recent death of its star, James Dean, in a car accident.Although the movie’s title can be traced back to a book by Dr. Robert Lindner that explored the mind of a teenage criminal, the script underwent multiple revisions - in part so that Dean and the young cast, including Natalie Wood and Dennis Hooper, could contribute improvisation.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly examine the film’s radical sexuality, yet latent conservatism; explain why it received an X rating in the UK; and reveal why it was released in colour, yet initially filmed in black and white…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Rebel Without a Cause: Review’ (Time, 1955):
27/10/202311 minutes 13 seconds
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Making 'Under Pressure'

When Queen and David Bowie met in Switzerland to record their iconic collaboration ‘Under Pressure’ on 26th October, 1981, *quite a lot* of drugs and wine were taken - to the extent that nobody can recall exactly how the iconic pop song came to be formed.What we do know is that Freddie Mercury never performed the monster hit live with Bowie, nor turned up to appear in the video, and that the precise authorship of the instantly recognisable bassline remains hard to establish.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly probe into Bowie’s tax affairs; relate Brian May’s account of Mercury’s vocal-booth improv; and ask why Jedward and Vanilla Ice appear to have stolen a march on this seminal track…Further Reading:• ‘Feel Like’ (1981), the demo Queen recorded before Bowie turned up:• ‘Under Pressure’ (1981) - David Bowie and Queen, Official Video:&nbsp;• ‘I
26/10/202310 minutes 20 seconds
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America's First Black General

Benjamin O. Davis, Sr. became the first African-American general in the US Army on 25th October, 1940 - despite facing opposition from those who saw his appointment as political opportunism, whilst Roosevelt wooed the ‘negro vote’.Despite facing racial discrimination throughout his career, Davis had a deep connection to the military, serving in various roles and campaigns, including the Spanish American War, and had been mentored by Lieutenant Charles Young, the only other black officer at the time.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why Davis’s date of birth is a question of debate; explain how Davis’s son went on to have a military career that echoed the discrimination and successes of his father’s; and trace the history of black soldiers’ involvement in the US Army since the country’s foundation…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Benjamin O. Davis Sr. (1877-1970)’ (Blackpast, 2017): <a href="https://www.blackpast.o
25/10/202310 minutes 20 seconds
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Mourning Jane Seymour

King Henry VIII’s third wife, Queen Consort Jane Seymour, died aged just 29 on 24th October, 1537 - 12 days after giving birth to their son, future King Edward VI. Her death was attributed to complications following a prolonged and challenging labour, though recently it has been speculated it was in fact a pulmonary embolism.&nbsp;Despite her limited education, Jane's gentle nature and domestic skills appealed to Henry, who was, perhaps, looking for a more ‘girl next door’-type following his disastrous marriage to Anne Boleyn, whom he had beheaded just ten days before marrying Jane.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Olly and Rebecca weigh up Jane's plain reputation with her latent plucky side and glitzy jewellery; consider Jane’s role in reconciling Henry with his daughter Mary, who had been declared a bastard; and delight in the discovery of black wax in Henry’s mourning court…Further Reading:• ‘Jane Seymour | Hampton Court Palace’ (Historic Royal
24/10/202311 minutes 23 seconds
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Not The Beginning Of The World

According to the 17th-century Archbishop James Ussher, the world began on 23rd October, 4004 BC at precisely midday.Today, it is easy to ridicule Ussher’s date – and plenty of people do – but his methodology was scrupulous and his calculations were in line with most of the best estimates of his age.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly discuss what was behind the 17th Century fascination with the age of the Earth; investigate how the Gideon Society made Ussher a household name; and ask whether Ussher was the original superfan (with the caveat that his area of nerdy obsession happened to be Biblical chronology)...Further Reading:• ‘Chronologies: The date of the world’s beginning’ (University of Cambridge, 2022):;• ‘How an archbishop calculated the Creation’ (The Irish Times, 2003):
23/10/202310 minutes 4 seconds
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Australia's Most Iconic Building

The Sydney Opera House was opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 20th October, 1973, marking the start of a two-week festival of events in celebration of the audacious new building.&nbsp;“I understand that its construction has not been totally without problems,” Her Majesty commented with some understatement, adding “but the human spirit must sometimes take wings or sails, and create something that is not just utilitarian or commonplace”.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly discuss why the construction of the Opera House ran ten years late and 1,357% over budget; examine what prompted visionary architect Jørn Utzon to walk away from his magnum opus mid-project; and reveal why finding a home for the pie shop has long bedevilled the landmark's designers…Further Reading:•&nbsp;‘Sydney Opera House - 50 years of extraordinary moments’ (Sydney Opera House, 2023): <a href="
20/10/20239 minutes 18 seconds
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David Blaine, Trickless Magician

Ten thousand spectators gathered by the side of the Thames on 19th October, 2003 to watch street magician/illusionist David Blaine come back down to Earth, having spent 44 days suspended in a perspex box in a stunt called ‘Above The Below’.It was an accomplishment almost sabotaged by the British tabloid media and general public, who had heckled him, tried to dismantle his crane, and even flown up a hamburger on a drone to taunt him.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly ask why Londoners were so hostile to this performance art unfolding in their midsts; explain what Dizzee Rascal had to do with it all; and reveal exactly how Blaine did a wee, whilst suspended in mid-air…Further Reading:• ‘Above the Below’ - David Blaine’s Official Website:• ‘Remembering David Blaine's 44 days in a glass box, which frustrated the British public like no other act of performance art’ (The Independent, 2018): https://www.indep
19/10/20238 minutes 53 seconds
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Let's Buy Alaska

The traditional music for the circus, "Entrance of the Gladiators", wasn’t actually written for the circus at all, instead when it was composed on 17th October, 1899, it was in fact intended to be a military march.&nbsp;&nbsp;Julius Fučík composed it, in part, to showcase the cutting-edge capabilities of the era's brass instruments, which had become quicker and more precise than ever before.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly investigate how a sober military march ended up being associated with clowns and trapeze artists; explain what circus music would have sounded like before big bands took over; and reveal which song you should listen out for that traditionally tells circus performers if there is a fire or an escaped wild animal…&nbsp;&nbsp;Further Reading:•&nbsp;‘Julius Fučík ‘Entrance of the Gladiators’: Roll Up Roll Up!’ (Clasicalexburns, 2020): <a href="
18/10/202310 minutes 16 seconds
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The Sound of the Circus

The traditional music for the circus, "Entrance of the Gladiators", wasn’t actually written for the circus at all, instead when it was composed on 17th October, 1899, it was in fact intended to be a military march.&nbsp;&nbsp;Julius Fučík composed it, in part, to showcase the cutting-edge capabilities of the era's brass instruments, which had become quicker and more precise than ever before.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly investigate how a sober military march ended up being associated with clowns and trapeze artists; explain what circus music would have sounded like before big bands took over; and reveal which song you should listen out for that traditionally tells circus performers if there is a fire or an escaped wild animal…&nbsp;&nbsp;Further Reading:•&nbsp;‘Julius Fučík ‘Entrance of the Gladiators’: Roll Up Roll Up!’ (Clasicalexburns, 2020): <a href="
17/10/202310 minutes 41 seconds
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Catch Me If You Can

ack The Ripper’s ‘letters’ can mostly be dismissed as hoaxes. The possible exception is the letter sent to George Lusk, the President of Mile End Vigilance Committee, on 16th October, 1688. It was marked, “From Hell”. And it had half a human kidney attached to it.&nbsp;“Sor I send you half the Kidne I took from one women”, it began. “prasarved it for you tother piece I fried and ate it was very nise. I may send you the bloody knif that took it out if you only wate a whil longer. Catch me when you can Mishter Lusk”.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly unpick the motivation of the fraudulent letter-writers; examine whether the kidney sent with this letter could have been that of victim Catherine Eddowes; and interrogate Rebecca’s dalliance with Ripperology on an East London walking tour…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Inside The 'From Hell' Letter Written By Jack The Ripper’ (All Thats Interesting, 2021):
16/10/202335 seconds
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Reviving Hebrew

On October 13th, 1881, the linguist and grammarian Eliezer Ben-Yehuda held what is thought to have been the first modern conversation in Hebrew with two friends at a Paris café.The conversation would have had some serious stumbling blocks, given that the language was still missing numerous modern words including bicycle, towel, and – crucially for being in a cafe – a word for coffee.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly discuss the connection between Hebrew's revival and growing Jewish nationalism; look at the personal lengths Ben-Yehuda was willing to go to make the language take off, including speaking to his son exclusively in Hebrew; and explain why, in the early days, conversing in an ancient language must have been like speaking exclusively in David Bowie song lyrics…Further Reading:•&nbsp;‘Revival of the Hebrew language’ (The Jerusalem Post, 2010): <a href="
13/10/202310 minutes 5 seconds
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Playboy's Identity Crisis

The world’s most famous adult magazine went ‘SFW’ on 12th October, 2015 - when Scott Flanders, then Playboy’s chief executive, announced that future editions would no longer contain full nudity.The change lasted for only one year.‘Reading it for the articles’ had, at one time, been a plausible option - the magazine had published stories by Margaret Atwood and interviews with Malcolm X, Vladimir Nabokov, Martin Luther King Jr., and Jimmy Carter. But, in the internet era, Playboy had become more lucrative as a clothing brand than as a credible print title, finally ceasing publication in 2020.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly revisit the first issue, from 1953; dig into Hugh Hefner’s burial plot; and visit Playboy’s website, FOR RESEARCH…Further Reading:•‘Playboy to remove nudity from magazine’ (Channel 4 News, 2015):•‘Playboy's Postfeminism Problem’ (Diggit, 2018): htt
12/10/202310 minutes 13 seconds
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The Japanese Exclusion League

Triggering a national and international outcry, the San Francisco school board issued an order on October 11th, 1906, requiring all Japanese and Korean children to attend a separate “Oriental School” where Chinese pupils were already segregated.&nbsp;The move came as a huge embarrassment to President Theodore Roosevelt, who was trying to build relations with Japan, prompting him to describe the school board’s action as a “wicked absurdity” in his annual message to Congress.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly discuss why an earthquake prompted San Francisco to act; explain why anti-Chinese sentiment came to be transferred to Japanese immigrants; and look into how laws overtly banning Asians from entering the country remained on the books in the US until 1965…&nbsp;Further Reading:•&nbsp;‘Segregation of Japanese School Kids in San Francisco Sparks An International Incident’ (California State Library, 2019): <a href="https:/
11/10/202311 minutes 39 seconds
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Governing Outer Space

On 10th October, 1967 a treaty went into force that has gone on to become the backbone for all international space law – a United Nations-approved agreement known as the The Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, but better known today as the Outer Space Treaty.It’s a relatively succinct document of just 17 articles, some as short as a single sentence, but it represented a lot of fundamentally very challenging cooperation at the time. Not least because it came about when the Cold War was in full swing, and both the United States and the Soviet Union wanted to prevent the expansion of the nuclear arms race into space.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why the principles of the Antarctic Treaty of 1959 turned out to be a good fit for rules on what can and can't be done in outer space; revisit everyone's favourite topic of property law in
10/10/202311 minutes 32 seconds
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Rigging the World Series

Scandal beset baseball’s biggest contest on 9th October, 1919, when members of the Chicago White Sox conspired to lose the World Series to underdogs the Cincinnati Reds, in return for a slice of gambling profits.There had been numerous attempts to fix high-profile games before, but the ‘Black Sox’ affair was the first time America at large became aware of dodgy dealings behind-the-scenes - and the outrage rocked the country.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider the role of notorious gangster Arnold Rothstein; question whether White Sox players were in fact underpaid in the era; and explain why the lines between truth and fiction were deliberately blurred in ‘Eight Men Out’, Eliot Asinof's 1963 book about the case...&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘The 1919 Black Sox Baseball Scandal Was Just One of Many’ (Smithsonian Magazine, 2017):• ‘A
09/10/202310 minutes 24 seconds
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Bienvenue au Moulin Rouge

The world’s most famous cabaret, the Moulin Rouge, opened its doors in Paris on 6th October, 1889. Founded by Joseph Oller and Charles Zidler, the club was originally called the Jardin de Paris and featured everything from art galleries to operettas, live tableau and an opium den.In the era of the Belle Epoque, however, the venue became most associated with the scandalous can-can dance, which actually originated in London but found its home in Montmartre.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how a giant stucco elephant became part of the opening attractions; recall what happened when the Prince of Wales, future Edward VII, went to check out the entertainment on offer; and unpick the notorious novelty act ‘Le Pétomane’ (Joseph Pujol), and his, um, unique control over airflow…Further Reading:•&nbsp;’The original Moulin Rouge the year before it burned down and other historical images, 1890-1930’ (Rare Historical Photos): <a href="https
06/10/202310 minutes 13 seconds
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To Versailles! To Versailles!

The ‘Women’s March’ of 1789 began spontaneously, when a market trader banged a drum in a Parisian square on 5th October - launching a chain of events which would eventually end a century of Versailles rule and lead to the execution of Louis XVI.Initially a reaction to the grain shortage that had left Parisians hungry as the aristocracy indulged in luxuries, the protest soon morphed into an angry mob demanding everything from the relocation of the monarchy to the murder of Marie Antoinette.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly ask why the protestors reportedly fainted at the King’s feet once granted an audience with him; review some of the bizarre weaponry mobilised by the mob; and learn that the French Revolution happened a lot more slowly than you probably think it did…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘A History of the Women’s March on Versailles’ (ThoughtCo, 2019):• ‘How Bread Shortages Helpe
05/10/202310 minutes 12 seconds
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Carving Mount Rushmore

Sculptor Gutzon Borglum began chiseling the rockface of Mount Rushmore on 4th October, 1927 - the start of a 14 year project to carve Presidents Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson and Roosevelt into the South Dakotan summit.A team of up to 400 workers used dynamite, jackhammers, and chisels to shape the mountain into the iconic presidential faces, and to access the summit, built a staircase and ropes for support, working at dizzying heights of 500 feet above the ground. Remarkably, despite the dangers, not a single fatality occurred during the construction.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how Borglum hotfooted it to the project from a even more controversial one in Georgia; unpick the Lakota Sioux people’s legal disputes with the U.S. government over the land rights; and reveal why George Washington's nose was even larger-than-life than the rest of him…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Sculptor Gutzon Borglum - Mount Rushmore National Memor
04/10/202311 minutes 24 seconds
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When Sinéad Shocked America

Irish popstar Sinéad O’Connor tore up a photo of Pope John Paul II during her performance of Bob Marley’s ‘War’ on NBC’s TV show ‘Saturday Night Live’ on 3rd October, 1992. The unexpected act was meticulously planned by O'Connor; a protest against child abuse within the Catholic Church.&nbsp;The performance left the audience almost silent, and, although she faced significant backlash, O'Connor remained unapologetic, writing in her memoirs that it was one of her proudest achievements.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how a Top of the Pops performance by Bob Geldof first inspired the stunt; reveal where precisely O’Connor got the photo of the Pope from; and ask if, when it comes to this divisive moment, SNL have fallen on the right side of history…Further Reading:• ‘The day Sinead O’Connor tore up a photo of the Pope on Saturday Night Live’ (The Independent, 2022): <a href="
03/10/202310 minutes 27 seconds
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Meet Peter Rabbit

Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit was published on October 2nd, 1902. The book was an instant sensation, needing reprints almost immediately, and ultimately went on to sell an extraordinary 40 million copies worldwide.Potter had initially written it in 1893 as a letter to cheer up Noel Moore, the five-year-old son of her former governess. Noel was ill, and Potter wrote the story simply to help him pass the time. Seeing Peter Rabbit’s potential, however, her friends encouraged her to publish.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explore why The Tale of Peter Rabbit was rejected by six publishers; look into how Potter first met the “real” Peter Rabbit; and discuss how the gentle book was given a high-octane update when it transferred to TV…&nbsp;&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Peter Rabbit: the tale of “The Tale”’ (V&amp;A Museum, 2021): <a href="
02/10/202310 minutes 34 seconds
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The Inquiry Office

Henry Robinson opened the Office of Addresses and Encounters on Threadneedle Street, London on 29th September, 1650. The centre provided a forward-looking, unusual mix of services ranging from job placements, money lending, and property dealings… to (shhh) match-making.Robinson's inspiration came from a broader philosophical concept of creating a place where people of all classes could access information, regardless of their status in society. He accordingly charged a minimal fee for answers to queries, and offered an array of services, from buying and selling land to language tuition and finding ‘travel companions’.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explore why euphemistic wording was so often used in these very first ‘classifieds’; reveal the first documented example of a ‘Lonely Hearts’ advertisement; and consider what Robinson’s upselling model had in common with Costco…Further Reading:• ‘Heretic, Rebel, a Thing to Flout: They
29/09/202310 minutes 9 seconds
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Let's Get Metric

Rerun. Feet, inches, palms, cubits, rods… all were SWEPT ASIDE on 28th September, 1889, when the first General Conference of the Weights and Measures Commission met in Sèvres, France to refine a definition for the NEW universal measurement of distance: the metre.The calculation was painstakingly made by measuring a quarter of the meridian of the Earth - running from the North Pole to the Equator - and then dividing it into 10 million parts. Metal bars measuring exactly one metre were then distributed to attendees of the Conference.In this episode Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider whether this scientific method of calculating distance was *really* any better than barleycorns and man-size hugs; ask why the USA still hasn’t got on-board with the metric system; and explain why Napoleon might not have been as short as we think he was…Further Reading:• ‘Galileo, Krypton, and How the Metric Standard Came to Be’ (WIRED, 2018): <a href="https:/
28/09/202310 minutes 11 seconds
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Let's Catch A Steam Train

George Stephenson drove Britain’s first-ever steam-powered passenger train, the Locomotion Number One, on 27th September, 1825, from Darlington to Stockton on Tees.The Cambridge Chronicle and Journal reported, with breathless excitement: “in the presence of great crowds of spectators, including many scientific gentlemen… 60 waggons were attached, containing one thousand persons, who were visibly delighted, as were the thousands of spectators. The cavalcade moved by signals, and the whole of this immense mass could be stopped at any prescribed place and moment. On one part of the line, the speed was 12 miles an hour.”&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how this pivotal event lead to the development of the commuter class, larger-scale corporations, and trades unions with newfound power; explain how amenities including corridors, toilets, and proper ticketing systems were still decades away; and reveal how Wordsworth c
27/09/202311 minutes 30 seconds
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Yves Rossy: Rocketman

Pushing the boundaries of human flight to hitherto unknown extremes, Swiss aviator Yves Rossy entered the record books on 26th September, 2008, becoming the first person ever to cross the English channel using a jet-propelled wing strapped to his back, equipped with four kerosene-fueled turbine engines.&nbsp;To embark on his flight, Rossy first ascended to 2,500 feet over Calais in a support plane. From there, he tumbled out, and, after free-falling and stabilizing, jetpacked over the White Cliffs of Dover in under ten minutes: the result of years of work and multiple prior attempts.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why, despite being a popular movie trope, jet-packs have yet to catch on; consider whether Rossy’s crash-landing ruined the aesthetics of his bird-like descent; and reminisce about Michael Jackson’s rocket-powered exit from the Dangerous world tour…Further Reading:•&nbsp;’Jet Man flies across Channel on a wing’ (The
26/09/202310 minutes 28 seconds
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Thank You For Not Smoking

The world did NOT wake up to the dangers of smoking on September 25th, 1878, despite the efforts of Dr. Charles R. Drysdale, who had a letter published in The Times warning that smoking is a practice “deleterious to health and vitality,” noting that a contemporaneous experiment on dogs had led to “palsy of the hind leg, blindness, deafness, and death.”&nbsp;But early anti-smoking campaigners like Drysdale were fighting a losing battle anyway because they were up against a formidable enemy: technology itself, which every day was making cigarettes cheaper and cheaper to mass produce.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly look into why Nazi Germany was at the forefront of anti-smoking efforts; explain how Hollywood helped make smoking sexy; and reveal why if any of us did smoke, we would definitely choose Marlboro Lights…&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Tobacco and the diseases it produces by Charles R. Drysd
25/09/202310 minutes 20 seconds
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Welcome to Downing St

Robert Walpole, first Lord of the Treasury, moved into 10 Downing Street on 22nd September, 1735, after three years of renovations. Although initially given to him as a personal gift from the King, the house became the official residence for all future Prime Ministers.Despite its central location in London, Downing Street wasn't fashionable at the time, and the house already had a long history of structural issues due to soft ground, leading to constant repairs. Over time, the original yellow bricks designed by Sir Christopher Wren turned black because of pollution from smog and smut.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly review the negative opinions of generations of PMs towards the nation’s primary grace and favour apartment; explain why Ramsay MacDonald dispatched his daughter down to the January sales; and reveal how Margaret Thatcher's very 80s aesthetic choices resonate with international visitors to this day...Further Reading:</stron
22/09/202310 minutes 7 seconds
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The 'Cod War' Heats Up

Rerun. ‘The Fish Feud!’ - as the tabloids originally termed the standoff between Britain and Iceland over fishing rights - had escalated into a fully-fledged ‘Cod War’ by 21st September, 1958, when the destroyer H.M.S. Diana requested medical assistance for a Marine suffering appendicitis.The dispute arose when Iceland had unilaterally extended its fishing zone from 4 to 12 nautical miles. For centuries prior to this, boundaries were calculated via the ‘canon shot rule’ - i.e. the distance a canon could be fired from the shore.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why Iceland was having a jingoistic moment; reveal how the Soviets intervened to disrupt Britain’s defense strategy; and explain how the humble battered sausage came to the rescue for the UK’s chip shops…Further Reading:• ‘Iceland v Britain: the cod wars begin’ (The Guardian, 1958): <a href="
21/09/202310 minutes 16 seconds
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The Pope, the Antipope and the Other Pope

Robert of Geneva was elected Pope Clement VII on 20th September, 1378. Inconveniently, there was already a pope: Urban VI. Cue three decades of confusion and division, as citizens and nations had to choose which pope to support - the one in Rome, or the one Avignon - the situation becoming more inflamed as both popes engaged in aggressive rhetoric against each other.Unbelievably, efforts to resolve the schism resulted in the election of a THIRD pope, John XXIII, in Pisa, further complicating matters. It took four years and the Council of Constance to finally bring an end to the crisis by demanding the abdication of all three popes, and a FOURTH pope, Martin V, was then elected.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly unpick the problems the schism caused for a generation of Catholics; marvel at the unGodlike behaviour of this era of popes; and consider whether Pope Francis is, himself, an antipope…&nbsp;#Medieval #Catholic #Religion #Strange<
20/09/202310 minutes 49 seconds
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Discovering The Iceman

When German hikers Erika and Helmut Simon stumbled upon a dead body in the Oertzel Alps on 19th September, 1991, they believed it to be a recently fallen mountaineer, whose cadaver had been preserved in the ice. In fact, the specimen turned out to be 5,300 years old - older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids.The man, nicknamed ‘Ötzi’ by the press, had been struck down in mid-stride, and was discovered surrounded by his possessions, which included a copper axe. His remains are now on permanent display in Italy.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly probe into the various theories about how ‘the Iceman’ died; reveal what the post-mortem told us were the contents of his last meal; and consider the ‘Curse of the Frozen Mummy’...Further Reading:•&nbsp;’The Discovery of Otzi the Iceman and Its Significance’ (ThoughtCo, 2020): https://www.thoughtco.c
19/09/202310 minutes 49 seconds
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Welcome To Tiffany's

Tiffany, now a $16 billion jewelry empire, opened their first store at 259 Broadway, New York, on 18th September, 1837. Their first day’s sales total was $4.98.Co-founded by 25 year-old Charles Lewis Tiffany (thanks to a $1,000 loan from his father), the ‘fancy goods emporium’ initially sold disparate luxury items including perfumes, dinner sets, and, er, dog whips - but eventually settled upon gems as their core offering, expanding the brand through collaborations with P. T. Barnum and ‘The Blue Book’, America’s first mail-order catalogue.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly reveal how, despite his business nous, Tiffany fell victim to the Great Diamond Hoax of 1872; explore how his design influence extends to the $1 bill and the New York Yankees' logo; and reveal how ‘robin egg’ blue became so synonymous with the company....Further Reading:• ‘Jewelry House Histories: Tiffany’ (Invaluable, 2022): <a href="
18/09/202310 minutes
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Hitler's Swastika Hijack

As a symbol over 7,000 years old, the swastika had a long, diverse history before becoming the official flag of Nazi Germany on 15th September, 1935. It had been considered a sacred symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Odinism - and appeared on artifacts from pre-Christian European cultures.&nbsp;It had even featured as part of U.S. Girl Scout iconography in the early 20th century. But when Adolf Hitler made it the symbol of the Nazi Party in 1920, its resonance altered forever. No longer an image of good luck and auspiciousness, it became synonymous with Nazi atrocities.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how Hitler came to design this striking visual logo; reveal the surprising places the symbol pops up in, from the Carlsberg factory to Chelmsford Town Hall; and consider the wisdom of one man’s 21st century ‘Learn To Love The Swastika’ campaign…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘The Man Who Brought the Swast
15/09/202311 minutes 36 seconds
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Oh Say, Can You See?

Rerun. ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ is now well-known as the USA’s national anthem - but when Francis Scott Key wrote the words on 14th September, 1814, it was merely the latest in a series of patriotic poems he’d penned; this one concerning the British assault on the coastal fortification of Fort McHenry.It was only when - bizarrely - it was set to the tune of an old English drinking song, ‘To Anacreon in Heaven’, that it began to gain traction - and another 119 years before it became the nation’s official ‘choon.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly learn what a ‘contrafactum’ is; explore why the US national anthem is so notoriously tricky to sing; and question what meaning ‘the land of the free’ held for Baltimore’s enslaved Africans…Further Reading:• ‘Francis Scott Key - National Anthem, War of 1812 &amp; Facts’ (Biography, 2021): https:/
14/09/20239 minutes 51 seconds
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Escape of the Drug Guru

The ‘High Priest of LSD’, Timothy Leary, made a daring escape from the California Men's Colony on September 13th, 1970. A prominent counterculture figure and advocate for psychedelic substances, Leary had been incarcerated for possession of marijuana - and was labeled ‘The Most Dangerous Man in America’ by Richard Nixon.His escape was orchestrated by the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, a drug trafficking organization, and the Weather Underground, a far-left Marxist militant group. They provided Leary with a cable to scale the prison wall, a getaway car, new clothing, and false ID papers; then bungled him off to Algeria in the care of the Black Panthers.In this episode, Arion, Olly and Rebecca consider Leary’s famous slogan, ‘Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out’; explain how his controversial LSD experiments at Harvard were legitimately concerning to the academic system that initially supported him; and reveal what Susan Sarandon did with his remains at Burning Man…
13/09/202312 minutes 8 seconds
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Barrett ❤️ Browning

The secret wedding of poets Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning on September 12th, 1846, was witnessed by just two people. Elizabeth was so nervous about the ceremony, held at Marylebone Parish Church, that she needed smelling salts to calm her.&nbsp;Barrett was already an acclaimed poet, while Browning was relatively unknown at the time. But their correspondence, comprising almost 600 letters exchanged over less than two years, is considered one of literature’s great romances.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how the Brownings’ marriage inspired their greatest works; probe into Browning’s pet name for Barrett, ‘the Portuguese'; and consider whether, contrary to all appearances, Browning may have had sinister intentions for his new wife…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Life, Poetry, Relationship &amp; ‘How Do I Love Thee?’’ (HistoryExtra, 2021): <a href="
12/09/202312 minutes 46 seconds
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Let's Build The Pentagon

Construction of the Virginia headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense began on September 11th, 1941 - spookily, the same date it was attacked by al-Qaeda six decades later.&nbsp;The massive five-sided building, a potent symbol of America’s military strength, became known as the Pentagon.Featuring 4 million square feet of office space, the building was designed by George Bergstrom under the supervision of Leslie R. Groves, who was later chosen to head the Manhattan Project and build the atomic bomb.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca, and Olly explain why the building’s racially segregated bathrooms were installed, but never used; reveal why, for a while, a ‘Pentagon project’ became a by-word for a white elephant; and consider whether a hot dog stand in the complex foxed the Soviets…&nbsp;Further Reading:‘10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About the Pentagon’ (U.S. Department of Defense, 2019): <a href="
11/09/20239 minutes 42 seconds
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Last of the Tasmanian Tigers

The last known Tasmanian tiger to be held in captivity was found dead at Hobart’s Beaumaris zoo on 8th September, 1936.The critically endangered marsupial was accidentally locked out of its shelter overnight and succumbed to the frigid temperatures. With the animal’s death, a species that had once roamed across Australia for thousands of years went out with a whisper.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly discuss why 19th- and 20th-century Australians hunted Tasmanian tigers with such enthusiasm; explain why Thylacines had been in decline for about 3,500 years anyway; and look into how close scientists now are to bringing the “dog-headed pouched one” back from extinction…&nbsp;Further Reading:‘The history of the Thylacine’ (The Zoological Society London, 2016):
08/09/202310 minutes 24 seconds
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The Umbrella Assassin

Rerun. Bulgarian writer Georgi Markov was shot by a poisoned pellet whilst walking on Waterloo Bridge on 7th September, 1978. Four days later, he was dead.He thought the bullet – believed to be filled with ricin – had emanated from the umbrella of a Soviet secret agent, and the British press labelled his assassination the ‘Poison Brolly Riddle’.In this episode, Olly, Rebecca and Arion explain how Markov was initially disbelieved by doctors; reveal the mysterious involvement of a pig in the Porton Down investigation; and ask whether poisoning is really as efficient a method of murder as it seems…Further Viewing:Umbrella fired fatal ricin dart (CNN 2013);embeds_r
07/09/20239 minutes 19 seconds
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Circumnavigating The Globe

The Nao Victoria, the first ship to circumnavigate the globe, arrived back to its starting point in Spain on 6th September, 1522, with one person notably missing: Ferdinand Magellan, the man who had initiated the audacious voyage.Through a mixture of hubris and misfortune Magellan had come to a rather sticky end just before reaching his intended destination of the Moluccas, otherwise known as the Indonesian Spice Islands. But even though the expedition – which Magellan had hoped would open a western route to Asia – was unsuccessful, its contribution to Europeans’ understanding of the globe was immeasurable.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly look at the countless disasters, mutinies and impediments Magellan faced during his journey; discuss why the Spice Islands were so important to Europeans in the 16th century; and explain why you can never pack too much wine and hardtack when attempting to circumnavigate the globe…&nbsp;<str
06/09/202311 minutes 34 seconds
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Welcome To Bavaria, U.S.A.

Today, the small town of Leavenworth in Washington is known for its Bavarian-themed hotels, restaurants, shops and festivals, but when it was incorporated on 5th September, 1906, its main claim to fame was that it had a train line and a fledgling logging industry.After the train hub that had put it on the map in the first place was moved, Leavenworth went into near terminal decline, until some savvy townspeople got together in the 1960s to give it a themed makeover. “Bavarian” was the chosen theme, and the rest was history.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly look at the other themes that had been considered before Leavenworth settled on Bavarian; explain why Leavenworth guarantees incredibly Instagrammable backdrops regardless of what time of year you visit; and lament that Kinderfest decorations seem to be going up earlier and earlier with each passing year…&nbsp;Further Reading:‘All Over the Map: How Leavenworth be
05/09/202310 minutes 50 seconds
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The Quiz Show That Won The Jackpot

On 4th September, 1998, the debut episode of the world-conquering game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? aired in the UK.&nbsp;Initially titled Cash Mountain, the show format had been offered to nearly all the major UK networks with no success, but eventually it found its home on ITV after a legendary pitch that has gone down in television history.&nbsp;&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly revisit the excitement in the crowd during the recording of the very first episode; discuss how the show went from being a local TV success story to a worldwide phenomenon; and explain why hosts of the show the world over were required to wear Armani suits…Further Reading:‘Three wise men, a star and a miracle’ (The Independent, 1999): https://www.independent.
04/09/202310 minutes 58 seconds
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Candle In The Wind II

On 1st September 1997, as Britain was still reeling from Diana Princess of Wales’ untimely death, Elton John’s Candle in the Wind 1997 turned up on a shortlist of potential music to be performed at her funeral.The song, which had been reworked and rerecorded in just a few days, had originally been written about Marilyn Monroe. The original had been a moderate success, charting at Number 5 in the UK charts and 6 in the US. The 1997 update, meanwhile, which was released the day after the princess’s funeral stormed straight to the top of the UK and US singles charts – and did the same in countless countries around the world.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly ask why people’s feelings about the song soured so swiftly; discuss which other song was being considered for funeral; and explain which lyrics from the original were thought to be too spicy to be included in the 1997 version…Further Reading:‘Slow Burn: Ho
01/09/202311 minutes 57 seconds
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I Say, Boy, It's Foghorn Leghorn

Rerun. A giant chicken with the mannerisms of a wise-crackin’ Southern gentleman, Foghorn Leghorn first appeared in the Looney Tunes short ‘Walky Talky Hawky’ on 31st August, 1946.Directed by Robert McKimson and voiced by Mel Blanc, the character – who was inspired in part by popular radio character ‘Senator Claghorn’ from The Fred Allen Show – proved an instant audience favourite.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider whether Foghorn’s Antebellum expressions put him on the soon-to-be-’cancelled’ list; explain the origin of Warner’s other animated franchise, ‘Merrie Melodies’; and marvel at Blanc’s bed-bound professionalism…Further Reading:• ‘Walky Talky Hawky’ (Warner Bros, 1946):• ‘The Censored Eleven – Banned Cartoons’ (The Museum Of UnCut Funk): <a href="https://museu
31/08/202310 minutes 11 seconds
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The Grouse Massacre

Lord Walsingham shot 1,070 grouse on 30th August, 1888 – a number that remains a world record, and, one feels, is unlikely to ever be bettered.To achieve this astonishing figure Walsingham started shooting at 5:12 AM and kept going until just before 7:00 PM. And just for good measure he shot another 14 birds on his walk home. At this pace, he would have been shooting one grouse every 13 seconds.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly ask whether driven shoots are fundamentally unsporting; discuss the ethics of shooting at hot air balloons; and explain the connection between shooting and the establishment of the Guinness Book of World Records…&nbsp;&nbsp;Further Reading:‘Lord Walsingham Shot 1,070 Grouse (1888)’ (Today in Conservation, 2018): https://todayinconservat
30/08/202311 minutes 13 seconds
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The Last Of His Tribe

Ishi, a native American man who was widely acclaimed as the “last wild Indian” emerged from the wilderness on 29th August, 1911.His arrival came as a huge surprise to the people of Oroville, California, who had thought that his entire tribe had become extinct a good 40 years earlier. He was immediately taken to a jail cell and locked up, not because he had committed a crime but because authorities simply had no idea what to do with him.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explore the relationship between Ishi and the anthropologists that took him in; discuss why he preferred to be photographed in a suit and tie rather than Native American dress; and speculate on what Ishi must have made of the vaudeville shows his handlers took him to see…&nbsp;&nbsp;Further Reading:‘The Story Of Ishi, The ‘Last’ Native American’ (All That's Interesting, 2018): <a href="
29/08/202310 minutes 18 seconds
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Noodles: The World's Convenience Food

Nissin Chikin Ramen (日清チキンラーメン), the first marketed brand of instant noodles, launched in Japan on 25th August, 1958.The product was created by Momofuku Ando, who developed the production method of flash frying noodles after they had been made, thereby drying them and extending their shelf life. His inspiration sprung from the food scarcity in Japan after the Second World War, and the Ministry of Health’s attempts to distribute unpopular U.S.-supplied bread.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explore how Ando’s invention became the world’s emergency supply, student essential, and even prison currency…Further Reading:‘How Momofuku Ando invented instant ramen — and transformed Japanese cuisine’ (Vox, 2015):<
25/08/202310 minutes 33 seconds
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The End of the Pirate Monk

Rerun. Bandit, Admiral, wizard, pirate... ‘Eustace The Monk’ did it all - and was decapitated for his troubles, at the Battle of Sandwich on 24th August, 1217.Previously a licensed criminal for the court of King John, he became an enemy of England by switching sides and battling on behalf of the French - an extraordinary end to a remarkable career which took in black magic, robbery, and farting in a Benedictine monastery.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider why Eustace’s story has yet to receive the Hollywood treatment; explain how to deploy lime effectively; and swot up on their Middle English verse…Further Reading:‘The Pirate Monk, by Julie Estep’ (History of Yesterday, 2020):‘Eustace The Monk: One Of Medieval Europe's Unholies
24/08/202310 minutes 16 seconds
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When The Baltics Held Hands

A colossal human chain, stretching 430 miles, spanned across Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania on 23rd August, 1989 - the anniversary of the Molotov Ribbentrop Pact that covertly carved up the region fifty years earlier.Around two million people held hands for 15 minutes, synchronised at 7pm and photographed from helicopters above. Organised by Rahvarinne of Estonia, the Tautas fronte of Latvia, and Sąjūdis of Lithuania, the event drew global attention to the three nations’ desire for independence.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider the Soviet authorities’ response to this pacifist protest; explain how the participants were placed across the route; and reveal just how to make your own miracle in Vilnius' Cathedral Square Plaza…Further Reading:• ‘30 Years Ago: How A Photographer Captured The 'Baltic Chain' From Above’ (Radio Free Europe, 2019): <a href="
23/08/202310 minutes 45 seconds
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Leaving Devil's Island

Established in 1852, Devil’s Island, one of six penal colonies in French Guiana, was finally closed on 22nd August, 1953. Nicknamed the ‘Green Hell’ and the ‘Dry Guillotine’, it earned a reputation as ‘The Alcatraz of South America’: the world’s most brutal prison.Established by Emperor Napoleon III to remove political opponents and jumpstart France’s programme of colonisation, the horrors of the islands became more understood in France following the publication of memoirs by René Belbenoît and Henri ‘Papillon’ Charrière.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why a spell on Devil’s Island was potentially preferable to elsewhere in Guiana; reveal what the guards did with rebellious prisoners and their cadavers; and check out some contemporary perspectives - on TripAdvisor…Further Reading:• Why Devil's Island Was The World's Most Feared Prison (All Thats Interesting, 2021): <a href="https://allthatsint
22/08/202310 minutes 10 seconds
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Cat Bin Lady, Internet Villain

CCTV footage captured middle-aged bank worker Mary Bale dropping friendly tabby cat Lola into a Coventry wheelie bin on 21st August, 2010. The video went viral, and Bale was disgraced on the front page of The Sun.&nbsp;Despite her initially nonchalant response, Bale faced the full force of internet mob mentality, not to mention a court trial for animal cruelty. One tantalising, unanswered question remained: WHY DID SHE PUT THE CAT IN THE BIN?In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider whether Bale’s behaviour was actually quietly condoned by millions of her contemporaries; uncover the classist dog whistles in the reporting of the event; and explain how ‘Cat Bin Lady’ became a rapid international sensation…Further Reading:• ‘Is Mary Bale the most evil woman in Britain?’ (The Independent, 2010): <a href="
21/08/202311 minutes 17 seconds
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Discovering Helium

French astronomer Pierre Jules César Janssen became the first person to observe helium, an element never before seen on Earth, on August 18th, 1868.&nbsp;Janssen had been observing a total solar eclipse in Guntur, India when he noticed a bright yellow line with a wavelength of 587.49 nanometers in the spectrum of the chromosphere of the Sun. He initially assumed the line to be sodium, but, upon further investigating his hunch that it might be a new element, concluded he had stumbled upon something hitherto unknown.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly try their damndest to explain how Spectroscopy works; reveal which scientist first detected the presence of helium on Earth; and query the French Academy of Sciences’ impartiality when it came to attributing the discovery…Further Reading:‘How Scientists Discovered Helium, the First Alien Element, 150 Years Ago’ (Smithsonian Magazine, 2018): ​​<a href="https://www.smithson
18/08/20239 minutes 35 seconds
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The Dingo Baby-Snatcher

Rerun. When two month-old Azaria Chamberlain was taken from her tent by a dingo on the night of August 17th, 1980, the majority of the Australian public believed that her mother, Lindy Chamerlain, had done the deed herself.Prosecuting authorities charged her with murder. She was imprisoned, but in 2012, a coroner found Azaria’s death was “the result of being attacked and taken by a dingo”.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly ask why the Australian public were so inclined to disbelieve Lindy’s version of events; revisit the injustices perpetrated against the Chamberlains; and consider how on Earth the phrase ‘A Dingo’s Got My Baby!’ became a comedy meme…&nbsp;Content Warning: Includes detailed description of true crime and harm against childrenFurther Reading:• ‘Horrifying story of Lindy Chamberlain – jailed for murder after her baby daughter was ‘eaten by a dingo’ on camping trip’ (The Sun, 2020):<a href=" https://w
17/08/202310 minutes 28 seconds
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The First Accidental President

Angry protestors gathered outside The White House on 16th August, 1841, burning an effigy of President John Tyler, the first Vice-President to assume the Presidency (following the death of William Henry Harrison, just 31 days into his term). The mob, largely consisting of Tyler’s fellow Whigs, opposed his veto of a national banking bill.&nbsp;Although no serious scuffles or bloodshed occurred, the incident highlighted the vulnerability of the White House and the lack of a proper security detail during that era. Tyler and his family were at home during the protest, underscoring the absence of a secret service or presidential bodyguard.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca, and Oly explain why Tyler became so unpopular within his own party, and was eventually expelled from it; consider why Tyler hadn’t been the main name on the election ticket in the first place; and reveal an astonishing fact about the President’s family in the 21st century…&nbsp;<str
16/08/202310 minutes 36 seconds
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The Real Macbeth

Immortalised by Shakespeare, Scottish king Macbeth was killed in battle near Lumphanan, Aberdeenshire on 15th August 1057; a demise that brought significant changes to Scotland's monarchy.But the real Macbeth, contrary to his portrayal in the play, ruled for 17 relatively peaceful years and displayed generosity toward the church. That said, his relationship with the real Lady Macbeth - Gruogh, widow of Gilear, the previous king - was, let’s agree, rather complicated.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why witches were included in the script to satisfy King James I; offer a pragmatic explanation for the superstition that actors must never speak the name "Macbeth" in a theatre; and reveal the, er, creative way the Danish minister for finance once escaped responsibility for a nasty shipwreck…Further Reading:‘The Real Macbeth: King of Scots, 1040-1054’ (History Today, 1957): <a href="https://www.historytoda
15/08/202311 minutes 7 seconds
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Capturing Carlos The Jackal

A decades-long manhunt closed in on international terrorist Illich Ramirez Sanchez, aka Carlos the Jackal, on 14th August, 1994 - when he was sedated and kidnapped by French intelligence agents in Khartoum, Sudan, following a tip-off by the CIA.Affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Organization for Armed Arab Struggle, and the Japanese Red Army, the Venezuelan militant had been responsible for a slew of major terrorist attacks in the 1970s and 80s, notably the storming of an OPEC meeting in 1975, during which he took hostages and demanded ransoms, and was widely considered the world’s most-wanted man.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how ‘Carlos’ came to acquire not just one, but two nicknames; consider how the politics of the day enabled both his terrorism and his womanising; and reveal why his sperm count ultimately cost him his freedom…Further Reading:‘SUDAN SEIZES
14/08/202311 minutes 13 seconds
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America's Biggest Mall

The Mall of America, in Bloomington, Minnesota, opened on 11th August, 1992, with more than 10,000 employees, 330 stores, and a Camp Snoopy theme park.With a gross area of 4.8 million square feet, the mall remains the largest in the United States; its roughly 40 million annual visitors equal to around eight times the population of the state of Minnesota.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly reveal how the mall is heated, despite having no central heating system; explain how the modern American shopping mall was, bizarrely, derived from Victor Gruen’s socialist utopia; and consider how it overcame the ‘Megadeath’ label to become one of America’s top tourist attractions…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Why You Should Visit Mall of America for Its Experiences Over Shopping’ (Business Insider, 2022): <a href=";IR=T#away-fr
11/08/20239 minutes 51 seconds
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The Slap Heard Around The World

Rerun. Whilst visiting traumatised U.S. soldiers in an evacuation hospital on 10th August, 1943, General George S. Patton encountered a man he believed to be a coward. So he slapped him in the face with his gloves, and waved a pistol in his face.On Eisenhower’s insistence, Patton apologised to the soldier, but never exhibited genuine remorse for his actions. He wrote in his diary, ‘It is rather a commentary on justice when an Army commander has to soft-soap a skulker to placate the timidity of those above’.In this episode, Rebecca, Olly and Arion question the motives of ‘Old Blood and Guts’; reveal Patton’s attitude to Jews after the Holocaust; and play a round of ‘Patton Quote Bingo’…Further Reading:• ‘I Won't Have Cowards in My Army’ (‘Patton’, 1970):• General Patton’s speech in Bosto
10/08/20239 minutes 56 seconds
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India's First Christians

Quilon, in present-day Kerala, became India’s first diocese on 9th August, 1329. In response to Marco Polo's accounts about an extant Christian community there, Pope John XXII had dispatched missionary Jordan Catalani to oversee the region.&nbsp;According to local legend, St. Thomas the apostle reached India around A.D. 50, where he established several churches. The story is not implausible, since the area enjoyed a long history of Middle Eastern migrations, due to its ideal conditions for spice trading.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explore why Westerners were perplexed by the disparate practices of the Quilons; discover what NOT to say when you’re deposed by a medieval Muslim ruler; and uncover ‘the Goa Inquisition’...Further Reading:‘The Surprisingly Early History of Christianity in India’ (Smithsonian Magazine, 2016): <a href="" rel="noopen
09/08/202310 minutes 54 seconds
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I Need A Dollar

The dollar emerged as the official currency of the United States at a meeting of the Continental Congress on 8th August, 1786. During the American Revolution, various international coins had remained in circulation - alongside commodities like tobacco and cod.The transition to paper money faced challenges due to counterfeiting concerns, which persisted until the Civil War. The green colour was chosen to prevent easy replication using black and white photography. The value of the dollar was linked to gold until as recently as 1971.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly applaud Benjamin Franklin’s far-sighted interest in creating a new currency; marvel at the extraordinary success the dollar has achieved as the world’s reserve; and reveal the country’s first experiments with a decimal system: Nova Constellatio coins…Further Reading:• ‘History of U.S. Currency’ (U.S. Currency Education Program): <a href="https://www.uscurrency.
08/08/20239 minutes 28 seconds
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The Aryan Polynesian Hypothesis

The Kon-Tiki expedition, led by Norwegian explorer and ethnologist Thor Heyerdahl, reached Raroia in the Tuamotu Archipelag near Tahiti, on 7th August, 1947. The 45-foot-long balsa wood raft, with a five-man crew, had completed a 4,300-mile, 101-day journey from Peru.&nbsp;Heyerdahl wanted to prove his (now discredited) theory that prehistoric South Americans could have colonized the Polynesian islands by drifting on ocean currents. The Kon-Tiki was made of indigenous materials and designed to resemble rafts of early South American Indians, although the expedition carried some modern equipment, such as a radio, watches, charts, sextant, and metal knives. While crossing the Pacific, the sailors encountered storms, sharks and whales.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why Heyerdahl’s hypothesis of a South American origin of the Polynesian peoples is rejected today; marvel at his bold use of eye-catching graphic design; and expose how the crew’s food
07/08/202310 minutes 56 seconds
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Put Him in the Stocks!

The public stocks in St Clement’s Dane’s parish (now Portugal Street in London’s Strand) were finally dismantled on 4th August, 1826. They had originally been mandated in 1351, to subjugate labourers demanding higher wages.&nbsp;Not to be confused for pillories (which restrain both head and hands), stocks (which restrain only the feet) were used for lesser ‘crimes’, such as homosexuality, heresy, and drunkenness. The treatment of prisoners was essentially at the crowd’s discretion: at the minor end of the scale, humiliation, but, if rocks or bricks were thrown, sometimes fatality.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebeca and Olly uncover celebrities-in-the-stocks Cardinal Wolsey and Daniel Defoe; explain why this medieval punishment was never formally abolished in Britain; and reveal the ecclesiastical purpose of ‘the finger stocks’...&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Haydn's Dictionary of Dates Relating to All Ages and Nations’ (E. Moxon a
04/08/202310 minutes 33 seconds
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The Fake Critic

Rerun. Eyebrows were raised when Dave Manning - a previously unknown film critic - was suddenly receiving star billing on Hollywood movie posters. He turned out to be fictional. This climaxed with a lawsuit, settled by Sony on 3rd August, 2005.Manning had been created by Columbia Pictures executive Matthew Kramer, who’d co-opted the name David Manning from a friend in his hometown of Ridgefield, Connecticut. The public were entitled to a $5 refund if they’d attended a movie as a result of the fraudulent posters.In this episode, Olly, Rebecca and Arion reveal what the ‘real’ Dave Manning REALLY thought of ‘The Animal’; explain how press junkets seduce otherwise unimpeachable journalists who just want a free sandwich; and sharpen their editing scissors for some selective quotation...Further Reading:• ‘Remembering David Manning, Sony's Fake Film Critic’ (Mental Floss, 2021): <a href="
03/08/20239 minutes 19 seconds
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How JFK Got His Purple Heart

It's rare to find a politician behaving as heroically as John F. Kennedy did on 2nd August, 1943. After his torpedo boat was exploded by a Japanese destroyer in the South Pacific, he swam more than three miles to the nearest island, towing along with him all the way an injured crew member - using just his teeth.When asked to explain how he had come to be a hero, Kennedy replied laconically, "It was involuntary. They sank my boat." His actions during this ordeal helped ensure the survival of his men and earned him a Navy and Marine Corps Medal and a Purple Heart.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider if the story of the coconut shell Kennedy used to transmit their position has become romanticised; reveal how the injuries he sustained as a Navy lieutenant still impacted his health as President; and explain why British colonial racism spoiled the guestlist for his inauguration…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Why JFK Kept a Co
02/08/202312 minutes
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The First Michelin Guide

Andre and Edouard Michelin published their first Guide on 1st August, 1900. Now recognised as&nbsp; the gold standard in luxury restaurant reviews, the original guide was primarily created to encourage demand for automobiles - and, therefore, Michelin tyres. At the time, there were fewer than 3,000 cars on French roads.Nearly 35,000 copies of this first, free edition of the guide were distributed, providing information to motorists including maps, tyre repair and replacement instructions, car mechanics listings, hotels, and petrol stations throughout France.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why the Michelin mascot, Bibendum, is white; reveal the levels of secrecy expected of Michelin’s restaurant inspectors; and consider why Japan ranks second to France in its star ratings…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘The ingenious story behind Michelin stars’ (BBC Travel, 2018): <a href="
01/08/202310 minutes 9 seconds
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The Great Rum Debate

The Royal Navy were issued with their final daily ration of rum - ending a tradition of more than 300 years - on July 31, 1970. The day became known as ‘Black Tot Day’.The demise of the long-standing tradition was mainly due to safety concerns, following fears surrounding the more complex technology now in operation across the Navy. To show their disappointment, some sailors wore black armbands.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly trace back the origins of this quaint custom; explain why spirits had taken the place of beer on boats; and marvel at footage of sailors who were clearly ‘pissed, in both senses of the word’...&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Black Tot Day: rum rations for sailors abolished 45 years ago today’ (Daily Telegraph, 2015):
31/07/202311 minutes 4 seconds
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When Zombies Came To Hollywood

Independent horror film ‘White Zombie’, starring Bela Lugosi, premiered in New York City’s Rivoli Theatre on July 28th, 1932. It marked the first time that zombies had featured in a Hollywood picture - albeit as the result of an evil voodoo master in Haiti rather than a condition passed on through bites, as in later zombie screenplays.Large portions of the film were shot on the Universal Studios lot, borrowing props and scenery from other horror films of the era, with an ultra-low budget of just $50,000.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how Lugosi went from Hungarian Shakespeare star to Tinseltown villain; unpick the racism at the heart of the story; and consider why zombies have proven to be such a resilient horror movie staple….&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Hollywood Flashback: Bela Lugosi Introduced the World to Zombies in 1932’ (The Hollywood Reporter, 2021): <a href="
28/07/202310 minutes 55 seconds
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Raleigh's Tobacco Adventures

Rerun. Sir Walter Raleigh brought tobacco back to Britain from Virginia on 27th July 1586 - and, in so doing, triggered a craze for smoking, which at the time was considered a tonic for halitosis, and even a cure for cancer.Despite Queen Elizabeth I being an advocate for the new drug, it didn’t take long for the anti-tobacco movement to kick into gear - with King James I writing a treatise against smoking by 1604.In this episode, Olly, Rebecca and Arion revisit the phenomenon of ‘Dry Drunkenness’; explain why Eton’s schoolboys were prescribed tobacco with their breakfast; and reveal what happened to Raleigh’s head after he was executed…Further Reading:• Bob Newhart’s Walter Raleigh sketch (1962):&nbsp;• ‘“This vile custome”: a history of tobacco's medical interpretations’ (Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh):
27/07/20239 minutes 34 seconds
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Rembrandt's Money Troubles

Following a successful early career, Rembrandt van Rijn filed for ‘cessie van goede’ (insolvency) on July 26th, 1656. The poor management of his finances magnified other difficulties that he had with family, friends, neighbours, and patrons.&nbsp;Although Rembrandt’s bankruptcy was part of a scheme that purported to shield his house from his creditors, and pass it on to his family, he leant uncomfortably on his son Titus, insisting that once he turned 14 he was named in his will as his sole heir, shutting out his mother’s family.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly dig into the great artist’s Cabinet Of Curiosities; consider whether his lavish lifestyle was a necessity, given his high-class client base; and reveal how 17th Century Holland was a particularly brutal place to be buried…Further Reading:• ‘The misery that made Rembrandt a master: Bankruptcy, the loss of his family, a scheming mistress, the artist's m
26/07/202311 minutes 20 seconds
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Is it a Boat? Is it a Plane? No, it's Hovercraft

The Hovercraft SR-N1, piloted by Captain Peter Lamb, sailed from Calais to Dover on 25th July 1959, fifty years to the day after Louis Blériot made the first crossing of the English Channel. It took 2 hours, 3 minutes.&nbsp;The brainchild of British engineer and inventor Christopher Cockerell, Hovercraft was described as a cross between an aircraft, a boat and a land vehicle, hovering just above the water on a cushion of air. Ultimately over 80 million people and 12 million cars crossed the Channel using Hovercraft.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how Cockerell eventually got the UK Government on-side; consider the role of Duty Free regulations in its popularity and demise; and attempt to settle for good whether this iconic craft is *really* a boat, or a plane…&nbsp;Further Reading:• Cross-Channel Aviation Pioneers: Blanchard and Bleriot, Vikings and Viscounts - By Bruce Hales-Dutton’ (Pen and Sword, 2021
25/07/202310 minutes 31 seconds
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The Aussies Who Outswam The Soviets

The ‘Quietly Confident Quartet’ of Mark Tonelli (backstroke), Peter Evans (breaststroke), Mark Kerry (butterfly), and Neil Brooks (freestyle) won Gold in the 4 × 100 metres medley relay at the Summer Olympics in Moscow on 24th July, 1980: the only time the United States had not won the event.It was Australia’s first Gold medal for eight years, but reaction back home to the swimmers’ astonishing victory was mixed, because some of their countrymen - including the Australian government - believed the team, like the USA, should have boycotted the games due to Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly debate whether their triumph was one of determination or youthful confidence; explain why the Seamen’s Union Of Australia played a pivotal role in getting them to Moscow; and investigate the Soviets’ claims to have run ‘the cleanest Games on record’…Further Reading:• Mark Tonelli Relives Legendary Comme
24/07/202311 minutes 46 seconds
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Herostratus: Burning Ambition

The fire that destroyed the second Temple of Artemis - one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world - was supposedly set on the day Alexander the Great was born: 21st July, 356 BC. The story goes that the arsonist, Herosratus, was simply seeking notoriety.Herostratus was captured and tortured on the rack, where he confessed to having committed the arson in an attempt to immortalize his name. To dissuade those of similar intentions, the Ephesian authorities not only executed Herostratus, but attempted to condemn him to a legacy of obscurity by forbidding mention of his name under penalty of death.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider herostratic fame as a live issue when it comes to school shooters and terrorists; take a peek round the ancient Temple to see if it would have been worth a trip; and consider whether its successors deserved their places in the subsequent ‘Seven Wonders’ lists…&nbsp;Further Reading:<str
21/07/20239 minutes 35 seconds
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Napoleon's Surname Decree

Rerun. France’s Jewish population mostly had no family surnames – until 20th July, 1808, when Napoleon issued a decree insisting they adopted one. They were not permitted to choose place names, and allusions to the Old Testament were forbidden.Rumours persist that some families were charged higher fees to adopt prettier names, but in a Europe rife with antisemitism, Napoleon’s creations of Jewish consistoires (regulatory bodies) is still seen by some as a relatively tolerant policy.In this episode, Rebecca, Olly and Arion reveal the genesis of their names, explain how compound names like Rosenberg and Goldberg came about, and reveal the world’s names most in danger of extinction.Further Reading:• The Imperial Decree, at• ‘What’s in a Surname: The History of Surna
20/07/20239 minutes 45 seconds
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Surfin' 1800s USA

The boys who brought surfing to California were Hawaiian princes Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole, David Kawānanakoa, and Edward Keliʻiahonui, who took a break from military school on 19th July, 1885, to surf the waves at Santa Cruz.&nbsp;The royal trio fashioned surfboards out of redwood and surfed at the San Lorenzo river mouth, demonstrating the centuries-old Polynesian tradition to stunned and delighted beachgoers.In this episode, Arion, Olly and Rebecca explain why it took the Second World War for boardsports to really take off in the region; consider whether the brothers’ bespoke boards bear comparison with Shakespeare’s Folio; and compare what happened when the Princes brought surfing to Britain…Further Reading:•&nbsp;’Santa Cruz Surfing Museum – Santa Cruz, California’ (Atlas Obscura, 2017): <a href=";;fbclid=IwAR
19/07/202310 minutes 7 seconds
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The Web's First Image

Tim Berners-Lee uploaded a photo of parody doo-wop group Les Horrible Cernettes on 18th July 1992 - the first image to be shared online.The photograph was taken at the CERN Hardronic Festival by Silvano de Gennaro, an analyst in the Computer Science department. The girlband were striking a pose for their forthcoming CD cover, little realising their comedy love songs about colliders, quarks, liquid nitrogen, microwaves, and antimatter would soon go down in internet history.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider the spooky social media resonance of this earliest online picture; explain how Berners-Lee used ‘sex’ to ‘sell’ the world wide web; and check out the Cernette’s biggest banger, ‘Collider’...Further Reading:• ‘The true story behind the 'first picture on the internet' myth’ (Metro, 2022): <a href="
18/07/20239 minutes 20 seconds
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Rebranding the Royal Family

Windsor became the official surname of the British Royal family on 17th July 1917, when King George V issued a proclamation declaring that “The Name of Windsor is to be borne by His Royal House and Family and Relinquishing the Use of All German Titles and Dignities.”The decision to change the family name came amid strong anti-German feeling following air raids over London, and in particular the bombing of a school in the East End by Gotha bombers - by coincidence, the same name as the royal family.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly discover who was responsible for picking ‘Windsor’ as the family’s new name; uncover the Royal Albert Hall’s flawed response to the onset of World War One; and reveal the REAL Royal surname…Further Reading:• ‘British royal family change their name to Windsor’ (The Guardian, 1917): <a href="" rel="
17/07/202310 minutes 27 seconds
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Mr. Dynamite

Dynamite was invented by Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, who demonstrated it in Britain for the first time on 14th July, 1867. He had discovered that when nitroglycerin, an explosive liquid, was absorbed by kieselguhr, a porous siliceous earth, it produced a solid that was resistant to shock but readily detonable by heat or percussion, making it safer to handle.Nobel named his invention “dynamite” after the Greek word “dynamis,” meaning "power". His invention revolutionized the construction industry and made possible many engineering feats such as the construction of canals, tunnels, and roads, and also had a significant impact on mining, quarrying, and demolition operations.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explore the ‘obituary’ legend that supposedly explained Nobel’s creation of the Nobel Prizes; uncover the extraordinary approach the Swede took to health and safety in his factories; and reveal how staggeringly little it cost to buy a stick of dynamite
14/07/202311 minutes 35 seconds
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Queen Vic's New Gaff

Rerun. Queen Victoria moved from her birthplace, Kensington Palace, and decreed Buckingham Palace her official residence on 13th July, 1837. She was 18, newly-crowned – and until then had shared a bedroom with her mother.Built in 1703 for the Duke of Buckingham, the Palace had never previously permanently housed anyone, and was reportedly drafty, dirty, and staffed by ‘slovenly’ servants. But, you know, she made do.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly examine the escapades of ‘the boy Jones’ – a teenage stalker of the young Victoria; pore through the pages of the young monarch’s diaries; and reveal which celebrities claim to have got down and dirty in the Queen’s official residence…Further Reading:• Profile of Queen Victoria from Historic Royal Palaces:
13/07/20239 minutes 51 seconds
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The Miners Dumped In New Mexico

A deputized posse illegally kidnapped and deported over a thousand striking mine workers from Bisbee, Arizona on July 12, 1917, and dumped them in New Mexico: an event that became known as The Bisbee Deportation.&nbsp;The action was orchestrated by Phelps Dodge, the major mining company in the area, which provided lists of workers and others who were to be arrested to the Cochise County sheriff, Harry C. Wheeler. Those arrested were taken to a local baseball park before being loaded onto cattle cars and deported 200 miles to Tres Hermanas; a 16-hour journey through desert without food and with little water.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how the IWW Union became both popular and feared in Bisbee; consider how the American involvement in World War One changed the context for the workers on the Mexican border; and examine the intentions of the ‘Citizens Protective League’...&nbsp;Further Reading:‘Warren Ballpark - by Mike A
12/07/202312 minutes 8 seconds
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Mary Whitehouse successfully sued Gay News and publisher Denis Lemon at the Old Bailey in a trial that began on 11th July, 1977 - Britain’s last conviction for blasphemy.What had ired the notorious Christian campaigner was the magazine’s publication of “The Love That Dares to Speak Its Name”, a poem by James Kirkup written from the perspective of a Roman centurion who graphically describes having sex with Jesus after his crucifixion.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why the poem literally could not be defended on its artistic merit; reveal how it came to Whitehouse’s attention in the first place; and consider the literary potency of ‘Foxy Judas’...&nbsp;Content Warning: explicit poetry, necrophilia, material likely to offend Christians.Further Reading:• ‘The gay poem that broke blasphemy laws’ (Pink News, 2008): <a href="
11/07/202310 minutes 49 seconds
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Adventures of the Boy Horsemen

The ‘Abernathy Boys’, Temple and Louis, were aged just 5 and 8 respectively when they departed Guthrie, Oklahoma for a 1,300-mile horseback trip to Roswell, New Mexico on July 10th, 1909. Alone.Sons of widower John Abernathy, himself the youngest-ever U.S. Marshal, the boys encountered wolves, outlaws and vast stretches of untamed plains on their journey - but survived the trip and became national celebrities and friends with Teddy Roosevelt.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how, in another adventure, the brothers ended up commandeering a motor car back from New York City; consider the extent to which the boys were being exploited to provide their Dad with publicity; and reveal John’s arresting technique for capturing wild wolves…Further Reading:• ‘Free-range kids: Louis and Temple Abernathy rode horses from Oklahoma to New York to meet Teddy Roosevelt’ (The Washington Post, 2019): <a href="https://www.washingto
10/07/202310 minutes 59 seconds
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Meet Pinocchio

Pinocchio, ‘The Story of a Puppet’, debuted in Giornale per i bambini, an Italian weekly magazine for children, on 7th July, 1881. Its author, Carlo Lorenzini - going by the pseudonym C. Collodi - intended the tale to end with the hanging of Pinocchio, but popular demand led to the character having further, more optimistic adventures.As a young man, Collodi joined the seminary but left to support the Italian national unification movement through journalism. His children’s writings are cut through with satire and moral lessons specific to Italy in the 1800s, yet resonated internationally almost immediately, having been translated into as many as 260 languages.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider Collodi in the context of other serialised literature of the time, such as Dickens; uncover the darkest moments in the story which Disney sensibly swerved; and explain what that whole weird donkey metaphor is all about…Further Readi
07/07/202310 minutes 32 seconds
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Kalashnikov's Killing Machine

Rerun. The AK-47 assault rifle, the 20th century’s deadliest weapon, went into production on 6th July, 1947.&nbsp;Designed by Mikhail Kalashnikov, then a 22 year-old tank sergeant, the 600rpm gun was the winning entry in a national competition to find the next generation of Soviet weapons. It went on to be used in conflicts as diverse as Vietnam, Cuba and Iraq.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how Kalashnikov researched and developed his killing machine; consider the ironic popularity of his weapon in the United States; and recall the end-of-life torment his invention ultimately brought him…Further Reading:• ‘July 6, 1947: The AK-47, an All-Purpose Killer’ (WIRED, 2009):• ‘Kalashnikov inventor haunted by unbearable pain of dead millions’ (The Guardian
06/07/202310 minutes 34 seconds
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Jeff Bezos and the Infinite Bookstore

Rerun. Amazon, created in the Seattle garage of Jeff Bezos, was incorporated on 5th July, 1994.&nbsp;Before Bezos had settled on the site’s name as a way of conveying the size and scope of the e-commerce platform he intended to build, his working titles had included Cadabra, Relentless, Awake, Browse and Bookmall.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why Washington was chosen as the launch location for the company; reveal how Bezos was able to resell individual books from wholesalers without breaching any Ts &amp; Cs; and compare notes on their first-ever Amazon purchases…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Amazon Was Founded 25 Years Ago This Friday. Here’s What the World Was Like When Jeff Bezos Incorporated the Company in 1994’ (Inc, 2019):
05/07/202310 minutes 24 seconds
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Victory Day For Housewives

Fourteen years of food rationing came to an end in Britain on 4th July, 1954, when restrictions on the sale and purchase of meat and bacon were lifted. Members of the London Housewives’ Association held a special ceremony in London’s Trafalgar Square to mark Derationing Day. Meanwhile, The Minister of Fuel and Power, Geoffrey Lloyd, burned a large replica of a ration book.Rationing had been introduced due to difficulties importing food to Britain by boat during the war, but also affected the supply of clothes, furniture and fuel. During the war, the Ministry of Food urged the British people to grow their own veg to play their part in defeating the Germans.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider the merits of a ‘mock’ fish and chips recipe; examine how the Conservatives used this ‘Victory Day for Housewives’ to score a political point of the previous Labour government; and reveal how to avoid ‘Humble Pie with Hitler’...&nbsp;Further Reading:
04/07/202310 minutes 9 seconds
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When Bowie Killed Ziggy

David Bowie retired his alter-ego Ziggy Stardust live on stage at London’s Hammersmith Odeon on 3rd July, 1973. To the surprise of most of his band, the Spiders From Mars, he announced to a devastated crowd that the gig was “the last show we’ll ever do.”&nbsp;Bowie’s management company had plans to take Ziggy on an international tour, but being Ziggy Stardust had taken a mental and physical toll on the singer. “I really did want it all to come to an end,” he wrote in Moonage Daydream.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how a ‘fake’ Lou Reed influenced Bowie to create the character of Ziggy; discover how, for a while, his fans were called ‘the Uglies’ and his genre ‘freakrock’; and reveal how this iconic rockstar felt ‘hopelessly lost’ in his own fantasy…Further Reading:• ‘Looking back on David Bowie's most legendary gig: The death of Ziggy Stardust’ (London Evening Standard, 2019): <a href="https://
03/07/202310 minutes 39 seconds
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Debating Darwin's Theory

Thomas Huxley and Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford, were among the prominent figures discussing Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution at the Oxford University Museum on 30th June 1860; an encounter sometimes referred to as ‘The Great Debate’.&nbsp;The confrontation is best remembered for a heated exchange in which Wilberforce supposedly asked Huxley whether it was through his grandfather or his grandmother that he claimed his descent from a monkey. Huxley is said to have replied that he would not be ashamed to have a monkey for his ancestor, but he would be ashamed to be connected with a man who used his great gifts to obscure the truth.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how both men came to believe they had ‘won’ the ‘debate’; trace back the origins of the men’s nicknames ‘Darwin’s Bulldog’ and ‘Soapy Sam’; and consider whether Darwin himself was keen on causing such controversy…Further Reading:• ‘The Great D
30/06/202310 minutes 34 seconds
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Eminem vs His Mom

Rerun. Marshall Mathers III, aka Eminem, was sued for defamation by his own mother, Debbie, on 29th June, 2000. The suit was primarily in response to a lyric, “My Mom does more dope than I do”, from his hit song ‘My Name Is’.However, the case never made it to court. Eminem settled for $25,000 - almost of all of which went to Debbie’s lawyer, who then commented that the cash was not enough to compensate for having to deal with his client...In this episode, Rebecca, Arion and Olly consider Eminem’s use of the Slim Shady ‘character’ in his lyrics, explain how tough it is to prove a defamation lawsuit against a piece of art; and revisit the work of Australian drag artiste ‘Pauline Pantsdown’.Further Reading:‘Eminem's Mom Makes Music’ (People, 1998):‘The Mother Who Sued Her Own Son’, (Mel Magazine, 2019):‘I’m A Backdoor M
29/06/20239 minutes 52 seconds
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Amos 'n' Andy 'n' the NAACP

America’s first programme to feature an all-black cast, Amos 'n' Andy premiered on CBS on June 28th, 1951. Despite being based on one of the most popular radio shows of all time, the series lasted only two years, following a barrage of criticism.Although popular with many African-Americans, the show traded on ethnic caricatures, and the prejudices of its white creators. The NAACP mounted a formal protest almost immediately, describing the sitcom as “a gross libel of the Negro and distortion of the truth”, and, eventually, the Blatz Brewing Company withdrew its sponsorship, sounding the death knell for the production.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly reveal how the radio incarnation itself faced the ire of African-American protestors; uncover President Truman’s involvement in casting decisions; and explain why it really should have been called ‘The Kingfish Show’...&nbsp;&nbsp;Content Warning: Blackface minstrelsy, racist language.
28/06/202311 minutes 21 seconds
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Meet The Black Donnelleys

The deadly fight between Patrick Farrell and James Donnelly on 27th June 1857 kickstarted one of the longest-lasting and most violent feuds in Canadian history.The property the Donnellys had been squatting on had been previously leased by Farrell. A judge had ruled that the lot be split 50/50, but, at a barn raising bee, Donnelly chucked a handspike at Farrell, who died two days later. Decades later, the Donnelly family’s homestead was attacked by a vigilante mob, leaving five of their family dead.In this episode Arion, Rebecca and Olly ask why nobody was convicted of the murders, despite two trials and a reliable eyewitness; reveal why the Donnelleys became known locally as the ‘black’ Donnelleys, a nickname which persists to this day; and unearth, amongst one of their number, a surprising predilection for poetry…Further Reading:• ‘History | Lucan Museum’ ( <a href="" rel="noopener nor
27/06/202311 minutes 19 seconds
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Scanning The First Barcode

At a Marsh supermarket in Troy, Ohio, a packet of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit gum became the first ever product to have its barcode scanned - at 8:01 a.m. on June 26th, 1974.Inspired by the morse code training of his Boy Scout days, Norman Joseph Woodland first sketched out a barcode on a Florida beach in 1948, drawing dots and dashes in the sand. Together with fellow Drexel Institute graduate student Bernard Silver, he received a U.S. Patent in 1952 - but it would be another 20 years before IBM produced the technology that could be rolled out to grocery stores.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how the invention accelerated the growth of the largest retailers; consider Woodland’s original ‘bullseye’ barcode design; and reveal why conspiracy theorists think barcodes are the DEVIL’s work…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘How the barcode changed retailing and manufacturing’ (BBC News, 2017): <a href="
26/06/202311 minutes 11 seconds
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Lorena Bobbitt cut off her husband John Wayne Bobbitt’s penis with a kitchen knife while he was asleep in their apartment in Manassas, Virginia on 23rd June, 1993. After a nine-hour surgery, Bobbitt’s penis was successfully reattached - and the case became an international news sensation.The 24 year-old manicurist was charged with malicious wounding and faced up to 20 years in prison if convicted. But in court she showed that her then-husband had repeatedly sexually and physically abused her and was found Not Guilty, on the basis of temporary insanity.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how John’s penis was discovered and transported after amputation; explain why Virginia’s marital abuse laws were insufficient to cover the scope of the Bobbitt’s relationship; and consider one of the weirdest offers to ever come from Playboy…&nbsp;&nbsp;CONTENT WARNING: rape, domestic violence, gore.Fu
23/06/202312 minutes 7 seconds
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McEnroe’s Wimbledon Meltdown

John McEnroe was once the world’s No.1 tennis player, winning seven major Grand Slams. But he’ll always be remembered for his extraordinary rant against umpire Edward James at Wimbledon on 22nd June, 1981.During his match with Tom Gullikson, James ruled that the New Yorker’s serve went out. McEnroe’s reaction – “You can’t be serious man, you cannot be serious!… You guys are the absolute pits of the world!” – staggered the genteel world of tennis.In this episode, Arion, Olly and Rebecca discover that McEnroe had already established a bad-boy reputation with the UK press, who’d labelled him ‘superbrat’ in 1977; marvel at the reaction of the BBC commentators to the unfolding drama; and consider whether the general public would still actually remember who McEnroe was, if this had never happened…Further Reading:• The rant unfolding (1981), from the ESPN Archives: <a href="" rel="noopener norefer
22/06/202310 minutes 32 seconds
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Righteous and Harmonious Fists

The Boxer Rebellion was an anti-foreign, anti-colonial, anti-Christian uprising in China, reaching&nbsp; Peking on 21st June, 1900, when Empress Dowager Cixi declared war on all foreign powers and demanded that they depart the country at once.&nbsp;The rebels were known as the “Boxers” in English, because many of its members practiced Chinese martial arts; in their native language they went by the more evocative title of “the [secret] Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists” (Yìhéquán).&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly uncover some of the Boxer’s magical beliefs; consider why Christian converts became so hated in the North of China in particular; and explain how the Emperor himself was forced to take a back seat in this moment of national crisis…&nbsp;Further Reading:• Boxer Rebellion in China | Boxer Rebels (ThoughtCo, 2018): <a href="" rel="noope
21/06/20239 minutes 52 seconds
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Inside The Black Hole of Calcutta

When the East India Company surrendered Fort William (in modern-day Kolkata) to the Nawab of Bengal on 20th June, 1756, dozens of British captives were imprisoned in a cell measuring only 18ft long and 14ft wide, with just two tiny windows - ‘the Black Hole of Calcutta’.Among the prisoners was John Zephaniah Holwell, whose pamphlet describing the terrors of the airless room caused a sensation back in Britain and became a cause célèbre in the idealization of imperialism in India. Holwell claimed 123 men lost their lives in the cell, although it is now thought the number of deaths was exaggerated.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly uncover Holwell’s mixed feelings around colonialism; consider how ‘the black hole of Calcutta’ became an enduring term of phrase; and reveal what connected Kolkata with Olly’s home village in Hertfordshire…Further Reading:• ‘A Genuine Narrative of the Deplorable Deaths of the English Gentlemen, a
20/06/202310 minutes 54 seconds
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It's A Royal Cock-up

The Grand Knockout Tournament (also known as It’s a Royal Knockout) was a one-off charity event first shown on BBC1 on 19th June 1987, to an audience of 18 million gobsmacked viewers.&nbsp;The brainchild of the then 23 year old Prince Edward, the slapstick spectacle featured the Princess Royal and the Duke and Duchess of York captaining rival teams in a series of preposterous rounds involving celebrities including Rowan Atkinson, Tom Jones, Cliff Richard, John Travolta and Les Dawson.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly recall Fergie’s feelings of shame, blame and betrayal; discover the extraordinary cast of characters gathered at this bizarre occasion; and explain why Meat Loaf and Prince Andrew did not see eye-to-eye…Further Reading:‘Remembering The TV Disaster That Was It’s A Royal Knockout’ (Grazia, 2020): <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank
19/06/202311 minutes 55 seconds
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Humanity Dick and the RSPCA

The world’s first animal charity, the RSPCA, was set up on June 16th, 1824, by a small group of men who met in Old Slaughter’s Coffee House in St. Martin’s Lane, London.They had been brought together by Arthur Broome, a vicar and animal-welfare campaigner, but the main member of the group was Irish MP Richard Martin, widely known as “Humanity Dick” who had recently passed the first legislation of its kind against the mistreatment of horses and cattle.&nbsp;&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly look into why in the 19th century people who were interested in animal rights were seen as faintly ludicrous cranks; explain how one of the driving forces behind the RSPCA ended up in an unmarked grave; and discuss why cloven animals need to have duels fought on their behalf…Further Reading:• ‘16 June 1824: The world's oldest animal charity, the RSPCA, is founded’ (Money Week, 2015): <a href="
16/06/202310 minutes 27 seconds
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Blackadder Begins

Rerun. Rowan Atkinson headed up the cast and writing team, yet the first series of ‘The Black Adder’ drew a decidedly mixed reaction from audiences and critics when it debuted on BBC TV on 15th June, 1983.Set in 1484, and filmed in castles across England, the series led some wags to quip that it ‘looks a million dollars, but cost a million quid’. It was only later, when Ben Elton joined Richard Curtis to write subsequent series, that its iconic comedy characters truly took shape.In this episode, Rebecca, Olly and Arion consider the role of Oxbridge privilege in the genesis of the series, ask whether it was ever really an ‘alternative comedy’, and quote some funny lines at each other – because this is a discussion about Blackadder, after all…Further Reading:• The show’s profile on the BBC Comedy site (2014):
15/06/202310 minutes 2 seconds
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How Spiderman The Musical Lost $60m

The most expensive musical of all time, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, finally opened on June 14th, 2011, after completing a record-breaking run of 183 preview performances.The show had been plagued by disaster even from its very beginnings when Tony Adams, the theatre producer who had approached Marvel to buy the stage rights to Spider-Man, died of a stroke just as the team was about to sign the contracts.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly look at how the original plot attempted to fuse together a 20th century comic book hero with an Ancient Greek myth; discuss where U2’s Bono and The Edge got their unlikely musical inspiration from; and explain why Saturday Night Live ended up running a sketch about a law firm specialising in Spider-Man related workplace injuries…Further Reading:• ‘How a Spider-Man musical became a theatrical disaster’ (BBC Culture, 2020): <a href="
14/06/202311 minutes 3 seconds
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You Have The Right To Remain Silent

The famous US police warning to suspects that begins “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law” dates back to a landmark ruling by the US Supreme Court on June 13th, 1966.Known as the Miranda rights, or Miranda warnings, the case of Ernesto Miranda, who was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping and rape, reached the highest court in the land because of his lawyers’ contention that he had not been properly made aware of his rights.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly discuss how a relatively unremarkable (though very serious) case came to have huge nationwide implications; detail the strange way Miranda made money after he got out of prison; and examine the bitter irony of Miranda’s own death at the hands of a fellow prison inmate…Further Reading:• ‘Miranda Rights: Your Rights of Silence’ (ThoughtCo, 2022): <a href="
13/06/202310 minutes 37 seconds
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Marion Donovan: Housewife Inventor

Until the mid-20th century, putting nappies on babies involved folding and pinning cloth towelling, then pulling a pair of rubber pants over the top. That all began to change on June 12th, 1951, when the US inventor Marion Donovan patented a new kind of nappy, with an envelope-like plastic cover and an absorbent insert.Her invention ultimately netted her a million dollars (nearly $10 million in today’s money) and paved the way for the development of disposable nappies which have become ubiquitous in many parts of the world today.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly discuss how Donovan became one of the most prolific female inventors of her time; reveal that when she attempted to sell her invention, she was laughed out of boardrooms by male executives; and explain why one of her inventions, the “Zippity-Do”, could potentially be the undoing of Olly’s relationship with his wife…Further Reading:• ‘The Woman Who Invented
12/06/202311 minutes 22 seconds
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The Day Nero Died

Nero, the final emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, killed himself on 9th June AD 68. Having fled Rome to a suburban villa after being declared a ‘public enemy’ by the Senate, he stabbed himself through the throat. Probably.Within months of his death, rumours began that Nero still lived and would return in glory to reclaim his empire. Instead, the historians of the era - albeit never averse to embellishment to make an artistic point - documented the horrors of his reign, including his forced marriage to a&nbsp; slave boy and turning Christians into wax candles.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly look back on the more enlightened early days of Nero’s emperorship; consider his incestuous rise to the throne; and explain why his story, perhaps more than anything, is a warning about working with a frustrated actor…&nbsp;Content Warning: suicide, incest, torture, religious persecution.Further Reading:</p
09/06/202311 minutes 2 seconds
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The Hawaiian Pizza - A Legacy

Sam Panopoulos, creator of the Hawaiian pizza, died on 8th June, 2017 at the age of 83. Originally Greek, he moved to Ontario, Canada at the age of 20 and opened a restaurant where he experimented with toppings far beyond the typical ‘60s triumvirate of mushroom/bacon/pepperoni.Alongside a Chinese-American chef, he kick-started an international appetite for ham and pineapple that grows to this day - the Hawaiian becoming America’s favourite delivery pizza topping in 2021.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider the merits of ‘Irish pizza’ (corn beef, cabbage and potato...); reveal that the ‘super-boring’ Napolitana was itself only ‘invented’ in 1889; and attempt to establish if the Hawaiian pizza is actually popular in Hawaii… Further Reading:• Sam Panopoulos’s obituary on CBC News’ ‘The National’ (2017):
08/06/20239 minutes 31 seconds
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My Name Isn't Prince

When Prince announced he would no longer go by his birth name on June 7th, 1993, it took the public and his record label, Warner Brothers, by surprise. Henceforth he wanted to be known, he explained, as an unpronounceable ‘Love Symbol’; a bespoke mash-up of the Mars and Venus gender signs which wasn’t even available in font libraries.The dispute centred on the fact that ‘The Artist’ had 500 unreleased songs in his studio vault at Paisley Park, but Warner believed to put them out too quickly would saturate the market with Prince albums and devalue their star signing. Prince began performing with the word “SLAVE” on his cheek, regarding his own name as a part of his contractual entrapment.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why, long before Warner’s got involved, Prince’s name had always been a Freudian nightmare; consider the purple one’s claims to be a ‘slave’ in the context of other African-American figures; and reveal the none-too-subtle ps
07/06/202311 minutes 2 seconds
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Digging Up Josef Mengele

Notorious Nazi doctor, ‘Angel of Death’ Josef Mengele, spent the last twenty years of his life on the run. His remains were recovered in São Paulo on 6th June, 1985, when Brazilian Police dug up the grave of a man named “Wolfgang Gerhard” - later proven to be Mengele, who’d drowned at a beach resort at the age of 68.Mengele, responsible for sending up to 400,000 Jews to their deaths at Auschwitz, was able to escape to Argentina via Italy after the War, even living freely under his real name for a period, before Mossad and ‘Nazi Hunter’ Simon Wiesenthal began hunting him down more assiduously.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly reveal how frustratingly close Israel’s secret services came to capturing him in his lifetime; explain how he was able to live under cover in South America for decades; and consider the irony of what finally happened to his skeleton…Content Warning: depictions of Auschwitz, Holocaust torture techniques
06/06/202311 minutes 14 seconds
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So I Acquitted An Axe Murderer

Lizzie Borden’s murder trial began on June 5, 1893 in New Bedford Courthouse, Massachusetts. The 32 year-old was accused of killing her father, wealthy magnate Andrew Borden, and his wife Abby, her stepmother, who had been crushed by the blows of a hatchet - 11 and 19 times, respectively.In attendance were three judges, Borden’s high-powered defense team (paid for from her late father’s estate), and reporters and onlookers keen to parse the lurid details of the shocking deaths in the Borden homestead. But, despite there being no other suspects, Borden was acquitted.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why Lizzie just *may* have innocently been purchasing poison; consider whether this was the case that first ignited the female interest in ‘true crime’ stories in America; and reveal what’s happened to the ‘Borden Murder House’ in the 21st century …Content Warning: domestic violence, description of brutal murder scene.<b
05/06/202311 minutes 7 seconds
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Who Invented The Telephone?

Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Watson made an important discovery, by accident, on June 2, 1875. While working on their ‘harmonic telegraph’. Watson inadvertently plucked a reed that had been tightly wound around the pole of its electromagnet, producing a twang that Bell heard on a second device next door.Meanwhile, Elisha Gray, co-founder of Western Electric Company, was working on, as his patent put it, “Transmitting Vocal Sounds Telegraphically.” Gray had been using liquid transmitters in his telephone experiments for more than two years; an innovation which mysteriously turned up in Bell’s technology after Gray filed his patent...In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly uncover how Bell’s deaf wife and mother inspired his interest in the human voice; reveal Queen Victoria’s thoughts on being presented with the new technology; and declare which of the two men was the ‘Tesla’ of the race to invent the telephone…Further Reading:• ‘Ahoy! Ale
02/06/202310 minutes 37 seconds
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Heimlich’s Big Maneuver

‘Cafe coronaries’ were a fact of life until The Journal of Emergency Medicine published details of The Heimlich Manoeuvre on June 1, 1974.In so doing, they made a household name of thoracic surgeon Henry Heimlich, and saved countless diners from choking in restaurants.In this episode, Arion, Olly and Rebecca examine whether Heimlich’s notoriety was truly deserved; explain how his Hollywood connections helped him spread the word of his achievements; and revisit his misguided pursuit of malariotherapy as a treatment for HIV...Further Reading:• Henry Heimlich administers his manoeuvre on Johnny Carson and Angie Dickinson - ‘The Tonight Show’ (1979):• Peter Heimlich’s critical blog about his father’s legacy: <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target=
01/06/202310 minutes 14 seconds
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When Psy Broke The Internet

Viral megahit ‘Gangnam Style’, by South Korean pop star Psy, became the first video to reach 2 billion plays on YouTube, on May 31st, 2014.The EDM/K-Pop banger, released in 2012 as the lead single from Psy’s sixth studio album, parodied the nouveau riche lifestyles associated with the Gangnam region of Seoul. But it was the video, with its iconic horse dance, that became a cultural phenomenon, with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hailing it as a force for world peace.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how the song literally smashed YouTube’s views counter; reveal the health risks inherent in imitating its choreography; and reveal what Psy and Peter Kay have in common…Further Reading:‘PSY’s “Gangnam Style” Changed Pop Music, Whether You Like It Or Not’ (Pitchfork, 2017): <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" t
31/05/202310 minutes 51 seconds
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The Peasants Are Revolting

The most significant rebellion of the Medieval era, the so-called Peasant’s Revolt, kicked off in Brentwood, Essex on 30th May, 1381, when tax collector John Bampton attempted to collect unpaid poll tax.The protest triggered a violent confrontation, rapidly spreading across the south-east of the country. Within a month, the rebels were marching towards London, massacring merchants and razing the palace of the king’s uncle, John of Gaunt.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider whether the protestors really were ‘peasants’ at all; appraise 14 year-old king Richard II’s handling of their appeasement; and explain how, despite the horrific hardship of the Black Death, the working classes had, for once, something of an advantage…Further Reading:‘The Peasants' Revolt Of 1381: A Guide’ (HistoryExtra, 2021): <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target=
30/05/202311 minutes 40 seconds
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When Australia Said Sorry

A coalition of Australian community groups came together on May 26th, 1998 for the country’s first “National Sorry Day”, an annual day of atonement for the social-engineering policy that ripped an estimated 50,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families between 1910 and the 1970s.The first Sorry Day was marked with 300 events around the nation, and more than 1,000 people attended a ceremony in Parliament House, Canberra, but it took Australia’s government another decade to utter an official apology.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how in the Year 2000, skywriters turned the heavens into the biggest billboard of apology ever; speculate on whether Australia Day will be abolished due to its colonial associations; and discover that there is in fact one word that is harder to say than “sorry”…&nbsp;Content warning: This episode contains discussion of the Stolen Generations, which may be distr
26/05/202310 minutes 57 seconds
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Shakespeare Unbanned

Rerun. Chinese citizens were once again able to read and perform the works of William Shakespeare on 25th May, 1977.Chiang Ching, Chairman Mao’s wife, had instituted the ban eleven years earlier - amidst concerns that the Bard’s works could be reinterpreted to undermine the Party’s rule and ideology.In this episode, Rebecca, Olly and Arion ask why British Literature has enjoyed a reversal of fortune under President Xi; reveal how Shakespeare’s childhood home is connected to The Venetian, Las Vegas; and recall a surprising fact about One True Voice’s forgotten hit, ‘If I Had Shakespeare’s Way With Words’...Further Reading:• An article on the ban from History:• One True Voice. You have been
25/05/202310 minutes 13 seconds
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Sugar, Sugar and the Cartoon Band

The biggest hit of 1969, bubblegum pop song “Sugar, Sugar” was released on 24th May. The songwriters, Jeff Barry and Andy Kim, had a strong pedigree in penning 60s anthems. But the band itself was fictional - simply studio musicians providing a soundtrack to the Saturday morning TV cartoon ‘The Archie Show’, inspired by the Archie Comics.The brainchild of promoter Don Kirshner, creator of the Monkees, the concept of establishing a band based on cartoon characters meant he could better control his performers. But it did present problems when they were called upon to perform live!&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider why this classic earworm is so naggingly addictive; explain why DJs were initially loathe to play it; and uncover The Archies’ more ‘adult’ follow-on album…Further Reading:‘The Surprising Origins of the Archies' 'Sugar Sugar'’ (CBR, 2018): <a href="" rel="noopene
24/05/20239 minutes 47 seconds
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Captain Kidd: Pirate or Privateer?

Hanged for piracy and murder, sea captain William Kidd was executed in Wapping on 23rd May, 1701. From the gallows he proclaimed to the large assembled crowd that he was innocent of the crimes, as he was a licensed privateer.&nbsp;The vessel he’d captured, the Quedagh Merchant, was indeed sailing under a ‘French pass’ - though the documents that prove this lay unearthed until the 20th century. His trial was used by the governing Tory party as a political opportunity to embarrass his Whig sponsors, and he was convicted on all counts.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain what happened to his body after his botched hanging; reveal the extraordinary monetary value of his plunder; and explain how, despite his established prowess as a seaman, he became seen as a public enemy…Further Reading:‘Biography of Captain William Kidd, Scottish Pirate’ (ThoughtCo, 2019): <a href="" rel="noo
23/05/202310 minutes 35 seconds
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Introducing Pac-Man

Namco’s ground-breaking arcade game Pac-Man had its first focus test in a Tokyo cinema foyer on May 22nd, 1980. Created by 24 year-old Toru Iwatani, it was originally called ‘Puck-Man’ and designed to appeal to women as well as men.Each of the ghosts - Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde - was programmed to have its own personality using AI routines, creating a sense of ‘character’ despite the pixelated rendering. Atari declined the opportunity to distribute the game in the U.S. - where, in just a year, it generated $1billion of revenue - in quarters…In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why the gameplay wipes out after 256 levels; explore the craze that saw a Pac-man strategy textbook shift one million copies; and consider why the game’s name was changed to avoid some unfortunate graffiti…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘The game that ate the world: 40 facts on Pac-Man's 40th birthday’ (The Guardian, 2020): <a href="
22/05/202310 minutes 39 seconds
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We Want YOU 🫵 to Support Our Podcast!

It’s our birthday 🥳! Our show is now TWO years old, with over 600 episodes in the bank - but we want to keep making even more. And we need your help to do that.If you enjoy our daily, independent podcast, please please support the show and help us keep the lights on! For as little as £1 per week, you can sustain our showbiz careers, skip the ads AND nab yourself some tasty exclusives.Just join our fanclub, 🌴CLUB RETROSPECTORS 🌴, on Patreon or Apple Podcasts, and you can access:•An exclusive SUNDAY episode, each and every week!•An ad-free feed, wherever you listen!&nbsp;•Weekly Bonus material!•Our archive of over 100 bonus bits, outtakes and behind-the-scenes content!You can cancel whenever you like. So, what are you waiting for? Join the Club!AP
20/05/20234 minutes 52 seconds
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Fox's 'Glee' Gambit

Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s musical comedy-drama ‘Glee’ was first screened on Fox on May 19th, 2009. In a strategy to whip up excitement before the season premiere in the Autumn, the network showed the pilot in a plum post-‘American Idol’ slot, and then besieged websites and social networks with advertisements over the Summer.The strategy worked - justifying ‘Glee’s enormous budget, relatively unknown cast, and complex musical rights negotiations - and by the end of 2009 the show had generated 25 Billboard Hot 100 hits from its soundtrack.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how this tightly-structured pilot cunningly conceals its Broadway roots whilst introducing its cast of characters; consider how the success of the series launched Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ onto an unsuspecting UK; and consider whether the show’s happy vibes had the good fortune to launch in the midst of the financial crisis…Further Reading:</
19/05/202310 minutes 41 seconds
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Dracula! Live on Stage!

Bram Stoker’s Dracula was first introduced to the world NOT via his canonical novel, but rather in the pages of a seldom-performed - and by all accounts appalling - play-reading at London's Lyceum Theatre on 18th May, 1897.The stage version was not intended to reach a mass audience; but was rather a clever wheeze of Stoker’s to ensure he was recognised as the creator of his iconic characters - as the script needed to be rubber-stamped by the Lord Chamberlain's office prior to performance.In this episode, Olly, Arion and Rebecca reveal the copyright battle Stoker’s widow nonetheless endured with the makers of ‘Romanian knock-off’ ‘Nosferatu’, consider the benefits of Stoker’s ‘found footage’ approach to authorship, and reveal how an incident in Rhode Island, of all places, may have inspired Stoker to write his play... Further Reading:• Some pages from Stoker’s manuscript at the British Library: <a href="
18/05/202310 minutes 10 seconds
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Louie, Louie and the FBI

The supposedly pornographic lyrics of garageband classic “Louie Louie” by the Kingsmen were, improbably, thoroughly investigated by the FBI, who reached a conclusion on May 17th, 1965, when the FBI Laboratory declared the lyrics to be “officially unintelligible”.&nbsp;The FBI had spent two years analyzing the song, consulting outraged parents, and playing it at different speeds to uncover hidden obscenities.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how the controversy helped cement the reputation of this punk pop classic; explain how ‘Louie Louie marathons’ also played a part in the song’s virality; and reveal that there actually IS a hidden obscenity on the track…Further Reading:‘The FBI Investigated the Song ‘Louie Louie’ for Two Years’ (Smithsonian Magazine, 2013): <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" targe
17/05/202310 minutes 43 seconds
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Beau Brummell: Dandy on the Run

Socialite, wit and fashion influencer Beau Brummell fled to France on 16th May, 1816, in order to escape his creditors, from whom he had racked up around £600,000 of gambling debts.Staying at Dessin’s Hotel, he entertained in his apartments while learning French and writing his memoirs, biding his time until his bestie George IV appointed him to the British consul in nearby Caen. But the position lasted only two years, and eventually he was jailed for his mounting debts in France.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly track the highs and lows of this iconic dandy’s relationship with the Palace; consider how his career in the consulate came to such a rapid end; and explore his influence on gentleman’s fashion ever since…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Beau Brummell - The Ultimate Man of Style, By Ian Kelly’ (Atria Books, 2013): &nbsp;<a href=";gbpv=1&amp;dq=B
16/05/202311 minutes 30 seconds
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Launch of the Sky Girls

Ellen Church became the first ever airline stewardess on May 15th, 1930 - when she took to the skies with a Boeing Air Transport flight from Oakland, California to Chicago.&nbsp;A licensed airplane pilot, she’d approached the airline to inquire about flying planes, but, when she was told that in fact they didn’t employ women at all, she suggested that they put registered nurses like herself aboard to care for the passengers - and was hired to recruit and train seven additional women for the role. Candidates needed to be no taller than 5 feet, 4 inches; not more than 25 years old… and single. Their salary was $125.00 per month.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly reveal the seemingly never-ending list of safety responsibilities given to this first generation of ‘Sky Girls’; unpick the sexist recruitment policies underpinning their employment; and discover some of the most sexualised ad-campaigns of all time…Further Reading:
15/05/202310 minutes 45 seconds
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Richard I's Awkward Wedding Night

Richard the Lionheart was a bachelor into his thirties, but finally got hitched on May 12th, 1191, at the Chapel of St. George at Limassol, Cyprus. His Bride? Berengaria of Navarre, daughter of King Sancho VI - a key ally in extending his Kingdom across Europe.&nbsp;Sure, he may have already slept with her brother, but hey, that’s less awkward than marrying his original betrothed princess, his father’s mistress. The marriage was indifferent and potentially unconsummated; Berengaria becoming the only English Queen in history never to set foot in England.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how the happy couple came to be wed in Cyprus in the first place; investigate whether it really is sacrilegious to get married over Lent; and consider historians’ claims that Richard’s proclivity for sharing a bed with the King of France was *purely symbolic*...Further Reading:• 8 Surprising Facts About Medieval King Rich
12/05/20239 minutes 38 seconds
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The Opening Night of 'Cats'

Rerun.At a cost of £2m, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical ‘Cats’ premiered at the New London Theatre on 11th May, 1981 – and the world had never seen anything like it. With a cast including Brian Blessed and Elaine Paige, the original production was innovative, sexy, creepy, bizarre – and an enormous gamble for the impresarios who backed it.In this episode, Olly, Rebecca and Arion look back at the original reviews for the show, consider whether John Napier’s award-winning costume design was actually incredibly lazy, and reveal how the show’s signature song, ‘Memory’, nearly didn’t happen at all…Further reading:• Elaine Paige performs ‘Memory’ in the original production:• Sue MacGregor interviews the cast and crew for Radio 4’s ‘The Reunion’:• ‘Cats’ – a timeline from London’s Evening Standard:
11/05/202310 minutes 59 seconds
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The Strangler in the Ring

Evan ‘The Strangler’ Lewis took on English wrestling champion Jack Wannop on May 10th, 1888 at Chicago’s Battery D Armoury: the first, and much-anticipated, wrestling ‘Championship of the World’.Lewis was banned from performing his signature move - similar to a rear naked choke as seen in mixed martial arts now - but nonetheless secured a decisive victory over Wannop, who was “nearly killed”, according to The Sporting Life.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why the Royal family’s interest in the burgeoning sport had to be kept on the down-low; consider whether Wannop deliberately threw the match because he was bribed by gangsters; and reveal how, decades later, he was still re-living his glory days - but this time on the London stage…Further Reading:• ‘For Blood and Money: Jack Wannop V Evan ‘The Strangler’ Lewis’ (Grappling With History, 2019): <a href="" r
10/05/202310 minutes 38 seconds
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Meet Mr Punch

Punch and Judy shows, a staple of the British seaside, evolved from the ‘Pulcinella’ marionette shows performed by Italian puppet showman Pietro Gimonde, first spotted by diarist Samuel Pepys in Covent Garden on May 9th, 1662. The show was so popular that Gimonde was summoned to give a Royal Command Performance for the King.Traveling puppeteers took the trend to fairs and markets, and the cast of characters grew to include a baby, a policeman, a crocodile, and a string of sausages. The spectacle was known for its slapstick humor and Punch’s catchphrase “That’s the way to do it!”.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly reveal why Punch’s wife ‘Joan’ was dumped in favour of ‘Judy’; discover that the pearl-clutching concerns of exposing children to Mr Punch’s ultra-violence are nothing new; and consider the risks of using a ‘swazzle’...&nbsp;&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘That's the Way to Do it! A History of Punch and Judy’ (Victoria and Albert Museu
09/05/202310 minutes 3 seconds
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The Teen Who Hijacked The Subway

Trainspotter Keron Thomas was just 16 when he impersonated a subway motorman and took control of an A train in New York City on May 8th, 1993. His actions went unnoticed by his passengers, who were safely picked up and discharged at 85 stops along the route - until he slightly exceeded the speed limit, triggering the automatic brake.Thomas, originally from Trinidad, had been fascinated with trains since childhood and had studied the subway system extensively; even obtaining an official rule book and motorman’s uniform. Despite being arrested and charged with reckless endangerment and criminal impersonation, his ‘joyride’ was widely applauded and he became something of a folk hero.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how Thomas very nearly got away with his japes; consider how his treatment by the NYPD might have differed in post-911 New York; and reveal the school nickname he adopted after his adventures…Further Reading:‘MOTOR
08/05/202310 minutes 48 seconds
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Renouncing King John

The Magna Carta would not have become law unless a group of Barons had first renounced their allegiance to King John on 5th May, 1215. Primarily protecting their own interests, they were keen to prevent John burdening them with ever-higher taxes to fund his seemingly endless Wars.&nbsp;Even once agreed, the now-revered document contained some surprising clauses: for example a law preventing members of a particular family ever serving as a Royal officer; and another stating that, ‘no one should be arrested or imprisoned on the appeal of a woman, for the death of any person except her husband.’In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly uncover the legal loopholes John had previously exploited to enforce his tax hikes; consider the tricky business of trying to get a rapid response from the Pope; and reveal the Magna Carta’s original title…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘King John and the Magna Carta - The Magna Carta’ (BBC Bitesize): <a href="https://www.
05/05/202310 minutes 6 seconds
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Debut of the Daily Mail

Rerun.As British literacy rates surged to a new high of 97%, the time was right to launch a simpler, shorter, more readable newspaper - and Alfred Harmsworth’s Daily Mail caught the zeitgeist when it hit the news-stands (at the eye-catching price of just half a penny) on 4th May, 1896.The new paper attracted half a million daily readers by the end of the century, drawn in by its American-inspired mix of provocative political commentary, human interest and sentiment.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how the Mail innovated faster national and international distribution; chart Harmsworth (later Lord Northcliffe)’s progress to becoming the Rupert Murdoch of his day; and explain how, by the 1930s, this very British institution was championing Hitler…Further Reading:• The Daily Mail - First Edition (Associated Newspapers, 1896):
04/05/202310 minutes 24 seconds
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Box Office Poison!

In a full-page ad published in the Hollywood Reporter on 3rd May 1938, the Independent Theater Owners Association blamed declining ticket sales on some of the era’s biggest names in cinema, including Mae West, Greta Garbo and Katharine Hepburn – all of whom were labelled “box office poison.”&nbsp;The attention-grabbing tagline quickly took on a life of its own and within just four days, more than thirty newspapers across the US had reported on the story.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why movie ticket sales were actually dropping off towards the end of the 1930s; revisit how the stars who were named in the ad attempted to laugh the accusation off; and debate who is the box office poison of today…Further Reading:• ‘Why The Legendary Katharine Hepburn Was Declared “Box Office Poison”’ (Slashfilm, 2023): <a href="
03/05/202310 minutes 36 seconds
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The Shapes in the Sky

Scientists from around the world gathered in Rome on 2nd May 1922 to agree on a definitive list of 88 constellations, which up until then had been an astronomical free-for-all.The collection of eminent astronomers eventually settled on 42 animals, 29 inanimate objects and 17 humans or mythological characters, which, taken together, offered a complete map of the skies for the very first time.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how different ancient civilisations around the world understood the heavens differently; marvel at the immense contribution of Ancient Greeks to contemporary astronomy; and discuss why Antinous, the boy lover of the Roman emperor Hadrian, is the greatest constellation no longer in use…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘10 Constellations that Never Caught On’ (Mental Floss, 2010): <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer
02/05/20239 minutes 42 seconds
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Don't Call Me Bigot

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown dealt his party’s reelection campaign a massive blow on 28th April 2010, when during a meet-and-greet in the marginal constituency of Rochdale, he was caught on microphone calling one of his own supporters, Gillian Duffy, a bigot.Duffy had engaged the PM in a long conversation about many things, including local concerns about the influx of migrants to the area and the strain that the increased population was having on the local economy. After he finished speaking with her, Brown was ushered into his car where a microphone picked up his now immortal quote: “That was a disaster... should never have put me with that woman. She was just a sort of bigoted woman who said she used to be Labour.”In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why Brown probably wasn’t going to win the 2010 election anyway; speculate on why a relatively harmless exchange got under the PM’s skin; and recall another spectacularly cringeworthy moment wh
28/04/202310 minutes 32 seconds
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The Duel That Shocked France

Rerun.King Henri III of France had a favourite group of young courtiers – his ‘mignons’ (or ‘cuties’, ‘sweeties’, or ‘‘darlings’) – known for dressing in an effeminate and eye-catching style. On 27th April, 1578, they&nbsp;engaged in a bloody duel with a rival gang in a battle that came to be known as ‘The Duel of the Mignons’.Was it a ‘beautiful’ battle, a classical allusion to Roman combat, as some scribes argued? Or, as the King himself concluded, a pointless – and rather farcical – loss of life?In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explore Henri’s ‘mummy’s boy’ reputation; reveal how many Frenchmen slaughtered each other in this fashion during the five bloody decades from 1575; and explain why, when turning up at a sunrise duel, it’s always best to remember your dagger…Further Reading:• ‘King Henri III and His Mignons’ (The Gay &amp; Lesbian Review, 2020): <a href="
27/04/202310 minutes 30 seconds
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Murder In Lafayette Square

On 26th April 1859 Congressman Daniel Sickles’ claimed the dubious honour of becoming the first person in US history to successfully escape a murder charge using the insanity defence, even though pretty much nobody thought he was insane.Sickles freely admitted that he had shot and killed US District Attorney Philip Barton Key near Lafayette Park in Washington D.C. following his wife’s confession the previous day of her protracted affair with Key. But as it turned out, Sickles’ enormous popularity proved a great asset in court, and the jury needed only 70 minutes to deliberate before returning their verdict that Sickles was not guilty on the grounds of temporary insanity.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why Sickles’ crack team of lawyers brought up Shakespeare's Othello in court; marvel at how an enterprising theatre managed to stage a play depicting Sickles’ trial just a week after the case finished; and discuss why every Civil War general excep
26/04/202310 minutes 39 seconds
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The German poet and journalist Heinrich Heine coined the term “Lisztomania” on 25th April 1844 to describe the phenomenon of frenzied fandom in Europe where women would physically assault Franz Liszt by tearing his clothes, fighting over broken piano strings and locks of his shoulder-length hair.Heine said there was something about Liszt’s performances that “raised the mood of audiences to a level of mystical ecstasy” – which seemed to be a result of the combination of his good looks, his charisma and his stage presence.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how Liszt created an almost parasocial relationship with his fan base; investigate why critics are still reproving of expressive concert pianists to this day; and discuss whether the Heine was trying to extort money from performers like Liszt in exchange for better reviews…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘The Virtuoso Liszt’ (Cambridge University Press,
24/04/202310 minutes 39 seconds
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CW: The Last Ming Emperor

On 24th April 1644, the Chongzhen Emperor walked to Meishan, a small hill in present-day Jingshan Park and hanged himself on a tree, bringing a sudden end to the Ming dynasty.The writing had been on the wall for him for some time. By 1640, the unfortunate emperor faced multiple pandemics, an invasion, two internal rebellions, persistent drought, widespread famine, and an economic collapse.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how the fifth son of a low ranking concubine ultimately became emperor; reveal wythe Chongzhen Emperor used to sleep clutching a sword at night; and reveal why in medieval China, the gods could grant a monarch a mandate to rule, but they could also take it away if they felt like it…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘A death on Coal Hill’ (The China Project, 2022): https://thec
24/04/202310 minutes 41 seconds
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The Red Baron's Flying Circus

Germany’s most famous fighter pilot, Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen (aka ‘The Red Baron’) was shot down near the Somme River on the Western Front, on 21st April 1918. He had been credited with an incredible 80 air combat victories during World War I.&nbsp;Originally a cavalryman, Richthofen transferred to the Imperial Air Service and downed 15 enemy planes by the end of 1916. He then headed up his own regiment, using a Fokker triplane painted entirely red; his unit becoming known as the ‘Flying Circus’ because of their brightly-coloured planes.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why even the Allies liked Richthofen; reveal why the Baron stopped printing up souvenir silverware for each of his kills; and consider the fate of the Broadway musical inspired by his heroism…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘History of Government: They seek him here… the life and death of the Red Baron’ (UK Government bl
21/04/202310 minutes 37 seconds
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The Truth About Timbuktu

No European had returned alive from Timbuktu until French adventurer René Caillie, who arrived in the ‘City of Gold’ on 20th April, 1828 after an arduous year-long journey. He was fêted by the Société de Géographie in Paris, who awarded him 10,000 francs in recognition of his daring voyage - and his place in the history books was assured.But Caillie was disappointed by what he had found. “The city presented, at first view, nothing but a mass of ill-looking houses, built of earth,” he wrote. “Nothing was to be seen in all directions but immense plains of quicksand of a yellowish white colour ... all nature wore a dreary aspect."In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why a myth had grown up around the Malian city; reveal how Caillie got away with pretending to be Muslim; and dig up the Société’s impressively exhaustive list of evidence required to prove he had been there…Further Reading:• Who, What, Why: Why do we know Timbuktu?’ (BBC News, 2012):
20/04/202310 minutes 6 seconds
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Becoming Princess Grace

Thirty million viewers watched Hollywood star Grace Kelly marry Rainier III, Prince of Monaco, on April 19th, 1956. The Royal wedding, at Saint Nicholas Cathedral, Monte Carlo, was filmed by MGM as a condition of releasing Kelly from her studio contract.&nbsp;The couple had met after being put together for a magazine photoshoot at the Cannes Film Festival and were engaged within a few weeks of courting - despite the fact Kelly was already engaged to somebody else.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly unpick Kelly’s iconic gown, made of 274m of lace and 91m of silk; reveal why she had been forced to have a medical examination before the big day; and consider the cocktail menu that would have had the wedding guests feeling especially woozy…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Grace Kelly’s Forever Look’ (Vanity Fair, 2010): http
19/04/202310 minutes 30 seconds
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It's Superman!

Action Comics #1, published on April 18th, 1938, featured the first ever appearance of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s iconic superhero, Superman.&nbsp;The character already boasted invincibility, had a hopeless crush on Lois Lane, and an inexplicable penchant for wearing bright red underpants on the outside of his costume. But, as yet, he could not fly, did not live in Kansas, and did not work at the Daily Planet.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how Siegel and Shuster came to sell the rights to their creation for a paltry $130; reveal the Jewish subtexts of Krypton and Batman; and consider whether Superman’s liberal politics prevented DC from fully embracing the character they’d unleashed…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Action Comics #1: Superman’ (DC, 1938):
18/04/202310 minutes 24 seconds
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Let's Buy London Bridge

Oil tycoon Robert P. McCulloch purchased London Bridge for $2,460,000 on 17th April, 1968. The Victorian structure, which had been sinking into the River Thames at a rate of one inch every eight years, was then dismantled stone by stone and shipped to the USA, where it now bestrides Lake Havasu City, Arizona.&nbsp;The wheeze was the work of advertising executive-turned-London councilor Ivan Luckin, who convinced his colleagues that it might be possible to sell the bridge to pay for the costs of building a new one, and set about a marketing blitz including a press conference in New York in which he invoked the crossing’s illustrious Roman history.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly revisit the gaudy launch ceremony; debunk the myth that McCulloch thought he was buying Tower Bridge instead; and reveal that buying the bridge wasn’t even this eccentric entrepreneur’s wackiest idea…Further Reading:• ‘How London Bridge Ended Up
17/04/202310 minutes 34 seconds
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Meet The Naked Chef

Jamie Oliver blasted on to British screens when his first TV series, ‘The Naked Chef’ premiered on BBC Two on 14th April, 1999.&nbsp;Created by Pat Llewellyn for Optomen, the show was revolutionary for its use of jumpy, close-up camera work, and the presenter’s relaxed style and laddishness. The series and subsequent cookbook was credited with inspiring men to take to the kitchen, due to Oliver’s “blokey” approach and relatability - but also inspired a backlash against his ‘mockney’ delivery.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how fact met fiction when the TV set became Oliver’s real-life pad; reveal how the young chef was spotted in the background of another documentary entirely; and explore whether this phenomenon could have happened in any era other than Britpop Britain…&nbsp;&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘The Oral History of Jamie Oliver's 'The Naked Chef'’ (VICE, 2019): <a href="
14/04/202310 minutes 35 seconds
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The Crazy Queen of Spain

Joanna of Castile, was, as a young lady, remarked upon for her intellect and good companionship, and married off to prize catch Philip the Handsome - but by the time she died on 13th April, 1555 she was known colloquially by the name that’s stuck ever since: ‘Joanna The Mad’.She had, by then, spent 45 years in prison at the hands of her own family, who had a political advantage in exaggerating her moments of instability to keep control of her territories.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly ask whether Joanna’s problems can be traced back to her troubling childhood; reveal her disturbing behaviour whilst she grieved for her philandering husband; and consider her legacy as a prototype for the ‘mad woman in the attic’ seen in so much Western literature…Further Reading:‘The Intriguing Life of Joana of Castile, Who Slept With Her Husband's Corpse’ (Esquire, 2018):
13/04/202310 minutes 42 seconds
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Apple's Forgotten Co-Founder

Ronald Wayne sold his 10% stake in Apple to Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak on 12th April, 1976 - having been a co-founder of the company just 11 days earlier. He received back his initial investment of $800, which would now be worth over $1 billion.However, despite this often being cited as one of the worst business decisions in history, Wayne maintains that he made the right decision - because, as the ‘adult in the room’, his personal assets had been on the line had the burgeoning computer company gone into administration.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explore Wayne’s suggestion that he would have become the ‘richest man in the cemetery’ had he stayed on-board; check out his original logo - which looks more like a woodcut than an iconic brand design; and reveal a further disastrous financial calculation he made after Apple became a household name…Further Reading:• ‘Apple at 40: The forgotten founder who gave it all away’ (BBC Ne
12/04/20239 minutes 39 seconds
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Stealing The Stone of Destiny

The Stone of Scone, an oblong block of red sandstone used for centuries in the coronation of British monarchs, was recovered by Police on April 11th, 1951; three and a half months after its removal from Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day.Four Scottish students from the University of Glasgow (Ian Hamilton, Gavin Vernon, Kay Matheson and Alan Stuart) stole the stone in the hope it could boost interest in Scottish nationalism. Instead, it seemed to provoke a national discussion about where the stone - which they’d accidentally split in two before bungling it into their Ford Anglia - should now reside.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly decode the religious myths surrounding this ‘stone of destiny’; explain why Charles III *will* want it to ‘groan’ when he sits on it; and reveal the ingenious way the authorities tracked the stone up to Arbroath…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Theft of the Stone of Scone’ (The Guardian, 2007): <a hre
11/04/202310 minutes 27 seconds
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The Kodak Moment

George Eastman filed a patent for the first ever celluloid roll film on 6th April, 1889 – an incremental development following the release of the first Kodak handheld camera, released in 1888, but a truly significant one.Eastman’s original products came preloaded with film, and were marketed as “convenient as a field-glass”. For $10, customers could take 100 shots which were then developed by Kodak at their factory in Rochester, New York.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly discover why Eastman’s advertising nous was years ahead of its time; explain how Kodak soon became the world’s leading supplier of film stock; and reveal that his company wasn’t as tardy about the coming digital photographic revolution as you might imagine… Content Warning: SuicideFurther Reading:• ‘George Eastman and the Kodak Camera’ (ThoughtCo, 2019):• ‘Kodak invent
06/04/202310 minutes 34 seconds
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Bottling Elizabeth Taylor

Celebrity perfumes went mainstream on April 5th, 1991, when Elizabeth Taylor launched her most popular fragrance, White Diamonds, in a publicity blitz that included the Hollywood legend touring department stores across the US.The top notes are aldehydes, bergamot, neroli, orange and lily - but perhaps the fragrance most appealed because of the public perception of Taylor’s fierce endurance, overcoming setbacks in her career and dependency to drugs.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly reveal Mae West’s buxom role in forwarding the development of Hollywood scents; recall how dubious celebrities from Peter Andre to Kermit The Frog subsequently took the path Taylor had blazed; and reveal just how much money the one-time Silver Screen legend made from her bottles of squizz…Further Reading:• ‘The 15 best (and worst) perfumes and fragrances by celebrities’ (Stuff NZ, 2021): <a href="
05/04/202310 minutes 11 seconds
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Give Peace A Brand

Gerald Holtom’s CND symbol, known internationally as the ‘peace’ symbol, made its debut at a protest march by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament on 4th April, 1958.&nbsp;The march went from London to Aldermaston, where Britain’s nuclear weapons were and still are manufactured. Five hundred cardboard ‘lollipop sticks’ displaying the logo were produced - and it’s since scarcely been out of circulation as an anti-establishment plea for peace around the world.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly question whether Goya helped influence Holton’s iconic design; reveal how author J.B. Priestley had fermented the protests on this day; and consider the International Shoe Corporation’s dubious claim to the patent …&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘The Peace Symbol: Beginnings and Evolution’ (ThoughtCo, 2019): https://www.t
04/04/202310 minutes 36 seconds
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Here Comes The Pony Express

Before the transcontinental telegraph, sending a message coast-to-coast in the United States could take up to a month via stagecoach. Until, that is, the opening of the Pony Express, on April 3, 1860.Its founders, William H. Russell, William Bradford Waddell and Alexander Majors, set up over 150 relay stations along a pioneer trail, recruiting wiry teenage lone riders (‘orphans preferred’) to make the precarious trek in a record-breaking ten days.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly reveal the employment clauses insisted upon by these entrepreneurs; consider how Buffalo Bill Cody enshrined the concept in the American frontier myth for generations; and explain why, if you thought a job as a mailman sounded risky, you *really* wouldn’t want to be posted at the relay stations…Further Reading:• ‘The Pony Express Was Short-Lived And Costly’ (Smithsonian Magazine, 2015): <a href="
03/04/202310 minutes 9 seconds
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Riot in the Concert Hall

It became known as the ‘Skandalkonzert’: an evening of expressionist, experimental pieces at Vienna’s Great Hall of the Musikverein on March 31, 1913, which so disturbed the audience that rioting and slapping ensued, followed by a lawsuit.&nbsp;In time, it established the reputations of The Second Viennese School - a group of composers like Shoenberg and Weber, who sought to break away from the traditional tonal system and create a new form of classical music.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider whether it was simply the running order, not the artistic demands of the pieces, that truly upset the apple cart; reveal the extraordinary precautions Shoenberg put in place to prevent such an event recurring; and turn to Strauss for a zinger of a put-down…Further Reading:• ‘The Second Viennese School: Alban Berg, Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern | The British Library’ (British Library): <a href="
31/03/20239 minutes 55 seconds
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Dr Long's Ethereal Adventures

Pain-free surgery eluded physicians for centuries, but 26-year-old Crawford Williamson Long successfully removed a tumour from the neck of patient James Venable on 30th March, 1842 - whilst Venable was anaesthetised with ether.Dr Long had come to appreciate the ‘exhilarating effects’ of ether as a result of attending drug-fuelled parties at medical school - known in his coterie as ‘ether frolics’ - and identifying that, whilst high on ether, he had bruised his body, yet not felt the impact.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how Dr Long experimented on his friends, families and unwitting local youths before applying ether surgically; reveal how Queen Victoria caused chloroform to eclipse ether as the anaesthetic of choice for childbirth; and revisit the religious controversies that arose when doctors started ‘playing God’...Further Reading:• ‘The surprising (and Long) story of the first use of ether in surgery’ (The Conversation, 2019
30/03/20239 minutes 52 seconds
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Unearthing the Terracotta Army

A group of farmers digging a well in Xi’an, China, stumbled upon a life-sized human head made of clay on 29th March, 1974. It was the first indication that beneath the ground - close to the tomb of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor - was the greatest archaeological find of the 20th century: the Terracotta Army.&nbsp;The ‘army’ consists of more than 8,000 life-size soldiers, horses, and chariots, and was created to protect the emperor in the afterlife. The site has since become a popular tourist attraction and designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why the farmers were initially reluctant to go public with their findings; reveal how a finger of one of the figures ended up in a desk drawer in Philadelphia; and consider what this world-famous artefact has in common with the Cabbage Patch Dolls…Further Reading:• ‘Terra Cotta Soldiers on the March’ (Smithsonian Magazine, 2009): <a href="https://www.s
29/03/202310 minutes 31 seconds
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Ed Sullivan Bows Out

After a 23 year run that included introducing American audiences to The Beatles, Elvis Presley and The Rolling Stones, the last original episode of ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ aired on CBS on March 28, 1971.The variety programme, which cost $8 million per year, fell victim to ‘the rural purge’, via which several iconic shows that appealed mainly to poorer and older demographics were axed in favour of screening old movies.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider how Sullivan was able to become a TV superstar, despite having no discernible talent for presentation; explain how the host’s advancing senility gave an early advantage to comedian Joan Rivers; and reveal whom this famously polite father figure deigned to call ‘bitch’…Further Reading:• ‘Right Here on Our Stage Tonight! - Ed Sullivan's America, By Gerald Nachman’ (University of California Press, 2009):&nbsp;<a href="
28/03/202310 minutes 29 seconds
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Sacheen Littlefeather's Oscars Controversy

When Marlon Brando won Best Actor at the Academy Awards for his role in The Godfather on March 27, 1973, he sent Native American activist Sacheen Littlefeather in his place. Dressed in traditional Apache garb, she declined the award on Brando’s behalf, “And the reasons for this being are the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry."Littlefeather’s appearance was met with a mix of boos and applause from the audience. But, before her death in 2022, the Academy honoured Littlefeather for her protest, calling it "a powerful statement on behalf of human dignity and against the marginalization of Indigenous people."In this episode, Arion, Olly and Rebecca consider the lasting impact of this stark political moment; revisit Littlefeather’s earlier work for Playboy; and explain why, as a rumoured ‘Pretendian’, her ethnic identity continues to make headlines…Further Reading:• ‘A shocking moment in Oscars hist
27/03/202310 minutes 28 seconds
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The Suffragettes of Sport

The first international women’s sports event, The Women’s Olympiad, kicked off in Monte Carlo on 24th March, 1921. A hundred athletes from five nations competed in track and field events, defying the male-dominated Olympic movement that excluded women from all sports except tennis, golf, sailing and croquet.Created by campaigner Alice Milliat, the event showcased the skills of pioneering athletes Mary Lines, Violette Morris and Lucie Bréard - but was primarily intended to put pressure on the ‘proper’ Olympics to finally admit women into all sports - something not fully achieved for another forty years.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how rumours of ‘fainting’ women put the feminists’ cause back by decades; consider whether the IOC’s concerns regarding ‘ladylike’ pursuits were straightforward sexism; and reveal how a Paris2024 tribute to Milliat’s victory was usurped by corporate sponsorship…Further Reading:‘Throwback
24/03/20239 minutes 55 seconds
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Handel's Biggest Hit

Hallelujah! Handel’s ‘Messiah’ is one of the cornerstones of Western classical music. But when it had its London premiere at Covent Garden on 23rd March 1743, it was billed as “a new sacred oratorio”, lest the real title of the show seem blasphemous.To further mitigate the problem of performing religious work in a secular playhouse, librettist Charles Jennens ensured that no one singer could be said to be ‘playing’ the role of Christ, and profits from the show were donated to charity.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how fashionable Italian singers were liable to attract as much laughter as praise; reveal what Mozart and Beethoven made of Handel’s masterpiece; and explain how the production at Crystal Palace in 1850 blew the original out of the water…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘The Glorious History of Handel's Messiah’ (Smithsonian Magazine, 2009): <a href="
23/03/20239 minutes 55 seconds
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The Elephant That Inspired 'Dumbo'

Jumbo, one of the largest elephants ever seen, departed London Zoo for Barnum &amp; Bailey’s Circus in New York on March 9th, 1882. Nationally beloved as the ‘pet’ to Queen Victoria’s children, for 16 years he’d given thousands of rides around Regent’s Park, but was sold off for $10,000 once he started exhibiting trauma - and getting erections.P.T. Barnum then embarked upon a promotional blitz, leveraging the controversy caused by his latest acquisition, and selling Jumbo’s image to numerous commercial partners. But tragedy struck in 1885 when Jumbo was involved in a railway accident in Canada.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how Jumbo became an alcoholic; indulge in the music hall singalong, ‘Why Part with Jumbo, Pet of the Zoo?’; and consider how Barnum’s marketing genius continued to exploit Jumbo’s legacy, despite him being responsible for the negligence that led to his untimely death…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Tragic t
22/03/202310 minutes 36 seconds
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The Most Expensive Divorce Ever

Medieval power couple King Louis VII of France and Eleanor of Aquitaine, seemingly unable to produce a male heir, had a messy breakup. Their annulment on 21st March 1152 was granted by the Pope on the grounds of consanguinity - meaning they were too closely related by blood. And yet both parties went on to marry people to whom they were even more closely related.Henry of Anjou was Eleanor’s next husband - a move which made her the only woman in history to have been both Queen of France AND Queen of England. Meanwhile, Louis lost half his Kingdom - and had to sit and watch as Eleanor popped out male heir after male heir with her new hubby.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Arion explain why going on a Holy War is not great marriage therapy; get between the sheets with the Royal couple; and consider how an attempted kidnapping might have made for an awkward family atmosphere at Eleanor and Henry’s wedding reception…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Elea
21/03/202310 minutes 15 seconds
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Stealing the World Cup

The Jules Rimet, trophy of the FIFA World Cup, was stolen from a stamp exhibition in Westminster Central Hall on March 20th, 1966 - the year England was hosting (and went on to win) the tournament. The theft sparked a massive Police investigation and multiple offers of rewards for its recovery.Astonishingly, the trophy had not been heavily guarded or alarmed, so the thieves stole it with bolt cutters. In a twist straight out of Enid Blyton, the cup was eventually discovered not by the boys in blue - but by a pet dog called Pickles, who was then lauded as a national hero.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly reveal the identities of the London gangsters who poached the Cup; explain what music hall star Tommy Trinder had to do with it; and discover how, in Brazil, the Cup was to go AWOL again…&nbsp;Further Reading:‘The Theft of the Jules Rimet Trophy - The Hidden History of the 1966 World Cup, By Martin Atherton (Meyer &amp; Meyer, 2008)
20/03/202310 minutes 35 seconds
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Parading for St Paddy

The first ever St. Patrick’s Day parade took place not in Ireland, as many people might expect, but in Spanish Florida, on March 17, 1601. It wasn’t until about 100 years later that the world famous parades got going in Boston and New York City.Historian J. Michael Francis made the discovery of this unexpectedly early celebration of Ireland’s patron saint while investigating the Spanish imperial history of the Floridian city of St. Augustine.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why for around 50 years up until the 1970s all pubs in Ireland were closed on St. Patrick’s Day; discuss what gunpowder had to do with the first St. Patrick’s Day parade; and reveal where corned beef and cabbage really come from…&nbsp;&nbsp;Further Reading:‘Where the first St. Patrick's Day parade REALLY took place’ (Daily Mail, 2018): <a href="
17/03/202310 minutes 7 seconds
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Murder at the Masked Ball

Gustav III was shot, in the back and at close range, at Stockholm’s Royal Opera House on 16th March, 1792. But he didn’t die for another two weeks. Which made things rather difficult for the conspirators who had assassinated him.During his two decades on the throne, Sweden’s ‘Culture King’ had increased religious freedom, widened opportunities for ordinary citizens and built the very opera house in which he was attacked. But his popularity with the people did not spare him the wrath of the nobility - quite the reverse.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how, at a masked ball, the King was still so readily identifiable; ask whether his war with Russia was a clever or foolish piece of military strategy; and reveal the ugly fate that befell his assailant…Further Reading:• ‘That Fatal Shot — by the Royal Armoury, Sweden’ (Google Arts &amp; Culture): <a href="
16/03/202310 minutes 24 seconds
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Give Me Your Blood

The world's first blood bank opened on March 15, 1937 at Cook County Hospital in Chicago, revolutionising the way blood transfusions were performed.&nbsp;Dr. Bernard Fantus, the man behind the blood bank, had originally wanted to call his innovation the Blood Preservation Laboratory – but then his daughter came up with a rather less ghoulish name.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how the discovery of blood typing was a crucial step towards the creation of blood banks; reveal why Dr. Fantus was inspired to invent sweet medicines for children; and demystify an urban legend about a pope draining boys’ blood…Further Reading:‘The First-Ever Blood Bank Opened 80 Years Ago Today’ (Smithsonian Magazine, 2017):
15/03/202310 minutes 9 seconds
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Making The Mikado

The Mikado opened on March 14, 1885 to immediate acclaim, and went on to become W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan’s most famous and best-loved operetta, despite its tortured genesis.&nbsp;Due to growing creative tensions and their previous show flopping, Gilbert and Sullivan’s partnership was on the rocks, so The Mikado’s success took both completely by surprise.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly look at why the setting of The Mikado is really Japan in name only; discuss how Gilbert found inspiration in a sword hanging on his wall; and explain why Gilbert and Sullivan almost parted ways because of a magical love lozenge…&nbsp;Further Reading:‘A big day in history: Gilbert and Sullivan unveil 'The Mikado'’ (History Extra, 2012):
14/03/202310 minutes 1 second
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Mata Hari: Showgirl, Seductress, Spy

Margaretha Geertruida MacLeod, better known to the world as Mata Hari, set the Paris stage ablaze on March 13, 1905, with a scandalous dance routine that turned her into an overnight success.&nbsp;Sporting a gold jeweled breastplate and bracelets, Mata Hari’s performance was a striptease that left little to the imagination. But even the wildest imagination couldn’t envisage what lay ahead for the exotic dancer, courtesan, traitor and spy whose name became synonymous with the femme fatale.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca, and Olly discuss how she played both sides of the First World War for fools; uncover how she met her husband through a newspaper ad; and explain why she always wore a breastplate during sex…Further Reading:‘Mata Hari: exotic dancer, femme fatale, traitor and spy’ (History Extra, 2019): <a href="" rel="n
13/03/202310 minutes 27 seconds
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The Foreigners Fighting For France

The infamous French Foreign Legion was formed by King Louis Philippe on March 10, 1831, to help the French control Algeria using mercenaries who were more expendable than native young Frenchmen.To this day a magnet for men who want a clean break from their past, the Legion famously did not ask many questions about where their recruits came from - or if they had a criminal record.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly discover if they could meet the tests to join this notorious fighting force; expose the bloody history of the legion’s ill-fated battles in Mexico; and reveal the deadly games Russian Legionnaires played in their downtime…Further Reading:&nbsp;‘Why young men queue up to die in the French Foreign Legion’ (Aeon):&nbsp;
10/03/202310 minutes 12 seconds
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Write E For Eunuch

India’s Hijra community – who for centuries held a significant cultural, political and spiritual role in Indian society – were officially recognised on 9th March, 2005, when a new option appeared on passport forms, allowing applicants to select M for Male, F for Female, or ‘write E for Eunuch’.Although being labelled as a ‘third sex’ was considered by some to be stigmatising, it also reflected an understanding of the Hijra (a group including trans women, intersex people and castrates) as ‘eunuchs’, a depiction with its roots in both Hindu mythology and British colonialism.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why the Hijra are believed to bring blessings to ceremonial occasions; dig into the polarised attitude that defines how Indians still see this marginalised community; and explain how a combination of transphobia, desperation and entrepreneurship has lead to many of them finding employment as ‘human Howlers’…Further Reading:
09/03/202310 minutes 27 seconds
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Return of the Zodiac Killer

Copycat murderer Heriberto Seda began his spree of violence in New York City on March 8, 1990, when he attempted to kill a middle-aged man with a homemade gun. He claimed he was the famous ‘Zodiac’ killer, who had terrorized the West Coast in the 1960s.&nbsp;The NYPD began to take his crimes seriously when he shot two more people, killing one - and leaving behind a note marked with a circle with a cross through it, and the Zodiac signs of each of his previous victims.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly expose how a deadly shootout lead to Seda’s capture; compare the copycat’s cyphers to that of the Zodiac’s original missives; and reveal how the killer slipped through the police’s fingers for so long…Further Reading:‘Brooklyn Man is Guilty in Three Zodiac Killings’ (New York Times, 1998): <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target
08/03/202310 minutes 24 seconds
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Abducting Ellen Turner

Kidnapped from her prestigious Liverpool boarding school on March 7, 1827, 15-year-old Ellen Turner was led to believe her family would be financially ruined if she didn’t marry her 30 year-old abductor, Edward Gibbon Wakefield.Before she was able to deduce that his story was a sham, Turner was whisked off to Gretna Green and inadvertently passed over the keys to her father’s estate, Shrigley, to her assailant - until an intervention from the House of Lords, and a trial that captured Britain’s imagination.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly divulge the loopholes to England’s marital age limits; explain how ‘impure’ marriages were a get-rich-quick habit for Wakefield; and reveal the extraordinary next chapter for this conniving scamster …&nbsp;&nbsp;Further Reading:‘10 of History’s Worst Marriages’ (History Collection, 2018): <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" targ
07/03/20239 minutes 46 seconds
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The Real Captain Birdseye

Birdseye Frosted Foods launched its first range of flash-frozen foods at a ‘test kitchen’ in Springfield, Massachusetts on 6th March, 1930 - and at the helm was Clarence ‘Bob’ Birdseye, an American entrepreneur of great ambition and insight.Like Captain Birdseye, the bearded, fictional mascot of the brand dreamt up for the British market, Bob had scoured the seven seas looking for innovative approaches to food preservation - a search that led him to the Inuit people of Labrador, Canada and their methods of fast-freezing fresh fish. This discovery led to a patent which eventually netted Birdseye a cool $22million.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly trace Birdseye’s entrepreneurial endeavours back through his childhood; discover the extraordinary list of animal species he attempted to eat; and consider the surprising role of the humble spinach in the incredible success of frozen processed food…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Meet Clarence Birdseye
06/03/202310 minutes 39 seconds
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Comstock's War On Obscenity

Sending rude mail was dealt a devastating blow on 3rd March, 1873, when the campaign against pornography, reproductive health, birth control, and abortion led by self-appointed ‘Special Agent’ of the US Postal Service Anthony Comstock went all the way to Washington.&nbsp;After the ‘Comstock Act’ became law, books were banned, ‘obscene’ pamphlets were destroyed, and, in Comstock’s home state of Connecticut, birth control was banned - even within a marriage.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly discover what Comstock thought of the women he met at the White House; reveal his earliest crackdowns on licentiousness; and uncover George Bernard Shaw’s trolling of ‘Comstockery’ in the New York press…#1800s #Politics #PublishingFurther Reading:• ‘How an Anti-Obscenity Crusader Policed America's Mail for Decades’ (HISTORY, 2022): <a href="" rel="noo
03/03/202310 minutes 28 seconds
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How Not To Invade Ethiopia

The Victory of Adwa on 2nd March, 1896 marked a milestone in the so-called ‘Scramble for Africa’ - because, whilst so much of the continent had been colonised by European nations, Abysinnia successfully defended their country from the invading Italians.Rome had underestimated the Ethiopians’ weaponry, motivation and strategy, and turned up with bad maps, demoralized troops - and orders to march on.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how a tricksy treaty was used to justify the incursion; consider the fates of the Eritreans who fought alongside the Europeans; and question the wisdom of getting your troops to march for nine hours straight before engaging in combat…&nbsp;Further Reading:‘First Italo-Ethiopian War: Battle of Adwa’ (ThoughtCo, 2018):
02/03/202310 minutes 31 seconds
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Kidnapping The Eaglet

Aviator Charles Lindbergh (‘The Lone Eagle’) was a household name when his 20 month-old son, Charlie Jr (dubbed ‘The Eaglet’) vanished from his nursery on 1st March, 1932, sparking a nationwide media frenzy.The kidnappers left a ransom note demanding $50,000. After a further 12 exchanges of correspondence, the Lindberghs were told their son was onboard a boat called Nellie: a boat which was never found. At his sensational trial, immigrant Bruno Richard Hauptmann pleaded not guilty, but was convicted of murder in the first degree and sentenced to the electric chair.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how the Police matched Hauptmann to the abduction; reveal how Al Capone got caught up in the crisis; and ask where all the forensic botanists have gone…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘The Tragic Story Of The Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping’ (All Thats Interesting, 2021): <a href="
01/03/202310 minutes 7 seconds
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The Double Helix Quartet

Deciphering the structure of DNA was as complex as the double helix itself. On 28th February, 1953, Dr. James Watson and Dr. Francis Crick rushed to the pub and announced to their fellow drinkers in The Eagle, Cambridge that they had just found “the secret of life”.&nbsp;But their work would not have been possible without the uncredited contribution of Dr. Rosalind Franklin - whose photographs of the X-ray diffraction pattern of DNA were the first to reveal its three-dimensional structure. And it was her colleague, Dr Maurice Wilkins, who first brought Franklin’s work to the attention of Watson and Crick.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider how it came to be that Crick’s wife, Odile; drew the iconic depiction of the structure published in Nature; explain why *technically* Dr Franklin didn’t even have a degree; and recall how James Watson’s legacy was tainted by his bitter and snide memoir, ‘The Double Helix’...&nbsp;Further Read
28/02/202310 minutes 32 seconds
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Pokémon Hegemon

The first Pokémon videogames, ‘Red’ and ‘Green’ were launched in Japan on 27th February, 1996. The franchise went on to be the most successful ever video game to TV adaptation, and the highest selling trading card game in history of cards.&nbsp;Created by Satoshi Tajiri, the gameplay recalled his childhood obsession for bug-hunting, and made use of Nintendo’s new GameBoy connection cable to enable players to swap and collect monsters. But it wasn’t until the card-trading game went viral in playgrounds that his company, Game Freak, was accused of encouraging gambling.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why the series was re-named for the American market; reveal just how many epileptic seizures were caused by the anime adaptation in one ill-fated broadcast; and explain what the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia had in common with a group of Long Island moms…Further Reading:• ‘The Year in Ideas; Pokémon Hegemon’ (The New Y
27/02/202310 minutes 41 seconds
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Hello Francis, this is God

Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone - now better known as St Francis of Assisi - attended Mass on 24th February, 1208, and heard the Gospel According to Matthew. From that day on, the former soldier and playboy removed his shoes, put on a rough tunic, and embarked fully into a monastic lifestyle.The process would lead him to meet the Pope and become officially recognised by the Church - but alienate him from his wealthy father, who had shelled out ransom money to return him from a battlefield prison.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly recall how Francis’s father attempted to wangle him out of his inheritance; explore the really rather literal fashion in which Francesco interpreted his various visions; and explain why, at one point, Francis prayed for his miracles to STOP…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Reluctant Saint: The Life of Francis of Assisi - By Donald Spoto’ (Penguin, 2003):<a href="
24/02/202310 minutes 20 seconds
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The Dress That Launched Google Images

When Jennifer Lopez turned up on the Grammys’ red carpet wearing a green Versace dress on February 23rd, 2000, there was such a rush from the public to see the image that it became the most searched-for term in Google’s history.&nbsp;As a result - Eric Schmidt later confessed - Google Images was developed and launched, and a whole new way of searching the web was created.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly discover where the iconic dress is now; explain how Geri Halliwell missed out on the chance of (increased) internet infamy; and reveal just how many dresses J-Lo tried on before settling on ‘the one’...&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Further Reading:‘How Jennifer Lopez’s Versace Dress Created Google Images’ (GQ, 2019): Halliwell actually w
23/02/202310 minutes 37 seconds
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The Mistress and the Witch

Sorcerer and fortune-teller Catherine "La Voisin" Monvoisin was sentenced to death on 22nd February, 1680. She had supplied poisons and potions to clients including Madame de Montespan, official mistress to King Louis XIV.Monvoisin’s punishment was the climax of the witchcraft hysteria that rocked the Parisian court, triggered by the confessions of Madame de Brinvilliers, who’d been executed for conspiring to poison her father. The scandal became known as ‘The Affair of the Poisons’.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how a ‘black mass’ actually worked; ponder how it was such a seemingly small jump from chiromancy to murder in Voisin’s backstreet clinics; and consider what La Voisin’s career would look like if she was around these days…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘La Voisin and the Scandalous Affair of the Poisons’ (SciHi, 2019): <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blan
22/02/202310 minutes 26 seconds
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Birth of the Burglar Alarm

Entrepreneur Edwin Holmes installed the very first electric burglar alarm in Boston on 21 February, 1858, which deployed an electrical circuit that would trip when the connection was broken by opening a door or window, which would sound a bell.&nbsp;Unfortunately for Holmes, there wasn’t much burglary going on in Boston at the time, so to get his fledgling business off the ground, he packed his bags and brought his family to New York, where he believed “all the country’s burglars” made their home.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly look at how Holmes got around people’s early fears about the dangers of electricity; reveal how he deployed the celebrities and influencers of his day to sell his product; and explain why bear traps were the burglar-deterrent of choice for many people in the pre-industrial era.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘A Brief History of the Invention of the Home Security Alarm’ (Smithsonian Magazine
21/02/202310 minutes 24 seconds
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How Orkney Became Scottish

On 20 February, 1472, Orkney and Shetland officially became part of Scotland having been offered up as security for the dowry of the daughter of King Christian of Norway and Denmark.The marriage was aimed at quelling a long-standing tax-related feud between the two powers. But as time wore on, it began to feel as though the Scandinavians just didn’t really want Orkney and Shetland all that much.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly look at how Vikings had come to control the islands in the first place; reveal why the citizens of Shetland have never stopped loving their Scandi past; and explain why if you want to properly describe the pattern variations of certain breeds of sheep you might need to learn a dead language…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘On this day 1472: Orkney and Shetland join Scotland’ (The Scotsman, 2015): <a href="" rel="n
20/02/202310 minutes 14 seconds
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From Hitler To Herbie: The VW Beetle

Between 1908 and 1927, the Ford Motor Company sold 15,007,033 Model Ts, making the car the best-selling automobile the world had ever seen. That record came to an end on the 17th February, 1972 when the 15,007,034th Volkswagen Beetle rolled off the production line.The car was the brainchild of Adolf Hitler who commissioned it almost immediately after her became chancellor of Germany in 1933. His plan was that the German public, irrespective of whether they were a doctor or a factory worker could buy a car for just 1,000 Reichsmarks which would have been around 31 weeks’ pay for the average worker.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider whether the Beetle is more a triumph of engineering or advertising; discuss why Ford turned down the Volkswagen factory at Wolfsburg, which they could have had for free; and look at how the Führer’s car came to be loved by 1960s American hippies and flower children…&nbsp;&nbsp;Further Reading:</strong
17/02/202310 minutes 22 seconds
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Pope Gregory's Sneeze

Why do we say ‘God Bless You’ when we sneeze? Some historians trace it back to 16th February, 600 - and a decree supposedly issued by the pun-loving, God-fearing Pope Gregory to ward off the effects of the plague that had killed his predecessor.(Sadly, Gregory’s other idea to fight off the disease wasn’t quite so successful - he organized a parade through Rome, and 80 people in the crowd spread the symptoms to each other, subsequently dying.)In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly discover how locals respond to sneezes in Serbia, China, Russia and Tanzania; consider whether commenting on someone else’s bodily functions is unwelcome, or a ‘micro-affection’; and imagine a world with a more upbeat style of Gregorian chanting…Further Reading:• ‘This is the REAL reason we say ‘bless you’ when someone sneezes… and it’s not because of the Plague’ – (The Sun, 2016): <a href="
16/02/202310 minutes 25 seconds
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The Counterfeit Queen of Soul

Mary Jane Jones, known professionally as Vickie Jones, was arrested on fraud charges on 15th February, 1969 after successfully impersonating soul legend Aretha Franklin during multiple sold-out shows across Florida.When her case ended up before a judge, Jones maintained her innocence, insisting that she had been press-ganged into the deception by conman, kidnapper and semi-professional James Brown impersonator, Lavelle Hardy.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly look at the surprising similarities between the lives of Jones and Franklin; discuss why audiences in the 1960s couldn’t tell real performers from fake ones; and ponder whether Jones deserves a little more R.E.S.P.E.C.T…&nbsp;&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘An Aretha Franklin Impersonator Fooled Fans (Then Became A Star)’ (Cracked, 2022): <a href="" rel="noopener
15/02/202310 minutes 36 seconds
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Let Me Be Your Valentine

Although the Roman Catholic Church continues to recognise St. Valentine as a saint of the church, there is some uncertainty about who exactly he was. One thing that is agreed is that someone called Valentine was killed on or around February 14th, 270, which some believe is why we celebrate Valentine’s Day every February 14th to this day.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;What is less clear is why St. Valentine was executed, what he did in his life, and what exactly he had to do with romantic love. Fortunately, there is no shortage of stories that have been offered up throughout the ages, each more fanciful than the last.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly discuss the role of Shakespeare and Chaucer in popularising the connection between St. Valentine and love; speculate on whether soldiers fight better if they haven’t had sex recently; and consider whether St. Valentine was one person or three. You know, like God…&nbsp;&nbsp;Further Reading:</stron
14/02/202310 minutes 15 seconds
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The 500,000 Year-Old Spark Plug

The Coso Artifact - a man-made, cylindrical object apparently encased in a geode - was discovered by Wallace Lane, Virginia Maxey and Mike Mikesell while prospecting for gems in Olancha, California on February 13th, 1961.The OOPArt (or ‘out-of-place artifact’) caused a sensation amongst Creationists, Forteans and conspiracists, who believed it might be up to half a million years old - but has since been identified as a 1920s-era Champion spark plug.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider whether the ‘Rock Hounds’ were deliberately defrauding people, or were just open-minded enthusiasts; ask why their find had such resonance with Creationists, when its existence cannot be consistent with the world being merely thousands of years old; and reveal how the ‘mystery’ was conclusively debunked…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘When Some 1920s Garbage Was Mistaken for an Ancient Artifact’ (Smithsonian Magazine, 2017): <a href="https:
13/02/202310 minutes 45 seconds
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RetroRecommends... Patented: History Of Inventions

When did humans first start to farm? What was the first murder solved by forensic science?&nbsp;Who invented the battery?The answer to all these questions can be found on the podcast Patented: The History of Inventions, which we're recommending today.It’s hosted by Dallas Campbell, who has presented hit science shows like the Gadget Show and Bang Goes the Theory. Now he’s asking who we have to thank for the inventions that surround us everyday.Today we’re playing an episode where Dallas discovers the inventor of the humble contact lens.&nbsp;It’s an unsung hero called Otto Wichterle, who lived and worked behind the Iron Curtain and who created the world’s first contact lens on Christmas Eve 1961 at his kitchen table, using a gramophone player and bits of his son’s meccano set. Dallas’s guest in this episode
11/02/202328 minutes 51 seconds
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Meet Tom and Jerry

Hanna-Barbera’s classic cat-and-mouse cartoon series Tom and Jerry kicked off when their debut short, ‘Puss Gets The Boot’, was released by MGM on 10th February, 1940.&nbsp;But, at that time, the stars of the film were known as ‘Jasper and Jinx’. And studio bosses very nearly canned the whole concept - until the audience feedback, and awards nominations, started rolling in…In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why the chase-based slapstick of this hilariously violent double act empowered MGM to rival the might of Disney and Warner Bros; reveal how Tom and Jerry got their names; and explain how the racist depiction of ‘Mammy Two Shoes’ evolved from an African-American caricature into an Irish one…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘The 50 MGM Films that Transformed Hollywood - Triumphs, Blockbusters, and Fiascos, By Steven Bingen’ (Lyons Press, 2022):<a href="
10/02/202310 minutes 33 seconds
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Horseracing Hits Britain

Rerun. Chester Racecourse hosted Britain’s first ever recorded horse-racing meet on 9th February, 1539. The winner received a set of silver bells to hang from their bridal.Mayor Henry Gee had come up with the idea as a replacement for the traditional Shrove Tuesday football match - which he’d banned for being too riotous and violent.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly debate the folk etymology of ‘Gee Gees’; explain why the Royals were responsible for robbing the North of its equestrian edge; and reveal why Oliver Cromwell took objection to a day at the races…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘History - Chester Racecourse’ (• ‘Shrove Tuesday football: “No quarter asked nor given”' (BBC News, 2020): <a href=""
09/02/202310 minutes 31 seconds
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I'm Too Sexy For This Chart

Right Said Fred’s novelty single ‘I’m Too Sexy’ reached number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 on 8th February, 1992. The playful earworm, which had been rejected by all major record labels, topped the charts in 32 countries.The success of the song propelled Richard and Fred Fairbrass, two bald brothers from East Grinstead who had worked as session musicians for a number of years, into the limelight - along with their bulging muscles and string vests.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how the lyrics anticipated George Michael’s ‘Too Funky’ and have been sampled by Beyonce and Drake; reveal how the trio had a close shave with the estate of Jimi Hendrix; and consider whether the camp appeal of the video was a parody of gay culture, or an anthemic celebration of it…&nbsp;Further Reading:•&nbsp;‘‘I’m Too Sexy’: Oral History of Right Said Fred’s Hit Song’ (Rolling Stone, 2017): <a href="
08/02/202310 minutes 34 seconds
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Bring Out Your Vanities!

Controversial friar Girolamo Savonarola supervised the mass destruction of Renaissance art, literature and other priceless items he deemed as ‘fripperies’ on 7th February, 1497 - an event that became known as ‘The Bonfire of the Vanities’.The Dominican cleric - eventually ex-communicated by the Pope for calling the Catholic Church ‘a whore’ - commandeered a large following of adolescents, who went door-to-door in Florence demanding items to be chucked on to the pyre. Ironically, Savonarola was ultimately executed the following year… by being chucked into a fire.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly ask whether Savonarola’s objections to Renaissance-era portraiture had any legitimacy; explain how he leveraged his ‘prophecies’ to give him greater control of the City; and consider why he selected Shrove Tuesday, of all days, to build his famous bonfire…&nbsp;Further Reading:‘A big day in history: Florence's bonfire of the
07/02/20239 minutes 50 seconds
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Here Come The Minstrels

Blackface performers The Virginia Minstrels - replete with white clown mouths, oversized tailcoats, and bookended by tambourine and bones players - first appeared on 6th February, 1843, at the New York Bowery Amphitheatre. They were an instant hit, but it wasn’t the first time a blackface act had been making (white) crowds laugh.American minstrelsy originated some 12 years earlier, when white performer Thomas ‘Daddy’ Rice first appeared as ‘Jim Crow’ - a comic parody of an elderly, disabled, enslaved African-American. His act proved so wildly popular the Boston Post reported that only Queen Victoria was a more crowd-pleasing character.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly reveal why it wasn’t only white performers who performed in blackface; examine how Hollywood kept this racist tradition alive long after it had fallen from favour in theatres; and discover that, over the decades, blackface became such an established and celebrated entertainment that it was
06/02/202310 minutes 26 seconds
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RetroRecommends: History Daily

On February 4, 1974, Patty Hearst was kidnapped by members of the Symbionese Liberation Army. In this episode from our friends at History Daily, host Lindsay Graham (American Scandal, American History Tellers) reveals what happened next.History Daily is a brilliant companion to our own show, taking you back in time to explore a momentous event that happened ‘on this day’ in history. Whether it’s to remember the tragedy of December 7th, 1941, the day “that will live in infamy,” or to celebrate that 20th day in July, 1969, when mankind reached the moon, History Daily is there to tell you the true stories of the people and events that shaped our world—one day at a time.Hear more episodes every weekday at Hosted on Acast. See <a style='color:grey;' target='_blank' rel='noopener noref
04/02/202320 minutes 42 seconds
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The £21,000 Masque

With a cast of over 800, and a budget equivalent to £3 million, James Shirley’s extravagant masque ‘The Triumph of Peace’ was performed on 3rd February, 1634. Unusually, it was such a popular show that, despite the enormous cost of staging it, King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria requested that it be repeated.Though replete with all the arse-kissing allegorical tableaux that typified these celebrations of the monarchy - and requisite set designs by Inigo Jones - this spectacular was also markedly different from its predecessors in that it was especially designed to appease Henrietta, who had been slurred by polemicist William Prynne.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly come to terms with the ‘17th century immersive theatre’ experience; explain why legendary playwright Ben Jonson WASN’T involved in this one; and reveal how a masque was once responsible for the destruction of Shakespeare’s Globe…&nbsp;Further Reading:•
03/02/202310 minutes 24 seconds
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Christian Bale's Terminator Freakout

Rerun. TMZ posted leaked footage of Christian Bale’s infamous meltdown on the set of ‘Terminator Salvation’ on 2nd February, 2009.Triggered by the film's Director Of Photography, Shane Hurlbut, repeatedly walking past his eyeline, Bale launched into an expletive-laden tirade that lasted more than three minutes, during which he threatened to smash up the lights, and have Hurlbut fired from the set.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly dissect how Bale’s star power immunized him against reasonable pushback; compare his defense with Prince Andrew’s declarations of honour; and rank the rant against other notorious on-set ‘freakouts’ from the likes of Tom Cruise and David O. Russell…Further Reading:‘Christian Bale apologises 'unreservedly' for Terminator set rant’ (The Guardian, 2009):‘Film stars' most shocking on-set melt
02/02/202310 minutes 34 seconds
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Killing King Carlos

The only Portuguese monarch to be assassinated, King Carlos I, was shot through the neck by Republican activists on 1st February, 1908, as his open carriage rode through Lisbon. His elder son Luis Filipe was also killed, leaving 18 year-old Manuel to become the last King of Portugal.The murder followed Portugal’s former colony Brazil deposing its emperor; a politically disastrous agreement with the British over African expansion; and the appointment of the dictatorial João Franco as Portuguese Prime Minister.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly pore over the gossip about Carlos’s lavish lifestyle and Parisian mistress; explain how the event was foreshadowed by the famous ‘Elevator Coup’; and reveal how Carlos’s sea-faring knowledge made for an ill-advised epithet…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Historical Dictionary of Portugal - By Douglas L. Wheeler &amp; Walter C. Opello’ (Scarecrow Press, 2010): <a href="
01/02/202310 minutes 38 seconds
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Chimps In Space!

Before Yuri Gagarin, before Alan Shepard… a chimp called Ham was blasted into space for six-and-a-half minutes of weightlessness on 31st January, 1961. He successfully returned to Earth without serious physical injury, albeit over 100 miles away from NASA’s intended splashdown location.Travelling at 5,857 m.p.h, Ham was seated in a special chair called a ‘biopack’, which administered electric shocks to the soles of his feet if he failed to complete basic tasks in orbit.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider how Ham’s schooling had striking parallels with the training undertaken by human astronauts; reveal just how much of him is actually ‘buried’ at the International Space Hall of Fame; and explain the fate of the SECOND chimp in space, Enos, who wasn’t quite so lucky…&nbsp;CONTENT WARNING: animal cruelty, animal experimentation and dissectionFurther Reading:• Meet Ham The Chimp, The Animal Astro
31/01/202310 minutes 40 seconds
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Hannah Hauxwell: Britain’s First Reality Star

Running a remote Yorkshire farm, with no flushing toilet and no electricity is an unlikely route to TV stardom, but 46 year-old spinster Hannah Hauxwell managed it on 30th January, 1973, when ITV aired the landmark documentary ‘Too Long A Winter’.Speaking lyrically about her singlehood, how she braved the bitter Winter, and how she survived on a grocery budget of just £5 per month, Hauxwell’s story inspired thousands of viewers to send her food parcels and arrange for her homestead to be modernised. In a series of follow-up films, Hauxwell travelled to America, met the Pope and Queen Mother, and became arguably the UK’s first ‘reality TV star’.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how Hauxwell came to be featured on the programme that made her name; revel in an era where it was possible to be a TV personality without ever having even seen a television; and wonder if such a career trajectory would be possible today…&nbsp;Further Reading:</p
30/01/202310 minutes 3 seconds
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Let’s Embalm Lenin

The corpse of Vladimir Lenin, founder of the Soviet Union, was placed on display in Moscow's Red Square on 27th January, 1924 - where, astonishingly, he remains viewable to this day.&nbsp;He’d wanted to be buried next to his mother in Saint Petersburg, but after he suffered a series of strokes, the Soviet government instead secretly planned to build a mausoleum for his body, in part to deify him as a quasi-religious figure.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how pioneering embalming techniques were created by ‘The Lenin Lab’ to look after the cadaver; ponder how mausoleum architect Alexey Shchusev contented with the January freeze; and consider whether an embalmed Queen Victoria would be just as popular a tourist attraction…Further Reading:• ‘Death of Lenin’ (The Guardian, 1924):
27/01/202310 minutes 24 seconds
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Brides on the Move

Rerun. Sometimes termed ‘The Diaper Run’ due to the large number of babies on-board, the S.S. Argentina set sail from Southampton to New York City on 26th January, 1946 – transporting 456 ‘War Brides’ and their 170 children from Britain to the USA.Each was permitted to bring 200lb of luggage, and faced an uncertain future on arrival in the States – some reuniting with their one true love; others finding themselves shacked up with in-laws who resented their existence.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how this historic crossing triggered a change in U.S. immigration policy; examine the appeal of clean-cut American servicemen to working-class British women; and recall the much-forgotten additional passenger – ‘the War Groom’…Further Reading:G.I. Brides Sail (Pathe 1946):‘Why am I hearing a rerun?’&nbsp;Every Thursday is 'Throwback Thur
26/01/202310 minutes 34 seconds
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The Nellie Bly Express

Pioneering journalist Nellie Bly returned from her 72-day trip around the world on 25th January, 1890. The final leg of the journey was upon a chartered train to New Jersey, nicknamed ‘the Nellie Bly Express’, and Bly was greeted by adoring fans as she traversed the country.Inspired by Jules Verne’s novel, Bly had a year earlier pitched to her editors at The World that she should be given the opportunity to try and travel the globe in under 80 days - but they’d felt it was a journey only a man could undertake.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how - unbeknownst to Bly - the challenge had actually become a RACE against Cosmopolitan writer Elizabeth Bisland; trace the origins of Bly’s inspirational ‘stunt girl’ reporting; and pry into the contents of Bly’s well-traveled suitcase…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Nellie Bly's Record-Breaking Trip Around the World Was, to Her Surprise, A Race’ (Smithsonian Magazine, 2016): <
25/01/202310 minutes 41 seconds
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27 Years in the Jungle

Japanese ‘holdout’ Shoichi Yokoi had been hiding out in the jungles of Guam since the Second World War when he was discovered by hunters on 24th January, 1972, dressed in clothes woven from tree fibre.The 57 year-old soldier had endured 27 years living in an underground shelter he dug himself, eating toads, river eels and rats. Although he had heard the War was over, he believed it would be a disgrace to surrender to the Americans.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how Yokoi survived so much longer than his comrades; consider what life was like for him when returned home and saw his own gravestone; and reveal that, despite him becoming a household name in Japan, he wasn’t in fact the last holdout to be discovered…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Shoichi Yokoi, the Japanese soldier who held out in Guam’ (BBC News Magazine, 2012):
24/01/202310 minutes 27 seconds
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Rock N Roll’s Big Night

The Rock And Roll Hall of Fame welcomed its first inductees in a star-studded event at the Waldorf Astoria, New York on 23rd January, 1986. But the ceremony was not the glamorous HBO spectacular we have come to expect today: the audience was mostly music executives, and it was not filmed for television.Conceived by Atlantic Records chairman Ahmet Ertegun, the nonprofit foundation initially had lofty ambitions of recognising unsung heroes of the genre, and redressing racial injustice.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how the Rock Hall came to be located in Cleveland, of all places; investigate the claims of sexism that have plagued the institution; and recall the phenomenal rejection issued by Axl Rose following an invitation to perform…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame: From An Idea, To&nbsp; A Labor Of Love, To A Spectacular Event’ (Billboard, 2004): <a href="https://books
23/01/202310 minutes 40 seconds
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Lalli and the Axe

According to Finnish legend, a peasant farmer named Lalli murdered the Christian missionary Bishop Henry on the ice of lake Köyliönjärvi on January 20, 1156, dispatching him with an axe blow to the head.It is fair to say things didn’t go terribly well for Lalli after that. He met a gruesome fate that takes various forms depending on the tale you read, but in general Lalli takes the bishop's mitre to wear and when he tries to remove it, it tears his scalp off. The bishop, meanwhile, fared rather better posthumously, going on to become Saint Henry.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly discuss which bits of the tale are true; explain why the real villain of the story is Lalli’s wife; and discover that the 11th greatest Finn was a four-time Olympic gold medalist, who is also known for his later ill-advised careers as a singer and stripper.&nbsp;&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘The axe of Lalli and the cap of St. Henry – a view from Finland’ (R
20/01/202310 minutes 32 seconds
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Introducing the BlackBerry

Rerun. Research In Motion were once the world’s most popular maker of smartphones, but when they launched the BlackBerry 850 on 19th January, 1999, the device had no phone functionality: it was marketed as a two-way pager.However, the gadget’s ability to bounce emails from a desktop server to its users on the move, and its bespoke instant messaging service, BBM, ensured it soon became an essential tool in the executive businessperson’s arsenal. Until the iPhone came along, anyway…In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly revisit the ‘CrackBerry’ phenomenon; unpick the role of Al Gore and Barack Obama as ultimate celebrity influencers for the brand; and wonder whether&nbsp;anyone&nbsp;will still be using one, after the company’s recent announcement that their handsets will no longer be supported…Further Reading:• ‘The one reason why I’ll always miss the BlackBerry’ (Slate, 2013):&nbsp;<a href="
19/01/202310 minutes 23 seconds
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The 17th Century UFO

One of earliest recorded UFO sightings in America happened on 18th January, 1644 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony when lights rose out of the water near Boston, zoomed across the sky and vanished over the horizon.The events, as documented by the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony John Winthrop in his journal, took place a good 300 years before Roswell, contradicting the idea that UFO sightings in the US are an exclusively 20th Century phenomenon.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain that the most common explanation for what was witnessed was an “ignis fatuus” (a type of gas combustion); investigate what other UFO sightings took place between 1644 and today; and speculate why aliens didn’t seem to have any interest in abducting humans until the 1960s.Further Reading:• ‘America’s First UFO Sighting’ (, 2016):• ‘A pilgrim UFO sighting came
18/01/202310 minutes 35 seconds
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The Last Queen of Hawaii

On January 17, 1893, Hawaii’s monarchy was overthrown when a group of businessmen and sugar planters forced Queen Liliuokalani to abdicate, the first step towards the islands’ annexation as a US territory and eventual admission as the 50th state in the union.Interest in Hawaii began in America as early as the 1820s, when New England missionaries tried in earnest to spread their faith there, but only really became serious in 1880s when Queen Liliuokalani began trying to return power to the indigenous Hawaiian people.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly discuss the contemporary US efforts to make amends for the past; look at Queen Liliuokalani’s many talents, including composition; and speculate that Parents’ Day at the Hawaiian Chief’s Children’s School must have been an awkward affair…Further Reading:• ‘Five Things To Know About Liliʻuokalani, the Last Queen of Hawaiʻi’ (Smithsonian Magazine, 2017): https://www.smith
17/01/202310 minutes 9 seconds
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Meet Don Quixote

Prior to the release of his book Don Quixote on 16th January, 1605, Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes had previously been a soldier, a royal messenger, a tax collector and – for a spell – a slave.But perseverance paid off for the aspiring author who, at the age of 57, produced a book that has been called “the greatest piece of literature ever written”.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly discuss why Cervantes’ poetry and plays weren’t as successful as his first novel; reveal how his characters became embedded in the English language; and explain why Don Quixote is really just Shrek but 400 years earlier.&nbsp;&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Disney’s many failed attempts to bring Don Quixote to the screen’ (Polygon, 2020):• ‘No Ordinary Man - The Life and Times of Miguel de Cervantes’ (Dover Publishing, 2006)
16/01/202310 minutes 39 seconds
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Henry IV and the Philosopher's Stone

It was today in history in 1404 that Henry IV issued the Act Against Multipliers, a ban on the mysterious art of creating or duplicating gold, more commonly known as alchemy.It came at an odd time for European science because the widespread efforts to transform so-called base metals, such as lead or copper, into noble metals, such as silver or gold, while futile, actually aided the discovery of things like combustion and gunpowder.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly discuss the connection between the science of multiplying metals and religion; explain why the Ancient Greek notion of the four elements – fire, earth, air, and water – was so resilient; and reveal why plenty of people before Harry Potter were interested in the Philosopher’s Stone…Further Reading:• ‘When Chemistry Was Outlawed’ (Vice, 2015):• ‘The Day England Outlawed Alchemy’ (Forbes, 2
13/01/202310 minutes 31 seconds
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The Cryogenic Rush Job

Rerun. Dr James Bedford became the first dead body to be cryogenically frozen on 12th January, 1967 –&nbsp;a day still commemorated in the ‘suspended animation’ community as Bedford Day.But in this burgeoning (pseudo)science, there were plenty of preparations yet to be made.&nbsp;Which meant that the freezing team – lead not by scientists but enthusiasts – ran out of ice, and forgot to drain his blood.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly dive into the legal cases that sprang from this early period of cryogenic freezing; consider the psychological implications of being awoken from death, generations after your grandchildren have died; and propose a controversial solution for minimising future errors in the process…CONTENT WARNING: description of decompositionFurther Reading:‘Cool dude James Bedford has been cryonically frozen for 50 years’ (CNET, 2017):&nbsp;<a href="
12/01/202310 minutes 41 seconds
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BA's 'Dirty Tricks'

British Airways paid out one of the largest libel settlements in UK history on 11th January, 1993, for engaging in disreputable business practices, including shredding documents, poaching passages, and circulating hostile and discreditable stories about their upstart rival Virgin Airlines.The so-called Dirty Tricks revealed that British Airways had created a secret unit within a secure office in Gatwick dedicated to destroying Richard Branson’s new airline through a range of nefarious strategies.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly discuss the sneaky activities that British Airways’ Helpline team were tasked with carrying out; explain how the murky story ended up in court; and reveal Richard Branson’s fool-proof single piece of advice for anyone who wants to become a millionaire…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘British Air to pay for “Dirty Tricks”’ (The Chicago Tribune, 1993):
11/01/202310 minutes 43 seconds
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How Rockefeller Got Rich

On 10th January, 1870 John D. Rockefeller took his first steps towards becoming the world’s richest ever person by forming his company, Standard Oil.He had arrived in the oil industry at a time of wild instability when oil refining was almost a cottage industry. Rockefeller quickly realised that if he had control over not just the refineries but also the output and distribution of refined oil he could keep prices as high as he liked – a mode of thinking that his critics and rivals declared monopolistic.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly discuss what Rockerfeller was imagining oil might be useful for given cars hadn’t been invented yet; reveal how he bankrupted his competitors; and explain why Winston Churchill turned down an invitation to write Rockerfeller’s biography…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Biography of John D. Rockefeller, America's First Billionaire’ (Thought Co, 2019):
10/01/202310 minutes 26 seconds
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Introducing Income Tax

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”, the American statesman Benjamin Franklin once said, but until 9 January, 1799, taxation looked very different to the way it does today, because this was the day the world was first introduced to income tax.Its introduction by British Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger was not one of his most popular innovations, but he had good reason to be wanting to bring more money into the government’s coffers, given the national debt had doubled during the American War of Independence and now stood at £243 million.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why there was a bonfire outside Westminster the day income tax was eventually repealed; marvel that taxation used to target the wealthy rather than the poor; and reveal why taxing farts is more sensible than it sounds…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘9 January 1799: income tax introduced to Britain’ (Money Wee
09/01/202310 minutes 44 seconds
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Roller skates, most readily associated with the 1970s, were actually first patented in the US on 6th January, 1863, by New York furniture salesman James Plimpton.Plimpton developed the shoes after being advised by his doctor to take up ice skating, yet finding himself with nowhere to skate in the Spring and Summer months. He guarded his innovation zealously, and created a leasing model for the novelty boots in specially sanctioned roller parks. America’s first ‘rinking’ craze - dubbed by the press “Rink-O-Mania!” - was born.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly learn about an earlier skate-maker, who literally ‘crashed the party’ in 1760s London; explain why roller-skating found a market in the prudish Victorian dating scene; and recall how the first ‘Roller Derbies’ would test their participants to grim exhaustion…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Wonderful Things: Roller Skates, 1880’ (Science Museum, 2015): <a href="https://blog.
06/01/202310 minutes 6 seconds
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When Bonnie Met Clyde

America's most notorious outlaws, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, first bonded over a cup of condensed milk hot chocolate on 5th January, 1930.The couple went on to traverse the States on a shooting spree, committing up to thirteen murders, before being ambushed and gunned down in Louisiana four years into their relationship.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly reveal how Barrow’s descent into criminality began with the most unlikely of offences; explain how the pair’s devotion to their families in Texas proved part of their undoing; and recall how their stolen Ford V8, ‘The Death Car’, spent 40 years as a travelling tourist attraction…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Biography of Bonnie and Clyde, Depression-Era Outlaws’ (ThoughtCo, 2020):• ‘Oddball Texas - A Guide to
05/01/202310 minutes 28 seconds
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Let's Build The Burj

The world’s tallest tower - Dubai’s Burj Khalifa - had its grand opening ceremony on 4th January, 2010, heralded with the launch of 10,000 fireworks. Previously known as ‘Dubai Tower’, it was re-named at the last minute in tribute to the Sheik of Abu Dhabi, who’d bailed out the neighbouring Emirate with a $10billion loan.Despite being built on sand, the 160-storey structure is over half a mile tall - but that includes 244 metres of unusable space in the spire. It’s so high up that Ramadan begins two minutes earlier at the bottom than in the mosque at the top!In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how the building’s architects avoided the tower being toppled by winds; consider the cost of the 22 million hours of mostly immigrant labour it took to construct; and explain why, despite its state of the art design, it still isn’t connected to Dubai’s wastewater system…&nbsp;Further Reading:‘Economy Is Down, but Dubai
04/01/202310 minutes 34 seconds
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Hanging Lord Haw Haw

Nazi propagandist William Joyce, best known to British radio listeners as ‘Lord Haw Haw’, was hanged by Albert Pierrepoint at Wandsworth Prison on 3rd January, 1946.At the peak of his powers, his anti-Allied broadcasts from Hamburg reached up to 50% of the UK listening public, who tuned in to hear the German perspective on the looming confrontations, correspondence from British prisoners of War, and Joyce’s compelling, menacing, yet gossipy delivery of Hitler’s aims and accomplishments. And a bit of Jazz.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how there were not just one, but in fact three ‘Lords Haw Haw’; consider how Joyce leaned into his celebrity status during World War II; and reveal how his fraudulently-obtained British passport helped to seal his fate on the hangman’s noose…&nbsp;Further Reading:‘Treason law reform and the Lord Haw-Haw case 75 years on’ (House of Lords Library, 2020): <a href="https://lord
03/01/202310 minutes 31 seconds
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Captain Blood, Colonel Sanders and the Cyclonic Comedienne

Compilation. Happy New Year, Retrospectors!&nbsp;Before the show returns on January 3rd, Arion, Rebecca and Olly are taking one last look back at their favourite episodes from 2022.In ‘Eva Tanguay, Cyclonic Comedienne’, the team recall the events of 1st March, 1910, when the vaudeville megastar was arrested in Kentucky after stabbing a stagehand three times with a hat pin. Her edgy charisma, style and sexuality gave her a stellar career, coupled with suggestive lyrics and wild gossip calculated to keep her in the public eye.In ‘Captain Blood and the Crown Jewels’, we explain how fugitive Thomas Blood sneaked his way into the Tower of London’s jewel room on 9th May, 1671 – bludgeoning the 77 year-old Keeper of the Jewels, Talbot Edwards, in the process. The audacious and complex heist involved multiple pairs of white gloves, a fake nephew and stuffing an orb down his trousers.Finally, in ‘Finger Lickin’ Lawsuit’, the Retrospectors recount t
01/01/202333 minutes 13 seconds
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The Retrospectors Quiz Of The Year 2022

Happy Holidays! Arion, Rebecca and Olly will be back with more cracking ‘Today in History’ content from January 3rd 2023… but in the meantime, it’s time to wrap the year with the Pub Quiz that ONLY makes sense if you’ve doggedly revised everything we’ve discussed for the past 51 weeks.It’s Arion vs Rebecca as Olly tests their knowledge on subjects as diverse as Ozzy Osbourne, blade-stropping and Milton Hershey’s middle name. Can Rebecca keep her crown from 2021? Does Arion’s attempt to get his rivals drunk pay dividends? And for which iconic TV show was the pilot episode called ‘Ned’s Bicycle’? The Retrospectors reveal all.Thanks so much for listening to the show this year. If you’ve enjoyed what we’ve done, pretty please leave us a five-star review on Apple Podcasts - it really helps others discover the show:<a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_bl
23/12/202216 minutes 43 seconds
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Edison’s Christmas Lights

Rerun. The first string of lights festooned upon a tree dazzled visitors to the New York home of Edward Johnson, Vice President of the Edison Electric Light Company, on 22nd December, 1882.Lit patriotic red, white and blue, the tree also revolved; wowing a reporter from The Detroit Post and Tribune. “At the rear of the beautiful parlors, was a large Christmas tree presenting a most picturesque and uncanny aspect,” he wrote. “It was brilliantly lighted with… eighty lights in all encased in these dainty glass eggs… One can hardly imagine anything prettier.”In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly reveal what electric lights have in common with potatoes; ask why Americans were frightened of wired bulbs yet quite content to set candles on fire and attach them to flammable resin in their own homes; and untangle how a failed patent application was responsible for the trend finally catching on…Further Reading:‘Untanglin
22/12/202210 minutes 17 seconds
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Mud’s Christmas Hit

Melancholic Elvis pastiche ‘Lonely This Christmas’, by glam rockers Mud, became the UK’s Christmas No. 1 hit on 21st December, 1974, beating off festive competition from top 70s popsters Gilbert O’ Sullivan, The Goodies, and The Wombles.&nbsp;Despite its continuing popularity in Britain, there remains a widespread misconception that the track was actually sung by Elvis Presley, rather than Les Gray doing an impersonation of him. Even though Elvis himself had a song in the Top 10 at the same time.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain Basil Brush’s role in making Mud true contenders; explain why the band appeared on ‘Top Of The Pops’ with a ventriloquist’s dummy; and consider the valuable role of downbeat pop in the Christmas charts…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Lonely This Christmas: Mud’s Fantastic Wallow In Festive Misery’ (Dig!): <a href="
21/12/202210 minutes 30 seconds
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The Carnival on the Water

The ‘Frost Fair’, held on the frozen River Thames, caused a sensation on 20th December, 1683, when all London society, from Charles II down, came out to enjoy a bacchanalian Christmas on the ice. The festivities were a great relief for a nation riddled with smallpox, and enduring what was possibly Britain’s coldest ever Winter.Among the entertainments on offer were fox-hunting, cock-fighting, sledding, coach-racing, pop-up barbers, barbecues and public houses, and, um, a lot of sex workers. Plus something called ‘Dutch Whimsy’.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly ask why the monarch’s attendance at the event was so important to the capital’s watermen; reveal how printed souvenirs came to be THE must-have keepsake from the fair; and explain how the ‘new’ London Bridge ruined all the frost fair fun…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘The Great Frost Fair of 1683-4’ (History Today, 1960): <a href="
20/12/202210 minutes 7 seconds
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Meet Ebenezer Scrooge

Charles Dickens’ novella ‘A Christmas Carol’ was written in just six weeks, and published on 19th December, 1843. The timeless story, which introduced the world to Ebeneezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim, and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, was conceived in part to get its author out of a sticky financial situation.Dickens’ other motive was to put into an accessible fable the political ideas that had formed the core of his proposed pamphlet, ‘An Appeal to the People of England on behalf of the Poor Man's Child’. In so doing, he re-focussed the Christmas message around charitable giving and kindness for generations.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how Dickens plundered his own back-catalogue to surface some ‘Christmas goblins’; consider whether the book-buying public truly understood the intended message of his work; and reveal why his determination to produce it in an affordable edition hit him in the pocket…&nbsp;Further
19/12/202210 minutes 30 seconds
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Dior's New Look

30 Avenue Montaigne, Christian Dior’s atelier in Paris, opened its doors on 16th December 1946. His staff had just six weeks to get it ready for their first show on February 12th, 1947 - the landmark post-war collection that became known as ‘the New Look’.Bettina Ballard, fashion editor of Vogue, wrote: “Never has there been a moment more climatically right for a Napoleon, an Alexander the Great, a Caesar of the couture. Paris fashion was waiting to be seized and shaken and given direction. There has never been an easier or more complete conquest than that of Christian Dior in 1947."&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly unpick Dior’s business decisions; explain how a connection with the British Royal family was cultivated and exploited to promote his nascent brand; and consider why he became known as ‘the tyrant of hemlines’...&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Christian Dior: The New Look’ (The Metrolpolitan Museum
16/12/202210 minutes 28 seconds
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Napoleon’s Second Funeral

Rerun. Napoleon was buried in an unmarked grave in St. Helena. But, 19 years later, on 15th December, 1840, he got buried again: this time at Les Invalides, Paris.&nbsp;It was an ornate state occasion, involving multiple caskets, 500 sailors, 14 semi-naked female statues... and a lot of lardy cakes.&nbsp;&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly reveal what Napoleon’s cadaver looked like; explain why a previous petition to relocate his remains had failed; and discover an unexpectedly culinary description of the day from The Sunday Times…&nbsp;&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Bring Him Home: How Napoleon Bonaparte’s delayed funeral came to be’ (Lapham’s Quarterly, 2020):• ‘Napoleon’s legacy: ashes, tombs and DNA’ (National Geographic, 2010):<a href="ht
15/12/20229 minutes 53 seconds
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Broadway's Biggest Flop

Lionel Bart’s musical ‘La Strada’, based on the hit Fellini film, suffered the ignominy of closing after its opening night in New York on 14th December, 1969, losing $650,000.Heroin addict Bart never made it over to the States for the previews, during which time his songs were chopped and changed to such an extent that on opening night a Playbill could not be produced, because it would have been full of inaccuracies.In this episode, Arion, Olly and Rebecca reflect on what went wrong; revisit Bart’s earlier flop, Robin Hood musical Twang!!, and check out the opening night reviews that killed La Strada, which, all things considered, aren’t *that* bad…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Broadway’s Top Ten Musical Flops’ (Smithsonian Magazine, 2011):
14/12/202210 minutes 29 seconds
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The Resigning Pope

Celestine V rocked the Catholic world on 13th December, 1294, when he stood up, gave a short speech, stripped himself of his Papal insignia and resigned the Pontificate. He was 79 years old, and had been Pope for just 15 weeks.&nbsp;Previously a well-regarded hermit who’d lived a humble life in the mountains, he got the gig after writing a letter to the conclave, urging them to choose a new Pope soon, lest they incur God’s wrath. He had never considered that the Cardinals would respond by offering the job to him.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why medieval Papal elections sometimes took years to conclude; reveal how Charles II of Naples was pulling the strings behind the scenes; and recall how Dante responded to Celestine’s controversial ‘Great Refusal’...&nbsp;&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘The Pope Who Quit: A True Medieval Tale of Mystery, Death, and Salvation,By Jon M. Sweeney’ (Crown Publishing Group, 20
13/12/202210 minutes 42 seconds
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Winona's Shoplifting Scandal

Winona Ryder was arrested for shoplifting from Saks Fifth Avenue, Beverly Hills on 12th December, 2001. Amongst the products she had stuffed into her hat was a Marc Jacobs sweater worth $760, and Frederic Fekkai hair adornments listed at $600.At first, the Oscar nominated actress claimed she had been under the impression that her assistant would pay for the items later. Then, she said she had stolen them as research for a forthcoming role. But in court, the security guards said they’d seen Ryder clipping the tags off some items with scissors. She got 500 hours of Community Service, and her career was derailed for a decade.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider whether Saks leveraged the opportunity for publicity purposes; examine the strange composition of the jury who decided Ryder’s fate; and ask if her appearance in a ‘Free Winona’ t-shirt was indulgent or amusing…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘A grass roots campaign t
12/12/202210 minutes 39 seconds
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Here Comes Corrie

Coronation Street, the world’s longest-running soap opera, first aired on 9th December, 1960. But only 13 episodes had been commissioned by Granada, following a torturous development process. Boss Sidney Bernstein remained far from convinced that the show would attract either audiences or advertisers for ITV.Created by 24 year-old Tony Warren, the new serial aimed to portray real lives on a suburban street in Salford. In his quest for authenticity, Warren intended to cast only Northern actors, and borrowed names for characters from gravestones he’d spotted in a Mancunian cemetery.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider why TV critics from the left-wing papers slated the show; reveal how Warren’s past as a child actor informed the casting of some iconic Corrie characters; and revisit the real street where the iconic opening sequence was initially filmed…Further Reading:• ‘Coronation Street used to depict a world that was already dying
09/12/202210 minutes 23 seconds
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There’s Something About Mary

The Pope finally defined the dogma of The Immaculate Conception on 8th December, 1854; confirming that, in the view of the Catholic Church, Christ’s mother Mary had not only been ‘full of grace’, but was completely absent of sin even at her own conception.Even though this had been an unofficial concept for centuries prior, it still proved controversial, with 10% of Bishops believing it should not be adopted as doctrine.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly marvel at just how recently this fundamental principle of Catholicism was established; probe around in James, Brother of Jesus’ Oedipal memoirs; and look at the role of Marian devotion in the Madonna-Whore complex…Further Reading:• ‘Christianity: Immaculate Conception’ (BBC, 2011):
08/12/202210 minutes 25 seconds
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Capturing The Blue Marble

The most famous photograph of Earth - the ‘Blue Marble’ shot captured by NASA astronauts on Apollo 17 - was taken on 7th December, 1972.&nbsp;The deep blues of the ocean, the green continent of Africa, the yellow edges of the Arabian Peninsula, and the vast empty blackness all around our planet are memorably captured within it. But what can’t be said with certainty is who actually took it - as all three members of the crew have claimed they snapped the iconic image.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly trace the origins of this moment back to Stewart Brand’s counter-cultural ‘Whole Earth’ movement of the 1960s; explain how Jack Schmidt’s presence in the Apollo crew was scientifically groundbreaking; and reveal why the photo was flipped before it was printed on the front page of newspapers…Further Reading:• ‘The Blue Marble Shot: Our First Complete Photograph of Earth’ (The Atlantic, 2011): <a href="
07/12/202210 minutes 34 seconds
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Disaster at the West Coast Woodstock

The Rolling Stones topped the bill at Altamont Speedway in Livermore, California on 6th December, 1969 - a free festival intended to rival the recent Woodstock in New York. But it was an organisational shambles, and turned deadly when an audience member was murdered.&nbsp;Notorious gang Hell’s Angels had been hired (allegedly in return for free beer) to provide ‘security’ for the event. They sat on a tiny stage, badly positioned in the pit of the racetrack, and attacked the crowds with billiard cues. Jefferson Airplane got pummeled. Mick Jagger was punched in the face.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how the movie rights for Gimme Shelter lay behind the ill-judged decision to relocate the festival with just two days’ notice; evaluate the Stones’ limited commentary on the disarray, and 18 year old Meredith Hunter’s death; and consider whether this regrettable event really did represent ‘the end of the 60s’...Further Reading:<li
06/12/202210 minutes 14 seconds
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Christie's First Auction

James Christie held his first auction on 5th December, 1766 - billed as a sale of “genuine household furniture, jewels, plate, firearms, china and a large quantity of madeira and high flavoured claret” belonging to a “Noble Personage (deceased)”.His auction-house, Christie’s, went on to become one of the world’s leading dealers of fine art. But it took Christie many years to exploit this opportunity, which he accomplished partly by leveraging well-connected friends. His milieu included Richard Tattersall, Thomas Chipperfield, Thomas Gainsborough, Horace Walpole, Joshua Reynolds and David Garrick - a ‘Who’s Who’ of 18th century London once known as ‘Christie's Fraternity of Godparents’.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how Christie innovated public viewings, product placement and sales technique; connect the dots between the French Revolution and Christie’s biggest successes; and reveal how much it costs to buy a two-headed taxidermied lamb…&nbsp;
05/12/202210 minutes 32 seconds
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Rebuilding St Paul's

Sir Christopher Wren was officially appointed architect for the rebuilding of St Paul's Cathedral on 2nd December, 1697, though in truth he had been advising on it for some years already.Three decades later the celebrated British architect had produced a building that broke radically with the past, even if his original plans had to be adapted to the whims of the king, the clergy and the parliament.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider why Wren loved domes so much; reveal the true reason why battering rams are a better demolition tool than dynamite; and explain why the cathedral became the ultimate humble brag…Further Reading:• ‘St Paul's: The new church’ (Cassell, Petter &amp; Galpin, 1878):;• ‘A History of St. Paul's Cath
02/12/202210 minutes 15 seconds
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There’s Poison In My Pint

Rerun. Thousands of beer barrels were emptied into the streets across Lancashire on 1st December, 1900 - when it finally dawned on people that the cheap stout they’d been drinking with years was in fact contaminated with arsenic.&nbsp;Over 6,000 victims were poisoned, mostly across Manchester and Salford, thanks to the practice of padding out the barley used in the brew with inexpensive glucose syrup.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider the role that the class system played in the initial diagnoses of mass ‘alcoholic multiple neuritis’; reveal the one company in the supply chain who eventually stumped up £136,000 compensation; and explain how general elections were believed to push the general public into the public houses…Further Reading:• ‘The Lancet’ covers the news (1900): <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_
01/12/20229 minutes 27 seconds
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Let's Stop Smallpox

On 30th November, 1803 a surgeon called Dr Francisco Javier de Balmis left Spain at the head of the world's first ever international public health expedition.&nbsp;His ship was bound for the New World, supplied with smallpox vaccines. But the vaccines weren't in syringes or in vials, they were inside the 22 orphans who were on the ship with him.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly look into how the first smallpox vaccines worked; revisit how Javier de Balmis’s unusual approach helped eradicate the disease; and discuss whether popping pustules is better than inhaling scabs…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Exhibition tells story of Spanish children used as vaccine ‘fridges’ in 1803’ (The Guardian, 2021):
30/11/202210 minutes 23 seconds
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Who Shot JFK?

Shortly after US president John F. Kennedy was shot dead, the Warren Commission was convened on 29th November, 1963 to answer the question on everybody’s lips: who did this and why?The shooting of America’s young president was a moment of trauma for many Americans, but when the commission returned its findings, most people were happy with their conclusions. However, as the years progressed conspiratorial thinking increasingly began to take hold. By the end of the 1970s, 81% of people surveyed believed that the murder of Kennedy was a result of a conspiracy.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly discuss why people stopped believing the official story they had been told; investigate why many people believe the CIA has continually tried to obfuscate the true story; and reveal whether the assassination was the work of mob bosses, Cubans, Soviets, the CIA or all of the above…&nbsp;&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘W
29/11/202210 minutes 32 seconds
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The Cabbage Patch Riots

Towards the end of 1983, frenzied parents battled with one another in stores across the US in a desperate bid to buy their children the toy of the moment, the Cabbage Patch Kid.The so-called Cabbage Patch Riots culminated on 28th November 1983 at a Zayre department store in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, when a melee broke out that was so intense a store manager grabbed a baseball bat to protect himself, police dispersed the crowds and four people ended up in hospital.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly discuss why Cabbage Patch Kids were in such short supply; look into why the toys had their inventor’s name emblazoned on their bottoms; and reveal the true story of how Cabbage Patch dolls came into being…&nbsp;&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘The Not-So-Sweet Truth About Cabbage Patch Kids’ (Good Housekeeping, 2015): <a href="" rel="noopener no
28/11/202210 minutes 40 seconds
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The Boy on the Raft

Elián González was just five years old when he was found clinging to an inner tube off the coast of Florida on 25th November, 1999. His mother, step-father, and all the other Cuban migrants who had been attempting to cross to the United States with him were lost at sea.Elián’s future then became a matter of high-stakes diplomacy between the two Cold War countries: should he be granted residency with his extended family in Little Havana, or returned back to actual Havana to the arms of his father?In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly revisit the intense 24-hour news cycle that took hold over this seemingly small story; explain why even Gloria Estefan got caught up in the furore; and reveal how Alan Diaz went about taking his Pulitzer prize-winning photo of the FBI raid on Elián’s uncle’s home…&nbsp;&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Elián González: How Cuba and the U.S. fought over a child in an international tug-of-w
25/11/202210 minutes 31 seconds
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The Lucy Fossil

Rerun. It took over three million years to find her. But palaeontologists Donald Johanson and Tom Gray uncovered the remains of ‘the Lucy Fossil’ - a previously undiscovered species of pre-human - in Hadar, Ethiopia on 24th November, 1974.Despite the find’s massive significance, the event was not greeted with untrammelled joy by all their rival fossil hunters. Some - who had wanted to claim such a discovery for themselves - began publicly disputing that Lucy was indeed a missing link in the evolution of humankind.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly reveal how Lucy received her rock n’ roll name; explain how her tiny brain but upright walking turned previous scientific thinking on its head; and consider whether, actually, “Captain Caveman was quite accurate”...Further Reading:• ‘Nov. 24, 1974: Humanity, Meet Lucy. She's Your Mom’ (WIRED, 2009):• ‘Lucy and the Leakeys’ (Khan
24/11/202210 minutes 33 seconds
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Meet The Jukebox

The ‘Nickel In The Slot Player’ - the world’s first jukebox - made its debut at the Palais Royale Saloon bar in San Francisco on 23rd November, 1889.Created by Louis Glass and William S. Arnold, the contraption was an Edison Class M wax cylinder phonograph fitted with a coin mechanism and four stethoscope-like listening tubes, each operated individually and activated when a patron put a nickel in the slot.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why the pianola still had the upper hand for decades to come; reveal how this new-fangled gadget paved the way for 1970s game arcades; and consider how, for African-American musicians in particular, the evolution of the jukebox was a game-changer…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Nov. 23, 1889: S.F. Gin Joint Hears World's First Jukebox’ (WIRED, 2010): https://www.wired.
23/11/202210 minutes 22 seconds
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Bye Bye Blackbeard

History’s most notorious pirate, Edward ‘Blackbeard’ Teach, was killed and decapitated by lieutenant Robert Maynard, who besieged Blackbeard’s boats in Ocracoke on 22nd November, 1718.&nbsp;Now recalled as a fearsome and gratuitous murderer, Blackbeard’s demonic character is not documented in contemporary sources. In fact, very little is truly known about Teach (even, indeed, whether that was his real name), apart from the fact he a) had a beard, b) was from Bristol, and c) was very good at pirating. But his formidable reputation of setting his beard on fire and rampaging his way round the high seas was sealed by the swashbuckling tales published after his death.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly reveal how Daniel Defoe may be linked with the Blackbeard cult; rate the pirate’s expertise at cultivating psychological warfare; and unearth the story of Stede Bonnet, ‘the worst pirate of all time’...&nbsp;&nbsp;Further Reading:<
22/11/202210 minutes 16 seconds
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Let's Revolve A Restaurant

La Ronde, the USA’s first revolving restaurant, opened on 21st November, 1961, at the Ala Moana Center in Honolulu. On the menu in the 298ft-tall tower was shrimp cocktail, mahi-mahi, and ‘the Queen of beefdom’.It had a predecessor, though, in perhaps an unlikely city: post-war Dortmund, Germany.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly trace the origins of rotating restaurants back to Ancient Rome (of course); recall Elvis Presley’s role in furthering the popularity of high-rise revolving dining at the Space Needle; and consider the particular appeal of ‘high attractions in low rise cities’...&nbsp;But wait! There’s more! To unlock another FIVE MINUTES of this episode, join 🌴 CLUB RETROSPECTORS 🌴- and get bonus bits each week, plus full-length ad-free Sunday episodes! This week, the Retrospectors discuss who invented the revolving restaurant, and reveal the b
21/11/202210 minutes 25 seconds
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How Star Wars Changed Movie Trailers

The official trailer for ‘The Phantom Menace’ was uploaded to the Star Wars website on 18th November, 1998 - a reaction to the franchise’s rabid fans leaking their own camcorder footage to the web. It was the first time that an online preview of a movie trailer became a significant event in its own right.The trailer had been released into North American cinemas the day before, ahead of select screenings of ‘Meet Joe Black’, ‘The Heist’ and ‘The Waterboy’. Variety reported a lunch-time showing in L.A. for which as many as two-thirds of the audience attending had bought their ticket purely to view the highly-anticipated Star Wars trailer.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly revisit the glitchy, scratchy, pre-YouTube world of online trailer distribution; reveal how LucasFilm partnered with Apple to sprinkle some of their fairy-dust over a QuickTime product launch; and explain why the fan reaction to this iconic trailer remains more enthusiastic than f
18/11/202210 minutes 11 seconds
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The Last Sultan

Rerun. Mehmet VI stepped on to a British warship to seek refuge in Malta on 17th November, 1922 - thereby becoming the last Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, a dynasty stretching back to the 14th Century.&nbsp;He was accompanied by his first Chamberlain, his doctor, two secretaries, a velt, a barber, two eunuchs, and a bandmaster.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly dig into the archives to see how the event was portrayed in the triumphant West; consider the fate of the Royals left behind in modern-day Turkey; and ponder what ‘cautiously optimistic exile music’ might sound like...&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Great Ottoman Empire in Turkey’ (Go Turkey Tourism):• ‘CONSTANTINOPLE 1922-1923, WHERE NOTHING HAPP
17/11/202210 minutes 33 seconds
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Ivan vs Ivan

Why did Ivan The Terrible kill his son, Ivan? Ever since the day he supposedly brought a sceptre crashing down upon his head - 16th November, 1581 - this question has divided people. Did he suspect his son of a plot to overthrow him? Was he sexually assaulting his daughter-in-law? Was the whole tale dreamt up as a Catholic plot?It’s a controversy that remains a live issue in Russia, resulting in Ilya Repin's iconic painting ‘Ivan the Terrible and his Son Ivan’ being vandalized not once, but twice; and a campaign, supported by no less than Vladimir Putin, to restore Ivan’s reputation as, um… ‘Ivan the Not-So Terrible’?In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider the various theories surrounding this much-debated event; question if an arthritic quinquagenarian was capable of such physical brutality; and expose Ivan’s lesser-known poetic qualities…&nbsp;CONTENT WARNING: graphic descriptions of murderFurther Readi
16/11/202210 minutes 40 seconds
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The Best A Man Can Get?

King C. Gillette was granted a US patent for a “safety razor” on November 15th, 1904 - kickstarting both the disposable grooming industry, and the notorious ‘razor and blades’ business model.Prior to his invention, men who shaved at home would have to strop their blades on a big leather strap, and occasionally take their razors to a cutler to have them returned to their original sharpness.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how Gillette savvily used Army contracts to establish his brand across America; reveal how scientists at MIT told him his product design was simply impossible; and recall how he exploited TV advertising to reframe the conversation around male grooming…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘The History of Gillette and Schick Razors’ (ThoughtCo, 2019):
15/11/202210 minutes 37 seconds
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When Anne Married Mark

The Royal Wedding between Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips on 14th November, 1973 was a lavish affair at Westminster Abbey, with an anticipated global audience of 500 million - but the 23 year-old daughter of the Queen was clearly awkward about being the centre of attention, and asked to be only filmed from behind.Labelled ‘Princess Sourpuss’ by some of the tabloids, the public had yet to warm to Anne’s devotion to public service, love of horses and reticence to engage with the limelight.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly unpick their favourite ‘facts’ from the exhaustive eight-hour TV coverage of this event; explain why it was bad form to mention sausages at the wedding reception; and revisit Prince Philip’s most quotable line about Anne: “if it doesn’t fart, or eat hay, she isn’t interested”...&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Royal Wedding Fever’ (The Observer, 1973): <a href="
14/11/202210 minutes 29 seconds
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Welcome To Stevenage

Britain's first ‘New Town’, built to accommodate 60,000 residents, was Stevenage, Hertfordshire - designated on 11th November, 1946 by Lewis Silkin, Labour’s Minister for Town and Country Planning.&nbsp;Inspired by the rush to accommodate Londoners displaced by the Nazi bombing of the capital, the construction of the concrete metropolis was heavily opposed by the 6,400 residents of ‘Old Stevenage’, the ancient town that was to be superseded.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly trace Silkin’s vision back to a 1695 essay by Quaker reformer John Bellers; ask whether the concrete-clad aesthetic of the architecture was a terrible mistake; and re-live nostalgic trips to play laser tag in the leisure park…Further Reading:&nbsp;• ‘Stevenage New Town’ (Stevenage Museum, 2022): <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="
11/11/202210 minutes 19 seconds
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Birth of the Big Things

Rerun. In the early days of advertising, tyre company Goodyear sent a giant tyre on a coast-to-coast publicity trip. It was photographed on 42nd Street, New York on 10th November, 1930.Was this the birth of the ‘big things’ phenomenon that has lead us to roadside giant prawns, record-breaking sausages, and Instagrammable statues of Jeff Goldblum? Perhaps. We’ll go with it, anyway.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly reveal how Goodyear’s publicity nous went beyond photo opportunities and into their very origin story; explain why press agent Harry Reichenbach once brought a lion into a New York hotel room; and discover how Australia’s love affair with the Big Banana, the Big Prawn and the Big Peg came to be…&nbsp;Further Reading:• The photo that inspired this episode - 42nd Street, New York, 1930 (excerpted from ‘Curious Moments’, published by Konemann, 1999): <a href="
10/11/20229 minutes 57 seconds
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The Last Shōgun

Prince Tokugawa Yoshinobu (徳川 慶喜) was the 15th and last shōgun of the Tokugawa shōgunate of Japan. On November 9, 1867, Yoshinobu tendered his resignation to the Emperor.This restored traditional rule for the first time in over 250 years, yet also progressively reformed the country; ushering in the Meiji era, under an Emperor who was just 14 years old.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how the country’s policy of isolationism had come to be tested - first by Portugese, then Dutch, and then American interlocutors; explain why this tumultuous transition of power split the urban and rural Japanese; and consider why even bloody uprisings look nice in screen-print…Further Reading:• ‘From Meiji to Modernity: How Japan Reinvented Itself Through The 20th Century’ (HistoryExtra, 2021): <a href="" rel="noopener nore
09/11/202210 minutes 24 seconds
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Mastermind of the Gunpowder Plot

Guy Fawkes has gone down in history as the most-remembered figure from the thwarted 17th century plot to blow up the House of Lords and kill King James I. But the ringleader of this attempted terror attack was actually Warwickshireman Robert Catesby, who was shot and killed in Staffordshire on 8th November, 1605.This Catholic extremist, who had seen his father imprisoned for practicing his religion and sheltering priests, supposedly died clutching a portrait of the Virgin Mary. He was then decapitated; his head brought back to London to be placed on the side of Parliament House.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly dabble in a bit of recusancy; explore the considerable repression that English Catholics were living with during this period; and consider how Catesby used his class and charm to coalesce his group of co-conspirators into the gunpowder plot that very nearly exploded the government…&nbsp;Further Reading:
08/11/202210 minutes 42 seconds
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The Elephant and The Donkey

Why are the Republican Party represented by an elephant, and the Democrats (unofficially) by a donkey? The answer lies in the work of revered political cartoonist Thomas Nast, whose picture ‘Third Term Panic’ was published in Harper's Weekly on 7th November, 1874 - the day before the mid-terms.His Aesop-style symbolism is rather tricky for modern readers to untangle, but the satiric thrust of this particular cartoon related to news that President Ulysses S. Grant was considering running for an unprecedented third term in office.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why 19th century political cartoonists were so influential;&nbsp;&nbsp;consider whether Nast’s view of the Irish corresponded with his more enlightened views on African-Americans; and reveal how Andrew Jackson reclaimed his portrayal as a ‘jackass’ and turned it into a political positive…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Thomas Nast: The Father of Mod
07/11/202210 minutes 29 seconds
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Harry Potter: The Movie

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the first big-screen adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s best-selling book series, had its premiere in London's Leicester Square on November 4th, 2001.Among the glittering guest list were Sting, Cliff Richard, and the Duchess of York, but Baby Spice spoke for all of us when she told reporters “I don’t know what to expect, but I'm really excited!”In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explore why Warner Bros was so nervous about bringing Harry Potter to the big screen; look into how Steven Spielberg imagined the film when he was briefly attached to the project; and discuss how Daniel Radcliffe was given the title role ahead of 60,000 other boys who had auditioned for it…&nbsp;&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Charmed 'Harry Potter' Is Poised to Set New Records’ (The New York Times, 2001): <a href="
04/11/202210 minutes 35 seconds
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The Day The (Rave) Music Died

Rerun. Attending or producing raves was made illegal in Britain with the passing of the Criminal Justice Act on 3rd November, 1994. The government even legislated against electronic dance music, “wholly or predominantly characterized by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats”These unprecedented restrictions were partly in reaction to the moral panic caused after a 'free party' at Castlemorton Common attracted 30,000-40,000 attendees, and the ire of the tabloid press.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider the provenance of ‘revellers’ in the raver’s lexicon; explain why the creation of the M25 lead directly to the Act; and confess just how many illegal parties they’ve (inadvertently) attended…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 becomes law’ (The Guardian, 2011):• Police clash with ravers at Cas
03/11/202210 minutes 38 seconds
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Lady Chatterley's Lawsuit

Publishing House Penguin Books was found unanimously not guilty of obscenity for printing an unexpurgated Lady Chatterley's Lover on November 2nd, 1960.The novel’s author, D.H. Lawrence, had died 30 years earlier, but the court’s landmark ruling had a significant impact on the publishing world, paving the way for greater freedom of the written word.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explore how the chief prosector Mervyn Griffith-Jones massively misread the social moment; look into how the case inadvertently helped usher in the coming era of sexual liberation; and discuss why the establishment would have been ok with the book if only the gamekeeper had died…&nbsp;&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘The trial of Lady Chatterley’s Lover: how the 'obscene' book caused a moral storm’ (History Extra, 2020): <a href="" rel="noope
02/11/202210 minutes 31 seconds
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Moving to the White House

John Adams became the first US president to move into the White House on November 1st, 1800, even though construction work was still underway and most of the building was unfinished.There was a reason for his determination to get in as quickly as possible: he clearly wanted to be the first president to live in the White House and there was an election coming up just a week later – an election that he lost.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explore why his wife hated the White House; look into why so many presidents finish their presidency in debt; and discuss why there are so many fun rooms in the White House, including a bowling alley, music room and even a cinema…&nbsp;&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘How the Declaration of Independence wooed Americans away from Britain’ (National Geographic, 2002): <a href="
01/11/202210 minutes 24 seconds
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Casanova’s Prison Escape

One of Giacomo Casanova's most famous deeds was his daring midnight, cross-rooftop escape from the dreaded “The Leads” prison in Venice on the night of October 31st, 1756.Key to his escape plan was a Bible, a large iron bar and an oversized bowl of pasta.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly discuss why Casanova wasn’t thrilled about being moved to a new jail cell with a better view; explain why he had a little nap right in the middle of his jailbreak; and&nbsp; consider the awkwardness of being such an indiscriminate shagger that you eventually accidentally end up in bed with your own daughter…Further Reading:• 'How Casanova’s provocative memoir created a legend' (BBC, 2016):;•
31/10/202210 minutes 36 seconds
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Welcome To Harvard

The life of Harvard University – the oldest institution of higher learning in the US – officially began on 28th October, 1636 when the Massachusetts Bay Colony appropriated £400 for its construction.It;s fair to say the first few years of Harvard’s existence were not a success, featuring whippings, poisonings, and way too little beef and beer for the students’ liking.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how the university got its name; look into why early students had to learn Hebrew if they wanted to graduate; and discuss why Benjamin Franklin thought all Harvard students were “blockheads”...Further Reading:• 'Harvard’s History and Mission' (Harvard University, 2022):
28/10/202210 minutes 27 seconds
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The Man Who Saved The World

Rerun. Soviet naval officer Vasili Arkhipov may not have the name recognition of Castro, Kruschev and Kennedy - but his actions during the Cuban Missile Crisis on 27th October, 1962 almost certainly prevented World War Three from erupting.&nbsp;On-board a sweltering Russian submarine, he talked Captain valentyn Savitsky down from firing a nuclear torpedo at the United States Navy, whom, Savitsky falsely believed, were attacking his boat.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly speculate about what Arkhipov said to Savitsky to stop him from firing his ‘special weapon’; explain why his heroic story stayed untold until the ‘90s; and reveal where Jimmy Carter kept his nuclear codes…&nbsp;Further Reading:• How Vasili Arkhipov Literally Saved The World From Nuclear War (All That’s Interesting, 2018):
27/10/20229 minutes 42 seconds
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Wyatt Earp's Greatest Gunfight

The gunfight at the O.K. Corral – a 30-second shootout between lawmen and outlaws – occurred on October 26, 1881, in the small US mining town of Tombstone. When the smoke cleared, three people lay dead.&nbsp;The gunfight might have remained little more than a minor footnote in the history of the Old West, except that it came to be romanticised, dramatised and exaggerated by countless books and movies over the years to come.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why the line between lawman and outlaw was more than a little murky in the Old West; look into why so many people had flooded to the small down of Tombstone in the first place; and discuss how the whole shootout could have been avoided if only someone hadn’t stolen someone else’s mule...Further Reading:• 'What really happened at the gunfight at the O.K. Corral?' (National Geographic, 2020): <a href="
26/10/202210 minutes 37 seconds
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Pepys the Philanderer

On 25th October, 1668, Elizabeth Pepys walked in on her maid and her husband – the inveterate restoration shagger Samuel Pepys – in a position so compromising that Samuel himself could only bear to describe it using a mixture of French and Latin.And even though Pepys charted a period that included the Great Fire of London, wars, plagues and the triumphant return of Charles II, this unfortunate episode is one of the most compelling parts of his famous diary.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly discuss the fallout from the unfortunate clinch; wonder why going to church seemed to be such a turn-on for the celebrated diarist; and detail how Pepys came to kiss the mummified remains of a dead queen...CONTENT WARNING: descriptions of sexual abuse, rapeFurther Reading:• 'Dear Diary, another day, another grope: Pepys and his women' (The Times, 2015): <a href="
25/10/202210 minutes 39 seconds
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Meet Mr Blobby

Mr Blobby made his anarchic television debut on 24th October, 1992, in a new segment called “Gotcha” on the hugely popular BBC show Noel’s House Party.The googly eyed, perma-grinning, yellow and pink character was an immediate hit, selling masses of merchandise to British kids and adults alike. At the height of Blobbymania, Mr Blobby released a No. 1 UK single and spawned four theme parks around the country.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly defend Mr Blobby against the haters; speculate on how he became an inadvertent victim of his own success; and marvel at what can be achieved with a lot of alcohol and just five minute of doodling...Further Reading:• ‘'A Loveable Anarchist': The Oral History of Mr Blobby’ (Vice, 2021):
24/10/202210 minutes 34 seconds
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Welcome To The Guggenheim

Frank Lloyd Wright’s extraordinary Guggenheim building finally flung open its doors on 21st October, 1959, after a gestation period of two decades - during which time both Wright, and Solomon Guggenheim himself, had died.The reaction was mixed. Art critics panned the design, likening it to “a washing machine”, an “inverted oatmeal bowl”, and an “oversized and indigestible hot cross bun”. Even those who praised the architecture mostly felt it nonetheless overwhelmed the modern art displayed within it.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how the notoriously nature-loving Wright had been persuaded to work on such an quintessentially urban project; reveal what colour Wright had intended the famously off-white exterior to be; and discover the attempt by artists and intellectuals to stop the beloved museum ever being built…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Guggenheim Museum Opens in New York City’ (HISTORY, 2009): <a href="https:
21/10/202210 minutes 37 seconds
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The Boy Who Poisoned His Granddad

Rerun. William Alnutt tipped arsenic into the family sugar bowl on 20th October, 1847 - and five days later, the 12 year-old’s sweet-toothed grandfather, Samuel Nelme, was dead.&nbsp;It was the second time the deeply troubled Alnutt had attempt to murder to his grandfather, after a failed plot to shoot him with a pistol in their garden. His trial caused a media sensation.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider how Alnutt’s arrest coincided with the burgeoning concept of juvenile delinquency; study Alnutt’s letters from prison, begging forgiveness from God; and uncover the alarming availability of arsenic in Victorian London…Further Reading:• ‘WILLIAM NEWTON ALLNUTT, for the willful murder of Samuel Nelme’ (Old Bailey transcript, 1847):• ‘Headlin
20/10/202210 minutes 10 seconds
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Here's One I Snorted Earlier

Richard Bacon was sacked from Blue Peter after The News of the World revealed he had taken cocaine; an event which was explained to the show’s young viewers by Lorraine Heggessy, then head of Children’s BBC, on 19th October, 1998.The escapade came to light after Bacon’s best friend sold the story via Max Clifford; the tabloid had then waited to publish the news to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the iconic, squeaky-clean TV programme.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly revisit the moment Bacon had to ‘hand back his badge’; re-read Miriam Stoppard’s 1998 advice for talking to children about drugs; and consider whether the outcome would be any different if the story had happened in the world of social media…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Blue Peter Goody-Goody is a Cocaine-Snorting Sneak’ (The News of the World, 1998): <a href="" rel="n
19/10/202210 minutes 13 seconds
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The Black Magic Massacre

The East Java Ninja Scare - an outbreak of mass hysteria in East Java, Indonesia that led to hundreds of deaths - reached its peak with a massacre of suspected ‘sorcerers’ on 18th October, 1998.Essentially a witch-hunt in which vulnerable misfits were targeted for slaughter by superstitious vigilante mobs, the violence nonetheless had its roots in the very real murder of some Muslim clerics by unknown assailants, and the disarray following decades of Indonesian dictatorship.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider the causes of this bizarre and scary chapter; explain how indigienous and Muslim practices combined in the East Java region to create a unique mix of beliefs; and discover how, despite the killings, the fervour and excitement had created a ‘carnival atmosphere’...&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Hunting and killing ninjas in Indonesia’ (New Mandala, 2016):&nbsp;<a href="
18/10/202210 minutes 24 seconds
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The Exploding Tank of Beer

The London Beer Flood, which created a 15ft-high wave of booze, and claimed the lives of eight people, began on 17th October, 1814 - when an iron hoop came loose on a giant barrel at Meux’s famous Horse Shoe Brewery.The barrel, in which over a million pints of fermenting porter were brewing, exploded - triggering a chain reaction that effectively blew up the factory and caused bricks to rain down over a nearby slum area.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly revisit the only surviving eyewitness account of the tragedy; explain how Daddy issues might have caused Meux to construct such giant barrels of beer in the first place; and weigh up whether anyone made merry with the opportunities offered by a cascading river of ale…&nbsp;&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘This 1814 Beer Flood Killed Eight People’ (Smithsonian Magazine, 2017): <a href="" rel="
17/10/202210 minutes 25 seconds
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The First African-American Patents

Henry Blair, the only inventor ever denoted as a ‘colored man’ in the records of US Patent Office, received a patent for his invention of a mechanical corn planter on 14th October, 1834. For decades, it was believed this was the first example of an African-American inventor receiving a US patent.The truth turns out to be more complex, and is touched by the legacy of slavery, legal reform, and black activism… but Thomas Jennings, the inventor of ‘dry scouring’ (an early instance of dry cleaning) registered his patent thirteen years earlier and is, probably, the true holder of the title.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly look back over some of the most useful inventions contributed by American people of colour; explain why the rules over enslaved people’s intellectual property were so vague and unreliable; and reveal what it looked like when Thomas Jefferson fobs you off…Content Warning: racism, negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people o
14/10/202210 minutes 34 seconds
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Martin Monti - American Traitor

Rerun. The first ever U.S. officer to be convicted of treason, Army Lieutenant Martin J. Monti Jr., defected from the Air Service to the Nazis on 13th October, 1944.After a stint in radio propaganda, he joined the Waffen-SS, was recaptured by the Americans, and then claimed to be a prisoner of War. His family petitioned his Senator to go lightly on his crimes, the full extent of which only became clear when he sensationally confessed to treason in court.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly attempt to understand Monti’s repeated flip-flopping; uncover the hidden community of German-born Americans who returned to the Motherland to support Hitler; and explain why even Roosevelt was predisposed to believe Monti was just an ‘eager beaver’…&nbsp;&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘How a North County boy became the first U.S. military officer ever to be convicted of treason’ (St Louis Magazine, 2020):<a href="https://www.stl
13/10/20229 minutes 44 seconds
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Dirty Weird! Jesus Story!

Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ opened at New York’s Mark Hellinger Theater on 12th October, 1971. The Guardian summarized the show as “the work of two young Englishmen, from an original story by God.”The production was the first to be mounted in a traditional venue - but was far from being the first live performance of the rock opera, which had been staged in a series of illegal and unathorised concerts across America, following the incredible popularity of the original concept album there.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how a failed bid to write a Eurovision entry led to the genesis of this iconic musical; consider why the album performed underwhelmingly in Britain before storming the States; and reveal why Lloyd Webber believed his Broadway debut was ‘one of the worst nights’ of his life…Further Reading:• ‘Look Back at the Original Broadway Production of Jesus Christ Sup
12/10/202210 minutes 21 seconds
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Vatican II: This Time It's Personal

The Second Vatican Council - a conference of senior Catholics that transformed the way Mass is given in Churches around the world - began on 11th October, 1962.&nbsp;The incentive of Pope John XXIII, who had been elected in his late seventies partly under the presumption that he would not do anything particularly radical, the Council split opinion between the Church’s traditionalists and modernists, spawning rancorous division which still echoes today.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly revisit John’s impromptu ‘moonlight speech’ in St Peter’s Square; consider how the Vatican needed to make reparations to Jews after the horrors of the Holocaust; and explain why some British literary figures, including Agatha Christie and Iris Murdoch, signed an open letter asking the new Pope to reverse the Council…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Pope John XXIII opens Vatican II’ (HISTORY, 2010): <a href="
11/10/202210 minutes 36 seconds
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The Smell of the Big Screen

Scent-o-Vision, an in-cinema olfactory experience, was unveiled at the New York World’s Fair on 10th October, 1940.Accompanying a short film ‘My Dream’, its Swiss inventor, Hans Laube, pumped in aromas of rose water, peaches and burning incense for his wowed attendees to sniff. But it would be two decades before the technology was finally put into a feature film - Mike Todd, Jr’s ‘Scent of Mystery’, in 1960 - and never used again.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly revisit the 50’s battle of the ‘smellaroo pix’, as Todd’s re-named ‘Smell-o-Vision’ took on the rival ‘Smell-O-Rama’; explore why theme parks ultimately provided the best platform for the theory in practice; and consider what happens when an audience experiences ‘olfactory fatigue’...&nbsp;Image source Carmen LaubeFurther Reading:• ‘Smell-O-Vision: That Movie Really Did Stink!’ (Neatorama, 2015): <a href="
10/10/202210 minutes
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Gambetta Takes Flight

Léon Gambetta took to the skies above Paris in a hot air balloon on October 7th, 1870, soaring over the enemy German soldiers that surrounded the city on his way to raise new armies to swing the Franco-Prussian war back in France’s favour.Perhaps ill-advisedly, the charismatic statesman shouted “Vive la République!” as he went, thus attracting enemy fire which punctured his balloon, but the escape was successful, ultimately landing in an oak tree in Tours.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how 150 years ago hot air balloons came to be thought of as a convenient emergency evacuation technology; mull why Paris at night is so very beautiful, even during a siege; and explain why in a crisis it is always good to have plenty of seamstresses around…Further Reading:• ‘Franco-Prussian War: the conflict that plunged Europe into a nightmare’ (History Extra, 2020): <a href="
07/10/202210 minutes 37 seconds
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The Play That Never Ends

Rerun. Agatha Christie’s ‘The Mousetrap’, the world’s longest-running play, opened at the Theatre Royal, Nottingham on 6th October, 1952, with a cast including Richard Attenborough. The producer, Peter Saunders, predicted the production would run for 14 months.&nbsp;More than 28,000 performances later, the show has become an iconic attraction in London’s West End, with a set that still includes the original mantelpiece clock present on stage on opening night nearly 70 years ago.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly unpick the unconventional choices Christie made with the copyright of the play; recount Noel Coward’s begrudging correspondence with her when it overtook Blithe Spirit as the West End’s longest-running play; and uncover the tragic backstory that inspired its plot… WITHOUT REVEALING THE TWIST!&nbsp;Further Reading:• History timeline from ‘The Mousetrap’s official website (2021): <a href="ht
06/10/20229 minutes 28 seconds
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The End of American Apparel

American Apparel, the company founded by charismatic weirdo Dov Charney, first filed for bankruptcy protection on October 5th, 2015.It amounted to a fall from grace from just three years earlier when Charney had told ABC news that American apparel would live beyond his own lifetime. What he neglected to mention was that its ongoing life would be as an online only store, no longer making clothes in the USA.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explore how Charney’s high-minded idea of making clothes ethically went so dramatically wrong; discuss how the brand got rich by using gritty lo-fi sexuality to sell everyday basics; and look into how Charney’s cult of personality eventually proved his undoing…Content warning: reference to sex, abuse, pornographyFurther Reading:• ‘10 Most Controversial American Apparel Ads’ (Time Magazine, 2014): <a href="" rel="noopener
05/10/202210 minutes 36 seconds
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Here Comes The Orient Express

The first ever Orient Express set off from Paris on October 4th, 1883, immediately becoming a byword for extreme luxury.With its wood panelling, silk sheets and gourmet menus, the train quickly became a favourite of kings, aristocrats, artists and even spies.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explore why the train neither went to the “Orient” nor was it particular “express”; discuss why a very particular type of heartbreak led Belgian businessman Georges Nagelmackers to come up with the sleeper train; and look into why the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles rode the Orient Express…Further Reading:• ‘The True History of the Orient Express’ (Smithsonian Magazine, 2014):;• ‘The 50 Greatest Train
04/10/202210 minutes 40 seconds
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The End of Siegfried and Roy

The Roy half of Siegfried and Roy was mauled on October 3rd, 2003, by a 380-pound white tiger live on stage in Las Vegas.Roy lived, but was partially paralysed, which spelled the end for the wildly successful double act, which had performed more than 30,000 shows for 50 million people and generated well over $1 billion in ticket sales over nearly half a century.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explore how opulence, German accents and mullets proved a winning formula for Siegried and Roy; discuss how the pair bonded over a smuggled cheetah; and look into why there was a police investigation into the white tiger’s attack…Further Reading:• ‘Siegfried and Roy: What Happened the Night of the Tiger Attack?’ (Reader’s Digest, 2021):;• ‘The unt
03/10/202210 minutes 21 seconds
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Thunderbirds Are Go!

The first ever episode of Thunderbirds, the revolutionary British TV show starring puppets, aired on September 30th, 1965. It was instantly a hit in Britain, and elsewhere in the world, but its failure to captivate a US audience led to its untimely demise after just two seasons.The show used a system, coined by its creators as “Supermarionation” which involved pre-recording the voices, which would then be played back during filming. Each marionette’s head contained filters which converted the dialogue into pulses, which in turn travelled to solenoids in the puppet’s lips.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly discuss why each marionette needed three heads; look at how the Mercury Seven – the first batch of Nadi astronauts – were honoured by the show; and reveal which of the three of us still has Thunderbirds merch from when they were a kid.Further Reading:• ‘30 September 1965: Thunderbirds Are Go!’ (Money Week, 2020
30/09/202210 minutes 3 seconds
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The 33-day Pope

Rerun. The corpse of John Paul I was discovered by a nun in the early hours of 29th September, 1978. His body was embalmed within 24 hours, heightening suspicions that the cause of death may have been unnatural.&nbsp;He had been Pope for just 33 days.An unconventional Pope – who had refused to wear the papal tiara, use the Royal ‘we’, or sit on a ceremonial throne – he seemed to have had a weird premonition that he wouldn’t be in office for long, famously responding to his elevation to Popehood by telling the Cardinals, ‘May God forgive you for what you have done’.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly review the conspiracies surrounding the Pope’s apparently untimely death; reveal the role of the unfortunately-named Cardinal Sin; and look back on some of his surprising comic journalism…Further Reading:• ‘Pope John Paul I is dead’ (CBS News, 1978):• ‘The Mysterious Death Of Pope John Paul I’ (All Thats Interesting, 2018):&nbs
29/09/202210 minutes 31 seconds
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King of the Coup

Gilbert Bourgeaud, better known by his nom de guerre “Bob Denard” was shot in the head at least twice, married seven times and had at least three religious conversions. And on September 28th, 1995, he launched his fourth and final attempt to take control of the Comoros islands with his own private army.In fact, since gaining its independence from France in 1975, the Comoros islands have experienced more than 20 coups or attempted coups and several assassinations of their heads of state. And Denard was involved with a good proportion of them.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly look into Denard’s incredible CV, which ranges from selling kitchen appliances to overthrowing countries; explore how the mercenaries of yesterday turned into the military contractors of today; and consider how Denard’s obituaries show just how far we've come as a society considering how many of them described him as “colourful”.Further Reading:• ‘Co
28/09/202210 minutes 40 seconds
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Hunting Noah's Ark

The trend for “Arkeology” was kickstarted on September 27th, 1829, when the German explorer Friedrich Parrot ascended to the top of Mount Ararat in Armenia, which was believed at the time to be the final resting place of Noah’s Ark.This was actually Parrot’s third attempt to climb to the top of Ararat. One of the previous two attempts had been scuppered because the climbing party had attempted to bring a huge and unwieldy cross with them to erect on the summit.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider whether Parrot actually believed Noah’s Ark was up there, or whether he just wanted an excuse to climb a cool mountain; investigate the biblical basis for why Armenia was thought to be the final resting place of the Ark; and ponder why every evangelical Christian expedition to find the Ark is always so successful.&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ (The Sun, 2021): <a href="
27/09/202210 minutes 24 seconds
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The French King of Sweden

Jean Bernadotte’s dad, a local prosecutor in the southwestern French city of Pau, ​​intended for his son to follow in his footsteps as a lawyer. Instead, Jean became heir to the Swedish Crown on September 26th, 1810, and his descendants still sit on the Swedish throne to this day.Shortly after he moved to Sweden, the new crown prince was joined by his wife, Désirée, and their 11-year-old son, Oscar. But it's fair to say Désirée wasn’t exactly enamoured with the new land her husband was set to rule; she swiftly returned to France and didn’t come back for another 13 years.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly look into why Napoleon became an accidental Swedish kingmaker; explore why it is best to do all your conquering just before declaring yourself to be neutral; and ask why no one has yet made any of us the monarch of their country.Further Reading:• ‘Centenary of Sweden’s proud Bernadotte dynasty’ (The New York Times, 1910)
26/09/202210 minutes 34 seconds
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Introducing 'Club Retrospectors'

Fancy a brand new, full-length SUNDAY EPISODE of this show, each and every week?Of course you do! Become a member of Club Retrospectors and unlock an additional, ad-free episode each weekend. Join now, for less than £1 per week, via Apple Podcasts or Patreon.&nbsp;Here’s what our members can enjoy:Get SUNDAY episodes!Ditch the Ads!Weekly Bonus material!Unlock over 70 bonus bits!Behind-the-scenes contentEarly ticket accessSUPPORT our independent podcastIn this ‘terms and conditions’ episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain the benefits of signing up to our new club - and how to go about doing it.&nbsp;For just £3.99 per month, you could be liste
24/09/20228 minutes 45 seconds
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Here Comes Nintendo

Nintendo was world-famous by the 1980s but the origins of the company go back a century earlier - to September 23rd, 1889, when Fusajiro Yamauchi founded Nintendo Koppai, a maker of brightly-coloured ‘Hanafuda’ cards.The hand-painted playing cards, made of mulberry bark, were produced for decades and were a favourite of Yakuza gangsters for use in illegal gambling.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly look into the bizarre businesses with which Nintendo experimented before their pivot into video games; explain how a plastic concertina hand changed the fortunes of the company’s toy division; and reveal how the inventor of the Game Boy, Gunpei Yokoi, was on a quest for love…&nbsp;&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘23 September 1889: Nintendo starts making playing cards’ (MoneyWeek, 2020): <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_bla
23/09/202210 minutes 31 seconds
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The All-Female Jury

Rerun. Witchcraft and infanticide were the charges levelled against young maidservant Judith Catchpole at the General Provincial Court in Patuxent County, Maryland on September 22nd, 1656. Since the case hinged on whether she had been pregnant, an all-female jury was assembled -&nbsp;the first in colonial America.Seven married women and four single women physically examined her - and found her not guilty of the crimes.&nbsp;Which were pretty obviously B.S.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly uncover the first and only instance of men being excluded from a jury in England; consider the views of the New York judge in the 1920s, who warned of fainting fits and emotional outbursts if women were permitted as potential jurors; and ask whether men or women are more likely to be swayed by sexy witnesses...Further Reading:• ‘Judith Catchpole Trial: 1656’ ( <a href="
22/09/202210 minutes 20 seconds
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The Birth of Mexican Wrestling

El Santo, masks, spandex suits... all were yet to be conceived when Salvador Lutteroth González launched Mexico's first ever national pro wrestling promotion, on 21st September 1933.‘Lucha Libre’ - basically translated as ‘freestyle wrestling’ - has its roots in folklore, carnival sideshows and Greco-Roman traditions; but it was only after matches began to be televised in the 1950s that the events truly took flight.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider the authenticity of this scripted sport; reveal the surprising source of production finances that enabled the expansion of the promotion; and discuss the luchador who doesn’t even fight, except in union disputes…Further Reading:• ‘The Marvel of Mexican Wrestling: A Brief History’ (The Daily Iowan, 2021):
21/09/202210 minutes 35 seconds
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First Cannes Film Festival

There was no red carpet, no Palme d’Or, and no Palais des Festivals - but Hollywood nonetheless descended on the French Riviera for the opening of the first Cannes Film Festival on 20th September, 1946.&nbsp;It was actually the second time the event had been attempted - the first, in September 1939, was interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how the competition was conceived as a rebuke to fascist propaganda scooping top prizes at the world’s first film festival, Venice;&nbsp;reveal why Hitchcock’s ‘Notorious’ never stood a chance after its disastrous debut screening; and consider the ‘Raoul!’ meme that has persisted at Cannes festivals for more than fifty years…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Cannes Film Festival: See Vintage Photos of the First-Ever Fest’ (Time, 2015): <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blan
20/09/202210 minutes 12 seconds
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Let’s Illuminate Blackpool

Powered by steam engines, and positioned on 60ft poles along the seafront, the Blackpool illuminations were first shown to adoring public on 19th September, 1879.70,000 people came to see eight arc lamps, positioned 320 yards apart. Between them they provided illumination equal to 48,000 candles: an incredible spectacle considering it would still be another year before Thomas Edison patented the modern commercial lightbulb.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly recall some of the weirder celebrities who have been roped into performing the iconic switching-on ceremony in the Lancashire town; reveal the connection between the Walt Disney Company and this Northern institution; and explain how the resort initially developed its three piers to segregate the middle-classes from the ‘Kiss Me Quick’ day-trippers…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Blackpool Illuminations celebrates its centenary’ (The Guardian, 2012): <a href="https://ww
19/09/202210 minutes 34 seconds
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Dubbing Gerry Adams

The ‘broadcasting ban’ on 11 Northern Irish organizations including Sinn Fein was finally lifted by Prime Minister John Major on 16th September, 1994, one fortnight after an IRA ceasefire had been achieved.The regulations, implemented six years earlier by Margaret Thatcher and her Home Secretary Douglas Hurd, prevented British TV networks from broadcasting interviews with Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, lest they drum up sympathy for Republicanist terrorism. So the broadcasters found a workaround: they employed voice actors to dub over the interviews.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly re-examine some of the absurd circumstances in which the ban was implemented and avoided; consider the pushback to the policy from the Labour party and miffed BBC staffers; and explain how the ban played into Cuba’s hands…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Northern Ireland, the BBC, and Censorship in Thatcher's Britain By Robert J. Savage’ (Oxford
16/09/202210 minutes 31 seconds
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Rebirth of the MINI

Rerun. BMW unveiled its redesigned MINI for the first time, on 15th September, 1997; the eve of the Frankfurt Motor Show. Its predecessor had been in production for 41 years.Reborn as a ‘city’ car, rather than a micro compact, and with Union flags painted on its roof, this was the moment the iconic brand became seen as cheeky, sporty and British - but not, actually, especially small.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how the MINI has its roots in the Suez Crisis; ask why the similar VW Beetle reboot was discontinued in 2019; and reveal how many people can officially squeeze into a ‘new’ Mini...Further Reading:• ‘ROVER SHOWS NEW MINI; LAUNCH IS 2000’ (Automotive News Europe, 1997):
15/09/202210 minutes 4 seconds
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Moscow Shoots For The Moon

The USSR pulled ahead in the Space Race on 14th September, 1959 - when they became the first nation to successfully crash a man-made object into the Moon.Luna II was carrying a metal sphere bearing Soviet symbols, a replica of which was pettily presented to President Eisenhower by a jubilant Nikita Khrushchev.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly reveal how Nixon and Kennedy then went on to frame - and win - the ‘Space Race’; examine the ‘love-hate’ relationship British astronomer Bernard Lovell had with the Luna project; and uncover the ultimate punishment the Americans administered to Khrushchev on his Stateside tour…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘The sixtieth anniversary of the first human created object to land on the Moon, Luna 2’ (British Library, 2019): <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_
14/09/202210 minutes 27 seconds
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The Man With The Hole In His Head

Phineas Gage, a foreman on the New England railroads, was pierced through the head with a 13-pound tamping iron on 13th September, 1848. The rod went straight through his skull and landed several yards away.Despite this, Gage was able to present himself at a physician, and anticipated being back at work in a couple of days. In reality, his convalescence was long and difficult, and Dr John Martyn Harlow claimed Gage’s personality had undergone permanent change - an observation which made him perhaps the most notorious case study in neuroscience.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly question Dr Harlow’s account; discuss the surgery that saved Gage’s life; and explain how the 2007 discovery of a photograph portraying him holding a ‘harpoon’ has changed how he is perceived forever…&nbsp;Content Warning: injury, gore.Further Reading:• ‘Phineas Gage and the effect of an iron bar through the head on person
13/09/202210 minutes 34 seconds
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Meet The Monkees

NBC premiered ‘Royal Flush’ - the pilot episode of iconic Sixties pop-comedy show The Monkees - on 12th September, 1966. And the Daydream Believers quickly found their way into America’s heart…The Beatles-a-like actors had never met or worked with each other ever before answering an ad seeking ‘four insane boys, aged 18-21’, placed by‘Five Easy Pieces’ producer Bob Rafelson.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why each episode of the sitcom ended with a fourth wall-breaking discussion between the boys; explore how credible songwriters like Carole King and Neil Diamond ended up working on their singles; and discover why, despite the boyband’s enormous success, the series was cancelled in its second season…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘The Untold Truth Of The Monkees’ (Grunge, 2019): https://www.grun
12/09/202210 minutes 36 seconds
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Let's Crash Some Trains

High-speed collisions between locomotives became mainstream entertainment on 9th September, 1896, when Joe Connolly - AKA “Head-On Joe” - staged the first of the 70 deliberate trainwrecks with which he entered the record books.The trend lasted until the 1930s and attracted tens of thousands of spectators to state fairs across the United States. The events were responsible for maiming and even killing some witnesses - but this did nothing to affect their popularity.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly pore over the wreck of Texas’s notorious ‘Crash at Crush’; explain how the Depression ultimately killed off the spectacle forever; and tot up Head-On Joe’s Iowan Box Office receipts…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘For 40 Years, Crashing Trains Was One of America’s Favorite Pastimes’ (Atlas Obscura, 2019): https://www.atlasobs
09/09/202210 minutes 26 seconds
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The First Miss America

Margaret Gorman, a schoolgirl from Washington DC, was crowned ‘Miss Intercity Beauty’ at the “Fall Frolic” in Atlantic City on 8th September, 1921 - an event that would eventually become known as Miss America, and watched by 75% of American households.She and her fellow competitors took part in an early incarnation of the swimsuit round (complete with woollen leggings), making their grand entrance on a barge, headed up by ‘Neptune’ (played by the octogenarian inventor of smokeless gun powder. Of course.)&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly revisit the controversy that saw early favourite Virginia Lee kicked out on day one; consider the appeal of the ‘rolling chair parade’; and address the intrinsic Madonna/Whore complex at the heart of this iconic beauty pageant…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Margaret Gorman won first Miss America pageant amid scandal’ (The Washington Post, 2021): <a href="
08/09/202210 minutes 28 seconds
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The Umbrella Assassin

Rerun. Bulgarian writer Georgi Markov was shot by a poisoned pellet whilst walking on Waterloo Bridge on 7th September, 1978. Four days later, he was dead.He believed the bullet - believed to be filled with ricin - had emanated from the umbrella of a Soviet secret agent. The British press labelled his assasination the ‘Poison Brolly Riddle’.In this episode, Olly, Rebecca and Arion explain how Markov was initially disbelieved by doctors; reveal the mysterious involvement of a pig in the Porton Down investigation; and ask whether poisoning is really as efficient a method of murder as it seems...Further Reading:‘The poison-tipped umbrella: the death of Georgi Markov in 1978’ (The Guardian, 2020):‘The umbrella murder mystery’ (The Oldie):
07/09/20229 minutes 14 seconds
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Up The Royal Oak

Charles II, the 21 year-old King of Scotland, sought refuge up an oak tree at Boscobel House on 6th September, 1651. Having been chased out of Worcester by Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads, he feared for his life, and was disguised as a working class woodsman.The escape was much re-told upon his restoration to the throne, and highly romanticised; being committed to poetry by Cowley, prose by Peyps - and inspiring hundreds of English pubs to name themselves ‘The Royal Oak’.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly reveal that Charles was NOT alone up that tree all day; consider the culinary difference between 17th century posset and British Airways posset; and explore the ways English Heritage have managed to monetise this iconic moment of the English Civil War…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Charles II Hides in the Boscobel Oak’ (History Today, 2001): <a href="
06/09/202210 minutes 23 seconds
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Bring On The Beard Tax

Peter The Great levied a tax on facial hair on 5th September, 1698, requiring every man in Moscow to shave or stump up some cash - although there were exemptions for the Orthodox Church.The hare-brained scheme occurred to the eccentric Peter on his expeditions through Europe, where he came to see clean chins as symbolic of progress and sophistication.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly uncover Peter’s other ‘European rules of comportment’; convert the costs of Peter’s taxes into the highly-relatable metric of ‘sturgeon from North’; and reveal how a similar tax was proposed in New Jersey as recently as 1907…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Russia: A Reference Guide from the Renaissance to the Present’ (Mauricio Borrero, 2009):
05/09/202210 minutes 18 seconds
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EXTRA: Can nuclear power overcome its image problem?

Our friends at The Week (where, fun fact, The Retrospectors met) have a great podcast we'd like to share with you for your Saturday listening pleasure.It's called The Overview, and it's the perfect accompaniment to our shows this week on the SOLAR APOCALYPSE and NUCLEAR DIPLOMACY - because it's about the future of nuclear power.As the world races to decarbonise, nuclear power is being touted as an essential energy source. But safety fears remain, along with claims that nuclear reactors are too expensive and too slow to build. So just what would it take to win over the nuclear sceptics?Presented by Julia O'Driscoll, with guests Richard Rhodes, author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb, and Douglas Parr, chief scientist and policy director at Greenpeace UK. Thanks to The Week's Kari Wilkin. Music and Sound Design by Rich Jarman. Produced by Rich Jarman for Rethink Audio.Follow The Overview to discover all episodes and get new ones as they drop
03/09/202223 minutes 3 seconds
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Solar Explosion!

The Carrington Event - the largest solar storm in recorded history - occurred on 2nd September, 1859. Although its effects would later be felt by millions around the world, it had initially only been spotted by one amateur, British astronomer: Richard Carrington.What he’d witnessed was a giant Coronal Mass Ejection - a significant release of plasma and accompanying magnetic field from the Sun's corona into the heliosphere. If repeated today, it could bring down satellites and cause city-wide blackouts across the globe.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly investigate the melting of telegraph lines; predict a cataclysmic future caused by CMEs; and pause to look at how beautiful it all is and how insignificant we all are…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘A Perfect Solar Superstorm: The 1859 Carrington Event’ (HISTORY, 2012): <a href="
02/09/202210 minutes 25 seconds
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Nokia’s Beloved Brick

Rerun. The Nokia 3310 - featuring Snake II, pop-on/off covers, and a discreetly concealed antenna - was launched on 1st September, 2000 at a boardsports event in Dusseldorf, Germany.Nicknamed ‘the brick’, the handset went on to shift 126 million units— more than 20 times as many as the first-generation iPhone.In this episode, Olly, Rebecca and Arion marvel at a time when only 50% of people in the US had a phone in their pockets; rack their brains to recall the OTHER games that were bundled on the handset alongside Snake II; and wonder if the nostalgia for this phone says more about the gadget itself, or the era it represents…Further Reading:• ‘The Indestructible Phone’ (LGR, 2017):• Nokia’s press release for the launch (2000). Which doesn’t mention the phone at all: <a
01/09/20229 minutes 49 seconds
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Gorilla Marketing

Cadbury’s Dairy Milk re-energised its flagging brand in the UK on 31st August, 2007, when its iconic ‘Gorilla’ ad premiered in the Big Brother final on Channel 4.The 90-second commercial, which featured a gorilla drumming along to Phil Collins’ ‘In The Air Tonight’, was an instant hit on YouTube (a novelty back in 2007), and turned around sales for the chocolate company after a series of PR misfires and a salmonella scare.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how the ad’s concept was reverse-engineered into a Cadbury’s marketing brief; reveal how the gorilla suit was recycled from the costume cupboard of a famous Hollywood thriller; and unpick how the spot’s phenomenal success became something of an albatross for the team behind it…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘How Cadbury's advertising stepped out of the shadow of Gorilla’ (Contagious, 2020):<a href="
31/08/202210 minutes 33 seconds
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The Moscow-Washington Hotline

After the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Soviets and Americans agreed to install a ‘hot line’ between their Presidents. On 30th August, 1963, a 10,000 mile transatlantic Washington-Moscow cable went live from the Pentagon to Red Square.In the public imagination (in part thanks to Kubrik’s ‘Dr Strangelove’), it remains a red telephone - but it is, in fact, a pair of beige teletype machines that each required ten staff to operate.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why, prior to this, diplomacy was often being skipped altogether in favour of inflammatory radio broadcasts; consider what the messages the two nations send each other can tell us about their cultural differences; and marvel at just how much geopolitics hinges on whether two particular world leaders like each other…&nbsp;Further Reading:• 'Hot line' between Washington and Moscow to be opened’ (The Guardian, 1963): <a href="
30/08/202210 minutes 33 seconds
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When Caesar Invaded Britain

When Julius Caesar showed up in the Channel with thousands of men on 26th August 55 BC, he doubtless intended to get a bit further than the coast of Kent. Unfortunately for him, he had moored his ships where they could be pelted from the cliffs, and the Gaulish chief he sent in advance had been imprisoned.Nonetheless, he reported back to Rome that his British adventure had been enormously worthwhile - as he had traveled to the very edges of the known world - and had another, marginally more successful, pop at it just one year later.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly dig into Caesar's own confessions of ignorance about the British people and lands; consider how we Brits were already more familiar with Roman culture than vice-versa; and explain how Caesar’s adventures, though ultimately unsuccessful, may well have inspired the later Roman takeovers…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘The Roman Invasions of Britain’ (University of War
26/08/202210 minutes 14 seconds
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The Beatles’ Giggling Guru

Rerun. John, Paul, George and Ringo travelled to a transcendental meditation workshop in Bangor, Wales on 25th August, 1967 - at the invitation of ‘giggling guru’, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.The event changed everything for The Fab Four - influencing their music, their philosophy, and ultimately contributing to the end of the band.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly question whether the retreat lead them to give up LSD; reveal how Ringo, frankly, never really seemed to be in to it; and uncover the Maharishi’s later plans for a Yogic amusement park...Further Reading:• ‘Lennon was right. The Giggling Guru was a shameless old fraud’ (Daily Mail, 2008): <a href=",teach%20them%20to%20defy%20gravity%20by%20%22yogic%20flying%22" rel="noopener noreferrer"
25/08/20229 minutes 33 seconds
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The Last Hieroglyph

In the temple at Philae, an Egyptian Priest called Nesmeterakhem created the last ever known hieroglyphic inscription on 24th August, 394. Although ostensibly praising the God Mandulis, the scribe spent just as long commemorating his own presence - and the names of his Mum and Dad.For centuries, Western academics assumed his words might be more mysterious and spiritual than the somewhat prosaic reality - because, until the discovery of the Rosetta Stone in 1799, there was no accurate way to read them.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why hieroglyphs were written for centuries, even as ever-diminishing numbers of people could understand them; reveal ‘how to entertain a bored Pharoah’; and track down the earliest known example of dick graffiti…&nbsp;&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘The Great Pyramid Was Not Built by Slave (+ 9 Other Surprising Facts About Ancient Egypt)’ (HistoryExtra, 2016): <a href="
24/08/202210 minutes 41 seconds
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The ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ Robbery

Stockholm Syndrome - the condition in which hostages develop a psychological bond with their captors during captivity - was named after a bank robbery that began on 23rd August, 1973. It lasted for five days, with 73% of the Swedish public tuning in to watch it.&nbsp;&nbsp;The robber was Jan-Erik Olsson, who pulled a loaded submachine gun, fired at the ceiling and, disguising his voice to sound like an American, cried out in English, “The party has just begun!”.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly unpick how Olsson endeared himself to his hostages; consider what criminologists detected that inspired them to create a new ‘syndrome’; and explain how the story ended in a Thai supermarket…Further Reading:‘The Real Bank Robbery That Gave the World Stockholm Syndrome’ (Time, 2020):
23/08/202210 minutes 30 seconds
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Balloons With Bombs On

The world’s first notable air raid occurred on 22nd August, 1849, when the Austrian Army attacked Venice using a fleet of 200 miniature hot air balloons, each delivering a 33lb pound bomb.&nbsp;Following a disastrous first attempt - when the balloons blew back on to their own men - this time the Austrians equipped each balloon with a long copper wire to trigger the detonation.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly weigh up if the event had a decisive effect on their recapture of the Italian city; consider the psychological impact of attacking from the skies; and reveal why a ‘drone’ is called a drone…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Bombs over Venice’ (History Today, 1958):• ‘Drones in Society’ by Ron Bartsch, James Coyne and Katherine Gray (Taylor &amp; Fr
22/08/20229 minutes 19 seconds
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The Whole Truth

Court witnesses have promised to tell ‘the whole truth’ since the 13th century; but, on 19th August, 1992, the U.S. Appeals Court permitted Wallace Ward to stand trial under his own oath - pledging not ‘truth’, but ‘fully integrated honesty’.Ward, the president of a Nevada-based mail order company, had coined the phrase himself when he devised Neothink, a cultish belief system structured around charging hundreds of dollars for self-help advice.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly weigh up whether Ward’s bizarre convictions really were equivalent to religious faith; trace back the origins of oath-taking in English-speaking courtrooms; and uncover the surprising history of raising your hand when swearing to tell the truth…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘United States of America, Plaintiff-appellee, v. Wallace Ward, Defendant-appellant, 973 F.2d 730 (9th Cir. 1992)’ (Justia): <a href="
19/08/202210 minutes 34 seconds
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The First TV Weather Report

Rerun. A weather map was first broadcast on TV on 18th August, 1926 - but there were no fancy graphics, no on-screen forecaster, and only one intended recipient: the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Washington, DC.In the UK, the Met Office had been producing weather forecasts since 1861, but the BBC didn’t bring a ‘weatherman’ to British screens until 1954.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain Charles Darwin’s connection to weather-forecasting; review the first weather forecast on NBC’s Today programme, and reveal exactly how much time the Brits spend discussing the weather…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Weather forecast facts: the first forecast in Britain, the birth of the Met Office and the first TV weatherman’ (HistoryExtra, 2018): https://www.histor
18/08/202210 minutes 9 seconds
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Party at the Palace

Louis XIV was among the V.I.P. guests at Nicolas Fouquet’s lavish houseparty on 17th August, 1661 - and was supposedly so consumed with jealousy that he had Fouquet arrested for treason.Although not entirely true, the story adds to the mystique of Vaux-le-Vicomte, the opulent chateau Fouquet created with the design team who later went on to reimagine Versailles.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how Molière, d'Artagnan, and even the Man in the Iron Mask became tied up in this iconic event; consider how Fouquet constructed his extraordinary castle in just three years; and reveal the impressive contents of his guests’ Party Bags…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Vaux-le-Vicomte Book: Inside The Lavish Home That Inspired Versailles’ (Bloomberg, 2021): http
17/08/202210 minutes 26 seconds
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The Deadly Air Race

Aviation in the 1920s could be a lethal business, as proven on 16th August 1927, when only 2 of the 15 planes that entered The Dole Derby - a $35,000 contest to fly from California to Hawaii - successfully reached their destination.&nbsp;The brainchild of pineapple magnate James D. Dole, the competition inspired the public imagination - and a crowd of 100,000 people - but claimed the lives of TEN participants.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider the inefficient and dangerous aeronautics of the time; explain how winning team Woolaroc were able to distinguish themselves ahead of the pack; and reveal how the modern-day Dole company have distanced themselves from such provocative promotions…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Fifteen Planes Enter, Two Planes Leave - The Deadly Dole Air Race’ (Atlas Obscura, 2011): <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target=
16/08/202210 minutes 29 seconds
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America's Nazi Summer Camps

Camp Siegfried hosted a ‘Nazi Camp Fete’ for 40,000 attendees on 15th August, 1938. The Summer resort, on Yaphank, Long Island, was the epicentre of the German-American Bund: an organisation devoted to establishing a Nazi stronghold across the United States.&nbsp;Alongside campfire building and swimming lessons, young attendees were taught to emulate the Hitler Youth and host mini Nuremberg-style rallies.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how delegates were trained to anticipate a Nazi coup of the USA; consider why all the key players in the movement escaped serious criminal prosecution, even after the Second World War; and why events such as these were so casually reported, even in the New York Times…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘New York's 1930s Nazi Summer Camp’ (Ripley’s, 2016):
15/08/202210 minutes 35 seconds
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The Bodies Buried at Bedlam

When 42 bodies buried near Liverpool Street Station in London were dug up as part of the works on Crossrail on 12th August, 2015, they were thought to be victims of the Great Plague of 1665. The incident shone a light on the cemetery in which they were buried - a pauper’s grave at Bethlem Hospital; the institution more commonly known as ‘Bedlam’.From its establishment in 1247, Bedlam ‘lunatic asylum’ quickly gained a reputation as a place that was pioneering - it was the only mental health facility in Britain - and fearsome, a place of stigma and spectacle. The public could pay to tour the facility and have pisspots thrown at them.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly reveal how the abuses perpetrated at Bedlam still have echoes in modern-day surgery; look back at the first formal inspection of the premises; and consider why ‘Bedlam’ has become so resonant in literature from Shakespeare to Dickens…&nbsp;CONTENT WARNING: description of unsanita
12/08/202210 minutes 30 seconds
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The Long Count

Rerun. The 7,885 year-long calendar that the Mayan people used to measure long stretches of time, ‘The Long Count’, began on 11th August, 3114 B.C.The combination of a Haabʼ and a Tzolkʼin date identifies a day in a combination which does not occur again for 18,980 days (52 Haabʼ cycles of 365 days equals 73 Tzolkʼin cycles of 260 days, approximately 52 years), a period known as the Calendar Round. ARE YOU KEEPING UP.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly discover the rules of ‘Mayan Space Jam’; explain why people thought the world might end in 2012; and call into question the whole diary system on which their beloved podcast depends…Further Reading:• ‘Danger on the Court: The Deadly Ancient Mesoamerican Ball Game’ (Ancient Origins, 2020):
11/08/202210 minutes 28 seconds
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Hollywood’s Favourite Dog

Rin Tin Tin, the German Shepherd who starred in more than 27 Hollywood films, died on 10th August, 1932 at the age of 13. Radio stations around the country interrupted programming to announce his death and then broadcast an hour long tribute to him.&nbsp;Discovered in war-torn France by American corporal Lee Duncan, he was taken back to the USA and trained to be a stunt dog, but it was his emotional close-up work which wowed the critics. “Perhaps Rin Tin Tin belongs to that modern school of acting, which expresses everything in the face”, raved the LA Times.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly reveal why Rin Tin Tin was named in Duncan’s wife’s divorce filing; explain how he followed in the footsteps of previous canine movie star, Strongheart; and consider the logistics of exactly how he performed in the Rin Tin Tin radio show…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Excerpt: Rin Tin Tin by Susan Orlean’ (The New York Times, 2011
10/08/20229 minutes 58 seconds
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The Not-Yet Leaning Tower of Pisa

Construction began on a white marble bell tower for Pisa’s new Cathedral complex on 9th August, 1173. Little did the engineers working on the project know that their building would become famous all over the world, because of its principal flaw: it wasn’t straight.The Leaning Tower of Pisa is now one of Europe’s biggest tourist attractions, and perhaps the most monitored building in the world. Millions have been spent PRESERVING its famous lean, but for well over a century it was something that Pisans worked hard (and fruitlessly) to straighten.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how the warning signs were always there, in the city’s history and other architecture; reveal how Mussolini very nearly ruined one of the world’s most perfectly imperfect landmarks; and ask if it’s really so surprising that the original architect’s name has been lost to history…&nbsp;Further Reading:&nbsp;• ‘Why does the Leaning Tower of
09/08/202210 minutes 29 seconds
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When The Beatles Crossed The Road

Abbey Road was a street known only to North Londoners until The Beatles posed on the zebra crossing outside EMI Studios on 8th August, 1969. Photographer Iain MacMillan took just six snaps, one of which graced the front cover of their penultimate album, ‘Abbey Road’.The image became instantly iconic, partly due to the decision not to name the band or the album on the front of LP. It even spurred a conspiracy theory that claimed that Paul McCartney was dead, and being played by a lookalike, attested to his by bare feet and the number plate on the vehicle behind him.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why the picture nearly didn’t happen in St John’s Wood at all, but in NEPAL; dive into the ‘Paul Is Dead’ conspiracy; and check out the live feed of hapless tourists approximating the picture…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Obituary: Iain MacMillan’ (The Independent, 2006): <a href="
08/08/202210 minutes 1 second
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The Girl in the Comic Strip

Little Orphan Annie, Harold Gray’s plucky heroine, made her newspaper debut on 5th August, 1924. The iconic comic strip then ran for an astonishing 86 years.Although now most associated with the saccharine musical it inspired, ‘Annie’ was MUCH edgier in comic form - gangsters and Nazis made an appearance, and Daddy Warbucks was so disappointed by the election of FDR that he DIED (briefly. Before being brought back to life).In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how, for millions of readers, comic strips once filled the role of soap operas; reveal how Gray plagiarized a popular poem for the name of his heroine; and tell how Ovaltine had a disproportionate influence on the plot-lines of Annie’s titular radio show…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Little Orphan Annie and Little Orphan Annie in Cosmic City by Harold Gray’ (Chicago Herald Tribune, 1926, 1933): <a href="
05/08/20229 minutes 53 seconds
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Dom Perignon Tastes the Stars

Rerun. Benedictine monk Dom Perignon is said to have discovered champagne on 4th August, 1693. 200 million bottles are now produced and sold every year.The sparkliness was originally considered a defect - because carbonated wine caused the fragile bottles of the era to burst. Until stronger glass was developed in the mid-19th century, mass-produced champagne was impossible to manufacture, so it gained a reputation as a high society tipple.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly examine the boredom of wine-tastings; explain how to make fake champagne; and reveal how the bombing of French vineyards, ironically, helped to save the industry...Further Reading:• ‘Dom Pérignon 'Drinks the Stars' (WIRED, 2009):• ‘6 things you can carbonate with your SodaStream’ (CNet, 2016
04/08/202210 minutes 25 seconds
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Storming the Sacred City

Sir Francis Younghusband’s band of British troops reached Lhasa on 3rd August, 1904. Along the way, they’d massacred thousands of bewildered Tibetans - but justified their incursion with the (false) claim that Russia had been manipulating Tibet to gain ground in British India.Despite the disastrous violence wrought by his men, Younghusband was considered by many back home as an explorer and adventurer - and, later, as a man of peace and friend of Gandhi.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly pore through Younghusband’s private letters to his father; try and explain the 18 pairs of boots and shoes he brought to the Himalayas; and consider his conversion to ‘mysticism’ following the flawed invasion he lead…Further Reading:• ‘Sir Francis Younghusband's 1903 Invasion Of Tibet’ (HistoryExtra, 2017):<a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="
03/08/202210 minutes 9 seconds
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Don't Mess With Jeanne

Olivier Clisson III was beheaded for treason on 2nd August, 1343 - an event which triggered his wife Jeanne to violently avenge his death for years: a brutal killing spree that earned her the nickname ‘The Lioness of Brittany’.Despite being a fortysomething mother of two, she fitted out three warships with black paint and red sails, and targeted defenseless French merchant ships with her fearsome ‘Black Fleet’.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly reveal how to storm a French castle - via the front door; tell how Jeanne changed gear for her last chapter, with an English husband and a chateau; and consider whether taking two young kids to see the beheaded corpse of their father is, um, questionable parenting…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘1343: Olivier III de Clisson, husband of the Lioness of Brittany’ (Executed Today, 2008): <a href="
02/08/202210 minutes 22 seconds
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Let's Do The Twist

Chubby Checker's "The Twist", the most popular single in the history of the Billboard Hot 100, was released on 1st August, 1960.It was just a cover version of a B-side which had already been released by its writer, Hank Ballard - but after it appeared on The Dick Clark Show, the world slowly became obsessed with the catchy tune and simple lyrics, and the suggestive dance that inspired it.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly tell the bizarre story of how Checker was selected to perform the version that sold millions of copies; revisit other 60’s dance crazes the turkey trot, bunny hug, and the grizzly bear; and explain how the song reached No.1 again two years later, thanks to a completely different audience getting hold of the trend…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘The Twist: A Worldwide Dance Craze in the 1960s’ (ThoughtCo, 2019): <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="
01/08/202210 minutes 25 seconds
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The Cult of Olaf

Viking King Olaf II Haraldsson was killed on 29th July, 1030, kicking off a campaign, led by an English clergyman, to declare him a Saint.The cult of Olaf continues in Norway still, with festivals, pilgrimages and prayers given in his honour - even though Olaf used extreme violence and suppression to force parts of the country to convert to Christianity.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly reveal the inner-workings of the medieval church’s PR machine; explain why ‘extreme violence’ and ‘missionary work’ are ever muttered in the same breath; and consider whether ‘Saint’ Olaf would in fact be best remembered by his contemporary suffices: Olaf ‘the Fat’ or Olaf ‘the law-breaker’...&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘St. Olaf’ (V&amp;A Museum of Childhood, 2014):• ‘Today is N
29/07/202210 minutes 6 seconds
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Fingerprints Go Legit

#throwbackthursday William James Herschel, a British colonial magistrate in India, first used fingerprints as a means of identification on 28th July, 1858 - not to catch a criminal, but to implement two-step verification on a contract.In Britain, the technology was first used to solve the theft of some billiard balls in 1902. These days, it’s been largely usurped by DNA, but remains a staple of the policing repertoire.In this episode, Rebecca, Arion and Olly consider whether ears might be better criminal identifiers than fingers; reveal the history of the mugshot; and explain why koalas are our secret hand doubles...&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Press Down Firmly, You're in Our Files Now’ (WIRED, 2011):• ‘The Blackburn child ki
28/07/20229 minutes 35 seconds
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Let's Go To Berni Inn

Famous for steaks, maroon banquettes, schooners of sherry and sexist advertising, family restaurant chain and ‘70s date night favourite Berni Inn first opened its doors at the historic Bristol pub The Rummer on 27th July, 1956.&nbsp;Founded by Frank and Aldo Berni, the American-inspired concept had a staggeringly simple menu, so that customers wouldn’t be intimidated and, more importantly, so that the kitchen could be operated by virtually anyone who could use a grill and a deep-fat fryer.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how the Berni brothers whipped up excitement for each new restaurant opening; reveal how their much-mocked menu actually introduced millions of patrons to some international staples; and highlight how the modern-day Beefeater pub chain still pays tribute to its Berni beginnings…Further Reading:• ‘Berni Inn Menu, 1973’ (RetroWow, 2022): <a href="
27/07/202210 minutes 21 seconds
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The Eccentric Outlaw

Charles E. Boles, otherwise known as ‘Black Bart’, was one of the Wild West’s most unlikely stagecoach robbers; being as he was a spiffy and quietly-spoken former teacher from Norfolk. But on 26th July, 1875 he made his name by robbing his first coach - without a gun.He targeted only Wells Fargo coaches, and never killed a passenger. As his crime career progressed, he made a habit of leaving behind little poems, signed ‘PO8’.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly unpick the private investigation that led to his downfall; explain why he always *walked* away from the scene of the crime; and reveal why Boles was ‘the Forrest Gump of the 1800s’...Further Reading:• ‘The Poetic Tale of Literary Outlaw Black Bart’ (Smithsonian Magazine):
26/07/202210 minutes 33 seconds
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When Mao Went Swimming

Chairman Mao Zedong swam in the Yangtze River on 25th July, 1966. Despite being in his Seventies, the leader was said by party propagandists (and hence every newspaper in China) to have set a world-record pace of nearly 15 km in 65 min.&nbsp;This piece of political theatre showed the world that the public face of the Chinese Communist party was in robust physical shape (despite reports in the West to the contrary), and reset Mao’s image in China after his disastrous ‘Great Leap Forward’ had claimed the lives of millions of people.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly unpick the symbolism of this iconic event; explain how Mao leveraged the publicity to reconsolidate his power; and reveal what Mao got VERY wrong about sparrows…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘The Chairman's Historic Swim’ (TIME, 1999): http:/
25/07/202210 minutes 7 seconds
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When Longbows Defeated Scotland

William ‘Braveheart’ Wallace was defeated by fearsome English archers at the Battle of Falkirk on 22nd July, 1298; when Edward I’s army first used longbows against their Scottish adversaries, with devastating effect.Despite Wallace’s men deploying their famous ‘schiltron’ formation - whereby foot soldiers packed together to form a bristly spear-wall - the arrows the English volleyed back rained down at an awesome rate of ten per minute, per bow.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why even the clergy of the era were keen on longbow-training; consider the advantage of bows over guns for hunting purposes; and reveal why, despite this victory, it took 200 years for the English to fall back in love with archery again…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Bowmen of England by Donald Featherstone’ (Pen and Sword Books, 2011): <a href=";gbpv=1&amp;dq=
22/07/202210 minutes 21 seconds
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The Outing of Milli Vanilli

German pop duo Milli Vanilli sold 33 million singles, including three US number ones, but harboured a shameful secret: their vocals were sung by someone else. At a promotional gig in Connecticut on 21st July, 1989, their backing track crashed - and speculation began to mount.“I knew right then and there, it was the beginning of the end for Milli Vanilli,” ‘singer’ Rob Pilatus admitted to the Los Angeles Times in November 1990. “When my voice got stuck in the computer and it just kept repeating and repeating, I panicked. I just ran off the stage.″In this episode, Olly, Rebecca and Arion reveal how impresario Frank Farian created the band from his Boney M template; ask whether the young men fronting the project took a disproportionate amount of the flack from the public; and consider if ‘Girl You Know It’s True’ might just be the most popular pop song ever to have a spoken word intro…&nbsp;Further Reading:
21/07/202210 minutes 23 seconds
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The Gymnast with the Shattered Kneecap

Shun Fujimoto scored 9.5 on the pommel horse and 9.7 on the rings at the Montreal Olympics on 20th August, 1976 - despite having a badly damaged kneecap, having landed catastrophically during a tumbling run.That should, by rights, have ended his and his team's medal hopes - but he decided not to tell his coach or fellow competitors about the injury, and carried on with his routines. As a result of his endurance and persistence, Japan won Gold.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly ask whether Fujimoto’s remarkable resilience had any cultural antecedent in Japanese traditions of self-sacrifice; explain how his regrets may still be influencing contemporary Olympians; and consider whether gymnastic judging criteria should take more account of grimacing…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘FUJIMOTO Shun: The price of gold’ ( <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target
20/07/202210 minutes 30 seconds
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When Paris Went Underground

The Paris Metro, engineered by Fulgence Bienvenüe and inaugurated on 19th July, 1900, was far from a world first: London, Budapest and Vienna had all beaten France in the race to create the next generation of subterranean trains.&nbsp;However, this didn’t stop Parisian anxiety about their new subway. Would the electric lines kill innocent travellers? Would being so close to sewers expose commuters to disease? Would the Metropolitan become a ‘Necropolitan’ - a DEATH LINE?In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider the rival proposals for aerial rail systems that could have been built instead; explain why it is that you can get phone signal on the Metro, but not the Underground; and explain why classic calligraphy of the station signs was not widely appreciated at the time…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Secrets of The Paris Metro’ (The New York Times, 2000): <a href="
19/07/202210 minutes 22 seconds
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Making Voting Secret

Before the Ballot Act of 18th July, 1872, the British electorate were expected to declare their preferred candidate publicly at hustings, often under pressure from their employers and landlords, and plied with alcohol supplied by the politicians standing for election, in a process known as ‘soaking’.Over the years, alternatives had been put forward - including Jeremy Bentham’s concept of 1818, which involved a multitude of secret boxes with viewing windows - before the modern idea of private booths and a ballot box came to the fore.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and OIly explain why many voters saw secret ballots as sneaky and cowardly; explain how Australia beat Britain when it came to instituting voting in secret; and discover the teething problems experienced when Pontefract became the first town to test out the new process…Further Reading:• ‘Britain's first secret ballot’ (BBC News, 2015): <a href="
18/07/202210 minutes 8 seconds
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RetroRecommends: We Didn't Start The Fire

Happy Saturday to you. We have another brilliant show to share with you for some relaxed, longer, weekend listening.&nbsp;It’s another history podcast - it’s called We Didn’t Start The Fire, it’s high concept which we LOVE. And yes it’s based on the Billy Joel song.&nbsp;Billy is the guide through the most original, fascinating and random way to explore the history of the post-war world. Just like us, they jump from subject to subject: one week they’re talking about Eisenhower, the next week it’s the polio vaccine - all explored and explained by eyewitnesses, mega-fans and experts. They’ve even had Billy Joel himself on.And we'll see you on Monday! Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
16/07/202242 minutes 28 seconds
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Gaddafi's Favourite Redneck

Billy Carter, the beer-guzzling brother of President Jimmy Carter, became a serious headache for the White House when he was required to register as a foreign agent on 15th July, 1980, due to his dealings in Libya.Taking two large ‘loans’ from Gadaffi’s regime, viewed by the USA as a terrorist state, was perhaps Billy’s most controversial moment while his brother was in office - but not necessarily the most embarrassing…&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly investigate the ‘wit and wisdom’ Billy published for his fanbase; reveal the hard alcoholism that lurked behind much of his behaviour; and recall the appalling advertising campaign with which he attempted to turn around this very bad publicity…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Billy Carter Files as Foreign Agent’ (The Washington Post, 1980): <a href="
15/07/202210 minutes 21 seconds
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The Spock Generation

#throwbackthursday Dr Benjamin Spock’s ‘Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care’ was first published on 14th July, 1946. It was then translated into 40 languages, selling over 50 million copies - second only to the Bible in the USA.Spock’s thesis is perhaps best summarised in its seminal opening sentence: ‘Trust yourself, you know more than you think you do’. This intuitive approach was a shock to the world of parental guidance: just 18 years prior, psychologist John B Watson had recommended that children should be treated as adults.&nbsp;In this episode, Rebecca, Arion and Olly revisit the radically different 1916 tome ‘The Mother and Her Baby’; explain how Spock’s trusting instincts were a mainstay of his&nbsp; career; and consider whether Gene Rodenberry’s preference for strong-sounding names REALLY explains how ‘Spock’ became a character on Star Trek...Further Reading:• ‘The Pied Piper Of Permissivism’ (The Guardian, 1962
14/07/20229 minutes 44 seconds
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When New York Went Dark

The massive blackout across New York City that began at 9:30pm on 13th July, 1977 lasted for a little over a day. Yet, during that time, arsonists set over 1,000 fires and looters ransacked 1,600 stores.It was the climax of a dark chapter for NYC, which at this time had an enormous financial deficit, was regarded as sleazy and dangerous, and had laid off hundreds of public service workers. But it also led to the spread of hip-hop. Perhaps.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly recall the baseball game that was postponed for four months when the lights went out; investigate the murder that happened during the blackout; and reveal Doris Day’s role in the perception of the crimewave…Further Reading:• ‘THE BLACKOUT: NIGHT OF TERROR’ (TIME, 1977):,33009,919089
13/07/202210 minutes 31 seconds
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The Many Wives of Joseph Smith

Mormons were told to embrace polygamy on 12th July, 1843 - when the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, Joseph Smith, said a revelation had told him he must marry multiple women to continue serving God.It was a controversial change to the faith, meeting resistance not only from Smith’s first wife, but from other patriarchs in the Church. Nevertheless, Smith went on to have at least 40 wives, at least 7 of whom were under the age of 18.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider whether the ‘sealing’ marriages advocated by Smith were sexual in nature; review the various euphemisms for polygamy in circulation at the time, including ‘spiritual wifery’; and explain why, even though the Church officially ended the policy in 1890, it continues to haunt them to this day…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘The Mormon church finally acknowledges founder Joseph Smith’s polygamy’ (The Washington Post, 2014): <a href="https://www.washing
12/07/202210 minutes 20 seconds
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Zheng He's Treasure Odyssey

China’s greatest naval explorer, Zheng He, set sail on the first of seven epic voyages on 11th July, 1405. He led a fleet of 255 ships, with an estimated 28,000 people on board.A eunuch, and a Muslim, he had risen through the ranks to become a right-hand man of the Emperor, and his prowess at sea vastly bettered the likes of his European contemporaries Christopher Columbus and Marco Polo.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly ask whether reports of his size and stature were nonetheless exaggerated; consider why, for many years prior to this, China had limited exploration by sea; and explain why, despite his incredible success, bureaucrats then tried to purge He’s name from the records…Further Reading:• ‘Biography of Zheng He, Chinese Admiral’ (ThoughtCo, 2019):
11/07/202210 minutes 29 seconds
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RetroRecommends: My Time Capsule

For your weekend listening pleasure, The Retrospectors recommends this week My Time Capsule.This is the show&nbsp;that asks it’s guests to choose five things to put in a Time Capsule. They can choose anything from an item, to a memory, a film or even a country. Four of them are things they want to preserve but one is something they want to bury in the ground and never have to think about again.Their guests have included Stephen Fry, David Mitchell, Caroline Quentin, Ross Noble, Lee Mack, Arabella Weir, Rob Brydon, Dara Ó Briain, Shappi Khorsandi and Barry Cryer.It’s hosted by the actor and comedian, Mike Fenton Stevens from such shows as Nighty Night, Only Fool and Horses, The Crown, Not Going Out and soon to be in&nbsp;the BBC’s Ghosts and Armando Iannucci's Avenue 5 with Hugh Laurie on HBO.My Time Capsule is consistently in the top 15 of the Apple Comedy Interviews chart and was recently The Times podcast of the week.In this e
09/07/20221 hour 3 minutes 37 seconds
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Shelley: Goth, Genius, Infidel

Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley drowned off the coast of Tuscany on 8th July, 1822. His wife, Mary Shelley, waited an agonizing ten days to discover news of the dramatic shipwreck.Announcing the news of the atheist’s death, conservative London newspaper The Courier reported, “Shelley, the writer of some infidel poetry, has been drowned. Now he knows whether or not there is a God.”&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly revisit the ‘Shelleybaits’ his contemporaries at Eton would bully him with; reveal the complex love triangle between Shelley, Mary’s sister Claire, and their infamous friend Lord Byron; and explain how, for two centuries now, Shelley’s death has been exaggerated and sentimentalized…Further Reading:• ‘Mysterious Drownings’ (History Today, 2012):
08/07/202210 minutes 8 seconds
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Three Tenors, Zero Royalties

When Plácido Domingo, José Carreras and Luciano Pavarotti teamed up for their first joint performance on 7th July, 1990 in Rome, it was intended as a one-off collaboration to celebrate the FIFA World Cup.&nbsp;But the concert triggered instant worldwide fame for the trio, who became known as The Three Tenors, and their live recording became the biggest-selling classical album of all time.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider how, by mixing showtunes with opera, the Tenors created the ‘classical crossover’ genre that spawned Russell Watson, Il Divo and Katherine Jenkins; explain how Carreras’ recovery from leukemia was the reason for the concert coming together; and reveal how their iconic Nessun Dorma encore was nearly not included at all…Further Reading:• ‘TENORS, ANYONE? THE BIG THREE ARE MAKING A MINT, BUT THAT DOESN'T NECCESSARILY CORRUPT THEIR ART’ (The Washington Post, 1995): <a href="https://www.washingtonpost
07/07/202210 minutes 30 seconds
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The Best Thing Since Wrapped Bread

Rerun. Sliced bread had never been automated before Otto Rohwedder unveiled his “power-driven, multi-bladed bread slicer” at Chillicothe Baking Company on July 6, 1928 - after an astonishing SIXTEEN years of self-funded development.&nbsp;The Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune ran a front-page story in response - warning that consumers might find sliced bread “startling,” but that “the typical housewife could expect a thrill of pleasure when she first sees a loaf of this bread with each slice the exact counterpart of its fellows.”&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly trace the origins of this seismic event to the creation of the pop-up toaster in 1921; consider what it means to be ‘an itinerant jeweller’; and reveal the results of a survey of 30,000 housewives on optimum slice-width…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘The best thing since sliced bread’ (Jim Glynne, The Madera Tribune, 2018):<a href="http://www.made
06/07/20229 minutes 34 seconds
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Jeff Bezos and the Infinite Bookstore

Amazon, created in the Seattle garage of Jeff Bezos, was incorporated on 5th July, 1994.&nbsp;Before Bezos had settled on the site’s name as a way of conveying the size and scope of the e-commerce platform he intended to build, his working titles had included Cadabra, Relentless, Awake, Browse and Bookmall.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why Washington was chosen as the launch location for the company; reveal how Bezos was able to resell individual books from wholesalers without breaching any Ts &amp; Cs; and compare notes on their first-ever Amazon purchases…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Amazon Was Founded 25 Years Ago This Friday. Here's What the World Was Like When Jeff Bezos Incorporated the Company in 1994’ (Inc, 2019):
05/07/202210 minutes 19 seconds
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Here Comes The Hamburger

Who invented the hamburger? It’s almost impossible to know, given that mincemeat has been consumed all around the world, and for centuries - but Oscar Bilby, of Tulsa, Oklahoma is a strong contender.&nbsp;On 4th July, 1891, he grilled a beef patty, and - for the first time in documented history -&nbsp; PUT IT IN A BUN. And a Fourth of July tradition was born.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly trace the origins of the American burger back to 19th century sailors in New York; consider the claim to fame of rival ‘Hamburger Charlie’ (Charlie Nagreen of Seymour, Wisconsin); and recall the short-lived attempt by the American War effort to rid the hamburger of its German heritage…Further Reading:• ‘Where Hamburgers Began—and How They Became an Iconic American Food’ (HISTORY, 2014): https:/
04/07/202210 minutes 26 seconds
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The Jeep and World War II: From Car Show!

We’re shaking things up today and sharing a preview from Car Show!, a new podcast from our friends at Pushkin Industries. Longtime Car and Driver editor Eddie Alterman tells the stories of the vital cars — the ones that have changed how we drive and live, whose significance lies outside the scope of horsepower or miles per gallon. In this episode, Eddie talks about the military background of the Jeep, a vehicle made for the battlefields of World War II, and its lasting popularity in America decades after the war. You can listen to the full episode and more from Car Show! at Hosted on Acast. See for more information.
02/07/20227 minutes 38 seconds
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The Last White Rajah

The British Empire gained a new colony on 1st July, 1946 - the kingdom of Sarawak. For over 100 years, it had been ruled as the personal fiefdom of a Devonshire family: the ‘White Rajahs’.‘Adventurer’ James Brooke had taken the territory in 1838, and then established a male, hierarchical, absolute monarchy in the country. His (increasingly eccentric) descendants enlarged the size of the country, but often spent more time in the UK than in their own nation.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly recall the investigation of whether Brooke was excessively brutal towards the native people; consider whether he really was shot in his nethers, as has often been reported; and reveal the curious reason why his son refused to allow his children to eat jam…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘The last of the White Rajahs: The extraordinary story of the Victorian adventurer who subjugated a vast swathe of Borneo’ (Mail Online, 2011): <a href="https:
01/07/202210 minutes 6 seconds
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In Case of Emergency, Call 999

The world’s first emergency number, 999, was launched in London on 30th June, 1937 - to a great deal of scepticism, and open laughter in the House of Commons.&nbsp;But when five women died in a house fire in 1935 - after a neighbour had attempted to call the fire brigade via the Operator - the public had begun to demand a quick, convenient way to summon the emergency services.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why 999 was chosen as the number to dial, even though 111 would have been easier, on a rotary dial in a smoke-filled room; reveal how humour was used to communicate the nature of the new service to the public at large; and discover which illustrious architect’s wife (supposedly) made the first ever call to the service…Further Reading:• ‘London's Forgotten Disasters: The Tragedy That Sparked The 999 Service’ (Londonist, 2015): <a href="
30/06/202210 minutes 21 seconds
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Let's Go Cruising

The first purpose-built cruise ship in history, the Prinzessin Victoria Luise, was launched by Albert Ballin’s Hamburg-America Line on 29th June, 1900.Luxuriously appointed, she was kitted out with entirely first-class cabins, a hotel-quality kitchen, and an innovative dark room - at the behest of the Kaiser himself.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly peruse the Menu passengers enjoyed; explain how an incident in Jamaica ended life for this historic ship; and recall how, despite Ballin’s innovations, it took many decades for his cruising concept to truly take root…&nbsp;CONTENT WARNING: suicideFurther Reading:• ‘The History of the World's First Cruise Ship Built Solely for Luxurious Travel’ (Smithsonian Magazine, 2021): https://www.smithson
29/06/20229 minutes 29 seconds
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Bonnie Prince Betty

When Jacobite heir Bonnie Prince Charlie made his escape from the British Army on 28th June, 1746, he did so in bizarre style - disguised in drag as Irish spinning-maid ‘Betty Burke’.With a £30,000 bounty on his head, Charles had to rely on the support of strangers - in this case 24 year-old Flora McDonald, who would later serve time in the Tower of London for having assisted him in the escape, memorably documented in the Skye Boat Song.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why Charles picked this moment to attempt to conquer England from the North; consider why he succeeded, in escaping despite the enormous bounty on his head and his very poor disguise; and ask whether Flora and Charlie’s relationship was entirely platonic…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘On this day 1746: Young Pretender escapes Benbecula’ (The Scotsman, 2017): <a href="
28/06/202210 minutes 34 seconds
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When Hugh Met Divine

It was the sex scandal of the year: British rom-com star Hugh Grant procuring the services of hitherto unknown L.A. streetwalker Divine Brown on Sunset Boulevard on 27th June, 1995.When their in-car liaison went public the following morning (following their arrest for lewd behaviour), Grant embarked upon what has become seen as a textbook ‘apology tour’, culminating in an appearance on The Tonight Show in which Jay Leno asked him the question on everybody’s lips: “What were you thinking?”.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why Brown originally thought Grant was a cop, and certainly not a celebrity; question the racial undertone to the press reaction to the incident; and recall how Grant’s appearance was pivotal in securing The Tonight Show’s place ahead of Letterman’s Late Show in the TV ratings for years to come…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Hugh Grant arrested with sex worker 20 years ago’ (The Guardian, 20
27/06/202210 minutes 33 seconds
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The Chicken of Tomorrow

With breast meat so chunky it could feed the whole family, and drumsticks so small you could carve straight past the bone, the ‘chicken of tomorrow’ envisaged by U.S. retailer A&amp;P inspired a national competition that reached its culmination on 24th June, 1948 - and changed the way that the world ate chicken forever.Entrants were submitted whilst still in egg form, hatched at specially built facilities, raised in controlled conditions and on a standard diet, tracked and monitored for weight gain, health and appearance. Then, after 12 weeks, the birds were slaughtered, weighed and judged for their edible meat yield.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how the success of the competition led to widespread use of antibiotics in poultry-rearing; gasp at the crowning of ‘Miss Chicken of Tomorrow’,&nbsp;Nancy McGee; and explain how the competition ultimately led to the eradication of over a thousand species…&nbsp;Further
24/06/202210 minutes 29 seconds
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Inventing The Typewriter

The Glidden-Sholes prototype for “the writing of ordinary communications with types instead of a pen” was granted a patent on 23rd June, 1868. It wasn’t the first typewriter, but it became the first to be mass-produced, and gave the world a new way to write things down.But it only typed out in uppercase, didn’t yet have a QWERTY keyboard, and users couldn't actually see what they were typing. It also looked like a sewing machine, having been developed in collaboration with sewing machine manufacturer Remington.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how it was not Glidden or Sholes, but actually investor James Densmore, who was most responsible for making it a hit; reveal what a ‘Japanning Finish’ is; and consider the role of Remington’s marketing department in creating the ‘typing pool’ and - therefore - a generation of jobs for women…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Improvement in Type-Writing Machines: Specification formin
23/06/202210 minutes 26 seconds
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Public Enemy Number One, Number One

John Dillinger, infamous 1930s gangster, jail breaker, bank robber and brawler, earned himself a new title on 22nd June, 1934 - when he became the FBI’s first ever ‘Public Enemy Number One’.The authorities were intent on disabusing Americans of their love affair with the ‘Robin Hood’-style gangsters as portrayed in the movies. But the new title didn’t dissuade Dillinger’s admirers from continuing to idolise his illegal pursuits.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly trace Dillinger’s career from teenage tearaway to the world’s most-hunted fugitive; explain how he used his preposterous ‘wooden gun’ to escape from one of the USA’s most ‘inescapable’ prisons; and reveal how, decades after his death, his relatives are still trying to claim his honour…&nbsp;Further Reading:• John Dillinger - Public Enemy No. 1 (ThoughtCo, 2020):<a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" t
22/06/202210 minutes 29 seconds
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Empire of the Sunglasses

Why are spectacles so expensive? The sheer scale of EssilorLuxottica, the world’s biggest maker of eyewear and lenses, might have something to do with it. On 21st September, 2007, they paid $2.1 billion for the last major designer brand they didn’t already own: Oakley.Their empire now includes Dolce and Gabbana, Versace, Burberry, Ralph Lauren, Tiffany, Persol, Ray-Ban and DKNY. But they don’t just make frames: they also own many opticians, including LensCrafters; a situation critics suggest has resulted in them effectively operating a price-fixing monopoly.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly revisit the feud between Luxottica’s billionaire founder Leonardo Del Vecchio and Oakley’s James Jannard; ask if luxury eyewear can be considered an ‘essential’ product; and explain why, the next time you buy a bottle of booze, you might have less choice than you think…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Leonardo Del Vecchio, the Italian
21/06/202210 minutes 19 seconds
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The Famous Painting Ape

Congo, pet chimp of science writer and TV personality Desmond Morris, was considered a novelty in the art world when his paintings were displayed in the 1950’s. But, on 20th June, 2005, three of his works went under the hammer at prestigious London auction house Bonham’s - and sold for £12,000.Morris - zoologist, surrealist and author of the bestselling science book The Naked Ape - had the perfect experience to support the monkey in his artistic career, and was rewarded when his chimp’s paintings were displayed at the ICA, lauded by Dali, and purchased by Prince Philip.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how Congo’s approach to art differentiated him from other primates; question whether Morris really was truly able to determine, as he claimed, that financial reward ruins artistic impulses; and reveal how Congo’s status as the world’s most advanced painting ape might soon be under threat…&nbsp;Further Reading:</str
20/06/202210 minutes 17 seconds
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Fancy Meeting You Here

When Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Wedel-Jarlsberg Nansen abandoned his epic, but failed, attempt to reach the North Pole, he was not expecting to hitch a ride home with a Brit.&nbsp;But, on 17th June, 1896, in the remote wilderness of Franz Joseph Land, he and colleague Hjalmar Johansen - replete with long shaggy beards and frozen mittens - bumped into English explorer Frederick Jackson, who was also in the Arctic thanks to funding from the Daily Mail.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how Nansen's ship, the Fram, pioneered pack-ice exploration; reveal the nasty fate of Nansen’s dogs; and marvel at the English understatement of Jackson’s diary detailing their famous encounter…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘MET NANSEN BY CHANCE; JACKSON'S STRANGE EXPERIENCE ON AN ICE FLOE’ (The New York Times, 1896): <a href="
17/06/202210 minutes 4 seconds
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Don't Wear Orange

Dutch patriots are now regularly spotted sporting orange wigs, orange clothes, orange banners and orange face paint. But, on 16th June, 1784, they were BANNED from wearing anything orange.&nbsp;The intention was to silence supporters of the ‘stadtholders’. And the colour - descending, in the public imagination, from William of Orange - had become so politically toxic in some cities that it was even prohibited to display orange carrots without their green tops showing.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider why the Dutch flag isn’t orange, despite the Netherlands’ love of the colour; posit what not to do on what used to be ‘Queen’s Day’; and reveal why Queen Wilhelmina’s wartime exile in London finally sealed the deal for this controversial colour…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Why the Dutch wear orange’ (Amsterdam Tourist Information): <a href="https://www.dutcha
16/06/202210 minutes 23 seconds
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Don't Eat The Ice Cream

Typhoid Mary - real name Mary Mallon - was the first ever asymptomatic carrier of typhoid to be identified. A cook for wealthy New York families, her name was published on 15th June, 1907, when sanitation engineer George Soper exposed her as the source of numerous outbreaks of the disease across the City.Of particular concern was Mallon’s habit of preparing fresh peach ice cream for her clients on a Sunday. “No better way could be found for a cook to cleanse her hands of microbes and infect a family,” Soper concluded.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly ask if Mallon was treated unfairly by the authorities due to her class and circumstances; explain how she came to be quarantined - twice - on North Brother Island; and question how she possibly found herself working back in kitchens, preparing food, even after her reputation as a carrier of typhoid had been well publicised…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘THE WORK OF A CHRONIC TYPH
15/06/202210 minutes 35 seconds
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Zsa Zsa and the Beverly Hills Cop

Slapping a police officer is rarely a great idea, but it somewhat revived the career of actress and Hollywood personality Zsa Zsa Gabor, whose trial began amidst a media blitz on 14th June, 1989.&nbsp;After being pulled over in her $214,000 Rolls Royce convertible, she had assaulted officer Paul Kramer - who then charged her with driving with an open flask of Jack Daniels, and speeding off after being apprehended.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly revisit Gabor’s greatest one-liners, on film and in court; consider how “Stalin, Mussolini and Hitler” ended up being invoked against a motorcycle cop; and reveal how Gabor was spared “the lesbians” in jail…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Remember When Zsa Zsa Gabor Slapped a Motorcycle Cop Across the Face?’ (Jezebel, 2016): https://jezebel.c
14/06/202210 minutes 20 seconds
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Let’s Censor Hollywood

The Production Code Administration - which policed standards of decency on all US cinema releases for twenty years - was established on 13th June, 1934, following a patch of unconvincing Hollywood self-censorship.‘Excessive or lustful kissing’ and ‘sex perversion’ were no longer allowed - but nor was ‘depictions of safe-cracking’, ‘childbirth,’ and ‘dynamiting’.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider whether the strict rules enforced by the code actively inspired the classic ‘golden era’ movies that are still regarded with nostalgia today; reveal the anti-semitism behind the policy; and remind us of the pre-code movies, starring the likes of Jimmy Cagney and Mae West, that remain “raunchy - for now”...&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘The Quick 10: 9 Movies and Shows Affected by the Hays Code’ (Mental Floss, 2010): <a href="" rel="noopener
13/06/202210 minutes 27 seconds
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Dmitry The Undead

Three imposters claimed to be the assassinated son of Ivan the Terrible, Prince Dmitry - but the first of the fraudsters got the furthest, actually being crowned Tzar on 10th June, 1605, and reigning over Russia for almost a year.His name was Grigory Otrepiev - now more often known as ‘False Dmitry I’ - and he’d come to power despite a previous coup (in which he led a rebel army of Lithuanian and Polish nobles, Jesuits and Cossacks) having failed.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how he overcame this military defeat to seize power anyway; ask why so many Muscovites were prepared to state he was the ‘real’ Dmitry when he quite plainly wasn’t; and reveal whose testicles he ripped off to (very briefly) achieve his dreams…Further Reading:• ‘Grigory Otrepiev - the first of Lzhedmitriyev’ (Unansea): ​​<a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target=
10/06/202210 minutes 37 seconds
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Goodbye, Alexandra Palace

A huge fire ravaged Alexandra Palace in Muswell Hill, London on 9th June, 1873 - just 16 days after it had opened, on Queen Victoria’s birthday, as ‘the People’s Palace’. A single burning ember is thought to have caused the blaze.125 firefighters, in horse-drawn and steam-powered fire engines, had to climb 7 miles uphill, and by the time they got there, the building was engulfed in flames. But, almost immediately, a decision was taken to rebuild it. That’s Victorian stoicism for you.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly peruse the surprisingly gaudy programme of planned events for the exhibition space’s opening season; explain how a ‘people’s’ palace came to be named after Royalty anyway; and reveal the remarkable resilience of Henry Willis’ giant organ…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘9 June 1873: Alexandra Palace burns down’ (MoneyWeek, 2015): <a href="
09/06/202210 minutes 15 seconds
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Meet The Vikings

Northumbria’s ‘holy island’, Lindisfarne, was invaded by Vikings on 8th June, 793 in a smash-and-grab, ‘shock and awe’ attack that left locals reeling for decades.&nbsp;The completely unexpected incursion was not, in fact, the first time Viking forces invaded the English coastline, but was, undoubtedly, the moment their reputation as merciless warriors and pirates was sealed.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why the Vikings targeted so many of their raids on monasteries; consider why Lindisfarne was, in the first place, regarded as such a spiritual site; and explain why many Englishmen viewed the raid as vengeance from God…Further Reading:• ‘The Holy Island of Lindisfarne’ (Visit Northumberland):
08/06/202210 minutes 22 seconds
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Sony’s Betamax Blunder

VHS won the so-called ‘format wars’ of the 1980s - but before JVC unveiled their VCR system, Sony created the market, with their innovative Japanese launch of Betamax on 7th June, 1975.&nbsp;For the first time, consumers could tape shows at home, rewind and fast-forward the best bits, and share cassettes with friends. But Betamax tapes were only one hour long, so they couldn’t contain an entire movie or football game. And Hollywood was unhappy about the technology, triggering a massive lawsuit from Universal Pictures and Walt Disney.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider what role pornography played in VHS’ ultimate defeat of Betamax; explain why video rental shops were such a popular concept; and reveal how, despite Sony’s early advantage, JVC got other manufacturers on-board before poor Betamax could catch up…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘June 7, 1975: Before Digital, Before VHS ... There Was Betamax’ (WIRED, 2007): <a
07/06/202210 minutes 19 seconds
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It's Fun To Found The YMCA

George Williams, 22, created the Young Men’s Christian Association to provide somewhere for London’s young men to escape the vices and stress of rapid urbanization (translation: get yourself clean, hang out with all the boys). The group’s first meeting was above a draper’s shop in St Paul’s on 6th June, 1844.The mission aligned perfectly with the burgeoning movement for ‘muscular Christianity’, and before long, multiple groups were sprouting all over Europe, and then the United States - where YMCA affiliates invented body-building, volleyball and basketball.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how the YMCA then became associated with cruising; reveal how the Village People got together; and consider what George Williams had in common with Milton S. Hershey…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘15 Things You Might Not Know About the YMCA’ (Mental Floss, 2018): <a href="
06/06/202210 minutes 4 seconds
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The Quintessential Whisky Drinker

An entry in the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland on 1st June, 1495, records that Friar John Cor was given charge of eight bolls of malt, ‘wherewith to make aqua vitae’. This has led many people to believe that his patron, King James IV, was the first big consumer of what we now know as whisky.But the drink may not have been ordered for recreational purposes. It *might* have been intended for use in&nbsp;the production of gunpowder. Or… it may have been to help develop ‘the quintessence’, the life elixir being developed by the King’s alchemist, John Damian, promising to confer immortality to the King.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and OIly revisit Damian’s other mission - to be the first man to achieve winged flight; trace back the history of whisky for medicinal purposes; and reveal the ingredients of ‘a Renaissance-era Long Island Iced Tea’...&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Famous whisky drinkers: King
01/06/202210 minutes 11 seconds
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Ramesses The Great Propagandist

Becoming Pharaoh at the age of 24, Ramesses ‘The Great’ II had his coronation on 31st May, 1279 BC - a fact we know because he had it chiselled into stone. Repeatedly.He lived until the age of 90 and reigned for 66 years - which gave him plenty of time to commission statues of himself, name towns after himself, and generally make sure that even in 2022 we have a reasonable idea of what he actually looked like.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why he was so keen on commemorating his achievements; consider what he had in common with Donald Trump; and ask just how young is too young to inherit an Empire…But the story of Ramesses doesn't end with today's episode... ... there's also the mysterious tale of what happened when he was DUG UP over 3,000 years later - as Arion, Rebecca and Olly reveal in today's bonus bit, cut-for-time from the main show and exclusively available to supporters of the show. To hear it
31/05/202210 minutes 10 seconds
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Hershey and the Chocolate Theme Park

Hersheypark was created as a recreation ground for the workers and families who staffed the Hershey chocolate factory in Pennsylvania when it opened on 30th May, 1906. But visitors from across the State soon came to marvel at its playgrounds, boating lake and band-stand… and, before long, the environs began to morph into the chocolate-themed amusement park it remains to this day.Its success exemplifies the ‘Company Town’ phenomenon: at one point, 3% of the USA’s entire population lived in a town that was owned and run by the company that they worked for.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how caramel, not chocolate, first paved the way to Hershey’s success; debate whether Hersheypark was a philanthropic gift to his employees, or a cynical bid to keep them from leaving; and explain to Americans why Brits would prefer an attraction with less butyric acid…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘More Than 110 Years of Her
30/05/202210 minutes 23 seconds
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The Queen's Punk Jubilee

The Sex Pistols’ anti-establishment single ‘God Save The Queen’ was banned by the BBC when it was re-released on 27th May, 1977 by Virgin Records - mischievously, to tie-in with the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.To rub salt in the wound, the band’s ‘art-school punk’ manager, Malcolm McLaren, arranged a boat procession outside the Houses of Parliament so the group could perform the song outside the heart of British government itself. They were then arrested.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how Johnny Rotten and co were just as commercially savvy as they were sincerely punk activists; consider whether there are parts of the controversial lyrics which which conservative royalists might actually agree; and investigate whether the single (and not Rod Stewart’s ‘I Don’t Want To Talk About It’) *actually* got to Number 1 in the charts…Further Reading:• ‘The Story Behind The Song: 'God Save The Queen'’ (Far Out
27/05/20229 minutes 54 seconds
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I Am Kaspar Hauser

When a ragged, peculiar-looking teenage boy was found wandering the streets of Nuremberg on 26th May, 1828, it triggered a centuries-long quest to discover who he was, why he had (apparently) been raised in captivity, and (if so) whom had done such a thing to him. His name was Kasper Hauser.The newspapers went into overdrive, reporting every salacious detail: the boy refused to eat or drink anything apart from bread and water; he seemed astonished by mirrors and candles; he was overwhelmed by loud noises; he couldn’t hold metal; the odour of the graveyard sent him into fits… soon enough, he became one of the most famous people in all of Germany.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly attempt, in our usual ten minutes, to unpick whether this is a story of child abuse, a fantastical imagination, a deceptive manipulator, or all of the above; explain why some of Hauser’s astonishing achievements are arguably *too* astonishing to be entirely ge
26/05/202210 minutes 34 seconds
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The First Aboriginal Cricket Stars

The first group of Australian sportspeople to ever represent the country overseas were an Aboriginal team of cricketers, who began an acclaimed tour of England on 25th May, 1868.The team had to face racism, illness and ignorance - but won the hearts of thousands of spectators, and the British establishment. They also did some awesome spear-throwing.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly trace back the story to Tom Wills, one of the inventors of Aussie-rules football; reveal why Charles Darwin played a role in inspiring the crowds of spectators; and explain how this pioneering team created the first indigenous cricketing stars in Australia...Further Reading:• ‘Aboriginal cricket: The first Australian tour of England, 1868’ (BBC, 2013):• ‘Batting for the British Empire: The
25/05/202210 minutes 42 seconds
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The Wine That Won Over The World

California had virtually no reputation as an international wine-growing region until 24th May, 1976 - when 11 wine experts gathered at a Parisian hotel and decided, in a blind taste-test, that wines from Napa Valley were indeed more quaffable than France’s most famous varieties: a decision that shook up the world of wine, and became known as ‘The Judgement of Paris’.Upon realising how controversial her scoring would become, Odette Kahn, France’s most famous wine critic, even asked for her notes back.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why nobody predicted the rumpus that this event would cause; uncover how it paved the way for ‘new world’ wines to take centre stage; and reveal how it toppled careers in the French wine establishment…&nbsp;Further Reading• ‘Best French and California Wine—A Test That Changed a World’ (TIME, 2016): <a href="" rel="n
24/05/202210 minutes 36 seconds
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Demonstration? Defenestration!

Throwing people out of windows might seem a peculiar way to protest, but it’s happened so often in history, it’s got a special name: defenestration. And perhaps the most significant of all - because it brought about the Thirty Years War - was the assault on three Habsburg officials by Bohemian malcontents in Prague on 23rd May, 1618.The dispute had kicked off when Ferdinand II refused permission for some Protestants to build a new place of worship on a piece of land - and then granted it to Catholics instead.&nbsp;Dick move.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider whether ‘a bloodthirsty mob of Christians’ is a contradiction in terms; explain why 1618 was a bad year to take a secretarial job; and how, despite triggering the bloodiest war yet seen in Europe, Ferdinand II still managed to insert humour into proceedings…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Defenestration: The Bloody History Of Throwing People Out Of A Windo
23/05/202210 minutes 33 seconds
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Knievel vs. Canyon

Motorcycling daredevil Evel Knievel had been keen on jumping the Grand Canyon since 1968, but never staged an actual attempt. On May 20th, 1999, however, his son Robbie performed the feat on live television - and lived to tell the tale.“I’m wiped out in the head a little”, he said, before being examined by paramedics, who applied a neck brace and flew him to the nearest hospital.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider the extent to which Knievel, Jr had been motivated by his father’s ‘death-defying’ 1970s career; explain how Knievel, Sr became named ‘Evel’; and reveal how the Hualapai Indian Tribe became a footnote in this piece of sporting history…Further Reading:• ‘Daredevil Knievel clears Grand Canyon on motorcycle’ (The Guardian, 1999):• ‘Grand
20/05/202210 minutes 34 seconds
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Rubik’s Magic Prototype

Over 100 million Rubik’s Cubes were sold in just a few short years at the onset of the 1980s - a phenomenon kickstarted on 19th May, 1974, when Hungarian Professor of Architecture Ernő Rubik supposedly created the prototype for his ‘Magic Cube’.It took him a month to solve himself - a feat which seems unimpressive in a world where the current record stands at under six seconds.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how Ideal Toys saw the unlikely potential in the unprecedented ‘spacial logic toy’ Rubik had created; reveal just how many knockoffs and spinoffs were generated by its incredible success; and explain why there are 519 quintillion reasons to be sceptical about this being a truly significant date in Rubik’s history…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Rubik's Cube - A History of the 1980s Puzzle’ (ThoughtCo, 2019): <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_
19/05/202210 minutes 28 seconds
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Smearing Christopher Marlowe

Atheist, homosexual, heretic… the slurs levelled at popular playwright Christopher Marlowe came thick and fast after he was arrested on 18th May, 1593. Just twelve days later, he was murdered in a London tavern.His former roomate, Thomas Kyd, pointed the finger at Marlowe after being tortured following the discovery of a ‘treasonous’ pamphlet in his home. Perhaps for the first time in Marlowe’s career, the privy council (who had, probably, been employing him as a spy) did not come to his rescue and drop the charges.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain what (supposedly) caused the row in the tavern that escalated to homicide; consider Marlowe’s giddy rise from shoemaker’s son to Cambridge graduate; and revisit some of the fruitier heresies in which he was alleged to engage…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Christopher Marlowe’ (Poetry Foundation): <a href="" rel="noop
18/05/202210 minutes 9 seconds
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The Coffee Shop Stock Exchange

The Buttonwood Agreement, as it came to be known, effectively launched the New York Stock Exchange. Signed by 24 stockbrokers on 17th May, 1792, it promised two things - that they would trade exclusively and directly with each other, and that they wouldn’t undercut each other’s commission.But they had no permanent building, and only a tiny number of companies to trade. So, until 1817, traders met at Tontine Coffee House at 82 Wall Street - a riotous and dynamic backdrop against which to do business.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly learn what a Buttonwood is; reveal which sitting U.S. President was the first to step foot in the NYSE; and explain what (presumably) happens in the complicated second act of ‘Hamilton’...&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘8 March 1817: the New York Stock Exchange is formed’ (MoneyWeek, 2020): <a href="" rel
17/05/202210 minutes 23 seconds
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Marie Antoinette's Wedding

The future Queen of France was accompanied by 57 carriages, 117 footmen and 376 horses on her journey from Austria to Versailles - but remarkably took only three hours to do her hair and makeup when she tied the knot with Louis-Auguste on 16th May, 1770.Only 15 at the time, Louis was perceived - even by his closest friends and family - to be timid, unforthcoming and bookish. In a further bad omen, their wedding firework display was postponed due to a storm - and when it finally happened, there was a massive riot that resulted in the crowds being trampled to death.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Arion replay the ‘bedding ceremony’ in excruciating detail; explain exactly what went wrong between the sheets; and consider whether the roots of MArie Antoinette’s legendary profligacy can be traced back to her wedding day…&nbsp;CONTENT WARNING: Graphic description of sexual intercourse. (Albeit one written in the 1770s, by a Roman Empe
16/05/202210 minutes 37 seconds
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What Mary Told Me

When three young kids in Fatima, Portugal reported that the Virgin Mary had appeared to them on 13th May, 1917, the incident sparked hysteria across their rural, intensely Catholic community.The ‘three secrets’ supposedly revealed that day - and the much-attended ‘Miracle of the Sun’ event prophesied that Autumn - gave a long-lasting boost to Fatima’s visitor numbers. It still plays host to six million pilgrims a year.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why, for decades, only the Pope was allowed to know all the events Mary had predicted; unpick exactly what the witnesses to the sun-miracle may have actually seen; and consider whether, for the Vatican, Sister Lucia’s visions were a blessing or a curse…Further Reading:• ‘A saga of spirituality, secrecy and scepticism’ (Irish Times, 2005): <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer"
13/05/202210 minutes 34 seconds
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Russell Crowe vs. the Romans

Ridley Scott’s ‘Gladiator’ opened in the UK on 12th May, 2000 - and was widely credited with resurrecting the ‘swords-and-sandals’ genre, sparking an interest in Roman history, and achieving that rare combination of critical praise and humongous box office success.But the epic production was problematic - not least because supporting star Ollie Reed died during filming, leading to SFX house The Mill filling in the remainder of his scenes with CGI, at a cost of $3 million.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how Russell Crowe came to be cast as Maximus; consider the alternative screenplays, featuring fighting hippopotamuses and man-on-man bath wrestling; and uncover songwriter Nick Cave’s bizarre attempts at penning the sequel…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Ridley Scott says Oliver Reed ‘dropped down dead’ after challenging sailors to drinking match while filming Gladiator’ (The Independent, 2020): <a href="
12/05/202210 minutes 34 seconds
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The Computer That Defeated Kasparov

IBM's Deep Blue conquered Russian chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov on 11th May, 1997 - in a man v machine clash Newsweek brazenly baptised ‘The Brain’s Last Stand’.Despite the incredible achievement of having created a program able to calculate 200 billion positions in three minutes, the IBM engineers were advised by their PR team not to look too happy at the press conference afterwards, so as to avoid Kasparov - who had initially hinted at foul play behind the scenes - from gaining sympathy.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Olly and Rebecca explore whether American viewers felt more affinity with the Russian player or the American corporation; question whether machine learning ruined competitive chess forever; and reveal how even this computerised contest came down to psychological tactics…Further Reading:• ‘Deep Blue computer beats world chess champion’ (The Guardian, 1996): <a href="
11/05/202210 minutes 10 seconds
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How To Paint the Sistine Chapel

Michelangelo was a sculptor, not a painter, when on 10th May, 1508, he embarked upon the biggest gig of his career: painting the roof of the Sistine chapel in the Vatican.&nbsp;Outwardly reluctant, and doubtful he could complete the project, he nonetheless took the opportunity to suggest that rather than portraying the twelve apostles requested by the Pope, he should instead depict 300 different characters.&nbsp;In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how he set about this Herculean task (no, he didn’t paint lying down); reveal how he channeled his frustrations into black humour; and discover the artful way in which he treated his harshest critics…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Book Extract: Michelangelo And The Sistine Chapel by Andrew Graham-Dixon’ (Weidenfeld &amp; Nicolson, 2008): https://w
10/05/202210 minutes 25 seconds
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Captain Blood and the Crown Jewels

Fugitive Thomas Blood sneaked his way into the Tower of London’s jewel room on 9th May, 1671 - bludgeoning the 77 year-old Keeper of the Jewels, Talbot Edwards, in the process.&nbsp;Disguised as a parson, the Irish adventurer had cat-fished Edwards in an audacious and complex heist that involved multiple pairs of white gloves, a fake nephew and stuffing an orb down his trousers.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how Blood failed to steal the jewels, but got away with a Royal pardon from Charles II; recall his earlier escapades as a fake doctor and a mock executioner; and ask why, after all that planning, the criminal gang didn’t BRING A BIGGER BAG…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘Attempt to steal the Crown Jewels’ (The National Archives): https://www.nationalarc
09/05/202210 minutes 29 seconds
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Bonjour, Eiffel

The lifts weren’t operational, so there weren’t any visitors, but the commemorative coins had already been minted - so it was 6th May, 1889 that went down in history as the official opening of the Eiffel Tower, at that time the world’s tallest man-made structure.Erected for the World’s Fair to commemorate 100 years since the French Revolution, it was designed to be dismantled after a few years - not least because there was significant opposition to it from some of Paris’s best known artists - yet it remains an iconic part of the Paris skyline to this day.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how the committee came to choose this unusual structure for their centennial celebrations; compare Gustav Eiffel’s elevated office space to Donald Trump’s; and explain how radio transmissions saved the Tower from its intended fate…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘The artists who protested the Eiffel Tower’ (Tour Eiffel Official Website)
06/05/202210 minutes 34 seconds
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Coco Chanel's Iconic Scent

Chanel No 5, the legendary perfume still said to shift one bottle every thirty seconds, was first released in Paris on 5th May, 1921.Created by Ernest Beaux, its innovative mixture of jasmine, sandalwood, orange blossom and aldehydes gave it a freshness and fizz that turned heads - and its simple, masculine bottle bucked the trend for ornate designs crafted by renowned glass-houses.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how Coco Chanel savvily put herself at the centre of the brand’s marketing; reveal how she collaborated with the Nazis to attempt to regain control of the company; and consider what she had in common with Colonel Sanders…Further Reading:• ‘How Its Made: The Iconic Chanel No. 5’ (Fashion.Luxury):</p
05/05/202210 minutes 29 seconds
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Debut of the Daily Mail

As British literacy rates surged to a new high of 97%, the time was right to launch a simpler, shorter, more readable newspaper - and Alfred Harmsworth’s Daily Mail caught the zeitgeist when it hit the news-stands (at the eye-catching price of just half a penny) on 4th May, 1896.The new paper attracted half a million daily readers by the end of the century, drawn in by its American-inspired mix of provocative political commentary, human interest and sentiment.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how the Mail innovated faster national and international distribution; chart Harmsworth (later Lord Northcliffe)’s progress to becoming the Rupert Murdoch of his day; and explain how, by the 1930s, this very British institution was championing Hitler…Further Reading:• The Daily Mail - First Edition (Associated Newspapers, 1896):<a href="
04/05/202210 minutes 20 seconds
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The Wu-Tang Scamster

Martin Shkreli, ‘the most hated man in America’, purchased the one extant copy of the Wu-Tang Clan’s concept album ‘Once Upon A Time In Shaolin’ for $2 million on 3rd May, 2015.&nbsp;In seeking to sell their record in an auction, the hip-hop collective had been inspired by the concept of wealthy patrons funding Renaissance artists - but hadn’t counted on the winning bidder being the ‘pharma bro’ notorious for raising the price of toxoplasmosis drug Daraprim by a factor of 56.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider whether Shkreli’s ‘price gouging’ antics made him an (in)appropriate buyer; ask whether it can really be true that the multimillionaire didn’t even bother listening to his purchase; and explain what happened to the CD after Shkreli was imprisoned for fraud…Further Reading:• Everything I Know About the Wu-Tang Album from Hanging Out with Martin Shkreli (VICE, 2016): <a href="
03/05/202210 minutes 34 seconds
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The Swedish Meatballs Controversy

Where are meatballs from, and why does it matter? Social media users frenziedly grappled with these very questions on 29th April, 2018, when Sweden’s official Twitter account proclaimed: “Swedish meatballs are actually based on a recipe King Charles XII brought home from Turkey in the early 18th century. Let's stick to the facts!”Does this tale about the Royal family bringing meatballs back from the Ottoman Empire check out? And doesn’t every culture in the world have some form of meatballs? You’d think these would be innocent questions - but they ended up overhauling Sweden’s social media strategy for good…In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly trace the origins of IKEA’s best-selling product; reveal the world-record for meatball consumption; and investigate a Finnish hack for soupy balls…Further Reading:• ‘Swedish Meatballs Are Actually Turkish, According to Sweden’ (TIME, 2018): <a href="
29/04/20229 minutes 41 seconds
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The First Space Tourist

Dennis Tito, a 60 year-old investment manager from California, blasted into orbit onboard a Russian Soyuz rocket on 28th April, 2001 - becoming the first ever private citizen to visit the International Space Station.He had self-funded the trip, to the tune of $20 million - much to the displeasure of his former employers, NASA, who initially refused to provide him with any training.In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider the social dynamics of the ISS; explain why NASA has flip-flopped about space tourism over the decades; and explore whether Tito’s trip was, in fact, money well spent…&nbsp;Further Reading:• ‘World's first space tourist 10 years on: Dennis Tito’ (BBC News, 2011):• ‘First space tourist Dennis Tito: 'It was the greatest
28/04/202210 minutes 3 seconds
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The Duel That Shocked France

King Henri III of France had a favourite group of young courtiers - his ‘mignons’ (or ‘cuties’, ‘sweeties’, or ‘‘darlings’) - known for dressing in an effeminate and eye-catching style. On 27th April, 1578, they&nbsp; engaged in a bloody duel with a rival gang in a battle that came to be known as ‘The Duel of the Mignons’.Was it a ‘beautiful’ battle, a classical allusion to Roman combat, as some scribes argued? Or, as the King himself concluded, a pointless - and rather farcical - loss of life?In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explore Henri’s ‘mu