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The Explaining History Podcast has been exploring the 20th Century in weekly chapters for the past 10 years, helping students and enthusiasts engage with the past. With the help of expert guests, your host Nick Shepley navigates competing debates around the key events and processes of the past century. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information. Become a member at https://plus.acast.com/s/explaininghistory
 
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This podcast explores Stalin's plans for Poland in the run up to the outbreak of the Second World War, and Neville Chamberlain's flawed diplomacy in the aftermath of the fall of Czechoslovakia. Stalin's secret diplomacy with both the western allies and the Nazis and his determination to see Poland destroyed as a state shaped the events between Marc…
 
In this episode we hear from writer Mary McNeil, who discusses her new biography Century's Witness - which examines the life and career of Wallace Carroll, an American journalist and contemporary of William L. Shirer and Edward Murrow. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information. Become a member at https://plus.acast.com/s/explainingh…
 
Austria Hungary, a patchwork empire of nationalities, saw a surprising enthusiasm for war in the summer of 1914 from non Austrian subjects. Across the empire, subject peoples who still had loyalties to the empire as a whole volunteered to fight, overwhelming the offices of military recruiters. The Habsburg empire was far more suspicious of its own …
 
In the winter of 1937-38, Japan launched an assault of previously unprecedented brutality against a Chinese civilian population in the nationalist capital of Nanjing. Japan's desigs for China and South East Asia rested on being able to break the power of China's Guomindang nationalists, who were more inclined to build alliances with European powers…
 
Two weeks ago Sinn Fein achieved something that had previously been considered politically impossible in Northern Ireland, it gained a majority in the Northern Ireland Assembly elections and is now likely to form a government. This edition of the update explores the ramifications for Northern Ireland, Britain, the Irish Republic and the EU of this …
 
In today's episode of the podcast, I explore Richard Overy's arguments in Blood and Ruins and discuss his ideas around the necessity for expansionism during the 1930s among the three Axis powers, Germany, Italy and Japan. The great depression triggered ideas of expansionism as a solution to economic hardship and eugenic beliefs about growing, vital…
 
Even before the war had officially ended, German cities began the process of clearing debris and rubble and rebuilding. Often, municipal authorities didn't wait for allied authorisation, they simply organised the clearances and began to move the millions of tonnes of brick and stone that had been left in the wake of allied bombing and Soviet shelli…
 
Germany was able to inflict huge losses on Britain during the Battle of the Atlantic. The British organised merchant ships into trans-Atlantic convoys, but between 1940-41 the German U-Boat wolf packs sank millions of tonnes of shipping. The initial successes were gradually replaced with ever greater losses for Germany, as inadequate U-Boats (too s…
 
Today's update focuses on the emerging dynamics of the Ukraine war and the possible long term position on the crisis that the Biden administration is taking. Plus, a short history of Moldova and Transnistria and the power of Russian gas. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information. Become a member at https://plus.acast.com/s/explainin…
 
This is the first of many podcasts exploring the writing of historian Sean McMeekin in his revisionist exploration of the role of the USSR in World War Two. In this episode we examine how conventional ideas about Stalin's intentions, preparedness and his outlook regarding the prospects of the allied powers against Germany by 1941 need to be revised…
 
In today's episode we discuss author and lawyer James Philips new book, Two Revolutions and a Constitution, which explores the impact of Britain's Civil Wars in the 17th Century, and the American war of Independence in the 18th Century on the shaping of the US Constitution. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information. Become a member …
 
After six years of Japanese control of Manchuria, and the establishment of control piecemeal across northern China, a skirmish at the Marco Polo bridge near Beijing presented Chiang with a fateful decision, to wage war now against Japan to prevent China further weakening or to ignore the crisis. Chiang knew that China would be forced to fight alone…
 
Today's update takes a sidestep away from Ukraine to look at the historic developments in France, following the defeat of Marine Le Pen and the Front National in Sunday's presidential election by Emmanuel Macron. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information. Become a member at https://plus.acast.com/s/explaininghistory.…
 
This is the fourth part of my exploration of the Ukraine crisis, and its wider ramifications. Across Europe and America both the Russian Federation and more recently Ukraine have found sympathisers whose support to either side reflects the state of cultural conflicts that have divided western democracies in the past decade. Whether this is by Russi…
 
In this special extended feature episode of the Explaining History podcast, I had the great pleasure to chat with Dominic Selwood, author of Anatomy of a Nation: A history of Britain in 50 documents. In this episode we discuss British national identity throughout the post war era and the crisis of identity that marks the Brexit era. You can purchas…
 
SS killers approached the violence and brutality of their murderous work in the camps during the war as part of the wider racial struggle that the Nazi regime had tasked them with. The camp SS viewed the camps as a battlefield and the murder of prisoners as another arena of warfare, so much so that SS murderers were given medals by Heinrich Himmler…
 
This is the third Ukraine update and in this episode, we look at the wider strategic and diplomatic realignments that are rapidly occurring, including China's current strategic ambiguity and Britain's growing diplomatic irrelevance under Johnson's Brexit government. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information. Become a member at https…
 
The failure of Nazi Germany to seize the small British mediterranean colony of Malta was a significant strategic error. In 1941, Hitler decided not to invade the island and instead decided to put his energies into the seizure of Crete, which he believed would pose a threat to Romania's oil fields if it remained in British hands. General Erwin Romme…
 
After the detection of the Soviet Union's first atomic bomb test in 1949, the race to create bigger and more destructive weapons led to testing in the wide expanses of Utah and at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific. The horrific costs of on civilians of these tests was mirrored by the USSR, which air-detonated bombs in the Urals to see if soldiers on the …
 
China, in the British or American historical memory of the Second World War is rarely seen as an equal allied power, despite the huge sacrifices endured by the Chinese people during the conflict. This is the second part of a series of podcasts based on the work of Dr Rana Mitter, which re-examines China's wartime role and origins and causes of Japa…
 
In August 1914, German leaders of the SPD, including the anti war Hugo Hasse accepted the inevitability of conflict and voted against their principals of internationalism and solidarity. The fear of the Rusian army invading Germany, or of state repression against political parties viewed as treacherous or disloyal created the illusion of unity. Els…
 
Eisenhower's domestic policy is often obscured to students of history by the struggles of the era (the Red Scare and McCarthyism and the civil rights struggle), making the president's own policy agenda and his political inclinations less easy to explore. This podcast looks at the conservative tendencies of Eisenhower, his opposition to the growing …
 
China was the first country to be invaded by an Axis power and historian Rana Mitter has argued that its wartime experience is one of the most obscured and misunderstood in the west, though Chinese losses dwarfed those experienced by European and American combatants. Only the USSR suffered more during the war than China, but the immediate civil war…
 
Robert McNamara was John F Kennedy's choice to fix the sprawling bureacracy at the Department of Defence. McNamara employed an economist's mind to problems, had greatly increased the destructive power of the USAAF during the Second World War by using data and intelligence to firebomb Japanese cities more effectively, and became the first non family…
 
Eisenhower found McCarthy distasteful but had not desire to enter into a political fight with him. He thought that this would diminish the presidency and give lie to the idea that America was a harmonious post war society. He hoped that the public mood would change and when McCarthy was finally defeated the evidence suggests that attitudes were tra…
 
By 1939, the Royal Navy had lost a decade of growth, after budget cuts during the Great Depression and the closure of shipyards resulted in an older fleet than that of its enemies. The navy's role as the defender of the sea lanes that bound the empire together meant that it was for much of the war, Britain's primary line of defence against the Axis…
 
When Richard Nixon won his second presidential term in 1972 defeating George McGovern in 1972, he was at the height of his popularity. The previous year he had captured the public mood when he addressed the nation's fears about the growing economic stagnation that America had begun to experience at the end ofthe 1960s. He had successfully negotiate…
 
Despite a decade of social conflict prior to the First World War between German trade unions and bosses, the declaration of war by Germany against Russia in the summer of 1914 led to a temporary but significant period of social unity in the Reich. The SPD, Germany's Social Democratic Party, showed its loyalty to the Kaiser's government by voting fo…
 
When the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies drove their tanks into Prague in 1968, crushing the nascent pro democracy movement led by Alexander Dubcek, the last pretense of there being anything emancipatory about Soviet Communism disappeared. Instead, the USSR and its sattelite regimes were shorn of any ideological credibility and now faced su…
 
In the summer of 1940 the British faced supply shortages in the Middle East and were vastly outnumbered by Italian forces in Libya. Archibald Wavell, one of Churchill's least favourite generals, came under intense pressure from his Prime Minister for a swift and impressive victory. HIs opposite number Count Graziani quickly realised the Italian Arm…
 
In the summer of 1940, German successes in Europe had been based on a very particular model of interaction between air and ground forces. The planned invasion of southern England and the seizure of London envisioned by Hitler presented the German airforce with entirely new problems. Some German commanders believed that the Luftwaffe alone could def…
 
During the forced programme of industrialisation in the late 1950s in China, known as the Great Leap Forward, China's peasants came under intense pressure from the violent Maoist state to produce impossible grain quotas. Villages had already undergone the process of communalisation, where the basic structures of communal and even family life were t…
 
Harold Wilson was the most successful Labour prime minister of the 20th Century, but was the subject of plots to remove him from power by the military, business and intelligence elites. No coup attempt against Wilson was ever launched in Britain, but his sudden resignation in 1976 followed years of speculation that he had been spied upon by the int…
 
When Mao Zedong, China's 'great helmsman' died in 1976, the China that emerged after destructive reign began to be de-Maoified economically but also culturally. By the early 1980s a cutlure of Mao criticism was prevalent in the arts, television and cinema, along with critiques of the Mao era communist party. This podcast examines the processes of D…
 
By 1944 it was clear that there was no future for the Third Reich, but unlike other regimes that have faced overwhelming odds, Germany fought on to the end. Historian Ian Kershaw wrote a groundbreaking book in 2011, The End, which explained why the Third Reich chose the path of Gotterdammerung (downfall). This is the first of several podcasts where…
 
By the late 1960s there were huge opportunities for Richard Nixon to capitalise on the growing discontent across America towards the counter culture. Millions of Americans looked on with disdain at a generation of anti war protesters and young men and women who actively rejected the lifestyles of their parents generation. Nixon, and every Republica…
 
Following the disastrous chaos and violence of the cultural revolution, Deng Xiaoping, one of Maoist China's inveterate survivors and a hate figure for Mao himself, began a series of changes of global significance in 1978. Deng's four modernisations (agriculture, industry, education, science and defence), and the policy of opening up China to forei…
 
The Republican Party and the right of the American liberal establishment colluded in the immediate post war years to wage war against the American left. The Republicans saw it an opportunity to undermine the New Deal years and their liberal collaborators view of the illiberalism of the Soviet Union justiified any and all political crack downs on th…
 
By 1937 the Soviet newspaper Pravda (its editorial board pictured above), was a key part of the mechanisms of denunciation and terror. It presented lurid tales of corruption and embezzlement that most Soviet citizens knew happened in the party constantly, weaponising their anger against those accused in the show trials. The purpose was to build a m…
 
This is the first of a multi part exploration of protest music in America during the late 1960s, beginning with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young's Ohio, written to mourn the killing of four students by the National Guard at Kent State University in Ohio, in May 1970. By the late 1960s, the pressure of the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement had…
 
Fear and solidarity defined both Austro Hungarian and Germany societies in August 1914. The pace of mobilisation meant that over three million soldiers in Germany alone were in uniform in just twelve days. Soldiers said emotional farewells to loved ones and took last minute photographs with sweethearts, and both German and Austro Hungarian economie…
 
History as entertainment has shaped, for many, the understanding of the past. Mythologisation of key moments of the past crafts powerful and often misleading national stories that provide simple and often comforting notions about the past. In his new book Fake History, Otto English takes many of these fantasies to task, and today we explore one of …
 
Throughout the 1930s the forces that led to a year of terror in 1937 had been gradually developing, from the trials of bourgeois specialists in the1920s to the murder of Sergei Kirov. The regime initially looked to the population at large to show their anger and rage at figures such as Iuri Piatikov, who as a former ally of Trotsky, was cast as a s…
 
In present day Volgograd, one of the largest Second World War memorials in the world stands. The city, once known as Stalingrad, is home the gigantic concrete and steel sculpture, The Motherland Calls, which was built in 1967, eleven years after Stalin himself had been denonced and disgraced by his successor. The immense losses that the USSR suffer…
 
John F Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson both saw Vietnam as the vital frontline in America's struggle against communism, but it was Chinese, as opposed to Soviet communism they were most concerned about. The widely accepted 'Domino Theory' which postulated that one country in Asia after another would fall to the communist rule was widely accepted across …
 
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