In this thrilling episode of Travels Through Time, Owen Matthews takes us back to 1941 to see Richard Sorge, the ‘spy to end all spies’, operating at the highest level in the most dangerous months of the Second World War.

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Two events in 1941 did more than anything else to settle the shape and outcome of the Second World War. The first was the most fateful decision of Adolf Hitler’s life: the launching of Operation Barbarossa against the USSR on 22 June. The second was the surprise Japanese aerial attack on the US naval base of Pearl Harbour, six months later on 7 December.

These events appear crystal clear to us in retrospect, but for many living at that time they came like a flash out of the blue. A few people, though, did know what was coming. One of them was one of the most extraordinary communist underground operatives of the twentieth century: Richard Sorge. Sorge ran a Soviet spy group in Tokyo from the 1930s onwards that achieved astonishing access into the Nazi war machine.

A drinker, a womaniser, a risk-taker, all on a breath-taking scale, one journalist has classified Sorge ‘as an example of the rare species we might call Homo undercoverus – those who find the dull, unclassified lives that the rest of us lead simply not worth living.’

Our guest on Travels Through Time today is Owen Matthews, author of a new biography of Sorge. Owen studied Modern History at Oxford. His book, Stalin's Children, was translated into twenty-eight languages and was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award.

The scenes and subjects described in this episode feature in Owen Matthews biography of Richard Sorge, An Impeccable Spy. The book is available in paperback from Bloomsbury now.

Show notes:

Scene One: 31 May 1941, The Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. Richard Sorge receives final confirmation that Operation Barbarossa will shortly be launched.

Scene Two: 22 June 1941. The Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. Sorge’s bitter fury when he hears news of the German invasion.

Scene Three: One night in August, 1941. The Embassy Ballroom with Sorge and Eta Harich-Schneider

Memento: Richard Sorge’s lighter

People/Social

Presenter: Peter Moore

Guest; Owen Matthews

Producer: Maria Nolan

Editorial: Artemis Irvine

Titles: Jon O

==

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Check out the best colourised images from our new partner, Dynamichrome.

In this thought-provoking episode of Travels Through Time, historian Kelcey Wilson-Lee takes us to the court of the English King Edward I in 1297 to meet his daughters at a dramatic moment in their lives.

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King Edward I’s daughters did not conform to the modern stereotype of medieval princesses. They weren’t delicate, wistful girls, passively waiting to be rescued by a handsome prince. Eleanora and her sisters were true Plantagenets. They were headstrong, passionate characters who spent as much time hunting, managing estates and travelling around England and the Continent as they did doing needlework in their chambers.

Their lives reveal the breadth of experience of royal women in the medieval period through the various roles they played. They represented their country and championed the needy. They promoted monastic houses, were brides in strategic alliances, rebellious daughters, landowners, patrons of culture, mothers, wives and most important of all in this story, sisters.

In this episode of Travels Through Time, the historian Kelcey Wilson-Lee takes Violet Moller to meet Eleanora, Joanna, Mary, Margaret and Elizabeth in the year 1297.

Kelcey Wilson-Lee’s Daughters of Chivalry: the forgotten children of Edward I is published by MacMillan

Show notes: 

Scene One: January, 1297, and the royal family has gathered in Ipswich for Elizabeth's wedding to Johan, Count of Holland, after which she is supposed to sail for her new husband’s lands.

Scene Two: July 1297, King Edward I’s court at St Albans. Joanna comes to plead her case after having eloped and secretly remarried a nobody without her father's permission. She makes a dramatic speech that is (very unusually) recorded and is forgiven by her Father.

Scene Three: Christmas 1297, in Ghent where Elizabeth (who eventually went to Holland) is reunited with her sisters who have married into Europe in years before.

Memento: A gold ring presented to Margaret by Edward I at Harwich.

People/Social

Presenter: Violet Moller

Guest: Kelcey Wilson-Lee

Producer: Maria Nolan

Editorial: John Hillman

Titles: Jon O

Made in partnership with the brilliant photo colourists at Dynamichrome

In this invigorating episode of Travels Through Time, the award-winning Zimbabwean novelist Petina Gappah takes us in pursuit of the Scottish missionary and explorer David Livingstone in the year 1871.

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David Livingstone was one of the towering figures of Victorian Britain. He was a missionary who became an explorer, who believed that he was divinely appointed to solve the puzzle of the geography of Africa.

Livingstone made his name in the 1850s when he became the first recorded Briton to set eyes on Victoria Falls. In 1855 he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Geographical Society, and the next year he published his huge bestseller, Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa.

Victorian Britons grew used to consuming stories of Livingstone’s travels as heroic adventure narratives. He was portrayed as a dynamo of energy and an oracle of vision who chased after the loftiest prizes: mysterious lakes or hidden rivers in a vast continent.

But what of the African people who travelled with Livingstone? What did they think of this peculiar wandering mzungu? What kind of lives were living at that time? What did Livingstone’s intervention in their societies mean for them?

The Zimbabwean novelist Petina Gappah raises these questions during the course of this episode as she takes us back to the year 1871. She tells us how glamorous Livingstone’s adventures were for his contemporaries. She shows us the magic and peril of strangers encountering one another for a first time. She explains how Livingstone’s expeditions worked as logistical enterprises. Then she depicts some of the more disturbing aspects of the period: the east African slave trade, and the massacres it generated.

The scenes and subjects described in this episode feature in Petina Gappah’s new novel, Out of Darkness, Shining Light, which tells the story of Dr Livingstone’s final journey. The book is available in hardback from Faber.

Show notes:

Scene One: 21 March 1871, Bagamoio, a port on the east coast of what is now Tanzania. The American journalist Henry Morton Stanley sets out from Bagamoio for a daring mission into the African interior.

Scene Two: 15 July 1871, A day market in Nyangwe, a village in Manyema, on the right bank of the Lualaba River in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. Livingstone witnesses a massacre.

Scene Three: October 1871, Ujiji in present day Tanzania. Stanley finally meets Livingstone, having marched 700 miles to reach him.

Memento: The instruments that David Livingstone used, later ‘purloined’ by Lt Cameron

People/Social

Presenter: Peter Moore

Guest; Petina Gappah

Producer: Maria Nolan

Reading: Makomborero Kasipo

Editorial: Artemis Irvine

Titles: Jon O

==

Follow us on Twitter @tttpodcast_

Check out the best colourised images from our new partner, Dynamichrome.

In this episode of Travels Through Time, Marcus du Sautoy The Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford takes us back to the 1830s to meet one of his heroes: the brilliant and tragic Évariste Galois. 

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Évariste Galois is a fascinating figure in the history of mathematics. An unpromising and secretive student who became embroiled in the revolutionary politics of the 1830s, Galois was dead at the age of twenty. Yet the work he completed in his few active years of study has influenced the subject of mathematics ever since.

Galois was born on the outskirts of Paris during the period of Napoleon’s rule in 1811. From the beginning he was known for his unusual, ‘bizarre’, character that led him into time and again into dangerous situations.

At some point during Galois’s undistinguished school career he fell, ‘under the spell of the excitement of mathematics’. Here he found a realm of certainty and fascination, where he could feel safe and escape the perils of human interaction and everyday life.

During his teenage years Galois’s fascination for his subject became ever deeper. He began to conceive entirely new ways of approaching an age-old mathematical problem – that of solving the quintic. So begins one of the thrilling stories in the history of mathematics.

Marcus du Sautoy takes us back to see Galois as his young life reached its intellectual peak and tragic conclusion in the early 1830s. It's a story of beguiling genius in tumultuous times.

The Creativity Code by Marcus du Sautoy is out now.

Show Notes:

Scene One: 9 May 1831, Paris. At a banquet to celebrate the acquittal of 19 members of the revolutionary Société des Amis du Peuple, a young Galois gets carried away by the atmosphere and the alcohol.

Scene Two: 23 October 1831 , Sainte-Pelagie Prison, southern Paris. Galois is thrown in jail, having been found guilty of wearing a banned National Guard uniform, carrying weapons – and graffitiing his holding cell with political cartoons.

Scene Three: 30 May 1832, Paris: Early one morning a peasant on his way to work finds a young man lying beside a pond bleeding from a gunshot wound.

People

Presenter: Violet Moller

Guest: Marcus du Sautoy

Producer: Maria Nolan

Editorial: Artemis Irvine

Titles: Jon O

==

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In this episode of Travels Through Time, Catherine Nixey, author of the international bestseller The Darkening Age, guides Violet Moller back to the ancient city of Alexandria in the year 415. They talk about the simmering tensions between Christians, Jews and Pagans at that time. Among the characters they meet is the gifted, beautiful and powerful Hypatia of Alexandria.

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Hypatia of Alexandria has always been a compelling figure. Her glittering life and brutal death have inspired writers, poets and film makers for centuries. But what lies behind the myth and speculation?

Hypatia’s murder was a particularly horrific episode in the gradual triumph of Christianity over classical culture, a slow and painful process that was played out across Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. In this episode Catherine Nixey isolates and analyses 415, one dramatic year in this complex story.

Catherine Nixey is a journalist and author. The Darkening Age won an award from the Royal Society of Literature and was an international bestseller. Her journalism has appeared in The Economist, The Financial Times, The Times and The New York Times.

The Darkening Age is available from MacMillan now.

Show notes:

Scene 1: Cyril becomes Bishop of Alexandria and begins to impose his policy on the city. He regulates theatrical entertainment and the Jews react, killing a Christian in the process.

Scene 2: Cyril orders his followers to attack the synagogues and seize Jewish property. Orestes, secular ruler of the city, is attacked by Christians (even though he is one himself) but manages to escape.

Scene 3: The violence escalates. Hypatia is rumoured to have cast a spell on Orestes, public feeling against her is stirred up. She is pulled from her coach and murdered.

Memento: One of Hypatia's astrolabes.

People/Social

Presenter: Artemis Irvine

Interview: Violet Moller

Guest: Catherine Nixey

Producer: Maria Nolan

Titles: Jon O

For our Valentine’s Day Special episode of Travels Through Time, we visit Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, to talk to Dr Sophie Ratcliffe about Anna Karenina, Kate Field, Sofia Tolstoy and the year 1876.

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Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina is one of the dazzling achievements of nineteenth century literature. It is a story of power, ambition, fidelity and lust, ‘a warning against the myth and cult of love’, with the ill-starred relationship between the Russian socialites Anna and Count Vronsky at its centre.

In this episode of Travels Through Time, Sophie Ratcliffe shows how Anna was very much a child of the 1870s. Various historical figures can be found in her character. A well-known inspiration is Anna Stepanovna Pirogova, a jealous lover who threw herself under a freight train. A lesser-known one is the American journalist, lecturer and early telephone pioneer Kate Field.

Field was hugely charismatic and popular. The Chicago Tribune judged her ‘perhaps the most unique woman the present century has produced.’ She was among the first celebrity journalists. She was acquainted with Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Anthony Trollope, and George Eliot. For a time in the 1870s, she was employed as the first public relations manager for Alexander Graham Bell’s new invention, the telephone.

Here Ratcliffe explains how Field’s legacy stretched further still. As she explains in her new book, The Lost Properties of Love: ‘Parts of Kate Field live on in Anna Karenina. Anna Karenina is part Kate Field. That’s what writers do. They change lives.’

In this conversation, Ratcliffe guides us back to 1876 and to a historical past suspended between fact and fiction. She describes how trains were viewed as an invasive new technology; how time operates in intriguing ways in Tolstoy’s fiction, and she speculates about what was hidden in Anna’s red handbag as she stepped off the railway platform.

Dr Sophie Ratcliffe's The Lost Properties of Love is published by William Collins.

Show notes:

Scene One: A warm Sunday evening in late May 1876 (probably Sunday 30 May by the Russian calendar), the platform of Obiralovka Train Station, Russia.

Scene Two: The Gaiety Theatre, London, late April 1876, to watch Kate Field in a play called The Honeymoon by John Tobin

Scene Three: 17 March, 1876, Sofia Tolstoy’s bedside, Yasnaya Polyana Russia.

Memento: The front page of the Times (with the classified ads) for Tuesday 13 June, 1876

People/Social

Presenter: Peter Moore

Guest: Dr Sophie Ratcliffe

Producer: Maria Nolan

Titles: Jon O

In this episode of Travels Through Time, Artemis takes us inside Durham University in a fascinating conversation with one of her tutors, Professor Giles Gasper. Together they reflect on the year 1215, and attempt to understand some of the most significant political, religious and intellectual developments of the medieval period.

Gasper is Professor of High Medieval History at Durham University, and a specialist in intellectual culture. He chose to explore this year through three, era-defining documents: Magna Carta, the Canons of the Fourth Lateran Council, and an astronomical treatise written by Robert Grosseteste.

Grosseteste is the most intriguing figure to emerge in this episode. A polymath and scholar whose influence on the development of scientific knowledge in the West has continued to impress modern scholars even today, although little is known about him.

Grosseteste was the first person that we know to correctly identify refraction as the phenomenon that produces a rainbow, rather than it being reflection, as Aristotle thought. The Ordered Universe Project has also been able to show how Grosseteste’s writings illustrate a nascent understanding of the theory of a multiverse, and also of the Big Bang.

Giles exploration of this lesser known figure, alongside his analysis of such famous historical events, such as the creation of Magna Carta and the meeting of the Fourth Council of the Lateran, is what makes this episode so illuminating in understanding medieval history.

Show notes:

Scene One: June 1215, the Magna Carta is drawn up and sealed (not signed!) by King John after a dispute between his nobles over the rights of the King.

Scene Two: November 1215, The Lateran Palace, Rome. 71 patriarchs and metropolitan bishops, 412 bishops, 900 abbots and priors as well as the representatives of various monarchs meet for the Fourth Council of the Lateran where, amongst many issues, the doctrine of transubstantiation is made official.

Scene Three: 1215, somewhere in England. Robert Grosseteste composes his On The Sphere, an astronomical treatise which seeks to understand the movement of the stars. 

Memento: The lost annotated copy of Abu Maʿshar’s writing on astrology which Robert Grosseteste glossed.

People/Social

Presenter: Artemis Irvine

Guest: Professor Giles Gasper

Producer: Maria Nolan

Titles: Jon O.

For this insightful and evocative episode of Travels Through Time, Peter Moore heads to the historian Sarah Wise’s flat in central London, to talk about left wing politics, life and labour in the imperial capital in the year 1889.

*

London in 1889 lay at the heart of the most extensive empire the world had ever seen. But though there was fabulous wealth in many areas of the capital, it was unequally distributed. Many were worried that those who lived and worked in the East End and docklands were being pushed increasingly into chronic poverty and further towards revolution.

Among those to be concerned were the businessman turned social reformer, Charles Booth. Following a series of breakdowns, in the 1880s Booth began his series of social investigations into the East End which would result in his pioneering series of colour-coded poverty maps.

As Booth trod the East End streets, assigning each one a social status, other reformers were at work. In one of the most deprived parishes in the country, the Reverend Arthur Osborne Jay re-modelled his church so it included a boxing ring and a music hall platform, so there was a positive outlet for the energies of his congregation.

For the last twenty five years the award-winning social historian Sarah Wise has been researching histories like these. Inspired by passionate, thoughtful leftish politicians like Henry Hyndman and William Morris, in this episode of Travels Through Time Sarah guides us into the turbulent East End streets in search of ‘moralised capitalism.’

The nineteenth-century, Wise says, ‘was an era in which there were lots of secrets and lots of mystery and lots of drama.’ Here she takes us to meet figures like Booth and Rev. Jay, who were trying to make sense of the riddles, as well as showing us how close the country came to complete social breakdown.

This episode of Travels Through Time was recorded on location at Sarah flat. If you want to see some of Booth’s poverty maps, along with other photographs and archives that we spoke about during the course of the conversation, please visit our website at www.tttpodcast.com

The Blackest Streets is available in paperback from Vintage Books.

Show notes:

Scene One: Charles Booth walking around the market of Slater Street, Club Row and Brick Lane, one Sunday morning in 1889.

Scene Two: 14 August 1889, Wapping and Limehouse, by the River Thames

Scene Three: 25 February, 1889, a boxing match at Reverend Jay’s Holy Trinity Church, Bethnal Green.

Memento: The entire Charles Booth Map of London

People/Social

Presenter: John Hillman

Interview: Peter Moore

Guest: Sarah Wise

Producers: Maria Nolan

This deeply moving episode of Travels Through Time tells for the very first time the absolutely extraordinary story of Hans Neumann, a young Jewish man from Prague, who managed to outwit the Nazis and survive the Holocaust.

Ariana Neumann grew up in the Venezuela of the 1970s and 1980s. It was a land of possibility and progress. Her father Hans Neumann - a hugely successful industrialist and patron of the arts – epitomised both these characteristics.

But while Hans was outwardly the epitome of success and strength, there were parts of his private self that were unsettling to his close family. He would wake at night screaming in a language his daughter did not understand. He hardly ever mentioned his childhood in central Europe. He never said that he was Jewish. ‘Life,’ he would tell his daughter, ‘was to be lived in the present.’

On his death in September 2001, Ariana discovered a box of papers and photographs that her father had left her. They became the starting point for a personal investigation into her father’s European family and an unspoken history of horrific persecution and enthralling survival during the Holocaust.

This episode of Travels Through Time was recorded on the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp in Poland. During the course of this conversation Ariana guides us back to the drama and tragedy of the year 1944: a defining year for the Neumann family of Prague.

To see Hans’s doll, Zdenka ring and the Jan’s identity card – some of the objects discussed during the course of this conversation – please visit our website at tttpodcast.com

When Time Stopped will be published in the UK and internationally in February 2020.

Show notes:

Scene One: June 23 1944, Red Cross Visit to the Camp of Terezín, CZ. The place is beautified. Thousands are sent to Auschwitz to ease overcrowding and a charade is enacted to fool the International Red Cross inspectors.

Scene Two: September 29/30 1944, The arrival of transport EI in Auschwitz, Poland.

Scene Three: October 9 1944, Berlin Germany. Hans Neumann has been hiding in plain sight and using a fictitious identity. He receives a summons (issued October 5th) to appear in the Nazi District Court in Prague. Going back to Prague and appearing in court would, almost certainly, mean death.

Memento: The sound of Otto Neumann humming the folk song Golem.

People/Social

Presenter: Peter Moore

Guest: Ariana Neumann

Producers: Maria Nolan/John Hillman

Titles: Jon O.

 

In this fascinating episode of Travels Through Time, the ‘queen of food historians’ Dr Annie Gray takes us inside Number Ten Downing Street, as the bombs fell in 1940, to meet Winston Churchill’s magnificent cook: Georgina Landemare.

We know so much about Winston Churchill’s life during that fateful year, 1940. We know the letters he wrote, the speeches he gave, the meetings he held and the telephone calls he made – all of them in exhaustive detail.

But one aspect of Churchill’s wartime life has received very little historical scrutiny until now. That is his relationship with his cook, Georgina Landemare.

Hugely-talented and utterly-dependable, Georgina was embedded right at the heart of the Downing Street machine during the Second World War. According to a document drawn up in 1940, she was one of only two members of Churchill’s domestic staff who were to be evacuated with him in the event of a successful NAZI invasion.

In this episode of Travels Through Time, Dr Annie Gray takes us in pursuit of the elusive Georgina. We catch sight of her at work in a British country house, cooking old English classics like Boodle’s Orange Fool. We follow her to the Admiralty at the outbreak of war. And then we see her behind Number Ten’s green baize door, creating the enticing menus – roasts and cakes and sponges - that lay at the heart of Winston’s dinner table diplomacy.

Dr Annie Gray specialises in the history of British food and dining from c. 1650 to 1950. She's the author of several books, including The Greedy Queen: eating with Victoria, and the bestselling The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook. She's the resident food historian on BBC Radio 4's culinary panel show, The Kitchen Cabinet.

Her new book is a biography of Winston Churchill's beloved family cook, Georgina Landemare. Victory in the Kitchen: the life of Churchill's Cook is published by Profile books in Feb 2020.

Show notes:

Year: 1940 (with a little bit of 1939)

Scene One: Summer 1939, Exning House Newmarket. The summer before the war.

Scene Two: 2 Feb 1940, Admiralty House. Georgina now working for the Churchills.

Scene Three: 14 October, Number Ten at the heart of the Blitz.

Memento: Georgina’s menu books.

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Presenter: Violet Moller

Guest: Dr Annie Gray

Producers: Maria Nolan/John Hillman

Titles: Jon O.

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In this episode of Travels Through Time the biographer Francesca Wade takes us to the fringes of London’s Bloomsbury, to explore a fascinating generation of poets, writers and publishers who passed through Mecklenburgh Square.

In the early decades of the twentieth century the streets and squares of Bloomsbury in inner London were home to a pioneering and provocative generation of writers, poets and artists. Many of these figures would later be celebrated and cherished, but at the time their fortunes were not quite so settled. The transience and fragility of Bloomsbury was captured in a quote by the English novelist Margery Allingham. She called the area, ‘a sort of halfway house. If you lived here you were either going up or coming down.’

This description was particularly appropriate for Mecklenburgh Square, a large residential square on the north eastern edge of inner London. Here, at various important junctures in their lives, lodged five great women: Hilda Doolittle (H.D), Dorothy L Sayers, Jayne Ellen Harrison, Eileen Power and Virginia Woolf.

These women and this square are at the heart of Francesca Wade’s new book Square Haunting. In this episode she guides us to Mecklenburgh Square in the year 1917 to meet the poet H.D, the writer Virginia Woolf and her husband Leonard. They were all busy with projects and all contending with the fevered atmosphere of the wartime capital, a 'ghastly inferno which thinks and breathes and lives air raids, nothing else.'

As DH Lawrence put it, London had ‘perished from being a heart of the world, and became a vortex of broken passions, lusts, hopes, fears and horrors.’

Francesca Wade is the author of Square Haunting: Five Women, Freedom and London Between the Wars (Faber)

Scene One: 44 Mecklenburgh Square, November 1917 - H. D. and D. H. Lawrence in the room while others are out. Or perhaps an evening with them while they're playing charades.

Scene Two: Hogarth House, Richmond, April 1917 - to watch the Woolfs bring home their printing press.

Scene Three: 4 Gerrard Street, Soho, December 1917. The inaugural meeting of the 1917 Club, founded by Leonard Woolf.

Memento: The suitcase of letters from Richard Aldington and D.H. Lawrence to H. D. during the war that was left in the cellar of 44 Mecklenburgh Square and then destroyed

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People / Social

Presenter: Peter Moore

Guest: Francesca Wade

Producers: Maria Nolan/John Hillman

Titles: Jon O.

This panoramic episode of Travels Through Time is set in the year 1920. In it the historian Charles Emmerson guides us from the Free State of Fiume to Moscow and the boisterous beer halls of Munich. He shows us a world of volatile post-war politics and introduces us to three unforgettable figures: Gabriele D'Annunzio, Vladimir Lenin and Adolf Hitler.

In the neat and tidy chronology of the classroom, 1920 is often seen as the end of a period of conflict and the start of an entirely new era. But that, argues the historian Charles Emmerson, is a misreading of history.

The Great War might have ended. The Treaty of Versailles might have been signed. But right across Europe the old conflicts continued. In 1920, for instance, there was gorilla war in Ireland, civil war in Russia, a putsch in Germany and there were troops on the Rhineland.

‘The war was not over,’ Emmerson says, ‘it had only fragmented into a million different conflicts and upheavals, cultural and political.’

In this episode Emmerson guides us through the tangled politics of this complex year.

Charles Emmerson is the author of Crucible: The Long End of the Great War and the Birth of a New World, 1917–1924.

Show notes:

  1. The Golden Platypus restaurant (or The Golden Stag) in Fiume. Gabriele D'Annunzio and the Fiume adventure.
  2. The Second Congress of The Communist International (Comintern) in Moscow in the summer of 1920, shortly after the war against Warsaw had begun.
  3. The first floor of Hofbräuhaus beer hall in Munich, which the German Workers Party have hired out for the launch of their new manifesto and where a young Adolf Hitler gives a speech.

Memento: Lenin’s hunting rifle wrapped in a tablecloth once owned by Gabriele D'Annunzio

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Presenter: Artemis Irvine

Guest: Charles Emmerson

Producer: Maria Nolan

Titles: Jon O.

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