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ABC Radio presents
The History Listen
New and compelling stories from Australia and around the world, told by some of our most popular and trusted historians. Step inside a time machine for an immersive journey through history, where stories of people, places and events bring the past vividly into our present world.
October 19, 2021
May Wirth: bareback riding queen
'I can do things no woman ever did before in the history of the circus business.' May Wirth
October 12, 2021
Pentridge prison: a violent past and complicated present
There's a brutal history behind the imposing walls of Melbourne's Pentridge prison, stretching from 1851 right up until its closure in 1997. Today there's a playground, supermarket, cinema and apartments on site – but not everyone's happy about it. Those who know Pentridge best offer their answers to a difficult question: how should you treat a site with such a violent past?
October 5, 2021
The illusory life of magician Esme Levante
Underwater escapes, padlocked trunks and a magic trick featuring a wallaby called JoJo - the story of Esme Levante has it all. Yet for decades the life of this remarkable woman has been overshadowed by her more famous father, the Great Levante, one of Australia’s greatest magicians. So, who was Esme Levante, “the most daring girl in the world”?
September 28, 2021
Ray Denning part 2: stitch up
With nothing to lose, Raymond Denning escapes Grafton prison in a rubbish bin. He has help from prisoner rights groups and an agenda to raise awareness about police corruption. The man-hunt for Denning turns farcical when he uses the media to make the police look foolish.
September 21, 2021
Ray Denning part 1: breaking out
The story of one of Australia's most misunderstood criminals. After a traumatic childhood, Raymond Denning jumps from juvenile detention to jail. When an escape attempt goes wrong, a prison warder is critically injured and the finger is pointed at Denning. As his treatment within the correctional system deteriorates Denning begins to find his voice.
September 14, 2021
You are not alone: 100 years of PEN International Part 2
Have writers been imprisoned in Australia for their work? Most definitely and PEN has worked to have them freed. In this history of PEN in Australia Arnold Zable tells the story of Cheikh Kone, a journalist from the Ivory Coast who was detained in Port Hedland and writer Behrouz Boochani detained on Manus Island. As well as the letters members of PEN have written to imprisoned writers around the world, like those in Myanmar, to tell them that they are not alone. I am a stranger to you but please know that you are no stranger to me – Maria Tumarkin in a letter to Kylie Moore-Gilbert, an Australian writer detained in Iran until recently.
September 7, 2021
You are not alone: 100 years of PEN International Part 1
Writers go to prison for the courageous pursuit of their craft and PEN has been working to get them out. Melbourne writer Arnold Zable tells the story of PEN International - from its creation out of the scars of World War 1 to bring societies together through their literature, to its growing human rights work across the globe, protecting freedom of speech and supporting imprisoned writers. If you don’t know the truth you can’t act – Jennifer Clements - President of PEN International
August 31, 2021
The curious geologist
How a South Australian geologist named Reg Sprigg helped solve Charles Darwin's dilemma
August 24, 2021
Seachange: 20 years on from the Tampa Affair
When a Norwegian container ship - the MV Tampa – rescued 438 asylum seekers from a sinking boat on August 26, 2001 who was to know the political fallout it would leave in its wake?
August 17, 2021
Miner Poets - songs and verse from the west coast of Tasmania
We travel to the west coast of Tasmania, to meet the mining communities who carry on a rich cultural tradition of storytelling in poetry and song.
August 10, 2021
Stories from the Archibald
On the 100th anniversary of Sydney's Archibald portrait prize, artist Wendy Sharpe takes a look at some its most controversial moments.
August 3, 2021
Alone with J.S. Bach
The music of Johann Sebastian Bach is a lifetime companion for many violinists. And in our time of Covid-19 isolation, his Six Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin have taken on a new resonance. These pieces are spiritual, virtuosic, joyful - and enigmatic.
July 27, 2021
Whitlam's China chance: the origins of the Australia-China relationship
In the Cold War winter of July 1971 ALP leader Gough Whitlam made an audacious trip to Beijing. This is the story of the events, 50 years ago, that turned Australia towards communist China.
July 20, 2021
Those Bloody Vegos - a short history of vegetarianism in Australia
Early in 2020, a vegetarian version of the iconic Four’N Twenty meat pie hit service stations around the country. For lifelong vego Carly Godden, this re-imagining of an Aussie classic was a sign - vegetarianism had finally gone mainstream.
July 13, 2021
Escape from Greece 1941
One soldier's incredible World War II escape story through southern Europe. Why haven't Australian's heard more about the heroic ANZAC campaign in Greece? ON the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Tempe Gorge, the story is revealed.
July 6, 2021
Yarramundi and the people of Dyarubbin
Dyarubbin, the mighty Hawkesbury River, winds its way along the foot of the Blue Mountains, around the north western rim of Sydney’s Cumberland Plain. Settlement along the river, like much of Australia’s history, has been told from a colonial perspective. We hear from Darug knowledge holders about their long and enduring relationship with this country, and the river they know as Dyarubbin
June 29, 2021
How hypnosis brought the CIA to Australia
Martin Orne was one of the leading psychologists of the 20th century, his specialty was the science of hypnosis. In the 1960s, his scientific method brought him to the University of Sydney, and it's world respected psychology faculty. Unbeknownst to his Australian researchers, however, Professor Orne was being secretly funded by the CIA, in their Cold War quest to control the human mind.
June 22, 2021
An Object in Time - The Whip
The whip played a central role in the development of Australia. What can it tell us about our society today?
June 15, 2021
An Object in Time - The Ginger Beer
The refreshing beverage that revolutionised the law.
June 8, 2021
An Object in Time - The Envelope
An envelope is a humdrum communications device – except when it’s full of misinformation, tucked into the pocket of a dead man, and dropped by a submarine off the coast of wartime Spain.