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Eyewitness: The 1960s on BBC Audiobook


Eyewitness: The 1960s

Published by BBC Audiobooks on 07.03.05

CD price £17.99


Eyewitness provides a rare and fascinating opportunity to hear the events of the 20th century described by those who saw them happen. A wealth of BBC archive recordings, some never previously broadcast, is interwoven with an illuminating commentary by the historian Joanna Bourke and presented by Tim Pigott-Smith.


Published in ten volumes, Eyewitness examines the role and the life of the British people in each decade of the century.

BBC Audiobooks publishes the 1960s in March 2005.


The voices of Harold Macmillan, Harold Wilson, Ian Paisley, Bernadette Devlin and Richard Ingrams; as well as students, feminists, Beatles fans and hippies; combine to throw light on this iconic decade.


The Swinging Sixties.

  • 1963 was the year of Beatlemania. All their singles went to no. 1 and by November Lennon/MaCartney songs occupied eight slots in the Top Twenty. At the Royal Variety Performance John Lennon cheekily asked "those of you in the cheaper seats clap your hands, the rest of you just rattle your jewellery."
  • DH Lawrence's banned novel 'Lady Chatterly's Lover' was published in 1960 by Penguin. It was immediately prosecuted under the new Obscene Publications Act. At the trial Mr. Griffith-Jones, prosecuting, asked "Is this a book you would wish your wife or servants to read?" The country giggled, Penguin won and 'Lady C' sold more than 2 million copies.
  • England's football team have only ever won one major tournament, the World Cup at Wembley in 1966. They almost had nothing to win as the Jules Rimet trophy was stolen in London before a ball was kicked. Luckily it was found under a hedge by Pickles the dog, who drew it to his owner's attention, and the day was saved.
  • The most notorious crimes of the decade were the Moors Murders. In May 1966 Ian Brady and Myra Hindley were found guilty of murdering a number of teenagers and children. For these horrific crimes they were sentenced to life imprisonment. The death sentence had been abolished in November 1965, a month after their last murder.
  • At the village of Aberfan in South Wales on the morning of 21st October 1966 a local coal tip slipped down the mountain and engulfed the school. Rescuers came from all over the valleys to work with their bare hands to dig through mud and slurry. 144 were killed, 116 of them children.
  • The Profumo scandal in 1963 fascinated the country for months with its stories of sex and sleaze in high places. Giving evidence in the trial of Dr. Stephen Ward, alleged pimp and society osteopath, the most memorable remark came from Mandy Rice-Davies. She was a pert 18-year-old blonde and when told that Lord Astor had denied sleeping with her replied "Well, he would wouldn't he". Her logic was inescapable.
  • Political leaders were notoriously bad at economics in the sixties. Tory Prime Minister Sir Alec Douglas-Hume admitted that he used matchsticks to work things out. Harold Wilson, the Labour PM, announced a disastrous devaluation of sterling in 1967 and feebly reassured "this will not affect the pound in your pocket or purse."
  • In April 1969 in a by-election for Mid-Ulster the anti-Unionist politician Bernadette Devlin was elected an MP. At 21 Devlin became the youngest ever woman MP.
  • In 1968 in a speech in Birmingham MP Enoch Powell cynically exploited racial tensions in Britain. He said, "As I look ahead I am filled with foreboding; like the Roman I see the River Tiber foaming with much blood". Dockers marched in support, singing, "Enoch is our Darling", "Bye Bye Blackbird" and "White Christmas".
  • The Great Train Robbery in August 1963 caught the country's imagination. A daring gang ambushed the Glasgow-Euston mail train and stole £2.6 million. There was public sympathy when six months later 12 of the gang were sentenced to jail terms totaling 300 years. The remaining gang member at liberty, Ronnie Biggs, gave himself up in 2001 and is still in prison.


Professor Joanna Bourke is one of the few female professors of history in the country. Currently Professor of History at Birkbeck College, University of London, she has published seven books - covering subjects such as Irish history, working-class cultures, the history of psychological thought, the male body, the history of emotions, sexual violence, and modern warfare.


Her work has been translated into Chinese, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Turkish. An Intimate History of Killing: Face-to-Face Killing in Twentieth Century Warfare (Granta and Basic Books) won the Fraenkel Prize in Contemporary History for 1998 and the Wolfson History Prize for 2000. She has just completed a book entitled Fear: A Cultural History of the Twentieth Century and has begun a history of rapists in C19-20.



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Date : 22.02.2005
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