Eyewitness provides a rare and fascinating opportunity to hear the events of the 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 Burke. Published in 10 volumes, Eyewitness examines the role and the life of the British people in each decade of the century.
Between the onset of the Depression in 1930 and the outbreak of war in 1939, social and political divisions deepened. Soaring unemployment, wage cuts, and the Means Test humiliated workers, and discontent showed itself in mass demonstrations such as the Jarrow March. Fascism gained a toe-hold in the UK with Sir Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists, and in 1936 the rival ideologies of fascism and communism found a battleground in the Spanish Civil War.
The decade provided few moments of celebration. Fred Perry won the Men’s Singles title at Wimbledon, and the coronation of George VI was a joyous occasion, but it was to be the last for some time. Voices such as Churchill and Chamberlain remind us of the political mood, but it is the testament of ordinary people buffeted by events beyond their control that are the most telling.
Thought-provoking and moving, these are the voices of the past, speaking to the present.