Cities On The Brink

Episodes

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03Berlin20140108

03Berlin2014010820150831 (R3)

Stepping back in time, three BBC News correspondents present their personal perspectives on the capital cities of the major European powers that fought the Great War.

The first programme explores the epicentre of turmoil as the conflagration took hold: Berlin, the capital of Kaiser Wilhelm II's empire. Stephen Evans reminds us that the German capital on the eve of war was the world's most innovative technological centre. Einstein was here, the director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics from 1914. Mark Twain called Berlin the "German Chicago" because of its dizzying sense of modernity and progress. Immigrants were sucked in by industry. In 1895, 20,000 Berliners worked in the factories being built on the outskirts of the city, living cheek-by-jowl in new blocks which became known as "rental barracks".

But all this industrial energy and the wealth it created - which we still associate with today's Germany - came at a price. Both male and female workers felt alienated in their work, likening themselves to machines. As women grew in importance to the economy, so did the loudness of the criticism of their alleged neglect of traditional home virtues. The image of Germany united in war that was to be orchestrated later in the year was already belied by the reality of daily life in the capital itself.

Producer Simon Coates.

03Berlin2014010820150831 (R3)

Stepping back in time, three BBC News correspondents present their personal perspectives on the capital cities of the major European powers that fought the Great War.

The first programme explores the epicentre of turmoil as the conflagration took hold: Berlin, the capital of Kaiser Wilhelm II's empire. Stephen Evans reminds us that the German capital on the eve of war was the world's most innovative technological centre. Einstein was here, the director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics from 1914. Mark Twain called Berlin the "German Chicago" because of its dizzying sense of modernity and progress. Immigrants were sucked in by industry. In 1895, 20,000 Berliners worked in the factories being built on the outskirts of the city, living cheek-by-jowl in new blocks which became known as "rental barracks".

But all this industrial energy and the wealth it created - which we still associate with today's Germany - came at a price. Both male and female workers felt alienated in their work, likening themselves to machines. As women grew in importance to the economy, so did the loudness of the criticism of their alleged neglect of traditional home virtues. The image of Germany united in war that was to be orchestrated later in the year was already belied by the reality of daily life in the capital itself.

Producer Simon Coates.

04St Petersburg20140109
04St Petersburg20140109

04St Petersburg2014010920150901 (R3)

Stepping back in time, BBC News correspondents present their personal perspectives on the capital cities of major European powers that fought the Great War.

The series continues with the remarkable city which would - uniquely - soon be renamed amidst bloody regicide and revolution: St Petersburg.

The BBC's Moscow correspondent, Steve Rosenberg, finds a revealing connection, however, between the St. Petersburg of a hundred years ago and its counterpart of today.

He tells the remarkable story of the Grand International Masters' Chess Tournament of 1914, with its starring cast of Russian, German, French, British and American competitors and its dramas of who won and who lost.

But the tournament also demonstrated the Russian passion for chess that continues to this day and helps define its national identity as well as the fierce competition with other countries.

Producer Simon Coates.

04St Petersburg2014010920150901 (R3)

Stepping back in time, BBC News correspondents present their personal perspectives on the capital cities of major European powers that fought the Great War.

The series continues with the remarkable city which would - uniquely - soon be renamed amidst bloody regicide and revolution: St Petersburg.

The BBC's Moscow correspondent, Steve Rosenberg, finds a revealing connection, however, between the St. Petersburg of a hundred years ago and its counterpart of today.

He tells the remarkable story of the Grand International Masters' Chess Tournament of 1914, with its starring cast of Russian, German, French, British and American competitors and its dramas of who won and who lost.

But the tournament also demonstrated the Russian passion for chess that continues to this day and helps define its national identity as well as the fierce competition with other countries.

Producer Simon Coates.

05London20140110

05London2014011020150904 (R3)

Stepping back in time, BBC News correspondents present a personal perspective on principal cities of the major European powers that fought the First World War. In this Essay, Emma Jane Kirby considers the capital of the largest contemporary modern maritime empire: London.

To today's listeners some of Londoners' concerns a century ago will seem extraordinarily familiar. Complaints about the Tube were as frequent and heartfelt then as they are today. To try and divert travellers from their misery, Macdonald Gill - the brother of sculptor and designer Eric Gill - was commissioned to produce a "Wonderground" map. It was intended to amuse them as they waited for their trains which were infrequent, often dirty and overcrowded.

The map's whimsical illustrations - together with Cockney asides put in the mouths of some of the invented characters - captured the city's above-ground, pre-war character. It evoked the zeitgeist which George Bernard Shaw simultaneously reflected on stage in "Pygmalion" - and led to a subsequent commission to design a theatreland map during the First World War.

Emma Jane Kirby considers the idea of Britain which London was presenting to both the wider world and Britons themselves, and she assesses how far these attitudes still resonate today.

Producer Simon Coates.

05London2014011020150904 (R3)

Stepping back in time, BBC News correspondents present a personal perspective on principal cities of the major European powers that fought the First World War. In this Essay, Emma Jane Kirby considers the capital of the largest contemporary modern maritime empire: London.

To today's listeners some of Londoners' concerns a century ago will seem extraordinarily familiar. Complaints about the Tube were as frequent and heartfelt then as they are today. To try and divert travellers from their misery, Macdonald Gill - the brother of sculptor and designer Eric Gill - was commissioned to produce a "Wonderground" map. It was intended to amuse them as they waited for their trains which were infrequent, often dirty and overcrowded.

The map's whimsical illustrations - together with Cockney asides put in the mouths of some of the invented characters - captured the city's above-ground, pre-war character. It evoked the zeitgeist which George Bernard Shaw simultaneously reflected on stage in "Pygmalion" - and led to a subsequent commission to design a theatreland map during the First World War.

Emma Jane Kirby considers the idea of Britain which London was presenting to both the wider world and Britons themselves, and she assesses how far these attitudes still resonate today.

Producer Simon Coates.