Why Did We Do That?


0101The Motorised City19980219

Chris Bowlby presents two programmes exploring the roots of some of the more controversial postwar policies.

1: `The Motorised City'.

A look at why major urban road schemes were all the rage in the 1960s and 70s.

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Chris Bowlby presents the second of two programmes exploring the roots of some of the more controversial postwar policies.

`Child-Centred Learning'.

How did the primary school classroom become a battleground for rival teaching theories?

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Chris Bowlby reveals the ingredients of four postwar recipes for policy blunder.

1: `Bring on the Bulldozers'.

A look at how slum clearance careered out of control into the mass demolition of housing.

0202We Believe In Bunkers19990715

The ingredients of four postwar recipes for policy blunder.

2: `We Believe in Bunkers'.

Chris Bowlby looks back at the policy of civil defence and asks if the government dug itself into a hole by building hundreds of nuclear bunkers.

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The ingredients of four post-war recipes for policy blunder.

3: `Tartan Steel'.

Chris Bowlby looks back at the policy of regional development and discovers how London's idea of Scottish industry left thousands of Scots economically stranded.

0204 LASTTo Cap It All19990729

Chris Bowlby looks back at how the Common Agricultural Policy made European farming an expensive farce.

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Chris Bowlby returns with the four-part history series that reveals why some of the most controversial policies, fashions and fads became the orthodoxies of their time.

1: Factory Farming.

How turning chickens into animal machines gave us cheap plentiful.

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Chris Bowlby presents a four-part history series that reveals why some of the most controversial policies, fashions and fads became the orthodoxies of their time.

2: `Football Fencing'.

How hazardous fences were the quick-fix solution to football hooligan.


3: Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT).

How the miracle cure of the day became one of the most c.

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Chris Bowlby concludes a four-part history series investigating how some of the most controversial policies, fashions and fads became the orthodoxies of their time.


How a fashionable, heavily marketed building material turned out to be a killer.

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Chris Bowlby with a four-part history series investigating how some of the most controversial policies, fashions and fads became the orthodoxies of their time.

Why we turned our backs on the `modern' answer to transport congestion: the tram.


Chris Bowlby begins a new four-part history series.

The modernisation plan for Britain's railways hit the buffers in the 50s, the consequences of which are all too apparent today.

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2: `Cod Economics'.

Chris Bowlby reveals how North Sea cod, once Britain's national dish, has become an endangered species.

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An architect's dream or a source of urban blight? Chris Bowlby asks why concrete was used so badly in the post-war reconstruction of Britain.

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4: `Arming the World'.

In the 1960s, the Wilson government moved to increase British arms exports.

But the trade has since proved highly embarrassing.

Chris Bowlby investigates.

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White sliced bread is the ultimate British comfort food.

But why did we become so fond of something so lacking in taste and dull in its texture? Beginning a new series of Why Did We Do That?, Chris Bowlby picks up crumbs of information from sources as varied as the creation of the medieval 'upper crust', Mrs Beeton's observation of bread-eating dogs, the 1950s government drive for cheap toast, and the curious British habit of using for bread for purposes other than eating.

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Society speaks passionately about the need to protect children, but our record on child pedestrian casualties is poor.

Ever since the 1930s, the right of our youngest citizens to street space has lost out to speeding traffic.

Chris Bowlby asks why, faced by this road safety challenge, society decided to look the other way.


Shunned now for its association with Nazi horrors, eugenics was once all the rage in influential British circles.

Supporters were as varied as Winston Churchill and Marie Stopes.

Chris Bowlby reveals how lurid fears of working class expansion and mental 'weakness' prompted this fascination with the 'science' of breeding.

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was part of the promised 'leisure age' when we would all work less but earn more.

The reality for many was pensioner poverty, as over 50s were pushed out of the work force.

Now that we are all being told to work even longer, Chris Bowlby asks, what became of our early retirement dreams?

0701The Bug's Revenge20050214

In the depths of wartime despair came a medical miracle - Penicillin, which promised to defeat disease as decisively as we were defeating fascism.

The age of antibiotics dawned, and we embraced everything from lifesaving cures for hideous infection, to penicillin lipstick for hygienic kissing.

But a few decades later, as superbugs threaten our hospitals, resistance to antibiotics has ended all that optimism.

This programme shows how we squandered a precious gift as ambitious doctors, demanding patients, and a profit-hungry pharmaceutical industry all encouraged us to ignore the warnings that too much use of antibiotics would allow the bugs to fight back.


From medieval throne etiquette to Tony Blair's "government by sofa", postwar trends in toddler transportation to French motorised settees, Chris Bowlby reveals why our modern love of sitting down has unexpected historical roots.

Sitting as status symbol is explored as well as the powerful instincts that have shaped our sedentary life and driven walking out of fashion.

The programme also hears how imperialism sought to spread chair use globally, and a Californian professor explains how she's resisting the trend by lecturing lying down.

There's far more to the sedentary society our government worries about than endless car driving and computerised work.

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Move the British capital to Yorkshire? That was one of the options debated in the 1960s in order to try and reduce London's domination of the UK.

Sharing population and economic power across the country is something politicians have often talked about.

But as Chris Bowlby discovers the government has in fact been much more successful at creating a super-region in the south of England with London at its centre.

The pull of London as global city and capital of everything from government to media to fashion has intensified.

Negative images of the north have deterred any fundamental shift of people and power in its direction.

So was this inevitable or could things have been different?

0704 LASTThe Ideas Strangler20050307

Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher loathed them; others celebrated them as bastions of British democracy.

The committee has become one of the constants of British life everywhere, from the village hall to Westminster.

So why do we love this way of doing - or failing to do - our business?

Chris Bowlby traces the Victorian roots of our obsession, and hears from the fearsome guardians of correct committee procedure, who saw it all as a vital part of our Cold War defences against menacing Soviet "central committee" imitations.

He also hears from the victims of what have been called "the ideas stranglers", committees which undermined Whitehall mandarins, ruined works of art, or left Oxbridge dons spending terrifying amounts of time formally discussing what to put in their window boxes.