Explaining History Podcast

Modern history podcasts and study guides for students and enthusiasts. Get ten years of recordings on every aspect of modern history and A level history guides.

I have a note on my desk that reminds me what Explaining History is for. It says:

“Create useful stuff for students and teachers”

And that’s what I am trying to do here. Each video or audio podcast is created for students to help them not just master modern history so they can get good pass marks, but to become fascinated by it. To become absorbed into it, enmeshed in it, connected to it. As we move away from the 20th Century (which my work is predominantly about), it becomes harder to understand this brutal and yet enigmatic period. The meaning of the 20th Century is highly contested and hard enough for professional academic historians to grapple with, let alone mere history teachers such as I.

For exclusive extra content, please visit the Explaining History Patreon page below, the work is a labour of love, and it happens through the kindness of patrons around the world.

Investigating the 20th Century

Agent Twister – The life and faked death of John Stonehouse Explaining History

This week, we have an intriguing episode as we converse with acclaimed author Philip Augur, who brings to life the tale of John Stonehouse, the controversial Labour MP. We explore the remarkable and complex narrative depicted in the book 'Agent Twister', co-written with Keely Winstone. Discover Stonehouse's tumultuous journey from political prominence to disgrace, marked by an infamous scandal that astonished the British public, a story truly stranger than fiction. Our conversation uncovers the man behind the headlines, delivering a nuanced understanding of his life, actions, and legacy. John Stonehouse, the British Labour MP, was a man whose life was as gripping as it was perplexing. Born in 1925, Stonehouse served as an MP for two constituencies over his political career, marking his presence in the British Parliament from 1957 to 1976. However, it was the controversy that eclipsed his achievements and turned him into a figure of national notoriety.Stonehouse's political career was initially noteworthy. A charismatic orator and dedicated servant of the Labour Party, he championed various causes, including postal services and aviation. As Postmaster General in Harold Wilson's government, Stonehouse was in a position of considerable influence and seemed set for a promising future in British politics.However, beneath the respectable facade, Stonehouse's life was spinning into a maelstrom of intrigue. Over time, he became embroiled in numerous financial scandals, which eventually led to his dramatic fall from grace, all the time spying for the Czech secret intelligence service. But the defining moment of his career was undoubtedly his audacious attempt to fake his own death in 1974.Plagued by financial troubles and fearing arrest for fraud, Stonehouse devised an elaborate plan to disappear. He left a pile of clothes on a beach in Miami, leading many to believe he had drowned. He then fled to Australia under a pseudonym, where he hoped to start a new life with his mistress. The audacity of this move stunned the world and resulted in a media frenzy.However, his escape was short-lived. Less than two months after his disappearance, he was discovered by Australian police and arrested. He was returned to Britain, where he faced a high-profile trial and was subsequently sentenced to seven years in prison for fraud.The Stonehouse saga, involving politics, scandal, deception, and romance, captivated the nation, transforming him into an infamous figure. Despite the downfall and disgrace, his story continues to hold a fascinating allure, providing a remarkable lens into the human capacity for ambition, deception, and ultimately, self-destruction.Stonehouse's life story, told with fresh insights and perspectives by Philip Augur and Keely Winstone in their book 'Agent Twister', offers readers an engaging exploration of a man who was as complex as he was controversial.You can purchase the book here in hardback and also in paperback Become a member at https://plus.acast.com/s/explaininghistory. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
  1. Agent Twister – The life and faked death of John Stonehouse
  2. The SAS and World War Two: In conversation with Damien Lewis
  3. Isaac Murphy and the Reconstruction Era (1861-96): Explaining History in conversation with Katherine Mooney
  4. Los Angeles and Core – The Freedom Rides 1947-61
  5. Save the last bullet – stories of Hitler's child soldiers 1943-45
  6. Asian Nationalism and the end of the British Empire – 1945
  7. Habsburg Strategic Challenges – 1914
  8. The Life of John Burgoyne – In conversation with Norman Poser
  9. The American neoliberal counter revolution 1971-80
  10. The post war women's movement: a global perspective – 1945

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