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London Review of Books launches new podcast

The Belgrano Diary, a new podcast from the London Review of Books, reassesses the sinking of an Argentinian ship, one British naval officer’s diary and a scandal that almost toppled Thatcher.

London Review of Books launches new podcast
Andrew O’Hagan: “The sinking of the Belgrano and its aftermath is one of the truly consequential episodes in our recent history; so many troubling aspects of the politics and geopolitics of the present can be traced back to it.”

The London Review of Books has announced a new podcast series, hosted by Andrew O’Hagan, that reassesses the 1982 sinking of the Argentinian ship, the General Belgrano, by the British Navy. The attack, ordered by Margaret Thatcher’s government, resulted in the deaths of 323 sailors and led to the escalation of the Falklands War. One officer’s account raised the explosive question, says the publisher: had the government lied about the circumstances surrounding the attack to further its own political agenda?

The series features interviews with key figures including Sethia himself and Santiago Belozo, who was aboard the Belgrano as a young conscript at the time of its sinking, added the publisher. Former ministers including Lord Heseltine, Secretary of State for Defence from 1983-86, describe the government’s reasoning and response, while a panoramic cast of insiders ranging from Sethia’s crewmates to civil servants and investigative journalists recall how the scandal gained momentum slowly, then suddenly, the publisher continued.

The first episode will be released today, with subsequent episodes released weekly. The six-part series will conclude on 2 May, coinciding with the 42nd anniversary of the sinking of the Belgrano.

According to The London Review of Books, The Belgrano Diary explores the following:

  • How a diary from a naval supplies officer revealed fundamental discrepancies between the government’s account of the sinking and the behaviour of the General Belgrano in the hours preceding the attack.
  • The political environment in which Thatcher’s government saw an advantage in sinking an Argentinian ship.
  • The complex motivations of Lieutenant Narendra Sethia, and how he unwittingly found himself at the centre of a political scandal and pursued by the security services.
  • How the Official Secrets Act, conceived as an emergency measure, became a tool that could be manipulated by those in power to conceal the truth.
  • How a minority of individuals campaigning for the truth, including the crusading MP Tam Dalyell – who wrote a series of pieces for the LRBrejecting the official narrative – came to be dismissed as eccentrics or ‘unpatriotic’.
  • Whistleblowing and how those most committed to the truth often receive the harshest punishments.
  • The role of the press in holding those in power to account.
  • The mental health challenges faced by ex-service personnel, particularly those who saw action, and the possibility of reconciliation later in life between soldiers on opposing sides of a conflict.

The Belgrano Diary is the latest in the London Review of Books audio offerings, added the publisher. These include Close Readings, in which contributors explore areas of literature through a selection of key works, available as both one-off courses and as a monthly subscription; The LRB Podcast, which features weekly conversations about pieces from the paper, and occasional mini-series, such as Meehan Crist’s recent Climate, Politics and Procreation; At the Bookshop, which presents recordings of events from the London Review Bookshop; and David Runciman’s history of ideas podcast, Past Present Future, which is presented in partnership with the LRB.

Andrew O’Hagan said: “The sinking of the Belgrano and its aftermath is one of the truly consequential episodes in our recent history; so many troubling aspects of the politics and geopolitics of the present can be traced back to it. It’s a secretive story that has always fascinated me, and a fitting project with which to launch a new kind of LRB podcast, in the fearless investigative tradition of the paper.”

The London Review of Books says The Belgrano Diary will be available from today on the Acast app, Apple Podcasts and all other major podcast platforms.

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