Within living memory of Alexander the Great, a vast, powerful and extraordinary empire rose up in Northern India - forged by the strength, intelligence, and philosophy of one man. In one lifetime, he went from warlord to monk, from outcast to emperor... and his ideas brought a new religion, Buddhism, to full bloom in faraway places. Ashoka the Great is still commemorated on the flag of India, and his empire left a mark on all of Southern Asia.

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Everyone knows the story of Joan of Arc - the patron saint of France, the heroine who was burnt at the stake for her valour and her faith. History has been less kind to Gilles de Rais, a man whose story is less heroic and more macabre. In the dungeons of his castle, the sounds of chains, the heat of fires, and the screams of children became his legacy. But did any of it really happen? Was he a mass murderer of children, or a victim of his wealth and military success? Those secrets are buried under stone and ash and legend, and we may never know for sure...

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The creaking ship rose and fell in massive swells, the waves as high as 10 men stacked on top of each other. Blistering Antarctic winds seemed determined to prevent anyone from rounding the cursed Cape Horn. It had been months since any of the crew had seen their families, eaten anything fresh, or tasted anything but sea water every time they opened their mouths... and yet they were exploring places that had never been mapped before, encountering people and animals that no European had ever seen. At the helm was Captain Cook - more legend than man, undaunted by rain, wind, sun and sea.

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Dr Emma Southon specialises in Roman history, and has written some incredibly interesting - and very funny - books. As a bonus episode of Blind History, we managed to have a chat with her about Rome, Roman society, the role of women in Roman families, and many more salacious and unbelievable stories about what really happened outside of politics and war.

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Some believe he was the greatest man who ever lived, the son of God. Some historians mentioned him in passing as a Jewish rebel and philosopher. Either of those groups may be right, but we’ll never know exactly how to separate the reality from the myth of Jesus of Nazareth.

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We’ve been avoiding this one, but eventually we had to do it ... the arch-villain of modern, if not all history - Adolf Hitler. The Fuhrer of Germany and the man who almost brought the whole Western world to its knees. More has been written about Hitler than anyone else in the 20th century, and yet, his evil deeds, megalomania and sheer force of will continue to elude us. It is not too much to say that this podcast might never have existed, or certainly been in German, if things hadn’t gone the way they did.

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Charles Martel was born in the palace of Austrasia - which it turns out is neither in Australia nor Austria. If you’re confused, just imagine being French without a France. Austrasia was one of four provinces of what would eventually become medieval France, and Charles Martel would be its first leader. As the founder of a nation that has persisted to the present day, his battles, family, and faith would establish an identity in Western Europe that would make even the least proud Frenchman say, “Mon Dieu!”

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Elizabeth Bathory might not be the most famous Hungarian in history, but once you hear her story, you’ll never forget her name. A tale of sadism, torture, cruelty and murder awaits you in this episode of Blind History...

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Coming hot on the heels of last week’s episode, the villains can add another ugly monster to their number. Hideki Tojo was Japan’s fascist, genocidal answer to Himmler in Germany. Throughout his career, only Imperial Japanese priorities would matter, and if people got in the way, he treated them as an inconvenience or a resource. Ultimately, he faced justice in a way few war criminals did, but the blood he spilt in the twentieth century is a stain on Japan’s history.

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If you were to compile a list of the most evil men in history, Heinrich Himmler would undoubtedly be near the top of it. Hitler’s chief executioner and the mastermind behind the genocidal concentration camps, Himmler was obsessed with racial superiority, the occult and killing people efficiently. With his round spectacles and devotion to Hitler, Himmler stopped at nothing to achieve his final solution. If you find the worst people that ever lived fascinating, you’ll enjoy this macabre episode.

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