Conflict of Interest is a podcast which sees celebrity guests ask the simple questions about some of the world’s most important conflicts. What actually was the Cold War? Who is fighting in Yemen? Where are the Falklands Islands? Guided by an IWM curator, our guests are taken on a journey through IWM London and HMS Belfast in London, discovering the objects, people and stories which bring a conflict to life.

Part of the IWM Institute

The Institute is IWM's research and knowledge exchange hub. We provide access to IWM's rich collections for research and innovation to increase the public's understanding of war and conflict.

Series Two

Series 2 of Conflict of Interest explores Cold War-era conflicts, from the Malayan Emergency to the Vietnam War, with guests including actor Russell Tovey, radio DJ Cerys Matthews and comedian Phil Wang. 

S2 E1: The Berlin Wall, with Russell Tovey

The Berlin Wall was one of the most important symbols of the Cold War, signifying the division of Europe into communist East and capitalist West.

But why was the Wall built? How did it affect the lives of ordinary Berliners? And how did it come crashing down in 1989? 

In this episode we were joined by actor Russell Tovey alongside IWM Curator Paris Agar, eyewitness John Kampfner and KCL Lecturer Katrin Schreiter.

S2 E2: The Malayan Emergency, with Phil Wang

Few are aware of the secretive conflict that took place in the jungles of Malaysia in the 1940s and 1950s between British colonial forces and communist guerillas. So what tactics were used by both sides? Why was it called an Emergency and not a War? What happened to ordinary civilians caught in the crossfire? And why did this conflict become so important for future counterinsurgency campaigns? 

In this episode we were joined by stand up comedian Phil Wang, IWM expert Rio Creech and historian Karl Hack.

S2 E3: Mau Mau Uprising, with Nikita Gill

The Mau Mau Uprising was another lesser-known conflict that took place during the end of the British Empire between Kenyan insurgents and British forces. We ask questions like, What does Mau Mau actually mean? What happened in Britain’s detention camps? What was decolonisation? And what is the legacy of the conflict today? 

In this episode we were joined by renowned poet and writer Nikita Gill, alongside IWM expert Niels Boender, historian John Lonsdale and researcher Rose Miyonga.

This episode contains references to racism and sexual violence in conflict. Some listeners may find descriptions distressing.

S2 E4: The Korean War, with Eddie Izzard

Why is Korea divided between North and South? Who was Kim Jong Un’s grandfather Kim Il Sun, and what did he want? Why did the United Nations intervene in Korea? And did the Korean War really almost go nuclear?

In this episode we were joined by celebrated stand up comedian, writer, actor and activist Eddie Izzard, in a special recording that took place on the ship HMS Belfast. Our experts were IWM Curator Hilary Roberts, veteran Brian Parritt and SOAS Professor Owen Miller.

S2 E5: The Vietnam War, with Cerys Matthews

The Vietnam War is one of the twentieth century’s most well-known conflicts. It has become a buzzword for military failure, synonymous with the most horrific aspects of irregular warfare between states and guerilla forces, and has had a profound impact on politics and popular culture in the United States and around the world.

But why did America get involved in the first place? Who were the Viet Cong and the Viet Minh? Why were there mass peace protests back in the US? And what lessons, if any, can be learned from the conflict? 

In this episode we were joined by Cerys Matthews - singer, songwriter, author, and BBC Radio 6 broadcaster, alongside IWM Curator, conflict eyewitness Phan Thi Kim Phuc, and renowned photographer Don McCullin.

S2 E6: The Falklands Conflict, With Katherine Parkinson

1982 saw the start of the Falklands Conflict. But why did the United Kingdom, steered by Margaret Thatcher, send its Navy to defend the Falklands, a tiny group of islands over 8,000 miles from Britain? Why were the islands so important to Argentina and its government? And what are the prospects for reconciliation forty years later?

In this episode we were joined by actor Katherine Parkinson together with IWM expert John Beales, historian Helen Parr and veteran Richard Gough.

S2 E7: Ukraine, with Sophie Duker

What is the history behind the devastating war in Ukraine, and how did it all begin? Recorded in August 2022, this special episode of Conflict of Interest explores Ukraine’s recent past, from the collapse of the Soviet Union to Russia’s annexation of Crimea with guests including comedian Sophie Duker, Ukrainian journalist, expert and activist Olga Tokariuk, academic and historian Samir Puri and senior IWM curator Carl Warner.

Series One

Series 1 unpacks some of the world’s most complicated recent conflicts, from the Northern Ireland Troubles to the Iraq War, with guests including actor Carey Mulligan, comedian Jamali Maddix and satirist Munya Chawawa.

S1 E1: The Yugoslav Wars, with Deborah Frances White

In the 1990s, countries like Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia saw some of the worst violence in Europe since the Second World War. So why did war break out in the former Yugoslavia, how did the conflict play out, and how far back does the story go? 

In this week's episode we were joined by Deborah Frances-White, host of The Guilty Feminist podcast. Please be aware this episode includes descriptions of sexual violence that some listeners may find distressing. If you are affected by any of the issues raised, please vist Women for Women International for more information and advice.

S1 E2: Afghanistan, with Jamali Maddix

9/11. Osama Bin Laden. The Taliban. Helmand. IEDs. These are some of the phrases associated with the War in Afghanistan. But why did Britain, America and others intervene there in 2001? Why did troops stay after the intervention? And what has happened in the region since, in what became America’s longest running conflict?

In this week's episode we were joined by comedian Jamali Maddix, presenter of Hate Thy Neighbour and guest on Taskmaster.

S1 E3: Iraq, with Rick Edwards

The Iraq War is one of the most controversial events in recent history. But who really was Saddam Hussein? What was the rationale behind the invasion? What went so badly wrong after 2003? And what are the consequences of the War today? 

In this episode we were joined by Rick Edwards, TV presenter and former host of T4 and Tool Academy.

S1 E4: Libya, with Inua Ellams

Who was Muammar Gaddafi? What happened in the Arab Spring? What were the reasons behind Britain, France and America intervening in Libya in 2011? And why is there still fighting going on today? In this episode we’ll explain the story behind one of the most consequential (and confusing) conflicts of recent times.

In this episode, we were joined by the renowned poet and playwright Inua Ellams, who has written plays including Barber Shop Chronicles and An Evening With An Immigrant.

S1 E5: Syria, with Carey Mulligan

The Syrian conflict is one of the most complex and catastrophic wars of recent memory. It has left more than 380,000 people dead and over 10 million people displaced, has destroyed entire cities and drawn interventions from multiple countries. But what are the roots of this conflict? Why has it been so chaotic? And is there any hope on the horizon for Syria’s devastated civilian population? 

In this episode we were joined by Carey Mulligan, award winning actor and star of Promising Young Woman and The Great Gatsby and Waad al-Kateab, Syrian filmmaker and creator of For Sama.

S1 E6: Yemen, with Munya Chawawa

Until recently, Yemen was seen as a remote part of the world that many Westerners knew very little about, perhaps beyond the book-turned-film 'Salmon Fishing in the Yemen' and a Friends episode where Chandler moves to 15 Yemen Road. But in the last few years, the conflict there has created one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, with millions facing starvation. So why did the violence start? Who are the Houthis? What has been the true impact on Yemen’s civilian population? And what is Britain’s role in all of this?

In this episode we were joined by comedian, rapper and satirist Munya Chawawa, as well as Yemen expert Iona Craig.

S1 E7: Northern Ireland, with James Graham

When did ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland begin, and what was it like to live through them? Who were the IRA, and what happened on Bloody Sunday? And with the Good Friday agreement bringing an end to the conflict, what does Brexit mean for the peace process today?

In this episode we were joined by James Graham, playwright and screenwriter behind This House, Quiz and Brexit: The Uncivil War.

S1 E8: 9/11, with Suruthi Bala and Hannah Maguire (RedHanded)

In this bonus episode of Conflict of Interest podcast, marking the twentieth anniversary of the attacks on 11 September 2001, we examine this monumental moment in history which profoundly impacted the world of war and conflict, and the way we live our lives today.

Bonus episodes

Meet three people whose lives were changed by conflict in Before The War, an audio and comic mini-series with illustrator @thefakepan.

Before The War Episode 1: Afghanistan, with Samira Kitman

Calligrapher and miniaturist Samira Kitman discovered art as a young woman, enabling her to travel the world before threats to her freedom and fear of violence forced her to flee her home. Hear her story in this special episode of our Conflict of Interest podcast.

Before the War Episode 2: Yemen, with Murad Subay

Artist Murad Subay tells his story of Yemen before the war, finding art as a teenager before sparking a street art movement that saw men, women and children painting the streets of their homes.

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