Cautionary Tales

We tell our children unsettling fairy tales to teach them valuable life lessons, but these Cautionary Tales are for the education of the grown ups – and they are all true. Tim Harford (Financial Times, BBC, author of “Messy” and “The Undercover Economist”) brings you stories of awful human error, tragic catastrophes, daring heists and hilarious fiascos. They'll delight you, scare you, but also make you wiser.


History
Society & Culture
1
BONUS: Storks, Smoking and the Power of Doubt
We are often encouraged to doubt statistics. Shame. They can save our lives.
10 min
2
How To End A Pandemic
Even with a vaccine it took nearly 200 years to eradicate smallpox - so what can this long battle teach us today?
24 min
3
That Turn To Pascagoula
When a deadly storm turns away at the last minute... should we sign with relief or prepare like crazy for the next one?
24 min
4
The Village of Heroes
In 1665, the people of Eyam went into lockdown to halt the spread of the plague. Have we failed to follow their example?
21 min
5
The Spreadsheet of Life and Death
How much would the government pay to save your life? Well... it depends.
23 min
6
A Tsunami of Misery
Saving people from an urgent threat can cause their lives to be blighted in profound, yet hidden ways.
20 min
7
Fire at The Beverly Hills Supper Club
Why did audience members fail to flee a deadly fire... despite being told to escape?
20 min
8
Cautionary Tales Presents: The Last Archive
This week we're featuring The Last Archive, a new podcast hosted by historian and New Yorker staff writer Jill Lepore.
47 min
9
Cautionary Tales presents: Against the Rules Se...
In his second season of Against the Rules, Journalist and bestselling author Michael Lewis asks who’s getting coaching, and who isn’t?
45 min
10
Cautionary Tales Presents: TED Talk Daily
In this special episode of Cautionary Tales, we feature Tim Harford's TED Talk Daily from 2018.
18 min
11
You Have Reached Your Destination
If you rely on fortune tellers, GPS or clever forecasting algorithms to guide you through live... you may end up in a bad place.
32 min
12
Bowie, Jazz and the Unplayable Piano
Sometimes we do our best work not when things are going well, but when a wrench has been thrown in the works.
30 min
13
How Britain Invented, Then Ignored, Blitzkrieg
Why big and successful organisations can't always see a brilliant idea that's staring them in the face.
36 min
14
Buried by the Wall Street Crash
A tale of two men who faced ruin because they thought they could predict the financial future... and how one bounced back.
35 min
15
The Deadly Airship Race
Competition can makes things better, but when two airships were pitted against one another the result was disaster.
37 min
16
La La Land: Galileo's Warning
Giving an Oscar to the wrong film proved that some safety systems make mistakes even more likely.
30 min
17
The Rogue Dressed as a Captain
Humans aren't as blindly obedient as we are made out to be... but we still fall too easily for convincing fraudsters.
33 min
18
DANGER: Rocks Ahead!
Why did an oil tanker captain steer his beloved ship towards a reef? It's a mistake many of us make.
35 min
19
Introducing: Cautionary Tales
Coming November 15 from Tim Harford and Pushkin Industries, Cautionary Tales relates a true story of a time when something did not go according to plan.
2 min