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Start the Week


Start The Week sets the cultural agenda for the week ahead, with high-profile guests discussing the ideas behind their work in the fields of art, literature, film, science, history, society and politics.

Start The Week sets the cultural agenda for the week ahead, with high-profile guests discussing the ideas behind their work in the fields of art, literature, film, science, history, society and politics.
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London, United Kingdom




Start The Week sets the cultural agenda for the week ahead, with high-profile guests discussing the ideas behind their work in the fields of art, literature, film, science, history, society and politics.




Poland: A hundred years of history

Poland turns 100 this November. The country had existed for a thousand years but it was only in 1918 with the Treaty of Versailles that an independent Poland was created. Amol Rajan explores its turbulent history. No nation's story has been so distorted as Poland's, says historian Adam Zamoyski. He looks back to the great medieval nation that was once a European heavyweight. But Russia, Prussia and Austria divided Poland up in 1797 and turned it into a backwater - before the Nazis and Soviet...


Reporting from the Front Line

Andrew Marr talks to the journalist Lindsey Hilsum about the extraordinary life of the war correspondent Marie Colvin. Throughout her career she travelled to the most dangerous places in the world, to bear witness to the suffering of ordinary people caught up in extraordinary events. She wrote: “it has always seemed to me that what I write about is humanity in extremis, pushed to the unendurable, and that it is important to tell people what really happens in wars.’ She was killed in Syria in...


That's not fair

On Budget day, Andrew Marr discusses what is broken in our economic and social system, and how it could be mended - if only those in charge were bold enough. Oxford’s Paul Collier is an economist known around the world for his work on inequality. His new book, The Future of Capitalism, focuses on the great rifts dividing Britain, with solutions on how to close them. David Willetts, the former Conservative minister, is focused on generational fairness and the increasing tensions between the...



Pirates come in many forms – from swashbuckling Captain Hook to today's poverty-stricken pirates off the coast of Somalia. It’s 400 years since one of the most charismatic and controversial figures in English history was executed. Sir Walter Ralegh was a favourite of Elizabeth I and was a famous adventurer and poet. But his exploits divided opinion even in his own lifetime, and his biographer Anna Beer tells Kirsty Wark the Spanish regarded him as a state-sponsored pirate. Captain Hook, Long...


Identity Politics

Francis Fukuyama once famously announced ‘the end of history’. He now turns his attention to what he sees as the great challenge to liberal democracy: identity politics. He tells Andrew Marr that today’s descent into identities narrowly focused on nation, religion, race or gender have resulted in an increasingly polarised and factional society. Birkbeck Professor of Politics, Eric Kaufmann, is looking at populism, immigration and the future of white majorities. He argues that the concerns of...


What's Your Type?

It’s nearly a century since the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator was first conceived. It has gone on to become a multi-million pound industry categorising people from thinking introverts to feeling extroverts. But the mother-daughter team who came up with the idea had no psychological expertise and the test itself has no scientific basis, as the author Merve Emre explains to Tom Sutcliffe. Our genes are the most important factor in shaping who we are, according to the psychologist Robert Plomin....


Yuval Noah Harari

Yuval Noah Harari offers his 21 lessons for the 21st century. In a wide ranging discussion with Andrew Marr, Harari looks back to his best-selling history of the world, Sapiens, and forward to a possible post-human future. Technological disruption, ecological cataclysms, fake news and threats of terrorism make the 21st century a frightening prospect. Harari argues against sheltering in nostalgic political fantasies. He calls for a clear-sighted view of the unprecedented challenges that lie...


From Ubermensch to Superman

The prize-winning novelist William Boyd has set his latest novel, Love Is Blind, at the turn of the 20th century. He tells Amol Rajan how his young Scottish protagonist travels across Europe in a tale of obsession, passion and music. Lust and violence combine in Strauss's opera Salome in which a young princess performs the Dance of the Seven Veils for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Director Adena Jacobs has put a bold new spin on the story for English National Opera in her...


David Attenborough: Life on Earth and Beyond

It is 40 years since Sir David Attenborough told the story of Life on Earth, from its very first spark 4 billion years ago to the abundance of plants and animals today. He tells Andrew Marr how more pieces of the puzzle have fallen into place over the last four decades. The German ornithologist Michael Quetting spent a year hand rearing seven goslings: caring for them as they hatched, helping them learn to swim, and teaching them to fly alongside his aircraft. The project is part of an...


The Reality of War

The Vietnam War was a 30-year conflict in which three million people died and the reputations of successive US presidents were wrecked. Max Hastings tells Andrew Marr about the extraordinary political meddling, strategic failure and lack of compassion that characterises that war. The historian Helen Parr was seven years old in 1982 when her uncle was killed in the Falklands War. She brings to life his experiences in the Parachute Regiment, often known as the Paras, an elite fighting force...


Storytelling at the Edinburgh Festivals

Andrew Marr presents a special edition of Start the Week at the Edinburgh Festivals, weaving together ancient stories and contemporary fiction - from Scotland to Iceland via ancient Greece. He speaks to award-winning writers Pat Barker, Sjón and James Robertson and the singer-songwriter Karine Polwart. Karine also performs live. Producer: Katy Hickman.


British culture and European influence

Britain has imported its culture from Europe for generations. Andrew Marr presents a special edition from Hatchlands Park in Surrey, home to the Cobbe Collection of musical instruments including pianos owned by Chopin, Mahler and Marie Antoinette. Frederic Chopin had a pan-European career. He swapped his native Poland for Paris, fled to Mallorca in search of sunshine and inspiration, and toured Britain twice, complaining bitterly about the 'crafty' locals and 'dreadful' British weather. But...


Shame, Status and Self-invention

Tina Brown was an Englishwoman barely out of her twenties when she arrived in New York. She transformed herself into a star magazine editor, at the helm of Vanity Fair and later the New Yorker. She tells Amol Rajan how the backstabbing and status-driven world of American politics allows figures like Donald Trump to triumph. Didier Eribon is one of France's leading philosophers and the biographer of Foucault. But he has only just "come out" as working class. In his memoir Returning to Reims...


Deserts and the Nuclear Age

One-third of the earth's surface is classified as desert. The writer William Atkins has travelled to eight of the world's hottest, driest places. He tells Andrew Marr about these forbidding, inhuman landscapes. The Arabian Desert lies mostly in Saudi Arabia but crosses borders from Egypt to Qatar, UAE to Oman. The economic analyst Jane Kinninmont looks at how this shared landscape affects regional politics and culture. In the 1950s deserts were the preferred places for Britain and America to...


Altered Minds

Psychedelic drugs are once again being trialled to treat a range of psychological conditions. The writer Mike Pollan tells Kirsty Wark about the science of LSD and magic mushrooms: from the 1940s to the 1960s they promised to shed light not only on the deep mysteries of consciousness, but also to offer relief from addiction and mental illness. Banned since the 1970s, there is now a resurgence of research into these mind-altering substances. While some psychiatrists were getting their...


Arundhati Roy on castes and outcasts

Booker Prize-winning novelist Arundhati Roy's latest book weaves together the lives of the misfits and outcasts from India's bustling streets. Roy is famous as an advocate for the most vulnerable and dehumanised in Indian society. She tells Andrew Marr how her main character Anjum builds a small paradise for the dispossessed in a graveyard in Delhi. Ivan Mishukov walked out of his Moscow flat aged four and spent two years living on the city streets, where he found a home among a pack of wild...


Survival and Destruction

In a special edition at Hay Festival, Tom Sutcliffe explores success and failure, from Homer's epic poetry to global pandemics. The historian David Christian looks at the birth and development of the universe. He weaves together science, arts and humanities in his vast tale of human existence. Emily Wilson is the first woman to translate, The Odyssey, the great adventure story of classical literature. The historian Antony Beevor reconstructs the tragedy of Arnhem, the Battle for the Bridges...


Dark Satanic Mills

Giant factories are at the centre of Joshua Freeman's history of mass production. From the textile mills in England that powered the Industrial Revolution to the car plants of 20th century America and today's colossal sweat shops in Asia, Freeman tells Amol Rajan how factories have reflected both the hopes and fears of social change. The poems in Jane Commane's collection, Assembly Line, are set in a Midlands where ghosts haunt the deserted factory floor and the landscape is littered with...


Jordan Peterson: Rules for Life

Jordan Peterson, clinical psychologist and YouTube sensation, professes to bring order to chaos in his 12 Rules for Life. He tells Tom Sutcliffe about the importance of individual responsibility, using lessons from humanity's oldest myths and stories. But his home truths are not without controversy: acclaimed by many, his critics accuse him of reinforcing traditional gender and family roles and attacking liberal values. Hashi Mohamed is the living embodiment of many of Peterson's life rules:...


The Death of Democracy

Will we recognise the signs that democracy has ended? Cambridge professor David Runciman worries that we spend far too much time comparing today's politics with the 1930s, and that this blinds us to the frailties of democracy today. He tells Amol Rajan why he thinks our current political system will come to an end - and why we may not even notice this happening. Professor Nic Cheeseman is all too aware that democracy can become an empty shell. His new book How To Rig An Election, co-written...