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Bridget Kendall presents an ideas discussion show which tackles the big questions of our age with some of the world's most eminent minds.

Bridget Kendall presents an ideas discussion show which tackles the big questions of our age with some of the world's most eminent minds.
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London, United Kingdom




Bridget Kendall presents an ideas discussion show which tackles the big questions of our age with some of the world's most eminent minds.




The Iranian Coup of 1953: Overthrow of a Prime Minister

In 1953 Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq was overthrown in a coup. It was billed as a popular uprising in support of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, yet behind the scenes were the British and American intelligence services. Mossadeq had swept to power only two years earlier promising to nationalise Iran’s vast oil reserves, but this, along with an apparent Communist threat, worried the two western governments whose post-war economies relied heavily on access to...


Diaghilev and the Ballet Revolution

The Russian dance impresario Sergei Diaghilev transformed not only ballet, but all the arts in the 20th century. His ground-breaking Ballets Russes burst onto the scene in Paris in 1909 and replaced stuffy set pieces with shockingly vibrant performances that brought together scenery by artists Picasso and Matisse, costumes by Coco Chanel, avant-garde music by Stravinsky and Prokofiev, and a new style of movement from innovative dancers such as Nijinsky. The Ballet Russes became the world’s...


Charlie Chaplin

For many people, Charlie Chaplin and the Tramp, a character he created at the start of his film career, are synonymous. This funny little man with a black moustache and a waddling gait, dressed in baggy trousers and a tight jacket, with oversized shoes and a small bowler hat, made millions of people laugh, turned Chaplin into a household name and - in his day - the highest paid entertainer in the world. But there was more to Chaplin than just a virtuoso physical comedian: he was a versatile...


Coal: a Burning Legacy

Coal is a commodity that’s often been considered dirty, old fashioned and cheap, a humble black stone that evokes images of soot covered workers. And yet this lump of energy became the essential fuel for industrialisation all over the world, transforming societies and launching empires. But this transformative power came at a cost, as well as bringing unprecedented wealth it also brought unprecedented pollution. So how are countries dealing with coal’s legacy, and will dependence on coal...


Lifting the Lid: the History of the Toilet

Toilets come in many shapes and sizes around the world: squat and throne, dry and flush, indoor and outdoor. Most of us use one every day, but over two billion people still do not have access to facilities, leading to health and sanitary problems and even risks for personal security. From the 50 seater public toilets of ancient Rome and the modern flush toilet, invented by a godson of a 16th century British monarch, this feat of human engineering is believed to date back 5000 years to the...


Calm in the chaos: the story of the Stoics

Stoicism is a school of thought over two thousand years old that asked how to live "a good life" in an unpredictable world, and how to make the best of what is in our power, while accepting the rest as it happens naturally. It trumpeted the value of reason as man's most valuable Virtue, and offered a practical guide to remaining steadfast, strong and in control. This ancient Graeco-Roman philosophy had a broad influence that reached across time and disciplines: its Virtues inspired some of...


Cambodia's ancient Khmer Empire

Around the twelfth and thirteenth century CE Angkor was thought to be one of the world's biggest cities. Its massive temple complex at Angkor Wat covered hundreds of acres adorned with majestic towers, terraces and waterways: symbols of the might of the Khmer kings who ruled the region. Angkor Wat attracts millions of tourists every year and has pride of place on the Cambodian national flag but there's much more to Angkor and the Khmer civilisation than its temples. Bridget Kendall talks...


Who Was the Real Cleopatra?

The myths that have grown up around Cleopatra since her eventful reign in the first century BCE are so vivid and alluring that they seem to have taken on a life of their own. The Egyptian queen has been portrayed in art and literature as a wily temptress whose devastating beauty seduced two of Rome’s most powerful men; or as a ruthless killer who murdered her own relatives to get ahead; or as a tragic lover who took her own life using the bite from a poisonous snake. But how much of this is...


Karl Kraus: Austria’s Fearless Satirist

The Austrian satirical writer Karl Kraus used his forensic pen to expose the Hapsburg Empire and 20th century Vienna for its dishonesty and decay. He was the master of the punchy one liner, as well as being extremely prolific: his magazine Die Fackel ran to 922 editions, that's some 22 thousand pages, and Kraus wrote most of them. He was also full of contradictions: he could be both progressive and reactionary, sometimes profound and sometimes petty, and while he was born into affluence he...


Cool: Sunglasses, Style and American Counter Culture

We probably know ‘cool’ when we see it, but what lies behind it and where did it originate? Most scholars agree that cool is a mode of being, an attitude or aesthetic. Some argue it arose out of a West African mode of performance, and was later developed in jazz circles by African-American musicians. Cool served to hide one’s emotions and survive confrontation with any hostile external forces – namely racism. In post-World War Two America, cool took on a new meaning, especially when its...


Frida Kahlo: A Life in Colour

Frida Kahlo - the iconic and flamboyant Mexican painter - is one of the most famous female artists of our age. Her rebellious and subversive works are instantly recognisable. Many are self-portraits depicting an arresting dark and heavy-browed woman, often in bright traditional Mexican dress with flowers woven into her hair, staring straight out of the canvas. In her life time, she was better known as the wife of her celebrated artist husband, Diego Rivera. Now, she is arguably more famous...


The Jet Engine

Quentin Cooper and guests follow the twists and turns of jet engine development: from its 1930s origins and the often highly dangerous early fighters in World War 2, through Korea, Vietnam and the Cold War, to the much more reliable modern incarnations which now take us all over the world. Just three decades after the first airplane took off, the emerging aero industry was already stalling. There were limits to how big propeller-driven aircraft could get. How fast they could go. And how far....


Edgar Allan Poe – Master of Horror

Edgar Allan Poe is a 19th century American writer whose spine-chilling gothic tales have inspired generations of horror and mystery fiction writers. His poem ‘The Raven’, and short stories such as ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ and ‘The Pit and the Pendulum’ brought him international fame, and he is also thought to have invented the detective fiction genre with ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’. But his tumultuous life was beset by personal tragedy, poverty and artistic struggle which seemed...


The Making of Modern Japan

In the mid-19th century Japan transformed itself from feudal state to economic powerhouse at breakneck speed. Taking their cue from Western imperial powers, the rebel samurai who seized power in 1868 implemented an astonishing programme of reform. By removing an entire ruling elite, introducing national conscription and compulsory education, the Meiji rulers set about building a brand new society. Even the measurement of time was changed, which led to considerable confusion between...


The American Author James Baldwin

Born in 1924, the prolific writer and thinker James Baldwin is a landmark figure in twentieth century American culture. The author of popular novels such as “Go Tell it on the Mountain” and bold essay collections such as “The Fire Next Time”, his works explored themes including race, sexuality, identity, democracy and love. An African-American man born in Harlem who spent much of his life in France, he became an important literary voice during his country’s civil rights movement. A critic...


The Acropolis: Cradle of Democracy

The Acropolis of Athens, with its crowning glory the Parthenon and its massive marble pillars, is one of the most recognisable sites in the world. In the 5th and 6th century BCE, it was where the concept of democracy – rule by the people – first developed, where modern- day theatre was born, and it gave the West the foundation of its politics, philosophy and history. But the Acropolis is also, like our humanity, a place of constant struggle and contradiction, from the pride and ambition of...


Friedrich Engels: The Man Behind Karl Marx

A champagne-loving industrialist who enjoyed hunting, a literary critic and an upstanding Victorian gentleman: this does not sound like a description of your typical advocate of proletarian revolution or the co-author of the Communist Manifesto. Yet Friedrich Engels was all those things and more. Deliberately keeping in the shadows of his comrade-in-arms Karl Marx, Engels led an eventful life, fighting in the 1848 German revolution, attending secret meetings with Chartists and keeping two...


Empress Nur Jahan: Leader of the Mughals

Empress Nur Jahan was the most powerful woman in 17th century India, wielding an unparalleled control over the Mughal Empire. Born as Mehr-un-Nissa, she came from a wealthy Iranian family who came to India and made their way up the imperial court. After the death of her first husband, a Persian soldier, she became the twentieth and final wife of Mughal Emperor Jahangir and her rise to the top really began. Often sitting beside her husband in court, she controlled trade routes, designed...


Waiting for Godot: the Play that Changed the Rules of Theatre

Waiting for Godot is a play by the Irish writer Samuel Beckett that revolutionised 20th century theatre when it was first performed more than 60 years ago. Often referred to as a play in which nothing happens, it is about two characters who spend their time waiting for a mysterious person called Godot who never appears. Today it is one of the world's most important and best- known plays and has become a comment on our political and social climate, as its themes of hope and despair have led...


Christina of Sweden: Queen of Surprises

An accomplished young horsewoman who loved fencing and male attire, the 17th century Swedish Queen Christina was anything but a conventional princess. And she kept springing surprises on her court and country: after just a decade on the throne she abdicated, converted to Catholicism and moved to Rome. Once there, she put herself forward as a candidate for the post of Queen of Naples, opened a public theatre and scandalised the Holy See by a liaison with a cardinal. Bridget Kendall follows...