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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.




J. William Fulbright: Scholarships and Soft Power

In many countries, the word 'Fulbrighter' has become almost synonymous with US-sponsored scholarships. But what about the man whose idea it was to set up this international scholar exchange programme over 70 years ago: how did J. William Fulbright convince his fellow Senators to support this novel concept? After all, the aims of the programme were nothing if not ambitious: "the achievement in international affairs of a regime more civilized, rational and humane than the empty system of...


The Tales of Timbuktu

The fabled city of Timbuktu is a curiosity. To 16th century Muslim scholars, it was the cosmopolitan hub of Islamic learning in West Africa, to European explorers 300 years later, it was a place of mystery whose name remains synonymous with being at the end of the earth. Most recently in 2013, Timbuktu was at the centre of the world's attention again after Islamist militants threatened thousands of valuable historic manuscripts stored in the city's famous libraries. Believed to be the...


The Piano: Hitting the Right Keys

What’s the secret to the 300 year-old success of the piano, an instrument that was hardly a huge hit when it was invented around the turn of the 18th century? Perhaps it’s the ability of the instrument to convey a vast range of styles from singing melodies to percussive rhythms, and from classical music to jazz, rock and pop. With the help of musical examples, Bridget Kendall and guests will explore how the piano has inspired music from composers on every continent. Joining Bridget will be...


Simone de Beauvoir: Feminist Thinker for Modern Times

Simone de Beauvoir was a French philosopher and writer whose work exploring what it is to be a woman shaped feminist thinking today. A pioneering intellectual, she used her existential ideas around freedom and responsibility to shape her life, literature and politics. Rajan Datar discusses her life and work with writers Claudine Monteil and Lisa Appignanesi, and philosopher Tove Pettersen. Photo: Simone de Beauvoir (Getty Images)


Catherine the Great of Russia

Famous for her lovers and satirised for her colourful personal life, Catherine the Great was in many ways one of Russia’s most progressive and moderate rulers, modernising 18th century Russia, improving educational standards and creating a flourishing arts and literature scene. But she also turned Russia into the biggest Empire on earth since the Roman Empire, which included the annexation of Crimea. So how far has her imperial mind set influenced Russia’s modern rulers, like President...


Material World: Making the Modern Factory

Bridget Kendall and guests discuss the key components of the global story of the factory, tracing its development from eighteenth century Britain to twenty-first century China and beyond. Exploring how the factory came to shape not just the material world but entire social worlds too, they share their expert knowledge on topics such as the lives of factory workers, the capitalist and communist factory, and the changing face of manufacturing in an age of robots and smart technology. Bridget...


Machu Picchu: the Secrets of a Forgotten City

The ancient Inca town Machu Picchu is now the most visited tourist attraction in Peru - and yet it lay nearly forgotten for over three centuries until American and Peruvian explorers drew the world's attention to it in the 1910s. And despite a century of excavations at the site, there are still many unanswered questions about Machu Picchu: why was it built in the first place, who were the immigrants that made up a large proportion of the town's population, and why was it abandoned so...


Plastic: How it Changed the World

The birth of modern plastic began in 1907 with the invention of Bakelite, one of the first plastics to be made from entirely synthetic components. But plastic in a particular form was being used many thousands of years ago by the Olmec, the earliest known civilisation in Mexico, who played with balls made of a natural polymer - rubber. Over the years the plastics industry has grown from the work of a handful of inventors to a global player whose products reach into almost every corner of...


Sugar: A Sweet Menace

Rarely has one foodstuff had such global influence as Sugar – on our trade and economy, movement of people around the world, and health and treatment of fellow humans. Once a costly luxury called “white gold”, it was pivotal in one of mankind’s most shameful chapters – slavery. Joining Rajan Datar to find out more about Sugar and its connection with power is the Canadian historian Dr Elizabeth Abbott, the writer Marina Budhos whose Indian background inspired her research, and the Columbian...


What is Zoroastrianism?

It is a religion that has lasted three millennia, claims to be the world's first monotheistic creed and to have influenced major faiths such as Christianity, Judaism and Islam, inspired artists from Voltaire to Freddie Mercury but Zoroastrianism may be heading for extinction: in some communities only children of male Zoroastrians are admitted to the faith and there are probably fewer than 200 thousand left now. Rajan Datar talks about the history of Zoroastrianism with Dr. Sarah Stewart,...


Votes for Women: the Global Story

It was exactly a hundred years ago that women in the UK won the right to vote: though at first it was only for property owning women over thirty. But Britain wasn’t the trail blazer. Seven countries were ahead of it including two of its colonies. So what were the deciding factors? Was it the changing circumstances created by wars and the collapse of Empires? Or was it the suffragettes’ sometimes violent tactics? And why did Switzerland take as long as 1971 to enfranchise women? Joining...


From Straw Poll to Opinion Poll

Today, we can’t imagine an election without an opinion poll gauging public opinion on who’s leading, who’s won a debate or who’s more popular with a specific group of voters. Even our favourite chocolate bars and footballers are subject to a poll. But how did straw polls evolve into the scientific number crunching we know now? What is their purpose and impact? How differently are they used around the world? And just how reliable are they? Bridget Kendall is joined by economist and chairman...


Lawrence of Arabia

T.E Lawrence was a British scholar and adventurer whose involvement with the Arab Revolt during the World War One inspired one of the most celebrated films in cinema history. So how did a man who was offered a knighthood and became an international celebrity end his days in near obscurity? Bridget Kendall is joined by historians James Barr and Juliette Desplat, and writer Scott Anderson to discuss his life and legacy. Photo: T. E. Lawrence. Photo by Hulton Archive / Getty Images.


Yves Saint Laurent: Fashion Revolutionary

In the ten years since his death, the impact of designer Yves Saint Laurent on women’s fashion remains undimmed. The pea coat, the trench, the trouser suit – many of his designs are now staples of the modern Western woman’s wardrobe. So how did this famously shy and retiring man achieve global success? And did his fashion innovations for women shape social change in the 1960s, or were they a response to his times? Bridget Kendall looks back at Saint Laurent’s life and legacy with director...


Herman Melville: Moby Dick

Moby Dick is the story of a crazed and vengeful sailor, Captain Ahab, hunting a giant whale that bit off his leg. It's a large and challenging book and its author, Herman Melville died without knowing how influential or revered it would become. Although it failed to impress when it first came out in 1851, it’s now hailed as a ‘great American novel’, one of the towering achievements of American literature. With Bridget Kendall to explore the book and its author, Professor Jamie Jones from...


The Original Goths

The Goths were a Germanic tribe infamous for their brief sack of Rome in 410 AD but their cultural and political influence was felt throughout Europe for centuries. They re-shaped the Balkans, preserved the Roman way of life in Italy and presided over a cultural flourishing in Spain. But how, many centuries after their demise, did they come to give their name to an important architectural style in medieval Europe and, in the 20th century, to a subculture popular all over the world? Bridget...


Dante’s Inferno: The Poetry of Hell

Inferno is the 14th century epic that tells the story of Dante Alighieri’s imaginary journey through the underworld. It is the first part of Dante’s The Divine Comedy, and is widely considered to be one of the world’s greatest poems. “Abandon all hope you who enter here” is the famous phrase inscribed on the gates of Dante’s Inferno, and Hell is divided into nine circles, with cruel and unusual punishments afflicting the sinners, who range from the lustful and cowardly in the upper circles...


Magellan: First Man Round the Globe?

Portuguese sailor and explorer Ferdinand Magellan set out 500 years ago to find a route to the riches of the spice islands, north east of present day Indonesia. Through a series of adventures and tragedies, Magellan’s voyage discovered the Straits of Magellan joining the Atlantic and Pacific oceans through Southern America and was the first expedition to completely circumnavigate the World. But Magellan died on the way and the remaining crew were in fact first round the globe. To explore...


The Little Prince: Lessons from an Aviator’s Life

‘It is only with the heart that one can see clearly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.’ Words of advice from a wily desert fox to a little boy who fell to Earth from an asteroid. That quote, by the French author and pilot Antoine Saint-Exupery, is one of the most memorable passages from The Little Prince, a slim volume that is one of the most frequently translated books of all time and has achieved this in just 75 years since its first publication. But who was Saint-Exupery? How...


Chinua Achebe: Rewriting the African Story

The Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe is regarded as a giant of world literature. Best known as the author of the ground-breaking novel Things Fall Apart, he was also acclaimed for his works of non-fiction, poetry and his books for children. Raised and educated when his country was still under British colonial rule, Achebe witnessed great change, experiencing both the dawn of an independent Nigeria and the devastation of civil war. He is a writer famed for depicting, in English, the traditions...