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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.




Goya: Seeking Truth Through Art

The 18th Century Spanish artist Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes has been called the “most radical artist that ever lived”. He was not afraid to shock with his depictions of the darkest sides of human nature, and his work still shocks us today. Goya rose from humble beginnings to become the official court painter to the kings of Spain. But while he created dazzling portraits of royals and aristocrats, his personal vision was filled with madmen, witches, beggars, and fantastical creatures...


Antigone: A Drama of Defiance

The play Antigone by the Greek playwright Sophocles was written almost 2,500 years ago, but to this day it is believed to be the most performed play- anywhere in the world. It tells the story of Antigone, a girl who ends up challenging the power of the ruler of Thebes, in a devastating battle of wills that pits family duty against the law of the state. So why does this story of civil disobedience still speak to people, and how was it originally received by its very first audience in Ancient...


The Master and Margarita: Devilish Satire

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, which tells the fantastical story of a visit of the devil to the Soviet Union, is considered to be one of the most successful Russian novels of the 20th Century. Written in secret in the 1930s when Stalinist repression of the arts was at its height, the novel was only published more than 25 years later, when its blend of biting satire and magic realism created a sensation, not just in Russia but also in the West, inspiring rock bands like The...


Fermentation: Ancient Food Alchemy

Whether it’s kimchi, kombucha, kefir or kraut, fermented foods are today all the rage. And yet people have been fermenting food and beverages for thousands of years – to preserve food stuffs, to break down toxins, to mark rituals and to enhance flavour. Without knowledge of the science, local communities practised fermentation instinctively, through trial and error and by careful observation. In the 18th and 19th centuries, scientists argued over why foods fermented as they did. Many...


The Emergence of Modern Turkey

100 years ago, Turkish defeat in World War One signalled the end of the once great Ottoman Empire. What emerged was a European orientated secular republic led by a man who used social engineering to shape Turkey in his own image – Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Bridget Kendall examines this key period of Turkish history and asks whether modernisation could have been brought in less forcefully, and why the women who were helping bring about similarly progressive ideas were eventually side-lined. And...


Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: Revealing the Gulag

The Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was a towering literary figure whose novels, chronicles and essays have lifted the lid on the horrors of the Soviet gulag network, which over several decades incarcerated millions of often innocent prisoners. Born a hundred years ago, Solzhenitsyn survived the brutal conditions of a gulag in Kazakhstan and it was this harrowing experience that provided the impetus for his best-known works, starting with his novella, One Day in the Life of Ivan...


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...