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Society & Culture

The Forum

Updated 3 days ago

Society & Culture
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Discover world history, culture and ideas with today’s leading experts.

Read more

Discover world history, culture and ideas with today’s leading experts.

iTunes Ratings

110 Ratings
Average Ratings
91
7
4
3
5

Intelligent, entertaining, all round stand out

By avm1406 - Oct 19 2019
Read more
Rajan, how about a program on Anna Karanina?

Wonderful

By August Consumer - Jul 27 2019
Read more
Informative and enjoyable. Better than most college lectures. And free!

iTunes Ratings

110 Ratings
Average Ratings
91
7
4
3
5

Intelligent, entertaining, all round stand out

By avm1406 - Oct 19 2019
Read more
Rajan, how about a program on Anna Karanina?

Wonderful

By August Consumer - Jul 27 2019
Read more
Informative and enjoyable. Better than most college lectures. And free!

Listen to:

Cover image of The Forum

The Forum

Updated 3 days ago

Read more

Discover world history, culture and ideas with today’s leading experts.

Rank #1: Lost and Found

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From the horrors of human suffering and plunder of ancient artefacts in war to the reshaping of musical traditions, we examine the notion of things lost and found.

British journalist Julian Borger reflects on the unmasking of some of the most notorious Balkan war criminals, Iraqi archaeologist Dr Lamia al-Gailani Werr mourns the loss of ancient relics in modern conflict and American pianist Bruce Brubaker deconstructs modern minimalist music.

(Photo: The inner walls of Babylon, Iraq)

Apr 16 2016

40mins

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Rank #2: After Dark: How we Respond to Darkness

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Dr Janina Ramirez explores our relationship with, and attitudes to, darkness and the night. From the beginning of humanity when night was a time to sleep and hide from predators, over millennia the night and darkness has gathered a multitude of myths and cultural references all around the world and is something we can exploit, or something we might fear. Dr Janina Ramirez examines the human perspective of the dark, from night vision technology to Norwegian forest myths.
Dr Ravindra Athale, of the Office of Naval Research in Arlington USA, an expert on night vision technology, who examines how nocturnal animals help high tech, and how our ability to see at night has affected the way we use the dark to conceal and surprise.
Professor John Bowen from the University of York in the UK, an expert on Gothic literature and its roots.
Erland Loe, the celebrated Norwegian author, who explores his own and fellow Norwegian’s response to long dark winter nights.
Noam Elcott, Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art and Media at Columbia University in the USA who discusses the literal and metaphorical use of dark and night in film art and the dark room.
(Photo: An artist's Illustration of a haunted forest. Credit: Shan Pillay)

May 23 2016

40mins

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Rank #3: Wheel Revolutions

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People have come up with the idea of the wheel many times and in different places, but what were the key turning points which led to mass transport and the miracle of modern logistics? Bridget Kendall discusses the still-unfolding story of the wheel with historian Richard Bulliet, logistics expert Jagjit Singh Srai and Cyr wheel dancer Valerie Inertie.
(Photo: Wagon wheels and the view of Monument Valley in Utah, USA)

May 09 2016

40mins

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Rank #4: Taiwan: An Island History

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Perhaps the island of Taiwan makes you think of those familiar "Made in Taiwan" labels on computer and electrical goods but it was nicknamed 'Ilha Formosa' or the 'beautiful island' by the Portuguese in the 1500s. Bridget Kendall explores its rich and surprising history with Emma Teng, Professor of Asian Civilisations at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Dr Jie Yu, Head of China Foresight, focused on Chinese foreign policy, at the London School of Economics and Dr Bi-yu Chang and Dr Dafydd Fell from SOAS (formerly known as the School of Oriental and African Studies) in London.
Photo: people celebrate Taiwan' s annual Lantern Festival, which marks the end of the Lunar New Year festivities. (Getty Images)

May 15 2017

40mins

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Rank #5: Rumi: Sufi Poet of Love

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From East to West, Rumi is one of the most universally respected poets of all time. A 13th Century Islamic scholar, his encounter with a wandering dervish transformed him into a globally celebrated mystic and poet of love who has crossed borders of time, faith, language and geography.

Rajan Datar discusses his life, work and legacy with scholars Fatemeh Keshavarz and Omid Safi, and biographer Brad Gooch.

(Photo: Pray Mount Nemrut, Commagene. Credit: Getty Images/tugbahasbal)

Oct 09 2017

39mins

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Rank #6: When Does Healthy Competition Become Destructive?

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What is the place of rivalry in human behaviour? What drives it? And where is the dividing line between competition as a positive force and one that wreaks havoc? Samira Ahmed discusses rivalry in sport, in cities and in our minds with psychologist Stephen Garcia, sport morality expert Maria Kavussanu and historian Philip Mansel.
(Photo: The finish line at the men's 100 meters final at the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988. Credit: Getty Images)

May 30 2016

40mins

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Rank #7: What is the Best Way to Deal with Anxiety?

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Anxiety is a universal human emotion that has been described as the price-tag on freedom. It is the price we pay for a brain that can anticipate the future. But when anxiety spirals out of control it can take over our lives as we battle against phobias, panic attacks, dread and debilitating fear. So how is anxiety triggered and constructed in the brain? Is the almond-shaped amygdala the seat of fear or are our anxieties constructed in other parts of the brain? And for those made miserable by anxiety, how best can it be treated?
Bridget Kendall explores the biology of anxiety and some unexpected approaches to treatment, including friendship benches and therapy horses. She is joined by Joseph LeDoux, author of Anxiety and professor of Neuroscience and director of the Emotional Brain Institute, New York University; Dr Dixon Chibanda, a consultant Psychiatrist in Zimbabwe and pioneer of the Friendship Bench; Susanna Forrest, a British authority on the horse and author of The Age of Horse: An Equine Journey through Human History.
(Photo: A young man holding his head in his hands)

Aug 22 2016

40mins

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Rank #8: The Cat: In from the wild

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Domesticated cats are thought to have started living alongside humans more than 9000 years ago. Unlike dogs, it's believed cats domesticated themselves, entering the homes of early arable farmers in the Fertile Crescent to control the rodent population. Since then, they've been worshipped, vilified and revered by various societies around the world. Today, they are one of the world's most popular pets, living on every continent except Antarctica and a favourite on the internet, and yet, they will never have that image of loyalty that is associated with dogs.

Rajan Datar welcomes three experts in science, culture and archaeology to discuss the history of the domesticated cat: Katharine Rogers - a Professor Emerita of English Literature from City University of New York and author of numerous books including 'Cat' and 'The Cat and the Human Imagination'; Eva-Maria Geigl - an Evolutionary geneticist at the French National Research Institute CNRS; and John Bradshaw - an anthrozoologist from Bristol University, UK, and author of the book 'Cat Sense'.

Photo: Copy of wall painting from private tomb 52 of Nakht, Thebes (I, 1, 99-102) cat eating fish, 20th century
Credit: Ashmolean Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Oct 17 2019

39mins

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Rank #9: The KGB: Secrets and Spies

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2017 is the centenary of the Cheka – the Bolshevik secret police organisation from which the KGB eventually emerged in 1954. The KGB was not just an intelligence agency like its adversaries in the west, but an all-encompassing organisation that covered every aspect of promoting and protecting the Soviet one party state. From its headquarters in Moscow’s infamous Lubyanka, the KGB’s influence spread across the world. To explore the KGB and its legacy, Bridget Kendall is joined by the Cambridge historian, Professor Christopher Andrew, the Anglo American intelligence and policy expert, Dr Calder Walton and the Russian historian, Dr Svetlana Chervonnaya.
Photo: Badge logo of the KGB (Photo credit: KGB)

Mar 27 2017

39mins

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Rank #10: Indigo: the bluest blue

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Indigo: not only one of the seven colours of the rainbow and the dye that makes your jeans look like they do but and a highly valued pigment which is naturally found in some plants and whose use can be traced back at least six thousand years to Peru. Such was the desirability of indigo that along with sugar, cotton, coffee and tobacco it became a major driver for globalised trade and the horrors of slavery. In India it was the source of so much exploitation that a lawyer called Gandhi rose to fame standing up for indigo farmers.

Rajan Datar explores the rich history of the dye with Jenny Balfour-Paul, an Honorary Research Fellow at Exeter University and author of Indigo: Egyptian Mummies to Blue Jeans; Lucille Junkere, an artist and textile researcher with a particular interest in the history of indigo in Nigeria and the Caribbean; and Andrea Sella, a professor of chemistry at University College London who delights his students with all kinds of colourful experiments with indigo.

Photo: Detail of adire indigo cloth from Nigeria. Credit: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Oct 24 2019

39mins

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Rank #11: Brain Drain: Can We Stem the Flow?

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The Forum is in Cape Town, South Africa, as guests of The British Council at the Going Global Conference. As globalisation enables the transit and relocation of people ever more quickly and easily, what impact is there on countries who desperately need to keep their skilled labour and what are the issues that need addressing? With Quentin Cooper to discuss the Brain Drain is professor Olusola Oyewole from Nigeria, Dr Jo Beall, from the British Council, professor Tao Xie from Beijing and Carolyn Medel-Anonuevo, from Unesco.
(Photo: a human brain in a glass box. Credit: Getty Images)

May 16 2016

40mins

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Rank #12: Haile Selassie: The last Emperor of Ethiopia

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Emperor Haile Selassie was the last in the line of Ethiopia’s ancient monarchy. During his long rule he was revered as an international statesman and reformer, demonised as a dictator, and even worshipped as a God incarnate by the Rastafarians of Jamaica. He was without doubt a controversial figure, but achieved a status in the global arena previously unheard of for an African ruler.
Bridget Kendall discusses Haile Selassie’s life and legacy with Prince Asfa-Wossen Asserate, political analyst and author of ‘King of Kings: The Triumph and Tragedy of Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia’, who is also the great-nephew of Haile Selassie; Gerard Prunier, Independent Consultant on Eastern and Central African affairs, and former Director of the French Centre for Ethiopian Studies in Addis-Ababa; and Laura Hammond, an anthropologist specialising in Ethiopia at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.
Image: Haile Selassie

Credit: Henry Guttmann/Getty Images

Apr 03 2017

39mins

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Rank #13: How Shyness and Introversion can be a Strength

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Shyness and introversion are both very common human characteristics, but why do they have so many different guises? Rajan Datar asks the developmental psychologist Louis Schmidt, the behavioural scientist Sanna Balsari-Palsule and the cultural historian Joe Moran.
(Photo: A lady hides behind a fan. Credit: Shan Pillay)

Sep 19 2016

40mins

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Rank #14: Rasputin: The Siberian mystic who charmed the Tsar

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Rasputin’s story is a familiar one – an illiterate Siberian peasant who managed to secure the confidence of the last Tsar and Tsarina of Russia, while indulging his legendary sexual appetite and love of hard drinking. Rasputin was so revered by his acolytes that they would collect his fingernail clippings, as if they were some kind of holy relic. When his extraordinary life was brought to an equally extraordinary end when he refused to die – murdered eventually in cold blood by a group of aristocrats – it unleashed the Russian revolution, and changed the geopolitical landscape in ways that still resonate today.

That’s one version of events that’s held sway for more than one hundred years. And yet so much of the Rasputin legend has been pieced together by those looking to discredit him. Is it possible to peel away the layers of myth-making and get to the heart of who Rasputin really was and what he stood for?

Joining Bridget Kendall on a truth-seeking mission is Russian imperial historian Helen Rappaport, author of The Race to Save the Romanovs; Russian literary translator and executive editor of the Los Angeles Review of Books, Boris Dralyuk; and historian Douglas Smith, author of the 2016 biography Rasputin: Faith, Power and the Twilight of the Romanovs.

Photo: Grigori Rasputin. (Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

May 30 2019

39mins

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Rank #15: Do You Know What You’re Eating?

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If you think of your favourite foods – chocolate, maybe, or samosas, or pizza – do you really know where all the ingredients came from? Bridget Kendall asks the food scientist Chris Elliott, the software designer Jérôme Malavoy and the food labelling expert Monique Raats.
Photo: The food label on a box of brownies (Getty Images)

Jul 18 2016

40mins

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Rank #16: Vincent van Gogh: The struggling artist

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The Dutch post-Impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh is one of the most influential painters in western art. His series of still life sunflowers are known around the world today, but during his lifetime in the 1800s he lived in poverty, selling incredibly little of his work, some say just one painting, and suffered several serious breakdowns. One of his most famous paintings - The Starry Night - is said to be the view from his room in a French psychiatric hospital where he’d admitted himself shortly after severing his own left ear. This programme looks at the man behind these iconic paintings, explores how and why he became a painter and picks apart the various theories around his death from a gunshot wound at the age of just 37.

Joining Bridget Kendall to discuss van Gogh’s life and work are Louis van Tilborgh, Senior Researcher at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and Professor of Art History at the University of Amsterdam, van Gogh biographer and co-author of van Gogh: The Life, Steven Naifeh, and British art historian Lucrezia Walker.

Photo: Self-Portrait by Vincent van Gogh (Getty Images)

Jul 21 2018

38mins

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Rank #17: Machu Picchu: The secrets of a forgotten city

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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 quickly.

To find out more about Machu Picchu, Bridget Kendall is joined by leading archaeologists of the Inca civilisation Lucy Salazar and Michael Malpass, the celebrated mountaineer and explorer Johan Reinhard and by writer Mark Adams who retraced the steps of the 1911 expedition led by Hiram Bingham that put Machu Picchu back on the map.

Photo: Machu Picchu, Peru. (Eitan Abramovich/Getty Images)

May 05 2018

39mins

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Rank #18: The rise and fall of Julius Caesar

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Bridget Kendall and guests examine the rise and fall of Julius Caesar, the Roman politician and general, who conquered vast areas of Europe, defied his political peers, and acquired great levels of power, becoming ‘dictator’ in Rome. His behaviour, battling and bold reforms shook the late Roman Republic to its very core.

From Caesar’s early steps on the political career ladder in ancient Rome, to his affair with Egypt’s Cleopatra and his assassination by his colleagues, Bridget and guests discuss the action-packed life of this leader and writer whose legacy lives on, more than 2,000 years after his birth.

Bridget is joined by Cynthia Damon, Luca Grillo and Matthew Nicholls. Plus, Miryana Dimitrova introduces Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar.

Image: Julius Caesar (Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Sep 25 2017

39mins

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Rank #19: Secrets of the Great Pyramid

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The Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt is one of the greatest wonders of the ancient World. It is the largest pyramid ever built and even today, with advanced satellite and thermal imaging and other high tech science, we don’t know everything about the pyramid- exactly what’s inside or how it was built. To explore the history of The Great Pyramid - also known as the Pyramid of Khufu, after the Pharaoh who commissioned it as his tomb, Rajan Datar is joined by Professor Salima Ikram, Distinguished University Professor and Egyptology Unit Head at the American University in Cairo, space archaeologist Dr Sarah Parcak, a National Geographic fellow and associate Professor at Birmingham University Alabama in the USA and Dr Joyce Tyldesley, an archaeologist and Egyptologist from the University of Manchester in the UK.
Photo: The Pyramids at Giza. (Getty Images)

Sep 11 2017

39mins

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Rank #20: Lawrence of Arabia

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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.

Mar 24 2018

39mins

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