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The Radio 3 Documentary

Exploring different aspects of history, science, philosophy and the arts.

Weekly hand curated podcast episodes for learning

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The Crankiness of C.W.Daniel

New Generation Thinker Elsa Richardson on the radical 20th century publisher C.W.Daniel.

13mins

26 Apr 2020

Rank #1

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Jan Morris, Travels Round My House

Writer Anthony Sattin visits Jan Morris's Welsh home on the 60th anniversary of the ascent of Everest to talk about her role in the story and other tales to be gleaned about her life from the objects in her home (including a gravestone and a posthumous book awaiting publication!). Producer: Sara Jane Hall.

44mins

13 May 2013

Rank #2

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A Flapper's Guide to the Opera

Opera Historian Dr Alexandra Wilson dons her cloche hat and steps into the shoes of a flapper for a journey back to 1920s London. Jazz was the new fad imported for America, dance clubs were taking the city by storm and cinemas were popping up on every corner. But what was the place of opera in this new entertainment world? Based on new research, this feature will guide listeners around the heady operatic world of 1920s London to some of the venues where opera was thriving, including music halls, cafes and schools. This was a time when opera was not 'elite', and rich and poor rubbed shoulders at the opera, just as opera itself interacted in fascinating ways with jazz, music hall, and celebrity culture.With contributions from modern-day performers and historians, alongside comments from 1920s' critics, conductors and audience members, Wilson challenges the idea that the interwar period was an operatic wasteland, sandwiched between the Edwardian 'golden age' and the emergence of a subsidised operatic establishment after World War Two. Opera was very much alive in the 1920s, and hugely diverse - a People's opera.Producer - Ellie Mant.

43mins

22 Oct 2017

Rank #3

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Japan's Never Ending War

Rana Mitter visits Tokyo to explore how Japan remembers World War Two today through film.

43mins

11 May 2018

Rank #4

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Japan's Never-Ending War

Rana Mitter visits Tokyo to explore how Japan remembers World War Two today through film.

43mins

29 Apr 2018

Rank #5

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Literary Pursuits: Victor Hugo's Les Miserables

Sarah Dillon explores the stories behind how great works of literature were written.

43mins

30 Dec 2018

Rank #6

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From the Ashes

Allan Little looks at arts festivals started in the aftermath of World War Two

43mins

14 Aug 2018

Rank #7

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John Ashbery - Portrait in a Convex Mirror

Drawing on the testimony of many who knew him, Colm Toibin presents an intimate portrait of the brilliant, playful, Pulitzer-winning American poet John Ashbery, who died in 2017.Produced in Cardiff by Steven Rajam and Lyndon Jones

44mins

5 May 2019

Rank #8

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Binary and Beyond: part two

Emma Smith on how coverage of gender in the arts might help us understand today's debate

43mins

1 Jul 2018

Rank #9

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Sunday Feature: W B Yeats and the Artifice of Eternity

Theo Dorgan explores the continuing importance of W B Yeats, 150 years after he was born.

43mins

7 Jun 2015

Rank #10

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Sunday Feature: In Their Own Write: Notes from the Congress of Vienna

Using diaries and memoirs Michael Goldfarb tells the story of the Congress of Vienna and how it still affects us 200 years later: diplomacy, Beethoven and sex... lots of sex.

43mins

26 Apr 2015

Rank #11

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Kitty Marion and The Poetry of Science

Gregory Tate explores why many C19th scientists wrote poetry, as do several today. Fern Riddell rediscovers the astonishing life of Kitty Marion: singer, suffragette, firestarter.

46mins

3 Nov 2014

Rank #12

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Al Andalus - The Legacy

Andrew Hussey journeys through Andalusia searching for the legacy of Muslim Spain

43mins

24 Oct 2019

Rank #13

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Sunday Feature: Educating Isaac

Could your child compose like Mozart? While searching for a creative and fun way to teach his 3-year-old son, Nick Baragwanath discovered a forgotten history of music completely different from the usual dull routine of practice and graded exams. In the 18th century, the conservatoires (orphanages) of Naples developed an education system that enabled destitute children to become professional-level composers and performers by their early teens. Almost every famous musician of the time was trained in this way, in what is an astonishing untold rags-to-riches story. Airbrushed from history by Romantic writers, who valued the idea of spontaneous genius above the reality of craft training, the real story of 'classical' music is finally coming to light. And modern conservatoires, such as the Royal Academy of Music, are taking notice. Could this revival transform the way we teach children music?

43mins

28 Apr 2014

Rank #14

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Harlem on Fire

'Fire!!' was a short-lived literary magazine from the Harlem Renaissance published in 1926, created by and for the young black artists of the movement. Featuring poetry, prose, drama and artwork from some of the biggest names of the Harlem Renaissance including Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Bruce Nugent, Wallace Thurman and Aaron Douglas, the magazine was an explosive attempt to burn down the traditional western canon and replace it with a series of brutally honest and controversial depictions of African American life.Fire!! lasted for just one issue, yet despite its very brief existence, the magazine is now considered to be an incredibly important document of the Harlem Renaissance, and an early example of an artistic youth rebellion in the African American printed press.In this Sunday Feature, Writer, journalist and broadcaster Afua Hirsch travels to Harlem to find out all about this long-lost piece of African American history. Setting up in a house previously occupied by celebrated Harlem poet and novelist Langston Hughes, Afua discusses the history and legacy of Fire!! magazine with writer and professor Martha Nadell, and Professor Karla Holloway, whose forthcoming book 'A Death in Harlem' is set during the Renaissance. Along the way we learn about the magazine's rapid rise and fall, and hear how the reactions to it in 1926 sum up the fascinating artistic conflicts at the heart of the Harlem Renaissance - conflicts that are still extremely relevant today - while young Harlem writers, artists and actors read extracts from Fire!! on the streets of Harlem where the magazine was born.Producer: Nick Taylor.Extracts from Fire!! read by:Kelechi EzieDr. LeRonn P. BrooksElan CadizBrian Francis

43mins

25 Nov 2018

Rank #15

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Sir Isaac Newton and the Philosopher's Stone

Dafydd Mills Daniel investigates Isaac Newton's more obscure studies in Alchemy.

13mins

30 Jun 2019

Rank #16

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Hotel Genius

It’s been described as one of the most remarkable collections of minds on the planet. It has a brilliant international faculty, but no students. Its researchers have made some of the most significant scientific discoveries of the 20th century, but it has never had a laboratory. Sally Marlow joins scholars for the start of a new term at The Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton New Jersey, conceived as a paradise for curiosity-driven research in mathematics, natural sciences, social science and history. The Institute has more than once been called an Intellectual Hotel, and that certainly captures its leisurely pace, but appearances can be deceptive. Scholars here have an extraordinary ability to work on what everyone else is looking at, but to see something differently. Since its founding in 1930, it’s been home to a remarkable number of world-class thinkers, the most famous of whom was Albert Einstein who exerted a gravitational pull on attracting many scientists of promise to the Institute. From John von Neumann, widely credited with inventing the programmable computer, to J. Robert Oppenheimer, lead architect of the atomic bomb, to the surprise arrival of poet and playwright T.S. Eliot - the Institute’s first Artist in Residence, Sally Marlow gets beneath the skin of some of its rich history and its extraordinary ethos, wondering how the weight of the past plays out on those bright minds there today.As a scholar herself at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King's College London, Sally knows that space and time to think is becoming increasingly challenged, So what happens when you turn thinkers loose from the constraints of a traditional academic institution? And amidst the Institute’s hotbed of string theorists, she seeks answers to Einstein’s biggest, most tantalising question of all - whether there's a grand, all-embracing theory, a unified theory of everything, that will complete our understanding of the laws of the universe.Featuring interviews with Robbert Dijkgraaf, Director of the IAS, Myles Jackson, Professor of History of Science, Joan Scott Professor Emerita in the School of Social Science, particle physicist Nima Arkani-Hamed, Freeman Dyson, retired theoretical physicist , historian George Dyson , Christina Sormani, Professor of Maths at City University New York, archivist Casey Westerman and composer and former artist in residence Derek Bermel.Image courtesy of Dan King, Institute for Advanced Study

43mins

26 Apr 2019

Rank #17

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WATERLOG

Wild swimming enthusiast Alice Roberts examines the legacy of Waterlog by Roger Deakin.

43mins

12 May 2019

Rank #18

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In Search of Yves Klein

Liliane Lijn explores the work of postwar French artist Yves Klein, famous for patenting ultramarine blue and jumping from a window in the suburbs of Paris. Leap into the Void!

43mins

16 Jul 2018

Rank #19

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Literary Pursuits - Jekyll and Hyde

Sarah Dillon discovers the story behind the writing of R.L. Stevenson's horror classic

43mins

26 Feb 2018

Rank #20