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The Long View

Jonathan Freedland presents the series in which stories from the past are compared with current events.

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Brexit and an Elizabethan Age of Trade

As we prepare to leave the EU, Jonathan Freedland compares overseas trade in today's Elizabethan age with that of the sixteenth century. In 1570 Elizabeth I was the subject of a Papal Bull of Excommunication, Theresa May must write a letter to Europe to trigger Article 50. Both documents will have a profound impact on trade.Elizabeth's response to her European troubles was to forge new trade links with the East, sending merchants to Turkey, Persia and North Africa. Today's trade ministers hope to emulate the achievements of their Tudor counterparts, but how important is trade with Europe to our prosperity and how easy will it be to do new trade deals on more distant shores ?Taking the Long View of trade, Jonathan is joined by Professor Jerry Brotton of Queen Mary University of London, author of 'This Orient Isle:Elizabethan England and the Islamic World'. Discussing today's export markets are the economists George Magnus, Liam Halligan and Dr Monique Ebell and our actor is Anita Dobson.

27mins

30 Mar 2017

Rank #1

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Grenfell Tower and Watson Street fire tragedies

Jonathan Freedland takes the Long View of landmark fires exploring the parallels between the tragedies of the Watson Street fire in Glasgow in 1905 and Grenfell Tower.In the East End of Glasgow in 1905 a 'Model Lodging House' at 39 Watson Street caught fire. It housed 300 poor working men, many of them migrants from Ireland and the Highlands. The lodging house itself was densely populated with men sleeping in wood lined cubicles and with only one exit to the street through a turnstile. The fire spread very rapidly, trapping those who couldn't escape on the upper floors and 39 people were killed.The tragedy immediately drew public attention to fire and building regulations and the urgent need to improve them and an Inquiry soon followed.Jonathan is joined by historian of fires and fire services Shane Ewen, BBC London reporter Anna O'Neil, retired fireman Jim Smith, Secretary of the Royal Incorporation of Scottish Architects Neil Baxter and actor Robin Laing to explore the parallels between the Watson Street and the Grenfell Tower tragedies. Producer Neil McCarthy.

27mins

20 Jul 2017

Rank #2

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Impeaching a President

With the fast-developing saga of the investigations gathering pace towards a possible impeachment of President Donald Trump, Jonathan Freedland and his guests explore the process of removing a US president from office and compare today’s events to those surrounding the first ever presidential impeachment 150 years ago.Producer: Simon Elmes

27mins

6 Jan 2020

Rank #3

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Huawei and Siemens

Jonathan Freedland takes the Long View of suspected state espionage through technology companies. He compares investigations into spy activity in Britain by Siemens employees for Nazi Germany in the run up to World War II and the allegations about Huawei’s 5G equipment containing 'back doors' that could be used by Chinese state intelligence.Following the historical story from the National Portrait Gallery Archive, to the former tech corridor of the Great West Road and ending at the Churchill War Rooms Jonathan is joined by historian Rob Hutton, Chris Cook editor at Tortoise Media , Elisabeth Braw of the Royal United Services Institute, Chair of UK5G Ros Singleton and actor Greg Jones.Producer Neil McCarthy

27mins

26 Nov 2019

Rank #4

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Extinction Rebellion and the Bonfire of the Vanities

Jonathan Freedland and his guests compare the Bonfire of the Vanities in fifteenth century Florence with Extinction Rebellion's Autumn Uprising. Girolamo Savonarola was a Dominican Friar whose apocalyptic sermons inspired his followers, the Piagnoni or 'wailers' to take over Florence's streets and squares, challenging the authorities and condemning the consumption of sinful luxuries, such as mirrors, cosmetics and musical instruments. Today's Extinction Rebellion activists have also staged city-centre protests, demanding radical action to reduce carbon emissions and the consumption of modern luxuries such as fast fashion and air travel. Joining Jonathan to discuss past and present are Evelyn Welch, Professor of Renaissance Studies at King's College London, Tim Stanley of The Telegraph and William Skeaping of Extinction Rebellion. Producer: Julia Johnson

27mins

19 Nov 2019

Rank #5

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Women in Intelligence and Cybersecurity

Jonathan Freedland compares the drive to attract more women into intelligence and cybersecurity today to the recruitment of women at Bletchley Park during World War Two.The government's National Cyber Security Centre - a branch of GCHQ - are keen to address the shortage of women in their workforce. Jonathan travels to Bletchley Park to look at what lessons can be learned from the wartime codebreaking operation where by the end of the war 75% of the workforce were female.Among Jonathan's guests is Charlotte Webb, who worked at Bletchley Park during the Second World War and is author of the book Secret Postings.Jonathan is also joined by Erica Munro, Exhibitions Manager at Bletchley Park; Jacqui Chard, Deputy Director for Defence & National Security at the National Cyber Security Centre; Elisabeth Braw of the Royal United Services Institute; and Jane Frankland, Cyber Security Consultant.Producer: Laurence Grissell

27mins

14 May 2019

Rank #6

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Julian Assange and Robert Ferguson

Jonathan Freedland considers the career of Julian Assange and looks back at the life of Robert Ferguson, a seventeenth century pamphleteer and fugitive. Harnessing the power of new media to challenge the authority of English Kings, Ferguson was accused of conspiracy and forced to seek refuge in the Netherlands. Back in England he faced prison and notoriety as a plotter and possible double agent. Joining Jonathan to take the long view of journalists on the run are Justin Champion, Professor of History at Royal Holloway College, University of London, the journalist James Ball, lawyer Michael O'Kane, Senior Partner at Peters and Peters and Dr Karin von Hippel, Director-General of the Royal United Services Institute.

27mins

7 May 2019

Rank #7

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Gender in women's sport

Jonathan Freedland takes the Long View of the gender debate in women's sport. There are currently two points of contention. The success of the Canadian Cyclist Rachel McKinnon, a trans gender athlete, in a master's world cycling event, lead to a number of senior female athletes objecting to the inclusion of trans gender women in international sporting competition. Their development as men, the argument runs, gives them a huge advantage when competing against women who matured as women. At the same time the Court for arbitration for sport is hearing the South African runner Caster Semenya's challenge against an International Amateur Althletics Federation ruling that says she must reduce her natural Testosterone levels in order to compete in women's sport. So where should the line be drawn between mens and women's competition? That's the story today, but it was also the story back in the 1930's when a Polish American runner Stanislawa Walasiewicz was the favourite for the women's 100 metres at the Berlin Olympics. Walasiewicz had settled with her parents in Cleveland and was better known as Stella Walsh. By 1932 she was also known as the Cleveland Flyer, but faced with unemployment she took up the offer to run for Poland at the Los Angeles Olympics and won Gold in the 100m. Already she was viewed by many as unusually manly in her running style and build. In the years between 1932 and the Berlin Olympics in 1936 insinuations continued but there was no action taken and she went on to compete successfully. However, in Berlin a French journalist suggested that Stella had to shave twice a day. She was favourite to win the 100m again.In the event she came second to the American Helen Stephens. The Polish team and press raised objections to Stephens suggesting that she was a man. What appears to be the first ever gender identity test was called for and Helen Stephens was its first victim. It would later be described by the legendary British Pentathlon Olympic Gold Medal winner,Dame Mary Peters, some forty years later as 'what in modern parlance, amounted to a grope.” Helen Stephens was exonerated and kept her medal, but it was a crude and profoundly humiliating way of dealing with the problem of gender verification in women's sport.Jonathan is joined by an Olympic athlete and a trans gender sportswoman to take the Long View of gender verification in women's sport.

27mins

3 May 2019

Rank #8

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Brexit and European Diplomacy

Jonathan Freedland explores parallels between Brexit and a major dispute between King Offa of Mercia and Charlemagne, King of the Franks in the 790s.In the 790s, King Offa of the English kingdom of Mercia found himself at loggerheads with Charlemagne, King of the Franks on the other side of the Channel. Jonathan and guests examine how the dispute was resolved and explore how the difficulties compare to Britain's relations with the EU in the postwar era.Jonathan is joined by historian Dr Rory Naismith of King's College London and Sir Stephen Wall, former Private Secretary to John Major and former Europe advisor to Tony Blair. Stephen Wall was also Britain's ambassador to the EU in the late 1990s and is the author of an official history of Britain's relations with the European Community 1963-75. Produce: Laurence Grissell

27mins

23 Apr 2019

Rank #9

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Elon Musk's Hyperloop and Brunel's Atmospheric Traction Rail

Jonathan Freedland takes the long view of pioneering invention and the trials and tribulations thereof in the form of Elon Musk's Hyperloop and Isambard Brunel's Atmospheric Rail system.Both men were driven and capable of challenging accepted engineering norms but in their two rail systems they struggled to make a break through. Elon Musk believes that his Hyperloop system can shoot passengers at breakneck speed through a vacuum tube, cutting journey times and revolutionising rail travel. Ever the coy publicist he refers to his Hyperloop as the "fifth mode of transport" after road, rail, sea and air. Brunel was convinced that steam wasn't the only way of providing cheap, efficient mass transport. Using a sealed tube in the centre of the rails to deliver vacuum propulsion, his system ran on a 20-mile section of track between Exeter and Newton Abbot and was a match for the speeds available to the best steam trains of the day. But both systems have proved more than challenging and in Brunel's case the challenges became insurmountable and the inventor's appetite for new adventures saw it fall quickly into disuse. How will Elon Musk's plans mature?Historian Colin Divall is on hand to help tell the parallel stories of these two men and their transport dreams.Producer: Tom Alban

27mins

29 Jan 2019

Rank #10

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The Long View of would-be reforming leaders

A new figure on the world stage with enormous influence, is creating confusion. Heralded as a reformer he is also responsible for extreme intolerance towards those who exhibit disloyalty or threaten to cross him. That was the story in the 11th century with Pope Gregory Vii, and it's also the story now with the Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman.Pope Gregory appeared to be leading major reforms within the church including attitudes towards clerical celibacy. But while there may have been suggestions of a willingness to accept change and to be flexible in the face of changing pressures he was also capable of ruthless intolerance. He was accused of necromancy, torture of a former friend, assassination attempts and unjust excommunications. His conflict with King Henry iv, Holy Roman Emperor dominated the European stage in the 1070s and 1080s.Conrad Leyser, associate Professor at Worcester College, Oxford helps Jonathan tell the story of a man billed as a reformer but whose reputation underwent a dramatic change during his time as head of the church in Rome.

27mins

15 Jan 2019

Rank #11

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Prime Ministers and Divided Parties

Jonathan Freedland compares Theresa May's woes now with those of Arthur Balfour in 1903-06, taking the long view of prime ministers confronted with deep divisions in their own party.In the early 1900s Prime Minister Arthur Balfour was faced with a seemingly irreconcilable split in his party. Back then, Balfour’s Conservatives were tearing themselves apart over Imperial Preference - a proposal for a free trade zone within the British Empire. Advocates of Imperial Preference saw it as vital to maintaining Britain's place in the world. Opponents saw it as a dangerous folly. Jonathan Freedland looks at what lessons can be drawn from Balfour's experiences. Producer: Laurence Grissell

27mins

8 Jan 2019

Rank #12

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Russian Expulsions

Jonathan Freedland and guests take the Long View on the expulsion of Russian diplomats - both in 2018 after the Skripal poisionings and in 1927 after a notorious raid of a building in London's Moorgate.The story begins in 12 King's Bench Walk in London's Inner Temple, where on 9th May 1927 MI5's head of anti-Soviet work met with Edward Langston a whistle-blower who revealed that a secret military document had been in the possession of the Soviets in the Head Quarters of the All Russian Co-Operative Society, located at 49 Moorgate. And the story ends in Victoria Station where the expelled Russians started their journey home, sent off by crowds of supporters which included MPs and trade unionists. Joining Jonathan Freedland to take this Long View are:Timothy Phillips: Historian, and author of "The Secret Twenties: British Intelligence, The Russians And The Jazz Age"Edward Lucas: Times columnist, espionage expert and author of "The New Cold War: Putin's Russia and the Threat to the West", "Deception: The Untold Story of East-West Espionage Today", and "Cyberphobia: Identity, Trust, Security and the Internet" Oksana Antonenko: Visiting Fellow at Institute of Global Affairs at the London School of Economics and former Programme Director for Russia and Eurasia at the International Institute for Strategic Studies Sir Tony Brenton: Former British Ambassador to Russia (2004-08), including during the Litvinenko caseTim McMullan: Actor who played Arthur Valentine, an MI5 operative in Foyles WarProducers: Ben Mitchell and Paul Kobrak.

27mins

31 May 2018

Rank #13

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Driverless Cars and the Railways of 1830

Jonathan Freedland compares safety on the railways in the 1830s to the debate around driverless cars today.The Liverpool and Manchester Railway was opened to great fanfare on 15 September 1830. It was clear this new form of transport would radically transform society. Yet the day was overshadowed by the death of William Huskisson MP who stepped on the tracks and was struck by Stephenson's Rocket as it steamed down the line. With the the first death to result from driverless vehicles in Arizona a few weeks ago, Jonathan Freedland and guests tell the story of Huskisson's death and explore the implications for the development of self-driving vehicles today.Producer: Laurence Grissell.

27mins

19 Apr 2018

Rank #14

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Facebook revelations and the Reformation

Jonathan Freedland and guests compare the Facebook Cambridge Analytica data row with Luther's rejection of Purgatory and a loss of trust in the Church in pre-Reformation Europe. With Diarmaid MacCulloch. Professor of the History of the Church; Mic Wright, technology writer; Emily Taylor, associate fellow of Chatham House and editor of the Journal of Cyber Policy; Liam Byrne MP, Shadow Digital Minister and actor Anton Lesser.Producer: Georgia Catt.

27mins

10 Apr 2018

Rank #15

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Brexit Special

The Long View marks a year to go to Brexit. Jonathan Freedland & guests consider multiple historical scenarios when Britons faced a new and uncertain direction for their collective island fate. Dr Erin Goeres uncovers a little known story of 11th Century Brexit & unhappy Anglo Saxons. David Andress details how Britain weathered war & a Napoleonic trade ban but workers rights were challenged. Whilst in May 1940 a strengthened alliance with France promised a second chance for Europe and then it was gone in a Blitzkreig. As David Reynolds reveals , Churchill's heroic words masked the desperation of a leader who had no idea what awaited his people. Jonathan and contemporary commentators, Conservative M.P. Kwasi Kwarteng & Eloise Todd, C.E.O. of Best for Britain, gather to learn from the past in this lengthened Brexit Special. Ian Harte, one of the stars of the BBC's The Last Kingdom reads the chronicles of yesteryear.Producer: Mark Burman.

39mins

6 Apr 2018

Rank #16

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Trump and Hamilton on American Trade

Jonathan Freedland and guests take The Long View of Donald Trump's trade plans. The United States slapping hefty tariffs on goods from abroad in order to protect their industries at home is the story now, but also just a few years after the founding of the American Republic. The man imposing the tariffs, the then Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton.Producer: Georgia Catt.

27mins

6 Apr 2018

Rank #17

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Catalonia and Cornwall

Jonathan Freedland compares the Catalonia crisis with a moment in Cornish history.

27mins

12 Dec 2017

Rank #18

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Russian meddling in the American democratic process

Jonathan Freedland explores the parallels between recent alleged Russian state interference in the American and other foreign elections, and covert British activities of the British Security Coordination (BSC), a secret arm of MI6 founded in May 1940. The motivations in each case are very different of course but some of the methods used then and now are very similar and offer an interesting parallel.Based in New York, BSC was initially simply the MI6 regional station in North America, it's mission - to gather intelligence and to help get American aid in the form of munitions. But the greatest obstacle to getting American aid is American isolationism. America at this point is almost in a civil war of ideas between those who want to go to war; and those who do not - the isolationists. The maverick head of BSC, a Canadian named William Stephenson, soon realises they have to win the civil war of ideas before anything can happen. and takes matters into his own hands.By the spring of 1941- after the effects of Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain - Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the Foreign Office, wary of using propaganda as they know the Americans are watching out for it, come to accept that without America, Britain would undoubtedly lose the war.On the panel with Jonathan are historian Henry Hemming, the novelist William Boyd, Russian foreign policy expert Dr Alex Pravda at Oxford University; Dr Leslie Vinjamuri, associate fellow with the US Programme at Chatham House, and Sir Mark Lyall Grant, the former national security adviser to the Prime Minister.Reader: Tobias Menzies.Producer: Mohini Patel.

27mins

5 Dec 2017

Rank #19

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The rise of Uber and the plight of London's watermen

Jonathan Freedland compares the plight of black cab drivers with the fate of London's watermen. For centuries watermen had a monopoly on Thames river crossings until advances in new technology allowed for bridges to be built across the river in the mid 18th Century. The men who ferried passengers on the Thames lost their jobs and livelihood. Today, technology threatens the modern day taxi business with the rise of smartphone app Uber and the dawn of the driverless car. As automation and artificial intelligence technologies improve, Jonathan Freedland and panellists explore what history can tell us about how workers might fare today.Producer: Sarah Shebbeare.

27mins

5 Dec 2017

Rank #20