29 episodes

The University of Edinburgh’s top academics discuss their research, debate contemporary events, and bring their expertise to bear on topical issues. From Charles Darwin to Walter Scott, James Hutton to Peter Higgs, the University of Edinburgh has always been a world-class centre for discovery and enlightenment. Tune in and listen to today’s big ideas.

The Big Idea The University of Edinburgh

    • Society & Culture

The University of Edinburgh’s top academics discuss their research, debate contemporary events, and bring their expertise to bear on topical issues. From Charles Darwin to Walter Scott, James Hutton to Peter Higgs, the University of Edinburgh has always been a world-class centre for discovery and enlightenment. Tune in and listen to today’s big ideas.

    The Spanish Civil War: Why did hundreds of Scots volunteer to fight Fascism in Spain?

    The Spanish Civil War: Why did hundreds of Scots volunteer to fight Fascism in Spain?

    2019 marks 100 years of the Spanish degree at the University of Edinburgh, and an exhibition and series of events are taking place to mark the occasion, under the ‘Conectando’ banner.
    This year also marks the 80th anniversary of the end of the Spanish Civil War, a conflict that saw the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and led to Spain being ruled by a Fascist dictatorship until 1975. In this edition of the Big Idea podcast, Ranald Leask is joined by two experts on the conflict, from the University’s School of History, Classics, and Archaeology. Dr Julius Ruiz and Dr Fraser Raeburn have written extensively on the conflict, a period in Spain’s history that continues to divide opinion in the country to this day.
    This podcast looks, in particular, at the contribution of the International Brigades, those foreign volunteers who travelled to Spain to defend the elected Republican government against General Franco’s forces, which sought to topple it. Scotland produced a disproportionately high number of volunteers for the Brigades, many of whom were killed. In this podcast we hear from those volunteers who left Scotland for Spain, and ask what their legacy is.

    • 29 min
    The Great War: The impact and legacy of ‘the War to end all wars’

    The Great War: The impact and legacy of ‘the War to end all wars’

    November 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that brought the First World War to an end. More than 15 million people died in the conflict, which ushered in a horrifying new type of industrial slaughter; high explosive shells, poison gas, aircraft, machine guns, and tanks mechanised killing to a brutal new level. Now, a century on, how do we remember those who perished? What does remembrance mean and how has it changed? How different is the British act of remembrance from those countries where conflict continued for many years after 1918, and for the defeated nations?

    In this special edition of the Big Idea podcast, Ranald Leask is joined by three University experts with a keen interest in these questions. Professor Ewen Cameron and Dr David Kaufman, both from the School of History, Classics and Archaeology, along with Jolyon Mitchell, professor of Communications, Arts and Religion in the School of Divinity examine the impact and legacy of ‘the War to end all wars’.

    • 32 min
    Secrets and Spies: Why do people believe conspiracy theories?

    Secrets and Spies: Why do people believe conspiracy theories?

    We all love a good conspiracy theory: 9/11 was an inside job; the moon landings were faked; Princess Diana was assassinated. There is a thrill in joining the dots between seemingly random events and discovering hidden patterns. As the University hosts Edinburgh Spy Week, the annual event that examines espionage fiction and film and the ways in which secrecy runs through culture, the organisers ask why such theories have such a pull on the imagination, and what happens when they are elevated to the status of historical truth. They discuss the surprising origins of President Trump's post-truth world and the layers of nostalgia within John le Carre's masterpiece of spy fiction, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

    • 36 min
    The James Tait Black Prizes 2015

    The James Tait Black Prizes 2015

    A discussion with this year’s winners of Britain’s oldest literary awards: James Shapiro, winner of the biography prize for 1606: Shakespeare and the Year of Lear, which delves into one of the most politically turbulent and most creative years of the Bard’s life; and Benjamin Markovits, winner of the fiction prize for his novel You Don’t Have to Live Like This, a tale of urban frontiers-people attempting to set up a new way of life in a decaying Detroit. Recorded live at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

    • 42 min
    Deep Time

    Deep Time

    The world-changing ideas of James Hutton, a product of the university and Edinburgh, are the inspiration behind the 2016 Edinburgh International Festival’s Standard Life Opening Event: Deep Time. Experts will explain the history and theories behind what one of the most spectacular visual arts events ever in Scotland. How did Hutton’s theories revolutionise how we viewed the earth and our place on it, what exactly is deep time, and what geological period are we living in now?

    • 35 min
    Technology Justice

    Technology Justice

    How can technology be used to help reduce inequality around the world? What are developed nations getting wrong and right in how it uses medicine, aid, mobile phones and computers to foster progress in the developing world? Recorded live in conjunction with the international development charity Practical Action, experts debate the obstacles and opportunities in the quest to achieve technology justice.

    • 1 hr 1 min

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