211 episodes

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

The Forum BBC

    • Society & Culture

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

    Artemisia Gentileschi: The painter who took on the men

    Artemisia Gentileschi: The painter who took on the men

    One of the most celebrated female painters of the 17th century, Artemisia Gentileschi was the first woman to become a member of the Academy of the Arts of Drawing in Florence. Through her talent and determination - and despite massive obstacles - she forged a 40-year career, and was collected by the likes of Charles I of England and Philip IV of Spain. But after her death, it wasn’t until the 20th century that people began to reinterpret her work in the light of her remarkable life story, including the well-documented fact that she was raped at the age of 17 by fellow painter, Agostino Tassi.

    Joining Bridget Kendall to discuss the life and work of Italian Baroque artist, Artemisia Gentileschi are four experts: Letizia Treves is curator of the 2020 Artemisia exhibition at London’s National Gallery; Mary Garrard is Professor Emerita of Art History at American University in Washington DC; Jesse Locker is Assistant Professor of Italian Renaissance & Baroque Art at Portland State University; and Patrizia Cavazzini is Research Fellow at the British School at Rome, Italy.

    Image: Self-Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria by Artemisia Gentileschi
    Credit: National Gallery, London

    • 39 min
    Guide dogs for the blind: A history

    Guide dogs for the blind: A history

    We are now familiar with dogs helping people with sight loss but where did the idea come from? And how have the ways of selecting, training and using guide dogs changed over time?

    Bridget Kendall explores the history of guide dogs with Pieter van Niekerk, Head of Public Relations for the South African Guide-Dogs Association and with Karin Floesser, one of the guide dog leaders of the German Federation for the Blind and Partially Sighted. Bridget is also joined by journalist and educator Miriam Ascarelli, biographer of Dorothy Harrison Eustis, the philanthropist who in the 1920s co-founded the American Seeing Eye school, and she hears from Michael Hingson, a blind survivor of the 9/11 attacks.

    (Image: A guide dog in Shanghai, China. Credit: Wang He/Getty Images)

    • 39 min
    Oscar Niemeyer: Brazil's king of curves

    Oscar Niemeyer: Brazil's king of curves

    Best known for his curvaceous buildings and his design of Brasilia, Oscar Niemeyer was one of Brazil’s greatest architects and a leading pioneer of modernism. During his seven- decade career, Niemeyer designed hundreds of remarkable buildings not just in his native Brazil but also in Europe and as far afield as Algeria. His experimentation with reinforced concrete produced organic curved shapes that were a significant departure from the austere style of European modernism. An ardent communist, Niemeyer hoped his beautiful buildings would be for all sections of society to enjoy, but how does his vision and influence endure today, and are his striking creations still functional and sustainable?

    Joining Rajan Datar to discuss Oscar Niemeyer and his work are Professor Richard Williams from the University of Edinburgh and the author of “Brazil: Modern Architectures in History”; the Brazilian architect and lecturer at the University of Bath, Dr Juliana Calabria Holley, and Maria Paz Gutierrez, Associate Professor of Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley.

    (Image: a view of the Contemporary Art Museum (MAC) in Niteroi, Rio de Janeiro state, with the Sugar Loaf mountain in the background. Credit: REUTERS/Pilar Olivares)

    • 40 min
    Haile Selassie: the last emperor of Ethiopia

    Haile Selassie: the last emperor of Ethiopia

    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

    • 39 min
    Emilie du Chatelet: a free-spirited physicist

    Emilie du Chatelet: a free-spirited physicist

    Emilie du Chatelet was esteemed in 18th-century France as a brilliant physicist, mathematician, thinker and linguist whose pioneering ideas and formidable translations were known all across Europe. And yet, after her death in childbirth in her mid-40s she was nearly forgotten, and if she was remembered at all, then as a companion and collaborator of the famous writer Voltaire.

    Du Chatelet’s insights into kinetic energy foreshadowed Einstein’s famous equation and her suggestions for experiments with the different colours of light would only be carried out half-a-century after she’d written about them. Plus she was a remarkable personality, determined to live a life of an independent woman, often pushing the boundaries of what was acceptable even in the liberal social circles of her day.

    Bridget Kendall discusses du Chatelet’s life and work with history professor Judith Zinsser, Chatelet’s biographer David Bodanis and philosophy professor Ruth Hagengruber.

    Painting: Gabrielle Emilie de Breteuil (1706 -1749), marchioness of Le Chatelet by Marianne Loir. (Photo by Raphael Gaillarde/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images)

    • 39 min
    Man v mosquito

    Man v mosquito

    Mosquitos are a fast-adapting, elusive enemy which humans have been trying to combat for thousands of years. As vectors of dangerous diseases, these tiny insects have killed more people in human history than any other animal. So what impact has the mosquito had on our lives? How have humans tried to halt its spread? And who is winning the battle?

    Joining Bridget Kendall to discuss the history of man and the mosquito are Dr. Erica McAlister, Senior Curator of Diptera - Flies - at the Natural History Museum in London; Dr. Timothy Winegard, historian and author of The Mosquito: A Human History of our Deadliest Predator; and Dr. Clifford Mutero of the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) in Nairobi, Kenya, and author of Mosquito Hunter: Chronicles of an African Insect Scientist.

    Image: Health workers tackling the spread of the Zika virus in Brazil, 2016
    Credit: Mario Tama / Getty Images

    • 39 min

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