Leading artists, writers, thinkers discuss the ideas shaping our lives & links between past & present and new academic research.
John Rawls's A Theory of Justice
In his 1971 book, A Theory of Justice, John Rawls argued that just societies should allow everyone to enjoy basic liberties while limiting inequality and improving the lives of the least well off. He argued that "the fairest rules are those to which everyone would agree if they did not know how much power they would have". Anne McElvoy discusses how his case for a liberal egalitarianism has fared since.
Teresa Bejan is Associate Professor of Political Theory and Fellow of Oriel College at the University of Oxford. Her current work focuses on equality. Her first book, Mere Civility: Disagreement and the Limits of Toleration was published in 2017.
Jonathan Floyd is Senior Lecturer in Political Theory at the University of Bristol. His work focuses on he way in which we justify political principles and reflective equilibrium - the relationship between political theory and practical reason. His book include: Political Philosophy versus History? (2011); and, Is Political Philosophy Impossible? (2017); What's the point of political philosophy? (2019).
Rupert Read is Professor of Philosophy at the University of East Anglia. He has written about environmental ethics, scientism and the precautionary principle. In addition to his academic work he is an environmental activist and a former national spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion. His latest book is Parents for a Future.
Producer: Ruth Watts
James Baldwin and race in USA
Eddie Glaude Jr and Nadia Owusu compare notes on the relevance of James Baldwin's writing to understanding Donald Trump's America. Michael Burleigh gives his take on populism.
Eddie S Glaude Jr has just published Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and its Urgent Lessons for Today. His previous books include Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul. He is the chair at the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University.
Nadia Owusu has published Aftershocks: Dispatches from the Frontlines of Identity. She is an associate director at Living Cities an economic racial justice organisation.
Populism: Before and After the Pandemic by Michael Burleigh is published on 9th February.
Producer: Torquil MacLeod
Harlots & 18th Century Working Women
Harlots - the TV series about 18th century female sex workers - and translating historical fact into onscreen drama. Shahidha Bari is joined by Hallie Rubenhold, Moira Buffini, and Laura Lammasniemi in a conversation organised in partnership with the Royal Society of Literature.
Harlots depicts the stories of working women detailed in 1757 in Harris's List of Covent Garden Ladies. Historian Hallie Rubenhold has researched their history and Moira Buffini has translated that into TV scripts. They join Shahidha Bari alongside legal historian Laura Lammasniemi to look at the opportunities and pitfalls in creating historical dramas and what we know and don't know about the lives of sex workers in the 18th century.
Hallie Rubenhold’s book The Covent Garden Ladies is about Harris’s List and inspired the series Harlots, to which she was historical consultant. She is author of The Five: The Untold Lives of The Women Killed By Jack The Ripper, which won the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction and has also been optioned as a drama series; and she is author of Lady Worsley's Whim, which became the TV drama The Scandalous Lady W.
Scriptwriter Moira Buffini is writer of Harlots, new the film The Dig, which reimagines the events of the 1939 excavation of Sutton Hoo, and Jane Eyre. Her plays include wonder.land, Handbagged, and Dinner.
Laura Lammasniemi is Assistant Professor at the University of Warwick Law School. She is currently a Leverhulme Fellow working on a project called Narratives Of Sexual Consent In Criminal Courts, 1870-1950, which looks at how the concept of consent has been understood historically in contexts, such as rape, age of consent, and BDSM.
Producer: Emma Wallace
Witchcraft, Werewolves, and Writing The Devil
The devil's daughter features in a new novel from Jenni Fagan; Salena Godden's debut novel imagines Mrs Death. To discuss conjuring fear, they join Shahidha Bari alongside a pair of historians - Tabitha Stanmore, who researches magic from early modern royal courts to village life, and Daniel Ogden, who has looked at werewolf tales in ancient Greece and Rome.
Jenni Fagan's latest novel is called Luckenbooth, and her first book, The Panopticon, has been filmed. Fagan was listed by Granta as one of the 2013 Granta Best of Young British Novelists. There is more information about her drama and poetry collection, There’s A Witch In The Word Machine, on her website - https://jennifagan.com/
Salena Godden's novel is Mrs Death Misses Death, published on 28 January 2021, and she's been made a new Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. You can find more about her poetry and her radio show, Roaring 20s, on her website - http://www.salenagodden.co.uk/
Tabitha Stanmore is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Bristol, working on witchcraft.
Daniel Ogden is Professor of Ancient History at the University of Exeter. His book is called The Werewolf In The Ancient World.
You might be interested in other episodes looking at witchcraft:
Author Marie Dariessecq - https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0000qkl
The relevance of magic in the contemporary world - https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000kvss
Historians Marina Warner and Susannah Lipscomb look at Witchfinding - https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06kckxk
Novelists Zoe Gilbert, Madeline Miller and Kirsty Logan compare notes on Charms - https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b1q0xc
Producer: Emma Wallace
New Thinking: Women and Slavery
New research on female slave owners in Britain, women on Caribbean plantations, and the daughter of a prominent slave trader. Christienna Fryar talks to researchers Katie Donnington, Meleisa Ono-George, and Hannah Young.
We hear about the daughter of Thomas Hibbert - one of the most prominent slave traders in Kingston, Jamaica - and the revelation that before she died she had intended to ask her mother to free the enslaved people she held; the risks taken by women who had children with their owners and who fought for the rights of those children; and female absentee slave owners in Britain.
Katie Donnington lectures in history at London South Bank University. She has published a book called The Bonds Of Family: Slavery, Commerce And Culture In The British Atlantic World. She was an historical advisor for the BBC2 documentary Britain’s Forgotten Slave-Owners (2015), and co-curated Slavery, Culture, and Collecting at the Museum of London Docklands (2018-2019).
Dr Meleisa Ono-George is at the University of Warwick. She has researched the ways in which women of African descent in Jamaica were discussed in relation to prostitution, concubinage, and other forms of sexual-economic exchange in legal, political, and cultural discourses in nineteenth century Jamaica and Britain.
Hannah Young is at the University of Southampton, where she focuses on late eighteenth and early 19th century Britain, with a particular interest in exploring the relationship between Britain and empire and absentee slave ownership.
This episode was made in partnership with the AHRC, part of UKRI. You can find more about New Research in a playlist on the Free Thinking programme website - https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03zws90 - where you’ll find other episodes in the New Thinking strand showcasing academic research.
You might also be interested in this conversation featuring Katie and Christienna and a novelist and dramatist who have considered slavery history: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000f7d5
This episode looks at the law on modern slavery: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000jnmc
Producer: Emma Wallace
Autism, film and patterns
If, and, then are the 3 words which underpin Simon Baron-Cohen's exploration of how humans reason and develop solutions to problems in his latest book The Pattern Seekers. He joins author Michelle Gallen, film historian Andrew Roberts and Bonnie Evans whose research includes the history of childhood and developmental science in a discussion about how we understand autism presented by Matthew Sweet.
Michelle Gallen's novel Big Girl, Small Town is available now.
Simon Baron-Cohen is clinical psychologist and professor of developmental psychopathology at the University of Cambridge where he runs the Autism Research Centre. His book is called The Pattern Seekers - A New Theory of Human Invention.
Bonnie Evans has written The Metamorphosis of Autism: A History of Child Development in Britain and is Senior Researcher at Queen Mary, University of London on the collaborative Wellcome Trust project https://www.autism-through-cinema.org.uk/
You might be interested that the winner of the Royal Society Science Books Prize 2020 was Camilla Pang's memoir Explaining Humans: What Science Can Teach Us about Life, Love and Relationships
Producer: Torquil MacLeod