299 episodes

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

The Forum BBC World Service

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.6 • 222 Ratings

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

    A forgotten founder of climate science: Eunice Newton Foote

    A forgotten founder of climate science: Eunice Newton Foote

    Eunice Newton Foote was the first person to suggest that an atmosphere rich in carbon dioxide would lead to a warmer planet, but her discovery was largely ignored and her name disappeared for more than 150 years. She fell into such obscurity that there’s no known picture of her.

    Bridget Kendall explores the life of this American scientist and inventor and asks why her ground-breaking research, carried out in the 1850s, was overlooked for so long. Discrimination against women, especially in the sciences, was a major reason, but might a transatlantic power struggle and even a case of intellectual theft have played their parts?

    Eunice was also one of the founding members of the women’s rights movement in the United States – we discuss how she helped launch a campaign that would eventually win women the right to vote.

    Plus, the story of how her work was recently re-discovered, and the quest to ensure her name gains greater recognition.

    For more on Eunice and other key figures in the history of climate change visit https://bbc.in/3QXkiru

    Producer: Simon Tulett

    Contributors:

    John Perlin, a research scholar in the department of physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, USA, who is working on what’s thought to be the first biography of Eunice Newton Foote;

    Sally Gregory Kohlstedt, a recently retired professor of history from the University of Minnesota, USA, and expert on women and gender in the history of science;

    Roland Jackson, a historian of nineteenth century science, honorary research Fellow in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at University College London, and author of ‘The Ascent of John Tyndall’;

    Ray Sorenson, retired petroleum geologist, Oklahoma, USA;

    Judith Wellman, professor emerita at the State University of New York at Oswego, USA.

    (Picture: Smoke billowing from chimneys at the coal-fired Bełchatów Power Station, Poland, in 2009. Credit: Peter Andrews/Reuters).

    • 39 min
    Dreams: Prophecy, propaganda and psychoanalysis

    Dreams: Prophecy, propaganda and psychoanalysis

    The images, sensations and emotions we experience during sleep were once seen as the gateway to the gods and had the power to alter lives and even whole societies.

    Rajan Datar explores the way dreams, and their interpretation, have shaped beliefs and actions for thousands of years – from their role as a connection to the dead and the spirit world, to their ability to predict the future.

    We hear how these seemingly involuntary visions inspired key historical figures, changed the course of major events, and were used by many rulers as a propaganda tool.

    Plus, we discuss what’s really happening in our brains when we have dreams and ask whether 21st-century life is placing them under threat.

    Contributors:
    Sidarta Ribeiro, professor of neuroscience and founder of the Brain Institute at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte, in Brazil, and also the author of ‘The Oracle of Night: The History and Science of Dreams’;
    Scott Noegel, professor of biblical and ancient near eastern languages and literatures at the University of Washington, in the United States;
    Özgen Felek, lector of Ottoman and modern Turkish in the department of near eastern languages and civilizations at Yale University, in the US.

    (Picture: Dreamlike scene of a woman standing at fork in a stone pathway in a calm lake with clouds reflecting in the water. Credit: Thomas Barwick/Getty Images)

    • 39 min
    Yves Saint Laurent: Fashion revolutionary

    Yves Saint Laurent: Fashion revolutionary

    Since his death in 2008, the impact of designer Yves Saint Laurent on women’s fashion remains undimmed. The pea coat, the trench, the trouser suit – many of his designs are now staples of the modern Western woman’s wardrobe. So how did this famously shy and retiring man achieve global success? And did his fashion innovations for women shape social change in the 1960s, or were they a response to his times?

    Bridget Kendall looks back at Saint Laurent’s life and legacy with former director of the Yves Saint Laurent Museum, Olivier Flaviano, fashion historian Emilie Hammen and one of Saint Laurent’s last assistants, designer Charles Sébline. First broadcast in 2018.

    (Photo: Yves Saint Laurent, French designer, with two fashion models, Betty Catroux [left] and Loulou de la Falaise, outside his 'Rive Gauche' shop. Credit: John Minihan, Getty Images)

    • 39 min
    Brazil's Palmares: A beacon of freedom

    Brazil's Palmares: A beacon of freedom

    As Brazil celebrates 200 years of independence from Portugal, we look at the 17th-century community of people seeking freedom from slavery in the north-east of the country known as Palmares. It lasted longer and was larger than other settlements of this type and it withstood repeated attempts by European colonialists to destroy it.

    So how did Palmares keep going for over a century when so many other communities like it in Latin America vanished after a few years?
    Who were the inhabitants? And what do we really know about them when there is no reliable history of the settlements: almost all the surviving documents are from people intent on destroying Palmares.

    To help us sift through what we do know about Palmares, Bridget Kendall is joined by archaeologist Professor Pedro Paulo Funari from the University of Campinas in Brazil; Dr. José Lingna Nafafé, Senior Lecturer in Portuguese and Lusophone Studies at Bristol University; and Dr. Maria Fernanda Escallon, Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Oregon. The reader is Natan Barreto.

    (Photo: The monument to Zumbi, leader of Palmares, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Credit: Yasuyoshi Chiba/Getty Images)

    • 39 min
    Bluegrass: Virtuoso music of Appalachia

    Bluegrass: Virtuoso music of Appalachia

    It is rare in music history that scholars can point to the beginning of a particular style, but bluegrass would appear to be the exception to the rule. Mandolin player Bill Monroe from rural Kentucky had so much clout in the music business that some scholars have suggested that it was he who defined the sound which came to be known as bluegrass. He was certainly protective; Monroe is quoted as saying “the biggest job of bluegrass is to keep out what don’t belong in it.”

    Played initially in America's rural south, bluegrass was later adopted by the counter-cultural college kid scene in the 1950s and '60s. And today the music is flourishing all over the world in the most unlikely places.

    Rajan Datar is joined by Dan Boner, director of the Bluegrass, Old-Time, and Roots Music Studies programme at East Tennessee State University, who demonstrates how bluegrass works; writer and historian Tony Russell, whose publications on music include Rural Rhythm: The Story of Old-Time Country Music in 78 Records; and Dr Lydia Hamessley, professor of music at Hamilton College whose research concentrates on old-time and bluegrass music. She is the author of Unlikely Angel: The Songs of Dolly Parton.

    Producer: Fiona Clampin

    (Photo: Lester Flatt (right) and Earl Scruggs (left) perform with The Foggy Mountain Boys at the Grand Ole Opry circa 1960. Credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

    • 42 min
    The Art of War: Ancient Chinese guide to victory

    The Art of War: Ancient Chinese guide to victory

    The Art of War is one of the most important military strategy texts ever written, and it has become just as influential, perhaps even more so, in the worlds of business, sport, and politics.

    Bridget Kendall learns what the 2,000-year-old treatise has to say about deception, spying, and ruthlessness, and asks why it has come to be viewed as a guide to success in life in general.

    But has it been misunderstood? We discuss whether it’s better viewed as a guide to avoiding war and conflict, rather than a manual for how to fight.

    Plus, we try to get to the bottom of who really wrote it and learn about the blood-soaked period of Chinese history in which it’s believed to have been created.

    Producer: Simon Tulett

    Credit: Excerpts from the text were based on translations from Michael Nylan's book (see below), published by W. W. Norton & Company, 2020.

    Contributors:

    Michael Nylan, professor of early Chinese history at the University of California, Berkeley, in the United States, and author of 'The Art of War: A New Translation by Michael Nylan';

    Derek Yuen, a scholar of strategy and international relations from Hong Kong, and author of ‘Deciphering Sun Tzu: How to Read the Art of War’;

    Peter Lorge, associate professor of pre-modern Chinese and military history at Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, in the United States, and author of ‘Sun Tzu in the West’.

    (Picture: Terracotta warriors - sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China who unified the country after the Warring States period. Credit: Getty Images)

    • 39 min

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
222 Ratings

222 Ratings

Azucarious ,

Top notch!

Thanks for all the wonderful work! Fascinating topics with engaging presentation.

Peanutforlife ,

Entertaining variety of topics!

Love all of the different topics of discussion. Nice flow, and the hosts/speakers have pleasant voices to listen to. Thank you for keeping me curious, and getting me through my repetitive manufacturing job!

Latin teacher ,

excellent, adult topics

Knowledgeable adult conversation on history and other topics. No trendy bits. Along the lines of BBC’s “In Our Time.”

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