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The Forum


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

Popular episodes

The original Goths

Dec 2 • 39:39
The Goths were a Germanic tribe infamous for their brief sack of Rome in 410 AD but their cultural and political influence was felt throughout Europe for centuries. They re-shaped the Balkans, preserved the Roman way of life in Italy and presided over a cultural flourishing in Spain. But how, many centuries after their demise, did they come to give their name to an importa...

Laskarina Bouboulina, the mother of modern Greece

Nov 25 • 39:39
The 1821 Greek war for independence from the Ottoman empire became an inspiration for people all over Europe who wanted to dismantle the old multi-ethnic empires. But it is less well known that a number of women played key roles in the uprising. In this programme, Bridget Kendall and guests focus on Laskarina Bouboulina, perhaps the best known of Greek women freedom fighte...

Mary Somerville: The queen of 19th-century science

Nov 18 • 39:31
For someone who was largely self-taught, Mary Somerville's rise to renown in the male-dominated world of science was quite remarkable. Although women were barred from being members of the learned societies where knowledge was shared in the early 19th-century, Somerville found alternative ways to become one of the most respected figures in maths and science of her day.


The Malayan Emergency

Nov 11 • 39:26
One of the earliest Cold War conflicts was a 12-year guerrilla war commonly known as the Malayan Emergency and fought from 1948 in the jungles of what is now Malaysia. This communist insurgency was fuelled not only by ideology but also by the desire for Malayan independence from British colonial rule. There have been a number of books and documentaries devoted to the subje...

The Devils: Dostoevsky’s novel of political evil

Nov 4 • 40:04
The Devils, The Possessed, or Demons, as it’s also known in translation, is Fyodor Dostoevsky’s most political novel, but it’s also his bleakest and funniest. It’s a hundred and fifty years since its publication and two hundred years since its author’s birth. The novel tells the story of a group of young revolutionaries who run riot in a small provincial town in Russia, al...

A focus on spectacles

Oct 28 • 39:43
If you had to name the innovations that have transformed human civilisation, you might suggest the printing press or the Internet, but the humble pair of spectacles has also revolutionised the way many of us experience the world. It's said that an astonishing three quarters of those in the US use glasses or contact lenses to correct their vision. And the World Health Organ...

Sarah Bernhardt: Queen of stage and screen

Oct 21 • 39:40
Whether photographed in a coffin or depicted on an Art Nouveau poster, the French actor Sarah Bernhardt knew exactly how to get maximum publicity. Although her first outings on the stage were unremarkable, she refined her skills and rose to become the leading actor of her generation and a world-famous name. Her life off-stage was a further source of endless fascination, h...

A dirty history of diamonds

Oct 14 • 39:40
We seem to have an almost insatiable appetite for the glitter and sparkle of diamonds. Yet transforming these stones into jewels fit for princesses and film stars involves a long chain of production and distribution. And the diamond industry has long been bound up with a much darker side: the exploitation of workers, environmental damage, all-powerful monopolies and violen...

The story of Evita

Oct 7 • 39:06
Eva Peron rose from a childhood of poverty to become one of the most powerful figures in Latin America. An illegitimate small town girl, she smashed class and gender barriers to become Argentina’s controversial First Lady. Loved and loathed, Rajan Datar discusses her life, work and remarkable afterlife with biographer Jill Hedges, historian Ranaan Rein, and cultural theori...

Sushi: The Japanese dish with an ancient tradition

Sep 30 • 39:53
It’s one of the most popular dishes in the world today, but the story of sushi can be traced back more than 2,000 years. The earliest records document a preserved fish dish in ancient China and it later became a medieval luxury in Japan, before evolving into a variety of different regional styles and recipes. Today, thanks to waves of migration from Japan, there is a verit...

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