254 Episodes Refresh
Jan 21, 2021
Toussaint L’Ouverture: Hero of the Haitian slave rebellionJanuary 21, 2021
Late 18th-Century Saint Domingue in the Caribbean – now known as Haiti – was one of the richest countries in the world. Known as ‘the pearl of the Antilles’, its wealth was built almost entirely on slavery. Around half a million enslaved Africans were transported to the French colony to work on the sugar plantations. Toussaint L’Ouverture was destined to see out his days within this brutal system, but his skills as a negotiator and communicator saw him rise to the forefront of the...
Jan 14, 2021
Olympe de Gouges: France’s forgotten revolutionary heroineJanuary 14, 2021
She fought to give women the right to divorce and campaigned on behalf of children born out of wedlock. But in late 18th century France, her radical thinking proved too much for her contemporaries in the French revolution. She insisted women should be allowed to speak out, and she was executed at the guillotine for doing just that. For nearly two centuries her story was largely forgotten, until she was championed by modern-day French feminists, who called for her to be given pride of place in...
Jan 07, 2021
Alexandre Yersin and the race to fight the plagueJanuary 07, 2021
When Alexandre Yersin discovered one of the most lethal bacteria in human history, the tiny bacillus of the plague that over the centuries had killed tens of millions of people, he earned his place in the history books. Working in a straw hut in Hong Kong, armed with just a microscope, Yersin’s methodical mind worked out within just a few days where in human body to look for the plague bacteria. A much bigger and better-equipped Japanese team, competing with Yersin, came away empty-handed. So...
Dec 31, 2020
Famous hats in historyDecember 31, 2020
There have been so many, probably hundreds, different styles and types of hat in history that a question inevitably arises: why? Why did something that began as a simple protection against inclement weather take on such varied forms and social meanings? Bridget Kendall and guests explore not just how hats were made, and by whom, but also how their function has evolved over centuries and across cultures. By focusing on just five distinct hat types, they sketch out a brief social history of...
Dec 24, 2020
Mugham: the sound of AzerbaijanDecember 24, 2020
Azerbaijan’s strategic location along the old Silk Road and its wealth of natural resources has made it a prime target for warring empires over centuries. The conquests and the invasions by Turkic and Persian peoples find echoes in the traditional art music of Azerbaijan known as mugham. The influence of the Russian and then Soviet empire also brought change for mugham, the effects of which are still debated today. Mugham is characterised by a large degree of improvisation, but musicians...
Dec 17, 2020
The Kingdom of Aksum: Africa's trading empireDecember 17, 2020
At its height, the Aksumite Empire extended across the northern Ethiopian and Eritrean highlands, and even included parts of Sudan, Somalia and modern-day Yemen. From the first century BC to the seventh or eighth centuries AD it was one of the most important trading hubs in north-east Africa. It was also one of the earliest states in the world to adopt Christianity. In fact the Persian prophet Mani named the Aksumite Empire as one of the “four great kingdoms on Earth” together with Persia,...
Dec 10, 2020
Umm Kulthum: Egypt’s singing superstarDecember 10, 2020
Umm Kulthum’s powerful voice and talent for communicating poetry was spotted early, when she accompanied her family to perform at weddings and special occasions. It wasn’t long before she was performing in the elite salons of early 20th-century Cairo, although her father dressed her as a boy to protect her from any unwelcome interactions with strangers. In the Egyptian capital she quickly associated herself with the most talented musicians of the day, and from then on she never looked back....
Dec 03, 2020
Alexandre Dumas: The man behind the MusketeersDecember 03, 2020
The word 'swashbuckling' is often used to describe the novels of Alexandre Dumas the Elder, the creator of D’Artagnan and the Three Musketeers, the Count of Monte Cristo and the Man in the Iron Mask. But Dumas himself led a life as colourful as many of his gallery of rogues, villains and heroes. Having grown up in poverty, he found employment in the household of a future king of France. He was prolific on the page and pretty active away from it. At first with a series of highly successful...
Nov 26, 2020
Unlocking the mysteries of cuneiform tabletsNovember 26, 2020
Cuneiform is an ancient writing system distinguished by wedge-shaped marks made into clay. It developed over 5,000 years ago in Ancient Mesopotamia. At its height it was used to write languages across the ancient Middle East, from Iran to Syria to Anatolia in Turkey. But cuneiform writing fell out of use about 2,000 years ago in favour of alphabetic scripts. When scholars in the 19th century finally managed to redecipher it, they discovered fascinating insights into the culture and rituals of...
Nov 19, 2020
First impressions: The printing pressNovember 19, 2020
When the fifteenth century German entrepreneur Johannes Gutenberg pioneered the printing press, he made an indelible mark on the history of communication. Here was a way to print pages in high quality and high quantities, using methods more efficient than had ever been seen before. Rajan Datar and guests explore the story of how the printing press was born, and how it changed our world - from the birth of the modern book to the rise of the information society, and the transformation of fields...