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Start the Week

BBC Radio 4

129
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819
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Start the Week

Start the Week

BBC Radio 4

129
Followers
819
Plays
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About Us

Weekly discussion programme, setting the cultural agenda every Monday

Latest Episodes

Brit Bennett on race, identity and protest

Tom Sutcliffe discusses racism, the traps of history and the Black Lives Matter movement with the American author Brit Bennett and the British academic Gary Younge. Racial identity, bigotry and shape-shifting are at the centre of Brit Bennett’s new book, The Vanishing Half. The novel focuses on twin sisters who flee the confines of their southern small town, and the attempts by one of the sisters to escape her background completely by passing as white. The social unrest in the US in the 20th century pervades her latest work, but Bennett is hopeful that today’s protests mark the beginning of real change. Gary Younge lived in the US for 12 years working as a journalist, before he returned home and became Professor of Sociology at Manchester University. He discounts the attempts by some in Britain to claim moral superiority over America in terms of racism. He argues that Britain’s colonial past meant the most egregious racist acts often took place abroad, and so rarely became an integral part of the country’s story. Producer: Katy Hickman Photograph by Emma Trim

28 MINJUN 29
Comments
Brit Bennett on race, identity and protest

James Joyce

James Joyce’s Ulysses is considered one of the most important works of modernist literature. It is both celebrated and commemorated annually on the 16th June – Bloomsday – the day on which the novel is set. The traditional celebrations held in Dublin since the 1950s have been curtailed this year because of COVID-19, but Andrew Marr discusses the legacy of Joyce with the writers Edna O'Brien, Colm Tóibín and Mary Costello. Edna O’Brien first encountered Joyce’s work in the 1950s, and his writings of ‘the rough and tumble of everyday life’ spurred her extraordinary writing career. She has written a biography of Joyce, and her portrait of his marriage, James and Nora, has just been reissued. Colm Tóibín encounters the spirit of Joyce and his creation, Leopold Bloom, constantly as he walks the streets of Dublin. In his collection of essays, Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know, he looks at Joyce in relation to the writer's father. Mary Costello is a self-confessed Joyce obsessive. In ...

28 MINJUN 15
Comments
James Joyce

Our coercive politics

The Coronavirus pandemic and ongoing protests in America have shone a spotlight on the power of the modern State. In Britain we find ourselves locked in our homes, following government instruction; and yet the authority for that coercion comes from the consent we give. This doubleness was captured by Thomas Hobbes in his political text, Leviathan, and it is the starting point for political scientist David Runciman's popular lockdown podcast on politics: the History of Ideas. He tells Amol Rajan how Hobbes, Gandhi and Frantz Fanon could help us understand our uneasy times. Humiliation is one way in which governments and authorities can make us do their bidding. And it also something we now do to each other in the court of public opinion, argues German historian Ute Frevert. In her new book, The Politics of Humiliation, she looks at how humiliation has been used to persuade and to control, everywhere from international diplomacy to British boarding schools. And she explains why the si...

27 MINJUN 8
Comments
Our coercive politics

The Future

‘The future is a foreign country; they do things differently there’ – to misquote LP Hartley. Andrew Marr talks to Riel Miller, an economist at UNESCO, about the difficulties of understanding and predicting what happens in the future. Miller argues that individuals, institutions and governments fail to grasp its profound unpredictability, where the only certainty is radical change. He’s calling for a programme of future literacy, designed to challenge present complacency and improve preparedness for what’s on the horizon. But given what we know about the world today, and what we can guess about the future, is it okay to have a child? That is the question posed by Meehan Crist, writer-in-residence in Biological Sciences at Columbia University. She tracks the resurgence of Malthus and his powerful, terrifying idea that if the global population grows too large, we are all doomed. Crist unpicks the argument that responsibility for stopping climate change and safeguarding the future...

28 MINJUN 1
Comments
The Future

Classics and class

The classics have never been solely the preserve of the British intellectual elite, according to the classicist Edith Hall. In A People’s History of Classics, Hall and her co-writer Henry Stead examine the working class experience of classical culture from the Bill of Rights in 1689 to the outbreak of World War II. This history challenges assumptions about the elitism surrounding the study of ancient Greeks and Romans, and Hall hopes it will expand the debate around the future of classical education for all. An understanding of the classics could also help people reinvigorate cynicism: from the jaded negativity of today, back to its initial idea of fearless speech. In his latest book, Ansgar Allen, returns to the Greek Cynics of the 4th century BCE, a small band of eccentrics who practised an improvised philosophy that challenged all social norms and scandalised their contemporaries. In the centuries that followed this exacting philosophy was hugely watered down. Today’s cynics, w...

28 MINMAY 25
Comments
Classics and class

Richard Ford, writing from the edges

The prize winning writer Richard Ford talks to Andrew Marr about his latest collection of short stories, Sorry for Your Trouble. Irish America is Ford’s landscape, and his characters contemplate ageing, grief, love and marriage: ‘great moments in small lives’. Ford was born in Jackson, Mississippi and has spent many years living in New Orleans – his characters, like himself, live far from the political centre of America. Professor of 19th Century Literature and Thought, Ruth Livesey, is also interested in life away from the centre in her study of provincialism in Britain. Condescension towards small town life can be traced back to the Victorian period. But the writer George Eliot, who spent her early life in Nuneaton in the Midlands, argued that ‘‘art had a responsibility to show a provincial life could be just as full of insight and moral courage as one on the great world stage.’ Producer: Katy Hickman

28 MINMAY 18
Comments
Richard Ford, writing from the edges

Art in an emergency

The writer Olivia Laing has long used art to make sense of the world. Over the last five years she has written a series of essays using art and artists to understand different political crises and emergencies around the globe. She tells Tom Sutcliffe how art can help to change the way people see the world, and how it can be a force for resistance and repair. In a new collection , Funny Weather, Laing presents her own idiosyncratic guide to staying sane during the current coronavirus pandemic. The novelist James Meek set his last book, To Calais, In Ordinary Times, in 1348 as the Black Death swept into England from Northern Europe. In his medieval universe, aspects of society that had once appeared fixed and natural – faith, class and gender – are upended and challenged, as the plague destroys more than just lives. Meek looks to see if such cataclysmic moments of human history have any lessons for us today. Producer: Katy Hickman

28 MINMAY 11
Comments
Art in an emergency

Globalisation

Andrew Marr discusses the origins and growth of globalisation, and the impact of the coronavirus on the global world order with Valerie Hansen and Gideon Rachman. In her latest book, The Year 1000, the historian Valerie Hansen challenges the idea that globalisation began in 1492, the year Columbus discovered America. She argues that it was 500 years earlier when for the first time new trade routes linked the entire globe. New archaeological finds show how goods and people travelled far and wide from this earlier period, marking the beginning of an era of exploration, trade and exploitation. The last 500 years or more has seen an explosion in global interactions, with a huge growth in multi-national companies, as well as international trade, ideas and culture. But the economist Gideon Rachman says today’s worldwide pandemic has seen the nation state making a comeback. The emergency has revealed the fragility of global supply chains and increased demand for local production and tough...

28 MINMAY 4
Comments
Globalisation

Changing behaviour, from bystander to actor

Why do some people get involved while others stand by looking on? What makes people act for the sake of others? Kirsty Wark discusses the psychology of behaviour with Catherine Sanderson and David Halpern. In the Bystander Effect, Catherine Sanderson argues that the question of why some people act badly while others are heroic is not simply about good and bad. Our brains are hard-wired to conform and to avoid social embarrassment. But there are practical measures that can help create a sense of personal responsibility, turning a silent bystander into a model of action. The psychologist David Halpern is also interested in how to change behaviour. He is advising the UK Government on its response to the coronavirus pandemic, focusing on how to get the public to adopt new social norms, including increased hand-washing and social distancing. Halpern is the Chief Executive of the Behavioural Insights Team, unofficially known as The Nudge Unit. Producer: Katy Hickman

28 MINAPR 27
Comments
Changing behaviour, from bystander to actor

Crisis in Europe from Notre-Dame to coronavirus

A year ago French people looked on with horror as the great Notre-Dame went up in flames. The journalist Agnès Poirier tells Andrew Marr that the cathedral with its 800 year history represents the soul of the nation. Even before the fire was out President Macron was promising that it would be rebuilt. But in Notre-Dame: The Soul of France, Poirier recounts how its current reconstruction has been mired in controversy – political, social, artistic and religious. Poirier also looks at how the French government and people have reacted to the coronavirus pandemic. In Hungary, Viktor Orban’s government has been voted sweeping new powers to rule by decree for an indefinite period, to deal with the coronavirus crisis. The academic Martyn Rady is keeping a keen eye on how different countries in Central Europe respond. He argues that the region has been shaped by the formidable power and influence of the Habsburg dynasty. In his latest book, The Habsburgs: The Rise and Fall of a World Powe...

28 MINAPR 20
Comments
Crisis in Europe from Notre-Dame to coronavirus

Latest Episodes

Brit Bennett on race, identity and protest

Tom Sutcliffe discusses racism, the traps of history and the Black Lives Matter movement with the American author Brit Bennett and the British academic Gary Younge. Racial identity, bigotry and shape-shifting are at the centre of Brit Bennett’s new book, The Vanishing Half. The novel focuses on twin sisters who flee the confines of their southern small town, and the attempts by one of the sisters to escape her background completely by passing as white. The social unrest in the US in the 20th century pervades her latest work, but Bennett is hopeful that today’s protests mark the beginning of real change. Gary Younge lived in the US for 12 years working as a journalist, before he returned home and became Professor of Sociology at Manchester University. He discounts the attempts by some in Britain to claim moral superiority over America in terms of racism. He argues that Britain’s colonial past meant the most egregious racist acts often took place abroad, and so rarely became an integral part of the country’s story. Producer: Katy Hickman Photograph by Emma Trim

28 MINJUN 29
Comments
Brit Bennett on race, identity and protest

James Joyce

James Joyce’s Ulysses is considered one of the most important works of modernist literature. It is both celebrated and commemorated annually on the 16th June – Bloomsday – the day on which the novel is set. The traditional celebrations held in Dublin since the 1950s have been curtailed this year because of COVID-19, but Andrew Marr discusses the legacy of Joyce with the writers Edna O'Brien, Colm Tóibín and Mary Costello. Edna O’Brien first encountered Joyce’s work in the 1950s, and his writings of ‘the rough and tumble of everyday life’ spurred her extraordinary writing career. She has written a biography of Joyce, and her portrait of his marriage, James and Nora, has just been reissued. Colm Tóibín encounters the spirit of Joyce and his creation, Leopold Bloom, constantly as he walks the streets of Dublin. In his collection of essays, Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know, he looks at Joyce in relation to the writer's father. Mary Costello is a self-confessed Joyce obsessive. In ...

28 MINJUN 15
Comments
James Joyce

Our coercive politics

The Coronavirus pandemic and ongoing protests in America have shone a spotlight on the power of the modern State. In Britain we find ourselves locked in our homes, following government instruction; and yet the authority for that coercion comes from the consent we give. This doubleness was captured by Thomas Hobbes in his political text, Leviathan, and it is the starting point for political scientist David Runciman's popular lockdown podcast on politics: the History of Ideas. He tells Amol Rajan how Hobbes, Gandhi and Frantz Fanon could help us understand our uneasy times. Humiliation is one way in which governments and authorities can make us do their bidding. And it also something we now do to each other in the court of public opinion, argues German historian Ute Frevert. In her new book, The Politics of Humiliation, she looks at how humiliation has been used to persuade and to control, everywhere from international diplomacy to British boarding schools. And she explains why the si...

27 MINJUN 8
Comments
Our coercive politics

The Future

‘The future is a foreign country; they do things differently there’ – to misquote LP Hartley. Andrew Marr talks to Riel Miller, an economist at UNESCO, about the difficulties of understanding and predicting what happens in the future. Miller argues that individuals, institutions and governments fail to grasp its profound unpredictability, where the only certainty is radical change. He’s calling for a programme of future literacy, designed to challenge present complacency and improve preparedness for what’s on the horizon. But given what we know about the world today, and what we can guess about the future, is it okay to have a child? That is the question posed by Meehan Crist, writer-in-residence in Biological Sciences at Columbia University. She tracks the resurgence of Malthus and his powerful, terrifying idea that if the global population grows too large, we are all doomed. Crist unpicks the argument that responsibility for stopping climate change and safeguarding the future...

28 MINJUN 1
Comments
The Future

Classics and class

The classics have never been solely the preserve of the British intellectual elite, according to the classicist Edith Hall. In A People’s History of Classics, Hall and her co-writer Henry Stead examine the working class experience of classical culture from the Bill of Rights in 1689 to the outbreak of World War II. This history challenges assumptions about the elitism surrounding the study of ancient Greeks and Romans, and Hall hopes it will expand the debate around the future of classical education for all. An understanding of the classics could also help people reinvigorate cynicism: from the jaded negativity of today, back to its initial idea of fearless speech. In his latest book, Ansgar Allen, returns to the Greek Cynics of the 4th century BCE, a small band of eccentrics who practised an improvised philosophy that challenged all social norms and scandalised their contemporaries. In the centuries that followed this exacting philosophy was hugely watered down. Today’s cynics, w...

28 MINMAY 25
Comments
Classics and class

Richard Ford, writing from the edges

The prize winning writer Richard Ford talks to Andrew Marr about his latest collection of short stories, Sorry for Your Trouble. Irish America is Ford’s landscape, and his characters contemplate ageing, grief, love and marriage: ‘great moments in small lives’. Ford was born in Jackson, Mississippi and has spent many years living in New Orleans – his characters, like himself, live far from the political centre of America. Professor of 19th Century Literature and Thought, Ruth Livesey, is also interested in life away from the centre in her study of provincialism in Britain. Condescension towards small town life can be traced back to the Victorian period. But the writer George Eliot, who spent her early life in Nuneaton in the Midlands, argued that ‘‘art had a responsibility to show a provincial life could be just as full of insight and moral courage as one on the great world stage.’ Producer: Katy Hickman

28 MINMAY 18
Comments
Richard Ford, writing from the edges

Art in an emergency

The writer Olivia Laing has long used art to make sense of the world. Over the last five years she has written a series of essays using art and artists to understand different political crises and emergencies around the globe. She tells Tom Sutcliffe how art can help to change the way people see the world, and how it can be a force for resistance and repair. In a new collection , Funny Weather, Laing presents her own idiosyncratic guide to staying sane during the current coronavirus pandemic. The novelist James Meek set his last book, To Calais, In Ordinary Times, in 1348 as the Black Death swept into England from Northern Europe. In his medieval universe, aspects of society that had once appeared fixed and natural – faith, class and gender – are upended and challenged, as the plague destroys more than just lives. Meek looks to see if such cataclysmic moments of human history have any lessons for us today. Producer: Katy Hickman

28 MINMAY 11
Comments
Art in an emergency

Globalisation

Andrew Marr discusses the origins and growth of globalisation, and the impact of the coronavirus on the global world order with Valerie Hansen and Gideon Rachman. In her latest book, The Year 1000, the historian Valerie Hansen challenges the idea that globalisation began in 1492, the year Columbus discovered America. She argues that it was 500 years earlier when for the first time new trade routes linked the entire globe. New archaeological finds show how goods and people travelled far and wide from this earlier period, marking the beginning of an era of exploration, trade and exploitation. The last 500 years or more has seen an explosion in global interactions, with a huge growth in multi-national companies, as well as international trade, ideas and culture. But the economist Gideon Rachman says today’s worldwide pandemic has seen the nation state making a comeback. The emergency has revealed the fragility of global supply chains and increased demand for local production and tough...

28 MINMAY 4
Comments
Globalisation

Changing behaviour, from bystander to actor

Why do some people get involved while others stand by looking on? What makes people act for the sake of others? Kirsty Wark discusses the psychology of behaviour with Catherine Sanderson and David Halpern. In the Bystander Effect, Catherine Sanderson argues that the question of why some people act badly while others are heroic is not simply about good and bad. Our brains are hard-wired to conform and to avoid social embarrassment. But there are practical measures that can help create a sense of personal responsibility, turning a silent bystander into a model of action. The psychologist David Halpern is also interested in how to change behaviour. He is advising the UK Government on its response to the coronavirus pandemic, focusing on how to get the public to adopt new social norms, including increased hand-washing and social distancing. Halpern is the Chief Executive of the Behavioural Insights Team, unofficially known as The Nudge Unit. Producer: Katy Hickman

28 MINAPR 27
Comments
Changing behaviour, from bystander to actor

Crisis in Europe from Notre-Dame to coronavirus

A year ago French people looked on with horror as the great Notre-Dame went up in flames. The journalist Agnès Poirier tells Andrew Marr that the cathedral with its 800 year history represents the soul of the nation. Even before the fire was out President Macron was promising that it would be rebuilt. But in Notre-Dame: The Soul of France, Poirier recounts how its current reconstruction has been mired in controversy – political, social, artistic and religious. Poirier also looks at how the French government and people have reacted to the coronavirus pandemic. In Hungary, Viktor Orban’s government has been voted sweeping new powers to rule by decree for an indefinite period, to deal with the coronavirus crisis. The academic Martyn Rady is keeping a keen eye on how different countries in Central Europe respond. He argues that the region has been shaped by the formidable power and influence of the Habsburg dynasty. In his latest book, The Habsburgs: The Rise and Fall of a World Powe...

28 MINAPR 20
Comments
Crisis in Europe from Notre-Dame to coronavirus
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