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When Greeks Flew Kites

BBC Radio 4

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3
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When Greeks Flew Kites
When Greeks Flew Kites

When Greeks Flew Kites

BBC Radio 4

4
Followers
3
Plays
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About Us

Monthly series in which historical novelist Sarah Dunant delves into the past for stories and moments that help frame the present, bringing to life worlds that span the centuries.

Latest Episodes

Beyond Reason

This month, Sarah Dunant looks at what history can tell us about irrationality. Conspiracy theories, anti-vaccination movements and climate change denial are modern examples of ideas that stubbornly cling on in the face of facts. Drawing on a range of historical moments, Sarah scrutinises the idea of the rational and irrational, showing that the boundary between the two is complicated. Ohio University’s Myrna Perez Sheldon describes a 1981 court case in Alabama which saw the muscle-flexing of a newly powerful Creationist movement, and one which blindsided liberal scientific consensus. Political theorist Hugo Drochon delves into an early conspiracy theory, born both in the chaotic, plot-ridden aftermath of the French Revolution but also within the arch-rational framework of the Enlightenment. Agnes Arnold-Forster of the University of Roehampton traces the roots of the anti-vaccination movement back to the compulsory vaccination legislation and ensuing riots of 19th century England, arguing that history shows the question of mistrust and social disconnection between people and elites is key to understanding what might seem to be irrational behaviour. And Elsa Richardson from the University of Strathclyde takes us into the lives and minds of the isolated island communities of Highland Scotland, demonstrating the accepted, normal and rational status that Second Sight - a form of prophetic vision had for both the Gaelic inhabitants and three centuries of curious Anglophone scientists. Readers: Karina Fernandez and Gary MacKay Presenter: Sarah Dunant Producers: Natalie Steed and Nathan Gower Executive Producer: David Prest A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4

27 MINJUL 2
Comments
Beyond Reason

Consider the Walrus: what can history tell us about the climate crisis?

This month, Sarah Dunant looks to the past to help us think about the most pressing issue facing the world today - climate change. Although the problem is a relatively modern one, humans have been grappling with the damage that they inflict on the environment throughout history. Scientists and campaigners are calling for urgent measures to halt the climate and ecological crises. While history might not be able to solve those problems directly it can tell us something about why governments and leaders do take action. Alice Bell was a historian of science and now works for the climate charity 10:10. She tells the story of Greta Thunberg’s ancestor Svante Arhennius, the Swedish scientist whose work first discovered the impact that carbon dioxide emissions could have on global temperature. Bathsheba Demuth of Brown University tells the extraordinary story of how cold war national security concerns on the Arctic Soviet and US border led two superpowers to recognise the importance of the walrus, halting their drastic overhunting. The University of Stirling’s Phil Slavin shows how environmental legislation and concern about clean air predates the industrial revolution by seven centuries, in the form of Edward I’s pioneering clean air legislation banning the burning of sea-coal, a concern that was only deepened by the impact of the Black Death. And the foresight of the Venetian Empire is explained by Joyce Chaplin of Harvard University, who details the meticulous planning and conservation of wood necessary to preserve its naval power and status for future generations. Readers: Ruby Richardson and Peter Marinker Presenter: Sarah Dunant Producers: Natalie Steed and Nathan Gower Executive Producer: David Prest A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4

27 MINJUN 4
Comments
Consider the Walrus: what can history tell us about the climate crisis?

Fake History

This month, Sarah Dunant explores the history of fake history. In March this year, the Christchurch attacker invoked a twisted interpretation of medieval history and the crusades to justify his terrorist attack on a mosque. In this programme, Dr Levi Roach contextualises the Battle of Tours, the historical event invoked by the Christchurch attacker, and explains how groups on the extremes, especially in the digital realm, are able to misuse and misrepresent history for their ideological ends. Fake history and contested narratives are nothing new. Since history has been recorded, the past has been massaged, misread, selectively interpreted or simply invented, in order to justify ideology, politics, or cultural identity. Egyptologist Richard Parkinson dissects the dangers of well-intentionally reading LGBT history in the ancient world, and argues that our political beliefs prime us to see what we want to see. Professor Margaret MacMillan charts how the rise of nationalism in the 19th ...

27 MINMAY 7
Comments
Fake History

Into the World

At a moment when Brexit and our carbon footprints are prompting us to reassess what it means to move around the world, Sarah Dunant looks at the long history of travel and the ways it has enchanted and alarmed us across the centuries. The anxieties over young Tudor travellers returning radicalised from Catholic Europe was a phenomenon that gripped England after the break with Rome. Nandini Das argues that fears over travel helped to define a nation. Professor Eric Zuelow shows how the Nazi regime turned travel into a highly sophisticated propaganda tool, organising tours and trips specifically designed to cement ideas of racial superiority and national identity. In the Middle Ages, travel is seen to be a startlingly tolerant and cosmopolitan experience, as the naturally curiousmedieval mind seeks to expand the borders of its world in a spirit of generosity. Whether the fantastical journeys of Sir John Mandeville or the diplomatic missions of Dominican Friars to Mongol Kings, Sebasti...

27 MINAPR 2
Comments
Into the World

The Shame Game

Shame is back. This month, Sarah Dunant delves into the long and deep history of shame, exploring how it has shaped our lives and behaviour at every point in history. Whether it’s thieves on display in the medieval stocks or the forcible head-shaving of French women suspected of fraternising with the Nazis, shame has always been at the centre of society’s attempts to regulate itself. But the potency of this most raw of emotions can sometimes prove a double-edged sword. Oxford Brookes' Professor David Nash explains how shaming rituals and "rough music" were a widespread and common feature of European community life right up to the nineteenth century. Dr Mary Flannery of Oxford University describes how medieval women were instructed and encouraged to feel shame in order to shape their behaviour, and looks at the example of "Jane Shore" and her notorious walk of shame. The extraordinary and troubling public shaming and shaving of thousands of woman accused of collaboration in occupie...

27 MINMAR 5
Comments
The Shame Game

Deadlock

Sarah Dunant presents a monthly dive into stories from the past that might help us make sense of today. This month, as the gears of government grind to a standstill on both sides of the Atlantic, Sarah looks to historical deadlocks and the sometimes radical ways they were resolved. From the elder statesman called from his plough to become Rome’s first benign dictator, through the random selection of citizens resolving bitter conflicts in Imperial China, Medieval Florence and beyond, to the figure of St Hild the Anglo-Saxon woman whose grace in defeat sealed the future of Christianity in Britain - Sarah traces stories of paralysed systems and deep divisions, to shed a little light on how today’s entrenched leaders and struggling democracies might find a route out of impasse. Sarah’s guests are: Professor Natalia Sobrevilla Perea, University of Kent Professor Yves Sintomer, University of Paris 8 Dr Hetta Howes, City, University of London Dr Luke Pitcher, University of Oxford Presen...

27 MINFEB 5
Comments
Deadlock

Sleep: A Third of Human History

Sarah Dunant presents a monthly dive into stories from the past that might help us make sense of today. This month, she examines sleep as a source of preoccupation and worry throughout history. Are you feeling tired? How many hours did you get last night? Feeling foggy with exhaustion? What about the leaders whose punishing schedules have them running up sleep debts of mammoth proportions? William Gladstone's detailed diaries recording his insomnia and its effects, are now historical artefacts. How might historians, fifty years from now, make use of Theresa May's crammed itinerary? These questions and a raft of other anxieties have plagued people throughout history, as they grappled with the necessary but infuriatingly mysterious phenomenon of sleep. From the medieval theologians struggling with the implications of wet dreams to the overworked, up-all-hours lifestyle of the emergent professional classes in Victorian Britain, the quest to understand sleep - or even just to get it - h...

27 MINJAN 8
Comments
Sleep: A Third of Human History

Poison: The Invisible Assassin

Sarah Dunant presents a monthly dive into stories from the past that might help us make sense of today. In this month's episode, Sarah looks at the use of poison in history. After a year that saw the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Salisbury, When Greeks Flew Kites focuses on how this deadly weapon leaves a trail of confusion, fear and doubt through the centuries. From the courts of Renaissance Europe, where rumours of poison spread like wildfire, to the new science but thorny old problem of proof in 19th and 20th century murder trials, poison has always opened up and exposed the tensions of the society in which it is wielded. Its dark fascination has also spawned legends and myths that endure through history, such as Mithridates, the poison-proof enemy of Rome and geopolitical trouble-maker. Sarah’s guests are: Professor Alisha Rankin, Associate Professor of History, Tufts University Dr John Carter Wood, Leibniz Institute of European History, Mainz, Germany Dr Carol Atack, po...

27 MIN2018 DEC 4
Comments
Poison: The Invisible Assassin

Promises, Promises

Sarah Dunant presents a monthly dive into stories from the past that might help us make sense of today. This month, as Theresa May‘s Brexit negotiations approach crunch point, Sarah examines promises throughout history, how they bound rulers and their people, and the bitter consequences when they were broken. From the ambitious pledges that return to haunt Ethelred the Unready in the 10th century, to the trust-based oaths sworn by Swedish monarchs in front of their subjects, Sarah traces the litany of promises made through the centuries and exposes the paradoxes and tensions that plague our leaders today. And, as we consider a political environment charged with the rhetoric of division, disappointment and betrayal, Sarah examines the ultimate moment of broken promises - the execution of Charles I, and the lasting wounds that it inflicted on a nation. Sarah's guests are Dr Levi Roach of the University of Exeter, Dr Sari Nauman of the University of Gothenburg, Professor Jeremy Black ...

32 MIN2018 NOV 6
Comments
Promises, Promises

The Dating Game

Historical novelist Sarah Dunant presents a monthly dive into stories from the past that might help us make sense of today. In this month's episode, the complex task of dating. Sarah's going behind closed doors to eavesdrop on the most intimate of exchanges. She scrutinises moments in history when the rules of the dating game have been rewritten. From the male-centric ideals of courtly-love at the heart of medieval poetry to the uneasy collision of dating and the gender politics of the 1970s, Sarah examines the ways men and women have related to each other in this most difficult of areas, and considers how we might improve them. As we redraw the lines today following more revelations of harassment emerge, more public confessions of guilt and more open airing of intimate encounters, Sarah asks if we can learn lessons from moments in the past when men and women renegotiated the boundaries of dating. Presenter: Sarah Dunant Producers: Katherine Godfrey and Nathan Gower Executive Produc...

27 MIN2018 OCT 4
Comments
The Dating Game

Latest Episodes

Beyond Reason

This month, Sarah Dunant looks at what history can tell us about irrationality. Conspiracy theories, anti-vaccination movements and climate change denial are modern examples of ideas that stubbornly cling on in the face of facts. Drawing on a range of historical moments, Sarah scrutinises the idea of the rational and irrational, showing that the boundary between the two is complicated. Ohio University’s Myrna Perez Sheldon describes a 1981 court case in Alabama which saw the muscle-flexing of a newly powerful Creationist movement, and one which blindsided liberal scientific consensus. Political theorist Hugo Drochon delves into an early conspiracy theory, born both in the chaotic, plot-ridden aftermath of the French Revolution but also within the arch-rational framework of the Enlightenment. Agnes Arnold-Forster of the University of Roehampton traces the roots of the anti-vaccination movement back to the compulsory vaccination legislation and ensuing riots of 19th century England, arguing that history shows the question of mistrust and social disconnection between people and elites is key to understanding what might seem to be irrational behaviour. And Elsa Richardson from the University of Strathclyde takes us into the lives and minds of the isolated island communities of Highland Scotland, demonstrating the accepted, normal and rational status that Second Sight - a form of prophetic vision had for both the Gaelic inhabitants and three centuries of curious Anglophone scientists. Readers: Karina Fernandez and Gary MacKay Presenter: Sarah Dunant Producers: Natalie Steed and Nathan Gower Executive Producer: David Prest A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4

27 MINJUL 2
Comments
Beyond Reason

Consider the Walrus: what can history tell us about the climate crisis?

This month, Sarah Dunant looks to the past to help us think about the most pressing issue facing the world today - climate change. Although the problem is a relatively modern one, humans have been grappling with the damage that they inflict on the environment throughout history. Scientists and campaigners are calling for urgent measures to halt the climate and ecological crises. While history might not be able to solve those problems directly it can tell us something about why governments and leaders do take action. Alice Bell was a historian of science and now works for the climate charity 10:10. She tells the story of Greta Thunberg’s ancestor Svante Arhennius, the Swedish scientist whose work first discovered the impact that carbon dioxide emissions could have on global temperature. Bathsheba Demuth of Brown University tells the extraordinary story of how cold war national security concerns on the Arctic Soviet and US border led two superpowers to recognise the importance of the walrus, halting their drastic overhunting. The University of Stirling’s Phil Slavin shows how environmental legislation and concern about clean air predates the industrial revolution by seven centuries, in the form of Edward I’s pioneering clean air legislation banning the burning of sea-coal, a concern that was only deepened by the impact of the Black Death. And the foresight of the Venetian Empire is explained by Joyce Chaplin of Harvard University, who details the meticulous planning and conservation of wood necessary to preserve its naval power and status for future generations. Readers: Ruby Richardson and Peter Marinker Presenter: Sarah Dunant Producers: Natalie Steed and Nathan Gower Executive Producer: David Prest A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4

27 MINJUN 4
Comments
Consider the Walrus: what can history tell us about the climate crisis?

Fake History

This month, Sarah Dunant explores the history of fake history. In March this year, the Christchurch attacker invoked a twisted interpretation of medieval history and the crusades to justify his terrorist attack on a mosque. In this programme, Dr Levi Roach contextualises the Battle of Tours, the historical event invoked by the Christchurch attacker, and explains how groups on the extremes, especially in the digital realm, are able to misuse and misrepresent history for their ideological ends. Fake history and contested narratives are nothing new. Since history has been recorded, the past has been massaged, misread, selectively interpreted or simply invented, in order to justify ideology, politics, or cultural identity. Egyptologist Richard Parkinson dissects the dangers of well-intentionally reading LGBT history in the ancient world, and argues that our political beliefs prime us to see what we want to see. Professor Margaret MacMillan charts how the rise of nationalism in the 19th ...

27 MINMAY 7
Comments
Fake History

Into the World

At a moment when Brexit and our carbon footprints are prompting us to reassess what it means to move around the world, Sarah Dunant looks at the long history of travel and the ways it has enchanted and alarmed us across the centuries. The anxieties over young Tudor travellers returning radicalised from Catholic Europe was a phenomenon that gripped England after the break with Rome. Nandini Das argues that fears over travel helped to define a nation. Professor Eric Zuelow shows how the Nazi regime turned travel into a highly sophisticated propaganda tool, organising tours and trips specifically designed to cement ideas of racial superiority and national identity. In the Middle Ages, travel is seen to be a startlingly tolerant and cosmopolitan experience, as the naturally curiousmedieval mind seeks to expand the borders of its world in a spirit of generosity. Whether the fantastical journeys of Sir John Mandeville or the diplomatic missions of Dominican Friars to Mongol Kings, Sebasti...

27 MINAPR 2
Comments
Into the World

The Shame Game

Shame is back. This month, Sarah Dunant delves into the long and deep history of shame, exploring how it has shaped our lives and behaviour at every point in history. Whether it’s thieves on display in the medieval stocks or the forcible head-shaving of French women suspected of fraternising with the Nazis, shame has always been at the centre of society’s attempts to regulate itself. But the potency of this most raw of emotions can sometimes prove a double-edged sword. Oxford Brookes' Professor David Nash explains how shaming rituals and "rough music" were a widespread and common feature of European community life right up to the nineteenth century. Dr Mary Flannery of Oxford University describes how medieval women were instructed and encouraged to feel shame in order to shape their behaviour, and looks at the example of "Jane Shore" and her notorious walk of shame. The extraordinary and troubling public shaming and shaving of thousands of woman accused of collaboration in occupie...

27 MINMAR 5
Comments
The Shame Game

Deadlock

Sarah Dunant presents a monthly dive into stories from the past that might help us make sense of today. This month, as the gears of government grind to a standstill on both sides of the Atlantic, Sarah looks to historical deadlocks and the sometimes radical ways they were resolved. From the elder statesman called from his plough to become Rome’s first benign dictator, through the random selection of citizens resolving bitter conflicts in Imperial China, Medieval Florence and beyond, to the figure of St Hild the Anglo-Saxon woman whose grace in defeat sealed the future of Christianity in Britain - Sarah traces stories of paralysed systems and deep divisions, to shed a little light on how today’s entrenched leaders and struggling democracies might find a route out of impasse. Sarah’s guests are: Professor Natalia Sobrevilla Perea, University of Kent Professor Yves Sintomer, University of Paris 8 Dr Hetta Howes, City, University of London Dr Luke Pitcher, University of Oxford Presen...

27 MINFEB 5
Comments
Deadlock

Sleep: A Third of Human History

Sarah Dunant presents a monthly dive into stories from the past that might help us make sense of today. This month, she examines sleep as a source of preoccupation and worry throughout history. Are you feeling tired? How many hours did you get last night? Feeling foggy with exhaustion? What about the leaders whose punishing schedules have them running up sleep debts of mammoth proportions? William Gladstone's detailed diaries recording his insomnia and its effects, are now historical artefacts. How might historians, fifty years from now, make use of Theresa May's crammed itinerary? These questions and a raft of other anxieties have plagued people throughout history, as they grappled with the necessary but infuriatingly mysterious phenomenon of sleep. From the medieval theologians struggling with the implications of wet dreams to the overworked, up-all-hours lifestyle of the emergent professional classes in Victorian Britain, the quest to understand sleep - or even just to get it - h...

27 MINJAN 8
Comments
Sleep: A Third of Human History

Poison: The Invisible Assassin

Sarah Dunant presents a monthly dive into stories from the past that might help us make sense of today. In this month's episode, Sarah looks at the use of poison in history. After a year that saw the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Salisbury, When Greeks Flew Kites focuses on how this deadly weapon leaves a trail of confusion, fear and doubt through the centuries. From the courts of Renaissance Europe, where rumours of poison spread like wildfire, to the new science but thorny old problem of proof in 19th and 20th century murder trials, poison has always opened up and exposed the tensions of the society in which it is wielded. Its dark fascination has also spawned legends and myths that endure through history, such as Mithridates, the poison-proof enemy of Rome and geopolitical trouble-maker. Sarah’s guests are: Professor Alisha Rankin, Associate Professor of History, Tufts University Dr John Carter Wood, Leibniz Institute of European History, Mainz, Germany Dr Carol Atack, po...

27 MIN2018 DEC 4
Comments
Poison: The Invisible Assassin

Promises, Promises

Sarah Dunant presents a monthly dive into stories from the past that might help us make sense of today. This month, as Theresa May‘s Brexit negotiations approach crunch point, Sarah examines promises throughout history, how they bound rulers and their people, and the bitter consequences when they were broken. From the ambitious pledges that return to haunt Ethelred the Unready in the 10th century, to the trust-based oaths sworn by Swedish monarchs in front of their subjects, Sarah traces the litany of promises made through the centuries and exposes the paradoxes and tensions that plague our leaders today. And, as we consider a political environment charged with the rhetoric of division, disappointment and betrayal, Sarah examines the ultimate moment of broken promises - the execution of Charles I, and the lasting wounds that it inflicted on a nation. Sarah's guests are Dr Levi Roach of the University of Exeter, Dr Sari Nauman of the University of Gothenburg, Professor Jeremy Black ...

32 MIN2018 NOV 6
Comments
Promises, Promises

The Dating Game

Historical novelist Sarah Dunant presents a monthly dive into stories from the past that might help us make sense of today. In this month's episode, the complex task of dating. Sarah's going behind closed doors to eavesdrop on the most intimate of exchanges. She scrutinises moments in history when the rules of the dating game have been rewritten. From the male-centric ideals of courtly-love at the heart of medieval poetry to the uneasy collision of dating and the gender politics of the 1970s, Sarah examines the ways men and women have related to each other in this most difficult of areas, and considers how we might improve them. As we redraw the lines today following more revelations of harassment emerge, more public confessions of guilt and more open airing of intimate encounters, Sarah asks if we can learn lessons from moments in the past when men and women renegotiated the boundaries of dating. Presenter: Sarah Dunant Producers: Katherine Godfrey and Nathan Gower Executive Produc...

27 MIN2018 OCT 4
Comments
The Dating Game