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BBC Radio 4 - Reith Lectures 2010

The Reith Lectures

Significant international thinkers deliver the BBC's flagship annual lecture series

The Reith Lectures

  • War's Fatal Attraction
    Historian Margaret MacMillan looks at representations of war: can we really create beauty from horror and death? Speaking at the Canadian War Museum, she discusses the paradox of commemoration. She questions attempts to capture the essence and meaning of war through art. The programme is presented by Anita Anand in front of an audience and includes a question and answer session. Producer: Jim Frank Editor: Hugh Levinson.

  • Managing the Unmanageable
    Historian Margaret MacMillan assesses how the law and international agreements have attempted to address conflict. Speaking to an audience at the Northern Irish Parliament Buildings at Stormont in Belfast, Professor MacMillan outlines how both states and the people have sought to justify warfare - from self-defence to civil war - focusing on examples from Irish and British history. The programme, including a question and answer session, is presented by Anita Anand. Producer: Jim Frank Editor: Hugh Levinson.

  • Civilians and War
    Historian Margaret MacMillan dissects the relationship between war and the civilian. Speaking to an audience in Beirut, she looks back at the city's violent past and discusses the impact of conflict on noncombatants throughout the centuries. She explores how civilians have been deliberately targeted, used as slaves and why women are still often singled out in mass rapes. And she addresses the proposition that human beings are becoming less, not more violent. The programme is chaired by Anita Anand. Producer: Jim Frank Editor: Hugh Levinson.

  • Fearing and Loving: Making Sense of the Warrior
    Historian Margaret MacMillan asks why both men and women go to war. "We are both fascinated and repulsed by war and those who fight," she says. In this lecture, recorded at York University, she explores looks at the role of the warrior in history and culture and analyses how warriors are produced. And she interrogates the differences that gender plays in war. Anita Anand presents the programme recorded in front of an audience, including a question and answer session. Producer: Jim Frank Editor: Hugh Levinson.

  • War and Humanity
    Is war an essential part of being human? Are we destined to fight? That is the central question that historian Professor Margaret Macmillan addresses in five lectures recorded in the UK, Lebanon and in Canada. In her series, called The Mark of Cain, she will explore the tangled history of war and society and our complicated feelings towards it and towards those who fight. She begins by asking when wars first broke out. Did they start with the appearance of homo sapiens, or when human beings first organised themselves into larger groupings such as tribes, clans, or nations? She assesses how wars bring about change in society and, conversely, how social and political change influences how wars start and are fought. And she discusses that dark paradox of war: that it can bring benefits and progress. The programme is recorded before an audience at the BBC Radio Theatre in London and includes a question and answer session chaired by Anita Anand. Margaret MacMillan is emeritus professor of international history at Oxford University and professor of history at the University of Toronto. She says: "We like to think of war as an aberration, as the breakdown of the normal state of peace. This is comforting but wrong. War is deeply woven into the history of human society. Wherever we look in the past, no matter where or how far back we go, groups of people have organised themselves to protect their own territory or ways of life and, often, to attack those of others. Over the centuries we have deplored the results and struggled to tame war, even abolish it, while we have also venerated the warrior and talked of the nobility and grandeur of war. We all, as human beings, have something to say about war." Producer: Jim Frank Editor: Hugh Levinson.