The historian traces his adventures in history from Stalin and the Borgias to Catherine The Great and Mrs Thatcher.
You start with a vision, and you deliver a compromise. You want a play to be challenging, ambitious, nuanced and complicated. You also want it to sell tickets. You want to make art, and you know you’re in show-business. The inside story of 12 years at the helm of The National Theatre is a story of lunatic failures and spectacular successes. Its cast includes the likes of Alan Bennett, Maggie Smith, Mike Leigh, Daniel Day-Lewis, Michael Gambon, Helen Mirren and, of course, William Shakespeare.
The independent discovery of evolution by natural selection by Darwin and Wallace is one of the most famous episodes in the history of science. Wallace’s story has been told many times in recent years, but almost always by amateurs rather than historians. Alarmingly, almost everything you have heard about Wallace is wrong. The image of a cheated working-class hero whitewashed from history by the patrician Darwin and his establishment supporters may be irresistible, but it is also pure myth.
In late November 1623, the publisher Edward Blount finally took delivery at his bookshop, at the sign of the Black Bear near St Paul’s, of a book that had long been in the making: Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies. Professor Smith tells the story of that first collected edition of the plays, and follows the journeys of individual copies now located around the world with their tell-tale annotations, wine stains, provenance and uses.
There is a burgeoning literature on end-of-life writing, on grief, bereavement and memorial. Edmund de Waal talks about mortality and how it is reflected across different genres and art-forms from the poetry of Anne Carson and Max Porter, the memoirs of Paul Kalanithi and Marion Coutts, to the writings of Atul Gawande and Julia Samuel. He will also discuss his own porcelain installations and collaborations that explore ideas of memorial. The Wellcome Book Prize lecture aims to celebrate the place of medicine, science and the stories of illness in literature, arts and culture, and how these stories add to our understanding of what it means to be human. Edmund De Waal, chair of judges for the 2018 prize, is an artist and writer, author of The Hare with the Amber Eyes and The White Road.
Sister to Anne Boleyn and seduced by two kings, Mary Boleyn has long been the subject of scandal and myth. Her affair with Henry VIII fuelled the shocking annulment of his marriage to Anne, and Mary is rumoured to have borne his child in secret. Chaired by SJ Parris.