What do the Charlie Hebdo murders and the rise of the Islamic State owe to Islam? It would be comforting to insist, as many have done, that they owe nothing at all; but Holland, in the inaugural Christopher Hitchens Lecture, argues that the truth is more complex. The best way to combat jihadism, he proposes, is to recognise the centrality of Muhammad to Islam – and that he comes in many forms. There is the moral leader who swallowed abuse peaceably; and there is the war leader who ordered people who insulted him put to death. How best, then, to de-radicalise the Prophet? Tom Holland is author of In The Shadow of the Sword, Rubicon, Persian Fire, Millennium and the new translation of The Histories by Herodotus. Chaired by Katrin Bennhold of the New York Times.
A journey through Britain’s radical tradition of utopian art and politics. The performance of music and readings spans 350 years from The Diggers to Bruce Springsteen, and captures the spirit of hope and vision that once transformed the nation. Music performed by Chris Ellis and Rosie Toll.
Why History Matters
The writer and broadcaster who succeeded Hobsbawm as President of Birkbeck gives the inaugural lecture in his name, in this year of resonant anniversaries. Chaired by Oscar Guardiola Rivera.
Ultra-high-functioning addict meets gravity in this latest volume of autobiography. The writer and actor talks to Peter Florence.
100,000 years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens. How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations and human rights; to trust money, books and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables and consumerism? And what will our world be like in the millennia to come?
In Sapiens, Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the earth to the radical – and sometimes devastating – breakthroughs of the Cognitive, Agricultural and Scientific Revolutions. Drawing on insights from biology, anthropology, palaeontology and economics, he explores how the currents of history have shaped our human societies, the animals and plants around us, and even our personalities. Have we become happier as history has unfolded? Can we ever free our behaviour from the heritage of our ancestors? And what, if anything, can we do to influence the course of the centuries to come?
This event was recorded for broadcast on the BBC World News programme Talking Books.
In 2013 the collections of the Women’s Library move to join those at the Library of the London School of Economics to create a powerful resource for discovering the history of campaigning women. The Library Director explores some of the stories revealed in the collections. Chaired by Gaby Wood.
Eight hundred years after a gang of barons met in a tent by a river, which Rights do we want to fight for today? A fortnight after what looks like a rough old election, let’s dream about what a better world might look like and talk about how that might be achieved.
The festival President hosts this first in a Magna Carta series of twenty events at Hay Festival 2015, and is joined by international guests to discuss equalities.
An exploration of the lives of the ordinary people of Pompeii and Herculaneum, the two cities on the Bay of Naples that were buried by the catastrophic volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. The plaster-cast bodies of the victims are the most vivid and shocking reminders of the horrific event that made Pompeii famous, but who were these men, women and children so cruelly frozen in time?
This year’s lecture is given by the Swedish politician and diplomat. As Head of the International Atomic Energy Agency he led the Western inspection and response to the Chernobyl disaster. As head of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission he led the search for Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq between 2000 and 2003, finding none. Chaired by Jon Snow.
Listen to an evening with the phenomenal comedian.
Part 1: Watching War Films With My Dad
In the first part Al discusses his passion for history with James Holland. Growing up in the 1970s, Al, with the help of his dad, became fascinated with the history of World War Two. They didn’t go to football; they went to battlefields. Because like so many of his generation whose childhood was all about Airfix, Action Man and Where Eagles Dare, he grew up in the cultural wake of the Second World War…
Part 2: The Pub Landlord – The Only Way Is Epic
In the second part Al brings his legendary stand-up character to Hay Festival. Britain’s most irrepressible inn-keeper will be serving up his premier brew of ale-inspired acumen and bar-room buffoonery.
“An exceptional balancing act. Performing in his short-sleeved white shirt, with a working beer pump behind him, Murray’s interaction with his crowd remains one of the wonders of the comedy world…satire with scope and a real sting.” The Times
“It’s wickedly witty stuff, and the knowledge that Murray is in fact a staunch, rather high-born Europhile with an MA in modern history makes this outwardly boorish satire on British provincialism more seductive still – right down, in fact, to the occasional guilt-ridden moment of doubt as to exactly what it is you’re laughing at.” The Telegraph
A celebration of reading and books from the comedian, broadcaster and writer whose books include the novels Hitler’s Canary, Flying Under Bridges and Valentine Grey, children’s stories The Littlest Viking and The Troublesome Tooth Fairy, non-fiction best-sellers Peas & Queues and Girls Are Best and the play Bully Boy. Introduced by Sue Wilkinson.
How are social media, blogging and Twitter changing the way 'consumer voters' connect with politicians? The Mumsnet founder is joined by right-wing Westminster blogger Guido Fawkes, the Labour digital campaigner and the Parliamentarian of the Year to discuss the new political powers.
Author Michael Morpurgo is joined by actress Alison Reid, violinist Daniel Pioro and The Storyteller’s Ensemble (a quartet of strings). Together they interweave words and music, to tell his haunting tale of survival against the odds, set against the background of the Holocaust. Adapted and directed by Simon Reade.
‘It is difficult for us to imagine how dreadful was the suffering that went on in the Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War. The enormity of the crime that the Nazis committed is just too overwhelming for us to comprehend. In their attempt to wipe out an entire race they caused the death of six million people, most of them Jews. It is when you hear the stories of the individuals who lived through it – Anne Frank, Primo Levi – that you can begin to understand the horror just a little better, and to understand the evil that caused it.
‘For me, the most haunting image does not come from literature or film, but from music. I learned some time ago that in many of the camps the Nazis selected Jewish prisoners and forced them to play in orchestras; for the musicians it was simply a way to survive. In order to calm the new arrivals at the camps, they were made to serenade them as they were lined up and marched off, many to the gas chambers. Often they played Mozart.
‘I wondered how it must have been for a musician who played in such hellish circumstances, who adored Mozart as I do – what thoughts came when playing Mozart later in life? This was the genesis of my story, this and the sight of a small boy in a square by the Accademia Bridge in Venice, sitting one night, in his pyjamas on his tricycle, listening to a busker. He sat totally enthralled by the music that seemed to him, and to me, to be heavenly.’ Michael Morpurgo.