The dismantling of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the spread of perestroika throughout the former Soviet bloc was a sea change in world history, and two years later resulted in the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The acclaimed Russian historian examines precisely how that change came about and analyses the role of the leaders who held power: Gorbachev and Reagan, Walesa, Havel, and the Pope.
Chevalier’s best-selling novel inspired many readers to look at Vermeer’s famous painting more closely. Now she has participated in a documentary film directed by Phil Grabsky – part of the pioneering series Exhibition on Screen. How did the writer help the award-winning film-makers to bring the work to life? How has the film affected her own understanding of a painting she thought she knew well?
The investigative journalist and author lives under police protection from the crime syndicates he exposed and denounced in Gomorrah and ZeroZeroZero. He offers a personal and candid portrait of Italy today: a place of trafficking and toxic waste, where democracy is bought and sold, and organised crime rules both north and south.
To commemorate the 400th anniversary of the deaths of Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare we have commissioned six English language and six Hispanic writers to create stories to celebrate both writers and to offer new and intriguing perspectives on them. In this first of three sessions chaired by Rosie Goldsmith, the first three writers introduce their tales. “Yuri Herrera must be a thousand years old. He must have travelled to hell, and heaven, and back again. He must have once been a girl, an animal, a rock, a boy, and a woman. Nothing else explains the vastness of his understanding” – Valeria Luiselli. Marcos Giralt Torrente is the winner of the Spanish National Book Award, whose The End of Love is published in English. Poet and novelist Ben Okri won the Booker Prize for The Famished Road.
The 2015 Nobel Literature Laureate talks about Russia and the USSR. Her Nobel citation was for “her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time”.
“I don’t ask people about socialism, I ask about love, jealousy, childhood, old age. Music, dances, hairstyles. The myriad sundry details of a vanished way of life. This is the only way to chase the catastrophe into the framework of the mundane and attempt to tell a story. Try to figure things out. It never ceases to amaze me how interesting ordinary, everyday life is. There are an endless number of human truths... History’s sole concern is the facts; emotions are out of its realm of interest. It’s considered improper to admit feelings into history. I look at the world as a writer, not strictly an historian. I am fascinated by people…”
This event will be conducted in Russian, with consecutive translation
The author of The Hare With The Amber Eyes sets out on a quest – a journey that begins in the dusty city of Jingdezhen in China and travels on to Venice, Versailles, Dublin, Dresden, the Appalachian Mountains of South Carolina and the hills of Cornwall to tell the history of porcelain. Along the way he meets the witnesses to its creation; those who were inspired, made rich or heartsick by it, and the many whose livelihoods, minds and bodies were broken by this obsession. It spans a thousand years and reaches into some of the most tragic moments of recent times.
1 November 2006, Alexander Litvinenko is brazenly poisoned in central London. Twenty-two days later he dies, killed from the inside. The poison? Polonium; a rare, lethal and highly radioactive substance. His crime? He had made some powerful enemies in Russia. Harding, foreign correspondent of the Guardian, argues that Litvinenko’s assassination marked the beginning of the deterioration of Moscow’s relations with the west and a decade of geo-political disruptions: from the war in Ukraine, a civilian plane shot down, at least 7,000 dead, two million people displaced and a Russian president’s defiant rejection of a law-based international order. Chaired by Oliver Bullough.
Part guide to the best practice in every aspect of working with this renewable energy source, part meditation on the human instinct for survival, Mytting’s definitive handbook on the art of chopping, stacking and drying wood in the Scandinavian way has resonated across the world.
What happened to the European mind between 1605, when an audience watching Macbeth at the Globe might believe that regicide was such an aberration of the natural order that ghosts could burst from the ground, and 1649, when a large crowd could stand and watch the execution of a king? In this turbulent period, science moved from the alchemy and astrology of John Dee to the painstaking observation and astronomy of Galileo. And if the old ways still lingered and affected the new mindset, Descartes’ dualism presented an attempt to square the new philosophy with religious belief. By the end of that tumultuous century “the greatest ever change in the mental outlook of humanity” had irrevocably taken place.
With an absent wife and a daughter going off the rails, wealthy art collector and philanthropist Simon Strulovitch is in need of someone to talk to. So when he meets Shylock at a cemetery in Cheshire’s Golden Triangle, he invites him back to his house. It’s the beginning of a remarkable friendship. The Man Booker winner’s version of The Merchant of Venice bends time to its own advantage as it asks what it means to be a father, a Jew and a merciful human being in the modern world.
The lawyer and writer explores how personal lives and history are interwoven. Drawing from his acclaimed new book – part historical detective story, part family history, part legal thriller – he explains the connections between his work on crimes against humanity and genocide, the events that overwhelmed his family during the Second World War, and an untold story at the heart of the Nuremberg Trial. Chaired by Helena Kennedy.
In 1570, when it became clear she would never be gathered into the Catholic fold, Elizabeth I was excommunicated by the Pope. On the principle that my enemy’s enemy is my friend, this marked the beginning of an extraordinary English alignment with the Muslim powers fighting Catholic Spain in the Mediterranean, and of cultural, economic and political exchanges with the Islamic world of a depth not again experienced until the modern age. England signed treaties with the Ottoman Porte, received ambassadors from the kings of Morocco and shipped munitions to Marrakesh. By the late 1580s hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Elizabethan merchants, diplomats, sailors, artisans and privateers were plying their trade from Morocco to Persia.
These included the resourceful mercer Anthony Jenkinson who met both Süleyman the Magnificent and the Persian Shah Tahmasp in the 1560s, William Harborne, the Norfolk merchant who became the first English ambassador to the Ottoman court in 1582 and the adventurer Sir Anthony Sherley, who spent much of 1600 at the court of Shah Abbas the Great. The previous year, remarkably, Elizabeth sent the Lancastrian blacksmith Thomas Dallam to the Ottoman capital to play his clockwork organ in front of Sultan Mehmed. The awareness of Islam which these Englishmen brought home found its way into many of the great cultural productions of the day, including most famously Marlowe’s Tamburlaine, and Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus and The Merchant of Venice. The year after Dallam’s expedition, the Moroccan ambassador, Abd al-Wahid bin Mohammed al-Annuri, spent six months in London with his entourage. Shakespeare wrote Othello six months later. Brotton shows that England’s relations with the Muslim world were far more extensive, and often more amicable, than we have appreciated, and that their influence was felt across the political, commercial and domestic landscape of Elizabethan England.
The former Governor of the Bank of England analyses the causes of the global financial crisis. He proposes revolutionary new ideas to answer the central question: are money and banking a form of alchemy or are they the Achilles heel of a modern capitalist economy?
Channelling our twin urges to explore and understand, geographers uncover the hidden connections of human existence, from infant mortality in inner cities to the decision-makers who fly overhead in executive jets. Geography is a science that tackles all the biggest issues that face us today, from globalisation to equality, from sustainability to population growth, from climate change to advancing technology.
The intimate story of tsars and tsarinas; some touched by genius, some by madness, but all inspired by holy autocracy and imperial ambition. The historian’s gripping chronicle reveals their secret world of unlimited power and ruthless empire-building, overshadowed by palace conspiracy, family rivalries, sexual decadence and wild extravagance, and peopled by a cast of adventurers, courtesans, revolutionaries and poets, from Ivan the Terrible to Tolstoy, from Queen Victoria to Lenin. Sebag Montefiore is the author of Catherine the Great & Potemkin and Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar.
In this 500th anniversary of Thomas More’s Utopia three writers tell the stories of people escaping horrors and seeking a better world elsewhere. These are the inside stories of refuge and migrations. McDonald-Gibson is the author of Cast Away: Stories of Survival from Europe’s Refugee Crisis; Kingsley is the author of The New Odyssey: The Story of Europe’s Refugee Crisis; Rawlence’s book is City of Thorns: Nine Lives in the World’s Largest Refugee Camp. Chaired by Oliver Balch.
In association with Wales Pen Cymru
As support for the extremes of the political spectrum increases across Europe, and Britain threatens to pull out of the EU, what does the future hold for our continent? Abbas is a research associate at the University of Cambridge, Bickerton is a lecturer in politics and Karcher is a research associate in the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages. Simms is the author of Britain's Europe: A Thousand Years of Conflict and Cooperation.
Kepler is one of history’s most admired astronomers, who famously discovered that planets move in ellipses and defined the three laws of planetary motion. In 1615, at the height of his career, his widowed mother Katharina was accused of witchcraft; the proceedings led to a criminal trial that lasted six years. Kepler conducted his mother’s defence. The trial and the arguments advanced give a revealing picture of Europe on the cusp between the Reformation and the scientific revolution that was to follow.