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The new time-shift novel from the global bestselling author of Lady of Hay mines Erskine’s own family history. Her heroine Ruth discovers a hidden diary from the 18th century, written by an ancestor, Thomas Erskine. As she sifts through the ancient pages of the past, Ruth is pulled into a story that she can’t escape. As the youngest son of a noble family Thomas’s life started in genteel poverty, but his extraordinary experiences propel him from the high seas to Lord Chancellor of England. Yet, on his journey through life, he makes a powerful enemy who hounds him to the death – and beyond. Ruth has opened a door to the past that she can’t close, and meets a ghost in her family tree who wasn’t invited.
Over 50 years, Winston Churchill wrote extensively about art and produced more than 500 paintings. In this lavishly illustrated lecture, the historian offers an entirely new perspective on Churchill and his paintings. Professor Sir David Cannadine is Dodge Professor of History at Princeton University, Editor of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and President of the British Academy. His publications include The Undivided Past, In Churchill’s Shadow, Class in Britain and The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy.
Although the post-war period brought peace and prosperity, Europe was now a divided continent, living under the nuclear threat. Europeans experienced a roller-coaster ride, both in the sense that they were flung through a series of events which threatened disaster, but also that they were no longer in charge of their own destinies: for much of the period the USA and USSR effectively reduced Europeans to helpless figures whose fates were dictated to them depending on the vagaries of the Cold War. There were striking successes: the Soviet bloc melted away, dictatorships vanished and Germany was successfully reunited. But accelerating globalisation brought new fragilities. The impact of interlocking crises after 2008 was the clearest warning to Europeans that there is no guarantee of peace and stability.
The Renaissance historian introduces her biography of the portrait painter who defined his age. Hilliard’s sitters included Elizabeth I, James I, and Mary, Queen of Scots; explorers Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh; and members of the emerging middle class from which he himself hailed. He counted the Medici, the Valois, the Habsburgs, and the Bourbons among his European patrons and admirers. Chaired by Horatio Clare.
The earliest surviving Welsh poetry was forged on the battlefields of post-Roman Wales and the ‘Old North’ of Britain, and the Welsh-language poets of today still write within the same poetic tradition. In the early 20th century, Welsh writers in English outnumbered writers in Welsh for the first time, generating new modes of writing and a crisis of national identity. The editors of the new Cambridge history are joined by the great poet Gillian Clarke and novelist and historian Jon Gower to celebrate one of the oldest continuous literary traditions in Europe.
350 years ago Rembrandt van Rijn died in poverty - but not obscurity - having sublimely reinvented every genre of art that he touched. Twenty years after his Rembrandt's Eyes was published Simon Schama asks what it is that makes his work so deeply moving and how did he re-make the image of humanity?
For more than twenty-five years, David Nott has taken unpaid leave from his job as a general and vascular surgeon with the NHS to volunteer in some of the world’s most dangerous war zones: Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Darfur, Congo, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Gaza and Syria. He has also volunteered in areas blighted by natural disasters, such as the earthquakes in Haiti and Nepal. Driven by both the desire to help others and the thrill of extreme personal danger, he is now widely acknowledged to be the most experienced trauma surgeon in the world. Since 2015, the foundation he set up with his wife, Elly, has disseminated the knowledge he has gained, training other doctors in the art of saving lives threatened by bombs and bullets.
Wolf illuminates a dramatic history – how a single English law in 1857 led to a maelstrom, with reverberations lasting to our day. That law was the Obscene Publications Act. Dissent and morality became legal concepts: if writers, editors, printers and booksellers did not uphold the law and the morals of society they faced serious criminal penalties. This was most dramatic regarding anything to do with love between men; homosexuality was linked to deviancy in the eyes of the law. Wolf portrays the dramatic ways this censorship played out among a bohemian group of sexual dissidents, including Walt Whitman in America and the English critic John Addington Symonds. Both a fascinating story and, crucially, an important way of understanding how the Act created homophobia and our ideas of ‘normalcy’ and ‘deviancy’, Outrages also shows the way it helped usher in the state’s purported need and right to police speech. Chaired by Matthew d’Ancona.
The historian tells the story of extraordinary, transformative projects helping refugee stonemasons to begin to rebuild the shattered treasures of Syria. The new, trainee masons, artisans and artists are both women and young men. The lecture is illustrated with film footage from Hughes’ documentaries about the project. Chaired by Peter Florence.
The art historian forensically retraces the history of Leonardo da Vinci’s small oil painting, the Salvator Mundi, which was sold in 2017 for $450 million. The painting is a prism through which we can understand the highs and lows of the art world, experiencing the passions that drove men and women to own this work, as well as the philistinism that led them to almost destroy and lose it. Lewis tracks the vicissitudes of the highly secretive art market across five centuries, a twisting tale of geniuses and gangsters, double-crossing and disappearances where we’re never quite certain what to believe.
The New Yorker’s frontline journalist reports from the most volatile and dynamic region in the world. He introduces the graphic version of his biography Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life and explains what’s happening today in Venezuela.
The actor gives a reading of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s radical 1819 poem, written in response to the Peterloo Massacre. The reading is introduced by John Mullan.
Maxine Peake was originally commissioned to perform The Masque of Anarchy in a full performance by Manchester International Festival.
Seventy years after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, and thirty years on from the Tiananmen Square massacre, the editor of Index on Censorship hosts a debate about China’s contemporary society and the leadership’s attitude to freedom of expression. Xinran is author of the global bestseller The Good Women of China, based on her groundbreaking radio show. Her latest book is The Promise. Karoline Kan is a former New York Times reporter who writes about millennial life and politics in China. She’s currently an editor at China Dialogue. Her new book is called Under Red Skies: The Life and Times of a Chinese Millennial.
Paris in 1117. Heloise, a brilliant young scholar, is astonished when the famous, radical philosopher Peter Abelard consents to be her tutor. But what starts out as a meeting of minds turns into a passionate, dangerous love affair, which incurs terrible retribution. Nine centuries later, Arthur is in Paris to recreate the extraordinary story of Heloise and Abelard in a novel. To his surprise, his daughter visits and agrees to help, challenging his portraits of a couple who seem often inscrutable, sometimes breathtakingly modern. It soon emerges she is on her own mission to discover more about her parents’ fractured relationship – and that Arthur’s connection to his subject is more emotional than he cares to admit.
The power and appeal of Maoism have extended far beyond China. Maoism was a crucial motor of the Cold War: it shaped the course of the Vietnam War and brought to power the murderous Khmer Rouge in Cambodia; it aided, and sometimes handed victory to, anti-colonial resistance movements in Africa; it inspired terrorism in Germany and Italy, and wars and insurgencies in Peru, India and Nepal, some of which are still with us today – more than forty years after the death of Mao. Lovell, Professor of Modern China at Birkbeck, re-evaluates Maoism as both a Chinese and an international force, linking its evolution in China with its global legacy. Chaired by Matthew d’Ancona.
Britain’s institutions and democracy have been envied around the world for centuries – the mother of parliaments, the centre of an administrative empire that pinked in the world. Are parliament, Whitehall, the City of London, the devolved assemblies, the press, the political parties, the Trades Unions and the traditional powers of the land still fit for purpose? Who runs Britain? How’s that going? Abell is editor of the TLS and author of How Britain Really Works. Olusoga is a broadcaster and Professor of Public History at the University of Manchester. He is the author of Black and British: A Forgotten History. Maddox is Director of the Institute for Government. She has been Foreign Editor of The Times and Editor of Prospect.
Moller traces the journey taken by the ideas of three of the greatest scientists of antiquity through seven cities and over a thousand years. From Muslim Córdoba to Catholic Toledo, from Salerno’s medieval medical school to Palermo, capital of Sicily’s vibrant mix of cultures and, finally, to Venice, where that great merchant city’s printing presses would enable Euclid’s geometry, Ptolemy’s system of the stars and Galen’s vast body of writings on medicine to spread even more widely. Moller reveals the web of connections between the Islamic world and Christendom, connections that would both preserve and transform astronomy, mathematics and medicine from the early Middle Ages to the Renaissance. Chaired by Oliver Balch.
There was a woman at the heart of the Trojan war whose voice has been silent – until now. Briseis was a queen until her city was destroyed. Now she is slave to Achilles, the man who butchered her husband and brothers. Trapped in a world defined by men, can she survive to become the author of her own story? The Booker-winning novelist reimagines the greatest Greek myth of all – retold by the witness history forgot.
Turner’s spellbinding new biography explores the poetry and the adventurous, cosmopolitan world of the father of English literature. She documents a series of vivid episodes, moving from the commercial wharves of London to the frescoed chapels of Florence and the kingdom of Navarre, where 14th-century Christians, Muslims and Jews lived side by side. The narrative recounts Chaucer’s experiences as a prisoner of war in France, as a father visiting his daughter’s nunnery, as a member of a chaotic Parliament and as a diplomat in Milan, where he encountered the writings of Dante and Boccaccio. Chaired by Jerry Brotton.