The Reith Lectures
The Reith Lectures
BBC Radio 4
Significant international thinkers deliver the BBC's flagship annual lecture series
5/5. Shifting the Foundations
Jonathan Sumption argues against Britain adopting a written constitution as a response to political alienation. The former UK Supreme Court Justice has argued that politics is in decline partly, at least, because the courts and the law is increasingly doing what politicians used to do. This has indirectly contributed to the electorate’s increasing rejection of the political process. There is growing resentment against the political elite. So what can we do? Lord Sumption makes some suggestions to restore faith in democracy – starting by fixing the party system and changing the way we vote. The programme is recorded in front of an audience at Cardiff University. The Reith Lectures are presented and chaired by Anita Anand and produced by Jim Frank Editor: Hugh Levinson
Jun 18, 2019
42 min
4/5. Rights and the Ideal Constitution
Jonathan Sumption assesses the US and UK’s constitutional models. He describes Britain's unwritten constitution as a political institution. The US Constitution is by contrast essentially a legal document. This has led Americans to address what should be political questions – such as the right to abortion – via the courts, rather than through politics. Britain, Lord Sumption argues, should learn from the United States be careful about which rights should be put beyond democratic choice. The programme is recorded in front of an audience at George Washington University in Washington DC. The Reith Lectures are presented and chaired by Anita Anand and produced by Jim Frank. Editor: Hugh Levinson
Jun 11, 2019
42 min
3/5. Human Rights and Wrongs
Jonathan Sumption argues that judges - especially those of the European Court of Human Rights - have usurped power by expanding the interpretation of human rights law. Lord Sumption argues that concepts of human rights have a long history in the common law. But by contrast, the European Convention on Human Rights has become a dynamic treaty, taking on new interpretations and powers. Article 8 – the right to private and family life – is the most striking example. Should these decisions be made by judges or parliament? The lecture is recorded before an audience in the old Parliament House in Edinburgh. The Reith Lectures are presented and chaired by Anita Anand and produced by Jim Frank. Editor: Hugh Levinson
Jun 4, 2019
42 min
2/5. In Praise of Politics
Jonathan Sumption explains how democratic processes have the power to accommodate opposition opinions and interests. But he argues that in recent years that politics has shied away from legislating and now the courts have taken on more and more of the role of making law. Lord Sumption was until recently a justice of the UK’s Supreme Court and is a distinguished historian. This lecture is recorded in front of an audience at Birmingham University. The Reith Lectures are presented and chaired by Anita Anand and produced by Jim Frank. Editor: Hugh Levinson
May 28, 2019
42 min
1/5. Law's Expanding Empire
Jonathan Sumption argues that the law is taking over the space once occupied by politics. Lord Sumption was until recently a justice of the UK’s Supreme Court, as well as being a distinguished historian. In this lecture, recorded before an audience at Middle Temple in London, Lord Sumption says that until the 19th century, law only dealt with a narrow range of human problems. That has now changed radically. And he argues that the growth of the law, driven by demand for greater personal security and less risk, means we have less liberty. The Reith Lectures are presented and chaired by Anita Anand and produced by Jim Frank Editor: Hugh Levinson
May 21, 2019
57 min
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.
Jul 24, 2018
42 min
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.
Jul 17, 2018
57 min
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.
Jul 10, 2018
57 min
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.
Jul 3, 2018
57 min
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.
Jun 26, 2018
42 min
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