The Invention Of Free Speech

Episodes

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01Politics20170814

Historian Professor Fara Dabhoiwala explores the origins of political freedom of speech.

Historian Professor Fara Dabhoiwala explores the origins of free speech by examining key flashpoints in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries and hearing extracts from some of the most heated debates from the past 500 years.

The first English law against "false news" was passed in 1275 - and it defined it simply as anything that created "discord between the King and his people". For most of English history, it was illegal to say anything offensive about a superior, or even to discuss politics at all - on pain of imprisonment, flogging, or death. Nowadays, we take the opposite view - free speech is supposed be one of the foundations of our democratic system. And yet the law still prohibits ideas deemed to be extremist.

So how do we decide on the limits of free speech? Faced with ideas that seem politically toxic, what is the right response? How far should governments go?

Contributors include distinguished human rights lawyer Baroness Helena Kennedy QC; Professor Karen O'Brien, Professor of English Literature at Oxford University; and Justin Champion, Professor in the History of Early Modern Ideas at Royal Holloway College, London.

Fara Dabhoiwala is the author of The Origins of Sex: A History of the First Sexual Revolution, a history of changing sexual attitudes and behaviour. He is a Senior Research Scholar at Princeton University and a life fellow of All Souls and Exeter College, Oxford. His current projects include a history of free speech and a history of global English.

Presented by Fara Dabhoiwala
Dramatic readings by Emily Bevan, Ewan Bailey, Jonathan Keeble and Oliver Soden
Academic Research by Sally Holloway
Produced by Elizabeth Burke
Executive Producer Jo Coombs

A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.

01Religion20170731

Historian Professor Fara Dabhoiwala explores the origins of religious freedom of speech.

In the modern Western world, we take free speech for granted. We presume it is our age-old inheritance. But it's not. In this three-part series, historian Professor Fara Dabhoiwala explores how freedom of speech came into being, with extracts from key flashpoints in the past.

We hear pamphlets, trials and the testimony of people who were put to death in this country because of the views they expressed. Leading scholars discuss the past and the light it sheds on current struggles about religion, sex, and politics.

The series begins in the 17th century with the spotlight on religion.

We hear extracts from the ten-day debate in Parliament about the limits of free speech, sparked by the case of James Naylor, a Quaker who claimed to be a holy prophet. Naylor received a horrific punishment as a result - his tongue was bored through with a hot iron. We hear too the trial of the last man in Britain to be executed for blasphemy - the Edinburgh student Thomas Aikenhead who was hanged in Edinburgh in 1697 for claiming that the Bible was a fable and Christianity was in terminal decline.

The contributors in this first programme are Professor Justin Champion, Professor of History at Royal Holloway College; Dr Hannah Dawson, Lecturer in the History of Political Thought at King's College London; and Dr Maleiha Malik, Professor of Law at King's College London, who has written extensively about the role of religion in modern society. Does being a person of faith give her a different perspective on freedom of speech?

Fara Dabhoiwala is the author of The Origins of Sex: A History of the First Sexual Revolution. He is a Senior Research Scholar at Princeton University and a life fellow of All Souls and Exeter College, Oxford. His current projects include a history of free speech and a history of global English.

Presented by Fara Dabhoiwala
Dramatic readings by Emily Bevan, Ewan Bailey, Jonathan Keeble and Oliver Soden
Academic Research by Sally Holloway
Produced by Elizabeth Burke
Executive Producer: Jo Coombs

A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.

01Sex20170807

Historian Professor Fara Dabhoiwala explores the origin of free speech about sex.

In the modern Western world, we take free speech for granted. We presume it is our age-old inheritance. But it's not. In this three-part series, historian Professor Fara Dabhoiwala explores how freedom of speech came into being, with extracts from key flashpoints in the past. This second programme focuses on sex.

After religion, sex has always been the greatest taboo. For most of our past, explicit writing about sex was extremely rare and almost none of it was in English, but in Latin, Greek, French, or Italian, which only the educated elite could read. And it was written out by hand, not printed or widely circulated.

But this began to change around 1700, when the first sexually explicit works in English began to be printed and sold in bookshops. Within a few decades, London was the centre of a clandestine but booming trade in what became known as pornography - a word that was only coined around 1800.

Fara Dabhoiwala explores the 18th-century explosion of free speech about sex, and its implications for our modern debates about pornography. The programme includes extracts from works we might still find shocking today - from the 17th century erotic text The School of Venus, to Fanny Hill -- and Ancient and Modern Pederasty, a work in favour of homosexual love that was so thoroughly suppressed that its contents can now only be reconstructed through court records.

Contributors include Professor Judith Hawley of Royal Holloway, University of London; Rae Langton, Professor of Philosophy at Cambridge; and Hal Gladfelder, Professor of Literature at Manchester University.

Fara Dabhoiwala is the author of The Origins of Sex: A History of the First Sexual Revolution. He is a Senior Research Scholar at Princeton University and a life fellow of All Souls and Exeter College, Oxford. His current projects include a history of free speech and a history of global English.

Presented by Fara Dabhoiwala
Dramatic readings by Emily Bevan, Ewan Bailey, Jonathan Keeble and Oliver Soden
Academic Research by Sally Holloway
Produced by Elizabeth Burke
Executive Producer: Jo Coombs

A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.

0101Religion20170731

Historian Professor Fara Dabhoiwala explores the origins of religious freedom of speech.

In the modern Western world, we take free speech for granted. We presume it is our age-old inheritance. But it's not. In this three-part series, historian Professor Fara Dabhoiwala explores how freedom of speech came into being, with extracts from key flashpoints in the past.

We hear pamphlets, trials and the testimony of people who were put to death in this country because of the views they expressed. Leading scholars discuss the past and the light it sheds on current struggles about religion, sex, and politics.

The series begins in the 17th century with the spotlight on religion.

We hear extracts from the ten-day debate in Parliament about the limits of free speech, sparked by the case of James Naylor, a Quaker who claimed to be a holy prophet. Naylor received a horrific punishment as a result - his tongue was bored through with a hot iron. We hear too the trial of the last man in Britain to be executed for blasphemy - the Edinburgh student Thomas Aikenhead who was hanged in Edinburgh in 1697 for claiming that the Bible was a fable and Christianity was in terminal decline.

The contributors in this first programme are Professor Justin Champion, Professor of History at Royal Holloway College; Dr Hannah Dawson, Lecturer in the History of Political Thought at King's College London; and Dr Maleiha Malik, Professor of Law at King's College London, who has written extensively about the role of religion in modern society. Does being a person of faith give her a different perspective on freedom of speech?

Fara Dabhoiwala is the author of The Origins of Sex: A History of the First Sexual Revolution. He is a Senior Research Scholar at Princeton University and a life fellow of All Souls and Exeter College, Oxford. His current projects include a history of free speech and a history of global English.

Presented by Fara Dabhoiwala
Dramatic readings by Emily Bevan, Ewan Bailey, Jonathan Keeble and Oliver Soden
Academic Research by Sally Holloway
Produced by Elizabeth Burke
Executive Producer: Jo Coombs

A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.

0102Sex20170807

Historian Professor Fara Dabhoiwala explores the origin of free speech about sex.

In the modern Western world, we take free speech for granted. We presume it is our age-old inheritance. But it's not. In this three-part series, historian Professor Fara Dabhoiwala explores how freedom of speech came into being, with extracts from key flashpoints in the past. This second programme focuses on sex.

After religion, sex has always been the greatest taboo. For most of our past, explicit writing about sex was extremely rare and almost none of it was in English, but in Latin, Greek, French, or Italian, which only the educated elite could read. And it was written out by hand, not printed or widely circulated.

But this began to change around 1700, when the first sexually explicit works in English began to be printed and sold in bookshops. Within a few decades, London was the centre of a clandestine but booming trade in what became known as pornography - a word that was only coined around 1800.

Fara Dabhoiwala explores the 18th-century explosion of free speech about sex, and its implications for our modern debates about pornography. The programme includes extracts from works we might still find shocking today - from the 17th century erotic text The School of Venus, to Fanny Hill -- and Ancient and Modern Pederasty, a work in favour of homosexual love that was so thoroughly suppressed that its contents can now only be reconstructed through court records.

Contributors include Professor Judith Hawley of Royal Holloway, University of London; Rae Langton, Professor of Philosophy at Cambridge; and Hal Gladfelder, Professor of Literature at Manchester University.

Fara Dabhoiwala is the author of The Origins of Sex: A History of the First Sexual Revolution. He is a Senior Research Scholar at Princeton University and a life fellow of All Souls and Exeter College, Oxford. His current projects include a history of free speech and a history of global English.

Presented by Fara Dabhoiwala
Dramatic readings by Emily Bevan, Ewan Bailey, Jonathan Keeble and Oliver Soden
Academic Research by Sally Holloway
Produced by Elizabeth Burke
Executive Producer: Jo Coombs

A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.

0103Politics20170814

Historian Professor Fara Dabhoiwala explores the origins of political freedom of speech.

Historian Professor Fara Dabhoiwala explores the origins of free speech by examining key flashpoints in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries and hearing extracts from some of the most heated debates from the past 500 years.

The first English law against "false news" was passed in 1275 - and it defined it simply as anything that created "discord between the King and his people". For most of English history, it was illegal to say anything offensive about a superior, or even to discuss politics at all - on pain of imprisonment, flogging, or death. Nowadays, we take the opposite view - free speech is supposed be one of the foundations of our democratic system. And yet the law still prohibits ideas deemed to be extremist.

So how do we decide on the limits of free speech? Faced with ideas that seem politically toxic, what is the right response? How far should governments go?

Contributors include distinguished human rights lawyer Baroness Helena Kennedy QC; Professor Karen O'Brien, Professor of English Literature at Oxford University; and Justin Champion, Professor in the History of Early Modern Ideas at Royal Holloway College, London.

Fara Dabhoiwala is the author of The Origins of Sex: A History of the First Sexual Revolution, a history of changing sexual attitudes and behaviour. He is a Senior Research Scholar at Princeton University and a life fellow of All Souls and Exeter College, Oxford. His current projects include a history of free speech and a history of global English.

Presented by Fara Dabhoiwala
Dramatic readings by Emily Bevan, Ewan Bailey, Jonathan Keeble and Oliver Soden
Academic Research by Sally Holloway
Produced by Elizabeth Burke
Executive Producer Jo Coombs

A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.