When Greeks Flew Kites

Sarah Dunant delves into the past for alternative stories to help frame today's anxieties.

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20181105

Monthly series in which Sarah Dunant finds stories from the past to help frame the present

The Dating Game20181001

Sarah Dunant delves into the past for stories of courtship to help us date better.

Monthly series in which Sarah Dunant finds stories from the past to help frame the present

Historical novelist Sarah Dunant presents a monthly dive into stories from the past that might help us make sense of today. In this month's episode, the complex task of dating.

Sarah's going behind closed doors to eavesdrop on the most intimate of exchanges. She scrutinises moments in history when the rules of the dating game have been rewritten. From the male-centric ideals of courtly-love at the heart of medieval poetry to the uneasy collision of dating and the gender politics of the 1970s, Sarah examines the ways men and women have related to each other in this most difficult of areas, and considers how we might improve them.

As we redraw the lines today following more revelations of harassment emerge, more public confessions of guilt and more open airing of intimate encounters, Sarah asks if we can learn lessons from moments in the past when men and women renegotiated the boundaries of dating.

Presenter: Sarah Dunant
Producers: Katherine Godfrey and Nathan Gower
Executive Producer: David Prest
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4

0120170730

In this new monthly series, broadcaster and acclaimed historical novelist Sarah Dunant, delves into the past to help frame the present, bringing to life worlds that span the centuries.

Taking modern day anxieties as its starting point, the series considers how certain questions are constant, yet also change their shape over time. Sarah celebrates the role of imagination in History and History as a discipline is at the heart of the programme, showing how historians are continually changing the questions they ask of the past.

The programme takes its name from the industrialist Henry Ford who, in 1921 reportedly told the New York Times, "History is Bunk" and asked "What difference does it make how many times the ancient Greeks flew kites?"

The opening episode examines the commonly-held anxiety that the future for the generations to come no longer looks as good as it did for past ones. Sarah explores the idea of tension and acceptance between generations. Dr Lucy Underwood introduces us to rebellious Catholic teens after the Reformation. Professor Helen Berry talks to Sarah about the struggle by the young to marry for love and the historian Lawrence Stone, who spawned a new interest in family history.

Sarah talks to Professor Ibram Kendi about the tension between successive generations of black Americans about how to overcome racism. And with Professor Peter Mandler, Sarah examines how the holy grail of social mobility, used by politicians on both sides long after its sell by date, was actually more complex and flawed than we have come to accept.

Presenter: Sarah Dunant
Producer: Katherine Godfrey
Assistant Producer: Nathan Gower
Executive Producer: David Prest
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

In this new monthly series, broadcaster and acclaimed historical novelist Sarah Dunant, delves into the past for stories and moments which help frame the present, bringing to life worlds that span the centuries.

Taking modern day worries and anxieties as its starting point, the series considers how certain questions are constant, yet also develop and change their shape over time. With a talent for storytelling, Sarah celebrates the role of imagination in history - a role that historians themselves are increasingly interested in exploring. And history as a discipline is at the heart of the programme, showing how historians are continually changing the questions they ask of the past so that the emerging picture grows richer and more inclusive as new answers are incorporated. The series features and highlights some of those key figures of change, as well as showcasing the latest research and discoveries of the younger generation just entering the field.

The programme takes its name from the industrialist Henry Ford who, in 1921 reportedly told the New York Times, "History is Bunk" and asked "What difference does it make how many times the ancient Greeks flew kites?"

This opening episode examines the commonly-held anxiety that the future for the generations to come no longer looks as good as it did for past ones. Sarah explores the idea of generational tension and acceptance - taking us into the world of rebellious Catholic teens in Britain and Europe after the Reformation who pushed for choice (and even death) in the face of parental control. She hears about the struggle by the young to marry for love, not parental approval, and celebrates the historian Lawrence Stone whose blockbuster in the 1970s spawned a whole new interest in family history.

Outside of Britain, Sarah discusses more painful moments when generations of black American parents found their hopes for their children betrayed by institutional racism. And, as we look back to the golden age of Britain in the 1950s when it seemed that it could all get better for the generations to come, Sarah looks at new research suggesting the holy grail of social mobility, used by politicians on both sides long after its sell by date, was actually more complex and flawed than we have come to accept.

Presenter: Sarah Dunant
Producer: Katherine Godfrey
Assistant Producer: Nathan Gower
Executive Producer: David Prest
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

02Take It To The Brink20170827

Sarah Dunant's monthly look at events from a historical perspective takes her to the brink

A monthly series in which broadcaster and acclaimed historical novelist Sarah Dunant delves into the past to help frame the present, bringing to life worlds that span the centuries.

Taking modern day anxieties as its starting point, the programme considers how certain questions are constant, yet also change their shape over time.

This month, Sarah takes us to the brink - to moments where leaders are willing to cross the ultimate line. She'll be asking what happens when the enemy you're negotiating with has nothing to lose, and questioning whether the threat of apocalypse can be good for the soul.

From Caesar crossing the Rubicon in ancient Rome, to medieval apocalyptic fears, via a radical preacher with rhetoric so powerful that it catapulted him onto the global stage, these are moments of fire and fury when the end seemed nigh.

Guests include Dr Hannah Cornwell from the University of Birmingham, Dr Stefano Dall'Aglio of the University of Edinburgh, and Dr James Palmer from the University of St Andrews.

Presenter: Sarah Dunant
Producer: Katherine Godfrey
Assistant Producer: Nathan Gower
Executive Producer: David Prest
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

03Iou20170924

Sarah Dunant's look at events from a historical perspective plunges into personal debt.

A monthly series in which broadcaster and acclaimed historical novelist Sarah Dunant delves into the past to help frame the present, bringing to life worlds that span the centuries. Taking modern day anxieties as its starting point, the programme considers how certain questions are constant, yet also change their shape over time.

This month, Sarah is plunging into the world of personal debt. As present-day concerns rise about the availability of credit, an individual's vulnerability to the banks and the possibility of tens of thousands of pounds of student debt, Sarah explores the delicate relationship between the individual's right to be a debtor and religious and state control of debt over time. She looks at the emotional stories behind debt, including the personal cost of becoming an indentured servant in British Guyana in the 19th century.

The programme takes its name from the industrialist Henry Ford who, in 1921 reportedly told the New York Times, "History is Bunk," and asked, "What difference does it make how many times the ancient Greeks flew kites?"

Presenter: Sarah Dunant
Producers: Katherine Godfrey and Nathan Gower
Executive Producer: David Prest
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

A monthly series in which broadcaster and acclaimed historical novelist Sarah Dunant delves into the past to help frame the present, bringing to life worlds that span the centuries.

Taking modern day anxieties as its starting point, the programme considers how certain questions are constant, yet also change their shape over time.

This month, Sarah is plunging into the world of personal debt. As present-day concerns rise about ever-increasing levels of consumer borrowing and the individual's vulnerability to predatory lenders, Sarah explores the complex history of debt, the opportunity and the risk it has represented to people over the years.

From the stories of indentured labourers seeking a new life in 19th century Guyana to the Scottish woman charging interest of King James VI, Sarah tries to glean a little light to guide us through today's murky world of money.

This month's guests are Professor Cathryn Spence from Vancouver Island University, Professor Jerry White from Birkbeck University of London, David Kynaston and Professor Clem Seecharan from London Metropolitan University.

Presenter: Sarah Dunant
Producers: Katherine Godfrey and Nathan Gower
Executive Producer: David Prest
Readers: Sabrina Carter and Peter Marinker
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

0420171029

Can history unlock the secret to a better old age?

A monthly series in which broadcaster and acclaimed historical novelist Sarah Dunant delves into the past to help frame the present, bringing to life worlds that span the centuries. Taking modern day anxieties as its starting point, the programme considers how certain questions are constant, yet also change their shape over time.

This month, Sarah delves into history to find some answers to the age old question of old age. At a time when lengthening life-expectancy brings increasing pressure on our modern society and the older generation searches for a place within it, she looks at the different responses down the years to this most human of constants.

From the elder statesman of Republican Rome still striving for relevance to the story of how the discovery of Alzheimer's transformed modern America's attitude to growing old, When Greeks Flew Kites takes an honest look at the history of old age and some of the surprising lessons it can teach us today.

The guests are Professor Lyndal Roper from Oxford University, Professor Susannah Ottaway from Carleton College, Professor Jesse Ballenger from Drexel University, and Professor Mary Harlow from the University of Leicester.

Presenter: Sarah Dunant
Producers: Katherine Godfrey and Nathan Gower
Executive Producer: David Prest
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

05Speaking Out20171126

Sarah Dunant delves into the past for stories to help frame today's anxieties.

In this monthly series, broadcaster and acclaimed historical novelist Sarah Dunant, delves into the past to help frame the present, bringing to life worlds that span the centuries. Taking a different modern day anxiety, hope or idea as its starting point each month, the series considers how certain questions are constant, yet also change their shape over time.

This month, as waves of accusations about sexual harassment and abuse continue to swell, Sarah looks at times in history when women have spoken out about male behaviour, the demands the women made, and their struggles to effect change.

From the 19th Century American housewives calling out male alcoholism to the first female MPs demanding that the 1920s establishment confront the problem of child sexual abuse, When Greeks Flew Kites uses history to inform our understanding of today's extraordinary moment. What responses do women face when they threaten male power? Can you challenge and change culture?

The guests are Professor Paul Keen from Carleton University, Professor Elaine Frantz from Kent State University, Dr Lucy Delap from the University of Cambridge, and Jennifer Scott, Director of Dulwich Picture Gallery.

Presenter: Sarah Dunant
Producers: Katherine Godfrey and Nathan Gower
Executive Producer: David Prest
Readers: Matt Addis and Karina Fernandez
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

06This Old Year20171231

Sarah Dunant delves into the past for alternative stories to help frame 2017.

In this final episode of 2017, broadcaster and acclaimed historical novelist Sarah Dunant, delves into the past to help frame moments from the year, as picked by historians, bringing to life worlds that span the centuries.

From the East India Company in the 17th Century to corporate power in the White House of 2017; from the second coming of the Ku Klux Klan and an immigration ban in 1920, via fake news in 17th century France to an Irish history lesson that's become vital in this month's Brexit negotiations.

The programme takes its name from the industrialist Henry Ford who, in 1921, reportedly told the New York Times, "History is Bunk" and asked "What difference does it make how many times the ancient Greeks flew kites?"

Presenter: Sarah Dunant
Producers: Katherine Godfrey and Nathan Gower
Executive Producer: David Prest
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

07Resist20180204

Sarah Dunant considers a post-antibiotic world with lessons from the past.

In this monthly series, broadcaster and acclaimed historical novelist Sarah Dunant, delves into the past to help frame the present, bringing to life worlds that span the centuries.

This month Sarah is looking at antibiotic resistance. As health professions working today consider how to tackle a looming crisis, Sarah's historians look to the past for lessons that may help us cope with a world where diseases we thought were curable are back in existence. Sarah and guests examine how history shows us that diseases can pose a challenge not only to our health but to society because of the prejudices and lack of cooperation they can expose.

But there's a surprising and hopeful lesson from the Cold War in how cooperation can take place even in times of intense conflict.

Sarah's guests this month are:
Helen Bynum, historian of medicine and honorary research associate at University College London.
Kevin Siena, Associate Professor in History at Trent University in Canada
Lukas Engelmann, historian of medicine from the University of Edinburgh
Dora Varga, lecturer in medical humanities at the university of Exeter

The programme takes its name from the industrialist Henry Ford who, in 1921 reportedly told the New York Times, "History is Bunk" and asked "What difference does it make how many times the ancient Greeks flew kites?"

Presenter: Sarah Dunant
Producers: Katherine Godfrey and Nathan Gower
Executive Producer: David Prest
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

08The Deal20180225

In this monthly series, broadcaster and acclaimed historical novelist Sarah Dunant, delves into the past to help frame the present, bringing to life worlds that span the centuries.

Taking a different modern day anxiety, hope or idea as its starting point each month, the series considers how certain questions are constant, yet also change their shape over time. Sarah celebrates the role of imagination in History and History as a discipline is at the heart of the programme, showing how historians are continually changing the questions they ask of the past.

The programme takes its name from the industrialist Henry Ford who, in 1921 reportedly told the New York Times, "History is Bunk" and asked "What difference does it make how many times the ancient Greeks flew kites?"

Presenter: Sarah Dunant
Producers: Katherine Godfrey and Nathan Gower
Executive Producer: David Prest
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

09Beyond Your Command20180325

Sarah Dunant uncovers stories from history when children have challenged adult authority.

Monthly series in which Sarah Dunant finds stories from the past to help frame the present

In this monthly series, broadcaster and acclaimed historical novelist Sarah Dunant, delves into the past to help frame the present, bringing to life worlds that span the centuries.

Following the Parklands shooting in America and the eruption of protest and political engagement by its schoolchildren, Sarah Dunant explores moments in history when children have challenged adult authority, assumed their own voice, and changed the world around them.

From the 17th century French teenagers taking on their superiors on trade missions in the Ottoman Empire to the South African schoolchildren whose resistance and protest would prove to be a tragic but pivotal moment in the decline of Apartheid, this programme brings to light the powerful voices of a group often marginalised or forgotten by history.

Sarah's guests are Julia Gossard, Assistant Professor of History at Utah State University, Joy Schulz, History Professor at Metropolitan Community College in Omaha, Nebraska, and Sifiso Ndlovu, Professor of History at the University of South Africa.

Presenter: Sarah Dunant
Producers: Katherine Godfrey and Nathan Gower
Executive Producer: David Prest
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.