When Greeks Flew Kites

Episodes

EpisodeTitleFirst
Broadcast
Comments
20190204Sarah Dunant finds stories from the past to help frame the present

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

Beyond Reason20190701

This month, Sarah Dunant looks at what history can tell us about irrationality. Conspiracy theories, anti-vaccination movements and climate change denial are modern examples of ideas that stubbornly cling on in the face of facts.

Drawing on a range of historical moments, Sarah scrutinises the idea of the rational and irrational, showing that the boundary between the two is complicated.

Ohio University’s Myrna Perez Sheldon describes a 1981 court case in Alabama which saw the muscle-flexing of a newly powerful Creationist movement, and one which blindsided liberal scientific consensus.

Political theorist Hugo Drochon delves into an early conspiracy theory, born both in the chaotic, plot-ridden aftermath of the French Revolution but also within the arch-rational framework of the Enlightenment.

Agnes Arnold-Forster of the University of Roehampton traces the roots of the anti-vaccination movement back to the compulsory vaccination legislation and ensuing riots of 19th century England, arguing that history shows the question of mistrust and social disconnection between people and elites is key to understanding what might seem to be irrational behaviour.

And Elsa Richardson from the University of Strathclyde takes us into the lives and minds of the isolated island communities of Highland Scotland, demonstrating the accepted, normal and rational status that Second Sight - a form of prophetic vision had for both the Gaelic inhabitants and three centuries of curious Anglophone scientists.

Readers: Karina Fernandez and Gary MacKay
Presenter: Sarah Dunant
Producers: Natalie Steed and Nathan Gower
Executive Producer: David Prest
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4

Sarah Dunant looks through history to understand apparently irrational behaviour.

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

Beyond Reason20190701

This month, Sarah Dunant looks at what history can tell us about irrationality. Conspiracy theories, anti-vaccination movements and climate change denial are modern examples of ideas that stubbornly cling on in the face of facts.

Drawing on a range of historical moments, Sarah scrutinises the idea of the rational and irrational, showing that the boundary between the two is complicated.

Ohio University’s Myrna Perez Sheldon describes a 1981 court case in Alabama which saw the muscle-flexing of a newly powerful Creationist movement, and one which blindsided liberal scientific consensus.

Political theorist Hugo Drochon delves into an early conspiracy theory, born both in the chaotic, plot-ridden aftermath of the French Revolution but also within the arch-rational framework of the Enlightenment.

Agnes Arnold-Forster of the University of Roehampton traces the roots of the anti-vaccination movement back to the compulsory vaccination legislation and ensuing riots of 19th century England, arguing that history shows the question of mistrust and social disconnection between people and elites is key to understanding what might seem to be irrational behaviour.

And Elsa Richardson from the University of Strathclyde takes us into the lives and minds of the isolated island communities of Highland Scotland, demonstrating the accepted, normal and rational status that Second Sight - a form of prophetic vision had for both the Gaelic inhabitants and three centuries of curious Anglophone scientists.

Readers: Karina Fernandez and Gary MacKay
Presenter: Sarah Dunant
Producers: Natalie Steed and Nathan Gower
Executive Producer: David Prest
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4

Sarah Dunant looks through history to understand apparently irrational behaviour.

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

Beyond Reason20190701This month, Sarah Dunant looks at what history can tell us about irrationality. Conspiracy theories, anti-vaccination movements and climate change denial are modern examples of ideas that stubbornly cling on in the face of facts.

Drawing on a range of historical moments, Sarah scrutinises the idea of the rational and irrational, showing that the boundary between the two is complicated.

Ohio University’s Myrna Perez Sheldon describes a 1981 court case in Alabama which saw the muscle-flexing of a newly powerful Creationist movement, and one which blindsided liberal scientific consensus.

Political theorist Hugo Drochon delves into an early conspiracy theory, born both in the chaotic, plot-ridden aftermath of the French Revolution but also within the arch-rational framework of the Enlightenment.

Agnes Arnold-Forster of the University of Roehampton traces the roots of the anti-vaccination movement back to the compulsory vaccination legislation and ensuing riots of 19th century England, arguing that history shows the question of mistrust and social disconnection between people and elites is key to understanding what might seem to be irrational behaviour.

And Elsa Richardson from the University of Strathclyde takes us into the lives and minds of the isolated island communities of Highland Scotland, demonstrating the accepted, normal and rational status that Second Sight - a form of prophetic vision had for both the Gaelic inhabitants and three centuries of curious Anglophone scientists.

Readers: Karina Fernandez and Gary MacKay
Presenter: Sarah Dunant
Producers: Natalie Steed and Nathan Gower
Executive Producer: David Prest
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4

Sarah Dunant looks through history to understand apparently irrational behaviour.

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

Beyond Reason20190701This month, Sarah Dunant looks at what history can tell us about irrationality. Conspiracy theories, anti-vaccination movements and climate change denial are modern examples of ideas that stubbornly cling on in the face of facts.

Drawing on a range of historical moments, Sarah scrutinises the idea of what being rational or irrational is and shows that the boundaries between the two are complicated.

Ohio University’s Myrna Perez Sheldon describes a 1981 court case in Alabama which saw the muscle-flexing of a newly powerful Creationist movement, and one which blindsided liberal scientific consensus.

Political theorist Hugo Drochon delves into an early conspiracy theory, born both in the chaotic, plot-ridden aftermath of the French Revolution but also within the arch-rational framework of the Enlightenment.

Agnes Arnold-Forster of the University of Roehampton traces the roots of the anti-vaccination movement back to the compulsory vaccination legislation and ensuing riots of 19th century England, arguing that history demonstrates that the question of mistrust and social disconnection between people and elites is key to understanding what might seem to be irrational behaviour.

And Elsa Richardson from the University of Strathclyde takes us into the lives and minds of the isolated island communities of Highland Scotland, demonstrating the accepted, normal and rational status that Second Sight, a form of prophetic vision, had both for the Gaelic inhabitants and three centuries of curious Anglophone scientists.

Readers: TBA
Presenter: Sarah Dunant
Producers: Natalie Steed and Nathan Gower
Executive Producer: David Prest
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4

Sarah Dunant uses history to try to understand apparently irrational behaviour.

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

Beyond Your Command20180325In 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.

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

Consider the Walrus: what can history tell us about the climate crisis?20190603

This month, Sarah Dunant looks to the past to help us think about the most pressing issue facing the world today - climate change. Although the problem is a relatively modern one, humans have been grappling with the damage that they inflict on the environment throughout history.

Scientists and campaigners are calling for urgent measures to halt the climate and ecological crises. While history might not be able to solve those problems directly it can tell us something about why governments and leaders do take action.

Alice Bell was a historian of science and now works for the climate charity 10:10. She tells the story of Greta Thunberg’s ancestor Svante Arhennius, the Swedish scientist whose work first discovered the impact that carbon dioxide emissions could have on global temperature.

Bathsheba Demuth of Brown University tells the extraordinary story of how cold war national security concerns on the Arctic Soviet and US border led two superpowers to recognise the importance of the walrus, halting their drastic overhunting.

The University of Stirling’s Phil Slavin shows how environmental legislation and concern about clean air predates the industrial revolution by seven centuries, in the form of Edward I’s pioneering clean air legislation banning the burning of sea-coal, a concern that was only deepened by the impact of the Black Death.

And the foresight of the Venetian Empire is explained by Joyce Chaplin of Harvard University, who details the meticulous planning and conservation of wood necessary to preserve its naval power and status for future generations.

Readers: Ruby Richardson and Peter Marinker
Presenter: Sarah Dunant
Producers: Natalie Steed and Nathan Gower
Executive Producer: David Prest
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4

Sarah Dunant looks to the past to help us think about the pressing climate change crisis.

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

Consider The Walrus: What Can History Tell Us About The Climate Crisis?20190603This month, Sarah Dunant looks to the past to help us think about the most pressing issue facing the world today - climate change. Although the problem is a relatively modern one, humans have been grappling with the damage that they inflict on the environment throughout history.

Scientists and campaigners are calling for urgent measures to halt the climate and ecological crises. While history might not be able to solve those problems directly it can tell us something about why governments and leaders do take action.

Alice Bell was a historian of science and now works for the climate charity 10:10. She tells the story of Greta Thunberg’s ancestor Svante Arhennius, the Swedish scientist whose work first discovered the impact that carbon dioxide emissions could have on global temperature.

Bathsheba Demuth of Brown University tells the extraordinary story of how cold war national security concerns on the Arctic Soviet and US border led two superpowers to recognise the importance of the walrus, halting their drastic overhunting.

The University of Stirling’s Phil Slavin shows how environmental legislation and concern about clean air predates the industrial revolution by seven centuries, in the form of Edward I’s pioneering clean air legislation banning the burning of sea-coal, a concern that was only deepened by the impact of the Black Death.

And the foresight of the Venetian Empire is explained by Joyce Chaplin of Harvard University, who details the meticulous planning and conservation of wood necessary to preserve its naval power and status for future generations.

Readers: Ruby Richardson and Peter Marinker
Presenter: Sarah Dunant
Producers: Natalie Steed and Nathan Gower
Executive Producer: David Prest
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4

Sarah Dunant looks to the past to help us think about the pressing climate change crisis.

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

Scientists and campaigners call for urgent measures to halt the climate and ecological crises. While history might not be able to solve those problems directly it can tell us something about why governments and leaders do take action.

Alice Bell was a historian of climate change and now works for the climate charity 10:10. She tells the story of Greta Thunberg’s ancestor Svante Arhennius, the Swedish scientist whose work first discovered the impact that carbon dioxide emissions could have on global temperature, the significance of which went unrecognised until the 1950s.

Bathsheba Demuth of Brown University tells the extraordinary story of how cold war national security concerns on the Arctic Soviet and US border led to two vast economic systems recognising the importance of the walrus and an agreement to halt their drastic overhunting.

The University of Stirling’s Philip Slavin shows how environmental legislation and concern about clean air actually predates the industrial revolution by seven centuries, in the form of Edward I’s pioneering clean air legislation banning the burning of sea-coal, a concern that was only deepened by the impact of the Black Death.

And the foresight of the Venetian Empire is explained by Joyce Chaplin of Harvard University, who details the meticulous planning and conservation of wood that was necessary to preserve its naval power and status for future generations.

Deadlock20190204Sarah Dunant presents a monthly dive into stories from the past that might help us make sense of today.

This month, as the gears of government grind to a standstill on both sides of the Atlantic, Sarah looks to historical deadlocks and the sometimes radical ways they were resolved.

From the elder statesman called from his plough to become Rome’s first benign dictator, through the random selection of citizens resolving bitter conflicts in Imperial China, Medieval Florence and beyond, to the figure of St Hild the Anglo-Saxon woman whose grace in defeat sealed the future of Christianity in Britain - Sarah traces stories of paralysed systems and deep divisions, to shed a little light on how today’s entrenched leaders and struggling democracies might find a route out of impasse.

Sarah’s guests are:
Professor Natalia Sobrevilla Perea, University of Kent
Professor Yves Sintomer, University of Paris 8
Dr Hetta Howes, City, University of London
Dr Luke Pitcher, University of Oxford

Presenter: Sarah Dunant
Readers: Keith Wickham and Karina Fernandez

Producers: Natalie Steed and Nathan Gower
Executive Producer: David Prest

A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4

Sarah Dunant on historical deadlocks and the ways they were resolved.

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

Fake History20190506

This month, Sarah Dunant explores the history of fake history.

In March this year, the Christchurch attacker invoked a twisted interpretation of medieval history and the crusades to justify his terrorist attack on a mosque. In this programme, Dr Levi Roach contextualises the Battle of Tours, the historical event invoked by the Christchurch attacker, and explains how groups on the extremes, especially in the digital realm, are able to misuse and misrepresent history for their ideological ends.

Fake history and contested narratives are nothing new. Since history has been recorded, the past has been massaged, misread, selectively interpreted or simply invented, in order to justify ideology, politics, or cultural identity.

Egyptologist Richard Parkinson dissects the dangers of well-intentionally reading LGBT history in the ancient world, and argues that our political beliefs prime us to see what we want to see.

Professor Margaret MacMillan charts how the rise of nationalism in the 19th century spurred on the creative reinterpretation of past events to give young and fragile countries an identity to rally around.

Professor Audrey Truschke unpicks a piece of 17th century Indian history that has, for centuries, been used by all sides to justify their political views, and which has only become more contested, toxic, and dangerous in the modern world - catching the historian themselves in the middle of it.

Reader: Peter Marinker
Presenter: Sarah Dunant
Producers: Natalie Steed and Nathan Gower
Executive Producer: David Prest
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4

Sarah explores the history of fake history, and its use to justify actions and ideology.

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

Fake History20190506This month, Sarah Dunant explores the history of fake history.

In March this year, the Christchurch attacker invoked a twisted interpretation of medieval history and the crusades to justify his terrorist attack on a mosque. In this programme, Dr Levi Roach contextualises the Battle of Tours, the historical event invoked by the Christchurch attacker, and explains how groups on the extremes, especially in the digital realm, are able to misuse and misrepresent history for their ideological ends.

Fake history and contested narratives are nothing new. Since history has been recorded, the past has been massaged, misread, selectively interpreted or simply invented, in order to justify ideology, politics, or cultural identity.

Egyptologist Richard Parkinson dissects the dangers of well-intentionally reading LGBT history in the ancient world, and argues that our political beliefs prime us to see what we want to see.

Professor Margaret MacMillan charts how the rise of nationalism in the 19th century spurred on the creative reinterpretation of past events to give young and fragile countries an identity to rally around.

Professor Audrey Truschke unpicks a piece of 17th century Indian history that has, for centuries, been used by all sides to justify their political views, and which has only become more contested, toxic, and dangerous in the modern world - catching the historian themselves in the middle of it.

Reader: Peter Marinker
Presenter: Sarah Dunant
Producers: Natalie Steed and Nathan Gower
Executive Producer: David Prest
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4

Sarah explores the history of fake history, and its use to justify actions and ideology.

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

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

Generational Breakdown20170730Sarah Dunant delves into the past for alternative stories to help frame today's anxieties.

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

Into The World20190401At a moment when Brexit and our carbon footprints are prompting us to reassess what it means to move around the world, Sarah Dunant looks at the long history of travel and the ways it has enchanted and alarmed us across the centuries.

The anxieties over young Tudor travellers returning radicalised from Catholic Europe was a phenomenon that gripped England after the break with Rome. Nandini Das argues that fears over travel helped to define a nation. 

Professor Eric Zuelow shows how the Nazi regime turned travel into a highly sophisticated propaganda tool, organising tours and trips specifically designed to cement ideas of racial superiority and national identity. 

In the Middle Ages, travel is seen to be a startlingly tolerant and cosmopolitan experience, as the naturally curious medieval mind seeks to expand the borders of its world in a spirit of generosity. Whether the fantastical journeys of Sir John Mandeville or the diplomatic missions of Dominican Friars to Mongol Kings, Sebastian Sobecki explains how new discoveries were always understood through their existing religious and cultural lenses.

And as the destructive nature of travel and excessive footfall becomes clearer, John Slight explains how the new travel technology of the 19th century led to an explosion in the number of Muslim pilgrims to Mecca, threatening the infrastructure, political stability and even its physical environment, as this small town crumbled under the pressure of hundreds of thousands of visitors.

Presenter: Sarah Dunant
Readers: Karina Fernandez and Keith Wickham

Producers: Natalie Steed and Nathan Gower
Executive Producer: David Prest

A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4

Sarah Dunant on the history of travel, how it has enchanted and alarmed us for centuries.

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

IOU20170924Sarah Dunant's look at events from a historical perspective plunges into personal debt.

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

Poison: The Invisible Assassin20181203Sarah Dunant presents a monthly dive into stories from the past that might help us make sense of today. In this month's episode, Sarah looks at the use of poison in history.

After a year that saw the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Salisbury, When Greeks Flew Kites focuses on how this deadly weapon leaves a trail of confusion, fear and doubt through the centuries. From the courts of Renaissance Europe, where rumours of poison spread like wildfire, to the new science but thorny old problem of proof in 19th and 20th century murder trials, poison has always opened up and exposed the tensions of the society in which it is wielded. Its dark fascination has also spawned legends and myths that endure through history, such as Mithridates, the poison-proof enemy of Rome and geopolitical trouble-maker.

Sarah’s guests are:
Professor Alisha Rankin, Associate Professor of History, Tufts University
Dr John Carter Wood, Leibniz Institute of European History, Mainz, Germany
Dr Carol Atack, postgraduate researcher in Classics at the University of Oxford
Professor Ian Burney, Director of the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine at the University of Manchester

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

Sarah Dunant looks at moments in history when poison has sown fear, doubt and intrigue.

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

Sarah Dunant presents a monthly dive into stories from the past that might help us make sense of today. In this month's episode, Sarah looks at the use of poison in history.

After a year that saw the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Salisbury, When Greeks Flew Kites focuses on how this deadly weapon leaves a trail of confusion, fear and doubt through the centuries. From the courts of Renaissance Europe, where rumours of poison spread like wildfire, to the new science but thorny old problem of proof in 19th and 20th century murder trials, poison has always opened up and exposed the tensions of the society in which it is wielded. Its dark fascination has also spawned legends and myths that endure through history, such as Mithridates, the poison-proof enemy of Rome and geopolitical trouble-maker.

Sarah’s guests are:
Professor Alisha Rankin, Associate Professor of History, Tufts University
Dr John Carter Wood, Leibniz Institute of European History, Mainz, Germany
Dr Carol Atack, postgraduate researcher in Classics at the University of Oxford
Professor Ian Burney, Director of the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine at the University of Manchester

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

Sarah Dunant looks at moments in history when poison has sown fear, doubt and intrigue.

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

Promises, Promises20181105Sarah Dunant presents a monthly dive into stories from the past that might help us make sense of today. This month, as Theresa May‘s Brexit negotiations approach crunch point, Sarah examines promises throughout history, how they bound rulers and their people, and the bitter consequences when they were broken.

From the ambitious pledges that return to haunt Ethelred the Unready in the 10th century, to the trust-based oaths sworn by Swedish monarchs in front of their subjects, Sarah traces the litany of promises made through the centuries and exposes the paradoxes and tensions that plague our leaders today.

And, as we consider a political environment charged with the rhetoric of division, disappointment and betrayal, Sarah examines the ultimate moment of broken promises - the execution of Charles I, and the lasting wounds that it inflicted on a nation.

Sarah's guests are Dr Levi Roach of the University of Exeter, Dr Sari Nauman of the University of Gothenburg, Professor Jeremy Black of the University of Exeter, and Dr Clare Jackson of the University of Cambridge.

Presenter: Sarah Dunant
Producers: Natalie Steed and Nathan Gower
Executive Producer: David Prest
Readers: Keith Wickham and David Weiss
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4

Sarah Dunant explores the fractious history of promises made between rulers and the ruled.

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

Resist20180204In 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.

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

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

Sleep: A Third Of Human History20190107Sarah Dunant presents a monthly dive into stories from the past that might help us make sense of today. This month, she examines sleep as a source of preoccupation and worry throughout history.

Are you feeling tired? How many hours did you get last night? Feeling foggy with exhaustion? What about the leaders whose punishing schedules have them running up sleep debts of mammoth proportions? William Gladstone's detailed diaries recording his insomnia and its effects, are now historical artefacts. How might historians, fifty years from now, make use of Theresa May's crammed itinerary?

These questions and a raft of other anxieties have plagued people throughout history, as they grappled with the necessary but infuriatingly mysterious phenomenon of sleep. From the medieval theologians struggling with the implications of wet dreams to the overworked, up-all-hours lifestyle of the emergent professional classes in Victorian Britain, the quest to understand sleep - or even just to get it - has always been an illuminating insight into the mind and body.

Sleep, and its absence, has a huge effect on human rhythms and behaviour, as well as the epoch-making decisions of the past, and through the study of it, historians are uncovering the hidden story of a third of our lives - a third of human history.

Sarah’s guests are:
Professor Sasha Handley, University of Manchester
Professor Jonathan White, Christopher Newport University
Dr William MacLehose, University College London
Professor Sally Shuttleworth, University of Oxford

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

Sarah Dunant examines sleep as a source of preoccupation and worry throughout history.

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

Sarah Dunant presents a monthly dive into stories from the past that might help us make sense of today. Today, she examines sleep as a source of preoccupation and worry throughout history.

Are you feeling tired? Is it dark outside already? How many hours did you get last night?

These questions and a raft of other anxieties have plagued people throughout history, as they grappled with the necessary but infuriatingly mysterious phenomenon of sleep. From the medieval theologians struggling with the implications of wet dreams to the overworked, up-all-hours lifestyle of the emergent professional classes in late Victorian Britain, the quest to understand sleep - or even just to get it - has always been an illuminating insight into the mind and body.

Sarah’s guests are:
Professor Sasha Handley, University of Manchester
Professor Jonathan White, Christopher Newport University
Dr William MacLehose, University College London
Professor Sally Holloway, University of Oxford

Speaking Out20171126Sarah Dunant looks at the history of women speaking out about inappropriate male behaviour

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

Take it to the Brink20170827Sarah Dunant's monthly look at events from a historical perspective takes her to the brink

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

The Dating Game20181001Historical 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

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

The Deal20180225In 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.

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

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

The Shame Game20190304

Shame is back.

This month, Sarah Dunant delves into the long and deep history of shame, exploring how it has shaped our lives and behaviour at every point in history. Whether it’s thieves on display in the medieval stocks or the forcible head-shaving of French women suspected of fraternising with the Nazis, shame has always been at the centre of society’s attempts to regulate itself.

But the potency of this most raw of emotions can sometimes prove a double-edged sword.

Oxford Brookes' Professor David Nash explains how shaming rituals and "rough music" were a widespread and common feature of European community life right up to the nineteenth century.

Dr Mary Flannery of Oxford University describes how medieval women were instructed and encouraged to feel shame in order to shape their behaviour, and looks at the example of "Jane Shore" and her notorious walk of shame.

The extraordinary and troubling public shaming and shaving of thousands of woman accused of collaboration in occupied France is explored by Charlotte Walmsley.

And the lifelong historian of shame, Peter Stearns at George Mason University in Virginia considers the history of corporate shaming and what happens when people (and presidents) just won't feel shame.

At a time when shame is back as a force on the public stage, but also an apparently alien concept to some of our political leaders, Sarah looks to the history of shame to think about how we might wield or be wary of it today.

Readers: Karina Fernandez
Producers: Natalie Steed and Nathan Gower
Executive Producer: David Prest
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4

Sarah Dunant delves into the history of shame, this most potent but raw of emotions.

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

This Old Year20171231Sarah Dunant delves into the past for alternative stories to help frame 2017.

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

0420171029Can history unlock the secret to a better old age?

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