The Forum

The Forum

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Episodes

Secrets of the Great Pyramid  

The Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt is one of the greatest wonders of the ancient World. It is the largest pyramid ever built and even today, with advanced satellite and thermal imaging and other high tech science, we don’t know everything about the pyramid- exactly what’s inside or how it was built. To explore the history of The Great Pyramid - also known as the Pyramid of Khufu, after the Pharaoh who commissioned it as his tomb, Rajan Datar is joined by Professor Salima Ikram, Distinguished University Professor and Egyptology Unit Head at the American University in Cairo, space archaeologist Dr Sarah Parcak, a National Geographic fellow and associate Professor at Birmingham University Alabama in the USA and Dr Joyce Tyldesley, an archaeologist and Egyptologist from the University of Manchester in the UK. Photo: The Pyramids at Giza. (Getty Images)

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First Impressions: The Printing Press  

When the fifteenth century German entrepreneur Johannes Gutenberg pioneered the printing press, he made an indelible mark on the history of communication. Here was a way to print pages in high quality and high quantities, using methods more efficient than had ever been seen before. Rajan Datar and guests explore the story of how the printing press was born, and how it changed our world - from the birth of the modern book to the rise of the information society, and the transformation of fields including scholarship and religion. Rajan is joined by art historian Hala Auji, publisher Michael Bhaskar, scholar Cristina Dondi and the writer John Man. Photo: Circa 1450, A bas-relief of the German printing pioneer Johannes Gutenberg (c 1400 - 1468) checking his work while his assistant turns the press. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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The First Heart Transplant  

The race to carry out the first human heart transplant 50 years ago was as dramatic as the race between the Americans and the Soviets to the moon. Four surgeons were days away from completing the operation, but it was the outsider, the South African Christiaan Barnard who became the winner, sparking a media frenzy that made him famous overnight all over the world. In this programme, Rajan Datar takes a look at the history of organ transplantation with particular focus on the first human heart transplant in 1967, and asks what it has made possible today and in the future. Joining him are Professor David Cooper, a British heart surgeon who worked with Christiaan Barnard; the South African historian Don Mc Rae; Professor Sharon Hunt, an American cardiologist who carried out pioneering work in the aftercare of heart transplant patients; and Pankaj Chandak, a British-Indian research fellow in transplant surgery. Photo: Surgeons performing a transplant operation. (Getty Images)

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Picasso: Artist of Reinvention  

Pablo Picasso is commonly regarded as one of the most influential artists of the 20th Century, changing our way of seeing with his radical innovation and revolutionary approach. As pioneer of Cubism, godfather to the Surrealists, and creator of the enduring anti-war painting Guernica, he produced thousands of paintings in his lifetime, not to mention his sculptures, ceramics, stage designs, poetry and plays. Rajan Datar discusses his life and work with curators Ann Temkin and Katharina Beisiegel, and art historian Charlie Miller. (Photo: Pablo Picasso in 1955. Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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Making Scents: The Story of Perfume  

Throughout history, fragrance has been used to scent both the body and our surroundings. With just one drop, perfume has the potential to stir memories, awaken the senses and even influence how we feel about ourselves. But what’s the story behind this liquid luxury in a bottle, now found on the shelves of bathrooms and department stores worldwide? In this programme, Bridget Kendall and guests explore the modern history of perfume, including its flowering in France and the explosive chemical discoveries that helped to make fine fragrance what it is today. They also explore perfume’s ancient roots and ask: what’s in a name? Bridget is joined by scientist and critic Luca Turin, writer and curator Lizzie Ostrom and the perfumer Thomas Fontaine. Also featuring William Tullett and James McHugh. Photo: Perfume bottles and smelling strips (Getty Images)

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Total Eclipse of the Sun  

A total eclipse of the Sun is a spectacular cosmic event that can even be life changing. The 21st August 2017 sees one of the most accessible eclipses for years, an all-American eclipse crossing the United States for more than two thousand miles from northwest to southeast. And yet throughout the centuries, the sight of a total eclipse - seeing the sun totally blacked out by the moon – has often caused fear and turmoil. Joining Rajan Datar to find out more about the history of eclipses and what they reveal about the workings of the sun, is the NASA astrophysicist Lika Guhathakurta, the eclipse chaser and psychologist Kate Russo, and Marek Kukula, Public astronomer at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich in London. Photo: A total eclipse of the sun (BBC)

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The One Thousand and One Nights  

The One Thousand and One Nights are a collection of fantastical stories of flying carpets, magic and genies whose ancient origins go back to the 7th century or earlier. The tales are told by Scheherazade who uses the power of storytelling night after night to stop her Sultan husband from beheading her ... These highly influential stories were brought to the West in the 18th century, when more tales like Aladdin and Ali Baba were said to have been added by the French translator, and it has continued to evolve over the centuries. Rajan Datar and guests explore why these stories became so popular around the world and what they mean to us today. Joining Rajan is Wen Chin Ouyang, Professor of Arabic at SOAS in London; Dr Sandra Naddaff, senior lecturer in Comparative Literature at Harvard University; and the Iranian TV producer Shabnam Rezaei. Photo: Sand Sculpture depicting 1001 Nights of Sheherazade. (Getty Images)

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Joan of Arc: Making a Martyr  

Born six centuries ago, Joan of Arc is regarded as a French national heroine – a peasant girl who, inspired by saintly visions, battled to break the Siege of Orléans and see Charles VII finally crowned King of France in a grand cathedral. But in 1431, she was burned at the stake. In this programme, Bridget Kendall and guests discuss the life and death of this medieval teenage celebrity who helped to shape the course of the Hundred Years War with England. They also reflect on her status as an enduring symbol in popular culture through the ages, including on the stage and the big screen. Bridget is joined by film scholar Robin Blaetz, and historians Juliet Barker, Xavier Helary and Daniel Hobbins. Photo: Joan of Arc: Painting by J D Ingres in the Louvre. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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Up Close with Tango  

Tango is easy to recognise: those daring steps, the tight hold of the dancing partners, the intense yet melancholy music dominated by the plaintive sounds of the bandoneon. But if you ask what exactly tango is and where it came from, the answer may not be so immediately clear - because it's more than a genre of music, more than just a style of dance. To get insights into the roots, the culture and even the magic of tango, Rajan Datar is joined by leading tango historians Maria Susana Azzi, Christine Denniston and John Turci-Escobar. Photo: Argentine dancers on stage at the World Tango Championships in 2014 (Getty Images)

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Carl Linnaeus: Naming Nature  

Carl Linnaeus, today a largely unknown figure, is one of the giants of natural science. He devised the formal two-part naming system we use to classify all life forms. With Quentin Cooper is botanist Dr Sandra Knapp, from the Natural History Museum in London, life sciences expert Professor Staffan Müller-Wille from Exeter University in the UK and science writer and biographer of Linnaeus, Dr Lisbet Rausing. Photo: Carl Linnaeus painted by Per Krafft the Elder (Permission of The Linnean Society of London)

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Silk Routes: Two Thousand Years of Trading  

China, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Uzbekistan and India: if you went to any of these places a thousand years ago, you would find goods and produce from the others. But how did they get there and why? This week’s Forum explores the ancient pattern of trading networks which criss-crossed the plains, deserts and mountains of China, Central Asia and points further West, and which encouraged not just the exchange of commodities like silk, paper and horses but ideas and people too. Bridget Kendall talks to Valerie Hansen, professor of history at Yale University who has a particular interest in trade and exchanges across Eurasia; historian Dr. Susan Whitfield who is curator of the Central Asian collections at the British Library in London; and Tamara Chin, professor of comparative literature at Brown University whose work focuses on ancient China. Photo: A man rides a horse overlooking Band-e-Amir lake, through central Afghanistan, on the former Silk Road that once linked China with Central Asia and beyond. Credit: Getty Images

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Indian Princely States  

At the time of the Partition of India 70 years ago this year, there were more than 500 Princely States. These were states nominally ruled by Indian Princes but ultimately under the control of the British colonial powers. Many of these princes - male and female members of the Royal Family - had kingdoms dating back to the 8th and 9th Centuries. But after the British curbed their powers, was their role largely ceremonial or did they have a deeper impact on the Indian people? And how did these Princes survive after Partition? Joining Rajan Datar is the writer and historian William Dalrymple, the director of the King’s College London India institute Sunil Khilnani, and the Indian social scientist Nikita Sud from Oxford University. (Photo: A view of the Umaid Bhawan Palace, set high above the desert city of Jodhpur in Rajasthan. Credit: Getty Images)

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The Creation of Modern Canada  

150 years ago three British North American colonies came together to form what was to become the world’s second largest country. To explain how this union came about and who the key players were, Bridget Kendall talks to historians Margaret Macmillan, Phillip Buckner and Sean Kheraj. Photo: The Canadian flag at an ice-hockey game (GETTY IMAGES)

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Childhood: From Toddlers to Teenagers  

Why do humans have such a long period of immaturity? And how have our ideas about childhood changed through the ages and across the world? Bridget Kendall explores some of the key moments and figures in the history of childhood, including Confucian China, Victorian factories and the 'endless childhood' that some young people seem to be living today. Her guests are Alison Gopnik, Professor of Psychology and Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley; Ping-chen Hsiung Professor of History at the Chinese University of Hong Kong; and Hugh Cunningham Professor of Social History at the University of Kent. Photo: a young girl walks through an entrance to a walled garden (BBC)

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Arthur Conan Doyle: The Man Behind Sherlock Holmes  

Since appearing in print in the late nineteenth century, Sherlock Holmes has become one of the world’s most famous detectives, known for solving crime and mystery in London and beyond. But who was the man that made this fictional super-sleuth? And what inspired him to write? Bridget Kendall explores the life and work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - the doctor and literary superstar who embraced both science and the spiritual world - and who changed crime fiction forever. She’s joined by biographer Andrew Lycett and the scholars Catherine Wynne and Stefan Lampadius. Photo: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Getty Images)

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Telling the Time: From Sundials to Satnav  

Many of us can find the time of day quickly and accurately but where did the idea of time keeping originate and how did our ancestors manage without the instant access we take for granted today? From ancient shadow and water clocks to the latest super accurate optical clocks, Bridget Kendal explores time keeping with the Curator of the Royal Observatory in London, Dr Louise Devoy, the Director of the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford, Dr Silke Ackermann and watch and clock expert Grégory Gardinetti from the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie in Geneva. Photo: World Clocks (Credit: EyeWire, Inc.)

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The Bittersweet Tale of Cocoa  

Do you like cocoa? You are in good company: in South and Central America people have been enjoying the fruit of the cacao tree - the source of cocoa, chocolate and much else - for thousands of years. Ancient empires fought battles for the control of the best trees, cacao beans were used as currency, and being able to make a tasty cacao drink could even save your life. To trace the history of cacao in Latin America, Bridget Kendall is joined by archaeologist Cameron McNeil, chef and food historian Maricel Presilla and geneticist and cacao researcher Juan Carlos Motamayor. Photo: A cropped cocoa pod lies over dried cacao beans (Getty Images)

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Taiwan: An Island History  

Perhaps the island of Taiwan makes you think of those familiar "Made in Taiwan" labels on computer and electrical goods but it was nicknamed 'Ilha Formosa' or the 'beautiful island' by the Portuguese in the 1500s. Bridget Kendall explores its rich and surprising history with Emma Teng, Professor of Asian Civilisations at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Dr Jie Yu, Head of China Foresight, focused on Chinese foreign policy, at the London School of Economics and Dr Bi-yu Chang and Dr Dafydd Fell from SOAS (formerly known as the School of Oriental and African Studies) in London. Photo: people celebrate Taiwan' s annual Lantern Festival, which marks the end of the Lunar New Year festivities. (Getty Images)

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Amelia Earhart – Trailblazer in the Skies  

This year is the 80th anniversary of the record-breaking attempt by the US aviator Amelia Earhart to circumnavigate the globe. It was a mission that cost her life, but helped to cement her place in history as one of the most inspirational and celebrated pilots of the 20th century. Bridget Kendall looks back at the life of a pioneering woman determined to break through barriers - with Susan Butler, author of ‘East to the Dawn: The Life of Amelia Earhart’; Dorothy Cochrane, Curator in the Aeronautics Division of the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in Washington; and Susan Ware, author of ‘Still Missing: Amelia Earhart and the Search for Modern Feminism’. Photo: Amelia Earhart in June 1928 (Getty Images)

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How the Metre Changed the World  

Nowdays, if you want to find out how long one metre is, you can use a tape measure or, if you are a scientist, you can calculate the distance that light travels in a vacuum in 1/299 792 458 seconds. But how did we decide on what length a metre should be in the first place? To follow the far-from-straight story of the metre Quentin Cooper is joined by Professor Robert Crease, historian of science at Stonybrook University in the USA; Professor Marc Himbert, Scientific director of the Metrology Laboratory at CNAM in Paris; and Dr. Jahnavi Phalkey, historian of contemporary and twentieth century science and technology at King’s College in London. Photo: Lilian Bourgeat's art creation 'Tape Measure', France 2013 (Getty Images)

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