How cultured are animals? It’s a question the marine biologist Karsten Brensing explores as he studies dolphins calling one another by name, ducklings scoring well in abstract reasoning, and the loyalty, forgiveness and empathy that are becoming apparent in the animal kingdom. He tells Andrew Marr that the latest scientific findings reveal animals with behaviour and cognitive sophistication very similar to our own.
The intricate lives of animals and birds plus their spectacular habitats are on television screens this autumn with the BBC’s series Seven Worlds, One Planet. In a forthcoming episode the producer Emma Napper shows how species isolated on Australia have evolved like nowhere else on Earth: from the most dangerous bird in the word, the cassowary, to desert reptiles that drink through their skin.
Although concern for animals has been expressed since ancient times, it was only in the early 19th century that the first laws protecting animals were passed. The historian Diana Donald looks back at the chequered past of animal welfare, and the pioneering woman who helped bring about change. While cattle and domestic animals were protected under laws in 1822 and 1835, it took decades until wild animals were included.
Rhinos were once found throughout Eurasia and Africa, but now three of the five rhino species face extinction unless drastic action is taken to counter poaching and habitat loss. This has led scientists, including Professor Fritz Vollrath of Oxford University, to come up with the ingenious invention of fake rhino horn. Using horse hair and regenerated silk the fabricated horn is almost indistinguishable with the real thing, and could be used to undermine the market in rhino horn.
Producer: Katy Hickman
Nobel Prize winner Esther Duflo
Esther Duflo was awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics this autumn for her work in the developing world. In her latest book, Good Economics for Hard Times, the French economist turns her attention to the thorniest issues of our time, from global immigration to climate change. She tells Tom Sutcliffe how the lessons from the world's poorest countries can be applied to Western economies, and why we should be wary of complacency.
One of the worst economic crises imaginable struck Weimar Germany in the 1920s. Hyperinflation led to prices in 1923 that were astonishingly a billion times higher than they had been in 1914. But historian Richard J Evans explains that the chaos and suffering caused by sky-high prices did not affect all Germans equally. The middle classes saw their mortgages and rent fall to practically nothing, while many businesses expanded rapidly. Evans explores the fracturing of society that followed this hardest of times.
The Booker prize-winning author Julian Barnes looks back at France’s Belle Epoque, an era known for luscious Renoir and Monet paintings, for flamboyant nights at the Moulin Rouge, and for widespread glamour and wealth. In The Man in the Red Coat, Barnes looks beneath the surface of this glittering era, and instead finds rampant prejudice, nativism, hysteria and violence. He depicts an era of enormous social change, with striking parallels to our own time.
Producer: Hannah Sander.
The artist - warts and all
“The painter must give a completely free rein to any feeling or sensations he may have.” So said the celebrated artist Lucian Freud. His biographer William Feaver tells Andrew Marr how Freud’s work revealed not only something about the subject of the painting, but also what the artist was feeling. The two are combined in a new exhibition of Freud’s self-portraits in which the painter turns his unflinching eye on himself.
In 2006 the artist Humphrey Ocean started making a series of portraits of visitors to his studio. Using simple forms and bold colours the painter illuminated something unique about each person. Ocean is the RA Schools’ Professor of Perspective and his work details his observations of everyday life.
The underbelly of everyday life in the 18th century is very much in evidence in William Hogarth’s work. As an exhibition at Sir John Soane’s Museum brings together all Hogarth’s painted series for the first time, the art critic Kate Grandjouan explains what he reveals about people from all strata of society, in a London devoid of morality.
Producer: Katy Hickman
Breaking bread together
Hospitality and hostility come from a common root, according to the writer Priya Basil. In her latest book, Be My Guest, she explores the diverse meaning of the Indo-European word ‘ghos-ti’ which combines host, guest and stranger. She tells Kirsty Wark how breaking bread together is a way of breaking down barriers.
Shamil Thakrar is the co-founder of the award-winning restaurant chain, Dishoom. He traces the roots of the restaurant’s success, looking back to the sights, sounds and tastes of the much-loved cosmopolitan Bombay of his childhood.
While Thakrar’s father and uncle established the food company, Tilda Rice, when they arrived in London in the 1970s, Thomas Harding’s relatives came to Britain in the early 1800s and went on to create the largest catering company in the world: J. Lyons. In Legacy, Harding, looks at how Lyons tea rooms became a fixture on every high street in the country, transforming the way we eat and drink, and democratising eating out.
Lyons pioneered different processed foods, from coffee to ice cream. Food writer Joanna Blythman sees processed food as the biggest peril to our health today. She worries that in the rush to adopt a plant-based diet, we will swap nutritious red meat for meat substitutes full of gum and other additives. Blythman also challenges the idea that only by giving up meat can we save our planet from climate change,
Producer: Katy Hickman
The writer Fatima Bhutto celebrates the new global popular culture emerging from the East. She tells Andrew Marr that the West’s soft power dominance is on the wane as K-Pop, Dizi and Bollywood take the world by storm.
The Korean artist Nam June Paik was among the first to foresee the importance of mass media and new technologies, coining the phrase ‘electronic superhighway’. Sook-Kyung Lee is co-curating a global tour of his work, starting at Tate Modern.
A new play, Museum in Baghdad, brings together the stories of its British founder Gertrude Bell in 1926 with Ghalia Hussein’s attempts to reopen it in 2006 after looting during the war. The RSC director Erica Whyman says the play questions the role of culture in helping to create a nation.
And the writer John Burnside turns to the poets of the 20th century to give voice to an alternative cultural history of the time. He draws on the work of poets, both renowned and unjustly obscure, to give shape and meaning to the world.
Producer: Katy Hickman
Picture credit: Tate