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The Forum

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The Forum


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  • Laskarina Bouboulina, the mother of modern Greece
    The 1821 Greek war for independence from the Ottoman empire became an inspiration for people all over Europe who wanted to dismantle the old multi-ethnic empires. But it is less well known that a number of women played key roles in the uprising. In this programme, Bridget Kendall and guests focus on Laskarina Bouboulina, perhaps the best known of Greek women freedom fighters. For the last two centuries, Bouboulina's deeds as as a brave sea captain and a generous financier of the uprising have enthralled people in Greece and elsewhere but how many of these stories are based in fact? And what is the significance of Bouboulina today? To find out Bridget is joined by: Dr. Margarite Poulos, a historian of modern Greece from Western Sydney University whose book Arms and the Woman surveys the role of Greek women in the country's military struggles; Dr. April Kalogeropoulos Householder from University of Maryland, Baltimore County, who has not only written about Laskarina Bouboulina but also made a documentary film about her; and Pavlos Demertzis-Bouboulis, who is a descendant of Bouboulina as well as the director of a museum dedicated to her on the island of Spetses. [Image: Portrait of Laskarina Bouboulina, 1830, by Adam Friedel. From the collection of Bouboulina Museum, Spetses. Credit: Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images]
  • Mary Somerville: The queen of 19th-Century science
    For someone who was largely self-taught, Mary Somerville's rise to renown in the male-dominated world of science was quite remarkable. Although women were barred from being members of the learned societies where knowledge was shared in the early 19th-Century, Somerville found alternative ways to become one of the most respected figures in maths and science of her day. Scottish-born Somerville played a crucial role in communicating the latest findings in science through a series of successful books. She regretted never making any original discoveries herself however, so does her experience suggest we should re-evaluate the role of originality in science? Bridget Kendall is joined by Jim Secord, emeritus professor of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge, who has edited the works of Mary Somerville; Dr Brigitte Stenhouse, lecturer in the History of Mathematics at the University of Oxford whose doctoral thesis looked at the mathematical work of Mary Somerville; and Ruth Boreham, former project curator at the National Library of Scotland, who is writing a biography of Mary Somerville. Producer: Fiona Clampin (Photo: Royal Bank of Scotland £10 note featuring Mary Somerville)
  • The Malayan Emergency
    One of the earliest Cold War conflicts was a 12-year guerrilla war commonly known as the Malayan Emergency and fought from 1948 in the jungles of what is now Malaysia. This communist insurgency was fuelled not only by ideology but also by the desire for Malayan independence from British colonial rule. There have been a number of books and documentaries devoted to the subject but relatively few in English capture the experiences of the Chinese community in Malaya that was at the centre of the Emergency. Rajan Datar is joined by three guests, all with family links to the Emergency: Sim Chi Yin, a photographer and artist from Singapore whose book She Never Rode that Trishaw Again tells the story of her grandmother widowed during the war in Malaya; Show Ying Xin, a postdoctoral fellow at the at the Australian National University’s Malaysia Institute in Canberra; and Rachel Leow, Associate Professor in Modern East Asian History at the University of Cambridge and author of Taming Babel: Language in the Making of Malaysia. [Photo: Malayan police officers keeping watch from the Pengkalan police station in 1950. Credit: Haywood Magee/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images]
  • The Devils: Dostoevsky’s novel of political evil
    The Devils, The Possessed, or Demons, as it’s also known in translation, is Fyodor Dostoevsky’s most political novel but it’s also his bleakest and funniest. It’s a hundred and fifty years since its publication and two hundred years since its author’s birth. The novel tells the story of a group of young revolutionaries who run riot in a small provincial town in Russia, all under the indulgent eye of their elders, the liberal and progressively minded elite. It is a grim prophecy of totalitarian rule in the 20th century in what is a penetrating psychological study of the human consequences of extreme philosophical ideas. Joining Bridget Kendall to discuss Dostoevsky and his novel The Devils or Demons, is Tatyana Kovalevskaya, Professor at the Russian State University for the Humanities in Moscow and the author of the bilingual edition Fyodor Dostoevsky on the Dignity of the Human Person; Carol Apollonio, Professor of the Practice of Slavic and Eurasian Studies at Duke University in the United States and President of the International Dostoevsky Society; and Dr Sarah Hudspith, Associate Professor in Russian at the University of Leeds, and author of Dostoevsky and the idea of Russianness. Produced by Anne Khazam for the BBC World Service. [Image: A production of The Devils staged at the Union Theatre, London. Credit: Stagephoto (Perri Snowdon as Stavrogin), Matt Link (Tara Quinn as the little girl Matryoshka). Design by Spiff]
  • A focus on spectacles
    If you had to name the innovations that have transformed human civilisation, you might suggest the printing press or the Internet, but the humble pair of spectacles has also revolutionised the way many of us experience the world. It's said that an astonishing three quarters of those in the US use glasses or contact lenses to correct their vision. And the World Health Organisation estimates that more than a billion people in low-and-middle income countries are living with sight problems that could be corrected by the right pair of specs. But how and when were glasses first invented? What impact have they had on societal development? And what are some of the ways we've stigmatised, or even elevated, people who wear them? Joining Rajan Datar to explore the history of spectacles are Travis Elborough, a historian of popular culture from the UK. He’s recently published a book called Through The Looking Glasses: The Spectacular Life of Spectacles; Stefana Sabin, a German literary scholar and the author of In The Blink of an Eye – A Cultural History of Spectacles – which has just been translated into English; and Professor Kovin Naidoo, Senior Vice President in social impact at the French-based optics company, Essilor. He’s also former CEO of the Brien Holden Vision Institute. He originally trained as an optometrist in his native South Africa. [Image: Hugh of Saint-Cher, 1351-1352. Found in the Collection of Chiesa di San Nicolò, Treviso; Credit: Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images]

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