Domesticated cats are thought to have started living alongside humans more than 9000 years ago. Unlike dogs, it's believed cats domesticated themselves, entering the homes of early arable farmers in the Fertile Crescent to control the rodent population. Since then, they've been worshipped, vilified and revered by various societies around the world. Today, they are one of the world's most popular pets, living on every continent except Antarctica and a favourite on the internet, and yet, they will never have that image of loyalty that is associated with dogs.
Rajan Datar welcomes three experts in science, culture and archaeology to discuss the history of the domesticated cat: Katharine Rogers - a Professor Emerita of English Literature from City University of New York and author of numerous books including 'Cat' and 'The Cat and the Human Imagination'; Eva-Maria Geigl - an Evolutionary geneticist at the French National Research Institute CNRS; and John Bradshaw - an anthrozoologist from Bristol University, UK, and author of the book 'Cat Sense'.
Photo: Copy of wall painting from private tomb 52 of Nakht, Thebes (I, 1, 99-102) cat eating fish, 20th century
Credit: Ashmolean Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images
Manuela Sáenz: South America’s revolutionary heroine
Manuela Sáenz was an Ecuadorian revolutionary who for many years was most famous for her role as the lover of Simón Bolívar - the Venezuelan military leader who secured independence from Spain for a number of countries in South America between 1819-1830. Sáenz left her British husband for Bolívar, or 'The Liberator' as he was known, and famously saved the leader from an assassination attempt, earning her the name 'Libertadora'. But Sáenz was a political force in her own right, receiving various honours for her work for the revolutionary cause. She continued her involvement in politics right to the end of her life while exiled in Peru, acting as a spy and creating a network of informants.
As many countries in what used to be known as 'Gran Colombia' celebrate 200 years of independence from Spain, Bridget Kendall speaks to three experts about Manuela Sáenz's key role in the independence struggle: Pamela Murray, professor of history at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and author of the biography For Glory and Bolívar: The Remarkable Life of Manuela Sáenz; Matthew Brown, professor in Latin American history at the University of Bristol, UK; and Marcela Echeverri, associate professor at Yale University's Department of History in the United States.
(Photo: Portrait of Manuela Sáenz in 1825 by Pedro Durante. Credit: Museo Nacional de Arqueología, Antropología e Historia del Perú)
Electric telegraph: the first worldwide web
The invention of the electric telegraph in the mid-19th century brought about a revolution in human communication that some argue rivals the printing press and the internet. Suddenly the ‘tyranny of distance’ could be overcome – messages that once might have taken days or even weeks to arrive could be sent almost instantly using Morse code signals. Soon wires reached across continents and under oceans, connecting the world as never before, and radically changing areas such as commerce, diplomacy, journalism and warfare forever.
Bridget Kendall discusses the telegraph’s extraordinary impact with Roland Wenzlhuemer, Professor of Modern History at the University of Munich; Bruce J Hunt, Professor of History at the University of Texas; and Gillian Cookson, Historian of Engineering and Research Fellow at the University of Leeds.
Photo: Old-fashioned telegraph pole in Rhineland, Germany
The history of opium
Made from the simple juice of the poppy, opium is arguably the oldest and most widely used drug in the world. Since prehistoric times it has been used to relieve physical pain and quieten troubled minds. It has enabled medical breakthroughs, and inspired some of the greatest Romantic poets and composers. But opium, and its later derivatives morphine and heroin, has also brought addiction and untold misery and death, destroyed families, and corrupted entire countries. Its trade has provoked wars, and is still making global headlines today, from its production in Afghanistan to the opioid crisis in the United States.
Bridget Kendall explores opium’s long and complex history with Doris Buddenberg, former head of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Afghanistan, and curator of a recent exhibition on opium; Zhou Xun, Reader of Modern History at the University of Essex; and Mike Jay, author and cultural historian, whose books on the history of drug use include ‘High Society’.
Image: Opium poppy flower
Credit: yamatao/Getty Images
Albert Camus: Embracing life’s absurdity
‘There is no sun without shadows, and it is essential to know the night,’ the words of Albert Camus, a writer whose exploration of the absurd nature of the human condition made him a literary and intellectual icon. Camus was born in Algeria but is celebrated in France as one of its great twentieth-century novelists and philosophers. His first publishing success, The Stranger, focused on the absurdity of existence but in his later works, including The Plague and The Rebel, he developed his thoughts on the human instinct to revolt.
But who was Albert Camus? How far were his ideas shaped by his Algerian upbringing and by the turbulent political times he lived through in the 1940s and '50s? Bridget Kendall explores these questions with three Camus experts: Nabil Boudraa, Algerian professor of French and Francophone Studies at Oregon State University, Eve Morisi, professor of French at Oxford University and Samantha Novello, research fellow in Political Philosophy at Verona University.
(Photo: Albert Camus Credit: Kurt Hutton/Getty Images)