Weekly discussion programme, setting the cultural agenda every Monday


  • Nature notes, from farming to fungi

    Nature notes, from farming to fungi

    31/08/2020 Duración: 42min

    The first episode of the new season. Andrew Marr and guests stop to consider the natural world and the changing seasons. When James Rebanks first learnt to work the land, at his grandfather's side, the family’s Lake District farm was a key part of the ancient landscape and was teeming with wildlife. By the time he inherited the farm, that landscape had profoundly changed. In English Pastoral, his follow-up to best-seller The Shepherd’s Life, Rebanks assesses the revolutionary post-war farming methods - and the unintended destruction they caused. He looks at what can be done to restore rich soil and flourishing fields. Since the start of the pandemic, novelist and nature writer Melissa Harrison has been documenting the wonder of the natural world, bringing the sights and sounds of her Suffolk countryside to homes all around the country. In her podcast The Stubborn Light of Things she plays close attention to what’s happening on her doorstep, from the arrival and departure of the swifts, to the bloom of th

  • Brit Bennett on race, identity and protest

    Brit Bennett on race, identity and protest

    29/06/2020 Duración: 28min

    Tom Sutcliffe discusses racism, the traps of history and the Black Lives Matter movement with the American author Brit Bennett and the British academic Gary Younge. Racial identity, bigotry and shape-shifting are at the centre of Brit Bennett’s new book, The Vanishing Half. The novel focuses on twin sisters who flee the confines of their southern small town, and the attempts by one of the sisters to escape her background completely by passing as white. The social unrest in the US in the 20th century pervades her latest work, but Bennett is hopeful that today’s protests mark the beginning of real change. Gary Younge lived in the US for 12 years working as a journalist, before he returned home and became Professor of Sociology at Manchester University. He discounts the attempts by some in Britain to claim moral superiority over America in terms of racism. He argues that Britain’s colonial past meant the most egregious racist acts often took place abroad, and so rarely became an integral part of the country’

  • James Joyce

    James Joyce

    15/06/2020 Duración: 28min

    James Joyce’s Ulysses is considered one of the most important works of modernist literature. It is both celebrated and commemorated annually on the 16th June – Bloomsday – the day on which the novel is set. The traditional celebrations held in Dublin since the 1950s have been curtailed this year because of COVID-19, but Andrew Marr discusses the legacy of Joyce with the writers Edna O'Brien, Colm Tóibín and Mary Costello. Edna O’Brien first encountered Joyce’s work in the 1950s, and his writings of ‘the rough and tumble of everyday life’ spurred her extraordinary writing career. She has written a biography of Joyce, and her portrait of his marriage, James and Nora, has just been reissued. Colm Tóibín encounters the spirit of Joyce and his creation, Leopold Bloom, constantly as he walks the streets of Dublin. In his collection of essays, Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know, he looks at Joyce in relation to the writer's father. Mary Costello is a self-confessed Joyce obsessive. In her latest novel, The River Capt

  • Our coercive politics

    Our coercive politics

    08/06/2020 Duración: 27min

    The Coronavirus pandemic and ongoing protests in America have shone a spotlight on the power of the modern State. In Britain we find ourselves locked in our homes, following government instruction; and yet the authority for that coercion comes from the consent we give. This doubleness was captured by Thomas Hobbes in his political text, Leviathan, and it is the starting point for political scientist David Runciman's popular lockdown podcast on politics: the History of Ideas. He tells Amol Rajan how Hobbes, Gandhi and Frantz Fanon could help us understand our uneasy times. Humiliation is one way in which governments and authorities can make us do their bidding. And it also something we now do to each other in the court of public opinion, argues German historian Ute Frevert. In her new book, The Politics of Humiliation, she looks at how humiliation has been used to persuade and to control, everywhere from international diplomacy to British boarding schools. And she explains why the sight of someone taking to t

  • The Future

    The Future

    01/06/2020 Duración: 28min

    ‘The future is a foreign country; they do things differently there’ – to misquote LP Hartley. Andrew Marr talks to Riel Miller, an economist at UNESCO, about the difficulties of understanding and predicting what happens in the future. Miller argues that individuals, institutions and governments fail to grasp its profound unpredictability, where the only certainty is radical change. He’s calling for a programme of future literacy, designed to challenge present complacency and improve preparedness for what’s on the horizon. But given what we know about the world today, and what we can guess about the future, is it okay to have a child? That is the question posed by Meehan Crist, writer-in-residence in Biological Sciences at Columbia University. She tracks the resurgence of Malthus and his powerful, terrifying idea that if the global population grows too large, we are all doomed. Crist unpicks the argument that responsibility for stopping climate change and safeguarding the future rests solely with the individ

  • Classics and class

    Classics and class

    25/05/2020 Duración: 28min

    The classics have never been solely the preserve of the British intellectual elite, according to the classicist Edith Hall. In A People’s History of Classics, Hall and her co-writer Henry Stead examine the working class experience of classical culture from the Bill of Rights in 1689 to the outbreak of World War II. This history challenges assumptions about the elitism surrounding the study of ancient Greeks and Romans, and Hall hopes it will expand the debate around the future of classical education for all. An understanding of the classics could also help people reinvigorate cynicism: from the jaded negativity of today, back to its initial idea of fearless speech. In his latest book, Ansgar Allen, returns to the Greek Cynics of the 4th century BCE, a small band of eccentrics who practised an improvised philosophy that challenged all social norms and scandalised their contemporaries. In the centuries that followed this exacting philosophy was hugely watered down. Today’s cynics, who lack social and political

  • Richard Ford, writing from the edges

    Richard Ford, writing from the edges

    18/05/2020 Duración: 28min

    The prize winning writer Richard Ford talks to Andrew Marr about his latest collection of short stories, Sorry for Your Trouble. Irish America is Ford’s landscape, and his characters contemplate ageing, grief, love and marriage: ‘great moments in small lives’. Ford was born in Jackson, Mississippi and has spent many years living in New Orleans – his characters, like himself, live far from the political centre of America. Professor of 19th Century Literature and Thought, Ruth Livesey, is also interested in life away from the centre in her study of provincialism in Britain. Condescension towards small town life can be traced back to the Victorian period. But the writer George Eliot, who spent her early life in Nuneaton in the Midlands, argued that ‘‘art had a responsibility to show a provincial life could be just as full of insight and moral courage as one on the great world stage.’ Producer: Katy Hickman

  • Art in an emergency

    Art in an emergency

    11/05/2020 Duración: 28min

    The writer Olivia Laing has long used art to make sense of the world. Over the last five years she has written a series of essays using art and artists to understand different political crises and emergencies around the globe. She tells Tom Sutcliffe how art can help to change the way people see the world, and how it can be a force for resistance and repair. In a new collection , Funny Weather, Laing presents her own idiosyncratic guide to staying sane during the current coronavirus pandemic. The novelist James Meek set his last book, To Calais, In Ordinary Times, in 1348 as the Black Death swept into England from Northern Europe. In his medieval universe, aspects of society that had once appeared fixed and natural – faith, class and gender – are upended and challenged, as the plague destroys more than just lives. Meek looks to see if such cataclysmic moments of human history have any lessons for us today. Producer: Katy Hickman

  • Globalisation


    04/05/2020 Duración: 28min

    Andrew Marr discusses the origins and growth of globalisation, and the impact of the coronavirus on the global world order with Valerie Hansen and Gideon Rachman. In her latest book, The Year 1000, the historian Valerie Hansen challenges the idea that globalisation began in 1492, the year Columbus discovered America. She argues that it was 500 years earlier when for the first time new trade routes linked the entire globe. New archaeological finds show how goods and people travelled far and wide from this earlier period, marking the beginning of an era of exploration, trade and exploitation. The last 500 years or more has seen an explosion in global interactions, with a huge growth in multi-national companies, as well as international trade, ideas and culture. But the economist Gideon Rachman says today’s worldwide pandemic has seen the nation state making a comeback. The emergency has revealed the fragility of global supply chains and increased demand for local production and tougher border controls. Rach

  • Changing behaviour, from bystander to actor

    Changing behaviour, from bystander to actor

    27/04/2020 Duración: 28min

    Why do some people get involved while others stand by looking on? What makes people act for the sake of others? Kirsty Wark discusses the psychology of behaviour with Catherine Sanderson and David Halpern. In the Bystander Effect, Catherine Sanderson argues that the question of why some people act badly while others are heroic is not simply about good and bad. Our brains are hard-wired to conform and to avoid social embarrassment. But there are practical measures that can help create a sense of personal responsibility, turning a silent bystander into a model of action. The psychologist David Halpern is also interested in how to change behaviour. He is advising the UK Government on its response to the coronavirus pandemic, focusing on how to get the public to adopt new social norms, including increased hand-washing and social distancing. Halpern is the Chief Executive of the Behavioural Insights Team, unofficially known as The Nudge Unit. Producer: Katy Hickman

  • Crisis in Europe from Notre-Dame to coronavirus

    Crisis in Europe from Notre-Dame to coronavirus

    20/04/2020 Duración: 28min

    A year ago French people looked on with horror as the great Notre-Dame went up in flames. The journalist Agnès Poirier tells Andrew Marr that the cathedral with its 800 year history represents the soul of the nation. Even before the fire was out President Macron was promising that it would be rebuilt. But in Notre-Dame: The Soul of France, Poirier recounts how its current reconstruction has been mired in controversy – political, social, artistic and religious. Poirier also looks at how the French government and people have reacted to the coronavirus pandemic. In Hungary, Viktor Orban’s government has been voted sweeping new powers to rule by decree for an indefinite period, to deal with the coronavirus crisis. The academic Martyn Rady is keeping a keen eye on how different countries in Central Europe respond. He argues that the region has been shaped by the formidable power and influence of the Habsburg dynasty. In his latest book, The Habsburgs: The Rise and Fall of a World Power, Rady shows how from modest

  • Nature worship

    Nature worship

    13/04/2020 Duración: 41min

    On Easter Monday, Andrew Marr talks to the psychiatrist and keen gardener Sue Stuart-Smith on our love for nature. In The Well-Gardened Mind: Rediscovering Nature in the Modern World, she blends neuroscience, psychoanalysis and real-life stories. She reveals the remarkable effects that gardens and the great outdoors can have on us. William Wordsworth was the great poet of the British countryside, celebrated for his descriptions of daffodils and the passing of the river above Tintern Abbey. But in a new biography, Radical Wordsworth: The Poet Who Changed the World, Sir Jonathan Bate shows how Wordsworth also made nature something challenging and even terrifying. The poet drew on shocking revolutionary ideas from the continent, including pantheistic atheism: the worship of nature. Producer: Hannah Sander

  • The genetic gender gap

    The genetic gender gap

    06/04/2020 Duración: 42min

    Women are faring better than men in the coronavirus pandemic because of their genetic superiority, according to the physician Sharon Moalem. He tells Kirsty Wark that women live longer than men and have stronger immune systems because they have two x chromosomes to choose from. In his book, The Better Half, Moalem calls for better understanding of the genetic gender gap and for a change to the male-centric, one-size-fits-all view of medical studies. But if women have greater advantage genetically, where did the prevailing idea of fragile female biology come from? In The Gendered Brain the cognitive neuroscientist Gina Rippon traces the ideas of women’s physical inferiority to the 18th century, and later to the brain science of the 19th century. Even after the development of new brain-imaging technologies showed how similar brains are, the idea of the ‘male’ and ‘female’ brain has remained remarkably persistent. Producer: Katy Hickman

  • Rebuilding conservatism in changing times

    Rebuilding conservatism in changing times

    30/03/2020 Duración: 41min

    Nick Timothy was once described as the ‘toxic’ power behind Theresa May’s early leadership. He talks to Amol Rajan about his experience in frontline government. In his new book, Remaking One Nation, he calls for the rebuilding of a more inclusive conservatism and the rejection of both extreme economic and cultural liberalism. As the Covid-19 pandemic forces the government to take more extreme measures, Timothy argues for a new social contract between the state, big companies and local communities. In recent decades politicians have had to deal with what appears to be an extreme pace of change – in new technology, global markets and increased automation. The Great Acceleration, as it’s been called, has left many communities feeling left behind. But in his forthcoming book, Slowdown, Professor Danny Dorling argues that there's actually been a widespread check on growth and speed of change. He sees this as a moment of promise and a move toward stability. But that stability may be short-lived as the fall out

  • Famous and Infamous

    Famous and Infamous

    23/03/2020 Duración: 41min

    We think of our era as the age of celebrity. Billions of people follow the daily antics of the Kardashian family or the latest pop superstar. But celebrity obsession is centuries old, argues Horrible Histories writer Greg Jenner. He tells Tom Sutcliffe why we are captivated by famous - and infamous - figures, from the scandalous Lord Byron to the unwitting civilians who are hounded by paparazzi today. The Italian Renaissance gave us the world's most famous images: the Mona Lisa, Botticelli's Venus and Michelangelo's David. But Catherine Fletcher argues that this era was far stranger, darker and more violent than we may realise. The real Mona Lisa was married to a slave-trader, and Leonardo da Vinci was revered for his weapon designs. The artist Aubrey Beardsley shocked and delighted Victorian London with his drawings. A new exhibition at the Tate Britain, curated by Caroline Corbeau-Parsons, shows the range of Beardsley's black-and-white images. Some are magical, humorous, some sexual and grotesque; and t

  • Cultural icons from Shakespeare to Superman

    Cultural icons from Shakespeare to Superman

    16/03/2020 Duración: 42min

    Shakespeare has always been central to the American experience, argues the leading scholar James Shapiro. He tells Tom Sutcliffe how Shakespeare has been invoked – and at times weaponised – at pivotal moments in the history of America, from Revolutionary times to today’s divisionary politics. The film critic Mark Kermode celebrates another global phenomenon: cinematic superheroes. The genre stretches back more than eight decades and taps deeply into timeless themes and storytelling traditions. Kermode also shows how spy-heroes such as Bond have shaped our political identity. For the poet Don Paterson, the classic television series The Twilight Zone was the starting point for his latest collection. Elements of horror, science fiction and fantasy provide a backdrop to his exploration of the mid-life crisis. The political theorist Teresa Bejan returns to the world of Shakespeare to explore what appears to be the most modern of dilemmas: Twitter spats and put-downs. Seventeenth-century thinkers understood ther

  • Morality, money and power

    Morality, money and power

    09/03/2020 Duración: 42min

    Morality has been outsourced to the markets and the state, argues the former Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks. He tells Andrew Marr that society has become deeply divided, and that today’s challenges will never be met until we remember the importance of personal morality and responsibility. But this does not mean self-care, self-love and selfies - instead Sacks says we should focus on communities and caring for others. For a decade Mervyn King was the most influential banker in Britain as Head of the Bank of England. In 2008 he oversaw the worst financial and economic crisis since the Great Depression. In his new book, King looks back at his career, exploring the difference between risk and uncertainty. He suggests ways to make decisions for an unknowable future. If you wanted a decision from David Cameron during his time as Prime Minister you would have had to go through ‘the gatekeeper’, Kate Fall. In her memoir of her time at the centre of political power, Fall recalls the highs and lows of working at No. 1

  • Hilary Mantel

    Hilary Mantel

    02/03/2020 Duración: 42min

    Hilary Mantel is the two-time winner of the Man Booker prize. In a special edition of Start the Week with Andrew Marr, she discusses the final book in her Cromwell trilogy. The Mirror and The Light shows 16th-century England beset by rebellion at home, traitors abroad and Henry VIII still desperate for a male heir. In the centre sits Thomas Cromwell, a man who came from nowhere and has climbed to the very heights of power. His vision is an England of the future, but it is the past and the present mood of the King that will prove his downfall. Reader: Ben Miles Photograph: Jeff Overs Producer: Katy Hickman

  • Leila Slimani on Sexual Politics

    Leila Slimani on Sexual Politics

    24/02/2020 Duración: 41min

    Leila Slimani is the first Moroccan woman to win France’s most prestigious literary prize, the Prix Goncourt. From stories of poverty, exploitation and sexual addiction she now turns her attention to sexual politics within a deeply conservative culture. She tells Amol Rajan why she wanted to give voice to young Moroccan women suffocating under the strictures of a society which allowed them only two roles: virgin or wife. The writer Olivia Fane questions whether liberal society is really that liberating. In ‘Why Sex Doesn’t Matter’ she argues that women have been sold the idea of sexual freedom, but that this has curtailed the way people think about love and desire. The journalist Sally Howard asks why, after forty years of feminism, women still do the majority of the housework. While straight British women are found to put in 12 more days of household chores than their male partners, in the US young men are now twice as likely as their fathers to think a woman’s place is in the home. But it’s not just wom

  • Love of home

    Love of home

    17/02/2020 Duración: 42min

    Dan Jackson celebrates the distinctiveness of north-east England. He tells Andrew Marr how centuries of border warfare and dangerous industry has forged a unique people in Northumberland. With recent changes in political allegiance in towns and countryside across the region, Jackson questions whether the area can reassert itself after decades of industrial decline, indifference from the south, and resurgence north of the border. The economist Colin Mayer is looking at how to harness the power of patriotism and regional pride to revitalise areas like the North East. He sees a much greater role for the private sector in fostering community cohesion. But patriotism can be a dangerous force in disputed and diverse areas. Kapka Kassabova travels to two of the world’s most ancient lakes set in the borderlands of North Macedonia, Albania and Greece. This ancient meeting place in the southern Balkans has its own unique history of people living in harmony, and then erupting into catastrophic violence. We live in a

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