Reith Lectures Archive
June 26, 2011 3:49 PM   Subscribe

The Reith Lectures are an annual series of lectures by the BBC, started in 1948 and dedicated to advancing "public understanding of significant issues of the day through high-profile speakers." The BBC have just opened a complete archive of them, both as audio and as transcripts. (previously)

The inaugural lectures were given in 1948 by the philosopher and Nobel laureate, Bertrand Russell. His series, entitled Authority and the Individual, explored the relationship between individuality, community and state control in a progressive society.

However, Lord Reith was not impressed, writing in his diary: "Listened to the first Reith lecture by Bertrand Russell, forsooth. He went far too quickly and has a bad voice. However I wrote him a civil note."
posted by dng (15 comments total) 57 users marked this as a favorite
awesome stuff... link to the podcast archive that you can subscribe to in itunes or the audio player of your choice here.
posted by modernnomad at 4:05 PM on June 26, 2011

Absolutely awesome, to have such an almost infinite and infinitely accessible memory. And yes Russell had a funny nasal voice. Viva BBC.
posted by elpapacito at 4:07 PM on June 26, 2011

I've tried to get access the Reith lectures archive before, and been irritated that the audio wasn't available online. Thanks for the heads up. I plan to work my way through them, although I'll inevitably get stuck somewhere in the 50s.

There are lecture series in this archive from Arnold Toybee, Robert Oppenheimer, John Galbraith, Edward Said, Jeffrey Sachs and Michael Sandel. This year's lectures start tomorrow, and are being presented in turn by Aung San Suu Kyi and the former head of MI5, Eliza Manningham-Buller.
posted by Marlinspike at 4:23 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I had subscribed to last year's lectures via iTunes and just noticed that the first of this year's lectures had recently downloaded. Sweet!
posted by Thorzdad at 4:40 PM on June 26, 2011

Pretty light on the ladies.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:42 PM on June 26, 2011

Michael Sandel's is the only one I've heard. It was great.
posted by Trochanter at 5:29 PM on June 26, 2011

Product of a sexist society, Ideefixe.

Even so ~10% of the lecturers overall are women, while 20% of the lecturers in the last ten years are, so it is improving. Some considerable way to go, obviously.
posted by motty at 6:32 PM on June 26, 2011

Ooh, listening to Galbraith's 1966 lecture now. I've always found Galbraith to be an absolutely compelling speaker on the most dreary economic topics. This lecture doesn't seem to be like that (so far.. ha).
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:00 PM on June 26, 2011


Product of a sexist society, Ideefixe.

Were women prohibited from listening to these lectures?
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:07 PM on June 26, 2011

No, charlie don't surf, just substantially less likely to be selected to give one. As - just look at the list of the last ten years - they still are.
posted by motty at 7:23 PM on June 26, 2011

You're missing my point. These lectures are perfectly egalitarian, in that they educate everyone, men and women. These lectures are part of the remedy for a sexist society, even if they are given primarly by men.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:46 PM on June 26, 2011

If there's evidence for that, cds, you haven't provided it.

I don't doubt for a moment that the Reith lectures are anything but a Good Thing - and on first reading Ideefixe's comment I must confess I was myself briefly tempted to snark something stupid along the lines of 'huh, and 100% of Bertrand Russell's works were written by men you know,' but I thought better of it, because the point made is strong and valid: the selection process for the Reith lectures, from 1948 to the present day, has resulted in the vast majority of them being given by men, and it is a fact worth pointing out.

To this day.

This doesn't mean that the lectures themselves aren't all good and worthwhile; it does mean that here is a list of lecturers to look at and ponder. Will the lectures themselves change the process of lecturer selection, as you suggest? That would be great - but why should they? How, exactly, is any given year's Reith lecturer selected, anyway?

Universities existed for hundreds and hundreds of years before they began to admit women at all, and even then it was a slow process - see eg the history of women at Oxford. The pressure to change did not come from within the universities but from without, for all the wonderful academic work done within.

And so here.
posted by motty at 8:10 PM on June 26, 2011

I didn't say they were the remedy.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:13 PM on June 26, 2011

Pretty light on the ladies.
This years lectures are by Aung San Suu Kyi which are scheduled to be broadcast 28 June and 5 July; and by Eliza Manningham-Buller which will be broadcast in September.
Aung San Suu Kyi was secretly recorded in Burma. Here she briefly explains why she accepted.
posted by adamvasco at 11:50 PM on June 26, 2011

Interesting to try to match the zeitgeist with the lecture.

Does anyone remember why there were no lectures in 1992?
posted by Busy Old Fool at 3:25 AM on June 27, 2011

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