Alastair Benn

In defence of Denethor

For all his qualities as a filmmaker, Peter Jackson’s representation of Denethor shows how he is unable to fuse the genius of Tolkien and the rich sensibility he brought to bear in what he termed ‘the cauldron of story’ – the common weal of imagination that produced the great sagas, Old English epics and folklore – into his own art.

An eighteenth century etching of a group of young men enjoying a game of Pallone col Bracciale.

Real Tennis and the elemental thrill of ball games

All the joy has gone out of modern Tennis, which privileges power and mathematical strategic thinking. It’s time to rediscover what makes ball games so much fun – comedy, lightness and a sense of play.

Painting of King George III of England, (1738-1820), seated on the throne in full regalia.

History Lessons – Andrew Roberts on George III

On the latest edition of History Lessons, Mattias Hessérus is in conversation with historian Andrew Roberts on his mission to repair the reputation of Britain’s most maligned and misunderstood monarch.

Standing atop rubble with retired New York City firefighter Bob Beckwith, President George W Bush rallies firefighters and rescue workers during an impromptu speech at the site of the collapsed World Trade Center.

Worldview – what is the future of the West?

Iain Martin is joined by leading security and international relations experts to discuss the legacy of 9/11, the future of Western-led interventions and the meaning of the NATO exit from Afghanistan. Can the West continue to shape world order or is it being replaced? This episode was recorded on the eve of the twentieth anniversary of 9/11.

Why we make lists

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to endless list-making and tally-counting. History shows us that this is a fundamental human need.

Blinded by the light

Blindness offers a metaphor for the perils of worldly delusion. And the physically blind can sometimes discover new ways of seeing.

The enduring spirit of cricket

Cricket was one of the few sports that was played near-normally this summer – its modern form is a welcome emblem of global connection.

History Lessons – Alexander Lee on Machiavelli

In this episode of History Lessons, Mattias Hessérus is joined by Alexander Lee to discuss Machiavelli’s life and works. Was he always an adept politician? And was he as immoral as is often claimed?

Asian Philosophies of Rebirth with Jessica Frazier

In this episode of History Lessons, Mattias Hesserus and Jessica Frazier are in conversation about the differences between Eastern and Western philosophies of crisis. Is the desire for a return to ’normal’ inherently western? What can we learn from narratives of rebirth? And, was the global lockdown a mass-participation yogic experiment?

That was once upon a time

The folkloric atmosphere suggested by a title like Once Upon a Time in Iraq a landmark documentary on the long catastrophe of Saddam’s atrocities, the US-led

Can the West be revived?

How did the West land in, what we might politely call, a ‘sub-optimal’ position? And is a revival of the West feasible? To discuss these questions Iain Martin is joined by Peter Frankopan and David Frum.

Leadership in a Crisis with Andrew Roberts

On this episode of History Lessons, Mattias Hessérus is joined by the historian and author Andrew Roberts to look through the careers of great figures like Napoleon Bonaparte, Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher (as well as some of history’s great villains, Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin) and see how they handled the pressure of a crisis.

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