Alastair Benn

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.

The Ettrick Shepherd stands watch

In my childhood home in Edinburgh, I remember a portrait hanging in the dining room of a dour looking man swathed in a tartan plaid

Crowded out

If, as Tom Holland wrote last week for Engelsberg Ideas, the spectre of the empty metropolis haunts civilisation, then our empty cities are also haunted

The History of Quarantine with Lincoln Paine

On this episode of History Lessons, Mattias Hessérus speaks to the maritime historian Lincoln Paine, author of The Sea and Civilization, about the history of quarantine, how pandemics have affected trade and travel in the past, and whether globalisation can survive the current moment.

The limits of scientism

The mantra ‘following the science’ has become a commonplace of the coronavirus vocabulary. And indeed, social distancing represents a virtually unparalleled opportunity for scientists to

Art, History and Pandemics with Tom Holland

On this, the first episode of History Lessons, Mattias Hessérus speaks to the historian Tom Holland about the relationship between reality and art in the age of a pandemic.

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