The History Of The Future

show more detailshow less detail

Episodes

SeriesEpisodeTitleFirst
Broadcast
RepeatedComments
01The Oracle Of Delphi2012091020151228 (BBC7)
20151229 (BBC7)

Juliet Gardiner on the Oracle of Delphi, where Ancient Greeks went to hear their future.

Juliet Gardiner begins her journey into the History of the Future with a look at the Oracle of Delphi, the place where the Ancient Greeks went to consult the Oracle and hear what the future held for them.

Juliet argues that a history of the future is really a history of anxiety, and begins her excavation of how the futurologists of their day foretold what was to come, and what these visions says about the pre-occupations of the time. How different were prophesies about the future at different points in history? What can ideas about the future tell us about the past?

People seek reassurance about the future, but that desire is rooted in their understanding of the present, with its specific predicaments, and it is these particularities that Juliet will be unearthing. Whose master plan does the future represent? Is it determined by God, or gods, or does man have the power to change what might seem predetermined?

This series of ten programmes will range from the Apocalyptic visions found in the New Testament Book of Revelation, to the enigmatic prophesies of Nostradamus in 16th century France to the science fiction dystopias of HG Wells and George Orwell. In 5th Century BC Greece, the god Apollo and his Oracle at Delphi was central to the idea of the future. In a fragmented society made up of warring City States with no over-arching authority people flocked to the Oracle to see what the future held. The Priestess through whom the god Apollo would speak would greet a questioner seated on a tripod in an underground chamber chewing bay leaves and surrounded by the intoxicating vapours which escaped through the fault line in the earth on which the Temple was built. Juliet speaks to classicists Nick Lowe and Hugh Bowden, and visits a tarot card reader on Brighton Pier.

Produced by Victoria Shepherd

A Juniper Production for BBC Radio 4.

02The Druids2012091120151229 (BBC7)
20151230 (BBC7)

Juliet Gardiner continues her journey back to the History of the Future with a look into the society of the Druids and their beliefs about the future.

Druids held a crucial role in Britain, Ireland and Gaul until the first Century AD. Very little evidence of their mysterious culture remains and we might think of them now as the Roman writers portrayed them, wearing white robes and wreaths of mistletoe and oak leaves, making animal, even human sacrifices. One thing is for certain: their powers of prophesy were the sources of awe, fear and political threat to the conquering Romans who saw them as an alternative power base. The Druids are said to have predicted the Fall of the Roman Empire. Was this political expediency or something more mysterious? Juliet sees ancient spoons which may have been used by the Druids in divination ceremonies.

Produced by Victoria Shepherd

A Juniper Production for BBC Radio 4.

Juliet Gardiner looks into the mysterious divining ceremonies of the Druids.

03The Book Of Revelation2012091220151230 (BBC7)
20151231 (BBC7)

Juliet Gardiner on the Book of Revelation with its apocalyptic visions of divine judgement

Juliet Gardiner continues her look back into the History of the Future with the apocalyptic visions of Divine Judgement in the Book of Revelation.

There is some dispute about its authorship but it is generally believed that the Revelations of Jesus Christ were communicated to a mystic, John, while in exile on the island of Patmos off the coast of Turkey. John wrote them down around AD 95 and some interpret the Book of Revelation as unveiling events that will take place in the future, when Satan will be cast out and the Second Coming will bring about paradise on earth, others see it as an allegory of the struggle between good and evil.

Juliet views the Douse Manuscript, a dazzling 15th century illuminated Book of Revelation from a period when there was a flowering of interest in this vision of future, with its images of beasts, fires and plagues. Why did the Book's predictions become so pertinent at this particular time? Was this connected to anxieties and political aspirations of the Crusades? Juliet speaks to Professor of Early Modern ideas, Justin Champion.

Produced by Victoria Shepherd

A Juniper Production for BBC Radio 4.

04Nostradamus2012091320151231 (BBC7)
20160101 (BBC7)

Juliet Gardiner looks at the most famous futurologist of them all, Nostradamus.

Juliet Gardiner continues her History of the Future with a look into the world of the most famous futurologist of them all, Nostradamus. Nostradamus's name is synonymous with prediction and his poetic quatrains have not been out of print since they were first published in France in 1555.

The prophesies were an instant bestseller all across Europe and struck a chord in London too. Widespread fear in France of invasion by the Ottoman Empire made his prophesies with their reference to the Anti-Christ seem urgent and people were drawn to the predictions for clues to how to act in a war-torn present. Five hundred years later people still consult the almanacs of Nostradamus and find in its pages predictions that seem to have foreseen major current events, the most famous of which was the attack on the World Trade Centre on 9/11.

The prophesies are enigmatic, poetically vague and ripe for interpretation, but what is striking is that Nostradamus's words can represent the anxieties of the time in which they were written, and ours today. Juliet speaks to Nostradamus experts Peter Lemesurier and Mario Reading.

Produced by Victoria Shepherd

A Juniper Production for BBC Radio 4.

05Leonardo Da Vinci2012091420160101 (BBC7)
20160102 (BBC7)

Juliet Gardiner looks at Leonardo da Vinci, a man both of his time and ahead of his time.

Juliet Gardiner continues her History of the Future with a look at the designs of Renaissance Man Leonardo da Vinci. Juliet views his designs for warfare which seem to prefigure the modern tank and helicopter, and tries to understand how the culture of 15th century Florence with its political and religious turmoil as well as artistic flowering spoke to Leonardo's vision of the future. Many of Leonardo's inventions were astonishingly ahead of their time, but he is also a man firmly of his time, a time in which God, and the Revelation of the judgement of the Apocalypse depicted on the roof of the Baptistry would determine the end times for all. Juliet speaks to Evelyn Welch and Martin Kemp.

Produced by Victoria Shepherd

A Juniper Production for BBC Radio 4.

06Malthus2012091720160104 (BBC7)
20160105 (BBC7)

Juliet Gardiner considers the 18th century economist's warnings about population growth.

Juliet Gardiner continues her History of the Future with a look at the predictions of the clergyman and economist, Thomas Robert Malthus.

This late-18th century vision of the future came from an urgent problem Malthus identified, which threatened the future of the masses. The problem, as he saw it, was that population growth would outstrip man's ability to feed himself. Unless population was controlled by man, famine and disaster would inevitably result.

Malthus developed this theory in 1798 in his essay The Principle of Population. He was a man of God - the curate in a parish in rural Surrey from where he was well-placed to notice that he was christening more babies than he was burying, and became alarmed about levels of rural poverty on his doorstep. To modern ears his predictions seem startlingly prescient as we struggle with population explosion in many parts of the world, and fret about our ability to feed ourselves with finite resources, debating the merits of GM crops.

Juliet Gardiner digs down into the predictions to discover how the future looked from where Malthus stood. Where did his dark vision about future population come from in a society which had not yet conducted a census? Juliet speaks to Donald Winch and Niall O'Flaherty and visits the Surrey parish where Malthus preached, christened and buried the dead.

Produced by Victoria Shepherd

A Juniper production for BBC Radio 4.

07Marx2012091820160105 (BBC7)
20160106 (BBC7)

Juliet Gardiner continues her History of the Future with a look at the ideas of Karl Marx.

We have reached the middle of the 19th century and a very different vision of the future from those we have encountered along the way from Ancient Greece. This is a future that is predetermined - but not by God. For Karl Marx, predicting the future was informed by what he saw as the inexorable workings of economic forces in society.

Marx held that all societies progress through the dialectic of class struggle - a struggle between those who own the means of production and the workers who provide the labour to make goods. Marx predicted that Capitalism would inevitably produce internal contradictions and tensions that would lead to its self-destruction and replacement by the new system of Socialism, in which society would be governed by the working class.

Marx was born into a middle class family of Jewish origin in Trier in the Prussian Rhineland in 1818. In 1843, he arrived in Paris, a ferment of revolutionary ideas, and it was in the French capital that Marx met his collaborator Freidrich Engels. After attending the Communist League in December 1847, Marx and Engels produced The Communist Manifesto which fed into the demands for social and political change which culminated in the revolutions that swept Europe in 1848. Following the failure of these revolutions, the Marx family fled to London.

Juliet Gardiner visits the Red Lion pub in Soho where Marx used to hold political meetings and speaks to his biographer Gareth Steadman Jones, getting a sense of the revolutionary fervour that was in the air at the time Marx was in London, and how the future looked from there.

How Karl Marx saw the future as predetermined by inexorable economic forces.

08H G Wells2012091920160106 (BBC7)
20160107 (BBC7)

Juliet Gardiner looks at the predictions from the father of science fiction.

Juliet Gardiner continues her History of the Future with a look at the figure who, for many of us, defines our modern vision of the future, H.G.Wells.

Often called the 'father of science fiction' , Wells' most popular novels - The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds - gave a terrifyingly dark image of the future. An image of an army of belligerent Martians, of machines invading suburban England, of conflict in outer space, and of the mutation of species. Wells' future world is one where science has taken a wrong turn, where innovation is not used for the good of humanity but it's destruction. It is not a vision of progress but a pessimistic prediction of decline and despair. Many of the imaginative scenarios he envisaged proved eerily prescient and some still haunt us today.

Juliet Gardiner tries to discover why there was so much interest in the future at the fin de siècle. What current concerns was Wells reflecting in his prophecies about this future? Wells was a biologist by training. He had studied under T.H.Huxley , the man described as 'Darwin's bulldog', and it was Darwin's theories that had thrown not only religious belief but also the whole notion of time into a ferment - providing a whole new model of change, progress and evolution. If, according to the theory of natural selection, a species could change and adapt over millions of years and then die out, then the whole concept of the future of humankind was challenged.

Juliet continues to make the case that a History of the Future is a history of anxiety, speaking to Frank James and Roger Luckhust.

Produced by Victoria Shepherd

A Juniper production for BBC Radio 4.

09George Orwell2012092020160107 (BBC7)
20160108 (BBC7)

Juliet Gardiner considers Orwell's haunting visions and iconic images of the near-future.

Juliet Gardiner continues her History of the Future with a look at the visions of George Orwell, and his haunting fictions imagining a dark near-future under a Totalitarian regime.

Orwell's most famous and most chilling exercise in fictional futurology is his novel 1984, which portrays a society at perpetual war, living at all times under the secret surveillance of the sinister all seeing, all powerful forces of The Party. This creates an almost hallucinatory vision of a paranoid, upside down future of mind control in which reality is denied. 1984's vision of Big Brother surveilling the population, penetrating its innermost sanctums, is evoked whenever 24 hour CCTV surveillance and other Civil Liberty issues are discussed. Orwell epitomises the modern view of the future which is an ambivalent one - suspicious even while optimistic about the march of progress.

George Orwell was seriously ill with tuberculosis on the remote Scottish island of Jura when he wrote 1984 in 1948, and he died just two years later aged 46. His book was part of a trend of dystopian literature in the 20th century.

His particular vision seems prescient and ahead of its time. There was a strong surge of optimism after the Second World War in Britain, a commitment to world government to ensure peace, and there was still lingering admiration of the Soviet Union and the part it had played in winning the war for the Allies, its darker side as yet largely unknown - or ignored. Juliet speaks to Orwell's biographer D.J. Taylore to discover how he seemed to foresee the horrors of later in the century and the Cold War.

Produced by Victoria Shepherd

A Juniper production for BBC Radio 4.

10 LASTThe Future From Here2012092120160108 (BBC7)
20160109 (BBC7)

Juliet Gardiner concludes her History of the Future with a view of the future from where we stand in 2012. Are we more or less anxious about what's to come than we ever were?

Juliet speaks to James Martin and Ian Goldin of the Oxford Martin School, a research community of over 300 scholars working to address the most pressing global challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. From the governance of geo-engineering and the possibilities of quantum physics, to the future of food and the implications of our ageing population.

Produced by Victoria Shepherd

A Juniper production for BBC Radio 4.

Juliet Gardiner concludes the series with a view of how the future looks from 2012.

OMNI01The Oracle Of Delphi20120914
OMNI02Malthus20120921

Juliet Gardiner continues her History of the Future with a look at the predictions of the clergyman and economist, Thomas Robert Malthus.

This late-18th century vision of the future came from an urgent problem Malthus identified, which threatened the future of the masses. The problem, as he saw it, was that population growth would outstrip man's ability to feed himself. Unless population was controlled by man, famine and disaster would inevitably result.

Malthus developed this theory in 1798 in his essay The Principle of Population. He was a man of God - the curate in a parish in rural Surrey from where he was well-placed to notice that he was christening more babies than he was burying, and became alarmed about levels of rural poverty on his doorstep. To modern ears his predictions seem startlingly prescient as we struggle with population explosion in many parts of the world, and fret about our ability to feed ourselves with finite resources, debating the merits of GM crops.

Juliet Gardiner digs down into the predictions to discover how the future looked from where Malthus stood. Where did his dark vision about future population come from in a society which had not yet conducted a census? Juliet speaks to Donald Winch and Niall O'Flaherty and visits the Surrey parish where Malthus preached, christened and buried the dead.

Produced by Victoria Shepherd

A Juniper production for BBC Radio 4.