The Meeting Of Minds

A series looking at the dynamics of deliberation at three moments in history.

Frances Stonor Saunders explores meetings which had huge significance beyond their four walls.

Episodes

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01The Berlin Conference Of 188420050719

A series looking at the dynamics of deliberation at three moments in history.

Frances Stonor Saunders explores meetings which had huge significance beyond their four walls.The relationship between Europe and Africa today has never been more talked about, but how many people know where and how it began? At the Berlin Conference of 1884 the European Powers formalised the Scramble for Africa.

Not a single African was among the 14 delegations and only one of the delegates had even been to the continent.

The interior was partitioned between them and formed into many of the countries we recognise today, along commercially useful lines, covering huge areas: many now argue these territories were ungovernable from the beginning.

Frances Stonor Saunders examines the dynamics of the diplomatic meeting that changed the history of the continent and how it had devastating consequences for Africa, many of which are still felt today.

02The Philadelphia Convention, 178720050831

In 1787 a meeting that was to last three months was called in Philadelphia.

Its president had one tooth, its elder statesman arrived each day in a sedan chair carried by prisoners and its opening had to be delayed by a week when only two of the 13 delegations turned up.

From such inauspicious beginnings the American Constitution was born.

Frances Stonor Saunders examines the Philadelphia Convention which drew up this unique and contested document and how the decisions made there have had consequences for both America and the world today.

03 LASTIn Defence Of Culture20050901

Frances Stonor Saunders concludes her series about great intellectual gatherings, exploring how they brought together for just a brief moment in history, competing personalities with conflicting ideas in politics, diplomacy, art, economics and literature.

Paris 1935.

A huge conference was convened: the First International Congress of Writers for the Defence of Culture.

It was attended by some of Europe's greatest literary figures: Boris Pasternak, Andre Malraux, EM Forster, Andre Gide, Aldous Huxley and Bertolt Brecht were amongst the 220 delegates from 40 countries.

The whole affair was a thinly veiled communist front, but it turned into the last great showcase of European literary culture before it was swept away by war.

The writers were plagued by the question of how to respond to the spectre of the new dictatorships and social chaos that was growing around them.

How should the world's great artists, apparently so important and so revered, confront the book burnings and propaganda? Frances Stonor Saunders brings back to life their speeches, arguments and protests.

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1.

The Berlin Conference, 1884

Meetings of Minds is a series looking at the dynamics of deliberation at three moments in history.

Frances Stonor Saunders explores meetings which had huge significance beyond their four walls - beginning with the Berlin Conference of 1884, during which the European Powers formalised the Scramble for Africa and the interior was partitioned.

Perhaps unsurprisingly for these colonial times not a single African was among the 14 delegations from across Europe, Russia and America.

Frances examines how this diplomatic meeting was to have a consequence for the continent that can be traced to today and asks how straightforward is it when diplomacy dictates discussion.

How do such meetings of minds work?

20041121

2.

The Philadelphia Convention, 1787

The Philadelphia convention of 1787 was a landmark in American and world history.

Both its handiwork- the American constitution- and its example of the people's representation to govern themselves had a profound influence on subsequent experiment in government.

The revolutionary era was both exhilarating and disturbing - a time of progress for some, dislocation for others.

Meetings of Minds discovers what happened at this gathering of what one historian called "the well-bred, well fed, well wed, and well read" and how its legacy is one we live with today.