EXPLORE THE REITH LECTURES ARCHIVE
BBC Radio 4 has published Reith Lectures archive spanning over 60 years. You can listen, download and read the transcripts of over 240 radio programmes.The Reith Lectures Archive
Listen now 60 mins
Laurie Taylor trawls the BBC archives in the first of two programmes exploring 60 years of the Reith Lectures, named in honour of the first director-general of the BBC, Lord Reith.
The programme starts with the inaugural lectures, recorded by the philosopher and Nobel laureate Bertrand Russell in 1948. It reveals the controversies that emerged in the early days of the Reith Lectures - from the suggestion that pre-marital sex might be healthy for relationships, to stoking the growing animosity with Russia during the Cold War.
Conveying a lost age of deference, the Archive Hour features rarely heard extracts from the BBC sound archives -including distinguished voices such as the "father of the atomic bomb" Robert J Oppenheimer, and the first female lecturer, Dame Margery Perham.
In turn, written archives yield secrets about behind-the-scenes struggles in the BBC which frequently cast doubt on the long-term survival of the lectures, which have now been broadcast across eight decades.
Laurie Taylor speaks to former programme editors and historians who reveal how the series survived, despite conflict and controversy, and celebrates the wisdom of past Reith Lecturers many of whose ideas proved to be truly ahead of their time.
Presenter: Lauria Taylor
Producers: Sheila Cook & Richard Fenton-Smith.
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