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Annie Besant

Duration:
43 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 21 June 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life of the prominent 19th-century social reformer Annie Besant. Born in 1847, Annie Besant espoused a range of causes including secularism, women's rights, Socialism, Irish Home Rule, birth control and better conditions for workers. Described by Beatrice Webb as having "the voice of a beautiful soul", Besant became an eloquent public speaker as well as writing numerous campaigning articles and pamphlets. She is perhaps most famous for the key role she played in the successful strike by female workers at the Bryant and May match factory in East London in 1888, which brought the appalling working conditions of many factory workers to greater public attention.

Later in life she became a follower of theosophy, a belief system bringing together elements of Hinduism, Buddhism and other Eastern religions. She moved to India, its main base, and took on a leading role in the Indian self-rule movement, being appointed the first female president of the Indian National Congress in 1917.

With:

Lawrence Goldman
Fellow in Modern History at St Peter's College, University of Oxford

David Stack
Reader in History at the University of Reading

Yasmin Khan
Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Producer: Victoria Brignell.

  • FURTHER READING

    Annie Besant, ‘An Autobiography’ (first published 1893; reprinted by Dodo Press, 2007)

    Sripati Chandrasekhar, ‘A Dirty Filthy Book: The Writings of Charles Knowlton and Annie Besant on Reproductive Physiology and Birth Control and an Account of the Bradlaugh-Besant Trial’ (University of California Press, 1981)

    Rosemary Dinnage, ‘Annie Besant’ (Penguin Books, 1986)

    M. K. Gandhi, ‘An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth’ (Beacon Press, 1993)

    Barbara and Thomas Metcalf, ‘A Concise History of Modern India’ (Cambridge University Press, 2006)

    Arthur H. Nethercot, ‘The First Five Lives of Annie Besant’ (University of Chicago Press, 1960)

    Arthur H. Nethercot, ‘The Last Four Lives of Annie Besant’ (University of Chicago Press, 1963)

    Henry Pelling, ‘The Origins of the Labour Party 1880-1900’ (Clarendon, 1965)

    Louise Raw, ‘Striking a Light: The Bryant and May Matchwomen and their place in History’ (Continuum, 2011)

    Edward Royle, ‘Radicals, Secularists and Republicans: Popular Freethought in Britain 1866-1915’ (Manchester University Press, 1980)

    Richard A. Soloway, ‘Birth Control and the Population Question in England 1877-1930’ (University of North Carolina Press, 2011)

    Gareth Stedman Jones, ‘Outcast London’ (Penguin Books, 1976)

    Anne Taylor, ‘Annie Besant: A Biography’ (Oxford University Press, 1992)

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