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Roald Dahl

12 minutes
First broadcast:
Friday 27 July 2012

The New Elizabethans: Roald Dahl. To mark the Diamond Jubilee, James Naughtie examines the lives and impact of the men and women who have given the second Elizabethan age its character.

James Naughtie explores the life Roald Dahl who put his huge success down to conspiring with children against adults in his stories and sharing a child's sense of humour. 'It takes an adult who can still think as a child' he said. 'Children are only half civilised. They are tougher, coarser and they laugh at things that make us squirm.'

For three decades, starting with 'James and the Giant Peach' in 1961, Dahl was producing stories for children fizzing with invented language, rude jokes and bad ends for bad adults. He was passionate about drawing in reluctant young readers. 'It's very worthwhile encouraging children to read,' he said. ' The most important thing I can teach them is not to be daunted by books.'

The New Elizabethans have been chosen by a panel of leading historians, chaired by Lord (Tony) hall, Chief Executive of London's Royal Opera House. The panellists were Dominic Sandbrook, Bamber Gascoigne, Sally Alexander, Jonathan Agar, Maria Misra and Sir Max Hastings. They were asked to choose: 'Men and women whose actions during the reign of Elizabeth II have had a significant impact on lives in these islands and given the age its character, for better or worse.'

Producer: Kate Howells.


    1 Roald Dahl reading from ‘James and The Giant Peach’ on BBC Television
    Bookmark: Roald Dahl at Seventy, broadcast on 13/09/86.

    2 Song from Matilda the Musical. Track 2 ‘Naughty’. Original RSC cast recording.

    3 Roald Dahl on BBC Television Bookmark: Roald Dahl at Seventy, broadcast on 13/09/86.

    4 Roald Dahl on BBC Television Bookmark: Roald Dahl at Seventy, broadcast on 13/09/86.


    Note: Dates in brackets are the date of first publication, whether in the UK or USA

    Collections of Short Stories:

    Over to You (1945)
    Someone Like You (1953)
    Kiss Kiss (1960)
    Switch Bitch (1974)
    The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More (1977)
    Tales of the Unexpected (1979)
    More Tales of the Unexpected (1980)
    Two Fables (1986)
    Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life (1989)

    Books and Poetry:

    Sometime Never (1948) [now out-of-print]
    My Uncle Oswald (1979)
    The Gremlins (1943) [now out-of-print]
    James and the Giant Peach (1961)
    Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964)
    The Magic Finger (1966)
    Fantastic Mr Fox (1970)
    Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator (1972)
    Danny, the Champion of the World (1975)
    The Enormous Crocodile (1978)
    The Twits (1980)
    George’s Marvellous Medicine (1981)
    Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes (1982)
    The BFG (1982)
    Dirty Beasts (1983)
    The Witches (1983)
    The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me (1985)
    Matilda (1988)
    Rhyme Stew (1989)
    Esio Trot (1990)
    The Vicar of Nibbleswick (1991)
    The Minpins (1991)


    Boy (1984)
    Going Solo (1986)


    Memories with Food at Gipsy House (1991) – now published as ‘Roald Dahl’s Cookbook’
    Dahl, Felicity: Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes (1994)
    Dahl, Felicity: Even More Revolting Recipes (2001)

    Collections and Omnibus editions of short stories:

    The Umbrella Man and Other Stories
    The Great Automatic Grammatisator and other stories
    The Best of Roald Dahl
    Roald Dahl: Collected Short Stories


    The Roald Dahl Book of Ghost Stories (1984) selected and with an introduction by Roald Dahl, although the stories are by other authors.
    The Roald Dahl Diary 1992 (1991) – now published as ‘My Year’ (1993)
    The Roald Dahl Treasury (1997) includes previously unpublished material as well as extracts from some of his books
    Charlie’s Secret Chocolate Book: includes unpublished material from early drafts of’Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ (Puffin, 1997)
    D is for Dahl (edited by Wendy Cooling) (Puffin, 2004)


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  1. Image for The New Elizabethans

    The New Elizabethans

    To mark Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee, James Naughtie introduces the 60 new Elizabethans who…

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