Matthew Parris

Great Leaders' Lives
  • Great Leaders' Lives

  • Household names nominate leaders from the past for BBC Radio 4's Great Lives
    Since its inception in 2001, Great Lives has been one of Radio 4's most popular programmes, presented by Joan Bakewell, Humphrey Carpenter, Francine Stock and Matthew Parris. The format is simple, but compelling: each week, a distinguished personality is invited to select an inspirational figure who has influenced them. Talking with the presenter and a guest expert, they assess the importance of their chosen candidate.

    This special collection, celebrating the programme's 20th birthday, comprises the very best episodes featuring leaders' lives, from the worlds of politics, religion, royalty, business and the military. Some are heroes, some tyrants, and several spark controversy. Among them AA Gill puts forward the case for Neville Chamberlain, Maxine Peake chooses Ellen Wilkinson, the Duke of Wellington is picked by Frederick Forsyth, and Leon Trotsky is selected by Christopher Hitchens in a hugely entertaining show that culminated in fireworks. In these cases, and many others, the life of the invited guest is as riveting as that of their subject - who wouldn't want to listen to Ken Livingstone discussing Robert Kennedy, George Monbiot champion Thomas Paine, and Trevor McDonald on Learie Constantine?

    From Nancy Dell'Olio on Lucrezia Borgia to Al Murray on Field Marshal Montgomery, these fascinating episodes showcase the lives of some of the most legendary figures from history, revealing their achievements and enduring influence and demonstrating why their greatness is undisputed.

    Episode list and date of first broadcast on BBC Radio 4:
    Robert Kennedy - 06/02/2009
    Henry V - 08/12/2009
    Richard Nixon - 17/08/2010
    Bernard Montgomery - 01/10/2013
    Richard III - 06/01/2015
    Elizabeth I - 18/08/2015
    Dag Hammarskjold - 23/08/2016
    Neville Chamberlain - 20/09/2016
    Gandhi - 26/12/2017
    David Lloyd George - 30/05/2003
    Queen Elizabeth 1 - 06/06/2003
    Machiavelli - 02/04/2004
    Thomas Paine - 23/04/2004
    Lyndon B Johnson - 07/05/2004
    Benjamin Disraeli - 28/05/2004
    Michael Collins - 01/10/2004
    Arthur Wellesly, the 1st Duke of Wellington - 03/06/2005
    Genghis Khan - 01/04/2005
    John Rockefeller - 06/05/2005
    Ronald Reagan - 27/05/2005
    Thomas Cromwell - 11/11/2005
    Leon Trotsky - 08/08/2006
    Eleanor Roosevelt - 22/08/2006
    Millicent Garrett Fawcett - 22/12/2006
    Julius Caesar - 25/05/2007
    George Washington - 02/10/2007
    Winston Churchill - 14/09/2010
    Rommel - 26/08/2014
    Ida B Wells - 19/08/2014
    Learie Constantine - 07/04/2015
    Abraham Lincoln - 26/01/2016
    Lucrezia Borgia - 12/04/2016
    Richard the Lionheart - 10/05/2016
    Dadabhai Naoroji - 27/09/2016
    Pope John XXIII - 24/01/2017
    Sitting Bull - 09/05/2017
    Emma of Normandy - 16/05/2017
    Constance Markievicz - 19/09/2017
    Ellen Wilkinson - 01/08/2017
    Daniel O' Connell - 19/12/2017
    Catherine the Great - 29/05/2018
    Jayaben Desai - 10/04/2018

    Copyright © 2021 BBC Studios Distribution Ltd. (P) 2021 BBC Studios Distribution Ltd
    Presented by Joan Bakewell, Humphrey Carpenter, Matthew Parris and Francine Stock
    Produced by Miles Warde, Peter Everett, Christine Hall, Perminder Khatkar, Mark Smalley, Charles Ledgard, Maggie Ayre, Beth O'Dea, Jolyon Jenkins, John Byrne, Polly Weston, Julia Johnson, Mary Ward-Lowery, Isobel Eaton, Toby Field

Humphrey Carpenter (1946-2005), the author and creator of Mr Majeika, was born and educated in Oxford. He went to a school called the Dragon School where exciting things often happened and there were some very odd teachers - you could even call it magical! He worked for the BBC then became a full-time writer in 1975, and he was the author of many award-winning biographies, including books about J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Benjamin Britten and Spike Milligan. As well as the Mr Majeika titles, his children's books also included Shakespeare Without the Boring Bits and More Shakespeare Without the Boring Bits. He wrote plays for radio and theatre and founded the children's drama group The Mushy Pea Theatre Company. He played the tuba, double bass, bass saxophone and keyboard. Humphrey once said, 'The nice thing about being a writer is that you can make magic happen without learning tricks. Words are the only tricks you need. I can write: "He floated up to the ceiling, and a baby rabbit came out of his pocket, grew wings and flew away." And you will believe that it really happened! That's magic, isn't it?'

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