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10-Minute Talks

The world’s leading professors explain the latest thinking in the humanities and social sciences in just 10 minutes.


What makes us social? Autism, mentalising, and the need for new labels
How we understand autism has changed greatly over time. In this talk, Uta Frith FBA discusses developments in the scientific study of autism and its re-evaluation from a rarely diagnosed disorder to being conceptualised as a spectrum of neurodiversity. Autism can now be explored in relation to the mentalising system and other internal mechanisms that make us social.  Speaker: Professor Uta Frith, developmental psychologist and Emeritus Professor of Cognitive Development, University College LondonThis video is for informative and educational purposes.10-Minute Talks are a series of pre-recorded talks from Fellows of the British Academy, published on YouTube and also available on Apple Podcasts.  Subtitles, also known as closed captions, are available on our YouTube videos. You can access them by clicking on the 'CC' button or gear icon on the video. The 'CC' button and gear icon are usually located at the bottom of videos.  Find out more about the British Academy:  For future events, visit our website:  Subscribe to our email newsletter:
11:10 12/07/2024
The Lion of the 17th: the story of Georges Dukson and the Liberation of Paris
Gary Younge Hon FBA explores the French Liberation of 1944 and the story of Georges Dukson, "le Lion du 17ème", a soldier from French Equatorial Africa (now Gabon) who fought for the Free French forces during the liberation of Paris. Almost a million Africans, more than a million African Americans and roughly 16,0000 Caribbeans served in the Allied forces in the Second World War, but – often partly by design – their stories have rarely been heard. From the 'blanchissement' to the allied powers’ denial of the basic civil rights of Black and Brown people, Younge argues that the Second World War cannot be meaningfully understood as one for democracy or freedom.Speaker: Professor Gary Younge Hon FBA, Professor of Sociology, University of Manchester; Journalist and author This podcast is for informative and educational purposes.Image credit: Georges Dukson, a Black soldier, is on the edge of the procession that General Charles de Gaulle is leading down the Champs-Élysées as part of the liberation of Paris. Photo by Serge DE SAZO / Gamma-Rapho / Getty Images. 10-Minute Talks are a series of pre-recorded talks from Fellows of the British Academy, published on YouTube and also available on Apple Podcasts.  Additional photos of Georges Dukson described in this talk can be viewed on this blog by Matthew Cobb: Subtitles, also known as closed captions, are available on our YouTube videos. You can access them by clicking on the 'CC' button or gear icon on the video. The 'CC' button and gear icon are usually located at the bottom of videos.  Find out more about the British Academy:  For future events, visit our website:  Subscribe to our email newsletter:
14:25 05/07/2024
Tragedy and Postcolonial Literature
In this talk, Ato Quayson shares insights drawn from his book Tragedy and Postcolonial Literature. He argues that disputatiousness is one of the starting points that connects Greek and postcolonial tragedy. Speaker: Professor Ato Quayson FBA, Professor of English, Stanford University Image: Tragic mask in hand of greek statue of Melpomene. Via Getty Images 
14:52 29/12/2021
Hypermasculine leadership
In this talk, Georgina Waylen discusses hypermasculine leadership within the context of the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Speaker: Professor Georgina Waylen FBA, Professor of Politics, University of ManchesterImage: Donald Trump Holds Rally At Iowa State Fairgrounds. © photo by Scott Olson via Getty Images
11:55 29/12/2021
The politics of humiliation
The modern history of humiliation is different from the history of public shaming; both share certain features and practices, but differ as to intentions and goals. In this talk, Ute Frevert argues that liberal societies have made some progress in abolishing public shaming. But they have failed to bring about “decency“ in Avishai Margalit’s terms – a general refusal to humiliate others.   She is the author of The Politics of Humiliation. A Modern History.  Speaker: Professor Ute Frevert FBA, Director, Max Planck Institute for Human DevelopmentImage: Daniel Defoe in the Pillory. Credit duncan1890 via Getty Images.
11:11 29/12/2021
Paradoxes of the Roman Arena
In this talk, Professor Kathleen Coleman FBA highlights certain paradoxes at the root of Roman civilisation, specifically those related to the staging of violent displays in the arena. Virtually everything that fueled Roman society can be implicated: ideology, religion, class structure, environment, economy. The Romans, evidently, tolerated these paradoxes. Can we learn anything from them?Speaker: Professor Kathleen Coleman FBA, James Loeb Professor of Classics and the Departmental Chair, Harvard University Image: The Colosseum in Rome. Credit Anna Kurzaeva via Getty Images
12:39 29/12/2021
Public finances and the Union since 1707
In this talk, Professor Julian Hoppit FBA introduces his new book, The Dreadful Monster and its Poor Relations. Taxing, Spending, and the United Kingdom, 1707-2021, which explores the geography of public finances in the United Kingdom over the last three centuries. Why do some places feel they pay too many taxes and get too little public expenditure? Public finances have been at the heart of the making and the unmaking of the United Kingdom, but without much of a clear plan, allowing opposing caricatures of arrangements to become politically powerful. Speaker: Professor Julian Hoppit FBA, Astor Professor of British History, University College LondonImage: The Chancellor Of The Exchequer Delivers The 2021 UK Budget. © photo by Chris J Ratcliffe via Getty Images
09:27 29/12/2021
The making of Oliver Cromwell
Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) is, in terms of sheer achievement, the greatest English commoner of all time and yet remains a deeply controversial figure. He represented himself, apparently compellingly, as an honest, pious, modest, and selfless servant of God and his nation, and yet most of his contemporaries found him ruthless, devious, and self-promoting. In this talk, Ronald Hutton sums up the findings of his latest book, The Making of Oliver Cromwell, which examines his actions and words in full context up until the end of the English Civil War in 1651, and proposes an answer to this apparent paradox. Speaker: Professor Ronald Hutton FBA, Professor of History, University of BristolImage: Statue of Oliver Cromwell in front of the Palace of Westminster, London, UK. Via Getty Images
12:37 28/12/2021
Poetry as Experience
In this talk, Derek Attridge addresses the question: "What is a poem's mode of existence?" Using a poem by William Wordsworth as an example, he argues that poems are not fixed lines of words but human experiences of language and the power of language. He is the author of The Experience of Poetry. From Homer's Listeners to Shakespeare's Readers. Speaker: Professor Derek Attridge FBA, Professor Emeritus of English, University of York  Image: William Wordsworth engraving, 1873. Credit traveler1116 via Getty Images 
10:37 28/12/2021
Disastrous: thoughts on a pandemic inspired by ancient astrology
In this talk, Jane Lightfoot considers what a particular corner of the classical world, astrology, thought about disease – how it classified it, what mental models it built around it, and how it might have coped, or failed to cope, with the situation that is facing us today.Speaker: Professor Jane Lightfoot FBA, Professor of Greek Literature; Charlton Fellow and Tutor in Classics, New College, University of Oxford Image: Waning gibbous moon and Mars. © photo by japatino via Getty Images
11:28 08/09/2021
The 1951 UN Refugee Convention: its origins and significance
In this talk, Peter Gatrell discusses the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, signed in Geneva on 28 July 1951. He explains the circumstances leading up to the Refugee Convention and considers what it was designed to achieve: a commitment to recognise and protect refugees who have a well-founded fear of persecution. At present, although many of the world’s refugees live in non-signatory states, the Refugee Convention remains a crucial element of international refugee law.His latest book is The Unsettling of Europe: the Great Migration, 1945 to the Present (Penguin, 2021). Details of his current collaborative research project, "Reckoning with refugeedom: refugee voices in modern history, 1919-75" are also available.Speaker: Professor Peter Gatrell FBA, Professor of Economic History, University of ManchesterImage: New Temporary Refugee Camp In Lesbos Island. © Photo by Nicolas Economou / NurPhoto via Getty Images
11:26 28/07/2021
Syntax: where the magic happens
Syntax is the cognitive system that underlies the patterns found in the grammar of human languages. In this talk, David Adger explains what syntax as an area of study is, why he finds it important and fascinating, and why it is central to what it means to be human. The paperback edition of his book, Language Unlimited. The Science behind our most creative power was published in July 2021. His British Academy article, What is linguistics? is also available.  Speaker: Professor David Adger FBA, Professor of Linguistics, Queen Mary University of London
15:44 21/07/2021
Looking at sign languages
This talk introduces research on the sign languages of deaf communities: natural, complex human languages, both similar to and different from spoken languages. It includes discussion of sign language and the evolution of human language; sign language and the brain, and sign language acquisition by young children, as well as the history and future of British Sign Language (BSL).Speaker: Professor Bencie Woll FBA, Professor of Sign Language and Deaf Studies, University College London10-Minute Talks are a series of pre-recorded talks from Fellows of the British Academy screened each Wednesday on YouTube and also available on Apple Podcasts. to our email newsletter:
18:36 14/07/2021
The Shogun’s Silver Telescope: The East India Company and the English quest for Japan
Over the winter of 1610-11, a magnificent telescope was built in London. It was almost two metres long, cast in silver and covered with gold. This was the first telescope ever produced in such an extraordinary way, worthy of a great king or emperor. Why was it made, what was its political significance and who was it going to? In this talk, Timon Screech explores why the East India Company, which became the world's biggest trading organisation until the 20th century, prepared this special gift to court favour with the Shogun of Japan, how the Japanese viewed Europeans during this time and the impact on England’s maritime rivalry with Portugal and Spain.His most recent books are The Shogun’s silver Telescope; God, Art, and Money in the English Quest for Japan, 1600-1625 and Tokyo before Tokyo; Power and Magic in the Shogun’s City of Edo (both published in 2020).Speaker: Professor Timon Screech FBA, Professor of the History of Art, SOAS University of London
09:58 07/07/2021
Crèvecœur: What is an American?
J. Hector St. John de Crèvecœur (1735-1813) was a farmer as well as a complex thinker of the contradictions of American identity as described in his famous Letters from an American Farmer and, more strikingly, in his French texts which develop his description and analysis of the New World and its peoples. Many readers of his English work have focused on his wishful story of the land of the free, a hospitable refuge to the dispossessed of Europe, a glorious melting pot where the American is born: a man who works hard, who can provide for his family, and be treated with respect whatever his origins and whatever his religious beliefs. Yet, as Judith Still discusses in this talk, Crèvecœur reveals in his French work the original sins of British colonization and of the new United States, sins which still haunt us today: genocide of indigenous peoples, enslavement of Africans and environmental devastation.She is the author of Derrida and Other Animals: The Boundaries of the Human (Edinburgh University Press, 2015) and ‘Slavery in Enlightenment America – Crèvecœur's Bilingual Approach’, Journal of Romance Studies (2018) 18:1, 103-29.
11:21 30/06/2021
Goods and possessions in late medieval England
Goods and possessions offer us ways into understanding how late medieval people saw the world and their position in it. In this talk, Christopher Woolgar discusses objects of daily life, their significance and the meaning of material culture (what we might understand as ‘people’s stuff') in late medieval England, to reveal changes in mentality that came with a long-term social revolution, in the quantities and types of goods people had, and the lengths to which elites in particular went to ensure continued possession of prestigious items within their families.Speaker: Professor Christopher Woolgar FBA,  Emeritus Professor of History and Archival Studies, University of Southampton
10:52 23/06/2021
Writing the history of the British Academy
The British Academy is the UK's national academy for the humanities and social sciences and was founded in 1902. In this talk, Professor Sir David Cannadine discusses undertaking the task of writing the history of the Academy and why it is worth doing so, the importance of engaging with the challenging moments it has faced and how these were navigated, and if the history of the Academy is merely the history of a single institution or if it sheds light on how institutions more widely can enhance public understanding of people, cultures and societies.Speaker: Professor Sir David Cannadine PBA, President, the British Academy; Dodge Professor of History, Princeton University
11:22 16/06/2021
The Early Foucault
In this talk Stuart Elden discusses his new book, The Early Foucault and the research he did on the first period of Michel Foucault’s career. In particular, he highlights what Foucault did before the History of Madness in 1961 and how he came to write that book as well as the way newly available archival materials help to make sense of the period.His book, The Early Foucault, was published in June 2021.Speaker: Professor Stuart Elden FBA, Professor of Political Theory and Geography, University of Warwick
10:53 09/06/2021
George II Augustus von Welf, British King and German Prince-Elector
George II, King of Great Britain and Ireland and Elector of Hanover from 1727-60, was considered short-tempered and uncultivated, but during his reign presided over a great flourishing in his adoptive country - economic, military, and cultural. In this talk, Norman Davies places George II in the unfamiliar framework of a composite state, stressing the monarch's conviction that his native German possessions were no less important than his British ones, together with the unfamiliar story of how his German Electorate was governed from St. James’s Palace in London. He also discusses his book, George II: Not Just a British Monarch, and its use of unconventional terminology, calling the monarch 'George Augustus' (not just George II), insisting that he was 'King-Elector' not just a mere King, that he belonged to the dynasty of Von Welf (the Guelphs) not to the invented tribe of 'Hanoverians', and that his coat-of-arms, which, inter alia, bore the crown of the Holy Roman Empire, was 'royal and electoral', not just, as the British always say, 'royal'.Speaker: Professor Norman Davies FBA, Professor Emeritus of History, University of London; Honorary Fellow, St Antony’s College, University of Oxford; Honorary Fellow, Clare Hall, University of Cambridge
12:31 26/05/2021
The Spectre of War - International Communism and the Origins of World War II
Why was there no alliance to block Hitler from launching aggression in Europe? The usual explanation given is that the British led by Neville Chamberlain were so averse to the thought of war that appeasement had no alternative. In this talk, Jonathan Haslam argues that the real reason was that they - as did the Poles and the Czechs - feared communism more than fascism and that an alliance with Stalin's Russia against Germany would bring the Reds into Central Europe. As Moscow supported Communist efforts in France, Spain, China, and beyond, opponents such as the British feared for the stability of their global empire and viewed fascism as the only force standing between them and the Communist overthrow of the existing order.His book, The Spectre of War: International Communism and the Origins of World War II is published in May 2021.Speaker: Professor Jonathan Haslam FBA, George F. Kennan Professor, School of Historical Studies, Institute for Advanced StudyImage: Photograph of German soldiers advancing on Poland during World War II.
06:49 19/05/2021
Women and mental health – talking about feelings
During the COVID-19 pandemic women’s mental health has been a topic of concern as women have disproportionately carried the burden of care. In this talk, Lynn Abrams explores the links between a revolution in feelings amongst women in the 1960s and today’s mental health crisis. She shows how talking about feelings and self-help were alternatives to the ‘little yellow pill’ for many women struggling with loneliness and stress.Speaker: Professor Lynn Abrams FBA, Professor of Modern History, University of Glasgow
10:27 12/05/2021
Napoleon and God
Napoleon had no religion, but he spent much of his career dealing with it. In this talk to mark the bicentenary of his death, William Doyle discusses how Napoleon saw that the upheavals of the French Revolution could never be ended unless its quarrel with the Catholic Church could be settled. This meant negotiating with the pope. Most of Napoleon's henchmen opposed the concordat which he concluded with Rome in 1801, but most French people welcomed it. Later, emperor and pope fell out, but public worship was never threatened again, as the pope always acknowledged with gratitude.He is the author of The Oxford History of the French Revolution.Speaker: Professor William Doyle FBA, Professor Emeritus of History and Senior Research Fellow, University of Bristol
08:58 05/05/2021
Choosing a title – George Eliot and 'The Mill on the Floss'
By late 1859, when she had almost finished writing her second novel, The Mill on the Floss, George Eliot was still unsure of its final title. Two other possible titles, ‘Sister Maggie’ and ‘The House of Atreus’ were under consideration almost up to the time of printing and in this talk, Rosemary Ashton discusses the case of The Mill on the Floss in the wider context of novel writing and title choosing.She is the author of several books which include discussion of George Eliot's writings, including the biography of her, George Eliot: A Life .Speaker: Professor Rosemary Ashton FBA, Emeritus Quain Professor of English Language and Literature and Honorary Fellow, University College London
13:52 28/04/2021
More than one language - why bilingualism matters
Research shows that multilingualism in any languages, regardless of prestige or worldwide diffusion, can provide a range of linguistic, cognitive, and social benefits at all ages. It enables communication with international partners and understanding of local cultures as well as enhancing metalinguistic awareness, focusing, seeing both sides of an argument, and flexibly adapting to changing circumstances. However, as Antonella Sorace outlines in this talk, there are still many misconceptions about multilingualism and this contributes to the lack of language skills in countries, like the UK, that rely on ‘privileged monolingualism’ in English, which can undermine social cohesion and economic growth.Given what is at stake, it is important to bridge the gap between research and communities to enable informed decisions in society regarding the benefits of speaking more than one language.The British Academy, working with the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Association of School and College Leaders, the British Council and Universities UK, published 'Towards a National Languages Strategy: Education and Skills' for the education and skills component of a UK-wide national languages strategy in July 2020.Speaker: Professor Antonella Sorace FBA, Professor of Developmental Linguistics and Director of Bilingualism Matters, University of Edinburgh
12:53 21/04/2021
The miners’ strike of 1984-85
The miners’ strike of 1984-85 can be considered the last great battle of the organised industrial working class in the UK. The defeat of the strike led to deindustrialisation, the rapid closure of pits, the redundancy of the miners and the hollowing out of mining communities which impacts politics to this day.In this talk, Robert Gildea examines the miners’ strike through the lenses of class, community, and family, how it was both a performance and crisis of masculinity, and how the men and women involved reinvented themselves afterwards.He is currently writing an oral history of the 1984-85 miners' strike based on the research project, ‘Class, community and family: the 1984-1985 miners’ strike in history and memory’.Speaker: Professor Robert Gildea FBA, Professor of Modern History, University of OxfordImage: Demonstrators during the National Miners Strike in 1984 out in force at Sunderland's Wearmouth Colliery, demonstrating their solidarity as an NCB deadline to abandon the pit approached on 11 October 1984. Photo by NCJ Archive / Mirrorpix / Getty Images.
11:04 14/04/2021
The nature of friendship
What is it to be friends with someone? Why do we have friends? What do they do for us? In this talk, Robin Dunbar provides evidence that friendships are good for us, the relationship between the number and quality of close friendships and our psychological and physical health, and on what basis we select our friends.His book, Friends. Understanding the power of our most important relationships was published in March 2021.Speaker: Professor Robin Dunbar FBA, Professor of Evolutionary Psychology, University of Oxford
11:12 07/04/2021
Spinoza on philosophising
Philosophy, as Spinoza understands it, is the art of learning to live as joyfully and securely as we can.  But because we can only practice this art collectively, philosophising is always a partly political project - a matter of learning to live together peacefully and harmoniously. What enables us to do this? In this talk Susan James discusses how some of Spinoza’s answers, especially his analysis of natural right, jolt our assumptions and make us reconsider the problem.Her book, Spinoza on Learning to Live Together was published in 2020.Speaker: Professor Susan James FBA, Professor of Philosophy, Birkbeck, University of LondonImage: Portrait of Benedictus de Spinoza (1632-1677) circa 1665. Gemäldesammlung der Herzog-August-Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel, Germany, via Wikimedia Commons.
11:16 31/03/2021
What does the Good Friday Agreement mean?
As the Good Friday Agreement moves closer and closer to centre stage in Anglo-Irish relations, and potentially to UK-EU relations post-Brexit, how it is interpreted will become even more contentious. In this talk, Christopher McCrudden engages with the differing (and conflicting) historical, legal, and political interpretations as well as considering more broadly, what exactly is the Agreement?Speaker: Professor Christopher McCrudden FBA, Professor of Human and Equality Law, Queen’s University BelfastThis talk was  part of the Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas and Politics.Image: British Prime Minister Tony Blair (right) US Senator George Mitchell (centre) and Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern (left) shaking hands after they signed the historic Good Friday Agreement for peace in Northern Ireland. © Dan Chung / AFP via Getty Images.
09:22 24/03/2021
The history of Belfast, a strange case of shared identity and sectarian division
In this talk, Marianne Elliot reflects on the existence and history of a 'shared space' Belfast identity, focusing particularly on the 1940s and 1950s, but also on post-Good Friday Agreement efforts to restore 'shared' living spaces, so damaged by the Northern Ireland Troubles.Speaker: Professor Marianne Elliot FBA, Professor Emerita, Institute of Irish Studies, University of LiverpoolThis talk was part of the Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas and Politics.Image: Children marching for peace. © Leif Skoogfors / Corbis Historical via Getty Images.
09:51 24/03/2021
Dealing with the past in Northern Ireland
Dealing with the past in relation to the Northern Ireland conflict is a politically sensitive topic often characterised by more heat than light. In this talk, Kieran McEvoy discusses the UK government’s commitment to introduce legislation regarding legacy issues now complicated by the parallel drive to protect British Army veterans from historical allegations arising out of their service in Northern Ireland.Speaker: Professor Kieran McEvoy FBA, Professor of Law and Transitional Justice, School of Law and Senior Research Fellow, Senator George J Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice, Queen’s University Belfast; Principal Investigator, Dealing with the Past in Northern Ireland project.This talk was part of the Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas and Politics.Image: British soldier on patrol along Falls Road in West Belfast. © Photo by Andrew Holbrooke / Corbis Historical via Getty Images.
12:10 24/03/2021

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