June 2003


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Ian Pitchford <[log in to unmask]>
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Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 27 Jun 2003 13:16:56 +0100
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2 - 23 June 2003  20:00 - 20:30PM

      Described by The Times as a series that "ought to be compulsory listening
for politicians, scientists, doctors and sundry other professionals who think
they know best".

      Why Did We Do That? uses a distinctive mix of materials to uncover the
roots of present day problems. Secret government documents are set against
public statements made at the time, the common voice explaining what happened
is heard next to the expert voice describing the theory.

      All is driven by a narrative which takes unexpected turns, sets the scene
from around the country, and revels in the black humour with which our greatest
blunders are laced.

Programme 1: Bad Bread (02/06/2003)

      The British white sliced loaf is consumed by the multi million, but is
condemned in expert food circles as appallingly bland and far less nutritional
than almost any other country's bread. So why did the British develop such an
obsession with bread so deliberately dull and so industrially white? The
answers take us into such strange and compelling areas as the medieval food
wars waged by the "upper crust", the Victorian disdain for peasant life, and
the twentieth century fascination with rectangular convenience, making any
brilliant new thought "the best thing since sliced bread". And then there is
the curious British belief that bread had many practical uses..apart from being

Suggested Reading:

Book: Maggie Black (ed.) A Taste of History (English Heritage 1993)
Listen to programme 1

Programme 2: Deadly Streets (09/06/2003)

      The twentieth century saw the growth of an increasingly deadly
confrontation: mass motoring and pedestrian life. Roads that had once been
centres of social life became traffic thoroughfares. Free movement of those on
foot had to compete with an increasingly powerful idea that the free movement
of the motorist and ever higher speeds was a fundamental liberty. This
programme asks why this conflict left some of the most vulnerable groups, such
as children, less protected by improvements in road safety. It discovers the
story of the "play streets", a 1930s attempt to halt the damage, which withered
away as "the great car society" took over. And it asks why road safety was
taken much less seriously by society than the safety of our other transport

Suggested Reading:

Book: Mayer Hillman, One False Move (Policy Studies Institute)
Listen to programme 2

Programme 3: The Eugenic Temptation (16/06/2003)

      In the early decades of the twentieth century the elites of British
society were swept by a belief which, by the later twentieth century, would
cause widespread revulsion. Eugenics - the control of human reproduction - was
this intellectual and political craze. The programme explores how thinkers from
the political left and right, famous individuals ranging from Winston Churchill
to birth control pioneer Marie Stopes, saw state involvement in reproduction as
essential to reshape the population, preventing poorer social groups from
having so many children and "weakening the race", while encouraging the more
affluent and educated to breed more. The mentally ill were singled out for
special treatment, with their sterilisation advocated by many influential
voices. Only when Nazism showed where such ideas could lead did eugenics fall
from favour, and yet there were continuities with some postwar thinking about
social change.

Suggested Reading:

Book: Desmond King In the Name of Liberalism (Oxford University Press
Book: June Rose Marie Stopes and the Sexual Revolution (Faber 1993)
Book: David Bradshaw (ed.) The Hidden Huxley (Faber 1995)
Listen to programme 3

Programme 4: Early Retirement (23/06/2003)

It is hard to imagine in today's world of longer working lives and reduced
pensions, but there was a time not many decades ago when it was assumed that
retirement should come ever sooner, that everyone would enjoy ever more
well-funded leisure, that the over 50s should be encouraged to leave the
workforce as soon as possible. The dream of early retirement worked for some.
But others found themselves forced out of work. And institutions where early
retirement became the norm now find they simply can't afford the pension
commitments. This programme asks why we were so wrong about the future of work.

Listen to programme 4