War and the Reith Lectures 2018

By Judith Phillips

At the July meeting of the WWI bookgroup (report will follow in a later newsletter), two members talked about the current Reith Lectures, broadcast on Radio 4.  This year’s title is The Mark of Cain and, in the five lectures, Professor Margaret MacMillan will explore the tangled history of war and society.

In the lectures Professor MacMillan considers whether war is an essential part of being human and are we, as human beings, destined to fight.  Each lecture has a particular focus:

  • Managing the unmanageable (war and peace)
  • Civilians and war
  • Fearing and Loving: making sense of the warrior
  • War and humanity
  • War’s fatal attraction.

This year the lectures have been given at BBC Broadcasting House, the University of York, Beirut, Stormont in Belfast and the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.  Each lecture is followed by questions from members of the audience, and this has often broadened the debate.

Professor MacMillan – a Canadian – has written two significant books on the First World War period: Peacemakers: the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and the Attempt to end War (2001) and The War that Ended Peace: How Europe abandoned Peace for the First World War (2013). 

If you haven’t heard the lectures, you can find them on the BBC iplayer.