The trade in spices goes back to ancient times: from the Frankincense trails that originated in the Dhofar Highlands in present day Yemen to the Queen of Sheba who travelled to Jerusalem with camels laden with spices. For centuries, spices have captured our imagination far more than any other commodities, and spice traders, from the Arab merchants to the European trading companies of the Age of Discovery, capitalised on the mystique of these luxurious aromatics to create a value chain that led to vast fortunes being made and Empires established. And this worldwide craze for spices played a great part in the rise of globalised trade and the birth of the Stock exchange and the capitalist system.
Joining Rajan Datar to discuss the Spice Trade is Professor Gary Paul Nabhan whose ancestors were Arab spice merchants and who’s the author of "Cumin, Camels, and Caravans: A Spice Odyssey", Dr Chris Nierstrasz, Lecturer in Global History at Erasmus University in Rotterdam and specialist on the United Dutch East India Company, and the TV Chef and Indian cookery writer Anjum Anand.
Millions of us around the world have undergone an anaesthetic, putting our trust in specialists who keep us alive while surgeons carry out complex operations. Huge advances have been made in this field in the last 150 years, thanks to the work of pioneering doctors, dentists and scientists who often risked their own lives to advance the possibilities of surgery and make anaesthetics safe.
And yet in this twilight world of artificial sleep, there are many things experts still don’t understand about what is really happening in the brain and how our consciousness is affected. And what of the reports of patients waking during surgery? How credible are these stories and what can they tell us about memory, consciousness and human experience?
Photo: A patient going under general anaesthesia. (BSIP/UIG via Getty Images)
Calouste Gulbenkian: The architect of Middle East oil
Today, the Istanbul-born Armenian financier Calouste Gulbenkian is mostly remembered as a great art collector and philanthropist; at his death in 1955 he was thought of as the world's richest man. But perhaps more than any of the above, he may have been the world's most tenacious negotiator: how else would he have held on - for decades - to the main source of his fabulous wealth, his minority share in major oil companies, despite their concerted effort to push him out? In the 150th year of Gulbenkian's birth, Rajan Datar follows Calouste's life and deal-making with his great grandson Martin Essayan; historian Dr. Jonathan Conlin, author of a new biography of Gulbenkian; and Professor of Business History Joost Jonker.
Photo: Calouste Gulbenkian (credit: Arquivos Gulbenkian)
Robinson Crusoe: the man and his island
The story of Robinson Crusoe and his many years of survival alone on a deserted island has enchanted the English-speaking world for centuries. Many people first come across the story as a children’s book or a film portrayal, celebrating Crusoe’s buccaneering adventures and his heroic efforts to tame his wild environment, create shelter and food supplies, and eventually befriend the indigenous man he calls Friday. But closer reading of Daniel Defoe’s original novel, written 300 years ago this spring, reveals a more complex tale of sin and redemption, debating fundamental questions about man’s place in the world against a backdrop of colonial expansion, transatlantic commerce and the slave trade.
Bridget Kendall talks to the Defoe scholar Professor Andreas Mueller from the University of Northern Colorado in the USA; Olivette Otele, Professor of History at Bath Spa University in the UK; and Karen O’Brien, Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford in the UK.
Photo: Engraving of Robinson Crusoe by Wal Paquet. (Ipsumpix/Corbis via Getty Images)