George Orwell, Susan Sontag, Sigmund Freud, Margaret Mead, these giants and dozens more appeared in BBC interviews, documentaries and films, offering insights on their work and their world. This DVD set gathers archival footage, much of it available for the first time since its original airing, featuring some of the greatest minds of the 20th century.

The collection includes rarities such as the only surviving voice recording of Virginia Woolf, J.R.R. Tolkien reading in his invented Elvish language, disquieting footage of participants in Stanley Mailgram’s experiments in the human capacity for cruelty and Jane Goodall discovering behavioral links between humans and chimpanzees. As a real-life compilation of historic moments, it’s beyond compare, as an overview of the social and political forces of the 20th century, its compelling viewing and an exceptional glimpse of the geniuses who have shaped the modern world.

This DVD set, In Their Own Words, comes with 2 discs including 6 episodes:

Disc 1: British Novelists

Episode 1 – Among the Ruins 1919 – 1939
In the first decade after World War I, British novelists examined the lasting effects of the devastating conflict with the Bloomsbury Group providing a keen critique of the interwar years.

Episode 2 – The Age of Anxiety, 1945 – 1969
The decades following World War II included four of the most significant novels in British history published in a single year, each a unique take on what the global conflict taught about human nature and humanity’s future. William Golding, Kingsley Amis, Iris Murdoch and others are interviewed.

Episode 3 – Nothing Sacred, 1970 – 1990
Women’s movement, immigration, sexual freedom and labor content all have picked up steam. British writers raced to document their moment in time and challenged established assumptions along the way. Novelists such as Angela Carter, Salman Rushdie, Martin Amis and Ian McEwan leave their commentary.

Disc 2 – Good Thinkers


Episode 4 – Human, All Too Human

What truly defines humanity? As the 20th century unfolded, a wide range of theories evolved from Sigmund Freud’s insights into the unconscious to Margaret Mead’s revelations about how society influences the adolescent experience.

Episode 5 – The Grand Experiment

It was a moment of triumph for advocates of John Maynard Keynes’s economic theory, the post-World War II Grand Experiment of investing as much on combating poverty as society had on fighting the war. Marxist Tarik Ali and historian/philosopher Isaiah Berlin are interviewed in this episode.

Episode 6 – The Culture Wars
The concept of culture, ballet, theatre, fine art, classic literature, was radically redefined in the 20th century, all due to the advent of radio and television. At the same time that ordinary people had their first test of the finest that culture had to offer, academics and others presented a vast array of experiences.

In Their Own Words has a bonus feature that includes a 16 page viewer’s guide with visionary ideas in retrospect, profiles of the interviews, perspectives on seminal novels, an article on the Bloomsbury group and the history of the BBC. There are biographies of people featured in the program.

If you would like a copy of the DVD set, In Their Own Words just click on the Amazon link above and order one.

Jan Barrett

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