Reith Lectures

The Reith Lectures is a series of annual radio lectures given by leading figures of the day, commissioned by the BBC and broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service. The lectures were inaugurated in 1948 by the BBC to mark the historic contribution made to public service broadcasting by Sir John Reith, the corporation's first director-general.

Lord Reith maintained that broadcasting should be a public service which enriches the intellectual and cultural life of the nation. It is in this spirit that the BBC each year invites a leading figure to deliver a series of lectures on radio. The aim is to advance public understanding and debate about significant issues of contemporary interest.[1]

The first Reith lecturer was the philosopher and Nobel laureate, Bertrand Russell. The first female lecturer was Dame Margery Perham in 1961, who spoke on the impact of colonialism in her series of talks entitled The Colonial Reckoning.[2] The youngest Reith Lecturer was Colin Blakemore, who was 30 years old in 1976 when he broadcast six lectures on the brain and consciousness, titled Mechanics of the Mind.[3]

The Reith Lectures Archive

Excerpt from a lecture
Part of a lecture by Martin Rees, recorded June 2010

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In June 2011 BBC Radio 4 published its Reith Lectures archive.[4] This included two podcasts featuring over 240 lectures from 1948 to the present day as well as streamed online audio, and the complete written transcripts of the entire Reith Lectures archive:

The BBC found that some of the audio archive of the Reith Lectures was missing from its library and appealed to the public for copies of the missing lectures.[4]

The Reith Lectures 1948–2016










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