Bertrand Russell & Other Big Thinkers in BBC Lecture Series (Free)

Back in 1948, Britain was making another difficult transition, moving from the trauma of World War II to the chill of the Cold War. Hoping to give radio listeners some clarity on contemporary affairs, the BBC began airing an annual series of lectures — the Reith Lectures — that featured leading thinkers of the day. 60 years later, the tradition continues, and during this long stretch, some legendary figures have graced the BBC’s airwaves: Michael Sandel, Edward Said, John Searle, John Kenneth Galbraith, George Kennan, and Robert Oppenheimer, just to name a few. (And, yes, the list unfortunately skews heavily male.)

Late last month, the BBC put the complete audio archive online, which gives you access to 240 lectures in total. Where’s the best place to start? How about at the beginning, with the inaugural lectures presented by philosopher Bertrand Russell in 1948. His lecture series, Authority and the Individual, delved into an age old question in political philosophy — the individual and his/her relationship with communities and states. The head of the BBC later groused that Russell spoke “too quickly and had a bad voice.” But the real complaints came from the Soviets, who interpreted Russell’s lectures as an attack on Communism. You can find the lectures here; the first lecture appears at the bottom of the page.

Note: Our Twitter friends around the world said that they could almost universally access the lectures. If you experience any geo-restricting, we apologize in advance.

Related Content:

Bertrand Russell Sends a Message to the Future

Bertrand Russell on God

Free Philosophy Courses

by | Permalink | Comments (10) |

Support Open Culture

We’re hoping to rely on our loyal readers rather than erratic ads. To support Open Culture’s educational mission, please consider making a donation. We accept PayPal, Venmo (@openculture), Patreon and Crypto! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (10)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • Nitin says:

    Hey, you guys are doing a truly great job here.. I come from a pretty mediocre background, and to have access to these is a privilege and an honour. Thanks guys, and keep this going!

  • Give me books over all good looks,give me cooks,not kitchen spooks! Great job keep working…..

  • John says:

    Dear friends,

    I wanted to let you know about a new petition I created on We the People,
    a new feature on, and ask for your support. Will you add your
    name to mine? If this petition gets 25,000 signatures by February 09, 2013,
    the White House will review it and respond!

    We the People allows anyone to create and sign petitions asking the Obama
    Administration to take action on a range of issues. If a petition gets
    enough support, the Obama Administration will issue an official response.

    You can view and sign the petition here:

  • James P Kennedy says:

    If I didn’t have the GI Bill I would live on this site. I have the Gi Bill and I live on this site. The Army was wasted on me.

  • victoria says:

    Thanks you Mr. Dan Colman for putting these free everything up online. This is a site that I will use again and again. This is an amazing source for information. Thanks again !!!!

  • Don Swsenson says:

    I can’t thank you enough for this site. I live among acres of corn and beans; access to books, works of art, etc. is difficult here. You are a window to the most enlightening and interesting productions of the human spirit. Merci !

  • Dr. Sushila Ramaswamy says:

    I am looking for a copyright free photograph of Mary Wollstonecraft for my book on Women and political thought. Kindly treat it as urgent and respond immediately. Tx

  • leslie tall says:

    (And, yes, the list unfortunately skews heavily male.)

    Unfortunately, really? What was the purpose of this statement? Perhaps they should apologize?

  • Noel says:

    “The list is unfortunately ” skewed” toward males.”

    Should we be more concerned here with
    Avon ladies and housewives?
    IAmerican men are so pathetic.

  • Kevin Hayden says:

    Strange, can’t access any of these lectures here in Oregon, USA. It says it’s not available in my area.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.