Elon Musk's Hyperloop and Brunel's Atmospheric Traction Rail
Jonathan Freedland takes the long view of pioneering invention and the trials and tribulations thereof in the form of Elon Musk's Hyperloop and Isambard Brunel's Atmospheric Rail system.
Both men were driven and capable of challenging accepted engineering norms but in their two rail systems they struggled to make a break through. Elon Musk believes that his Hyperloop system can shoot passengers at breakneck speed through a vacuum tube, cutting journey times and revolutionising rail travel. Ever the coy publicist he refers to his Hyperloop as the "fifth mode of transport" after road, rail, sea and air.
Brunel was convinced that steam wasn't the only way of providing cheap, efficient mass transport. Using a sealed tube in the centre of the rails to deliver vacuum propulsion, his system ran on a 20-mile section of track between Exeter and Newton Abbot and was a match for the speeds available to the best steam trains of the day.
But both systems have proved more than challenging and in Brunel's case the challenges became insurmountable and the inventor's appetite for new adventures saw it fall quickly into disuse. How will Elon Musk's plans mature?
Historian Colin Divall is on hand to help tell the parallel stories of these two men and their transport dreams.
Producer: Tom Alban
The Long View of would-be reforming leaders
A new figure on the world stage with enormous influence, is creating confusion. Heralded as a reformer he is also responsible for extreme intolerance towards those who exhibit disloyalty or threaten to cross him. That was the story in the 11th century with Pope Gregory Vii, and it's also the story now with the Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Pope Gregory appeared to be leading major reforms within the church including attitudes towards clerical celibacy. But while there may have been suggestions of a willingness to accept change and to be flexible in the face of changing pressures he was also capable of ruthless intolerance. He was accused of necromancy, torture of a former friend, assassination attempts and unjust excommunications. His conflict with King Henry iv, Holy Roman Emperor dominated the European stage in the 1070s and 1080s.
Conrad Leyser, associate Professor at Worcester College, Oxford helps Jonathan tell the story of a man billed as a reformer but whose reputation underwent a dramatic change during his time as head of the church in Rome.
Prime Ministers and Divided Parties
Jonathan Freedland compares Theresa May's woes now with those of Arthur Balfour in 1903-06, taking the long view of prime ministers confronted with deep divisions in their own party.
In the early 1900s Prime Minister Arthur Balfour was faced with a seemingly irreconcilable split in his party. Back then, Balfour’s Conservatives were tearing themselves apart over Imperial Preference - a proposal for a free trade zone within the British Empire. Advocates of Imperial Preference saw it as vital to maintaining Britain's place in the world. Opponents saw it as a dangerous folly.
Jonathan Freedland looks at what lessons can be drawn from Balfour's experiences.
Producer: Laurence Grissell
Jonathan Freedland and guests take the Long View on the expulsion of Russian diplomats - both in 2018 after the Skripal poisionings and in 1927 after a notorious raid of a building in London's Moorgate.
The story begins in 12 King's Bench Walk in London's Inner Temple, where on 9th May 1927 MI5's head of anti-Soviet work met with Edward Langston a whistle-blower who revealed that a secret military document had been in the possession of the Soviets in the Head Quarters of the All Russian Co-Operative Society, located at 49 Moorgate. And the story ends in Victoria Station where the expelled Russians started their journey home, sent off by crowds of supporters which included MPs and trade unionists.
Joining Jonathan Freedland to take this Long View are:
Timothy Phillips: Historian, and author of "The Secret Twenties: British Intelligence, The Russians And The Jazz Age"
Edward Lucas: Times columnist, espionage expert and author of "The New Cold War: Putin's Russia and the Threat to the West", "Deception: The Untold Story of East-West Espionage Today", and "Cyberphobia: Identity, Trust, Security and the Internet"
Oksana Antonenko: Visiting Fellow at Institute of Global Affairs at the London School of Economics and former Programme Director for Russia and Eurasia at the International Institute for Strategic Studies
Sir Tony Brenton: Former British Ambassador to Russia (2004-08), including during the Litvinenko case
Tim McMullan: Actor who played Arthur Valentine, an MI5 operative in Foyles War
Producers: Ben Mitchell and Paul Kobrak.
Driverless Cars and the Railways of 1830
Jonathan Freedland compares safety on the railways in the 1830s to the debate around driverless cars today.
The Liverpool and Manchester Railway was opened to great fanfare on 15 September 1830. It was clear this new form of transport would radically transform society. Yet the day was overshadowed by the death of William Huskisson MP who stepped on the tracks and was struck by Stephenson's Rocket as it steamed down the line.
With the the first death to result from driverless vehicles in Arizona a few weeks ago, Jonathan Freedland and guests tell the story of Huskisson's death and explore the implications for the development of self-driving vehicles today.
Producer: Laurence Grissell.