Settee Seminars. Image of orange settee with cushion, scroll and mortarboard on it.

Episode One

Simon Hall – Ten Days in Harlem: Fidel Castro and the Making of the 1960s

Professor of Modern History Simon Hall delves into the events of September 1960 when Cuba’s communist leader Fidel Castro arrived in New York for the opening of the United Nations General Assembly.

After storming out of his plush mid-town hotel following a row about money, Fidel relocated to the Hotel Theresa, the so-called ‘Waldorf of Harlem’. Greeted enthusiastically by the local African American community, he proceeded to hold court with a succession of world leaders, black freedom fighters and counter-cultural luminaries, and promoted the politics of anti-imperialism with a fervour, and an audacity, that made him an icon of the 1960s.

Entertaining and wildly unpredictable, Fidel’s trip to New York proved to be a foundational moment in the trajectory of the Cold War, a turning point in the history of anti-colonial struggle, and a launching pad for the social, cultural and political tumult of the decade that followed. Have a listen to ‘Ten Days in Harlem’ to find out more about this historic event.

Further reading: 

Steven Cohen, ‘When Castro Came to Harlem’, The New Republic, 21 March 2016.
Simon Hall, Ten Days in Harlem: Fidel Castro and the Making of the 1960s (Faber and Faber, 2020).
Simon Hall, ‘Fidel Castro Stayed in Harlem 60 Years Ago to Highlight Racial Injustice in the U.S.’, Smithsonian Magazine, 18 September 2020.
David Smith, ‘Fidel Castro in the US: cars, cigars and a meeting with Malcolm X’, The Guardian, 27 November 2016.

Episode Two

David Fairer – Wigs, Swords and Poison: Writing Murder Mysteries set in Queen Anne’s London

After forty years researching and teaching eighteenth-century literature, Emeritus Professor David Fairer is now attempting to bring the age alive in a series of novels, the Chocolate House Mysteries. Centred on a Covent Garden chocolate house, these books combine historical fact and fiction, with their plots built around the actual events of 1708.

Writing a historical ‘whodunit’ raises particular challenges and questions. How did men and women in 1708 conceive of such things as evidence, clues, blackmail, bribery, interrogation and teamwork? How did they conceive of the notion of ‘detection’ itself, when there were no policemen and no detectives, no experts, no teams, no concept of crime scenes or forensics?

Have a listen to ‘Wigs, Swords and Poison’ to find the answers to these questions!

Further reading:

David Fairer, Chocolate House Treason: A Mystery of Queen Anne’s London (Matador, 2019) https://davidfairer.com.
Aytoun Ellis, The Penny Universities: A History of the Coffee-Houses (Secker & Warburg, 1956).
Markman Ellis, The Coffee House: A Cultural History (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2004).
Bryant Lillywhite, London Coffee Houses (George Allen and Unwin, 1963).
John Ashton, Social Life in the Reign of Queen Anne (Chatto & Windus, 1929).

Episode Three

Des McLernon – 5G Technology in the Covid Age: Saviour or Dystopian Future?

Dr Des McLernon takes us on a journey from the Ancient Greeks via the first cellular phone in 1979 to today’s fifth generation (5G) cellular technology. McLernon discusses why 5G wireless technology (unlike previous generations of cellular radio) will be both transformative and disruptive, enabling what is called the fourth industrial revolution of the Internet of Things and cyber physical systems.

McLernon also examines how 5G technology is much more than just a phone on which you can download videos faster. It will drive the Internet of Things and industrial robotics to smart cities & healthcare, driverless cars to immersive reality, online gaming to robotic surgery, and the tactile internet to advanced manufacturing.

Further reading:

Why do we need 5g and IOT?
The Improvements Coming with 5G 
Introducing 5G Technology and Networks
5G Mobile Technology – A Guide
Electromagnetic Frequencies 100 kHZ to 300 GHZ
Testing for the SARS-COV-2 Virus from an Engineering Perspective

Episode Four

Emily Zobel Marshall – Longing for Freedom: The Story of the African Trickster

Dr Emily Zobel Marshall will take you on journey through black history and across continents, guided by a most captivating character, the trickster spider Anansi. Marshall will reveal the roots of the Anansi folktales in Ghana and demonstrate Anansi inspired both psychological and physical resistance to enslavement on the Jamaican plantations. She will show us the vital role the trickster plays in our lives by testing and exposing abuses of power.

Further reading:

Zobel Marshall, Emily (2019) American Trickster: Trauma Tradition and Brer Rabbit. Rowman and Littlefield: London.
Zobel Marshall, Emily (2012) Anansi’s Journey: A Story of Jamaican Cultural Resistance. University of the West Indies Press: Kingston.
Zobel, Joseph (1950; 2020) Black Shack Alley. Penguin Classics: USA

For Anansi story collections in Jamaica see, among others:
Beckwith, Martha Warren (1924) Jamaica Anansi Stories. New York: American Folk-lore Society.
Bennett, Louise (1979) Anancy and Miss Lou. Kingston: Sangster’ s Book Stores.
Jekyll, W. (1966) Jamaican Song and Story: Annancy Stories, Digging Sings, Dancing Tunes and Ring Tunes. New York: Dover Publications
Tanna, Laura (1984) Jamaican Folktales and Oral Histories. Kingston: Institute of Jamaica Publications.

Episode Five

Allan House – Only the Lonely?

[Content warning: This talk includes discussion of topics which may be upsetting to some listeners including suicide, anxiety, depression, loneliness and self-harm]

Loneliness, self-isolation, social distancing and what the COVID-19 pandemic tells us about social influences on mental health.

Professor of Liaison Psychiatry Allan House outlines why physical illness is stressful and how one particular aspect of the COVID pandemic – social isolation – can harm our mental health. Focussing on the topic of self-harm and suicide during the pandemic, House explores how we can better protect ourselves against the risks posed by social isolation and how to approach those who insist that they know the answers to many COVID-related questions.

Further reading:

Allan House, Understanding and responding to self-harm: the One Stop Guide, Profile Books 2019.
Thomas Joiner, Why People Die By Suicide, Harvard University Press 2007.
Barnardo’s, ‘Left to their own Devices: Children’s Social Media and Mental Health‘. 

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