Mark Steel Lectures: Series 1 to 3

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Biography Documentary hosted by Mark Steel, published by BBC in 2003, 2004, 2006 - English narration

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Mark Steel Lectures: Series 1 to 3 Irreverent yet accurate, Mark Steele takes people who have made a mark in history (or at least are mentioned often enough that their names are familiar) and gives you the highlights of their lives in a way that makes you remember the important bits. If you are looking for fun and history at the same time, these lectures are worth your time and investment--still worth the investment if you are just looking for great laughs!

[edit] Lord Byron

Mark Steel follows the glorious life of Lord Byron from his birth just off Oxford Street in London to his death in Greece thirty-six years later. We see Byron on the beach, Byron and his pet bear and Byron on Never Mind the Buzzcocks, as Mark traces an extraordinary, unpredictable and rude life in Nottinghamshire, London and Athens, from Byron’s bedroom to his deathbed.

[edit] Isaac Newton

He was a scientist who thought he could turn lead into gold. He was an obsessive with a secret Swiss boyfriend. And, in the world of The Mark Steel Lectures, he likes Alphabetti Spaghetti and the Communards. Mark Steel explores the world and the discoveries of Isaac Newton – surely one of Britain’s finest scientific alchemical gay fraud-busting genius MPs.

[edit] Sigmund Freud

With a life measured out in cigar-cutters and cocaine wraps, Sigmund Freud was clearly a genius. Here was a man who looked around the world at the start of the 20th century, saw brutal empires, millions being sucked into soulless factories, impending world war, and said: “I know what causes the problems - we want to have sex with our mothers.” Mark Steel reveals the absurdity and complexity of that genius as he travels from Vienna to London in Freud’s wake. Our Sigmund, played by Martin Hyder, steps out of the darkness like Harry Lime, snorts cocaine like Al Pacino in Scarface, and treats his friends like Richard Ashcroft in the video for Bittersweet Symphony.

[edit] Aristotle

Mark Steel traces the history of Greek Philosophy from Pythagoras (“never ate beans”), to Plato (“old and bald”), to Aristotle (“made lists of Olympic champions for fun, and possibly a bugger for the bottle, or possibly not”). The lecture takes in all the important areas of classical philosophy, including ethics, Sue Barker, whether the Four Tops are really the Four Tops at all, incontinence and Jim Davidson, ballooning, and why Aristotle would have disapproved of Orange marches. Filmed at the Parthenon and across Athens, Mark Steel brings you the Aristotle that history has forgotten; the one that liked a pretty girl, a shop full of beds and a KFC, and just maybe a drink as well.

[edit] Charles Darwin

Delving further, and more imaginatively, into the evolution of Charles Darwin than ever before, the Mark Steel Lecture takes this modern hero off the ten pound note and into the present day. We follow him onto the Beagle and into the bedroom, and worry for his sanity as he fashions a turtle out of mashed potato. A tortured figure whose distress eventually forced him to take to his bed and watch Animal Hospital and Countdown all day (probably), this is the show that tells you things about Darwin you never knew - including his opinion on the taste of Galapagos tortoise urine.

[edit] Karl Marx

As he moved from Paris to London, Marx managed to leave a trail of uncleaned rooms and even more untidy relationships in his wake. Mark picks his way through the discarded Pot Noodle cartons and unexpected children to reveal the real Marx. You'll discover why the state of Marx's flat caused consternation amongst those sent to spy on him, and get to watch him doing his grocery shopping. Mark also explains what made Marx's theories so revolutionary and why Marx wasn't a Marxist. And did we mention the affairs?

[edit] Ludwig van Beethoven

Mark Steel turns up the volume on Beethoven with his tribute to a man who was the nearest eighteenth-century Vienna got to not only Jimi Hendrix, but also Captain Sensible. Unflinchingly exposing Ludwig’s anger management issues and his dependence on Ceefax’s 888 subtitle service, Mark Steel sets Beethoven in his revolutionary context and reveals the quirks of his character the history books gloss over. Taking in the revolutionary nature of the Freemasons, Haydn’s contractual similarity to Prince, Beethoven’s unusual fondness for semi-hemidemisemiquavers and his love-hate relationship with Napoleon, The Mark Steel Lectures once again combines unique reconstructions with inventive graphics to bring Beethoven right up to the minute. This episode is filmed on location in Vienna.

[edit] Leonardo da Vinci

Creator of some of the greatest works of art in human history, but at the same time barely able to finish them, Leonardo is possibly the most easily distracted genius who ever lived. Mark Steel gets close to some of Leonardo’s greatest works, and finds out what The Last Supper has in common with EastEnders. Packing in not just a life of Leonardo but also a brief canter through the political geography and the latest technological advances of the world he was born into, Mark begins by exploring the standards of great art and great beauty as they were before Leonardo truly made his mark. Then it’s a whistlestop tour round Italy as Leonardo builds a reputation both for genius and not doing what he’s paid for. For this episode, Mark travelled for filming on location in Milan, Florence, and Paris.

[edit] Mary Shelley

Like Dr Frankenstein himself, Mark Steel has taken the cold-cuts of the traditional TV lecture and brought it back to life with passion and electricity. Taking as its subjects both the book for which Mary Shelley is famous and the tragedy-filled life of the woman herself, the programme moves from England to Geneva and back in search of the spark that created the monster. Almost as if genetically programmed by the pioneering mother she never knew, and on whose grave she consummated her love for the poet Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley created an indestructible legend more relevant today than ever – as Mark Steel discovers with his customary wit and passion. Kenneth Branagh does not feature in this programme. Filmed on location in Britain and Switzerland.

[edit] Thomas Paine

Surely Britain’s greatest unknown international revolutionary, best-selling author and hobbyist bridge builder, Norfolk born corset-maker’s son Thomas Paine wrote the Rights of Man and helped inspire the American War of Independence. Thereafter he became the Secretary for Foreign Affairs in a government that hated his country of birth. He then went to France and escaped the guillotine by accident, after having failed to sell a bridge he built over a field in London. One of Mark Steel’s great unsung radical heroes, this comedy lecture series shines a light on a little known (in Britain) hero on two continents.
Filmed on British and French soil.

[edit] Sylvia Pankhurst

Tracing her life from schooldays in radical Manchester to retirement in rural Essex, when Haile Selassie occasionally came to call, Sylvia Pankhurst the revolutionary and Rastafarian sympathiser is brought to life as only Mark Steel can. From a bed-in with Keir Hardie to Kill Bill style ju-jitsu, here’s everything you didn’t know about this pioneer of democracy. Recalling a time when Manchester was the most radical city in Britain, this latest instalment in Mark Steel’s comedy lecture series resonates with today’s human rights campaigners and anti-war radicals, as well as containing a short section revealing the best type of stone to smash windows with.
This episode was filmed in London and Manchester, as Addis Ababa was a bit too far.

[edit] Albert Einstein

A great physicist but a lousy father, Einstein played with the nature of space and time as easily as he did his beloved violin. Mark Steel grapples with the fundamental nature of the Universe and Einstein’s dislike of socks to provide a comic guide to the essence of the most famous scientist in history. Surely the only television programme in history to explain special relativity with reference to both minicabs and Blake’s 7, this is Einstein in a nutshell, at nearly the speed of light.
Filmed on location in Bern and Geneva, Switzerland, and Florence.

[edit] Oliver Cromwell

Mark Steel turns his spotlight to the life and work of the man who would eventually turn down the offer from Parliament to become the King of England. Traditionally, Oliver Cromwell has been viewed as a misery, a killjoy whose Puritan beliefs led him to despise drinking, dancing, music and fun but Mark argues in this programme that far from being these things, Cromwell was in fact a bit of a laugh and never lost his childish sense of humour. We discover that whilst signing the King’s death warrant he and his co-regicides involved themselves in a huge ink fight and that whilst a student at Cambridge he was barred from local pubs for his rowdy behaviour and that he would often accost women in the street to ‘perforce ravish a kiss or some lewder satisfaction upon them’. Nowadays he’d get an ASBO or a reality tv show for that sort of thing. Join Mark Steel as he charts Cromwell’s course through British history; his election and resignation from parliament, the formation of his New Model Army, the overthrow and subsequent execution of the King, Charles I, the monumental shift of power from monarchy to parliament, the abolition of the House of Lords right through to the massacre at Drogheda. Oh, and the introduction of the first ever pineapple to Britain.

[edit] Charlie Chaplin

Charlie Chaplin was born in 1889, his father, an alcoholic singer, left when Charlie was very young; leaving his mother to bring him and his brother up in tiny rented rooms. Soon she fell ill and the family were forced into the Lambeth Workhouse – an experience which left an indelible impression on the young boy. Music Hall was his saviour; its rise in popularity was accelerated when the working week in factories was reduced to 60 hours and a teenage Charlie discovered his abilities as a natural clown. Whilst touring America in 1912 with Fred Karno’s Music Hall Company, Chaplin was spotted by Mack Sennet, creator of the Keystone Kops and was offered a job. Join Mark as he charts Chaplin’s course through 20th century history, how through the initial success of the Little Tramp character he managed to negotiate the right to direct his own films and how this character came to be seen as a symbol of resistance to the regimented rules of modern society. He transformed the way comedy films were made, taking control of every aspect of the production process; he taught himself to read music so he could write his own film scores; He even insisted on having a pool of 21 trained studio dogs, all of whom were well versed in the art of comic timing….

[edit] Rene Descartes

Rene Descartes was the man responsible for the catchphrase ‘I think therefore I am’ - Not quite as good as ‘Am I bovvered’ or ‘I’m a Laydeeee’ perhaps, but infinitely better than ‘Shut that Door.’ In many respects, Descartes was a bit of an oddity. Born into the lower ranks of the French nobility in 1596, he made it his business never to get up before noon, he smoked tobacco that was cut with dope and when he’d done that, he laid down the blueprint for all modern day thinking on any given subject for the next 400 years. Whilst sitting in an oven. Yes, an oven. To appreciate the sheer genius of Descartes work, we need to look at it in context: He was establishing his pioneering ideas at a time when philosophical thinking wasn’t really encouraged by the church, to such an extent that one philosopher, Vanini had his tongue cut out, was strangled and then burnt at the stake for daring to try and explain how miracles work. charts Descartes course through scientific history; his stint as a card shark in the dutch army, his invention of the little 2, the symbol used to signify a squared number, his invention of the x and y used in algebra. Not to mention his numerous biological experiments that gave us first clear idea that the senses were linked to the central nervous system and his seminal work, ‘The Meditations’ in which he constructed a theory of the universe which instead of beginning with blind faith, insisted on the prominence of doubt as a starting point.

[edit] Geoffrey Chaucer

If you ask most people what they know about Geoffrey Chaucer, they’ll probably reply that he was the bloke who wrote bawdy poems about people sticking their bums out of windows and breaking wind. Which, strictly speaking, is true? However, through his writing Chaucer not only managed to become considered as the father of English poetry, he also attained the lofty position of being this country’s first ever social commentator. The son of a winekeeper, Geoffrey Chaucer was born around 1342 in London at a time of enormous social change. When he was a young boy, the Black Death swept into England and whilst this was certainly bad news for most, Chaucer ended up becoming a notable beneficiary of its devastating effects. Up until this point, social mobility between the classes hadn’t really existed – essentially you stayed in the class that you were born into; which was either the nobility where you owned the land or the peasantry where you worked the land. One consequence of the Black Death was that it created a labour shortage and as a result, the middle ranks of the Royal Court had to be replaced with un noble blood. Which is precisely where a young Chaucer fitted in. Now, for the first time it was actually possible to move from one social class to another and Chaucer took full advantage of this; his subsequent experiences went on to form a sturdy foundation for his later writings…

[edit] Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman, described widely as the ‘Moses of her people’ was instrumental in the efforts to abolish slavery in mid 19th century America. Born into a life of bondage, she was forced into work at five years of age and at 12 was horrifically injured by the plantation overseer when he threw a lead weight at her head. At 27 and buoyed by stories of slave rebellions emerging across the country, she escaped her Maryland plantation and headed Northwards where she knew there were strong groups of Quakers and anti slavery campaigners who were collectively known as the ‘Underground Railroad’ Despite having a twelve hundred dollar bounty on her head, Harriet would insist on planning and executing a series of audacious raids back in Maryland, returning to free dozens of people from her old plantation. In 1860 Abraham Lincoln was elected President and the South was horrified at the prospect of being governed by a President opposed to slavery; they decided to break away from the rest of America calling themselves the Confederates and soon after the Civil War began. Join the award winning comedian Mark Steel as he charts Harriet Tubman’s course through American history; her daring armed raids to rescue fellow slaves, her inclusion into the Underground Railroad network, and her work with fellow abolitionist John Brown and her special meetings with Abraham Lincoln’s wife.

[edit] Ernesto Che Guevara

Walk down any high street in this country and chances are at some point you’ll see somebody wearing a Che Guevara t shirt. Most of whom have absolutely no idea who he was and what he stood for. Still, it’s a nice image, and he was handsome… Che Guevara was born in Argentina in 1928; initially he trained to be a doctor but became politically conscious and abandoned his vocation in order to travel across South America on the back of a motorbike. It was in Mexico in 1955 that Che met a young Fidel Castro who with his brother Raul had been exiled from his Cuban homeland and was preparing for an uprising there by training a crack squad of rebels in the Mexican countryside. This was Che’s calling. It’s what he’d been waiting his whole life for. It was his destiny. In this latest edition of his BAFTA nominated series of lectures, writer and broadcaster Mark Steel travels to South America and turns his attentions to the life and revolutionary times of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, a man who started out on a motorcycle holiday, only to end up being made Foreign Minister of Cuba. Which of course is nice work if you can get it.

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  • Video Codec: XviD ISO MPEG-4
  • Video Bitrate: 1537 kbps
  • Video Resolution: 720 x 416
  • Video Aspect Ratio: (16:9)
  • Frames Per Second: 25
  • Audio Codec: 0x0055 MPEG-1 Layer 3
  • Audio Bitrate: 128 kb/s MP3 48000 Hz)
  • Audio Streams: 2
  • Audio Languages: English
  • RunTime Per Part: 30mins
  • Number Of Parts: 18
  • Part Size: 349 MB
  • Source: PDTV
  • Encoded by Harry65
  • Thanks to llambert

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