At the start of 2019, a year of potentially momentous change for the United Kingdom, Neil MacGregor explores how five major countries see Britain through the prism of historical events, cultural influences and objects.
Across five programmes in the first week of January, MacGregor visits different countries - Germany, India, Egypt, Nigeria and Canada - and talks to leading political, business and cultural figures to find out how they, as individuals and as members of their broader communities, see Britain. MacGregor asks whether the essence of their relationship with Britain can be traced back to key events or cultural influences and explores what impact those events still have on the nature of relationships today.
The contributors discuss what they learnt about Britain at school, their first encounters with British cities and culture and key historical moments and objects which have shaped their perception of Britain now. Whether it is reading Dickens, watching Monty Python, the Suez Crisis or the 1966 World Cup Final, these are a few examples of what influences the way that Britain is perceived abroad and may inform how these countries approach diplomatic and commercial conversations in the future.
Contributors include the Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamid Sanusi; Nigerian writer and the first African Nobel Laureate for Literature Wole Soyinka; German President of the Bundestag, Wolfgang Schäuble; German TV host, writer and cultural commentator Thea Dorn; French-Canadian film director Denys Arcand; Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland; Egyptian writer Ahdaf Soueif; Ram Narasimhan, publisher of the Hindu Newspaper and Shobana Kamineni, first female president of the Confederation of Indian Industries.
Neil MacGregor says: "For several hundred years, the United Kingdom has been closely connected with every part of the world, as the British travelled and traded, conquered and settled in every continent. Britain has played a significant part in the history of all of the five countries discussed in this series, a part often forgotten in the UK, but very much not forgotten there. We found a quirky but extremely well-informed mix of affection and admiration, irritation and bewilderment. And whether they were for or against, everybody had a very clear view about the decision to leave the EU."
Gwyneth Williams, Controller of Radio 4, says: "Radio 4 is proud to start the new year with an ambitious global series presented by one of our most compelling scholars. In As Others See Us, Neil MacGregor brings his knowledge and authority to give a fresh perspective on ourselves and our society; the chance to pause, look up and out, and to reflect on and re-evaluate our place in the world."