Man in the High Castle
It‘s 1962. The Nazis and the Japanese have won World War Two. They are running the US as a totalitarian state. Judaism is banned; slavery is back; the threat of nuclear war looms. Philip K. Dick's dystopian novel gives us a chilling alternative version of American history, in which the very nature of human freedom comes under the microscope.
The novel is set in a society where personal liberties are limited. More generally, it questions whether we are all prisoners of inevitable historical forces. Why is freedom so important to us anyway?
Aung San Suu Kyi’s plea for freedom
Aung San Suu Kyi faces a crackdown by the Burmese government after she gave a speech on the BBC. Her fight for freedom has made her a worldwide symbol of hope.
Britain splits over 1694 rights of press freedom
Lord Leveson’s verdict on press ethics is in, and it recommends historic legislation to regulate the press. Is Britain taking a backward step in the long march toward liberty?
By speculating on what might have happened if history had taken a different course, Dick asks us to think about the role of past events in creating the world of today. What can we learn by studying them?
Jewels of ancient Iraq bulldozed by fanatics
The IS frenzy of destruction has claimed three remarkable ancient cities in Iraq, considered to be treasures of global heritage. Why are tyrannies so hostile to art and history?
Shakespeare’s history plays revived for a TV age
Four brand new adaptations of Shakespeare’s history plays have been launched on the BBC. They tell stories of power, politics and identity — but should the plays really be called history?
World War Two
The novel is haunted by the ghosts of World War Two – and indeed, seven decades after its end, we are still fascinated by the planet’s greatest ever conflict. Why can’t we stop talking about it?
War captive who forgave Japanese tormentors dies
Eric Lomax’s experiences as a prisoner of war left him with physical and emotional scars. But his death this week reminded the world of an extraordinary story of reconciliation.
‘Never surrender’: Churchill’s vow remembered
It’s 75 years since Winston Churchill promised to ‘fight on the beaches’ as Britain prepared to defy Nazi Germany alone. Is stirring oratory merely a product of its time?
‘Silenced voices’ live on in Holocaust survivors
Yesterday was Holocaust Memorial Day. Yet every year, fewer and fewer people survive who remember the atrocities of World War Two. Here, we recount the story of one of them.
After the devastating racial policies of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, you would think humans had learned from past mistakes. So why does racism endure around the world?
Racism haunts football as England captain charged
In the latest of a string of racism scandals, John Terry has been charged with a criminal offence for racially abusing another player. Can prejudice ever be kicked out of football?
Ferguson shooting protests spread across US
Riots have broken out in Ferguson, Missouri, after a white police officer escaped prosecution for shooting dead an unarmed black teenager. Why are racial divisions still so wide in the US?
Dick was a master of science fiction. The Man in the High Castle is set in an alternative present, rather than an imagined future, but its use of a parallel world as a way to examine our own society is pure sci-fi.
After twelve movies, Star Trek still flying high
Star Trek: Into Darkness is in cinemas this week – the latest blockbuster instalment in a story that has been running for half a century. Is Star Trek the greatest sci-fi universe of all time?
Fans mourn loss of beloved author Iain Banks
Since the death of prolific novelist Iain Banks this weekend, thousands of heartfelt and grief-stricken tributes have filled his website. Why do we become so attached to our writers?
Physicists take on the real-world Matrix
A group of academics say they want to investigate whether the world is an advanced computer simulation. Was science fiction giving us clues to cutting edge physics all along?