The Mark Steel Lectures

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The Mark Steel Lectures are a series of radio and television programmes. Written and delivered by Mark Steel, each scripted lecture presents arguments for the importance of a historical figure.


The lectures were originally broadcast on BBC Radio 4 over three series between 1999 and 2002. Many of the arguments were illustrated by miniature sketches. These sketches featured Mark Steel, Martin Hyder, Mel Hudson, Carla Mendonça, Femi Elufowoju Junior and Debbie Isitt. The first series was subtitled "A series of lectures about Englishmen who changed the course of history", with the remaining two changing this to "A series of lectures about people with a passion". The first series was produced by Phil Clark; the others by Lucy Armitage. The lecture on Ludwig van Beethoven (2003) was nominated for a Sony Radio Comedy Award.

The programme transferred to television in 2003, with an Open University series on BBC Four, which was later repeated on BBC Two. This variously featured:

Like the radio version, the television series was written by Mark Steel, and features a series of sketches, often setting historical events in the modern day, and making numerous pop culture references. This version saw Steel deliver his lectures on location, with different sections of each programme coming from locations relevant to that part of the story. Unlike the radio version, there were no audience sounds, which some critics suggested made the comedy sections feel out of place [1]. The television series was directed by Michael Cumming, and produced by Jon Rolph. The executive producers were Emma De'Ath and Graham Smith.

The programme was nominated for a BAFTA award in 2004 for best television comedy. Although the radio series has been released on CD, there are no plans to release DVDs of the television series.

Radio episode list[edit]

Series 1 – Englishmen who changed the course of history[edit]

Series 2 – People with a passion[edit]

Series 3 – People with a passion[edit]

Television episode list[edit]

Series 1[edit]

Series 2[edit]

Series 3[edit]

Audio releases[edit]

There are two CDs currently out, featuring episodes of the second radio series.

  • Volume 1: Leonardo da Vinci and Karl Marx
  • Volume 2: Aristotle, Lord Byron, Che Guevara and Billie Holiday

External links[edit]