In Our Time: Annie Besant

In Our Time: Annie Besant

Melvyn Bragg and his guests; Lawrence Goldman (University of Oxford), David Stack (University of Reading) and Yasmin Khan (University of London); discuss the life of the prominent 19th-century social reformer Annie Besant (1 October, 1847 – 20 September 1933).

In 1893 Annie Besant wrote: “it has always been somewhat of a grievance to me that I was born in London, ‘within the sound of Bow Bells”, when three-quarters of my blood and all my heart are Irish”1.

This episode of In Our Time follows Besant’s life as an activist for women’s rights, birth control, Socialism, secularism, Irish Home Rule and better conditions for workers. It also covers her later involvement with theosophy, a belief system inspired by Eastern religions that also attracted thinkers like Eva Gore Booth, William Butler Yeats and George “AE” Russell, and with the Indian self-rule movement.

Also see the Radio 4 blog post on the programme

  1. Annie Besant (1893) Annie Besant: An Autobiography, London: T. Fisher Unwin, p. 13 (
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