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James Naughtie examines the lives and impact of the men and women who have given the second Elizabethan Age its character

As the longest-lived and longest-reigning monarch of the United Kingdom, Queen Elizabeth II has presided over an era of tremendous social, political and cultural change. In 2012, to mark her Diamond Jubilee, Radio 4 looked back on the long span of her reign, and asked the public to choose high-profile public figures who have helped to define this New Elizabethan Age. Almost a thousand nominations poured in, and the final selection was decided by a panel of leading writers and historians, including Dominic Sandbrook, Bamber Gascoigne and Max Hastings.

In this celebratory collection, distinguished broadcaster James Naughtie profiles 37 of these iconic individuals. They come from all walks of life – from artists and scientists like David Hockney and Francis Crick, to business legends such as Alan Sainsbury and Anita Roddick, politicians including Roy Jenkins, Tony Blair and Alex Salmond, and even a member of the Royal Family: Diana, Princess of Wales. Some are world-famous, others less well-known, and there are several surprising choices – and a few controversial ones. But all have made their mark on our nation, for good or ill.

Here are fascinating portraits of mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary, whose conquest of Everest was announced on the day of the Queen’s coronation; Elizabeth David, the food writer who brought European cuisine to British tables; leading thinker on British culture, race and identity Stuart Hall; renowned English composer Benjamin Britten; the inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee – and many more, whose achievements and influence will stand the test of time. Together, they shine a light on postwar Britain, illuminating how our society has evolved over the seven decades since Queen Elizabeth II’s accession.

Production credits
Presented by James Naughtie
Produced by James Cook, Sukey Firth, Clare Walker, Sarah Taylor, Alison Hughes, Poppy Goodheart and Kate Howells

First broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on the following dates:

Edmund Hilary 11 June 2012
Elizabeth David 12 June 2012
Graham Greene 13 June 2012
Michael Young 14 June 2012
Vladimir Raitz 15 June 2012
Francis Crick 18 June 2012
Alan Sainsbury 20 June 2012
Benjamin Britten 25 June 2012
Dorothy Hodgkin 26 June 2012
Alfred Denning 4 July 2012
Paul Foot 5 July 2012
Francis Bacon 6 July 2012
Peter Hall 12 July 2012
Terence Conran 13 July 2012
Enoch Powell 16 July 2012
Cicely Saunders 17 July 2012
Basil D’Oliveira 19 July 2012
Germaine Greer 23 July 2012
Robert Edwards 24 July 2012
Jack Jones 26 July 2012
Talaiasi Labalaba 31 July 2012
Jocelyn Bell Burnell 2 August 2012
Roy Jenkins 3 August 2012
Vivienne Westwood 6 August 2012
Jayaben Desai 7 August 2012
Stuart Hall 9 August 2012
David Hockney 14 August 2012
Ralph Robins 16 August 2012
Anita Roddick 21 August 2012
Norman Foster 22 August 2012
Charles Saatchi 23 August 2012
Goldie 24 August 2012
John Hume/David Trimble 27 August 2012
Tim Berners-Lee 29 August 2012
Diana, Princess of Wales 30 August 2012
Alex Salmond 31 August 2012
Tony Blair 3 September 2012

© 2022 BBC Studios Distribution Ltd. (P) 2022 BBC Studios Distribution Ltd.

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