I’ve read many references over the years to the BBC’s Reith Lectures, which have been given yearly (except in 1992) since 1948, to “advance public understanding and debate about significant issues of contemporary interest,” in honor of the BBC’s first director-general. But I didn’t realize how much material was available on past lectures – and the upcoming series – until finding producer Jennifer Clarke’s BBC Radio 4 May 25 blog post ‘Multiplatforming’ the Reith Lectures. Clarke explains that this year’s lectures, “A New Citizenship,” by Harvard government professor Michael Sandel, in addition to the traditional live lectures and broadcasts on BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service, will also have an array of social media and BBC radio, podcast and website activity.

Sandel will be continuing a tradition that started with the philosopher Bertrand Russell (“Authority And The Individual”) and that has included many other distinguished lecturers, including the historian Arnold Toynbee (“The World and The West,” 1952), economist John Kenneth Galbraith (“The New Industrial State,” 1966), historian and former Librarian of Congress Daniel Boorstin (“America and The World Experience,” 1975), the poet-playwright Wole Soyinka (“Climate of Fear,” 2004) and the conductor Daniel Barenboim (“In the Beginning Was Sound,” 2006). Sandel’s lectures will be broadcast beginning June 9 on BBC Radio 4, and June 13 on the BBC World Service. You can also listen to the 2008 lectures, “Chinese Vistas,” by Yale professor Jonathan Spence, and selected earlier lectures linked from that page. For the great majority of us who can’t be there in person, this sounds like a great self-education opportunity for the summer and beyond.