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Jonathan Freedland, David Aaronovitch 

26/02/2012 9:30 am

The novel by Jonathan Freedland – written under the pseudonym Sam Bourne – Pantheon, is set in the Oxford and Yale of 1940. It follows an Oxford academic deemed unfit to serve in the war against Germany and his desperate search to find his missing wife and child. The story turns, however, on what could be called the dirty little secret of the Anglo-American intellectual elite – the attraction of some of the greatest minds of the 20th century, from Bertrand Russell to George Bernard Shaw and John Maynard Keynes, towards an idea that would now be deemed horribly close to Nazism. That idea is eugenics. In conversation with James Purnell, Jonathan discussed why so many luminaries, especially on the left, were drawn to the notion of breeding a better class of man – and what the legacy of that past might mean for today.

Jonathan Freedland

Jonathan Freedland is an award-winning journalist, author and broadcaster. He writes a weekly column for The Guardian, where he is executive editor, Opinion. He is the presenter of BBC Radio 4’s contemporary history series The Long View and has also written seven books.

David Aaronovitch 

David Aaronovitch is a writer and broadcaster on culture, international affairs, politics and the media. A Times columnist, his books include Voodoo Histories. He runs. Or tries to.