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Everybody, welcome to Dance Snow's history. Simon Sebag Montefiore of the biggest names in history publishing its brilliant story is back. We got him coming up a little bit this autumn, this fall on history here. We've made a documentary with him, but this is a start of a 10. He's got a new book out History's Greatest Speeches following the best selling letters from History Book. We also chatted about Jerusalem because his podcast about the history of Jerusalem, which was just a stunning gallop through thousands of years of history.


That previous podcast, one of the most successful podcasts we have ever broadcast on this network. So we caught up about Jerusalem. We talked about his new book, and then he told me about his next book, which I can't tell you about, but it's super exciting. So there you go. Annoying, annoying. Little bit of gossip there for you.


In the meantime, here is Simon Sebag Montefiore.


Simon, good to have you back on the podcast. Great to be here, see you. You know, the money wasted on Jerusalem is actually one of the most successful, most popular. Let's listen to podcasts ever.


This is fascinating because I've just done a really exciting new version of Jerusalem. And what I thought was fascinating was about six months ago, just before lockdown, I was looking at the sort of Middle East. I suddenly thought, like actually there's a new Middle East emerging. And I thought that they were going to sign pieces. There was going to be a sort of new paradigm where without solving the Palestinian problem so tragically, but nonetheless, Israel was going to make new relationships with the Gulf states, with Saudi Arabia.


And so things were going to change radically. And so I thought it was a good time to update Jerusalem. So it's still the sort of same book, but it's got the last 20 years added on.


Isn't it amazing seeing that as a student in the 90s? All anyone's basically sense was that all the big geopolitical problems been solved. Largely China was beginning to trade on WTO terms. Yeah, Russia was a sort of proto torture and we all freaked out about the Palestinians. If we can just get this sorted, obviously, Congo. But, you know, apart from that, it's like if we can get this sorted and everything will be great. And now how often do you have the past?


I mean, kids these days, you know, in Palestine isn't what it is.


It's fascinating. I think the progressive left is obsessed with Israel and Palestine. And you only have to see what happened with, you know, Jeremy Corbyn to see that the Palestinian issue has dominated their approach.


It just feels like a pretty narrow section of population.


But we were told you're absolute right. We were told that the Palestinian problem was all that mattered. The whole Middle East would be solved.


And Bill Clinton spent a lot of his time talking about the Palestinians.


I personally think that the Palestinian plight is a tragedy. And, you know, it needs to be solved. It must be solved at some point.


And what is driving this realpolitik? Israel's been recognised as a Middle Eastern country, which is what it was all along. But then, of course, you know, the Trump presidency has also, ironically, been disastrous in so many ways. I mean, catastrophic. But in the Middle East, their peace plan and their recognition of of Jerusalem sort of resounded in the law of almost unintended consequences and resulted in the Arab powers of the Gulf saying, you know, if you if you don't annex the West Bank will open relations with you, which is what's happened in the last few weeks.


The point is that anyway, that I've started feeling, having this feel about the new Middle East is beginning a lot. And I wrote a new ending of the book involving Trump and and the moving of the embassy and moving the embassy and the recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. But also, you know, the Assads, the Syrian civil war, the Iran, the fall of Gaddafi, Sisi in Egypt, and all these things are important. I mean, most important of all is, you know, embassies in Saudi Arabia.


And that's been a huge, hugely important thing because Saudi Arabia is now moving towards Israel. And I think that we'll see sometime, you know, providing embassies and overthrown, which is always possible in an autocratic monarchy. But if he succeeds as king, I think he will open relations with Israel.


So you think the kind of old fashioned great power rivalry between the leading Sunni and Shia powers of the Gulf will this means the Saudis will swallow their misgivings about Israel?


Well, it's very difficult, the Saudis, because they are the protectors of the two sanctuaries, you know, Mecca and Medina. So it's a much bigger it's a much bigger ask of them to actually open public relations public, you know, to put diplomatic relations with Israel. But I think they'll do it. And I think it's the withdrawal of America that's caused all this really is. Again, it's about it's the Obama law of unintended consequences. I mean, Obama, you know, wanted to stop nuclear proliferation with Iran, but to do that, he had to move towards Iran and away from Israel and Saudi Arabia.


So what Israel and Saudi Arabia do when they lose their biggest friend, they make friends with each other. And that's exactly what's happened. It's like simple psychology and they want to confront Iran. Iran is that Iran is the great is the big player, whether it was under the Shah or whether it's today under the under Khomeini. It's a powerful country. Huge, huge history, a huge, deep culture. I mean, it's an amazing it's an amazing country with just astonishing history and astonishing aspirations to great power in the Middle East.


I mean, you got to remember, one forgets that there were times in the past where Persia had Jerusalem, had Egypt, had Syria had the lot. You know, so even though these people aren't sort of really they aren't really empire builders in the sense of Darius the Great and Cyrus the Great, they've inherited partly that world view.


You've had a busy year because you have just written the Jerusalem book, but you've got another primary sources book out, which is great fun after the letters that we talked about last time, that was so fun, although this was more speeches that this one is speeches and this is this one, which is voices of history speeches that changed the world.


And it's the companion to the other one written in history, letters that changed the world. And this is all the speeches that you should know, and many of them you won't know and some you'll be very familiar with.


The speeches matter like I see people making speeches on the floor of the Senate or the House of Commons in the UK. And, you know, there's about Nords in the chamber. There's about a whipped vote which going to go along party lines finishing this book. Are you left with a profound sense, the importance of oratory?


Yeah, I mean, I think that it depends how you define oratory. And I think that's what you're getting at because, you know, speeches on the assembly floor. The Congress in parliament now have a usually pretty mediocre, by the way, I think they probably always were. Most speeches were pretty much just that. We've had them distilled by history for us. I mean, you know, do you think most people were speaking like Winston Churchill in parliament?


No. Very few were. But I think that television has changed the nature of speechmaking because, you know, politicians know that in Parliament, they're seen by sort of 600 people, but on television, they're seen by 50 million people. So all speaking is now about what we call soundbites. But it's oratory. I mean, look at Tony Blair. You know, he was he was a sort of master communicator or Donald Trump, for that matter.


I mean, we may not like what he says, his course coarse and crass speeches, but his speeches are a way to delight his base. And he's a master communicator with tweets, with speeches. I mean, look at those amazing speeches he gives. He has nothing written down. He walks out there in front of 10000 people and he's being watched on CNN by by millions of people, including people who hate him, but are just fascinated by him.


And that is oratory. But it's you know, it's not it's not what I call good oratory. It's very bad. It's kind of meandering. It's bigoted, but it's political communication. And that's what this is about. This book is about the greatest speeches. And we've got sort of Churchill and Martin Luther King and Socrates. And then it's about sort of it's sort of the worst speeches to you know, and we've got one of Donald Trump's speeches that the first speech he gave when he launched his campaign, the Mexicans are Mexicans are rapists.


And which, when you read it, by the way, is just extraordinary. I mean, it's hilarious. It's got long kind of long digressions where he's just boasting about how rich he is and thinking aloud and then he gets back. But the message is there, and that's one of the sort of great tests of speeches, is that sort of a message has to be simple because you're really dealing with television nowadays.


And so as the medium changed, I mean, you speak completely differently to Chatham, to the elder and then to Elizabeth Tudor. It all depends who you're talking to. Where inside. Outside.


Well, first of all, speechmaking is risky because it's the one thing about is it spontaneous? And we saw that with Lukashenko, for example, when he was booed outside that factory the other day in Belarus or with Ceausescu when he gave that speech where he was booed and then shot afterwards. So, you know, giving a speech, it's live. It's a risk, you know, that's one thing. But then there are all sorts of different circumstances, you know, whether it's in a you have to know your audience and of course, a modern politicians.


There are two audiences. In the old days, there was one audience and that was whoever was there. And then when you got the microphone that expanded, you could then you could have thousands of people. And once you got radio and television, then you had millions of people. And you were you had to have two audiences. You had to pretend you were speaking to the people with you, but really you were speaking to the whole nation. But you can't ignore the people who are with you.


As Ceausescu discovered in Lukashenko discovered the other day in Belarus. You can't ignore the people there because they can screw it up, too. So the key thing is just to have a simplicity of message. And another key thing is authenticity. I mean, all politicians are actors. But when we watch theatre, when we watch actors on stage, we know that they're not who they're pretending to be. But politicians have to be actors who we have to believe are totally authentic ones.


You can fake authenticity then you once you can fake authenticity, you're made. And that's what it's all about. And of course, the more authentic you are, the more you can be yourself. I mean, Donald Trump is the classic is one example of that. Another example in here is Elizabeth, the second queen of the queen in her speech in covid, because we've got some really modern speeches and we've got her speech about covid. You know, we will meet again, which I think is a brilliant speech.


And we've also got John Boyega speech about Black Lives Matter in it. So we've got some really modern ones from this year, which I think everyone should read. But also she makes them quite sort of complex ideas. If you read the speech about Britain's the British dilemma, which is obviously a huge lemon, how does a country that made its wealth and power through empire adapt to an age in which many of our sort of institutions are still linked to Empire?


And it's a very, very difficult dilemma, which we're sort of struggling with now. But in another modern speeches, as John Boyega, you know, the Star Wars actor, and he talks about Black Lives Matter, and that's a very different sort of speech because it's passioned, it's raging. It's you know, it's after the murder of innocent black people by by American police. And yet he gives a speech spontaneously. And the speech is actually rather a beautiful thing.


And I like spontaneous speeches. I mean, another great spontaneous speech. And here is Cromwell speech to parliament, you know, where he actually loses his temper, but in absolutely beautiful prose, really, you know, in God's name go that speech when he calls the Holocaust parliamentarians, prostitutes, wretches and all that. But he goes in there and loses his temper with his parliament and chucks them out as a completely spontaneous speech. And do you think speech perfect.


Do you think speaking I mean, obviously you're pointing out that even the Democratic convention, when they're just addressing the camera, those can still be speeches. So do you think political oratory will always will always have a place?


Well, I think it's written because of television. I think it's got much more important because of television. It means it's a different sort of speech because what you're talking about is like. Oratory was apparently Cicero, and then, of course, the 18th century, the great 18th century, 19th century, early 20th century leaders were all raised on classicism. So Churchill picked the younger. They all spoke pretty much with the same idea of sort of how speech should be.


And I mean, of course, Churchill for different because he developed it because for radio, he had about a bit of radio. But it's very interesting looking at Churchill, he couldn't have worked really on television and on television. You know, none of his speeches would work because he couldn't deliver on television.


The platforms. I mean, Lloyd George can do radio. So George is going to run in great big crowds. And Slate Quarry's in Wales. That's right. The minute you went to radio is absurd. And some Baldwin. Exactly right.


That's exactly right. So you've got you've got people like Gladstone intellectuals, brilliant. These huge crowds, but would have sounded insane on the radio. Then you've got Churchill, who's like this Edwardian character. And yet actually his style, which is very carefully written speeches worked over many times, is brilliant on radio, but would have been disastrous on Hitler, funnily enough, would have been good on television because you watch because Hitler is all about physicalities. Churchill just sits there and when you speak, he just stands there with his glasses in his hand, which is very boring, would not have worked on television, but Hitler not to compare him to Donald Trump, but he understood just how to play to his base.


And he was a physical performer. You know, those great photos of Hitler in those later practicing his moves like this and like this. And he sort of he understood that all that he understood theatre. So he actually, oddly, would have worked well on on television, which is a strange thing. But I've got some sort of new ones in here that I want to mention while I'm at it.


Can I can I read a favourite? I want to read this because this is this is an interesting one that I think everyone should know. I've added this to the book. Now, this is a speech by Al Hajjaj bin Yusuf, who was the sort of henchman and hatchet man and enforcer of Abdelmalek, the caliph, the kind of, in fact, who built the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. And this is this is his most famous speech.


It's an extraordinary speech, which I thought beautifully translated by an Arab friend of mine. And what it's interesting about it was he's given the governorship of Kufa in Iraq and he goes there with all his troops and he surrounds this rebel city in Iraq. And basically he's going to kill everybody in the city. So he surrounds it with his troops. But then because he's a good Muslim and also he's slightly sort of he's got a very kind of he's brilliantly educated because he's a teacher from Arabia.


He goes and he gives a speech on the Friday night prayers. And the speech he gives is in part in Arabic. It's in perfect poetry, just like someone sort of giving a Shakespearean speech off the cuff. And in the Arab world I found out about because I told to people, they said like, of course, in the Arab world, we just recite our judges address. We learned as children. And it's actually the most bloodthirsty speech. I'm it's going to read you if I can actually see it here.


Yeah, it goes, oh, people of kuffar.


By God, I can bear the weight of evil, grab it like a shoe by its soul and strike them with it. I see hungry stares and straining necks. I see ripened heads ready to be plucked. I am their master. I see blood flowing between turbans and heads over people of Iraq. Centre of disunity, hypocrisy, corruption and vice. I have been chosen for my experience. The Commander of the faithful may God prolong his life, gathered his arrows, loaded his bow, and then struck you with the arrow.


The arrow is that is me because you surrender to temptation, got swept away by delusion and walked the road to darkness. By God, I'll grind you down to dust and beat you like unruly camels. It goes on like that. But he does it in perfect poetry and it's just it's a masterpiece of Arabic poetry, but also the most terrifying speech. And how do the people country respond? They listened in silence and then were all killed.


Okay, yeah, but it was recorded. But I just think it's interesting that it's a speech that's completely kind of everyone in the everyone in the Arab world knows it off by heart and we've never heard of it over here.


So so it's very nice to have something that not everyone we know. We've got Churchland, Kennedy and Roosevelt in here, but and the younger. But it's very nice to have some people who aren't so familiar.


Well, thank you very much for bringing them all to our attention. The book is called it's called Voices of History Speeches That Change the World. Thank you very much for coming. Talk about it. Thanks.


Always fun. You find in the history of our country.