Six things we learned from the first episode of Genius of the Modern World on Foxtel’s History Channel

Historian Bettany Hughes is presenting a new series on Foxtel’s History channel called Genius of the Modern World. It’s a three-part series about Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche and Sigmund Freud. It also follows on from her previous television shows about the Ancient World where she covered Buddha, Confucius and Socrates. We have put together the top six things we learned from episode 1.

1. Karl Marx is a divisive figure who is loved and loathed. His grave has been attacked and there is no question that he’s a contentious figure. But some of his principles are still being used to make sense of life today.

2. Marx famously viewed religion as the opium of the people. He likened it to a panacea or painkiller masking things that are more important.

3. Marx came up with the concept of “species essence.” This is a way to highlight how human beings differ from animals. Marx said that humans are productive when they are united with their innate beings.

4. This show sometimes runs skin deep, literally. It revealed that Marx had a debilitating skin condition with a long and unpronounceable name. Marx also fathered an illegitimate son.

5. Marx had his picture taken later in life when he had long hair and a beard that was the colour of salt and pepper. He gave this photograph to his daughters and then shaved his hair off. As you do.

6. Just 11 mourners attended Marx’s funeral. This included, Friedrich Engels, Marx’s close friend, collaborator and the man who paid for Marx’s burial plot.

Genius of the Modern World series is an informative and reflective look at three great minds from past centuries. It is perhaps more in the style of a hagiography but regardless, it is an interesting primer for those wanting to know more about these three famous men from history.

Genius of the Modern World premieres on Foxtel’s History Channel on Wednesday July 26th at 8.30pm


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