Centre for Modern History
  1. Past events
  2. The Art and Artifice of Prediction
Modern History

The Art and Artifice of Prediction

What will tomorrow bring? How can we plan ahead? How can we predict the future? Although such questions have been asked throughout history, the study and prediction of the future took on newfound significance during the Cold War.

The Art and Artifice of Prediction is a podcast series which explores how the theme of prediction emerged and shaped scientific, literary-cultural, and social scientific forms of knowledge since the end of the Second World War. Over seven episodes, we talk to historians and literary scholars to find out more about why and how the Cold War period saw this rise of prediction and forecasting.

We consider the role of geopolitical anxieties, technology, institutions, the arts, and the environmental movement in shaping the appetite for prediction and in the proliferation of different visions of the future. Funded by the British Academy, each episode is hosted by a member of our research team: Lise Butler (City, University London), Ruth Morgan (The Australian National University), Maria Christou (University of Manchester), and Dan McAteer (University of Oxford).

The Art and Artifice of Prediction asks questions including:

  • Is prediction a scientific practice?
  • What was the relationship between social science and policy making during the Cold War, and why did this period see the rise of prediction and forecasting amongst intellectuals and policy makers?
  • Why did systems modeling emerge in the post-war era, and why was it so short-lived?
  • How did climate modeling develop in the twentieth century, and how did this field shape scientific and policy understandings of anthropogenic climate change?
  • What does prediction really mean in literature and in visual culture?
  • How speculative is ‘speculative fiction’?

To answer these questions, the project team interviewed leading thinkers on prediction.

Podcast episodes

Episodes one and two

Hosted by Lise Butler, episodes 1 and 2 feature Jenny Andersson, Professor of the History of Ideas and Science at Uppsala University and former Principle Investigator of the European Research Council-funded Futurepol project, and Daniel Bessner, Joff Hanauer Honors Professor in Western Civilization at the University of Washington.

Episodes three and four

Hosted by Ruth Morgan, episodes 3 and 4 feature Matthias Heymann, associate professor for the history of technology at the Centre for Science Studies, Aarhus University, and lead researcher of the Danish Council for Independent Research project ‘Shaping Cultures of Prediction: knowledge, authority, and the construction of climate change’, and Sarah Dry of the University of Cambridge, research associate on the ‘Making Climate History’ project.

Episodes five and six

Hosted by Maria Christou, episodes 5 and 6 feature Patrick Whitmarsh, Lecturer in Literature and History at Harvard University and Theo Reeves-Evison, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at Birmingham School of Art.

Episode seven

Hosted by Dan McAteer, episode 7 features Andrew Sanchez of the University of Oxford.

How to listen

Soundcloud logoListen on SoundCloud

Spotify logoListen on Spotify

Apple podcasts logoListen on Apple Podcasts

Research team

  • Dr. Ruth Morgan, Associate Professor in the School of History and Director of the Centre for Environmental History at the Australian National University
  • Dr. Maria Christou, Presidential Fellow, Department of English, American Studies and Creative Writing at the University of Manchester
  • Dr. Lise Butler, Senior Lecturer in Modern History, Department of International Politics, City, University of London
  • Dan McAteer, Doctoral Candidate in History, Wadham College, University of Oxford.