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Rank #43 in History category

History

In Our Time

Updated about 1 month ago

Rank #43 in History category

History
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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of ideas

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of ideas

iTunes Ratings

3133 Ratings
Average Ratings
2623
228
111
80
91

Such good questions

By AnnaBard - Feb 19 2020
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I love the host’s questions — a sure bet every time that he’s done his homework.

MELVYN

By tammer1976 - Feb 17 2020
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Nobody does it better than Melvyn Bragg

iTunes Ratings

3133 Ratings
Average Ratings
2623
228
111
80
91

Such good questions

By AnnaBard - Feb 19 2020
Read more
I love the host’s questions — a sure bet every time that he’s done his homework.

MELVYN

By tammer1976 - Feb 17 2020
Read more
Nobody does it better than Melvyn Bragg
Cover image of In Our Time

In Our Time

Latest release on Jul 02, 2020

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of ideas

Rank #1: Alexander the Great

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Alexander the Great is one of the most celebrated military commanders in history. Born into the Macedonian royal family in 356 BC, he gained control of Greece and went on to conquer the Persian Empire, defeating its powerful king, Darius III. At its peak, Alexander's empire covered modern Turkey, Syria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and part of India. As a result, Greek culture and language was spread into regions it had not penetrated before, and he is also remembered for founding a number of cities. Over the last 2,000 years, the legend of Alexander has grown and he has influenced numerous generals and politicians.

With:

Paul Cartledge
Emeritus Professor of Greek Culture and AG Leventis Senior Research Fellow at Clare College, University of Cambridge

Diana Spencer
Professor of Classics at the University of Birmingham

Rachel Mairs
Lecturer in Classics at the University of Reading

Producer: Victoria Brignell.

Oct 01 2015

47mins

Play

Rank #2: The Iliad

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the great epic poem attributed to Homer, telling the story of an intense episode in the Trojan War. It is framed by the wrath of the Greek hero Achilles, insulted by his leader Agamemnon and withdrawing from the battle that continued to rage, only returning when his close friend Patroclus is killed by the Trojan hero Hector. Achilles turns his anger from Agamemnon to Hector and the fated destruction of Troy comes ever closer.

With

Edith Hall
Professor of Classics at King's College London

Barbara Graziosi
Professor of Classics at Princeton University

And

Paul Cartledge
A.G. Leventis Senior Research Fellow and Emeritus Professor of Greek Culture at Clare College, Cambridge

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Sep 13 2018

48mins

Play

Rank #3: The Salem Witch Trials

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the outbreak of witch trials in Massachusetts in 1692-3, centred on Salem, which led to the execution of twenty people, with more dying in prison before or after trial. Some were men, including Giles Corey who died after being pressed with heavy rocks, but the majority were women. At its peak, around 150 people were suspected of witchcraft, including the wife of the governor who had established the trials. Many of the claims of witchcraft arose from personal rivalries in an area known for unrest, but were examined and upheld by the courts at a time of mass hysteria, belief in the devil, fear of attack by Native Americans and religious divisions.

With

Susan Castillo-Street
Harriet Beecher Stowe Professor Emerita of American Studies at King's College London

Simon Middleton
Senior Lecturer in American History at the University of Sheffield

And

Marion Gibson
Professor of Renaissance and Magical Literatures at Exeter University, Penryn Campus.

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Nov 26 2015

45mins

Play

Rank #4: Julius Caesar

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Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life, work and reputation of Julius Caesar. Famously assassinated as he entered the Roman senate on the Ides of March, 44 BC, Caesar was an inspirational general who conquered much of Europe. He was a ruthless and canny politician who became dictator of Rome, and wrote The Gallic Wars, one of the most admired and studied works of Latin literature. Shakespeare is one of many later writers to have been fascinated by the figure of Julius Caesar.

With:

Christopher Pelling
Regius Professor of Greek at the University of Oxford

Catherine Steel
Professor of Classics at the University of Glasgow

Maria Wyke
Professor of Latin at University College London

Producer: Thomas Morris.

Oct 02 2014

46mins

Play

Rank #5: Coffee

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history and social impact of coffee. From its origins in Ethiopia, coffea arabica spread through the Ottoman Empire before reaching Western Europe where, in the 17th century, coffee houses were becoming established. There, caffeinated customers stayed awake for longer and were more animated, and this helped to spread ideas and influence culture. Coffee became a colonial product, grown by slaves or indentured labour, with coffea robusta replacing arabica where disease had struck, and was traded extensively by the Dutch and French empires; by the 19th century, Brazil had developed into a major coffee producer, meeting demand in the USA that had grown on the waggon trails.

With

Judith Hawley
Professor of 18th Century Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London

Markman Ellis
Professor of 18th Century Studies at Queen Mary University of London

And

Jonathan Morris
Professor in Modern History at the University of Hertfordshire

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Dec 12 2019

55mins

Play

Rank #6: The Bronze Age Collapse

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss The Bronze Age Collapse, the name given by many historians to what appears to have been a sudden, uncontrolled destruction of dominant civilizations around 1200 BC in the Aegean, Eastern Mediterranean and Anatolia. Among other areas, there were great changes in Minoan Crete, Egypt, the Hittite Empire, Mycenaean Greece and Syria. The reasons for the changes, and the extent of those changes, are open to debate and include droughts, rebellions, the breakdown of trade as copper became less desirable, earthquakes, invasions, volcanoes and the mysterious Sea Peoples.

With

John Bennet
Director of the British School at Athens and Professor of Aegean Archaeology at the University of Sheffield

Linda Hulin
Fellow of Harris Manchester College and Research Officer at the Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology at the University of Oxford

And

Simon Stoddart
Fellow of Magdalene College and Reader in Prehistory at the University of Cambridge

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Jun 16 2016

47mins

Play

Rank #7: Photosynthesis

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Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss photosynthesis, the process by which green plants and many other organisms use sunlight to synthesise organic molecules. Photosynthesis arose very early in evolutionary history and has been a crucial driver of life on Earth. In addition to providing most of the food consumed by organisms on the planet, it is also responsible for maintaining atmospheric oxygen levels, and is thus almost certainly the most important chemical process ever discovered.

With:

Nick Lane
Reader in Evolutionary Biochemistry at University College London

Sandra Knapp
Botanist at the Natural History Museum

John Allen
Professor of Biochemistry at Queen Mary, University of London.

Producer: Thomas Morris

May 15 2014

46mins

Play

Rank #8: The Egyptian Book of the Dead

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the text and context of The Book of the Dead, also known as the Book of Coming Forth by Day, the ancient Egyptian collections of spells which were intended to help the recently deceased navigate the underworld. They flourished under the New Kingdom from C16th BC until the end of the Ptolemaic era in C1st BC, and drew on much earlier traditions from the walls of pyramids and on coffin cases. Almost 200 spells survive, though no one collection contains all of them, and one of the best known surrounds the weighing of the heart, the gods' final judgement of the deceased's life.

With

John Taylor
Curator at the Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan at the British Museum

Kate Spence
Senior Lecturer in Egyptian Archaeology at Cambridge University and Fellow of Emmanuel College

and

Richard Parkinson
Professor of Egyptology at the University of Oxford and Fellow of the Queen's College
Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Apr 27 2017

46mins

Play

Rank #9: The Medici

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Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Medici family, who dominated Florence's political and cultural life for three centuries. The House of Medici came to prominence in Italy in the fifteenth century as a result of the wealth they had built up through banking. With the rise of Cosimo de' Medici, they became Florence's most powerful and influential dynasty, effectively controlling the city's government. Their patronage of the arts turned Florence into a leading centre of the Renaissance and the Medici Bank was one of the most successful institutions of its day. As well as producing four popes, members of the House of Medici married into various European royal families.

With:

Evelyn Welch
Professor of Renaissance Studies at King's College, University of London

Robert Black
Professor of Renaissance History at the University of Leeds

Catherine Fletcher
Lecturer in Public History at the University of Sheffield

Producer: Victoria Brignell.

Dec 26 2013

42mins

Play

Rank #10: Zen

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Zen. It's often thought of as a form of Buddhism that emphasises the practice of meditation over any particular set of beliefs. In fact Zen belongs to a particular intellectual tradition within Buddhism that took root in China in the 6th century AD. It spread to Japan in the early Middle Ages, where Zen practitioners set up religious institutions like temples, monasteries and universities that remain important today.

GUESTS

Tim Barrett, Emeritus Professor in the Department of the Study of Religions at SOAS, University of London

Lucia Dolce, Numata Reader in Japanese Buddhism at SOAS, University of London

Eric Greene, Lecturer in East Asian Religions at the University of Bristol

Producer: Luke Mulhall.

Dec 04 2014

45mins

Play

Rank #11: Plato's Republic

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Is it always better to be just than unjust? That is the central question of Plato's Republic, discussed here by Melvyn Bragg and guests. Writing in c380BC, Plato applied this question both to the individual and the city-state, considering earlier and current forms of government in Athens and potential forms, in which the ideal city might be ruled by philosophers. The Republic is arguably Plato's best known and greatest work, a dialogue between Socrates and his companions, featuring the allegory of the cave and ideas about immortality of the soul, the value of poetry to society, and democracy's vulnerability to a clever demagogue seeking tyranny.

With

Angie Hobbs
Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield

MM McCabe
Professor of Ancient Philosophy Emerita at King's College London

and

James Warren
Fellow of Corpus Christi College and a Reader in Ancient Philosophy at the University of Cambridge

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Jun 29 2017

48mins

Play

Rank #12: The Mexican-American War

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Melvyn and guests discuss the 1846-48 conflict after which the United States of Mexico lost half its territory to the United States of America. The US gained land covered by the states of Texas, Utah, California, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and part of Colorado. The outcome had a profound impact on Native Americans and led to civil war in defeated Mexico. It also raised the question of whether slavery would be legal in this acquired territory - something that would only be resolved in the US Civil War, which this victory hastened.

With

Frank Cogliano
Professor of American History at the University of Edinburgh

Jacqueline Fear-Segal
Professor of American and Indigenous Histories at the University of East Anglia

And

Thomas Rath
Lecturer in Latin American History at University College London

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Jun 28 2018

49mins

Play

Rank #13: The Inca

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how the people of Cusco, in modern Peru, established an empire along the Andes down to the Pacific under their supreme leader Pachacuti. Before him, their control grew slowly from C13th and was at its peak after him when Pizarro arrived with his Conquistadors and captured their empire for Spain in 1533. The image, above, is of Machu Picchu which was built for emperor Pachacuti as an estate in C15th.

With

Frank Meddens
Visiting Scholar at the University of Reading

Helen Cowie
Senior Lecturer in History at the University of York

And

Bill Sillar
Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Archaeology at University College London

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Jun 13 2019

52mins

Play

Rank #14: Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morality

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Nietzsche's On The Genealogy of Morality - A Polemic, which he published in 1887 towards the end of his working life and in which he considered the price humans have paid, and were still paying, to become civilised. In three essays, he argued that having a guilty conscience was the price of living in society with other humans. He suggested that Christian morality, with its consideration for others, grew as an act of revenge by the weak against their masters, 'the blond beasts of prey', as he calls them, and the price for that slaves' revolt was endless self-loathing. These and other ideas were picked up by later thinkers, perhaps most significantly by Sigmund Freud who further explored the tensions between civilisation and the individual.

With

Stephen Mulhall
Professor of Philosophy and a Fellow and Tutor at New College, University of Oxford

Fiona Hughes
Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Essex

And

Keith Ansell-Pearson
Professor of Philosophy at the University of Warwick

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Jan 12 2017

48mins

Play

Rank #15: The Proton

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the discovery and growing understanding of the Proton, formed from three quarks close to the Big Bang and found in the nuclei of all elements. The positive charges they emit means they attract the fundamental particles of negatively charged electrons, an attraction that leads to the creation of atoms which in turn leads to chemistry, biology and life itself. The Sun (in common with other stars) is a fusion engine that turn protons by a series of processes into helium, emitting energy in the process, with about half of the Sun's protons captured so far. Hydrogen atoms, stripped of electrons, are single protons which can be accelerated to smash other nuclei and have applications in proton therapy. Many questions remain, such as why are electrical charges for protons and electrons so perfectly balanced?

With

Frank Close
Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of Oxford

Helen Heath
Reader in Physics at the University of Bristol

And

Simon Jolly
Lecturer in High Energy Physics at University College London

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Apr 26 2018

49mins

Play

Rank #16: The Maya Civilization

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Maya Civilization, developed by the Maya people, which flourished in central America from around 250 AD in great cities such as Chichen Itza and Uxmal with advances in mathematics, architecture and astronomy. Long before the Spanish Conquest in the 16th Century, major cities had been abandoned for reasons unknown, although there are many theories including overpopulation and changing climate. The hundreds of Maya sites across Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico raise intriguing questions about one of the world's great pre-industrial civilizations.

With

Elizabeth Graham
Professor of Mesoamerican Archaeology at University College London

Matthew Restall
Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Latin American History and Anthropology at Pennsylvania State University

And

Benjamin Vis
Eastern ARC Research Fellow in Digital Humanities at the University of Kent

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Mar 10 2016

46mins

Play

Rank #17: The Dutch East India Company

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie or VOC, known in English as the Dutch East India Company. The VOC dominated the spice trade between Asia and Europe for two hundred years, with the British East India Company a distant second. At its peak, the VOC had a virtual monopoly on nutmeg, mace, cloves and cinnamon, displacing the Portuguese and excluding the British, and were the only European traders allowed access to Japan.

With

Anne Goldgar
Reader in Early Modern European History at King's College London

Chris Nierstrasz
Lecturer in Global History at Erasmus University, Rotterdam, formerly at the University of Warwick

And

Helen Paul
Lecturer in Economics and Economic History at the University of Southampton
Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Mar 03 2016

46mins

Play

Rank #18: The Thirty Years War

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the war in Europe which begain in 1618 and continued on such a scale and with such devastation that its like was not seen for another three hundred years. It pitched Catholics against Protestants, Lutherans against Calvinists and Catholics against Catholics across the Holy Roman Empire, drawing in their neighbours and it lasted for thirty gruelling years, from the Defenestration of Prague to the Peace of Westphalia of 1648. Many more civilians died than soldiers, and famine was so great that even cannibalism was excused. This topic was chosen from several hundred suggested by listeners this autumn.

The image above is a detail from a painting of The Battle of White Mountain on 7-8 November 1620, by Pieter Snayers (1592-1667)

With

Peter Wilson
Chichele Professor of the History of War at the University of Oxford

Ulinka Rublack
Professor of Early Modern European History at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of St John’s College

And

Toby Osborne
Associate Professor in History at Durham University
Producer: Simon Tillotson

Dec 06 2018

50mins

Play

Rank #19: Mary, Queen of Scots

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In a programme first broadcast in 2017, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of Mary, Queen of Scots, who had potential to be one of the most powerful rulers in Europe, yet she was also one of the most vulnerable. In France, when she was the teenage bride to their future king, she was seen as rightful heir to the thrones of England and Ireland, as well as Queen of Scotland and one day of France, which would have been an extraordinary union. She was widowed too young, though and, a Catholic returning to Protestant Scotland, she struggled to overcome rivalries in her own country. She fled to Protestant England, where she was implicated in plots to overthrow Elizabeth, and it was Elizabeth herself who signed Mary's death warrant.
With

David Forsyth
Principal Curator, Scottish Medieval-Early Modern Collections at National Museums Scotland

Anna Groundwater
Teaching Fellow in Historical Skills and Methods at the University of Edinburgh

And

John Guy
Fellow of Clare College, University of Cambridge

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Jan 19 2017

52mins

Play

Rank #20: Lawrence of Arabia

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss T.E. Lawrence (1888 – 1935), better known as Lawrence of Arabia, a topic drawn from over 1200 suggestions for our Listener Week 2019. Although Lawrence started as an archaeologist in the Middle East, when World War I broke out he joined the British army and became an intelligence officer. His contact with a prominent Arab leader, Sharif Hussein, made him sympathetic to Hussein’s cause and during the Arab Revolt of 1916 he not only served the British but also the interests of Hussein. After the war he was dismayed by the peace settlement and felt that the British had broken an assurance that Sharif Hussein would lead a new Arab kingdom. Lawrence was made famous by the work of Lowell Thomas, whose film of Lawrence drew huge audiences in 1919, which led to his own book Seven Pillars of Wisdom and David Lean’s 1962 film with Peter O'Toole.

In previous Listener Weeks, we've discussed Kafka's The Trial, The Voyages of Captain Cook, Garibaldi and the Risorgimento, Moby Dick and The Thirty Years War.

With

Hussein Omar
Lecturer in Modern Global History at University College Dublin

Catriona Pennell
Associate Professor of Modern History and Memory Studies at the University of Exeter

Neil Faulkner
Director of Military History Live and Editor of the magazine Military History Matters

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Dec 05 2019

51mins

Play

Mary, Queen of Scots

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In a programme first broadcast in 2017, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of Mary, Queen of Scots, who had potential to be one of the most powerful rulers in Europe, yet she was also one of the most vulnerable. In France, when she was the teenage bride to their future king, she was seen as rightful heir to the thrones of England and Ireland, as well as Queen of Scotland and one day of France, which would have been an extraordinary union. She was widowed too young, though and, a Catholic returning to Protestant Scotland, she struggled to overcome rivalries in her own country. She fled to Protestant England, where she was implicated in plots to overthrow Elizabeth, and it was Elizabeth herself who signed Mary's death warrant.
With

David Forsyth
Principal Curator, Scottish Medieval-Early Modern Collections at National Museums Scotland

Anna Groundwater
Teaching Fellow in Historical Skills and Methods at the University of Edinburgh

And

John Guy
Fellow of Clare College, University of Cambridge

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Jul 02 2020

52mins

Play

Hannah Arendt

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In a programme first broadcast in 2017, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the political philosophy of Hannah Arendt. She developed many of her ideas in response to the rise of totalitarianism in the C20th, partly informed by her own experience as a Jew in Nazi Germany before her escape to France and then America. She wanted to understand how politics had taken such a disastrous turn and, drawing on ideas of Greek philosophers as well as her peers, what might be done to create a better political life. Often unsettling, she wrote of 'the banality of evil' when covering the trial of Eichmann, one of the organisers of the Holocaust.

With

Lyndsey Stonebridge
Professor of Modern Literature and History at the University of East Anglia

Frisbee Sheffield
Lecturer in Philosophy at Girton College, University of Cambridge

and

Robert Eaglestone
Professor of Contemporary Literature and Thought at Royal Holloway, University London

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Jun 25 2020

47mins

Play

Bird Migration

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In a programme first broadcast in 2017, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss why some birds migrate and others do not, how they select their destinations and how they navigate the great distances, often over oceans. For millennia, humans set their calendars to birds' annual arrivals, and speculated about what happened when they departed, perhaps moving deep under water, or turning into fish or shellfish, or hibernating while clinging to trees upside down. Ideas about migration developed in C19th when, in Germany, a stork was noticed with an African spear in its neck, indicating where it had been over the winter and how far it had flown. Today there are many ideas about how birds use their senses of sight and smell, and magnetic fields, to find their way, and about why and how birds choose their destinations and many questions. Why do some scatter and some flock together, how much is instinctive and how much is learned, and how far do the benefits the migrating birds gain outweigh the risks they face?

With

Barbara Helm
Reader at the Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine at the University of Glasgow

Tim Guilford
Professor of Animal Behaviour and Tutorial Fellow of Zoology at Merton College, Oxford

and

Richard Holland
Senior Lecturer in Animal Cognition at Bangor University

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Jun 18 2020

52mins

Play

Frederick Douglass

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In a programme first broadcast in 2018, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and ideas of Frederick Douglass, who was born into slavery in Maryland in 1818 and, once he had escaped, became one of that century's most prominent abolitionists. He was such a good orator, his opponents doubted his story, but he told it in grim detail in 1845 in his book 'Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.' He went on to address huge audiences in Great Britain and Ireland and there some of his supporters paid off his owner, so Douglass could be free in law and not fear recapture. After the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, he campaigned for equal rights for African-Americans, arguing against those such as Lincoln who had wanted freed slaves to leave America and found a colony elsewhere. "We were born here," he said, "and here we will remain."

With

Celeste-Marie Bernier
Professor of Black Studies in the English Department at the University of Edinburgh

Karen Salt
Assistant Professor in Transnational American Studies at the University of Nottingham

And

Nicholas Guyatt
Reader in North American History at the University of Cambridge
Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Jun 11 2020

52mins

Play

Absolute Zero

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In a programme first broadcast in 2013, Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss absolute zero, the lowest conceivable temperature. In the early eighteenth century the French physicist Guillaume Amontons suggested that temperature had a lower limit. The subject of low temperature became a fertile field of research in the nineteenth century, and today we know that this limit - known as absolute zero - is approximately minus 273 degrees Celsius. It is impossible to produce a temperature exactly equal to absolute zero, but today scientists have come to within a billionth of a degree. At such low temperatures physicists have discovered a number of strange new phenomena including superfluids, liquids capable of climbing a vertical surface.

With:

Simon Schaffer
Professor of the History of Science at the University of Cambridge

Stephen Blundell
Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford

Nicola Wilkin
Lecturer in Theoretical Physics at the University of Birmingham

Producer: Thomas Morris

Jun 04 2020

42mins

Play

Frankenstein

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In a programme first broadcast in May 2019, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Mary Shelley's (1797-1851) Gothic story of a Swiss natural philosopher, Victor Frankenstein, and the creature he makes from parts of cadavers and which he then abandons, horrified by his appearance, and never names. Rejected by all humans who see him, the monster takes his revenge on Frankenstein, killing those dear to him. Shelley started writing Frankenstein when she was 18, prompted by a competition she had with Byron and her husband Percy Shelley to tell a ghost story while they were rained in in the summer of 1816 at the Villa Diodati by Lake Geneva.

The image of Mary Shelley, above, was first exhibited in 1840.

With

Karen O'Brien
Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford

Michael Rossington
Professor of Romantic Literature at Newcastle University

And

Jane Thomas
Professor of Victorian and Early 20th Century Literature at the University of Hull

Producer: Simon Tillotson

This programme is a repeat

Mar 19 2020

55mins

Play

The Covenanters

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the bonds that Scottish Presbyterians made between themselves and their monarchs in the 16th and 17th Centuries, to maintain their form of worship. These covenants bound James VI of Scotland to support Presbyterians yet when he became James I he was also expected to support episcopacy. That tension came to a head under Charles I who found himself on the losing side of a war with the Covenanters, who later supported Parliament before backing the future Charles II after he had pledged to support them. Once in power, Charles II failed to deliver the religious settlement the Covenanters wanted, and set about repressing them violently. Those who refused to renounce the covenants were persecuted in what became known as The Killing Times, as reflected in the image above.

With

Roger Mason
Professor of Scottish History at the University of St Andrews

Laura Stewart
Professor of Early Modern British History at the University of York

And

Scott Spurlock
Professor of Scottish and Early Modern Christianities at the University of Glasgow

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Mar 12 2020

53mins

Play

Paul Dirac

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the theoretical physicist Dirac (1902-1984), whose achievements far exceed his general fame. To his peers, he was ranked with Einstein and, when he moved to America in his retirement, he was welcomed as if he were Shakespeare. Born in Bristol, he trained as an engineer before developing theories in his twenties that changed the understanding of quantum mechanics, bringing him a Nobel Prize in 1933 which he shared with Erwin Schrödinger. He continued to make deep contributions, bringing abstract maths to physics, beyond predicting anti-particles as he did in his Dirac Equation.

With

Graham Farmelo
Biographer of Dirac and Fellow at Churchill College, Cambridge

Valerie Gibson
Professor of High Energy Physics at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Trinity College

And

David Berman
Professor of Theoretical Physics at Queen Mary University of London

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Mar 05 2020

50mins

Play

The Evolution of Horses

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the origins of horses, from their dog sized ancestors to their proliferation in the New World until hunted to extinction, their domestication in Asia and their development since. The genetics of the modern horse are the most studied of any animal, after humans, yet it is still uncertain why they only have one toe on each foot when their wider family had more, or whether speed or stamina has been more important in their evolution. What is clear, though, is that when humans first chose to ride horses, as well as eat them, the future of both species changed immeasurably.

With

Alan Outram
Professor of Archaeological Science at the University of Exeter

Christine Janis
Honorary Professor in Palaeobiology at the University of Bristol and Professor Emerita in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Brown University

And

John Hutchinson
Professor in Evolutionary Biomechanics at the Royal Veterinary College

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Feb 27 2020

50mins

Play

The Valladolid Debate

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the debate in Valladolid, Spain in 1550, over Spanish rights to enslave the native peoples in the newly conquered lands. Bartolomé de Las Casas (pictured above), the Bishop of Chiapas, Mexico, was trying to end the encomienda system in which those who now owned the land could also take the people in forced labour. Juan Gines Sepulveda, a philosopher, argued for the colonists' property rights over people, asserting that some native Americans were 'natural slaves' as defined by Aristotle. Valladolid became seen as the first open attempt by European colonists to discuss the ethics of slavery, and Las Casas became known as 'Saviour of the Indians' and an advocate for human rights, although for some time he argued that African slaves be imported to do the work in place of the native people, before repenting.

With

Caroline Dodds Pennock
Senior Lecturer in International History at the University of Sheffield

John Edwards
Faculty Fellow in Spanish at the University of Oxford

And

Julia McClure
Lecturer in Late Medieval and Early Modern Global History at the University of Glasgow

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Feb 20 2020

53mins

Play

Battle of the Teutoburg Forest

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the great Roman military disaster of 9 AD when Germanic tribes under Arminius ambushed and destroyed three legions under Varus. According to Suetonius, emperor Augustus hit his head against the wall when he heard the news, calling on Varus to give him back his legions. The defeat ended Roman expansion east of the Rhine. Victory changed the development of the Germanic peoples, both in the centuries that followed and in the nineteenth century when Arminius, by then known as Herman, became a rallying point for German nationalism.

With

Peter Heather
Professor of Medieval History at King’s College London

Ellen O'Gorman
Senior Lecturer in Classics at the University of Bristol

And

Matthew Nicholls
Fellow and Senior Tutor at St John’s College, Oxford

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Feb 13 2020

51mins

Play

George Sand

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the works and life of one of the most popular writers in Europe in C19th, Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin (1804-1876) who wrote under the name George Sand. When she wrote her first novel under that name, she referred to herself as a man. This was in Indiana (1832), which had the main character breaking away from her unhappy marriage. It made an immediate impact as it overturned the social conventions of the time and it drew on her own early marriage to an older man, Casimir Dudevant. Once Sand's identity was widely known, her works became extremely popular in French and in translation, particularly her rural novels, outselling Hugo and Balzac in Britain, perhaps buoyed by an interest in her personal life, as well as by her ideas on the rights and education of women and strength of her writing.

With

Belinda Jack
Fellow and Tutor in French at Christ Church, University of Oxford

Angela Ryan
Senior Lecturer in French at University College Cork

And

Nigel Harkness
Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Humanities and Social Sciences and Professor of French at Newcastle University

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Feb 06 2020

54mins

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Alcuin

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Alcuin of York, c735-804AD, who promoted education as a goal in itself, and had a fundamental role in the renaissance at Charlemagne's court. He wrote poetry and many letters, hundreds of which survive and provide insight into his life and times. He was born in or near York and spent most of his life in Northumbria before accepting an invitation to Charlemagne's court in Aachen. To this he brought Anglo-Saxon humanism, encouraging a broad liberal education for itself and the better to understand Christian doctrine. He left to be abbot at Marmoutier, Tours, where the monks were developing the Carolingian script that influenced the Roman typeface.

The image above is Alcuin’s portrait, found in a copy of the Bible made at his monastery in Tours during the rule of his successor Abbot Adalhard (834–843). Painted in red on gold leaf, it shows Alcuin with a tonsure and a halo, signifying respect for his memory at the monastery where he had died in 804. His name and rank are spelled out alongside: Alcvinvs abba, ‘Alcuin the abbot’. It is held at the Staatsbibliothek Bamberg -Kaiser-Heinrich-Bibliothek - Msc.Bibl.1,fol.5v (photo by Gerald Raab).
With

Joanna Story
Professor of Early Medieval History at the University of Leicester

Andy Orchard
Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at the University of Oxford and a fellow of Pembroke College

And

Mary Garrison
Lecturer in History at the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of York

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Jan 30 2020

56mins

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Solar Wind

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the flow of particles from the outer region of the Sun which we observe in the Northern and Southern Lights, interacting with Earth's magnetosphere, and in comet tails that stream away from the Sun regardless of their own direction. One way of defining the boundary of the solar system is where the pressure from the solar wind is balanced by that from the region between the stars, the interstellar medium. Its existence was suggested from the C19th and Eugene Parker developed the theory of it in the 1950s and it has been examined and tested by a series of probes in C20th up to today, with more planned.

With

Andrew Coates
Professor of Physics and Deputy Director in charge of the Solar System at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College London

Helen Mason OBE
Reader in Solar Physics at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, University of Cambridge, Fellow at St Edmund's College

And

Tim Horbury
Professor of Physics at Imperial College London

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Jan 23 2020

55mins

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The Siege of Paris 1870-71

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the siege of Paris during the Franco-Prussian war and the social unrest that followed, as the French capital was cut off from the rest of the country and food was scarce. When the French government surrendered Paris to the Prussians, power gravitated to the National Guard in the city and to radical socialists, and a Commune established in March 1871 with the red flag replacing the trilcoleur. The French government sent in the army and, after bloody fighting, the Communards were defeated by the end of May 1871.

The image above is from an engraving of the fire in the Tuileries Palace, May 23, 1871

With

Karine Varley
Lecturer in French and European History at the University of Strathclyde

Robert Gildea
Professor of Modern History at the University of Oxford

And

Julia Nicholls
Lecturer in French and European Studies at King’s College London

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Jan 16 2020

52mins

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Catullus

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Catullus (c84-c54 BC) who wrote some of the most sublime poetry in the late Roman Republic, and some of the most obscene. He found a new way to write about love, in poems to the mysterious Lesbia, married and elusive, and he influenced Virgil and Ovid and others, yet his explicit poems were to blight his reputation for a thousand years. Once the one surviving manuscript was discovered in the Middle Ages, though, anecdotally as a plug in a wine butt, he inspired Petrarch and the Elizabethan poets, as he continues to inspire many today.

The image above is of Lesbia and her Sparrow, 1860, artist unknown

With

Gail Trimble
Brown Fellow and Tutor in Classics at Trinity College at the University of Oxford

Simon Smith
Reader in Creative Writing at the University of Kent, poet and translator of Catullus

and

Maria Wyke
Professor of Latin at University College London

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Jan 09 2020

52mins

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Tutankhamun

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the discovery in 1922 of Tutankhamun's 3000 year old tomb and its impact on the understanding of ancient Egypt, both academic and popular. The riches, such as the death mask above, were spectacular and made the reputation of Howard Carter who led the excavation. And if the astonishing contents of the tomb were not enough, the drama of the find and the control of how it was reported led to a craze for 'King Tut' that has rarely subsided and has enthused and sometimes confused people around the world, seeking to understand the reality of Tutankhamun's life and times.

With

Elizabeth Frood
Associate Professor of Egyptology, Director of the Griffith Institute and Fellow of St Cross at the University of Oxford

Christina Riggs
Professor of the History of Visual Culture at Durham University and a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford

And

John Taylor
Curator at the Department of Egypt and Sudan at the British Museum

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Dec 26 2019

53mins

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Auden

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and poetry of WH Auden (1907-1973) up to his departure from Europe for the USA in 1939. As well as his personal life, he addressed suffering and confusion, and the moral issues that affected the wider public in the 1930s and tried to unpick what was going wrong in society and to understand those times. He witnessed the rise of totalitarianism in the austerity of that decade, travelling through Germany to Berlin, seeing Spain in the Civil War and China during its wars with Japan, often collaborating with Christopher Isherwood. In his lifetime his work attracted high praise and intense criticism, and has found new audiences in the fifty years since his death, sometimes taking literally what he meant ironically.

With

Mark Ford
Poet and Professor of English at University College London

Janet Montefiore
Professor Emerita of 20th Century English Literature at the University of Kent

And

Jeremy Noel-Tod
Senior Lecturer in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Dec 19 2019

53mins

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Coffee

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history and social impact of coffee. From its origins in Ethiopia, coffea arabica spread through the Ottoman Empire before reaching Western Europe where, in the 17th century, coffee houses were becoming established. There, caffeinated customers stayed awake for longer and were more animated, and this helped to spread ideas and influence culture. Coffee became a colonial product, grown by slaves or indentured labour, with coffea robusta replacing arabica where disease had struck, and was traded extensively by the Dutch and French empires; by the 19th century, Brazil had developed into a major coffee producer, meeting demand in the USA that had grown on the waggon trails.

With

Judith Hawley
Professor of 18th Century Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London

Markman Ellis
Professor of 18th Century Studies at Queen Mary University of London

And

Jonathan Morris
Professor in Modern History at the University of Hertfordshire

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Dec 12 2019

55mins

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Lawrence of Arabia

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss T.E. Lawrence (1888 – 1935), better known as Lawrence of Arabia, a topic drawn from over 1200 suggestions for our Listener Week 2019. Although Lawrence started as an archaeologist in the Middle East, when World War I broke out he joined the British army and became an intelligence officer. His contact with a prominent Arab leader, Sharif Hussein, made him sympathetic to Hussein’s cause and during the Arab Revolt of 1916 he not only served the British but also the interests of Hussein. After the war he was dismayed by the peace settlement and felt that the British had broken an assurance that Sharif Hussein would lead a new Arab kingdom. Lawrence was made famous by the work of Lowell Thomas, whose film of Lawrence drew huge audiences in 1919, which led to his own book Seven Pillars of Wisdom and David Lean’s 1962 film with Peter O'Toole.

In previous Listener Weeks, we've discussed Kafka's The Trial, The Voyages of Captain Cook, Garibaldi and the Risorgimento, Moby Dick and The Thirty Years War.

With

Hussein Omar
Lecturer in Modern Global History at University College Dublin

Catriona Pennell
Associate Professor of Modern History and Memory Studies at the University of Exeter

Neil Faulkner
Director of Military History Live and Editor of the magazine Military History Matters

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Dec 05 2019

51mins

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Such good questions

By AnnaBard - Feb 19 2020
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I love the host’s questions — a sure bet every time that he’s done his homework.

MELVYN

By tammer1976 - Feb 17 2020
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Nobody does it better than Melvyn Bragg