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Rank #16 in History category

History

In Our Time

Updated 9 days ago

Rank #16 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

3016 Ratings
Average Ratings
2540
208
105
78
85

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

3016 Ratings
Average Ratings
2540
208
105
78
85

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 Apr 02, 2020

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of ideas

Rank #1: 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 #2: 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 #3: 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 #4: 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 #5: 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 #6: 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 #7: 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 #8: 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 #9: 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 #10: 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 #11: 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 #12: The Sino-Japanese War

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Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-45. After several years of rising tension, and the Japanese occupation of Manchuria, full-scale war between Japan and China broke out in the summer of 1937. The Japanese captured many major Chinese ports and cities, but met with fierce resistance, despite internal political divisions on the Chinese side. When the Americans entered the war following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Japanese found themselves fighting on several fronts simultaneously, and finally capitulated in August 1945. This notoriously brutal conflict left millions dead and had far-reaching consequences for international relations in Asia.

With:

Rana Mitter
Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China at the University of Oxford

Barak Kushner
Senior Lecturer in Japanese History at the University of Cambridge

Tehyun Ma
Lecturer in Chinese History at the University of Exeter

Producer: Thomas Morris.

May 08 2014

46mins

Play

Rank #13: 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 #14: The Talmud

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Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history and contents of the Talmud, one of the most important texts of Judaism. The Talmud was probably written down over a period of several hundred years, beginning in the 2nd century. It contains the authoritative text of the traditional Jewish oral law, and also an account of early Rabbinic discussion of, and commentary on, these laws. In later centuries scholars wrote important commentaries on these texts, which remain central to most strands of modern Judaism.

With:

Philip Alexander
Emeritus Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Manchester

Rabbi Norman Solomon
Former Lecturer at the Oxford Centre for Jewish and Hebrew Studies

Laliv Clenman
Lecturer in Rabbinic Literature at Leo Baeck College and a Visiting Lecturer at the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, King's College London

Producer: Thomas Morris.

May 29 2014

47mins

Play

Rank #15: 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 #16: Beowulf

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Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the epic poem Beowulf, one of the masterpieces of Anglo-Saxon literature. Composed in the early Middle Ages by an anonymous poet, the work tells the story of a Scandinavian hero whose feats include battles with the fearsome monster Grendel and a fire-breathing dragon. It survives in a single manuscript dating from around 1000 AD, and was almost completely unknown until its rediscovery in the nineteenth century. Since then it has been translated into modern English by writers including William Morris, JRR Tolkien and Seamus Heaney, and inspired poems, novels and films.

With:

Laura Ashe
Associate Professor in English at the University of Oxford and Fellow of Worcester College

Clare Lees
Professor of Medieval English Literature and History of the Language at King's College London

Andy Orchard
Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at the University of Oxford

Producer: Thomas Morris.

Mar 05 2015

46mins

Play

Rank #17: 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 #18: 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 #19: Relativity

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Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Einstein's theories of relativity. Between 1905 and 1917 Albert Einstein formulated a theoretical framework which transformed our understanding of the Universe. The twin theories of Special and General Relativity offered insights into the nature of space, time and gravitation which changed the face of modern science. Relativity resolved apparent contradictions in physics and also predicted several new phenomena, including black holes. It's regarded today as one of the greatest intellectual achievements of the twentieth century, and had an impact far beyond the world of science.

With:

Ruth Gregory
Professor of Mathematics and Physics at Durham University

Martin Rees
Astronomer Royal and Emeritus Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at the University of Cambridge

Roger Penrose
Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford.
Producer: Thomas Morris.

Jun 06 2013

42mins

Play

Rank #20: 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

The Gin Craze (repeat)

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the craze for gin in Britain in the mid-18th Century and the attempts to control it. With the arrival of William of Orange, it became an act of loyalty to drink Protestant, Dutch gin rather than Catholic brandy, and changes in tariffs made everyday beer less affordable. Within a short time, production increased and large sections of the population that had rarely or never drunk spirits before were consuming two pints of gin a week. As Hogarth indicated in his print Beer Street and Gin Lane (1751) in support of the Gin Act, the damage was severe, and addiction to gin was blamed for much of the crime in cities such as London.

With

Angela McShane
Research Fellow in History at the Victoria and Albert Museum and University of Sheffield

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

Emma Major
Senior Lecturer in English at the University of York

Producer: Simon Tillotson

First broadcast 15 December 2016.

Apr 02 2020

51mins

Play

George and Robert Stephenson (repeat)

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In a programme first broadcast on 12 April 2018, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the contribution of George Stephenson (1781-1848) and his son Robert (1803-59) to the development of the railways in the 19th Century. George became known as The Father of Railways and yet arguably Robert's contribution was even greater, with his engineering work going far beyond their collaboration.

Robert is credited with the main role in the design of their locomotives. George had worked on stationary colliery steam engines and, with Robert, developed the moving steam engine Locomotion No1 for the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 1825. They produced the Rocket for the Rainhill Trials on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1829. From there, the success of their designs and engineering led to the expansion of railways across Britain and around the world.

with

Dr Michael Bailey
Railway historian and editor of the most recent biography of Robert Stephenson

Julia Elton
Past President of the Newcomen Society for the History of Engineering and Technology

and

Colin Divall
Professor Emeritus of Railway Studies at the University of York

Producer: Simon Tillotson

This programme is a repeat.

Mar 26 2020

49mins

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

Play

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

Play

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

Play

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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Li Shizhen

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and ideas of Li Shizhen (1518-1593) whose compendium of natural medicines is celebrated in China as the most complete survey of natural remedies of its time. He trained as a doctor and worked at the Ming court before spending almost 30 years travelling in China, inspecting local plants and animals for their properties, trying them out on himself and then describing his findings in his Compendium of Materia Medica or Bencao Gangmu, in 53 volumes. He's been called the uncrowned king of Chinese naturalists, and became a scientific hero in the 20th century after the revolution.

With

Craig Clunas
Professor Emeritus in the History of Art at the University of Oxford

Anne Gerritsen
Professor in History at the University of Warwick

And

Roel Sterckx
Joseph Needham Professor of Chinese History at the University of Cambridge

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Nov 28 2019

51mins

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Melisende, Queen of Jerusalem

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the most powerful woman in the Crusader states in the century after the First Crusade. Melisende (1105-61) was born and raised after the mainly Frankish crusaders had taken Jerusalem from the Fatimids, and her father was King of Jerusalem. She was married to Fulk from Anjou, on the understanding they would rule together, and for 30 years she vied with him and then their son as they struggled to consolidate their Frankish state in the Holy Land.

The image above is of the coronation of Fulk with Melisende, from Livre d'Eracles, Guillaume de Tyr (1130?-1186)
Source: Bibliothèque nationale de France

With

Natasha Hodgson
Senior Lecturer in Medieval History and Director of the Centre for the Study of Religion and Conflict at Nottingham Trent University

Katherine Lewis
Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Huddersfield

and

Danielle Park
Visiting Lecturer at Royal Holloway, University of London

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Nov 21 2019

52mins

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Crime and Punishment

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the novel written by Dostoevsky and published in 1866, in which Raskolnikov, a struggling student, justifies his murder of two women, as his future is more valuable than their lives. He thinks himself superior, above the moral laws that apply to others. The police have little evidence against him but trust him to confess, once he cannot bear the mental torture of his crime - a fate he cannot avoid, any more than he can escape from life in St Petersburg and his personal failures.

The image above is from a portrait of Dostoevsky by Vasili Perov, 1872.

With

Sarah Hudspith
Associate Professor in Russian at the University of Leeds

Oliver Ready
Lecturer in Russian at the University of Oxford, Research Fellow at St Antony’s College and a translator of this novel

And

Sarah Young
Associate Professor in Russian at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Nov 14 2019

52mins

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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