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History

In Our Time

Updated 7 days ago

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

2923 Ratings
Average Ratings
2463
201
102
75
82

Love the discussions

By Andrew B. Li - Feb 03 2020
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The pace of the conversations, the depth and breadth of subjects covered here are simply remarkable. The extra bit at the end is also very enjoyable, as people share their more particular interests/views on some subjects, and the passion really shows. P.S. I always listen to the end to find out what everyone wants to drink that day

My favorite Podcast!

By phil 54 - Oct 02 2019
Read more
In Our Time never disappoints! Every podcast is a positive learning experience!

iTunes Ratings

2923 Ratings
Average Ratings
2463
201
102
75
82

Love the discussions

By Andrew B. Li - Feb 03 2020
Read more
The pace of the conversations, the depth and breadth of subjects covered here are simply remarkable. The extra bit at the end is also very enjoyable, as people share their more particular interests/views on some subjects, and the passion really shows. P.S. I always listen to the end to find out what everyone wants to drink that day

My favorite Podcast!

By phil 54 - Oct 02 2019
Read more
In Our Time never disappoints! Every podcast is a positive learning experience!
Cover image of In Our Time

In Our Time

Latest release on Feb 13, 2020

The Best Episodes Ranked Using User Listens

Updated by OwlTail 7 days ago

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: 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 #3: 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 #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: Gnosticism

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Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Gnosticism, a sect associated with early Christianity. The Gnostics divided the universe into two domains: the visible world and the spiritual one. They believed that a special sort of knowledge, or gnosis, would enable them to escape the evils of the physical world and allow them access to the higher spiritual realm. The Gnostics were regarded as heretics by many of the Church Fathers, but their influence was important in defining the course of early Christianity. A major archaeological discovery in Egypt in the 1940s, when a large cache of Gnostic texts were found buried in an earthenware jar, enabled scholars to learn considerably more about their beliefs.

With:

Martin Palmer
Director of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education, and Culture

Caroline Humfress
Reader in History at Birkbeck College, University of London

Alastair Logan
Honorary University Fellow of the Department of Theology and Religion at the University of Exeter
Producer: Thomas Morris.

May 02 2013

42mins

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: 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: 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 #11: 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 #12: 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 #13: 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 #14: 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 #15: 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 #16: 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 #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: 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 #19: 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 #20: Dark Matter

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Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss dark matter, the mysterious and invisible substance which is believed to make up most of the Universe. In 1932 the Dutch astronomer Jan Oort noticed that the speed at which galaxies moved was at odds with the amount of material they appeared to contain. He hypothesized that much of this 'missing' matter was simply invisible to telescopes. Today astronomers and particle physicists are still fascinated by the search for dark matter and the question of what it is.

With

Carolin Crawford
Public Astronomer at the Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge and Gresham Professor of Astronomy

Carlos Frenk
Ogden Professor of Fundamental Physics and Director of the Institute for Computational Cosmology at the University of Durham

Anne Green
Reader in Physics at the University of Nottingham

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Mar 12 2015

45mins

Play