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History

In Our Time: History

Updated 5 days ago

History
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Historical themes, events and key individuals from Akhenaten to Xenophon.

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Historical themes, events and key individuals from Akhenaten to Xenophon.

iTunes Ratings

834 Ratings
Average Ratings
651
83
49
29
22

Some really interesting topics

By Eric2198723897234 - Jul 27 2019
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Always interesting and learn something new.

Great

By Ty$on&B@tm@n - Jul 02 2019
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A great choice for history.

iTunes Ratings

834 Ratings
Average Ratings
651
83
49
29
22

Some really interesting topics

By Eric2198723897234 - Jul 27 2019
Read more
Always interesting and learn something new.

Great

By Ty$on&B@tm@n - Jul 02 2019
Read more
A great choice for history.
Cover image of In Our Time: History

In Our Time: History

Updated 5 days ago

Read more

Historical themes, events and key individuals from Akhenaten to Xenophon.

Rank #1: The French Revolution's reign of terror

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the reign of terror during the French Revolution. On Monday September 10th 1792 The Times of London carried a story covering events in revolutionary France: "The streets of Paris, strewed with the carcases of the mangled victims, are become so familiar to the sight, that they are passed by and trod on without any particular notice. The mob think no more of killing a fellow-creature, who is not even an object of suspicion, than wanton boys would of killing a cat or a dog". These were the infamous September Massacres when Parisian mobs killed thousands of suspected royalists and set the scene for the events to come, when Madame La Guillotine took centre stage and The Terror ruled in France. But how did the French Revolution descend into such extremes of violence? Who or what drove The Terror? And was it really an aberration of the revolutionary cause or the moment when it truly expressed itself? With Mike Broers, Lecturer in Modern History at the University of Oxford and Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall; Rebecca Spang, Lecturer in Modern History at University College London; Tim Blanning, Professor of Modern European History at the University of Cambridge.
May 26 2005
41 mins
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Rank #2: 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
47 mins
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Rank #3: The Black Death

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how the Black Death influenced the structure and ideas of Medieval Europe. In October 1347, a Genoese trading ship arrived at the busy port of Messina in Sicily and docked among many similar ships doing similar things. But this ship was special because this ship had rats and the rats had fleas and the fleas had plague. This was the Black Death and its terrible progress was captured by the Florentine writer Giovanni Boccaccio who declared “in those years a dead man was then of no more account than a dead goat”. In the long and unsanitary history of Europe there have been many plagues but only one Black Death. It killed over a third of Europe’s population in 4 years – young and old, rich and poor, in the town and in the country. When it stopped in 1351 it left a continent ravaged but transformed – the poor found their labour to be valuable, religion was both reinforced and undercut, medicine progressed, art changed and the continent awash with guilt and memorialisation. With Miri Rubin, Professor of Medieval and Early Modern History at Queen Mary, University of London; Samuel Cohn, Professor of Medieval History at the University of Glasgow; Paul Binski, Professor of the History of Medieval Art at Gonville and Caius College, University of Cambridge
May 22 2008
42 mins
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Rank #4: The War of 1812

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Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the War of 1812, the conflict between America and the British Empire sometimes referred to as the second American War of Independence. In June 1812, President James Madison declared war on Britain, angered by the restrictions Britain had imposed on American trade, the Royal Navy's capture of American sailors and British support for Native Americans. After three years of largely inconclusive fighting, the conflict finally came to an end with the Treaty of Ghent which, among other things, helped to hasten the abolition of the global slave trade.

Although the War of 1812 is often overlooked, historians say it had a profound effect on the USA and Canada's sense of national identity, confirming the USA as an independent country. America's national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner began life as a poem written after its author, Francis Scott Key, witnessed the British bombardment of Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore. The war also led to Native Americans losing hundreds of thousands of acres of land in a programme of forced removal.

With:

Kathleen Burk
Professor of Modern and Contemporary History at University College London

Lawrence Goldman
Fellow in Modern History at St Peter's College, University of Oxford

Frank Cogliano
Professor of American History at the University of Edinburgh

Producer: Victoria Brignell.
Jan 31 2013
42 mins
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Rank #5: 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
49 mins
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Rank #6: 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
42 mins
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Rank #7: Genghis Khan

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Genghis Khan. Born Temujin in the 12th Century, he was cast out by his tribe when just a child and left to struggle for survival on the harsh Steppes of what is now Mongolia. From these beginnings he went on to become Genghis Khan, leader of the greatest continuous land-based empire the world has ever seen. His conquered territories stretched from the Caspian Sea to the borders of Manchuria, from the Siberian forest to what is now Afghanistan.He was a charismatic commander and a shrewd military tactician. He was swift to promote those who served him well, ignoring race or creed, but vengeful to those who crossed him, killing every inhabitant of resistant towns, even the cats and dogs. Generally regarded as barbarians by their enemies, the Mongol armies were in fact disciplined and effective.So how did Genghis create such an impressive fighting force? How did he draw together such diverse peoples to create a wealthy and successful Empire? And what was his legacy for the territories he conquered?With Peter Jackson, Professor of Medieval History at Keele University; Naomi Standen, Lecturer in Chinese History at Newcastle University;George Lane, Lecturer in History at the School of Oriental and African Studies
Feb 01 2007
28 mins
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Rank #8: 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
46 mins
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Rank #9: The Roman Empire's Collapse in the 5th century

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the causes of the fall of the Roman Empire. Edward Gibbon wrote of its decline, "While that great body was invaded by open violence, or undermined by slow decay, a pure and humble religion gently insinuated itself into the minds of men, grew up in silence and obscurity, derived new vigour from opposition, and finally erected the triumphant banner of the cross on the ruins of the Capitol."But how far is the growth of Christianity implicated in the destruction of the great culture of Rome? How critical were the bawdy incursions of the Ostrogoths, the Visigoths and the Vandals to the fall of the Roman Empire? Should we even be talking in terms of blame and decline at all?St Augustine wrote about the fall of the Roman Empire in the fifth century AD, Edward Gibbon famously tackled it in the eighteenth and it is a question that preoccupies us today.With Charlotte Roueché, historian of late antiquity at Kings College London; David Womersley, Fellow and Tutor at Jesus College, Oxford and editor of Edward Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire; Richard Alston, Lecturer in Classics at Royal Holloway, University of London.
Apr 05 2001
28 mins
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Rank #10: Mary, Queen of Scots

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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
52 mins
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Rank #11: 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
47 mins
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Rank #12: The Aztecs

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Aztec Empire. According to legend, the origins of it lie on a mythical island called Aztlan - "place of the white herons" - in the north of Mexico. From there this nomadic group of Mesoamericans are said to have undertaken a pilgrimage south to the fertile valleys of Central America. In the space of just 200 years, they formed what has been called the largest, and arguably the most ruthless, pre-Hispanic empire in North America which, at its zenith, was to rule over approximately 500 small states, comprising by the 16th century some 6 million people. Was it military might and intimidation alone that helped the Aztecs extend their power? What part did their complex belief system play in their imperial reach? Their use of human sacrifice has been well documented, but how widespread actually was it? How easily were the Spanish conquistadors able to Christianise this empire? And what legacy did the Aztecs leave behind that lives on in our world today?With Alan Knight, Professor of the History of Latin America at Oxford University and author of Mexico: From the Beginning to the Spanish Conquest; Adrian Locke, co-curator of the Aztecs exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts; Elizabeth Graham, Senior Lecturer in Mesoamerican Archaeology at University College London.
Feb 27 2003
42 mins
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Rank #13: The Spanish Civil War

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Spanish Civil War which was a defining war of the twentieth century. It was a brutal conflict that polarised Spain, pitting the Left against the Right, the anti-clericals against the Church, the unions against the landed classes and the Republicans against the Monarchists. It was a bloody war which saw, in the space of just three years, the murder and execution of 350,000 people. It was also a conflict which soon became internationalised, becoming a battleground for the forces of Fascism and Communism as Europe itself geared up for war.But what were the roots of the Spanish Civil War? To what extent did Franco prosecute the war as a religious crusade? How did Franco institutionalise his victory after the war? And has Spain fully come to terms with its past?With Paul Preston, Principe de Asturias Professor of Contemporary Spanish History at the London School of Economics; Helen Graham, Professor of Spanish History at Royal Holloway, University of London; Dr Mary Vincent, Senior Lecturer in the Department of History at Sheffield University.
Apr 03 2003
41 mins
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Rank #14: The Wars of the Roses

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Wars of the Roses which have been the scene for many a historical skirmish over the ages: The period in the fifteenth century when the House of Lancaster and the House of York were continually at odds is described by Shakespeare, in the three parts of Henry VI and Richard III as a time of enormous moral, military and political turmoil - the quintessential civil war; but twentieth century historians like K.B. Macfarlane argued the political instability is wildly overstated and there were no Wars of the Roses at all. Opposing this position are the many Tudor historians who like to claim that the Wars of the Roses represent the final breakdown of the feudal system and lead directly to the Tudor Era and the birth of the modern age.With Dr Helen Castor, Fellow and Director of Studies in History, Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge; Professor Colin Richmond, Emeritus Professor of History, Keele University; Dr Steven Gunn is a Tudor historian and Fellow and Tutor in Modern History, Merton College, Oxford.
May 18 2000
28 mins
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Rank #15: Lenin

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For some time, in some intellectual quarters in the West, Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov - also known as Lenin - was regarded as an understandable revolutionary, perhaps a necessary revolutionary given the actions of the Tsars, certainly a sympathetic revolutionary compared with his successor - Stalin. He became an icon in Russia - his body unburied, lying in Red Square in a state of permanent, imminent resurrection. The Russian Presidential Elections take place at the end of the month, and the Acting President, Vladimir Putin, promised that if he won he would finally take the body of Lenin from Red Square and bury him. But whether the country will be able to escape the extraordinary influence of the man, his ideas and his machinery of oppression is another matter. In his short period in power between 1917 and 1924 Vladimir Illyich Lenin invented the one party state, developed a model to export communism around the world and built a completely original political system that remained intact for over seventy years. What drove him and enabled him to achieve success?Robert Service, lecturer in Russian History and Fellow of St Anthony’s College, Oxford and biographer of Lenin; Vitali Vitaliev, author, columnist, broadcaster former Soviet Journalist of the Year.
Mar 16 2000
28 mins
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Rank #16: The Minoan Civilisation

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Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Minoan Civilisation.In 1900 the British archaeologist Arthur Evans began excavating some ancient ruins at Knossos on the island of Crete. He uncovered an enormous palace complex which reminded him of the mythical labyrinth of King Minos. Evans had in fact discovered the remnants of a Bronze Age society; in honour of Crete's legendary king he named it the Minoan Civilisation.The Minoans flourished for twelve centuries, and their civilisation was at its height around three and a half thousand years ago, when they built elaborate palaces all over the island. They were sophisticated builders and artists, and appear to have invented one of the world's earliest writing systems. Since Evans's discoveries a hundred years ago, we have learnt much about Minoan society, religion and culture - but much still remains mysterious.With:John BennetProfessor of Aegean Archaeology at Sheffield UniversityEllen AdamsLecturer in Classical Art and Archaeology at King's College LondonYannis HamilakisProfessor of Archaeology at the University of Southampton.Producer: Thomas Morris.
Jul 07 2011
42 mins
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Rank #17: The Great Irish Famine

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss why the potato crop failures in the 1840s had such a catastrophic impact in Ireland. It is estimated that one million people died from disease or starvation after the blight and another two million left the country within the decade. There had been famines before, but not on this scale. What was it about the laws, attitudes and responses that made this one so devastating?

The image above is from The Illustrated London News, Dec. 29, 1849, showing a scalp or shelter, "a hole, surrounded by pools, and three sides of the scalp were dripping with water, which ran in small streams over the floor and out by the entrance. The poor inhabitants said they would be thankful if the landlord would leave them there, and the Almighty would spare their lives. Its principal tenant is Margaret Vaughan."

With

Cormac O'Grada
Professor Emeritus in the School of Economics at University College Dublin

Niamh Gallagher
University Lecturer in Modern British and Irish History at the University of Cambridge

And

Enda Delaney
Professor of Modern History and School Director of Research at the University of Edinburgh

Producer: Simon Tillotson
Apr 04 2019
57 mins
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Rank #18: The Borgias

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Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Borgias, the most notorious family in Renaissance Italy. Famed for their treachery and corruption, the Borgias produced two popes during their time of dominance in Rome in the late 15th century. The most well-known of these two popes is Alexander VI, previously Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia. He was accused of buying votes to elect him to the papacy and openly promoted his children in positions of power. Rodrigo's daughter, Lucrezia, is widely remembered as a ruthless poisoner; his son, Cesare, as a brutal soldier.

Murder, intrigue and power politics characterised their rule, but many of the stories now told about their depraved behaviour and evil ways emerged after their demise and gave rise to the so-called 'Black Legend'. The sullied reputation of the Borgia dynasty endures even today and their lives have provided a major theme for plays, novels and over forty films.
With:

Evelyn Welch
Professor of Renaissance Studies at Queen Mary, University of London

Catherine Fletcher
Lecturer in Public History at the University of Sheffield

Christine Shaw
Honorary Research Fellow at Swansea University

Producer: Natalia Fernandez.
Nov 22 2012
41 mins
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Rank #19: 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
45 mins
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Rank #20: Sparta

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Melvyn Bragg and guests Paul Cartledge, Edith Hall and Angie Hobbs discuss Sparta, the militaristic Ancient Greek city-state, and the political ideas it spawned.The isolated Ancient Greek city-state of Sparta was a ferocious opposite to the cosmopolitan port of Athens. Spartans were hostile to outsiders and rhetoric, to philosophy and change. Two and a half thousand years on, Sparta remains famous for its brutally rigorous culture of military discipline, as inculcated in its young men through communal living, and terrifying, licensed violence towards the Helots, the city-state's subjugated majority. Sparta and its cruelty was used as an argument against slavery by British Abolitionists in the early 1800s, before inspiring the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s.Yet Sparta also produced poets of great skill: Tyrteaus wrote marching songs for the young men; Alcman wrote choral lyrics for the young women. Moreover, the city-state's rulers pioneered a radically egalitarian political system, and its ideals were invoked by Plato. Its inhabitants also prided themselves on their wit: we don't only derive the word 'spartan' from their culture, but the word 'laconic'. Paul Cartledge is AG Leventis Professor of Greek Culture and a Fellow of Clare College, University of Cambridge; Edith Hall is Professor of Classics and Drama at Royal Holloway, University of London; Angie Hobbs is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Senior Fellow in the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of Warwick.
Nov 19 2009
42 mins
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