Cover image of In Our Time
(2508)

Rank #105 in Society & Culture category

Society & Culture
History

In Our Time

Updated 10 days ago

Rank #105 in Society & Culture category

Society & Culture
History
Read more

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of ideas

Read more

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of ideas

iTunes Ratings

2508 Ratings
Average Ratings
2151
158
81
56
62

How do we know this?

By Cozzum - Aug 05 2019
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That's my question to historians when everything sounds a little too detailed and thankfully Melvyn Bragg is not too shy to ask his guests how much stock we can put in various historical tales. One of a handful of BBC programs in my arsenal against ignorance, "In Our Time" has enough depth and breadth to make me feel I've pushed back the onslaught of assumptions and outright nonsense a little farther each time I listen. Many thanks to all involved in producing the program and "Congrats!" on twenty years.

Excellent podcast

By DiligentPodcaster - Jun 12 2019
Read more
Varied selection of topics. Excellent panelists.

iTunes Ratings

2508 Ratings
Average Ratings
2151
158
81
56
62

How do we know this?

By Cozzum - Aug 05 2019
Read more
That's my question to historians when everything sounds a little too detailed and thankfully Melvyn Bragg is not too shy to ask his guests how much stock we can put in various historical tales. One of a handful of BBC programs in my arsenal against ignorance, "In Our Time" has enough depth and breadth to make me feel I've pushed back the onslaught of assumptions and outright nonsense a little farther each time I listen. Many thanks to all involved in producing the program and "Congrats!" on twenty years.

Excellent podcast

By DiligentPodcaster - Jun 12 2019
Read more
Varied selection of topics. Excellent panelists.
Cover image of In Our Time

In Our Time

Updated 10 days ago

Rank #105 in Society & Culture category

Read more

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of ideas

Rank #1: Venus (Summer Repeat)

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the planet Venus which is both the morning star and the evening star, rotates backwards at walking speed and has a day which is longer than its year. It has long been called Earth’s twin, yet the differences are more striking than the similarities. Once imagined covered with steaming jungles and oceans, we now know the surface of Venus is 450 degrees celsius, and the pressure there is 90 times greater than on Earth, enough to crush an astronaut. The more we learn of it, though, the more we learn of our own planet, such as whether Earth could become more like Venus in some ways, over time.

With

Carolin Crawford
Public Astronomer at the Institute of Astronomy and Fellow of Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge

Colin Wilson
Senior Research Fellow in Planetary Science at the University of Oxford

And

Andrew Coates
Professor of Physics at Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College London

Produced by: Simon Tillotson and Julia Johnson
Aug 01 2019
50 mins
Play

Rank #2: Hope (Summer Repeat)

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the philosophy of hope. To the ancient Greeks, hope was closer to self-deception, one of the evils left in Pandora's box or jar, in Hesiod's story. In Christian tradition, hope became one of the theological virtues, the desire for divine union and the expectation of receiving it, an action of the will rather than the intellect. To Kant, 'what may I hope' was one of the three basic questions which human reason asks, while Nietzsche echoed Hesiod, arguing that leaving hope in the box was a deception by the gods, reflecting human inability to face the demands of existence. Yet even those critical of hope, like Camus, conceded that life was nearly impossible without it.

With

Beatrice Han-Pile
Professor of Philosophy at the University of Essex

Robert Stern
Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield

And

Judith Wolfe
Professor of Philosophical Theology at the University of St Andrews

Producer: Simon Tillotson
Aug 08 2019
53 mins
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Rank #3: 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
48 mins
Play

Rank #4: 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
Play

Rank #5: 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 #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: 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
Play

Rank #8: 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 #9: 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
46 mins
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Rank #10: 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
42 mins
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Rank #11: 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
45 mins
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Rank #12: 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 #13: 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 #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
48 mins
Play

Rank #15: 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
48 mins
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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
49 mins
Play

Rank #17: Icelandic Sagas

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Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Icelandic Sagas. First written down in the 13th century, the sagas tell the stories of the Norse settlers of Iceland, who began to arrive on the island in the late 9th century. They contain some of the richest and most extraordinary writing of the Middle Ages, and often depict events known to have happened in the early years of Icelandic history, although there is much debate as to how much of their content is factual and how much imaginative. Full of heroes, feuds and outlaws, with a smattering of ghosts and trolls, the sagas inspired later writers including Sir Walter Scott, William Morris and WH Auden.

With:

Carolyne Larrington
Fellow and Tutor in Medieval English Literature at St John's College, Oxford

Elizabeth Ashman Rowe
University Lecturer in Scandinavian History at the University of Cambridge

Emily Lethbridge
Post-Doctoral Researcher at the Árni Magnússon Manuscripts Institute in Reykjavík

Producer: Thomas Morris.
May 09 2013
42 mins
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Rank #18: 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 #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
46 mins
Play

Rank #20: 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
46 mins
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