In Our Time

In Our Time

By BBC Radio 4

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas, people and events that have shaped our world.

Episodes

Bertolt Brecht

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the greatest European playwrights of the twentieth century. The aim of Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) was to make the familiar ‘strange’: with plays such as Mother Courage and The Caucasian Chalk Circle he wanted his audience not to sit back but to engage, observe and discover the contradictions in life, and act on what they learnt. He developed this approach in turbulent times, from Weimar Germany to the rise of the Nazis, to exile in Scandinavia and America and then post-war life in East Berlin, and he has since inspired dramatists around the world.WithLaura Bradley Professor of German and Theatre at the University of EdinburghDavid Barnett Professor of Theatre at the University of YorkAnd Tom Kuhn Professor of Twentieth Century German Literature, Emeritus Fellow of St Hugh's College, University of OxfordProducer: Simon Tillotson In Our Time is a BBC Studios Audio productionReading list: David Barnett, Brecht in Practice: Theatre, Theory and Performance (Bloomsbury, 2014)David Barnett, A History of the Berliner Ensemble (Cambridge University Press, 2015)Laura Bradley and Karen Leeder (eds.), Brecht and the GDR: Politics, Culture, Posterity (Camden House, 2015)Laura Bradley, ‘Training the Audience: Brecht and the Art of Spectatorship’ (The Modern Language Review, 111, 2016)Bertolt Brecht (ed. Marc Silberman, Tom Kuhn and Steve Giles), Brecht on Theatre (Bloomsbury, 2014)Bertolt Brecht (ed. Tom Kuhn, Steve Giles and Marc Silberman), Brecht on Performance (Bloomsbury, 2014)Bertolt Brecht (trans. Tom Kuhn and David Constantine), The Collected Poems of Bertolt Brecht (Norton Liveright, 2018) which includes the poem ‘Spring 1938’ read by Tom Kuhn in this programmeStephen Brockmann (ed.), Bertolt Brecht in Context (Cambridge University Press, 2021)Meg Mumford, Bertolt Brecht (Routledge, 2009)Stephen Parker, Bertolt Brecht: A Literary Life (Bloomsbury, 2014)Ronald Speirs, Brecht’s Poetry of Political Exile (Cambridge University Press, 2000)David Zoob, Brecht: A Practical Handbook (Nick Hern Books, 2018)
23/05/2459m 34s

Napoleon's Hundred Days

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Napoleon Bonaparte's temporary return to power in France in 1815, following his escape from exile on Elba . He arrived with fewer than a thousand men, yet three weeks later he had displaced Louis XVIII and taken charge of an army as large as any that the Allied Powers could muster individually. He saw that his best chance was to pick the Allies off one by one, starting with the Prussian and then the British/Allied armies in what is now Belgium. He appeared to be on the point of victory at Waterloo yet somehow it eluded him, and his plans were soon in tatters. His escape to America thwarted, he surrendered on 15th July and was exiled again but this time to Saint Helena. There he wrote his memoirs to help shape his legacy, while back in Europe there were still fears of his return.With Michael Rowe Reader in European History at Kings College LondonKatherine Astbury Professor of French Studies at the University of WarwickAndZack White Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow at the University of PortsmouthProducer: Simon Tillotson In Our Time is a BBC Studios Audio production.Reading list:Katherine Astbury and Mark Philp (ed.), Napoleon's Hundred Days and the Politics of Legitimacy (Palgrave, 2018)Jeremy Black, The Battle of Waterloo: A New History (Icon Books, 2010)Michael Broers, Napoleon: The Decline and Fall of an Empire: 1811-1821 (Pegasus Books, 2022)Philip Dwyer, Citizen Emperor: Napoleon in power 1799-1815 (Bloomsbury, 2014)Charles J. Esdaile, Napoleon, France and Waterloo: The Eagle Rejected (Pen & Sword Military, 2016)Gareth Glover, Waterloo: Myth and Reality (Pen & Sword Military, 2014)Sudhir Hazareesingh, The Legend of Napoleon (Granta, 2014)John Hussey, Waterloo: The Campaign of 1815, Volume 1, From Elba to Ligny and Quatre Bras (Greenhill Books, 2017)Andrew Roberts, Napoleon the Great (Penguin Books, 2015)Brian Vick, The Congress of Vienna: Power and Politics after Napoleon (Harvard University Press, 2014) Zack White (ed.), The Sword and the Spirit: Proceedings of the first ‘War & Peace in the Age of Napoleon’ Conference (Helion and Company, 2021)
16/05/2458m 56s

Lysistrata

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Aristophanes' comedy in which the women of Athens and Sparta, led by Lysistrata, secure peace in the long-running war between them by staging a sex strike. To the men in the audience in 411BC, the idea that peace in the Peloponnesian War could be won so easily was ridiculous and the thought that their wives could have so much power over them was even more so. However Aristophanes' comedy also has the women seizing the treasure in the Acropolis that was meant to fund more fighting in an emergency, a fund the Athenians had recently had to draw on. They were in a perilous position and, much as they might laugh at Aristophanes' jokes, they knew there were real concerns about the actual cost of the war in terms of wealth and manpower. WithPaul Cartledge AG Leventis Senior Research Fellow of Clare College, University of Cambridge Sarah Miles Associate Professor in the Department of Classics and Ancient History at Durham UniversityAndJames Robson Professor of Classical Studies at the Open UniversityProducer: Simon TillotsonReading list:Aristophanes (ed. Jeffrey Henderson), Lysistrata (Oxford University Press, 1987)Aristophanes (ed. Jeffrey Henderson), Three Plays by Aristophanes: Staging Women (Routledge, 2010)Aristophanes (ed. Jeffrey Henderson), Birds; Lysistrata; Women at the Thesmophoria (Loeb Classical Library series, Harvard University Press, 2014) Aristophanes (ed. Alan H. Sommerstein), Lysistrata and Other Plays: The Acharnians; The Clouds; Lysistrata (Penguin, 2002)Aristophanes (ed. Alan H. Sommerstein), Lysistrata (Aris & Phillips, 1998)Paul Cartledge, Aristophanes and his Theatre of the Absurd (Bristol Classical Press, 1999)Kenneth Dover, Aristophanic Comedy (University of California Press, 1972)Germaine Greer, Lysistrata: The Sex Strike: After Aristophanes (Aurora Metro Press, 2000)Tony Harrison, The Common Chorus: A Version of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata (Faber & Faber, 1992)Douglas M. MacDowell, Aristophanes and Athens: An Introduction to the Plays (Oxford University Press, 1995)S. Douglas Olson (ed.), Ancient Comedy and Reception: Essays in Honor of Jeffrey Henderson (De Gruyter, 2013), especially 'She (Don't) Gotta Have It: African-American reception of Lysistrata' by Kevin WetmoreJames Robson, Aristophanes: Lysistrata, Bloomsbury ancient comedy companions (Bloomsbury, 2023)James Robson, Aristophanes: An Introduction (Duckworth, 2009)Ralph M. Rosen and Helene P. Foley (eds.), Aristophanes and Politics. New Studies (Brill, 2020) Donald Sells, Parody, Politics and the Populace in Greek Old Comedy (Bloomsbury, 2018)David Stuttard (ed.), Looking at Lysistrata: Eight Essays and a New Version of Aristophanes' Provocative Comedy (Bristol Classical Press, 2010)
09/05/2455m 10s

Nikola Tesla

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) and his role in the development of electrical systems towards the end of the nineteenth century. He made his name in New York in the contest over which current should flow into homes and factories in America. Some such as Edison backed direct current or DC while others such as Westinghouse backed alternating current or AC and Nikola Tesla’s invention of a motor that worked on AC swung it for the alternating system that went on to power the modern age. He ensured his reputation and ideas burnt brightly for the next decades, making him synonymous with the lone, genius inventor of the new science fiction. With Simon Schaffer Emeritus Fellow of Darwin College, University of CambridgeJill Jonnes Historian and author of “Empires of Light: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse and the Race to Electrify the World”And Iwan Morus Professor of History at Aberystwyth UniversityProducer: Simon TillotsonReading list: W. Bernard Carlson, Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age (Princeton University Press, 2013)Margaret Cheney and Robert Uth, Tesla: Master of Lightning (Barnes & Noble Books, 1999) Thomas P. Hughes, Networks of Power: Electrification in Western Society, 1880-1930 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983)Carolyn Marvin, When Old Technologies Were New (Open University Press, 1988)Iwan Rhys Morus, Nikola Tesla and the Electrical Future (Icon Books, 2019)Iwan Rhys Morus, How The Victorians Took Us To The Moon (Icon, 2022)David E. Nye, Electrifying America: Social Meanings of a New Technology (MIT Press, 1991)John J. O’Neill, Prodigal Genius: The Life of Nikola Tesla (first published 1944; Cosimo Classics, 2006)Marc J. Seifer, Wizard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla, Biography of a Genius (first published 1996; Citadel Press, 2016)Nikola Tesla, My Inventions: The Autobiography of Nikola Tesla (first published 1919; Martino Fine Books, 2011)Nikola Tesla, My Inventions and other Writings (Penguin, 2012)In Our Time is a BBC Studios Audio production
02/05/2452m 50s

The Kalevala

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Finnish epic poem that first appeared in print in 1835 in what was then the Grand Duchy of Finland, part of the Russian Empire and until recently part of Sweden. The compiler of this epic was a doctor, Elias Lönnrot (1802-1884), who had travelled the land to hear traditional poems about mythical heroes being sung in Finnish, the language of the peasantry, and writing them down in his own order to create this landmark work. In creating The Kalevala, Lönnrot helped the Finns realise they were a distinct people apart from Sweden and Russia, who deserved their own nation state and who came to demand independence, which they won in 1917. With Riitta Valijärvi Associate Professor in Finnish and Minority Languages at University College LondonThomas Dubois The Halls-Bascom Professor of Scandinavian Folklore and Literature at the University of Wisconsin-MadisonAnd Daniel Abondolo Formerly Reader in Hungarian at University College LondonProducer: Simon TillotsonReading list:Nigel Fabb, What is Poetry? Language and Memory in the Poems of the World (Cambridge University Press, 2015)Frog, Satu Grünthal, Kati Kallio and Jarkko Niemi (eds), Versification: Metrics in Practice (Finnish Literature Society, 2021)Riho Grünthal et al., ‘Drastic demographic events triggered the Uralic spread’ (Diachronica, Volume 39, Issue 4, Aug 2022)Lauri Honko (ed.), The Kalevala and the World's Traditional Epics (Finnish Literature Society, 2002)The Kalevala Heritage: Archive Recordings of Ancient Finnish Songs. Online Catalogue no. ODE8492.Mauri Kunnas, The Canine Kalevala (Otava Publishing, 1992)Kuusi, Matti, et al. (eds.), Finnish Folk Poetry: Epic (Finnish Literature Society, 1977)Elias Lönnrot (trans. John Martin Crawford), Kalevala: The Epic Poem of Finland (first published 1887; CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2017)Elias Lönnrot (trans. W. F. Kirby), Kalevala: The Land of the Heroes (first published by J.M. Dent & Sons, 1907, 2 vols.; ‎ Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd, 2000) Elias Lönnrot (trans. Francis Peabody Magoun Jr.), The Kalevala, or Poems of the Kaleva District (Harvard University Press, 1963)Elias Lönnrot (trans. Eino Friberg), The Kalevala: Epic of the Finnish People (Otava Publishing, 1988)Elias Lönnrot (trans. Keith Bosley), The Kalevala: An Epic Poem after Oral Tradition (Oxford University Press, 1989)Kirsti Mäkinen, Pirkko-Liisa Surojegin, Kaarina Brooks, An Illustrated Kalevala: Myths and Legends from Finland (Floris Books, 2020)Sami Makkonen, Kalevala: The Graphic Novel (Ablaze, 2024)Juha Y. Pentikäinen (trans. Ritva Poom), Kalevala Mythology, (Indiana University Press, 1999)Tina K. Ramnarine, Ilmatar’s Inspirations: Nationalism, Globalization and the Changing Soundscapes of Finnish Folk Music (University of Chicago Press, 2003) Jonathan Roper (ed.), Alliteration in Culture (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), especially chapter 12 ‘Alliteration in (Balto-) Finnic Languages’ by Frog and Eila StepanovaKarl Spracklen, Metal Music and the Re-imagining of Masculinity, Place, Race and Nation (Emerald Publishing, 2020), especially the chapter ‘Finnish Folk Metal: Raising Drinking Horns in Mainstream Metal’Leea Virtanen and Thomas A. DuBois, Finnish Folklore: Studia Fennica Folkloristica 9 (Finnish Literature Society, 2000)
25/04/2450m 20s

Julian the Apostate

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the last pagan ruler of the Roman Empire. Fifty years after Constantine the Great converted to Christianity and introduced a policy of tolerating the faith across the empire, Julian (c.331 - 363 AD) aimed to promote paganism instead, branding Constantine the worst of all his predecessors. Julian was a philosopher-emperor in the mould of Marcus Aurelius and was noted in his lifetime for his letters and his satires, and it was his surprising success as a general in his youth in Gaul that had propelled him to power barely twenty years after a rival had slaughtered his family. Julian's pagan mission and his life were brought to a sudden end while on campaign against the Sasanian Empire in the east, but he left so much written evidence of his ideas that he remains one of the most intriguing of all the Roman emperors and a hero to the humanists of the Enlightenment. With James Corke-Webster Reader in Classics, History and Liberal Arts at King’s College, LondonLea Niccolai Assistant Professor in Classics at the University of Cambridge and Fellow and Director of Studies in Classics, Trinity College And Shaun Tougher Professor of Late Roman and Byzantine History at Cardiff UniversityProducer: Simon TillotsonReading list:Polymnia Athanassiadi, Julian: An Intellectual Biography (first published 1981; Routledge, 2014)Nicholas Baker-Brian and Shaun Tougher (eds.), Emperor and Author: The Writings of Julian the Apostate (Classical Press of Wales, 2012)Nicholas Baker-Brian and Shaun Tougher (eds.), The Sons of Constantine, AD 337-361: In the Shadows of Constantine and Julian, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020)G.W. Bowersock, Julian the Apostate (first published 1978; Harvard University Press, 1997)Susanna Elm, Sons of Hellenism, Fathers of the Church: Emperor Julian, Gregory of Nazianzus, and the Vision of Rome (University of California Press, 2012)Ari Finkelstein, The Specter of the Jews: Emperor Julian and the Rhetoric of Ethnicity in Syrian Antioch (University of California Press, 2018)David Neal Greenwood, Julian and Christianity: Revisiting the Constantinian Revolution (Cornell University Press, 2021)Lea Niccolai, Christianity, Philosophy, and Roman Power: Constantine, Julian, and the Bishops on Exegesis and Empire (Cambridge University Press, 2023)Stefan Rebenich and Hans-Ulrich Wiemer (eds), A Companion to Julian the Apostate (Brill, 2020)Rowland Smith, Julian’s Gods: Religion and Philosophy in the Thought and Action of Julian the Apostate (Routledge, 1995)H.C. Teitler, The Last Pagan Emperor: Julian the Apostate and the War against Christianity (Oxford University Press, 2017)Shaun Tougher, Julian the Apostate (Edinburgh University Press, 2007)W. C. Wright, The Works of Emperor Julian of Rome (Loeb, 1913-23)
18/04/2450m 14s

The Waltz

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the dance which, from when it reached Britain in the early nineteenth century, revolutionised the relationship between music, literature and people here for the next hundred years. While it may seem formal now, it was the informality and daring that drove its popularity, with couples holding each other as they spun round a room to new lighter music popularised by Johann Strauss, father and son, such as The Blue Danube. Soon the Waltz expanded the creative world in poetry, ballet, novellas and music, from the Ballets Russes of Diaghilev to Moon River and Are You Lonesome Tonight.WithSusan Jones Emeritus Professor of English Literature at the University of OxfordDerek B. Scott Professor Emeritus of Music at the University of LeedsAndTheresa Buckland Emeritus Professor of Dance History and Ethnography at the University of RoehamptonProducer: Simon TillotsonReading list: Egil Bakka, Theresa Jill Buckland, Helena Saarikoski, and Anne von Bibra Wharton (eds.), Waltzing Through Europe: Attitudes towards Couple Dances in the Long Nineteenth Century, (Open Book Publishers, 2020)Theresa Jill Buckland, ‘How the Waltz was Won: Transmutations and the Acquisition of Style in Early English Modern Ballroom Dancing. Part One: Waltzing Under Attack’ (Dance Research, 36/1, 2018); ‘Part Two: The Waltz Regained’ (Dance Research, 36/2, 2018)Theresa Jill Buckland, Society Dancing: Fashionable Bodies in England, 1870-1920 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011)Erica Buurman, The Viennese Ballroom in the Age of Beethoven (Cambridge University Press, 2022) Paul Cooper, ‘The Waltz in England, c. 1790-1820’ (Paper presented at Early Dance Circle conference, 2018)Sherril Dodds and Susan Cook (eds.), Bodies of Sound: Studies Across Popular Dance and Music (Ashgate, 2013), especially ‘Dancing Out of Time: The Forgotten Boston of Edwardian England’ by Theresa Jill BucklandZelda Fitzgerald, Save Me the Waltz (first published 1932; Vintage Classics, 2001)Hilary French, Ballroom: A People's History of Dancing (Reaktion Books, 2022)Susan Jones, Literature, Modernism, and Dance (Oxford University Press, 2013)Mark Knowles, The Wicked Waltz and Other Scandalous Dances: Outrage at Couple Dancing in the 19th and Early 20th Centuries (McFarland, 2009)Rosamond Lehmann, Invitation to the Waltz (first published 1932; Virago, 2006)Eric McKee, Decorum of the Minuet, Delirium of the Waltz: A Study of Dance-Music Relations in 3/4 Time (Indiana University Press, 2012)Eduard Reeser, The History of the Walz (Continental Book Co., 1949)Stanley Sadie (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Vol. 27 (Macmillan, 2nd ed., 2000), especially ‘Waltz’ by Andrew LambDerek B. Scott, Sounds of the Metropolis: The 19th-Century Popular Music Revolution in London, New York, Paris and Vienna (Oxford University Press, 2008), especially the chapter ‘A Revolution on the Dance Floor, a Revolution in Musical Style: The Viennese Waltz’Joseph Wechsberg, The Waltz Emperors: The Life and Times and Music of the Strauss Family (Putnam, 1973)Cheryl A. Wilson, Literature and Dance in Nineteenth-century Britain (Cambridge University Press, 2009)Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out (first published 1915; William Collins, 2013)Virginia Woolf, The Years (first published 1937; Vintage Classics, 2016)David Wyn Jones, The Strauss Dynasty and Habsburg Vienna (Cambridge University Press, 2023)Sevin H. Yaraman, Revolving Embrace: The Waltz as Sex, Steps, and Sound (Pendragon Press, 2002)Rishona Zimring, Social Dance and the Modernist Imagination in Interwar Britain (Ashgate Press, 2013)
11/04/2452m 12s

The Mokrani Revolt

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the revolt that broke out in 1871 in Algeria against French rule, spreading over hundreds of miles and countless towns and villages before being brutally suppressed. It began with the powerful Cheikh Mokrani and his family and was taken up by hundreds of thousands, becoming the last major revolt there before Algeria’s war of independence in 1954. In the wake of its swift suppression though came further waves of French migrants to settle on newly confiscated lands, themselves displaced by French defeat in Europe and the loss of Alsace-Lorraine, and their arrival only increased tensions. The Mokrani Revolt came to be seen as a watershed between earlier Ottoman rule and full national identity, an inspiration to nationalists in the 1950s.WithNatalya Benkhaled-Vince Associate Professor of the History of Modern France and the Francophone World, Fellow of University College, University of OxfordHannah-Louise Clark Senior Lecturer in Global Economic and Social History at the University of GlasgowAnd Jim House Senior Lecturer in French and Francophone History at the University of Leeds Producer: Simon Tillotson Reading list: Mahfoud Bennoune, The Making of Contemporary Algeria: 1830-1987 (Cambridge University Press, 1988)Julia Clancy-Smith, Rebel and Saint: Muslim Notables, Populist Protest, Colonial Encounters, Algeria and Tunisia 1800–1904 (University of California Press, 1994) Hannah-Louise Clark, ‘The Islamic Origins of the French Colonial Welfare State: Hospital Finance in Algeria’ (European Review of History, vol. 28, nos 5-6, 2021)Hannah-Louise Clark, ‘Of jinn theories and germ theories: translating microbes, bacteriological medicine, and Islamic law in Algeria’ (Osiris, vol. 36, 2021)Brock Cutler, Ecologies of Imperialism in Algeria (University of Nebraska Press, 2023) Didier Guignard, 1871: L’Algérie sous Séquestre (CNRS Éditions, 2023)Idir Hachi, ‘Histoire social de l’insurrection de 1871 et du procès de ses chefs (PhD diss., University of Aix-Marseille, 2017) Abdelhak Lahlou, Idir Hachi, Isabelle Guillaume, Amélie Gregório and Peter Dunwoodie, ‘L'insurrection kabyle de 1871’ (Etudes françaises volume 57, no 1, 2021)James McDougall, A History of Algeria (Cambridge University Press (2017)John Ruedy, Modern Algeria: The Origins and Development of a Nation (Indiana University Press, 2005, 2nd edition)Jennifer E Sessions, By Sword and Plow: France and the Conquest of Algeria (Cornell University Press, 2011)Samia Touati, ‘Lalla Fatma N’Soumer, 1830–1863: Spirituality, Resistance and Womanly Leadership in Colonial Algeria (Societies vol. 8, no. 4, 2018)Natalya Vince, Our Fighting Sisters: Nation, Memory and Gender in Algeria, 1954-2012 (Manchester University Press, 2015)
04/04/2457m 32s

Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the German physicist who, at the age of 23 and while still a student, effectively created quantum mechanics for which he later won the Nobel Prize. Werner Heisenberg made this breakthrough in a paper in 1925 when, rather than starting with an idea of where atomic particles were at any one time, he worked backwards from what he observed of atoms and their particles and the light they emitted, doing away with the idea of their continuous orbit of the nucleus and replacing this with equations. This was momentous and from this flowed what’s known as his Uncertainty Principle, the idea that, for example, you can accurately measure the position of an atomic particle or its momentum, but not both.With Fay Dowker Professor of Theoretical Physics at Imperial College LondonHarry Cliff Research Fellow in Particle Physics at the University of CambridgeAnd Frank Close Professor Emeritus of Theoretical Physics and Fellow Emeritus at Exeter College at the University of OxfordProducer: Simon TillotsonReading list:Philip Ball, Beyond Weird: Why Everything You Thought You Knew about Quantum Physics Is Different (Vintage, 2018)John Bell, ‘Against 'measurement'’ (Physics World, Vol 3, No 8, 1990)Mara Beller, Quantum Dialogue: The Making of a Revolution (University of Chicago Press, 2001)David C. Cassidy, Beyond Uncertainty: Heisenberg, Quantum Physics, And The Bomb (Bellevue Literary Press, 2010) Werner Heisenberg, Physics and Philosophy (first published 1958; Penguin Classics, 2000)Carlo Rovelli, Helgoland: The Strange and Beautiful Story of Quantum Physics (Penguin, 2022)
28/03/2458m 2s

The Sack of Rome 1527

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the infamous assault of an army of the Holy Roman Emperor on the city of Rome in 1527. The troops soon broke through the walls of this holy city and, with their leader shot dead early on, they brought death and destruction to the city on an epic scale. Later writers compared it to the fall of Carthage or Jerusalem and soon the mass murder, torture, rape and looting were followed by disease which was worsened by starvation and opened graves. It has been called the end of the High Renaissance, a conflict between north and south, between Lutherans and Catholics, and a fulfilment of prophecy of divine vengeance and, perhaps more persuasively, a consequence of military leaders not feeding or paying their soldiers other than by looting. WithStephen Bowd Professor of Early Modern History at the University of EdinburghJessica Goethals Associate Professor of Italian at the University of AlabamaAnd Catherine Fletcher Professor of History at Manchester Metropolitan UniversityProducer: Simon TillotsonReading list:Stephen Bowd, Renaissance Mass Murder: Civilians and Soldiers during the Italian Wars (Oxford University Press, 2018)Benvenuto Cellini, Autobiography (Penguin Classics, 1999)Benvenuto Cellini (trans. Julia Conaway Bondanella and Peter Bondanella), My Life (Oxford University Press, 2009)André Chastel (trans. Beth Archer), The Sack of Rome 1527 (Princeton University Press, 1983Catherine Fletcher, The Beauty and the Terror: An Alternative History of the Italian Renaissance (Bodley Head, 2020)Kenneth Gouwens and Sheryl E. Reiss (eds), The Pontificate of Clement VII: History, Politics, Culture (Routledge, 2005)Francesco Guicciardini (trans. Sidney Alexander), The History of Italy (first published 1561; Princeton University Press, 2020)Luigi Guicciardini (trans. James H. McGregor), The Sack of Rome (first published 1537; Italica Press, 2008)Judith Hook, The Sack of Rome (2nd edition, Palgrave Macmillan, 2004)Geoffrey Parker, Emperor: A New Life of Charles V (Yale University Press, 2019)
21/03/2446m 32s

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Lewis Carroll's book which first appeared in print in 1865 with illustrations by John Tenniel. It has since become one of the best known works in English, captivating readers who follow young Alice as she chases a white rabbit, pink eyed, in a waistcoat with pocket watch, down a rabbit hole that becomes a well and into wonderland. There she meets the Cheshire Cat, the Hatter, the March Hare, the Mock Turtle and more, all the while growing smaller and larger, finally outgrowing everyone at the trial of Who Stole the Tarts from the Queen of Hearts and exclaiming 'Who cares for you? You’re nothing but a pack of cards!'WithFranziska Kohlt Leverhulme Research Fellow in the History of Science at the University of Leeds and the Inaugural Carrollian Fellow of the University of Southern CaliforniaKiera Vaclavik Professor of Children’s Literature and Childhood Culture at Queen Mary, University of LondonAndRobert Douglas-Fairhurst Professor of English Literature at Magdalen College, University of OxfordProducer: Simon TillotsonReading list:Kate Bailey and Simon Sladen (eds), Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser (V&A Publishing, 2021)Gillian Beer, Alice in Space: The Sideways Victorian World of Lewis Carroll (University of Chicago Press, 2016)Will Brooker, Alice's Adventures: Lewis Carroll and Alice in Popular Culture (Continuum, 2004)Humphrey Carpenter, Secret Gardens: A Study of the Golden Age of Children’s Literature (first published 1985; Faber and Faber, 2009)Lewis Carroll (introduced by Martin Gardner), The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition, (W. W. Norton & Company, 2000)Gavin Delahunty and Christoph Benjamin Schulz (eds), Alice in Wonderland Through the Visual Arts (Tate Publishing, 2011)Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, The Story of Alice: Lewis Carroll and the Secret History of Wonderland (Harvill Secker, 2015)Colleen Hill, Fairy Tale Fashion (Yale University Press, 2016)Franziska Kohlt, Alice through the Wonderglass: The Surprising Histories of a Children's Classic (Reaktion, forthcoming 2025) Franziska Kohlt and Justine Houyaux (eds.), Alice: Through the Looking-Glass: A Companion (Peter Lang, forthcoming 2024)Charlie Lovett, Lewis Carroll: Formed by Faith (University of Virginia Press, 2022)Elizabeth Sewell, The Field of Nonsense (first published 1952; Dalkey Archive Press, 2016)Kiera Vaclavik, 'Listening to the Alice books' (Journal of Victorian Culture, Volume 26, Issue 1, January 2021)Diane Waggoner, Lewis Carroll's Photography and Modern Childhood (Princeton University Press 2020)Edward Wakeling, The Man and his Circle (IB Tauris, 2014)Edward Wakeling, The Photographs of Lewis Carroll: A Catalogue Raisonné (University of Texas Press, 2015)
14/03/2449m 58s

Hormones

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss some of the chemical signals coursing through our bodies throughout our lives, produced in separate areas and spreading via the bloodstream. We call these 'hormones' and we produce more than 80 of them of which the best known are arguably oestrogen, testosterone, adrenalin, insulin and cortisol. On the whole hormones operate without us being immediately conscious of them as their goal is homeostasis, maintaining the levels of everything in the body as required without us having to think about them first. Their actions are vital for our health and wellbeing and influence many different aspects of the way our bodies work.WithSadaf Farooqi Professor of Metabolism and Medicine at the University of CambridgeRebecca Reynolds Professor of Metabolic Medicine at the University of EdinburghAndAndrew Bicknell Associate Professor in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of ReadingProduced by Victoria BrignellReading list:Rachel Carson, Silent Spring (first published 1962; Penguin Classics, 2000)Stephen Nussey and Saffron Whitehead, Endocrinology: An Integrated Approach (BIOS Scientific Publishers; 2001)Aylinr Y. Yilmaz, Comprehensive Introduction to Endocrinology for Novices (Independently published, 2023)
07/03/2450m 13s

The Hanseatic League

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Hanseatic League or Hansa which dominated North European trade in the medieval period. With a trading network that stretched from Iceland to Novgorod via London and Bruges, these German-speaking Hansa merchants benefitted from tax exemptions and monopolies. Over time, the Hansa became immensely influential as rulers felt the need to treat it well. Kings and princes sometimes relied on loans from the Hansa to finance their wars and an embargo by the Hansa could lead to famine. Eventually, though, the Hansa went into decline with the rise in the nation state’s power, greater competition from other merchants and the development of trade across the Atlantic. WithJustyna Wubs-Mrozewicz Associate Professor of Medieval History at the University of AmsterdamGeorg Christ Senior Lecturer in Medieval and Early Modern History at the University of ManchesterAnd Sheilagh Ogilvie Chichele Professor of Economic History at All Souls College, University of OxfordProducer: Victoria BrignellReading list: James S. Amelang and Siegfried Beer, Public Power in Europe: Studies in Historical Transformations (Plus-Pisa University Press, 2006), especially `Trade and Politics in the Medieval Baltic: English Merchants and England’s Relations to the Hanseatic League 1370–1437`Nicholas R. Amor, Late Medieval Ipswich: Trade and Industry (Boydell & Brewer, 2011)B. Ayers, The German Ocean: Medieval Europe around the North Sea (Equinox, 2016)H. Brand and P. Brood, The German Hanse in Past & Present Europe: A medieval league as a model for modern interregional cooperation? (Castel International Publishers, 2007)Wendy R. Childs, The Trade and Shipping of Hull, 1300-1500 (East Yorkshire Local History Society, 1990)Alexander Cowan, Hanseatic League: Oxford Bibliographies (Oxford University Press, 2010)Philippe Dollinger, The German Hansa (Macmillan, 1970)John D. Fudge, Cargoes, Embargoes and Emissaries: The Commercial and Political Interaction of England and the German Hanse, 1450-1510 (University of Toronto Press, 1995)Donald J. Harreld, A Companion to the Hanseatic League (Brill, 2015)T.H. Lloyd, England and the German Hanse, 1157 – 1611: A Study of their Trade and Commercial Diplomacy (first published 1991; Cambridge University Press, 2002)Giampiero Nigro (ed.), Maritime networks as a factor in European integration (Fondazione Istituto Internazionale Di Storia Economica “F. Datini” Prato, University of Firenze, 2019), especially ‘Maritime Networks and Premodern Conflict Management on Multiple Levels. The Example of Danzig and the Giese Family’ by Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz Sheilagh Ogilvie, Institutions and European Trade: Merchant Guilds, 1000-1800 (Cambridge University Press, 2011)Paul Richards (ed.), Six Essays in Hanseatic History (Poppyland Publishing, 2017)Paul Richards, King’s Lynn and The German Hanse 1250-1550: A Study in Anglo-German Medieval Trade and Politics (Poppyland Publishing, 2022)Stephen H. Rigby, The Overseas Trade of Boston, 1279-1548 (Böhlau Verlag, 2023)Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz and Stuart Jenks (eds.), The Hanse in Medieval & Early Modern Europe (Brill, 2012) Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz, ‘The late medieval and early modern Hanse as an institution of conflict management’ (Continuity and Change 32/1, Cambridge University Press, 2017)
29/02/2449m 1s

Panpsychism

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the idea that some kind of consciousness is present not just in our human brains but throughout the universe, right down to cells or even electrons. This is panpsychism and its proponents argue it offers a compelling alternative to those who say we are nothing but matter, like machines, and to those who say we are both matter and something else we might call soul. It is a third way. Critics argue panpsychism is implausible, an example of how not to approach this problem, yet interest has been growing widely in recent decades partly for the idea itself and partly in the broader context of understanding how consciousness arises.WithTim Crane Professor of Philosophy and Pro-Rector at the Central European University Director of Research, FWF Cluster of Excellence, Knowledge in CrisisJoanna Leidenhag, Associate Professor in Theology and Philosophy at the University of LeedsAnd Philip Goff Professor of Philosophy at Durham UniversityProducer: Simon TillotsonReading list:Anthony Freeman (ed.), Consciousness and Its Place in Nature: Does Physicalism Entail Panpsychism? (Imprint Academic, 2006), especially 'Realistic Monism' by Galen StrawsonPhilip Goff, Galileo's Error: Foundations for A New Science of Consciousness (Pantheon, 2019)Philip Goff, Why? The Purpose of the Universe (Oxford University Press, 2023) David Ray Griffin, Unsnarling the World-Knot: Consciousness, Freedom and the Mind-Body Problem (Wipf & Stock, 2008)Joanna Leidenhag, Minding Creation: Theological Panpsychism and the Doctrine of Creation (Bloomsbury, 2021)Joanna Leidenhag, ‘Panpsychism and God’ (Philosophy Compass Vol 17, Is 12, e12889) Hedda Hassel Mørch, Non-physicalist Theories of Consciousness (Cambridge University Press, 2024)Thomas Nagel, Mortal Questions (Cambridge University Press, 2012), especially the chapter 'Panpsychism'David Skrbina, Panpsychism in the West (MIT Press, 2007) James van Cleve, 'Mind-Dust or Magic? Panpsychism versus Emergence' (Philosophical Perspectives Vol. 4, Action Theory and Philosophy of Mind, Ridgeview Publishing Company, 1990)
22/02/2453m 59s

Nefertiti

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the woman who inspired one of the best known artefacts from ancient Egypt. The Bust of Nefertiti is multicoloured and symmetrical, about 49cm/18" high and, despite the missing left eye, still holds the gaze of onlookers below its tall, blue, flat topped headdress. Its discovery in 1912 in Amarna was kept quiet at first but its display in Berlin in the 1920s caused a sensation, with replicas sent out across the world. Ever since, as with Tutankhamun perhaps, the concrete facts about Nefertiti herself have barely kept up with the theories, the legends and the speculation, reinvigorated with each new discovery. WithAidan Dodson Honorary Professor of Egyptology at the University of BristolJoyce Tyldesley Professor of Egyptology at the University of ManchesterAnd Kate Spence Senior Lecturer in Egyptian Archaeology at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Emmanuel CollegeProducer: Simon TillotsonReading list:Dorothea Arnold (ed.), The Royal Women of Amarna: Images of Beauty from Ancient Egypt (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1996) Norman de Garis Davies, The Rock Tombs of el-Amarna (6 vols. Egypt Exploration Society, 1903-1908) Aidan Dodson, Amarna Sunset: Nefertiti, Tutankhamun, Ay, Horemheb and the Egyptian Counter-reformation. (American University in Cairo Press, 2009 Aidan Dodson, Nefertiti, Queen and Pharaoh of Egypt: her life and afterlife (American University in Cairo Press, 2020)Aidan Dodson, Tutankhamun: King of Egypt: his life and afterlife (American University in Cairo Press, 2022)Barry Kemp, The City of Akhenaten and Nefertiti: Amarna and Its People (Thames and Hudson, 2012)Dominic Montserrat, Akhenaten: History, Fantasy and Ancient Egypt (Routledge, 2002)Friederike Seyfried (ed.), In the Light of Amarna: 100 Years of the Nefertiti Discovery (Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussamlung Staatlich Museen zu Berlin/ Michael Imhof Verlag, 2013)Joyce Tyldesley, Tutankhamun: Pharaoh, Icon, Enigma (Headline, 2022) Joyce Tyldesley, Nefertiti’s Face: The Creation of an Icon (Profile Books, 2018)Joyce Tyldesley, Nefertiti: Egypt’s Sun Queen (Viking, 1998)
15/02/2449m 50s

Condorcet

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Nicolas de Condorcet (1743-94), known as the Last of the Philosophes, the intellectuals in the French Enlightenment who sought to apply their learning to solving the problems of their world. He became a passionate believer in the progress of society, an advocate for equal rights for women and the abolition of the slave trade and for representative government. The French Revolution gave him a chance to advance those ideas and, while the Terror brought his life to an end, his wife Sophie de Grouchy 91764-1822) ensured his influence into the next century and beyond. WithRachel Hammersley Professor of Intellectual History at Newcastle UniversityRichard Whatmore Professor of Modern History at the University of St Andrews and Co-Director of the St Andrews Institute of Intellectual HistoryAnd Tom Hopkins Senior Teaching Associate in the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Selwyn CollegeProducer: Simon TillotsonReading list: Keith Michael Baker, Condorcet: From Natural Philosophy to Social Mathematics (University of Chicago Press, 1974)Keith Michael Baker, ‘On Condorcet’s Sketch’ (Daedalus, summer 2004)Lorraine Daston, ‘Condorcet and the Meaning of Enlightenment’ (Proceedings of the British Academy, 2009)Dan Edelstein, The Enlightenment: A Genealogy (Chicago University Press, 2010)Mark Goldie and Robert Wokler (eds), The Cambridge History of Eighteenth-Century Political Thought (Cambridge University Press, 2006), especially ‘Ideology and the Origins of Social Science’ by Robert WoklerGary Kates, The Cercle Social, the Girondins, and the French Revolution (Princeton University Press, 1985)Steven Lukes and Nadia Urbinati (eds.), Condorcet: Political Writings (Cambridge University Press, 2009)Kathleen McCrudden Illert, A Republic of Sympathy: Sophie de Grouchy's Politics and Philosophy, 1785-1815 (Cambridge University Press, 2024)Iain McLean and Fiona Hewitt (eds.), Condorcet: Foundations of Social Choice and Political Theory (Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd, 1994)Emma Rothschild, Economic Sentiments: Adam Smith, Condorcet and the Enlightenment, (Harvard University Press, 2001)Richard Whatmore, The End of Enlightenment (Allen Lane, 2023)David Williams, Condorcet and Modernity (Cambridge University Press, 2004)
08/02/2450m 31s

Twelfth Night, or What You Will

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of Shakespeare’s great comedies, which plays in the space between marriage, love and desire. By convention a wedding means a happy ending and here there are three, but neither Orsino nor Viola, Olivia nor Sebastian know much of each other’s true character and even the identities of the twins Viola and Sebastian have only just been revealed to their spouses to be. These twins gain some financial security but it is unclear what precisely the older Orsino and Olivia find enduringly attractive in the adolescent objects of their love. Meanwhile their hopes and illusions are framed by the fury of Malvolio, tricked into trusting his mistress Olivia loved him and who swears an undefined revenge on all those who mocked him.With Pascale Aebischer Professor of Shakespeare and Early Modern Performance Studies at the University of ExeterMichael Dobson Professor of Shakespeare Studies and Director of the Shakespeare Institute at the University of BirminghamAnd Emma Smith Professor of Shakespeare Studies at Hertford College, University of OxfordProduced by Simon Tillotson, Victoria Brignell and Luke MulhallReading list:C.L. Barber, Shakespeare’s Festive Comedies: A Study of Dramatic Form and Its Relation to Social Custom (first published 1959; Princeton University Press, 2011)Simone Chess, ‘Queer Residue: Boy Actors’ Adult Careers in Early Modern England’ (Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies 19.4, 2020)Callan Davies, What is a Playhouse? England at Play, 1520-1620 (Routledge, 2023)Frances E. Dolan, Twelfth Night: Language and Writing (Bloomsbury, 2014)John Drakakis (ed.), Alternative Shakespeares (Psychology Press, 2002), especially ‘Disrupting Sexual Difference: Meaning and Gender in the Comedies’ by Catherine BelseyBart van Es, Shakespeare’s Comedies: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2016) Sonya Freeman Loftis, Mardy Philippian and Justin P. Shaw (eds.), Inclusive Shakespeares: Identity, Pedagogy, Performance (Palgrave Macmillan, 2023), especially ‘”I am all the daughters of my father’s house, and all the brothers too”: Genderfluid Potentiality in As You Like It and Twelfth Night’ by Eric Brinkman Ezra Horbury, ‘Transgender Reassessments of the Cross-Dressed Page in Shakespeare, Philaster, and The Honest Man’s Fortune’ (Shakespeare Quarterly 73, 2022) Jean Howard, ‘Crossdressing, the theatre, and gender struggle in early modern England’ (Shakespeare Quarterly 39, 1988)Harry McCarthy, Boy Actors in Early Modern England: Skill and Stagecraft in the Theatre (Cambridge University Press, 2022)Stephen Orgel, Impersonations: The Performance of Gender in Shakespeare's England (Cambridge University Press, 1996)William Shakespeare (eds. Michael Dobson and Molly Mahood), Twelfth Night (Penguin, 2005)William Shakespeare (ed. Keir Elam), Twelfth Night (Arden Shakespeare, 2008)Emma Smith, This is Shakespeare: How to Read the World's Greatest Playwright (Pelican, 2019)Victoria Sparey, Shakespeare’s Adolescents: Age, Gender and the Body in Shakespearean Performance and Early Modern Culture (Manchester University Press, 2024)
25/01/2453m 53s

Vincent van Gogh

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Dutch artist famous for starry nights and sunflowers, self portraits and simple chairs. These are images known the world over, and Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) painted them and around 900 others in the last decade of his short, brilliant life and, famously, in that lifetime he made only one recorded sale. Yet within a few decades after his death these extraordinary works, with all their colour and life, became the most desirable of all modern art, propelled in part by the story of Vincent van Gogh's struggle with mental health.With Christopher Riopelle The Neil Westreich Curator of Post 1800 Paintings at the National GalleryMartin Bailey A leading Van Gogh specialist and correspondent for The Art NewspaperAnd Frances Fowle Professor of Nineteenth Century Art at the University of Edinburgh and Senior Curator at National Galleries ScotlandProducer: Simon TillotsonReading list: Martin Bailey, Living with Vincent Van Gogh: The Homes and Landscapes that shared the Artist (White Lion Publishing, 2019)Martin Bailey, Studio of the South: Van Gogh in Provence (Frances Lincoln, 2021)Martin Bailey, Van Gogh’s Finale: Auvers and the Artist’s Rise to Fame (Frances Lincoln, 2021)Nienke Bakker and Ella Hendriks, Van Gogh and the Sunflowers: A Masterpiece Examined (Van Gogh Museum, 2019)Nienke Bakker, Emmanuel Coquery, Teio Meedendorp and Louis van Tilborgh (eds), Van Gogh in Auvers-sur-Oise: His Final Months (Thames & Hudson, 2023)Frances Fowle, Van Gogh's Twin: The Scottish Art Dealer Alexander Reid, 1854-1928 (National Galleries of Scotland, 2010) Bregje Gerritse, The Potato Eaters: Van Gogh’s First Masterpiece (Van Gogh Museum, 2021)Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, Van Gogh: The Life (Random House, 2012)Leo Jansen, Hans Luijten and Nienke Bakker (eds), Vincent van Gogh: The Letters: The Complete Illustrated and Annotated Edition (Thames and Hudson Ltd, 2009)Leo Jansen, Hans Luijten and Nienke Bakker (eds), Vincent van Gogh, A Life in Letters (Thames and Hudson Ltd, 2020)Hans Luitjen, Jo van Gogh Bonger: The Woman who Made Vincent Famous Bloomsbury, 2022Louis van Tilborgh, Martin Bailey, Karen Serres (ed.), Van Gogh Self-Portraits (Courtauld Institute, 2022)Ingo F. Walther and Rainer Metzger, Van Gogh. The Complete Paintings (Taschen, 2022)
18/01/2456m 2s

Tiberius

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Roman emperor Tiberius. When he was born in 42BC, there was little prospect of him ever becoming Emperor of Rome. Firstly, Rome was still a Republic and there had not yet been any Emperor so that had to change and, secondly, when his stepfather Augustus became Emperor there was no precedent for who should succeed him, if anyone. It somehow fell to Tiberius to develop this Roman imperial project and by some accounts he did this well, while to others his reign was marked by cruelty and paranoia inviting comparison with Nero.WithMatthew Nicholls Senior Tutor at St. John’s College, University of OxfordShushma Malik Assistant Professor of Classics and Onassis Classics Fellow at Newnham College at the University of CambridgeAnd Catherine Steel Professor of Classics at the University of GlasgowProducer: Simon TillotsonReading list:Edward Champlin, ‘Tiberius the Wise’ (Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte, 57.4, 2008)Alison E. Cooley, ‘From the Augustan Principate to the invention of the Age of Augustus’ (Journal of Roman Studies 109, 2019)Alison E. Cooley, The Senatus Consultum de Cn. Pisone Patre: text, translation, and commentary (Cambridge University Press, 2023)Eleanor Cowan, ‘Tiberius and Augustus in Tiberian Sources’ (Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte, 58.4, 2009)Cassius Dio (trans. C. T. Mallan), Roman History: Books 57 and 58: The Reign of Tiberius (Oxford University Press, 2020)Rebecca Edwards, ‘Tacitus, Tiberius and Capri’ (Latomus, 70.4, 2011)A. Gibson (ed.), The Julio-Claudian Succession: Reality and Perception of the Augustan Model (Brill, 2012), especially ‘Tiberius and the invention of succession’ by C. VoutJosephus (trans. E. Mary Smallwood and G. Williamson), The Jewish War (Penguin Classics, 1981)Barbara Levick, Tiberius the Politician (Routledge, 1999)E. O’Gorman, Tacitus’ History of Political Effective Speech: Truth to Power (Bloomsbury, 2019)Velleius Paterculus (trans. J. C. Yardley and Anthony A. Barrett), Roman History: From Romulus and the Foundation of Rome to the Reign of the Emperor Tiberius (Hackett Publishing, 2011)R. Seager, Tiberius (2nd ed., Wiley-Blackwell, 2005)David Shotter, Tiberius Caesar (Routledge, 2005) Suetonius (trans. Robert Graves), The Twelve Caesars (Penguin Classics, 2007)Tacitus (trans. Michael Grant), The Annals of Imperial Rome (Penguin Classics, 2003)
11/01/2453m 10s

Karl Barth

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the most influential theologians of the twentieth century. Karl Barth (1886 - 1968) rejected the liberal theology of his time which, he argued, used the Bible and religion to help humans understand themselves rather than prepare them to open themselves to divine revelation. Barth's aim was to put God and especially Christ at the centre of Christianity. He was alarmed by what he saw as the dangers in a natural theology where God might be found in a rainbow or an opera by Wagner; for if you were open to finding God in German culture, you could also be open to accepting Hitler as God’s gift as many Germans did. Barth openly refused to accept Hitler's role in the Church in the 1930s on these theological grounds as well as moral, for which he was forced to leave Germany for his native Switzerland.WithStephen Plant Dean and Runcie Fellow at Trinity Hall, University of CambridgeChristiane Tietz Professor for Systematic Theology at the University of ZurichAnd Tom Greggs Marischal Professor of Divinity at the University of AberdeenProducer: Simon TillotsonReading list:Karl Barth, God Here and Now (Routledge, 2003)Karl Barth (trans. G. T. Thomson), Dogmatics in Outline (SCM Press, 1966)Eberhard Busch (trans. John Bowden), Karl Barth: His Life from Letters and Autobiographical Texts (Grand Rapids, 1994)George Hunsinger, How to Read Karl Barth: The Shape of His Theology (Oxford University Press, 1993)Joseph L. Mangina, Karl Barth: Theologian of Christian Witness (Routledge, 2004)Paul T. Nimmo, Karl Barth: A Guide for the Perplexed (Bloomsbury, 2013)Christiane Tietz, Karl Barth: A Life in Conflict (Oxford University Press, 2021)John Webster, Karl Barth: Outstanding Christian Thinkers (Continuum, 2004)
04/01/2455m 22s

Edgar Allan Poe

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Poe (1809-1849), the American author who is famous for his Gothic tales of horror, madness and the dark interiors of the mind, such as The Fall of the House of Usher and The Tell-Tale Heart. As well as tapping at our deepest fears in poems such as The Raven, Poe pioneered detective fiction with his character C. Auguste Dupin in The Murders in the Rue Morgue. After his early death, a rival rushed out a biography to try to destroy Poe's reputation but he has only become more famous over the years as a cultural icon as well as an author.WithBridget Bennett Professor of American Literature and Culture at the University of LeedsErin Forbes Senior Lecturer in 19th-century African American and US Literature at the University of BristolAndTom Wright Reader in Rhetoric at the University of SussexProducer: Simon TillotsonReading list: Peter Ackroyd, Poe: A Life Cut Short (Vintage, 2009)Amy Branam Armiento and Travis Montgomery (eds.), Poe and Women: Recognition and Revision (Lehigh University Press, 2023)Joan Dayan, Fables of Mind: An Inquiry into Poe's Fiction (Oxford University Press, 1987)Erin Forbes, ‘Edgar Allan Poe in the Great Dismal Swamp’ (Modern Philology, 2016)Kevin J. Hayes (ed.), Edgar Allan Poe in Context (Cambridge University Press, 2012) J. Gerald Kennedy and Scott Peeples (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Edgar Allan Poe (Oxford University Press, 2018)Jill Lepore, 'The Humbug: Poe and the Economy of Horror' (The New Yorker, April 20, 2009)Toni Morrison, Playing in the Dark (Vintage, 1993)Scott Peeples and Michelle Van Parys, The Man of the Crowd: Edgar Allan Poe and the City (Princeton University Press, 2020)Edgar Allan Poe, The Portable Edgar Allan Poe (Penguin, 2006)Shawn Rosenhelm and Stephen Rachman (eds.), The American Face of Edgar Allan Poe (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995)
28/12/2358m 44s

Marguerite de Navarre

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Marguerite, Queen of Navarre (1492 – 1549), author of the Heptaméron, a major literary landmark in the French Renaissance. Published after her death, The Heptaméron features 72 short stories, many of which explore relations between the sexes. However, Marguerite’s life was more eventful than that of many writers. Born into the French nobility, she found herself the sister of the French king when her brother Francis I came to the throne in 1515. At a time of growing religious change, Marguerite was a leading exponent of reform in the Catholic Church and translated an early work of Martin Luther into French. As the Reformation progressed, she was not afraid to take risks to protect other reformers.With Sara Barker Associate Professor of Early Modern History and Director of the Centre for the Comparative History of Print at the University of LeedsEmily Butterworth Professor of Early Modern French at King’s College LondonAnd Emma Herdman Lecturer in French at the University of St AndrewsProducer: Simon TillotsonReading list: Giovanni Boccaccio (trans. Wayne A. Rebhorn), The Decameron (Norton, 2013)Emily Butterworth, Marguerite de Navarre: A Critical Companion (Boydell &Brewer, 2022)Patricia Cholakian and Rouben Cholakian, Marguerite de Navarre: Mother of the Renaissance (Columbia University Press, 2006)Gary Ferguson, Mirroring Belief: Marguerite de Navarre’s Devotional Poetry (Edinburgh University Press, 1992)Gary Ferguson and Mary B. McKinley (eds.), A Companion to Marguerite de Navarre (Brill, 2013)Mark Greengrass, The French Reformation (John Wiley & Sons, 1987)R.J. Knecht, The Rise and Fall of Renaissance France (Fontana Press, 2008)R.J. Knecht, Renaissance Warrior and Patron: The Reign of Francis I (Cambridge University Press, 2008)John D. Lyons and Mary B. McKinley (eds.), Critical Tales: New Studies of the ‘Heptaméron’ and Early Modern Culture (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993)Marguerite de Navarre (trans. Paul Chilton), The Heptameron (Penguin, 2004)Marguerite de Navarre (trans. Rouben Cholakian and Mary Skemp), Selected Writings: A Bilingual Edition (University of Chicago Press, 2008) Marguerite de Navarre (trans. Hilda Dale), The Coach and The Triumph of the Lamb (Elm Press, 1999)Marguerite de Navarre (trans. Hilda Dale), The Prisons (Whiteknights, 1989)Marguerite de Navarre (ed. Gisèle Mathieu-Castellani), L’Heptaméron (Libraririe générale française, 1999)Jonathan A. Reid, King’s Sister – Queen of Dissent: Marguerite of Navarre (1492-1549) and her Evangelical Network (Brill, 2009)Paula Sommers, ‘The Mirror and its Reflections: Marguerite de Navarre’s Biblical Feminism’ (Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature, 5, 1986)Kathleen Wellman, Queens and Mistresses of Renaissance France (Yale University Press, 2013)
21/12/2346m 12s

The Theory of the Leisure Class

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the most influential work of Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929). In 1899, during America’s Gilded Age, Veblen wrote The Theory of the Leisure Class as a reminder that all that glisters is not gold. He picked on traits of the waning landed class of Americans and showed how the new moneyed class was adopting these in ways that led to greater waste throughout society. He called these conspicuous leisure and conspicuous consumption and he developed a critique of a system that favoured profits for owners without regard to social good. The Theory of the Leisure Class was a best seller and funded Veblen for the rest of his life, and his ideas influenced the New Deal of the 1930s. Since then, an item that becomes more desirable as it becomes more expensive is known as a Veblen good. With Matthew Watson Professor of Political Economy at the University of WarwickBill Waller Professor of Economics at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, New YorkAndMary Wrenn Senior Lecturer in Economics at the University of the West of EnglandProducer: Simon TillotsonReading list:Charles Camic, Veblen: The Making of an Economist who Unmade Economics (Harvard University Press, 2021)John P. Diggins, Thorstein Veblen: Theorist of the Leisure Class (Princeton University Press, 1999)John P. Diggins, The Bard of Savagery: Thorstein Veblen and Modern Social Theory (Seabury Press, 1978)John Kenneth Galbraith, The Affluent Society (Penguin, 1999) Robert Heilbroner, The Worldly Philosophers: The Lives, Times and Ideas of the Great Economic Thinkers (Penguin, 2000), particularly the chapter ‘The Savage Society of Thorstein Veblen’Ken McCormick, Veblen in Plain English: A Complete Introduction to Thorstein Veblen’s Economics (Cambria Press, 2006)Sidney Plotkin and Rick Tilman, The Political Ideas of Thorstein Veblen (Yale University Press, 2012)Juliet B. Schor, The Overspent American: Why We Want What We Don't Need (William Morrow & Company, 1999)Juliet B. Schor, Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture (Simon & Schuster Ltd, 2005)Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class (first published 1899; Oxford University Press, 2009)Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of Business Enterprise (first published 1904; Legare Street Press, 2022)Thorstein Veblen, The Higher Learning in America (first published 2018; Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015) Thorstein Veblen, Absentee Ownership and Business Enterprise in Recent Times: The Case of America (first published 1923; Routledge, 2017)Thorstein Veblen, Conspicuous Consumption (Penguin, 2005)Thorstein Veblen, The Complete Works (Musaicum Books, 2017)Charles J. Whalen (ed.), Institutional Economics: Perspective and Methods in Pursuit of a Better World (Routledge, 2021)
14/12/2355m 32s

The Barbary Corsairs

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the North African privateers who, until their demise in the nineteenth century, were a source of great pride and wealth in their home ports, where they sold the people and goods they’d seized from Christian European ships and coastal towns. Nominally, these corsairs were from Algiers, Tunis or Tripoli, outreaches of the Ottoman empire, or Salé in neighbouring Morocco, but often their Turkish or Arabic names concealed their European birth. Murad Reis the Younger, for example, who sacked Baltimore in 1631, was the Dutchman Jan Janszoon who also had a base on Lundy in the Bristol Channel. While the European crowns negotiated treaties to try to manage relations with the corsairs, they commonly viewed these sailors as pirates who were barely tolerated and, as soon as France, Britain, Spain and later America developed enough sea power, their ships and bases were destroyed. WithJoanna Nolan Research Associate at SOAS, University of LondonClaire Norton Former Associate Professor of History at St Mary’s University, TwickenhamAnd Michael Talbot Associate Professor in the History of the Ottoman Empire and the Modern Middle East at the University of GreenwichProducer: Simon Tillotson Reading list:Robert C. Davis, Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast and Italy, 1500-1800 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004)Peter Earle, Corsairs of Malta and Barbary (Sidgwick and Jackson, 1970) Des Ekin, The Stolen Village: Baltimore and the Barbary Pirates (O’Brien Press, 2008)Jacques Heers, The Barbary Corsairs: Warfare in the Mediterranean, 1450-1580 (Skyhorse Publishing, 2018)Colin Heywood, The Ottoman World: The Mediterranean and North Africa, 1660-1760 (Routledge, 2019)Alan Jamieson, Lords of the Sea: A History of the Barbary Corsairs (Reaktion Books, 2013)Julie Kalman, The Kings of Algiers: How Two Jewish Families Shaped the Mediterranean World during the Napoleonic Wars and Beyond (Princeton University Press, 2023)Stanley Lane-Poole, The Story of the Barbary Corsairs (T. Unwin, 1890)Sally Magnusson, The Sealwoman’s Gift (A novel - Two Roads, 2018)Philip Mansel, Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean (John Murray, 2010)Nabil Matar, Turks, Moors and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery (Columbia University Press, 1999)Nabil Matar, Britain and Barbary, 1589-1689 (University Press of Florida, 2005)Giles Milton, White Gold: The Extraordinary Story of Thomas Pellow and North Africa’s One Million European Slaves (Hodder and Stoughton, 2004)Claire Norton (ed.), Conversion and Islam in the Early Modern Mediterranean: The Lure of the Other (Routledge, 2017)Claire Norton, ‘Lust, Greed, Torture and Identity: Narrations of Conversion and the Creation of the Early Modern 'Renegade' (Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 29/2, 2009) Daniel Panzac, The Barbary Corsairs: The End of a Legend, 1800-1820 (Brill, 2005)Rafael Sabatini, The Sea Hawk (a novel - Vintage Books, 2011)Adrian Tinniswood, Pirates of Barbary: Corsairs, Conquests and Captivity in the 17th century (Vintage Books, 2010)D. Vitkus (ed.), Piracy, Slavery and Redemption: Barbary Captivity Narratives from Early Modern England (Columbia University Press, 2001)J. M. White, Piracy and Law in the Ottoman Mediterranean (Stanford University Press, 2018)
07/12/2352m 59s

Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Aristotle's ideas on what happiness means and how to live a good life. Aristotle (384-322BC) explored these almost two and a half thousand years ago in what became known as his Nicomachean Ethics. His audience then were the elite in Athens as, he argued, if they knew how to live their lives well then they could better rule the lives of others. While circumstances and values have changed across the centuries, Aristotle's approach to answering those questions has fascinated philosophers ever since and continues to do so.With Angie Hobbs Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of SheffieldRoger Crisp Director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, Professor of Moral Philosophy and Tutor in Philosophy at St Anne’s College, University of OxfordAnd Sophia Connell Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of LondonProducer: Simon TillotsonReading list:J.L. Ackrill, Aristotle the Philosopher (Oxford University Press, 1981)Aristotle (ed. and trans. Roger Crisp), Nicomachean Ethics (Cambridge University Press, 2000)Aristotle (trans. Terence Irwin), Nicomachean Ethics (Hackett Publishing Co., 2019) Aristotle (trans. H. Rackham), Nicomachean Ethics: Loeb Classical Library (William Heinemann Ltd, 1962)Jonathan Barnes, Aristotle: Past Masters series (Oxford University Press, 1982) Gerard J. Hughes, Routledge Guidebook to Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (Routledge, 2013)Richard Kraut (ed.), The Blackwell Guide to Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics (Wiley-Blackwell, 2005)Michael Pakaluk, Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics: An Introduction (Cambridge University Press, 2005)A. Rorty (ed.), Essays on Aristotle's Ethics (University of California Press, 1981) Nancy Sherman, The Fabric of Character: Aristotle's Theory of Virtue (Clarendon Press, 1989)J.O. Urmson, Aristotle’s Ethics (John Wiley & Sons, 1988)
30/11/2352m 1s

Germinal

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Emile Zola's greatest literary success, his thirteenth novel in a series exploring the extended Rougon-Macquart family. The relative here is Etienne Lantier, already known to Zola’s readers as one of the blighted branch of the family tree and his story is set in Northern France. It opens with Etienne trudging towards a coalmine at night seeking work, and soon he is caught up in a bleak world in which starving families struggle and then strike, as they try to hold on to the last scraps of their humanity and the hope of change.WithSusan Harrow Ashley Watkins Chair of French at the University of BristolKate Griffiths Professor in French and Translation at Cardiff UniversityAndEdmund Birch Lecturer in French Literature and Director of Studies at Churchill College & Selwyn College, University of CambridgeProducer: Simon TillotsonReading list:David Baguley, Naturalist Fiction: The Entropic Vision (Cambridge University Press, 1990)William Burgwinkle, Nicholas Hammond and Emma Wilson (eds.), The Cambridge History of French Literature (Cambridge University Press, 2011), particularly ‘Naturalism’ by Nicholas WhiteKate Griffiths, Emile Zola and the Artistry of Adaptation (Legenda, 2009)Kate Griffiths and Andrew Watts, Adapting Nineteenth-Century France: Literature in Film, Theatre, Television, Radio, and Print (University of Wales Press, 2013) Anna Gural-Migdal and Robert Singer (eds.), Zola and Film: Essays in the Art of Adaptation (McFarland & Co., 2005)Susan Harrow, Zola, The Body Modern: Pressures and Prospects of Representation (Legenda, 2010)F. W. J. Hemmings, The Life and Times of Emile Zola (first published 1977; Bloomsbury, 2013)William Dean Howells, Emile Zola (The Floating Press, 2018)Lida Maxwell, Public Trials: Burke, Zola, Arendt, and the Politics of Lost Causes (Oxford University Press, 2014)Brian Nelson, Emile Zola: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2020)Brian Nelson (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Emile Zola (Cambridge University Press, 2007)Sandy Petrey, Realism and Revolution: Balzac, Stendhal, Zola, and the Performances of History (Cornell University Press, 1988)Arthur Rose, ‘Coal politics: receiving Emile Zola's Germinal’ (Modern & contemporary France, 2021, Vol.29, 2) Philip D. Walker, Emile Zola (Routledge, 1969)Emile Zola (trans. Peter Collier), Germinal (Oxford University Press, 1993)Emile Zola (trans. Roger Pearson), Germinal (Penguin Classics, 2004)
23/11/2351m 39s

Julian of Norwich

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the anchoress and mystic who, in the late fourteenth century, wrote about her visions of Christ suffering, in a work since known as Revelations of Divine Love. She is probably the first named woman writer in English, even if questions about her name and life remain open. Her account is an exploration of the meaning of her visions and is vivid and bold, both in its imagery and theology. From her confined cell in a Norwich parish church, in a land beset with plague, she dealt with the nature of sin and with the feminine side of God, and shared the message she received that God is love and, famously, that all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.WithKatherine Lewis Professor of Medieval History at the University of HuddersfieldPhilip Sheldrake Professor of Christian Spirituality at the Oblate School of Theology, Texas and Senior Research Associate of the Von Hugel Institute, University of CambridgeAnd Laura Kalas Senior Lecturer in Medieval English Literature at Swansea UniversityProducer: Simon TillotsonReading list:John H. Arnold and Katherine Lewis (eds.), A Companion to the Book of Margery Kempe (D.S. Brewer, 2004)Ritamary Bradley, Julian’s Way: A Practical Commentary on Julian of Norwich (Harper Collins, 1992)E. Colledge and J. Walsh (eds.), Julian of Norwich: Showings (Classics of Western Spirituality series, Paulist Press, 1978)Liz Herbert McAvoy (ed.), A Companion to Julian of Norwich (D.S. Brewer, 2008) Liz Herbert McAvoy, Authority and the Female Body in the Writings of Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe (D.S. Brewer, 2004)Grace Jantzen, Julian of Norwich: Mystic and Theologian (new edition, Paulist Press, 2010)Julian of Norwich (trans. Barry Windeatt), Revelations of Divine Love (Oxford World's Classics, 2015)Julian of Norwich (ed. Nicholas Watson and Jacqueline Jenkins), The Writings of Julian of Norwich: A Vision Showed to a Devout Woman and a Revelation of Love, (Brepols, 2006) Laura Kalas, Margery Kempe’s Spiritual Medicine: Suffering, Transformation and the Life-Course (D.S. Brewer, 2020)Laura Kalas and Laura Varnam (eds.), Encountering the Book of Margery Kempe (Manchester University Press, 2021)Laura Kalas and Roberta Magnani (eds.), Women in Christianity in the Medieval Age: 1000-1500 (Routledge, forthcoming 2024) Ken Leech and Benedicta Ward (ed.), Julian the Solitary (SLG, 1998)Denise Nowakowski Baker and Sarah Salih (ed.), Julian of Norwich’s Legacy (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009)Joan M. Nuth, Wisdom’s Daughter: The Theology of Julian of Norwich (Crossroad Publishing, 1999) Philip Sheldrake, Julian of Norwich: “In God’s Sight”: Her Theology in Context (Wiley-Blackwell, 2019)E. Spearing (ed.), Julian of Norwich: Revelations of Divine Love (Penguin Books, 1998)Denys Turner, Julian of Norwich, Theologian (Yale University Press, 2011) Wolfgang Riehle, The Secret Within: Hermits, Recluses and Spiritual Outsiders in Medieval England (Cornell University Press, 2014) Caroline Walker Bynum, Jesus as Mother: Studies in the Spirituality of the High Middle Ages (University of California Press, 1982)Ann Warren, Anchorites and their Patrons in Medieval England (University of California Press, 1985)Hugh White (trans.), Ancrene Wisse: Guide for Anchoresses (Penguin Classics, 1993)
16/11/2350m 1s

The Federalist Papers

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay's essays written in 1787/8 in support of the new US Constitution. They published these anonymously in New York as 'Publius' but, when it became known that Hamilton and Madison were the main authors, the essays took on a new significance for all states. As those two men played a major part in drafting the Constitution itself, their essays have since informed debate over what the authors of that Constitution truly intended. To some, the essays have proved to be America’s greatest contribution to political thought.WithFrank Cogliano Professor of American History at the University of Edinburgh and Interim Saunders Director of the International Centre for Jefferson Studies at MonticelloKathleen Burk Professor Emerita of Modern and Contemporary History at University College LondonAndNicholas Guyatt Professor of North American History at the University of CambridgeProducer: Simon TillotsonReading list: Bernard Bailyn, To Begin the World Anew: The Genius and Ambiguities of the American Founders (Knopf, 2003)Mary Sarah Bilder, Madison’s Hand: Revising the Constitutional Convention (Harvard University Press, 2015)Noah Feldman, The Three Lives of James Madison: Genius, Partisan, President (Random House, 2017)Jonathan Gienapp, The Second Creation: Fixing the American Constitution in the Founding Era (Harvard University Press, 2018)Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, James Madison (eds. George W. Carey and James McClellan), The Federalist: The Gideon Edition (Liberty Fund, 2001)Alison L. LaCroix, The Ideological Origins of American Federalism (Harvard University Press, 2010)James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, The Federalist Papers (Penguin, 1987)Pauline Maier, Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788 (Simon and Schuster, 2010)Michael I. Meyerson, Liberty's Blueprint: How Madison and Hamilton Wrote the Federalist Papers, Defined the Constitution, and Made Democracy Safe for the World (Basic Books, 2008)Jack Rakove, Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution (Knopf, 1996)Jack N. Rakove and Colleen A. Sheehan, The Cambridge Companion to The Federalist (Cambridge University Press, 2020)
09/11/2350m 41s

Plankton

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the tiny drifting organisms in the oceans that sustain the food chain for all the lifeforms in the water and so for the billions of people who, in turn, depend on the seas for their diet. In Earth's development, the plant-like ones among them, the phytoplankton, produced so much oxygen through photosynthesis that around half the oxygen we breathe today originated there. And each day as the sun rises, the animal ones, the zooplankton, sink to the depths of the seas to avoid predators in such density that they appear on ship sonars like a new seabed, only to rise again at night in the largest migration of life on this planet.WithCarol Robinson Professor of Marine Sciences at the University of East AngliaAbigail McQuatters-Gollop Associate Professor of Marine Conservation at the University of PlymouthAndChristopher Lowe Lecturer in Marine Biology at Swansea UniversityProducer: Simon TillotsonReading list: Juli Berwald, Spineless: The Science of Jellyfish and the Art of Growing a Backbone (Riverhead Books, 2018)Sir Alister Hardy, The Open Sea: The World of Plankton (first published 1959; Collins New Naturalist Library, 2009) Richard Kirby, Ocean Drifters: A Secret World Beneath the Waves (Studio Cactus Ltd, 2010)Robert Kunzig, Mapping the Deep: The Extraordinary Story of Ocean Science (Sort Of Books, 2000)Christian Sardet, Plankton: Wonders of the Drifting World (University of Chicago Press, 2015) Helen Scales, The Brilliant Abyss: True Tales of Exploring the Deep Sea, Discovering Hidden Life and Selling the Seabed (Bloomsbury Sigma, 2022)
02/11/2348m 41s

The Economic Consequences of the Peace

In an extended version of the programme that was broadcast, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the influential book John Maynard Keynes wrote in 1919 after he resigned in protest from his role at the Paris Peace Conference. There the victors of World War One were deciding the fate of the defeated, especially Germany and Austria-Hungary, and Keynes wanted the world to know his view that the economic consequences would be disastrous for all. Soon Germany used his book to support their claim that the Treaty was grossly unfair, a sentiment that fed into British appeasement in the 1930s and has since prompted debate over whether Keynes had only warned of disaster or somehow contributed to it.WithMargaret MacMillan Emeritus Professor of International History at the University of OxfordMichael Cox Emeritus Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Founding Director of LSE IDEASAnd Patricia Clavin Professor of Modern History at the University of OxfordProducer: Simon TillotsonReading list:Manfred F. Boemeke, Gerald D. Feldman and Elisabeth Glaser (eds.), The Treaty of Versailles: A Reassessment after 75 Years (Cambridge University Press, 1998)Zachary D. Carter, The Price of Peace: Money, Democracy and the Life of John Maynard Keynes (Random House, 2020) Peter Clarke, Keynes: The Twentieth Century’s Most Influential Economist (Bloomsbury, 2009) Patricia Clavin et al (eds.), Keynes’s Economic Consequences of the Peace after 100 Years: Polemics and Policy (Cambridge University Press, 2023) Patricia Clavin, ‘Britain and the Making of Global Order after 1919: The Ben Pimlott Memorial Lecture’ (Twentieth Century British History, Vol. 31:3, 2020)Richard Davenport-Hines, Universal Man; The Seven Lives of John Maynard Keynes (William Collins, 2015)R. F. Harrod, John Maynard Keynes (first published 1951; Pelican, 1972)Jens Holscher and Matthias Klaes (eds), Keynes’s Economic Consequences of the Peace: A Reappraisal (Pickering & Chatto, 2014)John Maynard Keynes (with an introduction by Michael Cox), The Economic Consequences of the Peace (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019)Margaret MacMillan, Peacemakers: Six Months that Changed the World (John Murray Publishers, 2001)Etienne Mantoux, The Carthaginian Peace or the Economic Consequences of Mr. Keynes (Oxford University Press, 1946) D. E. Moggridge, Maynard Keynes: An Economist’s Biography (Routledge, 1992) Alan Sharp, Versailles 1919: A Centennial Perspective (Haus Publishing Ltd, 2018)Robert Skidelsky, John Maynard Keynes, 1883-1946 (Pan Macmillan, 2004) Jürgen Tampke, A Perfidious Distortion of History: The Versailles Peace Treaty and the Success of the Nazis (Scribe UK, 2017) Adam Tooze, The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931 (Penguin Books, 2015)
26/10/231h 6m

The Seventh Seal

In the 1000th edition of In Our Time, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss arguably the most celebrated film of the Swedish director Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007). It begins with an image that, once seen, stays with you for the rest of your life: the figure of Death playing chess with a Crusader on the rocky Swedish shore. The release of this film in 1957 brought Bergman fame around the world. We see Antonius Block, the Crusader, realising he can’t beat Death but wanting to prolong this final game for one last act, without yet knowing what that act might be. As he goes on a journey through a plague ridden world, his meeting with a family of jesters and their baby offers him some kind of epiphany. With Jan Holmberg Director of the Ingmar Bergman Foundation, StockholmClaire Thomson Professor of Cinema History and Director of the School of European Languages, Culture and Society at University College LondonAndLaura Hubner Professor of Film at the University of WinchesterProducer: Simon TillotsonReading list:Alexander Ahndoril (trans. Sarah Death), The Director (Granta, 2008) Ingmar Bergman (trans. Marianne Ruuth), Images: My Life in Film (Faber and Faber, 1995)Ingmar Bergman (trans. Joan Tate), The Magic Lantern: An Autobiography (Viking, 1988)Ingmar Bergman (trans. Joan Tate), The Best Intentions (Vintage, 2018)Ingmar Bergman (trans. Joan Tate), Sunday’s Children (Vintage, 2018)Ingmar Bergman (trans. Joan Tate), Private Confessions (Vintage, 2018)Stig Björkman, Torsten Manns and Jonas Sima (trans. Paul Britten Austin), Bergman on Bergman: Interviews with Ingmar Bergman (Da Capo Press, 1993)Melvyn Bragg, The Seventh Seal: BFI Film Classics (British Film Institute, 1993)Paul Duncan and Bengt Wanselius (eds.), The Ingmar Bergman Archives (Taschen/Max Ström, 2018)Erik Hedling (ed.), Ingmar Bergman: An Enduring Legacy (Lund University Press, 2021)Laura Hubner, The Films of Ingmar Bergman: Illusions of Light and Darkness (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007)Daniel Humphrey, Queer Bergman: Sexuality, Gender, and the European Art Cinema (University of Texas Press, 2013) Maaret Koskinen (ed.), Bergman Revisited: Performance, Cinema, and the Arts (Wallflower Press, 2008) Selma Lagerlöf (trans. Peter Graves), The Phantom Carriage (Norvik Press, 2011)Mariah Larsson and Anders Marklund (eds.), Swedish Film: An Introduction and Reader (Nordic Academic Press, 2010)Paisley Livingston, Ingmar Bergman and the Rituals of Art (Cornell University Press, 2019)Birgitta Steene (ed.), Focus on The Seventh Seal (Prentice Hall, 1972)Birgitta Steene, Ingmar Bergman: A Reference Guide (Amsterdam University Press, 2014)
19/10/2348m 52s

Melvyn Bragg talks to Mishal Husain

To mark his 1000th episode of In Our Time, Melvyn Bragg talks to Mishal Husain for Radio 4's Today programme.
19/10/2311m 13s

Albert Einstein

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the man who, in 1905, produced several papers that were to change the world of physics and whose name went on to become a byword for genius. This was Albert Einstein, then still a technical expert at a Swiss patent office, and that year of 1905 became known as his annus mirabilis ('miraculous year'). While Einstein came from outside the academic world, some such as Max Planck championed his theory of special relativity, his principle of mass-energy equivalence that followed, and his explanations of Brownian Motion and the photoelectric effect. Yet it was not until 1919, when a solar eclipse proved his theory that gravity would bend light, that Einstein became an international celebrity and developed into an almost mythical figure.With Richard Staley Professor in History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge and Professor in History of Science at the University of CopenhagenDiana Kormos Buchwald Robert M. Abbey Professor of History and Director and General Editor of The Einstein Papers Project at the California Institute of TechnologyAndJohn Heilbron Professor Emeritus at the University of California, BerkeleyProducer: Simon TillotsonReading list: Ronald W. Clark, Einstein: The Life and Times (first published 1971; HarperPaperbacks, 2011)Albert Einstein (eds. Jurgen Renn and Hanoch Gutfreund), Relativity: The Special and the General Theory - 100th Anniversary Edition (Princeton University Press, 2019)Albert Einstein, Out of My Later Years (first published 1950; Citadel Press, 1974)Albert Einstein (ed. Paul A. Schilpp), Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist: The Library of Living Philosophers Volume VII (first published 1949; Open Court, 1970)Albert Einstein (eds. Otto Nathan and Heinz Norden), Einstein on Peace (first published 1981; Literary Licensing, 2011)Albrecht Folsing, Albert Einstein: A Biography (Viking, 1997)J. L. Heilbron, Niels Bohr: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2020)Walter Isaacson, Einstein: His Life and Universe (Simon & Schuster, 2008)Max Jammer, Einstein and Religion (Princeton University Press, 2002)Michel Janssen and Christoph Lehner (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Einstein (Cambridge University Press, 2014)Dennis Overbye, Einstein in Love: A Scientific Romance (Viking, 2000)Abraham Pais, Subtle Is the Lord: The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein (Oxford University Press, 1982)David E. Rowe and Robert Schulmann (eds.), Einstein on Politics: His Private Thoughts and Public Stands on Nationalism, Zionism, War, Peace, and the Bomb (Princeton University Press, 2007)Matthew Stanley, Einstein's War: How Relativity Triumphed Amid the Vicious Nationalism of World War I (Dutton, 2019)Fritz Stern, Einstein’s German World (Princeton University Press, 1999)A. Douglas Stone, Einstein and the Quantum: The Quest of the Valiant Swabian (Princeton University Press, 2013)Milena Wazeck (trans. Geoffrey S. Koby), Einstein's Opponents: The Public Controversy About the Theory of Relativity in the 1920s (Cambridge University Press, 2014)
12/10/2349m 29s

Jupiter

Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system, and it’s hard to imagine a world more alien and different from Earth. It’s known as a Gas Giant, and its diameter is eleven times the size of Earth’s: our planet would fit inside it one thousand three hundred times. But its mass is only three hundred and twenty times greater, suggesting that although Jupiter is much bigger than Earth, the stuff it’s made of is much, much lighter. When you look at it through a powerful telescope you see a mass of colourful bands and stripes: these are the tops of ferocious weather systems that tear around the planet, including the great Red Spot, probably the longest-lasting storm in the solar system. Jupiter is so enormous that it’s thought to have played an essential role in the distribution of matter as the solar system formed – and it plays an important role in hoovering up astral debris that might otherwise rain down on Earth. It’s almost a mini solar system in its own right, with 95 moons orbiting around it. At least two of these are places life might possibly be found. WithMichele Dougherty, Professor of Space Physics and Head of the Department of Physics at Imperial College London, and principle investigator of the magnetometer instrument on the JUICE spacecraft (JUICE is the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, a mission launched by the European Space Agency in April 2023)Leigh Fletcher, Professor of Planetary Science at the University of Leicester, and interdisciplinary scientist for JUICECarolin Crawford, Emeritus Fellow of Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge, and Emeritus Member of the Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge
27/07/2353m 10s

Elizabeth Anscombe

In 1956 Oxford University awarded an honorary degree to the former US president Harry S. Truman for his role in ending the Second World War. One philosopher, Elizabeth Anscombe (1919 – 2001), objected strongly. She argued that although dropping nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki may have ended the fighting, it amounted to the murder of tens of thousands of innocent civilians. It was therefore an irredeemably immoral act. And there was something fundamentally wrong with a moral philosophy that didn’t see that. This was the starting point for a body of work that changed the terms in which philosophers discussed moral and ethical questions in the second half of the twentieth century. A leading student of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, Anscombe combined his insights with rejuvenated interpretations of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas that made these ancient figures speak to modern issues and concerns. Anscombe was also instrumental in making action, and the question of what it means to intend to do something, a leading area of philosophical work. With Rachael Wiseman, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of LiverpoolConstantine Sandis, Visiting Professor of Philosophy at the University of Hertfordshire, and Director of Lex Academic Roger Teichmann, Lecturer in Philosophy at St Hilda’s College, University of OxfordProducer: Luke Mulhall
20/07/2354m 45s

Death in Venice

Death in Venice is Thomas Mann’s most famous – and infamous - novella. Published in 1912, it’s about the fall of the repressed writer Gustav von Aschenbach, when his supposedly objective appreciation of a young boy’s beauty becomes sexual obsession. It explores the link between creativity and self-destruction, and by the end Aschenbach’s humiliation is complete, dying on a deckchair in the act of ogling. Aschenbach's stalking of the boy and dreaming of pederasty can appal modern readers, even more than Mann expected. With Karolina Watroba, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in Modern Languages at All Souls College, University of OxfordErica Wickerson, a Former Research Fellow at St Johns College, University of CambridgeSean Williams, Senior Lecturer in German and European Cultural History at the University of Sheffield Sean Williams' series of Radio 3's The Essay, Death in Trieste, can be found here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m001lzd4
13/07/2348m 37s

Oedipus Rex

Sophocles’ play Oedipus Rex begins with a warning: the murderer of the old king of Thebes, Laius, has never been identified or caught, and he’s still at large in the city. Oedipus is the current king of Thebes, and he sets out to solve the crime. His investigations lead to a devastating conclusion. Not only is Oedipus himself the killer, but Laius was his father, and Laius’ wife Jocasta, who Oedipus has married, is his mother. Oedipus Rex was composed during the golden age of Athens, in the 5th century BC. Sophocles probably wrote it to explore the dynamics of power in an undemocratic society. It has unsettled audiences from the very start: it is the only one of Sophocles’ plays that didn’t win first prize at Athens’ annual drama festival. But it’s had exceptionally good write-ups from the critics: Aristotle called it the greatest example of the dramatic arts. Freud believed it laid bare the deepest structures of human desire. With: Nick Lowe, Reader in Classical Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London Fiona Macintosh, Professor of Classical Reception and Fellow of St Hilda’s College at the University of OxfordEdith Hall, Professor of Classics at Durham University
06/07/2354m 53s

Mitochondria

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the power-packs within cells in all complex life on Earth. Inside each cell of every complex organism there are structures known as mitochondria. The 19th century scientists who first observed them thought they were bacteria which had somehow invaded the cells they were studying. We now understand that mitochondria take components from the food we eat and convert them into energy. Mitochondria are essential for complex life, but as the components that run our metabolisms they can also be responsible for a range of diseases – and they probably play a role in how we age. The DNA in mitochondria is only passed down the maternal line. This means it can be used to trace population movements deep into human history, even back to an ancestor we all share: mitochondrial Eve. With Mike Murphy Professor of Mitochondrial Redox Biology at the University of CambridgeFlorencia Camus NERC Independent Research Fellow at University College Londonand Nick Lane Professor of Evolutionary Biochemistry at University College LondonProducer Luke Mulhall
29/06/2352m 29s

Louis XIV: The Sun King

In 1661 the 23 year-old French king Louis the XIV had been on the throne for 18 years when his chief minister, Cardinal Mazarin, died. Louis is reported to have said to his ministers, “It is now time that I govern my affairs myself. You will assist me with your counsels when I ask for them [but] I order you to seal no orders except by my command… I order you not to sign anything, not even a passport, without my command, and to render account to me personally each day”So began the personal rule of Louis XIV, which lasted a further 54 years until his death in 1715. From his newly-built palace at Versailles, Louis was able to project an image of himself as the centre of gravity around which all of France revolved: it’s no accident that he became known as the Sun King. He centralized power to the extent he was able to say ‘L’etat c’est moi’: I am the state. Under his rule France became the leading diplomatic, military and cultural power in Europe.WithCatriona Seth Marshal Foch Professor of French Literature at the University of OxfordGuy Rowlands Professor of Early Modern History at the University of St AndrewsandPenny Roberts Professor of Early Modern History at the University of WarwickProducer: Luke Mulhall
22/06/2347m 25s

Virgil's Georgics

In the year 29 BC the great Roman poet Virgil published these lines: Blessed is he who has succeeded in learning the laws of nature’s working, has cast beneath his feet all fear and fate’s implacable decree, and the howl of insatiable Death. But happy too is he who knows the rural gods…They’re from his poem the Georgics, a detailed account of farming life in the Italy of the time. ‘Georgics’ means ‘agricultural things’, and it’s often been read as a farming manual. But it was written at a moment when the Roman world was emerging from a period of civil war, and questions of land ownership and management were heavily contested. It’s also a philosophical reflection on humanity’s relationship with the natural world, the ravages of time, and the politics of Virgil’s day. It’s exerted a profound influence on European writing about agriculture and rural life, and has much to offer environmental thinking today. With Katharine Earnshaw Senior Lecturer in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Exeter; Neville Morley Professor of Classics and Ancient History at the University of ExeterandDiana Spencer Professor of Classics at the University of BirminghamProducer: Luke Mulhall
15/06/2349m 18s

The Shimabara Rebellion

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Christian uprising in Japan and its profound and long-term consequences. In the 1630s, Japan was ruled by the Tokagawa Shoguns, a military dynasty who, 30 years earlier, had unified the country, ending around two centuries of civil war. In 1637 a rebellion broke out in the province of Shimabara, in the south of the country. It was a peasants’ revolt, following years of bad harvests in which the local lord had refused to lower taxes. Many of the rebels were Christians, and they fought under a Christian banner. The central government’s response was merciless. They met the rebels with an army of 150 000 men, possibly the largest force assembled anywhere in the world during the Early Modern period. Once the rebellion had been suppressed, the Shogun enforced a ban on Christianity and expelled nearly all foreigners from the country. Japan remained more or less completely sealed off from the rest of the world for the next 250 years. With Satona Suzuki Lecturer in Japanese and Modern Japanese History at SOAS, University of LondonErica Baffelli Professor of Japanese Studies at the University of Manchester and Christopher Harding Senior Lecturer in Asian History at the University of EdinburghProducer Luke Mulhall
08/06/2348m 3s

The Dead Sea Scrolls

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the revelatory collection of Biblical texts, legal documents, community rules and literary writings. In 1946 a Bedouin shepherd boy was looking for a goat he’d lost in the hills above the Dead Sea. He threw a rock into a cave and heard a hollow sound. He’d hit a ceramic jar containing an ancient manuscript. This was the first of the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of about a thousand texts dating from around 250 BC to AD 68. It is the most substantial first hand evidence we have for the beliefs and practices of Judaism in and around the lifetime of Jesus. The Dead Sea Scrolls have transformed our understanding of how the texts that make up the Hebrew Bible were edited and collected. They also offer a tantalising window onto the world from which Christianity eventually emerged. With Sarah Pearce Ian Karten Professor of Jewish Studies and Head of the School of Humanities at the University of SouthamptonCharlotte Hempel Professor of Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Judaism at the University of Birmingham and George Brooke Rylands Professor Emeritus of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis at the University of ManchesterProducer Luke Mulhall
01/06/2348m 7s

Walt Whitman

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the highly influential American poet Walt Whitman. In 1855 Whitman was working as a printer, journalist and property developer when he published his first collection of poetry. It began:I celebrate myself, And what I assume you shall assume For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you. The book was called Leaves of Grass. In it, Whitman set out to break away from European literary forms and traditions. Using long lines written in free verse, he developed a poetry meant to express a distinctively American outlook. Leaves of Grass is full of verse that celebrates both the sovereign individual, and the deep fellowship between individuals. Its optimism about the American experience was challenged by the Civil War and its aftermath, but Whitman emerged as a celebrity and a key figure in the development of American culture. With Sarah Churchwell Professor of American Literature and the Public Understanding of the Humanities at the University of LondonPeter Riley Lecturer in 19th Century American Literature at the University of Exeter and Mark Ford Professor of English and American Literature at University College LondonProducer Luke Mulhall
25/05/2349m 38s

Linnaeus

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life, ideas and legacy of the pioneering Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus (1707 – 1778). The philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau once wrote: "Tell him I know no greater man on earth". The son of a parson, Linnaeus grew up in an impoverished part of Sweden but managed to gain a place at university. He went on to transform biology by making two major innovations. He devised a simpler method of naming species and he developed a new system for classifying plants and animals, a system that became known as the Linnaean hierarchy. He was also one of the first people to grow a banana in Europe. WithStaffan Muller-Wille University Lecturer in History of Life, Human and Earth Sciences at the University of CambridgeStella Sandford Professor of Modern European Philosophy at Kingston University, Londonand Steve Jones Senior Research Fellow in Genetics at University College, LondonProducer Luke Mulhall
18/05/2350m 19s

The Battle of Crécy

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the brutal events of 26 August 1346, when the armies of France and England met in a funnel-shaped valley outside the town of Crécy in northern France. Although the French, led by Philip VI, massively outnumbered the English, under the command of Edward III, the English won the battle, and French casualties were huge. The English victory is often attributed to the success of their longbowmen against the heavy cavalry of the French. The Battle of Crécy was the result of years of simmering tension between Edward III and Philip VI, and it led to decades of further conflict between England and France, a conflict that came to be known as the Hundred Years War. WithAnne Curry Emeritus Professor of Medieval History at the University of Southampton Andrew Ayton Senior Research Fellow in History at Keele Universityand Erika Graham-Goering Lecturer in Late Medieval History at Durham UniversityProducer Luke Mulhall
11/05/2350m 49s

Cnut

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Danish prince who became a very effective King of England in 1016. Cnut inherited a kingdom in a sorry state. The north and east coast had been harried by Viking raiders, and his predecessor King Æthelred II had struggled to maintain order amongst the Anglo-Saxon nobility too. Cnut proved to be skilful ruler. Not only did he bring stability and order to the kingdom, he exported the Anglo-Saxon style of centralised government to Denmark. Under Cnut, England became the cosmopolitan centre of a multi-national North Atlantic Empire, and a major player in European politics. With Erin Goeres Associate Professor of Old Norse Language and Literature at University College LondonPragya Vohra Lecturer in Medieval History at the University of Yorkand Elizabeth Tyler Professor of Medieval Literature and Co-Director of the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of York Producer Luke Mulhall
04/05/2351m 10s

A Room of One's Own

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Virginia Woolf's highly influential essay on women and literature, which considers both literary history and future opportunity. In 1928 Woolf gave two lectures at Cambridge University about women and fiction. In front of an audience at Newnham College, she delivered the following words: “All I could do was offer you an opinion upon one minor point - a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction; and that, as you will see, leaves the great problem of the true nature of woman and the true nature of fiction unsolved”. These lectures formed the basis of a book she published the following year, and Woolf chose A Room Of One’s Own for its title. It is a text that set the scene for the study of women’s writing for the rest of the 20th century. Arguably, it initiated the discipline of women’s history too. With Hermione Lee Emeritus Professor of English Literature at the University of OxfordMichele Barrett Emeritus Professor of Modern Literary and Cultural Theory at Queen Mary, University of LondonandAlexandra Harris Professor of English at the University of BirminghamProducer Luke Mulhall
27/04/2354m 48s

Solon the Lawgiver

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Solon, who was elected archon or chief magistrate of Athens in 594 BC: some see him as the father of Athenian democracy. In the first years of the 6th century BC, the city state of Athens was in crisis. The lower orders of society were ravaged by debt, to the point where some were being forced into slavery. An oppressive law code mandated the death penalty for everything from murder to petty theft. There was a real danger that the city could fall into either tyranny or civil war.Solon instituted a programme of reforms that transformed Athens’ political and legal systems, its society and economy, so that later generations referred to him as Solon the Lawgiver. WithMelissa Lane Class of 1943 Professor of Politics at Princeton UniversityHans van Wees Grote Professor of Ancient History at University College Londonand William Allan Professor of Greek and McConnell Laing Tutorial Fellow in Greek and Latin Languages and Literature at University College, University of Oxford Producer Luke Mulhall
20/04/2351m 20s

Mercantilism

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how, between the 16th and 18th centuries, Europe was dominated by an economic way of thinking called mercantilism. The key idea was that exports should be as high as possible and imports minimised. For more than 300 years, almost every ruler and political thinker was a mercantilist. Eventually, economists including Adam Smith, in his ground-breaking work of 1776 The Wealth of Nations, declared that mercantilism was a flawed concept and it became discredited. However, a mercantilist economic approach can still be found in modern times and today’s politicians sometimes still use rhetoric related to mercantilism. WithD’Maris Coffman Professor in Economics and Finance of the Built Environment at University College London Craig Muldrew Professor of Social and Economic History at the University of Cambridge and a Member of Queens’ Collegeand Helen Paul, Lecturer in Economics and Economic History at the University of Southampton.Producer Luke Mulhall
13/04/2357m 33s

The Ramayana

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Ramayana, the ancient Hindu epic which is regarded as one of the greatest works of world literature. Its importance in Indian culture has been compared to that of the Iliad and Odyssey in the West, and it’s still seen as a sacred text by Hindus today. Written in Sanskrit, it tells the story of the legendary prince and princess Rama and Sita, and the many challenges, misfortunes and choices that they face. About 24,000 verses long, the Ramayana is also one of the longest ancient epics. It’s a text that’s been hugely influential and it continues to be popular in India and elsewhere in Asia. With Jessica Frazier Lecturer in the Study of Religion at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Hindu StudiesChakravarthi Ram-Prasad Distinguished Professor of Comparative Religion and Philosophy at Lancaster Universityand Naomi Appleton Senior Lecturer in Asian Religions at the University of EdinburghThe image above shows Rama, Sita, Hanuman, Lakshmana and devotees, from the Shree Jalaram Prarthana Mandal, Leicester. Producer Luke Mulhall
06/04/2349m 35s

Megaliths

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss megaliths - huge stones placed in the landscape, often visually striking and highly prominent. Such stone monuments in Britain and Ireland mostly date from the Neolithic period, and the most ancient are up to 6,000 years old. In recent decades, scientific advances have enabled archaeologists to learn a large amount about megalithic structures and the people who built them, but much about these stones remains unknown and mysterious. With Vicki Cummings Professor of Neolithic Archaeology at the University of Central LancashireJulian Thomas Professor of Archaeology at the University of Manchester and Susan Greaney Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Exeter.
30/03/2350m 26s

Paul Erdős

Paul Erdős (1913 – 1996) is one of the most celebrated mathematicians of the 20th century. During his long career, he made a number of impressive advances in our understanding of maths and developed whole new fields in the subject. He was born into a Jewish family in Hungary just before the outbreak of World War I, and his life was shaped by the rise of fascism in Europe, anti-Semitism and the Cold War. His reputation for mathematical problem solving is unrivalled and he was extraordinarily prolific. He produced more than 1,500 papers and collaborated with around 500 other academics. He also had an unconventional lifestyle. Instead of having a long-term post at one university, he spent much of his life travelling around visiting other mathematicians, often staying for just a few days. With Colva Roney-Dougal Professor of Pure Mathematics at the University of St AndrewsTimothy Gowers Professor of Mathematics at the College de France in Paris and Fellow of Trinity College, CambridgeandAndrew Treglown Associate Professor in Mathematics at the University of BirminghamThe image above shows a graph occurring in Ramsey Theory. It was created by Dr Katherine Staden, lecturer in the School of Mathematics at the Open University.
23/03/2351m 9s

Stevie Smith

In 1957 Stevie Smith published a poetry collection called Not Waving But Drowning – and its title poem gave us a phrase which has entered the language. Its success has overshadowed her wider work as the author of more than half a dozen collections of poetry and three novels, mostly written while she worked as a secretary. Her poems, printed with her pen and ink sketches, can seem simple and comical, but often beneath the surface lurk themes of melancholy, loneliness, love and death. With Jeremy Noel-Tod Associate Professor in the School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia Noreen Masud Lecturer in Twentieth Century Literature at the University of Bristol and Will May Professor of Modern and Contemporary Literature at the University of SouthamptonThe photograph above shows Stevie Smith recording her story Sunday at Home, a finalist in the BBC Third Programme Short Story competition in 1949.
16/03/2353m 19s

Chartism

On 21 May 1838 an estimated 150,000 people assembled on Glasgow Green for a mass demonstration. There they witnessed the launch of the People’s Charter, a list of demands for political reform. The changes they called for included voting by secret ballot, equal-sized constituencies and, most importantly, that all men should have the vote. The Chartists, as they came to be known, were the first national mass working-class movement. In the decade that followed, they collected six million signatures for their Petitions to Parliament: all were rejected, but their campaign had a significant and lasting impact. With Joan Allen Visiting Fellow in History at Newcastle University and Chair of the Society for the Study of Labour HistoryEmma Griffin Professor of Modern British History at the University of East Anglia and President of the Royal Historical Society and Robert Saunders Reader in Modern British History at Queen Mary, University of London.The image above shows a Chartist mass meeting on Kennington Common in London in April 1848.
09/03/2351m 1s

Tycho Brahe

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the pioneering Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe (1546 – 1601) whose charts offered an unprecedented level of accuracy.In 1572 Brahe's observations of a new star challenged the idea, inherited from Aristotle, that the heavens were unchanging. He went on to create his own observatory complex on the Danish island of Hven, and there, working before the invention of the telescope, he developed innovative instruments and gathered a team of assistants, taking a highly systematic approach to observation. A second, smaller source of renown was his metal prosthetic nose, which he needed after a serious injury sustained in a duel. The image above shows Brahe aged 40, from the Atlas Major by Johann Blaeu. With Ole Grell Emeritus Professor in Early Modern History at the Open University Adam Mosley Associate Professor of History at Swansea University and Emma Perkins Affiliate Scholar in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge.
02/03/2353m 35s

Superconductivity

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the discovery made in 1911 by the Dutch physicist Heike Kamerlingh Onnes (1853-1926). He came to call it Superconductivity and it is a set of physical properties that nobody predicted and that none, since, have fully explained. When he lowered the temperature of mercury close to absolute zero and ran an electrical current through it, Kamerlingh Onnes found not that it had low resistance but that it had no resistance. Later, in addition, it was noticed that a superconductor expels its magnetic field. In the century or more that has followed, superconductors have already been used to make MRI scanners and to speed particles through the Large Hadron Collider and they may perhaps bring nuclear fusion a little closer (a step that could be world changing).The image above is from a photograph taken by Stephen Blundell of a piece of superconductor levitating above a magnet.With Nigel Hussey Professor of Experimental Condensed Matter Physics at the University of Bristol and Radbout UniversitySuchitra Sebastian Professor of Physics at the Cavendish Laboratory at the University of CambridgeAndStephen Blundell Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford and Fellow of Mansfield CollegeProducer: Simon Tillotson
23/02/2350m 44s

Rawls' Theory of Justice

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss A Theory of Justice by John Rawls (1921 - 2002) which has been called the most influential book in twentieth century political philosophy. It was first published in 1971. Rawls (pictured above) drew on his own experience in WW2 and saw the chance in its aftermath to build a new society, one founded on personal liberty and fair equality of opportunity. While in that just society there could be inequalities, Rawls’ radical idea was that those inequalities must be to the greatest advantage not to the richest but to the worst off. WithFabienne Peter Professor of Philosophy at the University of WarwickMartin O’Neill Professor of Political Philosophy at the University of YorkAnd Jonathan Wolff The Alfred Landecker Professor of Values and Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford and Fellow of Wolfson CollegeProducer: Simon Tillotson
16/02/231h

John Donne

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Donne (1573-1631), known now as one of England’s finest poets of love and notable in his own time as an astonishing preacher. He was born a Catholic in a Protestant country and, when he married Anne More without her father's knowledge, Donne lost his job in the government circle and fell into a poverty that only ended once he became a priest in the Church of England. As Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, his sermons were celebrated, perhaps none more than his final one in 1631 when he was plainly in his dying days, as if preaching at his own funeral.The image above is from a miniature in the Royal Collection and was painted in 1616 by Isaac Oliver (1565-1617)With Mary Ann Lund Associate Professor in Renaissance English Literature at the University of LeicesterSue Wiseman Professor of Seventeenth Century Literature at Birkbeck, University of LondonAnd Hugh Adlington Professor of English Literature at the University of Birmingham
09/02/2351m 47s

The Great Stink

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the stench from the River Thames in the hot summer of 1858 and how it appalled and terrified Londoners living and working beside it, including those in the new Houses of Parliament which were still under construction. There had been an outbreak of cholera a few years before in which tens of thousands had died, and a popular theory held that foul smells were linked to diseases. The source of the problem was that London's sewage, once carted off to fertilise fields had recently, thanks to the modern flushing systems, started to flow into the river and, thanks to the ebb and flow of the tides, was staying there and warming in the summer sun. The engineer Joseph Bazalgette was given the task to build huge new sewers to intercept the waste, a vast network, so changing the look of London and helping ensure there were no further cholera outbreaks from contaminated water.The image above is from Punch, July 10th 1858 and it has this caption: The 'Silent Highway'-Man. "Your Money or your Life!"WithRosemary Ashton Emeritus Quain Professor of English Language and Literature at University College LondonStephen Halliday Author of ‘The Great Stink of London: Sir Joseph Bazalgette and the Cleansing of the Victorian Metropolis’AndPaul Dobraszczyk Lecturer at the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London
26/01/2350m 12s

Persuasion

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Jane Austen’s last complete novel, which was published just before Christmas in 1817, five months after her death. It is the story of Anne Elliot, now 27 and (so we are told), losing her bloom, and of her feelings for Captain Wentworth who she was engaged to, 8 years before – an engagement she broke off under pressure from her father and godmother. When Wentworth, by chance, comes back into Anne Elliot's life, he is still angry with her and neither she nor Austen's readers can know whether it is now too late for their thwarted love to have a second chance.The image above is from a 1995 BBC adaptation of the novel, with Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds WithKaren O’Brien Vice-Chancellor of Durham UniversityFiona Stafford Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of OxfordAndPaddy Bullard Associate Professor of English Literature and Book History at the University of ReadingProducer: Simon Tillotson
19/01/2350m 49s

Citizen Kane

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Orson Welles' film, released in 1941, which is widely acclaimed as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, films yet made. Welles plays the lead role of Charles Foster Kane, a newspaper magnate, and Welles directed, produced and co-wrote this story of loneliness at the heart of a megalomaniac. The plot was partly inspired by the life of William Randolph Hearst, who then used the power of his own newspapers to try to suppress the film’s release. It was to take some years before Citizen Kane reached a fuller audience and, from that point, become so celebrated.The image above is of Kane addressing a public meeting while running for Governor.With Stella Bruzzi Professor of Film and Dean of Arts and Humanities at University College LondonIan Christie Professor of Film and Media History at Birkbeck, University of LondonAnd John David Rhodes Professor of Film Studies and Visual Culture at the University of CambridgeProducer: Simon Tillotson
12/01/2353m 43s

The Irish Rebellion of 1798

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the momentum behind rebellion in Ireland in 1798, the people behind the rebellion and the impact over the next few years and after. Amid wider unrest, the United Irishmen set the rebellion on its way, inspired by the French and American revolutionaries and their pursuit of liberty. When it broke out in May the United Irishmen had an estimated two hundred thousand members, Catholic and Protestant, and the prospect of a French invasion fleet to back them. Crucially for the prospects of success, some of those members were British spies who exposed the plans and the military were largely ready - though not in Wexford where the scale of rebellion was much greater. The fighting was initially fierce and brutal and marked with sectarianism but had largely been suppressed by the time the French arrived in August to declare a short-lived republic. The consequences of the rebellion were to be far reaching, not least in the passing of Acts of Union in 1800.The image above is of Theobald Wolfe Tone (1763 - 1798), prominent member of the United IrishmenWith Ian McBride Foster Professor of Irish History at Hertford College, University of OxfordCatriona Kennedy Senior Lecturer in Modern History at the University of YorkAnd Liam Chambers Head of Department and Senior Lecturer in History at Mary Immaculate College, LimerickProducer: Simon Tillotson
05/01/2355m 25s

The Nibelungenlied

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss The Song of the Nibelungs, a twelfth century German epic, full of blood, violence, fantasy and bleakness. It is a foundational work of medieval literature, drawing on the myths of Scandinavia and central Europe. The poem tells of two couples, Siegfried and Kriemhild and Gunther and Brunhilda, whose lives are destroyed by lies and revenge. It was extremely popular in its time, sometimes rewritten with happier endings, and was rediscovered by German Romantics and has since been drawn from selectively by Wagner, Fritz Lang and, infamously, the Nazis looking to support ideas on German heritage.The image above is of Siegfried seeing Kriemhild for the first time, a miniature from the Hundeshagenschen Code manuscript dating from 15th Century.WithSarah Bowden Reader in German and Medieval Studies at King’s College LondonMark Chinca Professor of Medieval German and Comparative Literature at the University of CambridgeAndBettina Bildhauer Professor of Modern Languages at the University of St AndrewsProducer: Simon Tillotson
29/12/2254m 49s

The Challenger Expedition 1872-1876

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the voyage of HMS Challenger which set out from Portsmouth in 1872 with a mission a to explore the ocean depths around the world and search for new life. The scale of the enterprise was breath taking and, for its ambition, it has since been compared to the Apollo missions. The team onboard found thousands of new species, proved there was life on the deepest seabeds and plumbed the Mariana Trench five miles below the surface. Thanks to telegraphy and mailboats, its vast discoveries were shared around the world even while Challenger was at sea, and they are still being studied today, offering insights into the ever-changing oceans that cover so much of the globe and into the health of our planet.The image above is from the journal of Pelham Aldrich R.N. who served on the Challenger Surveying Expedition from 1872-5.WithErika Jones Curator of Navigation and Oceanography at Royal Museums GreenwichSam Robinson Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute Research Fellow at the University of SouthamptonAndGiles Miller Principal Curator of Micropalaeontology at the Natural History Museum LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson
22/12/2251m 14s

Demosthenes' Philippics

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the speeches that became a byword for fierce attacks on political opponents. It was in the 4th century BC, in Athens, that Demosthenes delivered these speeches against the tyrant Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great, when Philip appeared a growing threat to Athens and its allies and Demosthenes feared his fellow citizens were set on appeasement. In what became known as The Philippics, Demosthenes tried to persuade Athenians to act against Macedon before it was too late; eventually he succeeded in stirring them, even if the Macedonians later prevailed. For these speeches prompting resistance, Demosthenes became famous as one of the Athenian democracy’s greatest freedom fighters. Later, in Rome, Cicero's attacks on Mark Antony were styled on Demosthenes and these too became known as Philippics.The image above is painted on the dome of the library of the National Assembly, Paris and is by Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863). It depicts Demosthenes haranguing the waves of the sea as a way of strengthening his voice for his speeches.With Paul Cartledge A. G. Leventis Senior Research Fellow at Clare College, University of CambridgeKathryn Tempest Reader in Latin Literature and Roman History at the University of RoehamptonAndJon Hesk Reader in Greek and Classical Studies at the University of St AndrewsProducer: Simon Tillotson
15/12/2256m 56s

Bauhaus

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Bauhaus which began in 1919 in Weimar, Germany, as a school for arts and crafts combined, and went on to be famous around the world. Under its first director, Walter Gropius, the Bauhaus moved to Dessau and extended its range to architecture and became associated with a series of white, angular, flat-roofed buildings reproduced from Shanghai to Chicago, aimed for modern living. The school closed after only 14 years while at a third location, Berlin, under pressure from the Nazis, yet its students and teachers continued to spread its ethos in exile, making it even more influential.The image above is of the Bauhaus Building, Dessau, designed by Gropius and built in 1925-6WithRobin Schuldenfrei Tangen Reader in 20th Century Modernism at The Courtauld Institute of ArtAlan Powers History Leader at the London School of ArchitectureAnd Michael White Professor of the History of Art at the University of YorkProducer: Simon Tillotson
08/12/2256m 45s

The Morant Bay Rebellion

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the rebellion that broke out in Jamaica on 11th October 1865 when Paul Bogle (1822-65) led a protest march from Stony Gut to the courthouse in nearby Morant Bay. There were many grounds for grievance that day and soon anger turned to bloodshed. Although the British had abolished slavery 30 years before, the plantation owners were still dominant and the conditions for the majority of people on Jamaica were poor. The British governor suppressed this rebellion brutally and soon people in Jamaica lost what right they had to rule themselves. Some in Britain, like Charles Dickens, supported the governor's actions while others, like Charles Darwin, wanted him tried for murder. The image above is from a Jamaican $2 banknote, printed after Paul Bogle became a National Hero in 1969.With Matthew J Smith Professor of History and Director of the Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slavery at University College LondonDiana Paton The William Robertson Professor of History at the University of EdinburghAndLawrence Goldman Emeritus Fellow in History at St Peter’s College, University of OxfordProducer: Simon Tillotson
01/12/2253m 42s

Wilfred Owen

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the celebrated British poet of World War One. Wilfred Owen (1893-1918) had published only a handful of poems when he was killed a week before the end of the war, but in later decades he became seen as the essential British war poet. His works such as Anthem for Doomed Youth, Strange Meeting and Dulce et Decorum Est went on to be inseparable from the memory of the war and its futility. However, while Owen is best known for his poetry of the trenches, his letters offer a more nuanced insight into him such as his pride in being an officer in charge of others and in being a soldier who fought alongside his comrades.WithJane Potter Reader in The School of Arts at Oxford Brookes UniversityFran Brearton Professor of Modern Poetry at Queen’s University BelfastAndGuy Cuthbertson Professor of British Literature and Culture at Liverpool Hope UniversityProducer: Simon Tillotson
24/11/2256m 39s

The Fish-Tetrapod Transition

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the greatest changes in the history of life on Earth. Around 400 million years ago some of our ancestors, the fish, started to become a little more like humans. At the swampy margins between land and water, some fish were turning their fins into limbs, their swim bladders into lungs and developed necks and eventually they became tetrapods, the group to which we and all animals with backbones and limbs belong. After millions of years of this transition, these tetrapod descendants of fish were now ready to leave the water for a new life of walking on land, and with that came an explosion in the diversity of life on Earth.The image above is a representation of Tiktaalik Roseae, a fish with some features of a tetrapod but not one yet, based on a fossil collected in the Canadian Arctic.WithEmily Rayfield Professor of Palaeobiology at the University of BristolMichael Coates Chair and Professor of Organismal Biology and Anatomy at the University of ChicagoAnd Steve Brusatte Professor of Palaeontology and Evolution at the University of EdinburghProducer: Simon Tillotson
17/11/2255m 33s

Berthe Morisot

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the influential painters at the heart of the French Impressionist movement: Berthe Morisot (1841-1895). The men in her circle could freely paint in busy bars and public spaces, while Morisot captured the domestic world and found new, daring ways to paint quickly in the open air. Her work shows women as they were, to her: informal, unguarded, and not transformed or distorted for the eyes of men. The image above is one of her few self-portraits, though several portraits of her survive by other artists, chiefly her sister Edma and her brother-in-law Edouard Manet. With Tamar Garb Professor of History of Art at University College LondonLois Oliver Curator at the Royal Academy and Adjunct Professor of Art History at the American University of Notre Dame London.AndClaire Moran Reader in French at Queen's University BelfastProducer: Simon Tillotson
10/11/221h

The Knights Templar

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the military order founded around 1119, twenty years after the Crusaders captured Jerusalem. For almost 200 years the Knights Templar were a notable fighting force and financial power in the Crusader States and Western Europe. Their mission was to protect pilgrims in the Holy Land, and they became extremely wealthy yet, as the crusader grip on Jerusalem slipped, their political fortune declined steeply. They were to be persecuted out of existence, with their last grand master burned at the stake in Paris in 1314, and that sudden end has contributed to the strength of the legends that have grown up around them.WithHelen Nicholson Professor of Medieval History at Cardiff UniversityMike Carr Lecturer in Late Medieval History at the University of EdinburghAnd Jonathan Phillips Professor of Crusading History at Royal Holloway, University of LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson
03/11/2249m 59s

The Electron

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss an atomic particle that's become inseparable from modernity. JJ Thomson discovered the electron 125 years ago, so revealing that atoms, supposedly the smallest things, were made of even smaller things. He pictured them inside an atomic ball like a plum pudding, with others later identifying their place outside the nucleus - and it is their location on the outer limit that has helped scientists learn so much about electrons and with electrons. We can use electrons to reveal the secrets of other particles and, while electricity exists whether we understand electrons or not, the applications of electricity and electrons grow as our knowledge grows. Many questions, though, remain unanswered.With Victoria Martin Professor of Collider Physics at the University of EdinburghHarry Cliff Research Fellow in Particle Physics at the University of CambridgeAndFrank Close Professor Emeritus of Theoretical Physics and Fellow Emeritus at Exeter College at the University of OxfordProducer: Simon Tillotson
27/10/2249m 47s

Plato's Atlantis

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Plato's account of the once great island of Atlantis out to the west, beyond the world known to his fellow Athenians, and why it disappeared many thousands of years before his time. There are no sources for this story other than Plato, and he tells it across two of his works, the Timaeus and the Critias, tantalizing his readers with evidence that it is true and clues that it is a fantasy. Atlantis, for Plato, is a way to explore what an ideal republic really is, and whether Athens could be (or ever was) one; to European travellers in the Renaissance, though, his story reflected their own encounters with distant lands, previously unknown to them, spurring generations of explorers to scour the oceans and in the hope of finding a lost world.The image above is from an engraving of the legendary island of Atlantis after a description by Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680).With Edith Hall Professor of Classics at Durham UniversityChristopher Gill Emeritus Professor of Ancient Thought at the University of ExeterAndAngie Hobbs Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of SheffieldProducer: Simon Tillotson
20/10/2254m 15s

Nineteen Eighty-Four

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss George Orwell's (1903-1950) final novel, published in 1949, set in a dystopian London which is now found in Airstrip One, part of the totalitarian superstate of Oceania which is always at war and where the protagonist, Winston Smith, works at the Ministry of Truth as a rewriter of history: 'Who controls the past,' ran the Party slogan, 'controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.' The influence of Orwell's novel is immeasurable, highlighting threats to personal freedom with concepts he named such as doublespeak, thoughtcrime, Room 101, Big Brother, memory hole and thought police.With David Dwan Professor of English Literature and Intellectual History at the University of OxfordLisa Mullen Teaching Associate in Modern Contemporary Literature at the University of CambridgeAndJohn Bowen Professor of English Literature at the University of YorkProducer: Simon Tillotson
13/10/2252m 33s

John Bull

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the origin of this personification of the English everyman and his development as both British and Britain in the following centuries. He first appeared along with Lewis Baboon (French) and Nicholas Frog (Dutch) in 1712 in a pamphlet that satirised the funding of the War of the Spanish Succession. The author was John Arbuthnot (1667-1735), a Scottish doctor and satirist who was part of the circle of Swift and Pope, and his John Bull was the English voter, overwhelmed by taxes that went not so much into the war itself but into the pockets of its financiers. For the next two centuries, Arbuthnot’s John Bull was a gift for cartoonists and satirists, especially when they wanted to ridicule British governments for taking advantage of the people’s patriotism. The image above is by William Charles, a Scottish engraver who emigrated to the United States, and dates from 1814 during the Anglo-American War of 1812. WithJudith Hawley Professor of 18th Century Literature at Royal Holloway, University of LondonMiles Taylor Professor of British History and Society at Humboldt, University of BerlinAndMark Knights Professor of History at the University of WarwickProducer: Simon Tillotson
28/07/2253m 46s

Angkor Wat

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the largest and arguably the most astonishing religious structure on Earth, built for Suryavarman II in the 12th Century in modern-day Cambodia. It is said to have more stone in it than the Great Pyramid of Giza, and much of the surface is intricately carved and remarkably well preserved. For the last 900 years Angkor Wat has been a centre of religion, whether Hinduism, Buddhism or Animism or a combination of those, and a source of wonder to Cambodians and visitors from around the world.WithPiphal Heng Postdoctoral scholar at the Cotsen Institute and the Programme for Early Modern Southeast Asia at UCLAAshley Thompson Hiram W Woodward Chair of Southeast Asian Art at SOAS University of LondonAndSimon Warrack A stone conservator who has worked extensively at Angkor WatProducer: Simon Tillotson
21/07/2249m 18s

Dylan Thomas

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the celebrated Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas (1914 - 1953). He wrote some of his best poems before he was twenty in the first half of his short, remarkable life, and was prolific in the second half too with poems such as those set in London under the Blitz and reworkings of his childhood in Swansea, and his famous radio play Under Milk Wood (performed after his death). He was read widely and widely heard: with his reading tours in America and recordings of his works that sold in their hundreds of thousands after his death, he is credited with reviving the act of poetry as performance in the 20th century.WithNerys Williams Associate Professor of Poetry and Poetics at University College DublinJohn Goodby Professor of Arts and Culture at Sheffield Hallam UniversityAndLeo Mellor The Roma Gill Fellow in English at Murray Edwards College, University of CambridgeProducer: Simon Tillotson
14/07/2250m 6s

The Death of Stars

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the abrupt transformation of stars after shining brightly for millions or billions of years, once they lack the fuel to counter the force of gravity. Those like our own star, the Sun, become red giants, expanding outwards and consuming nearby planets, only to collapse into dense white dwarves. The massive stars, up to fifty times the mass of the Sun, burst into supernovas, visible from Earth in daytime, and become incredibly dense neutron stars or black holes. In these moments of collapse, the intense heat and pressure can create all the known elements to form gases and dust which may eventually combine to form new stars, new planets and, as on Earth, new life.The image above is of the supernova remnant Cassiopeia A, approximately 10,000 light years away, from a once massive star that died in a supernova explosion that was first seen from Earth in 1690WithMartin Rees Astronomer Royal, Fellow of Trinity College, CambridgeCarolin Crawford Emeritus Member of the Institute of Astronomy and Emeritus Fellow of Emmanuel College, University of CambridgeAndMark Sullivan Professor of Astrophysics at the University of SouthamptonProducer: Simon Tillotson
07/07/2258m 9s

Hegel's Philosophy of History

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss ideas of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770 - 1831) on history. Hegel, one of the most influential of the modern philosophers, described history as the progress in the consciousness of freedom, asking whether we enjoy more freedom now than those who came before us. To explore this, he looked into the past to identify periods when freedom was moving from the one to the few to the all, arguing that once we understand the true nature of freedom we reach an endpoint in understanding. That end of history, as it's known, describes an understanding of freedom so far progressed, so profound, that it cannot be extended or deepened even if it can be lost.WithSally Sedgwick Professor and Chair of Philosophy at Boston UniversityRobert Stern Professor of Philosophy at the University of SheffieldAnd Stephen Houlgate Professor of Philosophy at the University of WarwickProducer: Simon Tillotson
23/06/2252m 25s

Comenius

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Czech educator Jan Amos Komenský (1592-1670) known throughout Europe in his lifetime under the Latin version of his name, Comenius. A Protestant and member of the Unity of Brethren, he lived much of his life in exile, expelled from his homeland under the Catholic Counter-Reformation, and he wanted to address the deep antagonisms underlying the wars that were devastating Europe especially The Thirty Years War (1618-1648). A major part of his plan was Universal Education, in which everyone could learn about everything, and better understand each other and so tolerate their religious differences and live side by side. His ideas were to have a lasting influence on education, even though the peace that followed the Thirty Years War only entrenched the changes in his homeland that made his life there impossible.The image above is from a portrait of Comenius by Jürgen Ovens, 1650 - 1670, painted while he was living in Amsterdam and held in the RikjsmuseumWithVladimir Urbanek Senior Researcher in the Department of Comenius Studies and Early Modern Intellectual History at the Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of SciencesSuzanna Ivanic Lecturer in Early Modern European History at the University of KentAndHoward Hotson Professor of Early Modern Intellectual History at the University of Oxford and Fellow of St Anne’s CollegeProducer: Simon Tillotson
16/06/2256m 32s

Tang Era Poetry

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss two of China’s greatest poets, Li Bai and Du Fu, who wrote in the 8th century in the Tang Era. Li Bai (701-762AD) is known for personal poems, many of them about drinking wine, and for finding the enjoyment in life. Du Fu (712-770AD), a few years younger, is more of an everyman, writing in the upheaval of the An Lushan Rebellion (755-763AD). Together they have been a central part of Chinese culture for over a millennium, reflecting the balance between the individual and the public life, and one sign of their enduring appeal is that there is rarely agreement on which of them is the greater.The image above is intended to depict Du Fu.With Tim Barrett Professor Emeritus of East Asian History at SOAS, University of LondonTian Yuan Tan Shaw Professor of Chinese at the University of Oxford and Professorial Fellow at University CollegeAndFrances Wood Former Curator of the Chinese Collections at the British LibraryProducer: Simon Tillotson
09/06/2246m 37s

The Davidian Revolution

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the impact of David I of Scotland (c1084-1153) on his kingdom and on neighbouring lands. The youngest son of Malcolm III, he was raised in exile in the Anglo-Norman court and became Earl of Huntingdon and Prince of Cumbria before claiming the throne in 1124. He introduced elements of what he had learned in England and, in the next decades, his kingdom saw new burghs, new monasteries, new ways of governing and the arrival of some very influential families, earning him the reputation of The Perfect King.With Richard Oram Professor of Medieval and Environmental History at the University of StirlingAlice Taylor Professor of Medieval History at King’s College LondonAndAlex Woolf Senior Lecturer in History at the University of St AndrewsProducer: Simon Tillotson
02/06/2250m 16s

Early Christian Martyrdom

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the accounts by Eusebius of Caesarea (c260-339 AD) and others of the killings of Christians in the first three centuries after the crucifixion of Jesus. Eusebius was writing in a time of peace, after The Great Persecution that had started with Emperor Diocletian in 303 AD and lasted around eight years. Many died under Diocletian, and their names are not preserved, but those whose deaths are told by Eusebius became especially celebrated and their stories became influential. Through his writings, Eusebius shaped perceptions of what it meant to be a martyr in those years, and what it meant to be a Christian.The image above is of The Martyrdom of Saint Blandina (1886) at the Church of Saint-Blandine de Lyon, FranceWith:Candida Moss Edward Cadbury Professor of Theology at the University of BirminghamKate Cooper Professor of History at Royal Holloway, University of LondonAndJames Corke-Webster Senior Lecturer in Classics, History and Liberal Arts at King’s College LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson
26/05/2253m 3s

Olympe de Gouges

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the French playwright who, in 1791, wrote The Declaration of the Rights of Woman and of the Female Citizen. This was Olympe de Gouges (1748-93) and she was responding to The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen from 1789, the start of the French Revolution which, by excluding women from these rights, had fallen far short of its apparent goals. Where the latter declared ‘men are born equal’, she asserted ‘women are born equal to men,’ adding, ‘since women are allowed to mount the scaffold, they should also be allowed to stand in parliament and defend their rights’. Two years later this playwright, novelist, activist and woman of letters did herself mount the scaffold, two weeks after Marie Antoinette, for the crime of being open to the idea of a constitutional monarchy and, for two hundred years, her reputation died with her, only to be revived with great vigour in the last 40 years.With Catriona Seth Marshal Foch Professor of French Literature at the University of OxfordKatherine Astbury Professor of French Studies at the University of WarwickAndSanja Perovic Reader in 18th century French studies at King’s College LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson
19/05/2249m 10s

Homo erectus

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of our ancestors, Homo erectus, who thrived on Earth for around two million years whereas we, Homo sapiens, emerged only in the last three hundred thousand years. Homo erectus, or Upright Man, spread from Africa to Asia and it was on the Island of Java that fossilised remains were found in 1891 in an expedition led by Dutch scientist Eugène Dubois. Homo erectus people adapted to different habitats, ate varied food, lived in groups, had stamina to outrun their prey; and discoveries have prompted many theories on the relationship between their diet and the size of their brains, on their ability as seafarers, on their creativity and on their ability to speak and otherwise communicate.The image above is from a diorama at the Moesgaard Museum in Denmark, depicting the Turkana Boy referred to in the programme. With Peter Kjærgaard Director of the Natural History Museum of Denmark and Professor of Evolutionary History at the University of CopenhagenJosé Joordens Senior Researcher in Human Evolution at Naturalis Biodiversity Centre and Professor of Human Evolution at Maastricht UniversityAndMark Maslin Professor of Earth System Science at University College LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson
12/05/2251m 3s

Polidori's The Vampyre

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the influential novella of John Polidori (1795-1821) published in 1819 and attributed first to Lord Byron (1788-1824) who had started a version of it in 1816 at the Villa Diodati in the Year Without A Summer. There Byron, his personal physician Polidori, Mary and Percy Shelley and Claire Clairmont had whiled away the weeks of miserable weather by telling ghost stories, famously giving rise to Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein'. Emerging soon after, 'The Vampyre' thrilled readers with its aristocratic Lord Ruthven who glutted his thirst with the blood of his victims, his status an abrupt change from the stories of peasant vampires of eastern and central Europe that had spread in the 18th Century with the expansion of the Austro-Hungarian empire. The connection with Lord Byron gave the novella a boost, and soon 'The Vampyre' spawned West End plays, penny dreadfuls such as 'Varney the Vampire', Bram Stoker’s 'Dracula', F.W Murnau's film 'Nosferatu A Symphony of Horror', and countless others.The image above is of Bela Lugosi (1882-1956) as Count Mora in Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer's 'Vampires of Prague' (1935)With Nick Groom Professor of Literature in English at the University of MacauSamantha George Associate Professor of Research in Literature at the University of HertfordshireAnd Martyn Rady Professor Emeritus of Central European History at University College LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson
05/05/2251m 17s

The Sistine Chapel

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the astonishing work of Michelangelo (1477-1564) in this great chapel in the Vatican, firstly the ceiling with images from Genesis (of which the image above is a detail) and later The Last Judgement on the altar wall. For the Papacy, Michelangelo's achievement was a bold affirmation of the spiritual and political status of the Vatican, of Rome and of the Catholic Church. For the artist himself, already famous as the sculptor of David in Florence, it was a test of his skill and stamina, and of the potential for art to amaze which he realised in his astonishing mastery of the human form.WithCatherine Fletcher Professor of History at Manchester Metropolitan UniversitySarah Vowles The Smirnov Family Curator of Italian and French Prints and Drawings at the British MuseumAndMatthias Wivel The Aud Jebsen Curator of Sixteenth-Century Italian Paintings at the National GalleryProducer: Simon Tillotson
28/04/2255m 50s

Antigone

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss what is reputedly the most performed of all Greek tragedies. Antigone, by Sophocles (c496-c406 BC), is powerfully ambiguous, inviting the audience to reassess its values constantly before the climax of the play resolves the plot if not the issues. Antigone is barely a teenager and is prepared to defy her uncle Creon, the new king of Thebes, who has decreed that nobody should bury the body of her brother, a traitor, on pain of death. This sets up a conflict between generations, between the state and the individual, uncle and niece, autocracy and pluralism, and it releases an enormous tragic energy that brings sudden death to Antigone, her fiance Haemon who is also Creon's son, and to Creon's wife Eurydice, while Creon himself is condemned to a living death of grief.WithEdith Hall Professor of Classics at Durham UniversityOliver Taplin Emeritus Professor of Classics, University of OxfordAndLyndsay Coo Senior Lecturer in Ancient Greek Language and Literature at the University of BristolProducer: Simon Tillotson
21/04/2254m 11s

Charisma

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the idea of charismatic authority developed by Max Weber (1864-1920) to explain why people welcome some as their legitimate rulers and follow them loyally, for better or worse, while following others only dutifully or grudgingly. Weber was fascinated by those such as Napoleon (above) and Washington who achieved power not by right, as with traditional monarchs, or by law as with the bureaucratic world around him in Germany, but by revolution or insurrection. Drawing on the experience of religious figures, he contended that these leaders, often outsiders, needed to be seen as exceptional, heroic and even miraculous to command loyalty, and could stay in power for as long as the people were enthralled and the miracles they had promised kept coming. After the Second World War, Weber's idea attracted new attention as a way of understanding why some reviled leaders once had mass support and, with the arrival of television, why some politicians were more engaging and influential on screen than others. With Linda Woodhead The FD Maurice Professor and Head of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at King's College LondonDavid Bell The Lapidus Professor in the Department of History at Princeton UniversityAndTom Wright Reader in Rhetoric at the University of SussexProducer: Simon Tillotson
14/04/2252m 38s

Seismology

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the study of earthquakes. A massive earthquake in 1755 devastated Lisbon, and this disaster helped inspire a new science of seismology which intensified after San Francisco in 1906 and advanced even further with the need to monitor nuclear tests around the world from 1945 onwards. While we now know so much more about what lies beneath the surface of the Earth, and how rocks move and crack, it remains impossible to predict when earthquakes will happen. Thanks to seismology, though, we have a clearer idea of where earthquakes will happen and how to make some of them less hazardous to lives and homes.WithRebecca Bell Senior lecturer in Geology and Geophysics at Imperial College LondonZoe Mildon Lecturer in Earth Sciences and Future Leaders Fellow at the University of PlymouthAnd James Hammond Reader in Geophysics at Birkbeck, University of LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson
07/04/2249m 35s

The Arthashastra

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ancient Sanskrit text the Arthashastra, regarded as one of the major works of Indian literature. Written in the style of a scientific treatise, it provides rulers with a guide on how to govern their territory and sets out what the structure, economic policy and foreign affairs of the ideal state should be. According to legend, it was written by Chanakya, a political advisor to the ruler Chandragupta Maurya (reigned 321 – 297 BC) who founded the Mauryan Empire, the first great Empire in the Indian subcontinent. As the Arthashastra asserts that a ruler should pursue his goals ruthlessly by whatever means is required, it has been compared with the 16th-century work The Prince by Machiavelli. Today, it is widely viewed as presenting a sophisticated and refined analysis of the nature, dynamics and challenges of rulership, and scholars value it partly because it undermines colonial stereotypes of what early South Asian society was like. WithJessica Frazier Lecturer in the Study of Religion at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Hindu StudiesJames Hegarty Professor of Sanskrit and Indian Religions at Cardiff University And Deven Patel Associate Professor of South Asia Studies at the University of PennsylvaniaProducer: Simon Tillotson
31/03/2256m 9s

In Our Time is now first on BBC Sounds

Looking for the latest episode? New episodes of In Our Time will now be available first on BBC Sounds for four weeks before other podcast apps.If you haven’t already, you can download the BBC Sounds app to listen to the In Our Time podcast first.BBC Sounds is also available in lots of other places. Find us on your voice device or smart speaker, on your connected TV, in your car, or at bbc.co.uk/sounds.The latest episode is available on BBC Sounds right now.BBC Sounds – you can find exclusive music mixes, live BBC radio and more podcasts like this one.
04/03/221m 0s

Peter Kropotkin

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Russian prince who became a leading anarchist and famous scientist. Kropotkin (1842 - 1921) was born into privilege, very much in the highest circle of Russian society as a pageboy for the Tsar, before he became a republican in childhood and dropped the title 'Prince'. While working in Siberia, he started reading about anarchism and that radicalised him further, as did his observations of Siberian villagers supporting each other without (or despite) a role for the State. He made a name for himself as a geographer but soon his politics landed him in jail in St Petersburg, from which he escaped to exile in England where he was fêted, with growing fame leading to lecture tours in the USA. His time in Siberia also inspired his ideas on the importance of mutual aid in evolution, a counter to the dominant idea from Darwin and Huxley that life was a gladiatorial combat in which only the fittest survived. Kropotkin became such a towering figure in public life that, returning to Russia, he was able to challenge Lenin without reprisal, and Lenin in turn permitted his enormous public funeral there, attended by 20,000 mourners.With Ruth Kinna Professor of Political Theory at Loughborough UniversityLee Dugatkin Professor of Biology at the University of LouisvilleAndSimon Dixon The Sir Bernard Pares Professor of Russian History at University College London
24/02/2251m 53s

Romeo and Juliet

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss William Shakespeare's famous tragedy, written in the early 1590s after a series of histories and comedies. His audience already knew the story of the feuding Capulets and Montagues in Verona and the fate of the young lovers from their rival houses, but not how Shakespeare would tell it and, with his poetry and plotting, he created a work so powerful and timeless that his play has shaped the way we talk of love, especially young love, ever since.The image above is of Mrs Patrick Campbell ('Mrs Pat') as Juliet and Johnson Forbes-Robinson as Romeo in a scene from the 1895 production at the Lyceum Theatre, LondonWithHelen Hackett Professor of English Literature at University College LondonPaul Prescott Professor of English and Theatre at the University of California MercedAndEmma Smith Professor of Shakespeare Studies at Hertford College, University of OxfordProducer: Simon Tillotson
17/02/2250m 13s

Walter Benjamin

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the most celebrated thinkers of the twentieth century. Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) was a German Jewish philosopher, critic, historian, an investigator of culture, a maker of radio programmes and more. Notably, in his Arcades Project, he looked into the past of Paris to understand the modern age and, in The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, examined how the new media of film and photography enabled art to be politicised, and politics to become a form of art. The rise of the Nazis in Germany forced him into exile, and he worked in Paris in dread of what was to come; when his escape from France in 1940 was blocked at the Spanish border, he took his own life. With Esther Leslie Professor of Political Aesthetics at Birkbeck, University of LondonKevin McLaughlin Dean of the Faculty and Professor of English, Comparative Literature and German Studies at Brown UniversityAndCarolin Duttlinger Professor of German Literature and Culture at the University of OxfordProducer: Simon Tillotson
10/02/2250m 32s

The Temperance Movement

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the momentum behind teetotalism in 19th Century Britain, when calls for moderation gave way to complete abstinence in pursuit of a better life. Although arguments for temperance had been made throughout the British Isles beforehand, the story of the organised movement in Britain is often said to have started in 1832 in Preston, when Joseph Livesey and seven others gave a pledge to abstain. The movement grew quickly, with Temperance Halls appearing as new social centres in towns in place of pubs, and political parties being drawn into taking sides either to support abstinence or impose it or reject it. The image above, which appeared in The Teetotal Progressionist in 1852, is an example of the way in which images contained many points of temperance teaching, and is © Copyright Livesey Collection at the University of Central Lancashire. WithAnnemarie McAllister Senior Research Fellow in History at the University of Central LancashireJames Kneale Associate Professor in Geography at University College LondonAndDavid Beckingham Associate Professor in Cultural and Historical Geography at the University of NottinghamProducer: Simon Tillotson
03/02/2252m 25s

Colette

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the outstanding French writers of the twentieth century. The novels of Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (1873 - 1954) always had women at their centre, from youth to mid-life to old age, and they were phenomenally popular, at first for their freshness and frankness about women’s lives, as in the Claudine stories, and soon for their sheer quality as she developed as a writer. Throughout her career she intrigued readers by inserting herself, or a character with her name, into her works, fictionalising her life as a way to share her insight into the human experience.With Diana Holmes Professor of French at the University of LeedsMichèle Roberts Writer, novelist, poet and Emeritus Professor of Creative Writing at the University of East AngliaAndBelinda Jack Fellow and Tutor in French Literature and Language at Christ Church, University of OxfordProducer: Simon Tillotson
27/01/2251m 27s

The Gold Standard

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the system that flourished from 1870 when gold became dominant and more widely available, following gold rushes in California and Australia. Banknotes could be exchanged for gold at central banks, the coins in circulation could be gold (as with the sovereign in the image above, initially worth £1), gold could be freely imported and exported, and many national currencies around the world were tied to gold and so to each other. The idea began in Britain, where sterling was seen as good as gold, and when other countries rushed to the Gold Standard the confidence in their currencies grew, and world trade took off and, for a century, gold was seen as a vital component of the world economy, supporting stability and confidence. The system came with constraints on government ability to respond to economic crises, though, and has been blamed for deepening and prolonging the Great Depression of the 1930s. WithCatherine Schenk Professor of Economic and Social History at the University of OxfordHelen Paul Lecturer in Economics and Economic History at the University of SouthamptonAndMatthias Morys Senior Lecturer in Economic History at the University of YorkProduced by Eliane Glaser and Simon Tillotson
20/01/2249m 0s

Thomas Hardy's Poetry

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Thomas Hardy (1840 -1928) and his commitment to poetry, which he prized far above his novels. In the 1890s, once he had earned enough from his fiction, Hardy stopped writing novels altogether and returned to the poetry he had largely put aside since his twenties. He hoped that he might be ranked one day alongside Shelley and Byron, worthy of inclusion in a collection such as Palgrave's Golden Treasury which had inspired him. Hardy kept writing poems for the rest of his life, in different styles and metres, and he explored genres from nature, to war, to epic. Among his best known are what he called his Poems of 1912 to 13, responding to his grief at the death of his first wife, Emma (1840 -1912), who he credited as the one who had made it possible for him to leave his work as an architect's clerk and to write the novels that made him famous.WithMark Ford Poet, and Professor of English and American Literature, University College London.Jane Thomas Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Hull and Senior Visiting Research Fellow at the University of LeedsAnd Tim Armstrong Professor of Modern English and American Literature at Royal Holloway, University of LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson
13/01/2250m 43s

Fritz Lang

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Austrian-born film director Fritz Lang (1890-1976), who was one of the most celebrated film-makers of the 20th century. He worked first in Weimar Germany, creating a range of films including the startling and subversive Mabuse the Gambler and the iconic but ruinously expensive Metropolis before arguably his masterpiece, M, with both the police and the underworld hunting for a child killer in Berlin, his first film with sound. The rise of the Nazis prompted Lang's move to Hollywood where he developed some of his Weimar themes in memorable and disturbing films such as Fury and The Big Heat. With Stella Bruzzi Professor of Film and Dean of Arts and Humanities at University College LondonJoe McElhaney Professor of Film Studies at Hunter College, City University of New YorkAndIris Luppa Senior Lecturer in Film Studies in the Division of Film and Media at London South Bank UniversityProducer: Simon Tillotson
30/12/2155m 0s

The Hittites

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the empire that flourished in the Late Bronze Age in what is now Turkey, and which, like others at that time, mysteriously collapsed. For the next three thousand years these people of the Land of Hatti, as they called themselves, were known only by small references to their Iron Age descendants in the Old Testament and by unexplained remains in their former territory. Discoveries in their capital of Hattusa just over a century ago brought them back to prominence, including cuneiform tablets such as one (pictured above) which relates to an agreement with their rivals, the Egyptians. This agreement has since become popularly known as the Treaty of Kadesh and described as the oldest recorded peace treaty that survives to this day, said to have followed a great chariot battle with Egypt in 1274 BC near the Orontes River in northern Syria. WithClaudia Glatz Professor of Archaeology at the University of GlasgowIlgi Gercek Assistant Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Languages and History at Bilkent UniversityAndChristoph Bachhuber Lecturer in Archaeology at St John’s College, University of OxfordProducer: Simon Tillotson
23/12/2152m 19s

A Christmas Carol

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Charles Dickens' novella, written in 1843 when he was 31, which has become intertwined with his reputation and with Christmas itself. Ebenezer Scrooge is the miserly everyman figure whose joyless obsession with money severs him from society and his own emotions, and he is only saved after recalling his lonely past, seeing what he is missing now and being warned of his future, all under the guidance of the ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Yet To Come. Redeemed, Scrooge comes to care in particular about one of the many minor characters in the story who make a great impact, namely Tiny Tim, the disabled child of the poor and warm-hearted Cratchit family, with his cry, "God bless us, every one!"WithJuliet John Professor of English Literature and Dean of Arts and Social Sciences at City, University of LondonJon Mee Professor of Eighteenth-Century Studies at the University of YorkAndDinah Birch Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Cultural Engagement and Professor of English Literature at the University of LiverpoolProducer: Simon Tillotson
16/12/2156m 18s

The May Fourth Movement

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the violent protests in China on 4th May 1919 over the nation's humiliation in the Versailles Treaty after World War One. China had supported the Allies, sending workers to dig trenches, and expected to regain the German colonies on its territory, but the Allies and China's leaders chose to give that land to Japan instead. To protestors, this was a travesty and reflected much that was wrong with China, with its corrupt leaders, division by warlords, weakness before Imperial Europe and outdated ideas and values. The movement around 4th May has since been seen as a watershed in China’s development in the 20th century, not least as some of those connected with the movement went on to found the Communist Party of China a few years later.The image above is of students from Peking University marching with banners during the May Fourth demonstrations in 1919.With Rana Mitter Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China and Fellow of St Cross College, University of OxfordElisabeth Forster Lecturer in Chinese History at the University of SouthamptonAnd Song-Chuan Chen Associate Professor in History at the University of WarwickProducer: Simon Tillotson
09/12/2152m 57s

The Battle of Trafalgar

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the events of 21st October 1805, in which the British fleet led by Nelson destroyed a combined Franco-Spanish fleet in the Atlantic off the coast of Spain. Nelson's death that day was deeply mourned in Britain, and his example proved influential, and the battle was to help sever ties between Spain and its American empire. In France meanwhile, even before Nelson's body was interred at St Paul's, the setback at Trafalgar was overshadowed by Napoleon's decisive victory over Russia and Austria at Austerlitz, though Napoleon's search for his lost naval strength was to shape his plans for further conquests.The image above is from 'The Battle of Trafalgar' by JMW Turner (1824).WithJames Davey Lecturer in Naval and Maritime History at the University of ExeterMarianne Czisnik Independent researcher on Nelson and editor of his letters to Lady HamiltonAndKenneth Johnson Research Professor of National Security at Air University, AlabamaProducer: Simon Tillotson
02/12/2151m 57s

Plato's Gorgias

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of Plato's most striking dialogues, in which he addresses the real nature of power and freedom, and the relationship between pleasure and true self-interest. As he tests these ideas, Plato creates powerful speeches, notably from Callicles who claims that laws of nature trump man-made laws, that might is right, and that rules are made by weak people to constrain the strong in defiance of what is natural and proper. Gorgias is arguably the most personal of all of Plato's dialogues, with its hints of a simmering fury at the system in Athens that put his mentor Socrates to death, and where rhetoric held too much sway over people. WithAngie Hobbs Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of SheffieldFrisbee Sheffield University Lecturer in Classics and Fellow of Downing College, University of CambridgeAndFiona Leigh Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy at University College LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson
25/11/2150m 3s

The Decadent Movement

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the British phase of a movement that spread across Europe in the mid-19th and early 20th centuries. Influenced by Charles Baudelaire and by Walter Pater, these Decadents rejected the mainstream Victorian view that art needed a moral purpose, and valued instead the intense sensations art provoked, celebrating art for art’s sake. Oscar Wilde was at its heart, Aubrey Beardsley adorned it with his illustrations and they, with others, provoked moral panic with their supposed degeneracy. After burning brightly, the movement soon lost its energy in Britain yet it has proved influential.The illustration above, by Beardsley, is from the cover of the first edition of The Yellow Book in April 1894.WithNeil Sammells Professor of English and Irish Literature and Deputy Vice Chancellor at Bath Spa UniversityKate Hext Senior Lecturer in English Literature at the University of ExeterAndAlex Murray Senior Lecturer in English at Queen’s University, BelfastProducer: Simon Tillotson
18/11/2151m 22s

William and Caroline Herschel

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss William Herschel (1738 – 1822) and his sister Caroline Herschel (1750 – 1848) who were born in Hanover and made their reputation in Britain. William was one of the most eminent astronomers in British history. Although he started life as a musician, as a young man he became interested in studying the night sky. With an extraordinary talent, he constructed telescopes that were able to see further and more clearly than any others at the time. He is most celebrated today for discovering the planet Uranus and detecting what came to be known as infrared radiation. Caroline also became a distinguished astronomer, discovering several comets and collaborating with her brother.WithMonica Grady Professor of Planetary and Space Sciences at the Open UniversityCarolin Crawford Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge and an Emeritus Fellow of Emmanuel College, University of CambridgeAndJim Bennett Keeper Emeritus at the Science Museum in London.Studio producer: John Goudie
11/11/2150m 56s

The Song of Roland

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss an early masterpiece of French epic poetry, from the 12th Century. It is a reimagining of Charlemagne’s wars in Spain in the 8th Century in which Roland, his most valiant knight, chooses death before dishonour, guarding the army’s rear from a pagan ambush as it heads back through the Roncesvalles Pass in the Pyrenees. If he wanted to, Roland could blow on his oliphant, his elephant tusk horn, to summon help by calling back Charlemagne's army, but according to his values that would bring shame both on him and on France, and he would rather keep killing pagans until he is the last man standing and the last to die.The image above is taken from an illustration of Charlemagne finding Roland after the Battle of Roncevaux/Roncesvalles, from 'Les Grandes Chroniques de France', c.1460 by Jean Fouquet, Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, Ms Fr 6465 f.113 With Laura Ashe Professor of English Literature and Fellow in English at Worcester College, University of OxfordMiranda Griffin Assistant Professor of Medieval French at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Murray Edwards CollegeAndLuke Sunderland Professor in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures at Durham UniversityStudio producer: John Goudie
04/11/2151m 58s

Corals

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the simple animals which informed Charles Darwin's first book, The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs, published in 1842. From corals, Darwin concluded that the Earth changed very slowly and was not fashioned by God. Now coral reefs, which some liken to undersea rainforests, are threatened by human activity, including fishing, pollution and climate change. WithSteve Jones Senior Research Fellow in Genetics at University College LondonNicola Foster Lecturer in Marine Biology at the University of Plymouth AndGareth Williams Associate Professor in Marine Biology at Bangor University School of Ocean SciencesProducer Simon Tilllotson.
28/10/2151m 35s

Iris Murdoch

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the author and philosopher Iris Murdoch (1919 - 1999). In her lifetime she was most celebrated for her novels such as The Bell and The Black Prince, but these are now sharing the spotlight with her philosophy. Responding to the horrors of the Second World War, she argued that morality was not subjective or a matter of taste, as many of her contemporaries held, but was objective, and good was a fact we could recognize. To tell good from bad, though, we would need to see the world as it really is, not as we want to see it, and her novels are full of characters who are not yet enlightened enough to do that.WithAnil Gomes Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy at Trinity College, University of OxfordAnne Rowe Visiting Professor at the University of Chichester and Emeritus Research Fellow with the Iris Murdoch Archive Project at Kingston UniversityAndMiles Leeson Director of the Iris Murdoch Research Centre and Reader in English Literature at the University of ChichesterProducer: Simon Tillotson
21/10/2154m 25s

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the republic that emerged from the union of the Kingdom of Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the 14th Century. At first this was a personal union, similar to that of James I and VI in Britain, but this was formalised in 1569 into a vast republic, stretching from the Baltic to the Black Sea. Kings and princes from across Europe would compete for parliament to elect them King and Grand Duke, and the greatest power lay with the parliaments. When the system worked well, the Commonwealth was a powerhouse, and it was their leader Jan Sobieski who relieved the siege of Vienna in 1683, defeating the Ottomans. Its neighbours exploited its parliament's need for unanimity, though, and this contributed to its downfall. Austria, Russia and Prussia divided its territory between them from 1772, before the new, smaller states only emerged in the 20th Century. The image above is Jan III Sobieski (1629-1696), King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, at the Battle of Vienna 1683, by Marcello Bacciarelli (1731-1818)With Robert Frost The Burnett Fletcher Chair of History at the University of AberdeenKatarzyna Kosior Lecturer in Early Modern History at Northumbria UniversityAndNorman Davies Professor Emeritus in History and Honorary Fellow of St Antony’s College, University of OxfordProducer: Simon Tillotson
14/10/2148m 43s

The Manhattan Project

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the race to build an atom bomb in the USA during World War Two. Before the war, scientists in Germany had discovered the potential of nuclear fission and scientists in Britain soon argued that this could be used to make an atom bomb, against which there could be no defence other than to own one. The fear among the Allies was that, with its head start, Germany might develop the bomb first and, unmatched, use it on its enemies. The USA took up the challenge in a huge engineering project led by General Groves and Robert Oppenheimer and, once the first bomb had been exploded at Los Alamos in July 1945, it appeared inevitable that the next ones would be used against Japan with devastating results.The image above is of Robert Oppenheimer and General Groves examining the remains of one the bases of the steel test tower, at the atomic bomb Trinity Test site, in September 1945.WithBruce Cameron Reed The Charles A. Dana Professor of Physics Emeritus at Alma College, MichiganCynthia Kelly Founder and President of the Atomic Heritage FoundationAndFrank Close Emeritus Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Exeter College, OxfordProducer: Simon Tillotson
07/10/2148m 20s

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Anne Bronte's second novel, published in 1848, which is now celebrated alongside those of her sisters but which Charlotte Bronte tried to suppress as a 'mistake'. It examines the life of Helen, who has escaped her abusive husband Arthur Huntingdon with their son to live at Wildfell Hall as a widow under the alias 'Mrs Graham', and it exposes the men in her husband's circle who gave her no choice but to flee. Early critics attacked the novel as coarse, as misrepresenting male behaviour, and as something no woman or girl should ever read; soon after Anne's death, Charlotte suggested the publisher should lose it for good. In recent decades, though, its reputation has climbed and it now sits with Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights as one of the great novels by the Bronte sisters.The image above shows Tara Fitzgerald as Helen Graham in a 1996 BBC adaptation.WithAlexandra Lewis Lecturer in English and Creative Writing at the University of Newcastle (Australia)Marianne Thormählen Professor Emerita in English Studies, Lund UniversityAndJohn Bowen Professor of Nineteenth Century Literature at the University of YorkProducer: Simon Tillotson
30/09/2149m 33s

Herodotus

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Greek writer known as the father of histories, dubbed by his detractors as the father of lies. Herodotus (c484 to 425 BC or later) was raised in Halicarnassus in modern Turkey when it was part of the Persian empire and, in the years after the Persian Wars, set about an inquiry into the deep background to those wars. He also aimed to preserve what he called the great and marvellous deeds of Greeks and non-Greeks, seeking out the best evidence for past events and presenting the range of evidence for readers to assess. Plutarch was to criticise Herodotus for using this to promote the least flattering accounts of his fellow Greeks, hence the 'father of lies', but the depth and breadth of his Histories have secured his reputation from his lifetime down to the present day.WithTom Harrison Professor of Ancient History at the University of St AndrewsEsther Eidinow Professor of Ancient History at the University of BristolAndPaul Cartledge A. G. Leventis Senior Research Fellow at Clare College, University of CambridgeProducer: Simon Tillotson
23/09/2152m 18s

The Evolution of Crocodiles

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the remarkable diversity of the animals that dominated life on land in the Triassic, before the rise of the dinosaurs in the Jurassic, and whose descendants are often described wrongly as 'living fossils'. For tens of millions of years, the ancestors of alligators and Nile crocodiles included some as large as a bus, some running on two legs like a T Rex and some that lived like whales. They survived and rebounded from a series of extinction events but, while the range of habitats of the dinosaur descendants such as birds covers much of the globe, those of the crocodiles have contracted, even if the animals themselves continue to evolve today as quickly as they ever have.WithAnjali Goswami Research Leader in Life Sciences and Dean of Postgraduate Education at the Natural History MuseumPhilip Mannion Lecturer in the Department of Earth Sciences at University College London AndSteve Brusatte Professor of Palaeontology and Evolution at the University of EdinburghProducer Simon Tillotson
16/09/2153m 7s

Shakespeare's Sonnets

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the collection of poems published in 1609 by Thomas Thorpe: Shakespeare’s Sonnets, “never before imprinted”. Yet, while some of Shakespeare's other poems and many of his plays were often reprinted in his lifetime, the Sonnets were not a publishing success. They had to make their own way, outside the main canon of Shakespeare’s work: wonderful, troubling, patchy, inspiring and baffling, and they have appealed in different ways to different times. Most are addressed to a man, something often overlooked and occasionally concealed; one early and notorious edition even changed some of the pronouns. With:Hannah Crawforth Senior Lecturer in Early Modern Literature at King’s College LondonDon Paterson Poet and Professor of Poetry at the University of St AndrewsAndEmma Smith Professor of Shakespeare Studies at Hertford College, OxfordProducer: Simon Tillotson
24/06/2152m 25s

Edward Gibbon

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and ideas of one of the great historians, best known for his History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (published 1776-89). According to Gibbon (1737-94) , the idea for this work came to him on 15th of October 1764 as he sat musing amidst the ruins of Rome, while barefooted friars were singing vespers in the Temple of Jupiter. Decline and Fall covers thirteen centuries and is an enormous intellectual undertaking and, on publication, it became a phenomenal success across Europe. The image above is of Edward Gibbon by Henry Walton, oil on mahogany panel, 1773.WithDavid Womersley The Thomas Wharton Professor of English Literature at St Catherine’s College, University of OxfordCharlotte Roberts Lecturer in English at University College LondonAnd Karen O’Brien Professor of English Literature at the University of OxfordProducer: Simon Tillotson
17/06/2152m 22s

Booth's Life and Labour Survey

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Charles Booth's survey, The Life and Labour of the People in London, published in 17 volumes from 1889 to 1903. Booth (1840-1916), a Liverpudlian shipping line owner, surveyed every household in London to see if it was true, as claimed, that as many as a quarter lived in poverty. He found that it was closer to a third, and that many of these were either children with no means of support or older people no longer well enough to work. He went on to campaign for an old age pension, and broadened the impact of his findings by publishing enhanced Ordnance Survey maps with the streets coloured according to the wealth of those who lived there.The image above is of an organ grinder on a London street, circa 1893, with children dancing to the Pas de QuatreWithEmma Griffin Professor of Modern British History at the University of East AngliaSarah Wise Adjunct Professor at the University of CaliforniaAndLawrence Goldman Emeritus Fellow in History at St Peter’s College, University of OxfordProducer: Simon Tillotson
10/06/2148m 47s

Kant's Copernican Revolution

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the insight into our relationship with the world that Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) shared in his book The Critique of Pure Reason in 1781. It was as revolutionary, in his view, as when the Polish astronomer Copernicus realised that Earth revolves around the Sun rather than the Sun around Earth. Kant's was an insight into how we understand the world around us, arguing that we can never know the world as it is, but only through the structures of our minds which shape that understanding. This idea, that the world depends on us even though we do not create it, has been one of Kant’s greatest contributions to philosophy and influences debates to this day. The image above is a portrait of Immanuel Kant by Friedrich Wilhelm SpringerWith Fiona Hughes Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of EssexAnil Gomes Associate Professor and Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy at Trinity College, OxfordAnd John Callanan Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at King’s College LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson
03/06/2153m 17s

The Interregnum

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the period between the execution of Charles I in 1649 and the unexpected restoration of his son Charles II in 1660, known as The Interregnum. It was marked in England by an elusive pursuit of stability, with serious consequences in Scotland and notorious ones in Ireland. When Parliament executed Charles it had also killed Scotland and Ireland’s king, without their consent; Scotland immediately declared Charles II king of Britain, and Ireland too favoured Charles. In the interests of political and financial security, Parliament's forces, led by Oliver Cromwell, soon invaded Ireland and then turned to defeating Scotland. However, the improvised power structures in England did not last and Oliver Cromwell's death in 1658 was followed by the threat of anarchy. In England, Charles II had some success in overturning the changes of the 1650s but there were lasting consequences for Scotland and the notorious changes in Ireland were entrenched.The Dutch image of Oliver Cromwell, above, was published by Joost Hartgers c1649With Clare Jackson Senior Tutor at Trinity Hall, University of CambridgeMicheál Ó Siochrú Professor in Modern History at Trinity College DublinAndLaura Stewart Professor in Early Modern History at the University of YorkProducer: Simon Tillotson
27/05/2152m 24s

Journey to the West

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the great novels of China’s Ming era, and perhaps the most loved. Written in 1592, it draws on the celebrated travels of a real monk from China to India a thousand years before, and on a thousand years of retellings of that story, especially the addition of a monkey as companion who, in the novel, becomes supersimian. For most readers the monk, Tripitaka, is upstaged by this irrepressible Monkey with his extraordinary powers, accompanied by the fallen but recovering deities, Pigsy and Sandy.The image above, from the caricature series Yoshitoshi ryakuga or Sketches by Yoshitoshi, is of Monkey creating an army by plucking out his fur and blowing it into the air, and each hair becomes a monkey-warrior.With Julia Lovell Professor of Modern Chinese History and Literature at Birkbeck, University of LondonChiung-yun Evelyn Liu Associate Research Fellow at the Institute of Chinese Literature and Philosophy, Academia Sinica, TaiwanAndCraig Clunas Professor Emeritus of the History of Art at Trinity College, University of OxfordProducer: Simon Tillotson
20/05/2151m 49s

Longitude

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the search for Longitude while at sea. Following efforts by other maritime nations, the British Government passed the Longitude Act in 1714 to reward anyone who devised reliable means for ships to determine their longitude at sea. Mariners could already calculate how far they were north or south, the Latitude, using the Pole Star, but voyaging across the Atlantic to the Caribbean was much less predictable as navigators could not be sure how far east or west they were, a particular problem when heading for islands. It took fifty years of individual genius and collaboration in Britain and across Europe, among astronomers, clock makers, mathematicians and sailors, for the problem to be resolved.WithRebekah Higgitt Principal Curator of Science at National Museums ScotlandJim Bennett Keeper Emeritus at the Science MuseumAnd Simon Schaffer Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of CambridgeProducer: Simon Tillotson
13/05/2150m 28s

The Second Barons' War

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the years of bloody conflict that saw Simon de Montfort (1205-65) become the most powerful man in England, with Henry III as his prisoner. With others, he had toppled Henry in 1258 in a secret, bloodless coup and established provisions for more parliaments with broader representation, for which he was later known as the Father of the House of Commons. When Henry III regained power in 1261, Simon de Montfort rallied forces for war, with victory at Lewes in 1264 and defeat and dismemberment in Evesham the year after. Although praised for supporting parliaments, he also earned a reputation for unleashing dark, violent forces in English politics and, infamously, his supporters murdered hundreds of Jewish people in London and elsewhere.With David Carpenter Professor of Medieval History at King’s College LondonLouise Wilkinson Professor of Medieval Studies at the University of LincolnAndSophie Thérèse Ambler Lecturer in Later Medieval British and European History at Lancaster UniversityProducer: Simon Tillotson
06/05/2156m 32s

Ovid

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Roman poet Publius Ovidius Naso (43BC-17/18AD) who, as he described it, was destroyed by 'carmen et error', a poem and a mistake. His works have been preserved in greater number than any of the poets of his age, even Virgil, and have been among the most influential. The versions of many of the Greek and Roman myths we know today were his work, as told in his epic Metamorphoses and, together with his works on Love and the Art of Love, have inspired and disturbed readers from the time they were created. Despite being the most prominent poet in Augustan Rome at the time, he was exiled from Rome to Tomis on the Black Sea Coast where he remained until he died. It is thought that the 'carmen' that led to his exile was the Art of Love, Ars Amatoria, supposedly scandalising Augustus, but the 'error' was not disclosed.With Maria Wyke Professor of Latin at University College LondonGail Trimble Brown Fellow and Tutor in Classics at Trinity College at the University of OxfordAnd Dunstan Lowe Senior Lecturer in Latin Literature at the University of KentProducer: Simon Tillotson
29/04/2149m 31s

The Franco-American Alliance 1778

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the treaties France entered into with the United States of America in 1778, to give open support to the USA in its revolutionary war against Britain and to promote French trade across the Atlantic. This alliance had profound consequences for all three. The French navy, in particular, played a decisive role in the Americans’ victory in their revolution, but the great cost of supporting this overseas war fell on French taxpayers, highlighting the need for reforms which in turn led to the French Revolution. Then, when France looked to its American ally for support in the new French revolutionary wars with Britain, Americans had to choose where their longer term interests lay, and they turned back from the France that had supported them to the Britain they had just been fighting, and France and the USA fell into undeclared war at sea.The image above is a detail of Bataille de Yorktown by Auguste Couder, with Rochambeau commanding the French expeditionary force in 1781With Frank Cogliano Professor of American History at the University of EdinburghKathleen Burk Professor Emerita of Modern and Contemporary History at University College LondonAndMichael Rapport Reader in Modern European History at the University of GlasgowProducer: Simon Tillotson
22/04/2150m 51s

Arianism

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the form of Christianity adopted by Ostrogoths in the 4th century AD, which they learned from Roman missionaries and from their own contact with the imperial court at Constantinople. This form spread to the Vandals and the Visigoths, who took it into Roman Spain and North Africa, and the Ostrogoths brought it deeper into Italy after the fall of the western Roman empire. Meanwhile, with the Roman empire in the east now firmly committed to the Nicene Creed not the Arian, the Goths and Vandals faced conflict or conversion, as Arianism moved from an orthodox view to being a heresy that would keep followers from heaven and delay the Second Coming for all.The image above is the ceiling mosaic of the Arian Baptistry in Ravenna, commissioned by Theodoric, ruler of the Ostrogothic Kingdom of Italy, around the end of the 5th centuryWithJudith Herrin Professor of Late Antique and Byzantine Studies, Emeritus, at King's College LondonRobin Whelan Lecturer in Mediterranean History at the University of LiverpoolAndMartin Palmer Visiting Professor in Religion, History and Nature at the University of WinchesterProducer: Simon Tillotson
15/04/2150m 6s

Pierre-Simon Laplace

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Laplace (1749-1827) who was a giant in the world of mathematics both before and after the French Revolution. He addressed one of the great questions of his age, raised but side-stepped by Newton: was the Solar System stable, or would the planets crash into the Sun, as it appeared Jupiter might, or even spin away like Saturn threatened to do? He advanced ideas on probability, long the preserve of card players, and expanded them out across science; he hypothesised why the planets rotate in the same direction; and he asked if the Universe was deterministic, so that if you knew everything about all the particles then you could predict the future. He also devised the metric system and reputedly came up with the name 'metre'. WithMarcus du Sautoy Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science and Professor of Mathematics at the University of OxfordTimothy Gowers Professor of Mathematics at the College de FranceAndColva Roney-Dougal Professor of Pure Mathematics at the University of St AndrewsProducer: Simon Tillotson
08/04/2148m 10s

The Russo-Japanese War

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the conflict between Russia and Japan from February 1904 to September 1905, which gripped the world and had a profound impact on both countries. Wary of Russian domination of Korea, Japan attacked the Russian Fleet at Port Arthur and the ensuing war gave Russia a series of shocks, including the loss of their Baltic Fleet after a seven month voyage, which reverberated in the 1905 Revolution. Meanwhile Japan, victorious, advanced its goal of making Europe and America more wary in East Asia, combining rapid military modernisation and Samurai traditions when training its new peasant conscripts. The US-brokered peace failed to require Russia to make reparations, which became a cause of Japanese resentment towards the US.WithSimon Dixon The Sir Bernard Pares Professor of Russian History at University College LondonNaoko Shimazu Professor of Humanities at Yale NUS College, SingaporeAndOleg Benesch Reader in Modern History at the University of YorkProducer: Simon Tillotson
01/04/2148m 51s

David Ricardo

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the most influential economists from the age of Adam Smith and Thomas Malthus. Ricardo (1772 -1823) reputedly made his fortune at the Battle of Waterloo, and he made his lasting impact with his ideas on free trade. At a time when nations preferred to be self-sufficient, to produce all their own food and manufacture their own goods, and to find markets for export rather than import, Ricardo argued for free trade even with rivals for the benefit of all. He contended that existing economic policy unduly favoured landlords above all others and needed to change, and that nations would be less likely to go to war with their trading partners if they were more reliant on each other. For the last two hundred years, Ricardo’s Theory of Comparative Advantage in support of free trade has been developed and reinterpreted by generations of economists across the political spectrum.WithMatthew Watson Professor of Political Economy at the University of WarwickHelen Paul Lecturer in Economics and Economic History at the University of SouthamptonAndRichard Whatmore Professor of Modern History at the University of St Andrews and Co-Director of the St Andrews Institute of Intellectual HistoryProducer: Simon Tillotson
25/03/2149m 51s

The Bacchae

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Euripides' great tragedy, which was first performed in Athens in 405 BC when the Athenians were on the point of defeat and humiliation in a long war with Sparta. The action seen or described on stage was brutal: Pentheus, king of Thebes, is torn into pieces by his mother in a Bacchic frenzy and his grandparents condemned to crawl away as snakes. All this happened because Pentheus had denied the divinity of his cousin Dionysus, known to the audience as god of wine, theatre, fertility and religious ecstasy. The image above is a detail of a Red-Figure Cup showing the death of Pentheus (exterior) and a Maenad (interior), painted c. 480 BC by the Douris painter. This object can be found at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.With Edith Hall Professor of Classics at King’s College LondonEmily Wilson Professor of Classical Studies at the University of PennsylvaniaAndRosie Wyles Lecturer in Classical History and Literature at the University of KentProducer: Simon Tillotson
18/03/2152m 11s

The Late Devonian Extinction

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the devastating mass extinctions of the Late Devonian Period, roughly 370 million years ago, when around 70 percent of species disappeared. Scientists are still trying to establish exactly what happened, when and why, but this was not as sudden as when an asteroid hits Earth. The Devonian Period had seen the first trees and soils and it had such a diversity of sea life that it’s known as the Age of Fishes, some of them massive and armoured, and, in one of the iconic stages in evolution, some of them moving onto land for the first time. One of the most important theories for the first stage of this extinction is that the new soils washed into oceans, leading to algal blooms that left the waters without oxygen and suffocated the marine life. The image above is an abstract group of the huge, armoured Dunkleosteus fish, lost in the Late Devonian ExtinctionWith Jessica Whiteside Associate Professor of Geochemistry in the Department of Ocean and Earth Science at the University of SouthamptonDavid Bond Professor of Geology at the University of HullAndMike Benton Professor of Vertebrate Paleontology at the School of Life Sciences, University of Bristol.
11/03/2149m 5s

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

In this 900th edition of the programme, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the best known and most influential of the poems of the Romantic movement. Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) wrote The Rime of the Ancient Mariner in 1798 after discussions with his friend Wordsworth. He refined it for the rest of his life, and it came to define him, a foreshadowing of his opium-addicted, lonely wandering and deepening sense of guilt. The poem tells of a sailor compelled to tell and retell the story of a terrible voyage in his youth, this time as guests are heading to a wedding party, where he stoppeth one of three.The image above is from Gustave Doré's illustration of the mariner's shooting of the albatross, for an 1877 German language edition of the poemWithSir Jonathan Bate Professor of Environmental Humanities at Arizona State UniversityTom Mole Professor of English Literature and Book History at the University of EdinburghAnd Rosemary Ashton Emeritus Quain Professor of English Language and Literature at University College LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson
04/03/2153m 0s

Marcus Aurelius

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the man who, according to Machiavelli, was the last of the Five Good Emperors. Marcus Aurelius, 121 to 180 AD, has long been known as a model of the philosopher king, a Stoic who, while on military campaigns, compiled ideas on how best to live his life, and how best to rule. These ideas became known as his Meditations, and they have been treasured by many as an insight into the mind of a Roman emperor, and an example of how to avoid the corruption of power in turbulent times.The image above shows part of a bronze equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius.With Simon Goldhill Professor of Greek Literature and Culture and Fellow of King’s College, CambridgeAngie Hobbs Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of SheffieldAndCatharine Edwards Professor of Classics and Ancient History at Birkbeck, University of LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson
25/02/2152m 36s

Medieval Pilgrimage

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the idea and experience of Christian pilgrimage in Europe from the 12th to the 15th centuries, which figured so strongly in the imagination of the age. For those able and willing to travel, there were countless destinations from Jerusalem, Rome and Santiago de Compostela to the smaller local shrines associated with miracles and relics of the saints. Meanwhile, for those unable or not allowed to travel there were journeys of the mind, inspired by guidebooks that would tell the faithful how many steps they could take around their homes to replicate the walk to the main destinations in Rome and the Holy Land, passing paintings of the places on their route. The image above is of a badge of St Thomas of Canterbury, worn by pilgrims who had journeyed to his shrine.WithMiri Rubin Professor of Medieval and Early Modern History at Queen Mary, University of LondonKathryn Rudy Professor of Art History at the University of St AndrewsAndAnthony Bale Professor of Medieval Studies and Dean of the School of Arts at Birkbeck, University of LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson
18/02/2150m 43s

The Rosetta Stone

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the most famous museum objects in the world, shown in the image above in replica, and dating from around 196 BC. It is a damaged, dark granite block on which you can faintly see three scripts engraved: Greek at the bottom, Demotic in the middle and Hieroglyphs at the top. Napoleon’s soldiers found it in a Mamluk fort at Rosetta on the Egyptian coast, and soon realised the Greek words could be used to unlock the hieroglyphs. It was another 20 years before Champollion deciphered them, becoming the first to understand the hieroglyphs since they fell out of use 1500 years before and so opening up the written culture of ancient Egypt to the modern age.With Penelope Wilson Associate Professor of Egyptian Archaeology at Durham UniversityCampbell Price Curator of Egypt and Sudan at the Manchester MuseumAndRichard Bruce Parkinson Professor of Egyptology and Fellow of The Queen’s College, University of OxfordProducer: Simon Tillotson
11/02/2147m 2s

Emilie du Châtelet

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the outstanding French mathematicians and natural philosophers of the 18th Century, celebrated across Europe. Emilie du Châtelet, 1706-49, created a translation of Newton’s Principia from Latin into French that helped spread the light of mathematics on the emerging science, and her own book Institutions de Physique, with its lessons on physics, was welcomed as profound. She had the privileges of wealth and aristocracy, yet had to fight to be taken seriously as an intellectual in a world of ideas that was almost exclusively male. WithPatricia Fara Emeritus Fellow of Clare College, CambridgeDavid Wootton Anniversary Professor of History at the University of YorkAndJudith Zinsser Professor Emerita of History at Miami University of Ohio and biographer of Emilie du Châtelet.Producer: Simon Tillotson
04/02/2149m 50s

Saint Cuthbert

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Northumbrian man who, for 500 years, was the pre-eminent English saint, to be matched only by Thomas Becket after his martyrdom in 1170. Now at Durham, Cuthbert was buried first on Lindisfarne in 687AD, where monks shared vivid stories of his sanctifying miracles, his healing, and his power over nature, and his final tomb became a major site of pilgrimage. In his lifetime he was both hermit and kingmaker, bishop and travelling priest, and the many accounts we have of him, including two by Bede, tell us much of the values of those who venerated him so soon after his death.The image above is from a stained glass window in the south aisle of the nave in Durham Cathedral: 'St Cuthbert praying before his cell in the Farne Island'With Jane Hawkes Professor of Medieval Art History at the University of YorkSarah Foot The Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History at the University of Oxford and Canon of Christ Church CathedralAnd John Hines Professor of Archaeology at Cardiff UniversityProducer: Simon Tillotson
28/01/2156m 5s

The Plague of Justinian

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the plague that broke out in Constantinople 541AD, in the reign of Emperor Justinian. According to the historian Procopius, writing in Byzantium at the time, this was a plague by which the whole human race came near to being destroyed, embracing the whole world, and blighting the lives of all mankind. The bacterium behind the Black Death has since been found on human remains from that time, and the symptoms described were the same, and evidence of this plague has since been traced around the Mediterranean and from Syria to Britain and Ireland. The question of how devastating it truly was, though, is yet to be resolved.With John Haldon Professor of Byzantine History and Hellenic Studies Emeritus at Princeton UniversityRebecca Flemming Senior Lecturer in Classics at the University of CambridgeAndGreg Woolf Director of the Institute of Classical Studies, University of LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson
21/01/2148m 31s

The Great Gatsby

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss F Scott Fitzgerald’s finest novel, published in 1925, one of the great American novels of the twentieth century. It is told by Nick Carraway, neighbour and friend of the mysteriously wealthy Jay Gatsby. In the age of jazz and prohibition, Gatsby hosts lavish parties at his opulent home across the bay from Daisy Buchanan, in the hope she’ll attend one of them and they can be reunited. They were lovers as teenagers but she had given him up for a richer man who she soon married, and Gatsby is obsessed with winning her back.The image above is of Robert Redford as Gatsby in a scene from the film 'The Great Gatsby', 1974. WithSarah Churchwell Professor of American Literature and Public Understanding of the Humanities at the University of LondonPhilip McGowan Professor of American Literature at Queen’s University, BelfastAndWilliam Blazek Associate Professor and Reader in American Literature at Liverpool Hope UniversityProduced by Simon Tillotson and Julia Johnson
14/01/2155m 34s

Eclipses

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss solar eclipses, some of life’s most extraordinary moments, when day becomes night and the stars come out before day returns either all too soon or not soon enough, depending on what you understand to be happening. In ancient China, for example, there was a story that a dragon was eating the sun and it had to be scared away by banging pots and pans if the sun were to return. Total lunar eclipses are more frequent and last longer, with a blood moon coloured red like a sunrise or sunset. Both events have created the chance for scientists to learn something remarkable, from the speed of light, to the width of the Atlantic, to the roundness of Earth, to discovering helium and proving Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity.With Carolin Crawford Public Astronomer based at the Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge and a fellow of Emmanuel CollegeFrank Close Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of OxfordAndLucie Green Professor of Physics and a Royal Society University Research Fellow at Mullard Space Science Laboratory at University College LondonProducers: Simon Tillotson and Julia Johnson
31/12/2050m 31s

The Cultural Revolution

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Chairman Mao and the revolt he led within his own party from 1966, setting communists against each other, to renew the revolution that he feared had become too bourgeois and to remove his enemies and rivals. Universities closed and the students formed Red Guard factions to attack the 'four olds' - old ideas, culture, habits and customs - and they also turned on each other, with mass violence on the streets and hundreds of thousands of deaths. Over a billion copies of Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book were printed to support his cult of personality, before Mao himself died in 1976 and the revolution came to an end.The image above is of Red Guards, holding The Little Red Book, cheering Mao during a meeting to celebrate the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution at Tiananmen Square, Beijing, August 1966 WithRana Mitter Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China and Fellow of St Cross College, University of OxfordSun Peidong Visiting Professor at the Center for International Studies at Sciences Po, ParisAndJulia Lovell Professor in Modern Chinese History and Literature at Birkbeck, University of LondonProduced by Simon Tillotson and Julia Johnson
17/12/2048m 9s

John Wesley and Methodism

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss John Wesley (1703 - 1791) and the movement he was to lead and inspire. As a student, he was mocked for approaching religion too methodically and this jibe gave a name to the movement: Methodism. Wesley took his ideas out across Britain wherever there was an appetite for Christian revival, preaching in the open, especially the new industrial areas. Others spread Methodism too, such as George Whitefield, and the sheer energy of the movement led to splits within it, but it soon became a major force. With Stephen Plant Dean and Runcie Fellow at Trinity Hall at the University of CambridgeEryn White Reader in Early Modern History at Aberystwyth UniversityAnd William Gibson Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Oxford Brookes University and Director of the Oxford Centre for Methodism and Church HistoryProduced by Simon Tillotson and Julia Johnson
10/12/2051m 32s

Fernando Pessoa

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Portuguese poet Pessoa (1888-1935) who was largely unknown in his lifetime but who, in 1994, Harold Bloom included in his list of the 26 most significant western writers since the Middle Ages. Pessoa wrote in his own name but mainly in the names of characters he created, each with a distinctive voice and biography, which he called heteronyms rather than pseudonyms, notably Ricardo Reis, Alberto Caeiro, Álvaro de Campos and one who was closer to Pessoa's own identity, Bernardo Soares. Most of Pessoa's works were unpublished at his death, discovered in a trunk; as more and more was printed and translated, his fame and status grew.WithCláudia Pazos-Alonso Professor of Portuguese and Gender Studies and Senior Research Fellow at Wadham College, University of OxfordJuliet Perkins Visiting Senior Research Fellow in Portuguese Studies at King’s College LondonAndPaulo de Medeiros Professor of English and Comparative Literary Studies at the University of WarwickProducer: Simon Tillotson
03/12/2050m 6s

The Zong Massacre

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the notorious events off Jamaica in 1781 and their background. The British slave ship Zong, having sailed across the Atlantic towards Jamaica, threw 132 enslaved Africans from its human cargo into the sea to drown. Even for a slave ship, the Zong was overcrowded; those murdered were worth more to the ship dead than alive. The crew said there was not enough drinking water to go round and they had no choice, which meant they could claim for the deaths on insurance. The main reason we know of this atrocity now is that the owners took their claim to court in London, and the insurers were at first told to pay up as if the dead slaves were any other lost goods, not people. Abolitionists in Britain were scandalised: if courts treated mass murder in the slave trade as just another business transaction and not a moral wrong, the souls of the nation would be damned. But nobody was ever prosecuted.The image above is of sailors throwing slaves overboard, from Torrey's 'American Slave Trade', 1822WithVincent Brown Charles Warren Professor of American History and Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard UniversityBronwen Everill Class of 1973 Lecturer in History and Fellow at Gonville & Caius College, University of CambridgeAnd Jake Subryan Richards Assistant Professor of History at the London School of EconomicsStudio production: Hannah Sander Producer: Simon Tillotson
26/11/2052m 4s

Albrecht Dürer

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the great German artist Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) who achieved fame throughout Europe for the power of his images. These range from his woodcut of a rhinoceros, to his watercolour of a young hare, to his drawing of praying hands and his stunning self-portraits such as that above (albeit here in a later monochrome reproduction) with his distinctive A D monogram. He was expected to follow his father and become a goldsmith, but found his own way to be a great artist, taking public commissions that built his reputation but did not pay, while creating a market for his prints, and he captured the timeless and the new in a world of great change.With Susan Foister Deputy Director and Curator of German Paintings at the National GalleryGiulia Bartrum Freelance art historian and Former Curator of German Prints and Drawings at the British MuseumAndUlinka Rublack Professor of Early Modern European History and Fellow of St John’s College, University of CambridgeStudio production: John Goudie
12/11/2054m 0s

Mary Astell

The philosopher Mary Astell (1666 – 1731) has been described as “the first English feminist”. Born in Newcastle in relatively poor circumstances in the aftermath of the upheaval of the English Civil War and the restoration of the monarchy, she moved to London as a young woman and became part of an extraordinary circle of intellectual and aristocratic women. In her pioneering publications, she argued that women’s education should be expanded, that men and women’s minds were the same and that no woman should be forced to marry against her will. Perhaps her most famous quotation is: “If all Men are born Free, why are all Women born Slaves?” Today, she is one of just a handful of female philosophers to be featured in the multi-volume Cambridge History of Political Thought. The image above is from Astell's "Reflections upon Marriage", 3rd edition, 1706, held by the British Library (Shelfmark 8415.bb.27)With:Hannah Dawson Senior Lecturer in the History of Ideas at King’s College LondonMark Goldie Professor Emeritus of Intellectual History at the University of CambridgeTeresa Bejan Associate Professor of Political Theory at Oriel College, University of OxfordProducer: Simon Tillotson
05/11/2051m 34s

Piers Plowman

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss William Langland's poem, written around 1370, about a man called Will who fell asleep on the Malvern Hills and dreamed of Piers the Plowman. This was a time between the Black Death and The Peasants’ Revolt, when Christians wanted to save their souls but doubted how best to do it - and had to live with that uncertainty. Some call this the greatest medieval poem in English, one offering questions not answers, and it can be as unsettling now as it was then.WithLaura Ashe Professor of English Literature at Worcester College, University of OxfordLawrence Warner Professor of Medieval English at King’s College LondonAnd Alastair Bennett Lecturer in Medieval Literature at Royal Holloway, University of LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson
29/10/2051m 1s

Maria Theresa

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Maria Theresa (1717-1780) who inherited the Austrian throne in 1740 at the age of 23. Her neighbours circled like wolves and, within two months, Frederick the Great had seized one of her most prized lands, Silesia, exploiting her vulnerability. Yet over the next forty years through political reforms, alliances and marriages, she built Austria up into a formidable power, and she would do whatever it took to save the souls of her Catholic subjects, with a rigidity and intolerance that Joseph II, her son and heir, could not wait to challenge. WithCatriona Seth Marshal Foch Professor of French Literature at the University of OxfordMartyn Rady Professor of Central European History at University College LondonAndThomas Biskup Lecturer in Early Modern History at the University of HullProducer: Simon Tillotson
22/10/2050m 37s

Alan Turing

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Alan Turing (1912-1954) whose 1936 paper On Computable Numbers effectively founded computer science. Immediately recognised by his peers, his wider reputation has grown as our reliance on computers has grown. He was a leading figure at Bletchley Park in the Second World War, using his ideas for cracking enemy codes, work said to have shortened the war by two years and saved millions of lives. That vital work was still secret when Turing was convicted in 1952 for having a sexual relationship with another man for which he was given oestrogen for a year, or chemically castrated. Turing was to kill himself two years later. The immensity of his contribution to computing was recognised in the 1960s by the creation of the Turing Award, known as the Nobel of computer science, and he is to be the new face on the £50 note.WithLeslie Ann Goldberg Professor of Computer Science and Fellow of St Edmund Hall, University of OxfordSimon Schaffer Professor of the History of Science at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Darwin CollegeAnd Andrew Hodges Biographer of Turing and Emeritus Fellow of Wadham College, OxfordProducer: Simon Tillotson
15/10/2053m 8s

Deism

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the idea that God created the universe and then left it for humans to understand by reason not revelation. Edward Herbert, 1583-1648 (pictured above) held that there were five religious truths: belief in a Supreme Being, the need to worship him, the pursuit of a virtuous life as the best form of worship, repentance, and reward or punishment after death. Others developed these ideas in different ways, yet their opponents in England's established Church collected them under the label of Deists, called Herbert the Father of Deism and attacked them as a movement, and Deist books were burned. Over time, reason and revelation found a new balance in the Church in England, while Voltaire and Thomas Paine explored the ideas further, leading to their re-emergence in the French and American Revolutions.With Richard Serjeantson Fellow and Lecturer in History at Trinity College, CambridgeKatie East Lecturer in History at Newcastle UniversityAnd Thomas Ahnert Professor of Intellectual History at the University of EdinburghProducer: Simon Tillotson
08/10/2048m 17s

Macbeth

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies. When three witches prophesy that Macbeth will be king one day, he is not prepared to wait and almost the next day he murders King Duncan as he sleeps, a guest at Macbeth’s castle. From there we explore their brutal world where few boundaries are distinct – between safe and unsafe, friend and foe, real and unreal, man and beast – until Macbeth too is slaughtered.The image above shows Nicol Williamson as Macbeth in a 1983 BBC TV adaptation.With:Emma Smith Professor of Shakespeare Studies at Hertford College, University of OxfordKiernan Ryan Emeritus Professor of English Literature at Royal Holloway, University of LondonAnd David Schalkwyk, Professor of Shakespeare Studies and Director of Global Shakespeare at Queen Mary, University of LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson
01/10/2051m 45s

Cave Art

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss ideas about the Stone Age people who created the extraordinary images found in caves around the world, from hand outlines to abstract symbols to the multicoloured paintings of prey animals at Chauvet and, as shown above, at Lascaux. In the 19th Century, it was assumed that only humans could have made these, as Neanderthals would have lacked the skills or imagination, but new tests suggest otherwise. How were the images created, were they meant to be for private viewing or public spaces, and what might their purposes have been? And, if Neanderthals were capable of creative work, in what ways were they different from humans? What might it have been like to experience the paintings, so far from natural light? With Alistair Pike Professor of Archaeological Sciences at the University of SouthamptonChantal Conneller Senior Lecturer in Early Pre-History at Newcastle UniversityAndPaul Pettitt Professor of Palaeolithic Archaeology at Durham UniversityProducer: Simon Tillotson
24/09/2048m 1s

Pericles

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Pericles (495-429BC), the statesman who dominated the politics of Athens for thirty years, the so-called Age of Pericles, when the city’s cultural life flowered, its democracy strengthened as its empire grew, and the Acropolis was adorned with the Parthenon. In 431 BC he gave a funeral oration for those Athenians who had already died in the new war with Sparta which has been celebrated as one of the greatest speeches of all time, yet within two years he was dead from a plague made worse by Athenians crowding into their city to avoid attacks. Thucydides, the historian, knew him and was in awe of him, yet few shared that view until the nineteenth century, when they found much in Pericles to praise, an example for the Victorian age. With Edith Hall Professor of Classics at King's College London.Paul Cartledge AG Leventis Senior Research Fellow at Clare College, University of CambridgeAnd Peter Liddel Senior Lecturer in Ancient History at the University of ManchesterProducer: Simon Tillotson
17/09/2048m 55s

Frankenstein

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.WithKaren O'Brien Professor of English Literature at the University of OxfordMichael Rossington Professor of Romantic Literature at Newcastle UniversityAnd Jane Thomas Professor of Victorian and Early 20th Century Literature at the University of HullProducer: Simon TillotsonThis programme is a repeat
19/03/2055m 9s

The Covenanters

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 AndrewsLaura Stewart Professor of Early Modern British History at the University of YorkAndScott Spurlock Professor of Scottish and Early Modern Christianities at the University of GlasgowProducer: Simon Tillotson
12/03/2053m 49s

Paul Dirac

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, CambridgeValerie Gibson Professor of High Energy Physics at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Trinity CollegeAndDavid Berman Professor of Theoretical Physics at Queen Mary University of LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson
05/03/2050m 47s

The Evolution of Horses

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 ExeterChristine Janis Honorary Professor in Palaeobiology at the University of Bristol and Professor Emerita in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Brown UniversityAnd John Hutchinson Professor in Evolutionary Biomechanics at the Royal Veterinary CollegeProducer: Simon Tillotson
27/02/2050m 10s

The Valladolid Debate

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 SheffieldJohn Edwards Faculty Fellow in Spanish at the University of OxfordAnd Julia McClure Lecturer in Late Medieval and Early Modern Global History at the University of GlasgowProducer: Simon Tillotson
20/02/2053m 0s

Battle of the Teutoburg Forest

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 LondonEllen O'Gorman Senior Lecturer in Classics at the University of BristolAndMatthew Nicholls Fellow and Senior Tutor at St John’s College, OxfordProducer: Simon Tillotson
13/02/2051m 10s

George Sand

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 OxfordAngela Ryan Senior Lecturer in French at University College CorkAndNigel Harkness Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Humanities and Social Sciences and Professor of French at Newcastle UniversityProducer: Simon Tillotson
06/02/2054m 57s

Alcuin

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 LeicesterAndy Orchard Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at the University of Oxford and a fellow of Pembroke CollegeAnd Mary Garrison Lecturer in History at the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of YorkProducer: Simon Tillotson
30/01/2056m 3s

Solar Wind

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 LondonHelen Mason OBE Reader in Solar Physics at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, University of Cambridge, Fellow at St Edmund's CollegeAndTim Horbury Professor of Physics at Imperial College LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson
23/01/2055m 13s

The Siege of Paris 1870-71

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, 1871With Karine Varley Lecturer in French and European History at the University of StrathclydeRobert Gildea Professor of Modern History at the University of OxfordAndJulia Nicholls Lecturer in French and European Studies at King’s College LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson
16/01/2052m 5s

Catullus

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 unknownWithGail Trimble Brown Fellow and Tutor in Classics at Trinity College at the University of OxfordSimon Smith Reader in Creative Writing at the University of Kent, poet and translator of CatullusandMaria Wyke Professor of Latin at University College LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson
09/01/2052m 33s

Tutankhamun

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 OxfordChristina Riggs Professor of the History of Visual Culture at Durham University and a Fellow of All Souls College, OxfordAnd John Taylor Curator at the Department of Egypt and Sudan at the British MuseumProducer: Simon Tillotson
26/12/1953m 14s

Auden

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 LondonJanet Montefiore Professor Emerita of 20th Century English Literature at the University of KentAnd Jeremy Noel-Tod Senior Lecturer in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of East AngliaProducer: Simon Tillotson
19/12/1953m 25s

Coffee

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 LondonMarkman Ellis Professor of 18th Century Studies at Queen Mary University of LondonAndJonathan Morris Professor in Modern History at the University of HertfordshireProducer: Simon Tillotson
12/12/1955m 11s

Lawrence of Arabia

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 ExeterNeil Faulkner Director of Military History Live and Editor of the magazine Military History MattersProducer: Simon Tillotson
05/12/1951m 46s

Li Shizhen

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 OxfordAnne Gerritsen Professor in History at the University of WarwickAnd Roel Sterckx Joseph Needham Professor of Chinese History at the University of CambridgeProducer: Simon Tillotson
28/11/1951m 46s

Melisende, Queen of Jerusalem

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 UniversityKatherine Lewis Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Huddersfieldand Danielle Park Visiting Lecturer at Royal Holloway, University of LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson
21/11/1952m 59s

Crime and Punishment

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.WithSarah Hudspith Associate Professor in Russian at the University of LeedsOliver Ready Lecturer in Russian at the University of Oxford, Research Fellow at St Antony’s College and a translator of this novelAnd Sarah Young Associate Professor in Russian at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson
14/11/1952m 40s

The Treaty of Limerick

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the 1691 peace treaty that ended the Williamite War in Ireland, between supporters of the deposed King James II and the forces of William III and his allies. It followed the battles at Aughrim and the Boyne and sieges at Limerick, and led to the disbanding of the Jacobite army in Ireland, with troops free to follow James to France for his Irish Brigade. The Catholic landed gentry were guaranteed rights on condition of swearing loyalty to William and Mary yet, while some Protestants thought the terms too lenient, it was said the victors broke those terms before the ink was dry.The image above is from British Battles on Land and Sea, Vol. I, by James Grant, 1880, and is meant to show Irish troops leaving Limerick as part of The Flight of the Wild Geese - a term used for soldiers joining continental European armies from C16th-C18th.With Jane Ohlmeyer Chair of the Irish Research Council and Erasmus Smith’s Professor of Modern History at Trinity College DublinDr Clare Jackson Senior Tutor, Trinity Hall, and Faculty of History, University of Cambridgeand Thomas O'Connor Professor of History at Maynooth UniversityProducer: Simon Tillotson
07/11/1952m 40s

Hybrids

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss what happens when parents from different species have offspring, despite their genetic differences. In some cases, such as the zebra/donkey hybrid in the image above, the offspring are usually infertile but in others the genetic change can lead to new species with evolutionary advantages. Hybrids can occur naturally, yet most arise from human manipulation and Darwin's study of plant and animal domestication informed his ideas on natural selection.With Sandra Knapp Tropical Botanist at the Natural History MuseumNicola Nadeau Lecturer in Evolutionary Biology at the University of SheffieldAndSteve Jones Senior Research Fellow in Genetics at University College LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson
31/10/1950m 49s

Robert Burns

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the work of the man who, in his lifetime, was called The Caledonian Bard and whose fame and influence was to spread around the world. Burns (1759-1796) was born in Ayrshire and his work as a tenant farmer earned him the label The Ploughman Poet, yet it was the quality of his verse that helped his reputation endure and grow. His work inspired other Romantic poets and his personal story and ideas combined with that, giving his poems a broad strength and appeal - sung by revolutionaries and on Mao's Long March, as well as on New Year's Eve and at Burns Suppers.WithRobert Crawford Professor of Modern Scottish Literature and Bishop Wardlaw Professor of Poetry at the University of St AndrewsFiona Stafford Professor of English at the University of Oxfordand Murray Pittock Bradley Professor of English Literature and Pro Vice Principal at the University of GlasgowProducer: Simon Tillotson
24/10/1952m 28s

The Time Machine

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas explored in HG Wells' novella, published in 1895, in which the Time Traveller moves forward to 802,701 AD. There he finds humanity has evolved into the Eloi and Morlocks, where the Eloi are small but leisured fruitarians and the Morlocks live below ground, carry out the work and have a different diet. Escaping the Morlocks, he travels millions of years into the future, where the environment no longer supports humanity.The image above is from a painting by Anton Brzezinski of a scene from The Time Machine, with the Time Traveller meeting the EloiWith Simon Schaffer Professor of History of Science at Cambridge UniversityAmanda Rees Historian of science at the University of YorkAndSimon James Professor in the Department of English Studies at Durham UniversityProducer: Simon Tillotson
17/10/1951m 55s

Rousseau on Education

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) on the education of children, as set out in his novel or treatise Emile, published in 1762. He held that children are born with natural goodness, which he sought to protect as they developed, allowing each to form their own conclusions from experience, avoiding the domineering influence of others. In particular, he was keen to stop infants forming the view that human relations were based on domination and subordination. Rousseau viewed Emile as his most imporant work, and it became very influential. It was also banned and burned, and Rousseau was attacked for not following these principles with his own children, who he abandoned, and for proposing a subordinate role for women in this scheme.The image above is of Emile playing with a mask on his mother's lap, from a Milanese edition published in 1805.With Richard Whatmore Professor of Modern History at the University of St Andrews and Co-Director of the St Andrews Institute of Intellectual HistoryCaroline Warman Professor of French Literature and Thought at Jesus College, Oxfordand Denis McManus Professor of Philosophy at the University of SouthamptonProducer: Simon Tillotson
10/10/1951m 41s

Dorothy Hodgkin

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the work and ideas of Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin (1910-1994), awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1964 for revealing the structures of vitamin B12 and penicillin and who later determined the structure of insulin. She was one of the pioneers of X-ray crystallography and described by a colleague as 'a crystallographers' crystallographer'. She remains the only British woman to have won a Nobel in science, yet rejected the idea that she was a role model for other women, or that her career was held back because she was a woman. She was also the first woman since Florence Nightingale to receive the Order of Merit, and was given the Lenin Peace Prize in recognition of her efforts to bring together scientists from the East and West in pursuit of nuclear disarmament.With Georgina Ferry Science writer and biographer of Dorothy HodgkinJudith Howard Professor of Chemistry at Durham UniversityandPatricia Fara Fellow of Clare College, CambridgeProducer: Simon Tillotson
03/10/1952m 22s

The Rapture

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas developed by the Anglican priest John Nelson Darby (1800-1882), drawn from his reading of scripture, in which Jesus would suddenly take His believers up into the air, and those left behind would suffer on Earth until He returned with His church to rule for a thousand years before Final Judgement. Some believers would look for signs that civilization was declining, such as wars and natural disasters, or for new Roman Empires that would harbour the Antichrist, and from these predict the time of the Rapture. Darby helped establish the Plymouth Brethren, and later his ideas were picked up in the Scofield Reference Bible (1909) and soon became influential, particularly in the USA. With Elizabeth Phillips Research Fellow at the Margaret Beaufort Institute at the University of Cambridge and Honorary Fellow in the Department of Theology and Religion at Durham UniversityCrawford Gribben Professor of Early Modern British History at Queen’s University Belfastand Nicholas Guyatt Reader in North American History at the University of CambridgeProducer: Simon Tillotson
26/09/1951m 14s

Napoleon's Retreat from Moscow

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how, in September 1812, Napoleon captured Moscow and waited a month for the Russians to meet him, to surrender and why, to his dismay, no-one came. Soon his triumph was revealed as a great defeat; winter was coming, supplies were low; he ordered his Grande Armée of six hundred thousand to retreat and, by the time he crossed back over the border, desertion, disease, capture, Cossacks and cold had reduced that to twenty thousand. Napoleon had shown his weakness; his Prussian allies changed sides and, within eighteen months they, the Russians and Austrians had captured Paris and the Emperor was exiled to Elba.WithJanet Hartley Professor Emeritus of International History, LSEMichael Rowe Reader in European History, King’s College LondonAndMichael Rapport Reader in Modern European History, University of GlasgowProducer: Simon Tillotson
19/09/1954m 0s

Lorca

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Spanish poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936), author of Blood Wedding, Yerma and The House of Bernarda Alba, who mixed the traditions of Andalusia with the avant-garde. He found his first major success with his Gypsy Ballads, although Dali, once his close friend, mocked him for these, accusing Lorca of being too conservative. He preferred performing his poems to publishing them, and his plays marked a revival in Spanish theatre. He was captured and killed by Nationalist forces at the start of the Civil War, his body never recovered, and it's been suggested this was punishment for his politics and for being openly gay. He has since been seen as the most important Spanish playwright and poet of the last century.WithMaria Delgado Professor of Creative Arts at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of LondonFederico Bonaddio Reader in Modern Spanish at King’s College LondonAndSarah Wright Professor of Hispanic Studies and Screen Arts at Royal Holloway, University of LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson
04/07/1953m 24s

Doggerland

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the people, plants and animals once living on land now under the North Sea, now called Doggerland after Dogger Bank, inhabited up to c7000BC or roughly 3000 years before the beginnings of Stonehenge. There are traces of this landscape at low tide, such as the tree stumps at Redcar (above); yet more is being learned from diving and seismic surveys which are building a picture of an ideal environment for humans to hunt and gather, with rivers and wooded hills. Rising seas submerged this land as glaciers melted, and the people and animals who lived there moved to higher ground, with the coasts of modern-day Britain on one side and Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium and France on the other.With Vince Gaffney Anniversary Professor of Landscape Archaeology at the University of BradfordCarol Cotterill Marine Geoscientist at the British Geological SurveyAndRachel Bynoe Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of SouthamptonProducer: Simon Tillotson
27/06/1954m 2s

The Mytilenaean Debate

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss why Athenians decided to send a fast ship to Lesbos in 427BC, rowing through the night to catch one they sent the day before. That earlier ship had instructions to kill all adult men in Mytilene, after their unsuccessul revolt against Athens, as a warning to others. The later ship had orders to save them, as news of their killing would make others fight to the death rather than surrender. Thucydides retells this in his History of the Peloponnesian War as an example of Athenian democracy in action, emphasising the right of Athenians to change their minds in their own interests, even when a demagogue argued they were bound by their first decision. WithAngela Hobbs Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of SheffieldLisa Irene Hau Senior Lecturer in Classics at the University of GlasgowAndPaul Cartledge Emeritus AG Leventis Professor of Greek Culture, University of Cambridge and Senior Research Fellow of Clare CollegeProducer: Simon Tillotson
20/06/1954m 2s

The Inca

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 ReadingHelen Cowie Senior Lecturer in History at the University of YorkAndBill Sillar Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Archaeology at University College LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson
13/06/1952m 49s

Sir Thomas Browne

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the range, depth and style of Browne (1605-82) , a medical doctor whose curious mind drew him to explore and confess his own religious views, challenge myths and errors in science and consider how humans respond to the transience of life. His Religio Medici became famous throughout Europe and his openness about his religion, in that work, was noted as rare when others either kept quiet or professed orthodox views. His Pseudodoxia Epidemica challenged popular ideas, whether about the existence of mermaids or if Adam had a navel, and his Hydriotaphia or Urn Burial was a meditation on what matters to humans when handling the dead. In 1923, Virginia Woolf wrote, "Few people love the writings of Sir Thomas Browne, but those that do are the salt of the earth." He also contributed more words to the English language than almost anyone, such as electricity, indigenous, medical, ferocious, carnivorous ambidextrous and migrant.With Claire Preston Professor of Renaissance Literature at Queen Mary University of LondonJessica Wolfe Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel HillAndKevin Killeen Professor of English at the University of YorkProducer: Simon Tillotson
06/06/1952m 44s

President Ulysses S Grant

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the impact of Grant's presidency on Americans in the years after the Civil War in which he, with Lincoln, had led the Union Army to victory. His predecessor, Andrew Johnson, was prepared to let the Southern States decide for themselves which rights to allow freed slaves; Grant supported equal rights, and he used troops and Enforcement Acts to defeat the Ku klux Klan which was violently suppressing African Americans. In later years Grant was remembered mainly for the corruption scandals under his terms of office, and for his failure to support or protect Native Americans, but in more recent decades his support for reconstruction has prompted a reassessement.WithErik Mathisen Lecturer in US History at the University of KentSusan-Mary Grant Professor of American History at Newcastle UniversityandRobert Cook Professor of American History at the University of SussexProducer: Simon Tillotson
30/05/1955m 12s

Kinetic Theory

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how scientists sought to understand the properties of gases and the relationship between pressure and volume, and what that search unlocked. Newton theorised that there were static particles in gases that pushed against each other all the harder when volume decreased, hence the increase in pressure. Those who argued that molecules moved, and hit each other, were discredited until James Maxwell and Ludwig Boltzmann used statistics to support this kinetic theory. Ideas about atoms developed in tandem with this, and it came as a surprise to scientists in C20th that the molecules underpinning the theory actually existed and were not simply thought experiments. The image above is of Ludwig Boltzmann from a lithograph by Rudolf Fenzl, 1898With Steven Bramwell Professor of Physics at University College LondonIsobel Falconer Reader in History of Mathematics at the University of St Andrewsand Ted Forgan Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of BirminghamProducer: Simon Tillotson
23/05/1951m 38s

Bergson and Time

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the French philosopher Henri Bergson (1859-1941) and his ideas about human experience of time passing and how that differs from a scientific measurement of time, set out in his thesis on 'Time and Free Will' in 1889. He became famous in France and abroad for decades, rivalled only by Einstein and, in the years after the Dreyfus Affair, was the first ever Jewish member of the Académie Française. It's thought his work influenced Proust and Woolf, and the Cubists. He died in 1941 from a cold which, reputedly, he caught while queuing to register as a Jew, refusing the Vichy government's offer of exemption.WithKeith Ansell-Pearson Professor of Philosophy at the University of WarwickEmily Thomas Assistant Professor in Philosophy at Durham UniversityAnd Mark Sinclair Reader in Philosophy at the University of RoehamptonProducer: Simon Tillotson
09/05/1951m 20s

The Gordon Riots

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the most destructive riots in London's history, which reached their peak on 7th June 1780 as troops fired on the crowd outside the Bank of England. The leader was Lord George Gordon, head of the Protestant Association, who objected to the relaxing of laws against Catholics. At first the protest outside Parliament was peaceful but, when Gordon's petition failed to persuade the Commons, rioting continued for days until the military started to shoot suspects in the street. It came as Britain was losing the war to hold on to colonies in North America.The image above shows a crowd setting fire to Newgate Prison and freeing prisoners by the authority of 'His Majesty, King Mob.'WithIan Haywood Professor of English at the University of RoehamptonCatriona Kennedy Senior Lecturer in Modern British and Irish History and Director of the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies at the University of Yorkand Mark Knights Professor of History at the University of WarwickProducer: Simon Tillotson
02/05/1950m 19s

Nero

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life of Nero (37-68 AD) who became Emperor at the age of 16. At first he was largely praised for his generosity yet became known for his debauched lifestyle, with allegations he started the Fire of Rome, watching the flames as he played the lyre. Christians saw him as their persecutor, an anti-Christ, and the number of the Beast in the Book of Revelation was thought to indicate Nero. He had confidence in his own artistry, took up acting (which then had a very low status) and, as revolts in the empire grew, killed himself after the Senate condemned him to die as a slave, on a cross. With Maria Wyke Professor of Latin at University College LondonMatthew Nicholls Fellow and Senior Tutor at St John’s College, University of OxfordAnd Shushma Malik Lecturer in Classics at the University of RoehamptonProducer: Simon Tillotson
25/04/1951m 24s

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of Shakespeare's most popular works, written c1595 in the last years of Elizabeth I. It is a comedy of love and desire and their many complications as well as their simplicity, and a reflection on society's expectations and limits. It is also a quiet critique of Elizabeth and her vulnerability and on the politics of the time, and an exploration of the power of imagination.With Helen Hackett Professor of English Literature and Leverhulme Research Fellow at University College LondonTom Healy Professor of Renaissance Studies at the University of Sussexand Alison Findlay Professor of Renaissance Drama at Lancaster University and Chair of the British Shakespeare AssociationProducer: Simon Tillotson
18/04/1954m 53s

The Evolution of Teeth

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss theories about the origins of teeth in vertebrates, and what we can learn from sharks in particular and their ancestors. Great white sharks can produce up to 100,000 teeth in their lifetimes. For humans, it is closer to a mere 50 and most of those have to last from childhood. Looking back half a billion years, though, the ancestors of sharks and humans had no teeth in their mouths at all, nor jaws. They were armoured fish, sucking in their food. The theory is that either their tooth-like scales began to appear in mouths as teeth, or some of their taste buds became harder. If we knew more about that, and why sharks can regenerate their teeth, then we might learn how humans could grow new teeth in later lives. With Gareth Fraser Assistant Professor in Biology at the University of FloridaZerina Johanson Merit Researcher in the Department of Earth Sciences at the Natural History Museumand Philip Donoghue Professor of Palaeobiology at the University of BristolProducer: Simon Tillotson
11/04/1949m 15s

The Great Irish Famine

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 DublinNiamh Gallagher University Lecturer in Modern British and Irish History at the University of CambridgeAnd Enda Delaney Professor of Modern History and School Director of Research at the University of EdinburghProducer: Simon Tillotson
04/04/1957m 19s

The Danelaw

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the effective partition of England in the 880s after a century of Viking raids, invasions and settlements. Alfred of Wessex, the surviving Anglo-Saxon king and Guthrum, a Danish ruler, had fought each other to a stalemate and came to terms, with Guthrum controlling the land to the east (once he had agreed to convert to Christianity). The key strategic advantage the invaders had was the Viking ships which were far superior and enabled them to raid from the sea and up rivers very rapidly. Their Great Army had arrived in the 870s, conquering the kingdom of Northumbria and occupying York. They defeated the king of Mercia and seized part of his land. They killed the Anglo-Saxon king of East Anglia and gained control of his territory. It was only when a smaller force failed to defeat Wessex that the Danelaw came into being, leaving a lasting impact on the people and customs of that area.With Judith Jesch Professor of Viking Studies at the University of NottinghamJohn Hines Professor of Archaeology at Cardiff UniversityAndJane Kershaw ERC Principal Investigator in Archaeology at the University of OxfordProducer: Simon Tillotson
28/03/1950m 6s

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and works of Hopkins (1844-89), a Jesuit priest who at times burned his poems and at others insisted they should not be published. His main themes are how he, nature and God relate to each other. His friend Robert Bridges preserved Hopkins' poetry and, once printed in 1918, works such as The Windhover, Pied Beauty and As Kingfishers Catch Fire were celebrated for their inventiveness and he was seen as a major poet, perhaps the greatest of the Victorian age. WithCatherine Phillips R J Owens Fellow in English at Downing College, University of CambridgeJane Wright Senior Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Bristoland Martin Dubois Assistant Professor in Nineteenth Century Literature at Durham UniversityProducer: Simon Tillotson
21/03/1947m 39s

Authenticity

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss what it means to be oneself, a question explored by philosophers from Aristotle to the present day, including St Augustine, Kierkegaard, Heidegger and Sartre. In Hamlet, Polonius said 'To thine own self be true', but what is the self, and what does it mean to be true to it, and why should you be true? To Polonius, if you are true to yourself, ‘thou canst not be false to any man’ - but with the rise of the individual, authenticity became a goal in itself, regardless of how that affected others. Is authenticity about creating yourself throughout your life, or fulfilling the potential with which you were born, connecting with your inner child, or something else entirely? What are the risks to society if people value authenticity more than morality - that is, if the two are incompatible? The image above is of Sartre, aged 8 months, perhaps still connected to his inner child.With Sarah Richmond Associate Professor in Philosophy at University College LondonDenis McManus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southamptonand Irene McMullin Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of EssexProducer: Simon Tillotson
14/03/1950m 33s

William Cecil

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the impact on the British Isles of William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, the most poweful man in the court of Elizabeth I. He was both praised and attacked for his flexibility, adapting to the reigns of Protestant and Catholic monarchs and, under Elizabeth, his goal was to make England strong, stable and secure from attack from its neighbours. He sought control over Ireland and persuaded Elizabeth that Mary Queen of Scots must die, yet often counselled peace rather than war in the interests of prosperity. With Diarmaid MacCulloch Professor of the History of the Church at the University of OxfordSusan Doran Professor of Early Modern British History at the University of Oxfordand John Guy Fellow of Clare College, University of CambridgeProducer: Simon Tillotson
07/03/1951m 23s

Antarah ibn Shaddad

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life, works, context and legacy of Antarah (525-608AD), the great poet and warrior. According to legend, he was born a slave; his mother was an Ethiopian slave, his father an elite Arab cavalryman. Antarah won his freedom in battle and loved a woman called Abla who refused him, and they were later celebrated in the saga of Antar and Abla. One of Antarah's poems was so esteemed in pre-Islamic Arabia that it is believed it was hung up on the wall of the Kaaba in Mecca. With James Montgomery Sir Thomas Adams's Professor of Arabic at the University of CambridgeMarlé Hammond Senior Lecturer in Arabic Popular Literature and Culture at SOAS, University of LondonAnd Harry Munt Lecturer in Medieval History at the University of YorkProducer: Simon Tillotson
28/02/1949m 59s

Pheromones

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how members of the same species send each other invisible chemical signals to influence the way they behave. Pheromones are used by species across the animal kingdom in a variety of ways, such as laying trails to be followed, to raise the alarm, to scatter from predators, to signal dominance and to enhance attractiveness and, in honey bees, even direct development into queen or worker. The image above is of male and female ladybirds that have clustered together in response to pheromones. With Tristram Wyatt Senior Research Fellow at the Department of Zoology at the University of OxfordJane Hurst William Prescott Professor of Animal Science at the University of Liverpooland Francis Ratnieks Professor of Apiculture and Head of the Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects at the University of SussexProducer: Simon Tillotson
21/02/1949m 9s

Judith beheading Holofernes

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how artists from the Middle Ages onwards have been inspired by the Bible story of the widow who killed an Assyrian general who was besieging her village, and so saved her people from his army and from his master Nebuchadnezzar. A symbol of a woman's power and the defiance of political tyranny, the image of Judith has been sculpted by Donatello, painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and, in the case of Caravaggio, Liss and Artemisia Gentileschi, been shown with vivid, disturbing detail. What do these interpretations reveal of the attitudes to power and women in their time, and of the artists' own experiences? The image of Judith, above is from a tapestry in the Duomo, Milan, by Giovanni or Nicola Carcher, 1555With Susan Foister Curator of Early Netherlandish, German and British Painting at the National GalleryJohn Gash Senior Lecturer in History of Art at the University of AberdeenAnd Ela Nutu Hall Research Associate at the Sheffield Institute for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies, at the University of SheffieldProducer: Simon Tillotson
14/02/1949m 30s

Aristotle's Biology

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the remarkable achievement of Aristotle (384-322BC) in the realm of biological investigation, for which he has been called the originator of the scientific study of life. Known mainly as a philosopher and the tutor for Alexander the Great, who reportedly sent him animal specimens from his conquests, Aristotle examined a wide range of life forms while by the Sea of Marmara and then on the island of Lesbos. Some ideas, such as the the spontaneous generation of flies, did not survive later scrutiny, yet his influence was extraordinary and his work was unequalled until the early modern period.The image above is of the egg and embryo of a dogfish, one of the animals Aristotle described accurately as he recorded their development.WithArmand Leroi Professor of Evolutionary Development Biology at Imperial College LondonMyrto Hatzimichali Lecturer in Classics at the University of CambridgeAndSophia Connell Lecturer in Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson
07/02/1950m 10s

Owain Glyndwr

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life of the Welsh nobleman, also known as Owen Glendower, who began a revolt against Henry IV in 1400 which was at first very successful. Glyndwr (c1359-c1415) adopted the title Prince of Wales and established a parliament and his own foreign policy, until he was defeated by the future Henry V. Owain Glyndwr escaped and led guerilla attacks for several years but was never betrayed to the English, disappearing without trace.With Huw Pryce Professor of Welsh History at Bangor UniversityHelen Fulton Professor of Medieval Literature at the University of BristolChris Given-Wilson Emeritus Professor of Medieval History at the University of St AndrewsProducer: Simon Tillotson
31/01/1948m 47s

Emmy Noether

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas and life of one of the greatest mathematicians of the 20th century, Emmy Noether. Noether’s Theorem is regarded as one of the most important mathematical theorems, influencing the evolution of modern physics. Born in 1882 in Bavaria, Noether studied mathematics at a time when women were generally denied the chance to pursue academic careers and, to get round objections, she spent four years lecturing under a male colleague’s name. In the 1930s she faced further objections to her teaching, as she was Jewish, and she left for the USA when the Nazis came to power. Her innovative ideas were to become widely recognised and she is now considered to be one of the founders of modern algebra.With Colva Roney Dougal Professor of Pure Mathematics at the University of St AndrewsDavid Berman Professor in Theoretical Physics at Queen Mary, University of LondonElizabeth Mansfield Professor of Mathematics at the University of Kent Producer: Simon Tillotson
24/01/1948m 20s

Samuel Beckett

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Samuel Beckett (1906 - 1989), who lived in Paris and wrote his plays and novels in French, not because his French was better than his English, but because it was worse. In works such as Waiting for Godot, Endgame, Molloy and Malone Dies, he wanted to show the limitations of language, what words could not do, together with the absurdity and humour of the human condition. In part he was reacting to the verbal omnipotence of James Joyce, with whom he’d worked in Paris, and in part to his experience in the French Resistance during World War 2, when he used code, writing not to reveal meaning but to conceal it.WithSteven Connor Professor of English at the University of CambridgeLaura Salisbury Professor of Modern Literature at the University of ExeterAnd Mark Nixon Associate Professor in Modern Literature at the University of Reading and co-director of the Beckett International FoundationProducer: Simon Tillotson
17/01/1948m 58s

Papal Infallibility

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss why, in 1870, the Vatican Council issued the decree ‘pastor aeternus’ which, among other areas, affirmed papal infallibility. It meant effectively that the Pope could not err in his teachings, an assertion with its roots in the early Church when the bishop of Rome advanced to being the first among equals, then overall head of the Christian Church in the West. The idea that the Pope could not err had been a double-edged sword from the Middle Ages, though; while it apparently conveyed great power, it also meant a Pope was constrained by whatever a predecessor had said. If a later Pope were to contradict an earlier Pope, then one of them must be wrong, and how could that be…if both were infallible?WithTom O’Loughlin Professor of Historical Theology at the University of NottinghamRebecca Rist Professor in Medieval History at the University of ReadingAnd Miles Pattenden Departmental Lecturer in Early Modern History at the University of OxfordProducer: Simon Tillotson and Julia Johnson
10/01/1951m 38s

Venus

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. WithCarolin Crawford Public Astronomer at the Institute of Astronomy and Fellow of Emmanuel College, University of CambridgeColin Wilson Senior Research Fellow in Planetary Science at the University of OxfordAnd Andrew Coates Professor of Physics at Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College LondonProduced by: Simon Tillotson and Julia Johnson
27/12/1850m 25s

The Poor Laws

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how, from 1834, poor people across England and Wales faced new obstacles when they could no longer feed or clothe themselves, or find shelter. Parliament, in line with the ideas of Jeremy Bentham and Thomas Malthus, feared hand-outs had become so attractive, they stopped people working to support themselves, and encouraged families to have more children than they could afford. To correct this, under the New Poor Laws it became harder to get any relief outside a workhouse, where families would be separated, husbands from wives, parents from children, sisters from brothers. Many found this regime inhumane, while others protested it was too lenient, and it lasted until the twentieth century.The image above was published in 1897 as New Year's Day in the Workhouse.WithEmma Griffin Professor of Modern British History at the University of East AngliaSamantha Shave Lecturer in Social Policy at the University of LincolnAnd Steven King Professor of Economic and Social History at the University of LeicesterProducer: Simon Tillotson
20/12/1850m 18s

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

In a programme first broadcast in 2018, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the jewels of medieval English poetry. It was written c1400 by an unknown poet and then was left hidden in private collections until the C19th when it emerged. It tells the story of a giant green knight who disrupts Christmas at Camelot, daring Gawain to cut off his head with an axe if he can do the same to Gawain the following year. Much to the surprise of Arthur's court, who were kicking the green head around, the decapitated body reaches for his head and rides off, leaving Gawain to face his promise and his apparently inevitable death the following Christmas.The illustration above is ©British Library Board Cotton MS Nero A.x, article 3, ff.94v95With Laura Ashe Professor of English Literature at Worcester College, University of OxfordAd Putter Professor of Medieval English Literature at the University of BristolAnd Simon Armitage Poet and Professor of Poetry at the Universities of Leeds and OxfordProducer: Simon Tillotson
13/12/1851m 49s

The Thirty Years War

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)WithPeter Wilson Chichele Professor of the History of War at the University of OxfordUlinka Rublack Professor of Early Modern European History at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of St John’s CollegeAndToby Osborne Associate Professor in History at Durham UniversityProducer: Simon Tillotson
06/12/1850m 35s

The Long March

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss a foundation story for China as it was reshaped under Mao Zedong. In October 1934, around ninety thousand soldiers of the Red Army broke out of a siege in Jiangxi in the south east of the country, hoping to find a place to regroup and rebuild. They were joined by other armies, and this turned into a very long march to the west and then north, covering thousands of miles of harsh and hostile territory, marshes and mountains, pursued by forces of the ruling Kuomintang for a year. Mao Zedong was among the marchers and emerged at the head of them, and he ensured the officially approved history of the Long March would be an inspiration and education for decades to come.WithRana Mitter Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China and Fellow of St Cross College, University of OxfordSun Shuyun Historian, writer of 'The Long March' and film makerAndJulia Lovell Professor in Modern Chinese History and Literature at Birkbeck, University of LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson
29/11/1850m 5s

Hope

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.WithBeatrice Han-Pile Professor of Philosophy at the University of EssexRobert Stern Professor of Philosophy at the University of SheffieldAndJudith Wolfe Professor of Philosophical Theology at the University of St AndrewsProducer: Simon Tillotson
22/11/1853m 1s

Horace

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Horace (65-8BC), who flourished under the Emperor Augustus. He was one of the greatest poets of his age and is one of the most quoted of any age. Carpe diem, nil desperandum, nunc est bibendum – that’s Horace. He was the son of a freedman from southern Italy and, thanks to his talent, achieved high status in Rome despite fighting on the losing side in the civil wars. His Odes are widely thought his most enduring works, yet he also wrote his scurrilous Epodes, some philosophical Epistles and broad Satires. He’s influenced poets ever since, including those such as Wilfred Owen who rejected his line: ‘dulce et decorum est pro patria mori’.With Emily Gowers Professor of Latin Literature at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of St John’s CollegeWilliam Fitzgerald Professor of Latin Language and Literature at King’s College Londonand Ellen O’Gorman Senior Lecturer in Classics at the University of BristolProducer: Simon Tillotson
15/11/1848m 57s

Marie Antoinette

In a programme first broadcast in November 2018, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Austrian princess Maria Antonia, child bride of the future French King Louis XVI. Their marriage was an attempt to bring about a major change in the balance of power in Europe and to undermine the influence of Prussia and Great Britain, but she had no say in the matter and was the pawn of her mother, the Empress Maria Theresa. She fulfilled her allotted role of supplying an heir, but was sent to the guillotine in 1793 in the French Revolution, a few months after her husband, following years of attacks on her as a woman who, it was said, betrayed the King and as a foreigner who betrayed France to enemy powers. When not doing these wrongs, she was said to be personally bankrupting France. Her death shocked royal families throughout Europe, and she became a powerful symbol of the consequences of the Revolution. With Catriona Seth Marshal Foch Professor of French Literature at the University of OxfordKatherine Astbury Professor of French Studies at the University of WarwickandDavid McCallam Reader in French Eighteenth-Century Studies at the University of SheffieldProducer: Simon Tillotson
08/11/1849m 7s

Free Radicals

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the properties of atoms or molecules with a single unpaired electron, which tend to be more reactive, keen to seize an electron to make it a pair. In the atmosphere, they are linked to reactions such as rusting. Free radicals came to prominence in the 1950s with the discovery that radiation poisoning operates through free radicals, as it splits water molecules and produces a very reactive hydroxyl radical which damages DNA and other molecules in the cell. There is also an argument that free radicals are a byproduct of normal respiration and over time they cause an accumulation of damage that is effectively the process of ageing. For all their negative associations, free radicals play an important role in signalling and are also linked with driving cell division, both cancer and normal cell division, even if they tend to become damaging when there are too many of them.With Nick Lane Professor of Evolutionary Biochemistry at University College LondonAnna Croft Associate Professor at the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering at the University of NottinghamAnd Mike Murphy Professor of Mitochondrial Redox Biology at Cambridge UniversityProducer: Simon Tillotson
01/11/1851m 3s

The Fable of the Bees

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Bernard Mandeville (1670-1733) and his critique of the economy as he found it in London, where private vices were condemned without acknowledging their public benefit. In his poem The Grumbling Hive (1705), he presented an allegory in which the economy collapsed once knavish bees turned honest. When republished with a commentary, The Fable of the Bees was seen as a scandalous attack on Christian values and Mandeville was recommended for prosecution for his tendency to corrupt all morals. He kept writing, and his ideas went on to influence David Hume and Adam Smith, as well as Keynes and Hayek.With David Wootton Anniversary Professor of History at the University of YorkHelen Paul Lecturer in Economics and Economic History at the University of SouthamptonAnd John Callanan Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at King’s College LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson
25/10/1850m 42s

Is Shakespeare History? The Romans

In the second of two programmes marking In Our Time's 20th anniversary on 15th October, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Shakespeare's versions of history, continuing with the Roman plays. Rome was the setting for Titus Andronicus, Julius Caesar, Coriolanus and parts of Antony and Cleopatra and these plays gave Shakespeare the chance to explore ideas too controversial for English histories. How was Shakespeare reimagining Roman history, and what impact has that had on how we see Rome today? The image above is of Marlon Brando playing Mark Antony in a scene from the film version of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, 1953WithSir Jonathan Bate Provost of Worcester College, University of OxfordCatherine Steel Professor of Classics and Dean of Research in the College of Arts at the University of GlasgowAnd Patrick Gray Associate Professor of English Studies at Durham UniversityProducer: Simon Tillotson
18/10/1848m 17s

Is Shakespeare History? The Plantagenets

In the first of two programmes marking In Our Time's 20th anniversary on 15th October, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Shakespeare's versions of history, starting with the English Plantagenets. His eight plays from Richard II to Richard III were written out of order, in the Elizabethan era, and have had a significant impact on the way we see those histories today. In the second programme, Melvyn discusses the Roman plays.The image above is of Richard Burton (1925 - 1984) as Henry V in the Shakespeare play of the same name, from 1951WithEmma Smith Professor of Shakespeare Studies at Hertford College, University of OxfordGordon McMullan Professor of English at King’s College London and Director of the London Shakespeare CentreAnd Katherine Lewis Senior Lecturer in Medieval History at the University of HuddersfieldProducer: Simon Tillotson
11/10/1851m 27s

Edith Wharton

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the works of Wharton (1862-1937) such as The Age of Innocence for which she won the Pulitzer Prize and was the first woman to do so, The House of Mirth, and The Custom of the Country. Her novels explore the world of privileged New Yorkers in the Gilded Age of the late C19th, of which she was part, drawing on her own experiences and written from the perspective of the new century, either side of WW1 . Among her themes, she examined the choices available to women and the extent to which they could ever really be free, even if rich. With Dame Hermione Lee Biographer, former President of Wolfson College, OxfordBridget Bennett Professor of American Literature and Culture at the University of LeedsAndLaura Rattray Reader in North American Literature at the University of GlasgowProducer: Simon Tillotson
04/10/1849m 28s

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas and life of the German theologian, born in Breslau/Wroclaw in 1906 and killed in the Flossenbürg concentration camp on 9th April 1945. Bonhoeffer developed ideas about the role of the Church in the secular world, in particular Germany after the Nazis took power in 1933 and demanded the Churches' support. He strongly opposed anti-Semitism and, with a role in the Military Intelligence Department, took part in the resistance, plotting to kill Hitler and meeting with contacts in the Allies. Bonhoeffer's ideas on Christian ethics and the relationship between Christianity and humanism spread more widely from the 1960s with the discovery of unpublished works, including those written in prison as he awaited execution.With Stephen Plant Dean and Runcie Fellow at Trinity Hall at the University of CambridgeEleanor McLaughlin Lecturer in Theology and Ethics at the University of Winchester and Lecturer in Ethics at Regent’s Park College at the University of OxfordAnd Tom Greggs Marischal Chair of Divinity at the University of AberdeenProducer: Simon Tillotson
27/09/1849m 48s

Automata

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of real and imagined machines that appear to be living, and the questions they raise about life and creation. Even in myth they are made by humans, not born. The classical Greeks built some and designed others, but the knowledge of how to make automata and the principles behind them was lost in the Latin Christian West, remaining in the Greek-speaking and Arabic-speaking world. Western travellers to those regions struggled to explain what they saw, attributing magical powers. The advance of clockwork raised further questions about what was distinctly human, prompting Hobbes to argue that humans were sophisticated machines, an argument explored in the Enlightenment and beyond.The image above is Jacques de Vaucanson's mechanical duck (1739), which picked up grain, digested and expelled it. If it looks like a duck...with Simon Schaffer Professor of History of Science at Cambridge UniversityElly Truitt Associate Professor of Medieval History at Bryn Mawr CollegeAnd Franziska Kohlt Doctoral Researcher in English Literature and the History of Science at the University of OxfordProducer: Simon Tillotson
20/09/1852m 23s

The Iliad

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 LondonBarbara Graziosi Professor of Classics at Princeton UniversityAnd Paul Cartledge A.G. Leventis Senior Research Fellow and Emeritus Professor of Greek Culture at Clare College, CambridgeProducer: Simon Tillotson.
13/09/1848m 2s

William Morris

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas of William Morris, known in his lifetime for his poetry and then his contribution to the Arts and Crafts movement, and increasingly for his political activism. He felt the world had given in to drudgery and ugliness and he found inspiration in the time before industrialisation, in the medieval life which was about fellowship and association and ways of working which resisted the division of labour and allowed the worker to exercise his or her imagination. Seeing a disconnection between art and society, his solution was revolution which in his view was the only way to reset their relationship.The image above is from the Strawberry Thief wallpaper design by William Morris.With Ingrid Hanson Lecturer in 18th and 19th Century Literature at the University of ManchesterMarcus Waithe University Senior Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Magdalene CollegeAndJane Thomas Professor of Victorian and Early 20th Century Literature at the University of HullProducer: Simon Tillotson.
05/07/1853m 10s

The Mexican-American War

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 EdinburghJacqueline Fear-Segal Professor of American and Indigenous Histories at the University of East AngliaAndThomas Rath Lecturer in Latin American History at University College LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson.
28/06/1849m 6s

Echolocation

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how some bats, dolphins and other animals emit sounds at high frequencies to explore their environments, rather than sight. This was such an unlikely possibility, to natural historians from C18th onwards, that discoveries were met with disbelief even into the C20th; it was assumed that bats found their way in the dark by touch. Not all bats use echolocation, but those that do have a range of frequencies for different purposes and techniques for preventing themselves becoming deafened by their own sounds. Some prey have evolved ways of detecting when bats are emitting high frequencies in their direction, and some fish have adapted to detect the sounds dolphins use to find them. With Kate Jones Professor of Ecology and Biodiversity at University College LondonGareth Jones Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of BristolAndDean Waters Lecturer in the Environment Department at the University of YorkProducer: Simon Tillotson.
21/06/1851m 2s

Montesquieu

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas of Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu (1689-1755) whose works on liberty, monarchism, despotism, republicanism and the separation of powers were devoured by intellectuals across Europe and New England in the eighteenth century, transforming political philosophy and influencing the American Constitution. He argued that an individual's liberty needed protection from the arm of power, checking that by another power; where judicial, executive and legislative power were concentrated in the hands of one figure, there could be no personal liberty. With Richard Bourke Professor in the History of Political Thought at Queen Mary, University of LondonRachel Hammersley Senior Lecturer in Intellectual History at Newcastle UniversityAndRichard Whatmore Professor of Modern History at the University of St Andrews and Director of the St Andrews Institute of Intellectual HistoryProducer: Simon Tillotson.
14/06/1849m 59s

Persepolis

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the role of the great 'City of the Persians' founded by Darius I as the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire that stretched from the Indus Valley to Egypt and the coast of the Black Sea. It was known as the richest city under the sun and was a centre at which the Empire's subject peoples paid tribute to a succession of Achaemenid leaders, until the arrival of Alexander III of Macedon who destroyed it by fire supposedly in revenge for the burning of the Acropolis in Athens.The image above is a detail from a relief at the Apadana, the huge audience hall, and shows a lion attacking a bull.With Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones Professor of Ancient History at Cardiff UniversityVesta Sarkhosh Curtis Curator of Middle Eastern Coins at the British MuseumAndLindsay Allen Lecturer in Greek and Near Eastern History at King's College LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson.
07/06/1851m 14s

Henrik Ibsen

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the great Norwegian playwright and poet, best known for his middle class tragedies such as The Wild Duck, Hedda Gabler, A Doll's House and An Enemy of the People. These are set in a world where the middle class is dominant and explore the qualities of that life, its weaknesses and boundaries and the ways in which it takes away freedoms. It is the women who fare the worst in this society, something Ibsen explored in A Doll's House among others, a play that created a sensation with audiences shocked to watch a woman break free of her bourgeois family life to find her destiny. He explored dark secrets such as incest and, in Ghosts, hereditary syphilis, which attracted the censors. He gave actresses parts they had rarely had before, and audiences plays that, after Shakespeare, became the most performed in the world.With Tore Rem Professor of English Literature at the University of OsloKirsten Shepherd-Barr Professor of English and Theatre Studies and Tutorial Fellow, St Catherine's College at the University of OxfordAnd Dinah Birch Professor of English Literature and Pro-Vice Chancellor for Cultural Engagement at the University of LiverpoolProducer: Simon Tillotson.
31/05/1849m 51s

Margaret of Anjou

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the most remarkable queens of the Middle Ages who took control when her husband, Henry VI, was incapable. Margaret of Anjou (1430-1482) wanted Henry to stay in power for the sake of their son, the heir to the throne, and her refusal to back down was seen by her enemies as a cause of the great dynastic struggle of the Wars of the Roses. The image above is from the Talbot Shrewsbury Book, showing John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury, presenting Margaret with that book on her betrothal to HenryWithKatherine Lewis Senior Lecturer in Medieval History at the University of HuddersfieldJames Ross Reader in Late Medieval History at the University of WinchesterAnd Joanna Laynesmith Visiting Research Fellow at the University of ReadingProducer: Simon Tillotson.
24/05/1850m 39s

The Emancipation of the Serfs

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the 1861 declaration by Tsar Alexander II that serfs were now legally free of their landlords. Until then, over a third of Russians were tied to the land on which they lived and worked and in practice there was little to distinguish their condition from slavery. Russia had lost the Crimean War in 1855 and there had been hundreds of uprisings, prompting the Tsar to tell the nobles, "The existing condition of owning souls cannot remain unchanged. It is better to begin to destroy serfdom from above than to wait until that time when it begins to destroy itself from below." Reform was constrained by the Tsar's wish to keep the nobles on side and, for the serfs, tied by debt and law to the little land they were then allotted, the benefits were hard to see. With Sarah Hudspith Associate Professor in Russian at the University of LeedsSimon Dixon The Sir Bernard Pares Professor of Russian History at UCLAndShane O'Rourke Senior Lecturer in History at the University of YorkProducer: Simon Tillotson.
17/05/1849m 54s

The Mabinogion

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the eleven stories of Celtic mythology and Arthurian romance known as The Mabinogion, most of which were told and retold for generations before being written down in C14th. Among them are stories of Pwyll and Rhiannon and their son Pryderi, of Culhwch and Olwen, of the dream of the Emperor Macsen, of Lludd and Llefelys, of magic and giants and imagined history. With common themes but no single author, they project an image of the Island of Britain before the Anglo-Saxons and Normans and before Edward I's conquest of Wales. They came to new prominence, worldwide, from C19th with the translation into English by Lady Charlotte Guest aided by William Owen Pughe.The image above is of Cynon ap Clydno approaching the Castle of Maidens from the tale of Owain, or the Lady of the FountainWith Sioned Davies Professor in the School of Welsh at Cardiff UniversityHelen Fulton Professor of Medieval Literature at the University of BristolAndJuliette Wood Associate Lecturer in the School of Welsh at Cardiff UniversityProducer: Simon Tillotson.
10/05/1848m 26s

The Almoravid Empire

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Berber people who grew to dominate the western Maghreb, founded Marrakesh and took control of Al-Andalus. They were desert people, wearing veils over their faces to keep out the sand, and they wanted a simpler form of Islam. They called themselves the Murabitun, the people who gathered together to fight the holy war, and they were tough fighters; the Spanish knight El Cid fought them and lost, and the legend that built around him said the Almoravids were terrible and had to be resisted. They kept back the Christians of northern Spain, so helping extend Muslim rule in the Iberian Peninsula, before they themselves were destroyed and replaced by their rivals, the Almohads, from the Atlas Mountains.The image above shows the interior of the cupola, Almoravid Koubba, Marrakesh (C11th)With Amira K Bennison Professor in the History and Culture of the Maghreb at the University of CambridgeNicola Clarke Lecturer in the History of the Islamic World at Newcastle UniversityAnd Hugh Kennedy Professor of Arabic at SOAS, University of LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson.
03/05/1849m 26s

The Proton

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?WithFrank Close Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of OxfordHelen Heath Reader in Physics at the University of BristolAndSimon Jolly Lecturer in High Energy Physics at University College LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson.
26/04/1849m 11s

Middlemarch

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss what Virginia Woolf called 'one of the few English novels written for grown-up people'. It was written by George Eliot, the pen name of Mary Anne Evans (1819-80), published in 8 parts in 1871-72, and was originally two separate stories which became woven together. One, 'Middlemarch', focused on a doctor, Tertius Lydgate and the other, 'Miss Brooke', on Dorothea Brooke who became the central figure in the finished work. The events are set in a small town in the Midlands, surrounded by farmland, leading up to the Reform Act 1832, and the novel explores the potential to change in matters of religion, social status, marriage and politics, and is particularly concerned with the opportunities available to women to lead fulfilling lives. The image above shows Rufus Sewell and Juliet Aubrey in the BBC adaptation, from 1994With Rosemary Ashton Emeritus Quain Professor of English Language and Literature at University College LondonKathryn Hughes Professor of Life Writing at the University of East AngliaAnd John Bowen Professor of Nineteenth-Century Literature at the University of YorkProducer: Simon Tillotson.
19/04/1851m 49s

George and Robert Stephenson

In a programme first broadcast on April 12th 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 C19th. 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 StephensonJulia Elton Past President of the Newcomen Society for the History of Engineering and TechnologyandColin Divall Professor Emeritus of Railway Studies at the University of YorkProducer: Simon Tillotson. This programme is a repeat
12/04/1850m 25s

Roman Slavery

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the role of slavery in the Roman world, from its early conquests to the fall of the Western Empire. The system became so entrenched that no-one appeared to question it, following Aristotle's view that slavery was a natural state. Whole populations could be marched into slavery after military conquests, and the freedom that Roman citizens prized for themselves, even in poverty, was partly defined by how it contrasted with enslavement. Slaves could be killed or tortured with impunity, yet they could be given great responsibility and, once freed, use their contacts to earn fortunes. The relationship between slave and master informed early Christian ideas of how the faithful related to God, informing debate for centuries.WithNeville Morley Professor of Classics and Ancient History at the University of ExeterUlrike Roth Senior Lecturer in Ancient History at the University of EdinburghAndMyles Lavan Senior lecturer in Ancient History at the University of St AndrewsProducer: Simon Tillotson.
05/04/1850m 40s

Tocqueville: Democracy in America

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) and his examination of the American democratic system. He wrote De La Démocratie en Amérique in two parts, published in 1835 and 1840, when France was ruled by the July Monarchy of Louis-Philippe. Tocqueville was interested in how aspects of American democracy, in the age of President Andrew Jackson, could be applied to Europe as it moved away from rule by monarchs and aristocrats. His work has been revisited by politicians ever since, particularly in America, with its analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of direct democracy and its warnings of mediocrity and the tyranny of the majority.WithRobert Gildea Professor of Modern History at the University of OxfordSusan-Mary Grant Professor of American History at Newcastle Universityand Jeremy Jennings Professor of Political Theory and Head of the School of Politics & Economics at King's College LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson.
22/03/1850m 51s

Augustine's Confessions

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss St Augustine of Hippo's account of his conversion to Christianity and his life up to that point. Written c397AD, it has many elements of autobiography with his scrutiny of his earlier life, his long relationship with a concubine, his theft of pears as a child, his work as an orator and his embrace of other philosophies and Manichaeism. Significantly for the development of Christianity, he explores the idea of original sin in the context of his own experience. The work is often seen as an argument for his Roman Catholicism, a less powerful force where he was living in North Africa where another form of Christianity was dominant, Donatism. While Augustine retells many episodes from his own life, the greater strength of his Confessions has come to be seen as his examination of his own emotional development, and the growth of his soul.WithKate Cooper Professor of History at the University of London and Head of History at Royal HollowayMorwenna Ludlow Professor of Christian History and Theology at the University of Exeterand Martin Palmer Visiting Professor in Religion, History and Nature at the University of WinchesterProducer: Simon Tillotson.
15/03/1847m 55s

The Highland Clearances

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how and why Highlanders and Islanders were cleared from their homes in waves in C18th and C19th, following the break up of the Clans after the Battle of Culloden. Initially, landlords tried to keep people on their estates for money-making schemes, but the end of the Napoleonic Wars brought convulsive changes. Some of the evictions were notorious, with the sudden and fatal burning of townships, to make way for sheep and deer farming. For many, migration brought a new start elsewhere in Britain or in the British colonies, while for some it meant death from disease while in transit. After more than a century of upheaval, the Clearances left an indelible mark on the people and landscape of the Highlands and Western Isles.The image above is a detail from a print of 'Lochaber No More' by John Watson Nicol 1856-1926With Sir Tom Devine Professor Emeritus of Scottish History at the University of EdinburghMarjory Harper Professor of History at the University of Aberdeen and Visiting Professor at the University of the Highlands and IslandsAndMurray Pittock Bradley Professor of English Literature and Pro Vice Principal at the University of GlasgowProducer: Simon Tillotson.
08/03/1851m 8s

Sun Tzu and The Art of War

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas attributed to Sun Tzu (544-496BC, according to tradition), a legendary figure from the beginning of the Iron Age in China, around the time of Confucius. He may have been the historical figure Sun Wu, a military adviser at the court of King Helu of Wu (who reigned between about 514 and 496 BC), one of the kings in power in the Warring States period of Chinese history (6th - 5th century BC). Sun Tzu was credited as the author of The Art of War, a work on military strategy that soon became influential in China and then Japan both for its guidance on conducting and avoiding war and for its approach to strategy generally. After The Art of War was translated into European languages in C18th, its influence spread to military academies around the world.The image above is of a terracotta warrior from the tomb of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor, who unified China after the Warring States period.With Hilde De Weerdt Professor of Chinese History at Leiden UniversityTim Barrett Professor Emeritus of East Asian History at SOAS, University of LondonAndImre Galambos Reader in Chinese Studies at the University of CambridgeProducer: Simon Tillotson.
01/03/1848m 23s

Rosalind Franklin

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the pioneering scientist Rosalind Franklin (1920 - 1958). During her distinguished career, Franklin carried out ground-breaking research into coal and viruses but she is perhaps best remembered for her investigations in the field of DNA. In 1952 her research generated a famous image that became known as Photograph 51. When the Cambridge scientists Francis Crick and James Watson saw this image, it enabled them the following year to work out that DNA has a double-helix structure, one of the most important discoveries of modern science. Watson, Crick and Franklin's colleague Maurice Wilkins received a Nobel Prize in 1962 for this achievement but Franklin did not and today many people believe that Franklin has not received enough recognition for her work. With:Patricia Fara President of the British Society for the History of ScienceJim Naismith Interim lead of the Rosalind Franklin Institute, Director of the Research Complex at Harwell and Professor at the University of OxfordJudith Howard Professor of Chemistry at Durham UniversityProducer: Victoria Brignell.
22/02/1849m 47s

Fungi

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss fungi. These organisms are not plants or animals but a kingdom of their own. Millions of species of fungi live on the Earth and they play a crucial role in ecosystems, enabling plants to obtain nutrients and causing material to decay. Without fungi, life as we know it simply would not exist. They are also a significant part of our daily life, making possible the production of bread, wine and certain antibiotics. Although fungi brought about the colonisation of the planet by plants about 450 million years ago, some species can kill humans and devastate trees. With:Lynne Boddy Professor of Fungal Ecology at Cardiff UniversitySarah Gurr Professor of Food Security in the Biosciences Department at the University of ExeterDavid Johnson N8 Chair in Microbial Ecology at the University of ManchesterProducer: Victoria Brignell.
15/02/1848m 37s

Frederick Douglass

In a programme first broadcast in 2018, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and ideas of Frederick Douglass, who was born into slavery in Maryland in 1818 and, once he had escaped, became one of that century's most prominent abolitionists. He was such a good orator, his opponents doubted his story, but he told it in grim detail in 1845 in his book 'Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.' He went on to address huge audiences in Great Britain and Ireland and there some of his supporters paid off his owner, so Douglass could be free in law and not fear recapture. After the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, he campaigned for equal rights for African-Americans, arguing against those such as Lincoln who had wanted freed slaves to leave America and found a colony elsewhere. "We were born here," he said, "and here we will remain."WithCeleste-Marie Bernier Professor of Black Studies in the English Department at the University of EdinburghKaren Salt Assistant Professor in Transnational American Studies at the University of NottinghamAndNicholas Guyatt Reader in North American History at the University of CambridgeProducer: Simon Tillotson.
08/02/1852m 22s

Cephalopods

The octopus, the squid, the nautilus and the cuttlefish are some of the most extraordinary creatures on this planet, intelligent and yet apparently unlike other life forms. They are cephalopods and are part of the mollusc family like snails and clams, and they have some characteristics in common with those. What sets them apart is the way members of their group can change colour, camouflage themselves, recognise people, solve problems, squirt ink, power themselves with jet propulsion and survive both on land, briefly, and in the deepest, coldest oceans. And, without bones or shells, they grow so rapidly they can outstrip their rivals when habitats change, making them the great survivors and adaptors of the animal world.WithLouise Allcock Lecturer in Zoology at the National University of Ireland, GalwayPaul Rodhouse Emeritus Fellow of the British Antarctic SurveyandJonathan Ablett Senior Curator of Molluscs at the Natural History MuseumProducer: Simon Tillotson.
01/02/1847m 19s

Cicero

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas developed by Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43BC) to support and reinvigorate the Roman Republic when, as it transpired, it was in its final years, threatened by civil wars, the rule of Julius Caesar and the triumvirates that followed. As Consul he had suppressed a revolt by Catiline, putting the conspirators to death summarily as he believed the Republic was in danger and that this danger trumped the right to a fair trial, a decision that rebounded on him. While in exile he began works on duty, laws, the orator and the republic. Although left out of the conspiracy to kill Caesar, he later defended that murder in the interests of the Republic, only to be murdered himself soon after.With Melissa Lane The Class of 1943 Professor of Politics at Princeton University and 2018 Carlyle Lecturer at the University of OxfordCatherine Steel Professor of Classics at the University of GlasgowAndValentina Arena Reader in Roman History at University College LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson.
25/01/1849m 16s

Anna Akhmatova

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the work, ideas and life of the Russian poet whose work was celebrated in C20th both for its quality and for what it represented, written under censorship in the Stalin years. Her best known poem, Requiem, was written after her son was imprisoned partly as a threat to her and, to avoid punishment for creating it, she passed it on to her supporters to be memorised, line by line, rather than written down. She was a problem for the authorities and became significant internationally, as her work came to symbolise resistance to political tyranny and the preservation of pre-Revolutionary liberal values in the Soviet era.The image above is based on 'Portrait of Anna Akhmatova' by N.I. Altman, 1914, MoscowWithKatharine Hodgson Professor in Russian at the University of ExeterAlexandra Harrington Reader in Russian Studies at Durham UniversityAndMichael Basker Professor of Russian Literature and Dean of Arts at the University of BristolProducer: Simon Tillotson.
18/01/1848m 43s

The Siege of Malta, 1565

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the event of which Voltaire, two hundred years later, said 'nothing was more well known'. In 1565, Suleiman the Magnificent, the Ottoman leader, sent a great fleet west to lay siege to Malta and capture it for his empire. Victory would mean control of trade across the Mediterranean and a base for attacks on Spain, Sicily and southern Italy, even Rome. It would also mean elimination of Malta's defenders, the Knights Hospitaller, driven by the Ottomans from their base in Rhodes in 1522 and whose raids on his shipping had long been a thorn in his side. News of the Great Siege of Malta spread fear throughout Europe, though that turned to elation when, after four months of horrific fighting, the Ottomans withdrew, undermined by infighting between their leaders and the death of the highly-valued admiral, Dragut. The Knights Hospitaller had shown that Suleiman's forces could be contained, and their own order was reinvigorated. The image above is the Death of Dragut at the Siege of Malta (1867), after a painting by Giuseppe Cali. Dragut (1485 – 1565) was an Ottoman Admiral and privateer, known as The Drawn Sword of Islam and as one of the finest generals of the time.With Helen Nicholson Professor of Medieval History at Cardiff UniversityDiarmaid MacCulloch Professor of the History of the Church at the University of OxfordandKate Fleet Director of the Skilliter Centre for Ottoman Studies and Fellow of Newnham College, CambridgeProducer: Simon Tillotson.
11/01/1849m 52s

Hamlet

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Shakespeare's best known, most quoted and longest play, written c1599 - 1602 and rewritten throughout his lifetime. It is the story of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, encouraged by his father's ghost to take revenge on his uncle who murdered him, and is set at the court of Elsinore. In soliloquies, the Prince reveals his inner self to the audience while concealing his thoughts from all at the Danish court, who presume him insane. Shakespeare gives him lines such as 'to be or not to be,' 'alas, poor Yorick,' and 'frailty thy name is woman', which are known even to those who have never seen or read the play. And Hamlet has become the defining role for actors, men and women, who want to show their mastery of Shakespeare's work. The image above is from the 1964 film adaptation, directed by Grigori Kozintsev, with Innokenty Smoktunovsky as Hamlet.WithSir Jonathan Bate Provost of Worcester College, University of OxfordCarol Rutter Professor of Shakespeare and Performance Studies at the University of WarwickAndSonia Massai Professor of Shakespeare Studies at King's College LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson.
28/12/1752m 33s

Beethoven

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the great composers, who was born into a family of musicians in Bonn. His grandfather was an eminent musician and also called Ludwig van Beethoven. His father, who was not as talented as Beethoven's grandfather, drank heavily and died when Beethoven was still young. It was his move to Vienna that allowed him to flourish, with the support at first of aristocratic patrons, when that city was the hub of European music. He is credited with developing the symphony further than any who preceded him, with elevating instrumental above choral music and with transforming music to the highest form of art. He composed his celebrated works while, from his late twenties onwards, becoming increasingly deaf.(Before the live broadcast, BBC Radio 3's Breakfast programme played selections from Beethoven, with Essential Classics playing more, immediately after, on the same network.)With Laura Tunbridge Professor of Music and Henfrey Fellow, St Catherine's College, University of OxfordJohn Deathridge Emeritus King Edward Professor of Music at King's College LondonAndErica Buurman Senior Lecturer in Music, Canterbury Christchurch UniversityProducer: Simon Tillotson.
21/12/1750m 13s

Thomas Becket

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the man who was Henry II's Chancellor and then Archbishop of Canterbury and who was murdered by knights in Canterbury Cathedral (depicted by Matthew Paris, above). Henry believed that Becket owed him loyalty as he had raised him to the highest offices, and that he should agree to Henry's courts having jurisdiction over 'criminous clerics'. They fell out when Becket agreed to this jurisdiction verbally but would not put his seal on the agreement, the Constitutions of Clarendon. The rift deepened when Henry's heir was crowned without Becket, who excommunicated the bishops who took part. Becket's tomb became one of the main destinations for pilgrims for the next 400 years, including those in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales where he was the 'blisful martir'. With Laura Ashe Associate Professor of English at Worcester College, University of OxfordMichael Staunton Associate Professor in History at University College DublinAndDanica Summerlin Lecturer in Medieval History at the University of SheffieldProducer: Simon Tillotson.
14/12/1752m 52s

Moby Dick

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Herman Melville's (1819-1891) epic novel, published in London in 1851, the story of Captain Ahab's pursuit of a great white sperm whale that had bitten off his leg. He risks his own life and that of his crew on the Pequod, single-mindedly seeking his revenge, his story narrated by Ishmael who was taking part in a whaling expedition for the first time. This is one of the c1000 ideas which listeners sent in this autumn for our fourth Listener Week, following Kafka's The Trial in 2014, Captain Cook in 2015 and Garibaldi and the Risorgimento in 2016.With Bridget Bennett Professor of American Literature and Culture at the University of LeedsKatie McGettigan Lecturer in American Literature at Royal Holloway, University of LondonAndGraham Thompson Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of NottinghamProducer: Simon Tillotson.
07/12/1751m 0s

Carl Friedrich Gauss

In a programme first broadcast in 2017, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Gauss (1777-1855), widely viewed as one of the greatest mathematicians of all time. He was a child prodigy, correcting his father's accounts before he was 3, dumbfounding his teachers with the speed of his mental arithmetic, and gaining a wealthy patron who supported his education. He wrote on number theory when he was 21, with his Disquisitiones Arithmeticae, which has influenced developments since. Among his achievements, he was the first to work out how to make a 17-sided polygon, he predicted the orbit of the minor planet Ceres, rediscovering it, he found a way of sending signals along a wire, using electromagnetism, the first electromagnetic telegraph, and he advanced the understanding of parallel lines on curved surfaces. With Marcus du Sautoy Professor of Mathematics and Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of OxfordColva Roney-Dougal Reader in Pure Mathematics at the University of St AndrewsAnd Nick Evans Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of SouthamptonProducer: Simon Tillotson.
30/11/1749m 5s

Thebes

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the myths and history of the ancient Greek city of Thebes and its depiction in Athenian drama. In myths it was said to be home to Heracles, Dionysus, Oedipus and Cadmus among others and, in history, was infamous for supporting Xerxes in the Persian War. Its prominence led to a struggle with the rising force of Macedon in which the Thebans were defeated at Chaironea in 338 BC, one of the most important battles in ancient history. The position of Thebes in Greek culture was enormously powerful. The strength of its myths and its proximity to Athens made it a source of stories for the Athenian theatre, and is the setting for more of the surviving plays than any other location. The image, above, is of Oedipus answering questions of the sphinx in Thebes (cup 5th century BC).With Edith Hall Professor of Classics at King's College LondonSamuel Gartland Lecturer in Ancient History at Corpus Christi College, University of OxfordandPaul Cartledge Emeritus Professor of Greek Culture and AG Leventis Senior Research Fellow at Clare College, University of CambridgeProducer: Simon Tillotson.
23/11/1746m 49s

Germaine de Stael

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and impact of Germaine de Staël (1766-1817) who Byron praised as Europe's greatest living writer, and was at the heart of intellectual and literary life in the France of revolution and of Napoleon. As well as attracting and inspiring others in her salon, she wrote novels, plays. literary criticism, political essays, and poems and developed the ideas behind Romanticism. She achieved this while regularly exiled from the Paris in which she was born, having fallen out with Napoleon who she opposed, becoming a towering figure in the history of European ideas.With Catriona Seth, Marshal Foch Professor of French Literature at the University of OxfordAlison Finch, Professor Emerita of French Literature at the University of Cambridgeand Katherine Astbury, Associate Professor and Reader in French Studies at the University of Warwick.Producer: Simon Tillotson.
16/11/1749m 57s

The Picts

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss The Picts and, to mark our twentieth season, that discussion takes place in front of a student audience at the University of Glasgow, many of them studying this topic. According to Bede writing c731AD, the Picts, with the English, Britons, Scots and Latins, formed one of the five nations of Britain, 'an island in the ocean formerly called Albion'. The Picts is now a label given to the people who lived in Scotland north of the Forth-Clyde line from about 300 AD to 900 AD, from the time of the Romans to the time of the Vikings. They left intricately carved stones, such as the one above with a bull motif, from Burghead, Moray, Scotland, but there are relatively few other traces. Who were they, and what happened to them? And what has been learned in the last twenty years, through archaeology? With Katherine Forsyth Reader in the Department of Celtic and Gaelic at the University of GlasgowAlex Woolf Senior Lecturer in Dark Age Studies at the University of St Andrewsand Gordon Noble Reader in Archaeology at the University of AberdeenProducer: Simon Tillotson.
09/11/1756m 45s

Picasso's Guernica

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the context and impact of Pablo Picasso's iconic work, created soon after the bombing on 26th April 1937 that obliterated much of the Basque town of Guernica, and its people. The attack was carried out by warplanes of the German Condor Legion, joined by the Italian air force, on behalf of Franco's Nationalists. At first the Nationalists denied responsibility, blaming their opponents for creating the destruction themselves for propaganda purposes, but the accounts of journalists such as George Steer, and the prominence of Picasso's work, kept the events of that day under close scrutiny. Picasso's painting has gone on to become a symbol warning against the devastation of war.With Mary Vincent Professor of Modern European History at the University of SheffieldGijs van Hensbergen Historian of Spanish Art and Fellow of the LSE Cañada Blanch Centre for Contemporary Spanish Studies andDacia Viejo Rose Lecturer in Heritage in the Department of Archaeology at the University of Cambridge Fellow of Selwyn CollegeProducer: Simon Tillotson.
02/11/1754m 17s

Feathered Dinosaurs

In a programme first broadcast in 2017, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the development of theories about dinosaur feathers, following discoveries of fossils which show evidence of feathers. All dinosaurs were originally thought to be related to lizards - the word 'dinosaur' was created from the Greek for 'terrible lizard' - but that now appears false. In the last century, discoveries of fossils with feathers established that at least some dinosaurs were feathered and that some of those survived the great extinctions and evolved into the birds we see today. There are still many outstanding areas for study, such as what sorts of feathers they were, where on the body they were found, what their purpose was and which dinosaurs had them. With Mike Benton Professor of Vertebrate Palaeontology at the University of BristolSteve Brusatte Reader and Chancellor's Fellow in Vertebrate Palaeontology at the University of EdinburghandMaria McNamara Senior Lecturer in Geology at University College, CorkProducer: Simon Tillotson.
26/10/1748m 17s

The Congress of Vienna

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the conference convened by the victorious powers of the Napoleonic Wars and the earlier French Revolutionary Wars, which had devastated so much of Europe over the last 25 years. The powers aimed to create a long lasting peace, partly by redrawing the map to restore old boundaries and partly by balancing the powers so that none would risk war again. It has since been seen as a very conservative outcome, reasserting the old monarchical and imperial orders over the growth of liberalism and national independence movements, and yet also largely successful in its goal of preventing war in Europe on such a scale for another 100 years. Delegates to Vienna were entertained at night with lavish balls, and the image above is from a French cartoon showing Russia, Prussia, and Austria dancing to the bidding of Castlereagh, the British delegate.With Kathleen Burk Professor Emerita of Modern and Contemporary History at University College LondonTim Blanning Emeritus Professor of Modern European History at the University of CambridgeandJohn Bew Professor in History and Foreign Policy at the War Studies Department at King's College LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson.
19/10/1748m 51s

Aphra Behn

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Aphra Behn (1640-1689), who made her name and her living as a playwright, poet and writer of fiction under the Restoration. Virginia Woolf wrote of her: ' All women together, ought to let flowers fall upon the grave of Aphra Behn... for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds'. Behn may well have spent some of her early life in Surinam, the setting for her novel Oroonoko, and there are records of her working in the Netherlands as a spy for Charles II. She was loyal to the Stuart kings, and refused to write a poem on the coronation of William of Orange. She was regarded as an important writer in her lifetime and inspired others to write, but fell out of favour for two centuries after her death when her work was seen as too bawdy, the product of a disreputable age. The image above is from the Yale Center for British Art and is titled 'Aphra Behn, by Sir Peter Lely, 1618-1680' With Janet Todd Former President of Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge UniversityRos Ballaster Professor of 18th Century Literature at Mansfield College, University of Oxfordand Claire Bowditch Post-doctoral Research Associate in English and Drama at Loughborough UniversityProducer: Simon Tillotson.
12/10/1749m 51s

Constantine the Great

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life, reputation and impact of Constantine I, known as Constantine the Great (c280s -337AD). Born in modern day Serbia and proclaimed Emperor by his army in York in 306AD, Constantine became the first Roman Emperor to profess Christianity. He legalised Christianity and its followers achieved privileges that became lost to traditional religions, leading to the steady Christianisation of the Empire. He built a new palace in Byzantium, renaming it Constantinople, as part of the decentralisation of the Empire, an Eastern shift that saw Roman power endure another thousand years there, long after the collapse of the empire in the West. With Christopher Kelly Professor of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Cambridge and President of Corpus Christi CollegeLucy Grig Senior Lecturer in Roman History at the University of Edinburghand Greg Woolf Director of the Institute of Classical Studies, University of LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson.
05/10/1748m 24s

Wuthering Heights

In a programme first broadcast in 2017, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Emily Bronte (1818-1848) and her only novel, published in 1847 under the name 'Ellis Bell' just a year before her death. It is the story of Heathcliff, a foundling from Liverpool brought up in the Earnshaw family at the remote Wuthering Heights, high on the moors, who becomes close to the young Cathy Earnshaw but hears her say she can never marry him. He disappears and she marries his rival, Edgar Linton, of Thrushcross Grange even though she feels inextricably linked with Heathcliff, exclaiming to her maid 'I am Heathcliff!' On his return, Heathcliff steadily works through his revenge on all who he believes wronged him, and their relations. When Cathy dies, Heathcliff longs to be united with her in the grave. The raw passions and cruelty of the story unsettled Emily's sister Charlotte Bronte, whose novel Jane Eyre had been published shortly before, and who took pains to explain its roughness, jealousy and violence when introducing it to early readers. Over time, with its energy, imagination and scope, Wuthering Heights became celebrated as one of the great novels in English.The image above is of Laurence Olivier as Heathcliff and Merle Oberon as Cathy on the set of the Samuel Goldwyn Company movie 'Wuthering Heights', circa 1939.WithKaren O'Brien Professor of English Literature at the University of OxfordJohn Bowen Professor of Nineteenth Century Literature at the University of Yorkand Alexandra Lewis Lecturer in English Literature at the University of AberdeenProducer: Simon Tillotson.
28/09/1749m 31s

Kant's Categorical Imperative

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how, in the Enlightenment, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) sought to define the difference between right and wrong by applying reason, looking at the intention behind actions rather than at consequences. He was inspired to find moral laws by natural philosophers such as Newton and Leibniz, who had used reason rather than emotion to analyse the world around them and had identified laws of nature. Kant argued that when someone was doing the right thing, that person was doing what was the universal law for everyone, a formulation that has been influential on moral philosophy ever since and is known as the Categorical Imperative. Arguably even more influential was one of his reformulations, echoed in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in which he asserted that humanity has a value of an entirely different kind from that placed on commodities. Kant argued that simply existing as a human being was valuable in itself, so that every human owed moral responsibilities to other humans and was owed responsibilities in turn.With Alison Hills Professor of Philosophy at St John's College, OxfordDavid Oderberg Professor of Philosophy at the University of ReadingandJohn Callanan Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at King's College, LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson.
21/09/1749m 29s

al-Biruni

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Central Asian polymath al-Biruni and his eleventh-century book the India.Born in around 973 in the central Asian region of Chorasmia, al-Biruni became an itinerant scholar of immense learning, a master of mathematics, medicine, astronomy and many languages. He corresponded with the age's greatest scientist, Avicenna, and made significant contributions to many fields of knowledge.In 1017 al-Biruni became a member of the court of the ruler Mahmud of Ghazna. Over the course of the next thirteen years he wrote the India, a comprehensive account of Hindu culture which was the first book about India by a Muslim scholar. It contains detailed information about Hindu religion, science and everyday life which have caused some to call it the first work of anthropology.With:James MontgomeryProfessor of Classical Arabic at the University of CambridgeHugh KennedyProfessor of Arabic in the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of LondonAmira BennisonSenior Lecturer in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at the University of CambridgeProducer: Thomas Morris.
31/08/1741m 52s

Bird Migration

In a programme first broadcast in 2017, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss why some birds migrate and others do not, how they select their destinations and how they navigate the great distances, often over oceans. For millennia, humans set their calendars to birds' annual arrivals, and speculated about what happened when they departed, perhaps moving deep under water, or turning into fish or shellfish, or hibernating while clinging to trees upside down. Ideas about migration developed in C19th when, in Germany, a stork was noticed with an African spear in its neck, indicating where it had been over the winter and how far it had flown. Today there are many ideas about how birds use their senses of sight and smell, and magnetic fields, to find their way, and about why and how birds choose their destinations and many questions. Why do some scatter and some flock together, how much is instinctive and how much is learned, and how far do the benefits the migrating birds gain outweigh the risks they face?With Barbara Helm Reader at the Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine at the University of GlasgowTim Guilford Professor of Animal Behaviour and Tutorial Fellow of Zoology at Merton College, Oxfordand Richard Holland Senior Lecturer in Animal Cognition at Bangor UniversityProducer: Simon Tillotson.
06/07/1751m 14s

Plato's Republic

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 SheffieldMM McCabe Professor of Ancient Philosophy Emerita at King's College LondonandJames Warren Fellow of Corpus Christi College and a Reader in Ancient Philosophy at the University of Cambridge Producer: Simon Tillotson.
29/06/1748m 43s

Eugene Onegin

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Alexander Pushkin's verse novel, the story of Eugene Onegin, widely regarded as his masterpiece. Pushkin (pictured above) began this in 1823 and worked on it over the next ten years, while moving around Russia, developing the central character of a figure all too typical of his age, the so-called superfluous man. Onegin is cynical, disillusioned and detached, his best friend Lensky is a romantic poet and Tatyana, whose love for Onegin is not returned until too late, is described as a poetic ideal of a Russian woman, and they are shown in the context of the Russian landscape and society that has shaped them. Onegin draws all three into tragic situations which, if he had been willing and able to act, he could have prevented, and so becomes the one responsible for the misery of himself and others as well as the death of his friend.With Andrew Kahn Professor of Russian Literature at the University of Oxford and Fellow of St Edmund HallEmily Finer Lecturer in Russian and Comparative Literature at the University of St Andrewsand Simon Dixon The Sir Bernard Pares Professor of Russian History at University College LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson.
22/06/1749m 27s

The American Populists

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss what, in C19th America's Gilded Age, was one of the most significant protest movements since the Civil War with repercussions well into C20th. Farmers in the South and Midwest felt ignored by the urban and industrial elites who were thriving as the farmers suffered droughts and low prices. The farmers were politically and physically isolated. As one man wrote on his abandoned farm, 'two hundred and fifty miles to the nearest post office, one hundred miles to wood, twenty miles to water, six inches to Hell'. They formed the Populist or People's Party to fight their cause, put up candidates for President, won several states and influenced policies. In the South, though, their appeal to black farmers stimulated their political rivals to suppress the black vote for decades and set black and poor white farmers against each other, tightening segregation. Aspects of the Populists ideas re-emerged effectively in Roosevelt's New Deal, even if they are mainly remembered now, if at all, thanks to allegorical references in The Wizard of Oz.The caricature above is of William Jennings Bryan, Populist-backed Presidential candidate.With Lawrence Goldman Professor of History at the Institute of Historical Research, University of LondonMara Keire Lecturer in US History at the University of OxfordAndChristopher Phelps Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of NottinghamProducer: Simon Tillotson.
15/06/1749m 52s

Christine de Pizan

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and works of Christine de Pizan, who wrote at the French Court in the late Middle Ages and was celebrated by Simone de Beauvoir as the first woman to 'take up her pen in defence of her sex.' She wrote across a broad range, and was particularly noted for challenging the depiction of women by famous writers such as Jean de Meun, author of the Romance of the Rose. She has been characterised as an early feminist who argued that women could play a much more important role in society than the one they were allotted, reflected in arguably her most important work, The Book of the City of Ladies, a response to the seemingly endless denigration of women in popular texts of the time.The image above, of Christine de Pizan lecturing, is (c)The British Library Board. Harley 4431, f.259v.With Helen Swift Associate Professor of Medieval French at the University of Oxford and Fellow of St Hilda's CollegeMiranda Griffin Lecturer in French and Fellow of St Catharine's College, Cambridgeand Marilynn Desmond Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Binghamton UniversityProducer: Simon Tillotson.
08/06/1750m 15s

Enzymes

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss enzymes, the proteins that control the speed of chemical reactions in living organisms. Without enzymes, these reactions would take place too slowly to keep organisms alive: with their actions as catalysts, changes which might otherwise take millions of years can happen hundreds of times a second. Some enzymes break down large molecules into smaller ones, like the ones in human intestines, while others use small molecules to build up larger, complex ones, such as those that make DNA. Enzymes also help keep cell growth under control, by regulating the time for cells to live and their time to die, and provide a way for cells to communicate with each other. With Nigel Richards Professor of Biological Chemistry at Cardiff UniversitySarah Barry Lecturer in Chemical Biology at King's College LondonAnd Jim Naismith Director of the Research Complex at Harwell Bishop Wardlaw Professor of Chemical Biology at the University of St Andrews Professor of Structural Biology at the University of OxfordProducer: Simon Tillotson.
01/06/1748m 36s

Purgatory

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the flourishing of the idea of Purgatory from C12th, when it was imagined as a place alongside Hell and Heaven in which the souls of sinners would be purged of those sins by fire. In the West, there were new systems put in place to pray for the souls of the dead, on a greater scale, with opportunities to buy pardons to shorten time in Purgatory. The idea was enriched with visions, some religious and some literary; Dante imagined Purgatory as a mountain in the southern hemisphere, others such as Marie de France told of The Legend of the Purgatory of Saint Patrick, in which the entrance was on Station Island in County Donegal. This idea of purification by fire had appalled the Eastern Orthodox Church and was one of the factors in the split from Rome in 1054, but flourished in the West up to the reformations of C16th when it was again particularly divisive.WithLaura Ashe Associate Professor of English and fellow of Worcester College at the University of OxfordMatthew Treherne Professor of Italian Literature at the University of LeedsandHelen Foxhall Forbes Associate Professor of Early Medieval History at Durham UniversityProducer: Simon Tillotson.
25/05/1748m 38s

Louis Pasteur

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and work of Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) and his extraordinary contribution to medicine and science. It is said few people have saved more lives than Pasteur. A chemist, he showed that otherwise identical molecules could exist as 'left' and 'right-handed' versions and that molecules produced by living things were always left-handed. He proposed a germ theory to replace the idea of spontaneous generation. He discovered that microorganisms cause fermentation and disease. He began the process named after him, pasteurisation, heating liquids to 50-60 C to kill microbes. He saved the beer and wine industries in France when they were struggling with microbial contamination. He saved the French silk industry when he found a way of protecting healthy silkworm eggs from disease. He developed vaccines against anthrax and rabies and helped establish immunology. Many of his ideas were developed further after his lifetime, but one of his legacies was a charitable body, the Pasteur Institute, to continue research into infectious disease.With Andrew Mendelsohn Reader in the School of History at Queen Mary, University of LondonAnne Hardy Honorary Professor at the Centre for History in Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicineand Michael Worboys Emeritus Professor in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine at the University of Manchester Producer: Simon Tillotson.
18/05/1751m 8s

Emily Dickinson

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and works of Emily Dickinson, arguably the most startling and original poet in America in the C19th. According to Thomas Wentworth Higginson, her correspondent and mentor, writing 15 years after her death, "Few events in American literary history have been more curious than the sudden rise of Emily Dickinson into a posthumous fame only more accentuated by the utterly recluse character of her life and by her aversion to even a literary publicity." That was in 1891 and, as more of Dickinson's poems were published, and more of her remaining letters, the more the interest in her and appreciation of her grew. With her distinctive voice, her abundance, and her exploration of her private world, she is now seen by many as one of the great lyric poets. With Fiona Green Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Jesus CollegeLinda Freedman Lecturer in English and American Literature at University College LondonandParaic Finnerty Reader in English and American Literature at the University of PortsmouthProducer: Simon Tillotson.
11/05/1748m 30s

The Battle of Lincoln 1217

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss The Battle of Lincoln on 20th May 1217, when two armies fought to keep, or to win, the English crown. This was a struggle between the Angevin and Capetian dynasties, one that followed Capetian successes over the Angevins in France. The forces of the new boy-king, Henry III, attacked those of Louis of France, the claimant backed by rebel Barons. Henry's regent, William Marshal, was almost seventy when he led the charge on Lincoln that day, and his victory confirmed his reputation as England's greatest knight. Louis sent to France for reinforcements but in August these, too, were defeated at sea, at the Battle of Sandwich. As part of the peace deal, Henry reissued Magna Carta, which King John had granted in 1215 but soon withdrawn, and Louis went home, leaving England's Anglo-French rulers more Anglo and less French than he had planned. The image above is by Matthew Paris (c1200-1259) from his Chronica Majora (MS 16, f. 55v) and appears with the kind permission of the Master and Fellows of Corpus Christi College, CambridgeWithLouise Wilkinson Professor of Medieval History at Canterbury Christ Church UniversityStephen Church Professor of Medieval History at the University of East AngliaandThomas Asbridge Reader in Medieval History at