In Our Time

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of ideas

BBC Radio 4


    • Jan 26, 2023 LATEST EPISODE
    • weekly NEW EPISODES
    • 48m AVG DURATION
    • 446 EPISODES

    4.6 from 4,034 ratings Listeners of In Our Time that love the show mention: melvyn bragg, enzymes, programme, zzzzzzz, bragg's, history of science, coffee or tea, melvin bragg, plz fix, lively discussions, albert camus, exclamation point, bbc radio, melvin and his guests, well moderated, guests know, liberal arts, iot, wheezing, depth and breadth.



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    Latest episodes from In Our Time

    The Great Stink

    Play Episode Listen Later Jan 26, 2023 50:12


    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!" With Rosemary Ashton Emeritus Quain Professor of English Language and Literature at University College London Stephen Halliday Author of ‘The Great Stink of London: Sir Joseph Bazalgette and the Cleansing of the Victorian Metropolis' And Paul Dobraszczyk Lecturer at the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London

    Persuasion

    Play Episode Listen Later Jan 19, 2023 50:49


    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 With Karen O'Brien Vice-Chancellor of Durham University Fiona Stafford Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Oxford And Paddy Bullard Associate Professor of English Literature and Book History at the University of Reading Producer: Simon Tillotson

    Citizen Kane

    Play Episode Listen Later Jan 12, 2023 53:43


    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 London Ian Christie Professor of Film and Media History at Birkbeck, University of London And John David Rhodes Professor of Film Studies and Visual Culture at the University of Cambridge Producer: Simon Tillotson

    The Irish Rebellion of 1798

    Play Episode Listen Later Jan 5, 2023 55:25


    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 Irishmen With Ian McBride Foster Professor of Irish History at Hertford College, University of Oxford Catriona Kennedy Senior Lecturer in Modern History at the University of York And Liam Chambers Head of Department and Senior Lecturer in History at Mary Immaculate College, Limerick Producer: Simon Tillotson

    The Nibelungenlied

    Play Episode Listen Later Dec 29, 2022 54:49


    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. With Sarah Bowden Reader in German and Medieval Studies at King's College London Mark Chinca Professor of Medieval German and Comparative Literature at the University of Cambridge And Bettina Bildhauer Professor of Modern Languages at the University of St Andrews Producer: Simon Tillotson

    The Challenger Expedition 1872-1876

    Play Episode Listen Later Dec 22, 2022 51:14


    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. With Erika Jones Curator of Navigation and Oceanography at Royal Museums Greenwich Sam Robinson Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute Research Fellow at the University of Southampton And Giles Miller Principal Curator of Micropalaeontology at the Natural History Museum London Producer: Simon Tillotson

    Demosthenes' Philippics

    Play Episode Listen Later Dec 15, 2022 56:56


    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 Cambridge Kathryn Tempest Reader in Latin Literature and Roman History at the University of Roehampton And Jon Hesk Reader in Greek and Classical Studies at the University of St Andrews Producer: Simon Tillotson

    Bauhaus

    Play Episode Listen Later Dec 8, 2022 56:45


    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 1925-6 With Robin Schuldenfrei Tangen Reader in 20th Century Modernism at The Courtauld Institute of Art Alan Powers History Leader at the London School of Architecture And Michael White Professor of the History of Art at the University of York Producer: Simon Tillotson

    The Morant Bay Rebellion

    Play Episode Listen Later Dec 1, 2022 53:42


    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 London Diana Paton The William Robertson Professor of History at the University of Edinburgh And Lawrence Goldman Emeritus Fellow in History at St Peter's College, University of Oxford Producer: Simon Tillotson

    Wilfred Owen

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 24, 2022 56:39


    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. With Jane Potter Reader in The School of Arts at Oxford Brookes University Fran Brearton Professor of Modern Poetry at Queen's University Belfast And Guy Cuthbertson Professor of British Literature and Culture at Liverpool Hope University Producer: Simon Tillotson

    The Fish-Tetrapod Transition

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 17, 2022 55:33


    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. With Emily Rayfield Professor of Palaeobiology at the University of Bristol Michael Coates Chair and Professor of Organismal Biology and Anatomy at the University of Chicago And Steve Brusatte Professor of Palaeontology and Evolution at the University of Edinburgh Producer: Simon Tillotson

    Berthe Morisot

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 10, 2022 60:20


    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 London Lois Oliver Curator at the Royal Academy and Adjunct Professor of Art History at the American University of Notre Dame London. And Claire Moran Reader in French at Queen's University Belfast Producer: Simon Tillotson

    The Knights Templar

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 3, 2022 49:59


    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. With Helen Nicholson Professor of Medieval History at Cardiff University Mike Carr Lecturer in Late Medieval History at the University of Edinburgh And Jonathan Phillips Professor of Crusading History at Royal Holloway, University of London Producer: Simon Tillotson

    The Electron

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 27, 2022 49:47


    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 Edinburgh Harry Cliff Research Fellow in Particle Physics at the University of Cambridge And Frank Close Professor Emeritus of Theoretical Physics and Fellow Emeritus at Exeter College at the University of Oxford Producer: Simon Tillotson

    Plato's Atlantis

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 20, 2022 54:15


    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 University Christopher Gill Emeritus Professor of Ancient Thought at the University of Exeter And Angie Hobbs Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield Producer: Simon Tillotson

    Nineteen Eighty-Four

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 13, 2022 52:33


    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 Oxford Lisa Mullen Teaching Associate in Modern Contemporary Literature at the University of Cambridge And John Bowen Professor of English Literature at the University of York Producer: Simon Tillotson

    The Franco-American Alliance 1778 (Summer Repeat)

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 6, 2022 50:45


    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 1781 With Frank Cogliano Professor of American History at the University of Edinburgh Kathleen Burk Professor Emerita of Modern and Contemporary History at University College London And Michael Rapport Reader in Modern European History at the University of Glasgow Producer: Simon Tillotson

    Parasitism (Summer Repeat)

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 29, 2022 46:50


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the relationship between parasites and hosts, where one species lives on or in another to the benefit of the parasite but at a cost to the host, potentially leading to disease or death of the host. Typical examples are mistletoe and trees, hookworms and vertebrates, cuckoos and other birds. In many cases the parasite species do so well in or on a particular host that they reproduce much faster and can adapt to changes more efficiently, and it is thought that almost half of all animal species have a parasitic stage in their lifetime. What techniques do hosts have to counter the parasites, and what impact do parasites have on the evolution of their hosts? With Steve Jones Emeritus Professor of Genetics at University College, London Wendy Gibson Professor of Protozoology at the University of Bristol and Kayla King Associate Professor in the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford Producer: Simon Tillotson.

    Cave Art (Summer Repeat)

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 22, 2022 48:02


    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 Southampton Chantal Conneller Senior Lecturer in Early Pre-History at Newcastle University And Paul Pettitt Professor of Palaeolithic Archaeology at Durham University Producer: Simon Tillotson

    The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (Summer Repeat)

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 15, 2022 48:42


    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 Aberdeen Katarzyna Kosior Lecturer in Early Modern History at Northumbria University And Norman Davies Professor Emeritus in History and Honorary Fellow of St Antony's College, University of Oxford Producer: Simon Tillotson

    Kant's Copernican Revolution (Summer Repeat)

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 8, 2022 53:04


    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 Springer With Fiona Hughes Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Essex Anil Gomes Associate Professor and Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy at Trinity College, Oxford And John Callanan Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at King's College London Producer: Simon Tillotson

    The Russo-Japanese War (Summer Repeat)

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 1, 2022 48:46


    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. With Simon Dixon The Sir Bernard Pares Professor of Russian History at University College London, Naoko Shimazu Professor of Humanities at Yale NUS College, Singapore And Oleg Benesch Reader in Modern History at the University of York Producer: Simon Tillotson

    The Bacchae (Summer Repeat)

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 25, 2022 52:06


    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 London Emily Wilson Professor of Classical Studies at the University of Pennsylvania And Rosie Wyles Lecturer in Classical History and Literature at the University of Kent Producer: Simon Tillotson

    Eclipses (Summer Repeat)

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 18, 2022 50:17


    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 College Frank Close Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford And Lucie Green Professor of Physics and a Royal Society University Research Fellow at Mullard Space Science Laboratory at University College London Producers: Simon Tillotson and Julia Johnson

    Mary Astell (Summer Repeat)

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 11, 2022 51:41


    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 London Mark Goldie Professor Emeritus of Intellectual History at the University of Cambridge Teresa Bejan Associate Professor of Political Theory at Oriel College, University of Oxford Producer: Simon Tillotson

    The Interregnum (Summer Repeat)

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 4, 2022 52:17


    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 c1649 With Clare Jackson Senior Tutor at Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge Micheál Ó Siochrú Professor in Modern History at Trinity College Dublin And Laura Stewart Professor in Early Modern History at the University of York Producer: Simon Tillotson

    John Bull

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 28, 2022 53:46


    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. With Judith Hawley Professor of 18th Century Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London Miles Taylor Professor of British History and Society at Humboldt, University of Berlin And Mark Knights Professor of History at the University of Warwick Producer: Simon Tillotson

    Angkor Wat

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 21, 2022 49:18


    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. With Piphal Heng Postdoctoral scholar at the Cotsen Institute and the Programme for Early Modern Southeast Asia at UCLA Ashley Thompson Hiram W Woodward Chair of Southeast Asian Art at SOAS University of London And Simon Warrack A stone conservator who has worked extensively at Angkor Wat Producer: Simon Tillotson

    Dylan Thomas

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 14, 2022 50:06


    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 ready 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. With Nerys Williams Associate Professor of Poetry and Poetics at University College Dublin John Goodby Professor of Arts and Culture at Sheffield Hallam University And Leo Mellor The Roma Gill Fellow in English at Murray Edwards College, University of Cambridge Producer: Simon Tillotson

    The Death of Stars

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 7, 2022 58:09


    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 1690 With Martin Rees Astronomer Royal, Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge Carolin Crawford Emeritus Member of the Institute of Astronomy and Emeritus Fellow of Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge And Mark Sullivan Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Southampton Producer: Simon Tillotson

    Shakespeare's Sonnets (Repeat)

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 30, 2022 52:21


    In a programme first broadcast in 2021, 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 London Don Paterson Poet and Professor of Poetry at the University of St Andrews And Emma Smith Professor of Shakespeare Studies at Hertford College, Oxford Producer: Simon Tillotson

    Shakespeare's Sonnets

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 30, 2022 52:21


    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 London Don Paterson Poet and Professor of Poetry at the University of St Andrews And Emma Smith Professor of Shakespeare Studies at Hertford College, Oxford Producer: Simon Tillotson

    Hegel's Philosophy of History

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 23, 2022 52:25


    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. With Sally Sedgwick Professor and Chair of Philosophy at Boston University Robert Stern Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield And Stephen Houlgate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Warwick Producer: Simon Tillotson

    Comenius

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 16, 2022 56:32


    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 Rikjsmuseum With Vladimir Urbanek Senior Researcher in the Department of Comenius Studies and Early Modern Intellectual History at the Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences Suzanna Ivanic Lecturer in Early Modern European History at the University of Kent And Howard Hotson Professor of Early Modern Intellectual History at the University of Oxford and Fellow of St Anne's College Producer: Simon Tillotson

    Tang Era Poetry

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 9, 2022 46:37


    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 London Tian Yuan Tan Shaw Professor of Chinese at the University of Oxford and Professorial Fellow at University College And Frances Wood Former Curator of the Chinese Collections at the British Library Producer: Simon Tillotson

    The Davidian Revolution

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 2, 2022 50:16


    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 Stirling Alice Taylor Professor of Medieval History at King's College London And Alex Woolf Senior Lecturer in History at the University of St Andrews Producer: Simon Tillotson

    Early Christian Martyrdom

    Play Episode Listen Later May 26, 2022 53:03


    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, France With: Candida Moss Edward Cadbury Professor of Theology at the University of Birmingham Kate Cooper Professor of History at Royal Holloway, University of London And James Corke-Webster Senior Lecturer in Classics, History and Liberal Arts at King's College London Producer: Simon Tillotson

    Olympe de Gouges

    Play Episode Listen Later May 19, 2022 49:10


    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 Oxford Katherine Astbury Professor of French Studies at the University of Warwick And Sanja Perovic Reader in 18th century French studies at King's College London Producer: Simon Tillotson

    Homo erectus

    Play Episode Listen Later May 12, 2022 51:03


    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 Copenhagen José Joordens Senior Researcher in Human Evolution at Naturalis Biodiversity Centre and Professor of Human Evolution at Maastricht University And Mark Maslin Professor of Earth System Science at University College London Producer: Simon Tillotson

    Polidori's The Vampyre

    Play Episode Listen Later May 5, 2022 51:17


    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 Macau Samantha George Associate Professor of Research in Literature at the University of Hertfordshire And Martyn Rady Professor Emeritus of Central European History at University College London Producer: Simon Tillotson

    The Sistine Chapel

    Play Episode Listen Later Apr 28, 2022 55:50


    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. With Catherine Fletcher Professor of History at Manchester Metropolitan University Sarah Vowles The Smirnov Family Curator of Italian and French Prints and Drawings at the British Museum And Matthias Wivel The Aud Jebsen Curator of Sixteenth-Century Italian Paintings at the National Gallery Producer: Simon Tillotson

    Antigone

    Play Episode Listen Later Apr 21, 2022 54:11


    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. With Edith Hall Professor of Classics at Durham University Oliver Taplin Emeritus Professor of Classics, University of Oxford And Lyndsay Coo Senior Lecturer in Ancient Greek Language and Literature at the University of Bristol Producer: Simon Tillotson

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