300 episodes

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

In Our Time: History BBC

    • History
    • 4.0 • 6 Ratings

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

    The Gold Standard

    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.

    With

    Catherine Schenk
    Professor of Economic and Social History at the University of Oxford

    Helen Paul
    Lecturer in Economics and Economic History at the University of Southampton

    And

    Matthias Morys
    Senior Lecturer in Economic History at the University of York

    Produced by Eliane Glaser and Simon Tillotson

    • 49 min
    The Hittites

    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.

    With

    Claudia Glatz
    Professor of Archaeology at the University of Glasgow

    Ilgi Gercek
    Assistant Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Languages and History at Bilkent University

    And

    Christoph Bachhuber
    Lecturer in Archaeology at St John’s College, University of Oxford


    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 52 min
    The May Fourth Movement

    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 Oxford

    Elisabeth Forster
    Lecturer in Chinese History at the University of Southampton

    And

    Song-Chuan Chen
    Associate Professor in History at the University of Warwick


    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 52 min
    The Battle of Trafalgar

    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).

    With

    James Davey
    Lecturer in Naval and Maritime History at the University of Exeter

    Marianne Czisnik
    Independent researcher on Nelson and editor of his letters to Lady Hamilton

    And

    Kenneth Johnson
    Research Professor of National Security at Air University, Alabama


    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 51 min
    The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

    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 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

    • 48 min
    The Manhattan Project

    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.

    With

    Bruce Cameron Reed
    The Charles A. Dana Professor of Physics Emeritus at Alma College, Michigan

    Cynthia Kelly
    Founder and President of the Atomic Heritage Foundation

    And

    Frank Close
    Emeritus Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Exeter College, Oxford

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 48 min

Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5
6 Ratings

6 Ratings

Nick Cate ,

Our time

This series is knockout. Love the discussions, love long drives in heavy traffic which give me a chance to revel in some great content!

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