300 episodes

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

In Our Time BBC

    • History
    • 4.5 • 920 Ratings

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

    Plato's Gorgias

    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.

    With

    Angie Hobbs
    Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield

    Frisbee Sheffield
    University Lecturer in Classics and Fellow of Downing College, University of Cambridge

    And

    Fiona Leigh
    Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy at University College London


    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 50 min
    The Decadent Movement

    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.

    With

    Neil Sammells
    Professor of English and Irish Literature and Deputy Vice Chancellor at Bath Spa University

    Kate Hext
    Senior Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Exeter

    And

    Alex Murray
    Senior Lecturer in English at Queen’s University, Belfast


    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 51 min
    William and Caroline Herschel

    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.

    With

    Monica Grady
    Professor of Planetary and Space Sciences at the Open University

    Carolin Crawford
    Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge and an Emeritus Fellow of Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge

    And

    Jim Bennett
    Keeper Emeritus at the Science Museum in London.

    Studio producer: John Goudie

    • 50 min
    The Song of Roland

    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 Oxford

    Miranda Griffin
    Assistant Professor of Medieval French at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Murray Edwards College

    And

    Luke Sunderland
    Professor in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures at Durham University

    Studio producer: John Goudie

    • 51 min
    Corals

    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.

    With

    Steve Jones
    Senior Research Fellow in Genetics at University College London

    Nicola Foster
    Lecturer in Marine Biology at the University of Plymouth

    And

    Gareth Williams
    Associate Professor in Marine Biology at Bangor University School of Ocean Sciences

    Producer Simon Tilllotson.

    • 51 min
    Iris Murdoch

    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.

    With

    Anil Gomes
    Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy at Trinity College, University of Oxford

    Anne Rowe
    Visiting Professor at the University of Chichester and Emeritus Research Fellow with the Iris Murdoch Archive Project at Kingston University

    And

    Miles Leeson
    Director of the Iris Murdoch Research Centre and Reader in English Literature at the University of Chichester

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 54 min

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5
920 Ratings

920 Ratings

Lord_have_mercy ,

Excellent

Often amusing always interesting and illuminating, full of information, opinions, speed-dial style racing to the tea or coffee at the end. Altogether wonderful. So easy to while away a night or two (or more) with people who love their subjects. Highly recommend.

Daryl.M ,

One of the great stores of knowledge

These podcasts contain some of the most intricate, esoteric and fascinating details of our history, sciences and world. People like Hitchens for example, who is no longer with us.

Eva (from Australia) ,

Thank you

Brilliant! I have just found your podcast and can’t stop listening to it. I’m learning so much and can’t wait to inundate my friends with my new-found facts! I’m lauding your podcast to everyone. Thank you.

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