300 episodes

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of ideas

In Our Time BBC

    • History
    • 4.5 • 648 Ratings

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of ideas

    Longitude

    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.

    With

    Rebekah Higgitt
    Principal Curator of Science at National Museums Scotland

    Jim Bennett
    Keeper Emeritus at the Science Museum

    And

    Simon Schaffer
    Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 50 min
    The Second Barons' War

    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 London

    Louise Wilkinson
    Professor of Medieval Studies at the University of Lincoln

    And

    Sophie Thérèse Ambler
    Lecturer in Later Medieval British and European History at Lancaster University

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 56 min
    Ovid

    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 London

    Gail Trimble
    Brown Fellow and Tutor in Classics at Trinity College at the University of Oxford

    And

    Dunstan Lowe
    Senior Lecturer in Latin Literature at the University of Kent


    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 49 min
    The Franco-American Alliance 1778

    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 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

    • 50 min
    Arianism

    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 century

    With

    Judith Herrin
    Professor of Late Antique and Byzantine Studies, Emeritus, at King's College London

    Robin Whelan
    Lecturer in Mediterranean History at the University of Liverpool

    And

    Martin Palmer
    Visiting Professor in Religion, History and Nature at the University of Winchester

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 50 min
    Pierre-Simon Laplace

    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'.

    With

    Marcus du Sautoy
    Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science and Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford

    Timothy Gowers
    Professor of Mathematics at the College de France

    And

    Colva Roney-Dougal
    Professor of Pure Mathematics at the University of St Andrews

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 48 min

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5
648 Ratings

648 Ratings

LM1958 ,

D, Alberta

The best podcast of its kind (by far) that I have come across. Bragg is an old pro and the guests (yes, real academics) are of a very high quality

Tangled garden ,

Mixed review

Excellent content but he has a supercilious interview style that is off-putting.

Kaaskop1962 ,

Melvyn Mumbles the host

I recently discovered the In Our Time podcast and I find it to be wonderfully interesting and engaging but the host however ... Melvyn Bragg mumbles so consistently that I understand only about half of what he says. He also frequently interrupts his guests in mid stream to ask them a question or make a statement that the guest is already actually in the process of answering or explaining. I’m not sure if he feels it necessary to interject because he is the host and feels compelled to make a contribution or perhaps he himself has made episode notes and wants to ensure what he has written becomes part of the broadcast. I find his manner very distracting and it impedes the flow and cadence of the broadcast. I can only imagine it must be annoying for the guests as well and perhaps even mildly insulting to their expertise.

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