300 episodes

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

In Our Time: History BBC Radio 4

    • History
    • 4.3 • 1.3K Ratings

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

    Angkor Wat

    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.

    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

    • 49 min
    Comenius

    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 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

    • 56 min
    The Davidian Revolution

    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 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

    • 50 min
    Olympe de Gouges

    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 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

    • 49 min
    Homo erectus

    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 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

    • 51 min
    The Arthashastra

    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.

    With

    Jessica Frazier
    Lecturer in the Study of Religion at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies

    James Hegarty
    Professor of Sanskrit and Indian Religions at Cardiff University

    And

    Deven Patel
    Associate Professor of South Asia Studies at the University of Pennsylvania

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 56 min

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5
1.3K Ratings

1.3K Ratings

kieran-wd ,

History, philosophy but there’s more!

This is the most enjoyable, informative and interesting podcast i have heard. All aspects of human endeavour and curiosity are covered, though I tend to stick to history and philosophy topics. Accessible without being patronising and informative without being so microscopic that you are left feeling stupid, indeed quite the opposite-always enlightened and uplifted by the host and guests, though a bit unsure of the 15 minutes of bonus material…why should it be bonus (i do like the stuff you’d liked to have mentioned) and not just a part of this excellent show?

Madamethecow ,

I just wish he'd let them speak!

I love listening to the experts on these shows, but Bragg is such an invasive interviewer. He often talks underneath these experts while they're talking and it's so frustrating.

MarziaLan ,

Rude host

I really like the topics and the guests but the host is rude and pushy. Also you can hear his breathing, very odd.

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