300 episodes

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

In Our Time: History BBC

    • History
    • 4.3 • 1.1K Ratings

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

    The Plague of Justinian

    The Plague of Justinian

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the plague that broke out in Constantinople 541AD, in the reign of Emperor Justinian. According to the historian Procopius, writing in Byzantium at the time, this was a plague by which the whole human race came near to being destroyed, embracing the whole world, and blighting the lives of all mankind. The bacterium behind the Black Death has since been found on human remains from that time, and the symptoms described were the same, and evidence of this plague has since been traced around the Mediterranean and from Syria to Britain and Ireland. The question of how devastating it truly was, though, is yet to be resolved.

    With

    John Haldon
    Professor of Byzantine History and Hellenic Studies Emeritus at Princeton University

    Rebecca Flemming
    Senior Lecturer in Classics at the University of Cambridge

    And

    Greg Woolf
    Director of the Institute of Classical Studies, University of London

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 48 min
    The Cultural Revolution

    The Cultural Revolution

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Chairman Mao and the revolt he led within his own party from 1966, setting communists against each other, to renew the revolution that he feared had become too bourgeois and to remove his enemies and rivals. Universities closed and the students formed Red Guard factions to attack the 'four olds' - old ideas, culture, habits and customs - and they also turned on each other, with mass violence on the streets and hundreds of thousands of deaths. Over a billion copies of Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book were printed to support his cult of personality, before Mao himself died in 1976 and the revolution came to an end.

    The image above is of Red Guards, holding The Little Red Book, cheering Mao during a meeting to celebrate the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution at Tiananmen Square, Beijing, August 1966

    With

    Rana Mitter
    Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China and Fellow of St Cross College, University of Oxford

    Sun Peidong
    Visiting Professor at the Center for International Studies at Sciences Po, Paris

    And

    Julia Lovell
    Professor in Modern Chinese History and Literature at Birkbeck, University of London

    Produced by Simon Tillotson and Julia Johnson

    • 48 min
    The Zong Massacre

    The Zong Massacre

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the notorious events off Jamaica in 1781 and their background. The British slave ship Zong, having sailed across the Atlantic towards Jamaica, threw 132 enslaved Africans from its human cargo into the sea to drown. Even for a slave ship, the Zong was overcrowded; those murdered were worth more to the ship dead than alive. The crew said there was not enough drinking water to go round and they had no choice, which meant they could claim for the deaths on insurance. The main reason we know of this atrocity now is that the owners took their claim to court in London, and the insurers were at first told to pay up as if the dead slaves were any other lost goods, not people. Abolitionists in Britain were scandalised: if courts treated mass murder in the slave trade as just another business transaction and not a moral wrong, the souls of the nation would be damned. But nobody was ever prosecuted.

    The image above is of sailors throwing slaves overboard, from Torrey's 'American Slave Trade', 1822

    With

    Vincent Brown
    Charles Warren Professor of American History and Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University

    Bronwen Everill
    Class of 1973 Lecturer in History and Fellow at Gonville & Caius College, University of Cambridge

    And

    Jake Subryan Richards
    Assistant Professor of History at the London School of Economics

    Studio production: Hannah Sander
    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 52 min
    Maria Theresa

    Maria Theresa

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Maria Theresa (1717-1780) who inherited the Austrian throne in 1740 at the age of 23. Her neighbours circled like wolves and, within two months, Frederick the Great had seized one of her most prized lands, Silesia, exploiting her vulnerability. Yet over the next forty years through political reforms, alliances and marriages, she built Austria up into a formidable power, and she would do whatever it took to save the souls of her Catholic subjects, with a rigidity and intolerance that Joseph II, her son and heir, could not wait to challenge.

    With

    Catriona Seth
    Marshal Foch Professor of French Literature at the University of Oxford

    Martyn Rady
    Professor of Central European History at University College London

    And

    Thomas Biskup
    Lecturer in Early Modern History at the University of Hull

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 50 min
    Cave Art

    Cave Art

    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

    • 48 min
    Pericles

    Pericles

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Pericles (495-429BC), the statesman who dominated the politics of Athens for thirty years, the so-called Age of Pericles, when the city’s cultural life flowered, its democracy strengthened as its empire grew, and the Acropolis was adorned with the Parthenon. In 431 BC he gave a funeral oration for those Athenians who had already died in the new war with Sparta which has been celebrated as one of the greatest speeches of all time, yet within two years he was dead from a plague made worse by Athenians crowding into their city to avoid attacks. Thucydides, the historian, knew him and was in awe of him, yet few shared that view until the nineteenth century, when they found much in Pericles to praise, an example for the Victorian age.

    With

    Edith Hall
    Professor of Classics at King's College London.

    Paul Cartledge
    AG Leventis Senior Research Fellow at Clare College, University of Cambridge

    And

    Peter Liddel
    Senior Lecturer in Ancient History at the University of Manchester

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 48 min

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5
1.1K Ratings

1.1K Ratings

movingbrush ,

In our time

Fascinating and instructive
I find the wide variety of subjects very stimulating, Mr Bragg does a good job to keep it rolling and his guests know their stuff
Simon F

L-J-88 ,

Great but could be even better

I love this podcast, the content is brilliant. It’s just that it always feels so rushed, not as much as the earlier episodes but still feels like they are always up against the clock. Can’t you just make the episodes longer and take your time a bit more. Other than that it’s fantastic, can’t wait for new episodes to start dropping when things start and get back to normal

girlgoneglobal ,

Mixed

The content and subjects are fascinating but Melvyn Bragg is rude, impatient and far too fond of his own voice. I’d much rather listen to the superlative guests than him.

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