300 episodes

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of ideas

In Our Time BBC

    • History
    • 4.9 • 9 Ratings

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of ideas

    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
    Alan Turing

    Alan Turing

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Alan Turing (1912-1954) whose 1936 paper On Computable Numbers effectively founded computer science. Immediately recognised by his peers, his wider reputation has grown as our reliance on computers has grown. He was a leading figure at Bletchley Park in the Second World War, using his ideas for cracking enemy codes, work said to have shortened the war by two years and saved millions of lives. That vital work was still secret when Turing was convicted in 1952 for having a sexual relationship with another man for which he was given oestrogen for a year, or chemically castrated. Turing was to kill himself two years later. The immensity of his contribution to computing was recognised in the 1960s by the creation of the Turing Award, known as the Nobel of computer science, and he is to be the new face on the £50 note.

    With

    Leslie Ann Goldberg
    Professor of Computer Science and Fellow of St Edmund Hall, University of Oxford

    Simon Schaffer
    Professor of the History of Science at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Darwin College

    And

    Andrew Hodges
    Biographer of Turing and Emeritus Fellow of Wadham College, Oxford

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 53 min
    Deism

    Deism

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the idea that God created the universe and then left it for humans to understand by reason not revelation. Edward Herbert, 1583-1648 (pictured above) held that there were five religious truths: belief in a Supreme Being, the need to worship him, the pursuit of a virtuous life as the best form of worship, repentance, and reward or punishment after death. Others developed these ideas in different ways, yet their opponents in England's established Church collected them under the label of Deists, called Herbert the Father of Deism and attacked them as a movement, and Deist books were burned. Over time, reason and revelation found a new balance in the Church in England, while Voltaire and Thomas Paine explored the ideas further, leading to their re-emergence in the French and American Revolutions.

    With

    Richard Serjeantson
    Fellow and Lecturer in History at Trinity College, Cambridge

    Katie East
    Lecturer in History at Newcastle University

    And

    Thomas Ahnert
    Professor of Intellectual History at the University of Edinburgh

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 48 min
    Macbeth

    Macbeth

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies. When three witches prophesy that Macbeth will be king one day, he is not prepared to wait and almost the next day he murders King Duncan as he sleeps, a guest at Macbeth’s castle. From there we explore their brutal world where few boundaries are distinct – between safe and unsafe, friend and foe, real and unreal, man and beast – until Macbeth too is slaughtered.

    The image above shows Nicol Williamson as Macbeth in a 1983 BBC TV adaptation.

    With:

    Emma Smith
    Professor of Shakespeare Studies at Hertford College, University of Oxford

    Kiernan Ryan
    Emeritus Professor of English Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London

    And

    David Schalkwyk,
    Professor of Shakespeare Studies and Director of Global Shakespeare at Queen Mary, University of London

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 51 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

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