105 episodes

Tim Harford tells the fascinating stories of inventions, ideas and innovations which have helped create the economic world.

50 Things That Made the Modern Economy BBC

    • Business

Tim Harford tells the fascinating stories of inventions, ideas and innovations which have helped create the economic world.

    Auctions

    Auctions

    Are things only worth what people are willing to pay for them? Tim Harford explains why a method of buying and selling that originated in ancient times has endured to the present day, and is now underpinning the success of some of the internet's most powerful brands.

    • 9 min
    Dams

    Dams

    From reliable water supplies to large-scale electricity generation, the benefits brought by dams can be huge. But so can the problems. Tim Harford explains how these massive structures have changed the world for many, but led to catastrophe for others.

    • 9 min
    Tulips

    Tulips

    In the 1630s, the Netherlands experienced 'tulip mania' - a surge in demand for tulips from wealthy buyers, with some individual bulbs costing twenty times more than a carpenter's annual salary. Then, in February 1637, the price suddenly crashed. It's often cited as the first great financial bubble, but is that really the case? Tim Harford tries to sort fact from fiction.

    • 10 min
    Sanitary towel

    Sanitary towel

    In the early 20th Century, makers of sanitary towels had to find a way to sell an item that some people found too embarrassing to mention. In some parts of the world, that stigma still hasn't gone away. Tim Harford charts the controversial history of a quietly revolutionary product.

    • 9 min
    Wardian case

    Wardian case

    Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward's miniature greenhouses made it far easier to successfully transport plants, spreading them far beyond their native lands. But that led to major consequences that Ward hadn't foreseen. Tim Harford tells the story of how glass boxes became powerful weapons in the hands of British colonisers.

    • 9 min
    Fast food franchise

    Fast food franchise

    There are more than 36,000 McDonald's restaurants around the world - but if the McDonald brothers had had their way, that might never have happened. Tim Harford tells the story of how milkshake-mixer salesman Ray Kroc turned their burger business into a global giant, and explains the principles that made his franchising model such a success.

    • 9 min

Customer Reviews

Michael Gurkov ,

Wonderful work

Great podcast. Interesting, educational and truly inspiring 😀

yonischott ,

Superb and Short

Every show picks a different topic and provides so much information in such a short episode. I feel like my mind has been opened to new perspectives and ideas to basic things I would have taken for granted. Obviously I often want more and will go to Wikipedia to read up on the subject but I like getting the first taste from the show.

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