1,041 episodes

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas, people and events that have shaped our world.

In Our Time BBC Podcasts

    • History
    • 4.7 • 135 Ratings

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas, people and events that have shaped our world.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Requires subscription and macOS 11.4 or higher



    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Aristophanes' comedy in which the women of Athens and Sparta, led by Lysistrata, secure peace in the long-running war between them by staging a sex strike. To the men in the audience in 411BC, the idea that peace in the Peloponnesian War could be won so easily was ridiculous and the thought that their wives could have so much power over them was even more so. However Aristophanes' comedy also has the women seizing the treasure in the Acropolis that was meant to fund more fighting in an emergency, a fund the Athenians had recently had to draw on. They were in a perilous position and, much as they might laugh at Aristophanes' jokes, they knew there were real concerns about the actual cost of the war in terms of wealth and manpower.


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

    Sarah Miles
    Associate Professor in the Department of Classics and Ancient History at Durham University


    James Robson
    Professor of Classical Studies at the Open University

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    Reading list:

    Aristophanes (ed. Jeffrey Henderson), Lysistrata (Oxford University Press, 1987)

    Aristophanes (ed. Jeffrey Henderson), Three Plays by Aristophanes: Staging Women (Routledge, 2010)

    Aristophanes (ed. Jeffrey Henderson), Birds; Lysistrata; Women at the Thesmophoria (Loeb Classical Library series, Harvard University Press, 2014)

    Aristophanes (ed. Alan H. Sommerstein), Lysistrata and Other Plays: The Acharnians; The Clouds; Lysistrata (Penguin, 2002)

    Aristophanes (ed. Alan H. Sommerstein), Lysistrata (Aris & Phillips, 1998)

    Paul Cartledge, Aristophanes and his Theatre of the Absurd (Bristol Classical Press, 1999)

    Kenneth Dover, Aristophanic Comedy (University of California Press, 1972)

    Germaine Greer, Lysistrata: The Sex Strike: After Aristophanes (Aurora Metro Press, 2000)

    Tony Harrison, The Common Chorus: A Version of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata (Faber & Faber, 1992)

    Douglas M. MacDowell, Aristophanes and Athens: An Introduction to the Plays (Oxford University Press, 1995)

    S. Douglas Olson (ed.), Ancient Comedy and Reception: Essays in Honor of Jeffrey Henderson (De Gruyter, 2013), especially 'She (Don't) Gotta Have It: African-American reception of Lysistrata' by Kevin Wetmore

    James Robson, Aristophanes: Lysistrata, Bloomsbury ancient comedy companions (Bloomsbury, 2023)

    James Robson, Aristophanes: An Introduction (Duckworth, 2009)

    Ralph M. Rosen and Helene P. Foley (eds.), Aristophanes and Politics. New Studies (Brill, 2020)

    Donald Sells, Parody, Politics and the Populace in Greek Old Comedy (Bloomsbury, 2018)

    David Stuttard (ed.), Looking at Lysistrata: Eight Essays and a New Version of Aristophanes' Provocative Comedy (Bristol Classical Press, 2010)

    Nikola Tesla

    Nikola Tesla

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) and his role in the development of electrical systems towards the end of the nineteenth century. He made his name in New York in the contest over which current should flow into homes and factories in America. Some such as Edison backed direct current or DC while others such as Westinghouse backed alternating current or AC and Nikola Tesla’s invention of a motor that worked on AC swung it for the alternating system that went on to power the modern age. He ensured his reputation and ideas burnt brightly for the next decades, making him synonymous with the lone, genius inventor of the new science fiction.


    Simon Schaffer
    Emeritus Fellow of Darwin College, University of Cambridge

    Jill Jonnes
    Historian and author of “Empires of Light: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse and the Race to Electrify the World”


    Iwan Morus
    Professor of History at Aberystwyth University

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    Reading list:

    W. Bernard Carlson, Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age (Princeton University Press, 2013)

    Margaret Cheney and Robert Uth, Tesla: Master of Lightning (Barnes & Noble Books, 1999)

    Thomas P. Hughes, Networks of Power: Electrification in Western Society, 1880-1930 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983)

    Carolyn Marvin, When Old Technologies Were New (Open University Press, 1988)

    Iwan Rhys Morus, Nikola Tesla and the Electrical Future (Icon Books, 2019)

    Iwan Rhys Morus, How The Victorians Took Us To The Moon (Icon, 2022)

    David E. Nye, Electrifying America: Social Meanings of a New Technology (MIT Press, 1991)

    John J. O’Neill, Prodigal Genius: The Life of Nikola Tesla (first published 1944; Cosimo Classics, 2006)

    Marc J. Seifer, Wizard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla, Biography of a Genius (first published 1996; Citadel Press, 2016)

    Nikola Tesla, My Inventions: The Autobiography of Nikola Tesla (first published 1919; Martino Fine Books, 2011)

    Nikola Tesla, My Inventions and other Writings (Penguin, 2012)

    In Our Time is a BBC Studios Audio production

    The Kalevala

    The Kalevala

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Finnish epic poem that first appeared in print in 1835 in what was then the Grand Duchy of Finland, part of the Russian Empire and until recently part of Sweden. The compiler of this epic was a doctor, Elias Lönnrot (1802-1884), who had travelled the land to hear traditional poems about mythical heroes being sung in Finnish, the language of the peasantry, and writing them down in his own order to create this landmark work. In creating The Kalevala, Lönnrot helped the Finns realise they were a distinct people apart from Sweden and Russia, who deserved their own nation state and who came to demand independence, which they won in 1917.


    Riitta Valijärvi
    Associate Professor in Finnish and Minority Languages at University College London

    Thomas Dubois
    The Halls-Bascom Professor of Scandinavian Folklore and Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison


    Daniel Abondolo
    Formerly Reader in Hungarian at University College London

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    Reading list:

    Nigel Fabb, What is Poetry? Language and Memory in the Poems of the World (Cambridge University Press, 2015)

    Frog, Satu Grünthal, Kati Kallio and Jarkko Niemi (eds), Versification: Metrics in Practice (Finnish Literature Society, 2021)

    Riho Grünthal et al., ‘Drastic demographic events triggered the Uralic spread’ (Diachronica, Volume 39, Issue 4, Aug 2022)

    Lauri Honko (ed.), The Kalevala and the World's Traditional Epics (Finnish Literature Society, 2002)

    The Kalevala Heritage: Archive Recordings of Ancient Finnish Songs. Online Catalogue no. ODE8492.

    Mauri Kunnas, The Canine Kalevala (Otava Publishing, 1992)

    Kuusi, Matti, et al. (eds.), Finnish Folk Poetry: Epic (Finnish Literature Society, 1977)

    Elias Lönnrot (trans. John Martin Crawford), Kalevala: The Epic Poem of Finland (first published 1887; CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2017)

    Elias Lönnrot (trans. W. F. Kirby), Kalevala: The Land of the Heroes (first published by J.M. Dent & Sons, 1907, 2 vols.; ‎ Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd, 2000)

    Elias Lönnrot (trans. Francis Peabody Magoun Jr.), The Kalevala, or Poems of the Kaleva District (Harvard University Press, 1963)

    Elias Lönnrot (trans. Eino Friberg), The Kalevala: Epic of the Finnish People (Otava Publishing, 1988)

    Elias Lönnrot (trans. Keith Bosley), The Kalevala: An Epic Poem after Oral Tradition (Oxford University Press, 1989)

    Kirsti Mäkinen, Pirkko-Liisa Surojegin, Kaarina Brooks, An Illustrated Kalevala: Myths and Legends from Finland (Floris Books, 2020)

    Sami Makkonen, Kalevala: The Graphic Novel (Ablaze, 2024)

    Juha Y. Pentikäinen (trans. Ritva Poom), Kalevala Mythology, (Indiana University Press, 1999)

    Tina K. Ramnarine, Ilmatar’s Inspirations: Nationalism, Globalization and the Changing Soundscapes of Finnish Folk Music (University of Chicago Press, 2003)
    Jonathan Roper (ed.), Alliteration in Culture (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), especially chapter 12 ‘Alliteration in (Balto-) Finnic Languages’ by Frog and Eila Stepanova

    Karl Spracklen, Metal Music and the Re-imagining of Masculinity, Place, Race and Nation (Emerald Publishing, 2020), especially the chapter ‘Finnish Folk Metal: Raising Drinking Horns in Mainstream Metal’

    Leea Virtanen and Thomas A. DuBois, Finnish Folklore: Studia Fennica Folkloristica 9 (Finnish Literature Society, 2000)

    Julian the Apostate

    Julian the Apostate

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the last pagan ruler of the Roman Empire. Fifty years after Constantine the Great converted to Christianity and introduced a policy of tolerating the faith across the empire, Julian (c.331 - 363 AD) aimed to promote paganism instead, branding Constantine the worst of all his predecessors. Julian was a philosopher-emperor in the mould of Marcus Aurelius and was noted in his lifetime for his letters and his satires, and it was his surprising success as a general in his youth in Gaul that had propelled him to power barely twenty years after a rival had slaughtered his family. Julian's pagan mission and his life were brought to a sudden end while on campaign against the Sassanids in the east, but he left so much written evidence of his ideas that he remains one of the most intriguing of all the Roman emperors and a hero to the humanists of the Enlightenment.


    James Corke-Webster
    Reader in Classics, History and Liberal Arts at King’s College, London

    Lea Niccolai
    Assistant Professor in Classics at the University of Cambridge and Fellow and Director of Studies in Classics, Trinity College


    Shaun Tougher
    Professor of Late Roman and Byzantine History at Cardiff University

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    Reading list:

    Polymnia Athanassiadi, Julian: An Intellectual Biography (first published 1981; Routledge, 2014)

    Nicholas Baker-Brian and Shaun Tougher (eds.), Emperor and Author: The Writings of Julian the Apostate (Classical Press of Wales, 2012)

    Nicholas Baker-Brian and Shaun Tougher (eds.), The Sons of Constantine, AD 337-361: In the Shadows of Constantine and Julian, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020)

    G.W. Bowersock, Julian the Apostate (first published 1978; Harvard University Press, 1997)

    Susanna Elm, Sons of Hellenism, Fathers of the Church: Emperor Julian, Gregory of Nazianzus, and the Vision of Rome (University of California Press, 2012)

    Ari Finkelstein, The Specter of the Jews: Emperor Julian and the Rhetoric of Ethnicity in Syrian Antioch (University of California Press, 2018)

    David Neal Greenwood, Julian and Christianity: Revisiting the Constantinian Revolution (Cornell University Press, 2021)

    Lea Niccolai, Christianity, Philosophy, and Roman Power: Constantine, Julian, and the Bishops on Exegesis and Empire (Cambridge University Press, 2023)

    Stefan Rebenich and Hans-Ulrich Wiemer (eds), A Companion to Julian the Apostate (Brill, 2020)

    Rowland Smith, Julian’s Gods: Religion and Philosophy in the Thought and Action of Julian the Apostate (Routledge, 1995)

    H.C. Teitler, The Last Pagan Emperor: Julian the Apostate and the War against Christianity (Oxford University Press, 2017)

    Shaun Tougher, Julian the Apostate (Edinburgh University Press, 2007)

    W. C. Wright, The Works of Emperor Julian of Rome (Loeb, 1913-23)

    The Waltz

    The Waltz

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the dance which, from when it reached Britain in the early nineteenth century, revolutionised the relationship between music, literature and people here for the next hundred years. While it may seem formal now, it was the informality and daring that drove its popularity, with couples holding each other as they spun round a room to new lighter music popularised by Johann Strauss, father and son, such as The Blue Danube. Soon the Waltz expanded the creative world in poetry, ballet, novellas and music, from the Ballets Russes of Diaghilev to Moon River and Are You Lonesome Tonight.
    Susan Jones
    Emeritus Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford
    Derek B. Scott
    Professor Emeritus of Music at the University of Leeds
    Theresa Buckland
    Emeritus Professor of Dance History and Ethnography at the University of Roehampton
    Producer: Simon Tillotson
    Reading list:
    Egil Bakka, Theresa Jill Buckland, Helena Saarikoski, and Anne von Bibra Wharton (eds.), Waltzing Through Europe: Attitudes towards Couple Dances in the Long Nineteenth Century, (Open Book Publishers, 2020)
    Theresa Jill Buckland, ‘How the Waltz was Won: Transmutations and the Acquisition of Style in Early English Modern Ballroom Dancing. Part One: Waltzing Under Attack’ (Dance Research, 36/1, 2018); ‘Part Two: The Waltz Regained’ (Dance Research, 36/2, 2018)
    Theresa Jill Buckland, Society Dancing: Fashionable Bodies in England, 1870-1920 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011)
    Erica Buurman, The Viennese Ballroom in the Age of Beethoven (Cambridge University Press, 2022)
    Paul Cooper, ‘The Waltz in England, c. 1790-1820’ (Paper presented at Early Dance Circle conference, 2018)
    Sherril Dodds and Susan Cook (eds.), Bodies of Sound: Studies Across Popular Dance and Music (Ashgate, 2013), especially ‘Dancing Out of Time: The Forgotten Boston of Edwardian England’ by Theresa Jill Buckland
    Zelda Fitzgerald, Save Me the Waltz (first published 1932; Vintage Classics, 2001)
    Hilary French, Ballroom: A People's History of Dancing (Reaktion Books, 2022)
    Susan Jones, Literature, Modernism, and Dance (Oxford University Press, 2013)
    Mark Knowles, The Wicked Waltz and Other Scandalous Dances: Outrage at Couple Dancing in the 19th and Early 20th Centuries (McFarland, 2009)
    Rosamond Lehmann, Invitation to the Waltz (first published 1932; Virago, 2006)
    Eric McKee, Decorum of the Minuet, Delirium of the Waltz: A Study of Dance-Music Relations in 3/4 Time (Indiana University Press, 2012)
    Eduard Reeser, The History of the Walz (Continental Book Co., 1949)
    Stanley Sadie (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Vol. 27 (Macmillan, 2nd ed., 2000), especially ‘Waltz’ by Andrew Lamb
    Derek B. Scott, Sounds of the Metropolis: The 19th-Century Popular Music Revolution in London, New York, Paris and Vienna (Oxford University Press, 2008), especially the chapter ‘A Revolution on the Dance Floor, a Revolution in Musical Style: The Viennese Waltz’
    Joseph Wechsberg, The Waltz Emperors: The Life and Times and Music of the Strauss Family (Putnam, 1973)
    Cheryl A. Wilson, Literature and Dance in Nineteenth-century Britain (Cambridge University Press, 2009)
    Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out (first published 1915; William Collins, 2013)
    Virginia Woolf, The Years (first published 1937; Vintage Classics, 2016)
    David Wyn Jones, The Strauss Dynasty and Habsburg Vienna (Cambridge University Press, 2023)
    Sevin H. Yaraman, Revolving Embrace: The Waltz as Sex, Steps, and Sound (Pendragon Press, 2002)
    Rishona Zimring, Social Dance and the Modernist Imagination in Interwar Britain (Ashgate Press, 2013)

    • 52 min
    The Mokrani Revolt

    The Mokrani Revolt

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the revolt that broke out in 1871 in Algeria against French rule, spreading over hundreds of miles and countless towns and villages before being brutally suppressed. It began with the powerful Cheikh Mokrani and his family and was taken up by hundreds of thousands, becoming the last major revolt there before Algeria’s war of independence in 1954. In the wake of its swift suppression though came further waves of French migrants to settle on newly confiscated lands, themselves displaced by French defeat in Europe and the loss of Alsace-Lorraine, and their arrival only increased tensions. The Mokrani Revolt came to be seen as a watershed between earlier Ottoman rule and full national identity, an inspiration to nationalists in the 1950s.
    Natalya Benkhaled-Vince
    Associate Professor of the History of Modern France and the Francophone World, Fellow of University College, University of Oxford
    Hannah-Louise Clark
    Senior Lecturer in Global Economic and Social History at the University of Glasgow
    Jim House
    Senior Lecturer in French and Francophone History at the University of Leeds
    Producer: Simon Tillotson
    Reading list:
    Mahfoud Bennoune, The Making of Contemporary Algeria: 1830-1987 (Cambridge University Press, 1988)
    Julia Clancy-Smith, Rebel and Saint: Muslim Notables, Populist Protest, Colonial Encounters, Algeria and Tunisia 1800–1904 (University of California Press, 1994)
    Hannah-Louise Clark, ‘The Islamic Origins of the French Colonial Welfare State: Hospital Finance in Algeria’ (European Review of History, vol. 28, nos 5-6, 2021)
    Hannah-Louise Clark, ‘Of jinn theories and germ theories: translating microbes, bacteriological medicine, and Islamic law in Algeria’ (Osiris, vol. 36, 2021)
    Brock Cutler, Ecologies of Imperialism in Algeria (University of Nebraska Press, 2023)
    Didier Guignard, 1871: L’Algérie sous Séquestre (CNRS Éditions, 2023)
    Idir Hachi, ‘Histoire social de l’insurrection de 1871 et du procès de ses chefs (PhD diss., University of Aix-Marseille, 2017)
    Abdelhak Lahlou, Idir Hachi, Isabelle Guillaume, Amélie Gregório and Peter Dunwoodie, ‘L'insurrection kabyle de 1871’ (Etudes françaises volume 57, no 1, 2021)
    James McDougall, A History of Algeria (Cambridge University Press (2017)
    John Ruedy, Modern Algeria: The Origins and Development of a Nation (Indiana University Press, 2005, 2nd edition)
    Jennifer E Sessions, By Sword and Plow: France and the Conquest of Algeria (Cornell University Press, 2011)
    Samia Touati, ‘Lalla Fatma N’Soumer, 1830–1863: Spirituality, Resistance and Womanly Leadership in Colonial Algeria (Societies vol. 8, no. 4, 2018)
    Natalya Vince, Our Fighting Sisters: Nation, Memory and Gender in Algeria, 1954-2012 (Manchester University Press, 2015)

    • 57 min

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5
135 Ratings

135 Ratings

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Verdens beste podkast.

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Informative, interesting, and very well presented!

Melvyn and his guests, who are always extremely well informed and experts in their field, combine history and analysis in this high brow yet accessible podcast series.

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