300 episodes

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of ideas

In Our Time BBC

    • History
    • 4.4, 139 Ratings

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of ideas

    The Lancashire Cotton Famine (Summer Repeat)

    The Lancashire Cotton Famine (Summer Repeat)

    In a programme first broadcast in 2015, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Cotton Famine in Lancashire from 1861-65. The Famine followed the blockade of Confederate Southern ports during the American Civil War which stopped the flow of cotton into mills in Britain and Europe. Reports at the time told of starvation, mass unemployment and migration. Abraham Lincoln wrote, "I know and deeply deplore the sufferings which the working-men of Manchester, and in all Europe, are called to endure in this crisis." While the full cause and extent of the Famine in Lancashire are disputed, the consequences of this and the cotton blockade were far reaching.

    With

    Lawrence Goldman
    Director of the Institute of Historical Research at the University of London

    Emma Griffin
    Professor of History at the University of East Anglia

    And

    David Brown
    Senior Lecturer in American Studies at University of Manchester

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 45 min
    Baltic Crusades (Summer Repeat)

    Baltic Crusades (Summer Repeat)

    In a programme first broadcast in 2016, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Baltic Crusades, the name given to a series of overlapping attempts to convert the pagans of North East Europe to Christianity at the point of the sword. From the 12th Century, Papal Bulls endorsed those who fought on the side of the Church, the best known now being the Teutonic Order which, thwarted in Jerusalem, founded a state on the edge of the Baltic, in Prussia. Some of the peoples in the region disappeared, either killed or assimilated, and the consequences for European history were profound.

    With

    Aleks Pluskowski
    Associate Professor of Archaeology at the University of Reading

    Nora Berend
    Fellow of St Catharine's College and Reader in European History at the Faculty of History at the University of Cambridge

    and

    Martin Palmer
    Director of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education, and Culture

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 47 min
    The Epic of Gilgamesh (Summer Repeat)

    The Epic of Gilgamesh (Summer Repeat)

    "He who saw the Deep" are the first words of the standard version of The Epic of Gilgamesh, the subject of this discussion between Melvyn Bragg and his guests which was first broadcast in 2016. Gilgamesh is often said to be the oldest surviving great work of literature, with origins in the third millennium BC, and it passed through thousands of years on cuneiform tablets. Unlike epics of Greece and Rome, the intact story of Gilgamesh became lost to later generations until tablets were discovered by Hormuzd Rassam in 1853 near Mosul and later translated. Since then, many more tablets have been found and much of the text has been reassembled to convey the story of Gilgamesh, king of Uruk the sheepfold, and Enkidu who the gods created to stop Gilgamesh oppressing his people. Together they fight Humbaba, monstrous guardian of the Cedar Forest, and kill the Bull of Heaven, for which the gods make Enkidu mortally ill. Gilgamesh goes on a long journey as he tries unsuccessfully to learn how to live forever, learning about the Great Deluge on the way, but his remarkable building works guarantee that his fame will last long after his death.

    With

    Andrew George
    Professor of Babylonian at SOAS, University of London

    Frances Reynolds
    Shillito Fellow in Assyriology at the Oriental Institute, University of Oxford and Fellow of St Benet's Hall

    and

    Martin Worthington
    Lecturer in Assyriology at the University of Cambridge


    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 47 min
    Kant's Categorical Imperative (Summer Repeat)

    Kant's Categorical Imperative (Summer Repeat)

    In a programme first broadcast in 2017, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how, in the Enlightenment, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) sought to define the difference between right and wrong by applying reason, looking at the intention behind actions rather than at consequences. He was inspired to find moral laws by natural philosophers such as Newton and Leibniz, who had used reason rather than emotion to analyse the world around them and had identified laws of nature. Kant argued that when someone was doing the right thing, that person was doing what was the universal law for everyone, a formulation that has been influential on moral philosophy ever since and is known as the Categorical Imperative. Arguably even more influential was one of his reformulations, echoed in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in which he asserted that humanity has a value of an entirely different kind from that placed on commodities. Kant argued that simply existing as a human being was valuable in itself, so that every human owed moral responsibilities to other humans and was owed responsibilities in turn.

    With

    Alison Hills
    Professor of Philosophy at St John's College, Oxford

    David Oderberg
    Professor of Philosophy at the University of Reading

    and

    John Callanan
    Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at King's College, London

    Producer: Simon Tillotson.

    • 50 min
    1816, the Year Without a Summer (Summer Repeat)

    1816, the Year Without a Summer (Summer Repeat)

    In a programme first broadcast in 2016, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the impact of the eruption of Mt Tambora, in 1815, on the Indonesian island of Sambawa. This was the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history and it had the highest death toll, devastating people living in the immediate area. Tambora has been linked with drastic weather changes in North America and Europe the following year, with frosts in June and heavy rains throughout the summer in many areas. This led to food shortages, which may have prompted westward migration in America and, in a Europe barely recovered from the Napoleonic Wars, led to widespread famine.

    With

    Clive Oppenheimer
    Professor of Volcanology at the University of Cambridge

    Jane Stabler
    Professor in Romantic Literature at the University of St Andrews

    And

    Lawrence Goldman
    Director of the Institute of Historical Research at the University of London

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 46 min
    Frankenstein

    Frankenstein

    In a programme first broadcast in May 2019, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Mary Shelley's (1797-1851) Gothic story of a Swiss natural philosopher, Victor Frankenstein, and the creature he makes from parts of cadavers and which he then abandons, horrified by his appearance, and never names. Rejected by all humans who see him, the monster takes his revenge on Frankenstein, killing those dear to him. Shelley started writing Frankenstein when she was 18, prompted by a competition she had with Byron and her husband Percy Shelley to tell a ghost story while they were rained in in the summer of 1816 at the Villa Diodati by Lake Geneva.

    The image of Mary Shelley, above, was first exhibited in 1840.

    With

    Karen O'Brien
    Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford

    Michael Rossington
    Professor of Romantic Literature at Newcastle University

    And

    Jane Thomas
    Professor of Victorian and Early 20th Century Literature at the University of Hull

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    This programme is a repeat

    • 55 min

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5
139 Ratings

139 Ratings

Churdoy71 ,

Excellent material - average presentation.

Melvin has got TB .

M Todrick ,

Let the experts speak

Melvyn’s desire to interrupt the experts is incredibly jarring and can make for quite an awkward listen experience. However, the academics are incredibly interesting and engaging....while they are allowed to keep their train of thought.
Melvyn seems to watch the clock soo closely that one can not help but feel anxious for any poor academic that risks speaking for longer than the allotted time that Melvyn has set in his head.
Still a very enjoyable podcast...especially if Melvyn is in a generous mood.

susiej111111111 ,

Rudest presenter

While I love the format of this podcast, and the wide variety of topics presented, I will sadly delete this from my cache.

Melvyn Bragg’s continual interruptions of the subject matter experts brought on the show is beyond rude. Why even bother, since he apparently knows more about these topics that they have spent years of their lives researching.

I had to give up after listening to the first few minutes of “the siege of Malta” and hearing Melvyn talk over the speaker about 5 times within 30 seconds.

Maybe it’s time for a new presenter...

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