300 episodes

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of ideas

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    • History
    • 4.6 • 3.6K Ratings

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of ideas

    Marcus Aurelius

    Marcus Aurelius

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the man who, according to Machiavelli, was the last of the Five Good Emperors. Marcus Aurelius, 121 to 180 AD, has long been known as a model of the philosopher king, a Stoic who, while on military campaigns, compiled ideas on how best to live his life, and how best to rule. These ideas became known as his Meditations, and they have been treasured by many as an insight into the mind of a Roman emperor, and an example of how to avoid the corruption of power in turbulent times.

    The image above shows part of a bronze equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius.

    With

    Simon Goldhill
    Professor of Greek Literature and Culture and Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge

    Angie Hobbs
    Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield

    And

    Catharine Edwards
    Professor of Classics and Ancient History at Birkbeck, University of London

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 52 min
    Medieval Pilgrimage

    Medieval Pilgrimage

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the idea and experience of Christian pilgrimage in Europe from the 12th to the 15th centuries, which figured so strongly in the imagination of the age. For those able and willing to travel, there were countless destinations from Jerusalem, Rome and Santiago de Compostela to the smaller local shrines associated with miracles and relics of the saints. Meanwhile, for those unable or not allowed to travel there were journeys of the mind, inspired by guidebooks that would tell the faithful how many steps they could take around their homes to replicate the walk to the main destinations in Rome and the Holy Land, passing paintings of the places on their route.

    The image above is of a badge of St Thomas of Canterbury, worn by pilgrims who had journeyed to his shrine.

    With

    Miri Rubin
    Professor of Medieval and Early Modern History at Queen Mary, University of London

    Kathryn Rudy
    Professor of Art History at the University of St Andrews

    And

    Anthony Bale
    Professor of Medieval Studies and Dean of the School of Arts at Birkbeck, University of London

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 50 min
    The Rosetta Stone

    The Rosetta Stone

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the most famous museum objects in the world, shown in the image above in replica, and dating from around 196 BC. It is a damaged, dark granite block on which you can faintly see three scripts engraved: Greek at the bottom, Demotic in the middle and Hieroglyphs at the top. Napoleon’s soldiers found it in a Mamluk fort at Rosetta on the Egyptian coast, and soon realised the Greek words could be used to unlock the hieroglyphs. It was another 20 years before Champollion deciphered them, becoming the first to understand the hieroglyphs since they fell out of use 1500 years before and so opening up the written culture of ancient Egypt to the modern age.

    With
    Penelope Wilson
    Associate Professor of Egyptian Archaeology at Durham University

    Campbell Price
    Curator of Egypt and Sudan at the Manchester Museum

    And

    Richard Bruce Parkinson
    Professor of Egyptology and Fellow of The Queen’s College, University of Oxford

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 47 min
    Emilie du Châtelet

    Emilie du Châtelet

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the outstanding French mathematicians and natural philosophers of the 18th Century, celebrated across Europe. Emilie du Châtelet, 1706-49, created a translation of Newton’s Principia from Latin into French that helped spread the light of mathematics on the emerging science, and her own book Institutions de Physique, with its lessons on physics, was welcomed as profound. She had the privileges of wealth and aristocracy, yet had to fight to be taken seriously as an intellectual in a world of ideas that was almost exclusively male.

    With

    Patricia Fara
    Emeritus Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge

    David Wootton
    Anniversary Professor of History at the University of York

    And

    Judith Zinsser
    Professor Emerita of History at Miami University of Ohio and biographer of Emilie du Châtelet.

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 49 min
    Saint Cuthbert

    Saint Cuthbert

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Northumbrian man who, for 500 years, was the pre-eminent English saint, to be matched only by Thomas Becket after his martyrdom in 1170. Now at Durham, Cuthbert was buried first on Lindisfarne in 687AD, where monks shared vivid stories of his sanctifying miracles, his healing, and his power over nature, and his final tomb became a major site of pilgrimage. In his lifetime he was both hermit and kingmaker, bishop and travelling priest, and the many accounts we have of him, including two by Bede, tell us much of the values of those who venerated him so soon after his death.

    The image above is from a stained glass window in the south aisle of the nave in Durham Cathedral: 'St Cuthbert praying before his cell in the Farne Island'

    With

    Jane Hawkes
    Professor of Medieval Art History at the University of York

    Sarah Foot
    The Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History at the University of Oxford and Canon of Christ Church Cathedral

    And

    John Hines
    Professor of Archaeology at Cardiff University

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 56 min
    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

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
3.6K Ratings

3.6K Ratings

Smiley Med Man ,

Really enjoyable

I find the invited guests extremely knowledgeable and passionate about the topics being covered. I have only been listening for the past few months, but feel fortunate to have found this podcast. A variety of topics are covered, and the discussion is very enjoyable and interesting to me. Really thankful to BBC and the presenters for this podcast.

lrhhrl ,

Brilliant

academic yet not too dry. Each episode is worth sitting down and listening to with your full attention. The best podcast.

SF Loves PBS ,

STOP SLURPING, WHEEZING, CHOKING ON PHLEGM... mute the mike, mate

Major fan, can’t love this podcast enough, but please teach MG to mute his microphone when he’s overcome with clearly uncontrolled bouts of coughing, wheezing, gulping water, and phlegm clearance... it’s just a bit much in this listener’s ear....

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