300 episodes

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of ideas

In Our Time BBC

    • History

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of ideas

    Solar Wind

    Solar Wind

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the flow of particles from the outer region of the Sun which we observe in the Northern and Southern Lights, interacting with Earth's magnetosphere, and in comet tails that stream away from the Sun regardless of their own direction. One way of defining the boundary of the solar system is where the pressure from the solar wind is balanced by that from the region between the stars, the interstellar medium. Its existence was suggested from the C19th and Eugene Parker developed the theory of it in the 1950s and it has been examined and tested by a series of probes in C20th up to today, with more planned.

    With

    Andrew Coates
    Professor of Physics and Deputy Director in charge of the Solar System at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College London

    Helen Mason OBE
    Reader in Solar Physics at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, University of Cambridge, Fellow at St Edmund's College

    And

    Tim Horbury
    Professor of Physics at Imperial College London

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 55 min
    The Siege of Paris 1870-71

    The Siege of Paris 1870-71

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the siege of Paris during the Franco-Prussian war and the social unrest that followed, as the French capital was cut off from the rest of the country and food was scarce. When the French government surrendered Paris to the Prussians, power gravitated to the National Guard in the city and to radical socialists, and a Commune established in March 1871 with the red flag replacing the trilcoleur. The French government sent in the army and, after bloody fighting, the Communards were defeated by the end of May 1871.

    The image above is from an engraving of the fire in the Tuileries Palace, May 23, 1871

    With

    Karine Varley
    Lecturer in French and European History at the University of Strathclyde

    Robert Gildea
    Professor of Modern History at the University of Oxford

    And

    Julia Nicholls
    Lecturer in French and European Studies at King’s College London

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 52 min
    Catullus

    Catullus

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Catullus (c84-c54 BC) who wrote some of the most sublime poetry in the late Roman Republic, and some of the most obscene. He found a new way to write about love, in poems to the mysterious Lesbia, married and elusive, and he influenced Virgil and Ovid and others, yet his explicit poems were to blight his reputation for a thousand years. Once the one surviving manuscript was discovered in the Middle Ages, though, anecdotally as a plug in a wine butt, he inspired Petrarch and the Elizabethan poets, as he continues to inspire many today.

    The image above is of Lesbia and her Sparrow, 1860, artist unknown

    With

    Gail Trimble
    Brown Fellow and Tutor in Classics at Trinity College at the University of Oxford

    Simon Smith
    Reader in Creative Writing at the University of Kent, poet and translator of Catullus

    and

    Maria Wyke
    Professor of Latin at University College London

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 52 min
    Tutankhamun

    Tutankhamun

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the discovery in 1922 of Tutankhamun's 3000 year old tomb and its impact on the understanding of ancient Egypt, both academic and popular. The riches, such as the death mask above, were spectacular and made the reputation of Howard Carter who led the excavation. And if the astonishing contents of the tomb were not enough, the drama of the find and the control of how it was reported led to a craze for 'King Tut' that has rarely subsided and has enthused and sometimes confused people around the world, seeking to understand the reality of Tutankhamun's life and times.

    With

    Elizabeth Frood
    Associate Professor of Egyptology, Director of the Griffith Institute and Fellow of St Cross at the University of Oxford

    Christina Riggs
    Professor of the History of Visual Culture at Durham University and a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford

    And

    John Taylor
    Curator at the Department of Egypt and Sudan at the British Museum

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 53 min
    Auden

    Auden

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and poetry of WH Auden (1907-1973) up to his departure from Europe for the USA in 1939. As well as his personal life, he addressed suffering and confusion, and the moral issues that affected the wider public in the 1930s and tried to unpick what was going wrong in society and to understand those times. He witnessed the rise of totalitarianism in the austerity of that decade, travelling through Germany to Berlin, seeing Spain in the Civil War and China during its wars with Japan, often collaborating with Christopher Isherwood. In his lifetime his work attracted high praise and intense criticism, and has found new audiences in the fifty years since his death, sometimes taking literally what he meant ironically.

    With

    Mark Ford
    Poet and Professor of English at University College London

    Janet Montefiore
    Professor Emerita of 20th Century English Literature at the University of Kent

    And

    Jeremy Noel-Tod
    Senior Lecturer in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 53 min
    Coffee

    Coffee

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history and social impact of coffee. From its origins in Ethiopia, coffea arabica spread through the Ottoman Empire before reaching Western Europe where, in the 17th century, coffee houses were becoming established. There, caffeinated customers stayed awake for longer and were more animated, and this helped to spread ideas and influence culture. Coffee became a colonial product, grown by slaves or indentured labour, with coffea robusta replacing arabica where disease had struck, and was traded extensively by the Dutch and French empires; by the 19th century, Brazil had developed into a major coffee producer, meeting demand in the USA that had grown on the waggon trails.

    With

    Judith Hawley
    Professor of 18th Century Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London

    Markman Ellis
    Professor of 18th Century Studies at Queen Mary University of London

    And

    Jonathan Morris
    Professor in Modern History at the University of Hertfordshire

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 55 min

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