300 episodes

Historical themes, events and key individuals from Akhenaten to Xenophon.

In Our Time: History BBC

    • History
    • 4.5 • 1.5K Ratings

Historical themes, events and key individuals from Akhenaten to Xenophon.

    The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

    The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the republic that emerged from the union of the Kingdom of Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the 14th Century. At first this was a personal union, similar to that of James I and VI in Britain, but this was formalised in 1569 into a vast republic, stretching from the Baltic to the Black Sea. Kings and princes from across Europe would compete for parliament to elect them King and Grand Duke, and the greatest power lay with the parliaments. When the system worked well, the Commonwealth was a powerhouse, and it was their leader Jan Sobieski who relieved the siege of Vienna in 1683, defeating the Ottomans. Its neighbours exploited its parliament's need for unanimity, though, and this contributed to its downfall. Austria, Russia and Prussia divided its territory between them from 1772, before the new, smaller states only emerged in the 20th Century.

    The image above is Jan III Sobieski (1629-1696), King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, at the Battle of Vienna 1683, by Marcello Bacciarelli (1731-1818)

    With

    Robert Frost
    The Burnett Fletcher Chair of History at the University of Aberdeen

    Katarzyna Kosior
    Lecturer in Early Modern History at Northumbria University

    And

    Norman Davies
    Professor Emeritus in History and Honorary Fellow of St Antony’s College, University of Oxford

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 48 min
    The Manhattan Project

    The Manhattan Project

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the race to build an atom bomb in the USA during World War Two. Before the war, scientists in Germany had discovered the potential of nuclear fission and scientists in Britain soon argued that this could be used to make an atom bomb, against which there could be no defence other than to own one. The fear among the Allies was that, with its head start, Germany might develop the bomb first and, unmatched, use it on its enemies. The USA took up the challenge in a huge engineering project led by General Groves and Robert Oppenheimer and, once the first bomb had been exploded at Los Alamos in July 1945, it appeared inevitable that the next ones would be used against Japan with devastating results.

    The image above is of Robert Oppenheimer and General Groves examining the remains of one the bases of the steel test tower, at the atomic bomb Trinity Test site, in September 1945.

    With

    Bruce Cameron Reed
    The Charles A. Dana Professor of Physics Emeritus at Alma College, Michigan

    Cynthia Kelly
    Founder and President of the Atomic Heritage Foundation

    And

    Frank Close
    Emeritus Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Exeter College, Oxford

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 48 min
    Herodotus

    Herodotus

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Greek writer known as the father of histories, dubbed by his detractors as the father of lies. Herodotus (c484 to 425 BC or later) was raised in Halicarnassus in modern Turkey when it was part of the Persian empire and, in the years after the Persian Wars, set about an inquiry into the deep background to those wars. He also aimed to preserve what he called the great and marvellous deeds of Greeks and non-Greeks, seeking out the best evidence for past events and presenting the range of evidence for readers to assess. Plutarch was to criticise Herodotus for using this to promote the least flattering accounts of his fellow Greeks, hence the 'father of lies', but the depth and breadth of his Histories have secured his reputation from his lifetime down to the present day.

    With

    Tom Harrison
    Professor of Ancient History at the University of St Andrews

    Esther Eidinow
    Professor of Ancient History at the University of Bristol

    And

    Paul Cartledge
    A. G. Leventis Senior Research Fellow at Clare College, University of Cambridge

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 52 min
    Edward Gibbon

    Edward Gibbon

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and ideas of one of the great historians, best known for his History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (published 1776-89). According to Gibbon (1737-94) , the idea for this work came to him on 15th of October 1764 as he sat musing amidst the ruins of Rome, while barefooted friars were singing vespers in the Temple of Jupiter. Decline and Fall covers thirteen centuries and is an enormous intellectual undertaking and, on publication, it became a phenomenal success across Europe.

    The image above is of Edward Gibbon by Henry Walton, oil on mahogany panel, 1773.

    With

    David Womersley
    The Thomas Wharton Professor of English Literature at St Catherine’s College, University of Oxford

    Charlotte Roberts
    Lecturer in English at University College London

    And

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

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 52 min
    Booth's Life and Labour Survey

    Booth's Life and Labour Survey

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Charles Booth's survey, The Life and Labour of the People in London, published in 17 volumes from 1889 to 1903. Booth (1840-1916), a Liverpudlian shipping line owner, surveyed every household in London to see if it was true, as claimed, that as many as a quarter lived in poverty. He found that it was closer to a third, and that many of these were either children with no means of support or older people no longer well enough to work. He went on to campaign for an old age pension, and broadened the impact of his findings by publishing enhanced Ordnance Survey maps with the streets coloured according to the wealth of those who lived there.

    The image above is of an organ grinder on a London street, circa 1893, with children dancing to the Pas de Quatre

    With

    Emma Griffin
    Professor of Modern British History at the University of East Anglia

    Sarah Wise
    Adjunct Professor at the University of California

    And

    Lawrence Goldman
    Emeritus Fellow in History at St Peter’s College, University of Oxford

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 48 min
    The Interregnum

    The Interregnum

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the period between the execution of Charles I in 1649 and the unexpected restoration of his son Charles II in 1660, known as The Interregnum. It was marked in England by an elusive pursuit of stability, with serious consequences in Scotland and notorious ones in Ireland. When Parliament executed Charles it had also killed Scotland and Ireland’s king, without their consent; Scotland immediately declared Charles II king of Britain, and Ireland too favoured Charles. In the interests of political and financial security, Parliament's forces, led by Oliver Cromwell, soon invaded Ireland and then turned to defeating Scotland. However, the improvised power structures in England did not last and Oliver Cromwell's death in 1658 was followed by the threat of anarchy. In England, Charles II had some success in overturning the changes of the 1650s but there were lasting consequences for Scotland and the notorious changes in Ireland were entrenched.

    The Dutch image of Oliver Cromwell, above, was published by Joost Hartgers c1649

    With

    Clare Jackson
    Senior Tutor at Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge

    Micheál Ó Siochrú
    Professor in Modern History at Trinity College Dublin

    And

    Laura Stewart
    Professor in Early Modern History at the University of York

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 52 min

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5
1.5K Ratings

1.5K Ratings

*stelo ,

One of my favorites

However the editing needs some work. Listening to heavy breathing whilst someone else is talking is a distraction. Especially with headphones on. Otherwise Good work.

Andrewside ,

Always Informative

I always learn something from these podcasts even if I am familiar with the topic. I cannot wait until everyone can be together for tea again. I want more frequent episodes if possible

Ted269901 ,

Fantastic Podcast

I love the wide range of topics. The host is excellent and the historians are top notch. The “few minutes at the end” is my favorite part. I have a list of books I need to get to after listening. The only negative-every episode adds to the list!

Top Podcasts In History

You Might Also Like

More by BBC