Historical themes, events and key individuals from Akhenaten to Xenophon.
The Barbary Corsairs
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the North African privateers who, until their demise in the nineteenth century, were a source of great pride and wealth in their home ports, where they sold the people and goods they’d seized from Christian European ships and coastal towns. Nominally, these corsairs were from Algiers, Tunis or Tripoli, outreaches of the Ottoman empire, or Salé in neighbouring Morocco, but often their Turkish or Arabic names concealed their European birth. Murad Reis the Younger, for example, who sacked Baltimore in 1631, was the Dutchman Jan Janszoon who also had a base on Lundy in the Bristol Channel. While the European crowns negotiated treaties to try to manage relations with the corsairs, they commonly viewed these sailors as pirates who were barely tolerated and, as soon as France, Britain, Spain and later America developed enough sea power, their ships and bases were destroyed.
Research Associate at SOAS, University of London
Former Associate Professor of History at St Mary’s University, Twickenham
And Michael Talbot
Associate Professor in the History of the Ottoman Empire and the Modern Middle East at the University of Greenwich
Producer: Simon Tillotson
Robert C. Davis, Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast and Italy, 1500-1800 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004)
Peter Earle, Corsairs of Malta and Barbary (Sidgwick and Jackson, 1970)
Des Ekin, The Stolen Village: Baltimore and the Barbary Pirates (O’Brien Press, 2008)
Jacques Heers, The Barbary Corsairs: Warfare in the Mediterranean, 1450-1580 (Skyhorse Publishing, 2018)
Colin Heywood, The Ottoman World: The Mediterranean and North Africa, 1660-1760 (Routledge, 2019)
Alan Jamieson, Lords of the Sea: A History of the Barbary Corsairs (Reaktion Books, 2013)
Julie Kalman, The Kings of Algiers: How Two Jewish Families Shaped the Mediterranean World during the Napoleonic Wars and Beyond (Princeton University Press, 2023)
Stanley Lane-Poole, The Story of the Barbary Corsairs (T. Unwin, 1890)
Sally Magnusson, The Sealwoman’s Gift (A novel - Two Roads, 2018)
Philip Mansel, Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean (John Murray, 2010)
Nabil Matar, Turks, Moors and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery (Columbia University Press, 1999)
Nabil Matar, Britain and Barbary, 1589-1689 (University Press of Florida, 2005)
Giles Milton, White Gold: The Extraordinary Story of Thomas Pellow and North Africa’s One Million European Slaves (Hodder and Stoughton, 2004)
Claire Norton (ed.), Conversion and Islam in the Early Modern Mediterranean: The Lure of the Other (Routledge, 2017)
Claire Norton, ‘Lust, Greed, Torture and Identity: Narrations of Conversion and the Creation of the Early Modern 'Renegade' (Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 29/2, 2009)
Daniel Panzac, The Barbary Corsairs: The End of a Legend, 1800-1820 (Brill, 2005)
Rafael Sabatini, The Sea Hawk (a novel - Vintage Books, 2011)
Adrian Tinniswood, Pirates of Barbary: Corsairs, Conquests and Captivity in the 17th century (Vintage Books, 2010)
D. Vitkus (ed.), Piracy, Slavery and Redemption: Barbary Captivity Narratives from Early Modern England (Columbia University Press, 2001)
J. M. White, Piracy and Law in the Ottoman Mediterranean (Stanford University Press, 2018)
The Federalist Papers
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay's essays written in 1787/8 in support of the new US Constitution. They published these anonymously in New York as 'Publius' but, when it became known that Hamilton and Madison were the main authors, the essays took on a new significance for all states. As those two men played a major part in drafting the Constitution itself, their essays have since informed debate over what the authors of that Constitution truly intended. To some, the essays have proved to be America’s greatest contribution to political thought.
Professor of American History at the University of Edinburgh and Interim Saunders Director of the International Centre for Jefferson Studies at Monticello
Professor Emerita of Modern and Contemporary History at University College London
Professor of North American History at the University of Cambridge
Producer: Simon Tillotson
Bernard Bailyn, To Begin the World Anew: The Genius and Ambiguities of the American Founders (Knopf, 2003)
Mary Sarah Bilder, Madison’s Hand: Revising the Constitutional Convention (Harvard University Press, 2015)
Noah Feldman, The Three Lives of James Madison: Genius, Partisan, President (Random House, 2017)
Jonathan Gienapp, The Second Creation: Fixing the American Constitution in the Founding Era (Harvard University Press, 2018)
Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, James Madison (eds. George W. Carey and James McClellan), The Federalist: The Gideon Edition (Liberty Fund, 2001)
Alison L. LaCroix, The Ideological Origins of American Federalism (Harvard University Press, 2010)
James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, The Federalist Papers (Penguin, 1987)
Pauline Maier, Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788 (Simon and Schuster, 2010)
Michael I. Meyerson, Liberty's Blueprint: How Madison and Hamilton Wrote the Federalist Papers, Defined the Constitution, and Made Democracy Safe for the World (Basic Books, 2008)
Jack Rakove, Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution (Knopf, 1996)
Jack N. Rakove and Colleen A. Sheehan, The Cambridge Companion to The Federalist (Cambridge University Press, 2020)
The Economic Consequences of the Peace
In an extended version of the programme that was broadcast, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the influential book John Maynard Keynes wrote in 1919 after he resigned in protest from his role at the Paris Peace Conference. There the victors of World War One were deciding the fate of the defeated, especially Germany and Austria-Hungary, and Keynes wanted the world to know his view that the economic consequences would be disastrous for all. Soon Germany used his book to support their claim that the Treaty was grossly unfair, a sentiment that fed into British appeasement in the 1930s and has since prompted debate over whether Keynes had only warned of disaster or somehow contributed to it.
Emeritus Professor of International History at the University of Oxford
Emeritus Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Founding Director of LSE IDEAS
Professor of Modern History at the University of Oxford
Producer: Simon Tillotson
Manfred F. Boemeke, Gerald D. Feldman and Elisabeth Glaser (eds.), The Treaty of Versailles: A Reassessment after 75 Years (Cambridge University Press, 1998)
Zachary D. Carter, The Price of Peace: Money, Democracy and the Life of John Maynard Keynes (Random House, 2020)
Peter Clarke, Keynes: The Twentieth Century’s Most Influential Economist (Bloomsbury, 2009)
Patricia Clavin et al (eds.), Keynes’s Economic Consequences of the Peace after 100 Years: Polemics and Policy (Cambridge University Press, 2023)
Patricia Clavin, ‘Britain and the Making of Global Order after 1919: The Ben Pimlott Memorial Lecture’ (Twentieth Century British History, Vol. 31:3, 2020)
Richard Davenport-Hines, Universal Man; The Seven Lives of John Maynard Keynes (William Collins, 2015)
R. F. Harrod, John Maynard Keynes (first published 1951; Pelican, 1972)
Jens Holscher and Matthias Klaes (eds), Keynes’s Economic Consequences of the Peace: A Reappraisal (Pickering & Chatto, 2014)
John Maynard Keynes (with an introduction by Michael Cox), The Economic Consequences of the Peace (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019)
Margaret MacMillan, Peacemakers: Six Months that Changed the World (John Murray Publishers, 2001)
Etienne Mantoux, The Carthaginian Peace or the Economic Consequences of Mr. Keynes (Oxford University Press, 1946)
D. E. Moggridge, Maynard Keynes: An Economist’s Biography (Routledge, 1992)
Alan Sharp, Versailles 1919: A Centennial Perspective (Haus Publishing Ltd, 2018)
Robert Skidelsky, John Maynard Keynes, 1883-1946 (Pan Macmillan, 2004)
Jürgen Tampke, A Perfidious Distortion of History: The Versailles Peace Treaty and the Success of the Nazis (Scribe UK, 2017)
Adam Tooze, The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931 (Penguin Books, 2015)
Louis XIV: The Sun King
In 1661 the 23 year-old French king Louis the XIV had been on the throne for 18 years when his chief minister, Cardinal Mazarin, died. Louis is reported to have said to his ministers, “It is now time that I govern my affairs myself. You will assist me with your counsels when I ask for them [but] I order you to seal no orders except by my command… I order you not to sign anything, not even a passport, without my command, and to render account to me personally each day”
So began the personal rule of Louis XIV, which lasted a further 54 years until his death in 1715. From his newly-built palace at Versailles, Louis was able to project an image of himself as the centre of gravity around which all of France revolved: it’s no accident that he became known as the Sun King. He centralized power to the extent he was able to say ‘L’etat c’est moi’: I am the state. Under his rule France became the leading diplomatic, military and cultural power in Europe.
Marshal Foch Professor of French Literature at the University of Oxford
Professor of Early Modern History at the University of St Andrews
Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Warwick
Producer: Luke Mulhall
The Shimabara Rebellion
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Christian uprising in Japan and its profound and long-term consequences.
In the 1630s, Japan was ruled by the Tokagawa Shoguns, a military dynasty who, 30 years earlier, had unified the country, ending around two centuries of civil war. In 1637 a rebellion broke out in the province of Shimabara, in the south of the country. It was a peasants’ revolt, following years of bad harvests in which the local lord had refused to lower taxes. Many of the rebels were Christians, and they fought under a Christian banner.
The central government’s response was merciless. They met the rebels with an army of 150 000 men, possibly the largest force assembled anywhere in the world during the Early Modern period. Once the rebellion had been suppressed, the Shogun enforced a ban on Christianity and expelled nearly all foreigners from the country. Japan remained more or less completely sealed off from the rest of the world for the next 250 years.
Lecturer in Japanese and Modern Japanese History at SOAS, University of London
Professor of Japanese Studies at the University of Manchester
Senior Lecturer in Asian History at the University of Edinburgh
Producer Luke Mulhall
The Battle of Crécy
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the brutal events of 26 August 1346, when the armies of France and England met in a funnel-shaped valley outside the town of Crécy in northern France.
Although the French, led by Philip VI, massively outnumbered the English, under the command of Edward III, the English won the battle, and French casualties were huge. The English victory is often attributed to the success of their longbowmen against the heavy cavalry of the French.
The Battle of Crécy was the result of years of simmering tension between Edward III and Philip VI, and it led to decades of further conflict between England and France, a conflict that came to be known as the Hundred Years War.
Emeritus Professor of Medieval History at the University of Southampton
Senior Research Fellow in History at Keele University
Lecturer in Late Medieval History at Durham University
Producer Luke Mulhall
The place to listen for great history.
This is THE podcast for history lovers. The selection and depth of the topics means that you can find pretty much any thing you want to learn about and get a solid understanding in under an hour. I know that some commentators have mentioned Melvin Brag’s at time seemingly brash interruptions, but I rationalize that as just being a man of his time and perhaps a British sensibility? Overall, really great.
The host herds his knowledgeable scholars through fascinating histories of people and events. A must!
Great information, but the host!
It’s hard to absorb information when the host interrupts the guests so often! He asks questions in a snarky way, then talks over the guests as they attempt an answer.
I had to turn it off. Too bad. It seems like the guests had a lot of info to offer if the host would get out of the way.