294 episodes

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

In Our Time: History BBC

    • History

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

    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
    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
    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
    Lawrence of Arabia

    Lawrence of Arabia

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss T.E. Lawrence (1888 – 1935), better known as Lawrence of Arabia, a topic drawn from over 1200 suggestions for our Listener Week 2019. Although Lawrence started as an archaeologist in the Middle East, when World War I broke out he joined the British army and became an intelligence officer. His contact with a prominent Arab leader, Sharif Hussein, made him sympathetic to Hussein’s cause and during the Arab Revolt of 1916 he not only served the British but also the interests of Hussein. After the war he was dismayed by the peace settlement and felt that the British had broken an assurance that Sharif Hussein would lead a new Arab kingdom. Lawrence was made famous by the work of Lowell Thomas, whose film of Lawrence drew huge audiences in 1919, which led to his own book Seven Pillars of Wisdom and David Lean’s 1962 film with Peter O'Toole.

    In previous Listener Weeks, we've discussed Kafka's The Trial, The Voyages of Captain Cook, Garibaldi and the Risorgimento, Moby Dick and The Thirty Years War.

    With

    Hussein Omar
    Lecturer in Modern Global History at University College Dublin

    Catriona Pennell
    Associate Professor of Modern History and Memory Studies at the University of Exeter

    Neil Faulkner
    Director of Military History Live and Editor of the magazine Military History Matters

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 51 min
    Li Shizhen

    Li Shizhen

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and ideas of Li Shizhen (1518-1593) whose compendium of natural medicines is celebrated in China as the most complete survey of natural remedies of its time. He trained as a doctor and worked at the Ming court before spending almost 30 years travelling in China, inspecting local plants and animals for their properties, trying them out on himself and then describing his findings in his Compendium of Materia Medica or Bencao Gangmu, in 53 volumes. He's been called the uncrowned king of Chinese naturalists, and became a scientific hero in the 20th century after the revolution.

    With

    Craig Clunas
    Professor Emeritus in the History of Art at the University of Oxford

    Anne Gerritsen
    Professor in History at the University of Warwick

    And

    Roel Sterckx
    Joseph Needham Professor of Chinese History at the University of Cambridge

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 51 min
    Melisende, Queen of Jerusalem

    Melisende, Queen of Jerusalem

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the most powerful woman in the Crusader states in the century after the First Crusade. Melisende (1105-61) was born and raised after the mainly Frankish crusaders had taken Jerusalem from the Fatimids, and her father was King of Jerusalem. She was married to Fulk from Anjou, on the understanding they would rule together, and for 30 years she vied with him and then their son as they struggled to consolidate their Frankish state in the Holy Land.

    The image above is of the coronation of Fulk with Melisende, from Livre d'Eracles, Guillaume de Tyr (1130?-1186)
    Source: Bibliothèque nationale de France

    With

    Natasha Hodgson
    Senior Lecturer in Medieval History and Director of the Centre for the Study of Religion and Conflict at Nottingham Trent University

    Katherine Lewis
    Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Huddersfield

    and

    Danielle Park
    Visiting Lecturer at Royal Holloway, University of London

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 52 min

Customer Reviews

ChrisTravRi ,

Fantastic

A roundtable discussion with some of those respected scholars in a field of historical study, expertly moderated by one of the classiest and most well spoken British radio hosts in the business. Sure, there are some ragged episodes here and there, but on balance the episodes are beautifully handled, largely because Bragg gives a focused structure to the conversations that keeps them from wandering all over the place. In my opinion, too many history podcasts consists of one person simply reading scripts into a microphone. I much prefer the lively conversations featured here as something about the variation in voices and perspectives makes much of the information easier to absorb.

B4Uwereborn ,

An absolute classic podcast with the most effective host on radio

Ask yourself, how can a weekly erudite broadcast on an incredibly broad range of topics and a different group of academics each week have a successful 21(+?) year run? On the face of it, it would be impossible. Professors, in particular in the humanities, would either just drone on about their particular tiny corner of the topic or the group discussion would devolve into the pettiest and most unseemly of arguments, the academic argument. And yet, with Melvyn, it becomes the most engaging half hour on radio, precisely because he is both fully engaged in the discussions at the level of the intelligent impartial listener and is willing to elegantly exercise a firm but fair hand to keep a discussion (that could profitably go on for weeks) focused on important themes and delivered in a tight 30 minutes. It becomes that most improbable of things, a group of academics having a discussion worth the time commitment that you actually want to listen to. Amazing. Humanities programs at universities should take note.

JackUSDK ,

Too short

Alas, most subjects are way too large for a 50-minute discussion. Sometimes a subject must be treated so generally that we’re left with no more than a Britannica entry. Sometimes I fancy Melvyn Bragg’s impatience aimed not at a scholar trying to elucidate a complex point but at the clock, which he, as moderator, must enforce. Right now, Melvyn takes about five minutes to introduce and question, while each guest is budgeted about fifteen. We need a ninety-minute program to give each guest at least twenty minutes, plus more time for give-and-take. Some of the best moments of In Our Time is when scholars get a chance to spar with each other. This is the best intelligent talk show on radio. It needs to be bigger!

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