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

    Battle of the Teutoburg Forest

    Battle of the Teutoburg Forest

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the great Roman military disaster of 9 AD when Germanic tribes under Arminius ambushed and destroyed three legions under Varus. According to Suetonius, emperor Augustus hit his head against the wall when he heard the news, calling on Varus to give him back his legions. The defeat ended Roman expansion east of the Rhine. Victory changed the development of the Germanic peoples, both in the centuries that followed and in the nineteenth century when Arminius, by then known as Herman, became a rallying point for German nationalism.

    With

    Peter Heather
    Professor of Medieval History at King’s College London

    Ellen O'Gorman
    Senior Lecturer in Classics at the University of Bristol

    And

    Matthew Nicholls
    Fellow and Senior Tutor at St John’s College, Oxford

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 51 min
    George Sand

    George Sand

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the works and life of one of the most popular writers in Europe in C19th, Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin (1804-1876) who wrote under the name George Sand. When she wrote her first novel under that name, she referred to herself as a man. This was in Indiana (1832), which had the main character breaking away from her unhappy marriage. It made an immediate impact as it overturned the social conventions of the time and it drew on her own early marriage to an older man, Casimir Dudevant. Once Sand's identity was widely known, her works became extremely popular in French and in translation, particularly her rural novels, outselling Hugo and Balzac in Britain, perhaps buoyed by an interest in her personal life, as well as by her ideas on the rights and education of women and strength of her writing.

    With

    Belinda Jack
    Fellow and Tutor in French at Christ Church, University of Oxford

    Angela Ryan
    Senior Lecturer in French at University College Cork

    And

    Nigel Harkness
    Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Humanities and Social Sciences and Professor of French at Newcastle University

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 54 min
    Alcuin

    Alcuin

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Alcuin of York, c735-804AD, who promoted education as a goal in itself, and had a fundamental role in the renaissance at Charlemagne's court. He wrote poetry and many letters, hundreds of which survive and provide insight into his life and times. He was born in or near York and spent most of his life in Northumbria before accepting an invitation to Charlemagne's court in Aachen. To this he brought Anglo-Saxon humanism, encouraging a broad liberal education for itself and the better to understand Christian doctrine. He left to be abbot at Marmoutier, Tours, where the monks were developing the Carolingian script that influenced the Roman typeface.

    The image above is Alcuin’s portrait, found in a copy of the Bible made at his monastery in Tours during the rule of his successor Abbot Adalhard (834–843). Painted in red on gold leaf, it shows Alcuin with a tonsure and a halo, signifying respect for his memory at the monastery where he had died in 804. His name and rank are spelled out alongside: Alcvinvs abba, ‘Alcuin the abbot’. It is held at the Staatsbibliothek Bamberg -Kaiser-Heinrich-Bibliothek - Msc.Bibl.1,fol.5v (photo by Gerald Raab).


    With

    Joanna Story
    Professor of Early Medieval History at the University of Leicester

    Andy Orchard
    Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at the University of Oxford and a fellow of Pembroke College

    And

    Mary Garrison
    Lecturer in History at the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of York

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 56 min
    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

Customer Reviews

Andrew B. Li ,

Love the discussions

The pace of the conversations, the depth and breadth of subjects covered here are simply remarkable. The extra bit at the end is also very enjoyable, as people share their more particular interests/views on some subjects, and the passion really shows.

P.S. I always listen to the end to find out what everyone wants to drink that day

hidtory delight ,

In Our Time BBC Radio 4

Best history show on podcast.
Excellent historians and show format.
I listen to several history podcast. This is my favorite!

Bellinater ,

One of my favorite pods.

From coffee to Doggerland, Melvin and his guests drop some serious knowledge. I really love that one Ancient Greek scholar who’s on regularly with the sumptuous serpent-like voice.

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