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

    The Rapture (Summer Repeat)

    The Rapture (Summer Repeat)

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas developed by the Anglican priest John Nelson Darby (1800-1882), drawn from his reading of scripture, in which Jesus would suddenly take His believers up into the air, and those left behind would suffer on Earth until He returned with His church to rule for a thousand years before Final Judgement. Some believers would look for signs that civilization was declining, such as wars and natural disasters, or for new Roman Empires that would harbour the Antichrist, and from these predict the time of the Rapture. Darby helped establish the Plymouth Brethren, and later his ideas were picked up in the Scofield Reference Bible (1909) and soon became influential, particularly in the USA.

    With

    Elizabeth Phillips
    Research Fellow at the Margaret Beaufort Institute at the University of Cambridge and Honorary Fellow in the Department of Theology and Religion at Durham University

    Crawford Gribben
    Professor of Early Modern British History at Queen’s University Belfast

    and

    Nicholas Guyatt
    Reader in North American History at the University of Cambridge

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 50 min
    Doggerland (Summer Repeat)

    Doggerland (Summer Repeat)

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the people, plants and animals once living on land now under the North Sea, now called Doggerland after Dogger Bank, inhabited up to c7000BC or roughly 3000 years before the beginnings of Stonehenge. There are traces of this landscape at low tide, such as the tree stumps at Redcar (above); yet more is being learned from diving and seismic surveys which are building a picture of an ideal environment for humans to hunt and gather, with rivers and wooded hills. Rising seas submerged this land as glaciers melted, and the people and animals who lived there moved to higher ground, with the coasts of modern-day Britain on one side and Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium and France on the other.

    With

    Vince Gaffney
    Anniversary Professor of Landscape Archaeology at the University of Bradford

    Carol Cotterill
    Marine Geoscientist at the British Geological Survey

    And

    Rachel Bynoe
    Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Southampton

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 54 min
    Automata (Summer Repeat)

    Automata (Summer Repeat)

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of real and imagined machines that appear to be living, and the questions they raise about life and creation. Even in myth they are made by humans, not born. The classical Greeks built some and designed others, but the knowledge of how to make automata and the principles behind them was lost in the Latin Christian West, remaining in the Greek-speaking and Arabic-speaking world. Western travellers to those regions struggled to explain what they saw, attributing magical powers. The advance of clockwork raised further questions about what was distinctly human, prompting Hobbes to argue that humans were sophisticated machines, an argument explored in the Enlightenment and beyond.

    The image above is Jacques de Vaucanson's mechanical duck (1739), which picked up grain, digested and expelled it. If it looks like a duck...

    with

    Simon Schaffer
    Professor of History of Science at Cambridge University

    Elly Truitt
    Associate Professor of Medieval History at Bryn Mawr College

    And

    Franziska Kohlt
    Doctoral Researcher in English Literature and the History of Science at the University of Oxford

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 52 min
    Shakespeare's Sonnets

    Shakespeare's Sonnets

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the collection of poems published in 1609 by Thomas Thorpe: Shakespeare’s Sonnets, “never before imprinted”. Yet, while some of Shakespeare's other poems and many of his plays were often reprinted in his lifetime, the Sonnets were not a publishing success. They had to make their own way, outside the main canon of Shakespeare’s work: wonderful, troubling, patchy, inspiring and baffling, and they have appealed in different ways to different times. Most are addressed to a man, something often overlooked and occasionally concealed; one early and notorious edition even changed some of the pronouns.

    With:

    Hannah Crawforth
    Senior Lecturer in Early Modern Literature at King’s College London

    Don Paterson
    Poet and Professor of Poetry at the University of St Andrews

    And

    Emma Smith
    Professor of Shakespeare Studies at Hertford College, Oxford

    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

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