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In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg - BBC Podcast by Melvyn Bragg

In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg - BBC Podcast

by Melvyn Bragg

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The history of ideas discussed by Melvyn Bragg and guests including Philosophy, science, literature, religion and the influence these ideas have on us today.


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  • Montesquieu
    Thu, Jun 14, 2018


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas of Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Br?de et de Montesquieu (1689-1755) whose works on liberty, monarchism, despotism, republicanism and the separation of powers were devoured by intellectuals across Europe and New England in the eighteenth century, transforming political philosophy and influencing the American Constitution. He argued that an individual's liberty needed protection from the arm of power, checking that by another power; where judicial, executive and legislative power were concentrated in the hands of one figure, there could be no personal liberty.WithRichard BourkeProfessor in the History of Political Thought at Queen Mary, University of LondonRachel HammersleySenior Lecturer in Intellectual History at Newcastle UniversityAndRichard WhatmoreProfessor of Modern History at the University of St Andrews and Director of the St Andrews Institute of Intellectual HistoryProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Persepolis
    Thu, Jun 07, 2018


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the role of the great 'City of the Persians' founded by Darius I as the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire that stretched from the Indus Valley to Egypt and the coast of the Black Sea. It was known as the richest city under the sun and was a centre at which the Empire's subject peoples paid tribute to a succession of Achaemenid leaders, until the arrival of Alexander III of Macedon who destroyed it by fire supposedly in revenge for the burning of the Acropolis in Athens.The image above is a detail from a relief at the Apadana, the huge audience hall, and shows a lion attacking a bull.WithLloyd Llewellyn-JonesProfessor of Ancient History at Cardiff UniversityVesta Sarkhosh CurtisCurator of Middle Eastern Coins at the British MuseumAndLindsay AllenLecturer in Greek and Near Eastern History at King's College LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Henrik Ibsen
    Thu, May 31, 2018


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the great Norwegian playwright and poet, best known for his middle class tragedies such as The Wild Duck, Hedda Gabler, A Doll's House and An Enemy of the People. These are set in a world where the middle class is dominant and explore the qualities of that life, its weaknesses and boundaries and the ways in which it takes away freedoms. It is the women who fare the worst in this society, something Ibsen explored in A Doll's House among others, a play that created a sensation with audiences shocked to watch a woman break free of her bourgeois family life to find her destiny. He explored dark secrets such as incest and, in Ghosts, hereditary syphilis, which attracted the censors. He gave actresses parts they had rarely had before, and audiences plays that, after Shakespeare, became the most performed in the world.WithTore RemProfessor of English Literature at the University of OsloKirsten Shepherd-BarrProfessor of English and Theatre Studies and Tutorial Fellow, St Catherine's College at the University of OxfordAndDinah BirchProfessor of English Literature and Pro-Vice Chancellor for Cultural Engagement at the University of LiverpoolProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Margaret of Anjou
    Thu, May 24, 2018


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the most remarkable queens of the Middle Ages who took control when her husband, Henry VI, was incapable. Margaret of Anjou (1430-1482) wanted Henry to stay in power for the sake of their son, the heir to the throne, and her refusal to back down was seen by her enemies as a cause of the great dynastic struggle of the Wars of the Roses.The image above is from the Talbot Shrewsbury Book, showing John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury, presenting Margaret with that book on her betrothal to HenryWithKatherine LewisSenior Lecturer in Medieval History at the University of HuddersfieldJames RossReader in Late Medieval History at the University of WinchesterAndJoanna LaynesmithVisiting Research Fellow at the University of ReadingProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • The Emancipation of the Serfs
    Thu, May 17, 2018


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the 1861 declaration by Tsar Alexander II that serfs were now legally free of their landlords. Until then, over a third of Russians were tied to the land on which they lived and worked and in practice there was little to distinguish their condition from slavery. Russia had lost the Crimean War in 1855 and there had been hundreds of uprisings, prompting the Tsar to tell the nobles, "The existing condition of owning souls cannot remain unchanged. It is better to begin to destroy serfdom from above than to wait until that time when it begins to destroy itself from below." Reform was constrained by the Tsar's wish to keep the nobles on side and, for the serfs, tied by debt and law to the little land they were then allotted, the benefits were hard to see.WithSarah HudspithAssociate Professor in Russian at the University of LeedsSimon DixonThe Sir Bernard Pares Professor of Russian History at UCLAndShane O'RourkeSenior Lecturer in History at the University of YorkProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • The Mabinogion
    Thu, May 10, 2018


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the eleven stories of Celtic mythology and Arthurian romance known as The Mabinogion, most of which were told and retold for generations before being written down in C14th. Among them are stories of Pwyll and Rhiannon and their son Pryderi, of Culhwch and Olwen, of the dream of the Emperor Macsen, of Lludd and Llefelys, of magic and giants and imagined history. With common themes but no single author, they project an image of the Island of Britain before the Anglo-Saxons and Normans and before Edward I's conquest of Wales. They came to new prominence, worldwide, from C19th with the translation into English by Lady Charlotte Guest aided by William Owen Pughe.The image above is of Cynon ap Clydno approaching the Castle of Maidens from the tale of Owain, or the Lady of the FountainWithSioned DaviesProfessor in the School of Welsh at Cardiff UniversityHelen FultonProfessor of Medieval Literature at the University of BristolAndJuliette WoodAssociate Lecturer in the School of Welsh at Cardiff UniversityProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • The Almoravid Empire
    Thu, May 03, 2018


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Berber people who grew to dominate the western Maghreb, founded Marrakesh and took control of Al-Andalus. They were desert people, wearing veils over their faces to keep out the sand, and they wanted a simpler form of Islam. They called themselves the Murabitun, the people who gathered together to fight the holy war, and they were tough fighters; the Spanish knight El Cid fought them and lost, and the legend that built around him said the Almoravids were terrible and had to be resisted. They kept back the Christians of northern Spain, so helping extend Muslim rule in the Iberian Peninsula, before they themselves were destroyed and replaced by their rivals, the Almohads, from the Atlas Mountains.The image above shows the interior of the cupola, Almoravid Koubba, Marrakesh (C11th)WithAmira K BennisonProfessor in the History and Culture of the Maghreb at the University of CambridgeNicola ClarkeLecturer in the History of the Islamic World at Newcastle UniversityAndHugh KennedyProfessor of Arabic at SOAS, University of LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • The Proton
    Thu, Apr 26, 2018


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the discovery and growing understanding of the Proton, formed from three quarks close to the Big Bang and found in the nuclei of all elements. The positive charges they emit means they attract the fundamental particles of negatively charged electrons, an attraction that leads to the creation of atoms which in turn leads to chemistry, biology and life itself. The Sun (in common with other stars) is a fusion engine that turn protons by a series of processes into helium, emitting energy in the process, with about half of the Sun's protons captured so far. Hydrogen atoms, stripped of electrons, are single protons which can be accelerated to smash other nuclei and have applications in proton therapy. Many questions remain, such as why are electrical charges for protons and electrons so perfectly balanced?WithFrank CloseProfessor Emeritus of Physics at the University of OxfordHelen HeathReader in Physics at the University of BristolAndSimon JollyLecturer in High Energy Physics at University College LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Middlemarch
    Thu, Apr 19, 2018


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss what Virginia Woolf called 'one of the few English novels written for grown-up people'. It was written by George Eliot, the pen name of Mary Anne Evans (1819-80), published in 8 parts in 1871-72, and was originally two separate stories which became woven together. One, 'Middlemarch', focused on a doctor, Tertius Lydgate and the other, 'Miss Brooke', on Dorothea Brooke who became the central figure in the finished work. The events are set in a small town in the Midlands, surrounded by farmland, leading up to the Reform Act 1832, and the novel explores the potential to change in matters of religion, social status, marriage and politics, and is particularly concerned with the opportunities available to women to lead fulfilling lives.The image above shows Rufus Sewell and Juliet Aubrey in the BBC adaptation, from 1994WithRosemary AshtonEmeritus Quain Professor of English Language and Literature at University College LondonKathryn HughesProfessor of Life Writing at the University of East AngliaAndJohn BowenProfessor of Nineteenth-Century Literature at the University of YorkProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • George and Robert Stephenson
    Thu, Apr 12, 2018


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the contribution of George Stephenson (1781-1848) and his son Robert (1803-59) to the development of the railways in C19th. George became known as The Father of Railways and yet arguably Robert's contribution was even greater, with his engineering work going far beyond their collaboration.Robert is credited with the main role in the design of their locomotives. George had worked on stationary colliery steam engines and, with Robert, developed the moving steam engine Locomotion No1 for the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 1825. They produced the Rocket for the Rainhill Trials on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1829. From there, the success of their designs and engineering led to the expansion of railways across Britain and around the world.withDr Michael BaileyRailway historian and editor of the most recent biography of Robert StephensonJulia EltonPast President of the Newcomen Society for the History of Engineering and TechnologyandColin DivallProfessor Emeritus of Railway Studies at the University of YorkProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Roman Slavery
    Thu, Apr 05, 2018


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the role of slavery in the Roman world, from its early conquests to the fall of the Western Empire.The system became so entrenched that no-one appeared to question it, following Aristotle's view that slavery was a natural state. Whole populations could be marched into slavery after military conquests, and the freedom that Roman citizens prized for themselves, even in poverty, was partly defined by how it contrasted with enslavement. Slaves could be killed or tortured with impunity, yet they could be given great responsibility and, once freed, use their contacts to earn fortunes. The relationship between slave and master informed early Christian ideas of how the faithful related to God, informing debate for centuries.WithNeville MorleyProfessor of Classics and Ancient History at the University of ExeterUlrike RothSenior Lecturer in Ancient History at the University of EdinburghAndMyles LavanSenior lecturer in Ancient History at the University of St AndrewsProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Hildegard of Bingen (Repeat)
    Thu, Mar 29, 2018


    As Radio 4 changes its schedule today, to look ahead to Brexit next year, we have no new programme to offer. Here's something until next week, from 26th June 2014, when Melvyn Bragg and guests discussed one of the most remarkable figures of the Middle Ages, Hildegard of Bingen. The abbess of a Benedictine convent, she was an influential person in the religious world and much of her extensive correspondence with popes, monarchs and other important figures survives. Hildegard was celebrated for her wide-ranging scholarship, which as well as theology covered the natural world, science and medicine. She also experienced a series of mystical visions which she documented in her writings. Officially recognised as a saint by the Catholic Church in 2012, Hildegard is one of the earliest known composers. Since their rediscovery in recent decades her compositions have been widely recorded and performed. Melvyn Bragg was joined by Miri Rubin, Queen Mary, University of London; William Flynn, University of Leeds; and Almut Suerbaum, Somerville College, Oxford.

  • Tocqueville: Democracy in America
    Thu, Mar 22, 2018


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) and his examination of the American democratic system. He wrote De La D?mocratie en Am?rique in two parts, published in 1835 and 1840, when France was ruled by the July Monarchy of Louis-Philippe. Tocqueville was interested in how aspects of American democracy, in the age of President Andrew Jackson, could be applied to Europe as it moved away from rule by monarchs and aristocrats. His work has been revisited by politicians ever since, particularly in America, with its analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of direct democracy and its warnings of mediocrity and the tyranny of the majority.WithRobert GildeaProfessor of Modern History at the University of OxfordSusan-Mary GrantProfessor of American History at Newcastle UniversityandJeremy JenningsProfessor of Political Theory and Head of the School of Politics & Economics at King's College LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Augustine's Confessions
    Thu, Mar 15, 2018


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss St Augustine of Hippo's account of his conversion to Christianity and his life up to that point. Written c397AD, it has many elements of autobiography with his scrutiny of his earlier life, his long relationship with a concubine, his theft of pears as a child, his work as an orator and his embrace of other philosophies and Manichaeism. Significantly for the development of Christianity, he explores the idea of original sin in the context of his own experience. The work is often seen as an argument for his Roman Catholicism, a less powerful force where he was living in North Africa where another form of Christianity was dominant, Donatism. While Augustine retells many episodes from his own life, the greater strength of his Confessions has come to be seen as his examination of his own emotional development, and the growth of his soul.WithKate CooperProfessor of History at the University of London and Head of History at Royal HollowayMorwenna LudlowProfessor of Christian History and Theology at the University of ExeterandMartin PalmerVisiting Professor in Religion, History and Nature at the University of WinchesterProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • The Highland Clearances
    Thu, Mar 08, 2018


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how and why Highlanders and Islanders were cleared from their homes in waves in C18th and C19th, following the break up of the Clans after the Battle of Culloden. Initially, landlords tried to keep people on their estates for money-making schemes, but the end of the Napoleonic Wars brought convulsive changes. Some of the evictions were notorious, with the sudden and fatal burning of townships, to make way for sheep and deer farming. For many, migration brought a new start elsewhere in Britain or in the British colonies, while for some it meant death from disease while in transit. After more than a century of upheaval, the Clearances left an indelible mark on the people and landscape of the Highlands and Western Isles.The image above is a detail from a print of 'Lochaber No More' by John Watson Nicol 1856-1926WithSir Tom DevineProfessor Emeritus of Scottish History at the University of EdinburghMarjory HarperProfessor of History at the University of Aberdeen and Visiting Professor at the University of the Highlands and IslandsAndMurray PittockBradley Professor of English Literature and Pro Vice Principal at the University of GlasgowProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Sun Tzu and The Art of War
    Thu, Mar 01, 2018


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas attributed to Sun Tzu (544-496BC, according to tradition), a legendary figure from the beginning of the Iron Age in China, around the time of Confucius. He may have been the historical figure Sun Wu, a military adviser at the court of King Helu of Wu (who reigned between about 514 and 496 BC), one of the kings in power in the Warring States period of Chinese history (6th - 5th century BC). Sun Tzu was credited as the author of The Art of War, a work on military strategy that soon became influential in China and then Japan both for its guidance on conducting and avoiding war and for its approach to strategy generally. After The Art of War was translated into European languages in C18th, its influence spread to military academies around the world.The image above is of a terracotta warrior from the tomb of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor, who unified China after the Warring States period.WithHilde De WeerdtProfessor of Chinese History at Leiden UniversityTim BarrettProfessor Emeritus of East Asian History at SOAS, University of LondonAndImre GalambosReader in Chinese Studies at the University of CambridgeProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Rosalind Franklin
    Thu, Feb 22, 2018


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the pioneering scientist Rosalind Franklin (1920 - 1958). During her distinguished career, Franklin carried out ground-breaking research into coal and viruses but she is perhaps best remembered for her investigations in the field of DNA. In 1952 her research generated a famous image that became known as Photograph 51. When the Cambridge scientists Francis Crick and James Watson saw this image, it enabled them the following year to work out that DNA has a double-helix structure, one of the most important discoveries of modern science. Watson, Crick and Franklin's colleague Maurice Wilkins received a Nobel Prize in 1962 for this achievement but Franklin did not and today many people believe that Franklin has not received enough recognition for her work.With:Patricia FaraPresident of the British Society for the History of ScienceJim NaismithInterim lead of the Rosalind Franklin Institute, Director of the Research Complex at Harwell and Professor at the University of OxfordJudith HowardProfessor of Chemistry at Durham UniversityProducer: Victoria Brignell.

  • Fungi
    Thu, Feb 15, 2018


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss fungi. These organisms are not plants or animals but a kingdom of their own. Millions of species of fungi live on the Earth and they play a crucial role in ecosystems, enabling plants to obtain nutrients and causing material to decay. Without fungi, life as we know it simply would not exist. They are also a significant part of our daily life, making possible the production of bread, wine and certain antibiotics. Although fungi brought about the colonisation of the planet by plants about 450 million years ago, some species can kill humans and devastate trees.With:Lynne BoddyProfessor of Fungal Ecology at Cardiff UniversitySarah GurrProfessor of Food Security in the Biosciences Department at the University of ExeterDavid JohnsonN8 Chair in Microbial Ecology at the University of ManchesterProducer: Victoria Brignell.

  • Frederick Douglass
    Thu, Feb 08, 2018


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and ideas of Frederick Douglass, who was born into slavery in Maryland in 1818 and, once he had escaped, became one of that century's most prominent abolitionists. He was such a good orator, his opponents doubted his story, but he told it in grim detail in 1845 in his book 'Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.' He went on to address huge audiences in Great Britain and Ireland and there some of his supporters paid off his owner, so Douglass could be free in law and not fear recapture. After the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, he campaigned for equal rights for African-Americans, arguing against those such as Lincoln who had wanted freed slaves to leave America and found a colony elsewhere. "We were born here," he said, "and here we will remain."WithCeleste-Marie BernierProfessor of Black Studies in the English Department at the University of EdinburghKaren SaltAssistant Professor in Transnational American Studies at the University of NottinghamAndNicholas GuyattReader in North American History at the University of CambridgeProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Cephalopods
    Thu, Feb 01, 2018


    The octopus, the squid, the nautilus and the cuttlefish are some of the most extraordinary creatures on this planet, intelligent and yet apparently unlike other life forms. They are cephalopods and are part of the mollusc family like snails and clams, and they have some characteristics in common with those. What sets them apart is the way members of their group can change colour, camouflage themselves, recognise people, solve problems, squirt ink, power themselves with jet propulsion and survive both on land, briefly, and in the deepest, coldest oceans. And, without bones or shells, they grow so rapidly they can outstrip their rivals when habitats change, making them the great survivors and adaptors of the animal world.WithLouise AllcockLecturer in Zoology at the National University of Ireland, GalwayPaul RodhouseEmeritus Fellow of the British Antarctic SurveyandJonathan AblettSenior Curator of Molluscs at the Natural History MuseumProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Cicero
    Thu, Jan 25, 2018


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas developed by Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43BC) to support and reinvigorate the Roman Republic when, as it transpired, it was in its final years, threatened by civil wars, the rule of Julius Caesar and the triumvirates that followed. As Consul he had suppressed a revolt by Catiline, putting the conspirators to death summarily as he believed the Republic was in danger and that this danger trumped the right to a fair trial, a decision that rebounded on him. While in exile he began works on duty, laws, the orator and the republic. Although left out of the conspiracy to kill Caesar, he later defended that murder in the interests of the Republic, only to be murdered himself soon after.WithMelissa LaneThe Class of 1943 Professor of Politics at Princeton Universityand 2018 Carlyle Lecturer at the University of OxfordCatherine SteelProfessor of Classics at the University of GlasgowAndValentina ArenaReader in Roman History at University College LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Anna Akhmatova
    Thu, Jan 18, 2018


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the work, ideas and life of the Russian poet whose work was celebrated in C20th both for its quality and for what it represented, written under censorship in the Stalin years. Her best known poem, Requiem, was written after her son was imprisoned partly as a threat to her and, to avoid punishment for creating it, she passed it on to her supporters to be memorised, line by line, rather than written down. She was a problem for the authorities and became significant internationally, as her work came to symbolise resistance to political tyranny and the preservation of pre-Revolutionary liberal values in the Soviet era.The image above is based on 'Portrait of Anna Akhmatova' by N.I. Altman, 1914, MoscowWithKatharine HodgsonProfessor in Russian at the University of ExeterAlexandra HarringtonReader in Russian Studies at Durham UniversityAndMichael BaskerProfessor of Russian Literature and Dean of Arts at the University of BristolProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • The Siege of Malta, 1565
    Thu, Jan 11, 2018


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the event of which Voltaire, two hundred years later, said 'nothing was more well known'. In 1565, Suleiman the Magnificent, the Ottoman leader, sent a great fleet west to lay siege to Malta and capture it for his empire. Victory would mean control of trade across the Mediterranean and a base for attacks on Spain, Sicily and southern Italy, even Rome. It would also mean elimination of Malta's defenders, the Knights Hospitaller, driven by the Ottomans from their base in Rhodes in 1522 and whose raids on his shipping had long been a thorn in his side. News of the Great Siege of Malta spread fear throughout Europe, though that turned to elation when, after four months of horrific fighting, the Ottomans withdrew, undermined by infighting between their leaders and the death of the highly-valued admiral, Dragut. The Knights Hospitaller had shown that Suleiman's forces could be contained, and their own order was reinvigorated.The image above is the Death of Dragut at the Siege of Malta (1867), after a painting by Giuseppe Cali. Dragut (1485 ? 1565) was an Ottoman Admiral and privateer, known as The Drawn Sword of Islam and as one of the finest generals of the time.WithHelen NicholsonProfessor of Medieval History at Cardiff UniversityDiarmaid MacCullochProfessor of the History of the Church at the University of OxfordandKate FleetDirector of the Skilliter Centre for Ottoman Studies and Fellow of Newnham College, CambridgeProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Hamlet
    Thu, Dec 28, 2017


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Shakespeare's best known, most quoted and longest play, written c1599 - 1602 and rewritten throughout his lifetime. It is the story of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, encouraged by his father's ghost to take revenge on his uncle who murdered him, and is set at the court of Elsinore. In soliloquies, the Prince reveals his inner self to the audience while concealing his thoughts from all at the Danish court, who presume him insane. Shakespeare gives him lines such as 'to be or not to be,' 'alas, poor Yorick,' and 'frailty thy name is woman', which are known even to those who have never seen or read the play. And Hamlet has become the defining role for actors, men and women, who want to show their mastery of Shakespeare's work.The image above is from the 1964 film adaptation, directed by Grigori Kozintsev, with Innokenty Smoktunovsky as Hamlet.WithSir Jonathan BateProvost of Worcester College, University of OxfordCarol RutterProfessor of Shakespeare and Performance Studies at the University of WarwickAndSonia MassaiProfessor of Shakespeare Studies at King's College LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Beethoven
    Thu, Dec 21, 2017


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the great composers, who was born into a family of musicians in Bonn. His grandfather was an eminent musician and also called Ludwig van Beethoven. His father, who was not as talented as Beethoven's grandfather, drank heavily and died when Beethoven was still young. It was his move to Vienna that allowed him to flourish, with the support at first of aristocratic patrons, when that city was the hub of European music. He is credited with developing the symphony further than any who preceded him, with elevating instrumental above choral music and with transforming music to the highest form of art. He composed his celebrated works while, from his late twenties onwards, becoming increasingly deaf.(Before the live broadcast, BBC Radio 3's Breakfast programme played selections from Beethoven, with Essential Classics playing more, immediately after, on the same network.)WithLaura TunbridgeProfessor of Music and Henfrey Fellow, St Catherine's College, University of OxfordJohn DeathridgeEmeritus King Edward Professor of Music at King's College LondonAndErica BuurmanSenior Lecturer in Music, Canterbury Christchurch UniversityProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Thomas Becket
    Thu, Dec 14, 2017


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the man who was Henry II's Chancellor and then Archbishop of Canterbury and who was murdered by knights in Canterbury Cathedral (depicted by Matthew Paris, above). Henry believed that Becket owed him loyalty as he had raised him to the highest offices, and that he should agree to Henry's courts having jurisdiction over 'criminous clerics'. They fell out when Becket agreed to this jurisdiction verbally but would not put his seal on the agreement, the Constitutions of Clarendon. The rift deepened when Henry's heir was crowned without Becket, who excommunicated the bishops who took part. Becket's tomb became one of the main destinations for pilgrims for the next 400 years, including those in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales where he was the 'blisful martir'.WithLaura AsheAssociate Professor of English at Worcester College, University of OxfordMichael StauntonAssociate Professor in History at University College DublinAndDanica SummerlinLecturer in Medieval History at the University of SheffieldProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Moby Dick
    Thu, Dec 07, 2017


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Herman Melville's (1819-1891) epic novel, published in London in 1851, the story of Captain Ahab's pursuit of a great white sperm whale that had bitten off his leg. He risks his own life and that of his crew on the Pequod, single-mindedly seeking his revenge, his story narrated by Ishmael who was taking part in a whaling expedition for the first time. This is one of the c1000 ideas which listeners sent in this autumn for our fourth Listener Week, following Kafka's The Trial in 2014, Captain Cook in 2015 and Garibaldi and the Risorgimento in 2016.WithBridget BennettProfessor of American Literature and Culture at the University of LeedsKatie McGettiganLecturer in American Literature at Royal Holloway, University of LondonAndGraham ThompsonAssociate Professor of American Studies at the University of NottinghamProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Carl Friedrich Gauss
    Thu, Nov 30, 2017


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Gauss (1777-1855), widely viewed as one of the greatest mathematicians of all time. He was a child prodigy, correcting his father's accounts before he was 3, dumbfounding his teachers with the speed of his mental arithmetic, and gaining a wealthy patron who supported his education. He wrote on number theory when he was 21, with his Disquisitiones Arithmeticae, which has influenced developments since. Among his achievements, he was the first to work out how to make a 17-sided polygon, he predicted the orbit of the minor planet Ceres, rediscovering it, he found a way of sending signals along a wire, using electromagnetism, the first electromagnetic telegraph, and he advanced the understanding of parallel lines on curved surfaces.WithMarcus du SautoyProfessor of Mathematics and Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of OxfordColva Roney-DougalReader in Pure Mathematics at the University of St AndrewsAndNick EvansProfessor of Theoretical Physics at the University of SouthamptonProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Thebes
    Thu, Nov 23, 2017


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the myths and history of the ancient Greek city of Thebes and its depiction in Athenian drama. In myths it was said to be home to Heracles, Dionysus, Oedipus and Cadmus among others and, in history, was infamous for supporting Xerxes in the Persian War. Its prominence led to a struggle with the rising force of Macedon in which the Thebans were defeated at Chaironea in 338 BC, one of the most important battles in ancient history. The position of Thebes in Greek culture was enormously powerful. The strength of its myths and its proximity to Athens made it a source of stories for the Athenian theatre, and is the setting for more of the surviving plays than any other location.The image, above, is of Oedipus answering questions of the sphinx in Thebes (cup 5th century BC).WithEdith HallProfessor of Classics at King's College LondonSamuel GartlandLecturer in Ancient History at Corpus Christi College, University of OxfordandPaul CartledgeEmeritus Professor of Greek Culture and AG Leventis Senior Research Fellow at Clare College, University of CambridgeProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Germaine de Stael
    Thu, Nov 16, 2017


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and impact of Germaine de Sta?l (1766-1817) who Byron praised as Europe's greatest living writer, and was at the heart of intellectual and literary life in the France of revolution and of Napoleon. As well as attracting and inspiring others in her salon, she wrote novels, plays. literary criticism, political essays, and poems and developed the ideas behind Romanticism. She achieved this while regularly exiled from the Paris in which she was born, having fallen out with Napoleon who she opposed, becoming a towering figure in the history of European ideas.WithCatriona Seth, Marshal Foch Professor of French Literature at the University of OxfordAlison Finch, Professor Emerita of French Literature at the University of CambridgeandKatherine Astbury, Associate Professor and Reader in French Studies at the University of Warwick.Producer: Simon Tillotson.

  • The Picts
    Thu, Nov 09, 2017


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss The Picts and, to mark our twentieth season, that discussion takes place in front of a student audience at the University of Glasgow, many of them studying this topic. According to Bede writing c731AD, the Picts, with the English, Britons, Scots and Latins, formed one of the five nations of Britain, 'an island in the ocean formerly called Albion'. The Picts is now a label given to the people who lived in Scotland north of the Forth-Clyde line from about 300 AD to 900 AD, from the time of the Romans to the time of the Vikings. They left intricately carved stones, such as the one above with a bull motif, from Burghead, Moray, Scotland, but there are relatively few other traces. Who were they, and what happened to them? And what has been learned in the last twenty years, through archaeology?WithKatherine ForsythReader in the Department of Celtic and Gaelic at the University of GlasgowAlex WoolfSenior Lecturer in Dark Age Studies at the University of St AndrewsandGordon NobleReader in Archaeology at the University of AberdeenProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Picasso's Guernica
    Thu, Nov 02, 2017


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the context and impact of Pablo Picasso's iconic work, created soon after the bombing on 26th April 1937 that obliterated much of the Basque town of Guernica, and its people. The attack was carried out by warplanes of the German Condor Legion, joined by the Italian air force, on behalf of Franco's Nationalists. At first the Nationalists denied responsibility, blaming their opponents for creating the destruction themselves for propaganda purposes, but the accounts of journalists such as George Steer, and the prominence of Picasso's work, kept the events of that day under close scrutiny. Picasso's painting has gone on to become a symbol warning against the devastation of war.WithMary VincentProfessor of Modern European History at the University of SheffieldGijs van HensbergenHistorian of Spanish Art and Fellow of the LSE Ca?ada Blanch Centre for Contemporary Spanish StudiesandDacia Viejo RoseLecturer in Heritage in the Department of Archaeology at the University of CambridgeFellow of Selwyn CollegeProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Feathered Dinosaurs
    Thu, Oct 26, 2017


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the development of theories about dinosaur feathers, following discoveries of fossils which show evidence of feathers. All dinosaurs were originally thought to be related to lizards - the word 'dinosaur' was created from the Greek for 'terrible lizard' - but that now appears false. In the last century, discoveries of fossils with feathers established that at least some dinosaurs were feathered and that some of those survived the great extinctions and evolved into the birds we see today. There are still many outstanding areas for study, such as what sorts of feathers they were, where on the body they were found, what their purpose was and which dinosaurs had them.WithMike BentonProfessor of Vertebrate Palaeontology at the University of BristolSteve BrusatteReader and Chancellor's Fellow in Vertebrate Palaeontology at the University of EdinburghandMaria McNamaraSenior Lecturer in Geology at University College, CorkProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • The Congress of Vienna
    Thu, Oct 19, 2017


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the conference convened by the victorious powers of the Napoleonic Wars and the earlier French Revolutionary Wars, which had devastated so much of Europe over the last 25 years. The powers aimed to create a long lasting peace, partly by redrawing the map to restore old boundaries and partly by balancing the powers so that none would risk war again. It has since been seen as a very conservative outcome, reasserting the old monarchical and imperial orders over the growth of liberalism and national independence movements, and yet also largely successful in its goal of preventing war in Europe on such a scale for another 100 years. Delegates to Vienna were entertained at night with lavish balls, and the image above is from a French cartoon showing Russia, Prussia, and Austria dancing to the bidding of Castlereagh, the British delegate.WithKathleen BurkProfessor Emerita of Modern and Contemporary History at University College LondonTim BlanningEmeritus Professor of Modern European History at the University of CambridgeandJohn BewProfessor in History and Foreign Policy at the War Studies Department at King's College LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Aphra Behn
    Thu, Oct 12, 2017


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Aphra Behn (1640-1689), who made her name and her living as a playwright, poet and writer of fiction under the Restoration. Virginia Woolf wrote of her: ' All women together, ought to let flowers fall upon the grave of Aphra Behn... for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds'. Behn may well have spent some of her early life in Surinam, the setting for her novel Oroonoko, and there are records of her working in the Netherlands as a spy for Charles II. She was loyal to the Stuart kings, and refused to write a poem on the coronation of William of Orange. She was regarded as an important writer in her lifetime and inspired others to write, but fell out of favour for two centuries after her death when her work was seen as too bawdy, the product of a disreputable age.The image above is from the Yale Center for British Art and is titled 'Aphra Behn, by Sir Peter Lely, 1618-1680'WithJanet ToddFormer President of Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge UniversityRos BallasterProfessor of 18th Century Literature at Mansfield College, University of OxfordandClaire BowditchPost-doctoral Research Associate in English and Drama at Loughborough UniversityProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Constantine the Great
    Thu, Oct 05, 2017


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life, reputation and impact of Constantine I, known as Constantine the Great (c280s -337AD). Born in modern day Serbia and proclaimed Emperor by his army in York in 306AD, Constantine became the first Roman Emperor to profess Christianity. He legalised Christianity and its followers achieved privileges that became lost to traditional religions, leading to the steady Christianisation of the Empire. He built a new palace in Byzantium, renaming it Constantinople, as part of the decentralisation of the Empire, an Eastern shift that saw Roman power endure another thousand years there, long after the collapse of the empire in the West.WithChristopher KellyProfessor of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Cambridgeand President of Corpus Christi CollegeLucy GrigSenior Lecturer in Roman History at the University of EdinburghandGreg WoolfDirector of the Institute of Classical Studies, University of LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Wuthering Heights
    Thu, Sep 28, 2017


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Emily Bronte (1818-1848) and her only novel, published in 1847 under the name 'Ellis Bell' just a year before her death. It is the story of Heathcliff, a foundling from Liverpool brought up in the Earnshaw family at the remote Wuthering Heights, high on the moors, who becomes close to the young Cathy Earnshaw but hears her say she can never marry him. He disappears and she marries his rival, Edgar Linton, of Thrushcross Grange even though she feels inextricably linked with Heathcliff, exclaiming to her maid 'I am Heathcliff!' On his return, Heathcliff steadily works through his revenge on all who he believes wronged him, and their relations. When Cathy dies, Heathcliff longs to be united with her in the grave. The raw passions and cruelty of the story unsettled Emily's sister Charlotte Bronte, whose novel Jane Eyre had been published shortly before, and who took pains to explain its roughness, jealousy and violence when introducing it to early readers. Over time, with its energy, imagination and scope, Wuthering Heights became celebrated as one of the great novels in English.The image above is of Laurence Olivier as Heathcliff and Merle Oberon as Cathy on the set of the Samuel Goldwyn Company movie 'Wuthering Heights', circa 1939.WithKaren O'BrienProfessor of English Literature at the University of OxfordJohn BowenProfessor of Nineteenth Century Literature at the University of YorkandAlexandra LewisLecturer in English Literature at the University of AberdeenProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Kant's Categorical Imperative
    Thu, Sep 21, 2017


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how, in the Enlightenment, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) sought to define the difference between right and wrong by applying reason, looking at the intention behind actions rather than at consequences. He was inspired to find moral laws by natural philosophers such as Newton and Leibniz, who had used reason rather than emotion to analyse the world around them and had identified laws of nature. Kant argued that when someone was doing the right thing, that person was doing what was the universal law for everyone, a formulation that has been influential on moral philosophy ever since and is known as the Categorical Imperative. Arguably even more influential was one of his reformulations, echoed in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in which he asserted that humanity has a value of an entirely different kind from that placed on commodities. Kant argued that simply existing as a human being was valuable in itself, so that every human owed moral responsibilities to other humans and was owed responsibilities in turn.WithAlison HillsProfessor of Philosophy at St John's College, OxfordDavid OderbergProfessor of Philosophy at the University of ReadingandJohn CallananSenior Lecturer in Philosophy at King's College, LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • al-Biruni
    Thu, Aug 31, 2017


    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Central Asian polymath al-Biruni and his eleventh-century book the India.Born in around 973 in the central Asian region of Chorasmia, al-Biruni became an itinerant scholar of immense learning, a master of mathematics, medicine, astronomy and many languages. He corresponded with the age's greatest scientist, Avicenna, and made significant contributions to many fields of knowledge.In 1017 al-Biruni became a member of the court of the ruler Mahmud of Ghazna. Over the course of the next thirteen years he wrote the India, a comprehensive account of Hindu culture which was the first book about India by a Muslim scholar. It contains detailed information about Hindu religion, science and everyday life which have caused some to call it the first work of anthropology.With:James MontgomeryProfessor of Classical Arabic at the University of CambridgeHugh KennedyProfessor of Arabic in the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of LondonAmira BennisonSenior Lecturer in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at the University of CambridgeProducer: Thomas Morris.

  • Bird Migration
    Thu, Jul 06, 2017


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss why some birds migrate and others do not, how they select their destinations and how they navigate the great distances, often over oceans. For millennia, humans set their calendars to birds' annual arrivals, and speculated about what happened when they departed, perhaps moving deep under water, or turning into fish or shellfish, or hibernating while clinging to trees upside down. Ideas about migration developed in C19th when, in Germany, a stork was noticed with an African spear in its neck, indicating where it had been over the winter and how far it had flown. Today there are many ideas about how birds use their senses of sight and smell, and magnetic fields, to find their way, and about why and how birds choose their destinations and many questions. Why do some scatter and some flock together, how much is instinctive and how much is learned, and how far do the benefits the migrating birds gain outweigh the risks they face?WithBarbara HelmReader at the Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine at the University of GlasgowTim GuilfordProfessor of Animal Behaviour and Tutorial Fellow of Zoology at Merton College, OxfordandRichard HollandSenior Lecturer in Animal Cognition at Bangor UniversityProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Plato's Republic
    Thu, Jun 29, 2017


    Is it always better to be just than unjust? That is the central question of Plato's Republic, discussed here by Melvyn Bragg and guests. Writing in c380BC, Plato applied this question both to the individual and the city-state, considering earlier and current forms of government in Athens and potential forms, in which the ideal city might be ruled by philosophers. The Republic is arguably Plato's best known and greatest work, a dialogue between Socrates and his companions, featuring the allegory of the cave and ideas about immortality of the soul, the value of poetry to society, and democracy's vulnerability to a clever demagogue seeking tyranny.WithAngie HobbsProfessor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of SheffieldMM McCabeProfessor of Ancient Philosophy Emerita at King's College LondonandJames WarrenFellow of Corpus Christi College and a Reader in Ancient Philosophy at the University of CambridgeProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Eugene Onegin
    Thu, Jun 22, 2017


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Alexander Pushkin's verse novel, the story of Eugene Onegin, widely regarded as his masterpiece. Pushkin (pictured above) began this in 1823 and worked on it over the next ten years, while moving around Russia, developing the central character of a figure all too typical of his age, the so-called superfluous man. Onegin is cynical, disillusioned and detached, his best friend Lensky is a romantic poet and Tatyana, whose love for Onegin is not returned until too late, is described as a poetic ideal of a Russian woman, and they are shown in the context of the Russian landscape and society that has shaped them. Onegin draws all three into tragic situations which, if he had been willing and able to act, he could have prevented, and so becomes the one responsible for the misery of himself and others as well as the death of his friend.WithAndrew KahnProfessor of Russian Literature at the University of Oxford and Fellow of St Edmund HallEmily FinerLecturer in Russian and Comparative Literature at the University of St AndrewsandSimon DixonThe Sir Bernard Pares Professor of Russian History at University College LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • The American Populists
    Thu, Jun 15, 2017


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss what, in C19th America's Gilded Age, was one of the most significant protest movements since the Civil War with repercussions well into C20th. Farmers in the South and Midwest felt ignored by the urban and industrial elites who were thriving as the farmers suffered droughts and low prices. The farmers were politically and physically isolated. As one man wrote on his abandoned farm, 'two hundred and fifty miles to the nearest post office, one hundred miles to wood, twenty miles to water, six inches to Hell'. They formed the Populist or People's Party to fight their cause, put up candidates for President, won several states and influenced policies. In the South, though, their appeal to black farmers stimulated their political rivals to suppress the black vote for decades and set black and poor white farmers against each other, tightening segregation. Aspects of the Populists ideas re-emerged effectively in Roosevelt's New Deal, even if they are mainly remembered now, if at all, thanks to allegorical references in The Wizard of Oz.The caricature above is of William Jennings Bryan, Populist-backed Presidential candidate.WithLawrence GoldmanProfessor of History at the Institute of Historical Research, University of LondonMara KeireLecturer in US History at the University of OxfordAndChristopher PhelpsAssociate Professor of American Studies at the University of NottinghamProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Christine de Pizan
    Thu, Jun 08, 2017


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and works of Christine de Pizan, who wrote at the French Court in the late Middle Ages and was celebrated by Simone de Beauvoir as the first woman to 'take up her pen in defence of her sex.' She wrote across a broad range, and was particularly noted for challenging the depiction of women by famous writers such as Jean de Meun, author of the Romance of the Rose. She has been characterised as an early feminist who argued that women could play a much more important role in society than the one they were allotted, reflected in arguably her most important work, The Book of the City of Ladies, a response to the seemingly endless denigration of women in popular texts of the time.The image above, of Christine de Pizan lecturing, is (c)The British Library Board. Harley 4431, f.259v.WithHelen SwiftAssociate Professor of Medieval French at the University of Oxford and Fellow of St Hilda's CollegeMiranda GriffinLecturer in French and Fellow of St Catharine's College, CambridgeandMarilynn DesmondDistinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Binghamton UniversityProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Enzymes
    Thu, Jun 01, 2017


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss enzymes, the proteins that control the speed of chemical reactions in living organisms. Without enzymes, these reactions would take place too slowly to keep organisms alive: with their actions as catalysts, changes which might otherwise take millions of years can happen hundreds of times a second. Some enzymes break down large molecules into smaller ones, like the ones in human intestines, while others use small molecules to build up larger, complex ones, such as those that make DNA. Enzymes also help keep cell growth under control, by regulating the time for cells to live and their time to die, and provide a way for cells to communicate with each other.WithNigel RichardsProfessor of Biological Chemistry at Cardiff UniversitySarah BarryLecturer in Chemical Biology at King's College LondonAndJim NaismithDirector of the Research Complex at HarwellBishop Wardlaw Professor of Chemical Biology at the University of St AndrewsProfessor of Structural Biology at the University of OxfordProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Purgatory
    Thu, May 25, 2017


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the flourishing of the idea of Purgatory from C12th, when it was imagined as a place alongside Hell and Heaven in which the souls of sinners would be purged of those sins by fire. In the West, there were new systems put in place to pray for the souls of the dead, on a greater scale, with opportunities to buy pardons to shorten time in Purgatory. The idea was enriched with visions, some religious and some literary; Dante imagined Purgatory as a mountain in the southern hemisphere, others such as Marie de France told of The Legend of the Purgatory of Saint Patrick, in which the entrance was on Station Island in County Donegal. This idea of purification by fire had appalled the Eastern Orthodox Church and was one of the factors in the split from Rome in 1054, but flourished in the West up to the reformations of C16th when it was again particularly divisive.WithLaura AsheAssociate Professor of English and fellow of Worcester College at the University of OxfordMatthew TreherneProfessor of Italian Literature at the University of LeedsandHelen Foxhall ForbesAssociate Professor of Early Medieval History at Durham UniversityProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Louis Pasteur
    Thu, May 18, 2017


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and work of Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) and his extraordinary contribution to medicine and science. It is said few people have saved more lives than Pasteur. A chemist, he showed that otherwise identical molecules could exist as 'left' and 'right-handed' versions and that molecules produced by living things were always left-handed. He proposed a germ theory to replace the idea of spontaneous generation. He discovered that microorganisms cause fermentation and disease. He began the process named after him, pasteurisation, heating liquids to 50-60 C to kill microbes. He saved the beer and wine industries in France when they were struggling with microbial contamination. He saved the French silk industry when he found a way of protecting healthy silkworm eggs from disease. He developed vaccines against anthrax and rabies and helped establish immunology. Many of his ideas were developed further after his lifetime, but one of his legacies was a charitable body, the Pasteur Institute, to continue research into infectious disease.WithAndrew MendelsohnReader in the School of History at Queen Mary, University of LondonAnne HardyHonorary Professor at the Centre for History in Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical MedicineandMichael WorboysEmeritus Professor in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine at the University of ManchesterProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Emily Dickinson
    Thu, May 11, 2017


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and works of Emily Dickinson, arguably the most startling and original poet in America in the C19th. According to Thomas Wentworth Higginson, her correspondent and mentor, writing 15 years after her death, "Few events in American literary history have been more curious than the sudden rise of Emily Dickinson into a posthumous fame only more accentuated by the utterly recluse character of her life and by her aversion to even a literary publicity." That was in 1891 and, as more of Dickinson's poems were published, and more of her remaining letters, the more the interest in her and appreciation of her grew. With her distinctive voice, her abundance, and her exploration of her private world, she is now seen by many as one of the great lyric poets.WithFiona GreenSenior Lecturer in English at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Jesus CollegeLinda FreedmanLecturer in English and American Literature at University College LondonandParaic FinnertyReader in English and American Literature at the University of PortsmouthProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • The Battle of Lincoln 1217
    Thu, May 04, 2017


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss The Battle of Lincoln on 20th May 1217, when two armies fought to keep, or to win, the English crown. This was a struggle between the Angevin and Capetian dynasties, one that followed Capetian successes over the Angevins in France. The forces of the new boy-king, Henry III, attacked those of Louis of France, the claimant backed by rebel Barons. Henry's regent, William Marshal, was almost seventy when he led the charge on Lincoln that day, and his victory confirmed his reputation as England's greatest knight. Louis sent to France for reinforcements but in August these, too, were defeated at sea, at the Battle of Sandwich. As part of the peace deal, Henry reissued Magna Carta, which King John had granted in 1215 but soon withdrawn, and Louis went home, leaving England's Anglo-French rulers more Anglo and less French than he had planned.The image above is by Matthew Paris (c1200-1259) from his Chronica Majora (MS 16, f. 55v) and appears with the kind permission of the Master and Fellows of Corpus Christi College, CambridgeWithLouise WilkinsonProfessor of Medieval History at Canterbury Christ Church UniversityStephen ChurchProfessor of Medieval History at the University of East AngliaandThomas AsbridgeReader in Medieval History at Queen Mary, University of LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • The Egyptian Book of the Dead
    Thu, Apr 27, 2017


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the text and context of The Book of the Dead, also known as the Book of Coming Forth by Day, the ancient Egyptian collections of spells which were intended to help the recently deceased navigate the underworld. They flourished under the New Kingdom from C16th BC until the end of the Ptolemaic era in C1st BC, and drew on much earlier traditions from the walls of pyramids and on coffin cases. Almost 200 spells survive, though no one collection contains all of them, and one of the best known surrounds the weighing of the heart, the gods' final judgement of the deceased's life.WithJohn TaylorCurator at the Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan at the British MuseumKate SpenceSenior Lecturer in Egyptian Archaeology at Cambridge University and Fellow of Emmanuel CollegeandRichard ParkinsonProfessor of Egyptology at the University of Oxford and Fellow of the Queen's CollegeProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Roger Bacon
    Thu, Apr 20, 2017


    The 13th-century English philosopher Roger Bacon is perhaps best known for his major work the Opus Maius. Commissioned by Pope Clement IV, this extensive text covered a multitude of topics from mathematics and optics to religion and moral philosophy. He is also regarded by some as an early pioneer of the modern scientific method. Bacon's erudition was so highly regarded that he came to be known as 'Doctor Mirabilis' or 'wonderful doctor'. However, he is a man shrouded in mystery. Little is known about much of his life and he became the subject of a number of strange legends, including one in which he allegedly constructed a mechanical brazen head that would predict the future.With:Jack CunninghamAcademic Coordinator for Theology at Bishop Grosseteste University, LincolnAmanda PowerAssociate Professor of Medieval History at the University of OxfordElly TruittAssociate Professor of Medieval History at Bryn Mawr CollegeProducer: Victoria Brignell.

  • Rosa Luxemburg
    Thu, Apr 13, 2017


    Melvyn Bragg discusses the life and times of Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919), 'Red Rosa', who was born in Poland under the Russian Empire and became one of the leading revolutionaries in an age of revolution. She was jailed for agitation and for her campaign against the Great War which, she argued, pitted workers against each other for the sake of capitalism. With Karl Liebknecht and other radicals, she founded the Spartacus League in the hope of ending the war through revolution. She founded the German Communist Party with Liebknecht; with the violence that followed the German Revolution of 1918, her opponents condemned her as Bloody Rosa. She and Liebknecht were seen as ringleaders in the Spartacus Revolt of 1919 and, on 15th January 1919, the Freikorps militia arrested and murdered them. While Luxemburg has faced opposition for her actions and ideas from many quarters, she went on to become an iconic figure in East Germany under the Cold War and a focal point for opposition to the Soviet-backed leadership.WithJacqueline RoseCo-Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, Birkbeck, University of LondonMark JonesIrish Research Council fellow at the Centre for War Studies, University College DublinandNadine RossolSenior lecturer in Modern European History at the University of EssexProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Pauli's Exclusion Principle
    Thu, Apr 06, 2017


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and ideas of Wolfgang Pauli (1900-1958), whose Exclusion Principle is one of the key ideas in quantum mechanics. A brilliant physicist, at 21 Pauli wrote a review of Einstein's theory of general relativity and that review is still a standard work of reference today. The Pauli Exclusion Principle proposes that no two electrons in an atom can be at the same time in the same state or configuration, and it helps explain a wide range of phenomena such as the electron shell structure of atoms. Pauli went on to postulate the existence of the neutrino, which was confirmed in his lifetime. Following further development of his exclusion principle, Pauli was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1945 for his 'decisive contribution through his discovery of a new law of Nature'. He also had a long correspondence with Jung, and a reputation for accidentally breaking experimental equipment which was dubbed The Pauli Effect.WithFrank CloseFellow Emeritus at Exeter College, University of OxfordMichela MassimiProfessor of Philosophy of Science at the University of EdinburghandGraham FarmeloBye-Fellow of Churchill College, University of CambridgeProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Hokusai
    Thu, Mar 30, 2017


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), the Japanese artist whose views of Mt Fuji such as The Great Wave off Kanagawa (pictured) are some of the most iconic in world art. He worked as Japan was slowly moving towards greater contact with the outside world, trading with China and allowing two Dutch ships to dock each year. From these ships he picked up new synthetic colours and illustrations with Western compositions, which he incorporated in his traditional wood block prints. The quality of his images helped drive demand for prints among the highly literate Japanese public, particularly those required to travel to Edo under feudal obligations and who wanted to collect all his prints. As well as the quality of his work, Hokusai's success stems partly from his long life and career. He completed some of his most memorable works in his 70s and 80s and claimed he would not reach his best until he was 110.WithAngus LockyerLecturer in Japanese History at SOAS University of LondonRosina BucklandSenior Curator of Japanese Collections at the National Museum of ScotlandAndEllis TiniosHonorary Lecturer in the School of History, University of LeedsProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • The Battle of Salamis
    Thu, Mar 23, 2017


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss what is often called one of the most significant battles in history. In 480BC in the Saronic Gulf near Athens, between the mainland and the island of Salamis, a fleet of Greek allies decisively defeated a larger Persian-led fleet. This halted the further Persian conquest of Greece and, at Plataea and Mycale the next year, further Greek victories brought Persian withdrawal and the immediate threat of conquest to an end. To the Greeks, this enabled a flourishing of a culture that went on to influence the development of civilisation in Rome and, later, Europe and beyond. To the Persians, it was a reverse at the fringes of their vast empire but not a threat to their existence, as it was for the Greek states, and attention turned to quelling unrest elsewhere.WithLloyd Llewellyn-JonesProfessor in Ancient History at Cardiff UniversityLindsay AllenLecturer in Greek and Near Eastern History, King's College LondonandPaul CartledgeEmeritus Professor of Greek Culture and AG Leventis Senior Research Fellow at Clare College, University of CambridgeProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum
    Thu, Mar 16, 2017


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the high temperatures that marked the end of the Paleocene and start of the Eocene periods, about 50m years ago. Over c1000 years, global temperatures rose more than 5 C on average and stayed that way for c100,000 years more, with the surface of seas in the Arctic being as warm as those in the subtropics. There were widespread extinctions, changes in ocean currents, and there was much less oxygen in the sea depths. The rise has been attributed to an increase of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere, though it is not yet known conclusively what the source of those gases was. One theory is that a rise in carbon dioxide, perhaps from volcanoes, warmed up the globe enough for warm water to reach the bottom of the oceans and so release methane from frozen crystals in the sea bed. The higher the temperature rose and the longer the water was warm, the more methane was released. Scientists have been studying a range of sources from this long period, from ice samples to fossils, to try to understand more about possible causes.WithDame Jane FrancisProfessor of Palaeoclimatology at the British Antarctic SurveyMark MaslinProfessor of Palaeoclimatology at University College LondonAndTracy AzeLecturer in Marine Micropaleontology at the University of LeedsProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • North and South
    Thu, Mar 09, 2017


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Elizabeth Gaskell's novel North and South, published in 1855 after serialisation in Dickens' Household Words magazine. It is the story of Margaret Hale, who was raised in the South in the New Forest and London's Harley Street, and then moves North to a smokey mill town, Milton, in Darkshire. As well as Margaret's emotional life and her growing sense of independence, the novel explores the new ways of living thrown up by industrialisation, and the relationships between 'masters and men'. Many of Margaret Hale's experiences echo Gaskell's own life, as she was born in Chelsea and later moved to Manchester, and the novel has become valued for its insights into social conflicts and the changing world in which Gaskell lived.WithSally ShuttleworthProfessor of English Literature at the University of OxfordDinah BirchPro-vice Chancellor for Research and Professor of English Literature at the University of LiverpoolAndJenny UglowBiographer of Elizabeth GaskellProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • The Kuiper Belt
    Thu, Mar 02, 2017


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Kuiper Belt, a vast region of icy objects at the fringes of our Solar System, beyond Neptune, in which we find the dwarf planet Pluto and countless objects left over from the origins of the solar system, some of which we observe as comets. It extends from where Neptune is, which is 30 times further out than the Earth is from the Sun, to about 500 times the Earth-Sun distance. It covers an immense region of space and it is the part of the Solar System that we know the least about, because it is so remote from us and has been barely detectable by Earth-based telescopes until recent decades. Its existence was predicted before it was known, and study of the Kuiper Belt, and how objects move within it, has led to a theory that there may be a 9th planet far beyond Neptune.WithCarolin CrawfordPublic Astronomer at the Institute of Astronomy and Fellow of Emmanuel College, University of CambridgeMonica GradyProfessor of Planetary and Space Sciences at the Open UniversityAndStephen LowryReader in Planetary and Space Sciences, University of KentProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Seneca the Younger
    Thu, Feb 23, 2017


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Seneca the Younger, who was one of the first great writers to live his entire life in the world of the new Roman empire, after the fall of the Republic. He was a Stoic philosopher, he wrote blood-soaked tragedies, he was an orator, and he navigated his way through the reigns of Caligula, Claudius and Nero, sometimes exercising power at the highest level and at others spending years in exile. Agrippina the Younger was the one who called for him to tutor Nero, and it is thought Seneca helped curb some of Nero's excesses. He was later revered within the Christian church, partly for what he did and partly for what he was said to have done in forged letters to St Paul. His tragedies, with their ghosts and high body count, influenced Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus and Hamlet, and Kyd's Spanish Tragedy. The image above is the so-called bust of Seneca, a detail from Four Philosophers by Peter Paul Rubens.WithMary BeardProfessor of Classics at the University of CambridgeCatharine EdwardsProfessor of Classics and Ancient History at Birkbeck, University of LondonandAlessandro SchiesaroProfessor of Classics at the University of ManchesterProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Maths in the Early Islamic World
    Thu, Feb 16, 2017


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the flourishing of maths in the early Islamic world, as thinkers from across the region developed ideas in places such as Baghdad's House of Wisdom. Among them were the Persians Omar Khayyam, who worked on equations, and Al-Khwarizmi, latinised as Algoritmi and pictured above, who is credited as one of the fathers of algebra, and the Jewish scholar Al-Samawal, who converted to Islam and worked on mathematical induction. As well as the new ideas, there were many advances drawing on Indian, Babylonian and Greek work and, thanks to the recording or reworking by mathematicians in the Islamic world, that broad range of earlier maths was passed on to western Europe for further study.WithColva Roney-DougalReader in Pure Mathematics at the University of St AndrewsPeter PormannProfessor of Classics & Graeco-Arabic Studies at the University of ManchesterAndJim Al-KhaliliProfessor of Physics at the University of SurreyProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • John Clare
    Thu, Feb 09, 2017


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Northamptonshire poet John Clare who, according to one of Melvyn's guests Jonathan Bate, was 'the greatest labouring-class poet that England has ever produced'. Clare worked in a tavern, as a gardener and as a farm labourer in the early 19th century and achieved his first literary success with Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery. He was praised for his descriptions of rural England and his childhood there, and his reaction to the changes he saw in the Agricultural Revolution with its enclosures, displacement and altered, disrupted landscape. Despite poor mental health and, from middle age onwards, many years in asylums, John Clare continued to write and he is now seen as one of the great poets of his age.WithSir Jonathan BateProvost of Worcester College, University of OxfordMina GorjiSenior Lecturer in the English Faculty and fellow of Pembroke College, CambridgeandSimon K?vesiProfessor of English Literature at Oxford Brookes UniversityProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Hannah Arendt
    Thu, Feb 02, 2017


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the political philosophy of Hannah Arendt. She developed many of her ideas in response to the rise of totalitarianism in the C20th, partly informed by her own experience as a Jew in Nazi Germany before her escape to France and then America. She wanted to understand how politics had taken such a disastrous turn and, drawing on ideas of Greek philosophers as well as her peers, what might be done to create a better political life. Often unsettling, she wrote of 'the banality of evil' when covering the trial of Eichmann, one of the organisers of the Holocaust.WithLyndsey StonebridgeProfessor of Modern Literature and History at the University of East AngliaFrisbee SheffieldLecturer in Philosophy at Girton College, University of CambridgeandRobert EaglestoneProfessor of Contemporary Literature and Thought at Royal Holloway, University LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Parasitism
    Thu, Jan 26, 2017


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the relationship between parasites and hosts, where one species lives on or in another to the benefit of the parasite but at a cost to the host, potentially leading to disease or death of the host. Typical examples are mistletoe and trees, hookworms and vertebrates, cuckoos and other birds. In many cases the parasite species do so well in or on a particular host that they reproduce much faster and can adapt to changes more efficiently, and it is thought that almost half of all animal species have a parasitic stage in their lifetime. What techniques do hosts have to counter the parasites, and what impact do parasites have on the evolution of their hosts?WithSteve JonesEmeritus Professor of Genetics at University College, LondonWendy GibsonProfessor of Protozoology at the University of BristolandKayla KingAssociate Professor in the Department of Zoology at the University of OxfordProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Mary, Queen of Scots
    Thu, Jan 19, 2017


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of Mary, Queen of Scots, who had potential to be one of the most powerful rulers in Europe, yet she was also one of the most vulnerable. In France, when she was the teenage bride to their future king, she was seen as rightful heir to the thrones of England and Ireland, as well as Queen of Scotland and one day of France, which would have been an extraordinary union. She was widowed too young, though and, a Catholic returning to Protestant Scotland, she struggled to overcome rivalries in her own country. She fled to Protestant England, where she was implicated in plots to overthrow Elizabeth, and it was Elizabeth herself who signed Mary's death warrant.WithDavid ForsythPrincipal Curator, Scottish Medieval-Early Modern Collections at National Museums ScotlandAnna GroundwaterTeaching Fellow in Historical Skills and Methods at the University of EdinburghAndJohn GuyFellow of Clare College, University of CambridgeProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morality
    Thu, Jan 12, 2017


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Nietzsche's On The Genealogy of Morality - A Polemic, which he published in 1887 towards the end of his working life and in which he considered the price humans have paid, and were still paying, to become civilised. In three essays, he argued that having a guilty conscience was the price of living in society with other humans. He suggested that Christian morality, with its consideration for others, grew as an act of revenge by the weak against their masters, 'the blond beasts of prey', as he calls them, and the price for that slaves' revolt was endless self-loathing. These and other ideas were picked up by later thinkers, perhaps most significantly by Sigmund Freud who further explored the tensions between civilisation and the individual.WithStephen MulhallProfessor of Philosophy and a Fellow and Tutor at New College, University of OxfordFiona HughesSenior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of EssexAndKeith Ansell-PearsonProfessor of Philosophy at the University of WarwickProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Johannes Kepler
    Thu, Dec 29, 2016


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the German astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571 - 1630). Although he is overshadowed today by Isaac Newton and Galileo, he is considered by many to be one of the greatest scientists in history. The three laws of planetary motion Kepler developed transformed people's understanding of the Solar System and laid the foundations for the revolutionary ideas Isaac Newton produced later. Kepler is also thought to have written one of the first works of science fiction. However, he faced a number of challenges. He had to defend his mother from charges of witchcraft, he had few financial resources and his career suffered as a result of his Lutheran faith.WithDavid WoottonProfessor of History at the University of YorkUlinka RublackProfessor of Early Modern European History at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of St John's CollegeAdam MosleyAssociate Professor in the Department of History at Swansea UniversityProducer: Victoria Brignell.

  • Four Quartets
    Thu, Dec 22, 2016


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Four Quartets, TS Eliot's last great work which he composed, against a background of imminent and actual world war, as meditations on the relationship between time and humanity.WithDavid MoodyEmeritus Professor of English and American Literature at the University of YorkFran BreartonProfessor of Modern Poetry at Queen's University, BelfastAndMark FordProfessor of English and American Literature at University College LondonProducer: Simon TillotsonJeremy Irons will be reading TS Eliot's greatest poems, from Prufrock to The Waste Land to Four Quartets, across New Year's Day here on Radio 4.

  • The Gin Craze
    Thu, Dec 15, 2016


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the craze for gin in Britain in the mid 18th Century and the attempts to control it. With the arrival of William of Orange, it became an act of loyalty to drink Protestant, Dutch gin rather than Catholic brandy, and changes in tariffs made everyday beer less affordable. Within a short time, production increased and large sections of the population that had rarely or never drunk spirits before were consuming two pints of gin a week. As Hogarth indicated in his print 'Beer Street and Gin Lane' (1751) in support of the Gin Act, the damage was severe, and addiction to gin was blamed for much of the crime in cities such as London.WithAngela McShaneResearch Fellow in History at the Victoria and Albert Museum and University of SheffieldJudith HawleyProfessor of 18th century literature at Royal Holloway, University of LondonAndEmma MajorSenior Lecturer in English at the University of YorkProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Harriet Martineau
    Thu, Dec 08, 2016


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Harriet Martineau who, from a non-conformist background in Norwich, became one of the best known writers in the C19th. She had a wide range of interests and used a new, sociological method to observe the world around her, from religion in Egypt to slavery in America and the rights of women everywhere. She popularised writing about economics for those outside the elite and, for her own popularity, was invited to the coronation of Queen Victoria, one of her readers.WithValerie SandersProfessor of English at the University of HullKaren O'BrienProfessor of English Literature at the University of OxfordAndElla DzelzainisLecturer in 19th Century Literature at Newcastle UniversityProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Garibaldi and the Risorgimento
    Thu, Dec 01, 2016


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Giuseppe Garibaldi and the Italian Risorgimento. According to the historian AJP Taylor, Garibaldi was the only wholly admirable figure in modern history. Born in Nice in 1807, one of Garibaldi's aims in life was the unification of Italy and, in large part thanks to him, Italy was indeed united substantially in 1861 and entirely in 1870. With his distinctive red shirt and poncho, he was a hero of Romantic revolutionaries around the world. His fame was secured when, with a thousand soldiers, he invaded Sicily and toppled the monarchy in the Italian south. The Risorgimento was soon almost complete.This topic is the one chosen from over 750 different ideas suggested by listeners in October, for our yearly Listener Week.WithLucy RiallProfessor of Comparative History of Europe at the European University Instituteand Professor of History at Birkbeck, University of LondonEugenio BiaginiProfessor of Modern and Contemporary History at the University of CambridgeandDavid LavenAssociate Professor of History at the University of NottinghamProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Baltic Crusades
    Thu, Nov 24, 2016


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Baltic Crusades, the name given to a series of overlapping attempts to convert the pagans of North East Europe to Christianity at the point of the sword. From the 12th Century, Papal Bulls endorsed those who fought on the side of the Church, the best known now being the Teutonic Order which, thwarted in Jerusalem, founded a state on the edge of the Baltic, in Prussia. Some of the peoples in the region disappeared, either killed or assimilated, and the consequences for European history were profound.WithAleks PluskowskiAssociate Professor of Archaeology at the University of ReadingNora BerendFellow of St Catharine's College and Reader in European History at the Faculty of History at the University of CambridgeandMartin PalmerDirector of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education, and CultureProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Justinian's Legal Code
    Thu, Nov 17, 2016


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas brought together under Justinian I, Byzantine emperor in the 6th century AD, which were rediscovered in Western Europe in the Middle Ages and became very influential in the development of laws in many European nations and elsewhere.WithCaroline HumfressProfessor of Medieval History at the University of St AndrewsSimon CorcoranLecturer in Ancient History at Newcastle UniversityandPaul du PlessisSenior Lecturer in Civil law and European legal history at the School of Law, University of EdinburghProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • The Fighting Temeraire
    Thu, Nov 10, 2016


    This image: Joseph Mallord William Turner, The Fighting Temeraire, 1839 (c) The National Gallery, LondonMelvyn Bragg and guests discuss "The Fighting Temeraire", one of Turner's greatest works and the one he called his 'darling'. It shows one of the most famous ships of the age, a hero of Trafalgar, being towed up the Thames to the breakers' yard, sail giving way to steam. Turner displayed this masterpiece to a public which, at the time, was deep in celebration of the Temeraire era, with work on Nelson's Column underway, and it was an immediate success, with Thackeray calling the painting 'a national ode'.WithSusan FoisterCurator of Early Netherlandish, German and British Painting at the National GalleryDavid Blayney BrownManton Curator of British Art 1790-1850 at Tate BritainandJames DaveyCurator of Naval History at the National Maritime MuseumProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Epic of Gilgamesh
    Thu, Nov 03, 2016


    "He who saw the Deep" are the first words of the standard version of The Epic of Gilgamesh, the subject of this discussion between Melvyn Bragg and his guests. Gilgamesh is often said to be the oldest surviving great work of literature, with origins in the third millennium BC, and it passed through thousands of years on cuneiform tablets. Unlike epics of Greece and Rome, the intact story of Gilgamesh became lost to later generations until tablets were discovered by Hormuzd Rassam in 1853 near Mosul and later translated. Since then, many more tablets have been found and much of the text has been reassembled to convey the story of Gilgamesh, king of Uruk the sheepfold, and Enkidu who the gods created to stop Gilgamesh oppressing his people. Together they fight Humbaba, monstrous guardian of the Cedar Forest, and kill the Bull of Heaven, for which the gods make Enkidu mortally ill. Gilgamesh goes on a long journey as he tries unsuccessfully to learn how to live forever, learning about the Great Deluge on the way, but his remarkable building works guarantee that his fame will last long after his death.WithAndrew GeorgeProfessor of Babylonian at SOAS, University of LondonFrances ReynoldsShillito Fellow in Assyriology at the Oriental Institute, University of Oxford and Fellow of St Benet's HallandMartin WorthingtonLecturer in Assyriology at the University of CambridgeProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • John Dalton
    Thu, Oct 27, 2016


    The scientist John Dalton was born in North England in 1766. Although he came from a relatively poor Quaker family, he managed to become one of the most celebrated scientists of his age. Through his work, he helped to establish Manchester as a place where not only products were made but ideas were born. His reputation during his lifetime was so high that unusually a statue was erected to him before he died. Among his interests were meteorology, gasses and colour blindness. However, he is most remembered today for his pioneering thinking in the field of atomic theory.With:Jim BennettFormer Director of the Museum of the History of Science at the University of Oxford and Keeper Emeritus at the Science MuseumAileen FyfeReader in British History at the University of St AndrewsJames SumnerLecturer in the History of Technology at the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine at the University of ManchesterProducer: Victoria Brignell.

  • The 12th Century Renaissance
    Thu, Oct 20, 2016


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the changes in the intellectual world of Western Europe in the 12th Century, and their origins. This was a time of Crusades, the formation of states, the start of Gothic architecture, a reconnection with Roman and Greek learning and their Arabic development and the start of the European universities, and has become known as The 12th Century Renaissance.The image above is part of Notre-Dame de la Belle-Verri?re, Chartres Cathedral, from 1180.WithLaura AsheAssociate Professor of English at Worcester College, University of OxfordElisabeth van HoutsHonorary Professor of European Medieval History at the University of CambridgeandGiles GasperReader in Medieval History at Durham UniversityProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Plasma
    Thu, Oct 13, 2016


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss plasma, the fourth state of matter after solid, liquid and gas. As over ninety-nine percent of all observable matter in the Universe is plasma, planets like ours, with so little plasma and so much solid, liquid and gas, appear all the more remarkable. On the grand scale, plasma is what the Sun is made from and, when we look into the night sky, almost everything we can see with the naked eye is made of plasma. On the smallest scale, here on Earth, scientists make plasma to etch the microchips on which we rely for so much. Plasma is in the fluorescent light bulbs above our heads and, in laboratories around the world, it is the subject of tests to create, one day, an inexhaustible and clean source of energy from nuclear fusion.WithJustin WarkProfessor of Physics and Fellow of Trinity College at the University of OxfordKate LancasterResearch Fellow for Innovation and Impact at the York Plasma Institute at the University of YorkandBill GrahamProfessor of Physics at Queens University, BelfastProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Lakshmi
    Thu, Oct 06, 2016


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the origins of the Hindu goddess Lakshmi, and of the traditions that have built around her for over 3,000 years. According to the creation story of the Puranas, she came to existence in the churning of the ocean of milk. Her prominent status grew alongside other goddesses in the mainly male world of the Vedas, as female deities came to be seen as the Shakti, the energy of the gods, without which they would be powerless. Lakshmi came to represent the qualities of blessing, prosperity, fertility, beauty and good fortune and, more recently, political order, and she has a significant role in Diwali, one of the most important of the Hindu festivals.WithJessica FrazierLecturer in Religious Studies at the University of KentResearch Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies at the University of OxfordJacqueline Suthren-HirstSenior Lecturer in South Asian Studies at the University of ManchesterandChakravarthi Ram-PrasadProfessor of Comparative Religion and Philosophy at Lancaster UniversityProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Animal Farm
    Thu, Sep 29, 2016


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Animal Farm, which Eric Blair published under his pen name George Orwell in 1945. A biting critique of totalitarianism, particularly Stalinism, the essay sprung from Orwell's experiences fighting Fascists in Spain: he thought that all on the left were on the same side, until the dominant Communists violently suppressed the Anarchists and Trotskyists, and Orwell had to escape to France to avoid arrest. Setting his satire in an English farm, Orwell drew on the Russian Revolution of 1917, on Stalin's cult of personality and the purges. The leaders on Animal Farm are pigs, the secret police are attack dogs, the supporters who drown out debate with "four legs good, two legs bad" are sheep. At first, London publishers did not want to touch Orwell's work out of sympathy for the USSR, an ally of Britain in WW2, but the Cold War gave it a new audience and Animal Farm became a commercial as well as a critical success.WithSteven ConnorGrace 2 Professor of English at the University of CambridgeMary VincentProfessor of Modern European History at the University of SheffieldandRobert CollsProfessor of Cultural History at De Montfort UniversityProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Zeno's Paradoxes
    Thu, Sep 22, 2016


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Zeno of Elea, a pre-Socratic philosopher from c490-430 BC whose paradoxes were described by Bertrand Russell as "immeasurably subtle and profound." The best known argue against motion, such as that of an arrow in flight which is at a series of different points but moving at none of them, or that of Achilles who, despite being the faster runner, will never catch up with a tortoise with a head start. Aristotle and Aquinas engaged with these, as did Russell, yet it is still debatable whether Zeno's Paradoxes have been resolved.WithMarcus du SautoyProfessor of Mathematics and Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of OxfordBarbara SattlerLecturer in Philosophy at the University of St AndrewsandJames WarrenReader in Ancient Philosophy at the University of CambridgeProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • The Invention of Photography
    Thu, Jul 07, 2016


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the development of photography in the 1830s, when techniques for 'drawing with light' evolved to the stage where, in 1839, both Louis Daguerre and William Henry Fox Talbot made claims for its invention. These followed the development of the camera obscura, and experiments by such as Thomas Wedgwood and Nic?phore Ni?pce, and led to rapid changes in the 1840s as more people captured images with the daguerreotype and calotype. These new techniques changed the aesthetics of the age and, before long, inspired claims that painting was now dead.WithSimon SchafferProfessor of the History of Science at the University of CambridgeElizabeth EdwardsEmeritus Professor of Photographic History at De Montfort UniversityAndAlison Morrison-Low,Research Associate at National Museums ScotlandProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Sovereignty
    Thu, Jun 30, 2016


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of the idea of Sovereignty, the authority of a state to govern itself and the relationship between the sovereign and the people. These ideas of external and internal sovereignty were imagined in various ways in ancient Greece and Rome, and given a name in 16th Century France by the philosopher and jurist Jean Bodin in his Six Books of the Commonwealth, where he said (in an early English translation) 'Maiestie or Soveraigntie is the most high, absolute, and perpetuall power over the citisens and subiects in a Commonweale: which the Latins cal Maiestatem, the Greeks akra exousia, kurion arche, and kurion politeuma; the Italians Segnoria, and the Hebrewes tomech sh?vet, that is to say, The greatest power to command.' Shakespeare also explored the concept through Richard II and the king's two bodies, Hobbes developed it in the 17th Century, and the idea of popular sovereignty was tested in the Revolutionary era in America and France.WithMelissa LaneClass of 1943 Professor of Politics at Princeton UniversityRichard BourkeProfessor in the History of Political Thought at Queen Mary University of LondonandTim StantonSenior Lecturer in the Department of Politics at the University of YorkProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Songs of Innocence and of Experience
    Thu, Jun 23, 2016


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss William Blake's collection of illustrated poems "Songs of Innocence and of Experience." He published Songs of Innocence first in 1789 with five hand-coloured copies and, five years later, with additional Songs of Experience poems and the explanatory phrase "Shewing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul." Blake drew on the street ballads and improving children's rhymes of the time, exploring the open and optimistic outlook of early childhood with the darker and more cynical outlook of adult life, in which symbols such as the Lamb belong to innocence and the Tyger to experience.WithSir Jonathan BateProvost of Worcester College, University of OxfordSarah HaggartyLecturer at the Faculty of English and Fellow of Queens' College, University of CambridgeAndJon MeeProfessor of Eighteenth-Century Studies at the University of YorkProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • The Bronze Age Collapse
    Thu, Jun 16, 2016


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss The Bronze Age Collapse, the name given by many historians to what appears to have been a sudden, uncontrolled destruction of dominant civilizations around 1200 BC in the Aegean, Eastern Mediterranean and Anatolia. Among other areas, there were great changes in Minoan Crete, Egypt, the Hittite Empire, Mycenaean Greece and Syria. The reasons for the changes, and the extent of those changes, are open to debate and include droughts, rebellions, the breakdown of trade as copper became less desirable, earthquakes, invasions, volcanoes and the mysterious Sea Peoples.WithJohn BennetDirector of the British School at Athens and Professor of Aegean Archaeology at the University of SheffieldLinda HulinFellow of Harris Manchester College and Research Officer at the Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology at the University of OxfordAndSimon StoddartFellow of Magdalene College and Reader in Prehistory at the University of CambridgeProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Penicillin
    Thu, Jun 09, 2016


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss penicillin, discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1928. It is said he noticed some blue-green penicillium mould on an uncovered petri dish at his hospital laboratory, and that this mould had inhibited bacterial growth around it. After further work, Fleming filtered a broth of the mould and called that penicillin, hoping it would be useful as a disinfectant. Howard Florey and Ernst Chain later shared a Nobel Prize in Medicine with Fleming, for their role in developing a way of mass-producing the life-saving drug. Evolutionary theory predicted the risk of resistance from the start and, almost from the beginning of this 'golden age' of antibacterials, scientists have been looking for ways to extend the lifespan of antibiotics.WithLaura PiddockProfessor of Microbiology at the University of BirminghamChristoph TangProfessor of Cellular Pathology and Professorial Fellow at Exeter College at the University of OxfordAndSteve JonesEmeritus Professor of Genetics at University College, LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Margery Kempe and English Mysticism
    Thu, Jun 02, 2016


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the English mystic Margery Kempe (1373-1438) whose extraordinary life is recorded in a book she dictated, The Book of Margery Kempe. She went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, to Rome and Santiago de Compostela, purchasing indulgences on her way, met with the anchoress Julian of Norwich and is honoured by the Church of England each 9th November. She sometimes doubted the authenticity of her mystical conversations with God, as did the authorities who saw her devotional sobbing, wailing and convulsions as a sign of insanity and dissoluteness. Her Book was lost for centuries, before emerging in a private library in 1934.The image (above), of an unknown woman, comes from a pew at Margery Kempe's parish church, St Margaret's, Kings Lynn and dates from c1375.WithMiri RubinProfessor of Medieval and Early Modern History at Queen Mary, University of LondonKatherine LewisSenior Lecturer in History at the University of HuddersfieldAndAnthony BaleProfessor of Medieval Studies at Birkbeck University of LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • The Gettysburg Address
    Thu, May 26, 2016


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, ten sentences long, delivered at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery at Gettysburg after the Union forces had won an important battle with the Confederates. Opening with " Four score and seven years ago," it became one of the most influential statements of national purpose, asserting that America was "conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal" and "that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom-and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." Among those inspired were Martin Luther King Jr whose "I have a dream" speech, delivered at the Lincoln Memorial 100 years later, echoed Lincoln's opening words.WithCatherine ClintonDenman Chair of American History at the University of Texas and International Professor at Queen's University, BelfastSusan-Mary GrantProfessor of American History at Newcastle UniversityAndTim LockleyProfessor of American History at the University of WarwickProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • The Muses
    Thu, May 19, 2016


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Muses and their role in Greek mythology, when they were goddesses of poetry, song, music and dance: what the Greeks called mousike, 'the art of the Muses' from which we derive our word 'music.' While the number of Muses, their origin and their roles varied in different accounts and at different times, they were consistently linked with the nature of artistic inspiration. This raised a question for philosophers then and since: was a creative person an empty vessel into which the Muses poured their gifts, at their will, or could that person do something to make inspiration flow?WithPaul CartledgeEmeritus Professor of Greek Culture and AG Leventis Senior Research Fellow at Clare College, University of CambridgeAngie HobbsProfessor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy, University of SheffieldAndPenelope MurrayFounder member and retired Senior Lecturer, Department of Classics, University of WarwickProducer: Simon TillotsonImage: 'Apollo and the Muses (Parnassus)', 1631-1632. Oil on canvas. Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665).

  • Titus Oates and his 'Popish Plot'
    Thu, May 12, 2016


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Titus Oates (1649-1705) who, with Israel Tonge, spread rumours of a Catholic plot to assassinate Charles II. From 1678, they went to great lengths to support their scheme, forging evidence and identifying the supposed conspirators. Fearing a second Gunpowder Plot, Oates' supposed revelations caused uproar in London and across the British Isles, with many Catholics, particularly Jesuit priests, wrongly implicated by Oates and then executed. Anyone who doubted him had to keep quiet, to avoid being suspected a sympathiser and thrown in prison. Oates was eventually exposed, put on trial under James II and sentenced by Judge Jeffreys to public whipping through the streets of London, but the question remained: why was this rogue, who had faced perjury charges before, ever believed?WithClare JacksonSenior Tutor and Director of Studies in History at Trinity Hall, University of CambridgeMark KnightsProfessor of History at the University of WarwickAndPeter HindsAssociate Professor of English at Plymouth UniversityProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Tess of the d'Urbervilles
    Thu, May 05, 2016


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy, originally serialised in The Graphic in 1891 and, with some significant changes, published as a complete novel in 1892. The book was controversial even before serialisation, rejected by one publisher as too overtly sexual, to which a second added it did not publish 'stories where the plot involves frequent and detailed reference to immoral situations.' Hardy's description of Tess as 'A Pure Woman' in 1892 incensed some Victorian readers. He resented having to censor some of his scenes in the early versions, including references to Tess's baby following her rape by Alec d'Urberville, and even to a scene where Angel Clare lifted four milkmaids over a flooded lane (substituting transportation by wheelbarrow).The image above, from the 1891 edition, is captioned 'It Was Not Till About Three O'clock That Tess Raised Her Eyes And Gave A Momentary Glance Round. She Felt But Little Surprise At Seeing That Alec D'urberville Had Come Back, And Was Standing Under The Hedge By The Gate'.WithDinah BirchProfessor of English Literature and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Impact at the University of LiverpoolFrancis O'GormanProfessor of Victorian Literature at the University of LeedsAndJane ThomasReader in Victorian and early Twentieth Century literature at the University of HullProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Euclid's Elements
    Thu, Apr 28, 2016


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Euclid's Elements, a mathematical text book attributed to Euclid and in use from its appearance in Alexandria, Egypt around 300 BC until modern times, dealing with geometry and number theory. It has been described as the most influential text book ever written. Einstein had a copy as a child, which he treasured, later saying "If Euclid failed to kindle your youthful enthusiasm, then you were not born to be a scientific thinker."WithMarcus du SautoyProfessor of Mathematics and Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of OxfordSerafina CuomoReader in Roman History at Birkbeck University of LondonAndJune Barrow-GreenProfessor of the History of Mathematics at the Open UniversityProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • 1816, the Year Without a Summer
    Thu, Apr 21, 2016


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the impact of the eruption of Mt Tambora, in 1815, on the Indonesian island of Sambawa. This was the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history and it had the highest death toll, devastating people living in the immediate area. Tambora has been linked with drastic weather changes in North America and Europe the following year, with frosts in June and heavy rains throughout the summer in many areas. This led to food shortages, which may have prompted westward migration in America and, in a Europe barely recovered from the Napoleonic Wars, led to widespread famine.WithClive OppenheimerProfessor of Volcanology at the University of CambridgeJane StablerProfessor in Romantic Literature at the University of St AndrewsAndLawrence GoldmanDirector of the Institute of Historical Research at the University of LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • The Neutron
    Thu, Apr 14, 2016


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the neutron, one of the particles found in an atom's nucleus. Building on the work of Ernest Rutherford, the British physicist James Chadwick won the Nobel Prize for Physics for his discovery of the neutron in 1932. Neutrons play a fundamental role in the universe and their discovery was at the heart of developments in nuclear physics in the first half of the 20th century.WithVal GibsonProfessor of High Energy Physics at the University of Cambridge and fellow of Trinity CollegeAndrew HarrisonChief Executive Officer of Diamond Light Source and Professor in Chemistry at the University of EdinburghAndFrank CloseProfessor Emeritus of Physics at the University of Oxford.

  • The Sikh Empire
    Thu, Apr 07, 2016


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the rise of the Sikh Empire at the end of the 18th Century under Ranjit Singh, pictured above, who unified most of the Sikh kingdoms following the decline of the Mughal Empire. He became Maharaja of the Punjab at Lahore in 1801, capturing Amritsar the following year. His empire flourished until 1839, after which a decade of unrest ended with the British annexation. At its peak, the Empire covered the Punjab and stretched from the Khyber Pass in the west to the edge of Tibet in the east, up to Kashmir and down to Mithankot on the Indus River. Ranjit Singh is still remembered as "The Lion of the Punjab."WithGurharpal SinghProfessor in Inter-Religious Relations and Development at SOAS, University of LondonChandrika KaulLecturer in Modern History at the University of St AndrewsAndSusan StrongeSenior Curator in the Asian Department of the Victoria and Albert MuseumProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Agrippina the Younger
    Thu, Mar 31, 2016


    Agrippina the Younger was one of the most notorious and influential of the Roman empresses in the 1st century AD. She was the sister of the Emperor Caligula, a wife of the Emperor Claudius and mother of the Emperor Nero. Through careful political manoeuvres, she acquired a dominant position for herself in Rome. In 39 AD she was exiled for allegedly participating in a plot against Caligula and later it was widely thought that she killed Claudius with poison. When Nero came to the throne, he was only 16 so Agrippina took on the role of regent until he began to exert his authority. After relations between Agrippina and Nero soured, he had her murdered.With:Catharine EdwardsProfessor of Classics and Ancient History at Birkbeck, University of LondonAlice K?nigLecturer in Latin and Classical Studies at the University of St AndrewsMatthew NichollsAssociate Professor of Classics at the University of ReadingProducer: Victoria Brignell.

  • Aurora Leigh
    Thu, Mar 24, 2016


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Elizabeth Barrett Browning's epic "Aurora Leigh" which was published in 1856. It is the story of an orphan, Aurora, born in Italy to an English father and Tuscan mother, who is brought up by an aunt in rural Shropshire. She has a successful career as a poet in London and, when living in Florence, is reunited with her cousin, Romney Leigh, whose proposal she turned down a decade before. The poem was celebrated by other poets and was Elizabeth Barrett Browning's most commercially successful. Over 11,000 lines, she addressed many Victorian social issues, including reform, illegitimacy, the pressure to marry and what women must overcome to be independent, successful writers, in a world dominated by men.WithMargaret ReynoldsProfessor of English at Queen Mary, University of LondonDaniel KarlinWinterstoke Professor of English Literature at the University of BristolAndKaren O'BrienProfessor of English Literature at King's College LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Bedlam
    Thu, Mar 17, 2016


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the early years of Bedlam, the name commonly used for the London hospital of St Mary of Bethlehem outside Bishopsgate, described in 1450 by the Lord Mayor of London as a place where may "be found many men that be fallen out of their wit. And full honestly they be kept in that place; and some be restored onto their wit and health again. And some be abiding therein for ever." As Bethlem, or Bedlam, it became a tourist attraction in the 17th Century at its new site in Moorfields and, for its relatively small size, made a significant impression on public attitudes to mental illness. The illustration, above, is from the eighth and final part of Hogarth's 'A Rake's Progress' (1732-3), where Bedlam is the last stage in the decline and fall of a young spendthrift,Tom Rakewell.WithHilary MarlandProfessor of History at the University of WarwickJustin ChampionProfessor of the History of Early Modern Ideas at Royal Holloway, University of London and President of the Historical AssociationAndJonathan AndrewsReader in the History of Psychiatry at Newcastle UniversityProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • The Maya Civilization
    Thu, Mar 10, 2016


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Maya Civilization, developed by the Maya people, which flourished in central America from around 250 AD in great cities such as Chichen Itza and Uxmal with advances in mathematics, architecture and astronomy. Long before the Spanish Conquest in the 16th Century, major cities had been abandoned for reasons unknown, although there are many theories including overpopulation and changing climate. The hundreds of Maya sites across Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico raise intriguing questions about one of the world's great pre-industrial civilizations.WithElizabeth GrahamProfessor of Mesoamerican Archaeology at University College LondonMatthew RestallEdwin Erle Sparks Professor of Latin American History and Anthropology at Pennsylvania State UniversityAndBenjamin VisEastern ARC Research Fellow in Digital Humanities at the University of KentProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • The Dutch East India Company
    Thu, Mar 03, 2016


    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie or VOC, known in English as the Dutch East India Company. The VOC dominated the spice trade between Asia and Europe for two hundred years, with the British East India Company a distant second. At its peak, the VOC had a virtual monopoly on nutmeg, mace, cloves and cinnamon, displacing the Portuguese and excluding the British, and were the only European traders allowed access to Japan.WithAnne GoldgarReader in Early Modern European History at King's College LondonChris NierstraszLecturer in Global History at Erasmus University, Rotterdam, formerly at the University of WarwickAndHelen PaulLecturer in Economics and Economic History at the University of SouthamptonProducer: Simon Tillotson.

  • Mary Magdalene
    Thu, Feb 25, 2016


    Mary Magdalene is one of the best-known figures in the Bible and has been a frequent inspiration to artists and writers over the last 2000 years. According to the New Testament, she was at the foot of the cross when Jesus was crucified and was one of the first people to see Jesus after the resurrection. However, her identity has provoked a large amount of debate and in the Western Church she soon became conflated with two other figures mentioned in the Bible, a repentant sinner and Mary of Bethany. Texts discovered in the mid-20th century provoked controversy and raised further questions about the nature of her relations with Jesus.With:Joanne AndersonLecturer in Art History at the Warburg Institute, School of Advanced Study, University of LondonEamon DuffyEmeritus Professor of the History of Christianity at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Magdalene CollegeJoan TaylorProfessor of Christian Origins and Second Temple Judaism at King's College LondonProducer: Victoria Brignell.

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