In Our Time: History

BBC Radio 4

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

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The Great Irish Famine

57:19 | Apr 4th

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss why the potato crop failures in the 1840s had such a catastrophic impact in Ireland. It is estimated that one million people died from disease or starvation after the blight and another two million left the country wi...Show More

Owain Glyndwr

48:47 | Jan 31st

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life of the Welsh nobleman, also known as Owen Glendower, who began a revolt against Henry IV in 1400 which was at first very successful. Glyndwr (c1359-c1415) adopted the title Prince of Wales and established a p...Show More

The Long March

50:05 | Nov 29th, 2018

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss a foundation story for China as it was reshaped under Mao Zedong. In October 1934, around ninety thousand soldiers of the Red Army broke out of a siege in Jiangxi in the south east of the country, hoping to find a pla...Show More

Margaret of Anjou

50:39 | May 24th, 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 th...Show More

The Emancipation of the Serfs

49:54 | May 17th, 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 ...Show More


45:36 | May 21st, 2015

It is said that, in Britain from the 18th Century, copies of Josephus' works were as widespread and as well read as The Bible. Christians valued "The Antiquities of the Jews" in particular, for the retelling of parts of the Old Testament and apparent...Show More

The Lancashire Cotton Famine

45:12 | May 14th, 2015

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Cotton Famine in Lancashire from 1861-65. The Famine followed the blockade of Confederate Southern ports during the American Civil War which stopped the flow of cotton into mills in Britain and Europe. Reports at t...Show More


46:36 | May 7th, 2015

Rabindranath Tagore was the first non-European to win a Nobel Prize for Literature. He has been called one of the outstanding thinkers of the 20th century and the greatest poet India has ever produced. His Nobel followed publication of Gitanjali, his...Show More

Matteo Ricci and the Ming Dynasty

45:24 | Apr 16th, 2015

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life of Matteo Ricci, a Jesuit priest who in the 16th century led a Christian mission to China. An accomplished scholar, Ricci travelled extensively and came into contact with senior officials of the Ming Dynas...Show More

The California Gold Rush

45:52 | Apr 2nd, 2015

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the California Gold Rush. In 1849 the recent discovery of gold at Coloma, near Sacramento in California, led to a massive influx of prospectors seeking to make their fortunes. Within a couple of years the tiny sett...Show More

The Eunuch

46:41 | Feb 26th, 2015

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history and significance of eunuchs, castrated men who were a common feature of many civilisations for at least three thousand years. Eunuchs were typically employed as servants in royal households in the ancie...Show More

The Wealth of Nations

46:05 | Feb 19th, 2015

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Adam Smith's celebrated economic treatise The Wealth of Nations. Smith was one of Scotland's greatest thinkers, a moral philosopher and pioneer of economic theory whose 1776 masterpiece has come to define classical...Show More

Ashoka the Great

46:36 | Feb 5th, 2015

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Indian Emperor Ashoka. Active in the 3rd century BC, Ashoka conquered almost all of the landmass covered by modern-day India, creating the largest empire South Asia had ever known. After his campaign of conques...Show More


45:39 | Jan 29th, 2015

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the ancient Greek historian Thucydides. In the fifth century BC Thucydides wrote The History of the Peloponnesian War, an account of a conflict in which he had himself taken part. This work is now seen as one of th...Show More


45:42 | Nov 6th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Egyptian pharaoh Hatshepsut, whose name means 'foremost of noble ladies'. She ruled Egypt from about 1479 - 1458 BC and some scholars argue that she was one of the most successful and influential pharaohs. When she...Show More

The Haitian Revolution

46:41 | Oct 23rd, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Haitian Revolution. In 1791 an uprising began in the French colonial territory of St Domingue. Partly a consequence of the French Revolution and partly a backlash against the brutality of slave owners, it turne...Show More

The Battle of Talas

45:24 | Oct 9th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Battle of Talas, a significant encounter between Arab and Chinese forces which took place in central Asia in 751 AD. It brought together two mighty empires, the Abbasid Caliphate and the Tang Dynasty, and altho...Show More

Julius Caesar

46:30 | Oct 2nd, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life, work and reputation of Julius Caesar. Famously assassinated as he entered the Roman senate on the Ides of March, 44 BC, Caesar was an inspirational general who conquered much of Europe. He was a ruthless ...Show More

Hildegard of Bingen

44:33 | Jun 26th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss one of the most remarkable figures of the Middle Ages, Hildegard of Bingen. The abbess of a Benedictine convent, Hildegard experienced a series of mystical visions which she documented in her writings. She was an i...Show More

The Bluestockings

46:32 | Jun 5th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Bluestockings. Around the middle of the eighteenth century a small group of intellectual women began to meet regularly to discuss literature and other matters, inviting some of the leading thinkers of the day t...Show More

The Sino-Japanese War

46:41 | May 8th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-45. After several years of rising tension, and the Japanese occupation of Manchuria, full-scale war between Japan and China broke out in the summer of 1937. The Japanese captured many ...Show More

The Domesday Book

47:44 | Apr 17th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Domesday Book, a vast survey of the land and property of much of England and Wales completed in 1086. Twenty years after the Battle of Hastings, William the Conqueror sent officials to most of his new territori...Show More

Strabo's Geographica

47:47 | Apr 10th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Strabo's Geographica. Written almost exactly two thousand years ago by a Greek scholar living in Rome, the Geographica is an ambitious attempt to describe the entire world known to the Romans and Greeks at that tim...Show More

Weber's The Protestant Ethic

50:40 | Mar 27th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Max Weber's book the Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Published in 1905, Weber's essay proposed that Protestantism had been a significant factor in the emergence of capitalism, making an explicit conn...Show More


41:59 | Mar 6th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life of Spartacus, the gladiator who led a major slave rebellion against the Roman Republic in the 1st century BC. He was an accomplished military leader, and the campaign he led contributed significantly to th...Show More


42:15 | Feb 13th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss chivalry, the moral code observed by knights of the Middle Ages. Chivalry originated in the military practices of aristocratic French and German soldiers, but developed into an elaborate system governing many diffe...Show More

The Phoenicians

41:59 | Feb 6th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Phoenicians. The Greek historian Herodotus wrote about a people from the Levant who were accomplished sailors and traders, and who taught the Greeks their alphabet. He called them the Phoenicians, the Greek wor...Show More

Sources of Early Chinese History

42:19 | Jan 23rd, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the sources for early Chinese history. The first attempts to make a record of historical events in China date from the Shang dynasty of the second millennium BC. The earliest surviving records were inscribed on bon...Show More

The Battle of Tours

42:05 | Jan 16th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Battle of Tours. In 732 a large Arab army invaded Gaul from northern Spain, and travelled as far north as Poitiers. There they were defeated by Charles Martel, whose Frankish and Burgundian forces repelled the ...Show More

Plato's Symposium

42:11 | Jan 2nd, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Plato's Symposium, one of the Greek philosopher's most celebrated works. Written in the 4th century BC, it is a dialogue set at a dinner party attended by a number of prominent ancient Athenians, including the phil...Show More

The Medici

42:03 | Dec 26th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Medici family, who dominated Florence's political and cultural life for three centuries. The House of Medici came to prominence in Italy in the fifteenth century as a result of the wealth they had built up thro...Show More

Pliny the Younger

41:46 | Dec 12th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of Pliny the Younger, famous for his letters. A prominent lawyer in Rome in the first century AD, Pliny later became governor of the province of Bithynia, on the Black Sea coast of modern Turkey. ...Show More


41:50 | Nov 21st, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life of Pocahontas, the Native American woman who to English eyes became a symbol of the New World. During the colonisation of Virginia in the first years of the seventeenth century, Pocahontas famously saved t...Show More

The Berlin Conference

42:03 | Oct 31st, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Berlin Conference of 1884. In the 1880s, as colonial powers attempted to increase their spheres of influence in Africa, tensions began to grow between European nations including Britain, Belgium and France. In ...Show More

The Corn Laws

41:52 | Oct 24th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Corn Laws. In 1815 the British Government passed legislation which artificially inflated the price of corn. The measure was supported by landowners but strongly opposed by manufacturers and the urban working cl...Show More

The Mamluks

42:05 | Sep 26th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Mamluks, who ruled Egypt and Syria from about 1250 to 1517. Originally slave soldiers who managed to depose their masters, they went on to repel the Mongols and the Crusaders to become the dominant force in the...Show More

The Physiocrats

42:01 | Jun 20th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Physiocrats, an important group of economic thinkers in eighteenth-century France. The Physiocrats believed that the land was the ultimate source of all wealth, and crucially that markets should not be constrai...Show More

Queen Zenobia

42:00 | May 30th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Queen Zenobia, a famous military leader of the ancient world. Born in around 240 AD, Zenobia was Empress of the Palmyrene Empire in the Middle East. A highly educated, intelligent and militarily accomplished leader...Show More

The Putney Debates

41:56 | Apr 18th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Putney Debates. For several weeks in late 1647, after the defeat of King Charles I in the first hostilities of the Civil War, representatives of the New Model Army and the radical Levellers met in a church in P...Show More

Alfred Russel Wallace

42:09 | Mar 21st, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the work of Alfred Russel Wallace, a pioneer of evolutionary theory. Born in 1823, Wallace travelled extensively, charting the distribution of animal species throughout the world. This fieldwork in the Amazon and l...Show More

Ice Ages

42:10 | Feb 14th, 2013

Jane Francis, Richard Corfield and Carrie Lear join Melvyn Bragg to discuss ice ages, periods when a reduction in the surface temperature of the Earth has resulted in ice sheets at the Poles. Although the term 'ice age' is commonly associated with pr...Show More

The War of 1812

42:09 | Jan 31st, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the War of 1812, the conflict between America and the British Empire sometimes referred to as the second American War of Independence. In June 1812, President James Madison declared war on Britain, angered by the r...Show More

The South Sea Bubble

41:52 | Dec 20th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss The South Sea Bubble, the speculation mania in early 18th-century England which ended in the financial ruin of many of its investors. The South Sea Company was founded in 1711 with a view to restructuring governmen...Show More

The Borgias

41:58 | Nov 22nd, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Borgias, the most notorious family in Renaissance Italy. Famed for their treachery and corruption, the Borgias produced two popes during their time of dominance in Rome in the late 15th century. The most well-k...Show More


42:01 | Oct 11th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and achievements of Hannibal. One of the most celebrated military leaders in history, Hannibal was the Carthaginian general who led an entire army, complete with elephants, across the Alps in order to atta...Show More

Gerald of Wales

42:06 | Oct 4th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the medieval scholar Gerald of Wales. Born around the middle of the twelfth century, Gerald was a cleric and courtier. For much of his life he was close to Henry II and the Church hierarchy, and wrote accounts of o...Show More

The Druids

42:00 | Sep 20th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Druids, the priests of ancient Europe. Active in Ireland, Britain and Gaul, the Druids were first written about by Roman authors including Julius Caesar and Pliny, who described them as wearing white robes and ...Show More

Hadrian's Wall

42:00 | Jul 12th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Hadrian's Wall, the largest Roman structure and one of the most important archaeological monuments in Britain. Stretching for eighty miles from the mouth of the River Tyne to the Solway Firth and classified today a...Show More

Annie Besant

41:58 | Jun 21st, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life of the prominent 19th-century social reformer Annie Besant. Born in 1847, Annie Besant espoused a range of causes including secularism, women's rights, Socialism, Irish Home Rule, birth control and better ...Show More

The An Lushan Rebellion

42:03 | Feb 16th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the An Lushan Rebellion, a major uprising against the imperial rule of the Chinese Tang Dynasty. In 755 AD a senior general, An Lushan, orchestrated a plot against Emperor Xuanzong, taking the regime's capital city...Show More

1848: Year of Revolution

41:57 | Jan 19th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss 1848, the year that saw Europe engulfed in revolution. Across the continent, from Paris to Palermo, liberals rose against conservative governments. The first stirrings of rebellion came in January, in Sicily; in Fe...Show More

The Medieval University

41:42 | Mar 17th, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the medieval universities.In the 11th and 12th centuries a new type of institution started to appear in the major cities of Europe. The first universities were those of Bologna and Paris; within a hundred years sim...Show More

Pliny's Natural History

42:17 | Jul 8th, 2010

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Pliny's Natural History.Some time in the first century AD, the Roman scholar Pliny the Elder published his Naturalis Historia, or Natural History, an enormous reference work which attempted to bring together knowle...Show More

Edmund Burke

42:06 | Jun 3rd, 2010

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the work of the eighteenth-century philosopher, politician and writer Edmund Burke.Born in Dublin, Burke began his career in London as a journalist and made his name with two works of philosophy before entering Par...Show More

Ibn Khaldun

42:15 | Feb 4th, 2010

Melvyn Bragg and guests Robert Hoyland, Robert Irwin and Hugh Kennedy discuss the life and ideas of the 14th-century Arab philosopher of history Ibn Khaldun.Ibn Khaldun was a North African statesman who retreated into the desert in 1375. He emerged h...Show More

Mary Wollstonecraft

41:59 | Dec 31st, 2009

Melvyn Bragg and guests John Mullan, Karen O'Brien and Barbara Taylor discuss the life and ideas of the pioneering British Enlightenment thinker Mary Wollstonecraft.Mary Wollstonecraft was born in 1759 into a middle-class family whose status steadily...Show More

The Silk Road

42:15 | Dec 3rd, 2009

Melvyn Bragg and guests Tim Barrett, Naomi Standen and Frances Wood discuss the Silk Road, the trade routes which spanned Asia for over a thousand years, carrying Buddhism to China and paper-making and gunpowder westwards.In 1900, a Taoist monk came ...Show More


42:14 | Nov 19th, 2009

Melvyn Bragg and guests Paul Cartledge, Edith Hall and Angie Hobbs discuss Sparta, the militaristic Ancient Greek city-state, and the political ideas it spawned.The isolated Ancient Greek city-state of Sparta was a ferocious opposite to the cosmopoli...Show More

The Siege of Munster

41:54 | Nov 5th, 2009

Melvyn Bragg and guests Diarmaid MacCulloch, Lucy Wooding and Charlotte Methuen discuss the Siege of Munster in 1534-35.In the early 16th century, the Protestant Reformation revolutionised Christian belief. But one radical group of believers stood ou...Show More

The Death of Elizabeth I

41:09 | Oct 15th, 2009

Melvyn Bragg and guests John Guy, Clare Jackson and Helen Hackett discuss the death of Queen Elizabeth I and its immediate impact, as a foreign monarch became King in the face of plots and plague.By the spring of 1603, Elizabeth had been Queen for 44...Show More

The Dreyfus Affair

42:21 | Oct 8th, 2009

Melvyn Bragg and guests Robert Gildea, Ruth Harris and Robert Tombs discuss the Dreyfus Affair, the 1890s scandal which divided opinion in France for a generation.In 1894, a high-flying Jewish staff officer in the French Army, one Alfred Dreyfus, was...Show More


42:12 | Oct 1st, 2009

Melvyn Bragg and guests Elizabeth Frood, Richard Parkinson and Kate Spence discuss the Pharaoh Akhenaten, the ruler who brought revolutionary change to ancient Egypt. During his reign, Akhenaten embarked on a profoundly radical project: he set out to...Show More

The Augustan Age

42:19 | Jun 11th, 2009

Melvyn Bragg and guests Mary Beard, Catharine Edwards and Duncan Kennedy discuss the political regime and cultural influence of the Roman Emperor Augustus. Called the Augustan Age, it was a golden age of literature with Virgil's Aeneid and Ovid's Met...Show More

The Trial of Charles I

41:59 | Jun 4th, 2009

Melvyn Bragg and guests Justin Champion, Diane Purkiss and David Wootton discuss the trial of Charles I, recounting the high drama in Westminster Hall and the ideas that led to the execution.Begun on 20th January 1649, the trial culminated in the epo...Show More

The Siege of Vienna

41:57 | May 14th, 2009

Melvyn Bragg and guests Andrew Wheatcroft, Claire Norton and Jeremy Black discuss the Ottoman siege of Vienna in 1683, when the Ottoman Empire tried to capture the capital city of the Hapsburg monarchs. The ensuing tale of blood and drama helped defi...Show More

The Magna Carta

42:04 | May 7th, 2009

Melvyn Bragg and guests Nicholas Vincent, David Carpenter and Michael Clanchy discuss the Magna Carta, the oft-proclaimed foundation of English liberties.The Magna Carta has been cited ever since its issue in 1215 as a foundation stone of English lib...Show More

The Building of St Petersburg

42:16 | Apr 23rd, 2009

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the building of St Petersburg, Peter the Great's showcase city for a modern, European Russia. It is a city of ideas. of progress and the Baroque, of Russian identity and Tsarist power. The building of St Petersburg is...Show More


41:40 | Apr 16th, 2009

Melvyn Bragg and guests Krista Cowman, June Purvis and Julia Bush discuss suffragism, a name for the various movements to get the vote for women in the 19th and early-20th century. On the 4th June 1913 the Epsom Derby was underway. King George V was ...Show More

The Boxer Rebellion

42:19 | Mar 19th, 2009

In the hot summer of 1900, Peking, the capital of China, was under heavy siege. But the surrounding forces were not foreign, they were Chinese. This was the Boxer Rebellion, the moment when the 'Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists', known as th...Show More

The Library of Alexandria

42:05 | Mar 12th, 2009

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Library at Alexandria. Founded by King Ptolemy in the 3rd century BC the library was the first attempt to collect all the knowledge of the ancient world in one place. Scholars including Archimedes and Euclid came t...Show More

Carthage's Destruction

42:10 | Feb 12th, 2009

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Destruction of Carthage. The North African city of Carthage was rich and powerful, but in the second century BC it suffered a terrible fate. The Greek historian Appian wrote about it: “Then came new scenes of horro...Show More

History of History

42:17 | Jan 22nd, 2009

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how the writing of history has changed over time, from ancient epics to medieval hagiographies and modern deconstructions. In the 6th century AD, the bishop of Tours began his history of the world with a simple observa...Show More

Thoreau and the American Idyll

42:09 | Jan 15th, 2009

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the 19th century American writer and philosopher, Henry David Thoreau. Anti-slavery activist and passionate environmentalist, Thoreau was above all a champion of self-reliance and individualism. He was also a champion...Show More

The Great Reform Act

42:19 | Nov 27th, 2008

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Great Reform Act of 1832. The Act redrew the map of British politics in the wake of the Industrial Revolution and is a landmark in British political history.“We must get the suffrage, we must get votes, that we ma...Show More

The Fire of London

42:07 | Nov 11th, 2008

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss The Great Fire of London which destroyed up to a third of the city in 1666. Samuel Pepys described the scene in his diary:“all over the Thames, with one's face in the wind, you were almost burned with a shower of fire...Show More


42:11 | Oct 30th, 2008

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and times of Simon Bolivar, hero of the revolutionary wars that liberated Spanish America from Spain. In 1804 Bolivar stood on a small hill in Rome and made a grand declaration. He said, “I swear before you, I...Show More

Tacitus and the Decadence of Rome

41:48 | Jul 10th, 2008

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Roman historian Tacitus who chronicled some of Rome’s most notorious emperors, including Nero and Caligula, and whose portrayal of Roman decadence influences the way we see Rome today. “The story I now commence is...Show More

The Arab Conquests

41:52 | Jun 26th, 2008

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Arab conquests - an extraordinary period in the 7th and 8th centuries when the tribes of the Arabian Peninsula conquered the Middle East, Persia, North Africa and Southern Europe and spread the ideas of the Islamic...Show More

The Riddle of the Sands

42:02 | Jun 12th, 2008

Melvyn Bragg and guests discusses the prescient thriller ‘The Riddle of the Sands’ about the decline Anglo-German relations before the First World War. In 1903 an Englishman called Charles Caruthers went sailing in the North Sea and stumbled upon a G...Show More

The Black Death

42:11 | May 22nd, 2008

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how the Black Death influenced the structure and ideas of Medieval Europe. In October 1347, a Genoese trading ship arrived at the busy port of Messina in Sicily and docked among many similar ships doing similar things....Show More

The Enclosures of the 18th Century

42:20 | May 1st, 2008

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the enclosure movement of the 18th and 19th centuries. In the early 19th century, the Northamptonshire poet John Clare took a good look at the countryside and didn’t like what he saw. He wrote: "Fence meeting fence in...Show More

The Norman Yoke

42:07 | Apr 10th, 2008

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss ‘the Norman Yoke’ – the idea that the Battle of Hastings sparked years of cruel oppression for the Anglo Saxons by a Norman ruling class. ‘Norman saw on English oak,On English neck a Norman yoke;Norman spoon in English...Show More

The Dissolution of the Monasteries

42:19 | Mar 27th, 2008

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Henry VIII and the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Was Henry’s decision to destroy monastic culture in this country a tyrannical act of grand larceny or the pious destruction of a corrupt institution? When he was an ol...Show More

The Statue of Liberty

41:59 | Feb 14th, 2008

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Statue of Liberty."Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”. With these words, inscribed inside her pedestal, the Statue of Liberty has welcomed immigrants to America since 1903....Show More

Rudolph II

42:16 | Jan 31st, 2008

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the coterie of brilliant thinkers gathered in 16th century Prague by the melancholic emperor Rudolph II. In 1606 the Archdukes of Vienna declared: “His majesty is interested only in wizards, alchemists, Kabbalists and...Show More

The Charge of the Light Brigade

42:02 | Jan 10th, 2008

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Charge of the Light - an event of no military significance that has become iconic in the British historical imagination. On November 14th 1854 The Times newspaper reported on a minor cavalry skirmish in the Crimean...Show More

The Sassanid Empire

41:54 | Dec 13th, 2007

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Sassanian Empire. Founded around 226 AD, in Persia, the Sassanian Empire lasted over 400 years as a grand imperial rival to Rome. In modern day Iran, just down the road from the ancient Persian capital of Persepoli...Show More

The Divine Right of Kings

41:36 | Oct 11th, 2007

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Divine Right of Kings. In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the character Malcolm describes the magical healing powers of the king: “How he solicits heaven, Himself best knows; but strangely-visited people, All swoln and ulce...Show More

The Pilgrim Fathers

42:10 | Jul 5th, 2007

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Pilgrim Fathers and their 1620 voyage to the New World on the Mayflower. Every year on the fourth Thursday in November, Americans go home to their families and sit down to a meal. It’s called Thanksgiving and it ec...Show More

The Siege of Orléans

42:15 | May 24th, 2007

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Siege of Orléans, when Joan of Arc came to the rescue of France and routed the English army with the help of God. The perfidious English then burnt her as a heretic in Rouen marketplace. At least that's the story ...Show More

The Opium Wars

41:23 | Apr 12th, 2007

Melvyn Bragg discusses the Opium Wars, a series of conflicts in the 19th Century which had a profound effect on British Chinese relations for generations. Thomas De Quincey describes the pleasures of opium like this: “Thou hast the keys of Paradise, ...Show More


28:15 | Mar 22nd, 2007

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the original Iron Chancellor, Otto Von Bismarck. One of Europe's leading statesmen in the 19th Century he is credited with unifying Germany under the military might of his home state of Prussia. An enthusiastic expansi...Show More

Genghis Khan

28:10 | Feb 1st, 2007

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Genghis Khan. Born Temujin in the 12th Century, he was cast out by his tribe when just a child and left to struggle for survival on the harsh Steppes of what is now Mongolia. From these beginnings he went on to become ...Show More

Constantinople Siege and Fall

42:12 | Dec 28th, 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the siege of Constantinople in 1453. When Sultan Mehmet the Second rode into the city of Constantinople on a white horse in 1453, it marked the end of a thousand years of the Byzantine Empire. After holding out for 53 ...Show More

The Peasants’ Revolt

42:16 | Nov 16th, 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. “When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the Gentleman?" these are the opening words of a rousing sermon, said to be by John Ball, which fires a broadside at the deeply hierarchical n...Show More

The Needham Question

42:16 | Oct 19th, 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Needham Question; why Europe and not China developed modern technology. What do these things have in common? Fireworks, wood-block printing, canal lock-gates, kites, the wheelbarrow, chain suspension bridges and th...Show More

The Diet of Worms

42:10 | Oct 12th, 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Diet of Worms, an event that helped trigger the European Reformation. Nestled on a bend of the River Rhine, in the South West corner of Germany, is the City of Worms. It’s one of the oldest cities in central Europe...Show More

The Spanish Inquisition

42:10 | Jun 22nd, 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Spanish Inquisition, the defenders of medieval orthodoxy. The word ‘Inquisition’ has its roots in the Latin word 'inquisito' which means inquiry. The Romans used the inquisitorial process as a form of legal procedu...Show More

Astronomy and Empire

42:13 | May 4th, 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the relationship between astronomy and the British Empire. The 18th century explorer and astronomer James Cook wrote: 'Ambition leads me not only farther than any other man has been before me, but as far as I think it ...Show More

The Great Exhibition of 1851

42:07 | Apr 27th, 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the 1851 Great Exhibition. “Its grandeur does not consist in one thing, but in the unique assemblage of all things. Whatever human industry has created you find there. It seems as if only magic could have gathered this...Show More

The Carolingian Renaissance

42:00 | Mar 30th, 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne and the Carolingian Renaissance. In 800 AD on Christmas Day in Rome, Pope Leo III proclaimed Charlemagne Emperor. According to the Frankish historian Einhard, Charlemagne would never ...Show More

Catherine the Great

28:09 | Feb 23rd, 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Catherine the Great. In Moscow's Tretyakov Gallery hangs perhaps the most well-known picture of Russia's most well-known ruler. Dimitri Levitsky's 1780 'Portrait of Catherine the Great in the Justice Temple' depicts Ca...Show More

The Abbasid Caliphs

42:03 | Feb 2nd, 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Abbasid Caliphs, dynastic rulers of the Islamic world from the mid eighth to the tenth century. They headed a Muslim empire that extended from Tunisia through Egypt, Syria, Arabia, and Persia to Uzbekistan and the ...Show More

The Oath

42:11 | Jan 5th, 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the importance of the oath in ancient Greece and Rome, The importance of oaths in the Classical world cannot be overstated. Kings, citizens, soldiers, litigants all swore oaths, inviting divine retribution if they prov...Show More

The Peterloo Massacre

28:10 | Dec 15th, 2005

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Peterloo Massacre in 1819, a defining moment of its age. In 1819 Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote: 'I met Murder on the way He had a mask like Castlereagh Very smooth he looked, yet grim; Seven blood-hounds followed him:...Show More

Greyfriars and Blackfriars

42:07 | Nov 10th, 2005

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the religious orders of the Dominicans and the Franciscans, known as the Blackfriars and Greyfriars. "Just as it is better to light up others than to shine alone, it is better to share the fruits of one's contemplation...Show More

The Field of the Cloth of Gold

42:17 | Oct 6th, 2005

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Field of the Cloth of Gold, an extraordinary international party. In the spring of 1520 six thousand Englishmen and women packed their bags and followed their King across the sea to France. They weren't part of an ...Show More

The French Revolution's reign of terror

41:55 | May 26th, 2005

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the reign of terror during the French Revolution. On Monday September 10th 1792 The Times of London carried a story covering events in revolutionary France: "The streets of Paris, strewed with the carcases of the mangl...Show More

Archaeology and Imperialism

28:21 | Apr 14th, 2005

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the link between archaeology and imperialism. In 1842 a young English adventurer called Austen Henry Layard set out to excavate what he hoped were the remains of the biblical city of Nineveh in Mesopotamia. On arrival ...Show More

Alfred and the Battle of Edington

42:10 | Apr 7th, 2005

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss King Alfred and the defeat of the Vikings at Battle of Edington. At the end of the 9th century the Vikings controlled almost all of what we now call England. Mercia had fallen and its king had fled, Northumbria had fal...Show More

Tsar Alexander II's assassination

41:58 | Jan 6th, 2005

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the assassination of Tsar Alexander II. On 1st March 1881, the Russian Tsar, Alexander II, was travelling through the snow to the Winter Palace in St Petersburg. An armed Cossack sat with the coach driver, another six ...Show More

The Roman Republic

42:15 | Dec 30th, 2004

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the rise and eventual downfall of the Roman Republic which survived for 500 years.Around 550 BC, Lucretia, the daughter of an aristocrat, was raped by the son of Tarquin, the King of Rome. Lucretia told her family what...Show More

Machiavelli and the Italian City States

42:06 | Dec 9th, 2004

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the political philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli. In The Prince, Machiavelli's great manual of power, he wrote, "since men love as they themselves determine but fear as their ruler determines, a wise prince must rely upon...Show More


42:11 | Sep 16th, 2004

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Battle of Agincourt."Owre kynge went forth to Normandy, With grace and myyt of chivalry; The God for hym wrouyt marvelously, Wherefore Englonde may calle, and cry Deo gratias: Deo gratias redde pro victoria." The g...Show More

Washington and the American Revolution

28:19 | Jun 24th, 2004

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the first President of the US, George Washington, and the people and ideas that caused the American Revolution. In 1774 a tobacco farmer from Virginia with nice manners and a quiet lifestyle was moved to put himself fo...Show More


28:21 | Jun 3rd, 2004

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the truth about Babylon. Six thousand years ago, between the Tigris and the Euphrates, the first cities were being built. The great empire to spring from the region was Babylon, which held sway for over a thousand year...Show More


42:19 | May 6th, 2004

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss what defines a hero and what place they had in classical society. On the fields of Troy a fallen soldier pleaded with Achilles, the great hero of the Greeks, to spare his life. According to Homer, Achilles replied, “Do...Show More


28:13 | Apr 29th, 2004

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss tea, the first truly global commodity. After air and water, tea is the most widely consumed substance on the planet and the British national drink. In this country it helped define class and gender, it funded wars and ...Show More

China's Warring States period

42:08 | Apr 1st, 2004

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the astonishing productivity of the Chinese Golden Age. 400 BC to 200 AD is known as the Axial Age, when great civilisations in Asia and the Mediterranean forged the ideas that dominated the next two thousand years. In...Show More

The Norse Gods

42:10 | Mar 11th, 2004

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Vikings’ myths. Thor’s huge hammer, the wailing Valkyrie, howling wolves and fierce elemental giants give a rowdy impression of the Norse myths. But at the centre of their cosmos stands a gnarled old Ash tree, from...Show More

The Mughal Empire

27:46 | Feb 25th, 2004

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Mughal Empire which, at its height, stretched from Bengal in the East to Gujarat in the West, and from Lahore in the North to Madras in the South.  It covered the whole of present day northern India, Pakistan, Afgh...Show More


42:08 | Feb 5th, 2004

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Battle of Thermopylae. For the historian Herodotus, the Battle of Thermopylae was the defining clash between East and West: “The Persians fell in their scores, for the officers stood behind lashing them forward, fo...Show More

The Alphabet

42:16 | Dec 18th, 2003

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the feat of astonishing intellectual engineering which provides us with millions of words in hundreds of languages. At the start of the twentieth century, in the depths of an ancient Egyptian turquoise mine on the Sina...Show More

St Bartholomew's Day Massacre

28:13 | Nov 27th, 2003

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the infamous St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. In Paris, in the high summer of 1572, a very unusual wedding was happening in the cathedral of Notre Dame. Henri, the young Huguenot King of Navarre, was marrying the King of...Show More

Robin Hood

28:24 | Oct 30th, 2003

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the centuries old myth of the most romantic noble outlaw. The first printed version of the Robin Hood story begins like this:“Lithe and Lysten, gentylmen/That be of frebore blodeI shall tell of a good yeman/His name wa...Show More

The Schism

28:10 | Oct 16th, 2003

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss events surrounding the medieval division of the Christian Church. In 1054, Cardinal Humbert stormed into the Cathedral of Constantinople and charged down the aisle. In his hand was a Papal Bull – a deed of excommunicat...Show More

The East India Company

42:10 | Jun 23rd, 2003

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the private trading company that helped forge the British Empire. At its peak, its influence stretched from western India to eastern China via the farthest reaches of the Indonesian archipelago. It had a fleet of 130 t...Show More

The Aristocracy

42:14 | Jun 19th, 2003

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the British aristocracy. The Greeks gave us the word aristocracy; it takes its root from ‘aristo’, meaning best and ‘kratos’, meaning rule or power. And for more than five hundred years Britain was ruled by a class tha...Show More

The Art of War

42:04 | Jun 12th, 2003

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history and philosophy of warfare. The British historian Edward Gibbon wrote: “Every age, however destitute of science or virtue, sufficiently abounds with acts of blood and military renown.” War, it seems, is one ...Show More

The Jacobite Rebellion

42:16 | May 8th, 2003

Melvyn Bragg and guests discusses the Jacobite Rebellion. In the summer of 1745, a young man in a small French frigate landed on the West Coast of Scotland. It was Bonnie Prince Charlie who began his campaign to become king of Scotland and England. H...Show More

Roman Britain

28:27 | May 1st, 2003

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Romans in Britain. About 2000 years ago, Tacitus noted that “the climate is wretched”, Herodian said, “the atmosphere in the country is always gloomy”, Dio said “they live in tents unclothed and unshod, and share t...Show More

The Spanish Civil War

41:09 | Apr 3rd, 2003

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Spanish Civil War which was a defining war of the twentieth century. It was a brutal conflict that polarised Spain, pitting the Left against the Right, the anti-clericals against the Church, the unions against the ...Show More

The Aztecs

42:19 | Feb 27th, 2003

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Aztec Empire. According to legend, the origins of it lie on a mythical island called Aztlan - "place of the white herons" - in the north of Mexico. From there this nomadic group of Mesoamericans are said to have un...Show More

The Enlightenment in Scotland

27:56 | Dec 5th, 2002

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Scottish Enlightenment of the 18th century. In 1696 the Edinburgh student, Thomas Aitkenhead, claimed theology was "a rhapsody of feigned and ill invented nonsense". He was hanged for his trouble - just one victim ...Show More

Architecture and Power

42:11 | Oct 31st, 2002

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the role which architecture has played in our public life throughout history, whether in homage to an individual or as a monument to an institution or ideology, has always been a potent symbol of wealth, status and pow...Show More

Slavery and Empire

28:13 | Oct 17th, 2002

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss slavery and empire; two themes that run right through this country’s history. Britain’s imperial project dominated at least the last three centuries of our national life. Its advocates claim it was a civilising mission...Show More


41:45 | Jul 18th, 2002

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the role history and heritage have played in the formation of the British national identity. Historians have often maintained a guarded relationship with the so-called ¨heritage industry¨, believing that it presents a ...Show More

Psychoanalysis and Democracy

28:40 | Jul 11th, 2002

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the impact of politics on psychoanalysis. The 20th century saw the birth and rise of psychoanalysis. Sigmund Freud led people to think about how the mind functioned and how our behaviour might be understood through the...Show More

Cultural Imperialism

27:53 | Jun 27th, 2002

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how a dominant power can exert a cultural influence on its empire. An empire rests on many things: powerful armies, good administration and strong leadership, but perhaps its greatest weapon lies in the domain of cultu...Show More

The American West

27:57 | Jun 13th, 2002

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the myths and harsh reality of the 19th century American pioneers. In 1845 the editor of The New York Morning News wrote that it was the "manifest destiny" of the United States "to overspread and to posses the whole of...Show More


28:21 | Apr 11th, 2002

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the medieval kingdom of Bohemia which was at the crossroads of Europe and, during the 15th century, at the heart of the Holy Roman Empire. Under Charles IV, its cosmopolitan capital Prague became a cultural and intelle...Show More


41:50 | Mar 21st, 2002

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of marriage.‘To have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part.’ These marriage vows have been ...Show More

The Celts

42:21 | Feb 21st, 2002

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Celts. Around 400 BC a great swathe of Western Europe from Ireland to Southern Russia was dominated by one civilisation. Perched on the North Western fringe of this vast Iron Age culture were the British who shared...Show More


42:19 | Dec 27th, 2001

Melvyn Bragg explores the history of food in Modern Europe. The French philosopher of food Brillat-Savarin wrote in his Physiology of Taste, 'The pleasures of the table belong to all times and all ages, to every country and to every day; they go hand...Show More

Rome and European Civilization

28:12 | Dec 20th, 2001

Melvyn Bragg assesses the role Rome has played in European civilization. The myths that surround the foundation of Rome are a potent brew. Romulus and Remus, the sons of Mars, raised by a she-wolf in the woods of Latium, the Sabine women raped by th...Show More

Third Crusade

28:03 | Nov 29th, 2001

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the highs and lows of the Third Crusade. In 1095 Pope Urban II launched the First Crusade and by the end of the 11th century an army of Franks had driven what they called the ‘infidel arab’ out of Jerusalem. The Crusad...Show More

The British Empire

28:16 | Nov 8th, 2001

Melvyn Bragg examines the British Empire. It was officially created on 1st January 1877 when Disraeli had Queen Victoria proclaimed Empress of India, and it formally dissolved into the ‘Commonwealth’ in 1958. But imperial passions stirred in Britain...Show More


28:16 | Nov 1st, 2001

Melvyn Bragg examines the philosophy of Confucius. In the 5th century BC a wise man called Kung Fu Tzu said, 'study the past if you would divine the future'. This powerful maxim helped form the body of ideas, which more than Buddhism, more than Daois...Show More

Napoleon and Wellington

28:15 | Oct 25th, 2001

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the histories of Napoleon and the Duke of Wellington. On the morning of the battle of Waterloo Napoleon told his loyal lieutenants, “I tell you that Wellington is a bad general, that the English are bad troops and ce s...Show More


28:14 | Oct 18th, 2001

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the origins of democracy. In the Gettysburg Address Abraham Lincoln called it “Government of the people, by the people, for the people”, but the word democracy appears nowhere in the American Constitution; the French R...Show More


42:06 | Jul 19th, 2001

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the culture, history and legacy of the eastern Byzantine Empire. In 453 with the Barbarians at the gate, through the gate and sacking the city of Rome “the wide arch of the ranged empire” finally began to fall...Or di...Show More

The French Revolution's Legacy

28:13 | Jun 14th, 2001

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the French Revolution. In 1789 the Bastille was stormed, the King Louis XVI was put under national guard and the calendar was turned back to zero. The French Revolution began its upheavals in the name of Liberté, Egali...Show More

The Glorious Revolution

42:05 | Apr 19th, 2001

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the the Glorious Revolution. In 1688, with a fair wind behind him and no naval opposition in front, William of Orange and his Dutch fleet sailed safely into Torbay on the South coast and thus began a period of history ...Show More

The Roman Empire's Collapse in the 5th century

28:11 | Apr 5th, 2001

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the causes of the fall of the Roman Empire. Edward Gibbon wrote of its decline, "While that great body was invaded by open violence, or undermined by slow decay, a pure and humble religion gently insinuated itself into...Show More


28:15 | Mar 1st, 2001

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the power of Money. In the Bible the Old Testament and the New Testament appear to agree about the power of money: Ecclesiastes says “Money answereth all things” and Timothy says “The love of money is the root of all e...Show More

The Restoration

28:07 | Feb 15th, 2001

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Restoration. On 29th May 1660, on his thirtieth birthday, Charles II rode into London on horseback and was restored to the thrones of England and Wales, of Scotland and of Ireland. A ‘golden age’ descended on a pe...Show More


28:21 | Feb 8th, 2001

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Humanism. On the 3rd January 106 BC Marcus Tullius Cicero, lawyer, politician, Roman philosopher and the founding father of Humanism was born. His academy, the Studia Humanitas taught ‘the art of living well and blesse...Show More

The Enlightenment in Britain

42:11 | Jan 18th, 2001

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Enlightenment. In Germany it's called Aufklarung, in France it's the Siecle De Lumieres, and in Britain it's called the Age of Enlightenment. It's the period around the eighteenth century when an intellectual movem...Show More

The Tudor State

42:12 | Oct 26th, 2000

Melvyn Bragg and guests discusses the Tudor State. In 1485 Henry Tudor slew Richard III and routed his army at The Battle of Bosworth Field. It was a decisive victory which founded a bold new dynasty; and this date like 1789 and 1066 has been taken ...Show More

Hitler in History

42:21 | Oct 5th, 2000

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how history has struggled to explain the enormity of the crimes committed in Germany under Adolf Hitler: we have had theories of ‘totalitarianism’, and of ‘distorted modernity’, debates between ‘intentionalists’ and th...Show More


41:34 | Sep 28th, 2000

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of London. To T.S.Eliot it was the “Unreal City”, to Wordsworth “Earth has not anything to show more fair” but to Shelley, “Hell is a city much like London”. At the start of this twenty-first century the ca...Show More


28:13 | Jun 22nd, 2000

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss biography which sells more books now than ever before; last year people in this country spent 115 million pounds on 12 and a half million copies of biographies. And it’s not just in Britain that life stories are popula...Show More

The Wars of the Roses

28:21 | May 18th, 2000

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Wars of the Roses which have been the scene for many a historical skirmish over the ages: The period in the fifteenth century when the House of Lancaster and the House of York were continually at odds is described ...Show More

New Wars

27:55 | Apr 13th, 2000

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of modern warfare. In the early nineteenth century the Prussian General Karl von Clausewitz seemed to define war for all time when he called it “an act of violence intended to compel our opponent to fulfil ...Show More

History and Understanding the Past

28:14 | Mar 30th, 2000

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss what can be learnt from history. Many of us were taught that an understanding of the past was essential to a knowledge of the present and, more excitingly, to a view of the future. Dig deep into the pockets of Greece a...Show More

Materialism and the Consumer

28:15 | Mar 23rd, 2000

Melvyn Bragg examines materialism and the consumer. Does consumerism - as a cult, a fact, a need, a religion - threaten culture as we have known it, individuality as we desire it, life as we aspire to its best condition? Is the march of Mammon an ar...Show More


28:08 | Mar 16th, 2000

For some time, in some intellectual quarters in the West, Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov - also known as Lenin - was regarded as an understandable revolutionary, perhaps a necessary revolutionary given the actions of the Tsars, certainly a sympathetic revolu...Show More


28:18 | Feb 3rd, 2000

Melvyn Bragg examines how English republicanism has developed from Cromwell to the present day. Before the French Revolution, before the American Declaration of Independence, before Rousseau, Thomas Paine and Marx there was the English Revolution. In...Show More

Economic Rights

27:41 | Jan 27th, 2000

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss economic rights. Is democracy the truest conduit of capitalism, or do the forces that make us rich run counter to the democratic institutions that safeguard our rights? The economist Milton Friedman once said, “If fre...Show More


28:06 | Dec 9th, 1999

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss childhood. The 20th Century was proclaimed the Century of the Child. It has been much else but in the western world the position, the possibilities, the meaning and the story of childhood have been changed, for many, m...Show More


28:36 | Nov 18th, 1999

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss progress. As man has grown in years and knowledge, has he also progressed in terms of happiness and a true understanding of the human condition? It was the Enlightenment which gave birth to the idea of the possibility ...Show More


28:15 | Nov 4th, 1999

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history and the modern purpose of education. Nobody - would argue with the fact that education is of central importance to the people we are. And there seems to be no doubt at all that fine skills, flexible life-lo...Show More

Atrocity in the 20th Century

28:01 | Oct 23rd, 1999

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the widespread and chilling atrocities of the 20th century. Just over a hundred years ago, in the ‘Genealogy of Morals’, Nietzsche wrote “there can be no doubt that morality will gradually perish: this is the great spe...Show More

The Individual

28:07 | Oct 21st, 1999

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of the concept of the individual. The Renaissance gave birth to the concept of the individual. Shakespeare defined this individual in language which accepted the primacy of the male gender: “What a piece of...Show More

The Nation State

28:10 | Oct 14th, 1999

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Nation State. When we speak of our island story which island do we mean? When did England elide with Britain and why does it sit uneasily alongside the United Kingdom? At the end of the 20th century, the identity ...Show More


28:00 | Oct 7th, 1999

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the concept of Utopia. Both the idea of, and the longing for a perfect society have been in our imagination for centuries, even millennia. Utopian dreams have driven fantasy, Fascism and fine feeling.Utopias, by defini...Show More


28:20 | Jul 8th, 1999

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Africa. It could be seen as the great test of the West; economically, intellectually, spiritually. The "dark continent" was seen as a source of power for the West through its natural resources, a place of harvest for w...Show More


28:15 | Jun 24th, 1999

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss capitalism throughout the last two centuries. In 1848 Karl Marx in The Communist Manifesto described the dynamic force of capitalism as it swept through the 19th century: Constant revolutionising of production, uninter...Show More

The Great Disruption

28:09 | Jun 17th, 1999

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the shift that has gone on through the 20th century from our being an industrial society to what is often called ‘the information society’. Francis Fukuyama’s book, The Great Disruption talks of the third great shift i...Show More

The Monarchy

28:07 | Jun 10th, 1999

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the British monarchy. In the last two hundred and fifty years, we’ve beheaded one king, exiled another, hired a distant German-speaking dynasty to fill the monarch’s role, and then mocked and ignored them, suffered a m...Show More

Just War

28:14 | Jun 3rd, 1999

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the idea of a just war. There were theories about a justified or noble war before the birth of Christ, but it was his reported teachings and a powerful influence, particularly on the Emperor Constantine, which set the ...Show More

History as Science

27:51 | Mar 11th, 1999

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the importance of geography and ecology in determining world history since civilisation began. The 18th century historian Thomas Carlyle said that world history was the history of what great men have accomplished, but ...Show More

The British Empire's Legacy

28:17 | Dec 31st, 1998

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Britain's colonial legacy. The 18th, 19th and early part of the 20th centuries were times of colonial conquest for this country but the abiding image of empire (true or not) is stuck squarely in the 1850’s when Victori...Show More

The American Century

27:54 | Dec 17th, 1998

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how legitimate it is to call the 20th century the American century. Just how benevolent has America’s impact on the world been? And how durable has American’s initial idealism proved to be? Have ideals of democracy and...Show More

History's relevance in the 20th century

28:24 | Dec 3rd, 1998

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the study of history this century. One of the debates raging in the practice of history is between the history of facts versus the imagination - a debate raised again by so-called ‘faction’ - fiction based on documenta...Show More

Work in the 20th Century

27:59 | Nov 26th, 1998

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the changing nature of work practices and the work ethic as it pertains at the end of the 20th century. Has our understanding of the nature and function of work really changed so radically since the beginning of the ce...Show More

The City in the 20th Century

28:00 | Nov 12th, 1998

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the artistic, cultural and innovative developments of the city in the 20th century and is joined by two practitioners of the geographer’s art; Professor Doreen Massey, who was awarded the Vautrin Lud International Geog...Show More

Politics in the 20th Century

28:13 | Oct 22nd, 1998

Melvyn Bragg talks to Gore Vidal and Alan Clarke about the future of the nation-state; is the concept dead and buried? And what is the relationship between politics and morality - have salaciousness and self-righteousness taken over where seriousnes...Show More

War in the 20th Century

27:49 | Oct 15th, 1998

In the first programme of a new series examining ideas and events which have shaped thinking in philosophy, religion, science and the arts, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss warfare and human rights in the 20th century. He talks to Michael Ignatieff ab...Show More