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In Our Time

BBC Radio 4

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of ideas

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The 12th Century Renaissance (Summer Repeat)

49:59 | Aug 2nd

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 Gree...Show More

Roman Slavery

50:40 | Apr 5th

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 n...Show More

Tocqueville: Democracy in America

50:51 | Mar 22nd

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) and his examination of the American democratic system. He wrote De La Démocratie en Amérique in two parts, published in 1835 and 1840, when France was ruled by the July Monarchy of Lou...Show More

Augustine's Confessions

47:55 | Mar 15th

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...Show More

Germaine de Stael

49:57 | Nov 16th, 2017

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and impact of Germaine de Staël (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 ...Show More

Constantine the Great

48:24 | Oct 5th, 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...Show More

Wuthering Heights

49:31 | Sep 28th, 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 th...Show More

The American Populists

49:52 | Jun 15th, 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 e...Show More

Enzymes

48:36 | Jun 1st, 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 whi...Show More

Hokusai

48:07 | Mar 30th, 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 c...Show More

Mary, Queen of Scots

52:19 | Jan 19th, 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 w...Show More

The Thirty Years War

50:35 | Dec 6th

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the war in Europe which begain in 1618 and continued on such a scale and with such devastation that its like was not seen for another three hundred years. It pitched Catholics against Protestants, Lutherans against Cal...Show More

Hope

53:01 | Nov 22nd

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the philosophy of hope. To the ancient Greeks, hope was closer to self-deception, one of the evils left in Pandora's box or jar, in Hesiod's story. In Christian tradition, hope became one of the theological virtues, t...Show More

Horace

48:57 | Nov 15th

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Horace (65-8BC), who flourished under the Emperor Augustus. He was one of the greatest poets of his age and is one of the most quoted of any age. Carpe diem, nil desperandum, nunc est bibendum – that’s Horace. He was t...Show More

Marie Antoinette

49:07 | Nov 8th

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Austrian princess Maria Antonia, child bride of the future French King Louis XVI. Their marriage was an attempt to bring about a major change in the balance of power in Europe and to undermine the influence of Pru...Show More

Free Radicals

51:03 | Nov 1st

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the properties of atoms or molecules with a single unpaired electron, which tend to be more reactive, keen to seize an electron to make it a pair. In the atmosphere, they are linked to reactions such as rusting. Free r...Show More

The Fable of the Bees

50:42 | Oct 25th

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Bernard Mandeville (1670-1733) and his critique of the economy as he found it in London, where private vices were condemned without acknowledging their public benefit. In his poem The Grumbling Hive (1705), he present...Show More

Is Shakespeare History? The Romans

48:17 | Oct 18th

In the second of two programmes marking In Our Time's 20th anniversary on 15th October, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Shakespeare's versions of history, continuing with the Roman plays. Rome was the setting for Titus Andronicus, Julius Caesar, Cori...Show More

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

49:48 | Sep 27th

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas and life of the German theologian, born in Breslau/Wroclaw in 1906 and killed in the Flossenbürg concentration camp on 9th April 1945. Bonhoeffer developed ideas about the role of the Church in the secular wo...Show More

Automata

52:23 | Sep 20th

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of real and imagined machines that appear to be living, and the questions they raise about life and creation. Even in myth they are made by humans, not born. The classical Greeks built some and designed oth...Show More

The Iliad

48:02 | Sep 13th

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the great epic poem attributed to Homer, telling the story of an intense episode in the Trojan War. It is framed by the wrath of the Greek hero Achilles, insulted by his leader Agamemnon and withdrawing from the battle...Show More

Hannah Arendt (Summer Repeat)

47:53 | Sep 6th

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 Fr...Show More

Robert Hooke (Summer Repeat)

48:35 | Aug 30th

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and work of Robert Hooke (1635-1703) who worked for Robert Boyle and was curator of experiments at the Royal Society. The engraving of a flea, above, is taken from his Micrographia which caused a sensation whe...Show More

Margery Kempe and English Mysticism (Summer Repeat)

45:30 | Aug 23rd

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 i...Show More

Circadian Rhythms (Summer Repeat)

52:28 | Aug 16th

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the evolution and role of Circadian Rhythms, the so-called body clock that influences an organism's daily cycle of physical, behavioural and mental changes. The rhythms are generated within organisms and also in re...Show More

The Gin Craze (Summer Repeat)

52:28 | Aug 9th

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 ch...Show More

Four Quartets (Summer Repeat)

49:05 | Jul 26th

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. With David Moody Emeritus Profe...Show More

The Science of Glass (Summer Repeat)

46:27 | Jul 19th

While glass items have been made for at least 5,000 years, scientists are yet to explain, conclusively, what happens when the substance it's made from moves from a molten state to its hard, transparent phase. It is said to be one of the great unsolve...Show More

Jane Eyre (Summer Repeat)

46:18 | Jul 12th

The story of Jane Eyre is one of the best-known in English fiction. Jane is the orphan who survives a miserable early life, first with her aunt at Gateshead Hall and then at Lowood School. She leaves the school for Thornfield Hall, to become governes...Show More

The Mexican-American War

49:06 | Jun 28th

Melvyn and guests discuss the 1846-48 conflict after which the United States of Mexico lost half its territory to the United States of America. The US gained land covered by the states of Texas, Utah, California, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and part ...Show More

Echolocation

51:02 | Jun 21st

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how some bats, dolphins and other animals emit sounds at high frequencies to explore their environments, rather than sight. This was such an unlikely possibility, to natural historians from C18th onwards, that discover...Show More

Persepolis

51:14 | Jun 7th

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 rich...Show More

Henrik Ibsen

49:51 | May 31st

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 domi...Show More

The Mabinogion

48:26 | May 10th

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 ...Show More

The Almoravid Empire

49:26 | May 3rd

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...Show More

The Proton

49:11 | Apr 26th

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...Show More

Middlemarch

51:49 | Apr 19th

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...Show More

George and Robert Stephenson

50:25 | Apr 12th

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 ...Show More

Hildegard of Bingen (Repeat)

45:06 | Mar 29th

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 Middl...Show More

The Highland Clearances

51:08 | Mar 8th

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 esta...Show More

Sun Tzu and The Art of War

48:23 | Mar 1st

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 milita...Show More

Rosalind Franklin

49:47 | Feb 22nd

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 i...Show More

Fungi

48:37 | Feb 15th

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 ma...Show More

Frederick Douglass

52:22 | Feb 8th

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 doub...Show More

Cephalopods

47:19 | Feb 1st

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...Show More

Cicero

49:16 | Jan 25th

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 triu...Show More

Anna Akhmatova

48:43 | Jan 18th

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 ...Show More

The Siege of Malta, 1565

49:52 | Jan 11th

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the event of which Voltaire, two hundred years later, said 'nothing was more well known'. The Ottoman Empire had already driven the Knights Hospitaller from their headquarters in Rhodes, in 1522, after a siege and want...Show More

Hamlet

52:33 | Dec 28th, 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 ...Show More

Beethoven

50:13 | Dec 21st, 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,...Show More

Thomas Becket

52:52 | Dec 14th, 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 ...Show More

Moby Dick

51:00 | Dec 7th, 2017

Melvyn Bragg and guests 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, sin...Show More

Carl Friedrich Gauss

49:05 | Nov 30th, 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 arith...Show More

Thebes

46:49 | Nov 23rd, 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 su...Show More

The Picts

56:45 | Nov 9th, 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 ...Show More

Picasso's Guernica

54:17 | Nov 2nd, 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 ...Show More

Feathered Dinosaurs

48:17 | Oct 26th, 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 fr...Show More

The Congress of Vienna

48:51 | Oct 19th, 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 lastin...Show More

Aphra Behn

49:51 | Oct 12th, 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...Show More

Kant's Categorical Imperative

49:29 | Sep 21st, 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 f...Show More

Bird Migration

51:14 | Jul 6th, 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 specul...Show More

Plato's Republic

48:43 | Jun 29th, 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...Show More

Eugene Onegin

49:27 | Jun 22nd, 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, develop...Show More

Christine de Pizan

50:15 | Jun 8th, 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...Show More

Purgatory

48:38 | May 25th, 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 pu...Show More

Louis Pasteur

51:08 | May 18th, 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 molecul...Show More

Emily Dickinson

48:30 | May 11th, 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, "Fe...Show More

The Battle of Lincoln 1217

53:10 | May 4th, 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 Angevi...Show More

The Egyptian Book of the Dead

46:34 | Apr 27th, 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 fl...Show More

Roger Bacon

50:33 | Apr 20th, 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....Show More

Rosa Luxemburg

50:10 | Apr 13th, 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 campa...Show More

Pauli's Exclusion Principle

48:13 | Apr 6th, 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...Show More

The Battle of Salamis

50:23 | Mar 23rd, 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 Persia...Show More

The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum

49:47 | Mar 16th, 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 year...Show More

North and South

48:01 | Mar 9th, 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...Show More

The Kuiper Belt

48:11 | Mar 2nd, 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 wh...Show More

Seneca the Younger

51:25 | Feb 23rd, 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 w...Show More

Maths in the Early Islamic World

49:07 | Feb 16th, 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, a...Show More

John Clare

48:15 | Feb 9th, 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...Show More

Hannah Arendt

47:17 | Feb 2nd, 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 Fr...Show More

Parasitism

45:45 | Jan 26th, 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...Show More

Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morality

48:03 | Jan 12th, 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...Show More

Johannes Kepler

48:42 | Dec 29th, 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 ...Show More

Four Quartets

48:31 | Dec 22nd, 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. With David Moody Emeritus Professor ...Show More

The Gin Craze

52:06 | Dec 15th, 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 ch...Show More

Harriet Martineau

51:01 | Dec 8th, 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 h...Show More

Garibaldi and the Risorgimento

49:32 | Dec 1st, 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 un...Show More

Baltic Crusades

46:51 | Nov 24th, 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...Show More

Justinian's Legal Code

47:05 | Nov 17th, 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 Europea...Show More

The Fighting Temeraire

45:58 | Nov 10th, 2016

This image: Joseph Mallord William Turner, The Fighting Temeraire, 1839 (c) The National Gallery, London Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss "The Fighting Temeraire", one of Turner's greatest works and the one he called his 'darling'. It shows one of th...Show More

Epic of Gilgamesh

46:52 | Nov 3rd, 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 ...Show More

John Dalton

45:40 | Oct 27th, 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 ...Show More

The 12th Century Renaissance

49:23 | Oct 20th, 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 Gree...Show More

Plasma

45:53 | Oct 13th, 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...Show More

Lakshmi

47:09 | Oct 6th, 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 mil...Show More

Animal Farm

51:17 | Sep 29th, 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 ...Show More

Zeno's Paradoxes

46:30 | Sep 22nd, 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 fligh...Show More

The Invention of Photography

48:46 | Jul 7th, 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 ...Show More

Sovereignty

47:21 | Jun 30th, 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 way...Show More

Songs of Innocence and of Experience

49:59 | Jun 23rd, 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 Exper...Show More

The Bronze Age Collapse

47:12 | Jun 16th, 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. Amo...Show More

Penicillin

46:35 | Jun 9th, 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 aro...Show More

Margery Kempe and English Mysticism

44:45 | Jun 2nd, 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 i...Show More

The Gettysburg Address

48:55 | May 26th, 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 w...Show More

The Muses

45:29 | May 19th, 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 ...Show More

Titus Oates and his 'Popish Plot'

49:05 | May 12th, 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 ...Show More

Tess of the d'Urbervilles

46:43 | May 5th, 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, r...Show More

Euclid's Elements

45:36 | Apr 28th, 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 t...Show More

1816, the Year Without a Summer

45:32 | Apr 21st, 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 imm...Show More

The Neutron

45:30 | Apr 14th, 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. Ne...Show More

The Sikh Empire

44:57 | Apr 7th, 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 Lahor...Show More

Agrippina the Younger

46:09 | Mar 31st, 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 man...Show More

Aurora Leigh

46:52 | Mar 24th, 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...Show More

Bedlam

46:57 | Mar 17th, 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 falle...Show More

The Maya Civilization

46:33 | Mar 10th, 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 ...Show More

The Dutch East India Company

46:12 | Mar 3rd, 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 di...Show More

Mary Magdalene

44:34 | Feb 25th, 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...Show More

Robert Hooke

48:11 | Feb 18th, 2016

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and work or Robert Hooke (1635-1703) who worked for Robert Boyle and was curator of experiments at the Royal Society. The engraving of a flea, above, is taken from his Micrographia which caused a sensation whe...Show More

Rumi's Poetry

46:44 | Feb 11th, 2016

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the poetry of Rumi, the Persian scholar and Sufi mystic of the 13th Century. His great poetic works are the Masnavi or "spiritual couplets" and the Divan, a collection of thousands of lyric poems. He is closely connect...Show More

Chromatography

47:14 | Feb 4th, 2016

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the origins, development and uses of chromatography. In its basic form, it is familiar to generations of schoolchildren who put a spot of ink at the bottom of a strip of paper, dip it in water and then watch the pigmen...Show More

Eleanor of Aquitaine

44:49 | Jan 28th, 2016

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life, times and influence of Eleanor of Aquitaine (c1122-1204) who was one of the most powerful women in Twelfth Century Europe, possibly in the entire Middle Ages. She inherited land from the Loire down to the Pyr...Show More

Thomas Paine's Common Sense

45:40 | Jan 21st, 2016

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Thomas Paine and his pamphlet "Common Sense" which was published in Philadelphia in January 1776 and promoted the argument for American independence from Britain. Addressed to The Inhabitants of America, it sold one hu...Show More

Saturn

46:55 | Jan 14th, 2016

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the planet Saturn with its rings of ice and rock and over 60 moons. In 1610, Galileo used an early telescope to observe Saturn, one of the brightest points in the night sky, but could not make sense of what he saw: per...Show More

Tristan and Iseult

45:12 | Dec 31st, 2015

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Tristan and Iseult, one of the most popular stories of the Middle Ages. From roots in Celtic myth, it passed into written form in Britain a century after the Norman Conquest and almost immediately spread throughout nor...Show More

Michael Faraday

45:51 | Dec 24th, 2015

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the eminent 19th-century scientist Michael Faraday. Born into a poor working-class family, he received little formal schooling but became interested in science while working as a bookbinder's apprentice. He is celebrat...Show More

Circadian Rhythms

48:04 | Dec 17th, 2015

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the evolution and role of Circadian Rhythms, the so-called body clock that influences an organism's daily cycle of physical, behavioural and mental changes. The rhythms are generated within organisms and also in re...Show More

Chinese Legalism

45:27 | Dec 10th, 2015

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the origins and rise of Legalism in China, from the start of the Warring States Period (c475 - 221 BC) to the time of The First Emperor Qin Shi Huang (pictured), down to Chairman Mao and the present day. Advanced by th...Show More

Voyages of James Cook

47:16 | Dec 3rd, 2015

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the scientific advances made in the three voyages of Captain James Cook, from 1768 to 1779. Cook's voyages astonished Europeans, bringing back detailed knowledge of the Pacific and its people, from the Antarctic to the...Show More

The Salem Witch Trials

45:28 | Nov 26th, 2015

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the outbreak of witch trials in Massachusetts in 1692-3, centred on Salem, which led to the execution of twenty people, with more dying in prison before or after trial. Some were men, including Giles Corey who died aft...Show More

Emma

47:27 | Nov 19th, 2015

"Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her." So begin...Show More

The Battle of Lepanto

48:18 | Nov 12th, 2015

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss The Battle of Lepanto, 1571, the last great sea battle between galleys, in which the Catholic fleet of the Holy League of principally Venice, Spain, the Papal States, Malta, Genoa, and Savoy defeated the Ottoman forces...Show More

P v NP

45:45 | Nov 5th, 2015

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the problem of P versus NP, which has a bearing on online security. There is a $1,000,000 prize on offer from the Clay Mathematical Institute for the first person to come up with a complete solution. At its heart is th...Show More

The Empire of Mali

47:47 | Oct 29th, 2015

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Empire of Mali which flourished from 1200 to 1600 and was famous in the wider world for the wealth of rulers such as Mansa Musa. Mali was the largest empire in west Africa and for almost 400 years controlled the fl...Show More

Simone de Beauvoir

46:00 | Oct 22nd, 2015

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Simone de Beauvoir. "One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman," she wrote in her best known and most influential work, The Second Sex, her exploration of what it means to be a woman in a world defined by men. Publi...Show More

Holbein at the Tudor Court

46:30 | Oct 15th, 2015

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and work of Hans Holbein the Younger (1497-1543) during his two extended stays in England, when he worked at the Tudor Court and became the King's painter. Holbein created some of the most significant portrait...Show More

Alexander the Great

47:13 | Oct 1st, 2015

Alexander the Great is one of the most celebrated military commanders in history. Born into the Macedonian royal family in 356 BC, he gained control of Greece and went on to conquer the Persian Empire, defeating its powerful king, Darius III. At its ...Show More

Perpetual Motion

45:40 | Sep 24th, 2015

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the rise of the idea of perpetual motion and its decline, in the 19th Century, with the Laws of Thermodynamics. For hundreds of years, some of the greatest names in science thought there might be machines that could po...Show More

Frida Kahlo

45:37 | Jul 9th, 2015

Born near Mexico City in 1907, Frida Kahlo is considered one of Mexico's greatest artists. She took up painting after a bus accident left her severely injured, was a Communist, married Diego Rivera, a celebrated muralist, became friends with Trotsky ...Show More

Frederick the Great

48:19 | Jul 2nd, 2015

Frederick the Great ruled Prussia from 1740 until his death in 1786. Born in 1712, he increased the power of the state, he made Prussia the leading military power in Europe and his bold campaigns had great implications for the European political land...Show More

Extremophiles

46:27 | Jun 25th, 2015

In 1977, scientists in the submersible "Alvin" were exploring the deep ocean bed off the Galapagos Islands. In the dark, they discovered hydrothermal vents, like chimneys, from which superheated water flowed. Around the vents there was an extraordina...Show More

Jane Eyre

45:37 | Jun 18th, 2015

The story of Jane Eyre is one of the best-known in English fiction. Jane is the orphan who survives a miserable early life, first with her aunt at Gateshead Hall and then at Lowood School. She leaves the school for Thornfield Hall, to become governes...Show More

Utilitarianism

43:59 | Jun 11th, 2015

A moral theory that emphasises ends over means, Utilitarianism holds that a good act is one that increases pleasure in the world and decreases pain. The tradition flourished in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries with Jeremy Bentham and John Stua...Show More

Prester John

44:41 | Jun 4th, 2015

In the Middle Ages, Prester John was seen as the great hope for Crusaders struggling to hold on to, then regain, Jerusalem. He was thought to rule a lost Christian kingdom somewhere in the East and was ready to attack Muslim opponents with his enormo...Show More

The Science of Glass

45:57 | May 28th, 2015

While glass items have been made for at least 5,000 years, scientists are yet to explain, conclusively, what happens when the substance it's made from moves from a molten state to its hard, transparent phase. It is said to be one of the great unsolve...Show More

Josephus

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

Tagore

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

The Earth's Core

46:41 | Apr 30th, 2015

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Earth's Core. The inner core is an extremely dense, solid ball of iron and nickel, the size of the Moon, while the outer core is a flowing liquid, the size of Mars. Thanks to the magnetic fields produced within...Show More

Fanny Burney

44:25 | Apr 23rd, 2015

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of the 18th-century novelist, playwright and diarist Fanny Burney, also known as Madame D'Arblay and Frances Burney. Her first novel, Evelina, was published anonymously and caused a sensation, att...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

Sappho

46:02 | Apr 9th, 2015

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Greek poet Sappho. Born in the late seventh century BC, Sappho spent much of her life on the island of Lesbos. In antiquity she was famed as one of the greatest lyric poets, but owing to a series of accidents t...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 Curies

47:22 | Mar 26th, 2015

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the scientific achievements of the Curie family. In 1903 Marie and Pierre Curie shared a Nobel Prize in Physics with Henri Becquerel for their work on radioactivity, a term which Marie coined. Marie went on to win ...Show More

Al-Ghazali

44:12 | Mar 19th, 2015

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of Al-Ghazali, a major philosopher and theologian of the late 11th century. Born in Persia, he was one of the most prominent intellectuals of his age, working in such centres of learning as Baghda...Show More

Dark Matter

45:43 | Mar 12th, 2015

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss dark matter, the mysterious and invisible substance which is believed to make up most of the Universe. In 1932 the Dutch astronomer Jan Oort noticed that the speed at which galaxies moved was at odds with the amoun...Show More

Beowulf

46:29 | Mar 5th, 2015

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the epic poem Beowulf, one of the masterpieces of Anglo-Saxon literature. Composed in the early Middle Ages by an anonymous poet, the work tells the story of a Scandinavian hero whose feats include battles with the...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

The Photon

45:02 | Feb 12th, 2015

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the photon, one of the most enigmatic objects in the Universe. Generations of scientists have struggled to understand the nature of light. In the late nineteenth century it seemed clear that light was an electromag...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

Thucydides

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

Phenomenology

46:33 | Jan 22nd, 2015

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss phenomenology, a style of philosophy developed by the German thinker Edmund Husserl in the first decades of the 20th century. Husserl's initial insights underwent a radical transformation in the work of his student Mar...Show More

Bruegel's The Fight Between Carnival and Lent

45:35 | Jan 15th, 2015

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Pieter Bruegel the Elder's painting of 1559, 'The Fight Between Carnival And Lent'. Created in Antwerp at a time of religious tension between Catholics and Protestants, the painting is rich in detail and seems ripe for...Show More

Truth

42:10 | Dec 18th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the philosophy of truth. Pontius Pilate famously asked: what is truth? In the twentieth century, the nature of truth became a subject of particular interest to philosophers, but they preferred to ask a slightly dif...Show More

Behavioural Ecology

45:35 | Dec 11th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Behavioural Ecology, the scientific study of animal behaviour. What factors influence where and what an animal chooses to eat? Why do some animals mate for life whilst others are promiscuous? Behavioural ecologists ap...Show More

Zen

45:08 | Dec 4th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Zen. It's often thought of as a form of Buddhism that emphasises the practice of meditation over any particular set of beliefs. In fact Zen belongs to a particular intellectual tradition within Buddhism that took root ...Show More

Kafka's The Trial

43:18 | Nov 27th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Franz Kafka's novel of power and alienation 'The Trial', in which readers follow the protagonist Joseph K into a bizarre, nightmarish world in which he stands accused of an unknown crime; courts of interrogation conven...Show More

Aesop

45:22 | Nov 20th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Aesop. According to some accounts, Aesop was a strikingly ugly slave who was dumb until granted the power of speech by the goddess Isis. In stories of his life he's often found outwitting his masters using clever wordp...Show More

Brunel

44:44 | Nov 13th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the Victorian engineer responsible for bridges, tunnels and railways still in use today more than 150 years after they were built. Brunel represented the cutting edge of technological innovatio...Show More

Hatshepsut

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

Nuclear Fusion

46:55 | Oct 30th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss nuclear fusion, the process that powers stars. In the 1920s physicists predicted that it might be possible to generate huge amounts of energy by fusing atomic nuclei together, a reaction requiring enormous temperat...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

Rudyard Kipling

45:44 | Oct 16th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of Rudyard Kipling. Born in Bombay in 1865, Kipling has been described as the poet of Empire, celebrated for fictional works including Kim and The Jungle Book. Today his poem 'If--' remains one of...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

e

45:19 | Sep 25th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Euler's number, also known as e. First discovered in the seventeenth century by the Swiss mathematician Jacob Bernoulli when he was studying compound interest, e is now recognised as one of the most important and i...Show More

The Sun

47:27 | Jul 10th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Sun. The object that gives the Earth its light and heat is a massive ball of gas and plasma 93 million miles away. Thanks to the nuclear fusion reactions taking place at its core, the Sun has been shining for f...Show More

Mrs Dalloway

45:30 | Jul 3rd, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Virginia Woolf's novel Mrs Dalloway. First published in 1925, it charts a single day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, a prosperous member of London society, as she prepares to throw a party. Writing in her diary d...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 Philosophy of Solitude

47:06 | Jun 19th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the philosophy of solitude. The state of being alone can arise for many different reasons: imprisonment, exile or personal choice. It can be prompted by religious belief, personal necessity or a philosophical need ...Show More

Robert Boyle

46:36 | Jun 12th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of Robert Boyle, a pioneering scientist and a founder member of the Royal Society. Born in Ireland in 1627, Boyle was one of the first natural philosophers to conduct rigorous experiments, laid th...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 Talmud

47:48 | May 29th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history and contents of the Talmud, one of the most important texts of Judaism. The Talmud was probably written down over a period of several hundred years, beginning in the 2nd century. It contains the authori...Show More

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

47:07 | May 22nd, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. In 1859 the poet Edward FitzGerald published a long poem based on the verses of the 11th-century Persian scholar Omar Khayyam. Not a single copy was sold in the first few months after ...Show More

Photosynthesis

46:47 | May 15th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss photosynthesis, the process by which green plants and many other organisms use sunlight to synthesise organic molecules. Photosynthesis arose very early in evolutionary history and has been a crucial driver of life...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 Tale of Sinuhe

47:09 | May 1st, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss The Tale of Sinuhe, one of the most celebrated works of ancient Egyptian literature. Written around four thousand years ago, the poem narrates the story of an Egyptian official who is exiled to Syria before returni...Show More

Tristram Shandy

47:25 | Apr 24th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Laurence Sterne's novel Tristram Shandy. Sterne's comic masterpiece is an extravagantly inventive work which was hugely popular when first published in 1759. Its often bawdy humour, and numerous digressions, are co...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

States of Matter

47:07 | Apr 3rd, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the science of matter and the states in which it can exist. Most people are familiar with the idea that a substance like water can exist in solid, liquid and gaseous forms. But as much as 99% of the matter in the u...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

Bishop Berkeley

47:29 | Mar 20th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the work of George Berkeley, an Anglican bishop who was one of the most important philosophers of the eighteenth century. Bishop Berkeley believed that objects only truly exist in the mind of somebody who perceives...Show More

The Trinity

42:11 | Mar 13th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Trinity. The idea that God is a single entity, but one known in three distinct forms - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - has been a central belief for most Christians since the earliest years of the religion. The d...Show More

Spartacus

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

The Eye

42:11 | Feb 27th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the eye. Humans have been attempting to understand the workings and significance of the organ for at least 2500 years. Some ancient philosophers believed that the eye enabled creatures to see by emitting its own li...Show More

Social Darwinism

41:41 | Feb 20th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Social Darwinism. After the publication of Charles Darwin's masterpiece On the Origin of Species in 1859, some thinkers argued that Darwin's ideas about evolution could also be applied to human society. One thinker...Show More

Chivalry

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

Catastrophism

41:54 | Jan 30th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Catastrophism, the idea that natural disasters have had a significant influence in moulding the Earth's geological features. In 1822 William Buckland, the first reader of Geology at the University of Oxford, publis...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

Complexity

41:49 | Dec 19th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss complexity and how it can help us understand the world around us. When living beings come together and act in a group, they do so in complicated and unpredictable ways: societies often behave very differently from ...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

Hindu Ideas of Creation

41:57 | Dec 5th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Hindu ideas about Creation. According to most Western religious traditions, a deity was the original creator of the Universe. Hinduism, on the other hand, has no single creation story. For thousands of years, Hindu...Show More

The Microscope

42:10 | Nov 28th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the development of the microscope, an instrument which has revolutionised our knowledge of the world and the organisms that inhabit it. In the seventeenth century the pioneering work of two scientists, the Dutchman...Show More

Pocahontas

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 Tempest

41:59 | Nov 14th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Shakespeare's play The Tempest. Written in around 1610, it is thought to be one of the playwright's final works and contains some of the most poetic and memorable passages in all his output. It was influenced by ac...Show More

Ordinary Language Philosophy

41:57 | Nov 7th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Ordinary Language Philosophy, a school of thought which emerged in Oxford in the years following World War II. With its roots in the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein, Ordinary Language Philosophy is concerned with the m...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 Book of Common Prayer

42:00 | Oct 17th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Book of Common Prayer. In 1549, at the height of the English Reformation, a new prayer book was published containing versions of the liturgy in English. Generally believed to have been supervised by Thomas Cran...Show More

Galen

42:03 | Oct 10th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Roman physician and medical theorist Galen. The most celebrated doctor in the ancient world, Galen was Greek by birth but spent most of his career in Rome, where he was personal physician to three Emperors. He ...Show More

Exoplanets

42:01 | Oct 3rd, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss exoplanets. Astronomers have speculated about the existence of planets beyond our solar system for centuries. Although strenuous efforts were made to find such planets orbiting distant stars, it was not until the 1...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

Pascal

41:57 | Sep 19th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests begin a new series of the programme with a discussion of the French polymath Blaise Pascal. Born in 1623, Pascal was a brilliant mathematician and scientist, inventing one of the first mechanical calculators and making imp...Show More

The Invention of Radio

41:59 | Jul 4th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the invention of radio. In the early 1860s the Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell derived four equations which together describe the behaviour of electricity and magnetism. They predicted the existence of a pre...Show More

Romance of the Three Kingdoms

42:07 | Jun 27th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, widely regarded as one of the greatest works of Chinese literature. Written 600 years ago, it is an historical novel that tells the story of a tumultuous period in Chinese history...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

Prophecy

42:06 | Jun 13th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the meaning and significance of prophecy in the Abrahamic religions. Prophets, those with the ability to convey divinely-inspired revelation, are significant figures in the Hebrew Bible and later became important n...Show More

Relativity

42:04 | Jun 6th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Einstein's theories of relativity. Between 1905 and 1917 Albert Einstein formulated a theoretical framework which transformed our understanding of the Universe. The twin theories of Special and General Relativity o...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

Lévi-Strauss

42:03 | May 23rd, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the work of the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss. One of twentieth-century France's most celebrated intellectuals, Lévi-Strauss attempted to show in his work that thought processes were a feature universal to hum...Show More

Cosmic Rays

42:05 | May 16th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss cosmic rays. In 1912 the physicist Victor Hess discovered that the Earth is under constant bombardment from radiation coming from outside our atmosphere. These so-called cosmic rays have been known to cause damage ...Show More

Icelandic Sagas

42:04 | May 9th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Icelandic Sagas. First written down in the 13th century, the sagas tell the stories of the Norse settlers of Iceland, who began to arrive on the island in the late 9th century. They contain some of the richest ...Show More

Gnosticism

42:06 | May 2nd, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Gnosticism, a sect associated with early Christianity. The Gnostics divided the universe into two domains: the visible world and the spiritual one. They believed that a special sort of knowledge, or gnosis, would e...Show More

Montaigne

42:03 | Apr 25th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Essays of Michel de Montaigne. Born near Bordeaux in 1533, Montaigne retired from a life of public service aged 38 and began to write. He called these short works 'essais', or 'attempts'; they deal with an ecle...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

The Amazons

42:12 | Apr 11th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Amazons, a tribe of formidable female warriors first described in Greek literature. They appear in the Homeric epics and were described by Herodotus, and featured prominently in the decoration of Greek vases an...Show More

Japan's Sakoku Period

42:02 | Apr 4th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Japan's Sakoku period, two centuries when the country deliberately isolated itself from the Western world. Sakoku began with a series of edicts in the 1630s which restricted the rights of Japanese to leave their co...Show More

Water

39:06 | Mar 28th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss one of the simplest and most remarkable of all molecules: water. Water is among the most abundant substances on Earth, covering more than two-thirds of the planet. Consisting of just three atoms, the water molecu...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

Chekhov

42:03 | Mar 14th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of Anton Chekhov. Born in 1860, Chekhov trained as a doctor and for most of his adult life divided his time between medicine and writing. Best known for plays including The Cherry Orchard and Th...Show More

Absolute Zero

42:11 | Mar 7th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss absolute zero, the lowest conceivable temperature. In the early eighteenth century the French physicist Guillaume Amontons suggested that temperature had a lower limit. The subject of low temperature became a fer...Show More

Pitt-Rivers

41:41 | Feb 28th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of the Victorian anthropologist and archaeologist Augustus Pitt-Rivers. Over many years he amassed thousands of ethnographic and archaeological objects, some of which formed the founding collecti...Show More

Decline and Fall

41:58 | Feb 21st, 2013

David Bradshaw, John Bowen and Ann Pasternak Slater join Melvyn Bragg to discuss Evelyn Waugh's comic novel Decline and Fall. Set partly in a substandard boys' public school, the novel is a vivid, often riotous portrait of 1920s Britain. Its themes, ...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

Epicureanism

42:12 | Feb 7th, 2013

Angie Hobbs, David Sedley and James Warren join Melvyn Bragg to discuss Epicureanism, the system of philosophy based on the teachings of Epicurus and founded in Athens in the fourth century BC. Epicurus outlined a comprehensive philosophical system ...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

Romulus and Remus

42:11 | Jan 24th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Romulus and Remus, the central figures of the foundation myth of Rome. According to tradition, the twins were abandoned by their parents as babies, but were saved by a she-wolf who found and nursed them. Romulus...Show More

Comets

42:13 | Jan 17th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss comets, the 'dirty snowballs' of the Solar System. In the early 18th century the Astronomer Royal Sir Edmond Halley compiled a list of appearances of comets, bright objects like stars with long tails which are occa...Show More

Le Morte d'Arthur

42:07 | Jan 10th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Thomas Malory's "Le Morte Darthur", the epic tale of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table. Sir Thomas Malory was a knight from Warwickshire, a respectable country gentleman and MP in the 1440s who later t...Show More

The Cult of Mithras

42:12 | Dec 27th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the cult of Mithras, a mystery religion that existed in the Roman Empire from the 1st to the 4th centuries AD. Also known as the Mysteries of Mithras, its origins are uncertain. Academics have suggested a link with...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

Shahnameh of Ferdowsi

42:06 | Dec 13th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the epic poem the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi, the 'Book of Kings', which has been at the heart of Persian culture for the past thousand years. The poem recounts a legendary history of Iran from the dawn of time to the f...Show More

Bertrand Russell

42:15 | Dec 6th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the influential British philosopher Bertrand Russell. Born in 1872 into an aristocratic family, Russell is widely regarded as one of the founders of Analytic philosophy, which is today the dominant philosophical tr...Show More

Crystallography

41:56 | Nov 29th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history of crystallography, the study of crystals and their structure. The discovery in the early 20th century that X-rays could be diffracted by a crystal revolutionised our knowledge of materials. This crysta...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

Simone Weil

42:06 | Nov 15th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the French philosopher and social activist Simone Weil. Born in Paris in 1909 into a wealthy, agnostic Jewish family, Weil was a precocious child and attended the prestigious Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris, achi...Show More

The Upanishads

42:00 | Nov 8th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Upanishads, the ancient sacred texts of Hinduism. Dating from about 700 BC, the Upanishads were passed down through an oral tradition in priestly castes and were not written down until the 6th century AD. They ...Show More

The Anarchy

42:12 | Nov 1st, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss The Anarchy, the civil war that took place in mid-twelfth century England. The war began as a succession dispute between the Empress Matilda, daughter of Henry I, and her cousin, Stephen of Blois. On Henry's death ...Show More

Fermat's Last Theorem

42:06 | Oct 25th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Fermat's Last Theorem. In 1637 the French mathematician Pierre de Fermat scribbled a note in the margin of one of his books. He claimed to have proved a remarkable property of numbers, but gave no clue as to how he...Show More

Caxton and the Printing Press

41:59 | Oct 18th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and influence of William Caxton, the merchant who brought the printing press to the British Isles. After spending several years working as a printer in Bruges, Caxton returned to London and in 1476 set up ...Show More

Hannibal

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 Ontological Argument

42:11 | Sep 27th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Ontological Argument. In the eleventh century St Anselm of Canterbury proposed that it was possible to prove the existence of God using reason alone. His argument was ridiculed by some of his contemporaries, bu...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

The Cell

42:03 | Sep 13th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the cell, the fundamental building block of life. First observed by Robert Hooke in 1665, cells occur in nature in a bewildering variety of forms. Every organism alive today consists of one or more cells: a single ...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

Scepticism

42:09 | Jul 5th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Scepticism, the idea that it may be impossible to know anything with complete certainty. Scepticism was first outlined by ancient Greek philosophers: Socrates is reported to have said that the only thing he knew fo...Show More

Al-Kindi

41:53 | Jun 28th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of the Arab philosopher al-Kindi. Born in the early ninth century, al-Kindi was heavily influenced by Greek philosophy and supervised the translation of many works by Aristotle and others into Ara...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

James Joyce's Ulysses

42:05 | Jun 14th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss James Joyce's novel Ulysses. First published ninety years ago in Paris, Joyce's masterpiece is a sprawling and startlingly original work charting a single day in the life of the Dubliner Leopold Bloom. Some early r...Show More

King Solomon

42:09 | Jun 7th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the biblical king Solomon, celebrated for his wisdom and as the architect of the First Temple in Jerusalem. According to the Old Testament account of his life, Solomon was chosen as his father David's successor as ...Show More

The Trojan War

41:55 | May 31st, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Trojan War, one of the best known events of Greek mythology. According to the traditional version of the story, the war began when a Trojan prince, Paris, eloped with the Spartan queen Helen. A Greek army besie...Show More

Marco Polo

42:02 | May 24th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the celebrated Venetian explorer Marco Polo. In 1271 Polo set off on an epic journey through Asia. He was away for more than twenty years, and when he returned to Venice he told extraordinary tales of his adventure...Show More

Clausewitz and On War

42:06 | May 17th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss On War, a treatise on the theory and practice of warfare written by the Prussian soldier and intellectual Carl von Clausewitz. First published in 1832, Clausewitz's magnum opus is commonly regarded as the most impo...Show More

Game Theory

41:51 | May 10th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss game theory, the mathematical study of decision-making. First formulated in the 1940s, the discipline entails devising 'games' to simulate situations of conflict or cooperation. It allows researchers to unravel dec...Show More

Voltaire's Candide

42:07 | May 3rd, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Voltaire's novel Candide. First published in 1759, the novel follows the adventures of a young man, Candide, and his mentor, the philosopher Pangloss. Candide was written in the aftermath of a major earthquake in L...Show More

The Battle of Bosworth Field

42:06 | Apr 26th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Battle of Bosworth Field, the celebrated encounter between Lancastrian and Yorkist forces in August 1485. The battle, the penultimate of the Wars of the Roses, resulted in the death of Richard III. The victory ...Show More

Neoplatonism

41:57 | Apr 19th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Neoplatonism, the school of thought founded in the 3rd century AD by the philosopher Plotinus. Born in Egypt, Plotinus was brought up in the Platonic tradition, studying and reinterpreting the works of the Greek th...Show More

Early Geology

42:15 | Apr 12th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the emergence of geology as a scientific discipline. A little over two hundred years ago a small group of friends founded the Geological Society of London. This organisation was the first devoted to furthering the ...Show More

George Fox and the Quakers

41:53 | Apr 5th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the origins of Quakerism. In the mid-seventeenth century an itinerant preacher, George Fox, became the central figure of a group known as the Religious Society of Friends, whose members believed it was possible to ...Show More

The Measurement of Time

41:54 | Mar 29th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the measurement of time. Early civilisations used the movements of heavenly bodies to tell the time, but even in the ancient world more sophisticated timekeeping devices such as waterclocks were known. The developm...Show More

Moses Mendelssohn

42:18 | Mar 22nd, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the work and influence of the eighteenth-century philosopher Moses Mendelssohn. A prominent figure at the court of Frederick the Great, Mendelssohn was one of the most significant thinkers of his age. He came from ...Show More

Vitruvius and De Architectura

42:19 | Mar 15th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Vitruvius' De Architectura. Written almost exactly two thousand years ago, Vitruvius' work is a ten-volume treatise on engineering and architecture, the only surviving work on the subject from the ancient world. Th...Show More

Lyrical Ballads

42:17 | Mar 8th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Lyrical Ballads, the collection of poems by William Wordsworth and Samuel Coleridge first published in 1798. The work was conceived as an attempt to cast off the stultifying conventions of formal 18th-century poetr...Show More

Benjamin Franklin

42:00 | Mar 1st, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of Benjamin Franklin. A printer, statesman, diplomat, writer and scientist, Franklin was one of the most remarkable individuals of the eighteenth century. His discoveries relating to the nature of...Show More

Conductors and Semiconductors

41:59 | Feb 23rd, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the physics of electrical conduction. Although electricity has been known for several hundred years, it was only in the early twentieth century that physicists first satisfactorily explained the phenomenon. Electri...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

Erasmus

41:58 | Feb 9th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of the Dutch humanist scholar Desiderius Erasmus. In his lifetime Erasmus was almost universally recognised as the greatest classical scholar of his age, the translator and editor of numerous Lati...Show More

The Kama Sutra

42:07 | Feb 2nd, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Kama Sutra, one of the most celebrated and often misunderstood texts of Indian literature. Probably composed during the reign of the Gupta dynasty around 1800 years ago, the work is a collection of writings abo...Show More

The Scientific Method

42:01 | Jan 26th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the evolution of the Scientific Method, the systematic and analytical approach to scientific thought. In 1620 the great philosopher and scientist Francis Bacon published the Novum Organum, a work outlining a new sy...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 Safavid Dynasty

42:08 | Jan 12th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Safavid Dynasty, rulers of the Persian empire between the 16th and 18th centuries.In 1501 Shah Ismail, a boy of fifteen, declared himself ruler of Azerbaijan. Within a year he had expanded his territory to incl...Show More

Macromolecules

42:12 | Dec 29th, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the giant molecules that form the basis of all life. Macromolecules, also known as polymers, are long chains of atoms. They form the proteins that make up our bodies, as well as many of the materials of modern life. Ma...Show More

Robinson Crusoe

42:04 | Dec 22nd, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Daniel Defoe's novel Robinson Crusoe. Published in 1719, it was an immediate success and is considered the classic adventure story. There are several incidents that may have inspired the tale, although none of them...Show More

The Concordat of Worms

41:52 | Dec 15th, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Concordat of Worms. This treaty between the papacy and the Holy Roman Empire, signed in 1122, put an end, at least for a time, to years of power struggle and bloodshed. The wrangling between the German kings an...Show More

Heraclitus

41:57 | Dec 8th, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus. Writing in the 5th century BC, Heraclitus believed that everything is constantly changing or, as he put it, in flux. He expressed this thought in a famous epigram: "No man ...Show More

Christina Rossetti

41:52 | Dec 1st, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of the Victorian poet Christina Rossetti. Rossetti was born into an artistic family and her siblings included Dante Gabriel, one of the leading lights of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, to whose j...Show More

Judas Maccabeus

42:02 | Nov 24th, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the revolutionary Jewish leader Judas Maccabeus. Born in the second century BC, Judas led his followers, the Maccabees, in a rebellion against the Seleucid Empire, which was attempting to impose the Greek culture a...Show More

Ptolemy and Ancient Astronomy

41:57 | Nov 17th, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the ancient Greek astronomer and mathematician Ptolemy, and consider how and why his geocentric theory of the universe held sway for so many centuries. In his seminal astronomical work, the Almagest, written in the...Show More

The Continental-Analytic Split

42:06 | Nov 10th, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Continental-Analytic split in Western philosophy. Around the beginning of the last century, philosophy began to go down two separate paths, as thinkers from Continental Europe explored the legacy of figures inc...Show More

The Moon

42:03 | Nov 3rd, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the origins, science and mythology of the moon. Humans have been fascinated by our only known satellite since prehistory. In some cultures the Moon has been worshipped as a deity; in recent centuries there has been...Show More

The Siege of Tenochtitlan

42:08 | Oct 27th, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Siege of Tenochtitlan. In 1521 the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes led an army of Spanish and native forces against the city of Tenochtitlan, the spectacular island capital of the Aztec civilisation. At firs...Show More

Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People

41:57 | Oct 20th, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Delacroix's painting Liberty Leading the People. In 1830 revolution once more overtook France, when a popular uprising toppled the French king Charles X. A few months later, the artist Eugene Delacroix immortalised...Show More

The Ming Voyages

42:10 | Oct 13th, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Ming Voyages. In 1405 a Chinese admiral, Zheng He, set sail with an enormous fleet of ships carrying more than 27,000 people. This was the first of seven voyages of discovery which took Zheng and his ships all ...Show More

David Hume

42:10 | Oct 6th, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the work of the philosopher David Hume. A key figure in the Scottish Enlightenment of the eighteenth century, Hume was an empiricist who believed that humans can only have knowledge of things they have themselves e...Show More

The Etruscan Civilisation

42:08 | Sep 29th, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Etruscan civilisation.Around 800 BC a sophisticated civilisation began to emerge in the area of Italy now known as Tuscany. The Etruscans thrived for the next eight hundred years, extracting and trading copper ...Show More

Shinto

42:09 | Sep 22nd, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Japanese belief system Shinto.A religion without gods, scriptures or a founder, Shinto is perhaps better described as a system of belief. Central to it is the idea of kami, spirits or deities associated with pl...Show More

The Hippocratic Oath

42:11 | Sep 15th, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Hippocratic Oath. The Greek physician Hippocrates, active in the fifth century BC, has been described as the father of medicine, although little is known about his life and some scholars even argue that he was ...Show More

The Minoan Civilisation

42:01 | Jul 7th, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Minoan Civilisation.In 1900 the British archaeologist Arthur Evans began excavating some ancient ruins at Knossos on the island of Crete. He uncovered an enormous palace complex which reminded him of the mythic...Show More

Tennyson's In Memoriam

42:06 | Jun 30th, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Alfred, Lord Tennyson's long poem In Memoriam.In 1850, shortly before his appointment as Poet Laureate, Tennyson published a work which many critics regard as his masterpiece. In Memoriam A.H.H. was written in trib...Show More

Malthusianism

42:01 | Jun 23rd, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Malthusianism.In the eighteenth century, as expanding agriculture and industry resulted in a rapid increase in the European population, a number of writers began to consider the implications of this rise in numbers...Show More

Wyclif and the Lollards

42:09 | Jun 16th, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss John Wyclif and the Lollards.John Wyclif was a medieval philosopher and theologian who in the fourteenth century instigated the first complete English translation of the Bible. One of the most important thinkers of...Show More

The Origins of Infectious Disease

41:56 | Jun 9th, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the origins of infectious disease. Infectious disease has been with us for millennia. There are reports of ancient outbreaks of plague in the Bible, and in numerous historical sources from China, the Middle East an...Show More

The Battle of Stamford Bridge

42:00 | Jun 2nd, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Battle of Stamford Bridge.In the first week of 1066 the English king, Edward the Confessor, died. A young nobleman, Harold Godwinson, claimed that Edward had nominated him his successor, and seized the throne. ...Show More

Xenophon

42:09 | May 26th, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of Xenophon.Xenophon, an aristocratic Athenian, was one of the most celebrated writers of the ancient world. Born in around 430 BC, he was a friend and pupil of the great philosopher Socrates. In ...Show More

Custer's Last Stand

42:06 | May 19th, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Battle of the Little Bighorn, also known as Custer's Last Stand.In 1876 a dispute between the American federal government and Native Americans over land rights led to an armed conflict now known as the Great Si...Show More

The Anatomy of Melancholy

42:14 | May 12th, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Robert Burton's masterpiece The Anatomy of Melancholy.In 1621 the priest and scholar Robert Burton published a book quite unlike any other. The Anatomy of Melancholy brings together almost two thousand years of sch...Show More

Islamic Law and its Origins

42:14 | May 5th, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the origins and early development of Islamic law. The legal code of Islam is known as Sharia, an Arabic word meaning "the way". Its sources include the Islamic holy book the Qur'an, the words and actions of the Pro...Show More

Cogito Ergo Sum

42:18 | Apr 28th, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss one of the most famous statements in philosophy: "Cogito ergo sum".In his Discourse on the Method, published in 1637, the French polymath Rene Descartes wrote a sentence which remains familiar today even to many pe...Show More

The Pelagian Controversy

42:15 | Apr 21st, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Pelagian Controversy.In the late 4th century a British monk, Pelagius, travelled to Rome, where he became a theologian and teacher, revered for his learning and ascetic lifestyle. But he soon aroused the ire of...Show More

The Neutrino

42:07 | Apr 14th, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the neutrino.In 1930 the physicist Wolfgang Pauli proposed the existence of an as-yet undiscovered subatomic particle. He also bet his colleagues a case of champagne that it would never be detected. He lost his bet...Show More

Octavia Hill

42:23 | Apr 7th, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Victorian social reformer Octavia Hill.From the 1850s until her death in 1912, Octavia Hill was an energetic campaigner who did much to improve the lot of impoverished city dwellers. She was a pioneer of social...Show More

The Bhagavad Gita

41:53 | Mar 31st, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Bhagavad Gita.The Bhagavad Gita, a 700-verse section of the Sanskrit epic the Mahabharata, is one of the most revered texts of Hinduism. Written in around 200 BC, it narrates a conversation between Krishna, an ...Show More

The Iron Age

41:56 | Mar 24th, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the dawn of the European Iron Age.In around 3000 BC European metalworkers started to make tools and weapons out of bronze. A complex trading network evolved to convey this valuable metal and other goods around the ...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

Free Will

42:20 | Mar 10th, 2011

In the 500th edition of the programme, Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the philosophical idea of free will.Free will - the extent to which we are free to choose our own actions - is one of the most absorbing philosophical problems, debated by alm...Show More

The Age of the Universe

42:14 | Mar 3rd, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the age of the Universe.Since the 18th century, when scientists first realised that the Universe had existed for more than a few thousand years, cosmologists have debated its likely age. The discovery that the Univ...Show More

The Taiping Rebellion

41:58 | Feb 24th, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Taiping Rebellion.In 1850 a Chinese Christian convert, Hong Xiuquan, proclaimed himself leader of a new dynasty, the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom. He and his followers marched against the ruling Qing dynasty, gathe...Show More

Maimonides

42:13 | Feb 17th, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the work and influence of Maimonides.Widely regarded as the greatest Jewish philosopher of the medieval period, Maimonides was also a physician and rabbinical authority. Also known as Rambam, his writings include a...Show More

The Nervous System

42:11 | Feb 10th, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the nervous system. Most animals have a nervous system, a network of nerve tissues which allows parts of the body to communicate with each other. In humans the most significant parts of this network are the brain,...Show More

The Battle of Bannockburn

42:05 | Feb 3rd, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Battle of Bannockburn.On June 23rd 1314, Scottish forces under their king Robert the Bruce confronted a larger army commanded by the English monarch Edward II at Bannockburn. It was the culmination of a war of ...Show More

Aristotle's Poetics

42:00 | Jan 27th, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Aristotle's Poetics. The Poetics is, as far as we know, the first ever work of literary theory. Written in the 4th century BC, it is the work of a scholar who was also a biologist, and treats literary works with th...Show More

The Mexican Revolution

42:06 | Jan 20th, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Mexican Revolution.In 1908 the President of Mexico, Porfirio Diaz, gave an interview to an American journalist. He was 77 and had ruled the country in autocratic fashion for over thirty years. He discussed the ...Show More

Random and Pseudorandom

42:06 | Jan 13th, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss randomness and pseudorandomness.Randomness is the mathematics of the unpredictable. Dice and roulette wheels produce random numbers: those which are unpredictable and display no pattern. But mathematicians also tal...Show More

Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

41:55 | Jan 6th, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Byron's poem Childe Harold's Pilgrimage.In 1812 the 24-year-old Lord Byron published the first part of a long narrative poem. It caused an instant sensation. "I awoke one morning and found myself famous", wrote Byr...Show More

Consequences of the Industrial Revolution

42:16 | Dec 30th, 2010

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the far-reaching consequences of the Industrial Revolution. After more than a century of rapid technological change, and the massive growth of its urban centres, Britain was changed forever. Lifestyles changed as w...Show More

The Industrial Revolution

42:16 | Dec 23rd, 2010

In the first of two programmes, Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Industrial Revolution.Between the middle of the eighteenth century and the early years of the nineteenth, Britain was transformed. This was a revolution, but not a political one:...Show More

Daoism

42:22 | Dec 16th, 2010

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Daoism. An ancient Chinese tradition of philosophy and religious belief, Daoism first appeared more than two thousand years ago. For centuries it was the most popular religion in China; in the West its religious as...Show More

Thomas Edison

42:16 | Dec 9th, 2010

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the innovations and influence of Thomas Edison, one of the architects of the modern age.Edison is popularly remembered as the man who made cheap electric light possible. Born in 1847, he began his career working in...Show More

Cleopatra

42:06 | Dec 2nd, 2010

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Cleopatra. The last pharaoh to rule Egypt, Cleopatra was a woman of intelligence and charisma, later celebrated as a great beauty. During an eventful life she was ousted from her throne and later restored to it wit...Show More

History of Metaphor

42:05 | Nov 25th, 2010

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history of metaphor. In Shakespeare's As You Like It, the melancholy Jaques declares: "All the world's a stage/And all the men and women merely players." This is a celebrated use of metaphor, a figure of speech...Show More

Foxe's Book of Martyrs

42:08 | Nov 18th, 2010

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss John Foxe and his book Actes and Monuments, better known today as Foxe's Book of Martyrs. Born in 1517, John Foxe was an early Protestant who was forced to flee the persecutions which ensued when the Catholic Mary ...Show More

The Volga Vikings

42:03 | Nov 11th, 2010

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Volga Vikings. Between the 8th and the 10th centuries AD, fierce Scandinavian warriors raided and then settled large swathes of Europe, particularly Britain, Ireland and parts of northern France. These were the...Show More

Women and Enlightenment Science

42:08 | Nov 4th, 2010

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the role played by women in Enlightenment science. During the eighteenth century the opportunities for women to gain a knowledge of science were minimal. Universities and other institutions devoted to research were...Show More

The Unicorn

41:59 | Oct 28th, 2010

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the unicorn. In the 5th century BC a Greek historian, Ctesias, described a strange one-horned beast which he believed to live in a remote area of India. Later classical scholars, including Aristotle and Pliny, adde...Show More

Logic

42:14 | Oct 21st, 2010

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history of logic. Logic, the study of reasoning and argument, first became a serious area of study in the 4th century BC through the work of Aristotle. He created a formal logical system, based on a type of arg...Show More

Sturm und Drang

42:13 | Oct 14th, 2010

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the artistic movement known as Sturm und Drang.In the 1770s a small group of German writers started to produce plays, poetry and novels which were radically different from what had gone before. These writers were a...Show More

The Spanish Armada

42:06 | Oct 7th, 2010

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Spanish Armada. On May 28th, 1588, a fleet of a hundred and fifty-one Spanish ships set out from Lisbon, bound for England. Its mission was to transport a huge invasion force across the Channel: the Spanish Kin...Show More

The Delphic Oracle

42:05 | Sep 30th, 2010

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Delphic Oracle, the most important source of prophecies in the ancient world. In central Greece, on the flank of Mount Parnassus, lies the ruined city of Delphi. For over a thousand years, between approximately...Show More

Imaginary Numbers

42:10 | Sep 23rd, 2010

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss imaginary numbers. In the sixteenth century, a group of mathematicians in Bologna found a solution to a problem that had puzzled generations before them: a completely new kind of number. For more than a century thi...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

Athelstan

42:07 | Jul 1st, 2010

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the reign of King Athelstan.Athelstan, the grandson of Alfred the Great, came to the throne of Wessex in 925. A few years later he unified the kingdoms of England, and a decade after that defeated the Scots and sty...Show More

Antarctica

42:12 | Jun 24th, 2010

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history of Antarctica.The most southerly of the continents is the bleakest and coldest place on Earth. Almost entirely covered in ice, Antarctica spends much of the winter in total darkness.Antarctica was first...Show More

The Neanderthals

42:13 | Jun 17th, 2010

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Neanderthals.In 1856, quarry workers in Germany found bones in a cave which seemed to belong to a bear or other large mammal. They were later identified as being from a previously unknown species of hominid sim...Show More

al-Biruni

41:52 | Jun 10th, 2010

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 mathe...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

Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists

41:53 | May 27th, 2010

Melvyn Bragg discusses 'Lives of the Artists' - the great biographer Giorgio Vasari's study of Renaissance painters, sculptors and architects. In 1550 a little known Italian artist, Giorgio Vasari, published a revolutionary book entitled 'Lives of th...Show More

The Cavendish Family in Science

42:03 | May 20th, 2010

From the 1600s to the 1800s, scientific research in Britain was not yet a professional, publicly-funded career.So the wealth, status and freedom enjoyed by British aristocrats gave them the opportunity to play an important role in pushing science for...Show More

William James's 'The Varieties of Religious Experience'

42:18 | May 13th, 2010

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss 'The Varieties of Religious Experience' by William James. The American novelist Henry James famously made London his home and himself more English than the English. In contrast, his psychologist brother, William, was d...Show More

The Cool Universe

42:15 | May 6th, 2010

The Cool Universe is the name astronomers give to the matter between the stars.These great clouds of dust and gas are not hot enough to be detected by optical telescopes.But over the last few decades, they have increasingly become the focus of infrar...Show More

The Great Wall of China

41:52 | Apr 29th, 2010

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Great Wall of China.The Great Wall is not a single Wall. It is not visible from space, contrary to popular belief, as it is much too thin. But it remains a spectacular architectural and historical phenomenon.The Gr...Show More

Roman Satire

42:06 | Apr 22nd, 2010

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Roman Satire. Much of Roman culture was a development of their rich inheritance from the Greeks. But satire was a form the Romans could claim to have invented. The grandfather of Roman satire, Ennius, was also an impor...Show More

The Zulu Nation's Rise and Fall

42:09 | Apr 15th, 2010

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the rise and fall of the Zulu Nation.At the beginning of the 19th century, the Zulus were a small pastoral community of a bare few thousand people in the eastern part of what is now South Africa. Their territory was li...Show More

William Hazlitt

41:55 | Apr 8th, 2010

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and works of William Hazlitt. Hazlitt is best known for his essays, which ranged in subject matter from Shakespeare, through his first meeting with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, to a boxing match. What is less well...Show More

The City - a history, part 2

42:14 | Apr 1st, 2010

Melvyn Bragg presents the second of a two part discussion about the history of the city. George Stephenson invented rail transport in the north-east of England in the 1820s, but it was not until over twenty years later that rail networks began to spr...Show More

The City - a history, part 1

42:15 | Mar 25th, 2010

Melvyn Bragg presents the first of a two-part discussion about the history of the city. With Peter Hall, Julia Merritt and Greg Woolf.The story of cities is widely held to begin in the 8th millennium BC in Mesopotamia. By 4000 BC, there were cities i...Show More

Munch and The Scream

41:32 | Mar 18th, 2010

Melvyn Bragg and guests David Jackson, Dorothy Rowe and Alastair Wright discuss the work of the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, focusing on his most famous painting, The Scream.First exhibited in 1893 in Berlin, The Scream was the culmination of Munch...Show More

Boudica

42:08 | Mar 11th, 2010

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and mythologisation of Boudica.On the eve of battle with the Roman Empire, an East Anglian leader roused her forces by declaring: 'It is not as a woman descended from noble ancestry, but as one of the people t...Show More

The Infant Brain

42:01 | Mar 4th, 2010

Melvyn Bragg and guests Usha Goswami, Annette Karmiloff-Smith and Denis Mareschal discuss what new research reveals about the infant brain.For obvious reasons, what happens in the minds of very young, pre-verbal children is elusive. But over the last...Show More

Calvinism

42:02 | Feb 25th, 2010

Melvyn Bragg and guests Justin Champion, Susan Hardman Moore and Diarmaid MacCulloch discuss the ideas of the religious reformer John Calvin - the theology known as Calvinism, or Reformed Protestantism - and its impact. John Calvin, a Frenchman exil...Show More

The Indian Mutiny

42:17 | Feb 18th, 2010

Melvyn Bragg and guests Faisal Devji, Shruti Kapila and Chandrika Kaul discuss the Indian Mutiny of 1857 and the rebellion which followed.On 10th May 1857 Indian soldiers from the Bengal section of the East India Company's army rose up and shot their...Show More

Mathematics' Unintended Consequences

41:54 | Feb 11th, 2010

Melvyn Bragg and guests John Barrow, Colva Roney-Dougal and Marcus du Sautoy explore the unintended consequences of mathematical discoveries, from the computer to online encryption, to alternating current and predicting the path of asteroids.In his b...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

Silas Marner

42:15 | Jan 28th, 2010

Melvyn Bragg and guests Rosemary Ashton, Dinah Birch and Valentine Cunningham discuss George Eliot's novel Silas Marner.Published in 1861, Silas Marner is by far Eliot's shortest and seemingly simplest work. Yet beneath the fairytale-like structure, ...Show More

The Glencoe Massacre

42:08 | Jan 21st, 2010

Melvyn Bragg and guests Karin Bowie, Murray Pittock and Daniel Szechi discuss the Glencoe Massacre of 1692, why it happened, and its lasting repercussions.On a winter night in 1692, a company of soldiers quartered with the MacDonalds of Glencoe rose ...Show More

The Frankfurt School

42:03 | Jan 14th, 2010

Melvyn Bragg and guests Raymond Geuss, Esther Leslie and Jonathan Rée discuss the Frankfurt School.This group of influential left-wing German thinkers set out, in the wake of Germany's defeat in the First World War, to investigate why their country ...Show More

The Royal Society and British Science: Episode 4

41:46 | Jan 7th, 2010

As part of the BBC's year of science programming, Melvyn Bragg looks at the history of the oldest scientific learned society of them all: the Royal Society. The horrors of the First World War were a shocking indictment of the power of science. Pickin...Show More

The Royal Society and British Science: Episode 3

42:06 | Jan 6th, 2010

As part of the BBC's year of science programming, Melvyn Bragg looks at the history of the oldest scientific learned society of them all: the Royal Society. The 19th century blooms scientifically with numerous alternative, specialist learned societie...Show More

The Royal Society and British Science: Episode 2

41:53 | Jan 5th, 2010

As part of the BBC's year of science programming, Melvyn Bragg looks at the history of the oldest scientific learned society of them all: the Royal Society. Programme two begins in the coffee house Isaac Newton and the fellows of the early 18th centu...Show More

The Royal Society and British Science: Episode 1

42:04 | Jan 4th, 2010

As part of the BBC's year of science programming, Melvyn Bragg looks at the history of the oldest scientific learned society of them all: the Royal Society. Melvyn travels to Wadham College, Oxford, where under the shadow of the English Civil War, th...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 Samurai

42:05 | Dec 24th, 2009

Melvyn Bragg and guests Gregory Irvine, Nicola Liscutin and Angus Lockyer discuss the history of the Samurai and the role of their myth in Japanese national identity.The Samurai have a fearsome historical reputation as a suicidally brave caste of Jap...Show More