In Our Time: History

In Our Time: History

www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01dh5yg
Historical themes, events and key individuals from Akhenaten to Xenophon.


Doggerland
Jun 27 • 54 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the people, plants and animals once living on land now under the North Sea, now called Doggerland after Dogger Bank, inhabited up to c7000BC or roughly 3000 years before the beginnings of Stonehenge. There are traces of…
The Mytilenaean Debate
Jun 20 • 54 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss why Athenians decided to send a fast ship to Lesbos in 427BC, rowing through the night to catch one they sent the day before. That earlier ship had instructions to kill all adult men in Mytilene, after their unsuccessul…
The Inca
Jun 13 • 52 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how the people of Cusco, in modern Peru, established an empire along the Andes down to the Pacific under their supreme leader Pachacuti. Before him, their control grew slowly from C13th and was at its peak after him when…
President Ulysses S Grant
May 30 • 55 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the impact of Grant’s presidency on Americans in the years after the Civil War in which he, with Lincoln, had led the Union Army to victory. His predecessor, Andrew Johnson, was prepared to let the Southern States decide…
The Gordon Riots
May 2 • 50 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the most destructive riots in London’s history, which reached their peak on 7th June 1780 as troops fired on the crowd outside the Bank of England. The leader was Lord George Gordon, head of the Protestant Association, who…
Nero
Apr 25 • 51 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life of Nero (37-68 AD) who became Emperor at the age of 16. At first he was largely praised for his generosity yet became known for his debauched lifestyle, with allegations he started the Fire of Rome, watching the…
The Great Irish Famine
Apr 4 • 57 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss why the potato crop failures in the 1840s had such a catastrophic impact in Ireland. It is estimated that one million people died from disease or starvation after the blight and another two million left the country within…
The Danelaw
Mar 28 • 50 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the effective partition of England in the 880s after a century of Viking raids, invasions and settlements. Alfred of Wessex, the surviving Anglo-Saxon king and Guthrum, a Danish ruler, had fought each other to a stalemate…
William Cecil
Mar 7 • 51 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the impact on the British Isles of William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, the most poweful man in the court of Elizabeth I. He was both praised and attacked for his flexibility, adapting to the reigns of Protestant and Catholic…
Antarah ibn Shaddad
Feb 28 • 49 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life, works, context and legacy of Antarah (525-608AD), the great poet and warrior. According to legend, he was born a slave; his mother was an Ethiopian slave, his father an elite Arab cavalryman. Antarah won his…
Owain Glyndwr
Jan 31 • 48 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life of the Welsh nobleman, also known as Owen Glendower, who began a revolt against Henry IV in 1400 which was at first very successful. Glyndwr (c1359-c1415) adopted the title Prince of Wales and established a…
The Poor Laws
Dec 20, 2018 • 50 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how, from 1834, poor people across England and Wales faced new obstacles when they could no longer feed or clothe themselves, or find shelter. Parliament, in line with the ideas of Jeremy Bentham and Thomas Malthus, feared…
The Thirty Years War
Dec 6, 2018 • 50 min
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…
The Long March
Nov 29, 2018 • 50 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss a foundation story for China as it was reshaped under Mao Zedong. In October 1934, around ninety thousand soldiers of the Red Army broke out of a siege in Jiangxi in the south east of the country, hoping to find a place to…
Horace
Nov 15, 2018 • 48 min
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 the…
Marie Antoinette
Nov 8, 2018 • 49 min
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 Prussia…
The Fable of the Bees
Oct 25, 2018 • 50 min
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 presented an…
Is Shakespeare History? The Romans
Oct 18, 2018 • 48 min
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,…
Is Shakespeare History? The Plantagenets
Oct 11, 2018 • 51 min
In the first of two programmes marking In Our Time’s 20th anniversary on 15th October, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Shakespeare’s versions of history, starting with the English Plantagenets. His eight plays from Richard II to Richard III were written…
The Mexican-American War
Jun 28, 2018 • 49 min
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 of…
Montesquieu
Jun 14, 2018 • 49 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas of Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu (1689-1755) whose works on liberty, monarchism, despotism, republicanism and the separation of powers were devoured by intellectuals across Europe…
Persepolis
Jun 7, 2018 • 51 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the role of the great ‘City of the Persians’ founded by Darius I as the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire that stretched from the Indus Valley to Egypt and the coast of the Black Sea. It was known as the richest…
Margaret of Anjou
May 24, 2018 • 50 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the most remarkable queens of the Middle Ages who took control when her husband, Henry VI, was incapable. Margaret of Anjou (1430-1482) wanted Henry to stay in power for the sake of their son, the heir to the throne,…
The Emancipation of the Serfs
May 17, 2018 • 49 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the 1861 declaration by Tsar Alexander II that serfs were now legally free of their landlords. Until then, over a third of Russians were tied to the land on which they lived and worked and in practice there was little to…
The Almoravid Empire
May 3, 2018 • 49 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Berber people who grew to dominate the western Maghreb, founded Marrakesh and took control of Al-Andalus. They were desert people, wearing veils over their faces to keep out the sand, and they wanted a simpler form of…
Roman Slavery
Apr 5, 2018 • 50 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the role of slavery in the Roman world, from its early conquests to the fall of the Western Empire. The system became so entrenched that no-one appeared to question it, following Aristotle’s view that slavery was a natural…
Tocqueville: Democracy in America
Mar 22, 2018 • 50 min
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…
The Highland Clearances
Mar 8, 2018 • 51 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how and why Highlanders and Islanders were cleared from their homes in waves in C18th and C19th, following the break up of the Clans after the Battle of Culloden. Initially, landlords tried to keep people on their estates…
Sun Tzu and The Art of War
Mar 1, 2018 • 48 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas attributed to Sun Tzu (544-496BC, according to tradition), a legendary figure from the beginning of the Iron Age in China, around the time of Confucius. He may have been the historical figure Sun Wu, a military…
Frederick Douglass
Feb 8, 2018 • 52 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and ideas of Frederick Douglass, who was born into slavery in Maryland in 1818 and, once he had escaped, became one of that century’s most prominent abolitionists. He was such a good orator, his opponents doubted…
The Siege of Malta, 1565
Jan 11, 2018 • 49 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the event of which Voltaire, two hundred years later, said ‘nothing was more well known’. In 1565, Suleiman the Magnificent, the Ottoman leader, sent a great fleet west to lay siege to Malta and capture it for his empire.…
Thomas Becket
Dec 14, 2017 • 52 min
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…
Thebes
Nov 23, 2017 • 46 min
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…
The Picts
Nov 9, 2017 • 56 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss The Picts and, to mark our twentieth season, that discussion takes place in front of a student audience at the University of Glasgow, many of them studying this topic. According to Bede writing c731AD, the Picts, with the…
Picasso’s Guernica
Nov 2, 2017 • 54 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the context and impact of Pablo Picasso’s iconic work, created soon after the bombing on 26th April 1937 that obliterated much of the Basque town of Guernica, and its people. The attack was carried out by warplanes of the…
The Congress of Vienna
Oct 19, 2017 • 48 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the conference convened by the victorious powers of the Napoleonic Wars and the earlier French Revolutionary Wars, which had devastated so much of Europe over the last 25 years. The powers aimed to create a long lasting…
Constantine the Great
Oct 5, 2017 • 48 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life, reputation and impact of Constantine I, known as Constantine the Great (c280s -337AD). Born in modern day Serbia and proclaimed Emperor by his army in York in 306AD, Constantine became the first Roman Emperor to…
The American Populists
Jun 15, 2017 • 49 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss what, in C19th America’s Gilded Age, was one of the most significant protest movements since the Civil War with repercussions well into C20th. Farmers in the South and Midwest felt ignored by the urban and industrial elites…
The Battle of Lincoln 1217
May 4, 2017 • 53 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss The Battle of Lincoln on 20th May 1217, when two armies fought to keep, or to win, the English crown. This was a struggle between the Angevin and Capetian dynasties, one that followed Capetian successes over the Angevins in…
The Egyptian Book of the Dead
Apr 27, 2017 • 46 min
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…
Roger Bacon
Apr 20, 2017 • 50 min
The 13th-century English philosopher Roger Bacon is perhaps best known for his major work the Opus Maius. Commissioned by Pope Clement IV, this extensive text covered a multitude of topics from mathematics and optics to religion and moral philosophy. He…
Rosa Luxemburg
Apr 13, 2017 • 50 min
Melvyn Bragg discusses the life and times of Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919), ‘Red Rosa’, who was born in Poland under the Russian Empire and became one of the leading revolutionaries in an age of revolution. She was jailed for agitation and for her campaign…
The Battle of Salamis
Mar 23, 2017 • 50 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss what is often called one of the most significant battles in history. In 480BC in the Saronic Gulf near Athens, between the mainland and the island of Salamis, a fleet of Greek allies decisively defeated a larger Persian-led…
Seneca the Younger
Feb 23, 2017 • 51 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Seneca the Younger, who was one of the first great writers to live his entire life in the world of the new Roman empire, after the fall of the Republic. He was a Stoic philosopher, he wrote blood-soaked tragedies, he was an…
Mary, Queen of Scots
Jan 19, 2017 • 52 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of Mary, Queen of Scots, who had potential to be one of the most powerful rulers in Europe, yet she was also one of the most vulnerable. In France, when she was the teenage bride to their future king, she was…
Johannes Kepler
Dec 29, 2016 • 48 min
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…
The Gin Craze
Dec 15, 2016 • 52 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the craze for gin in Britain in the mid 18th Century and the attempts to control it. With the arrival of William of Orange, it became an act of loyalty to drink Protestant, Dutch gin rather than Catholic brandy, and changes…
Harriet Martineau
Dec 8, 2016 • 51 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Harriet Martineau who, from a non-conformist background in Norwich, became one of the best known writers in the C19th. She had a wide range of interests and used a new, sociological method to observe the world around her,…
Garibaldi and the Risorgimento
Dec 1, 2016 • 49 min
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…
Baltic Crusades
Nov 24, 2016 • 46 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Baltic Crusades, the name given to a series of overlapping attempts to convert the pagans of North East Europe to Christianity at the point of the sword. From the 12th Century, Papal Bulls endorsed those who fought on…
Justinian’s Legal Code
Nov 17, 2016 • 47 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas brought together under Justinian I, Byzantine emperor in the 6th century AD, which were rediscovered in Western Europe in the Middle Ages and became very influential in the development of laws in many European…
The Fighting Temeraire
Nov 10, 2016 • 45 min
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 the most…
Epic of Gilgamesh
Nov 3, 2016 • 46 min
“He who saw the Deep” are the first words of the standard version of The Epic of Gilgamesh, the subject of this discussion between Melvyn Bragg and his guests. Gilgamesh is often said to be the oldest surviving great work of literature, with origins in…
John Dalton
Oct 27, 2016 • 45 min
The scientist John Dalton was born in North England in 1766. Although he came from a relatively poor Quaker family, he managed to become one of the most celebrated scientists of his age. Through his work, he helped to establish Manchester as a place where…
The 12th Century Renaissance
Oct 20, 2016 • 49 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the changes in the intellectual world of Western Europe in the 12th Century, and their origins. This was a time of Crusades, the formation of states, the start of Gothic architecture, a reconnection with Roman and Greek…
The Bronze Age Collapse
Jun 16, 2016 • 47 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss The Bronze Age Collapse, the name given by many historians to what appears to have been a sudden, uncontrolled destruction of dominant civilizations around 1200 BC in the Aegean, Eastern Mediterranean and Anatolia. Among…
Margery Kempe and English Mysticism
Jun 2, 2016 • 44 min
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…
The Gettysburg Address
May 26, 2016 • 48 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, ten sentences long, delivered at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg after the Union forces had won an important battle with the Confederates. Opening with ”…
Titus Oates and his ‘Popish Plot’
May 12, 2016 • 49 min
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…
1816, the Year Without a Summer
Apr 21, 2016 • 45 min
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…
The Sikh Empire
Apr 7, 2016 • 44 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the rise of the Sikh Empire at the end of the 18th Century under Ranjit Singh, pictured above, who unified most of the Sikh kingdoms following the decline of the Mughal Empire. He became Maharaja of the Punjab at Lahore in…
Agrippina the Younger
Mar 31, 2016 • 46 min
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…
Bedlam
Mar 17, 2016 • 46 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the early years of Bedlam, the name commonly used for the London hospital of St Mary of Bethlehem outside Bishopsgate, described in 1450 by the Lord Mayor of London as a place where may “be found many men that be fallen out…
The Maya Civilization
Mar 10, 2016 • 46 min
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…
The Dutch East India Company
Mar 3, 2016 • 46 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie or VOC, known in English as the Dutch East India Company. The VOC dominated the spice trade between Asia and Europe for two hundred years, with the British East India Company a distant…
Eleanor of Aquitaine
Jan 28, 2016 • 44 min
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…
Thomas Paine’s Common Sense
Jan 21, 2016 • 45 min
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 hundred…
The Salem Witch Trials
Nov 26, 2015 • 45 min
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 after…
The Battle of Lepanto
Nov 12, 2015 • 48 min
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 of…
The Empire of Mali
Oct 29, 2015 • 47 min
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 flow of…
Holbein at the Tudor Court
Oct 15, 2015 • 46 min
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 portraits of…
Alexander the Great
Oct 1, 2015 • 47 min
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 peak,…
Frederick the Great
Jul 2, 2015 • 48 min
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…
Prester John
Jun 4, 2015 • 44 min
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 enormous…
Josephus
May 21, 2015 • 45 min
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 apparently…
The Lancashire Cotton Famine
May 14, 2015 • 45 min
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 the…
Tagore
May 7, 2015 • 46 min
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…
Matteo Ricci and the Ming Dynasty
Apr 16, 2015 • 45 min
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 Dynasty…
The California Gold Rush
Apr 2, 2015 • 45 min
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…
The Curies
Mar 26, 2015 • 47 min
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 a…
The Eunuch
Feb 26, 2015 • 46 min
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 ancient…
The Wealth of Nations
Feb 19, 2015 • 46 min
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…
Ashoka the Great
Feb 5, 2015 • 46 min
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 conquest he…
Thucydides
Jan 29, 2015 • 45 min
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 the…
Brunel
Nov 13, 2014 • 44 min
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 innovation in…
Hatshepsut
Nov 6, 2014 • 45 min
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 came…
The Haitian Revolution
Oct 23, 2014 • 46 min
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 turned…
The Battle of Talas
Oct 9, 2014 • 45 min
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 although…
Julius Caesar
Oct 2, 2014 • 46 min
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 and…
Hildegard of Bingen
Jun 26, 2014 • 44 min
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…
The Bluestockings
Jun 5, 2014 • 46 min
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 to…
The Sino-Japanese War
May 8, 2014 • 46 min
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 major…
The Domesday Book
Apr 17, 2014 • 47 min
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 territories to…
Strabo’s Geographica
Apr 10, 2014 • 47 min
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 time.…
Weber’s The Protestant Ethic
Mar 27, 2014 • 50 min
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…
Spartacus
Mar 6, 2014 • 41 min
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 the…
Chivalry
Feb 13, 2014 • 42 min
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 different…
The Phoenicians
Feb 6, 2014 • 41 min
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 word for…
Sources of Early Chinese History
Jan 23, 2014 • 42 min
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 bones or…
The Battle of Tours
Jan 16, 2014 • 42 min
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…
Plato’s Symposium
Jan 2, 2014 • 42 min
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…
The Medici
Dec 26, 2013 • 42 min
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 through…
Pliny the Younger
Dec 12, 2013 • 41 min
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.…
Pocahontas
Nov 21, 2013 • 41 min
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 the…
The Berlin Conference
Oct 31, 2013 • 42 min
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 1884…
The Corn Laws
Oct 24, 2013 • 41 min
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 class.…
The Mamluks
Sep 26, 2013 • 42 min
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…
The Physiocrats
Jun 20, 2013 • 42 min
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 constrained…
Queen Zenobia
May 30, 2013 • 42 min
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, she…
The Putney Debates
Apr 18, 2013 • 41 min
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 Putney…
Alfred Russel Wallace
Mar 21, 2013 • 42 min
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 later…
Ice Ages
Feb 14, 2013 • 42 min
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…
The War of 1812
Jan 31, 2013 • 42 min
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…
The South Sea Bubble
Dec 20, 2012 • 41 min
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 government…
The Borgias
Nov 22, 2012 • 41 min
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-known…
Hannibal
Oct 11, 2012 • 42 min
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 attack…
Gerald of Wales
Oct 4, 2012 • 42 min
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…
The Druids
Sep 20, 2012 • 42 min
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…
Hadrian’s Wall
Jul 12, 2012 • 42 min
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 as a…
Annie Besant
Jun 21, 2012 • 41 min
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…
The An Lushan Rebellion
Feb 16, 2012 • 42 min
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…
1848: Year of Revolution
Jan 19, 2012 • 41 min
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…
The Ming Voyages
Oct 13, 2011 • 42 min
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 over…
The Minoan Civilisation
Jul 7, 2011 • 42 min
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 mythical…
The Battle of Stamford Bridge
Jun 2, 2011 • 42 min
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. But…
Xenophon
May 26, 2011 • 42 min
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 his…
Custer’s Last Stand
May 19, 2011 • 42 min
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 Sioux…
Octavia Hill
Apr 7, 2011 • 42 min
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…
The Iron Age
Mar 24, 2011 • 41 min
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…
The Medieval University
Mar 17, 2011 • 41 min
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 similar…
The Taiping Rebellion
Feb 24, 2011 • 41 min
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, gathering…
The Battle of Bannockburn
Feb 2, 2011 • 42 min
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…
The Mexican Revolution
Jan 20, 2011 • 42 min
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…
Consequences of the Industrial Revolution
Dec 30, 2010 • 42 min
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…
The Industrial Revolution
Dec 22, 2010 • 42 min
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: over…
Cleopatra
Dec 2, 2010 • 42 min
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 with the…
The Volga Vikings
Nov 11, 2010 • 42 min
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…
The Spanish Armada
Oct 7, 2010 • 42 min
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 King,…
The Delphic Oracle
Sep 30, 2010 • 42 min
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 800…
Pliny’s Natural History
Jul 8, 2010 • 42 min
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 knowledge…
Athelstan
Jul 1, 2010 • 42 min
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 styled…
The Neanderthals
Jun 17, 2010 • 42 min
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 similar…
Edmund Burke
Jun 3, 2010 • 42 min
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…
The Great Wall of China
Apr 29, 2010 • 41 min
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 Great…
The Zulu Nation’s Rise and Fall
Apr 15, 2010 • 42 min
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 limited…
The City - a history, part 2
Apr 1, 2010 • 42 min
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 spring…
The City - a history, part 1
Mar 25, 2010 • 42 min
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 in the…
Boudica
Mar 11, 2010 • 42 min
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 that I…
The Indian Mutiny
Feb 18, 2010 • 42 min
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…
Ibn Khaldun
Feb 4, 2010 • 42 min
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 having…
The Glencoe Massacre
Jan 21, 2010 • 42 min
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 early…
Mary Wollstonecraft
Dec 31, 2009 • 41 min
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 sank…
The Samurai
Dec 24, 2009 • 42 min
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 Japanese…
The Silk Road
Dec 3, 2009 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests Tim Barrett, Naomi Standen and Frances Wood discuss the Silk Road, the trade routes which spanned Asia for over a thousand years, carrying Buddhism to China and paper-making and gunpowder westwards.In 1900, a Taoist monk came upon…
Sparta
Nov 19, 2009 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests Paul Cartledge, Edith Hall and Angie Hobbs discuss Sparta, the militaristic Ancient Greek city-state, and the political ideas it spawned.The isolated Ancient Greek city-state of Sparta was a ferocious opposite to the cosmopolitan…
The Siege of Munster
Nov 5, 2009 • 41 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests Diarmaid MacCulloch, Lucy Wooding and Charlotte Methuen discuss the Siege of Munster in 1534-35.In the early 16th century, the Protestant Reformation revolutionised Christian belief. But one radical group of believers stood out.…
The Death of Elizabeth I
Oct 15, 2009 • 41 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests John Guy, Clare Jackson and Helen Hackett discuss the death of Queen Elizabeth I and its immediate impact, as a foreign monarch became King in the face of plots and plague.By the spring of 1603, Elizabeth had been Queen for 44…
The Dreyfus Affair
Oct 8, 2009 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests Robert Gildea, Ruth Harris and Robert Tombs discuss the Dreyfus Affair, the 1890s scandal which divided opinion in France for a generation.In 1894, a high-flying Jewish staff officer in the French Army, one Alfred Dreyfus, was…
Akhenaten
Oct 1, 2009 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests Elizabeth Frood, Richard Parkinson and Kate Spence discuss the Pharaoh Akhenaten, the ruler who brought revolutionary change to ancient Egypt. During his reign, Akhenaten embarked on a profoundly radical project: he set out to…
The Augustan Age
Jun 11, 2009 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests Mary Beard, Catharine Edwards and Duncan Kennedy discuss the political regime and cultural influence of the Roman Emperor Augustus. Called the Augustan Age, it was a golden age of literature with Virgil’s Aeneid and Ovid’s…
The Trial of Charles I
Jun 4, 2009 • 41 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests Justin Champion, Diane Purkiss and David Wootton discuss the trial of Charles I, recounting the high drama in Westminster Hall and the ideas that led to the execution.Begun on 20th January 1649, the trial culminated in the…
The Siege of Vienna
May 14, 2009 • 41 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests Andrew Wheatcroft, Claire Norton and Jeremy Black discuss the Ottoman siege of Vienna in 1683, when the Ottoman Empire tried to capture the capital city of the Hapsburg monarchs. The ensuing tale of blood and drama helped define…
The Magna Carta
May 7, 2009 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests Nicholas Vincent, David Carpenter and Michael Clanchy discuss the Magna Carta, the oft-proclaimed foundation of English liberties.The Magna Carta has been cited ever since its issue in 1215 as a foundation stone of English…
The Building of St Petersburg
Apr 23, 2009 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the building of St Petersburg, Peter the Great’s showcase city for a modern, European Russia. It is a city of ideas. of progress and the Baroque, of Russian identity and Tsarist power. The building of St Petersburg is a…
Suffragism
Apr 16, 2009 • 41 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests Krista Cowman, June Purvis and Julia Bush discuss suffragism, a name for the various movements to get the vote for women in the 19th and early-20th century. On the 4th June 1913 the Epsom Derby was underway. King George V was there…
The Boxer Rebellion
Mar 19, 2009 • 42 min
In the hot summer of 1900, Peking, the capital of China, was under heavy siege. But the surrounding forces were not foreign, they were Chinese. This was the Boxer Rebellion, the moment when the ‘Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists’, known as the…
The Library of Alexandria
Mar 12, 2009 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Library at Alexandria. Founded by King Ptolemy in the 3rd century BC the library was the first attempt to collect all the knowledge of the ancient world in one place. Scholars including Archimedes and Euclid came to…
Carthage’s Destruction
Feb 12, 2009 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Destruction of Carthage. The North African city of Carthage was rich and powerful, but in the second century BC it suffered a terrible fate. The Greek historian Appian wrote about it: “Then came new scenes of horror. As…
History of History
Jan 22, 2009 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how the writing of history has changed over time, from ancient epics to medieval hagiographies and modern deconstructions. In the 6th century AD, the bishop of Tours began his history of the world with a simple observation…
Thoreau and the American Idyll
Jan 15, 2009 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the 19th century American writer and philosopher, Henry David Thoreau. Anti-slavery activist and passionate environmentalist, Thoreau was above all a champion of self-reliance and individualism. He was also a champion of…
The Great Reform Act
Nov 27, 2008 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Great Reform Act of 1832. The Act redrew the map of British politics in the wake of the Industrial Revolution and is a landmark in British political history.“We must get the suffrage, we must get votes, that we may send…
The Fire of London
Nov 11, 2008 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss The Great Fire of London which destroyed up to a third of the city in 1666. Samuel Pepys described the scene in his diary:“all over the Thames, with one’s face in the wind, you were almost burned with a shower of…
Bolivar
Oct 30, 2008 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and times of Simon Bolivar, hero of the revolutionary wars that liberated Spanish America from Spain. In 1804 Bolivar stood on a small hill in Rome and made a grand declaration. He said, “I swear before you, I…
Tacitus and the Decadence of Rome
Jul 10, 2008 • 41 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Roman historian Tacitus who chronicled some of Rome’s most notorious emperors, including Nero and Caligula, and whose portrayal of Roman decadence influences the way we see Rome today. “The story I now commence is rich…
The Arab Conquests
Jun 26, 2008 • 41 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Arab conquests - an extraordinary period in the 7th and 8th centuries when the tribes of the Arabian Peninsula conquered the Middle East, Persia, North Africa and Southern Europe and spread the ideas of the Islamic…
The Riddle of the Sands
Jun 12, 2008 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discusses the prescient thriller ‘The Riddle of the Sands’ about the decline Anglo-German relations before the First World War. In 1903 an Englishman called Charles Caruthers went sailing in the North Sea and stumbled upon a German…
The Black Death
May 22, 2008 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how the Black Death influenced the structure and ideas of Medieval Europe. In October 1347, a Genoese trading ship arrived at the busy port of Messina in Sicily and docked among many similar ships doing similar things. But…
The Enclosures of the 18th Century
May 1, 2008 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the enclosure movement of the 18th and 19th centuries. In the early 19th century, the Northamptonshire poet John Clare took a good look at the countryside and didn’t like what he saw. He wrote: “Fence meeting fence in…
The Norman Yoke
Apr 10, 2008 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss ‘the Norman Yoke’ – the idea that the Battle of Hastings sparked years of cruel oppression for the Anglo Saxons by a Norman ruling class. ‘Norman saw on English oak,On English neck a Norman yoke;Norman spoon in English…
The Dissolution of the Monasteries
Mar 27, 2008 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Henry VIII and the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Was Henry’s decision to destroy monastic culture in this country a tyrannical act of grand larceny or the pious destruction of a corrupt institution? When he was an old…
The Statue of Liberty
Feb 14, 2008 • 41 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Statue of Liberty.”Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”. With these words, inscribed inside her pedestal, the Statue of Liberty has welcomed immigrants to America since 1903. But…
Rudolph II
Jan 31, 2008 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the coterie of brilliant thinkers gathered in 16th century Prague by the melancholic emperor Rudolph II. In 1606 the Archdukes of Vienna declared: “His majesty is interested only in wizards, alchemists, Kabbalists and the…
The Charge of the Light Brigade
Jan 10, 2008 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Charge of the Light - an event of no military significance that has become iconic in the British historical imagination. On November 14th 1854 The Times newspaper reported on a minor cavalry skirmish in the Crimean War:…
The Sassanid Empire
Dec 13, 2007 • 41 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Sassanian Empire. Founded around 226 AD, in Persia, the Sassanian Empire lasted over 400 years as a grand imperial rival to Rome. In modern day Iran, just down the road from the ancient Persian capital of Persepolis,…
The Divine Right of Kings
Oct 11, 2007 • 41 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Divine Right of Kings. In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the character Malcolm describes the magical healing powers of the king: “How he solicits heaven, Himself best knows; but strangely-visited people, All swoln and ulcerous,…
The Pilgrim Fathers
Jul 5, 2007 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Pilgrim Fathers and their 1620 voyage to the New World on the Mayflower. Every year on the fourth Thursday in November, Americans go home to their families and sit down to a meal. It’s called Thanksgiving and it echoes…
The Siege of Orléans
May 24, 2007 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Siege of Orléans, when Joan of Arc came to the rescue of France and routed the English army with the help of God. The perfidious English then burnt her as a heretic in Rouen marketplace. At least that’s the story we’re…
The Opium Wars
Apr 12, 2007 • 41 min
Melvyn Bragg discusses the Opium Wars, a series of conflicts in the 19th Century which had a profound effect on British Chinese relations for generations. Thomas De Quincey describes the pleasures of opium like this: “Thou hast the keys of Paradise, O…
Bismarck
Mar 22, 2007 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the original Iron Chancellor, Otto Von Bismarck. One of Europe’s leading statesmen in the 19th Century he is credited with unifying Germany under the military might of his home state of Prussia. An enthusiastic…
Genghis Khan
Feb 1, 2007 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Genghis Khan. Born Temujin in the 12th Century, he was cast out by his tribe when just a child and left to struggle for survival on the harsh Steppes of what is now Mongolia. From these beginnings he went on to become…
Constantinople Siege and Fall
Dec 28, 2006 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the siege of Constantinople in 1453. When Sultan Mehmet the Second rode into the city of Constantinople on a white horse in 1453, it marked the end of a thousand years of the Byzantine Empire. After holding out for 53 days,…
The Peasants’ Revolt
Nov 16, 2006 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. “When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the Gentleman?” these are the opening words of a rousing sermon, said to be by John Ball, which fires a broadside at the deeply hierarchical nature…
The Needham Question
Oct 19, 2006 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Needham Question; why Europe and not China developed modern technology. What do these things have in common? Fireworks, wood-block printing, canal lock-gates, kites, the wheelbarrow, chain suspension bridges and the…
The Diet of Worms
Oct 12, 2006 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Diet of Worms, an event that helped trigger the European Reformation. Nestled on a bend of the River Rhine, in the South West corner of Germany, is the City of Worms. It’s one of the oldest cities in central Europe; it…
The Spanish Inquisition
Jun 22, 2006 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Spanish Inquisition, the defenders of medieval orthodoxy. The word ‘Inquisition’ has its roots in the Latin word ‘inquisito’ which means inquiry. The Romans used the inquisitorial process as a form of legal procedure…
Astronomy and Empire
May 4, 2006 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the relationship between astronomy and the British Empire. The 18th century explorer and astronomer James Cook wrote: ‘Ambition leads me not only farther than any other man has been before me, but as far as I think it…
The Great Exhibition of 1851
Apr 27, 2006 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the 1851 Great Exhibition. “Its grandeur does not consist in one thing, but in the unique assemblage of all things. Whatever human industry has created you find there. It seems as if only magic could have gathered this mass…
The Carolingian Renaissance
Mar 30, 2006 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne and the Carolingian Renaissance. In 800 AD on Christmas Day in Rome, Pope Leo III proclaimed Charlemagne Emperor. According to the Frankish historian Einhard, Charlemagne would never have…
Catherine the Great
Feb 23, 2006 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Catherine the Great. In Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery hangs perhaps the most well-known picture of Russia’s most well-known ruler. Dimitri Levitsky’s 1780 ‘Portrait of Catherine the Great in the Justice Temple’ depicts…
The Abbasid Caliphs
Feb 2, 2006 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Abbasid Caliphs, dynastic rulers of the Islamic world from the mid eighth to the tenth century. They headed a Muslim empire that extended from Tunisia through Egypt, Syria, Arabia, and Persia to Uzbekistan and the…
The Oath
Jan 5, 2006 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the importance of the oath in ancient Greece and Rome, The importance of oaths in the Classical world cannot be overstated. Kings, citizens, soldiers, litigants all swore oaths, inviting divine retribution if they proved…
The Peterloo Massacre
Dec 15, 2005 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Peterloo Massacre in 1819, a defining moment of its age. In 1819 Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote: ‘I met Murder on the way He had a mask like Castlereagh Very smooth he looked, yet grim; Seven blood-hounds followed him: All…
Greyfriars and Blackfriars
Nov 10, 2005 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the religious orders of the Dominicans and the Franciscans, known as the Blackfriars and Greyfriars. “Just as it is better to light up others than to shine alone, it is better to share the fruits of one’s contemplation with…
The Field of the Cloth of Gold
Oct 6, 2005 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Field of the Cloth of Gold, an extraordinary international party. In the spring of 1520 six thousand Englishmen and women packed their bags and followed their King across the sea to France. They weren’t part of an…
The French Revolution’s reign of terror
May 26, 2005 • 41 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the reign of terror during the French Revolution. On Monday September 10th 1792 The Times of London carried a story covering events in revolutionary France: “The streets of Paris, strewed with the carcases of the mangled…
Archaeology and Imperialism
Apr 14, 2005 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the link between archaeology and imperialism. In 1842 a young English adventurer called Austen Henry Layard set out to excavate what he hoped were the remains of the biblical city of Nineveh in Mesopotamia. On arrival he…
Alfred and the Battle of Edington
Apr 7, 2005 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss King Alfred and the defeat of the Vikings at Battle of Edington. At the end of the 9th century the Vikings controlled almost all of what we now call England. Mercia had fallen and its king had fled, Northumbria had fallen…
Tsar Alexander II’s assassination
Jan 6, 2005 • 41 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the assassination of Tsar Alexander II. On 1st March 1881, the Russian Tsar, Alexander II, was travelling through the snow to the Winter Palace in St Petersburg. An armed Cossack sat with the coach driver, another six…
The Roman Republic
Dec 30, 2004 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the rise and eventual downfall of the Roman Republic which survived for 500 years.Around 550 BC, Lucretia, the daughter of an aristocrat, was raped by the son of Tarquin, the King of Rome. Lucretia told her family what had…
Machiavelli and the Italian City States
Dec 9, 2004 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the political philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli. In The Prince, Machiavelli’s great manual of power, he wrote, “since men love as they themselves determine but fear as their ruler determines, a wise prince must rely upon what…
Agincourt
Sep 16, 2004 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Battle of Agincourt.”Owre kynge went forth to Normandy, With grace and myyt of chivalry; The God for hym wrouyt marvelously, Wherefore Englonde may calle, and cry Deo gratias: Deo gratias redde pro victoria.” The great…
Washington and the American Revolution
Jun 24, 2004 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the first President of the US, George Washington, and the people and ideas that caused the American Revolution. In 1774 a tobacco farmer from Virginia with nice manners and a quiet lifestyle was moved to put himself forward…
Babylon
Jun 3, 2004 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the truth about Babylon. Six thousand years ago, between the Tigris and the Euphrates, the first cities were being built. The great empire to spring from the region was Babylon, which held sway for over a thousand years and…
Heroism
May 6, 2004 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss what defines a hero and what place they had in classical society. On the fields of Troy a fallen soldier pleaded with Achilles, the great hero of the Greeks, to spare his life. According to Homer, Achilles replied, “Do you…
Tea
Apr 29, 2004 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss tea, the first truly global commodity. After air and water, tea is the most widely consumed substance on the planet and the British national drink. In this country it helped define class and gender, it funded wars and…
China’s Warring States period
Apr 1, 2004 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the astonishing productivity of the Chinese Golden Age. 400 BC to 200 AD is known as the Axial Age, when great civilisations in Asia and the Mediterranean forged the ideas that dominated the next two thousand years. In…
The Norse Gods
Mar 11, 2004 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Vikings’ myths. Thor’s huge hammer, the wailing Valkyrie, howling wolves and fierce elemental giants give a rowdy impression of the Norse myths. But at the centre of their cosmos stands a gnarled old Ash tree, from…
The Mughal Empire
Feb 25, 2004 • 27 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Mughal Empire which, at its height, stretched from Bengal in the East to Gujarat in the West, and from Lahore in the North to Madras in the South. It covered the whole of present day northern India, Pakistan,…
Thermopylae
Feb 5, 2004 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Battle of Thermopylae. For the historian Herodotus, the Battle of Thermopylae was the defining clash between East and West: “The Persians fell in their scores, for the officers stood behind lashing them forward, forward…
The Alphabet
Dec 18, 2003 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the feat of astonishing intellectual engineering which provides us with millions of words in hundreds of languages. At the start of the twentieth century, in the depths of an ancient Egyptian turquoise mine on the Sinai…
St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre
Nov 27, 2003 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the infamous St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. In Paris, in the high summer of 1572, a very unusual wedding was happening in the cathedral of Notre Dame. Henri, the young Huguenot King of Navarre, was marrying the King of…
Robin Hood
Oct 30, 2003 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the centuries old myth of the most romantic noble outlaw. The first printed version of the Robin Hood story begins like this:“Lithe and Lysten, gentylmen/That be of frebore blodeI shall tell of a good yeman/His name was…
The Schism
Oct 16, 2003 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss events surrounding the medieval division of the Christian Church. In 1054, Cardinal Humbert stormed into the Cathedral of Constantinople and charged down the aisle. In his hand was a Papal Bull – a deed of excommunication -…
The East India Company
Jun 23, 2003 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the private trading company that helped forge the British Empire. At its peak, its influence stretched from western India to eastern China via the farthest reaches of the Indonesian archipelago. It had a fleet of 130 twelve…
The Aristocracy
Jun 19, 2003 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the British aristocracy. The Greeks gave us the word aristocracy; it takes its root from ‘aristo’, meaning best and ‘kratos’, meaning rule or power. And for more than five hundred years Britain was ruled by a class that was…
The Art of War
Jun 12, 2003 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history and philosophy of warfare. The British historian Edward Gibbon wrote: “Every age, however destitute of science or virtue, sufficiently abounds with acts of blood and military renown.” War, it seems, is one of…
The Jacobite Rebellion
May 8, 2003 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discusses the Jacobite Rebellion. In the summer of 1745, a young man in a small French frigate landed on the West Coast of Scotland. It was Bonnie Prince Charlie who began his campaign to become king of Scotland and England. He had…
Roman Britain
May 1, 2003 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Romans in Britain. About 2000 years ago, Tacitus noted that “the climate is wretched”, Herodian said, “the atmosphere in the country is always gloomy”, Dio said “they live in tents unclothed and unshod, and share their…
The Spanish Civil War
Apr 3, 2003 • 41 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Spanish Civil War which was a defining war of the twentieth century. It was a brutal conflict that polarised Spain, pitting the Left against the Right, the anti-clericals against the Church, the unions against the…
The Aztecs
Feb 27, 2003 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Aztec Empire. According to legend, the origins of it lie on a mythical island called Aztlan - “place of the white herons” - in the north of Mexico. From there this nomadic group of Mesoamericans are said to have…
The Enlightenment in Scotland
Dec 5, 2002 • 27 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Scottish Enlightenment of the 18th century. In 1696 the Edinburgh student, Thomas Aitkenhead, claimed theology was “a rhapsody of feigned and ill invented nonsense”. He was hanged for his trouble - just one victim of a…
Architecture and Power
Oct 31, 2002 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the role which architecture has played in our public life throughout history, whether in homage to an individual or as a monument to an institution or ideology, has always been a potent symbol of wealth, status and power.…
Slavery and Empire
Oct 17, 2002 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss slavery and empire; two themes that run right through this country’s history. Britain’s imperial project dominated at least the last three centuries of our national life. Its advocates claim it was a civilising mission by…
Heritage
Jul 18, 2002 • 41 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the role history and heritage have played in the formation of the British national identity. Historians have often maintained a guarded relationship with the so-called ¨heritage industry¨, believing that it presents a…
Psychoanalysis and Democracy
Jul 11, 2002 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the impact of politics on psychoanalysis. The 20th century saw the birth and rise of psychoanalysis. Sigmund Freud led people to think about how the mind functioned and how our behaviour might be understood through the…
Cultural Imperialism
Jun 27, 2002 • 27 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how a dominant power can exert a cultural influence on its empire. An empire rests on many things: powerful armies, good administration and strong leadership, but perhaps its greatest weapon lies in the domain of culture.…
The American West
Jun 13, 2002 • 27 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the myths and harsh reality of the 19th century American pioneers. In 1845 the editor of The New York Morning News wrote that it was the “manifest destiny” of the United States “to overspread and to posses the whole of the…
Bohemia
Apr 11, 2002 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the medieval kingdom of Bohemia which was at the crossroads of Europe and, during the 15th century, at the heart of the Holy Roman Empire. Under Charles IV, its cosmopolitan capital Prague became a cultural and intellectual…
Marriage
Mar 21, 2002 • 41 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of marriage.‘To have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part.’ These marriage vows have been…
The Celts
Feb 21, 2002 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Celts. Around 400 BC a great swathe of Western Europe from Ireland to Southern Russia was dominated by one civilisation. Perched on the North Western fringe of this vast Iron Age culture were the British who shared many…
Food
Dec 27, 2001 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg explores the history of food in Modern Europe. The French philosopher of food Brillat-Savarin wrote in his Physiology of Taste, ‘The pleasures of the table belong to all times and all ages, to every country and to every day; they go hand in…
Rome and European Civilization
Dec 20, 2001 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg assesses the role Rome has played in European civilization. The myths that surround the foundation of Rome are a potent brew. Romulus and Remus, the sons of Mars, raised by a she-wolf in the woods of Latium, the Sabine women raped by the…
Third Crusade
Nov 29, 2001 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the highs and lows of the Third Crusade. In 1095 Pope Urban II launched the First Crusade and by the end of the 11th century an army of Franks had driven what they called the ‘infidel arab’ out of Jerusalem. The Crusaders…
The British Empire
Nov 8, 2001 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg examines the British Empire. It was officially created on 1st January 1877 when Disraeli had Queen Victoria proclaimed Empress of India, and it formally dissolved into the ‘Commonwealth’ in 1958. But imperial passions stirred in Britain long…
Confucius
Nov 1, 2001 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg examines the philosophy of Confucius. In the 5th century BC a wise man called Kung Fu Tzu said, ‘study the past if you would divine the future’. This powerful maxim helped form the body of ideas, which more than Buddhism, more than Daoism,…
Napoleon and Wellington
Oct 25, 2001 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the histories of Napoleon and the Duke of Wellington. On the morning of the battle of Waterloo Napoleon told his loyal lieutenants, “I tell you that Wellington is a bad general, that the English are bad troops and ce sera…
Democracy
Oct 18, 2001 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the origins of democracy. In the Gettysburg Address Abraham Lincoln called it “Government of the people, by the people, for the people”, but the word democracy appears nowhere in the American Constitution; the French…
Byzantium
Jul 19, 2001 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the culture, history and legacy of the eastern Byzantine Empire. In 453 with the Barbarians at the gate, through the gate and sacking the city of Rome “the wide arch of the ranged empire” finally began to fall…Or did it? In…
The French Revolution’s Legacy
Jun 14, 2001 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the French Revolution. In 1789 the Bastille was stormed, the King Louis XVI was put under national guard and the calendar was turned back to zero. The French Revolution began its upheavals in the name of Liberté, Egalité…
The Glorious Revolution
Apr 19, 2001 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the the Glorious Revolution. In 1688, with a fair wind behind him and no naval opposition in front, William of Orange and his Dutch fleet sailed safely into Torbay on the South coast and thus began a period of history known…
The Roman Empire’s Collapse in the 5th century
Apr 5, 2001 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the causes of the fall of the Roman Empire. Edward Gibbon wrote of its decline, “While that great body was invaded by open violence, or undermined by slow decay, a pure and humble religion gently insinuated itself into the…
Money
Mar 1, 2001 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the power of Money. In the Bible the Old Testament and the New Testament appear to agree about the power of money: Ecclesiastes says “Money answereth all things” and Timothy says “The love of money is the root of all evil”.…
The Restoration
Feb 15, 2001 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Restoration. On 29th May 1660, on his thirtieth birthday, Charles II rode into London on horseback and was restored to the thrones of England and Wales, of Scotland and of Ireland. A ‘golden age’ descended on a people…
Humanism
Feb 8, 2001 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Humanism. On the 3rd January 106 BC Marcus Tullius Cicero, lawyer, politician, Roman philosopher and the founding father of Humanism was born. His academy, the Studia Humanitas taught ‘the art of living well and blessedly…
The Enlightenment in Britain
Jan 18, 2001 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Enlightenment. In Germany it’s called Aufklarung, in France it’s the Siecle De Lumieres, and in Britain it’s called the Age of Enlightenment. It’s the period around the eighteenth century when an intellectual movement…
The Tudor State
Oct 26, 2000 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discusses the Tudor State. In 1485 Henry Tudor slew Richard III and routed his army at The Battle of Bosworth Field. It was a decisive victory which founded a bold new dynasty; and this date like 1789 and 1066 has been taken by…
Hitler in History
Oct 5, 2000 • 42 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how history has struggled to explain the enormity of the crimes committed in Germany under Adolf Hitler: we have had theories of ‘totalitarianism’, and of ‘distorted modernity’, debates between ‘intentionalists’ and their…
London
Sep 28, 2000 • 41 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of London. To T.S.Eliot it was the “Unreal City”, to Wordsworth “Earth has not anything to show more fair” but to Shelley, “Hell is a city much like London”. At the start of this twenty-first century the capital…
Biography
Jun 22, 2000 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss biography which sells more books now than ever before; last year people in this country spent 115 million pounds on 12 and a half million copies of biographies. And it’s not just in Britain that life stories are popular;…
The Wars of the Roses
May 18, 2000 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Wars of the Roses which have been the scene for many a historical skirmish over the ages: The period in the fifteenth century when the House of Lancaster and the House of York were continually at odds is described by…
New Wars
Apr 13, 2000 • 27 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of modern warfare. In the early nineteenth century the Prussian General Karl von Clausewitz seemed to define war for all time when he called it “an act of violence intended to compel our opponent to fulfil our…
History and Understanding the Past
Mar 30, 2000 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss what can be learnt from history. Many of us were taught that an understanding of the past was essential to a knowledge of the present and, more excitingly, to a view of the future. Dig deep into the pockets of Greece and…
Materialism and the Consumer
Mar 23, 2000 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg examines materialism and the consumer. Does consumerism - as a cult, a fact, a need, a religion - threaten culture as we have known it, individuality as we desire it, life as we aspire to its best condition? Is the march of Mammon an army of…
Lenin
Mar 16, 2000 • 28 min
For some time, in some intellectual quarters in the West, Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov - also known as Lenin - was regarded as an understandable revolutionary, perhaps a necessary revolutionary given the actions of the Tsars, certainly a sympathetic…
Republicanism
Feb 3, 2000 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg examines how English republicanism has developed from Cromwell to the present day. Before the French Revolution, before the American Declaration of Independence, before Rousseau, Thomas Paine and Marx there was the English Revolution. In 1649…
Economic Rights
Jan 27, 2000 • 27 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss economic rights. Is democracy the truest conduit of capitalism, or do the forces that make us rich run counter to the democratic institutions that safeguard our rights? The economist Milton Friedman once said, “If freedom…
Childhood
Dec 9, 1999 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss childhood. The 20th Century was proclaimed the Century of the Child. It has been much else but in the western world the position, the possibilities, the meaning and the story of childhood have been changed, for many,…
Progress
Nov 18, 1999 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss progress. As man has grown in years and knowledge, has he also progressed in terms of happiness and a true understanding of the human condition? It was the Enlightenment which gave birth to the idea of the possibility of…
Education
Nov 4, 1999 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history and the modern purpose of education. Nobody - would argue with the fact that education is of central importance to the people we are. And there seems to be no doubt at all that fine skills, flexible life-long…
Atrocity in the 20th Century
Oct 23, 1999 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the widespread and chilling atrocities of the 20th century. Just over a hundred years ago, in the ‘Genealogy of Morals’, Nietzsche wrote “there can be no doubt that morality will gradually perish: this is the great…
The Individual
Oct 21, 1999 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of the concept of the individual. The Renaissance gave birth to the concept of the individual. Shakespeare defined this individual in language which accepted the primacy of the male gender: “What a piece of work…
The Nation State
Oct 14, 1999 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Nation State. When we speak of our island story which island do we mean? When did England elide with Britain and why does it sit uneasily alongside the United Kingdom? At the end of the 20th century, the identity of one…
Utopia
Oct 7, 1999 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the concept of Utopia. Both the idea of, and the longing for a perfect society have been in our imagination for centuries, even millennia. Utopian dreams have driven fantasy, Fascism and fine feeling.Utopias, by definition,…
Africa
Jul 8, 1999 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Africa. It could be seen as the great test of the West; economically, intellectually, spiritually. The “dark continent” was seen as a source of power for the West through its natural resources, a place of harvest for…
Capitalism
Jun 24, 1999 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss capitalism throughout the last two centuries. In 1848 Karl Marx in The Communist Manifesto described the dynamic force of capitalism as it swept through the 19th century: Constant revolutionising of production,…
The Great Disruption
Jun 17, 1999 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the shift that has gone on through the 20th century from our being an industrial society to what is often called ‘the information society’. Francis Fukuyama’s book, The Great Disruption talks of the third great shift in the…
The Monarchy
Jun 10, 1999 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the British monarchy. In the last two hundred and fifty years, we’ve beheaded one king, exiled another, hired a distant German-speaking dynasty to fill the monarch’s role, and then mocked and ignored them, suffered a mad…
Just War
Jun 3, 1999 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the idea of a just war. There were theories about a justified or noble war before the birth of Christ, but it was his reported teachings and a powerful influence, particularly on the Emperor Constantine, which set the…
History as Science
Mar 11, 1999 • 27 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the importance of geography and ecology in determining world history since civilisation began. The 18th century historian Thomas Carlyle said that world history was the history of what great men have accomplished, but this…
The British Empire’s Legacy
Dec 31, 1998 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Britain’s colonial legacy. The 18th, 19th and early part of the 20th centuries were times of colonial conquest for this country but the abiding image of empire (true or not) is stuck squarely in the 1850’s when Victoria was…
The American Century
Dec 17, 1998 • 27 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how legitimate it is to call the 20th century the American century. Just how benevolent has America’s impact on the world been? And how durable has American’s initial idealism proved to be? Have ideals of democracy and…
History’s relevance in the 20th century
Dec 3, 1998 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the study of history this century. One of the debates raging in the practice of history is between the history of facts versus the imagination - a debate raised again by so-called ‘faction’ - fiction based on documentary…
Work in the 20th Century
Nov 26, 1998 • 27 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the changing nature of work practices and the work ethic as it pertains at the end of the 20th century. Has our understanding of the nature and function of work really changed so radically since the beginning of the…
The City in the 20th Century
Nov 12, 1998 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the artistic, cultural and innovative developments of the city in the 20th century and is joined by two practitioners of the geographer’s art; Professor Doreen Massey, who was awarded the Vautrin Lud International Geography…
Politics in the 20th Century
Oct 22, 1998 • 28 min
Melvyn Bragg talks to Gore Vidal and Alan Clarke about the future of the nation-state; is the concept dead and buried? And what is the relationship between politics and morality - have salaciousness and self-righteousness taken over where seriousness of…
War in the 20th Century
Oct 15, 1998 • 27 min
In the first programme of a new series examining ideas and events which have shaped thinking in philosophy, religion, science and the arts, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss warfare and human rights in the 20th century. He talks to Michael Ignatieff about…