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In Our Time With Melvyn Bragg
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history of ideas - including topics drawn from philosophy, science, history, religion and culture.
Podcast, English, London, UK Genres: Society, History, Science, Philosophy, Entertainment

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IOT: Josephus 21 May 15
Josephus was a 1st-century AD Jewish historian who was born in Roman Judea. It is said that, in Britain from the 18th century, copies of Josephus' works were as well read as The Bible. Christians valued "The Antiquities of the Jews" in particular, for app
Thursday, 21-May-15 11:05 UTC
IOT: The Lancashire Cotton Famine 14 May 15
The Cotton Famine in Lancashire from 1861-65 followed the blockade of Confederate Southern ports during the American Civil War which stopped the flow of cotton into mills in Britain. Reports at the time told of starvation, mass unemployment and migration.
Thursday, 14-May-15 10:45 UTC
IOT: Tagore 07 May 15
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. A key figure in Indian nationalism, Tagore became a f
Thursday, 07-May-15 11:05 UTC
IOT: The Earth's Core 30 Apr 15
The Earth's inner core is an extremely dense, solid ball of iron and nickel, while the outer core is a flowing liquid. Life on Earth is possible thanks to the magnetic fields produced by the core which protect the Earth from dangerous cosmic rays from spa
Thursday, 30-Apr-15 10:30 UTC
IOT: Fanny Burney 23 Apr 15
Fanny Burney, who was also known as Madame D'Arblay and Frances Burney, was one of the leading novelists, playwrights and diarists of the 18th-century. Her first novel, Evelina, was published anonymously and caused a sensation, attracting the admiration o
Thursday, 23-Apr-15 10:50 UTC
IOT: Matteo Ricci and the Ming Dynasty 16 Apr 15
Matteo Ricci was a Jesuit priest who led a Christian mission to China in the 16th century. An accomplished scholar, Ricci travelled extensively and came into contact with senior officials of the Ming Dynasty administration. His story is one of the most im
Thursday, 16-Apr-15 10:50 UTC
IOT: Sappho 09 Apr 15
The Greek poet Sappho was born in the late 7th century BC and spent much of her life on the island of Lesbos. In antiquity she was famed as one of the greatest lyric poets, but the bulk of her work was lost to posterity. The fragments that do survive, how
Thursday, 09-Apr-15 10:45 UTC
IOT: The California Gold Rush 02 Apr 15
The California Gold Rush began after the discovery of gold in 1848 at Coloma, near Sacramento. The following year there was a massive influx of prospectors seeking to make their fortunes. By 1851 the tiny settlement of San Francisco had become a major cit
Thursday, 02-Apr-15 10:50 UTC
IOT: The Curies 26 Mar 15
The scientific achievements of the Curie family were numerous. 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 Nobel in Chemistry eight
Thursday, 26-Mar-15 12:30 UTC
IOT: Al-Ghazali 19 Mar 15
Al-Ghazali was 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 Baghdad, Damascus and Jerusalem. He is now seen as a key figure i
Thursday, 19-Mar-15 11:30 UTC
IOT: Dark Matter 12 Mar 15
Dark matter is the mysterious and invisible substance which is believed to make up most of the Universe. In the 1930s scientists noticed that the speed at which galaxies moved was at odds with the amount of material they appeared to contain. They hypothes
Thursday, 12-Mar-15 11:45 UTC
IOT: Beowulf 05 Mar 15
Beowulf is 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 fearsome monster Grendel and a fire-breathing dragon
Thursday, 05-Mar-15 11:20 UTC
IOT: The Eunuch 26 Feb 15
Eunuchs, castrated men, were a common feature of many civilisations for at least three thousand years, often employed as servants in royal households in the ancient Middle East, China and classical antiquity. In some civilisations they were used as admini
Thursday, 26-Feb-15 11:30 UTC
IOT: The Wealth of Nations 19 Feb 15
Adam Smith was one of Scotland's greatest thinkers, a moral philosopher and pioneer of economic theory whose 1776 masterpiece The Wealth of Nations has come to define classical economics. With Richard Whatmore,Professor of Modern History and Director of
Thursday, 19-Feb-15 11:15 UTC
IOT: The Photon 12 Feb 15
The photon is one of the most enigmatic objects in the Universe. In the late nineteenth century it seemed clear that light was an electromagnetic wave. But today scientists accept that light can behave both as a wave and a particle, the latter known as th
Thursday, 12-Feb-15 11:05 UTC
IOT: Ashoka the Great 05 Feb 15
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. With Jessica Frazier, Naomi Applet
Thursday, 05-Feb-15 10:52 UTC
IOT: Thucydides 29 Jan 15
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the ancient Greek historian Thucydides, author of The History of the Peloponnesian War. With Paul Cartledge, Emeritus Professor of Greek Culture and AG Leventis Senior Research Fellow at Clare College, Cambridge; Kathe
Thursday, 29-Jan-15 10:45 UTC
IOT: Phenomenology 22 Jan 15
Phenomenology is 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 Martin Heidegger, and played a key role in the dev
Thursday, 22-Jan-15 12:15 UTC
IOT: Bruegel 15 Jan 15
Pieter Bruegel the Elder's painting of 1559, 'The Fight Between Carnival and Lent', was created in Antwerp at a time of religious tension between Catholics and Protestants. It is rich in detail but Bruegel is notoriously difficult to interpret. His art se
Thursday, 15-Jan-15 11:30 UTC
IOT: Truth 18 Dec 14
The question of what exactly truth is has exercised the best philosophical minds since antiquity. Pontius Pilate famously asked: what is truth? In the 20th century, the nature of truth became a subject of particular interest to philosophers, but they pref
Thursday, 18-Dec-14 10:30 UTC
IOT: Behavioural Ecology 11 Dec 14
Behavioural ecology is the scientific study of animal behaviour. What factors influence where and what an animal eats? Why do some animals mate for life whilst others are promiscuous? Behavioural ecologists approach questions like these using Darwin's the
Thursday, 11-Dec-14 11:30 UTC
IOT: Zen 04 Dec 14
Zen is 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 in China in the 6th century AD. It spre
Thursday, 04-Dec-14 11:40 UTC
IOT: Kafka's The Trial 27 Nov 14
In Franz Kafka's novel 'The Trial', readers follow the protagonist Joseph K into a bizarre, nightmarish world in which he stands accused of an unknown crime and there seems to be no escape from a crushing, oppressive bureaucracy. Kafka was a German-speaki
Thursday, 27-Nov-14 12:55 UTC
IOT: Aesop 20 Nov 14
Aesop, according to some accounts, was a strikingly ugly slave in antiquity who was dumb until granted the power of speech by the goddess Isis. In stories of his life he's often depicted outwitting his masters using clever wordplay, but he's best known to
Thursday, 20-Nov-14 12:30 UTC
IOT: Brunel 13 Nov 14
Isambard Kingdom Brunel was a prominent Victorian engineer responsible for bridges, tunnels and railways still in use today more than 150 years after they were built. He represented the cutting edge of technological innovation in 19th-century Britain, and
Thursday, 13-Nov-14 11:30 UTC
IOT: Hatshepsut 06 Nov 14
The female pharaoh Hatshepsut ruled Egypt in the early 15th century BC and some scholars argue that she was one of the most successful and influential pharaohs. Hatshepsut reasserted Egyptian power by building up international trade and commissioned build
Thursday, 06-Nov-14 17:00 UTC
IOT: Nuclear Fusion 30 Oct 14
Nuclear fusion is 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 temperatures and pressures. Scientists have ach
Thursday, 30-Oct-14 11:45 UTC
IOT: The Haitian Revolution 23 Oct 14
The Haitian Revolution was an uprising in the French colony of St Domingue in 1791. Partly a consequence of the French Revolution and partly a backlash against the brutality of slave owners, it turned into a complex struggle involving not just the island'
Thursday, 23-Oct-14 10:55 UTC
IOT: Rudyard Kipling 16 Oct 14
Rudyard Kipling was born in Bombay in 1865 and 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 the best known in the English language. He was the first British
Thursday, 16-Oct-14 11:55 UTC
IOT: The Battle of Talas 09 Oct 14
The Battle of Talas was a significant encounter between Arab and Chinese forces in central Asia in 751 AD. It brought together two mighty empires, the Abbasid Caliphate and the Tang Dynasty, and although not well known today, the battle had profound conse
Thursday, 09-Oct-14 10:45 UTC
IOT: Julius Caesar 02 Oct 14
Julius Caesar was famously assassinated as he entered the Roman senate on the Ides of March, 44 BC. He was an inspirational general who conquered much of Europe, and a ruthless and canny politician who became dictator of Rome. He also wrote The Gallic War
Thursday, 02-Oct-14 10:30 UTC
IOT: e 25 Sep 14
Euler's number, also known as e, was first discovered in the 17th century by the Swiss mathematician Jacob Bernoulli when he was studying compound interest. e is now recognised as one of the most important and interesting numbers in mathematics. Roughly e
Thursday, 25-Sep-14 11:05 UTC
IOT: The Sun 10 Jul 14
How was the Sun formed, and what do we know about its structure and the processes going on inside our nearest star? With Carolin Crawford, Gresham Professor of Astronomy and Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge; Yvonne Elsworth, Professor of Helioseismo
Thursday, 10-Jul-14 10:20 UTC
IOT: Mrs Dalloway 03 Jul 14
Virginia Woolf's novel Mrs Dalloway, first published in 1925, charts a single day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, a prosperous member of London society, as she prepares to throw a party. Woolf explained in her diary what she had set out to do: 'I want t
Thursday, 03-Jul-14 11:05 UTC
IOT: Hildegard of Bingen 26 Jun 14
Hildegard of Bingen was one of the most remarkable figures of the Middle Ages. The abbess of a Benedictine convent, she experienced a series of mystical visions which she documented in her writings. She was celebrated for her wide-ranging scholarship, whi
Thursday, 26-Jun-14 10:55 UTC
IOT: Philosophy of Solitude 19 Jun 14
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 for solitary contemplation. Many thinkers have dealt with the subject
Thursday, 19-Jun-14 10:20 UTC
IOT: Robert Boyle 12 Jun 14
Robert Boyle was 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 the foundations of modern chemistry and derived Boyle's Law,
Thursday, 12-Jun-14 15:40 UTC
IOT: Bluestockings 05 Jun 14
The Bluestockings were a small group of intellectual women in the 18th century who met regularly to discuss literature and other matters. They invited some of the leading thinkers of the day to take part in their informal salons. In an age when women were
Thursday, 05-Jun-14 10:50 UTC
IOT: The Talmud 29 May 14
The Talmud is one of the most important texts of Judaism. It was probably written down over a period of several hundred years, beginning in the 2nd century. It contains the authoritative text of the traditional Jewish oral law, and also an account of earl
Thursday, 29-May-14 11:10 UTC
IOT: The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam 22 May 14
The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, published in 1859, was a poem by Edward FitzGerald that was based on the verses of the 11th-century Persian scholar Omar Khayyam. Not a single copy was sold in the first few months after the work's publication, but after it c
Thursday, 22-May-14 10:45 UTC
IOT: Photosynthesis 15 May 14
Photosynthesis is the process by which plants and many other organisms use sunlight to produce organic molecules. Photosynthesis arose early in evolutionary history and has been a crucial driver of life on Earth. In addition to providing most of the food
Thursday, 15-May-14 10:45 UTC
IOT: The Sino-Japanese War 08 May 14
The Sino-Japanese War of 1937-45 broke out after several years of rising tension between China and Japan. When the Japanese invaded China they met with fierce resistance, despite internal Chinese political divisions. Once the USA had entered the war follo
Thursday, 08-May-14 10:45 UTC
IOT: The Tale of Sinuhe 01 May 14
The Tale of Sinuhe is one of the most celebrated works of ancient Egyptian literature. Written about 4000 years ago, the poem narrates the story of an Egyptian official who is exiled to Syria-Palestine before returning to his homeland many years later. Al
Thursday, 01-May-14 10:30 UTC
IOT: Tristram Shandy 24 Apr 14
Laurence Sterne's novel Tristram Shandy is an extravagantly inventive work which was hugely popular when first published in 1759. Its often bawdy humour and numerous digressions are combined with bold literary experiment, such as a page printed entirely b
Thursday, 24-Apr-14 11:15 UTC
IOT: The Domesday Book 17 Apr 14
The Domesday Book of 1086 was a vast survey of much of the land and property of England and Wales. Twenty years after the Battle of Hastings, William the Conqueror sent officials to gather information about settlements, the people who lived there, their l
Thursday, 17-Apr-14 10:45 UTC
IOT: Strabo's Geographica 10 Apr 14
Strabo's Geographica, written almost 2000 years ago by a Greek scholar, is an ambitious attempt to describe the entire world known to the Romans and Greeks at that time. One of the earliest systematic works of geography, Strabo's book offers a revealing i
Thursday, 10-Apr-14 10:50 UTC
IOT: States of Matter 03 Apr 14
The states in which matter can exist is a fascinating area of scientific enquiry. 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 universe is now beli
Thursday, 03-Apr-14 10:50 UTC
IOT: Weber's The Protestant Ethic 27 Mar 14
Max Weber's book the Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, published in 1905, proposed that Protestantism had been a significant factor in the emergence of capitalism. He made an explicit connection between religious ideas and economic systems. W
Thursday, 27-Mar-14 11:50 UTC
IOT: Bishop Berkeley 20 Mar 14
George Berkeley, an Anglican bishop, was one of the most important philosophers of the 18th century. Bishop Berkeley believed that objects only truly exist in the mind of somebody who perceives them - an idea he called immaterialism. His work on the natur
Thursday, 20-Mar-14 12:20 UTC
IOT: The Trinity 13 Mar 14
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 doctrine was often controversial in the earl
Thursday, 13-Mar-14 10:45 UTC
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