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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: Entertainment, Philosophy, History, Science, Society

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Episodes

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
IOT: Spartacus 06 Mar 14
Spartacus was the famous gladiator who led a major slave rebellion against the Roman Republic in the 1st century BC. An accomplished military leader, he was celebrated by some ancient historians and reviled by others. Later, in the 19th century, he became
Thursday, 06-Mar-14 11:00 UTC
IOT: The Eye 27 Feb 14
The eye has been the subject of research for at least 2500 years. Some ancient philosophers believed that the eye enabled creatures to see by emitting its own light. The function of the eye became an area of particular interest to doctors in the Islamic G
Thursday, 27-Feb-14 11:00 UTC
IOT: Social Darwinism 20 Feb 14
Social Darwinism was the idea that Charles Darwin's theory about evolution, as set out in his masterpiece On the Origin of Species in 1859, could also be applied to human society. One thinker particularly associated with this movement was Herbert Spencer,
Thursday, 20-Feb-14 11:00 UTC
IOT: Chivalry 13 Feb 14
Chivalry was the moral code observed by knights of the Middle Ages. It originated in the military practices of aristocratic French and German soldiers, but developed into an elaborate system governing many different aspects of knightly behaviour. It influ
Thursday, 13-Feb-14 10:45 UTC
IOT: The Phoenicians 06 Feb 14
The Phoenicians were an ancient people from the Levant who were accomplished sailors and traders, and are thought to have taught the Greeks their alphabet. By about 700 BC they were trading all over the Mediterranean, taking Egyptian and Syrian goods as f
Thursday, 06-Feb-14 11:00 UTC
IOT: Catastrophism 30 Jan 14
Catastrophism is the idea that natural disasters have had a significant influence in moulding the Earth's geological features. In 1822 William Buckland ascribed most of the fossil record to the effects of Noah's flood. Charles Lyell later challenged these
Thursday, 30-Jan-14 11:00 UTC
IOT: Sources of Early Chinese History 23 Jan 14
The first records of historical events in China date from the Shang dynasty of the 2nd millennium BC. The earliest surviving records were inscribed on bones or tortoise shells; in later centuries, chroniclers left detailed accounts on paper or silk. In th
Thursday, 23-Jan-14 11:00 UTC
IOT: The Battle of Tours 16 Jan 14
The Battle of Tours took place in 732 when a large Arab army invaded Gaul from northern Spain. They were defeated near Poitiers by Charles Martel and his Frankish forces. The result confirmed the regional supremacy of Charles, who went on to establish a s
Thursday, 16-Jan-14 10:45 UTC
IOT: Plato's Symposium 02 Jan 14
Plato's Symposium is 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 philosopher Socrates and the playwright Ari
Thursday, 02-Jan-14 10:30 UTC
IOT: The Medici 26 Dec 2013
The Medici family dominated Florence's political and cultural life for three centuries. They came to prominence in Italy in the 15th century as a result of the wealth they built up through banking. With the rise of Cosimo de' Medici, they became Florence'
Thursday, 26-Dec-13 10:45 UTC
IOT: Pliny the Younger 12 Dec 13
Pliny the Younger was a prolific Roman letter-writer. A prominent lawyer in the 1st century AD, Pliny later became governor of the province of Bithynia, in modern Turkey. Pliny's letters offer fascinating insights into life and government in ancient Rome
Thursday, 12-Dec-13 11:20 UTC
IOT: Hindu Ideas of Creation 05 Dec 13
Hinduism has no single creation story. Throughout history, Hindu thinkers have taken a variety of approaches to the question of where we come from, with some making the case for divine intervention and others asking whether it is even possible for humans
Thursday, 05-Dec-13 11:00 UTC
IOT: The Microscope 28 Nov 13
The microscope has revolutionised our knowledge of the world and the organisms that inhabit it. Invented in the seventeenth century, the microscope became an essential component of scientific enquiry by the nineteenth century, but in the 1930s a German ph
Thursday, 28-Nov-13 10:45 UTC
IOT: Pocahontas 21 Nov 13
Pocahontas was a Native American woman who became a symbol of the New World to English eyes. During the colonisation of Virginia in the early 17th century, Pocahontas was captured by the English, converted to Christianity, married a settler and travelled
Thursday, 21-Nov-13 11:00 UTC
IOT: The Tempest 14 Nov 13
The Tempest is thought to be one of Shakespeare's final works and contains some of his most poetic and memorable passages. It was influenced by accounts of distant lands written by contemporary explorers, and by the complex politics of the early Jacobean
Thursday, 14-Nov-13 11:00 UTC
IOT: Ordinary Language Philosophy 7 Nov 13
Ordinary Language Philosophy was a school of thought which emerged in Oxford in the years following World War II. With its roots in the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein, Ordinary Language Philosophy is concerned with the meanings of words as used in everyday s
Thursday, 07-Nov-13 11:15 UTC
IOT: The Berlin Conference 31 Oct 13
The Berlin Conference of 1884 brought together Europe's leading powers to discuss trade and territorial rights in Africa. It is widely seen as one of the most significant events in the process known as the Scramble for Africa, and the decisions reached ha
Thursday, 31-Oct-13 11:15 UTC
IOT: The Corn Laws 24 Oct 13
The Corn Laws were passed by the British Government in 1815 to keep the price of corn artificially high. The measure was supported by landowners but strongly opposed by manufacturers and the urban working class. In the 1830s the Anti-Corn Law League was f
Thursday, 24-Oct-13 10:30 UTC
IOT: The Book of Common Prayer 17 Oct 13
The Book of Common Prayer, first published in 1549, contained versions of the liturgy in English. Compiled by Thomas Cranmer, the book was at the centre of the decade of religious turmoil that followed, and disputes over its use were one of the major caus
Thursday, 17-Oct-13 10:00 UTC
IOT: Galen 10 Oct 13
Galen was the most celebrated doctor in the ancient world. Greek by birth, he spent most of his career in Rome, where he was personal physician to three Emperors. Acclaimed in his own lifetime, he was regarded as the preeminent medical authority for centu
Thursday, 10-Oct-13 10:00 UTC
IOT: Exoplanets 3 Oct 13
Exoplanets are planets beyond our solar system. Astronomers have speculated about their existence for centuries, but it was not until the 1990s that instruments became sophisticated enough to detect such remote objects. Since then, more than 900 exoplanet
Thursday, 03-Oct-13 09:45 UTC
IOT: The Mamluks 26 Sep 13
The Mamluks ruled Egypt and Syria from 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 medieval Islamic world. Although the Mamluks were r
Thursday, 26-Sep-13 09:30 UTC
IOT: Pascal 19 Sep 13
Pascal was a brilliant 17th-century mathematician and scientist who invented one of the first mechanical calculators and made important discoveries about fluids and vacuums while still a young man. In his thirties he experienced a religious conversion, af
Thursday, 19-Sep-13 09:30 UTC
IOT: The Invention of Radio 04 Jul 13
In the early 1860s the Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell derived four equations which together describe the behaviour of electricity and magnetism. They predicted the existence of a previously unknown phenomenon: electromagnetic waves. These waves we
Thursday, 04-Jul-13 10:20 UTC
IOT: Romance of the Three Kingdoms 27 Jun 13
Romance of the Three Kingdoms is widely regarded as one of the greatest works of Chinese literature. Written 600 years ago, it is an historical novel that tells the story of a tumultuous period in Chinese history when the Han Dynasty fell from power in th
Thursday, 27-Jun-13 10:00 UTC
IOT: Physiocrats 20 Jun 13
The Physiocrats were an important group of economic thinkers in 18th-century France. They believed that the land was the ultimate source of all wealth and that markets should not be constrained by governments. Their ideas were important not just to econom
Thursday, 20-Jun-13 12:00 UTC
IOT: Prophecy 13 Jun 13
Prophecy has great meaning and significance in the Abrahamic religions. Prophets, those with the ability to convey divinely-inspired revelation, are significant figures in the Hebrew Bible and later became important not just to Judaism but also to Christi
Thursday, 13-Jun-13 10:15 UTC
IOT: Relativity 06 Jun 13
Einstein's theories of relativity transformed our understanding of the Universe. The twin theories of Special and General Relativity offered insights into the nature of space, time and gravitation which changed the face of modern science. It's regarded to
Thursday, 06-Jun-13 10:00 UTC
IOT: Queen Zenobia 30 May 13
Queen Zenobia was a distinguished military leader of the ancient world. Born in about 240 AD, Zenobia became Empress of the Palmyrene Empire in the Middle East. She is renowned for launching a rebellion against the Roman Empire and conquering Egypt before
Thursday, 30-May-13 10:00 UTC
IOT: Lévi-Strauss 23 May 13
Anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss was one of 20th-century France's most celebrated intellectuals. He set out to show in his work that human thought processes were universal, whether people lived in tribal rainforest societies or in the rich intellectual
Thursday, 23-May-13 09:45 UTC
IOT: Cosmic Rays 16 May 13
Cosmic rays were discovered in 1912 by the physicist Victor Hess. The Earth is under constant bombardment from this radiation coming from beyond our atmosphere. Cosmic rays can cause damage to satellites and electronic devices on Earth, but the study of c
Thursday, 16-May-13 09:45 UTC
IOT: Icelandic Sagas 09 May 13
The Icelandic Sagas were first written down in the 13th century and tell the stories of the Norse settlers who began to arrive in Iceland 400 years before. They contain some of the richest and most extraordinary writing of the Middle Ages. Full of heroes,
Thursday, 09-May-13 09:45 UTC
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