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In Our Time: History
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In Our Time: History

Author: BBC Radio 4

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Historical themes, events and key individuals from Akhenaten to Xenophon.
298 Episodes
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The Covenanters

The Covenanters

2020-03-1254:019

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the bonds that Scottish Presbyterians made between themselves and their monarchs in the 16th and 17th Centuries, to maintain their form of worship. These covenants bound James VI of Scotland to support Presbyterians yet when he became James I he was also expected to support episcopacy. That tension came to a head under Charles I who found himself on the losing side of a war with the Covenanters, who later supported Parliament before backing the future Charles II after he had pledged to support them. Once in power, Charles II failed to deliver the religious settlement the Covenanters wanted, and set about repressing them violently. Those who refused to renounce the covenants were persecuted in what became known as The Killing Times, as reflected in the image above. With Roger Mason Professor of Scottish History at the University of St Andrews Laura Stewart Professor of Early Modern British History at the University of York And Scott Spurlock Professor of Scottish and Early Modern Christianities at the University of Glasgow Producer: Simon Tillotson
The Valladolid Debate

The Valladolid Debate

2020-02-2053:126

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the debate in Valladolid, Spain in 1550, over Spanish rights to enslave the native peoples in the newly conquered lands. Bartolomé de Las Casas (pictured above), the Bishop of Chiapas, Mexico, was trying to end the encomienda system in which those who now owned the land could also take the people in forced labour. Juan Gines Sepulveda, a philosopher, argued for the colonists' property rights over people, asserting that some native Americans were 'natural slaves' as defined by Aristotle. Valladolid became seen as the first open attempt by European colonists to discuss the ethics of slavery, and Las Casas became known as 'Saviour of the Indians' and an advocate for human rights, although for some time he argued that African slaves be imported to do the work in place of the native people, before repenting. With Caroline Dodds Pennock Senior Lecturer in International History at the University of Sheffield John Edwards Faculty Fellow in Spanish at the University of Oxford And Julia McClure Lecturer in Late Medieval and Early Modern Global History at the University of Glasgow Producer: Simon Tillotson
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the great Roman military disaster of 9 AD when Germanic tribes under Arminius ambushed and destroyed three legions under Varus. According to Suetonius, emperor Augustus hit his head against the wall when he heard the news, calling on Varus to give him back his legions. The defeat ended Roman expansion east of the Rhine. Victory changed the development of the Germanic peoples, both in the centuries that followed and in the nineteenth century when Arminius, by then known as Herman, became a rallying point for German nationalism. With Peter Heather Professor of Medieval History at King’s College London Ellen O'Gorman Senior Lecturer in Classics at the University of Bristol And Matthew Nicholls Fellow and Senior Tutor at St John’s College, Oxford Producer: Simon Tillotson
Alcuin

Alcuin

2020-01-3056:144

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Alcuin of York, c735-804AD, who promoted education as a goal in itself, and had a fundamental role in the renaissance at Charlemagne's court. He wrote poetry and many letters, hundreds of which survive and provide insight into his life and times. He was born in or near York and spent most of his life in Northumbria before accepting an invitation to Charlemagne's court in Aachen. To this he brought Anglo-Saxon humanism, encouraging a broad liberal education for itself and the better to understand Christian doctrine. He left to be abbot at Marmoutier, Tours, where the monks were developing the Carolingian script that influenced the Roman typeface. The image above is Alcuin’s portrait, found in a copy of the Bible made at his monastery in Tours during the rule of his successor Abbot Adalhard (834–843). Painted in red on gold leaf, it shows Alcuin with a tonsure and a halo, signifying respect for his memory at the monastery where he had died in 804. His name and rank are spelled out alongside: Alcvinvs abba, ‘Alcuin the abbot’. It is held at the Staatsbibliothek Bamberg -Kaiser-Heinrich-Bibliothek - Msc.Bibl.1,fol.5v (photo by Gerald Raab). With Joanna Story Professor of Early Medieval History at the University of Leicester Andy Orchard Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at the University of Oxford and a fellow of Pembroke College And Mary Garrison Lecturer in History at the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of York Producer: Simon Tillotson
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the siege of Paris during the Franco-Prussian war and the social unrest that followed, as the French capital was cut off from the rest of the country and food was scarce. When the French government surrendered Paris to the Prussians, power gravitated to the National Guard in the city and to radical socialists, and a Commune established in March 1871 with the red flag replacing the trilcoleur. The French government sent in the army and, after bloody fighting, the Communards were defeated by the end of May 1871. The image above is from an engraving of the fire in the Tuileries Palace, May 23, 1871 With Karine Varley Lecturer in French and European History at the University of Strathclyde Robert Gildea Professor of Modern History at the University of Oxford And Julia Nicholls Lecturer in French and European Studies at King’s College London Producer: Simon Tillotson
Tutankhamun

Tutankhamun

2019-12-2653:3910

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the discovery in 1922 of Tutankhamun's 3000 year old tomb and its impact on the understanding of ancient Egypt, both academic and popular. The riches, such as the death mask above, were spectacular and made the reputation of Howard Carter who led the excavation. And if the astonishing contents of the tomb were not enough, the drama of the find and the control of how it was reported led to a craze for 'King Tut' that has rarely subsided and has enthused and sometimes confused people around the world, seeking to understand the reality of Tutankhamun's life and times. With Elizabeth Frood Associate Professor of Egyptology, Director of the Griffith Institute and Fellow of St Cross at the University of Oxford Christina Riggs Professor of the History of Visual Culture at Durham University and a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford And John Taylor Curator at the Department of Egypt and Sudan at the British Museum Producer: Simon Tillotson
Coffee

Coffee

2019-12-1255:4216

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history and social impact of coffee. From its origins in Ethiopia, coffea arabica spread through the Ottoman Empire before reaching Western Europe where, in the 17th century, coffee houses were becoming established. There, caffeinated customers stayed awake for longer and were more animated, and this helped to spread ideas and influence culture. Coffee became a colonial product, grown by slaves or indentured labour, with coffea robusta replacing arabica where disease had struck, and was traded extensively by the Dutch and French empires; by the 19th century, Brazil had developed into a major coffee producer, meeting demand in the USA that had grown on the waggon trails. With Judith Hawley Professor of 18th Century Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London Markman Ellis Professor of 18th Century Studies at Queen Mary University of London And Jonathan Morris Professor in Modern History at the University of Hertfordshire Producer: Simon Tillotson
Lawrence of Arabia

Lawrence of Arabia

2019-12-0552:1512

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss T.E. Lawrence (1888 – 1935), better known as Lawrence of Arabia, a topic drawn from over 1200 suggestions for our Listener Week 2019. Although Lawrence started as an archaeologist in the Middle East, when World War I broke out he joined the British army and became an intelligence officer. His contact with a prominent Arab leader, Sharif Hussein, made him sympathetic to Hussein’s cause and during the Arab Revolt of 1916 he not only served the British but also the interests of Hussein. After the war he was dismayed by the peace settlement and felt that the British had broken an assurance that Sharif Hussein would lead a new Arab kingdom. Lawrence was made famous by the work of Lowell Thomas, whose film of Lawrence drew huge audiences in 1919, which led to his own book Seven Pillars of Wisdom and David Lean’s 1962 film with Peter O'Toole. In previous Listener Weeks, we've discussed Kafka's The Trial, The Voyages of Captain Cook, Garibaldi and the Risorgimento, Moby Dick and The Thirty Years War. With Hussein Omar Lecturer in Modern Global History at University College Dublin Catriona Pennell Associate Professor of Modern History and Memory Studies at the University of Exeter Neil Faulkner Director of Military History Live and Editor of the magazine Military History Matters Producer: Simon Tillotson
Li Shizhen

Li Shizhen

2019-11-2852:174

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and ideas of Li Shizhen (1518-1593) whose compendium of natural medicines is celebrated in China as the most complete survey of natural remedies of its time. He trained as a doctor and worked at the Ming court before spending almost 30 years travelling in China, inspecting local plants and animals for their properties, trying them out on himself and then describing his findings in his Compendium of Materia Medica or Bencao Gangmu, in 53 volumes. He's been called the uncrowned king of Chinese naturalists, and became a scientific hero in the 20th century after the revolution. With Craig Clunas Professor Emeritus in the History of Art at the University of Oxford Anne Gerritsen Professor in History at the University of Warwick And Roel Sterckx Joseph Needham Professor of Chinese History at the University of Cambridge Producer: Simon Tillotson
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the most powerful woman in the Crusader states in the century after the First Crusade. Melisende (1105-61) was born and raised after the mainly Frankish crusaders had taken Jerusalem from the Fatimids, and her father was King of Jerusalem. She was married to Fulk from Anjou, on the understanding they would rule together, and for 30 years she vied with him and then their son as they struggled to consolidate their Frankish state in the Holy Land. The image above is of the coronation of Fulk with Melisende, from Livre d'Eracles, Guillaume de Tyr (1130?-1186) Source: Bibliothèque nationale de France With Natasha Hodgson Senior Lecturer in Medieval History and Director of the Centre for the Study of Religion and Conflict at Nottingham Trent University Katherine Lewis Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Huddersfield and Danielle Park Visiting Lecturer at Royal Holloway, University of London Producer: Simon Tillotson
The Treaty of Limerick

The Treaty of Limerick

2019-11-0753:149

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the 1691 peace treaty that ended the Williamite War in Ireland, between supporters of the deposed King James II and the forces of William III and his allies. It followed the battles at Aughrim and the Boyne and sieges at Limerick, and led to the disbanding of the Jacobite army in Ireland, with troops free to follow James to France for his Irish Brigade. The Catholic landed gentry were guaranteed rights on condition of swearing loyalty to William and Mary yet, while some Protestants thought the terms too lenient, it was said the victors broke those terms before the ink was dry. The image above is from British Battles on Land and Sea, Vol. I, by James Grant, 1880, and is meant to show Irish troops leaving Limerick as part of The Flight of the Wild Geese - a term used for soldiers joining continental European armies from C16th-C18th. With Jane Ohlmeyer Chair of the Irish Research Council and Erasmus Smith’s Professor of Modern History at Trinity College Dublin Dr Clare Jackson Senior Tutor, Trinity Hall, and Faculty of History, University of Cambridge and Thomas O'Connor Professor of History at Maynooth University Producer: Simon Tillotson
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how, in September 1812, Napoleon captured Moscow and waited a month for the Russians to meet him, to surrender and why, to his dismay, no-one came. Soon his triumph was revealed as a great defeat; winter was coming, supplies were low; he ordered his Grande Armée of six hundred thousand to retreat and, by the time he crossed back over the border, desertion, disease, capture, Cossacks and cold had reduced that to twenty thousand. Napoleon had shown his weakness; his Prussian allies changed sides and, within eighteen months they, the Russians and Austrians had captured Paris and the Emperor was exiled to Elba. With Janet Hartley Professor Emeritus of International History, LSE Michael Rowe Reader in European History, King’s College London And Michael Rapport Reader in Modern European History, University of Glasgow Producer: Simon Tillotson
Doggerland

Doggerland

2019-06-2754:2018

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 this landscape at low tide, such as the tree stumps at Redcar (above); yet more is being learned from diving and seismic surveys which are building a picture of an ideal environment for humans to hunt and gather, with rivers and wooded hills. Rising seas submerged this land as glaciers melted, and the people and animals who lived there moved to higher ground, with the coasts of modern-day Britain on one side and Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium and France on the other. With Vince Gaffney Anniversary Professor of Landscape Archaeology at the University of Bradford Carol Cotterill Marine Geoscientist at the British Geological Survey And Rachel Bynoe Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Southampton Producer: Simon Tillotson
The Mytilenaean Debate

The Mytilenaean Debate

2019-06-2054:129

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 revolt against Athens, as a warning to others. The later ship had orders to save them, as news of their killing would make others fight to the death rather than surrender. Thucydides retells this in his History of the Peloponnesian War as an example of Athenian democracy in action, emphasising the right of Athenians to change their minds in their own interests, even when a demagogue argued they were bound by their first decision. With Angela Hobbs Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield Lisa Irene Hau Senior Lecturer in Classics at the University of Glasgow And Paul Cartledge Emeritus AG Leventis Professor of Greek Culture, University of Cambridge and Senior Research Fellow of Clare College Producer: Simon Tillotson
The Inca

The Inca

2019-06-1353:0124

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 Pizarro arrived with his Conquistadors and captured their empire for Spain in 1533. The image, above, is of Machu Picchu which was built for emperor Pachacuti as an estate in C15th. With Frank Meddens Visiting Scholar at the University of Reading Helen Cowie Senior Lecturer in History at the University of York And Bill Sillar Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Archaeology at University College London Producer: Simon Tillotson
President Ulysses S Grant

President Ulysses S Grant

2019-05-3055:2217

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 for themselves which rights to allow freed slaves; Grant supported equal rights, and he used troops and Enforcement Acts to defeat the Ku klux Klan which was violently suppressing African Americans. In later years Grant was remembered mainly for the corruption scandals under his terms of office, and for his failure to support or protect Native Americans, but in more recent decades his support for reconstruction has prompted a reassessement. With Erik Mathisen Lecturer in US History at the University of Kent Susan-Mary Grant Professor of American History at Newcastle University and Robert Cook Professor of American History at the University of Sussex Producer: Simon Tillotson
The Gordon Riots

The Gordon Riots

2019-05-0250:256

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 objected to the relaxing of laws against Catholics. At first the protest outside Parliament was peaceful but, when Gordon's petition failed to persuade the Commons, rioting continued for days until the military started to shoot suspects in the street. It came as Britain was losing the war to hold on to colonies in North America. The image above shows a crowd setting fire to Newgate Prison and freeing prisoners by the authority of 'His Majesty, King Mob.' With Ian Haywood Professor of English at the University of Roehampton Catriona Kennedy Senior Lecturer in Modern British and Irish History and Director of the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies at the University of York and Mark Knights Professor of History at the University of Warwick Producer: Simon Tillotson
Nero

Nero

2019-04-2551:3018

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 flames as he played the lyre. Christians saw him as their persecutor, an anti-Christ, and the number of the Beast in the Book of Revelation was thought to indicate Nero. He had confidence in his own artistry, took up acting (which then had a very low status) and, as revolts in the empire grew, killed himself after the Senate condemned him to die as a slave, on a cross. With Maria Wyke Professor of Latin at University College London Matthew Nicholls Fellow and Senior Tutor at St John’s College, University of Oxford And Shushma Malik Lecturer in Classics at the University of Roehampton Producer: Simon Tillotson
The Great Irish Famine

The Great Irish Famine

2019-04-0457:4019

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 decade. There had been famines before, but not on this scale. What was it about the laws, attitudes and responses that made this one so devastating? The image above is from The Illustrated London News, Dec. 29, 1849, showing a scalp or shelter, "a hole, surrounded by pools, and three sides of the scalp were dripping with water, which ran in small streams over the floor and out by the entrance. The poor inhabitants said they would be thankful if the landlord would leave them there, and the Almighty would spare their lives. Its principal tenant is Margaret Vaughan." With Cormac O'Grada Professor Emeritus in the School of Economics at University College Dublin Niamh Gallagher University Lecturer in Modern British and Irish History at the University of Cambridge And Enda Delaney Professor of Modern History and School Director of Research at the University of Edinburgh Producer: Simon Tillotson
The Danelaw

The Danelaw

2019-03-2850:2617

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 and came to terms, with Guthrum controlling the land to the east (once he had agreed to convert to Christianity). The key strategic advantage the invaders had was the Viking ships which were far superior and enabled them to raid from the sea and up rivers very rapidly. Their Great Army had arrived in the 870s, conquering the kingdom of Northumbria and occupying York. They defeated the king of Mercia and seized part of his land. They killed the Anglo-Saxon king of East Anglia and gained control of his territory. It was only when a smaller force failed to defeat Wessex that the Danelaw came into being, leaving a lasting impact on the people and customs of that area. With Judith Jesch Professor of Viking Studies at the University of Nottingham John Hines Professor of Archaeology at Cardiff University And Jane Kershaw ERC Principal Investigator in Archaeology at the University of Oxford Producer: Simon Tillotson
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Comments (20)

er professore

Hello, I just received a voice message via WhatsApp about the supposedly biggest cover-up of the century: The symptoms of corona are not actually caused by a virus but by the worldwide implementation of 5G. According to the apparently British pastor (whose name I didn't quite catch) people are dying of the 5G radio frequency radiation and the goverments are trying to cover this up by "testing" the subjects, but in reality INFECTING THEM with Corona, so everyone will believe this to be the cause of them being sick or dying. I think this is a very dangerous theory, since it can cause people to not get tested for fear of being deliberately infected with the virus. This pastor claims he once ran the biggest vodafone buisness unit worldwide. I would forward the voice message to you but have no email adress. Also, here is a short but very interesting article from the radio station and news agency Deutsche Welle about the history of conspiracy theories in times of pandemic: https://www.dw.com/en/coronavirus-and-the-plague-the-disease-of-viral-conspiracy-theories/a-52700321 Could you make a show on this or something similar (conspiracy theories surrounding the Corona outbreak)? Or maybe on the history of conspiracy theories in times of pandemic, in general. I think it's very much needed. Thank you

Mar 30th
Reply

Granny InSanDiego

In light of the Covid 19 pandemic, this was a missed opportunity to shed light on the nature of epidemics. All those who belong to religious sects today are those most stricken by Covid 19, showing how incredibly little we have learned about how to stay well in the last 500 years. Licking holy shrines as the Shiites did in Qom, or taking communion as Catholics in Italy and Spain did, or packing into crowded churches as Christians did in South Korea or in synagogues as Jews did in New Rochelle, NY shows that religion or worship of whatever god has little to do with reality.

Mar 27th
Reply (2)

Peter Hogg

03003301433

Feb 2nd
Reply

Aka 🙏

hujhh my

Aug 7th
Reply

Benjamin Craft-Rendon

the dancing around the presented evidence of ethnic cleansing, even if you want to avoid outright genocide charges, was ridiculous

Jun 24th
Reply

Benjamin Craft-Rendon

Good overview, but understanding the difference between revolutionary violence and supporting imperial wars doesn't make Luxembourg a non-pacifist

Apr 29th
Reply

JH Matt

That um woman uh is um very uhm annoying

Mar 1st
Reply

Benjamín Joel Quispe Pino

Go

Jan 4th
Reply

Modus Pwnens

lol more like revisionist history. love how there were only brits talking about the empire and used euphemisms over their colonization and brutality over the world...

Nov 30th
Reply (2)

RAMI -

I loved this episode

Nov 16th
Reply

Hamid Golyani

good discussion on such a great subject. thanks

Jul 26th
Reply

Meursault

I dont know what I was expecting from a british show about Lenin, a historicaly accurate unbiased analysis of the subject, like all the other episodes, perhaps? But no, in this episode they trash and shit all over the man they're talking about like the "monster" he is. I can't even complain, 'cause the this thing is from almost 20 years ago and its broadcasted by the larger broadcasting company of the UK, so, a western, capitalist, cold-war winner point of view, the only thing I can do is warn those who are expecting a serious historical analysis of Lenin. I just hope I won't be seeing an episode about Gandhi in which they would say he's a savage that should've surrendered to british imperialism.

Jul 19th
Reply (2)

Esther Lo

Does anyone else have problems playing episodes from this channel? Every time, I get a message saying that I don't have wifi connection even when I do have wifi connection. Its only BBC related channels that have this problem for me.

Jun 24th
Reply

Robert Liretoi

So interesting!

May 8th
Reply
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