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In Our Time

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of ideas
419 Episodes
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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the jewels of medieval English poetry. It was written c1400 by an unknown poet and then was left hidden in private collections until the C19th when it emerged. It tells the story of a giant green knight who disrupts Christmas at Camelot, daring Gawain to cut off his head with an axe if he can do the same to Gawain the following year. Much to the surprise of Arthur's court, who were kicking the green head around, the decapitated body reaches for his head and rides off, leaving Gawain to face his promise and his apparently inevitable death the following Christmas.The illustration above is ©British Library Board Cotton MS Nero A.x, article 3, ff.94v95WithLaura AsheProfessor of English Literature at Worcester College, University of OxfordAd PutterProfessor of Medieval English Literature at the University of BristolAndSimon ArmitagePoet Laureate and Professor of Poetry at the Universities of Leeds and OxfordProducer: Simon Tillotson
Hope (Summer Repeat)

Hope (Summer Repeat)

2019-08-0800:53:258

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the philosophy of hope. To the ancient Greeks, hope was closer to self-deception, one of the evils left in Pandora's box or jar, in Hesiod's story. In Christian tradition, hope became one of the theological virtues, the desire for divine union and the expectation of receiving it, an action of the will rather than the intellect. To Kant, 'what may I hope' was one of the three basic questions which human reason asks, while Nietzsche echoed Hesiod, arguing that leaving hope in the box was a deception by the gods, reflecting human inability to face the demands of existence. Yet even those critical of hope, like Camus, conceded that life was nearly impossible without it.WithBeatrice Han-PileProfessor of Philosophy at the University of EssexRobert SternProfessor of Philosophy at the University of SheffieldAndJudith WolfeProfessor of Philosophical Theology at the University of St AndrewsProducer: Simon Tillotson
Venus (Summer Repeat)

Venus (Summer Repeat)

2019-08-0100:50:596

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the planet Venus which is both the morning star and the evening star, rotates backwards at walking speed and has a day which is longer than its year. It has long been called Earth’s twin, yet the differences are more striking than the similarities. Once imagined covered with steaming jungles and oceans, we now know the surface of Venus is 450 degrees celsius, and the pressure there is 90 times greater than on Earth, enough to crush an astronaut. The more we learn of it, though, the more we learn of our own planet, such as whether Earth could become more like Venus in some ways, over time.WithCarolin CrawfordPublic Astronomer at the Institute of Astronomy and Fellow of Emmanuel College, University of CambridgeColin WilsonSenior Research Fellow in Planetary Science at the University of OxfordAndAndrew CoatesProfessor of Physics at Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College LondonProduced by: Simon Tillotson and Julia Johnson
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the works of Wharton (1862-1937) such as The Age of Innocence for which she won the Pulitzer Prize and was the first woman to do so, The House of Mirth, and The Custom of the Country. Her novels explore the world of privileged New Yorkers in the Gilded Age of the late C19th, of which she was part, drawing on her own experiences and written from the perspective of the new century, either side of WW1 . Among her themes, she examined the choices available to women and the extent to which they could ever really be free, even if rich.WithDame Hermione LeeBiographer, former President of Wolfson College, OxfordBridget BennettProfessor of American Literature and Culture at the University of LeedsAndLaura RattrayReader in North American Literature at the University of GlasgowProducer: Simon Tillotson
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 his story, but he told it in grim detail in 1845 in his book 'Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.' He went on to address huge audiences in Great Britain and Ireland and there some of his supporters paid off his owner, so Douglass could be free in law and not fear recapture. After the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, he campaigned for equal rights for African-Americans, arguing against those such as Lincoln who had wanted freed slaves to leave America and found a colony elsewhere. "We were born here," he said, "and here we will remain."WithCeleste-Marie BernierProfessor of Black Studies in the English Department at the University of EdinburghKaren SaltAssistant Professor in Transnational American Studies at the University of NottinghamAndNicholas GuyattReader in North American History at the University of CambridgeProducer: Simon Tillotson.
Echolocation (Summer Repeat)

Echolocation (Summer Repeat)

2019-07-1100:51:597

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how some bats, dolphins and other animals emit sounds at high frequencies to explore their environments, rather than sight. This was such an unlikely possibility, to natural historians from C18th onwards, that discoveries were met with disbelief even into the C20th; it was assumed that bats found their way in the dark by touch. Not all bats use echolocation, but those that do have a range of frequencies for different purposes and techniques for preventing themselves becoming deafened by their own sounds. Some prey have evolved ways of detecting when bats are emitting high frequencies in their direction, and some fish have adapted to detect the sounds dolphins use to find them.WithKate JonesProfessor of Ecology and Biodiversity at University College LondonGareth JonesProfessor of Biological Sciences at the University of BristolAndDean WatersLecturer in the Environment Department at the University of YorkProducer: Simon Tillotson.
Lorca

Lorca

2019-07-0400:53:5915

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Spanish poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936), author of Blood Wedding, Yerma and The House of Bernarda Alba, who mixed the traditions of Andalusia with the avant-garde. He found his first major success with his Gypsy Ballads, although Dali, once his close friend, mocked him for these, accusing Lorca of being too conservative. He preferred performing his poems to publishing them, and his plays marked a revival in Spanish theatre. He was captured and killed by Nationalist forces at the start of the Civil War, his body never recovered, and it's been suggested this was punishment for his politics and for being openly gay. He has since been seen as the most important Spanish playwright and poet of the last century.WithMaria DelgadoProfessor of Creative Arts at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of LondonFederico BonaddioReader in Modern Spanish at King’s College LondonAndSarah WrightProfessor of Hispanic Studies and Screen Arts at Royal Holloway, University of LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson
Doggerland

Doggerland

2019-06-2700:54:2016

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 GaffneyAnniversary Professor of Landscape Archaeology at the University of BradfordCarol CotterillMarine Geoscientist at the British Geological SurveyAndRachel BynoeLecturer in Archaeology at the University of SouthamptonProducer: Simon Tillotson
The Mytilenaean Debate

The Mytilenaean Debate

2019-06-2000:54:1219

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. WithAngela HobbsProfessor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of SheffieldLisa Irene HauSenior Lecturer in Classics at the University of GlasgowAndPaul CartledgeEmeritus AG Leventis Professor of Greek Culture, University of Cambridge and Senior Research Fellow of Clare CollegeProducer: Simon Tillotson
The Inca

The Inca

2019-06-1300:53:0124

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 MeddensVisiting Scholar at the University of ReadingHelen CowieSenior Lecturer in History at the University of YorkAndBill SillarSenior Lecturer at the Institute of Archaeology at University College LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson
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Comments (38)

Julia Wise

Calling the Irish "the lowest of the low" in the British racial hierarchy seems far-fetched. It's hard to imagine they experienced more discrimination than African or Asian people in Britain at the time.

Aug 18th
Reply

Deven Johannessen

Julia Wise yes, it;s hard to imagine. I have no idea before:(

Aug 19th
Reply

Per Olofsson

You do not have to belong to a certain group to do research on or have an opinion about that group.

Jul 22nd
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Ralph Holtom

So frustrating. What is wrong with BBC podcasts? I listened to the Gordon riots episode without any problem but now this podcast won't play at all. I will have to go to BBC sounds but the point of having a podcast player is to avoid switching between apps

May 9th
Reply

Michael King

Mic quality is poor and some discussion cannot be heard. Otherwise entertaining.

May 8th
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Rich Berry

I was Francis Flute and got very good feedback! I was 17. I loved playing Thisby and your program has brought back some happy memories as well as being insightful. Thank you.

Apr 22nd
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Simon Curry

Great episode.

Mar 9th
Reply

Aliyah s

why is it always Western academics talking about Muslims? it would be really nice if you got someone from the tradition instead of perpetuating this orientalist outlook.

Feb 28th
Reply

Louis

Aliyah s Actually he is a pre-islamic poet, so I don't think it's necessary in this case to include someone from within the Muslim tradition since the topic is not particularly 'islamic'. However I think you make a valid point that one often talks about non-western cultures rather than letting people from within this traditions tell their own narratives about themselves.

Apr 8th
Reply

TheIainDowieFanClub

Nick I disagree.

Mar 22nd
Reply

Rob Moores

bananas were possibly unknown in England in 1620

Feb 23rd
Reply

Paul Gerald William Mc Closkey

. CD d

Feb 19th
Reply

I like dick up my Bum Hole and

BBC LMAO

Feb 7th
Reply

Cara Hugo Meintjes Hartley

Good episode, but the host could steer them less - as the 'extra' pieces at the end demonstrate, they do quite well without so much interjecting!

Dec 9th
Reply

Wes Stone

such drama in this episode 😂😂

Oct 23rd
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Stephen Burrell

Great podcast

Oct 18th
Reply

Henry Simmons

Melvin mau trppin bragg

Oct 17th
Reply

AZAD HOSSAIN

certain it is effective but i can't read completly.

Oct 15th
Reply

Amparo Silver

New to podcast and castbox. I love to learn and have fun.

Oct 8th
Reply

Cathal Doyle

0

Sep 28th
Reply

Rhett P

wrong ep

Aug 20th
Reply

Jan Ilett

whoever uploaded it enjoyed the gin themselves

Aug 19th
Reply

Sandra Teacher

same here

Aug 18th
Reply
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