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In Our Time

Author: BBC Radio 4

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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of ideas
428 Episodes
The Time Machine

The Time Machine


Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas explored in HG Wells' novella, published in 1895, in which the Time Traveller moves forward to 802,701 AD. There he finds humanity has evolved into the Eloi and Morlocks, where the Eloi are small but leisured fruitarians and the Morlocks live below ground, carry out the work and have a different diet. Escaping the Morlocks, he travels millions of years into the future, where the environment no longer supports humanity.The image above is from a painting by Anton Brzezinski of a scene from The Time Machine, with the Time Traveller meeting the EloiWith Simon SchafferProfessor of History of Science at Cambridge UniversityAmanda ReesHistorian of science at the University of YorkAndSimon JamesProfessor in the Department of English Studies at Durham UniversityProducer: Simon Tillotson
Rousseau on Education

Rousseau on Education


Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) on the education of children, as set out in his novel or treatise Emile, published in 1762. He held that children are born with natural goodness, which he sought to protect as they developed, allowing each to form their own conclusions from experience, avoiding the domineering influence of others. In particular, he was keen to stop infants forming the view that human relations were based on domination and subordination. Rousseau viewed Emile as his most imporant work, and it became very influential. It was also banned and burned, and Rousseau was attacked for not following these principles with his own children, who he abandoned, and for proposing a subordinate role for women in this scheme.The image above is of Emile playing with a mask on his mother's lap, from a Milanese edition published in 1805.With Richard WhatmoreProfessor of Modern History at the University of St Andrews and Co-Director of the St Andrews Institute of Intellectual HistoryCaroline WarmanProfessor of French Literature and Thought at Jesus College, Oxfordand Denis McManusProfessor of Philosophy at the University of SouthamptonProducer: Simon Tillotson
Dorothy Hodgkin

Dorothy Hodgkin


Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the work and ideas of Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin (1910-1994), awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1964 for revealing the structures of vitamin B12 and penicillin and who later determined the structure of insulin. She was one of the pioneers of X-ray crystallography and described by a colleague as 'a crystallographers' crystallographer'. She remains the only British woman to have won a Nobel in science, yet rejected the idea that she was a role model for other women, or that her career was held back because she was a woman. She was also the first woman since Florence Nightingale to receive the Order of Merit, and was given the Lenin Peace Prize in recognition of her efforts to bring together scientists from the East and West in pursuit of nuclear disarmament.With Georgina FerryScience writer and biographer of Dorothy HodgkinJudith HowardProfessor of Chemistry at Durham UniversityandPatricia FaraFellow of Clare College, CambridgeProducer: Simon Tillotson
The Rapture

The Rapture


Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas developed by the Anglican priest John Nelson Darby (1800-1882), drawn from his reading of scripture, in which Jesus would suddenly take His believers up into the air, and those left behind would suffer on Earth until He returned with His church to rule for a thousand years before Final Judgement. Some believers would look for signs that civilization was declining, such as wars and natural disasters, or for new Roman Empires that would harbour the Antichrist, and from these predict the time of the Rapture. Darby helped establish the Plymouth Brethren, and later his ideas were picked up in the Scofield Reference Bible (1909) and soon became influential, particularly in the USA. With Elizabeth PhillipsResearch Fellow at the Margaret Beaufort Institute at the University of Cambridge and Honorary Fellow in the Department of Theology and Religion at Durham UniversityCrawford GribbenProfessor of Early Modern British History at Queen’s University Belfastand Nicholas GuyattReader in North American History at the University of CambridgeProducer: Simon Tillotson
Napoleon's Retreat from Moscow

Napoleon's Retreat from Moscow


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.WithJanet HartleyProfessor Emeritus of International History, LSEMichael RoweReader in European History, King’s College LondonAndMichael RapportReader in Modern European History, University of GlasgowProducer: Simon Tillotson
Free Will (Summer Repeat)

Free Will (Summer Repeat)


In the 500th edition of the programme, Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the philosophical idea of free will.Free will - the extent to which we are free to choose our own actions - is one of the most absorbing philosophical problems, debated by almost every great thinker of the last two thousand years. In a universe apparently governed by physical laws, is it possible for individuals to be responsible for their own actions? Or are our lives simply proceeding along preordained paths? Determinism - the doctrine that every event is the inevitable consequence of what goes before - seems to suggest so.Many intellectuals have concluded that free will is logically impossible. The philosopher Baruch Spinoza regarded it as a delusion. Albert Einstein wrote: "Human beings, in their thinking, feeling and acting are not free agents but are as causally bound as the stars in their motion." But in the Enlightenment, philosophers including David Hume found ways in which free will and determinism could be reconciled. Recent scientific developments mean that this debate remains as lively today as it was in the ancient world.With:Simon BlackburnBertrand Russell Professor of Philosophy at the University of CambridgeHelen BeebeeProfessor of Philosophy at the University of BirminghamGalen StrawsonProfessor of Philosophy at the University of ReadingProducer: Thomas Morris
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 German Condor Legion, joined by the Italian air force, on behalf of Franco's Nationalists. At first the Nationalists denied responsibility, blaming their opponents for creating the destruction themselves for propaganda purposes, but the accounts of journalists such as George Steer, and the prominence of Picasso's work, kept the events of that day under close scrutiny. Picasso's painting has gone on to become a symbol warning against the devastation of war.WithMary VincentProfessor of Modern European History at the University of SheffieldGijs van HensbergenHistorian of Spanish Art and Fellow of the LSE Cañada Blanch Centre for Contemporary Spanish StudiesandDacia Viejo RoseLecturer in Heritage in the Department of Archaeology at the University of CambridgeFellow of Selwyn CollegeProducer: Simon Tillotson.
Augustine's ConfessionsIn Our TimeMelvyn Bragg and guests discuss St Augustine of Hippo's account of his conversion to Christianity and his life up to that point. Written c397AD, it has many elements of autobiography with his scrutiny of his earlier life, his long relationship with a concubine, his theft of pears as a child, his work as an orator and his embrace of other philosophies and Manichaeism. Significantly for the development of Christianity, he explores the idea of original sin in the context of his own experience. The work is often seen as an argument for his Roman Catholicism, a less powerful force where he was living in North Africa where another form of Christianity was dominant, Donatism. While Augustine retells many episodes from his own life, the greater strength of his Confessions has come to be seen as his examination of his own emotional development, and the growth of his soul.WithKate CooperProfessor of History at the University of London and Head of History at Royal HollowayMorwenna LudlowProfessor of Christian History and Theology at the University of ExeterandMartin PalmerVisiting Professor in Religion, History and Nature at the University of WinchesterProducer: Simon Tillotson.
Emmy Noether (Summer Repeat)

Emmy Noether (Summer Repeat)


Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas and life of one of the greatest mathematicians of the 20th century, Emmy Noether. Noether’s Theorem is regarded as one of the most important mathematical theorems, influencing the evolution of modern physics. Born in 1882 in Bavaria, Noether studied mathematics at a time when women were generally denied the chance to pursue academic careers and, to get round objections, she spent four years lecturing under a male colleague’s name. In the 1930s she faced further objections to her teaching, as she was Jewish, and she left for the USA when the Nazis came to power. Her innovative ideas were to become widely recognised and she is now considered to be one of the founders of modern algebra.WithColva Roney DougalProfessor of Pure Mathematics at the University of St AndrewsDavid BermanProfessor in Theoretical Physics at Queen Mary, University of LondonElizabeth Mansfield Professor of Mathematics at the University of KentProducer: Simon Tillotson
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
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 (1)

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

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

Michael King

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

May 8th

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

Simon Curry

Great episode.

Mar 9th

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 (4)

Rob Moores

bananas were possibly unknown in England in 1620

Feb 23rd

Paul Gerald William Mc Closkey

. CD d

Feb 19th

I like dick up my Bum Hole and


Feb 7th

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

Wes Stone

such drama in this episode 😂😂

Oct 23rd

Stephen Burrell

Great podcast

Oct 18th

Henry Simmons

Melvin mau trppin bragg

Oct 17th


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

Oct 15th

Amparo Silver

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

Oct 8th

Cathal Doyle


Sep 28th

Rhett P

wrong ep

Aug 20th

Jan Ilett

whoever uploaded it enjoyed the gin themselves

Aug 19th

Sandra Teacher

same here

Aug 18th
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