In Our Time, from Aristotle to the History of Zero
In Our Time is both in a central slot in the schedule and something of a cult. When it began 12 years ago it was a leap into the dark. Would a mass audience (over 2 million a week listen to at least some of it - and mostly all of it) take to something so straightforwardly intellectual - and so simple in its format.
Melvyn Bragg had been master of ceremonies at Start the Week for 10 years but had left it after becoming a Lord. And everyone at R4 wanted to keep him. Thus was born In Our Time. It rapidly became clear that the audience not only coped - but loved it. And now many hundreds of editions later it is one of the keystones of Radio 4.
The programme was a pioneer of 'Listen Again' - as we called the facility to listen after the programme was broadcast in pre iPlayer days - and then became the first Radio 4 programme to be podcast. Melvyn at the time was not 100% au-fait with the technology - but he saw the point and his on-air trails for podcasts were works of art. And there has always been a big demand for 'listen again' in what ever form - 300,000 podcasts a month for instance. The website is the most loved of any Radio 4 programme. (We measure these things).
But we have often been asked why the audience only has 7 days to listen again - and why we can't make available the brilliant - and enduring - programmes that have been made in recent years.
And we now can do that. Every edition of the programme is now available from the website. So if your thing is the measurement problem in physics: man is not the measure of all things or Heaven: a journey through the afterlife or any one of hundreds of others - you can now listen when you want. Enjoy.
Mark Damazer is Controller of BBC Radio 4
- The next episode of In Our Time is about unintended consequences. It's on Thursday 11 January at 0900 (repeated at 2130 on the same day). Listen to the first two episodes from the current series - and all previous episodes - on the In Our Time web site.
- Picture by Steve Cadman. Used under licence.
- The In Our Time podcast has 300,000 subscribers.