In Our Time With Melvyn Bragg

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.

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Recent episodes (10)

  • The Domesday Book 17 Apr 14

    Thu, 17 Apr 14

    Duration:
    48 mins

    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 land holdings and even their farm animals. The resulting document was of immense importance for many centuries, and remains a central source for medieval historians. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Stephen Baxter, Reader in Medieval History at Kings College London; Elisabeth van Houts, Honorary Professor of Medieval European History at the University of Cambridge and David Bates, Professorial Fellow in Medieval History at the University of East Anglia.

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  • Strabo's Geographica 10 Apr 14

    Thu, 10 Apr 14

    Duration:
    48 mins

    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 insight into ancient scholarship, and remained influential for many centuries after the author's death. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Paul Cartledge, AG Leventis Professor of Greek Culture at the University of Cambridge; Maria Pretzler, Senior Lecturer in Ancient History at Swansea University and Benet Salway, Senior Lecturer in Ancient History at UCL.

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  • States of Matter 03 Apr 14

    Thu, 3 Apr 14

    Duration:
    48 mins

    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 believed to exist in a fourth state, plasma. Today scientists recognise a number of other exotic states, such as glass, gels and liquid crystals - many of them with useful properties. Melyvn Bragg is joined by Andrea Sella, Professor of Chemistry at University College London; Athene Donald, Professor of Experimental Physics at the University of Cambridge and Justin Wark, Professor of Physics and Fellow of Trinity College at the University of Oxford.

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  • Weber's The Protestant Ethic 27 Mar 14

    Thu, 27 Mar 14

    Duration:
    51 mins

    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. Weber suggested that Calvinism, with its emphasis on personal asceticism and the merits of hard work, had created an ethic which had enabled the success of capitalism in Protestant countries. Weber's essay has come in for some criticism since he published the work, but it is still seen as one of the seminal texts of 20th-century sociology. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Peter Ghosh, Fellow in History at St Anne's College, Oxford; Sam Whimster, Honorary Professor in Sociology at the University of New South Wales and Linda Woodhead, Professor of Sociology of Religion at Lancaster University.

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  • Bishop Berkeley 20 Mar 14

    Thu, 20 Mar 14

    Duration:
    48 mins

    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 nature of perception was a spur to many later thinkers, including Hume and Kant. The clarity of Berkeley's writing, and his ability to pose a problem in an easily understood form, has made him one of the most admired early modern thinkers. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Peter Millican, Gilbert Ryle Fellow and Professor of Philosophy at Hertford College, Oxford; Tom Stoneham, Professor of Philosophy at the University of York and Michela Massimi, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy of Science at the University of Edinburgh.

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  • The Trinity 13 Mar 14

    Thu, 13 Mar 14

    Duration:
    43 mins

    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 early Church, until clarified by the Council of Nicaea in the late 4th century. St Augustine and Thomas Aquinas recognised that this religious mystery posed profound theological questions. The Trinity's influence on Christian thought and practice is considerable, although it is interpreted in different ways by different Christian traditions. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Janet Soskice, Professor of Philosophical Theology at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Jesus College; Martin Palmer, Director of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education, and Culture, and The Reverend Graham Ward, Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Oxford and a Canon of Christ Church.

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  • Spartacus 06 Mar 14

    Thu, 6 Mar 14

    Duration:
    42 mins

    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 a hero to revolutionaries in Europe. Modern perceptions of his character have been influenced by Stanley Kubrick's 1960 film, but ancient sources give a more complex picture of Spartacus and the aims of his rebellion. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Mary Beard, Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge; Maria Wyke, Professor of Latin at University College, London and Theresa Urbainczyk, Associate Professor of Classics at University College, Dublin.

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  • The Eye 27 Feb 14

    Thu, 27 Feb 14

    Duration:
    43 mins

    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 Golden Age. In Renaissance Europe the work of thinkers including Kepler and Descartes revolutionised thinking about how the organ worked, but it took several hundred years for the eye to be thoroughly understood. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Patricia Fara, Senior Tutor of Clare College, University of Cambridge; William Ayliffe, Gresham Professor of Physic at Gresham College and Robert Iliffe, Professor of Intellectual History and History of Science at the University of Sussex.

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  • Social Darwinism 20 Feb 14

    Thu, 20 Feb 14

    Duration:
    42 mins

    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, who argued that competition among humans was beneficial, because it ensured that only the healthiest and most intelligent individuals would succeed. Social Darwinism remained influential for several decades, although its connection with eugenics and adoption as an ideological position by Fascist regimes ensured its eventual downfall from intellectual respectability. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Adam Kuper, Centennial Professor of Anthropology at the LSE, University of London; Gregory Radick, Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Leeds and Charlotte Sleigh, Reader in the History of Science at the University of Kent.

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  • Chivalry 13 Feb 14

    Thu, 13 Feb 14

    Duration:
    43 mins

    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 influenced the conduct of military campaigns and gave rise to the phenomenon of courtly love, the subject of much romance literature, as well as to the practice of heraldry. The remnants of the chivalric tradition linger in European culture even today. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Miri Rubin, Professor of Medieval and Early Modern History and Head of the School of History at Queen Mary, University of London; Matthew Strickland, Professor of Medieval History at the University of Glasgow and Laura Ashe, Associate Professor in English at the University of Oxford and Fellow of Worcester College.

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