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 Sun 10 Jul 14

    Thu, 10 Jul 14

    Duration:
    48 mins

    How was the Sun formed, and what do we know about its structure and the processes going on inside our nearest star? With Carolin Crawford, Gresham Professor of Astronomy and Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge; Yvonne Elsworth, Professor of Helioseismology at the University of Birmingham; and Louise Harra, Professor of Solar Physics at UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory.

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  • Mrs Dalloway 03 Jul 14

    Thu, 3 Jul 14

    Duration:
    46 mins

    Virginia Woolf's novel Mrs Dalloway, first published in 1925, charts a single day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, a prosperous member of London society, as she prepares to throw a party. Woolf explained in her diary what she had set out to do: 'I want to give life and death, sanity and insanity. I want to criticize the social system, and to show it at work at its most intense.' Celebrated for its innovative narrative technique and distillation of many of the preoccupations of 1920s Britain, Mrs Dalloway is now seen as a landmark of 20th-century fiction, and one of the finest products of literary modernism. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Professor Dame Hermione Lee, President of Wolfson College, Oxford; Jane Goldman, Reader in English Literature at the University of Glasgow and Kathryn Simpson, Senior Lecturer in English Literature at Cardiff Metropolitan University.

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  • Hildegard of Bingen 26 Jun 14

    Thu, 26 Jun 14

    Duration:
    45 mins

    Hildegard of Bingen was one of the most remarkable figures of the Middle Ages. The abbess of a Benedictine convent, she experienced a series of mystical visions which she documented in her writings. She was celebrated for her wide-ranging scholarship, which covered theology, science and medicine. Officially recognised as a saint in 2012, Hildegard is also one of the earliest known composers. Since their rediscovery in recent decades her compositions have been widely recorded and performed. 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; William Flynn, Lecturer in Medieval Latin at the Institute for Medieval Studies at the University of Leeds and Almut Suerbaum, Professor of Medieval German and Fellow of Somerville College, Oxford.

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  • Philosophy of Solitude 19 Jun 14

    Thu, 19 Jun 14

    Duration:
    48 mins

    The state of being alone can arise for many different reasons: imprisonment, exile or personal choice. It can be prompted by religious belief, personal necessity or a philosophical need for solitary contemplation. Many thinkers have dealt with the subject, from Plato and Aristotle to Hannah Arendt. It's a philosophical tradition that takes in medieval religious mystics, the work of Montaigne and Adam Smith, and the great American poets of solitude Thoreau and Emerson. With Melissa Lane, Professor of Politics at Princeton University; Simon Blackburn, Professor of Philosophy at the New College of the Humanities and Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge; and John Haldane, Professor of Philosophy at the University of St Andrews.

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  • Robert Boyle 12 Jun 14

    Thu, 12 Jun 14

    Duration:
    47 mins

    Robert Boyle was a pioneering scientist and a founder member of the Royal Society. Born in Ireland in 1627, Boyle was one of the first natural philosophers to conduct rigorous experiments, laid the foundations of modern chemistry and derived Boyle's Law, describing the physical properties of gases. In addition to his experimental work he left a substantial body of writings about philosophy and religion; his piety was one of the most important factors in his intellectual activities, prompting a celebrated dispute with his contemporary Thomas Hobbes. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Simon Schaffer, Professor of the History of Science at the University of Cambridge; Michael Hunter, Emeritus Professor of History at Birkbeck College, University of London and Anna Marie Roos, Senior Lecturer in the History of Science and Medicine at the University of Lincoln.

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  • Bluestockings 05 Jun 14

    Thu, 5 Jun 14

    Duration:
    47 mins

    The Bluestockings were a small group of intellectual women in the 18th century who met regularly to discuss literature and other matters. They invited some of the leading thinkers of the day to take part in their informal salons. In an age when women were not expected to be highly educated, the Bluestockings were sometimes regarded with suspicion or even hostility. But prominent members such as Elizabeth Montagu and the classicist Elizabeth Carter were highly regarded for their scholarship. Their accomplishments led to far greater acceptance of women as the intellectual equal of men, and furthered the cause of female education. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Karen O'Brien, Vice-Principal and Professor of English at King's College London; Elizabeth Eger, Reader in English Literature at King's College London and Nicole Pohl, Reader in English Literature at Oxford Brookes University.

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  • The Talmud 29 May 14

    Thu, 29 May 14

    Duration:
    48 mins

    The Talmud is one of the most important texts of Judaism. It was probably written down over a period of several hundred years, beginning in the 2nd century. It contains the authoritative text of the traditional Jewish oral law, and also an account of early Rabbinic discussions of these laws. In later centuries scholars wrote important commentaries on these texts, which remain central to most strands of modern Judaism. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Philip Alexander, Emeritus Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Manchester; Rabbi Norman Solomon, Former Lecturer at the Oxford Centre for Jewish and Hebrew Studies and Laliv Clenman, Lecturer in Rabbinic Literature at Leo Baeck College and a Visiting Lecturer at KCL.

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  • The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam 22 May 14

    Thu, 22 May 14

    Duration:
    48 mins

    The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, published in 1859, was a poem by Edward FitzGerald that was based on the verses of the 11th-century Persian scholar Omar Khayyam. Not a single copy was sold in the first few months after the work's publication, but after it came to the notice of members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood it became enormously influential. The Rubaiyat made Khayyam the best-known Eastern poet in the English-speaking world and FitzGerald's version is one of the most admired works of Victorian literature. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Charles Melville, Professor of Persian History at the University of Cambridge; Daniel Karlin, Winterstoke Professor of English Literature at the University of Bristol and Kirstie Blair, Professor of English Studies at the University of Stirling.

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  • Photosynthesis 15 May 14

    Thu, 15 May 14

    Duration:
    47 mins

    Photosynthesis is the process by which plants and many other organisms use sunlight to produce organic molecules. Photosynthesis arose early in evolutionary history and has been a crucial driver of life on Earth. In addition to providing most of the food on the planet, it is also responsible for maintaining atmospheric oxygen levels, and is thus almost certainly the most important chemical process ever discovered. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Nick Lane, Reader in Evolutionary Biochemistry at University College London; Sandra Knapp, Botanist at the Natural History Museum and John Allen, Professor of Biochemistry at Queen Mary, University of London.

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  • The Sino-Japanese War 08 May 14

    Thu, 8 May 14

    Duration:
    47 mins

    The Sino-Japanese War of 1937-45 broke out after several years of rising tension between China and Japan. When the Japanese invaded China they met with fierce resistance, despite internal Chinese political divisions. Once the USA had entered the war following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Japanese found themselves fighting on several fronts and finally capitulated in August 1945. This notoriously brutal conflict left millions dead and had far-reaching consequences for Asia. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Rana Mitter, Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China at the University of Oxford; Barak Kushner, Senior Lecturer in Japanese History at the University of Cambridge and Tehyun Ma, Lecturer in Chinese History at the University of Exeter.

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