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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All episodes (115)

  • 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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  • The Phoenicians 06 Feb 14

    Thu, 6 Feb 14

    Duration:
    42 mins

    The Phoenicians were an ancient people from the Levant who were accomplished sailors and traders, and are thought to have taught the Greeks their alphabet. By about 700 BC they were trading all over the Mediterranean, taking Egyptian and Syrian goods as far as Spain and North Africa. Although they left few records of their own, they were hugely influential in the ancient world. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Mark Woolmer, Assistant Principal at Collingwood College, Durham University; Josephine Quinn, Lecturer in Ancient History at the University of Oxford and Cyprian Broodbank, Professor of Mediterranean Archaeology at University College London.

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  • Catastrophism 30 Jan 14

    Thu, 30 Jan 14

    Duration:
    42 mins

    Catastrophism is the idea that natural disasters have had a significant influence in moulding the Earth's geological features. In 1822 William Buckland ascribed most of the fossil record to the effects of Noah's flood. Charles Lyell later challenged these writings, arguing that geological change was slow and gradual, and that the processes responsible could still be seen at work today - a theory known as Uniformitarianism. But in the 1970s the idea that catastrophes were a major factor in the Earth's geology was revived by the discovery of evidence of a giant asteroid impact 65 million years ago, believed by many to have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Andrew Scott, Leverhulme Emeritus Fellow in the Department of Earth Sciences at Royal Holloway, University of London; Jan Zalasiewicz, Senior Lecturer in Geology at the University of Leicester and Leucha Veneer, Visiting Scholar at the Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Manchester.

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  • Sources of Early Chinese History 23 Jan 14

    Thu, 23 Jan 14

    Duration:
    43 mins

    The first records of historical events in China date from the Shang dynasty of the 2nd millennium BC. The earliest surviving records were inscribed on bones or tortoise shells; in later centuries, chroniclers left detailed accounts on paper or silk. In the last 100 years, archaeologists have discovered a wealth of new materials, including a cache of previously unknown texts which were found in a cave on the edge of the Gobi Desert. Such sources are shedding new light on Chinese history, although interpreting them presents a number of challenges. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Roel Sterckx, Joseph Needham Professor of Chinese History at the University of Cambridge; Tim Barrett, Professor of East Asian History at SOAS, University of London and Hilde de Weerdt, Professor of Chinese History at Leiden University.

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  • The Battle of Tours 16 Jan 14

    Thu, 16 Jan 14

    Duration:
    43 mins

    The Battle of Tours took place in 732 when a large Arab army invaded Gaul from northern Spain. They were defeated near Poitiers by Charles Martel and his Frankish forces. The result confirmed the regional supremacy of Charles, who went on to establish a strong Frankish dynasty. The Battle of Tours was the last major incursion of Muslim armies into northern Europe; some historians, including Edward Gibbon, have seen it as the decisive moment that determined that the continent would remain Christian. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Hugh Kennedy, Professor of Arabic at SOAS, University of London; Rosamond McKitterick, Professor of Medieval History at the University of Cambridge and Matthew Innes, Vice-Master and Professor of History at Birkbeck, University of London.

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  • Plato's Symposium 02 Jan 14

    Thu, 2 Jan 14

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Plato's Symposium is one of the Greek philosopher's most celebrated works. Written in the 4th century BC, it is a dialogue set at a dinner party attended by a number of prominent ancient Athenians, including the philosopher Socrates and the playwright Aristophanes. Each of the guests speaks of Eros, or erotic love. This fictional discussion of the nature of love, how and why it arises and what it means to be in love, has had a significant influence on later thinkers, and is the origin of the modern notion of Platonic love. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Angie Hobbs, Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield; Richard Hunter, Regius Professor of Greek at the University of Cambridge and Frisbee Sheffield, Director of Studies in Philosophy at Christ's College, University of Cambridge.

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  • The Medici 26 Dec 2013

    Thu, 26 Dec 13

    Duration:
    43 mins

    The Medici family dominated Florence's political and cultural life for three centuries. They came to prominence in Italy in the 15th century as a result of the wealth they built up through banking. With the rise of Cosimo de' Medici, they became Florence's most powerful and influential dynasty, effectively controlling the city's government. Their patronage of the arts turned Florence into a leading centre of the Renaissance and the Medici Bank was one of the most successful institutions of its day. As well as producing four popes, members of the Medici married into various European royal families. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Evelyn Welch, Professor of Renaissance Studies at King’s College, University of London; Robert Black, Professor of Renaissance History at the University of Leeds and Catherine Fletcher, Lecturer in Public History at the University of Sheffield.

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  • Complexity 19 Dec 13

    Thu, 19 Dec 13

    Duration:
    42 mins

    Complexity is a young discipline which can help us understand the world around us. When individuals come together and act in a group, they do so in complicated and unpredictable ways: societies often behave very differently from the people within them. Research into complex systems now has important applications in many different fields, from biology to political science. Today it is being used to explain how birds flock, to predict traffic flow in cities and to study the spread of diseases. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Ian Stewart, Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at the University of Warwick; Jeff Johnson, Professor of Complexity Science and Design at the Open University and Professor Eve Mitleton-Kelly, Director of the Complexity Research Group at the London School of Economics.

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  • Pliny the Younger 12 Dec 13

    Thu, 12 Dec 13

    Duration:
    42 mins

    Pliny the Younger was a prolific Roman letter-writer. A prominent lawyer in the 1st century AD, Pliny later became governor of the province of Bithynia, in modern Turkey. Pliny's letters offer fascinating insights into life and government in ancient Rome and its empire, from the mundane details of irrigation schemes to his vivid eyewitness account of the eruption of Vesuvius. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Catharine Edwards, Professor of Classics and Ancient History at Birkbeck, University of London; Roy Gibson, Professor of Latin at the University of Manchester and Alice König, Lecturer in Latin and Classical Studies at the University of St Andrews.

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  • Hindu Ideas of Creation 05 Dec 13

    Thu, 5 Dec 13

    Duration:
    42 mins

    Hinduism has no single creation story. Throughout history, Hindu thinkers have taken a variety of approaches to the question of where we come from, with some making the case for divine intervention and others asking whether it is even possible for humans to comprehend the nature of creation. The origin of our existence, and the nature of the Universe we live in, is one of the richest strands of Hindu thought. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Jessica Frazier, Lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Kent and a Research Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies at the University of Oxford; Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad, Professor of Comparative Religion and Philosophy at Lancaster University and Gavin Flood, Professor of Hindu Studies and Comparative Religion at the University of Oxford.

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  • The Microscope 28 Nov 13

    Thu, 28 Nov 13

    Duration:
    43 mins

    The microscope has revolutionised our knowledge of the world and the organisms that inhabit it. Invented in the seventeenth century, the microscope became an essential component of scientific enquiry by the nineteenth century, but in the 1930s a German physicist, Ernst Ruska, discovered that by using a beam of electrons he could view structures much tinier than was possible using visible light. Today light and electron microscopy are among the most powerful tools at the disposal of modern science, and new techniques are still being developed.

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  • Pocahontas 21 Nov 13

    Thu, 21 Nov 13

    Duration:
    42 mins

    Pocahontas was a Native American woman who became a symbol of the New World to English eyes. During the colonisation of Virginia in the early 17th century, Pocahontas was captured by the English, converted to Christianity, married a settler and travelled to England where she was regarded as a curiosity. She died in 1617 aged 22 and was buried in Gravesend; her story has fascinated generations on both sides of the Atlantic and has been reinterpreted by many writers and artists. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Susan Castillo, Harriet Beecher Stowe Emeritus Professor of American Studies at King's College London; Tim Lockley, Reader in American Studies at the University of Warwick and Jacqueline Fear-Segal, Reader in American History and Culture at the University of East Anglia.

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  • The Tempest 14 Nov 13

    Thu, 14 Nov 13

    Duration:
    42 mins

    The Tempest is thought to be one of Shakespeare's final works and contains some of his most poetic and memorable passages. It was influenced by accounts of distant lands written by contemporary explorers, and by the complex politics of the early Jacobean age. The play is set entirely on an unnamed island inhabited by the magician Prospero, his daughter Miranda and the monstrous Caliban, one of Shakespeare's most intriguing characters. Its themes include magic and the nature of theatre itself - and some modern critics have seen it as an early meditation on the ethics of colonialism. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Jonathan Bate, Provost of Worcester College, Oxford; Erin Sullivan, Lecturer and Fellow at the Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham and Katherine Duncan-Jones, Emeritus Fellow of Somerville College, Oxford.

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  • Ordinary Language Philosophy 7 Nov 13

    Thu, 7 Nov 13

    Duration:
    42 mins

    Ordinary Language Philosophy was a school of thought which emerged in Oxford in the years following World War II. With its roots in the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein, Ordinary Language Philosophy is concerned with the meanings of words as used in everyday speech. Its adherents believed that many philosophical problems were created by the misuse of words, and that if such 'ordinary language' were correctly analysed, such problems would disappear. Philosophers associated with the school include some of the most distinguished British thinkers of the 20th century, such as Gilbert Ryle and JL Austin. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Stephen Mulhall, Professor of Philosophy at New College, Oxford; Ray Monk, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southampton and Julia Tanney, Reader in Philosophy of Mind at the University of Kent.

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  • The Berlin Conference 31 Oct 13

    Thu, 31 Oct 13

    Duration:
    43 mins

    The Berlin Conference of 1884 brought together Europe's leading powers to discuss trade and territorial rights in Africa. It is widely seen as one of the most significant events in the process known as the Scramble for Africa, and the decisions reached had effects which have lasted to the present day. In the following decades, European nations laid claim to most of the continent. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Richard Drayton, Rhodes Professor of Imperial History at King's College London; Richard Rathbone, Emeritus Professor of African History at SOAS, University of London and Joanna Lewis, Assistant Professor of Imperial History at the LSE, University of London.

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  • The Corn Laws 24 Oct 13

    Thu, 24 Oct 13

    Duration:
    42 mins

    The Corn Laws were passed by the British Government in 1815 to keep the price of corn artificially high. The measure was supported by landowners but strongly opposed by manufacturers and the urban working class. In the 1830s the Anti-Corn Law League was founded to campaign for their repeal. Robert Peel's Conservative government finally repealed the laws in 1846, splitting his party in the process. The resulting debate had profound consequences for the political and economic future of the country. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Lawrence Goldman, Fellow in Modern History at St Peter's College, Oxford; Boyd Hilton, Former Professor of Modern British History at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Trinity College and Cheryl Schonhardt-Bailey, Reader in Political Science at the London School of Economics.

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  • The Book of Common Prayer 17 Oct 13

    Thu, 17 Oct 13

    Duration:
    42 mins

    The Book of Common Prayer, first published in 1549, contained versions of the liturgy in English. Compiled by Thomas Cranmer, the book was at the centre of the decade of religious turmoil that followed, and disputes over its use were one of the major causes of the English Civil War in the 1640s. The book was revised several times before the celebrated final version was published in 1662. It is still in use in many churches today, and remains not just a liturgical text of great importance but a literary work of profound beauty. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of the History of the Church at the University of Oxford; Alexandra Walsham, Professor of Modern History at the University of Cambridge and Martin Palmer, Director of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education, and Culture.

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  • Galen 10 Oct 13

    Thu, 10 Oct 13

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Galen was the most celebrated doctor in the ancient world. Greek by birth, he spent most of his career in Rome, where he was personal physician to three Emperors. Acclaimed in his own lifetime, he was regarded as the preeminent medical authority for centuries after his death, both in the Arab world and in medieval Europe. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Vivian Nutton, Emeritus Professor of the History of Medicine at University College London; Helen King, Professor of Classical Studies at the Open University and Caroline Petit, Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow in Classics at the University of Warwick.

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  • Exoplanets 3 Oct 13

    Thu, 3 Oct 13

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Exoplanets are planets beyond our solar system. Astronomers have speculated about their existence for centuries, but it was not until the 1990s that instruments became sophisticated enough to detect such remote objects. Since then, more than 900 exoplanets have been discovered, and scientists are now able to reach increasingly sophisticated conclusions about what they look like - and whether they might be able to support life. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Carolin Crawford, Gresham Professor of Astronomy and a member of the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge; Don Pollacco, Professor of Astronomy at the University of Warwick and Suzanne Aigrain, Lecturer in Astrophysics at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of All Souls College.

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  • The Mamluks 26 Sep 13

    Thu, 26 Sep 13

    Duration:
    43 mins

    The Mamluks ruled Egypt and Syria from 1250 to 1517. Originally slave soldiers who managed to depose their masters, they went on to repel the Mongols and the Crusaders to become the dominant force in the medieval Islamic world. Although the Mamluks were renowned as warriors, they were also great patrons of the arts. They remained in power for almost 300 years until they were finally overthrown by the Ottomans. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Amira Bennison, Reader in the History and Culture of the Maghrib at the University of Cambridge; Robert Irwin, Former Senior Research Associate in the Department of History at SOAS, University of London and Doris Behrens-Abouseif, Nasser D Khalili Professor of Islamic Art and Archaeology at SOAS, University of London.

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  • Pascal 19 Sep 13

    Thu, 19 Sep 13

    Duration:
    42 mins

    Pascal was a brilliant 17th-century mathematician and scientist who invented one of the first mechanical calculators and made important discoveries about fluids and vacuums while still a young man. In his thirties he experienced a religious conversion, after which he devoted most of his attention to philosophy and theology. Although he died in his late thirties, Pascal left a formidable legacy as a scientist and pioneer of probability theory, and as one of seventeenth century Europe's greatest writers.

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  • The Invention of Radio 04 Jul 13

    Thu, 4 Jul 13

    Duration:
    42 mins

    In the early 1860s the Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell derived four equations which together describe the behaviour of electricity and magnetism. They predicted the existence of a previously unknown phenomenon: electromagnetic waves. These waves were first observed in the early 1880s, and over the next two decades a succession of scientists and engineers built increasingly elaborate devices to produce and detect them. Eventually this gave birth to a new technology: radio. The Italian Guglielmo Marconi is commonly described as the father of radio - but many other figures were involved in its development, and it was not him but a Canadian, Reginald Fessenden, who first succeeded in transmitting speech over the airwaves. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Simon Schaffer, Professor of the History of Science at the University of Cambridge; Elizabeth Bruton, Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Leeds and John Liffen, Curator of Communications at the Science Museum, London.

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  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms 27 Jun 13

    Thu, 27 Jun 13

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Romance of the Three Kingdoms is widely regarded as one of the greatest works of Chinese literature. Written 600 years ago, it is an historical novel that tells the story of a tumultuous period in Chinese history when the Han Dynasty fell from power in the 3rd century AD. The influence of Romance of the Three Kingdoms in East Asia has been likened to that of Homer in the West, and this warfare epic remains popular in China today. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Frances Wood, Former Lead Curator of Chinese Collections at the British Library; Craig Clunas, Professor of the History of Art at the University of Oxford and Margaret Hillenbrand, University Lecturer in Modern Chinese Literature at the University of Oxford and Fellow of Wadham College.

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  • Physiocrats 20 Jun 13

    Thu, 20 Jun 13

    Duration:
    43 mins

    The Physiocrats were an important group of economic thinkers in 18th-century France. They believed that the land was the ultimate source of all wealth and that markets should not be constrained by governments. Their ideas were important not just to economists but to the course of politics in France. Later they influenced the work of Adam Smith. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Richard Whatmore, Professor of Intellectual History & the History of Political Thought at the University of Sussex; Joel Felix, Professor of History at the University of Reading and Helen Paul, Lecturer in Economics and Economic History at the University of Southampton.

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  • Prophecy 13 Jun 13

    Thu, 13 Jun 13

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Prophecy has great meaning and significance in the Abrahamic religions. Prophets, those with the ability to convey divinely-inspired revelation, are significant figures in the Hebrew Bible and later became important not just to Judaism but also to Christianity and Islam. Although these three religions share many of the same prophets, their interpretation of the nature of prophecy often differs. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic and Interreligious Studies at the University of Edinburgh; Justin Meggitt, University Senior Lecturer in the Study of Religion and the Origins of Christianity at the University of Cambridge and Jonathan Stökl, Post-Doctoral Researcher at Leiden University.

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  • Relativity 06 Jun 13

    Thu, 6 Jun 13

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Einstein's theories of relativity transformed our understanding of the Universe. The twin theories of Special and General Relativity offered insights into the nature of space, time and gravitation which changed the face of modern science. It's regarded today as one of the greatest intellectual achievements of the 20th century, and had an impact far beyond the world of science. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Ruth Gregory, Professor of Mathematics and Physics at Durham University; Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal and Emeritus Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at the University of Cambridge and Roger Penrose, Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford.

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  • Queen Zenobia 30 May 13

    Thu, 30 May 13

    Duration:
    42 mins

    Queen Zenobia was a distinguished military leader of the ancient world. Born in about 240 AD, Zenobia became Empress of the Palmyrene Empire in the Middle East. She is renowned for launching a rebellion against the Roman Empire and conquering Egypt before being finally defeated by the Emperor Aurelian. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Edith Hall, Professor of Classics at King's College, London; Kate Cooper, Professor of Ancient History at the University of Manchester and Richard Stoneman, Honorary Visiting Professor in the Department of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Exeter.

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  • Lévi-Strauss 23 May 13

    Thu, 23 May 13

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss was one of 20th-century France's most celebrated intellectuals. He set out to show in his work that human thought processes were universal, whether people lived in tribal rainforest societies or in the rich intellectual life of Paris. He was the leading exponent of structuralism, and his books about the nature of myth, thought and kinship are now seen as some of the most important anthropological texts. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Adam Kuper, Visiting Professor of Anthropology at Boston University; Christina Howells, Professor of French at Oxford University and Vincent Debaene, Associate Professor of French Literature at Columbia University.

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  • Cosmic Rays 16 May 13

    Thu, 16 May 13

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Cosmic rays were discovered in 1912 by the physicist Victor Hess. The Earth is under constant bombardment from this radiation coming from beyond our atmosphere. Cosmic rays can cause damage to satellites and electronic devices on Earth, but the study of cosmic rays has led to major breakthroughs in particle physics. Today physicists are still trying to establish where these highly energetic particles come from. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Carolin Crawford, Gresham Professor of Astronomy and a member of the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge; Alan Watson, Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of Leeds and Tim Greenshaw, Professor of Physics at the University of Liverpool.

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  • Icelandic Sagas 09 May 13

    Thu, 9 May 13

    Duration:
    43 mins

    The Icelandic Sagas were first written down in the 13th century and tell the stories of the Norse settlers who began to arrive in Iceland 400 years before. They contain some of the richest and most extraordinary writing of the Middle Ages. Full of heroes, feuds, ghosts and outlaws, the sagas inspired later writers including Sir Walter Scott, William Morris and WH Auden. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Carolyne Larrington, Fellow and Tutor in Medieval English Literature at St John's College, Oxford; Elizabeth Ashman Rowe, University Lecturer in Scandinavian History at the University of Cambridge and Emily Lethbridge, Post-Doctoral Researcher at the Árni Magnússon Manuscripts Institute in Reykjavík.

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  • Gnosticism 02 May 13

    Thu, 2 May 13

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Gnosticism was a belief system associated with early Christianity. Gnostics believed that a special hidden knowledge, or gnosis, would enable them to escape the evils of the physical world and reach the higher spiritual realm. The Gnostics were regarded as heretics by most of the early Church Fathers, but their influence was important in defining the course of Christianity. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Martin Palmer, Director of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education, and Culture; Caroline Humfress, Reader in History at Birkbeck College, University of London and Alastair Logan, Honorary University Fellow of the Department of Theology and Religion at the University of Exeter.

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  • Montaigne 25 Apr 13

    Thu, 25 Apr 13

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Montaigne's Essays deal with an eclectic range of subjects, from the dauntingly weighty to the apparently trivial. Born in France in 1533, Montaigne is often seen as one of the most outstanding Sceptical thinkers of his time. His approachable style, intelligence and subtle thought have made him one of the most widely admired writers of the Renaissance. Melvyn Bragg is joined by David Wootton, Anniversary Professor of History at York University; Terence Cave, Emeritus Professor of French Literature at the University of Oxford and Felicity Green, Chancellor's Fellow in History at the University of Edinburgh.

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  • Putney Debates 18 Apr 13

    Thu, 18 Apr 13

    Duration:
    42 mins

    The Putney Debates took place in late 1647, after the defeat of King Charles I in the first English Civil War. Representatives of the New Model Army and the radical Levellers met in a Putney church to debate the future of England, who should be allowed to vote, civil liberties and religious freedom. Their debates had much influence on centuries of political thought. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Justin Champion, Professor of the History of Early Modern Ideas at Royal Holloway, University of London; Ann Hughes, Professor of Early Modern History at Keele University and Kate Peters, Fellow in History at Murray Edwards College, Cambridge.

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  • The Amazons 11 Apr 13

    Thu, 11 Apr 13

    Duration:
    43 mins

    The Amazons were a mythical tribe of female warriors who first appeared in Greek culture. In later centuries, particularly in the Renaissance, the Amazons became a popular theme of literature and art. After the discovery of the New World, the Amazon River was named after them. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Paul Cartledge, A.G. Leventis Professor of Greek Culture at Cambridge University; Chiara Franceschini, Teaching Fellow at University College London and an Academic Assistant at the Warburg Institute and Caroline Vout, Senior Lecturer in Classics and Fellow and Director of Studies at Christ's College, Cambridge.

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  • Japan's Sakoku Period 04 Apr 13

    Thu, 4 Apr 13

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Japan's Sakoku period was a time when the country isolated itself from the Western world. It began with a series of edicts in the 1630s which restricted the rights of Japanese to leave their country and expelled most of the Europeans living there. Although historians used to think of Japan as completely isolated from external influence for the next 200 years, recent scholarship suggests that Japanese society was far less cut off from European ideas during this period than previously thought. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Richard Bowring, Emeritus Professor of Japanese Studies at the University of Cambridge; Andrew Cobbing, Associate Professor of History at the University of Nottingham and Rebekah Clements, Research Associate at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge.

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  • Water 28 Mar 13

    Thu, 28 Mar 13

    Duration:
    40 mins

    The chemistry of the water molecule - Andrea Sella, Hasok Chang and Patricia Hunt join Melvyn Bragg to discuss one of the most fascinating substances on Earth.

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  • Alfred Russel Wallace 21 Mar 13

    Thu, 21 Mar 13

    Duration:
    43 mins

    The biologist Alfred Russel Wallace was a pioneer of evolutionary theory. Born in 1823, he travelled extensively, charting the distribution of animal species throughout the world. In 1858 he sent his paper on the theory of evolution by natural selection to Charles Darwin, who was spurred into the publication of his own masterpiece On the Origin of Species. But despite his visionary work, Wallace has been overshadowed by the greater fame of Darwin. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Steve Jones, Emeritus Professor of Genetics at University College London; George Beccaloni, Director of the Wallace Correspondence Project at the Natural History Museum and Ted Benton, Professor of Sociology at the University of Essex.

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  • Chekhov 14 Mar 13

    Thu, 14 Mar 13

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Anton Chekhov, the 19th-century Russian writer, is perhaps best known for his plays including The Cherry Orchard and Three Sisters. He is also celebrated today as one of the greatest of short story writers. His works are often powerful character studies and chronicle the changing nature of Russian society. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Catriona Kelly, Professor of Russian at the University of Oxford; Cynthia Marsh, Emeritus Professor of Russian Drama and Literature at the University of Nottingham and Rosamund Bartlett, Founding Director of the Anton Chekhov Foundation.

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  • Absolute Zero 7 Mar 13

    Thu, 7 Mar 13

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss absolute zero, the lowest conceivable temperature, about minus 273 degrees Celsius. At temperatures close to absolute zero, physicists have discovered a number of strange new phenomena including superfluids, liquids capable of climbing a vertical surface. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Simon Schaffer, Professor of the History of Science at the University of Cambridge; Stephen Blundell, Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford and Nicola Wilkin, Lecturer in Theoretical Physics at the University of Birmingham.

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  • Pitt-Rivers 28 Feb 13

    Thu, 28 Feb 13

    Duration:
    42 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of the Victorian anthropologist and archaeologist Augustus Pitt-Rivers. He amassed thousands of ethnographic and archaeological objects, some of which formed the founding collection of the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. Inspired by Charles Darwin, Pitt-Rivers believed that human technology evolved in the same way as living organisms. He was also a pioneering archaeologist who provided a model for later scholars. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Adam Kuper, Visiting Professor of Anthropology at Boston University; Richard Bradley, Professor in Archaeology at the University of Reading and Dan Hicks, University Lecturer & Curator of Archaeology at the Pitt Rivers Museum at the University of Oxford.

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  • Decline and Fall 21 Feb 13

    Thu, 21 Feb 13

    Duration:
    42 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Evelyn Waugh's comic novel Decline and Fall. Set partly in a substandard boys' public school, the novel is a vivid, often riotous portrait of 1920s Britain. Its themes, including modernity, religion and fashionable society, came to dominate Waugh's later fiction, and it was immediately celebrated for its vicious satire and biting humour. Melvyn Bragg is joined by David Bradshaw, Professor of English Literature at Worcester College, Oxford; John Bowen, Professor of Nineteenth-Century Literature at the University of York and Ann Pasternak Slater, Senior Research Fellow at St Anne's College, Oxford.

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  • Ice Ages 14 Feb 13

    Thu, 14 Feb 13

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss ice ages, periods when ice sheets cover the Earth's Poles. Geological evidence indicates that there have been several in the Earth's history, although their precise cause is not known. Ice ages have had profound effects on the geography and biology of our planet. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Jane Francis, Professor of Paleoclimatology at the University of Leeds; Richard Corfield, Visiting Research Fellow in the Department of Earth Sciences at Oxford University and Carrie Lear, Senior Lecturer in Palaeoceanography at Cardiff University.

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  • Epicureanism 7 Feb 13

    Thu, 7 Feb 13

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Epicureanism, the philosophical system based on the teachings of Epicurus and founded in Athens in the 4th century BC. At the centre of his philosophy is the idea that the goal of human life is pleasure, by which he meant not luxury but the avoidance of pain. He also stressed the importance of friendship. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Angie Hobbs, Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield; David Sedley, Laurence Professor of Ancient Philosophy at the University of Cambridge and James Warren, Reader in Ancient Philosophy at the University of Cambridge.

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  • War of 1812 31 Jan 13

    Thu, 31 Jan 13

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the War of 1812, the conflict between the USA and Britain sometimes referred to as the second American War of Independence. Although the War of 1812 is often overlooked, historians say it had a profound effect on the USA and Canada's sense of national identity, confirming the USA as an independent country. The war also led to Native Americans losing millions of acres of land in a programme of forced removal. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Kathleen Burk, Professor of Modern and Contemporary History at University College London; Lawrence Goldman, Fellow in Modern History at St Peter's College, University of Oxford and Frank Cogliano, Professor of American History at the University of Edinburgh.

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  • Romulus and Remus 24 Jan 13

    Thu, 24 Jan 13

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Melvyn Bragg is joined by Mary Beard, Tim Cornell and Peter Wiseman to discuss the story of Romulus and Remus, the foundation myth of Rome.

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  • Comets 17 Jan 13

    Thu, 17 Jan 13

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss comets, the 'dirty snowballs' of the Solar System. Halley's Comet is today the best known example of a comet, a body of ice and dust which orbits the Sun. Since they contain materials from the time when the Solar System was formed, comets are regarded by scientists as frozen time capsules, with the potential to reveal important information about the early history of planets. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Monica Grady, Professor of Planetary and Space Sciences at the Open University; Paul Murdin, Senior Fellow at the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge and Don Pollacco, Professor of Astronomy at the University of Warwick.

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  • Le Morte Darthur 10 Jan 13

    Thu, 10 Jan 13

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Thomas Malory's "Le Morte Darthur", the epic tale of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table, which was written in the 15th century. The Arthurian legend is one of the most enduring and popular in western literature and the book's themes - chivalry, betrayal, love and honour - remain compelling. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Helen Cooper, Professor of Medieval and Renaissance English at the University of Cambridge; Helen Fulton, Professor of Medieval Literature at the University of York and Laura Ashe, CUF Lecturer and Tutorial Fellow at Worcester College at the University of Oxford.

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  • The Cult of Mithras 27 Dec 12

    Thu, 27 Dec 12

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the cult of Mithras, a mystery religion that existed in the Roman Empire from the 1st to the 4th centuries AD. Its rituals included communal meals and a complex seven-stage initiation system. Typical depictions of Mithras show him being born from a rock, enjoying food with the sun god Sol and stabbing a bull. In recent decades, many aspects of the cult have provoked debate, especially as there are no written accounts by its members. What were its origins and why did it eventually die out? Melvyn Bragg is joined by Greg Woolf, Professor of Ancient History at the University of St Andrews; Almut Hintze, Zartoshty Professor of Zoroastrianism at SOAS, University of London and John North, Acting Director of the Institute of Classical Studies, University of London.

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  • South Sea Bubble 20 Dec 12

    Thu, 20 Dec 12

    Duration:
    42 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the South Sea Bubble, the speculation mania in early 18th-century England which ended in the financial ruin of many investors. People from all walks of life bought shares in the South Sea Company, so when the shares crashed, there was a public outcry and many people faced financial ruin. But how did such a financial crisis develop and how serious were the effects of this early example of a stock market boom and bust? Melvyn Bragg is joined by Anne Murphy, Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Hertfordshire; Helen Paul, Lecturer in Economics and Economic History at the University of Southampton and Roey Sweet, Head of the School of History at the University of Leicester.

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  • Shahnameh of Ferdowsi 13 Dec 12

    Thu, 13 Dec 12

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the epic poem the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi, the 'Book of Kings', which has been at the heart of Persian culture for the past 1000 years. It recounts a legendary history of Iran from the dawn of time to the fall of the Persian Empire in the 7th century, depicting battles, romances, family rifts and the struggle between good and evil. The poem has been referred to as the identity card of the Persian people. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Narguess Farzad, Senior Fellow in Persian at SOAS, University of London; Charles Melville, Professor of Persian History at Pembroke College, University of Cambridge and Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis, Curator of Middle Eastern Coins at the British Museum.

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  • Bertrand Russell 06 Dec 12

    Thu, 6 Dec 12

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the influential British philosopher Bertrand Russell. Born in 1872, Russell is widely regarded as one of the founders of Analytic philosophy, today the dominant philosophical tradition in the English-speaking world. His theory of descriptions had profound consequences for the discipline. Russell also played an active role in many social and political campaigns. He supported women's suffrage, was imprisoned for his pacifism during World War I and was a founder of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Melvyn Bragg is joined by AC Grayling, Master of the New College of the Humanities and a Supernumerary Fellow of St Anne's College, Oxford; Mike Beaney, Professor of Philosophy at the University of York and Hilary Greaves, Lecturer in Philosophy and Fellow of Somerville College, Oxford.

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  • Crystallography 29 Nov 12

    Wed, 28 Nov 12

    Duration:
    42 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history of crystallography, the study of crystals and their structure. The discovery in the early 20th century that X-rays could be diffracted by a crystal revolutionised our knowledge of materials. This crystal technology has touched most people's lives, thanks to the vital role it plays in diverse scientific disciplines - from physics and chemistry, to molecular biology and mineralogy. To date, 28 Nobel Prizes have been awarded to scientists working with X-ray crystallography, an indication of its crucial importance. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Judith Howard, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Durham; Chris Hammond, Life Fellow in Material Science at the University of Leeds; and Mike Glazer, Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford and Visiting Professor of Physics at the University of Warwick.

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  • The Borgias 22 Nov 12

    Thu, 22 Nov 12

    Duration:
    42 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Borgias, the most notorious family in Renaissance Italy. Famed for their treachery and corruption, the Borgias produced two popes during their time of dominance in Rome in the late 15th century. Murder, intrigue and power politics characterised their rule, but many of the stories now told about their depraved behaviour emerged after their demise. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Evelyn Welch, Professor of Renaissance Studies at Queen Mary, University of London; Catherine Fletcher, Lecturer in Public History at the University of Sheffield and Christine Shaw, Honorary Research Fellow at Swansea University.

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  • Simone Weil 15 Nov 12

    Thu, 15 Nov 12

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the French philosopher and social activist Simone Weil. Born in Paris in 1909, her philosophy was both complex and intense. She argued that the presence of suffering in the world was evidence of God's love and that love which expects reward was not love at all. Albert Camus believed she was "the only great spirit of our time." Weil died of TB at the age of only 34. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Beatrice Han-Pile, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Essex; Stephen Plant, Dean of Trinity Hall at the University of Cambridge and David Levy, Teaching Fellow in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh.

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  • The Upanishads 8 Nov 12

    Thu, 8 Nov 12

    Duration:
    42 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Upanishads, the ancient sacred texts of Hinduism. Dating from about 700 BC, the Upanishads ask profound questions about human existence and man's place in the cosmos. More than 100 Upanishads were produced, 13 of which are regarded as the canonical scriptures of Hinduism. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Jessica Frazier, Lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Kent and a Research Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, University of Oxford; Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad, Professor of Comparative Religion and Philosophy at Lancaster University and Simon Brodbeck, Lecturer in Religious Studies at Cardiff University.

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  • The Anarchy 01 Nov 12

    Thu, 1 Nov 12

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss The Anarchy, the civil war that took place in mid-12th century England. It was a succession dispute between the Empress Matilda, daughter of Henry I, and her cousin, Stephen of Blois. The Anarchy dragged on for nearly 20 years and is so called because of the chaos and lawlessness that characterised the period. But does it deserve the label of 'The Anarchy'? Why did Matilda fail to become the monarch? What impact did the conflict have on England? Melvyn Bragg is joined by John Gillingham, Emeritus Professor of History at the LSE; Louise Wilkinson, Reader in Medieval History at Canterbury Christ Church University and David Carpenter, Professor of Medieval History at Kings College London.

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  • Fermat's Last Theorem 25 Oct 12

    Thu, 25 Oct 12

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Fermat's Last Theorem. In 1637 the French mathematician Pierre de Fermat scribbled a note in the margin of one of his books. He claimed to have proved a remarkable property of numbers, but gave no clue as to how he'd gone about it. Fermat's theorem became one of the most iconic problems in mathematics and for centuries mathematicians struggled in vain to work out what his proof had been. It was not until 1995 that the puzzle was finally solved by the British mathematician Andrew Wiles. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Marcus du Sautoy, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford; Vicky Neale, Fellow and Director of Studies in Mathematics at Murray Edwards College at the University of Cambridge and Samir Siksek, Professor at the Mathematics Institute at the University of Warwick.

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  • Caxton and the Printing Press 18 Oct 12

    Thu, 18 Oct 12

    Duration:
    42 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and influence of William Caxton, the merchant who brought the printing press to Britain. After working abroad for several years, Caxton set up his first printing press in Westminster in 1476. The advent of print is now seen as one of the great revolutions in intellectual history, although it was a revolution that took time to have an effect. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Richard Gameson, Professor of the History of the Book at the University of Durham; Julia Boffey, Professor of Medieval Studies at Queen Mary, University of London and David Rundle of the History Faculty at the University of Oxford.

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  • Hannibal 11 Oct 12

    Thu, 11 Oct 12

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and achievements of Hannibal, one of the most celebrated military leaders in history. Commander of the Carthaginian army, he led his men with elephants across the Alps in order to attack the Roman Republic. His career ended in defeat and exile, but centuries later his tactical genius was admired by generals including Napoleon and Wellington. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Ellen O'Gorman, Senior Lecturer in Classics at the University of Bristol; Mark Woolmer, Senior Tutor in the Department of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Durham and Louis Rawlings, Senior Lecturer in Ancient History at Cardiff University.

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  • Gerald of Wales 04 Oct 12

    Thu, 4 Oct 12

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the medieval scholar Gerald of Wales. Born in the 12th century, with both Anglo-Norman and Welsh parentage, Gerald was a cleric and courtier of Henry II. His accounts of journeys he made around Wales and Ireland are among the most colourful and informative chronicles of the Middle Ages. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Henrietta Leyser, Emeritus Fellow of St Peter's College, University of Oxford; Michelle Brown, Professor Emerita of Medieval Manuscript Studies at the School of Advanced Study, University of London and Huw Pryce, Professor of Welsh History at Bangor University.

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  • Ontological Argument 27 Sep 12

    Thu, 27 Sep 12

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Ontological Argument. In the 11th century Anselm of Canterbury proposed that it was possible to prove the existence of God using reason alone. His argument was taken further by later thinkers including Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz but other philosophers have rejected it. It remains one of the most discussed problems in philosophy. Melvyn Bragg is joined by John Haldane, Professor of Philosophy at the University of St Andrews; Peter Millican, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oxford and Clare Carlisle, Lecturer in Philosophy of Religion at King's College London.

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  • The Druids 20 Sep 12

    Thu, 20 Sep 12

    Duration:
    42 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Druids, the priests of ancient Europe. Active in Ireland, Britain and Gaul, the Druids were first written about by Roman authors including Julius Caesar and Pliny. They were suspected of leading resistance to the Romans, a fact which led to their eradication from ancient Britain. In the early modern era, however, interest in the Druids revived, and later writers reinvented their activities. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Barry Cunliffe, Emeritus Professor of Archaeology at the University of Oxford; Miranda Aldhouse-Green, Professor of Archaeology at Cardiff University and Justin Champion, Professor of the History of Early Modern Ideas at Royal Holloway, University of London.

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  • The Cell 13 Sep 12

    Thu, 13 Sep 12

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the cell, the fundamental building block of life. First observed by Robert Hooke in 1665, cells occur in nature in a bewildering variety of forms. A single human body contains up to a hundred trillion of them. How did the first cell appear, and how did that prototype evolve into the sophisticated cells of the human body? Melvyn Bragg is joined by Steve Jones, Professor of Genetics at UCL; Nick Lane, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment, UCL and Cathie Martin, Professor in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of East Anglia.

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  • Hadrian's Wall 12 Jul 12

    Thu, 12 Jul 12

    Duration:
    42 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Hadrian's Wall, the largest Roman structure and one of the most important archaeological monuments in Britain. It was built across North England in about 122 AD by the Emperor Hadrian and, even after more than a century of excavations, many mysteries still surround it. Did it have a meaningful defensive role or was it mainly a powerful emperor's vanity project? Melvyn Bragg is joined by Greg Woolf, Professor of Ancient History at the University of St Andrews; David Breeze, Former Chief Inspector of Ancient Monuments for Scotland and Visiting Professor of Archaeology at the University of Durham and Lindsay Allason-Jones, Former Reader in Roman Material Culture at the University of Newcastle.

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  • Scepticism 05 Jul 12

    Thu, 5 Jul 12

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Scepticism, the idea that it may be impossible to know anything with complete certainty. Socrates is reported to have said that the only thing he knew for certain was that he knew nothing. Scepticism was taken up by later philosophers and came to the fore during the Renaissance, especially in the work of Descartes and Montaigne. Its ideas went on to have a powerful influence on the religious and scientific debates of the Enlightenment. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Peter Millican, Professor of Philosophy at Hertford College, Oxford; Melissa Lane, Professor of Politics at Princeton University and Jill Kraye, Professor of the History of Renaissance Philosophy and Librarian at the Warburg Institute, University of London.

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  • Al-Kindi 28 Jun 12

    Thu, 28 Jun 12

    Duration:
    42 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of the 9th-century Arab philosopher al-Kindi. The author of more than 250 works, he wrote on many different subjects, from optics to mathematics, music and astrology. He was the first significant thinker to argue that philosophy and Islam had much to offer each other. Today al-Kindi is regarded as one of the greatest scholars of the medieval Islamic world. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Hugh Kennedy, Professor of Arabic at SOAS, University of London; James Montgomery, Sir Thomas Adams's Professor of Arabic Elect at the University of Cambridge and Amira Bennison, Senior Lecturer in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at the University of Cambridge.

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  • Annie Besant 21 Jun 12

    Thu, 21 Jun 12

    Duration:
    42 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life of the prominent 19th-century social reformer Annie Besant. Born in 1847, Annie Besant espoused a range of causes including secularism, women's rights, Socialism, Irish Home Rule, birth control and better conditions for workers. Later in life she moved to India and took a leading role in the Indian self-rule movement, being appointed the first female president of the Indian National Congress in 1917. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Lawrence Goldman, Fellow in Modern History at St Peter's College, University of Oxford; David Stack, Reader in History at the University of Reading and Yasmin Khan, Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at Royal Holloway, University of London.

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  • Ulysses 14 Jun 12

    Thu, 14 Jun 12

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss James Joyce's novel Ulysses. First published 90 years ago, Joyce's masterpiece charts a single day in the life of the Dubliner Leopold Bloom. Some early readers were outraged by its sexual content and daringly scatalogical humour, and the novel was banned in most English-speaking countries for a decade after it first appeared. Today Ulysses is widely regarded as the greatest example of literary modernism. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Steven Connor, Professor of Modern Literature and Theory at Birkbeck, University of London; Jeri Johnson, Senior Fellow in English at Exeter College, Oxford and Richard Brown, Reader in Modern English Literature at the University of Leeds.

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  • King Solomon 07 Jun 12

    Thu, 7 Jun 12

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the biblical king Solomon, celebrated for his wisdom and as the architect of the First Temple in Jerusalem. Solomon is an important figure in Judaism, Islam and Christianity alike, and is also credited with the authorship of several scriptural texts. For many centuries Solomon was seen as the archetypal enlightened monarch, and his example influenced notions of kingship from the Middle Ages onwards. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Martin Palmer, Director of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education, and Culture; Philip Alexander, Emeritus Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Manchester and Katharine Dell, Senior Lecturer in Old Testament Studies at the University of Cambridge, and Fellow of St Catherine's College, Cambridge.

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  • Trojan War 31 May 12

    Thu, 31 May 12

    Duration:
    42 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Trojan War, one of the best known events of Greek mythology. According to the traditional story, the war began when a Trojan prince, Paris, eloped with the Spartan queen Helen. A Greek army besieged Troy for ten years before the city was finally overrun and destroyed. But does the Trojan War story have any basis in fact? And why has it proved such an enduring legend? Melvyn Bragg is joined by Edith Hall, Professor of Classics at King's College London; Ellen Adams, Lecturer in Classical Art and Archaeology at King's College London and Susan Sherratt, Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Sheffield.

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  • Marco Polo 24 May 12

    Thu, 24 May 12

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the celebrated Venetian explorer Marco Polo. In 1271 Polo set off on an epic journey through Asia and he was away for more than twenty years. When he returned, he told extraordinary tales of his adventures. The Travels of Marco Polo was one of the most popular books produced in the age before printing. For centuries it was seen as the first and best account of life in the mysterious East, but today the accuracy and even truth of Marco Polo's work is often disputed. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Frances Wood, Lead Curator of Chinese Collections at the British Library; Joan Pau Rubies, Reader in International History at the London School of Economics and Political Science and Debra Higgs Strickland, Senior Lecturer in the History of Art at the University of Glasgow.

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  • Clausewitz's On War 17 May 12

    Thu, 17 May 12

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss On War, a treatise on the theory and practice of warfare written by the Prussian soldier and intellectual Carl von Clausewitz. First published in 1832, Clausewitz's magnum opus is commonly regarded as the most important book about military theory ever written. Its influence is felt today not just on the battlefield but also in politics and business. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Saul David, Professor of War Studies at the University of Buckingham; Hew Strachan, Chichele Professor of the History of War at the University of Oxford and Beatrice Heuser, Professor of International Relations at the University of Reading.

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  • Game Theory 10 May 12

    Thu, 10 May 12

    Duration:
    42 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss game theory, the mathematical study of decision-making. Some of the games studied in game theory have become well known outside academia - they include the Prisoner's Dilemma, an intriguing scenario popularised in novels and films. Today game theory is seen as an important tool in evolutionary biology, economics, computing and philosophy. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Ian Stewart, Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at the University of Warwick; Andrew Colman, Professor of Psychology at the University of Leicester and Richard Bradley, Professor of Philosophy at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

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  • Voltaire's Candide 05 May 12

    Thu, 3 May 12

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Voltaire's novel Candide. First published in 1759, the novel follows the adventures of a young man, Candide, and his mentor, the philosopher Pangloss. Often uproariously funny, the novel is a biting satire whose targets include bad literature, extremist religion and the vanity of kings and politicians. It captivated contemporary readers and has proved one of French literature's most enduring classics. Melvyn Bragg is joined by David Wootton, Professor of History at the University of York; Nicholas Cronk, Professor of French Literature and Director of the Voltaire Foundation at the University of Oxford and Caroline Warman, Lecturer in French and Fellow of Jesus College at the University of Oxford.

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  • The Battle of Bosworth Field 26 Apr 12

    Thu, 26 Apr 12

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Battle of Bosworth Field, the celebrated encounter between Lancastrian and Yorkist forces in August 1485, which resulted in the death of Richard III. Henry Tudor's victory established the Tudor dynasty which was to rule for over a century. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Anne Curry, Professor of Medieval History and Dean of Humanities at the University of Southampton; Steven Gunn, Tutor and Fellow in Modern History at Merton College, Oxford and David Grummitt, Lecturer in British History at the University of Kent.

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  • Neoplatonism 19 Apr 12

    Thu, 19 Apr 12

    Duration:
    42 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Neoplatonism, the school of thought founded in the 3rd century AD by the philosopher Plotinus. The Neoplatonists brought a new religious sensibility to bear on Plato's thought, outlining a complex cosmology which linked the human with the divine, headed by a mysterious power called the One. Neoplatonism shaped early Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious scholarship, and remained a dominant force in European thought until the Renaissance. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Angie Hobbs, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Senior Fellow in the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of Warwick; Peter Adamson, Professor of Ancient and Medieval Philosophy at King's College London and Anne Sheppard, Professor of Ancient Philosophy at Royal Holloway, University of London.

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  • Early Geology 12 Apr 12

    Thu, 12 Apr 12

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the emergence of geology - the study of the Earth, its history and composition. Although geology only emerged as a separate area of study in the late 18th century, many earlier thinkers had studied rocks, fossils and the materials from which the Earth is made. But how did such haphazard study of rocks and fossils develop into a rigorous scientific discipline? Melvyn Bragg is joined by Stephen Pumfrey, Senior Lecturer in the History of Science at Lancaster University; Andrew Scott, Professor of Applied Palaeobotany at Royal Holloway, University of London and Leucha Veneer, Research Associate at the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine at the University of Manchester.

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  • Quakers 5 Apr 12

    Thu, 5 Apr 12

    Duration:
    42 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the origins of Quakerism. In the mid-17th century an itinerant preacher, George Fox, became the central figure of the Religious Society of Friends. Persecuted for many years, particularly after the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, the Quakers survived to become an influential religious group, known for their pacifism and philanthropy. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Justin Champion, Professor of the History of Early Modern Ideas at Royal Holloway, University of London; John Coffey, Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Leicester and Kate Peters, Fellow in History at Murray Edwards College at the University of Cambridge.

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  • Measurement of Time 29 Mar 12

    Thu, 29 Mar 12

    Duration:
    42 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the measurement of time. Early civilisations used the movements of heavenly bodies to tell the time, then mechanical clocks emerged in Europe in the medieval period. For hundreds of years clocks were inaccurate but now atomic clocks are capable of keeping time to a second in 15 million years. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Kristen Lippincott, Former Director of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich; Jim Bennett, Director of the Museum of the History of Science at the University of Oxford and Jonathan Betts, Senior Curator of Horology at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich.

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  • Moses Mendelssohn 22 Mar 12

    Thu, 22 Mar 12

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the work and influence of the 18th-century philosopher Moses Mendelssohn. Moses's learning earned him the sobriquet of the 'German Socrates' and he is considered to be one of the principal architects of the Haskala, the Jewish Enlightenment. Today, he is perhaps best remembered for his efforts to bring Jewish and German culture closer together and for his plea for religious toleration. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Christopher Clark, Professor of Modern European History at the University of Cambridge; Abigail Green, Tutor and Fellow in History at the University of Oxford and Adam Sutcliffe, Senior Lecturer in European History at King's College, London.

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  • Vitruvius 15 Mar 12

    Thu, 15 Mar 12

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Vitruvius' De Architectura. Written 2000 years ago, Vitruvius' treatise is a ten-volume work on Roman engineering and architecture, the only surviving text on the subject from the ancient world. The rediscovery of this work in the 15th century provided the impetus for the neoclassical architectural movement, and Vitruvius exerted a significant influence on the work of Renaissance architects including Palladio, Brunelleschi and Alberti. It remains a hugely important text today. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Serafina Cuomo, Reader in Roman History at Birkbeck, University of London; Robert Tavernor, Emeritus Professor of Architecture and Urban Design at the London School of Economics and Alice Koenig, Lecturer in Latin and Classical Studies at the University of St Andrews.

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  • Lyrical Ballads 8 Mar 12

    Thu, 8 Mar 12

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Lyrical Ballads, the collection of poems by William Wordsworth and Samuel Coleridge first published in 1798, which attempted to cast off the stultifying conventions of formal 18th-century poetry. Lyrical Ballads contains some of the best-known work by Coleridge and Wordsworth, including The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Tintern Abbey - and is today seen as a point of radical departure for poetry in English. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Judith Hawley, Professor of Eighteenth-Century Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London; Jonathan Bate, Provost of Worcester College, Oxford and Peter Swaab, Reader in English Literature at University College London.

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  • Benjamin Franklin 01 Mar 12

    Thu, 1 Mar 12

    Duration:
    42 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of Benjamin Franklin. A printer, statesman, diplomat, writer and scientist, Franklin was one of the most remarkable individuals of the 18th century. As the only Founding Father to have signed all three of the fundamental documents of the United States of America, including its Declaration of Independence and Constitution, Benjamin Franklin occupies a unique position in the history of the nation. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Simon Middleton, Senior Lecturer in American History at the University of Sheffield; Simon Newman, Sir Denis Brogan Professor of American History at the University of Glasgow and Patricia Fara, Senior Tutor at Clare College, University of Cambridge.

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  • Conductors 23 Feb 12

    Thu, 23 Feb 12

    Duration:
    42 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the physics of electrical conduction. In investigating electrical conduction scientists discovered two new classes of material. Semiconductors have given us the transistor, the solar cell and the silicon chip, and have revolutionised telecommunications. And superconductors, remarkable materials first observed in 1911, are used in medical imaging and at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Frank Close, Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford; Jenny Nelson, Professor of Physics at Imperial College London and Lesley Cohen Professor of Solid State Physics at Imperial College London.

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  • The An Lushan Rebellion 16 Feb 12

    Thu, 16 Feb 12

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the An Lushan Rebellion, a major uprising against the Chinese Tang Dynasty in 755 AD. Although the dynasty's authority was restored, it never regained the prosperity of previous generations. The An Lushan Rebellion displaced millions of people and changed the relationship between the Chinese state and neighbouring powers, but it also left a rich cultural legacy in the poetry memorialising this seismic event. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Frances Wood, Lead Curator of Chinese at the British Library; Naomi Standen, Professor of Medieval History at the University of Birmingham and Hilde de Weerdt, Fellow and Lecturer in Chinese History at Pembroke College, Oxford.

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  • Erasmus 9 Feb 12

    Thu, 9 Feb 12

    Duration:
    42 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of the 16th century humanist scholar Desiderius Erasmus, almost universally recognised as the greatest classical scholar of his age. An important religious writer, he was also an outspoken critic of the Church, but when the Reformation began Erasmus chose to remain a member of the Catholic Church rather than side with Martin Luther and the reformers. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of the History of the Church at the University of Oxford; Eamon Duffy, Professor of the History of Christianity at the University of Cambridge and Jill Kraye, Professor of the History of Renaissance Philosophy and Librarian at the Warburg Institute, University of London.

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  • The Kama Sutra 2 Feb 2012

    Thu, 2 Feb 12

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Kama Sutra, one of the most celebrated and misunderstood texts of Indian literature. Although it is best known today for its chapter devoted to sexual pleasure, this Sanskrit work is a wide ranging manual to a life of fulfilment, which has had a profound influence on Indian culture and thought. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Julius Lipner, Professor of Hinduism and the Comparative Study of Religion at the University of Cambridge; Jessica Frazier, Lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Kent and Research Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies and David Smith, Reader in South Asian Religions at the University of Lancaster.

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  • The Scientific Method 26 Jan 12

    Thu, 26 Jan 12

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the evolution of the Scientific Method, the systematic and analytical approach to scientific thought. It became a topic of intense debate in the 17th century, and thinkers including Isaac Newton, Thomas Huxley and Karl Popper all made important contributions. Some of the greatest discoveries of the modern age were informed by their work, although even today the term 'scientific method' remains difficult to define. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Simon Schaffer, Professor of the History of Science at the University of Cambridge; John Worrall, Professor of the Philosophy of Science at the LSE and Michela Massimi, Senior Lecturer in the Philosophy of Science at University College London.

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  • 1848 Year of Revolution 19 Jan 12

    Thu, 19 Jan 12

    Duration:
    42 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss 1848, the year that saw Europe engulfed in revolution. Across the continent, from Paris to Palermo, liberals rose against conservative governments. The first stirrings of rebellion came in January, in Sicily; in February the French monarchy fell; and within a few months Germany, Austria, Hungary and Italy had all been overtaken by revolutionary fervour. Only a few countries were spared. With Tim Blanning, Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Cambridge; Lucy Riall, Professor of History at Birkbeck, University of London; and Mike Rapport, Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Stirling.

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  • Safavid Dynasty 12 Jan 12

    Thu, 12 Jan 12

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Safavid Dynasty, rulers of the Persian empire between the 16th and 18th centuries. At the peak of their success the Safavids ruled over a vast territory which included all of modern-day Iran. They converted their subjects to Shi'a Islam, creating the religious identity of today's Iran, and their capital Isfahan became one of the most magnificent cities in the world. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Robert Gleave, Professor of Arabic Studies at the University of Exeter; Emma Loosley, Senior Lecturer at the School of Arts, Histories and Cultures at the University of Manchester and Andrew Newman, Reader in Islamic Studies and Persian at the University of Edinburgh.

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  • Macromolecules 29 Dec 11

    Thu, 29 Dec 11

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the giant molecules that form the basis of all life. Macromolecules, also known as polymers, are long chains of atoms which form the proteins that make up our bodies, as well as many of the materials of modern life. We've only known about macromolecules for just over a century, so what is the story behind them and how might they change our lives in the future? Melvyn Bragg is joined by Athene Donald, Professor of Experimental Physics at the University of Cambridge; Charlotte Williams, Reader in Polymer Chemistry and Catalysis at Imperial College London and Tony Ryan, Pro-Vice Chancellor for the Faculty of Science at the University of Sheffield.

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  • Robinson Crusoe 22 Dec 11

    Thu, 22 Dec 11

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Daniel Defoe's novel Robinson Crusoe. Published in 1719, it was an immediate success and is considered the classic adventure story - the sailor stranded on a desert island who learns to tame the environment and the native population. Robinson Crusoe has been interpreted in myriad ways, from colonial fable to religious instruction manual to capitalist tract, yet it is perhaps best known today as a children's story. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Karen O'Brien, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Education at the University of Birmingham; Judith Hawley, Professor of Eighteenth-Century Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London and Bob Owens, Emeritus Professor of English Literature at the Open University.

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  • Concordat of Worms 15 Dec 11

    Thu, 15 Dec 11

    Duration:
    42 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Concordat of Worms. This treaty between the papacy and the Holy Roman Empire, signed in 1122, put an end, at least for a time, to years of power struggle and bloodshed. It created a historic distinction between secular power and spiritual authority, defining more clearly the respective powers of monarchs and the Church. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Henrietta Leyser, Emeritus Fellow of St Peter's College, University of Oxford; Kate Cushing, Reader in Medieval History at Keele University and John Gillingham, Emeritus Professor of History at the London School of Economics and Political Science

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  • Heraclitus 08 Dec 11

    Thu, 8 Dec 11

    Duration:
    42 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus. Writing in the 5th century BC, Heraclitus believed that everything is constantly changing. He expressed this thought in a famous epigram: "No man ever steps into the same river twice." At times a rationalist, at others a mystic, Heraclitus is an intriguing figure who influenced major later philosophers and movements such as Plato and the Stoics. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Angie Hobbs, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Senior Fellow in the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of Warwick; Peter Adamson, Professor of Ancient and Medieval Philosophy at King's College London and James Warren, Senior Lecturer in Classics and a Fellow of Corpus Christi College, University of Cambridge.

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  • Christina Rossetti 01 Dec 11

    Thu, 1 Dec 11

    Duration:
    42 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of the Victorian poet Christina Rossetti. Rossetti was born into an artistic family and her siblings included Dante Gabriel, one of the leading lights of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Her poetry has a spirituality and sensitivity that has led to her redisovery in recent decades, not least by feminist critics who praise her powerful and independent poetic voice. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Dinah Birch, Professor of English Literature at Liverpool University; Rhian Williams, Lecturer in Nineteenth-Century English Literature at the University of Glasgow and Nicholas Shrimpton, Emeritus Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford.

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  • Judas Maccabeus 24 Nov 11

    Thu, 24 Nov 11

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the revolutionary Jewish leader Judas Maccabeus. Born in the 2nd century BC, Judas led his followers in a rebellion against the Seleucid Empire, which was attempting to impose Greek culture and religion on the Jews. He succeeded in winning religious freedom, but it was not until 20 years after Judas's death that Judaea finally became an independent state. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Helen Bond, Senior Lecturer in the New Testament at Edinburgh University; Tessa Rajak, Emeritus Professor of Ancient History at the University of Reading and Philip Alexander, Emeritus Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Manchester.

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  • Ptolemy 17 Nov 11

    Thu, 17 Nov 11

    Duration:
    42 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the ancient Greek astronomer and mathematician Ptolemy, and consider how and why his geocentric theory of the universe held sway for more than a thousand years. It was not until 1543, and Copernicus's heliocentric theory of the world, that the Ptolemaic model was finally challenged. But how and why did Ptolemy's system survive for so long? Melvyn Bragg is joined by Liba Taub of Cambridge University, Jim Bennett of the Museum of the History of Science at the University of Oxford, and Charles Burnett of the University of London.

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  • Analytic-Continental Philosophy Split 10 Nov 11

    Thu, 10 Nov 11

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Continental-Analytic split in Western philosophy. The Analytic school favours a logical, scientific approach, in contrast to the Continental emphasis on the importance of time and place. But what are the origins of this split and is it possible that contemporary philosophers can bridge the gap between the two? Melvyn Bragg is joined by Stephen Mulhall of New College, University of Oxford, Beatrice Han-Pile of the University of Essex and Hans Johann-Glock of the University of Zurich.

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  • The Moon 03 Nov 11

    Thu, 3 Nov 11

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the origins, science and mythology of the Moon. Humans have been fascinated by our only known satellite since prehistory but it was Galileo Galilei who first studied the Moon in detail with a telescope in 1609. Mankind first walked on the Moon in 1969 and since then advances in space science have given us some startling insights into the history of the Moon and our own planet. However, many intriguing questions remain unanswered. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Paul Murdin of Liverpool John Moores University, Carolin Crawford of the University of Cambridge and Ian Crawford of Birkbeck, University of London.

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  • Seige of Tenochtitlan 27 Oct 11

    Thu, 27 Oct 11

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Siege of Tenochtitlan. In 1521 the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes led an army of Spanish and native forces against Tenochtitlan, the spectacular island capital of the Aztec civilisation. After a prolonged siege and fierce battle, the city finally fell. This major confrontation between Old and New Worlds precipitated the downfall of the Aztec Empire and marked a new phase in European colonisation of the Americas. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Alan Knight of the University of Oxford, Elizabeth Graham of University College London and Caroline Dodds Pennock of the University of Sheffield.

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  • Delacroix - Liberty Leading The People 20 Oct 11

    Thu, 20 Oct 11

    Duration:
    42 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Delacroix's painting July 28: Liberty Leading the People. In 1830 revolution once more overtook France, when a popular uprising toppled the French Bourbon monarch, Charles X. Delacroix's allegorical work, personifying Liberty as a female figure, has become an iconic symbol of human freedom, and one of the most influential works of art of the nineteenth century. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Tim Blanning of the University of Cambridge, Tamar Garb of University College London and Simon Lee of the University of Reading.

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  • The Ming Voyages 13 Oct 11

    Thu, 13 Oct 11

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Ming Voyages. In 1405 a Chinese admiral, Zheng He, set sail with an enormous fleet of ships carrying more than 27,000 people. This was the first of seven voyages which took Zheng and his ships all over the known world, from India to the Gulf of Persia and as far as East Africa. They took Chinese goods, evidence of the might of the Ming Empire, to the people they visited; and they also returned to China with treasure from the places they visited, and exotic items including a live giraffe. These extraordinary journeys live on in the imagination and the historical record - and had a profound effect on China's relationship with the rest of the world. With: Rana Mitter, Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China at the University of Oxford; Julia Lovell, Lecturer in Chinese History at Birkbeck College, University of London; Craig Clunas, Professor of the History of Art at the University of Oxford. Producer: Thomas Morris.

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  • David Hume 06 Oct 11

    Thu, 6 Oct 11

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the work of the philosopher David Hume. A key figure in the Scottish Enlightenment of the eighteenth century, Hume was an empiricist who believed that humans can only have knowledge of things they have themselves experienced. He gave a sceptical account of religion, which caused many to suspect him of atheism. He was also the author of a bestselling History of England. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Peter Millican of the University of Oxford, Helen Beebee of the University of Birmingham and James Harris of the University of St Andrews.

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  • The Etruscans 29 Sep 11

    Thu, 29 Sep 11

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Etruscan civilisation which flourished in Italy for much of the first millennium BC. Developing a sophisticated culture, they were skilled soldiers, architects and artists. Eventually the Etruscan civilisation was absorbed into that of Rome, but not before it had profoundly influenced Roman art, religion and politics. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Phil Perkins of the Open University, David Ridgway of the University of London and Corinna Riva of University College London.

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  • Shinto 22 Sep 11

    Thu, 22 Sep 11

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Japanese belief system of Shinto, a religion without gods, scriptures or a founder. Shinto shrines are some of the most prominent features of the Japanese landscape, where over 100 million people - most of the population - count themselves as adherents. Although it has changed considerably in the face of political upheaval and international conflict, it remains one of the most significant influences on Japanese culture. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Martin Palmer, Director of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education and Culture; Richard Bowring, Professor of Japanese Studies at the University of Cambridge; and Lucia Dolce Senior Lecturer in Japanese Religion and Japanese at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

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  • 15 Sep 11: The Hippocratic Oath

    Thu, 15 Sep 11

    Duration:
    43 mins

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Hippocratic Oath. The Greek physician Hippocrates, active in the fifth century BC, has been described as the father of medicine, although little is known about his life and some scholars even argue that he was not one person but several. A large body of work originally attributed to him was disseminated widely in the ancient world, and contains treatises on a wide variety of subjects, from fractures to medical ethics. The best known is the Hippocratic Oath, an ethical code for doctors. Although it has often been revised and adapted, the Hippocratic Oath remains one of the most significant and best known documents of medical science. With: Vivian Nutton, Emeritus Professor of the History of Medicine at University College London Helen King, Professor of Classical Studies at the Open University Peter Pormann, Wellcome Trust Associate Professor in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Warwick

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