iPlayer Radio What's New?
Image for The Charge of the Light Brigade

Listen now 45 mins

Listen in pop-out player

The Charge of the Light Brigade

Duration:
45 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 10 January 2008

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Charge of the Light - an event of no military significance that has become iconic in the British historical imagination.

On November 14th 1854 The Times newspaper reported on a minor cavalry skirmish in the Crimean War:

“They swept proudly past, glittering in the morning sun in all the pride and splendour of war... At the distance of 1200 yards the whole line of the enemy belched forth, from thirty iron mouths, a flood of smoke and flame through which hissed the deadly balls. Their flight was marked by instant gaps in our ranks, by dead men and horses, by steeds flying wounded or riderless across the plain”.

This is the debacle of the Charge of the Light Brigade, which made little difference to the Crimean War yet has become deeply embedded in British culture. It helped to provoke the resignation of a Prime Minister and it profoundly changed British attitudes to war and to the soldiers who fought in them. It also brought censorship to bear on previously uncensored war reporting and inspired Alfred, Lord Tennyson to sit down and write “All in the Valley of Death rode the six hundred”.

With Mike Broers, Lecturer in Modern History at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall; Trudi Tate, Fellow of Clare Hall, Cambridge; Saul David, Visiting Professor of Military History at the University of Hull

  • Further Reading

    Literary works and memoirs
    Frances Duberly, Mrs Duberly’s War: Journal and Letters from the Crimea (1855), ed. Christine Kelly (Oxford UP, 2007)

    Florence Nightingale, Letters from the Crimea 1854-1856, ed. Sue Goldie (1997)

    Mary Seacole, The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands (1857; Penguin, 2005)

    Alfred Tennyson, ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ (1854); in Tennyson, Selected Poems, ed. Aidan Day (Penguin, 1991)

    Tennyson, Maud (1855), in Tennyson, Selected Poems.

    Leo Tolstoy, Sebastopol Sketches (1855-6; Penguin, 1986)

    Harry Turner, ed., Wrapped in Whirlwinds: Poems of the Crimean War (Spellmount, 2005)

  • .

    History and Biography
    Mark Adkin, The Charge: The Real Reason Why the Light Brigade was Lost (Leo Cooper, 1996)

    Olive Anderson, A Liberal State at War: English Politics and Economics during the Crimean War (Macmillan, 1967)

    Winfried Baumgart, The Crimean War, 1853-1856 (Arnold, 1999)

    J. B. Conacher, Britain and the Crimea, 1855–56: Problems of War and Peace (Macmillan, 1987)

    David Goldfrank, The Origins of the Crimean War (Longman, 1994)

    Andrew Lambert and Stephen Badsey, The War Correspondents: The Crimean War (Sutton, 1994)

    Robert Martin, Tennyson: The Unquiet Heart (1980)

    Alan Palmer, The Banner of Battle: The Story of the Crimean War (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1987)

    Christopher Ricks, Tennyson, revised edn (Macmillan, 1989)

    Trudi Tate, ‘On Not Knowing Why: Memorializing the Light Brigade’, in Helen Small and Trudi Tate, eds., Literature, Science, Psychoanalysis 1830-1970: Essays in Honour of Gillian Beer (Oxford UP, 2003)

Broadcasts

Featured in...

  • History archive

    Historical themes, events and key individuals from Akhenaten to Xenophon.

  • Victorian

    Browse the Victorian era within the In Our Time archive.

In Our Time Downloads

melvyn-bragg.jpg

Every episode of In Our Time - available to download to listen to when & where you want.

Free downloads

  1. Image for In Our Time Archive: Culture

    In Our Time Archive: Culture

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history of ideas as it applies to culture - from literature…

  2. Image for In Our Time Archive: History

    In Our Time Archive: History

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the people, conflicts and events that have shaped the world.

  3. Image for In Our Time Archive: Philosophy

    In Our Time Archive: Philosophy

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history of philosophy - from ancient Greek thinkers to the…

  4. Image for In Our Time Archive: Religion

    In Our Time Archive: Religion

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history of religious ideas - from the faith systems of…

  5. Image for In Our Time Archive: Science

    In Our Time Archive: Science

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history of ideas and the evolution of the sciences - from…

  6. Image for 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,…

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.