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The In Our Time Listeners' Top 10

Is your favourite here? As Melvyn Bragg approached his 750th In Our Time, we asked you to suggest which editions should be in a new Listeners' Top 10.

You came up with over 350 different programmes, of which these – listed alphabetically – had the most support. If you’re new to In Our Time, they’re a good place to start.

1816, the Year Without a Summer

People responded strongly to the idea of a volcanic eruption on one side of the planet wrecking the weather on the other side, inspiring Frankenstein and (allegedly) the invention of the bicycle.

Listen to 1816, the Year Without a Summer

Common Sense Philosophy

As Cicero said, “There is no statement so absurd that no philosopher will make it.” Maybe that’s why this suggestion was so popular?

Listen to Common Sense Philosophy

Epic of Gilgamesh

One listener told us: “I didn't know that Gilgamesh was an actual historical story. Captain Picard told it to a Tamarian in the excellent Star Trek episode Darmok, as a way of attempting to communicate to a people whose language involved speaking using only allegory.”

Listen to Epic of Gilgamesh

The Gin Craze

Long-time listener Sioned Mills wrote: “The Gin Craze has whizzed into my personal top 10 of this *wonderful* podcast, mostly due to the brilliant podcast extra ending of Melvyn's childhood reminiscences and 'we have to have spontaneous combustion!'. Just marvelous!”

Listen to The Gin Craze

Godel's Incompleteness Theorems

“A difficult topic with ramifications outside mathematics, explained wonderfully by top-class guests. A good example of what IOT does week in, week out,” said listener Simon Prosser.

Listen to Godel's Incompleteness Theorems

Hildegard of Bingen

It is no surprise to see this here. This programme about one of the first women composers has been popular since it was first broadcast.

Listen to Hildegard of Bingen

The Muses

This is about the history of inspiration and where we all get our ideas from. It really seemed to resonate.

Listen to The Muses

P v NP

Our programme about the mathematical problem of P versus NP, which has a bearing on online security, was one of the most challenging. It was also one of the most popular suggestions for the top 10.

Listen to P v NP


This one has grown and grown. As one listener told us, “It was completely wonderful. The breadth of the subject – from planet to molecule – the depth of the knowledge around the table, and the way the narrative unfolded all came together. A truly outstanding programme.”

Listen to Photosynthesis

Romulus and Remus

“A fascinating conversation about the founding and then early days of the city of Rome, made even more engaging by the liveliness of the debate. Melvyn obviously really enjoyed hosting this one too,” wrote listener Vanessa MacMahon.

Listen to Romulus and Remus

Melvyn Bragg has presented every edition of In Our Time since it started on 15 October 1998 with War in the 20th Century. It continues with 40 episodes every year, from September to July. The programme was extended from 28 to 42 minutes and from two to three guests on 6 April 2000.