In Our Time
Bird Migration
July 5th, 2017, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss why some birds migrate and others do not, how they select their destinations and how they navigate the great distances, often over oceans. For millennia, humans set their calendars to birds' annual arrivals, and speculated about what happened when they departed, perhaps moving deep under water, or turning into fish or shellfish, or hibernating while clinging to trees upside down. Ideas about migration developed in C19th when, in Germany, a stork was noticed with an African spear in its neck, indicating where it had been over the winter and how far it had flown. Today there are many ideas about how birds use their senses of sight and smell, and magnetic fields, to find their way, and about why and how birds choose their destinations and many questions. Why do some scatter and some flock together, how much is instinctive and how much is learned, and how far do the benefits the migrating birds gain outweigh the risks they face? With Barbara Helm Reader at the Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine at the University of Glasgow Tim Guilford Professor of Animal Behaviour and Tutorial Fellow of Zoology at Merton College, Oxford and Richard Holland Senior Lecturer in Animal Cognition at Bangor University Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Plato's Republic
June 28th, 2017, 06:00 PM
Is it always better to be just than unjust? That is the central question of Plato's Republic, discussed here by Melvyn Bragg and guests. Writing in c380BC, Plato applied this question both to the individual and the city-state, considering earlier and current forms of government in Athens and potential forms, in which the ideal city might be ruled by philosophers. The Republic is arguably Plato's best known and greatest work, a dialogue between Socrates and his companions, featuring the allegory of the cave and ideas about immortality of the soul, the value of poetry to society, and democracy's vulnerability to a clever demagogue seeking tyranny. With Angie Hobbs Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield MM McCabe Professor of Ancient Philosophy Emerita at King's College London and James Warren Fellow of Corpus Christi College and a Reader in Ancient Philosophy at the University of Cambridge Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Eugene Onegin
June 21st, 2017, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Alexander Pushkin's verse novel, the story of Eugene Onegin, widely regarded as his masterpiece. Pushkin (pictured above) began this in 1823 and worked on it over the next ten years, while moving around Russia, developing the central character of a figure all too typical of his age, the so-called superfluous man. Onegin is cynical, disillusioned and detached, his best friend Lensky is a romantic poet and Tatyana, whose love for Onegin is not returned until too late, is described as a poetic ideal of a Russian woman, and they are shown in the context of the Russian landscape and society that has shaped them. Onegin draws all three into tragic situations which, if he had been willing and able to act, he could have prevented, and so becomes the one responsible for the misery of himself and others as well as the death of his friend. With Andrew Kahn Professor of Russian Literature at the University of Oxford and Fellow of St Edmund Hall Emily Finer Lecturer in Russian and Comparative Literature at the University of St Andrews and Simon Dixon The Sir Bernard Pares Professor of Russian History at University College London Producer: Simon Tillotson.
The American Populists
June 14th, 2017, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss what, in C19th America's Gilded Age, was one of the most significant protest movements since the Civil War with repercussions well into C20th. Farmers in the South and Midwest felt ignored by the urban and industrial elites who were thriving as the farmers suffered droughts and low prices. The farmers were politically and physically isolated. As one man wrote on his abandoned farm, 'two hundred and fifty miles to the nearest post office, one hundred miles to wood, twenty miles to water, six inches to Hell'. They formed the Populist or People's Party to fight their cause, put up candidates for President, won several states and influenced policies. In the South, though, their appeal to black farmers stimulated their political rivals to suppress the black vote for decades and set black and poor white farmers against each other, tightening segregation. Aspects of the Populists ideas re-emerged effectively in Roosevelt's New Deal, even if they are mainly remembered now, if at all, thanks to allegorical references in The Wizard of Oz. The caricature above is of William Jennings Bryan, Populist-backed Presidential candidate. With Lawrence Goldman Professor of History at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London Mara Keire Lecturer in US History at the University of Oxford And Christopher Phelps Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of Nottingham Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Christine de Pizan
June 7th, 2017, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and works of Christine de Pizan, who wrote at the French Court in the late Middle Ages and was celebrated by Simone de Beauvoir as the first woman to 'take up her pen in defence of her sex.' She wrote across a broad range, and was particularly noted for challenging the depiction of women by famous writers such as Jean de Meun, author of the Romance of the Rose. She has been characterised as an early feminist who argued that women could play a much more important role in society than the one they were allotted, reflected in arguably her most important work, The Book of the City of Ladies, a response to the seemingly endless denigration of women in popular texts of the time. The image above, of Christine de Pizan lecturing, is (c)The British Library Board. Harley 4431, f.259v. With Helen Swift Associate Professor of Medieval French at the University of Oxford and Fellow of St Hilda's College Miranda Griffin Lecturer in French and Fellow of St Catharine's College, Cambridge and Marilynn Desmond Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Binghamton University Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Enzymes
May 31st, 2017, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss enzymes, the proteins that control the speed of chemical reactions in living organisms. Without enzymes, these reactions would take place too slowly to keep organisms alive: with their actions as catalysts, changes which might otherwise take millions of years can happen hundreds of times a second. Some enzymes break down large molecules into smaller ones, like the ones in human intestines, while others use small molecules to build up larger, complex ones, such as those that make DNA. Enzymes also help keep cell growth under control, by regulating the time for cells to live and their time to die, and provide a way for cells to communicate with each other. With Nigel Richards Professor of Biological Chemistry at Cardiff University Sarah Barry Lecturer in Chemical Biology at King's College London And Jim Naismith Director of the Research Complex at Harwell Bishop Wardlaw Professor of Chemical Biology at the University of St Andrews Professor of Structural Biology at the University of Oxford Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Purgatory
May 24th, 2017, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the flourishing of the idea of Purgatory from C12th, when it was imagined as a place alongside Hell and Heaven in which the souls of sinners would be purged of those sins by fire. In the West, there were new systems put in place to pray for the souls of the dead, on a greater scale, with opportunities to buy pardons to shorten time in Purgatory. The idea was enriched with visions, some religious and some literary; Dante imagined Purgatory as a mountain in the southern hemisphere, others such as Marie de France told of The Legend of the Purgatory of Saint Patrick, in which the entrance was on Station Island in County Donegal. This idea of purification by fire had appalled the Eastern Orthodox Church and was one of the factors in the split from Rome in 1054, but flourished in the West up to the reformations of C16th when it was again particularly divisive. With Laura Ashe Associate Professor of English and fellow of Worcester College at the University of Oxford Matthew Treherne Professor of Italian Literature at the University of Leeds and Helen Foxhall Forbes Associate Professor of Early Medieval History at Durham University Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Louis Pasteur
May 17th, 2017, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and work of Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) and his extraordinary contribution to medicine and science. It is said few people have saved more lives than Pasteur. A chemist, he showed that otherwise identical molecules could exist as 'left' and 'right-handed' versions and that molecules produced by living things were always left-handed. He proposed a germ theory to replace the idea of spontaneous generation. He discovered that microorganisms cause fermentation and disease. He began the process named after him, pasteurisation, heating liquids to 50-60 C to kill microbes. He saved the beer and wine industries in France when they were struggling with microbial contamination. He saved the French silk industry when he found a way of protecting healthy silkworm eggs from disease. He developed vaccines against anthrax and rabies and helped establish immunology. Many of his ideas were developed further after his lifetime, but one of his legacies was a charitable body, the Pasteur Institute, to continue research into infectious disease. With Andrew Mendelsohn Reader in the School of History at Queen Mary, University of London Anne Hardy Honorary Professor at the Centre for History in Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Michael Worboys Emeritus Professor in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine at the University of Manchester Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Emily Dickinson
May 10th, 2017, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and works of Emily Dickinson, arguably the most startling and original poet in America in the C19th. According to Thomas Wentworth Higginson, her correspondent and mentor, writing 15 years after her death, "Few events in American literary history have been more curious than the sudden rise of Emily Dickinson into a posthumous fame only more accentuated by the utterly recluse character of her life and by her aversion to even a literary publicity." That was in 1891 and, as more of Dickinson's poems were published, and more of her remaining letters, the more the interest in her and appreciation of her grew. With her distinctive voice, her abundance, and her exploration of her private world, she is now seen by many as one of the great lyric poets. With Fiona Green Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Jesus College Linda Freedman Lecturer in English and American Literature at University College London and Paraic Finnerty Reader in English and American Literature at the University of Portsmouth Producer: Simon Tillotson.
The Battle of Lincoln 1217
May 3rd, 2017, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss The Battle of Lincoln on 20th May 1217, when two armies fought to keep, or to win, the English crown. This was a struggle between the Angevin and Capetian dynasties, one that followed Capetian successes over the Angevins in France. The forces of the new boy-king, Henry III, attacked those of Louis of France, the claimant backed by rebel Barons. Henry's regent, William Marshal, was almost seventy when he led the charge on Lincoln that day, and his victory confirmed his reputation as England's greatest knight. Louis sent to France for reinforcements but in August these, too, were defeated at sea, at the Battle of Sandwich. As part of the peace deal, Henry reissued Magna Carta, which King John had granted in 1215 but soon withdrawn, and Louis went home, leaving England's Anglo-French rulers more Anglo and less French than he had planned. The image above is by Matthew Paris (c1200-1259) from his Chronica Majora (MS 16, f. 55v) and appears with the kind permission of the Master and Fellows of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge With Louise Wilkinson Professor of Medieval History at Canterbury Christ Church University Stephen Church Professor of Medieval History at the University of East Anglia and Thomas Asbridge Reader in Medieval History at Queen Mary, University of London Producer: Simon Tillotson.
The Egyptian Book of the Dead
April 26th, 2017, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the text and context of The Book of the Dead, also known as the Book of Coming Forth by Day, the ancient Egyptian collections of spells which were intended to help the recently deceased navigate the underworld. They flourished under the New Kingdom from C16th BC until the end of the Ptolemaic era in C1st BC, and drew on much earlier traditions from the walls of pyramids and on coffin cases. Almost 200 spells survive, though no one collection contains all of them, and one of the best known surrounds the weighing of the heart, the gods' final judgement of the deceased's life. With John Taylor Curator at the Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan at the British Museum Kate Spence Senior Lecturer in Egyptian Archaeology at Cambridge University and Fellow of Emmanuel College and Richard Parkinson Professor of Egyptology at the University of Oxford and Fellow of the Queen's College Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Roger Bacon
April 19th, 2017, 06:00 PM
The 13th-century English philosopher Roger Bacon is perhaps best known for his major work the Opus Maius. Commissioned by Pope Clement IV, this extensive text covered a multitude of topics from mathematics and optics to religion and moral philosophy. He is also regarded by some as an early pioneer of the modern scientific method. Bacon's erudition was so highly regarded that he came to be known as 'Doctor Mirabilis' or 'wonderful doctor'. However, he is a man shrouded in mystery. Little is known about much of his life and he became the subject of a number of strange legends, including one in which he allegedly constructed a mechanical brazen head that would predict the future. With: Jack Cunningham Academic Coordinator for Theology at Bishop Grosseteste University, Lincoln Amanda Power Associate Professor of Medieval History at the University of Oxford Elly Truitt Associate Professor of Medieval History at Bryn Mawr College Producer: Victoria Brignell.
Rosa Luxemburg
April 12th, 2017, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg discusses the life and times of Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919), 'Red Rosa', who was born in Poland under the Russian Empire and became one of the leading revolutionaries in an age of revolution. She was jailed for agitation and for her campaign against the Great War which, she argued, pitted workers against each other for the sake of capitalism. With Karl Liebknecht and other radicals, she founded the Spartacus League in the hope of ending the war through revolution. She founded the German Communist Party with Liebknecht; with the violence that followed the German Revolution of 1918, her opponents condemned her as Bloody Rosa. She and Liebknecht were seen as ringleaders in the Spartacus Revolt of 1919 and, on 15th January 1919, the Freikorps militia arrested and murdered them. While Luxemburg has faced opposition for her actions and ideas from many quarters, she went on to become an iconic figure in East Germany under the Cold War and a focal point for opposition to the Soviet-backed leadership. With Jacqueline Rose Co-Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, Birkbeck, University of London Mark Jones Irish Research Council fellow at the Centre for War Studies, University College Dublin and Nadine Rossol Senior lecturer in Modern European History at the University of Essex Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Pauli's Exclusion Principle
April 5th, 2017, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and ideas of Wolfgang Pauli (1900-1958), whose Exclusion Principle is one of the key ideas in quantum mechanics. A brilliant physicist, at 21 Pauli wrote a review of Einstein's theory of general relativity and that review is still a standard work of reference today. The Pauli Exclusion Principle proposes that no two electrons in an atom can be at the same time in the same state or configuration, and it helps explain a wide range of phenomena such as the electron shell structure of atoms. Pauli went on to postulate the existence of the neutrino, which was confirmed in his lifetime. Following further development of his exclusion principle, Pauli was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1945 for his 'decisive contribution through his discovery of a new law of Nature'. He also had a long correspondence with Jung, and a reputation for accidentally breaking experimental equipment which was dubbed The Pauli Effect. With Frank Close Fellow Emeritus at Exeter College, University of Oxford Michela Massimi Professor of Philosophy of Science at the University of Edinburgh and Graham Farmelo Bye-Fellow of Churchill College, University of Cambridge Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Hokusai
March 29th, 2017, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), the Japanese artist whose views of Mt Fuji such as The Great Wave off Kanagawa (pictured) are some of the most iconic in world art. He worked as Japan was slowly moving towards greater contact with the outside world, trading with China and allowing two Dutch ships to dock each year. From these ships he picked up new synthetic colours and illustrations with Western compositions, which he incorporated in his traditional wood block prints. The quality of his images helped drive demand for prints among the highly literate Japanese public, particularly those required to travel to Edo under feudal obligations and who wanted to collect all his prints. As well as the quality of his work, Hokusai's success stems partly from his long life and career. He completed some of his most memorable works in his 70s and 80s and claimed he would not reach his best until he was 110. With Angus Lockyer Lecturer in Japanese History at SOAS University of London Rosina Buckland Senior Curator of Japanese Collections at the National Museum of Scotland And Ellis Tinios Honorary Lecturer in the School of History, University of Leeds Producer: Simon Tillotson.
The Battle of Salamis
March 22nd, 2017, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss what is often called one of the most significant battles in history. In 480BC in the Saronic Gulf near Athens, between the mainland and the island of Salamis, a fleet of Greek allies decisively defeated a larger Persian-led fleet. This halted the further Persian conquest of Greece and, at Plataea and Mycale the next year, further Greek victories brought Persian withdrawal and the immediate threat of conquest to an end. To the Greeks, this enabled a flourishing of a culture that went on to influence the development of civilisation in Rome and, later, Europe and beyond. To the Persians, it was a reverse at the fringes of their vast empire but not a threat to their existence, as it was for the Greek states, and attention turned to quelling unrest elsewhere. With Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones Professor in Ancient History at Cardiff University Lindsay Allen Lecturer in Greek and Near Eastern History, King's College London and Paul Cartledge Emeritus Professor of Greek Culture and AG Leventis Senior Research Fellow at Clare College, University of Cambridge Producer: Simon Tillotson.
The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum
March 15th, 2017, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the high temperatures that marked the end of the Paleocene and start of the Eocene periods, about 50m years ago. Over c1000 years, global temperatures rose more than 5 C on average and stayed that way for c100,000 years more, with the surface of seas in the Arctic being as warm as those in the subtropics. There were widespread extinctions, changes in ocean currents, and there was much less oxygen in the sea depths. The rise has been attributed to an increase of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere, though it is not yet known conclusively what the source of those gases was. One theory is that a rise in carbon dioxide, perhaps from volcanoes, warmed up the globe enough for warm water to reach the bottom of the oceans and so release methane from frozen crystals in the sea bed. The higher the temperature rose and the longer the water was warm, the more methane was released. Scientists have been studying a range of sources from this long period, from ice samples to fossils, to try to understand more about possible causes. With Dame Jane Francis Professor of Palaeoclimatology at the British Antarctic Survey Mark Maslin Professor of Palaeoclimatology at University College London And Tracy Aze Lecturer in Marine Micropaleontology at the University of Leeds Producer: Simon Tillotson.
North and South
March 8th, 2017, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Elizabeth Gaskell's novel North and South, published in 1855 after serialisation in Dickens' Household Words magazine. It is the story of Margaret Hale, who was raised in the South in the New Forest and London's Harley Street, and then moves North to a smokey mill town, Milton, in Darkshire. As well as Margaret's emotional life and her growing sense of independence, the novel explores the new ways of living thrown up by industrialisation, and the relationships between 'masters and men'. Many of Margaret Hale's experiences echo Gaskell's own life, as she was born in Chelsea and later moved to Manchester, and the novel has become valued for its insights into social conflicts and the changing world in which Gaskell lived. With Sally Shuttleworth Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford Dinah Birch Pro-vice Chancellor for Research and Professor of English Literature at the University of Liverpool And Jenny Uglow Biographer of Elizabeth Gaskell Producer: Simon Tillotson.
The Kuiper Belt
March 1st, 2017, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Kuiper Belt, a vast region of icy objects at the fringes of our Solar System, beyond Neptune, in which we find the dwarf planet Pluto and countless objects left over from the origins of the solar system, some of which we observe as comets. It extends from where Neptune is, which is 30 times further out than the Earth is from the Sun, to about 500 times the Earth-Sun distance. It covers an immense region of space and it is the part of the Solar System that we know the least about, because it is so remote from us and has been barely detectable by Earth-based telescopes until recent decades. Its existence was predicted before it was known, and study of the Kuiper Belt, and how objects move within it, has led to a theory that there may be a 9th planet far beyond Neptune. With Carolin Crawford Public Astronomer at the Institute of Astronomy and Fellow of Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge Monica Grady Professor of Planetary and Space Sciences at the Open University And Stephen Lowry Reader in Planetary and Space Sciences, University of Kent Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Seneca the Younger
February 22nd, 2017, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Seneca the Younger, who was one of the first great writers to live his entire life in the world of the new Roman empire, after the fall of the Republic. He was a Stoic philosopher, he wrote blood-soaked tragedies, he was an orator, and he navigated his way through the reigns of Caligula, Claudius and Nero, sometimes exercising power at the highest level and at others spending years in exile. Agrippina the Younger was the one who called for him to tutor Nero, and it is thought Seneca helped curb some of Nero's excesses. He was later revered within the Christian church, partly for what he did and partly for what he was said to have done in forged letters to St Paul. His tragedies, with their ghosts and high body count, influenced Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus and Hamlet, and Kyd's Spanish Tragedy. The image above is the so-called bust of Seneca, a detail from Four Philosophers by Peter Paul Rubens. With Mary Beard Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge Catharine Edwards Professor of Classics and Ancient History at Birkbeck, University of London and Alessandro Schiesaro Professor of Classics at the University of Manchester Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Maths in the Early Islamic World
February 15th, 2017, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the flourishing of maths in the early Islamic world, as thinkers from across the region developed ideas in places such as Baghdad's House of Wisdom. Among them were the Persians Omar Khayyam, who worked on equations, and Al-Khwarizmi, latinised as Algoritmi and pictured above, who is credited as one of the fathers of algebra, and the Jewish scholar Al-Samawal, who converted to Islam and worked on mathematical induction. As well as the new ideas, there were many advances drawing on Indian, Babylonian and Greek work and, thanks to the recording or reworking by mathematicians in the Islamic world, that broad range of earlier maths was passed on to western Europe for further study. With Colva Roney-Dougal Reader in Pure Mathematics at the University of St Andrews Peter Pormann Professor of Classics & Graeco-Arabic Studies at the University of Manchester And Jim Al-Khalili Professor of Physics at the University of Surrey Producer: Simon Tillotson.
John Clare
February 8th, 2017, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Northamptonshire poet John Clare who, according to one of Melvyn's guests Jonathan Bate, was 'the greatest labouring-class poet that England has ever produced'. Clare worked in a tavern, as a gardener and as a farm labourer in the early 19th century and achieved his first literary success with Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery. He was praised for his descriptions of rural England and his childhood there, and his reaction to the changes he saw in the Agricultural Revolution with its enclosures, displacement and altered, disrupted landscape. Despite poor mental health and, from middle age onwards, many years in asylums, John Clare continued to write and he is now seen as one of the great poets of his age. With Sir Jonathan Bate Provost of Worcester College, University of Oxford Mina Gorji Senior Lecturer in the English Faculty and fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge and Simon Kövesi Professor of English Literature at Oxford Brookes University Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Hannah Arendt
February 1st, 2017, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the political philosophy of Hannah Arendt. She developed many of her ideas in response to the rise of totalitarianism in the C20th, partly informed by her own experience as a Jew in Nazi Germany before her escape to France and then America. She wanted to understand how politics had taken such a disastrous turn and, drawing on ideas of Greek philosophers as well as her peers, what might be done to create a better political life. Often unsettling, she wrote of 'the banality of evil' when covering the trial of Eichmann, one of the organisers of the Holocaust. With Lyndsey Stonebridge Professor of Modern Literature and History at the University of East Anglia Frisbee Sheffield Lecturer in Philosophy at Girton College, University of Cambridge and Robert Eaglestone Professor of Contemporary Literature and Thought at Royal Holloway, University London Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Parasitism
January 25th, 2017, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the relationship between parasites and hosts, where one species lives on or in another to the benefit of the parasite but at a cost to the host, potentially leading to disease or death of the host. Typical examples are mistletoe and trees, hookworms and vertebrates, cuckoos and other birds. In many cases the parasite species do so well in or on a particular host that they reproduce much faster and can adapt to changes more efficiently, and it is thought that almost half of all animal species have a parasitic stage in their lifetime. What techniques do hosts have to counter the parasites, and what impact do parasites have on the evolution of their hosts? With Steve Jones Emeritus Professor of Genetics at University College, London Wendy Gibson Professor of Protozoology at the University of Bristol and Kayla King Associate Professor in the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Mary, Queen of Scots
January 18th, 2017, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of Mary, Queen of Scots, who had potential to be one of the most powerful rulers in Europe, yet she was also one of the most vulnerable. In France, when she was the teenage bride to their future king, she was seen as rightful heir to the thrones of England and Ireland, as well as Queen of Scotland and one day of France, which would have been an extraordinary union. She was widowed too young, though and, a Catholic returning to Protestant Scotland, she struggled to overcome rivalries in her own country. She fled to Protestant England, where she was implicated in plots to overthrow Elizabeth, and it was Elizabeth herself who signed Mary's death warrant. With David Forsyth Principal Curator, Scottish Medieval-Early Modern Collections at National Museums Scotland Anna Groundwater Teaching Fellow in Historical Skills and Methods at the University of Edinburgh And John Guy Fellow of Clare College, University of Cambridge Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morality
January 11th, 2017, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Nietzsche's On The Genealogy of Morality - A Polemic, which he published in 1887 towards the end of his working life and in which he considered the price humans have paid, and were still paying, to become civilised. In three essays, he argued that having a guilty conscience was the price of living in society with other humans. He suggested that Christian morality, with its consideration for others, grew as an act of revenge by the weak against their masters, 'the blond beasts of prey', as he calls them, and the price for that slaves' revolt was endless self-loathing. These and other ideas were picked up by later thinkers, perhaps most significantly by Sigmund Freud who further explored the tensions between civilisation and the individual. With Stephen Mulhall Professor of Philosophy and a Fellow and Tutor at New College, University of Oxford Fiona Hughes Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Essex And Keith Ansell-Pearson Professor of Philosophy at the University of Warwick Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Johannes Kepler
December 28th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the German astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571 - 1630). Although he is overshadowed today by Isaac Newton and Galileo, he is considered by many to be one of the greatest scientists in history. The three laws of planetary motion Kepler developed transformed people's understanding of the Solar System and laid the foundations for the revolutionary ideas Isaac Newton produced later. Kepler is also thought to have written one of the first works of science fiction. However, he faced a number of challenges. He had to defend his mother from charges of witchcraft, he had few financial resources and his career suffered as a result of his Lutheran faith. With David Wootton Professor of History at the University of York Ulinka Rublack Professor of Early Modern European History at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of St John's College Adam Mosley Associate Professor in the Department of History at Swansea University Producer: Victoria Brignell.
Four Quartets
December 21st, 2016, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Four Quartets, TS Eliot's last great work which he composed, against a background of imminent and actual world war, as meditations on the relationship between time and humanity. With David Moody Emeritus Professor of English and American Literature at the University of York Fran Brearton Professor of Modern Poetry at Queen's University, Belfast And Mark Ford Professor of English and American Literature at University College London Producer: Simon Tillotson Jeremy Irons will be reading TS Eliot's greatest poems, from Prufrock to The Waste Land to Four Quartets, across New Year's Day here on Radio 4.
The Gin Craze
December 14th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the craze for gin in Britain in the mid 18th Century and the attempts to control it. With the arrival of William of Orange, it became an act of loyalty to drink Protestant, Dutch gin rather than Catholic brandy, and changes in tariffs made everyday beer less affordable. Within a short time, production increased and large sections of the population that had rarely or never drunk spirits before were consuming two pints of gin a week. As Hogarth indicated in his print 'Beer Street and Gin Lane' (1751) in support of the Gin Act, the damage was severe, and addiction to gin was blamed for much of the crime in cities such as London. With Angela McShane Research Fellow in History at the Victoria and Albert Museum and University of Sheffield Judith Hawley Professor of 18th century literature at Royal Holloway, University of London And Emma Major Senior Lecturer in English at the University of York Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Harriet Martineau
December 7th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Harriet Martineau who, from a non-conformist background in Norwich, became one of the best known writers in the C19th. She had a wide range of interests and used a new, sociological method to observe the world around her, from religion in Egypt to slavery in America and the rights of women everywhere. She popularised writing about economics for those outside the elite and, for her own popularity, was invited to the coronation of Queen Victoria, one of her readers. With Valerie Sanders Professor of English at the University of Hull Karen O'Brien Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford And Ella Dzelzainis Lecturer in 19th Century Literature at Newcastle University Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Garibaldi and the Risorgimento
November 30th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Giuseppe Garibaldi and the Italian Risorgimento. According to the historian AJP Taylor, Garibaldi was the only wholly admirable figure in modern history. Born in Nice in 1807, one of Garibaldi's aims in life was the unification of Italy and, in large part thanks to him, Italy was indeed united substantially in 1861 and entirely in 1870. With his distinctive red shirt and poncho, he was a hero of Romantic revolutionaries around the world. His fame was secured when, with a thousand soldiers, he invaded Sicily and toppled the monarchy in the Italian south. The Risorgimento was soon almost complete. This topic is the one chosen from over 750 different ideas suggested by listeners in October, for our yearly Listener Week. With Lucy Riall Professor of Comparative History of Europe at the European University Institute and Professor of History at Birkbeck, University of London Eugenio Biagini Professor of Modern and Contemporary History at the University of Cambridge and David Laven Associate Professor of History at the University of Nottingham Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Baltic Crusades
November 23rd, 2016, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Baltic Crusades, the name given to a series of overlapping attempts to convert the pagans of North East Europe to Christianity at the point of the sword. From the 12th Century, Papal Bulls endorsed those who fought on the side of the Church, the best known now being the Teutonic Order which, thwarted in Jerusalem, founded a state on the edge of the Baltic, in Prussia. Some of the peoples in the region disappeared, either killed or assimilated, and the consequences for European history were profound. With Aleks Pluskowski Associate Professor of Archaeology at the University of Reading Nora Berend Fellow of St Catharine's College and Reader in European History at the Faculty of History at the University of Cambridge and Martin Palmer Director of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education, and Culture Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Justinian's Legal Code
November 16th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas brought together under Justinian I, Byzantine emperor in the 6th century AD, which were rediscovered in Western Europe in the Middle Ages and became very influential in the development of laws in many European nations and elsewhere. With Caroline Humfress Professor of Medieval History at the University of St Andrews Simon Corcoran Lecturer in Ancient History at Newcastle University and Paul du Plessis Senior Lecturer in Civil law and European legal history at the School of Law, University of Edinburgh Producer: Simon Tillotson.
The Fighting Temeraire
November 9th, 2016, 06:00 PM
This image: Joseph Mallord William Turner, The Fighting Temeraire, 1839 (c) The National Gallery, London Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss "The Fighting Temeraire", one of Turner's greatest works and the one he called his 'darling'. It shows one of the most famous ships of the age, a hero of Trafalgar, being towed up the Thames to the breakers' yard, sail giving way to steam. Turner displayed this masterpiece to a public which, at the time, was deep in celebration of the Temeraire era, with work on Nelson's Column underway, and it was an immediate success, with Thackeray calling the painting 'a national ode'. With Susan Foister Curator of Early Netherlandish, German and British Painting at the National Gallery David Blayney Brown Manton Curator of British Art 1790-1850 at Tate Britain and James Davey Curator of Naval History at the National Maritime Museum Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Epic of Gilgamesh
November 2nd, 2016, 06:00 PM
"He who saw the Deep" are the first words of the standard version of The Epic of Gilgamesh, the subject of this discussion between Melvyn Bragg and his guests. Gilgamesh is often said to be the oldest surviving great work of literature, with origins in the third millennium BC, and it passed through thousands of years on cuneiform tablets. Unlike epics of Greece and Rome, the intact story of Gilgamesh became lost to later generations until tablets were discovered by Hormuzd Rassam in 1853 near Mosul and later translated. Since then, many more tablets have been found and much of the text has been reassembled to convey the story of Gilgamesh, king of Uruk the sheepfold, and Enkidu who the gods created to stop Gilgamesh oppressing his people. Together they fight Humbaba, monstrous guardian of the Cedar Forest, and kill the Bull of Heaven, for which the gods make Enkidu mortally ill. Gilgamesh goes on a long journey as he tries unsuccessfully to learn how to live forever, learning about the Great Deluge on the way, but his remarkable building works guarantee that his fame will last long after his death. With Andrew George Professor of Babylonian at SOAS, University of London Frances Reynolds Shillito Fellow in Assyriology at the Oriental Institute, University of Oxford and Fellow of St Benet's Hall and Martin Worthington Lecturer in Assyriology at the University of Cambridge Producer: Simon Tillotson.
John Dalton
October 26th, 2016, 06:00 PM
The scientist John Dalton was born in North England in 1766. Although he came from a relatively poor Quaker family, he managed to become one of the most celebrated scientists of his age. Through his work, he helped to establish Manchester as a place where not only products were made but ideas were born. His reputation during his lifetime was so high that unusually a statue was erected to him before he died. Among his interests were meteorology, gasses and colour blindness. However, he is most remembered today for his pioneering thinking in the field of atomic theory. With: Jim Bennett Former Director of the Museum of the History of Science at the University of Oxford and Keeper Emeritus at the Science Museum Aileen Fyfe Reader in British History at the University of St Andrews James Sumner Lecturer in the History of Technology at the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine at the University of Manchester Producer: Victoria Brignell.
The 12th Century Renaissance
October 19th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the changes in the intellectual world of Western Europe in the 12th Century, and their origins. This was a time of Crusades, the formation of states, the start of Gothic architecture, a reconnection with Roman and Greek learning and their Arabic development and the start of the European universities, and has become known as The 12th Century Renaissance. The image above is part of Notre-Dame de la Belle-Verrière, Chartres Cathedral, from 1180. With Laura Ashe Associate Professor of English at Worcester College, University of Oxford Elisabeth van Houts Honorary Professor of European Medieval History at the University of Cambridge and Giles Gasper Reader in Medieval History at Durham University Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Plasma
October 12th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss plasma, the fourth state of matter after solid, liquid and gas. As over ninety-nine percent of all observable matter in the Universe is plasma, planets like ours, with so little plasma and so much solid, liquid and gas, appear all the more remarkable. On the grand scale, plasma is what the Sun is made from and, when we look into the night sky, almost everything we can see with the naked eye is made of plasma. On the smallest scale, here on Earth, scientists make plasma to etch the microchips on which we rely for so much. Plasma is in the fluorescent light bulbs above our heads and, in laboratories around the world, it is the subject of tests to create, one day, an inexhaustible and clean source of energy from nuclear fusion. With Justin Wark Professor of Physics and Fellow of Trinity College at the University of Oxford Kate Lancaster Research Fellow for Innovation and Impact at the York Plasma Institute at the University of York and Bill Graham Professor of Physics at Queens University, Belfast Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Lakshmi
October 5th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the origins of the Hindu goddess Lakshmi, and of the traditions that have built around her for over 3,000 years. According to the creation story of the Puranas, she came to existence in the churning of the ocean of milk. Her prominent status grew alongside other goddesses in the mainly male world of the Vedas, as female deities came to be seen as the Shakti, the energy of the gods, without which they would be powerless. Lakshmi came to represent the qualities of blessing, prosperity, fertility, beauty and good fortune and, more recently, political order, and she has a significant role in Diwali, one of the most important of the Hindu festivals. With Jessica Frazier Lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Kent Research Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies at the University of Oxford Jacqueline Suthren-Hirst Senior Lecturer in South Asian Studies at the University of Manchester and Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad Professor of Comparative Religion and Philosophy at Lancaster University Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Animal Farm
September 28th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Animal Farm, which Eric Blair published under his pen name George Orwell in 1945. A biting critique of totalitarianism, particularly Stalinism, the essay sprung from Orwell's experiences fighting Fascists in Spain: he thought that all on the left were on the same side, until the dominant Communists violently suppressed the Anarchists and Trotskyists, and Orwell had to escape to France to avoid arrest. Setting his satire in an English farm, Orwell drew on the Russian Revolution of 1917, on Stalin's cult of personality and the purges. The leaders on Animal Farm are pigs, the secret police are attack dogs, the supporters who drown out debate with "four legs good, two legs bad" are sheep. At first, London publishers did not want to touch Orwell's work out of sympathy for the USSR, an ally of Britain in WW2, but the Cold War gave it a new audience and Animal Farm became a commercial as well as a critical success. With Steven Connor Grace 2 Professor of English at the University of Cambridge Mary Vincent Professor of Modern European History at the University of Sheffield and Robert Colls Professor of Cultural History at De Montfort University Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Zeno's Paradoxes
September 21st, 2016, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Zeno of Elea, a pre-Socratic philosopher from c490-430 BC whose paradoxes were described by Bertrand Russell as "immeasurably subtle and profound." The best known argue against motion, such as that of an arrow in flight which is at a series of different points but moving at none of them, or that of Achilles who, despite being the faster runner, will never catch up with a tortoise with a head start. Aristotle and Aquinas engaged with these, as did Russell, yet it is still debatable whether Zeno's Paradoxes have been resolved. With Marcus du Sautoy Professor of Mathematics and Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford Barbara Sattler Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of St Andrews and James Warren Reader in Ancient Philosophy at the University of Cambridge Producer: Simon Tillotson.
The Invention of Photography
July 6th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the development of photography in the 1830s, when techniques for 'drawing with light' evolved to the stage where, in 1839, both Louis Daguerre and William Henry Fox Talbot made claims for its invention. These followed the development of the camera obscura, and experiments by such as Thomas Wedgwood and Nicéphore Niépce, and led to rapid changes in the 1840s as more people captured images with the daguerreotype and calotype. These new techniques changed the aesthetics of the age and, before long, inspired claims that painting was now dead. With Simon Schaffer Professor of the History of Science at the University of Cambridge Elizabeth Edwards Emeritus Professor of Photographic History at De Montfort University And Alison Morrison-Low, Research Associate at National Museums Scotland Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Sovereignty
June 29th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of the idea of Sovereignty, the authority of a state to govern itself and the relationship between the sovereign and the people. These ideas of external and internal sovereignty were imagined in various ways in ancient Greece and Rome, and given a name in 16th Century France by the philosopher and jurist Jean Bodin in his Six Books of the Commonwealth, where he said (in an early English translation) 'Maiestie or Soveraigntie is the most high, absolute, and perpetuall power over the citisens and subiects in a Commonweale: which the Latins cal Maiestatem, the Greeks akra exousia, kurion arche, and kurion politeuma; the Italians Segnoria, and the Hebrewes tomech shévet, that is to say, The greatest power to command.' Shakespeare also explored the concept through Richard II and the king's two bodies, Hobbes developed it in the 17th Century, and the idea of popular sovereignty was tested in the Revolutionary era in America and France. With Melissa Lane Class of 1943 Professor of Politics at Princeton University Richard Bourke Professor in the History of Political Thought at Queen Mary University of London and Tim Stanton Senior Lecturer in the Department of Politics at the University of York Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Songs of Innocence and of Experience
June 22nd, 2016, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss William Blake's collection of illustrated poems "Songs of Innocence and of Experience." He published Songs of Innocence first in 1789 with five hand-coloured copies and, five years later, with additional Songs of Experience poems and the explanatory phrase "Shewing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul." Blake drew on the street ballads and improving children's rhymes of the time, exploring the open and optimistic outlook of early childhood with the darker and more cynical outlook of adult life, in which symbols such as the Lamb belong to innocence and the Tyger to experience. With Sir Jonathan Bate Provost of Worcester College, University of Oxford Sarah Haggarty Lecturer at the Faculty of English and Fellow of Queens' College, University of Cambridge And Jon Mee Professor of Eighteenth-Century Studies at the University of York Producer: Simon Tillotson.
The Bronze Age Collapse
June 15th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss The Bronze Age Collapse, the name given by many historians to what appears to have been a sudden, uncontrolled destruction of dominant civilizations around 1200 BC in the Aegean, Eastern Mediterranean and Anatolia. Among other areas, there were great changes in Minoan Crete, Egypt, the Hittite Empire, Mycenaean Greece and Syria. The reasons for the changes, and the extent of those changes, are open to debate and include droughts, rebellions, the breakdown of trade as copper became less desirable, earthquakes, invasions, volcanoes and the mysterious Sea Peoples. With John Bennet Director of the British School at Athens and Professor of Aegean Archaeology at the University of Sheffield Linda Hulin Fellow of Harris Manchester College and Research Officer at the Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology at the University of Oxford And Simon Stoddart Fellow of Magdalene College and Reader in Prehistory at the University of Cambridge Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Penicillin
June 8th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss penicillin, discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1928. It is said he noticed some blue-green penicillium mould on an uncovered petri dish at his hospital laboratory, and that this mould had inhibited bacterial growth around it. After further work, Fleming filtered a broth of the mould and called that penicillin, hoping it would be useful as a disinfectant. Howard Florey and Ernst Chain later shared a Nobel Prize in Medicine with Fleming, for their role in developing a way of mass-producing the life-saving drug. Evolutionary theory predicted the risk of resistance from the start and, almost from the beginning of this 'golden age' of antibacterials, scientists have been looking for ways to extend the lifespan of antibiotics. With Laura Piddock Professor of Microbiology at the University of Birmingham Christoph Tang Professor of Cellular Pathology and Professorial Fellow at Exeter College at the University of Oxford And Steve Jones Emeritus Professor of Genetics at University College, London Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Margery Kempe and English Mysticism
June 1st, 2016, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the English mystic Margery Kempe (1373-1438) whose extraordinary life is recorded in a book she dictated, The Book of Margery Kempe. She went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, to Rome and Santiago de Compostela, purchasing indulgences on her way, met with the anchoress Julian of Norwich and is honoured by the Church of England each 9th November. She sometimes doubted the authenticity of her mystical conversations with God, as did the authorities who saw her devotional sobbing, wailing and convulsions as a sign of insanity and dissoluteness. Her Book was lost for centuries, before emerging in a private library in 1934. The image (above), of an unknown woman, comes from a pew at Margery Kempe's parish church, St Margaret's, Kings Lynn and dates from c1375. With Miri Rubin Professor of Medieval and Early Modern History at Queen Mary, University of London Katherine Lewis Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Huddersfield And Anthony Bale Professor of Medieval Studies at Birkbeck University of London Producer: Simon Tillotson.
The Gettysburg Address
May 25th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, ten sentences long, delivered at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery at Gettysburg after the Union forces had won an important battle with the Confederates. Opening with " Four score and seven years ago," it became one of the most influential statements of national purpose, asserting that America was "conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal" and "that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom-and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." Among those inspired were Martin Luther King Jr whose "I have a dream" speech, delivered at the Lincoln Memorial 100 years later, echoed Lincoln's opening words. With Catherine Clinton Denman Chair of American History at the University of Texas and International Professor at Queen's University, Belfast Susan-Mary Grant Professor of American History at Newcastle University And Tim Lockley Professor of American History at the University of Warwick Producer: Simon Tillotson.
The Muses
May 18th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Muses and their role in Greek mythology, when they were goddesses of poetry, song, music and dance: what the Greeks called mousike, 'the art of the Muses' from which we derive our word 'music.' While the number of Muses, their origin and their roles varied in different accounts and at different times, they were consistently linked with the nature of artistic inspiration. This raised a question for philosophers then and since: was a creative person an empty vessel into which the Muses poured their gifts, at their will, or could that person do something to make inspiration flow? With Paul Cartledge Emeritus Professor of Greek Culture and AG Leventis Senior Research Fellow at Clare College, University of Cambridge Angie Hobbs Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy, University of Sheffield And Penelope Murray Founder member and retired Senior Lecturer, Department of Classics, University of Warwick Producer: Simon Tillotson Image: 'Apollo and the Muses (Parnassus)', 1631-1632. Oil on canvas. Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665).
Titus Oates and his 'Popish Plot'
May 11th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Titus Oates (1649-1705) who, with Israel Tonge, spread rumours of a Catholic plot to assassinate Charles II. From 1678, they went to great lengths to support their scheme, forging evidence and identifying the supposed conspirators. Fearing a second Gunpowder Plot, Oates' supposed revelations caused uproar in London and across the British Isles, with many Catholics, particularly Jesuit priests, wrongly implicated by Oates and then executed. Anyone who doubted him had to keep quiet, to avoid being suspected a sympathiser and thrown in prison. Oates was eventually exposed, put on trial under James II and sentenced by Judge Jeffreys to public whipping through the streets of London, but the question remained: why was this rogue, who had faced perjury charges before, ever believed? With Clare Jackson Senior Tutor and Director of Studies in History at Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge Mark Knights Professor of History at the University of Warwick And Peter Hinds Associate Professor of English at Plymouth University Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Tess of the d'Urbervilles
May 4th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy, originally serialised in The Graphic in 1891 and, with some significant changes, published as a complete novel in 1892. The book was controversial even before serialisation, rejected by one publisher as too overtly sexual, to which a second added it did not publish 'stories where the plot involves frequent and detailed reference to immoral situations.' Hardy's description of Tess as 'A Pure Woman' in 1892 incensed some Victorian readers. He resented having to censor some of his scenes in the early versions, including references to Tess's baby following her rape by Alec d'Urberville, and even to a scene where Angel Clare lifted four milkmaids over a flooded lane (substituting transportation by wheelbarrow). The image above, from the 1891 edition, is captioned 'It Was Not Till About Three O'clock That Tess Raised Her Eyes And Gave A Momentary Glance Round. She Felt But Little Surprise At Seeing That Alec D'urberville Had Come Back, And Was Standing Under The Hedge By The Gate'. With Dinah Birch Professor of English Literature and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Impact at the University of Liverpool Francis O'Gorman Professor of Victorian Literature at the University of Leeds And Jane Thomas Reader in Victorian and early Twentieth Century literature at the University of Hull Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Euclid's Elements
April 27th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Euclid's Elements, a mathematical text book attributed to Euclid and in use from its appearance in Alexandria, Egypt around 300 BC until modern times, dealing with geometry and number theory. It has been described as the most influential text book ever written. Einstein had a copy as a child, which he treasured, later saying "If Euclid failed to kindle your youthful enthusiasm, then you were not born to be a scientific thinker." With Marcus du Sautoy Professor of Mathematics and Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford Serafina Cuomo Reader in Roman History at Birkbeck University of London And June Barrow-Green Professor of the History of Mathematics at the Open University Producer: Simon Tillotson.
1816, the Year Without a Summer
April 20th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the impact of the eruption of Mt Tambora, in 1815, on the Indonesian island of Sambawa. This was the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history and it had the highest death toll, devastating people living in the immediate area. Tambora has been linked with drastic weather changes in North America and Europe the following year, with frosts in June and heavy rains throughout the summer in many areas. This led to food shortages, which may have prompted westward migration in America and, in a Europe barely recovered from the Napoleonic Wars, led to widespread famine. With Clive Oppenheimer Professor of Volcanology at the University of Cambridge Jane Stabler Professor in Romantic Literature at the University of St Andrews And Lawrence Goldman Director of the Institute of Historical Research at the University of London Producer: Simon Tillotson.
The Neutron
April 13th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the neutron, one of the particles found in an atom's nucleus. Building on the work of Ernest Rutherford, the British physicist James Chadwick won the Nobel Prize for Physics for his discovery of the neutron in 1932. Neutrons play a fundamental role in the universe and their discovery was at the heart of developments in nuclear physics in the first half of the 20th century. With Val Gibson Professor of High Energy Physics at the University of Cambridge and fellow of Trinity College Andrew Harrison Chief Executive Officer of Diamond Light Source and Professor in Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh And Frank Close Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of Oxford.
The Sikh Empire
April 6th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the rise of the Sikh Empire at the end of the 18th Century under Ranjit Singh, pictured above, who unified most of the Sikh kingdoms following the decline of the Mughal Empire. He became Maharaja of the Punjab at Lahore in 1801, capturing Amritsar the following year. His empire flourished until 1839, after which a decade of unrest ended with the British annexation. At its peak, the Empire covered the Punjab and stretched from the Khyber Pass in the west to the edge of Tibet in the east, up to Kashmir and down to Mithankot on the Indus River. Ranjit Singh is still remembered as "The Lion of the Punjab." With Gurharpal Singh Professor in Inter-Religious Relations and Development at SOAS, University of London Chandrika Kaul Lecturer in Modern History at the University of St Andrews And Susan Stronge Senior Curator in the Asian Department of the Victoria and Albert Museum Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Agrippina the Younger
March 30th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Agrippina the Younger was one of the most notorious and influential of the Roman empresses in the 1st century AD. She was the sister of the Emperor Caligula, a wife of the Emperor Claudius and mother of the Emperor Nero. Through careful political manoeuvres, she acquired a dominant position for herself in Rome. In 39 AD she was exiled for allegedly participating in a plot against Caligula and later it was widely thought that she killed Claudius with poison. When Nero came to the throne, he was only 16 so Agrippina took on the role of regent until he began to exert his authority. After relations between Agrippina and Nero soured, he had her murdered. With: Catharine Edwards Professor of Classics and Ancient History at Birkbeck, University of London Alice König Lecturer in Latin and Classical Studies at the University of St Andrews Matthew Nicholls Associate Professor of Classics at the University of Reading Producer: Victoria Brignell.
Aurora Leigh
March 23rd, 2016, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Elizabeth Barrett Browning's epic "Aurora Leigh" which was published in 1856. It is the story of an orphan, Aurora, born in Italy to an English father and Tuscan mother, who is brought up by an aunt in rural Shropshire. She has a successful career as a poet in London and, when living in Florence, is reunited with her cousin, Romney Leigh, whose proposal she turned down a decade before. The poem was celebrated by other poets and was Elizabeth Barrett Browning's most commercially successful. Over 11,000 lines, she addressed many Victorian social issues, including reform, illegitimacy, the pressure to marry and what women must overcome to be independent, successful writers, in a world dominated by men. With Margaret Reynolds Professor of English at Queen Mary, University of London Daniel Karlin Winterstoke Professor of English Literature at the University of Bristol And Karen O'Brien Professor of English Literature at King's College London Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Bedlam
March 16th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the early years of Bedlam, the name commonly used for the London hospital of St Mary of Bethlehem outside Bishopsgate, described in 1450 by the Lord Mayor of London as a place where may "be found many men that be fallen out of their wit. And full honestly they be kept in that place; and some be restored onto their wit and health again. And some be abiding therein for ever." As Bethlem, or Bedlam, it became a tourist attraction in the 17th Century at its new site in Moorfields and, for its relatively small size, made a significant impression on public attitudes to mental illness. The illustration, above, is from the eighth and final part of Hogarth's 'A Rake's Progress' (1732-3), where Bedlam is the last stage in the decline and fall of a young spendthrift,Tom Rakewell. With Hilary Marland Professor of History at the University of Warwick Justin Champion Professor of the History of Early Modern Ideas at Royal Holloway, University of London and President of the Historical Association And Jonathan Andrews Reader in the History of Psychiatry at Newcastle University Producer: Simon Tillotson.
The Maya Civilization
March 9th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Maya Civilization, developed by the Maya people, which flourished in central America from around 250 AD in great cities such as Chichen Itza and Uxmal with advances in mathematics, architecture and astronomy. Long before the Spanish Conquest in the 16th Century, major cities had been abandoned for reasons unknown, although there are many theories including overpopulation and changing climate. The hundreds of Maya sites across Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico raise intriguing questions about one of the world's great pre-industrial civilizations. With Elizabeth Graham Professor of Mesoamerican Archaeology at University College London Matthew Restall Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Latin American History and Anthropology at Pennsylvania State University And Benjamin Vis Eastern ARC Research Fellow in Digital Humanities at the University of Kent Producer: Simon Tillotson.
The Dutch East India Company
March 2nd, 2016, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie or VOC, known in English as the Dutch East India Company. The VOC dominated the spice trade between Asia and Europe for two hundred years, with the British East India Company a distant second. At its peak, the VOC had a virtual monopoly on nutmeg, mace, cloves and cinnamon, displacing the Portuguese and excluding the British, and were the only European traders allowed access to Japan. With Anne Goldgar Reader in Early Modern European History at King's College London Chris Nierstrasz Lecturer in Global History at Erasmus University, Rotterdam, formerly at the University of Warwick And Helen Paul Lecturer in Economics and Economic History at the University of Southampton Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Mary Magdalene
February 24th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Mary Magdalene is one of the best-known figures in the Bible and has been a frequent inspiration to artists and writers over the last 2000 years. According to the New Testament, she was at the foot of the cross when Jesus was crucified and was one of the first people to see Jesus after the resurrection. However, her identity has provoked a large amount of debate and in the Western Church she soon became conflated with two other figures mentioned in the Bible, a repentant sinner and Mary of Bethany. Texts discovered in the mid-20th century provoked controversy and raised further questions about the nature of her relations with Jesus. With: Joanne Anderson Lecturer in Art History at the Warburg Institute, School of Advanced Study, University of London Eamon Duffy Emeritus Professor of the History of Christianity at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Magdalene College Joan Taylor Professor of Christian Origins and Second Temple Judaism at King's College London Producer: Victoria Brignell.
Robert Hooke
February 17th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and work of Robert Hooke (1635-1703) who worked for Robert Boyle and was curator of experiments at the Royal Society. The engraving of a flea, above, is taken from his Micrographia which caused a sensation when published in 1665. Sometimes remembered for his disputes with Newton, he studied the planets with telescopes and snowflakes with microscopes. He was an early proposer of a theory of evolution, discovered light diffraction with a wave theory to explain it and felt he was rarely given due credit for his discoveries. With David Wootton Anniversary Professor of History at the University of York Patricia Fara President Elect of the British Society for the History of Science And Rob Iliffe Professor of History of Science at Oxford University Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Rumi's Poetry
February 10th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the poetry of Rumi, the Persian scholar and Sufi mystic of the 13th Century. His great poetic works are the Masnavi or "spiritual couplets" and the Divan, a collection of thousands of lyric poems. He is closely connected with four modern countries: Afghanistan, as he was born in Balkh, from which he gains the name Balkhi; Uzbekistan from his time in Samarkand as a child; Iran as he wrote in Persian; and Turkey for his work in Konya, where he spent most of his working life and where his followers established the Mevlevi Order, also known as the Whirling Dervishes. With Alan Williams British Academy Wolfson Research Professor at the University of Manchester Carole Hillenbrand Professor of Islamic History at the University of St Andrews and Professor Emerita of Edinburgh University And Lloyd Ridgeon Reader in Islamic Studies at the University of Glasgow Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Chromatography
February 3rd, 2016, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the origins, development and uses of chromatography. In its basic form, it is familiar to generations of schoolchildren who put a spot of ink at the bottom of a strip of paper, dip it in water and then watch the pigments spread upwards, revealing their separate colours. Chemists in the 19th Century started to find new ways to separate mixtures and their work was taken further by Mikhail Tsvet, a Russian-Italian scientist who is often credited with inventing chromatography in 1900. The technique has become so widely used, it is now an integral part of testing the quality of air and water, the levels of drugs in athletes, in forensics and in the preparation of pharmaceuticals. With Andrea Sella Professor of Chemistry at University College London Apryll Stalcup Professor of Chemical Sciences at Dublin City University And Leon Barron Senior Lecturer in Forensic Science at King's College London.
Eleanor of Aquitaine
January 27th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life, times and influence of Eleanor of Aquitaine (c1122-1204) who was one of the most powerful women in Twelfth Century Europe, possibly in the entire Middle Ages. She inherited land from the Loire down to the Pyrenees, about a third of modern France. She married first the King of France, Louis VII, joining him on the Second Crusade. She became stronger still after their marriage was annulled, as her next husband, Henry Plantagenet became Henry II of England. Two of their sons, Richard and John, became kings and she ruled for them when they were abroad. By her death in her eighties, Eleanor had children and grandchildren in power across western Europe. This led to competing claims of inheritance and, for much of the next 250 years, the Plantagenet and French kings battled over Eleanor's land. With Lindy Grant Professor of Medieval History at the University of Reading Nicholas Vincent Professor of Medieval History at the University of East Anglia And Julie Barrau University Lecturer in British Medieval History at the University of Cambridge Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Thomas Paine's Common Sense
January 20th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Thomas Paine and his pamphlet "Common Sense" which was published in Philadelphia in January 1776 and promoted the argument for American independence from Britain. Addressed to The Inhabitants of America, it sold one hundred and fifty thousand copies in the first few months and is said, proportionately, to be the best-selling book in American history. Paine had arrived from England barely a year before. He vigorously attacked monarchy generally and George the Third in particular. He argued the colonies should abandon all hope of resolving their dispute with Britain and declare independence immediately. Many Americans were scandalised. More were inspired and, for Paine's vision of America's independent future, he has been called a Founding Father of the United States. With Kathleen Burk Professor Emerita of Modern and Contemporary History at University College London Nicholas Guyatt University Lecturer in American History at the University of Cambridge And Peter Thompson Associate Professor of American History at the University of Oxford and Fellow of St Cross College Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Saturn
January 13th, 2016, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the planet Saturn with its rings of ice and rock and over 60 moons. In 1610, Galileo used an early telescope to observe Saturn, one of the brightest points in the night sky, but could not make sense of what he saw: perhaps two large moons on either side. When he looked a few years later, those supposed moons had disappeared. It was another forty years before Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens solved the mystery, realizing the moons were really a system of rings. Successive astronomers added more detail, with the greatest leaps forward in the last forty years. The Pioneer 11 spacecraft and two Voyager missions have flown by, sending back the first close-up images, and Cassini is still there, in orbit, confirming Saturn, with its rings and many moons, as one of the most intriguing and beautiful planets in our Solar System. With Carolin Crawford Public Astronomer at the Institute of Astronomy and Fellow of Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge Michele Dougherty Professor of Space Physics at Imperial College London And Andrew Coates Deputy Director in charge of the Solar System at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory at UCL.
Tristan and Iseult
December 30th, 2015, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Tristan and Iseult, one of the most popular stories of the Middle Ages. From roots in Celtic myth, it passed into written form in Britain a century after the Norman Conquest and almost immediately spread throughout northern Europe. It tells of a Cornish knight and an Irish queen, Tristan and Iseult, who accidentally drink a love potion, at the same time, on the same boat, travelling to Cornwall. She is due to marry Tristan's king, Mark. Tristan and Iseult seemed ideally matched and their love was heroic, but could that excuse their adultery, in the minds of medieval listeners, particularly when the Church was so clear they were wrong? With Laura Ashe Associate Professor of English at Worcester College, University of Oxford Juliette Wood Associate Lecturer in the School of Welsh at Cardiff University And Mark Chinca Reader in Medieval German Literature at the University of Cambridge Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Michael Faraday
December 23rd, 2015, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the eminent 19th-century scientist Michael Faraday. Born into a poor working-class family, he received little formal schooling but became interested in science while working as a bookbinder's apprentice. He is celebrated today for carrying out pioneering research into the relationship between electricity and magnetism. Faraday showed that if a wire was turned in the presence of a magnet or a magnet was turned in relation to a wire, an electric current was generated. This ground-breaking discovery led to the development of the electric generator and ultimately to modern power stations. During his life he became the most famous scientist in Britain and he played a key role in founding the Royal Institution's Christmas lectures which continue today. With: Geoffrey Cantor Professor Emeritus of the History of Science at the University of Leeds Laura Herz Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford Frank James Professor of the History of Science at the Royal Institution Producer: Victoria Brignell.
Circadian Rhythms
December 16th, 2015, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the evolution and role of Circadian Rhythms, the so-called body clock that influences an organism's daily cycle of physical, behavioural and mental changes. The rhythms are generated within organisms and also in response to external stimuli, mainly light and darkness. They are found throughout the living world, from bacteria to plants, fungi to animals and, in humans, are noticed most clearly in sleep patterns. With Russell Foster Professor of Circadian Neuroscience at the University of Oxford Debra Skene Professor of Neuroendocrinology at the University of Surrey And Steve Jones Emeritus Professor of Genetics at University College London.
Chinese Legalism
December 9th, 2015, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the origins and rise of Legalism in China, from the start of the Warring States Period (c475 - 221 BC) to the time of The First Emperor Qin Shi Huang (pictured), down to Chairman Mao and the present day. Advanced by the Qin statesman Shang Yang and later blended together by Han Fei, the three main aspects of Legalism were the firm implementation of laws, use of techniques such as responsibility and inscrutability, and taking advantage of the ruler's position. The Han dynasty that replaced the Qin discredited this philosophy for its apparent authoritarianism, but its influence continued, re-emerging throughout Chinese history. With Frances Wood Former Curator of the Chinese Collections at the British Library Hilde de Weerdt Professor of Chinese History at Leiden University And Roel Sterckx Joseph Needham Professor of Chinese History at the University of Cambridge. Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Voyages of James Cook
December 2nd, 2015, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the scientific advances made in the three voyages of Captain James Cook, from 1768 to 1779. Cook's voyages astonished Europeans, bringing back detailed knowledge of the Pacific and its people, from the Antarctic to the Bering Straits. This topic is one of more than a thousand different ideas suggested by listeners in October and came from Alysoun Hodges in the UK, Fiachra O'Brolchain in Ireland, Mhairi Mackay in New Zealand, Enzo Vozzo in Australia, Jeff Radford in British Columbia and Mark Green in Alaska. With Simon Schaffer Professor of the History of Science at the University of Cambridge Rebekah Higgitt Lecturer in the History of Science at the University of Kent And Sophie Forgan Retired Principle Lecturer at the University of Teesside Chairman of Trustees of the Captain Cook Museum, Whitby Producer: Simon Tillotson.
The Salem Witch Trials
November 25th, 2015, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the outbreak of witch trials in Massachusetts in 1692-3, centred on Salem, which led to the execution of twenty people, with more dying in prison before or after trial. Some were men, including Giles Corey who died after being pressed with heavy rocks, but the majority were women. At its peak, around 150 people were suspected of witchcraft, including the wife of the governor who had established the trials. Many of the claims of witchcraft arose from personal rivalries in an area known for unrest, but were examined and upheld by the courts at a time of mass hysteria, belief in the devil, fear of attack by Native Americans and religious divisions. With Susan Castillo-Street Harriet Beecher Stowe Professor Emerita of American Studies at King's College London Simon Middleton Senior Lecturer in American History at the University of Sheffield And Marion Gibson Professor of Renaissance and Magical Literatures at Exeter University, Penryn Campus. Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Emma
November 18th, 2015, 06:00 PM
"Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her." So begins Emma by Jane Austen, describing her leading character who, she said, was "a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like." Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss this, one of Austen's most popular novels and arguably her masterpiece, a brilliantly sparkling comedy of manners published in December 1815 by John Murray, the last to be published in Austen's lifetime. This followed Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813) and Mansfield Park (1814), with her brother Henry handling publication of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion (1817). With Janet Todd Professor Emerita of Literature, University of Aberdeen and Honorary Fellow of Newnham College, Cambridge John Mullan Professor of English at University College, London And Emma Clery Professor of English at the University of Southampton. Producer: Simon Tillotson.
The Battle of Lepanto
November 11th, 2015, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss The Battle of Lepanto, 1571, the last great sea battle between galleys, in which the Catholic fleet of the Holy League of principally Venice, Spain, the Papal States, Malta, Genoa, and Savoy defeated the Ottoman forces of Selim II. When much of Europe was divided over the Reformation, this was the first major victory of a Christian force over a Turkish fleet. The battle followed the Ottoman invasion of Venetian Cyprus and decades in which the Venetians had been trying to stop the broader westward expansion of the Ottomans into the Mediterranean. The outcome had a great impact on morale in Europe and Pope Pius V established a feast day of Our Lady of Victory. Some historians call it the most significant sea battle since Actium (31 BC). However, the Ottomans viewed the loss as less significant than their victory in Cyprus and, within two years, the Holy League had broken up. With Diarmaid MacCulloch Professor of the History of the Church at the University of Oxford Kate Fleet Director of the Skilliter Centre for Ottoman Studies and Fellow of Newnham College, University of Cambridge And Noel Malcolm A Senior Research Fellow in History at All Soul's College, University of Oxford Producer: Simon Tillotson.
P v NP
November 4th, 2015, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the problem of P versus NP, which has a bearing on online security. There is a $1,000,000 prize on offer from the Clay Mathematical Institute for the first person to come up with a complete solution. At its heart is the question "are there problems for which the answers can be checked by computers, but not found in a reasonable time?" If the answer to that is yes, then P does not equal NP. However, if all answers can be found easily as well as checked, if only we knew how, then P equals NP. The area has intrigued mathematicians and computer scientists since Alan Turing, in 1936, found that it's impossible to decide in general whether an algorithm will run forever on some problems. Resting on P versus NP is the security of all online transactions which are currently encrypted: if it transpires that P=NP, if answers could be found as easily as checked, computers could crack passwords in moments. With Colva Roney-Dougal Reader in Pure Mathematics at the University of St Andrews Timothy Gowers Royal Society Research Professor in Mathematics at the University of Cambridge And Leslie Ann Goldberg Professor of Computer Science and Fellow of St Edmund Hall, University of Oxford Producer: Simon Tillotson.
The Empire of Mali
October 28th, 2015, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Empire of Mali which flourished from 1200 to 1600 and was famous in the wider world for the wealth of rulers such as Mansa Musa. Mali was the largest empire in west Africa and for almost 400 years controlled the flow of gold from mines in the south up to the Mediterranean coast and across to the Middle East. These gold mines were the richest known deposits in the 14th Century and produced around half of the world's gold. When Mansa Musa journeyed to Cairo in 1324 as part of his Hajj, he distributed so much gold that its value depreciated by over 10%. Some of the mosques he built on his return survive, albeit rebuilt, such as the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Great Mosque of Djenne. With Amira Bennison Reader in the History and Culture of the Maghrib at the University of Cambridge Marie Rodet Senior Lecturer in the History of Africa at SOAS And Kevin MacDonald Professor of African Archaeology Chair of the African Studies Programme at University College, London Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Simone de Beauvoir
October 21st, 2015, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Simone de Beauvoir. "One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman," she wrote in her best known and most influential work, The Second Sex, her exploration of what it means to be a woman in a world defined by men. Published in 1949, it was an immediate success with the thousands of women who bought it. Many male critics felt men came out of it rather badly. Beauvoir was born in 1908 to a high bourgeois family and it was perhaps her good fortune that her father lost his money when she was a girl. With no dowry, she pursued her education in Paris to get work and in a key exam to allow her to teach philosophy, came second only to Jean Paul Sartre. He was retaking. They became lovers and, for the rest of their lives together, intellectual sparring partners. Sartre concentrated on existentialist philosophy; Beauvoir explored that, and existentialist ethics, plus the novel and, increasingly in the decades up to her death in 1986, the situation of women in the world. With Christina Howells Professor of French and Fellow of Wadham College at the University of Oxford Margaret Atack Professor of French at the University of Leeds And Ursula Tidd Professor of Modern French Literature and Thought at the University of Manchester Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Holbein at the Tudor Court
October 14th, 2015, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and work of Hans Holbein the Younger (1497-1543) during his two extended stays in England, when he worked at the Tudor Court and became the King's painter. Holbein created some of the most significant portraits of his age, including an image of Henry VIII, looking straight at the viewer, hands on hips, that has dominated perceptions of him since. The original at Whitehall Palace was said to make visitors tremble at its majesty. Holbein was later sent to Europe to paint the women who might be Henry's fourth wife; his depiction of Anne of Cleves was enough to encourage Henry to marry her, a decision Henry quickly regretted and for which Thomas Cromwell, her supporter, was executed. His paintings still shape the way we see those in and around the Tudor Court, including Cromwell, Thomas More, the infant Prince Edward (of which there is a detail, above), The Ambassadors and, of course, Henry the Eighth himself. With Susan Foister Curator of Early Netherlandish, German and British Painting at the National Gallery John Guy A fellow of Clare College, University of Cambridge And Maria Hayward Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Southampton Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Alexander the Great
September 30th, 2015, 06:00 PM
Alexander the Great is one of the most celebrated military commanders in history. Born into the Macedonian royal family in 356 BC, he gained control of Greece and went on to conquer the Persian Empire, defeating its powerful king, Darius III. At its peak, Alexander's empire covered modern Turkey, Syria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and part of India. As a result, Greek culture and language was spread into regions it had not penetrated before, and he is also remembered for founding a number of cities. Over the last 2,000 years, the legend of Alexander has grown and he has influenced numerous generals and politicians. With: Paul Cartledge Emeritus Professor of Greek Culture and AG Leventis Senior Research Fellow at Clare College, University of Cambridge Diana Spencer Professor of Classics at the University of Birmingham Rachel Mairs Lecturer in Classics at the University of Reading Producer: Victoria Brignell.
Perpetual Motion
September 23rd, 2015, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the rise of the idea of perpetual motion and its decline, in the 19th Century, with the Laws of Thermodynamics. For hundreds of years, some of the greatest names in science thought there might be machines that could power themselves endlessly. Leonardo Da Vinci tested the idea of a constantly-spinning wheel and Robert Boyle tried to recirculate water from a draining flask. Gottfried Leibniz supported a friend, Orffyreus, who claimed he had built an ever-rotating wheel. An increasing number of scientists voiced their doubts about perpetual motion, from the time of Galileo, but none could prove it was impossible. For scientists, the designs were a way of exploring the laws of nature. Others claimed their inventions actually worked, and promised a limitless supply of energy. It was not until the 19th Century that the picture became clearer, with the experiments of James Joule and Robert Mayer on the links between heat and work, and the establishment of the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics. With Ruth Gregory Professor of Mathematics and Physics at Durham University Frank Close Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of Oxford and Steven Bramwell Professor of Physics and former Professor of Chemistry at University College London Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Frida Kahlo
July 8th, 2015, 06:00 PM
Born near Mexico City in 1907, Frida Kahlo is considered one of Mexico's greatest artists. She took up painting after a bus accident left her severely injured, was a Communist, married Diego Rivera, a celebrated muralist, became friends with Trotsky and developed an iconic series of self-portraits. Her work brings together elements such as surrealism, pop culture, Aztec and Indian mythology and commentary on Mexican culture. In 1938, artist and poet Andre Breton organised an exhibition of her work in New York, writing in the catalogue, "The Art of Frida Kahlo is a ribbon around a bomb." She was not as widely appreciated during her lifetime as she has since become, but is now one of the most recognised artists of the 20th century. With Patience Schell Chair in Hispanic Studies at the University of Aberdeen Valerie Fraser Emeritus Professor of Latin American Art at the University of Essex And Alan Knight Emeritus Professor of the History of Latin America at the University of Oxford Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Frederick the Great
July 1st, 2015, 06:00 PM
Frederick the Great ruled Prussia from 1740 until his death in 1786. Born in 1712, he increased the power of the state, he made Prussia the leading military power in Europe and his bold campaigns had great implications for the European political landscape. An absolute monarch in the age of enlightenment, he was a prolific writer, attracted figures such as Voltaire to his court, fostered education and put Berlin firmly on the cultural map. He was much admired by Napoleon and was often romanticised by German historians, becoming a hero for many in united Germany in the 19th and 20th centuries. Others, however, vilified him for aspects such as his militarism and the partition of Poland. With Tim Blanning Emeritus Professor of Modern European History at the University of Cambridge Katrin Kohl Professor of German Literature at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Jesus College And Thomas Biskup Lecturer in Early Modern History at the University of Hull Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Extremophiles
June 24th, 2015, 06:00 PM
In 1977, scientists in the submersible "Alvin" were exploring the deep ocean bed off the Galapagos Islands. In the dark, they discovered hydrothermal vents, like chimneys, from which superheated water flowed. Around the vents there was an extraordinary variety of life, feeding on microbes which were thriving in the acidity and extreme temperature of the vents. While it was already known that some microbes are extremophiles, thriving in extreme conditions, such as the springs and geysers of Yellowstone Park (pictured), that had not prepared scientists for what they now found. Since the "Alvin" discovery, the increased study of extremophile microbes has revealed much about what is and is not needed to sustain life on Earth and given rise to new theories about how and where life began. It has also suggested forms and places in which life might be found elsewhere in the Universe. With Monica Grady Professor of Planetary and Space Sciences at the Open University Ian Crawford Professor of Planetary Science and Astrobiology at Birkbeck University of London And Nick Lane Reader in Evolutionary Biochemistry at University College London Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Jane Eyre
June 17th, 2015, 06:00 PM
The story of Jane Eyre is one of the best-known in English fiction. Jane is the orphan who survives a miserable early life, first with her aunt at Gateshead Hall and then at Lowood School. She leaves the school for Thornfield Hall, to become governess to the French ward of Mr Rochester. She and Rochester fall in love but, at their wedding, it is revealed he is married already and his wife, insane, is kept in Thornfield's attic. When Jane Eyre was published in 1847, it was a great success and brought fame to Charlotte Bronte. Combined with Gothic mystery and horror, the book explores many themes, including the treatment of children, relations between men and women, religious faith and hypocrisy, individuality, morality, equality and the nature of true love. With Dinah Birch Professor of English Literature and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research at the University of Liverpool Karen O'Brien Vice Principal and Professor of English Literature at King's College London And Sara Lyons Lecturer in Victorian Literature at the University of Kent Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Utilitarianism
June 10th, 2015, 06:00 PM
A moral theory that emphasises ends over means, Utilitarianism holds that a good act is one that increases pleasure in the world and decreases pain. The tradition flourished in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries with Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, and has antecedents in ancient philosophy. According to Bentham, happiness is the means for assessing the utility of an act, declaring "it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong." Mill and others went on to refine and challenge Bentham's views and to defend them from critics such as Thomas Carlyle, who termed Utilitarianism a "doctrine worthy only of swine." With Melissa Lane The Class of 1943 Professor of Politics at Princeton University Janet Radcliffe Richards Professor of Practical Philosophy at the University of Oxford and Brad Hooker A Professor of Philosophy at the University of Reading Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Prester John
June 3rd, 2015, 06:00 PM
In the Middle Ages, Prester John was seen as the great hope for Crusaders struggling to hold on to, then regain, Jerusalem. He was thought to rule a lost Christian kingdom somewhere in the East and was ready to attack Muslim opponents with his enormous armies. There was apparent proof of Prester John's existence, in letters purportedly from him and in stories from travelers who claimed they had met, if not him, then people who had news of him. Most pointed to a home in the earthly paradise in the Indies, outside Eden, with fantastical animals and unimaginable riches. Later, Portuguese explorers thought they had found him in Ethiopia, despite the mystified denials of people there. Melvyn Bragg asks why the legend was so strongly believed for so long, and what facts helped sustain the myths. With Marianne O'Doherty Associate Professor in English at the University of Southampton Martin Palmer Director of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education, and Culture And Amanda Power Senior Lecturer in Medieval History at the University of Sheffield. Producer: Simon Tillotson.
The Science of Glass
May 27th, 2015, 06:00 PM
While glass items have been made for at least 5,000 years, scientists are yet to explain, conclusively, what happens when the substance it's made from moves from a molten state to its hard, transparent phase. It is said to be one of the great unsolved problems in physics. While apparently solid, the glass retains certain properties of a liquid. At times, ways of making glass have been highly confidential; in Venice in the Middle Ages, disclosure of manufacturing techniques was a capital offence. Despite the complexity and mystery of the science of glass, glass technology has continued to advance from sheet glass to crystal glass, optical glass and prisms, to float glasses, chemical glassware, fibre optics and metal glasses. With: Dame Athene Donald Professor of Experimental Physics at the University of Cambridge and Master of Churchill College, Cambridge Jim Bennett Former Director of the Museum of the History of Science at the University of Oxford and Keeper Emeritus at the Science Museum Paul McMillan Professor of Chemistry at University College London Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Josephus
May 20th, 2015, 06:00 PM
It is said that, in Britain from the 18th Century, copies of Josephus' works were as widespread and as well read as The Bible. Christians valued "The Antiquities of the Jews" in particular, for the retelling of parts of the Old Testament and apparently corroborating the historical existence of Jesus. Born Joseph son of Matthias, in Jerusalem, in 37AD, he fought the Romans in Galilee in the First Jewish-Roman War. He was captured by Vespasian's troops and became a Roman citizen, later describing the siege and fall of Jerusalem. His actions and writings made him a controversial figure, from his lifetime to the present day. With Tessa Rajak Professor Emeritus of Ancient History, University of Reading Philip Alexander Professor Emeritus of Jewish Studies, University of Manchester And Martin Goodman Professor of Jewish Studies, University of Oxford and President of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies Producer: Simon Tillotson.
The Lancashire Cotton Famine
May 13th, 2015, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Cotton Famine in Lancashire from 1861-65. The Famine followed the blockade of Confederate Southern ports during the American Civil War which stopped the flow of cotton into mills in Britain and Europe. Reports at the time told of starvation, mass unemployment and migration. Abraham Lincoln wrote, "I know and deeply deplore the sufferings which the working-men of Manchester, and in all Europe, are called to endure in this crisis." While the full cause and extent of the Famine in Lancashire are disputed, the consequences of this and the cotton blockade were far reaching. With Lawrence Goldman Director of the Institute of Historical Research at the University of London Emma Griffin Professor of History at the University of East Anglia And David Brown Senior Lecturer in American Studies at University of Manchester Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Tagore
May 6th, 2015, 06:00 PM
Rabindranath Tagore was the first non-European to win a Nobel Prize for Literature. He has been called one of the outstanding thinkers of the 20th century and the greatest poet India has ever produced. His Nobel followed publication of Gitanjali, his English version of some of his Bengali poems. WB Yeats and Ezra Pound were great supporters. Tagore was born in Calcutta in 1861 and educated partly in Britain; King George V knighted him, but Tagore renounced this in 1919 following the Amritsar Massacre. A key figure in Indian nationalism, Tagore became a friend of Gandhi, offering criticism as well as support. A polymath and progressive, Tagore painted, wrote plays, novels, short stories and many songs. The national anthems of India and Bangladesh are based on his poems. With Chandrika Kaul Lecturer in Modern History at the University of St Andrews Bashabi Fraser Professor of English Literature and Creative Writing at Edinburgh Napier University And John Stevens Leverhulme Postdoctoral Fellow at SOAS, University of London Producer: Simon Tillotson.
The Earth's Core
April 29th, 2015, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Earth's Core. The inner core is an extremely dense, solid ball of iron and nickel, the size of the Moon, while the outer core is a flowing liquid, the size of Mars. Thanks to the magnetic fields produced within the core, life on Earth is possible. The magnetosphere protects the Earth from much of the Sun's radiation and the flow of particles which would otherwise strip away the atmosphere. The precise structure of the core and its properties have been fascinating scientists from the Renaissance. Recent seismographs show the picture is even more complex than we might have imagined, with suggestions that the core is spinning at a different speed and on a different axis from the surface. With Stephen Blundell Professor of Physics and Fellow of Mansfield College at the University of Oxford Arwen Deuss Associate Professor in Seismology at Utrecht University and Simon Redfern Professor of Mineral Physics at the University of Cambridge Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Fanny Burney
April 22nd, 2015, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of the 18th-century novelist, playwright and diarist Fanny Burney, also known as Madame D'Arblay and Frances Burney. Her first novel, Evelina, was published anonymously and caused a sensation, attracting the admiration of many eminent contemporaries. In an era when very few women published their work she achieved extraordinary success, and her admirers included Dr Johnson and Edmund Burke; later Virginia Woolf called her 'the mother of English fiction'. With Nicole Pohl Reader in English Literature at Oxford Brookes University Judith Hawley Professor of Eighteenth-Century Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London and John Mullan Professor of English at University College London. Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Matteo Ricci and the Ming Dynasty
April 15th, 2015, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life of Matteo Ricci, a Jesuit priest who in the 16th century led a Christian mission to China. An accomplished scholar, Ricci travelled extensively and came into contact with senior officials of the Ming Dynasty administration. His story is one of the most important encounters between Renaissance Europe and a China which was still virtually closed to outsiders. With Mary Laven Reader in Early Modern History at the University of Cambridge Craig Clunas Professor of the History of Art at the University of Oxford and Anne Gerritsen Reader in History at the University of Warwick Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Sappho
April 8th, 2015, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Greek poet Sappho. Born in the late seventh century BC, Sappho spent much of her life on the island of Lesbos. In antiquity she was famed as one of the greatest lyric poets, but owing to a series of accidents the bulk of her work was lost to posterity. The fragments that do survive, however, give a tantalising glimpse of a unique voice of Greek literature. Her work has lived on in other languages, too, translated by such major poets as Ovid, Christina Rossetti and Baudelaire. With Edith Hall Professor of Classics at King's College, London Margaret Reynolds Professor of English at Queen Mary, University of London and Dirk Obbink Professor of Papyrology and Greek Literature at the University of Oxford Fellow and tutor at Christ Church, Oxford Producer: Simon Tillotson.
The California Gold Rush
April 1st, 2015, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the California Gold Rush. In 1849 the recent discovery of gold at Coloma, near Sacramento in California, led to a massive influx of prospectors seeking to make their fortunes. Within a couple of years the tiny settlement of San Francisco had become a major city, with tens of thousands of immigrants, the so-called Forty-Niners, arriving by boat and over land. The gold rush transformed the west coast of America and its economy, but also uprooted local populations of Native Americans and made irreversible changes to natural habitats. With: Kathleen Burk Professor of Modern and Contemporary History at University College London Jacqueline Fear-Segal Reader in American History and Culture at the University of East Anglia Frank Cogliano Professor of American History at the University of Edinburgh.
The Curies
March 25th, 2015, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the scientific achievements of the Curie family. In 1903 Marie and Pierre Curie shared a Nobel Prize in Physics with Henri Becquerel for their work on radioactivity, a term which Marie coined. Marie went on to win a Nobel in Chemistry eight years later; remarkably, her daughter Irène Joliot-Curie would later share a Nobel with her husband Frédéric Joliot-Curie for their discovery that it was possible to create radioactive materials in the laboratory. The work of the Curies added immensely to our knowledge of fundamental physics and paved the way for modern treatments for cancer and other illnesses. With: Patricia Fara Senior Tutor of Clare College, University of Cambridge Robert Fox Emeritus Professor of the History of Science at the University of Oxford Steven T Bramwell Professor of Physics and former Professor of Chemistry at University College London Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Al-Ghazali
March 18th, 2015, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of Al-Ghazali, a major philosopher and theologian of the late 11th century. Born in Persia, he was one of the most prominent intellectuals of his age, working in such centres of learning as Baghdad, Damascus and Jerusalem. He is now seen as a key figure in the development of Islamic thought, not just refining the theology of Islam but also building on the existing philosophical tradition inherited from the ancient Greeks. With: Peter Adamson Professor of Late Ancient and Arabic Philosophy at the LMU in Munich Carole Hillenbrand Professor of Islamic History at Edinburgh and St Andrews Universities Robert Gleave Professor of Arabic Studies at the University of Exeter Producer: Victoria Brignell.
Dark Matter
March 11th, 2015, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss dark matter, the mysterious and invisible substance which is believed to make up most of the Universe. In 1932 the Dutch astronomer Jan Oort noticed that the speed at which galaxies moved was at odds with the amount of material they appeared to contain. He hypothesized that much of this 'missing' matter was simply invisible to telescopes. Today astronomers and particle physicists are still fascinated by the search for dark matter and the question of what it is. With Carolin Crawford Public Astronomer at the Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge and Gresham Professor of Astronomy Carlos Frenk Ogden Professor of Fundamental Physics and Director of the Institute for Computational Cosmology at the University of Durham Anne Green Reader in Physics at the University of Nottingham Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Beowulf
March 4th, 2015, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the epic poem Beowulf, one of the masterpieces of Anglo-Saxon literature. Composed in the early Middle Ages by an anonymous poet, the work tells the story of a Scandinavian hero whose feats include battles with the fearsome monster Grendel and a fire-breathing dragon. It survives in a single manuscript dating from around 1000 AD, and was almost completely unknown until its rediscovery in the nineteenth century. Since then it has been translated into modern English by writers including William Morris, JRR Tolkien and Seamus Heaney, and inspired poems, novels and films. With: Laura Ashe Associate Professor in English at the University of Oxford and Fellow of Worcester College Clare Lees Professor of Medieval English Literature and History of the Language at King's College London Andy Orchard Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at the University of Oxford Producer: Thomas Morris.
The Eunuch
February 25th, 2015, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history and significance of eunuchs, castrated men who were a common feature of many civilisations for at least three thousand years. Eunuchs were typically employed as servants in royal households in the ancient Middle East, China and classical antiquity. In some civilisations they were used as administrators or senior military commanders, sometimes achieving high office. The tradition lingered until surprisingly recently, with castrated singers remaining a feature of Vatican choirs until the nineteenth century, while the last Chinese eunuch of the imperial court died in 1996. With: Karen Radner Professor of Ancient Near Eastern History at University College London Shaun Tougher Reader in Ancient History at Cardiff University Michael Hoeckelmann British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of History at King's College London Producer: Thomas Morris.
The Wealth of Nations
February 18th, 2015, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Adam Smith's celebrated economic treatise The Wealth of Nations. Smith was one of Scotland's greatest thinkers, a moral philosopher and pioneer of economic theory whose 1776 masterpiece has come to define classical economics. Based on his careful consideration of the transformation wrought on the British economy by the Industrial Revolution, and how it contrasted with marketplaces elsewhere in the world, the book outlined a theory of wealth and how it is accumulated that has arguably had more influence on economic theory than any other. With: Richard Whatmore Professor of Modern History and Director of the Institute of Intellectual History at the University of St Andrews Donald Winch Emeritus Professor of Intellectual History at the University of Sussex Helen Paul Lecturer in Economics and Economic History at the University of Southampton Producer: Thomas Morris.
The Photon
February 11th, 2015, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the photon, one of the most enigmatic objects in the Universe. Generations of scientists have struggled to understand the nature of light. In the late nineteenth century it seemed clear that light was an electromagnetic wave. But the work of physicists including Planck and Einstein shed doubt on this theory. Today scientists accept that light can behave both as a wave and a particle, the latter known as the photon. Understanding light in terms of photons has enabled the development of some of the most important technology of the last fifty years. With: Frank Close Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of Oxford Wendy Flavell Professor of Surface Physics at the University of Manchester Susan Cartwright Senior Lecturer in Physics and Astronomy at the University of Sheffield. Producer: Thomas Morris.
Ashoka the Great
February 4th, 2015, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Indian Emperor Ashoka. Active in the 3rd century BC, Ashoka conquered almost all of the landmass covered by modern-day India, creating the largest empire South Asia had ever known. After his campaign of conquest he converted to Buddhism, and spread the religion throughout his domain. His edicts were inscribed on the sides of an extraordinary collection of stone pillars spread far and wide across his empire, many of which survive today. Our knowledge of ancient India and its chronology, and how this aligns with the history of Europe, is largely dependent on this important set of inscriptions, which were deciphered only in the nineteenth century. With: Jessica Frazier Lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Kent and a Research Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies Naomi Appleton Chancellor's Fellow in Religious Studies at the University of Edinburgh Richard Gombrich Founder and Academic Director of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies and Emeritus Professor of Sanskrit at the University of Oxford Producer: Thomas Morris.
Thucydides
January 28th, 2015, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the ancient Greek historian Thucydides. In the fifth century BC Thucydides wrote The History of the Peloponnesian War, an account of a conflict in which he had himself taken part. This work is now seen as one of the first great masterpieces of history writing, a book which influenced writers for centuries afterwards. Thucydides was arguably the first historian to make a conscious attempt to be objective, bringing a rational and impartial approach to his scholarship. Today his work is still widely studied at military colleges and in the field of international relations for the insight it brings to bear on complex political situations. With: Paul Cartledge Emeritus Professor of Greek Culture and AG Leventis Senior Research Fellow at Clare College, Cambridge Katherine Harloe Associate Professor in Classics and Intellectual History at the University of Reading Neville Morley Professor of Ancient History at the University of Bristol Producer: Thomas Morris.
Phenomenology
January 21st, 2015, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss phenomenology, a style of philosophy developed by the German thinker Edmund Husserl in the first decades of the 20th century. Husserl's initial insights underwent a radical transformation in the work of his student Martin Heidegger, and played a key role in the development of French philosophy at the hands of writers like Emmanuel Levinas, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Phenomenology has been a remarkably adaptable approach to philosophy. It has given its proponents a platform to expose and critique the basic assumptions of past philosophy, and to talk about everything from the foundations of geometry to the difference between fear and anxiety. It has also been instrumental in getting philosophy out of the seminar room and making it relevant to the lives people actually lead. GUESTS Simon Glendinning, Professor of European Philosophy in the European Institute at the London School of Economics Joanna Hodge, Professor of Philosophy at Manchester Metropolitan University Stephen Mulhall, Professor of Philosophy and Tutor at New College at the University of Oxford Producer: Luke Mulhall.
Bruegel's The Fight Between Carnival and Lent
January 14th, 2015, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Pieter Bruegel the Elder's painting of 1559, 'The Fight Between Carnival And Lent'. Created in Antwerp at a time of religious tension between Catholics and Protestants, the painting is rich in detail and seems ripe for interpretation. But Bruegel is notoriously difficult to interpret. His art seems to reject the preoccupations of the Italian Renaissance, drawing instead on techniques associated with the new technology of the 16th century, print. Was Bruegel using his art to comment on the controversies of his day? If so, what comment was he making? CONTRIBUTORS Louise Milne, Lecturer in Visual Culture in the School of Art at the University of Edinburgh and Edinburgh Napier University Jeanne Nuechterlein, Senior Lecturer in the Department of History of Art, University of York Miri Rubin, Professor of Medieval and Early Modern History and Head of the School of History at Queen Mary, University of London Producer: Luke Mulhall.
Truth
December 17th, 2014, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the philosophy of truth. Pontius Pilate famously asked: what is truth? In the twentieth century, the nature of truth became a subject of particular interest to philosophers, but they preferred to ask a slightly different question: what does it mean to say of any particular statement that it is true? What is the difference between these two questions, and how useful is the second of them? With: Simon Blackburn Fellow of Trinity College, University of Cambridge, and Professor of Philosophy at the New College of the Humanities Jennifer Hornsby Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London Crispin Wright Regius Professor of Logic at the University of Aberdeen, and Professor of Philosophy at New York University Producer: Victoria Brignell and Luke Mulhall.
Behavioural Ecology
December 10th, 2014, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Behavioural Ecology, the scientific study of animal behaviour. What factors influence where and what an animal chooses to eat? Why do some animals mate for life whilst others are promiscuous? Behavioural ecologists approach questions like these using Darwin's theory of natural selection, along with ideas drawn from game theory and the economics of consumer choice. Scientists had always been interested in why animals behave as they do, but before behavioural ecology this area of zoology never got much beyond a collection of interesting anecdotes. Behavioural ecology gave researchers techniques for constructing rigorous mathematical models of how animals act under different circumstances, and for predicting how they will react if circumstances change. Behavioural ecology emerged as a branch of zoology in the second half of the 20th century and proponents say it revolutionized our understanding of animals in their environments. GUESTS Steve Jones, Emeritus Professor of Genetics at University College London Rebecca Kilner, Professor of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Cambridge John Krebs, Principal of Jesus College at the University of Oxford Producer: Luke Mulhall.
Zen
December 3rd, 2014, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Zen. It's often thought of as a form of Buddhism that emphasises the practice of meditation over any particular set of beliefs. In fact Zen belongs to a particular intellectual tradition within Buddhism that took root in China in the 6th century AD. It spread to Japan in the early Middle Ages, where Zen practitioners set up religious institutions like temples, monasteries and universities that remain important today. GUESTS Tim Barrett, Emeritus Professor in the Department of the Study of Religions at SOAS, University of London Lucia Dolce, Numata Reader in Japanese Buddhism at SOAS, University of London Eric Greene, Lecturer in East Asian Religions at the University of Bristol Producer: Luke Mulhall.
Kafka's The Trial
November 26th, 2014, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Franz Kafka's novel of power and alienation 'The Trial', in which readers follow the protagonist Joseph K into a bizarre, nightmarish world in which he stands accused of an unknown crime; courts of interrogation convene in obscure tenement buildings; and there seems to be no escape from a crushing, oppressive bureaucracy. Kafka was a German-speaking Jew who lived in the Czech city of Prague, during the turbulent years which followed the First World War. He spent his days working as a lawyer for an insurance company, but by night he wrote stories and novels considered some of the high points of twentieth century literature. His explorations of power and alienation have chimed with existentialists, Marxists, psychoanalysts, postmodernists - and Radio 4 listeners, who suggested this as our topic for listener week on In Our Time. GUESTS Elizabeth Boa, Professor Emerita of German at the University of Nottingham Steve Connor, Grace 2 Professor of English at the University of Cambridge Ritchie Robertson, Taylor Professor of the German Language and Literature at the University of Oxford Producer: Luke Mulhall.
Aesop
November 19th, 2014, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Aesop. According to some accounts, Aesop was a strikingly ugly slave who was dumb until granted the power of speech by the goddess Isis. In stories of his life he's often found outwitting his masters using clever wordplay, but he's best known today as the supposed author of a series of fables that are some of the most enduringly popular works of Ancient Greek literature. Some modern scholars question whether he existed at all, but the body of work that has come down to us under his name gives us a rare glimpse of the popular culture of the Ancient World. WITH Pavlos Avlamis, Junior Research Fellow in Classics at Trinity College at the University of Oxford Simon Goldhill, Professor of Greek Literature and Culture at the University of Cambridge Lucy Grig, Senior Lecturer in Classics at the University of Edinburgh Producer: Luke Mulhall.
Brunel
November 12th, 2014, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the Victorian engineer responsible for bridges, tunnels and railways still in use today more than 150 years after they were built. Brunel represented the cutting edge of technological innovation in Victorian Britain, and his life gives us a window onto the social changes that accompanied the Industrial Revolution. Yet his work was not always successful, and his innovative approach to engineering projects was often greeted with suspicion from investors. Guests: Julia Elton, former President of the Newcomen Society for the History of Engineering and Technology Ben Marsden, Senior Lecturer in the School of Divinity, History and Philosophy at the University of Aberdeen Crosbie Smith, Professor of the History of Science at the University of Kent Producer: Luke Mulhall.
Hatshepsut
November 5th, 2014, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Egyptian pharaoh Hatshepsut, whose name means 'foremost of noble ladies'. She ruled Egypt from about 1479 - 1458 BC and some scholars argue that she was one of the most successful and influential pharaohs. When she came to the throne, Egypt was still recovering from a period of turbulence known as the Second Intermediate Period a few generations earlier. Hatshepsut reasserted Egyptian power by building up international trade and commissioned buildings considered masterpieces of Egyptian architecture. She also made significant changes to the ideology surrounding the pharaoh and the gods. However, following her death, her name was erased from the records and left out of ancient lists of Egyptian kings. With: Elizabeth Frood Associate Professor of Egyptology at the University of Oxford Kate Spence Lecturer in Egyptian Archaeology at the University of Cambridge Campbell Price Curator of Egypt and Sudan at The Manchester Museum Producer: Victoria Brignell.
Nuclear Fusion
October 29th, 2014, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss nuclear fusion, the process that powers stars. In the 1920s physicists predicted that it might be possible to generate huge amounts of energy by fusing atomic nuclei together, a reaction requiring enormous temperatures and pressures. Today we know that this complex reaction is what keeps the Sun shining. Scientists have achieved fusion in the laboratory and in nuclear weapons; today it is seen as a likely future source of limitless and clean energy. Guests: Philippa Browning, Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Manchester Steve Cowley, Chief Executive of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority Justin Wark, Professor of Physics and fellow of Trinity College at the University of Oxford Producer: Thomas Morris.
The Haitian Revolution
October 22nd, 2014, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Haitian Revolution. In 1791 an uprising began in the French colonial territory of St Domingue. Partly a consequence of the French Revolution and partly a backlash against the brutality of slave owners, it turned into a complex struggle involving not just the residents of the island but French, English and Spanish forces. By 1804 the former slaves had won, establishing the first independent state in Latin America and the first nation to be created as a result of a successful slave rebellion. But the revolution also created one of the world's most impoverished societies, a legacy which Haiti has struggled to escape. Contributors Kate Hodgson, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in French at the University of Liverpool Tim Lockley, Reader in American Studies at the University of Warwick Karen Salt, Fellow in History in the School of Language and Literature at the University of Aberdeen Producer: Luke Mulhall.
Rudyard Kipling
October 15th, 2014, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of Rudyard Kipling. Born in Bombay in 1865, Kipling has been described as the poet of Empire, celebrated for fictional works including Kim and The Jungle Book. Today his poem 'If--' remains one of the best known in the English language. Kipling was amongst the first writers in English to develop the short story as a literary form in its own right, and was the first British recipient of a Nobel Prize for Literature. A literary celebrity of the Edwardian era, Kipling's work for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission played a major role in Britain's cultural response to the First World War. Contributors: Howard Booth, Senior Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Manchester Daniel Karlin, Winterstoke Professor of English Literature at the University of Bristol Jan Montefiore, Professor of Twentieth Century English Literature at the University of Kent Producer: Luke Mulhall.
The Battle of Talas
October 8th, 2014, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Battle of Talas, a significant encounter between Arab and Chinese forces which took place in central Asia in 751 AD. It brought together two mighty empires, the Abbasid Caliphate and the Tang Dynasty, and although not well known today the battle had profound consequences for the future of both civilisations. The Arabs won the confrontation, but the battle marks the point where the Islamic Empire halted its march eastwards, and the Chinese stopped their expansion to the west. It was also a point of cultural exchange: some historians believe that it was also the moment when the technology of paper manufacture found its way from China to the Western world. GUESTS Hilde de Weerdt, Professor of Chinese History at Leiden University Michael Höckelmann, British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of History at King's College London Hugh Kennedy, Professor of Arabic at SOAS, University of London Producer: Thomas Morris.
Julius Caesar
October 1st, 2014, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life, work and reputation of Julius Caesar. Famously assassinated as he entered the Roman senate on the Ides of March, 44 BC, Caesar was an inspirational general who conquered much of Europe. He was a ruthless and canny politician who became dictator of Rome, and wrote The Gallic Wars, one of the most admired and studied works of Latin literature. Shakespeare is one of many later writers to have been fascinated by the figure of Julius Caesar. With: Christopher Pelling Regius Professor of Greek at the University of Oxford Catherine Steel Professor of Classics at the University of Glasgow Maria Wyke Professor of Latin at University College London Producer: Thomas Morris.
e
September 24th, 2014, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Euler's number, also known as e. First discovered in the seventeenth century by the Swiss mathematician Jacob Bernoulli when he was studying compound interest, e is now recognised as one of the most important and interesting numbers in mathematics. Roughly equal to 2.718, e is useful in studying many everyday situations, from personal savings to epidemics. It also features in Euler's Identity, sometimes described as the most beautiful equation ever written. With: Colva Roney-Dougal Reader in Pure Mathematics at the University of St Andrews June Barrow-Green Senior Lecturer in the History of Maths at the Open University Vicky Neale Whitehead Lecturer at the Mathematical Institute and Balliol College at the University of Oxford Producer: Thomas Morris.
The Sun
July 9th, 2014, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Sun. The object that gives the Earth its light and heat is a massive ball of gas and plasma 93 million miles away. Thanks to the nuclear fusion reactions taking place at its core, the Sun has been shining for four and a half billion years. Its structure, and the processes that keep it burning, have fascinated astronomers for centuries. After the invention of the telescope it became apparent that the Sun is not a placid, steadily shining body but is subject to periodic changes in its appearance and eruptions of dramatic violence, some of which can affect us here on Earth. Recent space missions have revealed fascinating new insights into our nearest star. With: Carolin Crawford Gresham Professor of Astronomy and Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge Yvonne Elsworth Poynting Professor of Physics at the University of Birmingham Louise Harra Professor of Solar Physics at UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory Producer: Thomas Morris.
Mrs Dalloway
July 2nd, 2014, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Virginia Woolf's novel Mrs Dalloway. First published in 1925, it charts a single day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, a prosperous member of London society, as she prepares to throw a party. Writing in her diary during the writing of the book, Woolf explained what she had set out to do: 'I want to give life and death, sanity and insanity. I want to criticize the social system, and to show it at work at its most intense.' Celebrated for its innovative narrative technique and distillation of many of the preoccupations of 1920s Britain, Mrs Dalloway is now seen as a landmark of twentieth-century fiction, and one of the finest products of literary modernism. With: Professor Dame Hermione Lee President of Wolfson College, Oxford Jane Goldman Reader in English Literature at the University of Glasgow Kathryn Simpson Senior Lecturer in English Literature at Cardiff Metropolitan University.
Hildegard of Bingen
June 25th, 2014, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss one of the most remarkable figures of the Middle Ages, Hildegard of Bingen. The abbess of a Benedictine convent, Hildegard experienced a series of mystical visions which she documented in her writings. She was an influential person in the religious world and much of her extensive correspondence with popes, monarchs and other important figures survives. Hildegard was also celebrated for her wide-ranging scholarship, which as well as theology covered the natural world, science and medicine. Officially recognised as a saint by the Catholic Church in 2012, Hildegard is also one of the earliest known composers. Since their rediscovery in recent decades her compositions have been widely recorded and performed. With: Miri Rubin Professor of Medieval and Early Modern History and Head of the School of History at Queen Mary, University of London William Flynn Lecturer in Medieval Latin at the Institute for Medieval Studies at the University of Leeds Almut Suerbaum Professor of Medieval German and Fellow of Somerville College, Oxford. Producer: Thomas Morris.
The Philosophy of Solitude
June 18th, 2014, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the philosophy of solitude. The state of being alone can arise for many different reasons: imprisonment, exile or personal choice. It can be prompted by religious belief, personal necessity or a philosophical need for solitary contemplation. Many thinkers have dealt with the subject, from Plato and Aristotle to Hannah Arendt. It's a philosophical tradition that takes in medieval religious mystics, the work of Montaigne and Adam Smith, and the great American poets of solitude Thoreau and Emerson. With: Melissa Lane Professor of Politics at Princeton University Simon Blackburn Professor of Philosophy at the New College of the Humanities and Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge John Haldane Professor of Philosophy at the University of St Andrews Producer: Thomas Morris.
Robert Boyle
June 11th, 2014, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of Robert Boyle, a pioneering scientist and a founder member of the Royal Society. Born in Ireland in 1627, Boyle was one of the first natural philosophers to conduct rigorous experiments, laid the foundations of modern chemistry and derived Boyle's Law, describing the physical properties of gases. In addition to his experimental work he left a substantial body of writings about philosophy and religion; his piety was one of the most important factors in his intellectual activities, prompting a celebrated dispute with his contemporary Thomas Hobbes. With: Simon Schaffer Professor of the History of Science at the University of Cambridge Michael Hunter Emeritus Professor of History at Birkbeck College, University of London Anna Marie Roos Senior Lecturer in the History of Science and Medicine at the University of Lincoln Producer: Thomas Morris.
The Bluestockings
June 4th, 2014, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Bluestockings. Around the middle of the eighteenth century a small group of intellectual women began to meet regularly to discuss literature and other matters, inviting some of the leading thinkers of the day to take part in informal salons. In an age when women were not expected to be highly educated, the Bluestockings were sometimes regarded with suspicion or even hostility. But prominent members such as Elizabeth Montagu - known as 'the Queen of the Bluestockings', and author of an influential essay about Shakespeare - and the classicist Elizabeth Carter were highly regarded for their scholarship. Their accomplishments led to far greater acceptance of women as the intellectual equal of men, and furthered the cause of female education. With: Karen O'Brien Vice-Principal and Professor of English at King's College London Elizabeth Eger Reader in English Literature at King's College London Nicole Pohl Reader in English Literature at Oxford Brookes University Producer: Thomas Morris.
The Talmud
May 28th, 2014, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history and contents of the Talmud, one of the most important texts of Judaism. The Talmud was probably written down over a period of several hundred years, beginning in the 2nd century. It contains the authoritative text of the traditional Jewish oral law, and also an account of early Rabbinic discussion of, and commentary on, these laws. In later centuries scholars wrote important commentaries on these texts, which remain central to most strands of modern Judaism. With: Philip Alexander Emeritus Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Manchester Rabbi Norman Solomon Former Lecturer at the Oxford Centre for Jewish and Hebrew Studies Laliv Clenman Lecturer in Rabbinic Literature at Leo Baeck College and a Visiting Lecturer at the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, King's College London Producer: Thomas Morris.
The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
May 21st, 2014, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. In 1859 the poet Edward FitzGerald published a long poem based on the verses of the 11th-century Persian scholar Omar Khayyam. Not a single copy was sold in the first few months after the work's publication, but after it came to the notice of members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood it became enormously influential. Although only loosely based on the original, the Rubaiyat made Khayyam the best-known Eastern poet in the English-speaking world. FitzGerald's version is itself one of the most admired works of Victorian literature, praised and imitated by many later writers. With: Charles Melville Professor of Persian History at the University of Cambridge Daniel Karlin Winterstoke Professor of English Literature at the University of Bristol Kirstie Blair Professor of English Studies at the University of Stirling Producer: Thomas Morris.
Photosynthesis
May 14th, 2014, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss photosynthesis, the process by which green plants and many other organisms use sunlight to synthesise organic molecules. Photosynthesis arose very early in evolutionary history and has been a crucial driver of life on Earth. In addition to providing most of the food consumed by organisms on the planet, it is also responsible for maintaining atmospheric oxygen levels, and is thus almost certainly the most important chemical process ever discovered. With: Nick Lane Reader in Evolutionary Biochemistry at University College London Sandra Knapp Botanist at the Natural History Museum John Allen Professor of Biochemistry at Queen Mary, University of London. Producer: Thomas Morris.
The Sino-Japanese War
May 7th, 2014, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-45. After several years of rising tension, and the Japanese occupation of Manchuria, full-scale war between Japan and China broke out in the summer of 1937. The Japanese captured many major Chinese ports and cities, but met with fierce resistance, despite internal political divisions on the Chinese side. When the Americans entered the war following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Japanese found themselves fighting on several fronts simultaneously, and finally capitulated in August 1945. This notoriously brutal conflict left millions dead and had far-reaching consequences for international relations in Asia. With: Rana Mitter Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China at the University of Oxford Barak Kushner Senior Lecturer in Japanese History at the University of Cambridge Tehyun Ma Lecturer in Chinese History at the University of Exeter Producer: Thomas Morris.
The Tale of Sinuhe
April 30th, 2014, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss The Tale of Sinuhe, one of the most celebrated works of ancient Egyptian literature. Written around four thousand years ago, the poem narrates the story of an Egyptian official who is exiled to Syria before returning to his homeland some years later. The number of versions of the poem, which is known from several surviving papyri and inscriptions, suggests that it was seen as an important literary work; although the story is set against a backdrop of real historical events, most scholars believe that the poem is a work of fiction. With: Richard Parkinson Professor of Egyptology and Fellow of Queen's College at the University of Oxford Roland Enmarch Senior Lecturer in Egyptology at the University of Liverpool. Aidan Dodson Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Bristol Producer: Thomas Morris.
Tristram Shandy
April 23rd, 2014, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Laurence Sterne's novel Tristram Shandy. Sterne's comic masterpiece is an extravagantly inventive work which was hugely popular when first published in 1759. Its often bawdy humour, and numerous digressions, are combined with bold literary experiment, such as a page printed entirely black to mark the death of one of the novel's characters. Dr Johnson wrote that "Nothing odd will do long. Tristram Shandy did not last" - but two hundred and fifty years after the book's publication, Tristram Shandy remains one of the most influential and widely admired books of the eighteenth century. With: Judith Hawley Professor of Eighteenth-Century Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London John Mullan Professor of English at University College London Mary Newbould Bowman Supervisor in English at Wolfson College, University of Cambridge. Producer: Thomas Morris.
The Domesday Book
April 16th, 2014, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Domesday Book, a vast survey of the land and property of much of England and Wales completed in 1086. Twenty years after the Battle of Hastings, William the Conqueror sent officials to most of his new territories to compile a list of land holdings and to gather information about settlements, the people who lived there and even their farm animals. Almost without parallel in European history, the resulting document was of immense importance for many centuries, and remains a central source for medieval historians. With: Stephen Baxter Reader in Medieval History at Kings College London Elisabeth van Houts Honorary Professor of Medieval European History at the University of Cambridge David Bates Professorial Fellow in Medieval History at the University of East Anglia Producer: Thomas Morris.
Strabo's Geographica
April 9th, 2014, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Strabo's Geographica. Written almost exactly two thousand years ago by a Greek scholar living in Rome, the Geographica is an ambitious attempt to describe the entire world known to the Romans and Greeks at that time. Strabo seems to have based his book on accounts of distant lands given to him by contemporary travellers and imperial administrators, and on earlier works of scholarship by other Greek writers. One of the earliest systematic works of geography, Strabo's book offers a revealing insight into the state of ancient scholarship, and remained influential for many centuries after the author's death. With: Paul Cartledge AG Leventis Professor of Greek Culture at the University of Cambridge Maria Pretzler Senior Lecturer in Ancient History at Swansea University Benet Salway Senior Lecturer in Ancient History at UCL Producer: Thomas Morris.
States of Matter
April 2nd, 2014, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the science of matter and the states in which it can exist. 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 or phases, such as glasses, gels and liquid crystals - many of them with useful properties that can be exploited. With: Andrea Sella Professor of Chemistry at University College London Athene Donald Professor of Experimental Physics at the University of Cambridge Justin Wark Professor of Physics and Fellow of Trinity College at the University of Oxford Producer: Thomas Morris.
Weber's The Protestant Ethic
March 26th, 2014, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Max Weber's book the Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Published in 1905, Weber's essay proposed that Protestantism had been a significant factor in the emergence of capitalism, making 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 is still seen as one of the seminal texts of twentieth-century sociology. With: Peter Ghosh Fellow in History at St Anne's College, Oxford Sam Whimster Honorary Professor in Sociology at the University of New South Wales Linda Woodhead Professor of Sociology of Religion at Lancaster University. Producer: Thomas Morris.
Bishop Berkeley
March 19th, 2014, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the work of George Berkeley, an Anglican bishop who was one of the most important philosophers of the eighteenth century. Bishop Berkeley believed that objects only truly exist in the mind of somebody who perceives them - an idea he called immaterialism. His interests and writing ranged widely, from the science of optics to religion and the medicinal benefits of tar water. His work on the nature of perception was a spur to many later thinkers, including David Hume and Immanuel Kant. The clarity of Berkeley's writing, and his ability to pose a profound problem in an easily understood form, has made him one of the most admired early modern thinkers. With: Peter Millican Gilbert Ryle Fellow and Professor of Philosophy at Hertford College, Oxford Tom Stoneham Professor of Philosophy at the University of York Michela Massimi Senior Lecturer in Philosophy of Science at the University of Edinburgh. Producer: Thomas Morris.
The Trinity
March 12th, 2014, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss 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 years of the Church, until clarified by the Council of Nicaea in the late 4th century. Later thinkers including St Augustine and Thomas Aquinas recognised that this religious mystery posed profound theological questions, such as whether the three persons of the Trinity always acted together, and whether they were of equal status. The Trinity's influence on Christian thought and practice is considerable, although it is interpreted in different ways by different Christian traditions. With: 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 The Reverend Graham Ward Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Oxford and a Canon of Christ Church. Producer: Thomas Morris.
Spartacus
March 5th, 2014, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life of Spartacus, the gladiator who led a major slave rebellion against the Roman Republic in the 1st century BC. He was an accomplished military leader, and the campaign he led contributed significantly to the instability of the Roman state in this period. Spartacus was celebrated by some ancient historians and reviled by others, and became a hero to revolutionaries in 19th-century Europe. Modern perceptions of his character have been influenced by Stanley Kubrick's 1960 film - but ancient sources give a rather more complex picture of Spartacus and the aims of his rebellion. With: Mary Beard Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge Maria Wyke Professor of Latin at University College, London Theresa Urbainczyk Associate Professor of Classics at University College, Dublin. Producer: Victoria Brignell.
The Eye
February 26th, 2014, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the eye. Humans have been attempting to understand the workings and significance of the organ for at least 2500 years. Some ancient philosophers believed that the eye enabled creatures to see by emitting its own light. The function and structures 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. Eyes have long attracted more than purely scientific interest, known even today as the 'windows on the soul'. With: Patricia Fara Senior Tutor of Clare College, University of Cambridge William Ayliffe Gresham Professor of Physic at Gresham College Robert Iliffe Professor of Intellectual History and History of Science at the University of Sussex Producer: Thomas Morris.
Social Darwinism
February 19th, 2014, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Social Darwinism. After the publication of Charles Darwin's masterpiece On the Origin of Species in 1859, some thinkers argued that Darwin's ideas about evolution could also be applied to human society. One thinker particularly associated with this movement was Darwin's near-contemporary Herbert Spencer, who coined the phrase 'survival of the fittest'. He 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 generations, although its association with eugenics and later adoption as an ideological position by Fascist regimes ensured its eventual downfall from intellectual respectability. With: 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 Charlotte Sleigh Reader in the History of Science at the University of Kent. Producer: Thomas Morris.
Chivalry
February 12th, 2014, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss chivalry, the moral code observed by knights of the Middle Ages. Chivalry 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 medieval military campaigns and also had important religious and literary dimensions. It 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. 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 Laura Ashe Associate Professor in English at the University of Oxford and Fellow of Worcester College Producer: Thomas Morris.
The Phoenicians
February 5th, 2014, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Phoenicians. The Greek historian Herodotus wrote about a people from the Levant who were accomplished sailors and traders, and who taught the Greeks their alphabet. He called them the Phoenicians, the Greek word for purple, although it is not known what they called themselves. 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 were hugely influential in the ancient world, they left few records of their own; some contemporary scholars believe that the Phoenicians were never a unified civilisation but a loose association of neighbouring city-states. With: Mark Woolmer Assistant Principal at Collingwood College, Durham University Josephine Quinn Lecturer in Ancient History at the University of Oxford Cyprian Broodbank Professor of Mediterranean Archaeology at University College London Producer: Thomas Morris.
Catastrophism
January 29th, 2014, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Catastrophism, the idea that natural disasters have had a significant influence in moulding the Earth's geological features. In 1822 William Buckland, the first reader of Geology at the University of Oxford, published his famous Reliquae Diluvianae, in which he ascribed most of the fossil record to the effects of Noah's flood. Charles Lyell in his Principles of Geology challenged these writings, arguing that geological change was slow and gradual, and that the processes responsible could still be seen at work today - a school of thought known as Uniformitarianism. But in the 1970s the idea that natural catastrophes were a major factor in the Earth's geology was revived and given new respectability by the discovery of evidence of a gigantic asteroid impact 65 million years ago, believed by many to have resulted in the extinction of the dinosaurs. With: 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 Leucha Veneer Visiting Scholar at the Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Manchester Producer: Thomas Morris.
Sources of Early Chinese History
January 22nd, 2014, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the sources for early Chinese history. The first attempts to make a record of historical events in China date from the Shang dynasty of the second 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 hundred years, archaeologists have discovered a wealth of new materials, including a cache of previously unknown texts which were found in a sealed cave on the edge of the Gobi Desert. Such sources are are shedding new light on Chinese history, although interpreting ancient sources from the period before the invention of printing presents a number of challenges. With: 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 Hilde de Weerdt Professor of Chinese History at Leiden University Producer: Thomas Morris.
The Battle of Tours
January 15th, 2014, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Battle of Tours. In 732 a large Arab army invaded Gaul from northern Spain, and travelled as far north as Poitiers. There they were defeated by Charles Martel, whose Frankish and Burgundian forces repelled the invaders. 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. With: Hugh Kennedy Professor of Arabic at SOAS, University of London Rosamond McKitterick Professor of Medieval History at the University of Cambridge Matthew Innes Vice-Master and Professor of History at Birkbeck, University of London.
Plato's Symposium
January 1st, 2014, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Plato's Symposium, 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. With: 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 Frisbee Sheffield Director of Studies in Philosophy at Christ's College, University of Cambridge. Producer: Thomas Morris.
The Medici
December 25th, 2013, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Medici family, who dominated Florence's political and cultural life for three centuries. The House of Medici came to prominence in Italy in the fifteenth century as a result of the wealth they had 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 House of Medici married into various European royal families. With: Evelyn Welch Professor of Renaissance Studies at King's College, University of London Robert Black Professor of Renaissance History at the University of Leeds Catherine Fletcher Lecturer in Public History at the University of Sheffield Producer: Victoria Brignell.
Complexity
December 18th, 2013, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss complexity and how it can help us understand the world around us. When living beings come together and act in a group, they do so in complicated and unpredictable ways: societies often behave very differently from the individuals within them. Complexity was a phenomenon little understood a generation ago, but 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. With: Ian Stewart Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at the University of Warwick Jeff Johnson Professor of Complexity Science and Design at the Open University Professor Eve Mitleton-Kelly Director of the Complexity Research Group at the London School of Economics. Producer: Thomas Morris.
Pliny the Younger
December 11th, 2013, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of Pliny the Younger, famous for his letters. A prominent lawyer in Rome in the first century AD, Pliny later became governor of the province of Bithynia, on the Black Sea coast of modern Turkey. Throughout his career he was a prolific letter-writer, sharing his thoughts with great contemporaries including the historian Tacitus, and asking the advice of the Emperor Trajan. Pliny's letters offer fascinating insights into life in ancient Rome and its empire, from the mundane details of irrigation schemes to his vivid eyewitness account of the eruption of Vesuvius. With: Catharine Edwards Professor of Classics and Ancient History at Birkbeck, University of London Roy Gibson Professor of Latin at the University of Manchester Alice König Lecturer in Latin and Classical Studies at the University of St Andrews Producer: Thomas Morris.
Hindu Ideas of Creation
December 4th, 2013, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Hindu ideas about Creation. According to most Western religious traditions, a deity was the original creator of the Universe. Hinduism, on the other hand, has no single creation story. For thousands of years, 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. With: 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 Gavin Flood Professor of Hindu Studies and Comparative Religion at the University of Oxford. Producer: Thomas Morris.
The Microscope
November 27th, 2013, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the development of the microscope, an instrument which has revolutionised our knowledge of the world and the organisms that inhabit it. In the seventeenth century the pioneering work of two scientists, the Dutchman Antonie van Leeuwenhoek and Robert Hooke in England, revealed the teeming microscopic world that exists at scales beyond the capabilities of the naked eye. 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. With: Jim Bennett Visiting Keeper at the Science Museum in London Sir Colin Humphreys Professor of Materials Science and Director of Research at the University of Cambridge Michelle Peckham Professor of Cell Biology at the University of Leeds Producer: Thomas Morris.
Pocahontas
November 20th, 2013, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life of Pocahontas, the Native American woman who to English eyes became a symbol of the New World. During the colonisation of Virginia in the first years of the seventeenth century, Pocahontas famously saved the life of an English prisoner, John Smith. Later captured, she converted to Christianity, married a settler and travelled to England where she was regarded as a curiosity. She died in 1617 at the age of 22 and was buried in Gravesend; her story has fascinated generations on both sides of the Atlantic, and has been reinterpreted and retold by many writers and artists. With: 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 Jacqueline Fear-Segal Reader in American History and Culture at the University of East Anglia Producer: Thomas Morris.
The Tempest
November 13th, 2013, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Shakespeare's play The Tempest. Written in around 1610, it is thought to be one of the playwright's final works and contains some of the most poetic and memorable passages in all his output. It was influenced by accounts of distant lands written by contemporary explorers, and by the complex international politics of the early Jacobean age. The Tempest is set entirely on an unnamed island inhabited by the magician Prospero, his daughter Miranda and the monstrous Caliban, one of the most intriguing characters in Shakespeare's output. 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. With: Jonathan Bate Provost of Worcester College, Oxford Erin Sullivan Lecturer and Fellow at the Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham Katherine Duncan-Jones Emeritus Fellow of Somerville College, Oxford Producer: Thomas Morris.
Ordinary Language Philosophy
November 6th, 2013, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Ordinary Language Philosophy, 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 twentieth century, such as Gilbert Ryle and JL Austin. With: Stephen Mulhall Professor of Philosophy at New College, Oxford Ray Monk Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southampton Julia Tanney Reader in Philosophy of Mind at the University of Kent Producer: Thomas Morris.
The Berlin Conference
October 30th, 2013, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Berlin Conference of 1884. In the 1880s, as colonial powers attempted to increase their spheres of influence in Africa, tensions began to grow between European nations including Britain, Belgium and France. In 1884 the German Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, brought together many of Europe's leading statesmen to discuss trade and colonial activities in Africa. Although the original purpose of the summit was to settle the question of territorial rights in West Africa, negotiations eventually dealt with the entire continent. The conference was part of the process known as the Scramble for Africa, and the decisions reached at it had effects which have lasted to the present day. The conference is commonly seen as one of the most significant events of the so-called Scramble for Africa; in the following decades, European nations laid claim to most of the continent. With: Richard Drayton Rhodes Professor of Imperial History at King's College London Richard Rathbone Emeritus Professor of African History at SOAS, University of London Joanna Lewis Assistant Professor of Imperial History at the LSE, University of London. Producer: Thomas Morris.
The Corn Laws
October 23rd, 2013, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Corn Laws. In 1815 the British Government passed legislation which artificially inflated the price of corn. 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, led by the Radical Richard Cobden. The Conservative government of Sir Robert Peel finally repealed the laws in 1846, splitting his party in the process, and the resulting debate had profound consequences for the political and economic future of the country. With: 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 Cheryl Schonhardt-Bailey Reader in Political Science at the London School of Economics Producer: Thomas Morris.
The Book of Common Prayer
October 16th, 2013, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Book of Common Prayer. In 1549, at the height of the English Reformation, a new prayer book was published containing versions of the liturgy in English. Generally believed to have been supervised by Thomas Cranmer, the Book of Common Prayer 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 and influence.With:Diarmaid MacCullochProfessor of the History of the Church at the University of OxfordAlexandra WalshamProfessor of Modern History at the University of CambridgeMartin PalmerDirector of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education, and CultureProducer: Thomas Morris.
Galen
October 9th, 2013, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Roman physician and medical theorist Galen. The most celebrated doctor in the ancient world, Galen was Greek by birth but spent most of his career in Rome, where he was personal physician to three Emperors. He was one of the most prolific authors of his age, and a sixth of all surviving ancient literature in Greek was written by him. Celebrated 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. It was only the discoveries of Renaissance science which removed Galen from his dominant position in the pantheon of medicine.With:Vivian NuttonEmeritus Professor of the History of Medicine at University College LondonHelen KingProfessor of Classical Studies at the Open UniversityCaroline PetitWellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow in Classics at the University of WarwickProducer: Thomas Morris.
Exoplanets
October 2nd, 2013, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss exoplanets. Astronomers have speculated about the existence of planets beyond our solar system for centuries. Although strenuous efforts were made to find such planets orbiting distant stars, it was not until the 1990s that instruments became sophisticated enough to detect such remote objects. In 1992 Dale Frail and Aleksander Wolszczan discovered the first confirmed exoplanets: two planets orbiting the pulsar PSR B1257+12. Since then, astronomers have discovered more than 900 exoplanets, and are able to reach increasingly sophisticated conclusions about what they look like - and whether they might be able to support life. Recent data from experiments such as NASA's space telescope Kepler indicates that such planets may be far more common than previously suspected. With: 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 Suzanne Aigrain Lecturer in Astrophysics at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of All Souls College. Producer: Thomas Morris.
The Mamluks
September 25th, 2013, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Mamluks, who ruled Egypt and Syria from about 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 Middle Eastern world. Although the Mamluks were renowned as warriors, under their rule art, crafts and architecture blossomed. Little known by many in the West today, the Mamluks remained in power for almost 300 years until they were eventually overthrown by the Ottomans. With: Amira Bennison Reader in the History and Culture of the Maghrib at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Magdalene College Robert Irwin Former Senior Research Associate in the Department of History at SOAS, University of London Doris Behrens-Abouseif Nasser D Khalili Professor of Islamic Art and Archaeology at SOAS, University of London Producer: Victoria Brignell.
Pascal
September 18th, 2013, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests begin a new series of the programme with a discussion of the French polymath Blaise Pascal. Born in 1623, Pascal was a brilliant mathematician and scientist, inventing one of the first mechanical calculators and making 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. With: David Wootton Anniversary Professor of History at the University of York Michael Moriarty Drapers Professor of French at the University of Cambridge Michela Massimi Senior Lecturer in the Philosophy of Science at the University of Edinburgh. Producer: Thomas Morris.
The Invention of Radio
July 3rd, 2013, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the invention of radio. 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. With: Simon Schaffer Professor of the History of Science at the University of Cambridge Elizabeth Bruton Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Leeds John Liffen Curator of Communications at the Science Museum, London Producer: Thomas Morris.
Romance of the Three Kingdoms
June 26th, 2013, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, 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, the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. Partly historical and partly legend, it recounts the fighting and scheming of the feudal lords and the three states which came to power as the Han Dynasty collapsed. 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. With: 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 Margaret Hillenbrand University Lecturer in Modern Chinese Literature at the University of Oxford and Fellow of Wadham College Producer: Victoria Brignell.
The Physiocrats
June 19th, 2013, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Physiocrats, an important group of economic thinkers in eighteenth-century France. The Physiocrats believed that the land was the ultimate source of all wealth, and crucially 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, who called Physiocracy "perhaps the nearest approximation to the truth that has yet been published upon the subject of political economy." With: 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 Helen Paul Lecturer in Economics and Economic History at the University of Southampton. Producer: Thomas Morris.
Prophecy
June 12th, 2013, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the meaning and significance of prophecy 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. With: 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 Jonathan Stökl Post-Doctoral Researcher at Leiden University. Producer: Thomas Morris.
Relativity
June 5th, 2013, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Einstein's theories of relativity. Between 1905 and 1917 Albert Einstein formulated a theoretical framework which 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. Relativity resolved apparent contradictions in physics and also predicted several new phenomena, including black holes. It's regarded today as one of the greatest intellectual achievements of the twentieth century, and had an impact far beyond the world of science. With: 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 Roger Penrose Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford. Producer: Thomas Morris.
Queen Zenobia
May 29th, 2013, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Queen Zenobia, a famous military leader of the ancient world. Born in around 240 AD, Zenobia was Empress of the Palmyrene Empire in the Middle East. A highly educated, intelligent and militarily accomplished leader, she claimed descent from Dido and Cleopatra and spoke many languages, including Egyptian. Zenobia led a rebellion against the Roman Empire and conquered Egypt before being finally defeated by the Emperor Aurelian. Her story captured the imagination of many Renaissance writers, and has become the subject of numerous operas, poems and plays. With: Edith Hall Professor of Classics at King's College, London Kate Cooper Professor of Ancient History at the University of Manchester Richard Stoneman Honorary Visiting Professor in the Department of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Exeter. Producer: Thomas Morris.
Lévi-Strauss
May 22nd, 2013, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the work of the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss. One of twentieth-century France's most celebrated intellectuals, Lévi-Strauss attempted to show in his work that thought processes were a feature universal to humans, whether they lived in tribal rainforest societies or in the rich intellectual life of Paris. During the 1930s he studied native Brazilian tribes in the Amazonian jungle, but for most of his long career he preferred the study to the field. He was the leading exponent of structuralism, a school of thought which was influential for decades, and was involved in a famous debate with his friend Jean-Paul Sartre, who resisted many of his ideas. His books about the nature of myth, human thought and kinship are now seen as some of the most important anthropological texts written in the twentieth century. With: Adam Kuper Visiting Professor of Anthropology at Boston University Christina Howells Professor of French at Oxford University Vincent Debaene Associate Professor of French Literature at Columbia University Producer: Thomas Morris.
Cosmic Rays
May 15th, 2013, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss cosmic rays. In 1912 the physicist Victor Hess discovered that the Earth is under constant bombardment from radiation coming from outside our atmosphere. These so-called cosmic rays have been known to cause damage to satellites and electronic devices on Earth, but most are absorbed by our atmosphere. The study of cosmic rays and their effects has led to major breakthroughs in particle physics. But today physicists are still trying to establish where these highly energetic subatomic particles come from. With: 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 Tim Greenshaw Professor of Physics at the University of Liverpool. Producer: Thomas Morris.
Icelandic Sagas
May 8th, 2013, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Icelandic Sagas. First written down in the 13th century, the sagas tell the stories of the Norse settlers of Iceland, who began to arrive on the island in the late 9th century. They contain some of the richest and most extraordinary writing of the Middle Ages, and often depict events known to have happened in the early years of Icelandic history, although there is much debate as to how much of their content is factual and how much imaginative. Full of heroes, feuds and outlaws, with a smattering of ghosts and trolls, the sagas inspired later writers including Sir Walter Scott, William Morris and WH Auden. With: 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 Emily Lethbridge Post-Doctoral Researcher at the Árni Magnússon Manuscripts Institute in Reykjavík Producer: Thomas Morris.
Gnosticism
May 1st, 2013, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Gnosticism, a sect associated with early Christianity. The Gnostics divided the universe into two domains: the visible world and the spiritual one. They believed that a special sort of knowledge, or gnosis, would enable them to escape the evils of the physical world and allow them access to the higher spiritual realm. The Gnostics were regarded as heretics by many of the Church Fathers, but their influence was important in defining the course of early Christianity. A major archaeological discovery in Egypt in the 1940s, when a large cache of Gnostic texts were found buried in an earthenware jar, enabled scholars to learn considerably more about their beliefs. With: Martin Palmer Director of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education, and Culture Caroline Humfress Reader in History at Birkbeck College, University of London Alastair Logan Honorary University Fellow of the Department of Theology and Religion at the University of Exeter Producer: Thomas Morris.
Montaigne
April 24th, 2013, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Essays of Michel de Montaigne. Born near Bordeaux in 1533, Montaigne retired from a life of public service aged 38 and began to write. He called these short works 'essais', or 'attempts'; they deal with an eclectic range of subjects, from the dauntingly weighty to the apparently trivial. Although he never considered himself a philosopher, he is often now seen as one of the most outstanding Sceptical thinkers of early modern Europe. His approachable style, intelligence and subtle thought have made him one of the most widely admired writers of the Renaissance. With: David Wootton Anniversary Professor of History at York University Terence Cave Emeritus Professor of French Literature at the University of Oxford Felicity Green Chancellor's Fellow in History at the University of Edinburgh. Producer: Thomas Morris.
The Putney Debates
April 17th, 2013, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Putney Debates. For several weeks in late 1647, after the defeat of King Charles I in the first hostilities of the Civil War, representatives of the New Model Army and the radical Levellers met in a church in Putney to debate the future of England. There was much to discuss: who should be allowed to vote, civil liberties and religious freedom. The debates were inconclusive, but the ideas aired in Putney had a considerable influence on centuries of political thought. With: 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 Kate Peters Fellow in History at Murray Edwards College, Cambridge. Producer: Thomas Morris.
The Amazons
April 10th, 2013, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Amazons, a tribe of formidable female warriors first described in Greek literature. They appear in the Homeric epics and were described by Herodotus, and featured prominently in the decoration of Greek vases and public buildings. 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 largest river in South America was named the Amazon, since the warlike tribes inhabiting the river's margins reminded Spanish pioneers of the warriors of classical myth. With: 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 Caroline Vout University Senior Lecturer in Classics and Fellow and Director of Studies at Christ's College, Cambridge. Producer: Thomas Morris.
Japan's Sakoku Period
April 3rd, 2013, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Japan's Sakoku period, two centuries when the country deliberately isolated itself from the Western world. Sakoku 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. For the next two hundred years, Dutch traders were the only Westerners free to live in Japan. It was not until 1858 and the gunboat diplomacy of the American Commodore Matthew Perry that Japan's international isolation finally ended. Although historians used to think of Japan as completely isolated from external influence during this period, recent scholarship suggests that Japanese society was far less isolated from European ideas during this period than previously thought. With: Richard Bowring Emeritus Professor of Japanese Studies at the University of Cambridge Andrew Cobbing Associate Professor of History at the University of Nottingham Rebekah Clements Research Fellow of Queens' College and Research Associate at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge. Producer: Thomas Morris.
Water
March 27th, 2013, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss one of the simplest and most remarkable of all molecules: water. Water is among the most abundant substances on Earth, covering more than two-thirds of the planet. Consisting of just three atoms, the water molecule is superficially simple in its structure but extraordinary in its properties. It is a rare example of a substance that can be found on Earth in gaseous, liquid and solid forms, and thanks to its unique chemical behaviour is the basis of all known life. Scientists are still discovering new things about it, such as the fact that there are at least fifteen different forms of ice. Hasok Chang Hans Rausing Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge Andrea Sella Professor of Chemistry at University College London Patricia Hunt Senior Lecturer in Chemistry at Imperial College London. Producer: Thomas Morris.
Alfred Russel Wallace
March 20th, 2013, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the work of Alfred Russel Wallace, a pioneer of evolutionary theory. Born in 1823, Wallace travelled extensively, charting the distribution of animal species throughout the world. This fieldwork in the Amazon and later the Malay Archipelago led him to formulate a theory of evolution through natural selection. In 1858 he sent the paper he wrote on the subject to Charles Darwin, who was spurred into the writing and publication of his own masterpiece On the Origin of Species. Wallace was also the founder of the science of biogeography and made important discoveries about the nature of animal coloration. But despite his visionary work, Wallace has been overshadowed by the greater fame of his contemporary Darwin. With: Steve Jones Emeritus Professor of Genetics at University College London George Beccaloni Curator of Cockroaches and Related Insects and Director of the Wallace Correspondence Project at the Natural History Museum Ted Benton Professor of Sociology at the University of Essex Producer: Thomas Morris.
Chekhov
March 13th, 2013, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of Anton Chekhov. Born in 1860, Chekhov trained as a doctor and for most of his adult life divided his time between medicine and writing. Best known for 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 in the late nineteenth century. With: Catriona Kelly Professor of Russian at the University of Oxford Cynthia Marsh Emeritus Professor of Russian Drama and Literature at the University of Nottingham Rosamund Bartlett Founding Director of the Anton Chekhov Foundation and former Reader in Russian at the University of Durham. Producer: Thomas Morris.
Absolute Zero
March 6th, 2013, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss absolute zero, the lowest conceivable temperature. In the early eighteenth century the French physicist Guillaume Amontons suggested that temperature had a lower limit. The subject of low temperature became a fertile field of research in the nineteenth century, and today we know that this limit - known as absolute zero - is approximately minus 273 degrees Celsius. It is impossible to produce a temperature exactly equal to absolute zero, but today scientists have come to within a billionth of a degree. At such low temperatures physicists have discovered a number of strange new phenomena including superfluids, liquids capable of climbing a vertical surface. With: Simon Schaffer Professor of the History of Science at the University of Cambridge Stephen Blundell Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford Nicola Wilkin Lecturer in Theoretical Physics at the University of Birmingham Producer: Thomas Morris.
Pitt-Rivers
February 27th, 2013, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of the Victorian anthropologist and archaeologist Augustus Pitt-Rivers. Over many years he amassed thousands of ethnographic and archaeological objects, some of which formed the founding collection of the Pitt Rivers Museum at Oxford University. Inspired by the work of Charles Darwin, Pitt-Rivers believed that human technology evolved in the same way as living organisms, and devoted much of his life to exploring this theory. He was also a pioneering archaeologist whose meticulous records of major excavations provided a model for later scholars. With: Adam Kuper Visiting Professor of Anthropology at Boston University Richard Bradley Professor in Archaeology at the University of Reading Dan Hicks University Lecturer & Curator of Archaeology at the Pitt Rivers Museum at the University of Oxford. Producer: Thomas Morris.
Decline and Fall
February 20th, 2013, 06:00 PM
David Bradshaw, John Bowen and Ann Pasternak Slater join Melvyn Bragg to 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, but its savage wit and economy of style were entirely new. Published when Waugh was 24, the book was immediately celebrated for its vicious satire and biting humour. With: David Bradshaw Professor of English Literature at Worcester College, Oxford John Bowen Professor of Nineteenth-Century Literature at the University of York Ann Pasternak Slater Senior Research Fellow at St Anne's College, Oxford. Producer: Thomas Morris.
Ice Ages
February 13th, 2013, 06:00 PM
Jane Francis, Richard Corfield and Carrie Lear join Melvyn Bragg to discuss ice ages, periods when a reduction in the surface temperature of the Earth has resulted in ice sheets at the Poles. Although the term 'ice age' is commonly associated with prehistoric eras when much of northern Europe was covered in ice, we are in fact currently in an ice age which began up to 40 million years ago. 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. With: Jane Francis Professor of Paleoclimatology at the University of Leeds Richard Corfield Visiting Research Fellow in the Department of Earth Sciences at Oxford University Carrie Lear Senior Lecturer in Palaeoceanography at Cardiff University. Producer: Thomas Morris.
Epicureanism
February 6th, 2013, 06:00 PM
Angie Hobbs, David Sedley and James Warren join Melvyn Bragg to discuss Epicureanism, the system of philosophy based on the teachings of Epicurus and founded in Athens in the fourth century BC. Epicurus outlined a comprehensive philosophical system based on the idea that everything in the Universe is constructed from two phenomena: atoms and void. 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. His followers were suspicious of marriage and politics but placed great emphasis on friendship. Epicureanism became influential in the Roman world, particularly through Lucretius's great poem De Rerum Natura, which was rediscovered and widely admired in the Renaissance. With: 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 James Warren Reader in Ancient Philosophy at the University of Cambridge Producer: Thomas Morris.
The War of 1812
January 30th, 2013, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the War of 1812, the conflict between America and the British Empire sometimes referred to as the second American War of Independence. In June 1812, President James Madison declared war on Britain, angered by the restrictions Britain had imposed on American trade, the Royal Navy's capture of American sailors and British support for Native Americans. After three years of largely inconclusive fighting, the conflict finally came to an end with the Treaty of Ghent which, among other things, helped to hasten the abolition of the global slave trade. 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. America's national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner began life as a poem written after its author, Francis Scott Key, witnessed the British bombardment of Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore. The war also led to Native Americans losing hundreds of thousands of acres of land in a programme of forced removal. With: 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 Frank Cogliano Professor of American History at the University of Edinburgh Producer: Victoria Brignell.
Romulus and Remus
January 23rd, 2013, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Romulus and Remus, the central figures of the foundation myth of Rome. According to tradition, the twins were abandoned by their parents as babies, but were saved by a she-wolf who found and nursed them. Romulus killed his brother after a vicious quarrel, and went on to found a city, which was named after him. The myth has been at the core of Roman identity since the 1st century AD, although the details vary in different versions of the story. For many Roman writers, the story embodied the ethos and institutions of their civilisation. The image of the she-wolf suckling the divinely fathered twins remains a potent icon of the city even today. With: Mary Beard Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge Peter Wiseman Emeritus Professor of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Exeter Tim Cornell Emeritus Professor of Ancient History at the University of Manchester. Producer: Thomas Morris.
Comets
January 16th, 2013, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss comets, the 'dirty snowballs' of the Solar System. In the early 18th century the Astronomer Royal Sir Edmond Halley compiled a list of appearances of comets, bright objects like stars with long tails which are occasionally visible in the night sky. He concluded that many of these apparitions were in fact the same comet, which returns to our skies around every 75 years, and whose reappearance he correctly predicted. 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 our planet and others. With: 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 Don Pollacco Professor of Astronomy at the University of Warwick Producer: Thomas Morris.
Le Morte d'Arthur
January 9th, 2013, 06:00 PM
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. Sir Thomas Malory was a knight from Warwickshire, a respectable country gentleman and MP in the 1440s who later turned to a life of crime and spent various spells in prison. It was during Malory's final incarceration that he wrote "Le Morte Darthur", an epic work which was based primarily on French, but also some English, sources. Malory died shortly after his release in 1470 and it was to be another fifteen years before "Le Morte Darthur" was published by William Caxton, to immediate popular acclaim. Although the book fell from favour in the seventeenth century, it was revived again in Victorian times and became an inspiration for the Pre-Raphaelite movement who were entranced by the chivalric and romantic world that Malory portrayed. The Arthurian legend is one of the most enduring and popular in western literature and its characters - Sir Lancelot, Guinevere, Merlin and King Arthur himself, are as well-known today as they were then; and the book's themes - chivalry, betrayal, love and honour - remain as compelling. With: Helen Cooper Professor of Medieval and Renaissance English at the University of Cambridge Helen Fulton Professor of Medieval Literature and Head of Department of English and Related Literature at the University of York Laura Ashe CUF Lecturer and Tutorial Fellow at Worcester College at the University of Oxford Producer: Natalia Fernandez.
The Cult of Mithras
December 26th, 2012, 06:00 PM
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. Also known as the Mysteries of Mithras, its origins are uncertain. Academics have suggested a link with the ancient Vedic god Mitra and the Iranian Zoroastrian deity Mithra, but the extent and nature of the connection is a matter of controversy. Followers of Mithras are thought to have taken part in various rituals, most notably 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. Mithraic places of worship have been found throughout the Roman world, including an impressive example in London. However, Mithraism went into decline in the 4th century AD with the rise of Christianity and eventually completely disappeared. In recent decades, many aspects of the cult have provoked debate, especially as there are no written accounts by its members. As a result, archaeology has been of great importance in the study of Mithraism and has provided new insights into the religion and its adherents. With: Greg Woolf Professor of Ancient History at the University of St Andrews Almut Hintze Zartoshty Professor of Zoroastrianism at SOAS, University of London John North Acting Director of the Institute of Classical Studies, University of London. Producer: Victoria Brignell.
The South Sea Bubble
December 19th, 2012, 06:00 PM
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 of its investors. The South Sea Company was founded in 1711 with a view to restructuring government debt and restoring public credit. The company would ostensibly trade with South America, hence its name; and indeed, it did trade in slaves for the Spanish market even after the Bubble burst in 1720. People from all walks of life bought shares in the South Sea Company, from servants to gentry, and it was said the entire country was gripped by South Sea speculation mania. When the shares crashed and the company collapsed there was a public outcry and many people faced financial ruin, although some investors sold before the crash and made substantial amounts of money. For example, the bookseller Thomas Guy made his fortune and founded a hospital in his name the following year. But how did such a financial crisis develop and were there any lessons learnt following this early example of a stock market boom and bust? With: Anne Murphy Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Hertfordshire Helen Paul Lecturer in Economics and Economic History at the University of Southampton Roey Sweet Head of the School of History at the University of Leicester Producer: Natalia Fernandez.
Shahnameh of Ferdowsi
December 12th, 2012, 06:00 PM
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 thousand years. The poem recounts a legendary history of Iran from the dawn of time to the fall of the Persian Empire in the 7th century and serves, in a sense, as a creation myth for the Persian nation. The Shahnameh took Ferdowsi thirty years to write and, consisting of over 50,000 verses, is said to be the longest poem ever written by a single author. Laced with tragedy, Ferdowsi's epic chronicles battles, romances, family rifts and Man's interior struggle with himself. Although the stories may not always be true they have a profound resonance with Iranians even today, and the poem has been referred to as both the 'encyclopaedia of Iranian culture' and the identity card of the Persian people. With: Narguess Farzad Senior Fellow in Persian at SOAS, University of London Charles Melville Professor of Persian History at Pembroke College at the University of Cambridge Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis Curator of Middle Eastern Coins at the British Museum Producer: Natalia Fernandez.
Bertrand Russell
December 5th, 2012, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the influential British philosopher Bertrand Russell. Born in 1872 into an aristocratic family, Russell is widely regarded as one of the founders of Analytic philosophy, which is today the dominant philosophical tradition in the English-speaking world. In his important book The Principles of Mathematics, he sought to reduce mathematics to logic. Its revolutionary ideas include Russell's Paradox, a problem which inspired Ludwig Wittgenstein to pursue philosophy. Russell's most significant and famous idea, the theory of descriptions, had profound consequences for the discipline. In addition to his academic work, Russell 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. He wrote a number of books aimed at the general public, including The History of Western Philosophy which became enormously popular, and in 1950 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Russell's many appearances on the BBC also helped to promote the public understanding of ideas. With: 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 Hilary Greaves Lecturer in Philosophy and Fellow of Somerville College, Oxford Producer: Victoria Brignell.
Crystallography
November 28th, 2012, 06:00 PM
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. The history of crystallography began with the work of Johannes Kepler in the 17th century, but perhaps the most crucial leap in understanding came with the work of the father-and-son team the Braggs in 1912. They built on the work of the German physicist Max von Laue who had proved that X-rays are a form of light waves and that it was possible to scatter these rays using a crystal. The Braggs undertook seminal experiments which transformed our perception of crystals and their atomic arrangements, and led to some of the most significant scientific findings of the last century - such as revealing the structure of DNA. With: Judith Howard Director of the Biophysical Sciences Institute and Professor of Chemistry at the University of Durham Chris Hammond Life Fellow in Material Science at the University of Leeds Mike Glazer Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford and Visiting Professor of Physics at the University of Warwick Producer: Natalia Fernandez.
The Borgias
November 21st, 2012, 06:00 PM
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. The most well-known of these two popes is Alexander VI, previously Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia. He was accused of buying votes to elect him to the papacy and openly promoted his children in positions of power. Rodrigo's daughter, Lucrezia, is widely remembered as a ruthless poisoner; his son, Cesare, as a brutal soldier. Murder, intrigue and power politics characterised their rule, but many of the stories now told about their depraved behaviour and evil ways emerged after their demise and gave rise to the so-called 'Black Legend'. The sullied reputation of the Borgia dynasty endures even today and their lives have provided a major theme for plays, novels and over forty films. With: Evelyn Welch Professor of Renaissance Studies at Queen Mary, University of London Catherine Fletcher Lecturer in Public History at the University of Sheffield Christine Shaw Honorary Research Fellow at Swansea University Producer: Natalia Fernandez.
Simone Weil
November 14th, 2012, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the French philosopher and social activist Simone Weil. Born in Paris in 1909 into a wealthy, agnostic Jewish family, Weil was a precocious child and attended the prestigious Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris, achieving the top marks in her class (Simone de Beauvoir came second). Weil rejected her comfortable background and chose to work in fields and factories to experience the life of the working classes at first hand. She was acutely sensitive to human suffering and devoted her life to helping those less fortunate than herself. Despite her belief in pacifism she volunteered on the Republican side during the Spanish Civil War and later joined the French Resistance movement in England. Her philosophy was both complex and intense. She argued that the presence of evil and suffering in the world was evidence of God's love and that Man has no right to ask anything of God or of anyone whom they love. Love which expects reward was not love at all in Weil's eyes. Weil died of TB in Kent at the age of only 34. Her strict lifestyle and self-denial may have contributed to her early death. T.S Eliot said "she was not just a woman of genius, but was a genius akin to that of a saint"; Albert Camus believed she was "the only great spirit of our time." With: Beatrice Han-Pile Professor of Philosophy at the University of Essex Stephen Plant Runcie Fellow and Dean of Trinity Hall at the University of Cambridge David Levy Teaching Fellow in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh Producer: Natalia Fernandez.
The Upanishads
November 7th, 2012, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Upanishads, the ancient sacred texts of Hinduism. Dating from about 700 BC, the Upanishads were passed down through an oral tradition in priestly castes and were not written down until the 6th century AD. They constitute the final part of the Vedas, the collection of texts which form the foundation of the Indian Hindu world, and were originally spoken during sacrificial rituals. Yet the Upanishads go beyond incantations performed during sacrifices, and ask profound questions about human existence and man's place in the cosmos. The concepts of Brahman (the universal cosmic power) and Atman (the deeper soul of the individual) are central to the understanding of the Upanishads. Each individual treatise has its own character. Some are poetic; some are scientific; others are dialogues between kings and sages or metaphysical reflections. More than one hundred Upanishads were produced, thirteen of which are regarded as the canonical scriptures of Hinduism. With: Jessica Frazier Lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Kent and a Research Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies at the University of Oxford Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad Professor of Comparative Religion and Philosophy at Lancaster University Simon Brodbeck Lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Cardiff Producer: Natalia Fernandez.
The Anarchy
October 31st, 2012, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss The Anarchy, the civil war that took place in mid-twelfth century England. The war began as a succession dispute between the Empress Matilda, daughter of Henry I, and her cousin, Stephen of Blois. On Henry's death Stephen seized the English throne and held it for a number of years before Matilda wrestled it from him, although she was chased out of London before she could be crowned. The Anarchy dragged on for nearly twenty years and is so called because of the chaos and lawlessness that characterised the period. Yet only one major battle ever took place, the Battle of Lincoln in 1141, and any other fighting associated with the conflict was fairly localised. This has led historians to question the accuracy of labelling the civil war as The Anarchy, a name only bestowed on the era in the 19th century. But why did Matilda fail to become the monarch, and what impact did it have on the way England was ruled in centuries to come? With: John Gillingham Emeritus Professor of History at the London School of Economics and Political Science Louise Wilkinson Reader in Medieval History at Canterbury Christ Church University David Carpenter Professor of Medieval History at Kings College London. Producer: Natalia Fernandez.
Fermat's Last Theorem
October 24th, 2012, 06:00 PM
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. "I have found a wonderful demonstration of this proposition," he wrote, "which this margin is too narrow to contain". 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. In the 19th century the French Academy of Sciences twice offered prize money and a gold medal to the person who could discover Fermat's proof; but it was not until 1995 that the puzzle was finally solved by the British mathematician Andrew Wiles. With: Marcus du Sautoy Professor of Mathematics & Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford Vicky Neale Fellow and Director of Studies in Mathematics at Murray Edwards College at the University of Cambridge Samir Siksek Professor at the Mathematics Institute at the University of Warwick. Producer: Natalia Fernandez.
Caxton and the Printing Press
October 17th, 2012, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and influence of William Caxton, the merchant who brought the printing press to the British Isles. After spending several years working as a printer in Bruges, Caxton returned to London and in 1476 set up his first printing press in Westminster, and also imported and sold other printed books. Caxton concentrated on producing popular books that he knew would sell, such as Chaucer's 'Canterbury Tales' and small liturgical 'books of hours'. The standard of Caxton's printing may have lagged behind that on the continent, but he was a skilful businessman and unusually for printers at the time, he managed not to go bankrupt. The advent of print is now seen as one of the great revolutions in intellectual history - although many scholars believe it was a revolution that took many generations to have an effect. With: Richard Gameson Professor of the History of the Book at the University of Durham Julia Boffey Professor of Medieval Studies in the English Department at Queen Mary, University of London David Rundle Member of the History Faculty at the University of Oxford Producer: Natalia Fernandez.
Hannibal
October 10th, 2012, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and achievements of Hannibal. One of the most celebrated military leaders in history, Hannibal was the Carthaginian general who led an entire army, complete with elephants, across the Alps in order to attack the Roman Republic. He lived at a time of prolonged hostility between the two great Mediterranean powers, Rome and Carthage, and was the Carthaginians' inspirational leader during the Second Punic War which unfolded between 218 and 202 BC. His career ended in defeat and exile, but he achieved such fame that even his enemies the Romans erected statues of him. Centuries later his tactical genius was admired and studied by generals including Napoleon and Wellington. With: 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 Louis Rawlings Senior Lecturer in Ancient History at Cardiff University. Producer: Natalia Fernandez.
Gerald of Wales
October 3rd, 2012, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the medieval scholar Gerald of Wales. Born around the middle of the twelfth century, Gerald was a cleric and courtier. For much of his life he was close to Henry II and the Church hierarchy, and wrote accounts of official journeys he made around Wales and Ireland in their service. Both Anglo-Norman and Welsh by parentage, he had a unique perspective on the political strife of his age. Gerald's Journey Around Wales and Description of Ireland are among the most colourful and informative chronicles of the Middle Ages, and had a powerful influence on later historians. With: 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 Huw Pryce Professor of Welsh History at Bangor University Producer: Thomas Morris.
The Ontological Argument
September 26th, 2012, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Ontological Argument. In the eleventh century St Anselm of Canterbury proposed that it was possible to prove the existence of God using reason alone. His argument was ridiculed by some of his contemporaries, but was analysed and improved by later thinkers including Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz. Other philosophers have been less kind, with the Enlightenment thinker David Hume offering one possible refutation. But the debate continued, fuelled by interventions from such heavyweights as Immanuel Kant and Kurt Gödel; and it remains one of the most discussed problems in philosophy. With: John Haldane Professor of Philosophy at the University of St Andrews Peter Millican Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oxford Clare Carlisle Lecturer in Philosophy of Religion at King's College London Producer: Thomas Morris.
The Druids
September 19th, 2012, 06:00 PM
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, who described them as wearing white robes and cutting mistletoe with golden sickles. They were suspected of leading resistance to the Romans, a fact which eventually led to their eradication from ancient Britain. In the early modern era, however, interest in the Druids revived, and later writers reinvented and romanticised their activities. Little is known for certain about their rituals and beliefs, but modern archaeological discoveries have shed new light on them. With: Barry Cunliffe Emeritus Professor of Archaeology at the University of Oxford Miranda Aldhouse-Green Professor of Archaeology at Cardiff University Justin Champion Professor of the History of Early Modern Ideas at Royal Holloway, University of London Producer: Thomas Morris.
The Cell
September 12th, 2012, 06:00 PM
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. Every organism alive today consists of one or more cells: a single human body contains up to a hundred trillion of them. The first life on Earth was a single-celled organism which is thought to have appeared around three and a half billion years ago. That simple cell resembled today's bacteria. But eventually these microscopic entities evolved into something far more complex, and single-celled life gave rise to much larger, complex multicellular organisms. But how did the first cell appear, and how did that prototype evolve into the sophisticated, highly specialised cells of the human body? With: Steve Jones Professor of Genetics at University College London Nick Lane Senior Lecturer in the Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment, University College London Cathie Martin Group Leader at the John Innes Centre and Professor in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of East Anglia Producer: Thomas Morris.
Hadrian's Wall
July 11th, 2012, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Hadrian's Wall, the largest Roman structure and one of the most important archaeological monuments in Britain. Stretching for eighty miles from the mouth of the River Tyne to the Solway Firth and classified today as a World Heritage Site, it has been a source of fascination ever since it came into existence. It was built in about 122 AD by the Emperor Hadrian, and a substantial part of it still survives today. Although its construction must have entailed huge cost and labour, the Romans abandoned it within twenty years, deciding to build the Antonine Wall further north instead. Even after more than a century of excavations, many mysteries still surround Hadrian's Wall, including its exact purpose. Did it have a meaningful defensive role or was it mainly a powerful emperor's vanity project? With: 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 Lindsay Allason-Jones Former Reader in Roman Material Culture at the University of Newcastle Producer: Victoria Brignell.
Scepticism
July 4th, 2012, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Scepticism, the idea that it may be impossible to know anything with complete certainty. Scepticism was first outlined by ancient Greek philosophers: Socrates is reported to have said that the only thing he knew for certain was that he knew nothing. Later, Scepticism was taught at the Academy founded by Plato, and learnt by students who included the Roman statesman Cicero. The central ideas of Scepticism were taken up by later philosophers and came to the fore during the Renaissance, when thinkers including Rene Descartes and Michel de Montaigne took up its challenge. A central plank of the philosophical system of David Hume, Scepticism had a powerful influence on the religious and scientific debates of the Enlightenment. With: Peter Millican Professor of Philosophy at Hertford College, Oxford Melissa Lane Professor of Politics at Princeton University Jill Kraye Professor of the History of Renaissance Philosophy and Librarian at the Warburg Institute, University of London. Producer: Thomas Morris.
Al-Kindi
June 27th, 2012, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of the Arab philosopher al-Kindi. Born in the early ninth century, al-Kindi was heavily influenced by Greek philosophy and supervised the translation of many works by Aristotle and others into Arabic. 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 and need not be kept apart. Today al-Kindi is regarded as one of the greatest scholars of the medieval Islamic world. With: 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 Amira Bennison Senior Lecturer in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at the University of Cambridge. Producer: Thomas Morris.
Annie Besant
June 20th, 2012, 06:00 PM
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. Described by Beatrice Webb as having "the voice of a beautiful soul", Besant became an eloquent public speaker as well as writing numerous campaigning articles and pamphlets. She is perhaps most famous for the key role she played in the successful strike by female workers at the Bryant and May match factory in East London in 1888, which brought the appalling working conditions of many factory workers to greater public attention. Later in life she became a follower of theosophy, a belief system bringing together elements of Hinduism, Buddhism and other Eastern religions. She moved to India, its main base, and took on a leading role in the Indian self-rule movement, being appointed the first female president of the Indian National Congress in 1917. With: Lawrence Goldman Fellow in Modern History at St Peter's College, University of Oxford David Stack Reader in History at the University of Reading Yasmin Khan Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at Royal Holloway, University of London. Producer: Victoria Brignell.
James Joyce's Ulysses
June 13th, 2012, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss James Joyce's novel Ulysses. First published ninety years ago in Paris, Joyce's masterpiece is a sprawling and startlingly original work charting 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. But it was soon recognised as a genuinely innovative work: overturning the ban on its publication, an American judge described Ulysses as "a sincere and serious attempt to devise a new literary method for the observation and description of mankind."Today Ulysses is widely regarded as the greatest example of literary modernism, and a work that changed literature forever. It remains one of the most discussed novels ever written.Steven ConnorProfessor of Modern Literature and Theory at Birkbeck, University of LondonJeri JohnsonSenior Fellow in English at Exeter College, OxfordRichard BrownReader in Modern English Literature at the University of LeedsProducer: Thomas Morris.
King Solomon
June 6th, 2012, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the biblical king Solomon, celebrated for his wisdom and as the architect of the First Temple in Jerusalem. According to the Old Testament account of his life, Solomon was chosen as his father David's successor as Israelite king, and instead of praying for long life or wealth asked God for wisdom. In the words of the Authorised Version, "And there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, which had heard of his wisdom." Solomon is an important figure in Judaism, Islam and Christianity alike, and is also credited with the authorship of several scriptural texts. His name is associated with the tradition of wisdom literature and with a large number of myths and legends. For many centuries Solomon was seen as the archetypal enlightened monarch, and his example influenced notions of kingship from the Middle Ages onwards.With:Martin PalmerDirector of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education, and CulturePhilip AlexanderEmeritus Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of ManchesterKatharine DellSenior Lecturer in Old Testament Studies at the University of Cambridge, and Fellow of St Catherine's College, CambridgeProducer: Thomas Morris.
The Trojan War
May 30th, 2012, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Trojan War, one of the best known events of Greek mythology. According to the traditional version of the 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. Some of the most familiar names of Greek mythology are associated with the war, including Achilles and Hector, Odysseus and Helen of Troy - and it has also given us the story of the Trojan Horse.The war is the backdrop for Homer's epic poem The Iliad, and features in many other works from classical antiquity. For centuries it was assumed to be a mythical event. But in the nineteenth century a series of archaeological discoveries provided startling evidence that Troy might really have existed, leading some scholars to conclude that there could even be some truth behind the myth. So does the Trojan War story have any basis in fact? And why has it proved such an enduring legend?With:Edith HallProfessor of Classics at King's College LondonEllen AdamsLecturer in Classical Art and Archaeology at King's College LondonSusan SherrattLecturer in Archaeology at the University of SheffieldProducer: Thomas Morris.
Marco Polo
May 23rd, 2012, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the celebrated Venetian explorer Marco Polo. In 1271 Polo set off on an epic journey through Asia. He was away for more than twenty years, and when he returned to Venice he told extraordinary tales of his adventures. He had visited the court of the Mongol Emperor Kublai Khan, and acted as his emissary, travelling through many of the remote territories of the Far East. An account of Marco Polo's travels was written down by his contemporary Rustichello da Pisa, a romance writer he met after being imprisoned during a war against the neighbouring Genoese.The Travels of Marco Polo was one of the most popular books produced in the age before printing. It was widely translated, and many beautifully illustrated editions made their way to the collections of the rich and educated. It was much read by later travellers, and Polo's devotees included Christopher Columbus and Henry the Navigator. 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.With:Frances WoodLead Curator of Chinese Collections at the British LibraryJoan Pau RubiesReader in International History at the London School of Economics and Political ScienceDebra Higgs StricklandSenior Lecturer in the History of Art at the University of GlasgowProducer: Thomas Morris.
Clausewitz and On War
May 16th, 2012, 06:00 PM
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. Informed by its author's experience of fighting against the mighty armies of Napoleon, the work looks not just at the practicalities of warfare, but offers a subtle philosophical analysis of the nature of war and its relationship with politics. Notions such as the Clausewitzian Trinity have had an enormous effect on later military leaders. But its influence is felt today not just on the battlefield but also in politics and business.With:Saul DavidProfessor of War Studies at the University of BuckinghamHew StrachanChichele Professor of the History of War at the University of OxfordBeatrice HeuserProfessor of International Relations at the University of Reading.Producer: Thomas Morris.
Game Theory
May 9th, 2012, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss game theory, the mathematical study of decision-making. First formulated in the 1940s, the discipline entails devising 'games' to simulate situations of conflict or cooperation. It allows researchers to unravel decision-making strategies, and even to establish why certain types of behaviour emerge. 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, and which has inspired television game shows. Today game theory is seen as a vital tool in such diverse fields as evolutionary biology, economics, computing and philosophy. With:Ian StewartEmeritus Professor of Mathematics at the University of WarwickAndrew ColmanProfessor of Psychology at the University of LeicesterRichard BradleyProfessor of Philosophy at the London School of Economics and Political Science.Producer: Thomas Morris.
Voltaire's Candide
May 2nd, 2012, 06:00 PM
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. Candide was written in the aftermath of a major earthquake in Lisbon and the outbreak of the Seven Years' War, events which caused such human suffering that they shook many people's faith in a benevolent God. Voltaire's masterpiece piles ridicule on Optimism, the fashionable philosophical belief that such disasters are part of God's plan for humanity - that 'all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds'.Often uproariously funny, the novel is a biting satire whose other 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.With:David WoottonAnniversary Professor of History at the University of YorkNicholas CronkProfessor of French Literature and Director of the Voltaire Foundation at the University of OxfordCaroline WarmanLecturer in French and Fellow of Jesus College at the University of Oxford.Producer: Thomas Morris.
The Battle of Bosworth Field
April 25th, 2012, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Battle of Bosworth Field, the celebrated encounter between Lancastrian and Yorkist forces in August 1485. The battle, the penultimate of the Wars of the Roses, resulted in the death of Richard III. The victory of Henry Tudor enabled him to succeed Richard as monarch and establish the Tudor dynasty which was to rule for over a century. These events were immortalised by Shakespeare in Richard III, and today the battle is regarded as one of the most important to have taken place on English soil. But little is known about what happened on the battlefield, and the very location of the encounter remains the subject of much debate.With:Anne CurryProfessor of Medieval History and Dean of Humanities at the University of SouthamptonSteven GunnTutor and Fellow in Modern History at Merton College, OxfordDavid GrummittLecturer in British History at the University of Kent.Producer: Thomas Morris.
Neoplatonism
April 18th, 2012, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Neoplatonism, the school of thought founded in the 3rd century AD by the philosopher Plotinus. Born in Egypt, Plotinus was brought up in the Platonic tradition, studying and reinterpreting the works of the Greek thinker Plato. After he moved to Rome Plotinus became the most influential member of a group of thinkers dedicated to Platonic scholarship. The Neoplatonists - a term only coined in the nineteenth century - brought a new religious sensibility to bear on Plato's thought. They outlined a complex cosmology which linked the human with the divine, headed by a mysterious power which they called the One. Neoplatonism shaped early Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious scholarship, and remained a dominant force in European thought until the Renaissance. With:Angie HobbsAssociate Professor of Philosophy and Senior Fellow in the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of WarwickPeter AdamsonProfessor of Ancient and Medieval Philosophy at King's College LondonAnne SheppardProfessor of Ancient Philosophy at Royal Holloway, University of LondonProducer: Thomas Morris.
Early Geology
April 11th, 2012, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the emergence of geology as a scientific discipline. A little over two hundred years ago a small group of friends founded the Geological Society of London. This organisation was the first devoted to furthering the discipline of geology - the study of the Earth, its history and composition. Although geology only emerged as a separate area of study in the late eighteenth century, many earlier thinkers had studied rocks, fossils and the materials from which the Earth is made. Ancient scholars in Egypt and Greece speculated about the Earth and its composition. And in the Renaissance the advent of mining brought further insight into the nature of objects found underground and how they got there. But how did such haphazard study of rocks and fossils develop into a rigorous scientific discipline?With:Stephen PumfreySenior Lecturer in the History of Science at Lancaster UniversityAndrew ScottProfessor of Applied Palaeobotany at Royal Holloway, University of LondonLeucha VeneerResearch Associate at the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine at the University of Manchester.Producer: Thomas Morris.
George Fox and the Quakers
April 4th, 2012, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the origins of Quakerism. In the mid-seventeenth century an itinerant preacher, George Fox, became the central figure of a group known as the Religious Society of Friends, whose members believed it was possible to obtain contact with Christ without priestly intercession. The Quakers, as they became known, rejected the established Church and what they saw as the artificial pomp and artifice of its worship. They argued for religious toleration and for the equality of men and women. 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. With:Justin ChampionProfessor of the History of Early Modern Ideas at Royal Holloway, University of LondonJohn CoffeyProfessor of Early Modern History at the University of LeicesterKate PetersFellow in History at Murray Edwards College at the University of Cambridge.Producer: Thomas Morris.
The Measurement of Time
March 28th, 2012, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the measurement of time. Early civilisations used the movements of heavenly bodies to tell the time, but even in the ancient world more sophisticated timekeeping devices such as waterclocks were known. The development of mechanical clocks in Europe emerged in the medieval period when monks used such devices to sound an alarm to signal it was the hour to pray, although these clocks did not tell them the time. For hundreds of years clocks were inaccurate and it proved hard to remedy the problems, let alone settle on a standard time that the country should follow. It was with the advent of the railways that time finally became standardised in Britain in the mid-19th century and only in 1884 that Greenwich became the prime meridian of the world. Atomic clocks now mark the passing of the days, hours, and minutes and they are capable of keeping time to a second in 15 million years. With:Kristen LippincottFormer Director of the Royal Observatory, GreenwichJim BennettDirector of the Museum of the History of Science at the University of OxfordJonathan BettsSenior Curator of Horology at the Royal Observatory, GreenwichProducer: Natalia Fernandez.
Moses Mendelssohn
March 21st, 2012, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the work and influence of the eighteenth-century philosopher Moses Mendelssohn. A prominent figure at the court of Frederick the Great, Mendelssohn was one of the most significant thinkers of his age. He came from a humble, but culturally rich background and his obvious intelligence was recognised from a young age and nurtured by the local rabbi where he lived in the town of Dessau in Prussia. 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, and widely regarded as having helped bring Judaism into the mainstream of European culture. Mendelssohn is perhaps best remembered today for his efforts to bring Jewish and German culture closer together and for his plea for religious toleration.With:Christopher ClarkProfessor of Modern European History at the University of CambridgeAbigail GreenTutor and Fellow in History at the University of OxfordAdam SutcliffeSenior Lecturer in European History at King's College, London Producer: Natalia Fernandez.
Vitruvius and De Architectura
March 14th, 2012, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Vitruvius' De Architectura. Written almost exactly two thousand years ago, Vitruvius' work is a ten-volume treatise on engineering and architecture, the only surviving work on the subject from the ancient world. This fascinating book offers unique insights into Roman technology and contains discussion of the general principles of architecture, the training of architects and the design of temples, houses and public buildings.The rediscovery of this seminal treatise 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, two millennia after it was written.With:Serafina CuomoReader in Roman History at Birkbeck, University of LondonRobert TavernorEmeritus Professor of Architecture and Urban Design at the London School of EconomicsAlice KoenigLecturer in Latin and Classical Studies at the University of St Andrews.Producer: Thomas Morris.
Lyrical Ballads
March 7th, 2012, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Lyrical Ballads, the collection of poems by William Wordsworth and Samuel Coleridge first published in 1798. The work was conceived as an attempt to cast off the stultifying conventions of formal 18th-century poetry. Wordsworth wrote that the poems it contains should be "considered as experiments. They were written chiefly with a view to ascertain how far the language of conversation in the middle and lower classes of society is adapted to the purpose of poetic pleasure."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.With:Judith HawleyProfessor of Eighteenth-Century Literature at Royal Holloway, University of LondonJonathan BateProvost of Worcester College, OxfordPeter SwaabReader in English Literature at University College London.Producer: Thomas Morris.
Benjamin Franklin
February 29th, 2012, 06:00 PM
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 eighteenth century. His discoveries relating to the nature of electricity, and in particular a celebrated experiment which involved flying a kite in a thunderstorm, made him famous in Europe and America. His inventions include bifocal spectacles, and a new type of stove. In the second half of his life he became prominent as a politician and a successful diplomat. 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. With:Simon MiddletonSenior Lecturer in American History at the University of SheffieldSimon NewmanSir Denis Brogan Professor of American History at the University of GlasgowPatricia FaraSenior Tutor at Clare College, University of Cambridge.Producer: Thomas Morris.
Conductors and Semiconductors
February 22nd, 2012, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the physics of electrical conduction. Although electricity has been known for several hundred years, it was only in the early twentieth century that physicists first satisfactorily explained the phenomenon. Electric current is the passage of charged particles through a medium - but a material will only conduct electricity if its atomic structure enables it to do so. In investigating electrical conduction scientists discovered two new classes of material. Semiconductors, first exploited commercially in the 1950s, 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. With:Frank CloseProfessor of Physics at the University of OxfordJenny NelsonProfessor of Physics at Imperial College LondonLesley CohenProfessor of Solid State Physics at Imperial College LondonProducer: Thomas Morris.
The An Lushan Rebellion
February 15th, 2012, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the An Lushan Rebellion, a major uprising against the imperial rule of the Chinese Tang Dynasty. In 755 AD a senior general, An Lushan, orchestrated a plot against Emperor Xuanzong, taking the regime's capital city before declaring a rival dynasty in northern China. The rebellion lasted eight years but was eventually put down by Tang forces. Although the dynasty's authority was restored, it never regained the prosperity of previous generations. The An Lushan Rebellion displaced millions of people and killed many more. It 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.With:Frances WoodLead Curator of Chinese at the British LibraryNaomi StandenProfessor of Medieval History at the University of BirminghamHilde de WeerdtFellow and Lecturer in Chinese History at Pembroke College, Oxford.Producer: Thomas Morris.
Erasmus
February 8th, 2012, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of the Dutch humanist scholar Desiderius Erasmus. In his lifetime Erasmus was almost universally recognised as the greatest classical scholar of his age, the translator and editor of numerous Latin and Greek texts. But above all he was a religious scholar who published important editions of the Bible which expunged many corruptions to the texts of the Scriptures. He was an outspoken critic of the Church, whose biting satire on its excesses, In Praise of Folly, was famed throughout Europe.When the Reformation began in 1517, however, Erasmus chose to remain a member of the Catholic Church rather than side with Martin Luther and the reformers, and a few years later he engaged in a celebrated debate with Luther on the subject of free will. Through his writings on the Church, on education and the wide gamut of humanist scholarship, Erasmus is remembered today as one of the greatest thinkers of the northern Renaissance.With:Diarmaid MacCullochProfessor of the History of the Church at the University of OxfordEamon DuffyProfessor of the History of Christianity at the University of CambridgeJill KrayeProfessor of the History of Renaissance Philosophy and Librarian at the Warburg Institute, University of London.Producer: Thomas Morris.
The Kama Sutra
February 1st, 2012, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Kama Sutra, one of the most celebrated and often misunderstood texts of Indian literature. Probably composed during the reign of the Gupta dynasty around 1800 years ago, the work is a collection of writings about the art of love and sensual pleasure. Although it is best known today for a single chapter devoted to sexual pleasure, this important Sanksrit collection contains much besides. In particular it teaches the attainment of Kama (pleasure), one of the central goals of Hinduism. The Kama Sutra is a manual to a life of fulfilment, offering advice on such subjects as finding a spouse and how to behave in marriage; it has had a profound influence on Indian culture and thought. With:Julius LipnerProfessor of Hinduism and the Comparative Study of Religion at the University of CambridgeJessica FrazierLecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Kent and Research Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hindu StudiesDavid SmithReader in South Asian Religions at the University of Lancaster.Producer: Thomas Morris.
The Scientific Method
January 25th, 2012, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the evolution of the Scientific Method, the systematic and analytical approach to scientific thought. In 1620 the great philosopher and scientist Francis Bacon published the Novum Organum, a work outlining a new system of thought which he believed should inform all enquiry into the laws of nature. Philosophers before him had given their attention to the reasoning that underlies scientific enquiry; but Bacon's emphasis on observation and experience is often seen today as giving rise to a new phenomenon: the scientific method.The scientific method, and the logical processes on which it is based, became a topic of intense debate in the seventeenth 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.With: Simon SchafferProfessor of the History of Science at the University of CambridgeJohn WorrallProfessor of the Philosophy of Science at the London School of Economics and Political ScienceMichela MassimiSenior Lecturer in the Philosophy of Science at University College London.Producer: Thomas Morris.
1848: Year of Revolution
January 18th, 2012, 06:00 PM
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, notably Britain and Russia, were spared.The rebels were fighting for nationalism, social justice and civil rights, and were prepared to fight in the streets down to the last man. Tens of thousands of people lost their lives; but little of lasting value was achieved, and by the end of the year the liberal revolutions had been soundly beaten.With: Tim BlanningEmeritus Professor of History at the University of CambridgeLucy RiallProfessor of History at Birkbeck, University of LondonMike RapportSenior Lecturer in History at the University of Stirling.Producer: Thomas Morris.
The Safavid Dynasty
January 11th, 2012, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Safavid Dynasty, rulers of the Persian empire between the 16th and 18th centuries.In 1501 Shah Ismail, a boy of fifteen, declared himself ruler of Azerbaijan. Within a year he had expanded his territory to include most of Persia, and founded a ruling dynasty which was to last for more than two hundred years. 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, and so created the religious identity of modern Iran - although they were also often ruthless in their suppression of Sunni practices. They thrived on international trade, and their capital Isfahan, rebuilt by the visionary Shah Abbas, became one of the most magnificent cities in the world. Under Safavid rule Persia became a cultural centre, producing many great artists and thinkers. With:Robert GleaveProfessor of Arabic Studies at the University of ExeterEmma LoosleySenior Lecturer at the School of Arts, Histories and Cultures at the University of ManchesterAndrew NewmanReader in Islamic Studies and Persian at the University of Edinburgh.Producer: Thomas Morris.
Macromolecules
December 28th, 2011, 06:00 PM
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. They form the proteins that make up our bodies, as well as many of the materials of modern life. Man's ability to mimic the structure of macromolecules has led to the invention of plastics such as nylon, paints and adhesives. Most of our clothes are made of macromolecules, and our food is macromolecular. The medical sciences are making increasingly sophisticated use of macromolecules, from growing replacement skin and bone to their increasing use in drug delivery. One of the most famous macromolecules is DNA, an infinitely more complex polymer than man has ever managed to produce. 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?With:Tony RyanPro-Vice Chancellor for the Faculty of Science at the University of SheffieldAthene DonaldProfessor of Experimental Physics at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Robinson CollegeCharlotte WilliamsReader in Polymer Chemistry and Catalysis at Imperial College, London Producer: Natalia Fernandez.
Robinson Crusoe
December 21st, 2011, 06:00 PM
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. There are several incidents that may have inspired the tale, although none of them exactly mirrors Defoe's thrilling yet didactic narrative. The plot is now universally known - the sailor stranded on a desert island who learns to tame the environment and the native population. The character of Friday, Crusoe's trusty companion and servant, has become almost as famous as Crusoe himself and their master-servant relationship forms one of the principal themes in the novel. Robinson Crusoe has been interpreted in myriad ways, from colonial fable to religious instruction manual to capitalist tract; although arguably above all of these, it is perhaps best known today as a children's story. With:Karen O'BrienPro-Vice Chancellor for Education at the University of Birmingham Judith HawleyProfessor of Eighteenth-Century Literature at Royal Holloway, University of LondonBob OwensEmeritus Professor of English Literature at the Open UniversityProducer: Natalia Fernandez.
The Concordat of Worms
December 14th, 2011, 06:00 PM
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. The wrangling between the German kings and the Church over who had the ultimate authority to elect bishops, use the ceremonial symbols of office in his coronation and even choose the pope himself, was responsible for centuries of discord. The hatred between the two parties reached such a pinnacle that it resulted in the virtual destruction of Rome at the hands of the Normans in 1084.Nearly forty years later Emperor Henry V and Pope Calixtus II came to a compromise; their agreement became known as the Concordat of Worms, named after the town where they met and signed the treaty. The Concordat created a historic distinction between secular power and spiritual authority, and more clearly defined the respective powers of monarchs and the Church. Although in the short term the Concordat failed to prevent further conflict, some historians believe that it paved the way for the modern nation-state.With:Henrietta LeyserEmeritus Fellow of St Peter's College, University of OxfordKate CushingReader in Medieval History at Keele University John Gillingham Emeritus Professor of History at the London School of Economics and Political Science Producer: Natalia Fernandez.
Heraclitus
December 7th, 2011, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus. Writing in the 5th century BC, Heraclitus believed that everything is constantly changing or, as he put it, in flux. He expressed this thought in a famous epigram: "No man ever steps into the same river twice." Heraclitus is often considered an enigmatic thinker, and much of his work is complex and puzzling. He was critical of the poets Homer and Hesiod, whom he considered to be ignorant, and accused the mathematician Pythagoras (who may have been his contemporary) of making things up. Heraclitus despaired of men's folly, and in his work constantly strove to encourage people to consider matters from alternative perspectives. Donkeys prefer rubbish to gold, he observed, pointing out that the same thing can have different meanings to different people.Unlike most of his contemporaries he was not associated with a particular school or disciplinary approach, although he did have his followers. 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.With:Angie HobbsAssociate Professor of Philosophy and Senior Fellow in the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of WarwickPeter AdamsonProfessor of Ancient and Medieval Philosophy at King's College LondonJames WarrenSenior Lecturer in Classics and a Fellow of Corpus Christi College, University of CambridgeProducer: Natalia Fernandez.
Christina Rossetti
November 30th, 2011, 06:00 PM
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, to whose journal, 'The Germ', Christina contributed poems. She was a devout Anglican all her life and her religious beliefs are a recurring theme in her work. Christina never married, although she was engaged twice - one of her fiancés was the Pre-Raphaelite painter, James Collinson. She spent her time writing and volunteering for charitable works. It is said she even considered going to the Crimea with Florence Nightingale, but in the end ill health prevented her from doing so. Best known for her ballads and long narrative poems, she also wrote some prose and children's verses. Christina was admired by contemporaries including Swinburne, Tennyson and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Her work was to have an influence on later writers such as Virginia Woolf and Gerard Manley Hopkins. Rossetti's 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. With:Dinah BirchProfessor of English Literature and Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research at Liverpool University Rhian WilliamsLecturer in Nineteenth-Century English Literature at the University of GlasgowNicholas ShrimptonEmeritus Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford Producer: Natalia Fernandez.
Judas Maccabeus
November 23rd, 2011, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the revolutionary Jewish leader Judas Maccabeus. Born in the second century BC, Judas led his followers, the Maccabees, in a rebellion against the Seleucid Empire, which was attempting to impose the Greek culture and religion on the Jews. After a succession of battles he succeeded and the Seleucid king granted the Jews religious freedom. But even after that freedom was granted the struggle for political independence continued, and it was not until twenty years after Judas's death that Judaea finally became an independent state. Thanks to an extensive, if often confused, historical record of these events, the story of the Maccabees is well known. Judas Maccabeus has become a celebrated folk hero, and one of his achievements, the restoration and purification of the Temple of Jerusalem after its desecration by the Seleucids, is commemorated every year at the Jewish festival of Hanukkah.With: Helen Bond, Senior Lecturer in the New Testament at Edinburgh University Tessa Rajak, Emeritus Professor of Ancient History at the University of ReadingPhilip Alexander, Emeritus Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of ManchesterProducer: Natalia Fernandez.
Ptolemy and Ancient Astronomy
November 16th, 2011, 06:00 PM
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 so many centuries. In his seminal astronomical work, the Almagest, written in the 2nd century AD, Ptolemy proposed that the Earth was at the centre of the universe and explained all the observed motions of the Sun, Moon, planets and stars with a system of uniform circular motions which he referred to as 'epicycles'. But Ptolemy was a polymath and did not confine his study of the stars to mathematical equations. He was also interested in astrology and his book on this topic, the Tetrabiblos, tackled the spiritual aspects of the cosmos and its influence on individual lives and personalities.Ptolemy's model of the universe remained the dominant one for over a thousand years. It was not until 1543, and Copernicus's heliocentric theory of the world, that the Ptolemaic model was finally challenged, and not until 1609 that Johannes Kepler's New Astronomy put an end to his ideas for good. But how and why did Ptolemy's system survive for so long?With:Liba TaubProfessor of History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge UniversityJim BennettDirector of the Museum of the History of Science at the University of OxfordCharles BurnettProfessor of the History of Islamic Influences on Europe at the Warburg Institute, University of LondonProducer: Natalia Fernandez.
The Continental-Analytic Split
November 9th, 2011, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Continental-Analytic split in Western philosophy. Around the beginning of the last century, philosophy began to go down two separate paths, as thinkers from Continental Europe explored the legacy of figures including Friedrich Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger, while those educated in the English-speaking world tended to look to more analytically-inclined philosophers like Bertrand Russell and Gottlob Frege. But the divide between these two schools of thought is not clear cut, and many philosophers even question whether the term 'Continental' is accurate or useful.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? With:Stephen MulhallProfessor of Philosophy at New College, University of OxfordBeatrice Han-PileProfessor of Philosophy at the University of EssexHans Johann-Glock Professor of Philosophy at the University of ZurichProducer: Natalia Fernandez.
The Moon
November 2nd, 2011, 06:00 PM
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. In some cultures the Moon has been worshipped as a deity; in recent centuries there has been lively debate about its origins and physical characteristics. Although other planets in our solar system have moons ours is, relatively speaking, the largest, and is perhaps more accurately described as a 'twin planet'; the past, present and future of the Earth and the Moon are locked together. Only very recently has water been found on the Moon - a discovery which could prove to be invaluable if human colonisation of the Moon were ever to occur. Mankind first walked on the Moon in 1969, but it is debatable how important this huge political event was in developing our scientific knowledge. The advances of space science, including data from satellites and the moon landings, have given us some startling insights into the history of our own planet, but many intriguing questions remain unanswered. With:Paul MurdinVisiting Professor of Astronomy at Liverpool John Moores UniversityCarolin CrawfordGresham Professor of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge Ian CrawfordReader in Planetary Science and Astrobiology at Birkbeck College, London.Producer: Natalia Fernandez.
The Siege of Tenochtitlan
October 26th, 2011, 06:00 PM
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 the city of Tenochtitlan, the spectacular island capital of the Aztec civilisation. At first Cortes had been welcomed by the Aztec leader, Moctezuma, and he and his men were treated like kings. But their friendship proved short-lived, and soon celebrations turned into vicious fighting. After a prolonged siege and fierce battle, in which many thousands died, 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.With:Alan Knight Professor of the History of Latin America at the University of OxfordElizabeth GrahamProfessor of Mesoamerican Archaeology at University College, LondonCaroline Dodds Pennock Lecturer in International History at the University of Sheffield Producer: Natalia Fernandez.
Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People
October 19th, 2011, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Delacroix's painting Liberty Leading the People. In 1830 revolution once more overtook France, when a popular uprising toppled the French king Charles X. A few months later, the artist Eugene Delacroix immortalised the events of the July Revolution in a painting which remains one of the icons of the age. His allegorical depiction of a Paris barricade, with the figure of Liberty clutching a tricolore while standing on a pile of corpses, is a powerful image which has provoked much debate in the years since it was first unveiled to an enthusiastic public.Producer: Natalia Fernandez.
The Ming Voyages
October 12th, 2011, 06:00 PM
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 of discovery 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 seven voyages were an expression of the might of the Ming Dynasty; but they were regarded by some Chinese courtiers as a wasteful extravagance, and after internal disputes they came to an end in 1433. 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 MitterProfessor of the History and Politics of Modern China at the University of OxfordJulia LovellLecturer in Chinese History at Birkbeck College, University of LondonCraig ClunasProfessor of the History of Art at the University of Oxford.Producer: Thomas Morris.
David Hume
October 5th, 2011, 06:00 PM
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. Hume made a number of significant contributions to philosophy. He saw human nature as a manifestation of the natural world, rather than something above and beyond it. 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. His works, beginning in 1740 with A Treatise of Human Nature, have influenced thinkers from Adam Smith to Immanuel Kant and Charles Darwin, and today he is regarded by some scholars as the most important philosopher ever to write in English.With:Peter MillicanProfessor of Philosophy at the University of OxfordHelen BeebeeProfessor of Philosophy at the University of BirminghamJames HarrisSenior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of St AndrewsProducer: Thomas Morris.
The Etruscan Civilisation
September 28th, 2011, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Etruscan civilisation.Around 800 BC a sophisticated civilisation began to emerge in the area of Italy now known as Tuscany. The Etruscans thrived for the next eight hundred years, extracting and trading copper and developing a sophisticated culture. They were skilled soldiers, architects and artists, and much of their handiwork survives today. They are also believed to have given us the alphabet, an innovation they imported from Greece. Eventually the Etruscan civilisation was absorbed into that of Rome, but not before it had profoundly influenced Roman art and religion, and even its politics.With:Phil PerkinsProfessor of Archaeology at the Open UniversityDavid RidgwaySenior Research Fellow at the Institute of Classical Studies at the University of LondonCorinna RivaLecturer in Mediterranean Archaeology at University College London.Producer: Thomas Morris.
Shinto
September 21st, 2011, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Japanese belief system Shinto.A religion without gods, scriptures or a founder, Shinto is perhaps better described as a system of belief. Central to it is the idea of kami, spirits or deities associated with places, people and things. Shinto shrines are some of the most prominent features of the landscape in Japan, where over 100 million people - most of the population - count themselves as adherents.Since its emergence as a distinct religion many centuries ago, Shinto has happily coexisted with Buddhism and other religions; in fact, adherents often practise both simultaneously. 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.With:Martin PalmerDirector of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education, and CultureRichard Bowring Professor of Japanese Studies at the University of CambridgeLucia DolceSenior Lecturer in Japanese Religion and Japanese at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.Producer: Thomas Morris.
The Hippocratic Oath
September 14th, 2011, 06:00 PM
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, the Hippocratic Corpus, was disseminated widely in the ancient world, and contains treatises on a wide variety of subjects, from fractures to medical ethics.Today we know that the Hippocratic Corpus cannot have been written by a single author. But many of its texts shaped Western medicine for centuries. The best known is the Hippocratic Oath, an ethical code for doctors. Celebrated in the ancient world, and later referred to by Arabic scholars, it offers medics guidance on how they should behave. Although it has often been revised and adapted, the Hippocratic Oath remains one of the most significant and best known documents of medical science - but there is little evidence that it was routinely sworn by doctors until modern times. With:Vivian NuttonEmeritus Professor of the History of Medicine at University College LondonHelen KingProfessor of Classical Studies at the Open UniversityPeter PormannWellcome Trust Associate Professor in Classics and Ancient History at the University of WarwickProducer: Thomas Morris.
The Minoan Civilisation
July 6th, 2011, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Minoan Civilisation.In 1900 the British archaeologist Arthur Evans began excavating some ancient ruins at Knossos on the island of Crete. He uncovered an enormous palace complex which reminded him of the mythical labyrinth of King Minos. Evans had in fact discovered the remnants of a Bronze Age society; in honour of Crete's legendary king he named it the Minoan Civilisation.The Minoans flourished for twelve centuries, and their civilisation was at its height around three and a half thousand years ago, when they built elaborate palaces all over the island. They were sophisticated builders and artists, and appear to have invented one of the world's earliest writing systems. Since Evans's discoveries a hundred years ago, we have learnt much about Minoan society, religion and culture - but much still remains mysterious.With:John BennetProfessor of Aegean Archaeology at Sheffield UniversityEllen AdamsLecturer in Classical Art and Archaeology at King's College LondonYannis HamilakisProfessor of Archaeology at the University of Southampton.Producer: Thomas Morris.
Tennyson's In Memoriam
June 29th, 2011, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Alfred, Lord Tennyson's long poem In Memoriam.In 1850, shortly before his appointment as Poet Laureate, Tennyson published a work which many critics regard as his masterpiece. In Memoriam A.H.H. was written in tribute to a close friend, Arthur Hallam, who had died seventeen years earlier. The two had met while at university in Cambridge; during one summer when Hallam was visiting Tennyson he had fallen in love with and become engaged to Tennyson's sister, Emily. When Hallam died suddenly at the age of 22 Tennyson was torn apart by grief. He started to write verses for In Memoriam almost straight away, but it was only later that he assembled these fragments into one long poem. The work is a farewell not just to Hallam but to an entire system of thought. New geological discoveries meant that Biblical certainties, such as the age of the Earth, were suddenly thrown into question. Tennyson realised that the advent of new scientific certainties meant the death of old religious ones. The work was enormously successful; one early reader was Queen Victoria, who after the death of Prince Albert wrote: "Next to the Bible, In Memoriam is my comfort".With: Dinah BirchProfessor of English Literature and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research at Liverpool UniversitySeamus PerryFellow and Tutor in English at Balliol College, University of OxfordJane WrightLecturer in English at the University of Bristol. Producer: Natalia Fernandez.
Malthusianism
June 22nd, 2011, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Malthusianism.In the eighteenth century, as expanding agriculture and industry resulted in a rapid increase in the European population, a number of writers began to consider the implications of this rise in numbers. Some argued it was a positive development, since a larger population meant more workers and thus more wealth. Others maintained that it placed an intolerable strain on natural resources.In 1798 a young Anglican priest, the Reverend Thomas Malthus, published An Essay on the Principle of Population. Malthus argued that the population was increasing exponentially, and that food production could not keep pace; eventually a crisis would ensue. He suggested that famine, disease and wars acted as a natural corrective to overpopulation, and also suggested a number of ways in which humans could regulate their own numbers. The work caused a furore and fuelled a public debate about the size and sustainability of the British population which raged for generations. It was a profoundly influential work: Charles Darwin credited Malthus with having inspired his Theory of Natural Selection.With:Karen O'BrienPro-Vice-Chancellor for Education at the University of BirminghamMark PhilpLecturer in Politics at the University of OxfordEmma GriffinSenior Lecturer in History at the University of East Anglia Producer: Thomas Morris.
Wyclif and the Lollards
June 15th, 2011, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss John Wyclif and the Lollards.John Wyclif was a medieval philosopher and theologian who in the fourteenth century instigated the first complete English translation of the Bible. One of the most important thinkers of the Middle Ages, he also led a movement of opposition to the Roman Church and its institutions which has come to be seen as a precursor to the Reformation. Wyclif disputed some of the key teachings of the Church, including the doctrine of transubstantiation. His followers, the Lollards, were later seen as dangerous heretics, and in the fifteenth century many of them were burnt at the stake. Today Lollardy is seen as the first significant movement of dissent against the Church in England.With:Sir Anthony KennyPhilosopher and former Master of Balliol College, OxfordAnne HudsonEmeritus Professor of Medieval English at the University of OxfordRob LuttonLecturer in Medieval History at the University of NottinghamProducer: Thomas Morris.
The Origins of Infectious Disease
June 8th, 2011, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the origins of infectious disease. Infectious disease has been with us for millennia. There are reports of ancient outbreaks of plague in the Bible, and in numerous historical sources from China, the Middle East and Europe. Other infections, including smallpox, tuberculosis and measles, have also been known for centuries. But some diseases made their first appearances only recently: HIV emerged around a century ago, while the Ebola virus was first recorded in the 1970s.But where do the agents of disease come from, and what determines where and when new viruses and bacteria appear? Modern techniques allow scientists to trace the histories of infective agents through their genomes; the story of disease provides a fascinating microcosm of the machinery of evolution.With:Steve JonesProfessor of Genetics at University College LondonSir Roy AndersonProfessor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at Imperial College LondonMark PallenProfessor of Microbial Genomics at the University of Birmingham.Producer: Thomas Morris.
The Battle of Stamford Bridge
June 1st, 2011, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Battle of Stamford Bridge.In the first week of 1066 the English king, Edward the Confessor, died. A young nobleman, Harold Godwinson, claimed that Edward had nominated him his successor, and seized the throne. But he was not the only claimant: in France the powerful Duke of Normandy, William, believed that he was the rightful king, and prepared to invade England.As William amassed his forces on the other side of the Channel, however, an army led by the Norwegian king Harald Hardrada invaded from the North Sea. Harold quickly marched north and confronted the Norsemen, whose leaders included his own brother Tostig. The English won an emphatic victory; but barely three weeks later Harold was dead, killed at Hastings, and the Norman Conquest had begun.With: John HinesProfessor of Archaeology at Cardiff UniversityElizabeth RoweLecturer in Scandinavian History of the Viking Age at Clare Hall, University of CambridgeStephen BaxterReader in Medieval History at King's College LondonProducer: Thomas Morris.
Xenophon
May 25th, 2011, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of Xenophon.Xenophon, an aristocratic Athenian, was one of the most celebrated writers of the ancient world. Born in around 430 BC, he was a friend and pupil of the great philosopher Socrates. In his twenties he took part in an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the Persian king Artaxerxes II, and played a key role in guiding the surviving Greek troops - known as the Ten Thousand - back to safety. It was a dangerous journey from deep inside hostile territory, and lasted more than a year. Xenophon's gripping account of this military campaign, the Anabasis, is one of the masterpieces of Greek literature.Xenophon went on to write a history of the Peloponnesian War and its aftermath. But he was not just a historian, and his other works include books about household management, hunting and his mentor Socrates. His advice on the education and behaviour of princes had a significant influence in Renaissance Italy, and his treatise on horsemanship is still widely read today.With:Paul CartledgeA.G. Leventis Professor of Greek Culture at Cambridge UniversityEdith HallProfessor of Classics and Drama at Royal Holloway, University of LondonSimon GoldhillProfessor in Greek Literature and Culture at the University of Cambridge and Fellow and Director of Studies in Classics at King's College.Producer: Thomas Morris.
Custer's Last Stand
May 18th, 2011, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Battle of the Little Bighorn, also known as Custer's Last Stand.In 1876 a dispute between the American federal government and Native Americans over land rights led to an armed conflict now known as the Great Sioux War. An expeditionary federal force was sent out to coerce the Native Americans into reservations, and away from the gold reserves recently discovered in their traditional homelands.One of the officers in this expeditionary force was a Civil War hero, George Custer. While en route to his arranged rendezvous, Custer unexpectedly encountered a large group of Sioux and Cheyenne warriors. Disobeying orders, he decided to attack. Barely half an hour later, he and all 200 of his men lay dead. Custer's Last Stand has become one of the most famous and closely studied military engagements in American history.With:Kathleen BurkProfessor of Modern and Contemporary History at University College, LondonAdam SmithSenior Lecturer in American History at University College LondonSaul DavidProfessor of War Studies at the University of Buckingham.Producer: Thomas Morris.
The Anatomy of Melancholy
May 11th, 2011, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Robert Burton's masterpiece The Anatomy of Melancholy.In 1621 the priest and scholar Robert Burton published a book quite unlike any other. The Anatomy of Melancholy brings together almost two thousand years of scholarship, from Ancient Greek philosophy to seventeenth-century medicine. Melancholy, a condition believed to be caused by an imbalance of the body's four humours, was characterised by despondency, depression and inactivity. Burton himself suffered from it, and resolved to compile an authoritative work of scholarship on the malady, drawing on all relevant sources.Despite its subject matter the Anatomy is an entertaining work, described by Samuel Johnson as the only book 'that ever took him out of bed two hours sooner than he wished to rise.' It also offers a fascinating insight into seventeenth-century medical theory, and influenced many generations of playwrights and poets.With:Julie SandersProfessor of English Literature and Drama at the University of NottinghamMary Ann LundLecturer in English at the University of LeicesterErin SullivanLecturer and Fellow at the Shakespeare Institute at the University of Birmingham.Producer: Thomas Morris.
Islamic Law and its Origins
May 4th, 2011, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the origins and early development of Islamic law. The legal code of Islam is known as Sharia, an Arabic word meaning "the way". Its sources include the Islamic holy book the Qur'an, the words and actions of the Prophet Muhammad, and the opinions of legal scholars. In the 7th century, Sharia started to replace the tribal laws of pre-Islamic Arabia; over the next three hundred years it underwent considerable evolution as Islam spread. By 900 a body of religious and legal scholarship recognisable as classical Sharia had emerged.With:Hugh KennedyProfessor of Arabic in the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of LondonRobert GleaveProfessor of Arabic Studies at the University of ExeterMona SiddiquiProfessor of Islamic Studies at the University of GlasgowProducer: Thomas Morris.
Cogito Ergo Sum
April 27th, 2011, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss one of the most famous statements in philosophy: "Cogito ergo sum".In his Discourse on the Method, published in 1637, the French polymath Rene Descartes wrote a sentence which remains familiar today even to many people who have never heard of him. "I think", he wrote, "therefore I exist". Although the statement was made in French, it has become better known in its Latin translation; and philosophers ever since have referred to it as the Cogito Argument.In his first Meditation, published ten years after the Discourse, Descartes went even further. He asserted the need to demolish everything completely and start right again from the foundations, arguing, for instance, that information from the senses cannot be trusted. The only thing he could be sure of was this: because he was thinking, he must exist. This simple idea continues to stir up enormous interest and has attracted comment from thinkers from Hobbes to Nietzsche and Sartre. With:Susan JamesProfessor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of LondonJohn CottinghamProfessor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Reading and Professorial Research Fellow at Heythrop College, University of LondonStephen MulhallProfessor of Philosophy at the University of Oxford.Producer: Thomas Morris.
The Pelagian Controversy
April 20th, 2011, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Pelagian Controversy.In the late 4th century a British monk, Pelagius, travelled to Rome, where he became a theologian and teacher, revered for his learning and ascetic lifestyle. But he soon aroused the ire of some of the Church's leading figures, preaching a Christian doctrine which many regarded as heretical. Pelagius believed that mankind was not inherently depraved, and disputed the necessity of original sin. His opinions were highly controversial and led to fierce division. Pelagius's most prominent opponent was the African bishop St Augustine of Hippo. Their dispute resulted in the persecution and eventual condemnation of Pelagius and his followers, and was to be of long-lasting significance to the future of the Church.With:Martin PalmerDirector of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education, and CultureCaroline HumfressReader in History at Birkbeck College, University of LondonJohn MilbankProfessor in Religion, Politics and Ethics and the Director of the Centre for Theology and Philosophy at Nottingham UniversityProducer: Thomas Morris.
The Neutrino
April 13th, 2011, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the neutrino.In 1930 the physicist Wolfgang Pauli proposed the existence of an as-yet undiscovered subatomic particle. He also bet his colleagues a case of champagne that it would never be detected. He lost his bet when in 1956 the particle, now known as the neutrino, was first observed in an American nuclear reactor. Neutrinos are some of the most mysterious particles in the Universe. The Sun produces trillions of them every second, and they constantly bombard the Earth and everything on it. Neutrinos can pass through solid rock, and even stars, at almost the speed of light without being impeded, and are almost impossible to detect. Today, experiments involving neutrinos are providing insights into the nature of matter, the contents of the Universe and the processes deep inside stars.With:Frank CloseProfessor of Physics at Exeter College at the University of OxfordSusan CartwrightSenior Lecturer in Particle Physics and Astrophysics at the University of SheffieldDavid WarkProfessor of Particle Physics at Imperial College, London, and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. Producer: Thomas Morris.
Octavia Hill
April 6th, 2011, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Victorian social reformer Octavia Hill.From the 1850s until her death in 1912, Octavia Hill was an energetic campaigner who did much to improve the lot of impoverished city dwellers. She was a pioneer of social housing who believed that there were better and more humane ways of arranging accommodation for the poor than through the state. Aided at first by her friend John Ruskin, the essayist and art critic, she bought houses and let them to the urban dispossessed. Octavia Hill provided an early model of social work, did much to preserve urban open spaces, and was the first to use the term 'green belt' to describe the rural areas around London. She was also one of the founders of the National Trust. Yet her vision of social reform, involving volunteers and private enterprise rather than central government, was often at odds with that of her contemporaries.With:Dinah BirchProfessor of English Literature and Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research at Liverpool UniversityLawrence GoldmanFellow in Modern History at St Peter's College, OxfordGillian DarleyHistorian and biographer of Octavia HillProducer: Thomas Morris.
The Bhagavad Gita
March 30th, 2011, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Bhagavad Gita.The Bhagavad Gita, a 700-verse section of the Sanskrit epic the Mahabharata, is one of the most revered texts of Hinduism. Written in around 200 BC, it narrates a conversation between Krishna, an incarnation of the deity, and the Pandava prince Arjuna. It has been described as a concise summary of Hindu theology, a short work which offers advice on how to live one's life.The Gita is also a philosophical work of great richness and influence. First translated into English in the 18th century, it was quickly taken up in the West. Its many admirers have included Mahatma Gandhi, whose passion for the work is one reason that the Bhagavad Gita became a key text for followers of the Indian Independence movement in the first half of the twentieth century.With:Chakravarthi Ram-PrasadProfessor of Comparative Religion and Philosophy at Lancaster UniversityJulius LipnerProfessor of Hinduism and the Comparative Study of Religion and Fellow of Clare Hall at the University of CambridgeJessica FrazierResearch Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies and Lecturer in Religious Studies at Regent's College, LondonProducer: Thomas Morris.
The Iron Age
March 23rd, 2011, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the dawn of the European Iron Age.In around 3000 BC European metalworkers started to make tools and weapons out of bronze. A complex trading network evolved to convey this valuable metal and other goods around the continent. But two millennia later, a new skill arrived from the Middle East: iron smelting. This harder, more versatile metal represented a huge technological breakthrough.The arrival of the European Iron Age, in around 1000 BC, was a time of huge social as well as technological change. New civilisations arose, the landscape was transformed, and societies developed new cultures and lifestyles. Whether this was the direct result of the arrival of iron is one of the most intriguing questions in archaeology.With:Sir Barry CunliffeEmeritus Professor of European Archaeology at the University of OxfordSue HamiltonProfessor of Prehistory at University College LondonTimothy ChampionProfessor of Archaeology at the University of SouthamptonProducer: Thomas Morris.
The Medieval University
March 16th, 2011, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the medieval universities.In the 11th and 12th centuries a new type of institution started to appear in the major cities of Europe. The first universities were those of Bologna and Paris; within a hundred years similar educational organisations were springing up all over the continent. The first universities based their studies on the liberal arts curriculum, a mix of seven separate disciplines derived from the educational theories of Ancient Greece. The universities provided training for those intending to embark on careers in the Church, the law and education. They provided a new focus for intellectual life in Europe, and exerted a significant influence on society around them. And the university model proved so robust that many of these institutions and their medieval innovations still exist today.With:Miri RubinProfessor of Medieval and Early Modern History at Queen Mary, University of LondonIan WeiSenior Lecturer in Medieval European History at the University of BristolPeter DenleyReader in History at Queen Mary, University of London.Producer: Thomas Morris.
Free Will
March 9th, 2011, 06:00 PM
In the 500th edition of the programme, Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the philosophical idea of free will.Free will - the extent to which we are free to choose our own actions - is one of the most absorbing philosophical problems, debated by almost every great thinker of the last two thousand years. In a universe apparently governed by physical laws, is it possible for individuals to be responsible for their own actions? Or are our lives simply proceeding along preordained paths? Determinism - the doctrine that every event is the inevitable consequence of what goes before - seems to suggest so.Many intellectuals have concluded that free will is logically impossible. The philosopher Baruch Spinoza regarded it as a delusion. Albert Einstein wrote: "Human beings, in their thinking, feeling and acting are not free agents but are as causally bound as the stars in their motion." But in the Enlightenment, philosophers including David Hume found ways in which free will and determinism could be reconciled. Recent scientific developments mean that this debate remains as lively today as it was in the ancient world.With: Simon BlackburnBertrand Russell Professor of Philosophy at the University of CambridgeHelen BeebeeProfessor of Philosophy at the University of BirminghamGalen StrawsonProfessor of Philosophy at the University of ReadingProducer: Thomas Morris.
The Age of the Universe
March 2nd, 2011, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the age of the Universe.Since the 18th century, when scientists first realised that the Universe had existed for more than a few thousand years, cosmologists have debated its likely age. The discovery that the Universe was expanding allowed the first informed estimates of its age to be made by the great astronomer Edwin Hubble in the early decades of the twentieth century. Hubble's estimate of the rate at which the Universe is expanding, the so-called Hubble Constant, has been progressively improved. Today cosmologists have a variety of other methods for ageing the Universe, most recently the detailed measurements of cosmic microwave background radiation - the afterglow of the Big Bang - made in the last decade. And all these methods seem to agree on one thing: the Universe has existed for around 13.75 billion years.With:Martin ReesAstronomer Royal and Emeritus Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at the University of CambridgeCarolin CrawfordMember of the Institute of Astronomy and Fellow of Emmanuel College at the University of CambridgeCarlos FrenkDirector of the Institute for Computational Cosmology at the University of Durham.Producer: Thomas Morris.
The Taiping Rebellion
February 23rd, 2011, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Taiping Rebellion.In 1850 a Chinese Christian convert, Hong Xiuquan, proclaimed himself leader of a new dynasty, the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom. He and his followers marched against the ruling Qing dynasty, gathering huge support as they went. The ensuing civil war lasted fourteen years; around twenty million people lost their lives in a conflict which eventually involved European as well as Chinese soldiers. The Taiping Rebellion was arguably the most important event to befall China in the 19th century. Chinese nationalists and communists alike have been profoundly influenced by it, and historians believe it shaped modern China in the same way as the First World War shaped modern Europe.Rana MitterProfessor of the History and Politics of Modern China at the University of OxfordFrances WoodHead of the Chinese Section at the British LibraryJulia LovellLecturer in Chinese History at Birkbeck, University of London.Producer: Thomas Morris.
Maimonides
February 16th, 2011, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the work and influence of Maimonides.Widely regarded as the greatest Jewish philosopher of the medieval period, Maimonides was also a physician and rabbinical authority. Also known as Rambam, his writings include a 14-volume work on Jewish law, the Mishneh Torah, which is still widely used today, and the Guide for the Perplexed, a central work of medieval philosophy. Although undoubtedly a titan of Jewish intellectual history, Maimonides was also profoundly influenced by the Islamic world. He exerted a strong influence on later Islamic philosophy, as well as on thinkers ranging from Thomas Aquinas to Leibniz and Newton.With:John HaldaneProfessor of Philosophy at the University of St AndrewsSarah StroumsaAlice and Jack Ormut Professor of Arabic Studies and currently Rector at the Hebrew University of JerusalemPeter AdamsonProfessor of Ancient and Medieval Philosophy at King's College London.Producer: Thomas Morris.
The Nervous System
February 9th, 2011, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the nervous system. Most animals have a nervous system, a network of nerve tissues which allows parts of the body to communicate with each other. In humans the most significant parts of this network are the brain, spinal column and retinas, which together make up the central nervous system. But there is also a peripheral nervous system, which enables sensation, movement and the regulation of the major organs. Scholars first described the nerves of the human body over two thousand years ago. For 1400 years it was believed that they were animated by 'animal spirits', mysterious powers which caused sensation and movement. In the eighteenth century scientists discovered that nerve fibres transmitted electrical impulses; it was not until the twentieth century that chemical agents - neurotransmitters - were first identified. With: Colin Blakemore Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Oxford Vivian Nutton Emeritus Professor of the History of Medicine at University College, London Tilli Tansey Professor of the History of Modern Medical Sciences at Queen Mary, University of London. Producer: Thomas Morris.
The Battle of Bannockburn
February 2nd, 2011, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Battle of Bannockburn.On June 23rd 1314, Scottish forces under their king Robert the Bruce confronted a larger army commanded by the English monarch Edward II at Bannockburn. It was the culmination of a war of independence which had been going on since the English had invaded Scotland in 1296. After eighteen years of intermittent fighting the English had been all but expelled from Scotland: their last stronghold was the castle at Stirling.The Scots won a decisive victory at Bannockburn. The English were routed and their king narrowly escaped capture. Although it took a further 14 years for Scotland to achieve full independence with the 1328 Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton, this was an important triumph; today it remains one of the most discussed moments in the nation's history.With:Matthew StricklandProfessor of Medieval History at the University of GlasgowFiona WatsonHonorary Research Fellow in History at the University of DundeeMichael BrownReader in History at the University of St Andrews Producer: Thomas Morris.
Aristotle's Poetics
January 26th, 2011, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Aristotle's Poetics. The Poetics is, as far as we know, the first ever work of literary theory. Written in the 4th century BC, it is the work of a scholar who was also a biologist, and treats literary works with the detached analytical eye of a scientist. Aristotle examines drama and epic poetry, and how they achieve their effects; he analyses tragedy and the ways in which it plays on our emotions. Many of the ideas he articulates, such as catharsis, have remained in our critical vocabulary ever since. The book also contains an impassioned defence of poetry, which had been attacked by other thinkers, including Aristotle's own teacher Plato.Translated by medieval Arab scholars, the Poetics was rediscovered in Europe during the Renaissance and became a playwriting manual for many dramatists of the era. Today it remains a standard text for would-be Hollywood screenwriters.With:Angie HobbsAssociate Professor of Philosophy and Senior Fellow in the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of WarwickNick LoweReader in Classical Literature at Royal Holloway, University of LondonStephen HalliwellProfessor of Greek at the University of St AndrewsProducer: Thomas Morris.
The Mexican Revolution
January 19th, 2011, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Mexican Revolution.In 1908 the President of Mexico, Porfirio Diaz, gave an interview to an American journalist. He was 77 and had ruled the country in autocratic fashion for over thirty years. He discussed the country's economic development and spoke of his intention to retire to his country estate after overseeing a transition to multiparty democracy.Things did not turn out quite like that. Two years later Diaz was toppled by a popular uprising. It was the beginning of a tumultuous decade in which different factions fought for supremacy, and power changed hands many times. The conflict completely changed the face of the country, and resulted in the emergence of Mexico's most celebrated folk hero: Emiliano Zapata.With:Alan KnightProfessor of the History of Latin America at the University of OxfordPaul GarnerCowdray Professor of Spanish at the University of LeedsPatience SchellSenior Lecturer in Latin American Cultural Studies at the University of Manchester. Producer: Thomas Morris.
Random and Pseudorandom
January 12th, 2011, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss randomness and pseudorandomness.Randomness is the mathematics of the unpredictable. Dice and roulette wheels produce random numbers: those which are unpredictable and display no pattern. But mathematicians also talk of 'pseudorandom' numbers - those which appear to be random but are not. In the last century random numbers have become enormously useful to statisticians, computer scientists and cryptographers. But true randomness is difficult to find, and mathematicians have devised many ingenious solutions to harness or simulate it. These range from the Premium Bonds computer ERNIE (whose name stands for Electronic Random Number Indicator Equipment) to new methods involving quantum physics.Digital computers are incapable of behaving in a truly random fashion - so instead mathematicians have taught them how to harness pseudorandomness. This technique is used daily by weather forecasters, statisticians, and computer chip designers - and it's thanks to pseudorandomness that secure credit card transactions are possible.With:Marcus du SautoyProfessor of Mathematics at the University of OxfordColva Roney-DougalSenior Lecturer in Pure Mathematics at the University of St AndrewsTimothy GowersRoyal Society Research Professor in Mathematics at the University of CambridgeProducer: Thomas Morris.
Childe Harold's Pilgrimage
January 5th, 2011, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Byron's poem Childe Harold's Pilgrimage.In 1812 the 24-year-old Lord Byron published the first part of a long narrative poem. It caused an instant sensation. "I awoke one morning and found myself famous", wrote Byron in his memorandum book, and the first edition sold out in three days. The poem narrates the life of an aristocrat on a grand tour of Europe. Its central character is the first Byronic hero, a flawed but charismatic young man modelled on the poet.As well as offering a self-portrait of Byron as a young man, Childe Harold is a fascinating snapshot of Europe at the beginning of the nineteenth century, a place ravaged by revolution and war; the poem also gives us an insight into the political and intellectual concerns of its author.With:Jonathan BateProfessor of English Literature at the University of WarwickJane StablerReader in Romanticism at the University of St AndrewsEmily Bernhard JacksonAssistant Professor in Nineteenth-Century English Literature at the University of Arkansas.Producer: Thomas Morris.
Consequences of the Industrial Revolution
December 29th, 2010, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the far-reaching consequences of the Industrial Revolution. After more than a century of rapid technological change, and the massive growth of its urban centres, Britain was changed forever. Lifestyles changed as workers moved from agricultural settlements to factory towns: health, housing and labour relations were all affected. But the effects were both social and intellectual, as thinkers originated theories to deal with the new realities of urban living, mass production and a consumer society. With:Jane HumphriesProfessor of Economic History and Fellow of All Souls College, University of OxfordEmma GriffinSenior Lecturer in History at the University of East AngliaLawrence GoldmanFellow and Tutor in History at St Peter's College, University of OxfordProducer: Thomas Morris.
The Industrial Revolution
December 22nd, 2010, 06:00 PM
In the first of two programmes, Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Industrial Revolution.Between the middle of the eighteenth century and the early years of the nineteenth, Britain was transformed. This was a revolution, but not a political one: over the course of a few generations industrialisation swept the nation. Inventions such as the machine loom and the steam engine changed the face of manufacturing; cheap iron and steel became widely available; and vast new cities grew up around factory towns.All this had profound effects - not all of them positive - as an agrarian and primitive society was turned into an industrial empire, the richest nation on Earth. But why did this revolution take place here rather than abroad? And why did it begin in the first place?With:Jeremy BlackProfessor of History at the University of ExeterPat HudsonProfessor Emerita of History at Cardiff UniversityWilliam AshworthSenior Lecturer in History at the University of Liverpool.Producer: Thomas Morris.
Daoism
December 15th, 2010, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Daoism. An ancient Chinese tradition of philosophy and religious belief, Daoism first appeared more than two thousand years ago. For centuries it was the most popular religion in China; in the West its religious aspects are not as well known as its practices, which include meditation and Feng Shui, and for its most celebrated text, the Daodejing.The central aim in Daoism is to follow the 'Dao', a word which roughly translates as 'The Way'. Daoists believe in following life in its natural flow, what they refer to as an 'effortless action'. This transcendence can be linked to Buddhism, the Indian religion that came to China in the 2nd century BC and influenced Daoism - an exchange which went both ways. Daoism is closely related to, but has also at times conflicted with, the religion of the Chinese Imperial court, Confucianism. The spirit world is of great significance in Daoism, and its hierarchy and power often take precedence over events and people in real life. But how did this ancient and complex religion come to be so influential?With:Tim Barrett Professor of East Asian History at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of LondonMartin PalmerDirector of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education and CultureHilde De WeerdtFellow and Tutor in Chinese History at Pembroke College, University of Oxford Producer: Natalia Fernandez.
Thomas Edison
December 8th, 2010, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the innovations and influence of Thomas Edison, one of the architects of the modern age.Edison is popularly remembered as the man who made cheap electric light possible. Born in 1847, he began his career working in the new industry of telegraphy, and while still in his early twenties made major improvements to the technology of the telegraph. Not long afterwards he invented a new type of microphone which was used in telephones for almost a century. In the space of three productive years, Edison developed the phonograph and the first commercially viable light bulb and power distribution system. Many more inventions were to follow: he also played a part in the birth of cinema in the 1890s. When he died in 1931 he had patented no fewer than 1093 devices - the most prolific inventor in history. As the creator of the world's first industrial research laboratory he forever changed the way in which innovation took place.With:Simon SchafferProfessor of the History of Science, University of CambridgeKathleen BurkProfessor of History, University College LondonIwan MorusReader in History, University of AberystwythProducer: Thomas Morris.
Cleopatra
December 1st, 2010, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Cleopatra. The last pharaoh to rule Egypt, Cleopatra was a woman of intelligence and charisma, later celebrated as a great beauty. During an eventful life she was ousted from her throne and later restored to it with the help of her lover Julius Caesar. A later relationship with another Roman statesman, Mark Antony - and Cleopatra's subsequent death at her own hands - provided Shakespeare with the raw material for one of his greatest plays. Today Cleopatra is still an object of fascination, her story revealing as much about the Roman world as it does about the end of the age of the Pharaohs.With:Catharine EdwardsProfessor of Classics and Ancient History at Birkbeck, University of LondonMaria WykeProfessor of Latin at University College LondonSusan WalkerKeeper of Antiquities at the Ashmolean Museum at the University of OxfordProducer: Thomas Morris.
History of Metaphor
November 24th, 2010, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history of metaphor. In Shakespeare's As You Like It, the melancholy Jaques declares: "All the world's a stage/And all the men and women merely players." This is a celebrated use of metaphor, a figure of speech in which one thing is used to describe another. Metaphor is a technique apparently as old as language itself; it is present in the earliest surviving work of literature, the Epic of Gilgamesh. Homer developed it into an art form, and his invention of the epic simile was picked up by later writers including Milton. In the Middle Ages the device of allegory underpinned much of French and English writing, while the Metaphysical poets employed increasingly elaborate metaphorical conceits in the sixteenth century. In the age of the novel the metaphor once again evolved, while the Modernist writers used it to subvert their readers' expectations. But how does metaphor work, and what does this device tell us about the way our minds function?With:Steven ConnorProfessor of Modern Literature and Theory at Birkbeck, University of LondonTom HealyProfessor of Renaissance Studies at the University of SussexJulie SandersProfessor of English Literature and Drama at the University of NottinghamProducer: Thomas Morris.
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
November 17th, 2010, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss John Foxe and his book Actes and Monuments, better known today as Foxe's Book of Martyrs. Born in 1517, John Foxe was an early Protestant who was forced to flee the persecutions which ensued when the Catholic Mary came to the English throne in 1553. He was a horrified observer on the Continent as more than three hundred of his countrymen were burnt at the stake. In exile he began work on a substantial work of scholarship, bringing together eyewitness accounts of these horrifying deaths.First published in 1563, Foxe's Book of Martyrs was one of the most elaborate early books produced, and thanks to vivid woodcut illustrations reached an audience far beyond the literate elite. Its stories of Protestant martyrdom became powerful Church propaganda in the late sixteenth century and were used by those who wished to banish Catholicism from England permanently. But despite its use as an instrument of religious factionalism, Foxe's work remains one of the key and most read books of the early modern period. With:Diarmaid MacCullochProfessor of Church History at the University of OxfordJustin ChampionProfessor of the History of Early Modern Ideas at Royal Holloway, University of LondonElizabeth EvendenLecturer in Book History at Brunel UniversityProducer: Thomas Morris.
The Volga Vikings
November 10th, 2010, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Volga Vikings. Between the 8th and the 10th centuries AD, fierce Scandinavian warriors raided and then settled large swathes of Europe, particularly Britain, Ireland and parts of northern France. These were the Vikings, and their story is well known today. Far fewer people realise that groups of Norsemen also travelled east.These Volga Vikings, also known as the Rus, crossed the Baltic into present-day Russia and the Ukraine and founded settlements there. They traded commodities including furs and slaves for Islamic silver, and penetrated so far east as to reach Baghdad. Their activities were documented by Arab scholars: one, Ahmad ibn Fadlan, recorded that the Volga Vikings he met were perfect physical specimens but also "the filthiest of God's creatures". Through trade and culture they brought West and East into regular contact; their story sheds light on both Scandinavian and early Islamic history.With:James MontgomeryProfessor of Classical Arabic at the University of CambridgeNeil PriceProfessor of Archaeology at the University of AberdeenElizabeth RoweLecturer in Scandinavian History of the Viking Age at Clare Hall, University of CambridgeProducer: Thomas Morris.
Women and Enlightenment Science
November 3rd, 2010, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the role played by women in Enlightenment science. During the eighteenth century the opportunities for women to gain a knowledge of science were minimal. Universities and other institutions devoted to research were the preserve of men. Yet many important contributions to the science of the Enlightenment were made by women. These ranged from major breakthroughs like those of the British astronomer Caroline Herschel, the first woman to discover a comet, to important translations of scientific literature such as Emilie du Chatelet's French version of Newton's Principia - and all social classes were involved, from the aristocratic amateur botanists to the women artisans who worked in London's workshops manufacturing scientific instruments.With:Patricia FaraSenior Tutor at Clare College, University of CambridgeKaren O'BrienProfessor of English at the University of WarwickJudith HawleyProfessor of 18th Century Literature at Royal Holloway, University of LondonProducer: Thomas Morris.
The Unicorn
October 27th, 2010, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the unicorn. In the 5th century BC a Greek historian, Ctesias, described a strange one-horned beast which he believed to live in a remote area of India. Later classical scholars, including Aristotle and Pliny, added to his account of this animal which they called the monoceros, a vicious ass-like creature with a single horn in the middle of its forehead.For centuries the monoceros or unicorn was widely accepted to be a real - if rarely seen - beast. It appears in the Bible, and in the Middle Ages became a powerful Christian symbol. It continued to be represented in art and literature throughout the Renaissance, when 'unicorn horn' became one of the most valuable commodities on earth, thanks to its supposed properties as an antidote to poison. As late as the seventeenth century, scientists believed they had found conclusive proof of the existence of unicorns. It was some time before the animal was shown to be a myth; four hundred years on, the unicorn retains much of its fascination and symbolic power.With:Juliette WoodAssociate Lecturer in Folklore at Cardiff UniversityLauren KassellLecturer in the History and Philosophy of Science at the University of CambridgeDavid EkserdjianProfessor of the History of Art and Film at the University of Leicester.Producer: Thomas Morris.
Logic
October 20th, 2010, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history of logic. Logic, the study of reasoning and argument, first became a serious area of study in the 4th century BC through the work of Aristotle. He created a formal logical system, based on a type of argument called a syllogism, which remained in use for over two thousand years. In the nineteenth century the German philosopher and mathematician Gottlob Frege revolutionised logic, turning it into a discipline much like mathematics and capable of dealing with expressing and analysing nuanced arguments. His discoveries influenced the greatest mathematicians and philosophers of the twentieth century and considerably aided the development of the electronic computer. Today logic is a subtle system with applications in fields as diverse as mathematics, philosophy, linguistics and artificial intelligence.With:A.C. GraylingProfessor of Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of LondonPeter MillicanGilbert Ryle Fellow in Philosophy at Hertford College at the University of OxfordRosanna KeefeSenior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Sheffield.Producer: Thomas Morris.
Sturm und Drang
October 13th, 2010, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the artistic movement known as Sturm und Drang.In the 1770s a small group of German writers started to produce plays, poetry and novels which were radically different from what had gone before. These writers were all young men, and they rejected the values of the Enlightenment, which they felt had robbed art of its spontaneity and feeling. Their work was passionate, ignored existing conventions and privileged the individual's free will above the constraints of society.The most prominent member of the movement was Johann von Goethe, whose novel The Sorrows of Young Werther became its most notable success, translated into more then thirty languages. Despite this and other successes including Schiller's play The Robbers, the Sturm und Drang disappeared almost as quickly as it had emerged; by the mid-1780s it was already a thing of the past.With:Tim BlanningEmeritus Professor of Modern European History at Cambridge UniversitySusanne KordProfessor of German at University College, LondonMaike Oergel Associate Professor of German at the University of NottinghamProducer: Thomas Morris.
The Spanish Armada
October 6th, 2010, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Spanish Armada. On May 28th, 1588, a fleet of a hundred and fifty-one Spanish ships set out from Lisbon, bound for England. Its mission was to transport a huge invasion force across the Channel: the Spanish King, Philip II, was determined to remove Elizabeth from the throne and return the English to the Catholic fold. Two months later the mighty Spanish Armada was sighted off the coast of Cornwall. Bad weather, poor planning and spirited English resistance defeated the Spaniards: after a brief battle the remnants of their fleet fled. This tale of religious dispute, shifting political alliance and naval supremacy has entered our folklore - although some historians argue it changed nothing.With:Diane PurkissFellow and Tutor at Keble College, OxfordMia Rodriguez-SalgadoProfessor in International History at the London School of EconomicsNicholas RodgerSenior Research Fellow at All Souls College at the University of OxfordProducer: Thomas Morris.
The Delphic Oracle
September 29th, 2010, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Delphic Oracle, the most important source of prophecies in the ancient world. In central Greece, on the flank of Mount Parnassus, lies the ruined city of Delphi. For over a thousand years, between approximately 800 BC and 400 AD, this was the most sacred place in the ancient world. Its chief attraction was the Delphic Oracle, which predicted the future and offered petitioners advice.Travellers journeyed for weeks for a chance to ask the oracle a question. The answers, given by a mysterious priestess called the Pythia, were believed to come straight from the god Apollo. At the height of Greek civilisation the oracle was revered, and its opinion sought in some of the most significant conflicts of the age. Its activities were documented by historians including Xenophon and Plutarch, and it was regularly depicted in Greek tragedy, most famously Sophocles's masterpiece Oedipus the King.With: Paul CartledgeA G Leventis Professor of Greek Culture at Cambridge UniversityEdith HallProfessor of Classics and Drama at Royal Holloway, University of LondonNick LoweReader in Classical Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London.Producer: Thomas Morris.
Imaginary Numbers
September 22nd, 2010, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss imaginary numbers. In the sixteenth century, a group of mathematicians in Bologna found a solution to a problem that had puzzled generations before them: a completely new kind of number. For more than a century this discovery was greeted with such scepticism that the great French thinker Rene Descartes dismissed it as an "imaginary" number.The name stuck - but so did the numbers. Long dismissed as useless or even fictitious, the imaginary number i and its properties were first explored seriously in the eighteenth century. Today the imaginary numbers are in daily use by engineers, and are vital to our understanding of phenomena including electricity and radio waves. With Marcus du SautoyProfessor of Mathematics at Oxford University Ian StewartEmeritus Professor of Mathematics at the University of WarwickCaroline SeriesProfessor of Mathematics at the University of WarwickProducer: Thomas Morris.
Pliny's Natural History
July 7th, 2010, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Pliny's Natural History.Some time in the first century AD, the Roman scholar Pliny the Elder published his Naturalis Historia, or Natural History, an enormous reference work which attempted to bring together knowledge on every subject under the sun. The Natural History contains information on zoology, astronomy, geography, minerals and mining and - unusually for a work of this period - a detailed treatise on the history of classical art. It's a fascinating snapshot of the state of human knowledge almost two millennia ago.Pliny's 37-volume magnum opus is one of the most extensive works of classical scholarship to survive in its entirety, and was being consulted by scholars as late as the Renaissance. It had a significant influence on intellectual history, and has provided the template for every subsequent encyclopaedia.With:Serafina CuomoReader in Roman History at Birkbeck, University of LondonAude DoodyLecturer in Classics at University College, DublinLiba TaubReader in the History and Philosophy of Science, Cambridge UniversityProducer: Thomas Morris.
Athelstan
June 30th, 2010, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the reign of King Athelstan.Athelstan, the grandson of Alfred the Great, came to the throne of Wessex in 925. A few years later he unified the kingdoms of England, and a decade after that defeated the Scots and styled himself King of all Britain. As well as being a brilliant military commander, Athelstan was a legal reformer whose new laws forever changed the way crime was dealt with in England. Unlike his predecessors, he pursued a foreign policy, seeking alliances with powerful rulers abroad. And unusually for an Anglo-Saxon king, we know what he looked like: he's the earliest English monarch whose portrait survives.With:Sarah FootRegius Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Christ Church, OxfordJohn HinesProfessor of Archaeology at Cardiff UniversityRichard GamesonProfessor of the History of the Book at Durham UniversityProducer: Thomas Morris.
Antarctica
June 23rd, 2010, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history of Antarctica.The most southerly of the continents is the bleakest and coldest place on Earth. Almost entirely covered in ice, Antarctica spends much of the winter in total darkness.Antarctica was first named in the second century AD by the geographer Marinus of Tyre, who was one of many early geographers to speculate about the existence of a huge southern landmass to balance the known lands of northern Europe. But it wasn't until the nineteenth century that modern man laid eyes on the continent.In the intervening two hundred years the continent has been the scene for some of the most famous - and tragic - events of human exploration. In 1959 an international treaty declared Antarctica a scientific reserve, set aside for peaceful use by any nation willing to subscribe to the terms of the agreement.With: Jane FrancisProfessor of Paleoclimatology at the University of LeedsJulian DowdeswellDirector of the Scott Polar Research Institute and Professor of Physical Geography at the University of CambridgeDavid WaltonEmeritus Professor at the British Antarctic Survey and Visiting Professor at the University of Liverpool.Producer: Thomas Morris.
The Neanderthals
June 16th, 2010, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Neanderthals.In 1856, quarry workers in Germany found bones in a cave which seemed to belong to a bear or other large mammal. They were later identified as being from a previously unknown species of hominid similar to a human. The specimen was named Homo neanderthalis after the valley in which the bones were found.This was the first identified remains of a Neanderthal, a species which inhabited parts of Europe and Central Asia from around 400,000 years ago. Often depicted as little more advanced than apes, Neanderthals were in fact sophisticated, highly-evolved hunters capable of making tools and even jewellery.Scholarship has established much about how and where the Neanderthals lived - but the reasons for their disappearance from the planet around 28,000 years ago remain unclear.With: Simon Conway MorrisProfessor of Evolutionary Palaeobiology at the University of CambridgeChris Stringer Research Leader in Human Origins at the Natural History Museum and Visiting Professor at Royal Holloway, University of LondonDanielle SchreveReader in Physical Geography at Royal Holloway, University of LondonProducer: Thomas Morris.
al-Biruni
June 9th, 2010, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Central Asian polymath al-Biruni and his eleventh-century book the India.Born in around 973 in the central Asian region of Chorasmia, al-Biruni became an itinerant scholar of immense learning, a master of mathematics, medicine, astronomy and many languages. He corresponded with the age's greatest scientist, Avicenna, and made significant contributions to many fields of knowledge.In 1017 al-Biruni became a member of the court of the ruler Mahmud of Ghazna. Over the course of the next thirteen years he wrote the India, a comprehensive account of Hindu culture which was the first book about India by a Muslim scholar. It contains detailed information about Hindu religion, science and everyday life which have caused some to call it the first work of anthropology.With:James MontgomeryProfessor of Classical Arabic at the University of CambridgeHugh KennedyProfessor of Arabic in the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of LondonAmira BennisonSenior Lecturer in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at the University of CambridgeProducer: Thomas Morris.
Edmund Burke
June 2nd, 2010, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the work of the eighteenth-century philosopher, politician and writer Edmund Burke.Born in Dublin, Burke began his career in London as a journalist and made his name with two works of philosophy before entering Parliament. There he quickly established a reputation as one of the most formidable orators of an age which also included Pitt the Younger.When unrest began in America in the 1760s, Burke was quick to defend the American colonists in their uprising. But it was his response to another revolution which ensured he would be remembered by posterity. In 1790 he published Reflections on the Revolution in France, a work of great literary verve which attacked the revolutionaries and predicted disaster for their project. The book prompted Thomas Paine to write his masterpiece Rights of Man, and Mary Wollstonecraft was among the others to take part in the ensuing pamphlet war. Burke's influence shaped our parliamentary democracy and attitude to Empire, and lingers today.With:Karen O'BrienProfessor of English at the University of WarwickRichard BourkeSenior Lecturer in History at Queen Mary, University of LondonJohn KeaneProfessor of Politics at the University of SydneyProducer: Thomas Morris.
Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists
May 26th, 2010, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg discusses 'Lives of the Artists' - the great biographer Giorgio Vasari's study of Renaissance painters, sculptors and architects. In 1550 a little known Italian artist, Giorgio Vasari, published a revolutionary book entitled 'Lives of the Most Excellent Italian Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, from Cimabue to Our Times'. In it he chronicled the evolution of Italian art from the early pioneer Giotto to the perfection of Michelangelo.For the first time, Vasari set out to record artists' eccentricities and foibles as well as their artistic triumphs. We learn that the painter Piero di Cosimo was scared of the sound of bells, and witness Donatello shouting at his statues. But amongst these beguiling stories of human achievement, Vasari also explained his own theory of what made great art.In more recent decades, Vasari has been criticised for not allowing factual accuracy to get in the way of a good story. Nonetheless, the influence of his work has been unparalleled. It has formed and defined the way we think about Renaissance art to this day and some credit him with being the founder of the discipline of the history of art. Few artists that Vasari criticised have been comprehensively rehabilitated and Vasari's semi-divine trio of Michelangelo, Raphael and Leonardo are still seen as the apotheosis of artistic perfection. With:Evelyn WelchProfessor of Renaissance Studies and Academic Dean for Arts at Queen Mary, University of LondonDavid EkserdjianProfessor of History of Art and Film at the University of LeicesterMartin KempEmeritus Professor in the History of Art at the University of OxfordProducer: Thomas Morris.
The Cavendish Family in Science
May 19th, 2010, 06:00 PM
From the 1600s to the 1800s, scientific research in Britain was not yet a professional, publicly-funded career.So the wealth, status and freedom enjoyed by British aristocrats gave them the opportunity to play an important role in pushing science forwards - whether as patrons or practitioners.The Cavendish family produced a whole succession of such figures.In the 1600s, the mathematician Sir Charles Cavendish and his brother William collected telescopes and mathematical treatises, and promoted dialogue between British and Continental thinkers. They brought Margaret Cavendish, William's second wife, into their discussions and researches, and she went on to become a visionary, if eccentric, science writer, unafraid to take on towering figures of the day like Robert Hooke.In the 1700s, the brothers' cousin's great-grandson, Lord Charles Cavendish, emerged as a leading light of the Royal Society.Underpinned by his rich inheritance, Charles' son Henry became one of the great experimental scientists of the English Enlightenment.And in the 1800s, William Cavendish, Henry's cousin's grandson, personally funded the establishment of Cambridge University's Cavendish Laboratory. In subsequent decades, the Lab become the site of more great breakthroughs.With:Jim BennettDirector of the Museum of the History of Science at the University of OxfordPatricia FaraSenior Tutor of Clare College, University of CambridgeSimon SchafferProfessor of History of Science at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Darwin College, CambridgeProducer - Phil Tinline.
William James's 'The Varieties of Religious Experience'
May 12th, 2010, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss 'The Varieties of Religious Experience' by William James. The American novelist Henry James famously made London his home and himself more English than the English. In contrast, his psychologist brother, William, was deeply immersed in his American heritage. But in 1901, William came to Britain too. He had been invited to deliver a series of prestigious public lectures in Edinburgh. In them, he attempted a daringly original intellectual project. For the first time, here was a close-up examination of religion not as a body of beliefs, but as an intimate personal experience. When the lectures were printed, as 'The Varieties of Religious Experience', they were an instant success.They laid the ground for a whole new area of study - the psychology of religion - and influenced figures from the psychiatrist Carl Jung to the novelist Aldous Huxley. To date, James's book has been reprinted thirty-six times and has been hailed as one of the best non-fiction books of the twentieth century.With:Jonathan ReeFreelance philosopherJohn HaldaneProfessor of Philosophy at the University of St AndrewsGwen Griffith-DicksonEmeritus Professor of Divinity at Gresham College and Director of the Lokahi FoundationProducer: Natasha Emerson.
The Cool Universe
May 5th, 2010, 06:00 PM
The Cool Universe is the name astronomers give to the matter between the stars.These great clouds of dust and gas are not hot enough to be detected by optical telescopes.But over the last few decades, they have increasingly become the focus of infrared telescopy.Astronomers had long encountered dark, apparently starless patches in the night sky. When they discovered that these were actually areas obscured by dust, they found a way to see through these vexing barriers, using infrared telescopes, to the light beyond.However, more recently, the dust itself has become a source of fascination.The picture now being revealed by infrared astronomy is of a universe that is dynamic.In this dynamic universe, matter is recycled - and so the dust and gas of the Cool Universe play a vital role. They are the material from which the stars are created, and into which they finally disintegrate, enriching the reservoir of cool matter from which new stars will eventually be formed. As a result of the new research, we are now beginning to see first-hand the way our planet was formed when the solar system was born.With:Carolin CrawfordMember of the Institute of Astronomy, and Fellow of Emmanuel College, at the University of CambridgePaul MurdinVisiting Professor of Astronomy at Liverpool John Moores University's Astronomy Research InstituteMichael Rowan-RobinsonProfessor of Astrophysics at Imperial College, LondonProducer: Phil Tinline.
The Great Wall of China
April 28th, 2010, 06:00 PM
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Great Wall of China.The Great Wall is not a single Wall. It is not visible from space, contrary to popular belief, as it is much too thin. But it remains a spectacular architectural and historical phenomenon.The Great Wall's military importance, and its symbolic power, have varied widely in its long existence, as its place in Chinese life has shifted with the country's history. It was initially constructed at the command of the first Emperor, from 221 BC, and was a combination of the various protective walls that had been built by the smaller states which he had conquered and merged to form China. The original Wall was made of pounded earth, and in places the wind-carved remains of this two thousand year old construction are still visible. But the Wall which is familiar to us today is the work of the Ming Dynasty, and its vast programme of reinforcement - prompted by a renewed threat from the Mongols in the north. In the 17th century, amazed Jesuits sent back reports to Europe about the Wall, and ever since it has held a powerful place in the imagination of the West. Some scholars argue that this in turn has shaped the modern Chinese appreciation of their astounding inheritance.Julia LovellLecturer in Chinese History at Birkbeck College, University of LondonRana MitterProfessor of the History and Politics of Modern China at the University of OxfordFrances WoodHead of the Chinese Section at the British LibraryPRODUCER: PHIL TINLINE.