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Radio Recordings

In Our Time - Oceanography

Melvyn Bragg
With Margaret Deacon, visiting Research Fellow at Southampton Oceanography Centre and author of Scientists and the Sea, Tony Rice, Biological Oceanographer and author of Deep Ocean, Simon Schaffer, Reader in History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge, and a fellow of Darwin College.
Radio-Recordings%%%Biology%%%Geography
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In Our Time - Seventeenth Century Print Culture

Melvyn Bragg
"Away ungodly Vulgars, far away, Fly ye profane, that dare not view the day, Nor speak to men but shadows, nor would hear Of any news, but what seditious were, Hateful and harmful and ever to the best, Whispering their scandals ... " In 1614 the poet and playwright George Chapman poured scorn on the popular appetite for printed news. However, his initial scorn did not stop him from turning his pen to satisfy the public's new found appetite for scandal. From the advent of the printing press the number of books printed each year steadily increased, and so did literacy rates. With a growing and socially diverse readership appearing over the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, printed texts reflected controversy in every area of politics, society and religion. In the advent of the Civil War, print was used as the ideological battleground by the competing forces of Crown and Parliament. What sorts of printed texts were being produced? How widespread was literacy and who were the new consumers of print? Did print affect social change? And what role did print play in the momentous English Civil War?
History

In Our Time - Slavery and empire

Melvyn Bragg
Slavery and empire are two themes that run right through this country’s history. Britain’s imperial project dominated at least the last three centuries of our national life. Its advocates claim it was a civilising mission by which Britain spread enlightenment and improvement across the globe. Opponents have long seen it as a brutal business, with Britons cast as cruel oppressors out to exploit a conquered world. Is our imperial history so clear cut? What if Britons were themselves captives, either as prisoners of an imperial enterprise that sucked them in, generation after generation or, in some startling cases, as slaves to foreign peoples? Is slavery an inevitable part of empire: does it come with the territory? And how did Britain finally shake it off?
Radio-Recordings%%%History%%%Politics & Public Policy%%%Anthropology


In Our Time - Tea: an empire in a teacup

Melvyn Bragg
After air and water, tea is the most widely consumed substance on the planet and the British national drink. In this country it helped define class and gender, it funded wars and propped up the economy of the Empire. The trade started in the 1660s with an official import of just 2 ounces, by 1801 24 million pounds of tea were coming in every year and people of all classes were drinking an average two cups a day. It was the first mass commodity, and the merchant philanthropist Jonas Hanway decried its hold on the nation, “your servants' servants, down to the very beggars, will not be satisfied unless they consume the produce of the remote country of China”. What drove the extraordinary take up of tea in this country? What role did it play in the global economy of the Empire and at what point did it stop becoming an exotic foreign luxury and start to define the essence of Englishness?
History

In Our Time - The Abbasid Caliphs

Melvyn Bragg
The Abbasid Caliphs were the dynastic rulers of the Islamic world between the middle of the eighth and the tenth centuries. They headed a Muslim empire that extended from Tunisia through Egypt, Syria, Arabia, and Persia to Uzbekistan and the frontiers of India. But unlike previous conquerors, the Abbasid Caliphs presided over a multicultural empire where conversion was a relatively peaceful business. As Vikings raided the shores of Britain, the Abbasids were developing sophisticated systems of government, administration and court etiquette. Their era saw the flowering of Arabic philosophy, mathematics and Persian literature. The Abbasids were responsible for patronising the translation of Classical Greek texts and transmitting them back to a Europe emerging from the Dark Ages. So who were the Abbasid Caliphs and how did they come to power? What was their cultural significance? What factors can account for their decline and fall? And why do they represent a Golden Age of Islamic civilisation?
History

In Our Time - The Age Of Doubt

Melvyn Bragg
Melvyn Bragg examines the spread of religious doubt over the last three centuries. With A N Wilson, novelist, biographer, journalist and author of God’s Funeral; Victoria Glendinning, author, journalist and biographer of Anthony Trollope and Jonathan Swift.
History
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In Our Time - The Aristocracy

Melvyn Bragg
The Greeks gave us the word aristocracy; it takes its root from ‘aristo’, meaning best and ‘kratos’, meaning rule or power. And for more than five hundred years Britain was ruled by a class that was defined, at the time, as the best. They founded their ascendancy on the twin pillars of land and heredity and in terms of privilege, preferment, power, style and wealth, they dominated British society. As the Earl of Chesterfield confidently informed the House of Lords in the mid-18th century, “We, my lords, may thank heaven that we have something better than our brains to depend upon.” What made the British Aristocracy the most successful power elite in the world? And what brought about its decline?
History


In Our Time - The Assassination of Tsar Alexander II

Melvyn Bragg
On 1st March 1881, the Russian Tsar, Alexander II, was travelling through the snow to the Winter Palace in St Petersburg. An armed Cossack sat with the coach driver, another six Cossacks followed on horseback and behind them came a group of police officers in sledges. It was the day that the Tsar, known for his liberal reforms, had signed a document granting the first ever constitution to the Russian people. But his journey was being watched by a group of radicals called 'Narodnaya Volya' or 'The People's Will'. On a street corner near the Catherine Canal, they hurled the first of their bombs to halt the Tsar's iron-clad coach. When Alexander ignored advice and ventured out onto the snow to comfort his dying Cossacks, he was killed by another bomber who took his own life in the blast. Why did they kill the reforming Tsar? What was the political climate that inspired such extreme acts? And could this have been the moment that the Russian state started an inexorable march towards revolution?
History

In Our Time - The Aztecs

Melvyn Bragg
According to legend, the origins of the Aztec empire lie on a mythical island called Aztlan - "place of the white herons" - in the north of Mexico. From there this nomadic group of Mesoamericans are said to have undertaken a pilgrimage south to the fertile valleys of Central America. In the space of just 200 years, they formed what has been called the largest, and arguably the most ruthless, pre-Hispanic empire in North America which, at its zenith, was to rule over approximately 500 small states, comprising by the 16th century some 6 million people. Was it military might and intimidation alone that helped the Aztecs extend their power? What part did their complex belief system play in their imperial reach? Their use of human sacrifice has been well documented, but how widespread actually was it? How easily were the Spanish conquistadors able to Christianise this empire? And what legacy did the Aztecs leave behind that lives on in our world today?
History

In Our Time - The Baroque

Melvyn Bragg
Melvyn Bragg discusses the Baroque - a term used to describe a vast array of painting, music, architecture and sculpture from the 17th and 18th centuries. His guests this week are Tim Blanning, Professor of Modern European History and Fellow of Sidney Sussex College, University of Cambridge; Nigel Aston, Reader in Early Modern History at the University of Leicester; and Helen Hills, Professor of Art History at the University of York
Radio-Recordings%%%Art & Design%%%History

In Our Time - The Brain : A History

Melvyn Bragg
Despite dissections of brains both human and animal throughout the following centuries, in 1669 the Danish anatomist, Nicolaus Steno, still lamented that, “the brain, the masterpiece of creation, is almost unknown to us.” Why was the brain seen as a mystery for so long and how have our perceptions of how it works and what it symbolises changed over the centuries?
Radio-Recordings%%%Biology%%%History%%%Medical Sciences


In Our Time - The Celts

Melvyn Bragg
Around 400 BC a great swathe of Western Europe from Ireland to Southern Russia was dominated by one civilisation. Perched on the North Western fringe of this vast Iron Age culture were the British who shared many of the religious, artistic and social customs of their European neighbours. These customs were Celtic and this civilisation was the Celts. The Greek historians who studied and recorded the Celts' way of life deemed them to be one of the four great Barbarian peoples of the world. The Romans wrote vivid accounts of Celtic rituals including the practice of human sacrifice - presided over by Druids - and the tradition of decapitating their enemies and turning their heads into drinking vessels . But what were the Celts in Britain really like? Was their apparent lust for violence tempered by a love of poetry and beautiful art? How far should we trust the classical historians in their writings on the Celts? And what can we learn from the archaeological remains that have been discovered in this country?
History

In Our Time - The Consolation Of Philosophy

Melvyn Bragg
The Consolation of Philosophy was read widely and a sense of consolation is woven into many philosophical ideas, but what for Boethius were the consolations of philosophy, what are they more generally and should philosophy lead us to consolation or lead us from it?
History

In Our Time - The Diet of Worms

Diarmaid MacCulloch, David Bagchi & Charlotte Methuen
Nestled on a bend of the River Rhine, in the South West corner of Germany, is the City of Worms. It’s one of the oldest cities in central Europe; it still has its early city walls, its 11th century Romanesque cathedral and a 500-year-old printing industry, but in its centre is a statue of the monk, heretic and founder of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther. In 1521 Luther came to Worms to explain his attacks on the Catholic Church to the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, and the gathered dignitaries of the German lands. What happened at that meeting, called the Diet of Worms, tore countries apart, set nation against nation, felled kings and plunged dynasties into suicidal bouts of infighting. But why did Martin Luther risk execution to go to the Diet, what was at stake for the big players of medieval Europe and how did events at the Diet of Worms irrevocably change the history of Europe?
Radio-Recordings%%%History%%%Humanities

In Our Time - The East India Company

Melvyn Bragg
At its peak, its influence stretched from western India to eastern China via the farthest reaches of the Indonesian archipelago. It had a fleet of 130 twelve hundred tonne ships and commanded an army of 200,000 troops that came to dominate the Indian subcontinent. It funded governments, toppled princes and generated spectacular amounts of money from trading textiles and spices. But this wasn’t an empire, it wasn’t even a state, it was a company. The East India Company, founded in 1600, lasted for 258 years before the British state gained full control of its activities. In that time it had redrawn the map of India, built an empire and reinvented the fashions and the foodstuffs of Britain. But how did the East India Company become so powerful? How did it change both India and Britain and how was the idea of a company running a country ever accepted by the British Crown?
History

In Our Time - The Empire of Genghis Khan

Peter Jackson, Naomi Standen & George Lane
Temujin was cast out by his tribe when he was just a child and left to struggle for survival on the harsh Steppes of what is now Mongolia. From these humble beginnings he went on to become Genghis Khan, leader of the greatest continuous land-based empire the world has ever seen. His conquered territories stretched from the Caspian Sea to the borders of Manchuria, from the Siberian forest to what is now Afghanistan. He was a charismatic commander and a shrewd military tactician. He was swift to promote those who served him well, ignoring race or creed, but vengeful to those who crossed him, killing every inhabitant of a resistant town, even the cats and dogs. Generally regarded as barbarians by their enemies, the Mongol armies were in fact disciplined and effective. So how did Genghis create such an impressive fighting force? How did he draw together such diverse peoples to create a wealthy and successful Empire? And what was his legacy for the territories he conquered?
History

In Our Time - The Encyclopédie

Melvyn Bragg
This week we explore the mammoth undertaking that was the Encyclopédie – one of its editors, D’Alembert, described its mission as giving an overview of knowledge, as if gazing down on a vast labyrinth of all the branches of human knowledge, observing where they separate or unite and even catching sight of the secret routes between them. It was a project that attracted some of the greatest thinkers of the Enlightenment - Voltaire, Rousseau and Diderot - striving to bring together all that was known of the world in one comprehensive encyclopedia. No subject was too great or too small, so while Voltaire wrote of “fantasie” and “elegance”, Diderot rolled up his sleeves and got to grips with trades and crafts, even jam-making. The resulting Encyclopédie was a bestseller - running to 28 volumes over more than 20 years, amidst censorship, bans, betrayals and reprieves. It even got them excited on this side of the Channel, with subscribers including Oliver Goldsmith, Samuel Johnson and Charles Burney. So what drove these men to such lengths that they were prepared to risk ridicule, prison, even exile? How did the Encyclopédie embody the values of the Enlightenment? And what was its legacy – did it really fuel the French Revolution?
History

In Our Time - The Great Exhibition

Jeremy Black, Hermione Hobhouse & Clive Emsley
By the time the exhibition closed, one quarter of the entire British population had visited Crystal Palace, the first pre-fabricated building of its kind, to marvel at an extraordinary array of exhibits amongst which were: the biggest diamond in the world, a carriage drawn by kites, furniture made of coal, and a set of artificial teeth fitted with a swivel devise which allowed the user to yawn without displacing them. Its impact was huge in terms of the development of British manufacturing, the burgeoning of a global consumer market, the development of museums and the international standing of Britain culturally and technologically. How did the Exhibition crystallise a particular moment in early Victorian Britain? In what way did it capitalise on the dawn of mass travel and greater levels of international co-operation? How did fears of revolutionary Europe define the policing and organisation of the event? And how far, if at all, did the Great Exhibition go in blurring class distinctions?
History

In Our Time - The Great Fire Of London

Melvyn Bragg
The Great Fire of London was a conflagration of unimaginable proportions – up to a third of the city was destroyed – but the burning of London, the interpretation of the fire and the arguments and ideas about what should be rebuilt give an insight into a city and a period that housed the Royal Society and the restored Stuart monarchy, a place of religious anxiety and fear of foreign invasion in a country still haunted by the Civil War.
History

In Our Time - The Great Reform Act

Melvyn Bragg
Mevlyn Bragg discusses the Great Reform Act of 1832, a landmark on the road to British democracy. Melvyn is joined by Dinah Birch, Professor of English at Liverpool University; Michael Bentley, Professor of Modern History at the University of St Andrews; and Catherine Hall, Professor of Modern British Social and Cultural History at University College London.
Radio-Recordings%%%History%%%Politics & Public Policy

In Our Time - The Jesuits

Melvyn Bragg
Today we’re discussing the Jesuits, a Catholic religious order of priests who became known as “the school masters of Europe”. Founded in the 16th century by the soldier Ignatius Loyola, they became a major force throughout the world, from China to South America. “Give us a boy and we will return you a man, a citizen of his country and a child of God”, they declared. By the 17th century there were more than 500 schools established across Europe. Their ideas about a standardised curriculum and teaching became the basis for many education systems today. They were also among the greatest patrons of art in early modern Europe, using murals and theatre to get their message across. However, their alleged influence over monarchs, their wealth and their adaptability to local customs abroad provoked suspicion, prompting their eventual suppression in the late 18th century. They were re-established in 1814 and now have more than twenty thousand members. So why was education so important to the Jesuit movement? How much influence did they really have in the courts of Europe and in the colonies? And were they really at the heart of conspiracies to murder kings?
History


In Our Time - The Mughal Empire

Melvyn Bragg
At its height, the Mughal Empire stretched from Bengal in the East to Gujarat in the West, and from Lahore in the North to Madras in the South. It covered the whole of present day northern India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, and became famous for the Taj Mahal, the Koh-i-Noor and the Peacock Throne. In 1631 a Dutch naturalist Johannes de Laet published his account of the vast Empire, “the nobles live in indescribable luxury and extravagance, caring only to indulge themselves whilst they can, in every kind of pleasure. Their greatest magnificence is in their women’s quarters, for they marry three or four wives or sometimes more”. But were they really the opulent despots of European imagination? If so, how did they maintain such a vast territory? And to what extent was the success of the British Raj a legacy of their rule?
History

In Our Time - The Music of the Spheres

Melvyn Bragg
Melvyn Bragg considers the celestial harmonies of the planets, a Pythagorean concept which fascinated astrologists, artists and mathematicians for centuries. He is joined by Peter Forshaw, Postdoctoral Fellow at Birkbeck, University of London
History