Show cover of In Our Time: History

In Our Time: History

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

Tracks

The Theory of the Leisure Class
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the most influential work of Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929). In 1899, during America’s Gilded Age, Veblen wrote The Theory of the Leisure Class as a reminder that all that glisters is not gold. He picked on traits of the waning landed class of Americans and showed how the new moneyed class was adopting these in ways that led to greater waste throughout society. He called these conspicuous leisure and conspicuous consumption and he developed a critique of a system that favoured profits for owners without regard to social good. The Theory of the Leisure Class was a best seller and funded Veblen for the rest of his life, and his ideas influenced the New Deal of the 1930s. Since then, an item that becomes more desirable as it becomes more expensive is known as a Veblen good. With Matthew Watson Professor of Political Economy at the University of WarwickBill Waller Professor of Economics at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, New YorkAndMary Wrenn Senior Lecturer in Economics at the University of the West of EnglandProducer: Simon TillotsonReading list:Charles Camic, Veblen: The Making of an Economist who Unmade Economics (Harvard University Press, 2021)John P. Diggins, Thorstein Veblen: Theorist of the Leisure Class (Princeton University Press, 1999)John P. Diggins, The Bard of Savagery: Thorstein Veblen and Modern Social Theory (Seabury Press, 1978)John Kenneth Galbraith, The Affluent Society (Penguin, 1999) Robert Heilbroner, The Worldly Philosophers: The Lives, Times and Ideas of the Great Economic Thinkers (Penguin, 2000), particularly the chapter ‘The Savage Society of Thorstein Veblen’Ken McCormick, Veblen in Plain English: A Complete Introduction to Thorstein Veblen’s Economics (Cambria Press, 2006)Sidney Plotkin and Rick Tilman, The Political Ideas of Thorstein Veblen (Yale University Press, 2012)Juliet B. Schor, The Overspent American: Why We Want What We Don't Need (William Morrow & Company, 1999)Juliet B. Schor, Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture (Simon & Schuster Ltd, 2005)Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class (first published 1899; Oxford University Press, 2009)Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of Business Enterprise (first published 1904; Legare Street Press, 2022)Thorstein Veblen, The Higher Learning in America (first published 2018; Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015) Thorstein Veblen, Absentee Ownership and Business Enterprise in Recent Times: The Case of America (first published 1923; Routledge, 2017)Thorstein Veblen, Conspicuous Consumption (Penguin, 2005)Thorstein Veblen, The Complete Works (Musaicum Books, 2017)Charles J. Whalen (ed.), Institutional Economics: Perspective and Methods in Pursuit of a Better World (Routledge, 2021)
55:32 14/12/2023
The Barbary Corsairs
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the North African privateers who, until their demise in the nineteenth century, were a source of great pride and wealth in their home ports, where they sold the people and goods they’d seized from Christian European ships and coastal towns. Nominally, these corsairs were from Algiers, Tunis or Tripoli, outreaches of the Ottoman empire, or Salé in neighbouring Morocco, but often their Turkish or Arabic names concealed their European birth. Murad Reis the Younger, for example, who sacked Baltimore in 1631, was the Dutchman Jan Janszoon who also had a base on Lundy in the Bristol Channel. While the European crowns negotiated treaties to try to manage relations with the corsairs, they commonly viewed these sailors as pirates who were barely tolerated and, as soon as France, Britain, Spain and later America developed enough sea power, their ships and bases were destroyed. WithJoanna Nolan Research Associate at SOAS, University of LondonClaire Norton Former Associate Professor of History at St Mary’s University, TwickenhamAnd Michael Talbot Associate Professor in the History of the Ottoman Empire and the Modern Middle East at the University of GreenwichProducer: Simon Tillotson Reading list:Robert C. Davis, Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast and Italy, 1500-1800 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004)Peter Earle, Corsairs of Malta and Barbary (Sidgwick and Jackson, 1970) Des Ekin, The Stolen Village: Baltimore and the Barbary Pirates (O’Brien Press, 2008)Jacques Heers, The Barbary Corsairs: Warfare in the Mediterranean, 1450-1580 (Skyhorse Publishing, 2018)Colin Heywood, The Ottoman World: The Mediterranean and North Africa, 1660-1760 (Routledge, 2019)Alan Jamieson, Lords of the Sea: A History of the Barbary Corsairs (Reaktion Books, 2013)Julie Kalman, The Kings of Algiers: How Two Jewish Families Shaped the Mediterranean World during the Napoleonic Wars and Beyond (Princeton University Press, 2023)Stanley Lane-Poole, The Story of the Barbary Corsairs (T. Unwin, 1890)Sally Magnusson, The Sealwoman’s Gift (A novel - Two Roads, 2018)Philip Mansel, Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean (John Murray, 2010)Nabil Matar, Turks, Moors and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery (Columbia University Press, 1999)Nabil Matar, Britain and Barbary, 1589-1689 (University Press of Florida, 2005)Giles Milton, White Gold: The Extraordinary Story of Thomas Pellow and North Africa’s One Million European Slaves (Hodder and Stoughton, 2004)Claire Norton (ed.), Conversion and Islam in the Early Modern Mediterranean: The Lure of the Other (Routledge, 2017)Claire Norton, ‘Lust, Greed, Torture and Identity: Narrations of Conversion and the Creation of the Early Modern 'Renegade' (Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 29/2, 2009) Daniel Panzac, The Barbary Corsairs: The End of a Legend, 1800-1820 (Brill, 2005)Rafael Sabatini, The Sea Hawk (a novel - Vintage Books, 2011)Adrian Tinniswood, Pirates of Barbary: Corsairs, Conquests and Captivity in the 17th century (Vintage Books, 2010)D. Vitkus (ed.), Piracy, Slavery and Redemption: Barbary Captivity Narratives from Early Modern England (Columbia University Press, 2001)J. M. White, Piracy and Law in the Ottoman Mediterranean (Stanford University Press, 2018)
52:59 07/12/2023
The Federalist Papers
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay's essays written in 1787/8 in support of the new US Constitution. They published these anonymously in New York as 'Publius' but, when it became known that Hamilton and Madison were the main authors, the essays took on a new significance for all states. As those two men played a major part in drafting the Constitution itself, their essays have since informed debate over what the authors of that Constitution truly intended. To some, the essays have proved to be America’s greatest contribution to political thought.WithFrank Cogliano Professor of American History at the University of Edinburgh and Interim Saunders Director of the International Centre for Jefferson Studies at MonticelloKathleen Burk Professor Emerita of Modern and Contemporary History at University College LondonAndNicholas Guyatt Professor of North American History at the University of CambridgeProducer: Simon TillotsonReading list: Bernard Bailyn, To Begin the World Anew: The Genius and Ambiguities of the American Founders (Knopf, 2003)Mary Sarah Bilder, Madison’s Hand: Revising the Constitutional Convention (Harvard University Press, 2015)Noah Feldman, The Three Lives of James Madison: Genius, Partisan, President (Random House, 2017)Jonathan Gienapp, The Second Creation: Fixing the American Constitution in the Founding Era (Harvard University Press, 2018)Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, James Madison (eds. George W. Carey and James McClellan), The Federalist: The Gideon Edition (Liberty Fund, 2001)Alison L. LaCroix, The Ideological Origins of American Federalism (Harvard University Press, 2010)James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, The Federalist Papers (Penguin, 1987)Pauline Maier, Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788 (Simon and Schuster, 2010)Michael I. Meyerson, Liberty's Blueprint: How Madison and Hamilton Wrote the Federalist Papers, Defined the Constitution, and Made Democracy Safe for the World (Basic Books, 2008)Jack Rakove, Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution (Knopf, 1996)Jack N. Rakove and Colleen A. Sheehan, The Cambridge Companion to The Federalist (Cambridge University Press, 2020)
50:41 09/11/2023
The Economic Consequences of the Peace
In an extended version of the programme that was broadcast, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the influential book John Maynard Keynes wrote in 1919 after he resigned in protest from his role at the Paris Peace Conference. There the victors of World War One were deciding the fate of the defeated, especially Germany and Austria-Hungary, and Keynes wanted the world to know his view that the economic consequences would be disastrous for all. Soon Germany used his book to support their claim that the Treaty was grossly unfair, a sentiment that fed into British appeasement in the 1930s and has since prompted debate over whether Keynes had only warned of disaster or somehow contributed to it.WithMargaret MacMillan Emeritus Professor of International History at the University of OxfordMichael Cox Emeritus Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Founding Director of LSE IDEASAnd Patricia Clavin Professor of Modern History at the University of OxfordProducer: Simon TillotsonReading list:Manfred F. Boemeke, Gerald D. Feldman and Elisabeth Glaser (eds.), The Treaty of Versailles: A Reassessment after 75 Years (Cambridge University Press, 1998)Zachary D. Carter, The Price of Peace: Money, Democracy and the Life of John Maynard Keynes (Random House, 2020) Peter Clarke, Keynes: The Twentieth Century’s Most Influential Economist (Bloomsbury, 2009) Patricia Clavin et al (eds.), Keynes’s Economic Consequences of the Peace after 100 Years: Polemics and Policy (Cambridge University Press, 2023) Patricia Clavin, ‘Britain and the Making of Global Order after 1919: The Ben Pimlott Memorial Lecture’ (Twentieth Century British History, Vol. 31:3, 2020)Richard Davenport-Hines, Universal Man; The Seven Lives of John Maynard Keynes (William Collins, 2015)R. F. Harrod, John Maynard Keynes (first published 1951; Pelican, 1972)Jens Holscher and Matthias Klaes (eds), Keynes’s Economic Consequences of the Peace: A Reappraisal (Pickering & Chatto, 2014)John Maynard Keynes (with an introduction by Michael Cox), The Economic Consequences of the Peace (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019)Margaret MacMillan, Peacemakers: Six Months that Changed the World (John Murray Publishers, 2001)Etienne Mantoux, The Carthaginian Peace or the Economic Consequences of Mr. Keynes (Oxford University Press, 1946) D. E. Moggridge, Maynard Keynes: An Economist’s Biography (Routledge, 1992) Alan Sharp, Versailles 1919: A Centennial Perspective (Haus Publishing Ltd, 2018)Robert Skidelsky, John Maynard Keynes, 1883-1946 (Pan Macmillan, 2004) Jürgen Tampke, A Perfidious Distortion of History: The Versailles Peace Treaty and the Success of the Nazis (Scribe UK, 2017) Adam Tooze, The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931 (Penguin Books, 2015)
66:09 26/10/2023
Louis XIV: The Sun King
In 1661 the 23 year-old French king Louis the XIV had been on the throne for 18 years when his chief minister, Cardinal Mazarin, died. Louis is reported to have said to his ministers, “It is now time that I govern my affairs myself. You will assist me with your counsels when I ask for them [but] I order you to seal no orders except by my command… I order you not to sign anything, not even a passport, without my command, and to render account to me personally each day”So began the personal rule of Louis XIV, which lasted a further 54 years until his death in 1715. From his newly-built palace at Versailles, Louis was able to project an image of himself as the centre of gravity around which all of France revolved: it’s no accident that he became known as the Sun King. He centralized power to the extent he was able to say ‘L’etat c’est moi’: I am the state. Under his rule France became the leading diplomatic, military and cultural power in Europe.WithCatriona Seth Marshal Foch Professor of French Literature at the University of OxfordGuy Rowlands Professor of Early Modern History at the University of St AndrewsandPenny Roberts Professor of Early Modern History at the University of WarwickProducer: Luke Mulhall
47:25 22/06/2023
The Shimabara Rebellion
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Christian uprising in Japan and its profound and long-term consequences. In the 1630s, Japan was ruled by the Tokagawa Shoguns, a military dynasty who, 30 years earlier, had unified the country, ending around two centuries of civil war. In 1637 a rebellion broke out in the province of Shimabara, in the south of the country. It was a peasants’ revolt, following years of bad harvests in which the local lord had refused to lower taxes. Many of the rebels were Christians, and they fought under a Christian banner. The central government’s response was merciless. They met the rebels with an army of 150 000 men, possibly the largest force assembled anywhere in the world during the Early Modern period. Once the rebellion had been suppressed, the Shogun enforced a ban on Christianity and expelled nearly all foreigners from the country. Japan remained more or less completely sealed off from the rest of the world for the next 250 years. With Satona Suzuki Lecturer in Japanese and Modern Japanese History at SOAS, University of LondonErica Baffelli Professor of Japanese Studies at the University of Manchester and Christopher Harding Senior Lecturer in Asian History at the University of EdinburghProducer Luke Mulhall
48:03 08/06/2023
The Battle of Crécy
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the brutal events of 26 August 1346, when the armies of France and England met in a funnel-shaped valley outside the town of Crécy in northern France. Although the French, led by Philip VI, massively outnumbered the English, under the command of Edward III, the English won the battle, and French casualties were huge. The English victory is often attributed to the success of their longbowmen against the heavy cavalry of the French. The Battle of Crécy was the result of years of simmering tension between Edward III and Philip VI, and it led to decades of further conflict between England and France, a conflict that came to be known as the Hundred Years War. WithAnne Curry Emeritus Professor of Medieval History at the University of Southampton Andrew Ayton Senior Research Fellow in History at Keele Universityand Erika Graham-Goering Lecturer in Late Medieval History at Durham UniversityProducer Luke Mulhall
50:49 11/05/2023
Cnut
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Danish prince who became a very effective King of England in 1016. Cnut inherited a kingdom in a sorry state. The north and east coast had been harried by Viking raiders, and his predecessor King Æthelred II had struggled to maintain order amongst the Anglo-Saxon nobility too. Cnut proved to be skilful ruler. Not only did he bring stability and order to the kingdom, he exported the Anglo-Saxon style of centralised government to Denmark. Under Cnut, England became the cosmopolitan centre of a multi-national North Atlantic Empire, and a major player in European politics. With Erin Goeres Associate Professor of Old Norse Language and Literature at University College LondonPragya Vohra Lecturer in Medieval History at the University of Yorkand Elizabeth Tyler Professor of Medieval Literature and Co-Director of the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of York Producer Luke Mulhall
51:10 04/05/2023
Mercantilism
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how, between the 16th and 18th centuries, Europe was dominated by an economic way of thinking called mercantilism. The key idea was that exports should be as high as possible and imports minimised. For more than 300 years, almost every ruler and political thinker was a mercantilist. Eventually, economists including Adam Smith, in his ground-breaking work of 1776 The Wealth of Nations, declared that mercantilism was a flawed concept and it became discredited. However, a mercantilist economic approach can still be found in modern times and today’s politicians sometimes still use rhetoric related to mercantilism. WithD’Maris Coffman Professor in Economics and Finance of the Built Environment at University College London Craig Muldrew Professor of Social and Economic History at the University of Cambridge and a Member of Queens’ Collegeand Helen Paul, Lecturer in Economics and Economic History at the University of Southampton.Producer Luke Mulhall
57:33 13/04/2023
Megaliths
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss megaliths - huge stones placed in the landscape, often visually striking and highly prominent. Such stone monuments in Britain and Ireland mostly date from the Neolithic period, and the most ancient are up to 6,000 years old. In recent decades, scientific advances have enabled archaeologists to learn a large amount about megalithic structures and the people who built them, but much about these stones remains unknown and mysterious. With Vicki Cummings Professor of Neolithic Archaeology at the University of Central LancashireJulian Thomas Professor of Archaeology at the University of Manchester and Susan Greaney Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Exeter.
50:26 30/03/2023
Chartism
On 21 May 1838 an estimated 150,000 people assembled on Glasgow Green for a mass demonstration. There they witnessed the launch of the People’s Charter, a list of demands for political reform. The changes they called for included voting by secret ballot, equal-sized constituencies and, most importantly, that all men should have the vote. The Chartists, as they came to be known, were the first national mass working-class movement. In the decade that followed, they collected six million signatures for their Petitions to Parliament: all were rejected, but their campaign had a significant and lasting impact. With Joan Allen Visiting Fellow in History at Newcastle University and Chair of the Society for the Study of Labour HistoryEmma Griffin Professor of Modern British History at the University of East Anglia and President of the Royal Historical Society and Robert Saunders Reader in Modern British History at Queen Mary, University of London.The image above shows a Chartist mass meeting on Kennington Common in London in April 1848.
51:01 09/03/2023
Tycho Brahe
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the pioneering Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe (1546 – 1601) whose charts offered an unprecedented level of accuracy.In 1572 Brahe's observations of a new star challenged the idea, inherited from Aristotle, that the heavens were unchanging. He went on to create his own observatory complex on the Danish island of Hven, and there, working before the invention of the telescope, he developed innovative instruments and gathered a team of assistants, taking a highly systematic approach to observation. A second, smaller source of renown was his metal prosthetic nose, which he needed after a serious injury sustained in a duel. The image above shows Brahe aged 40, from the Atlas Major by Johann Blaeu. With Ole Grell Emeritus Professor in Early Modern History at the Open University Adam Mosley Associate Professor of History at Swansea University and Emma Perkins Affiliate Scholar in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge.
53:35 02/03/2023
The Great Stink
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the stench from the River Thames in the hot summer of 1858 and how it appalled and terrified Londoners living and working beside it, including those in the new Houses of Parliament which were still under construction. There had been an outbreak of cholera a few years before in which tens of thousands had died, and a popular theory held that foul smells were linked to diseases. The source of the problem was that London's sewage, once carted off to fertilise fields had recently, thanks to the modern flushing systems, started to flow into the river and, thanks to the ebb and flow of the tides, was staying there and warming in the summer sun. The engineer Joseph Bazalgette was given the task to build huge new sewers to intercept the waste, a vast network, so changing the look of London and helping ensure there were no further cholera outbreaks from contaminated water.The image above is from Punch, July 10th 1858 and it has this caption: The 'Silent Highway'-Man. "Your Money or your Life!"WithRosemary Ashton Emeritus Quain Professor of English Language and Literature at University College LondonStephen Halliday Author of ‘The Great Stink of London: Sir Joseph Bazalgette and the Cleansing of the Victorian Metropolis’AndPaul Dobraszczyk Lecturer at the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London
50:12 26/01/2023
The Irish Rebellion of 1798
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the momentum behind rebellion in Ireland in 1798, the people behind the rebellion and the impact over the next few years and after. Amid wider unrest, the United Irishmen set the rebellion on its way, inspired by the French and American revolutionaries and their pursuit of liberty. When it broke out in May the United Irishmen had an estimated two hundred thousand members, Catholic and Protestant, and the prospect of a French invasion fleet to back them. Crucially for the prospects of success, some of those members were British spies who exposed the plans and the military were largely ready - though not in Wexford where the scale of rebellion was much greater. The fighting was initially fierce and brutal and marked with sectarianism but had largely been suppressed by the time the French arrived in August to declare a short-lived republic. The consequences of the rebellion were to be far reaching, not least in the passing of Acts of Union in 1800.The image above is of Theobald Wolfe Tone (1763 - 1798), prominent member of the United IrishmenWith Ian McBride Foster Professor of Irish History at Hertford College, University of OxfordCatriona Kennedy Senior Lecturer in Modern History at the University of YorkAnd Liam Chambers Head of Department and Senior Lecturer in History at Mary Immaculate College, LimerickProducer: Simon Tillotson
55:25 05/01/2023
Demosthenes' Philippics
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the speeches that became a byword for fierce attacks on political opponents. It was in the 4th century BC, in Athens, that Demosthenes delivered these speeches against the tyrant Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great, when Philip appeared a growing threat to Athens and its allies and Demosthenes feared his fellow citizens were set on appeasement. In what became known as The Philippics, Demosthenes tried to persuade Athenians to act against Macedon before it was too late; eventually he succeeded in stirring them, even if the Macedonians later prevailed. For these speeches prompting resistance, Demosthenes became famous as one of the Athenian democracy’s greatest freedom fighters. Later, in Rome, Cicero's attacks on Mark Antony were styled on Demosthenes and these too became known as Philippics.The image above is painted on the dome of the library of the National Assembly, Paris and is by Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863). It depicts Demosthenes haranguing the waves of the sea as a way of strengthening his voice for his speeches.With Paul Cartledge A. G. Leventis Senior Research Fellow at Clare College, University of CambridgeKathryn Tempest Reader in Latin Literature and Roman History at the University of RoehamptonAndJon Hesk Reader in Greek and Classical Studies at the University of St AndrewsProducer: Simon Tillotson
56:56 15/12/2022
The Morant Bay Rebellion
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the rebellion that broke out in Jamaica on 11th October 1865 when Paul Bogle (1822-65) led a protest march from Stony Gut to the courthouse in nearby Morant Bay. There were many grounds for grievance that day and soon anger turned to bloodshed. Although the British had abolished slavery 30 years before, the plantation owners were still dominant and the conditions for the majority of people on Jamaica were poor. The British governor suppressed this rebellion brutally and soon people in Jamaica lost what right they had to rule themselves. Some in Britain, like Charles Dickens, supported the governor's actions while others, like Charles Darwin, wanted him tried for murder. The image above is from a Jamaican $2 banknote, printed after Paul Bogle became a National Hero in 1969.With Matthew J Smith Professor of History and Director of the Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slavery at University College LondonDiana Paton The William Robertson Professor of History at the University of EdinburghAndLawrence Goldman Emeritus Fellow in History at St Peter’s College, University of OxfordProducer: Simon Tillotson
53:42 01/12/2022
The Knights Templar
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the military order founded around 1119, twenty years after the Crusaders captured Jerusalem. For almost 200 years the Knights Templar were a notable fighting force and financial power in the Crusader States and Western Europe. Their mission was to protect pilgrims in the Holy Land, and they became extremely wealthy yet, as the crusader grip on Jerusalem slipped, their political fortune declined steeply. They were to be persecuted out of existence, with their last grand master burned at the stake in Paris in 1314, and that sudden end has contributed to the strength of the legends that have grown up around them.WithHelen Nicholson Professor of Medieval History at Cardiff UniversityMike Carr Lecturer in Late Medieval History at the University of EdinburghAnd Jonathan Phillips Professor of Crusading History at Royal Holloway, University of LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson
49:59 03/11/2022
Angkor Wat
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the largest and arguably the most astonishing religious structure on Earth, built for Suryavarman II in the 12th Century in modern-day Cambodia. It is said to have more stone in it than the Great Pyramid of Giza, and much of the surface is intricately carved and remarkably well preserved. For the last 900 years Angkor Wat has been a centre of religion, whether Hinduism, Buddhism or Animism or a combination of those, and a source of wonder to Cambodians and visitors from around the world.WithPiphal Heng Postdoctoral scholar at the Cotsen Institute and the Programme for Early Modern Southeast Asia at UCLAAshley Thompson Hiram W Woodward Chair of Southeast Asian Art at SOAS University of LondonAndSimon Warrack A stone conservator who has worked extensively at Angkor WatProducer: Simon Tillotson
49:18 21/07/2022
Comenius
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Czech educator Jan Amos Komenský (1592-1670) known throughout Europe in his lifetime under the Latin version of his name, Comenius. A Protestant and member of the Unity of Brethren, he lived much of his life in exile, expelled from his homeland under the Catholic Counter-Reformation, and he wanted to address the deep antagonisms underlying the wars that were devastating Europe especially The Thirty Years War (1618-1648). A major part of his plan was Universal Education, in which everyone could learn about everything, and better understand each other and so tolerate their religious differences and live side by side. His ideas were to have a lasting influence on education, even though the peace that followed the Thirty Years War only entrenched the changes in his homeland that made his life there impossible.The image above is from a portrait of Comenius by Jürgen Ovens, 1650 - 1670, painted while he was living in Amsterdam and held in the RikjsmuseumWithVladimir Urbanek Senior Researcher in the Department of Comenius Studies and Early Modern Intellectual History at the Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of SciencesSuzanna Ivanic Lecturer in Early Modern European History at the University of KentAndHoward Hotson Professor of Early Modern Intellectual History at the University of Oxford and Fellow of St Anne’s CollegeProducer: Simon Tillotson
56:32 16/06/2022
The Davidian Revolution
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the impact of David I of Scotland (c1084-1153) on his kingdom and on neighbouring lands. The youngest son of Malcolm III, he was raised in exile in the Anglo-Norman court and became Earl of Huntingdon and Prince of Cumbria before claiming the throne in 1124. He introduced elements of what he had learned in England and, in the next decades, his kingdom saw new burghs, new monasteries, new ways of governing and the arrival of some very influential families, earning him the reputation of The Perfect King.With Richard Oram Professor of Medieval and Environmental History at the University of StirlingAlice Taylor Professor of Medieval History at King’s College LondonAndAlex Woolf Senior Lecturer in History at the University of St AndrewsProducer: Simon Tillotson
50:16 02/06/2022
Olympe de Gouges
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the French playwright who, in 1791, wrote The Declaration of the Rights of Woman and of the Female Citizen. This was Olympe de Gouges (1748-93) and she was responding to The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen from 1789, the start of the French Revolution which, by excluding women from these rights, had fallen far short of its apparent goals. Where the latter declared ‘men are born equal’, she asserted ‘women are born equal to men,’ adding, ‘since women are allowed to mount the scaffold, they should also be allowed to stand in parliament and defend their rights’. Two years later this playwright, novelist, activist and woman of letters did herself mount the scaffold, two weeks after Marie Antoinette, for the crime of being open to the idea of a constitutional monarchy and, for two hundred years, her reputation died with her, only to be revived with great vigour in the last 40 years.With Catriona Seth Marshal Foch Professor of French Literature at the University of OxfordKatherine Astbury Professor of French Studies at the University of WarwickAndSanja Perovic Reader in 18th century French studies at King’s College LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson
49:10 19/05/2022
Homo erectus
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of our ancestors, Homo erectus, who thrived on Earth for around two million years whereas we, Homo sapiens, emerged only in the last three hundred thousand years. Homo erectus, or Upright Man, spread from Africa to Asia and it was on the Island of Java that fossilised remains were found in 1891 in an expedition led by Dutch scientist Eugène Dubois. Homo erectus people adapted to different habitats, ate varied food, lived in groups, had stamina to outrun their prey; and discoveries have prompted many theories on the relationship between their diet and the size of their brains, on their ability as seafarers, on their creativity and on their ability to speak and otherwise communicate.The image above is from a diorama at the Moesgaard Museum in Denmark, depicting the Turkana Boy referred to in the programme. With Peter Kjærgaard Director of the Natural History Museum of Denmark and Professor of Evolutionary History at the University of CopenhagenJosé Joordens Senior Researcher in Human Evolution at Naturalis Biodiversity Centre and Professor of Human Evolution at Maastricht UniversityAndMark Maslin Professor of Earth System Science at University College LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson
51:03 12/05/2022
The Arthashastra
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ancient Sanskrit text the Arthashastra, regarded as one of the major works of Indian literature. Written in the style of a scientific treatise, it provides rulers with a guide on how to govern their territory and sets out what the structure, economic policy and foreign affairs of the ideal state should be. According to legend, it was written by Chanakya, a political advisor to the ruler Chandragupta Maurya (reigned 321 – 297 BC) who founded the Mauryan Empire, the first great Empire in the Indian subcontinent. As the Arthashastra asserts that a ruler should pursue his goals ruthlessly by whatever means is required, it has been compared with the 16th-century work The Prince by Machiavelli. Today, it is widely viewed as presenting a sophisticated and refined analysis of the nature, dynamics and challenges of rulership, and scholars value it partly because it undermines colonial stereotypes of what early South Asian society was like. WithJessica Frazier Lecturer in the Study of Religion at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Hindu StudiesJames Hegarty Professor of Sanskrit and Indian Religions at Cardiff University And Deven Patel Associate Professor of South Asia Studies at the University of PennsylvaniaProducer: Simon Tillotson
56:09 31/03/2022
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01:00 04/03/2022
Peter Kropotkin
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Russian prince who became a leading anarchist and famous scientist. Kropotkin (1842 - 1921) was born into privilege, very much in the highest circle of Russian society as a pageboy for the Tsar, before he became a republican in childhood and dropped the title 'Prince'. While working in Siberia, he started reading about anarchism and that radicalised him further, as did his observations of Siberian villagers supporting each other without (or despite) a role for the State. He made a name for himself as a geographer but soon his politics landed him in jail in St Petersburg, from which he escaped to exile in England where he was fêted, with growing fame leading to lecture tours in the USA. His time in Siberia also inspired his ideas on the importance of mutual aid in evolution, a counter to the dominant idea from Darwin and Huxley that life was a gladiatorial combat in which only the fittest survived. Kropotkin became such a towering figure in public life that, returning to Russia, he was able to challenge Lenin without reprisal, and Lenin in turn permitted his enormous public funeral there, attended by 20,000 mourners.With Ruth Kinna Professor of Political Theory at Loughborough UniversityLee Dugatkin Professor of Biology at the University of LouisvilleAndSimon Dixon The Sir Bernard Pares Professor of Russian History at University College London
51:53 24/02/2022
The Temperance Movement
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the momentum behind teetotalism in 19th Century Britain, when calls for moderation gave way to complete abstinence in pursuit of a better life. Although arguments for temperance had been made throughout the British Isles beforehand, the story of the organised movement in Britain is often said to have started in 1832 in Preston, when Joseph Livesey and seven others gave a pledge to abstain. The movement grew quickly, with Temperance Halls appearing as new social centres in towns in place of pubs, and political parties being drawn into taking sides either to support abstinence or impose it or reject it. The image above, which appeared in The Teetotal Progressionist in 1852, is an example of the way in which images contained many points of temperance teaching, and is © Copyright Livesey Collection at the University of Central Lancashire. WithAnnemarie McAllister Senior Research Fellow in History at the University of Central LancashireJames Kneale Associate Professor in Geography at University College LondonAndDavid Beckingham Associate Professor in Cultural and Historical Geography at the University of NottinghamProducer: Simon Tillotson
52:25 03/02/2022
The Gold Standard
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the system that flourished from 1870 when gold became dominant and more widely available, following gold rushes in California and Australia. Banknotes could be exchanged for gold at central banks, the coins in circulation could be gold (as with the sovereign in the image above, initially worth £1), gold could be freely imported and exported, and many national currencies around the world were tied to gold and so to each other. The idea began in Britain, where sterling was seen as good as gold, and when other countries rushed to the Gold Standard the confidence in their currencies grew, and world trade took off and, for a century, gold was seen as a vital component of the world economy, supporting stability and confidence. The system came with constraints on government ability to respond to economic crises, though, and has been blamed for deepening and prolonging the Great Depression of the 1930s. WithCatherine Schenk Professor of Economic and Social History at the University of OxfordHelen Paul Lecturer in Economics and Economic History at the University of SouthamptonAndMatthias Morys Senior Lecturer in Economic History at the University of YorkProduced by Eliane Glaser and Simon Tillotson
49:00 20/01/2022
The Hittites
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the empire that flourished in the Late Bronze Age in what is now Turkey, and which, like others at that time, mysteriously collapsed. For the next three thousand years these people of the Land of Hatti, as they called themselves, were known only by small references to their Iron Age descendants in the Old Testament and by unexplained remains in their former territory. Discoveries in their capital of Hattusa just over a century ago brought them back to prominence, including cuneiform tablets such as one (pictured above) which relates to an agreement with their rivals, the Egyptians. This agreement has since become popularly known as the Treaty of Kadesh and described as the oldest recorded peace treaty that survives to this day, said to have followed a great chariot battle with Egypt in 1274 BC near the Orontes River in northern Syria. WithClaudia Glatz Professor of Archaeology at the University of GlasgowIlgi Gercek Assistant Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Languages and History at Bilkent UniversityAndChristoph Bachhuber Lecturer in Archaeology at St John’s College, University of OxfordProducer: Simon Tillotson
52:19 23/12/2021
The May Fourth Movement
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the violent protests in China on 4th May 1919 over the nation's humiliation in the Versailles Treaty after World War One. China had supported the Allies, sending workers to dig trenches, and expected to regain the German colonies on its territory, but the Allies and China's leaders chose to give that land to Japan instead. To protestors, this was a travesty and reflected much that was wrong with China, with its corrupt leaders, division by warlords, weakness before Imperial Europe and outdated ideas and values. The movement around 4th May has since been seen as a watershed in China’s development in the 20th century, not least as some of those connected with the movement went on to found the Communist Party of China a few years later.The image above is of students from Peking University marching with banners during the May Fourth demonstrations in 1919.With Rana Mitter Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China and Fellow of St Cross College, University of OxfordElisabeth Forster Lecturer in Chinese History at the University of SouthamptonAnd Song-Chuan Chen Associate Professor in History at the University of WarwickProducer: Simon Tillotson
52:57 09/12/2021
The Battle of Trafalgar
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the events of 21st October 1805, in which the British fleet led by Nelson destroyed a combined Franco-Spanish fleet in the Atlantic off the coast of Spain. Nelson's death that day was deeply mourned in Britain, and his example proved influential, and the battle was to help sever ties between Spain and its American empire. In France meanwhile, even before Nelson's body was interred at St Paul's, the setback at Trafalgar was overshadowed by Napoleon's decisive victory over Russia and Austria at Austerlitz, though Napoleon's search for his lost naval strength was to shape his plans for further conquests.The image above is from 'The Battle of Trafalgar' by JMW Turner (1824).WithJames Davey Lecturer in Naval and Maritime History at the University of ExeterMarianne Czisnik Independent researcher on Nelson and editor of his letters to Lady HamiltonAndKenneth Johnson Research Professor of National Security at Air University, AlabamaProducer: Simon Tillotson
51:57 02/12/2021

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