Episodes

  • Thomas Becket

    · In Our Time: History

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the man who was Henry II's Chancellor and then Archbishop of Canterbury and who was murdered by knights in Canterbury Cathedral (depicted by Matthew Paris, above). Henry believed that Becket owed him loyalty as he had raised him to the highest offices, and that he should agree to Henry's courts having jurisdiction over 'criminous clerics'. They fell out when Becket agreed to this jurisdiction verbally but would not put his seal on the agreement, the Constitutions of Clarendon. The rift deepened when Henry's heir was crowned without Becket, who excommunicated the bishops who took part. Becket's tomb became one of the main destinations for pilgrims for the next 400 years, including those in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales where he was the 'blisful martir'. With Laura AsheAssociate Professor of English at Worcester College, University of OxfordMichael StauntonAssociate Professor in History at University College DublinAndDanica SummerlinLecturer in Medieval History at the University of SheffieldProducer: Simon Tillotson.

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  • Thebes

    · In Our Time: History

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the myths and history of the ancient Greek city of Thebes and its depiction in Athenian drama. In myths it was said to be home to Heracles, Dionysus, Oedipus and Cadmus among others and, in history, was infamous for supporting Xerxes in the Persian War. Its prominence led to a struggle with the rising force of Macedon in which the Thebans were defeated at Chaironea in 338 BC, one of the most important battles in ancient history. The position of Thebes in Greek culture was enormously powerful. The strength of its myths and its proximity to Athens made it a source of stories for the Athenian theatre, and is the setting for more of the surviving plays than any other location. The image, above, is of Oedipus answering questions of the sphinx in Thebes (cup 5th century BC).With Edith HallProfessor of Classics at King's College LondonSamuel GartlandLecturer in Ancient History at Corpus Christi College, University of OxfordandPaul CartledgeEmeritus Professor of Greek Culture and AG Leventis Senior Research Fellow at Clare College, University of CambridgeProducer: Simon Tillotson.

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  • The Picts

    · In Our Time: History

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss The Picts and, to mark our twentieth season, that discussion takes place in front of a student audience at the University of Glasgow, many of them studying this topic. According to Bede writing c731AD, the Picts, with the English, Britons, Scots and Latins, formed one of the five nations of Britain, 'an island in the ocean formerly called Albion'. The Picts is now a label given to the people who lived in Scotland north of the Forth-Clyde line from about 300 AD to 900 AD, from the time of the Romans to the time of the Vikings. They left intricately carved stones, such as the one above with a bull motif, from Burghead, Moray, Scotland, but there are relatively few other traces. Who were they, and what happened to them? And what has been learned in the last twenty years, through archaeology? With Katherine ForsythReader in the Department of Celtic and Gaelic at the University of GlasgowAlex WoolfSenior Lecturer in Dark Age Studies at the University of St Andrewsand Gordon NobleReader in Archaeology at the University of AberdeenProducer: Simon Tillotson.

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  • Picasso's Guernica

    · In Our Time: History

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the context and impact of Pablo Picasso's iconic work, created soon after the bombing on 26th April 1937 that obliterated much of the Basque town of Guernica, and its people. The attack was carried out by warplanes of the German Condor Legion, joined by the Italian air force, on behalf of Franco's Nationalists. At first the Nationalists denied responsibility, blaming their opponents for creating the destruction themselves for propaganda purposes, but the accounts of journalists such as George Steer, and the prominence of Picasso's work, kept the events of that day under close scrutiny. Picasso's painting has gone on to become a symbol warning against the devastation of war.With Mary VincentProfessor of Modern European History at the University of SheffieldGijs van HensbergenHistorian of Spanish Art and Fellow of the LSE Cañada Blanch Centre for Contemporary Spanish Studies andDacia Viejo RoseLecturer in Heritage in the Department of Archaeology at the University of CambridgeFellow of Selwyn CollegeProducer: Simon Tillotson.

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  • The Congress of Vienna

    · In Our Time: History

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the conference convened by the victorious powers of the Napoleonic Wars and the earlier French Revolutionary Wars, which had devastated so much of Europe over the last 25 years. The powers aimed to create a long lasting peace, partly by redrawing the map to restore old boundaries and partly by balancing the powers so that none would risk war again. It has since been seen as a very conservative outcome, reasserting the old monarchical and imperial orders over the growth of liberalism and national independence movements, and yet also largely successful in its goal of preventing war in Europe on such a scale for another 100 years. Delegates to Vienna were entertained at night with lavish balls, and the image above is from a French cartoon showing Russia, Prussia, and Austria dancing to the bidding of Castlereagh, the British delegate.With Kathleen BurkProfessor Emerita of Modern and Contemporary History at University College LondonTim BlanningEmeritus Professor of Modern European History at the University of CambridgeandJohn BewProfessor in History and Foreign Policy at the War Studies Department at King's College LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson.

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  • Constantine the Great

    · In Our Time: History

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life, reputation and impact of Constantine I, known as Constantine the Great (c280s -337AD). Born in modern day Serbia and proclaimed Emperor by his army in York in 306AD, Constantine became the first Roman Emperor to profess Christianity. He legalised Christianity and its followers achieved privileges that became lost to traditional religions, leading to the steady Christianisation of the Empire. He built a new palace in Byzantium, renaming it Constantinople, as part of the decentralisation of the Empire, an Eastern shift that saw Roman power endure another thousand years there, long after the collapse of the empire in the West. With Christopher KellyProfessor of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Cambridge and President of Corpus Christi CollegeLucy GrigSenior Lecturer in Roman History at the University of Edinburghand Greg WoolfDirector of the Institute of Classical Studies, University of LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson.

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  • The American Populists

    · In Our Time: History

    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 GoldmanProfessor of History at the Institute of Historical Research, University of LondonMara KeireLecturer in US History at the University of OxfordAndChristopher PhelpsAssociate Professor of American Studies at the University of NottinghamProducer: Simon Tillotson.

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  • The Battle of Lincoln 1217

    · In Our Time: History

    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, CambridgeWithLouise WilkinsonProfessor of Medieval History at Canterbury Christ Church UniversityStephen ChurchProfessor of Medieval History at the University of East AngliaandThomas AsbridgeReader in Medieval History at Queen Mary, University of LondonProducer: Simon Tillotson.

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  • The Egyptian Book of the Dead

    · In Our Time: History

    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 TaylorCurator at the Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan at the British MuseumKate SpenceSenior Lecturer in Egyptian Archaeology at Cambridge University and Fellow of Emmanuel Collegeand Richard ParkinsonProfessor of Egyptology at the University of Oxford and Fellow of the Queen's CollegeProducer: Simon Tillotson.

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  • Roger Bacon

    · In Our Time: History

    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, LincolnAmanda PowerAssociate Professor of Medieval History at the University of Oxford Elly TruittAssociate Professor of Medieval History at Bryn Mawr CollegeProducer: Victoria Brignell.

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  • Rosa Luxemburg

    · In Our Time: History

    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 RoseCo-Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, Birkbeck, University of LondonMark JonesIrish Research Council fellow at the Centre for War Studies, University College Dublinand Nadine RossolSenior lecturer in Modern European History at the University of EssexProducer: Simon Tillotson.

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  • The Battle of Salamis

    · In Our Time: History

    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-JonesProfessor in Ancient History at Cardiff UniversityLindsay AllenLecturer in Greek and Near Eastern History, King's College LondonandPaul CartledgeEmeritus Professor of Greek Culture and AG Leventis Senior Research Fellow at Clare College, University of CambridgeProducer: Simon Tillotson.

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  • Seneca the Younger

    · In Our Time: History

    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.WithMary BeardProfessor of Classics at the University of CambridgeCatharine EdwardsProfessor of Classics and Ancient History at Birkbeck, University of LondonandAlessandro SchiesaroProfessor of Classics at the University of ManchesterProducer: Simon Tillotson.

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  • Mary, Queen of Scots

    · In Our Time: History

    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 ForsythPrincipal Curator, Scottish Medieval-Early Modern Collections at National Museums ScotlandAnna GroundwaterTeaching Fellow in Historical Skills and Methods at the University of EdinburghAndJohn GuyFellow of Clare College, University of CambridgeProducer: Simon Tillotson.

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  • Johannes Kepler

    · In Our Time: History

    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. WithDavid WoottonProfessor of History at the University of YorkUlinka Rublack Professor of Early Modern European History at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of St John's CollegeAdam Mosley Associate Professor in the Department of History at Swansea University Producer: Victoria Brignell.

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  • The Gin Craze

    · In Our Time: History

    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 McShaneResearch Fellow in History at the Victoria and Albert Museum and University of SheffieldJudith HawleyProfessor of 18th century literature at Royal Holloway, University of LondonAndEmma MajorSenior Lecturer in English at the University of YorkProducer: Simon Tillotson.

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  • Harriet Martineau

    · In Our Time: History

    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. WithValerie SandersProfessor of English at the University of HullKaren O'BrienProfessor of English Literature at the University of OxfordAndElla DzelzainisLecturer in 19th Century Literature at Newcastle UniversityProducer: Simon Tillotson.

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  • Garibaldi and the Risorgimento

    · In Our Time: History

    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.WithLucy RiallProfessor of Comparative History of Europe at the European University Instituteand Professor of History at Birkbeck, University of LondonEugenio BiaginiProfessor of Modern and Contemporary History at the University of CambridgeandDavid LavenAssociate Professor of History at the University of NottinghamProducer: Simon Tillotson.

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  • Baltic Crusades

    · In Our Time: History

    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 PluskowskiAssociate Professor of Archaeology at the University of ReadingNora BerendFellow of St Catharine's College and Reader in European History at the Faculty of History at the University of Cambridgeand Martin PalmerDirector of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education, and CultureProducer: Simon Tillotson.

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  • Justinian's Legal Code

    · In Our Time: History

    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.WithCaroline HumfressProfessor of Medieval History at the University of St AndrewsSimon CorcoranLecturer in Ancient History at Newcastle Universityand Paul du PlessisSenior Lecturer in Civil law and European legal history at the School of Law, University of EdinburghProducer: Simon Tillotson.

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