In Our Time

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In Our Time

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Modificato: Apr 13, 2007, 2:19pm

This week: St Hilda - the life and times of the Abbess of Whitby

NEXT WEEK: The Opium Wars

Halleluja! I've just discovered this series. I've missed Melvyn Bragg since our American cable TV station cancelled the South Bank show some years ago.

Modificato: Apr 12, 2007, 3:11am

Ooh you lucky thing you.

If you didn't know In Our Time is one of the few BBC programmes for which there is an extensive back-catalogue of previous shows ready to download in mp3 format from the show's page. The ones on culture are pretty worthwhile as many of those are about writers and literature.

Apr 11, 2007, 5:16pm

>2 andyl: andyl--thanks. I just discovered the archive and am in Seventh Heaven. The St. Hilde program was excellent. She lived at the beginning of of Chinese Tang Dynasty.

Apr 12, 2007, 2:45am

Thanks very much for this Andy - everyting on the archives seems to be absolutely fantastic, a wonderful resource.

I have not listened to In Out Time before, I must do this from now on.

Apr 12, 2007, 5:42am

On the other hand Melvin Bragg grappling with science or maths is not a pretty sight.

Apr 12, 2007, 6:10am


That is true, however he does try, which should only be encouraged. There are far too many people who are content with C.P. Snow's 'Two Cultures'. Too many people seem to view maths and science as difficult and something that can and should be ignored, (for the most part) by their sort of people.

Apr 12, 2007, 7:51am

#6 couldn't agree more - maths and science deserve the coverage as much as the arts. Bragg may not be entirely comfortable but he does make an effort.

The gratifying aspect of IOT is that it hasn't succumbed to the general dumbing down of much of the BBC's output. Occasionally, it would be nice it the discussions were longer, sometimes they just end when there seems much more to cover.

#1 you can download podcasts of the last series of the South Bank Show from here - South Bank Show

The pity about IOT and TSBS is that Bragg's achievements as a novelist are constantly overlooked.

Apr 12, 2007, 8:00am

Melvyn Bragg

Love the series. Caught the beginning of the Opium Wars episode on the way in to work this morning. Have to remember to listen to the whole thing at the weekend.

I think that Bragg always sounds incredibly enthusiastic, given that a lot - if not most - of the subjects must be new to him. On the other hand, that may help.

Apr 12, 2007, 4:20pm

"The pity about IOT and TSBS is that Bragg's achievements as a novelist are constantly overlooked."

>7 Jargoneer: Jargoneer--I was amazed by his output. What Bragg novels would you recommend.

Modificato: Apr 13, 2007, 2:20pm

I really enjoy subscribing to Melvyn Bragg's Emails.

Below from a friend, a retired professor of history, who has been turned on to this program.

"Thanks for the info about Melvin Bragg and "In Our Time." Don't know who he is, but I thoroughly enjoyed the site. I just listened to his "The Opium Wars" and "Bismarck." They were both extremely well done. I had an overpowering urge to lecture once again!! This really would have been very helpful when I was an undergrad history major. I'll recommend this to some of my more intelligent friends! I think you're going to become a history expert -- terrific. I'll try the poetry readings next..."

Maggio 25, 2007, 11:46am

Am a huge fan of In Our Time and just a few minutes ago found out about this group. I've listened to the entire archive of the program. I fell in love with Edith Hall, who he often has on the program when discussing things ancient greek. I love the scope of the program and for the first time in my life understand the second law of thermodynamics!

Modificato: Giu 9, 2007, 2:12pm

> gautherbelle, Brava. I'm working toward listening to the entirety and then some. How do you listen? Idle curiosity on my part. I paint, so it's an excellent companion to my work. Most friends just don't have the 45 minutes to simply sit and listen. Everyone has to be doing something, when listening itself is a very important "doing."

Any favorites?

Modificato: Giu 9, 2007, 3:57pm

I listen at work, depending on what I’m doing. I listen at home while I clean or don’t clean, or when I am taking a break from reading.
As to my favorites (there a so many)
Anything having to do with astrology or cosmology; The Cambrian Explosion;
The Second Law of Thermodynamics;
Aeschylus’ Oresteia -- the birth of tragedy. Edith Hall made an interesting point in saying that the Oresteia was the “charter myth for patriarchy, the charter myth for the state and trial by jury . . .” and “the charter myth of male domination of women . . . it slams the door on women in western culture, literature, art as well as society until Nora storms out of the Dollshouse.”
The Aeneid;
The Odyssey;
The Battle of Thermopylae;
The Filed of the Cloth of Gold; and
The Art of War. What was so interesting about this one was when one of the speakers said the “entire apparatus of the state {16th Century Europe} came into being to enable princes to wage war. Waging war became increasing expense . . . growth of seize warfare . . . and with weapons development it was no longer possible to wage war simply with cavalry, as one would now call it, and a few infantry hanging on. You had actually to buy professionals. The only way you could get money to buy professionals was to get if from your tenants or your subjects or whatever it might be called. That meant you had to have taxes, that meant that you had to negotiate the taxation with somebody. And there grew up what ultimately became Parliaments or states where the prince met his subject in some kind of representative order and negotiated taxation to enable him to pay his troops.” Just brilliant.
There are so many others that I’ve enjoyed, but I think I should stop for now.

Modificato: Giu 19, 2007, 9:20am

I can hear your enthusiasm, which echoes mine. I missed the "The Art of Warfare," so I will look for that one. I found John Keegan's books on warfare fascinating so this will be very interesting. I love it when the discussions get heated and the panelists errupt with laughter.

Modificato: Giu 10, 2007, 2:44am

That should have been astronomy, not astrology.

I have been trying to get people I know to listen to BBC 4, particularly In Our Time, so I can have someone to discuss things with. No luck. I love the civility and quick dry wit of the panelists. But most of all I love the high level of intelligence and broad scope of knowledge they bring to the subject.


Giu 19, 2007, 9:18am

>15 gautherbelle: Belle--I jump around alot, choosing like so many chocolates in a box. I don't, necessarily, listen to the latest broadcasts, but do let me (us) know what's really exciting. Belle;)

Giu 19, 2007, 3:30pm

16 Belle
This is not from In Our Time but it is from BBC Radio 4 Science. I found it very interesting and entertaining particularly the number six.


Giu 19, 2007, 5:42pm

>17 gautherbelle: Thanks. I like your name.

Giu 19, 2007, 6:28pm

#18 Funny, I really like your name too. Another interesting program on BBC4 Science is the aquatic ape theory.

Was man more aquatic in the past? Programme one considers Raymond Dart's Taung Child discovery and the ensuing savannah theory of human origins, as popularised by Robert Ardrey and Desmond Morris; the reaction to Hardy's radical alternative and to Elaine Morgan's bestseller: Descent of Woman.

Giu 21, 2007, 3:37am

I caught a snippet of today's IOT offering - "Common Sense Philosophy". It happens to chime in very nicely with what I am reading at the moment, which is The Blank Slate by Stephen Pinker. I'll have to re-listen this evening, so that I can concentrate.

Giu 21, 2007, 12:17pm

I caught a bit of today's too and am going to listen again this evening. The bit I heard was, not surprisingly, about David Hume, and it reminded me of Alexander McCall Smith's comments about the statue of Hume in Edinburgh. Like McCall Smith's philosopher, Isabel Dalhousie, I cannot pass it without commiserating with the poor man, who liked elegant clothes, but has been sculpted wearing a toga. (Sometimes, too, a traffic cone - usually after graduation ceremonies, or during the Festival - but he might have had a sense of humour about that, because I don't think he minded the odd drink himself.) Anyway, his bare shoulders look dreadfully chilly so, while I listen tonight, I shall think warm thoughts.

Modificato: Gen 15, 2009, 5:26pm

Albert Camus on In Our Time this week. Details at and audio and Podcast available there. Enjoy!

Ott 4, 2008, 8:34am

New series is up and running. It's pretty difficult for me to get a chance to list to an airing, so it'll have to be the pod casts for me.

Nov 3, 2008, 12:46pm

There was an excellent programme on Dante's Divine Comedy - worth catching on the In Our Time website.

Modificato: Nov 3, 2008, 4:07pm

Yes, I caught that programme and really enjoyed it - perhaps even enough to get me to finish the Comedy! Like all IOT programmes, it's still available from the archive. The current programme is a little closer to home for me - Simón Bolívar.

Gen 15, 2009, 5:24pm

This week it's a favourite of mine: THOREAU AND THE AMERICAN IDYLL:

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.” Thus wrote the American writer and philosopher Henry David Thoreau in his seminal work, Walden, published in 1854.

A fierce opponent of slavery, a champion of the simple life, a lover of nature and an enemy of the modern, Thoreau has become emblematic of one version of American values. His work has been an inspiration to politicians and writers alike, from Martin Luther King to Gandhi, Yeats and Tolstoy. Yet in many ways Thoreau remains a mystery, a man of contradictions who advocated self-sufficiency but was happy to let others, including his mother, do his washing and cook his meals.


Kathleen Burk, Professor of American History at University College London

Tim Morris, Lecturer in American Literature at the University of Dundee

Stephen Fender, Honorary Professor in English Literature at University College London

Feb 11, 2009, 7:51am

HAs anyone on this group got any of the old In Our Times as MP3s stashed away somewhere? I know you can stream them from the website, but I'm having technical problems with that, and of course you can't use your iPod to listen to a RealPlayer stream! I have some 200+ editions as MP3s that I'd be willing to "trade".....


Feb 11, 2009, 8:35am

Simon, I think you can download a large number of the programmes from the website as well as listenign to them as a stream.

Feb 11, 2009, 8:36am

Yes, sure enough. Go to the archive and right click on the "Listen" button, then save as an .mp3 file.

Giu 18, 2009, 4:52pm

I love 'In Our Time'. Did anyone hear the programme about the Arabian Nights? I think that this was the first one that I ever heard and just thought it was brilliant. I have been a fan ever since. Hurrah for Melvyn and Radio Four!

Gen 28, 2010, 12:57pm

James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Many novelists choose their own young life as the subject for their first book. But very few have subjected themselves to the intense self-scrutiny of the great Irish novelist James Joyce.

In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, published in 1916, Joyce follows his alter ego, Stephen Dedalus, from babyhood to young adulthood. He takes us from Stephen wetting the bed, through a teenage visit to a prostitute, and on through religious terrors to the prospect of freedom. When it was published, the book met with shock at its graphic honesty.

Joyce shows Stephen wrestling with the pressures of his family, his Church and his nation. Yet this was far from being a straightforward youthful tirade. Joyce’s novel is also daringly experimental, taking us deep into Stephen’s psyche. And since its publication almost a century ago, it has had a huge influence on novelists across the world.


Roy Foster, Carroll Professor of Irish History and Fellow of Hertford College, Oxford

Katherine Mullin, Senior Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Leeds

Jeri Johnson, Senior Fellow in English at Exeter College, Oxford

Gen 28, 2010, 1:01pm

George Eliot's Silas Marner

Published in 1861, Silas Marner is by far Eliot's shortest and seemingly simplest work. Yet beneath the fairytale-like structure, of all her novels it offers the most focused expression of Eliot's moral view. Influenced by the deconstruction of Christianity pioneered by leading European thinkers including Auguste Comte and Ludwig Feuerbach, Silas Marner is a highly sophisticated attempt to translate the symbolism of religion into purely human terms.

The novel tells the story of Silas, a weaver who is thrown out of his religious community after being falsely charged with theft. Silas is embittered and exists only for his work and his precious hoard of money - until that money is stolen, and an abandoned child wanders into his house.

By the end of her lifetime, George Eliot was the most powerful female intellectual in the country. Her extraordinary range of publications encompassed novels, poetry, literary criticism, scientific and religious texts. But beneath her fierce intellecualism was the deep convinction that for society to continue, humans must connect with their fellow humans. And it is this idea that forms the core of her writing.


Rosemary Ashton is Quain Professor of English Language and Literature at University College, London.

Dinah Birch is Professor of English at Liverpool University;.

Valentine Cunningham is Professor of English Language and Literature at Corpus Christi, University of Oxford.

Set 25, 2010, 1:23pm

It's back! My Thursday evening drives are made bearable again. I note that there is now a book - In Our Time - so that's going on my wishlist on the wiki.

Dic 26, 2010, 12:39pm

The book arrived as a Christmas gift! As did an episode on The Industrial Revolution (with a second part next week). I've taken an interest in the Industrial Revolution in the past, and it was a crying shame to hear Melvyn have to battle some woman who seemed to think that everything revolved around coal. A bunch of people on the BBC forums seemed to think Melvyn was in the wrong, but to my mind the fascination lies in the people and the invention, as much as the foundational conditions of water, coal and empire/mercantilism.

Feb 5, 2011, 4:45pm

Well, I too am a massive In Our Time fan - and the podcast fits my commute into work perfectly. I'm impressed by MB's ability to get his head into an issue and to marshal, corral, direct and bring out the various guests he has.

Maggio 9, 2013, 4:41am

On BBC R4 and Internet radio right now, the Sagas of the Icelanders:-

43 minutes

First broadcast:
Thursday 09 May 2013

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.


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.

Lug 3, 2014, 4:05am

Coming up live via Internet (BBC iPlayer) and UK radio:-

Mrs Dalloway

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.


Professor Dame Hermione Lee
President of Wolfson College, Oxford

Jane Goldman (perhaps a bit of disambiguation needed to that touchstone!)
Reader in English Literature at the University of Glasgow

Kathryn Simpson
Senior Lecturer in English Literature at Cardiff Metropolitan University