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Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history of ideas - including topics drawn from philosophy, science, history, religion and culture.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history of ideas - including topics drawn from philosophy, science, history, religion and culture.
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Location:

London, United Kingdom

Networks:

BBC

Description:

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history of ideas - including topics drawn from philosophy, science, history, religion and culture.

Language:

English


Episodes

The Emancipation of the Serfs

5/17/2018
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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the 1861 declaration by Tsar Alexander II that serfs were now legally free of their landlords. Until then, over a third of Russians were tied to the land on which they lived and worked and in practice there was little to distinguish their condition from slavery. Russia had lost the Crimean War in 1855 and there had been hundreds of uprisings, prompting the Tsar to tell the nobles, "The existing condition of owning souls cannot remain unchanged. It is better...

Duration:00:50:02

The Mabinogion

5/10/2018
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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the eleven stories of Celtic mythology and Arthurian romance known as The Mabinogion, most of which were told and retold for generations before being written down in C14th. Among them are stories of Pwyll and Rhiannon and their son Pryderi, of Culhwch and Olwen, of the dream of the Emperor Macsen, of Lludd and Llefelys, of magic and giants and imagined history. With common themes but no single author, they project an image of the Island of Britain before the...

Duration:00:48:33

The Almoravid Empire

5/3/2018
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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Berber people who grew to dominate the western Maghreb, founded Marrakesh and took control of Al-Andalus. They were desert people, wearing veils over their faces to keep out the sand, and they wanted a simpler form of Islam. They called themselves the Murabitun, the people who gathered together to fight the holy war, and they were tough fighters; the Spanish knight El Cid fought them and lost, and the legend that built around him said the Almoravids were...

Duration:00:49:33

The Proton

4/26/2018
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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the discovery and growing understanding of the Proton, formed from three quarks close to the Big Bang and found in the nuclei of all elements. The positive charges they emit means they attract the fundamental particles of negatively charged electrons, an attraction that leads to the creation of atoms which in turn leads to chemistry, biology and life itself. The Sun (in common with other stars) is a fusion engine that turn protons by a series of processes...

Duration:00:49:11

Middlemarch

4/19/2018
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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss what Virginia Woolf called 'one of the few English novels written for grown-up people'. It was written by George Eliot, the pen name of Mary Anne Evans (1819-80), published in 8 parts in 1871-72, and was originally two separate stories which became woven together. One, 'Middlemarch', focused on a doctor, Tertius Lydgate and the other, 'Miss Brooke', on Dorothea Brooke who became the central figure in the finished work. The events are set in a small town in...

Duration:00:51:48

George and Robert Stephenson

4/12/2018
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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the contribution of George Stephenson (1781-1848) and his son Robert (1803-59) to the development of the railways in C19th. George became known as The Father of Railways and yet arguably Robert's contribution was even greater, with his engineering work going far beyond their collaboration. Robert is credited with the main role in the design of their locomotives. George had worked on stationary colliery steam engines and, with Robert, developed the moving...

Duration:00:50:25

Roman Slavery

4/5/2018
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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the role of slavery in the Roman world, from its early conquests to the fall of the Western Empire. The system became so entrenched that no-one appeared to question it, following Aristotle's view that slavery was a natural state. Whole populations could be marched into slavery after military conquests, and the freedom that Roman citizens prized for themselves, even in poverty, was partly defined by how it contrasted with enslavement. Slaves could be killed...

Duration:00:50:40

Hildegard of Bingen (repeat)

3/29/2018
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As Radio 4 changes its schedule today, to look ahead to Brexit next year, we have no new programme to offer. Here's something until next week, from 26th June 2014, when Melvyn Bragg and guests discussed one of the most remarkable figures of the Middle Ages, Hildegard of Bingen. The abbess of a Benedictine convent, she was an influential person in the religious world and much of her extensive correspondence with popes, monarchs and other important figures survives. Hildegard was celebrated...

Duration:00:45:06

Tocqueville: Democracy in America

3/22/2018
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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) and his examination of the American democratic system. He wrote De La Démocratie en Amérique in two parts, published in 1835 and 1840, when France was ruled by the July Monarchy of Louis-Philippe. Tocqueville was interested in how aspects of American democracy, in the age of President Andrew Jackson, could be applied to Europe as it moved away from rule by monarchs and aristocrats. His work has been revisited by politicians...

Duration:00:50:51

Augustine's Confessions

3/15/2018
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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss St Augustine of Hippo's account of his conversion to Christianity and his life up to that point. Written c397AD, it has many elements of autobiography with his scrutiny of his earlier life, his long relationship with a concubine, his theft of pears as a child, his work as an orator and his embrace of other philosophies and Manichaeism. Significantly for the development of Christianity, he explores the idea of original sin in the context of his own...

Duration:00:47:55

The Highland Clearances

3/8/2018
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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how and why Highlanders and Islanders were cleared from their homes in waves in C18th and C19th, following the break up of the Clans after the Battle of Culloden. Initially, landlords tried to keep people on their estates for money-making schemes, but the end of the Napoleonic Wars brought convulsive changes. Some of the evictions were notorious, with the sudden and fatal burning of townships, to make way for sheep and deer farming. For many, migration...

Duration:00:51:08

Sun Tzu and The Art of War

3/1/2018
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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas attributed to Sun Tzu (544-496BC, according to tradition), a legendary figure from the beginning of the Iron Age in China, around the time of Confucius. He may have been the historical figure Sun Wu, a military adviser at the court of King Helu of Wu (who reigned between about 514 and 496 BC), one of the kings in power in the Warring States period of Chinese history (6th - 5th century BC). Sun Tzu was credited as the author of The Art of War, a...

Duration:00:48:23

Rosalind Franklin

2/22/2018
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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the pioneering scientist Rosalind Franklin (1920 - 1958). During her distinguished career, Franklin carried out ground-breaking research into coal and viruses but she is perhaps best remembered for her investigations in the field of DNA. In 1952 her research generated a famous image that became known as Photograph 51. When the Cambridge scientists Francis Crick and James Watson saw this image, it enabled them the following year to work out that DNA has a...

Duration:00:49:47

Fungi

2/15/2018
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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss fungi. These organisms are not plants or animals but a kingdom of their own. Millions of species of fungi live on the Earth and they play a crucial role in ecosystems, enabling plants to obtain nutrients and causing material to decay. Without fungi, life as we know it simply would not exist. They are also a significant part of our daily life, making possible the production of bread, wine and certain antibiotics. Although fungi brought about the colonisation...

Duration:00:48:37

Frederick Douglass

2/8/2018
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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and ideas of Frederick Douglass, who was born into slavery in Maryland in 1818 and, once he had escaped, became one of that century's most prominent abolitionists. He was such a good orator, his opponents doubted his story, but he told it in grim detail in 1845 in his book 'Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.' He went on to address huge audiences in Great Britain and Ireland and there some of his supporters paid off his...

Duration:00:52:22

Cephalopods

2/1/2018
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The octopus, the squid, the nautilus and the cuttlefish are some of the most extraordinary creatures on this planet, intelligent and yet apparently unlike other life forms. They are cephalopods and are part of the mollusc family like snails and clams, and they have some characteristics in common with those. What sets them apart is the way members of their group can change colour, camouflage themselves, recognise people, solve problems, squirt ink, power themselves with jet propulsion and...

Duration:00:47:19

Cicero

1/25/2018
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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas developed by Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43BC) to support and reinvigorate the Roman Republic when, as it transpired, it was in its final years, threatened by civil wars, the rule of Julius Caesar and the triumvirates that followed. As Consul he had suppressed a revolt by Catiline, putting the conspirators to death summarily as he believed the Republic was in danger and that this danger trumped the right to a fair trial, a decision that rebounded on...

Duration:00:49:16

Anna Akhmatova

1/18/2018
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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the work, ideas and life of the Russian poet whose work was celebrated in C20th both for its quality and for what it represented, written under censorship in the Stalin years. Her best known poem, Requiem, was written after her son was imprisoned partly as a threat to her and, to avoid punishment for creating it, she passed it on to her supporters to be memorised, line by line, rather than written down. She was a problem for the authorities and became...

Duration:00:48:43

The Siege of Malta, 1565

1/11/2018
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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the event of which Voltaire, two hundred years later, said 'nothing was more well known'. The Ottoman Empire had already driven the Knights Hospitaller from their headquarters in Rhodes, in 1522, after a siege and wanted to do the same in Malta. The siege of 1565, one of the fiercest recorded, ended with a victory for the Knights, raising questions of why the Ottomans failed to press their advantage home. It became one of the most celebrated events of C16th,...

Duration:00:49:52

Hamlet

12/28/2017
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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Shakespeare's best known, most quoted and longest play, written c1599 - 1602 and rewritten throughout his lifetime. It is the story of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, encouraged by his father's ghost to take revenge on his uncle who murdered him, and is set at the court of Elsinore. In soliloquies, the Prince reveals his inner self to the audience while concealing his thoughts from all at the Danish court, who presume him insane. Shakespeare gives him lines such...

Duration:00:52:32

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