In Our Time

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20071011

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of ideas.

20071018

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of ideas.

He is joined by Robert Irwin, Marina Warner and Geert Jan Van Gelder to talk about the beauty of the stories of the Arabian Nights.

This ever changing patchwork of stories, including Sinbad the Sailor and Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, originated in India and Persia and was championed by a 17th-century Frenchman.

20071025

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of ideas.

He is joined by Amanda Vickery, Jeremy Black and John Mullan to explore how the idea of taste artfully redecorated the living rooms, literature and social politics of the 18th century.The concept of taste was championed by a burgeoning middle class looking to acquire the accoutrements of the aristocracy and by an aristocracy keen to distance themselves from their increasingly wealthy inferiors.

20071101

Melvyn Bragg and guests explore the psychological, moral and legal aspects of guilt.

Rituals for the alleviation of guilt abound in all societies, including Ancient Greek notions of catharsis and Catholic confession, but does that make guilt a universal experience or a culturally specific one?

20071108

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Persian Avicenna, arguably the greatest Islamic philosopher of all time.

20071115

Melvyn Bragg and guests Simon Schaffer and Jenny Uglow look at Joseph Priestley, Antoine Lavoisier and the discovery of oxygen.

20071122

Melvyn Bragg discusses Wordsworth's Prelude with Jonathan Bate, Rosemary Ashton and Stephen Gill.

20071129

Melvyn Bragg discusses the Fibonacci Sequence with Jackie Stedall, Ron Knott and Marcus Du Sautoy.

20071206

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss mutation, examining why there is no evolution without mutation and how and why mutation occurs in the body.

With Steve Jones, Linda Partridge and Adrian Woolfson.

20071213

Melvyn Bragg discusses the Persian Sassanid Empire, the great rival of Rome.

When the two were not fighting, they developed diplomatic relations that shape the international realm to this day.

With Hugh Kennedy and James Howard-Johnston.

20071220

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the theory of the four humours.

Developed by Greek physicians such as Galen and Hippocrates, this suggested that the human body was a blend of yellow and black bile, phlegm and blood.

It shaped European and Arab medicine for 1,500 years, despite being completely wrong and increasingly at odds with observation.

Melvyn is joined by David Wootton.

20071227

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Nicene Creed.

In the 4th century the Christian church was wracked by theological dispute over the nature of god and the status of the trinity.

It was called the Arian controversy and in 325 the various patriarchs gathered in Niceae to end it.

What came out of that meeting was Christianity's first and longest serving statement of theological orthodoxy.

Melvyn is joined by Martin Palmer, Carolyn Humfrees and Andrew Louth.

20080103

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the French Algerian novelist Albert Camus.

Before his his tragic death in a car crash in 1960, Camus had fought for the French resistance, loved and loathed Jean Paul Sartre, published a series of brilliant novels and won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Melvyn is joined by Peter Dunwoodie, David Walker and Christina Howells to discuss Camus's ideas, his human compassion, the politics of Algerian independence and the beauty of his novels.

20080110

Melvyn Bragg discusses the Charge of the Light Brigade with Mike Broers, Trudi Tate and Saul David.

20080117

Melvyn Bragg and guests Juliette Wood and Carolyne Larrington discuss the history of ideas.

They look at The Myth of the Fisher King.

20080124

Melvyn Bragg discusses plate tectonics and how the idea that the continents moved around revolutionised our understanding of the earth.

Guests include Joe Cann, Richard Corfield and Lynn Frostick.

20080131

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the coterie of brilliant thinkers gathered by Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II at his court in Prague, having transferred the Habsburg capital there frrom Vienna in 1583.

They included astronomer Johannes Kepler, magician John Dee and philosopher Giordano Bruno.

20080207

Melvyn Bragg discusses the Social Contract with Susan James, Karen O'Brien and Melissa Lane.

This political philosophy of the 17th and 18th centuries argued that govenments had authority based on a contract with the people they governed.

It was opposed to other ideas about governance such as the divine right of kings.

Among its most important proponents were Hugo Grotius, John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

20080214

Melvyn Bragg and guests John Keane and Kathleen Burk discuss the Statue of Liberty, a token of friendship between France and America.

The statue is part of a long standing intellectual and political relationship between two revolutionary powers, symbolising their shared sense of dynamism, democracy and the ideal of freedom.

20080221

Melvyn Bragg discusses the Multiverse with guests Fay Dowker, Martin Rees and Bernard Carr.

Physicists and cosmologists are increasingly of the opinion that there are more universes than the one we know, in which the laws of physics themselves are different.

Quite what they are, whether they really exist and how we could ever know are among the deepest questions in contemporary science.

20080228

Melvyn Bragg discusses Shakespeare's King Lear with guests Jonathan Bate, Catherine Belsey and Katherine Duncan-Jones.

The tragedy's themes of rule and misrule, old age and family breakup assumed a topical poignancy at the end of Elizabeth I's reign.

20080306

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Byron's daughter Ada Lovelace, the 19th-century mathematician who wrote the first computer programme.

20080313

Melvyn Bragg, Nick Lowe and Mary Beard discuss the Greek Myths, discovering how the stories of Zeus, Narcissus, Persephone, Orpheus and others have come down through the ages.

20080320

Melvyn Bragg discusses the life and ideas of the 19th-century Danish philospher Soren Kierkegaard, church reformer and alleged father of existentialism.

Famous for being gloomy, Kierkegaard was actually a thinker of great elegance and wit.

With Jonathan Ree, Clare Carlisle and John Lippitt.

20080327

Melvyn Bragg discusses the Dissolution of the Monasteries with guests including Diarmaid MacCulloch, Diane Purkiss and George Bernard.

Why did Henry VIII see fit to destroy monastic life in this country, what was lost from English religion when he did so and how did its consequences affect politics and society from the very top to the very bottom?

20080403

Melvyn Bragg discusses Isaac Newton's Laws of Motion with Simon Schaffer and Robert Iliffe.

The three laws describing the motion of all bodies in space constitute the foundation stone of classical mechanics.

20080424

Melvyn Bragg discusses Materialism with Caroline Warman, Anthony O'Hear and Anthony Grayling.

The philosophical argument that matter constitutes everything that exists has been espoused from the ancient Greek Democritus to Karl Marx and beyond.

20080501

The Enclosures of the 18th Century

Melvyn Bragg and guests Murray Pittock and Rosemary Sweet discuss a revolution in land holding that dispossessed many and enriched few, but made the Industrial Revolution possible.

20080508

A History of the Brain

Melvyn Bragg and guests Vivan Nutton, Marina Wallace and Jonathan Sawday examine how the brain has been understood over time.

20080612

The Riddle of the Sands

Melvyn Bragg is joined by Rosemary Ashton, Tim Blanning and Richard Evans to discuss Erskine Childers's 1903 adventure story, which presciently imagines a German invasion plan for Britain.

But how had relations between Britain and Germany deteriorated to such an extent? The two nations had fought together at Waterloo and profoundly influenced each other's literature and philosophy.

How could the ties of Anglo-Saxon kinship be buried in the mutual tragedy of the Somme?

20081002

The Translation Movement

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the movement of classical Greek ideas out of the Byzantine Empire and into the Islamic world from the 9th century onwards.

The infusion of Greek thought introduced the Islamic world to new concepts and required the creation of new words, before being transferred through Arabic into the Latin of western Europe.

With Peter Adamson, Amira Bennison and Peter Pormann.

20081009

Godel's Incompleteness Theorems

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the mathematician Kurt Godel and his work at the very limits of maths.

Godel proved that there were some problems in maths that were impossible to solve and that maths was therefore not capable of answering all questions, or even that it was internally consistent.

It changed our understanding of the nature of mathematics, and its implications spilled out into the world of physics, philosophy and beyond.

With Marcus Du Sautoy

20081016

Vitalism

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the 18th- and 19th-century quest to understand what distinguished life from non-life and to unlock the secrets of creation.

Vitalism is the idea that life could not be explained by materialist principles, that bodies carried some vital principle that distinguished living things from dull matter.

When the Italian scientist Luigi Galvani made dead frogs twitch by applying electricity, they thought they had found it.

With Patricia Fara, Andrew Mendelsohn and Pietro Corsi.

20081023

Dante's Inferno

Melvyn Bragg and guests Margaret Kean, John Took, Claire Honess journey through the nine levels of Dante's version of Hell, complete with severed heads, bizarre punishments and devils in frozen lakes.

But the inferno is much more than a trip into the macabre - it is a map of medieval spirituality, a treasure house of early renaissance learning, a portrait of 14th century Florence, an acute study of human psychology - and one of the greatest works ever written.

20081030

Melvyn Bragg and guests, including Anthony McFarlane, John Fisher and Catherine Davies, discuss Simon Bolivar, hero of the South American Independent movement

20081106

Melvyn Bragg and guests Angie Hobbs, Annabel Brett and Paul Cartledge discuss Aristotle's plan for a perfect society and ask whether anyone would want to live in it.

20081113

Melvyn Bragg and guests David Papineau, Martin Conway and Gemma Calvert discuss recent developments in neuroscience and examine the relationship between the mind and the brain.

New knowledge of how the brain works has challenged concepts of free will and consciousness and opened up new ways of understanding the mind, yet these new ideas also seem to conform to some old psychological ideas such as Freudian psychoanalysis.

20081120

Melvyn Bragg and guests including Tim Blanning discuss the Baroque movement.

A cultural movement across Europe that included the music of Bach and the Palace of Versailles, the Baroque was an art of effusion, drama, grandeur and powerful emotion.

Strongly religious, it became the aesthetic of choice of absolute monarchs.

It was denounced by thinkers of the Enlightenment, but arguably contributed to it.

20100923

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss imaginary numbers.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss imaginary numbers. Long dismissed as useless or even fictitious, these unusual numbers and their properties were first explored seriously in the eighteenth century - and today are a vital part of our understanding of phenomena from electricity to radio waves. With Marcus du Sautoy, Ian Stewart and Caroline Series.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

Long dismissed as useless or even fictitious, these unusual numbers and their properties were first explored seriously in the eighteenth century - and today are a vital part of our understanding of phenomena from electricity to radio waves.

With Marcus Du Sautoy, Ian Stewart and Caroline Series.

20100930

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Delphic Oracle.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Delphic Oracle, the most important and best documented source of prophecies in the ancient world.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

20101007

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Spanish Armada.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Spanish Armada, the fleet which attempted to invade Elizabethan England in 1588.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

20101125

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of metaphor.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history of metaphor.

"All the world's a stage/And all the men and women merely players", says Jaques in Shakespeare's As You Like It.

This is one of the best known uses of metaphor, a figure of speech in which one thing is used to describe another.

Writers from Homer to Orwell, the Metaphysical poets to Derrida, have explored its manifold possibilities.

Is metaphor just a literary device, or is it evidence of the complex ways in which we seek to understand the world?

Producer: Thomas Morris.

20110120

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Mexican Revolution of 1910.

After 35 years of dictatorial rule by an autocratic president, Porfirio Diaz, Mexico was thrown into turmoil by a popular uprising.

It took a decade for the country to settle down again, as different factions fought for supremacy.

The conflict completely changed the face of the country, and resulted in the emergence of Mexico's most celebrated folk hero: Emiliano Zapata.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

A History Of History20090122

Melvyn Bragg discuss how the writing of history has changed over the years.

"Melvyn Bragg and guests Paul Cartledge, Miri Rubin and John Burrow discuss how the writing of history has changed over the years and what it reveals about successive eras, from classical Epic and Medieval Romance to the deeds of great Victorian men and the vast, impersonal, forces of Marxism.

A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man20091126

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

Melvyn Bragg and guests Roy Foster, Jeri Johnson and Declan Kiberd discuss A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce's groundbreaking 1916 novel about growing up in Catholic Ireland.

Akhenaten
Akhenaton20091001

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Akhenaton, the ruler who brought change to ancient Egypt.

Melvyn Bragg and guests Elizabeth Frood, Richard Parkinson and Kate Spence discuss Akhenaton, the ruler who brought revolutionary change to ancient Egypt.

Aristotle's Poetics20110127

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Aristotle's Poetics.

Written in the fourth century BC, this work of scholarship is one of the foundations of Aristotle's philosophy.

In it Aristotle examines Greek drama, analysing how plots and characters have their effect.

It has remained one of the most influential books of classical antiquity; today it remains a standard text for would-be Hollywood screenwriters.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

Baconian Science20090402

Melvyn Bragg and guests including Patricia Fara and Stephen Pumfrey discuss Francis Bacon, the Elizabethan lawyer, politician and father of the Baconian scientific method.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Francis Bacon, father of the Baconian scientific method.

Brave New World20090409

Melvyn Bragg and guests David Bradshaw, Daniel Pick and Michele Barrett discuss Aldous Huxley's dystopian 1932 novel, Brave New World.

The future of test tube babies, free love and round-the-clock surveillance that was envisaged by Huxley strikes a sinister chord today.

Childe Harold's Pilgrimage20110106

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Byron's poem Childe Harold's Pilgrimage.

"I awoke one morning and found myself famous", wrote Byron in his memorandum book, looking back at the publication of his first major work.

The first instalment of this long narrative poem was published when he was 24, and sold out within three days.

It narrates the life of a young aristocrat on a grand tour of Europe; its central character is the first Byronic hero.

As well as offering a self-portrait of the writer as a young man, Childe Harold is a fascinating snapshot of Europe at the beginning of the nineteenth century, a place ravaged by revolution and war.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

Christina Rossetti20111201

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Victorian poet Christina Rossetti.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of the Victorian poet Christina Rossetti.

She was born into an artistic family and her siblings included Dante Gabriel Rossetti, one of the leading lights of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, to whose journal Christina contributed poems.

Best known for her ballads and religious poetry, Rossetti was admired by contemporaries including Swinburne and Tennyson.

Her work has a spirituality and sensitivity that has led to her rediscovery in recent decades, not least by feminist critics.

Producer: Natalia Fernandez.

Cleopatra20101202

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Cleopatra, the famed last pharaoh of Egypt.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Cleopatra.

The last pharaoh to rule Egypt, Cleopatra was a person of intelligence, charisma and celebrated beauty.

During an eventful life she was ousted from her throne, and then restored to it with the help of her lover Julius Caesar.

A later relationship with another Roman statesman, Mark Antony, and Cleopatra's subsequent death at her own hands, provided Shakespeare with the raw material for one of his greatest plays.

Today Cleopatra is still an object of fascination, her story revealing as much about the Roman world as it does about the age of the Pharaohs.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

Cogito Ergo Sum20110428

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Rene Descartes' famous statement.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss one of the most famous statements in philosophy: "Cogito ergo sum".

In his Discourse on the Method, published in 1637, the French polymath Rene Descartes wrote a sentence which remains familiar today even to many people who have never heard of him.

"I am thinking", he wrote, "therefore I exist".

Although the statement was made in French, it has become better known in its Latin translation; and philosophers ever since have referred to it as the Cogito Argument.

This simple statement may seem obvious, but it is the foundation of Descartes's attempt to establish what we can truly know.

Centuries after his death, it remains one of the most important sentences in Western philosophy.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

Consequences Of The Industrial Revolution20101230

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the influence of the Industrial Revolution.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the far-reaching consequences of the Industrial Revolution.

After more than a century of rapid technological change, and the massive growth of its urban centres, Britain was changed forever.

The effects were both social and intellectual, as thinkers originated theories to deal with the new realities of urban living, mass production and a consumer society.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

Custer's Last Stand20110519

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Battle of the Little Bighorn, also known as Custer's Last Stand.

In 1876 a dispute between the American federal government and Native Indians over land rights led to an armed conflict now known as the Great Sioux War.

In June of that year an expeditionary federal force led by General George Custer unexpectedly encountered a large group of Sioux and Cheyenne warriors in their Dakota homelands.

Disobeying orders, Custer decided to attack.

Barely half an hour later, he and all 200 of his men lay dead.

Custer's Last Stand has become one of the most famous and closely studied military engagements in American history.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

Daoism20101216

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Daoism, the ancient Chinese philosophy and religion.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Daoism.

An ancient Chinese tradition of philosophy and religious belief, Daoism first appeared more than two thousand years ago.

For centuries it was the most popular religion in China; in the West its religious aspects are not as well known as its practices, which include meditation and Feng Shui, and for its most celebrated text, the Daodejing.

Producer: Natalia Fernandez.

David Hume20111006

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the work of the Scottish philosopher David Hume.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the work of the philosopher David Hume.

A key figure in the Scottish Enlightenment of the eighteenth century, Hume was an empiricist who believed that humans can only have knowledge of things they have themselves experienced.

His works, beginning in 1740 with A Treatise of Human Nature, have influenced thinkers from Adam Smith to Immanuel Kant and Charles Darwin, and today he is regarded by many people as the most important philosopher ever to write in English.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

Delacroix's Liberty Leading The People20111020

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Delacroix's painting Liberty Leading the People.

In 1830 revolution once more overtook France, when a popular uprising toppled the French king Charles X.

A few months later, the artist Eugene Delacroix immortalised the events of the July Revolution in a painting which remains one of the icons of the age.

His allegorical depiction of a Paris barricade, with the figure of Liberty clutching a tricolore while standing on a pile of corpses, is a powerful image which has provoked much debate in the years since it was first unveiled to an enthusiastic public.

Producer: Natalia Fernandez.

Ediacara Biota20090709

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Ediacara Biota.

Melvyn Bragg and guests Martin Brasier, Richard Corfield and Rachel Wood discuss the Ediacara Biota.

These mysterious life forms died out 542 million years ago; their discovery has proved Darwin right in a way he never imagined.

Edison20101209

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the innovations and influence of Thomas Edison.

Edison is popularly remembered as the man who made cheap electric light possible, devising the first commercially viable light bulb and power distribution system.

He also invented the phonograph and massively improved the telephone, and played a role in the birth of cinema.

When he died in 1931 he had patented no fewer than one thousand and ninety-three devices - the most prolific inventor in history.

As the creator of the world's first industrial research laboratory he also changed the way in which innovation took place, and is now acknowledged as one of the architects of the modern age.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

Elizabethan Revenge20090618

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss why the Elizabethan stage was awash with revenge tragedies

Melvyn Bragg and guests Jonathan Bate, Julie Sanders and Janet Clare discuss why the Elizabethan stage was awash with revenge tragedies.

Foxe's Book Of Martyrs20101118

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Foxe's Book of Martyrs.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss John Foxe's Acts and Monuments, better known today as Foxe's Book of Martyrs.

First published in 1563, it was one of the most elaborate early books produced, and thanks to vivid woodcut illustrations reached an audience far beyond the literate elite.

Its accounts of Christian martyrdom became powerful Church propaganda in the late sixteenth century and were used by those who wished to banish Catholicism from England permanently.

But despite its use as an instrument of religious factionalism, Foxe's work remains one of the key and most read books of the early modern period.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

Free Will20110310

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss free will.

n the 500th edition of the programme, Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the philosophical idea of free will.

Free will - the extent to which we are free to choose our own actions - is one of the most absorbing philosophical problems, debated by almost every great thinker of the last two thousand years.

In a universe apparently governed by physical laws, is it possible for individuals to be responsible for their own actions? Or are our lives simply proceeding along preordained paths? Determinism - the doctrine that every event is the inevitable consequence of what goes before - seems to suggest so.

Many intellectuals have concluded that free will is logically impossible.

The philosopher Baruch Spinoza regarded it as a delusion.

Albert Einstein wrote: "Human beings, in their thinking, feeling and acting are not free agents but are as causally bound as the stars in their motion." But in the Enlightenment, philosophers including David Hume found ways in which free will and determinism could be reconciled.

Recent scientific developments mean that this debate remains as lively today as it was in the ancient world.

With:

Simon Blackburn

Bertrand Russell Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge

Helen Beebee

Professor of Philosophy at the University of Birmingham

Galen Strawson

Professor of Philosophy at the University of Reading

Producer: Thomas Morris.

Heat20081204

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of scientific ideas about heat.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of scientific ideas about heat from the element of fire to the theory of thermodynamics.

With Simon Schaffer.

Heraclitus20111208

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus.

Writing in the 5th century BC, Heraclitus believed that everything was constantly changing and is famous for stating that "no man ever steps into the same river twice." Often considered an enigmatic thinker, much of Heraclitus's work is complex and puzzling.

Unlike most of his contemporaries he was not associated with a particular school or disciplinary approach.

At times a rationalist, at other times a mystic, Heraclitus is an intriguing figure who influenced major later philosophers such as Aristotle and Plato.

Producer: Natalia Fernandez.

John Wyclif And The Lollards20110616

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss John Wyclif and the Lollards.

John Wyclif was a medieval philosopher and theologian who in the fourteenth century instigated the first complete English translation of the Bible.

One of the most important thinkers of the Middle Ages, he also led a movement of opposition to the Roman Church and its institutions which has come to be seen as a precursor to the Reformation.

Wyclif disputed some of the key teachings of the Church, including the doctrine of transubstantiation.

His followers, the Lollards, were later seen as dangerous heretics, and in the fifteenth century many of them were burnt at the stake.

Today Lollardy is seen as the first significant movement of dissent against the Church in England.

With:

Sir Anthony Kenny

Philosopher and former Master of Balliol College, Oxford

Anne Hudson

Emeritus Professor of Medieval English at the University of Oxford

Rob Lutton

Lecturer in Medieval History at the University of Nottingham

Producer: Thomas Morris.

Judas Maccabeus20111124

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the revolutionary Jewish leader Judas Maccabeus.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the revolutionary Jewish leader Judas Maccabeus.

Born in the second century BC, Judas led his followers, the Maccabees, in a rebellion against the Seleucid Empire, which was attempting to impose the Greek culture and religion on the Jews.

After a succession of battles he succeeded and the Seleucid king granted the Jews religious freedom.

But even after that freedom was granted the struggle for political independence continued, and it was not until twenty years after Judas's death that Judaea finally became an independent state.

Thanks to an extensive, if often confused, historical record of these events, the story of the Maccabees is well known.

Judas Maccabeus has become a celebrated folk hero, and one of his achievements, the restoration and purification of the Temple of Jerusalem after its desecration by the Seleucids, is commemorated every year at the Jewish festival of Hanukkah.

With:

Helen Bond, Senior Lecturer in the New Testament at Edinburgh University

Tessa Rajak, Emeritus Professor of Ancient History at the University of Reading

Philip Alexander, Emeritus Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Manchester

Producer: Natalia Fernandez.

Logic20101021

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history of logic.

Logic, the study of reasoning and argument, first became a systematic discipline through the work of Aristotle.

Since then it has been refined and reinvented by a succession of great thinkers.

Today it is a subtle system with uses in fields as diverse as mathematics, philosophy, linguistics and computing.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

Logical Positivism20090702

Melvyn Bragg and guests including Barry Smith discuss Logical Positivism, the radical philosophy of the Vienna Circle.

Lysenkoism20080605

Melvyn Bragg is joined by Robert Service, Catherine Merridale and Steve Jones.

Geneticist Trofim Lysenko promised Stalin that he would revolutionise Soviet agriculture in the 1940s.

Politically brilliant but scientifically erroneous, Lysenko eliminated his enemies with an efficiency not seen in his agricultural reforms.

Soviet agriculture collapsed and the USSR was forced to import vast quantities of grain from the USA.

Had they not had to do so, the Cold War might still be going on.

Macromolecules20111229

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the giant molecules that underpin all life.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the giant molecules that form the basis of all life. Macromolecules, also known as polymers, are long chains of atoms. They form the proteins that make up our bodies, as well as many of the materials of modern life. Man's ability to mimic the structure of macromolecules has led to the invention of plastics such as nylon, paints and adhesives. Most of our clothes are made of macromolecules, and our food is macromolecular.

The medical sciences are making increasingly sophisticated use of macromolecules, from growing replacement skin and bone to their increasing use in drug delivery. One of the most famous macromolecules is DNA, an infinitely more complex polymer than man has ever managed to produce. We've only known about macromolecules for just over a century, so what is the story behind them and how might they change our lives in the future?

With:

Tony Ryan

Pro-Vice Chancellor for the Faculty of Science at the University of Sheffield

Athene Donald

Professor of Experimental Physics at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Robinson College

Charlotte Williams

Reader in Polymer Chemistry and Catalysis at Imperial College, London

Producer: Natalia Fernandez.

Maimonides20110217

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the medieval Jewish scholar Maimonides.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the work and influence of Maimonides.

Widely regarded as the greatest Jewish philosopher of the medieval period, Maimonides was also a physician and rabbinical authority.

His writings include a 14-volume work on Jewish law, the Mishneh Torah, which is still widely used today, and the Guide of the Perplexed, a central work of medieval philosophy.

Although undoubtedly a titan of Jewish intellectual history, Maimonides was also profoundly influenced by the Islamic world.

He exerted a strong influence on later Islamic philosophy, as well on thinkers ranging from Thomas Aquinas to Leibniz and Newton.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

Malthusianism20110623

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Malthusianism.

In 1798 the Reverend Thomas Malthus published An Essay on the Principle of Population.

It predicted future population growth, and also suggested that food production could not keep pace.

The work caused a furore and fuelled a public debate about the size and sustainability of the British population which raged for generations.

Although the gloomier predictions of Malthusianism were subsequently proved wrong, its central ideas have remained influential ever since.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

Mary Wollstonecraft20091231

Melvyn Bragg and guests John Mullan, Karen O'Brien and Barbara Taylor discuss the life and ideas of the pioneering British Enlightenment thinker Mary Wollstonecraft.

Mary Wollstonecraft was born in 1759 into a middle-class family whose status steadily sank as her inept, brutal, drunken father frittered away the family fortune.

She did what she could to protect her mother from his aggression; meanwhile, her brother was slated to inherit much of the remaining fortune, while she was to receive nothing.

From this unpromising but radicalising start, Wollstonecraft's career took a dizzying trajectory through a bleak period as a governess to becoming a writer, launching a polemical broadside against the political star of the day, witnessing the bloodshed of the French Revolution up close, rescuing her lover's stolen ship in Scandanavia, then marrying one of the leading philosophers of the day, William Godwin, and with him having a daughter who - though she never lived to see her grow up - would go on to write Frankenstein.

But most importantly, in 1792, she published her great work, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, which marks her out as one of the great thinkers of the British Enlightenment, with a much stronger, more lasting influence than Godwin.

The Vindication was an attempt to apply the Enlightenment logic of rights and reason to the lives of women.

Yet it was not a manifesto for the extension of the vote or the reform of divorce law, but a work of political philosophy.

And surprisingly, as recent scholarship has highlighted, it was infused with Rational Dissenting Christianity, which Wollstonecraft had absorbed during her time as a struggling teacher and writer in north London.

John Mullan is Professor of English at University College, London; Karen O'Brien is Professor of English at the University of Warwick; Barbara Taylor is Professor of Modern History in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of East London.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and ideas of Mary Wollstonecraft.

Miracles20080925

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of miracles from their Biblical origins, through the miracle tradition of the medieval church to reformation arguments over the miraculous and the questioning scientific bent of the 17th and 18th centuries.

Miracles have been the subject of fierce theological debate, intense popular piety and serious medical study.

Neoplatonism

Octavia Hill20110407

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Victorian social reformer Octavia Hill.

From the 1850s until her death in 1912, Octavia Hill was an energetic campaigner who did much to improve the lot of impoverished city dwellers.

She was a pioneer of social housing who believed that there were better and more humane ways of arranging accommodation for the poor than through the state.

She provided an early model of social work, did much to preserve urban open spaces, and was the first to use the term 'green belt' to describe the rural areas around London.

She was also one of the founders of the National Trust.

Yet her vision of social reform, involving volunteers and private enterprise rather than central government, was often at odds with that of her contemporaries.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

Pliny's Natural History
Probability20080529

Melvyn Bragg is joined by Marcus Du Sautoy and Colva Roney Dougal.

The idea of capturing the likelihood of events in a mathematical model is a modern development.

It exploded into the 20th century when quantum mechanics declared that probability was not merely a tool of human analysis but was written into the very nature of existence.

This claim provoked a dissenting Einstein to declare that 'God does not throw dice'.

Ptolemy And Ancient Astronomy20111117

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Ptolemy and ancient astronomy.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the ancient Greek astronomer and mathematician Ptolemy, and consider how and why his geocentric theory of the universe held sway for so many centuries.

In his seminal astronomical work, the Almagest, written in the 2nd century AD, Ptolemy proposed that the Earth was at the centre of the universe and explained all the observed motions of the Sun, Moon, planets and stars with a system of uniform circular motions which he referred to as 'epicycles'.

But Ptolemy was a polymath and did not confine his study of the stars to mathematical equations.

He was also interested in astrology and his book on this topic, the Tetrabiblos, tackled the spiritual aspects of the cosmos and its influence on individual lives and personalities.

Ptolemy's model of the universe remained the dominant one for over a thousand years.

It was not until 1543, and Copernicus's heliocentric theory of the world, that the Ptolemaic model was finally challenged, and not until 1609 that Johannes Kepler's New Astronomy put an end to his ideas for good.

But how and why did Ptolemy's system survive for so long?

With:

Liba Taub

Reader in the History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge University

Jim Bennett

Director of the Museum of the History of Science at the University of Oxford

Charles Burnett

Professor of the History of Islamic Influences on Europe at the Warburg Institute, University of London

Producer: Natalia Fernandez.

Pythagoras20091210

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas attributed to the Greek mathematician Pythagoras

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas attributed to the Greek mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras and the influence of his followers, the Pythagoreans.

Random And Pseudorandom20110113

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss mathematical randomness and pseudorandomness.

A sequence of numbers is random if it is unpredictable and displays no pattern.

Random numbers are vital to games of chance: for instance, an unbiased roulette wheel will produce a sequence of random numbers between 0 and 36.

Mathematicians also talk of 'pseudorandom' numbers - those which appear to be random but are not.

Pseudorandomness has become enormously important in recent years, with uses in computing, cryptography and the modelling of complex phenomena, from climate change to weather systems.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

Robinson Crusoe20111222

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Daniel Defoe's seminal novel Robinson Crusoe.

Published in 1719, it was an immediate success and is considered the classic adventure story.

The plot is now universally known - the sailor stranded on a desert island who learns to tame the environment and the native population.

As well as being a rip-roaring tale of life in the wilderness, the book is a piece of didactic literature designed to instruct the reader in leading a moral and religious life.

Producer: Natalia Fernandez.

Schopenhauer20091029

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the dark, pessimistic philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer.

Melvyn Bragg and guests AC Grayling, Beatrice Han-Pile and Christopher Janaway discuss the dark, pessimistic philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer, which set the tone for much 20th-century thought.

Shinto20110922

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Japanese belief system of Shinto.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Shinto.

A religion without gods, scriptures or a founder, Shinto is perhaps better described as a system of belief.

Its shrines are some of the most prominent features of the landscape in Japan, where it has been practised for centuries.

It coexists with Buddhism and other religions; in fact, adherents often practise both simultaneously.

Although it has changed considerably in recent centuries, it remains one of the most significant influences on Japanese culture.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

St Paul20090528

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life, ideas and influence of St Paul.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life, ideas and influence of the Christian Apostle, St Paul.

St Thomas Aquinas20090917

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss St Thomas Aquinas.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss St Thomas Aquinas, the Catholic Church's foremost western philosopher and theologian.

Sturm Und Drang20101014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the German artistic movement known as Sturm und Drang.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the 18th-century German artistic movement known as Sturm und Drang, whose best-known exponents included Goethe and Schiller.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

Suffragism20090416

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss suffragism, the movement for women's voting rights.

Melvyn Bragg and guests Krista Cowman, June Purvis and Julia Bush discuss suffragism, a name for the various movements to get the vote for women in the 19th and early-20th century.

On the 4th June 1913 the Epsom Derby was underway.

King George V was there watching his horse Anmer, ridden by Herbert Jones.

Also watching was a young woman called Emily Davison.

As the horses thundered towards the finish line, Emily Davison stepped through the barrier and threw herself in front of the King's horse and died of her injuries four days later.

Davison was a suffragette, a campaigner for the woman's right to vote and her death is perhaps the most powerful image of that entire movement.

Emmeline Pankhurst and her Suffragettes are famous for their militant campaign of suicide, violence and direct action, but Suffragism was a broader movement involving letter writing, reasoned argument, journalism and parliamentary petition - all played out across biology, medicine, law, psychology, politics and the military amidst the rising tide of democratic ideas.

Sunni And Shia Islam20090625

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the roots of the division between Sunni and Shia in Islam.

Melvyn Bragg and guests, including Amira Bennison and Hugh Kennedy, discuss the historical roots of the division between Sunni and Shia in Islam.

Swift's A Modest Proposal20090129

Melvyn Bragg and guests John Mullan, Judith Hawley and Ian Mcbride discuss Jonathan Swift's satirical 1729 pamphlet A Modest Proposal, which suggested that famine in Ireland would be avoided if people ate their babies.

It reveals much about attitudes to the Irish and the poor in 18th-Century Britain.

Tacitus And The Decadence Of Rome20080710

Melvyn Bragg and guests Catherine Edwards, Ellen O'Gorman and Maria Wyke discuss the Roman historian Tacitus, banquets, orgies, Hollywood epics and the process of making history.

Tennyson's In Memoriam20110630

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Tennyson's poem In Memoriam.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Alfred, Lord Tennyson's long poem In Memoriam.

In 1850, shortly before his appointment as Poet Laureate, Tennyson published a work which many critics regard as his masterpiece.

In Memoriam A.H.H.

was written in tribute to a close friend, the sculptor Arthur Hallam, who had died seventeen years earlier.

The work is a farewell not just to Hallam but to an entire system of thought.

Tennyson realised that the advent of new scientific certainties meant the death of old religious ones.

The work was enormously successful; one early reader was Queen Victoria, who after the death of Prince Albert wrote: "Next to the Bible, In Memoriam is my comfort".

Producer: Thomas Morris.

The Age Of The Universe20110303

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the age of the universe.

Melvyn Bragg and guests including the Astronomer Royal, Martin Rees, discuss the age of the universe.

Since the 18th century, when scientists first realised that the universe had existed for more than a few thousand years, cosmologists have debated its likely age.

The discovery that the universe was expanding allowed the first informed estimates of its age to be made by the great astronomer Edwin Hubble, in the early decades of the twentieth century.

Hubble's estimate of the rate at which the universe is expanding, the so-called Hubble Constant, has been progressively improved.

Today, using ever more sophisticated methods, cosmologists generally agree that the universe has been here for almost 14 billion years.

The Anatomy Of Melancholy20110512

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Robert Burton's book The Anatomy of Melancholy.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Robert Burton's The Anatomy of Melancholy.

In 1621 a priest and mathematician, Robert Burton, published a book quite unlike any other.

The Anatomy of Melancholy is a vast compendium of writing about melancholy, written partly to alleviate the author's own depression.

Despite its subject matter, the Anatomy is an entertaining work, described by Samuel Johnson as the only book that ever took him out of bed two hours sooner than he wished to rise.

It also offers a fascinating insight into seventeenth-century medical theory - and cast a long shadow over literature in English for centuries.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

The Arab Conquests20080626

Melvyn Bragg and guests Hugh Kennedy and Amira Bennison discuss the spread of Islam from North Africa to Southern Europe in the 7th and 8th centuries.

The Augustan Age20090611

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how the Emperor Augustus influenced Ovid and Virgil.

Melvyn Bragg and guests Mary Beard, Catharine Edwards and Duncan Kennedy discuss how the Emperor Augustus influenced the literature of Ovid and Virgil.

The Battle Of Bannockburn20110203

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Battle of Bannockburn.

In June 1314, Scottish forces under their king Robert the Bruce confronted a larger army commanded by the English monarch Edward II at Bannockburn.

The Scots won a decisive victory: the English were routed and their king narrowly escaped capture.

Although it took a further 15 years for Scotland to achieve full independence with the 1528 Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton, this was an important victory and remains one of the most discussed moments in the nation's history.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

The Battle Of Stamford Bridge20110602

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Battle of Stamford Bridge.

On 25th September 1066, English forces under the command of King Harold Godwinson confronted an invading force of Norsemen, whose leaders included Harold's brother Tostig.

This was the culmination of a succession struggle which had been sparked by the death of Edward the Confessor eight months earlier.

Harold was victorious; but barely three weeks later he was dead, killed at Hastings.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

The Bhagavad Gita20110331

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Bhagavad Gita, a key text of Hinduism.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Bhagavad Gita.

The Bhagavad Gita, a 700-verse section of the Sanskrit epic the Mahabhrata, is one of the most revered texts of Hinduism.

It narrates a conversation between Krishna, an incarnation of the deity, and the Pandava prince Arjuna and has been described as a concise summary of Hindu theology.

But it is also a philosophical work of great richness and influence.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

The Black Death20080522

Melvyn Bragg is joined by Miri Rubin and Paul Binski to discuss how the 14th-century plague affected every aspect of medieval life including belief, art, work and politics.

Having cut a swathe through the continent, the Black Death killed nearly 40 percent of the English population.

For the survivors, things would never be the same.

The Boxer Rebellion20090319

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Boxer Rebellion in the summer of 1900.

Melvyn Bragg and guests including Rana Mitter and Frances Wood discuss the Boxer Rebellion, the moment when the 'Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists' purged China of foreign influences in the summer of 1900.

The Brothers Grimm20090205

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the fairy tales collected by the Brothers Grimm.

Melvyn Bragg and guests Marina Warner, Juliette Wood and Tony Phelan discuss the fairy tales collected by the Brothers Grimm, including Cinderella, Rapunzel and Hansel and Gretal.

What they can tell us about the German imagination and 19th-century romantic nationalism?

The Building Of St Petersburg20090423

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the building of St Petersburg.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the building of St Petersburg, Peter the Great's showcase city for a modern, European Russia.

The Concordat Of Worms20111215

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Concordat of Worms of 1122.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Concordat of Worms.

This treaty between the papacy and the Holy Roman Empire, signed in 1122, put an end to years of power struggle and bloodshed.

It created a historic distinction between secular power and spiritual authority, and more clearly defined the respective powers of monarchs and the Church.

Although in the short term the Concordat failed to prevent further conflict, some historians believe that it paved the way for the modern nation-state.

Producer: Natalia Fernandez.

The Consolations Of Philosophy20090101

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss The Consolations of Philosophy by the philosopher Boethius

Melvyn Bragg and guests Anthony Grayling, Melissa Lane and Roger Scruton discuss The Consolations of Philosophy by the Roman philosopher Boethius.

Awaiting execution for treason, Boethius wrote down this series of thoughts to accomodate himself to his impending death.

The book was widely distributed in Medieval Europe, influenced Dante and Geoffrey Chaucer and was translated by Elizabeth I.

Melvyn and his guests discuss what consolation Boethius found, the theme of consolation in philosphy from Plato to Camus and their own sense of the succour that philosophical ideas can bring.

The Continental-analytic Split20111110

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Continental and Analytic philosophical traditions.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Continental-Analytic split in Western philosophy.

Around the beginning of the last century, philosophy began to go down two separate paths, as thinkers from Continental Europe explored the legacy of figures including Schopenhauer, while those educated in the English-speaking world tended to look to more analytically-inclined philosophers like Bertrand Russell.

The Continental and Analytic schools have developed independently, with the analytic school favouring a logical scientific approach in contrast to the Continental emphasis on the importance of time and place; but today some philosophers are attempting to bridge this historic divide.

Producer: Natalia Fernandez.

The Dawn Of The Iron Age20110324

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the dawn of the Iron Age.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the dawn of the European Iron Age.

Around the 11th century BC a new technology reached Europe: iron smelting.

For hundreds of years before this, the most advanced metalworkers had been making tools and weapons out of bronze; now iron began to replace it.

The adoption of this new material was accompanied by significant change in the nature and organisation of human societies - although the precise cause of this upheaval is still the subject of debate.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

The Death Of Elizabeth I20091015

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the death of Queen Elizabeth I.

Melvyn Bragg and guests John Guy, Clare Jackson and Helen Hackett discuss the death of Queen Elizabeth I and its impact on how Britain was ruled.

The Destruction Of Carthage20090212

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss why the Romans were obsessed with Carthage.

Melvyn Bragg and guests including Mary Beard and Ellen O'Gorman discuss why the Romans were obsessed with Carthage and why it haunted the Roman imagination.

When the Romans finally conquered their great enemy they razed it to the ground, sold off its library and tried to take an entire civilisation out of history.

The Discovery Of Radiation20091112

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of the discovery of radiation.

The Dreyfus Affair20091008

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Dreyfus Affair of 1890s France.

Melvyn Bragg and guests Robert Gildea, Ruth Harris and Robert Tombs discuss the Dreyfus Affair, the 1890s scandal which divided opinion in France for a generation.

The Etruscan Civilisation20110929

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Etruscan civilisation.

Around 800 BC a sophisticated civilisation began to emerge in the area of Italy now known as Tuscany.

These were the Etruscans, and for many years they controlled much of Italy.

They were effective merchants as well as skilled soldiers and artists, and much of their handiwork survives today.

Eventually the Etruscan civilisation was subsumed into that of Rome, on which it had a profound influence.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

The Geological Formation Of Britain20091022

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the geological formation of Britain.

Melvyn Bragg and guests Richard Corfield, Jane Francis and Sanjeev Gupta discuss the geological formation of Britain.

The Glencoe Massacre
The Great Fire Of London20081211

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Great Fire of London and the rebuilding of the city.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Great Fire of London and the subsequent rebuilding of the city, both physically and intellectually.

It was a rich period of culture in London, with Samuel Pepys, Christopher Wren, the foundation of the Royal Society, the building of St Paul's and the Restoration court of King Charles II.

With Lisa Jardine, Jonathan Sawday and Vanessa Harding.

The Great Reform Act20081127

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Great Reform Act of 1832.

Melvyn Bragg and guests Dinah Birch, Catherine Hall and Michael Bentley discuss the Great Reform Act of 1832.

A landmark in British political history, the Act allowed more people to vote and redrew the British political map, giving more power to burgeoning industrial cities such as Manchester and taking away 'rotten boroughs'.

It paved the way for a period of political reform that would eventually bring universal suffrage and the democratic recognition of the working class.

The Hippocratic Oath20110915

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Hippocratic Oath.

The Greek physician Hippocrates, active in the fifth century BC, has been described as the father of medicine, although little is known about his life and some scholars even argue that he was not one person but several.

Among a large body of work attributed to Hippocrates, by far the best known is the Hippocratic Oath, an ethical code for doctors.

Celebrated in the ancient world, it has guided the conduct of physicians ever since.

Although it has often been revised and adapted, the Hippocratic Oath remains one of the most significant and best known documents of medical science.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

The History Of Sparta20091119

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of Sparta.

Melvyn Bragg and guests Paul Cartledge, Edith Hall and Angie Hobbs discuss the history of Sparta and what its culture came to represent.

The Industrial Revolution20101223

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Industrial Revolution.

In the first of two programmes, Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Industrial Revolution, a period of rapid technological development which brought widespread social and intellectual change to Britain.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

The Invention Of Calculus20090924

The dispute between Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz over who invented calculus.

Melvyn Bragg and guests Patricia Fara, Simon Schaffer and Jackie Stedall discuss the dispute between Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz over who invented calculus.

The Library At Nineveh20080515

Melvyn Bragg is joined by Eleanor Robson, Andrew George and Karen Radner to discuss one of the greatest architectural finds ever recorded.

Dating from the 7th century BC, the library at Nineveh was a treasure house of clay tablets recording the science, religion, politics and literature of the Assyrian and Babylonian empires.

It offered an unprecedented sense of ancient life in the Middle East and contained perhaps the oldest story in the world, the Epic of Gilgamesh.

The Library Of Alexandria20090312

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Library of Alexandria.

Melvyn Bragg and guests Simon Goldhill, Serafina Cuomo and Matthew Nichols discuss the Library of Alexandria, one of the greatest libraries in history.

The way knowledge was arranged on its shelves still influences our understanding of the world today.

The Magna Carta20090507

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Magna Carta.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Magna Carta, the charter issued by King John in 1215 that is often seen as the basis of English liberties.

The Measurement Problem In Physics20090305

Melvyn Bragg and guests including Roger Penrose discuss the measurement problem in physics

The Medieval University20110317

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the foundation of the medieval universities.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the medieval university.

In the 11th and 12th centuries a completely new type of institution began to spring up in European cities.

Bologna was the first modern university, quickly followed by similar institutions in Paris, Oxford and elsewhere.

They taught a broad curriculum based on the so-called trivium, the fundamental subjects of grammar, logic and rhetoric.

Initially founded to train the clergy, universities revolutionised European intellectual life.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

The Metaphysical Poets20080703

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the metaphysical poets, a diffuse group of 17th-century writers that included John Donne and Andrew Marvell.

With Tom Healy, Tom Cain and Julie Sanders.

The Ming Voyages20111013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Ming Voyages of discovery.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Ming Voyages.

In 1405 a Chinese admiral, Zheng He, set sail with an enormous fleet of ships carrying more than 27,000 people.

This was the first of seven voyages of discovery which took Zheng and his ships all over the known world, from India to the Gulf of Persia and as far as East Africa.

They took Chinese goods, evidence of the might of the Ming Empire, to the people they visited; and they also returned to China with treasure from the places they visited, and exotic items including a live giraffe.

These seven voyages were an expression of the might of the Ming Dynasty; but they were regarded by some Chinese courtiers as a wasteful extravagance, and after internal disputes they came to an end in 1433.

These extraordinary journeys live on in the imagination and the historical record - and had a profound effect on China's relationship with the rest of the world.

With:

Rana Mitter

Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China at the University of Oxford

Julia Lovell

Lecturer in Chinese History at Birkbeck College, University of London

Craig Clunas

Professor of the History of Art at the University of Oxford.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

The Minoan Civilisation20110707

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Minoan Civilisation.

In 1900 the British archaeologist Arthur Evans began excavating some ancient ruins at Knossos, on the island of Crete.

He uncovered an enormous palace complex which reminded him of the mythical labyrinth of King Minos.

Evans had in fact discovered the remnants of a Bronze Age society which he named the Minoan Civilisation.

The Minoan Civilisation flourished for twelve centuries and was at its height around three and a half thousand years ago.

Today much is known of Minoan religion, culture and society, but still much remains mysterious.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

The Moon20111103

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the origins, science and mythology of the moon.

Humans have been fascinated with our only known satellite since prehistory.

In some cultures the moon has been worshipped as a deity; in recent centuries there has been lively debate about its origins and physical characteristics.

The advances of space science, including data from satellites and the moon landings, have given us some startling insights, but also posed intriguing questions.

Producer: Natalia Fernandez.

The Music Of The Spheres20080619

Melvyn Bragg and guests Peter Forshaw and Angela Voss discuss the idea that the revolution of the planets generates a celestial harmony of profound and transcendent beauty.

The music of the spheres played through late antiquity and the medieval period into the Renaissance and its echoes could be heard in astrology and astronomy theology and music itself.

Influenced by Pythagoras and Plato, it was discussed by Cicero, Boethius, Marcello Ficino and Johannes Kepler.

The Nervous System20110210

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the nervous system.

Most animals have a nervous system, a network of nerve tissues which allows parts of the body to communicate with each other.

In humans the most significant parts of this network are the brain, spinal column and retinas, which together make up the central nervous system; less generally known to the layperson, but equally important, are the peripheral and enteric systems.

Together, these complex organs allow us to experience sensation, control our limbs and - often unwittingly - our bodily functions.

But how do these systems work and fit together, and who were the scientists who helped us understand them?

Producer: Thomas Morris.

The Neutrino20110414

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the neutrino, the so-called 'ghost particle'.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the neutrino.

In 1930 the physicist Wolfgang Pauli proposed the existence of an as-yet undiscovered particle.

He also bet his colleagues a case of champagne that it would never be detected.

He lost his bet when in 1956 the particle, now known as the neutrino, was first observed in an American nuclear reactor.

Neutrinos are some of the most mysterious particles in the Universe: they are produced in their trillions by the Sun, pass through almost everything in their path and are almost impossible to detect.

Today, experiments involving neutrinos are providing insights into the nature of matter, the contents of the Universe and the processes deep inside stars.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

The Norman Yoke20080410

Melvyn Bragg is joined by Richard Gameson, Sarah Foot and Matthew Strickland to discuss what happened in the days after the Battle of Hastings.

With England under foreign occupation, visible signs of the new order manifested themselves in the form of castles and cathedrals.

But was Norman rule as oppressive as English historians would have us believe?

The Observatory At Jaipur20090219

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the observatory at Jaipur.

Melvyn Bragg and guests including Chandrika Kaul and David Arnold discuss the observatory at Jaipur.

The Origins Of Infectious Disease20110609

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the origins of infectious disease.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests, including the geneticist Steve Jones, discuss the origins of infectious disease.

Some human diseases, such as Ebola and HIV, first appeared on the planet less than a century ago.

Others, including plague and leprosy, are much older, documented in early written sources including ancient epics and the Bible.

But where do the agents of disease come from, and what determines where and when new viruses and bacteria appear? The story of disease provides a fascinating microcosm of the machinery of evolution.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

The Origins Of Islamic Law20110505

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the origins of Islamic law.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the origins and early development of Islamic law.

The legal code of Islam is known as Sharia, an Arabic word meaning "the way".

Its sources include the Qur'an, the example given by the Prophet Muhammad, and the opinions of legal scholars.

In the 7th century, Sharia started to replace the tribal laws of pre-Islamic Arabia; over the next three hundred years it underwent considerable evolution as Islam spread.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

The Pelagian Controversy20110421

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the church's most significant doctrinal disputes.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Pelagian Controversy.

In the late 4th century a British monk, Pelagius, began to preach a heretical Christian doctrine.

Pelagius believed that mankind was not inherently depraved, and disputed the necessity of original sin.

His opinions were highly controversial; his most prominent opponent was the bishop St Augustine of Hippo.

Their dispute was to be of long-lasting significance to the future of the Church.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

The Physics Of Time *20081218

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the physics of time.

With Ian Stewart and Jim Al-Khalil.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the physics of time: how the idea has developed and what we think it is now.

The Samurai20091224

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the rise, fall and legacy of the Samurai.

The School Of Athens20090326

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Raphael's depiction of Plato and Aristotle.

Melvyn Bragg and guests including Angie Hobbs and Jill Kraye discuss the Italian Renaissance artist Raphael's depiction of Plato and Aristotle and what it tells us about both the subjects and the painter.

The Siege Of Münster20091105

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Siege of Münster in 1534.

Melvyn Bragg and guests Diarmaid MacCulloch, Lucy Wooding and Charlotte Methuen discuss the Siege of Münster in 1534, when radical Anabaptists tried to create the 'New Jerusalem' in a small German town, with horrific consequences.

The Siege Of Mnster
The Siege Of Tenochtitlan20111027

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Siege of Tenochtitlan and fall of the Aztec Empire

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Siege of Tenochtitlan.

In 1521 the Spanish conquistador Herman Cortes led a Spanish army against the city of Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec civilisation.

After a fierce battle, in which many thousands died, the city finally fell.

This major confrontation between Old and New Worlds precipitated the downfall of the Aztec Empire, and marked a new phase in European colonisation of the Americas.

Producer: Natalia Fernandez.

The Siege Of Vienna20090514

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Ottoman siege of Vienna in 1683.

Melvyn Bragg and guests Alastair Wheatcroft, Claire Norton and Jeremy Black discuss the Ottoman siege of Vienna in 1683, a titanic struggle that shaped East-West perceptions and helped to define the boundaries of modern Europe.

The Silk Road20091203

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Silk Road.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Silk Road, the trade route which, for thousands of years, did much to connect European and Asian cultures.

The Taiping Rebellion20110224

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Taiping Rebellion.

In 1850 a Chinese Christian convert, Hong Xiuquan, proclaimed himself leader of a new dynasty, the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom.

He and his followers marched against the ruling Qing dynasty, gathering huge support as they went.

The ensuing civil war lasted fourteen years; around twenty million people lost their lives in a conflict which eventually involved European as well as Chinese soldiers.

The Taiping Rebellion was arguably the most important event to befall China in the 19th century.

Chinese nationalists and communists alike have been profoundly influenced by it, and historians believe it shaped modern China in the same way as the First World War shaped modern Europe.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

The Trial Of Charles I20090604

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how the English Civil War culminated in courtroom drama.

The Unicorn20101028

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history and mythology of the unicorn.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the unicorn.

Several ancient civilisations believed in the existence of a single-horned horse-like creature, often invested with magical powers.

The unicorn became an important symbol in the middle ages, frequently represented in art; and scientists believed that they had proved its existence when explorers bought back narwhal tusks, which they believed to be examples of the animal's horn.

Although now known to be a creature of the imagination, the story of the unicorn offers a fascinating insight into the evolution of myth and science.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

The Vacuum Of Space20090430

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Vacuum of Space.

Melvyn Bragg and guests including Frank Close and Jocelyn Bell Burnell discuss the Vacuum of Space.

The Volga Vikings20101111

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Volga Vikings.

In the 8th century AD a group of Norsemen travelled through the land now known as Russia into Central Asia and founded settlements there.

They penetrated so far east that their activities were documented by Arab scholars: one, Ahmed ibn Fadlan, recorded that the Volga Vikings were perfect physical specimens but also "the filthiest of God's creatures".

Through trade and culture they brought West and East into regular contact for the first time; their story sheds light on both Scandinavian and early Islamic history.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

The Wasteland And Modernity20090226

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Ts Eliot's seminal poem The Wasteland.

Melvyn Bragg and guests, including Steve Connor and Lawrence Rainey, discuss Ts Eliot's seminal poem The Wasteland and its ambivalence to the modern world of technology, democracy and capitalism that was being forged around it.

The Whale - A History20090521

Melvyn Bragg and guests Steve Jones, Bill Amos and Eleanor Weston discuss the evolutionary history of the whale.

The Written World - 220120103

Melvyn considers the impact of the invention of the book.

In the second instalment of his survey of the written word, Melvyn Bragg traces the evolution of writing technology from the time of classical antiquity to the invention of printing. He discovers the origins of the book, and encounters the earliest surviving intact example in the Western world.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

The Written World - 320120104

How the invention of writing influenced the spread of religion.

Melvyn Bragg continues his survey of the history of the written word by investigating how writing has influenced the spread of religion. He finds out how the evolution of writing materials and techniques allowed religions to develop, and encouters some of the earliest surviving sacred texts, including the 4th-century Codex Sinaiticus and a Koran produced in Iraq in the 8th century.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

The Written World - 420120105

How the written word, originally used for accountancy, gave rise to human literature.

Melvyn Bragg investigates how the written word, a technology originally used for accountancy, gave rise to all of human literature. He charts the emergence of poetry and history writing in the ancient world, inspects an ancient Egyptian precursor to Hamlet, and discovers how Greek literary traditions reached this country in the Middle Ages.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

The Written World - 520120106

How the invention of writing made the scientific revolution of the Enlightenment possible.

Melvyn Bragg concludes his survey of the written word by considering how the invention of writing made the scientific revolution of the Enlightenment possible - and examines influential documents, including the student notebooks of Sir Isaac Newton.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

The Written World -120120102

How making signs on clay, wood or parchment enabled the development of human culture.

Melvyn Bragg investigates the development of the written word and how it has shaped our intellectual history. In this first programme he looks at the technology of writing, arguably our most important invention. He examines some of the oldest surviving writing implements, and discovers and how making signs on clay, wood or parchment enabled the development of human culture.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

Thoreau And The American Idyll20090115

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the philosopher and naturalist Henry David Thoreau.

Melvyn Bragg and guests Stephen Fender, Kathy Burk and Tim Morris discuss the philosopher, naturalist and critic of modernity Henry David Thoreau, and how he represents a mode of American life.

Lively discussion with Melvyn Bragg and guests.

Unintended Consequences Of Mathematics
Wb Yeats And Irish Politics20080417

Melvyn Bragg is joined by Roy Foster, Warwick Gould and Fran Brearton to discuss the life and works of the great Irish poet.

Yeats lived through a turbulent time in Irish politics, encompassing the Easter rising and the division of the country.

His poems relate to those troubled times, the idea of Irishness itself and the surprising nature of his own political beliefs.

Women And Enlightenment Science20101104

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the role played by women in Enlightenment science.

During the eighteenth century, the opportunities for women to gain a knowledge of science were minimal.

Universities and other institutions devoted to research were the preserve of men.

Yet many important contributions to the science of the Enlightenment were made by women, ranging from translation of key texts (such as Newton's Principia) to the major discoveries made by the British astronomer Caroline Herschel.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

Xenophon20110526

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the ancient Greek historian and soldier Xenophon.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of Xenophon.

The Athenian soldier and writer Xenophon was born around 430 BC.

A friend and pupil of the great philosopher Socrates, he is best known today for his Anabasis, a book which vividly narrates his participation in a military campaign under the command of the Persian prince Cyrus the Younger.

But he was also a major historian and essayist whose other works include a treatise on hunting, and the earliest surviving manual of horsemanship, which is still used today.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

01In Our Time: The Royal Society And British Science20100104

Melvyn Bragg travels to Oxford, where the young Christopher Wren and friends experimented.

As part of the BBC's year of science programming, Melvyn Bragg looks at the history of the oldest scientific learned society of them all: the Royal Society.

Melvyn travels to Wadham College, Oxford, where under the shadow of the English Civil War, the young Christopher Wren and friends experimented in the garden of their inspirational college warden, John Wilkins.

Back in London, as Charles II is brought to the throne from exile, the new Society is formally founded one night in Gresham College.

When London burns six years later, it is two of the key early Fellows of the Society who are charged with its rebuilding.

And, as Melvyn finds out, in the secret observatory in The Monument to the fire, it is science which flavours their plans.

02In Our Time: The Royal Society And British Science20100105

How Newton tested the lines between government-funded research and public access.

As part of the BBC's year of science programming, Melvyn Bragg looks at the history of the oldest scientific learned society of them all: the Royal Society.

Programme two begins in the coffee house Isaac Newton and the fellows of the early 18th century frequented.

At the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, we learn how Newton's feud with the Astronomer Royal John Flamsteed tested the lines between government-funded research and public access.

In the age of exploration, senior fellows accompany naval expeditions, such as Cook's expedition to Tahiti and subsequent discovery of Australia.

International relations are fostered between scientists such as Benjamin Franklin, whose house in London serves as live-in lab and de facto American embassy.

By the end of the century the President, Sir Joseph Banks, successfully embeds the Royal Society in the imperial bureaucratic hub of the new Somerset House.

But while senior fellows concentrated on foreign fields, a more radical, dissident science and manufacturing base wrought the Industrial Revolution right under their noses.

03In Our Time: The Royal Society And British Science20100106

The 19th century blooms scientifically with numerous alternative, specialist societies.

As part of the BBC's year of science programming, Melvyn Bragg looks at the history of the oldest scientific learned society of them all: the Royal Society.

The 19th century blooms scientifically with numerous alternative, specialist learned societies and associations, all threatening the Royal Society's pre-eminence.

Attempts to reform the membership criteria - marking scientific leadership's painful transition from patronage to expertise - are troubled, and organisations such as the British Association for the Advancement of Science (now the BSA) excite and enliven scientific discourse outside of London.

Science becomes a realistic career and a path of improvement, and by the time HG Wells writes science fiction at the end of the 19th century, there are sufficient numbers of interested, informed readers to suggest that Edwardian society contained the beginnings of a scientific society.

04In Our Time: The Royal Society And British Science20100113
04 LASTIn Our Time: The Royal Society And British Science20100107

The more discreet role played by the Society in the 20th century.

As part of the BBC's year of science programming, Melvyn Bragg looks at the history of the oldest scientific learned society of them all: the Royal Society.

The horrors of the First World War were a shocking indictment of the power of science.

Picking up the thread at this hiatus in scientific optimism, this programme, recorded in the current home of the Royal Society in Carlton House Terrace in London, looks at the more subtle, discreet role the Society played in the 20th century, such as secretly arranging for refugee scientists to flee Germany, co-ordinating international scientific missions during the Cold War and quietly distributing government grant money to fund the brightest young researchers in the land.

As ever more important scientific issues face the world and Britain today, the programme asks how well placed the Royal Society is to take an important lead in the future.

05The Frankfurt School20100114

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas of the early Frankfurt School and their impact.

Melvyn Bragg and guests Raymond Geuss, Esther Leslie and Jonathan Ree discuss the ideas of the early Frankfurt School and their impact.

0620100121

Melvyn Bragg explores the Glencoe Massacre of 1692.

Melvyn Bragg explores the Glencoe Massacre of 1692, and its impact on Scottish history.

With Karin Bowie, Murray Pittock and Daniel Szechi.

07Silas Marner20100128

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss George Eliot's novel Silas Marner.

Melvyn Bragg and guests Rosemary Ashton, Dinah Birch and Valentine Cunningham discuss George Eliot's novel Silas Marner.

08Ibn Khaldun20100204

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Arab historian Ibn Khaldun.

Melvyn Bragg and guests Robert Hoyland, Robert Irwin and Hugh Kennedy discuss the Arab historian Ibn Khaldun.

0920100211

Melvyn Bragg and guests explore unintended consequences in mathematics.

10The Indian Mutiny20100218

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Indian Mutiny of 1857 and the rebellion which followed

Melvyn Bragg and guests Faisal Devji, Shruti Kapila and Chandrika Kaul discuss the Indian Mutiny of 1857 and the rebellion which followed.

11Calvinism20100225

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history and influence of Calvinism.

Melvyn Bragg and guests Justin Champion, Susan Hardman-Moore and Diarmaid MacCulloch discuss the history and influence of Calvinism.

12The Infant Brain20100304

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss what recent research is revealing about the infant brain.

Melvyn Bragg and guests Usha Goswami and Denis Mareschal discuss what recent research is revealing about the infant brain.

13Boudica20100311

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and mythologisation of Boudica.

Melvyn Bragg and guests Miranda Aldhouse-Green, Juliette Wood and Richard Hingley discuss the life and mythologisation of Boudica.

14The Scream And Edvard Munch20100318

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss The Scream and its creator, Edvard Munch.

Melvyn Bragg and guests David Jackson, Dorothy Rowe and Alastair Wright discuss The Scream and its creator, Edvard Munch.

15The History Of The City, Part 120100325

Melvyn Bragg presents the first of a two-part discussion about the history of the city.

With Peter Hall, Julia Merritt and Greg Woolf.

16The History Of The City, Part 220100401

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of the city.

Melvyn Bragg presents the second of a two-part discussion about the history of the city.

17William Hazlitt20100408

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and works of William Hazlitt.

With Jonathan Bate, Uttara Natarajan and A.

C.

Grayling.

18The Rise And Fall Of The Zulu Nation20100415

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the rise and fall of the Zulu Nation.

With Saul David, Shula Marks and Saul Dubow.

19Roman Satire20100422

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Roman Satire.

With Mary Beard.

Melvyn Bragg and guests including Mary Beard discuss Roman satire.

20The Great Wall Of China2010042920100504

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Great Wall of China.

The Great Wall is not a single Wall.

It is not visible from space, contrary to popular belief, as it is much too thin.

But it remains a spectacular architectural and historical phenomenon.

The Great Wall's military importance, and its symbolic power, have varied widely in its long existence, as its place in Chinese life has shifted with the country's history.

It was initially constructed at the command of the first Emperor, from 221 BC, and was a combination of the various protective walls that had been built by the smaller states which he had conquered and merged to form China.

The original Wall was made of pounded earth, and in places the wind-carved remains of this two thousand year old construction are still visible.

But the Wall which is familiar to us today is the work of the Ming Dynasty, and its vast programme of reinforcement - prompted by a renewed threat from the Mongols in the north.

In the 17th century, amazed Jesuits sent back reports to Europe about the Wall, and ever since it has held a powerful place in the imagination of the West.

Some scholars argue that this in turn has shaped the modern Chinese appreciation of their astounding inheritance.

Julia Lovell

Lecturer in Chinese History at Birkbeck College, University of London

Rana Mitter

Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China at the University of Oxford

Frances Wood

Head of the Chinese Section at the British Library

PRODUCER: PHIL TINLINE.

21The Cool Universe20100506

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Cool Universe.

Producer: Phil Tinline.

22The Varieties Of Religious Experience By William James20100513

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James.

Producer: Natasha Emerson.

23The Cavendish Family20100520

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the scientific achievements of the Cavendish family.

Melvyn Bragg explores the scientific achievements of the Cavendish family.

With Simon Schaffer and Patricia Fara.

24Giorgio Vasari's Lives Of The Artists20100527

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists.

Melvyn Bragg discusses 'Lives of the Artists' - the great biographer Giorgio Vasari's study of Renaissance painters, sculptors and architects.

Producer: Phil Tinline.

25Edmund Burke20100603

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the philosopher, politician and writer Edmund Burke.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the work of Edmund Burke, the philosopher, politician and writer, whose strong views on revolution in America and France were hugely influential.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

26Al-biruni20100610

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Persian traveller, scientist and historian Al-Biruni.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Persian polymath Al-Biruni and his tenth-century book the Tarikh al-Hind, one of the first scholarly works about India.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

27The Neanderthals20100617

Melvyn Bragg and guests including the geneticist Professor Steve Jones discuss the Neanderthals - who they were, how they lived, and how we are related to them.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the evolution and characteristics of the Neanderthals.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Neanderthals - who they were, how they lived, and how we are related to them.

28Antarctica20100624

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of Antarctica and its exploration.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history of Antarctica: its geology and physical geography, and the story of human exploration of the continent.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

29Athelstan20100701

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the reign of Athelstan, the first king of all England.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the reign of King Athelstan, whose military exploits united much of England, Scotland and Wales under one ruler for the first time.

With Sarah Foot and Richard Gameson.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

30The Historia Naturalis20100708

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Pliny's Natural History, one of the first encyclopedias.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Historia Naturalis (Natural History), an enormous encyclopedia of scientific knowledge compiled in the first century AD by the Roman scholar Pliny the Elder, which exerted a powerful influence on subsequent compilers of reference books.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

444The Frankfurt School20100114

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas and influence of the Frankfurt School.

Melvyn Bragg and guests Raymond Geuss, Esther Leslie and Jonathan Rée discuss the Frankfurt School.

This group of influential left-wing German thinkers set out, in the wake of Germany's defeat in the First World War, to investigate why their country had not had a revolution, despite the apparently revolutionary conditions that spread through Germany in the wake of the 1918 Armistice.

To find out why the German workers had not flocked to the Red Flag, Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Walter Benjamin and others came together around an Institute set up at Frankfurt University and began to focus their critical attention not on the economy, but on culture, asking how it affected people's political outlook and activities.

But then, with the rise of the Nazis, they found themselves fleeing to 1940s California. There, their disenchantment with American popular culture combined with their experiences of the turmoil of the interwar years to produce their distinctive, pessimistic worldview.

With the defeat of Nazism, they returned to Germany to try to make sense of the route their native country had taken into darkness.

In the 1960s, the Frankfurt School's argument - that most of culture helps to keep its audience compliant with capitalism - had an explosive impact. Arguably, it remains influential today.

Raymond Geuss is a professor in the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge; Esther Leslie is Professor in Political Aesthetics at Birkbeck College, University of London; Jonathan Rée is a freelance historian and philosopher, currently Visiting Professor at Roehampton University and at the Royal College of Art.

445The Glencoe Massacre20100121

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Glencoe Massacre of 1692.

Melvyn Bragg and guests Karin Bowie, Murray Pittock and Daniel Szechi discuss the Glencoe Massacre of 1692, why it happened, and its lasting repercussions.

On a winter night in 1692, a company of soldiers quartered with the MacDonalds of Glencoe rose early and slaughtered their hosts. About 38 men, women and children were killed. Their homes were torched and many survivors died as they fled into the snow. This mass killing was branded by a Scottish Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry as 'murder under trust'.

Why did this still infamous atrocity happen? The answer takes in the seismic impact of the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the ongoing struggles for religious power that swept through the country in the 17th century.

Crucially, Britain was at war in Europe, and the distracting nature of the conflict in Scotland, as far as the London government was concerned, helped to give the events at Glencoe their particular character.

But this is also a story of a deadline and the fatal consequences of the Glencoe MacDonalds' attempts to meet it - and of how their technical failure to do so was exploited.

The Glencoe Massacre had a severe impact on the reputation of the government of the Protestant King William III, who had ousted the Catholic James II with the support of the English and Scottish Parliaments only four years earlier. Some historians contend that it pushed the two states along the road to the Act of Union of 1707.

Karin Bowie is Lecturer in Scottish History at the University of Glasgow; Murray Pittock is Bradley Professor of English Literature at the University of Glasgow; Daniel Szechi is Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Manchester.

446Silas Marner20100128

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss George Eliot's 1861 novel Silas Marner.

Melvyn Bragg and guests Rosemary Ashton, Dinah Birch and Valentine Cunningham discuss George Eliot's novel 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; And Valentine Cunningham is Professor of English Language and Literature at Corpus Christi, University of Oxford.

489The Battle Of Bannockburn20110203
489The Battle Of Bannockburn20110203

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Battle of Bannockburn.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Battle of Bannockburn.On June 23rd 1314, Scottish forces under their king Robert the Bruce confronted a larger army commanded by the English monarch Edward II at Bannockburn. It was the culmination of a war of independence which had been going on since the English had invaded Scotland in 1296. After eighteen years of intermittent fighting the English had been all but expelled from Scotland: their last stronghold was the castle at Stirling.The Scots won a decisive victory at Bannockburn. The English were routed and their king narrowly escaped capture. Although it took a further 14 years for Scotland to achieve full independence with the 1328 Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton, this was an important triumph; today it remains one of the most discussed moments in the nation's history.With:Matthew StricklandProfessor of Medieval History at the University of GlasgowFiona WatsonHonorary Research Fellow in History at the University of DundeeMichael BrownReader in History at the University of St Andrews Producer: Thomas Morris.

490The Nervous System20110210
490The Nervous System20110210

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the nervous system.

Most animals have a nervous system, a network of nerve tissues which allows parts of the body to communicate with each other. In humans the most significant parts of this network are the brain, spinal column and retinas, which together make up the central nervous system. But there is also a peripheral nervous system, which enables sensation, movement and the regulation of the major organs.

Scholars first described the nerves of the human body over two thousand years ago. For 1400 years it was believed that they were animated by 'animal spirits', mysterious powers which caused sensation and movement. In the eighteenth century scientists discovered that nerve fibres transmitted electrical impulses; it was not until the twentieth century that chemical agents - neurotransmitters - were first identified.

With:

Colin Blakemore

Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Oxford

Vivian Nutton

Emeritus Professor of the History of Medicine at University College, London

Tilli Tansey

Professor of the History of Modern Medical Sciences at Queen Mary, University of London.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

491Maimonides20110217
491Maimonides20110217

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the medieval Jewish scholar Maimonides.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the work and influence of Maimonides.Widely regarded as the greatest Jewish philosopher of the medieval period, Maimonides was also a physician and rabbinical authority. Also known as Rambam, his writings include a 14-volume work on Jewish law, the Mishneh Torah, which is still widely used today, and the Guide for the Perplexed, a central work of medieval philosophy. Although undoubtedly a titan of Jewish intellectual history, Maimonides was also profoundly influenced by the Islamic world. He exerted a strong influence on later Islamic philosophy, as well as on thinkers ranging from Thomas Aquinas to Leibniz and Newton.With:John HaldaneProfessor of Philosophy at the University of St AndrewsSarah StroumsaAlice and Jack Ormut Professor of Arabic Studies and currently Rector at the Hebrew University of JerusalemPeter AdamsonProfessor of Ancient and Medieval Philosophy at King's College London.Producer: Thomas Morris.

492The Taiping Rebellion20110224
492The Taiping Rebellion20110224

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Taiping Rebellion.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Taiping Rebellion.In 1850 a Chinese Christian convert, Hong Xiuquan, proclaimed himself leader of a new dynasty, the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom. He and his followers marched against the ruling Qing dynasty, gathering huge support as they went. The ensuing civil war lasted fourteen years; around twenty million people lost their lives in a conflict which eventually involved European as well as Chinese soldiers. The Taiping Rebellion was arguably the most important event to befall China in the 19th century. Chinese nationalists and communists alike have been profoundly influenced by it, and historians believe it shaped modern China in the same way as the First World War shaped modern Europe.Rana MitterProfessor of the History and Politics of Modern China at the University of OxfordFrances WoodHead of the Chinese Section at the British LibraryJulia LovellLecturer in Chinese History at Birkbeck, University of London.Producer: Thomas Morris.

528The Safavid Dynasty20120112

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Safavid Dynasty, the rulers of early modern Iran.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Safavid Dynasty, the powerful rulers of early modern Iran who had a profound impact on the country's cultural and religious identity.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

5291848: Year Of Revolution20120119

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss 1848, the year that saw Europe engulfed in revolution.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss 1848, the year that saw Europe engulfed in revolution. Across the continent, from Paris to Palermo, liberals rose against conservative governments. In the end, over fifty countries were involved in what some referred to as the Spring of Nations. The rebels were fighting for nationalism, social justice and civil rights, and were prepared to fight in the streets down to the last man. Tens of thousands of people lost their lives; but little of lasting value was achieved, and by the end of the year the liberal revolutions had been soundly beaten.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

530The Scientific Method20120126

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Scientific Method.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the evolution of the Scientific Method, the systematic and analytical approach to experimentation. In the centuries since the birth of the modern sciences, thinkers have recognised that we can only construct an accurate picture of the universe if we succeed in escaping the influence of our own preconceptions and beliefs. Many great philosophers and scientists have examined this problem, and proposed methods, such as the testing of hypotheses, to eliminate such bias. Today the rules and process of the Scientific Method are crucial to any meaningful scientific research.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

531The Kama Sutra20120202

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Kama Sutra.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Kama Sutra, one of the most celebrated and often misunderstood texts of Indian literature. Composed during the reign of the Gupta dynasty around 1800 years ago, the work is a collection of writings about the art of love and sensual pleasure. Although it is best known today for a single chapter devoted to sexual pleasure, this important Sanksrit collection contains much besides, and is a far richer work than is commonly realised.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

532Erasmus20120209

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Renaissance Dutch scholar Desiderius Erasmus.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of the Dutch humanist scholar Desiderius Erasmus. One of the most significant theologians of the Renaissance, Erasmus published important editions of the Bible, and was involved in many of the debates surrounding the reformation of the Church. But his writings were not limited to ecclesiastical matters, and today he is recognised as one of the intellectual titans of his age.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

533The An Lushan Rebellion20120216

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the An Lushan Rebellion.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the An Lushan Rebellion, a major uprising against the imperial rule of the Chinese Tang dynasty. In AD 755 a senior general, An Lushan, orchestrated a plot against the Tang emperor, declaring a rival dynasty in northern China. His rebellion lasted eight years and killed millions, and had lasting implications for the Chinese state.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

534Conductors And Semiconductors20120223

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the physics of electrical conduction. Certain materials, including all metals, conduct electricity, while others (known as insulators) do not. But there is a third class of materials, semiconductors, whose discovery has proved central to modern science. Semiconductors are essential to our technological world, and provide a fascinating everyday example of quantum mechanics in operation.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

535Benjamin Franklin20120301

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of Benjamin Franklin.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of Benjamin Franklin. A printer, statesman, diplomat, writer and scientist, Franklin was one of the most remarkable polymaths who ever lived - and as the only Founding Father to have signed all three of the fundamental documents of the United States of America, including its Declaration of Independence and Constitution, he occupies a unique position in the history of the nation.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

536Lyrical Ballads20120308

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Wordsworth and Coleridge's Lyrical Ballads.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Lyrical Ballads, the collection of poems by William Wordsworth and Samuel Coleridge first published in 1798. The volume contains some of the best-known work by both men, including The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Tintern Abbey - and is today seen as a point of radical departure for poetry in English.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

537Vitruvius And De Architectura20120315

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Vitruvius's De Architectura.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Vitruvius's De Architectura. Written almost exactly two thousand years ago, Vitruvius's work is a ten-volume treatise on engineering and architecture, the only surviving work on the subject from the ancient world. This fascinating book offers unique insights into Roman technology and buildings. Its rediscovery in the 15th century provided the impetus for the neoclassical architectural movement, and Vitruvius exerted a significant influence on the work of Renaissance architects including Palladio, Brunelleschi and Alberti.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

538Moses Mendelssohn20120322

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the German-Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the work and influence of the eighteenth-century philosopher Moses Mendelssohn. A prominent figure at the court of Frederick the Great, Mendelssohn was one of the most significant thinkers of his age. Today he is best remembered for his efforts to bring Jewish and German culture closer together; as one of the principal architects of the Haskala, the Jewish Enlightenment, he is widely regarded as having helped bring Judaism into the mainstream of European culture.

Producer: Natalia Fernandez.

539The Measurement Of Time20120329

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the measurement of time.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the measurement of time. Early civilisations used the movements of heavenly bodies to tell the time, but even in the ancient world more sophisticated timekeeping devices such as water clocks were known. The rapid progress of scientific discovery has made ever more accurate methods of time measurement possible, from the pendulum clock in the seventeenth century to the atomic clock in the twentieth.

Producer: Natalia Fernandez.

540George Fox And The Quakers20120405

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the origins of Quakerism.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the origins of Quakerism. In the mid-seventeenth century an itinerant preacher, George Fox, became the central figure of a group known as the Religious Society of Friends, whose members believed it was possible to obtain contact with Christ without priestly intercession. The Quakers, as they became known, were persecuted for many years, but survived to become an influential religious group.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

541Early Geology20120412

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the emergence of geology as a scientific discipline. In the Renaissance a few scholars began to study rocks and to speculate about how they had been formed. Some of their findings appeared to contradict Scripture, and for many years religion and scholarship appeared to be at odds. In the eighteenth century this body of knowledge gave rise to a new science - geology - whose findings were of historic importance to our knowledge of the Earth and its origins.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the emergence of geology as a scientific discipline.

542Neoplatonism20120419

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the ancient philosophical school of Neoplatonism.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Neoplatonism, the school of thought founded in the 3rd century AD by the philosopher Plotinus. Neoplatonism brought together the philosophy of Plato with a new religious sensibility, and had a significant influence on thinkers as late as the Renaissance.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

543The Battle Of Bosworth Field20120426

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Battle of Bosworth Field, the celebrated encounter between Lancastrian and Yorkist forces in August 1485. The battle, the penultimate of the Wars of the Roses, resulted in the death of Richard III. The victory of Henry Tudor enabled him to succeed Richard as monarch and establish the Tudor dynasty which was to rule for over a century. These events were immortalised by Shakespeare in Richard III, and today the battle is regarded as one of the most important to have taken place on English soil. But little is known about what happened on the battlefield, and the very location of the encounter remains the subject of much debate.

With:

Anne Curry

Professor of Medieval History and Dean of Humanities at the University of Southampton

Steven Gunn

Tutor and Fellow in Modern History at Merton College, Oxford

David Grummitt

Lecturer in British History at the University of Kent.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

544Voltaire's Candide20120503

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Voltaire's satirical novel Candide, published in 1759.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Voltaire's novel Candide. First published in 1759, the novel follows the adventures of a young man, Candide, and his mentor, the philosopher Pangloss. Candide was written in the aftermath of a major earthquake in Lisbon and the outbreak of the Seven Years' War, events which caused such human suffering that they shook many people's faith in a benevolent God. Voltaire's masterpiece piles ridicule on Optimism, the fashionable philosophical belief that such disasters are part of God's plan for humanity - that 'all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds'.

Often uproariously funny, the novel is a biting satire whose other targets include bad literature, extremist religion and the vanity of kings and politicians. It captivated contemporary readers and has proved one of French literature's most enduring classics.

With:

David Wootton

Anniversary Professor of History at the University of York

Nicholas Cronk

Professor of French Literature and Director of the Voltaire Foundation at the University of Oxford

Caroline Warman

Lecturer in French and Fellow of Jesus College at the University of Oxford.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Voltaire's novel Candide. First published in 1759, the work follows the picaresque adventures of a young man, Candide, and his mentor, the philosopher Pangloss. Often uproariously funny, the novel is also a biting satire whose targets include bad literature, extremist religion and contemporary philosophical systems. It captivated contemporary readers and has proved one of French literature's most enduring classics.

545Game Theory20120510

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss game theory, the mathematical study of human behaviour

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss game theory, the mathematical study of animal and human behaviour. First studied in the 1940s, game theory allows researchers to unravel decision-making strategies, and why certain types of behaviour emerge. Today it's seen as a vital tool in such diverse fields as evolutionary biology, economics, computing and philosophy.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

546Clausewitz And On War20120517

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Clausewitz's influential treatise On War.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss On War, a treatise on the theory and practice of warfare written by the Prussian soldier and intellectual Carl von Clausewitz. First published in 1832, Clausewitz's magnum opus is commonly regarded as the most important book about military theory ever written. Its influence is felt today not just on the battlefield but also in politics and business.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

546Marco Polo20120524

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the celebrated Venetian explorer Marco Polo.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the celebrated Venetian explorer Marco Polo. In 1271 Polo set off on an epic journey through Asia. He was away for more than twenty years; when he returned to Venice an account of his travels was written down by his contemporary Rustichello da Pisa. The Travels of Marco Polo was one of the most popular books published in the age before printing; its early readers included Christopher Columbus.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

548The Trojan War20120531

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Trojan War, a central event of Ancient Greek mythology

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Trojan War, one of the best known events of Greek mythology. According to the traditional version of the story, the war began when a Trojan prince, Paris, eloped with the Spartan queen Helen. A Greek army besieged Troy for ten years before the city was finally overrun and destroyed. Some of the most familiar names of Greek mythology are associated with the war, including Achilles and Hector, Odysseus and Helen of Troy - and it has also given us the story of the Trojan Horse.

The war is the backdrop for Homer's epic poem The Iliad, and features in many other works from classical antiquity. For centuries it was assumed to be a mythical event. But in the nineteenth century a series of archaeological discoveries provided startling evidence that Troy might really have existed, leading some scholars to conclude that there could even be some truth behind the myth. So does the Trojan War story have any basis in fact? And why has it proved such an enduring legend?

With:

Edith Hall

Professor of Classics at King's College London

Ellen Adams

Lecturer in Classical Art and Archaeology at King's College London

Susan Sherratt

Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Sheffield

Producer: Thomas Morris.

549King Solomon20120607

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the biblical king Solomon, celebrated for his wisdom and as the architect of the First Temple in Jerusalem. According to the Old Testament account of his life, Solomon was chosen as his father David's successor as Israelite king, and instead of praying for long life or wealth asked God for wisdom. In the words of the Authorised Version, "And there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, which had heard of his wisdom."

Solomon is an important figure in Judaism, Islam and Christianity alike, and is also credited with the authorship of several scriptural texts. His name is associated with the tradition of wisdom literature and with a large number of myths and legends. For many centuries Solomon was seen as the archetypal enlightened monarch, and his example influenced notions of kingship from the Middle Ages onwards.

With:

Martin Palmer

Director of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education, and Culture

Philip Alexander

Emeritus Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Manchester

Katharine Dell

Senior Lecturer in Old Testament Studies at the University of Cambridge, and Fellow of St Catherine's College, Cambridge

Producer: Thomas Morris.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the biblical king Solomon and his later reputation.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the biblical king Solomon, celebrated in the Old Testament for his wisdom and as the architect of the First Temple in Jerusalem. An important figure in all the Abrahamic faiths, Solomon is also associated with the tradition of wisdom literature - and many legends have become associated with his name.

550James Joyce's Ulysses2012061420120614 (R4)

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss James Joyce's celebrated novel Ulysses.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss James Joyce's novel Ulysses. First published ninety years ago in Paris, Joyce's masterpiece charts a single day in the life of its protagonist, Leopold Bloom. Often hailed as the greatest example of literary modernism, the book prompted outrage and praise in equal measure, and remains one of the most-discussed novels ever written.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

551Annie Besant20120621

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the 19th-century writer and campaigner Annie Besant.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life of the campaigner and writer Annie Besant. A radical political voice, Besant was involved in the 1888 matchgirls' strike at the Bryant and May factory, which brought the appalling working conditions of many factory workers to greater public attention. Later she campaigned for self-rule in India, and was a prominent member of the mystical Theosophical Society.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

552Al-kindi20120628

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Arab philosopher Al-Kindi.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of the Arab philosopher al-Kindi. Born in the early ninth century, al-Kindi was heavily influenced by Greek philosophy and supervised the translation of many works by Aristotle and others into Arabic. The author of more than 250 works, he wrote on many different subjects, from optics to mathematics, music and astrology. He was the first significant thinker to argue that philosophy and Islam had much to offer each other and need not be kept apart. Today al-Kindi is regarded as one of the greatest scholars of the medieval Islamic world.

With:

Hugh Kennedy

Professor of Arabic at SOAS, University of London

James Montgomery

Sir Thomas Adams's Professor of Arabic Elect at the University of Cambridge

Amira Bennison

Senior Lecturer in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at the University of Cambridge.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

553Scepticism20120705

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history of philosophical scepticism.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Scepticism, the idea that it may be impossible to know anything with complete certainty. Scepticism was first outlined by ancient Greek philosophers: Socrates is reported to have said that the only thing he knew for certain was that he knew nothing. Later, Scepticism was taught at the Academy founded by Plato, and learnt by students who included the Roman statesman Cicero. The central ideas of Scepticism were taken up by later philosophers and came to the fore during the Renaissance, when thinkers including Rene Descartes and Michel de Montaigne took up its challenge. A central plank of the philosophical system of David Hume, Scepticism had a powerful influence on the religious and scientific debates of the Enlightenment.

With:

Peter Millican

Professor of Philosophy at Hertford College, Oxford

Melissa Lane

Professor of Politics at Princeton University

Jill Kraye

Professor of the History of Renaissance Philosophy and Librarian at the Warburg Institute, University of London.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

554Hadrian's Wall20120712

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Hadrian's Wall.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Hadrian's Wall, the impressive structure built in the second century AD on the orders of the Roman emperor Hadrian. More than seventy miles long, the wall runs from Tyneside to the Solway Firth, and large sections survive today, almost 1900 years after it was built. Archaeological discoveries from this huge historical site are shedding new light on the wall's purpose, construction and later use.

Producer: Victoria Brignell.

555The Cell20120913

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the biology and origins of the cell.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the cell, the fundamental building block of life. First observed by Robert Hooke in 1665, cells occur in nature in a bewildering variety of forms. Every organism alive today consists of one or more cells: a single human body contains up to a hundred trillion of them.

The first life on Earth was a single-celled organism which is thought to have appeared around three and a half billion years ago. That simple cell resembled today's bacteria. But eventually these microscopic entities evolved into something far more complex, and single-celled life gave rise to much larger, complex multicellular organisms. But how did the first cell appear, and how did that prototype evolve into the sophisticated, highly specialised cells of the human body?

With:

Steve Jones

Professor of Genetics at University College London

Nick Lane

Senior Lecturer in the Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment, University College London

Cathie Martin

Group Leader at the John Innes Centre and Professor in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of East Anglia

Producer: Thomas Morris.

556The Druids20120920

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Druids of ancient Europe.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Druids, the priests of ancient Europe. Active in Ireland, Britain and Gaul, the Druids were first written about by Roman authors including Julius Caesar and Pliny, who described them as wearing white robes and cutting mistletoe with golden sickles. They were suspected of leading resistance to the Romans, a fact which eventually led to their eradication from ancient Britain. In the early modern era, however, interest in the Druids revived, and later writers reinvented and romanticised their activities. Little is known for certain about their rituals and beliefs, but modern archaeological discoveries have shed new light on them.

With:

Barry Cunliffe

Emeritus Professor of Archaeology at the University of Oxford

Miranda Aldhouse-Green

Professor of Archaeology at Cardiff University

Justin Champion

Professor of the History of Early Modern Ideas at Royal Holloway, University of London

Producer: Thomas Morris.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Druids, the priests of ancient Europe. Although ancient authors including Julius Caesar and Pliny wrote about them, virtually nothing is known about the activities and rites of the ancient Druids. Banned by the Romans, they were effectively eradicated by the rise of Christianity. In the early modern era, however, interest in the Druids revived, and later writers reinvented and romanticised their activities.

557The Ontological Argument20120927

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Ontological Argument for the existence of God.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Ontological Argument. In the eleventh century St Anselm of Canterbury proposed that it was possible to prove the existence of God using reason alone. His argument was ridiculed by some of his contemporaries, but was analysed and improved by later thinkers including Descartes, Hume and Kant - and has become one of the most discussed philosophical problems of the last thousand years.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

558Gerald Of Wales20121004

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the medieval scholar Gerald of Wales. A clergyman and courtier, Gerald was close to Henry II and the Church hierarchy, and wrote accounts of official journeys he made around Wales and Ireland in their service. Gerald's Journey Around Wales and Description of Ireland are among the most colourful and informative chronicles of the Middle Ages, and had a powerful influence on later historians.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

559Hannibal20121011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and achievements of Hannibal. One of the most celebrated military leaders in history, Hannibal was an inspirational Carthaginian general who led an entire army across the Alps in order to attack the Roman Republic. His deeds in the Second Punic War during the third century BC ensured that his name would resound down the ages.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

560Caxton And The Printing Press20121018

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss William Caxton and the influence of the printing press.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and influence of William Caxton, the merchant who brought the printing press to the British Isles. After spending several years working as a printer in Bruges, Caxton returned to London and in 1476 set up his first printing press in Westminster, and also imported and sold other printed books. The advent of print is now seen as one of the great revolutions in intellectual history - although many scholars believe it was a revolution that took many generations to have an effect.

Producer: Natalia Fernandez.

561Fermat's Last Theorem20121025

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Fermat's Last Theorem.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Fermat's Last Theorem. In 1637 the French mathematician Pierre de Fermat scribbled a note in the margin of one of his books. He claimed to have proved a remarkable property of numbers, but gave no clue as to how he'd gone about it. "I have found a wonderful demonstration of this proposition," he wrote, "which this margin is too narrow to contain". For over three centuries mathematicians struggled in vain to work out what Fermat's proof had been. In 1995 the British mathematician Andrew Wiles finally unveiled a solution to a problem that had stymied some of the world's greatest minds.

Producer: Natalia Fernandez.

562The Anarchy20121101

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss The Anarchy, the 12th-century English civil war.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss The Anarchy, the bloody civil war which took place in mid-twelfth century England. The war began as a succession dispute between Henry I and his nephew Stephen. It grew into a major conflict involving Henry's daughter, the Empress Matilda, who briefly became the first woman to rule England - although she was driven out of London before she could be crowned Queen.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

563The Upanishads20121108

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Upanishads, the sacred texts of Hinduism.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Upanishads, the ancient sacred texts of Hinduism. Composed over several centuries by a variety of authors, the Upanishads were also the starting point for the Hindu school of philosophy known as Vedanta.

Producer: Natalia Fernandez.

564Simone Weil20121115

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the French philosopher and social activist Simone Weil.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the French philosopher and social activist Simone Weil. Born in Paris in 1909 into a wealthy, agnostic Jewish family, Weil rejected her comfortable background and chose to work in fields and factories to experience the life of the working classes first hand. She was acutely sensitive to human suffering and devoted her life to helping those less fortunate than herself, even volunteering during the Spanish Civil War on the Republican side and forming part of the French Resistance. Weil's admirers include Albert Camus, T.S Eliot and Iris Murdoch.

Producer: Natalia Fernandez.

565The Borgias20121122

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Borgias, the most infamous family in Renaissance Italy

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Borgias, the most notorious family in Renaissance Italy, famed for their treachery and corruption as much as their patronage of the arts. During their pre-eminence in the late 15th century the Borgias produced two popes. Rodrigo Borgia became Pope Alexander VI, now remembered as one of the most ambitious, corrupt and wicked pontiffs in the history of the papacy.

Producer: Natalia Fernandez.

566Crystallography20121129

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history and achievements of crystallography.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history of crystallography, the study of crystals and their structure. Developments in crystallography have touched most people's lives, thanks to the vital role it plays in diverse scientific disciplines - from physics and chemistry, to molecular biology and mineralogy.

The history of crystallography began with the work of Johannes Kepler in the 17th century, but perhaps the most crucial leap in understanding came in the early 20th century and the discoveries of the father-and-son team the Braggs. Their work revolutionised our perception of crystals and their atomic arrangements, and led to some of the most significant scientific findings of the last century - such as revealing the structure of DNA.

Producer: Natalia Fernandez.

567Bertrand Russell20121206

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss influential British philosopher Bertrand Russell.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the influential British philosopher Bertrand Russell. Born in 1872 into an aristocratic family, Russell is widely regarded as one of the founders of Analytic philosophy. His theory of descriptions had profound consequences for the philosophy of language, epistemology and metaphysics, and he made a major contribution to mathematics in the shape of Russell's Paradox. A prominent political activist and anti-war campaigner, he also contributed to social and political philosophy. Russell's work exerted a significant influence on other philosophers, and he played an important role in promoting the public understanding of ideas through his appearances on the BBC.

Producer: Victoria Brignell.

568Shahnameh Of Ferdowsi20121213

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Persian epic poem, the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the epic poem the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi, the 'Book of Kings', which has been at the heart of Persian culture for the past thousand years.

Producer: Natalia Fernandez.

569The South Sea Bubble20121220

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the South Sea Bubble of the early 18th century.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss The South Sea Bubble, the speculation mania in early 18th-century England which ended in the financial ruin of many of its investors.

Producer: Natalia Fernandez.

570The Cult Of Mithras20121227

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the cult of Mithras, the Roman mystery religion.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the cult of Mithras, a mystery religion that existed in the Roman Empire from the 1st to the 4th centuries AD. Also known as the Mysteries of Mithras, its origins are uncertain. Academics have suggested a link with the ancient Vedic god Mitra and the Iranian Zoroastrian deity Mithra, but the extent and nature of the connection is a matter of controversy.

Followers of Mithras are thought to have taken part in various rituals, most notably communal meals and a complex seven-stage initiation system. Typical depictions of Mithras show him being born from a rock, enjoying food with the sun god Sol and stabbing a bull. Mithraic places of worship have been found throughout the Roman world, including an impressive example in London. However, Mithraism went into decline in the 4th century AD with the rise of Christianity and eventually completely disappeared. In recent decades, many aspects of the cult have provoked debate, especially as there are no written accounts by its members. As a result, archaeology has been of great importance in the study of Mithraism and has provided new insights into the religion and its adherents.

With:

Greg Woolf

Professor of Ancient History at the University of St Andrews

Almut Hintze

Zartoshty Professor of Zoroastrianism at SOAS, University of London

John North

Acting Director of the Institute of Classical Studies, University of London.

Producer: Victoria Brignell.

571Le Morte Darthur20130110

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Malory's epic medieval tale Le Morte d'Arthur.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Thomas Malory's "Le Morte Darthur", the epic tale of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table. Sir Thomas Malory, an errant knight from Warwickshire, translated the majority of the stories from French while he was in prison and finished them in 1470 shortly before he died, although it was not until 1485 that the work was first published by William Caxton. The legend is one of the most enduring and popular in western literature. The characters of Sir Lancelot, Guinevere and Merlin are as well-known today as they were then, and the book's themes - courtly love, chivalry, heroic quest and treachery - remain as compelling.

Producer: Natalia Fernandez.

571Le Morte D'arthur20130110

572Comets20130117

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss comets.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss 'Comets', the 'dirty snowballs' of the solar system which orbit the sun. Comprising materials from the time when the solar system was formed comets are like 'frozen time capsules' revealing important information about the early history of our planet and others.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

573Romulus And Remus20130124

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Rome's founding myth, Romulus and Remus.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss 'Romulus and Remus', the foundation myth of Rome. Legend has it that Rome was founded by twins, Romulus and Remus, who were abandoned by their parents as babies and saved by a she-wolf who found and nursed them. Later brought up by shepherds the twins went on to found the city of Rome, which is named after Romulus who killed his brother after a vicious quarrel.

The myth has been at the core of Roman identity since the 1st century AD, although the details vary in different versions of the story of which there are over sixty. The image of the she-wolf suckling the divinely fathered twins remains a potent icon of the city even today.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

574The War Of 181220130131

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the War of 1812 between America and Great Britain.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the War of 1812, the conflict between America and the British Empire sometimes referred to as the second American War of Independence. In June 1812, President James Madison declared war on Britain, angered by the restrictions Britain had imposed on American trade, the Royal Navy's capture of American sailors and British support for Native Americans. After three years of largely inconclusive fighting, the conflict finally came to an end with the Treaty of Ghent which, among other things, helped to hasten the abolition of the global slave trade.

Although the War of 1812 is often overlooked, historians say it had a profound effect on the USA and Canada's sense of national identity, confirming the USA as an independent country. America's national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner began life as a poem written after its author, Francis Scott Key, witnessed the British bombardment of Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore. The war also led to Native Americans losing hundreds of thousands of acres of land in a programme of forced removal.

With:

Kathleen Burk

Professor of Modern and Contemporary History at University College London

Lawrence Goldman

Fellow in Modern History at St Peter's College, University of Oxford

Frank Cogliano

Professor of American History at the University of Edinburgh

Producer: Victoria Brignell.

575Epicureanism20130207

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Epicureanism, the system of philosophy based on the teachings of Epicurus and founded in Athens in the fourth century BC. Epicurus outlined a comprehensive philosophical system based on the idea that everything in the Universe is constructed from two phenomena: atoms and void. At the centre of his philosophy is the idea that the goal of human life is pleasure, by which he meant not luxury but the avoidance of pain. His followers were suspicious of marriage and politics but placed great emphasis on friendship. Epicureanism became influential in the Roman world, particularly through Lucretius's great poem De Rerum Natura, which was rediscovered and widely admired in the Renaissance.

With:

Angie Hobbs

Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield

David Sedley

Laurence Professor of Ancient Philosophy at the University of Cambridge

James Warren

Reader in Ancient Philosophy at the University of Cambridge

Producer: Thomas Morris.

576Ice Ages20130214

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss ice ages.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss ice ages, periods when a reduction in the surface temperature of the Earth has resulted in ice sheets at the Poles. Although the term 'ice age' is commonly associated with prehistoric eras when much of northern Europe was covered in ice, we are in fact currently in an ice age which began up to 40 million years ago. Geological evidence indicates that there have been several in the Earth's history, although their precise cause is not known. Ice ages have had profound effects on the geography and biology of our planet.

With:

Jane Francis

Professor of Paleoclimatology at the University of Leeds

Richard Corfield

Research Fellow in Geology at the University of Oxford

Carrie Lear

Senior Lecturer in Palaeoceanography at Cardiff University

Producer: Thomas Morris.

577Decline And Fall20130221

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Evelyn Waugh's comic novel Decline and Fall.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Evelyn Waugh's comic novel Decline and Fall. Set partly in a substandard boys' public school, the novel is a vivid, often riotous portrait of 1920s Britain. Its themes, including modernity, religion and fashionable society, came to dominate Waugh's later fiction, but its savage wit and economy of style were entirely new. Published when Waugh was 24, the book was immediately celebrated for its vicious satire and biting humour.

With:

David Bradshaw

Professor of English Literature at Worcester College, Oxford

John Bowen

Professor of Nineteenth-Century Literature at the University of York

Ann Pasternak Slater

Senior Research Fellow at St Anne's College, Oxford.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

578Pitt-rivers20130228

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Victorian archaeologist Augustus Pitt-Rivers.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of the Victorian anthropologist and archaeologist Augustus Pitt-Rivers. Over many years he amassed thousands of ethnographic and archaeological objects, some of which formed the founding collection of the Pitt Rivers Museum at Oxford University. Inspired by the work of Charles Darwin, Pitt-Rivers believed that human technology evolved in the same way as living organisms, and devoted much of his life to exploring this theory. He was also a pioneering archaeologist whose meticulous records of major excavations provided a model for later scholars.

With:

Adam Kuper

Visiting Professor of Anthropology at Boston University

Richard Bradley

Professor in Archaeology at the University of Reading

Dan Hicks

University Lecturer & Curator of Archaeology at the Pitt Rivers Museum at the University of Oxford.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

579Absolute Zero20130307

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss absolute zero, the theoretical lowest possible temperature

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss absolute zero, the lowest conceivable temperature. In the early eighteenth century the French physicist Guillaume Amontons suggested that temperature had a lower limit. The subject of low temperature became a fertile field of research in the nineteenth century, and today we know that this limit - known as absolute zero - is approximately minus 273 degrees Celsius. It is impossible to produce a temperature exactly equal to absolute zero, but today scientists have come to within a billionth of a degree. At such low temperatures physicists have discovered a number of strange new phenomena including superfluids, liquids capable of climbing a vertical surface.

With:

Simon Schaffer

Professor of the History of Science at the University of Cambridge

Stephen Blundell

Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford

Nicola Wilkin

Lecturer in Theoretical Physics at the University of Birmingham

Producer: Thomas Morris.

580Chekhov20130314

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of the Russian writer Anton Chekhov.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of Anton Chekhov. Born in 1860, Chekhov trained as a doctor and for most of his adult life divided his time between medicine and writing. Best known for plays including The Cherry Orchard and Three Sisters, he is also celebrated today as one of the greatest of short story writers, and as an outstanding representative of the literary tradition of Russian realism.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

581Alfred Russel Wallace20130321

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the work of the biologist Alfred Russel Wallace.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the work of Alfred Russel Wallace, a pioneer of evolutionary theory. Born in 1823, Wallace travelled extensively, charting the distribution of animal species throughout the world. This fieldwork in the Amazon and later the Malay Archipelago led him to formulate a theory of evolution through natural selection. In 1858 he sent the paper he wrote on the subject to Charles Darwin, who was spurred into the writing and publication of his own masterpiece On the Origin of Species. Wallace was also the founder of the science of biogeography and made important discoveries about the nature of animal coloration. But despite his visionary work, Wallace has been overshadowed by the greater fame of his contemporary Darwin.

With:

Steve Jones

Emeritus Professor of Genetics at University College London

George Beccaloni

Curator of Cockroaches and Related Insects and Director of the Wallace Correspondence Project at the Natural History Museum

Ted Benton

Professor of Sociology at the University of Essex

Producer: Thomas Morris.

582Water20130328

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss water, one of the most remarkable of all molecules.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss one of the simplest and most remarkable of all molecules: water. Water is among the most abundant substances on Earth, covering more than two-thirds of the planet. Consisting of just three atoms, the water molecule is superficially simple in its structure but extraordinary in its properties. It is a rare example of a substance that can be found on Earth in gaseous, liquid and solid forms, and thanks to its unique chemical behaviour is the basis of all known life. Scientists are still discovering new things about it, such as the fact that there are at least fifteen different forms of ice.

Hasok Chang

Hans Rausing Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge

Andrea Sella

Professor of Chemistry at University College London

Patricia Hunt

Senior Lecturer in Chemistry at Imperial College London.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss one of the simplest and most remarkable of all molecules: water. Water is among the most abundant substances on Earth, covering more than two-thirds of the planet. Consisting of just three atoms, the water molecule is superficially simple in its structure but extraordinary in its properties. Â It is a rare example of a substance that can be found on Earth in gaseous, liquid and solid forms, and thanks to its unique chemical behaviour is the basis of all known life.

583Japan's Sakoku Period20130404

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Japan's Sakoku period of deliberate isolation.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Japan's Sakoku period, two centuries when the country deliberately isolated itself from the outside world. Sakoku began with a series of edicts in the 1630s which restricted the rights of Japanese to leave their country and expelled Europeans living there. It was not until 1858 and the "gunboat diplomacy" of the American Commodore Matthew Perry that Japan's international isolation finally ended.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

584The Amazons20130411

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Amazons, formidable female warriors of classical myth.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Amazons, a tribe of formidable female warriors first described in Greek literature. In later centuries, particularly in the Renaissance, the Amazons became a popular theme of literature and art. After the discovery of the New World, the largest river in South America was named the Amazon, since the warlike tribes inhabiting the river's margins reminded Spanish pioneers of the warriors of classical myth.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

585The Putney Debates20130418

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Putney Debates. For two months in late 1647, representatives of Fairfax's New Model Army and the radical Levellers met in a church in Putney to debate a possible future constitution for England. Their discussions not only affected the immediate future of the country, but had a profound effect on conceptions of civil liberties and the nature of democracy.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

586Montaigne20130425

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of Michel de Montaigne. Best known for his influential Essays, Montaigne is regarded as the father of modern sceptical thought. His approachable style, intelligence and subtle philosophical thought have made him one of the most widely admired writers of the Renaissance.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

587Gnosticism20130502

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Gnosticism, a sect associated with early Christianity.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Gnosticism, a sect associated with early Christianity. The Gnostics believed that they possessed a special knowledge of spiritual mysteries, and commonly divided the universe into two domains: the visible world and the spiritual one. The Gnostics were regarded as heretics by many of the Church Fathers, but until an important archaeological discovery in the early twentieth century, little was known about their beliefs.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

588Icelandic Saga20130509

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Icelandic sagas.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Icelandic Sagas. First written down in the 13th century, the sagas tell the stories of the first 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, although there is much debate as to whether they should be described as literature or history.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

589Cosmic Rays20130516

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss cosmic rays.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss cosmic rays. In 1912 the physicist Victor Hess discovered that the Earth is under constant bombardment from highly energetic subatomic particles. These so-called cosmic rays have been known to cause damage to satellites and electronic devices on Earth, but their origin has long been mysterious. The study of cosmic rays and their effects has led to major breakthroughs in particle physics; one team of researchers recently claimed to have discovered their origin.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

590Levi-strauss20130523

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the work of French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the work of the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss. One of twentieth-century France's most celebrated intellectuals, Lévi-Strauss attempted to show in his work that thought processes were a feature universal to humans, whether they lived in tribal rainforest societies or in the rich intellectual life of Paris. He was the leading exponent of structuralism, a school of thought which was influential for decades.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the work of the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss. One of twentieth-century France's most celebrated intellectuals, Lévi-Strauss attempted to show in his work that thought processes were a feature universal to humans, whether they lived in tribal rainforest societies or in the rich intellectual life of Paris. During the 1930s he studied native Brazilian tribes in the Amazonian jungle, but for most of his long career he preferred the study to the field. He was the leading exponent of structuralism, a school of thought which was influential for decades, and was involved in a famous debate with his friend Jean-Paul Sartre, who resisted many of his ideas. His books about the nature of myth, human thought and kinship are now seen as some of the most important anthropological texts written in the twentieth century.

With:

Adam Kuper

Visiting Professor of Anthropology at Boston University

Christina Howells

Professor of French at Oxford University

Vincent Debaene

Associate Professor of French Literature at Columbia University

591Queen Zenobia20130530

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Queen Zenobia, who led a rebellion against Ancient Rome.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Queen Zenobia, a famous military leader of the ancient world. Born in around 240 AD, Zenobia was Empress of the Palmyrene Empire in the Middle East. She led a rebellion against the Roman Empire and conquered Egypt before being finally overthrown by the Romans. Her story captured the imagination of many Renaissance writers, and has become the subject of numerous operas, poems and plays.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

592Relativity20130606

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Einstein's theory of relativity.

Melvyn Bragg discusses Einstein's theory of relativity with three leading British cosmologists: the Astronomer Royal Martin Rees, Sir Roger Penrose and Ruth Gregory. Between 1905 and 1917 Albert Einstein formulated a theoretical framework which transformed our understanding of the Universe. The twin theories of Special and General Relativity offered insights into the nature of space, time and gravitation which changed the face of modern science.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

593Prophecy20130613

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss prophecy in the Abrahamic religions.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the meaning and significance of prophecy in the Abrahamic religions. Prophets, those with the ability to convey divinely-inspired revelation, are significant figures in the Hebrew Bible and later became important not just to Judaism but also to Christianity and Islam. Although these three religions share many of the same prophets, their interpretation of the nature of prophecy often differs.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

594The Physiocrats20130620

vyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Physiocrats, important French economic thinkers.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Physiocrats, an important group of economic thinkers in eighteenth-century France. The Physiocrats believed that the land was the ultimate source of all wealth, and crucially that markets should not be constrained by governments. Their ideas were important not just to economists but to the course of politics in France. Later they influenced the work of Adam Smith, who called Physiocracy "perhaps the nearest approximation to the truth that has yet been published upon the subject of political economy."

Producer: Thomas Morris.

595Romance Of The Three Kingdoms20130627

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Chinese book Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, widely regarded as one of the greatest works of Chinese literature. Written 600 years ago, it is an historical novel that tells the story of a tumultuous period in Chinese history, the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. Partly historical and partly legend, it recounts the fighting and scheming of the feudal lords and the three states which came to power as the Han Dynasty collapsed. The influence of Romance of the Three Kingdoms in East Asia has been likened to that of Homer in the West, and this warfare epic remains popular in China today.

With:

Frances Wood

Former Lead Curator of Chinese Collections at the British Library

Craig Clunas

Professor of the History of Art at the University of Oxford

Margaret Hillenbrand

University Lecturer in Modern Chinese Literature at the University of Oxford and Fellow of Wadham College

Producer: Victoria Brignell.

596The Invention Of Radio20130704

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the invention of radio.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the invention of radio. The Italian Guglielmo Marconi is often credited as the man who invented radio, but other physicists and engineers have been described in similar terms, including Nikola Tesla and Édouard Branly. The story of radio is a fascinating tale involving some of the most brilliant and colourful scientists and inventors of the late nineteenth century.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

597Pascal20130919

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of the French thinker Blaise Pascal.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests begin a new series of the programme with a discussion of the French polymath Blaise Pascal. Born in 1623, Pascal was a brilliant mathematician and scientist, inventing one of the first mechanical calculators and making important discoveries about fluids and vacuums while still a young man. In his thirties he experienced a religious conversion, after which he devoted most of his attention to philosophy and theology. Although he died in his late thirties, Pascal left a formidable legacy as a scientist and pioneer of probability theory, and as one of seventeenth century Europe's greatest writers.

With:

David Wootton

Anniversary Professor of History at the University of York

Michael Moriarty

Drapers Professor of French at the University of Cambridge

Michela Massimi

Senior Lecturer in the Philosophy of Science at the University of Edinburgh.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

598The Mamluks20130926

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Mamluks, medieval rulers of Egypt and Syria.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Mamluks, who ruled Egypt and Syria from about 1250 to 1517. Originally slave soldiers who managed to depose their masters, they went on to repel the Mongols and the Crusaders to become the dominant force in the medieval Islamic Middle Eastern world. Although the Mamluks were renowned as warriors, under their rule art, crafts and architecture blossomed. Little known by many in the West today, the Mamluks remained in power for almost 300 years until they were eventually overthrown by the Ottomans.

With:

Amira Bennison

Reader in the History and Culture of the Maghrib at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Magdalene College

Robert Irwin

Former Senior Research Associate in the Department of History at SOAS, University of London

Doris Behrens-Abouseif

Nasser D Khalili Professor of Islamic Art and Archaeology at SOAS, University of London

Producer: Victoria Brignell.

599Exoplanets20131003

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss exoplanets. Astronomers have speculated about the existence of planets beyond our solar system for centuries. Although strenuous efforts were made to find such planets orbiting distant stars, it was not until the 1990s that instruments became sophisticated enough to detect such remote objects. In 1992 Dale Frail and Aleksander Wolszczan discovered the first confirmed exoplanets: two planets orbiting the pulsar PSR B1257+12. Since then, astronomers have discovered more than 900 exoplanets, and are able to reach increasingly sophisticated conclusions about what they look like - and whether they might be able to support life. Recent data from experiments such as NASA's space telescope Kepler indicates that such planets may be far more common than previously suspected.

With:

Carolin Crawford

Gresham Professor of Astronomy and a member of the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge

Don Pollacco

Professor of Astronomy at the University of Warwick

Suzanne Aigrain

Lecturer in Astrophysics at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of All Souls College.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss planets outside our solar system, known as exoplanets.

600Galen20131010

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Roman physician and medical theorist Galen.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Roman physician and medical theorist Galen. The most celebrated doctor in the ancient world, Galen was Greek by birth but spent most of his career in Rome, where he was personal physician to three Emperors. He was one of the most prolific authors of his age, and a sixth of all surviving ancient literature in Greek was written by him. Celebrated in his own lifetime, he was regarded as the preeminent medical authority for centuries after his death, both in the Arab world and in medieval Europe. It was only the discoveries of Renaissance science which removed Galen from his dominant position in the pantheon of medicine.

With:

Vivian Nutton

Emeritus Professor of the History of Medicine at University College London

Helen King

Professor of Classical Studies at the Open University

Caroline Petit

Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow in Classics at the University of Warwick

Producer: Thomas Morris.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Roman physician and medical theorist Galen. The most celebrated doctor in the ancient world, Galen was Greek by birth but spent most of his life as a Roman citizen. His many surviving books contain many breakthroughs which were new to medical science, and his work continued to be influential until the Renaissance.

601The Book Of Common Prayer20131017

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Book of Common Prayer.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Book of Common Prayer. In 1549, at the height of the English Reformation, a new prayer book was published containing versions of the liturgy in English. Generally believed to have been supervised by Thomas Cranmer, the Book of Common Prayer was at the centre of the decade of religious turmoil that followed, and disputes over its use were one of the major causes of the English Civil War in the 1640s. The book was revised several times before the celebrated final version was published in 1662. It is still in use in many churches today, and remains not just a liturgical text of great importance but a literary work of profound beauty and influence.

With:

Diarmaid MacCulloch

Professor of the History of the Church at the University of Oxford

Alexandra Walsham

Professor of Modern History at the University of Cambridge

Martin Palmer

Director of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education, and Culture

Producer: Thomas Morris.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Book of Common Prayer. In 1549, at the height of the religious turmoil in England, a new prayer book was published containing versions of the liturgy in English. Generally believed to have been supervised by Thomas Cranmer, the Book of Common Prayer was revised several times before the celebrated final version was published in 1662. It is still in use in many churches today, and remains not just a liturgical text of great importance but a literary work of profound beauty and influence.

602The Corn Laws20131024

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Corn Laws of the 19th century.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Corn Laws. In 1815 the British Government passed legislation which artificially inflated the price of corn. The measure was supported by landowners but strongly opposed by manufacturers and the urban working class. In the 1830s the Anti-Corn Law League was founded to campaign for their repeal, led by the Radical Richard Cobden. The Conservative government of Sir Robert Peel finally repealed the laws in 1846, splitting his party in the process, and the resulting debate had profound consequences for the political and economic future of the country.

With:

Lawrence Goldman

Fellow in Modern History at St Peter's College, Oxford

Boyd Hilton

Former Professor of Modern British History at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Trinity College

Cheryl Schonhardt-Bailey

Reader in Political Science at the London School of Economics

Producer: Thomas Morris.

603The Berlin Conference20131031

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Berlin Conference and the Scramble for Africa.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Berlin Conference of 1884. In the 1880s, as colonial powers attempted to increase their spheres of influence in Africa, tensions began to grow between European nations including Britain, Belgium and France. In 1884 the German Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, brought together many of Europe's leading statesmen to discuss trade and colonial activities in Africa. Although the original purpose of the summit was to settle the question of territorial rights in West Africa, negotiations eventually dealt with the entire continent. The conference was part of the process known as the Scramble for Africa, and the decisions reached at it had effects which have lasted to the present day. The conference is commonly seen as one of the most significant events of the so-called Scramble for Africa; in the following decades, European nations laid claim to most of the continent.

With:

Richard Drayton

Rhodes Professor of Imperial History at King's College London

Richard Rathbone

Emeritus Professor of African History at SOAS, University of London

Joanna Lewis

Assistant Professor of Imperial History at the LSE, University of London.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

604Ordinary Language Philosophy20131107

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Ordinary Language Philosophy.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Ordinary Language Philosophy, a school of thought which emerged in Oxford in the years following World War II. With its roots in the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein, Ordinary Language Philosophy is concerned with the meanings of words as used in everyday speech. Its adherents believed that many philosophical problems were created by the misuse of words, and that if such 'ordinary language' were correctly analysed, such problems would disappear. Philosophers associated with the school include some of the most distinguished British thinkers of the twentieth century, such as Gilbert Ryle and JL Austin.

With:

Stephen Mulhall

Professor of Philosophy at New College, Oxford

Ray Monk

Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southampton

Julia Tanney

Reader in Philosophy of Mind at the University of Kent

Producer: Thomas Morris.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Ordinary Language Philosophy, a school of thought which emerged in Oxford in the years following World War II. With its roots in the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein, Ordinary Language Philosophy is concerned with the meanings of words as used in everyday speech. Its adherents believed that many philosophical problems were created by the misuse of words, and that if such 'ordinary language' was correctly analysed, such problems would disappear. Philosophers associated with the school include some of the most distinguished British thinkers of the twentieth century, such as Gilbert Ryle and JL Austin.

605The Tempest20131114

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Shakespeare's The Tempest.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Shakespeare's play The Tempest. Written in around 1610, it is thought to be one of the playwright's final works and contains some of the most poetic and memorable passages in all his output. It was influenced by accounts of distant lands written by contemporary explorers, and by the complex international politics of the early Jacobean age.

The Tempest is set entirely on an unnamed island inhabited by the magician Prospero, his daughter Miranda and the monstrous Caliban, one of the most intriguing characters in Shakespeare's output. Its themes include magic and the nature of theatre itself - and some modern critics have seen it as an early meditation on the ethics of colonialism.

With:

Jonathan Bate

Provost of Worcester College, Oxford

Erin Sullivan

Lecturer and Fellow at the Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham

Katherine Duncan-Jones

Emeritus Fellow of Somerville College, Oxford

Producer: Thomas Morris.

606Pocahontas20131121

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life of Pocahontas, the Native American woman who to English eyes became a symbol of the New World. During the colonisation of Virginia in the first years of the seventeenth century, Pocahontas famously saved the life of an English prisoner, John Smith. Later captured, she converted to Christianity, married a settler and travelled to England where she was regarded as a curiosity. She died in 1617 at the age of 22 and was buried in Gravesend; her story has fascinated generations on both sides of the Atlantic, and has been reinterpreted and retold by many writers and artists.

With:

Susan Castillo

Harriet Beecher Stowe Emeritus Professor of American Studies at King's College London

Tim Lockley

Reader in American Studies at the University of Warwick

Jacqueline Fear-Segal

Reader in American History and Culture at the University of East Anglia

Producer: Thomas Morris.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life of Pocohontas, the Native American woman who to English eyes became a symbol of the New World. During the English colonisation of Virginia in the first years of the seventeenth century, Pocahontas famously saved the life of an English prisoner. Later captured by the English, she married a settler and travelled to England where she was regarded as a curiosity. She died in 1617 at the age of 22 and was buried in Gravesend; her story has fascinated generations on both sides of the Atlantic.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life of the Native American Pocahontas.

607The Microscope20131128

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the development of the microscope.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the development of the microscope, an instrument which has revolutionised our knowledge of the world and the organisms that inhabit it. In the seventeenth century the pioneering work of two scientists, the Dutchman Antonie van Leeuwenhoek and Robert Hooke in England, revealed the teeming microscopic world that exists at scales beyond the capabilities of the naked eye.

The microscope became an essential component of scientific enquiry by the nineteenth century, but in the 1930s a German physicist, Ernst Ruska, discovered that by using a beam of electrons he could view structures much tinier than was possible using visible light. Today light and electron microscopy are among the most powerful tools at the disposal of modern science, and new techniques are still being developed.

With:

Jim Bennett

Visiting Keeper at the Science Museum in London

Sir Colin Humphreys

Professor of Materials Science and Director of Research at the University of Cambridge

Michelle Peckham

Professor of Cell Biology at the University of Leeds

Producer: Thomas Morris.

608Hindu Ideas Of Creation20131205

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Hindu ideas about the creation of the universe.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Hindu ideas about Creation. According to most Western religious traditions, a deity was the original creator of the Universe. Hinduism, on the other hand, has no single creation story. For over a thousand years, Hindu thinkers have taken a variety of approaches to the question of where we come from, with some making the case for divine intervention and others asking whether it is even possible for humans to comprehend the nature of creation. The origin of our existence, and the nature of the Universe we live in, is one of the richest strands of Hindu thought.

With:

Jessica Frazier

Lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Kent and a Research Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies at the University of Oxford

Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad

Professor of Comparative Religion and Philosophy at Lancaster University

Gavin Flood

Professor of Hindu Studies and Comparative Religion at the University of Oxford.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

609Pliny The Younger20131212

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Roman letter-writer Pliny the Younger.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of Pliny the Younger, famous for his letters. A prominent lawyer in Rome in the first century AD, Pliny later became governor of the province of Bithynia, on the Black Sea coast of modern Turkey. Throughout his career he was a prolific letter-writer, sharing his thoughts with great contemporaries including the historian Tacitus, and asking the advice of the Emperor Trajan. Pliny's letters offer fascinating insights into life in ancient Rome and its empire, from the mundane details of irrigation schemes to his vivid eyewitness account of the eruption of Vesuvius.

With:

Catharine Edwards

Professor of Classics and Ancient History at Birkbeck, University of London

Roy Gibson

Professor of Latin at the University of Manchester

Alice König

Lecturer in Latin and Classical Studies at the University of St Andrews

Producer: Thomas Morris.

610Complexity20131219

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the emerging discipline of complexity theory and how it can help us understand the world around us. When living beings come together and act in a group, they do so in complicated and unpredictable ways: societies often behave very differently from the individuals within them. Complexity was a phenomenon little understood a generation ago, but research into complex systems now has important applications in economics, business, engineering and the sciences.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss complexity theory.

611The Medici20131226

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Medici family, who dominated Florence's political and cultural life for three centuries. The House of Medici came to prominence in Italy in the fifteenth century as a result of the wealth they had built up through banking. With the rise of Cosimo de' Medici, they became Florence's most powerful and influential dynasty, effectively controlling the city's government. Their patronage of the arts turned Florence into a leading centre of the Renaissance and the Medici Bank was one of the most successful institutions of its day. As well as producing four popes, members of the House of Medici married into various European royal families.

With:

Evelyn Welch

Professor of Renaissance Studies at King's College, University of London

Robert Black

Professor of Renaissance History at the University of Leeds

Catherine Fletcher

Lecturer in Public History at the University of Sheffield

Producer: Victoria Brignell.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Medici family, rulers of Renaissance Florence.

612Plato's Symposium20140102

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Plato's Symposium.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Plato's Symposium, one of the Greek philosopher's most celebrated works. Written in the 4th century BC, it is a dialogue set at a dinner party attended by a number of prominent ancient Athenians, including the philosopher Socrates and the playwright Aristophanes. Each of the guests speaks of Eros, or erotic love. This fictional discussion of the nature of love, how and why it arises and what it means to be in love, has had a significant influence on later thinkers, and is the origin of the modern notion of Platonic love.

With:

Angie Hobbs

Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield

Richard Hunter

Regius Professor of Greek at the University of Cambridge

Frisbee Sheffield

Director of Studies in Philosophy at Christ's College, University of Cambridge.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

613The Battle Of Tours20140116

613The Battle Of Tours20140116

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Battle of Tours of 732.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Battle of Tours. In 732 a large Arab army invaded Gaul from northern Spain, and travelled as far north as Poitiers. There they were defeated by Charles Martel, whose Frankish and Burgundian forces repelled the invaders. The result confirmed the regional supremacy of Charles, who went on to establish a strong Frankish dynasty. The Battle of Tours was the last major incursion of Muslim armies into northern Europe; some historians, including Edward Gibbon, have seen it as the decisive moment that determined that the continent would remain Christian.

With:

Hugh Kennedy

Professor of Arabic at SOAS, University of London

Rosamond McKitterick

Professor of Medieval History at the University of Cambridge

Matthew Innes

Vice-Master and Professor of History at Birkbeck, University of London.

614Sources of Early Chinese History20140123

614Sources Of Early Chinese History20140123

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the sources for early Chinese history.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the sources for early Chinese history. The first attempts to make a record of historical events in China date from the Shang dynasty of the second millennium BC. The earliest surviving records were inscribed on bones or tortoise shells; in later centuries, chroniclers left detailed accounts on paper or silk. In the last hundred years, archaeologists have discovered a wealth of new materials, including a cache of previously unknown texts which were found in a sealed cave on the edge of the Gobi Desert. Such sources are are shedding new light on Chinese history, although interpreting ancient sources from the period before the invention of printing presents a number of challenges.

With:

Roel Sterckx

Joseph Needham Professor of Chinese History at the University of Cambridge

Tim Barrett

Professor of East Asian History at SOAS, University of London

Hilde de Weerdt

Professor of Chinese History at Leiden University

Producer: Thomas Morris.

615Catastrophism20140130

615Catastrophism20140130

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the geological theory of Catastrophism.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Catastrophism, the idea that natural disasters have had a significant influence in moulding the Earth's geological features. In 1822 William Buckland, the first reader of Geology at the University of Oxford, published his famous Reliquae Diluvianae, in which he ascribed most of the fossil record to the effects of Noah's flood. Charles Lyell in his Principles of Geology challenged these writings, arguing that geological change was slow and gradual, and that the processes responsible could still be seen at work today - a school of thought known as Uniformitarianism. But in the 1970s the idea that natural catastrophes were a major factor in the Earth's geology was revived and given new respectability by the discovery of evidence of a gigantic asteroid impact 65 million years ago, believed by many to have resulted in the extinction of the dinosaurs.

With:

Andrew Scott

Leverhulme Emeritus Fellow in the Department of Earth Sciences at Royal Holloway, University of London

Jan Zalasiewicz

Senior Lecturer in Geology at the University of Leicester

Leucha Veneer

Visiting Scholar at the Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Manchester

Producer: Thomas Morris.

616The Phoenicians20140206

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Phoenicians of the ancient Mediterranean.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Phoenicians. The Greek historian Herodotus wrote about a people from the Levant who were accomplished sailors and traders, and who taught the Greeks their alphabet. He called them the Phoenicians, the Greek word for purple, although it is not known what they called themselves. By about 700 BC they were trading all over the Mediterranean, taking Egyptian and Syrian goods as far as France and North Africa. Although they were hugely influential in the ancient world, they left few records of their own; some contemporary scholars believe that the Phoenicians were never a unified civilisation but a loose association of neighbouring city-states.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

617Chivalry20140213

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss medieval chivalry.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss chivalry, the moral code adhered to by knights of the Middle Ages. Chivalry originated in the military practices of aristocratic French and German soldiers, but developed into an elaborate system governing many different aspects of knightly behaviour. It influenced the conduct of medieval military campaigns and also had important religious and literary dimensions. The remnants of the chivalric tradition linger in European culture even today.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

618Social Darwinism20140220

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Social Darwinism.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Social Darwinism. After the publication of Charles Darwin's masterpiece On the Origin of Species in 1859, some thinkers argued that Darwin's ideas about evolution could also be applied to human society. Prominent Social Darwinists, such as the philosopher Herbert Spencer, believed that it was the Darwinian 'survival of the fittest' which ensured the stability of society. Social Darwinism remained influential for several generations, although its association with eugenics and later adoption as an ideological position by Fascist regimes ensured its eventual downfall from intellectual respectability.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

619The Eye20140227

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of ideas about the eye and how it works.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the eye. Humans have been attempting to understand the workings and significance of the organ for at least 2500 years. Ancient philosophers believed that the eye enabled creatures to see by emitting its own light. The function and structures of the eye became an area of particular interest to doctors in the Islamic Golden Age; in early Renaissance Europe the work of Leonardo and others revolutionised thinking about how the organ worked, but it took several hundred years for the organ to be thoroughly understood. Eyes have long attracted more than purely scientific interest, known even today as the 'windows on the soul'.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

620Spartacus20140306

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Roman gladiator and rebel leader Spartacus.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests Mary Beard, Maria Wyke and Theresa Urbainczyk discuss the life of Spartacus, the gladiator who led a major slave rebellion against the Roman Republic in the 1st century BC. An accomplished military leader, Spartacus was celebrated by ancient historians, and the campaign he led had a significant effect on the future of the Roman state. Modern perceptions of his character have been influenced by Stanley Kubrick's 1960 film - but ancient sources give a rather more complex picture of Spartacus and the aims of his rebellion.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

621The Trinity20140313

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Trinity, a central doctrine of Christianity.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Trinity. The idea that God is a single entity, but one known in three distinct forms - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - has been a central belief for most Christians since the earliest years of the religion. The doctrine was often controversial in the early years of the Church, until clarified by the Council of Nicaea in the late 4th century. Later thinkers including St Augustine and Thomas Aquinas recognised that this religious mystery posed profound theological questions, such as whether the three persons of the Trinity always acted together, and whether they were of equal status. The Trinity's influence on Christian thought and practice is considerable, although it is interpreted in different ways by different Christian traditions.

With:

Janet Soskice

Professor of Philosophical Theology at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Jesus College

Martin Palmer

Director of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education, and Culture

The Reverend Graham Ward

Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Oxford and a Canon of Christ Church.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

622Bishop Berkeley20140320

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the 18th-century philosopher George Berkeley.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the work of George Berkeley, an Anglican bishop who was one of the most important philosophers of the eighteenth century. Berkeley believed that objects only truly exist in the mind of somebody who perceives them - an idea he called immaterialism. His work on the nature of perception was a spur to many later thinkers, including David Hume and Immanuel Kant. The clarity of Berkeley's writing, and his ability to pose a profound problem in an easily understood form, has made him one of the most admired Early Modern thinkers.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

623Weber's The Protestant Ethic20140327

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Max Weber's book the Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Published in 1905, Weber's essay proposed that Protestantism had been a significant factor in the emergence of capitalism, making an explicit connection between religious ideas and economic systems. Weber's argument has come in for some criticism since he published the work, but is still seen as one of the seminal texts of twentieth-century sociology.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

624States Of Matter20140403

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the states of matter, from solids to plasmas.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the science of matter and the states in which it can exist. Most people are familiar with the idea that a substance like water can exist in solid, liquid and gaseous forms. But most of the matter in the universe is in a fourth state, plasma, and science now recognises a number of other, more exotic states. Melvyn's guests, including Andrea Sella, Professor of Materials and Inorganic Chemistry at UCL, explore what defines these states of matter and the differences between them.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

625Strabo's Geographica20140410

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Strabo's Geographica, an early work of geography.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Strabo's Geographica. Written almost exactly two thousand years ago by a Greek scholar living in Rome, the Geographica is an ambitious attempt to describe the entire world known to the Romans and Greeks at that time. One of the earliest systematic works of geography, Strabo's book offers a revealing insight into the state of ancient scholarship, and remained influential for many centuries after the author's death.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

626The Domesday Book20140417

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Domesday Book.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Domesday Book, a vast survey of the land and property of much of England and Wales completed in 1086. Twenty years after the Battle of Hastings, William the Conqueror sent officials to most of his new territories to compile a list of land holdings and to gather information about settlements, the people who lived there and even their farm animals. Almost without parallel in European history, the resulting document was of immense importance for many centuries, and remains a central source for medieval historians.

With:

Stephen Baxter

Reader in Medieval History at Kings College London

Elisabeth van Houts

Honorary Professor of Medieval European History at the University of Cambridge

David Bates

Professorial Fellow in Medieval History at the University of East Anglia

Producer: Thomas Morris.

627Tristram Shandy20140424

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Laurence Sterne's comic novel Tristram Shandy.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Laurence Sterne's novel Tristram Shandy. Sterne's comic masterpiece is an extravagantly inventive work which was hugely popular when first published in 1759. Its often bawdy humour, and numerous digressions, are combined with bold literary experiment, such as a page printed entirely black to mark the death of one of the novel's characters. Dr Johnson wrote that "Nothing odd will do long. Tristram Shandy did not last" - but two hundred and fifty years after the book's publication, Tristram Shandy remains one of the most influential and widely admired books of the eighteenth century.

With:

Judith Hawley

Professor of Eighteenth-Century Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London

John Mullan

Professor of English at University College London

Mary Newbould

Bowman Supervisor in English at Wolfson College, University of Cambridge.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

628The Tale Of Sinuhe20140501

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the ancient Egyptian poem The Tale of Sinuhe.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss The Tale of Sinuhe, one of the most celebrated works of ancient Egyptian literature. Written around four thousand years ago, the poem narrates the story of an Egyptian official who is exiled to Syria before returning to his homeland some years later. The number of versions of the poem, which is known from several surviving papyri and inscriptions, suggests that it was seen as an important literary work; although the story is set against a backdrop of real historical events, most scholars believe that the poem is a work of fiction.

With:

Richard Parkinson

Professor of Egyptology and Fellow of Queen's College at the University of Oxford

Roland Enmarch

Senior Lecturer in Egyptology at the University of Liverpool.

Aidan Dodson

Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Bristol

Producer: Thomas Morris.

629The Sino-japanese War20140508

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Second Sino-Japanese War.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-45. After several years of rising tension, and the Japanese occupation of Manchuria, full-scale war between Japan and China broke out in the summer of 1937. The Japanese captured many major Chinese ports and cities, but met with fierce resistance, despite internal political divisions on the Chinese side. When the Americans entered the war following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Japanese found themselves fighting on several fronts simultaneously, and finally capitulated in August 1945. This notoriously brutal conflict left millions dead and had far-reaching consequences for international relations in Asia.

With:

Rana Mitter

Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China at the University of Oxford

Barak Kushner

Senior Lecturer in Japanese History at the University of Cambridge

Tehyun Ma

Lecturer in Chinese History at the University of Exeter

Producer: Thomas Morris.

630Photosynthesis20140515

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss photosynthesis.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss photosynthesis, the process by which green plants and many other organisms use sunlight to synthesise organic molecules. Photosynthesis arose very early in evolutionary history and has been a crucial driver of life on Earth. In addition to providing most of the food consumed by organisms on the planet, it is also responsible for maintaining atmospheric oxygen levels, and is thus almost certainly the most important chemical process ever discovered.

With:

Nick Lane

Reader in Evolutionary Biochemistry at University College London

Sandra Knapp

Botanist at the Natural History Museum

John Allen

Professor of Biochemistry at Queen Mary, University of London.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

631The Rubaiyat Of Omar Khayyam20140522

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. In 1859 the poet Edward FitzGerald published a volume of poetry based on the verses of the 11th-century Persian scholar Omar Khayyam. Although only loosely based on the original, the Rubaiyat made Khayyam the best-known Eastern poet in the English-speaking world. FitzGerald's version is itself one of the most admired works of Victorian literature, praised and imitated by many later writers.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

632The Talmud20140529

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history and contents of the Talmud, one of the most important texts of Judaism. Dating from the 2nd century, the Talmud contains the authoritative text of the traditional oral law, and also an account of early Rabbinic discussion of these laws. In later centuries scholars wrote important commentaries on these texts, which remain central to many strands of modern Judaism.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Talmud, a major text of rabbinical Judaism.

633The Bluestockings20140605

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the 18th-century Bluestocking Society.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Bluestockings. Around the middle of the eighteenth century a small group of intellectual women began to meet regularly to discuss literature and other matters, inviting some of the leading thinkers of the day to take part in informal salons. In an age when women were not expected to be highly educated, the Bluestockings were at first regarded with suspicion or even hostility. But their accomplishments led to far greater acceptance of women as the intellectual equal of men, and furthered the cause of female education.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

634Robert Boyle20140612

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the work of the pioneering scientist Robert Boyle.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of Robert Boyle, a pioneering scientist and one of the first Fellows of the Royal Society. Born in Ireland in 1627, Boyle was one of the first scientists to conduct rigorous experiments, laid the foundations of modern chemistry and derived Boyle's Law, describing the physical properties of gases.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

635The Philosophy Of Solitude20140619

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the philosophy of solitude.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the philosophy of solitude. The state of being alone can arise for many different reasons: imprisonment, exile or personal choice. It can be prompted by religious belief, personal necessity or a philosophical need for solitary contemplation. Many thinkers have dealt with the subject, a line that runs from Plato and Aristotle, through medieval religious mystics and the great American philosophers Thoreau and Emerson.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

636Hildegard Of Bingen20140626

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the medieval writer and mystic Hildegard of Bingen.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss one of the most remarkable figures of the Middle Ages, Hildegard of Bingen. The abbess of a Benedictine convent, Hildegard experienced a series of mystical visions which she documented in her writings. 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 also celebrated for her wide-ranging scholarship, which as well as theology covered the natural world, science and medicine. Officially recognised as a saint by the Catholic Church in 2012, Hildegard is also one of the earliest known composers. Since their rediscovery in recent decades her compositions have been widely recorded and performed.

With:

Miri Rubin

Professor of Medieval and Early Modern History and Head of the School of History at Queen Mary, University of London

William Flynn

Lecturer in Medieval Latin at the Institute for Medieval Studies at the University of Leeds

Almut Suerbaum

Professor of Medieval German and Fellow of Somerville College, Oxford.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

637Mrs Dalloway20140703

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Virginia Woolf's novel 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.

With:

Professor Dame Hermione Lee

President of Wolfson College, Oxford

Jane Goldman

Reader in English Literature at the University of Glasgow

Kathryn Simpson

Senior Lecturer in English Literature at Cardiff Metropolitan University.

638The Sun20140710

638The Sun2014071020150101 (R4)

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Sun. The object that gives the Earth its light and heat is a massive ball of gas and plasma 93 million miles away. Thanks to the nuclear fusion reactions taking place at its core, the Sun has been shining for four and a half billion years. Its structure, and the processes that keep it burning, have fascinated astronomers for centuries. After the invention of the telescope it became apparent that the Sun is not a placid, steadily shining body but is subject to periodic changes in its appearance and eruptions of dramatic violence, some of which can affect us here on Earth. Recent space missions have revealed fascinating new insights into our nearest star.

With:

Carolin Crawford

Gresham Professor of Astronomy and Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge

Yvonne Elsworth

Poynting Professor of Physics at the University of Birmingham

Louise Harra

Professor of Solar Physics at UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory

Producer: Thomas Morris.

638The Sun20140710

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the science of the sun, source of all our energy.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Sun. The object that gives the Earth its light and heat is a massive ball of plasma 93 million miles away. Thanks to the nuclear fusion reactions taking place at its core, the Sun has been shining for four and a half billion years. Its structure, and the processes that keep it burning, have fascinated astronomers for centuries; recent space missions have revealed details about our nearest star that have added considerably to our knowledge of it.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

639e20140925

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Euler's number, e.

639e20140925

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Euler's number, also known as e. First discovered in the seventeenth century by the Swiss mathematician Jacob Bernoulli when he was studying compound interest, e is now recognised as one of the most important and interesting numbers in mathematics. Roughly equal to 2.718, e is useful in studying many everyday situations, from personal savings to epidemics. It also features in Euler's Identity, sometimes described as the most beautiful equation ever written.

With:

Colva Roney-Dougal

Reader in Pure Mathematics at the University of St Andrews

June Barrow-Green

Senior Lecturer in the History of Maths at the Open University

Vicky Neale

Whitehead Lecturer at the Mathematical Institute and Balliol College at the University of Oxford

Producer: Thomas Morris.

640Julius Caesar20141002

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and reputation of Julius Caesar.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life, work and reputation of Julius Caesar. Famously assassinated as he entered the Roman senate on the Ides of March, 44 BC, Caesar was an inspirational general who conquered much of Europe. He was a ruthless and canny politician who became dictator of Rome, and wrote The Gallic Wars, one of the most admired and studied works of Latin literature. Shakespeare is one of many later writers to have been fascinated by the figure of Julius Caesar.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

641The Battle Of Talas20141009

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Battle of Talas in AD751.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Battle of Talas, a significant encounter between Arab and Chinese forces which took place in central Asia in 751 AD. It brought together two mighty empires, the Abbasid Caliphate and the Tang Dynasty, and although not well known today the battle had profound consequences for the future of both civilisations. Some historians believe that it was also the moment when the technology of paper manufacture found its way from China to the Western world.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

642Rudyard Kipling20141016

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of Rudyard Kipling.

642Rudyard Kipling20141016

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of Rudyard Kipling. Born in Bombay in 1865, Kipling has been described as the poet of Empire, celebrated for fictional works including Kim and The Jungle Book. Today his poem 'If--' remains one of the best known in the English language. Kipling was the first British recipient of a Nobel Prize for Literature, and in his lifetime was acclaimed as one of the world's greatest writers.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

643The Haitian Revolution20141023

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Haitian Revolution of 1791-1804.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Haitian Revolution. In 1791 an uprising began in the French colonial territory of St Domingue. Partly a consequence of the French Revolution and partly a backlash against the brutality of slave owners, it turned into a complex struggle involving not just the residents of the island but French, English and Spanish forces. By 1804 the former slaves had won, establishing the first independent state in Latin America and the first nation to be created as a result of a successful slave rebellion. But the revolution also created one of the world's most impoverished societies, a legacy which Haiti has struggled to escape.

Contributors

Kate Hodgson, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in French at the University of Liverpool

Tim Lockley, Reader in American Studies at the University of Warwick

Karen Salt, Research Fellow in the Department of History at the University of Aberdeen

Producer: Luke Mulhall.

644Nuclear Fusion20141030

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history and science of nuclear fusion.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss nuclear fusion, the process that powers stars. In the 1920s physicists predicted that it might be possible to generate huge amounts of energy by fusing atomic nuclei together, a reaction requiring enormous temperatures and pressures. Today we know that this complex reaction is what keeps the Sun shining. Scientists have achieved fusion in the laboratory and in nuclear weapons; today it is seen as a likely future source of limitless and clean energy.

Guests:

Philippa Browning, Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Manchester

Steve Cowley, Chief Executive of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority

Justin Wark, Professor of Physics and fellow of Trinity College at the University of Oxford

Producer: Thomas Morris.

645Hatshepsut20141106

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Hatshepsut, whose name means 'foremost of noble ladies'. She ruled Egypt from 1479 - 1458 BC and some modern scholars argue she was one of the most successful Pharaohs. When she came to the throne Egypt was still recovering from a series of wars known as the Second Intermediate Period, a generation earlier. Hatshepsut reasserted Egyptian power by building up international trade, and commissioned buildings considered masterpieces of Egyptian architecture. But her name seems to have been erased from the records by some later Pharaohs.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Hatshepsut.

646Brunel20141113

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the Victorian engineer responsible for bridges, tunnels and railways still in use today more than 150 years after they were built. Brunel represented the cutting edge of technological innovation in Victorian Britain, and his life gives us a window onto the social changes that accompanied the Industrial Revolution.

647Aesop20141120

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Aesop, legendary author of the famous collection of fables

647Aesop20141120

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Aesop. According to some accounts, Aesop was a strikingly ugly slave who was dumb until granted the power of speech by the goddess Isis. In stories of his life he's often found outwitting his masters using clever wordplay, but he's best known today as the supposed author of a series of fables that are some of the most enduringly popular works of Ancient Greek literature. Some modern scholars question whether he existed at all, but the body of work that has come down to us under his name gives us a rare glimpse of the popular culture of the Ancient World.

WITH

Pavlos Avlamis, Junior Research Fellow in Classics at Trinity College at the University of Oxford

Simon Goldhill, Professor of Greek Literature and Culture at the University of Cambridge

Lucy Grig, Senior Lecturer in Classics at the University of Edinburgh

Producer: Luke Mulhall.

648Listener Week On In Our Time20141127

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss a topic suggested by a listener.

This week is Listener Week on In Our Time. Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss a topic chosen from several hundred suggested by listeners.

649Zen20141204

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Zen, a distinctively East Asian form of Buddhism.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Zen. It's often thought of as a form of Buddhism that emphasises the practice of meditation over any particular set of beliefs. In fact Zen belongs to a particular intellectual tradition within Buddhism that took root in China in the 6th century AD. It spread to Japan in the early Middle Ages, where Zen practitioners set up religious institutions like temples, monasteries and universities that remain important today.

650Behavioural Ecology20141211

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss behavioural ecology.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Behavioural Ecology, the scientific study of animal behaviour in light of Darwin's theory of evolution. Behavioural ecology developed as part of zoology in the second half of the 20th century and led researchers to ask what adaptive advantages do animals gain from behaving in the ways they do.

Producer: Luke Mulhall.

651Truth20141218

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss philosophical approaches to truth.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the philosophy of truth. Pontius Pilate famously asked: what is truth? In the twentieth century, the nature of truth became a subject of particular interest to philosophers, but they preferred to ask a slightly different question: what does it mean to say of any particular statement that it is true? What is the difference between these two questions, and how useful is the second of them?

With:

Simon Blackburn

Fellow of Trinity College, University of Cambridge, and Professor of Philosophy at the New College of the Humanities

Jennifer Hornsby

Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London

Crispin Wright

Regius Professor of Logic at the University of Aberdeen, and Professor of Philosophy at New York University

Producer: Victoria Brignell and Luke Mulhall.

652Bruegel's The Fight Between Carnival And Lent20150115

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Bruegel's painting The Fight Between Carnival and Lent.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Pieter Bruegel the Elder's painting of 1559, 'The Fight Between Carnival And Lent'. Created in Antwerp at a time of religious tension between Catholics and Protestants, the painting is rich in detail and seems ripe for interpretation. But Bruegel is notoriously difficult to interpret. His art seems to reject the preoccupations of the Italian Renaissance, drawing instead on techniques associated with the new technology of the 16th century, print. Was Bruegel using his art to comment on the controversies of his day? If so, what comment was he making?

CONTRIBUTORS

Louise Milne, Lecturer in Visual Culture in the School of Art at the University of Edinburgh and Edinburgh Napier University

Jeanne Nuechterlein, Senior Lecturer in the Department of History of Art, University of York

Miri Rubin, Professor of Medieval and Early Modern History and Head of the School of History at Queen Mary, University of London

Producer: Luke Mulhall.

653Phenomenology20150122

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the philosophical movement phenomenology.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss phenomenology, a style of philosophy developed by the German thinker Edmund Husserl in the first decades of the 20th century. Husserl's initial insights underwent a radical transformation in the work of his student Martin Heidegger, and played a key role in the development of French philosophy at the hands of writers like Emmanuel Levinas, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Maurice Merleau-Ponty.

Phenomenology has been a remarkably adaptable approach to philosophy. It has given its proponents a platform to expose and critique the basic assumptions of past philosophy, and to talk about everything from the foundations of geometry to the difference between fear and anxiety. It has also been instrumental in getting philosophy out of the seminar room and making it relevant to the lives people actually lead.

GUESTS

Simon Glendinning, Professor of European Philosophy in the European Institute at the London School of Economics

Joanna Hodge, Professor of Philosophy at Manchester Metropolitan University

Stephen Mulhall, Professor of Philosophy and Tutor at New College at the University of Oxford

Producer: Luke Mulhall.

654Thucydides20150129

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ancient Greek historian Thucydides. His work recounts a war between Athens and Sparta in the 5th century BC, but readers have argued that he uses this story as the starting point for a profound discussion of politics, human motives and the nature of history.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ancient Greek historian Thucydides.

655Ashoka The Great20150205

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Indian ruler Ashoka the Great.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Indian Emperor Ashoka. Active in the 3rd century BC, Ashoka conquered almost all of the landmass covered by modern-day India, creating the largest empire South Asia had ever known. After his campaign of conquest he converted to Buddhism, and spread the religion throughout his domain. His edicts were inscribed on the sides of an extraordinary collection of stone pillars spread far and wide across his empire, many of which survive today. Our knowledge of ancient India and its chronology, and how this aligns with the history of Europe, is largely dependent on this important set of inscriptions, which were deciphered only in the nineteenth century.

With:

Jessica Frazier

Lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Kent and a Research Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies

Naomi Appleton

Chancellor's Fellow in Religious Studies at the University of Edinburgh

Richard Gombrich

Founder and Academic Director of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies and Emeritus Professor of Sanskrit at the University of Oxford

Producer: Thomas Morris.

656The Photon20150212

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the photon, one of the most enigmatic objects in the Universe. Generations of scientists have struggled to understand the nature of light. In the late nineteenth century it seemed clear that light was an electromagnetic wave. But the work of physicists including Planck and Einstein shed doubt on this theory. Today scientists accept that light can behave both as a wave and a particle, the latter known as the photon. Understanding light in terms of photons has enabled the development of some of the most important technology of the last fifty years.

With:

Frank Close

Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of Oxford

Wendy Flavell

Professor of Surface Physics at the University of Manchester

Susan Cartwright

Senior Lecturer in Physics and Astronomy at the University of Sheffield.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the photon, the fundamental particle of light.

657The Wealth Of Nations20150219

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Adam Smith's economic treatise The Wealth of Nations.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Adam Smith's celebrated economic treatise The Wealth of Nations. Smith was one of Scotland's greatest thinkers, a moral philosopher and pioneer of economic theory whose 1776 masterpiece has come to define classical economics. Based on his careful consideration of the transformation wrought on the British economy by the Industrial Revolution, the book outlined a theory of wealth and how it is accumulated that has arguably had more influence on economic theory than any other.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

658The Eunuch20150226

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history and significance of eunuchs, castrated men who played important roles in many civilisations, from ancient Greece to China and the Ottoman Empire. Typically employed as servants, eunuchs sometimes attained prominent positions in royal courts, and were of great cultural significance for centuries.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history and significance of eunuchs.

659Beowulf20150305

659Beowulf20150305

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the epice Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf.

659Beowulf20150305

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the epice Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf.

659Beowulf20150305

659Beowulf20150305

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the epic poem Beowulf, one of the masterpieces of Anglo-Saxon literature. Composed around a thousand years ago by an anonymous poet, the work tells the story of a Scandinavian hero whose feats include battles with the fearsome monster Grendel and a fire-breathing dragon.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

659Beowulf20150305

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the epic poem Beowulf, one of the masterpieces of Anglo-Saxon literature. Composed around a thousand years ago by an anonymous poet, the work tells the story of a Scandinavian hero whose feats include battles with the fearsome monster Grendel and a fire-breathing dragon.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

660Dark Matter20150312
660Dark Matter20150312

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss dark matter, the 'missing mass' of the universe.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss dark matter, the mysterious and invisible substance which is believed to make up most of the Universe. In 1932 the Dutch astronomer Jan Oort noticed that the speed at which galaxies moved was at odds with the amount of material they appeared to contain. He hypothesized that much of this 'missing' matter was simply invisible to telescopes. Today astronomers and particle physicists are still fascinated by the search for dark matter and the question of what it is.

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

666Al-ghazali20150319

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of Al-Ghazali, a major philosopher and theologian of the late 11th century. Born in Persia, he was one of the most prominent intellectuals of his age, working in such centres of learning as Baghdad, Damascus and Jerusalem. He is now seen as a key figure in the development of Islamic thought, not just refining the theology of Islam but also building on the existing philosophical tradition inherited from the ancient Greeks.

With:

Peter Adamson

Professor of Late Ancient and Arabic Philosophy at the LMU in Munich

Carole Hillenbrand

Professor of Islamic History at Edinburgh and St Andrews Universities

Robert Gleave

Professor of Arabic Studies at the University of Exeter

Producer: Victoria Brignell.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the medieval Islamic thinker Al-Ghazali.

667The Curies20150326

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the scientific achievements of the Curie family. In 1903 Marie and Pierre Curie shared a Nobel Prize in Physics with Henri Becquerel for their work on radioactivity, a term which Marie coined. Marie went on to win a Nobel in Chemistry eight years later; remarkably, her daughter Irène Joliot-Curie would later share a Nobel with her husband Frédéric Joliot-Curie for their discovery that it was possible to create radioactive materials in the laboratory. The work of the Curies added immensely to our knowledge of fundamental physics and paved the way for modern treatments for cancer and other illnesses.

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the scientific achievements of the Curie family.

668The California Gold Rush20150402

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the California Gold Rush of the 1850s.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the California Gold Rush. In 1849 the discovery of gold at Coloma, near Sacramento in California, led to a massive influx of prospectors seeking to make their fortunes. Within a couple of years the tiny settlement of San Francisco had become a major city, with tens of thousands of immigrants, the so-called Forty-Niners, arriving by boat and over land. The gold rush transformed the west coast of America and its economy, but also uprooted local populations of Native Americans and made irreversible changes to natural habitats.

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

669Sappho20150409

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the ancient Greek poet Sappho.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Greek poet Sappho. Born in the late seventh century BC, Sappho spent much of her life on the island of Lesbos. In antiquity she was famed as one of the greatest lyric poets, but owing to a series of accidents the bulk of her work was lost to posterity. The fragments that do survive, however, give a tantalising glimpse of a unique voice of Greek literature. Her work has lived on in other languages, too, translated by such major poets as Ovid, Christina Rossetti and Baudelaire.

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

670Matteo Ricci And The Ming Dynasty20150416

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Matteo Ricci's 16th-century travels in Ming China.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life of Matteo Ricci, a Jesuit priest who in the 16th century led a Christian mission to China. An accomplished scholar, Ricci travelled extensively and came into contact with senior officials of the Ming Dynasty administration. His story is one of the most important encounters between Renaissance Europe and a China which was still virtually closed to outsiders.

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

671Fanny Burney20150423

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the work of the 18th-century writer Fanny Burney.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of the 18th-century novelist, playwright and diarist Fanny Burney, also known as Frances D'Arblay and Frances Burney. Her first novel, Evelina, was published anonymously and caused a sensation, attracting the admiration of many eminent contemporaries. In an era when very few women published their work she achieved extraordinary success, and her admirers included Dr Johnson and Edmund Burke; later Virginia Woolf called her 'the mother of English fiction'.

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

678The Earth's Core20150430
678The Earth's Core20150430
678The Earth's Core20150430

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Earth's core.

678The Earth's Core20150430

678The Earth's Core20150430
678The Earth's Core20150430

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Earth's Core. The inner core is an extremely dense, solid ball of iron and nickel, the size of the Moon, while the outer core is a flowing liquid, the size of Mars. Thanks to the magnetic fields produced within the core, life on Earth is possible. The magnetosphere protects the Earth from much of the Sun's radiation and the flow of particles which would otherwise strip away the atmosphere. The precise structure of the core and its properties have been fascinating scientists from the Renaissance. Recent seismographs show the picture is even more complex than we might have imagined, with suggestions that the core is spinning at a different speed and on a different axis from the surface.

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

679Tagore20150507
679Tagore20150507

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Rabindranath Tagore.

Rabindranath Tagore was the first non-European to win a Nobel Prize for Literature. He has been called one of the outstanding thinkers of the 20th century and the greatest poet India has ever produced. His Nobel followed publication of Gitanjali, his English version of some of his Bengali poems. WB Yeats and Ezra Pound were great supporters. Tagore was born in Calcutta in 1861 and educated partly in Britain; King George V knighted him, but Tagore renounced this in 1919 following the Amritsar Massacre. A key figure in Indian nationalism, Tagore became a friend of Gandhi, offering criticism as well as support. A polymath and progressive, Tagore painted, wrote plays, novels, short stories and many songs. The national anthems of India and Bangladesh are based on his poems.

With

Chandrika Kaul

Lecturer in Modern History at the University of St Andrews

Bashabi Fraser

Professor of English Literature and Creative Writing at Edinburgh Napier University

And

John Stevens

Leverhulme Postdoctoral Fellow at SOAS, University of London

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

680The Lancashire Cotton Famine20150514

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Cotton Famine in Lancashire from 1861-65. The Famine followed the blockade of Confederate Southern ports during the American Civil War which stopped the flow of cotton into mills in Britain and Europe. Reports at the time told of starvation, mass unemployment and migration. Abraham Lincoln wrote, "I know and deeply deplore the sufferings which the working-men of Manchester, and in all Europe, are called to endure in this crisis." While the the full cause and extent of the Famine in Lancashire are disputed, the consequences of this and the cotton blockade were far reaching.

With

Lawrence Goldman

Director of the Institute of Historical Research at the University of London

Emma Griffin

Professor of History at the University of East Anglia

And

David Brown

Senior Lecturer in American Studies at University of Manchester

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

681Josephus20150521

681Josephus20150521

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Flavius Josephus, author of The Jewish War.

681Josephus20150521

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Flavius Josephus, author of The Jewish War.

681Josephus20150521

681Josephus20150521

It is said that, in Britain from the 18th Century, copies of Josephus' works were as widespread and as well read as The Bible. Christians valued "The Antiquities of the Jews" in particular, for the retelling of parts of the Old Testament and apparently corroborating the historical existence of Jesus. Born Joseph son of Matthias, in Jerusalem, in 37AD, he fought the Romans in Galilee in the First Jewish-Roman War. He was captured by Vespasian's troops and became a Roman citizen, later describing the siege and fall of Jerusalem. His actions and writings made him a controversial figure, from his lifetime to the present day.

With

Tessa Rajak

Professor Emeritus of Ancient History, University of Reading

Philip Alexander

Professor Emeritus of Jewish Studies, University of Manchester

And

Martin Goodman

Professor of Jewish Studies, University of Oxford and President of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

681Josephus20150521

It is said that, in Britain from the 18th Century, copies of Josephus' works were as widespread and as well read as The Bible. Christians valued "The Antiquities of the Jews" in particular, for the retelling of parts of the Old Testament and apparently corroborating the historical existence of Jesus. Born Joseph son of Matthias, in Jerusalem, in 37AD, he fought the Romans in Galilee in the First Jewish-Roman War. He was captured by Vespasian's troops and became a Roman citizen, later describing the siege and fall of Jerusalem. His actions and writings made him a controversial figure, from his lifetime to the present day.

With

Tessa Rajak

Professor Emeritus of Ancient History, University of Reading

Philip Alexander

Professor Emeritus of Jewish Studies, University of Manchester

And

Martin Goodman

Professor of Jewish Studies, University of Oxford and President of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

682The Science Of Glass20150528

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the puzzling science of glass.

While glass items have been made for at least 5,000 years, scientists are yet to explain, conclusively, what happens when the substance it's made from moves from a molten state to its hard, transparent phase. It is said to be one of the great unsolved problems in physics. While apparently solid, the glass retains certain properties of a liquid and some believe it continues to flow, imperceptibly, pointing to old stained glass windows for evidence. Despite this uncertainty, glass technology has continued to advance from sheet glass in the Middle Ages to crystal glass, optical glass and prisms, to float glasses, chemical glassware, fibre optics and metal glasses.

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

683Prester John20150604

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the legend of Prester John.

In the Middle Ages, many church leaders in Europe believed that a king called Prester John ruled a lost Christian nation somewhere to the east and that he was ready to come to their aid. He was seen as a potential ally in Crusades and against the Mongol invasion that threatened Hungarian and Polish lands. There was even apparent proof of Prester John's existence, in letters purportedly from him and in the stories of travellers who claimed they had met him. Later it was thought he was alive and ruling in Ethiopia, a story that baffled Ethiopian ambassadors who came to hear of it. Melvyn Bragg looks for the facts among the myths and asks why the legend was so strongly believed for so long.

684Utilitarianism20150611

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss utilitarianism.

A moral theory that emphasises ends over means, Utilitarianism holds that a good act is one that increases pleasure in the world and decreases pain. The tradition flourished in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries with Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, and has antecedents in ancient philosophy. According to Bentham, happiness is the means for assessing the utility of an act, declaring "it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong." Mill and others went on to refine and challenge Bentham's views and to defend them from critics such as Thomas Carlyle, who termed Utilitarianism a "doctrine worthy only of swine."

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

685Jane Eyre20150618

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, first published in 1847.

The story of Jane Eyre is one of the best-known in English fiction. Jane is the orphan who survives a miserable early life, first with her aunt at Gateshead Hall and then at Lowood School. She leaves the school for Thornfield Hall, to become governess to the French ward of Mr Rochester. She and Rochester fall in love but, at their wedding, it is revealed he is married already and his wife, insane, is kept in Thornfield's attic. When Jane Eyre was published in 1847, it was a great success and brought fame to Charlotte Brontë. Combined with Gothic mystery and horror, the book explores many themes, including the treatment of children, relations between men and women, religious faith and hypocrisy, individuality, morality, equality and the nature of true love.

With

Dinah Birch

Professor of English Literature and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research at the University of Liverpool

Karen O'Brien

Vice Principle and Professor of English Literature at Kings College London

And

Sara Lyons

Lecturer in Victorian Literature at the University of Kent

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

686Extremophiles20150625

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss extremophiles and astrobiology.

In 1977, scientists in the submersible "Alvin" were exploring the deep ocean bed off the Galapagos Islands. In the dark, they discovered hydrothermal vents, like chimneys, from which superheated water flowed. Around the vents there was an extraordinary variety of life, feeding on microbes which were thriving in the acidity and extreme temperature of the vents. While it was already known that some microbes are extremophiles, thriving in extreme conditions, such as the springs and geysers of Yellowstone Park (pictured), that had not prepared scientists for what they now found. Since the "Alvin" discovery, the increased study of extremophile microbes has revealed much about what is and is not needed to sustain life on Earth and given rise to new theories about how and where life began. It has also suggested forms and places in which life might be found elsewhere in the Universe.

With

Monica Grady

Professor of Planetary and Space Sciences at the Open University

Ian Crawford

Professor of Planetary Science and Astrobiology at Birkbeck University of London

And

Nick Lane

Reader in Evolutionary Biochemistry at University College London

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

687Frederick The Great20150702

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Frederick II, king of Prussia from 1740 to 1786.

was King of Prussia from 1740 until his death in 1786. Born in 1712, he increased the power of the state, he made Prussia the leading military power in Europe and his bold campaigns had great implications for the European political landscape. An absolute monarch in the age of enlightenment, he was a prolific writer, attracted figures such as Voltaire to his court, fostered education and put Berlin firmly on the cultural map. He was much admired by Napoleon and was often romanticised by German historians, becoming a hero for many in united Germany in the 19th and 20th centuries. Others, however, vilified him for aspects such as his militarism and the partition of Poland.

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

688Frida Kahlo20150709

688Frida Kahlo20150709

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Frida Kahlo.

688Frida Kahlo20150709

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Frida Kahlo.

688Frida Kahlo20150709

688Frida Kahlo20150709

Born near Mexico City in 1907, Frida Kahlo is considered one of Mexico's greatest artists. She took up painting after a bus accident left her severely injured, was a Communist, married Diego Rivera, a celebrated muralist, became friends with Trotsky and developed an iconic series of self-portraits. Her work brings together elements such as surrealism, pop culture, Aztec and Indian mythology and commentary on Mexican culture. In 1938, artist and poet Andre Breton organised an exhibition of her work in New York, writing in the catalogue, "The Art of Frida Kahlo is a ribbon around a bomb." She was not as widely appreciated during her lifetime as she has since become, but is now one of the most recognised artists of the 20th century.

With

Patience Schell

Chair in Hispanic Studies at the University of Aberdeen

Valerie Fraser

Emeritus Professor of Latin American Art at the University of Essex

And

Alan Knight

Emeritus Professor of the History of Latin America at the University of Oxford

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

688Frida Kahlo20150709

Born near Mexico City in 1907, Frida Kahlo is considered one of Mexico's greatest artists. She took up painting after a bus accident left her severely injured, was a Communist, married Diego Rivera, a celebrated muralist, became friends with Trotsky and developed an iconic series of self-portraits. Her work brings together elements such as surrealism, pop culture, Aztec and Indian mythology and commentary on Mexican culture. In 1938, artist and poet Andre Breton organised an exhibition of her work in New York, writing in the catalogue, "The Art of Frida Kahlo is a ribbon around a bomb." She was not as widely appreciated during her lifetime as she has since become, but is now one of the most recognised artists of the 20th century.

With

Patience Schell

Chair in Hispanic Studies at the University of Aberdeen

Valerie Fraser

Emeritus Professor of Latin American Art at the University of Essex

And

Alan Knight

Emeritus Professor of the History of Latin America at the University of Oxford

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

688Frida Kahlo20150709

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Frida Kahlo.

Born near Mexico City in 1907, Frida Kahlo is considered one of Mexico's greatest artists. She took up painting after a bus accident left her severely injured, was a Communist, married Diego Rivera, a celebrated muralist, became friends with Trotsky and developed an iconic series of self-portraits. Her work brings together elements such as surrealism, pop culture, Aztec and Indian mythology and commentary on Mexican culture. In 1938, artist and poet Andre Breton organised an exhibition of her work in New York, writing in the catalogue, "The Art of Frida Kahlo is a ribbon around a bomb." She was not as widely appreciated during her lifetime as she has since become, but is now one of the most recognised artists of the 20th century.

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

689Perpetual Motion20150924

689Perpetual Motion20150924

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the rise of the idea of perpetual motion and its fall, in the 19th Century, with the Laws of Thermodynamics. For hundreds of years, inquiring minds and some of the biggest names in science explored the possibility of perpetual motion, that there might be a machine that could power itself endlessly, just as the Moon travels round the Earth. Designs included: windmills pumping bellows to turn those windmills round and waterwheels driven by their own recirculating millstreams. Leonardo Da Vinci drew plans for a wheel that kept on turning, with one side always heavier, Robert Boyle made a bucket that might constantly refill itself, with a tube at the bottom leading back to the top and Gottfried Leibniz supported a friend, Johann Bessler, who built a wheel which he claimed ran forever and even allowed to be inspected, under strict conditions. An increasing number of scientists voiced their opposition, from the time of Galileo, but none could prove that perpetual motion was impossible. For scientists, the machines were a way to explore the limits of the laws of nature, even if they didn't yet work in the way they hoped. For the less scrupulous, who claimed their inventions actually worked, the machines promised a limitless supply of energy, supposedly just another scientific 'miracle' in an age of discovery. All this changed in the 19th Century with the experiments of James Joule and Robert Mayer, on the links between heat and work, and the establishment of two of the most robust laws in science, the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics.

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

689Perpetual Motion20150924

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the rise of the idea of perpetual motion and its fall, in the 19th Century, with the Laws of Thermodynamics. For hundreds of years, inquiring minds and some of the biggest names in science explored the possibility of perpetual motion, that there might be a machine that could power itself endlessly, just as the Moon travels round the Earth. Designs included: windmills pumping bellows to turn those windmills round and waterwheels driven by their own recirculating millstreams. Leonardo Da Vinci drew plans for a wheel that kept on turning, with one side always heavier, Robert Boyle made a bucket that might constantly refill itself, with a tube at the bottom leading back to the top and Gottfried Leibniz supported a friend, Johann Bessler, who built a wheel which he claimed ran forever and even allowed to be inspected, under strict conditions. An increasing number of scientists voiced their opposition, from the time of Galileo, but none could prove that perpetual motion was impossible. For scientists, the machines were a way to explore the limits of the laws of nature, even if they didn't yet work in the way they hoped. For the less scrupulous, who claimed their inventions actually worked, the machines promised a limitless supply of energy, supposedly just another scientific 'miracle' in an age of discovery. All this changed in the 19th Century with the experiments of James Joule and Robert Mayer, on the links between heat and work, and the establishment of two of the most robust laws in science, the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics.

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

689Perpetual Motion20150924

689Perpetual Motion20150924

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the rise of the idea of perpetual motion and its fall, in the 19th Century, with the Laws of Thermodynamics. For hundreds of years, inquiring minds and some of the biggest names in science explored the possibility of perpetual motion, that there might be a machine that could power itself endlessly, just as the Moon travels round the Earth. Designs included: windmills pumping bellows to turn those windmills round and waterwheels driven by their own recirculating millstreams. Leonardo Da Vinci drew plans for a wheel that kept on turning, with one side always heavier, Robert Boyle made a bucket that might constantly refill itself, with a tube at the bottom leading back to the top and Gottfried Leibniz supported a friend, Johann Bessler, who built a wheel which he claimed ran forever and even allowed to be inspected, under strict conditions. An increasing number of scientists voiced their opposition, from the time of Galileo, but none could prove that perpetual motion was impossible. For scientists, the machines were a way to explore the limits of the laws of nature, even if they didn't yet work in the way they hoped. For the less scrupulous, who claimed their inventions actually worked, the machines promised a limitless supply of energy, supposedly just another scientific 'miracle' in an age of discovery. All this changed in the 19th Century with the experiments of James Joule and Robert Mayer, on the links between heat and work, and the establishment of two of the most robust laws in science, the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics.

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

689Perpetual Motion20150924

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the rise of the idea of perpetual motion and its fall, in the 19th Century, with the Laws of Thermodynamics. For hundreds of years, inquiring minds and some of the biggest names in science explored the possibility of perpetual motion, that there might be a machine that could power itself endlessly, just as the Moon travels round the Earth. Designs included: windmills pumping bellows to turn those windmills round and waterwheels driven by their own recirculating millstreams. Leonardo Da Vinci drew plans for a wheel that kept on turning, with one side always heavier, Robert Boyle made a bucket that might constantly refill itself, with a tube at the bottom leading back to the top and Gottfried Leibniz supported a friend, Johann Bessler, who built a wheel which he claimed ran forever and even allowed to be inspected, under strict conditions. An increasing number of scientists voiced their opposition, from the time of Galileo, but none could prove that perpetual motion was impossible. For scientists, the machines were a way to explore the limits of the laws of nature, even if they didn't yet work in the way they hoped. For the less scrupulous, who claimed their inventions actually worked, the machines promised a limitless supply of energy, supposedly just another scientific 'miracle' in an age of discovery. All this changed in the 19th Century with the experiments of James Joule and Robert Mayer, on the links between heat and work, and the establishment of two of the most robust laws in science, the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics.

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

690Alexander The Great20151001
690Alexander The Great20151001

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and legacy of Alexander the Great.

Alexander the Great is one of the most celebrated military commanders in history. Born into the Macedonian royal family in 356 BC, he gained control of Greece and went on to conquer the Persian Empire, defeating its powerful king, Darius III. At its peak, Alexander's empire covered modern Turkey, Syria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and part of India. As a result, Greek culture and language was spread into regions it had not penetrated before, and he is also remembered for founding a number of cities. Over the last 2,000 years, the legend of Alexander has grown and he has influenced numerous generals and politicians.

With:

Paul Cartledge

Emeritus Professor of Greek Culture and AG Leventis Senior Research Fellow at Clare College, University of Cambridge

Diana Spencer

Professor of Classics at the University of Birmingham

Rachel Mairs

Lecturer in Classics at the University of Reading

Producer: Victoria Brignell.

692Holbein at the Tudor Court20151015

692Holbein at the Tudor Court20151015

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Holbein at the court of Henry VIII.

692Holbein at the Tudor Court20151015

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Holbein at the court of Henry VIII.

692Holbein at the Tudor Court20151015

692Holbein at the Tudor Court20151015

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and work of Hans Holbein the Younger (1497-1543) during his two extended stays in England, when he worked at the Tudor Court and became the King's painter. Holbein created some of the most significant portraits of his age, including an image of Henry VIII, looking straight at the viewer, hands on hips, that has dominated perceptions of him since. The original at Whitehall Palace was said to make visitors tremble at its majesty. Holbein was later sent to Europe to paint the women who might be Henry's fourth wife; his depiction of Anne of Cleves was enough to encourage Henry to marry her, a decision Henry quickly regretted and for which Thomas Cromwell, her supporter, was executed. His paintings still shape the way we see those in and around the Tudor Court, including Cromwell, Thomas More, the infant Prince Edward (of which there is a detail, above), The Ambassadors and, of course, Henry the Eighth himself.

With

Susan Foister

Curator of Early Netherlandish, German and British Painting at the National Gallery

John Guy

A fellow of Clare College, University of Cambridge

And

Maria Hayward

Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Southampton

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

692Holbein at the Tudor Court20151015

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and work of Hans Holbein the Younger (1497-1543) during his two extended stays in England, when he worked at the Tudor Court and became the King's painter. Holbein created some of the most significant portraits of his age, including an image of Henry VIII, looking straight at the viewer, hands on hips, that has dominated perceptions of him since. The original at Whitehall Palace was said to make visitors tremble at its majesty. Holbein was later sent to Europe to paint the women who might be Henry's fourth wife; his depiction of Anne of Cleves was enough to encourage Henry to marry her, a decision Henry quickly regretted and for which Thomas Cromwell, her supporter, was executed. His paintings still shape the way we see those in and around the Tudor Court, including Cromwell, Thomas More, the infant Prince Edward (of which there is a detail, above), The Ambassadors and, of course, Henry the Eighth himself.

With

Susan Foister

Curator of Early Netherlandish, German and British Painting at the National Gallery

John Guy

A fellow of Clare College, University of Cambridge

And

Maria Hayward

Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Southampton

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

692Holbein at the Tudor Court20151015

692Holbein at the Tudor Court20151015

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Holbein at the court of Henry VIII.

692Holbein at the Tudor Court20151015

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Holbein at the court of Henry VIII.

692Holbein at the Tudor Court20151015

692Holbein at the Tudor Court20151015

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and work of Hans Holbein the Younger (1497-1543) during his two extended stays in England, when he worked at the Tudor Court and became the King's painter. Holbein created some of the most significant portraits of his age, including an image of Henry VIII, looking straight at the viewer, hands on hips, that has dominated perceptions of him since. The original at Whitehall Palace was said to make visitors tremble at its majesty. Holbein was later sent to Europe to paint the women who might be Henry's fourth wife; his depiction of Anne of Cleves was enough to encourage Henry to marry her, a decision Henry quickly regretted and for which Thomas Cromwell, her supporter, was executed. His paintings still shape the way we see those in and around the Tudor Court, including Cromwell, Thomas More, the infant Prince Edward (of which there is a detail, above), The Ambassadors and, of course, Henry the Eighth himself.

With

Susan Foister

Curator of Early Netherlandish, German and British Painting at the National Gallery

John Guy

A fellow of Clare College, University of Cambridge

And

Maria Hayward

Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Southampton

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

692Holbein at the Tudor Court20151015

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and work of Hans Holbein the Younger (1497-1543) during his two extended stays in England, when he worked at the Tudor Court and became the King's painter. Holbein created some of the most significant portraits of his age, including an image of Henry VIII, looking straight at the viewer, hands on hips, that has dominated perceptions of him since. The original at Whitehall Palace was said to make visitors tremble at its majesty. Holbein was later sent to Europe to paint the women who might be Henry's fourth wife; his depiction of Anne of Cleves was enough to encourage Henry to marry her, a decision Henry quickly regretted and for which Thomas Cromwell, her supporter, was executed. His paintings still shape the way we see those in and around the Tudor Court, including Cromwell, Thomas More, the infant Prince Edward (of which there is a detail, above), The Ambassadors and, of course, Henry the Eighth himself.

With

Susan Foister

Curator of Early Netherlandish, German and British Painting at the National Gallery

John Guy

A fellow of Clare College, University of Cambridge

And

Maria Hayward

Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Southampton

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

692Holbein at the Tudor Court20151015

692Holbein at the Tudor Court20151015

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Holbein at the court of Henry VIII.

692Holbein at the Tudor Court20151015

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Holbein at the court of Henry VIII.

692Holbein at the Tudor Court20151015

692Holbein at the Tudor Court20151015

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and work of Hans Holbein the Younger (1497-1543) during his two extended stays in England, when he worked at the Tudor Court and became the King's painter. Holbein created some of the most significant portraits of his age, including an image of Henry VIII, looking straight at the viewer, hands on hips, that has dominated perceptions of him since. The original at Whitehall Palace was said to make visitors tremble at its majesty. Holbein was later sent to Europe to paint the women who might be Henry's fourth wife; his depiction of Anne of Cleves was enough to encourage Henry to marry her, a decision Henry quickly regretted and for which Thomas Cromwell, her supporter, was executed. His paintings still shape the way we see those in and around the Tudor Court, including Cromwell, Thomas More, the infant Prince Edward (of which there is a detail, above), The Ambassadors and, of course, Henry the Eighth himself.

With

Susan Foister

Curator of Early Netherlandish, German and British Painting at the National Gallery

John Guy

A fellow of Clare College, University of Cambridge

And

Maria Hayward

Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Southampton

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

692Holbein at the Tudor Court20151015

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and work of Hans Holbein the Younger (1497-1543) during his two extended stays in England, when he worked at the Tudor Court and became the King's painter. Holbein created some of the most significant portraits of his age, including an image of Henry VIII, looking straight at the viewer, hands on hips, that has dominated perceptions of him since. The original at Whitehall Palace was said to make visitors tremble at its majesty. Holbein was later sent to Europe to paint the women who might be Henry's fourth wife; his depiction of Anne of Cleves was enough to encourage Henry to marry her, a decision Henry quickly regretted and for which Thomas Cromwell, her supporter, was executed. His paintings still shape the way we see those in and around the Tudor Court, including Cromwell, Thomas More, the infant Prince Edward (of which there is a detail, above), The Ambassadors and, of course, Henry the Eighth himself.

With

Susan Foister

Curator of Early Netherlandish, German and British Painting at the National Gallery

John Guy

A fellow of Clare College, University of Cambridge

And

Maria Hayward

Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Southampton

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

693Simone De Beauvoir20151022

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas, work and life of Simone de Beauvoir.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Simone de Beauvoir. "One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman," she wrote in her best known and most influential work, The Second Sex, her exploration of what it means to be a woman in a world defined by men. Published in 1949, it was an immediate success with the thousands of women who bought it. Many male critics felt men came out of it rather badly. Beauvoir was born in 1908 to a high bourgeois family and it was perhaps her good fortune that her father lost his money when she was a girl. With no dowry, she pursued her education in Paris to get work and in a key exam to allow her to teach philosophy, came second only to Jean Paul Sartre. He was retaking. They became lovers and, for the rest their lives together, intellectual sparring partners. Sartre concentrated on existentialist philosophy; Beauvoir explored that, and existentialist ethics, plus the novel and, increasingly in the decades up to her death in 1986, the situation of women in the world.

With

Christina Howells

Professor of French and Fellow of Wadham College at the University of Oxford

Margaret Atack

Professor of French at the University of Leeds

And

Ursula Tidd

Professor of Modern French Literature and Thought at the University of Manchester

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

694The Empire Of Mali20151029

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the empire of Mali.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Empire of Mali which flourished from 1200 to 1600 and was famous in the wider world for the wealth of rulers such as Mansa Musa. Mali was the largest empire in west Africa and for almost 400 years controlled the flow of gold from mines in the south up to the Mediterranean coast and across to the Middle East. These gold mines were the richest known deposits in the 14th Century and produced around half of the world's gold. When Mansa Musa journeyed to Cairo in 1324 as part of his Hajj, he distributed so much gold that its value depreciated by over 10%. Some of the mosques he built on his return survive, albeit rebuilt, such as the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Great Mosque of Djenne.

With

Amira Bennison

Reader in the History and Culture of the Maghrib at the University of Cambridge

Marie Rodet

Senior Lecturer in the History of Africa at SOAS

And

Kevin MacDonald

Professor of African Archaeology

Chair of the African Studies Programme at University College, London

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

695P V Np20151105

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the mathematical problem of P versus NP.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the problem of P versus NP. There is a $1,000,000 prize on offer from the Clay Mathematical Institute for the first person to come up with a complete solution. At its heart is the question "are there problems for which the answers can be checked by computers, but not found in a reasonable time?" Can all answers be found easily as well as checked, if only we knew how? It's intrigued mathematicians and computer scientists since Alan Turing, in 1936, found that some algorithms, given a problem, could run indefinitely without finding an answer. That is as true of today's supercomputers as it was in his day. Resting on P versus NP is the security of of all online transactions which are currently encrypted. If answers can be found as easily as checked, computers could crack passwords in moments.

With

Colva Roney-Dougal

Reader in Pure Mathematics at the University of St Andrews

Timothy Gowers

Royal Society Research Professor in Mathematics at the University of Cambridge

And

Leslie Ann Goldberg

Professor of Computer Science and Fellow of St Edmund Hall, University of Oxford

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

696The Battle Of Lepanto20151112

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Battle of Lepanto, 1571.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss The Battle of Lepanto, 1571, the last great sea battle between galleys, in which the Catholic fleet of the Holy League of principally Venice, Spain, the Papal States, Malta, Genoa, and Savoy defeated the Ottoman forces of Selim II. When much of Europe was divided over the Reformation, this was the first major victory of a Christian force over a Turkish fleet. The battle followed the Ottoman invasion of Venetian Cyprus and decades in which the Venetians had been trying to stop the broader westward expansion of the Ottomans into the Mediterranean. The outcome had a great impact on morale in Europe and Pope Pius V established a feast day of Our Lady of Victory. Some historians call it the most significant sea battle since Actium (31 BC). However, the Ottomans viewed the loss as less significant than their victory in Cyprus and, within two years, the Holy League had broken up.

With

Diarmaid MacCulloch

Professor of the History of the Church at the University of Oxford

Kate Fleet

Director of the Skilliter Centre for Ottoman Studies and Fellow of Newnham College, University of Cambridge

And

Noel Malcolm

A Senior Research Fellow in History at All Soul's College, University of Oxford

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

697Emma20151119

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Emma, the novel by Jane Austen.

"Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her." So begins Emma by Jane Austen, describing her leading character who, she said, was "a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like." Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss this, one of Austen's most popular novels and arguably her masterpiece, a brilliantly sparkling comedy of manners published in December 1815 by John Murray, the last to be published in Austen's lifetime. This followed Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813) and Mansfield Park (1814), with her brother Henry handling publication of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion (1817).

With

Janet Todd

Professor Emerita of Literature, University of Aberdeen and Honorary Fellow of Newnham College, Cambridge

John Mullan

Professor of English at University College, London

And

Emma Clery

Professor of English at the University of Southampton.

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

698The Salem Witch Trials20151126

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the outbreak of witch trials in Massachusetts in 1692-3, centred on Salem, which led to the execution of twenty people, with more dying in prison before or after trial. Some were men, including Giles Corey who died after being pressed with heavy rocks, but the majority were women. At its peak, around 150 people were suspected of witchcraft, including the wife of the governor who had established the trials. Many of the claims of witchcraft arose from personal rivalries in an area known for unrest, but were examined and upheld by the courts at a time of mass hysteria, belief in the devil, fear of attack by Native Americans and religious divisions.

With

Susan Castillo-Street

Harriet Beecher Stowe Professor Emerita of American Studies at King's College London

Simon Middleton

Senior Lecturer in American History at the University of Sheffield

And

Marion Gibson

Professor of Renaissance and Magical Literatures at Exeter University, Penryn Campus.

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

699Listener Week20151203

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss a topic suggested by listeners, to be revealed.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss a topic drawn from a list of around a thousand different ideas, all suggested by listeners in September and October. The subject will be revealed at 8.30am on Thursday 3rd December.

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

700Chinese Legalism20151210

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Chinese Legalism from the time of the First Emperor.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the origins and rise of Legalism in China, from the Warring States Period (c475-221 BC) to the time of The First Emperor Qin Shi Huang (pictured) down to the present day. Blended together by Han Fei, the three main aspects of Legalism were the firm implementation of laws, use of techniques such as responsibility and inscrutability, and taking advantage of the ruler's position. The Han dynasty that replaced the Qin discredited this philosophy for its apparent authoritarianism, but its influence continued, re-emerging throughout Chinese history.

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

701Circadian Rhythms20151217

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss circadian rhythms.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the evolution and role of Circadian Rhythms, the so-called body clock that influences an organism's daily cycle of physical, behavioural and mental changes. The rhythms are generated within organisms and also in response to external stimuli, mainly light and darkness. They are found throughout the living world, from bacteria to plants, fungi to animals and, in humans, are noticed most clearly in sleep patterns.

With

Russell Foster

Professor of Circadian Neuroscience at the University of Oxford

Debra Skene

Professor of Neuroendocrinology at the University of Surrey

And

Steve Jones

Emeritus Professor of Genetics at University College London.

702Michael Faraday20151224

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the scientist Michael Faraday.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the eminent 19th-century scientist Michael Faraday. Born into a poor working-class family, he received little formal schooling but became interested in science while working as a bookbinder's apprentice. He is celebrated today for carrying out pioneering research into the relationship between electricity and magnetism. Faraday showed that if a wire was turned in the presence of a magnet or a magnet was turned in relation to a wire, an electric current was generated. This ground-breaking discovery led to the development of the electric generator and ultimately to modern power stations. During his life he became the most famous scientist in Britain and he played a key role in founding the Royal Institution's Christmas lectures which continue today.

With:

Geoffrey Cantor

Professor Emeritus of the History of Science at the University of Leeds

Laura Herz

Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford

Frank James

Professor of the History of Science at the Royal Institution

Producer: Victoria Brignell.

703Tristan And Iseult20151231
703Tristan And Iseult20151231
703Tristan And Iseult20151231

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the story of Tristan and Iseult.

703Tristan And Iseult20151231

703Tristan And Iseult20151231
703Tristan And Iseult20151231

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Tristan and Iseult, one of the most popular stories of the Middle Ages. From roots in Celtic myth, it passed into written form in Britain a century after the Norman Conquest and almost immediately spread throughout northern Europe. It tells of a Cornish knight and an Irish queen, Tristan and Iseult, who accidentally drink a love potion, at the same time, on the same boat, travelling to Cornwall. She is due to marry Tristan's king, Mark. Tristan and Iseult seemed ideally matched and their love was heroic, but could that excuse their adultery, in the minds of medieval listeners, particularly when the Church was so clear they were wrong?

With

Laura Ashe

Associate Professor of English at Worcester College, University of Oxford

Juliette Wood

Associate Lecturer in the School of Welsh at Cardiff University

And

Mark Chinca

Reader in Medieval German Literature at the University of Cambridge

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

704Saturn20160114

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the planet Saturn.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the planet Saturn with its rings of ice and rock and over 60 moons. Galileo was the first astronomer to see the rings, and it's still not known how they were formed and whether they come from broken pieces of the moons as they crash into each other. The rings are each made up from many smaller rings and circle around Saturn at very high speeds. More information is coming from the NASA spacecraft Cassini, which took 7 years to reach Saturn from Earth and has been orbiting since 2004.

705Thomas Paine's Common Sense20160121
705Thomas Paine's Common Sense20160121
705Thomas Paine's Common Sense20160121

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Thomas Paine's pamphlet Common Sense, published in 1776.

705Thomas Paine's Common Sense20160121

705Thomas Paine's Common Sense20160121
705Thomas Paine's Common Sense20160121

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Thomas Paine and his pamphlet "Common Sense" which was published in Philadelphia in January 1776 and promoted the argument for American independence from Britain. For this, Paine has been called a Founding Father of the American Revolution.

706Eleanor of Aquitaine20160128

706Eleanor of Aquitaine20160128

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Eleanor of Aquitaine, the most powerful woman of her time.

706Eleanor of Aquitaine20160128

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Eleanor of Aquitaine, the most powerful woman of her time.

706Eleanor of Aquitaine20160128

706Eleanor of Aquitaine20160128

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life, times and influence of Eleanor of Aquitaine (c1122-1204) who was one of the most powerful women in Twelfth Century Europe, possibly in the entire Middle Ages. She inherited land from the Loire down to the Pyrenees, about a third of modern France. She married first the King of France, Louis VII, joining him on the Second Crusade. She became stronger still after their marriage was annulled, as her next husband, Henry Plantagenet became Henry II of England. Two of their sons, Richard and John, became kings and she ruled for them when they were abroad. By her death in her eighties, Eleanor had children and grandchildren in power across western Europe. This led to competing claims of inheritance and, for much of the next 250 years, the Plantagenet and French kings battled over Eleanor's land.

With

Lindy Grant

Professor of Medieval History at the University of Reading

Nicholas Vincent

Professor of Medieval History at the University of East Anglia

And

Julie Barrau

University Lecturer in British Medieval History at the University of Cambridge

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

706Eleanor of Aquitaine20160128

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life, times and influence of Eleanor of Aquitaine (c1122-1204) who was one of the most powerful women in Twelfth Century Europe, possibly in the entire Middle Ages. She inherited land from the Loire down to the Pyrenees, about a third of modern France. She married first the King of France, Louis VII, joining him on the Second Crusade. She became stronger still after their marriage was annulled, as her next husband, Henry Plantagenet became Henry II of England. Two of their sons, Richard and John, became kings and she ruled for them when they were abroad. By her death in her eighties, Eleanor had children and grandchildren in power across western Europe. This led to competing claims of inheritance and, for much of the next 250 years, the Plantagenet and French kings battled over Eleanor's land.

With

Lindy Grant

Professor of Medieval History at the University of Reading

Nicholas Vincent

Professor of Medieval History at the University of East Anglia

And

Julie Barrau

University Lecturer in British Medieval History at the University of Cambridge

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

707Chromatography20160204

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the origins, development and uses of chromatography.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the origins, development and uses of chromatography. Chemists in the 19th Century started to find new ways to separate mixtures and their work was taken further by Mikhail Tsvet, a Russian-Italian scientist who is often credited with inventing chromatography in 1900. The technique has become so widely used, it is now an integral part of testing the quality of air and water, the levels of drugs in athletes and in forensics.

708Rumi's Poetry20160211

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the poetry of Rumi (1207-1273).

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the poetry of Rumi, the Persian scholar and Sufi mystic of the 13th Century. His great poetic works are the Masnavi or "spiritual couplets" and the Divan, a collection of thousands of lyric poems. He is closely connected with four modern countries: Afghanistan, as he was born in Balkh, from which he gains the name Balkhi; Uzbekistan from his time in Samarkand as a child; Iran as he wrote in Persian; and Turkey for his work in Konya, where he spent most of his working life and where his followers established the Mevlevi Order, also known as the Whirling Dervishes.

With

Alan Williams

British Academy Wolfson Research Professor at the University of Manchester

Carole Hillenbrand

Professor of Islamic History at the University of St Andrews and Professor Emerita of Edinburgh University

And

Lloyd Ridgeon

Reader in Islamic Studies at the University of Glasgow

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

709Robert Hooke20160218

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and work or Robert Hooke (1635-1703) who worked for Robert Boyle and was curator of experiments at the Royal Society. The engraving of a flea, above, is taken from his Micrographia which caused a sensation when published in 1665. Sometimes remembered for his disputes with Newton, he studied the planets with telescopes and snowflakes with microscopes. He was an early proposer of a theory of evolution, discovered light diffraction with a wave theory to explain it and felt he was rarely given due credit for his discoveries.

With

David Wootton

Anniversary Professor of History at the University of York

Patricia Fara

President Elect of the British Society for the History of Science

And

Rob Iliffe

Professor of History of Science at Oxford University

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss 17th-century scientist Robert Hooke.

710Mary Magdalene20160225

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Mary Magdalene, one of the best-known figures in the Bible

Mary Magdalene is one of the best-known figures in the Bible and has been a frequent inspiration to artists and writers over the last 2000 years. According to the New Testament, she was at the foot of the cross when Jesus was crucified and was one of the first people to see Jesus after the resurrection. However, her identity has provoked a large amount of debate and in the Western Church she soon became conflated with two other figures mentioned in the Bible, a repentant sinner and Mary of Bethany. Texts discovered in the mid-20th century provoked controversy and raised further questions about the nature of her relations with Jesus.

With:

Joanne Anderson

Lecturer in Art History at the Warburg Institute, School of Advanced Study, University of London

Eamon Duffy

Emeritus Professor of the History of Christianity at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Magdalene College

Joan Taylor

Professor of Christian Origins and Second Temple Judaism at King's College London

Producer: Victoria Brignell.

is one of the best-known figures in the Bible and has been a frequent inspiration to artists and writers over the last 2000 years. According to the New Testament, she was at the foot of the cross when Jesus was crucified and was one of the first people to see Jesus after the resurrection. However, her identity has provoked a large amount of debate and in the Western Church she soon became conflated with two other figures mentioned in the Bible, a repentant sinner and Mary of Bethany. Texts discovered in the mid-20th century provoked controversy and raised further questions about the nature of her relations with Jesus.

711The Dutch East India Company20160303

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie or VOC, known in English as the Dutch East India Company. The VOC dominated the spice trade between Asia and Europe for two hundred years, with the British East India Company a distant second. At its peak, the VOC had a virtual monopoly on nutmeg, mace, cloves and cinnamon, displacing the Portuguese and excluding the British, and were the only European traders allowed access to Japan.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Dutch East India Company.

712The Maya Civilization20160310

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Maya civilization in central America.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Maya Civilization, developed by the Maya people, which flourished in central America from around 250 AD in great cities such as Chichen Itza and Uxmal with advances in mathematics, architecture and astronomy. Long before the Spanish Conquest in the 16th Century, major cities had been abandoned for reasons unknown, although there are many theories including overpopulation and changing climate. The hundreds of Maya sites across Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico raise intriguing questions about one of the world's great pre-industrial civilizations.

713Bedlam20160317

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the early years of Bedlam, the name given to the London hospital of St Mary of Bethlehem outside Bishopsgate, described in 1450 by the Lord Mayor of London as a place where may "be found many men that be fallen out of their wit. And full honestly they be kept in that place; and some be restored onto their wit and health again. And some be abiding therein for ever.".

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the early history of Bethlehem Hospital, known as Bedlam.

714Aurora Leigh20160324

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Elizabeth Barrett Browning's epic "Aurora Leigh" which was published in 1856. It is the story of an orphan, Aurora, born in Italy to an English father and Tuscan mother, who is brought up by an aunt in rural Shropshire. She has a successful career as a poet in London and, when living in Florence, is reunited with her cousin, Romney Leigh, whose proposal she turned down a decade before. The poem was celebrated by other poets and was Elizabeth Barrett Browning's most commercially successful. Over 11,000 lines, she addressed many Victorian social issues, including reform, illegitimacy, the pressure to marry and what women must overcome to be independent, successful writers, in a world dominated by men.

With

Margaret Reynolds

Professor of English at Queen Mary, University of London

Daniel Karlin

Winterstoke Professor of English Literature at the University of Bristol

And

Karen O'Brien

Professor of English Literature at King's College London

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

715Agrippina the Younger20160331

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Roman empress Agrippina the Younger.

715Agrippina the Younger20160331

Agrippina the Younger was one of the most notorious and influential of the Roman empresses in the 1st century AD. She was the sister of the Emperor Caligula, a wife of the Emperor Claudius and mother of the Emperor Nero. Through careful political manoeuvres, she acquired a dominant position for herself in Rome. In 39 AD she was exiled for allegedly participating in a plot against Caligula and later it was widely thought that she killed Claudius with poison. When Nero came to the throne, he was only 16 so Agrippina took on the role of regent until he began to exert his authority. After relations between Agrippina and Nero soured, he had her murdered.

With:

Catharine Edwards

Professor of Classics and Ancient History at Birkbeck, University of London

Alice König

Lecturer in Latin and Classical Studies at the University of St Andrews

Matthew Nicholls

Associate Professor of Classics at the University of Reading

Producer: Victoria Brignell.

715Agrippina the Younger20160331

716The Sikh Empire20160407

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the rise of the Sikh Empire at the end of the 18th Century under Ranjit Singh, pictured above, who unified most of the Sikh kingdoms following the decline of the Mughal Empire. He became Maharaja of the Punjab at Lahore in 1801, capturing Amritsar the following year. His empire flourished until 1839, after which a decade of unrest ended with the British annexation. At its peak, the Empire covered the Punjab and stretched from the Khyber Pass in the west to the edge of Tibet in the east, up to Kashmir and down to Mithankot on the Indus River. Ranjit Singh is still remembered as "The Lion of the Punjab."

With

Gurharpal Singh

Professor in Inter-Religious Relations and Development at SOAS, University of London

Chandrika Kaul

Lecturer in Modern History at the University of St Andrews

And

Susan Stronge

Senior Curator in the Asian Department of the Victoria and Albert Museum

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

716The Sikh Empire20160407

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Maharaja Ranjit Singh and the Sikh Empire.

716The Sikh Empire20160407

717The Neutron20160414

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the neutron.

717The Neutron20160414

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the neutron, one of the particles found in an atom's nucleus. Building on the work of Ernest Rutherford, the British physicist James Chadwick won the Nobel Prize for Physics for his discovery of the neutron in 1932. Neutrons play a fundamental role in the universe and their discovery was at the heart of developments in nuclear physics in the first half of the 20th century.

717The Neutron20160414

7181816, the Year Without a Summer20160421

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the impact of the eruption of Mt Tambora, in 1815, on the Indonesian island of Sambawa. This was the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history and it had the highest death toll, devastating people living in the immediate area. Tambora has been linked with drastic weather changes in North America and Europe the following year, with frosts in June and heavy rains throughout the summer in many areas. This led to food shortages, which may have prompted westward migration in America and, in a Europe barely recovered from the Napoleonic Wars, led to widespread famine.

With

Clive Oppenheimer

Professor of Volcanology at the University of Cambridge

Jane Stabler

Professor in Romantic Literature at the University of St Andrews

And

Lawrence Goldman

Director of the Institute of Historical Research at the University of London

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

7181816, the Year Without a Summer20160421

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss 1816, known as the year without a summer.

7181816, the Year Without a Summer20160421

719Euclid's Elements20160428

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Elements of Euclid.

719Euclid's Elements20160428

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Euclid's Elements, a mathematical text book attributed to Euclid and in use from its appearance in Alexandria, Egypt around 300 BC until modern times, dealing with geometry and number theory. It has been described as the most influential text book ever written.

719Euclid's Elements20160428

720Tess Of The D'urbervilles20160505

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy, originally serialised in The Graphic in 1891 and, with some significant changes, published as a complete novel in 1892. The book was controversial even before serialisation, rejected by one publisher as too overtly sexual, to which a second added it did not publish 'stories where the plot involves frequent and detailed reference to immoral situations.' Hardy's description of Tess as 'A Pure Woman' in 1892 incensed some Victorian readers and, in turn, he resented the censoring of some of his scenes in the early versions, including references to Tess's baby following her rape by Alex d'Urberville, references to that attack at all, and even to a scene where Angel Clare lifted four milkmaids over a flooded lane (substituting transportation by wheelbarrow).

The image above, from the 1891 edition, is captioned 'It Was Not Till About Three O'clock That Tess Raised Her Eyes And Gave A Momentary Glance Round. She Felt But Little Surprise At Seeing That Alec D'urberville Had Come Back, And Was Standing Under The Hedge By The Gate'.

With

Dinah Birch

Professor of English Literature and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Impact at the University of Liverpool

Francis O'Gorman

Professor of Victorian Literature at the University of Leeds

And

Jane Thomas

Reader in Victorian and early Twentieth Century literature at the University of Hull

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

721Titus Oates and his 'Popish Plot'20160512

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Titus Oates and his fictitious Popish Plot.

721Titus Oates and his 'Popish Plot'20160512

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Titus Oates (1649-1705) who, with Israel Tonge, spread rumours of a Catholic plot to assassinate Charles II. From 1678, they went to great lengths to support their scheme, forging evidence and identifying the supposed conspirators. Fearing a second Gunpowder Plot, Oates' supposed revelations caused uproar in London and across the British Isles, with many Catholics, particularly Jesuit priests, wrongly implicated by Oates and then executed. Anyone who doubted him had to keep quiet, to avoid being suspected a sympathiser and thrown in prison. Oates was eventually exposed, put on trial under James II and sentenced by Judge Jeffreys to public whipping through the streets of London, but the question remained: why was this rogue, who had faced perjury charges before, ever believed?

With

Clare Jackson

Senior Tutor and Director of Studies in History at Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge

Mark Knights

Professor of History at the University of Warwick

And

Peter Hinds

Associate Professor of English at Plymouth University

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

721Titus Oates and his 'Popish Plot'20160512

721Titus Oates and his 'Popish Plot'20160512

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Titus Oates and his fictitious Popish Plot.

721Titus Oates and his 'Popish Plot'20160512

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Titus Oates (1649-1705) who, with Israel Tonge, spread rumours of a Catholic plot to assassinate Charles II. From 1678, they went to great lengths to support their scheme, forging evidence and identifying the supposed conspirators. Fearing a second Gunpowder Plot, Oates' supposed revelations caused uproar in London and across the British Isles, with many Catholics, particularly Jesuit priests, wrongly implicated by Oates and then executed. Anyone who doubted him had to keep quiet, to avoid being suspected a sympathiser and thrown in prison. Oates was eventually exposed, put on trial under James II and sentenced by Judge Jeffreys to public whipping through the streets of London, but the question remained: why was this rogue, who had faced perjury charges before, ever believed?

With

Clare Jackson

Senior Tutor and Director of Studies in History at Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge

Mark Knights

Professor of History at the University of Warwick

And

Peter Hinds

Associate Professor of English at Plymouth University

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

721Titus Oates and his 'Popish Plot'20160512

722The Muses20160519

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Muses in Greek mythology and after.

722The Muses20160519

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Muses and their role in Greek mythology, when they were goddesses of poetry, song, music and dance: what the Greeks called mousike, 'the art of the Muses' from which we derive our word 'music.' While the number of Muses, their origin and their roles varied in different accounts and at different times, they were consistently linked with the nature of artistic inspiration. This raised a question for philosophers then and since: was a creative person an empty vessel into which the Muses poured their gifts, at their will, or could that person do something to make inspiration flow?

With

Paul Cartledge

Emeritus Professor of Greek Culture and AG Leventis Senior Research Fellow at Clare College, University of Cambridge

Angie Hobbs

Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy, University of Sheffield

And

Penelope Murray

Founder member and retired Senior Lecturer, Department of Classics, University of Warwick

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

722The Muses20160519

722The Muses20160519

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Muses in Greek mythology and after.

722The Muses20160519

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Muses and their role in Greek mythology, when they were goddesses of poetry, song, music and dance: what the Greeks called mousike, 'the art of the Muses' from which we derive our word 'music.' While the number of Muses, their origin and their roles varied in different accounts and at different times, they were consistently linked with the nature of artistic inspiration. This raised a question for philosophers then and since: was a creative person an empty vessel into which the Muses poured their gifts, at their will, or could that person do something to make inspiration flow?

With

Paul Cartledge

Emeritus Professor of Greek Culture and AG Leventis Senior Research Fellow at Clare College, University of Cambridge

Angie Hobbs

Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy, University of Sheffield

And

Penelope Murray

Founder member and retired Senior Lecturer, Department of Classics, University of Warwick

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

722The Muses20160519

723The Gettysburg Address20160526

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, ten sentences long, delivered at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery at Gettysburg after the Union forces had won an important battle with the Confederates. Opening with " Four score and seven years ago," it became one of the most influential statements of national purpose, asserting that America was "conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal" and "that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom-and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." Among those inspired were Martin Luther King Jr whose "I have a dream" speech, delivered at the Lincoln Memorial 100 years later, echoed Lincoln's opening words.

With

Catherine Clinton

Denman Chair of American History at the University of Texas and International Professor at Queen's University, Belfast

Susan-Mary Grant

Professor of American History at Newcastle University

And

Tim Lockley

Professor of American History at the University of Warwick

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

723The Gettysburg Address20160526

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, 1863.

723The Gettysburg Address20160526

723The Gettysburg Address20160526

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, ten sentences long, delivered at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery at Gettysburg after the Union forces had won an important battle with the Confederates. Opening with " Four score and seven years ago," it became one of the most influential statements of national purpose, asserting that America was "conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal" and "that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom-and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." Among those inspired were Martin Luther King Jr whose "I have a dream" speech, delivered at the Lincoln Memorial 100 years later, echoed Lincoln's opening words.

With

Catherine Clinton

Denman Chair of American History at the University of Texas and International Professor at Queen's University, Belfast

Susan-Mary Grant

Professor of American History at Newcastle University

And

Tim Lockley

Professor of American History at the University of Warwick

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

723The Gettysburg Address20160526

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, 1863.

723The Gettysburg Address20160526

724Margery Kempe and English Mysticism20160602

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the English mystic Margery Kempe (1373-1438) whose extraordinary life is recorded in a book she dictated, The Book of Margery Kempe. She went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, to Rome and Santiago de Compostela, purchasing indulgences on her way, met with the anchoress Julian of Norwich and is honoured by the Church of England each 9th November. She sometimes doubted the authenticity of her mystical conversations with God, as did the authorities who saw her devotional sobbing, wailing and convulsions as a sign of insanity and dissoluteness. Her Book was lost for centuries, before emerging in a private library in 1934.

The image (above), of an unknown woman, comes from a pew at Margery Kempe's parish church, St Margaret's, Kings Lynn and dates from c1375.

With

Miri Rubin

Professor of Medieval and Early Modern History at Queen Mary, University of London

Katherine Lewis

Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Huddersfield

And

Anthony Bale

Professor of Medieval Studies at Birkbeck University of London

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

724Margery Kempe and English Mysticism20160602

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Margery Kempe, the medieval English mystic.

724Margery Kempe and English Mysticism20160602