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BBC Radio 4 - In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg

In Our Time

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of ideas

In Our Time

  • The Thirty Years War
    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the war in Europe which begain in 1618 and continued on such a scale and with such devastation that its like was not seen for another three hundred years. It pitched Catholics against Protestants, Lutherans against Calvinists and Catholics against Catholics across the Holy Roman Empire, drawing in their neighbours and it lasted for thirty gruelling years, from the Defenestration of Prague to the Peace of Westphalia of 1648. Many more civilians died than soldiers, and famine was so great that even cannibalism was excused. This topic was chosen from several hundred suggested by listeners this autumn. The image above is a detail from a painting of The Battle of White Mountain on 7-8 November 1620, by Pieter Snayers (1592-1667) With Peter Wilson Chichele Professor of the History of War at the University of Oxford Ulinka Rublack Professor of Early Modern European History at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of St John’s College And Toby Osborne Associate Professor in History at Durham University Producer: Simon Tillotson

  • The Long March
    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss a foundation story for China as it was reshaped under Mao Zedong. In October 1934, around ninety thousand soldiers of the Red Army broke out of a siege in Jiangxi in the south east of the country, hoping to find a place to regroup and rebuild. They were joined by other armies, and this turned into a very long march to the west and then north, covering thousands of miles of harsh and hostile territory, marshes and mountains, pursued by forces of the ruling Kuomintang for a year. Mao Zedong was among the marchers and emerged at the head of them, and he ensured the officially approved history of the Long March would be an inspiration and education for decades to come. With Rana Mitter Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China and Fellow of St Cross College, University of Oxford Sun Shuyun Historian, writer of 'The Long March' and film maker And Julia Lovell Professor in Modern Chinese History and Literature at Birkbeck, University of London Producer: Simon Tillotson

  • Hope
    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the philosophy of hope. To the ancient Greeks, hope was closer to self-deception, one of the evils left in Pandora's box or jar, in Hesiod's story. In Christian tradition, hope became one of the theological virtues, the desire for divine union and the expectation of receiving it, an action of the will rather than the intellect. To Kant, 'what may I hope' was one of the three basic questions which human reason asks, while Nietzsche echoed Hesiod, arguing that leaving hope in the box was a deception by the gods, reflecting human inability to face the demands of existence. Yet even those critical of hope, like Camus, conceded that life was nearly impossible without it. With Beatrice Han-Pile Professor of Philosophy at the University of Essex Robert Stern Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield And Judith Wolfe Professor of Philosophical Theology at the University of St Andrews Producer: Simon Tillotson

  • Horace
    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Horace (65-8BC), who flourished under the Emperor Augustus. He was one of the greatest poets of his age and is one of the most quoted of any age. Carpe diem, nil desperandum, nunc est bibendum – that’s Horace. He was the son of a freedman from southern Italy and, thanks to his talent, achieved high status in Rome despite fighting on the losing side in the civil wars. His Odes are widely thought his most enduring works, yet he also wrote his scurrilous Epodes, some philosophical Epistles and broad Satires. He’s influenced poets ever since, including those such as Wilfred Owen who rejected his line: ‘dulce et decorum est pro patria mori’. With Emily Gowers Professor of Latin Literature at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of St John’s College William Fitzgerald Professor of Latin Language and Literature at King’s College London and Ellen O’Gorman Senior Lecturer in Classics at the University of Bristol Producer: Simon Tillotson

  • Marie Antoinette
    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Austrian princess Maria Antonia, child bride of the future French King Louis XVI. Their marriage was an attempt to bring about a major change in the balance of power in Europe and to undermine the influence of Prussia and Great Britain, but she had no say in the matter and was the pawn of her mother, the Empress Maria Theresa. She fulfilled her allotted role of supplying an heir, but was sent to the guillotine in 1793 in the French Revolution, a few months after her husband, following years of attacks on her as a woman who, it was said, betrayed the King and as a foreigner who betrayed France to enemy powers. When not doing these wrongs, she was said to be personally bankrupting France. Her death shocked royal families throughout Europe, and she became a powerful symbol of the consequences of the Revolution. With Catriona Seth Marshal Foch Professor of French Literature at the University of Oxford Katherine Astbury Professor of French Studies at the University of Warwick and David McCallam Reader in French Eighteenth-Century Studies at the University of Sheffield Producer: Simon Tillotson