Subscribe to this channel

You can subscribe to new audio episodes published on this channel. You can follow updates using the channel's RSS feed, or via other audio platforms you may already be using.

RSS Feed

You can use any RSS feed reader to follow updates, even your browser. We recommend using an application dedicated to listening podcasts for the best experience. iOS users can look at Overcast or Castro. Pocket Casts is also very popular and has both iOS and Android versions. Add the above link to the application to follow this podcast channel.

Signup to iono.fm

Sign up for a free iono.fm user account to start building your playlist of podcast channels. You'll be able to build a personalised RSS feed you can follow or listen with our web player.
26
JAN

The Great Stink

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the stench from the River Thames in the hot summer of 1858 and how it appalled and terrified Londoners living and working beside it, including those in the new Houses of Parliament which were still under construction. There had been an outbreak of cholera a few years before in which tens of thousands had died, and a popular theory held that foul smells were linked to diseases. The source of the problem was that London's sewage, once carted off to fertilise fields had recently, thanks to the modern flushing systems, started to flow into the river and, thanks to the ebb and flow of the tides, was staying there and warming in the summer sun. The engineer Joseph Bazalgette was given the task to build huge new sewers to intercept the waste, a vast network, so changing the look of London and helping ensure there were no further cholera outbreaks from contaminated water.

The image above is from Punch, July 10th 1858 and it has this caption: The 'Silent Highway'-Man. "Your Money or your Life!"

With

Rosemary Ashton
Emeritus Quain Professor of English Language and Literature at University College London

Stephen Halliday
Author of ‘The Great Stink of London: Sir Joseph Bazalgette and the Cleansing of the Victorian Metropolis’

And

Paul Dobraszczyk
Lecturer at the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London
19
JAN

Persuasion

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Jane Austen’s last complete novel, which was published just before Christmas in 1817, five months after her death. It is the story of Anne Elliot, now 27 and (so we are told), losing her bloom, and of her feelings for Captain Wentworth who she was engaged to, 8 years before – an engagement she broke off under pressure from her father and godmother. When Wentworth, by chance, comes back into Anne Elliot's life, he is still angry with her and neither she nor Austen's readers can know whether it is now too late for their thwarted love to have a second chance.

The image above is from a 1995 BBC adaptation of the novel, with Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds

With

Karen O’Brien
Vice-Chancellor of Durham University

Fiona Stafford
Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Oxford

And

Paddy Bullard
Associate Professor of English Literature and Book History at the University of Reading

Producer: Simon Tillotson
12
JAN

Citizen Kane

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Orson Welles' film, released in 1941, which is widely acclaimed as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, films yet made. Welles plays the lead role of Charles Foster Kane, a newspaper magnate, and Welles directed, produced and co-wrote this story of loneliness at the heart of a megalomaniac. The plot was partly inspired by the life of William Randolph Hearst, who then used the power of his own newspapers to try to suppress the film’s release. It was to take some years before Citizen Kane reached a fuller audience and, from that point, become so celebrated.

The image above is of Kane addressing a public meeting while running for Governor.

With

Stella Bruzzi
Professor of Film and Dean of Arts and Humanities at University College London

Ian Christie
Professor of Film and Media History at Birkbeck, University of London

And

John David Rhodes
Professor of Film Studies and Visual Culture at the University of Cambridge

Producer: Simon Tillotson
05
JAN

The Irish Rebellion of 1798

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the momentum behind rebellion in Ireland in 1798, the people behind the rebellion and the impact over the next few years and after. Amid wider unrest, the United Irishmen set the rebellion on its way, inspired by the French and American revolutionaries and their pursuit of liberty. When it broke out in May the United Irishmen had an estimated two hundred thousand members, Catholic and Protestant, and the prospect of a French invasion fleet to back them. Crucially for the prospects of success, some of those members were British spies who exposed the plans and the military were largely ready - though not in Wexford where the scale of rebellion was much greater. The fighting was initially fierce and brutal and marked with sectarianism but had largely been suppressed by the time the French arrived in August to declare a short-lived republic. The consequences of the rebellion were to be far reaching, not least in the passing of Acts of Union in 1800.

The image above is of Theobald Wolfe Tone (1763 - 1798), prominent member of the United Irishmen

With

Ian McBride
Foster Professor of Irish History at Hertford College, University of Oxford

Catriona Kennedy
Senior Lecturer in Modern History at the University of York

And

Liam Chambers
Head of Department and Senior Lecturer in History at Mary Immaculate College, Limerick

Producer: Simon Tillotson
29
DEC
2022

The Nibelungenlied

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss The Song of the Nibelungs, a twelfth century German epic, full of blood, violence, fantasy and bleakness. It is a foundational work of medieval literature, drawing on the myths of Scandinavia and central Europe. The poem tells of two couples, Siegfried and Kriemhild and Gunther and Brunhilda, whose lives are destroyed by lies and revenge. It was extremely popular in its time, sometimes rewritten with happier endings, and was rediscovered by German Romantics and has since been drawn from selectively by Wagner, Fritz Lang and, infamously, the Nazis looking to support ideas on German heritage.

The image above is of Siegfried seeing Kriemhild for the first time, a miniature from the Hundeshagenschen Code manuscript dating from 15th Century.

With

Sarah Bowden
Reader in German and Medieval Studies at King’s College London

Mark Chinca
Professor of Medieval German and Comparative Literature at the University of Cambridge

And

Bettina Bildhauer
Professor of Modern Languages at the University of St Andrews

Producer: Simon Tillotson
22
DEC
2022

The Challenger Expedition 1872-1876

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the voyage of HMS Challenger which set out from Portsmouth in 1872 with a mission a to explore the ocean depths around the world and search for new life. The scale of the enterprise was breath taking and, for its ambition, it has since been compared to the Apollo missions. The team onboard found thousands of new species, proved there was life on the deepest seabeds and plumbed the Mariana Trench five miles below the surface. Thanks to telegraphy and mailboats, its vast discoveries were shared around the world even while Challenger was at sea, and they are still being studied today, offering insights into the ever-changing oceans that cover so much of the globe and into the health of our planet.

The image above is from the journal of Pelham Aldrich R.N. who served on the Challenger Surveying Expedition from 1872-5.

With

Erika Jones
Curator of Navigation and Oceanography at Royal Museums Greenwich

Sam Robinson
Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute Research Fellow at the University of Southampton

And

Giles Miller
Principal Curator of Micropalaeontology at the Natural History Museum London

Producer: Simon Tillotson
15
DEC
2022

Demosthenes' Philippics

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the speeches that became a byword for fierce attacks on political opponents. It was in the 4th century BC, in Athens, that Demosthenes delivered these speeches against the tyrant Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great, when Philip appeared a growing threat to Athens and its allies and Demosthenes feared his fellow citizens were set on appeasement. In what became known as The Philippics, Demosthenes tried to persuade Athenians to act against Macedon before it was too late; eventually he succeeded in stirring them, even if the Macedonians later prevailed. For these speeches prompting resistance, Demosthenes became famous as one of the Athenian democracy’s greatest freedom fighters. Later, in Rome, Cicero's attacks on Mark Antony were styled on Demosthenes and these too became known as Philippics.

The image above is painted on the dome of the library of the National Assembly, Paris and is by Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863). It depicts Demosthenes haranguing the waves of the sea as a way of strengthening his voice for his speeches.

With

Paul Cartledge
A. G. Leventis Senior Research Fellow at Clare College, University of Cambridge

Kathryn Tempest
Reader in Latin Literature and Roman History at the University of Roehampton

And

Jon Hesk
Reader in Greek and Classical Studies at the University of St Andrews

Producer: Simon Tillotson
08
DEC
2022

Bauhaus

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Bauhaus which began in 1919 in Weimar, Germany, as a school for arts and crafts combined, and went on to be famous around the world. Under its first director, Walter Gropius, the Bauhaus moved to Dessau and extended its range to architecture and became associated with a series of white, angular, flat-roofed buildings reproduced from Shanghai to Chicago, aimed for modern living. The school closed after only 14 years while at a third location, Bernau, under pressure from the Nazis, yet its students and teachers continued to spread its ethos in exile, making it even more influential.

The image above is of the Bauhaus Building, Dessau, designed by Gropius and built in 1925-6

With

Robin Schuldenfrei
Tangen Reader in 20th Century Modernism at The Courtauld Institute of Art

Alan Powers
History Leader at the London School of Architecture

And

Michael White
Professor of the History of Art at the University of York

Producer: Simon Tillotson
01
DEC
2022

The Morant Bay Rebellion

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the rebellion that broke out in Jamaica on 11th October 1865 when Paul Bogle (1822-65) led a protest march from Stony Gut to the courthouse in nearby Morant Bay. There were many grounds for grievance that day and soon anger turned to bloodshed. Although the British had abolished slavery 30 years before, the plantation owners were still dominant and the conditions for the majority of people on Jamaica were poor. The British governor suppressed this rebellion brutally and soon people in Jamaica lost what right they had to rule themselves. Some in Britain, like Charles Dickens, supported the governor's actions while others, like Charles Darwin, wanted him tried for murder.

The image above is from a Jamaican $2 banknote, printed after Paul Bogle became a National Hero in 1969.

With

Matthew J Smith
Professor of History and Director of the Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slavery at University College London

Diana Paton
The William Robertson Professor of History at the University of Edinburgh

And

Lawrence Goldman
Emeritus Fellow in History at St Peter’s College, University of Oxford

Producer: Simon Tillotson
24
NOV
2022

Wilfred Owen

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the celebrated British poet of World War One. Wilfred Owen (1893-1918) had published only a handful of poems when he was killed a week before the end of the war, but in later decades he became seen as the essential British war poet. His works such as Anthem for Doomed Youth, Strange Meeting and Dulce et Decorum Est went on to be inseparable from the memory of the war and its futility. However, while Owen is best known for his poetry of the trenches, his letters offer a more nuanced insight into him such as his pride in being an officer in charge of others and in being a soldier who fought alongside his comrades.

With

Jane Potter
Reader in The School of Arts at Oxford Brookes University

Fran Brearton
Professor of Modern Poetry at Queen’s University Belfast

And

Guy Cuthbertson
Professor of British Literature and Culture at Liverpool Hope University

Producer: Simon Tillotson
17
NOV
2022

The Fish-Tetrapod Transition

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the greatest changes in the history of life on Earth. Around 400 million years ago some of our ancestors, the fish, started to become a little more like humans. At the swampy margins between land and water, some fish were turning their fins into limbs, their swim bladders into lungs and developed necks and eventually they became tetrapods, the group to which we and all animals with backbones and limbs belong. After millions of years of this transition, these tetrapod descendants of fish were now ready to leave the water for a new life of walking on land, and with that came an explosion in the diversity of life on Earth.

The image above is a representation of Tiktaalik Roseae, a fish with some features of a tetrapod but not one yet, based on a fossil collected in the Canadian Arctic.

With

Emily Rayfield
Professor of Palaeobiology at the University of Bristol

Michael Coates
Chair and Professor of Organismal Biology and Anatomy at the University of Chicago

And

Steve Brusatte
Professor of Palaeontology and Evolution at the University of Edinburgh

Producer: Simon Tillotson
10
NOV
2022

Berthe Morisot

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the influential painters at the heart of the French Impressionist movement: Berthe Morisot (1841-1895). The men in her circle could freely paint in busy bars and public spaces, while Morisot captured the domestic world and found new, daring ways to paint quickly in the open air. Her work shows women as they were, to her: informal, unguarded, and not transformed or distorted for the eyes of men. The image above is one of her few self-portraits, though several portraits of her survive by other artists, chiefly her sister Edma and her brother-in-law Edouard Manet.

With

Tamar Garb
Professor of History of Art at University College London

Lois Oliver
Curator at the Royal Academy and Adjunct Professor of Art History at the American University of Notre Dame London.

And

Claire Moran
Reader in French at Queen's University Belfast

Producer: Simon Tillotson

180 episodes

« Back 1—12 More »