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Physiocrats 20 Jun 13

Duration: 43 mins

The Physiocrats were an important group of economic thinkers in 18th-century France. They believed that the land was the ultimate source of all wealth and 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. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Richard Whatmore, Professor of Intellectual History & the History of Political Thought at the University of Sussex; Joel Felix, Professor of History at the University of Reading and Helen Paul, Lecturer in Economics and Economic History at the University of Southampton.

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Prophecy 13 Jun 13

Duration: 43 mins

Prophecy has great meaning and significance 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. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic and Interreligious Studies at the University of Edinburgh; Justin Meggitt, University Senior Lecturer in the Study of Religion and the Origins of Christianity at the University of Cambridge and Jonathan Stökl, Post-Doctoral Researcher at Leiden University.

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Relativity 06 Jun 13

Duration: 43 mins

Einstein's theories of relativity 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. It's regarded today as one of the greatest intellectual achievements of the 20th century, and had an impact far beyond the world of science. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Ruth Gregory, Professor of Mathematics and Physics at Durham University; Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal and Emeritus Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at the University of Cambridge and Roger Penrose, Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford.

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Queen Zenobia

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.

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Lévi-Strauss 23 May 13

Duration: 43 mins

Anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss was one of 20th-century France's most celebrated intellectuals. He set out to show in his work that human thought processes were universal, whether people lived in tribal rainforest societies or in the rich intellectual life of Paris. He was the leading exponent of structuralism, and his books about the nature of myth, thought and kinship are now seen as some of the most important anthropological texts. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Adam Kuper, Visiting Professor of Anthropology at Boston University; Christina Howells, Professor of French at Oxford University and Vincent Debaene, Associate Professor of French Literature at Columbia University.

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Cosmic Rays 16 May 13

Duration: 43 mins

Cosmic rays were discovered in 1912 by the physicist Victor Hess. The Earth is under constant bombardment from this radiation coming from beyond our atmosphere. Cosmic rays can cause damage to satellites and electronic devices on Earth, but the study of cosmic rays has led to major breakthroughs in particle physics. Today physicists are still trying to establish where these highly energetic particles come from. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Carolin Crawford, Gresham Professor of Astronomy and a member of the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge; Alan Watson, Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of Leeds and Tim Greenshaw, Professor of Physics at the University of Liverpool.

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Icelandic Saga

Thu, 9 May 13

Duration: 43 mins

The Icelandic Sagas were first written down in the 13th century and tell the stories of the Norse settlers who began to arrive in Iceland 400 years before. They contain some of the richest and most extraordinary writing of the Middle Ages. Full of heroes, feuds, ghosts and outlaws, the sagas inspired later writers including Sir Walter Scott, William Morris and WH Auden. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Carolyne Larrington, Fellow and Tutor in Medieval English Literature at St John's College, Oxford; Elizabeth Ashman Rowe, University Lecturer in Scandinavian History at the University of Cambridge and Emily Lethbridge, Post-Doctoral Researcher at the Árni Magnússon Manuscripts Institute in Reykjavík.

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Gnosticism 02 May 13

Duration: 43 mins

Gnosticism was a belief system associated with early Christianity. Gnostics believed that a special hidden knowledge, or gnosis, would enable them to escape the evils of the physical world and reach the higher spiritual realm. The Gnostics were regarded as heretics by most of the early Church Fathers, but their influence was important in defining the course of Christianity. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Martin Palmer, Director of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education, and Culture; Caroline Humfress, Reader in History at Birkbeck College, University of London and Alastair Logan, Honorary University Fellow of the Department of Theology and Religion at the University of Exeter.

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Montaigne 25 Apr 13

Duration: 43 mins

Montaigne's Essays deal with an eclectic range of subjects, from the dauntingly weighty to the apparently trivial. Born in France in 1533, Montaigne is often seen as one of the most outstanding Sceptical thinkers of his time. His approachable style, intelligence and subtle thought have made him one of the most widely admired writers of the Renaissance. Melvyn Bragg is joined by David Wootton, Anniversary Professor of History at York University; Terence Cave, Emeritus Professor of French Literature at the University of Oxford and Felicity Green, Chancellor's Fellow in History at the University of Edinburgh.

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Putney Debates 18 Apr 13

Duration: 42 mins

The Putney Debates took place in late 1647, after the defeat of King Charles I in the first English Civil War. Representatives of the New Model Army and the radical Levellers met in a Putney church to debate the future of England, who should be allowed to vote, civil liberties and religious freedom. Their debates had much influence on centuries of political thought. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Justin Champion, Professor of the History of Early Modern Ideas at Royal Holloway, University of London; Ann Hughes, Professor of Early Modern History at Keele University and Kate Peters, Fellow in History at Murray Edwards College, Cambridge.

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