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The Amazons 11 Apr 13

Duration: 43 mins

The Amazons were a mythical tribe of female warriors who first appeared in Greek culture. 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 Amazon River was named after them. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Paul Cartledge, A.G. Leventis Professor of Greek Culture at Cambridge University; Chiara Franceschini, Teaching Fellow at University College London and an Academic Assistant at the Warburg Institute and Caroline Vout, Senior Lecturer in Classics and Fellow and Director of Studies at Christ's College, Cambridge.

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Japan's Sakoku Period 04 Apr 13

Duration: 43 mins

Japan's Sakoku period was a time when the country isolated itself from the Western world. It began with a series of edicts in the 1630s which restricted the rights of Japanese to leave their country and expelled most of the Europeans living there. Although historians used to think of Japan as completely isolated from external influence for the next 200 years, recent scholarship suggests that Japanese society was far less cut off from European ideas during this period than previously thought. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Richard Bowring, Emeritus Professor of Japanese Studies at the University of Cambridge; Andrew Cobbing, Associate Professor of History at the University of Nottingham and Rebekah Clements, Research Associate at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge.

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Water 28 Mar 13

Duration: 40 mins

The chemistry of the water molecule - Andrea Sella, Hasok Chang and Patricia Hunt join Melvyn Bragg to discuss one of the most fascinating substances on Earth.

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Alfred Russel Wallace 21 Mar 13

Duration: 43 mins

The biologist Alfred Russel Wallace was a pioneer of evolutionary theory. Born in 1823, he travelled extensively, charting the distribution of animal species throughout the world. In 1858 he sent his paper on the theory of evolution by natural selection to Charles Darwin, who was spurred into the publication of his own masterpiece On the Origin of Species. But despite his visionary work, Wallace has been overshadowed by the greater fame of Darwin. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Steve Jones, Emeritus Professor of Genetics at University College London; George Beccaloni, Director of the Wallace Correspondence Project at the Natural History Museum and Ted Benton, Professor of Sociology at the University of Essex.

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Chekhov 14 Mar 13

Duration: 43 mins

Anton Chekhov, the 19th-century Russian writer, is perhaps best known for his plays including The Cherry Orchard and Three Sisters. He is also celebrated today as one of the greatest of short story writers. His works are often powerful character studies and chronicle the changing nature of Russian society. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Catriona Kelly, Professor of Russian at the University of Oxford; Cynthia Marsh, Emeritus Professor of Russian Drama and Literature at the University of Nottingham and Rosamund Bartlett, Founding Director of the Anton Chekhov Foundation.

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Absolute Zero 7 Mar 13

Duration: 43 mins

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss absolute zero, the lowest conceivable temperature, about minus 273 degrees Celsius. At temperatures close to absolute zero, physicists have discovered a number of strange new phenomena including superfluids, liquids capable of climbing a vertical surface. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Simon Schaffer, Professor of the History of Science at the University of Cambridge; Stephen Blundell, Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford and Nicola Wilkin, Lecturer in Theoretical Physics at the University of Birmingham.

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Pitt-Rivers 28 Feb 13

Duration: 42 mins

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of the Victorian anthropologist and archaeologist Augustus Pitt-Rivers. He amassed thousands of ethnographic and archaeological objects, some of which formed the founding collection of the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. Inspired by Charles Darwin, Pitt-Rivers believed that human technology evolved in the same way as living organisms. He was also a pioneering archaeologist who provided a model for later scholars. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Adam Kuper, Visiting Professor of Anthropology at Boston University; Richard Bradley, Professor in Archaeology at the University of Reading and Dan Hicks, University Lecturer & Curator of Archaeology at the Pitt Rivers Museum at the University of Oxford.

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Decline and Fall 21 Feb 13

Duration: 42 mins

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, and it was immediately celebrated for its vicious satire and biting humour. Melvyn Bragg is joined by David Bradshaw, Professor of English Literature at Worcester College, Oxford; John Bowen, Professor of Nineteenth-Century Literature at the University of York and Ann Pasternak Slater, Senior Research Fellow at St Anne's College, Oxford.

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Ice Ages 14 Feb 13

Thu, 14 Feb 13

Duration: 43 mins

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss ice ages, periods when ice sheets cover the Earth's Poles. 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. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Jane Francis, Professor of Paleoclimatology at the University of Leeds; Richard Corfield, Visiting Research Fellow in the Department of Earth Sciences at Oxford University and Carrie Lear, Senior Lecturer in Palaeoceanography at Cardiff University.

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Epicureanism 7 Feb 13

Duration: 43 mins

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Epicureanism, the philosophical system based on the teachings of Epicurus and founded in Athens in the 4th century BC. 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. He also stressed the importance of friendship. Melvyn Bragg is joined by 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 and James Warren, Reader in Ancient Philosophy at the University of Cambridge.

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