War of 1812 31 Jan 13
Duration: 43 mins
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the War of 1812, the conflict between the USA and Britain sometimes referred to as the second American War of Independence. 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. The war also led to Native Americans losing millions of acres of land in a programme of forced removal. Melvyn Bragg is joined by 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 and Frank Cogliano, Professor of American History at the University of Edinburgh.
Romulus and Remus 24 Jan 13
Melvyn Bragg is joined by Mary Beard, Tim Cornell and Peter Wiseman to discuss the story of Romulus and Remus, the foundation myth of Rome.
Comets 17 Jan 13
Duration: 43 mins
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss comets, the 'dirty snowballs' of the Solar System. Halley's Comet is today the best known example of a comet, a body of ice and dust which orbits the Sun. Since they contain materials from the time when the Solar System was formed, comets are regarded by scientists as frozen time capsules, with the potential to reveal important information about the early history of planets. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Monica Grady, Professor of Planetary and Space Sciences at the Open University; Paul Murdin, Senior Fellow at the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge and Don Pollacco, Professor of Astronomy at the University of Warwick.
Le Morte Darthur 10 Jan 13
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, which was written in the 15th century. The Arthurian legend is one of the most enduring and popular in western literature and the book's themes - chivalry, betrayal, love and honour - remain compelling. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Helen Cooper, Professor of Medieval and Renaissance English at the University of Cambridge; Helen Fulton, Professor of Medieval Literature at the University of York and Laura Ashe, CUF Lecturer and Tutorial Fellow at Worcester College at the University of Oxford.
The Cult of Mithras 27 Dec 12
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. Its rituals included 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. In recent decades, many aspects of the cult have provoked debate, especially as there are no written accounts by its members. What were its origins and why did it eventually die out? Melvyn Bragg is joined by Greg Woolf, Professor of Ancient History at the University of St Andrews; Almut Hintze, Zartoshty Professor of Zoroastrianism at SOAS, University of London and John North, Acting Director of the Institute of Classical Studies, University of London.
South Sea Bubble 20 Dec 12
Duration: 42 mins
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 investors. People from all walks of life bought shares in the South Sea Company, so when the shares crashed, there was a public outcry and many people faced financial ruin. But how did such a financial crisis develop and how serious were the effects of this early example of a stock market boom and bust? Melvyn Bragg is joined by Anne Murphy, Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Hertfordshire; Helen Paul, Lecturer in Economics and Economic History at the University of Southampton and Roey Sweet, Head of the School of History at the University of Leicester.
Shahnameh of Ferdowsi 13 Dec 12
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 1000 years. It recounts a legendary history of Iran from the dawn of time to the fall of the Persian Empire in the 7th century, depicting battles, romances, family rifts and the struggle between good and evil. The poem has been referred to as the identity card of the Persian people. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Narguess Farzad, Senior Fellow in Persian at SOAS, University of London; Charles Melville, Professor of Persian History at Pembroke College, University of Cambridge and Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis, Curator of Middle Eastern Coins at the British Museum.
Bertrand Russell 06 Dec 12
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the influential British philosopher Bertrand Russell. Born in 1872, Russell is widely regarded as one of the founders of Analytic philosophy, today the dominant philosophical tradition in the English-speaking world. His theory of descriptions had profound consequences for the discipline. Russell also played an active role in many social and political campaigns. He supported women's suffrage, was imprisoned for his pacifism during World War I and was a founder of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Melvyn Bragg is joined by AC Grayling, Master of the New College of the Humanities and a Supernumerary Fellow of St Anne's College, Oxford; Mike Beaney, Professor of Philosophy at the University of York and Hilary Greaves, Lecturer in Philosophy and Fellow of Somerville College, Oxford.
Crystallography 29 Nov 12
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history of crystallography, the study of crystals and their structure. The discovery in the early 20th century that X-rays could be diffracted by a crystal revolutionised our knowledge of materials. This crystal technology has 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. To date, 28 Nobel Prizes have been awarded to scientists working with X-ray crystallography, an indication of its crucial importance. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Judith Howard, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Durham; Chris Hammond, Life Fellow in Material Science at the University of Leeds; and Mike Glazer, Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford and Visiting Professor of Physics at the University of Warwick.
The Borgias 22 Nov 12
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Borgias, the most notorious family in Renaissance Italy. Famed for their treachery and corruption, the Borgias produced two popes during their time of dominance in Rome in the late 15th century. Murder, intrigue and power politics characterised their rule, but many of the stories now told about their depraved behaviour emerged after their demise. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Evelyn Welch, Professor of Renaissance Studies at Queen Mary, University of London; Catherine Fletcher, Lecturer in Public History at the University of Sheffield and Christine Shaw, Honorary Research Fellow at Swansea University.