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Simone Weil 15 Nov 12

Duration: 43 mins

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the French philosopher and social activist Simone Weil. Born in Paris in 1909, her philosophy was both complex and intense. She argued that the presence of suffering in the world was evidence of God's love and that love which expects reward was not love at all. Albert Camus believed she was "the only great spirit of our time." Weil died of TB at the age of only 34. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Beatrice Han-Pile, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Essex; Stephen Plant, Dean of Trinity Hall at the University of Cambridge and David Levy, Teaching Fellow in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh.

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The Upanishads 8 Nov 12

Duration: 42 mins

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Upanishads, the ancient sacred texts of Hinduism. Dating from about 700 BC, the Upanishads ask profound questions about human existence and man's place in the cosmos. More than 100 Upanishads were produced, 13 of which are regarded as the canonical scriptures of Hinduism. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Jessica Frazier, Lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Kent and a Research Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, University of Oxford; Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad, Professor of Comparative Religion and Philosophy at Lancaster University and Simon Brodbeck, Lecturer in Religious Studies at Cardiff University.

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The Anarchy 01 Nov 12

Duration: 43 mins

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss The Anarchy, the civil war that took place in mid-12th century England. It was a succession dispute between the Empress Matilda, daughter of Henry I, and her cousin, Stephen of Blois. The Anarchy dragged on for nearly 20 years and is so called because of the chaos and lawlessness that characterised the period. But does it deserve the label of 'The Anarchy'? Why did Matilda fail to become the monarch? What impact did the conflict have on England? Melvyn Bragg is joined by John Gillingham, Emeritus Professor of History at the LSE; Louise Wilkinson, Reader in Medieval History at Canterbury Christ Church University and David Carpenter, Professor of Medieval History at Kings College London.

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Fermat's Last Theorem 25 Oct 12

Duration: 43 mins

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Fermat's Last Theorem. In 1637 the French mathematician Pierre de Fermat scribbled a note in the margin of one of his books. He claimed to have proved a remarkable property of numbers, but gave no clue as to how he'd gone about it. Fermat's theorem became one of the most iconic problems in mathematics and for centuries mathematicians struggled in vain to work out what his proof had been. It was not until 1995 that the puzzle was finally solved by the British mathematician Andrew Wiles. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Marcus du Sautoy, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford; Vicky Neale, Fellow and Director of Studies in Mathematics at Murray Edwards College at the University of Cambridge and Samir Siksek, Professor at the Mathematics Institute at the University of Warwick.

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Caxton and the Printing Press 18 Oct 12

Duration: 42 mins

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and influence of William Caxton, the merchant who brought the printing press to Britain. After working abroad for several years, Caxton set up his first printing press in Westminster in 1476. The advent of print is now seen as one of the great revolutions in intellectual history, although it was a revolution that took time to have an effect. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Richard Gameson, Professor of the History of the Book at the University of Durham; Julia Boffey, Professor of Medieval Studies at Queen Mary, University of London and David Rundle of the History Faculty at the University of Oxford.

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Hannibal 11 Oct 12

Duration: 43 mins

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and achievements of Hannibal, one of the most celebrated military leaders in history. Commander of the Carthaginian army, he led his men with elephants across the Alps in order to attack the Roman Republic. His career ended in defeat and exile, but centuries later his tactical genius was admired by generals including Napoleon and Wellington. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Ellen O'Gorman, Senior Lecturer in Classics at the University of Bristol; Mark Woolmer, Senior Tutor in the Department of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Durham and Louis Rawlings, Senior Lecturer in Ancient History at Cardiff University.

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Gerald of Wales 04 Oct 12

Duration: 43 mins

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the medieval scholar Gerald of Wales. Born in the 12th century, with both Anglo-Norman and Welsh parentage, Gerald was a cleric and courtier of Henry II. His accounts of journeys he made around Wales and Ireland are among the most colourful and informative chronicles of the Middle Ages. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Henrietta Leyser, Emeritus Fellow of St Peter's College, University of Oxford; Michelle Brown, Professor Emerita of Medieval Manuscript Studies at the School of Advanced Study, University of London and Huw Pryce, Professor of Welsh History at Bangor University.

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Ontological Argument 27 Sep 12

Duration: 43 mins

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Ontological Argument. In the 11th century Anselm of Canterbury proposed that it was possible to prove the existence of God using reason alone. His argument was taken further by later thinkers including Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz but other philosophers have rejected it. It remains one of the most discussed problems in philosophy. Melvyn Bragg is joined by John Haldane, Professor of Philosophy at the University of St Andrews; Peter Millican, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oxford and Clare Carlisle, Lecturer in Philosophy of Religion at King's College London.

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The Druids 20 Sep 12

Duration: 42 mins

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Druids, the priests of ancient Europe. Active in Ireland, Britain and Gaul, the Druids were first written about by Roman authors including Julius Caesar and Pliny. They were suspected of leading resistance to the Romans, a fact which led to their eradication from ancient Britain. In the early modern era, however, interest in the Druids revived, and later writers reinvented their activities. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Barry Cunliffe, Emeritus Professor of Archaeology at the University of Oxford; Miranda Aldhouse-Green, Professor of Archaeology at Cardiff University and Justin Champion, Professor of the History of Early Modern Ideas at Royal Holloway, University of London.

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The Cell 13 Sep 12

Duration: 43 mins

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the cell, the fundamental building block of life. First observed by Robert Hooke in 1665, cells occur in nature in a bewildering variety of forms. A single human body contains up to a hundred trillion of them. How did the first cell appear, and how did that prototype evolve into the sophisticated cells of the human body? Melvyn Bragg is joined by Steve Jones, Professor of Genetics at UCL; Nick Lane, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment, UCL and Cathie Martin, Professor in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of East Anglia.

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