Playlist · by Michael Beraka
World History Mid
48 episodes, 32 hours 57 mins
Napoleon and Wellington
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the histories of Napoleon and the Duke of Wellington. On the morning of the battle of Waterloo Napoleon told his loyal lieutenants, “I tell you that Wellington is a bad general, that the English are bad troops and ce sera l’affaire d’un dejeuner”...in other words; ‘this, my friends, will be a picnic!’ But did Napoleon really have such little respect for the man who would be his nemesis, or when he dismissed the Iron Duke so lightly was he just trying to raise morale? There are some curious parallels between the two rivals, they were both born in the same year, 1769, both read the works of Caesar and chose Hannibal as their personal hero, both enjoyed the pleasures of two of the same mistresses, and they even ate the food of the same personal chef. Though Wellington bested Napoleon on the field of Waterloo in 1815, who was the greater general, who left the larger legacy and ultimately, who won? With Andrew Roberts, military historian; Mike Broers...
The American West
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the myths and harsh reality of the 19th century American pioneers. In 1845 the editor of The New York Morning News wrote that it was the "manifest destiny" of the United States "to overspread and to posses the whole of the continent which providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty and federated self-government entrusted to us." With such phrases ringing in their ears the pioneering wagon trains rolled west into the uncharted wilderness of the American continent. Thus began the wagon trails that cut a path beyond the frontier to California and Oregon, a path soon to be followed by gold prospectors, entrepreneurs, cowboys and finally the US army itself. But what propelled them all to go? Was it an "experiment of liberty", or the promise of a better life? Does the story of the frontier help us to understand the American psyche and do our ideas about the American West owe more to the mythology of John Wayne movies than ...
The Enlightenment in Scotland
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Scottish Enlightenment of the 18th century. In 1696 the Edinburgh student, Thomas Aitkenhead, claimed theology was "a rhapsody of feigned and ill invented nonsense". He was hanged for his trouble - just one victim of a repressive religious society called the Scottish Kirk. Yet within 60 years Scotland was transformed by the ideas sweeping the continent in what we call the Enlightenment. This Scottish Enlightenment emerged on a broad front. From philosophy to farming it championed empiricism, questioned religion and debated reason. It was crowned by the philosophical brilliance of David Hume and by Adam Smith – the father of modern economics. But what led to this ‘Scottish Miracle’, was it an indigenous phenomenon or did it depend on influence from abroad? It profoundly influenced the American revolutionaries and the British Empire, but what legacy does it have for Scotland today?With Professor Tom Devine, Director of the Research Institute of I...
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Aztec Empire. According to legend, the origins of it lie on a mythical island called Aztlan - "place of the white herons" - in the north of Mexico. From there this nomadic group of Mesoamericans are said to have undertaken a pilgrimage south to the fertile valleys of Central America. In the space of just 200 years, they formed what has been called the largest, and arguably the most ruthless, pre-Hispanic empire in North America which, at its zenith, was to rule over approximately 500 small states, comprising by the 16th century some 6 million people. Was it military might and intimidation alone that helped the Aztecs extend their power? What part did their complex belief system play in their imperial reach? Their use of human sacrifice has been well documented, but how widespread actually was it? How easily were the Spanish conquistadors able to Christianise this empire? And what legacy did the Aztecsleave behind that lives on in our world today?W...
The Spanish Civil War
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Spanish Civil War which was a defining war of the twentieth century. It was a brutal conflict that polarised Spain, pitting the Left against the Right, the anti-clericals against the Church, the unions against the landed classes and the Republicans against the Monarchists. It was a bloody war which saw, in the space of just three years, the murder and execution of 350,000 people. It was also a conflict which soon became internationalised, becoming a battleground for the forces of Fascism and Communism as Europe itself geared up for war.But what were the roots of the Spanish Civil War? To what extent did Franco prosecute the war as a religious crusade? How did Franco institutionalise his victory after the war? And has Spain fully come to terms with its past?With Paul Preston, Principe de Asturias Professor of Contemporary Spanish History at the London School of Economics; Helen Graham, Professor of Spanish History at Royal Holloway, University of L...
The Jacobite Rebellion
Melvyn Bragg and guests discusses the Jacobite Rebellion. In the summer of 1745, a young man in a small French frigate landed on the West Coast of Scotland. It was Bonnie Prince Charlie who began his campaign to become king of Scotland and England. He had seven followers amongst his shipmates and took to the Highlands to raise an army from the Scottish clans: “The Highland clans with sword in hand Frae John o Groats tae AirlieHae tae a man declared to standOr fa wi Royal Charlie”.Or so the old Jacobite song goes. But why was the latest scion of the Stuart dynasty such a favourite with the Scottish Highlanders? And did Bonnie Prince Charlie ever have a real chance of gaining the throne of England? With Murray Pittock, Professor of English Literature at the University of Strathclyde; Stana Nenadic, Senior Lecturer in Social History at Edinburgh University; Allan Macinnes, Burnett-Fletcher Professor of History at Aberdeen University.
The East India Company
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the private trading company that helped forge the British Empire. At its peak, its influence stretched from western India to eastern China via the farthest reaches of the Indonesian archipelago. It had a fleet of 130 twelve hundred tonne ships and commanded an army of 200,000 troops that came to dominate the Indian subcontinent. It funded governments, toppled princes and generated spectacular amounts of money from trading textiles and spices. But this wasn’t an empire, it wasn’t even a state, it was a company. The East India Company, founded in 1600, lasted for 258 years before the British state gained full control of its activities. In that time it had redrawn the map of India, built an empire and reinvented the fashions and the foodstuffs of Britain. But how did the East India Company become so powerful? How did it change both India and Britain and how was the idea of a company running a country ever accepted by the British Crown?With Huw Bowen, S...
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the centuries old myth of the most romantic noble outlaw. The first printed version of the Robin Hood story begins like this:“Lithe and Lysten, gentylmen/That be of frebore blodeI shall tell of a good yeman/His name was Robyn Hode/Robyn was a proude outlawe/Whyles he walked on groundeSo curteyse an outlawe as he was one/Was never none yfound”.Robin Hood is described as a ‘yeoman’ – a freeman, and though he is courteous there is not even a hint of the aristocrat he later became. In fact, in the early ballads there is no Maid Marian, no Friar Tuck, Robin does not live in the time of bad Prince John, or the crusades, does not lead a large and merry gang, and certainly never robs the rich to give to the poor. Though he always remains a trickster, and a man with a bow in a wood.Why does this most malleable of myths go through so many changes and so many centuries? And was there ever a real outlaw Robin Hood on whom the ballads, plays, novels and movie...
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the feat of astonishing intellectual engineering which provides us with millions of words in hundreds of languages. At the start of the twentieth century, in the depths of an ancient Egyptian turquoise mine on the Sinai peninsular, an archaeologist called Sir Flinders Petrie made an exciting discovery. Scratched onto rocks, pots and portable items, he found scribblings of a very unexpected but strangely familiar nature. He had expected to see the complex pictorial hieroglyphic script the Egyptian establishment had used for over 1000 years, but it seemed that at this very early period, 1700 BC, the mine workers and Semitic slaves had started using a new informal system of graffiti, one which was brilliantly simple, endlessly adaptable and perfectly portable: the Alphabet. This was probably the earliest example of an alphabetic script and it bears an uncanny resemblance to our own.Did the alphabet really spring into life almost fully formed? How did it ...
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Battle of Thermopylae. For the historian Herodotus, the Battle of Thermopylae was the defining clash between East and West: “The Persians fell in their scores, for the officers stood behind lashing them forward, forward all the time. Many fell into the sea and were drowned, many more were trampled to death by their comrades ... The Greeks knew they were doomed now the Persians had discovered a way round the hill, and put forth their last ounce of strength, utterly desperate, utterly unsparing of their lives. (King) Leonidas fell in this battle. He had proved himself a great and brave man”.A force of three hundred free Spartans and their King had stood and fallen before an invading army of three million, led by a brutal tyrant. Or so the story goes – such was their courage and its association with freedom that, nearly two and a half thousand years later, William Golding wrote, “A little of Leonidas lies in the fact that I can go where I like an...
Catherine the Great
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Catherine the Great. In Moscow's Tretyakov Gallery hangs perhaps the most well-known picture of Russia's most well-known ruler. Dimitri Levitsky's 1780 'Portrait of Catherine the Great in the Justice Temple' depicts Catherine in the temple burning poppies at an altar, symbolising her sacrifice of self-interest for Russia. Law books and the scales of justice are at her feet, highlighting her respectful promotion of the rule of law. But menacingly, in the background an eagle crouches, suggesting the means to use brutal power where necessary. For an obscure, small-town German princess Catharine’s ambition was large - the transformation of semi-barbaric Russia into a model of the ideals of the French 18th century Enlightenment. How far was Catherine able to lead her country into full participation in the political and cultural life of Europe? Was she able to liberate the serfs? And should she be remembered as Russia's most civilised ruler or a megalomani...
The Carolingian Renaissance
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne and the Carolingian Renaissance. In 800 AD on Christmas Day in Rome, Pope Leo III proclaimed Charlemagne Emperor. According to the Frankish historian Einhard, Charlemagne would never have set foot in St Peter's that day if he had known that the Pope intended to crown him. But Charlemagne accepted his coronation with magnanimity. Regarded as the first of the Holy Roman Emperors, Charlemagne became a touchstone for legitimacy until the institution was brought to an end by Napoleon in 1806. A Frankish King who held more territory in Western Europe than any man since the Roman Emperor, Charlemagne's lands extended from the Atlantic to Vienna and from Northern Germany to Rome. His reign marked a period of enormous cultural and literary achievement. But at its foundation lay conquest, conversion at the point of a sword and a form of Christianity that was obsessed with sin, discipline and correction. How did Charlemagne bec...
Astronomy and Empire
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the relationship between astronomy and the British Empire. The 18th century explorer and astronomer James Cook wrote: 'Ambition leads me not only farther than any other man has been before me, but as far as I think it possible for man to go'. Cook's ambition took him to the far reaches of the Pacific and led to astronomical observations which measured the distance of Venus to the Sun with unprecedented accuracy. Cook's ambition was not just personal and astronomical. It represented the colonial ambition of the British Empire which was linked inextricably with science and trade. The discoveries about the Transit of Venus, made on Cook's voyage to Tahiti, marked the beginning of a period of expansion by the British which relied on maritime navigation based on astronomical knowledge. With Simon Schaffer, Professor in History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge; Kristen Lippincott, former Director of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich; ...
Constantinople Siege and Fall
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the siege of Constantinople in 1453. When Sultan Mehmet the Second rode into the city of Constantinople on a white horse in 1453, it marked the end of a thousand years of the Byzantine Empire. After holding out for 53 days, the city had fallen. And as one contemporary witness described it: “The blood flowed in the city like rainwater in the gutters after a sudden storm”. It was the end of the classical world and the crowning of an Ottoman Empire that would last until 1922.Constantinople was a city worth fighting for – its position as a bridge between Europe and Asia and its triangular shape with a deep water port made it ideal both for trade and defence. It was also rumoured to harbour great wealth. Whoever conquered it would reap rewards both material and political. Earlier attempts to capture the city had largely failed – so why did the Ottomans succeed this time? What difference did the advances in weaponry such as cannons make in the outcome o...
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the original Iron Chancellor, Otto Von Bismarck. One of Europe's leading statesmen in the 19th Century he is credited with unifying Germany under the military might of his home state of Prussia. An enthusiastic expansionist, Bismarck undertook a war against Denmark that has become a by-word for incomprehensible conflict. The British Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, said: “The Schleswig-Holstein question is so complicated, only three men in Europe have ever understood it. One was Prince Albert, who is dead. The second was a German professor who became mad. I am the third and I have forgotten all about it.”After vanquishing Austria and France, Bismark led the new industrialising Germany, managing to remain in power for a further two decades. Bismarck said: “The art of statesmanship is to steer a course on the stream of time” and he founded one of Europe's first welfare states but he was also known for his ruthless tactics, ignoring democratic instit...
The Norman Yoke
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss ‘the Norman Yoke’ – the idea that the Battle of Hastings sparked years of cruel oppression for the Anglo Saxons by a Norman ruling class. ‘Norman saw on English oak,On English neck a Norman yoke;Norman spoon in English dish,And England ruled as Normans wish.’Taken from Sir Walter Scott’s novel ‘Ivanhoe’, these words encapsulate the idea of ‘the Norman Yoke’ – that the Battle of Hastings sparked the cruel oppression of Anglo-Saxon liberties by a foreign ruling class. Certainly, William the Conqueror proclaimed his power in great castles and cathedrals, turned the church upside down and even changed the colour of scribal ink. But was it really such a terrible time for the Anglo Saxons or was the idea of beastly Norman oppressors and noble Saxon sufferers invented later to shore up the idea of Englishness? With Sarah Foot, Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Christ Church, Oxford; Richard Gameson, Professor in the Department of Histo...
The Library of Alexandria
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Library at Alexandria. Founded by King Ptolemy in the 3rd century BC the library was the first attempt to collect all the knowledge of the ancient world in one place. Scholars including Archimedes and Euclid came to study its grand array of papyri. the legacy of the library is with us today, not just in the ideas it stored and the ideas it seeded but also in the way it organised knowledge and the tools developed for dealing with it. It still influences the things we know and the way we know them to this day.With Simon Goldhill, Professor of Greek at the University of Cambridge; Matthew Nicholls, Lecturer in Classics at the University of Reading; Serafina Cuomo, Reader in Roman History at Birkbeck College, University of London.
The Boxer Rebellion
In the hot summer of 1900, Peking, the capital of China, was under heavy siege. But the surrounding forces were not foreign, they were Chinese. This was the Boxer Rebellion, the moment when the 'Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists', known as the boxers, purged China of foreign merchants and missionaries. The Boxers had came out of the northern provinces, they claimed their fists were stronger than fire and they were invincible to bullets. But they were also desperate and starving and they blamed foreigners for their plight. In the end, the Boxer rebellion failed but it changed China and, more than a hundred years later, the spirit of the Boxer Rebellion lives on. They may have lost their battles but they may have won their war.
The Magna Carta
Melvyn Bragg and guests Nicholas Vincent, David Carpenter and Michael Clanchy discuss the Magna Carta, the oft-proclaimed foundation of English liberties.The Magna Carta has been cited ever since its issue in 1215 as a foundation stone of English liberties. It includes clauses of universal justice, some of which are still on the statute book, but also sorted out the fishing rights in the upper Thames. Whether Magna Carta is a genuine proclamation of universal liberty or a hotchpotch of baronial self-interest has been debated ever since. Melvyn and his guests examine the ideas contained within it, assess their legacy and find out what really happened all those years ago in a tent in Runnymede.
The Siege of Vienna
Melvyn Bragg and guests Andrew Wheatcroft, Claire Norton and Jeremy Black discuss the Ottoman siege of Vienna in 1683, when the Ottoman Empire tried to capture the capital city of the Hapsburg monarchs. The ensuing tale of blood and drama helped define the boundaries of Europe. In June 1683, a man called Kara Mustafa made a journey to Vienna. That a Muslim Turk should come to a Catholic city was not unusual, but Kara Mustafa did so at the head of the Ottoman Army. Vienna was the capital of the Hapsburg Empire and he intended to take it. The ensuing siege has been held responsible for many things, from the invention of the croissant to the creation of Viennese coffee. But most importantly, it has come to be seen as a clash of civilisations, one that helped to define a series of boundaries, between Europe and Asia, Christian and Muslim, Hapsburg and Ottoman, that influence the view between Vienna and Istanbul to this day. But to see the siege as a defining moment in east/west relation...
The Trial of Charles I
Melvyn Bragg and guests Justin Champion, Diane Purkiss and David Wootton discuss the trial of Charles I, recounting the high drama in Westminster Hall and the ideas that led to the execution.Begun on 20th January 1649, the trial culminated in the epoch-making execution of an English monarch. But on the way it was a drama of ideas about kingly authority, tax, parliamentary power and religion, all suffused with personal vendettas, political confusion and individual courage. It was also a forum in which the newly-ended Civil War and the events of Charles's reign were picked over by the people who had experienced them. Melvyn and guests recount the events of the trial, explore the central arguments and see whether, 350 years later, we can work out who really won.Justin Champion is Professor of the History of Early Modern Ideas at Royal Holloway, University of London; Diane Purkiss is a Fellow and tutor at Keble College, Oxford; David Wootton is Professor of History at the University of ...
The Dreyfus Affair
Melvyn Bragg and guests Robert Gildea, Ruth Harris and Robert Tombs discuss the Dreyfus Affair, the 1890s scandal which divided opinion in France for a generation.In 1894, a high-flying Jewish staff officer in the French Army, one Alfred Dreyfus, was convicted of spying for the Prussians. He was publicly humiliated: before a large Paris crowd, he was stripped of his badges of rank and his sword was ceremonially broken. Some of those watching shouted 'Down with Judas!' Then he was dispatched to Devil's Island. But when it emerged that Dreyfus was innocent, a scandal erupted which engulfed the Army, the Church and French society as a whole, exposing deep political rifts, and the nation's endemic anti-Semitism. It pitted Catholics against Republicans, provoked fighting in the streets, and led to the prosecution of the novelist Emile Zola, after his famous J'Accuse polemic against those protecting the real spy and so prolonging Dreyfus's suffering. The Affair became so divisive that it ...
The Great Wall of China
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Great Wall of China.The Great Wall is not a single Wall. It is not visible from space, contrary to popular belief, as it is much too thin. But it remains a spectacular architectural and historical phenomenon.The Great Wall's military importance, and its symbolic power, have varied widely in its long existence, as its place in Chinese life has shifted with the country's history. It was initially constructed at the command of the first Emperor, from 221 BC, and was a combination of the various protective walls that had been built by the smaller states which he had conquered and merged to form China. The original Wall was made of pounded earth, and in places the wind-carved remains of this two thousand year old construction are still visible. But the Wall which is familiar to us today is the work of the Ming Dynasty, and its vast programme of reinforcement - prompted by a renewed threat from the Mongols in the north. In the 17th century, amazed Jesui...
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Neanderthals.In 1856, quarry workers in Germany found bones in a cave which seemed to belong to a bear or other large mammal. They were later identified as being from a previously unknown species of hominid similar to a human. The specimen was named Homo neanderthalis after the valley in which the bones were found.This was the first identified remains of a Neanderthal, a species which inhabited parts of Europe and Central Asia from around 400,000 years ago. Often depicted as little more advanced than apes, Neanderthals were in fact sophisticated, highly-evolved hunters capable of making tools and even jewellery.Scholarship has established much about how and where the Neanderthals lived - but the reasons for their disappearance from the planet around 28,000 years ago remain unclear.With: Simon Conway MorrisProfessor of Evolutionary Palaeobiology at the University of CambridgeChris Stringer Research Leader in Human Origins at the Natural History...
The Spanish Armada
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Spanish Armada. On May 28th, 1588, a fleet of a hundred and fifty-one Spanish ships set out from Lisbon, bound for England. Its mission was to transport a huge invasion force across the Channel: the Spanish King, Philip II, was determined to remove Elizabeth from the throne and return the English to the Catholic fold. Two months later the mighty Spanish Armada was sighted off the coast of Cornwall. Bad weather, poor planning and spirited English resistance defeated the Spaniards: after a brief battle the remnants of their fleet fled. This tale of religious dispute, shifting political alliance and naval supremacy has entered our folklore - although some historians argue it changed nothing.With:Diane PurkissFellow and Tutor at Keble College, OxfordMia Rodriguez-SalgadoProfessor in International History at the London School of EconomicsNicholas RodgerSenior Research Fellow at All Souls College at the University of OxfordProducer: Thomas Morris.
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Cleopatra. The last pharaoh to rule Egypt, Cleopatra was a woman of intelligence and charisma, later celebrated as a great beauty. During an eventful life she was ousted from her throne and later restored to it with the help of her lover Julius Caesar. A later relationship with another Roman statesman, Mark Antony - and Cleopatra's subsequent death at her own hands - provided Shakespeare with the raw material for one of his greatest plays. Today Cleopatra is still an object of fascination, her story revealing as much about the Roman world as it does about the end of the age of the Pharaohs.With:Catharine EdwardsProfessor of Classics and Ancient History at Birkbeck, University of LondonMaria WykeProfessor of Latin at University College LondonSusan WalkerKeeper of Antiquities at the Ashmolean Museum at the University of OxfordProducer: Thomas Morris.
Consequences of the Industrial Revolution
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the far-reaching consequences of the Industrial Revolution. After more than a century of rapid technological change, and the massive growth of its urban centres, Britain was changed forever. Lifestyles changed as workers moved from agricultural settlements to factory towns: health, housing and labour relations were all affected. But the effects were both social and intellectual, as thinkers originated theories to deal with the new realities of urban living, mass production and a consumer society. With:Jane HumphriesProfessor of Economic History and Fellow of All Souls College, University of OxfordEmma GriffinSenior Lecturer in History at the University of East AngliaLawrence GoldmanFellow and Tutor in History at St Peter's College, University of OxfordProducer: Thomas Morris.
The Industrial Revolution
In the first of two programmes, Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Industrial Revolution.Between the middle of the eighteenth century and the early years of the nineteenth, Britain was transformed. This was a revolution, but not a political one: over the course of a few generations industrialisation swept the nation. Inventions such as the machine loom and the steam engine changed the face of manufacturing; cheap iron and steel became widely available; and vast new cities grew up around factory towns.All this had profound effects - not all of them positive - as an agrarian and primitive society was turned into an industrial empire, the richest nation on Earth. But why did this revolution take place here rather than abroad? And why did it begin in the first place?With:Jeremy BlackProfessor of History at the University of ExeterPat HudsonProfessor Emerita of History at Cardiff UniversityWilliam AshworthSenior Lecturer in History at the University of Liverpool.Producer: Thomas Mor...
The Mexican Revolution
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Mexican Revolution.In 1908 the President of Mexico, Porfirio Diaz, gave an interview to an American journalist. He was 77 and had ruled the country in autocratic fashion for over thirty years. He discussed the country's economic development and spoke of his intention to retire to his country estate after overseeing a transition to multiparty democracy.Things did not turn out quite like that. Two years later Diaz was toppled by a popular uprising. It was the beginning of a tumultuous decade in which different factions fought for supremacy, and power changed hands many times. The conflict completely changed the face of the country, and resulted in the emergence of Mexico's most celebrated folk hero: Emiliano Zapata.With:Alan KnightProfessor of the History of Latin America at the University of OxfordPaul GarnerCowdray Professor of Spanish at the University of LeedsPatience SchellSenior Lecturer in Latin American Cultural Studies at the University...
The Iron Age
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the dawn of the European Iron Age.In around 3000 BC European metalworkers started to make tools and weapons out of bronze. A complex trading network evolved to convey this valuable metal and other goods around the continent. But two millennia later, a new skill arrived from the Middle East: iron smelting. This harder, more versatile metal represented a huge technological breakthrough.The arrival of the European Iron Age, in around 1000 BC, was a time of huge social as well as technological change. New civilisations arose, the landscape was transformed, and societies developed new cultures and lifestyles. Whether this was the direct result of the arrival of iron is one of the most intriguing questions in archaeology.With:Sir Barry CunliffeEmeritus Professor of European Archaeology at the University of OxfordSue HamiltonProfessor of Prehistory at University College LondonTimothy ChampionProfessor of Archaeology at the University of SouthamptonProduc...
The Medieval University
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the medieval universities.In the 11th and 12th centuries a new type of institution started to appear in the major cities of Europe. The first universities were those of Bologna and Paris; within a hundred years similar educational organisations were springing up all over the continent. The first universities based their studies on the liberal arts curriculum, a mix of seven separate disciplines derived from the educational theories of Ancient Greece. The universities provided training for those intending to embark on careers in the Church, the law and education. They provided a new focus for intellectual life in Europe, and exerted a significant influence on society around them. And the university model proved so robust that many of these institutions and their medieval innovations still exist today.With:Miri RubinProfessor of Medieval and Early Modern History at Queen Mary, University of LondonIan WeiSenior Lecturer in Medieval European History a...
The Taiping Rebellion
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Taiping Rebellion.In 1850 a Chinese Christian convert, Hong Xiuquan, proclaimed himself leader of a new dynasty, the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom. He and his followers marched against the ruling Qing dynasty, gathering huge support as they went. The ensuing civil war lasted fourteen years; around twenty million people lost their lives in a conflict which eventually involved European as well as Chinese soldiers. The Taiping Rebellion was arguably the most important event to befall China in the 19th century. Chinese nationalists and communists alike have been profoundly influenced by it, and historians believe it shaped modern China in the same way as the First World War shaped modern Europe.Rana MitterProfessor of the History and Politics of Modern China at the University of OxfordFrances WoodHead of the Chinese Section at the British LibraryJulia LovellLecturer in Chinese History at Birkbeck, University of London.Producer: Thomas Morris.
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and achievements of Hannibal. One of the most celebrated military leaders in history, Hannibal was the Carthaginian general who led an entire army, complete with elephants, across the Alps in order to attack the Roman Republic. He lived at a time of prolonged hostility between the two great Mediterranean powers, Rome and Carthage, and was the Carthaginians' inspirational leader during the Second Punic War which unfolded between 218 and 202 BC. His career ended in defeat and exile, but he achieved such fame that even his enemies the Romans erected statues of him. Centuries later his tactical genius was admired and studied by generals including Napoleon and Wellington. With: 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 Louis Rawlings Senior Lecturer in Ancient History at Cardiff University. Producer: Natalia Fer...
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Mamluks, who ruled Egypt and Syria from about 1250 to 1517. Originally slave soldiers who managed to depose their masters, they went on to repel the Mongols and the Crusaders to become the dominant force in the medieval Islamic Middle Eastern world. Although the Mamluks were renowned as warriors, under their rule art, crafts and architecture blossomed. Little known by many in the West today, the Mamluks remained in power for almost 300 years until they were eventually overthrown by the Ottomans. With: Amira Bennison Reader in the History and Culture of the Maghrib at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Magdalene College Robert Irwin Former Senior Research Associate in the Department of History at SOAS, University of London Doris Behrens-Abouseif Nasser D Khalili Professor of Islamic Art and Archaeology at SOAS, University of London Producer: Victoria Brignell.
The Sino-Japanese War
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-45. After several years of rising tension, and the Japanese occupation of Manchuria, full-scale war between Japan and China broke out in the summer of 1937. The Japanese captured many major Chinese ports and cities, but met with fierce resistance, despite internal political divisions on the Chinese side. When the Americans entered the war following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Japanese found themselves fighting on several fronts simultaneously, and finally capitulated in August 1945. This notoriously brutal conflict left millions dead and had far-reaching consequences for international relations in Asia. With: Rana Mitter Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China at the University of Oxford Barak Kushner Senior Lecturer in Japanese History at the University of Cambridge Tehyun Ma Lecturer in Chinese History at the University of Exeter Producer: Thomas Morris.
Matteo Ricci and the Ming Dynasty
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life of Matteo Ricci, a Jesuit priest who in the 16th century led a Christian mission to China. An accomplished scholar, Ricci travelled extensively and came into contact with senior officials of the Ming Dynasty administration. His story is one of the most important encounters between Renaissance Europe and a China which was still virtually closed to outsiders. With Mary Laven Reader in Early Modern History at the University of Cambridge Craig Clunas Professor of the History of Art at the University of Oxford and Anne Gerritsen Reader in History at the University of Warwick Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Frederick the Great
Frederick the Great ruled Prussia from 1740 until his death in 1786. Born in 1712, he increased the power of the state, he made Prussia the leading military power in Europe and his bold campaigns had great implications for the European political landscape. An absolute monarch in the age of enlightenment, he was a prolific writer, attracted figures such as Voltaire to his court, fostered education and put Berlin firmly on the cultural map. He was much admired by Napoleon and was often romanticised by German historians, becoming a hero for many in united Germany in the 19th and 20th centuries. Others, however, vilified him for aspects such as his militarism and the partition of Poland. With Tim Blanning Emeritus Professor of Modern European History at the University of Cambridge Katrin Kohl Professor of German Literature at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Jesus College And Thomas Biskup Lecturer in Early Modern History at the University of Hull Producer: Simon Tillotson.
The Bronze Age Collapse
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss The Bronze Age Collapse, the name given by many historians to what appears to have been a sudden, uncontrolled destruction of dominant civilizations around 1200 BC in the Aegean, Eastern Mediterranean and Anatolia. Among other areas, there were great changes in Minoan Crete, Egypt, the Hittite Empire, Mycenaean Greece and Syria. The reasons for the changes, and the extent of those changes, are open to debate and include droughts, rebellions, the breakdown of trade as copper became less desirable, earthquakes, invasions, volcanoes and the mysterious Sea Peoples. With John Bennet Director of the British School at Athens and Professor of Aegean Archaeology at the University of Sheffield Linda Hulin Fellow of Harris Manchester College and Research Officer at the Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology at the University of Oxford And Simon Stoddart Fellow of Magdalene College and Reader in Prehistory at the University of Cambridge Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Justinian's Legal Code
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas brought together under Justinian I, Byzantine emperor in the 6th century AD, which were rediscovered in Western Europe in the Middle Ages and became very influential in the development of laws in many European nations and elsewhere. With Caroline Humfress Professor of Medieval History at the University of St Andrews Simon Corcoran Lecturer in Ancient History at Newcastle University and Paul du Plessis Senior Lecturer in Civil law and European legal history at the School of Law, University of Edinburgh Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Baltic Crusades, the name given to a series of overlapping attempts to convert the pagans of North East Europe to Christianity at the point of the sword. From the 12th Century, Papal Bulls endorsed those who fought on the side of the Church, the best known now being the Teutonic Order which, thwarted in Jerusalem, founded a state on the edge of the Baltic, in Prussia. Some of the peoples in the region disappeared, either killed or assimilated, and the consequences for European history were profound. With Aleks Pluskowski Associate Professor of Archaeology at the University of Reading Nora Berend Fellow of St Catharine's College and Reader in European History at the Faculty of History at the University of Cambridge and Martin Palmer Director of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education, and Culture Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Garibaldi and the Risorgimento
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Giuseppe Garibaldi and the Italian Risorgimento. According to the historian AJP Taylor, Garibaldi was the only wholly admirable figure in modern history. Born in Nice in 1807, one of Garibaldi's aims in life was the unification of Italy and, in large part thanks to him, Italy was indeed united substantially in 1861 and entirely in 1870. With his distinctive red shirt and poncho, he was a hero of Romantic revolutionaries around the world. His fame was secured when, with a thousand soldiers, he invaded Sicily and toppled the monarchy in the Italian south. The Risorgimento was soon almost complete. This topic is the one chosen from over 750 different ideas suggested by listeners in October, for our yearly Listener Week. With Lucy Riall Professor of Comparative History of Europe at the European University Institute and Professor of History at Birkbeck, University of London Eugenio Biagini Professor of Modern and Contemporary History at the University of C...
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the role of the great 'City of the Persians' founded by Darius I as the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire that stretched from the Indus Valley to Egypt and the coast of the Black Sea. It was known as the richest city under the sun and was a centre at which the Empire's subject peoples paid tribute to a succession of Achaemenid leaders, until the arrival of Alexander III of Macedon who destroyed it by fire supposedly in revenge for the burning of the Acropolis in Athens. The image above is a detail from a relief at the Apadana, the huge audience hall, and shows a lion attacking a bull. With Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones Professor of Ancient History at Cardiff University Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis Curator of Middle Eastern Coins at the British Museum And Lindsay Allen Lecturer in Greek and Near Eastern History at King's College London Producer: Simon Tillotson.
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Horace (65-8BC), who flourished under the Emperor Augustus. He was one of the greatest poets of his age and is one of the most quoted of any age. Carpe diem, nil desperandum, nunc est bibendum – that’s Horace. He was the son of a freedman from southern Italy and, thanks to his talent, achieved high status in Rome despite fighting on the losing side in the civil wars. His Odes are widely thought his most enduring works, yet he also wrote his scurrilous Epodes, some philosophical Epistles and broad Satires. He’s influenced poets ever since, including those such as Wilfred Owen who rejected his line: ‘dulce et decorum est pro patria mori’. With Emily Gowers Professor of Latin Literature at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of St John’s College William Fitzgerald Professor of Latin Language and Literature at King’s College London and Ellen O’Gorman Senior Lecturer in Classics at the University of Bristol Producer: Simon Tillotson
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Austrian princess Maria Antonia, child bride of the future French King Louis XVI. Their marriage was an attempt to bring about a major change in the balance of power in Europe and to undermine the influence of Prussia and Great Britain, but she had no say in the matter and was the pawn of her mother, the Empress Maria Theresa. She fulfilled her allotted role of supplying an heir, but was sent to the guillotine in 1793 in the French Revolution, a few months after her husband, following years of attacks on her as a woman who, it was said, betrayed the King and as a foreigner who betrayed France to enemy powers. When not doing these wrongs, she was said to be personally bankrupting France. Her death shocked royal families throughout Europe, and she became a powerful symbol of the consequences of the Revolution. With Catriona Seth Marshal Foch Professor of French Literature at the University of Oxford Katherine Astbury Professor of French Studies at t...
Carlo D’Ippoliti et.al., “The Routledge Handbook of Heterodox Economics: Theorizing, Analyzing, and Transforming Capitalism” (Routledge, 2017)
The Routledge Handbook of Heterodox Economics: Theorizing, Analyzing, and Transforming Capitalism (Routledge, 2017), a new handbook of economics has been published; it is a very special one. In this interview, Carlo D’Ippoliti, one of the three co-editors, discusses with us why a handbook of heterodox economics was needed. Contributions throughout the handbook explore different theoretical perspectives including: Marxian-radical political economics; Post Keynesian-Sraffian economics; institutionalist-evolutionary economics; feminist economics; social economics; Regulation theory; the Social Structure of Accumulation approach; and ecological economics. Several contributions explain the structural properties and dynamics of capitalism, as well as propose economic and social policies for the benefit of the majority of the population. This book aims, firstly, to provide realistic and coherent theoretical frameworks to understand the capitalist economy in a constructive and forward-look...
Chris Miller, “The Struggle to Save the Soviet Economy” (UNC Press, 2016)
One of the most interesting questions of modern history is this: Why is it that Communist China was able to make a successful transition to economic modernity (and with it prosperity) while the Communist Soviet Union was not? In his excellent book The Struggle to Save the Soviet Economy: Mikhail Gorbachev and the Collapse of the USSR (UNC Press, 2016), Chris Miller offers a convincing explanation for the divergent paths of these two Marxist-Leninist powers. Miller shows that Mikhail Gorbachev knew well about the on-going Chinese experiment, and he modeled much of what he attempted to do on it. Yet, as Miller argues, Gorbachev faced much stiffer political and ideological opposition than the Chinese leader, Deng Xiaoping, did. In the USSR, the Party was stronger and there were powerful institutional-economic interests standing in his way. In addition, Soviet socialism had “worked” for masses of ordinary citizens in a way that Chinese socialism had not; many “Soviet people” believe...
Glenn Dynner, “Yankel’s Tavern: Jews, Liquor, and Life in the Kingdom of Poland” (Oxford UP, 2014)
In Yankel’s Tavern: Jews, Liquor, and Life in the Kingdom of Poland (Oxford UP, 2014), Glenn Dynner, Professor of Religion at Sarah Lawrence College, explores the world of Jewish-run taverns in nineteenth-century Eastern Europe. Jews had to fend off reformers and government officials that sought to drive Jews out of the liquor trade. Dynner argues that many nobles helped their Jewish tavernkeepers evade fees, bans, and expulsions by installing Christians as fronts for their taverns, revealing a surprising level of Polish-Jewish co-existence that changes the way we think about life in the Kingdom of Poland. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Rajan Gurukkal, “Rethinking Classical Indo-Roman Trade: Political Economy of Eastern Mediterranean Exchange Relations” (Oxford UP, 2016)
Rajan Gurukkal‘s Rethinking Classical Indo-Roman Trade: Political Economy of Eastern Mediterranean Exchange Relations (Oxford University Press, 2016) casts a critical eye over the exchanges, usually and problematically termed trade, between the eastern Mediterranean and coastal India in the classical period. Using insights from economic anthropology to recast the standard narrative of the time, the study explores ports and polity in south India as well as the different types of exchange relations in both the eastern Mediterranean and the subcontinent. A provocative, fascinating and deeply detailed study, the book is sure the shake up existing scholarship on the topic. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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