Another podcast recommendation: In Our Time

In Our TIme

Time for another of my occasional podcast recommendations. This time it’s for Radio 4’s In Our Time, which is roughly speaking a weekly "Cabinet of Curiosities". Each edition involves three learned people talking with Melvyn Bragg about an erudite topic from science, history or philosophy that you’ve probably never heard of, or if you have, not really considered it.

To show you what I mean, here’s a list of the subjects covered in the last few editions:

  • Octavia Hill, the Victorian welfare reformer and co-founder of the National Trust
  • The Bhagavad Ghita, the famous Hindu holy text
  • The dawn of the iron age
  • The medieval university
  • The nature of free will – is it an illusion or not?
  • The age of the universe
  • The Taiping rebellion
  • Maimonides, the Jewish medieval philosopher

Next up: neutrinos.

It’s only about 40 minutes long, you can listen to it every Thursday on Radio 4 or download it as a podcast. And although Melvyn Bragg is a little smug and irritating, it’s well worth listening to.

  • Electric Dragon

    You mean there are people who aren’t already listening to In Our Time?
    I’m not sure I’d use smug to describe Lord Melv, but it’s kind of embarassing how clearly out of his depth he is on some of the science/maths topics – like Ian Stewart or Marcus du Sautoy are off in full flight discussing imaginary numbers or Fermat’s Last Theorem or something and Melv has to pull them back with “sorry to sound dim, but can we just nail down what an equation is?”
    Another historically focussed podcast I enjoy is The History of Rome ( http://thehistoryofrome.typepad.com/ ) – it’s currently up to the fall of the Tetrarchy and the rise of Constantine.

  • “You mean there are people who aren’t already listening to In Our Time? ”
    A few, I guess. You know, Americans, that kind of crowd.
    “I’m not sure I’d use smug to describe Lord Melv”
    He can be very smug and pleased with himself on some of them. It was quite cringeworthy the way he was ordering some female academic around on one of the shows a couple of months ago.
    “Another historically focussed podcast I enjoy is The History of Rome”
    Not a big fan of Roman history. Never seem to find it enjoyable for some reason. Much prefer Ancient and Classical Greek history – right up to Alexander the Great, in other words. The Open Yale iTunes U podcasts are absolutely brilliant:
    http://oyc.yale.edu/classics/introduction-to-ancient-greek-history/

  • “You mean there are people who aren’t already listening to In Our Time? ”
    A few, I guess. You know, Americans, that kind of crowd.
    “I’m not sure I’d use smug to describe Lord Melv”
    He can be very smug and pleased with himself on some of them. It was quite cringeworthy the way he was ordering some female academic around on one of the shows a couple of months ago.
    “Another historically focussed podcast I enjoy is The History of Rome”
    Not a big fan of Roman history. Never seem to find it enjoyable for some reason. Much prefer Ancient and Classical Greek history – right up to Alexander the Great, in other words. The Open Yale iTunes U podcasts are absolutely brilliant:
    http://oyc.yale.edu/classics/introduction-to-ancient-greek-history/

  • bob

    “I’m not sure I’d use smug to describe Lord Melv, but it’s kind of embarassing how clearly out of his depth he is on some of the science/maths topics – like Ian Stewart or Marcus du Sautoy are off in full flight discussing imaginary numbers or Fermat’s Last Theorem or something and Melv has to pull them back with “sorry to sound dim, but can we just nail down what an equation is?””
    Ha, so true. He sometimes gets very bullish when he doesn’t understand something and can push the conversation away from interesting areas with his own ideas of what they *should* be talking about. But on the occasions when he lets the experts just talk amongst themselves, the show is truly brilliant.
    My dad swore blind that Melvyn Bragg and a female expert on the Industrial Revolution came to blows but when I listened to the podcast, I heard none of it… Anyone know if they are edited (for vanity reasons…)?

  • Having had a very good friend of mine appear on an ep of IOT with Lordy Lordy Melv, I can report that he is (a) a bit lechy, (b) relies heavily on his researchers even on seemingly well known arts topics [so heaven only knows about the science/tech ones] and (c) will frequently cite back as his own interpretations statements and ideas that the contributing academics have discussed with said researchers.
    Sure none of this is revelatory to anyone, but it did make me laugh when listening to her episode and subsequent series….
    Great podcast though.