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In Our Time: History

In Our Time: History

BBC Radio 4

Historical themes, events and key individuals from Akhenaten to Xenophon.

305 - Marcus Aurelius
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  • 305 - Marcus Aurelius

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the man who, according to Machiavelli, was the last of the Five Good Emperors. Marcus Aurelius, 121 to 180 AD, has long been known as a model of the philosopher king, a Stoic who, while on military campaigns, compiled ideas on how best to live his life, and how best to rule. These ideas became known as his Meditations, and they have been treasured by many as an insight into the mind of a Roman emperor, and an example of how to avoid the corruption of power in turbulent times. The image above shows part of a bronze equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius. With Simon Goldhill Professor of Greek Literature and Culture and Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge Angie Hobbs Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield And Catharine Edwards Professor of Classics and Ancient History at Birkbeck, University of London Producer: Simon Tillotson

    Thu, 25 Feb 2021
  • 304 - The Plague of Justinian

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the plague that broke out in Constantinople 541AD, in the reign of Emperor Justinian. According to the historian Procopius, writing in Byzantium at the time, this was a plague by which the whole human race came near to being destroyed, embracing the whole world, and blighting the lives of all mankind. The bacterium behind the Black Death has since been found on human remains from that time, and the symptoms described were the same, and evidence of this plague has since been traced around the Mediterranean and from Syria to Britain and Ireland. The question of how devastating it truly was, though, is yet to be resolved. With John Haldon Professor of Byzantine History and Hellenic Studies Emeritus at Princeton University Rebecca Flemming Senior Lecturer in Classics at the University of Cambridge And Greg Woolf Director of the Institute of Classical Studies, University of London Producer: Simon Tillotson

    Thu, 21 Jan 2021
  • 303 - The Cultural Revolution

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Chairman Mao and the revolt he led within his own party from 1966, setting communists against each other, to renew the revolution that he feared had become too bourgeois and to remove his enemies and rivals. Universities closed and the students formed Red Guard factions to attack the 'four olds' - old ideas, culture, habits and customs - and they also turned on each other, with mass violence on the streets and hundreds of thousands of deaths. Over a billion copies of Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book were printed to support his cult of personality, before Mao himself died in 1976 and the revolution came to an end. The image above is of Red Guards, holding The Little Red Book, cheering Mao during a meeting to celebrate the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution at Tiananmen Square, Beijing, August 1966 With Rana Mitter Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China and Fellow of St Cross College, University of Oxford Sun Peidong Visiting Professor at the Center for International Studies at Sciences Po, Paris And Julia Lovell Professor in Modern Chinese History and Literature at Birkbeck, University of London Produced by Simon Tillotson and Julia Johnson

    Thu, 17 Dec 2020
  • 302 - The Zong Massacre

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the notorious events off Jamaica in 1781 and their background. The British slave ship Zong, having sailed across the Atlantic towards Jamaica, threw 132 enslaved Africans from its human cargo into the sea to drown. Even for a slave ship, the Zong was overcrowded; those murdered were worth more to the ship dead than alive. The crew said there was not enough drinking water to go round and they had no choice, which meant they could claim for the deaths on insurance. The main reason we know of this atrocity now is that the owners took their claim to court in London, and the insurers were at first told to pay up as if the dead slaves were any other lost goods, not people. Abolitionists in Britain were scandalised: if courts treated mass murder in the slave trade as just another business transaction and not a moral wrong, the souls of the nation would be damned. But nobody was ever prosecuted. The image above is of sailors throwing slaves overboard, from Torrey's 'American Slave Trade', 1822 With Vincent Brown Charles Warren, professor of American history and professor of African and African American studies at Harvard University Bronwen Everill Class of 1973, lecturer in history and fellow at Gonville and Caius College, University of Cambridge And Jake Subryan Richards assistant professor of History at the London School of Economics Studio production: Hannah Sander

    Thu, 26 Nov 2020
  • 301 - Maria Theresa

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Maria Theresa (1717-1780) who inherited the Austrian throne in 1740 at the age of 23. Her neighbours circled like wolves and, within two months, Frederick the Great had seized one of her most prized lands, Silesia, exploiting her vulnerability. Yet over the next forty years through political reforms, alliances and marriages, she built Austria up into a formidable power, and she would do whatever it took to save the souls of her Catholic subjects, with a rigidity and intolerance that Joseph II, her son and heir, could not wait to challenge. With Catriona Seth Marshal Foch Professor of French Literature at the University of Oxford Martyn Rady Professor of Central European History at University College London And Thomas Biskup Lecturer in Early Modern History at the University of Hull Producer: Simon Tillotson

    Thu, 22 Oct 2020