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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.

347 - The Theory of the Leisure Class
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  • 347 - The Theory of the Leisure Class

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the most influential work of Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929). In 1899, during America’s Gilded Age, Veblen wrote The Theory of the Leisure Class as a reminder that all that glisters is not gold. He picked on traits of the waning landed class of Americans and showed how the new moneyed class was adopting these in ways that led to greater waste throughout society. He called these conspicuous leisure and conspicuous consumption and he developed a critique of a system that favoured profits for owners without regard to social good. The Theory of the Leisure Class was a best seller and funded Veblen for the rest of his life, and his ideas influenced the New Deal of the 1930s. Since then, an item that becomes more desirable as it becomes more expensive is known as a Veblen good.

    With

    Matthew Watson Professor of Political Economy at the University of Warwick

    Bill Waller Professor of Economics at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, New York

    And

    Mary Wrenn Senior Lecturer in Economics at the University of the West of England

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    Reading list:

    Charles Camic, Veblen: The Making of an Economist who Unmade Economics (Harvard University Press, 2021)

    John P. Diggins, Thorstein Veblen: Theorist of the Leisure Class (Princeton University Press, 1999)

    John P. Diggins, The Bard of Savagery: Thorstein Veblen and Modern Social Theory (Seabury Press, 1978)

    John Kenneth Galbraith, The Affluent Society (Penguin, 1999) Robert Heilbroner, The Worldly Philosophers: The Lives, Times and Ideas of the Great Economic Thinkers (Penguin, 2000), particularly the chapter ‘The Savage Society of Thorstein Veblen’

    Ken McCormick, Veblen in Plain English: A Complete Introduction to Thorstein Veblen’s Economics (Cambria Press, 2006)

    Sidney Plotkin and Rick Tilman, The Political Ideas of Thorstein Veblen (Yale University Press, 2012)

    Juliet B. Schor, The Overspent American: Why We Want What We Don't Need (William Morrow & Company, 1999)

    Juliet B. Schor, Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture (Simon & Schuster Ltd, 2005)

    Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class (first published 1899; Oxford University Press, 2009)

    Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of Business Enterprise (first published 1904; Legare Street Press, 2022)

    Thorstein Veblen, The Higher Learning in America (first published 2018; Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015)

    Thorstein Veblen, Absentee Ownership and Business Enterprise in Recent Times: The Case of America (first published 1923; Routledge, 2017)

    Thorstein Veblen, Conspicuous Consumption (Penguin, 2005)

    Thorstein Veblen, The Complete Works (Musaicum Books, 2017)

    Charles J. Whalen (ed.), Institutional Economics: Perspective and Methods in Pursuit of a Better World (Routledge, 2021)

    Thu, 14 Dec 2023
  • 346 - The Barbary Corsairs

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the North African privateers who, until their demise in the nineteenth century, were a source of great pride and wealth in their home ports, where they sold the people and goods they’d seized from Christian European ships and coastal towns. Nominally, these corsairs were from Algiers, Tunis or Tripoli, outreaches of the Ottoman empire, or Salé in neighbouring Morocco, but often their Turkish or Arabic names concealed their European birth. Murad Reis the Younger, for example, who sacked Baltimore in 1631, was the Dutchman Jan Janszoon who also had a base on Lundy in the Bristol Channel. While the European crowns negotiated treaties to try to manage relations with the corsairs, they commonly viewed these sailors as pirates who were barely tolerated and, as soon as France, Britain, Spain and later America developed enough sea power, their ships and bases were destroyed.

    With

    Joanna Nolan Research Associate at SOAS, University of London

    Claire Norton Former Associate Professor of History at St Mary’s University, Twickenham

    And Michael Talbot Associate Professor in the History of the Ottoman Empire and the Modern Middle East at the University of Greenwich

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    Reading list:

    Robert C. Davis, Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast and Italy, 1500-1800 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004)

    Peter Earle, Corsairs of Malta and Barbary (Sidgwick and Jackson, 1970)

    Des Ekin, The Stolen Village: Baltimore and the Barbary Pirates (O’Brien Press, 2008)

    Jacques Heers, The Barbary Corsairs: Warfare in the Mediterranean, 1450-1580 (Skyhorse Publishing, 2018)

    Colin Heywood, The Ottoman World: The Mediterranean and North Africa, 1660-1760 (Routledge, 2019)

    Alan Jamieson, Lords of the Sea: A History of the Barbary Corsairs (Reaktion Books, 2013)

    Julie Kalman, The Kings of Algiers: How Two Jewish Families Shaped the Mediterranean World during the Napoleonic Wars and Beyond (Princeton University Press, 2023)

    Stanley Lane-Poole, The Story of the Barbary Corsairs (T. Unwin, 1890)

    Sally Magnusson, The Sealwoman’s Gift (A novel - Two Roads, 2018)

    Philip Mansel, Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean (John Murray, 2010)

    Nabil Matar, Turks, Moors and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery (Columbia University Press, 1999)

    Nabil Matar, Britain and Barbary, 1589-1689 (University Press of Florida, 2005)

    Giles Milton, White Gold: The Extraordinary Story of Thomas Pellow and North Africa’s One Million European Slaves (Hodder and Stoughton, 2004)

    Claire Norton (ed.), Conversion and Islam in the Early Modern Mediterranean: The Lure of the Other (Routledge, 2017)

    Claire Norton, ‘Lust, Greed, Torture and Identity: Narrations of Conversion and the Creation of the Early Modern 'Renegade' (Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 29/2, 2009)

    Daniel Panzac, The Barbary Corsairs: The End of a Legend, 1800-1820 (Brill, 2005)

    Rafael Sabatini, The Sea Hawk (a novel - Vintage Books, 2011)

    Adrian Tinniswood, Pirates of Barbary: Corsairs, Conquests and Captivity in the 17th century (Vintage Books, 2010)

    D. Vitkus (ed.), Piracy, Slavery and Redemption: Barbary Captivity Narratives from Early Modern England (Columbia University Press, 2001)

    J. M. White, Piracy and Law in the Ottoman Mediterranean (Stanford University Press, 2018)

    Thu, 07 Dec 2023
  • 345 - The Federalist Papers

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay's essays written in 1787/8 in support of the new US Constitution. They published these anonymously in New York as 'Publius' but, when it became known that Hamilton and Madison were the main authors, the essays took on a new significance for all states. As those two men played a major part in drafting the Constitution itself, their essays have since informed debate over what the authors of that Constitution truly intended. To some, the essays have proved to be America’s greatest contribution to political thought.

    With

    Frank Cogliano Professor of American History at the University of Edinburgh and Interim Saunders Director of the International Centre for Jefferson Studies at Monticello

    Kathleen Burk Professor Emerita of Modern and Contemporary History at University College London

    And

    Nicholas Guyatt Professor of North American History at the University of Cambridge

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    Reading list:

    Bernard Bailyn, To Begin the World Anew: The Genius and Ambiguities of the American Founders (Knopf, 2003)

    Mary Sarah Bilder, Madison’s Hand: Revising the Constitutional Convention (Harvard University Press, 2015)

    Noah Feldman, The Three Lives of James Madison: Genius, Partisan, President (Random House, 2017)

    Jonathan Gienapp, The Second Creation: Fixing the American Constitution in the Founding Era (Harvard University Press, 2018)

    Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, James Madison (eds. George W. Carey and James McClellan), The Federalist: The Gideon Edition (Liberty Fund, 2001)

    Alison L. LaCroix, The Ideological Origins of American Federalism (Harvard University Press, 2010)

    James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, The Federalist Papers (Penguin, 1987)

    Pauline Maier, Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788 (Simon and Schuster, 2010)

    Michael I. Meyerson, Liberty's Blueprint: How Madison and Hamilton Wrote the Federalist Papers, Defined the Constitution, and Made Democracy Safe for the World (Basic Books, 2008)

    Jack Rakove, Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution (Knopf, 1996)

    Jack N. Rakove and Colleen A. Sheehan, The Cambridge Companion to The Federalist (Cambridge University Press, 2020)

    Thu, 09 Nov 2023
  • 344 - The Economic Consequences of the Peace

    In an extended version of the programme that was broadcast, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the influential book John Maynard Keynes wrote in 1919 after he resigned in protest from his role at the Paris Peace Conference. There the victors of World War One were deciding the fate of the defeated, especially Germany and Austria-Hungary, and Keynes wanted the world to know his view that the economic consequences would be disastrous for all. Soon Germany used his book to support their claim that the Treaty was grossly unfair, a sentiment that fed into British appeasement in the 1930s and has since prompted debate over whether Keynes had only warned of disaster or somehow contributed to it.

    With

    Margaret MacMillan Emeritus Professor of International History at the University of Oxford

    Michael Cox Emeritus Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Founding Director of LSE IDEAS

    And

    Patricia Clavin Professor of Modern History at the University of Oxford

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    Reading list:

    Manfred F. Boemeke, Gerald D. Feldman and Elisabeth Glaser (eds.), The Treaty of Versailles: A Reassessment after 75 Years (Cambridge University Press, 1998)

    Zachary D. Carter, The Price of Peace: Money, Democracy and the Life of John Maynard Keynes (Random House, 2020)

    Peter Clarke, Keynes: The Twentieth Century’s Most Influential Economist (Bloomsbury, 2009)

    Patricia Clavin et al (eds.), Keynes’s Economic Consequences of the Peace after 100 Years: Polemics and Policy (Cambridge University Press, 2023)

    Patricia Clavin, ‘Britain and the Making of Global Order after 1919: The Ben Pimlott Memorial Lecture’ (Twentieth Century British History, Vol. 31:3, 2020)

    Richard Davenport-Hines, Universal Man; The Seven Lives of John Maynard Keynes (William Collins, 2015)

    R. F. Harrod, John Maynard Keynes (first published 1951; Pelican, 1972)

    Jens Holscher and Matthias Klaes (eds), Keynes’s Economic Consequences of the Peace: A Reappraisal (Pickering & Chatto, 2014)

    John Maynard Keynes (with an introduction by Michael Cox), The Economic Consequences of the Peace (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019)

    Margaret MacMillan, Peacemakers: Six Months that Changed the World (John Murray Publishers, 2001)

    Etienne Mantoux, The Carthaginian Peace or the Economic Consequences of Mr. Keynes (Oxford University Press, 1946) D. E. Moggridge, Maynard Keynes: An Economist’s Biography (Routledge, 1992)

    Alan Sharp, Versailles 1919: A Centennial Perspective (Haus Publishing Ltd, 2018)

    Robert Skidelsky, John Maynard Keynes, 1883-1946 (Pan Macmillan, 2004)

    Jürgen Tampke, A Perfidious Distortion of History: The Versailles Peace Treaty and the Success of the Nazis (Scribe UK, 2017)

    Adam Tooze, The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931 (Penguin Books, 2015)

    Thu, 26 Oct 2023
  • 343 - Louis XIV: The Sun King

    In 1661 the 23 year-old French king Louis the XIV had been on the throne for 18 years when his chief minister, Cardinal Mazarin, died. Louis is reported to have said to his ministers, “It is now time that I govern my affairs myself. You will assist me with your counsels when I ask for them [but] I order you to seal no orders except by my command… I order you not to sign anything, not even a passport, without my command, and to render account to me personally each day”

    So began the personal rule of Louis XIV, which lasted a further 54 years until his death in 1715. From his newly-built palace at Versailles, Louis was able to project an image of himself as the centre of gravity around which all of France revolved: it’s no accident that he became known as the Sun King. He centralized power to the extent he was able to say ‘L’etat c’est moi’: I am the state. Under his rule France became the leading diplomatic, military and cultural power in Europe.

    With

    Catriona Seth Marshal Foch Professor of French Literature at the University of Oxford

    Guy Rowlands Professor of Early Modern History at the University of St Andrews

    and

    Penny Roberts Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Warwick

    Producer: Luke Mulhall

    Thu, 22 Jun 2023
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