October 19, 2013

In Our Time

Tags: History, Podcasts

Available on iTunes with a BBC website.

In Our Time is a BBC radio show featuring discussions on the history of a single topic - a person, event or idea. It has been running for 15 years with over 500 episodes. A rolling archive of the last 2 year’s episodes is available on iTunes with the BBC website having selected older episodes. It is presented by Melvin Bragg, an experienced radio voice, and includes a number of subject specific experts (usually UK university professors). The production quality is excellent. Each podcast runs to 45 minutes, audio-only, and is a 20MB download.

The breadth of subjects and regularity of production means there is normally a topic of interest in this series. The themes are not constrained to any region or culture (although anecdotally Europe is most common). Focusing on world history upto around 1000 AD, I have listened to 15, downloaded another 10, and only time constraints prevent me listening to more.

The discussion in each episode is clearly directed by Melvyn (often following his interests) and can resemble an interview on occasion. The episodes on Vitruvius and Hippocrates spent as much time on the impact of the subject’s signature work through the ages, as they did on the subject themselves. For instance, reference to Hippocratic Oath on opposite sides of the medical experimentation argument by both Nazi doctors and those who prosecuted them. Due to time limits rarely does the talk get beyond the basic outlines of the issue. The 45 minutes on Hannibal was unsurprisingly scanty compared to the multi-hour Stanford course. Still, interesting topics are regularly examined and good points raised. I knew little on the intriguing Christian offshoot/heresy Gnosticism until listening to the discussion on it - I spent some time on the Wikipedia page afterwards.

Entertaining series providing a little information (or an exemplary introductory taster) on many topics.