I keep nagging you about the BBC4 radio program In Our Time, and I just want to make sure you are taking me seriously.
Listen to it.
There are hundreds of episodes from which to choose on all matters cultural, literary, historical and scientific. It’s a far better use of 42 minutes of your time that you spend doing chores, driving somewhere or exercising than the latest episode of Ellen or some such.
In short: it’s a discussion program between host Melvyn Bragg and three academics. There has been preparation, of course. Melvyn has had his notes, and the program is tightly structured, but it never gives the sense of being scripted. Real discussions and disagreements happen, and as an added treat, the podcasts now include about 5-10 minutes of post-broadcast discussion.
I’m always deeply impressed by the lack of cant and ideology, and, when it’s a factor, the fair treatment of religion.
I’ve only started listening to one episode that I just couldn’t finish, and that was on the whale. I can dredge up enough interest in, say, the Corn Laws to forge on, but the evolutionary journey of the whale…no. Don’t care.
So the latest:
The program on the Baroque was lovely. I was ready to hear the Baroque dismissed as so much superficial fanciness, but I should have known better. The discussion was quite illuminating, emphasizing that Baroque design and architecture was an expression of the meeting of heaven and earth – finding a way to let heaven burst into the earthly realm.
The microscope? Another intriguing discussion of the impact of accumulating scientific work.
Hadrian’s Wall – Why there and how? Also, most intriguingly to me, as always, questions of historiography and contemporary archaeology, for only a very small percentage of Hadrian’s Wall has been excavated, and new discoveries are continually being made.
The Domesday Book broadened my understanding of the Norman Conquest and gave voice to differing views on its impact, and, by extension, much food for thought on unintended consequences of historical events.
The program on the 1884 Berlin Conference in which Africa was carved up by European powers was a really bracing, enlightening romp through palm oil, Stanley and Livingston, King Leopold of Belgium, the fading Ottoman Empire, the complexity of Africa and Africans as agents, not just victims, and more. Really, one of the best of the series, and that’s saying a lot.