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In Our Time (BBC Radio 4)

In Our Time (BBC Radio 4)

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In Our Time is a live BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 radio discussion series exploring the history of ideas
History of ideas
The history of ideas is a field of research in history that deals with the expression, preservation, and change of human ideas over time. The history of ideas is a sister-discipline to, or a particular approach within, intellectual history...

, presented by Melvyn Bragg
Melvyn Bragg
Melvyn Bragg, Baron Bragg FRSL FRTS FBA, FRS FRSA is an English broadcaster and author best known for his work with the BBC and for presenting the The South Bank Show...

 since 15 October 1998.BBC In our time. It is one of BBC radio's most successful discussion programmes, acknowledged to have "transformed the landscape for serious ideas at peak listening time". As of March 2011, 500 episodes have been aired
and the series is attracting a weekly audience above two million.

Programme



The series, devised and produced by Olivia Seligman (with others) and produced by Charlie Taylor and James Cook, runs weekly throughout the year on BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4 is a British domestic radio station, operated and owned by the BBC, that broadcasts a wide variety of spoken-word programmes, including news, drama, comedy, science and history. It replaced the BBC Home Service in 1967. The station controller is currently Gwyneth Williams, and the...

, except for a summer break of approximately six weeks between July and September. Each programme covers a specific historical, philosophical, religious, artistic or scientific topic. Melvyn Bragg
Melvyn Bragg
Melvyn Bragg, Baron Bragg FRSL FRTS FBA, FRS FRSA is an English broadcaster and author best known for his work with the BBC and for presenting the The South Bank Show...

, hosts discussion of the week's subject featuring what Bragg has characterized as "three absolutely top-class academics" on the subject. The programme is normally broadcast live and unedited on Thursday mornings at 9am, lasting around 42 minutes, and is then available on-line. Bragg begins each episode with a short summary of the week's topic, then introduces the three guests. He guides the discussion along a generally chronological route. Bragg then either concludes the programme himself or invites remarks summation from one of the specialists.
The programme is normally broadcast weekly (on a Thursday) from September to July. It takes a summer break after early July.

The programme is considered one of the BBC's most successful projects, acknowledged to have "transformed the landscape for serious ideas at peak listening time".Guardian article: Melvyn Bragg: 'Life has a way of biting you on the ankles' 27 March 2010 Frequent contributors to the programme since 1998 include A. C. Grayling
A. C. Grayling
Anthony Clifford Grayling is a British philosopher. In 2011 he founded and became the first Master of New College of the Humanities, a private undergraduate college in London. Until June 2011, he was Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London, where he taught from 1991...

, Angie Hobbs
Angie Hobbs
Angela Hunter Hobbs is a British philosopher. Hobbs is a Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Warwick, and was previously a Research Fellow at Christ's College, Cambridge. She has a First Class Honours Degree in Classics acquired at New Hall, Cambridge and a PhD in Classical Philosophy from...

, Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart (mathematician)
Ian Nicholas Stewart FRS is a professor of mathematics at the University of Warwick, England, and a widely known popular-science and science-fiction writer. He is the first recipient of the , awarded jointly by the LMS and the IMA for his work on promoting mathematics.-Biography:Stewart was born...

, Simon Schaffer
Simon Schaffer
Simon Schaffer . He is a professor of the history and philosophy of science at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge University and was until recently editor of The British Journal for the History of Science.-Life:Schaffer was born in Southampton and attended Varndean...

, Martin Palmer  and John Mullan
John Mullan
John Mullan is a Professor of English at University College London. He specialises in 18th century fiction. He is currently working on the 18th-century section of the new Oxford English Literary History....

.

Production


In a November 2009 interview, Bragg described how he prepares for each show: "It's not easy, but I like reading. I enjoy what was called swotting in my day. I get the notes late Friday afternoon for the following Thursday morning. I find all the spare time I can for reading, get up very early on a Thursday morning, have a final two hours of nervousness, and away we go."

History



In Our Time was conceived for Bragg in 1998 after he was forced to quit his decade-long role as presenter for Start the Week
Start the Week
Start the Week is a discussion programme broadcast on BBC Radio 4 which began in April 1970. The current presenter is the former BBC political editor Andrew Marr...

due to a perceived conflict of interest arising from his appointment as a Labour life peer
Life peer
In the United Kingdom, life peers are appointed members of the Peerage whose titles cannot be inherited. Nowadays life peerages, always of baronial rank, are created under the Life Peerages Act 1958 and entitle the holders to seats in the House of Lords, presuming they meet qualifications such as...

. He was offered the Thursday "death-slot" and decided he would "do what [he] always wanted to do," and "hastily battered out a simple idea" with producer Olivia Seligman expecting the show would only last a few months. By September 1999, he had taken a time slot that was previously attracting an audience of 600,000 and grown it to 1.5 million. By 2000, the half-hour show was expanded to 45 minutes and to include three guest speakers. In 2005, the programme was made available as a podcast
Podcast
A podcast is a series of digital media files that are released episodically and often downloaded through web syndication...

 from the BBC website and iTunes
ITunes
iTunes is a media player computer program, used for playing, downloading, and organizing digital music and video files on desktop computers. It can also manage contents on iPod, iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad....

 for one week after broadcast.

In 2005, listeners were invited to vote in a popularity contest for the "greatest philosopher in history" with the winner selected as the subject of the final programme before the summer break. With 30,000 votes cast,Greatest Philosopher poll the contest was won by Karl Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

 with 27.9% of the votes. Other shortlisted figures were David Hume
David Hume
David Hume was a Scottish philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist, known especially for his philosophical empiricism and skepticism. He was one of the most important figures in the history of Western philosophy and the Scottish Enlightenment...

 (12.7%), Ludwig Wittgenstein
Ludwig Wittgenstein
Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein was an Austrian philosopher who worked primarily in logic, the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of language. He was professor in philosophy at the University of Cambridge from 1939 until 1947...

 (6.8%), Friedrich Nietzsche
Friedrich Nietzsche
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a 19th-century German philosopher, poet, composer and classical philologist...

 (6.5%), Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

 (5.6%), Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher from Königsberg , researching, lecturing and writing on philosophy and anthropology at the end of the 18th Century Enlightenment....

 (5.6%), Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas, O.P. , also Thomas of Aquin or Aquino, was an Italian Dominican priest of the Catholic Church, and an immensely influential philosopher and theologian in the tradition of scholasticism, known as Doctor Angelicus, Doctor Communis, or Doctor Universalis...

 (4.8%), Socrates
Socrates
Socrates was a classical Greek Athenian philosopher. Credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, he is an enigmatic figure known chiefly through the accounts of later classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon, and the plays of his contemporary ...

 (4.8%), Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

 (4.5%) and Karl Popper
Karl Popper
Sir Karl Raimund Popper, CH FRS FBA was an Austro-British philosopher and a professor at the London School of Economics...

 (4.2%). The poll was controversial but led to widespread reporting, and a boost in the programs overall listenership, as various UK celebrities and news outlets championed their favourites.

In 2009, selected transcripts of episodes from the programme were compiled in the book In Our Time: A Companion to the Radio 4 series, edited by Bragg .

Since 2010, every episode of the programme has been available from its website as streaming audio, making it one of the first BBC programmes to have its entire archive released.

Since October 2011, the entire archive has been available to download as individual podcasts.

External links

  • In Our Time BBC Radio 4
    BBC Radio 4
    BBC Radio 4 is a British domestic radio station, operated and owned by the BBC, that broadcasts a wide variety of spoken-word programmes, including news, drama, comedy, science and history. It replaced the BBC Home Service in 1967. The station controller is currently Gwyneth Williams, and the...

    homepage, with iPlayer archive of past programmes