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20
FEB

The Valladolid Debate

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the debate in Valladolid, Spain in 1550, over Spanish rights to enslave the native peoples in the newly conquered lands. Bartolomé de Las Casas (pictured above), the Bishop of Chiapas, Mexico, was trying to end the encomienda system in which those who now owned the land could also take the people in forced labour. Juan Gines Sepulveda, a philosopher, argued for the colonists' property rights over people, asserting that some native Americans were 'natural slaves' as defined by Aristotle. Valladolid became seen as the first open attempt by European colonists to discuss the ethics of slavery, and Las Casas became known as 'Saviour of the Indians' and an advocate for human rights, although for some time he argued that African slaves be imported to do the work in place of the native people, before repenting.

With

Caroline Dodds Pennock
Senior Lecturer in International History at the University of Sheffield

John Edwards
Faculty Fellow in Spanish at the University of Oxford

And

Julia McClure
Lecturer in Late Medieval and Early Modern Global History at the University of Glasgow

Producer: Simon Tillotson
13
FEB

Battle of the Teutoburg Forest

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the great Roman military disaster of 9 AD when Germanic tribes under Arminius ambushed and destroyed three legions under Varus. According to Suetonius, emperor Augustus hit his head against the wall when he heard the news, calling on Varus to give him back his legions. The defeat ended Roman expansion east of the Rhine. Victory changed the development of the Germanic peoples, both in the centuries that followed and in the nineteenth century when Arminius, by then known as Herman, became a rallying point for German nationalism.

With

Peter Heather

Ellen O'Gorman

And

Matthew Nicholls

Producer: Simon Tillotson
06
FEB

George Sand

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the works and life of one of the most popular writers in Europe in C19th, Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin (1804-1876) who wrote under the name George Sand. When she wrote her first novel under that name, she referred to herself as a man. This was in Indiana (1832), which had the main character breaking away from her unhappy marriage. It made an immediate impact as it overturned the social conventions of the time and it drew on her own early marriage to an older man, Casimir Dudevant. Once Sand's identity was widely known, her works became extremely popular in French and in translation, particularly her rural novels, outselling Hugo and Balzac in Britain, perhaps buoyed by an interest in her personal life, as well as by her ideas on the rights and education of women and strength of her writing.

With

Belinda Jack
Fellow and Tutor in French at Christ Church, University of Oxford

Angela Ryan
Senior Lecturer in French at University College Cork

And

Nigel Harkness
Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Humanities and Social Sciences and Professor of French at Newcastle University

Producer: Simon Tillotson
30
JAN

Alcuin

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Alcuin of York, c735-804AD, who promoted education as a goal in itself, and had a fundamental role in the renaissance at Charlemagne's court. He wrote poetry and many letters, hundreds of which survive and provide insight into his life and times. He was born in or near York and spent most of his life in Northumbria before accepting an invitation to Charlemagne's court in Aachen. To this he brought Anglo-Saxon humanism, encouraging a broad liberal education for itself and the better to understand Christian doctrine. He left to be abbot at Marmoutier, Tours, where the monks were developing the Carolingian script that influenced the Roman typeface.

The image above is Alcuin’s portrait, found in a copy of the Bible made at his monastery in Tours during the rule of his successor Abbot Adalhard (834–843). Painted in red on gold leaf, it shows Alcuin with a tonsure and a halo, signifying respect for his memory at the monastery where he had died in 804. His name and rank are spelled out alongside: Alcvinvs abba, ‘Alcuin the abbot’. It is held at the Staatsbibliothek Bamberg -Kaiser-Heinrich-Bibliothek - Msc.Bibl.1,fol.5v (photo by Gerald Raab).

With

Joanna Story
Professor of Early Medieval History at the University of Leicester

Andy Orchard
Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at the University of Oxford and a fellow of Pembroke College

And

Mary Garrison
Lecturer in History at the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of York

Producer: Simon Tillotson
09
JAN

Catullus

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Catullus (c84-c54 BC) who wrote some of the most sublime poetry in the late Roman Republic, and some of the most obscene. He found a new way to write about love, in poems to the mysterious Lesbia, married and elusive, and he influenced Virgil and Ovid and others, yet his explicit poems were to blight his reputation for a thousand years. Once the one surviving manuscript was discovered in the Middle Ages, though, anecdotally as a plug in a wine butt, he inspired Petrarch and the Elizabethan poets, as he continues to inspire many today.

The image above is of Lesbia and her Sparrow, 1860, artist unknown

With

Gail Trimble
Brown Fellow and Tutor in Classics at Trinity College at the University of Oxford

Simon Smith
Reader in Creative Writing at the University of Kent, poet and translator of Catullus

and

Maria Wyke
Professor of Latin at University College London

Producer: Simon Tillotson
09
JAN

Catullus

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Catullus (c84-c54 BC) who wrote some of the most sublime poetry in the late Roman Republic, and some of the most obscene. He found a new way to write about love, in poems to the mysterious Lesbia, married and elusive, and he influenced Virgil and Ovid and others, yet his explicit poems were to blight his reputation for a thousand years. Once the one surviving manuscript was discovered in the Middle Ages, though, anecdotally as a plug in a wine butt, he inspired Petrarch and the Elizabethan poets, as he continues to inspire many today.

The image above is of Lesbia and her Sparrow, 1860, artist unknown

With

Gail Trimble
Brown Fellow and Tutor in Classics at Trinity College at the University of Oxford

Simon Smith
Reader in Creative Writing at the University of Kent, poet and translator of Catullus

and

Maria Wyke
Professor of Latin at University College London

Producer: Simon Tillotson
26
DEC
2019

Tutankhamun

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the discovery in 1922 of Tutankhamun's 3000 year old tomb and its impact on the understanding of ancient Egypt, both academic and popular. The riches, such as the death mask above, were spectacular and made the reputation of Howard Carter who led the excavation. And if the astonishing contents of the tomb were not enough, the drama of the find and the control of how it was reported led to a craze for 'King Tut' that has rarely subsided and has enthused and sometimes confused people around the world, seeking to understand the reality of Tutankhamun's life and times.

With

Elizabeth Frood
Associate Professor of Egyptology, Director of the Griffith Institute and Fellow of St Cross at the University of Oxford

Christina Riggs
Professor of the History of Visual Culture at Durham University and a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford

And

John Taylor
Curator at the Department of Egypt and Sudan at the British Museum

Producer: Simon Tillotson
12
DEC
2019

Coffee

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history and social impact of coffee. From its origins in Ethiopia, coffea arabica spread through the Ottoman Empire before reaching Western Europe where, in the 17th century, coffee houses were becoming established. There, caffeinated customers stayed awake for longer and were more animated, and this helped to spread ideas and influence culture. Coffee became a colonial product, grown by slaves or indentured labour, with coffea robusta replacing arabica where disease had struck, and was traded extensively by the Dutch and French empires; by the 19th century, Brazil had developed into a major coffee producer, meeting demand in the USA that had grown on the waggon trails.

With

Judith Hawley
Professor of 18th Century Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London

Markman Ellis
Professor of 18th Century Studies at Queen Mary University of London

And

Jonathan Morris
Professor in Modern History at the University of Hertfordshire

Producer: Simon Tillotson
05
DEC
2019

Lawrence of Arabia

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss T.E. Lawrence (1888 - 1935), better known as Lawrence of Arabia, a topic drawn from over 1200 suggestions for our Listener Week 2019. Although Lawrence started as an archaeologist in the Middle East, when World War I broke out he joined the British army and became an intelligence officer. His contact with a prominent Arab leader, Sharif Hussein, made him sympathetic to Hussein’s cause and during the Arab Revolt of 1916 he not only served the British but also the interests of Hussein. After the war he was dismayed by the peace settlement and felt that the British had broken an assurance that Sharif Hussein would lead a new Arab kingdom. Lawrence was made famous by the work of Lowell Thomas, whose film of Lawrence drew huge audiences in 1919, which led to his own book Seven Pillars of Wisdom and David Lean’s 1962 film with Peter O'Toole.

In previous Listener Weeks, we've discussed Kafka's The Trial, The Voyages of Captain Cook, Garibaldi and the Risorgimento, Moby Dick and The Thirty Years War.

With

Hussein Omar
Lecturer in Modern Global History at University College Dublin

Catriona Pennell
Associate Professor of Modern History and Memory Studies at the University of Exeter

Neil Faulkner
Director of Military History Live and Editor of the magazine Military History Matters

Producer: Simon Tillotson
28
NOV
2019

Li Shizhen

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and ideas of Li Shizhen (1518-1593) whose compendium of natural medicines is celebrated in China as the most complete survey of natural remedies of its time. He trained as a doctor and worked at the Ming court before spending almost 30 years travelling in China, inspecting local plants and animals for their properties, trying them out on himself and then describing his findings in his Compendium of Materia Medica or Bencao Gangmu, in 53 volumes. He's been called the uncrowned king of Chinese naturalists, and became a scientific hero in the 20th century after the revolution.

With

Craig Clunas
Professor Emeritus in the History of Art at the University of Oxford

Anne Gerritsen
Professor in History at the University of Warwick

And

Roel Sterckx
Joseph Needham Professor of Chinese History at the University of Cambridge

Producer: Simon Tillotson
21
NOV
2019

Melisende, Queen of Jerusalem

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the most powerful woman in the Crusader states in the century after the First Crusade. Melisende (1105-61) was born and raised after the mainly Frankish crusaders had taken Jerusalem from the Fatimids, and her father was King of Jerusalem. She was married to Fulk from Anjou, on the understanding they would rule together, and for 30 years she vied with him and then their son as they struggled to consolidate their Frankish state in the Holy Land.

The image above is of the coronation of Fulk with Melisende, from Livre d'Eracles, Guillaume de Tyr (1130?-1186)
Source: Bibliothèque nationale de France

With

Natasha Hodgson
Senior Lecturer in Medieval History and Director of the Centre for the Study of Religion and Conflict at Nottingham Trent University

Katherine Lewis
Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Huddersfield

and

Danielle Park
Visiting Lecturer at Royal Holloway, University of London

Producer: Simon Tillotson
07
NOV
2019

The Treaty of Limerick

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the 1691 peace treaty that ended the Williamite War in Ireland, between supporters of the deposed King James II and the forces of William III and his allies. It followed the battles at Aughrim and the Boyne and sieges at Limerick, and led to the disbanding of the Jacobite army in Ireland, with troops free to follow James to France for his Irish Brigade. The Catholic landed gentry were guaranteed rights on condition of swearing loyalty to William and Mary yet, while some Protestants thought the terms too lenient, it was said the victors broke those terms before the ink was dry.

The image above is from British Battles on Land and Sea, Vol. I, by James Grant, 1880, and is meant to show Irish troops leaving Limerick as part of The Flight of the Wild Geese - a term used for soldiers joining continental European armies from C16th-C18th.

With

Jane Ohlmeyer
Chair of the Irish Research Council and Erasmus Smith’s Professor of Modern History at Trinity College Dublin

Clare Jackson
Member of the History Faculty at the University of Cambridge and Senior Tutor of Trinity Hall

and

Thomas O'Connor
Professor of History at Maynooth University

Producer: Simon Tillotson

33 episodes

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