The In Our Time archive is now online in full: 449 episodes so far, going back to 1998. A large part was available before. Now all of it is. That’s a fortnight’s listening if you don’t sleep.
In Our Time is the septuagenarian Melvyn Bragg’s weekly BBC Radio 4 discussion on anything cultural, historical, philosophical or scientific: he says “history of ideas”, a misdescription. It’s also a podcast. A Wikipedia list shows every programme, with contributors, on a single page.
Many contributors are from London University. The second (on Politics in the 20th Century) had Gore Vidal and Alan Clark. Nowadays it is more academic.
Not every programme hits the mark. One could parody Bragg’s manner as moderator: “We’ve got the influence of Aristotle flowing in there, I’m just trying to get the discussion driving forward.” “We’ve got the Silk Road … can we cut to the chase.” Most people, to be fair, are vague about the Silk Road. If you doubt that, watch this hilarious discussion, moderated by Nik Gowing, about a “new” silk road, at a WEF meeting in Istanbul in 2008. I was there.
We’re always in an era of “intellectual ferment”, in which “almost everything is up for grabs”.
There’s a vagueness of contour to many of the conversations. No matter what the subject, it can all sound curiously the same.
But it’s still one of the better things on one of the world’s better radio channels.