Coffee

In Our Time | 12 December 2019 | 0h 55m | Listen Later | iTunes
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history and social impact of coffee. Covers its origins in Ethiopia, spread through the Ottoman Empire, introduction to European coffee houses, spread with colonial trade, and its modern economy.

Malthusianism

In Our Time | 22 June 2011 | 0h 42m | Listen Later
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Malthusianism. Thomas Malthus argued that with population increasing exponentially, that food production could not keep pace – eventually a crisis would ensue. He suggested that famine, disease and wars acted as a natural corrective to overpopulation, and also suggested a number of ways in which humans could regulate their own numbers. The work caused a furore and fuelled debate about the size and sustainability of the human population ever since.

Napoleon’s Retreat from Moscow

In Our Time | 19 September 2019 | 0h 54m | Listen Later | iTunes
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how, in September 1812, Napoleon captured Moscow and waited a month for the Russians to meet him, to surrender and why, to his dismay, no-one came. Soon his triumph was revealed as a great defeat; winter was coming, supplies were low; he ordered his Grande Armée of six hundred thousand to retreat and, by the time he crossed back over the border, desertion, disease, capture, Cossacks and cold had reduced that to twenty thousand. Napoleon had shown his weakness; his Prussian allies changed sides and, within eighteen months they, the Russians and Austrians had captured Paris and the Emperor was exiled to Elba.

The Inca

In Our Time | 13 June 2019 | 0h 52m | Listen Later | iTunes
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how the people of Cusco, in modern Peru, established an empire along the Andes down to the Pacific under their supreme leader Pachacuti. Before him, their control grew slowly from C13th and was at its peak after him when Pizarro arrived with his Conquistadors and captured their empire for Spain in 1533.

Game Theory

In Our Time | 10 May 2012 | 0h 41m | Listen Later | iTunes
Discusses game theory, the mathematical study of decision-making, which entails devising ‘games’ to simulate situations of conflict or cooperation. It allows researchers to unravel decision-making strategies, and even to establish why certain types of behaviour emerge. Game theory is now a vital tool in fields such as evolutionary biology, economics, computing and philosophy.

Fungi

In Our Time | 15 February 2018 | 0h 48m | Listen Later  | iTunes
Discusses fungi: organisms which are not plants or animals but a kingdom of their own. The millions of species of fungi play a crucial role in ecosystems, enabling plants to obtain nutrients and causing material to decay. Without fungi, life as we know it simply would not exist. They also make possible the production of bread, wine and certain antibiotics.

The Bronze Age Collapse

In Our Time | 16 June 2016 | 0h 47m | Listen Later  | iTunes
Discusses the Bronze Age Collapse, the sudden, uncontrolled destruction of dominant civilisations around 1200 BC in the Aegean, Eastern Mediterranean and Anatolia. Explores potential reasons for the collapse including droughts, rebellions, the breakdown of trade as copper became less desirable, earthquakes, invasions, volcanoes and the mysterious Sea Peoples.

The Thirty Years War

In Our Time | 6 December 2018 | 0h 50m | Listen Later  | iTunes
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the war in Europe which began in 1618 and continued on such a scale and with such devastation that its like was not seen for another three hundred years. It pitched Catholics against Protestants, Lutherans against Calvinists and Catholics against Catholics across the Holy Roman Empire, drawing in their neighbours. Many more civilians died than soldiers, and famine was so great that even cannibalism was excused.