In Our Time (BBC Radio 4)

In Our Time (BBC Radio 4)

"In Our Time" is a discussion programme hosted by Melvyn Bragg on BBC Radio 4 in the United Kingdom. It is usually broadcast on Thursday mornings at 9am with a shortened repeat at 9.30pm the same day.

About the series

"In Our Time" is described as a series investigating the "history of ideas". The series covers many different subjects from history, religion, philosophy, the arts or science, one of which is explored in each programme by the presenter Melvyn Bragg with the help of three experts on the subject. The series runs throughout the year except for a summer break of approximately six weeks between July and September. It is currently produced by James Cook.

The BBC website for the programme includes an archive of previous programmes, each available as streaming audio. The archive is divided into sections for the categories of science, religion, philosophy, history and culture, with another section for the programmes of the current series. Since 2005 the programme had been made available for download from the BBC website and iTunes as an mp3 file (podcast) for seven days after transmission. Requests that more or all or the archive be available for download often appear on the messageboard of the series website but the BBC internet producer has responded to point out that through the conditions of the current podcast trial only current editions of the programme (i.e. those broadcast within the last seven days) may be available for download.

In 2005 listeners were invited to vote in a poll for the greatest philosopher in history. The winner was the subject of the final programme before the summer break. The vote was won by Karl Marx with 27.9% of the votes. Other shortlisted figures were David Hume (12.7%), Ludwig Wittgenstein (6.8%), Friedrich Nietzsche (6.5%), Plato (5.6%), Immanuel Kant (5.6%), Thomas Aquinas (4.8%), Socrates (4.8%), Aristotle (4.5%) and Karl Popper (4.2%).

The format of the programme

The essential part of the programme lasts 42 minutes. Melvyn Bragg starts with a summary, in about 200 words, of the week's topic. He then introduces three specialists, usually either two men and a woman or two women and a man, who are with him in the studio. Bragg appears familiar with their work - he may have read their books, and during the programme he will often refer to material which they have submitted in advance.

One of the specialists is invited to begin the proceedings, and then Bragg advances the discussion by inviting another of the guests to answer a question. This continues along a preplanned route until the forty-two minute mark is in sight. Bragg then either winds the programme up himself or allows a remark from one of the specialists to be the concluding statement.

Sometimes, in concluding, he mentions regretfully that there was no time for a particular aspect of the subject. Clearly there had been a plan to include it, but dwelling for too long on an earlier aspect had led to its omission. The programme is usually live and unedited in the morning edition. This is demonstrated during the 26 April 2007 episode where one of the participants joins late but has been 'listening in the taxi on the way in'. To the listener at least, it is Bragg, as knowledgeable amateur, introducing and chairing a planned discussion about the topic. He usually succeeds in guiding it to a satisfactory conclusion. This simple structure and lack of editing allows every programme to develop in a unique way while the format remains the same.

List of programmes


Vitalism - next programme





External links

* [ In Our Time] at the BBC website

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