Audial: In Our Time

Look at this man. Look at his kindly face and kindly fluffy hair. He's wearing a corduroy jacket. You would believe whatever this man told you. Yes you would, don't lie.

Look at this man. Look at his kindly face and kindly fluffy hair. He’s wearing a corduroy jacket. He is well-informed about interesting things. You would almost certainly trust this man. 

Let me betray a little of my academic colours.

Do you like learning about things? Do you like learning about those things by listening to people who know an awful lot about it? Do you like hearing different opinions and theories instead of simply getting one person’s version of a tale?

Do you have an ingrained, gentle nostalgia for the golden days of the BBC?

Melvyn Bragg (the kindly individual above) has been doing radio since presenters wore black tie to sit at the microphone. He does many things, but one of his longest-running and most successful show’s is Radio 4’s In Our Time podcast.

In the style of truly old fashioned radio, the distinguished Mr. Bragg sits down with three UK academics to discuss a topic. Any topic. The podcast is billed as a “history of ideas”, and the week’s topic can be drawn from history, philosophy, classics, religion and even science, at any point throughout time and from all over the world. This makes it as unpredictable as it is fascinating.

It’s also the ideal informative podcast, because the topics are discussed by real academic experts who don’t necessarily agree. It doesn’t spoon-feed its audience watered down information, but strikes an admirable balance between depth of information and ease of understanding. The latter is due nearly entirely to Mr. Bragg’s deft management of the discussion and the academics’ not infrequent tangents. This is a show produced by experienced hands, and it shows. It’s a joy to listen to.

It is a slight time commitment – episodes are an hour long. Regarding other concerns, there is always at least one female academic (often more), Mr. Bragg is conscientious about keeping the balance of speaking time even, and the topics really do cover the whole world – not simply the Western part of it. This podcast is commendable in many ways, and it’s the finest way I’ve yet discovered to liven up household chores. I cannot recommend it enough.

Find it here. (Also on Itunes.)

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