Shakespeare's Restless World is a BBC radio series (podcast link) where the director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, explores England during the lifetime of William Shakespeare as represented by twenty objects, much in the way of his earlier A History of the World in a 100 Objects (previously). The focus is on Shakespeare's plays and how they were understood by his contemporaries. The series was also published as a book.
The BBC will be covering World War One in great detail over the next four years. They've already started, with podcasts, interactive guides, online courses, programs new and old plus much, much more. Perhaps it's best to start at the beginning, with Professor Margaret MacMillan's Countdown to World War One (podcast link) or the account of her fellow historian Christopher Clark, Month of Madness. Of course, how the war started is still contested by historians, as recounted in The Great War of Words. The latter two are also part of the main WWI podcast. Or you can dive into the Music and Culture section, go through an A-Z guide or look at comics drawn by modern cartoonists.
Revolutions is a new weekly podcast by Mike Duncan, who is best known for the History of Rome podcast, though he also writes comics. There are two episodes so far of Revolutions, a short introduction to the series and one on Charles Stuart, king of England.
The Yo Is This Racist? Podcast [iTunes, SoundCloud] is a show where people call in with racism questions and blogger Andrew Ti and a guest give answers. There's nearly a year's worth of podcasts, so there's lots of material. The most recent episodes, featuring Baron Vaughn, are a good place to start, but so are the ones with Kulap Vilaysack, Paul F. Tompkins and Cloud Atlas Week, when a whole run of episodes was dedicated to the movie Cloud Atlas (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). [YITR previously]
The Organist is an arts and culture podcast [iTunes link] from The Believer Magazine and the Californian public radio station KCRW. Each episode is generally a mix of interviews, essays and music. Among the contributors so far have been Nick Offerman, Rachel Kushner, Jonathan Coulton and Matmos. Each podcast begins with a short dramatic monologue, for example episode three starts with Sarah Silverman talking about her pet owl, in a piece written by Alena Smith (Conan O'Brien has another dramatic monologue in the same episode). There have been six episodes so far and they are all worth a listen.
The JV Club is a podcast [iTunes, SoundCloud] hosted by comedian, actor and SF Sketchfest founder Janet Varney. The podcast takes the form of a longform interview with an actor, comedian, writer, or someone else that Varney wishes to interview. The conversation usually focuses on the childhood and teenage years of the interviewee, who is always female, and the interviews frequently get very raw and emotional. The first guest was Christina Hendricks, and some of my favorite episodes were the interviews with Kerri Kenney Silver, Maria Bamford, Tig Notaro (who came on again), Stephanie Escajeda, Morgan Walsh, Erica Rhodes, Lynn Chen, and Susan Orlean.
The Value of Culture is a five part BBC radio series by Melvyn Bragg (which can be downloaded as a podcast) which explores the modern concept of 'culture' from its roots in mid-19th Century Britain, specifically Matthew Arnold's Culture and Anarchy and Edward Burnett Tylor's Primitive Culture (vol. 2), and exploring the discourse and uses of the concept until the present day. There are five episodes, each a little over forty minutes long, focusing in turn on Arnold and the roots of the concept of culture, Tylor and the anthropological conception of culture, C. P. Snow and the 'Two Cultures' debate, mass culture and culture studies, and then ending with a debate on the value of culture today.
The Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo's Film Review YouTube channel has a lot of videos of film reviews from the livestream of their BBC radio show and podcast, going back about five years. They are sorted by genre, film rating, geographic origin and one special category, Classic Kermodean Rants, which includes his reviews of Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Sex and the City 2, in which he ends up sing-shouting The Internationale, and Angels and Demons, which woke a man from a coma (mp3, story starts at 5:10, and it is followed up here, beginning at 5:30).
More Mayo is the podcast version of BBC's Simon Mayo Drivetime. Mayo is best known outside of the UK as one half of the Mayo and Kermode's Film Reviews. The centerpiece of the More Mayo podcast is the confessions, where listeners write in asking forgiveness for past transgressions. They are often funny and sometimes jaw-dropping (such as the first one in the latest episode). The podcasts are generally around a half an hour long and contain three or four confessions and a short interview with anyone from huge celebrities to debut novelists to children. The podcasts are available to download for 30 days.
Twelve Tales of Christmas is a podcast just launched by The Guardian featuring notable modern authors, such as Jeanette Winterson, Ali Smith, Colm Toíbin and Julian Barnes, reading one of their favorite short stories, by authors including JG Ballard, Katherine Mansfield, Italo Calvino, Ernest Hemingway and Raymond Carver. A story will be posted daily for the next 12 days. The first author and story is Philip Pullman reading The Beauties by Anton Chekhov (mp3). [rss, iTunes]
A Brief History of Mathematics is a BBC series of ten fifteen-minute podcasts by Professor Marcus du Sautoy about the history of mathematics from Newton and Leibniz to Nicolas Bourbaki, the pseudonym of a group of French 20th Century mathematicians. Among those covered by Professor du Sautoy are Euler, Fourier and Poincaré. The podcasts also include short interviews with people such as Brian Eno and Roger Penrose.
David Mitchell's Soap Box features The Peep Show's David Mitchell giving his opinions on various topics. The new series starts with Mitchell pondering the myth of King Cnut attempting to turn back the tides. The comedian has covered many issues, such as respect for the elderly, beer and being asked how much one earns. You can also subscribe to the series as a video podcast [iTunes link]
BBC World Service has over 500 audio documentaries you can download. The subject matter is incredibly wide ranging, for example, internet cafés, the influence of Islamic art on William Morris, South African female AIDS activist Thembi Ngubane, Yiddish, the importance of cows, novelist Chinua Achebe, financial risk management, Obama as an intellectual, the physical and emotional effects of a car crash and many, many more. If the quantity and variety are overwhelming, you can subscribe to a podcast, which delivers a new documentary to you every single day.
The Bugle is a topical comedic podcast by The Daily Show's John Oliver and fellow comedian Andy Saltzman. They style it an Audio Newspaper for a Visual World. Each weekly episode is about half an hour long.
BBC Introducing is an excellent way to keep tabs on what's fresh in the British popular music scene without having to live in a rainsoaked armpit. There are four podcasts for you to download, the flagship Best of Unsigned Podcast, Homegrown Mix with Ras Kwame, Scotland Introducing and BBC Radio Northampton's Weekender. All feature bands that are either unsigned or just recently signed and the music ranges from hip hop to punk rock to what sounds awfully like the soundtrack for a NES game with half-hearted chanting over it. This is an excellent resource whether you're casual searcher for new songs or the kind of anorak who knows which British indie band was first to use an 808.