The history of ideas
March 24, 2007 8:28 AM   Subscribe

In Our Time Faced with a wet weekend indoors, I realised it's time to dig into the archive of In Our Time, the most unashamedly intellectual radio discussion series every produced. Broadcast on BBC Radio 4, and hosted by Melvyn Bragg (sorry, make that Lord Bragg), the show's format is simple: Take a topic that's shaped our world, invite a handful of academics who specialize in that field, and chat. But remember: Commercially suicidal program(me)s like this wouldn't be possible if it wasn't for the unique way the BBC is funded.
posted by humblepigeon (25 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
I listen to it on my iPod while I'm at the gym.


That either makes me a big-brained uber-geek or a sad, sad man.
posted by dw at 8:39 AM on March 24, 2007

The BBC rulez! It is no surprise that it constantly produces award winning documentaries and critical political shows. Apart from HBO hardly any american TV station comes close to it's quality. Most stuff from the Discovery and History channels is pretty shallow compared to most BBC stuff. I mean how often can you repeat stuff about sharks, Nazis and the american civil war and not get bored to tears?!
posted by homodigitalis at 8:48 AM on March 24, 2007

... and for real addicts of 'In our Time' the Bittorrents of old stuff. Loads of great stuff in there! See you again in 2012 ...
posted by homodigitalis at 8:52 AM on March 24, 2007

For those who like, I would also recommend CBC's The Best of Ideas podcast, hosted by Paul Kennedy, and what I consider to be the most intellectually stimulating show on CBC, bar none.
posted by furtive at 8:57 AM on March 24, 2007

... and for real addicts of 'In our Time' the Bittorrents of old stuff.

To be clear, the archive link in the original posting provides RealAudio streaming access to all the previous programmes. It appears only the latest show is available as an MP3 download, which is probably what the dodgy BitTorrent link is collated from.
posted by humblepigeon at 8:58 AM on March 24, 2007

Terrific post, and some nice additions from subsequent posters. I will be assigning some of these in my internet history classes.
posted by LarryC at 9:38 AM on March 24, 2007

From the last link:

In fact last year I was sitting at a dinner party in London next to a charming American woman who asked me what I did. I said I run the BBC. She then informed me she regarded the BBC as a communistic organisation.

That was decision time. Did I get into a detailed argument about publicly funded broadcasting with someone who appeared culturally unable to understand the merits of such a system, or did I just politely get back to eating my dinner.

Coward that I am, I compromised and asked her where she came from. She said Chicago. At that I gave up and explained very politely that if you came from Chicago, the home of the free market, you were never going to understand the BBC and suggested we talk about something else.

posted by Brian B. at 9:50 AM on March 24, 2007

Wow thank you for the torrents link - I have been working my way through the podcasts but now I will never get any work done.
posted by greycap at 10:01 AM on March 24, 2007

Listening to In Our Time has been part of my weekend routine for some time. Also, someone, somewhere on Metafilter, linked to the useful Educational Television blog a few days ago. There's some excellent links on there if you like your mind-broadening to come with pictures - a large proportion of it is BBC productions now available on Google Video/You Tube. I've been hooked on Jonathan Miller's fascinating Brief History of Disbelief, this week. The BBC is a treasure.
posted by normy at 10:06 AM on March 24, 2007

Speaking of BBC treasures, does anyone know what became of
posted by stbalbach at 10:31 AM on March 24, 2007

The Philosopher's Zone, from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, is another great brain-stimulating radio show/podcast that I've been enjoying alongside In Our Time for the past few months. It's pretty accessible for non-philosophy majors but also not horribly dumbed-down.
posted by good in a vacuum at 11:18 AM on March 24, 2007

I'm sorry to say it, but when I hear the guy's name and how he's British and all, what leaps to mind is the old Leonardo Productions short The World of Commander McBragg. (Which, it turns out, has a pretty long, passing-awesome theme song.)
posted by JHarris at 11:18 AM on March 24, 2007

Listening to the Bismarck show now—wonderful stuff! "Well, the Schleswig-Holstein question is obviously very important..." I dreamed of having discussions like this in college, and was sadly disappointed. Thanks much for the post!
posted by languagehat at 11:22 AM on March 24, 2007


There is nothing dodgy about the BT links.

Ever tried to copy a RealMedia stream onto your iPod?
posted by homodigitalis at 11:25 AM on March 24, 2007


MvGroup - Still alive and kicking. All you need to do is to register to get inside.
posted by homodigitalis at 11:28 AM on March 24, 2007

That either makes me a big-brained uber-geek or a sad, sad man.

Why the exclusive or?
posted by eriko at 11:39 AM on March 24, 2007

Indeed, I am both a big-brained uber-geek AND a sad, sad girl.

I actually get sad when In Our Time goes on break.
posted by ltracey at 11:47 AM on March 24, 2007

I also listen to In Our Time on mp3 during exercise walks. The only problem is when people ask, "What are you listening to?" and you hand them the earphones, and they catch a few plummy British voices talking about Averroes or Torquemada, and they shake their heads and walk away...
posted by QuietDesperation at 11:58 AM on March 24, 2007

That's really cool, plus (as we know) Americans love British accents.
posted by delmoi at 12:06 PM on March 24, 2007

Thanks for the great torrent link, homodigitalis.

stbalbach - Take a look at the UKNova tracker as well if you're interested in BBC classics (and especially if you're a fan of Radio 4) - some real gems turn up on there.
posted by boosh at 1:09 PM on March 24, 2007

The In Our Time archives appear to be "ram" files. Any idea where to find the MP3s?
posted by MotorNeuron at 2:09 PM on March 24, 2007

MotorNeuron: Click on the "Download" buttons.
posted by delmoi at 3:04 PM on March 24, 2007

MotorNeuron: Only the most recent programme is available in MP3. To download an MP3 of an archived programme, you'll have to resort to the BitTorrrents mentioned above.
posted by Aloysius Bear at 3:24 PM on March 24, 2007

Homodigitalis, thanks!
I'm a long-time fan of In Our Time, and I've been subscribing to the podcast since it was launched, but I'd never thought to look for torrents of the archives (clearly, my weekly intellectual workout hasn't done much good).
Now... where am I going to find archives of Start The Week from the Bragg era? He was far more entertaining that Paxman or Marr... so much more irritable and contumacious.
posted by MinPin at 3:32 PM on March 24, 2007

I'm a big fan of In Our Time. I subscribe to the podcast (using an rss download application called Juice) and listen to it while driving. Until now I knew very little about Melvyn Bragg.

I'm also a big fan of the BBC and, silly as it sounds, I have to admit to feeling a little guilty at times since I don't live in the UK and therefore don't contribute to its funding. I wonder how the average Brit feels about the license fee. I'm from New Zealand but now living in the USA. Our license fee in NZ was always pretty unpopular. I think its been abolished since I left.

I don't make a specific effort to avoid it but the fact is, even though I live here, I almost never listen or watch American radio or TV. My bedside radio is a very cool WiFi radio which I use mostly to listen to BBC and CBC. I also have an broadband subscription to the BBC World TV channel.

You can convert live streams such as the Realmedia stuff on BBC to an mp3 using Total Recorder or something similar. You have to play the audio on your computer and it "records" into an mp3 or Windows Media file so it takes some planning before you want the file. I sometimes do that and take the mp3 with me in the car. I only ever do it for my own use. I think it would be dubiously legal for me to give the mp3 to someone else.

posted by tetranz at 10:18 AM on March 26, 2007

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