In Our Time
Studio: BBC Radio 4
What Is It
A rotating panel of experts examines various topics throughout history.
This show typically drops a new episode every week and they usually run around forty-five minutes. The iTunes archive goes back three-hundred episodes, to 2010; for the entire archive go to the show’s official website where you can go all the way back to episode one from 1998.
What About It
I really like this show a lot. It’s a bit stuffy at times; turns out a lot of the stereotypes about the professorial British intellectual are actually true. Host Melvyn Bragg always knows his stuff and the panel of experts the show has assembled are obviously true experts. Honestly, I think one of the best things about this show is the sheer breadth of topics. I almost wish that I could download these episodes without seeing the titles, because it’s always a great moment when Bragg unveils the opening line of his introduction: “Welcome to In Our Time *dramatic pause* Every year millions of hummingbirds . . .” Or perhaps: “Welcome to In Our Time *dramatic pause* The human digestive system . . .” Or maybe: “Welcome to In Our Time *dramatic pause* In the year 55 BCE . . .” Etc. Here’s a list of a few topics from 2017: The Egyptian Book of the Dead; Bird Migration; The Battle of Salamis; Plato’s Republic; Feathered Dinosaurs; Kant’s Categorical Imperative; The Kuiper Belt; Emily Dickinson; Hamlet; The Paleocene Thermal Maximum; and, of course, Enzymes. One of the things I love about podcasts is the way that they can give you a real education about interesting subjects that you’ve just never really known that much about and I think no podcast I’ve yet encountered is as wide-ranging as In Our Time in that regard. In fact, I think I must have missed that one about the Paleocene Thermal Maximum, because I actually have no idea what that even is. In Our Time isn’t a barrel of laughs, but it’s always interesting.
You’ve always wished you knew more about . . . everything.
Avoid Like the Plague If
Paleocene Thermal Maximum – Shmaleocene Thermal Maximum
Best Starting Place
I don’t really want to give any direction here. Go to the iTunes page and scroll down the list of the most recent 300 episodes. You will almost certainly see a title that makes you think, “I’ve always wondered what the deal was about that.” Download that episode. Or look for the title that makes you think, “I have NEVER heard of that!” Download that one. See if it hooks you.