The passage of knowledge between the Ancient World and today’s modern one, has not been smooth. In many cases only a fraction of what was once known has reached us today. Just seven out of around eighty plays by Aeschylus survive, seven out of the hundred and twenty written by Sophocles and a similar proportion of those by Euripides.

Often knowledge was lost at specific moments of conflict or tumult in the human story. In this episode of Travels Through Time the historian Dr Violet Moller takes us back to one of the most crucial years of all: 529, when the Roman Empire was in its latter days and a new Christian world was emerging.

Violet’s travels through the past takes us on a picaresque tour of this significant year. In Constantinople we see the last great Roman emperor. In Athens a “Golden Chain” of learning is about to be severed after many centuries. And on a rocky hill in central Italy, a new monastic order that will have a spectacular future, is founded.

Dr Violet Moller is the author of The Map of Knowledge, winner of the Royal Society for Literature’s Jerwood Prize. The Daily Telegraph called it “popular intellectual history at its best.”

Show notes:

Scenes:

  1. Constantinople where Justinian is rebuilding the city, rewriting the legal code and issuing proclamations limiting the practice of Pagan faiths and philosophy.
  2. Athens, the Neoplatonist Academy is closing thanks to Justinian’s proclamation, breaking a tradition of learning stretching back hundreds of years. The philosophers pack up their books and leave for Persia where they would be protected by the Sassanid King Khosrow I.
  3. Montecassino where St Benedict is building a monastery on the site of an ancient Temple of Apollo, establishing the most important religious order of the Middle Ages.

Memento: A crate of books, saved from the Neoplatonic Academy

People / Social

Presenter: Peter Moore

Guest: Dr Violet Moller

Producer: Maria Nolan

Editorial: Artemis Irvine

Digital Production: John Hillman

Titles: Jon O.

This poignant episode of Travels Through Time takes us back to 1916, a year of strife and stoicism at the heart of World War One.

The mood across Britain at the end of 1915 was one of disbelief. A war that many had predicted would be over in months was only intensifying. There was stalemate on the Western Front. Newspaper columns were filled with examples of German “frightfulness”, such as the execution of Edith Cavell, and there was growing doubts in Westminster about Prime Minister Herbert Asquith’s ability to lead the country.

This was the backdrop to 1916, a year that brought debates over conscription, fears of a general strike and the military fiasco at the Battle of the Somme. The year ended in December with David Lloyd George replacing Asquith in Downing Street and with Britain having embraced entirely the policy of Total War.

In this episode of Travels Through Time, the journalist and historian Simon Heffer guides us through the events of this traumatic year. He shows us a Britain on the brink of crisis, yet still oddly resilient to the trials it faces.

Show notes: 

Scene One: 27 January 1916, Labour Conference in Bristol for the vote on the party’s conscription policy.

Scene Two: 12 July 1916, Belfast. The first news of the Battle of the Somme reaches Belfast on the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne.

Scene Three: 5 December 1914, Cynthia Asquith dining with her father in-law the prime minister at 10 Downing Street.

Memento: A Tommy

Staring at God: Britain in the Great War by Simon Heffer is published by Random House books

People/Social 

Presenter: Peter Moore

Guest: Simon Heffer

Producer: Maria Nolan

Titles: Jon O.

Witches, spells, black magic and shape-shifting combine in unsettling ways for this special Halloween episode of Travels Through Time.

Britain, 1862. An age of modernity characterised by pioneering projects like the world’s first underground railway in London; hot air balloons soaring to the top of the troposphere; scientists engaging in the new fad for weather “forecasting”. And in the Midlands a new football club, Notts County, are formed – later to become the oldest of all the association football clubs in the world.

Yet running in tandem with this thrilling new world was an older, persistent belief in hidden supernatural forces. It was more than a century since Parliament had repealed the laws against witchcraft but, rather than being eradicated by the Enlightenment, folklore remained an active and potent force in everyday life. 

This is where we join Dr Thomas Waters, who takes us on a tour through 1862 to see examples of all of this: from the isolated Scottish islands, to the heart of Imperial London. In doing so he provides a striking and memorable portrait of a lesser-known side to the Victorian world.

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Show notes: 

Scene One: Spring, 1862. On the tiny Scottish Western Isle of Gigha. James Smith watches as Catherine McGougan “shapeshifts”
Scene Two: 13th April 1862, 31 Charles Street, Westminster. 74-year-old Mary King is attacked by her grandson.
Scene Three: A little terrace house in Ancoats, Manchester, 1862. A fortune-teller named Alice is doing a consultation for a client, waxing lyrical about mystical things

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People/Social 

Presenter: Peter Moore
Guest: Dr Thomas Waters
Editorial: Paul Lay / Artemis Irvine
Production: Maria Nolan / John Hillman

Ruthlessness and Richard III: Thomas Penn (1483)

In this haunting episode of Travels Through Time, Thomas Penn guides us back to the blackest year of them all, 1483.

Richard Duke of Gloucester, has seized power. His rivals, the Woodville faction, have fled for their lives. And the uncrowned child Edward V has disappeared into the Tower of London, along with his younger brother. The two would never be seen again.

This was the year that Richard Duke of Gloucester conceived a ruthless plan to seize the throne for himself. His actions would make his reputation for cunning, opportunism and recklessness. In retrospect, Penn argues, this was the year that the powerful House of York began to consume itself.

The ‘Wars of the Roses’ saw the House of York ranged against their rivals in the House of Lancaster. The complex, long-running conflict played out in a succession of battles, betrayals and beheadings. It was a time when, as the historian Thomas Penn puts it, ‘necessity knew no law.’

So begins the final tragic act in the story of the House of York.

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Show notes:

Scene One: Northampton, the night of April 29/30, Richard and Buckingham’s plot

Scene Two: Council chamber, Tower of London, morning of Friday 13 June, Richard’s accusation/Hastings’ execution

Scene Three: Lincoln, Sunday 12 October, Richard’s response to news of Buckingham’s rebellion

Memento: Edward IV’s will.

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People / Social

Presenter: Peter Moore

Guest: Thomas Penn

Producer: Maria Nolan

Editorial: Paul Lay / Artemis Irvine

Digital Production: John Hillman

Titles: Jon O.

 

Our latest episode of Travels Through Time explores a little-studied but revolutionary group of women at the heart of Dr Patricia Fara’s latest book, A Lab of One’s Own.

Patricia takes us back to 1918 where we find them working with great skill, energy and success, against the backdrop of one of the most brutal wars in world history. 

They were aircraft designers, surgeons, chemical researchers, military commanders and surveillance operatives. Their work contributed significantly to the British war effort.

Patricia is a Fellow of Clare College Cambridge, a prize-winning author and has recently served as President for the British Society for the History of Science.

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Scene One: 10th Jan 1918, House of Lords. The suffragist Ray Strachey watches them approve the 1918 Representation of the People Act

Scene Two: 26 March. Marie Stopes’s Married Love is published and she meets her future husband after he returns from the War with a broken ankle

Scene Three: 1 November, Vranje, Serbia. Dr Isabel Emslie takes over a military hospital. She stays there long after the Armistice

Memento: Dr Isabel Emslie’s Diary

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Presenter: Peter Moore

Guest: Dr Patricia Fara

Producers: Maria Nolan & John Hillman

Editorial: Artemis Irvine

Titles: Jon O.

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Discover more fascinating episodes at Travels Through Time

Brought to you in partnership with History Today, the world's leading serious history magazine

 

 

In this episode of our podcast Travels Through Time, bestselling author Thomas Harding takes us back to 1930s London and the sinister rise of Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists.

We go on an extraordinary rags-to-riches journey, from the depths of the East End to the heights of Westminster, in the company of Isidore Salmon, a fascinating Jewish businessman and MP at the head of J. Lyons & Co, the famous catering and hotel empire.

This is the story of how Isidore took on Mosely and powerful fascist supporters such as Viscount Rothermere, proprietor of the Daily Mail, during the tumultuous summer of 1934.

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Scene One: Christmas 1933/1934. Opening of the Lyons' Cumberland Hotel, largest in Europe, royal visit, and then launch party with Viscount Rothermere and Isidore Salmon. J Lyons at its heyday.

Scene Two: 7 June 1934. Oswald Mosely’s infamous ‘Olympia Rally’

Scene Three: (Shortly after) Isidore Salmon confront Viscount Rothermere

Memento: The cup used by Viscount Rothermere to toast Isidore Salmon

Presenter: Peter Moore

Guest: Thomas Harding

Producer: Maria Nolan

Titles: Jon O.

Digital Production: John Hillman

---

Discover more fascinating episodes at Travels Through Time

Brought to you in partnership with History Today, the world's leading serious history magazine

 

Join us for a special extended version of Travels Through Time. To celebrate the launch of season two, we're taking you on a blockbuster journey through the Crusades with New York Times bestselling historian Dan Jones.

Dan draws on his latest book Crusaders, an epic history of the wars for the Holy Land and broader Christendom, to guide us back to 1147 and the launch of the Second Crusade.

We discover how, contrary to popular myth, the Crusades drew hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life and all parts of Medieval Europe, into a religious conflict spanning five centuries and three continents. 

‘When it comes to rip-roaring Medieval narratives, Jones has few peers’  - The Sunday Times

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Scene One: June 1147: Amid great pageantry Louis VII of France and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine set out from Paris towards the Holy Land.

Scene Two: July 1147: A month later in Mecklenburg - modern Germany - another crusading army marches in its entirety against the Slavic tribespeople known as the Wends.

Scene Three: October 1147: As Louis closes on Constantinople and the first assaults on the Wends wind down for the winter, in Lisbon another crusading army is about to score a major victory.

Memento: A shard of the True Cross.

Presenter: Peter Moore

Guest: Dan Jones

Producer: Maria Nolan

Titles: Jon O.

Editorial: Artemis Irvine

Digital Production: John Hillman

----

Discover more fascinating episodes at Travels Through Time

Brought to you in partnership with History Today, the World’s leading serious history magazine

Travels Through Time launches season two with a blockbuster journey through the Crusades with New York Times bestselling historian Dan Jones.

Dan draws on his latest book Crusaders, an epic history of the wars for the Holy Land and broader Christendom, to guide us back to 1147 and the launch of the Second Crusade.

We discover how, contrary to popular myth, the Crusades drew hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life and all parts of Medieval Europe, into a religious conflict spanning five centuries and three continents. 

‘When it comes to rip-roaring Medieval narratives, Jones has few peers’ The Sunday Times

---

Scene One: June 1147: Amid great pageantry Louis VII of France and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine set out from Paris towards the Holy Land.

Scene Two: July 1147: A month later in Mecklenburg - modern Germany - another crusading army marches in its entirety against the Slavic tribespeople known as the Wends.

Scene Three: October 1147: As Louis closes on Constantinople and the first assaults on the Wends wind down for the winter, in Lisbon another crusading army is about to score a major victory.

Memento: A shard of the True Cross.

Presenter: Peter Moore

Guest: Dan Jones

Producer: Maria Nolan

Titles: Jon O.

Editorial: Artemis Irvine

Digital Production: John Hillman

----

Discover more fascinating episodes at Travels Through Time

Brought to you in partnership with History Today, the World’s leading serious history magazine

In this episode of Travels Through Time the author and cultural historian Mike Jay takes us back to 1799 – a year of anxiety, action and excitement on the cusp of a new century.

The 1790s: A Revolutionary Age

Although the 1790s is often overlooked, it was an extraordinary, bewildering and formative decade in European history. The early years of the decade were filled with excitement and energy. People of all political stripes realised that the powerful forces that had been set loose by the French Revolution were set to transform the old societies they knew. By the year 1800 this transformation had indeed happened. But it was not as people had anticipated. Many dreams had “crashed and burned” along the way.

Mike Jay has written extensively on this period of history, examining the powerful confluence of science, politics and culture in a series of books. In this episode of our podcast he takes us back to 1799 to meet three “admirable and flawed” characters whose stories tell us much about the time. These are the political prisoner Colonel Edward Marcus Despard whose battle with the establishment is retold in the new series of Poldark; an inmate of the Royal Bethlam Hospital called James Tilly Matthews; and Humphry Davy, an inspired young experimenter, whose work on the medicinal properties of nitrous oxide – soon to earn its colloquial name “laughing gas” - would pass into legend.

Scene One: New Year’s Day, 1799, Colonel Despard imprisoned without trial in Coldbath Fields, London.

Scene Two: 24 June, 1799, Midsummer Day, James Tilly Matthews and John Haslam in the Royal Bethlem Hospital.

Scene Three: Boxing Day, 1799, Humphry Davy’s famous experiment on nitrous oxide at the Pneumatic Institution in Bristol.

Memento: One of Humphry Davy’s little green bags, used for inhaling gases, as manufactured by James Watt of The Lunar Society.

Presenter: Peter Moore

Guest: Mike Jay

Producer: Maria Nolan

Read a new piece about Edward and Catherine Despard

More from History Today

The Unhappy Mansion by Anna Jamieson on the Royal Bethlam Hospital

Humphry Davy and the Murder Lamp by Max Adams

Myth, Reality and William Pitt the Younger by R.E. Foster

Summer holidays ...

This is the last episode of the first season of Travels Through Time. Season Two starts on the first Tuesday in September. Thank you for listening!

The Fall of Anne Boleyn

“I think Anne Boleyn’s fatal mistake was to snigger at the King in the presence of handsome young men. And I don’t think she did anything more than that.” - (Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch)

Thomas Cromwell, a self-described “ruffian”, was King Henry VIII’s chief minister in the 1530s. He was clever, driven and ruthless, qualities that have captivated novelists and historians for generations as they have attempted to capture his mysterious essence.

The year 1536 saw Cromwell at the peak of his career. As chief administrator of the realm he had vast and wide-ranging powers, but he also had enemies. Prominent among these was the King’s second wife, Anne Boleyn. In one of the most infamous episodes in all of English history, the spring of 1536 saw Cromwell and Anne in combat for their lives. The story concluded with Anne Boleyn’s execution at the Tower of London in May.

Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch and Thomas Cromwell

In this live episode of Travels Through Time, recorded at the Buxton International Festival, we revisit the high-wire act of Henry VIII’s court with Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch of the University of Oxford. Diarmaid is a hugely respected scholar of Tudor England and the Reformation and last year he published his authoritative Thomas Cromwell: A Life.

In three tantalising scenes, Diarmaid guides us through 1536 from Thomas Cromwell’s point of view. He shows us a plot, a rebellion and a triumph: scenes that take us to the very heart of one of the pivotal times in English history.

Scene One: 24 May 1536: Ambassador Eustache Chapuys and Thomas Cromwell debriefing after the execution of Anne Boleyn. The inside story of Tudor politics and Cromwell's quiet alliance with the Lady Mary against Queen Anne.

Scene Two: The moment (no direct information, so supposition necessary) around 3 October 1536 when King Henry VIII was told of the Lincolnshire Rising, after the government had been looking in the wrong place for trouble.

Scene Three: 22 December 1536: Thomas Cromwell sits in his house at the Rolls listening to the sounds of the magnificent procession of the King from Whitehall to Greenwich down Fleet Street. He and the King have apparently yielded to all the demands of the Pilgrims of the North and their leader Robert Aske is due to spend Christmas with the King. In fact, after the remarkable turnaround in November, the King is backing Cromwell and will betray the rebels.

Memento: The keyboard that Mark Smeaton played for Anne Boleyn

Thomas Cromwell: A Life by Thomas Cromwell by Diarmaid MacCulloch is now available in paperback from Penguin

Credits

Presenter: Peter Moore

Guest: Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch

Recording/Live Mix: Hannah Griffiths

Post production: Maria Nolan

More from History Today

Derek Wilson on Thomas Cromwell: Brewer’s Boy Made Good

Andy Holroyde on Predicting the Fall of Anne Boleyn

Suzannah Lipscomb on Who Was Henry VIII?

The Holocaust

The Holocaust is the bleakest, blackest, most disturbing moment in our human story. It involved the systematic murder of millions of Jews, minority and vulnerable groups by the Nazis during their reign of terror in Europe in the 1940s. To understand how such crimes could be committed, historians have been forced to engage with this painful past.

Few books have laid the crimes and consequences of the Holocaust as bare as Professor Mary Fulbrook’s Reckonings: legacies of Nazi persecutions and the quest for justice (2018). Fulbrook said that she was driven to write the book – which identifies the crimes and traces their effects on the generations that followed – by ‘an enduring sense of injustice’, that the vast majority of those who perpetrated the Holocaust, or who made it possible, evaded responsibility for their crimes.

The Wolfson History Prize

Last month Reckonings was awarded the Wolfson History Prize, one of the UK’s most prestigious history awards. The judges called it ‘masterly’; a work that ‘explores the shifting boundaries and structures of memory.’

In this special Wolfson History Prize episode of Travels Through Time we talk to Professor Fulbrook about Reckonings, a book that she wrote filled with a sense of ‘moral outrage’. In a twist on our usual format, we examine the Nazi genocide through three human interactions with three crime scenes: a ghetto, a labour camp and an extermination camp.

Scene One: Melita Maschman looks at the Litzmannstadt (Łódź) ghetto in the incorporated Warthegau area of Poland, now part of the Greater German Reich, and later reflects on it in her 1963 memoirs.

Scene Two: Mielec, southern Poland, part of the General Government under the Third Reich. Perpetrators include Walter Thormeyer and Rudolf Zimmermann, later sentenced in West and East Germany respectively; and implications for their families.

Scene Three: Oświęcim (Auschwitz), c. 1943-5, seen through the eyes of a schoolteacher, Marianne B., as recounted in her 1999 memoirs.

More about Reckonings at Oxford University Press.

Presenter: Peter Moore

Guest: Professor Mary Fulbrook

Producer: Maria Nolan

Read More from History Today

Mensturation and the Holocaust by Jo-Ann Owusu

Poland and Holocaust History by Cressida Trew

Hitler and the Holocaust by Alan Farmer

"The most momentous event in Japanese history"

Commodore Matthew Perry’s expedition to Japan in 1853 changed the course of the island’s history. Long into the nineteenth century Japan had been regarded by the growing group of Western nations as a hermit kingdom, known for its stubborn resistance to outsiders. Prior to Perry’s Expedition, it was connected to the Euro-centric world of trade and commerce only by a single Dutch outpost near Nagasaki that was visited by a single ship each year.

Throughout this period of isolation, Japan’s rich and intricate society had developed under the rule of the shoguns. But interference from outside powers was increasingly feared and anticipated. The crucial moment came in July 1853 when the United States government despatched Commodore Perry on a speculative mission to forge relations.

Perry’s arrival in Edo Bay

In this episode of Travels Through Time, the writer and historian Lesley Downer takes us back to the moment that Perry’s fleet of ships sails into Edo Bay – modern-day Tokyo. She describes the meaningful coming together of two contrasting worlds: the confusion, the power play and the consequences, in three vivid scenes. The Japanese, as the American’s find out, know more much about the world than they anticipated.

Scene One: Friday July 8/Edo Bay. Commodore Perry’s four ‘Black Ships’ steam right up to the little town of Uraga, at the entrance to Edo Bay, threatening the capital, Edo (now Tokyo).

Scene Two: Monday July 12th/Edo Bay. Kayama Eizaemon, Police Magistrate of Uraga, is taken on a tour of the flagship to celebrate having negotiated Perry’s delivery of his letter and is shown a globe. The Americans assume he doesn’t know the earth is round. He nonchalantly points out New York and Washington DC.

Scene Three: Wednesday July 14th/ Edo Bay. Perry goes on shore to deliver his letter, accompanied by stewards and a squadron of guards playing ‘Hail Columbia.’

This period of history is chronicled in Lesley Downer’s Shogun Quartet of novels.

Presenter: Peter Moore

Guest: Lesley Downer

Producer: Maria Nolan

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