Bertrand Russell was, among many other things, one of the influential British philosophers of the 20th Century. The experts who discussed his life & ideas on In Our Time were A. C. Grayling (New College of the Humanities, London and St Anne's College, Oxford), Mike Beaney (University of York) and Hilary Greaves (Somerville College, Oxford). The programme concentrated on his mathematical work and on his philosophical ideas.
The Shahnameh is an epic poem, twice as long as the Odyssey & the Iliad put together, written in 10th Century AD Persia about Persian history. It took its author, Ferdowsi, 30 years to write and is still regarded today as one of the important pieces of Persian literature. The experts who discussed it on In Our Time were Narguess Farzad (University of London), Charles Melville (University of Cambridge) and Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis (British Museum).
The Borgias have a bit of a reputation - poisoning, murder, incest & all sorts of bad behaviour. And particularly shocking in a family that includes two Popes! The experts who discussed this on In Our Time were Evelyn Welch (Queen Mary, University of London), Catherine Fletcher (University of Sheffield) and Christine Shaw (Swansea University).
The Upanishads are some of the sacred texts of Hinduism, originally transmitted orally from father to son in the priest families they were written down in the 6th Century AD. They consist of a series of dialogues about the nature of the universe and the nature of knowledge. And I'd not even heard of them before listening to the In Our Time episode about them.
The Anarchy is a 19th Century term for a period of civil war in England in the 12th Century. The three experts who discussed it on In Our Time were John Gillingham (London School of Economics and Political Science), Louise Wilkinson (Canterbury Christ Church University) and David Carpenter (Kings College London). It turned out to be quite a lively discussion - Gillingham and Carpenter in particular seemed to disagree quite vigorously over how poor (or otherwise) a king Stephen was.
Fermat was a 17th century lawyer who did maths in his spare time, corresponding with many other mathematicians around Europe. He had a habit of setting little challenges to his correspondents - "I can prove this, can you?". He's famous now for an annotation he made in a book - that he had found a proof that an + bn = cn has no positive integer solutions when n>2 "which this margin is too narrow to contain".
The printing press was invented in Germany around 1440, and by 1476 had even been brought to the relative backwater of England, by a man named William Caxton. The guests on the episode of In Our Time that talked about this were Richard Gameson (University of Durham), Julia Boffey (Queen Mary, University of London) and David Rundle (University of Oxford).
The famous Carthaginian general Hannibal was the subject of the In Our Time episode that we listened to on Sunday ... unfortunately I can't hear the name without thinking of Hannibal the Hamster, the hero of a book I had when I was little (and my pet hamster was his namesake). But I did manage to put that aside, and listen to the story of a much more impressive Hannibal. The experts on the programme were Ellen O'Gorman (University of Bristol), Mark Woolmer (University of Durham) and Louis Rawlings (Cardiff University).
On Sunday we listened to the In Our Time programme on Gerald of Wales. The experts on the show were Henrietta Leyser (University of Oxford), Michelle Brown (University of London) and Huw Pryce (Bangor University) and they talked about Gerald of Wales's life & books.
The episode of In Our Time that we listened to this week was perhaps a little brain-twisting for first thing on Sunday morning, but also in some ways appropriate for a Sunday! In it Melvyn Bragg and his guests (John Haldane (University of St Andrews), Peter Millican (University of Oxford) and Clare Carlisle (Kings College London)) discussed the Ontological Argument. This was put forward by St Anselm (Archbishop of Canterbury) in the 11th Century to prove the existence of God by logic alone.