January 22nd, 2009
Episode 32 of 517 episodes
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how the writing of history has changed over time, from ancient epics to medieval hagiographies and modern deconstructions. In the 6th century AD, the bishop of Tours began his history of the world with a simple observation that “A great many things keep happening, some of them good, some of them bad”. For a phrase that captures the whole of history it’s among the best, but in writing about the past we are rarely so economical. From ancient epics – Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War - to medieval hagiographies and modern deconstructions, historians have endlessly chronicled, surveyed and analysed the great many things that keep happening, declaring some of them good and some of them bad. But the writing of history always illuminates two periods – the one history is written about and the one it is written in. And to look at how the writing of history has changed is to examine the way successive ages have understood their world. In short, there is a history to history.With Paul Cartledge, AG Leventis Professor of Greek Culture and Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge; John Burrow, Emeritus Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford and Miri Rubin, Professor of Medieval and Early Modern History at Queen Mary, University of London.