|Running time||~42 minutes|
|Home station||BBC Radio 4|
|Air dates||since 1998|
|No. of series||11|
In Our Time is a live BBC radio discussion programme hosted by Melvyn Bragg. Each week, three teaching academics cover a specific historical, philosophical, religious, artistic or scientific topic. The weekly 42-minute podcast (labelled tremendously cerebral) is one of the BBC's most successful projects.
The programme has been on the air since 1998.
In Our Time is a discussion programme on the history of ideas; it has been hosted since 1998 by Melvyn Bragg on BBC Radio 4 in the United Kingdom. The series covers many different subjects from history, religion, philosophy, the arts or science, one of which is explored in each programme with the help of three experts on the subject. It is produced by Charlie Taylor and James Cook. The series runs throughout the year except for a summer break of approximately six weeks between July and September.
Melvyn Bragg starts each episode with a short summary of the week's topic. He then introduces the three academics on that particular topic. One of the specialists is invited to begin the proceedings, and then Bragg advances the discussion by inviting another of the guests to answer a question. This continues along a preplanned route until the end of the programme is in sight. Bragg then either winds the programme up himself or allows a remark from one of the specialists to be the concluding statement.
It is normally broadcast live and unedited on Thursday mornings at 9am, lasting around 42 minutes; a shortened repeat airs at 9.30pm the same evening. Since 2005, the programme has also been made available as a podcast from the BBC website and iTunes for one week after broadcast.
In Our Time was conceived by Bragg after he was forced to quit his decade-long role as presenter for Start the Week due to a perceived conflict of interest arising from his 1998 appointment as a Labour life peer. He was offered the Thursday "death-slot" and decided he would "do what [he] always wanted to do," expecting the show would last about six months. By September 1999, he had taken a time slot that was attracting an audience of 600,000 and grew it to 1.5 million.
On Thursday 25 March 1999, In Our Time broadcast a "special literary edition" featuring exiled Chilean writer Ariel Dorfman; the episode was part of the BBC coverage of "The Word", London's first international literary festival.
In 2005 listeners were invited to vote in a poll for the greatest philosopher in history. The winner was the subject of the final programme before the summer break. The vote was won by Karl Marx with 27.9% of the votes. Other shortlisted figures were David Hume (12.7%), Ludwig Wittgenstein (6.8%), Friedrich Nietzsche (6.5%), Plato (5.6%), Immanuel Kant (5.6%), Thomas Aquinas (4.8%), Socrates (4.8%), Aristotle (4.5%) and Karl Popper (4.2%).
In November 2009, the BBC announced that In Our Time will be one of the first programmes to have its complete archive made accessible online.
In a November 2009 interview, Bragg described how he prepares for each show:
"It's not easy, but I like reading. I enjoy what was called swotting in my day. I get the notes late Friday afternoon for the following Thursday morning. I find all the spare time I can for reading, get up very early on a Thursday morning, have a final two hours of nervousness, and away we go."
The BBC website for the programme includes an archive of previous programmes, each available as streaming audio. The archive is divided into sections for the categories of science, religion, philosophy, history and culture, with another section for the programmes of the current series.
Bragg has edited a book—also titled In Our Time—consisting of selected transcripts of episodes from the show.