Melvyn Bragg is back with In Our Time: I enjoy formal conversations (I don't much like informal conversations, I hate dinner parties - people just sprawling about, talking about anything - it's a complete waste of time) but to get the chance to talk to people in a concentrated way about what they really know best, it's an enormous treat.
It's a treat to listen to as well. One of the biggest things I got from reading Francis Schaeffer is the primary importance of ideas. History is driven not by armies and leaders but by thinkers and philosophers. In this wonderful show on Radio 4 Melvyn Bragg plunges into the sea of ideas, swimming confidently between ages and continents. This morning's discussion (on democracy) ranged between classical Athens, the English Civil War, and the American Revolution, stopping en route in early Islamic political thought. One gem was about Machiavelli who saw the importance of conflict (rather than harmony) in a healthy political system. Very relevant at the moment - all the loud slanging matches in the West about military action probably auger very well for our civilization.