Hearing history: podcast notes

I have always enjoyed radio documentaries, but, like many people, got heavily into podcast-listening during the lockdown era. Seemed like an idea to start noting the lega/historical ones I enjoy, for those who fancy trying a podcast.

This one will build up, but let’s make a start with some BBC broadcasts and podcasts…

In Our Time 

There is obviously In Our Time, always a good bet for a quick guide to some particular aspect of history, with some top-notch academic guests. Usually they behave themselves, and sometimes it is jolly and collegial, though occasionally one may detect a touch of needle. Looking over the list of episodes, I note that there is not that much which is squarely within the traditional domain of legal history, but the following might be of particular interest:

Ancient law  – Solon, Justinian,

Other legal systems  –  Islamic Law

Law and order –Peasants’ Revolt Titus Oates, Gordon Riots,  1798 rebellion Morant Bay rebellion Peterloo

Law, religion, witchcraft: Witchcraft Salem witch trials Wyclif and the LollardsInquisition

Constitutions and some law reform in Magna Carta The Second Barons’ War, Trial of Charles I The Interregnum Sovereignty Great Reform Act 1832

Enslavement and property ideas, persons The Zong Massacre Roman slaverySlavery and Empire  Marriage

Land – Enclosures

My two favourite non-law ones have been Automata and Feathered Dinosaurs, which, I am sure, says nerdy things about me.

(It would be nice to have a bit more LH content – though I am not a fan, an episode on Edward Coke would be pretty good, and what about divorce reform, to complement the marriage episode? And the laws of Hywel Dda would be a great topic.  How about some Scots law? I am sure there are lots of other LH possibilities).

Voices from the Old Bailey

A good series on crime. here, based on stories emerging from the Old Bailey records, from some years ago: not all of the episodes are still available, sadly, but there are some interesting ones, e.g. on transportation, which my students have enjoyed.

Lady Killers

Lucy Worsley’s venture is both engaging and provocative of thought, in terms of how to get across to the an audience beyond academia some tricky aspects of women’s history.


BBC Scotland has some good historical content, with a strong narrative feel – very useful for general overviews. At the moment (Feb 2024), I am enjoying House of the Lion, which has a nice, light touch, filling in some of my own gaps in knowledge of the outlines of medieval Scots history.

Also of interest in terms of light legal history (well, light in the sense of narrative-driven, not subject matter) is the abridged version of Chris Bryant’s James and John , This deals with the case of the men who were the last in England to be executed for male-male sexual offences. My particular ‘patch’ is rather earlier than this, and, while I was aware of the case (mostly as a result of the hoohah over Naomi Wolf’s Outrages book, some years ago) I confess I did not know about the arguments and petitioning against the carrying out of the death penalty here. That struck me as interesting, and a bit surprising – something worth noting when tempted to see in the past a blanket, monolithic attitude that homosexuality was something to be extirpated by execution. Perhaps a specialist legal historian would have put it in the context of growing unhappiness with the death penalty for offences other than homicide, at this time, but still, interesting. The sections about Elizabeth, the wife of James Pratt, were also interesting, and I would like to know what became of her after the case. Perhaps the book deals with that.

And – very much a ‘work in progress’, I will list here others (podcasts, online lectures etc) which might be of interest to LH fans. …

18th C

Steve Poole (UWE) ‘For the benefit of example’: hanging felons at the scene of their crime in the long eighteenth century’. https://www.history.ac.uk/podcasts/british-history-long-18th-century/benefit-example-hanging-felons-scene-their-crime-long



24/2/2024 ff.


Photo by Will Francis on Unsplash