IAMHIST Masterclass Participants

Dr Emily Oliver, University of Warwick

Broadcasting Nations: A History of the BBC German Service (1938-1945)

Broadcasting Nations offers the first full study of the BBC German Service and its contribution to twentieth-century Anglo-German relations, from its hasty creation during the Munich Crisis in 1938 to its closure in 1999. Drawing on sources from the BBC Written Archives Centre and the German Broadcasting Archive (Frankfurt), unpublished Foreign Office records, and personal testimony, this project investigates what the BBC German service can tell us about Anglo-German cultural perceptions through Germany’s political evolution in the later twentieth century, from war to occupation, division, and eventual reunification.

Operating as part of the Political Warfare Executive during World War II, the BBC German Service continued to rely on funding from the Foreign Office after 1945 – a structural dependence which was at odds with its claims to impartiality. One of the project’s recurring concerns is therefore to investigate to what extent the BBC GS resisted or acquiesced to becoming a vehicle for the “projection of Britain” in its transition from wartime to peacetime broadcasting. Another is to examine how the BBC’s institutional models and journalistic practices shaped the media of the Federal Republic, and to investigate the German East Zone Service, created in 1950 in an attempt to reach listeners on the other side of the Iron Curtain.

There exists to date no detailed history of the BBC German Service. Scholarly attention has focused mainly on its role during the Second World War, but research on postwar reconstruction, the Cold War, and subsequent periods is sparse. Working across the disciplines of German, media studies, and cultural history, Broadcasting Nations seeks to fill this gap in scholarship by examining British cultural and political attitudes towards the German-speaking world through the phenomenon of a specialised foreign language radio service.

Emily Oliver is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures at the University of Warwick (UK). Her research focuses on Anglo-German cultural relations in the twentieth century. After gaining a PhD at the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon, she worked as Postdoctoral Research Associate at King’s College London on the project “Beyond Enemy Lines: Literature and Film in the British and American Zones of Occupied Germany”. She is currently heading the research project “Broadcasting Nations: A History of the BBC German Service (1938-1999)”. Her monograph, Shakespeare and German Reunification is published by Peter Lang (2017).


Dr Oliver Elliott, Independent Scholar

American Press Coverage of South Korean rule, 1945 – 1954

My project is based on my recently completed PhD at the London School of Economics where I looked at American press coverage of the rise of authoritarian rule in South Korea between 1945 and 1954, during the period of the American occupation government and the first six years of the Syngman Rhee regime. It provides the first ever scholarly account of American press coverage of the emergence and political development of South Korea after World War Two and asks why the increasingly undemocratic and repressive nature of both the American occupation and the Syngman Rhee regime during the Korean War did not become more controversial news stories in the United States. Contrary to claims in the existing literature, the manuscript shows how years of campaigning by liberal foreign correspondents to raise awareness of the problem of authoritarianism in South Korea broke into the mainstream just months before the onset of the Korean War. However, when war came in June 1950, the press rapidly abandoned its scrutiny of South Korean democracy, marking a crucial transition moment from the era of postwar idealism to the Cold War norm of support for America’s authoritarian allies. The thesis argues that five main factors influenced this coverage: anti-Korean and Cold War press narratives, the deference of American journalists to political and military authorities, the constraints placed on reporting by U.S. military authorities, the public relations activities of the Syngman Rhee regime and the low level of U.S. political interest in Korea. This project is envisioned as the first in a series of works tracing how the American press dealt with the problem of reporting on authoritarian allies during the Cold War.

Oliver Elliott is currently an independent scholar based in Barcelona. He finished his PhD entitled ‘The American Press, the Cold War and the Rise of Authoritarianism in South Korea 1945-1954’ at the London School of Economics in early 2017 and will be publishing a book based on his thesis with Palgrave Macmillan next year. Elliott previously worked as an analyst for the British government’s media monitoring unit and in an editorial role for the International Institute for Strategic Studies.


Rachel Grant, University of Missouri

In Self-Defense: Black Female Journalists, Media Activism & the Rosa Lee Ingram Case

In January 1948, Rosa Lee Ingram, a recently widowed Black sharecropper and her two sons were convicted and sentenced to death for the November 1947 death of her white neighbor John Ethan Stratford. This violent dispute shook the race-dynamics in Georgia and transformed into the post-World War II global debate of human rights through the perspective of Black women’s experiences. Black newspapers joined the fight and publicized the Ingram case. This study will examine the Rosa Lee Ingram and the media activism used by Black women to advocated for themselves. Ingram’s case addressed intersectional issues of race, gender and class because of the multi-levels of her oppression. Scholars Dayo Gore and Sarah Haley stated the social justice campaign made Ingram into a symbolic figure and pushed Black women’s experiences with sexualized racial violence to the center of debate.

For Black women activists, the Ingram case signaled a shift in the narrative of Black women’s experiences. Black female journalists were primed to be at the forefront of the coverage of the case because it was more than just a story for them, but served a touchstone to their daily lived-experiences. The media writings and campaigns about the Ingram case were examined to explore the media discourses as they evolved over time. How did color line rhetoric turn into human rights or intersectional language? What was the role of the media, specifically Black female journalists? Historian Marable Manning stated Blacks in the post-war period were both anti-racist and anti-integrationist, in a sense they opposed Jim Crow, but advocated for all Black economic, political and social liberation. Scholars stated after World War II, a questioning of racial hierarchies and identities challenged both Blacks and whites. This study uncovers the history of Black women’s media activism prior to the Civil Rights Movement.

Rachel Grant is a doctoral candidate at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Her research focuses on media studies of race, gender and class, specifically focusing on social movements and Black female journalists.


Nathaniel Hearn, University of New Orleans

Subliminal Messaging in Olympia as Propaganda

This paper focuses on several scenes of the nearly four hour long 1938 film. Through analysis of the film, Hearn has picked key examples of subtle propaganda of the Third Reich. This paper focuses on the German athlete, Nazi officials and soldiers pictured in the film, and the directing style of Leni Riefenstahl. Riefenstahl was chosen specifically by Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels to be the director of the Reich’s propaganda films. Since her job was to produce these types of films, it would almost seem obvious that Olympia would fall under the propaganda category. Though Riefenstahl insisted the film was meant to be a documentary, there is contrary footage to her claim that makes this film propaganda. This paper has been a work in progress for the last two and a half years. It has been read and reviewed by Dr. Russell Hart of Hawai’i Pacific University, Dr. Bess Dawson Contreras of the University of Kentucky, and the late Dr. David Culbert of Louisiana State University.

Nathaniel Hearn is a graduate teaching assistant at the University of New Orleans under Dr. Allan Millett, Ambrose Professor of History. Hearn holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, with minors in German and vocal performance, from Louisiana State University. His current interest is World War II military history and Nazi propaganda. Hearn studied under Dr. David Culbert in his last full calendar year at LSU. Dr. Culbert expanded Hearn’s interest and work with Nazi propaganda, along with being a close personal friend and mentor.


Richard​ ​Legay, University of Luxembourg

My research focuses on a transnational and transmedia history of Radio Luxembourg/RTL and Europe n°1 in popular culture and listening practices in Great-Britain, France, Germany, Luxembourg and Belgium in the larger 1960s. These two commercial radio stations were popular with the growing European youth in the Sixties and were key actors in popular culture, but they are still understudied. To tackle the research, I have decided to focus on five different approaches. The first will be an attempt at reconstructing the radio soundscape by analysing available audio documents from the stations, gathered in national, private and personal archives, from the different countries. The second approach will be dealing with a more human perspective, by focusing on the people behind the mic, as DJs and radio hosts were essential actors of the stations, while the third approach will be concerned with listeners. They are the other end of the broadcasting experience and it seems particularly relevant to analyse the rituals, practices and experiences of listening to commercial radio stations in the Sixties. Another approach will be transmediality, as Radio Luxembourg and Europe n°1 were both involved in the publication of youth magazines, an aspect that adds visual and textual elements to their identities and the ways they were perceived and consumed. The last method will deal with a broader audiovisual system in Europe that includes the two commercial radio stations. This will look at exchanges, relationships and networks with other institutions to fully comprehend the transnational aspects of this research, which help question the unification of popular culture in Western Europe in the post-war period. Overall, the idea is to bring a new perspective to this area of inquiry​ by​ ​ ​embracing​ ​the​ ​two​ ​challenging​ aspects​ ​​that​ ​are​ ​transnationality​ ​and ​​transmediality.

Richard Legay is a PhD candidate at the C²DH​ ​, the Center for Contemporary and Digital History, at the University of Luxembourg, where he has been writing his thesis under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Andreas Fickers since November 2016. Legay’s main field of interest is Media History, specifically Radio with a strong focus on transnationality and transmediality. His other interests lie in the Digital Humanities and in Public History. Alongside his research, Legay is teaching a module on Digital Public History for Bachelor students as well as supervising and counselling Master students in History during the writing process of their thesis. Legay is also curator for an exhibition on May 1968 at the Neumünster Abbey in Luxembourg City, opening in 2018 and part of the organisation team for a conference series and a summer school in Radio History and Cultural Heritage in collaboration with the C²DH and the Minister for Culture in Saarland. Legay obtained his Master’s degree in European Contemporary History at the University of Luxembourg in 2015 and graduated from Trinity College Dublin in​ ​2016​ ​with​ ​an​ ​M.Phil ​ ​in ​Public​​ ​History​ and​​ ​Cultural​ ​Heritage.

Christmas on the Radio

Chris Deacy, University of Kent

20 December 2017


In 1944 Cyril Garbett, the Archbishop of York, wrote in the Radio Times that “the wireless and the English tongue are means by which God’s message of love and peace can spread through the world” (in Connelly 2012: 152). Fast forward more than 70 years and we find that when we gather around the radio at Christmas time such a sense of community is garnered that the season takes on the characteristics of a secular religion. Indeed, there are commitments and rituals – even, forms of devotion – on display that it might require on our part a willingness to reframe the boundaries around what we consider to constitute ‘religion’. It might even be the case that the secular can take on religious properties, in a manner which conforms with how for Mazur and McCarthy religious meaning may increasingly be “found in activities that are often considered meaningless” (2011: 2).

It was with these considerations in mind that I wrote Christmas as Religion, in which I argued that the sense of fandom and community generated each year by Christmas Junior Choice on Radio 2 are as fertile when it comes to exploring matters of faith, identity, beliefs and values as those made within religious broadcasting. If, for example, we might be inclined to see our ultimate spiritual meaning to lie in our relationships with others, then Junior Choice might be a prime example of an alternative way to form a concept of religion, with its devotees who construe the two hours of nostalgia and reconnecting with the past on Christmas morning as a form of transcendent, even sacred, time.

Ed Stewart, Christmas Junior Choice

Crucially, we might want to ask whether the fact that the BBC Charter requires the organization to broadcast at least 110 hours of faith-based content per year, across television and radio, adequately reflects the extent to which religion is being produced or disseminated. It may, rather, be the BBC’s secular output that is shaping the content and format of religion today.

On 29 November 2017 the BBC issued a press release titled ‘Christmas Religious Programming on the BBC’, in which its Commissioning Editor of Religion & Ethics, Fatima Salaria, announced that “The BBC’s religion output at Christmas aims to bring communities together to reflect on the true meaning of this very special time of the year” (www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/mediapacks/christmas-religious-programming-2017). She continued that it was the “fantastic mix of traditional carols, festive music, spiritual contemplation and live worship we are offering” that would give audiences “a variety of opportunities to celebrate the festive season in their own personal way.”

Curiously, though, when one looks beyond substantive approaches to religion, in which traditional institutional dimensions of religion are being emphasized, we find that, as Susan Douglas’s comprehensive study of American radio has shown, “Few inventions invoke such nostalgia, such deeply personal and vivid memories, such a sense of loss and regret” and that “there are few devices with which people from different generations and backgrounds have had such an intimate relationship” (Douglas 2004: 3). As well as shaping our desires, fantasies and images of the outside world – indeed, “our very imaginations” – she sees radio as having helped us to “create internal maps of the world and our place in it, urging us to construct imagined communities to which we do, or do not, belong” (ibid.: 5). For Barnard, also, “For most of us, life without radio is difficult to imagine” and, of “all the major mass communications media, radio is perhaps the most ubiquitous and most easily available…, punctuating, enlivening and infiltrating the lives of its listeners” (Barnard 2000: 2).

If this is the case, then radio can function as a tradition-supplying resource which, in addition to transmitting religious content, is able to mediate and engender religious experience. According to Stewart Hoover, “The realms of ‘religion’ and ‘media’ can no longer be easily separated”, as he sets about trying to “chart the ways that media and religion intermingle and collide in the cultural experience of media audiences” (2006: 1), as they “occupy the same spaces, serve many of the same purposes, and invigorate the same practices in late modernity” (ibid.: 9). With this in mind, radio is not just about broadcasting religion, along the lines of the BBC’s charter, but it is about doing religion. As with so much of what religion purportedly does with its adherents through community, radio “creates a unique intimacy with its listeners who can interact with it through their imagination” and, as a companion, can be “used as a friend to provide company, buck us up when we are feeling down or relax us when we are tired and tense” (Fleming 2002: 1).

Crucially, as Douglas sees it, “Most modes of listening generate a strong feeling of belonging” (2004: 8) in a manner which accords with the findings of Abby Day’s research that people tend to identify “their human relationships as most important to them in informing their beliefs and morality” (2013: 68) and that, asked what they believed in, many of her informants would answer that they believe in their relationships with other people as the most important values in their lives. This shift in the understanding of transcendence from a theocentric to an “everyday, human, social” (ibid.: 71) context helps us to understand how, through radio, we have ties to a virtual community of people who share our same tastes and predilections – Douglas refers to when “40 million people, for example, tuned into exactly the same thing” and there is an almost sacred dimension to her talk of how in the “act of listening itself” one knows that they “and other listeners are experiencing that very moment of [their] lives in exactly the same way” (2004: 24) – and to presenters who often speak to us “in the most intimate, confidential, and inclusive tones” (ibid.: 22).

At Christmas time, this ‘secular sacred’ way of understanding the festival is especially pronounced. I recently undertook a study of Christmas output across the BBC’s national, regional and local networks on Christmas Day 2015 where the role of family and community was much in evidence. On Radio Solent’s breakfast show Louisa Hannan conveyed to her listeners that Christmas morning “is the best time to be on the radio”. Her mission was one of ensuring that “if you’re on your own for Christmas we’re here to keep you company throughout the day, and all over the festive period”, and there were frequent references to how “money can’t buy that sort of thing”. The pastoral aspect of radio was reinforced by how for Hannan “I think most of us look back and there is somebody that we’re thinking of, at least one person today”, including those who have lost someone close to them and that “It’s not a nice time is it to be on your own, but we’re here to keep you company”. ‘Conventional religion’ played a relatively small role in the programme, taking merely the form of a pre-recorded homily from the Bishop of Winchester, The Right Revd. Tim Dakin, who related the arrival of a new baby in a family to how “Jesus is the gift God wants us to have… in effect inviting us to hold him in our hands and to discover the hope that living with him brings”, though “Like many refugees today the holy family were left far from their own community, dependent on others and unable to return to their own home”.

The community angle was reinforced on the programme that followed when Tristan Pascoe welcomed those listeners who “may well be finding themselves without someone special for the first time this year”, adding that “You’re all part of the family, you’re very welcome along here and we’re glad to have you”. There was much reciprocity, with Pascoe thanking the listeners for letting him be a part of their special day – “you know I feel I’m among friends this morning, which is lovely” – which he described as “a very intimate feeling, I feel it’s just us out there”.

If Day is correct, then, that “Christianity functions in [people’s] lives to reinforce familial, ethnic and social conditions”, and in terms of how they stress “responsibility for personal destiny” (2013: 68), then the way in which listeners prioritized family, charity, acts of kindness, and the need to reach out to relatives, friends and those dear to us who might be alone at Christmas (as when for Tristan Pascoe “You’re all part of the family, you’re very welcome along here and we’re glad to have you, and I’m glad to be here as well, thanks for having me”), suggest the pre-eminent role of the sacred in British society. Day, indeed, specifically categorizes ‘love’, ‘family’, ‘fairness’ and ‘kindness’ as manifestations of the sacred, and the fact that they are not explicitly grounded in ‘religious’ vocabulary does not obviate the degree to which they need to be factored into what we consider to be the role that religion plays in Christmas radio. If, in short, Day is right that most people ‘believe’ in their relationships with other people, such that their “orientation” is “to people, not to gods, and thus anthropocentric seems to convey best the idea that human beings are ‘centric’ to their lives and it is with them they locate power and authority” (2013: 73), then we need to ensure that we are looking for such demonstrations and expressions of religious and/or sacred behaviour and values in the right places.

So, when Junior Choice returns to the airwaves this Christmas with Anneka Rice in the hot seat, don’t groan or reach for the off button when you hear ‘The Laughing Gnome’ or ‘Nellie The Elephant’. For, it might just be the most fertile – if unlikely – manifestation of religion that you are going to hear on the radio this year.


Chris Deacy is Reader in Theology and Religious Studies, and has been at Kent since 2004.  Chris’ most recent monograph, Christmas as Religion, published by Oxford University Press in August 2016, takes issue with traditional ways of conceptualizing the relationship between Christmas and religion. Instead of associating ‘religion’ with formal or institutional forms of Christianity or seeing Christmas as a commercial and secular holiday, Deacy argues that it is in a supernaturally-themed Christmas film about Santa or a Christmas radio programme such as BBC Radio 2’s Christmas Junior Choice that matters of faith, identity, beliefs and values – traditionally seen as lying within the domain of ‘religion’ – are played out in the world today.


Disclaimer: The IAMHIST Blog is a platform that offers individual scholars the opportunity to present their work and thoughts. They alone are responsible for the content, which does not represent the view of the IAMHIST council or other IAMHIST members.

The City Archive: Expect the unexpected

Leen Engelen, LUCA School of Arts and the Institute for Media Studies (KU Leuven, Belgium)

15 December 2017


For many years, I have been doing media historical research. My preferred research topic is visual culture (film, picture postcards, posters…) in the 1910s and 1920s. I have thus visited many different kinds of archives in several different countries. From the Belgian National Archives in Brussels to small unopened private and company archives, stored in dusty boxes in basements or attics. I would like to write however about my experience in city archives, which I came to know as treasure troves full of unexpected gems.

Of houses, police regulations and movie posters

Being a historian is hardly ever just a job. When I moved house a few years ago, I decided to check on the history of the house (built in the post-World War I era) in the local city archive. I requested the files and went to the reading room to look at the building plans and correspondence between the urban planning department and the architect. While looking at these documents, I dropped my eye on a series of film posters hanging on the wall somewhat hidden behind the registration desk. Upon inquiry, the librarian told me they had a whole bunch of these in the archive and if I cared to take a look at them. They were well-preserved in acid free folders, but were otherwise not inventoried. My interest was raised and I made an appointment with the head archivist. She showed me the whole collection and it turned out they had hundreds of posters in their vaults. A police regulation dating back to 1892 stipulated that one copy of every poster hung at the official billboards throughout the city had to be deposited at the municipal administration to enable verification by the police. The aim was to prevent offensive, illegal or inflammatory posters from provoking public outrage. Next to cinema posters, the collection included political posters, election propaganda, theatre and music posters. Because of the un-inventoried state of the archive, only few researchers had shown interest in this particular collection and virtually no one had looked at the film posters. This unexpected find initiated a collaborative project called ‘Cinema Leuven’ with the Leuven City Archive and the Heritage Department which resulted, two years later, in a book, an exhibition on the city’s cinema history at the local theatre, several student research papers and a completely inventoried and digitized film poster collection accessible online (www.cinemaleuven.be).

Figure 1: source: Leuven City Archive

Figure 2: source: Leuven City Archive

Talk to the archivist

After this experience, my interest in city archives was sparked. A few years later my colleague Roel Vande Winkel and myself embarked on a project that came about thanks to a wakeful and enthusiast archivist at the City Archive in Antwerp (also called Felixarchive because of its location in an old harbour warehouse called ‘Felixpakhuis’). We both had done research at the Felixarchive for cinema related research projects before and one day the archivist pointed my colleague to the archive of the Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp (Koninklijke Maatschappij voor Dierkunde van Antwerpen, KMDA), the society that operated the Antwerp Zoo since 1843. Not exactly an archive media historians like us would usually be interested in. What we found, when we took a closer look, however was quite amazing. A near complete business archive of ‘Cinema Zoologie’, the movie theatre that had been opened at the zoo’s premises in 1915 and remained in service without interruption until  1936. Not only did the archive hold detailed weekly programs (a treasure in itself for those interested in new cinema history), we also found administrative documents and correspondence with distributors, local authorities and musicians. The icing on the cake, were letters from members of the audience, commenting on specific films, on other members’ behaviour (unruly children, passionate youngsters or unfaithful husbands and wives). We were utterly surprised to find this in an archive that was produced by a zoological garden and hadn’t it been for the archivists, we probably wouldn’t have found out about this archive at all. Thanks to this large variety of documents, we have since been able to inventory the complete film and music program of ‘Cinema Zoologie’, from its founding in 1915 until it closure in 1936, and to reconstruct its complete history. From its founding during the German occupation of Antwerp in the First World War (which we published here), throughout the roaring 1920s and the transition to sound, to its decline due to increasing competition in the film exhibition sector in the years preceding the Second World War. We were not the only one to be surprised by the story of Cinema Zoologie. When we approached the Royal Zoological Society (that still operates – among other things – the Antwerp zoological garden today) in 2015, they were unaware of this particular part of the Society’s history. Their interest was sparked by this unusual story and we are currently setting up a Cinema Zoologie exhibition at the zoo’s premises (to be opened in 2018 to celebrate the Garden’s 175th birthday), a book publication and an online platform providing access to the archive and the programming database.

Figure 3: FelixArchief, Antwerp City Archive, Royal Zoological Society Antwerp

Boxes, Chocolate Wraps and Cinema Programs

While working with the Cinema Zoologie archive, the archivists mentioned another collection they had recently started working on: the papers of a man listening to the remarkable name Télésphorus Buyssens (1879-1945), an Antwerp railway administrator with a keen interest in… almost everything. It seems like throughout his life, he kept every piece of paper he could get hold of. This resulted in over 50 boxes filled with chocolate wraps, advertising brochures, bills, envelopes, letters, announcements, flyers, packages, political pamphlets… and film programs. This huge pile of papers (an optimistic archivist called it ‘papierotheek’) includes ephemeral documents that don’t usually make it to archives but that are relevant for researchers in many different fields: from economic historians researching price fluctuations of consumer goods to graphic designers and art historians interested in the design of wraps and packages of everyday products. His letters, many of which were written during the First World War, have been used by the archive for their public history project on the life of ordinary Antwerp citizens during the Great war. The collection of more than 1500 cinema flyers of over 70 different theatres in Belgium (mainly Antwerp) and France (the north), dated between roughly 1908 and 1942, is very valuable for cinema historians. Especially for the first decades of the 20th century this type of ephemeral sources rarely survives in such quantities. So once again, talking to the archivist brought very interesting and unexpected material to our attention. And who knows, the next project.

Figure 4: Felixarchief, Antwerp City Archive, Archive Télésphorus Buyssens


Leen Engelen is a media historian at LUCA School of Arts and the Institute for Media Studies (KU Leuven, Belgium). She is vice-president of IAMHIST.


Disclaimer: The IAMHIST Blog is a platform that offers individual scholars the opportunity to present their work and thoughts. They alone are responsible for the content, which does not represent the view of the IAMHIST council or other IAMHIST members.

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