SOCLAS researcher Dr Kay Chadwick (French) has been investigating a little-known and under-used archive, based at the Imperial War Museum’s Duxford site, near Cambridge. Duxford is principally Europe’s premier aviation museum, but a distant building on the former airbase part of the site holds a precious resource stored in several thousand boxes: the BBC’s monitoring reports of foreign radio from 1939-74.

Dr Chadwick’s current research programme focuses on French-language radio during the Second World War, and the Duxford archive is a goldmine, complementing the holdings of the BBC’s Written Archives Centre at Caversham, near Reading, where she has also worked regularly in the past.

‘Duxford has a unique and valuable set of materials’, she explains. ‘Nowhere in France holds the same extensive and continuous archive of documents relating to German-controlled Radio Paris, the Vichy home service, or Radio France in Algiers. The sheer scale of the work undertaken by the BBC teams who were carrying out the monitoring process is hugely impressive’.

Dr Chadwick expects that her exploratory visit to Duxford will lead to the development of a number of research ventures to complement her most recent project on French wartime radio. Supported by funding from the British Academy and the award of an AHRC Fellowship, this project resulted in the first-ever critical edition of  the 272 surviving editorials broadcast on Radio Vichy by Philippe Henriot, Secretary of State for Information and Propaganda for the collaborationist Vichy regime from January to June 1944, due for publication later in 2011 as Philippe Henriot and the Last Act of Vichy: Radio Broadcasts, January – June 1944.

Access to material such as wartime propaganda broadcasts is notoriously difficult to come by’, Dr Chadwick continues, ‘and it is vital that such rare and fragile materials are transformed into permanent public documents which are made available to researchers and students. That principle was a major impetus for my edition of Henriot’s broadcasts, and the Duxford archive offers similar opportunities for equally important work.’ The preservation of the overall archive is currently under discussion by the Imperial War Museum, a process to which Dr Chadwick has been invited to contribute.

You can read more about Dr Chadwick’s research project in French Historical Studies, French History journal, the BBC History Magazine (full text of these articles is available for subscribers only); and listen to a podcast of an interview on the subject.

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