A Unique Archive

Gary Rawnsley puts in a plea for greater recognition of radio monitoring as a historical source.

As historians we are taught that secondary sources are useful for our research, but on their own are not enough, and so we must turn to first-hand accounts and primary sources to provide the substance of our investigations. For most this involves frequent visits to the Public Records Office at Kew, and this is usually considered sufficient. However there are other less well-known archives which few consult, but which can effectively complement the PRO. One example is the BBC Written Archives Centre at Caversham Park, near Reading. Contrary to popular academic belief this is of use not only to scholars of the BBC but to anyone engaged in researching the post-Second World War period of international history, since the Written Archives Centre is the home of the Summaries of World Broadcasts (SWBs), a rich depository of historical information.

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