People Nation and Empire

The ‘Connected Histories of the BBC’ project at the University of Sussex has launched a new digital resource  – People Nation and Empire – that explores how the BBC has tried to re-imagine itself in the multi-cultural and post-imperial age.

The resource includes a large number of clips from programmes not seen since first broadcast several decades ago, as well as lots of interview recordings, photographs and written documents that are being made publicly available for the very first time. It should be of interest to anyone researching or teaching contemporary British history.

Many of the sources show how the BBC grappled with issues of who exactly gets to speak on air and who exactly gets to appear on screen. The highlights include:

  • Rare clips and images of African-American and Black British performers on pre-war and post-war BBC television.
  • The story of Una Marson, the BBC’s first black producer, who developed broadcasting to the Caribbean during the Second World War – including the earliest known recording of her, and newly-available documentary evidence of why she left the BBC in 1946.
  • BBC news bulletins from the day the Empire Windrush arrived in 1948.
  • Documents relating to specific programmes for ‘Asian immigrants’ in 1965.
  • A specially recorded interview with the novelist and broadcaster Mike Phillips, discussing the challenges of being a black reporter at the BBC in the 1970s.