Contents and Arrangement

Series 1: Transcripts, 1930 November-1941 May

19 boxes

Collection Overview

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

Series 1: Transcripts, consists of typescripts for broadcasts coming from London, Germany, Paris, Rome, Moscow, Tokyo, Hilversum (the Netherlands), and Budapest. Most of these transcripts have been translated into English (except for a few which remain in Spanish or in Portuguese), though many of them were initially broadcast in a language other than English.

More time was devoted to news than to any other program. As a supplement, each country created a certain number of topical talks and features to clarify points stated in the news programs. Topics and features for each country are described below.

The BBC broadcasts to North America can be divided into two phases: a pre-Dunkerque and a post-Dunkerque phase. The pre-Dunkerque phase was characterized as lethargic, often dull, and not always up-to-date. After the Battle of Flanders, the British were more concerned about satisfying their American audiences, and began to increase their feature talks. Broadcasts during this post-Dunkerque phase consisted of nine talks and special features, each of them lasting about fifteen minutes, and broadcast every week. Because the British were afraid their programs would become too monotonous if regularly given by a single speaker, they adopted devices such as having two speakers in a question-and-answer form, or included interviews with British soldiers, or even added sound effects such as music and planes taking off. A peculiarity of British broadcasts was that they appeared to be directed towards a narrow audience of a high intellectual level. However, this appeal to such a small circle did not undermine their efficiency; rather the broadcasts reached a large number and wide range of people.

Very few programs were hosted by the same speaker throughout the weeks. Apart from "Britain Speaks," on which J.B. Priestly was usually the speaker and "World Affairs" which Wickham Steed hosted, most programs changed constantly. A list of programs with a short description is presented below:

"The Empire at War", a review of Great Britain's war efforts.

"Cards on the Table." a question-and-answer program discussing current events. They often had expert guest speakers.

"This Freedom" was another question-and-answer program discussing various aspects of individual liberty in Britain.

"Matters of Moment" was a program in which various aspects of current events of the war were discussed.

"Vive la France" acquainted people with the French way of life, as well as with French views and actions concerning the war.

"World Affairs" was a summary of the week's news, given by Wickham Steed, who was one of the only British commentators to frequently refer to the United States.

"Britain Speaks" was a series of feature talks addressed more specifically to an American audience. It soon developed into a daily affair with guest speakers such as distinguished authors, artists, journalists and scholars. Its most frequent commentator was J.B. Priestley, a much admired author and playwright. Vernon Bartlett and Wickham Steed were two other speakers.

"Radio News Reel" was a dramatization of the war in sound, with eyewitness accounts, sound effects, and simulated on-the-spot broadcasting.

Germany (mostly from Berlin): The German topical talks and features served the same purpose as the British programs: to strengthen and support the news items. Their broadcasts to America were basically aimed at dividing the Allied powers, and trying to show that the war involved strictly European interests. They initially attempted to discourage America from entering the war by condemning the British and showing that they were not worthy of defence, and put the blame for starting the war on England. As opposed to the BBC, German broadcasts were directed towards the masses and were very forceful, since it was believed that the masses were impressed by strength. German slogans were simplistic, repetitious, and often appealed to emotions. Entertainment was an important factor of the German radio and constituted 70% of the total schedule; music was often played to relax the listener's mind before going on with the 'heavier' talk.

Berlin broadcast 45 talks a week, generally very short ones which lasted no more than seven or eight minutes. A description of a few of them follows:

"British Disregard for American Neutral Rights" was the primary example of the German attempt to disaffect the United States from the Allied cause. The program presented an historical survey of British and American feeling relations beginning in 1784 and continuing to the two countries' diplomatic tangles during the Second World War.

"A Thousand Years of German History" was a review of the unification of German states since the Holy Roman Empire. Commentators on this program frequently referred unfavourably to the British control of the seas. This program alternated weekly with "A Thousand Years of German Literature".

"America and the Americans in the World" consisted of biographies of American heroes such as Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin and Andrew Jackson.

"The United States and Germany, Past, Present and Future" was another biographical program concentrating on Americans of German ancestry.

"Germany as I See it" was a series of talks by Americans in Germany discussing the living conditions and civilian morale.

"Jimmy and Johnny" was a dialogue between two Berlin announcers who took the part of Canadians in Canada. Both believe that Canada should not be in the war since it was not invaded, and they are convinced that Germany will win the war. They presented skits that proved to be quite humourous at times.

"Dear Harry" was a series of fictional letters read by Fred W. Kaltenbach from Iowa. The main point of these letters was to ridicule British claims of war successes.

"Good Neighbors" was a short talk concerning the friendly relationship that had been experienced by America and Canada for many years. This talk was used by the Germans to indirectly blame England for bringing the war so close to the United States because of its link with Canada.

"Schmidt and Smith" was a series of comic dialogues between a German and an Englishman who met in a Swiss Hotel and discussed the flaws of the British System. Lord Haw-Haw, (a.k.a. William Joyce) played the part of the Englishman, while Schmidt was played by one of his colleagues.

Paris-Mondial: At first, Paris-Mondial's broadcasts differed from the German or the British ones in that they were predominantly of a cultural or educational nature. Nevertheless, their programs changed considerably after April, 1940 following the change in the Ministry of Information: Reynaud succeeded Daladier as the President of the Council and the radio broadcasting services were reorganized. The programs became less intellectual and more to the point. Time was added to the news and commentaries, and they were better organized. Some of the main features and topical talks are described below:

"20 Aspects of the French Spirit" consisted of an analysis of the French way of thinking, with references to literature, often quoting famous French authors such as Flaubert, Zola, and Balzac.

"German Propaganda" was an observation of the German use of propaganda, pointing out their amplifications of unfortunate events for the Allies, and the camouflage of German defeats.

"Message from Paris" was another example of the condemnation of German propaganda, with comments such as " is expected that the German News Agency will not fail to fill the air with false news and dishonest theories..."

Rome: Radio Rome had a very important role in international politics during the war. Up until March, 1940, its aim was to mislead the allies into believing that Italy would take a democratic side. After April, the Italian Radio intended to convey the impression that Italy would intervene at any moment, thereby distracting the Allies. Italian broadcasts were aimed at Britain, and attempted to create a sense of disunity by questioning the competence of British leaders and by condemning their political ideals.

Although a great part of the Italian broadcasts consisted of news with occasional commentaries, there were some interesting talks which promoted propaganda. Several talks covered the topics of liberty, democracy, or freedom. The Italian point of view in such talks was to condemn the British for believing that democracy and liberalism were synonymous. Their main point was to criticize Churchill and Britain's political situation since the 1920's, stating that Mussolini progressed with his Fascist regime. In conclusion to these talks about democracy, the Italian commentator inquired: "What has democracy ever done for you?" Other programs included:

"Britain the Pawnbroker" was an attack on the British banking system, with several talks discussing financial economics.

"Lies" was a talk in which the Italians point out and condemn all the lies that Britain broadcast to maintain the people's morale.

The Italians claimed that the British lied consistently about the extent of damage caused by German attacks, and also invented or exaggerated problems within Italy. As well as their criticism towards the British, the Rome broadcasters were sharp on their attack of the United States, sharper, it would seem, than the German commentators. Most of the attacks were centered on the President and his policy, as well as the United States' relations with South America, and their meddling in Yugoslavia.

Broadcasts from Moscow, Tokyo, Hilversum, and Budapest, are very limited in number, and consist exclusively of news reports.


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Collection History

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. The Trustees of Princeton University hold copyright to all materials generated by Princeton University employees in the course of their work. For instances beyond Fair Use, if copyright is held by Princeton University, researchers do not need to obtain permission, complete any forms, or receive a letter to move forward with use of materials from the Princeton University Archives.

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Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Series 1: Transcripts; Princeton Listening Center Records, AC015, Princeton University Archives, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library
Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library
65 Olden Street
Princeton, NJ 08540, USA
(609) 258-6345
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (mudd): Box 1-19

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Other Finding Aids

A database for this collection is available for researchers to search by date, station, location, type of program, title, language and announcer name. For more information, please speak with a reference archivist.

Princeton University. School of Public Affairs.
Whitton, John Boardman, 1892-1977