International Workshop: ‘Broadcasting Britishness during the Second World War: Radio and the British World’

Date and time

Thursday 13 April 2017, 15:30-18:00 (Venue opens at 15:20)


Room C5 17th Floor, Global Front Building, Surugadai Campus, Meiji University



Chair Mahito Takeuchi, Associate Professor, College of Commerce, Nihon University
Presentation Simon Potter, D. Phil, Reader in Modern History, Department of History, University of Bristol


This essay considers the role of radio broadcasting in appealing to and reinforcing Britannic sentiment during the Second World War, and thus mobilising a united imperial war effort. Radio played on the bonds of sentiment in a particularly powerful fashion, because it addressed listeners intimately and with a sense of authenticity, and allowed rapid, regular, and direct communication with audiences over long distances. Imperial broadcasting structures established during the 1920s and 1930s were repurposed for war, under the leadership of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), but bringing in broadcasters (and state information and propaganda agencies) all around the British world. Many different producers, writers, artists, and experts helped broadcast Britishness during this period, appealing to Britannic sentiment in a wide variety of ways. Often they linked Britishness with liberty, democracy, and equality, even if this flew in the face of the realities of empire. The British connection was presented as a living and vital force, bringing people together despite divisions of race. Broadcasters also made a powerful appeal to ideas about a common history and set of traditions. The essay suggests that such themes offered a powerful means of harnessing Britannic sentiment to the needs of war.