The BBC at War, 1939-45: Its Finest Hour

Course details

From £1365.00

Sun 28 Jul 2019 - Sat 03 Aug 2019

The BBC at War, 1939-45: Its Finest Hour


The Oxford Experience is a residential summer programme providing one-week courses in a variety of subjects aimed at non-specialists. It offers a choice of seminars each week over a period of six weeks.

During World War II the British Broadcasting Corporation played a truly vital role, purveying truth and offering hope to Britain, its Empire and the millions subjugated to Nazi rule. Using extensive archive material we examine the Corporation’s unprecedented wartime relationship with government, armed forces and ordinary people. Topics include: Churchill and the BBC, war journalism, technological innovation, the BBC and European resistance movements and Berlin’s English-language propaganda war. We hear, too, how the BBC entertained troops and civilians throughout those dark days. We also discover how in the immediate post-war period the BBC World Service set the standard for international peacetime broadcasting.

Programme details

Seminars meet each weekday morning, 09.15-10.45 and 11.15-12.45, with afternoons free for course-related field trips, individual study or exploring the many beautiful places in and around the city.


The Home Front: In wartime, the BBC’s declared responsibility was to the British public and its primary goal was to keep the public informed. But government often stood in the way of this task and we hear how the Corporation balanced the demand for morale-boosting propaganda with the pursuit and maintenance of truth. We hear too how it set out to soothe and entertain a population living in fear.


The European Service: Germany and its allies had long exploited the medium of radio and in 1939 the BBC had some catching-up to do. But catch up it did, leaving Joseph Goebbels to lament the BBC’s ‘intellectual invasion’ of Europe. We hear about this invasion from London, thousands of broadcasts in over 40 languages which inspired resistance and hope across the continent and beyond.


Radio Wars: German radio became popular in wartime Britain and we discover how the BBC won back its listeners. We consider, too, the BBC’s V For Victory campaign which encouraged defiance in occupied Europe and enjoyed the active participation of Churchill.

Technology: We learn of the creation of a radio network less vulnerable to attack and of the development of portable recording equipment, both vital to the BBC’s success.


Television Wars: Before the war the BBC boasted the world’s first scheduled broadcast television service. We focus on the service’s bizarre and troubled history and on the integral and surprising role its development played in the desperate military defence of the British Isles in 1940 and beyond.


From Dunkirk to D-Day: Today we experience the before-and-after of the BBC’s coming-of-age during the Second World War. Archive recordings of reports from the battle front in 1939 contrast dramatically with surviving counterparts from the D-Day landings in 1944. We will hear many fascinating, startling and moving examples of the BBC at its best.


Recommended reading

Hickman, T. What Did You Do in the War, Auntie? The BBC at War, 1939-45. BBC Books. 1996.


During your course, you will stay in typical Oxford student accommodation at Christ Church in buildings which range from the 18th to the 20th century. Bedrooms are modestly-furnished, do not have air-conditioning and are arranged on a staircase of four or five floors.

The fee £1545 includes a bedroom with private bathroom facilities (shower, washbasin and toilet). Most are single but a few twins are available for couples or those who wish to share with a friend. Those couples wishing to book a twin room should contact us direct, as these rooms cannot be booked online.

There are also a few standard rooms available which all have their own washbasin and shaver point but the bath and toilet facilities on each staircase are shared. To apply for one of these rooms please select the ‘Programme Fee (with single standard accommodation and meals)’ option on the application form.  Early application for these rooms is essential.

Most standard rooms are single but there are a few ‘twin sets’ (two single rooms opening off a sitting room). If you wish to book a twin set, please contact us direct, as these rooms cannot be booked online.

Please indicate your accommodation preferences (either online or on your application form) together with a note of any mobility problems.

We regret that we are unable to offer you accommodation at Christ Church prior to or following your course. Additionally, family or friends who are not enrolled in the programme cannot be accommodated in college.


Programme fee (with single en-suite accommodation and meals): £1545.00
Programme fee (with single standard accommodation and meals): £1365.00


Dr Tim Barrett


Tim Barrett lectures in political history and the history of science.  Ten years an OUDCE International Programmes tutor, he is also an Honorary Research Fellow of Keele University, Staffordshire.

Assessment methods

There are no assessments for this course.


Online registration closes on Wednesday 1 May 2019 but please note that this course may be fully booked very quickly so early registration is recommended.