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BBC Monitoring

Summary of World Broadcasts

Essential Global Media, 1939-2001
Learn what makes this product unique
  • Previously inaccessible transcripts of original radio and television broadcasts, translated into English and summarized by BBC Monitoring
  • Exceptional real-time coverage of critical world events, from the start of WWII to the early 21st century (1939-2001)
  • Open-source intelligence transcripts offer unprecedented academic research value

Recognized as one the most important historical archives ever assembled, BBC Monitoring: Summary of World Broadcasts is now available as a digital primary source collection from Readex. This expansive resource features nearly 70,000 individual multi-page reports – brought together in partnership with the BBC. Scholars, faculty, and students can now explore new and vital background on 20th-century events that cast today’s global events in a new light.

BBC Monitoring: Origins and Scope
BBC Monitoring was founded in 1939 at the start of WWII. Its purpose was to listen to radio broadcasts and gather open-source intelligence to help Britain and its allies understand global dynamics and assess emerging global threats. Over the next 60 years, the scope of its monitoring grew quickly. Trained specialists transcribed broadcasts of speeches, current affairs, political discussions, and social and cultural events worldwide. Transcripts, in turn, were translated into English, then read by experts who carefully selected critical content for publication. Finally, selections were summarized and curated into daily reports that comprise the Summary of World Broadcasts. These original daily reports often included commentary and evaluation by subject matter experts, as well as synopses and specialist briefings.

First-hand, real-time coverage of 20th-century people, places, and global events
Daily digests of foreign radio and television broadcasts and news are essential primary sources for scholars specializing in 20th-century political, social, cultural, and economic history. Students will discover unmatched insights into key regions, global events, and national security priorities of the UK government, including WWII, the Cold War, Communist China, Chernobyl, Ukraine, and the Soviet Union/Russia.

Unlike newspapers – which appear in print and are widely circulated – radio broadcasts are ephemeral. They only survive when a listener makes a transcript and then publishes it. This unique quality makes Summary of World Broadcasts a record of essential discourse unlike any other.

A distinctive, essential addition to any research collection
Intelligently organized by critical time periods of high-research interest, the Summary of World Broadcasts digital archive is available to purchase as a complete collection or by individual chronological collections:

  • Series 1: 1939-1958
  • Series 2: 1959-1973
  • Series 3: 1974-1988
  • Series 4: 1989-2001
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“ amazing resource.”
“This is a history of the world speaking to the world.”
Nick Cull, Professor of Communication, University of Southern California
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Areas of Study
This product supports the following subjects
African & Middle Eastern Studies
Asian Studies
British & European Studies
Cold War Studies
Government Studies
Immigration Studies
Latin American Studies
Russian & East European Studies
South Asian Studies
STEM History
War & Conflict
World History
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Reviews & Accolades

“…this is one of the treasures of the world and a global resource deserves global recognition. Any citizen of the world can find something relevant to them in this material. This is a history of the world speaking to the world. …It's an amazing, amazing resource. It's as versatile as the person who asks it questions.”
—Nick Cull, Professor of Communication, University of Southern California

“The BBC Monitoring archive is an extraordinary, little-known collection covering most of the important events of the twentieth century. As well as offering remarkable source material for scholars and students of intelligence, espionage, warfare, international relations, diplomacy, and the media, readers will find information in the vast range of documents about social change across the world, about refugees and emigres, political upheaval, and an everyday history of a tumultuous century. …BBCM is not just a useful source for research but, in many ways, a guide to recent world history.”
—Dan Stone, Professor of Modern History, Royal Holloway, University of London

“The BBC Monitoring archives form a treasure trove of information, casting a fresh light on historical material for researchers. My work on intercepted radio broadcasts relating to India during the Second World War revealed to me what a rich and valuable collection these archives truly are. ...I also viewed the monitoring reports themselves as processes of representation, crafted by the agency of the monitors who exercised choice in what and how to transcribe.”
—Dr. Diya Gupta, Lecturer in Public History, City, University of London

“The BBC Monitoring Service Summary of World Broadcasts collection provides English-speaking researchers with unparalleled access to written translations of international radio broadcasts. The collection is a particularly valuable resource for researchers and students seeking to understand the role of radio propaganda and the use of open-source information in intelligence-gathering in World War Two.” 
—Karine Varley, Lecturer in French and Modern History, University of Strathclyde

“A wonderful resource for students and scholars working on the propaganda and news dimensions of the Cold War. The BBC’s key role in that conflict has yet to be fully explored. This resource points to the need to do that and to appreciate, in the process, how vital a part Britain played in the Cold War.”
—Tony Shaw, Professor of History, University of Hertfordshire

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