Wednesday 24 Sep 2014
The BBC Archive is today launching a new online collection that explores Guy Burgess' time working at the BBC.
As part of the BBC's plans to open up parts of its extensive archives, 24 documents dating back to 1936 have been made available online for the first time, giving a unique insight into the character of this notorious spy.
Jean Seaton, BBC Historian, said: "These documents paint a tantalising portrait of Burgess as he collides with the BBC which he joined from Cambridge and left for the Foreign Office.
"It's clear that Burgess was a louche, hard-drinking, dishevelled, outrageous man; and a brilliant, charming one who deftly made himself an indispensable insider, in order to betray the system he lived within."
Revealing references from Cambridge, where Burgess was first recruited as a spy, begin this collection.
One describes Burgess as "a man of considerable self-assurance and a fellow for whom it is easy to feel both admiration and liking", another, from the renowned historian Sir George Trevelyan, states: "He has passed through the communist measles that so many of our clever young men go through, and is well out of it. There is nothing second rate about him and I think he would prove a great addition to your staff."
Burgess worked for the BBC twice between 1936 and 1944 as a producer of The Week In Westminster and reports released show how Burgess spent his time wining and dining MPs and refused to travel second class.
When questioned by the corporation about his excessive expenditure on travel, Burgess replies: "I normally travel first class and see no reason why I should alter my practice when on BBC business, particularly when I am in my best clothes."
In an incident at The Langham Hotel in 1941, three internal memos discuss what happened the night Burgess tried to break down the door to his office with a fire extinguisher to retrieve "urgently necessary papers", and how the House Superintendent perceived this to be "most unsatisfactory, and I must add uncalled for".
In support of these documents the BBC is also releasing a collection of archive TV and radio programmes which examine the gradual exposure of the Cambridge Spies over four decades.
Julie Rowbotham, Executive Producer, BBC Archive, said: "The BBC archive holds just under one million hours of programming and serves as a reminder of how the BBC evolved, and has an unrivalled record of recent British contemporary history.
"The programmes we are making available online put these amazing Burgess documents into context and reveal how this young BBC producer's name became synonymous with one of the greatest spy scandals of the 20th century."
These two collections are the latest in a series to be released online which explore the cultural and political developments that shaped the 20th century.
Both the Guy Burgess and the Cambridge Spies collections are available from today (18 August 2009) and can be viewed by going to bbc.co.uk/archive.
Explore over 80 years of UK and BBC history with the BBC Archive website. Programmes, documents and images bring the past to life and reveal forgotten stories. Through the creation of these online collections, the BBC hopes to release hidden treasures providing a fascinating source of socio-political history.
The collection, Burgess At The BBC – The Early Career Of A Notorious Spy, is the 23rd to be released by BBC Archive and will now form a part of this permanent resource which the BBC has made available online. For more information, visit bbc.co.uk/archive.
The BBC Archive's Burgess At The BBC – The Early Career Of A Notorious Spy collection includes 24 internal documents, memos and letters.
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