People, Nation, Empire

100 Voices that made the BBC

In June 1948, the Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury and King George VI formally ceased being Emperor of India. It was an opportunity for Britain to reimagine itself as both multi-cultural and post-Imperial.

So, how did the UK's national broadcaster respond to this challenge? Seventy years on, we are opening-up the archives to shed new light on this complex, and sometimes highly contentious story.

  • One of Us? WindrushWas the arrival of the Empire Windrush in 1948 a watershed moment, not only in the history of Britain as a multicultural nation, but also in the history of the BBC?
  • One of Us? Make Yourself at HomeIn 1965, the BBC launched its first programmes specially for immigrants. What were they like? And did they deliver?
  • One of Us? Opening DoorsIn 1973, the BBC launched Open Door, a bold experiment in 'access' TV - allowing marginalized groups to speak directly to audiences without editorial interference. How did the series come about, and what was its impact?
  • Empire and EuropeHow the BBC found a balance between Empire and Europe, English and foreign language broadcasting
  • Caribbean VoicesBroadcasting to the Caribbean has long been a part of the BBC’s international activity - small in scale, but enormous in its cultural impact.
  • London Calling: the BBC and Caribbean LiteratureLiterature from the Caribbean came into world focus by giving voice to local poets and writers.
  • The BBC in IndiaHow the end of the British Empire led to a new relationship with India: one that persists to the present day.
  • Literary India at the BBCDecades before the 'Raj revival' captured the attention of viewers and listeners the BBC embarked on a very literary relationship with India, one rooted in World War Two.
  • Projection of BritainHow the BBC instigated the 'projection of Britain' in its international output
  • ÉmigrésHow did the BBC become a united nations of broadcasting?
  • The NationsThe BBC’s motto,‘Nation Shall Speak Peace Unto Nation’, adopted in 1927, reflected the BBC’s ambition and purpose at that time. But what about the nations that formed the UK?
  • Beyond London: The NorthThe BBC has been run from London for most of its life. So how has it tried to reflect and speak to those living in the rest of England?
  • HarlemThere were remarkable examples of African-Americans getting a leading role in harder-hitting programmes about Civil Rights - and exposing British audiences to the brutal realities of racial prejudice.
  • The Black and White Minstrel ShowThe Black and White Minstrel Show, which ran from 1958 to 1978 was arguably the BBC’s most glaring failure to understand the damage it could do when it traded in out-dated stereotypes.
  • Faith'We are living in a Christian land' declared one of the founding figures of the BBC when it was launched in 1922. How has the BBC's religious programming evolved to embrace religious diversity?
  • Little CitizensThe pioneering TV producers who wanted programmes to help children become full and active participants in the world around them
  • LGBTQThe Corporation has come along way since its first efforts to represent the diversity of sexual communities in the UK in its output.
  • Public Attitudes How broadcasters’ attitudes to race compared with those of the British public at large 1939-72.
  • Share your memoriesDo you remember any of the BBC programmes featured on this website? What was your experience of them?
  • Background to the projectBroadcaster and journalist Samira Ahmed, 'born of immigrants', as she describes herself, talks about some of the extraordinary programme archive unearthed in this 100 Voices website.

Content warning

The website contains excerpts and programmes from BBC services at various moments in time. The material should be viewed in this context and with the understanding that it reflects the attitudes and standards of its own era – not those of today. And please note in particular that the website contains language which is now clearly outdated and offensive but which was regarded as acceptable by many people when first used.

About 100 Voices that Made the BBC

This 100 Voices website is one of a series made as part of Connected Histories of the BBC – a project led by the University of Sussex, in partnership with the BBC, Mass Observation, the Science Museum Group, and the British Entertainment History Project. The project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Material is curated and written by David Hendy and Alban Webb from the University of Sussex, with additional material by: Jeannine Baker (Macquarie University, Australia), Aasiya Lodhi (University of Westminster), Jamie Medhurst (Aberystwyth University), James Procter (Newcastle University), and John Escolme (BBC).

Please Share your Memories of listening to, or watching BBC programmes featured in this website.