Research

Over 90 years of history to explore

Entertainment & Leisure

  • The Archers at 70In Whit Week 1950, BBC Midlands Home Service broadcast five trial editions of a new radio drama series: The Archers.
  • The Dancing YearsToday’s ever-popular Strictly traces its origins to one special night in September 1950. BBC History looks back at the greatest moments of TV dancing history.
  • Faces of ComedyPaul Merton and Adil Ray celebrate 60 years since Hancock's Half Hour with a rummage through the BBC picture library.
  • The Galton & Simpson Bursary for Comedy WritingBBC Comedy Commissioning and BBC History have teamed up to create an award for comedy writing excellence inspired by the life and work of two of the UK’s best known comedy writers.
  • Gardening on the BBCGardening programmes on the BBC have enjoyed an ongoing appeal for countless generations.
  • Monty Python at 50‘Sick’, ‘tripe’ and ‘a delicious sense of the ridiculous’, Monty Python shocked and delighted BBC audiences in equal measure. To celebrate 50 years of Python in 2019, BBC History digs deep inside BBC Archives and lifts the lid on how the series was commissioned, aspiring writers use Monty Python for new comic creations, and our gallery unearths some rarely seen images to mark a very special birthday.
  • Christmas TrailersWe look through the archives of the BBC’s Presentation Department in search of the quintessential Christmas TV trailer.
  • Christmas Day top rated programmesWhat makes a top rated Christmas Day BBC TV show? John Escolme explores what we watched on Christmas Day through the years.
  • Christmas FoodFrom comedy to camp, it wouldn't be Christmas without BBC Christmas food.
  • Christmas SoapFrom family reconciliation to a bust up in the pub, you name it, a BBC soap at Christmas has been there. Sit back and enjoy our whistle stop tour of Christmas soaps past. Let us know what Christmas soap operas mean to you in our Share your Memories feature.

Arts

  • Dance on BBC TelevisionBob Lockyer looks back on dance on BBC TV and discovers there's more than just Strictly.
  • Jane Austen at the BBCIt wasn’t Colin Firth’s famous appearance in 1995 that started it all...
  • Play For Today at 5015th October 1970 saw the start of a groundbreaking strand of single plays for television. The BBC and BFI look back at Play for Today, fifty years on.
  • The Proms and the BBCThe Henry Wood Promenade Concerts were first heard on the BBC in 1927. Our timeline explores the BBC's ongoing relationship with this very British institution.

News & Sport

  • Radio 5 Live at 252019 saw Radio 5 Live celebrate 25 years on air. Charles Runcie, an editor on Radio 5 Live when it launched remembers the build-up to what was a brand-new BBC radio concept.
  • www.bbc.co.uk/sport is 20Few sports fans in the UK go long without checking the BBC ‘s sports website. Charles Runcie, part of the launch team, says Happy Birthday to a service that scrambled to life in July 2000 but now has an audience of 20 million a week.
  • The Boat Race - 80 Years Through the LensDramatic crashes, famous commentaries, contractual shocks, and technical innovations. Who would think a rowing event between the same two universities could produce such drama over 90 years of broadcasting?
  • Celebrating Children’s Newsreel with the Ministry of Stories70 years ago the BBC launched its first news programme for children. BBC History worked with Ministry of Stories to find what might be its modern-day equivalent.
  • Staging the London 1948 Olympic GamesSenior television engineer Norman Green recalls the preparation for the biggest outside broadcast yet attempted.
  • Broadcasting the 1948 GamesHow the BBC covered the 1948 London Games on television, film, radio and in print.
  • Working on the London 1948 Olympic GamesProducers, camera operators, and others recall how they coped with a tiny budget and pre-war equipment.
  • Question Time at 40BBC History Manager John Escolme looks back at 40 years of an iconic programme.
  • Oh, I Say! Wimbledon and the BBCCharles Runcie looks back at the enduring relationship between the BBC and Wimbledon and some of the events and characters that helped shape it.
  • Wimbledon and the BBC 1927 to 20172017 saw the BBC celebrate 90 years since the first radio broadcast from Wimbledon, 80 years since the first TV broadcast, and 50 years since the first colour TV broadcast of The Championships.
  • The origins of BBC Local RadioThe accepted wisdom is that BBC local radio began sometime in the late 1960s. Its origins go back much further though, and the regional element of BBC radio formed the backbone of the Corporation almost from day one. Dr Matthew Linfoot explores the on-going story of the BBC at the local level.

Science & Environment

  • Horizon at 50 - interviewsTo mark the fiftieth birthday of the science programme in 2014, former production staff were interviewed, charting the origins and highlights of the series.
  • The other side of Horizon: the science programmes that came beforeDr Tim Boon explores the prehistory and style of science on TV before Horizon.
  • Horizon at 50A celebration of the long-running science programme by Dr Tim Boon and Dr Jean-Baptiste Gouyon from The Science Museum.
  • BBC Weather at 60From the first known TV weather forecasts kept at BBC Archives, to key BBC weather forecasters telling their stories, explore 60 years of forecasting on BBC TV.

Historic Events

  • The BBC at WarThe BBC reinvented itself during World War 2 and public perception of the institution changed dramatically. Explore its expansion into a global media network, the changing nature of its programming, and the way that war re-defined its relationship with both government and audiences.
  • The BBC and the CoronationA day’s television never to be forgotten.
  • One small step for man, one giant leap for BBC TelevisionCelebrating 50 years since man set foot on the moon, how did the BBC cover "the greatest media event of all time"?
  • Under siege: the BBC in a time of national emergencyDavid Hendy, Professor of Media and Cultural History, University of Sussex, examines moments of crisis in UK history when the BBC came into its own.
  • Under siege: The Kitchen FrontDuring the current Covid-19 pandemic, many people’s lives are focussed on getting food on the table whilst living in isolation. Nutrition has been on the mind of the nation in past emergencies, and just like now, the BBC has been there to offer some solid advice. Dr. Sian Nicholas, Reader in Modern British History at Aberystwyth University, has been looking through the archives.
  • Under siege: Bringing families together at a time of separationIn a world where social media was unknown, children evacuated to the countryside, and families dispersed, the BBC during World War II became the ‘glue’ that held people’s lives together.
  • Under siege: Educating the NationAs the BBC launches a major new initiative – BBC Bitesize Daily – to help families cope with the Covid-19 closure of schools across the United Kingdom, we take a look back at the pioneering role of broadcasting in the educational life of the nation.
  • Under Siege: The BBC and Mental HealthAt a time of crisis many will need someone to turn to for psychological support. Be it at a moment of national emergency or period of personal upheaval, the BBC has found ways of offering a helping hand - in what have often been difficult circumstances.

Branding

  • The Story of BBC Television IdentsThe BBC's on-air look from 1936 to the present day.
  • Radio TimesThe first edition of the Radio Times appeared on 28 September 1923, subtitled 'The official organ of the BBC'. It is now one of the bestselling magazines in the UK, transforming itself to cover all broadcasters as well as a range of lifestyle features and interviews.
  • Christmas idents40 years of Christmas idents on BBC One and BBC Two.
  • Devising the 2How BBC Two and Lambie Nairn changed their audience perception from 'Dull and Worthy'.

Changing Society

  • Children and the BBCSince Children's Hour in 1922, children's programmes have always been at the heart of the BBC's public service remit.
  • LGBTQ+ and the BBCThe UK’s LGBTQ+ community rarely got a mention on air in the early years of the BBC – hostility and prejudice was rife. Today LGBTQ+ lives are featured on BBC programmes like any other community, and to mark UK LGBT+ History Month 2020, BBC History traces how the broadcaster has understood its LGBTQ+ audience over the years.
  • Women at the BBCContrary to popular mythology, the BBC employed women from its earliest days, though they rose with difficulty to the very top of this male-dominated corporation. Kate Murphy, Senior Producer at Radio 4's Woman's Hour examines some of the key women who made their mark in BBC, both on and off air.
  • Soaps on the BBCFrom the Front Line to the Queen Vic, Anthony McNicholas explores BBC soap history.

Technology

  • The Story of BBC TelevisionThe early days of television, from its invention through to the great televisual moment of the 1953 Coronation.
  • BBC & Computing: The Early YearsBy 1980 both government and the BBC saw the need for a public awareness campaign about computing. The result was the BBC’s ambitious Computer Literacy Project. It coincided with the explosion of personal computing. The project chronicled an important period in the history of computing as well as contributing to it.
  • 50 Years of BBC TV ColourAmanda Murphy tells the story of how the ADAPT TV project reunited a pioneering television crew 50 years after the first colour outside broadcast.
  • BBC Broadcasting MomentsThe Blattnerphone, VERA, and the Emitron camera are just a few items from the BBC Collection of historic broadcasting paraphernalia held at the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford. BBC History and the Museum’s curator of Television and Broadcast join forces to bring you a light hearted look at broadcasting technology’s more eccentric side.
  • Dreams, data and downloadsThe story of the BBC on the World Wide Web.
  • MCR21 comes back to life Charles Runcie tells the story of how enthusiasts have saved a 1960s BBC outside broadcast van from the scrapyard.

Running the BBC

  • John ReithThe life and times of the first Director-General of the BBC.
  • Chairmen of the BBCThe figures who have chaired the BBC Board of Governors, the BBC Trust and the BBC Board since 1922.
  • BBC Royal Charter archiveContains the complete archive of the BBC's Royal Charters from 1927 to 2017. Professor Jane Seaton explains the Charter's importance.
  • Directors-General of the BBCThe stories of the leaders of the BBC.
  • Editorial IndependenceFrom the General Strike in 1926 to the Hutton Inquiry in 2003-4, the history of the BBC is littered with rows over editorial independence that made headline news. Explore the key challenges that defined the BBC's independent voice.
  • Writing a Corporate HistoryJean Seaton, Professor of Media History, University of Westminster, explains her approach to writing a corporate history in her book 'Pinkoes and Traitors'.