The world’s best archives would be totally useless if they didn’t help you find the things you were looking for (or send you on at least a few good tangents along the way). Happily, the BBC’s online archives are everything you’d expect them to be—and they’re arranged, quite brilliantly, to be as entertaining as possible.
You can browse 17 well-curated collections (“Art and Artists,” “Books and Writers,” “Politics and Government,” “War and Conflict,” and so forth), look up specific programs, and click through a list of subjects and individuals. The results aren’t always what you’d expect them to be. (Click on pop singer Cilla Black’s name, and you’ll find yourself listening to a 1964 interview with Beatles manager Brian Epstein.)
But the site’s so easy to navigate, and the archives themselves are so extensive, that you tend to walk away with more than the thing you were searching for.
We were especially interested in the collections devoted to the Cambridge Spies, working-class Britain, the wartime alliance with Stalin’s Russia—but just as happy to run across an interview with Agatha Christie, and selections from George Orwell’s correspondence. One (major) caveat? A lot of material can’t be accessed by American ISPs.