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Radio and the Politics of Sound in Interwar France, 1921–1939

Radio and the Politics of Sound in Interwar France, 1921–1939


Part of Cambridge Social and Cultural Histories

  • Date Published: February 2018
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107519619

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About the Authors
  • In December 1921, France broadcast its first public radio program from a transmitter on the Eiffel Tower. In the decade that followed, radio evolved into a mass media capable of reaching millions. Crowds flocked to loudspeakers on city streets to listen to propaganda, children clustered around classroom radios, and families tuned in from their living rooms. Radio and the Politics of Sound in Interwar France, 1921–1939 examines the impact of this auditory culture on French society and politics, revealing how broadcasting became a new platform for political engagement, transforming the act of listening into an important, if highly contested, practice of citizenship. Rejecting models of broadcasting as the weapon of totalitarian regimes or a tool for forging democracy from above, the book offers a more nuanced picture of the politics of radio by uncovering competing interpretations of listening and diverse uses of broadcast sound that flourished between the world wars.

    • Explores how radio broadcasting transformed the dynamics of French politics in the interwar decades
    • Rejects the idea of radio as a tool for a totalitarian state and instead offers a more nuanced picture of the impact of broadcasting
    • Draws from a diverse body of primary sources including medical texts, pedagogical treatises, and police surveillance files
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Well-written and meticulously researched, this is an innovative, interdisciplinary study which goes beyond traditional institutional histories to provide a more nuanced understanding of how radio came to be a vital part of French culture in the inter-war years.' Jeffrey H. Jackson, Rhodes College

    'This is a rich and innovative study in French cultural history and, more broadly, an important contribution to the emerging history of aural cultures and soundscapes.' Simon Potter, University of Bristol

    'Radio and the Politics of Sound in Interwar France, 1921–1939 stands at the intersection of several fascinating areas of historical research: the history of technology, the history of modern culture, and the history of sensation. Rebecca P. Scales argues persuasively that the deafening cacophony of combat in World War I and the new noises that came with the transportation revolution in European cities in the 1920s provided the background to early experiences of radio broadcasts, which united the nation in a new way, through sound. This stimulating and well-researched book productively explores the new connections made possible by the emergence of a 'radio nation' in the interwar years.' Joshua Cole, University of Michigan

    '… a compelling and relevant study, one that situates radio - and auditory culture more broadly - into the wider narrative of French interwar history … Edifying and engaging with every turn of the page, Radio and the Politics of Sound in Interwar France, 1921–1939 makes a significant contribution to the historical literature on interwar France, and should be of interest to students and scholars in realms ranging from the social history of technology, interwar French domestic and colonial politics, and any aspect of the social and cultural history of the entre deux guerres.' Adam C. Stanley, H-France

    'The product of extensive archival research, written in a clear and accessible style and meticulously referenced, it constitutes an excellent complement to those studies of interwar French radio that have a more institutional or content-based focus.' Raymund Kuhn, European History Quarterly

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 2018
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107519619
    • length: 310 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 153 x 18 mm
    • weight: 0.48kg
    • contains: 12 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Radio broadcasting and the soundscape of interwar life
    2. Disabled veterans, radio citizenship, and the politics of national recovery
    3. Cosmopolitanism and cacophony: static, signals, and the making of a 'radio nation'
    4. Learning by ear: popular front politics, school radio, and the pedagogy of listening
    5. Dangerous airwaves: propaganda, surveillance, and the politics of listening in French Colonial Algeria
    Conclusion: Paris-Mondial: globalizing the voice of France

  • Author

    Rebecca P. Scales, Rochester Institute of Technology, New York
    Rebecca P. Scales is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at the Rochester Institute of Technology, New York.

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