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Music Goes to War: How Britain, Germany and the USA used Jazz as Propaganda in World War II

Studdert, Will (2014) Music Goes to War: How Britain, Germany and the USA used Jazz as Propaganda in World War II. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (KAR id:44008)

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The thesis will demonstrate that the various uses of jazz music as propaganda in World War II were determined by an evolving relationship between Axis and Allied policies and projects. The limited previous scholarship in the area, however, has been restricted to ‘single-country studies’ which present only national perspectives with little reference to the broader international context. Within a comparative framework, the thesis will trace and contextualise the international development of ‘propaganda jazz’, from early isolated broadcasts to consolidation in the form of regular programming and dedicated musical ensembles.

A wide range of English- and German-language sources including Mass Observation, oral history, trade magazines and archive material from Britain, Germany, the USA and Canada will be utilised and cross-referenced to provide an unprecedented perspective on wartime uses of broadcast propaganda. Although a significant number of British and German documents relating to propaganda were destroyed during and after the war, the breadth of the research will allow reconstruction and analysis of various propaganda programmes from a multitude of standpoints. The thesis will also explore contemporary cultural, social and political considerations in Britain, Germany and the USA, thus not only increasing the scope and perspective of the discourse, but also reflecting the diversity of the interrelated factors which influenced wartime popular culture and propaganda.

The thesis will make a number of significant contributions to the historiography of the field. Analyses of previously overlooked Allied and Axis propaganda projects will highlight the diversity of the methodologies regarding the use of music for propaganda purposes. Moreover, the international scope will facilitate an imperative reappraisal of British ‘black’ propaganda radio stations of Sefton Delmer and the Political Warfare Executive (PWE), which were hugely successful and yet have been unjustifiably neglected by prior historiography. The popularity and psychological adroitness of PWE’s broadcasts will be juxtaposed with the demonstrably inferior quality and effectiveness of German ‘black’ programming for Britain and the USA, which exposed considerable limitations to Joseph Goebbels’ abilities. The thesis will also explore Goebbels’ attempts to nurture an ‘indigenous’ New German Entertainment Music, and demonstrate that the Propaganda Minister’s inability to come to terms with jazz, both for German audiences and as a tool for propaganda broadcasts to the enemy, ceded an extremely important advantage to the Allies.

A radical revision of the character and work of Hans Hinkel, an influential figure in the Nazi cultural apparatus who has nonetheless been the subject of very little scholarly attention, will also be provided. While a central component of the thesis is the assertion that Goebbels was far less pragmatic than has been acknowledged by prior historiography, Hinkel’s reputation as an ideologically rigid reactionary will be challenged by cross-referencing oral history sources and documentary evidence. Furthermore, the comparative framework will be used to show conclusively that the problems of appropriate musical programming for the Forces, which fell within Hinkel’s remit, were not restricted to Germany but were part of a broader international discourse regarding music’s role in the maintenance of morale. It will facilitate a wide-ranging exploration of the uses of music and broadcasting to manipulate Forces and civilian morale for both benevolent and malevolent purposes.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Welch, David
Thesis advisor: Schmidt, Ulf
Uncontrolled keywords: Music; Jazz; Propaganda; Psychological Warfare; World War II; Radio Broadcasting; Political Warfare; Executive; Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda; Office of War; Information; Ministry of Information; Joseph Goebbels; Sefton Delmer; Elmer Davis; Hans Hinkel
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D731 World War II (1939-1945)
M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of History
Funders: Organisations -1 not found.
Depositing User: Faye Beesley
Date Deposited: 05 Nov 2014 00:05 UTC
Last Modified: 08 Dec 2022 21:18 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Studdert, Will.

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