Philippe Henriot and the Last Act of Vichy: Radio Broadcasts, January-June 1944

Lead Research Organisation: University of Liverpool
Department Name: Cultures, Languages and Area Studies


In times of war, the struggle for the control of information and for influence over minds represents a battleground just as central to the overall conflict as the combat zones themselves. Nowhere has propaganda played a more powerful role than in the theatre of war of 1939-1945, when a sustained propaganda war was fought between the Allies on the one hand, and Vichy and Berlin on the other, with radio as its principal weapon. On that stage, the most notorious and skilful French voice in the war of words belonged to Philippe Henriot, known as the 'French Goebbels'. Understanding the complexities, the methodology and the impact of Vichy's propaganda necessitates analysis and evaluation of the prominent part played by Henriot as the regime's official voice. A high-profile pro-collaboration propagandist from the early days of the Occupation, Henriot rose in January 1944 to become Minister for Information and Propaganda, just as Vichy entered its final and most disreputable stage. From then until his assassination by the Resistance on 28 June 1944, he delivered a relentless programme of 270 self-authored broadcasts on Radio Vichy, playing persistently on the fears and prejudices of a people suffering the pressures and anxieties inflicted by the events that were unfolding, and conversing in forthright terms with his broadcasting adversaries in London and Algiers. This is the role for which Henriot remains best known, on account of his mesmerising rhetoric and delivery. The broadcasts provide a valuable window on Vichy's endgame and an important insight into the themes and strategies of its propaganda. In 1944, Henriot's public presence was huge and he was a media star well before the modern concept had been developed. Whether they admired him or loathed him, the French, quite simply, could not escape him.

Notwithstanding both Henriot's wartime status and the importance of the propaganda war in which he was a crucial player, his role has received little rigorous academic attention to date, and a significant gap therefore exists in French historical studies on the Second World War. This project addresses this deficiency and brings a key topic into the scholarly arena. Detailed archival investigations and the close reading of primary materials underpin the project, and are contextualised and informed by the extensive critical literature which exists both on Occupation France and on propaganda and its application in times of conflict. The Fellowship will produce two published outputs. First, a major Critical Edition - the first-ever complete collection of Henriot's 1944 broadcasts - supported by an extensive critical framework and disseminated as a freely accessible online resource. Its Introduction will explore Henriot's war of words directed both at the French and against the Allies. It will demonstrate the centrality of his propaganda to Vichy's programme, examine its methodology and dissemination, and evaluate its significance and reception both nationally and on the international stage. It will advance not only our knowledge of Henriot's specific wartime role and of the context in which he operated, but also our understanding of the function, application and impact of propaganda in wartime generally. A further major benefit of the Edition is that it will transform a currently rare and fragile resource into a permanent, public document, available for exploitation by scholars both within their own research for the advancement of specialist knowledge and for application within the education of students (see Academic Beneficiaries). Second, the Fellowship will produce a 3,000-word article, which will derive from the research undertaken for the Edition but which will be designed to engage with non-specialist audiences. The article will be written for a popular Francophone History magazine (the target is L'Histoire), and will thus complement the impact activity currently in preparation for wider Agnlophone audiences (see Impact Plan.)

Planned Impact

The research carried out for my overall Henriot project is of direct interest and benefit to the BBC. In profiling Henriot's dialogue with the Free French who broadcast via the BBC during the Second World War, the project highlights key events in the BBC's history. Through its documentation and contextualisation of that dialogue, the project contributes to the archiving and to discussion of the institution's activity, and therefore makes an important contribution to the historiography of the BBC. I have already established a cultural partnership with the BBC to promote the research outcomes of my overall project on Henriot. I have been commissioned to write a major feature (2,600 words) for the BBC History Magazine on the topic of Henriot and the Free French in 1944, with a related podcast available via the magazine's website. This will be published in summer 2010, prior to the Fellowship, and will contribute to BBC revenue via magazine sales and subscriptions. Further impact activity will continue during the Fellowship, as explained below under 'Wider Audiences'. Plans are also in place to develop collaboration with the BBC beyond the Fellowship, as explained further in the Impact Plan.

The Second World War is a topic of notable interest to wider educated but non-academic audiences worldwide. The research will be of benefit to these audiences, since its outcomes will add significantly to the body of knowledge available on the period. It will therefore serve the personal learning, intellectual curiosity and cultural wealth of historically literate but non-specialist audiences by enhancing their understanding of the past. My overall Henriot project engages with these audiences via the presentation of research outcomes in popular formats, accessible to both Anglophone and Francophone readers via wide-appeal history magazines published in the UK and France. This engagement will occur both prior to and during the Fellowship. As noted above, I have already been commissioned to write an article for the BBC History Magazine. During the Fellowship, I will write a further 3,000-word article, which will derive from the research carried out for the Edition. This article will target Francophone audiences via L'Histoire, the biggest-selling popular history magazine in France. The two articles will have immediate impact upon publication, and both will be archived by the publishers for the longer-term sustainability of the project results. Both outputs will also promote the Critical Edition. The Edition also has the potential to attract the interest of non-academic audiences worldwide, whose non-specialist needs will be met by its accessibility and user-friendliness.

The research will be of benefit to policy-makers and practitioners interested in the functioning of State propaganda, since it has the potential to enhance their understanding of the exploitation and dissemination of such propaganda via the media in times of conflict. In this context, awareness of the research will be raised by profiling outcomes and outputs on the international War and Media Network. This network is a highly appropriate forum for publicising my work, since it 'recognises the intersection between war and the media as an important area of research and aims to establish productive dialogue between academics and practitioners in this area' (

The project brings skills benefits to myself as PI. It establishes and promotes my profile and track record as a specialist researcher able to communicate with wider audiences and to find creative outlets for research dissemination. It offers valuable experience of working with major cultural and commercial partners, in the shape of both the BBC and L'Histoire, and has the potential to lead to


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Description Engagement with academic audiences 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact I delivered a series of academic papers focussing on the outcomes of my research. These were delivered at the universities of: Kent (2010), Leeds (2011), Queen's Belfast (2011), Westminster (2011), Chester (2011), Liverpool (2011), and Birmingham (2012).

Academic exchanges.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010,2011,2012
Description Engagement with wider audiences 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Article would have reached the national and international readership of the BBC History Magazine. The accompanying podcast remains available online; I have no access/donwload figures.

A wider audience for my research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010