Using Radio Archive Sources in Social History. An Empirical Approach Applied to the Case of Radio Lorraine Cœur d’Acier (Longwy, 1979-1980)

Radio Archives and Historical Method
By Ingrid Hayes

Radio archives are not used extensively as an historical source, notably due to their rarity. This is even truer for pirate radios (or free radios), which were mostly illegal. From this standpoint, Radio Lorraine Cœur d’Acier, which was born in the wake of two different movements – the free radios that developed in France beginning in 1977, and especially the mobilisation underway to oppose the dismantling of iron mines in northern and eastern France – is unique because a large portion of its broadcasts were recorded and preserved.Based on this experience in Longwy, Lorraine, this article endeavours to assess why radio archives constitute a decisive contribution to a social history of the working class that goes beyond the organisations that claim to represent this class or the mobilisations carried out in its name, to focus on the men and women that actually comprise the working class. After presenting the sound archive used for research and the analytical method applied to it, the article indicates why radio archives are affected by considerable limitations in terms of popular expression, while nevertheless enabling an analysis within a micro-history approach.

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