'The unholy Mrs Knight' and the BBC: secular humanism and the threat to the christian nation, c.1945-1960

Brown, C. (2012) 'The unholy Mrs Knight' and the BBC: secular humanism and the threat to the christian nation, c.1945-1960. English Historical Review, 127(525), pp. 345-376. (doi:10.1093/ehr/ces001)

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IN January 1955, the Home Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) broadcast two talks (and a third discussion programme) by Margaret Knight, a lecturer in Psychology at the University of Aberdeen, in which she argued that scientific humanism, founded on atheism, would be better for children than Christian teaching. Though Bertrand Russell had made the first full broadcast by an atheist on the same station eight years earlier,1 Knight’s programmes were seen as a landmark, causing a huge controversy in which the BBC was accused of permitting attacks on Christian faith, on Christian values and on the Christian monopoly of religious education for children. To get to air, her two half-hour talks on ‘Morality without Religion’ had to overcome considerable resistance by some Christian managers at the BBC who considered that the Corporation had a leading role in evangelising Britain. The broadcasts prompted outrage in the press, with nearly 3,000 letters sent to the BBC and to Knight personally, and thousands more to national papers. For three weeks, she was hounded and pilloried by the press.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Brown, Professor Callum
Authors: Brown, C.
Subjects:D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
College/School:College of Arts > School of Humanities > History
Journal Name:English Historical Review
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN (Online):1477-4534
Published Online:05 March 2012

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