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Alistair Cooke Going Online

Boston University project to make Cooke’s legacy available

Alistair Cooke’s papers, audio recordings and more are being put online by Boston University’s Howard Gottlieb Archival Research Center. The website is called Letter from America.

Cooke was a newspaper correspondent along with radio and television personality. Though born in England and maintaining employment by the Manchester Guardian and the BBC for almost all of his time in the United States, Cooke became a United States citizen in 1941, having immigrated in 1937.

Cooke’s “Letter from America” ran for almost six decades, starting in 1946 and ending only near his death at 95 in 2004. The archive has access to an estimated 900 recordings of 2,869 weekly broadcasts produced. It was a regularly scheduled 15-minute reflection of America aimed at explaining the United States to the BBC’s audience. LFA scripts are also available at the archive.

Vita Paladino, director of the archive explained, “Cooke’s work helped millions of British people understand why Americans vote the way they do, talk the way they do, and think the way they do.”

Cooke added to his fame as a television personality, starting with CBS in the early 1950s and later as host of “Masterpiece Theater.” His British accent and regal bearing marked him as a measure of artistic quality concerning anything he was involved with, a characteristic that he burnished. Yet an egalitarian demeanor and love of the democratic United States made him equally at home as a common man or someone’s very bright neighbor.

The HGARC archive also has correspondence, scrapbooks, photographs along with other audio and video recordings available. BBC Radio 4 is supporting and making available audio recordings.