From PhD to published…

This has been published from the train – I’ll be back to sort headings, links, etc when on something other than an iPad
In 1991 (I think it was) I picked up a postcard ‘Women of Britain’ at the Imperial War Museum. So started a fascination with British wartime propaganda posters… With an A-Level project, a BA dissertation, and a PhD in the subject, as well as chapters, articles and press coverage, I think you can call me the world’s No 1 authority on the subject.. And with my specialist knowledge on Keep Calm and Carry On, why have I not published?

Why publish?
I work in academia, and publishing is core to moving forward in the sector, but I’m now working outside of my core discipline of history, so the core reason for me is that I want to see MY book on the shelves. I really won’t feel that the PhD is ‘done’ until I see that, although I have put the PhD (minus images) on my website under a Creative Commons attribution licence.

So why haven’t I published before now?
There are two big reasons. Time is one of them. Those of you who know me, know that I have multiple different interests and get involved in lots of things, and for a while the project felt ‘done’, although I’ve always known that I wanted to publish. A bigger reason, however, is that I haven’t had a stable job (well, a stable/horrible job followed by redundancy/world travels, then contracts), and that I keep moving house. At present, I haven’t moved house for 1.5 years, and have 0.5 of a permanent job, combined with variety of interesting projects… So time is still tight, but I’m thinking a minimum of an evening a week will start to move me forward… The other issue is image rights… And I’ll come back to those. I suspect there’s also a fear of putting the material out there, but it’s currently been outweighed by the fear that someone else (less qualified clearly) may publish first!!

What have I already got in place?
Well, of course, the PhD is already written, but needs to be re-written for that elusive ‘non-academic specialist’ or ‘academic non-specialist’ audience! I have already written a chapter for London Transport Museum, and have journal articles in process. I also have a promise from Lord Asa Briggs (who was one of my PhD examiners and described my work as ‘highly readable’) to write the foreword, so I should chase that up! I have some ideas of publishers, and need to pull that together into a list, and decide where to approach. I can do this with the help of my PhD supervisor, Dr Martin Polley, who I’ve helped to create a website for (expect him to be in demand in Olympics year, it’s one of his specialisms), and who is going to help me get to book proposal stage.

So how to overcome the obstacles?
OK, so time: start! I’ve set myself the start of Semester 2 (15th January) to get the book proposal done, and need to organise times with Martin to do that. I have already been told by someone from Manchester University Press that should I get the image rights sorted I I’ll have publishers biting my hand off … And that was before Keep Calm and Carry On kicked off. So, the image rights. The majority of the posters are out of (Crown) copyright, but as I don’t own the originals I would need to obtain materials from the Imperial War Museum or the National Archives – potentially in a deal to co-publish (although the IWM recently published a text, but it’s very much a populist text), otherwise with at least £8000 of costs. I do wonder, however, about an opportunity to crowd-source poster owners, who would probably love to see their images in a book, and Onslow’s may be interested co-publishing. All avenues to be explored when the book proposal is complete. Then there’s the question of developing a timescale/plan to write the book itself… But that can be broken down to a chapter at a time.

Why now?
On our office wall is a quote: “It always looks impossible until it’s done” (Nelson Mandela), and that was reiterated tonight, when I attended Scanner’s Night – which focused upon ‘idea-storming’.

Stage 1) Identify what you want to do in one sentence (publish my PhD as a book)’ and what excites you about that (holding my book in my hands.. And knowing that others can enjoy it). There’s a sheet to write ideas that you want help with – and others can offer that help.

Stage 2) Identify the major obstacles stopping you, and, in a group, storm ideas to get past it/them. (Time/image rights/#getbexwriting required)

Stage 3) On the action sheet write name/sentence/an action that you can undertake in an hour or so. (Break the project down as to what needs to be done, clarify the obstacles, and think through ways to get last them).

There was also a sheet to ‘give away’ your ideas. So, there you have it. I think, unlike #getbexrunning, I’m not sure I want to force people into another ‘cheer Bex on’ group, but do feel free to cheer me on/hold me accountable via this blog… Combined will encouragement to chill out!!

See @ww2poster for more on the subject of wartime posters…

Keep Calm and Carry On

“For many the wartime slogans, such as Dig for Victory, Careless Talk Costs Lives, and Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases, have never been forgotten. Such slogans have been passed on as a part of our common heritage,” says Dr Rebecca Lewis, a historian who has made a study of the subject. “Posters that were not published or were withdrawn also make for interesting study, particularly for reasons as to why they were rejected,” she adds. “However, there do not seem to be many examples of these, although whether this is because records of unsuccessful designs were not kept or because there were not many was not established.”

Simon Edge, ‘Sign of the Times’, Daily Express, Thursday March 19, 2009, p36

So, a part of my thesis is finally published… my book is still in the planning stages, and the website: needs a distinct overhaul and I am throwing around ideas for an associated blog, but I’m not there yet [EDIT: See]! In the meantime, I’ve been quoted in the national press in relation to a story which now I’ve done a bit of a hunt, appears to have been circulating for some time, re the discovery of the unpublished Second World War posters ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ ten years ago by Barter Books, and it’s continued surprise success (although with my love of wartime posters I don’t find the idea that people love posters surprising, it is surprising that such a generally non-visual design is popular, but the slogan is very strong, and very apt in the present times)!

PhD Findings
My PhD ‘The Planning, Design and Reception of British Home Front Propaganda Posters of the Second World War’ was awarded (without corrections) in June 2004 by what is now the University of Winchester.

A section from pages 104-5 of my thesis (copy held in the Imperial War Museum, and in the RKE Centre at the University of Winchester):

The poster with a proclamation from the King was to be ‘plastered everywhere in order to drive the contents into everyone’s head’.[1] By August 1939 war was regarded as inevitable, and by 9 August the finished drawings were submitted to Macadam for final approval. Any adaptations to proportions would then be made and the posters printed.[2] By 23 August the proportions to be printed were decided. The percentages were: ‘Freedom is in Peril’ (for remote areas), 12% (figure 22); ‘Keep Calm and Carry on’, 65%; and ‘Your Courage, etc.’, 23% (figure 1).[3] The Treasury had approved costs for a single poster, three designs were produced, exceeding estimates by under £50. “Our Fighting Men Depend on You” for factories, works, docks and harbours, was also printed, for which no allowance had originally been made.[4] By September, ‘Your Courage’ and ‘Freedom is in Peril’ were already being posted throughout the country. ‘Keep Calm and Carry on’ was printed and held in reserve for when the necessity arose, for example, a severe air-raid, although it was never actually displayed. Soon after war was declared, the small poster ‘Don’t Help the Enemy, Careless Talk may give away vital secrets’ (figure 62) was approved by the War Office and was ready to put into production. 58,000 copies had already been distributed by September 17, and 75,000 copies were to be despatched daily from September 26.[5] By the end of September 1939, roughs for further designs had been prepared and approved, including messages from the King and the Queen, designs specifically for factories and docks, and designs specifically for each branch of the armed services: reassurance, not recruiting, posters.[6]

[1] PRO INF 1/10, ‘Functions and Organisation of the Ministry. Memorandum by E.B. Morgan’, early 1939.
[2] PRO INF 1/266, ‘Memo from Vaughan to Macadam’, August 9 1939.
[3] PRO INF 1/226, ‘Letter from Macadam to W.G.V. Vaughan’, August 23 1939. In the same folder, ‘Demand for Printing Slip for HMSO’, August 31 1939, and ‘Poster Campaign: Distribution’, November 1 1940, give details of the exact quantities ordered on August 31 1939, in a variety of sizes and in both broadside and upright versions, and where distributed. PRO INF 1/302, ‘Summary of Activities of Home Publicity Division’, September 28 1939 notes that all sizes were included, from 20ft. by 10ft. down to 15” x 10”.
[4] PRO INF 1/226, ‘Letter from I.S.Macadam, MOI to E.Rowe-Dutton, Treasury’, September 4 1939.
[5] PRO INF 1/6, ‘First Report on the Activities of the Ministry of Information from September 3 to September 17 1939’, September 1939.
[6] PRO INF 1/302, ‘Summary of Activities of Home Publicity Division’, September 28 1939.

I have lots more I could say, and hope to be back with some more considered comments, summarising elements of my PhD, before I get round to the book!

Some Links:

[ABSTRACT] The Planning, Design and Reception of British Home Front Propaganda Posters of the Second World War

Montage Pics

This project focuses upon propaganda posters produced during the Second World War (1939 to 1945), primarily by the British government, aimed chiefly at their civilian population. The project uses Foucauldian discourse analysis and content analysis to investigate the images and their context, and identify key themes across a wide range of posters, over a long time-frame. This thesis contributes to an historical understanding of the British popular propaganda experience, largely ignored in previous historical research.

Drawing upon material from several archives, including the Imperial War Museum (IWM), the Public Record Office (PRO) and Mass-Observation (M-O), the project also uses questionnaires to elicit memories of the posters, and a poster database to collect together material which would otherwise remain dispersed. The thesis sets the posters against a background of contextual material, it identifies key propaganda theories, discerns relevant poster styles and recognises British poster style as one of pragmatic functionalism. The thesis outlines the poster production and distribution processes of the Ministry of Information (MOI) and considers the first (highly criticised) posters before concentrating on four case studies, each of which is structured in three sections: the planning (context), the design, and the reception of the posters.

The first case study examines what people were fighting for, and identifies their ‘imagined community’, by considering urban and rural representations of Britain in the posters. The second case study considers industrial propaganda, emphasises the idea of the island nation, and identifies those involved in the industrial effort. The third case study looks at ‘the enemy within’, and examines who was excluded from, or was considered damaging to, the war effort. The fourth case study explores in detail who was compromising the war effort through their sexual behaviour, putting themselves at risk of venereal disease. The thesis argues that the posters drew heavily upon longer term discourses emanating from new and established institutions, although there was often a clear distinction between those that drew on the past and tradition, and those that pushed forward to the future.

See PhD Proposal and Bibliography.

On 25th June 2004, “Rebecca Lewis successfully negotiated her PhD viva for her thesis entitled ‘The planning, design and reception of British home front propaganda posters of the Second World War’. The thesis was described by the examiners, Lord Asa Briggs and Dr Adrian Smith, as excellent, with no corrections. The supervisory team was Dr Martin Polley (Southampton University, formerly of University College Winchester) and Professor Joyce Goodman.”