You can download my entire PhD thesis in PDF format from the British Library Ethos service, including images, etc. but I am putting my text available on my website for those who are interested. The original plan was to turn this into a book, but instead, some papers are published or in development, and I wrote Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster for the Imperial War Museum in 2017.

You can find some of the images on Wikimedia Commons, check the IWM collections, or National Archives ‘Art of War’ (for which I wrote most of the content).



This project focuses on 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 on 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 the UK 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 on 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.


These are the page numbers from the thesis, but I will also connect to the various chapters on this website.

Volume One
Abstract i
Contents ii
Acknowledgements iv
List of Abbreviations vi
Introduction 1
CHAPTER 1: Methods and Sources 28
CHAPTER 2: Placing the British Experience of the Propaganda Poster in Context 51
CHAPTER 3: Commissioning, Design & Distribution, with a particular focus on the MOI and the first posters produced. 80
CHAPTER 4: Case Study: Representations of ‘Your Britain’, Urban and Rural 110
CHAPTER 5: Case Study: Industrial Posters 140
CHAPTER 6: Case Study: The ‘Enemy Within’ 172
CHAPTER 7: Case Study: The ‘Problem’ of Venereal Disease in Wartime 203
Conclusion 232
Bibliography 246
Volume Two: Part 1  
Appendix 1: Image Files 1
Appendix 2: Collections Information 71
Appendix 3: Questionnaire 79
Appendix 4: Propaganda Models 91
Appendix 5: Own Propaganda Model 92
Appendix 6: MOI Organisational Charts 93
Appendix 7: General Division Chart 95
Appendix 8: Industrial Stoppages 100
Appendix 9: VD Statistics 101
Volume Two: Part 2  
Database 102
Technical Document 103
Keyword Information 108
User Guide 140
Sample Reports 157
Technical Information 171
Artist Information 174



My thanks are due first to my Director of Studies, Dr Martin Polley, of the School of Education, University of Southampton (formerly of King Alfred’s College of Higher Education, Winchester), and my Second Supervisor, Professor Joyce Goodman, of University College, Winchester, for their guidance, encouragement and enthusiasm for my project over the years. My thanks are also directed at my Academic Advisor, Dr Terence Rodgers, of Bath Spa University College, for advice and comments on particular aspects of the thesis, and to Professor Roger Richardson, University College, Winchester, for his initial help and supervision of the project. I am grateful to Dr Malcolm Smith, of the University of Wales, Lampeter, and Dr Chris Aldous, of University College, Winchester, for their examining input at the upgrade stage.

University College, Winchester also provided a lively research community and I am grateful to other staff and postgraduates for their support and ideas, in particular Dr Stephanie Spencer for allowing me to practise verbally expounding my ideas. King Alfred’s generously funded the initial three years of study, and has subsequently funded attendance at conferences, giving me further opportunities to present my work and discuss issues with established historians. It also funded participation at workshops, including those concerning the digitisation of historical resources. The library, in particular Miranda Nield-Dumper, patiently ordered many inter-library loans, and the ITCS Department ensured that my computer remained in working order, whilst Ian Short (software developer) and Lynne Frost (née Biltcliffe) (IT Trainer) also provided help with the initial development of the project database. I am exceptionally grateful to Dr James Heather, University of Surrey at Guildford, who has spent many hours developing the project database to my requirements, even whilst completing his own PhD.

An extensive amount of time has been spent in archives and record offices, and I thank all the staff for the help and advice given, particularly the following: Michael Moody at the Imperial War Museum; Anna Green and Joy Eldridge of the Mass-Observation Archives; Katrina Royall and others at the Victoria & Albert Museum; the Public Record Office; the British Library, in particular The British Library Newspaper Library, Colindale; Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge; the London Transport Museum; the House of Lords Record Office; the Wellcome Institute and the Women’s Library.

I am also indebted to other libraries that allowed me to use their facilities in the course of my research, in particular Winchester School of Art Library, the Hartley Library, University of Southampton; the Institute for Historical Research; St. Peter’s Library, University of Brighton; Templeman Library, University of Kent at Canterbury, and the library at the University of Sussex. I am very appreciative of University College, Winchester who allowed me to attend the ‘Research Methodology’ module from ‘MA in Regional and Local History and Archaeology’, and Winchester School of Art, who allowed me to attend selected lectures from ‘MA: Art and Ideology in Europe 1917-1968’, both free of charge. I also appreciate the University of Kent at Canterbury, who allowed me to attend selected lectures from their ‘MA in Propaganda, Persuasion and History’. I am very grateful to all those who have written to me, particularly those who completed my questionnaire in 1997 and 1998, from which I received much useful information.

Personally, I would like to thank my family and friends for supporting me throughout the years, financially, practically and with moral support, especially my parents. I am exceptionally grateful to Andrew Frost for providing me with a room at a rate that I could afford to stay in Winchester for a key time. Particular thanks goes to Toby and Nicky Robinson and Justin Wood for providing me with places to stay whilst conducting extensive research in London, and to Dr Justine Cooper, who alongside such practical help, provided beneficial advice arising from her previous experience as a Winchester PhD student. Kate Stephens gave me exceptional moral support, Karen Neal allowed me to practise explaining my thesis, David and Chris Quayle were supportive landlords during the final months of writing, and there are many more whom I could name, including Amanda Henocq and Helen Hobbs, but the list would be absurdly long. I am very grateful to all those who have given me their friendship, put up with my odd hours, and provided me with lifts and practical help.


Abbreviations used throughout the text, including within the chronology and appendices.

ABCA Army Bureau of Current Affairs
AGI Alliance Graphique Internationale
AIA Artists International Association
AIDS Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome
ARP Air Raid Precautions
ATS Auxiliary Territorial Service
BBC British Broadcasting Corporation
BIPO British Institute of Public Opinion
BMJ British Medical Journal
BSHC British Social Hygiene Council
BUF British Union of Fascists
CAI Council for Art and Industry
CBE Commander of the Order of the British Empire
CCHE Central Council for Health Education
CID Committee for Imperial Defence
COI Central Office of Information
DG Director General (of MOI)
DDG Deputy Director General (of MOI)
EMB Empire Marketing Board
ENSA Entertainments’ National Service Association
EWO Emergency Works Order
FO Foreign Office
GPD General Production Division
GPO General Post Office
HI Home Intelligence Division


House of Lords Records Office

Home Publicity Division

HMEC Home Morale Emergency Committee
HMSO His/Her Majesty’s Stationary Office
HOC House of Commons
HPC Home Planning Committee
IPA Institute for Propaganda Analysis
IWM Imperial War Museum
JAS Junior Assistant Specialist
LCC London City Council
LDV Local Defence Volunteers
LNER London and North-Eastern Railway
LPTB London Passenger Transport Board
LT London Transport
LTM London Transport Museum
MACS Medical Advisory Committee for Scotland
MBE Member of the Order of the British Empire
MIRIAD Manchester Institute for Research and Innovation in Art and Design
MMB Milk Marketing Board
MNCS Merchant Navy Comforts Service
M-O Mass-Observation
MOF Ministry of Food
MOH Ministry of Health
MOI Ministry of Information
MOLNS Ministry of Labour and National Service
MOWT Ministry of War Transport
NAL National Art Library
NCCVD National Council for Combatting Venereal Diseases
NGA National Galley of Art (USA)
NHS National Health Service
NSC National Savings Committee
NSPVD National Society for the Prevention of Venereal Diseases
OBE Office of the Order of the British Empire
PRO Public Record Office
PWE Political Warfare Executive
RA Royal Academy of Art
RAC Royal Armoured Corps
RAF Royal Air Force
RAOC Royal Army Ordnance Corps
RCA Royal College of Art
RDI Royal Designer for Industry
RIO Regional Information Officer
RMVP Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda
ROSPA/RSPA Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents
RSMA Royal Society of Marine Artists
SHAEF Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force
SIA Society of Industrial Artists
SOE Special Operations Executive
UK United Kingdom
USA United States of America
USSR Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
V&A Victoria and Albert Museum
VADS Visual Arts Data Service
VD Venereal Disease
WAAF Women’s Auxiliary Air Force
WLA Women’s Land Army
WRNS Women’s Royal Naval Service
WSS Wartime Social Survey
WVS Women’s Voluntary Service

Featured image source: Wikipedia