PhD Thesis: Introduction

Using a mixture of content analysis and Foucauldian concepts of discourse analysis, this project investigates the propaganda posters produced by the British government, largely for the British home front, during the years 1939 to 1945, the span of the Second World War. The initial chapters set the context. The first describes the sources and methods used in the project. The second investigates contemporary understandings of propaganda and the design history of the modern pictorial poster. The third considers the process by which posters were commissioned, designed and produced, particularly by the Ministry of Information (MOI). Through four case studies the project then considers the planning decisions taken by the government, the design of the posters themselves, and evidence of the reception of posters. The Introduction chapter details the aims of the project, explains the relevance of the project at this time, and considers current interest in ‘the planning, design and reception of British Home Front propaganda posters of the Second World War’, historical, theoretical and personal. The concepts of ‘propaganda’ and ‘poster’ are considered, as well as reflections on the place of the poster in relation to other media available throughout the war. In the process, the Introduction covers the key literature pertinent to the project. It concludes with an outline of the layout of the thesis.

The project aims to understand the production processes of government home front posters. With the MOI at the centre of this process, the project explores the government’s role in relation to posters, its interaction with other government departments, and relations with external agencies. The case studies use a Foucauldian frame to establish the longer term discourses on which the posters were drawing, discourses which were used because of the common frames of reference, shared with their target audience, on which poster designers drew. The case studies are framed by a knowledge of the general reasons for propaganda, identified by scholars of propaganda, in particular persuasion, education, information, celebration, encouragement, morale boosting, and identification of enemies. The case studies are also informed by a knowledge of the general techniques of propaganda, in particular the appeal to the emotions of hatred, fear, anger, guilt, greed, hope and love. Contemporary models of propaganda are assessed critically in relation to the posters studied. In the conclusion, the project produces a model which demonstrates how the posters fitted in to a larger framework. This enables us to understand where the government ranked posters in relation to other media, and to see where they fitted, for example, in the legislative structure. The artistic approach to posters is not the key element of the study. Nevertheless it has been deemed important to identify and analyse the influence of trends and technologies from art and design on British posters, particularly official posters. This allows us to see what design styles were available to the government, whether they put them to use, and what discourses the styles used embodied. The project also analyses the reception of the propaganda posters at the time, in so far as this is possible. In particular, it will look at whether they were more positively received at the time than as remembered by a questionnaire respondent:

At the risk of being labelled conceited I would say that thanks to a decent education and being employed in a Government establishment (and with at least a modicum of common-sense) I did not need the messages of the posters. Perhaps this is why I don’t remember them very well.[1]

The subject of ‘The planning, design and reception of British Home Front propaganda posters of the Second World War’ is still a pertinent subject of research, nearly seventy years after the war ended, and we have to question why. The scope of historiography widened considerably during the twentieth century from a heavy concentration on political events, to a broader appreciation of economic, social, cultural, intellectual, and psychological aspects. Historians have recognised since the 1960s that ‘history from below’ is as important as studies of the great political figures of history.[2] Tosh claims that history is ‘collective memory, the storehouse of experience through which people develop a sense of their social identity and their future prospects’.[3] Barraclough asserts that the ‘boundary line between contemporary and past society is tenuous, shifting and artificial’,[4] and Mauro even goes so far as to say that history is ‘the projection of the social sciences into the past’.[5] He claims that historians have tended to look for a ‘uniqueness’ in their facts, whereas the influence of sociology has led to more interest in understanding the ‘norm’.[6] The links with sociologists have cleared the way to study the ‘underlying framework’ of society, including more of a concern with structural patterns of such issues as the family and social class, rather than simple causal links to specific events.[7]

It has thus been recognised that society is not simply a backdrop, but worth studying for itself. A wide variety of sources are now available in a variety of archives, and digitisation projects are improving public access to previously inaccessible sources.[8] With the face of history changing over the past few decades, particularly with an increase in interest in social and family history, there are now a perplexing number of avenues for the historian to go down, and consequently a wide-ranging and bewildering array of sources. It is our job, as historians, to assess the sources available and consider their relative importance and the methodologies required in order to use them, with the value of a source defined by the topic under consideration. Subjects such as psychology and sociology have influenced historical study for some time, and have changed the way we view the importance of some sources.[9] Take Marwick’s example of a chocolate wrapper: he considers that, to the general historian, this is largely an insignificant source compared with other sources available, yet to the historian of the chocolate industry, or of design, it may be an essential source.[10] We would argue that the value of the chocolate wrapper as a historical source is far more valuable than this: as an ephemeral item, amongst other examples, it gives us evidence of eating habits, consumerism, and health concerns.[11] Unlike a medieval historian who has to scratch around for scraps of information, the contemporary historian is overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information available, and has to make some tough decisions as to how to process the plethora of available material. The use of sources for this project is discussed in the next chapter on Methods and Sources.

Despite this growing awareness of different sources, however, the existing historiography has not devoted much time to posters. Amongst an abundance of studies on the Second World War, posters, and propaganda, there is little that focuses on the British propaganda poster effort. The Second World War has assumed a quality of myth, and both academic and nostalgic interest has been attracted.[12] Posters can make for beautiful illustrations, and there are vast numbers of non-academic books available on the subject.[13] Some academic texts are also available,[14] although few of these are on British posters, and are more often on propaganda in general.[15] British home front posters are often used as illustrations in general texts on the Second World War, although the accuracy of information provided can sometimes be questioned.[16] Posters have made appearances in various exhibitions, which has stimulated further interest in the subject.[17] The timing of such exhibitions, in the 1930s,[18] 1970s,[19] 1990s,[20] and into the twenty-first century,[21] needs to be explored, as we need to question why there was believed to be a market, with commercial returns, for such exhibitions at such times. As an example, the 1998 ‘Power of the Poster’ exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) was particularly important at a time when the UK’s Prime Minister, Tony Blair, was attempting to re-brand the UK as ‘Cool Britannia’. Posters from an earlier era demonstrate some of the ways in which ‘national projection’ was achieved before.[22] A major reason for the 1998 V&A exhibition was the revival in the use of posters by advertisers, with seventy-five per cent using posters as a medium in 1998, as opposed to thirty-five per cent in 1991.[23] Alongside these texts there is a growing range of documentation on the internet, of which the quality can sometimes be questionable.[24] So long as authors’ credentials for authority on a topic are assessed, useful information and images can be garnered, and a wider range of quality sites is becoming more easily available.[25]

Often general poster histories cover the history of the poster before and after the Second World War, but pass quickly over the war period itself.[26] An exception is the 100 Best Posters of the Century, which awards government posters of the Second World War six entries on merit alone.[27] Moody, keen to see an academic study of wartime posters, commented that many have perceived the subject as being ‘too large’ to tackle.[28] Rossi is evidence of the truth of this comment, claiming that his general history of posters cannot adequately deal with war posters: being so numerous, they require a separate study.[29] Yet we cannot ignore a subject simply because it is perceived to be too vast: although it may mean that the topic can be tackled only from one angle at a time, there is surely even more of a justification for studying it. Second World War posters have been studied by a few authors, including Zeman[30] and Rhodes,[31] although even these are contained within more general propaganda histories, with black propaganda considered by Boehm.[32] Many general texts that deal with wartime Britain also consider British propaganda including Cantwell, who deals specifically with British posters,[33] and Osley[34], Yass[35] and Begley,[36] who consider posters alongside other propaganda materials produced by the government. Part of the problem is that although the materials have been preserved, accessing them is difficult and a deterrent to would-be users. Attempts have been, and are being, made to use the materials through research projects on the subject of British wartime posters.[37]

The popularity of these books, exhibitions and internet sites demonstrates the nostalgic interest the general public has in posters. As ephemeral objects, posters often bring back memories of contemporary commodities, and associations with events around the time that they were produced. As Smith aptly suggests ‘the war permeated our lives, even though we [those born after the 1940s] never saw a bomber or heard a siren’. The Second World War is a part of British cultural history, arising from the ‘mythical’ experience of the ‘people’s war’, a time when it is commonly believed that all ‘pulled together’ in the name of victory.[38] The idea of the ‘people’s war’ was a contemporary wartime phrase, a ‘potentially inclusive, democratic sentiment’,[39] one that has been popularised amongst post-war generations by Calder’s The People’s War.[40] Donnelly attributes to wartime propaganda campaigns a major responsibility for establishing this myth.[41] During the war, a ‘shared sense of national identity had to be mobilised amongst the people of Britain’. Achieved partly through propaganda posters, more and more people ‘were encouraged to identify themselves as active citizens, as active members of the nation’, a citizenship ‘to be earned by communal and individual service of one’s nation in wartime’.[42] With the first ‘national citizen army’,[43] in the Second World War, notions of the ‘citizen soldier’, the good citizen who is also courageous, first presented by Aristotle, were used.[44] The boundaries between the civilian and the combatant soldier were blurred during the war, with ‘propagandist attempts to personify the entire population as heroic’.[45] Social citizenship lectures were presented through the Army Bureau of Current Affairs (ABCA), considered further in chapter four. This thesis thus also considers posters presented to soldiers on issues that affected them as citizens,[46] although it does not address military recruitment campaigns. It is also outside the scope of this project to consider political, electioneering and overseas propaganda produced by the government or by political parties during the war. It concentrates solely on posters aimed at the home front, or those that affected people as citizens.

The myth of the ‘people’s war’ is still ‘sold’ today and boosts the heritage industry, a multi-million pound industry for the UK.[47] The posters, along with the general wartime experience, have gained mythical accretions, and most people have a knowledge of many of the wartime posters, as a product of the shared experience. Joke books, although they contain very little factual information, can be useful as they assume a shared experience of the war, of which posters are a part.[48] The Second World War is still regarded as a defining moment in the history of the UK, particularly of the twentieth century. There are countless populist texts written on the Second World War, demonstrating the defining impact the war had on many lives. These can often shed light on the general wartime mood, but as these are often written retrospectively, the influence of nostalgia can often be felt only too clearly.[49] We do have to question whether the Second World War will remain such a defining moment in history. We have now passed what some considered the defining landmark of the new millennium.[50] Those who can personally remember the war are disappearing, and more recent wars and events, such as September 11 2001, have gained significance. As can be seen by the remembrance of past historical events such as the Battle of Hastings in 1066, however, 1939 and 1945 are always likely to remain important dates in British history, taught to new generations, as evidenced on page 244.

The propaganda of the First World War has been well researched by several historians,[51] and there are also several studies of propaganda in inter-war UK. Grant considered the development of domestic government publicity departments,[52] and Taylor[53] and Black[54] concentrated on the development of the publicity efforts of the Foreign Office to ‘project the national image’ abroad. All considered how peacetime departments fought to retain control of publicity whilst plans for the development of the MOI were in progress. Although the government produced official war histories of many British departments of state in the early post-war years, there were ‘two obvious omissions’, the Board of Education and the MOI.[55] Why the MOI was omitted is not clear: although its perceived failures may have counted against it, these would actually have made very interesting history. The purpose of the official histories was ‘to fund experience for Government use’, a critical series to demonstrate the processes of trial and error.[56] Many other aspects of propaganda from the Second World War have since been studied, although, unsurprisingly, it is the Nazi effort that has attracted most attention,[57] whilst other countries have also received a fair amount of coverage.[58]

The foremost studies on Second World War British propaganda are generally regarded[59] as McLaine’s The Ministry of Morale[60] and Balfour’s Propaganda in War 1939-45.[61] Both were published in 1979, four years after the bulk of general wartime files were released at the Public Record Office (PRO), and both addressed the government’s wartime information services. Both focused on the MOI but different angles were taken. McLaine concentrated solely on domestic propaganda, whereas Balfour felt that British home front propaganda could not be understood properly without reference to the propaganda produced by the British for German consumption, and German propaganda efforts at home and in the UK. Pelling notes that McLaine covers little of the MOI ‘after Bracken had taken over, perhaps because the author is more interested in its years of travail that in its years of success’.[62] McLaine’s work relies largely on those documents available in the PRO: it does not pay much attention to posters themselves, aside from their use to illustrate a few points, and the obvious references to the first poster, ‘Your courage’ (figure 1).[63] Balfour worked for the MOI, from March 1939 to March 1942, as Temporary Principal in the General Division. From April 1942 until the end of war he was Assistant Director of Intelligence in Political Warfare Executive/Psychological Warfare Division of Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF).[64] He thus gained a good insight into two angles of the propaganda war. Balfour implies that propaganda did not really have a part to play in the outcome of the war anyway, but it must be taken into account that he may be trying to justify his part in the early years of the MOI.[65] The consensus view of the MOI, which has doubtless been emphasised by these works, is that it was essentially a failure for the first two years of the war.[66]

It is not the intention of this project to produce another administrative history of the MOI, as the centre of interest here is more the decision making and attitude of those in authority towards those they governed. This project builds on the works of McLaine and Balfour, but with a concentration specifically on the poster production departments, from which propaganda posters were produced in the belief that they would aid the general welfare of the nation (rather than for profit, as commercial posters are). In 1998, Chapman already set the lead in this field when he published a work based on his PhD thesis, in which he studied the cinema as a propaganda instrument, and its use by the MOI.[67] This thesis took as a model the structure of Chapman’s text, with the first half of the book covering the administrative background to film production, and the second half divided up into several themes. This, and other works which have also considered the cinema[68] and radio,[69] are useful comparative studies as the poster is often seen to have been devalued with the coming of the radio. Although a consideration of the poster in relation to other media is outside the remit of this study, posters were not produced in a vacuum. Such works are important in understanding the links between posters and other propaganda media, in particular the ways in which images from posters were reinforced by other media, and how posters in turn reinforced other media.[70] Such works give us an idea of how different media work and how posters fitted into the general scheme of things, and can demonstrate the advantages and disadvantages of the other media.

Propaganda was one of the most important defining features of the twentieth century, and of its warfare in particular, and posters are one of the media that form the range of propaganda: ‘This century has seen the inexorable rise of the propaganda posters… This is partly because politicians – even those of totalitarian regimes – have never been able to take public support for granted’.[71] Propaganda, of course, still has an important part to play today, as can be demonstrated by the importance that the Labour Party has attached to its ‘spin doctors’.[72] However, the term ‘propaganda’ has a confusing history, and it becomes crucial to see how propaganda has been defined in the past, and how it is used within this project, because often what could be considered propaganda is described, and disguised, as the more innocuous ‘education’ or ‘persuasion’. Posters of the Second World War were often not regarded as ‘propaganda’: as one respondent put it, there was ‘nothing like the WW1 propaganda posters’. There was nothing similar to the First World War poster ‘Your Country Needs You’ with Kitchener accusingly pointing to the viewer (figure 2),[73] first to induce guilt and then speedy enlistment. The nature of the Second World War appeared different from the First World War. With conscription introduced before the war, ‘people mostly waited to be called up’, with ‘almost total agreement that the war should be fought’.[74] Comparisons were also made with inter-war propaganda, as people did not appear to associate British government posters with the type of propaganda produced by the Nazis.[75] Some felt that:

there were not any propaganda ones by the British. All of the posters issued by the allied forces were true advice posters warning everybody of the Dangers [sic] that lay ahead. All propaganda came from Nazi Germany but thank God it was never believed by all true British subjects. … and propaganda was not advisable as it costs lives.[76]

With this argument in mind, how exactly do we define propaganda, a subject on which there is wide debate? Since the early twentieth century propaganda has been defined as ‘information, ideas, opinions, etc. propagated as a means of winning support for, or fomenting opposition to, a government, cause, institution, etc.’.[77] With propaganda, it is not just what is said that contributes to the meaning, as ‘omission is just as significant as commission’.[78] The word ‘propaganda’ itself is Latin in origin, meaning ‘to sow’ or ‘to propagate’, and was intended as a neutral term, first used in the Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide, formed in 1662, meaning ‘the spread of the Roman Catholic faith’.[79] Most tend to see the original use of the word as innocuous, although the word gradually gained more pejorative connotations, and by the end of the First World War ‘propaganda’ truly was regarded as a dirty word, as people deemed enlistment efforts, for example, as lies.[80] Jowett and O’Donnell claim that ‘[p]ropaganda deliberately and systematically seeks to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist’;[81] it is not carried out for the mutual benefit of those involved. This gives rise to an interesting debate, although not tackled in this thesis: was the State interested only in what it could achieve for its own ends, or was the war really a ‘people’s war’? Calder was very sceptical, claiming that the government had found it easier to manipulate the people, having found out what they wanted through public opinion polls.[82]

The Germans under the Nazi party were prepared to use the title Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda (RMVP), the Nazi Ministry of People’s Enlightenment and Propaganda.[83] The British, however, were much more circumspect, feeling that the word ‘propaganda’ had so many negative connotations that the title of The Ministry of Information must be used instead.[84] Although the title ‘Ministry of Information’ was originally not felt to be ‘fully descriptive of the functions of this Ministry’, the titles ‘Ministry of National Publicity’ and ‘Ministry of Propaganda’ were also deemed inappropriate. Crawford, head of an advertising agency, claimed that ‘Propaganda is a drug’, and a ‘Ministry of Propaganda’ was not wanted ‘in this country’, although ‘we might want a Ministry of Information, to give us the facts alone’.[85] However, contradicting this, Fougasse built on his earlier definition of a poster by defining a propaganda poster as ‘everything stuck up with the object of persuading the passer-by for the common good’,[86] and others in government were not so hasty. For example, Rawdon-Smith, discussing the use of the word ‘propaganda’ within the British Council, complained that people must be persuaded to recognise that propaganda was a neutral term, or that the word should never be used again.[87]

Propaganda studies became popular in the inter-war years, and this continued into the war years,[88] by when various models of propaganda were available, discussed further in chapter two. The ‘magic bullet theory’,[89] was favoured by Hitler, but the ‘multi-step flow theory’[90] was recognised by the Second World War. We will see the arguments surrounding the use of propaganda in the Second World War, and whether the government considered propaganda to be a weapon. Jowett and O’Donnell have produced what is considered the key text in the area of propaganda, now in its third edition.[91] As with many works on propaganda, the authors are American,[92] but British interest in the subject is growing all the time, with historians such as Taylor, Welch and Doherty producing works about propaganda.[93] Vast numbers of books have been produced in recent years on the topic: a search on ‘propaganda’ on any of the major bookstores or libraries on the internet will return several hundred entries. These are mostly focussed on the twentieth century when the word became more commonly used, but the term can be applied backwards to, for example, the Spanish Armada.[94] There are several reference books on the subject,[95] with Cole producing the most recent reference work, one that contains some inaccuracies.[96] Similarly, there is an increasing number of works on advertising theory, which some would argue is a form of propaganda.[97]

Propaganda was a major feature of the twentieth century, particularly during wartime, and posters were the most visible propaganda device. As we will see below, many other facets of the European and British propaganda efforts in the First and Second World Wars have already been studied, but the posters, which many people still remember, have been considered of little more than picture book interest. Therefore, we must consider what a poster is, and why it can be defined as a source worthy of academic historical study. At first glance, defining a poster seems straightforward; a popular British dictionary apparently summed it all up as a ‘placard in a public place; large printed picture’.[98] However, the exact definition is slightly more problematic, and exactly what is defined as a poster can change with time and culture, although there is a general consensus along the lines of the definition above.[99] Ades defined a poster as something destined for public wall space, the object of mass production (on whatever scale), with a function of promotion,[100] with Fougasse giving a similar definition as ‘anything stuck up on a wall with the object of persuading a passer-by’.[101] Rickards gives the most comprehensive definition:

A poster can be defined as a separate sheet, affixed to an existing surface, which must embody a message, not just a decorative image. It must be publicly displayed and multiply produced.[102]

This does not entirely resolve the issue of determining what is and is not a poster, but it at least excludes such objects as ‘back in 10 minutes’ signs and graffiti. Sontag goes one step further in distinguishing between a poster and a public notice:

A public notice aims to inform or command. A poster aims to seduce, to exhort, to sell, to educate, to convince, to appeal. Whereas a public notice distributes information to interested or alert citizens, a poster reaches out to grab those who might otherwise pass it by.[103]

All these definitions agree that the physicality of the poster is made of a large, paper object, but this definition also encompasses the post-war meaning which includes large sheets containing images which are used as cheap and cheerful wall coverings, particularly for students, often also defined as posters.[104] Such images are limited to the private sphere. Although we recognise that such images are often from public events such as art exhibitions, within a bedroom they have lost their function as promotion. For the purposes of this project, we cannot separate the physical properties of posters from their function as promotional items, displayed in the public sphere, and we now delve deeper into a discussion of the functions of the poster.

Villani viewed the poster as a ‘paper siren’, whilst Cassandre perceived it as a ‘publicity telegram’,[105] an idea on which Green enlarged, describing the pictorial poster as a ‘visual telegram, a concise means of conveying a message through a simple combination of words and images’.[106] The poster essentially operates in the public domain and in essence is ‘a product of communication between an active force and a re-active one’: the originator has a message to sell, whilst the target audience must be persuaded to buy the message.[107] Fougasse, one of the most prolific and influential writers on the purposes and technique of poster design in the wartime era,[108] believed that the poster must be accessible to as many people as possible or it will not achieve its object, that of passing on the message contained.[109] Writing shortly after the war, he identified three obstacles that the poster needed to overcome: ‘a general aversion to reading notices of any sort’; ‘a general disinclination to believe that any notice, even if read, can possibly be addressed to oneself”; and ‘a general unwillingness, even so, to remember the message long enough to do anything about it.’[110]

Poster historian Metzl determined five limitations within which a poster must work: the first was that the design and message must be simple; the second that everything on the poster must contribute to the single message it contains. The third was that the poster must be aimed at the ‘artistically insensitive’ as its success will not be judged on the value of the poster as art; the fourth that it must convince the buyer to accept the product without question; and finally it must sell fast.[111] Barnicoat restates this idea, claiming that there is a constant battle between the simplicity of a design and the need to attract notice, for if the design is too straightforward it may be too dull to engage attention. Technical brilliance is not important, but the clarity of the message to a popular audience is.[112] There are references to ‘poster art’ throughout this thesis, although many have questioned whether poster designs can be considered art at all, as ‘the layers of meaning which make the study of a work of fine art so rich and rewarding are not normally a feature of effective propaganda’.[113] There was criticism during the war of those who assessed the war poster simply in terms of design and colour. Even if posters do produce aesthetic satisfaction, they have a greater purpose beyond that. Their ultimate purpose is commercial, or, in the case of Second World War posters, political. The war poster had a function beyond that of persuading the viewer to part with small change: ‘it must inspire the harassed and uneducated citizen to give five years or more of his life to make history … Posters, however clever, are a waste of paper unless they kill Germans.’[114] However, design elements are important as ‘good posters influence the viewer in spite of himself’, they ‘do not have to be liked by the individual, but they must be noticed by all’.[115] A well-designed poster will have attracted the attention before the viewer has had time to think about it.[116] A good design will ensure not only that the poster is noticed, but that the poster is displayed in the first place. In wartime, this was an important consideration in a democracy, as there was not that element of fear or legislation that forces the display of posters in totalitarian states.[117]

Fougasse believed that the poster had three functions. The first was to attract the attention of the passer-by, which meant that the poster must stand out from its surroundings.[118] The second was to persuade the viewer, not by trying to prove a point, but by suggesting the desirability of a course of action.[119] The third was to keep the viewer persuaded for long enough to take action, which meant that the poster must contain only a single message, and be simple enough for the viewer to re-describe to others.[120] Fougasse continually stressed the need to ensure that the viewer had a hand in decoding the poster by making the message only ninety per cent obvious, giving the viewer an incentive to work out the other ten per cent.[121] This would flatter the intelligence of the reader, as, having taken part in deciphering the conclusion to the message, a sustained interest would be acquired in that particular message.[122] As Timmers aptly summarises it, the poster must be a ‘dynamic force for change’.[123]

Obviously, Fougasse followed his own advice, as his designs still tend to be immediately recognisable, and we can deduce that he was successful, at least in making his designs memorable. This was demonstrated by the questionnaires distributed as a part of this project: few artists were remembered, but Fougasse invariably was the name mentioned if any were remembered at all, and it was claimed: ‘How carelessly we should have talked during the war but for Fougasse’.[124] In February 1940, some of the best remembered posters of the war, the series of eight Fougasse ‘Careless Talk Costs Lives’ (figures 3 to  10) posters, were produced by the MOI. It must be questioned as to how we define an effective and successful poster: the posters designed by Fougasse may be memorable, but can we describe them as successful, or effective? We ideally define the poster as a success if it achieves its purpose of getting the message across, achieving its target whilst acting as a ‘paper bullet’. However, as the range of books available on the topic demonstrates, defining changes in public opinion and attitude can be hard,[125] with changes in behaviour easier to define, but pinning any of this down to the poster is even harder. The only concrete evidence that a poster was deemed especially successful in the Second World War is if there was a demand for copies for display, or a necessity for reprinting. This thesis, therefore, does not look to measure the effectiveness of war posters, merely reactions to specific posters (and accompanying material), as available.

The poster artist must always remember that his or her product is being developed for their present age, not for a museum, and must constantly keep in touch with contemporary life. Popular appeal is therefore essential, although this does not mean that aesthetic considerations can be disregarded.[126] Continuing Cassandre’s definition of the poster as a telegraph, the poster artist is the telegrapher who dispenses the message given: s/he does not initiate the message.[127] As we have seen, the artist needs to remember that the poster was not to be used for self-expression as so much art is,[128] but to perform a purpose, that of the manufacturer, or government in this case, who has a product to sell, or an idea to propagate. It was the job of the artist to produce an image that would be remembered by the public.[129] Heyman claims that ‘[d]esigners adapt quickly to changes in the social landscape to keep their posters a fresh and vital means of communication’,[130] as if the product or idea being sold has been on the market for some time, then it must be re-presented in a ‘new and desirable’ light.[131] However, there needs to be a balance between the element of surprise that a new idea can generate, and the use of a totally incomprehensible symbol,[132] because if the meaning is obscured the poster loses its point.[133] The well-known Soviet poster of 1920 by El Lissitsky, ‘Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge’ (figure 11) must appear clever, but very abstract, to most people. The meaning may have been clear only to those who understood the ideology behind it, and may explain why Soviet realist propaganda evolved soon afterwards.[134] This is also true of many modern day campaigns, such as those produced by Benson and Hedges and Silk Cut. Legislation may prevent the depiction of the cigarette brand name, but the public is already so aware of the branding that this is not a problem: the black and gold, or the purple silk, are so recognisable already (figure 12). Such brand imaging is now fairly standard for most companies, promoting the name and desired associated image: supermarkets are a particularly good example of this, with advertising campaigns in 2000 associating Tesco with good value, and Waitrose with quality goods. Brand marketing was a fairly new concept in the Second World War, prior to which the focus was largely on the actual products sold.

The conditions under which the poster is to be displayed must be fully taken into account by the artist: it is rarely seen alone, but tends to be in competition with other posters.[135] By the turn of the century the following criteria had been established within the industry for a poster that would work in ‘hurried modern metropolitan life’, where people are bombarded by hundreds of different images. Posters must overcome this barrage to excite the attention of the passer-by, and communicate the message directly and unequivocally, whilst still influencing and persuading the viewer.[136] In the 1990s, these ideas still held: ‘the most powerful and seductive posters continue to be those that create a strong, unified impression, not dependent on careful perusal but to be taken in quickly by people hurrying past or stopping briefly’.[137] Different posters have different purposes, and so require different handling. A poster that is designed for the road needs to be extremely bold and simple, whilst there are other places, such as bus stops, where the viewer has more leisure to study the poster, for which the technique can be quite different. The London Underground is a special case in point. In the tunnels between lines, and on the escalators, a single poster may often be repeated many times, as people are expected to hurry past, rather than stop to look. Yet on the platforms several posters are very text heavy as the viewing publics have the leisure to observe posters in detail (for example, figure 13). In chapter two on commissioning we will assess whether the government, or the artists employed by them, appeared to have understood this distinction. Eckersley, who established his reputation as a graphic designer in the Second World War, felt that it was important for the poster designer to recognise the different needs and limitations of a poster, and try to make the best of the circumstances.[138]

By the 1940s, advertising professionals expected that a successful poster would contain at least some of the following features: continuity; flexibility; simplicity; appropriateness to subject; and the inclusion of a symbolic element.[139] Pick, later involved in the MOI, was the key figure in the development of London Transport corporate advertising. He accepted that in situations where there is leisure to peruse a poster, it is possible to use additional text, although it should not form a distraction from the main design.[140] Generally, though, as the poster has developed, symbols and slogans, a form of shorthand requiring an easily shared idiom based on cultural understandings, have become the staples of the poster.[141] This is why each poster needs to be understood in the context in which it was used. It is unfair to judge contemporary poster designs by the standards of past posters, as each would probably not have been successful if produced in a different age.[142] Benjamin dismissed the ‘power’ of many of the posters in the V&A exhibition, but accepted that she was viewing earlier posters with a jaded modern eye, where one is so accustomed to poster language that only ‘retinal shock’ will attract attention.[143] A deeper appreciation of posters is gained through semiotics, in which the images and the subconscious messages that they provide about the attitudes of those that produce and view them, are analysed.

The poster is a product of the mechanical age, and was the most conspicuous, accessible and familiar form of pictorial production until the First World War. As the age developed, other mechanical objects, such as radio, eroded its importance. After the First World War there was the development of popular film and illustrated weekly papers, some of which had been in circulation prior to the war, including The Sketch (1893-1959), and The Tatler (1901-1965).[144] By the Second World War, the chief point of public contact was the wireless,[145] with the poster largely surviving as a support service,[146] although it still played an important role, and further improvements in technique and usage had made it a more effective means of influence.[147] The vast majority of advertising budgets were spent on press advertising which had a certain prestige attached to it, although the poster could often be seen to achieve a definite result with a small expenditure. In 1938, a total of £59 million was spent on advertising in Great Britain, of which only 8.3% was spent on posters, although part of the appeal of posters is that they are a cheap medium.[148] The poster had a great advantage over newspapers, the radio and cinema, where there is an element of choice about participation: however, it is very hard to ignore a large, well-designed poster. Foster would echo this, claiming that far from losing its place in the field of mass visual perception, the poster has had a profound effect on other media. For example, press adverts at the turn of the century were little more than textual announcements, but the popularity of graphic design in the poster led to the use of the ‘display advertisement’, which, when seen alone, can sometimes be difficult to distinguish from a poster.[149] Extensive use was made of the press in 1939 and 1940: with a host of new regulations coming out, the public needed to be informed about several different points every day.[150] By 1942, the public had got used to most of the changes in their lifestyle, and with more restrictions on newspaper space, far more use was made of posters, with some campaigns even depending on them entirely.[151] Broadcasting and films were limited by the possibility of technical interference and the information would not be retained as the written word would be.[152] Radio sets were still expensive, and spare parts, including batteries, were not easily obtainable under wartime conditions.[153] Getting the message across also relied on someone turning the radio on. Active decisions were also necessary for cinema audiences, where people were paying to attend the film.[154]


Overall, this project adds to the discussion of issues in social history, still of concern in the current climate. It takes its place amongst the wide-ranging historiography of both propaganda and the Second World War, contributing to a greater understanding of the experience of the British Home Front in the war. In the following chapter we examine the theoretical approaches that underpin the project, Foucauldian and content analyses, and explain how they are used in the project. The chapter considers how the identified archives and sources have been used in the research. The chapter reflects on the new sources produced for the project, including questionnaires, a database containing digital images of wartime posters and related information, and the use of the website, produced as a result of the project. In the second chapter, the British wartime poster as a tool of propaganda is set against the context of general world-wide poster developments. The chapter considers the graphic influences on the poster, identifying and analysing trends and technologies from both world-wide and British art and design that may have influenced British wartime artists. It considers whether there was a clear British style evident throughout the war, and whether graphic styles were imposed by the government. The chapter looks at the use of the poster by commercial firms, which may have worked as exemplars for the government. It also reflects on the use of posters by the state in the pre-war years to see the experience the government may have drawn on.

In the third chapter an understanding of the government’s commissioning and distribution policies will shed light on their grasp of developments in the poster industry after the First World War. The MOI was the lead government department for propaganda, and this chapter looks at the work of the various departments within the MOI with responsibility for commissioning, designing, producing and distributing the wartime posters. We consider the process, from initiation to distribution, and whether outside agencies were involved at any stage. We question whether the location of posters was deemed important, whether distribution plans were made on a national or a local level, and whether it was voluntary or compulsory to display them. Through a consideration of the planning processes for the first poster produced by the MOI, ‘Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution, will bring us victory’ (figure 1), we achieve some answers to the above questions. This first poster has generally been considered a failure,[155] and we consider how accurate this view was, and whether it was a self-perpetuating failure achieved through, for example, a bad press. If the first posters were produced in a hurry, then the fact that they were deemed ‘failures’ could be understandable, but the government had been planning these posters for a long time before war broke out.[156] We trace how these first posters show how the government initially attempted to deal with the wartime public through propaganda, and demonstrate how they expected the public to behave in wartime. Having looked at the first posters that the government produced, the thesis continues with four case studies: urban and rural representations; industrial propaganda; fighting the ‘enemy within’; and dealing with the ‘problem’ of venereal disease (VD). The case studies skim many different posters, using approximately sixty to seventy per case study, aside from the VD case study, which uses twenty-five images. These illustrate the wide-range of discourses that the posters draw on, with the VD case study allowing more in-depth analysis.

In the fourth chapter, the first case study, we reflect on the depiction of, and appeal to, the rural and urban elements of the UK population. If people were being asked, as a duty of citizenship, to fight, we have to question what they were being asked to fight for. The population has been heavily urbanised since the mid-nineteenth century, but the notion of ‘England’s green and pleasant land’, expounded in songs such as Jerusalem, invariably appears to hold sway throughout the UK. The land is always central to national identification in times of crisis, including war, and such rural images were used in wartime posters, including the series ‘Your Britain, Fight for it Now’ (figures 14 to 20). We have to question how far this was depicting the Britain people knew, or whether it was a Southern English phenomenon, and whether such images hold deeper meanings, harking back to perceived idyllic rural lifestyles.[157] The ‘Your Britain’ series depicted not only the rural idyll, but hinted that the industrialised urban process was one of progress, something which in the post-modern age we now possibly disregard. The case study briefly considers the Beveridge Report, which formed the basis of the Welfare State, and how visions of a more socialistic future were depicted.[158] It questions whether such images were nation-wide, or whether they were aimed towards particular regions.

In the second case study we consider posters aimed at those working in industry, where the ‘Battle for Production’ was going on behind the obvious military fronts.[159] Those working in the factories needed convincing that the work that they were doing was as important as that on the front line. There is a considerable body of material available on industrial campaigns for the later years of the war, unlike many campaigns where there is either only early information or none at all. There is access to a wide spread of industrial posters, with Shaw providing a lot of information on how campaigns were initiated, implemented and received.[160] The chapter considers how industrial workers were perceived, and tactics that were used to improve production when every part produced was essential. This includes a consideration of the use of Soviet posters that could be considered ‘atrocity’ posters, (figure 21) efforts to get women to work in industry, and men into the mines. In the third case study, the importance of ‘the other’ is evident as we look at how the ‘enemy within’ on the home front was depicted within the posters. We consider the history of the spy and the growth of intelligence services in the UK as concerns about the danger of the spy, largely linked to improved communications, grew in the early years of the twentieth century. The chapter largely focuses on the careless talk campaigns, which ran throughout the war, considering how spies were identified, class and gender were represented, and whether humour was a suitable medium for the subject.

In the fourth case study we will look at the campaigns produced by the government in an attempt to deal with the increased problem of VD in wartime, when the rate of infection rose.[161] We have to question how far attitudes to sexually transmitted diseases have roots in the past. The project challenges the idea that supposed Victorian moral attitudes and prudery still held sway in the Second World War,[162] and questions what popular attitudes to VD actually were. It was the first time that the issue of VD was publicised in posters, rather than simply in discreet literature in public conveniences. Through the fairly comprehensive range of VD posters from the Second World War, we can study different guises that the campaign took over the course of the war, and the feeling about what was appropriate for different media. There was much reaction to the big VD campaigns hosted by the MOI on behalf of the Ministry of Health, providing much information on public sentiment on the issue.[163] The conclusion draws together the analysis of the project’s overarching themes, highlights the discourses that run through the study, and illustrates ways in which poster content and style worked together, drawing on longer term discourses, for a cohesive propaganda message.

[1] Male, East Sussex, reply to questionnaire, May 1998. Briggs, A., Go To It! Working for Victory of the Home Front 1939-1945, 2000, p.13 notes that the posters provided a colourful change from the monochrome monotony that accompanied much war work.

[2] Nationmaster, ‘History from below’,, last updated December 24 2003, accessed January 11 2004, notes: ‘History from below is a form of historical narrative which was developed as a result of the Annales School and popularised in the nineteen-sixties. This form of social history focuses on the perspectives of regular individuals within society as well as individuals and regions that were not previously considered historically important.’ The phrase was first popularised by E.P.Thompson in an article in the Times Literary Supplement in 1966.

[3] Tosh, J., The Pursuit of History: Aims, Methods & New Directions in the Study of Modern History, 1991 (Second Edition), p.1. Tosh, J., The Pursuit of History: Aims, Methods & New Directions in the Study of Modern History, 2002 (Third Edition, Revised), p.1 rephrases this as: ‘All societies have a collective memory, a storehouse of experience which is drawn on for a sense of identity and a sense of direction’. At first glance this appears to make the same point, but is no longer noting that this is history, making the further point that ‘professional historians commonly deplore the superficiality of popular historical knowledge’.

[4] Barraclough, G., Main Trends in History, 1978, p.49.

[5] Ibid., p.63, quoting Frederic Mauro.

[6] Ibid., p.53.

[7] Ibid., p.54. Tosh, J., op.cit., 2002, p.128 also refers to the ‘social structure’ which social historians now make efforts to understand.

[8] Imperial War Museum (IWM), ‘Posters of Conflict’,, accessed January 10 2004, details ‘Posters of Conflict’, a highly relevant digitisation project at the IWM. The project aims to digitise 10,000 posters, and provide them online at AHDS Visual Arts, ‘ahds visual arts’, by the end of 2006, with the first 2,000 posters expected online in May 2004.

[9] See, for instance, Izenberg, G.N., ‘Text, Context and Psychology in Intellectual History’, in Kozicki, H. (eds) Developments in Modem Historiography, 1993 pp.40-62 and Jordanova, L., History in Practice, 2000, pp.67-71.

[10] Marwick, A., The Nature of History, 1989 (Third Edition), p.211.

[11] For example, the growth of concerns with health led to the placing of calorific and nutritional values of foodstuffs on British food packaging, something that does not occur world-wide.

[12] For instance, general histories such as Briggs, A., op.cit., 2000; Briggs, S., Keep Smiling Through, 1975; Davies, J., The Wartime Kitchen and Garden: The Home Front 1939-45, 1993; Marwick, A., The Home Front: Britain and the Second World War, 1978 (Second Edition); Minns, R., Bombers and Mash, 1980; Morgan, K., The People’s Peace: British History Since 1945, 1999 (Second Edition); and Pike, A. and Pike, A., The Home Front in Britain 1939-45, 1985.

[13] For general histories of the poster, consider Barnicoat, J., A Concise History of Posters, 1972; Gallo, M. Posters in History, 1989; Hillier, B., Posters, 1969; Hutchinson, H., The Poster: An Illustrated History, 1968; Metzl, E., The Poster: Its History and Its Art, 1962; Rickards, M., The Rise and Fall of The Poster, 1971; Rossi, A., Posters, 1969; Timmers, M. (ed.), The Power of the Poster, 1998; and Weill, A., The Poster: A Worldwide Survey and History, 1985. Some of these do have an academic slant. For a specifically British history see Elvin, R., ‘100 years of British Poster Design’, Art and Industry, Vol. 50, No.299-300, May-June 1951, pp.162-175.

[14] For instance, see Aulich, J. & Sylvestrova, M., Political Posters in Central and Eastern Europe 1945-95, 1999; Bonnell, V.E, Iconography of Power: Soviet Political Posters under Lenin and Stalin, 1997; Landsberger, S., Chinese Propaganda Posters, 1995; and Mace, R., British Trade Union Posters: An Illustrated History, 1999.

[15] See page 9 for examples of academic studies on propaganda, concentrating on the overseas effort.

[16] For example, see Campbell, J. (ed.), The Experience of World War II, 1989; Freeman, R.A., Britain at War, 1990; Healey, T., Life on the Home Front, 1993, and Minns, R., op.cit., 1980; Mercer, D., (ed.), Chronicle of the Second World War, 1990, although presented in date format, evidently used posters as convenient illustrations, rather than in a strict chronological sense.

[17] Examples of books produced about the time of ‘The Power of the Poster Exhibition’, aside from the official text: Timmers, M. (ed.), op.cit., 1998, are: Bernstein, D., Advertising Outdoor: Watch This Space!, 1997; Bonnell, V.E., op.cit., 1997; Heyman, T., Posters American Style 1998; and Sproule, J.M., Propaganda and Democracy: The American Experience of Media and Mass Persuasion, 1997.

[18] A major poster exhibition was held at the V&A in 1931.

[19] A major exhibition on war posters was held at the IWM in 1972, as the result of which Darracott, J., and Loftus, B. (eds), Second World War Posters, 1972, was published.

[20] A major poster exhibition, ‘The Power of the Poster’ was held at the V&A in 1998. In the same year, a major touring exhibition, ‘Posters American Style’, was also held in America.

[21] In 2001, the IWM held a small poster exhibition, ‘Symbols and Stereotypes’. ‘Rene Wanner’s Poster Page’ has kept international Internet visitors up to date with exhibitions since 1997. Details of past exhibitions are accessible through Wanner, R., ‘Rene Wanner’s Poster Page/Archive’,, last updated January 10 2004, accessed January 11 2004

[22] Tames, R., ‘Poster Power at the V&A’, History Today, April 1998, p.32.

[23] Cook, R., ‘The Writing’s on the Wall’, The Independent, April 6 1998, p.6.

[24] For example,, ‘ – The Poster Prop Page – Pictures of Propaganda Posters of WWI, WWII & More’,, accessed August 10 2001; Postergirls of WW2, Anonymous, ‘Poster Girls of World War II’,, accessed January 17 2004; and Carrothers, B., ‘World War Two Posters’,, accessed August 10 2001. All use several wartime posters with little or no discussion. Such sites tend to be based on general knowledge and enthusiasion, in some cases posters are simply used for their attractiveness.

[25] For example, Smithsonian American Art Museum, ‘SAAM: Posters American Style: Menu’,, accessed August 10 2001; Landsberger, S., ‘Stefan Landsberger’s Chinese Propaganda Poster Pages’,, accessed August 10 2001, and Wanner, R., ‘Rene Wanner’s Poster Page’, accessed August 10 2001, all deal with the ideology of the posters in sections of their sites. Even sales sites such as International Poster Gallery, ‘vintage posters – International Poster Gallery’,, accessed August 10 2001, provide a lot of useful background information. Academics often have little knowledge of HTML procedures, and therefore many do not realise that they are under-selling themselves on the Internet, as the lack of META tags means that such web pages do not rank highly in search engines, and are therefore difficult to find, although this situation is improving.

[26] For example, Rossi, A., op.cit., 1969, appears to consider any wartime posters of very little significance to the development of poster history, and jumps straight from the nineteen-thirties to ‘after the Second World War’.

[27] Taylor, T. (ed), The 100 Best Posters of the Century, 1999. The book did not choose the one best poster per year, but chose posters over the whole period on ‘merit’ alone.

[28] Moody, M., Research and Information Officer, Department of Art, IWM. Personal Comment, June 1999.

[29] Rossi, A., op.cit., 1969, p.143.

[30] Zeman, Z., Selling the War: Art and Propaganda in World War II, 1978.

[31] Rhodes, A., Propaganda: The Art of Persuasion: World War II: An Allied and Axis Visual Record, 1933-1945, 1975.

[32] Boehm, E., Behind Enemy Lines: WWII Allied/Axis Propaganda, 1989.

[33] Cantwell, J., Images of War: British Posters 1939-45, 1989; See also Opie, R. The Wartime Scrapbook, 1998.

[34] Osley, A., Persuading the People: Government Publicity in the Second World War, 1995.

[35] Yass, M., This is Your War: Home front Propaganda in the Second World War, 1983.

[36] Begley, G., Keep Mum: Advertising Goes to War, 1975.

[37] Rennie, P., ‘An investigation into the design, production and display contexts of industrial safety posters produced by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents during WW2’, PhD submitted January 2004: London School of Printing, considers the posters from a historical viewpoint, but with particular reference to printing and graphic design. Previous projects include: Fisher, S. J., ‘The blitz and the bomber offensive: a case study in British home propaganda, 1939-45’ Univeristy of Edinburgh: Unpublished PhD, 1993; Royal, K., ‘Posters of the Second World War: the fourth arm of British defence’, University of Westminster: Unpublished MA, 1991, and Spiers, L.M., ‘An enquiry into the use of propaganda on the Home Front during World War Two with special reference to the role and effectiveness of the poster as a means of conveying Government policy’, Winchester School of Art: Unpublished MA, 1998.

[38] Smith, M., Britain and 1940: History, Myth and Popular Memory, 2000, p.1. See also Calder, A., The Myth of the Blitz, 1992, and Ponting, C., 1940: Myth and Reality, 1990.

[39] Weight, R. & Beach, A., The Right to Belong: Citizenship and National Identity in Britain, 1930-1960, 1998, p.8.

[40] Calder, A., The People’s War, 1969.

[41] Donnelly, M., Britain in the Second World War, 1999, p.1.

[42] Noakes, L., War and the British: Gender and National Identity, 1939-91, 1998, p.48. M-O FR 673, ‘Saturation of Instructions: Efficacy of Government Instructions’, April 1941, p.3, noted that many government campaigns required ‘a considerable degree of citizen consciousness’. Oliver, D., and Heater, D., The Foundations of Citizenship, 1994, p.10 note that the idea of citizenship emerged in the classical Graeco-Roman world, with the ‘idea of “civic virtue”, of being a “good” citizen’, re-emerged in the eighteenth century. See pp.10-30 for a historical outline leading to ideas of modern day citizenship, as taught in the classroom. Nicholas, S., ‘From John Bull to John Citizen: images of national identity and citizenship on the wartime BBC’, Weight, R. & Beach, A., op.cit., 1998, pp.39-40 notes that the concept of the ‘active citizen’ was little evident in interwar popular culture, but that the Second World War projected a more ‘positive model of patriotism and citizenship’, more ‘inclusive and participatory’. See also Morgan, D., and Evans, M., The Battle for Britain: Citizenship and Ideology in the Second World War, 1993.

[43] Hopkins, H., The New Look: A Social History of the Forties and Fifties in Britain, 1964, p.20.

[44] Oliver, D., and Heater, D., op.cit., 1994, p.119.

[45] Paris, M., Warrior Nation: Images of War in British Popular Culture, 1850-2000, 2000, p.201.

[46] Havinghurst, A.F., Britain in Transition: The Twentieth Century, 1985 (fourth edition), p.289, notes that the distinction between civilian and soldier soon lost meaning ‘for throughout the conflict the man in uniform and the civilian shared to a considerable degree the same experience.’ Walker, M., Unless I’m Very Much Mistaken: My Autobiography, 2003, p.59, the Formula 1 commentator who was a soldier during the war, and in the advertising industry after the war, claims: ‘I didn’t find it difficult being a civilian again because I guess I had always been one at heart’.

[47] For more information on this, see Vernon. J., ‘University of California, Berkely: History 103C: syllabus’,, accessed August 10 2001, and Samuel, R., Theatres of Memory: Volume 1: Past and Present in Contemporary Culture, 1994, particularly ‘Living History’, pp.169-202.

[48] Deary, T., Horrible Histories: The Twentieth Century, 1996, pp.75-6, for instance, illustrates a spoof war poster with the slogan ‘A Sewing Machine can be as much as weapon of war as a spade,’ and then comments that ‘This may be true but it is harder digging a garden with a sewing machine.’

[49] For instance, see: Byerly, B., and Byerly, C. (eds), Dearest Phylabe, Letters from Wartime England, 1996; Hillary, R., and Faulks, S., The Last Enemy, 1997; Jones, L., Contented With Time, 1992; Kelsey, M., Victory Harvest, 1997; Perry, C., Boy in the Blitz, 2000; and Wyndham, J., Love Lessons, 2001, to name but a few. See Tosh, J., op.cit., 2002, pp.17-18 for a description of nostalgia, which becomes history with ‘all its negative features… removed’.

[50] This was probably more relevant for those involved in the computing industry, but others, for instance, Bevis Hillier suggested in 1989 in The Times that it was time to start preparing to celebrate the year 2000. Nicolson, A., Regeneration: The Story of the Dome, 1999, pp. 25-27 notes that the Government was determined to celebrate the millennium with The Millennium Dome and The London Eye, although in general there was at best ‘unenthusiastic millenarianism’ in the UK. Tosh, J., op.cit. 2002, pp.xii-xiii notes that the new millennium could have provided a ‘convenient vantage point’ to reflect on British history, but that ‘the public celebration of the Millennium in Britain was almost empty of historical content’.

[51] See, for instance, Dutton, P., ‘Moving Images? The Parliamentary Recruiting Committee’s Poster Campaign 1914-1916’, Imperial War Museum Review, Vol. 4, 1989, pp.43-58; Hardie, M., and Sabin, A.K. War Posters: Issued by Belligerent and Neutral Nations 1914-1919, 1920; Haste, C., Keep the Home Fires Burning: Propaganda in the First World War, 1977; Messinger, G.S., British Propaganda and the State in the First World War, 1992; and Sanders, M.L., British Propaganda During the First World War 1914-1918, 1982.

[52] Grant, M., Propaganda and the Role of State in Inter-war Britain, 1994.

[53] Taylor, P.M., The Projection of Britain: British Overseas Publicity and Propaganda 1919-1939, 1981.

[54] Black, J.B., Organising the Propaganda Instrument: the British Experience, 1975.

[55] Pelling, H., reviewing McLaine, I., Ministry of Morale: Home Front Morale and the Ministry of Information in World War Two, History Vol. 95, 1980, p.187.

[56] Hancock, W.K., ‘Preface’ (August 1948), in Hancock, W.K., and Gowing, M.M., Official War History: British War Economy, 1949. See Cantwell, J.D., The Second World War: A Guide to Documents in the Public Record Office, 1993, pp.215-218 for summaries of those files available in the Public Record Office which document how official histories were developed.

[57] For example, Doherty, M.A., Nazi Wireless Propaganda: Lord Haw-Haw and British Public Opinion in the Second World War, 2000; George, A., Propaganda Analysis: A Study of Inferences Made From Nazi Propaganda in World War II, 1959; Sington, D., The Goebbels Experiment: A Study of the Nazi Propaganda Machine, 1942; Welch, D., The Third Reich: Politics and Propaganda, 1995; and Zeman, Z., Nazi Propaganda, 1964.

[58]For instance, the propaganda of the U.S.S.R. by Baburina, N., The Soviet Political Poster, 1984, and White, S., The Bolshevik Poster, 1988; American propaganda by Nelson, D., The Posters that Won the War: The Production, Recruitment and War Bond Posters of World War Two, 1991; French propaganda by Moody, M., ‘Des illusions.. Désillusions..: An introduction to parties, personalities and posters in collaborationist France, 1940-1944’, Bardgett, S. (ed.), Imperial War Museum Review, No 4, 1989, pp.59-68; and Italian propaganda by Sciola, G., ‘War propaganda and Fascist myth: the poster collections of the Micheletti Foundation’, Bardgett, S. (ed), Imperial War Museum Review, No 7, 1993, pp.55-64.

[59] For example, see Chapman, J., The British at War: Cinema, State and Propaganda, 1939-1945, 1998, p.5; Cole, R., Britain and the War of Words in Neutral Europe, 1990, p.5; and Grant, M., op.cit., 1994, p.3.

[60] McLaine, I., Ministry of Morale: Home Front Morale and the Ministry of Information in World War Two, 1979.

[61] Balfour, M., Propaganda in War 1939-45, Organisations, Policies and Publics in Britain and Germany, 1979.

[62] Pelling, H., reviewing McLaine, I., op.cit., 1979, p.187.

[63] McLaine, I., op.cit., 1979, pp.30-31. The study of this poster was particularly based upon the following files PRO INF 1/300, ‘Minutes of meetings of experts on Home Publicity’, PRO INF 1/316, ‘Minutes of Branch 1 Meeting’, PRO INF 1/723, ‘Copies of Memoranda Home Section: HP (III) 29-HP(IV) 115’, and PRO INF 1/724 ‘Copies of Memoranda Home Section: HP(V) 23-141’.

[64] Balfour, M., op.cit., 1979, p.xi.

[65] Ibid., p.438.

[66] For instance, see Calder, A., op.cit., 1969, p.66 which informs us of the press attacks upon the ‘Ministry of Aggravation’, and p.86 where Calder refers to Cooper moving to the ‘hot seat’ of the MOI. Longmate, N., How We Lived Then: A History of Everyday Life During the Second World War, 1971, p.189, outlined the failures of the Ministry of Information, views emphasised by Smith, M., op.cit., 2000, pp.30-34, and Donnelly, M., op.cit., 1999, p.72.

[67] Chapman, J., op.cit., 1998.

[68] For example: Aldgate, A., and Richards, J., Britain can take it: the British Cinema in the Second World War, 1986 (Second Edition); Coultlass, C., Images for Battle: British Film and the Second World War, 1939-1945¸1989; Lant, A., Blackout: Reinventing Women for Wartime British Cinema, 1991; Pronay, N. (ed.), Propaganda, Politics and Film, 1918-45, 1982; and Taylor, P., Britain and the Cinema in the Second World War, 1988.

[69] For example: Briggs, A., The History of Broadcasting in the United Kingdom: Vol. 3; The War of Words, 1970; Cruickshank, C., The Fourth Arm: Psychological Warfare 1938-1945, 1977; Hickman, T., What Did you do in the war Auntie? BBC at War, 1939-45, 1995; ­Nicholas, S., The Echo of War: Home Front Propaganda and the Wartime BBC, 1939-45, 1996; and Short, K.R.M., Film and Radio Propaganda in World War II, 1983.

[70] James, A., Informing the People, 1996, looks particularly at leaflets and booklets, and Osley, A., op.cit., 1995, at a variety of information, produced by the MOI during the Second World War.

[71] Midweek: Lifestyle London, May 18 1998 (Extract, taken from ‘Power of the Poster’ File, V&A).

[72] See Ingham, B., The Wages of Spin 2003, and Jones, N., Soundbites and Spin Doctors: How Politicians Manipulate the Media and Vice Versa, 1995.

[73] Male, reply to questionnaire, April 1998.

[74] Male, West Susex, reply to questionnaire, May 1998. This is a topic that has been addressed in many general histories: Calder, A. op.cit., 1969 p.25, claims that the Spanish Civil War had broken down many pacifist attitudes within the UK, p.33 claims that there was reluctant relief at the arrival of war. Noakes, L., op.cit., 1998, p.24, notes that there was a distinct lack of enthusiasm to the arrival of war. ‘Chapter 3: The Day War Broke Out’, however, in Longmate, N., op.cit., 1971, pp.24-34, details many different reactions to the outbreak of war, some positive, some negative, probably the most accurate view (largely based upon oral history). Samuel, R., op.cit., 1994, p.23, notes that fiftieth anniversary commemorations of the war effort were headed by Dame Vera Lynn, speaking on behalf of the soldiers, rather than the leadership.

[75] Male/Female Couple, Hampshire, reply to questionnaire, April 1998.

[76] Male, Londonderry, reply to questionnaire, April 1998.

[77] Room, A., The Cassell Dictionary of Word Histories, 1999 p.490. Taylor, P.M., British Propaganda in the Twentieth Century: Selling Democracy, 1999, p.xii, noted that the Nato definition in the 1990s for propaganda was: ‘any information, ideas, doctrines or special appeals disseminated to influence the opinion, emotions, attitudes or behaviour of any specified group in order to benefit the sponsor, either directly or indirectly’.

[78] Taylor, P.M., ibid., p.45.

[79] O’Donnell, V., ‘What is Propaganda?’, in Jowett, G. and O’Donnell, V., (eds) Propaganda and Persuasion, 1999 (Third Edition), p.2.

[80] For instance, see Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, ‘Encyclopaedia Britannica: propaganda’, accessed August 29 2001, and O’Donnell, V., ‘What is Propaganda?’, in Jowett, G., and O’Donnell, V. (eds), op.cit., 1999, p.2.

[81] O’Donnell, V., ‘What is Propaganda?’, in Jowett, G., and O’Donnell, V., op.cit., 1992, p.35.

[82] Calder, A., op.cit., 1969, p.471. Spier, H., ‘The Rise of Public Opinion’, in Jackall, R. (ed.), Main Trends of the Modern World:Propaganda, 1995, p.27 notes that ‘[p]ublic opinion… is primarily a communcation from the citizens to their government and only secondarily a communication among the citizens.’

[83] Balfour, M., op.cit., 1979, p.xv.

[84] PRO CAB 16/128, ‘Committee of Imperial Defence: Sub-Committee to prepare plans for the establishment of a Ministry of Information planning sub-Committee. Report, proceedings & memoranda MIC (sub) series’, p.8, noted: ‘We do not consider the title “Ministry of Information” is fully descriptive of the functions of this Ministry. An alternative title “Ministry of National Publicity” has been suggested. It may be thought, however, that this title is a rather provocative one, and might be confused with an existing political organisation. The main function of the proposed Ministry is to deal with National Propaganda, but it is clear that “Ministry of Propaganda” would not be an acceptable title,’ due to the political significance of the name.’

[85] Anonymous, ‘Propaganda Ministry Not Wanted – Sir William Crawford: But Ministry of Information Might be Welcomed’, Advertiser’s Weekly, Vol. 103, No. 1,357, May 25 1939, p.222. A Devon male, who remained in the UK working in agriculture throughout the war, in reply to the questionnaire, April 1998, said that he remembered it ‘chiefly chiefly as the Ministry of Mis-Information’. A male ex-soldier from Worcester, replied to the questionnaire, April, 1998, and remembered referring to it throughout the war as the “Ministry of Lies”, although ‘some years after the conflict ended … I came to feel that the latter description was, maybe, “over the top”!’

[86] Fougasse, A School of Purposes, 1946, p.11.

[87] PRO BW 2/85, ‘E Rawdon-Smith of the Dominions Office in a letter to Richard Seymour of the British Council’, 14 July 1941.

[88] During the inter-war years there was an increased interest in propaganda theories, works published include: Bartlett, F.C., Political Propaganda, 1940; Doob, L.W., Propaganda: Its Psychology and Technique, 1935; Hargrave, J., Propaganda the Mightiest Weapon of All: Words Win Wars, 1940; Lambert, R.S., Propaganda, 1938; and Russell, B., Free Thought and Official Propaganda, etc., 1922.

[89] O’Donnell, V., ‘Propaganda and Persuasion Examined’, in Jowett, G., and O’Donnell, V. (eds), op.cit., 1992, p.125, describes this as an approach which viewed ‘human responses to the media as uniform and immediate’.

[90] Ibid., describes this as an the ‘limited effects’ model, which takes in account other factors such as the demographic background of the audience.

[91] Jowett, G., and O’Donnell, V., (eds) Propaganda and Persuasion, 1999 (Third Edition)

[92] See, for instance, Brown, J.A.C., Techniques of Persuasion: From Propaganda to Brainwashing, 1963; Doob, L.W. Public Opinion and Propaganda, 1966; Ellul, J., Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, 1965; Jackall, R. (ed.), op.cit., 1995; and Lasswell, H.D., Lerner, D., and Speir, H. (eds), Propaganda and Communication in World History. Vol. 2: The Emergence of Public Opinion in the West, 1980.

[93] See, for instance, Doherty, M.A., op.cit., 2000; Mackenzie, J.M., Propaganda and Empire: The Manipulation of British Public Opinion 1880-1960, 1984; Taylor, P.M., op.cit., 1999, and Welch, D., op.cit., 1993.

[94] Whitehead, B.T., Brags and Boasts: Propaganda in the Year of the Armada, 1994.

[95] For instance, see Lasswell, H. D., Casey, R.D., and Smith, B.L., Propaganda and Promotional Activities: An Annotated Bibliography, 1935 and 1969; Smith, B.L., Lasswell, H.D., and Casey, R.D., Propaganda, Communication and Public Opinion. A Comprehensive Reference Guide, 1946; and Cole, R., Propaganda in Twentieth Century War and Politics: An Annotated Bibliography, 1996.

[96] Cole, R., International Encyclopaedia of Propaganda, 1998. For instance, on pp.488-491 the names of the British Ministers of Information are in the wrong order.

[97] See, for example, Brierley, S., The Advertising Handbook, 1995; Dyer, G., Advertising as Communication, 1982; Kress, G., Van Leeuwen, T., Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design, 1995; Vestergaard, T., and Schrøder, K., The Language of Advertising, 1985; Williamson, J., Decoding Advertisements: Ideology and Meaning in Advertising, 1994.

[98] Allen, R.E., The Pocket Oxford Dictionary of Current English, 1984, p.575. I picked this particular edition as this was where I gained my first definition from, and is a likely source for others to turn to first, rather than the more authoratative editions.

[99] The Oxford English Dictionary, ‘OED: Poster’, [OED Online, unidentified web address], accessed 11 April 2000, demonstrates that the meaning of the word has changed little since at least 1838. Room, A., The Cassell Dictionary of Word Histories, 1999, p.480: Although the original sense was ‘a person who puts up notices’, the current sense evolved in the nineteenth century and has changed little since.

[100] Ades, D., ‘Posters for Art’s Sake’, in Timmers, M. (ed.), op.cit., 1998, p.73.

[101] Fougasse, op.cit., 1946, p.11.

[102] Rickards, M., op.cit., 1971, p.7.

[103] Ibid., p.8, quoting Sontag.

[104] Foster, J.K., The Posters of Picasso, 1964, p.10. The Oxford English Dictionary defines these as ‘pictorial posters’ rather than simply a ‘poster’. The Oxford English Dictionary, ‘OED: Poster’, [OED Online, unidentified web address], accessed April 11 2000.

[105] Rickards, M., op.cit., 1971, p.105.

[106] Green, O., Underground Art, 1990, p.6.

[107] Timmers, M., ‘Introduction’, in Timmers, M. (ed.), op.cit., 1998, p.7.

[108] For example, A.P. Herbert, in his introduction to Fougasse, op.cit., 1946, p.5, felt that there was no need for an introduction as Fougasse’s posters were so popular with the public that they were instantly recognisable. Fougasse is also mentioned several times in the trade magazine Advertiser’s Weekly as an influential force, for instance: Anonymous, ‘The Mighty Fougasse’, Vol.107, No. 1,397, February 29 1940, p.168, and Anonymous, ‘Secret of a Good Poster as seen by ‘Fougasse’’, Vol. 121, No. 1,757, August 12 1943, p.227. Fougasse produced several books throughout the 1930s and 1940s, and he was one of few graphic artists considered influential enough to merit a biography: Hillier, B. (ed.), Fougasse, 1977. Few general poster histories are considered complete without a reference to Fougasse: for example, Walton, R., ‘Four in Focus’, in Timmers, M. (ed.), op.cit., 1998, pp.154-158, devoted a large section of the work to the series of posters produced in February 1940.

[109] Fougasse, op.cit., 1946, p.43.

[110] Ibid., p.11.

[111] Metzl, E., op.cit., 1963, pp.120-124.

[112] Barnicoat, J., op.cit., 1972, p.183.

[113] Crowley, D., ‘The Propaganda Poster’, in Timmers, M. (ed.), op.cit., 1998, p.106.

[114] Nicholas, J.B., ‘Is British Art Fighting’, Art and Industry Vol. 32, No. 191, May 1942, p.122.

[115] Koshatzky, K., Ornamental Posters of the Vienna Secession, 1974, p.11.

[116] Green, O., op.cit., 1990, p.6.

[117] Fougasse, op.cit., 1946, p.43.

[118] Ibid., p.14. Fougasse therefore believed that the poster must be tested in its true surroundings, rather than in the design studio.

[119] Ibid., p.22.

[120] Ibid., p.27.

[121] Ibid., p.19.

[122] Ibid., p.27.

[123] Timmers, M., ‘Introduction’, in Timmers, M. (ed.), op.cit., 1998, p.8.

[124] Princess Elizabeth, quoted by Hauser, E., ‘The British Think It’s Funny’, Saturday Evening Post, January 28 1950, p.27.

[125] For example, see Albig, W., Modern Public Opinion, 1956; British Institute of Public Opinion, What Britain Thinks, the Technique of Public Opinion Measurement, 1939; Childs, H.L., An Introduction to Public Opinion, 1947; Childs, H.L., Public Opinion: Nature, Formation and Role, 1965; Christensen, R.M., Voice of the People: Readings in Public Opinion and Propaganda, 1967; Doob, L.W., Public Opinion and Propaganda, 1949; Graves, W.B., Readings in Public Opinion: Its Formation and Control, 1928; Lasswell, H.D., Lerner, D., and Speir, H. (eds), op.cit., 1980; Liston, R.A., Why We Think As We Do, 1977; Maciver, I., Sounding Public Opinion, 1944; Mitchell, M.G., Propaganda, Polls, and Public Opinion, Are the People Manipulated?, 1970; Qualter, T.H., Opinion Control in Democracies, 1973; and Wilson, F.G., A Theory of Public Opinion, 1962.

[126] Rademacher, H., Masters of German Poster Art, 1966, p.12.

[127] Bingham, J., ‘Commercial advertising and the Poster from the 1880s to the Present’, in Timmers, M. (ed.), op.cit., 1998, p.190.

[128] Again, this returns us to the question of ‘What is art?’, as not all ‘art’ is self-expression. Art is often expected to have a functionalist purpose as demonstrated by a wide range of literature, including Bloch, E., The Utopian Function of Art and Literature, 1988; Gombrich, E.H., The Uses of Images: Studies in the Social Function of Art and Visual Communication, 1999; Mukerjee, R., The Social Function of Art, 1948; and Willats, S., Art and Social Function: Three Projects, 1976. It is a fairly modern idea that art is all self-expression. Bürger, P., ‘On the Problem of Autonomy of Art in Bourgeois Society’, in Frascina, F. and Harris, J. (eds), Art in Modern Culture: An Anthology of Critical Texts, 1992, p.57, for example, notes that artists have been commissioned in the past for court portraiture, which must convey the power of the leader. For more on this issue see Balschmann, O., The Artist in the Modern World: The Conflict Between Market and Self-expression, 1997.

[129] Eckersley, T., Poster Design, 1954, p.7. See Eckersley, T., ‘Poster Design and Display’, Artist, Vol. 57, May 1959, p.59 for an assessment for the main points to be remembered when designing a poster.

[130] Heyman, T., op.cit., 1998, p.13.

[131] Rademacher, H., op.cit., 1966, p.11.

[132] Rossi, A., op.cit., 1969, pp.110-111.

[133] Foster, J.K., op.cit., 1964, p.17.

[134] See Baburina, N., op.cit., 1985; Bonnell, V.E., op.cit., 1997; Kenez, P., The Birth of the Propaganda State: Soviet Methods of Mass Mobilisation 1917-1929, 1985; and White, S., op.cit., 1988, for an idea of the development of Soviet propaganda.

[135] Pick, F., ‘Pick on Posters’, Advertising Monthly, June 1939, p.22.

[136] Rademacher, H., op.cit., 1966, p.11.

[137] Paret, P., Lewis, B. I., and Paret, P., Persuasive Images: Posters of War and Revolution from the Hoover Institution Archives, 1992, p.x.

[138] Eckersley, T., op.cit., 1954, p.6.

[139] Groves, F.R., ‘What Makes a Poster Live?’, Advertiser’s Weekly, Vol. 120, No. 1559, April 8 1943, p.47.

[140] Pick, F., ‘Posters… Present and Future’, op.cit., December 1939, p.10.

[141] Heyman, T., op.cit., 1998, p.14.

[142] Foster, J.K., op.cit., 1964, p.20.

[143] Benjamin, M., ‘Off the Wall and Out of Mind’, Evening Standard, April 16 1998, pp.28-29.

[144] The British Library, ‘Collections: The British Library Newspaper Library’,, accessed August 15 2001.

[145] Nicholas, S., op.cit., 1996, p.12 notes that the BBC estimated its audience figures to be 34 million out of a total population of 48 million.

[146] Rickards, M., op.cit., 1971, p.33.

[147] Stanley, P., What Did You Do in the War Daddy?, 1983, p.13.

[148] Freeman, J., ‘Professional Organisations: Stricture or Structure for Graphic Design?’, in Bishop, T. (ed.), Design History: Fad or Function?, 1978, p.30.

[149] Foster, J.K., op.cit., 1964, p.9.

[150] For instance, see Hood, P., Ourselves and the Press: A Social Study of News, Advertising and Propaganda, 1939; Smith, A.C.H., Paper Voices: The Popular Press and Social Change, 1935-1965, 1975; and The British Library, ‘Concise History of the British Newspaper: The British Library Newspaper Library’, accessed August 15 2001, for the role of press advertising in Britain.

[151] Anonymous, ‘Govt. Finds More Scope for Posters Than Ever Before: Some New Campaigns Depend Entirely on this Medium’, Advertiser’s Weekly, Vol. 188, No. 1542, December 10 1942, pp.244-5. See also McLellan, G.L., ‘Poster’s Part in the National Advertiser’s Campaigns’, Advertiser’s Weekly, Vol. 121, No. 1,573, p.83. McLellan argues that the increased use of the poster was not simply down to a shortage of press space, but that advertisers were increasingly recognising the effectiveness of poster advertising, partly as a result of the use of posters made by the MOI so far in the war.

[152] PRO INF 1/238, ‘MOI Memo on Paper Requirements’, May 27 1940.

[153] See Briggs, A., op.cit., 1970; Nicholas, S., op.cit., 1996; and Short, K.R.M., op.cit., 1983, for a discussion of radio propaganda.

[154] See Chapman, J., op.cit., 1998, and Aldgate, A., and Richards, J., op.cit., 1986, for histories of the cinema in wartime.

[155] All of the following texts make reference to this ‘failure’: Balfour, M., op.cit., 1979, p.57; Chapman, J., op.cit., 1998, p.18; McLaine, I., op.cit., 1979, p.31; Thorpe, A., ‘Britain’, in Noakes, J. (ed.), The Civilian in War: The Home Front in Europe, Japan and the USA in World War II, 1992, p.25; and Walton, R., ‘Four in Focus’, in Timmers, M., op.cit., 1998, p.154.

[156] PRO INF 1/300, op.cit., follows the development of the first wartime posters from at least April 1939. These posters will be discussed further in Chapter 4 (Commissioning).

[157] Jeans, D.N., ‘Planning and the Myth of the English Countryside, in the Interwar Period’, Rural History, Vol. 1, No.2, 1990, pp.249-264; Marsh, J., Back to the Land: The Pastoral Impulse in England, from 1880 to 1914, 1982; Samuel, R., Theatres of Memory: Vol. 2: Island Stories: Unravelling Britain, 1998.

[158] Relevant PRO files on the Beveridge Report are PRO PIN 8 ‘Ministry of National Insurance and predecessors: Committee on Social Insurance and Allied Services Committee (Beveridge Committee), correspondence, papers and registered files (NI 99 series)’, and PRO CAB 87 ‘War Cabinet and Cabinet: Committees on Reconstruction, Supply and other matters: Minutes and Papers (RP, SLAO and other Series)’.

[159] Jay, D., Listener, May 15 1941, quoted in Tiratsoo, N., and Tomlinson, J., Industrial Efficiency and State Intervention: Labour 1939-51, 1993, p.21.

[160] Shaw, C.K., Industrial Publicity, 1944.

[161] Costello, J., Love, Sex and War: Changing Values 1939-1945, 1985; Davidson, R., ‘Fighting ‘The Deadly Scourge’: The Impact of World War II on Civilian VD Policy in Scotland’, Scottish Historical Review, Vol. LXXV: No. 199., April 1996, pp.72-97; and Laird, S.M., Venereal Disease in Britain, 1943.

[162] Davenport-Hines, R.P.T., Sex, Death and Punishment: Attitudes to Sex and Sexuality in Britain since the Renaissance, 1991.

[163] There are several M-O File Reports, files from the Wellcome Institute and the Public Record Office, and newspaper reports, all of which deal with reaction to the VD campaigns.

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