[NEWS] Remembering Lord Asa Briggs 1921-2016

Image: University of Sussex

On a sunny day in June 2004, I was sat chewing my fingers in the grounds of what was then University College Winchester, awaiting the arrival of Lord Asa Briggs, the external examiner for my PhD thesis entitled ‘The Planning, Design and Reception of British Home Front Propaganda Posters of the Second World War’ (available on Ethos). He’d got stuck in traffic around Thruxton, but on arriving an hour late, indicated we should get on with it … and contrary to all the warnings I’d had that one shouldn’t expect to know the results, immediately informed me that the thesis had passed. Along with Dr Adrian Smith (University of Southampton) we then proceeded to discuss a little Foucauldian discourse analysis, and a few other suggestions for around 25 minutes.

It took a while to sink in that I had passed my thesis without corrections (apparently only 5% of people do this). Briggs described my work as ‘one of the most readable I had ever had the privilege to examine‘, and it was recommended that it be re-worked and edited into a book, likely to be ‘highly saleable’, and the rest of the viva concentrated on this.

A range of part-time, contract, hourly-paid teaching/research jobs, global travel, two serious illnesses, two redundancies, five city moves, and twelve years later the book has not yet made the light of day, although the book proposal/sample chapters should be ready to send to a publisher by mid-August (see abstract), and I have used the work in ‘The Art of War‘ for The National Archives, for a chapter for London Transport Posters, and in an article on ‘The Renaissance of Keep Calm and Carry On‘ for The Poster. The book will contain an additional chapter focusing on the story of Keep Calm and Carry On as a product of the digital age, rather than a story of the Second World War. Lord Briggs had agreed to write the foreword for the book, but obviously this won’t happen now. The last email I had from him in August 2015, when I was asking if he would endorse for publication:

Congratulations on turning your thesis into a book!  [You don’t need an introduction from me]. Your book speaks for itself. Yours sincerely,  Asa Briggs.

A supportive and encouraging man, who remembered who I was, and was very encouraging about my work – and I see that he’s been mentioned in the book I plan to read in a couple of weeks Saving Bletchley Park by Dr Sue Black. Condolences to his family.

Obituary: The University of SussexThe Guardian; The Open University