Recent Find: Freedom

Interesting, spotted in Norwich (2009), wonder what triggered it…


Freedom is in Peril T-Shirt

Freedom is in Peril T-ShirtThe Last Night of the Proms in Hyde Park in London seemed a good place to wear a bit of a statement t-shirt, and thanks to Freedom is in Peril for sending me this t-shirt!

Unfortunately, it does make people stare at your chest, but great slogans on t-shirts can get some great conversations going! This post was picking up pretty quickly by the Proms in the Park tweeters and re-tweeted!

A Little History
Well, I am a history lecturer!

Alongside ‘Your Courage…’, ‘Freedom is in Peril, Defend it with All Your Might’ was published, distributed and displayed almost immediately as war was declared. Even during the planning stages criticisms were raised that ‘Freedom’ is rather an abstract concept and was “likely to be too academic and too alien to the British habit of thought”. Mass-Observation reported that people felt that they could not defend ‘freedom’ because they cannot feel that they are being attacked, and this remained a problem throughout the ‘phoney war‘. The ‘Your Courage…’ poster probably attracted more anger than ‘Freedom is in Peril’ as there were twice as many produced as ‘Freedom is in Peril’, and the distinction between ‘You’ and ‘Us’ clearly struck a particular nerve. Keep Calm and Carry On of course never attracted any press coverage as it was never displayed.

Responsibility for the failure of campaigns was placed squarely with the government as it meant that, either the people had not been made to feel the urgency of the message, or that “the leaders have not spoken in a language which the people can understand and respond to.” The fact that “three-quarters of the population left school before they were fifteen” appeared to have been ignored. Minister of Supply, Herbert Morrison’s simple slogan ‘GO TO IT!’, echoed in posters, appears to have been far more positively received than “instructions in stiff and incomprehensible language”, although there was concern that this campaign would not mean anything once taken out of context of the speech in which it was made, a fear that appears to have been justified since ‘What is ‘it’?’ was scrawled upon posters.

Extracted from undergraduate dissertation and PhD thesis. Check out the production numbers here.


Quoted in the Independent

IndependentExtract from John Rentoul Blog:

According to a remarkable PhD thesis by Rebecca Lewis:

‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ was printed and held in reserve for when the necessity arose, for example, a severe air-raid, although it was never actually displayed.

Lewis does not say why it was held back. It may be that the tone seemed right before the German tanks rolled into Poland, but that, once the war had actually begun, it lacked the sense of urgency demanded by the premonition of total war.

But she does quote from contemporary evidence that the two posters that were used were widely disparaged. According to Mass-Observation:

‘Your Courage’ was the second most-mentioned remembered slogan … it still existed everywhere, and was deemed mostly annoying and inappropriate for the wartime situation. The wording of ‘Your Courage … will bring us victory’ was criticised. There was some evidence the combination of ‘your’ and ‘us’ ‘suggested to many people that they were being encouraged to work for someone else’, with the ‘your’ referring to the civilian, the ‘us’ to the Government … ‘Freedom is in Peril’ was also deemed ineffective, blamed on ‘the abstractness of the words, not one of which had any popular appeal’.

“Freedom is in Peril” has also enjoyed a bit of postmodern popularity, partly in the wake of the “Keep Calm” fashion. But it wasn’t taken at face value at the time:

The Times had described the posters as ‘egregious and unnecessary exhortations’, ‘insipid and patronising invocations’, which were unneeded and wasteful of funds, comparing the posters unfavourably to those produced by the French.

Read the full blog entry.

Note: Yes, I am catching up on the summer’s Google Alerts!


Wikipedia: Still There + Some New Additions

Wikipedia (later that evening!)Good, I seem to have got the level of the content right (oh, I  have more, but I don’t think they want everything on there!), as I’m still on there, and the main editor has gone in and made further changes, so that’s all good news! Welcome if you’re visiting via Wikipedia!

Meantime, another article in response to Rob Walker’s article: Signs of the Times


Freedom is in Peril: Defend it With all Your Might

Freedom is in Peril PosterNot content with “Keep Calm and Carry On”, there’s now a site for “Freedom is in Peril: Defend it with All Your Might”, one of the series of three posters published alongside KCCO!  Shame there’s no history on there, maybe I’ll find some more to put up… but I do like the fact that they are donating part of their sales to charity!