History Writer

[BOOK PUBLICATION] Keep Calm and Carry On : The Truth Behind the Poster

Within my 1997 undergraduate dissertation, and my 2004 PhD thesis, I (unintentionally) provided the story of the now ubiquitous ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ (KCCO) poster (read an extract here), whilst I was writing about two very early posters produced by the British Government in the Second World War – Your Courage, and Freedom is in Peril. At the same time, the government produced KCCO, with the intention of saving it for use when under attack – and these were distributed in much greater quantities than the other posters (which might explain why the odd one made it onto the wall), but after so much negative kick-back on the other two posters, and with the benefit of some wisdom that we weren’t fighting “The Great War” any more, it was deemed inappropriate, and likely instructed to be pulped for it’s precious paper.

In 2009, I picked up that the ‘KCCO’ story had become ‘a thing’, and started following it on this blog, and managed to visit Barter Books a couple of times!¬†Alongside, I was keen to publish my PhD thesis, and working on my book proposal in between jobs/job applications, and all the other fun of being a young academic. In September I finally sent the book proposal off to the Imperial War Museum (where my story starts with the purchase of a postcard of Women of Britain – Come Into the Factories), and by November, was being offered a book contract for a 20,000 word book that could be sold ‘as a present’ with the Imperial War Museum, giving more of the backstory – and with a plan to seek a joint publisher for a deeper book based more around the full PhD thesis… we’ll see if this comes off, but meantime – yesterday I signed the contract – to deliver 20,000 words by April 10th (so that’ll be my weekends gone then!)!

The working title for the short book is: Keep Calm and Carry On : The Truth Behind the Poster, with an anticipated launch in the autumn/winter 2017.

Need to read this over tomorrow and hopefully sign & send back! #keepcalmandcarryon

A photo posted by Bex Lewis (@drbexl) on

The full PhD can already be accessed in PDF form from The British Library


Joining the ‘Posters Network’

Having moved to Manchester Metropolitan University, I have had a long overdue chance to catch up with Jim Aulich, who has written a number of books on (propaganda) posters. I had missed the ‘Posters Network’ being created, but am now in process of membership. It self-describes as:

The Posters Network aims to make links between UK poster collections and posters specialists, and to share knowledge, news and expertise.

In 2013 Arts Council England (ACE) awarded the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) a grant to establish a Subject Specialist Network for Posters. This grew out of a V&A project supported by the Museums Association to map significant poster collections in the UK, for the benefit of all those who wish to explore, collect, research and enjoy posters.

Particularly useful is the list of UK collections available, and a list of resources, including a bibliography.

If you’ve not seen it, also feel free to familiarise yourself with my PhD research (2004), and my profile within the site.


Anna Efstathiadou, ‘Female Images: Visual Representation of Women in Green and British Propaganda Posters During the Second World War’

I’m sure this thesis has been finished now…

Efstathiadou, A., ‘Female Images: Visual Representation of Women in Greek and British Propaganda Posters During the Second World War’
PhD thesis registered, January, 2000. Cardiff University

Anna’s research, a comparative study between Greece and UK, aims to examine the way women were represented in propaganda posters during the years 1939-1945. Aspects of history, society and politics consist the backbone of the study, moving on to specific issues of gender, propaganda and the meaning and power of visual images.

The special interest of this research lies on the fact that it is the first Greek attempt to collect, comment and compare Greek posters of females. There are collections of Greek posters but mostly as illustrations for collectors.

Supervisor: Terry Threadgold

School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, Cardiff University, Bute Building, King Edward VII Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3NB