Review: Medicine, Morality and Political Culture: Legislation on Venereal Disease in Five Northern European Countries, c.1870-1995

Having written a whole chapter on Venereal Disease propaganda in the Second World War (and a journal article that I need to put forward), this looks interesting:

Catching venereal disease is different from catching a cold. It’s nastier, more intimate, raises suspicions, and makes you wonder why you were so stupid not to have safe sex, or why you had sex at all. Not surprisingly, the loaded meaning of VD has haunted European society for ages. Who infected whom was not simply a medical but also – at least for the past 150 years – a political question. An oversimplified but nevertheless true answer to this question has been, until fairly recently, that women infect men. The roots of this view are found in 19th-century approaches to combating VD by controlling prostitution, most often through a system of licensed brothels and compulsory medical checkups and treatment. “Syphilis” (or what was diagnosed as such) was seen as a gendered sickness, transmitted by “loose” women from the lower classes whose civil liberties were trampled by lock-up hospitals, police control and forced examinations, all in order to protect male sexual needs.

Read full review.


Death Day: May 15th 2010

Death Day Poster

Strand: Either: ‘Death and the Arts’ or ‘Death and Culture’

Title: Death at War


In the Second World War, the second ‘total war’ of the Twentieth Century, death was a daily reality for both those on the fighting fronts and those on the Home Front in Britain.  The Ministry of Information (MOI), officially formed at the outbreak of the Second World War, was the central governmental publicity machine, working with other official bodies, including the War Office. Its role was to tell the citizen ‘clearly and swiftly what he is to do, where he is to do it, how he is to do it and what he should not do’.

Posters produced by the MOI needed to deal with the ever-present reality of death, whilst it was often difficult to be too realistic, as graphic images of death would not necessarily have been well received. How did governmental bodies deal with the representation of death, ensuring that the seriousness of their message was conveyed, whilst avoiding too “starkly realistic posters” for those who “already knew so much of reality”. Are there clear differences between the images aimed at soldiers, industrial worker and civilians? Was humour ever seen as an appropriate tool in relation to the possibility of death? What were some of the more subtle symbols of death which recurred within wartime posters, particularly within health and “Careless Talk” campaigns?

Biographical Details:

Dr Bex Lewis is Lecturer in History, Associate Lecturer in Media Studies and Blended Learning Fellow at the University of Winchester.  The focus of her research is upon British propaganda posters, further information can be found on Her most recent publication is a chapter for London Transport Posters: A Century of Art and Design, and she was a major contributor to:

For more: Facebook Group: Death at Winchester