This blog complements my website: http://www.ww2poster.co.uk, constructed as an electronic resource to gather data and disseminate the research-in-progress for my PhD: “The Planning, Design and Reception of British Home Front Propaganda Posters of the Second World War.”
My thesis was examined by Lord Asa Briggs and Dr Adrian Smith (University of Southampton) in June 2004, and passed without corrections. I am currently an Associate Lecturer in History, Media Studies and Design for Digital Media at the University of Winchester, having spent the intervening time as an Interdisciplinary Research Officer at the University of Manchester, and travelling around the world.
The Start of All This?
Shortly after the Berlin Wall was knocked down, my mother took my youngest brother and I to the Imperial War Museum. I only remember a couple of things from that day, one is standing at this wall which says “Change Your Life” (which that day did), but I think that’s mostly a reminder from the photo. The main think I remember from that day is wandering around the Museum, looking at all this machinery… but I’m into people, so it was when I got to the Home Front section of the Museum, with the brightly coloured posters (I’m highly visual!) that my attention was caught, and my souvenir that day was the “Women of Britain Come into the Factories” postcard, which formed the basis of my A-Level project, my Undergraduate disssertation, my PhD, this blog, and eventually – my book (there’s some publications already) – or do I want to go fully virtual – no I still want a book!
As I wandered around I started to think that these had caught my attention, started to wonder why (when I’m not living in the Second World War)… and wonder what it was that made them so resonant now… although my thesis focused more on the posters at the time, structured around the idea of “the planning” (the government/Ministry of Information behind the posters), “the design” (how the artists interpreted their briefs, and how far these were accepted – there was no particular design style imposed as in Germany), and “the reception” (what did people say about them at the time, through newspapers, Mass Observation, etc.) – with a few references to what people remembered of them “now” as lots of people still remembered them and enthusiastically filled in questionnaires for me!
Keep Calm and Carry On
The historical information circulating (generally without citation) around the Keep Calm and Carry On poster, largely comes from my PhD thesis. It took a while for me to pick up on the phenomenon, as the poster was largely insignificant during the wars years, having never been displayed, but I had covered it as one of the first posters produced in preparation for the war. I am absolutely fascinated by how it has become such an icon for the recession.
This website is a not-for-profit site produced by Dr Rebecca Lewis, who finished her PhD on the subject in 2004. The site is maintained around other working commitments, and plans to publish in book/journal form. Rebecca, generally known as Bex, has recently left the University of Manchester where she was Interdisciplinary Research Officer for the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in the Arts (CIDRA), but is about to head off on a ROUND THE WORLD trip.
The site provides information mainly on the posters produced by British agencies, in particular the British government, aimed at the Home Front during the Second World War. Information about the posters themselves, the artists who designed them, related books, the research project itself, and relevant events, are provided. Some information is also provided on the general wartime period, and on other posters and graphic design eras.
Although I have finished the PhD, I am still interested in collecting new information relevant to this topic, particularly as I plan to re-edit the thesis into a format suitable for a book. Please feel free to e-mail me with information you think may be of interest. I am particularly interested in collecting information on artists.
Before requesting information, please check the FAQ page.