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Centre for Metropolitan History: 13 November 2002
The creation of a healthy society was, perhaps, the dominant concern of social reformers in the first half of the twentieth century and many historians have considered the legislative processes through which such a society was produced. What have, hitherto, been little studied, are the locations in which the ideolgies of a healthy society were produced, especially in the inter-war decades. It is the aim of this workshop, using London as a case study, to investigate how social reformers developed particular models, practices and environments of reform in order to re-make London’s population into a race of healthy, active and educated citizens between the end of the Great War in 1918 and the declaration of the Second World War in September 1939.
King Alfred’s College: 7th June 2002
“The Centre provides a forum for research into the gendered nature of educational provision, practice and thought in order to provide a sound evidence base for policy and practice in respect of education for women and girls. The Centre takes a broad cultural definition of Education: one which transcends schooling to encompass learning and teaching (formal and informal) at any phase of the life-cycle, in any setting or historical period, including the recent past.”
I presented a short paper on ‘informal education’, the representation of men/women in VD posters.
University of Kent @ Canterbury : 30th August – 4th September 2001
“This is the first major international conference on the impact of the media on war. Enormous social and technological changes have radically changed our lives over the past 150 years. The aim of the conference is to analyse how these developments have altered the relationships between politicians, the military and the media in the shaping of policies that may lead to conflict and the manner. The complex relationship between propaganda and censorship and the effect of the media on the formation of public opinion together with journalistic ethics and motives are also probed.”
Associated Publication: Connelly, M., & Welch, D. (eds), War and the Media: Reportage and Propaganda, I.B. Tauris, 2004
Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, UEA, 27th – 28th April 2001
Institute of Contemporary British History, 10th-12th July, 2000
“The conference aims to bring together contemporary historians as well as researchersin related fields including cultural studies, sociology and social anthropology, to explore aspects of gender history which have been neglected in previous research.”
Institute of Historical Research, 5th-7th July, 2000 Seminars Attended: ‘Health and Education’; ‘Representing War’ ‘and ‘Cold War Culture’
‘Nostalgia and the Visual Image: The memory of propaganda posters of the Second World War.’
ABSTRACT: This paper will explore the place that Second World War Home Front posters have in popular memory, with a particular focus upon the nostalgia industry that has grown up around them.
There are countless objects that can be purchased adorned with images and slogans from wartime posters: not only postcards and reproduction posters, but mugs, key rings, T-shirts, chocolate bars, playing cards, and many others. Money would not be spent producing such objects unless it was felt there was a market for them, and such objects have been produced by the Imperial War Museum and the Public Record Office, amongst others, for many years, in the knowledge that they will sell.
The paper will consider why such products do sell, with their appeal based not only upon their immediate visual impact, [Footnote 1] often the reason they were successful in the first place, but upon their status as social and historical documents, and as a reminder of a past, mythical or otherwise. Many people remember the posters from the war, as can be illustrated by replies received from a questionnaire distributed, in 1997-9, as part of the PhD project.
Posters often trigger memories, in particular causing people become nostalgic about, for instance, ‘the Blitz spirit’. This has largely been deemed a myth, [Footnote 2] and it will be interesting to consider how far such a ‘spirit’ was propagated through the war posters, and how far the posters have contributed to such a ‘myth’. Yet, memories of war posters are not restricted to those who can remember the war, people of all generations can list many war poster slogans, such as ‘Careless Talk Costs Lives’. There are two probable factors which account for this: many slogans have become tied up with the mythology of war; and war posters are used extensively as illustration in both children’s and populist ‘coffee table’ books, where the poster is used to get across a point pictorially, as was the original purpose.
The paper will take into account the original purpose of propaganda and advertising posters, designed to be ephemeral, but also memorable. It will attempt to define what factors determine if a poster can be deemed a ‘success’, especially from a later point in time. The paper will also briefly reflect upon how changes in history have enabled the poster to be considered as a historical source.
1 Gleeson, J. Collecting Prints and Posters, 1997, p92
2 Calder, A. The Myth of the Blitz, 1991
With Gary Peatling ‘Appeasement and public history now and in the future’.
The day was interesting and well attended, with a very friendly atmosphere.
Paper Given: Public History, May 2000
A 20 minute paper was presented at Ruskin College in Oxford. More image links may be added at a later date!
WHAT IS THE POSTER NOSTALGIA INDUSTRY?
Memorabilia, objects that remind people of memorable times, people and events , form a major nostalgia industry. There is a widespread nostalgia industry around posters, and following are some examples of material produced by the Imperial War Museum:
Reproduction posters/postcards, etc. [Slide]; Playing cards [Slide]; Mugs [Slide]; Keyrings [Slide] Jigsaws [Slide] Chocolate bars, etc. [Slides]
Among others places that sell reproduction poster items are the Public Record Office: Diary pages, where posters are shown alongside other items such as the Magna Carta. [Show], the Robert Opie Museum of Advertising & Packaging and the Past Times shop: T-shirts [Show].
Last year I found a leaflet aimed at pensioners who needed a ‘flu vaccination, which utilised a comical ‘Coughs and Sneezes’ poster, originally used during the war, (We’ll see an example later) and it was obviously expected that such an image would ‘ring bells’ with the ‘target market’.
The leaflet for ‘The Art of Propaganda’ study day at Duxford used a Fougasse cartoon poster from the Second World War [show] – out of all the images they could have used, this was the one that they felt would attract people to the event.
‘Popular’ books related to the war are often heavily illustrated with posters and advertisements, and front covers of books often use poster images as they are expected to attract attention in the way that they originally did. Clark used one of the most popular posters people remember from the war: ‘Women of Britain’.
Such items would not be produced unless it was felt that there was a market for them, so we need to question what it is that attracts people to such items, when posters were surely intended as fleeting, ephemeral objects. Not sure we can answer that in 20-odd minutes, but will try & raise some issues for discussion.
“A form of melancholia caused by prolonged absence from one’s home or country; severe home-sickness.”,
a precursor of the definition which has become more familiar since the 1920s:
“Regret or sorrowful longing for the conditions of a past age; regretful or wistful memory or recall of an earlier time.” or
“A bittersweet longing for things, persons, or situations of the past.” 
But whatever definition you take, the key is that time and distance safely separate us from the ‘facts’, it is the ‘ROSE TINTED’ view of the ‘GOOD OLD TIMES’. A recent newspaper article (produced online), described the recent Channel 4 programme in which a British family lived life in a Victorian style for 3 months. They aptly summed up nostalgia as “memory’s cataracts – clouding our vision and causing us to see things that were never there.” They described living the real life as a ‘cure’ for the longings for the ‘good old days’.
“My mind was on other things in those days, indeed there was little time, or inclination to take much interest in anything but survival. … Perhaps the fact of having no real memory of war time politics may even tell its own story.” 
So we have to question whether people are remembering the actual posters they saw during the war, or simply the ones which have been popularised since the war. As a respondent told me in early 1998 when I circulated a questionnaire:
“… it is difficult to disentangle genuine memories from those enhanced by reproduced images generating an “Oh! I remember that” reaction.” 
as they had had so much retrospective exposure. But this really sends us around in a circle, as we still have to question why they have been popularised since the war.
“The systematic propagation of information or ideas by an interested party, especially in a tendentious (prejudiced) way in order to encourage or instil a particular attitude or response.” 
People who responded to my questionnaire often seemed to have a better recollection of the slogans than the posters themselves. Slogans such as ‘Coughs
& Sneezes Spread diseases‘ were one-liners intended to attract the attention of the public to an issue, in this case ‘careless talk’. We have to remember that individual posters were not produced in a vacuum, but were often part of a series, indeed, part of a wider campaign with newspapers, radio & film all echoing the same message. Of these, the visual images used in posters are the most easily memorised: we tend to remember more of what we see than what we hear (and even more of what we do)!
“The value of these is largely dependent on the quality of the design and commercial appeal of the image. Good design will invariably hold its value, even if the poster is by an obscure or anonymous artist. Also popular are posters showing sports, vintage cars and fashionable figures, or those that reflect the mood of their times.” 
A lot of the value of a poster still attaches to the importance/fame of the artist, although by the inter-war years it was possible for an artist to be more famous for poster design than for other art work. But, just think, the Imperial War Museum houses its posters in ‘The Art Department’. Posters are now collected for their importance as historical documents, and this is due largely to the widened scope of history over recent decades.
“History, in the hands of the professional historian, is apt to present itself as an esoteric form of knowledge. It fetishizes archive-based research…” 
However, visual sources are more prolific now than they ever were, with the Internet, etc. Marwick, in 1989, defined 12 ‘varieties’ of primary source, of which the 6th is ‘media of communication and artefacts of popular culture.’  Dependent upon the subject under investigation, every source has validity for historical study, provided that it is studied in context, and that the right questions, such as who produced it, why did they produce it, etc., are asked of it. The changing role of ephemeral objects must be taken into account, for instance, in the last decade the poster has taken on a new role as, for instance, a news opportunity for politicians, or a place to make the ‘dot.com’ name known.
 Shaw, M. & Chase, M., The Imagined Past, History and Nostalgia, 1989, p3
 OED Online: ‘Nostalgia’, http://dic…/00159815?case_id=ooLh-4S2LPB-589&p=1&d=1&sp=0&qt=1&ct=1&ad=1- Accessed 11/04/00
 ‘Dictionary.com/nostalgia’ http://www.dictionary.com/cgi-bin/dict.pl?term=nostalgia Accessed 11/04/00
 Detroit Free Press ‘Mort Crim: Look back can be eye-opening’ http://www.freep.com/voices/columnists/crim3_20000403.htm 3/04/00. Accessed 11/04/00 (they claimed it was BBC)
Research Day: National Identities
King Alfred’s, Winchester, September 21st, 1999
This was a very successful, well attended event. Short papers were given by a student and tutor from each research centre on the common theme of national identities.
The day included a paper given by myself, entitled ‘World War II Propaganda and the Image of Britain’. Once a brief definition of propaganda and the job of the poster had been established, three posters from the First World War were considered, demonstrating the belief that most appealed to either a mythical past, a sense of good sportsmanship, or obedience to a sense of authority. The Second World War was even more of a ‘total war’ than the First had been, and those involved needed to know that they were not only fighting AGAINST something, but also FOR it. The main focus of the paper was then upon two posters ‘Your Britain, Fight for it Now’, produced in 1942, around the time of the Beveridge Report. On the one hand we saw the nostalgic image, depicted by Frank Newbould, of a pastoral and rural Britain, which encourages effort in order to maintain perceived past traditions, whilst Abram Games depicted an urban image as an image of change for a better Britain, a real fight for the future.
This paper was presented as part of a research day at King Alfred’s College concerning national identities. I was the only postgraduate from the department to present a paper, and was made aware of the 20 minute deadline by the cooking timer ticking away!
This is a definition in progress: “the attempt to influence opinions and attitudes, or to reinforce existing ideas and beliefs, through suggestion and persuasion, rather than by physical or financial inducement.” (p.8, Undergraduate thesis)
Posters needed to be recognised as an important form of propaganda, although by World War II their importance was rather overshadowed by radio, cinema, etc. However, there is more of an element of choice in these, as it is easier to turn the radio off/not buy a cinema ticket, than to avoid a (large) poster.
Defining the Purpose of a Poster
It is generally agreed that there should not be too much information in any one post, as most posters need to be read at speed, although some, at bus stops, etc. can have more information on them, as people are more at leisure to take in more complex ideas, although must still be emphasised that should not be TOO complex.
Poster design is important, although even if it is controversial it may be a successful poster, as it may have caused the message to be absorbed more than a conventional design would. The images and slogans used give us clues about the attitudes of those who produced the posters, in this case the government, towards those they were targeting, in this case the general public at war, which can give us clues about those who perceived the posters.
First World War Posters:
Although the project is focused upon Second World War posters, it can prove useful to consider posters produced by the govt. in the First World War, and see if there are any discernible changes in attitude towards those that they governed, and see what they considered people needed to hear. First World War posters were largely concerned with recruitment and give the general impression that the general idea appears to be that the war was a great, heroic, ‘sports match’ in which soldiers were ‘players’ were on opposing ‘teams’. Several posters were based upon the mythical past of England, such as a poster which depicted George & the Dragon, which equated soldiers with the knights & heroes of the past.
I think you could say that this was the most famous poster of all time, at least in Britain. It illustrates the opinion held by the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee, who published the poster, that the masses, if ordered, would follow a hero of past wars into battle.
Second World War Posters:
These posters appear to have been both more pragmatic & more ideological, and tended to depict the ‘ordinary person’, such as ‘Is Your Journey Really Necessary?’ which depicts the ‘ordinary soldier’ appealing to his fellow men/women – this did not constitute an order.
Second World War recruits were not professional soldiers, they were ordinary citizens who needed to know that they were not only fighting AGAINST something, but also FOR something. Those on the home front, most of whom were the families of such soldiers, were no different, and the Beveridge Report, which formed the basis of the Welfare State when produced in December, 1942, was greeted with great enthusiasm.
The Beveridge Report, 1942
The Beveridge Report, 1942 had ambitious proposals:
The reforms proposed in the Beveridge Report, including those listed here, were much wider than originally intended when enquiries were begun in 1941, when small changes were intended to keep the unions happy. The publication of the report was in fact postponed [from October] as it was felt to be too revolutionary, but once published, it was widely publicised by the Ministry of Information, the lead government department for propaganda on the home front, responsible for MOST home front posters, although not all.
The Beveridge Report was published in atmosphere of optimism, soon after the battle of Alamein, which was seen by many as a turning point in the war, and the report was widely regarded as a blueprint for post-war reconstruction, although there were widespread fears that the ideas would not be implemented, particularly after the fiasco after the First World War with the non-appearance of ‘Homes for Heroes’. It was also probably partly due to views that Churchill’s expressed that he didn’t want to give people false hopes and expectations, and that the country needed to concentrate upon the present, otherwise there would be no future.
Your Britain, Fight for it Now
A series of posters entitled YOUR BRITAIN, FIGHT FOR IT NOW, was produced by Army Bureau of Current Affairs, which was charged with educating the soldiers on the front line, some reflected some of the ideas in the Beveridge Report.
Weight claims that ABCA was generally believed to have been staffed by leftist intelligentsia, who highlighted the failures of conservatism, whilst spreading ideas of a ‘new Jerusalem’, and this poster by Abram Games certainly seems to reflect that, presenting an optimisitc, radical view. In fact, Churchill felt that this depiction of the child with rickets was such a slur on pre-war Conservative policies, that he managed to get this particular poster withdrawn. The image is an optimistic vision of the urban future. Urban areas are often regarded as the bastion of civilisation, as their formation had made the collective emancipation from a feudal lifestyle possible. Immigrants often make up a large proportion of town populations, of a less fixed culture, their influence can be felt in making people more open to new ideas, with more hope for the future. There are also many public meeting places in urban areas, and these are where socialistic ideas tend to make the most imprint.
Beveridge named ‘5 giants’ in his report: “Idleness, Want, Squalor, Ignorance and Disease’, and the background image depicts squalor, and names ‘Disease’ and ‘Neglect’. The image would have been even more familiar to people, as the blitz caused such devastation of homes. This dereliction, however, allowed THE FUTURE to be placed as a clean slate over a bad past. The image ignores the reality of the dirt that would inevitably collect, and does not really measure up to the jaundiced view that we now hold of such architecture. In the same series was this image, a more conservative view, presented by Frank Newbould.
Frank Newbould’s view of the Sussex Downs depicts a rural, pastoral idyll. Bunce claims that the image demonstrates a defence of the traditions of old orders, and denied the reality that those whom this poster was aimed at, the soldiers abroad, came from. However, although most people were urban dwellers, most would have associated with the image of ‘England’s green and pleasant land’. In times of social tensions, when there is a fear of the future, we tend to return to the rural idyll: the countryside image that is associated with fresh air; moral purity; the good life and wholesomeness. It shows stability in a time of conflict, showing the ‘everlasting’ links between man and his territory, and harks back to a nostalgic, simpler age, without the pressures of modern day life. Short sums it up: “It has become the perfect past to the imperfect present and uncertain future.” Its aesthetic beauty is shown in the ‘picture postcard’ timeless village, unaffected by war, bathed in sunlight, the shepherd wandering along with his flocks, whilst nature does the hard work. The image is unconnected with the real back-breaking work of the countryside, and similar images were also used in several other posters, including ‘We could do with thousands more like you‘, and ‘Lend a hand on the land‘, with the consequence that the wrong type of applicant was attracted to the work. Particularly the idea of a ‘farming holiday camp’ attracted those who believed that they had come to the country for a picnic. E.g. There were stories of women turning up in heels, which demonstrates the often misunderstood image of rural life that urban dwellers can often have. [They appreciate the beauty, but not the work]
These posters, both produced in 1942, present two very differing images of Britain. On the one hand we see the presentation of the nostalgic & pastoral image of rural Britain, encouraging effort to maintain past traditions. On the other hand we have the urban image presented as an image of change for a better Britain, a real fight for the future. Neither image is based entirely on reality, but propaganda tends very rarely to present the whole truth, and in this case citizens were to be encouraged to fight for their utopias.x}