Social Science blog

10 posts from May 2013

30 May 2013

Every time you cross the road ...

Ian Cooke, Lead Curator in International Studies and Politics at the British Library and co-curator of the Propaganda: Power and Persuasion exhibition, examines how propaganda can often be fed by public opinion.

I had a great time last week at a private view of Propaganda: Power and Persuasion for secondary school teachers, put on by our Learning programme. Professor Jo Fox, University of Durham, gave an excellent talk on the evolution of propaganda between world wars and into the cold war. One concept that stuck in my mind was the idea of propaganda being a reciprocal arrangement, which responds to public opinion and may require the complicity of its audience to work.

In our exhibition, we look at the London 2012 Olympic Games as a point at which there was a considered attempt to present a view of Britain that was in some ways new - about a population that was diverse, and drew confidence and innovation from that diversity. In some ways, there are echoes of the 1951 Festival of Britain, but, as the Sport at Heart bid film shows, the emphasis on people was much more central. The 2012 Olympic Games are also interesting in terms of public opinion, and we look at this as expressed through Twitter comments in the last section of the exhibition. It's been suggested that print media followed public opinion, expressed in part through social media, in its positive coverage of the games.

Carole Holden gives an example of public opinion shaping the form of propaganda on the Americas Studies blog. Norman Rockwell's 'Four Freedoms', initially turned down by the US Office of War Information for not being sufficiently representative of "fine arts", were later enthusiastically adopted by the same office once they had proved their popularity in the Saturday Evening Post.

Seeing Rockwell's 'Four Freedoms' up close in our exhibition brings home the emotional power in the images and it's not hard to see why they were so successful. However, the exhibit that's had the most impact on me personally is one that takes quite a different approach and at first didn't strike me as very impressive at all.

Road Safety
This poster, 'Road Accident Deaths to Children and Teenagers, Great Britain 1960' (click to view large image), presents a series of simple line graphs and I very nearly ignored it when I was looking through our set of posters from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. But I was drawn to the small graph in the left-hand corner headed 'Pedestrians'. The big peaks at ages 3- 4 and 6-7 was shocking and made me think about the risk to my own young children. Having been brought up with TV images of the Green Cross Code man, I was already running through the version of the code that I could remember (which I discovered is actually closer to the kerb drill) whenever I crossed the road with my children. However, seeing this poster made me much more diligent about doing this. And also now means that I take even longer to get anywhere.

Like a lot of propaganda, it didn't make me do something that was completely different than before. It worked through reinforcing attitudes and behaviour that I was already expressing. It's also quite odd in working even though I was looking at the poster in context of the exhibition - I was thinking about it as propaganda, but still influenced by it. The reason why it had such an effect was that I was exactly the right audience for it, which comes back to the idea of reciprocity and complicity in propaganda.

That's the piece of propaganda in our exhibition that's had the biggest impact on me. But how about you? What's the most effective or powerful message in your opinion or experience? Let me know #BLPropaganda.        

28 May 2013

Showcase your research by entering the CMI Management Articles of the Year

Would you like to get guaranteed reviews for your articles from an audience of managers, wider publicity for your work and the chance to win £1,000?


CMI     Wiley

If so, submit a short article to the Chartered Management Institute Management Articles of the Year Award.  This is a quick, no-fuss online submission of a 2,500 word article – and can include existing work, as long as you have cleared the copyright.  Each article get reviewed and rated by members of the Chartered Management Institute, and the top five articles are published in a special report.

This scheme is designed to help:

  1. Demonstrate the impact of your work – previous academics have used this scheme as part of their REF impact submissions
  2. Reach a wider audience - your article  will be accessible by over 90,000 professional CMI members who will have the opportunity to read, evaluate and comment on it
  3. Celebrate success – the author of the winning article will receive £1,000 cash prize and runners-up will be invited to a high-profile Awards Evening at the British Library.

The winning articles will gain considerable exposure as they will be:

  • published by the CMI in a special collation of winning articles
  • featured in Professional Manager magazine (readership 138,000)
  • and made available for free download on the British Library Management and Business Studies Portal and the CMI website.

But don’t just take our word for it…

“Entering these awards is really worthwhile as it allows you to test just how valuable and useable your research is from the perspective of hard-nosed senior managers who have to confront difficult management problems on a day to day basis.”  Les Worrall FCMI, Professor of Strategic Analysis, Coventry University and overall joint winner 2012/3.

Enter today

To find out more about how you can enter go to or email deadline for First Call entries is 14 June 2013. 


BAM     ABS     BL

23 May 2013

A young woman’s response to the ‘Sisterhood and After’ website

This post is by Abiola Olanipekun, a British Library Intern. Abiola writes about her intellectual and emotional responses to the oral history extracts which are part of the Sisterhood and After website.

After my first posting for this blog went well (at least without horrific controversy), I’ve decided to write another, this time on a different topic. My first blog post here was ‘Generation Y Not’ which examined an article about how generation ‘Y’ are managed at work. This latest blog focuses on the ‘Sisterhood and After’ project.

‘Sisterhood and After’ was a research project which aimed to document, through oral history, the experiences and memories of the women who powered the women’s liberation movement in the UK during the period from the late 1960s to the early 1980s. The project resulted in 60 oral history interviews which are held at the British Library, as well as a huge, lively learning resource about the movement. It is this resource that I have spent some time looking at.

As a young woman, I am not old enough to recall some of the key aspects of the women’s liberation movement and pivotal turning points for equality in this country. Nonetheless, I can safely say that I feel a wholehearted appreciation for the liberation movement. I also feel a genuine appreciation for the project of ‘Sisterhood and After’ which has documented the movement through dedicated and uncompromising research.

SMALL Angrysisters

Above: Why Miss World? Pamphlet © Jo Robinson, Sally Alexander, Jennie Fortune, Mary Kelly and a collective of other protesters. The Miss World Protest was held in November 1970.

When I listened to excerpts such as “The Feelings Behind the Slogans”, “Contraception and controlling poor women's bodies” or “The experience of having an abortion”, I was filled with a sense of another era. Despite being from a different generation to the participants of the movement, I still feel that their era is close to my own: this society is still not completely fair in its treatment of men and women and I personally feel that it still does not respond with equity to women. Indeed, recent news stories suggest that the position of women in society may be worsening.

Feminism is something that I have related to more and more over the years. Perhaps it is because I have always been an avid reader with a curiosity for history and real life experiences, but also (and perhaps more significantly?) because I believe in sustained, long-term equality for all. I (not so privately now) consider myself to be a liberal feminist (I’m usually not one for labels, but I’ll wear this one with pride). The ‘Sisterhood and After’ website has helped me to think further about my own feminism and to relate to the women who helped power improvements to women’s lives in this country.

I could try to do more to really describe the special quality of the extracts on the website and the emotive and evocative nature of each recording, but perhaps it is better to listen yourself?  Click here to listen to the experieces of others; like me you may find their words to be both painful and insightful. To me they are for both your emotions and intellect to experience.

21 May 2013

Propaganda and Politics in the Modern Age

Ian Cooke, Lead Curator in International Studies and Politics at the British Library and co-curator of the Propaganda exhibition, reflects on the first few days of the exhibition and public responses to it, especially those relating to propaganda in the modern age.

These past four days since Propaganda: Power and Persuasion has opened have been very interesting, finally finding out reactions to our exhibition. I've been talking to lots of people, and it's been good seeing the reviews and discussions online and in the press. Particularly great has been following comments on our #BLPropaganda Twitter feed. Thanks to everyone who has contributed so far, even if it does feel odd to send tweets from an exhibition that asks whether we're all propagandists now.

Chorus (c) Field
Above: Chorus © Field

One thing that people have been particularly interested in so far is how propaganda operates today, and whether we recognise it as such. The fantastic Twitter wall 'Chorus' has been getting lots of attention. Through the exhibition, you see how propaganda moves with the available and popular cultures: from monumental architecture, through print and posters, to cinema, radio and television.

There's also the suggestion, from Lord Northcliffe during the First World War, that propaganda that looks like propaganda is 'third rate'. So, we were interested in asking whether propaganda techniques have changed to take advantage of new media and social media. And, if it has, can you recognise it? Eliane Glaser examines the opportunities that new media offers for those wishing to influence us in 'The west's hidden propaganda machine'.

That's one question about propaganda in the 21st century. There's also the question of how reporting in mass-media is changing, with the emphasis on 24 hour news. Also, there's interest in how states themselves are changing in the way that they communicate, and in some cases mediate communications, with their own citizens but also internationally. Recent stories relating to North Korea have focussed on some of the more obvious propaganda images and broadcasts.

So, have things changed less than we think? Here at the British Library this Friday 24 May, we'll be looking at Propaganda and Politics in the Modern Age. In partnership with the New Statesman, we're holding a debate featuring Charles Crawford, Isabel Hilton, and Nick Cohen. It will be chaired by Sophie Elmhirst, features editor at the New Statesman. Expect discussion on state-media relations, communications and dissent in China, and the challenges of diplomacy in the 21st century.

17 May 2013

Picturing Propaganda

Ian Cooke, Lead Curator in International Studies and Politics at the British Library and co-curator of the recently launched Propaganda exhibition writes about an upcoming study day that will examine the power of visual materials. Ian also provides answers to last Friday's quiz.

After nearly two years of planning, Propaganda: Power and Persuasion has opened today. Last night’s launch was great fun, with David Welch and Armando Ianucci speaking, followed by our very own leaflet drop. Over the past couple of days, I’ve very much enjoyed showing people around and talking about the exhibition.

It’s fantastic to finally see everything in place. There’s a huge difference between seeing the exhibits in small groups, as we were doing during planning, and seeing everything displayed together. In the gallery, the emotional power of the more-visual elements is astounding.

We’re going to be examining the power of visual materials in a study day on Saturday 1 June. We’ll be looking at both printed materials, such as posters, and moving images. The programme for the day reflects the themes in our exhibition, covering nation-building, health campaigns, and propaganda in war time. We’re working with the British Film Institute to look at research covering film and other visual materials, and how these kinds of resources can be studied in combination.


Above: Policemen look out of the eyes of the Statue of Liberty, with a policeman's baton forming a tear shape. The image is from a Russian poster, originally titled ‘Freedom American-Style’ by B Prorokov, as featured in the British Library exhibition Propaganda: Power and Persuasion.

Scott Anthony and Linda Kaye will talk about public relations in Britain and the use of film to reinforce images of Britain. Bryony Dixon will talk about public health in early silent film, and Sarah Graham, who features in our exhibition, will compare methods in visual communication in AIDS awareness campaigns. Luke McKernan will talk about newsreels in World War One, and Peter Johnston will discuss government-media relations during the Falklands War. The day starts with David Welch, talking about the use of visual materials in creating a sense of the enemy, and Sue Woods, providing an introductory guide to government film-making.

The day will be a great chance to find out more about current research and resources using these powerful and striking materials. You can find out details and book tickets on our web page.

Last week, I posted three national anthems questions. Here are the answers:

1. South Africa uses five languages in it’s national anthem: isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sesotho, Afrikaans, and English.

2. The national anthem of Poland has the chorus: ‘March, march, Dąbrowski, March from Italy to Poland, Under your command, We shall reach our land’.

3. The European Union uses music from Beethoven’s ninth symphony, the setting of Friedrich von Schiller’s ‘Ode to Joy’, as both its anthem and to symbolise Europe in a wider sense. 

13 May 2013

New ORCID Integrated Citation Tool from the ODIN Project

The ORCiD and DataCite Interoperability Network (ODIN) project, which BL Social Sciences are a project partner in, have announced the beta launch of a new service for searching and claiming works in DataCite, including UK social science datasets. 

The new tool can be found at and it enables users to search the DataCite Metadata Store for their works, and subsequently to add (or claim) those research outputs – including datasets, software, and other types – to their ORCID profile. Datasets contained in the DataCite metadata store include UK social science datasets provided by the UK Data Service (formerly ESDS). Claiming these works on an ORCID profile should increase the visibility of these research outputs, and will make it easier to use these data citations in applications that connect to the ORCID Registry – ImpactStory is one of several services already doing this.


The new service also provides formatted citations in several popular citation styles, supports COinS, links to related resources, and displays the attached Creative Commons license where this information is available. In addition to datasets, the DataCite Metadata Store of course also contains many text documents from academic publishers and services such as figshare or PeerJ Preprints, and these works can also be claimed.

This tool is created by ORCID-EU as part of ODIN Work Package 4 – Interoperability, with major input by Karl Ward (CrossRef) and Sebastian Peters (DataCite). The source code is a fork of the code for CrossRef’s Metadata Search written by Karl Ward and is available at

We encourage everyone to sign in with their ORCiD and try out the new tool. Any feedback on problems or usability issues would be greatly appreciated. Please contact Martin and Mummi at ORCID with feedback.

The service is at early beta stage still, so please expect minor bugs and user interface glitches. The official launch will be at the joint Dryad/ORCID Meeting May 23 in Oxford, where ORCID will present the work and brainstorm ideas for future work with fellow developers at the Codefest.

This blog was re-posted from the ODIN project blog.

Previous social science blog posts have explained the Library's contribution to the ODIN Project, which includes creating a proof of concept for the humanities and social sciences around linking up author and data creator identifiers, such as ORCID, and digital object identifiers, such as DataCite DOIs. We will be reporting on the initial findings of this work in Summer 2013.

10 May 2013

Rosie in the Reading Room

Ian Cooke, Lead Curator in International Studies and Politics at the British Library and co-curator of the new Propaganda exhibition writes about propaganda songs and national anthems. Join in with his quick Friday quiz!

Well, that was embarrassing. I’ve been checking and making final notes on the recorded sound that we’ll be including in Propaganda: Power and Persuasion. I’d settled in to one of the SoundServer terminals in the Humanities Reading Room and called up the recording of the Four Vagabonds performing Rosie the Riveter (my favourite song in the exhibition). I put on the headphones and the music started – much more quietly than I was used to. As I was searching for a way to turn up the volume, I noticed a couple of people nearby looking at me with some puzzlement. Eventually one came over. ‘I don’t think that your headphones are plugged in’.

Well, there are worse propaganda songs that you can play out loud. All the same, my apologies to anyone I disturbed that day, and who may have strains of Rosie the Riveter in their head. It’s a catchy tune, almost matched by Potato Pete – which is sung by Betty Driver, who would later become famous as the long-standing character Betty Turpin in Coronation Street.

Above: Potato Pete Public Domain Mark

Another highlight from listening to music for the exhibition has been uncovering recordings of early versions of the Chinese play/opera ‘White Haired Girl’ – a play which uses a mix of traditional tale and more-contemporary stories circulating during the 1940s to portray communism and the Communist Party as a force of liberation in rural communities. These discs look like they were produced pretty quickly - one looks like it has finger imprints from somebody involved in the manufacture – and they capture an early performance of the play.

Above: White Haired Girl Public Domain Mark

National anthems are another important way in which states can provide a simple and unifying story about their values or history. Over the past couple of days, I’ve been looking into the histories and lyrics of a number of anthems. The origins of many are bound to a particular part of that nation’s history and often reflect a period of crisis as much as a period of birth or rebirth. What’s also striking, is that, although states do sometimes involve themselves in fairly formal procedures for choosing anthems, such as competitions or organising popular votes, often the choice of an anthem comes first from popular use and adoption. Sometimes it’s only much later that a state formally adopts an anthem that had been in use as such for generations.

I’ll finish this post with a quick national anthems quiz (sorry, no prizes):

1. The official version of which country’s anthem is sung using 5 languages?

2. Which country (other than Italy) refers to Italy in the chorus of its anthem?

3. The anthem for which intergovernmental organisation has no words – instead using the ‘universal language of music’?

Answers next week.

08 May 2013

Propaganda – coming soon

Ian Cooke, Lead Curator in International Studies and Politics at the British Library and co-curator of the new Propaganda exhibition, writes about the background to the exhibition and about how decisions were made about the focus and content.

The posters are up all around the building this morning, and it’s just under two weeks to go until Propaganda: Power and Persuasion opens on Friday 17 May. It’s an exciting and slightly strange feeling for me, after two years planning and working on the exhibition. I’ve been co-curating Propaganda with Jude England, Head of Social Sciences, and with the enormous support from a very large group of curators and others in the British Library and elsewhere too. As the exhibition runs, I hope that you will be able to hear from them too.

Right now though, here’s some background on how the exhibition came together and some of the themes that we’ll discuss. Initially we were just impressed by the diversity of materials from around the world that we could show, and the opportunity to put on an exhibition that would be visually stunning. Propaganda encompasses many different methods across all types of media. Also, we were struck by how many definitions there were for propaganda and how they didn’t always agree. So, to keep things manageable, we decided to focus on state use of propaganda over the past 100 years. State use because most discussions of propaganda identified states as the most significant users; and past 100 years as the 20th and 21st centuries have experienced a huge increase in the volume, variety and tactics in propaganda.

Banners-outside3 small web

Public Domain Mark   Propaganda: Power and Persuasion - coming soon! 

It was this point that brought home to us how significant a subject it is to be discussing today. All of our lives are affected by propaganda on a scale that would have been unknown 100 years ago, and we all react to that propaganda in different ways, including in how we define and recognise propaganda in the world around us. Over the past two years, we’ve seen the use of new and old media in communicating political change in the Middle East. More recently, news reports from North Korea have reminded us of the use of state propaganda on a large scale. In the UK, there has been close scrutiny and discussion of the relationship between newspapers and the state. The Olympic Games and the Jubilee celebrations both provided examples of the ways in which we describe ourselves and the UK both within this country and to the wider world. In the last few weeks, the debate over the funeral of Margaret Thatcher, and the announcement that Winston Churchill will appear on the next Bank of England banknote, reminds us of the significance and controversy surrounding the ways in which public figures are memorialised.

Our exhibition looks at propaganda as used across these different themes: in binding a nation together and projecting national power; in demonising people, either within or outside a state; in fighting wars and in fighting disease. We’ll end by looking at what is changing in the 21st century, and particularly how social media is providing new ways to influence public debate – and to challenge propaganda. We’re interested in your views and reactions to our exhibitions and events and hope that you will join the debate on Twitter #BLPropaganda.