Social Science blog

37 posts categorized "Propaganda"

23 August 2013

Propaganda: Speakers' Corner at the British Library 2- 5 September 2013

Ian Cooke, co-curator of 'Propaganda: Power and Persuasion' writes about our new series of lunchtime debates with the Speakers' Corner Trust. Join speakers Dr Evan Harris, Ruth Fox, Anthony Barnett and Dr Agnès Callamard to discuss issues of propaganda, news, truth, censorship and public interest.

We’ve been asking for your reactions by Twitter #blpropaganda to our Propaganda exhibition and have been getting some very interesting comments and examples, relating to the UK and around the world. The best thing about our events and public tours for Propaganda has been the chance to talk to people who have been coming to the exhibition, and find out more about your reactions and opinions on propaganda.

Starting on Monday 2 September, and running for four days, we’re inviting you to come to the British Library to take part in a series of lunchtime public debates that respond to themes raised in our exhibiton. I’ve been really excited about these events, which we’ve been planning in partnership with Speakers' Corner Trust. This is a subject that lends itself very well to public debate, and the enthusiasm and thoughtfulness of people that I’ve spoken to has been one of the things that I’ve enjoyed most about curating this exhibition.

Above: Free Speech Reason Progress by Simon Gibbs from London, United Kingdom   Cc-by

Each debate is free to attend, and we’ll be looking to you to contribute your arguments, opinions and thoughts on each theme. We’ll be meeting at 1pm each day, in the Poets Circle on our Piazza – or inside the Library if the weather is not so good.

We’ve got a fantastic line up of speakers to provide an introduction to each of our events, more details as follows:

Monday 2 September: Dr Evan Harris, Associate Director, Hacked Off Campaign
Is the News Propaganda?
What we read in our daily paper is shaped by the interests of the proprietor, the preoccupations of the editor, the resources of the news desk and competition with its rivals to win audiences and advertisers. How likely is it that we will find the truth?

Tuesday 3 September: Ruth Fox, Director of the Hansard Society
Thank Goodness for Propaganda! 
Can propaganda ever serve a public interest? If so, where should the line be drawn and by whom?

Wednesday 4 September: Anthony Barnett, Founder of openDemocracy
New Media – New Propaganda?
Does the internet spell an end to propaganda, allowing more democratic communication and quicker responses to events – or does it simply provide new means for the state, and others, to manipulate information and opinion?

Thursday 5 September: Agnès Callamard, Executive Director of Article 19
Your Propaganda - My Free Speech
How should we deal with the propaganda of hate? How do we challenge it? Does propaganda have a role to play in democracy's defence? Can censorship ever be justified and if so in what circumstances?

I hope to see you at the British Library for a great series of debates. If you’re after some inspiration to get involved, have a look at our videos from the exhibition.    

19 August 2013

On Patriotism: Propaganda in the Library’s Canadian Photographic Collection

Dr. Philip Hatfield, Curator for Canadian and Caribbean Studies at the British Library writes on photographs, patriotism and propaganda in this guest blog post.

Above: Sarah Charlton’s ‘Living Union Jack’ (Ontario 1898). Available from Wikimedia Commons.

As the British Library’s ‘Propaganda’ exhibition highlights the methods of this medium are more than just finger-pointing and draconian messaging. Indeed, it has a role in everyday life in war time, peace time and private time.

One form of message that pervades all these different times and spaces is the iconography of patriotism; for the British, the Union Flag that adorns cushions, cricket pitches and camouflage uniforms across the country is the best example. I was reminded of this recently when browsing the Library’s recently digitised collection of Canadian photographs, which can now be found on Wikimedia Commons.

Above: Joseph Clarke’s, ‘Likeness on a Maple Leaf with Union Jack as background’ (1900). Available from Wikimedia Commons.

Today we think of Canada’s symbol as being the Maple Leaf but at the beginning of the twentieth century Canadians showed as much affinity to the Union Flag as to the symbols of maples and beavers. This is borne out by the many occurrences of the flag in the collection, from ‘living’ pictures and humorous memorabilia, to commemorative portraits and symbols to rally behind in times of war.

The above ‘Living Union Jack’ photograph is one of the collection’s eccentric oddities (and slightly let down by the incorrect hanging of the Union Flags in the background) but it speaks to the fondness people held for the symbol and, I would suggest, it’s viability as an image people would consume; this was most likely sold as a postcard.

WEB Canadian_patriotic_Indian_Chiefs_(HS85-10-30605)
Above: Ronald Mumford’s, ‘Canadian Patriotic Indian Chiefs’ (1915, one of a series of four). Available from Wikimedia Commons.

The flag’s most common role is in war portraits, commemorative photographs taken before or after a soldier left to fight in British conflicts. The ‘Likeness on a Union Jack’ photograph shares this style although this was perhaps reproduced as a card in support Canadian volunteers for the South African War of 1900 . In the case of the final photograph what we see is pure propaganda, a group of First Nations chiefs posed with a Union Flag to suggest their support for the First World War.

Many from the First Nations were involved in British wars but the exact agency of the individuals in this photograph is unclear. What is also unclear is to what extent we should regard the other photographs shown here as propaganda? No doubt people would feel differently about the images depending on their political affiliations but are the implicit nationalistic sentiments of the ‘Living Union Jack’ on a par with the message of war time allegiance embedded in the ‘Patriotic Indian Chiefs’ photograph?

I would argue not, yet the symbol of the Union accompanies each of these photographs and it communicates a message of trans-national solidarity, to varying degrees, in each one. What we see here, then, is the magic of propaganda; amusing in some situations, comforting in others, forceful at its extremes and always there, embedded in the symbols we see every day.

Read more posts by Philip on the Americas blog.

16 August 2013

Gert and Daisy on The Kitchen Front: Celebrity, humour and public opinion in the Second World War

Ian Cooke, co-curator of Propaganda: Power and Persuasion showcases some of the photographs and messages created by members of the public during the 'Write, Camera, Action!' days at the end of July. - See more at:

Ian Cooke, co-curator of 'Propaganda: Power and Persuasion' writes about how radio programmes such as 'The Kitchen Front' were used to communicate with the public about rationing and food-use during wartime.

In our exhibition, Propaganda: Power and Persuasion, you can hear an excerpt from the BBC radio programme The Kitchen Front. Broadcast on 20 December 1941, it features the characters Gert and Daisy, giving a recipe for mutton cooked as turkey (“murkey”).

The Kitchen Front was broadcast daily, following the 8am news bulletin, and was one of the BBC’s most-popular shows during the Second World War, with regular audiences of 5- 7 million. The programme was conceived as a means by which the Ministry of Food could communicate with the British public, explaining about rationing schemes, encouraging the use of foods which were more generally-available, and discouraging food waste. Additionally, the programme intended to boost morale, using humour and characters who were recognisable or familiar to the listening public.

Gert and Daisy were the creations of performers Elsie Waters and her sister Doris Ethel Waters. The characters were already popular before the War, having appeared at two Royal Variety performances in the 1920s and 1930s and releasing recordings of their sketches and songs. For two weeks in April 1940, Gert and Daisy performed Feed the Brute, a 5 minute programme broadcast at the end of the 6pm evening news, to give recipes and advice on food. The use of humour, and popular characters, was a huge success.

WEB phone-pictures-03nov10 015
Above: Gert and Daisy's Wartime Cookery Book

Public response to the April 1940 broadcasts were analysed by Mass Observation, who interviewed 300 listeners in London and Lancashire. The survey found that positive comments outweighed negative by 8 to 1, and that the information given on food was regarded as useful. Referring to the use of comedy in the broadcasts, Mass Observation concluded, ‘This experimental series was an undoubted success, and revealed a valuable new method of giving out serious educational instruction to millions of housewives’ – comparing this approach to more “high-brow” forms of delivery, the authors state, ‘Gert and Daisy knock spots off Professor Harlow’s Empire Crusade’. However, it wasn’t just the comedy and popularity of the characters, but also their apparent familiarity, that was seen as effective. The language used in their dialogue, and their working class London accents, made them identifiable to their target audience. The two criticisms of the programmes related to the perceived extravagance and complexity of the recipes (a complaint that would persist through The Kitchen Front broadcasts), and the timing of the programme. Many women commented that they were too busy to listen at this time in the evening.    

Within two months, The Kitchen Front began broadcasting at the earlier time of 8.15am, following the news broadcast. Following on from the success of Feed the Brute, popular broadcasters and use of humour were the show’s staple ingredients. Alongside Gert and Daisy, series regulars included S P B Mais, Freddie Grisewood (best known for his later role as chair of the series Any Questions?), and Mabel Constanduros (performing as the Buggins family).  

The popularity of the programme was marked by letters sent to the presenters, addressed both to the BBC and Ministry of Food, suggesting recipes and asking for more information. Recipe books from the series were published regularly, and included listener suggestions (described by S P B Mais as, ‘invitations to adventures in the unknown’). As well as broadcasts on the radio, demonstrations were held at schools, factories and other public places.

Throughout the war, the BBC remained active in evaluating the impact of all its broadcasts, and, as one of its most listened-to programmes, The Kitchen Front featured in many of its reports. As well as commissioning research from Mass Observation, public opinion was monitored through the BBC’s Listener Research Department. Listener Research was set up in 1936, using social research methods to develop reliable indicators of listener habits and preferences. As well as quantitative estimates of audience figures, qualitative methods were used to understand listener values and behaviours. Methods had much in common with Mass Observation, which was set up in 1937, and the Ministry of Information’s own Home Intelligence Division. At the start of the War, the Listener Research Department set about creating a cohort of 2,000 listeners who would be asked to complete monthly questionnaires. The questionnaires would ask about specific programmes and viewing habits, but also about attitudes relating to the war, and more general matters of personal taste. This information supplemented the daily interviews conducted with a changing sample of 800 members of the population, used to determine audience figures.

WEB Kitchen Front
Above: The Kitchen Front - 122 Wartime Recipes

As the war continued research showed that, while audience numbers held up, the popularity of The Kitchen Front began to wane. BBC Listener Research in 1942 showed that 31% of those expressing an opinion thought that the quality of the programme had deteriorated. By 1943, the series was described as ‘going off’’. Reasons for the decline were uncertain, with the 1943 report suggesting that, ‘It may well be that the charge of declining quality is no more than a reflection of the housewife’s increasing weariness of the whole business of catering under wartime conditions’. A Home Intelligence Division report titled ‘Housewives’ attitudes towards Official Campaigns and Instructions’, dated 14 May 1943, suggested a similar problem for home propaganda more generally. The report argued, ‘housewives are now impervious to “the flood of official propaganda” and that they select from it only the information that seems essential to them.’ Cinema and radio faired better than other formats with posters and leaflets being seen by some at this time as, ‘a waste of paper’.

Radio broadcasting was seen as highly important in influencing opinion and behaviour in Britain during the Second World War, and became viewed as a more durable medium than print-based sources. The BBC was therefore of high strategic importance (its only competitors were enemy stations such as Radio Hamburg, broadcasting to Britain), and research on public opinion seen as vital in maintaining effectiveness and understanding what worked in gaining public support. The research methods developed and used by Mass Observation and the BBC’s own Listener Research Department became an essential tool in Britain’s war effort.   

References and sources used

BBC Listener Research Department. 1942 (February). Trend in the quality of ten long series. LR/770.

BBC Listener Research Department. 1943 (July). Trend in the quality of long series. LR/1973. (Accessed via British Online Archives, available in the British Library’s Reading Rooms.)

1941. Food Facts for the Kitchen Front: A book of wartime recipes and hints. British Library shelfmark: 7946.aa.15

P.J. Bruce (ed.). 1942. The Kitchen Front: 122 recommended recipes selected from broadcasts by Mabel Constanduros, Freddie Grisewood, etc. British Library shelfmark: 7946.df.24.

Ambrose Heath. 1941. Kitchen Front recipes & hints: Extracts from the first seven month’s early morning broadcasts. British Library shelfmark: 7945.p.12

Ambrose Heath. 1941. More Kitchen Front recipes: Further extracts from the early morning broadcasts with other recipes and hints. British Library shelfmark: 7946.a.17

S.P.B. Mais. 1941. Calling again: My Kitchen Front talks with some results on the listener. British Library shelfmark: 7946.a.8

Mass Observation. 1940 (April). Gert and Daisy’s BBC talks. File Report 77.

Mass Observation. 1941. Home Propaganda: A Report Prepared by Mass-Observation for the Advertising Service Guild.

Accessed via Mass Observation Online, available in the British Library’s Reading Rooms

Ministry of Information. 1943. Housewives’ attitudes towards official campaigns and instructions. Home Intelligence special report number 44, 14 May. Available at The National Archives, reference INF 1/293

Siân Nicholas. 2006. The good servant: the origins and development of BBC Listener Research 1936-1950, Accessed via British Online Archives. Last updated: 27 February 2008.
(Available in the British Library’s Reading Rooms)

Dorothy Santer (ed.). 1944. The Kitchen Front: Recipes broadcast during 1942-43 by Frederick Grisewood, Mabel Constanduros and others, specially selected by the Ministry of Food. British Library shelfmark: 7948.a.16

Elsie & Doris Waters. 1941. Gert & Daisy’s Wartime Cookery Book. British Library shelfmark: 7945.p.9

08 August 2013

Write, Camera, Action!

Ian Cooke, co-curator of Propaganda: Power and Persuasion showcases some of the photographs and messages created by members of the public during the 'Write, Camera, Action!' days at the end of July.

WEB Deborah permission to use
Art of Persuasian

What does propaganda mean to you? What message would you want to spread and how would you do it? On 30- 31 July, we held “Write, Camera, Action!” - for two days you could write your own message and have your picture taken in our pop-up photo studio, in costume if you liked. It was an event for all ages, linked to our Propaganda: Power and Persuasion exhibition. Looking over the 80 or so photographs from the day, it’s interesting to see how people reacted to the exhibition and the idea of campaigning.

Picking up on the call to ‘Action!’ lots of the photographs encouraged others to do or stop doing something, or to adopt a point of view. This comes close to our interpretation of propaganda in the exhibition, of communication intended to change opinions and behaviour, or reinforce existing opinions or behaviour in a way that benefits the communicator. The most popular theme was around rights, equality and respect.

WEB Gabriel permission to use
The Right to Live for everyone

Other messages were about peace and non-violence, the importance of sport and arts, and other personal interests (including origami).

WEB Lucie permission to use
Art is for everyone!

I could only see one case where the attempt was to make a change that was to benefit the communicator – although you can decide for yourself who is the most successful propagandist here.

WEB Lily & Mother permission to use

Homework is Torture!! Homework is very important for learning

Although a lot of the contributions were light-hearted and not always serious, there were some reminders of the power of humour in more serious campaigns, providing a sense of solidarity or hope.

WEB Catherine permission to use
I am Bradley Manning

WEB Stephanie permission to use
Cancer can be stopped. Don’t give up hope!

Some people also commented directly about propaganda, or drew on images and themes from the exhibition. My favourite uses the famous “I want you” recruitment pose, and creates a simple division between ‘us’ and ‘them’ (although personally I’m uncertain where I stand on the Daft Punk/ Kraftwerk divide).

WEB Otis permission to use
daft Punk needs you!!! to destroy Kraftwerk/ Nas

Of the costumes and props available, the magician’s top hat appeared frequently, perhaps reflecting an association between ‘propaganda’ and sleight-of-hand misdirection.

WEB Ian permission to use
'Propaganda’ is a distraction away from the truth. Got ya!

Exclamation marks and simple pictures made for effective images. One of the strongest photos, from quite a young child, simply had a picture of a person in uniform holding a gun at another figure with an empty speech bubble coming out of their mouth.

The two days showed a great variety and creativity in the use of quite simple materials and props. A lot of people just wanted to record a personal message, and these were overwhelmingly positive ones. Almost without exception, people wanted to talk about what they loved and what enthused them.

So perhaps the best advice is to appeal to this sense of optimism and keep your message simple.

WEB Maya permission to use
Always wear pink!

And look like you mean it.

Ian Cooke, co-curator of Propaganda: Power and Persuasion provides a round-up of propaganda inspired blogs from other British Library bloggers. - See more at:

Vote for Vee (for Victory and be happy)

WEB Veronica permission to use

With thanks to everyone who took part in 'Write, Camera, Action!' and particularly those who gave permission for us to reuse their images, and our photographer Othello De’Souza-Hartley. Our pop-up photography studio, and workshops for children, will be back on 8 September for Super Family Sunday: The end of Propaganda.

06 August 2013

Resources for women's and gender studies at the British Library

You may have already read blog posts which talk about the 'Sisterhood and After' learning resource at the British Library which includes extracts from oral history interviews with 60 women involved in the UK second wave feminist movement. This resource and the oral history interviews from which these extracts were taken (now part of the British Library collections) are really the tip of the iceberg in terms of the collections here which are relevant to researching women's lives. So I thought I'd write a post about some of the inspiring collections which are available and about some of the guides which you can use to help you research women's history, gender studies and feminism at the British Library.

WEB Men wouldn't wear it © The Fawcett Society

'Men wouldn't wear it' (c) The Fawcett Society

As well as the 'Sisterhood and After' oral history collection, there are many oral history collections which specifically explore women's experiences. For example, the Harman-Shephard collection of interviews includes interviews with 83 women members of Parliament, most of whom entered Parliament after the 1997 election. This could be a really valuable resource for those interested in women's political participation in the UK.

There are a number of collections relevant to the changes in birth control in the latter part of the twentieth century. As well as women talking about their own experiences of contraception and abortion in the 'Sisterhood and After' collection, there are collections such as the Lara Marks contraceptive pill interviews - a collection of 53 recordings of interviews with different people involved in the development of the contraceptive pill. The oral history collections at the British Library include interviews with women nurses, doctors and other medical practitioners; women protesters and activists; women working in male-dominated professions such as merchant and investment banking; women inventors and scientists and many, many more. These collections hold incredible research potential to those seeking first-hand accounts of women's lives. For more information on oral histories about women see these pages.

Well-known historical figures feature strongly in our collections which include personal items such as letters, diaries and manuscripts (some of which are on display in our Treasures gallery). The manuscripts collections include letters by Virginia Woolf and Leonard Woolf. For instance, there is a collection of letters from Virginia and Leonard to the writer and critic John Lehmann which also includes three by Leonard in which he writes of Virginia's illness and suicide. These items can be found on the Archives and Manuscripts catalogue.

WEB Charleston Bulletin Supp_Cover

Cover of the The Charleston Bulletin Supplements, edited by Claudia Olk
Price: £12.99 / ISBN 9780712358910 / Hardback / 144 pages. Illustration (c) 2013 the Estates of Virginia Woolf and Quentin Bell

More recently, the British Library has published previously unpublished work by Woolf as The Charleston Bulletin Supplements which were illustrated by her nephew, Quentin Bell, in the form of a family newspaper.

Some of the more hidden histories of women, such as military women, feature in the collections with bibliographies such as this one on Women and War to get you started. This bibliography shows a picture of Kit Cavanagh also known as Christian Davies and Mother Ross, an Irish woman of the late 17th and early 18th centuries who disguised herself as a man and enlisted in the British Army, fighting in several battles and successfully concealing her true sex. The collections at the British Library include 18th century accounts of her life and adventures such as The Life and Adventures of Mrs. Christian Davies, published in 1740.

Finally, as the Propaganda exhibition shows, women have been the target of many different forms of propaganda by the State, particularly around the health and well-being of the family and child. The Propaganda exhibition includes examples of public health messages about (for example) the cleanliness of the home, diet and nutrition of children and babies, vaccinations and hygiene, which (usually) being targeted at women, are resources for the study of the history and prevalence of gendered expectations about caring and domestic responsibilities.

Other useful links:

For more British Library bibliographies relating to women's lives see this list.

For another blog post about 'Sisterhood and After' see here.

30 July 2013

Memory Place

In the wake of the fire at Southwark's Cuming Museum and Newington Library, Robert Davies, Social Sciences Engagement Officer, explores local history resources for Walworth and Southwark

“Forward then, but still remember how the course of Time will swerve,

Crook and turn upon itself in many a backward streaming curve”

(From ‘Locksley Hall – Sixty Year’s after’ by Alfred, Lord Tennyson)

When I toured our ‘Propaganda: Power and Persuasion’ exhibition recently I was rather surprised by the strength of my reaction to one of the exhibits; namely the ‘London has taken it! London can take it again! headscarf, c.1942’ which was designed and printed by Nicol V.Gray as a limited edition of ten scarves.

London can take it 1940's scarf (c) Museum of London

Loan and Image courtesy of the Museum of London (MoL reference LW.COS.U.B21.D1.10.)

The scarf shows a map of London with the legend “arrows indicate famous buildings bombed or burned out and areas devastated by air raids 1940-41". The map is surrounded by borders quoting Churchill’s ‘We Shall Fight Them on the Beaches, We shall fight on the Seas and Oceans, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the streets and in the hills and we shall never surrender!’ speech and American broadcaster Ed Murrow’s famous exultation ‘London can take it!’

However, my emotional reaction was not in response to the quotes themselves, but triggered by the conjunction of text and images found towards the bottom left corner of the scarf:

Loan and Image courtesy of the Museum of London (MoL reference LW.COS.U.B21.D1.10.)

The comment which immediately came to mind was one made to me on the 26th March 2013 by a neighbour whilst we were standing surveying the damage caused to the town hall by the fire which had occurred the day before: ‘‘that building survived the blitz, now look at it”.

Part of the roof of the town hall, built between 1864-5 and extended c.1900, can be glimpsed in the bottom left hand corner of the photograph below which was taken during the fire of the 25th.  The building houses council offices and services and the Cuming Museum  and forms part of a complex of civic buildings including the Newington Library (the building wreathed in smoke in the mid-ground of the image below) and the ‘Walworth Clinic’ building (not visible in the photograph) which was completed in 1937 and with its plaque above the door which states ‘the health of the people is the highest law’.

RobblogImage reproduced with the kind permission of (Further images of the fire and the resultant damage can be found by using the search term Cuming Museum Fire)

A set of buildings, services and museum and library collections, and recent circumstances, which perhaps evoke many different memories and thoughts:  from having lived through the blitz and witnessing the changes wrought on the area by bombing and the associated re-developments over the following decades; the continuities of particular places, sites and activities; the development of ‘integrated’ health care systems which prefigured the formation of the NHS; getting married or, in my case, getting to learn about the history of the Cuming Family Collections, the history of SE17 and the Borough of Southwark more generally after moving to London.

All of this has prompted me to explore some of the resources the British Library might hold not only in relation to the history of the area but also how we perhaps develop and maintain a sense of place and belonging.  As always the starting point was searching the main catalogue.

Searching for ‘Walworth’ - not including Walworth Castle, County Durham (near where I spent part of my childhood) and Walworth County, Wisconsin - alone retrieved 22 Oral Histories recorded under a wide variety of projects including the Millennium Memory Bank; Food: From Source to Salespoint; the Methodist Church Oral Archive; Labour Oral History Project; Oral History of the Post Office; Lives in the Oil Industry and Oral History of British Photography; plus many articles, books, maps and journals.

I’ve discovered a plethora of books, journals and articles relating to the study and research of the formation and maintenance of a sense (or senses) of belonging and identity in an era or globalisation.  The bibliography below provides only a small selection of such works, so I am off to call up more volumes from the stacks and, on a slightly different note, book an appointment to see a chiropodist at the Walworth Clinic.

It almost goes without saying that I look forward to the re-opening of the Cuming Museum and Newington Library in the not too distant future.


Appadurai, A.  The Production of Locality (in Counterworks, Managing the diversity of Knowledge). Shelfmark 6963.140000

Baxter, M. / Lock, D.  Walworth through time (2011 reprint) Shelfmark YK.2011.a.33958

Boast, M.  The Story of Walworth, (revised edition, 1993) Shelfmark YK 1993.a.10636

Humphrey, S.  An introduction to the Cuming Family and the Cuming Musem (2002)  Shelfmark YC.2003.b.966

Huyssen, A. Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory (2003) Shelfmark M03/18743

Krapp, P.  Deja Vu: Aberrations of Cultural Memory(2004) Shelfmark YC.2006.a.2010

Najafi, F. / Mustafa Kamal Bin Mohd Shariff The Concept of Place and Sense of Place in Architectural Studies, International Journal of Human and Social Sciences 6.3.2011  

Rogagly, B. / Taylor, B. Moving Histories of Class and Community – Identity Place and Belonging in Contemporary England, Identity Studies in the Social Sciences(2009)  Shelfmark YC.2012.a.6736

Said, Edward W. Invention, Memory and Place (in Critical Inquiry 26, Winter 2000) available via JSTOR

Savage, M./ Bagnall, G./ Longhurst, B. Globalization and Belonging(2005) Shelfmark YC.2009.a.10770

Links to external resources:

Southwark Local History Library:

BBC WW2 Peoples War:

Bomb Sight: Mapping the WW2 Bomb Census


Robert Davies can be found on twitter @blrobertdavies

22 July 2013

Kannada Jeevaswaraa – a music video created for Karnataka (a State in South India)

In our exhibition, Propaganda: Power and Persuasion, we examine ways in which modern British identity and culture has been visualized and presented both to a British audience and on an international stage. We show the film used in bidding for the 2012 summer Olympic Games, and interviews with Tessa Jowell, Alastair Campbell and Iain Dale on bidding for and presenting the Games. You can see these interviews now on our YouTube channel.

In response to our exhibition, Maya Chandra has written this post which describes her work, and one of the films that she has produced to promote the language, culture and heritage of Karnataka, a state in south India. Maya Chandra runs a successful film production company - MAYA, based in Bangalore, and specialising in government communications. TEAM MAYA has been working with the state governments of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh for over 12 years and has created trend-setting films for government propaganda - be it for attracting global investors, tourists or promoting issues and policies of the Governments in power. 

Kannada Jeevaswaraa

Kannada : A language spoken by the people of Karnataka – a State in South India

Jeevaswaraa – “The melody of life”

This is a music video, commissioned by the Government of Karnataka (A State in South India) for propagating the language, culture and heritage of its land.

The video is a fine example of state propaganda, designed to create a sense of pride and belongingness among the citizens.

WEB native-dance-form

[Above: This native theatre art form called Yakshagana is one of the oldest of performing arts, and has origins in the Coastal belt of Karnataka named Mangalore. This art combines dance, dialogue, music, special make-up (made from vegetable dyes and extracts), and elaborate costumes. It is generally performed throughout the night till dawn. This art form is more of a "family heirloom", passed on for generations among the performing families. We shot this dance as the performer is on a moving boat on the backwaters of Mangalore]

Karnataka is a state with diverse cultures and home to people from all over India. It is also one of the most preferred business destinations for global investments, and very cosmopolitan in its nature.

WEB bharatanatyam

[Above: Bharatanatyam - a very ancient and popular classical Indian dance form - origins can be traced back to 3rd or 4th century BC. The potential World heritage Site where we have filmed this dance is the temple of Durga, at Aihole, situated in North of our State]

The use of the local language of Kannada is on the decline, and hence we felt there was a need to bring back the appreciation of the local language.

We felt the concept of a music video will be the best format to achieve this.

The song has been originally composed, and written by a popular lyricist and author – Dr.Jayant Kaikini.

WEB women-workers-flag-factory

[Above: Women workers at the Indian National Flag making company - this one of its kind company is situated in Hubli - North of our State and is the official factory that manufactures the Indian National Flag. Women form the majority workforce in this Company]

We at MAYA proposed this idea to the state government, and it was created over a period of 6 months. The song evokes emotions of the local people, and personifies the Kannada language itself. Shot across the state, the video features people of different ethnicities, along with local celebrity musicians, and literary people who have contributed to the growth of the language.

This music video has received tremendous appreciation and is an innovative form of State propaganda in recent times.

Note: All images supplied courtesy of Maya Chandra © MAYA.

12 July 2013

Propaganda you may have missed

Ian Cooke, co-curator of Propaganda: Power and Persuasion provides a round-up of propaganda inspired blogs from other British Library bloggers.

One of the unexpected pleasures of curating an exhibition at the Library was receiving a limerick from our chief limericist (that’s a word, isn’t it?) Hedley Sutton. It goes like this:

A curator whose surname was Cooke

Said "I hope you will all have a look

At our new exhibition:

I've made it my mission

To cover each cranny and nook."

But of course it wasn’t a mission that I completed alone. Jude England, Head of Social Sciences and co-curator of Propaganda: Power and Persuasion, and I relied on the experience and knowledge of a very large number of people here at the British Library. The exhibition covers many countries and languages, and a lot of different formats such as bank-notes, postage stamps, film, sound, posters, leaflets etc. There’s no way we could have done this by ourselves, and the creativity and enthusiasm of our colleagues here in responding to the exhibition was one of the nicest things about putting the exhibition together.

In the exhibition, you’ll see the question, “what’s the most thought-provoking piece of propaganda that you have seen?” Answers to #blpropaganda please, and many thanks to the person who answered, ’50 shades of grey’.

I’ve written about the item in the exhibition that had the biggest impact on me. Others have written about items in the exhibition on our other British Library blog pages, and I wanted to bring them together here.

James Montgomery Flagg (artist), I want you for U.S. army. c.1917. Loan courtesy of Anthony d’Offay, London.

Starting off with the most prominent image from our exhibition, Uncle Sam has been hard to miss if you’ve visited the Library recently (or just walked past the Euston Road). Over on our Americas studies blog, Carole Holden has written about the origins of this iconic poster, and its artist, James Montgomery Flagg. It’s also served as a dramatic backdrop for photographs, such as this one of Justin Webb.


British World War Two propaganda for use in Iran, drawing on a well-known Persian epic, the Shahnameh (COI Archive PP/13/9L)

The two themes that have been most prominent are the use of propaganda to create a sense of common identity, and, conversely, the use of propaganda to define an enemy and demonise others. John O’Brien describes British plans to discredit the Quit India movement during World War Two. Another example of British wartime propaganda attempted to use the Persian epic, the Shahnameh, or ‘Book of Kings’ to present Hitler as a demonic tyrant, defeated by the heroic warriors Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt. Nur Sobers-Khan explains the history and images used in these propaganda postcards aimed at an Iranian audience.   

Germany was also active in its use of propaganda aimed at states in the Middle East. The tactics used were similar, this time portraying Britain as the oppressor and Germany on the side of liberation in the region. Radio broadcasts in Arabic language were used to promote German victories and encourage dissent against Britain. Writing on our Untold Lives blog, Louis Allday uncovers evidence of British reaction to the broadcast of German radio propaganda in Sharjah, on the Persian Gulf.

One of the most successful examples of propaganda that you’ll see in the exhibition is the ‘Four Freedoms’ series of posters by Norman Rockwell. These posters have great emotional power, using domestic and local scenes to illustrate the rather abstract theme of ‘freedom’. Carole Holden writes about the development and history of these posters, which are credited with raising over $130 million dollars in war bonds.

Bert, the Turtle: ‘The Duck and Cover Song’ Leon Carr, Leo Corday & Leo Langlois. 1953 © Sheldon Music Inc

Propaganda remained an important tool during the cold war, and one of our stranger finds dates from this period. Katya Rogatchevskaia describes anti-Soviet propaganda produced by a Russian organisation active in West Germany. This includes two template images for printing propaganda images (complete with instructions on how to make your printing ink). In the United States, Bert the Turtle was used to instruct children on how to respond to a nuclear attack. This seemingly-simple figure has proved to be one of the most complex examples of propaganda – with some people disputing its description as propaganda. The story of ‘Duck and Cover’, and some of the subsequent analysis of this campaign, is recounted by Carole Holden on the Americas studies blog.


'Was Kostet die Betreuung Erbkranker', from Rechenbuch für Volksschulen. Gaue Westfalen-Nord u. Süd. Ausgabe B. Heft V – 7. und 8. Schuljahr. (Leipzig, [1941]). British Library YA.1998.a.8646

In our exhibition you’ll see further examples of propaganda designed for children, the most disturbing of these being a maths textbook produced for use in schools in Nazi Germany. One question in the book asks how much it costs (in terms of a worker’s salary) to care for the ‘hereditarily unfit’. In ‘Propaganda in the schoolroom’, Susan Reed explains more about this textbook and other examples within the Library’s collections.

Revisiting these blog posts reminds me of the breadth of interests and activities across the Library, and I’m looking forward to seeing more as the exhibition continues. If this has inspired you to create your own propaganda, don’t forget our competition for new designers, in collaboration with Artsthread. Fran Taylor explains more on our Inspired by … blog. The brief is to come up with a new design, illustration or short film to encourage people to change attitudes and behaviour on health. You can get food for thought, or at the very least a recipe for bhajiyas, from John O’Brien’s description of booklets from the Government of India’s nutrition campaign in 1945.

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