The Projection of Britain Abroad, 1945–51

  • Philip M. Taylor


Although it is now generally accepted in democracies that propaganda has become a major requisite of modern warfare, it is less well appreciated that propaganda has in fact become no less essential to the maintenance of peace, power and prestige. Britain, the pioneer of modern war propaganda techniques,1 has always remained squeamish and sceptical about the peacetime employment of state propaganda, but the phenomenon of Britain’s decline from being the only global great power at the start of the century to its present position would, if anything, appear to merit a more positive and enthusiastic approach, particularly to overseas propaganda or ‘national projection’. Certainly, as the 1954 Drogheda Enquiry into the Overseas Information Services recognised:

Propaganda is no substitute for policy: nor should it be regarded as a substitute for military strength, economic efficiency or financial stability. Propaganda may disguise weakness, but the assertion of strength will deceive nobody unless the strength is there.2

Propaganda may indeed fail ultimately to disguise weakness or the realities of decline but it can provide an illusion of strength and confidence that does serve to aid foreign policy objectives in effective short-term ways.


Foreign Policy Information Service National Projection Labour Government British Government 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    M.L. Sanders and Philip M. Taylor, British propaganda during the first world war (Macmillan 1982 ).Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    F. Hardy (ed.), Grier on on Documentary (Collins, 1946) p. 170. My italics.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    A. Ponsonby, Falsehood in Wartime (London: 1928) p. 18.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Philip M. Taylor, ‘British official attitudes towards propaganda abroad, 1918–39’ in N. Pronay and D.W. Spring (eds), Propaganda, Politics and Film, 1918–45 (Macmillan, 1981).Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    Philip M. Taylor, The Projection of Britain: British overseas publicity and propaganda,1919–39 (Cambridge University Press, 1981).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 22.
    F. Donaldson, The British Council: the first fifty years (Cape, 1984) p. 132.Google Scholar
  7. 28.
    See also R. McMurray and M. Lee, The Cultural Approach another way in international relations (University of North Carolina Press, 1947)Google Scholar
  8. A. Haigh, Cultural Diplomacy in Europe (Council of Europe, 1974).Google Scholar
  9. 30.
    W. Clark, ‘Cabinet secrecy, collective responsibility and the British public’s Right to Know and participate in British foreign policy’ in T.M. Franck and E. Weisband (eds), Secrecy and Foreign Policy (Oxford University Press, 1974 ) p. 207.Google Scholar
  10. 31.
    Yoel Cohen, Media Diplomacy: the Foreign Office in the mass communications age (Cass, 1986) p. 93.Google Scholar
  11. 42.
    Sir F. Clark, The Central Office of Information ( Allen & Unwin, 1970) p. 172.Google Scholar
  12. 46.
    J.C.W. Reith, Into the Wind ( Hodder amp; Stoughton, 1949 ) p. 354.Google Scholar
  13. 53.
    T. Barman, Diplomatic Correspondent (Hamish Hamilton, 1968) p. 192.Google Scholar
  14. 60.
    W.K. Wark, ‘Coming in from the Cold: British propaganda and Red Army defectors, 1945–52’, International History Review, 9 (1987) 1, 48–72.Google Scholar
  15. 68.
    C. Anstey, ‘The Projection of British Socialism: Foreign Office publicity and American Opinion, 1945–50’, Journal of Contemporary History, 19 (1984) 3, pp. 417–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Michael Dockrill and John W. Young 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philip M. Taylor

There are no affiliations available

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