Propaganda and Empire

The manipulation of British Public Opinion, 1880–1960

Imperial history and the imperial idea have been examined almost entirely in a centrifugal manner, as the radiation of influences from Britain into its wider hinterland. This book explores the manifestations of the imperial idea, from the trappings of royalty through writers like G. A. Henty to the humble cigarette card. It uses popular imperialism as a focus for the examination of the theatre, the cinema, education, juvenile literature, imperial exhibitions, youth movements, and a variety of imperial propaganda bodies between the mid-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries. The most aggressive and innovative advertisers of the day were companies dependent on the imperial economic nexus, in tea, chocolate, soaps and oils, tobacco, meat extracts, shipping, and later rubber. Middle and upper-class attachment to the music hall developed out of its success among the working class. Radio conveyed a sense of the unity of Empire, at least in the public mind, such as the Edwardian imperial societies had found unattainable. After the Second World War the British Broadcasting Corporation (B.B.C.) continued to present a vision of a beneficent and regenerative Empire. The great exhibitions which from the 1880s came to be dominated by the imperial theme offer the most striking examples of both conscious and unconscious approaches to imperial propaganda. By the 1880s the new morality had come to be wedded to the late nineteenth-century world view and was suffused with the patriotic, racial, and militarist elements which together made up the new popular imperialism.

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