Exhibit | May 16, 2013

The British Library Presents “Propaganda: Power and Persuasion”

The British Library is delighted to present a major new exhibition examining state propaganda, from its origins in the ancient world up until the present day. With over 200 exhibits on display, ranging from chilling Nazi propaganda to modern day ephemera such as bank notes, badges and even tweets which permeate our everyday lives, Propaganda: Power and Persuasion is the first exhibition to gather such a significant range of international state propaganda in one room, looking at its rationales, methods and effectiveness.


Curated by Jude England and Ian Cooke, curators of Social Science at the British Library, the exhibition explores the different ways in which the state has used propaganda to influence the thoughts and feelings of a nation, whether the message it carries creates an enemy, generates feelings of national pride or promotes a healthy lifestyle, and questions how propaganda is changing in a digital age and where it will go next.

Providing fascinating insight and opinion, the exhibition also features interviews with experts from journalism, government and academia, including Alastair Campbell, John Pilger, Iain Dale, Tessa Jowell, Noam Chomsky and David Welch, author of the exhibition’s accompanying book. 

Jude England, Head of Social Sciences at the British Library, says: “We want visitors to consider the role of propaganda in their own lives today, as well as look at the state’s use of propaganda throughout history. That’s why, as well as displaying iconic pieces of propaganda from the Library’s collections, such as posters from both World Wars, the Cold War and Vietnam, we’ll also be focusing on more surprising examples, such as the 2012 Olympics and even Twitter - things you wouldn’t necessarily associate with a word like ‘propaganda’”.

The exhibition includes many examples of propaganda in film and the Library is delighted to have worked closely with the British Film Institute (BFI), curating a range of public information films. These include the humorous ‘coughs and sneezes’ public health adverts starring Richard Massingham and the shocking AIDS TV campaign narrated by John Hurt, hailed as one of the most successful public health campaigns in history. 

The last section of the exhibition looks at propaganda in the 21st century and features a data-driven installation, Chorus. Chorus examines how ideas and opinions spread via Twitter today, where everybody can be a source of influential content. In minimalist typographic animations and using only original Twitter messages, Chorus renders a picture of contemporary propagandistic patterns and their complex choreographies. 

The exhibition will be accompanied by an exciting series of events, including talks from Alastair Campbell, Martin Bell, Michael Dukakis, Trevor Beattie, Jan Ravens, Xin Ran, Rana Mitter, Mark Borkowski, David Welch and Matt Forde, discussing propaganda in the media, advertising, politics and during times of war. In addition, a special Late at the Library will be headlined by exciting London-based duo Public Service Broadcasting, feature DJ sets by Hot Chip and be hosted by comedy writer and performer Christopher Green.

On Twitter, search #BLPropaganda.

Booking information
To book tickets for Propaganda: Power and Persuasion visit www.bl.uk/propaganda call 01937 546546 (Mon - Fri, 09.00 - 17.00) or buy tickets in person at the British Library.

Exhibition opening hours
Monday 10.00 - 18.00, Tuesday 10.00 - 20.00, Wednesday - Friday 10.00 - 18.00, Saturday 10.00 - 17.00, Sunday and English public holidays 11.00 - 17.00

All galleries are accessible by wheelchair. Information can be requested from Visitor Services staff on: T +44 (0)20 7412 7332.

Events programme
The Propaganda events programme will include talks and panel discussions with renowned commentators and public figures including Alastair Campbell, Steve Richards, Orlando Figes, Jan Ravens, Andrzej Krauze, Bob Marshall Andrews, Sam Leith, Trevor Beattie, Mark Borkowski, Linda Colley, Xin Ran, Philip Collins, Michael Dukakis and Matt Forde.

Late at the Library: The Party Rules
Friday 7 June, 19.30 - 22.30
DJs Alexis, Al and Felix (Hot Chip) provide the soundtrack to this extraordinary propaganda party at the Library. The night features live electronica and projected film inspirationally combined by band of the moment, Public Service Broadcasting, and totalitarian entertainment conceived by renowned performance artist Christopher Green and his party police.

For further details about the events programme please visit our What’s On pages.

To book tickets for the events please visit http://boxoffice.bl.uk, call 01937 546546 (Mon - Fri, 09.00 - 17.00) or buy tickets in person at the British Library unless stated otherwise.

Speakers’ corner at the Library
Monday 2 September to Thursday 5 September
Poet’s Circle
Take a stand; be heard… Speakers’ Corner is coming to the British Library with a week of public debates in the Library’s Poets Circle. In these 45 minutes session you’re invited to discuss some of the key themes raised in the exhibition. A list of debate topics will be available on our What’s On pages.

Propaganda will also feature at Hay Festival 2013 on Saturday 1 June, where Jude England will give a lecture on the exhibition.

An exciting new title by David Welch, Professor of Modern History and Director of the Centre for the Study of Propaganda, War & Society at the University of Kent, Propaganda: Power and Persuasion, will accompany the exhibition. Using universal themes of conflict, public education, protest and leadership, the book takes a close look at the range of propaganda used by different states - and their opponents.

Chorus is a new data-driven installation by digital art studio FIELD, commissioned by the British Library for the 2013 exhibition: Propaganda - Power and Persuasion. 

London-based studio FIELD creates expressive and dynamic artworks for digital platforms: audio-visual installations, experiences for web and mobile, and shareable digital artefacts.

Their works explore Colour, Life, and Infinity, through new technology and a research-led approach - hi-tech experiences with a human touch.

FIELD has created work for galleries, festivals, and public installations in Europe, the US and Asia, including the Museum of London, La Gaîté Lyrique in Paris and the China Museum for Digital Art. The studio led by co-founders Marcus Wendt and Vera-Maria Glahn creates branded art and design systems for global clients and cultural institutions, including Nokia, Deutsche Bank, Aol. and Target.


The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world's greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world's largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library's collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation and includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages. Up to 10 million people visit the British Library website - www.bl.uk - every year where they can view up to 4 million digitised collection items and over 40 million pages.