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Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster

New book explores the history behind the iconic slogan

© IWM  Front page of Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster by Bex Lewis

© IWM Front page of Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster by Bex Lewis

The truth and history behind the iconic 'Keep Calm and Carry On' poster, including how it was designed months before the Second World War had officially begun, will be explored in a new book.

Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster by Dr Bex Lewis, Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University Business School, looks at the historic context in which the iconic ‘Keep Calm’ poster was originally conceived.

With the prospect of war becoming likely, the poster was designed to bolster morale and ensure the public could bear the sacrifice and burden required of them. ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ was published alongside ‘Your Courage’ and ‘Freedom is in Peril’ posters. The series was known as the ‘red posters’, despite the fact that they also came in green and blue.

Although the phrase ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ is now ingrained in public consciousness, the poster was originally meant to read ‘Keep Calm. Do Not Panic’, intended to allay fears in the event of a German invasion.

Cultural phenomenon

Bex said: “The design of ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ has penetrated into our everyday lives since its rediscovery in 2001. In this new book, the life, death and resurgence of the design is placed into the context of posters in the wartime period, whilst tapping into why the poster has become such a cultural phenomenon.”

As well as examining the origins of this poster, Bex questions the resurgence of the iconic slogan in recent years – its message resonating during the economic crisis. The book highlights why this poster has stood the test of time, and how ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ has gone on to become the most successful meme in history.

In addition to this poster specifically, the book also delves into the wider importance and effectiveness of posters as propaganda tools.  Featuring a number of other key posters from the period reproduced in full colour, the book also examines the mixed reception to similar posters within the same series, which included slogans such as ‘Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution, Will Bring Us Victory’.

Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster is published by IWM on 26 October and can be pre-ordered here: http://www.iwmshop.org.uk/ 

Wednesday, 4th October 2017