The Centre for Design History are delighted to announce that Dr Harriet Atkinson, current recipient of an AHRC Research Fellowship, has secured a book contract for a new monograph.

Dr Atkinson’s book, to be published by Manchester University Press, will be entitled Modernist Exhibitions in Britain for Propaganda and Resistance, 1933-1953: The Materialisation of Persuasion.

From the 1930s activist groups and government bodies in Britain used exhibitions to communicate practical information, to act as political propaganda and to signal resistance. Dr Atkinson’s book charts the history of this form, focusing on exhibitions intended to influence and persuade, with many adopting a documentary photographic form in order to communicate ideas with urgency.

Clear the Air, an exhibition presented by the Gas Light & Coke Company for the National Smoke Abatement Society, Charing Cross Underground Station ticket hall, 1938, designed by FHK Henrion. FHK Henrion Archive FHK/3/24, University of Brighton Design Archives, by permission of the Henrion Estate.

In their earliest iteration their designers shared a vision of such exhibitions as active and participatory ‘demonstrations’ or acts of provocation. This vision was inspired by such exhibitions mounted in Russia and Germany. After the outbreak of World War Two this type of exhibition became part of Britain’s armoury of propaganda through development within the Ministry of Information, then institutionalized as a strand in the visual language of the early British welfare state. Dr Atkinson’s book will provide the first history of such documentary exhibitions mounted in Britain.

Dr Atkinson notes, “I am delighted to have secured a book contract with Manchester University Press. Studies in Design and Material Culture, the series in which The Materialisation of Persuasion will appear,  is highly regarded in design history.” Dr Atkinson will be completing the manuscript in 2020-2021 as part of her funded leave. Further updates on the project and the book can be found on The Materialisation of Persuasion blog and Twitter.