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Monday, 30 August 2010

Keep Calm and Carry On (1939)

Keep Calm and Carry On is a well-known image macro based on a long forgotten British World War II poster. On the web, here are dozens of variations that follow the format of “Keep Calm and X” or simply “(Do action x) and (Do action y).”


The Keep Calm and Carry on poster was commissioned as part of a series during World War II by England’s temporaryMinistry of Information. They were meant to spark cheer and confidence for the public in the event of an attack. The first three commissioned posters were “Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution, Will Bring Us Victory,” “Freedom is in Peril Defend it with all your Might,” and “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

The first two were actually circulated during the War; since the third was only intended to be used if Germany invaded Britain, it lay dormant for years.

Created in 1939, the posters were meant to be seen as a direct message from the King, to motivate the British people to stay confident during the War. Her Majesty’s Stationary Office (HMSO) was charged with printing the posters, costing approximately £20,600 for printing and storage of 5,000,000 copies, with an additional fee of £225 for the artists who designed them.

In late August 1939 when the posters were finally printed, Keep Calm and Carry On accounted for 65% of the 5 million ordered posters. These were kept in storage in case of a dire attack on the country, while the other two designs were circulated that September. Highly criticized, the campaign was seen as a failure (Lewis, 2004). Since there was not a large-scale attack or occupation, the design was never used. Most of the “Keep Calm and Carry On” posters were destroyed or lost in time, with the exception of 7: 6 found in 2009 that are in storage at the Imperial War Museum, and 1 that resides in a British book shop.

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