'Pamphlet Literature' by George Orwell


In this article for the New Statesman, George Orwell reviews a set of political and religious pamphlets, discussing their aims and effectiveness. The use of pamphlets as a format for communicating political ideas became increasingly popular from the mid- to late-1930s, with the growing threat of a new global conflict.

One of Orwell’s main preoccupations was how propaganda influenced people’s opinions, a crucial theme in his novels Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. But, as a political writer, he was also very interested in the relationship between propaganda and literature. Orwell discusses the importance of the pamphlet as a channel of free expression, but laments the lack of good writing in such publications, labelling most examples as ‘rubbish’ and written either by ‘lunatics’ or issued by political parties.

Orwell as Pamphlet Collector

During the mid-1930s and 40s Orwell became an avid collector of pamphlets. His astounding collection, totalling more than 2,700 items, is held at the British Library. Orwell kept pamphlets from across the political spectrum, including propaganda from the British Union of Fascists, the India League, the Peace Pledge Union, and the Communist Party of Great Britain. His collection constitutes one of the most interesting sources to analyse the social and political debates taking place in Britain before and during the Second World War.

Full title:
'Pamphlet Literature', in the New Statesman and Nation
9 January 1943, London
Statesman and National Publishing
New Statesman and Nation, George Orwell
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George Orwell: © With kind permission of the estate of the late Sonia Brownell Orwell. You may not use the material for commercial purposes. Please credit the copyright holder when reusing this work.

New Statesman: © First printed in the New Statesman. Published under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial Licence.

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British Library

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