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
- Usage terms
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.
- Held by
- British Library
- Article by:
- Mike Ashley
- Power and conflict, Visions of the future
Mike Ashley considers how British, Russian and American writers created repressive imaginary worlds and totalitarian regimes in order to explore 20th-century political concerns.
- Article by:
- John Sutherland
- Literature 1900–1950, Power and conflict
John Sutherland describes the biographical and historical events that produced George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London, which combines memoir with a study of poverty in two European cities in the late 1920s.
- Article by:
- Matthew Taunton
- Capturing and creating the modern, Power and conflict, European influence
Russian art, dance and music influenced many modernist writers in the first half of the 20th century, while the Bolshevik revolution in 1917 heightened both communist and anti-communist feeling in Britain. Matthew Taunton explores the influence of Russia on British modernism.
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