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Dole Queues and Demons: British Election Posters from the Conservative Party Archive [Paperback]

Stuart Ball
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Book Description

14 Nov 2011
A unique blend of graphic design, bold art or photography and cunning psychology, election posters are an unsung art form, stretching back to the dawn of the twentieth century. Exploiting the Conservative Party Archive held at the Bodleian Library which contains over 700 posters, this book charts the evolution of the Conservatives' election posters. Divided into chapters along political periods, the book highlights the changing fashions in and attitudes to advertising, political ideology, slogans, combativeness and above all, propriety. Each chapter includes a brief introduction discussing the major themes of the period as well as captions explaining specific issues related to the individual posters. Lavishly illustrated, 'Dole Queues to Demons' gives a fascinating insight into the issues and strategies of the Conservative Party throughout the twentieth century, and up to the present day. A foreword by advertising guru Maurice Saatchi discusses the posters from a communication and design perspective. This book will fascinate anyone interested in social and political history and modern communications. Published at a time when the advent of new media threatens to herald the end of traditional forms of mass communication, this book takes a timely retrospective look at this enduring feature of the British electoral landscape.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: The Bodleian Library (14 Nov 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1851243534
  • ISBN-13: 978-1851243532
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 21.3 x 25 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 724,012 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

After studying at the University of St. Andrews, I was appointed to a lectureship in History at the University of Leicester in 1979, where I am currently Professor of Modern British History. I have been a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society since 1990, and am a member of the editorial committee and a Trustee of the academic journal 'Parliamentary History'.

I have always been interested in modern British political history, and within that I have concentrated on the Conservative Party during the twentieth century. Despite its long record of electoral success and dominance in government since 1918, when I began research in the late 1970s this was a very neglected area. My doctoral thesis examined the internal party crisis of 1929-31, when rebellion within the party and attacks from the 'Press Lords' nearly forced Stanley Baldwin out of the leadership, and this resulted in my first book: 'Baldwin and the Conservative Party: The Crisis of 1929-1931' (Yale University Press, 1988).

In the course of this research, I became particularly interested in the records of the local constituency Conservative Associations, which shed significant new light on the internal politics of the party. My interest in the organisation and ethos of the Conservative Party led to further projects which dealt also with the period after 1945, particularly in the first of the three books which I have co-edited with Anthony Seldon: 'Conservative Century: The Conservative Party since 1900' (Oxford University Press, 1994). We subsequently co-edited a book on 'The Heath Government 1970-1974' (Longman, 1996), and more recently a volume of essays by leading historians which examined each of the periods in which the Conservative Party has been in opposition since the days of Disraeli: 'Recovering Power: The Conservatives in Opposition since 1867' (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).

My main area of interest remains the inter-war period, and this has culminated in my most recent book: 'Portrait of a Party: The Conservative Party in Britain 1918-1945'. This examines the nature and working of every level of the Party from the leader to the grass-roots, and integrates this with Conservative ideas, attitudes and electoral support. The aim is to examine the party as a organism, uncovering the roles and relationships of the various elements, and the attitudes and assumptions which shaped them. A particular interest is the relationship between leaders and followers, at all levels: between frontbench leadership and backbench MPs; between both of these elements and the party grass-roots, and the network of relationships at local constituency level.

My other books include a short illustrated biography of Winston Churchill (British Library, 2003), and a book which contains full colour reproductions of nearly 200 Conservative posters from the Edwardian era to the 2010 general election: 'Dole Queues and Demons: British Election Posters from the Conservative Party Archive' (Bodleian Library, 2011). I have also written a number of articles for academic journals, and contributed the essay on Stanley Baldwin to the 'Oxford Dictionary of National Biography'.

In the early 1980s, I first encountered the private diary of Sir Cuthbert Headlam, who was a Conservative MP for most of the period from 1924 to 1951 (and a junior minister in the late 1920s and early 1930s), and a leading figure in the north-east of England - a region where the Conservatives were often struggling, despite their national success. Headlam's extensive and detailed diary is a fascinating source for British political history, and I have published this in a two-volume edition: 'Parliament and Politics in the Age of Baldwin and MacDonald: The Headlam Diaries 1923-1935' (The Historians' Press, 1992), and 'Parliament and Politics in the Age of Churchill and Attlee: the Headlam Diaries 1935-1951' (Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Product Description


'Dole Queues and Demons has instant impact. It's powerfully evocative and Stuart Ball is the surest of guides through the politico-emotional geography.' -- Professor Peter Hennessy 'These images are such fun ... spawned from the Conservative Party archives at the Bodleian Library [the book] offers a sumptuous selection of Tory propaganda covering more than a century of political warfare.' -- Michael Dobbs The House Magazine 'Fascinating, insightful, well-made.' -- Simon Gillon Government Gazette

About the Author

Stuart Ball is a Reader in Modern History at the University of Leicester. His research area is British political history during the twentieth century.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
By Mark Pack TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Stuart Ball's collections of election posters from the Conservative Party Archive at the Bodleian is really two books in one. First, a sumptuously produced full colour collection of Conservative political posters from the last century and second, interspersed with that, a clear and succinct retelling of the history of the last century's politics from the perspective of the Conservative Party. The quality of the writing means that even if you know little about some of the people or issues the posters are about, the book clearly and swiftly gives you enough context to understand them.

The book has all the classics you would expect, including Labour Isn't Working from 1978 and Labour's Tax Bombshell from 1992, plus many that are just as interesting and effective but didn't manage to snatch a place in political history in the way those two did.

It is notable how some common themes persist across the decades, including attacking Labour's record on the economy, boasting about the volume of Conservative spending on public services (in an attempt to deflect Labour attacks) and dismissing the Liberals/Liberal Democrats as a wasted vote.

My one quibble with the book is that some of the posters were of, at best, dubious effectiveness (such as the notorious Demon Eyes one attacking Tony Blair or the one featuring David Lloyd George and chocolate). Yet the book treates them all the same with little analysis of the impact of any.

But that is only a minor quibble about a great book.
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