This essay examines Evelyn Waugh as practitioner and critic in the field of wartime propaganda. In 1941, Waugh produced a fictitious account of a British Commando raid on German territory in North Africa for publication in Britain and the United States, an episode which reveals his skill as a propagandist, but also prompts scrutiny of his contacts with British propaganda agencies and agents and of the effect of propaganda on his writings. Waugh’s interwar fiction exhibits a sophisticated understanding of the evolving and growing power of modern propaganda, but the novels also anticipate the public relations and psychological warfare campaigns of the Second World War, specifically those carried out by the Political Warfare Executive (PWE), a secret service established in 1941 to produce and coordinate propaganda to enemy and occupied Europe. Waugh’s proximity to the PWE is suggested by a dense network of social and professional connections, and is further indicated by a series of references to the PWE and its work which I have uncovered in his fiction. Allusions to covert propaganda in Put Out More Flags and the Sword of Honour trilogy betray Waugh’s understanding of the PWE’s operations, but also provide a critique of the corrosive and unforeseen effects of information warfare waged by the secret state and offer a productive means of re-examining his much-noted anxieties regarding modernity and mid-century political change.
Woodward, G. (2022). ‘Conducting his own Campaigns’: Evelyn Waugh and Propaganda. The Review of English Studies, 73(308), 144-164. https://doi.org/10.1093/res/hgab057