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‘Conducting his own Campaigns’: Evelyn Waugh and Propaganda

Woodward, Guy

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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.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 9, 2021
Online Publication Date Sep 23, 2021
Publication Date 2022-02
Deposit Date Apr 8, 2022
Publicly Available Date Jun 14, 2022
Journal The Review of English Studies
Print ISSN 0034-6551
Electronic ISSN 1471-6968
Publisher Oxford University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 73
Issue 308
Pages 144-164


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© The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press 2021<br /> This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. For commercial re-use, please contact

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