British Information and Cultural Policy in Greece, 1943–1950

Exercising Public Diplomacy in the Formative Early Cold War Years

by Gioula Koutsopanagou (Author)
©2022 Monographs XVIII, 458 Pages


This book sheds new and revealing light on British cultural and information policies in Greece by unearthing previously unexamined or insufficiently examined primary sources. These sources draw an intricate picture of a complex moment when, in the ruins of post-war southern Europe, British institutions, principally in this case the British Council and the BBC, sought to infiltrate and shape Greek society by promoting British political and social values. As Cold War tensions became increasingly evident, the book shows how British information and cultural policy increasingly became embodied in a sustained anti-communist propaganda campaign. As the civil war in Greece became an epicentre of the early Cold War, the successes and failures of British policy, and their impact on Greek society more generally, are scrutinized in detail.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgements
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Introduction
  • CHAPTER 1. Post-War British Information and Publicity Policy in Greece
  • CHAPTER 2. The Implementation of British Publicity Policy in Greece from 1946
  • CHAPTER 3. British Broadcasting Policy in Greece, 1945–1950
  • CHAPTER 4. Cultural Aspects of British Policy in Post-War Greece
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • Series Index

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Patiently, and with a wealth of detail culled from a wide range of British and other archival sources, Gioula Koutsopanagou builds on her earlier research in the field to produce this valuable study. It will surely become a key point of reference for scholars working on post-war Greece and on cultural policy and public diplomacy more widely. Dr Koutsopanagou draws closely on her sources to illuminate a cluster of related topics: the policy of the British Information Service as the Cold War took hold; reports from the field, many of them rich in detail and realist in tone; the crucial area of broadcasting; and British efforts to assist – and exert some influence over – the Greeks in the educational and cultural sphere. The reader will find detail on many neglected areas, including public health, along with sober assessment of what was, in the end, limited success of Britain’s efforts, given the countervailing forces of geopolitics. But her book is not merely a study in failure. It carefully assesses the outcomes case by case, and it will prove a valuable resource for scholars in more than one field and for British diplomats too.

David Ricks
King’s College London

←x | xi→


While undertaking research for my PhD thesis at the London School of Economics in the early 1990s, I happened upon a wealth of additional primary evidence relating to the historical relationship between the United Kingdom (UK) and Greece in the mid-twentieth century, which at the time rested outside the immediate scope of my doctorate. In the years that followed its completion, however, I returned to London on numerous occasions to dig deeper into what I increasingly understood to be not only a rich but also a largely unexplored stream of evidence. This book is the outcome of that work. The historical literature on Cold War propaganda and cultural diplomacy in the mid-1990s was, I found, dauntingly thin. However, as the years passed, the subject attracted considerably more scholarly attention, and today it has generated a substantial volume of literature, becoming a field of academic research in its own right and taught more widely in universities internationally. This book seeks to make a distinctive contribution to that ongoing process.

In formulating the original idea for this volume, I owe a great debt of thanks to Peter Mackridge and David Ricks, who found the original proposal to be ‘extremely interesting’. Furthermore, David Ricks suggested that the book be included in the Byzantine and Neohellenic Studies Series (Peter Lang), which he co-edits with Andrew Louth. My gratitude to them is immense.

The greatest debt of gratitude I owe is to Aled Gruffydd Jones, as I have benefited enormously from talking over my ideas with him. I also hugely appreciate the support of Siân Nicholas. They both generously granted their time, insightful remarks, inspiration and encouragement, all of which were exceptionally helpful and greatly contributed to the improvement of the text and the sharpening of the argument. I doubt whether I could have written this book without the enthusiasm and support they so discreetly provided. Yanis Yanoulopoulos, with his extensive knowledge of Anglo-Greek relations and his intimate understanding of Greek history and politics, also ←xi | xii→provided valuable comments and suggestions. I owe an additional debt of gratitude to him since on his recommendation the Department of Political Science and History, Panteion University entrusted me to teach in 1998/9 and for ten years thereafter a course on Cultural Diplomacy, the first course of its kind ever to be taught in any university in Greece.

I would especially like to thank Tom O’Malley and David Ricks for their perceptive comments and advice. Finally, I would also like to thank Lucy Melville, Publishing Director, Ashita Shah, Editorial Assistant, and Shruthi Maniyodath, Project Manager, at Peter Lang for facilitating the production of the book, Clare Church for the copyediting and Danna R. Messer for indexing it with such care.

I could not have conducted the necessary research without the generous assistance of a number of individuals and institutions. These include the staff of many archives and libraries, particularly those at The National Archives, Kew, London, and Trish Hayes and Samantha Blake, archivists at the BBC Written Archives Centre. Thanks are also due to the Elliniki Radiofonia Tileorasi [Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation] Archives, Athens; the Radcliffe Science Library, Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford; the Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge; the King’s College London Archives; Historical Archives, Benaki Museum, Athens, especially their head, Tassos Sakellaropoulos; the Historical Archive of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens; the Hellenic Literary and Historical Archive (ΕLΙΑ), Athens; Library of the General Secretariat of Communication & Information, Athens; and the American School of Classical Studies at Athens.

During the course of my research, I co-organized the ‘National Audiovisual Memory and the BBC Greek Service, 1939–2005’ conference on the occasion of the service’s eightieth anniversary, the first conference of its kind. My special thanks goes to the Research Centre for Modern History at Panteion University, and in particular to Christina Koulouri, its director and now rector of Panteion University, for hosting the event, and, of course, to all the speakers, many of whom were senior staff of the Greek Service and came to the conference from the UK and Cyprus: Pavlos Nathanail, Viron Karidis, David Perman, Christos Pittas, Rosy Voudouri, Babis Metaxas, Richard Clogg, Ersi Vatou and Thanasis ←xii | xiii→Gavos. I would also like to thank the Research Centre for Modern History/Panteion University for supporting the eighth international conference of European Society for Periodical Research, hosted by the National Library of Greece/Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre and honoured by the presence of Philippos Tsiboglou, its inspiring and energetic general director. Both conferences were closely related to my research on cultural history, of which this book forms such a central part.

Most of all, a great deal of thanks goes to my family and friends. I owe special thanks to my lifelong friend Marion Dinwoodie, who so generously accommodated me during my frequent research visits to the UK. I also owe a very great thanks to my parents for their unvarying support. My father’s personal memories of his experiences during the Greek Civil War always fascinated me as a child, and this helped shape my subsequent career as a historian of that troubled and troubling period. Most of all, I would like to thank my son, Iason, who is a teenager now, a rock star in a class by himself with his own band. His intelligence and humour has sustained me throughout the many difficulties of completing this book, and he brings me such joy. I thank him for his patience and for living with this book for so long. I dedicate this book to him.

It goes without saying that the sole responsibility for the book should be attributed to the author alone.

←xiv | xv→



Anonimi Eteria Radiophonikon Ekpompon [Radio Broadcasting Company]


Anglo-Greek Information Service


Athens Information Centre (also referred to as the Churchill Street Information Centre and the Anglo-Hellenic Information Centre)


Allied Information Service


Anargyrios kai Korgialenios Sxoli Spetson [Anargyrios and Korgiallenios School of Spetses]


American Mission for Aid to Greece


Aeroporike Metaphore Ellados [Air Transport of Greece]


Anotato Oikonomiko Symvoulio [Supreme Economic Council]


Arxeia Sygchronis Koinonikis Istorias [Contemporary Social History Archives]


British Broadcasting Corporation


British Council


Balkan General News Service


British Information Service


Central Office of Information


Cultural Relations Department (UK Foreign Office)


Dimokratikos Stratos Elladas [Democratic Army of Greece]


Ethniko Apeleftherotiko Metopo [National Liberation Front]←xv | xvi→


Economic Cooperation Administration


Ethnikos Dimokratikos Ellinikos Syndesmos [National Republican Greek League]


East European Information Department (UK Foreign Office)


Ethniko Idryma Radiofonias [National Radio Foundation]


Ethnikos Laikos Apeleftherotikos Stratos [National People’s Liberation Army]


Hellenic Literary and Historical Archive


Ellinikí Radiofonía Tileórasi [Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation]


Foreign Office (UK)


Heracles Petimezas Archives


Institute of English Studies


International News Service


Information Policy Department (UK Foreign Office)


Information Research Department (UK Foreign Office)


Kommunistiko Komma Ellados [Communist Party of Greece]


London Press Service




Security Intelligence Service, Section 6


Ministry of Information, Middle East


Ministry of Information (United Kingdom)


Medical Research Council


Overseas and Emergency Publicity Expenditure Committee


Praktoreio Ephimeridon Athinaikou Typou [News Agents of the Athenian Press]←xvi | xvii→


Political Intelligence Department (UK Foreign Office)


Political Warfare Bureau


Political Warfare Executive


Radio Corporation of America


Rockefeller Foundation


Special Operations Executive


Technike Aeroporike Ekmetaleyseis [Technical Air Transport Exploitations]


The National Archives


Tachidromeia, Tilegraphoi, Telephoneia [Posts, Telegraphs and Telephones]


Trades Union Congress


United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration


United States Information Service


Voice of America


Written Archives Centre (British Broadcasting Corporation)


Christianiki Adelfotita Neon [Young Men’s Christian Brotherhood] (part of the Young Men’s Christian Association)


Ypiresia Radiofonikon Ekpompon [National Broadcasting Service]


Εφημερίς της Κυβερνήσεως [Government Gazette]

←xviii | 1→


This book sheds a new and revealing light on British cultural and information policies in Greece and on the ways in which the practices of public diplomacy were welded to the political imperatives of the Cold War. Thanks to the discovery of previously unexamined primary sources and a more detailed examination of some that have not been subjected to rigorous scrutiny by historians, this book draws an intricate picture of a complex moment in which – in the ruins of post-war southern Europe – British institutions sought to infiltrate and shape Greek society by promoting British political and social values. With the significant focus on the Greek Civil War during the early stages of the Cold War, Greece came to be used as a testing ground for the British propaganda effort embedded in the ‘projection of Britain’ campaign, providing evidence of the effectiveness of this strategy and its broader applicability as a platform for British post-war public diplomacy. This book explores in detail the successes and failures of British publicity and cultural policy in Greece as Cold War tensions became increasingly evident, and it shows how British policy progressively embodied a sustained anti-communist propaganda campaign. As it turned out, this campaign – particularly in the Greece of the late 1940s – proved to be little more than an act of ‘preaching to the converted in respect of anti-communism’,1 one that merely provided ‘additional ammunition for [the] already heated guns’ of Greek state propaganda.2

←1 | 2→

While it remains to be a matter of dispute whether the history of public diplomacy3 began with the Cold War,4 what is certain is that the practice of public diplomacy had never before been applied to such an extent and in such an intricate way, as in the Cold War. Public diplomacy, either as an aphorism or as an embellished definition of propaganda, was recognized as a foreign policy practice which became an integral part of the Cultural Cold War.5 Shortly after the end of the Second World War, British wartime ←2 | 3→propaganda mechanisms were again mobilized and subsequently, the dividing lines between publicity, information, propaganda and psychological warfare were blurred. British governments, despite their skilful performance in matters of propaganda during times of war, were traditionally averse to its use in peacetime. Britain’s relative post-war decline, however – aggravated as it was by its dire economic condition combined with the changing dynamics of international politics, including British involvement in the Greek political crisis6 – rendered it important for British policymakers to continue to explain Britain’s position both within and beyond its borders. The British approach was to deal not only with national ‘promotion’ but also and perhaps more importantly, to influence ‘public opinion’ at home and abroad where its ‘decline had to be explained or disguised’ and in so doing project Britain’s national image in a ‘world of competing ←3 | 4→ideologies’.7 As this book will show, the Greek political crisis complicated British propaganda efforts. The bloody events of December 1944 in Greece,8 in which British military forces were deeply involved, left Britain exposed to critical opinions from the world stage regarding its intervention in a newly liberated allied country. Moreover, the events provoked sharp reactions in the British Parliament and much of the British press presented a hostile view towards British policy in Greece.9 Explaining British foreign policy and making it better understood at home and abroad was deemed by the British government to be absolutely necessary. In part, since propaganda had acquired such negative connotations, the British preferred to call these efforts ‘information work’ or ‘publicity’. However, while the distinction between publicity and propaganda in the British context was narrow, they were both elements of the same project, both working towards the same objective: to influence opinions in a desired direction. Information departments were located within British overseas embassies and, together with their information officers, became an established feature of the British Foreign Service.10 After the dissolution of the UK’s Ministry of Information (MOI) on 31 March 1946, the Foreign Office (FO) became responsible for the administration of a large information organization. Due to an acute shortage of specialist personnel, this organization would need to recruit and train a specialist staff at pace to meet its fundamental requirements.11 The creation of the Central Office of Information (COI) in April 1946 is evident of the urgent need perceived at the time for a permanent and ←4 | 5→co-ordinated dissemination of official information. However, while the MOI’s functions on disseminating wartime propaganda were dispersed into the various FO information departments,12 the COI was called to operate as a common service department in Whitehall, thereby leaving the FO to conduct the ‘projection of Britain’ campaign to the rest of the world.13 Existing information officers were entrusted with tasks, in addition to their duties as wartime press attachés, that were often related more to the domain of public relations – a field as yet unestablished as a profession in Britain.14 Therefore, the information officers were called on to play both roles, often without the required training. Given the particularities of the political crisis in Greece, the process of finding someone with the appropriate qualifications and ‘calibre’ required of a ‘competent’ information officer to take up office in the Athens Embassy was particularly challenging. The information officer’s main task was ‘to project Britain’15 and with this purpose in mind, all means of communication – print and visual propaganda, broadcasting, sponsorships, cultural exhibits and foreign visits –were included in its armoury. The subsequent overload of assorted tasks and the lack of a clear pattern of work to follow, led to a degree of confusion among British agents on the ground. The British information officer in Athens, Sidney Hebblethwaite, for example, complained in January 1950 to the FO’s Information Policy Department (IPD) that he ‘got very confused, […] radio one day, visual material another, written material (projection of Britain) the next, then anti-communist material and so on’.16 In January 1950, with the Greek Civil War finally over, Hebblethwaite again found himself bewildered by his role. He expressed doubt about the message he ←5 | 6→was being asked to promulgate in Greece – not least because his experiences there had persuaded him that the entire strategy behind the British government’s ‘projection of Britain’ campaign had from the start been inadequately conceptualized.17

The greatest challenge for Britain’s cultural propaganda strategy was to preserve the country’s moral and political prestige in the world. Reginald Leeper was the British ambassador to Greece from 1943 to 1946, and a fervent advocate of cultural diplomacy. Given the experience he gained from weathering the December 1944 crisis and his central role in the subsequent course of political developments in Greece until the election of 1946, Leeper urged that British propaganda needed to be more carefully targeted and that it should be undertaken by experts. As he reported from Athens, only the ‘[m]ost expertly directed propaganda’ could ‘modify [the] popular view of Great Britain in this country or substantially […] repair the damage our prestige will inevitably sustain’.18

Initial post-war British foreign propaganda aimed to promote the British values that had been formulated in the interwar period and which had acquired renewed pertinence in the post-war years. These values centred on the idea of a ‘Third Force’ led by Britain, independent of the United States and based on the ‘spiritual aspects of the Western Union’.19 The promotion of a positive image of Britain in British propaganda followed a parallel yet independent trajectory to another more aggressive post-war propaganda approach that was embodied in the anti-communist activity of the Information Research Department (IRD), established in the FO in 1948. By 1951, the FO had concluded that the effectiveness of its ‘positive’ propaganda policy was open to considerable doubt. As the Cold War intensified, an approach that favoured explicitly anti-communist propaganda was deemed more appropriate. As the ‘positive’ propaganda of the ‘projection of Britain’ campaign diminished, anti-communist propaganda correspondingly accelerated. What is clearly indicative of this transition ←6 | 7→is that while in 1946, one of the first directives sent by the IPD to British information officers abroad was titled ‘The Projection of Britain’,20 by 1949, an FO circular issued to the British information officers stressed not so much the ‘ethical and spiritual forces inherent in Western Civilisation’ but a belief in ‘the virtues, practices and values of Western democracy’, in direct and deliberate opposition to Soviet communism.21 That shift in policy, together with the abandonment of the idea of a British-led Third Force, led to closer Anglo-American co-operation in the field of propaganda. In 1950, an FO official remarked that the British information officer in Athens was ‘to be congratulated’22 for achieving closer relations with his American counterpart, particularly since poor alignment in the field of information was a key holdout against what had otherwise been effective co-operation between other British and US agencies in Greece. Nevertheless, both the British and the Americans recognized the inherent value of maintaining their own independent propaganda campaigns, or in their own words, ‘shoot[ing] at the same target from rather different angles’.23

Owing to its strategic importance for British interests in the eastern Mediterranean and the continuing strength of its domestic communist forces, Greece became a key focal point of the Cold War. Following the swift collapse of wartime allegiances and even before the geopolitical consequences of the end of the Second World War were manifest – indeed arguably even before the Second World War had come to an end – Greece became, along with Italy,24 one of the first countries in Europe to experience the dynamics of a new confrontation that has only very recently been defined by scholars as the Cultural Cold War. From 1943 to the early 1950s – taking in the period covered by this book – propaganda, which started (in ←7 | 8→the context of Greece) as a supplement to Britain’s foreign policy, became an integral part of Britain’s Cold War strategy. Britain’s post-war involvement in Greece thus played a major part in the broader evolution of the IRD. Indeed, Christopher Mayhew, who was instrumental in creating the IRD, later acknowledged that it was his experience at the United Nations – where the British were ‘under heavy attack’ from the Soviets ‘for Colonialism, the Empire, [and their] activities in Greece’ – that made evident to him the urgent need to establish such a department.25

This book concerns British-Greek relations during the early post-war years, primarily with regard to issues relating to publicity policy, cultural activities and foreign cultural rivalry in Greece. Britain’s involvement in Greece’s military and political environment of the period has been well documented in both Greek and international literature. This study goes further by examining in detail the resonance of those events, their impact and the extent to which they influenced political decision-making on the ground; this is principally done by applying the lenses of information and cultural publicity policy. Little work has been done on this aspect of British policy in Greece, perhaps due to the prevalence of American culture in Greece since mid-1947, which quickly overshadowed that of all other cultural competitors, including Britain or France. The two linchpins of British propaganda in Greece were the British Council (BC) and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) – two institutions that receive significant attention in this study. While the history of the BC, especially in the early post-war years, has been the subject of much scholarly research,26 other areas of the British cultural presence in Greece – such as the particularly important history of the BBC and its unquestioned popularity in Greece – remain to be told.27 Based almost exclusively on a large and ←8 | 9→significant collection of archival material – much of it brought to light here for the first time – this book explores British information and cultural policy with regard to Greece during the formative early Cold War years. While much of this policy has been, until now, only partially understood (or indeed wholly unknown), this book provides new evidence and, in some cases, challenges unsubstantiated and undocumented speculations about British cultural presentation in Greece during the period in question. It also demonstrates in detail how, as early as 1945, Britain became the first country to formulate a co-ordinated cultural response to communist propaganda.28

Greece was subject to a number of activities designed to influence the hearts and minds of its people and which reached all aspects of everyday life, including activities targeting post-war reconstruction, health and welfare services and broadcasting as well as intellectual, artistic and cultural life. The BC and the BBC were perennial conduits for publicizing British ‘life and thought’. The Athens branch of the BC was one of the first to resume activities after the Second World War and was even upgraded – at least for its first few critical years – to a Grade I post. It collaborated closely with the Information Department of the British Embassy Athens and became actively involved in key sectors of post-war Greek life, including education, the dissemination of English language, the establishment of chairs of English studies at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (hereafter, University of Athens) and the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (hereafter, University of Thessaloniki), the promotion of British political thought and social welfare policies, reconstruction, health, law and public administration.

The BBC’s influence in Greece, in effect, remained Britain’s ‘most powerful weapon’29 in the region, despite intense American competition and influence in the Greek information spheres. This Anglo-American competition is evident when looking to the British efforts to influence the post-war reorganization of Greece’s National Broadcasting Foundation ←9 | 10→(ΕΙR) and in interest shown by the British in the US radio activities in Thessaloniki and Cyprus. The Americans, for their part, used film publicity as ‘their main propaganda arm in Greece’30 – but here too the British competed for their own share of influence.

In the early 1940s, Britain surpassed the US in terms of its propaganda and national projection activities.31 However, due to the major financial crisis facing Britain, which rendered it unable to sustain the costs of its overstretched worldwide commitments, Britain ceded its dominant position in Greece to the US in March 1947 and considerably reduced its publicity activity in the region. Numerous complaints by British information officers about the insufficient supply of publicity material, lack of staff and limited resources to develop and expand British cultural activities are indicative of the consequences of that process of strategic disengagement. In May 1947, BC representative J. C. S. Runciman (also known as Steven Runciman) gave voice to this challenge, stating that ‘our only danger from foreign rivalry is of a loss of prestige owing to the greater expenditure of other nations’.32 The more ‘glamorous projection of the American way of life’33 proved unchallengeable in a country that had already been placed under the Marshall Plan. The internationalization of the Greek crisis,34 caused by the hardening of Cold War tensions, served once more – as in the case of the founding of the IRD – as a pretext for accelerating the establishment of the US propaganda machine. In the face of the rapidly escalating ideological conflict with the Soviet Union, American policymakers consciously ←10 | 11→emphasized the Greek case in order to build public support for the US State Department’s strategic priorities at home and abroad. Throughout policy discussions regarding the most effective public relations strategy to accompany the Truman Doctrine, the situation in Greece presented American policymakers ‘with [the] best possible occasion to tell [the] story that has to be told’.35 Greece was symbolically referred to as the birthplace of democracy and thus served rhetorically to underpin the Truman Doctrine as a defence of democracy against autocracy (an ironic trope given that it was generally acknowledged that the then royalist Greek government was anything but democratic). Moreover, this provided American policymakers with the opportunity to demonstrate the value of American aid, as shown by their efforts to support an economy on the verge of collapse in the wider context of the European economic crisis. Greece’s position was also emphasized by members of the US State Department throughout their efforts to formulate a public relations strategy aimed at selling the Marshall Plan to a reluctant Congress and an indifferent American public. The resulting shift in American public opinion in regard to the extension of foreign aid was remarkable. In May 1947, the Marshall Plan bill passed, ushering in a new rhetoric and language: that of the Cold War. As Justin Hart observed, this was ‘the first time that the State Department called on the domestic wing of its public diplomacy shop to sell the politics of [the] Cold War’, and it led to the consolidation of the first phase of American post-war public diplomacy.36 In January 1948, Congress passed Public Law 80-402 – typically known as the Smith-Mundt Act – which institutionalized US public diplomacy as a coherent structure to wage the Cold War’s ideological battle. In so doing, this act authorized the main thrust of the US information and cultural programme. As C. F. A. Warner, assistant undersecretary for foreign affairs for northern and southern Europe, observed, the US publicity machine abroad was ‘only beginning to get underway’ in 1948.37 British officials noted that after a clumsy start, American publicity and cultural policy from 1948 onwards was presented in a far more ←11 | 12→spectacular way than that of its British predecessor. Moreover, American mass culture – in which the potency of the image was a key component – had generally proved to be highly attractive to international audiences, especially those whose previous understanding of the world had relied heavily on print.38 In the practice of public diplomacy, the US post-war momentum found a convenient platform for national promotion around the world. The ideology of US exceptionalism and its world mission – which had, in effect, existed before the Second World War – now stepped strongly into the post-war limelight.39 Conversely, for the British government, inadequate funding limited its capacity to further its cultural propaganda agenda; the BC was, to this end, the first to suffer.40 In the battle for hearts and minds, the immediacy and directness of publicity was chosen at the expense of long-term cultural activity. The IRD was the main bearer of British Cold War propaganda – not the FO’s Cultural Relations Department (CRD).41 British cultural programmes were supplanted by information programmes. However, the issue of prestige remained a central theme within the rhetoric of British Cold War propaganda. In December 1951, an FO memorandum on British information and propaganda in the Cold War observed that ‘the “cold war” […] is not solely a conflict between two sets of ideas [East and West]. Power enters into it and a third factor is that intangible product of power and ideas which is called prestige.’42

This book relies heavily on institutional reports from the FO and the archives of the IRD, the BC and the BBC, juxtaposed with Greek sources where possible. Although the opening of the IRD archives has led to the publication of many valuable studies, which have shed a considerable light on IRD work, a number of substantial documents remain inaccessible. Nevertheless, though the IRD files concerning liaisons between Britain and Greece, as well as other countries, have been rigorously vetted (often ←12 | 13→remaining classified for an indefinite duration), the reports and the briefings from staff in various FO information departments and in the British Embassy Athens have not been so rigorously screened. These reports and briefings were produced by staff in various FO information and cultural relations departments and comprise the British Embassy and the BC correspondence with the FO and with its staff in Greece, in addition to the correspondence between the BBC and the FO. These documents provide exhaustive information on every aspect of British information, publicity and cultural policy in Greece. Additionally, they have made it possible to study the editorial output sent to Greece by the FO and other state departments and institutions and to investigate the local uses of such material, the resources that were made available for anti-communist activities in Greece and the significance attached by official decision-makers to such actions. Moreover, the information liaison arrangements developed between the British Embassy Athens and various Greek agencies (official and private), the press, broadcasters, film publicists and more have shed new light on the events of the period, clarifying matters never before subjected to scholarly investigation. Apart from their value as detailed descriptions of activities covering the whole of Greece in the time period covered here, they are also important sources of statistical data that would otherwise be quite scarce, incomplete or missing altogether in Greek records. Further, it has been thought preferable to retain – as far as possible – the voices of the sources in order to provide the reader with an authentic echo (as much as is possible) of the political climate of the time. In addition to demonstrating the volume of qualitative and quantitative evidence, the sources provide a better understanding of the choices faced by both the British and the Greeks as well as showing the degree of willingness of the Greek public to accept and absorb foreign information and cultural inflows. British officials were tasked with identifying Greece’s requirements for post-war reconstruction and the ways in which the promotion of British trade interests and cultural values could most effectively be carried out. In short, the reports issued as part of the information liaison arrangements constitute a substantial body of multilayered evidence covering a wide range of decisions and activities in the field of information transfer and culture in Greece during 1943–1950.

←13 | 14→

Given the fact that so much of the evidence cited in this book is drawn from official sources, it behoves the historian to consider not only what these illuminate about the past, but also what they may obscure. In other words, official sources such as these, as well as providing additional depth and breadth to our existing knowledge, are subject to epistemological limitations. All historical records contain, implicitly or explicitly, individual or institutional internalized prejudice that may, to some degree, distort the lived realities as they existed locally. Many records reflect the expectations of their writers – even perhaps the writers’ misinterpretations and self-deceptions about what they held to be true or possible on the ground. In the context of the documents in question, the primarily British authors’ own individual conceptions are inevitably shaped by their experience of observing Greece and the Greeks from the outside – even if they were stationed in the country itself and were in regular communication with its inhabitants. In addition, the ‘British’ position on any given issue was not always consistent; in some instances, the perceptions of British officials in London differed vastly from those in stationed in Greece. What is more, some of the policy decisions taken in London ran counter to recommendations made by British officials in Athens. The best a historian can do in such circumstances is be aware of the inflections and tensions in the records and – where possible – triangulate the evidence with a range of other sources. In order to broaden the range of sources, I have attempted to draw on public and private Greek archives as well as the Greek press. The goal was to provide a Greek counterbalance, however slight, to the weight of British official sources. Similar attempts were made to broaden the British sources and (where possible) to interrogate further any material that might lie in the private correspondence or in the personal diaries of the key figures, thereby exposing nuances, doubts or forms of understanding that were hidden from official records.

This book deals with a wide range of activities undertaken in the name of British public diplomacy, many of which relate to the post-war reconstruction of Greece. However, it cannot claim to be exhaustive; more specific studies regarding a number of those diverse activities remain to be undertaken. Thus, at this stage of our knowledge, it is practically impossible to fully account for and understand the entire nature and impact of British ←14 | 15→Cold War propaganda in Greece. However, the lengthy and extremely detailed reports written by the British provide us with an essential starting point in the longer-term project of assessing the power and effects of that impact. This study does not end here; further questions remain to be answered in ongoing investigations. Like any study that deals with a novel subject area, it suffers from a paucity of existing historical literature on which to draw and with which to engage. However, this book seeks to begin that process and, in so doing, set new challenges for historians to contend with, now and into the future.

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

The book is divided into four chapters. Chapter 1 considers the post-war reorganization of the British government’s overseas information and publicity services, in particular the British Information Service (BIS) in Greece. The objective of this reorganization was to bring the existing BIS – inherited from the MOI and the Political Intelligence Department (PID) – into closer alignment with the aims and activities of the FO. In so doing, the British information structure in Greece would be more closely linked with policy and therefore could be used more effectively to support the immediate objectives of the British government abroad. This reorganizational operation involved discussions with various agencies on a wide range of topics. For one, it was necessary to understand the demarcation of the functions of the FO’s CRD and those of the BC. Additionally, dialogues with the BBC considered the organization, nature and content of the news outlet’s foreign services. Discussions were held with the British Board of Trade and the Travel Association concerning the form and future development of trade and tourist publicity. Finally, conversations took place with the news agencies, press, publishers, film companies and private organizations that disseminated British information abroad; these consultations focused on clarifying each agency’s relationship with the FO. In January 1948, when the British government adopted its new foreign publicity strategy, which was designed to ‘check the inroads of communism’,43 the IRD became the co-ordinator of Britain’s Cold War ←15 | 16→propaganda publicity policy. Moreover, the British government by this time was less concerned with the rather vague ‘projection of Britain’ campaign, based on printed matter – previously the main conduit of propaganda. Its focus shifted more to broadcast media and other means of communication and to developing contacts with prominent opinion formers, politicians and officials.

Chapter 2 deals with the various reports prepared by British officials – those prepared on a monthly or quarterly cycle as well as those which followed specific tours in the provinces. These reports were normally written in a standardized fashion and were in general accordance with the instructions sent to missions abroad; this would ensure that the information departments of the FO, the COI and the BBC received the material they each required. The reports contained assessments of local conditions as well as practical and strategic recommendations for future activities, as proposed by the information officers. These were then sent to London, following approval by the British ambassador. They provided detailed descriptions of the developments of each of the media employed (press, radio, visual material, films, visitors and lecturers, commercial publicity, books and periodicals, information centres and libraries) and the uses made of them by British officials and other foreign powers. These information reports were integrated into the regular political and economic communications from British missions in Greece. From these reports, a wealth of valuable material emerges that vividly describes and provides extensive contemporary analyses of the full range of British publicity employed in Greece – in addition to including assessments of their effectiveness.

Chapter 2 also traces the implementation of the new British publicity policy launched in Greece in January 1948. The new policy greatly altered the work of the FO IDs, which until then were largely designed to carry out the ‘projection of Britain’ campaign in the long term. Initially, their work consisted mainly of sending out publicity guidance that reflected the new policy, for use in the daily news. Gradually, their work switched from projecting Britain in general to projecting British views, plans and achievements cast in sharp contrast to those of communism and its outcomes. When the IRD initiated this strategy, the Italian election of April 1948 were given top priority. In addition to the COI publications and officially ←16 | 17→published digests distributed throughout Greece to promote Britain’s progress in economics, politics, industry, labour relations and social welfare, the dissemination of IRD material in Greece was also far-reaching. As the British information officer observed in December 1948, IRD materials ‘served a most useful purpose in orientating people on the right lines on current issues’; as such, it was expressed that ‘the whole problem of anti-communism, as far as the Greek press […] [is] concerned, […] [is] largely an academic one’.44

Chapter 3 tells the story of the British interest – after 1929 – in the development of Greek broadcasting and the involvement of the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company Ltd in establishing the country’s first radio station. It follows British wartime publicity in Greece until the latter’s liberation from Nazi occupation in October 1944, focusing in particular on the establishment of the BBC Greek section in September 1939, immediately after the declaration of the Second World War, and its functioning during that war and the Greek Civil War. This chapter also includes new evidence unearthed in regard to the establishment of the Ethniko Idryma Radiofonias (EIR [National Radio Foundation]) in June 1945 and the role that the British played in its legal foundation. This is coupled with details of the Greek government’s efforts to intervene in the EIR’s operations. The secondment of a BBC engineer as a technical director to the EIR in July 1948 and the broader interest Britain manifested in the EIR’s formative years clearly demonstrate Britain’s close involvement with Greek radio broadcasting during a crucial political period. At the same time, the crisis in Cyprus threatened to expose Britain’s foreign policy towards the island to public criticism in Greece, thereby further underlining the importance for Britain to maintain a degree of control over Greek broadcasting media.

Chapter 4 focuses mainly on British educational and cultural activities in Greece. In 1945, the re-establishment of the BC’s Athens branch – in which Reginald Leeper played a key role – was regarded as a key defence against the cultural activities of rival foreign agencies that reactivated in Greece after the war. It was generally admitted that the success of the BC’s ←17 | 18→endeavour would depend largely on the appointment of appropriate staff, which ultimately proved to be a difficult process. Apart from the BC’s core objectives – to project British institutions and to promote the English language – the BC also took a particular interest in the reorganization of Greek state secondary schools and reform of the Greek educational system. In this sense, three issues were interconnected: the renewal of the Byron professorship and the creation of new university chairs in Athens and Thessaloniki; the proposal that a competent person be sent from Britain – under the auspices of the FO – to study the future of English teaching in conjunction with the Greek Ministry of Education; and the provision of British assistance in the reorganization of the University of Athens. The chapter discusses the establishment of chairs in English language and history and the founding of the Department of English Language and Literature all of which ran in parallel to efforts on the part of the Americans and the French to set up their own chairs at Greek universities. Granting scholarships had always been one of the most effective aspects of the BC’s work. For example, given the BC’s interest in urban planning during Greece’s post-war reconstruction phase, the body subsequently granted scholarships to Greek architects – many of whom, in addition to their academic careers, were later employed as state officials in major public works. Several proposals for cultural activities were also put forward in 1945, to be undertaken by the BC in Greece. They included a project to establish a branch of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (also known as Chatham House) in Athens and a modern hospital and nurse training centre in Thessaloniki. The BC also expressed interest in providing financial support to the British School at Athens. Additionally, the BC urged the speedy conclusion of the Anglo-Greek Cultural Convention, given the BC’s unclear status in Greece, which hampered the success of its work. This was especially pertinent given that the country had settled into a more peaceful state following the end of the civil war. Yet, the BC’s main focus remained on educational matters. The diffusion of British scientific, technological and industrial institutions in Greece – which had begun in the interwar years – was to continue after the Second World War. This diffusion was meant to meet the intense need for relief work, improve health care, solve the acute food crisis and deal with other pressing needs generated by reconstruction. Like most countries ←18 | 19→after the Second World War, Greece urgently needed to rebuild and reorganize almost all of its public services, most notably the Greek public health system. The US and the British anti-malaria campaigns, for example, had an enormous impact in the propaganda space, though public health proved to be yet another field of competition between Britain and other countries, especially the US.


XVIII, 458
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2022 (October)
Public Diplomacy Anglo-Greek relations Early Cold War years Propaganda and soft power in WWII and after British Information and Cultural Policy in Greece, 1943–50 Gioula Koutsopanagou
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Wien, 2022. XVIII, 458 pp.

Biographical notes

Gioula Koutsopanagou (Author)

Gioula Koutsopanagou (BA Athens, MA and PhD LSE) is founding director of the Media History Workshop (ETMIET) in the Research Centre for Modern Greece at Panteion University, Athens and adjunct academic staff of the Faculty of Humanities in the Hellenic Open University, co-editor of the four-volume Encyclopaedia of the Greek Press, the author of the monograph The British Press and the Greek Crisis, 1943–1949. Orchestrating the Cold-War ‘Consensus’ in Britain. She is currently writing a monograph on From the War for Freedom to Democracy: the BBC Greek Service, 1939-2005.


Title: British Information and Cultural Policy in Greece, 1943–1950
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477 pages