The History of the UK’s Most Famous Catchphrase: Keep Calm and Carry On

    • If you are moving to the UK to teach, learning more about British culture is a must. There are some quirky things in British history that the people are very much proud of with the catchphrase “Keep Calm and Carry On” being part of that. For decades, this saying has been used to motivate Brits to keep moving forward. You will find this slogan and many other imitations adopted in the same style all over the UK, but what is the story of this simple motto that encourages the people to keep going?

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      Origins of “Keep Calm and Carry On”

      During the Second World War, the British Government formed the Ministry of Information as a means of developing publicity and propaganda. When war broke out in 1939, it was up to the Ministry of Information to create several posters designed for boosting morale amongst the British public who were still wary after the First World War. They were to be displayed all over Britain in prominent places where they could not be missed.

      The posters were meant to stand out with big, bold text with bright, eye-catching colours alongside the image of the crown of King George VI. The first two did just that with “FREEDOM IS IN PERIL – DEFEND IT WITH ALL YOUR MIGHT” and “YOUR COURAGE, YOUR CHEERFULNESS, YOUR RESOLUTION WILL BRING US VICTORY.” You would find these posters at bus stops, train stations, in shop windows and on public notice boards. A third poster was completed to match the others to complete the set, and it simply read: “KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON.”

      2.45 million of copies of Keep Calm and Carry On posters were printed and were to be displayed in the event of Germany invading Britain. Although the Blitz took place in 1940 and 1941, the third poster in the series was hardly seen publicly since it was a “reserve” poster. The idea was to get them out quickly as a fresh boost of morale if there was an attack.

      There was one indication of it being hung in a shop window in Leeds as reported in a local paper at the time. It was only in 2000 when an original copy was found in a bookstore in Alnwick hidden within some dusty old books. Since then, more have been found, but there are still very few surviving original copies from the print in 1939. It is thought that the rest may have been destroyed towards the end of the war in 1945 in the paper salvage that was taking place.

      What does Keep Calm and Carry On mean?

      The meaning behind the slogan is why it is loved so much. It is straight and to the point, meaning exactly what it says. “Keep Calm” is to remain level-headed in times of turmoil. “Carry On” is to act normal and rise above all the bad that may be happening. It is a phrase that still rings true today for many Brits, hence why the phrase has been embraced so much after its rediscovery in the 2000s. “Keep Calm and Carry On” will always been seen as quintessentially British.

      Britain is full of rich history, from Roman and Viking invasions to their part in world wars. Britain has had a massive role in the shaping of the world, all from the island in the north.

      Point to Point Education are here to help immerse you in British culture if you decide to teach overseas. We are dedicated to bringing the best teachers to the UK to not only help broaden their horizons, but that of the students too. If you would like more information on teaching overseas, then contact us for more information.

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