British Empire
Living in the British empire - The British view
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Letter written in 1938 commenting on the work of the British empire
(Catalogue ref: CO 852/188/5)
  • This letter was sent to Mr Malcolm MacDonald in the Dominions Office in November 1938. It was a private letter between government officials.
  • The Dominions Office was the government department in charge of British relations with the self-ruling states like Canada and Australia. These self-ruling states were called Dominions.
  • At the time the letter was written the Empire Marketing Board was busy organising material like the posters in sources 2-6 of this case study. As well as posters and publications, the Marketing Board also went to international trade exhibitions.
  • At these exhibitions they put together collections of photographs, posters, objects etc that presented a positive view of life in the British empire. At the same time, the exhibitions were designed to get tourists to visit parts of the empire and buy goods from the empire.
  • The British were keen to get American tourists and trade, as they were generally well-off. However, many Americans did not approve of the British empire. This letter shows that exhibitions were seen as one possible way to change American opinions.
  • This was seen to be especially important because in late 1938 it looked as though Britain might soon be at war with Hitler’s Germany. Britain wanted American support very badly and was keen to counter any unfavourable ideas that the Americans had about Britain.
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